Fast Forward …………………

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Goodbye, beautiful blue water!!!

This is a quick fast forward to the present, as we have crossed back to the US.  It is hard to believe that we were in the Bahamas for six months.  We sailed there on November 13, 2018, and arrived back in the US on May 6.  The trip went, for the most part, very well (although I was extremely cranky about leaving), until we were ten miles off the St. Lucie Inlet, which is where we enter to get into the ICW.  The skies grew darker and darker, and we still had no internet or phone service to try to determine what lay ahead.

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A classic front – bearing straight down on us

We finally were able to pick up a weather channel on our VHF (NOAA Weather Wadio – inside joke for Lake Ontario boaters!), and it was gloom and doom.  Wind gusting to 50 mph, water spouts, heavy lightning and thunder – you name it.  Gotta love it when they tell you to get to shore immediately – fat chance of that happening!  There we were – with nowhere to go.  It was coming out of the northwest – right towards us.  After trying to head south, we realized that the best thing we could do was just turn right into it and get through it as quickly as possible.

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It was SO DARK when we were right in the middle of it

The lightning and thunder were directly overhead – I was pretty much shaking like a leaf!  Hobie, on the other hand, was very calm up in the cockpit, tucked into his little beehive bed.  Once we got into the actual front, the winds kicked up to about 35 mph, but the seas weren’t bad, so that was a plus.  And amazingly enough, there was a little clearing that Gary found and we fought our way to that spot as quickly as we could.  Our actual time in the worst of front itself was only about ten minutes.  And the boat got a nice fresh water rinse!

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It’s actually a breathtaking sight – beautiful and scary, all at the same time

What do they say – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?  Anyway, we are safe and sound back in the US and back to brown muddy water, dodging bridges in the ICW.  Will catch up more soon!

Three New Islands

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On March 12, we finally departed the Exumas and head for Long Island.  Friends that we met in Annapolis, Dennis and Karen on their catamaran, joined us on the trip.

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It was a beautiful day – flat water, which meant no wind to sail, but we are happy to motor along and watch the fish and creatures in the clear blue water beneath us.  At one point, we drop anchor and Dennis and Gary snorkel to see if there’s any lobsters or lionfish to be had, but no luck.  No free dinner that night!

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This was our first trip to Long Island and the farthest south we have been in the Bahamas.  We have been wanting to go there every year, but between weather issues and friends coming and going, it wasn’t in the cards.  We drop our anchor in Thompson Bay; there are several other cruising boats there, but it was not crowded by any means.  It is an extremely friendly place, with a “Cruisers’ Net” in the morning, which lasts all of 10 minutes, as opposed to the 45+ minute one in Georgetown.  Turns out we are just in time for the Second Annual Muttonfest!!  Long Island is quite agricultural, compared to most of the other islands, which have little to no soil, so they actually have sheep and goats grazing on the land.  They even had a Farmers’ Market each Saturday!

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The Muttonfest is your typical local “field days” – without the mechanical rides.  There are lots of little pop-up restaurants serving mutton in ways that you would never dream of (would you dream of serving mutton to begin with??) – like Mutton Curry!  Mutton Souse is also a biggie, which means it has been boiled, so it’s stew like.  The Bahamians are known for their Fish Souse, which they often enjoy for breakfast (me, not so much).   Karen goes for the Curry, and although the flavor is good, the meat is chewy and there’s not a lot of it.  Gary and I opt for the lobster bites instead – always a safe bet.  There were bands, speeches, and the kids did the Maypole Plaiting, which is a very British thing (I used to do it in school in England) where they weave different colors around from the top of the maypole (basically, a flag pole).

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The next day we rented a car and drove around the island.  We traveled south to the town of Hamilton, which is where the caves are located.  We love caves!  They are located on private property, so you have to call ahead and arrange for a guided tour by the owner.  Quite the character, but he knew a lot of history of the caves, since he used to play in them as a child.  Apparently, they are super safe from the effects of a hurricane, and people often use them for shelter.  The pictures below are all with natural lighting – there was no artificial lighting in the caves.  We each carried a large flashlight to illuminate as we walked.

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There were all kinds of bats in the caves – we found three different types.  One type was really tiny – a Funnel Eared Bat – only about an inch long.  This is a really fuzzy picture, but it was pulled off the GoPro, which Gary had put up into the hole in the ceiling of the cave.  One clearly didn’t like the light and came flying out.

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There were also SPIDERS with huge webs in there.  The most bizarre one we saw was a Golden Silk Orb Weaver – or more commonly referred to as a Banana Spider.  Very creepy but colorful with bright blue in its legs (which doesn’t show up that well in this picture because of the light).  Its bite is considered venomous but not deadly, just in case you were inclined to touch it – NOT!

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What is that white face mask thing?????  Looks like a hockey goalie helmet!

And walking around, you had to be careful not to step on the occasional hermit crab.  This one had taken over a West Indian Top Knot shell.

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And there were crabs hiding in the rocks – although you had to look very hard to find them.  This one was definitely keeping his eye on us!

