Bahamas welcomes us ; – )

January 1

Happy New Year breakfast would not be the same without Captain Christian’s eggs benedict.  We invited Michael, Kerry, and Mike (from Cygnus) to our boat for breakfast.  They brought their own eggs, a hot “just out of the oven home-made” bread, and crispy bacon!  Thanks to all these contributions, we ate like kings!   The day was lazy with a visit at slack tide to the ship wreck 20180101 -8- Warderwick Wells New Years Dayat mooring #9 (a sloop that was on a Warderwick Wells mooring about 20 years ago that went down in an unfortunate fire). 20180101 -9- Warderwick Wells New Years Day  It was warned that we might see a resident lemon shark swimming around this wreck, and to be cautious of it, as it can be aggressive.  Luckily, we did not see it.  But the wreck did look a bit smaller than I remember from when we would dive it in 2010.  Later, at low tide, several of us boats congregated on the exposed shoals in the middle of the anchorage.  The tide gets so low that it exposes the swirling sand bars and you can walk on them.

But one has to look down to avoid stepping on the multitude of sand dollars!   20180101 -14- Warderwick Wells New Years DayOur kids had a great time playing with kids from a boat from Belgium and one from Canada.  So interesting to hear others’ stories.  While chatting, we saw a huge eagle ray jump out of the water just behind our boat!  This place never ceases to amaze me with its marvels of nature.

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At mid-day, we saw Rhondazvouxs, a trawler we met in Nassau, come into Warderwick Wells and moored directly behind us.  The kids loved their dog Lula, who dressed up every day in a new dress and painted toe nails.  They were happy to see them move in behind….both Rhonda and Kerry (her husband) are a hoot and full of fun stories!  The kids played with a new friend Avery (moored next to us) in the water for a few hours, diving in and out and holding onto the rope for help against the current.

For Happy Hour, we partnered with Rhondazvouxs to offer everyone snacks.  Rhonda and Kerry supplied pounds of their recently caught and seasoned wahoo and we bbq’ed it on our portable BBQ.

While everyone was chowing down, our kids were selling their bracelets on the beach.

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They made some “custom” designs for a few clients.  They also played beach games with a new friend they met from Colorado moored next to us (a Beneteau 47 from Colorado – Endurance).

January 2

To ease into schoolwork, which re-started for the new year today, we focussed on “art” for the day.  Rhonda had lent us some “how to draw” books, and the kids had a few of their own, so they spent the morning drawing bunnies, kittens, dogs, chinchillas, lizards, dinosaurs, horses, and pigs.  Meanwhile, Christian went to help Michael with his water maker, again.

After lunch, the kids wanted to play with Avery next door, so we dropped the kids off and went to land to hike a few of the paths in the park.

Our goal was to get to the plantation ruins. (dating back to the late 1700s).  Loyalists fleeing the Revolution brought their plantation system to the Exumas, and specifically Warderwick Wells, with its attendant slaves.   The plantation system was decimated in 1834 following the British government’s declaration of emancipation.  They freed the slaves and stopped the plantation.  For our 2 hour hike, we made it as far as Shady Tree path, which was only halfway to the ruins.  We saw many interesting sites, such as an underground cave, a rock bridge over flood plains, breathtaking scenery, and lots of salamanders, geckos and hermit crabs (who holed up in their shells for a LONG time to hide).

The kids had so much fun with Avery that when we came back after the hike, they stayed a little longer.  They went on an adventure with Avery’s grandmother to the island where they saw 2 turtles, a Queen Triggerfish and a huge beautiful parrotfish. 20180102-9- Warderwick Wells Happy Hour was at the beach again.  Nice to meet the new comers who were finding shelter from the upcoming storm.

Happy Hour again on the beach – last calm night – we made acquaintances with new arrivals.

After supper tonight, Jeremy hosted his Happy New Year party!  He had been planning this for over a week, but it always got postponed due to unexpected visitors or late dinners.  So finally we were able to sit down and play as a whole family.  It was a lot of fun!  He had made up some interesting games (ie. create a “unique meal” recipe, create a drink recipe, draw a building, silly-willy, dancing, snakes & ladder style game)

January 3

Today Christian also went scuba diving with Michael (from Cygnus) to check on his mooring in preparation for the big blow coming.  The mooring looked to be very solidly attached.    20180103-1- Warderwick WellsUnfortunately, by the time they got to our boat, the current had picked up so strongly that it whipped Michael from bow (where he jumped in) to stern in seconds!  He came up our swim ladder with a look of perplexity and angst, not knowing what hit him, I think!  Christian had to abort the dive on our mooring and we hoped that the condition of Michael’s mooring represented the state of ours, so we could sleep soundly during these impending storm conditions.

In the late morning, even with the increasing winds, Captain Chris offered his services at Warderwick Wells to varnish the walls, doors, storm panels, and railings of the office/headquarters.  It was a lot of hard work.

Despite the upcoming bad weather, at low tide we went to hike up Boo-Boo Hill to see/hear the blow holes.  There is a story that > 100 years ago, a ship was wrecked near Warderwick Wells and no survivors.

The ghosts of those perished are said to make the “boo” ghost sound at the top of the hill.  Scientists will tell you that the “boo” sound is due to the waves “whooshing” up water into the blow holes.  You believe what you want.  Regardless, we had no luck because the water was unusually calm on the east side because the storm winds were coming from the west.  We would come back another day.

The wind picked up in a wild manner over the course of the day…. I say “wild” because we were rarely facing the wind due to the strong current that kept turning our boat.  As a result, we heard the mooring ball bumping into our boat many times and the wind blew across our beam (because the current was stronger).  This resulted in us feeling as though we were “heeling” when we were not under sail!

It was a long day of hard work.  Unfortunately, we did not benefit from a peaceful sleep due to the crazy winds and cross currents.

January 4

Still lots of wind…gusts blowing up to 35 knots all day.  Christian offered his volunteer services yet again to Exuma Park.  He helped them fix a few things (like a ladder that goes down into a deep cave on one of the paths) and cleaning the shop/storage shed.  Meanwhile, Mama Bear stayed back at the boat and did 4 hours of schoolwork with the kids.  20180104-1- Warderwick WellsBoy, was the wind blowing!  We had white caps in the bay!

The kids asked their friend Avery to come over to play, but unfortunately, she was not able to join us.

Instead, we were invited by Rhondazvouxs to spend Happy Hour at their boat.  After a drink and some sweets, the kids got cozy in the forward cabin to watch a dog movie while the adults chatted in the salon.  It was nice to spend a crazy windy night in warmth and comfort with friends.

January 5

We were sad to see Cygnus leave this morning.  He needed to head south to drop off his friends to get a ride back to the mainland.   Despite the continuing high winds, we went to shore to volunteer yet again…this time, I helped Monica (Warderick Wells’ dispatcher and our friend) clean out the staff house.  We took down all the Christmas decorations and cleaned up a few rooms in anticipation of the “head quarters big wigs from Nassau” coming in for a visit next week.   20180105-1- Warderwick WellsWhile I helped Monica, Christian and the kids cleaned palm fronds off many of the paths in the tropical forest.  They were warned to keep an eye out for the resident boa constrictor as they approached plantation ruins.  This boa is apparently “small” and is always full from eating Hutias, so no big worries…HA!  ; – (   They took the dinghy to another beach to get quicker access.  20180105-2- Warderwick Wells

When they came back they were very satisfied that they did the “happy dance” on the dinghy!

Our whole family worked to clean off the beach – lots of black algae was washed up on the shore as well as other pollution.

 

The kids helped us rake up these huge wads of polluted algae and remove them.  After Serena finished raking, the beach looked like a “resort beach” and just in time for our happy hour!  All the boaters, who had been stranded here during the blow joined us on the beach for drinks.  Lots of fun had by all!  Rhonda brought a home-made chocolate delicious cake and we brought escargots (Jeremy’s favourite).

We found it quite fun to watch Lula (the chihuahua from Rhondazvouxs) try to intimidate the local Hutias (rodents that are 2x her size that lurk in the bushes at the beach looking for scraps left by humans). The trip back to the boat was VERY wet…waves were surprisingly high and the dinghy was challenged.  But we made it safely!

January 6

Today, more volunteer work in the Park:  Christian and Serena had lots of fun raking the beach further 20180106-1- Warderwick Wells(they raked the name of our boat into the sand! Easily seen from the air).  And they worked in one of the houses, called the “tree house lounge”, cleaning up.  Meanwhile, I stayed on the boat and cleaned up the crevices of our food cupboards and took photos of the kids having fun on the beach in preparation for the Happy Hour!  20180106-2- Warderwick WellsLatino Happy Hour on the beach from 4:30 to 6pm.  It was fun to have a chance to chat with all the people “stuck” here due to the winds.  Good to hear their plans and their differing weather reports.  Even Cherry from the Exuma Park office joined us!

At 6:30pm dinner was then hosted on Serena I…we invited our friends Rhonda and Kerry from Rhondazvouxs and Monica and Constantine from their boat Monica.  20180106-7- Warderwick WellsLate night, but lots of fun and warmth on this cold wintery evening!

 

 

 

January 7

After 3 hours of schoolwork, Papa Bear came back from his volunteer work to pick us up to go back up Boo-Boo Hill.  On top of the hill, boaters are encouraged to leave the name of their boat (and date of visit) on a pile to mark that they visited the park.  Their name must be in natural material only (ie. wood)…no plastic allowed.

We not only wanted to see if the blow holes were working, but also wanted to try to send text messages.  We were told that if we climbed as high as possible with our phones, we might be able to send a message from our phones via the phone tower at Highborn.  This has been a real inconvenience to not have access to internet or phone.  We cannot tell our families that we are doing fine, nor can we look up weather.   Blow holes were not being active today.  But we think we had luck with sending a few text messages.  20180107-5- Warderwick Wells Luckily, the kids are cool with not accessing internet…they play Minecraft and build cities with the ipad – no need for internet access.

January 8

Today, Christian and I left the kids on the boat while we went to the island for volunteer work.  Christian helped Constantine with the garbage sorting and I helped Monica and Cherry do data input of all visitors to the park in the last few weeks.

Tonight’s Happy Hour would be the last we would see of several of our boater friends.  They were leaving to find other sheltered anchorages for the next blow coming in a few days.   We had to make a decision when we would leave this paradise.

January 9

After listening to the weather forecast and what we heard from the others at Happy Hour last night (Chris Parker’s infamous weather report), we decided we would move on a bit further south today.  We went to spend some time saying goodbye to Monica and Constantine in the office.  Our friends gave us a few jugs of water as a good bye gift and we were off by 10am.  We motored on the Bahamas Banks side, because the Sound was far too rough from the last few days of storms.  We arrived at Big Majors Island, near Staniel Cay, by 1:30pm.  Coincidentally, Michael, from Cygnus, was already anchored here.  He was the first to motor over and welcome us.  As we had been informed, we were able to see several fat pigs running on the beach nearby.  They are wild but like to be fed by visitor boats.  Perhaps we will check them out later, as a front came by very quickly.  We invited Michael over for chicken parmesan for supper.  The wind and rain picked up just after he left.  By 10pm, with the deluge of water pouring down upon us, I got the idea to try to “catch” some rain water as an experiment.  I put 3 buckets on the deck under the bimini where water seemed to be trickling down.

January 10

Pouring rain and lots of wind all night long.  When I went to see how much water

When I went to see how much water I had captured in the buckets during the night, I was surprised to see them all overflowing!  The rain kept falling all day.  Great for us to focus on doing schoolwork.  Christian left in the rain to pick up Michael to go to Staniel Cay to buy parts for his water maker.  And I used all this great new rain water to do a load of laundry.  Unfortunately, with the non-stop rain, I was unable to keep the laundry on the lifelines to dry, so I moved them under the bimini for some protection.  20180110- 4- Big Majors rainWe continued to take turns capturing rain water and pouring it into jugs for future use.  I had collected over 5 gallons with the 3 buckets and 4 glasses/bowls we used.  I can only imagine how much more I could have collected if I had a better system!  The rain poured on and off all day.

At sunset, we found a window of no rain to go visit the pigs on the beach.  As per recent tradition, we spent Happy Hour on the beach….only this time it was with pigs!  They came RUNNING to greet us as we beached the boat.  I did not even have time to get out of the dinghy and their chins were on our boat with their mouths open where we could see the teeth and throats!

We fed them our compost (carrots, onions, potato peelings).  The babies are SO cute!  All multi-coloured.  I have never seen pigs like this before.   After 20 minutes, under a beautiful sunset, we returned to the boat for a supper of wahoo (grace à Rhonda and Kerry’s supplies)!   20180110- 11- Big Majors laundry at sunset

Here’s our laundry at sunset!

 

 

January 11

Rain and schoolwork.  Christian left to try his luck at catching supper (ie. lobster or fish), but no luck.  So he went over to help Michael with his water maker…hopefully to make water.  Lots of schoolwork done with a fun Happy Hour after.

We were joined by friends, Terri and Lymon from Terridup, and Bob and Gretchen from Golden Pearl with their 2 Jack Russel Terriers.

January 12

In the morning, we went to explore Thunderball Grotto.  This is a huge limestone rock that has been eroded away inside to form a large cave/grotto where you can snorkel with fish.

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This place was used in part of a James Bond film.  The snorkelling is amazing here.  The kids were ecstatic to see so many fish…sergeant majors, parrotfish, grunts, queen angels, etc.  They were is such large schools all swimming around us!  So beautiful!  When we got back from our adventure, we got an invitation from our friends from the Golden Pearl to be their guests at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for dinner.  We had to order the meal in the morning so that it could be ready for 7pm.  Later in the morning, after schoolwork, we went to Staniel Cay to buy some food.  We checked out the Pink Store, the Blue Store, and Ives General Store.  It is amazing how bare the shelves are.  Not much produce or products on the shelf and definitely a limited variety amongst the products.  And the prices are all EXHORBITANT!!  How does $6.50 for a broccoli head sound to you?  Or $5 for a litre of milk?  When we came back to the boat, we picked up our compost bowl and went to the beach to feed the pigs again.   This time, we fed them

CORRECT way:  “in the water”.  We filled a floating bowl with our food scraps and they were swimming all around us.  The little ones stayed on the beach while the adult pigs were the ones eating.  It is really amazing to see a pig swim!

At 6pm, we met Bob and Gretchen at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club for drinks.  It was a rough ride as the wind was still blowing.  They were so kind, they gave the children a little table toy to play with (bean bag toss).    We had a few drinks and then the bell rang for everyone to go into the restaurant.  This restaurant was a new addition to the Club that was not there when we last visited in 2008.  It was very modern.  We were assigned a table that was in its own little private room – were we lucky!  The different courses of dinner was served with a smile.

