All posts by Sonas

South Carolina, Georgia, and Home!

August 20th. After the run through skinny water yesterday we really wanted to run outside to Georgetown. We looked at the three sources we use for weather and found that it was calling for two to three feet, with swells possible to five. Since it hard to know what impact the swells would have on our ride we decided to head out through the Little River inlet and turn south. We prepared Sonas for sea and headed out behind a shrimper and a number of fishing charters. It was really lumpy through the mouth of the inlet because we had a strong outgoing tide with a southwest wind running across it .

As we were going through that Paul decided to stand up on his seat and have a look at the anchor to make sure it was secured. And it had slipped out a bit (only a foot or two). We clearly hadn’t put the pawl (lock) on it. Sian offered to go onto the bow and fix it but Paul said it was alright , he could use the remote control on the bridge to bring it back in. He pushed the up button and heard more chain running out. Realizing his mistake, being confused by the button indicators, he quick revered and brought the anchor back in. Then he wondered if the anchor had been swinging onto the bow with the wave actions and damaged the gelcoat.

Pulling the lever towards you drops the anchor!

We ran south in really lumpy conditions for a half hour. The GPS indicated that we would be running for another six hours to Georgetown. We decided it was just not worth being uncomfortable for that long and turned around to come back in through the inlet. We then turned south again on the ICW.

We went through Myrtle Beach, which seemed to go on forever, and because it was low tide we again had areas, mainly where there were small inlets into the sea or marshes where there was very skinny water. We had now realized that this was because it had been blowing hard from the south for at least a week and the water had been blown out of the ICW in places. One three mile stretch, ,formally known as Pine Island Cut, but locally known as Rock Pile, is cut out of rocks and the cruising guides quite accurately advise you to keep to the middle, lest you need the services of prop and strut businesses that have grown up nearby!

Entering Rock Pile
Rock Pile

Also on this stretch we saw some interestingly painted houses and, given the steepness of the backyards wondered how on earth they cut them. Then we saw a gentleman cutting his lawn, with a mower on a rope!

Now THAT’S pink!
Mowing the lawn!

We then hit the Waccamaw River and had a very enjoyable ride through the Waccamaw State Park, with its lush trees and vegetation.

Waccamaw River

We also saw an individual with one of those “jet packs” driven by a jet ski!

Jet Pack!

Exiting the park we looked at where we were on the run and decided to tack on another two hours to make our run to Charleston tomorrow a short one. We targeted a couple of anchorages on the Minims River. The one to the West of the ICW had decent reviews on the Waterway Guide so we opted for that. We got to the anchorage and found crab pots all the way up the middle of the anchorage. We picked a spot between two pots and dropped the anchor. We had the wind and tide against each other which pushed Sonas sideways across the anchorage and near the crab pots. After waiting to see if it would sort itself out we finally gave up and went across to the anchorage to the east of the ICW. Here there was little current, wind protection from a stand of trees AND what crab pots there were, were placed along the edge. It turned out to be a very safe and peaceful anchorage.

August 21st

We awoke today to find that our AC was out in the salon. We usually leave it on at night but raise the temperature to 74. The breaker was also off. Paul reset the breaker but there was still no power coming to the control pad. We had a spare pad so he switch them out and still no power. So this issue must be with the AC unit itself. Paul went below and had a quick look to see if he could find a breaker on the AC unit itself with no success.

Our anchorage was at mile marker 415, and Charleston City Marina was at mile marker 469, so we only had 54 statute miles, or 46 nautical miles to go today. Again we were running along at low tide so had to be very mindful of the depth sounder. We had a few spots where we had to pull back on the throttles and zig-zag a bit until we found better depth, but we made it out into Charleston Sound safely, watching the big ships pass by first, and made our way west of Fort Sumpter and into the Ashley River. On our way down we often saw hardhats and other stuff mailed to markers. We had read somewhere that there were in memorial to someone who worked the waterways and had died. [Though also see comment from David below].

Hat and boots

Earlier the Coast Guard had warned us that one of their cutters was doing diving exercises by the Coast Guard station and to pass with caution. The Coast Guard station is right before the marina, so we went to idle as we passed, and saw the divers in the water.

Coast Guard divers

During the morning Paul called the Charleston City Dock and requested an AC tech. We got tied up on the marina’s Mega Dock and checked in. Paul then went into the Charleston City Dock mobile office right on the marina and filled in the order form for the AC Tech. He would be coming to look at the system at 9:00 tomorrow morning.

Burnt AC Controller

We called Stella’s Greek restaurant and tried to book a table for this evening but they were fully booked. At 6:30 we got the marina shuttle into the restaurant and took one of their walk-in tables on the back patio. The food and wine were fine, unfortunately there was no breeze on the patio and the single wall fan wasn’t much help, so we were quite hot out there.

Thankfully when we got back to Sonas there was a cool breeze blowing across the cockpit so we were able to sit outside rather than in the stuffy salon.

August 22nd

We had a walking tour booked for today starting at 10:30, so we would have to be away from the marina at 10. We were hoping that the AC tech would be on time and would be able to diagnose the issue in time for us to go on the tour. By 10 the tech still had not showed so we went to the yard office and left the key for them, and we took the marina shuttle to the tour starting place in Washington Park.

The very interesting walking tour lasted two hours and fifteen minutes and covered the original walled city as well as the “new” area down by the harbor. The lady giving the tour was a Charlestonian and her family had been there for over two hundred years. She was very knowledgeable, and seemed to know everyone we passed!

Midway through the tour the yard called and advised us that the AC unit, the capacitor, the evaparator, the compressor and the mother board, was dead. So I sent an email to my Florida mechanic asking if he could send someone over after we get back next week to put in a new one.

We had lunch at Cru, right on the corner of Motely Street, a very popular Charleston lunch spot. Afterwards we walked over to Harris Teeter for some fresh veggies before calling the marina shuttle and going back to Sonas.

When we got back to Sonas we had a bit of a surprise, the salon AC was on and blasting lots of cool air! Paul sent a text to the yard guy saying “OK, you got me!” He replied with a “???” He wasn’t in his office the rest of the afternoon so finally we connected by phone. He was as surprised as we were that the AC was running. His AC tech had told him that is was dead, that he could get it started but because of the amps it was trying to pull and the bad capacitor, it would not restart. He assumed that the tech got it started one more time and left it for us. We told him that we were going out to dinner but would not leave the air running when we not there just in case, We would turn it off at the breaker when we left and then try and restart it when we got back. He told us to let him know what happened

We turned off the AC and got the shuttle into Slightly North Of Broad (SNOB) for dinner.

A little anecdote on SNOB. Many US cities have a rail line running through them. And the cities are divided into the “other side of the track,” meaning there is a good part of the city and a not so good part. Charleston does not have a rail line through the city, but Broad Street does divide the city. It was the case that South of Broad was the “nice” part and North of Broad not so nice. When this restaurant set up it was Slightly North Of Broad – so called itself that, otherwise known as SNOB, to thumb their nose at the South side of Broad!

We had a wonderful meal with Jenna as our waitress. Afterwards we got an Uber back to Sonas.

While Paul went below to watch the faulty AC unit, Sian switched it on at the breaker. And it started up with no issues! It remained on and delivered cool air for the rest of the evening. Paul sent a text to the boat yard manager asking him for a full write up on the issue and what was done to the unit so that our own mechanics can have a good starting point when we get back. For safety reasons we tuned off the unit before bunking down.

August 23rd

In the hope of running outside we again checked our weather sources. It still did not look good, so we opted to stay in the ICW again. We had an easy run south from Charleston, passing Briney Bug in the anchorage (we first saw her in Deltaville on the Chesapeake), through Beaufort (pronounced BEWfort, whereas the NC version is pronounced BOWfort), past Parris Island, which is the boot camp for the US Marines, and towards Hilton Head Island.

Briney Bug

Along the way we saw dozens of dolphins, sometimes in large pods. At one stage we had three or four jumping on the starboard side of the boat and at the same time three or four jumping on the port side – quite the escort on our way home. We even had a group playing off the back of Sonas after we anchored! We also noticed that the tidal drop up this way is a lot larger than in the Chesapeake and even in Florida.

Low tide

We arrived at the anchorage in Skull Creek, Hilton Head around four. Paul had a quick look on Google Maps to see what was around and we saw that there was a ClubCorp country club about a half mile away! Because our own country club is owned by them we get to use the facilities AND get a free entrée due to our membership level! We were sorely tempted to launch the dinghy and go in, but then decided to just relax and enjoy the anchorage since we just had a couple of evenings in Charleston!

After we started the generator Paul went into the lazarette and watched the salon AC unit again as Sian turned it on – it started without issue and ran fine! What the heck is going on?

August 24th

As Sian was preparing the flybridge to get underway a large shrimper passed us very close! She grabbed a quick photo.

Morning shrimper

After lifting the anchor this morning Sian turned around with a smile on her face – no mud, we were back in the country of soft sand! We headed south again through Hilton Head and down to the Savannah River. As we approached we could see the huge container ships going both ways on the river. As we got to the ICW-Savannah River intersection we had a ship crossing in front of us going downriver. We held Sonas steady inside the ICW as the big ship passed, before running quickly across and back into the ICW.

Waiting our turn!
Shrimper in Wahoo River Anchorage

We ran through Wilmington Island, Skidaway Island, Ossabaw Island, and then across St Catherine Sound, where the wind was howling and the chop pretty substantial.

Running through St Catherine’s Sound:

After transiting St Catherine Island we were passed by a Tow Boat US boat, who later hailed us on 16 asking for a slow pass around the next corner. When we got there we saw them successfully dragging a sailboat off a shoal. We turned for our anchorage for the night, to see a shrimper had also tucked himself in there waiting the winds to die. We passed them and went a further half mile up the Wahoo River to shelter behind a stand of trees.

Leaving our well protected anchorage in Wahoo River

One thing worth mentioning is that we passed quite a number of “Slow, No Wake” signs put up by residents or marinas, not the Coast Guard (CG signs have the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) number at the bottom). What was different about these signs was that they referenced the state code about obeying all CG posted signs while not official signs themselves – a cute way of making boaters think that they were official signs! Most of them were so old that they were illegible anyway.

Well worn signs

We haven’t had rain for months and Sonas was getting a bit “dusty,” so Paul broke out the boat bucket and hauled in water to swab the decks. Not the perfect job, more of a “lick and a promise” as we say in Ireland!

We are anchored at Mile Marker 630, on the Wahoo River, tomorrow’s stop will be at the anchorage of Cumberland Island, Mile Marker 711. Then by Sunday lunchtime we will complete our journey at home, Mile Marker 742!

August 25th

We were off again shorthly after 7:00. Headed south across Sapelo Sound, down the Mud River and across Doboys Sound, past Wolf Island and then across Altamaha Sound. This took us to the inside run to the West of St Simons Island, across St Simons Sound, and down through the very skinny water of Jekyll Island. After Jekyll we had to head out into the Atlantic for a bit to pass the shoaling in St Andrew Sound, which took us to Cumberland Island. Even from the ICW side you can see the beauty of this island. It is also a surprisingly long island, taking over 20 miles to pass! We saw a large buoy washed up on the island, probably from a recent hurricane. We also got to watch some of the wild horses grazing.

Don’t think we will be ’rounding this marker!
Cumberland wild horses

As we came near the south end of the island we came to a really shallow area where we intersect with the Brickhill River. The markers were really confusing and we slowed to go through. Just as well as we softly bumped the sand. We reversed off and got around the corner. We passed the submarine base at Kings Bay and approached our planed anchorage off Cumberland Island.

It was only three o’clock and we were about three and a half hours from home. It had been an easy enough run today so we decided to carry on. As we crossed Cumberland Sound towards Fernandina we decided to see if they had a tie-up for us where we could go in for dinner and maybe stay there for the night. The city marina there was badly damaged by Hurricane Matthew but we had heard that they had some spaces now open. When we hailed them they informed us that they only had four spaces and only for boats 45 feet and under. So we continued on.

Fernandina City Marina
Boat washed onto shore at Fernandina
The shrimp are running!

We approached the home port lock at Queen’s Harbour at 7:15 and hailed for a lock in., to be told that there was another boat in the lock and we would have to wait. A two thousand mile round trip, and we had to wait another 20 minutes!!

But we were home!

Safely tucked up at home

Norfolk, And Some Challenging Runs On The ICW South

August 13th

Well today we left the Chesapeake. Heading South West from Cape Charles we went through the fifteen large cargo ships anchored waiting their turn for Baltimore or Norfolk. As we neared the channel into Hampton Roads we saw a military helicopter off towards the mouth of the Chesapeake lower something into the water and then drag it through the water at speed. This went on for about an hour before the helicopter went off to the naval base where it seemed to drop whatever it was towing. We have no idea what it was doing.

Helicopter lowering something into the water…
… dragging it through the water…
…taking it back ashore.

As we crossed into Hampton Roads we stayed to the north of the channel as warship 55 was exiting. After she passed us we crossed the channel and made our way past the Naval Station and down to Norfolk. We backed into our slip at the Waterfront Marina, right downtown.

Warship 55

The last time we were in Norfolk we had tried to get a boat tour of the shipyards and the naval station, but since it was the July Fourth week everything was booked up. So yesterday Paul went on-line and booked us onto the 5:30 tour. Since we were all tied up by one o’clock we went over to the ticket booth and changed our tickets to the two o’clock sailing.

The tour boat we would be taking ourselves later!

As we waited we visited the Armed Forces Memorial. This very well done memorial consisted of 20 bronze cast letters from service people who fought and died in all the major wars, the Revolutionary through the Gulf War. They were replicated on bronze and placed on the ground as if windblown.

Armed Forces Memorial

Some of the letters:

We boarded the Victory Rover which took us on a narrated tour of the shipyards and navy base. Each of the ship names and types were indicated along with the cost to build each. We were surprised to learn that most of the non-fighting ships, while owned by the navy, were managed and manned by civilian companies.

This evening we walked over to the Waterside complex and had Cioppino seafood dinners at Stripers.

August 14th

Today was one of the few days where we were staying in the same location for a couple of days. So we decided to get in some exercise. We put on our walking shoes and walked the Norfolk waterfront and the Freemason district for an hour. We had lunch on board and then headed over to Nautilus.

The Nautilus is part museum, part hands on for young adults and also home of the battleship Wisconsin. The museum was very well done, starting with the history and data on the Port of Virginia and the Norfolk Naval Base. It then covered ships communications and weaponry, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA), sealife in a small aquarium, plus 3D movies titled Blue Sea and Aircraft Carrier. We then toured the upper decks and deck two of the huge Wisconsin.

Crew sleeping quarters.

The museum also had a special exhibit underway called Shipwreck, with 500 artifacts recovered from shipwrecks, though we chose not to visit this.

Overall a very great value at only $16 – less for us seniors!

We got back to Sonas to tidy ourselves up and then walked the half mile to Freemason Abbey, a restaurant Sian picked up from TripAdvisor. This restaurant is in a refurbished church, with the original interior roofing and some of the original stain glass windows. The food and wine were excellent and economical. Our server Jordan was delightful. A very good meal indeed.

August 15th

Now it was time to head for home. We got out the charts and cruising guides and laid out our plan for the run inside to Beaufort and then, hopefully, outside to Jacksonville. We had two things we wanted to do along the way. Stop in Wrightsville in enough time to have dinner with cruising buddies John and Suzie Mc Carley, and also stop in Charleston for two nights giving us an evening and full day to enjoy that beautiful city.

Today we aimed to do 61 miles, timing the lock and bridge at Great Bridge, and passing Coinjock to anchor in the North River. We made the Great Bridge Lock at 8:30 which was perfect timing to get through the lock and straight onto the nearby Great Bridge bridge for their 9:00am opening. Just like clockwork.

The next challenge was the Centerville Bridge. It opened on the hour and half hour. Since it was just 3.2 miles away and we had 25 minutes to make it we pulled back on the throttles with the aim of getting there right at the 9:30 opening.

Then a power catamaran popped out of a marina and fell in behind us. As we got to within a mile of the bridge I switched to the bridge channel 13 and advised the bridge tender that we were approaching southbound and would be standing by on channel 13 for their 9:30 opening. He acknowledged.

A minute or two later it got a bit weird!

Catamaran on 13: “Bridge we are the catamaran behind Sonas wanting to pass them to get to your bridge, but we can’t raise Sonas on channel 16, they must not have their radio on.”

Bridge on 13: “Just pass them then.”

Me on 13: “This is Sonas, we had already contacted the bridge and were monitoring the bridge channel 13.”

Catamaran: “Ok, we will come behind you.”

Catamaran a minute later: “Actually Sonas can we pass you on your starboard side?”

Me: “Roger I will move to port to give you room.”

Catamaran: “No sorry, we want to pass you on your port side.”

Me: “Roger I will move to starboard to give you room.”

The catamaran then passes us towards the bridge. We continue at our decreased speed timing the bridge opening.

Catamaran to bridge: “Bridge we are approaching, do we have to wait for Sonas before you will open the bridge?”

Bridge: “I will be opening the bridge in a few minutes.”

Catamaran slows to wait for the 9:30 opening, which by the time the tender drops the road barriers and open the span, is more like 9:33.  By which time we go through the bridge right behind the catamaran. I smile broadly at the bridge tender and he smiles back.

And on we went! Some of us smelling the roses, some of us burning the diesel!

We got to the anchorage at the North River at two o’clock so decided to keep on going as the weather was perfect for crossing the Albemarle. We crossed the sound in glassy water and anchored just the other side at mile marker 81 on the Little Alligator River along with three other boats.

Crossing the Albemarle Sound

August 16th

Under way at 7:00. We decided to do another 80 miles today, which would get us to anchorage inside Bear Creek just north of the Neuse River. Our plan was to give us a half day run to Cape Fear the next day where we would anchor and have a relaxing beach day.

Our first challenge of the day was getting through the Alligator River Highway Bridge. This is a swing bridge with only a 14 foot clearance when closed. We radioed the bridge tender as we approached. He told us to come on down and he would open it. As we approached he asked us to stand by and they only had one lane of traffic open, and there were men at each end of the bridge releasing traffic in alternative directions. We waited until the traffic flowing eastbound passed by. Then we waited until traffic flowing west bound passed by, then the bridge opened and we were told to continue. Thankfully this was to be the last bridge opening request today and, if we can run outside from Beaufort, the last one of the trip!

We continued south through the Alligator River and arrived at the Alligator and Pungo Canal. This canal is 21 miles long and is probably the most boring part of our trip (as it was on the way up!). We got through the canal without incident, seeing a young deer along the way, transited the Pungo River and across the Pamlico. We arrived at our anchorage at mile marker 161 around 4. We managed to get the anchor down and get below before a lighting storm hit, which passed without causing any issues. It was blowing quite strongly so we laid out one hundred feet of chain just to be on the safe side.

A&P Canal
Mineral rich water
A&P Deer

Jacksonville is at ICW mile marker 734 – so only another 573 miles to go!!

August 17th

Today we  aimed to get to the Beaufort Inlet, nip out there and across to the Cape Look Out Bight. Inside the bight there is a great anchorage, well protected from wind from any direction, with wonderful sandy beaches. We could swim and walk the beaches. Then the next day we can pop out from the Bight and head south west on the outside for our next anchorage at Wrightsville Beach.

Well, it didn’t take long for that plan to unravel. By the time we have crossed the Neuse Rived and north of Morehead City the wind was blowing a gale. Paul checked the weather and found that North Carolina was sitting right between a high pressure  a low pressure trough, and would likely be so for most of the coming week! We checked the sea conditions and found that the waves were 3-4 feet, building to 4-5 feet tomorrow running from the south west!  The boat would be fine, but who wants to spend seven or eight hours pounding straight into five foot waves?

So we decided to stay inside. We grabbed the charts and cruising guide and targeted Swansboro as a good stop for today. We got to Morehead City, turned into the AICW south and continued to Swansboro buffeted by 20 knot winds. We called the town docks and reserved their T-Head, which was open.

We urned into the creek leading into town, and saw that there were two center consoles taking up the T-Head. We held off the T-Head in a strong current (and still strong wind) until a guy sitting in his Ranger Tug saw us. He went off and found the boat owners and got them to quickly move their boats. He then came down to the dock and helped us tie up. When we were all secure Paul went over with a six pack and our thanks. Dave introduced himself and they chatted about the area for a while.

The restaurant at Swansboro Town Dock

We then went for a walk around the quaint waterfront area of Swansboro. There are a number of unique stores, a candy store, and a café that sells beer and wine making products, craft beers and wine. They also do evening wine tastings.

After cleaning up we left Sonas to go eat at The Ice House. On our way up the dock Dave called us over and introduced us to Michael, who runs a sailboat for hire out of the dock. He does sailing education cruises and sunset cruises.

After dinner we sat on the back cockpit with a glass of wine, later joined by Michael and his “crew” Shannon.

August 18th

This morning we had to pour over the charts and cruising guide and work out our plan for getting from Swansboro to Wrightsville Beach, out next stop. While it was only 54 miles in distance it was complicated by the fact that there were four low bridges that we had to go through that were restricted to either half hourly opening or hourly openings. We had to time our departure from the marina to meet the first bridge and then the run between each bridge. Another potential complication was that Marine camp Lejeune was also on our route and they could have live fire exercises that would close the ICW to traffic.

Six miles after leaving Swansboro we saw the control tower for Camp Lejeune, and the warning signs. The good news was that there were no exercises planned for today. As we passed through the camp we saw additional warning signs and the results of their previous live fire practices!

Camp Lejeune Watch Tower

Then we started our timed runs through the bridges!

  • The Onslow Beach Bridge 11 miles away (0nly 12 feet clearance when closed) opened every half hour. So we got under way at 8:15 to make the 9:30 opening. Which we did without issues.
  • Then it was the Surf City Highway Bridge, 20 miles away (12 feet clearance) which only opened on the hour. We gave ourselves a relaxing two and a half hours to get there, again done without issue for the 12:00 opening.
  • Now the Figure Eight Island Bridge, 17.5 miles away (20 feet clearance) which opened every half hour. We needed to get there on the half hour because the bridge after that was  4.8 miles away and only opened on the hour, and we only needed a half hour to do that final run. So we gave ourselves two and a half hours to make the Figure Eight and made it with plenty to spare for the 2:30 opening.
  • Then we had a problem. We hadn’t factored in the fact that it would take five minutes or more for the bridge to open and for us to get through. Meaning we didn’t have a full half hour to do the nearly five miles to the next bridge! AND we got hit with a bit of a head current! We usually cruise at 8 knots (9.2statute miles). If we missed the opening we would have to hang around another hour for the next opening! So we cranked up the RPMs and prayed! At 2:55, when we were about a mile and a half from the bridge Paul called the bridge tender and told him we were a mile out and standing by for the opening. He acknowledged. Four minutes later he called us back and asked us if we would make it as he could not wait! We cranked some more (and maybe went a wee bit too fast through a congested area!). The tender then raised the bridge and called us to tell us that there was a boat coming the other way so by the time he got through we would be fine! In fact he did keep the bridge open for a couple of extra minutes for us to get through, especially since there were a number of smaller boats ahead of us that we had to slow down for! We radioed and thanked him profusely!

On the way through all this we ran aground at the junction of the New River and ICW. This is a three way junction. The inlet coming in, the ICW crossing it, and the river continuing to Jacksonville, North Carolina. There are red buoys going in all directions. The Coast Guard have placed two red can buoys there so that they can move them around with the shoaling. We bumped the nose of our keel aground when our depth sounder was showing eight feet (the transducer is on the middle of the boat) so we were able to back off easily, then in the supposed middle of the ICW channel between the two can buoys we passed one point with only one foot under the keel. With the help of a couple of folks fishing and a passing jet skier we were able to get past the confusion and on our way.

Wrightsville Bridge and big yachts

After tying up at the marina we contacted John and Suzie McCarley and told them we had arrived. We arranged to meet for dinner at six and had a nice meal at Bluewater Grill.

One thing we discussed at the end of this day is that we also have tricky areas in the ICW where we live but we move around with confidence because we know the waters and have local knowledge. We watched today as dozens of other boaters flew around us as we worked our way around some very skinny water, and it certainly has brought home to use the immense value of local knowledge.

August 19th

We decided to stay inside again today as it was still blowing hard. We set off from Wrightsville Beach, southbound on the ICW. Our aim today was to get to the Anchorage on the Little River, just inside the inlet and below Calabash.

The trip along the ICW was uneventful except for the fact that we were running during low tide AND the tide times are later going south so we were following the lowest water as we went along! This really didn’t give us much of an issue except at the intersection of inlets. Every time we got to one of these there was shoaling and we had to go slow and search for the deepest water. It got to be very tedious.

At one inlet intersection we were behind a small trawler who hailed us as we came to the inlet, and asked to switch to a working channel.

“Sonas, this is XYZ ahead of you. If you like we can give you water readings as we go through here?”

Of course we said yes! Then all of a sudden:

“Sonas we are seeing three and a half foot!!!” Then they swerved to starboard.

“Sorry about that Sonas, we mistook the inlet markers as the ICW markers and were cutting the corner. We are fine now!”

Looking at the markers we can certainly understand how they made that mistake and, as Sian said “we’re glad you are leading the way!”

We ended up passing through in 12 feet of water! Soon after passing the inlet intersection we  overtook the small trawler.

The rest of the day was uneventful, we saw some sky divers parachuting down to a field beside the ICW, and  saw dozens  of “Slow, no wake” signs put up on private docks with the requisite red circles, and not one of them legal! We reached the anchorage for an early stop at 2:00. We are checking the weather for tomorrow and it looks like we can finally run outside to Georgetown Inlet to anchor and then afterwards to Charleston.

Sky divers
No wake zone sign

 

St Michaels, Baltimore, And The Turn For Home

Sonas downtown Baltimore

August 6th

Before we cast off this morning John and Paul walked over to J M Clayton Company just by the boat. This seafood processing company claims that it is the “World’s Oldest Crab Company” and has been in business through five generations.  They bought three pounds of fresh crab meat, one of which went into the freezer as a gift for some friends back home.

Three pounds of crab meat!

We cast off and proceeded back out through the Choptank and into the Bay. We rounded Tilghman Island and into Eastern Bay, and ran the two hours into St Michaels. As we approached our lunch anchorage a sail boat with green canvas passed us going in the opposite direction. Suddenly Paul shouted “hey, look at the name!” And there it was, in Irish script on the side of the boat –Sonas! Paul grabbed the radio: “Sonas, Sonas, Sonas, this is Sonas.” No response. He tried a few times more with no response. So sadly we drifted apart, none the wiser of their story! So if there is anyone in Annapolis who knows them, point them here!

Sailing vessel Sonas!

We stopped just short of the town and dropped the anchor for lunch and a swim. Our plan was to go inside to the anchorage in the town.  But as we approached we found three other boats already there in  tight anchorage, so went back out to the open anchorage just outside of town.

We launched he dinghy and went in for a walk through the town. It is quite a lively town with lots of art galleries and stores. We bought a souvenir Christmas Tree ornament and had some ice cream to help with the day’s heat – which was a “feels like” 97 degrees! We also found the small grocery store and bought a fresh lettuce!

However a nice cooler breeze came through the anchorage in the evening so we grilled the dinner and ate on the fly bridge watching the sail boats taking sunset cruises on the Miles River.

Sunset over St Michaels

Later that evening we were surrounded by electrical storms that passed around us but did present us with some magnificent dark skies and forked lightning!

August 7th

We woke this morning to a boat covered in small flies! So much so that we could not use the back door but had to go out and in the side pilothouse door. The number of flies got progressively worse as the day went on, and the number of spider webs appearing to snag them increased as well! We also noticed little green spots appearing on the fiberglass. We will be tying up alongside tomorrow night in Rock Hall so will get to work with the hose and soapy water.

Attack of the flies!

After a lazy morning swimming and reading in the sun we went ashore. We had lunch at the Carpenter Street Saloon before walking down to the St Michaels winery for some afternoon wine tasting. We found the wines there to be very acidic so did not buy any bottles. We considered paying a visit to the Maritime Museum but were driven back to the boat by the heat.

Tasting the wine – no sips here, we went with full glasses!

Returning to Sonas we all had a nap to allow the wine to wear off!! Then we made good use of the crab that we bought making crab spaghetti with lemon gremolata.

August 8th

Paul was interested in taking a direct route to Rock Hall via the Kent Narrows. Last night he had used both the charts and the GPS to look at the depth through the channel, and it looked pretty shallow. He went on to the Trawler Forum and asked for local knowledge and received a good deal of input – in summary, due to the skinny water through the Narrows, it suggested taking the time to go back out through the East Bay and take the long way around. Which is what we did.

We went North past the large ships waiting their turn for Baltimore, then raced a tug and barge to the Chesapeake Bay bridge (until Sian told Paul to slow down and let the tug win!).

Racing the tug and barge!
Chesapeake Bay Bridge

Immediately past the bridge we made the turn to the North East and the channel into Rock Hall. First we went past the entrance to Rock Hall and entered Swan Creek to anchor for lunch and a cooling swim. As we turned the corner into the creek we were surprised by the number of large marinas back in there. After lunch we backtracked and entered Rock Hall harbor. There are two way to get across the harbor. Around the well-marked edge of the harbor, or straight across. Paul had received some local knowledge from the Trawler Forum advising us to go around the edge as the cut across only had a starting and ending markers and was very shallow out of the channel. We passed the blow up Waterman at the harbor entrance and got to our T-Head dock at the Waterman’s Crab House, and found that we had no power pedestal! We walked over to the restaurant and found the general manager, Ken, busy getting bushels of crabs ready for the evening dinner crowd. He pointed us to the only slip that had a 50 amp power. So we backed Sonas down to slip number 5 and we tied up stern onto the bar and restaurant – about five steps away!

Waterman guarding the entrance
Can we get any closer to the restaurant!

John and Anne Marie went for a walk into town but found most placed closed by five. They had an ice cream as a reward!

We had originally planned to grill some steaks on the boat deck, but as the breeze was blowing towards the restaurant we thought it a bit cheeky having the smell of privately grilling steaks waft over the guests there! So we decided on dinner at the restaurant where we had the crab pots; crabs, mussels, clams, potato, and sweet corn, with the requisite brown paper table cloths. Our waitress Tiffany showed us how to professionally clean the crabs, and Ken, the general manager, came and sat with us for a chat. Overall one of the great evenings of our trip.

Yummy yummy!
Not much left!

August 9th

This morning we ran back out the Rock Hall channel and then across to the northern extension to the Brewerton Channel towards Baltimore. We passed through the Baltimore docks and entered the inner channel, slowing to 6 miles per hour as per the signs downtown. We found the East Harbour Marina and were directed to slip A10. We had a little bump on the way into the slip as the slips have long fingers on both sides and are only 18 feet wide –and Sonas is 15.5 feet wide!

Right downtown Baltimore

We would describe the marina as nothing short of magnificent. It is a brand new marina that has only been open for a month. The walkways are very wide and safe, they had slip-side pump outs, and best of all it is right downtown beside Piers 4 and 5. There were Adirondack chairs and tables spread among the slips for our use.

After checking in we went to visit a couple of the Historic Ships. First the WWII submarine Torsk, which sank the last enemy ship of the war. Then we went on the tall ship USS Constellation. We thought two was enough so did not visit the Coast Guard cutter (last surviving ship from Pearl Harbour) and a lightship. It was getting very hot again so we paid a visit to the Tir na Nog Irish bar afterwards John and Anne Marie did some more sightseeing while we went to Fresh Market for some groceries.

USS Constellation
USS Connstellation

That evening we grilled our steaks and set up one of the tables on the dock. We ate and drank wine under the lights of downtown Baltimore. Stephen Bisciotti’s Winning Drive mega yacht was docked next to us as the Ravens had a pre-season game tonight. We chatted and watched the river traffic until late, before bunking down, the final comment from John; “this is the best marina I have ever been to!”

Dinner on the dock

August 10th

For some reason Paul woke up this morning and fancied a breakfast out. He Googled breakfast places and lo and behold found an Irish Pub, The Slainte, only a fifteen minute walk away, AND they did a full Irish breakfast! So we walked over to the Fells Point area and walked through the cobbled streets of the old port district to the pub. As promised Paul had his breakfast of bangers (sausages), egg, mushrooms, bacon, baked beans, black pudding and white pudding, topped with toast! The rest of us had a more modest fare, though John and Anne Marie did start their day off with large Mimosas!

Back on Sonas John and Anne Marie finished their packing. They booked an Uber for one o’clock and we saw them off to Philadelphia airport. We left the marina and “made the turn”, beginning our journey south towards home port. We promised ourselves that we were going to take it slow and continue with short days, rather than long days in a rush to get home. We went under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, past the Severn River and Annapolis and entered the Rhode River. We anchored inside the river by the large marinas in there, as dozens of sailboats passed us on their Friday evening sails.

Rhode River sunset

August 11th

Looking at the charts and cruising guide we saw that there were no good anchorages on the Western Bay between Rhode Island and the Solomons/Potomac River area. Plus we were aiming to get to Cape Charles tomorrow, so decided to put in a longer day today to make tomorrow a short run, getting us to Cape Charles early in the day to visit the town. We set the course for the Great Wicomico River and the protected anchorage on Cockrell Creek. The day stared much cooler than it had been, though thunderstorms were forecast for later in the day.

We made the anchorage in about eight hours. Along the way we booked our slip at Cape Charles and also booked two nights in Norfolk, the next stop.

As we turned into our anchorage we saw the large north Atlantic Menhaden fleet tied up just north of us at Reedsville. Menhaden are an oily fish that are harvested for their Omega 3 oil.

Menhaden fleet

August 12th

We headed south east to Cape Charles. The day started out cloudy and cool, which was a welcome relief after the recent very hot days. Our GPS showed that we would be at the channel for Cape Charles at 12:30. It was a short four hour run. As we neared noon the breeze died away and it got hot and steamy again. Then just as we passed off shore Cape Charles we were hit by a swarm of little black no-seeums. They flooded the fly bridge and were a ticklish nuisance. We were glad when we hit the channel and turned back north into whatever breeze there was and the flies got blown away.

We pulled into the fuel dock at the City Dock and topped up with enough three dollar diesel to see us all the way back home to Jacksonville. We also pumped out the holding tank. Then we went over and tied up at the Dock B T-head. We had a cold beer and a nap before taking a walk into the small quaint town of Cape Charles. Paul got an ice cream at Tim’s Convenience Store and Sian got some milk and lettuce!

This evening we went up to the restaurant by the marina, Shanty, for dinner. But found that there was a one hour wait. So we walked across to the town and had a good crabcake dinner in the Gingernut Irish Pub.

Back Down The Potomac, On to Annapolis And Cambridge

July 30th

Today was to be our last full day in DC. Paschal and Margaret were aiming for the American History Museum and then the monuments and memorials on the Mall. The four of us on the boat set off for a walking tour of the Capitol Building. We watched a movie about the history of the Capitol and the process followed to decide the political structure of the country. We then visited the Crypt, the Rotunda and the hall of statues. After lunch at the Capitol we took the tunnel connecting the Capitol to the Library of Congress. We had a look at the Guttenberg Bible, the Reading Room overlook before walking back down the mall. We returned to Sonas where John and Anne Marie packed, leaving Sonas the next day for a few days on the beach at Ocean City MD.

The Capitol Rotunda
The Reading Room at The Library of Congress

Later that afternoon Ocean Dancer, an Ocean Yacht 48, pulled into the T-Head behind us. Paul went out to say hello and found out that we had previously spoken to the owners on the radio while in the Exumas last year! We swapped cards and, since Bill and KelliRae would be following us to our other destinations, we hope to catch up later.

This evening we all met up and took an Uber to Chinatown and had dinner at Reren. This was one of the top picks on TripAdvisor and the food was excellent, though one or two of us (well really only one of us) didn’t realize that bean curd was tofu and got a shock when it was delivered!! We were eating family style so it really didn’t matter!

ChinaTown

July 31st

First thing we put on our backpacks and walked the half mile to Safeway and reprovisioned with milk, veggies, fruit, bread and necessities. Then we said goodbye for now to John and Anne Marie and hello to Paschal and Margaret who were coming on board for a four day trip to Annapolis. John and Anne Marie were renting a car  for a few days and then meeting  us in Annapolis.

Debris taken from marina

We headed back down the Potomac, keeping a close watch for flood debris. Surprisingly we saw very little. Our target anchorage was Chapel Point on the Tobacco River and we pulled in and were anchored by mid-afternoon. Sian and Paschal went for a swim and we had a blissfully quiet night in the anchorage.

Swimming in the Chesapeake – Not exactly the clear waters of the Exumas!

August 1st

We were out of the Chapel Point anchorage by eight as we wanted to get to our next anchorage off Historic St Mary’s in time to go ashore and visit the old city, parts of which have been restored. Again it was an uneventful trip, with no sign of any debris, although the coast guard came on regularly to warn of debris in both the Potomac and Chesapeake.

We dropped anchor off St Mary’s around one thirty. We launched the dinghy and went ashore to walk up the historic village. Since it was closing at four we got reduced admission. We quickly headed down to the dock and went on board the Maryland Dove – a recreated 17th century sailing vessel. We took the tour below and above decks and chatted with the reenactor. We then headed off to the Indian village and then the chapel. This was all we had time for before the historical village closed for the day. Definitely a worthwhile stop, if you can fit it in.

The Maryland Dove

Back on Sonas Paul decided to have a look at the guest head which had been leaking a little previously but had gotten much worse in the last couple of days. He dismantled the Vacuflush commode and identified the issue. He replaced the vacuum breaker but then struggled to get the head back together again – in the end requiring three pairs of hands to hold all the parts together while he tightened everything. So far so good and the toilet is now behaving!

Dismantled guest head

August 2nd

The anchorage at St Mary’s is very well protected from any wind from the south, and we awoke to a light wind. When we turned the point to leave the anchor we found an eighteen knot wind on our bow. It was from the south so was quite warm. We got to the Potomac and headed east towards Point Look Out. As we were leaving Mary’s River a blue hulled Kady Krogen was behind us. As Invictus passed us on the Chesapeake we realized that we had shared a marina in the Abacos in the spring.  We radioed them and had a pleasant chat about the Abacos, where they been and where they were going.

We arrived at our overnight stop at Harbor Island Marina in Solomons and hailed the dock, with no luck. Another boater advised us to call on the phone instead, which we did, still with no luck. We continued to radio and call until we stood off the marina. Still no answer. So we tied up at the long fuel dock. About a half hour later a dockhand came along and moved us further along the fuel dock for the night.

AND… the guest toilet got plugged up. So while Paschal and Margaret went for coffee and Key Lime Pie, Paul got busy with the plunger and got it freed up.

This evening we went to the Lighthouse Grill for an excellent seafood meal.

Beautiful little tug anchored in Solomons

August 3rd

We tried to sneak off the dock without using the bow thruster this morning so as to let Paschal and Margaret stay in bed. However once they heard the engines start they got up to help us set off! We went back out into the Bay and set a course to Thomas Point, just off Annapolis. The GPS showed that it was 35KM away. Our course took us diagonally across the bay which curves from a north west direction to a north east direction. So we headed towards the east bank and then back gain to the west bank! We passed a few barges and bulk carriers on our way. We also were passed by three beautiful restored 1920s Chesapeake Oyster skips.

Once at our mark Paul took Sonas into the river. We were surprised at the number of crab pots and clam lines that were strung across the river entrance, given that Annapolis is such a busy river. As we went further in Paul realized that there was not a city ahead of us. Slowing Sonas and checking the paper charts he realized that we had turned directly east before Thomas Point and entered the South River. We needed to go past Thomas Point light and then turn to the north wast to enter the Severn River. That explained all the crab and clam lines we saw!

Thomas Point Light

We backed out and went around Thomas Point light and past the big ships that were waiting there for their turn into Baltimore. As we made the turn for the Severn River we saw plenty of boating. Entering Annapolis we had to made our way slowly past three different sets of children in small racing dinghies, followed by the well laid out mooring field. We then called Yacht Harbor Company for our slip assignment and were assigned the 104 foot long slip number five.

On the Severn River approaching Annapolis

After tying up Paul arranged an Uber for Sian and Margaret to go to the supermarket while he checked in. By the time they got back John and Anne Marie had rejoined us and we took a walk through town, and had dinner at Red Red Wine. After dinner we walked over to the Naval Academy to find where we were starting our walking tour, planned for the next morning.