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Then we headed farther south to see Dean’s Blue Hole.  An ocean blue hole is one that is completely surrounded by water (there are blue holes on land, too) with an entrance below the water level.  Up until just recently, it was considered the world’s deepest ocean blue hole (a new one, Dragon Hole, was discovered in 2016 in the South China Sea). Dean’s Blue Hole is 663 feet deep and is the annual venue for Vertical Blue, a freediving competition.  Sadly, there is a memorial to the people who have died at the hole – it can be a treacherous place to dive.  Gary and Dennis snorkeled it, but Karen and I wimped out since we didn’t want to spend the remainder of the day encrusted in salt!  We just enjoyed the view from above and from the beach.

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The black accumulation on the water is just dried Sargassum weed

Next stop was Clarence Town, which I have to say we were quite disappointed in – there was absolutely nothing going on.  Could barely find a bar to get a beer!  But the church, built by the same man who built The Hermitage on Cat Island – John Hawes, was quite spectacular, although it was locked up tightly so we didn’t get to see the insides.

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After leaving Thompson Bay, we sailed farther north and dropped anchor in Miller Bay, where we had the rare treat of going out for dinner.  A French chef churns out the most amazing meals there, and the four of us were happy for the break from cooking and doing dishes.  Who knew you could find a French restaurant in the middle of a sandy island!!

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One of the beautiful beaches as we drove north on the island

The next morning, we got up early to take full advantage of the 24 hours of our rental car and drove north to the Columbus Monument.

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Supposedly, the Monument marks the spot where Columbus and his crew first came ashore, although we all remarked on the fact that the actual spot must surely be on the beach – the monument is on top of a hill!  Regardless, it makes for an interesting landmark and it was a nice view from the top.

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Karen showing off her keen sense of balance!

After a quick overnight stop in Calabash Bay, we crossed to Conception Island, slightly northeast of Long Island.  Conception is part of the Bahamas Land and Sea Park, so it is a no-take zone (no fishing, no shelling, no “conch-ing”).  FINALLY, we got to go scuba diving!  Dennis is also a diver, so the three of us dived while Karen sat patiently in the dinghy (always good to have one person to be in the dinghy in case of an emergency).  It was spectacular.  We didn’t take our cameras with us, because we knew we would exceed their depth limits (we need to get the deeper water underwater housing for the GoPro).  I wasn’t super happy about that, especially when a school of HUGE Blue Parrotfish came swimming by us.  There were big barrel sponges, and a grouper who decided she (he?) liked Gary a lot and went everywhere with him.  Most of all, though, it was just wonderful to be diving again.  I am proud to say that I came back to the surface with the most air left in my tank.

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Gary, free diving, looking for lionfish

Then we were off to Rum Cay – supposedly home of the biggest lobsters in the Bahamas.  And they weren’t kidding!  After bagging a huge one the first day (the tail weighed 1 lb, 7 oz.), Gary then broke his record by catching an absolutely enormous one on the second day.  After he speared it, he had a hell of a time swimming back to the dinghy with it, it was so unwieldy and heavy.  When you spear something, it is very important that you immediately get it out of the water, which means holding your spear straight up in the air, giving you only one hand to swim with.  If you don’t, you can attract some very unwanted attention – first, a barracuda, which is not the worst threat to you, but they can snatch away your catch, or two, very hungry sharks.  And we won’t discuss that any further!  All show and tell pictures happen above the water.

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Back on the boat, we measured it – from the top of its antenna to its tail, it measured almost 40”, and it’s head was five and a half inches across.  The tail alone weighed 2 lbs, 2 oz.  I left my lovely pink painted toenails in the picture for size reference!

There’s not much on Rum Cay, but we, along with new friends – Christian and Sanja – and Dennis and Karen, all went ashore to the local all-in-one grocery store, liquor store, jewelry store and bar.  Beers were only $3 each!  Gary bought the locals a round and they were very friendly (even before he bought them a beer!).

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I made dinner that night – stretching our 1 lb 7 oz lobster amongst us by cutting it into chunks and putting it over rice with a sun-dried tomato cream sauce – super yummy!

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The weather was not looking very cooperative and we were growing tired of the rocky-rolly anchorage at Rum, so we decided it was time to head back to Georgetown.  The weather forecast was completely wrong (okay, they might have got the “mostly sunny” part right, but that’s pretty much a no-brainer here).  The winds were supposed to be 10-15 mph, but instead they were 18-22.  And choppy.  But we got through it all right and it eventually calmed down a bit after we passed Long Island.

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All in all, we were very happy to explore some new islands in the Bahamian chain.  Now we were looking forward to catching up with visiting friends and family for the next month.

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This is called a Pandanus utilis – or a screwpine – but not really a pine at all – bizarre looking!

 

 

 

TMI ……………

 

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My new favorite cocktail – a Rosemary Gin Fizz!

We left Cat Island on January 18 and headed for the Cambridge Cay Cut in the Exumas – a nice, uneventful crossing.

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Hobie snuggled on my lap for a good part of the crossing

We spent the next few days between Cambridge Cay, Sampson Cay and Warderick Wells.  Sampson Cay has a great stretch of sand that goes for miles, and Sue, Garth and I went for a long walk, collecting shells and taking pictures of the patterns, starfish and submerged sand dollars in the sand.

