To see a large version of any of these photos simply right click on the photo and select “open image in new tab.”
Sonas has been at home dock for the majority of late summer. Most of this was due to some traveling that we did off the boat, but we also took the opportunity to do some maintenance and updating.
We replaced every battery on the boat. 12 6v AGM golf cart batteries for the house. Both generator AGM start batteries (we have 24v system), both 12v AGM batteries for the electronics, and both AGM 8D batteries for the engine starts, windlass and bow thruster.
We also added a series of battery monitors which gives us a full read out of the batteries, their health, charge, draw etc.
We added a new touch screen display on the flybridge to replace the old one which had no longer worked, and added two Garmin marine cameras feeding into the screen. One on the radar arch looking backwards, and one in the engine room. This is replicated in the pilot house.
We replaced the port exhaust hose after noticing a small tear, the starboard was replaced two years ago.
So after all that was completed and we had settled from our travels we headed off the Cumberland Island for four days. Readers of this blog will already know that this is one of our “happy places,” and we go up there as often as we can.
We had been watching the forecast and were hoping it would hold as it was absolutely perfect boating weather! For all four days the forecast was for around 80f during the day and mid-60s at night. With zero wind.
On Tuesday we were out through our lock right as it opened at 8am. Ran north on the AICW to the St John’s and turned right for the ocean. Once past Mayport Naval Station and outside we found flat calm waters with hardly a swell. This held all the way to the St Mary’s Inlet. One thing we noticed was all the sailboats heading south out of the St Johns, all taking advantage of the weather.
We ran up to the Cumberland Island Anchorage on the East River right off the Sea Camp dock. As we passed the Dungeness/Ice House dock we saw that the yellow danger tape was still on the tender dock, then we saw the same on the Sea Camp dock. These docks had been damaged two or three years ago and had not yet been fixed. The good news was there were men working on the docks, so we were hopeful they would be open soon! For now we had to use the small 30 foot or so south portion of the Sea Camp dock temporarily allocated for tenders. Then on Friday we were notified that the work on both docks and the subsequent inspections were complete, and the docks were now open for tenders to use.
There were around 20 boats already anchored, and this was consistent over the 4 days. These were the northern climate boaters heading south , further into Florida and/or the Bahamas and Caribbean.
Once anchored we cranked up the generator just long enough to launch the dinghy. Sian took Bella ashore for a necessary, then we took her for a longer walk on the beach later in the afternoon. We had the 18 mile beach all to ourselves! As we were leaving the island to go back to Sonas we watch an Ohio class nuclear sub depart from Kings Bay. We would also see one coming in on day two and another leaving on day 3!
As forecast the air went still and the water to glass in the evening. We never heard a murmur all night. The sunset was glorious.
Next day, Wednesday, Frank and Julie arrived on their Larson, Escape and Don and Susan on their Grand Banks, Passage. We took Frank and Julie ashore for a ranger led beach walk.
In the evening we six had dinner aboard Passage. Again the waters were glassy and silent all night, with yet another beautiful sunset.
On Thursday Sian, Frank and Julie were dropped off at the Dungeness dock and took a ranger led tour of the Dungeness ruins, watching the wide horses graze nearby.
Around lunchtime Bill and Betsy arrived on their Great Harbor, Pipe Dream. Everyone came across to Sonas in the evening for grilled steaks and camaraderie. And for the third night we had a calm anchorage.
Finally on Friday everyone left late morning and we ran outside on even calmer water than our trip up.
This is the perfect weather for Florida boating!!
Sunday May 21st – Monday May 22nd – Green Turtle Club
Next stop on the grand tour of Abaco with our friends Frank and Julie was lovely Green Turtle Cay. This would be our third visit here on this year’s cruise.
On Sunday we used the Green Turtle Club’s pool and on Monday we rented a golf cart from D&P’s Cart Rental. We took our guests up to Coco Bay beach, then ran down to New Plymouth to show them the town and get some groceries from Syd’s Grocery. We also stopped by the monument to the British Loyalists who made Abaco their home during the American Revolution (rebellion!).
We had read about the bar and restaurant called Pineapples, just outside New Plymouth. We had never been there before so decided to go look for it. We followed Google Maps and ended up on a very narrow, rocky path more than a road. However it was worth it when we bounced along in the golf cart and arrived at the restaurant finding a cool place to have drinks and a meal. In future we will go there the way we were obviously meant to go – by dinghy from our boat!
After a stop the beach at the Tranquil Turtle we checked our dinner reservation at Bluff House for this evening was in place.
When we came out of Bluff House we found the battery on our golf cart dead. When Paul called D&P it so happened that she had a cart left by other renters parked right there at the Bluff House Marina. We grabbed that and were quickly on our way!
That evening we had a very pleasant meal at the Bluff House, though we were bothered by a number of flies that suddenly appeared as soon as the food did. A lit Sterno soon helped resolve that!
Tuesday May 23rd – Orchid Bay
We were working our way south through the Sea of Abaco on our guided tour of the islands. Next stop was to get back across the Whale Cay Channel and down to Great Guyana. There was more of a swell through the channel than when we came north but it was still pretty comfortable for our stabilized boat.
We had planned on taking Frank and Julie up to Nippers for dinner, but were disappointed to discover that it was closed on Tuesday. We were surprised as Tuesday seemed a strange day to close, however we should have checked into that during our planning.
We did go up and used Nippers’ beach access and walked the wonderful wild Atlantic beach before having dinner onboard.
Wednesday May 24th – Man O War
We thought it would be interesting to take Frank and Julie to see Man O War as it a unique place in the Abacos with its small boat building industry and other small businesses such as the canvas shop. It is also a dry island!
We picked up a mooring ball right off the marina, which is still in the rebuilding stage. The outer docks have been build but no slips. We went ashore and walked the interesting streets, looking in at some of the boat building and visiting the canvas shop, which unfortunately we found very expensive.
It was dinner onboard that night as there are no restaurants up and running. Just as well as the clouds rolled in and the rain started pouring!. And boy did it pour!
We awoke Thursday morning to find a nearby mooring ball had gone under our stern during a wind shift in the night. Paul got into the dinghy and easily pushed the stern off the ball and it swung free well off our starboard given the new wind direction.
We had been told that there was a nice coffee shop in the settlement. We walked up and had an excellent breakfast and then visited the small museum attached to the coffee shop. This is well worth a stop if you are ever in Man O War. Julie stayed behind and investigated more of the island on foot. After we picked her up we dropped the mooring ball and headed off to our next stop, Hope Town.
Thursday May 25th – Friday May 26th – Hope Town
We entered the narrow entrance to Hope Town harbour towing the dinghy. As we got to the Lighthouse Marina we stopped and moved the dinghy to the bow to allow us to back into our slip and then bring the dinghy alongside. We needed the dinghy in the water as this was the only way to get across the harbour to Hope Town proper.
After Paul the dock master got us tied up we got into the dinghy and went across to Hope Town and walked through some of the town. We stopped at Munchies and got ourselves an ice cream. We had a golf cart rented for tomorrow, Friday, so we would be seeing more of Elbow Cay then.
This evening we had booked a table at Bridget’s Rum Bar at Hope Town Marina. We were able to walk there and back from our slip at Lighthouse Marina. While the food and service excellent unfortunately there had just been a cloud burst before we walked over and again as soon as the food arrived so did swarms of flies. The restaurant brought out three lit Sternos and that successfully chased the flies away!
The next day Paul went across early and got the keys to the golf cart. After breakfast we all went over and drove around the town and then drove the length of Elbow Cay down to Tahiti Beach. On our way back we stopped at The Abaco Inn to take some photos and to grab a half dozen of their plastic cups. This was to replenish those we had as mementoes off previous visits.
We also stopped by Sea Spray Marina to see how their rebuilding was coming along. We found the marina fully functional and a small Tiki bar in place. The rest of the on shore facilities were still being built.
We had a pleasant lunch at Capn Jacks. Frank and Julie then did what everyone should do when visiting Hope Town, they climbed the Lighthouse!
Saturday May 27th – Marsh Harbour
Sadly it was time for Frank and Julie to leave us. We left Hope Town and headed for Conch In Marina for the sixth time this trip! Eric was there to greet us and help tie us up on our favorite slip – slip 53 with the long T-Head. Meaning we could use both our lower gate and upper gate to get Bella off without trouble regardless of the tide.
On our way to Marsh Harbour Paul contacted Lorenzo, the electronics guy who had ordered the replacement fuse to resolve our house charging issue. He gave us the sad news that the fuse had not arrived and we would have to manage the charging issue all the way back to Jacksonville.
Today was Sian’s birthday and this evening we went up to Snappas and had a birthday dinner, with Sian indulging in the Imperial Double Chocolate Cake!
Sunday May 28th – Powell Cay
This morning Frank and Julie left mid-morning for the airport and we left our slip soon after. We took on some diesel, we probably had enough to get home, adding in the 150 gallon we lock down in our small forward tank “just in case.” But being conservative we took on an extra 250 gallons, which would give us plenty of reserve.
