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!!

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.

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