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I picked up several large Sunrise Tellins shells there – they look like butterflies.

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There was a get-together one night at one of the small islands in the Cambridge Cay area.  It is always interesting to meet up with other cruisers and see where they have been and what their future plans are.  Everyone goes armed with lots of boat cards to exchange.  Some cocktail get-togethers are BYO cocktails only; some request that you bring an hors d’ouevres to pass.  I always prefer the “drink only” kind, as you rack your brain trying to figure out what you can bring without depleting your valuable grocery resources.  It was a beautiful evening, and the silhouette of the children playing on the beach amongst the stone cairns built by visitors to the island was so pretty.

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Then we were off to Georgetown, as our good friends, Mike and Nancy, were arriving on February 2.  They were flying into Georgetown and out of Nassau.  After they arrived, we spent one day with them in Georgetown and then started heading north again.  We made the mistake of stopping at a bar for lunch on Little Farmer’s Cay en route – no prices listed and the bill for the four of us was $184!!! And it wasn’t even because of the alcohol – the food was just outrageous.  Lesson learned – ask for prices first!

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At Cambridge Cay, we hiked up the trail on the ocean side and had a great view of our anchorage on the other side.

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We stopped at Warderick Wells, which is a “no-take” land and sea park.  We have visited there many times but never get tired of it.  There was a small wreck about 20 feet from our boat that had a huge lobster (or two) living in it – he came out to visit.

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Then we were off to Shroud Cay.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, there is an amazing dinghy ride all through the mangroves.  It starts on the Bahama Bank side and ends up on the ocean side.  And when you get to the ocean side, you can jump in the water and float with the current.  We climbed to the top and looked down on the beautiful view below.

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The Super Bowl was on while Mike & Nancy were with us.  Since it starts so late, we didn’t want to be riding around in the dark (clocks had not changed by that point, so it was dark by about 6 pm).  Rather than sit down below, Gary dragged the big screen TV (okay – not THAT big – 32″, but pretty big for a boat!) up into the cockpit and we had our Super Bowl party up there.  No comments on the most boring game EVER, but we had fun watching it under the stars.

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After Mike and Nancy left on the 13th, we had a few days to kill prior to my sister and her husband (Tessa and Bill from Boston area) arriving on the 22nd.  We spent those days anchored off Shipwreck Cay, where Gary managed to snare two nice lobsters.  We also came across a shark swimming right in front of the small marina – they know where the fish cleaning stations are!

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When we went to New Providence to get Tessa and Bill, we decided to take Hobie for a check up.  Unfortunately, our favorite vet, Dr. Grant, was doing a rotation at Andros – there aren’t vets on every island, so they travel to the other islands to provide vet care on a rotating basis.  Hobie was a very good boy as he had his ears cleaned (we thought perhaps he had picked up some ear mites, but he hadn’t).  Even the vet couldn’t believe what a patient soul he was as she poked and prodded him – no claws, no teeth.  She said “my cats would NEVER stand for this!”.  He was quite the star in the waiting room, walking around on his leash and visiting all the dogs.

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Tessa and Bill arrived on the 22nd – such a great trip with a direct flight from Boston to Nassau.  It was their first time in the Bahamas; actually, it was their first time in the Caribbean area (strictly speaking, the Bahamas are not in the Caribbean Sea) but it was their first exposure to the tropics (they were in Bermunda for their honeymoon).  So back down the Exumas we went.  They were immediately blown away by the color of the water and the beautiful beaches.  We visited the iguanas at Allan’s Cay and saw the long-tailed white tropic birds at Shroud Cay, where we once again did the dinghy ride and swam in the current (so beautiful and so much fun – we never get tired of doing it!).  Saw a beautiful, albeit noisy, green heron and lots of turtles as we slowly moved through the mangrove creek.

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While the four of us were snorkeling at Warderick Wells, Gary came across a shark.  He tried to get our attention, but it is very difficult to hear when your ears are underwater, so he decided to follow it to get it on video.  As he followed it, the shark led him to THREE eagle rays swimming together.  The following photos are edited out of the GoPro and the rays are a bit far away, but I think you can see them pretty well.

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Pretty sure this is a Black Tip Shark
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These Eagle Rays are about 4 to 5 feet across with spots on their backs

We were very jealous and wished we had see them too!

While walking on the beach at Warderick Wells after doing the climb up Boo Boo Hill, I saw a sailboat coming in to pick up a mooring ball.  Unfortunately, the captain did not take the very swift current into consideration, and when he pulled a U-turn to approach the mooring ball at the correct angle, he miscalculated.  The end result was that he ended up being swept into the boat behind him – he just didn’t have enough control of the situation to avoid a collision.  We were the next in line, so we were happy it wasn’t us!  Fortunately, there wasn’t a lot of damage.  Gary went over to help them until the park ranger got there, and they eventually were able to get them apart.  We were poised to ditch our mooring ball and get out of there, just in case the whole shebang drifted down to us.