So off we went across Whale Cay Channel for the last time this trip. It was actually the least comfortable crossing we had experienced so far, with Paul having to manually handle Sonas for most of the run through the reefs, but we got through without issue.
We dropped anchor at Powell, launched the dinghy and took Bella ashore. Our trip out of Abaco had begun, tomorrow Great Sale, then West End and the Gulf Stream crossing.
Monday May 29th – Great Sale. Tuesday May 30th to West End
The trip to Great Sale from Powell was straightforward. We got there early afternoon and we were the first boat into the anchorage. By nightfall we had been joined by a dozen other boats, four of them arriving after dark. some heading back west towards Florida, some of them just starting their cruise through the Bahamas.
Because there was absolutely no wind this evening we ran the generator to run our air conditioning. Around 3am Sian woke up and heard a pump running. Paul went into the engine room and found a small stream of water running into the bilge there, triggering the bilge pump. After much checking he found the water coming from the generator. It was salty, hot and was coming from the coolant overflow hose. He checked that generator control panel and found the temperature gauge normal and the power output also normal. However he shut down the generator and tomorrow we will call our mechanic in Jacksonville and get some direction.
Next day we had another simple run to Old Bahama Bay. We had only booked in for the one night as all of the forecast sources indicated that a Gulf Stream crossing was available tomorrow, Wednesday. As we got within cell tower range at West End we found that the window had closed. In fact we found out that Saturday would be a possibility but it could be next week before we had an opening.
We ate at the marina restaurant this evening.
Wednesday 31st – West End
Paul called the marina office and extended our stay until Saturday. We walked the docks talking to boats that had arrived from Florida and hearing their stories about rough waters. We also talked to boaters who were, like us, waiting to cross back to Florida. All seemed aligned to waiting until Saturday at the earliest, maybe longer.
We used the resort pool and beach to relax.
That evening Paul checked all of our forecast resources and there seemed to be a small opening for tomorrow. However we decided to be conservative and wait until the morning Chris Parker and other forecasts.
Thursday June 1st – Crossing to Fort Pierce and Vero Beach
We set an early alarm for today in the hope that what we saw last night had firmed up. Sian took Bella for an early walk as we waited for the morning Chris Parker report. It finally came in around 7am and indicated 3 foot swells for the crossing. This meant some 4s or 5s but was doable for Sonas, The issue was the low in the Gulf Of Mexico creating severe storms off the coast of Central Florida during our arrival time, with winds to 40 knots and heavy downpours.
So we had a decision to make. Paul reached out directly to Matthew who had sent the Chris Parker report. He confirmed the doable conditions for the crossing itself but also confirmed the potentially nasty conditions we could meet off the coast of Florida.
We decided to go. Apart from a mega yacht heading further north we were the only boat out of the marina heading west. We had our ditch bag packed and our PLBs on us. We also updated those on our float plan of our decision.
And the conditions were fine all the way across. We had 12-14 knot winds from the north. Not what you would want in the gulf stream but the swells were consistently around four feet with minimal waves on top. The only issue was that the swells were not consistently from the same direction so it was a bit of a “washing machine” effect. However one good monitor of the conditions was Bella. If she was sick it was an uncomfortable crossing, and she wasn’t!!
Around 18 nautical miles from Fort Pierce, traveling north west on our Rhumb line, we got the emergency WX signal on our radio, warning of dangerous storms coming off Florida all the way from Lake Worth (West Palm) to Fort Pierce!
Well here we go!
We had our radar on. We have a Furuno “old fashioned” big box green radar. However we believe it is better than any fancy new multi color multi functional other radar. It clearly indicated not only the storms, their edges, but any boats in and around it. We saw the first storm coming, changed direction to due west to miss it. We did catch the extreme edge and our instruments showed gusts to 39 knots. But this was only for a few minutes until we got past it. Then we saw that if we changed course towards the north west and Fort Pierce again we would hit the gap between this storm and the next. And we successfully did it. We got a smattering of rain, but no wind or other impact.
We made the Fort Pierce inlet around 4pm and turned onto the AICW towards our booked slip at Vero Beach. 90 minutes later we were tied up with the help of the crew of a Sabre 45 called Bull Run, as the marina staff had gone home for the day. Sian took Bella off to the excellent dog park right by the marina.
We were across! We had left a float plan with a number of people so we updated them on our status. We also have a Garmin InReach which had been on while we were cruising, allowing people to track us. We now turned this off.
Friday June 2nd – Sunday June 4th – Titusville to Home Dock
We ran easily from Vero Beach to Titusville City Marina. We have traveled the AICW from Norfolk all the way to Miami and think this is the easiest stretch of the whole waterway. No bridges, no slow zones and plenty of deep water in the channel. We even had a face dock tie up at the marina which is always an easy in and out. Only slight issue we had was a dog was bullying at the dog park by the marina, so Sian had to take Bella for her walks elsewhere.
Saturday we ran north through Haulover Canal, avoiding the manatees in the canal and noticed the Falcon rocket staged at the space station ready for its launch tomorrow. Then along Mosquito Lagoon, through the slow zone by the fish camps before transiting New Smyrna Beach. On through Daytona and up to Palm Coast Marina. Again we had an easy face dock tie. As mentioned before PCM is always our first stop on our trips south and our last stop on our trip back north. We walked across to The European Village and the 5th element Indian restaurant for our final cruising meal!
Finally on Sunday we again headed north for the six hour trip through Marineland, St Augustine and into our lock for our home dock. As we progressed north the wind grew and grew, gusting in the low 30s. It stayed with us all the way home. We had no issues transiting the lock however and were tied up by 2pm.
This year’s Bahamas cruise was complete. We are already looking forward to next year and planning for Exuma and the far Bahamas again.
Saturday May 6th – Sunday May 7th – Green Turtle Cay
We had just spent two wonderful days anchored at Powell Cay, but with wind with gusts to the mid-30s in the forecast we decided to head back to Green Turtle Club for a couple of days.
When we arrived Frisco grabbed the first line and then I heard Sian over the headset saying “you can come onboard if you want!” On our previous visit to GTC Frisco had secured the first line and then asked for permission to come board when he then secured all of the other lines, including the bow lines to the outside piles. I smiled because obviously Sian wasn’t waiting for him to ask anymore but was encouraging him to do it again!!
We had a very relaxing couple of days at GTC, using their pool, chatting with the sports fishermen, including Jimmy from Australia who was over captaining a boat for an owner. We had him on Sonas on Sunday for a lamb dinner – Australian lamb of course.
Monday May 8th – Wednesday May 10th – Manjack Cay
The forecast had light winds for the rest of this week so we left Green Turtle and headed back north to Manjack Cay, (pronounced Munjack). This is also known as Nunjack Cay and is on the charts by that name.
We anchored off the beach on the north west side of the island. The beach was long and sandy and great for walking Bella. There were dozens of turtles at the south end of the beach, and rays frequented the waters around the dock in the middle of the beach.
We also took the dinghy over to the beach around the corner which faces due north. There were boats anchored in there but we could imagine it being untenable in any wind from the north as it was straight in from the Atlantic. There were people from small tour boats feeding the rays that would swim up and take food from the flat palm of their hands. Bella was fascinated by the rays but was very hesitant to go into the water!
Thursday May 11th – Monday May 15th – Tahiti Beach
Our friends and neighbors Frank and Julie were arriving on Wednesday the 17th to spend time with us on Sonas. As always we didn’t want to leave it too close to time to cross back over Whale Cay Channel. So on Thursday we headed back and ran down to Tahiti Beach for four nights.
This anchorage has great holding and has easy access to the small beach and large sandbar which appears at low tide. The Thirsty Cuda regularly pulls up on the sand bar and provides grilled food and drink.
On Saturday we decided to dinghy over to Lubbers Quarters and try the new restaurant there, Lubbers Landing. There was a stiff easterly wind blowing right into their dock but we were able to tie up and get off safely. We passed the sad sight of the shuttered Cracker P’s, a fun place we had been to many times.
We were the only customers at the restaurant, probably because of the on-shore wind. The food was good, though the selection of beers was limited. One of the waitresses told us that Cracker P’s had been bought by Pit Bull, a rapper, who was going to re-open the restaurant, although she said she had not seen any activity there yet. After we left we tried to confirm this on the internet but found nothing to substantiate it.
On Sunday we lost our drone! The winds were very light so we decided to take some video of Tahiti Beach and Lubbers Quarters. The drone started up fine without any errors or warnings. It took off as usual and responded to the controls. Then about two minutes into the flight it sent a message to the controller that it had a voltage fault and was landing. Since it was over water this was not going to be good. Paul was able to bring it back close to the boat and keep it in the air, but just as it got to Sonas it stopped responding to any commands and took off at speed towards Lubbers Quarters, then disappeared! We did get into the dinghy and go looking to see if we could see anything at the edge of Lubbers or in the water but since we had no idea which direction it went in or how far it was a futile search.
Also on Sunday we heard music from Tahiti Beach and as the day wore on the beach filled with locals. It was Mother’s day and they were having a party with drinks, food and music on the beach.
