Third Time’s a Charm!

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View from our anchorage in Back Creek, Annapolis

Hard to believe, but here we go again – our third trip south to the Bahamas.  The past few weeks in Annapolis went by so quickly.  We were lucky to find an absolutely perfect anchorage, where there was very little boat traffic and great protection from the remains Hurricanes Florence and Michael.

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Here is Hurricane Michael seen from our weather app called Windy

For both, we saw wind (but nothing more than 20 knots), rain (keeps the boat clean) and rising water levels (plenty of chain out, so no worries there), so we were perfectly happy.

During our stay, our good friends Todd and Linda Hiller lent us their spare car, which was a godsend.  One night, they brought their power boat alongside and came aboard for dinner.  Their daughter, Kaitlyn, hopped on our paddleboard and had fun paddling around the anchorage.  Hobie thought he had got his own private yacht and happily jumped on to the power boat and made himself at home.

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Our boat is packed within an inch of itself, from canned food to meat, veggies and fruit.  Provisioning is much easier now that (1) I have the big separate freezer, and (2) I have a system on my cell phone where I record what is stored in every bin.  During our Annapolis stay, I made new throw cushion covers for the main cabin, and we bought new throw rugs since the rubber backing was starting to degrade (poor Hobie was wiping out when he had one of his scat attacks, which was pretty amusing, actually!).  So I feel like we have “remodeled” and have a fresh start for our third trip to the Bahamas.

So off we went on October 18 – a bit later than planned due to all the weather delays – first to Solomon’s Island, which is our usual first stop out.  Sue and Garth are traveling with us once again on their boat, Jabulani, and Sue took this fabulous shot of our boat in the morning mist as we got ready to pull anchor.

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Then it was off to to Deltaville, VA, where we saw Anne, but not Jonathan (miserable cold!), and had a great dinner at a new restaurant called “The Table”.  From there we headed to Hampton, VA, where we connected with our good friend, Carolyn, who was nice enough to ferry us around to the grocery store and West Marine.  There’s always something that we need!  After two nights at Hampton at a marina (waiting out some crummy weather), we headed off through Norfolk and in to the ICW.  Mile Zero!  There were some interesting warships lined up in Norfolk.

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Since a lot of boats had waited for the storm to go through in the Hampton/Norfolk area, it was a real bottleneck at the bridge.  To top it off, both railroad bridges were lowered while we were passing through, which really delayed us.  Can’t ever tell when something like that is going to happen – and here we thought we had an early start!  The result was a big bunch up of boats, all jockeying for position at the bridges as they opened.  Gary was chomping at the bit and trying to get away from the pack, which thankfully we could do with the 110 hp turbocharged engine.  Garth and Sue weren’t so lucky and got stuck mid pack.

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That night, we anchored off Buck Island, near Coinjock – all by ourselves.  Very peaceful and calm.  Both the sunset and sunrise were spectacular.

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Then we were off to Belhaven.  These places are now like familiar friends to us.  It is nice to be back in the places we know as we make our way down the ICW.  Belhaven is like a throw back to an earlier time of small American towns.  If it weren’t for the new Mercedes parked in the street, you would think this was 1950’s American.

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Unfortunately, Belhaven and many of the surrounding towns were hit hard by the hurricanes.  Florence was particularly painful.  We went for breakfast in town that morning, and the woman serving us said that they had 35 inches of water in the restaurant.  They had just reopened two weeks ago.  But other residual mud and muck in the street and some stores and restaurants still closed (our favorite restaurant, Spoon River, still under wraps), they have done a remarkable job of cleaning up after the storms.

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Belhaven Police Department – check out the barbecue grill at the end of the porch!

The next night we spent at an anchorage in Adams Creek, and then it was off to Mile Hammock, which is in the Camp LeJeune military base.  Helicopters and armored tanks and humvees were all part of the scenery.  Noisy, but not for long.  We literally left before the sun came up, and it was very nerve wracking to move along in the pitch dark, looking for red and green buoys.  Thank goodness for the chart plotter!  But we had no choice.  We either had to move out at 6 am to get to the bridge two hours before high tide, or else we would have had to wait until late morning to get going as the tide was going back down.  And since the weather was getting crummy in the early afternoon, we knew we couldn’t afford to wait for long.  So there we were – in the pitch black, keeping our eyes peeled – stressful!  Fortunately, the sun appeared like magic before we got to the bridge, and we got underneath it, dragging our VHF antenna, as expected.

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The sun coming up behind us as we make our way to the first bridge of the day

The rest of the day was spent trying to coordinate the half hour and hourly openings of draw bridges.  We were able to drag our feet at one bridge to give Garth and Sue a few more minutes to catch up and make it through.  Some bridges open on the hour and half hour, but some only open on the hour.  It is bad enough to wait a half hour for the next opening, but to wait an hour when you’ve only missed the opening by a minute or two is a real killer!  Especially with yucky weather on the horizon.

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Carolina Beach Inlet looking out over the Atlantic Ocean

We approached our anticipated stop in Carolina Beach, NC, where we had reserved a mooring ball for both us and Garth and Sue.  Unfortunately, it was not to be, as there was no enforcement whatsoever in place, and boats had picked up all the available balls, even without a reservation.  We were not happy and wasted a lot of time on the phone trying to determine whether anyone was going to show up and correct the problem.  To make a long story very short, no one did, and we ended up anchoring for the night very close to the mooring field.  It is very unsettling to have made plans and then find that you can’t rely on them.  High winds and thunderstorms were anticipated that evening and through the night, which is one of the reasons we even booked a mooring ball to begin with.  Needless to say, the Town of Carolina Beach (who runs the mooring area) got an earful.  But we were happy it was a protected area, and we stayed safely anchored the whole night.

