Adventurous couple drops anchor in Hardee County
After decades spent navigating the warm Caribbean seas and experiencing local culture, Cindy and David Weinstein set course for a new challenge: starting a new life stateside.
“We got back to the states and we didn’t even know what state we wanted to live in,” Cindy says. “We bought a camper van, and two summers in a row stored our boat and went camping around the states—everywhere but New England. We decided anything north of Interstate 4 was too cold!”
“Come September, we had to move south,” David adds.
The climate was important to the Weinsteins, but so was the lifestyle. David and Cindy say there was no real connection until Hardee County.
“We missed the pace of life,” David says. “Life was slower and everyone made time to visit, to say hello. That’s what attracted us to Hardee County. When you stopped and saw people, they were all nice.”
A life in the country it would be. Next was deciding what to do with the land.
“We don’t come from a farming background,” David says. “We lived on a sailboat.
“We asked the old farmer we got the property from, ‘So, a little farm like this, what can we do to make a living?’ He laughed and said, ‘If you ever find out, you tell me!’”
After some agricultural trial and error, the Weinsteins started Green Sea Farms and began growing pomegranates—something they knew little about, but were willing to explore.
Luckily for David and Cindy, their time at sea prepared them to take on challenges and make calculated risks, just like when they decided to travel the Caribbean and live on board their 39-foot Pearson 390.
“It was amazing,” Cindy says. “We were just into our 30s, so it was like really growing up. We learned a lot about life.”
To support themselves, the couple learned to be self-sufficient, creative and generous. They found work in several spots during their travels.
“I had a canvas shop on board, so I made cushions, awnings and whatever needed a cover,” Cindy says. “When I’d make a new awning, if the person didn’t want their old awning, I’d take them. When we’d go down into the isles, like down into Trinidad, Venezuela or Grenada, we’d find fishing villages where people were really poor. We’d give them the used awnings, used sails or whatever we had. We’d go back the next year and the awning would be a roof.”
David’s boat repair provided somewhat regular income. Living at sea, there was almost always work to do.
“We jokingly said the difference between a workday and a day off was whose boat we worked on,” David says.
While that work helped keep them afloat, it almost caught up to David—something he laughs about now—when he took on a repair job in Venezuela after their visas expired.
They got on well with the local boating community, but there was a high-level visit from Spanish leaders. The navy and coast guard were securing the docks and doing regular checks of all the boats.
“We saw the gun boats coming into the harbor, and we closed up our boat to go somewhere else so they wouldn’t catch us,” David says.
A week later, the couple received a radio call asking for some boat work to be done. After asking a few questions, David agreed to take the job on Margarita Island.
“I took the dingy ashore and here’s this guy in a suit and sunglasses, and an SUV with tinted windows,” David says. “He starts with the 20 questions, and I told him my wife gets seasick and she won’t let me leave the harbor.”
“It’s always my fault,” Cindy adds with a laugh.
After David fixed the boat, the man asked David the cost for the repair, to which he said $20.
“He says, ‘Well, that’s not going to help you where you’re going,’” David says. “My heart stopped!
“He opens his wallet and pulls out a U.S. $20 bill. My heart started again and then he gave me his card.”
The man was a senior national official. He warned David that he and others knew the security situation throughout the area and who he was.
“Then he said, ‘When you come back, I want you to work on my boat. But tomorrow will be just fine for you to leave.’
“So I get back to the boat and say, ‘Well, we’re leaving in the morning!’”
Fortunately, the good times far outweighed the nerve-wracking, and the Weinsteins have years of fond memories on which to reflect.
“Hog Island in Grenada was a great place—kind of family-oriented,” David says. “No one was allowed to play until noon. But then all the kids would go ashore and you’d see them running across the island. And they’re all taking care of each other. It was really cool.”
Cindy and David’s adventures at sea nurtured a desire for adventure, while challenges sharpened their resolve.
“When you’re out there on a boat, there’s no one but you,” David says. “You look forward, and that’s really helped us here.”