Tuesday May 16th – Conch Inn Marsh Harbour
It was time to head back to Marsh Harbour and the Conch Inn Marina to clean up and take on some water in preparation for the arrival of our guests tomorrow. We had scheduled a boat cleaning by Kevin McIntosh and his crew and they did a very thorough job.
We put the fresh water in and then went up to Colors Bahamian for dinner. We made sure to get there nice and early so that we could avoid the karaoke singing!!
Wednesday May 17th – Conch Inn Marina
We were finally able to get Lorenzo, the electrician from Aqua Marine, to come and look at our house charging issue. He eventually found that the T-Level fuse between the alternator and house bank had blown. He told us that there weren’t any on the island but that he would order one from the states and it would be there when we came back to drop off our guests.
In the early afternoon Frank and Julie arrived. We got them settled, including a warm wagging welcome from Bella who stays with them when we travel.
We had a table booked at the Jib Room for dinner and were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the restaurant and food. Like all establishments in Abaco right now it was quite pricey, but well worth the visit.
Thursday May 18th – Powell Cay
We wanted to show Frank and Julie as much of Abaco as we could in the ten days they would be with us. So back north we headed. We crossed a very benign Whale Cay Channel. Se did advise our guests that there was always a chance that we would not be able to get back when we wanted and, worse case, they would have to get the ferry from Green Turtle to Treasure Cay and a taxi to the airport for their flight out!
We anchored off Powell, walked the beach, and also snorkeled the sunken boat just off the beach.
Friday May 19 – Saturday May 20th – Manjack Cay
We headed south to revisit Manjack, which has now become our favorite stop in Abaco! As we approached we got hit with a heavy downpour. Everyone dived below except the poor helmsman! Paul took the boat in circles until the rain eased off and we could anchor!
During our stay we went over to the north beach again so that our guests could feed the rays, which they did with pieces of shrimp!
We also broke out the cards and played Sevens for hours each night!
Saturday April 29th – Monday May 1st – Green Turtle Club
There was a serious blow forecasted to start Sunday with winds over 40 knots so we booked into Green Turtle Club Marina for three days until it blew over.
The wind arrived earlier than forecasted and we backed into the slip in a decent blow. Frisco jumped on board and handled all the lines. As the day wore on the marina filled up with boats avoiding the wind. Boaters on the docks answered cries for help as just about everyone had a challenging time getting into the slips. The dock hands were terrific and no damage to boats or humans occurred! The mooring field in White Sound was full and some boats were swinging wildly in the wind.
Saturday evening we walked over to the bar, planning to eat there. However the tables are not really conducive to eating so we asked if that had a table on the patio. They did not, so we ate in the inside restaurant. The food was excellent.
During the weekend Sian explored different parts of Green Turtle within walking distance of the marina and eventually found Coco Bay beach while walking Bella. While not worrisome in itself, when she got back to the boat she started looking at real estate for sale in that area. Hmmmmmm!
On Monday we rented a golf cart and explored more of the island, going into New Plymouth for breakfast and visiting a few beaches, including Coco Bay again!
We took the golf cart over for a look at Bluff House and booked a table for dinner later that evening. We had a very nice dinner on their patio by the marina.
There were a number of sportsfishers in the marina and we happily chatted to all of them. Darryl, who ran the sportsfisher that was in the slip next to us, came over and gave us some Strawberry Grouper that they had caught. Enough for two meals!
Tuesday May 2nd – Great Abaco Island beach
The wind finally slacked off. Since it was still from the south we headed off to the beach across from Manjack on Great Abaco Island for the afternoon and night. We had been to this beach a number of times, including once on this trip. It isn’t usually the most scenic location but with the protection from southerly winds, the good holding, and the long sandy, easily accessible beach it made a great place to relax. This year the beach is interesting in that Dorian had rendered it pretty wild with layers of tress ripped up or stripped of their foliage, plus the flotsam and jetsam washed up makes for interesting walks.
Wednesday May 3rd – Allans Pensacola
This was the most disappointing day of our trip so far. We had really wanted to visit Allans Pensacola on this trip. The winds were from the north west blowing at over 20 knots making the north anchorage less feasible, there is in a large anchorage on the east side of the cay which looked like it would work well in these winds. We put down the anchor and waited for a couple of hours to see if the side-on surge we were getting off the ocean would subside. It did not and was rolling Sonas and the other boats in the anchorage substantially. We decided to leave and go to the north anchorage to see if it was better after all. As we approached the anchorage it was clear that it would be pretty rough so we retraced our track and re-achored in the east anchorage. And indeed it was a miserable night with the boat rolling. However we were safe!
Thursday May 4th – Friday May 5th – Powell Cay
The wind had changed to the north east so we went to the north anchorage which was now protected. We were very disappointed in that, while very scenic, here were no beaches of any length. This may have been because it was high tide when we arrived. Photos we have seen of this anchorage showed plenty of sandy beaches. So after a short explore on the dinghy we upped anchor and cruised slowly down to Powell Cay. Earlier in this trip we only had the opportunity to spend once night at Powell as we had to get to Marsh Harbour to pick guests up, so we were happy to spend more time there. We spent two wonderful days anchored off the beaches there. Yet again the forecast called for wind, with gusts to 35. So we booked back into Green turtle Club for a couple of nights.
Saturday April 23rd – Hope Town to Fisher’s Bay
[Daughter Claire and her boyfriend Jerome are guests on board]
After breakfast Claire and Jerome took the dinghy in and walked to the beach by the reef off Elbow Cay. We had the drone ready for their return and got some nice video as they returned. The report was this was their favorite spot so far with loads of sea life! Though one local walking the beach warned them about the sharks!
After lunch we headed off to Great Guana Cay and anchored in Fisher Bay . We went into Grabbers with Bella, had a round of drinks and watched the friendly sting ray swimming off the beach.
As always once the sun goes down we turn on the anchor light. Paul sticks his head up and checked that the light was on and tonight it was not, the bulb had gone out. For tonight he turned on both LED lights on the radar arch which would make us very visible.
Sunday and Monday April 24th and 25th – Orchid Bay Marina
We first visited Guyana Cay way back in 2002 with our young children. With family in 2009 we tied up at Orchid Bay Marina on a Moorings Cat Thee island has a lot to offer and we wanted to spend two days showing it to Claire and Jerome. So we had booked into the marina for two nights, specifically on a Sunday so that we could “do” a Sunday at Nippers!
As we turned the corner heading from Fisher Bay to Orchid Bay we saw two sunken boats right off our port side. The water was flat calm so it came as a bit of a surprise. Though we were in fifteen feet and we are sure that these hulls were only fiver or six feet in height. After getting tied up the two youngsters headed off to snorkel the reef off Nippers and we met them afterwards for drinks and lunch.
Orchid Bay Marina has about 30 slips in operation, though there were only about six boats tied up. There was a team laying more docks so we don’t think it will be long until they have it all back up and running. The wonderful restaurant had been badly damaged by Dorian. It had subsequently opened serving drinks and snacks but then COVID shut it down again and it has yet to reopen.
Other than the marina there is quite a lot of building happening on the Cay and it seems to be quickly coming back.
Tuesday April 26th – to Marsh Harbour
Claire and Jerome are leaving tomorrow, so we checked back into Conch Inn Marina for the night. We walked over to Colors Bahamian for Dinner where, true to form, Claire sang a couple of Karaoke songs! We just got back to Sonas as a tremendous storm hit, with lots of rain and lightening.
Wednesday and Thursday April 27th and 28th. Manjack Cay
After our guests left for the airport we filled up the water tanks and walked over to Maxwells supermarket for fresh goods. We got out of the marina around 11 and headed north, through a relatively benign Whale Cay Channel and anchored in the south Nunjack (Manjack) anchorage. It was pretty full with mostly sail boats. Three charters cats with a large group of young French couples on board were ashore playing on the beach. We spent a very relaxing two days in the anchorage.
Friday April 29th. Great Abaco Beach
The wind was forecasted to be pretty stiff from the south which would take it right into the anchorage so we crossed over to the beach on Great Abaco Island directly across from Manjack. When we went ashore we were shocked to find the first two rows of trees ripped off their stumps and next two rows stripped of any foliage. We assumed the result of Dorian.
All our weather forecast sources indicate a major blow coming in over the weekend with gusts over forty knots. We called Green Turtle Club and booked into the marina for three nights until it blows over.
Some photos of Claire and Jerome snorkeling
Saturday April 16th – Marsh Harbour to Tahiti Beach
We had our two days R&R at the Conch Inn Marina in Marsh Harbour, this after “hiding” from four days of bad weather in Treasure Cay. Now it was time to do a bit of cruising. We left the harbor and cruised slowly past Point Set Rock and through the shallow water north of Lubbers Quarters Cay to the anchorage off the beautiful Tahiti beach. Bella’s expectation is that as soon as the anchor splashes we launch the dinghy and take her ashore! She had a great time sprinting back and forth on the soft sand with a big grin on her face! We watched as the Thirsty Cuda floating bar arrived and anchored off the beach.
As we pulled into the anchorage we were surprised to see re Fraiche, which is the same model boat as Sonas. We fist knew her as Mint Julip owner by the Shircliffs, then as Nagari, owned by Paul and Michelle Lewis, and now owned by the Fraiche’s.
