Saturday, November 30, 2013

Back to Work

Posted by Scot

As I get into the cab at the Exuma Market, right next to the dinghy dock, I notice that the driver is already halfway through his first Kalik of the day.  It is 10:30 a.m.  At least he was right on time - in fact, he was waiting for me when I got there.  Maybe an early morning beer dispels the usual "island time" ethos of the Bahamas.

If your cab driver doesn't spill his beer, I think that means he is still safe to drive.
As we drive to the airport, I keep looking out across the water to see if I can see Sara making her way back across the heavy chop to Monashee.  It is a pretty stormy day, and if I didn't have to catch a plane, we would have stayed on the boat.  I can't see her, but she texts me right as I arrive at the airport to say she made it OK.

Goodbye Bahamas...
The Christmas carols playing over the PA system in the Miami airport seem out of sync with everything around me, and make me smile to myself as I walk down the halls, with the sun streaming in through the windows.  When I get to Calgary, though, the Christmas carols and Christmas trees don't seem out of place at all.  Mercifully, it is still +2 degrees as the remains of a Chinook hang over Calgary, but the forecast is for a winter storm warning, with up to 30 cm of snow and temperatures down to -18.  The entire atmosphere is so different from where I have just been, I might as well have gotten on a rocket ship and flown to a different planet.  Already, the boat sitting in the Bahamas seems like something I might have dreamed.  Fortunately, I can Skype back to Sara and the kids, and see that it is real, and sitting right where I left it.

...Hello Alberta.

It is great that I have worked in Red Deer before, as everything seems familiar, and the stress of working in a different hospital is not as great as it could be.  On the flight from Miami to Calgary, I get a little "medical warm-up", when one of the passengers starts to feel unwell, and they call for a doctor over the intercom.  Fortunately, it is nothing major, and he starts to feel better quickly.  All I really have time to do is quickly assess him.  With the help of an ER nurse who also happens to be on the plane, we decide it is nothing serious, so the flight can go on.  The flight attendant takes down all my info, and double checks my boarding pass.  It will be interesting to know if I hear anything else from West Jet about it.

My first day in Red Deer, I go down to the car to get in a quick bit of Christmas shopping before I have to work.  The windows are completely frosted over.  I'd forgotten about that.  Despite the dropping temperature, my body seems to remember how to deal with cold, and I am not too uncomfortable, even though I don't have my usual cold weather jacket with me.  It strikes me that dealing with cold is pretty much exactly the same as dealing with the Florida heat in reverse.  Straight from the hotel to the car, a bit uncomfortable while the heat gets going, then quickly from the hotel into the mall, where the heat keeps things comfortable.  Nobody walks here either.  Given that I will be pretty much working and sleeping for the next week, I shouldn't be too bothered by the fact that I don't have my cold weather gear.  It's too bad - it might have been nice to get out and enjoy the different weather a bit, but I won't have time for that.

Red Deer sunrise through frosted windows.

Dad Went Skiing Without Us

Posted By Alexander

Yesterday was a sad day.

The weather  wasn't great either.
Dad had to leave the boat for 10 days.  He went back to Canada to Red Deer to work for a week.  I guess someone needs to pay for this awesome boat trip.  But we all know what he really went to do.  He’s going to go skiing while we swelter in the heat.  He’s also doing Christmas shopping since there are no good stores for that down in the Bahamas. (I’m talking real Christmas and not the pre-Christmas we had with grandma and grandpa.)

While Dad’s been away things have been pretty mellow. We made some apple crumble yesterday but I think it needs some work. The oats were too crumbly and should have stuck together better.

Schoolwise we have a new subject to study. Now we are studying Spanish as the computer with French on it went with Dad to Canada.  Christopher is having his first lesson as I write and he says he feels Mexican already.  The pictures in the language program also show that Mexico has some yummy food!  Maybe we should make a detour to Mexico.

P.S. Dear Grandma and Grandpa Christopher finished his plane so check it out....

I think the real thing would fly better though.
Oh and Katie says she has fabulous nails.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas

Posted by Sara

For several weeks, Georgetown has been our final destination as Scot’s parents met us here and spent the last 5 days with us.  It’s also where the boys and I will spend 10 days by ourselves on the boat while Scot heads back to Canada for a week of work.  Needless to say, we have been crossing our fingers that Georgetown was a good choice for both these purposes.

