Last leg in Bahamas – The Abacos

I have put this post on back burner, but it’s time to finally catch up.  Our cruising life gets busy with 3 kids, schooling, maintaining the boat and having all the fun, so I often run out of time for blogging. Now (almost 3months later) is way past due.

 Little Harbour, Abacos

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The last time I posted we were waiting for a weather window to cross from Spanish Wells, Eluthera to Little Harbor, Abacos. In the end we left day prior to our original plan. We had some potential bad weather coming our way and, as it often happens, it seemed to speed up our movement. That made us leave beautiful Spanish Wells a day early. We opted to go the longer way through Egg Island Cut instead of the closer option, Ridley Head Channel. Ridley Head Channel cuts through a coral reef and local knowledge is recommended. That said many people take Ridley, but it could be deceiving, so we decided to take the safer route. The day started with a beautiful sail. We were flying for the first few hours, waves were 4-6 feet,  but very comfortable. Then the wind shifted to straight behind us. We have no downwind sail, so we were trying to use our genoa and the mainsail. The waves were hitting us from the beam and we had a hard time to keep our sails full. We tried wing and wing, we tacked back and forth, but couldn’t keep up with our friends on North 45 doing constantly over 6 knots.  We finally gave up and started one engine and motor sailed into little Harbor. To our surprise we learned that our friends were motoring the whole way and were very uncomfortable on the monohull.  So a big shout to Walden! Our boat did great on the 60+ mile sail. Maybe there is downwind sail in our future?

Little Harbour is must see place. The harbor was settled by American Randolf Johnston and his family in 1951. They sailed down on an old wooden boat and actually lived in a cave for a while until they built a house. Later he built a bronze foundry and it is still running today. We took the tour through the foundry and visited the famous Pete’s Bar. Pete is one of the children still residing in the family compound.

Little Harbour was also the place we finally caught up to our friend’s on Summercamp. Together we snorkeled Blue Hole  two miles outside the harbour. It is a deep hole inside of the shallow water. Kind of scary to snorkel over the dark abyss that was over 600 feet deep. The sign on the shore indicated a couple of divers lost their lives here in the depths. We decided to stay close to the surface.

The next day we snorkeled Sandy Cay reef. This was one of the best looking reefs we have seen. Our Gopro footage didn’t turn out good. It was a beautiful sunny day, but the waves were coming from the open ocean and were building up during our snorkel time. We had a limited window, but it was all worth it. Here is Mei with our friends dog Annika.

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Hope Town, Abacos

Our next stop was Hope Town on Elbow Cay. It is a small town filled with Bahamian architecture. This (aside the Chub Cay Resort) was the first place we saw freshly cut green lawns without weeds. Most of the houses were rentals for tourists so everything was super expensive. The main mode of transportation here were golf carts and walking.

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The kids also found a playground and quick friends to play with, all while Dad bought a couple of beers for us to drink while watching our children play.

I took our kids to the Hope Town Light House. Brent had to do some fix on the boat, so he sent us out there. This is one of the last operational kerosene-fueled lighthouses in the world. Some pretty interesting history we learned here.IMG_7153IMG_7164View of Walden with Brent somewhere in the bilge fixing stuff – that seems to be the curse of our cruising life.IMG_7161

Easter in Marsh Harbour

At first we were very apprehensive to go to Marsh Harbour as we read it is a very industrial busy city, but we need to some provisioning (the last one in Bahamas), and ugly weather was heading our way. The bay is protected from all directions and is known as a safe heaven from storms. Most boats are anchored here, but there are few mooring balls available. We always question the quality of mooring balls and in case of bad weather we would rather stay on anchor if a marina is not available or too expensive. We know of plenty of mooring balls that have been broken in the middle of storms with boats slamming into other boats. We have seen boats dragged several times on anchor and the same happened in Marsh Harbour. Out of the approx. 50 boats anchored there, 3 were dragging their anchor while the storm hit the harbor. Luckily all had their owners on them and were able to react. The winds got over 40 knots during one of the blows.