Sunday and Monday April 17th and 18th – Tilloo Bank and Tahiti Beach
Late Sunday morning we upped anchor and headed down to Tilloo Bank for the day. The breeze was from the south which makes the anchorage more open to the wind so we weren’t planning on overnighting. The charts and cruising guide indicated a Median Low Water (MLW) level of five to seven feet going south past Lubbers Quarters. We draw five feet so we would be idling along until we got to deeper water. At one stage we had less that a foot beneath the keel, which didn’t overly worry us as our running gear is protected by a lower keel plus the bottom in this area is really soft sand!
We anchored at the north east end of the beautiful large shallow bank and took the dinghy across the shallow clear water into the long beach. The bank is well known for sting rays and starfish, we saw some of the latter but none of the former.
Late afternoon we lifted the anchor and retraced our course back to Tahiti Beach. We passed the site of the famous Cracker P’s bar and grill which we had been to many times. Now sadly totally destroyed by Dorian. We did however notice a large OPEN sign on the building next door as we passed. We Googled later and discovered that it a new lodging and restaurant called Lubbers Landing. It didn’t have a dock but a small landing area for dinghys. We shall see if we can fit in a visit before the end of our trip.
We stayed off Tahiti Beach on Monday. Just after dark a large thunder and lightning storm rolled in, with the wind changing one hundred and eighty degrees and blowing hard from the north with high gusts. Thankfully it had passed by before it was time to bunk down for the night. We have an excellent anchor alarm tied into our AIS system. The phone APP shows where the boat is in relation to the anchor and how it is moving within the scope of the anchor set. It has proven to be highly accurate. We know it works well because often we forget to turn it off before leaving an anchorage and when we pass outside the alarm limit we have set, the loud alarm goes off!
Tuesday April 19th- To Conch Inn Marina, Marsh Harbour.
Our daughter Claire and her boyfriend Jerome arrive tomorrow so we booked into Conch Inn for two nights. After tying up we went to Maxwell’s supermarket which this time was well stocked with fresh fruit and veggies. We also got in a couple of case of Sands beer to make sure we had plenty for our guests.
Tonight we went to Colors Bahamian for dinner again, and found that it was Karaoke night! And boy was it loud. We ate as quickly as we could and got back to the boat! We know Claire enjoys a good Karaoke so will likely take her next Tuesday before she leaves!
One unfortunate issue we had today – the remote screen for our water maker stopped working as did the screen on the water maker itself. Paul spoke with the tech at the manufacturer who asked him to take off the cover and put a meter on some points. Due to where the water maker is in the lazarette he needed a low profile ratchet screw driver, not to be found in the local hardware store. So we asked Claire to get him one and bring it over tomorrow.
Wednesday April 20th – Conch Inn, Marsh Harbour.
Claire and Jerome’s flight was delayed by an hour and a half which gave us more time to do some inside and outside “house work.” As soon as they arrived Paul grabbed the screw driver and took off the top of the water maker. Again working with the tech on the phone they worked out that the small 1.5 inch by 1.5 inch board supplying 24volts to the screen was likely bad. We were not going to even try to source this while here or have one flown in, We will buy the water we need from marinas as needed. So not a huge issue, just an annoyance. We all went up to Snappas for dinner.
Thursday April 21st- Back to Tahiti Beach
Claire and Jerome wanted to see the islands and snorkel, snorkel snorkel. Before they arrived we had checked out the Dodge Guide which has specific pages on where to snorkel the Abacos. From Marsh we ran back down to Tilloo Bank and they walked the beach and took the dinghy and explored the bank for sea life. We then retraced and anchored off Tahiti Beach for the night.
Friday April 22nd – Hope Town
The Dodge Guide indicated that there was a good snorkeling spot inside Tilloo Cut. Paul took Claire and Jerome over to check it out but the swell coming in through the cut was too rough. They snorkeled on the calmer side of the cut and then took the dinghy further south to Tavern Cay and snorkeled there. They saw plenty of fish and turtles and then a barracuda followed Claire so she hot flippered it back to the dinghy!
After lunch we headed up to Hope Town. We had considered going into the harbour and picking up a mooring ball. However the forecast was for a balmy evening with light winds. If we needed to use the generator for overnight AC we would rather be more in the open and not potentially annoying boaters in close proximity in the mooring field.
We took the dinghy in, tied up at the excellent brand new dinghy dock, then walked through town. We had a look at the reef on the Atlantic side of Elbow Cay where Claire and Jerome planned to snorkel. The town was well protected from the breeze and hot, so we found Munchies snack shop and had ice creams! We then took the dinghy across to the lighthouse and the “kids” climbed to the top before we returned to Sonas.
Week three is now complete!
[The end of week one found us anchored off Powell Cay – Week 1]
Saturday April 8th – Powell Cay to Treasure Cay
Under normal circumstances we would have spent a few days at Powell. However we had two things to contend with. The first is Whale Cay Channel, the second is the imminent arrival of heavy wind.
Whale Cay channel is wide and faces the open Atlantic. It is notorious for being in a rage – that is huge breaking seas that make transiting the channel dangerous, in fact regularly impassable. Back in the late 90s a cruise ship company built a “private island” inside the channel at Baker’s Bay. Within a short time they had to abandon the playground as the Whale Cay channel was often too rough for even their cruise ships to get in!
We use a number of sources for our weather forecast. Windy, Windfinder, NOAA, Barometer Bob, and subscribe to Chris Parker’s twice daily regional updates. All were aligned that there was a significant blow coming in starting Sunday, with winds gusting to 38 knots from the south!
Early Sunday looked OK to cross Whale Cay Channel but we decided to not leave it another day in case it came in early.
We crossed the channel without incident, with rolly five foot swells for an hour. We made the turn to the south west and the entrance to Treasure Cay mooring basin. There are four mooring balls left but we had no idea if they had been maintained since Hurricane Dorian devastated the resort and marina. So we chose to trust our own ground tackle and tucked ourselves up behind a row of condos.
Sunday April 9th – Thursday April 14th. At Anchor Treasure Cay
On one of our trips into what is left of the marina we spoke to one of the charter captains and he told us that he had no idea if the moorings were being maintained, that we should dive on it if we wanted to use one.
So we initially anchored right behind the condos on the north side of the basin to get some protection from the north blow that was coming in. After a day more boats cam in and started picking up the mooring balls. since we were anchored in the middle of them, we lifted the anchor and moved to the back of the basin out of the way of the moorings. We had assumed others would not trust the mooring balls for the same reasons we didn’t but it seemed that was not the case. We did see one captain dive on the mooring who later reported his mooring looked secure and we did not see anyone drag while there. However, use at your own risk!
We had used Google satellite images and saw that there was a dock used by the charter boats along the side where the Tipsy Turtle used to be, it seemed that we could use this to take Bella to shore. However when we go there we found that it was a fixed dock about four feet off the water at high tide.
For the four days that we were there we had to put the doggie life jacket on Bella and use it to haul her up to the dock. This wasn’t without lots of wriggling and leg scratches! Most of the time she could jump back down unaided.
Treasure Cay was our “happy place” in Abaco. We first visited with the children in 2002, 21 years ago. And many times since. In fact we worked out that we visited the marina four times in 2018! We walked the wonderful beach, swam in the pool by the Tipsy turtle, drank in the bar and ate in the restaurant. Now it is totally gone, destroyed. Not beyond recognition, because we recognize the footprints of the different resort areas, but there is nothing there. It is such a sad, sad, sad emotional experience.
We took Bella in twice a day, getting soaked it the wave action created by the wind. We walked the beach again, it is still wonderfully beautiful. I guess nature has a way of preserving its own. But the rest of the time we hunkered down on Sonas.
Sunday was Easter Sunday and Sian did a roast lamb dinner – and delicious it was!
On Monday we watched as a 37 foot rented power cat come in. He went through the anchorage and moved about looking for a good place to drop the anchor. Soon after we saw it reappear between us and the sea wall in obvious distress. the anchor was dragging and the captain could not seem to motor the boat away from the sea wall. A fellow boater appears in a small dinghy and told us that he had fouled a prop and couldn’t maneuver. He was soon against the sea wall. Paul put on a PFD and grabbed two of our large fenders and took them over. He tried to give them to one of the women on board but she didn’t seem to understand what he was telling her to do. He spoke to the guy on board and he said he was going to try and cut the rope off the anchor. Paul asked if he had a sharp enough knife and he showed a kitchen knife which he seems to be able to run his finger along without injury. Paul came back to Sonas and grabbed his serrated folding knife and took it over to him,
He was unable to free the line. Eventually some locals got him a diver who got him free and onto a mooring ball. He got himself calmed down and then left the anchorage. Not long after two guys in a dinghy came by and gave Paul his knife back! We would meet this power cat and family later on in the week!
One good thing (though bad as well) is that we “discovered’ the cinnamon rolls baked fresh every morning in the bakery. We bought two but when we got them out of the bag we realized that each one was a two person portion. So we had cinnamon rolls for breakfast two days in a row. Naughty!