The children, although starved, were well behaved.  We had a fun conversation with Bob and Gretchen.  It is always nice to hear new stories.  Then at 10pm, after a tough competition of pool, we closed down the restaurant and had to head back to our boats.  Luckily, the wind had died down quite a bit, but it was pitch black.  One could only see the flashing beacon light at the point we had to around to get back to Big Majors where our boats were anchored.  Very spooky dark!

January 13

Today, it was calm and hot, just before the predicted blow.  Christian and Michael tried to look for lobsters, again, with no luck.  We had fun spotting the huge sting rays who were swimming below our boat.

The kids swam with them and took many photos of the graceful marine friends.  Then, we went back to Thunderball Grotto to see the marine life again.  There were some tourists in the aquarium this time and the current seemed to push the fish into a corner.  But this time, we spent our dives going through the holes in the rock.  Outside of the grotto, we saw 3 leatherback turtles who seemed to enjoy swimming with Serena and Jeremy for nearly ½ hour!

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Back at the boat, we saw a sea plane land near us and motor over to the Pig Beach.  What

an elaborate entry to feed pigs!  Certainly got the attention of us all in the anchorage!  Tonight, Michael invited us to his boat tonight for dinner.  We brought our steaks/chicken to be charbroiled on his bbq.

He had air conditioning, which was a welcome feature in his warm cheery home.  We left just in time for the rain and lightning to begin.  Luckily, we made it to our boat with 1 minute to spare.   The winds howled all night.  Not much sleep as the boat tossed quite a bit despite the fact we had our rocker-stoppers out on both sides.

January 14

Due to the rough night, we decided to move a bit closer to land in hopes that the wave action would be less.  It was a good move…the rocking to our boat was dramatically reduced and it was much more bearable.  For schoolwork today, Serena and Jeremy did a number of science experiments (ie. creating crystals, making fountain drinks, forming salt crystals on string).  20180115- 7- En route Black PointAfter lunch, Jeremy arranged a Fun Fair for us.  He had planned (and invented) several games with his Trash Packs (ie. trash pack smash, trash pack pass), a drawing game (where you pass the drawing to next person to add the next feature) as well as a bag toss for us to play.  We really had a lot of fun!  This was great timing because we were stuck on the boat due to non-stop rain, wind, and waves.

January 15

Today, we left for Black Point, 10 miles south of Staniel Cay.  We were told there was internet there…something we DESPERATELY miss – it has been over 20 days since we have had access to internet so we are far behind on updating the blog, our banking, research for schoolwork, our emails, etc.  On our way south, Christian threw a few fishing lines out to try his luck.  After an hour, he had a bite.  Boy was it hard to reel in!  After 40 minutes, he brought in what looked like a “needle fish”.  It was a “hound fish”.

One of the biggest of the needlenose fish that are an irritant to fishermen because they swim at the surface and always eat their bait.  This fish was huge and gave a big fight.  It was scary to catch in the net because of its pointy snout.  They are known to have impaled people with their points when they jump out of the water, so we had to be careful.  Christian really tired the fish out, so we brought it aboard with less trouble.  It was about 4 feet long!  But when it was fileted, it turned out to be a measly bag of flesh.  See disappointed Captain Chris in photos “before” and “after”:

It is supposed to be good meat…Supper for tomorrow.   Because the wind was still very strong (20-25 knots), we went to the south anchorage, which was not close to the restaurants, but was much better sheltered.  When we arrived, Christian again tried looking for lobster (no luck) and then we were invited for a Happy Hour at our friends’ boat – Terridup.  It was a nice get together.  Terri and Lymon invited Michael (from Cygnus) and Rhonda and Kerry (from Rhondazvouxs).  Great to be with friends during this miserable weather.  Thanks Terri and Lymon!

We stayed until it got dark because 2 fronts came through and poured rain for over an hour with very high winds.  It was great to be in good company during yucky weather like this!

January 16

Kids had their Univers Social exams today.  Surprisingly, they BOTH scored 89% on their tests (grade 4 for Jeremy, grade 6 for Serena).   Christian and I got some paperwork done.  We changed places in the anchorage to get a bit closer to the beach to be in calmer waters.  The kids continued writing their books…they are on their 6th book of their 20180116-1- Black Pointbook series.  For a late lunch, Christian prepared/fried the hound fish that he caught yesterday.   It was absolutely delicious!  Mmmmm!

And again, just near sunset, Papa Bear had to go out to hunt for the ever-elusive spiny lobster.  This time he went with Jeremy.  On the way, Jeremy got a lesson on how to start the dinghy motor and how to drive the dinghy!  He now knows and is able to start it and drive it!

Later we decided we had to find internet, even if we had to go to a restaurant and buy our meals.  We heard of a restaurant – one of the few in the Exumas – that is open daily and they have great pizza.  All dressed up in our rain gear, we went for an adventure:  took the dinghy to the beach in the pouring rain (and oncoming rain squalls).   We had our computers all wrapped up in our waterproof bags and went to find this renowned café.  When we walked up the beach, there was nothing aside from some abandoned trucks, construction tools and some muddy lanes (that might have been roads).  We walked using our sense of direction (or maybe it was our noses sniffing for good pizza?).  After 40 minutes of walking in puddles and rain showers, past abandoned housing construction sites and dead snakes, we arrived at Lorraine’s Café.   It was so welcoming!  Even though it took 1hour 15 min to get our pizzas, it allowed us to get stuff done on the internet:  banking, update blog, email friends, etc.  It was a great 2 and 1/2  hours.  However, as we all know, the sun sets in the islands at 5:45pm on the button.  Sure enough, at 7:30pm, it was pitch darkness outside.  Not being too excited to walk another 45 minutes in pitch darkness with rain, we kindly asked a local guy for a lift.  He allowed us to go into the trunk of his pickup and gave us a lift to the desolate terrain where we hoped was near the beach with our dinghy.  He could not drop us off at the beach since there was no road.  Unfortunately, he dropped us off a bit too far from where we needed to turn off  and we got a bit lost.  Needless to say, thank you Captain Chris for having brought you flashlight.  We got lost in the dark…turning around and retracing our steps.  At one point, we started to make inukshuks in the event we got more lost.  There was considerable (heated) discussions amongst us, with Serena not wanting to sleep with Bahamian Boas during the night and Jeremy encouraging us to go further back.  In the end, we found our way, thanks to all of our inputs and determination.  The moon and stars came out as we arrived at the boat in one piece!  Sorry no photos of this adventure!

January 17 – 19

These days have been off and on rain, heavy wind.  However, we have always found time to get out and meet our neighbouring boats and go for a few brief walks.  We did laundry on Saturday and it was fun to meet up with all our previously made friends from other islands.  The island has a very small population.  All people are welcoming and polite to us visitors.  There is a church, a school and grocery store here, plus 2 restaurants.  Black Point is a GREAT place to do laundry.  There is wifi, groceries, and beer available as well as coin showers and Iris, the owner, even gives hair cuts!  Several of the guys got their heads buzzed.  CC and I took a nice long walk back to the beach while the boys dinghied back with the kids.  We met a few interesting people along the way.   CC and Chris invited us to their boat for dinner…what a lovely Little Harbour 38.  So cozy and warm on a wintery windy night!  Thank you CC and Chris for your hospitality!

January 20

Despite the bad weather Christian always found time to go hunting.  Today, he finally found some serious lobster.  And this time he decided to try some conch.  He collected 4 conch and we learned how to prepare them from a neighbouring boat.  We steamed them in a pressure cooker – 15 minutes each.  The shells were so big, he had to break them to get them into our pressure cooker!   He was so excited about his catch today, that he made an announcement on the VHF inviting all boats in the bay to a Happy Hour on the beach.  We brought our little bbq and he cooked up the lobster and conch which we served to all our new friends.

January 21

This morning, Christian made his eggs benedict and we invited CC, Chris, and Michael.  It was delicious as usual.  Today was the football game between the Patriots and the Jaguars.  We had to go to Lorraine’s Café to participate in the excitement.  She invited all neighbouring boats (on VHF 16) to her place.  She had snacks of conch fritters and chicken strips to serve.  There were about 50 people in the restaurant, both locals and boaters.  It was quite the “charged” atmosphere!

On our way to Bahamas…

December 1

Again another relaxing start to the day. Today, Grammy and Grampy were going to be flying in to Fort Lauderdale from Buffalo.  After b20171201-1- Hallandale Flareakfast, we left Mami and Papi for the visit by the potential “buyer”.  Papa Bear, me and the kids got lost driving around for an hour.  We went to Winn Dixie and came back in good timing.

In the afternoon, we went to the Hollywood Beach with Mami and Papi for an hour.  The water temperature was surprisingly warm.  Because we are used to being here in March, the water is typically cold for us, but today, due to the past warm summer and autumn, the ocean was about 80F.

 

We had tilapia for dinner.  Around 7pm, we checked to see if Grammy and Grampy’s flight was on time and found out their United flight would be 40 minutes early!  We were already late to pick them up, so we quickly left!  The pickup went smoothly and we went directly to Mami and Papi’s house to have a quick drink to unwind.  The kids were all excited to see their grandparents.  We had a nice 1 hour conversation and then took them to their hotel.  They were staying at the20171205-4- Hallandale Fla Best Western just down the street fromtheir home in Hallandale Beach. It is great because it is walking distance.  The hotel was very nice – just recently renovated.  And with a pool, so the kids might enjoy a bit.

December 2

For breakfast today, we joined Grammy and Grampy at their hotel.  We spent time just getting caught up and went to Winn Dixie to buy wine for dinner.  By 2pm, Mami and Papi picked us up to go to the beach.  We went to Hollywood Beach.

 

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This was the first time that Grammy and Grampy have been to the beach in a few years.  It was a great temperature with the warm winds.  They found it very restful. Grampy even fell asleep!  Jeremy was busy making a sand castle with Papa.  Dinner was Christian’s famous “chicken on a can” – mmmm!

 

The kids slept over at Grammy and Grampy’s hotel room.

December 3

The kids were excited to have breakfast at the hotel and watch cartoons in the morning.  In the afternoon, they swam in the pool – which had a waterfall!  But it was a bit on the cool side.

 

In the meantime, Christian and I drove north to North Palm Beach to check on our boat and measure our new spinnaker pole.  We were very happy to know that it was ok, but it was clear that someone had tried to jimmy our $70 lock open on the dinghy.  Luckily, while they ruined the lock, they were unable to steal the dinghy!  A much better loss ($70 lock vs a $3000 dinghy)!   On our way back, we decided NOT to leave our dinghy at this scary, non-trusted beach…despite the fact that it was in one of the most expensive residential areas we have seen so far.  Instead, Christian took the dinghy back to the boat to lock it and the motor up.  Then he paddled the paddle board against a strong current back to the beach!  Not fun, but a necessary precautionary measure!

 

This evening, Mami and Papi offered me their car so I could take my family out for dinner.  Before going to the restaurant, Grammy and Grampy wanted to give the kids part of their Christmas gifts – $25 to spend on what they wanted – so we went to Walmart just down the street of Hallandale Boulevard.  By 6:30, we were on our way to the Thai Restaurant called See Thai on Hallandale Blvd.  It was great, fast service and very good food.  We didn’t know, but it was their 2nd day in business, so you could tell they were really trying hard to impress!  Serena even said it was her favourite restaurant in a long time.   The kids were so excited about their gifts (Lego and trashpacks / shopkins), but they promised to wait until tomorrow to open them up.  They slept over again at Grammy and Grampy’s.

December 4

This morning, Papa Bear and Papi began work to fix a door frame in their home while I wrapped Christmas gifts for the kids from their grandparents.  By 9am, I walked over to the hotel – it only took 14 minutes – a good exercise.  We ate a big breakfast and then I had a nice time catching up with Grammy and Grampy.

 

The  kids kept busy making their Lego kits!  Christian came over to swim later in the afternoon, after he had been helping Papi in fixing a few small things on the house.  20171204-5- Hallandale Fla Dinner was at Mami and Papi’s with an early end to the evening.  I slept over at the hotel with my Mom and Dad.  20171204-6- Hallandale FlaWe had a few laughs and got comfy on the beds with our feet up!  And surprisingly, I was NOT disturbed during the night with their snoring.  ; – )

December 5

We had another yummy hotel breakfast and while we were waiting for Mami to pick us up to go buy some new plants for her house, we ran into a “regular” at the hotel. 20171205-1- Hallandale Fla Mami, and my Mom and I went to Home Depot to get a small palm tree and some Pentas (annuals) to plant in pots.  Upon our return, I planted the palm tree for them and we had lunch all together.  Then we went to the beach, but Mami and Papi stayed behind with Serena.  My parents found the afternoon at the beach to be very relaxing and “refreshing”.

 

Christian played with Jeremy in the waves and then we played beach ping pong.

 

Supper was Captain Christian’s famous salmon dish.  After supper, we had an early Christmas celebration with the children.  They surprised us by presenting a lovely little present to all 4 grandparents:  each got an elastic bracelet in Christmas colours and a lovely card with a heartfelt message (in English or French).

 

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The kids were very lucky as this is probably the only time they will celebrate Christmas with BOTH sets of grandparents present!  They were happy with their cadeaux.   We took a quick walk to see the lovely Christmas decorations of their nearby neighbours.  Funny to see snowmen with no snow!

 

 

December 6

Today, we had a special breakfast!  Captain Christian prepared his famous “Eggs Benedict” and we ate like kings!  IMG_2736We enjoyed the meal on the front porch of Mami and Papi’s.  You could feel the heat already at 10am, it was already 85F!  To cool off in the afternoon, we went to one of our favourite beaches – Oleta River State Park:  Florida’s largest urban park, located on Biscayne Bay in the Miami metropolitan area. It offers a variety of recreational opportunities, including off-road bicycling trails, canoeing, and kayaking.  Along the Oleta River, at the north end of the park, a large stand of beautiful mangrove forest preserves native South Florida plants and wildlife. The beach is what we like – a 1,200-foot sandy beach with flat water.  With the kids, we spent a few hours snorkeling in the calm waters.

 

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We saw plenty of Juvenile Damselfish, Sergeant Majors, and schools of Grunts. We also saw a Spotted Trunkfish and a large brown Pufferfish.   Dinner was at Mami and Papi’s again.  We wanted my Mom and Dad to get an early evening in before their flight tomorrow.

