All posts by Sonas

Our Worst Nightmare – Realized!

Pieces in italics are from Sian.

“There’s Only One Kind Of Folk – Folk.”

I have a T-Shirt with that saying on the back. Sian bought it to me because it resonates with us. This blog entry is probably going to send shivers up a lot of cruisers spines, but what we really want to get across here, is that serious shit can happen out there, but when you reach out to people for help, the results can be heart warming.

As we spend time cruising we often discuss the ” what if….” not to be pessimistic but to have an idea for action as necessary.

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Hawksbill to Highbourne

Wednesday March 23 found us anchored off Hawksbill Cay in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. For some reason during the night we has a small surge from the south rolling Sonas slightly even though there was an easterly wind. The first cut to our south was some distance away.

Around lunch we discussed whether we wanted to stay another night or head south to Big Majors anchorage for a less rolly night. We decided to stay put. We instead decided to take a walk with Bella using the sandy path across Hawksbill to the beach on the Exuma Sound side.

“Flip flops or Trainers?”

“Flip flops of course!”

We got Bella into the dinghy and anchored it off the beach by the entrance to the cross-island path. And off we set. It was an easy flat walk for a quarter of a mile then it went up hill a bit onto some limestone rocks. We got to the top of the hill and looked down the steep rocky path onto the beach, and decided that this was far enough for a couple in flip flops so we turned back.

As we went back down the rocky part of the path I turned and held Sian’s hand to help her down. Once down I turned and began walking, and that is when it happened.

Sian screamed, and I turned around to find her on the ground.

“I think I’ve broken my leg!”

For those of you who have seen the movie Alien where the alien pushed out of John Hurt’s chest, you will relate to what I saw.

One of the bones, I don’t know which one, was pushing the skin out the side of her foot and as she held her leg up her ankle was just swinging free of her leg. The look on her face was one of complete shock.

It felt like a 10 second thought process but it was probably more like one second where I thought “I need to pop that ankle back in if we are to get down this hill and better to do it now while she already is in shock and before she realizes she has pain.”

I stepped to her and grabbed her foot and popped the ankle in as best I could. She just looked at me and asked “what did you just do?”

“I put your ankle back into your foot.”

And then we looked at each other and both thought “how the hell are we going to get back to the boat?”

I got her up and put her right am across my shoulder and she started hopping down the sandy path on her good leg. We hadn’t gone more than ten steps when we knew that this was futile. I was going to have to leave her there and go get help. Just then we saw a white shirt though the bushes and a young man turned the corner. The shirt had the logo of Not Enough, a mega yacht that was anchored off the island.

“Can I help you guys?”

We explained what happened and he took Sian under the other arm and helped us hop another few yards. He then decided that his was not going to work and scooped her up into his arms. He told me to run ahead and get his colleague who was on the beach with their clients.

I got onto the beach and called for the other crew. He came over and I explained what was happening. He ran back and told the yacht’s clients was was going on and, to their credit, they asked if they could come help.

The two guys, who we later learned were Calvin and Justin, got Sian to the beach. I had pulled our inflatable dinghy onto the beach ready to get Sian on, but they told me they were going to take her to the yacht’s tender and bring her out as it was bigger and more stable.

I got to Sonas before them and we managed, with some difficulty as there was significant wave action, to get Sian off their center console and onto Sonas. Soon after more help arrived. A couple who were out on their dinghy and saw what was happening came to Sonas. She was a nurse and they had splints on board their boat. While Nancy began the stabilizing process on Sian, her husband Dana helped Paul get Sonas ready to move.

This off season I have made a diligent effort to update our medical supplies, including a medical bag for our dog as this is her first Bahamas cruising season. I felt I had done as much as is reasonable. I was wrong. When it came down to it I did not have appropriate splints or wide enough bandages. Or stronger painkillers than Tylenol.

We needed to move as we had no cell or other signal apart from our In-Reach, at Hawksbill. ( And I didn’t think that this was quite the emergency to activate the In-Reach’s SOS function). Nor was there any facility for getting Sian quickly airlifted. I made the decision to motor the two plus hours north to Highbourne Cay. The alternative was Staniel Cay, with its airport, three hours south. However the marina there is not somewhere I thought getting Siân off the boat was feasible nor was I comfortable leaving Sonas for any period of time if we were both Medevac’d. I made the gut decision to go north to Highbourne. Which also happened to be closer to Nassau should we have to get there there by water.

With Sian on a couch on the salon holding the handheld radio so we could talk, we headed to Highbourne Cay. As we passed north of Norman’s I remembered the significant air traffic going in and out of the airport there and at the same time realized that I wasn’t aware of an airport at Highbourne.

Did I misstep?

I soon was within range of the cell tower at Highbourne and jumped on their web site to confirm that they did not have an airport – but they did have a sea plane ramp! I radioed in and told the lady that we had a medical emergency and required a Medevac.

She quickly got the resort manager Jason on the radio who advised that they did not have an airport, it might be best to go back to Normans. I asked about their sea plane ramp and the possibility of a Sea Plane.

“Are you requesting a sea plane for your wife?”

“Absolutely, if you can get one!”

“Give me a few minutes to make a call.”

It was indeed just three or four minutes and he came back to advise that the sea plane company that they use to provision the island had a plane already in the Exumas and they were diverting it! I was to get into the marina’s fuel dock and tied up ASAP. Which I did.

Jason and Mark came on board as soon as I tied up as did a doctor who was on a boat in the marina. They firmed up the splints round the leg, brought a medical back board and, as gently as they could strapped Sian onto it and four of them moved her onto the dock.

On the dock at Highbourne

They walked Sian down to their center console and laid her gently on the deck, and moved out towards the sea plane ramp. A few minutes later the plane landed and tied up at the ramp.

On the dock – the wonderful Highbourne staff
On Highbourne’s boat waiting for the sea plane

Pilots Ricardo and Dusty, jumped out and Ricardo came over and reassured Sian that they were going to get her to a hospital quickly and she was in good hands. They then changed the seat configuration in the plane to have two seats facing each other, and placed Sian across the seats, and strapped her in.

Getting Sian on the sea plane

Before they closed the doors Sian was able to see me and she waved. And I guess that is when I was no longer in control of things and I felt extremely emotional as I watched the plane take off.

I cannot thank the Highborne staff enough. They went above and beyond and I will be forever grateful.

On the plane Dusty stayed with me, explained what was happening and upon landing Ricardo stayed with me until I was loaded into the ambulance. Such kind people.

Mark helped me move Sonas to a slip. Sian called later that evening o say hat she had been admitted to the Emergency Room at the private Doctor’s Hospital in Nassau, which the people at the marina had highly recommended over the public hospital. And Bella and I spent a lonely night at Highbourne.

It had been a hell of a day.

NASSAU

Thursday March 24.

I paid for the slip at the marina office and asked for Jason’s contact details. Once things were more settled I wanted to make sure that we were able to reach out and thank him and his team. Stevie the dockmaster helped me untie Sonas and I headed for Nassau. The WX wasn’t exactly kind, calling for 4-6 foot seas between Highbourne and New Providence. And unfortunately they were from the south east, putting them on my starboard stern. This rendered the stabilizers useless and the auto pilot could not hold the course without regular broaches. I ended up manually steering the four and a half hours into Nassau.

When I got within radio range I called Bay Street Marina and asked for a slip for a week, which they were able to give me. I also told them to advise the dock hand that I was single handed and to grab the lines I prepared ahead of time.I got tied up successfully and checked into the marina by 2:30. David in the slip next to me asked why I was on my own , and I explained the circumstances.

After giving Bella a quick walk, I headed up to Doctor’s Hospital which was less than ten minutes from the marina. They had already taken images of Sian’s leg and moved her into her private room. She had three breaks, one lengthways in her fibula and two in her tibia and her ankle was broken. They had her in a soft cast. She told me that the doctor decided not to operate but to get her back to the US as soon as possible. They were working on a Medevac

Friday March 25th.

Yesterday I had tried to update Aetna ( our health care company) on what was going on, but wasn’t successful. I finally got through this morning and a case manager called me back with minutes. After updating her I got a call from Craig their Medevac provider. I told him that the hospital was trying to arrange a flight. He advised that if the company the hospital used was based in Nassau that might be quicker than using them, as they were Miami based. I told him I would find out and call him back.

Meanwhile the hospital had started the doctor to doctor transfer process to the hospital in Miami, which was their standard procedure. I wondered if we could instead get a transfer to Jacksonville. I called Craig back and after checking with Aetna he told me that I had been approved for a flight to Jacksonville instead on Miami.

I called the lady at the hospital and told her that I wanted a hospital in Jacksonville instead of Miami. And that is where things got difficult. She told me that the surgeon in Miami had already seen Sian’s images and had accepted the transfer. It was set. After I pushed back she told me that if I could find a hospital in Jacksonville to talk surgeon to surgeon reviewing the images, given it was now Friday afternoon, and accept the transfer she could change it.

I first spoke to the international transfer lady at Mayo and she could not handle it. I then tried Shands Trauma and that did not work out either. Eventually I told them to go ahead with the Miami transfer. I called Craig back and told him that we were going to Miami and that the service the Nassau hospital uses is US based. He arranged for his company to do the Medivac on Saturday morning.

I then told him about Bella. Saying that unless they could also Medevac her, then I needed to stay. He called me back to say Bella could come too, but that she would not be allowed on the ambulances on either end, so I would have to get my own transport. Craig was excellent and kept me updated on every step of the Medevac process.

When I finally got back to Sian in the hospital she told me that the surgeon in Miami has asked for an ankle reduction to be done prior to her being Medivac’d. That the surgeon in Nassau was going to try and do it tonight or, failing that, Saturday morning.

It didn’t happen. AND IF WE HAD KNOWN HOW CRITICAL THIS WAS AND THE IMPACT IT WOULD HAVE LATER ON WE WOULD HAVE INSISTED ON IT!

MIAMI

Saturday March 26th

We were being Medivac’d today. I went into the marina office and extended the slip rental until April 8th. That would give us two weeks to get things sorted out and for me to get back to bring Sonas home.

Last night I had dinner at the restaurant by the marina and David from the yacht in the next slip joined me. I told him I was leaving Sonas there for a couple of weeks and he offered to keep an eye on the boat, make sure the lines and fenders were protecting her etc. That was a great relief.

Craig had advised that the Medevac jet was landing in Nassau at 9:45. I had booked a taxi the night before and made sure the driver knew that Bella was with me. We got picked up at 8:45 and we were at Jet Nassau by 9:15.

The jet arrived accompanied by two great nurses who got Sian from the ambulance, hooked up to on board monitoring equipment. Bella and I followed, with the nurses sharing their snacks with Bella! I held onto Bella as we took off, she shook the whole way across and didn’t stop until we were off the jet in Fort Lauderdale. We had flown into FLL as Craig had advised that the entry process was easier than Miami, especially for Bella! The customs guy asked to see her Rabies certificate which I had on my phone and she was in!

Sian being loaded onto the Medevac flight.
Pampered Bella

Sian was picked up by the ambulance and transferred to Doctor’s Hospital Coral Gables. I got a dog friendly Uber for Bella and I and checked into a dog friendly hotel ten minutes from the hospital.

We weren’t home, but we were closer!

[Sian’s skin had been under pressure from the break for so long that the resultant blisters and ulcers meant that she could not have surgery for 10 days. She eventually had the surgery on Monday April 4. She was discharged on Wednesday April 6 and we drove to Jacksonville, where she is now facing a long rehab recovery. Paul leaves on Wednesday April 13th for Nassau with his brother Peter to bring Sonas back home. We look forward to getting back out on Sonas as soon as we can, but only when it is absolutely safe for Sian to do so.]

For photos of her leg pre and post surgery click here – warning, pretty gruesome.

Post operation cast
BA Bear (Broken Ankle Bear)
Back home.

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Sian and I could not publish this blog entry without highlighting the help and support we had during this ordeal from simply awesome people.

Calvin and Justin from the yacht Never Enough. Two strong young men who did what was necessary to get Sian back to Sonas.

Nancy and Dana, nurse and husband who helped at Hawksbill.

Jason, Mark and the magnificent team at Highbourne Cay, for the exemplary work they did in arranging the sea plane and minimizing the pain to get her from Sonas to the aircraft.

Ricardo and Dusty, the pilots on the sea plane, diverting to get her and gently getting her on board and to Nassau.

Randi, our case nurse from Aetna who focused on clearing our path through it all, and Craig from the Aetna Medevac company who worked all hours on Friday and Saturday to make it happen, and followed up multiple times after we got to Miami to make sure we were being taken care of.

And, while we did not detail Sian’s experiences at the hospital in Miami, we must give a shout out to the doctors and nurses there who put her back together again and put her on the road to recovery.

There were others as well, the staff at Bay Street Marina in Nassau who worked with me to extend Sonas multiple times even though they were full. The ambulance crews in the Bahamas and Florida, the pilots and nurses on the Medevac jet who looked after Sian and took Bella aboard as if she was their pet.

And finally our friends and neighbors in Jacksonville who drove down I95 to get Bella, cared for her in their homes, and after we got home inundated us with love, sustaining food and their most importantly, their time.

We are blessed!

The Crossing And To The Berrys!

Day 15. Friday March 11th.

And we are off across the stream at last!

We had set the alarm for 5:15am with the plan to be out of the Riviera Beach city Marina at first light. We had one of those restless nights that you have when you know you have a early start, despite trusting your alarm! We got out of bed at 4:30am.

Sian took Bella for a walk through Riviera Beach in the dark being careful to stay in well lit areas, while Paul prepared the lines and power cord for departure. We were going to get a head start and leave in the dark.

Sian untied the last two lines and stepped on board, using our headsets to tell Paul we were clear. With the engine bumped in gear we started to pull out until all of a sudden the boat stopped dead and yawled to one side. Paul immediately knew we have left a line tied! Our lines are black and in the dark we had missed one of the stern lines. Paul reversed the boat back so that Sian could step off the swim platform, untie the line, and step back on. We finally got underway, with a rush of adrenalin for good measure!

Port of West Palm in the dark!

We were out of the Lake Worth Inlet by 6am, with the first waypoint of Bahamia Bay in the chart plotter feeding the auto pilot. We would be hands off the wheel until the channel into Lucaya ten hours away. We would let the auto pilot handle the significant drift caused by the gulf stream’s 3.5 knot current running to the north and across our path. In the middle of the stream the boat was pointing 130 degrees when our bearing to the waypoint was 112 degrees. An 18 degree difference!

Managing the flow of the Gulf Stream

The forecast held true and the gulf stream was pretty benign, with rolling two foot swells and very little wave action. So all was good. We exited the gulf stream and started to get a good current push toward the North West Providence Channel running along the south of Grand Bahama. Then things got a bit more uncomfortable.

Calm Atlantic approaching the Gulf Stream 12 miles off Lake Worth Inlet.
Sian wearing her Personal Locator Beacon.

The current was on our stern as we ran towards the south east and Lucaya, we estimated at around 3 knots. The wind was blowing 18 knots from the south east and the seas got up. Nothing dangerous, fours and fives, uncomfortable but not in any way dangerous. The only issues we had was Bella being sick a couple of times and me losing the handrail when going below for a bathroom break. I landed on the closed knife I keep in my pocket (to cut the life raft free if we ever had to deploy it)! Still sporting a good sized bruise from that one! After we passed Freeport we got out of the main current and things calmed down for our entry through Bell Channel and into Lacaya, and the Grand Bahama Yacht Club.

On the line!
Entering Port Lucaya

The harbormaster had us pull into the fuel dock first so that we could clear customs and immigration, and then helped us tie up in our slip. We booked into the marina for three nights until Monday. Though unless the forecast changes it looks more like Tuesday before we can start heading further south as some real nasty weather is hitting both Florida and the Bahamas over the next few days. In fact we heard from folks back home that the Players Championship back in Jacksonville was called and it would be Monday before they will be able to finish it!

We are finally in the Bahamas, 2022 version!

Sonas in her slip at Grand Bahama Yacht Club

Day 16. Saturday March 12th.

And We Wait!

The wind howled all day and got worse as the day progressed . With significant squalls that clocked 180 degrees numerous times.

We got the water hose out and rinsed off all of the sea salt that clung to Sonas from the crossing yesterday.

While sitting in the cockpit in the afternoon we saw the large seventy foot sailboat that had been docked in the slip next to us in Riviera Beach come into the marina. We had been chatting to the two couples and had helped handle their lines as they left. She had left Riviera Beach two days before us so we were surprised to see her come in – and noted that she had not yet cleared customs as the Bahamian courtesy flag was not raised. We also noticed that the foresails that were previously furled on her three fore stays were now missing.

Sian gave them some time to get settled then went over to see what had happened. They had had their furling gear serviced recently and as they were sailing across the gulf stream the furling gear all collapsed. They ended up losing two foresails. It seems that some retaining cotter pins had not been replaced causing the damage.

They managed to get to Grand Bahama and got anchored off shore trying to figure out what to do. However with the approaching storm they decided to get into the marina for safety.

As we were giving Bella her afternoon walk we met June, a dog from a boat a few slips down our dock. Sian and June’s owner Lauren took the dogs to a nearby field and let them run free!

This evening we walked over to the Bell Channel Inn and had conch and lobster in their restaurant, washed down with local Sands and Kalik beer!

Lobster dinner, hopefully the first of many!
And the first Kalik of the trip!

Day 18, 19, 20. Sunday through Tuesday March 13th, 14th and 15th.

And Still We Wait!

Seas on our route were forecasted to be 5-7, meaning probably 6-8!

Sian took Bella to Taino Beach every morning to let her run on the sand and paddle in the water. We did the laundry and filled up the water tanks.

After we topped up the tanks our drinks did not taste as fresh as they had done with US water. We are not sure why, as we thought they made their own water using reverse osmosis which is supposed to taste better. Later in the trip Sian read a thread on one of the FaceBook pages that Dorian had driven a lot of salt into the wells used in Grand Bahama which affected water quality. Once we are anchoring out we will take every opportunity to use our water maker to replace the water we added here.

Paul found a small fuel spot on a bilge pad and traced the leak to the starboard fuel lifter pump. He put the engine on warm and ran it up to 1500 and made sure that it wasn’t a significant issue. We will monitor it and wait until we get to Georgetown and replace it with the spare that we have on board.

We took the marina’s water taxi over to Lucaya and had a nice Greek lunch of moussaka and lamb gyro before walking down to Solomon’s supermarket for some fresh fruit and a ride back in the marina’s shuttle van.

The talk on the dock was a constant – “when will the weather break so that we can move!” We spoke with the crew of sailing vessel Ensandel on Monday night. They were leaving on Tuesday morning. Not all of the sources we use for weather were aligned, with NOAA saying 6-8 feet, so we were considering the better forecast for Wednesday. Ensandel offered to radio us when they were out there and let us know the conditions.

We watched them leave then waited for the call which came after about 90 minutes. “Stay Home” was the advice!

So it looks like Wednesday, first to Cabbage Cay. The wave action is forecasted from the south, which is good for that anchorage.

On Tuesday Paul finally got the authorization from the Bahamian Civil Aviation Authority to import and use his drone. We had applied for this back in early January but it had not come through before we left the US. Once in hand Paul walked over to the customs office and added it to our list of non duty paid items on board.

Day 21. Wednesday March 16th.

The forecasts are aligned, 2-3 foot seas and we are good to go.

We left the marina at 8:30. And we were back by 10:00 after a solid hour getting pounded by the 5-7 footers on the nose in the North West Providence Channel. It was bad enough that our DeFever burgee broke loose! After we tied back up in our slip Paul announced that he was NOT washing the salt off the boat again!

Loose burgee

The number of boaters stopping by to ask us what it was like “out there” was numerous. Everyone was eager to get going!

The only upside was that here was a fish fry over at Taino Beach tonight! Which we attended and had a nice time talking to other boaters.

Taino Beach fish fry! Red snappers.

Day 22. Thursday March 17th – St Patrick’s Day!

The previous evening’s forecasts were again looking good. The early forecasts also showed a doable crossing from Grand Bahama to the Berrys. So off we went – AGAIN!

And this time we made it. It wasn’t in any manner smooth, but Bella wasn’t sick – which was has become our litmus test of how the seas where. However it was still six hours of uncomfortable boating until we got to the east side of the Berrys.

We passed the four cruise ships from Celebrity and Royal Caribbean at their “private islands” of Great Stirrup and Great Harbour Cays in North Berrys, and later listened to some interesting radio chatter between the different companies as they prepared to get underway, to make sure they didn’t get in each others way.

Busy “private islands” in the Berry.

We pulled into the Cabbage Cay anchorage at 5:30 and found four other boats already there. We quickly got the dinghy launched and Bella to shore for her necessaries

Week three and we were closing in on our cruising grounds of the Exumas and south from there!

More photos.

Goodbye West Palm
Carnival cruise ship leaving Freeport
Too rough to put the quarantine flag on an antennae so it got bungeed to the bimini
Cabbage Cay sunset
TV stowed for sea!
Monitoring the busy inlet by radar
Our In-Reach satellite communicator with a clear view of the sky!
In the middle of the relatively benign Gulf Stream
Pre made lunch for the crossing
Bella chillaxing at Grand Bahamas Yacht Club, Lucaya.

Bahamas 2022 -Stuart To West Palm – And Waiting…

Tomato plants are coming along!

Day 8. Thursday March 3rd.

The day started off on a positive note and stayed that way!

Walking Bella through the Nettles Island neighborhood someone told Sian that she could take Bella over to the beach and let her off the leash! So off she went and came back with Bella panting heavily and Sian (not panting heavily) with a big smile on her face. Bella had run in and out of the water, letting the waves chase her and played with a number of other dogs also running free on the beach. They had a great time. Sian only wished someone had told her that dogs could run freely on the beach as soon as we got there. We will be adding this information to the WaterWay Guide for other boaters.

