Bringing Sonas Home

For the previous post on Sian’s accident click here.

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.

Atlantis from the Sidney Poitier Bridge.
Beautiful Trumpy Arriva tied up in Nassau

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.

Exiting Salt Cay cut northbound

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.

Quickly getting to depths of 10,000 to 15,000 feet (3000 to 4700 meters)

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.

Calm enough for the crew to nap!

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.

Peter was ready to go play!

We had a pleasant dinner and sat in the cockpit watching the sunset to the west.

We eat well on Sonas, pasta and meat sauce!

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!

Early morning arrival

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!

Afternoon snacks!

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.

We didn’t have far to walk to the bar and restaurant!

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.

Sunrise over Indian Cay, West End Grand Bahama
Auto Pilot handling the gulf stream flow and getting a nice push from it. Black line is our heading, red line is the Rhumb Line.

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!

It is hard to beat this for a Gulf Stream crossing!

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!

Riverside Grill

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.

Vero Beach mooring field

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!

Lamb dinner with the required mint sauce! Who says cruising has to be hard!
I surprised Peter with his chocolate Easter eggs!

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!

3 thoughts on “Bringing Sonas Home”

  1. Well written Paul. Great adventure and all good at the end .. You could have asked me I would have thrown the lamb overboard and saved the oven

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