The weather has been so unlike any weather we have experienced on our treks up and down the ICW.  The past few mornings, the temperatures have been as low as 41 degrees and the days have only reached temps in the high 50’s.  The sun must be on vacation – we haven’t seen much of it.  Apparently, it is true of the whole east coast, since looking ahead, even Charleston is only in the 60’s!  And the water levels have been very, very high, which is making for some interesting bridge “scrapings”!

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Last night (10/27) we stopped at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club – always a very welcoming place.  We (Gary) washed the boat down with lots of fresh water, while Sue and I went and did laundry.  After an enjoyable dinner at the Officers’ Club there (they had a costume party in full swing and some of them were quite entertaining!), we took Hobie for a walk – he was a happy cat!

This morning, as we head for Georgetown, we are seeing some of the hurricane damage from Florence first hand.  Not pretty.  Houses have water lines half way up them, boats have slipped off their docks, sandbags are still heaped in front of houses, and docks are cockeyed.  All in all, a real mess.  We feel sorry for these people – at least the colder weather has probably delayed the onset of any mildew and mold!

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If you look at the shed, you can see how high the water levels came up
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This area was a total shambles!
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Look at the red shutters on the right – the water was higher than the windows and 2/3’s of the way up the shed
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This one is an optical illusion – it looks like the boat fell into a hole

Tomorrow we will head into Charleston, one of our favorite spots along the ICW.  I do see one 77 degree day in the forecast, so we are looking forward to that! M&G&H

Safe in Annapolis

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Goodbye, New England!

We have been getting tons of emails and texts from our friends and family wondering where we are with Florence headed for the East Coast.  Thanks to Gary’s meteorological skills and some consultation with our own personal meteorogologist, Kevin Bowley, we decided to get the hell out of Block Island and get to the Cheasapeake asap.  So on Wednesday, September 5, we left Block Island (never even got to go ashore since our plan was to stay another day – we had arrived from Menemsha on Martha’s Vineyard the night before).  We figured that if we didn’t leave then, we were going to be up in the Long Island Sound area for at least another two weeks, and the weather in the Fall along the Atlantic coast can get nasty, hurricane or no hurricane.  We went almost the entire way along Long Island Sound to the Huntington area (south shore).  Long day number one!

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View from Menemsha
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Sculpture on beach at Menemsha

The next morning, we were up at 6:30 and off through the East River.

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Lost some time trying to find a conveniently located place to get diesel fuel and finally found some very close to the Statue of Liberty at Liberty Marina on the New Jersey side.

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We then continued down to Barnegat Bay – winds were supposed to be south (on the nose) at 8 knots.  Unfortunately, they built to 20 – and of course so did the waves along with it.  So after hobby-horsing for a while, we finally pulled into our anchorage just as the sun was going down.  Good thing we had been in and out of there several times before, since it is a very shallow anchorage.  Long day number 2!

The next morning (9/7), we started early again and headed farther down the coast towards Cape May.

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Cape May Light

The winds had shifted to the north and were behind us, so it was quite a nice ride but we needed to have the motor on with the sails up to make good time.  We decided to turn up the Delaware River and get as far up as we can, because the forecast was NOT good for the next few days.  The farther we got from the Atlantic, the better – waves were forecast for 9 feet the next day!  We did go through a few thunderstorms – one was literally overhead – no time for “1001, 1002” between the lightning and the thunder – it was crash, bang, boom all at once.  A little unnerving, to say the least.  Fortunately, we managed to miss the worst of the storms and had a peaceful night at the anchorage.  Long day number 3!

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Thunderstorm in the Delaware River – we missed most of this one

Another early morning as we went the rest of the way up the Delaware River to the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal and through it to the Bay.  The Bay was kind of ugly!  Even though the winds were behind us, the chop was pretty bad, and as the day wore on, the winds kept building.  The anchorage we had anticipated staying at on the Sassafras River was NOT a good choice.  So we said to hell with it, and kept going to Annapolis.  By the Bay Bridge, it was blowing 30.  It rained almost the whole day and whole night.  Long day number 4!

So here we are – on a mooring ball in Back Creek in Annapolis.  The mooring ball is a good choice because any rising water/storm surge will not affect us.  If you are at a marina and the water rises too much, you can literally run out of dock!  The Harbormaster has prohibited anchoring in the Creek during all this rain and impending wind, so we were very lucky to pick up a ball.  We are presently booked on it through Sunday.

One of our favorite weather apps (free!), called “Windy” (used to be called WindyTV for some reason) is now our most utilized site.  If you’re not familiar with it, you may want to check it out since you can see weather patterns all over the world.  Here’s a picture of Florence on it’s way.

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We promise to stay safe and will let you know if there are any dramatic changes.  Otherwise, we plan on staying put through Columbus Day.  Thanks to everyone for all their concern!  M&G&H xo

Happy Two-Year Anniversary to Us!

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Hard to believe it is two years today that we sailed away from Youngstown, New York and began our live-aboard lifestyle.  In some ways it seems like yesterday, and then sometimes it seems a distant memory.  Our other milestone is having traveled over ten thousand miles!  We will celebrate this evening with a bottle of Piper Heidsieck and a rack of lamb – yum!