We had a leisurely breakfast at the marina and then were off by 9:30a.m. We ran through the Crossroads (the intersection of the AICW, St Lucie River and the St Lucie Inlet), and down through the big mansions on Jupiter Island. We exited the AICW in North Palm Beach and tied up without issue at Old Port Cove Marina.

This evening we went for dinner at Belle’s, the marina restaurant and had a table right by the big window overlooking Privacy, Tiger Woods yacht, which he keeps at the marina.

Tiger Woods’ Privacy

Day 9. Friday March 4th.

Today is a down day for us, which means doing some chores on Sonas. Sian did some housekeeping, we started to store some “stuff” ready for the crossing whenever we have a weather window, and Paul took the hose to the decks.

And Bella got a soapy wash on the swim platform and her toe nails dremelled!

We also received the box of parts that our mechanic in Jacksonville had sent. We stored the spare first and secondary filters, impellers and belts. We also got the tensioner pulley that we wanted to replace.

Paul called three different diesel servicing companies who all told us that they did not work on our engines. He tried to explain the the one hour job was not engine manufacturer specific, but was having a hard time getting the concept across. Then he saw two mechanics getting off the boat next door, and called them over. He saw by the company name on their t-shirts that they worked for one of the companies he had called this morning. Paul explained the job and the mechanic said he would talk to the service manager about it on Monday morning. As they were leaving later in the day Paul reminded them to have that conversation!

However we have now decided that if we cannot get a mechanic Paul feels confident he can do the job himself on Tuesday before we cross.

Sian had retrieved some seafood out of the freezer for dinner as it was a Friday in Lent. But as dinner time approached we decided to go grab quick showers and go back up to Belle’s Restaurant for a seafood dinner! Our argument was that we would be without restaurants for the next three months, so better to get them in now while we can!

Day 10 and 11. Saturday and Sunday March 5th and 6th.

Today was the day we had been hoping to cross the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. But the forecast was calling for 6-8 foot seas all the way across. We had known this for a few days so had booked into Riviera Beach Marina until Wednesday when it was forecast that we should have a weather window. As the morning progressed and the wind gusts began to reach gale levels we decided that there was no advantage to moving the boat just four miles down the AICW today or tomorrow in these winds. Paul walked up to the Old Port Cove marina office and confirmed that we could have our existing slip for another two days. Then he called Riviera Beach and changed our reservations to Monday through Wednesday. It did look like a window was opening up for a Wednesday crossing.

We also booked a rental car for Tuesday so that we could get fresh food and also buy some items that we were missing. The rest of the day was spent at rest!

On the second down day we started securing some of the looser items for the crossing, for example bungee cording the bags holding the paddle boards on the flybridge.

Before we depart for the Bahamas we top up the fuel tanks. Even though prices are climbing here in the States they are even higher in the Islands. We used our fuel transfer system to move fuel to totally fill two of the tanks, so that when we pull into the fuel dock at Riviera Beach Marina on Monday we would only have to top off the one tank.

So tomorrow we run the short 4 miles south the Lake Worth, and then watch the weather for a good crossing window.

And Paul’s cruise beard is coming in!

The beard is coming in!

Day 12. Monday March 7th.

The day started as the previous few days had been, with vey strong winds. We asked the marina to send down a couple of guys to hold the lines as we left the slip successfully heading south to Riviera Beach.

We pulled into the fuel dock and filled up the port tank with 140 gallons of diesel. We then went to our slip in S12. Paul spoke to the company we hoped could help us with our engine issue, and they could not. He contacted a mechanic we were referred to who could potentially help us with the starboard engine pulley. He told us he would be over this evening to work on it.

The Bahamas require a negative antigen COVID test taken within 72 hours of our entry. We got an Uber to the testing site and did the nose swabs. Two hours later we got the negative results. We will enter those into the online health visa site tomorrow and receive our OK to enter. All we need now is for the winds to subside so we can actually cross the Gulf Stream on Wednesday or Thursday! Unfortunately the recent weather updates were still not looking good for a crossing this week.

Dennis the mechanic arrived shortly after 6pm. It wasn’t as easy a job as we were led to believe. Paul spent some time with him in the engine room and after a couple of hours everything was resolved, with an admonition from the mechanic of what to watch to watch for, plus a couple of projects to be worked on once we got back to home dock.

Broken pulley

We went up to RafitiTiki restaurant by the marina for a very late dinner.

Day 13. Tuesday March 8th.

We had a car hired for today. After breakfast Paul took an Uber and picked it up. We used it to go to the hardware store and Publix and had lunch at Frigates.

Our biggest issue right now is the weather forecast for the crossing. After we couldn’t go last Saturday our hope was for tomorrow, Wednesday. But the latest forecast was not good. There was a possibility of a Friday crossing. But if that did not work out then the weather was closing in, meaning the whole of next week would not be possible. We already knew that the COVID test we had last Monday would be no good as they had to be within three days of entry.

When we had arrived at the current marina we had asked if it was possible to extend our stay if we had to and were told no. We decided to start looking for a marina to hole up in. The issue is that the Palm Beach Boat Show is coming up. The marinas that they are using are kicking out a lot of their contracted slip renters. The other marinas in the area have been booked up by these displaced boats. We finally called the marina office again to see if anything had changed and miraculously the slip we were in was available for another two nights – that would take us to Friday. If a weather window did not open up by then we would have to start scrambling for dockage again! We even identified a couple of nearby anchorages with places to get to shore in a dinghy for Bella if we had to, but given the wind levels we hoped Friday was going to give us an opportunity to cross.

Late today our Queens Harbor Neighbors John and Angela came in on Joie de Vie. The only spot they had for them was the fuel dock, and they have to be off early the next day. They too are trying to managing the weather as best they can. We used the rental car to get their fresh goods from Publix.

Day 14, Wednesday March 9th.

The forecasts are starting to firm up showing a possible Friday crossing! So first thing today we went on-line and booked two more COVID tests. We used the rental car to get to the test center soon after they opened and within the hour we had a pair of negative results again! After Paul took the rental car back we started to prepare the boat for a crossing, Paul did some tidying up in the engine room and Sian in the living quarters.

We again went up to RafitiTiki for dinner.

Day 15. Thursday March 10.

A Friday (tomorrow) crossing is now becoming more likely. Since Bella would be stuck on a boat for most of the day we took the little ferry across to Peanut island and let her run on the beach.

Bella on Peanut Island

When we got back Paul started the rather tedious work of using the Bahamian systems to generate our Health Visa using the negative COVD tests and then the Click To Clear system to set us up for customs and immigration. After a couple of hours struggling with this he was finally able to pay our entry fee and print out our cruising permit. This would save us a ton of time once we got there.

We also called the Bahamian Yacht Club in Lucaya and booked a slip for three nights beginning Friday. We usually just stay one night to check in and then set off for the Berrys the next day. But the same weather system that was affecting Florida over the coming days was also hitting the Bahamas so we planned to sit still for a few days.

During the afternoon Craig from Lady C, the boat two slips down came by for a chat. We were both MTOA members and found lots to yarn about. Later in the evening both Craig and Cathy came by for a cocktail. They are on their way to the Keys in the new to them Tollycraft.

Sian also packed the Ditch Bag. This is a bag with items that we would require if we had to ditch – that is leave Sonas and go into the life raft. While the life raft does have many of the items, such as flares and water, we also like to have the ditch bag with flares, extra Type 1 PFDs, bottled water, handheld radio, etc. We each also have Personal Locater Beacons which we were wear when crossing. Sonas also has an automatic deploying EPIRB, which will grab if we have the time.

Ditch bag

We were as ready as we could be if the weather holds for tomorrow!

Weather!

[Post in italics are always by Sian]

Lets talk about weather. How it is applied to our boating adventures. When we leave home dock we are looking in terms of, is it nice enough to steer from up top? Is it a jeans day or a shorts day? Or even , can we run outside or is it an Intracoastal day? All decisions made quickly and generally without too much angst.

Then we start reading the forecasts from multiple sources. As we are a week away from our Bahamas crossing the reading is a type of overview. As in “weather looks unsettled mid week but let’s just see when we get there. “The closer we get to our departure point the more we pour over every word, reminding ourselves “it’s a forecast, not a guarantee”

When we arrive, this time at Riviera Beach, the weather is not looking appealing for a couple of days. That’s okay, time for Covid tests and fresh food provisioning, no big deal.

Now the weather as a topic of conversation is front and center with friends and strangers alike. Who’s forecast do you like? what are you thinking about a crossing? Why are the forecasts dissimilar and WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? We call boating friends, others call us and we discuss weather. Neighbors text and email?” it’s not looking good, what are your plans?” We examine charts for wave heights, wave frequency, wind speeds, when is the next front coming in? remembering its all a prediction. And then we do it all again. And again, looking for the elusive word that will lead us to a safe decision.

Now we are being delayed by nearly a week and even though there is no schedule to keep to its still a bit anxiety provoking. Is the north route (Lake Worth to Grand Bahama) more settled than the south (Miami to Bimini) should we move our staging point? What time is it? is the 6am forecast out, how long until the next update and why isn’t this guy similar in his forecast to the rest, does that make him more right or vice versa?

Add to this transient dockage is not as flexible as we have seen it in previous years. During Covid everyone and his brother bought a boat so they all have to sit somewhere. The upcoming West Palm beach boat show and inclement weather for travel adds more boats to this area making marinas very busy places. Can we find space at the inn? If not here ,where. And when we eventually can depart how far are we from our best departure point. As a slow boat this time of year every minute of daylight counts!

Bahamas 2022 – Jacksonville To Stuart and Trawlerfest

Crabber feeding a stray dog on the mud (at least we think its a dog!)

Day 1. Thursday February 24th.

At last! After missing out on our spring cruise to the Bahamas for the last two years due to the pandemic, we are finally leaving for the islands!

Due to depths in the channel from our home dock to the AICW we had to be away by 7:45am to be at the lock to the channel for the 8am opening time.

Before we left our next door neighbors Cindy and Dan came to to Sonas to see us on our way with some gifts for us and Bella. And as we approached the lock our neighbors Angela and John appeared to wish us bon voyage! What awesome neighbors we have.

We were a bit concerned when we got to the lock to see the channel out to the AICW was extremely low, lower that we expected given that it was 2 hours before low tide. Added to this the inside lock gates were not fully shutting, leaking water in during the pump down operation, making the process longer. We finally got out and ploughed mud all the way – but we got out, with 0.5 feet under us all the way! As we headed south we got communication that the lock had an issue and it was 10:30 before the next boat got out.

Queens Harbour Channel

We ran south and timed the Bridge of Lions in St Augustine nicely, with only a 5 minute wait until the 12:30 opening. On the way Bella again got frantic on the boat deck whenever dolphins came to play. We now have pads on the edge of the boat deck to make sure that she doesn’t lose her footing!

Bella Pads!
The Great Cross in St Augustine

We made Palm Coast Marina by 3p.m. They had assigned us an angled T-head by the fuel dock and we had some struggles to get in given the south wind and the current running out of the marina basin. After getting tied up and walking Bella, we rewarded ourselves with an Indian meal at The Fifth Element up at the European village, just a fifteen minute walk from the marina.

Fifth Element Indian Meal Palm Caost

We realized that we had left Bella’s pee pad behind so ordered one from Amazon to be delivered to Nettles Island in Stuart where we will be docked for Trawlerfest. She has never used one but we wanted one on board in case we get stuck on board for a period that is too long and detrimental for her.

Paul also realized that we left the charger for the drone behind so ordered that from amazon as well!

Day 2. Friday February 25th

The day started with a lovely walk along the Intracoastal Waterway trail for Bella and I. It’s a three mile loop, friendly for walkers, bike riders and dogs alike.

Palm Coast river walk

Today we were running to New Smyrna. However Paul had researched diesel prices and found that Halifax Harbor Marina in Daytona had a comparatively excellent price on diesel. All of the other marinas between Jacksonville and West Palm had fuel at around $4,40-$4.50 a gallon. Halifax was $3.52 a gallon. 80-90 cents a gallon cheaper than anywhere else. To make sure Paul called them to confirm the price! So we planned to stop there on our way and fill up.

As we approached Main St Bridge in Daytona we saw the flashing lights of work vehicles on the span. We radioed and the bridge tender told us that he could not open. The board showed 18 feet, and there is an additional 4 feet in the middle of the span. Since we only require 21 feet with the antennae down we went through with a whopping foot to spare! The bridge tender warned us the Coranado Bridge in New Smyrna was also currently inoperable.

Working on the Main Street Bridge

When we pulled into the Halifax Harbor fuel dock we were disappointed to find that the price board showed $4.42! Questioning this the dock hand told us that they were still charging $3:52 but that it would be going up within the hour, we were one of the last boats to get it at the reduced price. So we took advantage and put in 630 gallons! We hold 1000 gallons in three tanks and we already had 300 on board so we we were pretty near full. We will top up the tanks in West Palm before we cross. A five cents a gallon BoatUS membership discount was also applied, so we estimated that we had saved around $600 on this fill alone!

One thing we should discuss here is the use of our small forward tank, We have three fuel tanks. Two saddle tanks at 425 gallons each and a center forward tank of 150 gallons. Our fuel valve system allows us to draw from any one tank, any two tanks or all three! Some boaters with a small tank use that as a “day tank,” running the engines frm that only and filling from the other tanks. However we fill this forward tank and then lock it down. Should we get “bad” fuel while in the islands we can shut down the main tanks and use this fuel to get us somewhere to resolve the issue. With good management it would get us around 250 – 300 nautical miles, likely more.

As we got into New Smyrna the CG communicated that the Coronado Bridge was indeed inoperable and would be until 4pm at the earliest. Unless we could get under, this would hold us up for at least two hours. Luckily we also got under that with about two feet to spare and tied up at New Smyrna Marina. Sian suggested the fuel we added in Daytona helped get under the bridge!

We had a pleasant dinner at the marina’s very busy Outrigger Restaurant.

Day 3. Saturday February 26th.

Early this morning we heard some female voices when it was still dark, then two girls on SUPs passed us! It was only just 6am so they must have had a very early start to their day!

Pre-dawn paddleboarders

We also overheard a radio conversation between a sportsfisherman a couple of slips over and the Coronado bridge. They were told that the bridge was still inoperable with the next update at 10am. We wondered if they had a charter today as it was Saturday. Sounded like lost money for the captain and crew.

It was an easy run today through the rest on New Smyrna, through the long slow zone past all of the fish camps in New Smyrna Beach and into Mosquito Lagoon. A sailboat going north hailed us and asked if had heard the latest on the bridge opening. We shared what we had heard, then minutes later the Coast Guard came on to say that there was still an issue but that there would only be openings at 2pm and 4pm today, and at 10am and 2pm tomorrow, Sunday.

We slowly cruise through Haulover Canal, avoiding the manatees that make their home there, through Titusville and were tied up in our slip at Cocoa Village Marina by 2:30. An uneventful run, which is what we like!

Haulover Canal and Bridge

As we checked in the marina advised us that here was a Mardi Gras event intown this weekend. Sian took Bella for her afternoon walk and retuned very frustrated. She had followed the usual walk through the downtown area to then find that they had erected barriers behind her for the ticketed Mardi Gras event. As she tried to return to the marina she found every avenue blocked. The “rent a cops” would not let her out. They even radioed the supervisor who told them not to open any of the barriers! She was getting very irate when a delivery truck approached and they had to open the barrier to let it in and she walked through. She never told me if she flipped them the bird or not!

This evening we went back into town and ignored the event and had a very casual dinner at Time Out Plus.

Day 4. Sunday February 27th.

We awoke this morning to germinating tomato plants in the AeroGarden! Once they are big enough we shall move them over to pots.

Tomato plants in the AeroGarden

We were running from Cocoa to Vero Beach today. We started off in shorts and t-shirts on an AICW bereft of any breeze whatsoever. As we cruised through Sebastian the wind got up and the sun went in and we end up going into the Vero Beach marina in sweaters! Since it was a sunny Sunday there were plenty of boats running the AICW and using the sand bars.

Enjoying the sandbars

One of the things we love about Vero Beach Marina is the dog park adjacent to the marina. In fact it was the very first dog park Bella ever went to. We took her over for a half hour’s romp with the other dogs.

This evening we went to Riverside Restaurant and had dinner at the bar as there was a one hour wait for a table.

The only issue today was that the salon AC unit would not trigger the cooling raw water pump so was turning off. If we turned on the pilot house AC unit the shared pump ran fine and we could also run the salon unit. However the salon unit is brand new as is the salon control pad. So we will be contacting the installer tomorrow, Monday, to hopefully work through a solution.

Day 5. Monday February 28th.

Today we were running from Vero Beach just 28 statute miles down the AICW to Nettles Island Marina on Hutchinson Island. Looking at the chart it looked a bit of a challenge to get in there as you go straight in from the ICW to the development and then follow the square counter-clockwise close to the houses. The charts show 6 feet MLW. However we found we had a minimum of 3.5 feet under the keel the whole way so had no issues.

Nettles Island Marina

We backed into slip S15 easily enough. The dockmaster Thomas is very competent and pleasant. The only thing I would say about the marina is that it is very open to the south with a long fetch, so not somewhere I would like to be is any south wind with strength.

We were staying on Hutchinson Island as there was a TrawlerFest at the Marriott nearby. Paul is signed up for the diesel engine troubleshooting class and Sian is attending the trouble free anchoring seminar. Then we are both signed up for Chris Parker’s marine weather seminar.

For the first time this trip we had dinner on board – but only because the restaurant at the marina is closed on Monday and Tuesday!!

Day 6. Tuesday March 1st.

The TrawlerFest seminars we had signed up for both started at 9am. So we started asking for an Uber at 7:50. No Ubers to be had after multiple times trying! We walked over to the small supermarket and asked them for the name of a cab company. “No idea, I’ve never even seen a cab in here,” the lady says! Oh oh! We are about seven miles from the hotel!

There was no other choice – we decided to go to the main road and stick a thumb out! The first time we have hitch-hiked in 40 years! We were thinking that we didn’t look like mass murderers so we may have some luck! We got to Ocean Blvd, faced south and Paul stuck out his thumb – and the very first car that came along pulled in! Our new delightful friend Debbie took us all the way and dropped us off at the Marriott front door. We were there in plenty of time.

We both found the seminars interesting, though Paul found the diesel troubleshooting seminar pretty long, running from 9am to past 5pm! He was ready for a stiff Jamesons when he got back to the boat.

Day 7. Wednesday March 2nd.

Oscar came this morning and replaced the bad trigger switch on the salon AC and we are up and running again!

Also our mechanic in Jacksonville finally got some engine parts that we needed and had not come in before we left. He is sending them overnight to our next stop in North West Palm. The idler pulley on the starboard engine needs replaced as does the serpentine belt. He is also contacting a mechanic in West Palm to see if they can come over and do the work.

We are now receiving the twice daily weather updates from Chris Parker and unfortunately it does not look like a Saturday east bound crossing is possible. It looks like the earliest is Tuesday, but more likely Wednesday the 9th. So we started calling around marinas to find dockage for the extra days. We finally got the extra four days we required at the Riviera Beach Marina.

Today’s seminar by Chris Parker on interpreting weather did not start until 1pm. However, given the trouble getting an Uber yesterday, we decided to start heading over to the Marriott at 11:20. This time we did get an Uber, and arrived in plenty of time.

Unfortunately the Chris Parker seminar did not meet our expectations. He spent some time up front telling us about his boating experience and then a lot of time on how he and other weather forecasters actually forecast – more on the technical aspects of forecasting. We were really looking for a boaters guide to not only being able to help ourselves with evaluating the weather, but also how to use the products that he sells. In other words how to use the end product of his forecasting. He was supposed to go through “20 things we didn’t know about forecasting,” and only got to 7 before his seminar time ran out.

We got back to Sonas where we s[pent some time investigating a water intrusion issue that we had. When ever the boat rocked to a swell or wake some water came in on the starboard side of the salon. Not a lot, but a small stream, then a drip which wet the couch on that side. We dropped the ceiling panels but did not find any wetness coming from the fresh water side of the boat.. So it was clearly coming in from the outside rather than any of the fresh water. But it happens while there is no rain. It was a bit of a conundrum.

Finally we looked at the channel that housed one of the deck drains from the boat deck. We decided to remove the channel and see if the hose running inside of it had been compromised. We removed the holding screws getting ready to cut off the sealant around the channel. There was a screw on the bottom of the channel and when we removed that water came out! So clearly there was a small pinhole leak in the hose that allowed water to sit in the channel and when the boat rolled for whatever reason the water was allowed to roll along the channel and into the salon.

Drain channel

We decided to put the retaining screws back in and leave the hose channel in place, but leave the “drain” screw off to allow the leaked water to drain, and we would deal with removing the channel and fixing the hose when we get back to home dock. Where it would be a much tidier job!

As a reward we walked off Nettles Island to Shuckers on the beach right by and had an excellent seafood meal – highly recommended, but boy did it get busy!

Week one now complete. Off further south tomorrow!

Some more photos.

Palm Valley Dredging
You can see why homeowners get fed up with derelict boats!
Downtown Daytona
Daytona fun
Ponce Lighthouse
New Smyrna sunrise
Boston Whaler plant Palm Coast
NASA Cape Canaveral
Sailing the Indian River
Warming the eggs!
Busy Sunday
Pelicans on a tree – we have not seen this before!
Nettles Island
Pale feet at the start of our trip – lets see what they are like at the end!
Sian was watching dolphins from the back of the boat and they splashed her!
Waiting for a weather window to cross!