One of the highlights of Marsh Harbor was the Easter Bunny was able to find us. Here is how we do an Easter Egg Hunt on Walden.

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We celebrated Easter with our friends, the Browns, from Summercamp in the nearby restaurant. The Easter bunny here left $20 in one of the eggs! The kids painted some eggs and played games while the parents sipped their beverages.

Not only kids but also us adults have built great friendship over the last few months staying on and off together in beautiful anchorages, sharing meals, beverages, repairing boats, crying over our homeschooling and lots of fun. Much to our dismay they are going back to live on land. We just have to figure out how to go visit them in Rhode Island.IMG_7193.JPG

Fowl Cay Snorkeling

We stopped for a quick snorkel at Fowl Cay Preserve. The anchorage was beautiful but too rough for an overnight stay.

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Swimming with a Manta Ray at Great Guana Cay

Great Guana Cay was our next stop. We visited the well known Nippers. Brent stayed on the boat again making repairs. The kids had a good time playing in a pool attached to the bar. Maybe there should be more of these in the USA? Restaurants, bars with pool or playgrounds. It is common in Europe to have a restaurant with a playground or playroom for kids. I bet families would love to come to these establishments in the US also.

We had a speicial visitor at our anchorage – a huge Manta Ray! Manta Rays are very rare in the Bahamas. We have some pictures from a drone above with me in the water and the kids following it above. What a beatiful creature!

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Here is my footage from under the water. He was massive.

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After Great Guana Cay we headed for Treasure Cay with our friends from Summercamp to spend  a couple of days before we part ways. By this time our kids didn’t believe us that this is  goodbye for us and they were right.

Here I had a episode with a shark that taught me not to be to curious. It wasn’t an aggressive shark, just a nurse shark probably my size. I had the Gopro in my hands while Brent pointed out that there was a shark nearby.  I decided to go and snap some pictures. The picture didn’t turn out well, which was my fault. I didn’t go close enough. But I did go close enough for the shark to turn and go after me.  No he didn’t attack me, but he was probably just curious to see what is this crazy creature following him. The situation drastically changed. Me trying to swim away from him. I turned backwards flipping my flippers in his face. And no I didn’t take pictures, different things were going through my mind. Like hoping if he decides to bite, he should go for my huge yellow flippers. No more shark hunting for me, nor anybody in my family as long as I have say so. Here is my shark picture.InkedGOPR1853 (2)_LI

 

After a couple more sunsets, fishing, playing in the water, our handsome captain brought us to West End – our final destination in Bahamas. This is the place where our friends caught up with us again. We crossed to the US on May 7th to Fort Pierce, Florida!

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On the way home with my boy.

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‘Goodbye’ Exumas and ‘Hello’ Eleuthera!

Our last couple of weeks in the Exumas were special for several reason but our visit from the Haramija family was tops. They arrived in George Town towards the end of the March and stayed with us for their spring break.  We showed them George Town and enjoyed their company. Our kids would really like to keep Dylan (their daughter) around for much longer.

We did some hiking to the Monument Hill and to the beach on the Atlantic side.

We also did some boogie boarding on the leeward side of Stocking Island.

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We hiked steep sandy hills and also slid down them.IMG_6968

The smaller ones went up the mast.

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We had the wonderful opportunity to swim with wild dolphins. They spent about hour and half with us and were very playful. Me (mom) was the dolphin whisperer. They started to interact with me by doing little twirls for me, they let me touch them and they tried to communicate with their sounds.  If you told me a year ago I would have the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins in their natural habitat I wouldn’t believe you.

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And we relaxed, ate a lot and had a good time.

It all had to come to the end and we said goodby to our wonderful friends Darren and April and their daughter.ifeBFELXToCMieorM5S_8g

Their departure also marked our departure North. We are headed up the Exuma chain for a little and then off to Eleuthera. Bittersweet saying goodby to these beautiful islands. So far my favorites for its clear blue water and the natural beauty. Not so much civilization, which was nice break from our prior life.