August 4th

John and Anne Marie brought their luggage from their hotel as Paschal and Margaret were leaving us today to fly back to Ireland. We then went over to the US Naval Academy and took a guided walking tour of the impressive facility. We heard about how the 4500 midshipmen are selected, go through Plebe Summer, and later shed their dixie cup hats and move to third class midshipmen. We saw their training facilities, the dorm, Memorial Hall, chapel, and heard about the various traditions.

Bancroft Hall, the Naval Academy Dormitory
Naval Academy Centennial of US Submariner Force – with Royal Navy Submarine veteran John.
Sarcophagus of John Paul Jones
Candle for the MIA in the Naval Academy Chapel
Naval Academy Memorial Hall

After lunch on board Paschal and Margaret bade farewell and caught an Uber to Dulles. Just before they left some old friends of ours from Yardley PA, Jim and Eve, who had run their sailboat down from the Bohemia River, came to visit.

We went to Saturday mass at the beautiful St Mary’s church before  the four of us who were left had a light dinner at Harvest.

St Mary’s Church altar
St Mary’s Church

August 5th

We left our slip and went over to the fuel dock and pumped out the holding tank, then set out for our next stop of Cambridge, Southbound on the Eastern shore. There was not a breath of wind and water of glass. We made very good time so decided to go into the very pleasant Lecompte Bay, drop the anchor and have lunch and a swim.

John and Anne Marie

We then continued into Cambridge. We read on the cruising guide that we could tie up at a bulkhead wall in front of the county building. This was easy to find and there were no boats there when we arrived, so tying up was simple. The cleats on the wall are quite small and in need of repair so would be suspect in a blow. Also there are no power pedestals there so we turned on the generator.

Tied up at the Dorchester County Building bulkhead

We walked through the small downtown and, due to the heat, we were the only people on foot, meeting no one else on our walk. We discovered that Cambridge was a key stopping point on the Underground Railway.

Cambridge’s role in the Underground Railway

We were so hot that we decided to stop in at the RAR microbrewery for a beer. Afterwards we walked through the graveyard of the Grace Episcopal Church, which was previously one of the original Church of England churches set up by King William and Queen Mary in 1693. Buried here are five Maryland governors with graves dating from 1674, including many revolutionary war dead.

Grace Church graveyard

We then decided we were still a bit hot so walked past Sonas to Snappers restaurant and Tiki Bar for another round!

Meanwhile, back on Sonas, Sian had a joint of lamb cooking in the slow cooker and when we got back we added roast potatoes, asparagus, and some onion and mushroom gravy to it for a great meal back on board.

To Washington DC And Family

“Blue” helicopter flying overhead

July 23rd

Today our planned anchorage is at Mattawoman Creek. Before we left Paul went on line and checked the chart. He got confused when the whole creek showed depths of only 2-3 feet. So he looked at the paper charts and saw 7-8 feet. After some more investigation we found that there are two Mattawoman creeks, one off the Potomac (our planned stop) and one off the Chesapeake Bay proper! It took us under three hours to make the anchorage, again passing through debris fields of serious sized pieces, some large tree trunks and pieces of dock.

Large debris
Large debris

We passed Quantico to our port where helicopters were constantly circling and a number of V-22 Ospreys taking off. It is interesting to watch these lift off slowly in helicopter mode and then transition to prop planes. We knew that Qualtico was home to the Marines, but didn’t realize until we looked it up that many many military departments have their training and HQs there. From Wiki: The base is the site of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command and HMX-1 (the presidential helicopter squadron), Officer Candidate School, and The Basic School. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration‘s training academy, the FBI Academy, the FBI Laboratory, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command, and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations headquarters are on the base.

Osprey aircraft from Quantico

We slowly went into the anchorage a hundred yards off the shore which gave us nice protection from the southerly wind, though it stayed a light breeze most of the night. After anchoring we saw signs along the north bank telling us that it was a restricted area. It had a number of objects laid along the shoreline. After it got dark we saw that these were large bright lights pointed upwards. We have no idea what that place was so will do some research later.

Nice tight anchorage!
Lights from restricted area

July 24th

Today was without doubt the most stressful of our cruise so far. Maybe even the most stressful since we got Sonas!

Our plan was to run the three hours to Alexandria, tie up at the city dock there, and have a walk around and dinner. Then tomorrow head for the Capital Yacht Club right downtown for a six day stay.

We left the anchorage and immediately started seeing more and more debris fields. Again some pieces were very large. We pulled back on the throttles and took our time keeping a close watch on the water. As we got to the final bend before seeing the Alexandria Bridge Paul saw a huge piece of tree right on our bow. It had a grey bark and had been well hidden by the water. He immediately threw the helm over and took the tree down our starboard side. When it got half way down the hull he threw the helm the other way to try and spin the stern of the boat away from the tree. As we waited for what seemed an age but was only a second or two we heard and felt a number of quick crunches, then the tree passed behind us. Paul slowed down the boat and went below to check everything out. Thankfully all seemed fine.  He then slowly increased the engine revs listening and feeling for any vibration, fortunately there was none. He moved the helm and the rudders responded as they should with no vibration. We believe the tree had branches and one was low enough that the prop cut it, but was fine enough not to do any damage.  Making the turn towards Alexandria Paul went to cruise speed for a while and all was good.

As we went under the Alexandria Bridge we hailed them for our docking assignment. They assigned us a T-Head. As we approached we saw that the T-Head was only about 25 feet long, requiring us to also tie up both bow and stern to remote piles. The second issue was that the dock was absolutely full of debris, including large pieces. We slowing went in, pushing the debris to one side. The wind was pushing us on to the dock, which usually is a help. This time however, because of the small dock length and we could only tie to one pile at a time, or stern was pushed around a pile. We decided to leave the dock and go back out and come in again. When we left the dock we decided that it generally was not a suitable dock and the debris field was worrying so we radioed them and told them we were going to look for somewhere else.

Twenty foot piece of tree near Alexandria

Sian then called the Capital Yacht Club to see if we could come in a day early. No one answered the phone so she left a message. She kept trying with no luck. It was 11:30 so we assumed they had gone to lunch.

None of the three marinas in downtown sell fuel and we weren’t sure that they had holding tank pump out facilities. So we popped into James Creek Marina and took a pump out, and topped up with a small amount of fuel. We didn’t really need the fuel but since we were there anyway for the pump out we took advantage to save time later on.

Meanwhile Sian kept trying CYC. Still no answer. When we left James Creek we then tried them on the VHF. Still no response from the dockmaster. We slowly cruised down to The Wharf and stopped right off the marina, calling and radioing. Still no answer. There is a small anchorage just south of the marinas so we decided to anchor there until we could get in touch with them. No sooner had we put the anchor down than they answered the phone and confirmed that they had space for us. We lifted the anchor and tied up at the T-Head on dock A, within view of The Washington Monument.

Downtown berth.

We checked in and were given a tour of the private yacht club facilities and electronic key cards. The club was founded in 1872 but had just moved into these brand new first class facilities last October.

After tidying up we walked along the Wharf District. We had friends coming in tomorrow night to have dinner so we were scouting out somewhere to eat. We went into the Anchor, a ships store, and saw that they had a selection of wine. Since they deliver to boats we ordered some wine which would be delivered on Thursday. We then had a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Later that night we had dinner at Hank’s Oyster Bar, before settling in for the evening.

July 25th

After breakfast we walked the half mile to Safeway supermarket for some supplies. Because we had bought some heavy things like bottles of milk and vinegar we grabbed an Uber back. After putting away the purchases we walked over to CVS as Paul wanted to replace our small flashlight. As we checked out Sian looked at the name tag of the manager who was checking us out and thought she recognized it.

“Did you use to live in Yardley PA?”

Yes, this young lady was friends with our daughter when we lived there and we were friends with her parents. We hadn’t seen them in at least eighteen years! What a coincidence, especially since she told us she had just moved to DC a week ago. So Paul took a photo of Sian and Emily and sent it to Claire and asked her if she knew who this was – about a minute later she came back with her name! They were 11 when they were last saw each other!

Emily and Sian

We had lunch at Taylor Gourmet before heading back to Sonas. Paul wanted to give the boat a soapy wash and scrub to get rid of some of the mud from the anchor area on the foredeck and wash away all of the salt and dirt that had gathered on the boat on our run up. We then got ourselves tidied up as we were having an early dinner with  friends.

Chris and Paul worked together at Johnson & Johnson and Chris had retired from the company one year earlier than Paul. He was spending some time in Baltimore so suggested that we get together for a tour of Sonas and an early dinner. He and his wife Nancy arrived and took the brief tour of the boat and then we set off for dinner at Landini Brothers in Old Town Alexandria. We had a delicious Italian dinner while the rain poured outside yet again. It was so heavy that at one stage all of the cell phones in the restaurant went off with a local flash flood warning.  Afterwards Chris and Nancy dropped us off at our marina where we ran through the steady downpour to the boat!

July 26th

We decided to try and get some exercise in this morning. So after breakfast we walked towards the National Mall, planning to briskly walk a half hour out then back. As we walked in the warmth of the bright sunshine we saw lot of ladies in light sun dresses. Sian regretted not packing any as they would have been perfect for this upcoming hot days in DC. So we Google mapped some stores and off we went to do some dress shopping!

After a successful shop we had lunch at Kilwin’s Irish Pub then swung by the Anchor ship store to ask about our wine order. It had just been delivered to the store and they would soon be delivering it to the boat, and sure enough fifteen minutes later it arrives dockside.

After storing the wine we went up to the wharf and has a drink at Kilwin’s where we could watch the yacht club building. We have family joining us for the next few days. John and Anne Marie arrived by train at Union Station We needed to meet them to get them access through the secured gate. They arrived and after hugs they joined us for a drink before stowing their luggage on Sonas.

Afterwards we grabbed an Uber and went for an evening walk on the National Mall. We had the Uber drop us off at the Air and Space Museum around seven. It was closing at seven thirty so we just walked through from the rear entrance through the lobby, briefly showing John and Anne Marie what was there, and then immediately exited the front entrance. We walked down the Mall to the World War II memorial and then caught another Uber back to the boat, where we had dinner on board.

Cooling off in the WW II fountains

July 27th

Today would be our first full day as tourists! We grabbed the free bus that runs from the District Wharf to the Mall, then walked across to the National Archives. We waited until it opened at ten and then visited the Rotunda to see originals of the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and the Constitution. We also went through the Freedom and Vietnam exhibits there. Heading towards the Air and Space Museum we grabbed lunch at Quiznos before all four of us took in the Journey to the Stars IMAX movie. We then split up, with the ladies going off to the Newseum, the story of journalism and the reporting of major world events, while the boys stayed for hours at the air and space museum. Meeting back at Sonas we got cleaned up, had a cocktail on board before having an Asian dinner at Kaliwa on the Wharf.

International Sailor at the Navy Memorial

A second brother and sister-in-law, Paschal and Margaret, had arrived late afternoon from Ireland. It took them over two hours to get through immigration, and then an hour and a half to get into the city from Dulles airport due to heavy traffic. They checked into their hotel and later in the evening Paschal came down to visit and lay out our tourist plan for the next day.

July 28th

John and Anne Marie set off for the Newseum, while Paul bought six tickets for the Hop On Hop Off bus that does the circuit of DC. We had to go up to Union Station to convert the E-Tickets to boarding stickers, so we all met up there for lunch at ROTI Mediterranean, and to join the next bus. We took the narrated tour by the Capitol Building and along the south side of the National Mall. We got off at Arlington National Cemetery and transferred to the tour trolley that would take us around the cemetery. We visited the Kennedy eternal flame and then got off at the amphitheater to watch the emotional changing of the guard at the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier.

The tomb of the unknown
Monitor sailors grave
Arlington Cemetery
Kennedy eternal flame

Changing Of The Guard at The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier

We returned to the transit center at the Lincoln Memorial and grabbed an Uber back to the Wharf. After relaxing and a couple of cocktails we headed off to The Pearl Street Warehouse as we had tickets to see a young female country trio Maybe April. We had bar food at the venue and were out of there and back to the boat by 10:30.

Drinks at Pearl Street Warehouse
Maybe April

July 29th

Today Paschal and Margaret headed for The American Indian Museum, The Air and Space Museum and The Sculpture Garden. The rest of us walked over to the White House Visitor’s Center, which was very well done, before taking some photos in front of the iconic building itself. We then walked over to the World War II Memorial, and along the Reflecting Pool to the Vietnam War Memorial. Following that we walked up the steps into the Lincoln Memorial, finishing at the Korean War Memorial.

The Whitehouse
Lincoln Monument
The Reflecting Pool
Korea War Memorial

We then split up with John and Anne Marie off to do some shopping while we headed back to Sonas for a well deserved nap.

For this evening we had reserved a table at the upscale Del Mar restaurant right at the Wharf.  We had a delicious Spanish meal with lots of Paella before night caps on Sonas.

 

Crossing Back To The West Side And The Potomac

Preparing dinner!

July 16th

As soon as the post office opened in Onancock today we were there to send off our passports to get visas for a trip we are doing in October.  We couldn’t do this before we left home as the visas are only valid for 90 days and doing it then then would have been too early. Afterwards we walked to Ker Place, a mansion and grounds preserved by the Eastern Virginia Historical Society. The house itself was not open on a Monday but we were able to walk around the gardens and the large fishing canoe that they are restoring.

Ker PLace

We returned to Sonas, lifted the dinghy, and headed back to the Chesapeake Bay and towards Tangier Island. As we went down the river we saw some beautiful houses with even more beautiful views!

Onancock houses
Onancock houses
Onancock houses

Tangier Island is from a time past. Rather than us trying to describe it clicko HERE to read about the history of the island and the threat to its future.

We ran at 1400 RPM and around six knots as it was only 17 miles from Onancock. We also wanted to get there at a minimum of a rising mid-tide as the channel is quite shallow. We pulled into the eastern channel around 1:15 and slowly passed the watermen “shantytown” on stilts, with crabbers unloading their catch.

Tangier watermen town

We tried calling Parks Marina multiple time to no avail. We like to call early enough that Sian had time to get the lines and fenders ready on the correct side. We didn’t get an answer until we were right on top of the marina. Then he answered and told us he was in the house and would be right out. Mr. Parks, about 80 years old, soon appeared. He then spoke animatedly into his handheld radio but we heard nothing. Paul signaled that he wasn’t coming through so we then shouted at each other, enough to work out that we were taking the T-head. We also needed to tie the bow to a pile out in front of the bulkhead. Since we had not been made aware of the tie-up we had no line ready and Sian scrambled to get a loop made and the line around the pile. It took a while but we were soon tied and double tied to the bulkhead.

Paul paid Mr. Parks in cash – $70 ($30 per night for the boat and $5 per night for the power)! This is a pretty inexpensive place!

After ensuring ourselves that Sonas was well secured we started to head into town. On the dock we met John, an Englishman from Norfolk – the one in England. He lives over in Crisfield but comes to the island to help out once a week. He gave us an overview and then told us that there was a crab festival in Crisfield on Wednesday that we would enjoy.

We walked up the main street of Tangier and read the many historical signs. We visited their small but very well done museum, and called into a couple of little one room stores. We bought a postcard and a Christmas ornament. Everyone we met along the way were happy to chat.

We had been given a recommendation to try the stuffed flounder at the Fisherman’s Corner restaurant. Walking past just after four we saw that it closed at six. So we stopped in to ask is that meant last food orders at six, or out the door at six. They told us, because the ferries had not brought many tourists over today, they were just about to close! We also discovered that the island is dry, so no beer or wine with dinner! The only other restaurant right across the corner already had a closed sign up!

So we planned on eating on board this evening. We then watched as a neatly dressed couple left their  boat, which was tied up beside us, and headed into town looking like they were off to dinner! So Paul took a walk in and found the other restaurant now open. He went in and found that they were serving until nine. We got cleaned up and off we went to Lorraine’s for dinner. There we bumped into another John, from Leister in England this time, who we had previously  spoke with over in Onancock. He was cruising around alone in his cuddy cabin boat. He had his food delivered to our table and joined us for dinner.

July 17th

Plan was to spend a very relaxing day here at Tangier Island. We walked the marsh side of the island past some splendid houses, but also past some very low lying areas of the island where both the houses and the golf carts needed to be stored on elevations because the high tides came in across the properties. Even the school playing field was tidal!

Tidal baseball field
Ramps to keep the carts out of the tide
Garden ornaments

We visited the lovely Methodist Church, wondered at the gravestones that people had in their front yards (because they needed to be buried in elevated areas that would not be flooded), waved and chatted to everyone we passed.

Tangier Methodist Church

We went in to Fisherman’s Corner for lunch – Crab Cake salad and Crab bites no less! Then back to Sonas for some light maintenance . We then spent a relaxing afternoon reading on board. During the afternoon a Kady Krogen 52, Kay Dee Anna, came down the channel. Knowing the challenge they would have contact Mr. Parks, Paul turned in the radio and we helped them connect with Mr. Parks – which included Paul shouting to him and Sian telling him that he wasn’t on the right channel on his handheld VHF radio. We got onto the dock and helped them tie up.

Also during the afternoon some sail boats crewed by boy scouts came in looking to tie up. They hung about off the marina trying to raise Mr. Parks. At one stage one of the sailboats ran aground over by the crab shacks and had to be towed off by some watermen. They eventually gave up and went off somewhere else.

July 18th

We planned to leave today after breakfast. We noticed a golf cart with some scouts on board watching us. When we started the engines they came up and asked if we needed some help. They were waiting to move into our spot on the dock. Which we were getting ready to go the folks on Kay Dee Anna told us that Mr Parks had a bad fall off the little scooter that he rides up and down the dock. His foot had been in a cast and his hands bandaged up and he was likely going back to the mainland with his daughter. He had earlier told us that he had just recovered from a broken hip bone. We suspect that the old marina will not be around much longer.

We headed back out into Tangier Sound and followed the chart heading towards Crisfield. Suddenly we were running out of water, not indicated on the chart. There was a shoal off to our port which we suspected had spread. So we headed further away from the shoal and the depth improved.

We ran along the outside of a number of crab pot lines, eventually having to nip between a line of pots to make the Chrisfield channel. We backed into slip G3 at the Somers Cove Marina. After checking in we walked past the thousands of people attending the crab and clam bake. We decided at $50 a head, we wouldn’t go there for lunch. We walked up Main Street and noticed a lot of the building were empty, and those that did contain a business were not in great condition. The overall impression we got is that this is a town in serious decline. Even the marina, with 450 slips, was only about 20% occupied. We finally stopped off at Capn. Tyler’s Crab House and had a nice, what else, CRAB CAKE lunch!

Crisfield

Returning to Sonas we did some small chores and then spent the afternoon and evening relaxing on the back deck. There were a couple of transient boaters in the slips around us and we chatted to one owner who owned a boat dealership.

July 19th

Paul went up to the main dock to drop off some recycling and while he was away a gentleman from a nearly boat knocked on Sonas and asked if he was around. He told Sian that he knew Paul from the Trawler Forum. So when Paul got back he went over to his boat and Ted and he had a good chin-wag! We then cast off and went over to the fuel dock to pump out our holding tank. We have a holding tank monitor and it had just gone to two thirds full. We had another week to go until our next marina in DC, so we decided to pump out today rather than take the risk of it filling up.

We then headed out and across Kedges Channel towards the mouth of the Potomac River. We passed the rusted out remains of the Hannibal, which was scuttled on a sand bar near Smith Island and is used for firing practice by US Air Force jets and helicopters.

Target ship Hannibal

We entered the Potomac and turned into St Mary’s River, going all the way up to anchor off the Historic City of St Mary’s along with a half dozen other boats. Once the capital of Maryland before it was moved to Annapolis, it is now a historic site with some restored buildings and a lot of archeological sites. St Mary’s College is also there, and there were a number of school racing dinghies practicing with their coach when we got to the anchorage. When we looked up the college on the Web we found that they do a concert series and the next one is tomorrow night. We were planning on heading out tomorrow but decided to stay and attend the concert.

Historic St Mary’s anchorage
St Mary’s anchorage sunset

Our dinghy had a leak. We first noticed this in the Abacos earlier in the year and had put up with it by pumping it up on a daily basis. We decided it was time to find the leak and fix it. We raised the dinghy and turned it in the boat deck so we could wipe the hypalon tubes with soapy water. The resultant bubbles told us where the leak was – and it was a long scratch along the bottom of one tube – probably from a Bahamian Beach! We cut pieces of hypalon repair patches to match the scratch and put on two layers of glue. We will know within 24 hours if we have fixed the issue. [Update: no, still leaking. We will have to have another go at fixing this later].

July 20th

By the time we got up this morning the majority of the other boats had left the anchorage. We got going on some more boat chores. Paul tightened some head bolts, got the transfer pump primed and transferred fuel, and cleaned out the forward bilge. Sian cleaned windows, and added vinegar to all of the shower and AC drains to keep them clear. Then she made the boat smell delicious by baking a loaf of bread!

Sian doing some maintenance on the master cabin AC!

After chores we lounged on the back deck reading until it was time to launch the dinghy and go to the concert. We got to the College green and bought some dinner from one of the numerous food trucks. The concert was billed as classical music with Dancing Under The Stars. Unfortunately the bright sun was setting right behind the stage and it was hard to see unless you had something to shade your eyes. After about twenty minutes of sitting on our blanket with the orchestra playing pieces of Swan Lake,  we decided this was not our cup of tea, so headed back to Sonas.

July 21st

The forecast called for serious gale-force winds and rain all day today beginning late morning. So we were off the anchorage shortly after seven.

Since we arrived on the Chesapeake we find that every time we lift the anchor it brings up loads of mud, which ends up covering the deck. Sian now lays out a hose and cleans the chain and anchor as it comes up.

Muddy foredeck

We retraced our path back to the Potomac and turned northwest past Piney Point and towards Breton Bay. Not one other vessel of any size passed us, and none appeared on the radar. We followed the bay north to Leonardtown and anchored close by the high banks there which would give us solid protection against any wind. We laid down plenty of chain and added the snubber.

It did rain all day and into the night, sometimes very heavily, however we felt nothing of the wind due to our protected spot. The forecast had called for potentially over two inches of rain today. We took the time to do a couple of small boat chores, of which there always seems to be plenty! We watched a movie – Sweet Home Alabama and read as the rain hammered down.

July 22nd

We woke to calm winds and blue sky, but with another nasty weather forecast for this afternoon. We got underway quickly and headed out to the Potomac. We again headed north toward Tobacco River and our next anchorage. Suddenly we were in the middle of a debris field, with hundreds of pieces of wood, some a decent size. We slowed down and navigated our way through it.

Debris field

We went under the Route 301 bridge and headed for Tobacco River on the Maryland side of the Potomac. As we approached the mouth of the river we saw that the anchorage was exposed to the Southeast – and that was where the wind was coming from. So we quickly looked at the charts and saw a potential good anchorage just ahead on the Virginia side, behind Mathais Point Neck. During the trip we also saw some houses up on the high banks, with some innovative ways of getting to their boat docks.

Personal lift to the boat dock

We pulled in there as far as we could before we reached the huge crab pot field. As we were anchoring we listened as a boat  just ahead of us on the river put out a Securite call on the VHF warning all boaters that there was another significant debris field at his location “with pieces of wood large enough to damage a boat!”

After getting the anchor down we used the Internet to find that counties up river had over five inches of rain yesterday with flash flooding, and flooded roads. Clearly the debris fields were the result of that movement of water into the river.

We re-scanned for TV channels on our digital antennae and watched the last couple of hours of the British Open golf. Thunder storms continued to roll through for the rest of the day, and a warning came over the radio advising people to stay indoors in St George and Charles Counties on the Maryland side of the river, but we were snug in our anchorage.

Potomac Beauty and the Beast

 

Cruising the South West Shores of the Chesapeake

July 9th

We watched as a Hampton crab fisherman came by in the early morning and cleared his pots. He lifted and moved the one that had been placed near the middle of the anchorage and was bothering us. We then lifted our anchor – leaving it dangling in the water for a while to get the dark mud off it before bringing it on board. We radioed in to the Hampton Public Piers dock master to thank him for his hospitality and help with the drifting boat and headed back out to Hampton Roads.

As we cleared the channel and headed out into the Chesapeake we realized that storm Chris was still sending stiff winds and swells our way. We had the stabilizers on and Sonas took us comfortably north towards York River. Two hours later we turned towards the river and Yorktown.

Along the way we saw all of the big ships sitting off Cape Charles waiting for their pilots to take them to Norfolk to the south and Baltimore and other ports to the north.

Dozens of ships wait for their pilots

We had called the Yorktown Riverwalk Marina earlier and asked them about their mooring balls. They were first come first served. As we approached the town we called again to get directions to the balls. We were somewhat concerned as the NE wind was blowing straight up the river and causing quite a chop. When we got to the mooring field we found heavy metal cans, well encrusted with shells at the waterline, and no pennant (the piece of floating rope that you pick up to tie off to). There was a piece of metal in the shape of a cross on top that looked like it needed to be lassoed or cleated to using a dinghy.  We went alongside but it was clear we were not going to be able to tie off to the mooring as it was set up.

We considered the Yorktown City Marina, but there were no boats in there so we decided against it. Later, on visiting Yorktown, we saw that the marina was closed down and the power pedestals all covered over.

Empty Yorktown City Marina

So we had a close look at the cruising guide and decided to go across the river to the York River Yacht Haven and tie up.

We went ashore to check in and have lunch at the marina’s restaurant, the York River Oyster Company, then called the Yorktown Shuttle as suggested by the marina.

Lunch with Sonas in the background.

We were transported into the American Revolution Museum in Yorktown and spent a couple of hours there. When we went to pay our admission Paul asked the lady if we could get a discount because Sian was English. That didn’t work!

Outside the Revolutionary Museum

After visiting the museum we caught the free Yorktown shuttle tram that took us through the town. We got off at the Victory Monument by the Yorktown Battlefield and walked back into town by way of the historic main street, with houses that remain from the siege.

The Victory Monument

We had beer and tapas at the Water Street Grill before getting an Uber back to the marina. We reserved a car with Enterprise Car Rental in Gloucester for tomorrow, with arrangement to pick us up at the marina. We planned to go see the colonial towns of Jamestown and Williamsburg!

July 10th 

We had a car reserved with Enterprise from 8am this morning to 8am tomorrow morning. I called them yesterday and told them that I would need to be picked up at the marina. They said it would be around 8:30 since they didn’t open until 8. When they hadn’t showed by 8:40 we called them, finally getting them to show at 9:15. We  headed off to Williamsburg, getting there around 10:15. We had an interesting six hours there, visiting all of the homes, the stores, the foundry, coopery, Capitol etc. We had lunch in the Shields Tavern and then met our tour lady for a history walk. We were the only people to sign up so had a private one and a half hour tour!

Williamsburg
The Capitol Williamsurg
The Governor’s Palace Williamsburg
Williamsurg
Capitol Committee Room
Capitol Courtroom

After leaving Williamsburg we went to the store and bought some fresh veggies and fruit, bread, and milk. We then drove to Newport News and picked up some wine at Total Wine. We had planned on going to have a look at Jamestown, but passed as there was not a breath of wind and it was really hot by now, and we frankly had enough history for one day! We returned to Sonas, put the purchases away and returned to the York River Oyster Company for dinner.

July 11th

After breakfast Paul took the rental car back to Enterprise and got a ride back to the marina. He then filled the bucket with hot water and soap and gave the port side, which was against the dock, a good wash down. Sian meanwhile topped up the water tanks, did a laundry load, cleaned the galley and heads. We were ready to set out again for the next stop!

We headed out to the York River and found about eight coast guard vessels running exercises. There is a Coast Guard training base right here on the south shore on the York River. We held our breath hoping that vessel boarding for safety checks was not part of the morning exercises. It wasn’t, and we passed by uninterrupted!

We cut across to the entrance to Mobjack Bay, which is north of the York River. Based on the cruising guides the East River, running north from Mobjack was a place with beautiful vistas and safe gunk hole anchorages. We wanted to get there in plenty of time to set the anchor and watch the World Cup match between England and Croatia. We motored passed the village of Mobjack and pulled in behind green market #7, dropped anchor in 11 feet depth and he anchor held on first asking.

It was a delightful anchorage, with soft winds, no current, and beautiful landscaping in the shoreline.

East River, Mobjack

After lunch we sat and watched the soccer match, which sadly England lost. Sian then got her swimming costume on and swam six laps around Sonas while Paul set the snubber. We had a very tasty fajita dinner and then sat in the foredeck seats and watch the sunset.

Fajitas!

Unfortunately we had left both our Chesapeake Chart Book and Cruising Guide on the fly bridge and while we were watching the soccer game a rain storm had come through and they were soaked. We will dry them out and hopefully save them!

July 12th

Our plan today to is to do a bit of tidying on Sonas, clean some stainless, wash the fore deck to get rid of the mud and dirt that the anchor brings up, and clear some of the “cruising items” to their respective storage lockers (like weather gear). While Paul swabbed the fore deck Sian used Never Dull on the swim platform staples, swim steps, and on the cockpit cleats and other stainless.

Paul then went below to do an engine room check. This is just a regular check on the engine oil and transmission levels, a general look around the engines and the bilges. On lifting one of the bilge covers he discovered about a quart of “red!” For non-sailors, marine diesel has a red coloring in it to differentiate it from road diesel as it has a different tax treatment. It is not a good sign to have diesel in your bilge compartments!

Paul cleaned up the fuel, putting it into a container as we did not want it being pumped overboard by the bilge pumps. He grabbed our strong LED flashlight and walked around the fuel lines, engines and generator, and could see nothing amiss. We then started the engines and ran them for 30 minutes and watched for any leaks. We did the same with the generator. And found nothing.

There was one other consideration. The fuel transfer pump. As mentioned we had been transferring fuel from one tank to the other to balance the boat. Given that we had found noting with the rest of the fuel system, and had used the transfer pump a few days ago, Paul suspected that the pump might be leaking.

So we switched on the transfer pump and watched it – and it was leaking! We turned it off and Paul took some photos of the pump from all angles. He saw that there were three small screws holding a face plate on the pump, and it seemed to be leaking from that plate. He got the right size ratchet and tightened the screws. After we ran the pump again –and no leak! Problem resolved! No more fuel in the bilge – which is a good thing!

Leaking transfer pump

By the time we had resolved the issue we didn’t feel like launching the dinghy to go visit the village of Mobjack, which we had planned to do. So we broke out our Kindles and had a relaxing evening reading with cool light winds across the anchorage.

July 13th

We had decided, now that we were in the Chesapeake proper and we were only doing short two to three hour runs when moving locations, that we should take an hour or so each day and keep Sonas clean and tidy. So today Paul washed the Portuguese Bridge and pilothouse while Sian tackled the stainless on the foredeck – which is quite substantial. We paused to watch as a ladies rowing crew went past in the early morning light.

Ladies coxless fours at sunrise

After that Paul upped anchor while Sian was on the helm getting some practice maneuvering Sonas out of anchorage. As the chain and anchor came up they were covered in grey mud, good for holding the anchor on the bottom, not so great when it comes aboard a freshly cleaned foredeck!

We ran for two and a half hours out of Mobjack bay, past Port Comfort Lighthouse and into the Chesapeake. We went north passing Wolf Trap light. Turning into the Piankatank River, we then navigated the narrow channel into Jackson Creek at Deltaville, our next stop. Along the way we had to keep focused watch for crab pots as we passed endless row upon row of the things. While Sonas has line cutters on her props, we certainly don’t want to be cutting some guy’s livlihood away.

Port Comfort Lighthouse
Wolf Trap Light

Deltaville is known as a boating destination, with the main concentration being in Broad Creek on the north east end of the peninsula. Unfortunately there are no good anchorages in there, only marinas and boat yards. Since we love anchoring out we chose Jackson Creek. From what we read there was a public dock that we could dinghy to and then only a three block walk to town. We launched the dinghy and went over to the public dock to find that there were no ladders to get up. We tried a couple of times but finally gave up. Instead we went over to Deltaville Marina and Boatyard and tied up to their dinghy dock, went and paid the $5 fee and then had to walk one mile into town! Paul says he may consider writing to the town suggestion they install a couple of ladders to facilitate cruisers and their dinghys.

Deltaville Public Dock

The town of Deltaville proper is basically one road with a few buildings. We went to the post office and posted some mail, then to the hardware store to buy a new mop as Paul had worn out the old one! Then we looked to see if we could sit somewhere and get a cold drink and maybe an ice cream. The little coffee shop had closed at three and the restaurant didn’t open until five thirty! So we were out of luck, and headed back to Sonas. Clearly the place to be in the Deltaville area was Broad Creek. Perhaps we will visit on our way back south.

We also had zero connectivity as here was no AT&T signal. Now and then it came in as “one bar”, and we received emails but didn’t stay long enough for us to reply. Paul was able to get a quick read of the Trawler Forum to find that the other boat in the anchorage, Briney Brig from Miami, was a member and had earlier given us some information on the channel into the anchorage.

Briney Brig at anchor in Jackson Creek

July 14th

This morning, Saturday, brought us a beautiful sunrise into a sky without a cloud and glassy water. We saw Briney Brig already on her way out of the anchorage at six am. We contacted them through the Trawler Forum once we had connectivity and found that they were heading back south as we were heading north. So we would not be seeing other again on this trip.

Briney Brig heading out at first light

We had originally planned on staying two nights at anchorage but had decided last night to move on today. We looked at the Chesapeake Magazine Cruising Guide to see where we might want to visit before making our way up the Potomac River at the end of next week. One creek and town caught our interest – Onancock. This was on the Virginia eastern shore of the Chesapeake so we would be cutting across the bay for the first time.

We left Deltaville. As we exited Jackson Creek we set our course directly for the mouth of the Piankatank river. We saw that this would take us through a series of crab pots, but we were not concerned as there was no wind and flat calm water, so the pot markers were easy to see. We waved as we passed a crabber busy at work, He yelled at us that the channel was “over that way,” and got really annoyed when we continued our more direct, and deep water, course. Seemed he didn’t like us navigating our way through his pots.

We set our auto pilot for the mouth of Onancock Creek and just short of three hours later we entered the creek. We then had a very pleasant cruise up the creek for about five miles, past beautiful houses with well manicured lawns. We tied up at the Onancock city wharf and, after getting the boat settled, took a walk through the historic village. We walked up Market Street and visited a couple of art galleries. Had a beer at the Blarney Stone Irish pub and then made our way back to Sonas. Paul had asked for restaurant recommendations when at the dock masters office and we reserved a table at Bizzotto’s Italian restaurant. We had a very nice meal there, and would highly recommend the restaurant and staff to anyone visiting this quaint Eastern Chesapeake town.

Sunset from the Onancock Wharf

July 15th

We wanted to get some things from Wal-Mart so we unloaded the bicycles and, like good riders, we donned our helmets and set off. It was three miles each way, but on pretty flat terrain. Along the way we noticed the office supply place that managed FedEx shipments as we had something we needed to send, and Ker House, a mansion and gardens that we planned on visiting.

Bicycle helmets on!

When we got back from Wal-Mart Paul went to the dockmaster’s office to see if it was possible to stay a second night. We had originally asked for two nights but a catamaran had specifically booked the bulkhead for the second night and we were hoping they had cancelled. But no. There wasn’t a slip suitable for us, so we loaded the bicycles and went over to the anchorage. After anchoring we were visiting by the crew of Pelican which was anchored nearby.

Later that evening we went in to Mallard-On-The-Wharf for dinner – what else, crab cakes!

Of course no catamaran had turned up and the bulk head was empty for the evening!

Sonas anchored at Onancock
Ker Place

Finally Arriving On The Chesapeake!

July 2nd

The soft overnight winds again gave us a restful night and we were up and under way by 6:15. Our plan today was to run to the northern end of the Alligator River/Pungo River Canal (A&P Canal) and anchor off to one side after exiting the canal.

We went east on the Neuse River towards the Outer Banks, then the Intracoastal Waterway line out of the Neuse and into the A&P Canal. The canal is a 20 mile cut that, apart from a couple of houses early on, is devoid of any semblance of life – human, fish, land, or bird. The banks were lined with the stumps of trees that had long ago fallen and were sticking out like grisly sentinels waiting to catch the unwary captain. In fact I would vote it the best scenery for the next horror movie. It was hot, long and boring.

Now our opinion of the canal might also be clouded somewhat by the fact that we met a tug pushing a huge barge soon after we entered. It took up most of the channel. We moved to the right edge of the canal, being careful to stay away from the stumps while keeping a little headway to make sure we had steerage. As the barge got to us we watched our depth slowly creep down to very skinny territory, until finally we softly bumped aground. There was nothing we could do about it until the tug and barge had passed. After they passed we slowly put Sonas in reverse to take her back the way she came to the channel. Then our starboard prop hit the bottom and stalled the engine. We put her in neutral and restarted it, spun Sonas on her keel so that the stern was facing mid-channel and slowly backed out. We then got back on heading north up the canal.

Tug and barge in the A&P Canal

There was a loud cheer from the two on board when we finally exited the canal onto the broad Alligator River. We had planned on anchoring right there for the night but since it was only two o’clock we decided to carry on up the river to give us a shorter day tomorrow. We then caught up with the sister ship to the tug and barge we had trouble with earlier, but because the river was wide with plenty of water we had no issues passing her.

Crab pots galore!

When we were ready to anchor we turned to the east off the river and headed to Cypress Point. We then knew that we were getting closer to the Chesapeake because there were literally hundreds of crab pots in the water. We navigated these until we were within the shelter of the east bank, between two rows of pots, and dropped anchor. Now we only had a short 40 mile run to our stopping point tomorrow so we could have a relaxing start to the day and still get to tomorrow’s marina in time to watch England’s World Cup match against Colombia!

July 3rd

We actually sat and had conversation and coffee this morning rather than falling out of bed and making coffee on the way! However we were still away from the anchorage by 7:00! The light was more than sufficient to again navigate our way through the myriad of crab pots. As we raised the anchor a crabber can by in his boat working his pots. We wonder what he made of us, anchored right on the middle of them!

Looking at the boat anchored among his pots

We continued on north on the Alligator River and through the “Middle Grounds” separating the river from the Albemarle Sound. This is a major sound that runs West to East towards the outer banks. It can get rather nasty in heavy winds. However today it  laid down nicely. Along the way we passed quite a lot of duck blinds.

Duck blinds across the sound

We had also been noticing that nearly every marker had as Osprey nest on it! Most of these seemed to be the male guarding the female as she sat on the eggs. We Googled the hatching time and found that it was coming up in the next couple of weeks. We did see one nest with at least one chick in it.

Osprey nest

Just after entering the Albemarle Sound you have to decide on one of two routes to continue on the IntraCoastal Waterway. Route One, which we were taking, would take us through CoinJock, the Big Bridge Lock and up into Portsmouth and Norfolk. The second route takes you through Elizabeth City, and the Dismal Swamp into the Norfolk area.

We took the slight turn to starboard and turned into the North River towards Coinjock. We arrived at Coinjack Marina and Restaurant at 11:45. Our earliest stopping point on this trip. We had heard that Coinjack had the cheapest diesel prices in America! While I am not sure if they are or not, we did take the opportunity to top up our tanks at $3.07 tax included. We also topped up our water tanks.

Abandoned house at Coinjck

Paul then  disappeared to the bar to watch the England game. Sian was keeping an eye on the score via the internet and when she saw that it was going into extra time and potentially penalties, it was time to get to the bar – and see England win on penalties.  We went back later for dinner and of course had crab. Something we believe will be happening a lot over the next couple of months.

After dinner we walked to dock and chatted with some of the folks in the big yachts that had pulled in. We talked crab pots, bridge opening times and locks!

 July 4th

We thought, given that we only had 40 miles to go to Norfolk, that we would take our time getting going today. Surprisingly by the time we had a lazy cup of coffee and went up to prepare the fly bridge for departure we were the last boat out! The eight or nine other boats who had checked in the previous day had already gone!

So we begrudgingly cast off and followed. We had a few challenges today. First there were two low bridges that only opened on the hour and half hour. Then we had a bridge that only opened on the hour and coordinated with a lock just beyond it. We thought it was too complicated to try and work out what time to leave the marina to tie into the bridge so we decided to just go and make it up along the way!