December 7

Around 9am, we went to the Best Western to enjoy breakfast with my Mom and Dad.  Then we took them to the airport (which is only 10 minutes away).  They got priority treatment with my Dad getting a wheelchair to ensure his hip wouldn’t slow down his connections at Newark. Unfortunately, their flight leaving Fort Lauderdale was delayed by 2.5 hours, so they missed all connecting flights in Newark except for one at 9:30, which ended up being delayed until 11:15 pm!  They finally got home from Buffalo around 2am!  Not a pleasant experience!

 

In the meantime, after we dropped them off at the airport, we went shopping for some supplies at Outdoor World.  The kids had a blast:  first telling Santa what they wanted for Christmas, then practicing target shooting (bears, raccoons, and birds).

 

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Right after we went to the Diver’s Direct Shop to get Mama Bear and Jeremy a new snorkel.  Later that afternoon, Jeremy was very excited to try out his new snorkel at la petite plage (next to Mami and Papi’s).  He also took his camera to practice photographing underwater life…getting ready for Bahamas!

 

December 8

20171208-1- Hallandale Fla

A very lazy day….kids did a bit of homework, we did some banking.  Late afternoon, we spent a few hours at the Hollywood Beach.  In the late evening, we met up with one of Captain Christian’s old university friends, Martin.  He met us at Margaritaville where we spent a few hours catching up over a few beers.

December 9

Today, the cold front was clearly coming in.  Rain began around 9:30am.  The wind picked up and the temperatures dropped 10F in about 1 hour.  We spent the day doing laundry and shopping around, looking for shoes for the kids and maps for our trip.  We went to West Marine and BlueWater Charts, and Sailorman for our supplies.  A quiet night.

December 10

Back to the boat-life today.  Time to move on.  We wanted to move our boat a bit further south (Fort Lauderdale area) in order to make the crossing over to Bahamas a bit smoother with the flow of the Gulf Stream.  By being a bit further south, the Gulf Stream will push us north, allowing us to make landfall near West End, Grand Bahama. We are hoping to push off in the next weather window….which are few and far between.  For the best conditions, the wind should not be too strong for approximately 3-5 days around departure. And it should not be from the north or east during this time to ensure flatter waters.  We do this to avoid the washing machine impact that can happen when crossing the Gulf Stream; often times the waves can be very tall and very short in fetch which is a very uncomfortable 10 hour ride!  The Gulf Stream is 7 nautical miles offshore here (off the coast of Florida), and 25 nautical miles wide. In these months, it is very hard to find that perfect window.  We still have to do some provisioning, but should be ready within a few days if the opportunity comes along.

After Mami and Papi drove us to the boat in North Pal20171209-1- Hallandale Flam Beach (the kids slept the whole way!), the kids spent the rest of the day writing their 2nd and 3rd books about their principal characters….Serena writes about Jessy and Jeremy writes about Olivier.  They are writing detailed diaries for each.  The best thing is that the two stories are intertwined….Olivier is in love with Jessy, but she does not return his affections, but likes his attention.  Serena and Jeremy have each written 3 books now where their stories are intertwined.  It is interesting to read about the same event from 2 different perspectives!   For example, both Jessy and Olivier attend a party and you get to read the perspective from Jessy and Olivier…funny how different they are!

December 11

We left nice and early to travel south to Fort Lauderdale.  We had a great ride under sail for 4 hours at about 6 knots.  Then the wind started to lighten, but we decided to throw out a few fishing lines to see what we would get.  In less than 20 minutes, we had our first bite!

We thought it was a tuna, but after texting our friend Pascal, he told us it looked more like a Spanish Mackerel.   Leave it to our scuba instructor to set us straight!

About 10 minutes later, we had BOTH of our fishing lines screaming with fresh catches – both had a Spanish Mackerel on it.  Captain Christian had no problems fileting the fish…in about 20 minutes, he had all three beautifully prepared for us to prepare for supper.  201712011-6- Hallandale FlaHowever, he did not feel that the 3 fish filets would be enough for supper, so he decided to go for another bite.  Sure enough…within 5 minutes, he had another bite.  The 4th Spanish Mackerel who wanted to join the party!  Needless to say, we had enough for supper and a bit of leftover for lunch.  It was amazing.  I tried a recipe with loads of bay leaves and garlic.   The fish is very light and tasty.  The kids loved it too. 201712011-7- Hallandale Fla

The whole afternoon and evening, the kids kept busy “filming” their books about Jessy and Olivier.  They spent a few hours taking ~ 1178 photos to make a 3 minute film!   Very impressive snippets of their 6 books (that interconnect).

We arrived in Fort Lauderdale and were lucky to get one of the last anchorages in Lake Sylvia.  We were surrounded by half a dozen $11 million homes!   At night, they would so beautifully decorated with lights for Christmas.

I felt a bit guilty being able to see them in their homes at night…but we were less than 100 metres away from their backyards!  A calm night.

December 12

By surprise, one of Christian’s old friends, Martin, was in Fort Lauderdale at the same time as us.  Christian invited him to come fishing with us today.  201712012-2- Hallandale FlaWhen Martin arrived, arms full of lunch fixings (hamburgers, fresh buns, salad) and dessert, we took off to the ocean.  After 15 minutes with the fishing lines in the water, we caught something….very big!  It was a mahi-mahi!  He was skipping on the surface…you could see his huge head!  But we were over-powered with our sails…we had too much speed.   With all that, we lost the battle with the mahi-mahi.  The mahi-mahi was lucky to have dinner with his family that night…saved by the fact the fact that our speed was too fast and we did not bring him in fast enough. Ah, 201712012-1- Hallandale Flawell!  We had a great sail with Martin anyways!  The wind picked up to 25 knots and we were going 6.5 knots even AFTER we furled the genoa.   The children kept themselves occupied below by continuing to write their 4th books of the Jessie and Olivier saga!  And Martin got to read it all too !!!!

Martin ended up spending the evening with us on the boat, having dinner with us surrounded by multi-million dollar homes!  It was very peaceful and relaxing.

 

December 13

Happy 85th Birthday Dad!!   Hope you had a great day!  The kids send their kisses!

Today, we moved from placid Lake Sylvia to Los Olas Marina.  We were welcomed by fantastic staff.  The accommodations, while under tremendous construction, were clean and useful.  Mami and Papi came to visit and help us.  We were only 15 minutes away from their home in Hallandale.  I did 4 loads of laundry.  While transporting the laundry back, I was accompanied by a graceful manatee who came beside me at the dock for a short breath of air and then a deep dive!  Wow!  Christian was able to get in to a welder, far north of our dock, to get some work done on an unexpected break we had on a safety bar around the base of the mast.

Later that night, we went back to Mami and Papi’s for a hearty meal and a good night sleep.  I also managed to wash our sleeping bags (first time since we left home!!!)!!!

December 14

Today was a day FILLED with errands/commissions!  Bank, Office Depot, welder, Winn Dixie, ATMs, Walmart, Dollarama….the list went on.  Papi helped Christian with the fixes on the boat (ie.  the water impeller, the toilet, picked up the welding of safety bar).  We switched from a dock to a mooring to be sure we were on the “other side” of the bridge so we didn’t have to wait/lose time for the “lift” at 4am tomorrow morning.   New map because Navionics is not recommended for Bahamas (regardless of the advantage for fishermen).

Luckily, the kids stayed with Mami at their place.  We returned at 6pm with frozen pizzas and chowed down quickly.  Then we returned to the boat…luckily it was at Los Olas in Fort Lauderdale (a mere 15 min from their place in Hallendale Beach).  But despite our efforts, we got back to the boat in pitch darkness.   After unloading our bags & bags of gear and other equipment, we got hoisted the dinghy on the deck, got the kids ready for bed, and got the boat ready for a 4am departure.  I had to get their schoolwork ready for tomorrow, since it would be a long day at sea…then went to bed.

December 15

The alarm went off at 3:45am.  We were actually already awake…probably had not slept more than an hour anticipating the departure.  After putting the kettle on to boil and checking the engine, we slipped away in the darkness.  Leaving was so easy being on the mooring ball!

And on the canal, we had so much ambient light from the surrounding buildings and Christmas decorative lights (ie…wrapped around palm trees!), that sight was not at all impeded!  When we got to the last bridge at Port Everglades, we saw an amazing sight of a huge sliver moon with a hue of orange hovering over a passing cruise ship!  Wow…if only I had a good camera!  We slipped out into the ocean from the inlet without a problem.  We caught the Gulf Stream’s counter-current and were merrily riding along at 7.5 knots parallel to the coast.  We had to go south until at least Miami so that we would not be impeded by the Gulf Stream.  Our angle to the Biminis was 127 degrees after we turned East at Miami.  Luckily, we had plenty of light at 4am from the moon and the lights of Miami.

Throughout the morning, the kids were spotting flying fish and looking out for dophins.  By 1:30pm, the kids were jumping on the bow of the boat…so excited to see the crystal clear blue water.  They could not believe that they could see the bottom of the ocean!  They screamed that they could see the sand ripples on the bottom.  And each time they saw sealife, they would call it out – sting rays, parrot fish, you name it!  By 2pm, after 10 hours of motor-sailing on (luckily) relatively flat waters of the Gulf Stream, we arrived in North Bimini.  201712019-2- North Bimini Bahamas langostRJ, the dockmaster, welcomed us with open arms.  So did “Bully” the bull shark, who liked to cruise under our boat in the crystalline waters!  The kids could not contain themselves with all the animal life they were observing below….Sergeant Majors, Parrot fish, sting rays, barracuda, bull sharks, even a squid!

For the next 2 hours, we waited for Captain Christian to check us in at the Customs and Immigration office. 201712016-2- Bimini Bahamas Seeing the dinghy appear to be “floating” in air, the kids were so anxious to go snorkelling, but I had to keep reminding them that we were not allowed to walk out of the boat until the check in was completed.  Finally at 4pm, we were free to explore!

We headed to the ocean side (only 300 metres away) to see the neighbourhood, check out the beach, and take in the breath-taking sunset.  We were FINALLY in the islands, Mon.  We could really feel the difference in the pace of life and were happy to turn down a notch to slow down!   And despite the loud island music playing down the street, we easily snuggled in our beds for a deep sleep!

December 16

Today was a day of schoolwork and clean up.  I got 2 rooms organized and was able to mark all the kids’ math work (from the last 2 months).  Christian was able to install the new solar panel that took 2 months to arrive from Asia (which DOESN’T work!!!!) and fix the mast base safety bar.  The kids were also excited to see 201712016-1- Bimini Bahamaswhich marine life lived under our boat and they quickly named the big specimens (ie. Squido the Squid, Bully the Bull shark – one of 3 that snaked around below looking for fresh fish from the fishermen).

The fishermen come by everyday and clean their fish before selling them fresh on the dock.  However, the leftovers from cleaning the fish that they throw in the water tend to attract the bull sharks! 201712016-7- Bimini Bahamas  By noon, we were ready to take the kids on an adventure.  We explored the north tip of the island where there is an anchorage, the Hilton hotel, a casino and pool.  Very impressed with how pristine this place is!  Of course, the kids were getting impatient to go snorkelling, but with the tide going out, we could not find a safe place for them to drop.  So finally, we had them jump off our dinghy, hold onto a rope, and swim around the dinghy in some nice shallow water, while we drifted backwards on the tidal current.

The kids were amazed at what they saw and took notes:  a Queen angelfish, a barracuda, lots of sergeant majors, yellowtails, an eel, and finally a spotted eagle ray!!

We came back to our dock and slowly walked back to the beach from last night.  On our way to the beach, we met the Island’s Mayor, Kate,  who invited us back later in the afternoon for the Christmas gift event.  At the beach, the kids snorkelled another hour, finding lots of treasures from the unfortunate destruction that Irma left behind.  The kids found tons of broken floor tiles, tubing, but also found the most lovely conch shells and sea glass, not to mention thousands of fish hiding among the rocks.  Even a sting ray!

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Right after their snorkelling expedition, we headed back to the boat to get dressed in our Christmas clothing to go to the City Hall’s Christmas gift giving event.  We brought a beach ball to give to the kids.  We did not realize what a hit it would be with the kids.  There were at least 40 kids already there when we arrived.  The minute we threw the ball into the crowd, they started running with it and playing tag.  There were a few kids that even got hurt by falling, running so fast to keep the ball!  ½ hour later, the gift giving began.  The gifts were actually donations from one of the fellow sailors at our marina.  He was giving them to the children of Bimini.  It was a very festive afternoon.  And a wonderful opportunity for our children to see how other kids live.

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Tonight, we were reminded by our little ones that we had to send their letters to Santa.  They had some urgent things they needed Santa to know…., like our change of address!  201712016-16- Bimini BahamasWe followed our tradition of burning the letters to get to him the fastest possible!

 

 

 

 

 

OUR LOVE TO YOU ALL FOR HAVING FOLLOWED US THIS FAR AND ALL THE GREAT COMMENTS AND FEEDBACK TO DATE!  PLEASE NOTE THAT WITH OUR ARRIVAL IN THE BAHAMAS, OUR ACCESS TO INTERNET WILL NOW BE VERY LIMITED.  UPDATES TO THE BLOG WILL NOT BE FREQUENT.  THE AIM IS TO UPDATE EVERY FEW WEEKS….NOT DAILY.

December 17 – 18

Our last few days at Bimini Blue Water Marina in Alicetown, North Bimini.  We spent the days in a typical fashion….schoolwork and boat reparations in the morning, snorkelling after lunch at the beach just over the hill from where we are docked.

One evening we had a happy hour gathering with 3 other boats – from Quebec as well.  It was nice to hear their travel tales.  We even checked out the beach at Resortworld Casino, at the furthest north point of the island.  Their beach was pristine, but not as many fish as at the other beach down the way…lots of debris from the hurricane though.

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Their pool was much more elaborate with an enormous 104 degrees pool (hot tub?) beside it.  Beautiful place, so sad there are not more guests.  While I was at the pool with the kids, Christian slipped away to try his luck at catching a spiny lobster with a borrowed Hawaiin sling.  And voila!  He caught one in 15 minutes on his 2nd try.  It was his first lobster catch ever!  He found it a bit tricky because he did not have the proper equipment (ie. no fins, no weightbelt).  On our way back to the boat, we saw a miraculous thing…about 100 metres in front of our dinghy in the channel, we saw a huge eagle ray jump out of the water!  It jumped 3 times to a height of about 5 feet above the surface!  It was amazing 201712018-9- North Bimini Bahamas langostto watch..  It had its wings curled up on its highest jump.  I have never seen such a sight!  Rays do tend to do this to get the ramoras (the little cleaner fish) off their bodies.  But to have this happen RIGHT in front of us was spectacular!  Unfortunately, I was not able to get a photo… : – (    And later that evening, Christian enjoyed eating his lobster at dinner!