 

Visitors on Walden

After a week in the Exumas it was time to go back to Nassau to pick up my parents (Eva’s). They visited us for 3 1/2 weeks. While we were in Nassau did lots of provisioning, which means spending too much money on food. Food in the Bahamas is super expensive even for Americans and the quality and freshness is questionable. I can’t wait to come to America or Europe to get some fresh and good food. While living in the US we always disliked shopping in Walmart mostly becuse we wanted to shop in smaller stores. Now what we would give to have the possibility to go to one.

The day of my parents arrival I went to pick them up at airport. We call them Babi and Deda. Babi means grandma and Deda is grandpa in Czech language. They flew from Europe and spent about 40 hours traveling via bus and plane. While Brent and the kids stayed at the marina I took the $40 taxi ride to the airport. Taxi’s are expensive here. Well a lot of things are expensive and I really feel for regular Bahamian people.

After Nassau we went down south to the Exumas. We visited our very favorite Warderick Wells. This time we made the hike to Boo-BooHhill with my parents and brought our Walden sign. Everybody participated in its creation. It is now sitting on top of the Boo-Boo hill with hundreds of other signs.

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We very much enjoyed the beach right below the Park office. Me and my mom relaxed on the beach (possibly beverages were involved) while kids were playing on the beach getting themselves super sandy.DSC_0036DSC_0055DSC_0075DSC_0033Next, down the chain of the islands was the Cambridge Cay. We all made the short trip to the Aquarium, which is place near the Cambridge Cay with a beautiful reef and tons of colorful fish that are used to being fed. My parents went snorkeling with us for some time. This was my mom’s  first experience snorkeling in her life and I am so proud of both of them for doing so.

After snorkeling the Aquarium we were able to also go into the Dundes Caves and check them out. It is recommended to go there with calm seas and low tide. We had calmer seas (not calm) and pretty low tide, but we still had to time our entry into the caves (especially the southern one) with incoming waves. Not much life in the caves, but they were very interesting with stalactites hanging from their ceiling.

From here it was a short trip south to Big Majors anchorage. This is known for the “pigs on the beach”. We anchored right in front of the beach and watched the show first day. The next day we went and brought them some cantaloupe rinds. It looked like they really liked them. One of them even tried to crawl in our dinghy which I wasn’t big fan of it at all.

About a week prior to our visit we saw an online post that some fashion model got bitten in her behind by these exact pigs. After our visit with them we had the pleasure to meet some cruisers that stay in this area long term and they warned us that biting incidents are common. It happens almost every week according to them. We didn’t go back. Some of the pigs were huge and there were also some little piglets. We saw a lot of tour boats coming to visit the pigs and the guides encourage the tourists to pick up the little piglets, which just squeaked very loudly. This part was sad to watch, so no more pigs for us.

Neighboring the Pig Beach is the famous Thunderball Grotto. The grotto is an underwater cave system with a wonderful display of coral on the east side and colorful fish ready to greet you the second you leave your dinghy. We had to time our entry again. We approached the cave in slack tide as there is a pretty strong current flowing through it. Ideal is to go in slack tide and when the sun is high up. Although the sun was not above our heads directly, the the cave was stunning and the colorful exotic fish were plentiful and not shy. Unfortunately our Gopro card was malfunctioning and we didn’t get any pictures, so the one below is not ours. We may have to swing by on our way back to just get some pics because it was beautiful.DCIM100GOPROGOPR7157.JPG

On our way down to Georgetown we also anchored behind the private island of David Copperfield and snorkeled “The Musician – Mermaid”. It is a stainless steel sculpture that David Copperfield commissioned from artist Jason DeCaires Taylor and had it sunk outside of his private island for entertaining exclusive guests that stay in the upscale resort.  We – not so exclusive cruisers – had the opportunity to snorkel this thanks to David Copperfield.gopr7202.jpg

Our final destination with my parents was Georgetown, Bahamas. We spent time hiking Stocking Island, playing on the beaches and enjoying the beautiful weather. Kids enjoyed their B and Deda, so did we.