The kids on the bows as we come into Elizabeth Harbour (Georgetown)

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Georgetown is also known as Chickentown after cruisers who get here but go no further into the out Islands. I can see why as it's set up well for cruisers and it will be perfect for us!  It turns out we are lucky to be here in 'low' season because the harbour apparently fills up with 300+ boats in the busy season (Jan – March).  There are probably only about 30 occupied boats here now and it is more than busy enough for us.

The first spot we dropped anchor in Elizabeth Harbour - jumped off the boat & went swimming!
The actual town of Georgetown is on Great Exuma Island on the west side of the bay with a few shops, laundry, hardware store, diesel, gas, marine engine repair, propane, a decent sized grocery store (about 2/3 the size of Ferraros), and some restaurants.  Most of the shops surround a tiny inland lake, ‘lake Victoria,’ which we can access with our dingy under a small bridge.  You just park your dingy at the dock in front of the grocery store and walk to everything.  Being able to dingy right up to the grocery store is great as at lots of marinas we have to take a taxi to the supermarket & back with all our groceries.  

The rest of Great Exuma is residential and home to about 7 resorts up and down the Island including a very high end Sandals Resort.  We thought we might buy day passes to Sandals as a treat but forgot that they are an adult only resort. This was actually lucky - as the day rate was $180/person from 10am - 6pm (additional rate to stay for the evening!) 

The bridge to enter 'Lake Victoria.'  Alexander was driving the dingy & wanted everyone's feet out the sides to fend off.
The harbour boasts several beautiful beaches and bays but the centre for the cruising population seems to be several connected bays about 1/2 a mile across the bay by dingy from the town (tucked in the west side of Stocking Island).  These bays are filled with 4 mooring fields.  At this time, these moorings are 3/4 filled with empty boats.  Many people just rent them yearly and keep their boats stored here.  

Mooring Fields in Elizabeth Harbour
The cruising community here is very social.  There is an 8am broadcast on the VHF every morning (called ‘Cruisers Net’)  giving the weather and tide forecasts and outlining the scheduled activities for the day including yoga classes on the beach, hiking excursions, happy hour at 4:30, poker game at 7pm etc.  This is also an opportunity for boaters to share information or swap resources (like tools & boat stuff) and to connect with other boats who might be heading in the same directions when they leave here.

At anyrate, lots of resources here to keep us out of trouble while Scot is away :-).

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Posted by Christopher


As Alexander and I were funnelling the cool breeze down our hatches in to our rooms, (definitely not playing video games) we heard a faint cry coming from above. I pulled out my headphones and listened closer, only to hear “DOLPHINS!” I halted what I was doing and swung around the wall, sprinting up the stairs. Alexander was close behind as we sprinted to the back of our boat. Sure enough, not twenty feet away from our boat were a pair of dolphins, jumping and playing.

Katie, Alexander and I whipped off our shirts, luckily wearing bathing suits underneath, grabbed our snorkel masks, so that we could clearly see the dolphins and dove in.


The dolphins were amazing creatures. They were sleek and agile in the water, and clever enough not to come within arms reach, but they were still very near. We kind of danced and played with the slightly wary dolphins, that were slowly moving away from our boat. After an appropriate amount of dolphin play time, I realized how far from our boat we had gradually gone, and so I began to head back.



Eventually I got back to the boat, and Alexander and Katie didn’t take too long to follow suit. Dad (who had joined us as well) finished up his picture taking and climbed out. As I dried off though, I had a thought. What if the dolphins went home and said to their family “hey guess what just happened!” “Today we were out on vacation when humans came along, so we went swimming with them”. “I’m gonna put it on my blog!”

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Merry Christmas. Hey who wants to go swimming?

Posted by Alexander

Yaaaaay Grandma and Grandpa are here.

Our grandparents came and visited us for a week so I have been too busy to blog. Now that they’re gone I can catch up and tell you all about their visit. It was so great to have some new people to interact with on the boat for a while. It was especially nice that they had a connection to home. Grandma and Grandpa are always globe trotting and we were only a pit stop on the way to a cruise. (They didn’t even invite me to come with them Sad smile ).

Are we sure this bench is big enough?

We got to show them the boat and Katie threw a little party. Not just any party. A Christmas party. “Say what?” I know, right? We had an early Christmas party because we figured that having our relatives over was about as Christmasy as it was going to get. So we taped up some snowflakes and even hung some Christmas lights.

It's Christmas in November!

Grandma and Grandpa even had presents for us. Yaaaaaay! They had brought these cool little metal sheet models that we could build. One was the first Wright brothers plane. The other was the Black Pearl. We also got chocolate which we had to put in the fridge to keep from melting. Katie got a cute little otter. A stuffy not a living one. They also very generously gave us each some money to get something we would like. Christopher and I each downloaded a game for our Nintendo DS because when you’re on the high seas with no Wi Fi it’s a nice thing to have.