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We thank all our family and friends for their love and support along the way.  For those who ask: no, we are not tired of this life, and we are still enjoying living on the boat.  At least two out of the three of us, anyway.  I think Hobie, although perfectly happy, would prefer to be running around in a much larger space.  But he only gets one vote, so we win!

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Thought I’d share some pictures from Nantucket, although we are currently on Block Island and headed west.  Weather is not looking very promising as we try to head back to Annapolis, but we will play it safe.  More bloggery soon!   M&G&H xoxo

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Finally!

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Apologies to those who have asked “where’s your blog?”.  We have been computer-less for almost two months, and I haven’t been able to write since we got back to Annapolis in June.  After having it repaired once (which took forever), it promptly died four days later and then we finally got it fixed again.  Very happy to have it back and working properly.  I suppose I could have written one on my iPad, but all my photos are on my camera, and I think my blogs would be pretty boring without pix!  Anyway, as I write this, we are anchored off Nantucket.  I will do my best to capsulize the past few months and give you only the highlights (or lowlights!).

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Coming up the ICW from St. Augustine was uneventful, except for finding occasional sandbars along the way.  Got some nice pictures of the local fauna.

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And some not so nice – big green headed horseflies that take big chunks out of you!  We rolled down our screens and were very happy.

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We got into Annapolis on June 16 and were glad to see our friends at our home away from home.  On June 21, we hauled the boat out to have the bottom power washed and to finally put on our repaired prop (which you may recall had been damaged in the ICW when we hit a submerged log in the fall).  One night, it was quite warm, and we can’t run our air conditioning when the boat is out of the water since it’s water cooled.  We had all the hatches open.  At 4:30 am, Hobie drops INTO the forward V berth hatch, right where we were sleeping.  Needless to say, we were surprised, since we always close and latch the doors in the companionway so he can’t go out on deck at night (we leave about a three-inch crack in the slider that pulls across the top for air).  But the little monkey apparently climbed out through the forward hatch while we were fast asleep.  So I jump out of bed to see if I had indeed closed the doors (and I had), and there was a dead bird at the bottom of the stairs!  Needless to say, I wasn’t happy about that!  Now we are totally puzzled.  How did he catch a bird in the middle of the night on the boat?  Finally, after we put two and two together, we realized that he had climbed out of the forward hatch window, jumped off the transom of the boat (about 8 feet in the air in the jack stands), proceeded to have a whale of a time running around the marina grounds, killed a poor defenseless bird and was so proud that he had to bring it back to show off to Mom and Dad.  Which means that when he got back to the boat, HE CLIMBED THE 15 FOOT LADDER!!!!!  Then realizing that the doors were closed, he dropped the bird through the 3 inch space and proceeded to walk to the front of the boat and jump back in the same hatch he had originally escaped from.  But we couldn’t quite wrap our heads around him climbing the ladder until the next night, on his nightly walk around the grounds, we got back to the boat and I turned to him and said “go ahead – show me how you did this!” and he did!  Just climbed all the way up like he’d done it a thousand times.  I was half proud and half pissed (because of the dead bird)!  Amazing!  Not only was I amazed that he climbed the ladder, but how he knew to climb back onto OUR boat as opposed to all the other boats around us is mindblowing.  Needless to say, we now pull the screens across on the hatches before going to bed.

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This is the ladder he climbed up!

A few days later, our friends Jim and Julie Carminati were bringing their son, Jack, to the Naval Academy, and offered us a ride home.  We jumped at the opportunity (since our boat was still out of the water on the hard) and had three days there before renting a car and driving back.  Great to see Dad and some of our friends at the memorial service for our very beloved Duff.  When we arrived back in Annapolis, it was so disgustingly hot that we had to move in with our friends Garth and Sue, who generously allowed us to bring Hobie, since he was dealing with the heat worse than both of us.

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While we were there, the magnolia trees were in bloom, and they were absolutely stunning.

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On Tuesday, July 8, we finally leave Annapolis.  New prop was on, the bottom had a fresh coat of paint, gelcoat had been touched up by the famous Gelcoat Kate, and the boat looked beautiful………………………………………..

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for ONE DAY.  After going north of the Chesapeake, through the C-D Canal, and into the Delaware River, we hit rocks after rounding an island to anchor for the night.  NOT PRETTY.  But it could have been a whole lot worse.  We were all sitting down when it happened, so none of us were hurt (as in me, Gary and the cat).  The first thing I do is run down below and start ripping up floor boards to see if we are taking on water.  Fortunately we were not.  We managed to get ourselves off the rocks and got safely into the anchorage for the night.  The next morning, we went north, back to Delaware City Marina and got hauled out to assess the damage.  Our freshly repaired prop was a mess!  And there was a nice bite out of the rudder, along with some various scratches on the keel and bottom of the boat.

The before and after pix of the prop are mind blowing.

Except for the prop, Gary was able to do all the repair work himself.  We rented a car, rented a hotel room that was pet friendly, and just dealt with it.  Poor Gary was dying working in the heat, but we managed to enjoy ourselves on the last night there by meeting our friends Mike and Nancy at Longwood Gardens, where I was a picture-taking whackadoo.  The flowers and water lilies were amazing, and then there was a fantastic fountain light show, all set to music.  A nice end to three somewhat miserable days.

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So after three days, we got back in the water and were on our way again.  Hobie was a little sad, because he really enjoyed the hotel!

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The rest of our trip (down to Cape May, out into the Atlantic, through the East River and into Long Island Sound) was uneventful, although we saw large schools of stingrays, which was very cool.