Preparing For The Bahamas – 2022 Version!

We thought there might be some interest in how we provision for three months in the Bahamas. While there are some locations with decent supermarkets, these are usually few and far between. Where they do exist the normally have decent fruit and veggies, but the meat does leave something to be desired – apart from chicken that is! As for beer and wine, both are extremely expensive and the wine usually at the lower end of the quality scale. So we have set Sonas up to hold most of the provision for the three months, planning to get fresh where we can.

Here are some of the things we do.

Previously we have loaded Sonas up with bottles of wine stored in plastic crates. This resulted in bags and bags of empty bottles stored in the lazarette since recycling in the Bahamas is non-existent. Someone then told us to check out boxed wine with the statement “boxed wine these days is not the same as in our student days!” So we tried all of the brands without success, we just didn’t like the wines. As a last ditch effort we tried Costco’s Kirkland brand of Cabernet and voila! So now we buy these boxes and take the bags out of the cardboard and store the bags in the crates!

We do take some bottled wine, the Prosecco and for visiting other boat. These are put into a crate and a sock is put on each one to stop them from rattling!

Talking about cardboard, it s a big no-no onboard Sonas for two reasons. The first is the lack of recycling mentioned above, the second is that bugs are attracted to the cardboard as they just love to eat the glue used on it. So everything that comes in cardboard is repackaged. From bags of chips, to beer, to frozen and fresh foods. The only cardboard we allow on board is that which is on items going into the freezers. This is usually minimal.

Anything that cannot be removed from its packaging, like large bags of dog food is put into secondary packaging, like black bags.

We have a standard domestic side by side fridge freezer which we fill. However that is no where near big enough for three months worth of food. So we added an inexpensive 5.2 cu ft chest freezer which fits nicely in the corner of the salon. We then have small plastic totes where we spread the different meats and frozen food across so that we have a selection to use from each tote as we work our way down the freezer. If we put all chicken, all steak, all pork in one tote each we would be forever lifting totes out to get at what we wanted!

We also slice side vegetables like peppers and onions, freeze and bag them before putting on Sonas.

New this year is our Aero Garden. We use this small hydroponic garden to start off fresh tomatoes and vegetables such as lettuce before transplanting into bigger plastic pots. It works very well. The LED light is very bright so that is stored in the guest cabin with the door closed!

And finally a few logistic items we completed before we head off.

We need to mark the depth on the anchor chain every few years and it was due. We use the RYBWG code every 25 feet.

There were two old CRT television sets in the cabin when we bought Sonas and we had never taken them out. Since they are really deadwood it was time for them to go!

We also cleaned out the flybridge lockers which had been needing a clear out for a while. Paul is a compulsive hoarder when it comes to pieces of rope – he will just not throw any out. So he got brutal and removed all of it. He still couldn’t throw all of it out though, so we still have a tote full put back into the flybridge locker! “It will always come in handy,” says he!

Finally we loaded the two paddleboard onto the fly bridge and tucked them under the table until we get to the Bahamas and inflate them. Then they will be bungeed to the rails.

We are ready for the off!

Some provisioning photos!

Queens Harbour Lighted Boat Parade 2021

Click on the first photo and then on the arrow to the right of each photo to go through them one by one. Or click the arrow at the bottom of the screen to run a slideshow.

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An Afternoon At Fort George River – October 5th 2021.

We had a pause in our master bathroom remodel, and we decided we needed some on-the-water time! Sonas is still at Lamb’s Yacht Center for some TLC, so we decided to take the big RIB out for a spin.

Little Sonas is an AB 15 DLX Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) with a 60 horse power Yamaha engine. We bought her in 2010 after our jet ski had been sunk by one of the children for the umteenth time and we weren’t going to have it rebuilt again! We still wanted something that we could pull a towable and wakeboard with. Plus take us for shrimp and beer to the local waterfront establishments!

Paul had been looking for a replacement RIB for a year or so when this one came up on the local classifieds. An elderly gentleman had bought it with the hope of going fishing, but wasn’t using it. It was two years old and only had 27 hours on the engine. We offered him full asking price as it was in as-new condition and a very good value. We have it on a floating dock on the inside of our dock behind the house.

Sian ran over to Firehouse Subs and grabbed a couple of sandwiches and we packed them in a cooler along with drinks for ourselves and water for Bella. We were off the dock by 12:15 and out through the Queen’s Harbour lock by 12:30.

Bella was. as always, ready to go!

The AICW was nice and flat and we were able to open the throttle up a bit and run along at around 30 knots. As we were in the slow zone approaching Sister’s Creek bridge we were surrounded by a pod of dolphin – Bella’s friends!

As we passed the free dock we found it totally empty. Not something we usually see when we have boats transiting south and then north for the season!

Fort George River was totally empty of people, we were the only ones there. Low tide was at 3:20 so we had plenty of sandbar to play on. We walked as Bella discovered bait fish in the water’s edge and chased them – sometimes getting confused with the splashes her own feet were making- resulting in a lot of spinning!!

An empty Fort George

We had our picnic and walked the sandbar, watching Bella wade up to the haunches in the water, and wondered at how she was able to read the color of the water and avoid the deeper parts of the tide pools.

Back through the lock at 3:00. A lovely afternoon on the water, carefree, and relaxing!

Summer Cruise 2021 – Week 4

Cars in the Golden Ray

Wednesday August 11th Day 23. Savannah to Kilkenny.

We were off the Westin Hotel dock just after 8am and headed down river. We hadn’t gone five minutes when we reached the large dredge on the north side of the river downtown. As we went to pass we saw a mammoth container ship just beyond the dredge being shepherded by three tugs. One on each side and one at the stern. They were maneuvering her around the dredge. We thought it smart to just pull to the south bank and idle. We dodged debris and crab pots in the current until they had the three block long, and ten story high ship straightened out and we could slip past!

Do we go or do we stay?
We stayed to one side!

We made the ICW off the Savannah River within the hour and headed south with pretty much high tide all the way. We passed two beautiful Trumpys on the way and we even went through the notorious Hell Gate at high tide and had 15 feet all the way!

Trumpy Jonathan II
Trumpy America

We were at Kilkenny Marina around 1:15 and tied up easily. This is a pretty rustic marina that we had been to once before. While the amenities are lacking somewhat it is a very handily situated marina half way between Hilton Head/Savannah and St Simons. The owner runs the marina pretty much by himself. He is the son of the original owner who started it in 1961. So it has been family run, and probably not changed much, in 60 years! And it is in a nice quiet location – with no large container ships passing through waking the living daylights out of us like at Savannah!

Beautiful ICW home

We had a table reserved at Market 107 restaurant for seven after which we settled down to catch up on the sleep that was disturbed violently last night in Savannah!

Thursday August 12th Day 23. Kilkenny to St Simons.

We had flat calm conditions this morning and the WX called for 1.6 feet offshore so we exited St Catherine’s sound and headed south toward St Simon’s sound. We had lake-like seas the whole way, though it was hot. We do have the choice to go below and run from the pilot house and turn on the AC but we prefer running from the fly bridge as we can enjoy the views more. We have a large fan which we bring up on hot days and we also plug our Amazon Echo in and enjoy the BBC World Service while we cruise!

Kilkenny sunrise

We again passed the grounded Golden Ray and the salvage equipment. This time however they had a segment cut and lifted. It looks like there are just two more segments left to be cut. A crane was picking our the autos and placing them on a barge. You could see cars stacked on the remaining part of the ship.

Two pieces left to lift
Crane removing the cars

We got to St Simon’s Morningstar Marina mid-afternoon. Walter the dock assistant had us tied up and we were the only boat on the long dock – so no one to hit us this time!

St Simons pelican

Friday August 13th. St Simon’s to Home Dock.

We had considered stopping over at Cumberland Island today and finishing up our cruise tomorrow. However the weather looked like it was turning wet for the weekend plus we had friends coming to stay on Sunday. We we exited St Simons Sound and headed down to Mayport. On our way past St Simons we noticed dozens of people wearing bright shirts patrolling the shoreline with large bags. We think these are people employed to clean up the beaches from any debris off the Golden Ray. It was another uneventful cruise offshore, though the rolling swell did get up somewhat as the day progressed.

Clearing the beach of debris

We entered Mayport to a couple of helicopters and a large plane doing turns and bumps from Naval Station Mayport. We were through the lock and tied up at home dock before three. Another successful summer cruise completed – though we did bring back a badly bruised boat! Sonas is booked into Lambs Yacht Center for Tuesday to start the repairs.

Naval Station Mayport
Heli bumps and turns
Prop cargo plane bumps and turns
Golden Ray
Golden Ray
Car carrier cautiously passing the Golden Ray

Summer Cruise 2021 – Week 3

Ships passing on the Savannah River

Tuesday August 3rd Day 15 – Myrtle Beach to Georgetown, SC.

The Myrtle Beach Yacht Club is in a small lagoon that also house two other marinas. In total there are 365 slips available between the three locations.

Crowded marina lagoon

We were out of our slip and underway begore 8am. As we traveled south on the ICW we realized just how spread out Myrtle Beach was. It was over three hours before we were south of the city. Along the way we encountered many businesses setting up for the tourist day, with party fishing boats, jet ski docks, and even a pirate ship!

The forecast called for serious thunderstorms starting late morning. We checked the Doppler radar on line and could see them moving in. So we initially ran from the fly bridge but prepared the Pilot House for a quick move below when the weather changed. And change it did, the rain absolutely poured down. Given it was a week day there were not to many other boats around but we did crank up the radar just in case.

After about an hour of the driving rain Paul had to use the head. When he went below he found rain had been getting into the master cabin bathroom. We realized it was from the damaged area from the collision in St Simons. Sian went below and dried it up and thankfully the rain eased off and it stopped coming in. As soon as we got tied up in Georgetown South Carolina Paul dried off the damaged area and secured everything with good old duct tape!

We had never been to Georgetown proper before, though we had passed it a number of times on the ICW. So we planned to spend two nights here to be able to have a good look at the town. And even better, after we had tied up and looked to see what there was we found a DOG PARK within a half mile of the marina. We took Bella over there and, due to the heavy rains, both Bella and owners were covered in mud before we were through!

Georgetown sailing school

Wednesday August 4th Day 16. Georgetown SC.

Time for another casual and relaxing day at the dock. The temperatures had also dropped about 15 degrees so a good day to explore this historic fishing village.

We went ashore and had breakfast at Thomas Cafe. The food was excellent and the prices extremely reasonable.

After breakfast we walked over to the Gullah museum as we were interested in hearing all about these people.

The Gullah museum was rather disappointing, in fact very disappointing. We walked into a one room building filled with “nic nacs.” We were greeted by a gentleman, Mr Rodrigues. He sat us in two chairs and began to tell us about the slave trade, going way back to the Portuguese in Africa. And he talked and talked without break and no opportunity to ask questions. Over half an hour later and we still hadn’t heard anything about the Gullahs! We were looking for a way to make our exit. Then another couple walked in and we used their arrival to make our escape. We later learned that he was a well know track star in the 50s. He wasn’t even a local, he had moved from Boston to attend university down south. His wife made beautiful quilts detailing the history of the Gullah people and one showing the story of Michelle Obama, which were hanging on the wall. But we never got to discuss them.

After lunch we decide to try our luck at the Maritime Museum. This small two floor museum tells the story of commercial shipping in the area, plus an exhibit on shipwrecks off the coast. It also had a large section on the battleship South Carolina. All in all an interesting place to visit.

Georgetown theater. We would have like to have seen this but we were there before it started.

This evening we went into town and had a pleasant seafood dinner at the Tuscany Bistro.

Paul’s seafood stew
Sian’s lobster and seafood pasta

Thursday August 5th Day 17 Georgetown to Charleston.

The forecast today was for rain, followed by rain, then more rain. So we ran from the Pilothouse the whole way from Georgetown to Charleston, apart from leaving and arriving at the marinas where Paul used the better visibility of the fly bridge.

We were unlucky in the we were following a falling tide all the way south, in fact getting north of Charleston right at low tide. Since we were running inside on the ICW this called for full focus on the chart plotter, the depth sounders, the Waterway Guide and on the bob423 tracks! At times we had less than two feet beneath the keel. While we would have preferred deeper water we were comfortable in that we knew our running gear was well protected by the keel, plus the bottom for this part of the ICW was soft mud.

We made it all the way to just before exiting the ICW into Charleston harbor when we had a strange experience.

At ICW Mile 462, right after the Ben Sawyer Bridge, our depth sounders matched chart plotter showing more than 10 feet under the keel, giving us 15 feet in total. Then we bumped the bottom! Sonas did not stop but carried on and her sounders showed 10 feet again. There was was a creek to our left emptying into the ICW at the spot so we assumed that it had created a short “ridge shoal” for a couple of feet.

We made the Mega Dock at Charleston City Harbor before the rain started again, and had a quiet night tied up.

Sian preparing lines and fenders for Charleston

Friday August 6th, Day 18 Charleston to Beaufort, South Carolina.

We awoke to a strong line of thunderstorms running through Charleston. So Sian and Bella had to wait for a while to start their walk. We had a bit of a late start and ran from below for all of today’s trip as storms passed overhead all day.

For the second day we were basically following the low tide south which made for some interesting stretches of water. We had two especially skinny stretches where we had lowest depth of 1.3 and 0.6 below the keel.

We safely made Beaufort, pronounced BEEW-Fert, as opposed to North Carolina’s Beaufort, pronounced BOW-Fert! We have never been able to find out why the two pronunciations came about, and asking locals they don’t know either! We did receive a suggestion that one was an English pronunciation and the other French.

We were tied up by 3pm and waited for a gap in the rain to take a walkthrough the town filled with beautiful old southern mansions. When we got back Sian booked us a golf cart tour for tomorrow. Later we walked back into town for dinner at Wren. We were placed at a table beside a wedding rehearsal dinner and Sian had a fine time talking to the bridesmaids – about boob tape of all things!!

Saturday August 7th Day 19. In Beaufort South Carolina.

We spent a very pleasant day in Beaufort. We had been here before by car, but only stopped for lunch and didn’t really get the flavor of this small town of 12,500 people. Today we started off by having breakfast at the “venerable” (Google description) Blackstone Cafe. then headed off for our golf cart tour. Our guide Walker took us through some of the history covering Indian wars, the flags the town has been under, and some of the notable people and movies that have been shot here. The star of the tour though were the homes – amazing stately columned homes from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Some in serious need of upkeep but amazing to see non-the-less.

Later we took Bella for a walk through the town ending up at Kilwins Ice Cream shop for ice cream all around – even for Bella! This evening we grilled sweet Italian sausage on the Magma grill.

Beaufort home
Beaufort home
The hanging tree – used mainly on pirates!

Sunday August 8th Day 20. Beaufort to Harbor Town, Hilton Head.

We had a number of nice short daily runs coming up including only 30 statute miles today, so had a lazy start with breakfast at the dock. We were off by 9:00am running from the fly bridge in glorious sunshine and a light cooling breeze.

We had been having trouble with the chart plotter on the fly bridge. On the last couple of runs it kept turning itself off and on. Paul suspected that our 12v battery may need replaced, though all of the other 12v electronics, including the chart plotter in the pilot house, were working fine. We had the cover off the pilot house windows in case we needed to go back down and drive from there. But inexplicitly it worked fine today! One of those mysteries, though Paul is still going to check out the battery when we get back.

We ran down the Beaufort River past the Marine boot camp on Parris Island, across Port Royal Sound and into Skull Creek at the northern end of Hilton Head. The day remained calm and pleasant all the way to our slip in Harbortown Yacht Basin in Sea Isles Resort. After getting tied up, the covers on and lunch completed, we headed off to the resort’s pool for an hour. This evening we had dinner at the CQ restaurant right by the marina.

Tied up in Harbortown, Hilton Head.

Monday August 9th Day 21. Hilton Head to Savannah.

The pump out station at Harbortown was out of order and it has been over two weeks since we had the holding tank emptied. Our next stop at the Westin Resort in downtown Savannah does not have a pump out facility. So today we decided to exit Calibogue Sound on our way to Savannah and go outside the three mile limit to deal with that.

On the way back into Tybee Roads we stayed off the channel as a large Maersk container ship was heading in. As we worked our way up the Savannah River and number of huge container ships came out, we kept well over to the red side of the channel as they passed. One was an Evergreen vessel – but the river remained unblocked (I know, naughty!)

The Ever Lyric
Playing off the bow of the ship

We approached the Westin Resort dock and radioed a number of times with no response. Paul called the hotel direct and tried to raise them but couldn’t find a path through the phone system to a person. He finally tried the concierge desk and got a person on the line who told us he would send someone right down. But no one showed. We did not want Sian to step off and tie up as the current was rushing through and it was a high step down to the dock. Paul finally laid on the horn – ours is quite loud, and a young man appeared. While he was friendly and helpful he had no clue at all about tying a boat up or connecting to the power. We got it all worked out and were tied up by 1:00pm.

Tied up at the Westin Savannah

We quickly got into our swimmers and headed up to the large hotel pool for a cooling swim, a couple of cocktails and a shared side of fries! After walking Bella we had a chicken curry on board and drinks in the cooling air of the cockpit while watching the boat traffic on the river. A couple of pairs of dolphins came past which had Bella frantic!

Tuesday August 10th Day 22. Savannah.

We had booked a walking tour of Savannah this morning. So we caught the 9:10 ferry right by the Westin and took the 2 minute crossing to The Waving Girl Landing. We then grabbed a coffee at Debi’s Deli before meeting our tour at Warren Park. This was a History and Civil War tour and was very interesting. It was supposed to run for an hour and a half but took over two hours. We had lunch in town before heading back to Sonas for another swim in the hotel pool and a well deserved nap!

The Waving Girl Statue

This evening we had tried to reserve a table at The Old Pink House but found it was “promised” for weeks ahead, So we booked a table at the French cuisine Circa 1875 instead and had a fabulous meal.

That night, at around 1:30am, we were awoken by loud engine noises and a huge wake hitting Sonas. Paul quickly looked out our cabin window to find that two huge container ships were passing each other right by us – and the one nearest to us was being guided by tugs. It took us quite a while to get back to sleep after that!

Leaving Georgetown in flat calm
Kissing clouds!
Bella making sure I stay on track!
Fort Jackson on the Savannah River
Dredge downtown Savannah, preparing for the larger Panama Canal ships
Georgia Belle
First church founded by freed slaves
Bella after a hard day’s cruising
Boarding the ferry to downtown Savanna

Summer Cruise 2021 – Week 2

Anchored in Winyah Bay

Tuesday July 28th Day 8 – Charleston.

Our second day in Charleston started off stormy and pretty much stayed that way the whole day! We completed a couple of chores and then took the marina courtesy shuttle into town. We had lunch at the Brown Dog Deli before visiting the Slave Market Museum. We had been once before about 7 years ago but wanted to go again as a refresher. This museum focuses not on the international slave trade but on domestic (internal) slavery. We were a bit startled by one of the displays that detailed the slave ship Lawrance. Unique in that it is the exact spelling of our last name – with the second “a” instead of “e”.

Afterwards we walked over to the Charleston Market and bought a couple of ice creams at Kilwins before getting an Uber back to the marina. We went back into town this evening an had an excellent meal at Hank’s Seafood Restaurant – in fact we reckon it was the best meal of the trip so far.

Wednesday July 29th Day 9 – Charleston to Winyah Bay.

We awoke to another stormy day but the forecast called for it to be less so north of Charleston. So we waited for a couple of rain storms to pass through then went north through the inlet running from the pilot house. We watched as storm after storm hit Charleston behind us, but we stayed ahead of them. It was a choppy sea though, with sharp swells.

Running ahead of the storms

At lunchtime Sian went below to prepare lunch. Just as she was coming back up the steps from the galley a swell hit us and Sian was tossed back into the galley, hitting the countertop on the way down. She was holding the handrail at the time but the swell was so sharp that she couldn’t hold on. She ended up with a nice bruise on her thigh and sore hand and forearm.

The seas did calm somewhat an hour before entered Winyah Bay inlet. We had an easy entry and anchored beneath the Georgetown lighthouse. We took Bella for an off-leash walk on the long soft sand beach.

Winyah Bay

Thursday July 29th Day 10- Winyah Bay to Little River.

We had an excellent and very quiet night at anchor. It was a short run today so Sian took Bella to the beach again for an hour. Bella had a lovely time running free ahead of her on the shore. We then headed back out the inlet and had a excellent run north to Little River inlet on a calm Atlantic Ocean – totally different from yesterday.

Calm Atlantic

We tried booking a slip at Ocean Isle Marina and Yacht Club but they told us that sands blown in from recent storms had reduced their dockside depth to four feet at low tide, and we need a minimum of six. So we back tracked for two miles on the ICW and tied up on the face dock at Cricket Cove marina. We noticed plenty of no wake signs, but people were still blowing past at speed. A large number of jet ski groups flew past relentlessly. Paul asked the dockmaster about it and was told that the signs were unofficial! It was a rocky evening tied up to the face dock and Bella was worried by the movement of the boat. We went up to Snooky’s restaurant and had excellent shrimp and cocktails, then later return for a very nice dinner. Thankfully traffic died down and it was a quiet night at the dock.

Jet ski squads
Tour boat

Friday July 30th Day 11 – Little River to Bald Head Island.