Christmas presents and treats.

Another really cool experience we had with grandma and grandpa was that we swam with dolphins. Wild dolphins that were just hanging out by our boat. Christopher did a blog on that so check that out. All I’m going to say is that there were dolphins and we swam with them and it was awesome Open-mouthed smile.
(Man I don’t know about those smiley faces…)

Swimming with dolphins - stay posted for more details.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lucky in Georgetown

Posted by Scot

Saying we are lucky to be able to take a trip like this doesn't really recognize everything it takes to make this happen.  There was a pretty considerable amount of hard work, planning, foresight, and organization that also helped get us here.  But when you get right down to it, the simple fact that we are Canadian, and enjoy the quality of life and opportunities that we do, means we have won life's lottery.  One of the huge benefits of travel is just how clear that fact becomes.  It has been a great learning point for the kids, too.

This week, that point was driven home even further, since we were extremely lucky to have some wonderful guests join us here in Georgetown.  My parents made the trek from the far West Coast to come and see what life is like out here.

They made it!

Even though the weather hasn't been the most cooperative, and the logisitics of meeting up were a bit tricky, we had an amazing visit with them.  Dodging some high winds and showers, as more November weather works it way through, we have managed to explore Georgetown and some of the local beaches.  We didn't get sailing, but used Monashee as a swim and snorkel platform to check out the area, and were even treated to two special visits by dolphins.  We also had a "Christmas in November" party (again organized by Katie).

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Drinks in the cockpit.

Hanging out on the trampoline.

Grandma and Grandpa are here!  Yay!

Snorkelling the blue hole on Stocking Island.

Diving deep to check out the fish in the blue hole.

Drinks at the Chat n' Chill.

Walking with Grandma on the beach.

Christmas party planning meeting.

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We all got special Christmas masks at the Christmas party.  And Katie wore her Halloween costume just for fun.

Christopher showing off the new game he got for Christmas.  In November.
Watching them pull away from Monashee on Elvis Water Taxi last night was one of the saddest moments I have had on the boat.  We already can't wait to see them again, and we hope it won't be too long.

Elvis has left the building.  And he took Grandma and Grandpa with him.

But lucky?  There is no denying it.  In the parent (and grandparent) lottery, our family came out on top.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A New Favourite

Posted by Scot

Our new favourite anchorage.

The Exuma chain of islands runs more or less south east, with the shallow Grand Bahama Bank on the west side, and the very deep Exuma Sound on the east.  The prevailing winds here blow from the east, so the Bahama Bank side tends to be calm and protected.

If you want to keep going south, though, at some point, you need to go out into the Exuma Sound, as the Bahama Bank becomes too shallow to navigate safely.  Rudder Cut Cay is pretty much the furthest south you can go without heading out into the Sound.

So, after a day enjoying the hospitality of David Copperfield, we upped the anchor and headed out.  We were hoping that the Sound would be reasonably comfortable for our push south.  But after days of 20-30 knots from the east, even though things had calmed down a bit, there were still big waves to bash through.  To top it all off, the wind, which had been blowing mostly from the east and north east, had now pushed around to the south east, so once again we were straight into the wind and the waves.

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The cut at Rudder Cut Cay - a bit more action than we had hoped.
Fortunately, we only had about an hour to go before we could cut back onto the Bahama Bank side.  We were sure glad to turn in, and get out of the craziness.

As we motored back into the gentle water, we saw a sailboat just heading out of our intended anchorage.  Sara was just pulling out the binoculars to see if we could figure out who it was when our radio came alive.  “Monashee, Monashee, this is Windrush.”  Bruce and Val (who you may remember from our conching adventure), were just pulling out, having spent the last couple of nights in the spot where we were headed.  They are heading down the inside, making for the Ragged Islands to do more conching and fishing, so we may not run into them again.  It was great to hear a familiar voice on the radio, though, and we wish them a wonderful trip.

The anchorage was one of the most beautiful we have been in, and was made all the more so from our morning’s beating out on the Sound.  It had two beaches, and was protected by the highest peak in the Bahamas (a whopper at 63 metres).  We dropped the anchor in the soft sand, and after our traditional swim to cool off, headed out in the dinghy to explore the beach.

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One of two beaches in the anchorage, with several others nearby.

