Eleuthera and Getting Closer to Home

We left the Exumas on April 6th from Staniel Cay and headed towards Rock Sound Eleuthera. It was a 55 mile open water sail so it was our longest in a while. The sail ended up being great as our speed averaged about 7.5 form and we caught a Mahi-mahi en route.

ie9Bk0N6TpOFNiO3mG7z0A

Our first stop in Eleuthera was Rock Sound. We were able to visit a couple of great local spots including Boiling Hole Caves and the Ocean Hole. The caves were our favorite. It felt like Indiana Jones or the Jungle Book. There were really cool roots growing into the caves from above and there were even bats.

IMG_7051IMG_7057IMG_7059IMG_7069

The next stop was Ocean Hole. After the dusty caves we got to get cleaned up by cliff jumping into a brackish water hole that went down about 700 feet. Glad that we did not drop anything. After the cliff jumping and swimming we fed some of the local fish there and headed back to the boat. After the three mile walk between the sites it was great to get back to a beer and fresh mahi-mahi for dinner.

 

Our next stop was Governors Harbor. The town has been there for over 400 years. We were able to get some groceries ($9 for Cheez-it’s!!!) and had a great lunch at Bucaneer’s. While at Governor’s Harbor we also extended our visas for another 60 days. It was a neat little town and felt more like civilization.

Next stop, Hatchet Bay. We saw that a front was coming so we had to get some better coverage thus we headed north. Hatchet Bay is a near perfectly circular anchorage which is protected from all sides from bad weather. There is one small opening to get into the bay and it is barely sixty feet wide. This is a very scary entrance when the waves were at your back and your boat is 25 feet wide. Upon seeing the entrance Eva said “look through that narrow opening. You can see the bay inside.” I then responded, “that is the opening”. Eva said, “no way”. But we got through O.K.09SRh5G7THeZ713RIR8ZRQ

Once inside it was perfectly calm and we spent a couple of days there. We met another boat with three boys and spent some time playing with them on the local playground. They spoke French and we spoke English but the kids all spoke “play” so they had fun.

zhBaw5lnRlOSmClVmPDv5g

The town was fairly poor and you could see it from the houses and shops but everyone was so nice and happy there we could have stayed longer.

vbGJB__zTqWF2oxOg0UBxQ

When we left Hatchet Bay we headed north. We stopped at a day anchorage near the Glass Window. This is a narrow bridge of rock that connects Eleuthera at its narrowest point. Typically there are huge waves going through the window. Since the wind was the wrong direction there was little to see upon our visit.IMG_7145

While at the anchorage we also stopped at the Queen’s Bath. These are natural looking ‘tubs’ on the Atlantic side of the ocean. There is perfectly clear water in them. It was a little chilly but we all did get in. I was able to jump into the ocean side to see what was around but it was too rough for anyone else.

 

We left the day anchorage, passed through Current Cut (this can be treacherous) and went into Spanish Wells. We grabbed a mooring late in the evening and watched the world go by from the boat. This was our largest town in months and it did not disappoint. There was a real grocery store there! IMG_7147

 

There was also a small marine parts store so I was able to get a new slave solenoid on my starboard engine. I installed it and now I don’t have to jump the engine every day.

While in Spanish Wells we also hung out with the families from North 45 and Aphrodite. The kids jumped off the bridge together, played lots of Hide and Seek and even went to a local church fair together.

We had a great stay in Spanish Wells. It was our favorite city thus far in the Bahamas. It was big enough that you had everything, there was very little trash and you could walk the streets as people passed by in golf carts and waved hello.

We are slowly moving north, closer to the USA and will be in the Abaco’s next. That will be our last stop before crossing the Gulf Stream back to Florida. All in all we liked Eleuthera but it was so different from the barren islands that were so common in the Exumas further south.