We had another short run today. We wanted to stop at Bald Head Island and see our cruising friend Betty Robinson. Offshore conditions were not forecast to be comfortable so we ran up the ICW. Paul and Theresa on Soulmate (folks we met in Charleston) had emailed us to say they were at Safe Harbor Marina in Southport and we passed them and their beautiful sailing cat on the way. They came out to wave as we passed. We wanted to enter Bald Head Island marina at slack tide as their entrance channel could be difficult in a strong current. We were ahead of schedule so we stopped at St James Plantation Marina for fuel. As we exited the ICW into the Cape Fear River we found heavy seas running from the inlet. In fact when we called the marina to say we were nearing they warned us that conditions were “a little salty”. However we got in OK. Our friend Betty picked us up in her golf cart and took us to her beautiful home perched on the sand dunes of the island, and cooked us a wonderful dinner finished off with homemade ice cream.

Near real stature overlooking the Myrtle Beach marina
Soulmate at Southport Marina

Saturday July 31st Day 12 – Bald Head Island to Wrightsville Beach.

We had another short run of just three hours to the Wrightsville Beach Marina. We wanted to visit with our cruising friends the McCarleys who live in Rayleigh but keep their Hatteras 63 in Wrightsville Beach. They were going to come stay on their boat for the weekend and meet us. Given that it was a summer Saturday the waterways were extremely busy and we were looking forward to getting off the water by lunchtime! After we tied up Suzie McCarley picked us up and took us over to the supermarket for fresh veggies and fruit. We then joined John and Suzie on their 63 foot Hatteras fora wonderful dinner, completed with peach pie.

A Carolina Beach Saturday
He blew past us as well
No, no, no, no!
Approaching the marina

Sunday August 1st Day 13 – At Wrightsville Beach.

We awoke to an email from Paul and Theresa on Soulmate saying they were here in Wrightsville Beach. We went out to our cockpit and saw that they were tied up directly across he ICW from us at the Bridge Keeper Marina! We called across to them as they were leaving later in the morning. We had a relaxing day in Wrightsville Beach. After Sian took Bella for her walk at the local park we walked over to the Gulfstream restaurant right by the marina for breakfast. Then Sian did a couple of loads of laundry while Paul filled the fresh water tanks.

Sian walked the dock and talked to the couple on the 80 foot Marlow “Scott Free” tied up in front of us while Bella stood on our foredeck and kept an eye on their dog!

Dockhands at work!

John and Suzie joined us for a while in the afternoon and then we went up to the Bluewater Grill for dinner. On the way we passed the beautiful 53 foot Selene Slip Away in the marina and chatted with the owners who had just bought her and were on their way to cruise the Chesapeake.

The McCarleys on board

Monday August 2nd Day 14 – Wrightsville Beach to Myrtle Beach.

Another shortish day’s cruise today (we are getting to like the idea of shorter days!). It was amazing the difference between Saturday and Monday regarding the number of boats on the water! The temperature had dropped as well from the 90s to the 80s! We had an uneventful pleasant run through Carolina Beach, the Cape Fear river into the ICW at Southport. We were tied up at our slip at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club by 3pm. We went up to Clark’s Restaurant for dinner overlooking the marina and Sonas.

Entrance to Myrtle Beach Yacht Club

Some more photos from week 2;

Sad wreck
Bridge support
You’re never too old!
Looooooong docks
More sad wrecks
Interesting name for an eatery
Sunny Point army dock – the largest munitions depot in the nation
Red clay in Snows Cut
Dedicated fishermen
Three pelicans
Cape Fear River Ferry
A nest big enough for a family!
Little River Swing Bridge
Pointing the way south
Entering Rock Pile
Rocks!
Mineral rich ICW waters
Pirate ship!
Sticky Winyah Bay sand
Current ripping through Winyah Bay
Old Baldy light, Bald Head Island
Sian’s home made crab dip!
Clarks restaurant at Myrtle Beach Yacht Club
Running in the rain

Summer Cruise 2021 – Week 1

Georgetown Lighthouse

We are having our master bath demolished back to the walls and totally remodeled. Our “guy” gave us a start date of August 19th. Since it was only early July we thought we could squeeze in a three or four week cruise – to somewhere!

We had gone south through Florida and the Keys in the spring, and since it was summer and heading north out of Florida seemed like a good idea, we decided to turn left and head north for as long a time allowed before heading back! No schedule, just go!

Tuesday July 20th Day 1 – Home to Cumberland Island.

Due to other plans we couldn’t get away from home dock until after two so we were aiming for our favorite anchorage at Cumberland Island today. Afternoon thunderstorms were forecast so we used the AICW rather than running offshore. We didn’t want to be tallest thing out there if a storm hit! We beat the storms to the anchorage and quickly launched the dinghy so Sian could take Bella ashore. Unfortunately the heavens opened with an almighty downpour when she was on her way back and both got drenched. An hour later the storms had passed through and we had a wonderful calm night at anchor.

Trying to beat the rain
And didn’t!

Wednesday July 21st Day 2. Cumberland to St Simons.

The marine forecast was for 1.5 – 2 foot seas all week, plus we had an outgoing tide to push us out the St Mary’s inlet so went outside to St Simons. it was a very enjoyable run offshore. We passed the Golden Ray, about half of it still there two years after it capsized, and tied up on the face dock at Morningstar Marina. Marina attendant Walter helped us load up with a couple of hundred gallons of diesel.

Golden Ray
Golden Ray

Paul chatted with the owner of the Kady Krogen 48 tied up behind us, stern to stern. He had bought the boat a month ago in Tennessee having moved up from a sailboat. They were leaving soon to run offshore to Beaufort, North Carolina. We then went down below for a nap when we felt a slight bump. We got up just as there was an almighty crash. Paul opened the starboard side pilot house door to find a bow and anchor pointing at his chest.

The KK had reversed out of his berth, kissed Sonas on the way past our stern, over corrected and plowed into our starboard side right by the pilothouse. He pulled away and got tied up further down the dock. He came onboard and apologized and gave us his personal and insurance information. The damage unfortunately is extensive, though not in a location which would stop us from completing our cruise. We contacted our yard back in Jacksonville and arranged to have her repaired soon after we get back.

Sonas damage
Sonas damage
Sonas damage

Walking down the dock we saw another trawler called Sonas! This is only the second other boat with our name we have come across after seeing a sailboat with the name in the Chesapeake. This evening we had dinner booked at Southern Kitchen at the marina. The place was packed with tourists and we found a number of menu items sold out. We generally found the menu and service was not as great as previous visits when we were more out of high season.

Thursday July 22nd Day 3. St Simons to Hilton Head.

The offshore weather was holding so we went outside again today. This was likely to be our longest run of the cruise if all goes to plan. Some of this was the distance offshore inlet-to-inlet, but also the long run once inside Tybee Roads, crossing into Calibogue Sound and up to our marina for the next two nights, which would take another 90 minutes. We untied at 7am and were tied up at Shelter Cover Marina by four.

St Simons sunrise

As we got off Sapelo and St Catherine’s Sound a line of fast moving strong thunderstorms developed along the coast and started moving offshore towards us. We had one or two pass in front of us and a couple behind us so we thought we were going to get lucky, then one hit us square on, with downpours and lightning. We were in it for only 30 minutes but it felt a lot longer!

Running ahead of the storms

As we approached our turn into Tybee Roads we saw a massive thunderstorm to the north of us, with lots of rolling black clouds and forked lightning. The CG came on and put a Pan Pan out warning boating of the dangerous storms that the weather services had indicated could contain waterspouts! That all boaters should seek shelter immediately. Thankfully it was passing north of our inlet so wouldn’t affect us.

After we had tied up at Shelter Cove we took Bella for a walk and were stopped by the gentleman in the boat two slips in. “So you were the boat that got hit in St Simon’s!” He has a friend who keeps his boat at St Simons who had told him of the incident plus our boat name. Bad news sure travels fast!

Tourist time in Hilton Head!

Since we were running a long day today Sian had prepared a creamy tarragon chicken dinner in the slow cooker and it was perfect by the time we arrived.

Friday July 23rd Day 4. At Hilton Head.

We had a relaxing day at Shelter Cover. We took Bella for a walk over to the Kroger supermarket for a few things. In the evening we walked over to Scott’s Fish Market for dinner, eating outside on the deck overlooking the marina. We had also looked at next days trip to Charleston and decided we didn’t want to do another long day offshore. So we looked to split that run in two. Beaufort was too close at only three hours away, so we chose Dataw Island Marina as our next stop. We called Charleston City Marina and pushed our reservation back a day, and booked into Dataw Island. Meaning we would be running inside for the next two days.

Saturday July 24th Day 5. Hilton Head to Dataw.

We followed the Haig Point IV ferry boat out of our marina and saw him take a shortcut through a gap in Broad Creek. If we could also do that it would save is 45 minutes! So Paul radioed the captain and asked him about the cut and was informed that there was plenty of water. We got permission to follow the ferry across!

Ferry

We had a relaxing five hour run today through some beautiful low country. Since it was a Saturday there were quite a number of smaller boats out, especially around Beaufort. As we passed through Beaufort we saw numerous flags along the waterfront and later learned that there was a festival on that draws in seven thousand visitors to the small town.

Sloping dock access!
Beaufort shrimper
Parris Island Marine Camp
“We Make Marines” water tower

The Dataw Island Marina on the Morgan River is attached to a gated residential community of 900 houses. The marina was totally destroyed by Hurricane Matthew and the previous owners refused to clear it up or rebuild. So the community purchased the rights to the marina, along with the dry stack and boat fork lift. They have only built one long dock so far, with plans to add. They had space for Sonas right at the end of the dock, with about 13 feet of her bow sticking over the end of the dock! Chad the dockmaster was excellent and we chatted to many of the residents who kept their boats on the dock. That evening we went for dinner at the Morgan River Grill.

View from Morgan River restaurant
Sunset over Dataw Marina

Sunday July 25th Day 6. Dataw to Charleston inside.

Today’s run was only five and a half hours so we took our time leaving Dataw. We ran north along the AICW with good water all the way. It was very pleasant sailing – until we got to Elliot Cut that links the Stono and Ashley rivers. There were dozens of boats running the cut and the current was fierce on our stern. There were two sail boats and a sports fisherman waiting for the Wappoo bridge and the current was pushing us down on top of them even though we had the engines in idle.

Waiting for the Wappoo Bridge

After everyone passed the bridge we had to apologize to the two sail boats as we had to slip past them. The current was grabbing our broad stern and unless we went to neutral we were quickly catching the sailboats! They understood and waved us by. We were tied up at the Safe Harbor Charleston City Dock by 1:30.

Charleston harbor racing

Jacksonville neighbors John and Angela on Joie de Vivre were spending a month in Charleston and invited us over for cocktails before we headed off to Magnolias where we had a 6:30 reservation.

Monday July 27th Day 7. Charleston.

Monday brought housekeeping! Sian vacuumed and polished the interior while Paul laid new bilge pads, installed a new fresh water filter and completed some other engine room chores. He also got after the galley faucet which had decided to come loose!

This evening we had John and Angela on board for a cookout/in. Steaks, sweetcorn and green beans. With Angela’s home made dip as an appetizer.

Week one is in the books!

Fort Sumpter
Container ship entering Charleston

Summer Daytona Trip

Freedom coming through the Bridge of Lion, St Augustine

We were getting ready for a trip to Montana when our boating neighbor wondered if we couldn’t squeeze in a trip with them and other neighbors to Daytona before we went west. We looked at the calendar and said, “heck, why not!”

Of the five boats going we were, of course always, the slowest! They were leaving Tuesday and running directly to Daytona, then leaving Friday and running all the way back. The crew on Sonas needed to leave Monday, overnight somewhere and meet up Tuesday, and then leave a day early Thursday and get back at the same time Friday!

So off we set Monday morning, down the AICW, through St Augustine to Palm Coast Marina. This usually isn’t a hardship for us as we love the marina, more so for the European Village and it’s restaurants nearby – especially the Indian restaurant. However every restaurant was closed on a Monday except one – the Red Koi. We had never eaten there before but decided to try it. It is a Hibachi restaurant and the food was very good and reasonably priced!

Running ahead of a front.

Next day, Tuesday, we made the short three hour run south and got to Halifax Harbor Marina in Daytona just after lunch. That evening, as we do on the first night at the dock on every cruise with other boaters, we had a docktail. This time on the back of Glen and Debbie Ross’s Prestige.

Docktail
Docktail

Next day we walked to Chef Pappa’s Cafe for an excellent lunch and then in the evening we had a special treat. The Daytona Tortugas (Cincinnati Red affiliate) play in Jackie Robinson Ballpark, known as The Jack, which is right next to Halifax Harbor Marina. Lakeland Flying Tigers (Detroit Tigers) were in town for a series so we bought tickets to the game. Which was also “The Gut Buster” – $17 for the entrance and all you could eat burgers, dogs, and pizza! The Tortugas won 5-0. I must say the group were very well behaved and only had one round of burgers – plus a couple of beers of course!

Tortugas V. Flying Tigers
Well behaved fans!

Come Thursday the other boats were staying for another night but Sonas was starting the trip back. We can make Daytona to home dock in one day but it is at least a nine hour cruise, so we chose to break it up. This time we had a slip reserved at Hammock Beach Marina. This 209 slip marina is part of the Hammock Beach Resort, which is a wonderful facility in Palm Coast. We had been there a number of times before. https://www.hammockbeach.com/

The marina is right on the ICW and there is a pool and Lures tapas bar right there. A free shuttle take you up to the main resort where there are four restaurants, a lazy river, pools and a wonderful Atlantic beach. We took the shuttle up to the resort and ate at the Atlantic Grill overlooking the ocean – and overlooking a wedding that was taking place right outside the restaurant!

Sian nosing in on the wedding!

Early next morning we made the six hour run through St Augustine and back to home port in Queens Harbour. Two of our fellow cruising boats coming up from Daytona caught up with us just south of home!

Some more photos:

DeFever Inshallah heading north
Cruising buddy Passage leaving Halifax Harbor Marina
Halifax River Girl’s crew getting ready.
Flagler Bridge Marina – still under litigation and still sitting empty.
The anchorage at the Cement Plant is still open.
Friday afternoon fishing the flats
Beautiful classical home on the ICW south of St Augustine
Liveaboard broken away and aground
Downtown St Augustine and Municipal Marina
Notice the new concrete piles where the old Santa Maria restaurant used to be – a new restaurant being built!
Another derelict boat
St Augustine Lighthouse archaeological boat
Palm Valley kayakers
Mayport Helo running the ICW south

Twice To Cumberland Island Again!

Our daughter and her boyfriend came from Montana for a week so we went up to Cumberland Island for a couple of days during the last week of April. Then during the last week of May we went back up for a few days to meet up with some boater friends who had cruised down from Wrightsville Beach. This was already our third and fourth trip there in 2021!

While there we met with a group of about 20 teens and some parents from a neighborhood in Atlanta. They come to the island every year after school lets out. They have been dong this since 2009.

Our friends are also members of the DeFever owners club, and while there another DeFever came in, River Girl. We invited everyone over to Sonas for dinner on Friday evening.

We headed back home on Saturday morning to try and avoid the Memorial Weekend madness, the sandbars were already jam packed!

Some photos.

Waiting in the ICW to let St Johns River traffic pass
Busy BAE shipyard
Doing the noisy tourist thing!
Cumberland Island wild horses
Gong to walk the island – a bit choppy so PFDs on!
Sunset over Kings Bay
This little fella turned his back on us!
Warship 82 coming into Mayport Naval Base
Warship 82 – The USS Lassen. An Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer
Back from the morning walk
Kings Bay Submarine Base supply ship
DeFever cruisers for dinner
Kids having fun!
The McCarleys on Water Colors
A first for us – a mega yacht anchored off Fernandina
Because the marina was full of other big yachts!
Counting the bird nests
The Memorial Day madness on Fort George River
Too many to count
And more coming!

Cumberland Island (AGAIN!) April 2021.

We got back from our six week Spring cruise to the Keys and Dry Tortugas on March 30th. It took a couple of days to tidy up Sonas and give her a wash. Then we sat at home for a week, after which we looked at each other and asked “want to go again?”

So we did! We decided to go up to one of our favorite anchorages at Cumberland Island. The weather looked favorable for a four day, three night trip.

On Thursday April 8th we left home dock around ten in the morning and locked out of the lagoon. The WX ( marine weather forecast) called for seas less than two feet offshore so we aimed for the mouth of the St Johns at Mayport. The current was ripping out so we were pushed along at nearly twelve knots!

Speeding!

We passed Mayport Naval Station and made the turn northwards towards the St Mary’s Entrance into Cumberland Sound. It just so happens that the direct route takes us outside the three mile limit for a half hour so that we can clear our holding tank.

Coast Guard working on a buoy
Mayport shrimp fleet

As we made the channel into Cumberland Sound it looked busy. We saw a navy helicopter doing low level exercises in the channel as well as dozens of small boats fishing the entrance. Inside the sound we saw five Coast Guard small boats doing chase exercises.

Chopper exercises
Fishing off Fernandina
CG chase exercises

We were surprised at how many boats were in the Cumberland Island anchorage. Then realized that we usually cruised the Bahamas for three months in the spring so had never anchored here at this time of the year. So these were probably boats on the move south to the Islands or Florida Keys or back north! (We had come up March and April last year but that was during the early days of COVID when boats were not moving along the eastern seaboard as much).

We spent a very relaxing two nights at the anchorage, walking the island, talking to the visitors, and doing some lights chores on board – like cleaning up the stainless rails, and putting another coat of varnish on the Portuguese bridge cap rail.

We had planned on staying a third night but the WX had worsened, so on Saturday morning we headed back down the ICW towards home. We were trying to beat a front that was coming in with lots of thunder and rain. It started blowing, with gusts to 36 knots.

Windy!

We had just made the channel into the lagoon when the heavens opened and we both got soaked along with Cameron who was on the lock that afternoon!

Incoming weather!

However it was worth it to spend another couple of days and nights on board!

Some other photos.

St Johns River ferry
Huge Mayport ramps
Rebuilding the breakwaters at Naval Station Mayport
Calm water at the mouth of the St John’s River
Tractor delivering the pilot to incoming warship
Placid Atlantic waters off Amelia Island
One of the many turtles we saw en route
ICW waters mixing with the ocean!
Morning Bella walk
ICW Cruise Ship Independence passing by the anchorage
Crossing Cumberland Sound in a blow
Cumberland wild horses
Skinny approach to Amelia Yacht Basin at low tide
Damage to Sister’s Creek bridge fender

Spring Cruise 2021 – Week 6

Foggy Titusville

Day 35. Sunday March 28.

Our plan for the final few days of our spring cruise was to run from Titusville City Marina to Halifax Harbor Marina in Daytona, to Camachee Cove Marina in St Augustine, and then to home dock.

We left Titusville once some the morning fog had lifted getting into Halifax Harbor early afternoon. We took the opportunity to give Sonas a spritz to get rid of the salt on the hull. Afterwards, as we were sitting in the cockpit enjoying a cocktail we saw a nice blue hulled Sabre 48 come into the fuel dock across the way from us. We thought it looked familiar but couldn’t read the boat name as it was obscured by the dinghy. We looked to see if there were a couple of black labs on board – and up popped two black heads. It was Lucky Dogs out of our neighborhood!

Lucky Dogs

After they had fueled up the marina had them tie up right behind us on the face dock and Gary and Carol came on board for a drink. They were on their way to the Keys for a couple of weeks! We had a table booked at the Charthouse restaurant right beside the marina so we called them and changed the reservation to a party of four. We had an excellent dinner with great company.

Day 36. Monday March 29.

We had an easy run from Daytona To Camachee Cove. On the way we passed the carcasses of two dead manatees by the side of the ICW in Ormond Beach. The previous day, Sunday, had been one of the first good days of the year and there were hundreds of boats out. We guessed someone had been careless. We called the FWC and reported the deaths and they told us that they would send a team out to investigate.

Dead manatee
Second dead manatee

We had dinner this evening at the Kingfish Grill at the marina.

Day 37. Tuesday March 30.

We left Camachee Cove mid morning and we were tied up at our home dock by two pm. 37 days in all. It didn’t take long to get all of the provisions and clothing off Sonas. In fact it wasn’t long before we decided to head on out again for a few days anchored up at Cumberland Island the following week!

The next day we booked Sian’s first COVID 19 vaccine shot in preparation for her trip to Montana late April!

Salty looking trawler moored at Titusville
What its all about!
Drafting for exercise!
White pelicans
Someone needs to move over!!
Company onboard
Sportsfishermen in Camachee Cove.

Spring Cruise 2021 – Week 5

Race Start!

Day 29. Sunday March 21.

We spent the day in Marlin Bay, Marathon just chillaxing, doing some house cleaning, laundry, and relaxing, before heading home. This was also because we have a really bad boating habit. Whenever we make the turn for home, be it five days away in Hilton Head, or 14 days away in the Far Bahamas, we are like the horse bolting for the barn door. We cruise long days and look to get home as fast as we can. And then when we finally get home we are exhausted from the trip back, even though we may have been relaxing for three months in the islands!!

And we always say we have to change this and make the trip back part of the enjoyable journey.

We were determined not to do it his time, however… once we got a call saying we were eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, we were back in the “get home quick” mode! So we are going to return to Jacksonville the way we came, up the east coast rather than to Cape Sable, Naples and spending some time in Captiva, before heading across Lake Okeechobee to home.

There is one issue with Marlin Bay Marina, any west wind brings in large amounts of sea grass. Sonas was surrounded by grass while there.

Sea grass

Day 30. Monday March 22.

We ran from Marathon to Gilbert’s Marina and Resort. The resort had been described as rustic in cruising guide comments, however we found it great. Good docks, and a massive Tiki hut with three large bars. They assigned us a T-Head position right in front of the Tiki hut so we had quite the audience when docking! We did have some REAL shallow water to navigates on our way – getting down to 0.8 of a foot under the keel at one stage!