The only concern traveling today was that we heard and felt light bumps against the hull twice. It felt like some floating wood had run down the hull, but when we looked back we could not see anything. We suspect they were floating just under the surface.

As we got near the first bridge, the North Landing Swing Bridge, we realized that we had timed it pretty well, more by accident than anything else. We got there about four minutes before it opened at 9:30. The next low bridge was only 4 miles away do we decided that we were geninuses and we would also be there right when it was ready to open. And that worked out as well, and we made the Centerville Bridge 10:00 opening! Boy we were good at this! We then checked the chart for the biggie – the hourly opening Great Bridge which was right before the Great Bridge Lock we had to go through, which opened at the same time as the bridge.

North Landing Swing Bridge

Oh oh, it was only 3 miles away. And we had just passed 10:00, meaning the next opening was not until 11:00. Sigh!

So we pulled Sonas back to idle and meandered towards the next bridge. We still got there 40 minutes early. So we turned and meandered back for a while then turned again for the bridge. We basically sat around for 40 minutes waiting for the opening. And finally got through at the 11:00 opening. We were not so smart after all!

Great Bridge

We entered the lock and tied to the bollards. The upper water level was not so far off the lower level so it was not long until they opened the lock again and moved us through.

Great Bridge Lock

We them motored the ten miles or so to Norfolk. As we passed through the naval shipyards and Norfolk Navy Base  a series of rain clouds passed through. We put on our wet weather gear and got the lines and fenders ready for out reserved slip.

IKE – Aircraft carrier Dwight D Eisenhower

Around 1:45 we pulled into Tidewater Marina, which is right at Mile Market 0 on the ICW and tied up. After checking in we went for a walk through the old Portsmouth downtown area. We had a beer at the Ron Brown bar (local boy who made good in the NFL), and returned to Sonas to get ready for dinner.

Mile Marker 0. With AICW Distances.

We had dinner at the marina restaurant – Fish and Slips. Then we got the chairs set up on Sonas’ boat deck to watch the fireworks over Hampton Roads right behind us. We had an awesome view of the fireworks from our vantage point at Mile 0.

Fireworks Over Hampton Roads

July 5th

Happy days! No coffee on the go, we are staying put today! First time in this trip we are staying two days in one place! The sightseeing plan was to tour the naval ship yards by boat (someone else driving and narrating), re provision fresh foods, check out the maritime museum, buy Mile Zero tee-shirts and eat out as it is our thirty eighth wedding anniversary.

So let us tell you how the day actually went.

Stopped in at the visitor center and were delighted to find there was indeed a narrated boat tour of the navy ship yards. With three times to choose from we didn’t book, figuring we would grocery shop then mosey over to the ferry with plenty of time.

To Food Lion we go, its early, not too hot, so we walked. And then it started raining. Thank goodness for our Helly Hansens (boat rain jackets). Never the less we were soaked by the time we got there and given the fierce air conditioning in Food Lion we feel pneumonia is only a few days away.

Excuse us while we knock on wood and up our vitamin C intake immediately.

It was still raining when we came out so treated ourselves to an Uber back to the boat. Stayed in until the rain stopped, got the exact change for the ferry and set off to Norfolk for the boat yard tour. An hour ahead of the tour time we were disappointed to find out it was sold out. Sigh.

Grand Alaskan 53 Nagari

We walked back along the waterway and a boat like ours caught Paul’s eye. In fact the more he looked at it the more he was sure he knew this boat. Turns out it is the Grand Alaskan, Nagari, which is the same model as ours. We first met this boat in the Exumas, when she was called Mint Julep under different ownership. We had previously had a few online chats with the new owners so popped over to say hello. They were out. We left a boat card and headed inside for a water break. Thought we would stroll back towards their boat see if they were back, they were not but we enjoyed a long chat with Walter and Jeanette on the Seline next door. The result of which was we missed the ferry. Sigh.

Caught the next ferry and headed to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyards Museum. Which is closed for repairs. Sigh.

As more storm clouds loomed we beat a retreat to Sonas just in the nick of time.

Oh, we did get our tee-shirts though so not all was lost! If our restaurant reservation doesn’t work out it will be another beans on toast night,

No, the day was not quite done with us yet. We showered and changed, I even wore a dress and jewelry and we walked into town for our fancy pants dinner. Only to arrive at the restaurant and find another sign, saying Restaurant Closed. The fates were really stacked against us today! Paul saw movement inside, banged on the door and when a gentleman opened it we complained. They need to update their website, their phone message system and Open Table who took AND CONFIRMED our reservation. He apologized, recommended somewhere down the street and beat a hasty retreat. I wrote a dissatisfied review on Trip Advisor , that’ll show them! They do have two other locations by the way.

We followed his recommendation and had what can only be described as a mediocre meal elsewhere.

Universe 1 – Lawrances 0. We went back to Sonas and drank wine!

July 6th

Our plan today was to cruise through the Norfolk Navy Base and turn the corner into Hampton River. We were targeting the anchorage right off Hampton Public Piers. We were tucked into a very tight dock in Tidewater Marina so it took a while to “wiggle and jiggle” our way off the dock so we could spin and head up the fairway. We got out of the marina around 7:30 and headed north on the Elizabeth River. We passed dozens of warships in the navy base, concluding with passing three huge Nimitz Class aircraft carriers – the Abraham Lincoln, The George H Bush and the Gerald Ford.

Battleship Wisconsin

As we exited the Elizabeth River we saw two naval ships, a supply ship and a destroyer coming up Hampton Roads. We increased speed and crossed to the north side of the Roads to get out of their ay. We entered the channel into the Hampton River and navigated out way up the CG designated anchorage right downtown Hampton.

Incoming

We used the davit to launch the dinghy and went across to the dinghy dock by the public piers. They are very receptive to anchored boats. The dinghy dock is free, and they offer all the facilities like showers for $1 a day. They take your phone number and will watch your boat and call you if needed. They even had a herb and veggie plant garden for boaters!

Free plants!

We then called an Uber to take us over to Newport News and the Mariners Museum. This excellent museum took us through the building of the first Ironclads which faced off in the Civil War. The finding and recovery of the turret and artifacts from the Monitor, and the background to how the Virginia and Monitor came to face each other. We also walked through the history of shipbuilding, ships used in various wars – Civil, Revolutionary, 1812, Spanish, WWI, and WWII. There was a very interesting display on Horatio Nelson and his strategies, all the way to the boats used in America’s Cup racing.

America’s Cup winner Oracle

We caught an Uber back to Hampton and Sonas just as bad weather closed in. There was a pretty strong band of storm weather passing through, followed by rain off and on all night.

We were having an issue with the sump pumps on Sonas. These are the pumps that handle our shower water. Paul spent an hour trying to resolve the issue with no result. We will buy a new pump as soon as we can to make sure we don’t have a bad pump.

July 7th

We awoke this morning to the news that Tropical Depression 3 had formed just off the cost. We looked at the forecast and found high winds for the next couple of days. So we decided to stay put at our anchorage off downtown. Paul went ashore as soon as the hardware store opened and bought some things he needed to resolve the issue with our shower sump pumps. He disappeared into the showers and got the guest shower sump working as it should be. The master shower, however, requires a new switch that we need to get from a marine store.

At 10:00 it was time to watch the England Quarter final World Cup match against Sweden. Which they won 2-0. After the game we decided to go ashore for a walk. As we were preparing to get into the dinghy Paul passed through the pilothouse and noticed the little trawler anchored ahead of us was getting closer, and closer with each wind gust. She was dragging anchor down on top of us. Her dinghy was gone so her folks were ashore. We gave a couple of blast of the horn just in case someone was on board but no response. Sian started getting some fenders ready in case we had to fend her off.
We called the dockmaster. When we anchor and dinghy ashore they ask us to leave contact details in case they need to call us. We told him what was going on and asked him to check to see if he had contact details for these people, he did – but he tried multiple times with no answer so left messages. We took our snubber off and laid out more chain to back away from the boat. The dockmaster also called the Hampton police who responded both on land and by water. A rescue boat and a police patrol boat showed up. They grabbed the runaway and held her ahead of us. The owners finally showed up and lifted her dragging anchor. They apologized to us before taking off.

Getting closer
Held by the Hampton rescue boat
Owners back on board

We went ashore for dinner at Oyster Alley, then back on board for the evening.

July 8th.

It was cool enough due to the winds from the  tropical depression that we were able to turn off the AC and generator and sleep in relative quiet. Or so we thought. A few minutes after hopping into bed we head a thump against the hull. Then a minute later it happened again. We knew right away it was the crab pot float that had been hanging by the side of the boat all day! We weren’t going to be able to sleep with that so we got up to take a look. Fortunately it was at our stern and by taking in about fifteen feet of chain and reapplying the snubber, we were able to pull in front of it! After that a quiet and solid night’s sleep!

Today, Sunday, we looked at Google Maps to see where the nearest Catholic Church was. Coincidentally the church was only a mile from the West Marine store. We needed a new bilge pump float for the master shower sump pump so that would work out nicely. An Uber to the church, an hour’s spiriualizing, a 20 minute walk afterwards, and an Uber back to the boat. Perfect!

We got to the church in plenty of time to be handed the day’s service. Uh oh. It seems that we have chosen to attend the final mass being said by their departing pastor. One hour and thirty-five minutes later we emerged. There were speeches, tears, wailing and gnashing of teeth. We were stuck in the middle of a row so didn’t dare sneak away!

We did get to West Marine and the part we needed. Paul disappeared down below and emerged an hour later victorious.

The weather looks to be clearing  for tomorrow, so before dinner we lifted our tender back onto the boat deck. It is time to leave the safe anchorage of Hampton and make our way around to Yorktown tomorrow.

Chesapeake! The Outside Run – With a Ton Of Fun Along The Way!

Following the trawler

[This is a longer post than usual as we wanted to cover all of the run outside in one post]

June 25th

So the day of departure was here. The lock opened at 8:00 and we called at that time and arranged for a lock out.

We headed north on the ICW to the St John’s River, then through Mayport, into the Atlantic, and set the new auto pilot on the St Simon’s waypoint. As we were passing Naval Station Mayport a Coast Guard Cutter came through the inlet.

Naval Station Mayport
Coast Guard Cutter

Weather was light winds from the south and calm seas. Just off St Mary’s Sound three Coast Guard boats came running out on their way directly east, this was accompanied by two large military helicopters patrolling above. Given were we where we assumed that one of the big nuclear submarines from Kings Bay Submarine Base was heading in. We have been in the channel previously when one was coming in and they are quite the sight.

Coast Guard and Choppers

We had an uneventful trip to St Simon’s Sound entrance. Along the way we saw a basking shark and large turtle which dived before we saw which kind it was. Arrived at our anchorage just south of the Morningstar Marina at 3:00pm. This anchorage has been designated by the Coast Guard as a “Special Anchorage,” meaning that it was a recognized anchorage where boats staying there did not have to display an anchor light. Regardless we felt it safer to put our anchor light on.

St Simon’s Lighthouse

June 26th

We were really fortunate in that the weather this week calls for light southerly winds and waves around 2 feet all week. At 6:00am we made the coffee and headed back out through the St Simon’s Sound to the ocean.

Sunrise off St Simon’s

We entered the Tybee Roads GPS waypoint leading us to Calibogue Sound and Hilton Head. Again we had calm seas. Because we were running with the wind we were not getting the benefit of any breeze and it was pretty hot. We arrived at Tybee Roads at 3:00pm and crossed into Calibogue Sound and our reserved slip at the Harbour Town Marina at the Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island.

During the day John and Suzie Mc Carley, friends we had first met in the Exumas, and who had recently stopped by Queens Harbour in their boat Escape, a 49′ DeFever, got it touch via email. They were running the same track as us on the ICW and we found out that we would both be in Charleston tomorrow, so arranged to get together for dinner downtown.

Paul left the blowers on trying to cool the engine room as we had some work to do in there after we anchored. We needed to move fuel from our port tank to the starboard tank to balance the boat. This is because we have 12 heavy glass mat house batteries on the port side of the engine room that make Sonas lean slightly that way. The yard suggested that we could put in ballast to offset the batteries, but we decided that we had enough weight on board without adding lead! So we always keep more fuel in the starboard tank than the port and that resolves the issue. In fact, as we talk to other boaters, this is a common issue and a common solution! Also the camera that monitors our engine room had been knocked loose. Paul worked on that but could not fix it. Will need to have a replacement delivered during our trip.

After we cleaned up we went up to the Quarterdeck restaurant right by the marina. Paul had curried grouper and Sian had the pesto Salmon.

June 27th

We were up again and away by 6:00am from the marina, retraced our path to the ocean and set our autopilot to the Charleston channel.

Leaving St Simon’s

Looking along the track we found that we would have to head offshore for the first hour  to avoid the Garvin Shoal just north of St Simon’s. After passing the shoal we then reset the track to head directly for the jetties at Charleston. During our run the wind died completed and we had glassy water for most of the way. We reached the jetties at 2:50pm and turned in.

As we passed Fort Sumter Paul went live on Facebook and gave some short details of the role the fort played in the American Civil War. Once past the fort we turned to the south and headed for our overnight stop at the Charleston City Marina.

Fort Sumter

As we came alongside John and Suzie came out from Escape and helped the dockhand tie us up. We were on the 1100 foot face dock and found that we were one of the few non-mega yachts on the dock. The rest were 100+ foot yachts.

Sonas tied up with the “Big Boys!”

We got all of the air conditioners cranked up and got cleaned up for dinner. The marina runs a complementary shuttle to downtown so,  with John and Suzie, we arrived at Blossoms in time for our reservation at 7:00. The food and company were both excellent.

One thing we did notice today, which has hit us in the past, is that after a couple of days on board we have begun to switch from our shore routine to our on board routine. We rise earlier, each of us know our “jobs” without saying anything, and we run our cruising day in an efficient and orderly fashion. That included regular drinks to ensure hydration, meals at set times, and engine room and instruments checks. By now we are also reintroducing some exercise routines, Sian with her resistance training using bands and Paul with his core stretches so as to avoid the sciatica issues we had in the Bahamas earlier this year.

July 28th

Our plan today was to run from Charleston to Georgetown, setting us up for a run to Bald Head Island on Friday. Since it was a relative short and easy run we thought we would relax and leave a little later than we had been. However our body clocks thought otherwise and we were still casting off the lines before seven! Several boats followed us out of the marina, including the Canadian boat Ennui, whose crew  we had chatted to as we were getting ready to go. They were also going to our next stop. Unfortunately we watched them turn back and radio the marina to say they were returning with engine trouble.

The unfortunate Ennui behind us
Fort Folly with the aircrft carrier USS Yorktown

About half way to the next stop we saw a Coast Guard ship dead ahead, which did not seem to be moving. Paul zoomed in on them using his camera and saw that they were working on a buoy. So we turned east a few degrees so as to give them a wide berth. About five minutes after doing so the CG vessel, Willow, called us on the radio and asked us to give them a wide pass to port, which we told them we had already changed course. She later passed us going south.

USCG Vessel Willow

We ran the 50NM and pulled into the Georgetown inlet at 2:00 and were anchored by the lighthouse before 3.

John and Suzie McCarley joined us as Buddy Boats on our run as they are headed back to their home port of Wrightsville and our next two stops are on their way. Escape, their DeFever 49 arrived about 45 minutes after us and anchored next to Sonas.

Escape

On the way up the channel Sian checked the weather for Georgetown and found it was 93 degrees! We thought it would get cooler as we moved north!!

It got a bit blustery in the anchorage as the wind direction blew straight into the inlet but, like most days, after the sun set, it calmed right down.

Around 4:30pm Sian’s phone rang. It was our home cleaning company telling us that we had a major issue. Today was our cleaning day. We had decided to have them come in one more time to clean and then lock the house up until our return from this cruise. One of their cleaners knocked a print off a bathroom wall and it fell on the water feed pipe for the toilet – cutting it. Water was pouring out. We called our neighbors who quickly got over there. Paul explained how to turn off the main valve into the house. Bill and Sally then diligently brushed all of the water out of our wood-floored bedrooms and got an industrial drier to start the clean-up process. Meanwhile the cleaning company sent some supervisors to plan the full correction. We also called our plumber to have him schedule to fix the broken pipe. We owe Bill and Sally a major steak meal when we get back!

This is NOT what we had in mind for the first week of our cruise!

June 29th

We had a great overnight under the Georgetown Lighthouse. Not a ripple was felt on board. We woke at 6:00 am without the alarm and got ready for the off.

Escape left the anchorage a half hour before us and we were off by 6:45. We did bump up against a bit of an incoming current but once outside we caught a push from the offshore current and at times were cruising at a whole 10 knots – supersonic speed for us!

The run to the inlet at Cape Fear River was 66 KM and again the winds were light from the south. While light winds are always a blessing when running offshore, the problem you get is that the boat is moving at the same speed as the wind so you get absolutely no breeze – and it was stifling hot. We brought the big fan up from down below and got some relief. The alternative is to run the boat from the pilot house and turn on the generator and AC. But we really like running from up above and seeing what is around.

Calm ocean waters

Escape runs efficiently about 1.5 knots slower than Sonas so we passed them after a couple of hours but we were always had sight of each other and VHF connection.

We turned towards the inlet around 2:00pm and found a significant wave action. We had to avoid a large dredge and her auxiliary vessels which was spread right across the channel. We made the turn into Bald Head Island Marina and were tied up in slip 3A by 3:30pm. Paul got the power plugged in and all four AC units blasting cold air. He then went off to check in at the marina office and ten minutes after he left the power went out! When he came back he checked everything on the boat and couldn’t get it working. The boat was getting a bit steamy. He checked the breakers at the shore pedestal, switching them off and on. Finally he called the marina office out and they switched us to another supply and we were up and running! Whew!

Meanwhile Escape came in and tied up across from us.

Betty Robinson, who Paul worked with at J&J, keeps Li Li (For Living Life) her beautiful Kady Krogen 48’ at  Bald Head Island Marina and lives on the island. We had both been in the Abacos earlier in the year but missed each other. We had been in touch and told her we would be stopping by the island. Betty had just returned from a trip to New York and Baltimore and was very generous with her hospitality. She gave us time to get cleaned up and then came in her golf cart (no cars on the island) and took us to her home on the dunes. We had some wine and nibbles, talked boats, retirement, travel plans, family, after which Betty blessed us with a golf cart for the evening and next morning along with a map and instructions on how to navigate the island.

Bald Head Island Ferry

We drove along the beach road to the marina. We plugged the golf cart into the charging area that Betty had pointed out earlier and went to Delphina Mexican restaurant for dinner. After dinner we swung by Escape to say goodbye to our travelling boat buddies. They were leaving early the next morning for their home marina 21 miles up the ICW in Wrightsville Beach.

[An update on the house. We have a great plumbing company who do all of our tile and plumbing work. They had people at our house at 9:00 am on Friday. They cut a hole in the wall behind the toilet and fixed and tested the pipe. They then suggested that they leave the water into the house off for the rest of our trip and also turned off the gas to the two water heaters. They told us to call them the day before we were due to get back and they would go in and turn everything back on. They also advised us to have someone run a moisture meter on our drywall to make sure that it was all OK and we didn’t have a mold issue in future. We have a neighbor,a  general contractor who worked on major renovations on our last home. He was no longer in that business but we called him to see if he knew of anyone who could help. He volunteered to go over himself and run his meter on the dry wall. Later that evening he called us and told us that the insulation right by the break would need to be dried out and that we should open up a few small check holes in the rest of that wall just to be sure. He also suggested that, even though the moisture readings where fine on the other walls, we open up similar check holes in those to make sure. His argument was that dry wall is easy to open and then redo, whereas mold was not! We asked him to recommend someone who could do that and he said he would come over on Sunday and do it himself. He would also go and rent a couple of heaters for the wall he knew was wet. As I said before, having such neighbors is a God send!]

June 30th

Today we were only travelling 21KM up the ICW to Wrightsville Beach to anchor right inside the inlet, ready to jump outside and run to Morehead City tomorrow. We had to run inside as going outside means going all the way around Cape Fear and the shoals there – which go straight out 15 miles! That would be a 50km mile run! So, since we did not have far to go, we decided to spend the morning at Bald Head and have a look around.

First thing after coffee Paul got the water hose out and gave Sonas a wash. He then moved some more fuel over to the starboard tank. After a shower we jumped into the golf cart that Betty had lent us and took our recycling to the recycling center on the island. Then we drove over to Betty’s home where she joined us and took us on an interesting tour of the island. She told us some of the history, how many actual residents there were compared to vacationers, where the children go to school, and generally how you live life in a small island community. Betty took us to the Turtle Conservatory where she volunteers and supports their graduate intern program and then we went to the beach to find the turtle nest that she had adopted! She explained the turtle nesting process and how the volunteers guard the nest and help the young on their way after birth! We visited the beach club, and then the very pretty little non-denominational church, and the nearby lighthouse, which has now been decommissioned. After stopping by the post office to post a card and to pick up some packages, Betty took us back to the marina.

 

BHI Lighthouse
Pretty non denominational church

Paul had a tour of Betty’s Kady Krogen 48 Li Li and we then said our goodbyes. We untied and followed the ferry out of the harbor. We went north on the ICW, through Southport and Carolina Beach and into our very sheltered anchorage at Wrightsville Beach. Being a Saturday and a hot day, there was a lot of boat traffic, and we even had a narrow call with a paddle boarder. We were able to anchor in 15’ of water just a hundred feet or so off the beach. Sian went for a swim and walk on the sand. We were visited by a number of other boaters who inquired about Sonas, and the trawler lifestyle.

Wrightsville Beach at night

July 1st

We had a great overnight at Wrightsville Beach. There was not a murmur of wind and no wake or wave action. We hadn’t even bothered putting a snubber on and did not hear a sound all night. We were up and ready at our usual 6:00 am, and ground the coffee. Sian was a bit surprised to see an elderly paddle boarder pass the boat as she was preparing the flybridge for travel, of course she grabbed the camera and got the evidence! Who goes paddle boarding at 6:00 am on am Sunday?!

Paddle boarding under a morning moon

We Iifted the anchor and headed for the inlet, to be passed by dozens of small fishing boats headed out. Then we made the turn at the inlet and saw a couple of dozen people fishing off the shore – and it wasn’t 6:30 yet! What an active community!

Fishing the Inlet

We entered the waypoint to Beaufort Inlet into the GPS, and it advised us that it was 61nm. We would be at the channel at 1:30 and inside 45 minutes later. The run was completed uneventfully – and we had water like glass the whole way. We brought our Bose wireless speaker up to the flybridge and put on Margaritaville through Sirius. Jimmy Buffett himself was doing a two hour show from Florida.  We made the Beaufort Inlet channel right on time and were amazed at the number of boats using the inlet.

Very busy Beaufort inlet

Since it was early afternoon we then made the decision to carry on up the ICW. From Beaufort it was 178 miles to Norfolk and the start of the Chesapeake. We had planned to take four days to do this, but that would have meant we would have been sitting out in the country at a place called Coinjack on the Fourth of July. There was nothing else there apart from a marina and restaurant.

By taking another three hours to get to the Neuse River, then adding an hour each of the next two days, we would be able to reduce that by a day and be in the Portsmouth/Norfolk area on the big day. We entered the Neuse River and saw a nice anchorage on the south bank of the river. We anchored in 10 feet of water, again in calm waters, and had a wonderful evening.

We had now completed the Atlantic Ocean outside portion of our trip north!

 

 

 

 

Marsh Harbour To Home, and Seeing Our Nation’s Finest At Work!

Osprey with lunch

Let us start off by saying we had absolutely no issues getting from Marsh Harbour, Abaco to 18 nautical miles south east of Fort Pierce. Then our challenges started. Stay tuned for the “rest of the story!”

Saturday May 5th.  We set the alarm to make sure we were up, dressed, coffee made, and boat prepared for crossing Whale Cay. Finally the wind had calmed and move around to the south east. By our reckoning we were good to go.

Saying goodbye to Marsh Harbour

We lifted the anchor and started out of the harbour. We had a number of people pop their heads out of their boats to see who was leaving, including a lady in her nice nightgown, but no other boat out of the dozens there made a move. Hmmm, were we sure we had this right? We put the waypoints into the GPS and put Whale Cay on our bow. Two hours later we were through. There were four to five feet swells rolling in from the Atlantic, but no waves or white caps. Sonas handled it perfectly. As we made the turn to the northwest we were contacted by two other boats asking us about the conditions, and then later another boater, still on his mooring in Green Turtle, asked us the same. We relayed the sea state.

Whale Cay

From there to our first overnight stop at Mangrove Cay everything went as planned. Mangrove is one of the first cays you hit when you get onto the Bahamas Bank and one of the last you can stop at before you make the leap across the Gulf Stream. We arrived just before seven to find a half dozen boats already anchored and joined them. As we sat in the cockpit enjoying a cocktail we saw a number of sail boats come by and carry on into the gulf stream towards Florida. Because they move so slow many sailors chose to make the passage overnight, if the weather is cooperating, so as to arrive in Florida in daylight. We had just finished a twelve hour run and were pretty tired and can only imagine how worn out these good people must be  by the time they make landfall.

Mangrove Cay anchorage

Sunday May 6th. We had a so-so night’s sleep. Initially Mangrove protected us from the south west wind, but overnight it went to the south east.We were then exposed somewhat and the boat bounced around a bit. Nothing worrying, more annoying. We had our alarm set for 5am. Sunrise wasn’t until around 6:30 but the anchorage was easy to get out of in the dark and we wanted to get a jump on another long day. We got off around 5:15 and ran the first hour or so in the dark. Daylight brought us fine sailing weather, light winds from the SSW and a moderate sea. We managed to catch the WX (NOAA weather) station from West Palm so heard that our crossing would be pretty uneventful – 3 footers in the stream.

Running on instruments in the dark

After four hours we crossed from the Bahamas Bank and into the stream, and pointed to the waypoint for Fort Pierce. The GPS told us that our estimated time of arrival at the inlet would be 3:30pm. We passed a few Bahamian fishing boats but very little other boat traffic. A few hours in a beautiful downeaster called Firefly crossed our bow and radioed us, saying “nice to see another boat out here!” We had a nice long chat before they continued on their route to Port Canaveral.

From 20 feet to 2500 feet in a half mile!

The rest of our trip across was uneventful, in fact we would say tedious – but that was OK given what we faced coming over!

Calm Gulf Stream

Then, just as our GPS showed 18 NM to our destination, things took a wrong turn – literally!

A plane flew directly over us, then over the VHF came: “trawler at location XYZ, this is navy plane overhead.” We looked at our latitude and longitude and yep, they meant us! Paul replied and they took us to their working channel. The conversation went something like this:

“This is trawler Sonas to the navy plane.”

“Sonas, we are doing live fire exercises in this area. You are two miles into our box. We need you to turn to the south for two miles and then head toward land until you are within ten miles of shore and then you may proceed staying within ten miles of shore.”

At that time we were being pushed along nicely by the Gulf Stream. Turning south meants going directly into the stream. So Paul asked:

“Navy plane, can we head north until we are out of the box and then proceed towards land?”

“Negative Sonas. You must head south  and out of the area.”

“Roger navy plan. Changing course now.”

“Thank you Sonas.”

We had been making around 10 knots up until that point with the help f the stream. Once we turned into it that help turned against us and we crawled to 5 knots. We finally got out of the “box” and headed towards St Lucie. And a number of rain squalls! We managed to use the radar to avoid most of the squall and finally were able to turn towards Fort Pierce again once inside ten miles of land. But now we started to get wind in the 23-25 mph range. It was on our stern so not really an issue – until we finally got to the Fort Pierce inlet. There was a strong outgoing tide, and the seas from the south were crossing this current, making for a very unsavory inlet. Paul turned off the auto pilot and the engine syncronizers and took manual control. We nearly made it through but just when Paul said “sixty more seconds to calm waters” we were hit by a huge wave that broached us sideways. Paul got control back but furniture went a-tumbling!

But we were in!

Going through Fort Pierce Inlet

We eased back on the throttles as the inlet is a slow zone. We had originally planned to get in around 3:30 and then run a couple of hours north before anchoring and calling Customs and Border Patrol to process in. Since we had the navy detour we decided to anchor just off the ICW inside the inlet.

AND…. just as we approached the turn for the ICW a Coast Guard boat appeared and called us the VHF.

“Vessel Sonas, this is US Coast Guard vessel. What was your last port of call and where are you headed?”

“The Bahamas, and we are going to put down anchor right ahead and call CBP.”

“Sonas, we are going to board and do an inspection.”

And so they did. Two young men, armed but very polite, came aboard. While Paul kept Sonas steady on the ICW, Sian took them around the boat showing them flares, PFDs, bilges, engine room, Fire Extinguishers, Inland Rules to Navigation book, etc. etc. We passed the inspection and were given our “You Are Gold” copy. This supposedly helps keep us away from another inspection for six months or so – but is not guaranteed to do so!

Waving goodbye to our new friends we finally put our anchor down right outside HarboTown marina by the ICW. This is the same anchorage we used before we crossed to the Bahamas.

Next step was to call into the Customs and Border Protection 1-800 number. We  are enrolled in a program called the Small Vessel Reportng System and had filed a float plan. All we needed to do was call them and, so long as everything checked out, we would not have to report in person at Fort Pierce airport. But there was a problem:

“Hello, we have returned into the US And have a float plan.”

“Sorry sir we no longer use SVRS. It was discontinued a month ago.”

“But I left the country two months ago, how was I to know.”

“We now have an smart device app called ROAM. Download that and fill in your information and we can process you.”

“Oh, OK. I will do that right away. Thank you.”

So Paul downloaded the app. It seemed pretty straight forward and intuitive. You enter the personal details of those on board , their passport number, their SRVS registration number, and a photo of the passports. You also add details of your vessel and answer the usual questions about where you have been and what you might be bringing into the country.

Well pretty intuitive until it isn’t!

Paul completed everything and then pressed “submit” to have the entry reviewed by a CBP officer. He received a screen back saying “pending review.”

So, that done, we went to he pilot house to have dinner.

After dinner and clearing up, Paul went back to the phone to see if the status had changed. He then saw that he had missed a video conferencing call with a CBP officer. He had also received an message two minutes after the video request saying:

Thank you for your recent U.S. CBP ROAM submission. Unfortunately, your U.S. CBP ROAM Trip ID XXXX has not been approved and you may not enter the U.S. at this time. You may contact the nearest Port of Entry for information or clarification.

Sincerely, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

What?

Paul called the 1-800 number back and it was explained to him that the app worked real time. When you submit an entry request an officer gets it right away and either accepts it or requests a video interview. Since we did not accept the video interview he rejected our submission. The officer told Paul to go ahead and resubmit and that he would pick it up (using our phone number) and process it again. Paul did so and we were successful.

Obviously there are still some teething issues with the process (for example the app user could be taken through a tutorial on first installing the app)  but it is a very neat way of using technology to handle recreational boat traffic into Florida.

The winds melted away to light breezes which moved Sonas around the anchorage sedately. We sleep the sleep of the innocent.

And awoke the next day well aground!

An unsuccessful Sea Tow call.

Monday May 7th. We noticed that all of the other boats at anchor were pointing one way into the wind and we were pointing another. That was the clue that the tide had gone out and left us aground. We called Sea Tow (our AAA on the water). He said he would be there in 40 minutes. He arrived and spent about an hour trying to pull our bow into deeper water. He eventually gave up and told us that he would come back at high tide and try again. After about 30 minutes Paul walked to the bow and noticed that that the bow was jammed onto a mound of shale. He walked to the stern of Sonas and grabbed our long boat hook. He stuck the boat hook into the water until it hit sand and measured the depth. It was six feet, We only needed five feet to float It seems that the outgoing tide had placed our bow on a shallow shelf but the rest of the boat in water deeper water. So Paul started the engines and powered us into reverse and we were off!

Shale mound

We entered the ICW and started our journey north.Paul grabbed he chart book and, given our late departure, targeted an anchorage just south of Titusville, to the south east of the NASA Causeway bridge. We arrived at the anchorage around 7:00 and hailed a Kady Krogen named Sweet Ride which was already in there. They confirmed that we would have enough depth so in we went and dropped the hook. The wind died to a light breeze overnight and we had a very quiet sleep full night!

Sunrise over the NASA Assembly Building

Tuesday May 8th. We upped anchor just before 7:00 and again headed north through Titusville and towards Haulover Canal. On entering the canal we saw movement in the water ahead of us. Manatees! Then more manatees, and more again! We saw around thirty or forty mainly along the north edge of the canal, and quite a number right in the middle of the canal that we had to avoid. There was even one attached to a small buoy – we suspect that it had been tagged for research.

Manatees
More manatees
And even more manatees!

We left the canal and headed through Mosquito Lagoon, and into New Smyrna, then Daytona, and finally Palm Coast, arriving at Palm Coast Marina around 4:00pm. We had passed the Kady Krogen Sweet Ride in Daytona and a half hour later she also came in to the marina and tied up beside us.

We walked into the European Village and had a seafood dinner at Lisbon Nights. Sian has Sea Bass and Paul had the Portuguese version of Paella, which included a lobster tail!  We returned to Sonas and sat on the back deck with a glass of red. Christopher and Alexandra, the owners of Sweet Ride, came by and we had a nice chat for a half hour or so.

Sweet Ride leaving Palm Coast Marina

Wednesday May 9th. We are on the last leg of our trip and on our way home today. Since it will “only” take us six hours today we had a later start, leaving the marina at 8:00. High tide at Queens Harbour was 6:00pm so we were looking to arrive at the channel around 3:00pm.

Big yacht aground south of St Augustine

AS we passed through St Augustine we were passed by a half dozen Customs and Border Patrol go-fast boats, then we saw this coming in the inlet – seems they were having a bit of target practice out there!

Towing the targets

We arrived outside the Queens Harbour lock around 2:30 and were tied up at home dock at 3:00.

Another Bahamas trip completed!

 

Beautiful Beaches, Fabulous Bars, And Mad Dogs And Irishmen

April 26th — May 4th

Thursday April 26th, dawned with beautiful , clear blue skies and found us anchored underneath the Elbow Reef Lighthouse. After breakfast we motored VERY slowly to the south east, with sometimes less than two feet clearance beneath the keel based on both charts and depth sounder! We were targeting a visit to Tahiti Beach, a snorkel on the reef off Sandy Cay, finally anchoring in the bay outside Little Harbour for dinner at Pete’s Pub. We weren’t able to go into the harbour there as we can only cross on a high tide. High tide was at 6:00pm, great for getting in, but then it was at 6:30 am – not so great for getting out after a night in the pub! So we were aiming for an anchorage outside!

Anchored Off Tahiti Beach

Well that was the plan, but the wind had other ideas. It turned to the south east and stared blowing hard. We were able to lay down a lunch anchor off Tahiti Beach and walk the soft sand there. After lunch we navigated our way around the shallows of Tilloo Bank and entered the anchorage behind Sandy Cay to find a strong surge from the swell rolling in from the Atlantic through North Bar Channel. So we skipped the snorkeling and headed on down to Little Harbour. As we approached the bay outside Little Harbour we saw big breakers hitting the beach and realized that there was also a strong surge running through there from the ocean inlet by Little Harbour. That meant an overnight anchorage there was out of the question. We backtracked and joined a dozen boats anchored in the shelter off Lynyard Cay. This unfortunately meant that we would not be making it into Pete’s Pub this trip as the journey across in the dinghy was simply too dangerous in the large swell. So we broke out the rum and gin and made do!

Friday April 27th. Next morning we headed back towards the hub of Abaco. The wind had tracked to the south so the anchorage behind Sandy Cay was more sheltered enabling us to drop the hook and get the snorkel gear ready – including the new full face masks we now had. Dive Guana had suggested we clean the masks with toothpaste, smear it on with finger tips, rinse and apply anti fog gel before rinsing again. We followed instructions to the letter and had great results. We dinghy’d out of the anchorage and picked up one of the small mooring balls placed there for people to tie up and get over the reef.

Tied up over the reef

We snorkeled the reef for an hour before heading back to Sonas. Those of us with “adult bodies” struggled to get into the inflatable dingy from the water with any modicum of dignity but managed by clawing, pushing and pulling. Adam, young, fit and able gave one almighty heave and climbed aboard in a simple fluid movement, no problems. Auntie Sian pushed him in the back ready to throw him overboard, but like a good Auntie, restrained at the last moment, but only just!

Sandy Cay Reef

Off we went for a little treat. We entered the shallow waters between Elbow and Lubbers again and anchored right off Cracker P’s! We went in, squeezed our tender in between the many others tied up, and had a great lunch with a view! And another few adult beverages!

Sonas anchored off Cracker P’s
Welcome to Cracker P’s
Boozin’ it up at Cracker P’s

We ran from Lubbers Quarters to Man O War Cay. After going through the very narrow entrance we turned right and entered the east anchorage. We picked up a mooring buoy, got into the dinghy and headed into town. Half way there the heavens opened but luckily the covered Albury’s Ferry dock was clear so Paul steered the dinghy in there and we waited out the heavy rain, praying that a ferry would not turn up!

Hiding under the Albury’s Ferry doclk!

We tied up at the Man O’War marina and walked through the town. We had hoped to grab an ice cream but the  stand had just closed by the time we got there. So we walked up to the beach on the Atlantic side and then then bought a few things in the little store before heading back to Sonas.

Saturday April 28th. Adam was flying out from Marsh Harbour on Sunday, On leaving Man O’War we motored the short distance to the beach that sits between Scotland Cay and Great Guyana. There is no big boat anchorage so we had to anchor off the cay in an on shore wind so Paul stayed on board as anchor watch as there was quite a sea running into the beach. The others went ashore.

Paula on Scotland Cay beach

There was a rocky bar across the beach so Adam had to haul the dinghy across!

“Gulliver” Adam!
Paula finds a Conch!

Leaving this beautiful spot we ran across to Mermaid Reef, just outside Marsh, and snorkeled the reef there. We first visited the reef way back in 2002 with our children and it is always a pleasure to go back. The reef is full of fish of many species, and we even saw a huge lobster. Paul had a bag of peas in his pocket so we gathered around him as he emptied the bag and we were engulfed in feeding fish!

Leaving the reef we headed into the harbour and anchored. That night, Adam’s last, we went into Snappa’s for dinner. They had a live band so there was dancing, with Peter providing a partner for the local single ladies!

Dinner at Snappa’s

Sunday April 29th. The next afternoon Peter and Paula said goodbye to Adam at the dock and we upped anchor and headed off.

Bye bye Adam!

We wanted to visit Matt Lowe’s Cay as we saw there were a couple of beautiful beaches there, and the anchorage was good for the wind we would get that night. After dropping anchor we took a cooler with beer and wine, deck chairs, and beach towels ashore and set up on the beach.

Beach at Matt Lowe’s Cay

The island has been bought by a developer who has built a small canal system and is selling lots. We saw signs along the high water mark advising that the island was private and to be mindful of the guard dogs. No problem, we were fine just sitting on the beach.All beaches in the Bahamas are public up to the high water mark so we felt confident we were following the rules so all would be well.  As we used the beach we could hear the dogs, which sounded like they were locked up somewhere. The constant barking was a bit annoying.

Picnic on Matt Lowe’s
Before the dog attack!

Sian and Paula had gone for a walk along the beach and Paul was wading in the water, when all of a sudden three large dogs came out of the treeline barking and heading for Peter who was sitting on one of the beach chairs. He jumped up and, using the chair as a shield , backed into the water. The dogs (one brown, one white and brown and the other black) stopped at the water’s edge. Paul went to the dinghy, grabbed the metal bar that’s used to support the dinghy cover and walked towards the dogs smacking the bar into the water and then the sand. They went back into the trees but they were never far away, and appeared now and then in the tree line. We decided to pack up and go back to the boat!Unfortunately Paul did not have his camera with him or he would have taken video which would have helped the proper authorities deal with this issue. We will be reporting it.

That night we had the wonderful experience of a sunset over the port side of Sonas and then, about twenty minutes later, a wonderful moon rise over the starboard side!

Matt Lowe’s Sunset
Matt Lowe’s Moonrise!