We hiked the Monument on the Stocking Island also, which provided us with awesome views of our anchorage, Elizabeth Harbour and Atlantic Ocean on the other side.IMG_6784

One of my favorite pictures of my mom overlooking Elizabeth Harbour from the Monument.IMG_6787

My parents departed for their home in Czech Republic over a week ago and it seems a bit lonesome here.  We miss them being here but we already have a trip planned to come see them. We loved them being on our boat although it may have felt small and cramped sometimes, but I wouldn’t wish it any other way.  They had to travel a long distance to come to us and we really appreciate it.

Bahamas here we are!

We arrived into Bimini Sands marina on January 18th around 9:30 am. We left way too early from No Name Harbour after Brent being ready and impatient. Bimini Sands is located on South Bimini, which is not the place where all the tourists go.  There is not much on the island except couple of houses, airport, 2 restaurants (one is take out) and the Shark Research Lab. We didn’t originally plan to go to Bimini at all. Our plan was to go across the bank and end up in Chub Cay.  We plan but mother nature changes our mind all the time. The weather window was not very long and a nasty front was following. Second, Bimini Sands marina was running a special where we coud get dockage for $100 a week. Yep that is right, $100 per week.  The resort has nice floating docks with complete protection from bad weather. They also have a beautiful infinity pool and a beach area. The marina had large numbers of fish in the marina and the water was clear.

After checking in with customs we settled down and met some cruisers. One of the boats that came from No Name Harbour was Summercamp with Kayla, Dave and their girls Zaia and Jolie. They made friends quickly. IMG_5224[1]

The very first night we learned not to let our kids stick their feet in the water even it was so clear. We had visitors – 4 bull sharks. They were way to accustomed to people feeding them, so they reacted to splashing in water by “going for it”. Last year some dog was supposedly drown, bitten by the sharks in the marina. So no kids in water here. Not the greatest picture of the shark, but it was at night with our underwater lights and taken with Iphone from our boat. This one was about 6-7 feet long.TMIQqQwSSXC8tr5Pkz4sEg

Our Mei with her cast covered in a trash bag walking on the pretty beach in South Bimini.DCIM105GOPRO

We did visit North Bimini, which could be done by dinghy or ferry and runs every 10 min or so and costs $3 per ride.  Our visit in Bimini was for a whole week as the weather was blowing some strong storms in so we could not safely cross the bank. We did have a chance to visit the Shark Research Lab on. We got to see their little sharks and learned about their work. IMG_5223[1]

After a week in Bimini Sands a decent weather window opened up and we took off across the bank to Chub Cay.

Chub Cay

After sailing all day we arrived in Chub Cay about 8pm. We almost hit a channel marker but noticed it at the last second. We spent one day in the anchorage outside Chub Cay Resort, but decided to tuck in into the comfortable marina on the second night as 40-50 knot winds were expected. Chub Cay Marina had a nice infinity pool with a really nice beach. We used every minute of the time there.

Dave from Sumercamp flying a kite with Marco.IMG_6545

Mei and her daddy flying kite.IMG_6555

Next day we anchored between Bird and Whale Cay. We stayed with our friends from Summercamp as the kids were all excited to have boat buddies around. We found a beach with really deep sand, it felt like walking in ankle high snow, except the temperature felt wrong. DCIM105GOPRO

We also snorkeled on a wreck nearby.

Sunset from our boat was beautiful at Bird Cay

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New Providence – 1/30/2019

Our next jump brought us to New Providence Island and Nassau. We avoided the main harbour where the cruise ships are coming and going. We anchored again near our friends from Summercamp in West Bay. We were able to get some provisioning done and also squeeze in some fun.IMG_5201

Did I say the water was clear light blue? Checking the anchor became much easier, you can see it from the top of the boat. Well we could see everything that went by our boat in the water. Kids had fun walking the beach near our boat.