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Cape May Light

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We were anchored in Port Jefferson on the north shore of the Sound, in bed reading (about 10:30 at night), when we hear a large commercial-sounding horn.  Sure enough, a tugboat had just pulled in a big barge and needed us to move so he could maneuver to a commercial mooring ball.  So here we were in the pitch black, pulling up anchor and trying to find a safe spot in a harbor that we are not familiar with – having not been there before.  We pull out the trusty mega-watt spotlight and finally get comfortable for the night.  It’s always something!  All good learning experiences, though.

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A crab boat at sunrise

On July 18, we arrived inPortsmouth, RI where we have our second annual get together with my family.  It was a bit touch and go there for a while after hitting the rocks as to whether we would make it on time, but we did.  Once again, my sisters and family brought the RV with my Dad and we had fun having campfires at night and sailing and swimming during the day.  Dad still got in and out of the dinghy, just fine at 100 and a half.  My youngest great-nephew Ethan was doing the Floss on the paddleboard with Gary!

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Then it was on to Onset, Massachusetts in the fog almost the entire way.  Ugh.  Hate the fog.  Thank goodness for radar.  Even with the radar we were glued to the horizon to watch for oncoming boats.  They materialize out of nowhere and the radar only shows you a purple blob.  Your eyes start to imagine things.  Next day we were off through the Cape Cod Canal, which we timed perfectly – at one point we were doing 13.2 knots!

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Then up to Provincetown, which we just love.

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They have the most amazing and freshest seafood. We bought sole and I made Sole Meuniere, which was to die for.  And we had scallop and tuna sashimi – Hobie was very interested!

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I just loved paddleboarding with the large Gray Seals in the anchorage – they pop their heads up and watch you go by.  No whales this year though.

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At various points over the next few weeks, we were lucky to connect with various friends on the Cape.  We really enjoyed seeing Tony and Sue Byrne, our fellow liveaboards whose boat is currently in Europe.  Exchanging stories with them was so interesting – we probably could have yacked for days.  We picked up a mooring ball in Quisset (where we caught the Cape Cod Trolley and rode to Falmouth and Woods Hole) and went out to watch the classic Herreshof dinghies race.  Just beautiful.

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After a nice stay at Hadley Harbor on Naushon Island, we headed back to Portsmouth, RI where we left the boat on a mooring ball while we drove home to deal with our unruly tenants at our duplex in Lewiston.  We had our fingers crossed that the solar panels would charge our batteries sufficiently to keep our fridge and freezer running properly while we were gone.  The capsulized version of our the state of our duplex upon our arrival was as follows:  DISASTER.  Disgusting.  Up and left literally everything – furniture, clothes, dirty dishes, photographs.  EVERYTHING.  We rented a dumpster (thank you, Chris Guard!), a veteran who was looking for work and his girlfriend who cleaned, and went to task – painting, fixing, cleaning, you name it, we did it.  We were there from August 12 and finally got back to the boat on August 24 at 1 am.  Unfortunately, we hardly got to see any of our friends since we worked non-stop and were exhausted most of the time.  I do have pictures of the mess, but you sure as hell don’t want to see them!  The good news was that, when we got back to the boat, the batteries were at 99.2% and the boat, the fridge and freezer were just fine.  If you know anyone who wants to rent a nice place in the Village of Lewiston, let us know – it’s immaculate again.

So that brings you up to August 24 and I’ll stop there for now, since this is interminable!  Thanks to all of you who expressed interest in hearing of our further adventures.  I’ll try to be better now that the computer is behaving again.  Love to all, Melanie, Gary & Hobie the crazy cat xo

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Spring!

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We have been back in the US for a month now, and it has been jam-packed ever since we got here.  After our wonderful crossing from the Bahamas, we promptly ran aground in the Port St. Lucie Inlet.  We have been in and out of that inlet several times with no problems at all, but apparently it is notorious for its shifting sands with all the rivers that come together there.  Fortunately, after hoisting both sails and playing the waiting game, we were able to get ourselves off.

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A typical house in the Port St. Lucie area

The next morning, we traveled further into the inlet, without a problem.  There we connected with our good friends from Youngstown – Bill and Linda Goller.  They are the couple that has been cruising for 25 years.  After traveling up and down the east coast every spring and summer for the past few years, they decided to buy a house in Florida, where they will spend their winters, and leave their boat in Maine, where they will spend their summers.  They took us to their new house, which is absolutely gorgeous and huge!!

 

Linda had some plants growing in the courtyard and I took a picture of this little guy hanging out on a leaf.

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Then we were off to Fort Pierce to catch up with the friends that we had made in the Bahamas – John & Kathi.  They were the ones who taught Gary how to find and catch lobsters, for which we are eternally grateful!  (I think we have one big lobbie left in the freezer.)  We sat through several storms over the next few days – pretty dark skies!!

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Evening storm off Titusville anchorage

We were then on a mission to get to St. Augustine by May 1 to get our dodger and bimini completely replaced.  Our next stop was in Vero Beach for a quick overnighter.  I had a great paddleboard around the anchorage, where I saw a boat from Prinyer’s Cove in the Bay of Quinte (where we spent many summers as we traveled up to the Thousand Islands) and met some people from Etobicoke (near Toronto), and had several dolphin encounters as they swam nearby.  Small world – especially in the sailing community.  Next up was Titusville – kind of a strange town with not much to do along the waterfront, although we did walk about a mile and a half to a great restaurant called Dixie Crossroads, where they had excellent rock shrimp and gave you all-you-can-eat fritters (which are kind of like airy, not as sweet Dunkin’ Munchkins, topped with powdered sugar).  YUM!  Good thing we walked three miles to burn them off.