Monday April 30th. The next morning we set sail, yet again, to spend two days in our favorite spot in the Abacos – Treasure Cay. This time we picked up a mooring in the basin and dinghy’d in to walk the beach, have drinks at the beach bar, sit by the pool (and have more drinks). The well protected basin kept the still high winds at bay.

Wednesday May 2nd. Leaving Treasure Cay we ran the hub of Abaco, past Man O’ War, past Hope Town and into the well protected Sea Spray Marina. This was a very tight marina, and the wind was still howling, but maneuvering a heavy boat like Sonas helps as it does not easily get pushed around by the wind. So we had no issues squeezing her into her slip.

Entering Sea Spray, Elbow Cay

We were on a deadline as the team Peter supports, Liverpool, were playing an important soccer game that afternoon. He headed off to the bar where they put the game on the TV for him. He was a happy man when they won the tie.

Sea Spray Bar

Casualty of the trip was the herb garden which apparently did not enjoy the salty spray washing over them. Another time we will bring them in doors to shelter in rough seas but its too late now!

In the evening we got cleaned up and headed to The Abaco Inn for dinner. The Abaco Inn sits on a hill overlooking both the Sea of Abaco on one side and the Atlantic on the other. It is both a fabulous location and an excellent establishment. On the way up we were passed by a young man on a motor bike. A couple of minutes later he came back along the road and Paul put his thumb out. The driver was game and put Paula on the back seat and off she went to the restaurant. He then returned and did the same with Sian!

Abaco Inn
The view from Abaco Inn

We had a wonderful meal and would highly recommend the Abaco Inn to anyone looking for a quality meal on Elbow Cay.

Thursday May 3rd. Peter and Paul’s time with us was coming to an end. They were flying out of Marsh Harbour on Friday May 4th. So on Thursday we untied from Sea Spray and headed back over to Marsh. After anchoring we walked through town and up to Abaco Beach Resort/Boat Harbour to have a look around, some drinks and appetizers. We had booked a table at Wally’s across from Harbour View Marina for that evening, but then decided that a quiet evening aboard was the order of the day, so cancelled our reservation, and enjoyed dinner, drinks, and card games on board!

Friday May 4th. Sadly Friday arrived. Our guests packed up and, wrapping their luggage in black plastic bags due to the winds and choppy water, loaded up the dinghy. They hugged Sian and then Paul took them ashore. More hugs and they were off on the taxi to the airport. Right on time their flight took off and did a fly-by right over Sonas in the harbour!

Farewell fly-by!

We had originally planned on starting our journey back to the US right after they left. However the forecast was calling for winds over 30mph and thunderstorms. Since these winds were from the NE they made Whale Cay Channel dangerous. We spent the afternoon readying the boat for sea crossings, hunkered down when the wind gusts were high and planned an early night for an early departure. Looking ahead the weather for crossing the Gulf Stream is decent for Sunday, even better for Monday and Tuesday, so we knew we could ride out the weather in Marsh Harbour and head off on Saturday when the forecast suggested some calmer weather..

Guests On Board and Improving Weather (and health)

Marsh Harbour from the Conch Inn (Da Blue Hole)

April 19th – 20th

Hooray! Today is the day Peter and Paula arrive! At last cleaning can stop and with some decent weather we can start having fun! Paul is making steady improvement, by no means back to full strength but in the land of the living.

The flight from Atlanta was on time with the taxi ride delivering them to Conch House Hotel and Marina where they got their first look at the beautiful clear Bahamian water and Paul’s new beard. Paula declared “he looks like Santa Claus.”

Peter with Sian and Santa.

Now comes the hard part. Adam, their son, was flying in from Toronto where he is living, as a surprise for his Mum. He was due to arrive the next day so somehow we had to keep Paula in place but without arousing suspicion. So we told her that we needed some supermarket supplies in the morning so would have to stay at anchor in Marsh Harbour, and that we would go back ashore for lunch before we left. We had arranged with Adam to walk into the Conch House bar while we were having lunch.

Under cloudy skies we tackled the grocery shopping and considered ourselves fortunate we made it back to the boat before the heavens opened. It rained and rained and then rained some more! We were was beginning to wonder how we could insist we needed to go ashore for lunch when we would all have been drowned rats just getting there.

Paula and Adam

Fortune smiled, the skies cleared and in we went. Right on cue Adam bounded up the stairs hugged his Mum tight and there were tears all round. Most of them, we must admit, from Sian! What a lovely surprise! Mission accomplished we headed back to the boat, upped anchor heading over to Fisher Bay for a swim before cocktails ashore at Grabbers, a walk on the beach, a Spaghetti Bolognese dinner on board and card games before bed.

Trying out the new full face masks

April 21st to April 25rd

The forecast called for scattered thunderstorms and wind for the next four days, but with plenty of sunshine. Plus we wanted to go to the Pig Roast at Nipper’s on the Sunday. So we booked into Orchid Bay Marina in Settlement Harbour, Great Guyana Cay for two days.

After docking and preparing the boat we walked over to town, bought some snorkel mask spray at Dive Guyana then walked to Grabbers to see if we could get the Manchester United FA Cup semi-final football match on TV – but no go.

A couple of sports fishermen from the Panhandle and Alabama came in, on their way to a tournament out of Boat Harbour and tied up next to us. After dinner we spent a couple of hours chatting with them. We also watched the 140 foot Palmer Johnson Lady J come in and tie up, struggling a bit with the wind.

Lady J fighting the wind to tie up

On Sunday we went over to Nipper’s and walked the beautiful Atlantic beach, then going up to a very busy Nipper’s for lunch, some beers chased down by a couple of Nippers cocktails! We staggered back to Sonas for a nap and a light dinner, followed by more socializing on the dock.

Nippers and the beach
Nipper’s

Mid-morning Monday, still expecting another two days of wind, we untied and headed across the Sea of Abaco towards Treasure Cay. We tied up early afternoon and headed off to walk the beach, then lay by the swimming pool with a cocktail Later Lady J appeared again and tied up on the T-Dock next to us.

Adam hanging off Sonas with Far Niente next door.

It was more of the same relaxation on Tuesday, beach, pool, drinks, and quick runs to the grocery and wine store for replenishment of the provisions! Lady J left and was soon replaced by Far Niente, a 130 foot Westport. Paul got to chat to one of the crew as he waited on the dock to tie her up and discovered he was from Durban but had lived in Belfast for a couple of years. He later joined us for a beer before dinner and we had a good chat about how he got into that business and what it would take if Adam wanted to do the same. The captain also stopped by for a chat – he was originally from Grimsby in England.

Peter and Adam in the Tipsy Seagull pool
Sian and Paula on the Treasure Cay dock

It was quite interesting watching the comings and goings of the crews and guests of these big yachts. In both cases we found that  owners were on board rather than charter guests. Far Nuente was on its way to Nassau, where they were hosting a bachelor party for their son.

Adam on Treasure Cay beach

On Wednesday the 25th we untied and headed east towards Hope Town. We had called the three businesses who owned mooring buoys in the harbour but either they were not available or were not suitable for Sonas. So we anchored outside the harbour right under the famous candy stripped Elbow Reef Lighthouse. We took the dinghy into the harbour and tied up at the lighthouse dock.

Elbow Reef Lighthouse, the only manned kerosene lighthouse remaining in the world.
Visiting Elbow Reef Lighthouse

Everyone went up the lighthouse while Paul chose to visit the gift store manned by lighthouse volunteers rather than risk his leg climbing the 101 steps to the top. We then crossed the harbour to the public dock and walked through the quaint town. We ended up at Harbour’s Edge restaurant and bar for snacks and drinks. Peter went and fetched the dinghy from the public dock and brought it to the restaurant so that we wouldn’t have to walk back through town. While we were there we watched a Kady Krogen 48 (overall length the same as Sonas at 53 feet) come in and pick up a mooring ball that we were told was not suitable for us. As we were leaving we spoke to them and they told us that they were always able to pick one up – go figure.

Daily yoga on the boat deck

We went back to Sonas where Sian had a lamb roast in the slow cooker for a delicious dinner, followed by everyone sitting on the bow trying to identify the stars and constellations.

The weather had set into a pattern, thunderstorms and rain overnight, but plenty of sun during the day with absolutely stunning sunsets nearly every evening.

Sunset
Sunset

A Re-Visit To Our Favorite Abaco Destination And To Marsh Harbour

The bread maker is back in action!

April 12th – April 17th

Our last post covered just two days. A night at Allans-Pensacola where our anchor dragged, then the trip back into the Hub of Abaco to anchor at Baker’s Bay. Sian ended that blog post with “Anyway I for one am thrilled to be tucked in (fingers crossed with no anchor issues) for a nice quiet night out of the north wind.”

Paul had started to take ill with the meds he was on. He was taking a muscle relaxer twice a day, one Tramadol pain med per day (he self-reduced from two), nine Motrin anti-inflammatory per day, and a prescription anti-acid twice a day. So he put himself to bed early with a tummy sounding lie Mount Etna about to erupt! Sian came down later, but lay in bed listening to the sounds of the boat, the waves, and the snubber. It ended up that she spent another restless night worried about the anchor! And that is what an anchor drag will do to you for a while – make you suspect your ground tackle

I was busy watching the shore line and hoping like mad that we could stay put and Paul could sleep,which we did but truthfully my nerves were fried from the worry and greeted the dawn thinking “we need to sell the boat, I cannot be anxious like this any more”I like to think that revelation prompted our swift entry into the marina and equilibrium has been restored. 

Paul had a decent night’s sleep, but was violently ill when he got up. We made the decision that we needed to get into a marina, get tied up, and Paul was to stay pretty much boat-bound until we saw real progress. We had some options of marinas but decided to get back to our favorite – Treasure Cay. We could focus on Paul’s health whilst Sian could still enjoy the fabulous beach and marina-hotel amenities. High winds for a couple of days but I did meet some lovely people,and their dogs and even saw a dead shark washed up on the beach. Don’t know what happened to him, he looked fine, just dead!

We  wanted to be over in Marsh Harbour by Tuesday to prepare for family arriving, so went ahead and booked a slip until then – 5 days.

Water colored sails

Paul focused on his Priformis stretches, four sessions each day. By the end of the five days he had also weaned himself off all of the meds except the anti-acids. Sian walked the beach every day and did some boat chores. When we were ready to leave for Marsh Paul was finally feeling much better, even without the meds.

Sunny morning in Marsh Harbour

On Tuesday we set off for Marsh late morning. We were in no particular hurry so ran at just six knots and arrived to anchor off Marsh Harbour Marina and Jib Room. After launching the dinghy we went over and tied up at Union Jack dock, where the local Marsh Harbour Yacht Club had built and installed a dingy dock for visiting cruisers. We picked up a few  things at the store, including a gallon of distilled water for battery maintenance.  We visited the Jib Room for lunch the next day, but really spent the time, as planned, spiffing up Sonas for her visitors.

Sunset and moon over Marsh Harbour

IT’S NOT ALL SUN AND GAMES AT SEA!

Treasure Cay again!

[Paul is still in pain with with Sciatica so this update from Sian]

April 10th – April 11th

We get up Tuesday morning, like always the first check is the weather. Winds clocking round ( whatever THAT means) but ending up in the North. So we study the chart, decide we have the morning where we are across from Manjack and then head to Allans-Pensacola to a nice safe anchorage suitable for a stiff breeze from the North for the next few days. The plan was to be sheltered, to walk on the beach, swim and really let the weather do it’s thing.

Coopers Town on Great Abaco Island
Lots of wind for sailing

We motored up and found two other like-minded boats anchored where we were heading but hey it’s all good, we can share. Dropped the hook, it didn’t take first go so up she came and try again. This for me is a new experience. Last spring in the Exumas I don’t remember ever resetting the anchor but here its grassier and if the anchor rolls to the side it doesn’t dig in and hence the redo. Second try and all is well. We leave the snubber off for three hours just to be sure but are finally convinced we’re holding so I go to work.

Being responsible for the snubber is new to me this year. Paul is more under the weather with sciatica than he cares to admit so I am picking up some extra skills. One of which is the snubber. For our non-boating friends, the snubber is a rope or rope-rubber combination that connects to the chain and takes the load from the chain to the rope and then to both sides of the bow. This does two things. It reduces chain noise since it is  now rope moving not steel chain, and it lowers the “pull point” on the chain helping the anchor stay buried. Earlier in this trip the strain on the shackle that attaches the ropes to the anchor chain bent the pin making that shackle unusable. But hey, we’re boaters so no problem, we improvised. I have become adept at attaching a clip to the chain, the shackle to the clip, tightening the ropes and taking the strain off the chain.

So snubber on, time to relax. Suddenly we are hit with rain and increased winds. Race round closing hatches and doors to hear Paul calling the anchor is dragging. Forget the windows, all hands on deck! He starts the engines, I race to remove the snubber so we can gather the anchor in. I need pliers on a usual day and now am trying to keep calm in 40 knot winds (recorded by our instruments). Is it righty tightly , lefty loosy and which way is up on this damn shackle anyway? Look up to see we are way too close to our nearest neighbor so put my head down, try to focus and keep trying. Paul abandons his post at the throttles, gets the shackle loosened for me, darts back while I get the ropes out of the way, lift the anchor and, as they say, disaster is narrowly averted.

Now, what to do? Choices are: use the engines to keep steady and re anchor when it’s all over, which will be after dark, or head round the corner to a more exposed anchorage but with better holding where we can anchor in twilight. We chose the second option. Now we worry, will the anchor drag again?

On our GPS we can set a drag alarm, well that seems handy so we did. Nothing happened for three hours so we went to bed. Well let me tell you it’s a very quiet little alarm, almost like it didn’t really want to wake any one! Heard it at 11.30 pm and both jumped up ready for who knows what.

Anchor watch on the GPS

Nothing bad was happening, swinging around a bit but Paul slept in the pilot house and I checked on him every couple of hours. Arrived at 7 am, exhausted but safe. Headed off to Green Turtle, our next safe bolt hole, looking forward to a long nap.

Arrived and entered White Sound to find no room at the inn for Sonas. There are spaces to anchor and mooring buoys and a couple of marinas. We called the private owner of the only open mooring  buoy to be told that it could not accommodate our size, no room to anchor and the marina only had space for one night. After a brief tour of the harbor on we slogged on, finally ending up in Bakers Bay which has changed beyond all recognition in the last 20 years.

A full White Sound at Green Turtle Cay

Bakers Bay used to be a stop for the Big Red Boat cruise line but it didn’t work out well due to rage that Whale Cay turns into in  a north or northeast blow. The first time we came, back in  2002, the cruise line’s “Private Island” had not long been abandoned and we explored, as a family of five, this abandoned, sad space which was attractive in its isolation. There were kitchens, tables, tree top forts and all the other paraphernalia of a holiday cruise destination quickly being returned to nature. Today Bakers Bay is a private residential development with many houses on the shore line, and a member’s only marina and golf resort. Good luck to them boosting the economy here but it is somewhat spoiled, if you like the quieter side of the Abacos. Anyway I for one am thrilled to be tucked in (fingers crossed with no anchor issues) for a nice quiet night out of the north wind.

Another beautiful sunset, or sun rise….!

Green Turtle, Treasure, And Manjack

Using every sail

March 30th – April 10th.

We left Great Sale and set off south east past Hawksbill, Fox Town, Moraine, Allans-Pensacola, Spanish, Powell and Manjack cays and arrived at the anchorage off New Plymouth, Green Turtle Cay around noon. We plan to go back to visit some of these beautiful islands later in our trip. Along the way we passed dozens of boats of all shapes and sizes.

Small Nordhavn off New Plymouth

The bottom at the New Plymouth is grass covered sand. We had some challenges getting our plough anchor to set. It finally held on the third try, though looking at the anchor the next day as we were lifting it, it was sitting on its side rather than the point set in the bottom. Clearly the boat had been held by the weight of the chain only. We launched the dinghy and Sian headed off to town to get some fresh veggies and milk returning after a successful trip.

Local taxi over Whale Cay channel

The next day was flat calm, a perfect day for crossing Whale Cay channel. This cut can be atrocious in a blow from the north through northeast, to the extent that a cruise line, which had built a “private Island” in Baker’s Bay by the cut, had so much trouble getting in and out they abandoned the area.

We crossed the channel with no issues and headed for Treasure Cay. Initially we had planned to either pick up a mooring or anchor in the basin there, but we decided to go into the marina for a few days to help give Paul’s sciatica a chance to clear up as it was still very painful. Those “few days” turned into a very relaxing week at the marina!

Paul trying to walk off his Piriformis Syndrome

Our daily routine (if you could call it that) was breakfast on board, then off to the wonderful award winning beach where Sian walked on the fine coral sand and Paul walked in the water to exercise while  reducing the weight on his periformis and sciatic nerve. Back to the boat for lunch and then over to lie by the marina pool for a couple of hours. Back to the boat for nap, finishing with dinner and drinks. If we had to be “stuck” somewhere this was as good a place as anywhere in the Caribbean!

The beautiful Treasure Cay Beach

We also scored a bag of lobster tails and grilled them up! There was also a little Saturday market that we walked around, but saw nothing of interest.

A few tails!
Visiting the Saturday market

After four days we saw some improvement in Paul’s pain but not enough to leaving the marina. So on Thursday Paul walked over to the private Corbett Medical center. He was seen by Doctor Hull and had a quality conversation with him on his condition. Dr. Hull was not supportive of Baralgin and gave Paul two weeks supply of a muscle relaxer and Tramadol pain killer – known as Ultram in the states. Downside was no alcohol, so now Paul has to sit on his boat in the Bahamas for two weeks without a lick of booze!

Sian’s herb garden – Rosemary, Oregano, Cilantro. The Basil ddn’t make it due to the heat and the Cilantro is struggling.

For the month or two before leaving Jacksonville we had been trying to get Sonas cleaned and waxed, with four different businesses contacted, two coming to estimate the work, but zero follow up. So we decided that we would look to have it done will we were in Abaco if we could. We asked the dockmaster at the marina if he could recommend someone and he introduced us to Ray and his side kick Gary. We negotiated a price and Ray turned up punctually at 7:30 to begin work. They worked diligently for two full days, hand compounding and waxing and then a wash down. Sonas is looking spiffy, though I will probably run a buffer over her when we get home.

Ray and Gary cleaning up Sonas

On Saturday the 7th, with a marked improvement in Paul’s condition,  we finally said goodbye to Treasure Cay Marina and headed off through Whale Cay Channel again to visit some of the islands we had passed earlier. Our first stop was Manjack Cay, where there is a marine park. We spent a couple of days there and walked the mile through the mini-jungle to the beach on the Atlantic side. In the evenings we took Sonas the short run across the Sea of Abaco to the Great Abaco Island side to anchor, as the south winds were blowing straight into Manjack and creating quite a lumpy sea.

Manjack Cay sign
Manjack Cay ocean beach
Anchored off Great Abaco Island

Tomorrow, Tuesday, we are going to continue to the North West with plans to visit the small anchorage at Crab Cay and then Allans-Pensacola Cay, where I hope the winds are calm enough that I can get some drone footage.

A beautiful sunset most nights

The Crossing

The Crossing.

Leaving Fort Pierce Inlet

After satisfying ourselves that we has resolved the water leak/bilge pump issue we did one final check on the weather for crossing the gulf stream. We use a number of sources for this: NOAA, WindFinder, Windy, and Marvsweather.com. We had been keeping an eye on a front that was coming down from the North East. The forecasts were all pretty consistent, the front would arrive early evening, there would be 2-3 foot seas until 2pm, then gradually rising to 5 foot seas by 5pm, bigger by 8pm. Our planned course and speed would have us on the Bahamas Bank and shallow waters by 2pm. So the window was good to go.

The morning was warm with light winds from the north east so we rode out of the inlet on the flybridge. NOAA indicated that the west wall of the Gulf Stream was 14 miles east of the inlet. Two hours into the trip we entered the stream, with seas as predicted. About two hours later, and approximately 15 miles into the stream, the wind and seas started to get up so we moved into the Pilothouse.

The weather then turned really nasty. The wind was blowing 25-27 from the north east, gusting to 30 true on our instruments. The seas were pretty confused rather than coming steady from one direction. The stabilizers struggled to keep Sonas from rolling and it got really unpleasant. We had planned to cross onto the bank between 2 and 3, find calmer water and head to Grand Cay. We pounded for another five hours and finally made the bank at White Sand Ridge around 4pm.

However the blow from the east meant that the bank was nasty as well, with short seas right on our nose. We realized that our timing meant we would be entering the very shallow and tight anchorage at Grand Cay in the dark, so we opted to turn about 14 degrees south to take the seas on our forward quarter and head for Great Sale anchorage. We knew this anchorage from before and although we would be running in the dark for about three hours and entering the anchorage using only instruments, we felt it was the wiser option. Around 10pm, using GPS for depth and radar for other boat avoidance, we laid anchor at Great Sale.

Sian here, whilst the above narrative is factually accurate I feel it does not do our rough crossing justice! We thrashed about for hours, lunch had been made but I did not dare open the fridge. (Note to self: put it all in the cooler next time. Next time? Who AM I kidding) At one stage the fridge, although locked down, flew open resulting in soda cans, food and wine bottles rolling madly in high seas. Fortunately only one bottle smashed so I threw paper towels down, retrieved what I could and sat myself back down.

Sian went into the galley to prepare a late dinner and appeared with baked beans on toast – not our usual quality fare. Paul took one look and declared that he was being punished for one silly bad decision!

Sian again. Once anchored we had to restore order, furniture had rolled, broken glass needed lifting and yes the Captain did get beans on toast. At 11.30 pm after a sixteen hour day, he was lucky to see that!

Great Sale Anchorage

The next day, Tuesday March 27th, the wind was still blowing in the mid-twenties, gusting to 30, so we remained in Great Sale with about 10 other boats. We used the time to tidy up the boat from the day before and unwind after our crossing. We also hoisted the yellow quarantine flag indicating that we had yet to clear customs. Paul was suffering from a pretty bad onslaught of Sciatica (actually Piriformis syndrome) so it helped for him to lie still for a day. He did have to quickly nip into the engine room to lock down the port stabilizer as it was moving with the wave motion and making a knocking noise. Paul does not think that it should be that loose so will be contacting Lambs boat yard after the Easter weekend and discussing it with them.

On Wednesday the winds finally calmed so we headed north to Grand Cay. We arrived at mid-day, launched the dinghy and Paul went ashore to clear customs and buy a Bahamas Telephone Company SIM card. While he was ashore he found the clinic and spoke to the nurse about his sciatica. She made him an appointment with the doctor for the next day. Meanwhile San put him on a stretching regimen, which including using a BBQ gas canister as a roller for deep tissue massage!

Grand Cay

On Thursday we went ashore for Paul’s doctor appointment. The clinic was very busy as the doctor only comes to the island once a week. When it was Paul’s turn a man walked into the doctor’s office ahead of him taking Paul a bit by surprise. So much for their version of HIPAA! He was there to tell the doctor that his 10 pound bag of red snapper was 44 dollars! Paul thought about asking for a bag as well but he knew our fridge freezer on Sonas was still bursting at the seams as we had only just arrived.

The doctor wrote a prescription for Lyrica, and then told him that they didn’t have any. That we should take the prescription with us as we may be able to find it on other islands! He also prescribed, and supplied, a week’s supply of a pain killer, Baralgin. We Googled this as we hadn’t heard of it, to find that it was developed back in 1920 and had actually been banned from the US back in 1977! However, needs must, and Paul started shoveling them down his throat!

Storm Damage Grand Cay
Sea Plane arriving at Grand Cay.

We headed back to the boat and took off to our next anchorage at Double Breasted. This island is one of the most beautiful in Abaco and we were looking forward to walking its sandbars and maybe taking some drone video. However, arriving at the turn for the anchorage we found that the wind was blowing straight in and it was not very sheltered.  We really want to visit here so need to try again later on this trip! We turned south east and started our way towards the Sea of Abaco. We were aiming for Green Turtle on Friday and then Treasure Cay on Saturday, ready to attend Easter Mass at the little Catholic chapel there.

Our first stop was back at Great Sale, which was a nice short cruise and a good setting off point for Green Turtle the next day.

Bahamas 2018 Version!

 March 23rd – March 25th 2018 Queen’s Harbour to Fort Pierce

With heavy hearts, missing our four legged crew memberSee Tribute to Grace , the Worlds Best boat Dog – we left the dock. We miss her and as of yet, things just feel “off”

We had to wait until about 11am to be sure  we had enough water to clear the channel at Queens Harbour.

Saying goodbye to the harbourmaster

We then ran south through Palm Valley, St Augustine to Palm Coast. On previous trips we had booked a slip at Hammock Beach, but this time we did not want to be bothered with taking the shuttle up to the hotel for dinner. So we tied up at Palm Coast Marina on the West side of the ICW, arriving at 5:30.

Small cruise ship in the Palm Valley cut.

We made things ship shape and then walked over to the European Village for dinner. We chose the Lisbon Nights Portuguese restaurant which specializes in seafood – since it was a Friday in Lent. We washed down our seafood with a bottle of Malbec and then headed back to Sonas. Our plans this week were for early nights and early mornings until we got to the Bahamas.

Waiting for our turn under the Bridge of Lions, St Augustine.

On day two we got a long day under our belts  to get to Fort Pierce in plenty of time the third day for fuel and water prior to crossing to the Bahamas. So we untied and were off the dock by 7:15am. We headed south through Daytona, New Smyrna, and Mosquito Lagoon, through Haulover Canal, past Cape Canaveral, Titusville and Cocoa. We dropped anchor offshore a residential area called The Point about six miles south of Cocoa around 6:30 for a total run of just over eleven hours.

Washing down the muddy anchor.

We were off again at7:15am on the third day, March 25th. We ran down the Indian River through Melbourne and Sebastian to arrive in Vero Beach around noon. We went into the Vero Beach City Marina to filled up with diesel and water. Finally arriving at our anchorage just inside the inlet at Fort Pierce around 2:30pm. We made everything secure and then went below for a well deserved nap!

As we lay there we heard the forward bilge pump cycling. Not something you really want to hear when you are about to cross the Gulf Stream! We started the search for the source of the water. We checked all of the through hulls, and all of the fresh water lines, finding absolutely nothing. Paul watched the rate of water entering the bilge and decided that it was nothing to be overly concerned about, though a puzzle.

Later that evening Burntside, a Kady Krogen 39 entered the anchorage and dropped the hook right behind us. Then Paul’s cell phone rang and a gentleman by the name of Steve Park introduced himself and told us that he was on the Kady Krogen right behind us. We are both members of the Marine Trawler Owners Association (MTOA) and he recognized Sonas. He also had been following our blog. We had a chat about our immediate cruising plans. Steve was returning from the Exumas, leaving his boat at Brunswick GA before returning home to Minnesota for the summer.

Burntside, Kady Krogen 39 at the Fort Pierce anchorage.

We rose at 5:30 on Monday the 26th. The bilge pump had been cycling regularly throughout the night so we were determined to find the issue or delay our crossing until we did. Paul checked the fresh water gauge and it was lower. He then put the mop into the forward bilge and drew out some water, then gave it a good sniff to confirm that it was fresh water. We had already checked all the fresh water lines the day before which left he water heater or the tank itself as the chief suspects. The water heater checked out fine. Since the 350 gallon water tank is beneath the master berth we had to fold our mattress forward and then remove all of the totes with the cans of beer and soda that we store there! We then lifted the hatch and immediately found the issue.

Originally there been an ozone maker sitting on top of the tank feeing into the water via a plastic tube. Paul had removed this and plugged the tubing. Somehow the plug ad come out and the hose had fallen off the tank into the bilge causing a syphon effect, and the fresh water was running out through that. We secured the hose, planning to remove it altogether later, and were now clear to cross!

Another beautiful sunrise at anchor!

Fall & Winter Projects

“Quiet” Season Projects

As always with boat ownership, there are plenty of things to do during the “quiet” fall and winter months, though here in Florida winter is relative! One thing we did notice after we had written this is that it doesn’t seem like a lot when you are doing these things one at a time, but looking back we got through a substantial amount – albeit some small general maintenance stuff.

Some we did ourselves, some we “outsourced,” and some were general ongoing maintenance.

Ourselves

We don’t have much wood on the exterior of Sonas, but all of the rails are teak. Over time the salt and sun take their toll and the varnish starts to flake. It was time for some light sanding and a couple of coats of Helmsman.

Refinished brightwork

Sonas has a teak and holly floor. While not exposed to the elements as is the exterior bright work, it does get scuffed and scratched over time. We gave the galley and salon floor a light sanding and then two coats of Minwax polyurethane.

Before
After sanding
After a couple of coats

The salon walls were also looking a bit dull so we cleaned these and coated a couple of times with Murphy’s Oil Soap.

Dull walls

We also noticed that the varnish on one of the interior window sills and frames needed attention,most likely because the window was left open during a salty run. We sanded those down and gave them a couple of coats as well.

One of our biggest aggravations in the two years we have owned Sonas has been the 24 volt halogen ceiling lights. The bulbs on these go out on a frequent basis, and if they don’t go out they come loose and constantly need to to pushed back in.  So we decided to replace all 34 of the lights with 24v LEDs.

Old light fixtures

 

Pilothouse change
LED light.

Sonas had a very nice Ekornes recliner and foot stool which unfortunately was getting well past its best. With the two person sofa, this only provided seating for three in the salon (though we do have two stools at the galley counter). So we swapped out the recliner for two replacements, now we have plenty of seating for four.

We have three lights above the galley counter which are controlled by a resistor type dimmer switch. This had gone bad. Also, since we were replacing the lights with LEDs we needed a different type of dimmer. After searching high and low for a 24v dimmer, we decided to go with a simple on/off switch instead, especially since every time we switched those lights on we turned the dimmer to full anyway!

Old bar dimmer
Old bar dimmer

 

Other Stuff

A couple of times in the Bahamas last year we tied to piles that were well in front of our spring cleats, necessitating tying two of our lines together to set the springs. So we decided to buy some 50 foot 3/4 inch lines to have on board for those times we have to do that again.

New 50′ 3/4″ lines

After a winter being pushed up against the concrete dock and sitting partially in the water the fenders were looking a bit shabby. After a good wash and spray with restorer they come up a bit more ready for the new season – though I do see some new fenders in our near future as they still look a bit tired.

Yukky fender
Now it just needs a shine!

We also added some new artwork – the nicest piece was a blown up drone photo of Sonas at Williams Cay! You will want to click on this photo to enlarge it – we are really pleased with how it came out.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0005.JPG

For our three month trip to the Exumas we put a small freezer in the corner of the salon to ensure that we had enough frozen goods for the duration. Since in 2017 we will only spend about six weeks in the Abacos before three months in the Chesapeake (where fresh supplies are readily available) we removed the freezer and stored it in the garage.

Outsourced

One side benefit of a nice long cruise like three months in the Exumas is that you really get to know your boat. As things cropped up or were found we kept a log of the items we wanted our yard to work on. So we took Sonas over to Lambs Yacht Center on the Ortega River with the to-do list. We had divided these into must dos, the A list, and if time and cost allowed a B list. So we had the following completed:

  • Both fiberglass exhaust tubes in the engine room were ground down and re-glassed. The original survey had found spider cracks that allowed salt water to spray against the engine room bulk head.
  • The A/C unit in the guest cabin ran continuously so the control board need to be replaced.
  • All of the wet cell house batteries (12), and the two generator batteries were swapped out for no-maintenance gels.
  • The Halon fire suppression system was recertified.
  • The starboard stabilizer was leaking a small amount of fluid and squeaking. The yard had Naiad techs service both stabilizers.
  • We had a minor accident in the Exumas and damaged the corner of the swim platform. The yard brought his back to like new. And while they had it out of the water they replaced all the zincs.

  • The vacuum pump for the master cabin head was very inconsistent and the pump for the guest head was leaking so we had the yard totally replace the pumps and rebuild both head systems.
  • The PathMaker unit, which allows parallel use of house and start batteries to start the engines was malfunctioning and continuously connecting the batteries, meaning that the start batteries were being drawn down by house usage. This is a big no-no as you could end up with flat start batteries after a period at anchorage.  We had the yard remove the PathMaker completely.

The Stidd pilothouse helm chair had seen better days. So we asked Stephen Mousa at Mousa Auto  and Marine Interiors to redo it. We also had the metal powder coated to the same color. We are very pleased by the finished product!

Before helm chair
After helm chair

Our galley faucet had corroded and siezed in one position. The faucet was one where you could extend the faucet end with a hose. This hose had also blocked up over time reducing the amount of water coming out. So we had Atlantic Coast Plumbing and Tile come and swap out the faucet for a new one, which did not have the hose extension. Sometimes simple is best on a boat!

Mike from MPG Electronics resolved some issues we were having with the electronics. The Autopilot was not getting a feed from either of the GPS systems, or the computer.  Seems the J300X computer had gone bad so had to be replaced by a used part as they no longer make these. Also the flybridge monitor was not working so that we could monitor the engine room and rear cameras while underway. The power supply had gone bad so we had to order a replacement from the original manufacturer in Canada.

Ongoing Maintenance

Because we anchor out a lot a fully working and reliable tender is critical. We took the Novurnia RIB and its 25 horse power Yamaha to Isle of Palms Marine at Palm Cove Marina for a service. This included emptying out the fuel tank and cleaning it, as well as replacing the fuel hose and bulb.

In early February I had Ryan from the Pier 88 Diving franchise here is Jacksonville come and give the bottom a good clean and replace the zincs.

Josh from Control Master Inc, the mechanics that we use on Sonas, came and completed an annual service on the Lugger engines and Northern Lights generator.  He de-gunked both engine heat exchangers, replaced a generator fuel injector valve and the generator fresh water circulating pump.

One area we are struggling with is getting the boat compounded and waxed. We have had three people around to look at her and so far so one works on boats this size. Asking around it seems there is a dearth of detailing companies in Jacksonville. Still waiting to get this completed.

All-in-all, we are more than ready for the season!

 

 

Getting Documentation Ready For The Bahamas

It occurred to us as we prepared for our upcoming trip to the Abacos that we never shared what needs to be done prior to leaving (and returning) from the Bahamas as far as paperwork. So here are the things we have to formalize before we leave.

Annual DTOPS Decal

“Decals are stickers that are placed on all private aircraft and private vessels (30 feet or more in length) as proof that the User Fee for entry into the U.S. has been paid for the calendar year. Any arriving vessel or aircraft that does not have an annual decal will be required to pay the non-refundable User Fee and complete an application, which will be forwarded to the processing center. The application will be processed, and a decal will be mailed from the processing center. A decal expires on December 31st of its issue year. A new decal is issued whenever the decal is renewed.”  https://dtops.cbp.dhs.gov/main/#

2018 DTOPS Decal

Small Vessel Registration System SVRS [Edited May 2018, as of April 2018 this system is no longer active for Florida Boaters. Check status for you. It has been replaced by the ROAM App]

 

ROAM (Reprting Offsite Arrival – Mobile) App

ROAM was brought in for Florida boaters in April 2018 to replace the Small Vessel Reporting System. You will still need to register for a SVRS number or have another expedited entry program such as Global Entry.

It works as follows. You down load the App. You will need to have or establish a Login.gov account. You then add the people who will be checking in. This includes the names and passport details as well as taking a photo of the passport photo page using the App. It will also ask you for your SVRS number or Global Entry number etc. You also add in details of the vessel you are coming in on. These detail are saved in the App for future use. You then enter details of this particular entry – which countries to were in and then you answer the standard questions regarding anything you may be bringing in.

You then press submit. And this is the critical part. The submission will be reviewed real time by an officer. He/She will either approve the entry or request a video interview. You must keep the App open and watch it for the response. If you do not respond to a request for a video interview you will shorty receive an email telling you that your entry was not approved and you must report in person. This real time process is not intuitive and there is not a tutorial set up yet taking you through the process. So make sure to watch the App after submission.

https://www.cbp.gov/travel/pleasure-boats-private-flyers/pleasure-boat-overview/roam

Passports Vs. Birth Certificates

Before 9/11 US boaters going and returning from the Bahamas could do so on an original US Birth Certificate – with a raised seal (stamp). Post 9/11 this is no longer the case and you should have your passport with you. Another option is using a US Passport Card. This is not valid for international air travel but can be used for travel by sea (and land) between the US and Canada, Mexico, The Caribbean and Bermuda.

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/apply-renew-passport/card.html

Using Your VHF To Communicate With A Foreign Shore Base

US regulations dictate that any individual communicating with a foreign shore based station have a Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit.  Additionally any vessel communicating with a foreign shore base must have a Ship Station License. The Operator’s permit is lifetime, whereas the Ship’s license is for ten years. To obtain your licenses you must first register on the FCC’s CORES system. You will get a FCC Registration Number (FRN) and password. Using these you can then get your operator’s and Ships radio licenses.

COREs Registration

Bahamas Customs & Immigration

Entering Bahamian waters you must fly your national flag as usual, and a yellow quarantine flag until you clear customs and immigration. This is usually flown off the starboard side of the boat. Once cleared you must then take down the yellow flag and replace it with the Bahamian (courtesy) flag. BE AWARE the penalties for taking fish prior to clearing are severe.

When traveling to the Bahamas by boat you may anchor out prior to clearing customs. Usually when running from West Palm to West End this is not necessary. However when running from Fort Pierce to the northern Abacos or from points further south to the Berries or Exumas for example, this may be necessary for slower vessels. While I have not personally heard of any issues with boats anchoring for two nights before clearing I would not recommend it as it is hard to justify. BE AWARE that no one from the boat can go ashore if you chose to anchor prior to clearing customs.

You must clear at your first port of call in the Bahamas. So take care to make that an island that has a customs and immigration officer. You can see the list of locations here:

Customs locations

Also, only the person checking in is allowed to leave the boat until the process is completed. [Though last year  when checking in at Lucaya after an 11 hour run we asked if Sian could take the dog ashore while Paul met with customs and they gave the OK].

We also strongly recommend that you print out a complete set of customs and immigration documents prior to leaving home, and fill them out. This will save a lot of time in the customs office. In fact we had not done that recently and had the customs lady severely roll her eyes at Paul! It looks like a lot (well it is a lot!) but they are not difficult to complete. As of the date of writing the forms required are: Bahamas Customs Clearance, Inward Report – Pleasure Vessels, Maritime Declaration of Health and Appendix, Inward Passenger and Crew Manifest – Pleasure Ship.

Bahamas Customs and Immigration Forms

You can find a full set of these documents in the link below. The second link will also get you the  “Application for a Permit to Engage in Foreign Fishing for Sporting Purposes.” You should also complete this even though you may not plan on fishing as you are paying for it anyway. I have also provided a link to all Bahamian government documents later in this post so you can get any  other documents you need. Remember, all of these will also be available when you get to the customs office, you are just looking to expedite things:

Documents required for boat and crew.

Fishing permit

And don’t forget you $300 cash entry fee, which includes your fishing license. ($150 for boats under 35 feet). This covers three people and is good for two entries within a 90 day period. Each additional person is $20. The only other cost would be if you requested out of hours processing when they may be overtime costs for the extra time.

We have heard, but not confirmed, that the customs office in West End is now taking cards in payment for the entry fee.

BE AWARE that you must declare any firearms on board and have them secured. You must also declare every single round of ammunition on board. This is critical as if you are later boarded and found to have more ammunition than declared they will assume you planned to discharge. If they board you and find that you have less ammunition than declared they will assume you have already discharged!

One more point before we leave the customs and immigration process, and that is around tipping the customs officer after he has provided the services expected of him.  We will not suggest that you do it or not do it here, but we would recommend that you use on-line search tools and forums and based on your findings make your own decision.

Taking a Dog [on vacation, permanent import has a different process]

If you want to take your pet to the islands with you you must first apply to the Bahamian Department of Agriculture (Veterinary Services Unit) for a permit. This is a pretty straight forward process, just make sure to do it well before you plan on leaving. Currently the fee is $10, plus $5 is you want a fax or emailed expedited copy of the permit.

There are certain breeds that are not allowed. Also you will need your vet to give you a declaration of health for the dog as well as confirmation that the dog is up to date on all of its rabies shots. BE AWARE that they ask you to have your vet complete the health form within 24 hours of your departure! This is impossible if your home and vet is multiple days away from your crossing point. However we have not had an issue with “very recent” dating on this form.

