Friday, March 11, 2011

Like Ice-water Poured Over Your Head......

From the tranquility of our anchorage on Mangrove Cay and the a beautiful final sail on the Little Bahama Bank ....


.... we were all in for a shock when we arrived in West Palm Beach Florida in the middle of the Memorial Day Weekend!!

Greeting us at the entrance channel was a steady parade of tour boats and pleasure craft heading in and out from the ocean. You would have thought that compared to the 5' beam-on seas we had just endured for 14 hours, the entrance channel would have offered some relief??




Nuh-uh, not a chance!!

Not only were there wakes coming from every direction, but it seemed like every idiot that owned a PWC was on the water that day. They seem to love all the confused wakes, especially when it means they can jump them just in front of you. And it's not as if we would be able to avoid hitting them if they fell in. Something that can do +50mph and takes all of 10 minutes to "master" is where the Marine Police and Coast Guard need to concentrate their efforts. Rant over, but jeez do I hate PWC's!!!

We had to wait until the next day to clear US Customs, so we grabbed a slip for the night, ordered a pizza and had a few cold Bud's with Gary and Ingrid from "Tamaki".

We cleared Customs the next day and quickly moved north to one of our favourite spots, the anchorage at Peck Lake.




We spent the day wandering on the beach noting all the sea turtle nests. We even got an excellent explanation of sea turtle breeding and nesting habits by 2 very friendly Park Rangers.


After leaving Peck Lake, we then spent the day moving inland via the Okeechobee Waterway to Indiantown, Florida.

Sadly, this day on the boat was to be our last trip ever on "Charlotte-Ann".

We had heard good things about Indiantown Marina (http://www.indiantownmarina.com/) when inquiring about somewhere to haul and store "Charlotte-Ann". Not only were we looking for a place to haul-out, we were also trying to figure out what our future boating plans were to be.

We arrived in Indiantown and made arrangements for the boat to be hauled the next day. Hot, muggy, sticky, humid= Indiantown. The kids did some exploring, noting some of the local wildlife, from the fuzzy backed turtles...


To the resident 8' gator patrolling just off the stern of "Charlotte-Ann"!

After more than 20 years of boat ownership we have never gotten comfortable with seeing our boats hanging on 2 nylon straps 5' above pavement!

We packed the boat up as best we could, as well as placing about 20 Roach Motels around the interior. I suppose if there is one good thing about living in Canada it's the fact we don't have to worry about cockroaches!!! We sealed the boat up, including closing the few seacocks on "Charlotte-Ann". The remaining thru-hulls were stuffed with duct tape to further prevent any unwanted visitors. With the help of one of the marina staff, Lisa went to Stuart to pick-up a rental car.

As far as the kids knew, our plan was to fly home from Orlando the following day. Once we were settled at home, Lisa and I would drive down and bring the rest of our "stuff" home. We hadn't decided yet if we would sell "Charlotte-Ann" or not, but regardless, we would need to give her a good cleaning when we returned.

If you have ever been to the Orlando Airport, or Orlando for that matter, you can't help but notice all the Disney Shuttle buses.

Well , so did our kids!

Although they did ask if "someday" we could go to Disney, they seemed satisfied with our answer that it was too much right now, but "someday" we would return. What they didn't know was 3 weeks earlier we had booked a 5-night stay!

After we returned the car, we were walking to what they thought was our flight home. We then stopped, I looked at Lisa and said, "What do you think if we just go to Disney instead of going home???" Neither kid really knew what to think, in fact their response was a little "too" subdued!!!

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So five days of Disney was ahead of us. We all had a great time, but unlike many families we met who had been there multiple times, I don't see us going back anytime soon, but who knows???






A month later, Lisa and I came back to Indiantown after deciding to sell "Charlotte-Ann". Initially trying to sell privately, we instead chose to sell through Advantage Yacht Sales, a brokerage that has the "advantage" of being at the Indiantown Marina. Here is the listing:


A bit of a bummer was the fact that all our kiteboarding kites got stolen. Really a shame, the owner of the marina was shocked (and gave us a great deal ), as was the local Sheriff.

On the bright side, insurance came through so we now have a full quiver of 2010 Naish Cults!!!!
Yee haaa!!!!


Mark.



Still playing catch-up on the entries.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Leaving the Bahamas (playing catch up with the posts)

"Today is very sunny. I'm sitting here doing school. My classroom looks like a boat, one reason why is because it is a boat! When I look outside my window I see two little houses, one yellow and one turquoise, a powerboat on a mooring ball and a sailboat called "Morning Glory" on a mooring ball. I live on a boat called "Charlotte-Ann". It is a 34' Gemini catamaran. I love life on a boat!!"