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After a quick overnight visit to New Smyrna Beach to see our friends Jean and Sandy, we then stayed in Palm Coast before heading to St. Augustine.  We actually arrived a day early, so our planning for arrival had been good.  After meeting with our canvas people from Cooper’s Canvas on May 1, all the canvas was removed on May 2.  The boat looked so different with it all down!  It was hotter than blazes with nothing to protect you from the sun.  I can’t imagine not having a bimini when you’re down south, although up north you are happy to let the sun shine on you.

Life at Camachee Cove Marina was good.  They have a pool, laundry, a grocery store and several restaurants within walking distance, and best of all, a courtesy car that you can borrow for up to two hours a day.

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A typical Florida marina – full of big-bowed fishing boats

Hobie was a happy camper and decided that it might be a good idea to get friendly with the neighbors.  A few times he jumped off our boat and went down below for a visit on theirs.  Fortunately, Dom and Carol (on a beautiful Tayana) just loved him.

Since all the canvas decisions were made, Gary and I rented a car and drove across the state to visit our good friends, Stan and Shirley, and to see Nicki.  Nicki is doing well and was happy to get fresh pistachios and corks to chew up.  Hobie was happy to be in a house again and got along a lot better with their dog, Beau, this time.  Elaine and Howard Ledder drove up for a visit, and we had Sahlen’s hot dogs with Weber mustard and reminisced about Western New York and the good times we had together there.  Stan and Shirley have pineapples growing in their front yard!

 

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Loving his corks!

After we got back from our trip across the state, I flew home to see my Dad in Lewiston.  I could not have timed it better for all the spring flowers and flowering trees.  Spring was always my favorite time back home.  Although most of the daffodils had come and gone, everything else was fabulous.  Some of these pictures are from Dad’s garden and some are from our friends’ home (Michael & Sheila) in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

 

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I was fortunate to see lots of friends while I was home, and it was good to be back at the Youngstown Yacht Club and see so many familiar faces.  There was so many other people that I wish I could have caught up with – a week was just too short to fit everything in.  It was a beautiful sunset on the Friday night that I was at the Club.  We have seen a lot of sunsets on the water, and Youngstown still has the best (I didn’t make any color adjustments to this photo).

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Flying back was pretty much a nightmare.  They canceled my morning flight and rescheduled it for 6 pm the same night.  Southwest left my luggage (duffel bags) in the pouring rain when they transferred them for the BWI to JAX flight, and TSA split the zipper on one of them and cinched it together with a very expensive leather Tumi shoulder strap (someone must have been really ticked off to lose that!).  Several pieces of clothing were dragged through the rain, grime, and colors leached from goodness knows where – not to mention being wet from sitting in the rain.  I’m still battling with OxyClean trying to get all the stains out.  It also totally screwed up my pick-up from the airport, as Gary was going to use the courtesy car to come and get me.  Instead, I had to Uber at 11 pm, costing me $55.  Flying is NOT FUN anymore.  But it was worth it all to see Dad, who is still doing amazingly well at 100+.

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Dad’s house in Lewiston

When I got back, it rained EVERY SINGLE DAY for a week.  Some days it rained ALL day, but most of the time the morning and evenings were okay.  The the humid afternoons resulted in lots of thunderstorms.  Good thing the new canvas was up!  We love it — they did a great job.  We had a tough time deciding on color.  Apparently, the darker the color of the material, the longer it takes to deteriorate in the sun.  This seemed totally counter-intuitive to us, but several canvas shops told us that.  We were thinking of navy blue, but when Justyn from Cooper’s Canvas took us on to a boat with navy canvas, he had us take our hands and put them several inches from the top to feel the heat.  Then we went on a boat that had the same shade of gray that we had.  It was much cooler.  Since we spend a lot of time in our cockpit, we opted for the slate gray again, but added a textured trim to kick it up a notch.  Pictures don’t really do it justice, but here’s one with it all done and the sides (with screens) down.

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Since refrigeration has been such a huge issue for us since we left Youngstown (daily conversation goes something like this:  Gary:  “What are we having for dinner? Mel:  “I don’t know; why don’t I check and see what’s defrosted that shouldn’t be????” and that would answer the question!), we knew we had to do something.  We finally decided to buy a separate freezer; they have ones that run on DC with a really low draw.  So we bought a pretty large one and put it in the “garage” (our third cabin).  We LOVE it!  I promptly got the courtesy car, hit Sam’s Club, and loaded that baby up with beef tenderloin, rack of lamb, pork tenderloin, salmon, tuna, flounder, butter and ICE CREAM!  Such a relief to have bigger freezer space and not have the constant worry of losing food.  Other than milk, fruit and veggies, I won’t have to do any serious shopping until we reach Annapolis.

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They installed a green buoy to keep boats away from this sunken sailboat – it was just outside one of the bridges in the ICW in the main channel.  One of the many, unfortunately.

 

We left St. Augustine on May 24th – a week ahead of our anticipated canvas schedule.  We went “outside” and into the ocean for 80 miles from St. Augustine to Brunswick, GA, then back into the ICW, arriving at the South Carolina Yacht Club on the 26th.  Today (May 27th) it is pouring with rain again – although the past week has been been excellent weather.  We are experiencing the remnants of Alberto.  Hopefully, it won’t be a summer of hurricane dodging!