Thursday and Friday April 14th – 15th Treasure Cay to Marsh Harbour
The storm finally abated and we were free to leave Treasure Cay! It was less than a two hour run to Marsh Harbour and we could not book into our reserved slip until midday. So we had another long walk on the beach, lifted the dinghy, got Sonas tidied up and left the Treasure Cay mooring basin at 10:30.
We had only planned on staying the one night at the Conch Inn Marina, but decided that we deserved another day of R&R so booked a second night. We very rarely stay in marinas which cruising the Bahamas since we are very self-sufficient with the equipment on Sonas, but after four days pretty much stuck on board during the blow we decided we deserved it!
As we backed into our slip both of us separately notices the burgee flying at the bow of the boat n the next slip. after we had settled everything down we had another look and, yes, it was a Queen’s Harbour Yacht Club burgee – a boat from our neighborhood! the owners Paul and Bev were unfortunately not on board.
Later in the day a group from the Many Hands organization came and took off the Hope Buckets and school supplies that we had brought from Florida as part of the Hope Fleet initiative.
We basically just chilled on Sonas and went up to Snappas right at the marina for for dinner. Paul had the largest mahi sandwich he has even seen!
The next day we went up to Maxwell’s Supermarket to replenish the fresh provisions. Maxwell’s is a very well stocked American sized supermarket and we have never been disappointed with the availability of goods there. However we found it pretty empty of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, etc. We were told that, for some reason, they had not yet unloaded the supply boat that was in the harbour. We are coming back into Marsh next week so will try again.
Walking to the store we passed many many buildings destroyed by Dorian. There is building going on near the waterfront but we saw little activity elsewhere. We are going to do a post on the status of each of the settlements we visit at the end of our cruise.
We went to a new-to-us restaurant in the evening, Colors Bahamian. A deck restaurant painted in the yellow and blues of the Bahamian flag. We were looked after by Matthew and had an enjoyable meal.
Week two has ended and we are in the Hub of Abaco!
This year we are going back to Abaco, where we have not been since 2019. We do prefer Exuma and the Far Bahamas now that we are retired but we have a number of guests flying in and getting to the airport at Marsh or Treasure Cay is much easier than trying to time the weather and running Exuma Sound to Georgetown.
We had originally planned on leaving Jacksonville for the Bahamas on Tuesday March 21st. Before leaving Paul wanted to find the source of a water intrusion in the engine room. He finally lifted the floorboards over the dripless shaft seals and found that they were leaking. So off to the yard she had to go for a haul out and shaft check. Both shafts were found to be badly pitted under the seals. The shafts were sent off to Brunswick GA to see if they could be machined but they reported back that they were too far gone. So we ordered new shafts and put our departure date on hold. The shafts were delivered and installed and we reset the departure for Friday March 31st.
A few days before leaving we tested some of our critical systems including the anchor windlass and the dinghy davit. Unfortunately we discovered a pin had broken off the davit remote controller rendering it inoperable. We did have a spare on board however the upgraded unit wasn’t a direct replacement so meant an internal rewiring. Paul and our good neighbor Jack spent a several few hours on it and got it resolved. We were finally good to go!
Next step, book the marinas we required as we run from Jacksonville to West Palm. In years past we only needed to book the first stop and then reserve slips for the next night as we motored south. However two events have changed this substantially. First, because we were leaving later than before, we were sailing south as it was the time of the year for those boats who wintered in Florida and the Bahamas to move back north. Secondly, during the pandemic thousands of people were introduced to boating and bought new boats which required slips. So marinas were full, and slips were hard to come by unless you planned ahead. And we couldn’t plan ahead due to our shaft issue! However we managed to book everywhere except West Palm. This was the most important booking as it was where we prepare Sonas, ready to cross the Gulf Stream to West End Grand Bahama the next day
Friday March 31st. Jacksonville to Palm Coast Marina
We were off our home dock ten minutes before our lock opened and were professionally handles through by Steve and Jason. We had an uneventful run to Palm Coast Marina. In fact without planning we hit the Bridge of Lions bridge in St Augustine right at opening time.
Palm Coast is always our first stop on the way out and our last stop on the way back from our cruises south. There is a really good Indian restaurant there at the European Village and we do enjoy the food there!
We still do not have a confirmed marina slip in West Palm. We finally asked Safe Harbor North Palm Beach if we could use their fuel dock if we arrived after it was closed and they agreed. So at least we had somewhere to tie up.
Saturday April 1st – Palm Coast to Titusville.
Since we retired we made the decision to run shorter days given that time is no object, Our regular run from Palm Coast is to New Smyrna. However all of the marinas there were full, So we had to run through New Smyrna, along Mosquito Lagoon, through Haulover Canal and into Titusville City Marina. There is a dog park right beside the marina so Sian took Bella for a run. Unfortunately there was a big dog who wanted to bully Bella and another dog who tried to get in between them. Sian stayed just long enough for Bella to do the necessary then headed back.
We had been using WaterWay Guide to monitor fuel prices along our route. Titusville came out as the least expensive on our trip south – though still a dollar a gallon more expensive that last year’s pre-crossing fill up! However we filled up our smaller forward tank which holds 125 gallons. We lock this down and do not use it as it is our emergency “good stuff” should we get bad fuel in the islands. That fuel would get us over 200 miles to somewhere to rectify the issue if we needed to.
We added an addition 600 gallons to the main tanks, giving us a total of just under 900 gallons.
One concern today was Paul finding an oil leak on the bilge pad under the port engine while doing the morning engine room check. However after further inspection it was coming from the hose connection used for the Reverso oil change system. We had the engines serviced prior to leaving and the oil left in the extraction hose had leaked out. He changed out the bilge pad and decided that this fix can wait until we get back home.
This evening we walked to the Pier 220 Restaurant near the marina and had seafood dinners.
Sunday April 2nd – Titusville to Vero Beach
The next two days would be the easy runs, while still long days at eight hours. The ICW between Titusville and Vero Beach is wide and easily navigated, and the weather forecast for tomorrow indicated that we could run outside to Lake Worth Inlet. Even better the forecast for the Gulf Stream crossing on Tuesday had firmed up and looked very good.
We got safely tied up on the north dock at Vero. There is another dog park right by the marina. In fact this is the very first dog park that Bella ever went to, during our return from Fort Myers a couple of years ago and the first year we rescued her. She now visits at least twice a year on boating trips. Sian reported that as soon as she was off the boat she knew exactly where to head! She had a much better visit this time compared to Titusville!
We had signed up with an organization called Hope Fleet. They have a number of programs, Hope Buckets being one program. These are big blue buckets containing seeds and other products that allow people to grow back garden vegetables and use the bucket for irrigation. We had agreed to take some buckets but also school supplies. Our contact Danny turned up with three others and loaded twenty buckets and a full guest cabin full of school supplies; teaching kits and sports equipment.
We also discovered that we had left our Soda Stream machine behind! AAARRRGGGHH. We do not provision any soda or tonic water so as to reduce the recycling we have to store and bring back. Danny had offered to give us a ride if we needed it, so off we went to Target and bought a new Soda Stream.
As always on our visit to Vero Beach we walked over to the Riverside Cafe restaurant for more seafood! We also got the good news that Safe Harbor North Palm Beach found a slip for us so we wouldn’t have to sit at their fuel dock!
Monday April 3rd – Vero Beach to Lake Worth
We ran from Vero Beach down to Fort Pierce and through the inlet and made the turn for Lake Worth Inlet. This allows us to bypass all of the slow zones on the ICW in this area. It also allows us to set the waypoint for the inlet and let the auto pilot do all the steering!
We made Lake Worth around 3pm and headed back up the ICW for four miles to our marina for the night. As soon as we had the boat secured and Bella walked we called for an Uber and headed off to Publix to replenish our fresh vegetables, fruit and bread.
We checked all of our weather sources and confirmed that the gulf stream crossing tomorrow was still a go!
Tuesday April 4th – Lake Worth Inlet to West end Grand Bahama.
We were out of the slip by 7am and out the Lake Worth Inlet by 7:30. We put the coordinates for the Old Bahamas Bay Marina at West End Grand Bahama into our autopilot, it returned an arrival time of exactly 2:30pm – a run of seven hours. Given that is is 56 nautical miles away this was to be an average cruising speed of eight knots at our set 1800 rpms. As we hit the north flowing Gulf Stream we found the bearing to the marina to be 103 degrees and our boat heading to be 125 degrees. An offset of 22 degrees to account for the cross-current!
The crossing was BORING! Which was awesome! We have had a couple of nasty experiences crossing in the past so two foot waves and minimal swell was refreshing.
We reached the entrance to the marina’s turning basin right at 2:30 and were directed to come straight in. We were given a slip just a few down from the grill and bar. After Bella was allowed her necessaries we headed off to the pool for a cooling swim followed by grouper dinners at the West End restaurant.
We had planned on spending just the one night at West End before heading off onto the Bahamas Bank. However we felt it was time to slow down after some long days running down from Jacksonville, so we booked in for another night.
