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Epilogue…

Ok – we are a few MONTHS late in providing this last update, but I think the reason for the delay is the update itself. Before you think that something happened to cause the delay, think the absolute, complete opposite.

If you can suffer through a few more photos, we’ll put a nice bow on it in the end…

We’ll start with the girls. Tali came back to her sailing lessons and regattas, and junior lifeguard camp. Savy continued to look for an audience taking part in a musical theater camp. They started school without fanfare and have transitioned from boat school to Montessori school smoothly. A side note… after talking to some of the home/boat schooling families and the challenges that folks faced with their school systems at home while cruising, we can’t say enough about the Montessori curriculum and its flexibility to educate through experience allowing the child to drive the focus. When we do something like this again (subtle, right?), the biggest challenge for education will not be content, but likely social. Those daily ‘arguments’ and hurt feelings that kids go through at school are invaluable, and having them in a smaller circle of peers limits that experience…

Tali racing in a regatta… She loves her boat, “Sassy.”

She’s quickly adding to her trophy case… For the record, she is less interested in the trophy and more interested in making sure she beats the boys!!!

The girls changed in so many ways, but confidence is definitely one of the top three.

We came back and adjusted a different speeds… Becky was at work the week after we returned treating patients, and Chris was still glued to the weather report looking for the next front or low pressure system that would require us to change anchorages, or daily trips to Intermezzo to make sure everything was OK. (We’ve only had a boat on that mooring for 14 years without incident… why was he checking so much?)

People ask us about things we didn’t expect. From Chris’ perspective, there were two. First one was the amount of time and mental energy focused on our safety and security. For folks that are fans of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the bottom two levels of the triangle. Second, the re-entry experience, which is directly related to the first. You just don’t shut off focusing on safety and security when you walk back into life in suburban New Jersey.

Another question we get is focused on what is different now that we are back. That’s the hard one… one answer is nothing and the other answer is everything – both are accurate. Before publishing the epilogue, we were waiting for that “ah ha” change, or that simple answer to what is different, but we waited and waited, and things are basically the same. So if everything changed, then what is it? The best way to describe it is that our outlook has changed – experiences are important, being with the right people is important, and each person’s life is unique and we have more power and ability to make ours unique than we may have thought before. The Jones’ are such a powerful force instilled from our childhoods… its such a powerful force because it is unconscious. Many people we have met know this and many other people that we know, knew this, but we did not connect at that level. So in short, we continue to wake up every day and go about our lives, but those daily micro-decisions we make are based on a different objective. While nothing looks different now, 5/10/20 years from now we will be in a far different spot than we would have been without this experience.

As far as our daily lives, Becky’s hours increased at work (not quite her choice), but she’s enjoying being back. She’s also coaching a local “Girls on the Run Team” and getting back involved with the school. Chris is continuing his search for work (he really couldn’t put together a coherent professional sentence not focusing on sailing or weather until the middle of August). Things are moving very well, it just takes time. He got back on the water and helped one of our friends move their boat from New York to Norfolk – a 2 night trip that fulfilled his offshore sailing fix. He is also spending time capturing this experience in a way that will continually remind us of what we accomplished as a family through a graphic and turning this blog into a hardcover book as a memento. And now, he’s back in his element, Intermezzo is out of the water and requires all sorts of work to get her ready for her first winter on the hard in NJ.

Savy helping Dad clean the waterline of Intermezzo.

As far as the next chapter… maybe a “Land Yacht” (yes, aka RV) to see the United States before Tali goes to High School? We’ll see, we know that the kids activities are going to start driving much of our lives, but just throwing the idea out there helps keep us focused.

In the end, our intermezzo delivered on its objective to be a break between two parts of our lives. We cannot thank you all enough for the support you provided throughout this journey.

Lots of love,

Becky & Chris

Home again…

Intermezzo is safely on her mooring in Keyport Harbor, and the Gaver Family is safely back on Terra Firma. There are lots of mixed feelings from all of us. All you have to do is look to the kids to have all those feelings transparently displayed… The best example was how the kids couldn’t wait to sleep in their own rooms – this was a constant conversation during the last week… They have spent a few nights at home and are both sleeping together in Natalie’s bed : ). Can’t wait for the space, but not quite ready to give up being so close – it is so tough to describe.

Our last week was packed with fun and excitement. We left Intermezzo at Block Island and took a ferry to Newport to meet our friends, the Polings. We also got the chance to meet friends from our time in the Bahamas who were working their way up the coast for their summer in Portland, ME. Good food, mansion tours, and good times as we were mentally preparing for our “re-entry,” as it’s called.

Savy and Tali staged this photo… getting creative with a camera these days.

Mom and her girls enjoying the shade at Rough Point – Doris Duke’s summer home in Newport. Lots of weird photography restrictions inside the homes, but we had the chance to see Rough Point, and then took the servant’s tour at the Elms. I’m sure we have seen both extremes of American Lifestyle.

I know, we missed our obligatory beach shot, but crazy kids doing handstands still included on the lawn of the Springhouse Hotel on Block Island.

Penultimate sunset – Block Island, RI

We left Block Island and had our last stop in Port Jefferson, NY, where we saw friends of Becky’s parents, who have since evolved into our friends too. We rafted up next to them, broke out the wine and champagne and had some great laughs about our journey. Departure the next morning, brought the familiar trip going through the Long Island Sound, East River, Lower Hudson Bay, Raritan Bay, and then Keyport Harbor. We picked up the mooring, but just like any club, it didn’t take long for people to see that we were back… we had folks on the boat until the launch stopped at 11:00PM.

The final sunset on our journey – Port Jefferson, NY… The sunsets did not disappoint!

Girls enjoying the last few miles of our sail into Keyport Harbor.