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Morning light in anchorage on Kilkenny Creek in Georgia

 

We wish everyone a happy Memorial Day – hope you have sunny skies, wherever you are!  M&G&H xo

Over 8,000 miles!

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Having fun at Tahiti Beach!!

Since we left on September 4, 2016, we have traveled over 8,000 miles on the boat.  Very hard to believe!  We are back in Florida as I write this; we crossed the Gulf Stream from Memory Rock to Port St. Lucie, Florida on April 19 (Happy Birthday, MA!) and it was a great trip (more on that later).  But before I get into details on that, I will backtrack with a brief overview of our last month in the Bahamas and lots of pictures.

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After picking up my sister, Moira, and her husband, Michael in Nassau, we turned around and headed south again down the Exuma chain of islands.  Since they were flying out of George Town, we had one week to get back there in time for our flight.  After stops in Allan’s Cay to see the iguanas, we stopped at Shroud Cay and did the beautiful dinghy ride to the other side of the island.

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Then it was off to Warderick Wells, part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park, where we were lucky to get the prime mooring ball in front of the beach.

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That’s us – front row seat!
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A small nurse shark swam right by us in less than two feet of water

And of course we had to revisit Boo Boo Hill.  We sat and had a rest at the top.

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Gary and Moira at the top of Boo Boo Hill

The paraphenalia had increased in size at the top of the hill, and we had no luck trying to locate our piece of driftwood from the year before.

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We had a great snorkel – Moira was a bit nervous at first, so off she went, hand in hand with Gary till she felt comfortable.

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After lunch at Staniel Cay (we skipped swimming with the pigs – that place is a madhouse!), we headed to Cambridge Cay, where we snorkeled in the caves.  They are amazing inside. You have to make sure you go in at low tide to be safe.

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Moira and Michael loved all the beaches – they were blown away by the beauty of the Bahamas, and said, for once, it was better than all the promotions of the islands.

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Off to Galliott Cay, where Gary snagged the biggest lobster yet.  The tail alone weighed 1 1/4 pounds!  Gary grilled the body and dug a small amount of meat out of the legs, which is only worth doing if it’s a big lobster.  We steamed the lobster and cut it into chunks; then I made a sun-dried tomato cream sauce and put the whole thing over rice.  Super yummy!  It fed the four of us, no problem.  The lobster season ends on March 31 and doesn’t reopen until August.

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By March 21, we were back at Emerald Bay Marina to drop Moira and Mike off for their flight.  We headed back to George Town to re-provision before Ross and Mary Alice arrived at Sandals.  We had a great time with them and, once again, they treated us to a day pass – so much fun to be spoiled and not have to cook all day!  Ross and MA said it is one of the prettiest Sandals they have been to – and they have been to a lot!  We wanted to go for a day sail, but it was quite windy and choppy all week, so unfortunately it was not to be.  But we enjoyed the food, the booze, the pool and definitely the company.

And then we were off, headed back north to Nassau again, to pick up Nancy and Mike Bowley.  Mike & Nancy were with us last year in the Exumas, so this year we decided to head to the Abacos, since we needed to start heading further north anyway.  I have to say that the highlight of the trip north for me was seeing a Caribbean Reef Squid – it was amazing.

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We also went to Bitter Guana Cay for the first time, where they had iguanas (only a couple of islands in the Bahamas have iguanas) and this “gi-normous” limestone hill.

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Very cool colors on the iguana – lots of pink
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The limestone is what makes the sand such a beautiful color

Back at Cambridge Cay, we were treated to what was probably the most vivid rainbow I have ever seen.  It looked like the rainbow ended right on the beach in front of us (I should have dinghied over and looked for the pot of gold!)

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It was a double rainbow too (look to the far right) and they both were a full arch over the anchorage – pretty spectacular

The bright sunshine and the dark sky created fabulous light for pictures.

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One of the mega yachts in the Cambridge Cay anchorage with us

After stops at Hawksbill Cay (best paddleboarding ever – so calm – I could see starfish, sponges and nurse sharks as I paddled along) and Norman Island, we crossed to New Providence (Nassau) to pick up Mike and Nancy Bowley, who had visited us last year in the Exumas.  After considering traveling north to the Berry Islands, we decided that the wind speed and the shallow depths would mean little protection, so we crossed to Royal Island Harbor in Eleuthera (30 miles to the east) and then the next day to Little Harbor in the Abacos (52 miles to the north).  Both long days, but fortunately both were very comfortable trips.  At one point, the water below us was more than three miles deep – I can’t even comprehend that!  Off we went to Little Harbor, where we promptly headed off to Pete’s Pub, one of our favorite spots in the Bahamas.

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Gary joins the peanut gallery

Nancy and I had fun looking at all the hermit crabs walking around the bar.  Stupid me decided to rescue one, which had climbed quite high on some screen netting and I thought it might fall.  I was rewarded by being pinched severely and it would not let go!  I was screaming “ouch, ouch” and running around the restaurant trying to get it off my finger — glad it was one of the small ones!  Gary was laughing so hard he was crying.

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Fortunately, this is NOT the one that bit me – it had really outgrown its shell!
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Nancy on the beach in Little Harbor

Nancy realized that she could not find her good photochromic (change with the light) prescription glasses and couldn’t remember seeing them since we were in Royal Harbor.  Fortunately, she had a back up pair off regular glasses and sunglasses, so she made do with those.  We looked everywhere, but to no avail.