0.8 feet beneath the keel!

Day 31. Tuesday March 23.

Today we would have liked to run from Gilbert’s to somewhere north of Miami. However all of the marinas were full, with no dockage for a transient. We suspect because of the constant bad weather off shore, meaning those boats preparing to cross to the Bahamas had to hunker down. So we decided to have a short day and run as far as No Name and anchor outside so that we could run the generator tonight if it got too hot in the cabin.

No Name outside anchorage

We also booked a marina at Boynton Beach for tomorrow, which would take us half way between Fort Lauderdale and Lake Worth. This evening Paul mapped out the low bridges we would have to transit to get to Boynton Beach and decided that there was no way we could make it in one day. So we will call tomorrow and make other plans.

Day 32. Wednesday March 24.

First thing this morning we called Pier 66 marina and got a slip assignment, so cancelled our booking at Boynton Beach. As we travelled through Miami we listened to a distress call (DSC from another boat). This was a dive boat with divers down, The divers were drifting away on the current and the boat would not start to go retrieve them. We thought that the boat captain didn’t seem to be in control of things. Tow Boat US got there and relayed to CG that the boat owner was one of the divers and the person on the radio did not know the boat so couldn’t start it to go after the divers. Tow Boat recovered the divers and the owner later got on the radio and said everything was fine and all were safe. So actually the person left in charge did really well!

As we transited downtown Miami we saw a really strange sight, a man with a sea scooter, his head barely above water, crossing the main channel! We thought this was just downright crazy!

In the busy channel!

Later we passed two adult manatees and a baby. We moved out of the way and also called an oncoming boat to be mindful.

Manatee family

Pier 66 Marina was completely full of mega yachts – power and sail. The hotel and pool areas are being rebuilt but there were still plenty of people (and dogs) around.

Day 33. Thursday March 25

Due to the number of low bridges between Fort Lauderdale and Lake Worth we preferred to do this part of the journey on the outside. The weather applications that we use were calling for three foot seas on top of two foot swells. We decided that it would be fine and prepared for sea*. The inlet was more than lumpy, but once outside and headed north it subsided somewhat. On the way out of the channel we saw a ship shipping ships! A boat transport ship either loading or unloading yachts.

Because the seas were on our stern quarter the auto pilot was struggling to keep the boat from broaching. After a couple of nasty broaches Sian “suggested” to Paul that he take the helm and steer manually. After which we were much more comfortable. We safely got into Lake Worth and our slip at Riviera Beach City Marina. As we turned into the fairway a pilot boat coming right at us, clearly not going to slow down or stop! He may have dome a securite call on channel 16 prior to his departure but we were on the marina’s working channel 11. We now have a new process where we have the handheld radio at the helm on channel 16 so we can monitor both a marina’s working channel and 16 in future.

*“Prepare for sea”, he said. Thought you might be interested in what that actually entails.

Starting from the cabins, lock the windows! Lumpy seas do not need to be coming in the portholes! Put all toiletries away or down on the floor. Close the toilet lid, so the towels don’t jump off the racks and end up in the bowl (ask me how I know….)

In the galley prepare a cooler with food and drinks to get through the rough seas. Once things are rolling it isn’t wise to open the fridge under any circumstances! Not heading far off shore (i.e. crossing the stream) I admit to being sloppy and not even bringing a cooler this trip. Fortunately the run was not expected to be too long so we did without. Check all cupboard doors are latched and clamp the fridge-freezer shut. We have door clips on the fridge but they aren’t always able to stay closed under rough conditions (again ask me how I know, I may also tell you how to get red wine stains out of the rug!) So we also add a C-Clamp to the doors).

The crew, that is me, also needs to make sure that I have put the restraining clips on the anchor chains. The windlass has pawls to stop the chains running out but in rough seas the chain could jump off the gypsy, and the last thing we need is three hundred, or even six hundred, feet of chain dropping into the ocean while underway!!

In the salon take anything that may travel, like lamps or pictures not secured with Velcro and tuck them in somewhere they cannot move. Finally get yourself into a chair and stay put! Inevitably Paul is delighted with the capability of the boat. The boat can handle much more than this crew member!

Day 33. Friday March 26.

Riviera Beach had put us in a slip right on the inside of the marina, in fact the second slip from the bulkhead. So it was a pretty tight exit in the morning. Paul was focused on getting out, while in the background the Coast Guard Station Miami was working a distress call.

After we exited the marina and headed north Paul was able to listen better to what was happening. A boater had got his anchor line wrapped around his prop and was heading for the rocks. He was giving his coordinates to the coast guard but they weren’t responding.

Paul broke into the conversation and asked the coast guard if they were hearing him, they were not. He relayed the coordinates. The boater was offshore parallel with where we were in the ICW, so we had clear communications. The boater had previously said he was just north of Boyton Inlet, once we communicated the accurate coordinates the coast guard realized he was just north of the Lake Worth Inlet instead. Just after we relayed the coordinates a coast guard small boat came roaring past us, lights flashing. We told the boater that he was on his way. Unfortunately by that time he was on the rocks, although we both commented how calm he sounded.

We were soon out of radio range so unfortunately we never heard the result of the event. We do know the name of the boat, Escappe so may try and look it up over the next few days.

We cruised from Lake Worth to Vero Beach without incident. The only things of note where a stray dredge pipe floating across half of the ICW north of Jupiter Inlet that we made the dredge aware of, and a sailing regatta with about forty boats in Jensen Beach.

We also called a boating friend of ours back in our neighborhood who turned 80 today and sang Happy Birthday to him. He was taking his family out to a local restaurant for lunch on his boat. We surely hope we are also boating into our eighties!

Once at Vero Beach City Marina we docked at the fuel dock to take on some diesel and pump out prior to backing into our slip. We have family coming in soon after we get back to Jacksonville and wanted to have the boat fueled and ready as they had requested a Sonas trip!

Beautiful Nordhavn at Vero Beach

Day 34. Saturday March 27.

The mornings were getting light earlier so Bella had her romp in the Vero Beach dog park and we were off the dock at 7:50! We had a very uneventful (that is no Coast Guard distresses to listen into or be part of!!) run north towards Cocoa. We had planned to tie up at the free dock there or, if there wasn’t room, anchor off as we had done on the way down. However we made great time and approached Cocoa at 1:30, much to early to stop. So we called Titusville City Marina and managed to get a transient slip. That would give us a nearly two hour start on tomorrow’s run to Daytona!

Bella and a Vero Beach squirrel meet!

On the way we passed the DeFever Jusnic northbound and DeFever Sea Breeze southbound. Both were DeFever Cruisers Club members so we chatted for a while over the radio.

As we passed the free dock we noticed three boats tied up. They were taking up all of the dock, and if they had snugged up a bit there would be room for two more decent sized boats. In fact one of the boats was a center console which was clearly not overnighting – there are a dozen or so slips for day boats just beside the overnight dock.

We arrived in Titusville around 3:30 and found a nice park right at the marina. The Titusville Marina Park has a small moto-cross field, a skate park, AND a dog park!

Week five was now in the books!

All photos in the gallery below, you can click on them one by one or run a slideshow.

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Spring Cruise 2021 – Week 4

Day 22. Sunday March 14.

We had been waiting for a break in the weather that would allow us to run outside and use Hawk’s Channel from Marathon to Key West. Using the inside route through Florida Bay would have meant running a longer more northerly route in very shallow waters. Sunday gave us the perfect window to get outside and set course for our next stop in Key West – actually Stock Island.

We were out of the marina by 9am (really 8am since the clocks had sprung forward with US daylight savings time). We went under the span for Seven Mile Bridge and set a waypoint for our entry into Stock island Marina.

Approaching Seven Mile Bridge

We encountered a lot of seagrass along the way. We tried to avoid the thickest parts since we didn’t want to risk sucking any up into our raw water strainers. We had a glorious run west through green and then royal blue waters.

Sea grass

As we entered the marina we requested a fuel stop. They said that we would have to nose in front of the mega yacht Huntress that was tied up to the dock. When we got there and found that the 248 foot yacht left just about enough room for us plus a foot, we declined and said we would get the fuel on our departure! (We later looked at the charter rates for Huntress to find that it was $995,000 per week after expenses!).

We navigated the very skinny marina entrance and fairways into our slip at D8. As we were backing in Sian communicated to Paul over the headsets that we were very close to the sports fisherman in the next slip, and she couldn’t understand why he kept getting closer to it as we backed in! It was only after we had tied up and were closing everything down that we realized that we had a sports fisherman on both sides of us and Paul happened to be facing the one that Sian was not talking about as she guided us in!! We will need to hone our communications skills a bit!

Our washing machine broke!! Sian put a wash in and half way through it stopped and CANCEL came up on the screen. She tried a couple of times with no luck. One symptom was that the water was not draining. Paul dug out the manual (not something he often does mind you!) and could not see anything for a CANCEL message in the troubleshooting section. So he looked at the part covering water not draining. One suggestion was to take a small cover off and uncap a small hose which would let the water drain. We did that, and then Paul tred to remove the drain filter to see if that was blocked, and it wouldn’t slide out. One big tug later out it came – along with a cotton face mask that had somehow found its way in there. Once that was removed and the drain reassembled, the machine ran fine! We knew we had lost a mask in a previous wash and couldn’t for the life of us figure out where it had gone!

Day 23 and 24. Monday, Tuesday March 15 and 16.

Stock island Marina is top class. There is a boutique hotel with restaurants and an oyster bar. Two swimming pools and a DOG PARK!!!They also have a hourly shuttle service to downtown Key West – which we decided to avoid given COVID.

Some cruising friends had recommended El Siboney Cuban restaurant, so we went there for dinner on Monday evening. Each evening we took a glass of wine down to the dog park and chatted to the other owners as the dogs played. On Tuesday we floated in one of the pools, ordered drinks from the bar, and had dinner at the Oyster Bar.

At El Siboney
Enjoying the Stock Island Marina pool

We had seen a DeFever 49 called Trust Me further along the dock from us so Paul looked it up on the DeFever Owners web site to see if they were members, and they were. We stopped by for a short chat with Mike and Jan Winkler.

Our plan was to try and get to the Dry Tortugas if the weather co-operated, and to date it had looked iffy at best. On Tuesday it looked like we could make a run to Marquesas Keys about 20 miles away but probably not the Dry Tortugas which were 70 miles west of Key West.

Sian had bought Paul a Garmin inReach for Christmas 2019 which he never activated or subscribed to since we hadn’t been anywhere since then due to the Pandemic. Since we were going to out of cell coverage Paul now activated it. The inReach is a small cell phone sized satellite enabled communication device. It allows us two-way communication through text no matter where we are in the world and family and friends can locate us anywhere in the world. It also provides the capability to receive regular and marine weather forecasts via satellite and it also has an SOS capability! So with our DSC radio, Personal Locator Beacons, EPIRB, and now the inReach, we feel if we set all of these off in an emergency someone somewhere will take it seriously!

Day 25. Wednesday March 17. St Patrick’s Day!

After Bella’s walk we left Stock Island Marina and headed for the Marquesas. We passed Key West and cruised through the North West Channel. The waters off Key West were busy with party boats, paragliders, and fishing charters. The Coast Guard were also warning mariners to stay away from their vessels that were doing gunnery exercises just off the coast!

Off to fire her guns

We had a pleasant cruise to the north coast of the Marquesas. The wind was from the east so we carried on around to the west and were able to anchor about 300 yards off the beach beside a half dozen other boats – one a catamaran with a bunch of teenagers on board who were having a fine time enjoying the paddle boards and doing summersaults off the top deck! It is quite satisfying seeing kids enjoying boating!

Kids having fun!

As we approached the island the Coast Guard warned of a “smouldering” vessel floating free north of the Marquesas. We did not see anything, and the next day the Coast Guard communicated that the boat was sunk to the waterline and there was likely debris in the area, mariners should proceed with caution. We put the coordinates of the sunken boat in the chartplotter and we were well away from it. Days later we heard that one of the generators had caused a fire and the folks on board had to take to their tender and were safe. As we sat at anchor a Navy chopper cam over and circled the anchorage. We had heard that the Marquesas is a popular spot for boats coming in from Cuba!

On patrol

We had a calm and pleasant night on board.

Day 26. Thursday March 18th.

We awoke to a light breeze, and many boats upping anchor and heading further west – towards the Dry Tortugas. Optimistically Paul requested an updated marine forecast on the inReach and based on what we read we decided to also head west!

As we moved further out into the Gulf of Mexico we were amazed at the number of crab/lobster pots we encountered. These folks need to travel 100 mile round trip to harvest their traps. There were literally hundreds of them.

About two hours out there was an almighty roar as two fighter jets went low, and we mean LOW over the top of Sonas. We were the only boat within miles so they were obviously having some fun with us.

Our finest at work – scaring the bejeebus out of us!

As we approached the Dry Tortugas we saw quite a number of masts on the Garden Key anchorage, and quite a number of boats anchored outside the anchorage, so we suspected that the anchorage was full. However we went in and had a look anyway – and found a nice spot to drop the hook, with deep water around us so if the wind changed direction we would not swing aground.

Overall we were very disappointed in the Dry Tortugas. With everything we had read on forums and FaceBook people thought it was awesome. However you can only go on two of the islands – and on Loggerhead you can only walk below the high water mark and dogs are not allowed at all. Fort Jefferson takes up ALL of Garden Key, and dogs are not allowed inside. Any grassy spots are either covered in debris or picnic tables. There is a long beach connecting Garden Key to Bush Key, which looks perfect to run a dog. However it and Bush Key are closed Between January and October due to the nesting bird population. We suspect that those thinking the Tortugas are “great” have never been to the Exumas!

Fort Jefferson

Late in the afternoon wesaw quite a number of crab boats come into the harbor and anchor. So now we know how they manage all of those crab and lobster pots way off the coast. They stay out multiple days and anchor in the Dry Tortugas at night!

Commercial boaters at rest

Day 27. Friday March 19.

We had originally planned to spend a couple of nights at Garden Key since we had been communicating with other boaters who said it was wonderful.

Basically humans and poochs are extremely restricted. To the extent that it is absolutely NOT worth the fuel to go there. We have heard that these restrictions are a recent thing. The park service may find that it becomes a no-go area for cruisers in the future – and maybe that is what they want. More for environment resource protection, which is fine. Just not for us.

So after one night, we left.

As we were leaving the anchorage we heard a VHF radio call from a lady asking if someone in the anchorage had a dinghy in the water and could help. We were already underway so did not respond. The call came a number of additional times. Once outside the anchorage we noticed a man in a dinghy rowing for all he was worth against the wind and getting nowhere! So we assumed that his engine had quit and this was the call for support. Paul laid on the horn to see if he could raise another cruiser in the anchorage, and repeated it. Finally someone popped their head up to see what the commotion was about and we went close to his boat and explained that someone needed a tow. He jumped into his boat and headed off to the rescue! Not even nine o’clock in the morning and our good deed was done! [see later for an amusing follow up on this!].

Towing the boat back to mother ship!

We had originally planned on stopping at the Marquesas anchorage on the way back but the weather suggested we continue on to Key West. We didn’t have a slip reservation and didn’t have communications until about 90 minutes out. We finally were able to raise Galleon Marina and snag a slip for one night at $6 a foot! The most we have ever paid for a marina slip!

As we turned towards the marina we heard Securite calls one after another. These were from boats entering and leaving Key West Bight, where our marina was. As we got nearer we saw the amount of commercial and other traffic moving about the narrow bight. So Paul got on the radio and announced our own arrival.

Key West Bight

Once tied up Sian took Bella ashore, to find sign after sign asking boaters to take their dogs off the resort! Then once off the resort there was not a single blade of green grass in Key West! There were thousands of people downtown and on the board walks. Party boats were jammed, with very few masks! We were really uncomfortable, so decided to leave the next day.

Day 28. Saturday March 20.

We decided to leave for Marathon rather than spend another day in KW. Our decision was later confirmed when we heard that Miami had been flooded with Spring Breakers and a state of emergency had been declared with road closures and curfews put in place. We felt that Key West should have done the same, it was a zoo!

Key West fun

We still hadn’t decided if we were going to go back through the Keys and Florida’s east coast or go up the west coast, spend some time at Captiva Island before crossing Lake O and back home that way. We were leaning to retracing our tracks through the keys and the east coast when we both got a call from the vaccine hotline. They were booking shots three days out. We had to tell them that we were not home and wouldn’t be until early April. They noted that and promised to call back at a closer date. That made up our minds to take the shorter route home as Sian had a flight coming up at the end of April and having both shots before traveling would be great. So back up through Florida’s east coast was it!

We had hoped to spend a couple of days in Marathon Marina and Resort, but they were full. We also tried Faro who were also full. So we went into Marlin Bay again for a couple of days.

A couple of hours after we tied up a boat came in two down from us. We had spoken to them the last time we were in the marina. We went down to have another chat. And to our surprise they thanked us for “rescuing” the captain when he needed to get a tow back to the mothership back in the Dry Tortugas!! What a very small world!

Week four completed!

Week fours photos below, click on the gallery and either click through them one by one or run a slide show.

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Spring Cruise 2021 – Week 3

Marathon Key sunset

Day 15 – 18, Sunday March 7 through Wednesday March 10.

The wind blew and blew, well over 30 knots each day. In fact the Plantation Yacht Harbor marina had the star and stripes flying on the flag pole the day we arrived and replaced it with a read flag for the duration of our stay!

The marina is part of Founder’s Park. This is a facility owned by the City of Islamorada. Islamorada is actually made up of six of the Florida Keys. If interested click here for more on the “village.

There is a craft village right by the park called Rain Village which is a small artists community. Though it is better know for the giant lobster outside by the Overseas Highway – known as Big Betsy! We went there for coffee and for some of their famous lobster rolls. As we sat at the picnic tables dozens of tourists stopped, jumped out of their vehicles, snapped pics of them with the lobster, and took off southbound!

Lobster roll!

We launched the dinghy while in the slip with the intention of snorkeling the coral right outside the marina. Folks at the marina had told us it was great snorkeling and a favorite spot of the tour boats in the area. Unfortunately the wind kept blowing, which reduced the air and water temperatures, so we never got the opportunity. We brought the dinghy back on board unused!

There was yoga on the beach every day so Sian went up to the office and prepaid for every day we were going to be there and joined the 15-20 ladies every morning on the beach. While she was doing that Paul took Bella for an hour at the dog park where she wrestled with the many other pooches and got plenty dirty in the process!

Islamorada has a free bus system called Freebee. We downloaded the App which allows you to tell the drivers where you wanted picked up and dropped off. But, while we had to pay for it, we preferred to use Uber as it was much quicker and user-friendly.

We ate on board every night but Tuesday, when we walked to Marker 88 restaurant and had a very nice seafood dinner, before Ubering back to the marina. We were later told that we could have dingy’d to the restaurant, but we really wouldn’t have wanted to make that trip for the first time in the dark!

Marker 88 sunset

One issue (and could have been pretty critical) we had while at the marina was that their pump out system went down. They were waiting on a company out of St. Petersburg to get it fixed but didn’t have a definite ETA. We hadn’t pumped out in ten days, so we really wanted to get the holding tank cleared. The whole of the Keys is a no discharge area. On Tuesday they brought in the city pump truck, connected it to the system, and processed every boat – thank goodness we were first!

Overall we had a pretty lazy time of it. We ignored most boat chores apart from cleaning the boat and painting the depth markers on the anchor chain as the previous paint job had worn off. Most evenings we sat in the Pilothouse and watched the sunsets right off our bow!

Plantation Key sunset

On Wednesday the wind started to clock more to the east and ease off somewhat. The forecast called for more improvement through the rest of the week. So we made plans to depart Plantation on Thursday, and run down to Marathon. Our original plan was to exit the bay through Snake Creek and run down Hawk’s Channel and anchor in Boot Harbor. Since the wind was forecast from the east and wave action in the five foot range we decided to stay inside and use the ICW, as shallow as it is. And then tie up at a pretty new marina and resort – Marlin Bay.

Day 19. Thursday March 11.

Since it was only 35 statute miles (30.5KM) from Plantation Yacht Harbor to the turn for our next marina in Marathon we had decided on a mid morning departure, which would allow for a breakfast in the slip plus allow Sian one more yoga session on the beach!

However Sian decided that we should get a jump on the day and get going after Bella’s walk and breakfast. Bella had developed a weeping from her left eye so we decided that it would not be a good idea going to the dog park today. It may have been dirt and dust from the park when she wrestled with the other dogs. We looked to Dr. Google for home remedies for Bellas weepy eye and treated her with a salt water rinse ever hour or so. So, no dog park, no yoga, we were off the dock before nine and heading back out in the Florida Bay to intersect the ICW and head south to our next stop in Marathon.

The wind was still blowing around 20 knots from the north east but because it was on our stern we had a very comfortable ride, though we did pass through some real skinny water -including a well known two mile stretch from Cotton Key to Steamboat Channel where at times we only had a half a foot under the keel!

Skinny water!

We got to green marker 17 off Marathon and turned to steer 160 degrees toward Marlin Bay Resort and Marina. Once sideways to the wind we realized how hard it was blowing. The entry to the marina basin was about 40 foot wide, which seemed fine for our 15 ft beam, and we crabbed though it and safely tied up in slip 26. An indication of how hard it was blowing – the marina had four, count them, FOUR, hands on the the dock to help us tie up! We had zero issues backing in and tying up to the piles.

Sian preparing to tie up at Marlin Bay

The resort is in the early stage of development, Based on the model in the marina office it is around 20% developed. However the pool and bar area is excellent. We went up for a couple of sundowners and chatted to the bar lady about the development.

Day 20. March 12.