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And then about 4 pm one afternoon, after having a wonderful morning and afternoon snorkeling at the Sea Aquarium and downed plane, the s–t hit the fan – well, maybe not quite the fan, but one of the head’s hoses got completely clogged, and you can just imagine how much fun that was.  The hoses were so clogged that when we thought we were emptying the holding tanks (as I thought I had done the previous day), very little was coming out.  So now the tank was completely full with nowhere to go.  Gary tried to alleviate the issue by removing the hose running from the head to the tank, but that still did not do the trick.  So now he had to take out the whole holding tank.  Unfortunately, this was complicated by the fact that someone had thought it would be a good idea to wire-tie the hose to the inner trappings of the boat in an almost impossible place to reach.  By sheer luck he managed to get a knife through the tie and saw it off.  I will spare you any pictures of the whole fiasco!  Although I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, I was sure happy it was family on board.  Bill was a HUGE help to Gary, and it certainly kept everyone in better spirits by having company throughout the ordeal.  I would say the curse words were about 90% less than they would have been if it had just been the two of us dealing with it!

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A scene from the Sea Aquarium near Cambridge Cay

Unfortunately, the problem was not completely cured that night, but it was fully resolved by noon the next day.  Then off we went to snorkel the Thunderball Grotto and lunch at Staniel Cay Yacht Club before, so we managed to make the most out of both days even with the calamity.  Tessa and Bill were great sports throughout the whole thing and we thank them for that.  You are probably thinking TMI ……………. and I agree, but I just wanted to let you know that every day is not a bed of roses – there’s plenty of things that go wrong (some things a lot smellier than others!).  As our friend Tony said, the most frustrating part of boating is having things go wrong; the most rewarding part is figuring out how to fix it!

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Me – snorkeling in Thunderball Grotto – the light is from openings in the cave walls

All too soon, Tessa and Bill were on their way back to the cold white north.  Unfor-tunately, they flew home on the day that the northeast got completely socked by a huge snowstorm.  So after leaving Georgetown for Nassau at 9:30 am, they ended up sitting in Nassau airport until 6 pm.  And by that point, their non-stop turned into a one-stop in Fort Lauderdale since the flight crew had now been working for too long.  They were supposed to be back in Boston by 5:30 pm – instead they got there at 9:20 pm, and their car was totally socked in by snow.  They got home at midnight – yuck!  Glad they had a good time while they were here.

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This is a cluster of Azure Vase Sponges

We now had a window of opportunity until March 27, so went south Long Island – our first time there!  So more on that to follow ……………………

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A Queen Triggerfish – my absolute favorite!

 

 

Return to Little San Salvador – 35 Years Later!

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Sunset over Matt Lowe Cay in the Abacos

On January 9, we had a good weather window to cross to Eleuthera – the first leg of our trek south.  Anchor was up at 6:45 am (who knew I could actually be AWAKE at such an hour??) and off we went through the cut, with Garth and Sue close behind.  Winds were out of the WNW as we started off at 16 knots, but it lightened up after a while and we put up the asymetrical spinnaker.  We sailed along for quite a while, but decided to ditch it to make more speed.  It was a fortuitous decision, as shortly thereafter, Gary caught his first mahi-mahi!  Or dolphin fish, or dorado, or whatever you want to call it.  I call it yummy and free dinners, although they are so beautiful you feel badly about killing them.

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It’s kind of a pain-in-the-you-know-what (aka PITA) to clean a fish while you are moving.  At that point, we had the main up and were motor sailing.  But fish gore and guts on the boat are not a happy combination!  But we knew it was a while till we got to port and there was no way the whole fish was going to fit in the fridge, so Gary got to work filleting it.  I’ll spare you the pictures of that!

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It is so strange to be out there and be passed by a cruise ship – they look like big floating boxes out there.  This one was heading out of Nassau.

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We anchored in Royal Island at 2:30 pm, so we made good time, even if all the fishing slowed us down.  I whipped up a batch of Mahi Ceviche as an appetizer, and then pan- fried Mahi fillets for dinner with Garth and Sue.  Yum!

We decided to go to Harbor Island, which is an island just off the northeast coast of Eleuthera and an absolutely treacherous spot to get to in a sailboat.  You have to go through a cut called the “Devil’s Backbone”.  They highly recommend that you pay a guide to steer your boat through it because it is such a narrow passage with huge coral heads everywhere.

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Instead, we opted to take the high-speed ferry from Spanish Wells for a day trip, to see if it was worth all the trouble of getting there.

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It was a really pretty place but we agreed that it only warranted a day’s visit, so we made the right choice in checking it out the easy way first!

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After a trip through Current Cut and down to Governor’s Harbor (all places we have been to before), we laid plans to go to Cat Island, which is southeast of Eleuthera and against the prevailing current.  Amazingly enough, we had a good weather window to head south from Eleuthera, and even more importantly, we had friends from Annapolis that had rented a house there who were hoping we could join them for a few days.  So off we went.  I was particularly thrilled since I have always wanted to go to Cat Island, but the weather in the past years has not been conducive.

We left Governor’s Harbor very early on a beautifully flat, calm day (I know – I’m supposed to like the wind – I’m a sailor – but every once in a while it’s nice.).  The morning colors before the sunrise were amazing.  It was like looking into pink and blue nothing-ness.