“Re-entry” is definitely a process that takes time… while we wanted to let everyone know that we were back safe, an epilogue, of sorts, a few weeks from now, is definitely required to close out the blog. To be honest, at this point in time, the adjustment to land life, is far more difficult to adjusting to living aboard. It may be more about having a clearer purpose aboard, and recognizing that living a purpose-filled life ashore is a little more complicated; but having that awareness, alone, will surely set us on a different course.

We can’t thank you all enough for your support throughout this voyage. The simple fact that folks were following us and staying connected meant the world and gave us the strength to get through the tough spots. We can’t wait to see you all over the coming weeks and months.

Enjoy the summer and we’ll be sure to get a closing post with our plans.

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1 Week to go – YIKES!!!

We are fully in “Savor Every Moment” mode! We are currently in the Great Salt Pond on Block Island, just coming from Nantucket. A week from now, we will be picking up our mooring in Keyport Harbor. We’ve all done a fantastic job staying away from “what’s next-itis;” so except for the kids starting camp, we’ll figure it out what July 2nd will look like when we get there : )

Our trip north from Annapolis was uneventful – but weather did impact our progress a bit. First, an offshore trip to Block Island would have delayed us at least a week. We needed a solid day and half window, with time for the seas to settle down – it just wasn’t going to happen… so up the Jersey Coast we went and through the Long Island Sound.

First stop, after the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal was Cape May. There were not many pictures from this run simply because there was nothing to see, except fog… and lots of it. We left the narrow canal with a close loud horn coming our way… a friendly wave from the Coast Guard (and being able to see the colors of their eyes) as we passed put us into thicker fog in the Delaware River – the major shipping channel to Philadelphia. We stayed out of the shipping lane with our radar working overtime, but between Tali and Becky looking out, and Captain’s head down on the chart and radar, it was a long, but uneventful passage.

Being at Cape May was a bit of a weird feeling… close to home, but not quite. We did the tourist thing, walked around downtown, continued our fudge sampling, went to the zoo, and the Wildwood boardwalk. It was just enough of a reminder, that we’re coming back a little different than we left – Wildwood may be just a little over the top ; )

“Watch the Tram Car Please…”

From Cape May, we did the 8 hour jump up to Atlantic City, anchored and prepared for our long trip the next day. When people travel down the ICW each year from north of the Chesapeake, there is one mandatory offshore passage, and that is from Atlantic City to Sandy Hook. It’s a good 12 hour day with minimal places to pull in if the weather goes south – so a window is important. We had ours and, while the normal stop is Atlantic Highlands, that was waaaayyyyy too close to home, so we opted to continue north and spend the night in Sheepshead Bay. Glad we did – stocked up on fresh meat at the local butcher, and found a nice spot for a weekend getaway (and some great Italian food) when we’re back home.

Atlantic City from Ocean… of course the conversation went to challenges the city is having. Reading up on it, looks like two casinos/hotels will be reopening this season. Good news!

It was a bit chilly heading up the coast, but Savy kept Chris company at the helm.

The trip up the East River never gets old!!!

We spent the night anchored in Northport, NY, then crossed the sound and anchored in Westport, CT and finally tied up to the dock at the Mystic Seaport. We affectionately call it Disney World for Sailors!!!!

Intermezzo in the background… kind of funny to look at her with vessels that were built when fiberglass didn’t exist.

As luck would have it, we arrived on the closing day of the Sea Shanty Festival. This will be on our list of future trips, whether by boat or car. The great thing about staying at the Museum, is that you have access to it before and after it closes to the public. The exhibits on Whaling (including having the last remaining Whaling Ship afloat) and the Vikings were standouts. As you’d expect, having traveled up the coast, the sea is the source of livelihood for all of these towns. Entering New England, however, transitioned from coastal fishing, clams, crabs, oysters; or even canyon fishing with Tuna and Swordfish, to Whaling… less about feeding a population, and more about driving (and lubricating) the engines of the early US economy. The stop at Mystic gave us a great preparation for what we’d learn in Nantucket about the industry. There is something about actually exploring the ship itself, that brings the history to life.

Chris… “Really, the crowd is singing 4 part harmony? We are at seaport museum surrounded by old wooden sailboats? Does it get any better???

Smiling kids, but the background has an original replica of a Viking Ship used in the 700s. We both missed the Viking story during our history class, but what a fascinating culture. They were using a predecessor to the sextant to navigate further than others had before. Their ship construction allowed them to build lighter, shallower, and faster ships. This particular ship sailed on her own keel across the Atlantic and will be traveling the coast… We didn’t get our fill of the whole story, so we have been binge watching “Vikings” on Amazon Prime (originally aired on the History Channel). Definitely nice to be in the land of unlimited data ; )

Postcard #1 from our dock…

Postcard #2 on our way out.

From Mystic, it was time to stop at our all time favorite spots (without the pressure of a ‘week’s vacation). Cuttyhunk, the southern most of the Elizabeth Islands, was our first stop. We were about 2 weeks early, so we had the harbor practically to ourselves. The first day, the weather was rainy and cool – perfect day to rest and relax on the boat… the next day we went out to walk the island.

Step 1: Call Cuttyhunk Raw Bar on channel 68

Step 2 – Enjoy freshly shucked clams, cheese and crackers, and a nice Rose from our favorite vineyard (yes Chris’ Dad made a trip down to Cape May to deliver some essentials)

Step 3 – Take dinghy into Lobster Shack for your freshly caught and steamed lobsters… And that’s a Lobster Bake, boat-style in Cuttyhunk.

It’s not just about the food… it is a truly beautiful place.