 

Exumas Cay Land and Sea Park

Warderick Wells Cay

After a 6 hour trip from Nassau to Highborn Cay (which was beautiful) we sailed to the Exumas Cay Land and Sea Park. The park is about 176 square miles and consists of several islands.  The main office is in Warderick Wells and that is where we started. I am not sure if the pictures could even show the beauty of this place at all. The water is perfectly blue and full of life and the beaches are pristine.  This section of the park has numerous hiking trails to enjoy. Here our a few pictures of Walden in the mooring field.

 

4DMh-NqfTWanbIBXUNPrswQz47CvOPTkuVvqN_nsGEkAIMG_5243

We did the short hike to Boo-boo hill. On top of the hill you can find a pile of signs from driftwood and other scraps of wood showing names of the boats that visited this place. We found some driftwood later and will hopefully leave our mark in few weeks as we come back with my parents. The trail to the Boo-boo hill led us through water and a little palm forest.

Here are the signs with all the boat names; hopefully ours will be there in a few weeks.

IMG_6592IMG_6611

There are also blow holes located near Boo-Boo Hill. A blow hole is a hole in the cliffs overhanging the Atlantic ocean that under certain conditions (high tide and high wind) the will blow water through. It was not that kind of weather for us.

IMG_6613IMG_6618IMG_6619

 

We did some snorkeling right of the back of our boat. The kids were jumping in and out of this clear water all the time.

We had a small coral reef behind our boat and since the kids were tired from swimming we went by ourselves. On the way back to the boat we found a surprise visitor in the back of our boat near the sugar scoops where our swim ladder is located; a nurse shark. I scrambled up the ladder pretty quickly. Luckily he went to the other side of the boat while we were climbing up on it. The shark came right back and was waiting for hand outs. Nurse sharks are not usually swimming on the surface like this one did. He hung out with us for the next couple of hours.

We had also reunited here with Summercamp and INNTW (If not now then when),which are two kids boats. We all went on a hike in Emerald Bay. It wasn’t as nice as the Boo-Boo Hill hike, but it was fun, especially for the kids. They took off and were not concerned about us at all. The boys (dads) decided to swim back for the dinghies while us (moms) and kids hung out on the beach two coves over from our dinghies. I think all the people in the mooring field could hear our kids cheering for their swimming dads. The Dads did come back with beverages. I am thinking that maybe this was the real reason why they went instead. They wanted to spare us the hike back or they just wanted a beer?

IMG_6635

Cambridge Cay

Our next stop in Exuma Park was Cambridge Cay. We used the moorings provided by the park again. Our plan was to visit the Dundas Cave, but the winds were very strong for us to visit the cave, but we will be back.

We took a hike on the top of the ridge behind the mooring site. We had some strong winds and waves on the Atlantic ocean side. This was the highest hill we climbed on while in the Bahamas. The view was breathtaking, but it looked more like a picture of  Ireland with the raging sea, cliffs and strong wind. It was a different kind of beauty.

IMG_6661IMG_6664IMG_6650IMG_6665

Here is our Walden and it looks pretty tiny compared to those big yachts.IMG_6646.JPG

We also couldn’t pass on snorkeling ‘The Aquarium’. The name is an exact description of what it looks like. The minute we arrived and tied our dinghy to the mooring ball hundreds of Sergeant Majors, some Jacks and Night Sargents surrendered our boat waiting to be fed. And yes we brought some crackers, don’t judge, we don’t do this usually.  The snorkeling was awesome and it did look like an aquarium. Aside of the named fish we saw a couple of Rays, a Sea Turtle, a Bahamian Grouper and a couple of different kinds of Parrot Fish. The rest of the fish I don’t know nor we remember.

We also checked out a small airplane wreck on the way back to the boat.

Our handsome and supper happy driver brought us safely to the boat.GOPR7167.JPG

We are in Bahamas!

It has been while since I posted. Over the past few months we made it down to Florida from the Chesapeake Bay area.  We had a stop for Thanksgiving with our family in Georgia and then went south. It was time as the temperature hit the 33F while we were docked in Brunswick, Georgia.

