Monday, March 31, 2008

March 15-28, 2008 . . . The Bahamas

On Saturday morning, the 15th, at 5:00am there were seven, yes, seven, cruise ships entering Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale. We had to stay out of their way as they made their way to the docks to unload passengers, reprovision, and be ready to load passengers and depart by Saturday afternoon. We got by the seven and set our course for Grand Bahama Island, West End.

We cleared the Port Everglades harbour entrance and set our course of 100 degrees magnetic for Grand Bahamas, West End. The trip was a distance of some 86 statute miles and we had the push of the Gulf Stream behind us.

At about N26-21.653 W079-36.669, in the Gulf Stream, Bonnie saw her first whale. This picture shows, left side, the blow of the whale just as he/she rolls underneath the water. By the time you see the whale and get the camera up it is again under the water....

As the old sailors might say . . . "Land Ho". Just after noon and some seven hours of travel at sea we see Settlement Point, West End, Grand Bahama Island.

We docked at Old Bahama Bay Marina after clearing Bahamian Immigration/Customs and running up the Bahamian courtesy flag. The marina was full of boats and activity.

The resort called Ginn sur Mer describes itself as offering beautiful water, extraordinary beaches and incredible fishing. They invite you to surround yourself with barefoot elegance in the resort and marina paradise. See:

From Settlement Point, West End, we next went to Great Sale Cay; N26-59.483 W078-13.011 and anchored for the evening. A travel distance of some 57 statute miles.

We initially shared the location with two sail boats. A motor yacht and two other sail boats joined us before the sunset. We put the dingy in the water and went in search of a beach . . . there was none inside the bay.

The little red dot marks our approximate anchor locatin at Great Sale Cay. You will have to double click the image to enlarge it and see the red dot.

Leaving Great Sale Cay we went over to Allens-Pensacola Cay which used to be two cays, a hurricane joined the two and they are now one. We towed the dingy and went swimming and ashore on the beach. Stayed one night due to generator problems and then went on to Green Turtle Cay for repairs..... and arrived at New Plymouth just after noon.

SONATA at BlackSound Marina where "George" came over and gave advice on the generator. In the Engineroom there is a shelf over the generator for storage of filters and parts which George wanted removed, then he would come back and try to diagnose the problem. The shelf was removed, the generator box opened . . . and Charlie found a loose wire. Plugged the wire back into its proper position, started the generator, all is well and GOD is really good to us!!! Charlie was so up-tight over the generator failure that Bonnie and John had to take a walk while he stewed . . . and then got it fixed. Oh, the stress of breakdown in a foreign place. So, so, glad to have it fixed.

John acquired a golf cart for our travels on the Cay and lunch was enjoyed at the Green Turtle Club ( Then we were off to the Bluff House and a picture of us with New Plymouth in the background.

Ron and Daniel, boaters from Fairfax, Virginia, were on our dock and frequent visitors to Green Turtle Cay. They joined us for evening snacks and shared stories about the Bahamas and their experiences. Daniel promised Bonnie buckets of sand dollars . . . just go pick the up off the beach.

Bonnie led the search on the ocean side of the island for the sand dollars.

We hiked through the "jungle" to the other side of the island . . . in search of sand dollars.

Bonnie and John, all of us, searched the flats for sand dollars . . . the "buckets" of sand dollars amounted to about four. Slim pickins.

We enjoyed five days at Green Turtle Cay. Ice cream from the grocery 2x, from the Three Sister's Ice Cream shop 1x, purchased groceries, went to the local museum, rode our bikes around and enjoyed the golf cart for travels to the beaches. We joined the local community for the Good Friday community church service which about half the island attended (some 200 persons attended, population of the island is about 450 and has five churches).

Easter Morning as we departed Black Sound. The weather had finally broken, the wind and seas calmed, so that we could get around Whale Cay. To go around Whale Cay you must leave the Sea of Abaco and go into the Atlantic, then back into the Sea of Abaco. The weather for the previous five days would not allow vessels to pass due to 8-10+ swells breaking over the exit and entrance. One boat tried the passage and returned with reportedly injured passengers, one falling overboard (recovered) bent and broken life line rails, a smashed in front window and a badly bent boomvang. We waited for a good day!

We arrived at Orchid Bay Marina in Great Guana Cay before noon and walked over to "Nippers" where Bonnie met the Easter Bunny.

Nippers was having an Easter Egg Hunt both on the beach and in the water.