Bella’s eye was still weeping significantly this morning so Sian called a local Vet and got her an afternoon appointment. The vet examined her and gave us drops and an ointment to help clear it up.

It was still blowing hard so we decided to add an additional day to our stay in Marathon, planning on leaving on Sunday now. We used the resort’s swimming pool and hot tub, before walking over to the Fisheries Market nearby where we heard their stone crab legs were worth the walk. We got there to find a long line and full tables so returned to Sonas. Tonight Sian made a delicious Sicilian fish stew.

Marlin Bay Resort and Marina

Day 21. March 13.

Bella’s eye is clearing up – hurray! We took a walk this morning to the post office for Sian to post a card to her aunt in England and Paul to post his tax check to the IRS -boo!

When we got back Paul took a walk to the north marina basin as a couple we had previously cruised with told us that they kept their boat there. Paul found it and sent them a photo showing all was well! He also saw the marina staff hard at work clearing out the turtle grass that was a constant nuisance in the marina. One marina basin was completely covered in it, which sent a nice composting smell over part of the marina. The marina had installed bubblers across the entrance to try and keep the grass out but it obviously wasn’t working.

Bubblers at the marina entrance

We again used the pool at the resort before showering and heading off to the Florida Keys Steak and Lobster House. We had used Trip Advisor and saw that this was the number one recommended restaurant in Marathon – and it just happened to be a one block walk for the marina! The food and service were excellent!

Week three was now complete – and the wind still hasn’t died down!

Spring Cruise 2021 – Week 2

Day 9. Monday March 1.

Monday arrived and we were free from the threat of weekend Miami boaters! Paul had a look at the weather for a run outside as we really wanted to avoid all of the drawbridges between Fort Lauderdale and our final destination of No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne. Unfortunately it was calling for a combined swell and wave height of five to six feet. So while it would have been safe, inside was more comfortable for today.

While Sian took Bella for her morning walk among the moored mega yachts Paul got out the cruising guide and got on the web site and documented all of the bridges we needed to get through. In total there were 14 bridges. Given our air draft of around 21 feet with the antennas down we had two bridges that we definitely required an opening, two that were suspect, and the rest should be OK. The issue was that none of the bridges were open on request – all were either on the hour and half hour, or 15 and 45 minutes past the hour. So we needed to time our run so that we weren’t floating around in tight quarters, waiting for an opening.

Bridge plan

We ran for the whole day at well below cruise speed. It was very rare that we were not in a Idle Speed, No Wake or Slow Speed, Minimum Wake zone.

I was interesting though to see the Miami skyline approaching. And to see the idle Cruise ships tied up at the cruise terminals. The marinas full of mega yachts were also something to see! Dozens, if not hundreds of them!

Approaching Miami
Yachts a plenty!
Miami cruise port

One thing that we found odd was that the Coast Guard were still transmitting the exact same missing plane message that we had heard on Thursday with with no indication that it was from days ago.

We managed to time most of the bridges with only a few minutes to wait – until we got to Miami. There we found that the West 79th Street bridge and the Venetian West Bridge, which were only 4 miles apart. were both on the hour and half hour. This would have worked out fine if we could go at our usual cruise speed of 8 knots, but the whole area was a slow speed zone, with plenty of police boats around. So we had to wait for just under a half hour north of the Venetian bridge waiting for the opening.

After leaving Miami we entered the wide-open Biscayne Bay and headed for No Name Harbor. This is a small man-made harbor on the south end of Biscayne Key with room for about two dozen boats. It was originally supposed to be a residential neighborhood with a harbor, but the development fell through. The development never had a name, hence the name of the harbor! Now the area is a state park with walking trails and the Cape Florida Light House.

Cape Florida Lighthouse

There is a bulkhead around the harbor which was fine for getting Bella ashore at high tide, but when we went around 4;30 it was low and Paul had to lift her and physically throw her up on the dock!

This evening we tried to go without AC but it got too warm so we started the generator and put the AC on in our cabin and in the salon for Bella.

No Name Harbor

Day 10. Tuesday March 2.

Today was shaping up to be hot so we got everyone ashore early for a two and a half mile walk along the trails and past the Cape Florida Lighthouse. When we got back someone had grabbed a copy of the harbor rules and left them on our dinghy – showing that running generators in the anchorage was prohibited. Seems we had someone anchored in the harbor who was conflict averse!

We had a lazy day at anchor. The only chore that got completed was putting the registration numbers and registration decal on the new dinghy! However No Name Harbor is a very interesting place to sit at anchor as dozens of boats of all shapes and sizes come in. Some to anchor for lunch and disappear again. Some to tie up at the sea wall and stay, and some to arrive very late with running lights showing the way. There was a good mixture of monohull and multihull sailing boats, trawlers, Miami Vice type go-fasts, and express cruisers.

Powered wake board

An hour before sunset we took Bella for a walk and then sat at The Cleat MIA bar at the entrance to the harbor and had sundowners as we watched, what else, the sun go down!

No Name sunset

Day 11 . Wednesday March 3.

Well this was one of “those” days! You know, the day you had planned where everything was going to be awesome and it went to hell in a hand basket?

Our plan was to run from No Name Harbor to the anchorage off Elliott Key. Spend two nights there before heading off to our next stop in Islamorada. It was only a short two hour cruise south, so we eased into the day.

Paul checked the weather. It showed 15-17 knot winds from the west. That would be directly into the anchorage but he felt it was a moderate breeze and nothing that would bother us on Sonas. Hmmmmm.

We got into the anchorage with a really nice wave action. We had to anchor about a half mile from the Ranger Station as it is quite shallow inshore from there. The wind gauge showed a steady blow at 26-27 knots! We soon learned that the fetch from the west, all the way from Turkey Point 8 miles away, resulted in steady three to four foot waves, with a five thrown in now and then! We were only anchored in 7.5 feet so the shallow depth didn’t help. Once the anchor was down Sonas settled bow into the waves and was comfortable. If it was just the two of us on board we would be quite OK sitting there.

BUT, we have Bella, and her expectation was, once the anchor was down, she gets to go ashore!

So we had lunch, and waited to see if the bay would calm down. It didn’t. So we decided to launch the dinghy and take the pooch ashore. We managed to get the boat launched and all of us on board the bouncing dinghy – everyone with PFDs on! And the waterproof and floating VHF radio we had recently bought! Going ashore was relatively easy as Paul kept the dinghy speed aligned with the waves, which were surfing us on shore.

We got ashore to the Ranger Station to find that it was abandoned with not a soul to be seen and everything locked up. We suspect they did not expect anyone ashore due to the forecast! We tied up at the ranger dock and Bella immediately jumped off. It was then that we realized that we hadn’t brought her leash or any poop bags. We were NOT going back!

We had an extra length of rope on board so tied that to her collar and Sian found a plastic bag near one of the BBQ pits, so poop collection was back under control!

So off we set on one of the trails, and then realized that, even though we had read that Elliott Key was rife with mosquitos, we had not sprayed! 45 minutes later we emerged from the trail back at the dock with dozens of bites apiece! Sian was especially disappointed as usually when she has Paul with her the bugs attack him and leave her alone. We guessed that there were enough mosquitos to go around!

We got back on the dinghy and now had to pound the half mile back to Sonas directly into the wave action. By the time we got back on board all three were saturated. The wind was supposed to pick up and continue like this all night. Bella still needed her evening walk and another one first thing in the morning. On the way back Sian looked at Paul and said “when we get onboard we are going to have a “DISCUSSION” about what we do next.

Within five minutes of getting back on board the engines were started and we headed back to No Name Harbor to ride out the weather. We really need to start training Bella to go on the boat!

When we got into the harbor we were pleased to find that there was plenty of space for us to anchor, but with the gusting winds it took three or four anchoring attempts until we could get ourselves somewhere where we felt comfortable that we would not swing into another boat’s water – especially with Sonas’ large windage.

When we took Bella ashore she tried the high jump, leaping from the dinghy to the top of the sea wall and missed! Paul was able to grab the handle on her life jacket and drag her back onto the boat. Then he helped her up!

With the anchor down, Paul with a cold beer, Bella with an evening walk, and Sian with a hot shower all seemed to be good in the cruising world yet again!

Until Paul went up top and put the steak on the grill. When he went to turn it over a gust hit the grill mat tossing the hot fat over Paul and the boat deck. A small blister on a finger and ankle. and one totally ruined t-shirt!

It was a DAY!

Ruined T-Shirt

Day 12. Thursday March 4.

We spent a day in No Name basically just hanging out, talking to other doggie owners and watching the comings and goings in the harbor. We did contemplate running back down to Elliott Kay and anchoring for the night to get a head start on our run to Islamorada but decided we had enough of Elliott and No Name was much more interesting. The only chore that was completed was maintaining the generators batteries. The genset had an “episode” where it struggled to start so Paul took the box covers off the batteries, checked the connections and topped up with distilled water. It started on demand since. No idea what the issue was but we may look into it more when we get back home.

This evening brought a light breeze so we launched the drone at sunset and took some video of the anchorage and setting sun.

Day 13. Friday March 5.

On Friday, day 13, we set off for Islamorada. Paul had checked out the charts well before we left Jacksonville and we knew this was going to be an experience! There are two choices when leaving No Name, turn to the East and go out towards sea through Cape Florida Channel, or head off down the Intracoastal, to the west of the Keys. The first, leading to Hawks channel is wide and deep. The latter is narrow and shallow – VERY shallow. With MLW (Median Low Water) along the whole route in the six to eight foot range. And we draw five feet!

We wanted to go inside because our next stop was Islamorada and the better, more accessible marinas were on the western side of the keys. We had booked into Plantation Yacht Harbor. Initially we had booked for three days, but there was a blow comin in with wind in the mid-thirties, we we upped the reservation to seven days.

It took us seven half hours to run the 59 statute miles to Islamorada. It was a pretty tiring day and we needed to stay totally focused on the depth and the charts. We averaged 2.5 to 3 feet under the keel the whole way, getting to 0.6 feet under the keel on one section. Pretty much everytime we looked back we could see our wake churning up the soft sand. The controlled depth into our marina was five feet – which is what we draw, so we took it real easy and made it in OK.

Churning up sand
Easy to see the channel!

After closing the engines we both sat quietly in the cockpit enjoying a cold beer.

The marina is owned by the city of Islamorada and is part of a park which includes an Olympic sized swimming pool, tennis courts, pickleball courts, basketball courts, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, small sandy beach AND…… a dog park! So we marched Bella off to the park where she ran and wrestled with a growing number of other pooches. There were small water baths there for the dogs so by the time dogs got wet and rolled in the clay Bella was covered in mud. So back on Sonas she had another Aveeno bath on the swim platform.

An Aveeno dog bath!

This evening we walked to a small seafood place called Twisted Shrimp and had some shrimp and fish.

Day 14. Saturday March 6.

We spent a very pleasant day in Islamorada. The folks who liveaboard here are very welcoming and pleasant. The marina staff are also welcoming and professional. We had a relaxing time doing some boat chores – cleaning mostly.

Bella had a couple of visits to the dog park, and we enjoyed sunset cocktails on the flybridge. It was shaping up to be a very relaxing, albeit windy, week in Islamorada!

But… there are probably worse places to be “stuck!”

Swimming pool at the marina
Sonas at Plantation Yacht Harbor
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March 3rd 2021

Everything was soaked!

Well this was one of “those” days! You know, the day you had planned where everything was going to be awesome and it went to hell in a hand basket?

Our plan was to run from No Name Harbor to the anchorage off Elliott Key. Spend two nights there before heading off to our next stop in Islamorada. It was only a short two hour cruise south, so we eased into the day.

Paul checked the weather. It showed 15 knot winds from the west. That would be directly into the anchorage but he felt it was a moderate breeze and nothing that would bother us on Sonas. Hmmmmm.

We got into the anchorage with a really nice wave action. We had to anchor about a half mile from the Ranger Station as it was too shallow inshore from there. Surprise, surprise, the wind gauge showed a steady blow at 26-27 knots! We soon learned that the fetch from the west, all the way from Turkey Point 8 miles away, resulted in steady three to four foot waves, with a five thrown in now and then! We were only anchored in 7.5 feet so the shallow depth probably didn’t help. Once the anchor was down Sonas settled bow into the waves and was comfortable enough. If it was just the two of us on board we would be quite OK sitting there.

BUT, we have Bella, and her expectation was, once the anchor was down, she gets to go ashore!

So we had lunch, and waited to see if the bay would calm down. It didn’t. So we decided to launch the dinghy and take the pooch ashore. We managed to get the boat launched and all of us on board the bouncing dinghy – everyone with PFDs on! And the waterproof and floatable VHF radio we had recently bought! Going ashore was relatively easy as Paul kept the dinghy speed aligned with the waves, which were surfing us to shore.

We got ashore to the Ranger Station to find that it was abandoned with not a soul to be seen and everything locked up. We suspect they did not expect anyone ashore due to the forecast! We tied up at the ranger dock and Bella immediately jumped off. It was then that we realized that in our struggles to get on the dinghy we hadn’t brought her leash or any poop bags. However we were NOT going back!

We had an extra length of rope on board so tied that to her collar and Sian found a plastic bag near one of the BBQ pits, so poop collection was back under control!

So off we set on one of the trails, and then realized that, even though we had read that Elliott Key was rife with mosquitos, we had not sprayed! 45 minutes later we emerged from the trail back at the dock with dozens of bites apiece! Sian was especially disappointed as usually when she has Paul with her the bugs attack him and leave her alone. We guessed that there were enough mosquitos to go around!

We got back on the dinghy and now had to pound the half mile back to Sonas directly into the wave action. By the time we got back on board all three were saturated. A check of the updated weather told us that the wind was to continue like this all night. Bella still needed her evening walk and another one first thing in the morning. On the way back to Sonas Sian looked at Paul and said “when we get onboard we are going to have a “DISCUSSION” about what we do next.”

Within five minutes of getting back on board the engines were started and we headed back to No Name Harbor to ride out the weather. We really need to start training Bella to go on the boat, something we didn’t think we would have to do on this trip!

When we got into the harbor we were pleased to find that there was plenty of space for us to anchor, but with the gusting winds it took three or four anchoring attempts until we could get ourselves somewhere where we felt comfortable that we would not swing into another boat’s water – especially with Sonas’ large windage.

It was low tide when we took Bella ashore and she tried the high jump, leaping from the dinghy to the top of the sea wall and missed! Paul was able to grab the handle on her life jacket and drag her back onto the boat. Then he helped her up! We were getting all the mis-steps out of the way today!

With the anchor down, Paul with a cold beer, Bella with an evening walk, and Sian with a hot shower all seemed to be good in the cruising world yet again!

Until Paul went up top and put the steak on the grill. When he went to turn it over a gust hit the grill mat tossing the hot fat over Paul and the boat deck. A small blister on a finger and ankle. and one totally ruined t-shirt!

New t-shirt required!
Boat deck
She put herself to bed!

It was a DAY! And since conditions were so bad we didn’t get any photos or video!

Spring Cruise 2021 – Week 1

We had been hoping that the pandemic would have cleared up enough to allow us to go to the Bahamas for our regular three month cruise. While it is possible to go with pre and post COVID testing we felt that it was just not a sensible decision at this time – more from the standpoint of us getting COVID while out there and having to deal with either getting back or dealing with Bahamian healthcare.

Plus our eldest wrapped a snowmobile around a tree in Montana (hi Claire!) and is scheduled for surgery at the end of April, reducing our cruise time to two months.

So we discussed whether to take a spring cruise or not. Even considered waiting until later in the year and doing the Down East Loop. The latter was dismissed as we had no idea when Canada would open up again, and we really don’t see the value in doing the Down East Loop without being able to visit our northern neighbor.

So we landed on going ahead with a spring cruise down through south east Florida, through the Keys and, if the weather was conducive, out to Boca Grande, the Marquesas Keys and the Dry Tortugas. Then either returning the same way or heading up to Marco Island, Naples, Fort Myers and back across Lake Okeechobee.

We aimed our departure for February 21. For no other reason than it seemed a good time to meet the warming weather south of us!

Day 1, February 21st.

We like to exit our lock and get out through the channel at half tide or better. This meant being away from home dock at 7:30, having walked Bella and put the last things on board. It was blowing 15-20 from the NE as we left, with temps around 50. So as soon as we got to the ICW we headed down to the pilothouse and ran from there.

As we passed through palm Valley a vessel called Nomad hailed us. They read and enjoy our blog! They were on their way to Brunswick Georgia to have their boat hauled for hurricane season before heading back home to Canada. Nomad had been badly damaged by hurricane Dorian while in the Abacos and they had only just returned her to the US after repairs.

St Augustine Lighthouse.

As two months gives us plenty of time to do what we had intended we have decided for this trip that we were going to do much shorter days, and take our time. Today we ran for 6.5 hours, and were tied up at Palm Coast Marina by 2:30. Vic and Gigi from Salty Dawg, also members of the DeFever Cruisers Owners group, helped tie us up and we had a long chat with them after getting settled.

We like (always!) stopping at Palm Coast Marina on the first nights of our cruises as it is a nice length of run AND there is a really good Indian restaurant at The European Village The Fifth Element. We highly recommend it if you are ever in the area. After Bella got her afternoon walk we tidied up and headed off for a Lamb Rogan Josh and a Chicken Korma, with poppadoms and butter nan bread – plus a couple of beers each!

Day one successfully under our belt and Sonas is running really well!

First night Indian meal

Day 2. February 22nd.

In keeping with our plans of short and more enjoyable runs on this cruise we are aiming for New Smyrna today. This is only 43 statute miles down the ICW, taking about 4.5 hours. We really prefer to anchor out as much as we can as we find the quiet of an anchorage much more preferable to a marina. Plus some of the scenery and beaches to walk are often wonderful.

Palm Coast Marina

While Sian took Bella for two mile walk Paul completed an engine room check, including changing out the bilge pads and checking fuel tank sight glasses.

Our plan was to anchor in Rockhouse Creek, just inside Ponce Inlet. There are plenty of sandbars there and even a dog beach to walk Bella. However the forecast called for rain starting late afternoon and going all evening and night, so we decided to call the New Smyrna Beach City Marina and book a slip.

Main Street Drawbridge Daytona
We have an airdraft on 20.6 with the antennas down
We can just squeeze under!

We had an uneventful trip through Daytona and into New Smyrna. We arrived off the city marina around 2;00pm and radioed for our slip assignment. The dockmaster indicated the slip and walked down to help us tie up. As we entered the channel a small catamaran cut in ahead of us and radioed the dockmaster. The conversation went something like this;

Boater: I just entered the channel, can you direct me to my slip?

DM: I cannot help you right now, I have another boat coming in.

B: that slip you are standing at, that was the slip I was in the last time I was here, can I have that one?

DM: No, that is for the vessel coming in now.

B: Well can I have the one right next to it?

DM: No that is already assigned as well. Can you please wait.

The boater just carries on into the marina and starts backing into a slip a couple down from us. The dockmaster helped us in and immediately apologized and ran off to corral the other boater. He did come back later to check that we had everything we needed.

Some boaters are strange creatures!

Beautiful dock neighbor

We took Bella for a three mile walk around town, during which time we realized that we had crossed south a some imaginary line which separated north Florida from central Florida, and further identified when we should shed our jeans and long sleeved shirts for shorts and t-shirts – we had arrived in the warmth!

Enjoyed some apps and cocktails at the River Deck bar and grill. Then back to Sonas for chicken enchiladas.

Day 3. February 23rd.

We really are focused on started each day of this trip off at a leisurely pace. In many prior trips south we get up at the crack of light, quick walk for the dog if we have one, untie and get going, having breakfast underway and cruising ten plus hours to our next stop. The destination, usually somewhere in the Bahamas,so get there as quick as we could was the focus! Not this time! This trip we planned on shorter more relaxing days.

We didn’t even set an alarm but just woke up when we woke up! Sian took Bella for a one hour stroll while Paul did the engine room check, prepared the fruit for breakfast and uncovered the flybridge helm and seats. We has a leisurely breakfast and were still off the dock at 8:30.

We cruised south through Mosquito Lagoon, the Haulover Canal (where it is clearly still too early for the hoards of Manatees that live there during warmer water times), past Cape Canaveral, through Titusville and into Cocoa, arriving right at 2:00pm.

Cape Canaveral

Our plan was to tie up at the free dock right by town which we had used before. When we got there it was pretty full. A small sailboat had tied up at one end and left a gap. If he pulled up next to the other boats we could have fitted on the end. But not to be. We called Cocoa Village Marina to see if they had a spot for us but they were full. So we dropped anchor just south of the Hubert Humphrey Bridge. We launched the (still new) dinghy and went ashore. Sian took Bella for yet another walk while Paul went to the famous hardware store for a few things we wanted.

While grilling on board this evening a nearby boater came over and warned us that two boats had been stolen from the free dock last night, one with an outboard and one without – his! So finally before bedding down we did something for the very first time – we put a cable and lock on the dinghy to keep it safe.

Cocoa Sunset

Day 4, February 23rd.

There was not a sound in the anchorage overnight and we awoke to a glassy anchorage, with a great sunrise. Paul took Sian and Bella ashore for their morning walk and returned to Sonas to complete the engine room check. Paul changed the fuel valves over so that we ran from the port tank so as to keep the boat balanced.

After dog walkies we lifted the dinghy and headed south again. We transited Eau Gallie, Melbourne, Sebastian, and into Vero Beach City Marina. It was an easy six hour run in warm sun and light winds.