St. Augustine

One of our first stops was St. Augustine in the middle of December. We stayed on a mooring ball outside the city walls with a view of Castillo de San Marcos. The kids were enjoyed the tour of the fort. The best part was St. Augustine didn’t spare any money on decorating for Christmas.  We had a wonderful view of the city christmas lights from our boat. The kids could even hear the Santa riding in his horse carriage and saying his ” Ho Ho Ho”. We loved the pre-Christmas atmosphere.

Our boat ‘Walden’ in the bay:

qAV24ZzwRf2r7gMyprEhZQ

Md0yDY7aRHyKwW97Thd8HA9KIAN2tpRMaUVm1sZAyTuw

We also got hit by another boat while in the marina. Luckily the damage was only gel coat and some buffing, but it had to be taken care of. We put this on our list of to-do items while in Fort Lauderdale.

West Palm Beach

Our next stop was West Palm Beach, FL. A few important things had happened in the below order:

  1. Brent got the watermaker working! For those of you that don’t know what watermakers are (aside a big pain, Brent would tell you in details) let me explain. A watermaker is a device that takes the salt and other particles out of ocean water and makes it into drinkable water using reverse osmosis. We really didn’t need it much on the East Coast of the U.S. as the water is free at fuel docks and marinas, but the Bahamas is a complete opposite. In Bahamas water costs anywhere from 25 – 50 cents per gallon. IF you think about how much water your family uses in a week this can add up. Plus, you have to go get it in marina or fuel dock. Our plan is to mostly anchor in the Bahamas so a watermaker is important. This fix was big win for Brent.
  2. We celebrated Christmas here. It was a very different Christmas for us. We had a two foot tall tree with only a few decorations, but it was twinkling its lights proudly in our boat. Kids all got gifts that barely fit in their rooms, but we were all happy.78_4MBfJQX-yOhzT7YkRug
  3. We met up with our friends Heather and Mikah and their kids Parker and Cage. They are family sailing on trimaran that we met in Harrington Harbour this past summer. We had a great time hanging out with them on Peanut Island and eating dinner. All was great until….
  4. Mei broke her arm and that is kind of bad for a sailing family. That said we worked it out. Mei’s biggest problem was that she wont be able to play rough like she is used to. She was so upset and didn’t want to get a cast. She was telling the paramedics and us she is fine and doesn’t need to go to the doctors. She was such a brave girl through all this ordeal. We ended up cutting off the cast on our own while in the Bahamas a few weeks later. Yes, we did consult a doctor first.

Next stop Fort Lauderdale (repairs of repairs) and we were ready to head to Bahamas.

Makai turned 7 while we were in Fort Lauderdale.rF7fCIWRSS2Q6xNB8Z9npQW-D4ffQlT9SKaS-090EgNQ

Biscayne Bay

We had to wait for a weather window to cross to Bimini. As we are a sailing catamaran we do try to use our sails as much as possible. It is also important to not run in bad weather and try not to beat into the wind or waves. These conditions generally cause big discomfort and heavy usage of our engines, therefore more diesel money to spend.

We spent our time waiting in the Coconut Grove anchorage which is located just south of Miami. It is a very nice area attractive to cruisers with access to restaurants, stores and public transportation.

Once the wind started blowing hard from the East we moved to No Name Harbour which is a part of Bill Bags State Park on Cay Biscayne. It is a completely weather protected lagoon close to the tip of Cay Biscayne that was once a hideout out for pirates. Bill Bags State Park has a neat lighthouse, playground, beautiful beach and awesome trails. I wish we could stay longer, but the weather window opened and we went across the gulf stream to Bimini.