From Cuttyhunk, it was up to Nantucket. This time, we were not focused on the restaurants, or the Nantucket ‘scene.’ We have now spent almost 8 months exploring islands and island life – we wanted to understand more about this one. We started, as we usually do, at the museum (which here includes 7 sites). It did not take long to see that Nantucket was different than the other islands that dot the New England coast. Yes there was the Native American influence, there was also the Quaker influence – those ‘escaping’ the Puritans on the mainland, but Nantucket had Whaling. Nantucketers traveled the world in search of Whales crossing Cape Horn into the Pacific stopping at the Azores, and the Cape Verde Islands, diversifying the culture. Also, as you’d imagine, these whaling trips were multi-year, so when all of the whalers (who were mostly men, some spouses and children traveled), were out whaling, who was running Nantucket – the women. Add that to their Quaker foundations of equality, and you have a sub-culture that was truly diverse while much of the country was still actively involved in slavery, and women’s rights were not on the radar. (For the record, this is a blog, so these are generalizations, not a well researched sociology thesis — it just sets the stage for the next phase)

Girls are all set… Great time at the Shipwreck Museum

Fast forward, petroleum is discovered in Pennsylvania, and the Whaling industry dies almost overnight. The Whalers take their ships and move west for the gold rush – at the same time, 1/3rd of the city burns as part of a devastating fire. The island re-builds, but it enters a dark period, until folks realize that they have a beautiful island with a strong history… time to embark on tourism. Nantucket has been a tourist destination for over 100 years, and they are very good at it. That tourist destination is what ends up on magazine covers, photographs, clothing styles, etc… It is a true Island Camelot. But what goes on behind the scenes with the Nantucketers – those that live through the cold, snowy, storm-ridden winters. I would call them Pragmatists – they do what needs to be done and they do it from a place steeped in the island’s history.

Chris was reading the high school newspaper at the coffee shop one morning and stumbled on the Editor’s note. She talked about a rather popular sailing regatta that the island hosts the week before we got there – Fugawi Race Week. Her comments were not focused on the behavior of the sailors (who get very rowdy and drink too much), it was not focused on what they wore (looked like magazine cover models); it was focused on her review of the list of yachts entered and their captains… she asked the question, why there weren’t more women skippering boats. In one 300-500 word Op Ed, she supported, respected, and valued the folks that summer on Nantucket each year and at the same time challenged what the island could do to change it. Sounds like an op ed that could have been written in the 1800s when, Nantucket Native, Maria Mitchell discovered her Comet, but was challenged because she was a female astronomer… the first female astronomer. I wonder why Nantucket is the fastest growing county in Massachusetts…

Nantucket is an ever-changing island with each winter storm or hurricane, the coastline changes and the sand shoals shift. It is not about global warming, it is simply about the fact that falling water levels created Nantucket, and rising water levels will change it. This lighthouse was moved back from the eroding cliffs.

We took a great “flip-flop” hike through the backyards of the beautiful homes along the Eastern shore… while a little weird walking through people’s backyards, the trail is a deeded easement that continues to honored and maintained.

We stayed in Nantucket for a week, enjoyed the ice cream and fudge a little too much and headed to Block Island. We left in pea soup fog (we’re getting used to that now), but arrived to a beautiful sunset in the Great Salt Pond. We’ll be here for a week, and then start our way home with a July 1st targeted arrival. Camps start and Chris really does need to start looking for what he’s going to do next : )

See you all very soon…

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We crossed our wake, but we’re not done yet…

More commonly applied to circumnavigation, but still a big event for us… we crossed the point where we left in the Chesapeake Bay at Galesville, MD seven months ago. We continued on to Annapolis and enjoyed a gray, but relaxing Memorial Day Weekend with friends, and continued further north, currently waiting out the remnants of Alberto and the associated wind and rain.

We last left off in Charleston. It was tough to leave, and I’m pretty sure Intermezzo did not want to leave either. We woke up at 5:30AM to start our offshore trip to Beaufort, NC and went to raise the anchor, but the windlass just didn’t want to do its job. We ended up having to pull up our 125’ of chain by hand and determine our next step. We decided that the anchor was not a critical piece of equipment offshore, Beaufort is as good a place as any to source parts, and we really did need to leave Charleston, or we might stay forever ; )

Our parting view of Charleston from the anchorage with the spires of the bridge in the background – we really did not want to leave.

Tali continued with her navigation up the coast, and safely navigated us outside of Frying Pan shoals and we arrived 3 hours early. Yeah ! ! ! Not so much… we had wind against tide (remember the rage in the Bahamas where we needed to make a u-turn?), so we turned around (into the wind and the waves) and went back and forth for an hour and a half waiting for the tide to switch to safely navigate the inlet… perhaps the captain could have slowed down just a bit throughout the 30 hour trip – but everyone knows Chris – gotta get there : )

Tali is very proud of her work… the highlighted section was from Charleston to Beaufort. (It’s great you can edit pictures on a blog… makes things much easier!)

Instead of anchoring in Beaufort, we knew we had work to do on the windlass, so we got a slip at at a condominium complex (with a pool to keep the kids occupied while Chris was crawling back into the darn anchor locker again) and tied up with enough time to catch an Uber and have a lovely Mother’s Day dinner in downtown Beaufort.

Mom and her girls… Even after 30 hours offshore, the girls behaved like princesses during dinner. So much so, that a gentleman at the next table bought them hats from the restaurant… like everything this year, not a Mother’s Day we’ll soon forget.

Chris started trouble shooting the windlass and quickly recognized a leaky gearbox as milky brown oil started leaking all over his hands – that was the likely culprit of the slow demise of the electric motor. So two of the three parts of the anchor windlass were fried. Full disclosure – Chris was not happy about more hours in the anchor locker again, so he found a local mechanic to do the install, while we had the chance to explore the outer banks.

