We had a beautiful return Gulf Stream crossing and are safely anchored at Rodriguez Key, just off Key Largo. We’re going to decompress, eat hearty, get some good rest, clean up, and organize while at anchor. Tomorrow morning, we’ll refuel the boat and return to port. After that, we’ll make our way to customs in Miami (by road), and then continue on to our overnight RV park- either Lake Panasoffkee or Blue Springs State Park. This has been a most amazing trip. Everything went as planned or better and we’ve had no mishaps or injuries. All the kids have gotten along well, contributed to the success of the group, and have been awesome. Lots more to post and many photos to come!
We’ve turned Hugh into a sailor! Hugh sailed back with us to the U.S. and will be visiting his friend in New Orleans.
We had a fantastic time at the Berry Islands and just returned to Weech’s Dock in Bimini. We explored Great Harbor Cay and met our friends, the Govatos/Willis/Nell family, at Hoffman’s Cay. We swam and jumped into the Blue Hole at Hoffman’s Cay. We made red beans and rice for everyone. We had a bonfire on the beach and roasted marshmallows. Suffice to say, we had a great time in the most incredible place. The sail there and back was smooth. We will depart Bimini to go back to the U.S. tomorrow morning. We’ll anchor tomorrow night at Rodriguez Key, just off Key Largo.
So, we’re anchored at Great Harbor Cay in the Berry Islands planning to meet our friends at Hoffman’s Cay. We contacted them via VHF radio first thing in the morning. They were excited to know we were on the way and we were excited that we would see them again in what would turn out to be one of the most beautiful places on earth.
About an hour and a half later, we dropped our hook near Tanda Malaika just off of Hoffman’s Cay. We had cays rising up from the water all around us and the water was crystal clear. Aiden and Glade paddled themselves from Tanda Malaika to Big Easy II on a tow-behind inner tube. We were very happy to have them aboard and, soon after, their siblings would join us too. Thereafter, the adults all assembled aboard Tanda Malaika where we planned our day at the Blue Hole on Hoffman’s Cay.
Two dinghies full of people made their way to a little cove behind Hoffman’s Cay. The beauty there is incredible. The sand was very fine, the water crystal clear, the green fauna lush. In short – paradise. We landed on the beach and made our way through a narrow little trail about a 1/4 mile inland to the Blue Hole – a 600 ft deep natural pool with a cliff to jump off of! We spent the rest of the day there enjoying the beauty of the place and the good company of friends.
While at the Blue Hole, we met a troop of Boy Scouts from Atlanta who sailed in from Nassau. They were on a 5-day Bahamas expedition.
That night, Tyler made red beans and rice for the crews of both boats and Belinda served up some delicious cole slaw to go with it. Believe me when I tell you, this was synergy in action. It was a delicious dinner. Tanda Malaika had a nice treat for us afterwards, having previously stacked wood for a bonfire on the beach. We roasted marshmallows and made s’mores and played night games on the beach. Wow, what a night!
Today we left right at 6:00 am from Weech’s bound for the Berry Islands. It was dead calm when we left building to a comfortable 12 knots of breeze for most of the 100 mile journey. Along the way, we dropped a couple of lines in the water and got some good hits. One was a huge fish that unfortunately got away. The wind decided at that moment to freshen up to about 20 knots, so it was hard to slow the boat down to reel in the fish. No matter though because soon after, Beckah reeled in a very nice Tuna that would feed us all quite generously that night.
We anchored in Great Harbor Cay, a large anchorage at the north of the Berry Islands. We dinghied ashore and explored the island, visiting the marina and exploring an abandoned hotel. We saw only a few people on the island – a very nice couple named Clife and Lillyette who had flown out there on their Piper airplane, and a couple from Covington, LA, of all places, aboard their powerboat in the marina.
Our shore excursion took longer than we had planned so we got back to our dinghy after dark. It was a bit of an ordeal shuttling people back to the boat in the dark, but we made it safely. During this operation, Tyler and Beckah cooked up the tuna and, upon our return with the final members of our crew, served it up along with delicious asparagus, mixed vegetables, and some other thing I can’t remember the name of (grain with pineapple). What a feast!!
We had a free day today to do whatever we wanted to do! We sailed to the Sapona and dive around and in it. We also climbed up on the ship and jumped off. It was simply amazing.
While the kids were enjoying the Sapona, Dan was trying to talk to people at SSC. Back in Bay St. Louis, the school was in a near panic with no internet. Cell service is not that great around Bimini and Dan found it difficult to communicate with people back home. Karen came to the rescue signing him up for the international calling and texting plan. That helped, but it would turn out to be an arduous task troubleshooting from 1000 miles away. It turned out that the internet provider did an upgrade which left us hanging.
That didn’t dampen the activities though, and after the Sapona, Big Easy II, headed southwest to Honeymoon Harbor where our crew visited the stingrays. After that, we headed back to Bimini for more Junkanoo!
Dan and Tyler played music onstage for Junkanoo and later, Tyler entered and won the watermelon eating contest. He is now the reigning 2016 Junkanoo Watermelon Eating Champion and has the medal to prove it!
Today was the last day of band camp, culminating in a Mardi Gras style parade through the streets of Bimini! We brought a huge wagon-load of beads and other things for the younger children to throw to the crowd. The parade was a huge success – the band played 5 different songs and the drummers kept the beat the whole time, showing off 5 cadences themselves.
Tonight was the first night of the Bahamas Junkanoo celebration. The Bahamian drummers were simply unbelievable!
Another great day at band camp. The kids just keep getting better and better!
We just arrived into dock from a great snorkeling place called Three Sisters near the north end of the island! We sailed all the way there with no help from our motors! Everyone needed that smooth sail after having such a rough way here! Beckah and Tyler were spear fishing the entire time and were both pretty good at it! We are gonna be eating well tonight!
Today our good friends, the Govatos/Willis/Nell families, joined us and helped us run the band camp. We’ve now had 2 days of band camp with approximately 50 Bahamian kids playing trumpets, trombones, saxophones, clarinets, and recorders. They are simply amazing. At the end of day 2, we had two songs ready to go for the parade on Friday.
Back at the dock, our kids from Big Easy II and our friends’ kids from Tanda Malaika went out on the dinghy and found 4 nice conchs that we ultimately ate in the form of conch fritters (thank you Belinda!). We put our food together and along with the fritters, we had beef fajitas with refried beans and other fixings and delicious Goombay punch to drink. We had a jam session on the boat afterwards and the kids are still swapping stories as I write this.
This morning we cleared customs and headed to band camp by pickup truck. We were very glad to be on land and very glad to see our young musicians at band camp. We started the morning with some tuna and grits for breakfast. Then we distributed instruments to all the kids and began teaching them. Tyler and Zach taught the saxes and clarinets; Dan taught the trumpets; Matthew taught the trombones; Danielle, Taylor, and Beckah taught the recorders. We held off on the drums this first day to give everyone a chance to try out the horns. Everyone got off to a very good start musically.
To our delight, our good friends, the Govatos/Willis family with their friends (and now ours), the Nell family, docked their boat right next to ours at Weech’s yesterday. We met this family in the Spring.