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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!