Our time was divided between the eastern and western shore of the Pamlico Sound. We started on the western shore exploring Harkers Island and the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum. Once again, we were blown away by the quality of the museum, but more importantly, the amount we all learned about the history of the fishing and hunting communities along the Core Sound in Eastern North Carolina.

A view of the sound towards the lighthouse from the top of the museum

The next day we took a trip out to Shackleford Banks… one of the many places where wild horses roam. These horses are unique in that they are direct descendants of the Spanish horses that were thrown overboard to avoid grounding a Spanish Vessel on the shoal hundreds of years ago. Very similar to the pigs on Staniel Cay, seeing animals in environments that you don’t expect them in is fascinating.

A little sunny for the girls…

This guy couldn’t help himself rolling in the sand. Best we could tell, before we arrived, they went for a swim. They then were standing in cardinal directions to the sun methodically drying each side of themselves. Then when they were dry enough, time to roll in the sand : ). We could have watched them for hours.

One of the highlights of our trip down the ICW in the fall, was our stop in Swansboro NC, which happened to be a short ride south of Beaufort. We couldn’t miss an opportunity to walk the streets again (without Christmas decorations and freezing weather), so we headed down there for lunch. We also had the chance to meet Becky’s Aunt and cousin who drove up from Wilmington, NC. We developed a fudge habit after bringing some back to the boat from the Candy Edventure store in Swansboro. We’ve been sampling all the way up the coast and haven’t found anything better… although Chris is still holding out for Jersey Shore fudge to win the title!

Because of the shoaling in the Pamlico Sound and bridges that are a little short for Intermezzo, exploring the Outer Banks by boat would have taken a long time and added miles to the trip, so we were resigned to having to come back by car some day… but with our extended stay in Beaufort – we took the opportunity and drove the rental car on the ferry to Ocracoke Island. It was a rainy day, but that didn’t stop us… Visiting a place where phone service was introduced in the 1950s and water (beyond cistern) was added in the 1970s, was bound to have an interesting history, and interesting it is. We spent hours in the local museum learning about the dialect, learning about how isolated the island was, and how, because of its isolation, it evolved differently than much of the state. While now, it is still a long trip and off the beaten path, it is focused mainly on tourism, but speaking with the O’cockers which now number less than 800 was a great experience.

British Cemetery on Ocracoke where British sailors are buried who were killed by German U-Boats during WWII. It was eye opening the number of ships that were lost right off the coast of the US during the war.

Need to keep the trend of a beach shot in each post. It was not the nicest of days, but the girls loved playing on the beach.

With the anchor windlass installed, tested and ready to go, it was time for us to move on. We had one last stop to go to before we returned the rental car, and that was El’s Drive-in… It was a good old fashioned Drive-in, which we can both still say was before our time (although listening to the oldies stations with 80’s music on is getting disconcerting). You parked the car, flashed the lights, and out came a waitress to take your order. The girls couldn’t believe it!!!

The timing of this visit wasn’t the best… we pulled into the parking lot and the skies opened. We all felt bad for the waitresses who were coming out in the pouring rain, but it all evened out – Chris got soaked when he opened the window to pass the food and pay the bill : ). What a great time!!!

Our trip north on the ICW was going over familiar ground, although with 14 hours of daylight vs the 8-9 hours we had on the way down, some of the stops were different. The first one was Coinjock, a long dock along the ICW which is a bit of a right of passage for ICW travelers. The best comparison is stopping at South of the Border when you drive south on I-95. We enjoyed a nice dinner with their famous prime rib (which we continued to enjoy for lunch the next day), had a nice night sleep and headed off early the next day.

Departing Coinjock… of course a t-shirt has been added to Chris’ collection.

The next day is one of those Karma events… the captain may have miscalculated the departure time (yes, there were some cocktails with the prime rib the night before), but once we got going, we realized that there was a stretch of water between two drawbridges that opened on the hour that we could not go fast enough to make. Not a big deal usually, you just slow down and take your time and get the next bridge, but on this day, the last bridge entering Norfolk Harbor would not open after 3:30PM (something about rush hour traffic and not wanting to cause a traffic jam – not sure we quite understand, must be forgetting about that part of life ashore : )… If we didn’t make the scheduled bridge at the beginning of the day, we wouldn’t make the 3:30 at Norfolk, which would have had us wait until 6:30 and then limited anchorage spots – long story, I know… but along comes the Coast Guard (see picture below). We moved over, and slowed down for them to pass. Being the Coast Guard, they don’t have to wait for the scheduled opening of bridges, so the upcoming bridge was opening 15 minutes early, and (music to our ears), when they called for the opening, they asked the bridge tender to stay open for the sailboat they just passed :). That was the 15 minutes we needed to keep on schedule… It might have been making that sacred cruiser stop at Conjoick?

I know, enough with the Karma stuff already, but seriously, we have spent hundreds of hours on the ICW and never seen a Coast Guard cutter – a beautiful ship. BTW – did you notice the name? Flying Fish… that’s the second time Chris has been personally visited by Flying Fish ; )

Besides the gift from the Coast Guard, we had an uneventful trip through Norfolk Harbor to our anchorage for the night. Up early the next day, we headed to Mill Creek in VA – extremely picturesque and a great night after the thunderstorms rolled through. We were up early the next day and headed to Solomon’s Island.

Girls are old pros at tending the lines for the lock we needed to go through…

What a well tuned foredeck crew!!! That was our routine every time we anchored. Tali is even good solo with dropping mooring balls at this point.

