Can you imagine some of the comments one might overhear in the cars on the Interstate as they pass your ocean-going, burned out ketch being hauled east...?
"We intend to circumnavigate, so Florida could be a good place to get coastal sailing experience for a while and then "Jump Off". Just now though, our boat has damage. I''d be interested in your opinion on my plan."
As I mentioned to another person perhaps two months ago, if you''re looking for a place to prep and test a boat before long-term, long distance sailing, I think Florida''s a great choice. The summer''s kinda tough and you should assume it won''t be as enjoyable or productive a time period as you might hope (get a window a/c unit in the companionway if you''ll be living aboard), but otherwise I think there''s much to recommend the location. Agreeable weather for seatrialing and coastal hops with prevailing SE or frontal systems at least 9 mos/year. An initial foreign cruising ground that''s not so foreign that you can''t get parts easily (PR
, St. Martin, Trinidad are all especially easy) but the conditions will give both you and the boat a good shakedown that will also be fun. Depending on your timetable, you can take the express route (via Windward Passage and S then SW to the Canal) but that will eliminate most of the ''easy'' aspects of cruising in the Caribbean with a refreshed boat that might need some tweakingl. Hopefully, you''ll take longer and enjoy the E Caribbean before heading W to the Canal.
What I would suggest you rethink is Jax as a place to stop and work on the boat. The boating communities in the area are not near the coast, cruising options N or S in day hops aren''t especially abundant, and while there are some yards in the area, I''ve yet to meet someone who did what you''re thinking about doing and was glad they made Jax their choice.
Instead, if needing/wanting to be on the East Coast, I''d suggest you look at the Space Coast area, roughly from Titusville to the N down to Melbourne, all along the Indian River. Lots of yards, marina & yard costs decidedly cheaper than further S (Vero, West Palm and Ft. Liquordale) and, if you position yourself near Port Canaveral, you can zip out into the Atlantic whenever you want via one tame lock. Plus there are lots of cozy spots on the Indian where you can weekend. The Abacos are ''next door'' from Port Canaveral (altho'' the Stream does have something to say about that...).
We''re from St. Pete and I think it''s a wonderful place to visit by boat (even if the boat is in a yard...) so you might consider that, as well. The Salt Creek area has yards, vendors and such, and is roughly 1.5 miles from downtown St. Pete with its free park concernts, museums, street parties and generally pleasant setting; you even have free bus transport around the downtown area after a short walk from the yards. Seatrialing would initially be on Tampa Bay with some nice, peaceful cruising nearby on the Manatee River and then down to Charlotte Bay. If you can slip under a 48'' bridge, you can take the Okeechobee Waterway across to Stuart before heading for the islands.
Let me know how else I can help you sort things out...and good luck on the upcoming projects.