You will find the application form, with instructions here, along with many, if not all, of the forms you require for your trip. Just use the Search Form menu item and enter Dog.

Bahamian forms

Consumables

One of the most frequent question we see asked about going to the Bahamas is around the limits for bringing in food and booze. While we cannot speak to doing so when flying, there is absolutely no issue with bringing in as much food and drink as you require for your cruise. Clearly this must be for your own consumption. Just state that on the Inward Report – Pleasure Vessels form under B(2) Stores Onboard “Sufficient Food and beverages for master and crew consumption only.”

BE AWARE that your boat will obviously have spares for maintenance of your boat for the duration of the cruise. These will be on board as you arrive and depart. However if you are bringing parts for another vessel these will need to be reported. You will have to pay a stamp tax on those parts BUT, based on latest information, if they are replacement parts, you should not have to pay duty. Obviously check the latest rules on this prior to bringing in replacement parts for someone else.

Taking an Unmanned Aircraft (Drone)

If you want to use a drone in the Bahamas you will have to either have it registered with the FAA in the US and then apply for an Authorization To Fly In the Bahamas Airspace, or register it with the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority and ask for the authorization. Since it is now a rule that you must register in the US it makes sense to go ahead and go the US registration route.

The authorization request process is very straight forward. You simple email Mr. Gregory Edwards, at gedwards.fsi@gmail.com requesting the authorization. In that email you will need to provide a copy of your FAA certificate, your drone model number, your drone serial number, and proof of ownership. (For the latter Paul sent a photo of his FAA registration numbers on the drone itself since we did not have a purchase receipt).

Once Mr. Edwards processes your email you will get the authorization back.

Flying permit

We hope this help anyone planning a trip to the Islands! They really are a paradise!

Spring 2018 Has Sprung

After a pretty cold January (for Florida anyway) February has brought spring! Today, February 25th, we got into the mid 80s up here in North East Florida.

We have been putting a lot of time into Sonas getting her ready for the upcoming cruise to the Abacos and to the Chesapeake. So today we decided to treat ourselves and (after Paul watched Manchester United beat Chelsea in the Premier League!) we jumped into our RIB, Little Sonas, and headed out for a few hours.

Approached Queen’s Harbour lock
Today’s conditions
Lock master Harry ready to throw the lines
Guarding the channel
Number 82 in for some work
Outer Reef Rencontre
While we understand the fishing connotation, not sure on this name!
Little Talbot State Park and Fort George River was pretty busy for a February!
On the beach for a picnic lunch at Little Talbot State Park
Home again!

 

St Augustine Nights of Lights 2017

 

Out National bird and animal on marker 41, just north of the route 202 Turner Butler bridge

We had ten yacht club boats and eighteen land-yachters head down to St Augustine for the first weekend of the 2017 Nights of Lights. There were a number of new members  we got to meet and introduce to the QHYC lifestyle! Due to the damage to the St Augustine Municipal Marina from hurricane Irma we had to spread the boats between the city marina and Comanche Cove Marina. Even then, not all of the boats at the city marina had a power supply and some had to rely on their on-board generators. The club had reserved specific private times with the the water-taxi between Comanche Cove and the city docks to make sure that people could get over easily to enjoy the town and the events we had planned.

Our schedule for the weekend was:

Friday,

  • Boats arrive before sunset 5:38PM
  • Dinner at the Columbia Restaurant.

Saturday

  • During the day explore St Augustine
  • At 6:00PM gather at City Marina for pre-lighting drinks and walk into town for the Lighting Ceremony
  • The Countdown for Light Up to start at 6:30PM
  • Pizza Dock Party after the Light Up (7:00PM)

Sunday

  • Leave at your leisure

Sonas  had a slip one in from the fuel dock. Initially it was supposed to be with no power. But we noticed that the nearest boat to us on the fuel dock was just using the 30amp. So we asked if we could use their 50amp. We were able to piggy back a 50 foot and 25 foot cord and get power to our boat.

Due to good planning and excellent volunteers, the weekend went to plan. The staff at the marinas, as always, were top notch. We had also set up a WhatsApp group specifically for the trip so people where able to stay connected to what was happening, find out where others were having lunch, and what they were doing during the day. It was also helpful to answer any questions and get information.

Passing under the notorious Atlantic Blvd Bridge

We could not have asked for better weather on Friday and Saturday. Most of us were able to stay in shorts and t-shirts during the day. Sunday, for the return trips, started off cloudy, cold and rainy. But improved by afternoon.

The food at the Columbia was excellent (although one paella meal went astray for a while (the one Sian and I were sharing), but we got that sorted out!).

Columbia Restaurant

Friday evening and overnight was calm with no winds whatsoever, resulting in restful nights for those in the condos at Camanche cove and those staying on board.

Saturday arrived with a wonderful sunrise, and bright blue skies.

Saturday sunrise

On Saturday members walked through town where some had breakfast. Sian organized a group to visit the Lightner Museum to see the Downton Abbey exhibition currently underway there. Most members had lunch in town before heading back to the condos and boats to prepares for the Docktail and the Lighting ceremony.

Lightner and the Downton Abbey exibit

Sian and I had lunch at the Prohibition Inn. The beer list was awesome, and the burgers were too!

Everyone got to the meeting place on the dock on time, had a warming drink, before walking into Constitution Square where a band was playing on the stage. Amazingly promptly at 6:30 the MC introduced the VIPs for the lighting, including those who led the recovery from this year’s storms. There was a short ten second countdown to turn on the Christmas tree lights first, followed by another to switch on the millions of lights throughout the city.

Fleet Captain Dan and willing volunteer Russ setting up the Docktail!

Dan and Russ setting up the mobile bar!

Click below to run the video of the lighting.

After the ceremony we all headed back to the marina and got the docktail underway. At 7:00 the Pizzas arrived, we added the cheese plates, dips and fruit, and we ate and drank our fill listening to Christmas music until around 10:00, at which time the last water taxi took people back and the boaters retired happy to perhaps one final night cap and bed!

During the evening Paul chatted to Winky and Cindy aboard Vagabond, which tied up in the next slip. They were on their way to Hope Town in the Abacos to spend the winter months. We told them, if all things worked out, we would see them there next March!

Click below to run the video of the Docktail.

An excellent day’s fun and entertainment.

Sunday arrived cloudy and cold, with a promise of rain. All of the boaters left early and everyone was safely back in home port by lunchtime. All of the land yachters meandered their way home safely as well.

Rain on the ICW

Running Sonas from the Pilot House

Even the St Augustine birds clustered together to stay warm! Click below to run the video of the birds on the dock.

Some more photographs of the weekend in the gallery below.

2017 Jacksonville Air Show

The annual Jacksonville Air Show alternates between Naval Air Station Jacksonville and Jacksonville Beach (where it is an Air and Sea Show). The 2017 event was at NAS JAX.

Hundreds of boats anchor off the end of the runway on the St John’s River. Previously, when we had a faster boat, we would go over there for the day, then back to our slip the same day.

Now that we have moved to a trawler we cannot make the round trip to the NAS  show and back before dark, unless we leave before the Blue Angels – and what is the point of doing that!!

So we decided to run down there in our 15′ AB RIB. There were some other boats from the Yacht Club going so we would be able to raft up to them and go on board.

The day was warm, with blue skies and a light breeze.

So we packed a soft-sided cooler with some lunch and drinks, and ran up the ICW to the St John’s, turned to port (left) and headed up the Mighty St John’s River. We passed under Dames Point Bridge, past the Carnival Elation that was boarding passengers, past the container terminals, and then into downtown Jacksonville.

Carnival Elation

A yacht club boat passed us just as we got downtown but then was held up by a train crossing the railway bridge. Because we were in the small boat we were able to sneak through using the small boat access!

Sneaking under the train!

It took slightly over an hour to run the 25 miles to the show.

We then headed south to where there were literally hundreds of boats anchored watching the show. Thee was a tiki boat and a converted tug boat!

Tiki boat
Tugging it!

We found One Moor and Escape already rafted up and we tied on behind. We went on board and enjoyed good company and an excellent show by the Blue Angels in clear skies.

After the Blue Angels finished there was a mad dash by boats of all sizes back towards downtown and home ports and slips.

All in all a very pleasant day on the water.

For a gallery of all of the days photos see below. Click on the first photo to enlarge and scroll through.

Trial Run To Fort George River – For Grace The Boat Dog!

Grace guarding her Kalik

Rewind to September 2016. Sian was taking Grace The World’s Best Boat Dog to the vet’s for a regular visit. Paul was in Prague on business. The vet dropped the bombshell news on Sian – “Grace is a very poorly dog, she only has a short time to live, probably weeks.”

After the shock had worn off Sian spoke to the veterinary assistant asking if there was anything at all that we could do. She was told to try giving Grace a steroid every other day (along with an anti-acid to prevent stomach issues).

Meanwhile we simply accepted that our three month trip to the Exumas, which Grace was originally coming on, would now just be the two of us.

Well, for those that read our Exumas posts, Grace clearly was not listening to the vet. Not only did she come with us to the Exumas, but she thrived. Maybe not as sprightly off an on the boat and dinghy as she once was, but she had a thoroughly enjoyable time.

Grace in the Exumas

However soon after we got back from the Exumas at the end of May Grace started to struggle. She now has severe limps and moves very slowly. Her steroids are now once a day and every four weeks she goes for an Adequan shot to help with her stiffness.

We continue to check for signs of pain and discuss with the vet, and so far Grace still is enjoying life and seems happy. Even though her morning walks around the neighborhood are now more morning staggers to the end of the street!

We do like going up to the local river for weekends and we have a trip to St Augustine coming up. We were debating whether or not Grace was up to these, or was the kennel the best alternative. So we decided to do an afternoon-one night-morning run to Fort George river to see how she coped.

Overall she did fine. She can no longer get herself to the flybridge where we like to run the boat from. So Sian spent more time in the salon keeping her company. However sitting at anchor, as soon as we grab her life jacket (which is used to lift her up and down), she heads for the swim platform. And getting onto the dinghy for evening and morning ablutions, and getting onto the salon couch when we went to bed, was not a problem for her.

See gallery of photos from the overnighter below.

So Grace, The World’s Best Boat Dog, still has a few short trips in her. She will be coming along to St Augustine for the Night of Lights trip, and perhaps a trip downtown Jacksonville while we attend the Symphony, and even another night or two up at Fort George River.

The jury is still out on our longer Abacos and Chesapeake trips next year though. But that is a story for another time.

Time For Some Work At The Yard & Preparing For Hurricane Irma

Sonas

After three months at sea we had a list of items we wanted worked on over at Lamb’s boat yard. Some of these were left over from time of purchase and had been raised by the survey. Others were general maintenance items, and one (the swim platform that we dinged in the Exumas).

So at the end of July we took Sonas over to the yard with a list of A items that we definitely wanted to get done, and a list of B items that I wanted to discuss with the yard.

The A List.

The survey found last year that the port fiberglass exhaust tube had hairline cracks that was allowing raw water into the engine room. The yard couldn’t see this last year when we asked them to look at it. When we were in the Exumas I saw salt accumulating on a bulkhead so investigated and found the cracks on the inside top of the tube – which you could not see unless you put a camera behind the tube (which I did with my phone). The yard ground out and replaced the fiberglass on both exhaust tubes.

Small cracks in exhaust tube

Both Vacuflush heads were giving us issues while in the Exumas. The master cabin head would prime inconsistently and the guest cabin head had a leak in the vacuum cylinder as well as a fresh water leak behind the toilet seat itself. We had the yard do a full service on both heads.

We found that the bank of twelve wet cell deep cycle house batteries would drain overnight when maintaining the house without the generator. We do have a full size fridge freezer and another chest freezer, and a few other things like lights and heads flush running off the batteries. However they should have enough to manage that. The yard checked the batteries and found that they were on their last legs, so switched them out for twelve low maintenance AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) batteries.

Sonas had a PathMaker system. What this allows you to do is link all of your batteries together to support starting your engines if your engine start batteries were too low. When turned on it would link the house batteries with the start batteries to give them more amperage. The Pathmaker was not working, and in fact was continuously linking the batteries. Which meant that we were also running everything off not only the house batteries but also the engine start batteries when at anchor. This is not the best idea as you could end up running your start batteries too low to start the engines. Rather than try and fix the PathMaker, we had the yard remove it altogether to keep the batteries always separate.

Sonas has stabilizers. These are fins that stick out of the side of each side of the boat and are managed by gyros. As the gyros feel a wave they move the stabilizers so as to keep the boat on a more even keel, which makes for a much more comfortable ride. While our stabilizers worked fine, the starboard one would move and squeak while we were at anchor and asleep as waves rolled across it. This was so annoying that we had to manually lock it down at the end of every day. We had the yard bring in a stabilizer tech who had to replace a few parts and resolve the issue.

Stabilizers
Noisy stabilizer inside Sonas

Repair swim platform damage. For those that read our posts from the Exumas you read about our incident with the Glendinning Controls, resulting is a bashed swim platform. The yard did a great job repairing this back to new! See here for that story. 

Dinged swim platform

To fix the swim platform dent the yard had to haul Sonas. So we had them replace all of the zincs, including bonding zincs.

We have a large automatic halon fire suppressant system in the engine room. This has to be re-certified every few years. The yard had the local tech come in and re-certify our system.

Halon system

Finally, the fan for the guest cabin A/C System was running continuously even when the A/C was not running. The yard found that the A/C control board had gone bad and replaced that for us. Now our guests can sleep in quiet!

We also had a secondary list of item that we wanted completed if time allowed. Unfortunately hurricane Irma appeared before that list was started. The yard still had Sonas up on the hard and offered to keep her there for us during the storm. However we felt that she was safer in Queen’s Harbour at our fixed dock, and protected from storm surge by our lock. So we had them launch her and we went and brought her home.

The B list will have to wait for another year.

Below is a gallery of some photos of the hurricane preparation work we saw on the St Johns on our way home.

Once Sonas was home we stripped off the canvas and doubled up on the lines and fenders. We cleared off all loose items and window coverings. We also bungee-corded the helm covers and seat covers down. The storm came through but she rode it out with no difficulties. Unfortunately downtown Jacksonville did not fare so well as the storm surge flooded the city pretty badly.

One lesson we learned was that we should have made sure we had plenty of diesel on Sonas. So that when the power went out at the house we could use the boat generator to keep everything frozen and use the TV, radio, and even sleep on board with the A/C if we had to. We probably only had enough for a few days in the tanks when the storm came through. Fortunately we only lost power for a few hours.

July 4th 2017 – QHYC Trip To Palm Coast

It has become a bit of a tradition that the  Queen’s Harbour Yacht Club run down to Hammock Beach Resort  for the Fourth of July weekend. This year we had twelve boats and, with those who stayed in the condos and hotel,  over 40 people in attendance!

After tying up we got Sonas ready for the weekend!

Sonas decked out in red, white and blue.

We started off the weekend with a Saturday Docktail party in the ground level common area of the condos at Yacht Harbor Village & Marina. With a kitchen/bar area and plenty of indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the pool. We had taken along the mobile bar and had prepared a Mexican buffet. It was a very successful evening.

QHYC Mobile Bar
Home made Mexican buffet

 

Docktail

Days were spent walking the beach, lazing at the resort pools (including a lazy river), the pool by the marina, or playing golf.

On Sunday we had dinner over at the European Village, at La Piazza Cafe. We had enough land yachters with cars that the boaters were able to get rides over. Another very enjoyable evening of camaraderie, and libations.

Sian with friends at La Piazza Cafe

The resort had their July Forth fireworks on the Monday.  This was preceded by a fine BBQ under the main tent where we had reserved tables for those of us who were BBQ’ing. Others eat at resort restaurants and joined us later for the fireworks.

BBQ before the fireworks
Fireworks

On Tuesday everyone headed back to Jacksonville after a very successful weekend. We took Sonas out through the St Augustine inlet and back in at Mayport . Passing a very busy Huguenot Beach and a helicopter carrier at Mayport Naval Station.

 

Huguenot Beach
Helo carrier at Mayport

What We Learned

Setting Out

The Things We Learned On This Trip

Sian

So, this is the last one from me, at least for this time around. Here are some of the things we learned along the way.

Starting at the end it’s important to make the journey home part of the trip. Plan places to stop and things to enjoy along the way. I have been heading for the barn door since we made the turn in Georgetown which has left the days at sea long and tedious “just getting home” Yes John Lawrance you were right, we should have taken more time…

In the Islands avoid shopping around lunch time – a one hour lunch break can be very flexible, there is a good reason for the expression “Island time Mon!”

Provisioning has been worth all the planning up front. We head home with only fixings for four dinners available, not bad out of three months. However, the gentleman who said not to bother with celery in the freezer was right! The celery left home, and the celery came home too!

When preparing for sea always lock the fridge down, yes even when its flat calm because you just never know. Oh, and close the toilet lid for the same reason, it stops the towel from falling in!

If you forget to use the fresh herbs at home you will forget on the boat as well! Even though the galley is twenty steps from the garden I still managed to forget. Sigh.

Herb garden

Rusty Wilson was a bad boat dog. He will not be invited again! He fell over breaking the television, and also chipped the floor when he bounced in rough seas. I don’t want to hear it folks, it’s not his owners fault he misbehaves!

Rusty Wilson

On the other hand, Grace, The World’s Best Dog, can come cruising any time she likes! What a trooper!

Grace the swimmer

When preparing for this trip we knew we would spend most of our time in swimmers with the occasional shorts and t shirt dinners but even so we packed too many clothes! Keep it to the minimum and then leave ten percent of that at home anyway!

This trip has been a great experience, we are already talking about the next one! Many thanks to our friends who helped make it great, from those who were able to join us and those who gave us Tupperware to t-shirts to bowls, tea towels and plate covers. You know who you are and these touches of home were appreciated more than you know.

Thank you for taking the time to read our story, can’t tell you how tickled we have been to meet people who are familiar with the adventure even though we have not met in person before!

Finally (this is like the movie credits, right?)  A huge shout out to the skipper. All the planning, care and consideration made for a fabulous trip. I appreciate you waiting until the last week to say…”the boat has done everything I asked of her” and I will come with you again my love. Even though there were days of rough seas when I threatened to fly me and Grace home!

Paul

It was a great three months and, looking back, I have to say that things went mostly to plan, even though we only had Sonas for ten months before starting out. Some specific lessons learned:

Fly guests into Staniel or Norman’s. Having to be in Georgetown on specific dates meant going out into the Exuma Sound in weather which we would have chosen to avoid. We would have made one trip to Georgetown to see it, but at a time of our choosing. Having folks fly in to central Exuma would also have meant less fuel burn.

Outside the cut

As for the weather itself, more than a few times the forecast called for wind from one direction and, after anchoring with that direction in mind, the wind shifted 180 degrees and blew into the anchorage. There is not a lot that can be done about that apart from lifting the anchor and moving, but often it is too late in the day for that.

I also learned that “surge” on the guides and charts does not mean what I thought it meant – a quick rise in water levels. It means that there will be a swell running into the anchorage. Plan for this accordingly!

As an addendum to the above issues, I should also have practiced and become more comfortable deploying dual anchors.

I should have paid more attention to connectivity and planned a bit better there. We had planned to get a Bahamas SIM when we got to Lucaya. When we got there we were talked into getting a SIM from a new company called ALIV rather than BTC. That was a mistake as, while they have good coverage in Grand Bahama, New Providence and the Abacos, coverage in the Exumas in non-existent. When we got to Staniel we had to buy a BTC card and data. Also I considered a wireless booster before we left but decided against it mainly because I didn’t have enough time to research the best options properly. Reception in the islands was fine, and the only time we really missed this was around Exuma Park. There is a BTC tower in Highbourne with the next one at Staniel. With the Exumas Park being right in the middle it did not have reception. The park has WiFi you can buy at $15 per day, but you need a booster to get that on the boat. While people may think it is wonderful to be disconnected for a time, when you rely on this connectivity to get the weather and so that family can contact you in an emergency, it is pretty important.

On the positive side, I had never really used the tethering feature on my phone before, and I was really happy with the simplicity of the process and how it allowed us to have one phone on a data plan and the other phones and iPad connected to it.

Looking back at the specific issue I had with the controls leaving Exuma Yacht Club, it was then that I realized that I should never rush things. (see story here:   http://atanchor.com/?p=1318  ) We were there on a three month trip. We had all the time in the world, why save a few seconds by hurrying things along? You can be sure this will never happen again.

Glendinning controls

Practice picking up a mooring ball, would have not only got more comfortable doing it but also realized that all three of our boat hooks were too short for our bow to waterline distance.

When it comes to the equipment I would say there is only one thing that I would have done differently. We have a Pathmaker installed. This separates or links all of my batteries together. The house batteries, the generator batteries and the engine start batteries. This should always be off unless I need to link them to give more power to the engine start batteries. I knew before I left that this was not functioning. I assumed it was in the off position, but discovered during the trip that it was locked in the on position – meaning all my batteries were linked together. As we used the batteries at anchor not only were the house batteries draining down, but so were the generator and start batteries. Not a good scenario. I should have had this fixed before we left, no question. I managed through this by closely watching battery levels and recharging when necessary.

Fishing gear

One regret was that I just wasn’t able to get in the fishing that I had planned. I made sure to upgrade my fishing gear before we left with the plan of getting some Mahi, Whaoo, or Yellowfin. However the wind basically howled for the three months we were there and fishing was nearly impossible in the Sound, where the deep water was. Ah, well, next time.

On a more positive note I now know for a fact that Sonas is a well found vessel. She kept us safe and ran beautifully, her engines not missing a beat, and her equipment fully up to the job of long term boating.

Sonas

I also know what I knew before, that my crew is more than capable of long term cruising as a couple – with occasional guests!

It surprised me, when we got back, the number of people who asked if we had relationship issues while “cooped up together” for that long. This was something that did not occur to either of us and I was taken aback somewhat by the comments. I can honestly say that, for us, this was never an issue. We had plenty of together time and lots of opportunity for quiet time where we wanted. I would say that this trip had proved to us that we can go ahead a plan for a similar trip next year and others further out in confidence. Will there be bumps in the road, probably. But unless you experience bumps you will never recognize what a smooth path feels like.

A cruising couple

So that’s it for the Exumas trip. A few local trips coming up and then planning for the Chesapeake next year!

The Run Home

Our poor wind-battered Bahamian courtesy flag!

The Run Home

We can start this post off with admitting that we had a difference of opinion regarding our trip back to Jacksonville. Let’s call it a “discussion,” rather than a disagreement!

Once our last guests left for the airport it was always our plan to immediately depart the Marina at Emerald Bay and start making our way home. However as the day got closer Paul started dropping hints that maybe we could swing by the Abacos for another few weeks on our way home. Sian was not impressed and was of the opinion that three months away was enough for now and that we could visit the Abacos at a later date.

Sian won!

The most critical part of leaving the Bahamas and coming back to Florida is crossing the gulf stream. We had been watching the mid-range weather forecast, and, while the forecast could not be relied upon 100%, it did look like Tuesday May 23rd would bring winds from the south (moving with the gulf stream) at around ten knots. Perfect for a crossing.

Given that we were leaving Emerald Bay on the 17th, we could back into that date, giving us five days to get to our jumping off point of West End, Grand Bahama Island, overnight there and cross the next day.

So we made a plan to do a couple of long days to get to New Providence Island and stay at a resort marina there called Palm Cay, where there was a restaurant, a pool, a spa if we wanted a massage, and just chill for a few days. We ran from Emerald Bay to Emerald Rock on the Wednesday. Then we ran from Emerald Rock across to Palm Cay on the Thursday. We arrived at the marina mid-afternoon.

Palm Cay restaurant and beach

We stayed at Palm Cay until Sunday. We used the pool, beach and beach bar each day, and ate at the restaurant each night, finally taking a break from on-board dining (and cooking!). Our slip was at the furthest end of the marina, and  the marina staff recommended that we launch our dinghy to access the facilities. We decided that the walk would do us good, so each visit over to the beach and restaurant was 1.5 miles round trip!

Captain and coke, and a G&T at the Palm Cay beach bar.

At first light on Sunday we untied, called marina security to lower the chain that blocked the marina entrance every evening, and headed off for the Berry Islands, where we would then jump across the North Providence Channel towards West End. We had another long two days ahead of us.

We first ran to the northern tip of the Berry’s. We had a choice of two anchorages. Great Harbour or Slaughter Harbour. We would wait until we got there to see which would give us best protection from the swell which was coming in from the North East Channel. The best anchorage turned out to be the more north facing Slaughter Harbour.

As we approached the anchorage we saw two huge cruise ships anchored. The anchorage sits behind two cays,  Great Stirrup Cay owned by Norwegian Cruise Lines and Cocoa Cay owned by Royal Caribbean. The ships were the Norwegian Sky and The Monarch Of The Seas.

Cruise ships off their private islands

Since we would be going shore-side the NCL ship which was running cruise guests on tenders back and forth, Paul radioed the ship to confirm whether it was OK to continue between them and their guest facilities or if they wanted us to go outside of them. They thanked us and said it was fine to continue inside.

Monarch Of The Seas

We anchored in Slaughter Harbour and launched the dinghy to take Grace to shore. Unfortunately the best beaches were full of cruise guests and their paraphernalia so we ended up on a sandy roadway, which did the job but was not the prettiest! Later on a nice blue-hulled Selene joined us in the anchorage. We would be following each other the next couple of days to West End and then to Fort Pierce.

Selene

After the cruise ships left we saw a huge pall of black smoke come over the island. We soon realized that this was the way the Bahamian workers got rid of all of the trash accumulated by the cruise guests.

Burning the cruise trash
Burning cruise trash

On Monday we sailed north across the North East Channel and arrived at Old Bahama Bay resort at West End. We delivered our departure cards to the customs office, had a lovely meal at the Dockside Bar and Grill restaurant, where the staff were extremely pleasant.

After overnighting there we crossed to Fort Pierce Tuesday morning, arriving mid afternoon. The crossing was uneventful – which is just what you want for this particular leg of the journey! We had a slip booked at Harbortown Marina, but after taking on some fuel we were offered the fuel dock, which was an easier departure the next morning so we took that.

While Paul was taking on the fuel Sian called the Small Vessel Registration System 1-800 number (also known in Florida as the Local Boater Option or LBO) and checked us back in through immigration and customs. This new system allows boaters to apply to  SVRS prior to leaving and then, after a interview with Customs and Border Protection, we were each assigned a SVRS Boater’s Registration number. You can then use that to file a float plan and, on arriving back in the country, you make a call to a 1-800 number and you are processed without needing to turn up in person (in most cases).

Leaving Fort Pierce (Wednesday) we went up to Cocoa and the Cocoa Village Marina. Our son Matthew drove over from Orlando and had dinner with us at Cafe Margaux in the town.

Thursday we traveled to Daytona, tying up at Halifax Harbor Marina. We noticed extremely low tides during our trip (and into the next day). It seems that there had been a series of strong west winds blowing the water out eastwards so, along with spring tides, it was the lowest we had ever seen it. To the extent that we bumped the bottom slightly at New Symrna even though we were right between the markers in the ICW.

And just as they escorted us on our way to the Exumas in March, here they were again escorting us home! IT JUST NEVER GETS OLD WATCHING THESE BEAUTIFUL CREATURES HAVE FUN WITH US!

 

Once in Daytona we did some research and decided to treat ourselves to another nice restaurant since this was to be the very last night of our trip. We chose an excellent Italian restaurant called The Cellar, and had a lovely meal and conversation with the lady owner.

Finally on Friday we arrived back at our home port in Queen’s Harbour, Jacksonville. We arrived outside the channel exactly on low tide and, again because of the very low water, we had to anchor for a couple of hours before proceeding in through the lock and to our dock.

So after 12 weeks, 83 days, many adventures, much wind, and a lot of fun, we were finally home!

Sonas at home dock

Last Guests And Heading Home

The Irish Contingent Arrive!

Tuesday May 2nd through Wednesday May 17th   

On Tuesday May 2nd we were in Georgetown awaiting the arrival of our final guests, Paul’s brother John and sister-in-law AnneMarie. Around the time their plane was to land we went over to the Exuma Yacht Club marina for a small fuel top up, gas in the dinghy tanks, and most importantly, to fill the water tanks, which we down to less than 50 gallons and wouldn’t last a crew of four for very long. When we got there we found out that the main water pipe feeding the marina was broken and there was no water. The dock master told us it would be about 45 minutes to repair. So we loaded the fuel, got a few things from the store, and waited. In the end it took over two hours to get the water flowing – and even then it was leaking at the newly mended joint as we filled the tanks.

John and AnneMarie arrived safely and we headed out of the marina. We had an issue as we left which turned out not too serious in the end, but could have been a lot worse. See previous blog entry about this here:

First Damage!

We left Elizabeth Harbour and into Exuma Sound. The winds were light which made the trip outside comfortable for once! Paul took some photos of the site for the doomed Fyre Festival, with dozens of trailers lined up above the beach and work going on to dismantle the site.

Site of the failed Fyre Festival

We went back into the Exuma Bank side via Adderly Cut and on to Williams Cay. We had light winds all day and evening and for the first time this trip, since March 2nd, we had to run the generator for AC during the night! Since it is one of our favorite anchorages we stayed at Williams for two very comfortable days.

Storm off Williams Cay

On the fourth we exited Adderly Cut for the short eight mile run to come back in at Rudder Cut. We then had a slow leisurely motor past Cave Cay and Musha Cay and on into Little Farmers Cay.

We anchored right off the Government Dock. Sian, AnneMarie and John went ashore for a few things (including some more Captain Morgan and some tonic water to go with the gin)! We called the Ocean Cabin restaurant and asked what seafood they had for dinner to hear that they only had tilapia. Certainly not a fish we wanted to eat here in the islands! Next we called Little Farmers Yacht Club and were told that they had grouper, so we ordered four meals for 7pm.

Ready for dinner.

As we were eating our dinner, the only guests in the restaurant, and chatting to the owner Roosevelt Nixon, we saw a small coaster come in to his dock. We then watched as they unloaded an F150 right onto the end of the marina and drove it along the marina and up onto the road. The process was pretty interesting – so we had dinner and a show!

Someone is getting a new truck!

Leaving Little Farmers we went to Big Majors Spot. Our intent was to go through the little cut to get behind Fowl Cay, since there was a swell running into the Big Majors anchorage. However the current was running through the cut pretty hard so we decided to anchor and wait for slack tide. After a couple of hours we went through and anchored in very calm conditions.

It was at this point that John looked for his wallet, which was in the pocket of his nice Musto sailing jacket, and realized that he had left it on the ground back at the Exuma Yacht Club in Georgetown. We immediately called both the marina and the nearby restaurant and they did not have it. Luckily John had kept all of his cash separately so got busy calling to cancel his cards and order new ones.

Then of course we took John and AnneMarie over to meet the pigs!

Pig Beach

Since it was May 5th and Cinco De Mayo, we made a pitcher of margaritas and sat on the boat deck watching the sunset!

Cinco de Mayo margaritas

The next morning we made sure to be by the radio when Exuma Park came online to see if we could get a mooring buoy at Warderick Wells for that day – and we were successful! We upped anchor and headed to Warderick where we got assigned the same mooring ball as our last visit – # 17.

And finally the weather changed to blue skies and very light winds – and even better it was forecast to stay that way for the rest of our time in the islands. We walked up Boo-Boo hill and John and AnneMarie continued and walked the longer trail.

John and AnneMarie on Boo Boo Hill

As we got back on board Mint Julep came into the mooring field and picked up number 18 right by us. They were on their way to Nassau to visit with a dentist as a crown needed some work.

We stayed at Warderick for two days and then we warned our families back home that we would be out of communication capability for a few days. We  motored north to the anchorage off the beach at Hawksbill Cay, still in the Exuma Park. The big yacht Alder was still there. Paul had a chat with one of the crew who said that the owner just wanted to stay in place for a month before heading back to Florida.

Alder and sea plane

We stayed there a couple of days, snorkeling the reefs, with plenty of turtles and rays surrounding the boat. We also watched as a Seaplane came in each day and motored up on the beach to allow the passengers to play.

One (easy) way to see the islands

This was as far north in the Island chain that we were going with our guests. So on Wednesday the 10th we motored down to Cambridge Cay. We had been told that it was easy to dinghy from there across to the small Rocky Dundas cays where there were some amazing caves. The Cambridge Cay anchorage was another simply beautiful anchorage, with long sandbars to walk on.

Cambridge Cay

We took Grace to the caves with us to stop her from disrupting the anchorage, barking non-stop after us as she had taken to doing. Paul and AnneMarie stayed with her in the dinghy while John and Sian snorkeled the caves.

Rocky Dundas Caves

On Thursday we went outside to Staniel and anchored just to the west of the yacht club. We took trash ashore and had a couple of beers as we watched the tour boat customers wade with the nurse sharks and rays. That night we went in to the yacht club for dinner.

Nurse shark paying Sonas a visit

On Friday we snorkeled the sunken plane to the west of Staniel Cay and then Thunderball grotto.

On the Saturday we started our run back towards Georgetown so that we would have our guests there in time for their flight on Wednesday 17th. Saturday’s plan was to anchor off Plain Beach just south of Black Point. The wind was stiff from the southwest blowing straight in to that anchorage with a swell. So we anchored at Black Point Settlement, and went into Lorraine’s Café for lunch.

Early next morning, Mother’s Day,  we lifted anchor and set off for Elizabeth Harbour again, a six hour run. When we got there we anchored right off the town and went ashore to see if anyone had picked up John’s sailing jacket, with no luck. We had lunch at Peace and Plenty, got some provisions (including more milk!) before taking the boat over to Sand Dollar beach where we would spend a couple of nights. We made sure to have a couple of final drinks at Chat n Chill, and then on Tuesday we took Sonas over to The Marina at Emerald bay.

We had booked our final hurrah meal at the Pallapa restaurant in the Grand Isle Resort  for Tuesday night. We had a really nice meal, a “few” cocktails and dancing to the live band.

Pallapa

On Wednesday morning we had a sad farewell with John and AnneMarie at the marina after which we left immediately to start the journey back to Florida.

The Irish Contingent Leave, slightly more tanned!

First Damage!

Controls power switch and Pilot House controls

First Damage

Tuesday May 2nd 2017   

I damaged Sonas, and it could have been a lot, lot worse!

We had pulled into the Exuma Yacht Club in Georgetown to take on water and to pick up my brother and sister-in-law who had just flown in.

We were tucked into the fuel dock, squeezed between two other vessels – see photo below from a similar set up at the same fuel dock the last time we were in there.

Squeezed into the fuel dock

After we had the water and our guests on board we were ready for the off. I turned on the engines and all of the instruments. Then stepped off the boat to pay for the water. After paying I went back on board and as I entered the pilothouse I called to the two dock hands to go ahead and free the lines.

I walked up the six steps to the flybridge, had a look to make sure that the lines were clear, and put the starboard engine into reverse to take my starboard stern out first to go around the boat behind me.

And nothing happened.

I looked down and realized that I had not turned on the engine controls – which are on a separate switch on the pilot house panel. No real panic, the boat wasn’t moving. I put the control back into neutral and stepped back into the pilot house and switched on the controls. The controls in the pilot house blinked on as active.

I quickly went back to the flybridge and pressed “active” twice on the controls and “warm sync” once to give me control, and immediately put the starboard engine into reverse, and the stern started moving out. I then put the starboard engine back into neutral so as to slow the maneuver down – and the starboard engine kept right on going! I quickly tried again with the control, into reverse and back to neutral, no good.

Sian then told me through our headsets that we had cleared the boat behind us, I could now straighten up so the bow wouldn’t hit that boat. She of course wasn’t aware of the issue. I decided to go ahead and put the port engine into reverse and goose it a bit and that would straighten the boat up so that I could at least avoid the boat behind us. Then we could exit the marina, turn off the engines and sort out the issue.

Except the port engine would not respond to the controls either and stayed in neutral! Sonas was going astern and pulling to the left and the bow was swinging to the right towards the boat behind us. So I quickly hit the bow thruster taking the bow to the left and straightened her out that way. That took us past the other vessel but still yawing to the left going astern. I put as much urgency into my voice as I could and told Sian to drop the anchor quickly. Without as much as a comment she ran to the bow and did that. I ran to the pilothouse to kill the engines, just as she told me that we were about to hit the dock behind us, and a second or two later we did, striking our swim platform against a piling, where my brother stuck on a fender and line. With that, the engines off and the anchor out we were stopped, albeit it at an angle across the marina fairway.

I then went to start the engines again to see if I still had an issue, and the starboard engine would not start.

With all of the controls in neutral and the engines off I went into the engine room to see what was going on. I immediately saw that the starboard engine transmission was in reverse (why the engine would not start) and the port in neutral. Yet the controls were both set to neutral.

I then realized what I had done.

I went back to the pilothouse and turned off the power switch to the controls, waited about twenty seconds, and turned them back on. I went back into the engine room and both transmissions were now in neutral and responding to the controls. I went back up top and reassured everyone that I had identified what had both caused the issue and the resolution.

I started both engines, give them a little bump in gear to confirm all was well. We raised the anchor, released the stern and left the marina. Sian went back and checked the swim platform and reported damage, though pretty cosmetic along the stern rub rail.

Swim platform rub rail

Thinking over it afterwards I realized how fortunate we were that the dock to our left side was completely empty due to damage last year from Hurricane Matthew, and that no other boat or dinghy was coming up the fairway at the time, though I wouldn’t have started leaving if that were the case. I was also relieved that no one on board our vessel had tried to get between the boat and dock.

I also thought about what I could have done differently to avoid this (apart from the obvious of making sure that the controls were switched on along with the other electronics). Should I have waited until at the flybridge controls before calling for the lines to be released? I don’t think that would have helped because I would not have looked to engage the engine until after the lines were free, so I would have had the same result.

So what caused this issue?

When I ran down and turned on the power switch for the controls in the pilothouse, the controls in the pilothouse are activated. I then went quickly up top and activated the upper control and at the same time threw the starboard engine into reverse. The engine responded, but because I did not wait for even a second after activating to sending an order, I believe I confused the electronic Glendinning control system. Either it was caught between the two sets of controls or somehow, after I gave the reverse order, it reverted to the pilothouse controls. The fact that the starboard engine transmission stayed in reverse after I had the engines off and both sets of controls in neutral seems to indicate that I confused the electronics by not waiting a couple of seconds for the upper station to pair with the units in the engine room.

So now I make sure to check the power is turned on along with the other electronics AND I wait a few seconds after transferring the controls before I change gear. I have no issues with the controls since.

Reading the Glendinning manual it does not mention a wait period, though it does say that you can have the gears for the set you are transferring to already in the position you want before activating so as not to lose RPMs.

Cruising with An Elderly Dog

The World’s Best Boat Dog!

It’s All about Miss Grace – what it’s like cruising with an elderly dog.

We are travelling with The World’s Best Dog, Grace. She is a lab mix, rescued by our daughter who vowed to do all the work and then promptly left home for college! She is nearly thirteen years old. Last September our vet told us that Grace was a very poorly dog with weeks, not months, to live. With that bombshell we opted to do no further medical investigation, just enjoy what precious time there was left.

Crossing the Gulf Stream

When we first envisioned this trip It was always our intention to bring Grace with us, but after getting the bad news we set about planning for it with the expectation that she would not be around when we set off in March. Grace however was not listening to the vet’s prognosis and like an Ever-Ready battery, and with a steroid every other day, she keeps on going, albeit at a slower pace. Our planning then changed to bringing her with us – but also included what our options were should she die mid-trip. We will not discuss those horrible options here as we are in the final two weeks of our trip and all is well (touch wood!).

Her favorite spot- watching through the hawser hole!

So what is it like travelling on a boat with an aging dog?

See previous post about our attempts to have her do her business on board:  http://atanchor.com/?p=1079

Helping with my foredeck yoga!

Our anchorages are chosen with Grace in mind, is there a beach close to hand? Does it look suitable for the dinghy? Three times a day, and after checking for other dogs, we troop into shore, no matter what the weather. Mostly we have been very fortunate, occasionally not. Getting an elderly dog into a rocking dinghy is a challenge. We invested in a doggy life jacket with handles, mostly so we can lift her in and out. Often people ask me about the life jacket, I tell them it’s for my benefit more than hers.