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And then the colors all changed when the sun came up.

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Gary was fishing, but we had no takers.  While we were getting diesel at Cape Eleuthera, we learned from the locals that the fish don’t like calm waters.  At least we knew why we weren’t getting any bites.  Fortunately (for us, not for the fish!), things picked up when the wind filled in a bit, and we caught a Cero Mackerel and two Rainbow Runners.  The first Rainbow Runner we threw back, because we didn’t have time to figure out (a) what it was, and (b) whether it was good eating.  We would never kill a fish and not eat it.  By the time we caught the second one, we had discovered that it WAS good eating, so it wasn’t so lucky.

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Cero Mackerel
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A Rainbow Runner – beautiful blue and yellow stripes & bright yellow tail

Our destination that day was for the island of Little San Salvador.  Gary was there in 1983 when he sailed into that port on the 125-foot sailboat called Westward (set sail from Miami) as part of his Sea Semester through Boston College.  Things have changed there though in the past 35 years – Holland Cruise Lines bought the island and call it Half Moon Cay.  Cruise ships stop there, and the cruisers go ashore and shop at the little storefronts along the beach, ride horses, take out watercraft, etc.  The beaches there are just beautiful.

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When we arrived there were two behemoths nearby.  They were as big as two New York City blocks.

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The good news is that they have chosen to maintain the rest of the island (about three quarters of it) in its natural state, and we lowly non-paying boaters are allowed to go ashore on the undeveloped part of the islands.  Gary, Garth, Sue and I walked the beaches; Gary snorkeled and caught the biggest lionfish we have ever seen (in the Atlantic/Caribbean, anyway).

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Look out for those poisonous spines!

The next morning, we sailed the length of Cat Island to Port Howe, which is on the very southern portion of the island and where our friends, Terry and Di, were renting a house.  They were thrilled that we actually made it, since the other years have not been conducive for a visit due to the weather.

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The view from Terry and Di’s place

Terry and Di had a car and took us all over the island.  Our favorite stop was at a place called The Hermitage which was built on the highest point (207 feet) in the Bahamas – Como Hill.  The Hermitage was built in 1939 by a Roman Catholic priest/architect named Father Jerome (his real name was John Hawes).  He built a long and winding stone path and staircase with the Stations of the Cross along the way.  At the top is the monastery, with a spectacular 360-degree view of the island.  Father Jerome is also known for building several cathedrals and convents throughout the Bahamas, four of them on Cat Island; he died in 1956 and is buried at The Hermitage.

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The view from the top
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A group shot from the top thanks to a handy rock nearby that served as a primitive tripod

At the top, we found this metal circular impression in the ground.  It was placed there in 1952 by the US; apparently they are installed in different places around the world as survey markers to mark key survey points on the Earth’s surface.  The writing says “U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey Triangulation Station.  For information, write to the Director, Washington D.C.  $250 fine or imprisonment for disturbing this mark.”  Interesting!  I’m going to be picking my buddy Peter’s brain next time I see him!!

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We went to a nearby restaurant called Da Pink Chicken for lunch one day.  The “pink chicken” sadly refers to the beautiful pink flamingos which used to inhabit the island until the old timers ate them all.  Now flamingos reside only on the more southern islands of the Bahamas.  Needless to say, there’s no flamingos on any menus anywhere any more!  But it was a fun little bar if you could forget about that part.

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You wouldn’t be caught dead going into a kitchen that looked like this in the States, but here it’s pretty much the norm, unless you’re at an expensive resort.  The cook churned out some good but really spicy food.

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Neither the conch nor the crab are still alive, but it’s a pretty picture!

One afternoon we went to listen to “Rake and Scrape” – a traditional Bahamian band enjoyed even more after several beers.  The band consisted of an accordionist (who also sang), a drummer, and someone who literally scrapes the saw with a screwdriver (the scraper?).

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I gave a shot at the saw-scraping (better keep my day job – oh wait, I don’t have one!).

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Lastly (you’re probably saying “Thank God!”), on Cat Island, we stopped in to see Dave and Trish, friends of Tom & Sue Reese whom we have met several times before.  They have a beautiful home not far from Terry and Di’s place.  I’ll leave you with a few pictures of the snorkeling that we did on the reefs just off shore from Dave’s house.

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A Sharptail Eel – about 2.5 to 3 feet long – never saw one of those before!
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A Sergeant Major patrolling a very pretty reef
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Two flamingo tongue shells on a sea fan

On to the Exumas!!

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Christmas in February???

                                              Some of the many local signs in Hope Town

So sorry, but just a few highlights from the holiday season (seems like forever ago now).  After arriving in the Bahamas, we headed to Hope Town and visited with the friends that we have made over the past couple of years.  We were early enough to see the annual BoxCar Derby, which was a real hoot.  Kids and adults took part and they close one of the more hilly roads.  It was a good way to spend an afternoon and see a different part of the island – also a good reason to drink beer on a sunny afternoon!