Here we are at the top of the lighthouse on Cay Biscayne studying our bay exit as we will be doing it while it is still dark.  Our plan was to leave at 4am until Brent decided to pick up the anchor at 2 am because he could not sleep. Too excited to go!

vXKpp15DQ1-0Thz8mBCUhg

Enjoying the sunset views from the stern of our boat in No Name Harbour.dbYGeAwtSEy6TDT1VZQkmw

Brent’s excitement kept him up, so we left at 2 am on the 18th of January from No Name Harbour. It was pitch black except for the moon. We saw amazing stars on the way.b3fnZvRsSE68kAvt-JoDJgOne positive to an early departure is that we didn’t miss the sunrise.54_6Fr-UQHW4JHaDPPPL9w

Here we are arriving at Bimini Sands, which is marina located on South Bimini, Bahamas. We made it there around 9:30 am.W622llY7RLmgDIFmyMMy4A (1)

Second Leg of our Unplanned Camping Segment

After spending a couple days back at my parents house in Cumming, GA for some doctor visits we headed back out on the road on Monday January 15th. We left real early and thought we were going to get our transmission looked at that had been giving us some problems. Once we got to the shop in Atlanta we found out that they could not work on our model. After a couple of hours my wonderful parents sent us north to another shop up I-75. Once there my parents were kind enough to pick us up and bring us and all the kids to the Tellus Science Museum. We even got a lunch with their cousins before we headed out that afternoon with a repaired RV. If you even need great service and are in the area check out Open Roads RV. That evening with such a late start we only got a couple hours south and stayed at High Falls State Park.

On the 16th we got a good start and headed south to Florida. Eva drove most of the way as I had a great time home schooling the kids. Trying to teach hand writing at 65mph is not for the faint of heart. We have been doing about 3-4 hours of schooling each day. Some days are great, on others I want to tear my hair out. That afternoon we pulled into Osceola National Forest and stayed at the Ocean Pond Campground. We had a good time riding bikes, hiking and getting some schooling done. The first couple of days were cold but by the time we left it was finally warm and over 65 degrees.

After three nights in Osceola our gray tank was full so it was time to leave (there were not full hook-ups there). We headed further south for warmer weather and some clear water we ended up at Salt Springs in Ocala National Forest was great with full hookups but it did lack the full-on camping look. Since it allows long-term stays (up to 180 days) many people were set up to stay. We seem to prefer campgrounds with a more rustic look and a little less parking lot look. The kids did get to experience a couple great things while there. First we went fishing on Lake George. It is interesting because the Salt Springs have some salinity to them. The fish included both freshwater species like Largemounth Bass and Bluegill and saltwater fish like Mullet. All of the kids caught tons of Bluegill and Marco caught a bass. Even Eva joined in the fun and caught a fish. I spent pretty much all my time baiting hooks and releasing fish. The last day in Salt Springs was the most memorable. We bought some cheap goggles and hopped into the Springs. Unfortunately we forgot the GoPro so we got zero underwater pictures. It was still great though. The water was 72 degrees and crystal clear. We saw lots of fish and blue crabs. The crabs were pretty large and the Mullet were huge. We only spent about 30 minutes in the water as everyone got pretty cold. The outside temp was about 75 so we warmed up quick and rode our bikes back to the campsite for the nightly campfire.

Our next destination was Alexander Springs but since it was still in Ocala National Forest the kids were excited to hear that our drive was only 35 minutes. This is always the big question when we are headed to a new destination. If we say anything over three hours they moan pretty bad. Alexander Springs is exactly what we like. Large open campsites, big trees and no crowds. Out of about 50 sites there were 5-8 other campers in the campground. We had a great time on a hike through the jungle and saw a couple of small gators but the highlight was the Springs. We all hopped into the Springs and saw some amazing fish. They have over 100 million gallons of 73 degree water coming out of them each day. The fish were great and the visibility was well over 100 feet. There was one other person in the water so we had the place almost all to ourselves. We almost went back again the last day but the air temps dropped to about 65 so swimming without a wetsuit was not so appealing.

We knew we had to get back for Makai’s surgery on January 29 so we started to head north some. The last site we stopped at was Suwannee River State Park. We spent three nights there including Mei’s 7th birthday. The sites were heavily wooded and for $24 a night night and full hook ups it was a great deal. The best part had to be the mountain biking on the river. Makai and Eva both completed the easier one mile trail while Marco, Mei and myself did the four mile loop. I was so proud of Makai and Mei for both doing their first ever trails. Everyone had a great time and Mei was ecstatic to make her own birthday cake and get some much-needed Legoes. We ended up spending three nights here and even got our laundry done in some down time we had. After a few nights at my parents we will be back on the road again for another segment

Chief Long Trailer and a New Start

We left Florida and headed North for two reasons. One we wanted to get Makai’s feet checked out again after surgery. Two, our beloved camper and home for the past three months was having a few problems. One of them was that the electric hot water heater was burned up. Two, the awning was starting to crack  in various places. Three, the cruise control went out when the ABS brake system went out.