Doggie duty!

Once on the shore it did not take Madam but a minute to realize the high water mark was a great place to find smelly things to eat. Resulting in her eating the remains of a bird and then an episode of vomiting and with blood in her urine many miles away from a vet. Luckily she survived but on shore we watch her closely and chase her away from the yucky stuff.

Mandatory leash in Exuma Park

As diligent dog owners we leave the beach clean and bury poop under bushes or trees and away from where children might play, using a garden trowel that we brought along specifically for that purpose, and quickly before the flies swarm.

Protecting us against a nurse shark!

One thing we have noticed, for the first time in her life, Grace needs her nails clipped. Three months of only sandy beaches has left her with talons! We hear her clip-clopping on the deck and I think she finds these nails uncomfortable. I didn’t expect or prepare to clip her nails and improvising with a sandpaper just didn’t work! We will wait to get home for a day at the doggie spa!

Sand papering her nails – she wasn’t overly happy about that!
Enjoying a swim!

Grace has taken to living on the boat and revels in the close quarters with her human pack, so much so that she believes she should never be left behind. And is very vocal in her objection to that happening! Sometimes in a quiet anchorage we have to take her with us on unsuitable dinghy rides just so our neighbors can have peace.  For example she came on the long ride with us to the Rocky Dundas cays where we snorkeled in caves. We had to anchor in deep water with no available beach and she had to sit in the boat, with just a short dunk in the sea to keep her cool. Thank goodness we do not have to worry about her jumping in! As far as she is concerned, as much as she didn’t enjoy the trip, anything is better than being left behind!

Guarding her master’s Kalik beer!

When it comes time for meal prep Grace can be found lying on the floor in the galley, in the most inconvenient spot there is. Not a crumb does she miss! We have all become adept at stepping over her!

She accompanies me for most of my chores, and is a vigilant supervisor when we lift or lower the anchor. As stairs have become a struggle we have a routine when we are underway. Once the anchor is secure I help her up to the flybridge where she tucks herself in the corner to ride out the swells. I close the door to the steps and if we are up there she stays put. A broken leg at this stage would be a significant problem for us all.

Waiting for the Mahi Mahi

On our walks along the beach Grace can usually be spotted at our heels and I love the gentle pace of these walks. She paddles to cool down and swims which I presume feels good to her aging joints. Seeing how happy she is on the beach you cannot doubt she is loving life regardless. What a retirement she is having!

A different use for water noodles!

I have absolutely loved having Grace with us on this trip and could not have left her behind. However if you are thinking of cruising with a four legged friend do not kid yourself, it adds to the work load, and does affect your cruising plans.

Sian

 

Northern Exumas And Back To Georgetown

Our poor shredded Bahamian courtesy flag

Northern Exumas and back to Georgetown

Wednesday April 19th through Monday May 1st  

We left Emerald Rock and headed north to Hawksbill Cay. We had so liked the anchorage there we decided to return. We anchored right beside a nice 100+ foot yacht and watched the crew pamper their owners/guests.  We also got an awesome opportunity to swim with some turtles that had come to inspect us!

After two VERY relaxing days at Hawkbill we headed north again to Normans Cay. When we got out to the Exuma Bank and made our turn north the storm clouds rolled in with plenty of rain. We quickly headed below and ran the boat from the pilothouse*. We prefer to run the boat from the flybridge* as we have better all-around visibility, and it is easier to see the bottom, especially when navigating the shallows. Thankfully the storms had moved over before we made the turn east for Normans – which was a good thing because the approach to the anchorage was VPR*. The anchorage at Norman’s was wonderful. We were able to take Sonas practically up to the beach. We anchored just off the small resort there as we knew that there was a bar/restaurant there called McDuffs that we wanted to visit.

Kaliks and burgers at McDuffs

Since we got there at lunchtime we decided to go in for lunch. When we got to the beach there was a sign saying that the restaurant was closed. But…. we are in the islands, so we decided to walk over to the restaurant and check. Of course it was open and they were happily serving lunch! We did tell them about the sign and they just shrugged!

Norman’s used to be the headquarters for a large Medellin Cartel drug smuggling operation, with lots of bribes to local police and officials to turn a blind eye. In fact there is one of their planes still sitting in the shallow water where it crashed.

See the story here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman%27s_Cay

The next day we were joined by a pair of DeFevers who were travelling through the Exumas together – Escape, a 49 raised pilothouse and Aries, a 44+5. We would bump into them a couple more times.

Escape and Aries

We stayed at Norman’s for a couple of days, then decided to head south to Big Majors and start to slowly make our way to Georgetown to pick up our next guests. As we got back out to the Exuma Bank we were surprised by how much wind and waves there were. If we had known how bad it was we would probably have stayed at Normans until it blew over. Again we had to run the boat from the pilothouse. Soon after starting off a cupboard door flew open in the galley and all the plates and bowls came tumbling out. Since they are plastic it wasn’t the disaster it could have been, only one smashed bowl. After about an hour of pounding the waves Paul, watching the rear-facing camera on the monitor in the pilothouse, saw our dinghy floating away from the boat. The tow rope had snapped in half. Paul quickly turned Sonas, and managed to lay her against the dinghy so that the waves held us against it. Using a boat hook we were able to grab the stern rope we also had on the dinghy, and walk the dinghy back to the swim platform. As Sian held the stern line Paul was able to grab what remained of the tow line at the dinghy’s bow and the piece still attached to Sonas and connect them using a reef knot. With that done we got back on course again, hoping that the knot held! About thirty minutes later the red warning light came on indicating that our stabilizers were overheating due to the work that they were doing in the seas. Enough was enough so we made the decision to turn into the nearest cay, which happened to be Emerald Rock again, and lick our wounds!

Because the winds turned south during the night it blew straight into the anchorage and we had a pretty torrid and bumpy night – but safe. Poor Grace could not get ashore to do her business, eventually having to sneak away to the bow of the boat and go there.

The next morning we got the news that Tom (of Tom and Jane from Elizabear who we met and visited with at Black Point) had a stroke the previous day. He was fast-boated to Nassau and then emergency flighted to Miami. We have not yet had an update.

Since the weather had moderated slightly we continued on to Big Majors. When we got there the anchorage was very rough so we went through a very narrow opening between Big Majors and Fowl Cay and anchored behind Fowl Cay in what turned out to be a calm well sheltered spot – and with another nice beach for Grace to visit! While we were there we dinghy’d over to Staniel for some Kalik and Captain Morgan rum – which Paul has become very fond of! We also went to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for lunch.

Fowl Cay sunset

It was Tuesday and exactly one week from the arrival of our guests in Georgetown. The forecast YET AGAIN was calling for high winds (and seas) Friday through Sunday. Since we would have to go out into the deep Exuma Sound to get to the harbour we decided to get there on Thursday to avoid the bad weather. So we aimed for Cave Cay as a half-way point. The cruisers guide also said that there was a nice grotto to be visited. We got there and went over to the “grotto.” Suffice to say Sian’s description was “a grotty grotto.” It was simply an indentation in the limestone rock, and the water was green and murky.

That night, guess what, storms rolled through with plenty of thunder, lightning and rain.

The next day we decided to make the run to Georgetown. We saw a couple of sailboats going out through the cut. Paul waited for 15 minutes then radioed them to get a read on the conditions. We were told that they were seeing three-foot waves. Sounded OK. Bob on Mint Julep radioed us and said that they were anchored nearby and were also going to go out and head for Georgetown.

So off we went. The first sign of trouble was a standing wall of water at the mouth of the cut. We hammered through that (later finding out that we had a seat cushion blow overboard at that time). We tried staying close to land, but the seas were building, so we headed further east to find deeper water to see if the conditions would improve. We got to five-hundred feet but the seas did not change. We kept in touch with Mint Julep who were also getting pounded. These were more like six to seven foot seas on the nose, no three footers as reported. After about an hour Mint Julep radioed to say that he was turning back. He was only going down to Georgetown to watch the regatta that was being held, so had no pressing need to endure four hours of pounding seas. We decided to go on as the conditions were forecasted to get even worse through the weekend. There was nothing unsafe, and Sonas was handling everything well, it was just severely unpleasant.

About one hour out from Georgetown and Elizabeth Harbour we saw a small cruise ship. Looking ashore at Emerald Bay/Steventon there were hundreds of tents up on the shore. We later found out that this was where they were holding the Fyre Music Festival, which from all accounts was a disaster and had to be cancelled after everyone had arrived.

Around 4pm we entered Elizabeth Harbor. We crossed immediately to Georgetown and found a nice anchorage off the town. Because it was Thursday, the day the supply boat comes in, we hit the market and re-provisioned with fresh veggies, fruit and lots of milk!!! The next day we hit the booze store for beer, wine and, yes, a couple of bottles of Captain Morgan!

Over the weekend we watched the Bahamian Family Regatta races, which are an amazing sight. The colors of the boats and the number of people on planks holding the keel even – as many as 13 or 14 on board!

Family Island Regatta
Family Island Regatta
Family Island Regatta
Family Island Regatta

We later crossed the harbour and anchored off Sand Dollar beach. From there we went to Chat n’ Chill for their Sunday pig roast dinner.

We also took the opportunity to give the boat a scrub and get rid of the salt that covered her outside and the sand that had been tracked inside!

Drying rags!

On Tuesday John and AnneMarie arrive and we will immediately head north again!

The great news is that the forecast for the next ten days call for winds under ten miles per hour and nothing but sun, sun and more sun! Happy days!

 

  • Pilothouse: An enclosed area at the front of the boat from which we can navigate. We have big windows with wipers and air conditioning in there if necessary.
  • Flybridge (in full flying bridge): An open area on top of the boat where there are a second set of controls from which to run the boat.
  • VPR: Visual piloting required. This is where the charts do not care to have designated waypoints usually because of multiple challenges such as shifting sand, coral heads etc. Therefore we need to navigate the boat by sight.

 

 

Provisioning – How Is It Going?

Provisioning – Mid way through our Cruise

Here we are across the half way mark and it is time to review the provisions and how we are tracking for meals.

Not sure if I mentioned it earlier but the game plan was to have enough meat in the freezer and dried goods that we could get by with minimal desperate dashes to stores out in the Exumas. Partly to keep our time frame flexible and partly there just aren’t that many stores to call into! See sign below for an example!

Business acumen at its best!

So lists have been made, I have a meal plan for our next guests (arriving next week) and Paul and I are eating around it. I have enough meat in the freezer but will be happy to get fresh fruit and veg in GeorgeTown and DON’T FORGET THE MILK (see previous post on this:  http://atanchor.com/?p=1199)

Updated meat inventory

True confessions time –some days I am delighted with myself that I am turning out decent meals, three times a day no less, and other times I am so fed up with what’s in the cupboard I could scream. I cannot tell you “Oh, I wish I had ……” I am just bored with the whole food prep thing. Maybe I should have done more complete dishes ahead of time, that way I could just pull out a meal on days where I hate the galley.

Crab cakes and pepper salad
Stuffed salmon

I am baking my own bread, I make the dough in the bread maker then knead it and bake it in the convection oven and so far have been very pleased with the results. Which probably means the next three loaves will have to be passed off as flat bread but such is life. I even made a loaf as a gift to another boater who had none and couldn’t find any in Black Point. Now that’s gutsy!

Boat Made bread!

So, looking at the supplies, we should have brought more tea bags, cookies and paper towels (but don’t worry, I can get them in George Town) and will be taking 5lbs of sugar back home. Why I thought we needed 10lbs is one of life’s mysteries. All in all not too shabby an effort.

Water is also something to keep an eye on here. We have a big tank (350 gallons) and we are not forgoing showers or laundry but you need to monitor the levels so when you are somewhere with water supply you can fill up, not belatedly realize you should have done it yesterday. Many years ago we limped back to the U.S. from the Abacos with one gallon of distilled water between six of us, including the ability to flush the toilet, and I would be delighted to not repeat that day!

Anyway, this morning, feeling a little more like Martha Stewart, I have made potato salad and a pizza to freeze, I even remembered to use the fresh herbs! Did I mention that I planted and cultivated four herb pots before I left the US? Three have survived the salt air – the cilantro  unfortunately did not!

Mint, oregano, basil, and dead oregano!

 

Boat Made Pizza!
And calzones with the leftover pizza dough!

As an aside, teabags in Georgetown this time is a no-go, no “proper” tea so my sis in law is bringing some from Ireland. Phew!

More later!

Sian

Moving Through Central Exuma

Dinner at Hill Top

Moving Through Central Exuma

Monday April 10 through Wednesday April 19th, including Easter

On Monday we looked at the charts and decided that Black Point did not seem too far from our anchorage so decided to walk into town. The main objective was to replenish our dwindling fresh milk supply. More on this saga later!

We walked up the beach and past the marina basin and abandoned construction equipment that we described in our last post. They really did just walk away from this project.

Abandoned construction equipment

We followed the construction road into town. It was heavy going as the “road” was crushed limestone. Half way to town Jane from Elizabear came along in a golf cart with Gus their dog. She was trying to get her laundry done in town but the lady running the laundry had gone to Nassau, so she had “borrowed” a golf cart from a guy that was minding the store and was, in good Island attitude, trying to do what she could!

We got into Black Point, and found no milk or anything else that we needed. So we stopped by the Scorpio restaurant for lunch. We again heard the story – “we have no fish.” So we had a couple of burgers and Kaliks.

Grace in her favorite watch-dog spot!

That evening Tom and Jane from Elizabear came over. Paul and Tom disappeared into the boat’s bowels for most of the time, discussing engines and “stuff.”

On Tuesday we took a can of “Never Dull” to the stainless, buffing out all of the salt stains and other imperfections that tried to gain a foothold. Other than that we generally had a lazy day on the beach.

We never get tired of the water color here!

On Wednesday we made the difficult decision to switch to UHT milk for our coffee, with the aim of saving the fresh milk for our teas. We are aiming to go to Staniel Cay tomorrow to fill with water and to get milk as the Thursday supply boat will have come in – hurrah for the Thursday supply boat!

So on Thursday we lifted the anchor and slowly cruised to Staniel Cay. We hailed the fuel dock saying that we wanted to top up our water tanks and take on some diesel. We were instructed to wait until the fuel dock was cleared. This resulted in Paul keeping Sonas held off the dock in wind and current for nearly 45 minutes as boats moved around us. Mixed directions from the fuel dock also resulted in Sian changing fenders and lines twice – an annoyance which she soon expressed to the captain!

We finally got in and took on water and a small fuel top up. Sian went off to get milk and veggies, only to find that the supply boat had not come in and there was not much available. The grocery store even suggested that the boat may not come this week due to it being Holy Week!

We did think about anchoring off Staniel to see if the boat came in later that day, but decided to go as we had planned and visit Pipe Cay, about six miles to the north. Just as we finished anchoring at Pipe Cay we saw the supply boat heading for Staniel!!! Arrrgggghhhhh.

See the story of what we did next by reading here: http://atanchor.com/?p=1199

As we were coming into Big Major anchorage we aimed for a beach which did not have pigs so that we could easily take Grace ashore. After setting the hook off an appropriate beach we found that we had coincidentally anchored right beside Mint Julep – hull #2 of our own boat model, where we were hull #1.

Grand Alaskan hulls #1 and #2

As we were anchored right by the Fowl Cay Resort, and knew that they had a very nice restaurant we tried to get a table for dinner but they were fully booked. We did get our name on the list for the next day however- Easter Sunday!

On Sunday we got a glimpse of how the other half live as a sea plane landed in our anchorage, navigated its way through the anchored boats, and pulled right up to Pig Beach. The passengers hoped out to visit with the pigs, got back into the sea plane which then took off!

Sea plane going through the anchorage
Visiting Pig Beach in style

On Sunday evening we went up to the Hill Top House Restaurant on Fowl Cay Resort. It was a nice meal in a beautiful setting, but pretty expensive for what it was – even though it was an all-you-can-drink open bar! Staniel Cay Yacht Club was much better value.

A beach all to ourselves!

On Monday we upped anchor to go island-hopping  in Northern Exuma. We dropped anchor just outside the mooring field* at Emerald Rock in the Exuma Sea And Land Park.  There was an absolutely beautiful beach just to our south which was a third of a mile of soft white sand and perfect for long exercise walks. First night there was a bit of a roll and some noise from doors rattling on board. So we used some ear plugs to resolve the issues- but not how they would usually be deployed.

We stayed at the Park until Wednesday, when we headed for Norman’s which has a very interesting history – more on that in the next post.

Interesting boat anchored beside us in the Park
  • Mooring field: fixed anchors, usually big multi-ton concrete blocks or steel beams, which have a buoy attached. So instead of dropping and retrieving your own anchor you pick up a mooring. There is usually a nominal payment to whomever owns and manages the mooring. A mooring field is where there are a number of moorings – in the case of the Exuma Land and Sea Park each field has a couple of dozen moorings.

Been a funny few days!

Been a Funny few days!.

The weather forecast suggested another windy front coming in so we made a plan. Head up to Staniel Cay on Thursday, fill up with water and quick run to the grocery store (the mail boat comes on Thursday so fresh supplies) and then onto Hawksbill Cay to ride out the blustery weather.

Thursday dawns, walk the World’s Best Dog on the beach and off we go. Set up ahead of time for a starboard side tie-up at the fuel dock and feeling confident things are going our way. Ha! First the winds are kicking up when we get to Staniel and we have to hold off the fuel dock in the wind and current for other boats to finish fueling. But that’s ok. A wave from the dock hand to come on in and all of a sudden it’s a port side tie. Moving at speed to switch fenders and ropes assisted by said World’s Best Dog (not much help but good at getting in the way) we head in. “Oh wait” he says, “diesel or gas? “ “Diesel,” I shout. “Oh, other side”. What? WHAT? More scurrying and rope moving. Sweat dripping from my brow we tie up.

I hop off and trundle to the store. Closed. The weekly supply boat hasn’t come in yet, maybe tonight, maybe not this week.

We are almost out of milk which to an English woman is a crisis. What about the tea? Now, yes I know there is long life milk (disgusting) or long life half and half (okay in coffee but no good for tea) but anyone who has ever lived in Blighty* knows tea needs milk.

We head out and find a nice anchorage about six miles from town. Parse out the last of the milk, start drinking wine and wait for tomorrow.

The supply boat goes sailing by on it’s way to Staniel.

In the morning we three jump in the dingy and head into Staniel about a twenty minute trip by dingy and arrive soaking wet crashing through the waves as the only nutters running around. But hope dawns when I see a lady with shopping bags. ”If you run,” she says, ”you may catch her but she is on her way to church.” Of course, it’s Good Friday. I run. I do not catch her. I do not get milk. So we have another good soak on the six mile run back to Sonas and the island adventure is looking a little pale.

Eventually we move the Sonas closer to Staniel, and get a good sheltered spot to ride out the wind over the next few days. We return to Staniel to wait for the shop to open. Paul tells me not to return without milk, if not from the store then find a cow, a goat or a lactating mother! Advertised to open at 1.30 pm and open by 2pm. Not too shabby!

I buy milk, one for now and two for the freezer and, fist raised in triumph, I marched down the road to the dinghy. We return to Sonas for a nice cuppa tea. Ahhh!

If you are wondering, yes this did take all day. It’s hard work having this much fun don’t cha know!

Sian

*Blighty: derived from the Hindu word bilati, meaning foreign but specifically applied to the British.

Let’s Find As Many Quiet Anchorages as We Can!

Let’s Find As Many Quiet Anchorages as We Can!

Monday April 3rd through Sunday April 9th
Williams Cay was so beautiful and quiet that we decided to stay for a few days. We swam, walked, watched sunrises and sunsets, and generally chilled like we have not chilled in years. Most of the time we were on our own, but now and then another boat stopped by.

Great Guyana Sunset

We had one annoying issue crop up and that was the starboard stabilizer* started to squeak while we were at anchor. Since this is right by the master cabin it disturbed our sleep. Paul hunted high and low for our can of WD40 but couldn’t find it – finally going over to another boat and borrowing theirs. He liberally doused the stabilizer and it worked for a while but then started squeaking again. This time he put the lock bar on it so it wouldn’t move at all. We just need to remember to unlock it each time we want to use the stabilizers.

Stabilizer head

Paul also used the time to get after some issues we had with both heads*, as they were not priming the vacuum properly. He was able to tighten the connections on the head for the master cabin and that is working fine now, but discovered that the vacuum bellows for the guest head may be punctured so it is not holding the vacuum. So that needs to be turned on and off at the battery breaker panel each time it will be used. Not a big issue as our next guests don’t arrive for another month. Both heads will need a good overhaul when we get back home.

Lee Stocking Cay used to be owned by John Perry, a rich newspaperman. He stared up a Marine Institute on the island to study Caribbean marine life. This was later taken over by NOAA. Around 2012 it was abandoned, supposedly because of lack of grant funding, and everything was just left there – including a pick-up truck! We tried to visit and walk around the ghost town but when we approached the dock there was a significant chop and lots of rusty bolts on the dock, so we decided not to risk the RIB*. We noticed a couple on men working on one of the buildings and later learned that the island has been purchased and was being refurbished.

The Marine Institute on Lee Stocking

The next day, Wednesday, we made the difficult decision to move on or we wouldn’t see anywhere else in the islands! We had planned on moving about an hour north to Rudder Cut Cay where there was a “pond” we could anchor in. It looked really interesting on the charts and on the satellite image, and somewhere that was well protected and quiet. The cruising guide did warn us, however, that it was well protected by sand bars on both sides of the approach and a shallow sand bar across the mouth. We did try to enter, but had not timed it well and arrived there at low tide. We started to churn up sand from our props so decided to give up on that idea and go further along to Little Farmer’s Cay which we had heard good things about. We will leave trying the pond for another day.

The “Pond”

As we motored north towards Little Farmer’s we past the group of islands that are owned by David Copperfield. One of these, Musha, looks absolutely stunning, with palmed lined beaches and beautiful sand shallows.

David Copperfield’s Musha Cay

We anchored off Little Farmer’s, just to the north of the Little Farmer’s Yacht Club, which is really just a jetty that could hold maybe five or six boats. There was a rusted ship wreck on the beach to the east of us. We went ashore and had a look around. Sian wanted a couple of post cards so we went to the grocery store. When we asked if they had any cards they simply said no. We then walked to the Ocean Cabin restaurant right behind the grocery store to find that he had plenty of cards for sale – why the lady in the grocery store could not have told us that! While at Ocean Cabin we ordered two grouper dinners for that evening and had a chat with Terry, the owner, who by all accounts, is a bit of a philosopher. The first thing he told us was that we should not have said “hello,” he would rather prefer “HeavenHigh!” We learned that Terry has worked in Libya for Gadafi in the 70s as a “facilitator.” We didn’t probe further as to what the actually meant!

Shipwreck on the south end of Great Guyana Cay

We then walked down to the “post office” to get some stamps for the post cards. It turned out to be a small building that was securely padlocked. Asking further we were told to go to Little Jeff’s house as that’s where the post office now was. Sian poked her head in there and there was no one around. Then a guy turned up, she asked him if he had any stamps, he shouted to his wife and she said “no, we don’t have any stamps!”
We still have the postcards!

We went back in for dinner and found Terry mixing his secret cocktail at the bar. He poured Paul one, then Sian took a sip and was able to guess four out of the five ingredients, finally guessing the fifth after a clue. We think she left Terry with the impression that Sian liked a drink on a hot day!

We were the only two guests in the restaurant, and ate dinner as we chatted to Terry, as we were finishing six other arrived for dinner from another boat.

On the dinghy dock we bought a portion of conch salad, watching as it was prepared and the unused pieces of conch were thrown to the turtles and sting rays circling the dock.

Turtle waiting for his piece of conch!
Cap’n Conch’s dock
The conch salad was delicious!

Thursday we decided to move on to find another quiet anchorage. The forecast was for winds from the South East, so we tucked ourselves to the north of White Point in Jack’s Bay which would protect us from that wind. Surprise, surprise the wind came from the South West instead and brought a good swell for most of the day. It did quieten down some in the evening. But not as calm a spot as we thought. We rocked and rolled all night, and not in a good way. We were the only boat there though – so there was that!

Looking at the forecast on Friday morning we saw that the winds were going to move north and then east for at least the next week, so we had to move. We simply motored about four miles to the south side of Black Point. This would be a great anchorage in those winds and there were two beautiful beaches to play on. As we walked the beach we saw the remnants of a marina and resort development that they had started in the early 2000s, which was abandoned in 2006 as the global economy weakened. There is talk about it being started again.

Abandoned marina basin
Abandoned equipment
Abandoned equipment

At sunset on Friday a flotilla of a half dozen sailboats came into the anchorage. The next day it was clear that they all knew each other by the way their dinghies criss-crossed between the boats. That afternoon we were visited by a cruiser who invited us to drinks and food on the beach that evening. There were about a dozen folks there when we arrived, a fire was well under way and hot dogs were being prepared. We had or cooler of beer and rum with us and stayed for an hour or so, declining the food as we had sirloin steaks waiting for us back on board! A Californian couple who own a house right by the bay joined us and we heard the story about the unusual sandcastle design of their home, as well as what it was like living part of the year on the Cay.

Socializing on the beach.

On Sunday we decided to catch up on some of the never-ending chores that are a part of living on board. Sian got after the sand that had spread throughout the boat while Paul took fresh water and cleaning pads to the woodwork and stainless rails in an effort to hold off the impact of salt water!

Around lunchtime, Jan and Tom from the DeFever 49 Elizabear anchored by us came across and invited us over. So later on Sunday we dinghy’d over and had cocktails as we chatted about our boats, both designed by Art DeFever, our children and our health. All in all a very pleasant evening.

Elizabear

 

*Stabilizer: there are a number of different variations of stabilizers – all meant to help keep a boat stable in heavy seas. Ours are fins that protrude from the undersides that are controlled by gyros (for sensing the sea action) and a hydraulic system run off engine power.

*Heads: toilets on a boat. So named because in old sailing ships the toilets were placed in the head of the ship – in the bow.

*RIB: Rigid Inflatable Boat. This is an inflatable boat that also has a hard bottom, usually fiberglass.  Much more stable than an all-inflatable boat and also more protection from rocky bottom beaches.

Reducing Our Footprint

Repacking everything we could

Reducing Our Footprint

One of the things I wanted to pay attention to on this trip was keeping our boat trash to a minimum. In a small space trash and food waste become a real challenge.

Once we hit these pristine, beautiful waters the garbage issue took on a new meaning. In such clear waters (see any number of previous photos) it struck me forcibly that we have a responsibility to keep it that way. Previous cruisers in these waters have not always been diligent in waste disposal and have left a bad reputation, which takes time to overcome for those of us who follow. Some have seen a deserted island as an opportunity to leave a trash bag above the water line presumably thinking “what does one bag hurt?”

Here we pay for trash collection in some but not all places. Sometimes as much as $25 per bag so that certainly makes you think twice!

When provisioning before sailing, I took as much packing material off the boat as I possibly could. True it still is trash but I recycle cardboard and plastics back in the U.S.A. Here in the Exumas there is no recycling, so I feel a little better having done that responsibly.

One way to minimize trash is to buy in bigger sizes, think large bag of chips instead of individual packets. That is not wildly practical on a boat where shelf space has limitations and you also have to consider waste if you don’t use the whole supply before it spoils. Okay chips may be a bad example here as no one in the history of the world ever let a bag of chips sit to go stale! My compromise was to buy bigger and divide into usable portions

Which brings me to food storage bags. We use a lot of them. In the freezer, in the fridge, marinating tonight’s dinner, protecting money and phones on dinghy rides and so on. So how can we to reduce that? Out came the Tupperware, at least for the fridge, and whenever possible I reuse the bags. Yes I have even washed some bags and line dried them for another day! It makes me feel better and maybe helps just a little bit!

On board we have a trash compactor which we use frequently. I never thought I would find it useful, even suggesting at one point we could remove it and replace with a cupboard. But surprise, surprise, I find it very useful to shrink waste cans to a manageable size.

Trash compactor

Degradable food waste is collected and when we transit deep water this is thrown overboard to feed the fish. One man’s waste is another fish’s dinner although I am probably promoting cannibalism when I feed them shrimp tails. Can you see how this is doing my head in?

Saving the biodegradable waste – coffee grounds, orange peel, tea grounds, potato skin, onion skin, shrimp tails etc.

Another activity is moving plastic washed up on the shore to above the waterline. If you spend time around the water you will have seen the damage done to wildlife by thoughtless waste disposal. Fish choking on plastic can holders, pelicans unable to fly snared in fishing line etc. So again a little plastic removal on our morning walks has to help some, right?

Is it perfect? Not by a long way but if we as cruisers make small efforts I believe they will pay dividends in the future. Balance is what we strive for, and by becoming more focused on the issue of minimizing trash on this cruise I hope we can do just a little to help.

Sian

Fish! Fish!

Fish! Fish!

As the line spools out, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, a cry goes up,”Fish,Fish!” and its action stations! I race to the helm and slow the boat down, Carolyn grabs the net, Paul runs back to help reel in the mighty beast and Hubert relays the instruction to slow down more as this one is a fighter! Even Grace, the Worlds’ Best Dog, is in on the act, peering through the hawser hole ready to serve in whatever capacity she is called upon.

We all knew what to do as this was our third fish of the day and by gum this one would be dinner! Hubert caught the first one, a healthy sized barracuda which we reeled in and let go to fight another day. The Bahamian guy on the fuel dock told us they were good eating but we wanted some mahi mahi or grouper, something we were more familiar with.

Hubert with the ‘cuda

Fish number two was a no show when the line was pulled in. Grace meanwhile had a lovely time licking the deck where the barracuda lay, no wonder she was up for it when the line went the third time!

So here we are, fish number three. Great excitement all round, shouts of glee and huge effort from the men. The reeling goes on for a while until they catch sight of a beautiful bull dolphin fish (mahi mahi in Florida. No we were not catching dolphins!) and Carolyn grabs the camera to record it all for posterity. And then, in the wink of an eye he’s off the hook, dinner no more.

Grace waiting for dinner!

” What were you going to do with him if you caught him?” asked Carolyn. “Eat him!” they replied. ”Where were you going to clean him?” I asked. “In the galley“ came the reply. Not sure how I felt about that. I thought the swim platform would be a better option personally.

Alas, this is why it’s called fishing not catching.

I defrosted chicken.

Sian

To Georgetown And Then a Month On Our Own

Back to Great Exuma, then a month on our own.

Monday March 27th through Sunday April 2nd

Hubert and Carolyn were on a flight out on the Friday, so we left Hawksbill Cay on Monday and headed further south, planning on getting to Elizabeth Harbour on Wednesday in plenty of time to see what was happening there before they needed to hop on a plane to the US.

Hawksbill Turtle

Reading the Exuma Guide, we thought that Black Point Settlement would be an interesting place to visit and perhaps have a meal ashore. So we followed the waypoints south and took the channel into Black Point. Black Point in the second largest populated town in the Exumas after Georgetown. Based on the guide it had three or four restaurants serving “authentic Bahaman food”, plus a good anchorage and a couple of nice beaches.

Unfortunately the guide was again WAY off the mark. First the beaches were either protected by a good layer of rocks or, as was the case with the largest beach, a sand flat which meant you had to anchor your dinghy about 200 yards from shore and wade. Not ideal with a dog. We ended up taking her to the very small rocky beach by the government dock and walking her up the street.

After dealing with Grace we all went for a stroll through the town, the idea was to have a look at the menus in the “restaurants” and pick one to eat in that night. Suffice to say we ate on board that night. We found the settlement downright grubby, and that is a kindness.

Grilled flanksteak

The next day we took the cut right there by Black Point and headed south towards Georgetown and Elizabeth Harbour.

As we were headed through the deep Exuma Sound at a nice trolling speed of around nine knots, Hubert and Paul decided to put out a line and see if we could grab some fresh fish for dinner. Before we left the US we bought a couple of Penn rods and reels, one with 30# mono and the other with 50# mono. We put out a red and white lure on the 30# line and after about 30 minutes had a strike. It turned out to be a barracuda, which we sent back in. It was quiet for an hour and then we hit again. This time we had a nice size bull dolphin fish on the hook.

It took a while to reel the fish to the boat, Paul on the rod and Hubert by the cockpit gate with the gloves on ready to haul it onto the deck. We got it safely to the gate – and then it threw the hook as we went to pull in in. We do not want to have a gaff* on board as we are not “serious” fishermen and a gaff injury out here would be a real issue. We do have a net and both Hubert and Paul cannot answer why they did not use it! We are sure there will be other opportunities later.

Red Sian’s take on the whole episode in her blog entry here:

http://atanchor.com/?p=1143

Hubert working the line

We entered Elizabeth Harbour early Wednesday afternoon and paid meticulous attention to navigating the entrance due to the reefs at the mouth and the sandbars across the northern entry point. We anchored right across from the Monument on Stocking Island. After tidying Sonas up we decided to go have dinner at Chat n’ Chill to see what all the fuss was about the place. We had grilled ribs and rotisserie chicken. While the food was excellent, the abundance of big flies made the eating very tedious.

Busy Elizabeth Harbour

On Thursday, after the obligatory swim around the boat and walk on the beach, we called Elvis’s Water Taxi and paid our $15 per head for the round trip over to Georgetown for a look around. We looked over the straw market, had lunch at Blu, at the Exuma Yacht Club, bought some groceries at the market and headed back to the boat.

Taking Grace to shore

On Friday we took Sonas over to the Exuma Yacht Club dock to take on some diesel, gas (for the dinghy) and water. And to drop Hubert and Carolyn off to get their taxi to the airport. I asked them if their fuel dock was free as they had a big boat stuck there the day before due to having lines around her propellers. He told me everything was clear and to come on in. Approaching the fuel dock we saw that there were boats either side of it. There was about 50 foot of clearance, a challenge since we are a 53 foot boat! Paul had to get the boat parallel to the dock and then walk her sideways into the dock, with our bow overhanging the boat in front of us by a few feet, with a good size audience looking on as well! Sian had been limiting Paul to one cookie a day but announced that after that bit of boat handling he could have two next time!

Squeezed in the middle!

The docks at Exuma Yacht Club are a one man show – and that includes the street gas station they have as well. He said that he had someone managing the street but that she had gone “walkabout.” With getting me the diesel hose, then the gas hose (to fill the tanks for the dinghy) and then the water hose to fill our water tank, as well as docking other boats and fueling boats and cars, it took a couple of hours before we were ready to leave. The epitome of “Island Time, Mon!” But we were cool with that and chilled out while everything as happening.

We even watched a small black tip shark tool around the docks as we were waiting.

We pulled away from the EYC and anchored just off the dock as we were going to go into Georgetown again the next day to re-provision. Especially on the booze stocks!

The next morning, we took the dinghy under the little arch bridge and into Victoria Lake in Georgetown where we able to tie up at the floating dock right behind the market. We walked to the hardware store – aptly named Top II Bottom, and bought a new tow rope for the dinghy, some paint brushes and boat cleaner. Chatting with the lady working there we learned that she orders everything from the US, and only places and received three orders a year. Now THAT takes some inventory management!

We then hit the grocery store for some fresh fruit and vegetables, then the liquor store for Kalik, a case of wine and a liter of Captain Morgan rum! We were ready for the off again!

Fresh supplies!

We would now be on our own for a month with no timetable. We wanted to visit smaller, less popular spots for some solitude. Looking at the charts we saw that Lee Stocking/Williams Cay seemed a strong possibility. We retraced our path through the Elizabeth Harbour northern entrance and headed for Adderly Cut. While Sian was on the helm, Paul trolled a lure for a couple of hours with no luck.

Elizabeth Harbour Sunrise

After entering Adderly Cut we navigated the skinny* waters around to the north end of Williams where we anchored well away from the one other boat there. It was a very still day and Paul took advantage of the light winds to take some drone footage of Sonas at anchor off the beautiful cays.

The next day, Sunday, we caught up on some of the boat chores. We got busy washing and cleaning inside and out, caught up on some laundry, and touched up on the bright work* with some dabs of varnish.

Anchored to the west of Williams Cay

After the chores were complete we went ashore and climbed up Williams Cay and watched the swell crashing in from the Exuma Sound side. Getting back to the boat we got our daily exercise in by swimming around the boat and generally had a wonderful quiet day on board.

Off Williams Cay
Exuma Sound, Williams Cay
Sian being a naughty girl! Actually the island is no longer private.

*Gaff: a long pole with the sharp hook on the end, for grabbing fish to haul them on board. Extremely sharp tool, which some fishermen do not like to use as it can mess up the fish,or someone’s leg!

*Skinny: shallow

*Brightwork: The brightly varnished woodwork. Sonas has wood rails all around her deck. This need to be kept up or the wind and salt will get at the wood.

Wind and more wind!

Helming via autopilot and syncronizers!

Exumas – Wind and more wind

Everyone we talk to or hear from out here tell us the same thing – they have never known it to blow so much in the Exumas in March!

Watching the weather forecast on Windfinder.com we saw that there was a serious blow coming in Thursday through Saturday. It would start off from the North East and then swing to the East. We had tried to get our name on the list for a mooring buoy at Warderick Wells, in the Exuma Land and Sea Park, which was well protected and safe from winds from that direction. We did manage to connect with them but they had no availability for the Wednesday. So we added our name to the list for Thursday in the hope that we would get in before the blow started.

The outside of Highbourne Cut

We looked at the charts to find a good spot to spend the night. Compass Cay looked like it would work and the Cay itself looked interesting to visit. We worked our way around there to find the main anchorage, which is pretty small, already full. We then anchored in a secondary anchorage, but realized that there simply wasn’t enough swinging room* for our boat. So we lifted the anchor and revisited the charts.

Swimming ashore for exercise

Slightly south of Compass is Pipe Cay. While there weren’t any waypoints into the anchorage there it looked clear enough to navigate, so we headed to the south east side of that Cay. As we approached we saw some channel markers made out of steel beams.

Referring to the cruising guide we found that there used to be a US Navy DECCA base there, now abandoned. We anchored just off the beach south of the abandoned base.

We saw some small reefs that looked like they would be good for snorkeling so we got ready and dinghy’d over. Unfortunately the reefs were pretty immature and no fish of any kind were seen.

After a very calm night on the hook* we tuned into Exuma Park on the VHF at 9:00 to see if enough boats were leaving the mooring field so that we could get a spot! And we did!

We headed north to Warderick Wells, passing WHEELS 1, 2 and 3 just outside the anchorage. Now THAT is a way to had fun with all of your toys!

We entered the mooring field at Warderick and were directed to buoy number 17. There Sian and Hubert each grabbed a boat hook and attempted to grab the mooring ring. After a few tries and one dropped boat hook we managed to grab the line and make it secure. Because we had heavy winds coming in we double tied to the line. If one line should fail, the boat would lie to the second line until we again added a second.

Hubert later snorkeled to the spot where the hook was dropped and retrieved it. This was the second mooring buoy we attempted and the second hook that went into the water!

Warderick Wells anchorage from Boo Boo Hill

Once secure, we took Grace ashore to do her business, and check in at the park office, pay for the mooring and Internet. The mooring cost $40 per night (plus 5% if using a credit card), and the Internet $15 per day. We paid for two nights/days but told the lady that we would be watching the weather and may need to stay a third night. The Internet connection turned out to be next to useless!

We then decided we needed some exercise, so we decided to walk to the top of Boo Boo Hill. So named because a ship had wrecked off the island and all aboard were lost. It is said that, on a full moon, you can hear their souls crying from the hill.

The walk up was easy and the views of the anchorage and Cay were great. At the top there is a pile of wood with the names of visiting boats painted, burnt, or carved into them. We had not prepared for this so had not taken anything from Sonas. We will be going back before we leave the islands so will prepare next time.

Boat names on Boo Boo Hill

Instead of turning back and going the way we came, we had a look at the trail map and decided to go back via Boo Boo Beach and the Causeway Trail. A mistake!

Going down to and along the beach was OK, but then returning from there to our starting point was across about a mile of limestone rock, which has been wind worn. It was jagged and sharp. This was made worse by the fact that we all had only water shoes on!

Hubert and Carolyn on Warderick

We got back tired and a bit sore!