December 19

Today, we are leaving to get an anchorage outside of North Bimini so that tomorrow morning we can leave directly at 4am without having to navigate the channel.  We are heading to Great Harbour in the Berry Islands.  201712019-1- North Bimini Bahamas langostBut first thing that the children had on their schoolwork agenda was to do Art.  They painted for about an hour at the marina before our departure.   Before leaving our dock, we did some minor provisioning and the kids shopped with Papa for a Christmas tree.  They found a small 18” tree that they quickly decorated when they got back to the boat!

On our way to our anchorage, we stopped to explore a ship wreck in about 20 feet of water.  Very exciting for the kids.

Lots of fish, but the current started to pick up.  When we got to our anchorage, we realized that we were very close to the Hilton Hotel, near the Resort World, so we headed over there on dinghy.

We managed to sneak up to the 5th floor eternity pool to take photos of the area we had navigated the day before, and then went into the pool on the ground floor so the kids could enjoy splashing around in the huge empty pool.  Apparently, we are in their “slow season”, but once the holidays are over, it gets very busy here. Early night to bed, but despite the quiet winds, were we rocked very aggressively with the ocean swell!  Luckily we were up at 3:30am to get en route for the Berry Islands!  201712019-3- North Bimini Bahamas langost

The kids were very keen to decorate a Christmas tree that they bought at a local hardware store.  They were so excited to have this tiny tree as a new addition to the boat!   They now keep the table clean to ensure their tree has space ; – )

December 20

We left our North Bimini anchorage at 4am….slowly…me with flashlight in hand at the bow.  Wow, did we ever get a show of flying fish…they were skirting across the water all over the place!  I guess we were disturbing them?  I have to say that I was VERY impressed with the buoys/channel lights in North Bimini…everyone warned us that there was nothing to guide sailors, but I found it was very well indicated.  Once we rounded the jetty, we were in pitch darkness aside from the odd light from North Bimini.  Being on the Bahamas Banks, we were only in 15 feet of water, so it was a bit disconcerting with such limited vision.  On the positive side, I saw 4 shooting stars during the dark morning hours…one that had the longest and brightest tail I have ever seen!  Jeremy got up early with us to watch a video.    One of boats we befriended at Bimini Blue Water Marina passed us at 5am…it was comforting to speak with them on the VHF.   What a LONG day of travel…this was the longest distance we have done in one day – 77 nm (ie. 140 km).  Luckily we had both sails full (close reach), but the motor worked the whole 14 hour route!  The kids did a huge amount of schoolwork and I was able to finish off all 2nd semester marking (with Papa’s help).  The kids also finished off their 5th volume of their Jessy/Oliver diary books (45 pages!).

 

We arrived at 5:30pm just outside Bullock Harbour.  The water was so calm.  Again we were blessed with a wonderful sunset!  And the kids were excited to have the new little Christmas tree as a decoration at the supper table!

Just before bedtime, we had the kids spend some time on deck with us looking at the stars (in hopes to see a shooting star).  Jeremy said, “I think the sharks have their flashlights on…or maybe there are angler fish below?” (those deep sea fish that have lights on their heads)…The reason he said this was because the stars were so perfectly reflected in the still water that it looked like there were flashlights below!   We were very blessed with the calm night and saw a few more shooting stars.

December 21

Unfortunately, by 4am, the wind started changing in direction and strength…it was sloshing under our stern, making a loud noise for sleeping.   By early morning, we decided to take a bit of shelter in the Great Harbour Cay bay…considered to be a hurricane hole.  Despite the very narrow entrance (a pirate cove hidden from the passerby), we found one place to anchor which was very calm (very little room for other boats to anchor, however).

In the afternoon, after schoolwork was done, we checked out the marina and then walked a few km to explore the golf course, and then, on the North East side of the island, came across the biggest gem of a beach we have ever seen!  WOW…please be your own judge!

It was so fantastic, Jeremy took off all his clothes and ran into the water to swim.  We were so tempted to switch our anchorage, but the wind was expected to switch to the east; making this anchorage more rocky than what we see here.

Returning at the end of the afternoon, we met the marina manager, Stephen, a very proud Bahamian, who works to please all of his guests!  Ice cream at the marina before heading back to the boat was a nice treat for the kids.  A quiet night in our little bay.

December 22

Today, we finished off our review of the last 2 months of French/Math schoolwork.  By noon, we were ready to explore some great snorkelling sites around the Berry Islands.  Our first stop was the Blue Hole on the north side. A blue hole is a water-filled sinkhole with the entrance below the water level and has developed in a bank composed of a carbonate bedrock (ie. limestone). Blue holes contain tidally-influenced water of fresh, marine, or mixed chemistry. It was formed some 15,000 years ago (during the glacial age during the Pleistocene epoch) when the sea level was considerably lower and rainwater soaked through fractures of limestone bedrock onto the watertable. (Sea level here has now changed).  The hole was circular with a diameter of approx. 100 feet and descends 250 feet.  Christian caught another spiny lobster for an appetizer tonight!  The second snorkel site was a plane crash in about 20 feet of water.  TONS of fish on the wreck!  One barracuda and several pretty parrot fish were seen in the leftover wreckage.

After the snorkelling, we showered off and left the kids on the boat to finish their work and we went to explore the town for groceries.

We tied up our dinghy at the end of our anchorage bay and discovered a new business….Da Bonner, the fisherman, was setting up a little restaurant on the side of the bay.  He had established the dining terrace and was currently preparing the fish and conch he will serve on Saturday in a salad!  He reminded me very much of Foxy from the Virgin Islands, who is infamous now after 30 years!    Then we had a relaxing walk on the norther part of the island.  I got a chance to speak with several locals (found a few to work in the stores, and a few that work for the cruise lines on the northern most island – Stirrup Cay).  We also spoke with a few kids who just got out of school.  Unfortunately, the more than 40 chickens we saw were too shy to be “interviewed”!

Early to bed tonight for an early departure tomorrow morning…we are heading to Bird Cay (at the southern tip of the Berry Islands).

December 23

Right after the kids helped us clean up from breakfast, 201712023-1- Soldier Cay Berry Islandswe left our quiet little anchorage and headed back out to the deep.  We headed north to Stirrup Cay, where the cruise ships anchor, and rounded it to head south.  Jeremy even helped to steer for a bit.  Half way through our southbound trip, when we were motoring at maximum speed to get to Bird Cay (44 nautical miles south) at a reasonable hour (before 5pm – when sun gets too low to see), we changed our plans.

I was concerned about the possibility of overworking our engine and not enjoying the trip.  I reminded myself and Christian “it should NOT be about getting to the destination, but the voyage needs to be savoured as well”…So we slowed down the engine, and enjoyed a slow sail and stopped for the night in Soldier Cay – halfway toward where we wanted to be, but less stressed!  It was a beautiful deserted limestone rock island, but 2 boats had already beat us there.  We got the dinghy ready and went on an expedition to find a reputed blue hole in this area – that was reputed to be on Soldier Cay.  After 2 hours in the dinghy, we did not find the blue hole, but were rewarded to find a little mangrove bay where dozens of turtles kept peeking their heads out at us.

There were also a few stingrays.  The kids jumped in and snorkelled to see if they could glimpse a turtle, but they are too fast and clever to come near divers!  By 4:30pm, we dropped the kids off at the boat and went to the beach to enjoy the sunset.  We discovered some tide pools with many small fish trapped inside. 201712023-10- Soldier Cay Berry Islands That night, we had a quiet relaxing sleep, knowing we had to get up early for an extra early departure to make up for the lost ground today.

December 24

Happy Birthday Mom!  While you were still sleeping, we were leaving our pristine little anchorage (which was rolling all night, giving us limited sleep).   We had 50 nautical miles to cover to get to Nassau today.  It was a good sail, the wind, which was supposed to be on the nose, ended up being a nice close reach the whole way.  Christian threw 2 fishing lines over in the hopes a catching a Mahi Mahi when we were in the deep water.

No luck on the dophin fish, but within an hour, we had 2 large Mackerels caught – perfect for our Christmas Eve supper.  The wind picked up at the end of our trip and we went through a small squall about 5 nautical miles off Nassau’s shore.  We saw Nassau clearly just before the storm, but during and after, the island’s buildings got lost in the cloudy fog.  201712024-3- en route to NassauWhen we arrived at the lighthouse entrance where all the cruise ships dock, the sun started to peak out again.  It was nice to be back in an area we recognized – having kept our boat here during 3 winters (in 2007-2010), we knew the harbour well.   We had arranged to stay at Nassau Harbour Marina for the next 3 days.  We were a bit concerned for the timing of the holidays and our need to provision.  Indeed, upon our 3pm arrival we realized that stores closed at 5:30pm today, with only a few stores opening on Dec. 26.   We needed to buy “last chance” groceries (grocery stores are few and meagre in the Exuma islands), get a new blower and new water hose, look for an outboard engine, buy the kids scuba fins (they had grown out of the ones we brought), stock up on rum (we have used a lot for fishing to tranquilize the fish), get a telephone package with BTC to have access to internet, and do some banking.  Yes, I hear you…“Good luck”….

At least the kids were excited to have a pool to swim in.  While they did that, Christian and I divided and conquered to get a few errands done. Luckily, across the street there was a strip mall which had everything from a Starbucks, grocery, liquor store, hardware store, bank, etc.  Then at 5pm, he said he wanted me to go shopping with him to get me a Christmas present…so we had 15 minutes to find me something.  So we went back to the strip mall across the street.  We also bought the kids their scuba fins to give them as a gift in the event that Santa did not find us in Bahamas. At least they offered gift wrapping services outside of the stores!  I must state that I was very surprised to see how many security guards were in the parking lot and walking the outside the mall.  In addition to that, all stores have a doorbell that you need to get “buzzed in”.   They do say that Nassau has a very high crime rate…so beware.

We had been invited by our newly made Quebec friends from the trawler Sophie-Ann to join them and other friends for a happy hour at 6pm.  So we went over in our “Christmas attire” and a few drinks turned into several.  We ended up having cereals for supper since there was no time to make the fish we caught that day.  201712024-6- NassauBut Jeremy STILL held his Christmas puppet show for us (that he had been planning for a few weeks)!  It was great and well thought through!  When the kids went to bed, the table was ready to welcome Père Noel!

December 25

Well, Santa has very magical powers.  He DID manage to find us in Nassau…despite the fact that we were unsure where we would be on Christmas morning and despite the fact that we did not have our usual Christmas tree.  The kids were busy writing Merry Christmas in the morning dew on the dodger waiting to open their gifts!

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The stockings were over-stuffed with gifts and there were 3 piles of gifts on the table next to the small Christmas tree.   We finally figured out Santa’s system:   Serena and Jeremy’s gifts were wrapped in specific papers – one colour for each and the 3rd pile of gifts was wrapped in BOTH of their paper (indicating that these gifts were to be “shared”).  We spent 3 hours in the morning unwrapping gifts and playing with what was received.  The kids got piles of books (Jeremy got his 2 favourites), a bit of Lego, some puzzles and games, 4 movies, and lots of fun little things in their stockings.  Serena was happy that she got a watch in her FAVOURITE colour (purple)….Santa WAS listening!  We spent the rest of the day at the pool – it was 32C and full sun, kids tried out their new fins.

Jeremy made a friend with whom he played several games in the pool.  Serena also made a friend, the furry kind, called Lula!  This would not be the last we would see of Lula.  We had a lovely Christmas dinner together in family in the cockpit.

The evening was full of Jeremy and Serena’s party fun…we had so many creative games they had planned for us.  We even had Martin and Nathalie join us for a few!

December 26

Today, not too many stores were open, so I went and bought some “non-perishable” groceries at the grocery store.  I cannot BELIEVE the prices here!  $6.99 for a tiny box of raspberries, $8 for a short English cucumber, $7 for a bag of chips, and $43 for a small envelope of smoked salmon (which we normally pay $9.99 at home)!  Gulp!  I was very cautious with what I got…too bad I didn’t stock up on more things before leaving Florida!

Later in the afternoon, we did a marathon walk over the bridge to Paradise Island to do a visit at Atlantis – a very elaborate collection of 3 enormous hotels with water park.  We used to take the kids here when we used to keep our boat in Nassau when they were much younger, but unfortunately, they did not remember the place.  On the way over the bridge, the kids saw the huge fish market where there are dozens of kiosks open to sell conch or fish.  When we arrived at the main building of Atlantis, the kids were very impressed with the enormous aquarium that mocked up the lost city of Atlantis.  They also were intrigued by the 2 water slides that splash you through a pool of sharks outside in the park.  There were hundreds of people in the parks many pools and slides.  We enjoyed looking into the pools of sharks and sting rays.

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Posters indicated that Sting was going to be playing here for New Year’s at a reasonable cost of $400 per ticket!  Oh well…I guess we will stick with listening to his CDs on the 31st.  The kids were such troopers…despite their complaints, they walked the 3 kilometres back to the boat with us!   That night, Christian explored Junkanoo – a holiday parade with thousands of costumes with Michael (they had to walk over 10 km to get there).  You’ll have to ask him about it.

December 27

So much to do today before 11am.  In addition to doing laundry, buying groceries, banking, buying a blower and shop for a new motor, etc, we had to figure out how to update our Windows with no internet access (I could no longer update our blog…Windows was not allowing me to use Word or Excel – saying our package which was purchased only 6 months ago had expired).  We also had to figure out how to get an internet package through the Bahamas Telephone Company (BTC) – maybe buy a phone since ours were locked.  Luckily, after 2 hours, Christian was able to figure out how to get Windows working on our PC, but we had no luck with the telephone/internet package because BTC was having issues with their servers and they would not be able to initiate a package for us that day.   We could not wait for their servers to come back up… unfortunately, we would need to leave without a telephone package.  By 11:30, we left the dock and went to get diesel and ice.  By noon, we had left Nassau worried about the late departure time affecting our sight as we crossed the Yellow Banks…it is always recommended to cross the Yellow Banks when the sun is high to enable viewing of potentially dangerous coral heads.  We would be crossing around 3pm.  Our friend Michael on Cygnus was following behind us.  Because of our late timing, we changed our plans to go to Highborn Cay instead of Normans (9 nautical miles further south).  We arrived around 5pm and dropped our anchor in a very crowded anchorage.  There were so many large motor yachts in the anchorage – never seen this before, but must be due to the holiday.  In past visits to Highborn, we usually get a dock, but this time we stayed on the hook outside and we rocked quite a bit all night…unfortunately not a restful night.

