learning to work on engines?
I have made the trip down the CA coast from SF to LA several times and would not even consider doing it without a well tested and reliable engine. Bolting in a new engine and taking off does not seem like a very good idea.
Have you looked into having the boat trucked down? It''s not always that expensive and that option would give you all the time you need to do the engine work and test it well before venturing too far from help.