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This was our second Thanksgiving in the Bahamas – last year we didn’t cross until the Saturday of Thanksgiving week.  We celebrated in Hope Town with Sue & Garth, and our friends Will & Muffin, who are also from Annapolis.  Since there is no way a turkey will fit in our oven, we grilled Cornish hens instead – super yummy.  Dessert was Key Lime Pie from the local baker – Vernon, who runs a little grocery store and bakery in Hope Town.  So not exactly traditional fare, but everyone loved it.  We can seat six very comfortably in our cockpit – nothing like eating Thanksgiving dinner outside.  Make that seven – Hobie was hoping for some Cornish hen too!

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Moira and Mike flew into Marsh Harbor on December 4th; she wanted to be in the Bahamas to celebrate a “big” birthday on December 11.  We quickly took advantage of a good weather window to get us north.  We went to one of our favorite spots in the Abacos – Powell Cay – where Gary proceeded to get THIRTEEN lobsters.  It was work to get them all into our very packed freezer, but I made it happen.  Got to get them while you can.

Abacos Jan. 2019 Gary_Mel_Garth_Susan207FB

 

Moira had never been on a golf cart before, so we rented one for the day and buzzed around the island.

One of our favorite stops is Pineapples – a bar located in the town of New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay.  Not sure if I have mentioned this before (I really need to re-read my blog from the beginning to check I’m not repeating myself!), but most of the bars and restaurants connected with the resorts have pools and they have no problem with you using the pool even if you’re not staying there.  Moira and I enjoyed sipping our Goombay Smash and sitting poolside.

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We took Moira and Mike back to Marsh Harbor where they reluctantly returned to the cold weather in Rochester.  Marsh Harbor on Great Abaco Island is a great place to get provisions, fishing supplies, and hardware needs and is only a short hope from Hope Town.  When we went ashore to the fishing store one day, we could hear the Abaconian Amazon parrots flying around.  After looking up in the general vicinity of the squawking, I found one of them sitting in a palm tree chowing down on the red berries almost right over our heads.  It holds special meaning to both of us to find a wild Amazon parrot, mainly because they are endangered almost everywhere (there’s about 50 different kinds of Amazon parrots), but also because Webster was an Amazon (double-yellow headed) who I had for 34 years.  So wonderful to see them in the wild!

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Dick and Kay arrived, bringing with them tons of fabulous meat for Christmas and New Year’s – steaks, chops, tenderloins, etc., and some great cheeses. Not to mention a bunch of boat stuff (as did Moira and Mike)!  Getting stuff delivered to the Bahamas directly is a real palaver (knew I would get that word worked into my blog eventually!), and it costs a fortune.  So we are very thankful when people visit and bring stuff with them.  Gary had to repack the entire freezer to get everything, and ice cubes were the sacrificial offering to make more room.  But we got it all in, thank goodness.  Dick and Kay had a real scare when they were flying from Nassau to Marsh Harbor (they flew Toronto to Nassau and then had a layover); after they had taken off, the pilot came on and told the passengers that not all the luggage had made it and some of it wouldn’t arrive till the next day.  Kay was in a panic thinking about all the defrosting meat!!  They were so relieved when it arrived with them.

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Of course we had to have yet another visit to Pineapples to visit the bartender, Yvonne.  She wears the most amazing make-up!  For Christmas she had red and green eye make-up and lipstick!

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Christmas is a wonderful season in the Abacos.  We went caroling around the town and visited the Christmas Village.  They had set up an “ice” rink for the kids (and Santa!) to skate on.  In reality, it was something akin to something called Starboard – basically a big sheet of very heavy duty plastic.  With a little fake snow swirling around, it really set the scene!

One day in Hope Town harbor, Kay, Sue and I were sitting in the cockpit making sea glass jewelry when a SEAPLANE came motoring into the harbor!!!  What a racket!!  And such a juxtaposition to see a plane right in the midst of all the boats and houses.  It calmly pulled up to one of the mooring balls, tied up, and then the captain and crew went ashore in one of the local boats.  Pretty amazing!

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Christmas dinner was surf and turf, with steaks from Toronto and lobsters caught by Gary.  Dinners on the holidays here are $98 a person, NOT including any drinks!!  So we are happy to have our feast on the boat.  Hobie made sure that I was making the Christmas napkins correctly.

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We joined in the street party on New Year’s Eve and then watched the New Year’s Eve Fireworks on Garth and Sue’s boat in Hope Town harbor, since they had the best seat in the house.

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On New Year’s Day, we had another great surf and turf dinner to celebrate Sue’s birthday.  Seems like all we do is eat and drink!!  (Am I complaining??)

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On January 2, we rented a power boat and the six of us zipped down to Tahiti Beach and down to Little Harbor for lunch.  It was a good way to visit there without taking the sailboats down there, and it was great to have six people split the rental fee!

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The boys got their testosterone fix with a power boat!