We stopped at Solomon’s on the way down, but literally picked up a mooring, ate dinner, went to sleep and left before sunrise the next day… we wanted to see more of this quaint town in Maryland. We found another great Maritime Museum with some of the best geological history of the East Coast we had found. Walking through how the different ice ages were documented in the cliffs of the Chesapeake made it click…

One of the exhibits at the museum was an old lighthouse that was moved from is original spot, to the museum grounds. Seeing the history of all the lighthouse keepers that lived there, the layout of how the lighthouse would have been furnished, and getting an insight into the lighthouse keepers’ life were great, but the best was Tali’s comment, “We could live here, I think it’s big enough.” SUCCESS – all this time on a 43 ft sailboat has paid off, no need for private bedrooms, individual bathrooms, just a good view of the water. Music to our ears!!!!

Our next stop was Annapolis, after crossing our wake. We planned on staying here for Memorial Day Weekend to catch up with our dear friends, the Mullaney’s and do some boat projects and enjoy the city. The girls had a wonderful time reuniting, as did the parents! We ate delicious food and shared awesome wine while regaling each other with missed adventures and funny stories. We also toured The Naval Academy and explored Annapolis.

A reunion of friends 7 months in the making!!!

Imitation is the best form of flattery, right? Or should Chris be taking a different message from Mike’s wig???

In addition, our friends from Liberator III were in town! We hadn’t seen them since we left Great Exuma – what a great chance to catch up (and of course plan our next meeting).

…what a great surprise visit!

From Annapolis, we’re heading up to the top of the Chesapeake, through the Delaware-Chesapeake Canal, down the Delaware River (yes, the compass will need to read south for 60 or so miles) and then up the coast. Alberto (while not Alberto any more), did affect some of the upper atmosphere causing a couple of fronts to pass through. We’ll wait those out and then continue north, either offshore to Block Island, or weather depending, inside up the East River, and then explore the Long Island Sound, on our way to Nantucket.

The reality that this adventure is ending is really starting to take hold. While we are very much looking forward to seeing everyone at home, we are also looking forward to this last month living aboard Intermezzo and moving with the wind, tides, and weather. It is indescribable how fast this has gone.

See y’all soon!!!

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Back in the US Again

If you think the picture looks familiar, it is… Charleston, South Carolina. It was our first milestone when we arrived for Thanksgiving, and now it is our arrival back in the US. We saw the Ravenel Bridge after 55 hours and close to 400 miles offshore from a small, uninhabited island named Great Sale Cay in the Northwestern Abacos.

We didn’t make it here without enjoying the last bit of the Bahamas though. We left off at Hopetown on Elbow Cay. While we had some weather coming, it was time to move on and explore, so we headed north to Great Guana and anchored in Fishers Bay. We explored the island a bit before the weather set in and enjoyed some time in the pool. Unfortunately, we were stuck on the boat for the next 3 days with squall after squall passing through. Worse yet, we entered “bareboat charter land.” We always joke when we charter in the BVIs, that they’ll give a boat to anybody, but it has a different meaning when they are anchoring next to your boat. We had a little excitement with one of those bareboat charters who decided to anchor upwind of a rocky shoal in the middle of the anchorage. He and his 7 close friends were in the dinghy within 15 minutes of dropping the hook – didn’t hang around to see if the anchor was set, or if there was any weather coming… A squall came through and when everything cleared, the boat was hard aground on the shoal on a falling tide. Chris and a group of 4 other dinghies went over to lend a hand – they got the boat off the shoal and things were back to normal with the bareboat anchored well clear of everyone else.

So you’re sitting on an idyllic beach and everything is perfect… then this boxy structure shows up and anchors just close enough to walk to. What can it be?

You guessed it – a swim up bar. (Sorry for the finger in the frame)

 

What a great message…

Chris with his girls enjoying some pool time…

Once the weather cleared, we were off to Treasure Cay on Great Abacos. We heard wonderful things about this spot through our travels, especially the beach. Plus, it is the main island of the Abacos, so there were plenty of places to provision for the trip back to the states. We’ve found that keeping the boat in one spot, and renting a car to see the larger islands makes sense, so we did the same thing here.

A wooden pier over 800 ft long…. it was the original pier for the mailboat to come in to.

While neither one of us are photographers… this seemed like a cool shot.

This old logging path was a bear to find… the tour books talked about signs, maps had it on the other side of the street… but we found it!

…A blue hole that has been explored by National Geographic and has artifacts going back hundreds of years ago. There were warning signs all over the place when we got there. It was clear that this is an important site and they don’t want tourists finding it or messing with it (which would explain the lack of road signs)

Smiling kids ! ! ! Priceless…

Obligatory beautiful beach picture… the color where the clouds break is spectacular!

We also wanted to see Green Turtle Cay – the weather was not cooperating and we had friends that were expecting us, so we took a ferry across and explored the island. Dave and Kathy are friends of Becky’s parents and have known Becky since she was 10. They have been coming to the Bahamas for years, so having their knowledge (and golf cart) was a great way to see the island.

The girls fed the turtles at Farmers Cay in the Exumas, but look at their comfort here at Green Turtle Cay…

Lunch at Miss Emily’s, the birthplace of the Goombay Smash with our friends the Rizzo’s!

One of the most valuable and truly life-changing experiences of this trip has been the people we’ve met. The pictures don’t cover it – you can’t take a picture of a conversation over coffee talking about the weather with a new friend, or a picture of a conversation about future plans with a group of people who are all taking a path less traveled. Just because these relationships don’t make it into pictures, it does not minimize their impact! Back in the Exumas, we parted ways with our friends on Liberator III. We have been keeping in touch, but with our plans to cross, we know that the next time we see each other, it will not be as part of this journey. They put together this video of our shared time in the Bahamas, and we think it is great to share with you all.

 

At this point, we had a weather window starting to emerge with over 100 miles to travel prior to stage for the crossing. One challenge we did not expect was how dependent we had become on the internet for our weather. As we moved further west, there were less cell towers, and our staging point had no cell signal at all. This wouldn’t be an issue if we were just crossing over to FL, but we planned a 3 day passage to Charleston. Weather forecasts are pretty reliable out three days, but quickly become less accurate on day 4 and 5. The urgency for this window was that we were starting with the highest winds and seas at the beginning, moving into less winds and down to dead calm by the end. So if the forecast was off, we would just have less wind sooner.