We spent the last couple of weeks with friends from Summercamp. Here is all of us.DCIM105GOPRO

Brent also caught us yummy Mahi-Mahi on the way to New Providence, which we shared with our friends for dinner.IMG_6575

Crossing to Exumas

Although we will be back in Nassau to pick my (Eva’s) parents we decided to make a run (sail) for the Exumas starting at Highborne Cay. Our anchorage in north end was peaceful. We got to snorkel on some reefs near our boat and also dinghy to nearby Allans Cay and its Iguana Beach. The Iguana’s are native on the Exuma Islands. Here in Alan Cay they get fed by people. Tour boats bring their customers here to feed the iguanas and interact with them. So the moment they saw us they went towards us. I didn’t feel too comfortable about it as I read they do bite. We decided to do the right thing and not feed them. I said we snorkeled, well not all of us. Makai completely missed it and slept through it completely on the side of dinghy while we were all in the water.GOPR7085.JPG

Next stop Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

Please note that although it looks like this is all fun and play we are teaching our kids. We tend to do about 3-5 hours of school a day. This includes reading, writing, math, history, science, grammar and foreign language. The difference is we are doing it in one of the most beautiful places on earth!

 

Chesapeake Bay

The last couple of months were spent in the Chesapeake Bay. We had some great and some not so great times. The not so good times were all tied to surprise maintenance on our boat but, yet again, but the good times outweighed the frustration of the bad ones.

Jamestown and Williamsburg

We arrived into Norfolk, VA area on July 10th about 11pm. Crossing into such a busy shipping channel in the middle of the night was interesting. We passed a couple of ships that were well over 700-800 feet long. Even barely moving their wakes were huge. We were happy to drop anchor at 1am. Our adventures began the next day.

One of our first trips led us to Jamestown. We loved it there. The only thing about the trip was that we had to motor almost the whole way. It’s a bit up the James River  (20+ miles) and the depth is not so great outside of the channel. That may have been reason why we were the only boat out there. Visiting Jamestown and next day Williamsburg counted as a history lesson for our kids. This is where some of the very first European Settlements in North America existed.

Kids were all happy (I was not as excited) to go stomp their feet in the mud that was getting cured for the brick maker to make bricks. We had some muddy kids.

On the way back South we passed Newport News, Portsmouth, and Hampton. These are the areas known for building all the aircraft carriers and big navy ships for the US Military. They seemed to go on and on.

Crabbing in the Chesapeake

We have not done much fishing but kids did do some crabbing. It seems the thing to do in the Chesapeake. We used turkey necks on hand lines and it worked like magic. We couldn’t believe how fast we were getting crabs on the line. Kids were running back and forth screaming “I got one”.  Brent and I were having a hard time keeping up pulling them out of water.  That said it is a lot of work to prepare a meal out of them. It took Brent a while to kill them all (no we didn’t boil them alive), then they were cooked, peeled and we made crab cakes out of them. They all love them, me not so much. I still see those crab eyes staring at me.

 

Tangier Island

Brent and I both fell in love with Tangier Island. It is located in Virginia in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. It is a sleepy old waterman’s island that is disappearing rapidly. Every year the island looses acres of land due to ice melting and other environmental causes. The island will be mostly gone and unliveable within next 100 years unless there is some huge intervention. I can’t help to feel sad that it will not survive. The island seems like it got stuck in the last century but in a good way. Kids were playing on the streets, which were shared by walkers, bikers and people on golf carts. We saw very little cars as only a couple dozen are on the island. You can get everywhere with a ten minute bike ride. The island is only accessible by water. There are no stop lights and only a single place to eat dinner.   We bought some oysters from local farmer although most of the watermen live from crabbing. His oyster house (like most of the watermen houses) was a shack on the pilings in the middle of the bay with electricity run to it. Again accesible only by boat.

We stayed in Parks Marina which is run by Mr. Parks. He built the marina with his own hands over fifty years ago and has runs it since. He is in his 80’s now and still going. There will be probably nobody to run this place once he is gone, but then there might be no Tangier Island much longer past that.

The kids didn’t like this place much. The only good time they had when they met a friend who had followed us on our boat and played with them all over the boat. Otherwise they had declared the island boring. They prefer being on the anchor where they can jump of the boat instead in a marina with no pool or fun stuff.