December 28

The morning was filled with tasks:  Christian tried his new motor for the first time. 201712028-1- Norman's Cay (In Nassau, he DID finally buy a 2 stroke Yamaha 15 hp).  It worked great!  He was so happy. When he left to test drive it, the kids jumped into water and started to clean the seaweed from the hull of the boat.

For 30 minutes, they worked hard…and they made a huge difference (see underwater photos above of the water line).  We left Highborn in the late morning to head to Norman’s Cay – hoping for less rocking motion.  It only took us a few hours to travel south.  There were not as many boats anchored at Norman’s.  We were happy to see our friends from Quebec again.  Christian went lobster hunting with them and Michael.  Unfortunately, after a few hours, they were unsuccessful in their hunts.  We had chicken instead.

December 29

Early in the morning, Christian went to try lobster hunting again.  This time, he took the kids to snorkel along side him.  The kids had a blast exploring a few big coral heads. 201712029-1- Norman's Cay After 2 hours, he came back with 2 huge spiny lobsters in hand!  He was so proud of his catch.  It was the first time he had successfully hunted on his own…and 2 HUGE ones indeed!  He also had caught/killed 2 lionfish (the Exumas encourages the killing of these non-endemic fish).

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He invited Michael and his crew for dinner to share the lobster tails.   During the evening, the wind started to turn NNW which meant we were no longer in the shelter of the island.  The waves were starting to get very choppy and high (the dinghy even went higher than our gunwales in the swell/chop).  We toughed it out but it was a very unpleasant night for sleeping.  Things were falling from shelves during the night.

December 30

We were happy to leave as early as possible the next day.  Because we were going through Norman’s Cut, we had to wait until high tide to ensure that Michael’s boat could get through with ease (his draft is 6’3”).   Our next destination was Warderwick Wells.  We hadn’t been there for several years and we were looking forward to going back to this paradise.  We had a great sail south for 20 nautical miles.

When we arrived at Warderwick Wells, Monica (VHF 09) who manages the moorings, assigned us mooring #18 which was on the west side of the J of the channel.  201712031-5- Warderwick WellsThis was hopefully a good spot, because we were planning to stay here until the anticipated storm passes in the first week of January.  We are expecting 40 knots of wind with the approaching cold front.  The kids couldn’t wait to plunge into the crystalline waters they saw beneath us upon our arrival!  We saw 3 huge eagle rays swim beneath our boat, their wing tips touched the surface.  We spotted a brown nurse shark and 2 trigger fish also swam close to the surface.  The current in Warderwick Wells is much too strong to just jump into the water near the boat.  One must dinghy to a sheltered place.  Within the hour, we went over to explore a rock where there were many fishes.   And then Christian spotted an enormous eagle ray who came swooping past us with its graceful wings flapping.  I have never seen one quite so large and it was very friendly.  It circled us 2 times in a curious manner.  WOW!  (this is the LAST time we forget our underwater camera!)   Happy hour was on the beach at 4:30pm.

As we were getting ready for Happy Hour on the boat, we saw an eagle ray jump out of the water just behind our boat!  Once again, another miraculous sight.  Later that evening, there was Happy Hour on the beach.  It was nice meeting new people and familiar faces (ie. like friends from previous anchorages).  Fun was had by all on the beach – INCLUDING the “no see-ums” got a good meal!

December 31

Today after breakfast, we left to go to see our friends Sea Jewel off, but got side-tracked / invited to board the enormous catamaran (next to us) from Marshall Islands.  Étienne and Jorges were very hospitable, giving us great tips for travelling in the Exumas, Cuba and Turks.

We then went over to Sea Jewel, hoping to help them with their repairs to their genoa.  But they had already finished the repairs!  Luckily, they had Robert (from Our Diamond) a sail maker helping them out.  He was a wiz!  While we were there with our sewing machine, we asked Robert if he would double check our sewing machine, as we thought it might need lubrication, but he showed us that it was working as expected…no fixes or adjustments necessary.  It must have been gummed up by the sticky Velcro we used in August…but with Robert, it sewed gracefully through 8 thicknesses of sail material!  Thanks Robert for the re-assurance!!!!  After lunch, we went to snorkel at Emerald Rock.

Starting on a coral head a few hundred metres away from the rock, we saw many fish on one side sheltering themselves from the current.  The kids were thrilled to see a large grouper going in and out of the openings.  And just below all this action, we saw a dark brown nurse shark lying on the bottom waiting to get her prey, which we later saw them….3 enormous spiny lobsters hiding in the crevices of the coral!

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Heading over to Emerald Rock, we found it quite sandy and boring until we were on the rock.  Here we saw large schools of fish hiding from the current.   Serena spotted 3 transparent squids undulating only a few metres from us.  Nice to see such marine life and activity around the rock!  A great afternoon of snorkelling was had by all!

We all tried to take a nap in the afternoon in preparation for New Year’s festivities, but we were too excited.  Christian ended up going to Michael’s to help him with his water maker.  And we got ready for the night in our finest attire:

The party, planned by Monica and team, was to start at 9pm at the Exuma Park Staff House.  It was a pot-luck.  When we arrived, we were excited to see so many people from the boats.  Many we recognized, many we were thrilled to meet.   Boats from Ontario, Quebec, US (Annapolis, Texas, Colorado), Belgium, Sweden, etc. as well as locals from Bahamas (Nicola, Jay).

So many interesting characters, so many interesting stories.  Thank you Jane (from Reflections) for the glow in the dark glasses and sticks201712031-7- Warderwick Wells New Yearsfor the kids!  It was a shame the night ended near midnight : – (  But I have to give our children credit for toughing it out until the end with almost no complaints!  They had a blast dancing all night long!

And on our way home, Jeremy was quick to point out an abundance of the little rodents who are close to extinction come out to see us.  201712031-17- Warderwick Wells New YearsThey are called Hutias.  They are cute at first, but when you realize they are akin to our “rats”, you look at them with less desire to snuggle them!  Just after midnight, our ride back to the boat was surreal!  The water was so calm it was transparent and, thanks to the full moon,

we could see the sandy bottom clearly.  At one point, a piece of seaweed was floating on the water’s surface and it looked like it was flying in mid-air.   The full moon was casting shadows on the white sandy bottom, giving us the impression that our dinghy was flying!  Even our sailboat looked like it was levitating…we could see the keel clearly and the dark shadow on the ground.  Once the kids were in bed, Mama and Papa Bear stayed on deck for a while just drinking in the beauty and serenity surrounding us.  Happy New Year to you all! 

Note….there is absolutely no internet access in Nassau, nor the Exumas at this point, so I am not sure when I will be able to post this….

 

 

From Virginia to the Deep South

November 1

Motoring all day again.  Going from Alligator River to Pungo River and sleeping in Belhaven.  Nothing but marshes, one swing bridge, and following the channel markers.

 

 

On our approach to the dinghy dock in Belhaven, we bumped into a few Canadian boats and a US boat we knew from Essex.  Belhaven was like a ghost town 20171101-6- Belhavenwhere most of the stores in downtown appeared closed.  We walked down a waterfront street.  The houses were all huge and colonial style.  It was obvious that the previous night was Hallowe’en here as we saw several candies strewn on the sidewalk.  We went onto the terrace of a beautiful mansion that we mistook for the marina.  A lady opened the door to tell us that it was a wedding venue but welcomed us in to take a tour.  Wow…how spectacular!  This home was built in 1899- 1904 when the town was established.  It was so elegant…tapestry on the walls, the winding mahogany staircase, and 17 working fireplaces. Homes on the waterfront had their own docks.  Interesting that all boats were elevated above the water at each dock.  Quiet night.

November 2

In the peaceful sunrise at 6:45am we lifted anchor – 55 miles today to River Dunes, North

 

 

Carolina. More uneventful channel travel.  But whe20171102-3- River Dunesn we arrived near River Dunes, we thought we had missed the place; however, as we turned the bend to the left, we saw a narrow man-made brick channel bordered by beautiful Georgia-style houses, leading to a group of docks and boats.   Once we got to the end, it was an absolutely breath-taking isolated harbour surrounded by tasteful landscaping of pine and palm trees and these enormous white homes.  It was well protected.  We fueled up and pumped out and the courteous dockmaster welcomed us to the dock we would use for the night.  Their amenities included a workout room, lovely showers (with built in steam room) and laundry room for $1 a load.  They had a pool (with massage cabanas) into which the kids

 

 

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immediately jumped (day temp was 25C).  Captain Christian changed the oil while Mama Bear marked the children’s homework that had been accumulating for a few weeks. River Dunes had a BBQ, so we planned to have chicken on a can for dinner.  They offered us a courtesy car that we used to buy the chicken at the Piggly-Wiggly market 5 miles away.  Unfortunately, due to a comedy of errors with the BBQ in the dark and a hill and a spilled over beer can chicken and a back up BBQ that heated only to a max of 250F….long story short, we cooked the chicken in our oven and finally sat down to eat at 10pm!

November 3

After luxurious showers and laundry, we borrowed the courtesy car again to g20171103-4- River Dunes to Cape Lookouto to West Marine Express and a hardware store before leaving at 11am. In our Intercoastal Waterway canal ride, we were pleasantly surprised with the presence of dolphins!  They popped up several times in the channel to show us their backs and rode our bow wave once too!  They were even brave enough to ride the bow wave of a fast motor boat (going close to 8 knots!)  So much fun to see these playful creatures!  Next stop:  Cape Lookout. Lots of fishermen along the way (boats, nets). While this stop is slightly north-east of our destination (ie. in the wrong direction), it was definitely worth the side-trip.   When we arrived, it was 2 knots of wind – like a looking glass.  As we approached

 

 

the end of the bay, we saw splashing which stopped 30 seconds later.  Then it happened again to our port.  Then again to our starboard.  We realized there were fish of all sizes flopping and thrashing around.  20171104-3- Cape LookoutThe tiny silver ones would dance on the surface, then 2 or 3 big ones would flop on top in pursuit of them.  Then the dolphins would come in for a mouthful while the pelicans and seagulls were plummeting from above to catch their dinner.  It was an orgy feeding frenzy!  Then we saw 2 turtle heads pop out.  About an hour later, we saw a small ray swimming gracefully at the surface where his wing tips came out of the water just 20 feet aft of our boat!  When we sat down to supper, we were blown away with the moon rise.  Please see the photos….

 

 

First it started off like an orange mushroom next to the argyle-checkered lighthouse (unique for Cape Lookout), then it rose to be a huge perfectly circular orange that went above the lighthouse.  Mom, perhaps when you look at one of these photos you too will be reminded of a painting I did in Grade 9…too perfect to be a coincidence!  A totally quiet night with the occasional feeding frenzy splashes….

November 4

…From quiet to rough…Winds as predicted…strong and stronger.  They built from 15knots at 8am to 20 knots at 9am.  We put the dinghy into the water, thinking we would go and explore and within 20 minutes, we hauled it back up on the bow….far too rough and windy.  A few hours later, when the waves got choppier, we decided to change anchorages and re-located closer to Shackleford Banks (an island).  This treasure of a jewel had 6 surprises waiting for us when we arrived….wild ponies grazing on the dunes by the beach!   We quickly put the dinghy back in the “flatter” water and motored to

 

 

shore.  Shore was a bit deceiving due to the low tide – we actually had to walk the dinghy in10 cm deep of water for about 100 meters.  At the shore, we were very slow to approach the horses.  However, after a few minutes, we realized they didn’t really worry about us and they kept grazing.

 

 

A 15 min walk along the beach and about 100 photos later, we realized that the sun was setting quickly and we had to get back to the boat.  Early to bed as we had an early morning with the time change.

November 5

At 4am (3am new hour without Daylight Saving Time), we woke, started the coffee and headed back to sea.  It was pitch black despite the full moon that occasionally peaked through the clouds.  A fine mist was falling. It was peaceful as we exited the bay.  Red and green lights (from buoys and lighthouses) were blinking around us.  Luckily with our AIS app, we were able to see approaching boats; however, it became clear that fishing boats did not announce themselves on this commercially mandatory application.  They were brightly lit up, so we did not worry too much.   After we crossed the Beaufort channel, we hoisted both sails and found ourselves nicely going 7 knots with the motor slightly helping.  One thing I will remember about North Carolina is how the palm tree growth begins despite the abundance of pine trees.  There are so many pine trees, you can smell them strongly even 5 miles off shore!

Due to the clouds, we did not see a “sunrise”, but the daylight “happened” around 7:30 am.  By 9am, we were able to turn off the motor completely and were able to sail at 6.5knots until 1pm when we hit 8knots on a beautiful flat beam reach!  The ocean was relatively calm, considering the wind we had yesterday.

At 2pm, we had another wonderful surprise…Captain Chris called attention to dolphin fins.  Then, they changed direction to come toward us.  Next thing you know, two dolphins are jumping into our bow wave and racing with us.  They jump next to us and in front of us, then they dive deeply, and we assumed they were gone.  But within 2 minutes, I spotted another black fin surfacing aft on our port.  This lone dolphin looked like it was swimming fast…then he came into our bow wave again.  It was one of the same dolphins from before!  We named him Flipper, then Happy because he did a 360 turnaround in front of our bow and looked like he was smiling at us.

 

 

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When we talked to him, he seemed to answer our questions with a jump or a smile.  He stayed swimming with us for 15 minutes or more!  It was so surreal!  He seemed so close that we could touch him.  We saw all the markings on his body – colours, blemishes, and even a scar from what may have been a motor.  At the moment I asked him where his friend was, we saw another black fin coming toward our boat and it was one of his friends coming to play.  The two of them swam in our bow wave for another 5 minutes.  They seem to always leave us with a deep dive below the boat.  And then silence.  We were exhilarated!

We arrived at Wrightsville Beach (near Wilmington, NC) with again a welcome crew of 5-6 dolphins!  20171105-9- Cape Lookout to Wrightsville,NCThey were jumping out of the water near us but did not seem as keen to play as Happy and Flipper.  As we turned in the channel behind the beach, we were amazed at the beautiful homes right on the waterfront.  They all had a gradually sloped sandy beach backyard and many of them had docks.  We anchored near the bridge and saw a few familiar boats, not to mention some familiar “fins” (yes 3 dolphins were swimming in the bay next to out boat!).

 

 

After a quick tour in the downtown – clearly a surfing town – we went to bed early.  We had sailed over 65 nautical miles today (from 4am) and were exhausted!

November 6

Happy Birthday Captain Christian – 51 years young!  20171106-1-Wrightsville,NC The kids were ready with their hand-made birthday cards and gifts.  Mama Bear made Eggs Benedict and potatoes for breakfast with a Mimosa kick-start!