Vero Beach mooring field

We had one little bit of excitement around 10:20. Our radios picked up a DSC call. Paul took a note of the coordinates and called the coast guard. Coast Guard Miami answered and took details of the transmission. The transmitting boat had properly set up their radio and their coordinates were sent. After a short time Coast Guard Miami got back to us telling us that Coast Guard Station Jacksonville had received the distress call and had all the details. Paul entered the received coordinates into our chart plotter and saw that the distress was sent for a vessel approximately 18 miles in the Atlantic off Daytona.

Vero Beach is Bella’s favorite, because there is a dog park right by the marina. This was the first dog park Bella ever experienced and she gets an afternoon and a morning run here every time we stop!

Muddy paws after the dog park!

Late afternoon a couple of teenagers came into the marina fuel dock on fumes. Unfortunately the fuel dock was closed but the boater next door to us had a small three gallon tank to give them and we lent a funnel. After getting the gas they hung around and fished the marina dock.

Day 5. February 25.

Paul checked the offshore forecast for today and it indicated 2 foot seas. So after the morning walk we left Vero Beach and motored the twelve nautical miles down the ICW to Fort Pierce inlet and turned left towards the Atlantic. The seas were calm, making us wish that we were heading across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas instead on turning south and heading for Lake Worth Inlet.

Well armed CG Cutter

We ran the five hours to Lake Worth, with the seas getting up slightly as the day wore on, but it was an easy and uneventful cruise. We entered the inlet around three pm and were tied up at Sailfish Marina in short order. The marina used to be all fixed docks but they have recently installed excellent floating docks with wide walkways and we were happy to get a slip there.

Bella helping with yoga

We took Bella for a long walk around Palm Beach Shores, got back to Sonas for showers and ate dinner at the VERY busy marina restaurant. We walked around outside until our table was ready and were fortunate to get a table in the far corner of the restaurant, so avoiding as many people as possible.

A few AIS signals in Lake Worth

Day 6. February 26.

The weather for an outside run was again very good so after the morning walk we were away from Sailfish by 8:00am. It only took 15 minutes to be through the inlet and turned south towards Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale). We angled east to get outside the three mile line to empty the holding tanks then headed directly for the next inlet. It was another beautiful day outside, and getting much warmer the further south we got.

Fort Lauderdale skyline

During the run we heard two DSC (distress) calls over the radio. Both times Coast Guard Station Miami also heard them and called the vessels. One ship they continually called without response was the MSC Barbara. Paul found this strange as it sounded like a commercial ship. He went onto MarineTraffic.com and entered the ship’s name to see if it was transmitting AIS. He found that Mediterranean Shipping Company ship Barbara was actively transmitting AIS, AND was securely tied up at Port Everglades.

Paul called the Coast Guard and gave them that information. They asked him to confirm what he just said, and thanked him. About a half hour later the ship came on the radio, gave their location, and cancelled the DSC! We suspect they called the port and had someone go to the ship or send a CG small ship to sort it out!

Then when we were passing Pompano Beach we heard a single very short transmission from a plane saying he was landing to the east. The Coast Guard came on again and advised that there was suspected plane crash landing and gave the coordinates about 12 miles east of Pompano Beach. They were asking people to keep a look-out and assist if possible. They continued to transmit that message but we never heard or read the result.

We were tied up in slip number 20 at 17th street Yacht Basin by 2:00pm. We were staying here in Fort Lauderdale for three nights as we really didn’t fancy the idea of cruising through Miami and anchoring off Elliott Kay during a weekend!

Our marina in Fort Lauderdale – we are tucked on the back somewhere!

Tonight we walked the ten minutes to The Boatyard seafood restaurant to find a one and a half hour wait. We booked a table for Sunday evening instead and ate at a nearby Indian restaurant. Since it was a Friday in Lent Sian had a vegetarian meal and Paul had shrimp.

Busy waterway!

Day 7 and 8.February 27-28.

We awoke to find police at the marina. The center console two boats over from us and another one four boats over had been broken into overnight and their electronics stolen. The police asked if we had heard anything and we said no, neither had Bella made a noise. They think the thieves had come by boat. The poor owner of one stalked the docks all day looking lost. The other, a Yellowfin, was the tender to a mega yacht called Stay Salty tied up at the outer dock.

Holes where the electronics should be.

We took advantage of the non-traveling days to clean both the inside and outside of Sonas.

We also had an excellent meal at The Boatyard on Sunday. Though we did feel a bit aggrieved to see that they had added a 2% COVID charge.

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A Couple Of Days At Cumberland

We hadn’t been out on Sonas since we returned from Fort Myers mid December. We were looking for a decent weather window but kept getting thwarted. Finally we saw that Tuesday through Friday (and potentially Saturday) this week (Feb 9-12) looked good. So we provisioned up until Saturday and got ready to leave on Tuesday.

Tuesday arrived with rain, and more rain! So we sulked and stayed home.

Wednesday arrived hopeful so we decided we would put up with whatever the day threw at us, untied and left. We had a great run north, with light winds all the way to Cumberland Island. It was a bit chilly so we ran from the pilothouse.

Getting the anchor down we had a quick cuppa (tea), then took Bella for nice long walk. We launched the NEW RIB!!!! and tied up at Sea Camp dock. We walked through to the beach and walked along it for a mile or so.

Later in the day a heavy fog rolled in, and by the time Bella had to go ashore for her nightly we could barely make out the light on the Sea Camp dock.

The next day, Thursday, arrived with dense fog. We were glad we were staying in the anchorage! We took Bella ashore and walked the river trail down to the Ice House and then back along Grand Avenue (which of course is just a dirt road!) and back to the dock.

After lunch the fog had burned off and the sun had come out warm and bright, with temperatures in the low seventies. Paul had read about the Plum Orchard Mansion and we decided to take the dinghy and go see it. Off we headed and after 45 minutes or so we were only half way there. It was further than we thought. So we turned back, deciding to leave that for a day when we could anchor Sonas closer to the mansion and make it a shorter dinghy ride.

Instead we walked the parallel trail and the beach, three miles in total.

On Friday morning we checked the latest weather and found that rain was coming in for all of Friday afternoon and all weekend, so we high-tailed it back to home dock.

Enjoy our highlights below from our Voyages Of Sonas YouTube Channel.

Fall Cruise 2020 – Fort Myers Beach To Home

The day after Thanksgiving we untied from Fish Tales and slowly worked our way through the small marina. The bridge tender at Big Carlos Pass was pleasantly chatty as he opened the draw for us, and we exited onto a very calm Gulf of Mexico.

Gulf of Mexico looking towards Naples

We went straight outside the three mile limit and ran north towards Matanzas Pass and the marina at Pink Shell Resort.

Pink Shell Resort from off shore

The marina at Pick Shell Resort has been voted Top 25 places To Tie Up In North America. The marina has a row of slips facing open water, so are easy to turn and back into. Once checked in each person is given a rubber wrist band that allows access to all parts of the resort. This includes three restaurants and three heated swimming pools. Marina guests also have complementary beach chairs and umbrellas as well as stand up paddle boards. Overall the resort if a family location, with lots of young children. There is a constant stream of boats passing the marina!

Prerequisite tourist pirate ship!
Checking out the sunken sailboat – no idea why!
And yes, they have a floating Tiki bar here as well!

There was a city park right beside the resort so we decided to take Bella for a walk. When we got there we found that no dogs were allowed! We suspect it was because there were a lot of birds and it could have been a bird sanctuary. So we took a sharp left and walked along the beach. From then on we walked Bella one way along Estero Blvd and then walked back along the beach.

During our stay we used the adult pool for lunch and drinks, chatting with other guest from the frozen north! We ate at both of the restaurants and at a good seafood restaurant in town.

Enjoying the heated pool
Pink Shell Resort Pools
Sian writing the Christmas cards, and wondering why she brought cards with glitter on the boat!

Our original plan was to leave Fort Myers Beach and go south to Naples and Marco island before retracing our steps. However the weather was forecast to turn cold (for Florida) with a decent blow from the north. Since you have to run outside in the Gulf to and from Naples, we decided it was time to just turn and head for home, and Christmas.

Leaving sunrise at Pink Shell Resort

We left Pink Shell Resort at first light on Monday, November 3oth. We had decided to stop at the Glades Marina at Okeechobee Water Way (OWW) mile marker 89. Once underway however we found that we were not as impacted by the westward flow of the river as we thought so decided to go on to Moore Haven at MM 78and again tie up at the city dock. This would shorten our run tomorrow by an hour.

Waiting to go through Ortona Lock
Interesting, who has a airplane wing out back of the house!
This boat hasn’t moved in a while!

There was a Fleming 65 tied up nearby and Paul chatted with the owners. They were on their way to Stuart to leave the boat for a month for some work. Paul mentioned that on the way west bound we has seen a dock on the St Lucie River with a dozen or more Flemings. They told him that that was the site of the South East Fleming brokerage, where boats were commissioned and worked on.

Next day, Tuesday December 1st arrived very chilly (for Florida!). We were again off early and transited through the Moore Haven Lock and southeast to Clewiston.

Chilly Florida morning
Steaming morning coffee!
Moore Haven Lock

As we made the turn at Clewiston Paul noticed white caps out on the lake. We had been in the well protected calm waterway so had not expected a blow in the lake. Sian went below and stowed for sea and we headed across a pretty rough lake with winds gusting to 28 from the north. We even had waves follow us in to Port Mayaca lock, but were ready for that as the lock tender had warned us after we called him.

An hour after leaving the Port Mayaca lock we pulled into Indiantown Marina at MM 29 and tied up at their bulkhead.

Tied up at Indiantown Marina

We had bought Bella a Doggie Advent Calendar, with treats behind every door. She got to open her first door this evening!

On Wednesday we had an uneventful run from Indiantown to Vero Beach, beginning to retrace our west bound route from three weeks previously. On the way we passed a large number of Fleming yachts tied up at the Burr Yacht facility, the southeast distributor for the model.

Flemings galore

As soon as we turned onto the Atlantic Intra coastal Waterway (AICW) we soon realized that by going north, we were going the wrong way for this time of year. Dozens, if not a couple of hundred boats would pass us going south over the next four days with very few going our way!

Boats southbound

More boats southbound

We also saw an interesting way to inspect and work on bridges over the AICW. We have learned that these vehicles are called Snoopers!

Not for me, thank you!

Arriving at Vero Beach Bella got to enjoy a couple of visits to the dog park right by the marina.

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On Thursday we headed north to Cocoa. The AICW immediately exiting Vero Beach takes you at exactly 000 degrees (north) on the AICW.

Early morning rowers at Vero Beach

We had planned on staying at the Cocoa Village Marina again but on our last visit we had walked by the new free dock in Lee Wenner Park, right downtown. There is no water or power but it was cool enough in the evening that we did not need AC or heat so didn’t require the generator. We walked across to Murdock’s for dinner on their back patio.

Sunset at the Cocoa free dock

Next stop Daytona and the Halifax Harbor Marina. Again another uneventful day’s boating north through Titusville and New Smyrna. We were tied up mid afternoon in plenty of time for showers and putting on our glad rags for dinner booked at The Cellar – a restaurant we had used before on a trip back from the Bahamas. We were not disappointed, and had a wonderful meal with a bottle of red from their award winning cellar. A young lady was waiting for us by the front door, took our temperature and asked us to use hand sanitizer before entering!

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse
(Small) pelican island!
Sian on the helm running north on the AICW

On Saturday we headed off to St Augustine. We could have made it all the way to home dock but the tides were not right for our entry through the channel and lock at home. So we tied up early in St Augustine and took Bella for a long walk through the south part of town to avoid the crowds. After dark, rather than go into town to see the Nights of Lights which we do every year, we opted to stay on board for dinner and drinks.

Palm Coast airboat
Restored yacht Freedom, once owned by the daughter of Woolworth.
Looks like a flying club southbound
Interesting re-use of a car seat as a fishing spot!
St Augustine sunrise.

The last day of our trip Sunday, December 6th, we gave a couple who were interested in Grand Alaskans a tour of Sonas before heading out. The weather was perfect for a run outside so we exited St Augustine inlet. It was a bit confusing at first as a number of the inlet markers were no longer there then we realized that they had been dredging the inlet for the past month or two so we could head straight for the sea buoy then turn north for Mayport. We had hoped to see a SpaceX launch while offshore as it was a clear day. The planned launch went off on time but we didn’t see anything. We ran well outside the three mile line so give the holding tank a final cleanse. It was a very calm day offshore.

Calm run offshore from St Augustine to Mayport

Ahead of us a tug towing a barge came out through Mayport and asked boats to stay clear as it dumped spoil from the dredging that is going on in the river to accommodate the larger boats from the new Panama Canal. Went went in through Mayport, and as we prepared to turn down the AICW for home a car carrier came through with a dolphin playing off its bow.

Tug and barge dumping spoil.
Military supply ship out of Mayport.

We went through our lock and were all tied up at home by 3:30. Just before it started to rain!

Queen’s Harbour Lighted Boat Parade 2020

Photos in the gallery below. Click on the first photo to enlarge it and then you can run this as a slide show or click through them one by one. Once enlarged you can right click and save and image you want to download.

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Fall Cruise 2020 – Cocoa To Fort Myers Beach For Thanksgiving

Gulf Shrimo Dinner

After we saw the last of the Queens Harbour fleet leave Cocoa Village Marina we untied Sonas and headed off southbound. The wind was still blowing a steady 34 knots but the run through Eau Gallie, Melbourne and Sebastian is one that we have done many many times before and it was very uneventful. We pulled into Vero around 2:00 and backed into our slip.

The first thing we did after tying up was put a hose and muffler on the dinghy outboard to run it. We hadn’t run it for over four months. It cranked but would not start. A guy on the dock heard us trying to start it and said he was a Yamaha tech, We decided, since the engine hadn’t been run for a length of time, the carburetor probably needed cleaning or rebuilt. At this point we had not decided if we would stay in marinas all the way or mix in some anchoring out. With our dog on board we needed the dinghy to get her ashore. Easy decision, no dinghy, marinas it is! We’ll get the problem resolved when we get back to Jacksonville.

Next up was to take Bella for a nice long walk. We saw that there was a dog park right by the marina. Since we rescued Bella we were always very cautious with her around other dogs, never quite sure if she just wanted to play or was being overly aggressive. So we took her into the park but kept her on the leash. She seemed to be very interested in playing.

During the afternoon we had a visit from Eric and Lyn, folks that Paul had met on Trawler Forum. We had a pleasant chat with them and after they left we decided to try Bella at the dog park again.

This time we let her off her leash and, to our amazement she ran and played and raced the other dogs, clearly very happy and content, with no aggression whatsoever. The owner of the biggest dog, Bandit, even asked us if she was a herding breed after he saw how she behaved with his dog!The next morning, Saturday the 22nd we again took Bella to the dog park where she again behaved impeccably.

We left the marina and headed for our next stop at Indiantown, on the St Lucie River, just to the East of Lake Okeechobee.We passed Fort Pierce, and down to Stuart. You have to run about 5 miles past Stuart and make a 180 degree turn back up the St Lucie River to begin the transit to Lake Okeechobee.

We continued up the St Lucie River, having to wait fifteen minutes for the Florida East Coast Railway bridge to open as it opens every twenty minutes not on request. We then passed American Custom Yacht, the marina and yard where Sonas was based and where we surveyed and bought her.

Next we passed a dock where there were about a dozen Flemings tied up. It could be that is where they are built?

Fleet of Flemings

We went through the first lock on this trip, the St Lucie Lock, part of the system that manages the water level in Lake Okeechobee.

We soon passed what seemed to be a large port project, but it seemed to be suspened. The equipment was abandoned and overgrown with grass.

Major project along the St Lucie River
Abandoned equipment

We arrived at Indiantown Marina mid afternoon. This marina and yard is where hundreds of boats are hauled to wait out hurricane season. We chatted to another couple in a downeaster called Jenny Rose who tied up next to us and who were also heading to Fort Myers.

Indiantown Marina

The plan for the next day, Sunday 23rd, was to run across the Lake and tie up at Roland Martin Marina immediately on the other side. We headed west again and through Mayaca Lock and into the massive body of water.

Port Mayaca Lock
Entering Lake Okeechobee

There are two routes across the lake. The shorter Route One across the middle, and Route Two along the south rim of the lake. We chose Route One as there is more water and less twisting and turning. The rim route may be of interest another time. There isn’t the usual series of markers showing the way but one eight miles away away on the horizon. The route is well marked on our chart plotters though, so it was an easy transit across a very placid lake. There were at least a half dozen controlled burns going on along the south bank as we crossed.

Controlled burns

As we neared our exit point at Clewiston we saw an unusual concrete structure just sitting on its own in the water. We did some Googling and discovered that it used to be the fresh water source for the town of Clewiston.

Old fresh water supply

There is a lock at Clewiston that protects the town from high lake water, and you need to pass through it to get to Roland Martin Marina. Most of the time it is open. Today it was closed. Since it was only 12:15 we decided that we could go on and make tomorrow’s run to Fort Myers shorter. So we called Roland Martin Marina to cancel our resevation, aiming for the town dock at Moore Haven about 15 miles further on.

We ran along the canal at he western edge of the lake, with large pieces of equipment working on raising the Herbert Hoover Dyke and got into the Moore Haven Town Dock before three and tied up. This is an unmanned dock which is on a first come basis, no reservations. There was only one other boat there so we had plenty of room to tie up. We walked Bella though the small town and we have never been barked at by as many yard dogs as we did in Moore Haven!! Around six pm a guy turned up in a city truck and asked us the length of our boat was, and we handed over our dock fee of one dollar a foot, water and electric included!

Herbert Hoover Dyke project
Canal west of Lake Okeechobee

The next day, Monday the 24th we were off as soon as Bella got her morning walk – with plenty of town dogs yet again barking at her! We started off in a morning fog, which caused enough wet mist that we ran from the pilot house.

Foggy morning

We met very few other boats going east or west on the river. We transited the Ortona Lock and the W.P Franklin Lock, and made Fort Myers Yacht Basin by three pm. We bunkered fuel before backing into slip East 44. An elderly gentleman on a interesting looking yacht in the next slip came out to greet us. He introduced himself as Captain Harding of HMS Turtle, meaning His Metal Ship Turtle, a small steel tug.

We got everything tidied away and took Bella for a walk to the large Centennial Park just south of the marina. We were disappointed to find that the entire park was closed off for redevelopment. There was another large park just north of the marina, but that too was fenced off. All in all we did not find downtown Fort Myers very “green,” which was surprising given the large number of dog owners and joggers we saw during our two day stay.

We did take the time at the marina to relax, do some boat chores and ate at Izzy’s seafood restaurant (just OK) and at Firestone which was excellent.

Paul needed a part from West Marine, which was seven miles away. We were chatting to Captain Harding and telling him we were going to get an Uber down to get the part. He told us that he was going to lunch with a friend and was quite happy to go pick it up. Paul called West Marine, paid for the part, and Captain Harding duly delivered it to the boat that afternoon. You meet many kind people while cruising!

We had identified Pink Shell Resort on Fort Myers Beach (Estero Island) as somewhere we wanted spend Thanksgiving weekend. It had a marina that by all accounts was top class and well run. In fact they state on their website that it has been recognized as one of the top 25 marinas to visit in North America. We had been trying to book it but the marina was full, Paul kept trying, hoping for a cancellation, but with no luck.

So we booked into small marina at the south end of Estero Island called Fish Tale for the day before Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving Day. On Wednesday we ran slowly from Fort Myers to the south end of Estero Island where we had to enter though Big Carlos Pass and the low drawbridge there. When Paul looked at the charts of the area and the chart plotter, even though there is a marked channel, the depths showed nothing but one to four feet. Paul is a member of Trawler Forum and they have a new function where people identify themselves as Port Captains of the areas that they know. Paul contacted Larry who was a Port Captain for the Fort Myers area. With the feedback he got we felt more confident going through the pass. In fact we saw nothing less that 10 feet all the way through and the bridge tender was very accommodating when opening the draw.

Chart into big Carlos Pass
Big Carlos drawbridge

Fish Tale is a very tight marina, the approach and the marina itself. Plus they had tucked us into the back of the marina. But we took it slow and got into the slip with no issues.

In our slip at Fish Tale

We were only a block from the beach so took Bella over for a walk and went later for the sunset with drinks at Pinchers! That evening we had a very nice pavement dining meal at South Beach Grille. We would recommend both the food and the service.

Beach sunset

The next day was Thanksgiving. We walked the beach and had early afternoon drinks and shrimp at the Fish Tale restaurant. In fact for a couple who love Mayport shrimp, the gulf shrimp that we were served were large, moist and delicious!

Gulf shrimp

After watching another glorious sunset and back on Sonas, Sian cooked up a wonderful Thanksgiving meal of Turkey, roast potatoes, brussel sprouts, swede and carrot mash, and gravy! This cruising life ain’t so bad afterall!

We had a nice couple of days over Thanksgiving walking the beach. Next it will be off to Pink Shell Resort for a few days and then making the turn back east and home.

Walking Fort Myers Beach
Fort Myers Beach

Fall Cruise 2020 – Jacksonville To Cocoa

The first part of this year’s fall cruise was with four other boats from the Queen’s Harbour neighborhood. The plan was for everyone to run to Halifax Marina in Daytona on the first day. Since we are the slow boat of the fleet we decided to leave a day early and run to Palm Coast first to get a jump on the other boats.

Running the AICW

We left on Sunday November 15th and ran down through Palm Valley. As we entered the cut a blue hulled DownEaster named Meridian passed us. I recognized the make so asked for a chat on 17. I told him that we used to have a Vicem in our marina but that it was sold and the new owner took it to Rhode Island. He told us that this was the same boat, they had renamed it and were now on their way to their winter home in Key Largo! What were the odds that they would pass us a few miles from the marina it used to reside in! In fact we had just had dinner with the previous owners a week before! We chatted for a while before they took off.