Our plan called for departing Great Sale Cay at 9AM and then traveling 9 hours to the edge of the Bahama Bank to a place called Mantanilla Shoal. Our plan was to drop the hook ‘in the middle of nowhere’ for the night with a 5AM departure. We were trying to limit our passage to one overnight. The two adults could have gone all the way to NJ, on 4 hour watches, but it is tough to tell the girls (who are not on 4 hour watches) that they can’t bother “mommy” or “daddy” when they are not at helm, because they need to be napping/sleeping. Things didn’t quite pan out… the anchorage ‘in the middle of nowhere’ had 4-5 foot seas. While the boat would have been fine and, honestly, the ride at anchor would not have been that bad, sending either one of us up to the bow of the pitching boat to deploy the anchor (and then retrieve in the dark at 5AM) wasn’t worth the risk, so we decided to push on. The girls were fantastic – once they got their sea legs, with the boat dialed in with 1 reef in the main and 2 in the jib – it was smooth sailing. The wind eventually died, as forecasted, we started the engine and motored in to Charleston Harbor dropping the hook across from the Battery… the place where they tied the pirates to the wall at low tide and left them there for three tide cycles to make sure they were dead.

While Tali didn’t sit on the 3AM watch, she did have to plan the entire passage the good old fashioned way. Like we talked about before, we have multiple electronic navigation tools, but before you rely on the electronic tools, you have to understand what they are doing.

Tali started with a list of GPS Waypoints which managed maximizing our time in the Gulf Stream (which flows north at 3+ kts), with the comfort of the ride with the remaining northern component in the wind which kept the seas 6-8 ft. She plotted each point, determined the heading, and based on an assumed speed, the expected arrival time at each waypoint. This was her ‘final exam’ for all of the math work she has been doing throughout the trip. It was great to see her get excited about applying things to the ‘real world.’

Sunrise at sea…

With sunrise comes cleaning off the flying fish from the deck… this particular one is special… it hit the shroud, bounced back and hit the dodger support, hit Chris in the shoulder (the face would have been pretty funny) and then he thought, bounced off the boat… but it was right next to him the whole night.

The adjustment from cruising in the Bahamas, to coming back to the US has been a big one. Since the cruising lifestyle is not permanent for us, it seems like a bit of a transition back to the way things were before we left. It’s very comfortable to get into those old habits. That said, it’s tough to see change within yourself… so looking at the change in Tali and Savy, we can hope that the trip has affected us and our outlook, but only time will tell.

Mom and her girls on the beach at sunset on Sullivan’s Island…

A beach is a beach… the girls spontaneously broke out in cartwheels – might have been the large cup of Gelato they had at dinner…

History lessons continue – Savy is signing the Declaration of Independence at the Charleston Exchange Building. We’re thinking of the ‘final project’ for history for Tali – we’ve covered Native American (Native Bahamian) through Colonization, Piracy, Revolution, to Civil War. If it doesn’t click now, hopefully it does when she takes US History in High School!

Gardens at Boone Hall Plantation… different than Middleton on the way down in that this Plantation was all about generating revenue, even to this day – it is both a tourist destination and a working farm supplying farm to table fruits and vegetables to farm stands and local restaurants.

…no comment.

While we’re back in the States, we are still living on Intermezzo, at the whim of the wind and the tides with no plans to return until July. Between now and then, we’ll head offshore to Beaufort, NC, then take the ICW up to Norfolk (to avoid waiting for a more finicky weather window to get around the Grand Banks). We’ll look to meet friends in Annapolis around Memorial Day with a few repairs on the boat and then head north through the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal to Atlantic City where we will wait for our next offshore hop to Block Island. It didn’t seem right to bring Intermezzo back to Keyport without introducing her to her New England cruising grounds : )

We hope everyone is enjoying spring…

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Such a diverse landscape…

Wow!  Eleuthera was a great surprise…  From initially, just being an island to sail by to get to the Abacos, it now will have a special place in our memories of this trip.  If you look at the chart of Eleuthera, you see a Long Island with very little protection from any other wind direction than east.  The three harbors that do exist either have poor holding, or lots of sunken debris from hurricanes, that can snag your anchor.  That said, while in the Exumas, the more people we talked to, the more people said we couldn’t miss it.  So we dropped the hook in Rock Sound – the best of the three anchorages with good holding and protection from the west if necessary.  We rented a car and explored the island.

It didn’t take long for us to recognize that this was going to be place we were going to enjoy.  In a 4-wd rental we introduced the girls to some off roading shenanigans, we got lost on the island following paved roads, dirt paths, and sandy paths… a few long trips in reverse were required, as we hit either the ‘end of the road’ or sand a little too deep-with no cell service for help to dig us out.

The first part of the island we explored was the east shore in Palmetto Point – lined with isolated houses 50-100 ft up catching the breeze and then a walkway down to flour-like sand below.  This location should be on everyone’s VRBO list for a short getaway.

We ‘borrowed’ the front yard of one of the houses on a tiny dirt road for this photo op. Can you imagine waking up to that view every day!!!

It was getting time for lunch, so we headed to the town in the center of the Island – Governor’s Harbour – the former capital of the Bahamas.  We had a great lunch at Buccaneers and then explored the town.  A few cemeteries, a little history, but the Library caught our attention… it was Easter Monday and offices were closed – it was this point that we decided we were going to need the car for another day.