 

 

As we prepared ourselves for our exploration of the town and grocery-run, we had a small crisis….Papa Bear accidentally dropped Serena’s wallet in the water!  Ooops..despite the slow motion of action, we could not stop it from tumbling and sinking to the depths below.  Mama and Papa Bears got busy trying to console Serena while digging out the diving gear (about 2 weeks earlier than planned!).  Then Papa Bear took the plunge to do a “search and rescue” in the murky water.  He used the dinghy anchor to “mark the drop-zone” – with the strong current and wind, our boat was swinging quite a bit.  After 2 tries and 15 minutes of diving, he came up to “take a break”.  Serena was so disappointed.  She had $50 US and $30 CAD as well as several gift certificate cards in it.  Then Christian said he felt a fish in his BCD pocket – which turned out to be Serena’s blue wallet!  She was over-joyed, as was Jeremy.  They both immediately created “best diver” and “super-hero diver” badges for Papa to wear!  The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the winding channels in Wrightsville, going to West Marine, and Harris Teeters for groceries.  Supper was a light fare of snacks and Papa’s birthday cake of Key Lime pie, then games that the kids prepared (for example – Pin the Candle on the Cake).

 

 

Jeremy even had prepared a speech that touched us all.  A fun night was had by all!

November 7

A nice lazy morning, no rush to leave.  By 10am, we motored down the Intercoastal Waterway, caught a strong current (giving us a speed of 8 – 9 knots), and we got to Bald Head Island – right at the mouth of the ICW – by 2pm.  We had lunch on the boat and then had a fun tour of the 4 mile island on a golf cart.

 

 

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The houses are beautiful..most having views of the ocean.  Lots of history on this island which has a population of only 120 people in winter (and 3800 in summer).   Early to bed to prepare for our overnight journey on the ocean (outside the ICW) to our next destination of Charleston.  Cold, windy weather is on the way, we are hoping to miss some of it by getting south more quickly.

November 8 – 9

Our honeymoon with warm weather has come to an end – the cold has caught up to us.  We are on our way to South Carolina today – and it is 52F (12C)!  And expecting to get colder!  Not fun for an overnight trip.  Ok, so tonight was our 2nd overnight on this adventure – travelling 120 nautical miles from Cape Fear, North Carolina to Charleston, South Carolina.  With the change in Daylight Savings time, the recent full moon, and the mild weather conditions forecasted, I thought we were golden for perfect conditions for an overnight crossing .  We set out around noon from Bald Head Island (at the mouth of Cape Fear) and headed out to sea.  Luckily, I had pre-made sandwiches for lunch and chili for supper.  The mist started to fall and I told Captain Christian that I would take a short break to warm up prior to serving supper.  By 5:00 pm, as I was bringing our family supper into the cockpit, I became aware that the dull dreary day had turned into pitch blackness.  The only light was coming from the cockpit where the children were joking and telling stories…they were absolutely oblivious to the darkness that surrounded us.  Seriously, as I came into the cockpit and looked around at the Atlantic Ocean, I could not distinguish the sky from the sea…there was no horizon…only complete obscurity.  Interestingly, as the wave action continued, my balance was in jeopardy because I no longer had a visual to help with my equilibrium, not to mention the safety harness and straps.  I looked out into the black truly assuming my vision would adjust, and I would start to see shadows, but nothing.  Knowing that my shift (from 9pm to 2am) would start in less than 2 hours, I could feel the anxiety rise.  This was not as easy as our first full-moon-overnight crossing where our path was well lit.  By 8:30, Jeremy went dodo and Papa Bear got ready to go to bed in prep for his shift at 2am.  Serena stayed with me in the cockpit for a few hours.  We turned all the lights off to see if our vision could eventually adjust to the overcast darkness.  Without the blessed sense of sight, my other senses went into overdrive.  My hearing became almost bionic, exaggerating noises that I had previously been used to (ie. the auto-pilot sounded like a high-speed train, the waves sounded like someone breathing…you get the picture). Eventually, I started seeing white shapes in the water…some resembling twisting sea serpents while others looked like whales surfacing.  The waves were effervescent with phosphorescence!  Sparkles dappled the splashing water!  In a short while, we were able to see the waves more clearly as well as passing buoys.  All was good, calm and under control again!

The winds were on our hind quarter making for a lovely broad reach in 15 knots of breeze. We were chugging along at 6-8 knots of speed.  Perfect, right?  Until the wind died down to a point where it was no longer strong enough to carry us through that 7th (highest) wave in which we lost speed due to the deep rolling.  However, we could not change course (to sail closer to the wind) for fear we would be off course to our destination and pass into several “Restricted Zones” and “fishing havens” along the way.  We had to stay the course.  We felt like we were limping along in the darkness.  Eventually, the decision was made to take the risk, head up for speed and sailing comfort.  As a result, we passed several fishing havens and ship wrecks.  Interesting light shows!  At 2am, Papa Bear took over.  At 4am, I was awoken to a violent flapping on deck.  It appeared that a fishing boat was playing “tag” with us and Christian was trying to avoid its wide nets by heading up as high as possible.  Fog and mist enveloped us all morning until we arrived in Charleston, South Carolina.  Again, we were welcomed by several dolphins that were surfacing occasionally through the 1 hour trip up stream to the marina.  We decided to treat ourselves to a marina after that long, wet, cold night.  We were shivering as the temperatures were 12C (54F).  The kids even did their homework in the Captain’s Lounge of the Cooper River Marina to get out of the damp cold boat.  Tonight got down to 5C (40F) – so much for being south in November!

November 10 – 11

Hung around the boat all day.  Friday evening we gathered on the dock with 8 fellow boaters and had a pot luck dock party – happy hour that started at 5pm and went till 11pm.  Once again, the kids proved their entrepreneurism…they saw this as an opportunity to sell more of their bracelets.  Despite that there were only about 20 people, they still managed to sell $5.50 worth of their product.  They started offering coupons with purchases (50% off next bracelet)!  The only z20171110-1-Charleston, NCthing that cut the party short was the cold weather and wind – it was about 12 C (which is low 50s).

 

On Saturday, after blueberry pancakes, we caught a courtesy lift to downtown Charleston.  The Farmers Market as well as a city-wide book festival (with authors signing books and giveaways) were our biggest interests.  The kids got 2 free books as well as Christmas hand-crafted ornaments from one vendor!  Unfortunately, for lunch, there were

were lineups everywhere.  We ended up in a restaurant waiting 75 minutes for our burgers to arrive…but it was delicious.  The kids were amazingly patient! A nice 30 minute walk down King Street with all the high fashion shops ended our cold afternoon.  After laundry and soup dinner, we hit the bed early.  Tomorrow is another overnight to Florida!

November 12 – 13

7:30am departure for our overnight travel…high winds, low temperatures (52F)….brrr! 20171112-1-Charleston, NCAll was good until we came out the mouth of the inlet when the waves showed their 6 feet force.  It wasn’t their height that was the issue, it was the fact that they were coming on our aft port side, making the boat roll where all our contents below was being thrown around.  We saw a few boats ahead of us and realized how deeply we were rolling (almost looked like their masts were touching the water).  By rolling out the genoa, it helped to stabilize us a bit.  As the children started to wake up, they realized they would be staying in the cockpit for the most of the next 36 hours to avoid sea-sickness.  We had a good speed of 6 knots, but surfing down the waves as fast as 9 knots!  The temperatures became more comfortably warm a few latitude degrees further south and I was able to take off my winter jacket. 20171112-2-Charleston to St. AugustineJust before sunset, as I was making dinner for everyone, the kids spotted dolphins.  I ran up to see 8 to 10 little dolphins jumping beside our cockpit!  At first we thought they were baby dolphins, but then realized that they must be some sort of pygmy dolphin…one even had 2 dorsal fins.  They played beside us in the darkening waters for at least 10 minutes – jumping continuously.  (Later when I researched them, I found them to be “Spinner dolphins” – small cetaceans with a slim build, typically 129 cm long and reach a body mass of 23 kg.  Spinner dolphins generally have tripartite color patterns. The dorsal area is dark gray, the sides light gray, and the underside pale gray or white. Also, a dark band runs from the eye to the flipper, bordered above by a thin, light line.)  With the last light of day, we ate meatloaf, corn, and peas in bowls in the cockpit.  With the genoa set and the motor running to help us power through the waves, Papa Bear went to bed around 8:00pm and I started my shift.  20171112-3-Charleston to St. AugustineThis time Jeremy stayed up to do part of the shift with me.  He took his side and kept watch until 8:45pm.  He really wanted to stay up until 10pm, but the wind really tired out his eyes.  Serena stayed with me to keep watch. We passed several boats outside of Savannah Georgia.  Despite the fact we were sailing approximately 17 nautical miles offshore, we passed several fish havens.  There was also a wide “Danger Zone” identified on the charts to the left of us, that stretched 20 nm south, so we tried to stay between that and the fish havens. Tonight, while we did not have a full moon, we had stars making it interesting to see the horizon.  Jeremy saw 3 shooting stars, Serena and I each saw one.  Around 11pm, the winds 20171112-4-Charleston to St. Augustinedied, the waves continued 4-5 feet, and a rainstorm enveloped us for 30 minutes.  Serena packed it in at 12:30am. By 1:30, Papa Bear was coming out to take his shift.  I warned him that we were entering “right whale territory” which was protected and that we had to be careful.  At 7am, we were 49 nautical miles from St. Augustine, our destination. We had been advised to avoid this inlet – due to the high winds and waves…it is narrow and can be very challenging – and take the St. John’s River inlet (a few miles north) 20171113-1-Charleston to St. Augustineand take the Intercoastal Waterway down.  As we did, the entrance to this inlet proved challenging enough, with 10-12 foot waves!  Luckily it was wide and deep enough.  After 4 hours down the winding ICW, passing beautiful houses, jumping dolphins, and several misplaced buoys (poorly indz20171113-2-St. Augustineicating our path), we arrived at the Bridge of Lions bascule bridge in St. Augustine.  We got our mooring, had an early supper and were in bed by 8:30pm.

 

November 14

Despite the cold temperatures and high winds, we felt we needed to get on land and explore.  At 2pm, after schoolwork, we called the St. Augustine Marina tender and went to land.  We ended up buying a 3 day trolley-pass and took the tour around its 23 stops, listening to history tales.  St. Augustine has so much history – it is the oldest town in the US, established by the Spanish in the 1560s.  There is a Fort Castillo de San Marco with interesting demonstrations and information, several museums, the Fountain of Youth (originally believed to be in Bimini Bahamas, sought after by Juan Ponce de Leon, he missed Bimini and ended up here) a pedestrian sidewalk with stores, lots of history about Henry Flagler (the industrial magnate who established the infrastructure of this city), etc.  Lots to absorb on Day 1.  We will return tomorrow to get more.

November 15

Papa left early to go to West Marine for some cable connectors and guide books.  Schoolwork until noon, then the marina tender took us to land.  We took the trolley to the Fort and began our explorations there.  The children were given an opportunity to become Fort Rangers by filling out an information booklet of historical facts.  They can earn a badge for the first level and a crest for the higher level Ranger.  Jeremy was very keen to finish this today!  But we ended up leaving to find a warmer place to have our bag lunch.  We ate in a park that was protected from the wind and close to our next destination:  Potter’s Wax Museum.  We were pleasantly surprised at how well this museum was put together. They had different sections each with a theme and wax models of key celebrities from each era (Inventers, Political figures, Ancient rulers, European kings/queens, Explorers, Monsters, Hollywood, etc). Each figure had information on their birth/death, cause of death, where they were buried, favourite quote, etc.  We ended up spending 2 hours there – so much to read and learn!

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Then we rushed back to get the 4pm tender back to the boat.  Serena had a pre-teen crisis that lasted the next few hours. Dinner was served quickly and another early night to bed.

November 16

About 2 degrees warmer today.  Got a few fixes done on the boat.  We went back to land for more discoveries.  This city’s architecture is clearly Spanish-influenced.   Most buildings are of the Spanish Colonial style with the dominant red terracotta roof and peaked turrets.  The red cobblestones in many of the streets give it a 16th century flair.  We continued for our 2nd, more in depth, tour of the Castillo de San Marcos.  The children made leather coins and they got their Park Ranger badges after handing in their completed 10 page documents of research questions.

I am very proud of how much they learned about early life in Florida and what happened to the Native Americans during the state’s occupation by the Spaniards, the French, and then the British.  They now understand how life was not comfortable nor forgiving back then.

November 17

I spent the day with the kids touring downtown and the Pirate Museum while Papa Bear went to get propane (with Matt – from Orca) and the Distillery for a tour (with Michael – from Cygnus).  The Pirate Museum was very interesting.  We learned a lot about how pirating began “legally” as “privateering” where the Crown in England gave many captains the right to go and “loot” boats that came from foreign countries.

We learned about Sir Francis Drake – a terribly feared pirate, who began as a privateer, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I – and how he burned St. Augustine to the ground in 1586.  We learned about Blackbeard and a few other feared pirates.  I read an interesting story about 2 woman pirates.  One – Mary Read, a poor girl who grew up dressing like a man from a young age, and Two – Anne Bonny who was married to another pirate John “Calico Jack” Rackham.  The two ended up dying in jail together, having been pardoned from an official hanging because they w20171117-7-St. Augustineere “pregnant”.  The museum also had many marine archeological artifacts from sunken pirate ships that kept the 3 of us rapt with interest!

In the evening, we met up with Michael and Christian.  Michael spoiled our kids with a candy surprise…then we went to meet our friends Kim and Matt (from Orca) to do a wine tasting in a bar and have a pizza dinner across the street.  The kids were very well behaved, even when we walked the 2 miles home in the dark at 10pm!  It was an interesting walk back…lots of interesting sites in this colourful city!

November 18

Schoolwork for a long morning.  By 11am, we went to get our last trip on the Trolley to have another tour of the city as well as going to the Oldest Store Museum.  This museum showed us hundreds of useless inventions from the 1800s (ie. the goat powered washing machine, the mobile kitchen) as well as very useful ones (ie. cream / milk separator).

Each item was ticketed with their associated Sea20171118-6-St. Augustiners Roebuck catalogue prices (ie. men’s collars 7 cents!).  The museum was more like an antique store, full of really old relics (ie. old fashioned bicycles, radios, cameras, carriages, etc.) and dust!  After the tour, we headed over to Porpoise Point (at the St. Augustine Inlet) to meet up with our friends from Orca, Kim and Matt.  This beach was very different…gently sloping into the inlet, becoming deep very quickly, full of orangey sand with large crushed shells at the top but sloping down to more powder beige sand near the water.   We spent an hour there and headed back for a quick dinner.  This evening was the “Night of Lights” where St. Augustine lights up all their Christmas lights in a celebration beginning at 6pm in the centre park on King Street.  The lights stay illuminated from November 18 until mid-January.  We went to see the lights get turned on, then after we did a tour:  first we stopped at the art gallery to watch Serena’s artists in action (they were doing a special presentation of their works), then we walked through the over-crowded streets, where there was dancing down every alley, until we got so tired, it was time to head back to the boat.