Meridisn, used to be Tslly Ii

The tide was as high as we ever saw it through Palm Valley. Most of the docks were under water. The dock at the Palm Valley Outdoors Bar And Grill restaurant was busy with every table full.

Flooded Palm Valley
Flooded Plm Valley

We passed through St Augustine and arrived at Palm Coast Marina in time to get spruced up and go over to the European Village for an Indian meal. The restaurant was not doing any table service, we had to give our order at the door, then wait to pick up our takeaway which we ate at a table outside the restaurant.

Curries, pappadoma, and Nan bread.

Next day we took on some fuel, walked our dog then meandered to Halifax Marina in Daytona well in advance of the other boats.

Under way we were again hailed on the radio by Meridian, the Vicem yacht who had stopped over in St Augustine. We had another long conversation.

Meridian

The four other boats and crews eventually joined us one at a time during the afternoon. This evening we looked around for a restaurant that could serve us outside. We found most restaurants were closed or very limited. We found an Asian Fusion restaurant, Ichi Ni San, that had a courtyard and booked a table for ten. When we got there they had moved the table into an inside room which made us somewhat uncomfortable, but we were the only diners in the room. They were not quite staffed for a large group and the service was somewhat slow, but the food was very good.

Next day we left as soon as Bella got her walk and again got a jump on the group. We went through Mosquito Lagoon and past Cape Canaveral.

They soon overtook us though and they were made an audience on the Cocoa Village Marina dock watching us back into our slip on a gusty day! We got into the slip without incident.

NASA Vehicle Building
NASA Canaveral

That evening we had an outdoor docktail on the balcony overlooking the marina. The wind was still gusting and making things chilly, so we tucked ourselves into a corner and had good conversation and good food which we had all brought to share.

We were staying in Cocoa for a couple of days. Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate. It blew like the dickens and rained often. We chatted about our boats and had lunches and dinners in the open air restaurants. We ate at Murdock’s, Tapas and Tacos, and Ryan’s Irish Pizzeria (who knew such a thing existed!).

Outside Cocoa Village Marina

On Friday morning the rest of the fleet left for home while we headed off further south to continue our fall cruise.

Sonas arriving at Cocoa Village Marina
Martin and Marian on M&M leaving the Cocoa
Glenn and Debbie on Etoile De Mer Leaving Cocoa
Gary and Carol on Lucky Dogs leaving Cocoa
Frank and Julie on Escape leaving Cocoa

Hilton Head October 2020

We provisioned Sonas for a ten day fall trip from Jacksonville to Hilton Head, South Carolina and back.

Because the tides weren’t right for us to leave our home dock early in the morning of Saturday Oct 10th we left the previous evening and tied up at the local free dock at Sister’s Creek.

Sister’s Creek Free Dock

The next day we headed north on the AICW. We looked to see if we could go outside but today the weather was calling for five footers so we decided to stay inside. We cruised through Fernandina (where the massive crane that will be cutting up the Golden Ray still sat). Knot Fast the Great Harbor that had visited with us in Queens Harbor the previous week was also tied up at the marina.

Knot Fast in Fernandina

Then past Kings Bay Submarine base where we saw a nuclear sub in the maintenance bay.

Ohio Class Sub at King’s Bay

We carried on up to St Simon’s and our overnight reservation at Morningstar Marina. On entering St Simon’s Sound we saw the Golden Ray car carrier laying on its side on the shallows right off the pier.

The Golden Ray

After tying up at the marina we took on 250 gallons of diesel, which would easily see us through this and the next couple of trips. We had booked a table at the Coastal Kitchen Restaurant and had a really nice socially distancing seafood meal.

The next day we left soon after first light, which these days is around 7:30am, and continued north. Our aim today was to stay at the marina in Sunbury GA. The wind was still blowing some so offshore was not an option. In the past we have been able to run directly from St Simon’s Sound to Calibogue Sound in Hilton Head, but with the heavy seas and shorter fall days we would have to break the trip into two, albeit shorter, days.

We had a nervous half hour as we hit the notorious Mud River right at low tide. This part of the AICW shoals badly and we were showing as low as 0.8 feet beneath us as we went through – slowly!

Not much water to play with!

We arrived in the rustic village of Sunbury mid-afternoon. That evening we dined at the Sunbury Crab Company restaurant. We had heard good things about the restaurant, but found it just OK. With the pandemic it was very quiet. We ordered a bottle of cabernet and were told that the bar man was using the last bottle for bar pours. But she had a bottle of Merlot. OK we said, and she turned up with a one and a half liter bottle.!We sent it back and stuck with beer. Clearly wine is not a big seller in these parts!

The next morning we headed out through St Catherine’s Sound into the Atlantic. The wind and seas had died down enough that we could run outside today. We had a very comfortable run into Hilton Head.

Sunbury sunrise

We had wanted to stay at the Shelter Cover Marina as we had stayed there before and found it handy for all of the restaurants and stores. However they had a waiting list for all of October. So instead we had booked into Windmill Harbor Marina.

Windmill Harbor is similar to our home set up. It is a marina in a neighborhood with a lock. When we arrived at the lock we found it narrower than our home lock. At 19 feet wide that gave us less than two feet of clearance on either side! As we got into the lock Paul went to use the bow thruster and found it wouldn’t respond. Rather than take Sonas down an unfamiliar fairway and reversing into an unfamiliar slip when we didn’t know what was going on mechanically, we asked if we could have a “lay-along” tie. The marina did not have one available but the harbormaster called over to the South Carolina Yacht Club asking if we could use theirs and they were fine with it. So that’s what we did!

Entrance to the lock at Windmill Harbor

We had planned on staying there for three days and had actually arranged reciprocal amenities with the yacht club from our club. We walked the neighborhood with Bella a few times a day and ate at the yacht club every evening The food was wonderful and we met some very nice people!

Sonas at South Carolina Yacht Club

Paul had tried to get a mechanic to come look at our bow thruster with no luck so we would have to leave that until we got back to Jacksonville.

On the day we had planned on leaving, Thursday the 15th Paul went to start the engines and found the batteries depleted. We had been plugged into shore power and charging so this was a surprise. Paul checked the start batteries and found them dead. They were only five years old. We arranged with the yacht club to spend another night and Paul found a company to come check the batteries and swap them out for new ones.

We finally left on Friday with new batteries. Though this was not quite the end of our mechanical issue!

Our aim today was a small remote village in Georgia called Kilkenny. It was the perfect distance for a short day’s run. We again were able to run outside and back in again at St Catherine’s, then a short trip back up the ICW.

Kilkenny marina was interesting. We watched as small shrimpers came in and offloaded. We also watched as they used a crane system to launch and lift small boats. The banks were so steep here that a ramp was out of the question. The marina charged a dollar a foot for a launch and retrieval! The marina did not have cleats but low wooden pieces that you wrapped your lines around.

Kilkenny cleats!

We had booked into the Market 107 Restaurant next door and had another seafood dinner, but we reckoned that the meal we had at Coastal Kitchen in St Simon’s was the best of the trip.

Next day we were off again. We had originally planned on staying at Morningstar Marina in St Simon’s again, then Cumberland Island the next night before home. But decided to go on to Jekyll Island Marina today and then go straight on home the next day, Sunday the 18th.

We passed by the Golden Ray again and entered Jekyll channel on low tide. We eased our way to the marina, often with less that two feet beneath the keel! We cooked a couple of steaks on the boat deck grill this evening!

Mother and baby manatee in Jekyll Harbor Marina

On Sunday the 18th we were again off at first light and followed a small sailboat out of the marina. We caught up to her as we made the turn into St Andrew’s Sound. The AICW in this area can be problematic as there are shoaling sandbars right across the middle of the sound. Boats transiting the AICW have to go out pretty much to the mouth of the sound. Today it was blowing on shore and nice big rollers were coming it. The little sailboat tucked in behind us to help it with the seas and then cut across earlier than us as it did not draw as much. We rounded the buoy getting hit somewhat by quite heavy seas but it because easier once we had them on our stern quarter.

Navigator Bella!

We again passed inside Cumberland Island, past Fernandina and we were tied up at home dock by 3:00pm. We did encounter an overcharging issue on our start batteries today. We suspect that one of our Balmar battery regulators has gone bad. We also suspect that is why we had the battery issue while we were in Hilton Head. Sonas is going to the yard for some new teak soon, so we will have them investigate the issue.

Click on the first photo below to scroll through them or start a slideshow.

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Cumberland and Fernandina Trip Oct 2020

For the third week in a row we had decent weather to do a mid-week mini cruise on Sonas. We left in cool conditions on Wednesday morning helming from the pilot house. Instead of using the small tender from our boat deck, which would have entailed using the davit to launch and retrieve it, we towed our larger 15′ RIB. This would make it easier to use and was much more stable for Paul getting off and on given that he is still limited by a back brace.

As we passed Fernandina we heard a Securite call over the VHF advising that a naval ship was on the way in through Cumberland Sound and to keep clear. The rule is no approach within 100 yards and go to steerage speed only within 500 yards. We had time to get across the Sound and into our anchorage before the Ohio Class submarine appeared and went towards the Kings Bay submarine base.

We were also passed by the mega yacht d’Natalin IV which we had seen just last week down in St Augustine.

We arrived at our anchorage off the Sea Camp dock in Cumberland. The day had turned warm so we headed off to the island for a walk across to the ocean-side beach. On landing Paul used the on-line National Parks payment system to pay our entry fee. It is $10 per person for seven days, under 16 years old is free.

Dogs are allowed on the island but not on the ferry so the only way they can get there is by private boat. Bella was the only dog on the Island! We had a gentle two mile walk through the sea forest and on the unspoilt beach before returning to Sonas.

Just before Sunset Paul launched the drone and took some video of the anchorage and the island.

The next day, Thursday, we again walked the beach in the morning before breakfast and some boat chores. After lunch we headed across and tied up at the Fernandina Harbor Marina. Some friends had come up in their boat and we were going to spend the evening with them.

We went to Joe’s Second Street Bistro and had an excellent meal in their courtyard before heading back to Sonas for conversation and wine!

We had left our plans open for Friday. We were either going to head home or down to one of our favorite anchorages on the Fort George River. Instead we decided to return to Cumberland Island. We again walked the island and beach, with Bella meeting wild horses and deer for the first time!

Saturday turned up very breezy, with 20 mph winds, but we returned to home dock without incident.

Click on a photo below to enlarge or to start a slideshow of the photos.

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September 2020 St Augustine Trip

We had planned on the short cruise up to Fort George River and anchoring out for a couple of nights. But, since I was still restricted after my back surgery, Sian had concerns over my ability to help out should there be any issues with the dinghy (especially the outboard) if she got into trouble. During the day would not be an issue as there usually were other boaters around, but the last trip ashore in the evening with Bella would be the issue.

So on Wednesday as we exited the channel from home dock we turned right on the AICW instead of left. Sian contacted St Augustine Marina and asked for reservations for two nights. We had an uneventful trip to St Augustine, tied up by 3:00. After a doggie walk and a nap, we went up to O.C. Whites for dinner. They have a nice sized courtyard for safe dining.

The next day, Thursday, a couple of mega yachts arrived, joining the two already there. This is the first time we have ever seen more than one of them at the marina when we have been there. We spent a relaxing day at the marina, walking the town, enjoying an ice cream, and general people and boat watching!

Sian completed a couple of boat jobs that Paul hadn’t been able to do. Replacing a bilge pad, replacing the fresh water filter, and a swapping out a 12v power receptacle on the foredeck.

We walked over to Harry’s Grill which also had a sizable courtyard and had dinner there.

We delayed our departure from the marina on Friday until late morning as we needed mid-tide or better to enter the channel into our home dock. Because we were running ahead of a light wind in 87 degree weather the trip back was hot but uneventful!

We may not have been able to enjoy a three month trip on Sonas this year but we are trying to squeeze in as many days as we can now!

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September 2020 Fernandina Cruise

After four months tied up due to both COVID 19 and Paul’s back surgery we finally got to take Sonas up to Fernandina for a couple of nights. Frank and Julie Proctor on Escape joined us. We had dinner on board the first night and then a birthday dinner (Paul’s) at Joe’s 2nd Street Bistro on the second night. The weather called for rain but we didn’t really get any – though there were plenty of clouds around as you can see from the photos!

This was Bella’s first over night cruise and she handled it like a champ, in fact she loved it. Seems we have ourselves a new boat dog!

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2020 Projects

Social Distancing – Fortunate To Have Sonas At Home

Well COVID-19 certainly put paid to our annual spring three months cruise to the Bahamas. Initially, like everyone else, we didn’t know how long we would be tied to the dock, and we were optimistic that the delay would only last a month or two. As time dragged on I began to complete one boat project, then another, and another, and I even thought we might get to the job that was on the very bottom of the project list – giving the engine room and bilges a good cleaning and repainting parts of the engine that needed touching up!

Dirty engine

Windlass

We were anchored off Cumberland Island for three nights back in March and Sian noticed a new sound when raising the anchor. When we got home I had a look at the Maxwell HWC 3500 and saw that two of the bolts that held the shaft to the port side gear box had either come loose or sheared off. They were grinding against the manual retrieval plate.

Maxwell 3500 Windlass

My mechanic dismantled the windlass and found everything well greased and easily came off the port side of the windlass, until he got to the clutch cone. It was seized solid to the shaft. No amount of cajoling, prizing, wedging would get it to budge. He decided to remove the starboard side of the windlass and see if he could remove the shaft to work on the port side, and found the starboard side clutch cone stuck as well.

Clutch cone

Next he used a heat gun to heat up the bronze cone to try and pop it from the shaft. After quite a while that did the trick. When he removed the manual retrieval plate he found that the four bolts holding the shaft to the motor housing had failed. One had sheared off completely, the three others were loose with two of them bent. We simply cannot remember an incident that would have caused that damage.

So the mechanic got the windlass off the deck and took it completely apart to full investigate what was going on. He found the gear housing plate cracked and the bolt holes worn, allowing the windlass to become loose. So we ordered all of the needed parts and rebuilt the windlass. It was obviously a catastrophic failure but we still don’t know what caused it.

Worn bolt holes and cracked housing
Rebuilt gear housing

Teak swim platform and steps

Over the past couple of seasons the caulking on the swim platform teak had been coming off. I asked the yard if anything could be done and they told us that the teak was so worn that it was now too thin to re-caulk. We had been finding that it was also uncomfortable to walk on in certain areas. The yard had given us a couple of names of people to do the work but they were busy and couldn’t get to our project. I was finally directed to a company called Teakdecking Systems out of Sarasota.

Teakdecking were very responsive, although they also said that they had a lot of work on the books they would schedule us as soon as they could. They gave me a quote based on a measurement sheet I sent them and then in early May they advised that they had a team going up to Savannah who would stop by Jacksonville on their way to take the measurements.

Ron stopped by on his way to an installation on a large Viking in Savannah to make the template. He took it back to Sarasota where they made a digital pattern and are currently fabricating the teak. They said they could send an installation team but recommended I use Huckins here in Jacksonville as they do tear out and installs and that would save me the travel and lodging. Huckins is waiting for the final shipping date before scheduling Sonas.

Swim platform template

I couldn’t persuade Ron into the engine Room either!

Floating dock

I treated myself to a new floating dock for our AB 15 DLX RIB. Even though the water at our home is mostly fresh we still get white worm on unpainted bottoms. We were continuously lifting the RIB and storing it in the garage, which was not very convenient.

The blocks arrived and Sian and I put it together ourselves. We had a couple of missteps, mainly from not making sure we were on a flat surface, but once we moved the build to the flat concrete dock it went smoothly. Once together and in the water roped to the inside of our dock, we ran the RIB up onto it – and only got half way! Talking to Dock Blocks they suggested adding more water to the entrance blocks to lower them. We did that and still couldn’t get the RIB more than half way on. I then noticed that the chines were getting caught in the channel of the floating dock and that was stopping the RIB from coming on. It needed to be lifted higher on entry.

Dock Blocks had a solution – circular bunks that install into each side of the channel. They sent me links to other installs and to the process. I decided that I didn’t want to retro-fit these so asked if they could install next time they were in the area.

I can’t say enough about Mark Partridge from Dock Blocks. He was passing through Jacksonville returning from visiting family. His wife and child amused themselves in Jacksonville while Mark came and installed the bunks – charging only for the parts.

He stayed and watched me successfully load the boat after the install!

Dock bunks

Marquipt Davit

Next up was tidying up the davit. We had been seeing flecks of rust on the deck underneath the winch area for some time and saw that the outside of the motor had a coat of rust. We had also bought a new cable and hook set from Marquipt over a year ago and it was time to install that as the current cable had kinks.

 I took the cover off and gave the winch a good sanding and a couple of coats of Rust-oleum rust converter. Then I gave the cable a yank from the top of the drum, it wouldn’t budge. Tried with pliers; wouldn’t move. I know on previous davits that a small piece is jammed into the drum groove to hold the cable in place so I turned the drum to punch a screwdriver from the bottom to dislodge the holding piece. Still nothing. So to get the cable out of the way I cut it and punched again. Still no movement. I sprayed with PB Blaster and tried again, and again. Finally I did what every red blooded man eventually does – I called the manufacturer for the Columbia 1000 winch!

Rusty winch

They kindly sent me the schematic for the cable replacement, clearly showing a tear drop piece inserted into the bottom of the drum (not in from the top) holding the loop of cable!  Once I saw this I quickly punched a screwdriver from the top of the slot and out popped the tear drop – and the cable replacement was a cinch – after a couple of days of trying!

Schematic showing tear drop

I was trying to persuade Sian into the ER while I was handling this, with no success!

New shades

First up was selecting and having new shades installed. Sonas still had her original wooded venetian blinds. Some of the cords had snapped, and some of the head mechanisms had become worn and stiff. After we broke off a part of a slat on one of the blinds it was time to replace them.

Old blinds

We first selected roller blinds and the manufacturer came and measured. Unfortunately when the installer came to check things before they were manufactured we discovered that the roller heads would not fit behind the bug screen frame on the rear salon doors. After discussion we decided to go with honeycomb blinds due to the smaller footprint. Again she measured, again we paid and again the installer came to check and said that the honeycomb would not fit either.

The choice was to change out everything but the door windows or leave as it. Somewhat frustrated we told them that we would hold off for now and stick with what we had.

Then I was on Yachtworld one day looking at another Grand Alaskan trying to answer a question for someone when I saw a boat for sale that had Roman Shades. They looked great and because of the way they work there was no large head mechanism. We called the company back and after measuring, paying, and a final installer visit we found that they worked. So Sonas is now sporting new window treatments!

New shades

Brightwork

The next project, while it was still somewhat cool for Florida, was putting new poly on the cap rails. We had neglected to add a couple of coats last year and the relentless Bahamian and Florida sun had taken spots back to the teak. I decided to separate the rails into three jobs. One around the rear side-walks and the cockpit. The second around the Portuguese Bridge, and the third the fore deck.  I spot scraped and sanded all of the spots back to the teak, filled with three coats of poly and finally went over all of the cap rails with an additional three coats.

Spotty teak

I did some research on how I could get the brightwork to look uniform but the overall consensus was that unless you take everything back to the bare teak, the new varnish spots will show as the older teak has been discolored by the sun and elements over time. Eventually the spots will start to merge.  Note to self – a light sanding and a couple of new coats every fall or spring will keep the bigger job at bay!

Thought for a second or two about cleaning the engine room next, but luckily managed to find other projects!

Power pedestal

We have our own dock behind our home. The power pedestal, probably original from 1998, was looking the worse for wear. So I carefully power washed it, and gave it three coast of bright white with a light sanding in between. I was quite pleased with the result!

Cleaned pedestal
Painted pedestal

Re-arming PFDs

It was time to replace the arming on our two West Marine Coastal and two Mustang Survival PFDs. We decided to have a bit of fun with this and jump into our pool wearing them. This proved that they were still good AND allow us the experience of having them go off while wearing them.

They worked fine and are now rearmed!

Two types of PFDs

They worked!!

So here we are in September and I still haven’t cleaned the engine room! I have found other ways to avoid it, including re-sanding the pavers around the house, re-painting the garden gnomes, and digitizing hundreds, if not more, old photographs and letters!

Pavers

Gnomes

May 1 RIB Cruise

A mixed day today on our planned trip up to Bird Island off Nassau Sound. First there was a scheduling issue at the lock and we couldn’t get out at our planned time. So ended up staying at home for lunch. We finally got out early afternoon, but too late for our planned destination. So we went up to Fort George River for an hour or so instead. Plus again, the forecasted wind of 15-16 turned into a strong blow. However any day on the water beats any day in the office!

Galapagos

We left Quito and arrived at the airport on Baltra Island. The airport bus takes you to the ferry dock when you boat across to Santa Cruz Island. In the afternoon we went to see the Galapagos Giant Tortoises and watched as the local liquor was made (and sampled it) . Next day we took a boat to Santa Fe Island and visited with the seals and took a walk through the island. On the second day we visited North Seymour Island and the Boobies, Frigates and iguanas. We had a chance to snorkel the clear waters on both days.

Click on the first photo below and it will give you the choice to play a slide show of the photos or you can use the arrow on the far right to click through them one at at time.

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Ecuador

We arrived in Quito from Lima and visited the Equator Museum and the church of the Virgen De Quito. Since Ecuador is the world’s largest producer of roses we went to a rose farm, and a humming bird sanctuary. We had lunch in the Cafe Plaza Grande and took the cable car ride up to the Pichincha volcano.

Click on the first photo below and it will give you the choice to play a slide show of the photos or you can use the arrow on the far right to click through them one at at time.