We visited the library the next day… Book club was just finishing up and Tali headed right to the Kid’s section and found a book on, you guessed it… The Titanic. There was something odd about sitting in a library, browsing books, while having all the beautiful beaches just outside. I guess that’s an indication that we’ve truly immersed ourselves in the cruising life.

We headed north, initially following the Fodor’s guide stopping at all the highlights, including a cave, a tidal pool, the glass bridge, and of course the highly rated watering holes along the way.  As our day progressed and we met more people, we changed our route… ending with pizza night at the Rainbow Inn – this is truly an island-wide event…

Girls in front of French Leave Beach. The first pink sand in Savy’s collection.

Heading into the cave… one of us has fears of darkness/bats/anything cave related – that’s who is taking the picture.

Savy and Tali in the cave…

Chris and Tali headed as deep as they could on an iPhone flashlight and took a selfie. If anyone has the opportunity, you can get a guide to go through the whole cave which exits over the ocean… we just ran out of time!

Our ride home exposed the kids to a close up view of Homecoming (remember the one that sounded good and smelled good from the anchorage?)… well this time, we missed the memo on where it was taking place and the party had spilled out into the only road across the island.  Everyone was in good spirits, but picture Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras and driving through it – I’m not sure we ever saw the girls’ eyes so wide!

The next day we revisited some of the highlights and got to some of the places we couldn’t make it to, including Surfer’s Beach.  We got in some last minute shopping at the organic farm stand, and breakfast at a gourmet market (Belgium Waffles, Avocado Toast with Poached Eggs, Homemade Granola and yogurt, and bagels and lox — can you tell that we’ve craved a little bit of home?).  We returned the car and continued our northward travel on the boat.

Hmmmm… this looks interesting

Yes, a nice place to hang out

The next time any of you are on Eleuthera, please check on Chris, this is where we left him.

They just couldn’t wait to get in the ocean after being in the car driving from spot to spot.

Zoomed out a bit, but this was the girls’ favorite spot – the mermaid moon pool!!!

Another one of those pictures that you rarely get…

Not enough swimming, so we got back to the boat and some jumping off the bow.

During our travels we found the French Leave resort which had mooring balls available – don’t have to worry about the bad holding…  We picked up the anchor and had a dead calm, windless motor up to Governor’s Harbour.  Along with the mooring came access to the resort, so the kids got their pool time in, and there happened to be a pool bar for mom and dad-win/win!

This needs a little explaining… at this point we are almost 3 weeks on stern showers alone. A stern shower involves jumping in the salt water, using salt water soap to shampoo and lather up and then a fresh water rinse. The goal is to use the least amount of fresh water as possible to avoid the need to find a place to refill the tanks. We were walking from the dinghy dock to the resort pool (this is the back door of the resort). As we’re walking up the path we see this lonely shower off the back of the building covered by the upper deck and completely private. You know you have had some sort of shift in perspective when you get the kids set up in the pool, the first round of cocktails, and then run back to the boat to get the soap, shampoo and towel to take a shower on the way back to the boat. Out of the mouth of kids… Tali: “Mom, we are really boat people now!”

Who says you can’t take a shower outside the back of a hotel, then get changed and have a fantastic dinner inside the resort? We clean up pretty good for “Boat People”

The next day we headed up to Spanish Wells to prepare for our trip over the Devil’s Backbone – the reef responsible for countless shipwrecks over the years, including a group of loyalists fleeing religious persecution in Bermuda.  They shipwrecked on the backbone and proceeded to spend months living in a cave named Preachers Cave.

Our anchorage was perfect to introduce the girls to the halyard swing – they loved it!

The Devils Backbone experience was a first for Chris… he has never given up the helm of his own boat to a stranger before, but that’s exactly what he did.  We picked up our pilot, Captain Kirtland, just like the cruise ships that come into NY Harbor.  The difference was, Captain Kirt, as we called him, was a wealth of knowledge.  His ancestors go back to the Preachers Cave.

Captain Kirt and Chris during our trip over the Devils Backbone.

We arrived 2 hours later, safely in Harbour Island – a stop that we had on our list of must-sees.  Harbour Island was definitely a bit of a culture shock initially…  beautiful hotels and resorts, sushi restaurants, pink sand beaches, mega yachts, and plenty of people from our neck of the woods.  We got a golf cart and explored the island and then headed to the beach the next day.  It is obvious why so many people come to this quaint Martha’s Vineyard of the Bahamas (including the Vineyard Vines clothed traveling band!)

I know, another beach picture, but the views never get old! This one was simply perfect for the girls, small waves, shallow water, and pink sand!

Savy and Tali in a tree house… what so funny you may ask? Savy lost here shoe in the tree roots : )

Our next big hop was to the Abacos…  this is an open water passage requiring timing of cuts which meant an 0-dark-30 departure.  We couldn’t do that from Harbour Island, so we headed back over the Backbone to Meeks Island for a clear passage out the next morning.  Our 60 mile trip was uneventful and HOT!  Unlike no wind, this trip was worse… this had 6 knots of wind on our stern…  we were traveling a 6 knots… it felt like there was no air – no complaints though.  We arrived safely through the North Bar cut and anchored behind Wilson’s City (of course not really a city, but protection from the South and then West… we had a front coming through).

What do the girls do on a long windless passage? Give each other pedicures of course…

People always ask about our concerns with weather and storms… we’ve been out for over 5 months and have not run into a storm… but we got a doozey at anchor.  40+ knots with two of us in the anchorage.  The anchor alarm went off, (not because we dragged) because the captain drew the wrong circle on the alarm and the wind shifted 180 degrees.  The lightening was truly spectacular – it was like little flashes of daylight where you could see the land, reef, and the other boat to get a reference every minute or so.  With things settled down, we went to bed, but of course – the anchor alarm went off again – the wind settled back to the SSW and the circle was in the wrong spot AGAIN- we weren’t dragging, just spun once again.  The Captain needs to be a little more diligent with his circle drawing – perhaps Savanna can help?