Delaney/March 2010
As much as we didn't want to leave, the time had come for us to make our way from the Bahamas and back to Florida. Hurricane season was fast approaching, and although many people remain cruising in the Abacos well into summer, the logistics for us just didn't make it possible.


There were plenty of sad good-byes in Hope Town. Our little community of Ex-pats (The Butlers, The Gormans and The Richens) all had plans to move on. Our new-found Bahamian friends (The Higgs, The Aberles) would always be here, just one more reason for us to return to the Abacos in the near future.


We made our way to Guana Cay to once again anchor off of Grabbers. The weather was great and we hung out by the pool with the crew from "Liquid Asset", enjoying the last of our days with Bill, Karen and Jack. Neil and Rachel stopped by and we got a guided tour of the Island with Neil.

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More swimming and hanging around at Scotland Cay, then it truly was time to head off.


As "Liquid Asset" and "Different Drummer" made their way back to Hope Town, we were pointed in the opposite direction, heading for Green Turtle Cay.

Originally planning to head through "Don't Rock Pass", a direct shallow water route to GTC, we decided as we approached the pass that we didn't feel comfortable with the swell that was running. We had been assured there was plenty of water for our Gemini, but it was nearing low tide and with a large swell running in I didn't want to risk any unintended "bumps" on the seabed. We diverted to Treasure Cay, and while Lisa relaxed back on the boat, the kids and I went ashore to take advantage of the pool.

The next day we were off early, getting to the pass about an hour before high tide. We went through without incident, never seeing less than 5' below our hulls even though the swell was still running pretty good.

After a few days in Green Turtle Cay we were off again, travelling a day to our staging spot for the crossing back to Florida. We met-up with another Canadian boat, Tamaki, a Catalina 36'. Since they were also heading back to West Palm Beach, we decided to buddy-boat. The trip to Mangrove Cay was really nice, blue skies, warm temps and just barely enough wind to sail. We even managed to get our spinnaker up for a few hours (it's a little small for our boat, but was free, thanks Jason!).

Later that afternoon, once our anchor was set, we were approached by 2 Bahamian conch fishermen in a small open powerboat. They asked if we could spare some gas, they were running low and were a good 15 miles from land. Sure, it could have been a scam, but for the small amount of gas we gave them it was worth the peace of mind knowing that we "may" have helped out some people in need. Regardless, they left us with 6 huge, cleaned conch in exchange for 4 gallons of gas. Seemed appropriate, conch salad as our final meal in the Bahamas.



We left Mangrove Cay just after midnight. It was bumpy and windy with ugly skies lit up by the occassional flash of lightning. Once again, not what was in the forecast!

We left the shallow waters of the Bahama Bank just before sunrise, and 10 hours later arrived in West Palm Beach.

Our "first" cruise to the Bahamas was officially over (well, the Bahamas part anyway). It was 11 months since we pulled away from the dock at Loyalist Cove in Bath, Ontario.

The kids have seen more in these 11 months than many kids will ever see (Erie Canal, Hudson River, NYC, the open Atlantic Ocean, Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, The Dismal Swamp, The Gulf Stream and the The Abacos).

Although not always on the move (but still on the boat), they also made new friends and enjoyed new experiences while tied-up in Virginia and Georgia, including side trips to Annapolis, Maryland and Washington, DC.

11 months of real-life experiences that could really only be wrapped-up with a visit to the one place where the "unplanned, unexpected and unpleasant" are strictly forbidden.

Yup, you guessed it, DISNEY!?!

















































Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's Still "Better in the Bahamas!"



Yes, we are still alive and hangin'-out in the Abacos, Bahamas. Our internet connections were very poor for some reason, that explains the lack of postings lately

It's been a mixed bag this past month, from periods of time with just the four of us anchored out and exploring parts of the Abacos we haven't previously visited, to leading a "normal "life including volunteerism, organized sports and Birthday party attending.
Firstly we would all like to send a belated "Happy Retirement" wish to Grandma Annie, who after many years with the Region of Niagara has callede it a day!!



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This video was actually recorded back in February, the original plan to have it played at the retirement party on April 9th. That didn't work out, so here it is, late, but still sent with the same amount of love!



The kids are still enrolled in the soccer league, playing on Sundays in Hope Town. Lisa is also a coach, and my first weekend back I also leant a hand to all the other coaches, a great bunch of people bringing something new to the kids of Hope Town.