We used the rest day to wash the salt accumulation off Sonas and do some chores. We walked the nice beach and used the pool. We met a number of pleasant boaters who were, like us, heading further on to Abaco.
Thursday April 6th – West End to Great Sale
We headed out of Old Bahama Bay and turned north towards the shallow Indian Rock passage onto the Bahama Bank. This channel only carries 6-7 feet at MLW. Not only were we transiting at near high tide but over the years we have become comfortable motoring over sandy bottoms with only a foot or two underneath the keel. This route save us numerous hours on the alternative route via Memory Rock well to the north. We slowly passed through the channel and then headed to Mangrove Cay, rounding that we set the course for Great Sale. Arriving we found a dozen other boats there before us with more arriving afterwards; both those starting their Bahamas adventure and those heading the other way for home.
Great Sale is a pretty desolate place. No buildings, no people and no beach in the anchorage, just rough limestone. It’s one saving grace is that it is half way between West End and the first stops in the Sea of Abaco cruising grounds. We did meet one couple in their boat Peace VI at west end and they were skipping Great Sale and running the 125 miles to Green Turtle in one day. They were out of the marina before light. That length of trip is no longer something that we plan.
There is a very nice beach on the outer north west side of the island about a 15 minute dinghy ride out of the anchorage,. The winds were favorable that we could comfortably use it for Bella’s requirements.
Friday April 7th – Great Sale to Powell Cay
Powell Cay is our first stop proper in the Sea of Abaco. We motored past Angel Fish and Spanish Cay and set the nose on the anchorage . This was to the south west of the island and would protect us from the light northerly winds today. We anchored over a sandy bottom a 30 second dinghy ride from the mile long soft sand beach. As was her habit now, as soon as the anchor was down Bella wanted the dinghy launched and to be taken ashore, and we duly obliged her.
Saturday April 8th – Powell Cay to Treasure Cay
Under normal circumstances we would have spent a few days at Powell. However we had two things to contend with. The first is Whale Cay Channel, the second is the imminent arrival of heavy wind.
Whale Cay channel is wide and faces the open Atlantic. It is notorious for being in a rage – that is huge breaking seas that make transiting the channel dangerous, in fact regularly impassable. Back in the late 90s a cruise ship company built a “private island” inside the channel at Baker’s Bay. Within a short time they had to abandon the playground as the Whale Cay channel was often to rough for even their cruise ships to get in!
We use a number of sources for our weather forecast. Windy, Windfinder, NOAA, Barometer Bob, and subscribe to Chris Parker’s twice daily regional updates. All were aligned that there was a significant blow coming in starting Sunday evening, with winds gusting to 38 knots! Sunday morning looked okay to cross Whale Cay Channel but we decided to do it on Saturday, just in case it came in early.
We crossed the channel without incident, with rolly five foot swells for an hour. We made the turn to the south west and the entrance to Treasure Cay mooring basin. There are four mooring balls left but we had no idea if they had been maintained since Hurricane Dorian devastated the resort and marina. So we chose to trust our own ground tackle and tucked ourselves up behind a row of condos.
December and early January brought chilly weather to North East Florida – just like most of the country. Finally the forecast called for a few days of warm-ish weather so we quickly did some provisioning and untied from home dock on Tuesday January 17th with a plan to run the AICW up to Cumberland Island and anchor there for a night before going over to Fernandina on Wednesday for a nice dinner ashore before returning home on the outside on Thursday.
Most importantly this would be the first anchoring-out trip since Sian had her bad accident in the Exumas last March. Since then any boating has been to marinas. This would be a trial in handling the dinghy launch and retrieval and going ashore in it.
The public landing docks at Cumberland had been damaged by hurricane Ian. However we had heard that they had marked out a small section of the ferry dock for dingy landing. Before leaving Paul called the ranger office in St Mary’s and confirmed that there was a small section, painted blue, that we could tie up to. So off we went!
Unfortunately we were following a low tide all the way up – but we knew this part of the AICW really well so weren’t too concerned. The only real worry was the corner just before Fernandina and we would handle that when we got there.
We have been going up and down to Fernandina for over 22 years. This is the very first time that the Kingsley Creek Railway Bridge was in the closed position!
As we approach “that” corner we saw a commercial tug aground just ahead of us. They hadn’t cut across the the can buoy showing the channel right up against the western shore. The red marking on this chartplotter photo shows their AIS track.
Then when he finally got around the corner he left the channel and went to far to the north, running aground multiple times. I finally radioed over and directed him to the deep water, and he moved over. We later saw him heading further north on the AICW so assumed he wasn’t “from these here parts!”
After anchoring off the Cumberland Island Sea Camp dock we heard a radio transmission that we have heard numerous times before indicating a sub was coming into Kings Bay Submarine Base. And in it came. These are Ohio Class Nuclear Missile subs.
We had an amazing calm night, without a ripple on the water and not a sound heard as we slept.
On Wednesday afternoon we slowly crossed to Fernandina. The weather remained very pleasureable. Two friends from our neighborhood drove up and joined us for a very nice dinner at Espana, the Spanish restaurant. (They do great paella by the way!)
We tied up beside a large blue-hulled sailboat which had been demasted. Paul spoke to the marina staff and realized we had read about this incident on some of the trawler forums. The boat had just been re-rigged and while at sea the mast came down. The owner felt that a cotter pin had not been replaced by the yard. We are sure that this is going to be a nightmare to resolve.
We had planned to run outside on the return leg as both Windy and WindFinder called for 1.6 to 2 foot seas. But as the morning went on the wind got up and we saw on NOAA that they were calling for 4 plus foot seas. While the boat would be fine in those conditions there was no need to do it so we again followed the low tide back to home port.
An overview of how to prepare for a successful entry into the Bahamas by boat and return to the US. [Note: this is what we know and understand as of November 2022. Things are constantly changing (e.g. as they did with COVID), while this will point you at the areas you have to cover please make sure to do your own checking for the current situation as you prepare for your trip].
Annual DTOPS Decal
You will need to buy a DTOPS sticker from Homeland Security. You put this on your boat near a boarding point where it can easily be seen. We get notification in October each year that our renewal is due and get it immediately rather than waiting. Below is the description from the DHS web site.
“Decals are stickers that are placed on all private aircraft and private vessels (30 feet or more in length) as proof that the User Fee for entry into the U.S. has been paid for the calendar year. Any arriving vessel or aircraft that does not have an annual decal will be required to pay the non-refundable User Fee and complete an application, which will be forwarded to the processing center. The application will be processed, and a decal will be mailed from the processing center. A decal expires on December 31st of its issue year. A new decal is issued whenever the decal is renewed.” https://dtops.cbp.dhs.gov/main/#
ROAM (Reporting Offsite Arrival – Mobile) App
ROAM was brought in for Florida boaters in April 2018 to replace the Small Vessel Reporting System. It is now widely available for entry into the United States. You will still need to register for a SVRS number or have another expedited entry program such as Global Entry.
It works as follows. You download the App. You will need to have a Login.gov account. You then add the people who will be checking in. This includes the names and passport details as well as taking a photo of the passport photo page using the App. It will also ask you for your SVRS number or Global Entry number etc. You also add in details of the vessel you are entering on. These detail are saved in the App for future use. You then enter details of this particular entry – which countries you had visited and then you answer the standard questions regarding anything you may be bringing in.
You then press submit. And this is the critical part. The submission will be reviewed real time by an officer. The officer will either approve the entry or request a video interview. You must keep the App open and watch it for the response. If you do not respond to a request for a video interview you will shorty receive an email telling you that your entry was not approved and you must report in person. This real time process is not intuitive and there is not a tutorial set up yet taking you through the process. So make sure to monitor the App after submission.
Passports Vs. Birth Certificates
Before 9/11 US boaters going to and returning from the Bahamas could do so on an original US Birth Certificate – with a raised seal (stamp). After 9/11 this is no longer the case and you must have your passport with you. Another option is using a US Passport Card. This is not valid for international air travel but can be used for travel by sea (and land) between the US and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.
Using Your VHF To Communicate With A Foreign Shore Base
US regulations dictate that any individual communicating with a foreign shore based station have a Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit. Additionally any vessel communicating with a foreign shore base must have a Ship Station License. The Operator’s permit is lifetime, whereas the Ship’s license is for ten years. To obtain your licenses you must first register on the FCC’s CORES system. You will get a FCC Registration Number (FRN) and password. Using these you can then get your operator’s and Ships radio licenses.
Bahamas Customs & Immigration
Entering Bahamian waters you must fly your national ensign as usual, and a yellow quarantine flag until you clear customs and immigration. The quarantine flag is usually flown off the starboard side of the boat. Once cleared you must then take down the yellow flag and replace it with the Bahamian (courtesy) flag. BE AWARE the penalties for taking fish prior to clearing are severe.
When traveling to the Bahamas by boat you may anchor out prior to clearing customs. Usually when running from West Palm to West End this is not necessary. However when running from Fort Pierce to the northern Abacos or from points further south to the Berries or Exumas for example, this may be necessary for slower vessels. While we have not personally heard of any issues with boats anchoring for two nights before clearing, we would not recommend it as it is hard to justify. BE AWARE that no one from the boat can go ashore if you chose to anchor prior to clearing customs.