The place was packed with people from all the outlying cays, all sizes and shapes, the young the old. A great time.

John and Bonnie at the top of the stairs to the beach. We spent this day observing the crowds . . . the beach was ours the next day for swimming, walking, and snorkeling.

Approaching Elbow Cay and Hope Town.

Hope Town Harbour had hundreds of boats on mooring balls. The marinas also appeared to be nearly all full. We arrived and docked at Hope Town Hideaway . . . could not find anyone to check-in with . . . was told by another boater that to get to town we should just take one of the marina john-boats and go to the other side of the harbour. We stole a boat and went to town for lunch.

A quaint little rental cottage along the shore in Hope Town.

An attractive water fountain in a front yard of a small place over looking the harbour.

From Hope Town to Marsh Harbour and dockage at the Conch Inn Hotel and Marina ( A walk to the grocery, to lunch.

We waited for lunch at Wally's. Eating out in the Bahamas is an experience. First the prices shock you and then the food . . . well we did enjoy the grouper sandwiches even at $18.00 for a sandwich and fries.

Sunset over Marsh Harbour. A great on-board dinner prepared by Bonnie. She also prepared special breads and treats for the guys to eat on their way back to Florida.

With Bonnie safely airborne John and Charlie departed Marsh Harbour and went around Whale Cay heading for Spanish Wells Cay. The water was fairly calm and as they traveled they heard the pending weather in the Gulf Stream and decided to press on to Great Sale Cay and reduce travel by one day.

Sunset at Great Sale Cay just before SONATA entered the harbour . . . to join eleven other boats at anchorage. A quiet and peaceful overnight. . .

Sunrise showed God's Promise of a beautiful day. The water was flat, like a lake. John could not believe it was so calm. SONATA set out for West End . . . contemplating remaining there overnight to cross the Gulf Stream on Saturday.

Arrival at Indian Cay Channel and West End, Grand Bahama Island, showed smooth water. The rocks and coral is easily seen just four (4) feet below the hull of the boat in the clear water. The seas were quite different from the 8-10 seas SONATA had experienced when first going through this channel inbound to the Sea of Abaco.

Passage through the Channel, a view of West End, a review of the present and anticipated sea conditions, the time of day, 1243, the joint decision was made to press on across the Gulf Stream for Lake Worth. Course set for about 250 degrees magnetic with an anticipated arrival time in Palm Beach of about 7:30pm; sunset was to be at 7:29pm.

SONATA is back in blue water, the Gulf Stream, on the way to Palm Beach, Florida.

From Great Sale Cay to Palm Beach, Florida

Is that SONATA entering the Lake Worth Channel to Palm Springs?????? What do you think??

March 8-15, 2008 . . . Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

As we came up the Intercoastal Waterway, ICW, we came through Port Everglades, the location of the cruise ships and the opening to the Atlantic and Gulf Stream where the big ships load and depart. We would see this area again when we depart for the Bahamas.

We had to pause on the waterway and allow this big fellow to dock before port security would allow us to pass on through the Port and up the waterway to the New River and our temporary home in Fort Lauderdale.

We went up the ICW to the New River then up the New River to the Fort Lauderdale Downtown Marina which is on the New River and in the middle of the downtown area. We "parked" in front of this little boat . . . some 100' long. We looked like its dingy.

Bonnie was off to Virginia Beach and Charlie was left to do the laundry, grocery shopping, greet his arriving brother, John, who was joining us for the Bahamas trip . . . and be on TV. Well, at least SONATA is on TV. You can see SONATA's life ring and mast behind the newscaster on the right-hand side of the picture. SONATA was docked on the river next to the courthouse and this was the chosen TV location for that portion of the morning news.

SONATA was provisioned, refueled, water topped off, John aboard; and Bonnie returned. The bridge opened for our 0500 departure for the Bahamas.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

March 4-7, 2008 . . . Key West to Fort Lauderdale

Departure from Key West as the sun came up, we traveled with LUCKY STAR. The water was relatively calm as we traveled mostly east to Marathon . . . a southeast sea 1-3'.

One night in Marthon then on to Key Largo where we docked at Key Largo Marina Del Mar to meet with looper friends first met in Portsmouth, then again in Deltaville, and then many times along the loop to Florida.

A nice dinner was enjoyed with our "looper" friends, Bob and Jan (LUCKY STAR), and Howard and Diane (C HORSE).