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November 19

Schoolwork until noon.  Then we went grocery shopping at Publix with Michael – we dinghied back over to the Porpoise Point (near the St. Augustine Inlet) – a 5 minute walk.  On our way there, we saw so many dolphins jumping out of the water.  Some got quite close, almost under our dinghy.  The kids were with Michael in his dinghy and you could hear them squealing with delight!

Dinner was ribs on our boat.  We invited Michael over for dinner and we had a enjoyable evening telling/listening to stories.

November 20

Early in the morning, Christian went to help Michael fix his mooring light.  He hoisted Michael to the masthead.  For us on the boat, schoolwork until 1pm, then together, we all went to visit the St. Augustine Lighthouse and its museum. This was a 15 minute dinghy ride around to the other side of the island.  The lighthouse, one of the highest in US, is 165 feet tall and was very long to walk up to the top.  It is painted with white/black swirls, very much like a barbershop sign, but with a red top.  The lighthouse keeper lived next door with his family in a lovely house.

It was set up authentically as it was back in the day.  Lighthouse keepers typically got paid $400 a year back in the late 1800s / early 1900s.  We went back to St. Augustine’s downtown by 3pm so that I could pick up 2 necklaces I had ordered for myself from a boutique.  After showers and a bit of boat gear shopping, we invited Michael over for Happy Hour, had dinner, and then went to bed early.

November 21

The day started off with some schoolwork, but because it was threatening rain, we decided to switch the plan and go visit the St. Augustine Historical Museum in old town.  This was a 20 minute walk, so we wanted to get there before the bad weather.  This museum was very interesting with plenty of information on the Timucua Amerindians (who were extinguished as a culture by the British), the pirates and buccaneers, the Old Jail with Gallows where people were hung (apparently this is the oldest jail in Florida and in its time, it was so charming looking that it was often mistaken for a hotel!).

We then walked a distance of approximately 5 km to get to  Winn Dixie to get groceries.  We got back to the boat ready for a foot massage, but laundry still had to be done, so off I went in the dinghy, but Jeremy fell in the water as he was untying the boat.  He got quite a scare from the strong current!  And then for Happy Hour, Jeremy prepared a “snack party” for our family to “improve its morale and get along better”.  He had a menu with 10 choices of food and drinks as well as a few games planned where we could win prizes.  All these games and snacks were done with the theme of “love”.  Bless his dear heart!

November 22

Early to rise and off to Marineland just 3 hours south of St. Augustine, despite the forecast for non-stop rain over the next 3 days!   The trip in the Waterway was very snaky.  Not easy to navigate because the buoys are often not where the charts indicate because of shoaling (due to big tides or hurricanes).  We arrived around 10:00am in one of the smallest towns in the USA.  It is called the Town of Marineland.  Upon arrival, we quickly headed over to the Marineland park.  It is completely different than the one we have in Niagara Falls.  It is really only about “training dolphins”.  This park’s history is that it opened in 1938 as a “film studio” to take movies of dolphins.  They built a huge tank with multiple windows so shots could be filmed from any angle.  This was the first place of captivity for fish/dolphins that was an “oceanarium” which is where they allowed several types of animals in the same tank.  We asked if this caused animals to eat each other and they said that while they had a few casualties, they avoided this issue by keeping the animals well fed. Over the years, they found many animals that were wounded in the wild and brought them in to be healed:  a Loggerhead turtle was cut in almost half by a propeller where it even cut through his lung, a Sand Tiger Shark with osteoporosis (almost folded in half). Did you know that Sand Tiger Sharks lose 20,000 teeth in their lifetime?  We saw tons of teeth in the bottom of their tank – proof that they DO lose many just over the course of a week!  We got a “Back of the Sea” tour – which was private.  The lady took us through the basement, a secret window/room where we could watch the dolphins play under water.  She told us about each of the male and female dolphins and Nellie who, at 61, was the longest living dolphin in the world (both in captivity and out) when she died in 2014.  The day ended up being very sunny in Marineland.    We ended up doing 2 loads of laundry and went back across the street to Marineland to see the Sand Tiger Sharks and Turtles.  Things we learned about dolphins is that they stay with their mothers for the first 2 years of their lives, they bite when they play (we got plenty of videos of this), they live in captivity for 10x longer than in the wild, and they are easily trained.  Mr. Ripley even came in the 1940’s to demonstrate how dolphins can be trained – he put it in his museum.  Just before we left, we watched the dolphins being trained.  They did HUGE jumps for us – we were the only people there!  It was so special having this private time and tour with one of our favourite animals!

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November 23

POURING RAIN!!!!  We were supposed to leave at 8am this morning, but we have never seen rain like this.  And the thunder began around 8am, so we decided to stay put as navigation would not only be dreadful with the incoming rain and heavy winds, but it could be dangerous not seeing well.  The day was full of chores, vacuuming every nook & cranny, fixing salon lights, calibrating the depth sounder, adjusting the water temperature gauge, and school work + tests took up 4 hours today.  I also succeeded in cutting both Jeremy and Papa Bear’s hair.  We played games and went to bed well-rested.

November 24

Rain still falling, but not as bad.  We leave for Daytona today.  Rain let up finally around 11am.  Overcast day, but entertaining as we went through the backyards of wealthy people along the Intercoastal Waterway.  It is surprising how many people have their entire backyards fully enclosed with a “bug screen”.  They must have a real problem with insects, but this solution is more environmentally friendly than spraying.  We motored the whole day.  At least the sun peaked out occasionally.  With the narrow channel, many misplaced buoys, and varying depths (between 18ft and 2 feet below the keel), navigation proved to be truly exhausting for Captain Christian.  Unique beautiful bridges along the way.  20171124-1- to TitusvilleWe arrived in New Smyrna Beach around 4pm.  At one inlet, we made a 130 degree turn into what looked like a small channel with 6 ominous-looking sentinels (blue herons with beady eyes and pointy beaks) guarding the entrance.  It was VERY calm compared to the high winds that would be on the ocean.  We could see the Ponce de Leon lighthouse in the distance (orange with a black top).  As we advanced in the channel, we could see the waves crashing on the beach about 1 mile ahead of us.  It was the surf from the Atlantic Ocean.  And boy was it high and roaring!

The crashing water had with no break for waves, it was constant roaring.  This sound kept us company all through the night – like a freight train in the distance that never stopped.  But we were safely in 7 feet of tranquil water.

November 25

We left around 8:30am, unfortunately just 3 minutes too late to make the 9am George Musson Memorial bridge.  While the bridge operator had a great sense of humour, he had no authority to leave the bridge up an extra 3 minutes for us…traffic was backing up.  Dolphins kept us company for most of today’s trip.  We had 4 in our bow wave for at least 10 minutes. We motored under sunny, cool skies (18C) for several hours, until we hit the water traffic.  Was there ever a boat jam of fishing boats in Haulover Canal.  Duh, of course…it was US Thanksgiving weekend…sunny & warm…everyone and their brother fishing and blocking the canal with their little boats.

The Canal was narrow and very shallow – we had to be careful weaving around the fishing boats.  However, one fantastic surprise!  There were manatees EVERYWHERE!  You could see their large grey backs and fat tails come at the surface as they came up for air.  Some had their snouts coming out of the surface – being mammals, they do need to breathe air, but can hold their breath for long periods of time like whales.   In one small pocket near shore there were over 15 slothing through the water.  Resembling walrus or cows with tails, they are very big and very slow moving.  This is why there are so many with scars from boat motors.  Poor, innocent creatures.  Anyways, a very calm day overall.  We passed many bridges and ended up in Titusville, just across from Cape Canaveral.  So many derelict boats along the way, it was quite disheartening.

After anchoring, we went ashore to explore.  We pulled up in a marina and while we were on the dock, we saw a huge animal approaching us under water. 20171125-8- to Titusville Just as it came within 10 feet of the dock, it lifted its head to breathe.  The kids immediately fell in love with the manatee.  So graceful, yet cumbersome-looking.  The town looked to be quite a ghost-town:  man20171125-7- to Titusvilley stores looked closed, not many people or traffic.  Lots of sculptures and structures commemorating the accomplishments in space and astronauts over the years.  Walking down one main (deserted) street, I saw a spa and inquired about massages.  She had time for 30 min for me before closing, so I treated myself while Christian took the kids down the street for drinks.

November 26

Leaving early, we went to check out a shallow area in the ICW near a factory where manatees have been seen to swim, but we had no luck.  A few hours later, we were in Cocoa Beach and heard lots of action on the beach.  Apparently, it was a marathon.  So we anchored there to stay the night.  We checked out the little town.  Definitely more action here than in Titusville.  Lots more interesting stores too.  Jeremy checked out an awesome inflatable slide that was like a space station.

Then, we stopped for lunch in a nice corner restaurant.  The kids tried deep-fried pickles for the first time and loved them (fattening but fun!).

November 27

More navigating the ICW with its narrow channel, sometimes 20 feet and sometimes 2 feet of depth beneath our keel.  Very disconcerting.  Often times, the current got so strong (ie. at inlets and crossroads), that we fought to stop crabbing to one side to avoid the shallows.  In the ICW, you can definitely not put on the autopilot and read a book.  And when you see all the derelict boats, you are motivated to ensure you keep an eye out! Hurricane Irma seemed to have taken out many boats and docks unfortunately!

One must stay alert at all times and try to figure out why the charts appear wrong, there are missing buoys, or the shoaling surprises you in an area that is not identified and you run aground.  On the positive side, there were many beautiful homes backing onto the ICW which allowed us plenty of interesting sights!

At 2:30pm, we ended up in Vero Beach mooring field.  For $16.50, we could stay at a mooring, use the showers, and have access to laundry, the captain’s lounge, and the dock store.   One catch, you had to “share” the mooring with one or 2 other boats!  So you were “rafted”.  And whether you get a good neighbour or not, is luck of the draw.  Ours actually told us not to moor on his raft, but when we told him it was the dockmaster who gave this to us, he did not help us to tie up.  It was a very quiet night.  But Serena did manage to give us a puppet show of Cinderella!  She had practiced for 2 days!

November 28

We left around 7am to catch the tidal current south.  We flew through the channel under multiple bridges.  Once again, the same tricky navigation where every few nautical miles had a challenge or hazard to avoid.  This time, we were blessed with lovely scenery of many beautiful houses.  All seemed like mansions with large lawns and private beaches and docks.

We passed the place where Celine Dion had here home in Jupiter.  Absolutely STUNNING!  The bridges we passed today were all timed (ie. on the ½ hour), so it felt very stressful to get to the next bridge before it closed.  Our target destination for tonight was North Palm Beach – Lake Worth.  It was nip and tuck for awhile, but we finally arrived under the last bridge at 5pm.  We went north off the ICW and found a quiet mooring amongst several other boats.  Many derelict boats moored or washed up at the water’s edge.  But the neighbourhood was clearly a wealthy area.  The motor boats at the marina across the way were north of $1 million!   Unfortunately the place where the boater’s guide suggests to dinghy had red spray-painted messages saying “High Theft Area”, “Attention dinghy owners”.  20171203-2- Hallandale FlaIt was not very encouraging….especially since we were planning to leave our boat here for 7 days to stay at Mami and Papi’s.  The night was calm with 6 knots from the east.

November 29

This morning, we moved our boat to another spot where a Juneau left that morning.  We had the kids do their univers-social exams and dictées.  Then we quickly cleaned the boat and prepared it for its week of closure.  In the dinghy, we packed as much as we could for our trip to shore – there was no room left on the floor for feet, we all sat on the bags and luggage.  Once we got to shore, we saw Mami and Papi on the bridge waiting for us.  We had to carry about 40 bags up a steep sandy slope and walk to where Papi could temporarily park his van on the road shoulder.  Christian quickly took the motor off the boat, put it in Papi’s van, and then he tied up the dinghy in as secure a way as he could.  We are really hoping that it will not see any damage by the sea wall or pilferers.  The drive to Mami and Papi’s was about 2.5 hours due to traffic.  We arrived famished so quickly made pasta dinner and everyone went to bed.  Mami and Papi were exhausted like us, not only because they had driven 2 hours to get us, but they had just arrived in Florida only 3 days before and were quickly trying to prepare their home for sale.

November 30

Today was a relaxing day.  We did some laundry, cleaned up the home for an expected “buyer”visit and went grocery shopping.  Jeremy and I went to the petit plage where he snorkelled.  Because the kids were not here last year (we usually come in March), it was nice to get re-acquainted with the place.

Finally Starting our long trek South…

October 1

What a beautiful day we woke up to.  Calm, sunny, and getting warmer.

Norm, the manager of RYCHB made a great surprise brunch of eggs and bacon on a bun. What a wonderful surprise! The temperature went up with the sun burning down on us while we ate and chatted on their terrace.  (www.rowaytonyachtclub.com)

We noticed that the resident swan at their the Rowayton Yacht Club was limping so the Animal Control was called.  Poor thing.  The kids called him Prince – after the Seven Swans story.

Around 2pm, our friends from Pegasus picked us up for a day of fun.   We went to Ambler Farm and had fun tossing apples at targets, seeing the animals, watching pumpkin tosses, hay maze, etc.  It reminded us a bit of the Pumpkin Farm in Niagara (although not comparable with pumpkin decorations).

Later, we went to Austin and Kathleen’s home where we met Bailey the dog, Cameron’s fish, and Muffin the chinchilla.20171001-13-Rowayton The kids played downstairs until it got dark when they played manhunt.  Kathleen and Austin, having already done a circumnavigation for 3 years, understand the life of a travelling sailor and they blessed us with their generosity in allowing us to do 2 loads of laundry at their home!

They also offered us some gifts from their backyard garden.  We had a lovely dinner of chicken quesadillas.  A fun time was had by all!  Thank you Kate and Austin for your warm hospitality!

October 2

As of today, we have now been living on the boat for 3 months!  Another beautiful day awaited us….sun glimmering, and John, the assistant manager from RYC came by to offer us the use of the kitchen at the club.  20171002-1-RowaytonWe headed over quickly, took our showers, and had yummy egg sandwiches.  Our friend, Ted O’Neil, dropped by to say good-bye (and to deliver a solar panel we had ordered).  Then by 10am, we were off back west – target for this evening:  Throg’s Neck.   Thank you so very much RYC – Norm and John, for your wonderful and warm hospitality.  This welcoming approach means so much to people like us who are far from home!