You must clear at your first port of call in the Bahamas. So take care to make that an island that has a customs and immigration officer. You can see the list of locations here:
Also, it is stated that only the person checking in is allowed to leave the boat until the process is completed. [Though previously when checking in at Lucaya after an 11 hour run we asked if Sian could take the dog ashore while Paul met with customs and they gave the OK]. We have heard that often everyone must go ashore to clear immigration, but that has not been our experience.
While you can print out and hand complete complete set of customs and immigration documents prior to leaving home, we strongly suggest that you use the new Click To Clear web site. This allows you to complete all of the forms on line and pay the relevant entry fee. When you arrive in the Bahamas they can bring up your completed forms and expedite the process. This will save a lot of time in the customs office.
Visit the link below for information.
There is a $300 entry fee, which includes your fishing license. ($150 for boats under 35 feet). This covers three people and is good for two entries within a 90 day period. Each additional person is $20. The only other cost would be if you requested out of hours processing when there may be overtime costs for the extra time.
Over the past couple of years all of the entry offices moved to accepting credit cards for fee payments – if you have not used the Click To Clear system!
BE AWARE that you must declare any firearms on board and have them secured. You must also declare every single round of ammunition on board. This is critical as if you are later boarded and found to have more ammunition than declared they will assume you planned to discharge. If they board you and find that you have less ammunition than declared they will assume you have already discharged!
One more point before we leave the customs and immigration process, and that is around tipping the customs officer after he has provided the services expected. We will not suggest that you do it or not do it here, but we would recommend that you use on-line search tools and forums and based on your findings make your own decision.
Taking a Dog [this is for a vacation visit, permanent import has a different process]
If you want to take your pet to the islands with you you must first apply to the Bahamian Department of Agriculture (Veterinary Services Unit) for a permit. This is a pretty straight forward process, just make sure to do it well before you plan on leaving.
There are certain breeds that are not allowed. Also you will need your vet to give you a declaration of health for the dog as well as confirmation that the dog is up to date on all of its rabies shots. BE AWARE that they ask you to have your vet complete the health form within 24 hours of your departure! This is impossible if your home and vet is multiple days away from your crossing point. However we have not had an issue with “very recent” dating on this form.
You will find the application form, with instructions here, along with many, if not all, of the forms you require for your trip. Just use the Search Form menu item and enter Dog.
Additionally an individual in Nassau set up a service whereby he takes your application over his web site, walks it across the road and submits it and then emails your approval (or rejection). This take some of the mailing times and risk out of the process. A link to his web site is below.
One of the most frequent question we see asked about going to the Bahamas is around the limits for bringing in food and alcohol. While we cannot speak to doing so when flying, there is absolutely no issue with bringing in as much food and drink as you require for your cruise. Clearly this must be for your own consumption. Just state that on the Inward Report – Pleasure Vessels form under B(2) Stores Onboard “Sufficient Food and beverages for master and crew consumption only.”
BE AWARE that your boat will obviously have spares for maintenance of your boat for the duration of the cruise. These will be on board as you arrive and depart. However if you are bringing parts for another vessel these will need to be reported. You will have to pay a stamp tax on those parts BUT, based on latest information, if they are replacement parts, you should not have to pay duty. Obviously check the latest rules on this prior to bringing in replacement parts for someone else.
Taking an Unmanned Aircraft (Drone)
If you want to use a drone in the Bahamas you will have to either have it registered with the FAA in the US and then apply for an Authorization To Fly In the Bahamas Airspace, or register it with the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority and ask for the authorization. Since it is now a rule that you must register in the US it makes sense to go ahead and go the US registration route. BTW, new in the US is that you must have your FAA registration on the outside of the drone, no longer allowed just inside somewhere.
The Bahamian authorization request process is very straight forward.
When registering in 2022 I received an email back asking for the following information:
- The intended purpose for the use of your drone while in the Bahamas (recreational or commercial)
- Arrival and departure dates
- Location of drone operations (Island)
- An attached copy of your country’s Drone Registration Certificate/License or equivalent (if applicable) if your drone weighs more than 249g
- Scanned Copy of Passport photo page
- Complete Mailing Address
After sending this in I received a letter authorizing my drone. Just be aware that the authorization only last for 30 days so complete this as close to departure date as possible. You can extend this, but make sure to do it before the original 30 days expires.
We hope this help anyone planning a trip to the Islands! They really are a paradise!
Sian, Bella and I were Medivaced from Nassau on March 26th. Sonas was safely tied up at the Bay Street Marina in Nassau, where I had booked the slip until April 8th, thinking that it would give me time to get Sian home and me back to collect her.
As detailed in our previous post for a number of reasons Sian could not have surgery until April 4th, and we got home to Jacksonville on April 6th. Our daughter Claire came in from Montana to help look after Sian, which allowed me to look for a weather window to get Sonas back from Nassau.
As many boaters are aware this year was particularly bad for spring winds, which constantly blew week after week. We have a number of boating neighbors who were willing and able to go with me to bring Sonas back, but all had hard deadlines for upcoming trips. My brother Peter, who lives in Derry, Ireland, is self employed and has family members who can watch the business. He offered to be on short notice stand-by to come help, all I had to do is wait for a weather window and he would come immediately! I kept in touch with the marina in Nassau, extending the reservation when I needed to.
Finally on Sunday April 10th the weather firmed up giving a good weather window to get north from Nassau and across the Gulf Stream the following weekend. I got Peter booked on a flight from Dublin on Tuesday April 12th, and then we both flew from Jacksonville to Nassau via Miami the next day, Wednesday April 13th.
As Peter told many people during the trip back, there is always a silver lining to every negative event, and he was fortunate to be able to get the experience of a Bahamas to Florida delivery cruise, including a Gulf Stream crossing! In fact once in Nassau, while I did the engine room and other boat checks, Peter walked over the Sidney Poitier Bridge and visited Atlantis as he had heard so much about it.
Thursday April 14th
To ensure that we were conservative with the weather window in case it changed, I had planned out a pretty grueling trip back. On Thursday the 14th we left the marina before sun up. We went east to The Narrows to by pass Nassau Harbour Control and avoid the incoming cruise ships.
First stop was Slaughter Bay, on the very northern tip on The Berrys. We first had to cross the Tongue of The Ocean north of New Providence Island. From the forecast for the next few days this was the only real questionable section. The strong easterly winds of the last couple of weeks has resulted in large reported swells. The Tongue has a long fetch from the east and it can get up significantly, even though current conditions were mild. We had stowed Sonas for sea, locked everything down, prepared a ditch bag, and we were wearing our Personal Locator Beacons.
Thankfully, while we had some swell on the beam, it was nothing that the stabilizers couldn’t handle. We had an uneventful cruise north and by mid afternoon we made the turn towards Slaughter Bay.
Slaughter Bay sits between the Little Stirrup Cay and Great Stirrup Cay. However these are two islands set up as private islands by Royal Caribbean and Norweigan Cruise Lines respectively. While all Bahamian Islands are public lands below the high water mark, it is not advisable to go ashore on these islands as security will move you off. There were no NCL ships there and we watched the Caribbean ships leave at 5pm.
We had a pleasant dinner and sat in the cockpit watching the sunset to the west.
We also wondered at the fact that the Caribbean cruise resort kept all of their lights on after the ships had left. As we prepared to lift anchor the next morning we found out why! The next two ships arrived well before sun up, and we guessed that they wanted to resort to look welcoming to any passengers on deck as they approached!
Friday April 15th.
Soon after first light we went out of the anchorage past the two newly arrived Royal Caribbean cruise ships, then headed north west towards West End Grand Bahama, our jumping off point for the Gulf Stream crossing tomorrow morning. We passed south of Freeport and arrived outside the turning basin for the marina at Old Bahama Bay.
One thing I must confess to now. When cruising with Sian I am allowed one cookie with my afternoon tea. With just myself and Peter onboard all bets are off!
When we arrived there was a boat waiting outside for the harbormaster to give the all-clear to enter the turning basin and the marina. I slowed and waited behind him, listening to him chatting to the harbormaster on the radio. As we waited a power boat approached from the north west (Florida) and radioed the harbormaster that he was coming in and wanted the same slip he had on the last visit. Without waiting for a response he passed us and entered the turning basin and pretty much demanded that he be next in. He did get in first but not in the slip he wanted – the one right outside the restaurant. In fact we were assigned that slip when we entered in an orderly fashion.
After securing Sonas we showered, walked the few steps to the Dockside Bar and Grill to eat a relaxing dinner. As we walked back to boat we got chatting with the couple in the boat next to Sonas, Geoff and Susan on First Love. They were also based out of Jacksonville and were also heading back tomorrow.
Saturday April 16th
Again we were off at first light and once out of the turning basin we set the auto pilon on “Nav” for Fort Pierce Inlet. The AP would handle the northwards push of the Gulf Stream for us. After an hour First Love passed us also on their way to Fort Pierce, though going faster than us.