On the way to the "football pitch" the kids stopped for a couple of pics. Below is the cemetary in Hope Town, where just at the top of the hill is the sand dune leading to the oceanside beach and protective reefs.



A couple of days later we leant our time and "skills" to a work party that was doing some renovations at Jarrett Park. The park is right next to the harbour in Hope Town and is a popular spot for kids to play . The library is also located here, and on sundays a Catholic Mass is held outside next to the Lignum Vitae tree you can see behind Lisa. We spent a fun few hours priming, painting and spreading fresh sand.

It was nice giving back a little to a beautiful little town that has been our home away from home for the past few months.





We might be living on a boat right now, but that hasn't meant that the kids aren't partaking in many of the things land-based kids do. Apart from the soccer, our time in Hope Town has allowed many new friendships to develop. We figured before we left home that the kids Delaney and Mitchell would spend time with would all be "boat kids", but the reality is they ( as well as Lisa and I) have been lucky enough to meet a great group of people here in Hope Town.

Chris and Pleasants Higgs are super people with great kids. They live just outside Hope Town in a beautiful house called "Big Bamboo", which just happens to overlook our favourite spot , Tahiti Beach. The kids were invited to their daughter Stella's Birthday, so we anchored off their house for the night and dinghied in for the party.


We wound up spending the next 6 days anchored off, and occasionally beached, on Tahiti Beach. Yes, we did this intentionally, another advantage to having a catamaran!!



It was a great opportunity to clean the hull. The other boat you see in the picture belongs a young girl who is a sailing instructor and charter captain. Sarah beached her cat one day so she could apply a fresh coat of bottom paint.


While we were there, Chris Higgs had a bunch of friends up for the weekend from Nassau (Chris is Bahamian, he and Pleasants just recently move to Elbow Cay/Hope Town). Tables , ice-filled coolers and sunshades were all set-up. The kids played in the water and went tubing while the adults played horseshoes, talked and put back a few Kaliks.

Bill and Karen Butler and their kids, recent "transplants" from Nashville, came down as well with 4 conch they caught that morning. Should I say "caught"??? It's more like "picked".

Anyway, Bill gave me a quick lesson on how to remove them from the shell and clean them, then he proceeded to make a tasty conch salad right there on the beach!




The biggest lesson I took from this was that as soon as you have the mussel out of the shell, cut the eyes off!!! I swear the poor thing was staring at me, hoping that in mine (and his) next life, the roles are reversed and he is the one sucking back a cold beer while prepping me as an afternoon snack!!



With the Easter weekend approaching, we decided to move north to Guana Cay, and an old favourite, Nippers!

The staff at Nippers planted 1000 easter eggs both on the beach as well as out on the reef.

I have to admit, I felt pretty bad for the poor fella that got to dress up as the Easter Bunny. A white faux-fur suit in 28C temps could not have been fun!!! Although he seemed in good spirits and was probably being paid with free Frozen Nippers (think 500ml Slurpee that is 90% rum/10% slush)!!



Everyone was corralled up on the patio until noon. The bar was open, the kids were being given free chocolate and suckers, everyone was bouncing!


In the video you can see Mitchell and Delaney as they scrambled down to the beach to start the hunt.



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As you can see, they did quite well. The eggs were plastic and some had winning tickets inside of them. I am not sure of the total number of eggs they found , but we now have MORE stuffed animals onboard the boat and they still had some candy kicking around 3 weeks later!



Bill and I weren't so lucky, we got completely skunked out on the reef, not finding a single egg between the two of us. We resigned ourselves to sitting on the beach, having a beer, then partaking of the ritualized Nippers Sunday Pig Roast.

Not too shabby a way to spend Easter Sunday!!!


As the kids like to singalong with the Barefoot Man (a CD we bought), "When they throw you out of Nippers, Man your really ........"

We wound up spending almost another full week anchored off Guana Cay. The weather was great and the winter cold fronts had subsided, so the anchorage at Fishers Bay was fantastic. The pic at the start of this blog entry was taken in Fishers Bay during another great sunset.

Below are a couple of pics showing how the kids manage to keep themselves busy when they tire of swimming, shell collecting and beachcombing.

Yup, a 6' piece of 3/8" line kept them busy for a few hours this day!


And this might not seem especially fair consdiering we have about $3000 worth of kiteboarding kites on the boat, but a grocery bag and twine kept them going for awhile on another day!!

See, kids can survive and thrive without high-speed internet, video games and TV.







Delaney was doing some schoolwork a few weeks ago in which she was asked to describe what was going on around her.