We had a spectacular snorkel off Lynard Cay the next morning.

We spent a few nights going further north, and eventually pick up a mooring ball in Great Guana Cay.  We had a lot of fun at Nippers and Grabbers, drinking heavily and walking the beach.

When we got back to the boat after a great day, Mike decided to go paddleboarding.  As he and I lifted the paddleboard off the foredeck to lower it into the water, underneath were Nancy’s glasses!!  Apparently, while we were in Royal Harbor four days before, we had gone up to the foredeck to look at the stars (in the pitch black and after a few Goombay Smashes, I might add) and Nancy must have taken them off and set them down up there.  How in the world they did not get washed off during the crossing or subsequent downpours is beyond all of us.  We were all very relieved.

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A beautiful Bahamian home on Elbow Cay

And then it was off to Hope Town on Elbow Cay.  When we come to Hope Town in November/December, there is usually plenty of room in the mooring field, but April is a VERY busy time there.  The VHF radio chatter was sounding grim about getting inside and getting a ball.  We circled around and it was PACKED.  Just as we were starting to head back outside, we noticed a small mooring ball very close to the town side.  We weren’t sure if it was big enough, but we snagged it and waited for someone to come by and say that it was either reserved or that our boat was too big.  Nothing – we were safe!  And it was the ONLY available ball in the whole field.  Off we went to the lighthouse and a tour of the town, breathing a sigh of relief.

We took a long walk down the beach at Hope Town.  It was interesting to come across a series of houses who were not doing well with their battle with sea and sand.  I spoke with one person working on a home, and he said “you don’t want to own one of these, you just want to rent”.  The stairs to the beach were literally disappearing into the sand.

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This was our favorite sign as we walked around the quaint town.

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Mike, Nancy and Gary decided to go for a swim while I paddled and walked the beach.  At one point, I turn around and see all three of them, walking around waist deep, staring down into the water – Nancy had her glasses (the same ones she lost before) knocked off by a wave!  I hurried back and we started the search, without much hope of finding them.  The three of them waded in the area where they had been knocked off – I waded on the shore where the surf crashed on to the beach.  Just as we were about to give up hope, I see what I think are the glasses, but they quickly disappeared from view.  Gary hurried over but I told him not to move in case he stepped on them.  We stood there for a minute, and all of a sudden Gary reaches down to his ankle and picks up the glasses – they snagged on his foot on an incoming wave.  Very relieved!!  We promptly walked to one of the local gift shops, where Nancy bought herself a eyeglass tether.  She wasn’t willing to try her luck at losing them a third time around!

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Mike enjoying a swim in the waves

Our luck continued as we literally got the last available golf cart for the next day.  Most of the rental companies only rent for one week duration during peak season, but I was lucky enough to snag a one day rental from a new company.  We realized that we had even more good luck when the man came around to collect the money for the mooring ball – apparently, it had been reserved but they had called and cancelled – unbelievable.  Off we went to Tahiti Beach, with a stop for lunch at the Abaco Inn (best tuna tacos ANYWHERE).

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Nancy and Mike loved Hope Town and the Abacos just as all our other visitors have.  After one last margarita at a great bar called “On Da Beach”, we headed out for dinner at Wine Down, Sip Sip.

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But as with all our visitors, the trip ends too soon, and they flew out of Marsh Harbor and back to the cold.

We made our way further north in anticipation of crossing the Gulf Stream – we noticed a potential window towards the end of the week.  We decided that Thursday was going to be the day – winds out of the southeast at about ten mph, so we had to cover some ground to get to the crossing spot – Memory Rock.  Memory Rock is literally in the middle of nowhere in the Bahama Bank.  I have to say that it is a little surreal to drop your anchor in the middle of nowhere (in twelve feet of water) with no land in sight and spend the night there.  We could see two other boats anchored, way off in the distance, but that was it.  If you find Memory Rock on the chart below, you can see West End at the tip of the land to the south.  That is usually where we cross to when we leave West Palm Beach.  By being further north, we can land further north, at Port St. Lucie.  A 66 mile day – not bad, and it was a great crossing.

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We were both very sad to have our last Bahama swim in the unbelievably clear blue water and broke open a bottle of bubbly to celebrate our last day there.

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Farewell, Bahamas!

I leave you with a collage of flora and fauna that I have snapped along the way.  Thanks for reading and thanks for sending comments – I love hearing from you all.  Melanie, Gary & Hobie the cat xoxo

 

 

 

Back in Familiar Territory

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Sundown at Cambridge Cay

Hideously behind on blogging!  February just flew by.  We left Eleuthera on February 5 and headed through Exuma Sound over to Cambridge Cay through Conch Cut, which is located in the Exuma chain of the islands.  Picking the right cut through the islands is crucial – if there is too much wind and current, some of them can be quite nightmarish – white knuckles all around!  Even mine, and I’m not steering – haha.  So cuts are picked carefully for the best tide and current times to be safe.  Shortly after we arrived at Cambridge Cay, one of our blue West Marine chairs decided to go walkabout (a very breezy day – it just blew right off the boat), so Gary had to go chase it down in the dinghy.

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Cambridge Cay has some excellent snorkeling spots.  One spot is called “The Aquarium” and is just wonderful because so many fish, coral and sponges are packed into one site.  We love snorkeling there.