One day, while the boys were snorkeling, Kay and I took a beautiful long beach walk on Powell Cay.  Along the shore, we found a “semi-conscious” Spotted Sea Hare (having never seen one before, I could barely tell if it was dead or alive!).  We didn’t know what it was – it looked like a big yellowy-green slug with spots.  Kay ran off and got me a stick (just in case it was poisonous) and I carefully picked up the gelatinous glob and waded him out to deeper water.  It seemed happy to be in deeper water and started moving off.  Of course I didn’t have my camera with me, so I am including this picture out of my Reef Creature Guide (I have Reef Creature, Reef Fish and Reef Coral guides and a seashell guide on board – would die without those!).  Gary was very disappointed he missed it – it’s very difficult to find one of those.  We went back to look for it but it had disappeared.

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Dick had treated himself to a new GoPro camera for underwater shots, and we were super impressed with the quality of the photos.  Gary was so impressed that he bought one for ourselves, so there’s lots more underwater pictures in our future.  Here is a great one of a Moray Eel that Gary and Dick came across while diving for lobsters.

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On January 5, we said goodbye to Dick and Kay who headed back to a frozen wasteland in Toronto.  Ugh.  Now we just had to wait for a good weather window to cross to Eleuthera!  Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait too long, but I’ll leave that to the next blog.

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A huge thanks to Dick for all the shots he sent me – they are the ones in “frames”.

Backtracking ……….

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How would you like HER job????
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The classic yacht “Columbia” sailing in Newport, RI

Happy New Year to everyone!  Before I begin backtracking, I thought it would be helpful to mention the following.  I was recently reading my blog (to see where I left off!) on my cell phone and realized that all the pictures that had been so perfectly arranged into nice little circles and squares and in a certain order on the computer were all higgledy-piggledy and all over the place!  Very annoying (well, for me anyway, when you try to make something look a certain way, but maybe you thought that was just the way it was meant to be!).   I discovered that after opening the blog on the phone (or whatever you’re opening it on, for that matter), if I hit the title of the blog at the top of it (not the subject line of the email – the title of the blog within the blog), it relaunches it to the actual WordPress site and, miraculously, things appear the way they should.  So please try that now or next time if you want to see what it is supposed to look like.  Secondly, as a reminder, if you want to get an automatic email when I post, just go to the bottom right hand corner of the blog and you will see a “Follow Me” button.  Hit that, enter your email address, and the next time I post, you will automatically get the email notification.

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Anyway, this is my backtracking blog – ugh.  I was hopelessly behind in the beginning of December, and then we had too much fun with our visitors – my sister and brother-in-law, Moira and Mike, and then Dick and Kay, who spent Christmas and New Year’s with us.  Even before we got to the Bahamas, I hadn’t caught up with my diatribe.  And the blog is my best way for record keeping so that I can remember what we did and when.  So here we go – back to the ICW!!

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First, I thought I’d hit some of the highlights and lowlights of our last portion of the trip down the ICW since I left off last time (mostly because I have some nice pix from then).  One of the highlights was anchoring in a place called Minim Creek in South Carolina.  We anchored just before dusk quite a distance up the creek (a few other boats had already hogged the spots closer to the ICW channel).  But it was worth it – the sunset that evening and sunrise the next morning were just spectacular.  And there were birds EVERY-WHERE.  Roseate spoonbills, white ibis, great white egrets, snowy egrets, little blue herons, great blue herons, grackles, and probably tons more that I couldn’t get close enough to identify.  Taking pictures of the birds was tough in low light, unfortunately, but the sunset and sunrise the next morning were both spectacular.

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Our friends, Garth & Sue, in the anchorage at dusk
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Unbelievably beautiful!
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It’s like a painting
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Even Hobie admired the scenery (actually, he’s saying – “Are we close enough to shore so I can jump off this damn boat?????”)
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Sunrise the next morning

As you can see from the sunrise picture, we got an early start, only to run aground a few minutes later in soft mud.  So we re-anchored and had breakfast while we waited for the tide to come up.  I could have slept in!

Once again, we got to visit with our good friends Wayne and Gretchen in Beaufort, SC.

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Wayne out racing in his friend’s cat boat

We went for dinner and had these bizarre oyster clusters – you literally buy them by the bucket.  There are small ones growing on top of larger ones, layered, so to speak.  They were delicious!

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While we were in the Beaufort area, Wayne and Gretchen took us to Parris Island.  It is an Army base and really interesting.  You had to check in with proper documentation before they would let you on the island (felt like I was crossing into Canada!), and there were troops marching around and training everywhere.  Well worth a visit if you are down that way.  It was a pretty overcast, drizzly day, but we made the most of it.  Some weird looking trees, fungus and crabs on that island!!

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We had a few minor encounters with the mud bottom of the ICW along the way, but nothing to speak of.  Unfortunately, on November 7 in a stretch between Fernandina Beach and St. Augustine, we had what I call the “Bridge Day from Hell” (November 7).  Every one of them was a nightmare due to the extremely water levels.  Gary got impatient waiting for the water to drop at one bridge and, after waiting for about an hour and half and running aground and re-anchoring during the wait, he decided to make a run for it.  The bad part was that the bridge was under construction, and there was netting hanging down below it.  Although we would have cleared the bridge without the netting, our wind instruments snagged on the netting and that was the end of them!  Cha-ching, cha-ching – add that to the list!  So on we went, waiting and scraping under each bridge that day, but no further “injuries” to the boat.  The next day, we went outside and avoided a lot of bridges – something you can’t always do because of the weather, so we were lucky to catch a break.  Sue took pictures of us clearing one bridge.  As close as it looks, that one wasn’t a problem!