"Today is very sunny. I'm sitting here doing school. My classroom looks like a boat, one reason why is because it is a boat! When I look outside my window I see two little houses, one yellow and one turquoise, a powerboat on a mooring ball and a sailboat called "Morning Glory" on a mooring ball. I live on a boat called "Charlotte-Ann". It is a 34' Gemini catamaran. I love life on a boat!!"
I think it's safe to say she is enjoying life afloat!

Mitchell has become a real fish killer. Below are some pics of him with a tiny grouper and a grunt (all catch and release of course).

Both kids have become very good wakeboarders. Delaney has no problems coming across the wake toeside, and Mitchell (just like with skateboarding, bike riding and anything else he can hurt himself on) is all about jumping! He is now getting at least a foot of air under the board jumping off the wake!! Both kids enjoy it so much we now realize we will need at least a 25hp on the dinghy on our next boat.




This past weekend I was entered in a Lionfish Derby. They were caught with snorkel gear and spears in and around the Sea of Abaco. Lionfish are an invasive species which are causing alot of harm, not just in the Bahamas but much of the southeastern US coast.

Myself and 3 other guys entered as a team, and although we didn't win for most fish caught (we got 31 while the winners got 206), we did win for the smallest fish speared, 2"!!!! We are really bummed we didn't get a pic of the winner, but people had a hard time believing I actually speared it (I swear it looked bigger under water).
So it's back to work for me, which means the kids will be cracking down on the schoolwork as well.
One bit of news , a change for us, is that we are selling "Charlotte-Ann". So if anyone knows of someone in the market for a great boat, please contact us ( delmitch2@gmail.com) or spread the word.
More on our future plans to follow.....
That's about all for now.
Take care.
Mark, Lisa, Delaney and Mitchell

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Loving Hope Town, But Missing Daddy!!!!!

Before we were to say good-bye to daddy we enjoyed one last trip to Little Harbour with our friends on Liquid Asset (Bill, Karen, Carley and Jack). Here we enjoyed a night of playing cards while the kids watched a movie. In the morning the kids walked the beach looking for sea glass, and then we went searching for the caves. On our way back to Hope Town we stopped at Tahiti Beach for a little wakeboarding, followed by another amazing dinner at Harbour's Edge.

The Caves at Little Harbour

I think Mark was saying, "Why do I have to go back to work"!!!!


Mitchell's conch burger at the Harbour's Edge....



Mark left us on February 23 and it didn't take long for the kids and I to feel like part of the Hope Town community. The marina we are staying at is a quiet little place on the west side of Hope Town anchorage. Next to us is a quaint little place called Hope Town Hideaways and is the temporary home of three lovely families. They were quick in helping the kids and I to keep busy, starting with taco night at Captain Jack's.

Such pretty girls... (Molly, Ziva and Delaney)...

Just a few of the kid's at Captain Jack's taco night (Jack, Mitchell, Delaney, Ahava, Molly and Ziva)...

We wasted no time in getting back to full day lessons, much to the kids' dismay. But when 3:00pm hits the kids are anxious to get over to Hideaways to start playing.

Searching for 'upside down Jellyfish'...


Carley and Jed fishing...



Uncle Jim, 'I have my helmet on in-case I fall in the water'!



Pizza at Miss Pippa's... (Calvin, Mitchell and Jack)...



Mitchell finally found us the perfect conch shell!!!!


Weekends have kept us busy... first there was the Fireman's Fair...



Mommy has new friends too... (Karen, Pleasants, Pippa and Michelle)



Then we had a book reading at the Abaco Inn with Miss Marie, a fellow cruiser and writer of children's books (along with her dog Toots). This made for a very fun day!


On our way, first by dinghy then by golf cart (this is how you get around in Hope Town)...



Front row seats....



Delaney and Jack dressed as pirates...


The kids were very excited about joining the local soccer league (started by a wonderful couple that has just moved here this past year; Michelle and Chris). The next thing I new I had a whistle in my hand and was a coach!!!


The children were all invited to share in Shabut with Hakuna Matata. The next day we were invited to go on a day sail with them. Thirty knot winds, sailing along at 8 knots on a Manta 40 made for an amazing day.

Sitting on Hakuna Matata, waiting for Shabut...


Such a wonderful tradition, and wonderful friends to share it with...



Thank you Hakuna Matata for a great sail... (my favourite seat on the boat)!!!


So... yes... life is good!!!!!! (and less than a week Mark is back)!!!!!!





































































































































































































































































































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