It proved to be a short hike to the other side of the Cay, where we could enjoy the pounding of the waves from the safety of shore.  A wonderful day of school, swimming, and watching for the green flash as the sun sank into the sea erased our memories of the morning, and the recent bad weather, and made it all worthwhile.

The waves don't seem nearly as bad when the ground stays still beneath your feet.

Still watching for the green flash.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Snorkelling with a Mermaid Sitting at a Grand Piano

 Posted by Christopher

We had anchored on the beautiful Rudder Cut Cay, next to a pristine island. Dad had read in our Bahamas cruising guide that there was something special waiting for us underwater, if we could find it. So naturally after anchoring, we hopped in our dinghy and began to explore.

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Rudder Cut Cay, complete with cave, white sand beach, and guard dog.

We searched near and around our boat for a little while but we couldn’t seem to find this “special surprise” that Dad had read about. Finally before heading back, we had Alexander stick his face in the water with his mask on. On his first try he couldn’t see anything, but we hadn’t quite lost hope yet. We made him stick his head back in, and sure enough, he popped up saying “Did I just see what I think I saw?”.

Did I just see what I think I saw?
The next few minutes were a blur of finding and equipping snorkel gear. As I began to get my flippers on, Alexander had already flipped backward off the boat and into the water. Katie was getting ready to jump as I fastened my mask on to my face. She had just leapt in when I went tumbling backwards off the dingy in proper diver fashion.

Backwards entry, diver style.
The light turquoise water was warm and inviting. It was cooler than the blazing sun outside, but still felt as friendly as a cup of hot chocolate during a cold winter day. When I entered I looked down instantly, to see a large concrete statue of a giant grand piano and a well detailed mermaid sitting at it. It seemed fairly bizarre, but it was large and cool. We all took turns diving down to it, and inspecting it, or attempting to make a funny pose.

The mermaid and her piano at Rudder Cut Cay.
It was in about 15 feet of water, so took some work to get down to.

It was actually quite a beautiful statue, with lots of detail, and spaces for fish to swim around in.
The statue was so intriguing that we spent a long time just snorkelling around it and diving on it, inspecting every nook and cranny. Eventually we tired of the mermaid, and heading up back to our dinghy for more exploring. My Mom and sister were too tired to keep going and we dropped them off at the boat. My Dad and brother kept me going and we dinghied over to a reef that we knew was in the area. It took a while but we found it and began to drop off again. We swam and paddled all over the spread out, complex reef, and found many a cool thing. At one point I saw a large fish that looked like a barracuda. It had an extending lower jaw with razor sharp teeth that it kept chomping on nothing in particular. Finally we were snorkelled out, and got back in the dinghy again.

Lots of great fish on this reef.

This guy played a great game of peek-a-boo in his little hidey hole.
Just as we were heading back to the boat, we saw a cool looking indent in the rocks that looked a bit like a cave. My Dad had read that this island was private.  There was a dog guarding the beach, so that no one came on, but there was a solid rock wall between the beach and the cave so we thought we were good. We landed our dinghy on the little piece of sand in the cave, and played around for a little while. Once we fully realized that there was nothing highly interesting in the cave, we got back in our dinghy and headed out, back to our boat.

The cave at Rudder Cut Cay.  Safe from the guard dogs.

After that, we played for a little while in the water, and jumped off the boat, so in the end we had a pretty awesome day.

Under no circumstances are we allowed to jump off the hard top bimini.  Ever.

Dad’s note:  I did a little research on the interweb to figure out why there was a statue of a mermaid sitting at a grand piano on the ocean floor.  It turns out, David Copperfield (the magician, not the Dickens character) owns Musha Cay, and the islands around it, including Rudder Cut Cay, where we were anchored.  He has turned it into an ultra-exclusive high end resort.  They only take a few guests at a time, and rates start at just $37,500 per night!  Yes, you read that right.  There are no extra zeros by accident.  I think that is pretty funny, since when we sailed past Musha Cay, Sara and I looked at some of the resort buildings and said “Oh, that place looks nice.  Maybe some day we should come back to the Bahamas and stay there.”

Anyway, turns out David Copperfield commissioned the sculpture of the mermaid, and had it sunk off the islands a couple of years ago, so it is not that old.

It also turns out that they take privacy for their guests pretty seriously.  From the boat, we could see a dog on the beach the whole time we were there, and later in the day, a boat came by and fed the dog, so it appears it was a permanent guard dog who lives on the beach, installed to keep the riff raff away.  There were also multiple no trespassing signs, and what looked like a solar powered security camera on the beach.  I guess for that kind of money, you don’t want smelly cruisers wandering around on your private island.