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Me – on the bow – looking up – like I could do anything about it!!!
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You hear clinking noises as the VHF antenna scrapes the bottom of the girders
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And breathe a sigh of relief as we get to the other side – looks like I fell to my knees in silent prayer!  Actually I was getting the dock lines out to tie up for diesel.

We stopped in Fernandina Beach on the way through – sort of an industrial spot, but I like this picture of Gary coming back to shore in the dinghy.

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When we got into the north part of Florida, we started looking at the weather forecast for the next week or so.  It was a really lousy forecast coming up – a tropical depression that could potentially turn into a hurricane.  That meant we had to boogie down the Florida coast to the West Palm area as quickly as possible so that we could cross before the depression became an issue.  So we flew through Florida; long days where we arrived at anchorages just before the sun set.  Normally, we like to stop to see friends in New Smyrna Beach and Vero Beach, and sometimes we cross the state to see our friends, Stan and Shirley in Homosassa, and visit our bird Nicki (who is doing well, BTW, and is now in an enclosure with four females!).  Unfortunately, Mother Nature prevailed so we had to skip all of that.

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Pix of Nicki in his new enclosure with his girlfriends, sent from the sanctuary

We knew we needed to do one last big provisioning before we crossed to the Bahamas.  Fortunately, our very gracious friends and long-time cruisers, Bill and Linda, live in Jensen Beach, very close to Stuart, and also close to where we planned to depart for the Bahamas.

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All three of us were in for a special treat – Linda and Bill invited us to stay overnight in their guest house.  They have a beautiful home, complete with pool and hot tub (which was a huge treat since we miss ours from home), and a nice guest house which Hobie really enjoyed!!

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He’s not toooooo spoiled!

 

They were so accommodating and drove us around to Sam’s Club, the liquor store, the grocery store, the pet store, etc., etc.  We bought eight cases of Hobie’s special veterinary cat food – $1.90 a can in the States, $4.25 in the Bahamas!  Four cases of wine, three cases of beer (should have bought more of that – the cheapest we have found so far is $53 a case!!), all the things that cost so much more in the islands – beef, paper products, cereal, potato chips – the list is a long one.  And cash – you can’t forget to get cash, since banks are few and far between in the Bahamas and the ATM charges are pretty steep.  US dollars and Bahamian dollars are on par, which makes life easy.  We were also supposed to pick up our new wind instrument there, but the USPS, although they guaranteed delivery to Bill and Linda’s house the day before we left, did not come through.  That is a really long, dragged out story that needs to be told over several glasses of wine.  Needless to say, Gary was not happy about crossing the Gulf Stream without wind instruments, but we had no choice.  Fortunately, we were doing the crossing with Garth and Sue, so they could provide information if needed.

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So, after a lot of dashing around, we crossed to the Bahamas on November 13 – our earliest crossing ever. Our crossing wasn’t bad (although we’ve had better!) – it started out kind of yucky at 6:30 am with big waves and breeze out of the south east, where the weather forecast had promised to have winds more out of the south.  We all (including Hobie) doubled down on the meclizine, so at least we weren’t seasick, although Hobie was not a happy camper at all.  After a while, it leveled out, then got worse again, then it was fine for the last third of the trip as we got closer to shore.

 

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UP we go!
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And DOWN we go!  Sue took these pix from her boat

We were very happy to arrive in the Old Bahama Bay Marina at West End on Grand Bahama Island, with our friends Garth and Sue not far behind.  The boat needed a good wash down to get all the salt off it – it was coated!  We made the mistake of going to the local beach bar for a celebratory Goombay Smash – until we found out they were $11 each!  Needless to say, we only had one.

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The beach at Old Bahama Bay

After a wonderful morning swim in the pool and a walk along the beach while we waited for high tide the next day, we were off to Great Sale Cay through the very shallow Indian Cut, but we got through without incident, following our track from last year.  As soon as we got to Great Sale, Gary was off to lobster hunt.  He came back with two lobsters, which we shared with Garth and Sue.  Yum!  Welcome back to the Islands!

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Hobie watching the “big cats” on TV!!!

 

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Christmas Card 2018I swear that I didn’t stage this photograph – I was walking along the beach on Farmer’s Cay last year, and this little guy was just lying there.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!  My apologies for being so out of touch and out of date with the blog; I have started to work on a new one and am trying to catch up.

We are spending Christmas and New Year’s in the Abacos in the northern part of the Bahamas.  Christmas will be at Green Turtle Cay and New Year’s at Hope Town.  We have Dick and Kay from Toronto spending the holidays with us, and it is nice to have friends to share them with.

Hobie, Gary and I are all doing well and hope that all of you are too.  The holidays are the hardest time to be away from family and friends, and we miss each and every one of you.  Hope your Christmas is merry and bright, and the new year is happy and, most importantly, HEALTHY.  Take care and stay in touch – we love hearing from you!  M&G&H xoxo

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All dressed up for the holidays in his new bow tie (he matches the new pillows down below!)