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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Monday, February 15, 2010

JUST THE FOUR OF US AGAIN






On the off chance that people are actually checking in regularly with us, I must apologize for the length of time since the last post. Once again, internet access has been "hit and miss" to say the least. I keep meaning to update more often, but haven't had much luck. So once again, this will be a long one.

After a great two weeks in the company of the Mitchells and Alan and Spencer, we were off on our own again. We were all a bit down, especially me, having gotten used to the company on "Island Girl". I am not as "free" with my emotions as my brother and cousin can be ;-), but I almost had a weepy moment (almost). It didn't help that they took the warm weather and sunshine with them, it was cold and grey as we said our good-byes to Alan and Spencer.


We finished up our groceries, laundry, etc... and moved north to Treasure Cay. We had a really nice sail, with both Delaney and Mitchell taking turns at the helm.



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In the video we are doing about 7kts, but you can see how effortlessly Delaney was driving the boat. We loves catamarans and we love our Gemini!!

This time we met up with the crew of "Gladys", with Jennifer and Ben onboard, along with two little girls, Ocea and Jaia (geez, I hope I got the spelling correct). Ben rowed over and introduced himself, and later we all went over to the beach. The kids had a great time, I got a kiteboard session in, and Lisa and Jennifer talked and read.


As I have mentioned in earlier posts, Treasure Cay is a bit of a mish-mash. The anchorage is pure "South Florida", all small condo units with fishing boats in front and lots of empty, undeveloped lots. The beach; however, is amazing! 3-1/2 miles long and the softest/powdery sand we have ever seen! Creative marketing I suppose, but it's listed as one of the Top 10 Beaches in the world by National Geographic and Conde Nast magazines. Anyway, our second night we heard was going to be pizza night up at the Tipsey Seagull Bar. So although we love our regular feasts of Mac & Cheese with turkey Spam on the side (which contains 50% of the fat of Fat Reduced Regular Spam, so it can't be all that bad, right??) , we decided to splurge. So imagine this, all the Florida retirees out for pizza, lots of blue hair and sequined/bedazzled tops, and Frank Sinatra blaring on the soundsystem. Bahamas, right??? $47.00 and 2 -8 slice pizzas later, we were back on the boat for the night.


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The next morning Ben swung by after a very successful coconut gathering trip. We got both green ones that we cut open and drank the water from, as well as older that we cut the meat out of (and the kids later made hanging bowls out of). Cheap entertainment, the kids were enthralled for hours!

The next day, following the winds as has become our routine, we moved south again, back to Hope Town (some ugly weather was on the way), but with a stopover for some snorkeling at Mermaid Reef just outside Marsh Harbour.


In Hope Town, we always have to check out the "Lizard Lodge". This is the palatial home of a "Curley Tail" (lizard), fully set-up with his own NASCAR Chevy, float plane and perpetually full mug of beer!! And what do you know, he was actually home this time (you can just make him out inside the front door). With the winds up and the boat securely moored , we dinghied over to the lighthouse to check it out. Just a side note, we haven't had much luck with lighthouses, at least not when Mitchell is involved. Two years in a row we tried to get him up the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, but he is pretty small for his age and could never meet the height requirement established by the U.S National Park Service. So now we come to a Bahamian lighthouse, where things aren't quite so "regulated". First of note is that this is 1 of 3 remaining lighthouses in the world that still uses kerosene for the light. It is also 1 of 2 lighthouses in the Bahamas that are still manned by a keeper (whom I might add we never saw during our visit). No admission fee, a couple of simple rules, and minimal safety features (note the tattered safety netting in the pics). The views from the top were amazing, looking down on Hope Town, the Atlantic Ocean and the Sea of Abaco. "Charlotte-Ann" is somewhere down there in the harbour.


Later that afternoon the winds dropped off a bit. We went to town to get some fresh fish , some just-picked green beans and "hot out of the oven" Key Lime Pie from Vernon's Grocery. On the way back to the boat we were treated to our best encounter yet with dolphins! They were swimming just ahead of us in the dinghy, so I cut the engine and we drifted for a bit. They were heading up to the south end of the harbour, so we knew they would eventually have to come past our boat again. Sure enough they did, so have a look at the great video we got of two of them playing about 15' from "Charlotte-Ann"!



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Later that evening we were invited onboard the catamaran "Hakuna Matata" to have dinner with Nathan, Rosalinda, Ahava and Ziva Ramon. We had a great meal, but what made it extra special for us was the fact that the Ramon's are Jewish, and it was Friday, the Sabbath. None of us had ever spent any time with a Jewish family so it was really nice being introduced to their Sabbath tradition. Thanks guys, it was a great night.

The next day (Saturday), Lisa had a bad headache so I took the kids a few miles outside of Hope Town to the Abaco Inn at White Sound where they were hosting a small kid's fun day. They had races, games, a pinata and bouncy castle. All the kids we have been hanging around with in Hope Town were there, as well as Jennifer, Ocea and Jaia (Ben was out taking advantage of the great surfing conditions, the best in the Bahamas).



Saturday night and Sunday were very laid back days. We decided to stick around since all the other kids were off school and this gave Delaney and Mitchell a chance to hang-out with them. Lisa was thrilled to see me dinghy over at lunch with 7 hungry kids!! (L-R: Jack, Mitchell, Jed, Delaney, Ziva, Molly and Ahava).When we are in Hope Town we tie-up to a mooring ball in the harbour. "Hakuna Matata" stays at a small resort called Hopetown Hideways. Also at Hopetown Hideaways are Jack, Molly and Jed, whose parents have rented small cottages for the winter. When I go back to work, Lisa and the kids will be staying in the marina next door, but this will end up being the neighbourhood all the kids play in. Here you can see how beautiful this spot is, a truly "kid-friendly" environment complete with a pool, beach and grassy paths (oh yeah, also a beautiful tangerine tree).



On Monday we had a nice motor about 8 miles north to Guana Cay. We grabbed another moring ball, dinghied to shore, and made our way up to Nippers , a spot famous throughout the Bahamas for their Sunday pig roast (and frozen Nipper drink, ouch!!)As we were walking along the main Town Dock we were treated to the sight of this 4' wide stingray as it passed below us.

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The kids had a great time playing on the beach (again) and swimming in the pool. It would have been great to get some snorkeling in but the water was just a bit too rough for that.

The next morning the kids and I went ashore for some freshly baked coconut bread, mmmm..... as well as a wander around "downtown" Guana Cay (which took all of 4 minutes!!).

After 3 days on Guana Cay, we took advantage of the west winds and had a brisk run down to Marsh Harbour this morning (you can see our mascot, Barefoot, doing a little surfing off the davits).
videoWe need to provision (again), and then plan to spend the next few days hanging out with some friends from Hope Town. Monday we will move the boat into the Hope Town Marina in preparation for me flying to St. John's for work (grrrr.... where did the past 3 months go????).

We hope you have enjoyed the read.

Take care,

Mark, Lisa, Delaney and Mitchell