 

Salomon Island

Our next stop was Salomon Island off the coast of Maryland. We found a great anchorage with a small beach nearby. The kids loved it here as they could swim whenever they wanted and had a private small beach to explore. It did get very hot so the water was great to cool off in. We liked it so much we hit it again on our way back south a few weeks later and visited a great museum there. Here is how we get around in our dinghy.

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Rock Hall

We spent more time here than any other anchorage. We dropped our anchor in Swan Creek which was a 10 minute dinghy ride to the marina area. It took a few tries to get good holding but it was worth it. Again the kids loved the ability to swim whenever they wanted. Also the town was really cute. There was a main street with a few good restaurants and a small grocery store. We then moved to a marina and met GeeGee and Grand-Daddy (Brent’s parents). They drove their camper all the way from Georgia to see us and the kids. They camped a short drive away and drove back to the marina each day. It was great to have them there and the kids were excited. We walked the city, went out to eat, relaxed and visited a National Marine Sanctuary. We miss you Gee Gee and Grand-Daddy. After they left we spent another day at the Swan Creek Anchorage and then headed south for a week in Annapolis.

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Annapolis

Annapolis is known as the sailing capital of the U.S. There are sailboats everywhere. It is also neat to visit to see the history and be so close to the downtown area. The mooring area (where you can tie up to a submerged chunk of concrete) is only a couple hundred yards from the shops and restaurants. We all went out to eat at Pusser’s and looked at some of the historic buildings. On our last day there we spent most of our time at the U.S. Naval Academy. We were all very impressed by the campus and there is a great museum with a large number of miniature models of ships. Some of these date back to the 17th century and have amazing detail. Since Annapolis is mostly old stuff (that is what the kid’s said) we decided to head back to Rock Hall for the annual Pirates and Wenches Weekend.

Back to Rock Hall

We went back to Rock Hall and anchored at Swan Creek again to go to the Pirate Festival. It was great fun. Things started off Saturday morning with a treasure dig for the kids on the beach. We also saw pirate plays, pirate cannons, did a pirate scavenger hunt and learned some pirate talk. On Sunday Marco and Brent did a 5K while Mei and Makai did a fun run. All in all it was a great weekend of fun. Brent even got to rescue a boat in the anchorage when we had a big storm Saturday night and a 50′ boat with no one on board pulled it’s anchor!

Herrington Bay North

We knew that we had a lot of items that needed to be repaired and it is tough getting everything fixed while “on the hook” so we decided to spend a few weeks at a marina. Herrington North is about 25 miles south of Annapolis and it has almost everything you could ask for in a marina. We spent three weeks there and it was nice to have constant air conditioning and power. We were able to get some engine work done, some new lines run up the mast and all new rivets on our trampoline. The work was great but the family also enjoyed the activities. The marina had a pool where they had a breakfast buffet one morning and a Labor Day Party a couple of weeks later. They even had some movie nights for the kids and a shuttle that ran us to the grocery store. We met some other great cruising families and hope to hook up with them again. Eva also had a big birthday surprise when Tammy Deraney (our old neighbor) flew in to visit for a few nights. Eva had no idea. It was fun to have another person on board and Tammy was our first overnight guest. After a few weeks we knew we had to get south so we could get the boat laid up for the rest of Hurricane season.

All the fun the kids had on the top of our boat. They especially like to be pulled up the mast. It was not that comfortable; I tried.

 

Here I got to celebrate my birthday with my surprise visitor Tammy.  I loved it! The best surprise of all

Back South and Cape Charles

Upon leaving Herrington we made a beeline to Cape Charles, VA about 120 miles south. We stopped at Salomon Island and aother small marina before getting to Cape Charles. Upon getting there we started to get Walden ready to be lifted. We knew that we had to get some paint work done (the one from June did not adhere correctly) so we decided to have the boat hauled while we went to visit family in Europe for six weeks. Cape Charles is a sleepy little village that we used a borrowed golf cart to explore. Everyone was nice and we got the boat prepped for dry land and a possible hurricane in our absence. For the next few weeks we will be on dry land!