The special occasion was Bob and Jan's 32nd wedding anniversary . . . so we had to share a great dessert.

Due to pending stormy weather the 7th had us out of Key Largo early, NNE on the Atlantic to Angelfish Creek Cut into Biscayne Bay. Miami was soon in view.

Large condos and beautiful homes line the intercoastal waterway. We finally turned off into the New River at about mile marker 1065 . . . we are 1065 miles from mile marker "zero" which is located there on the Norfolk waterfront at Hospital Point, between Waterside and the Portsmouth Naval Hospital.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

February 24 - March 2, 2008 . . . St. Petersburg to Key West

Jane and Steve, first met on the Trent Severn Waterway in Canada, were in the Tampa area visiting their relatives and met us for lunch then joined us for the trip from Gulfport Marina in St. Petersburg down to the Crow's Nest Marina in Venice.

After leaving Venice and saying goodbye to our friends Jane and Steve we continuied down the Intercoastal Waterway on our way to Sanibel.

Moored at the Sanibel Marina we were off on our bikes to rent a scooter. Bonnie made a huge mistake . . . got on a scooter behind Charlie for a tour of Sanibel and Captiva. A morning and afternoon of beautiful sights and intense fear (according to Charlie, Bonnie was unconcerned).

A very nice lunch and then walks through some of the shops.

Bob and Mary Jane, tennis friends from Virginia Beach that live in Captiva during the winter, joined us on board SONATA for a pleasant afternoon visit.

Winds were out of the NNW reportedly 15-20, however, suspect it was closer to 20-25. Seas and wind would be on the stern and starboard quarter . . . so off we went down the west coast from Sanibel to Marco Island. This view is from the 11th floor condo occupied by our Fort Loudon, Tennessee, looper friends we first met at Cape May and again in Knoxville.

Mike and Pat Sullivan were terrific! They met us at the dock shortly after our arrival at Marco Island and took us to lunch, then off to tour Marco Island, the condos, the homes. A stop for a little shopping and then dinner at the condo they are enjoying for two months while their boat, IRISH EYES, rests on the Tennessee River at the Ft. Loudon Yacht Club.

The morning of the 28th, the weather again 15-20 out of the NNE . . . and we are off to Shark River and the Everglades.

Another day on the water and a day of surfing, wind and seas off the stern, and we arrived at Shark River to join some other boats that had ducked in to get off the Gulf.

Sunset on Shark River, at anchor, N25-19.627 W081-08.563, and then the night sounds began. During the star filled night and in the deep darkness of the Everglades, SONATA sounded like she was sitting in a hot oily skillet that received a continuious sprinkling of water. A crackling, popping, sound all under SONATA. The sound comes from small shrimp, not the kind you see in a shrimp salad, but little fellows eating the growths on the bottom of the boat. Other sounds were the calls of the manatee which were similar to an owl's slow hoot . . . also, coming from under the boat. Step outside on deck and the night was silent except for the noises in the mangroves. A look to the sky revealed falling stars as they streaked across the sky. God's world is so beautiful!

Sunrise and the promise of another beautiful day as we depart Shark River for Key West. Winds have now shifted to the East, but still 10-15 with gusts to 20-25.

the seas rolling behind us pushed us toward Key West sometimes at a speed of 9-10 knots as we surfed down-hill. Saw a turtle that had to be 6x8 but by the time you reach for and turn the camera on . . . they are gone.

Found two cruise ships were docked at Key West when we came out of the Northwest Channel into the main shipping channel to Key West on our way to out marina dock in the Key West Bight.

Then off on the bikes to tour Key West with Bob and Jan Christensen, LUCKY STAR. The ladies enjoy going from shop to shop then we stop at......................

Jimmy Buffett's Original Maragritaville Cafe for lunch.

Bonnie and Jan, a little more shopping . . . then we were off to see Hemmingway and the rest of Key West.

A picture of the man inside his house where he lived with wife #3 before moving to Cuba. It was at this Key West location that Hemmingway wrote most of his books.

This Key West Light House sits in front of Hemmingway's house and is reportedly the light he used to find his way home from downtown Key West.

A pure tourist shot, standing at the southern most point in the continental United States. Back on the bikes and a completed tour of the island with a stop for some groceries and still another coffee pot . . . the last one jumped off the counter when making the passage from Shark River to Key West. Our next adventure will be off to see the Dry Tortugas by seaplane; see: More later...........