It took us about 5 hours to get to Throg’s Neck, NY (City Island near the Bronx) where we anchored for the evening awaiting the morning when the tide would be on our side to take us through Hell’s Gate in the morning.

October 3

Slight change in plans – today is the day we started our trek south.  Unfortunately, due to the fact that heavy southeast winds were coming up the coast for a 10 day period, it forced us to skip our 2 day adventure in the Big Apple of NYC.  The kids were very disappointed as they really had their hearts on going to the Lego Store at the Rockefeller Centre to spend their hard earned bracelet $$$ on some extra pieces of Lego.  Luckily they understood that travelling 150 miles against strong head winds was not a good choice and that they did not relish the idea of being stuck in NY until the frost came!  So, today was our first overnight leg of our trip to travel ~150 nautical miles to Cape May, NJ.   By 9am, after a big breakfast,

20171003-1-NYC from City Island ThrogNeck 20171003-2-NYC from City Island ThrogNeck

at a speed of 7+knots, we dodged airplanes in t20171003-5-NYC from City Island ThrogNeckhe East River,  danced through strong currents and standing waves in Hell’s Gate, passed all the tall NYC buildings and bridges, zipped past Governor’s Island, the Statue of Liberty, and all the crazy ferries and low-flying helicopters, and fought the many tugboats and cargo ships criss-crossing in the bay.

Whew!   Finally, peace & quiet out by Coney Island, then Staten Island, then Sandy Hook.  It went quickly with southeast winds allowing us to maintain 5 to 6 knots of speed.

While the ocean was very roly (5-8 foot swells), we got into the groove, and the next th20171003-17-NYC from City Island ThrogNecking we knew, the sun was setting behind NJ.  We stayed ~ 3 miles off shore, not in the shipping lanes.  By 10pm, it was my turn to begin the night shift/watch while Captain Christian took a long nap.  Luckily Serena agreed to stay up and keep me company.  We had a busy time checking the GPS charts, buoys, checking AIS software to determine speed/direction of visible boats, and chatting. 20171003-16-NYC from City Island ThrogNeckWe came across a Fishing Haven which looked like a cemetery for crocodile-shaped structures just outside the 3mile fishing fields.  We saw many tug boats and even were perplexed by the flashing lights of Atlantic City!  By 4am, it was time for Christian to take over.  I gave him a good over-view of all the oncoming/going traffic, the buoys according to lights and the charts.  Even one buoy light that did not show up on the charts.  Then we set the sails for the new west winds.

October 4

We continued cautiously through the rest of the night.   Jeremy helped Captain Christian during his shift by waking up before dawn and helping him navigate by using the GPS and apps along the shoreline.  By 9am, we were close to Cape May.  We decided to take shelter from the approaching heavier winds in 2 Mile Landing Marina for the next few nights before heading up to the C&D canal.  A lovely little marina with a great seafood restaurant.  For October, t20171004-1-Cape Mayhey are offering free docking (+ utilities) if you eat in their restaurant!  We took a walk to the beach through a wildlife refuge.  In the rollers at the beach, we saw 2 large turtles and 3 fins from dolphins frolicking in the waves.  20171004-2-Cape May

Back at the boat, Captain Christian awarded our 2 littlest crew members sailing medals 20171004-4-Cape Mayfor doing such a great job helping with the overnight crossing and navigating.  We were very proud of the courageous roles they took during their 2 hour shifts!20171004-3-Cape May

 

We had a crab/shrimp dinner very early and packed it in just after sunset tonight.  No surprises that we were tired!

October 5

Jeremy started the day by catching a baby Snapper Blue at the dock!  It is so beautiful here…we are right near marshlands and we see Egrets and Blue Herons all day long.

Then around 10am, we took a cab to Wildwood Boardwalk & fun park with the kids.  Surprisingly it was clearly stuck in the 1970’s…the motels, the rides, the decorations, the buildings.  Nothing seems to have changed since Christian last visited over 20 years ago.  There seemed to have been no development along the coast.  The beach was still as long and beautiful as Christian remembered.  As usual, we met many people on the beach.  One of them, Paul, had a lively little dog called Ginger with which the children played catch.  We spoke with him for 15 minutes on the beach and next thing you know, he is offering us a ride back to our boat.  After we walked on the boardwalk for 30 minutes, Paul picked us up on Pacific Ave. He then kindly offered us the chance to swim in his pool/to take a shower at one of his apartments. The kids had fun in the pool, Paul and his wife offered us refreshments.  Their daughter was a few years older than Serena and was interested in our travel stories.  Such a welcoming, generous family.  We found out that they used to own a sailboat many years ago and loved sailing in the Chesapeake.

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We invited Paul to our boat when he dropped us off.  He was excited to be back on a boat again.   We even put up our special lights that Sergio gave us a few weeks ago…it added a festive touch!  20171005-9-Cape May

After he left, we went to the 2 Mile Landing Restaurant (50 feet across from the Crab Shack) for dinner….some more great seafood!

October 6

Another day of amazing weather in the 80’s.  It must be Indian Summer here.  We will not complain!  Easy day of cleaning the boat inside and out, lessons for the kids, and finally going to the beach for an hour in the afternoon.  The kids had fun playing 2 mind-challenging games that Paul’s daughter gave them yesterday.  Seafood snacks at the Crab House and early to bed.

October 7

Another beautiful day in the 80’s.  Today, Jill (Paul’s wife) offered to take us grocery shopping.  So at 11am, we all piled into her car, dropped the kids and Papa off at the Boardwalk and I went to ShopRite for a few hours of grocery shopping.  What a generous offer…I had quite a bit to buy, considering we would be gone on the Chesapeake for several days without access to provisioning.  Meanwhile, the kids had a great time with Papa Bear….Wildwood is off-season, but they were open today for the Columbus day weekend.  Because the children have been so good, Papa Bear allowed them a ride on the “wild side” – Musik Express.  We invited both Jill and Paul to our boat for dinner this evening.  We had a lovely evening listening to their stories and sharing some of ours.

October 8

Oh boy….yet another beautiful day…how blessed can we be?  Not only is it a lovely day, it is 85F and humid…just the temperatures that make me very happy!   It is 18:56 as I write and the temperature is 77F, feels like 97F!!!!  The proof for those who do not believe me: 20171008-4-Cape May

Despite the oncoming rain tomorrow, I don’t think we will be too sad with this week’s weather!  Here is a sample:  20171008-5-Cape May

Like I said, with the oncoming rains and wind, we decided to go to downtown Cape May to see the Victorian architecture.  What a walk!  Don’t tell the kids, but I think we walked approximately 7 km including a quick ride in an electric car taxi (that the kids LOVED).

As an architecture-lover/appreciator, the architecture in Cape May cannot go without due mention in my blog.  I have to say that the these gingerbread constructions, dating circa 1880, are not only in pristine condition, but their paint jobs are spectacu20171008-6-Cape Maylarly coordinated.  Christian and I figured there is a central designer in this town that helps to choose their paint colours because they go together so well (ie. forest green, eggplant, and dark beige)….Brenda – you would love it!  But not only do their exterior colours amaze the average pedestrian, their autumn/Hallowe’en decorations are ALSO fully colour-coordinated!  I am not sure who spends the time 20171008-3-Cape Maymatching Hallowe’en decorations with Mums and corn-stalks, but this town really takes it as an important task!  We really enjoyed the day and now back at the marina, we are going to treat ourselves to Happy Hour and then a 3 lb lobster dinner!!!!  MMMMmmmmmm!   Jeremy LOVED it.  Serena stuck to Caesar Salad.  Thank you Judi and Mike!

October 9

Today, was a stay-at-home day to get the boat ready to leave tomorrow through the Chesapeake.  We prepped the zodiac, washed the lifejackets, kids did some sc20171009-2-Cape Mayhoolwork, (Jeremy practiced his writing to improve it), and Mama marked some homework.  Even got Papa Bear’s hair cut!   The kids later had a PD day and played with some new toys (thanks Sergio and Ruby!). 20171009-1-Cape May20171009-3-Cape May

Winds from Hurricane Nate made it to NJ and were very strong and gusty all day.

October 10

Left at 6:40am, slightly after low tide, just as the daylight started to illuminate enough to navigate safely.  It was surprisingly calm after yesterday’s heavy winds.   We went back

out the Cape May channel and went around the Point of Cape May (rather than taking a short-cut through the Cape May canal which we felt was too shallow for our boat).  We had to go out an extra mile to avoid the dangerous shoals, but we were lucky to catch the current which helped us gain speed – 9 knots!  Just as we rounded the point, 2 black dolphins came out to say goodbye.  Not as many boats in the shipping lanes as expected. We kept our distance from this commercial lane nevertheless.  Just before lunch time, we came across several more dolphins, this time grey in colour.  They jumped just 20 feet from our boat, but they were not in the mood to play with us (perhaps due to the motor), so we left them jumping behind in our wake.  The nuclear power plant is an eye-sore, but a good marker just before turning left into the C&D canal.  The canal had several high bridges, we followed a tug boat so we felt safe knowing we would fit under all overhead obstructions.

At 3pm, we stopped ½ way in the canal at Chesapeake City to get fuel.  Unfortunately, when docking, the current caught our boat and we scraped a big motor boat’s swim platform.  I had jumped out to fend off, but my weak 115 lbs 20171010-4- Bohemia Riverwere not strong enough to avoid the scratches.  By 4:30, we were at the end of the C&D canal.  Serena took the wheel to drive us into the top of the Chesapeake which was full of red sand beaches and bluffs.  Very pretty.  We anchored near the mouth of Bohemia River where it was very silent and calm.

The kids were very happy with their accomplishments and adventure today!

It was interesting to imagine the days of the Tockwogh Indians and how they lived 200 years ago.   The place smelled of boreal forest and was very picturesque.  Sounds of Canada geese, 20171010-5- Bohemia Rivercrickets, and splashing fish kept us company all evening.  The temperature at 21:00 was still above 27C – very humid.

A very peaceful night.

 

October 11 & 12

Once the current was in our favour, we pulled up the anchor and headed further south to Sassafras River.  It was even more 20171011-2-Sassafrass Riverpicturesque with orange-red sand coloured bluffs, pine trees, and small bays.  We took a place that we hoped would shelter us from the east for the next few days of heavy winds.

Homework was getting to be a challenge.  The children were more drawn to reading than wanting to complete exercises.  They became engrossed in writing Hallowe’en stories that they hope will be published on our blog.  Serena has started trying to increase her French vocabulary and is using a thesaurus of colourful words to enhance her story.

Jeremy is writing his story in English.  His sentence structure is getting more complex and he is making great efforts to improve his handwriting.   Heavy winds with on and off rain today.  Temperatures were slightly cooler, but still very comfortable – not yet seasonal….I know the cold will be coming soon!

October 13 – 14

We sailed the 50 nautical miles from Sassafras River to Annapolis.  We stayed at Annapolis Landing Marina for the night.  Unbelievable how many crab pots dot the bay.  And they sneak up on you so quickly.  In some places, we felt that we were tip-toeing through land mines!  There was one every 30 feet and all different colours (meaning owned by different fishermen).  I am surprised that there is n20171013-1- to Annapoliso requirement to have a light on these crab pots…not sure how sailors navigate the bay at night.  As we sailed under the Chesapeake Bay bridge, we saw so many sailboats and tanker ships anchored.   Very quickly we were able to navigate our way into Annapolis Landing Marina where Ralph met us to help us in docking our boat.  Quite a challenge to get your boat nestled among the 20 foot pilings unscathed without bow-thrusters!  Our stay at Annapolis Landing Marina was short but very pleasant. Unfortunately, we missed the sailing boat show (one of the biggest boat shows in the US) by 1 week because we were stuck in Cape May due to the timing of the currents.  This week was the motor boat show, but it is of less interest to us.  Instead, we borrowed their courtesy van to go to the grocery store and West Marine.  We will definitely be back on the way home.

We left just after lunch on Saturday to make our way to St. Michael’s on Kent Island.  Passed many regattas, steamers, fishermen…the Bay was busy!

Ralph, from ALM, recommended this as a quaint place to go with lots of in20171015-1- St Michaelsteresting places to see, including a Maritime Museum. 4.5 hours (and 100+ crab pots) later, we arrived and anchored in a large tranquil bay.  There was a wedding taking place on land with lovely music and firepits.  We found out the next day that it was a wedding for one of the Dupont family.  Many boats were anchored in the bay probably as guests.

October 15

We dinghied into the small village of St. Michaels, MD to explore.  One thing w20171015-4- St Michaelse found surprising in this harbour was how low the docks and streets and properties were relative to the water levels.  Even if we were at high tide, it did not look like there was much more than 6 inches before the water went over onto land…they said that swells from hurricanes rarely reach them here (although we found out later that Hurricane Irene in 2003 really flooded the land).  After speaking with a nearby fisherman, we were informed that “crabbing” is as easy as sneezing here in St. Michaels.  He gave us tips on how t20171015-2- St Michaelso catch the blue crabs (tie a few raw chicken necks to a string, drop it to the bottom of shallow water and presto, you get a bite…we think he was dramatizing the ease with which we could catch these blue creatures, but we would try it later).  We fell in love with a little Inn at the entrance, toured it and then crossed the small channel to investigate, what looked like, the main street.   We met a lovely family and a dog named Covu at a crab restaurant who entertained the kids.  They told us about some nice spots to visit as we tour the Chesapeake.  They gave us some tips on Rockfishing too.  The town is very small (basically one main street), similar to Niagara on the Lake with its specialty shops, but only a few km in length.  We spent time at a local brewery to sample a flight of 7 home brews, tried the ice cream parlor, and just drank in the beautiful 27C temperatures and quaint scenery of the town.

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The kids also had a blast when Mark and Covu gave them a quick tour around town in a tiny rented electric car. Mark highly recommended the Maritime Museum, which we checked out as we walked back to the waterfront.

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Interesting history readings recounted how St. Michaels was a town “that fooled the British during the Revolutionary War” in the 1700’s.  Knowing that the Brits would invade at night, the town decided to hang their lanterns up in trees/masts/flagpoles anything high to give the impression that their town was on a bluff/hill.  Their ruse worked…the Brits shot 2 cannons high into the trees and hit nothing, and the town responded by shooting several canons at their ships from ground level confusing the Brits into believing that St. Michaels had tunnels for their artillery.  They quickly gave up the fight and left St. Michaels