Then Thursday evening the wind came in as forecast, and in it came! The wind gauge recorded gusts to 38 miles per hour. Even though we were in a protected anchorage it got a little rough and the boat swung about aggressively on the mooring like a race horse looking to be released! We watched the mouth of the cut and could see waves crashing high into the air from Exuma Sound.

We were boat bound all day Friday apart from getting Grace ashore to do her business. When leaving or returning to the boat we always had an extra person on the swim platform to release and receive the dinghy painter*, and the dinghy driver always wore a PFD* and the kill lanyard* around their wrist.

This would have been a great day to sit in front of the television and watch some of the DVDs that we had brought with us. However on one of our rough sea days we had not secured Rusty Wilson properly. And Rusty fell against the TV. The result was a smashed set. We weren’t overly upset as we had not planned on watching much TV, but it would have been handy on nasty days. So we will look to see if we can find a replacement when we get to Georgetown.

Rusty Wilson

Rusty Wilson is our second “boat dog.” We came across him at the Fernandina Shrimp Festival last year. He now travels with us wherever we go, and can often be found on our swim platform when we are in marinas! Originally we just called him Rusty, but then we saw that one of his ears was a Wilson, so we renamed him Rusty Wilson!

During Friday night he winds calmed some and Saturday arrived still blustery but nothing like the winds we had Friday. However we decided to stay another night at Warderick to see out the last of this round of winds.

Sunday we headed north for Highbourne Cay. There is a direct route from the cut at Warderick to the Cut at Highbourne that knocks about 7 nautical miles* off the journey. But it was still blowing and the outside route using Exuma Sound looks extremely rough so we stayed on the bank. We arrived at Highbourne to find a beautiful long sandy beach with plenty of anchoring space (and later we found out why!).

 

We dinghy’d into Highbourne Marina. Were met by “tall,” who was there to greet visitors and give them the rules for visiting the private cay. One of which was $5 to use the beach right by the marina, $25per person to have the freedom to walk the island! So we hit the tore for milk, bread, potatoes and some fresh salad, then got out of dodge.

We swam, snorkeled, walked the beach and generally had a fine afternoon. Though Hubert did lose his prescription sunglasses somewhere between the boat and shore.

We bunked down early, but were all woken during the night by a rolling boat, and she kept rolling for hours. Seems this part of the anchorage gets wave motion from the Sound, which crosses the reef at the end of the cay, takes a left turn and swipes the anchored boats side on. Now we know why we had plenty of room to anchor off such a nice beach! Lesson learned. We will anchor further off shore on the next visit.

We got ready to leave on Monday morning, but before departing we decided to take one more last look on the beach for Hubert’s glasses. There had been a family ashore the evening before playing beach baseball and swimming, and right where they were playing we found the glasses! We suspect they found them and set them on the beach to be found.

After retrieving the anchor we quickly headed up to Allen’s Cay to show Hubert and Carolyn the iguanas. We anchored off their beach and left the engines running while Sian took them ashore. The assessment from Hubert; “the pigs had more personality!”

Off to see the iguanas

We then headed south to Hawksbill where we were spending the night. We anchored off the long beach to the north west which turned out to be a spectacular spot. When we got there we were the only boat there, in front of a golden beach about a half mile long. Shortly after another boat arrived and for some strange reason anchored right on top of us – with a huge anchorage to choose from. I never will understand why people do that.

There was a nice size coral grouping nearby which proved to be a great spot for snorkeling and fish watching. The evening brought light winds, calm water, and a very decent night’s rest.

Fish on the coral
Fish on the coral

Could it be that the winds were finally going away?

Next up: heading south to Elizabeth Harbour, Georgetown via Black Point Settlement.

*Swinging room: when a boat is on an anchor it will swing about as it is pushed by the wind. Also as the tide turns and the current changes direction, the boat will change the direction it is facing. So it will swing around the anchor pivot point. A boat therefore needs enough room between it and other boats, shallow water, or other solid areas like rocks, to move in.

*Hook: Slang term for the anchor as it “hooks” into the ground.

*Painter: name given to the rope at the front of a (usually small) boat that allows it to be tied up – either to a dock or to a larger boat.

*PFD: Personal Flotation Device. A lifejacket.

*Kill lanyard: A connecting wire that is put around your wrist or otherwise attached to you. The other end is connected to a tab that, when pulled from the engine ignition, kills the engine. So if the operator goes overboard the lanyard is pulled and the engine stops. This prevents the boat from continuing and stranding the operator, but even more importantly it stops the propeller so that there is no danger to the person in the water.

Nautical Mile (NM): 1.15 times the distance of a statute mile.

 

The World’s Best Dog Who is Entirely Resistant to Boat Training.

Best friends

The World’s Best Dog who is Entirely Resistant to Boat Training…

…and her mother who is feeble.

So it’s time to talk about The Worlds’ Best Dog on a Boat. Grace is twelve years old and has spent all her life being a boat dog. When she was younger she mastered the boogie board with the children, rides in the dinghy and staying onboard. All these journeys were in fair weather or with marina tie-ups. Not bad for a lab mix who never swims voluntarily!

This however has been her first extended cruise which involves being “boat trained”. I mean, what are we to do in inclement weather? For goodness sake I held an umbrella over her during Hurricane Matthew last year so I couldn’t see how this would work if she could not get to shore. But other people can train their dogs so why not us?

In my usual fashion I delved into research, I read a book. Didn’t seem too difficult and Grace is a smart dog, right?

Here’s how it’s supposed to work. Buy a mat, a carpet square size, and “season” it with dog pee. Put it on the boat, show it to the dog who will recognize it as an acceptable place to pee, and Bobs your uncle. A dog is never too old to learn new tricks, right?
The reality is this portion of the adventure went somewhat off script.

At home every time Grace needed to pee I raced out with her and stuck the mat under her rear end. A move she totally ignored, as she should. Even involved my neighbor collecting samples from her dogs to add to the aroma. Finally considered the mat seasoned enough and took it to the boat. Now the hard part. Having decided today was the day and there is no going back – THAT dog does not leave the boat until the mission is a success!

So five hours into our first long day I put her leash on, walk her around the deck and point to the mat. “Go pee” I say encouragingly. Grace looks at me and says “what here?” Hour six, the same. I was even spotted by some folk who live on the Intercostal walking my dog on the fore deck on her leash, bet that gave them a chuckle! Hour seven no result. I am beginning to think I read the wrong book!

Ashore to do her business

Maybe it’s me, I muse. Seem there is a pattern here, I once read a book on child-rearing which gave me some advice on how to take the argument out of a conversation. Don’t ask if they would, decide they are and give them a choice. “Claire, would you like the red pajamas or the blue ones?” Claire considers this and tells me very seriously she does not want pajamas, thank you very much.

Hour eight Grace finally heads to the bow of the boat, ignores the wretched mat and pees as far from us as she can get. She heads in, much more comfortable and defies me to mention it. After all we trained her not to “go” in the house and it’s a thin line between this boat house and the house house. So that’s it right?

Well no. The bow of the boat is no place for a pup in five foot seas, a fact she is well aware of,  so now I am convinced Grace is a camel in dog skin because she can hold on for ever for a nice sandy beach. I have rolled the mat up and may give it as a gift to a boat person who is training a new pup.

Grace the boat dog!

I will not, of course, mention my failures,  but wish her health and happiness with her new fur baby!

The Exumas – The First Ten Days

Allen’s Cay Iguana

Exumas – The First Ten Days

We arrived on Allen’s Cay ten days ago and it has been fun and, sometimes, a wild and hairy ride!

Allen’s Cay is one of the more popular Exuma starting points from cruisers coming from the north and it is known for its Exuma Iguanas. As we sat at anchor dozens of tour boats brought people to pester the lives out of the poor creatures. Though from what we could see the vast majority of the visitors were well behaved towards them.

Paul did try and send up the drone,but it turned out that it was too windy. When bringing the drone back to the boat Paul had to catch it rather than try landing it – and one of the propellers got him nicely on the arm! He is waiting for someone to ask him what happened so that he can answer “got cut up by a prop!”

Allen’s Cay Iguanas
Cut by a prop!

We spent a couple of night at anchor here before moving south in pleasant weather to Hawksbill Cay, using the shallower western side of the islands. The chart directions were “Visual Piloting Required, navigate around the coral heads!” We had read that this Cay was one of the most beautiful, if not THE most beautiful of the cays. Looking around while at anchor we couldn’t see much to wonder at, but then we climbed aboard the dinghy and motored around the south end of the cay to see beautiful long, sheltered, shallow, sandy beaches. And the water was gin clear.

“Navigate around the coral heads!”

Unfortunately that night the wind turned to the west and increased in intensity. This was now a strong on shore wind. We had our 75 pound anchor and 80 foot of chain out in 10 feet of water and our anchor snubber* on. We got pretty well tossed around all night. Paul sat up for about four hours during the worst of it to make sure we were not dragging the anchor towards shore. Two other boats had joined us and picked up moorings and were also being tossed around.

Sea plane landing at Highborne

The wind was still howling from the west the next morning so we decided to head further south to find a better anchorage. We also had to be at Great Exuma Island by Friday to pick up guests that were flying into Georgetown Airport. After three hours of heavy seas we arrived at Staniel Cay and tucked ourselves in behind some rocks in a small anchorage right by the marina for shelter. After a few hours the winds died and Sonas sat comfortably.

Breadmaker

Staniel Cay is a busy little place. We went up to the Bahama Telephone Company office and bought a Bahamian SIM card and a data plan so we could be connected. We initially got there at 1:45 to find an “out to lunch, back at 1:00” sign on the door. We finally got the card at 3:45!

Staniel Cay sunset

We visited the two little grocery stores, got rid of a bag of boat trash, and swung by the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. While there we grabbed a dinner menu to take on board. We later called over on the VHF and booked ourselves in. We also had to give them our dinner order at that time as they cook to order. The food later that night was excellent and very good value!

WE remained at Staniel for another night. We had been watching the forecast and saw that there was a front coming through with more very strong winds. So we decided to high-tail it to Great Exuma and get there a day early for the arrival of our guests. We used the Big Rock Cut right there at Staniel through the island chain and turned south towards Emerald Bay and the marina there.

Sonas tied up at Emerald Bay Marina

We arrived at Emerald Bay early afternoon on Thursday, backed into our assigned slip, and attached the power and water supplies. Unlike marinas in the US, marinas in the Bahamas charge for water by gallons consumed. This is due to the fact that water is not naturally plentiful in the islands and in most, if not all, of the islands it is made through reverse osmosis – i.e. water makers.

Unfortunately the description of the marina that we read on the cruising guide was not accurate. There was no restaurant, store, bar etc. at the marina, though it was obvious that the building was designed to include those. So we walked about a mile down the road to the little Emerald Bay bar and grill. We were warmly greeted by the waitress and handed menus with the advice that “we do not have a soup of the day, any salad, and no grouper.” So we had a couple of burgers!

Flamingo Beach near Emerald Bay Marina

On Friday Hubert and Carolyn arrived. We got them stowed away and a cup of tea on the table. Again another front had come through and the wind was howling nicely through the marina. Based on the forecast it would be best to stay at Emerald Bay until Sunday. So we took walks on the beautiful crescent shaped beach, walked to the liquor store for some rum, and generally took the time to catch up.

Sunday came with calm wind – initially! We filled our water tank, settled our bill at the marina, and headed north along Exuma Sound in around 3000-4000 feet of water! We were headed for back to Big Rock Cut Cut and Staniel Cay again. About half way there the wind, which was from the north and on our nose, got up again and we pounded along for a couple of hours. We made it through the cut safely and anchored behind the little rock islands, one of which was Thunderball Grotto, which we planned on snorkeling.

We ate on board and then settled down for the night. Unfortunately the wind got up again and for some reason the snubber did not do its job. As the boat moved around the anchorage it moved the chain along the sand making a grinding noise. Paul had to get up and reset the snubber, By then the noise had woken everyone up. We did get back to sleep though.

The next morning we decided that we were too close to a sailing catamaran that was nearby so we decided to move away and re-anchor. We started the engines, lifted the anchor, moved about 200 feet away and re-set the anchor. It was then that Paul looked around to see if we were now far enough away from the catamaran, to see our dinghy floating free! He ran through the salon peeling off his shirt, past a startled Carolyn, and dove into the water to chase down the wayward boat! He got to the dingy and then couldn’t get over the side and on board. So he abandoned the dinghy, swam to a nearby boat, climbed on board, and then they used their boat to go get the dinghy, which had been snagged by another boater in his dinghy! The day was saved! Later we took a bottle of wine to each boat as a thank you!

As we maneuvered the boat we had forgotten to shorten the line on the dinghy and it got around a prop. We have line cutters on our props and they did their job – severing the dinghy line! No damage apart from our pride!

It was only 10:0 am and already the day was full!

We went ashore, got some bread and milk from the grocery store, and booked in for dinner at the Yacht Club. We went back to Sonas and waited for slack tide*. We then dinghy’d across to Thunderball Grotto and snorkel into the cave. It was quite an experience. Thunderball Grotto received its name from the James Bond movie “Thunderball,” which, along with “Never Say Never Again,” was filmed there.

Thunderball Grotto
Sian with her new full face snorkel mask

We had a very pleasant and good quality meal at the yacht club, then we introduced Hubert and Carolyn to the card game Sevens before turning in.

The next morning we tried to contact the Exuma Land and Sea Park over VHF to get our name on the list for a mooring ball. Unfortunately we were too far away and we could not contact them. So we upped anchor and moved around the corner from Staniel to Big Major Cay. We anchored above beautiful clear sandy water. Paul snorkeled out along our chain and inspected the anchor, which was well planted!

Well set anchor
Clean props and rudders

We watched as boats brought visitors to see the swimming pigs on the beach. Then when it was quieter we went ashore with some stale bread that we have saved to meet the pigs. See hilarious video below for the result!

More as we move north towards the Exuma Land and Sea Park and then Highborne Cay!

Video of Sian and Carolyn “feeding” the wild pigs!

*An anchor snubber is a rope, often with a rubber strip in the middle, that attaches to the anchor chain, and then is tightened to take the strain from the portion of the anchor on the bow of the boat and nearest the boat. This rope then takes any “bounce” and movement from the chain and does a number of things. First it holds the chain lower in the water giving a more horizontal pull of the anchor itself, allowing it to dig in better. It takes the energy from any wave movement of the boat so allowing the chain to stay steady and not impact the anchor. Finally it deadens any noise from coming along the steel chain and onto the boat, especially during sleep hours.

* Slack tide is that time where the tide is changing from going out to coming in, or vice versa, and the water is not moving.

Jacksonville To The Northern Exumas

ICW Pelican

We are in The Exumas!

We left Jacksonville on Saturday March 4th, wearing the Sail Queen’s Harbour shirts we have been given as gifts, and made our way down through the Intra Coastal Waterway towards our jumping off location at Lake Worth. We stopped at Palm Coast on Saturday evening, Titusville Sunday evening, Vero Beach Monday evening and fetched up at Sailfish Marina in Lake Worth on Tuesday.

Leaving Queens Harbour
ICW Ospreys

It was very windy all of the way down, winds averaging mid-twenties with gusts over 30.

Pretty windy

We then watched for the weather to lay down for crossing the Gulf Stream to the Northern Bahamas. Wednesday brought strong winds so we waited for another day, using the time to hit Publix Supermarket one final time. Thursday the 9th gave us the window we were looking for and we crossed from Lake Worth Inlet to Lucaya, Grand Bahama. The crossing was uneventful and everything went to plan.  We entered Bahamian waters and hoisted a yellow quarantine flag, which indicates that we know that we have entered Bahamian waters but have not cleared immigration. We checked through immigration right at the Grand Bahama Yacht Club marina, swapped our yellow flag for the Bahamian courtesy flag on our starboard pole, then took the water taxi to the Lucaya Market for dinner.

Bahamian courtesy Flag

On Friday we headed south towards Nassau. We thought that we could make Nassau in the one day, but as we progressed realized that it would be dark before we got there. Going into a busy working harbor, right around the time the huge cruise ships leave, was not on our to-do list. So we stopped late afternoon and anchored on the inside of Cabbage Cay in the Berries.

Nassau cruise terminal
Passing Atlantis
Bahamian Air out of Nassau

We did make Nassau late morning Saturday, calling Harbour Control and asking permission to transit, and then following the cruise ship Majesty Of The Seas into the harbor. We transited the harbor, passing by Atlantis and the cruise ship terminal.

Majesty of the Seas to our port

We exited the east side of the harbor and headed across the Yellow Bank in flat calm conditions towards Northern Exumas. The water in the bank averaged 12 feet and was clear and calm the whole way to Allen’s Cay.

Crossing the bank from Nassau to Exumas

We anchored inside Allen’s Cay, well protected from the easterly breeze, and right off the beach with the iguanas. More on the iguanas and our first week in the Exumas in the next post!

Allen’s Cay (pronounced Key)

Dolphins playing in our wake on the ICW

Saturday, March 11th, and we have arrived in The Exumas!

Power Boating – What It’s Really Like!

Power boating – What It’s Really Like.

We are in the Exumas!

We took a week to finally reach the Exumas. Left Jacksonville Florida in jeans and sweat shirts , approached Nassau in swimmers! That’s more like it!

Our trip down to Palm Beach was on The Intra-Coastal Waterway and uneventful, although in some of the No Wake zones rather tedious. A routine quickly developed, coffee on, dog walked, cast off and onward. Breakfast, tea and one cookie – yes dear one is a serving – at 10.30. Knit a little red hat for the heart foundation during the day, lunch a hand-held-of-some-sort and tied up again at 5. Taking full advantage of the marinas for me means no cooking because I shall be doing enough of that for the next three months thank you very much!

Morning walk with Grace

Biggest challenge is lack of sleep. Various reasons and truth be told I am never a good sleeper for whom nothing is improved by being shattered. Mr. Party Hearty on the boat next to us in West Palm Beach cranking out his tunes at 3 am does not know how close to bodily injury he came!

In the Gulf Stream

And then we crossed from Florida to Lucaya, a ten hour trip.  With a lot of water and not much else. Saw the odd cruise ship in the distance but it really is vast when you are out on the ocean. The swells made for a lumpy ride but at no time did we feel in any peril. Unless you are wildly interested in fuel gauges, radar, and engine room checks it makes for a long , long day, but the beautiful crystal clear waters upon arrival make it all worthwhile.

Atlantis, Nassau
Nassau cruise docks
Where does the sky end and water begin!

Since we arrived we have been anchoring out out,  which involved the dinghy launch. We have The World’s Best Dog (who is resisting boat training) which makes the dinghy essential to get her ashore. So far, in one twelve hour period I have fallen into the dingy, fallen over in the dingy (think turtle), and fallen out of the dingy! Who knew power boating was such an extreme sport! My advice to other newbies, train hard!!

Also the excitement of setting the anchor. Sometimes It takes a couple of goes to get the anchor set, grass bottoms and rocks we are unfamiliar with, but our confidence will improve. Sorry, let me rephrase, MY confidence will improve, himself is as happy as a clam. Then every time you turn over in the night and listen to the waves, are they different? Check the anchor then lay there hoping for the best. No wonder I am so tired!

Excuse me I must have a nap, it is 9.38 am after all!

Sian

Preparing For The Exumas – Part 4

Well it has been a VERY busy month of February!

We have had (and completed) a long list of To-Dos. Paul created a Word document  that listed everything we had to buy, fix, maintain, and just simply do!

The new bow thruster motor has been installed and tested. The Glendinning controls have been upgraded to 24 volt, installed and tested. The engines and generator have been serviced.

We have topped all of the batteries up with distilled water. We have repainted the anchor chain at 25 foot intervals, we have had the bottom cleaned and new zincs installed.

Marked anchor chain

We have installed two wireless cameras feeding video to the pilothouse and flybridge monitors. We can now watch the engine room while underway as well as see what is behind us while in the pilothouse.

Wireless camera feeds

All of the appropriate charts and cruising guides are on board. Paul has added all of his navigation and boating bookmarks to the laptop.

We have cleaned the dinghy, painted on the new Florida registration numbers, and had the outboard serviced. We have bought two gas cans and filled these with non-ethanol gas to supply the dinghy.

All of the spares are on board as are the new rods and reels. Lures and extra tackle have been bought and stored. We have bought new snorkel gear, including full face masks.

New rods and reels

We have topped up the fuel tanks. including 100 gallons in the smaller third tank which will be our emergency supply in case we get contamination in the main tanks. There is now approximately 900 gallons on board.

The life raft has been serviced and stowed on the deck, and the new EPIRB installed.

Provisioning has been completed, meats frozen, all foods in cardboard has been repacked in baggies and all cardboard removed from the boat. Wine and beer all stowed in cupboards, under beds and on the salon floor!

Provisions
Some of the booze!

And finally Paul has packed all of his camera and drone gear. Which is pretty substantial!

Cameras and drone

So off we go!

 

The Night Before Sailing

Twas the night before sailing and all through the boat
Nothing was stirring, it was all in the totes
The beer and the wine are all stowed away
We’re ready to go, come break of day!

We know our first aid, thanks to the Red Cross
So if called upon not all will be lost
But it wont come to that, there will be no mishaps
Now is the time to don our boat caps!

The engines are tested, the water topped up
Even  food on board for Grace the pup
Our float plan is filed,  our AIS system is on
Which allows you and others to see where we’ve gone.

So onwards Sonas, show us your stuff,
To the islands we go. Speed? – Fast enough.
Pray for fair winds and calm crossings a plenty
And we will see you again when the freezer is empty!

With sincere apologies to Clement Clark Moore for this play on his poem.

Sian

Preparing For The Exumas – Part 3

Navigation

The Exumas Chain

Reefs and shoals everywhere and not a gap to be seen!

Well it certainly looks like it when you glance at the charts for most locations in the Bahamas. We found it when previously planning for the Abacos, and the Exumas chain seems to be no different, in fact I would say the reefs look more dense there. Our experience has been, though, that once there, navigating the hazards with good planning, everything will work out.

The reefs marked with Xs.

Even before you get to your Bahamian destination you have to make your way to a good jumping off location in Florida, and then you get to cross the mighty Gulf Stream! This great body of water  moves 30 million cubic meters of water per second. The stream moves north at between 3 and 4 knots, and is 4,000 feet deep in parts.

So where do you start, and even more important, where do you aim? And when you get there, where do you want to go, what do you want to see, and how do you avoid the shallows and reefs?

The secret to success is in the planning. With the tools available to boaters today, a lot of the course planning can be done in the home on a laptop, and then taken on board and either uploaded into the electronics or manually entered, depending on the interface available on your equipment. Most GPS manufacturers have provided, at no or little cost, software that is compatible with their GPS systems. There are many Internet sites where you can plan your route using in-line charts, which are overlaid with marinas, fuel locations and prices, reviews of anchorages and other useful navigation information added by other boaters.

Garmin’s Blue Charts Screenshot

We also use paper charts and cruising guides. The downside to these is that they may not be as up to date as the electronic versions. However this mostly impacts how shoaling (or shifting sands) are shown. You usually don’t find land, reefs, or rocks moving very often!

The other benefit of charts and cruising guides is that they come with way points already notated. These are the compass headings and distances you can use that will take you to your destinations using deep water while avoiding any obstacles. They also include details on safe anchorages, and provide additional information on marinas and towns, plus interesting  places to visit ashore.

Waypoints

Once the way points are put into the GPS and we are in open water we can set the auto pilot to follow the route, or allow the GPS to feed points to the autopilot and let the boat direct itself. The autopilot has a built in compass and takes control of the steering. By inputting  a direction or feeding coordinates from the GPS it will keep the boat on course. It is actually much more effective and efficient than a human. Sonas has redundant (that is two of each) GPS and AutoPilot systems.

Sonas’ Electronics

We have planned our route and layovers to the point of arriving in the northern Exumas. After that we will simply take it day-to-day. Previous crossing have been while I have been working, so had to be speedy, meaning long days to get there and back quickly. Because I am now retired we  have time on our hands. Plus this time we have Grace, our lab mix pooch, who prefers regular stops along the route as well as nightly doing-her-business ashore.

So our plan, and because things can and do happen it is just a plan that we can change if needs be, is as follows:

Day 1:  Home port to Palm Coast, 61 miles.

Day 2: Palm Coast to Titusville, 75 miles.

Day 3: Titusville to Vero Beach, 74 miles.

Day 4: Vero Beach to Palm Beach, 65 miles.

Day 5: Crossing to Lucaya, Grand Bahamas, ~80 miles.

Day 6: Lucaya to Nassau, ~110 miles.

Day 7: Nassau to northern Exumas, 45 miles.

The very first time we crossed to the Bahamas, on a trip to  the Abacos , we made the decision to cross at the shortest point between Florida and the Islands. This was from Palm Beach to West End Grand Bahama Island. A distance of approximately 56 nautical miles, or 64 statute miles. Because it was our first time we also found a buddy-boat to cross with.

The second time, having more confidence and knowing where we wanted to go, we left further north at Fort Pierce and ran to Walker’s Cay. That time on our own. That was around 102 nautical miles, or 117 statute miles.

Because we are heading for Lucaya this time, Palm Beach is again a good jumping off point and minimizes the effect of the Gulf stream when crossing. And crossing the gulf stream requires planning in itself.

Crossing “The Stream”

There are formulas and settings that you can use, however you are always guessing at the effect of the stream and how fast it is actually moving, plus wind offset. We will set our waypoint for Lucaya, but take the stream into account and aim further south and then as we cross let her come gradually up on the mark. For example, if we will be in the Stream for four hours and estimate a 3 NM impact each hour we will start off aiming 12 NM south of our Stream exit point. After an hour we will check and make the exit point 9 NM south of where we want to exit. And so on. It won’t be a completely straight line, but certainly not the curve which would have been created by taking direct aim and adjusting when getting pushed north.

The navigational purists reading this will say but…but,,, if you do this, then that, then you will end up with a rhumb line. OK, but I estimate what the current is, estimate how long we will be in that current and therefore roughly its impact to us, and then head that much further south, adjusting my aim north towards the actual point I want to arrive at as we cross the Stream. To date I have not been far off with my approach! When we first crossed from Palm Beach to West End the course was pretty much due east and meant we crossed with the stream on our beam (that is, against the broadest side of our boat), so the effect was greater. Going from Fort Pierce and now to Lucaya, we will be somewhat more bow into the stream, reducing the impact of the current .

[BTW, a rhumb line is that virtual line that plots two points on the earth’s curved surface in the most direct way.]

Once in Lucaya we will overnight at the Grand Bahama Yacht Club, and then the next day we will head pretty much south east. Here we have two choices. Head for the Berries or Nassau, Providence Island. Right now we are planning on Nassau, after which it is a short hop across to the northern part of the Exumas chain!

Lucaya to The Exumas via Nassau

And once there the fun begins. We will use the charts and cruising guides to plan our time there. The chain is approximately 100 miles long, and since we will be there for around three months, we can stay in locations as long as we want, or move on. Even when moving on we are only talking about a journey of an hour or two to the next anchorage. Our aim is to anchor out as much as we can, using the boat the way she was intended to be used and is equipped for.

 

Next up: Boat and Equipment.

Preparing for The Exumas – Part 2

While Sian focusing on provisioning the galley Paul has been doing an inventory of safety equipment, navigation tools, engines and equipment,  and, of course, fishing!

SAFETY

First up is a review of our safety profile.

Before I get into specifics I want to say this; it simply does not matter what the quality and the quantity of the safety equipment you have on board if you are attempting to go to sea in an ill-equipped vessel. Yes, when the inevitable happens, the equipment will give you a fighting chance at survival, but why spend all of that time and resources on equipment when the biggest piece of equipment, the boat beneath your feet, is not well found? Make sure that the boat you have is the right boat for the journey. Make sure that the hull is sound, that the through-hulls, fuel lines, and anything in the engine room that may spark, is ship-shape and secure. Make sure that the engines and running gear are well maintained and will get you to and from your destination. And make sure you have fuel in abundance to do the same.

Tightly linked to this is to make sure that the captain and crew are also up to the task.  Is the experience on board up to the journey, and able to deal with whatever is thrown at them? Help is not always around the corner! First-time crossers should consider a buddy-boat for that first experience.  Part of our reparation for this trip is to complete a full day first aid/CPR course with the Red Cross, which we have scheduled for mid-February. We have also updated our first aid kit, as well as doing an inventory of additional things that we are going to add over and above the standard kit. So more medicines such as hydrogen peroxide, any ointment not in the kit, burn spray, aloe vera, Benedryl tablet and cream, heat pads, Aleve or Motrin, cold and decongestants, indigestion, etc. Bottom line, we aren’t going to be able to prepare for everything thrown at us, especially the major medical stuff, but we are going to do our best.

One last point. We did consider adding a personal defibrillator. But on researching this we learned some things that we were not aware of – including when you use it. Our thinking was, even though we currently have no heart issues, this would cover heart attacks and other first time heart events. But defibrillators are for regulating hearts, those that go into defib. They are pretty worthless in the event of a heart attack because of the myriad of other causes. so we decided not to get one at this point.

That said, here are the safety preparations we have made on Sonas for this trip.

The first thing that needs to be checked is our ability to prevent or stop the thing that every boater fears – fire!

Sonas has an automatic halon system in the engine room. The certification must be up to date, and on checking it is. This system can also be manually triggered from either helm station, or a location in the aft cockpit.

Automatic Halon system.

We also need a number of extinguishers throughout the boat should we encounter an issue elsewhere, such as the galley, or in the bow thruster compartment. Every crew member are aware of the locations. Sonas has four additional handheld extinguishers that are capable of handling A, B and C type fires – which are wood/material, liquid, and electrical. Paul decided to go ahead and add another large handheld extinguisher under the premise that you can’t have too many!

Multi type extinguisher

The other issue boaters face is a man-overboard, or a sinking/other event that may require us to abandon the vessel. Sonas came equipped with a Revere Coastal Commander six-person life raft. It was past time for it’s five-year recertification so Paul took it along to the Revere facility here in Jacksonville for maintenance and to be recertified. This sits on the side deck, ready to be directly deployed to the water if needed.

Another key piece of safety equipment is an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon – or EPIRB.  This is used to alert search and rescue services in the event of an emergency. This is achieved by transmitting  on the 406 MHz distress frequency via satellite and earth stations to the nearest rescue co-ordination center. The message gives our unique identifier and our precise location. By using the identified the rescue service knows our from a database look up – our names, name of vessel, description of vessel, how many could be on board, what life raft we have, etc.

Sonas came with an EPIRB but this too was out of date, meaning that the battery had past it’s dating. While it is possible to replace the battery, Paul decided to acquire a new Category 1 EPIRB for Sonas so that we has a baseline on age and condition. A Category 1 EPIRB is one that is triggered automatically on submersion.

ACR Cat 1 EPIRB

The EPIRB is attached to the boat in a location where, when it is activated and needs to float free, it can do so without being caught up by canvas or other equipment.

EPIRB Location on the upper deck

Flares are another important piece of safety equipment and, like many of the others discussed, are a Coast Guard requirement. During the past summer we purchased a set of both handheld and pistol fired flares. As many boaters do we also retained the older flares which are out of date, as these too can be used if we run out of the newer flares. Again the flares are kept in a location known to all on board and where they can be easily retrieved and deployed.

Handheld and pistol flares

While in fog or other low-visibility a sound device is critical, as well as knowing the proper way to use it. Sonas has a air-pressure driven dual horn system that is more than up to the task. [RADAR, a good VHF radio, lights fit for the purpose, and solid ground tackle are also important here, but I will cover that in future posts on electronics and equipment].

We also need to make sure that we have suitable Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs/life jackets) on board. There needs to be one of the correct size and type for all on board the vessel. Since we are going offshore we need to have Type 1 PFDs for everyone. These bright orange life jackets are designed to turn a person’s face out of the water in the likelihood that they go overboard and may be unconscious. We have eight Type 1 on board under the flybridge seating, clear of anything on top of them. We also have inflatable PFDs on board – these are the automatic PFDs that inflate with CO2 when immersed in water. They may only be used inshore and we will use them when using the dingy to go ashore from Sonas.

Type 1 PFD

Finally, we need to make sure that we have a quality “throwable” that can be tossed to anyone who has gone overboard. Sonas is equipped with both a throwable ring and a “horseshoe” recovery strap that is affixed to a side railing.

Readily accessible throwable

Next up: Navigation; how are we going to get to The Exumas, and what we will use to find our way!

Preparing For The Exumas – Part 1

Now that Christmas and New Year are out of the way and the decorations have all been stored, we now move on to planning for our upcoming trip to The Exumas, in the Bahamas. We will share some of this planning with you as we go along. First Sian will share what she is up to with the provisioning for Sonas.

Sian

So, you don’t often hear from me on this blog but as I outfit the galley for our first extended cruise I thought, novice that I am, some of those adventures might at least make you smile.

We plan to cruise for three months, and while we are not headed for the back of beyond, we are going somewhere we have never been, with little idea of what grocery options are available. Checking TripAdvisor there are only seventeen restaurants featured across the chain of over 300 islands, which sounds like a lot of home cooking!

So, what kind of cook am I? Basic, definitely. No frills and someone who does not want to spend too much time cooking while missing beautiful tropical beaches. And yet….. I do get pleasure from turning out a yummy meal on board, and that is the dilemma. Planning food for three months is quite overwhelming as it rattles around in my head, so the only thing to do is start. Reading some books and getting good tips on food storage (like bay leaves in flour to avoid weevils, who knew?) and talking to cruisers who have gone before me, I start making lists. And then make lists of the lists!

The Boat Galley Cookbook by Carolyn Shearlock and Jan Irons

Then I remind myself that some folks do this without the luxury of the space and equipment that our home away from home offers. First up we have a full size fridge freezer so no worries about storing meat, frozen veggies and fruit. So stop over-thinking this and get back to the list! Google is becoming my best resource; ” Google, can you freeze celery?'” The answer is yes. ” Google, how long can you store spaghetti squash?” Four weeks if you are interested. ”Google do you have one hundred and one ideas for one pot meals?” Certainly!

Lists!

Secondly we do have a lot of storage space, although I have never heard a boater say they have too much space! I can fit in the slow cooker and the bread maker. Martha Stewart here I come! Keeping ingredients dry seems to present challenges so storage bags and plastic totes abound. Cardboard attracts bugs so everything that comes cloaked in cardboard needs to be removed and stored another way. Soda cans are going in 7” high totes, wine bottles inside socks in plastic milk crates.

Totes, just the right size for soda and beer cans!
Plastic crates for the larger bottles – think wine!

It would be wonderful to think all this planning will result in no spills or infestations but realistically that has to be prepared for too. Advice from the experts? Deal with the mishaps as soon as you see them, the only thing assured is they will not improve with time!

That brings me to the next point .Every time I get too fancy Paul brings me back with the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid) and much as it pains me to say so, he is right. No one on a boat has ever said “I don’t want that”, when presented with a meal, every one scarfs down everything on offer and licks the plate if no one is looking! A day’s boating always leads to a good appetite!

Part of the list is detailing what my go-to meals are, then breaking down the ingredients. Adding in other necessities as I write, (dog food, how could I forget dog food…)

A food inventory sheet is a great idea. I chose to detail what is on board, quantity, location. Dates for rotation were not so important as I hope to come back with very little left over in the way of cans and frozen food. Fresh food rotation will be pretty much when and where we can find it, I hope often!

We have also bought backpacks so we can carry food back from the store to Sonas on the bicycles more easily, and a cold bag for the stuff that needs to stay cool.

I will keep you posted, more later!

Sian

Thruster and Glendinning Issues

As you have probably read in the lighted boat parade post we had an issue with our bow thruster and port engine. Our mechanic got to the boat on the Friday after the boat parade and started to troubleshoot the issues.
We had two separate but linked issues.
First the bow thruster had continued running and would not respond to the helm control. It eventually had to be turned off at the battery switch in the engine room. By then smoke and a strong burning smell had blown through the boat.
The mechanic pulled the motor and reported back that the thruster solenoids had fused with the result that the thruster ran continuously. A secondary failure was that the thermal override had also failed allowing power to continue to the thruster. The heat on the thruster had melted the plastic housing and also melted the rubber coating on the battery cables to the thruster. This had caused the wires in the battery cables to touch and had caused arching. He believed that we were very lucky to avoid a fire.

The motor will have to be replaced and has been ordered. Paul has also requested that a cut off switch be added to the circuit so that the thruster can be turned off without anyone needing to enter the engine room while the engines are running. We will add that to a location in the forward guest stateroom, above the thruster..

The second issue was understanding why the port engine powered down. There had been no alarm at the helm suggesting that it was not an overheat or oil pressure issue.

The mechanic found the engine in gear and the port Glendinning electronic controls inoperable. On putting a meter on the control power source he found 26volts. He took off the controls cover and discovered that they were 12v motors. These control had only been installed 12 months ago, and somehow the yard used by the previous owner had installed 12volt control motors on a 24volt system.
The mechanic is guessing that the touching wires at the thruster sent a spike through the DC system and the port Glendinning motor was blown.He pulled both control units and sent them back to Glendinning to have the motors switched out. He also is speaking to Glendienning as they will be able to tell from the serial numbers on the units who ordered and installed these.
I will update this post as we resolve these issues.

2016 Lighted Boat Parade

Well, we decided to do the lighted boat parade this year for the first time ever. It was in our neighborhood lagoon and run by the Queens Harbour Yacht Club. 30 boats signed up. Prizes for Big Boat, Medium Boat, Small Boat, Best Overall Entry, Best Costumes and Best Lighted Dock!

The theme was Mickey And Friends, Holiday Harbour Treasures! There was an after parade party at the Country Club where  over  250 had signed up!

So Paul decided that most would go for the obvious, and dress their boats and themselves as Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy and Donald! He wanted to go a bit outside the box and decided on Its A Small World After All. The idea was to light up the boat with plenty of Disney, but dress those on board in costumes from around the world. We also has the music from Its A Small World After All blaring from our boat speakers!

Video of Sonas all ready to go here:

We had a Spanish lady, a Dutch girl, a Frenchman with beret, onions, garlic and bread, a Mexican, and an Indian couple resplendent in sari and robes! We had ten on board enjoying the parade. We also had Disney decals on the hull.

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Simba!
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Ariel!

We set off as soon as it got dark and headed through the lagoon. The music played and we blew the horn at regular intervals.

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The Following Fleet

There were parties underway at many of the houses on the water. And a very large crowd along the banks. We were having fun and enjoying ourselves.

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Sonas Ready To Go
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Back Deck

A video of us going by a neighbor’s dock!

Posted by Queen's Harbour Yacht & Country Club on Saturday, December 3, 2016

Near the end of the parade route we bumped aground. Not knowing how shallow it was at that end of the lagoon Paul decided to use the engines and bow thruster to turn around and head back. It was then that Sian, who was on the bow, felt the bow thruster run but instead of turning off, stay on. Paul tried to turn it off at the helm but it kept running, pushing us to port.

We were both on our wireless headsets, and during the next twenty minutes we had to navigate our way through the fleet coming behind us as our bow thruster pushed us to port and Paul gunned the port engine to keep us on line. It was interesting to say the least.

Then, as we got nearer our dock, we had smoke and a burning smell come from below. Paul managed to get us parallel to our dock and ran down and turned off the battery switch for the thruster which was burning up. At that time the port  engine quit on us. Paul got back on the bridge and cut the starboard engine while he worked out what happened. Since there was a breeze gently pushing us towards our dock we waiting until we bumped against the dock and tied Sonas off.

All in all everyone had fun on the parade, though we knew we had some issues with the thruster and engine that we would have to look at in the coming days.

We headed off for the party where we won Best Costumes!!

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Best Costumes!

For a report on the mechanical issues and resolution see this page:

Thruster and Glendinning Issues.

 

A Last Evening At Anchor

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Sonas On Fort George River

It was 2:00pm on the Friday before Thanksgiving and Paul had just finished the last work meeting of the week. The Queen’s Harbour Yacht Club had been trying to organize a cruise to St Augustine for the beginning of Nights Of Lights, but the damage from Hurricane Matthew had left all three main marinas short of slips so we had to cancel the trip.

During Thanksgiving week we would be decorating Sonas for the lighted Boat Parade on December 3rd. That would mean not being able to use her until the new year. So rather than sit there we decided to throw some food and wine on Sonas and head up to our favorite anchorage for the evening, and squeeze in one more little trip.