At Gee Gee’s faving fun with forts: IMG_3960

Once we arrived back at our home base in Cumming, GA we got Makai checked out and decided that a new home would be needed. After about 15 minutes of looking (we knew we had very little time) it was decided to trade in the Winnebago Vista and go for a regular style travel trailer. Luckily, my wonderful parents said we could borrow my Dad’s new Ram Truck to pull the camper for a few weeks until our boat was
finally ready. Here is the new trailer.

IMG_3963[1]

We picked up the Forest River 29BH on Tuesday April 2nd . After 48 hours of moving items from one camper to another we spent the first night in my parent’s driveway. It all seemed to work out so we got back into the road on Friday the 7th . Since it was a new camper and I was not used to driving a 36 foot trailer we made the short trip up to Hiawassee, Ga. We ended up spending an entire week at Bald Mountain Campground there.

On Saturday my sister’s family, the Wolfe pack, joined us. (Their last name is Wolfe, hence the nickname). Since she has three kids, Nolan, Heidi and Cora about the same age as our three they had a great weekend playing. Nothing too exciting just good old fashioned family fun; putt-putt, handmade boat races on the creek and fishing were all on the menu.

On Sunday our other friends, the Deraney’s arrived and the Wolfe pack had to go home. Tammy and Joseph Deraney lived in our cul-de- sac when we owned a house in Gainesville. We all hiked Brasstown Bald and had a great time until they left on
Tuesday. It was bittersweet knowing we would not see family or friends for a while.

The next few days we did lots of school and squeezed in a great hike at Shoal Creek Falls. The kids thought the best past was the drive there when we had to cross a small river. We left Hiawassee on Friday and headed north to Asheville.


We did not have a reservation but ended up getting lucky with one of the only walk in full hookup sites at Powhaten Lake Campground in Pisgah National Forest. Day one consisted of some great mountain biking. The trails were pretty technical but the kids did great. They also had a great time playing on the river that ran through the park.

On day two we drove out to Chimney Rocks State park. Since the elevator was broken we all got to hike the 500 or so stairs to the top. We made it and were treated to
some great views. Since Makai finally got to use his new camera on the hike we even got a few extra pictures. He did a great job for a six year old with his first camera.

After the hike we saw a few signs for a local farm and thought it may be interesting to stop. As we pulled in we saw about 200 cars in the lot which was surprising. Hickory Nut Family Farm ended up being a great stop as it was a tour stop for a new indie movie about local farmers across the country. The couple speaking had driven to all fifty states in their converted bus RV and interviewed family owned farm owners. In addition we got some great local eggs and some of the best bread we have eaten outside of
Europe. They even had a small course for kids to ride tricycles and some culvert slides built into the hill.

IMG_3990
The next day brought a 24 hour rain storm so we caught up with school and watched ET for the first time as a family.

On Monday the 16 th we did a tour of the Biltmore Estate. We all had a great time and the kids seemed to really absorb much of it. Makai took tons of pictures with his new camera. The flowers below are one of the few in focus:)

The next day we were able to meet up with an old kayaking buddy of mine Nick Litsas. HIs wife and three kids joined us for the day. We visited the Carl Sandberg house, a great playground and had dinner. The kids had a great time. Thanks Nick and Heather!

 

We then left the Asheville area and headed north into Virginia. We made it as far at Ft. Chiswell. It was a very basic campground but it did have a sorely needed laundry room.  While there we dropped into the local county rec center and had a great time at the pool and the climbing wall. Everyone liked the climbing, even Eva.

We are headed further North to the DC and Philadelphia area. Give us a shout out if anyone is in the area.