The crossing was thankfully, uneventful, in fact pretty boring, which is what you want when crossing The Stream! The northward flow of the gulf stream pushed us along at over four knots faster than our usual cruising speed at the set engine RPMs. We did not really hit any wave action until we met the outgoing water at Fort Pierce Inlet – which took a few knots off our speed and was rather lumpy. We watched as as a small trawler, who clearly had local knowledge, head towards the shore well below the inlet and follow the beach north to the inlet and he overtook us easily in smoother water!
Rather than stopping at Fort Pierce we had a slip booked in Vero Beach. I wanted to tack on the extra one and a half hours to use the daylight to get us further up the ICW towards Jacksonville and home. Since it was 4 o’clock before got through the inlet we had to call the Vero Beach City Marina and get our slip assignment as they would be closed by the time we got there at 5:30. When we arrived another transient boater came down and caught our lines.
This evening we walked over to the busy Riverside Grill for dinner!
Before going to dinner I used the ROAM APP to check us in. My details were already in the system and I had added Peter’s information before I left for the Bahamas. I was checked in with no issue but the officer who called back told us that Peter had to report as he was a foreign national. This was an issue since the office at Fort Pierce was now closed and wouldn’t open again until 10am tomorrow given it was Sunday. I found that there was an office in Melbourne AND a marina within a 15 minute UBER. My plan was to stop there on the way north tomorrow and check Peter in. I called and left a message with the marina asking for a one hour transient stop in the morning. This would mean we could keep going and not be impacted too much.
Easter Sunday April 17th.
Our plan today called for us to travel north on the AICW to the anchorage just to the south east of the NASA Causeway Bridge. After getting underway I checked the Homeland Security website to find that the Melbourne office did not open at all on a Sunday! That was an issue as the officer had told us that they would like Peter to check in with 24 hours of arrival. The next office was St Augustine. We would not be passing through there until Monday, but since we would also be arriving home in Jacksonville on Monday afternoon I decided that we would keep going and take Peter to the office in Jacksonville on Tuesday morning.
We made very good time and we were at the NASA Causeway Bridge by 3:30 so we again decided to keep going to shave time off tomorrow’s run. We continued another hour and a half and anchored just north of the mooring field in Titusville. I had anchored there numerous times before and knew the holding was very good. As we got the anchor down Geoff and Susan arrived on First Love and hailed the marina asking for a slip assignment.
It was Easter Sunday and since a lamb roast dinner was our Easter tradition back in Ireland we had defrosted a leg of lamb from the freezer. I called Sian for cooking instructions for the convection oven and duly poured some cooking oil into a pan added the basted lamb and set the oven to the suggested 440 degrees. We got the boiled potatoes and asparagus ready to go once the lamb was nearly ready.
Then we went out into the cockpit and cracked a couple of beers!
And soon there was smoke billowing out of the galley!
Long story made short, the lamb was cooked and so was the convection oven! The result was an enjoyable Easter dinner and an oven that would be thrown out when we got home! We talked back and forth on what exactly we had done wrong. I blamed Peter, he blamed me, but then we both settled on the fact that we must have had the wrong instructions from Sian!
Monday April 18th.
Two more days to go. Today we ran from Titusville through Haulover Canal, up through Mosquito Lagoon, through New Smyrna, Daytona, Ormond Beach and into the slip we had reserved at Palm Coast Marina. About an hour after we tied up First Love came in and tied up behind us on the transient dock. We had a nice long chat with Geoff and Susan before heading off to the European Village for an Asian dinner at the only restaurant open on an Monday evening!
Tuesday April 19th.
Today we finished our trip with a short five and a half hour run north from Palm Coast. Through St Augustine, Palm Valley to our home slip in Queens Harbour. As we turned into the channel we heard First Love on the radio at the bridge about 3 miles behind us. We had travelled together, but not together, all the way from West End!
As we got through the lock and tied up at home dock Sian was sitting in her wheelchair on the patio watching us. It was an emotional ending to a very difficult four weeks.
Her accident happened on March 23rd on Hawksbill Cay and we were all finally home on April 19th, Sonas included! We have been blessed with a great extended family, awesome friends, and a fantastic boating community, we are so very grateful for all the help we received!
Oh, by the way, the new convection oven replacing the one Peter blew up is installed!
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.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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.]
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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!
We made it!
Day 22. Friday March 18.
We slipped out of the Cabbage Cay anchorage after Bella had her beach walk and headed south towards New Providence. We had some decent swells but they were well apart and the cruising was comfortable.
After a couple of hours we were surprised to hear Joi de Vivre (neighbors from back home) come over the radio hailing another boat. We cut in and surprised them. They were coming through the Tongue Of The Ocean from Chub Cay and heading for Nassau as we were coming down the east side of the Berrys and going through the cut east of Nassau to continue to Exuma. We listened as they hailed their marina and tied up!
We made the narrow Salt Cay channel and managed to safely stay out of the way of the many tourist boats bombing through. We passed by Porgee Rocks and over Yellow Bank with all of its coral heads, leaving Nassau behind. The water was now coral blues and greens. We still had a choppy sea but again the swells were well spaced apart and it was a comfortable ride all of the way to Norman’s Cay. We had considered anchoring off Highbourne Cay, but the owners of this private island are quite fussy about people coming onto their island who were not paying guests! So we passed on south.
We got nice and close into the beach at Normans, perfect for beach walks and to have lunch at MacDuffs restaurant. The last time we were at Normans there were just three boats anchored there, this time about 20! Also the airport on the island was very busy with private and chartered planes regularly coming in.
Day 23 and 24. Saturday March 19th and Sunday March 20th.
Sonas needed a good wash down outside and a good vacuumn and polish inside, so that is what we did Saturday morning. We then treated ourselves to lunch at MacDuffs restaurant. Twenty one dollars for a fish sandwich and 31 dollars for a Cobb salad! We made sure to clean our plate to make sure we got our money’s worth!
There was also a Bahamian Party going on at the beach with music, booze, food and plenty of loud music!
There had been a bit of a surge in the anchorage last night so we took the dinghy and visited with a boat that had anchored well to the north of us. We wanted to ask if they had surge there as well. As we approached the boat we were surprised to see the boat name – Sonas! On chatting with the owner we discovered that this was the Sonas that we saw at Saint Simon’s Marina last Summer. He had just bought her. We now know of three boats with the Sonas name. Us, this boat, and a sailboat we passed in the Chesapeake back in 2018.
On Sunday evening we tried to fly the drone for the first time to find that Norman’s Cay Airport was programmed into the firmware and we were forbidden to take off!
Day 25. Monday March 21.
We were leaving Normans today and heading south to Sian’s favorite anchorage in all of the Bahamas – Hawksbill Cay north anchorage. Since this was just a slow hours cruise we did not life the anchor until after 10am. On the way we passed a number of nice mega yachts one with a chopper that took off as we passed.
As we approached the anchorage we saw a large yacht named Huntress appear on the AIS. We knew that boat. This was the boat that prevented us from getting fuel in Stock Island (Key West) last spring. It had been tied up at the fuel dock and since it was 300 feet long, took up the whole dock!
As we got into the anchorage we saw that there were tables, umbrellas, chairs, kayaks, jet skis and all the paraphernalia that comes with mega yachts on the beach. We watched as the guests used the facility for a couple of hours, then the poor crew having to ship it all back to Huntress! They were still packing up when we took Bella on her afternoon walk and we commiserated with them.
Day 26. Tuesday March 22.
Today was just a day for chillaxing, doing some tidy-up on Sonas and taking walks on the beach. We also got out the snorkel gear for the first time and snorkeled the small but rich coral head at the north end of the anchorage. Afterwards we inflated one of the SUPs and went paddling off the beach. As Sian was paddling along the shoreline Bella ran after her looking like she wanted a go. So we loaded onto the SUP and she sat there like a queen as Sian did all the work.
This was our last day before Sian’s accident!
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!
We were out of the Lake Worth Inlet by 6am, with the first waypoint of Bahama 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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
We were as ready as we could be if the weather holds for tomorrow!
[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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
This evening we went into town and had a pleasant seafood dinner at the Tuscany Bistro.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Some more photos from week 2;
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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:
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
However it was worth it to spend another couple of days and nights on board!
Some other photos.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
Later we passed two adult manatees and a baby. We moved out of the way and also called an oncoming boat to be mindful.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!].
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!”
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!
It was a DAY! And since conditions were so bad we didn’t get any photos or video!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We went straight outside the three mile limit and ran north towards Matanzas Pass and the marina at Pink Shell Resort.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
We also saw an interesting way to inspect and work on bridges over the AICW. We have learned that these vehicles are called Snoopers!
Arriving at Vero Beach Bella got to enjoy a couple of visits to the dog park right by the marina.
On Thursday we headed north to Cocoa. The AICW immediately exiting Vero Beach takes you at exactly 000 degrees (north) on the AICW.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
We went through our lock and were all tied up at home by 3:30. Just before it started to rain!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
On Friday morning the rest of the fleet left for home while we headed off further south to continue our fall cruise.
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.
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.
Then past Kings Bay Submarine base where we saw a nuclear sub in the maintenance 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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.