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A beautiful afternoon for a cruise on the ICW

The weather was spectacular, it was in the mid seventies, which meant a little chill in the air as we motored along. We were all settled at the anchorage by 3:30. Paul had actually brought a book with him since it got dark pretty early and he could settle down to read for once rather than catching up on boat chores!

We watched as around 4:30 a trawler came into the anchorage and slowly went past us further up into the river. We wondered if they knew the layout of the river as there are some tricky shoaling up there. Sure enough they hit the sandbar. Paul quickly jumped into the RIB and went down to see if he could get them off. The tide was flooding out and if they didn’t get off they would be there for another five hours or so.

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TawnyCat aground

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Unfortunately they were not successful in getting her off.  Paul helped the other captain lay an anchor so when the tide came in the boat would rise and be directed into deeper water.  When he got back to Sonas he grumbled: “so much for sitting down to read that book!”

We had a nice dinner of filet mignon from the grill, a glass or two of our new favorite grape Carmenere, and watch Grumpy Old Men on the DVD player, before bunking down.

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Sunset

Paul awoke in the middle of the night and looked at the clock to see what time it was and the clock was off. That meant that the inverter (which makes AC electricity out of DC battery power) was not making electricity. He got up to see what the problem was and discovered that, by running all day from the batteries (including the big household fridge/freezer) we had drawn the batteries too low. So he cranked up the generator to recharge the batteries and came back to bed.

The next morning brought some chill with it, but an absolutely gorgeous daybreak. Sian took Grace for a morning walk as Paul got the coffee going. David, the captain of the trawler that Paul helped, came on board and we chatted for a while. They were from York, Pennsylvania and kept their boat on the Maryland section of the Chesapeake Bay. They were on their first real cruise aboard their boat, and were on their way to spend a few weeks in St Augustine and then head down to Vero Beach for the winter.

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A calm morning
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Morning walk

Around noon we took Grace for a walk around Kingsley Plantation then upped anchor and headed back to home dock.

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Sonas in the background

We feel so blessed to be able to enjoy the nature around us on Sonas and with Paul retiring at the end of the year we look forward to lots of time on board in 2017.

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Queen’s Harbour Yacht and Country Club

The marina in Queen’s Harbour has a number of open slips so the Harbour Committee asked if we would do a marketing piece for the community. The aim was to make people aware of the great assets we have here in the lagoon, lock and marina.

We shot the footage using the Phantom 3 Advanced drone and Sian did the narration.

Enjoy!

 

Yacht Club Trip To The 1000 Islands

Every year the Queen’s Harbour Yacht Club Commodore plans a trip. This year our Commodore organized a trip to the 1000 Islands, on the St Lawrence River, between Canada and New York State.

16 yacht club members signed up. Most would arrive on Sunday October 16th, with a few arriving later based on plans to add on to the trip before and/or afterwards.

The Commodore did a great job planning out our itineary. We would be staying a wonderful hotel, just three years old, in Clayton, right on the river and a stone’s throw from the places we would be visiting. The 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel in Clayton is a AAA Four Diamond hotel and it certainly lived up to that. The food was very good, and the evenings by the outdoor fire pits even better! We also had two wonderful tour guides in Beth and Debbie from Clayton Island Tours.

1000 Islands Harbor Hotel

We got there on Saturday, a day before everyone else. We flew into Syracuse, picked up our rental and drove the 80 miles to Clayton and had a meal and drinks in the bar.

On Sunday we walked through the small town to find somewhere for breakfast. We walked past some interesting contraptions and then saw a sign saying that we had just missed the Pumpkin Chunkin’ competition the day before. This is where teams design and build slings that throw pumpkins into the St Lawrence River, with the winner being the team who chunked it the furthest!

Pumpkin Chunkin!

We also went down to Alexandria Bay and boarded one of Uncle Tom’s boats across to Boldt Castle. This was the last day of the season for the castle, so we had timed it just right. The history of the castle is interesting, though sad. He was building it as a gift for his wife, who died before it was finished. He immediately sent a telegram to the workers telling them to cease. He never went back to the island. The building then lay at the mercy of the elements and vandals for 78 years. They have now refurbished the lower two floors and some of the third floor. The rest of the castle is still in significant ruin. We also had the opportunity to go across to The Yacht House where Boldt kept his boats.

Boldt Castle
Boldt Castle Yacht House
Boldt Castle
Boldt Castle Refurbishment

www.BoldtCastle.com

Many of the group arrived later on Sunday and we had a very sociable dinner at the hotel.

On Monday our formal program began. We had a walking tour of Clayton, followed by cocktails and dinner at the Wooden Boat Brewery!

On Tuesday we had a full day planned. We visited a number of wineries – Coyote Moon, Northern Flow, Thousand Islands, and Dark Island Spirits. In the middle of that we visited Wooden Boat Sales, which has over 100 wooden boats on site for sale, and hundreds more on their web site. We also visited a wooden boat restoration business and the St Lawrence Pottery.

Wooden boats galore

And all during the day we enjoyed the beautiful fall colors!

Fall foliage

Most of the group went on to dinner at Bonnie Castle, however we retreated to the hotel for light appetizers! Just too much food and wine!

Wednesday gave us a wonderful present – clear blue skies and temperatures in the 70s. Unusual for this time of the year in upstate New York. This was just as well as we had an all-day boat trip planned on the St Lawrence Seaway!

We all hopped aboard our boat and took off on a “Two Nation” tour of the 1000 Islands. Our guide gave us as detailed history of the region, told us the names of the islands, and narrated the life of those who lived on the islands and on both shores of the river. We weaved between Canadian and US waters as we went upriver on the St Lawrence. The colors were magnificent!

The St Lawrence River
Fall colors
Fall colors
Fall colors

We also had the opportunity to visit Singer Castle, which was opened just for our group.

Singer Castle

Returning to Clayton we freshened up and then headed off to the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton where we were able to relive the history of water speed records and see the boats that raced in the early days of the 20th century. Afterwards we were treated to a traditional “Shore Dinner”  at the museum.

Racing woodie

Thursday was a free day, and the weather broke with torrential rain and chilly temperatures. We drove down to Cape Vincent and had a look at the Tibbetts Point Lighthouse as well as a drive through the small town.

Tibbetts Point Lighthouse

Friday we headed back to the warmth of Florida! We had an awesome time, but as always, it was good to be home!

See the full trip video here:

Hurricane Matthew

Paul was in Prague on business.

Sian was in Jacksonville!

And Matthew had decided to come up the east coast of Florida!

While Paul worked to find a way to get home before the storm, Sian got busy doubling the lines on Sonas, putting out every fender we had and getting all of the loose stuff off the decks – and from around the house.

Paul managed to get a flight from Prague to Brussels, from Brussels to Chicago, and then from Chicago to Jacksonville on Thursday. He was on the very last flight out of Chicago to Jacksonville, the flights afterwards were cancelled.

Paul arrived home to find Sian ready to evacuate. The TV stations were busy working everyone up into a frenzy. The storm was not due to get serious until early afternoon Friday so we were able to do a walk around both Sonas and the house to make sure we had everything secure. The last piece of business was to remove the bimini canvas from Sonas.

We then hunkered down and waited for Matthew. The power went out at 10am Friday, which was surprising given that it had hardly started blowing at that stage. It would remain out for 25 hours. We removed everything from the house fridge/freezer and put it into  the fridge/freezer on Sonas which was running off the 4KW inverter. We would watch the batteries and run the boat generator if needed.

Around 3pm Friday the wind started to get up there. The eye passed by offshore around 5pm, Sonas rode the storm well at the dock, and, apart from some water leaks from the tile roof, the house was fine. Our landscaping in all palm trees so we did not have any tree damage.

Around 4pm Paul started out for a neighbors house to check on their boat as they were away. He encountered a large number of very big trees down so decided to turn back.

The storm passed late Friday night. On Saturday morning we started the generator on Sonas to charge up the batteries. We then ventured out into the neighborhood and found that many house had suffered major hardwood tree damage. Three of our immediate neighbors had multiple trees down, one with severe roof damage.

Hurricane Matthew

 

Birthday Weekend At Fort George

Birthday dinner on board

It was Paul’s birthday this past Saturday and he said that he wanted to spend it on the boat – so on the boat we went!

Saturday started out a bit windy, with a steady 16-18 mile wind from the north east. We left the lock by 9:30 and headed up the ICW towards Fort George. We were towing the big RIB as we have starting problems with the tender (we think water in the fuel and it went into the shop on Monday).

At the BAE shipyard we passed this beauty. Later we Googled Fountainhead and discovered that it belonged to Mark Cuban!

Fountainhead

Due to the full moon and the North East wind pushing the water into the river the tides were pretty high. There were plenty of boats out and lots of folk right up into the flats.

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Fishing the flats

We got ourselves well anchored before eleven. We had a number of small chores to do around the boat after which we took the RIB across to the Kingsley Plantation dock and took Grace for a walk around the grounds.  Grace was very disinterested in the peacock who came to inspect us – not surprising given the awful noise the thing makes!

Kingsley peacock

Getting back to Sonas Paul broke out the fishing rod and Sian broke out the cruising Guide to the Exumas! Paul did not have much luck, landing only a catfish- though it was a decent size. Back in it went, even though Grace was interested in investigating it some more!

Fat catfish

For Paul’s birthday Sian had planned a very nice dinner. Filet mignon steaks and fingerling potatoes on the grill and almond Brussel sprouts from the galley. Along with a couple of glasses of red, it all tasted very nice.

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Filet mignon and potatoes grilling

Sunday morning started off very calm, with no breeze to speak of. Sian took Grace for a morning walk and Paul flew the drone over the anchorage right at sunrise. See the video here:

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We left the anchorage before eleven am as we wanted to take a slow cruise back and enter the lock at near high tide.  All in all a very relaxing time.

The rest of the photos from the weekend here:

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Post Hermine Labor Day Weekend St Augustine Trip

The original plan was for about eight boats from the Queen’s Harbour Yacht Club to make the trip down to Palm Coast, tie up at the Hammock Dunes Resort Marina, docktail party, pool fun, dinners out, and a resultant good time had by all!  Hurricane Hermine put paid to that!

Castillo De San Marcos

It wasn’t that we got to enjoy Hermine in all of her glory, only the very windy eastern side of her, which meant no Thursday or Friday departures. When we went to call the marina in Palm Coast to cancel due to the weather, they told us that they had already cancelled us!

So we watched the weather and since Saturday through Monday looked doable three boats decided to make a trip down to St Augustine for what was left of the weekend.

Palm Valley Dock

So Sonas left the Queen’s Harbour Lock around 9:30am on Saturday morning and had a very enjoyable ride south through Palm Valley, past Pine Island, into South Ponte Vedra and Vilando Beaches, took a hard right at the St Augustine Inlet, through the Bridge of Lions and hailed the St Augustine Municipal Marina for our slip assignment. M&M with Marian and Martin on board passed us just south of Pine Island.

M&M Passing

After checking in and paying for our dockage, we walked Grace and put her back into the air conditioning on Sonas, and headed off to walk St George Street and grab an ice cream! As we were walking back down the dock Knot DrS backed into her slip signalling the arrival of Donald and Robin Spence.

We got a text from the Marian and Martin saying that they had planted themselves at Meehan’s Irish Pub and to get up there! So off we went for a couple of Saturday afternoon Smithwicks, Harps and Guinnesses!

After a quick shower we headed off to Catch 27, a small seafood restaurant on  Charlotte Street for dinner and, yes, more booze! Afterwards we wandered back to the dock and invited all on board Sonas for a night cap (or two). A nice end to a very enjoyable and full day. And I guess this is why St Augustine is known as that quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem!

Catch 27

On Sunday M&M was leaving early to get back for a previous engagement. After walking Grace we headed off to the Cathedral Basilica of St Augustine for 9am Mass. After Mass we hit a favorite breakfast spot, The Athena Restaurant where we pretty much have breakfast every time we come to St Augustine. Creatures of habit!

We returned to Sonas to get changed into our shorts and Ts and then went back into town to do some shopping. For those that haven’t been to St Augustine, there are hundreds of stores selling everything from your usual souvenir fair, to interesting seaside knick-knacks, to high end galleries. This trip we were looking for some inexpensive artwork for Sonas, as the previous owners had taken all of their artwork off, leaving empty walls. However, after a couple of hours looking, we still did not find anything that took our fancy. Plenty of very nice art for our home, but not suitable for the warm environment of a boat. Ah well, next time!

We spent the afternoon on Sonas at the dock watching the tourists play on the pirate ship and the local aquatic wild life!

Feeding turtle

We had previously invited Donald and Robin over to Sonas for dinner, where we had a couple of nice rib eyes with all the fixins’ in the fridge. But by dinner time we decided no one needed to be cooking so changed the plans and had dinner out. We settled on a small restaurant on a side street off King Street.

The menu for Cellar 6 looked interesting when we Googled it. And it did not disappoint. We sat at an outside table and watched the horse drawn carriages go by as well as a ghost tour.

After dinner we all returned to Sonas, sat up on the fly bridge and told our yarns (and drank) until after midnight!

On Monday morning we had planned to leave around 9am. This would get us to the Queens Harbour Lock right on high tide for an easy entry up the channel. As we were preparing to leave we had a gentleman in the slip across from us express an interest in having a look around Sonas. So Paul took him and his son through the boat, equipment, electronics and engine room. Then they stood BS’ing about boats for a time!

We did get off before 10am, headed down towards the inlet and retraced our path back to home port. Arriving home around 1:30pm.

Kayaking in our wake

A glorious weekend after all – no thanks to Hermine! The rest of the photos are here, music by the Barefoot Man. Click on the little square at the bottom right for full screen:

 

August 26-28 Fort George Weekend

Sonas At Anchor
Sonas at anchor

We had been watching the weather all week wondering if the tropical depressions stirring in the Caribbean were going to spoil things, but by Friday morning it looks like the weather would cooperate, if a little windy.

On Friday morning our canvas guy showed up and installed the canvas he was making for us – helm chair covers, dingy cover, cockpit bench seat cover and windlass cover. All looked great.

New windlass cover

We left late afternoon on Friday, cleared the lock and headed north on the ICW. After crossing the St John’s River we approached the Sister Creek drawbridge which is now permanently open as they have replaced it with a new bridge. We were a bit worried about the barge under the bridge as the space left for boats was, shall we say, a bit skinny! The barge operator told us to come on up and if it didn’t look like it would work he would move the barge. We decided we would be OK so went through with about two feet to spare on each side.

Sister’s Creek Bridge

As we expected for a Friday Fort George anchorage was empty, so we had the freedom to pick our spot. Right at sunset a center console came out of the Little Talbot Island side of the river and promptly tried to cross the sandbar and went aground. We watched as the two people on board tried to push off without success. Since we were only at the two hour mark of an outgoing tide they would be spending most of the night. So Paul jumped into the RIB and headed down to see if he could help. They got it floating and Paul, knowing the river very well, told them where to get deeper water. He jumped back in the RIB only to see them hit again. Again he helped get it off, but they went aground a third time! This time when they got it off Paul went ahead of them in the RIB and brought them around the sandbars and out! By this time is was dark and as you can imagine they were more than thankful.

Helping get off the sandbar

On Saturday we had some friends come up, park at Kingsley Plantation and come on board for some water fun and lunch. We were entertained by some peacocks and a gaze of raccoon on the shoreline.

Wild peacocks
Raccoon

We had an enjoyable evening at anchor, marinated flank steak on the grill and a bottle of red with some Billy Joel and Rod Stewart on the Bose!

We had not yet decided when to head back on Sunday. Given the tides we either had to leave at 8 am or stay until 3 pm. We decided to see what time we fell out of our bunks and go from there. Suffice to say we decided to stay until the afternoon! In fact we were glad we did as it was a glorious day. Still windy but sunny and warm. We walked the sandbars, did some chores on the boat and just simply relaxed sunbathing on the foredeck. We also pulled out the charts for the Bahamas and started planning our spring trip to the Exumas!

Exuma charts

Getting ready to leave Paul was on the bow taking off the anchor snubber when he heard a “HELP!” Turned around and there was a man and a child of around 10 floating by in the middle of the river holding on to a skim board. Paul shouted to them asking if they needed help and the man said he wasn’t able to swim against the current. Paul quickly jumped into the RIB and went and lifted them out of the river and took them back to the sandbar. We are definitely owed some Karma after this weekend!

We arrived back at home dock around five, cooled off in the pool and decided that we had another great weekend!

All of the photos are in the attached YouTube video. Enjoy!

 

New Helm Chair & Fort George August 2016

Matching helm chairs

Sonas was built with one helm chair on the fly bridge. So when under way, depending on who is on the helm, one of us has to sit on the bench seat. This is much lower and visibility is not great.

So we decided to add a second matching STIDD helm chair. This was ordered through Lambs Yachting Center back in April and had finally arrived. So we took Sonas up the St John’s River, through down town Jacksonville to the yard. We also asked for a new fly bridge VHF radio to be installed as the current one was acting up, and for the Pilothouse A/C unit to be cleaned up.

Waiting for the train to pass through downtown

All this was completed, so on Friday we went over and picked her up planning to go straight up to Fort George River for an overnight stay. Before we left the house we called the yard to make sure that Sonas was ready and were advised that all of the work was completed but they found that the water coming from the faucets was grey and smelly. Did we want to hold off until they could clear all of that up? We decided to go ahead with our plans and handle that ourselves.

As we arrived at Sonas Sian said “close your eyes,” aimed Paul at the side of the boat and there was a nice surprise. Sian had arranged for the yard to add names plates to both sides of Sonas in the same style as on the transom, shamrocks included!

New name plates
New name plate

We arrived at Fort George anchorage around 2:30, dropped the hook, started the generator for the A/C, and launched the dingy to take Grace ashore. This was the first time we had launched it since we had the engine serviced back in June. And it wouldn’t start! So Paul used the emergency paddle to take Grace ashore. We suspect water in the fuel so we are going to drain the tank, dry it off, replace the filters, and see if that helps improve things.

Fort George River anchorage

The light winds died away to a whisper in the evening. We grilled a couple of steaks and watched some Olympic coverage before bunking down.

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Fort George sunset

The next morning we ran the water to see if we could identify the issue. After about 10 minutes the water ran clear. We suspect it was just that the water had been sitting in the lines and went bad given we had not run the boat since June.  we will treat the water in the tank to help avoid that in future. Plus using the boat more will help!

Around lunchtime we ran the boat down to Palm Cove Marina to pick up some fuel in preparation for the Labor Day Holiday Weekend trip down to Hammock Dunes in Palm Coast. We arrived back through the Queens Harbour lock and home dock around 3:00.

The rest of the weekend’s photos are below.

Nine Days On The South East Coast

Queens’s Harbour Past Commodore’s Trip 2016.

Day 1.  Friday June 10th. Jacksonville to St Simon’s. 57km/57km.

We left our home dock on  Thursday evening as we wanted to get an early start the next morning. The tides were not great for leaving the lock and navigating  the channel into the ICW on Friday at a time that suited. We took SONAS to Sister’s Creek, just north of the St John’s River, and tied up at the public dock there. Soon after tying up we got a visit from Captain Browne Altman. Captain Altman lives near the public dock and when he sees a boat tie up he comes over and offers his services – should you want a ride to the store, or just information on the area.

Sunrise on the first day
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Local feeding the seagulls
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Sonas at the Sisters Creek dock.

On Friday morning we departed the dock at 7:00am and entered the St John’s River via the short run on the ICW. We headed east to the Atlantic, passing Mayport and the naval base there. Once we were able to make our turn north we set a course for Brunswick Harbor, St Simon’s Range, at 10 degrees from the mouth of the St John’s.  The winds were calm, with only the usual Atlantic swell for the stabilizers to deal with. We passed through the shrimper fleet as they worked the shallows, and had a pleasant trip north.

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Naval Base Mayport
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Mayport shrimper

We entered the Brunswick channel and turned  north into the Morningstar Marina/Golden Isles, and were all tied up and engines off at 1:30pm. George and Carolyn on September Morn had already checked in, and the other Queen’s Harbor boats soon followed, having come up through the ICW. There were Escape with Frank and Julie, Last Call with Bob and Eileen, M&M with Martin and Marilyn, and Aquavit with Dick and Marilyn. Dan and Lydia had driven up for the evening and stayed with us in our guest cabin. So there were 14 for Docktails and dinner.

At 5pm we took the Queen’s Harbour Yacht Club mobile bar ashore and set up for the Docktail party. After that Dinner at Coastal  Kitchen, before retiring to the boats for the night and another planned early start in the morning.

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Day 2.  Saturday June 11th. St Simon’s to Hilton Head. 85km/142km

We had the boat awake at 6am, and sent Dan and Lydia off on their car journey back to Jacksonville with travel mugs full of coffee. We retraced our route back out into the Atlantic and made the turn north towards the Tybee Roads Range which would take us into the mouth of the Savannah River, leading to Hilton Head.

We had another calm start to the day. The sun gave us a wonderful display as it rose behind some low lying clouds, which soon burnt off leaving blue skies. Rusty Wilson, took in the sights of St Simon’s as we passed by the lighthouse and pier!

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Rusty Wilson on vacation

We had estimated that the day’s trip would take us around 10 hours, so we planned for 11 just in case. We got to Shelter Cover Marina around 3:30, meaning we had made good time and got there after nine hours running.  Our Lugger 174hp engines are rated for 2400 RPM, with continuous duty at 2200. We ran them an 1800 and averaged ~9 knots. One lesson learned that day was to make sure you do not leave the fridge door open for even a second! Sian was getting some milk out and left the door open as we took a swell. All of the beer and wine came crashing out! Nothing broken or  spilled though!

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The sun puts on a show

When we got to the marina we headed to slip I6 as instructed by the harbormaster.  After we had threaded our way through the pretty tight marina he decided we would not fit into that slip and directed us to another slip. Sian had already set everything up for a port-side tie and the new slip was a starboard-side tie. Seeing this the harbormaster directed us to go back to Dock C, which was right at the entrance to the marina. Since there was no turning space in the marina, we had to reverse back through the marina to Dock C, where we finally made SONAS secure. The end result was very satisfying at Dock C was in a much better location for all of the shops, restaurants and shuttle bus to the beach!

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Shelter Cove Marina, Hilton Head

Since the last of the fleet was not arriving until the next day we were waiting until then to have the next Docktail. So those that were present met up at Scott’s Fish Market for dinner and drinks.

Day 3.  Sunday June 12th. Shelter Cove Marina, Hilton Head.

Our plans were to have us stay at Shelter Cove with the fleet until Wednesday, at which time the boats were splitting up and going their own way, wither back home to Jacksonville, or to other destinations for the rest of the week.

Today Sian and I took the shuttle, called the Dune Buggy, to the Palmetto Dunes Beach. The temperatures were starting to get up into the mid-ninties and would stay there all week. We walked along the water’s edge for an hour before going swimming and then lunch at the beach-side bar.

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We got back to SONAS, had a shower and prepared for the Docktail party which would be on the dock by the boat. Everyone arrived, including some guests staying with Bob and Elaine. We laid out the traveling bar, put out the food everyone had prepared and Captain Frank fired up the grill for burgers and sausages! We took the opportunity to chat with the neighboring boaters on the dock and had a very pleasant evening’s entertainment.

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Doscktail food
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Captain “Cook” Frank
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Group photo

Days 4 – 5.  Monday June 13th – Tuesday June 14th. Shelter Cove Marina, Hilton Head.

We spent a couple of relaxing days on Hilton Head. We launched the bicycles and rode to the town center, enjoyed the beach, and beach-side bar, again, joined the group for dinner at Bucci’s Italian restaurant, and watched the weekly Tuesday fireworks from the fly bridge.

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Bikes unloaded and ready to go
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Tuesday night fireworks

Day 6 – 7.  Wednesday June 15th – Thursday June 16th. Hilton Head to Savannah. 28km/160km

Since we were only doing the short run from Hilton Head to Savannah today we started later, leaving the marina around 9am. We estimated that it would take around three hours to make the trip. We retraced our route to the Tybee Roads Range and then turned up the Savannah River. We then realized that we were bucking against an outgoing tide which took about two knots off our speed. This added an extra 30-45 minutes to the trip.

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Container ship on the Savannah River

We very soon met with what would become the norm for the next couple of days. A huge container ship coming down river. Savannah is now the third largest port in the US after LA and New York and these large vessels would pass us day and night as we sat at the dock. Unfortunately some of them chose to salute the Waving Girl at 6 am in the morning, as and we were docked right beside her it was a bit of a rude awakening!

Read the story of The Waving Girl here:

http://gosoutheast.about.com/od/savannahgaattractions/a/waving_girl.htm

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The Waving Girl

We also passed Old Fort Jackson guarding the river. As we approached the fort they made us jump by firing off their big gun. I looked at my watch and, given that it was the unusual time of 12:21, I realized that they had fired it at us!

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Old Fort Jackson

We had planned on doing plenty of sight seeing while in Savannah. Unfortunately it got very hot during the two days we were there. In fact Thursday it got to 98f with a “feels like” 106f. That’s 41C for those on the celcius scale!

We did manage some walks, visiting some art galleries. We also took an organized tour of the many squares in Savannah and learned some of the long history. We saw where Forrest Gump sat on his bench and told his story ( although his bench is not there as it was causing a traffic hazzard), the house where the Midnight in the Garden of  Good and Evil was set, and learned that the people buried under many, if not all, of the city’s monuments are not the same people memorialized by the monuments themselves! We had used Trip Advisor to identify a couple of good restaurants and ate in Circa 1875, a French-style bistro and Chive Seafood bar. Both of which we highly recommend.

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Jim Williams house, setting of the story Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
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Square where Forrest Gump told his story
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Tiny boat among the big ships
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Leopolds famous ice cream
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Savannah on our stern

Day 8.  Friday June 17th. Savannah to St Simon’s. 89km/249km

At first light Friday morning we cast off and started our trip back to Jacksonville. We went back down the Savannah River and out through the Tybee Road Range, where we headed south towards St Simons.

As we passed the waving girl we gave her the customary salute.

At sea we encountered some heavy swells on the bow being kicked up by the wind which had turned south. These made things a little uncomfortable as the side-stabilizers could not fully offset the impact. Sian declared the food and beverage service suspended until we had better conditions! After about three hours the seas did flatten out somewhat and the trip became quite enjoyable again.

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A nice breeze on the nose

We arrived at St Simon’s around 4:30, tied off and washed the substantial salt off the boat. We decided to change our dinner plans and called the restaurant and booked in. As we were eating a substantial front came it and along with it some fierce wind squalls. When we got back to SONAS we saw that our cockpit seat cover had been torn off and was no where to be found. This was surprising as it is fastened by a runner along the top and six fasteners. We walked up and down the marina hoping to find it, but it was long gone.

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A front moving in

Day 9.  Saturday June 18th. St Simon’s to Jacksonville. 68km/317km (365 statute miles).

We had been watching the NOAA forecast for Saturday since we saw that there was a couple of fronts coming through in quick succession. The forecast was for 20-25 knots from the north with seas rising to eight feet. So we made the decision to run the ICW back to home port.

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Where is the bad weather?

As we left the marina the winds were fairly calm and we started second-guessing ourselves and wondered if we could indeed go outside. We decided that discretion was the better part of valor and stayed with the ICW. The tide was up and we went through Jekyll Island cut, which is pretty skinny at lower tides.

We then had to head out to the mouth of St Andrews Sound south of Jekyll to avoid the large shoal there. As we went out we noticed that the winds were no where as forecast. Still we stayed inside. We passed the Kings Bay Submarine Base and Fernandina before arriving home. It did add about an hour to our last leg.

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King’s Bay Submarine Base
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Home dock!

We arrived at home dock at 12:45pm. During the trip we burned 246 gallons of diesel excluding generator, giving us a running rate of approximately 1.5 miles to a gallon. Average speed was ~ 9kts.

Video of all of the photographs here:

 

Memorial Day Holiday Weekend 2016

[As with all posts on AtAnchor.com, click on the photos to enlarge]

It was Sian’s birthday on Friday so we stayed ashore and played with her birthday gift. Sian got the hang of it very quickly. But Paul? Well let’s just say it was all very wobbly!

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Playing with her new toy!

On Saturday we headed out on Sonas for the weekend. We headed north on the ICW, across the St John’s, past Fort George River and on past  Fernandina on Amelia Island. We looked up into the Fort George River as we passed and were shocked at just how many boats were there!

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Saturday morning Fort George River

We finally anchored off the west side of Cumberland Island. We went ashore with Grace and walked around in the heat for a while before taking her back to Sonas for some cooling. We then headed back to the south end of the island for a longer walk.

We saw a herd of the wild horses that live on the island, including a young foal and a mare that was obviously pregnant.

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Cumberland Island wild horses

I looked at Sian and said, “well we have a  just born foal and a pregnant mare, there has to be a stallion around here somewhere?” And within a half second she replied, “probably that guy over there”, and then she fell about laughing! My wife can be a bit smutty sometimes!

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Proud daddy!

That evening we motored over to Fernandina and anchored just outside the mooring field. Our son Matthew was driving up from Orlando to surprise his mother on her birthday. So at the appointed time I suggested that we go ashore for ice cream. As we were finishing up Matthew turned up! A nice surprise for his mother.

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Matthew

On Sunday the three of us went ashore and had breakfast at 29 South. After which we left Matthew wandering the many art stores while we returned to Sonas, lifted the anchor and headed south to Fort George River. We arrived later afternoon as most of the day boaters were leaving.  Matthew followed on by car later and I went and picked him up on the RIB. He stayed for the rest of the day and left after dinner to return to Orlando. By eight pm the anchorage and sandbar had emptied out of all but the few boaters that were staying overnight. Some obviously had a great time!

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She obviously didn’t know I had the camera in my hand!

We has a pleasant evening on board, we watched The Intern with Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway. Which turned out to be a pretty decent, light movie for watching on the boat.

On Sunday the day started hot going on hotter. Low tide was around 10:30 so we were able to walk the sandbars with Grace. Soon after the day boats started arriving. We waiting until about two hours after low water to ensure that we had enough water at the river entrance, before upping anchor and heading back home to avoid the madness.

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Full anchorage

It was great to see so many Star and Stripes flying on this weekend dedicated to remembering our fallen.

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Colors

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Colors

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We went through the lock and tied up at home dock. We had planned on tidying up and hosing Sonas down with fresh water. But our neighbors had watched us come in, called and said that the ribs and sweet corn were ready, come on over and jump in the pool.

Sonas had to wait until Tuesday to get a tidy-up!

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Cooling off after an excellent weekend.

The photos from the weekend are here in this video. Click on the little square at bottom right to watch full screen.

May 21-22 2016

Another beautiful weekend in North East Florida.

We had planned to go out of Friday evening with two other couples for a dinner cruise. But the weather forecast was so dire that we entertained at home instead. Of course, as is always the case, the bad weather never materialized!

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Fore deck Friends

On Saturday we left the dock late morning, cleared the lock and were at anchorage around noon. As soon as we got the anchor squared away Paul got the FA Cup Final up on the TV  and poor Grace had to cross her legs and wait for regulation time and then 30 minutes of extra time before she got to go ashore! The good news is that Manchester United won!

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UNITED!!!!

We got to use a few thing on the boat this weekend that we hadn’t before. We worked out how to deploy the swim steps – not that straightforward as it turned out. We also got to use the new Magma grill that we installed, grilling burgers and sausage. We will probably shy away from doing burgers in the future as they tend to be messy.

New grill has been christened.

On Sunday we had planned to leave after doggie-walks on the beach and a couple of cups of coffee. The Queen’s Harbour Yacht Club were having brunch at Billy’s Boat House Grill, so we wanted to get back to home dock, tie Sonas up, and then head back out on the RIB for brunch.

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Full speed to Billy’s!

We had around 40 members at the brunch and as always had great company and great food.

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Queens Harbour Yacht Clubs at Billy’s.

Once back at the home dock we went shopping – and added to our fleet! We had been thinking for some time that we would like a couple of small sit-in kayaks to use while at anchorage. So we went to Academy Sports where they were having a sale, and bought them – the excuse was that Sian wanted them for her upcoming birthday! So next weekend we get to try those out!

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Kayaks!

All in all a very busy, but fun, weekend on the water!

All the photos from the weekend are right here! Move your mouse over the video and click on the box in the bottom right for full screen.

May 14 – 15 2016

What an awesome weekend on the water in North East Florida!

The Players Championship was in town at the TPC Sawgrass. We have a couple of friends who used to live right here in Jacksonville, and who moved away to Louisiana. They come back every year to volunteer as marshalls at the tournament. They worked Thursday and Friday this year, and were going to watch the golf on Sunday. So on Saturday we got to take them up to or favorite anchorage for lunch and some island music!

On the way to the anchorage we heard the coast guard issue a “boat on fire” warning for Palm Valley. We soon saw the police and Sea Tow boats heading fast that way with lights blazing. We later learned that a dock with a boat had caught fire and the boat dropped onto the ICW in Palm Valley and drifted onto another dock and set that alight.

Sheriff’s boat heading to the fire
Sea Tow heading to help out
Fort George anchorage

Fort George was busy, but everyone was having fun in the sun!

Take our picture!

After the day out we came back to the home dock and had dinner ashore.

Sunday afternoon we continued what has become somewhat of a tradition. When not anchored out somewhere we take the opportunity to hit Billy’s Boathouse Grill for some beer and shrimp, and to enjoy the live music!

Music at Billy’s

And of course we had the company of some beautiful mammals!

Dolphins

See below for more photos and videos of our fun time at Billy’s Boat House Grill!

Photos

Billy’s party!

 

May 7th 2016

We set out intending  to anchor off the Kingsley Plantation and stay for the night. It was a gorgeous day, not a cloud in the North East Florida sky and a nice light breeze from the west.

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AIS Track
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Approaching the St John’s River from the south. Not a cloud in the sky.

We passed Invictus just as she was pulling away from the BAE ship yard after an overhaul. You can rent her for a week for $476,000 per week plus expenses!

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Invictus leaving after her refit.

We got to the anchorage and put down the anchor and snubber. We sat on the fore deck seats and had a cup of English Breakfast tea, after applying the sun lotion of course.

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Tea on the foredeck.

Around 3:30 we launched the dingy off the aft flybridge to take Grace ashore for a pee. And found we had a flat engine battery for the 25HP outboard. Paul swapped out a fully charged genset battery and the engine cranked strongly – but it did not start. It did run fine the last time we were out – the one and only other time we started and ran it since we got Sonas.

We suspect the fuel filters. So on Sunday Paul is going to change out the spin-on fuel filter and the one  under the cowling. We will also replace the battery with a new one.

We decided that , since Grace couldn’t get ashore, we would come back to our home dock for the night!  Ah well, there will be plenty of other days on board – the year is yet young!

Some photos of the day:

2016 QHYC Trip To Isle Of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival

The fleet left on Friday and headed up to Fernandina. We all had reserved slips at Oyster Bay Harbor Yacht Club and were all assigned slips on Dock C. We dressed Sonas with our flags after tying up.

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We had a fun Docktail party followed by a cook-out with our hosts on Friday night.

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On Saturday we headed over to Fernandina and walked the festival, looked at the shrimp boats, the art stalls and ate some, what else, shrimp!!

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We came across one guy selling animals made of old scrap. He had dinosaurs, sheep, and dogs. We loved one particular dog and brought him back to Sonas. Since he was made of old metal parts we initially called him Rusty. Then we noticed that one of his golf club ears was a Wilson, with the name on the top, so he was renamed Rusty Wilson!

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Rusty Wilson

Saturday night we had dinner at the Oyster Bay Club – a very nice location overlooking the natural areas of North East Florida. The food, wine, dancing and company were all first class.

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We spent a lazy Sunday morning at the dock. Queen’s Habour boats left at their leisure during the morning. The Proctor’s invited us over to ESCAPE for lunch, after which we untied and headed off for home, arriving back an home dock around four!

A wonderful weekend!

The YouTube video with all of the photos is here, Enjoy. [Click on the square box on the bottom right corner to watch full screen]

 

 

Sonas On Fort George River

Went up on Friday just for the one night at anchor.

Video and photos from our overnight at Fort George River.

Video of the anchorage.

AIS Track

Track

Photos of the weekend – click on the thumbnail to enlarge.

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At anchor Fort George River
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At anchor Forth George River
Enhancing the St Johns For the new Panama Canal ships.
Enhancing the St Johns
Military getting a refit
Sequel coming under Sisters Creek Bridge – old and new
Kingsley Plantation
Kady Krogen Heading North on the ICW
Target practice
Keeping the birds off the boat
When does a boat become a yacht – when it has a dishwasher?
Storms come in
Fire Dog IV
New Sisters Creek Bridge
Custom built?
Bonny Rover
ICW moustache
Sixpence
Sixence
Sea Power deep sea tug
DeFever Cruisers burgee
PDQ going PDQ
Invictus on the hard
Ready to play
Mayport Naval Station from the ICW

Home From The Yard!

The yard work is all completed, and we brought SONAS home today.  The forecast was for very strong winds with lots of rain. Since the morning forecast was slightly better we went over early to get her. The wind was blowing between 27 and 30 knots with gusts to 37-40 knots. She handled the wind with no issues and fortunately the rain stayed away completely. So we were able to sit up top for the three hours it took us to get to Queen’s Harbour.

So she now sits at our dock. She needs a good wash down and inside polish, which we will do tomorrow morning, Saturday. Then, if the forecast is somewhat settled, we may go up to Fort George river for the night.

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Preparing to leave the boat yard.
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Passing through the Ortega River Bridge
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Windy St John’s River
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Windy St John’s River
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Approaching downtown Jacksonville
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Downtown railway bridge
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Main Street Bridge
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Small ICW cruise ship
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Spirit of Hanoi
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Wind on the nose so no sails!
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Shrimper
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Safely at home dock
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The new name
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Home dock
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Home dock
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Home dock

Captain Ray Singleton

We went to Mayport last night for dinner at one of the two remaining crab shacks in the fishing village – Singleton’s Seafood Shack. One of the more interesting aspects of the evening was a visit to the “museum” on one side of the restaurant. I took the opportunity to grab some photos of the model boats that Captain Ray built.

See below for a write up on Captain Ray Singleton from when he was awarded The Florida Folk Heritage Award.

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Ray Singleton

1991 FLORIDA FOLK HERITAGE AWARD

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Captain Ray Singleton was a restaurateur, model boat builder, oral historian, and retired shrimper. He was born and raised in Mayport, a small fishing town in north of Jacksonville. Singleton’s grandfather, Bubba, came to Mayport to sail giant ships into the port. His grandmother, Aunt Sally, ran a hamburger and hot dog stand, at the town center, and his father skippered a dredge. By14, Singleton was working with various maritime industries, including working on charter fishing boats and shrimping. He and his wife Ann opened a fish market, which eventually became a well-regarded restaurant, Singleton’s Seafood Shack.  Except for four years on an aircraft carrier during World War II, Singleton spent his life in Mayport.

In the 1930s, he began building scale models of the shrimp boats he had known around the Mayport area. He worked without plans or photographs to recreate the vessels which, in many cases, no longer existed. He painted his early boats, but simply gave a polyurethane coating to the later ones to bring out the natural wood grain and color. Woods he used included poplar, mahogany and cedar. He did not sell these finely crafted and highly detailed models of actual boats, but displayed them in his restaurant.

Singleton was also a chronicler of local history and shared the lore and wisdom of the Mayport fishing community with a new generation; the boat models provided a natural starting point for hours of reminiscences. Although the models were by themselves, their value was magnified with the addition of his narratives about the vessels they represent.

Visitors can still view Singleton’s boats at the family restaurant. He passed on a passion for building model boats to his son Johnny, who continues to build model boats and lighthouses.

Copyright © 2016 State of Florida, Florida Department of State.

2015 Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival

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Fernandina Shrimper
Abandoned shrimper
Oyster Bay Harbor get together
Sian enjoying the cook-out
Tiki hut bar
Foods ready!
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The mobile bar
Morning walk
Queen’s Harbour Yacht Club burgee
The fleet looking good
Coast Guard
Shrimp Festival
Corps of Engineers
On the water taxi
Oyster Bar Harbor Yacht Club
Fernandina Paper Mill
Shrimper fleet
Dolphins