Starting at the top and then going left to right, that is a Tiger Tail Sea cucumber (yuck – they creep me out!), a Queen Triggerfish, a Yellow Tube Sponge, a Common Sea Fan, a Brown Bowl Sponge with a Netted Barrel Sponge in the distance, a Lobed Star Coral, a Pink Vase Sponge (even though it’s gray/blue!), a Spotfin Butterfly Fish and a Queen Angelfish at the bottom left.  (We have great fish, coral and reef creature books on board; I also have a shell identification book and I recently acquired a bird book for the Bahamas and West Indies.)

Nearby, there is another snorkeling site that has a downed plane.  Gary dived down to take a closer look.

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We went for a walk across one of the islands to Bell Rock, which has hole in the middle of it.  Apparently, if it is extremely wavy and windy, the winds will blow through the hole — a horizontal blowhole!  If you look carefully through the hole, you can see a catamaran off in the distance.

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For the next couple of nights, we anchored off what used to be called Sampson Cay Yacht Club (they call a lot of marinas down here “yacht clubs”, but they have no affiliation whatsoever).  Apparently, the owner of the island got fed up dealing with the public and decided to shut the whole thing down and make it a private place for his family and friends.  But you can still anchor just off the shore.  The day finished well as Gary went snorkeling and came back with a large lobster (not such a good finish of the day for the lobster – haha).  It was about a 12-ounce tail.  The lobsters here are Spiny Lobsters and do not have claws.

The scenery around Sampson Cay is spectacular, and you can take your dinghy and go for miles through Pipe Cay.

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We found lots of good snorkeling as we headed further south to George Town, but no more lobster or fish.

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Still working on identifying these Gorgonians (aka Soft Corals)

If you look carefully, you can find these little worms that look like Christmas trees (hence the name!!) in all different colors.  They burrow into the coral; when you swim by, they will suddenly retract.

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A Christmas Tree Worm on a beautiful Golden Lobed Star Coral

This is what they look like when they retract.

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We left Emerald Bay on March 18th and head into George Town – about 12 miles to our south.  We didn’t have very good memories of George Town since this is where both Gary and the cat were ill.  Things could only get better!  And they did.  I started doing water aerobics every morning at 9 am and just loved it.  Why is it so much easier to do crunches underwater?  We discovered the “Chat n’ Chill”, which is where the cruisers hang out and get to know each other.

Gary actually felt energetic enough to play a few games of beach volleyball.  I’ll have to send his back doctor this picture!

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On February 27th, our good friends from back home, Gui and Patti, flew in to George Town.  Unfortunately, the airline sent his scuba gear bag to Chicago instead of Miami, so we lost a day waiting around for that to arrive.  We proceeded to head north and got as far as Little Farmer’s Cay before we had to turn around and head back to George Town for their flight out.  We jammed a lot into their too short visit!

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Gary and Gui went snorkeling at night several times and loved it.  Patti and I hung out on the boat and drank instead!

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We went to a beach near Square Rock which had a great blow hole – it was spectacular at high tide.  I couldn’t get too close for better pictures because of the risk of damaging my camera – the spray blew for quite a distance, and there were waves crashing just on the other side, as well.

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We went to Little Farmer’s Cay and found a great beach bar and then walked around the town.

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Every day we are just blown away by the colors down here.  I hope the pictures manage to capture some of it.  The Bahamas are a bright and sunny place.  It is a very easy going  — sometimes a little TOO easy going as you can see from the pictures below; you can just walk across the landing strip for the airport – no warning signs, nothing – road just goes right through it!

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Patti & Gui thought it was amazing that you could just walk down the street with a beer in hand on all of the islands that we visited.  No “No Dogs Allowed” signs on the beaches here, that’s for sure.

We stopped and snorkeled at the Mermaid Playing the Piano Sculpture.  Since we now have an underwater camera (I didn’t last year), Gary dived down and took pictures.  He surfaced laughing his head off – it appears that some coral had decided to grow in a very appropriate spot!

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We worked our way back to George Town; unfortunately, it was quite windy and the cuts were pretty bad.  Patti was not too fond of the ride through Rudder Cut Cay (not my favorite either, and Hobie sure wasn’t a fan!).  Once we got through it though, the sail down to George Town was not bad at all.

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The spindrift on top of the waves as they came ashore was spectacular

After Gui and Patti headed out on March 5, we started our trip north to Nassau on the 6th to pick up my sister, Moira, and her husband, Michael.  On route, we stopped back in Cambridge Cay to see our friends, Chuck and Carmen, who are volunteering for two months.  They go around to all the boats and collect mooring and anchoring fees.  Exuma Land and Sea Park just instituted a fee for anchoring, which a lot of cruisers are up in arms about.  It is $.50 a foot, unless you’re over 90 feet long, which is a $1.00 a foot (and if you can afford a 90 foot boat, I’m sure you don’t care!).  We tend to pick up a mooring ball, since it’s $30 for the ball and $25 to anchor, and we don’t dig up the sea bottom.

While we were there, there was a man named Mark Sully on his Cabo Rico 47 – an absolutely gorgeous sailboat.  He was quite the performer and played the guitar, the harmonica and sang.  Chuck and Carmen invited him to play on one of the Cambridge Cay beaches, and a bunch of cruisers went ashore and listened.  He sang some amazing songs – very few that we had heard of, except a couple of my favorites by Harry Belafonte.  Great to sit there, listen to live music, and watch the sun go down.

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We headed off to Nassau to pick up my sister and brother-in-law, Moira and Michael, who arrived on March 13.  I think I’ll sign off here so that I can send this out and hopefully I will get more up to date soon!

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Just another spectacular deserted beach!