The next day we picked up anchor on our freshly washed boat : ) and headed for Hopetown.  We took a bit of a detour because that cold front had not finished yet.  The good thing about cruising the Bahamas is everything is 15′, so if you have to drop the hook, you just stop, drop the anchor in the middle of nowhere, and ride out the storm.  Of course the storms are not as spectacular during daylight.  We finished our trip, and pulled into Hopetown…

The update is getting a little long, but Karma is an important concept in cruising and we always hope to keep the Karma jar balanced – our luck with a mooring in the harbor should be evidence of that.  Getting in to the harbor at Hope Town brought us over the shallowest water we’ve seen in the Bahamas.  We draw 5.5′ and the depth sounder said 5.5′.  We both decided that whether there was a mooring ball available or not, we’d just spin around the mooring field and wait for the tide to come up – no need to do that twice.  We rounded the corner and then saw the mooring field – the tightest field we have ever been in, packed with boats. Makes those quaint mooring fields in New England seem spacious.  Not able to safely circle for an hour and not willing to go back out through the shallows, we picked up a reserved mooring and had lunch.  We’re very surprised there are not more collisions – there is definitely boat rage going on… 40-50 foot boats racing each other for scarce moorings… there has to be a better way.  Here’s where the Karma comes in… the reserved ball we happened to pick up had a phone number on it.  We called the phone number, a person picked up and said that his reservation was over yesterday and we were welcome to the mooring… : ) We broke out the cocktails and started to settle in.

It really does make the mooring field in the Great Salt Pond on Block Island look spacious…

We got up the next day and explored a little bit to see what we were going to do with our time here.  If Harbour Island was the Martha’s Vineyard of the Bahamas, Hopetown is the Cuttyhunk.  Cute, small, friendly, quaint – all words that describe this town on Elbow Cay

The photographer in this picture has an equally terrifying fear, compared to the cave photographer, of falling… he had the iPhone in one hand and a steel bar on the outside of the lighthouse in the other!

It’s hard to believe, but while we’re here, we’re starting to keep an eye on the weather to put together a plan for crossing back to the US for the end of the month.  We’ll look to move north to Green Turtle Cay to see some friends there and then begin to stage, in earnest for our crossing.  That said, between then and now are beautiful beaches and more interesting people to meet.  We’ll be wringing every last ounce of this experience over the next couple weeks.

Looks like things are warming up, temporarily, in the Northeast… enjoy the weather!

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Goodbye Exumas, Hello Eleuthera…

Happy Easter ! ! ! Well it wasn’t a traditional Easter, that’s for sure. We left our anchorage and had a fantastic 50 mile sail up to Rock Harbor Sound in Southern Eleuthera. There is truly nothing better than the wind blowing from the east at 15 knots when you are traveling north – it was perfect! We finished the day dropping the anchor and Becky topping her Christmas Prime Rib with a Bacon-wrapped Pork Tenderloin… that plus a great Scribe Chardonnay sealed an Easter Sunday that we will not soon forget… but where have we been since we left Great Exuma?

A little grainy, but this is Easter Dinner on Intermezzo anchored in Rock Sound.

We left great Exuma the day after St Patricks Day – clearly we were responsible adults the night before to get up early and start the trip north. Our first stop was Lee Stocking Island – home of the abandoned Marine Science Lab that Tali mentioned in her blog. It is very difficult to understand how it is better/cheaper/makes sense to abandon all of those assets. The foundation that ran it still exists, but details on why the island was left the way it was are scarce.

There must have been over 30 fish tanks… while dirty, in fine condition.

Chris was a little too nosey, he entered the office to get a closer look at the files and then heard a rather loud creak and felt the floor bend a little too much… time to leave that building…

From Lee Stocking Island, we dropped the hook off of Rudder Cut Cay – home of the sunken Steinway being played by a Mermaid. We had lunch, launched the dinghy and went exploring, killing time for slack tide, which is really the only time to snorkel the piano (unless you are Michael Phelps and want to swim in a resistance pool). We took the dinghy over to Musha Cay (David Copperfield’s island) to see it from a distance – no landing permitted. There were also some great caves to explore, and at low tide, you could bring the dinghy right in and beach it. The piano and mermaid did not disappoint – it is actually Savy’s top spot for the trip.

“Savy – keep away from the clear water – it’s a sand bar…”. It was like a magnet for her… Definitely dinghy captain in her future though.

This was weird – they both finished driving the dinghy and we were repositioning when we turned around and Tali and Savy were sitting there, “waiting for their closeup!” Both of them willing participants in a picture, it had to be taken!

Mom and girls in the cave…

We picked up the anchor the next morning and headed back to Little Farmer’s Cay (remember the story of the captain who ended up getting stuck high and dry with the tide). We stayed on the other side of the island this time and did some more exploring. Tali’s blog covers much of the details (by the way, have you noticed that she is getting ahead of us… hmmmm – wonder who the slackers are in this family : ). The one point of Little Farmers that is worth expanding on, though, is the history. The island was settled by a freed slave with her two sons, Michael Nixon and Adam Brown. They later purchased the island from the British Crown. The original settlers willed the land to their descendants, who to this day can build on the island, but not sell to outsiders. The conversations that we had with the residents were one more interesting than the other… everyone (except one person) is family on the island. The island is just not that big – I can’t imagine a family squabble…

Tali and Savy petting the sea turtle… It was amazing that a few taps on a conch shell brought these animals in from the bay to be fed and pet.

We spent a few days at Little Farmers to wait for some weather to come through and then it was off to Staniel Cay to catch up with friends that were finishing their spring break vacation with family. It was great to catch up with folks from home, but really – the best part was seeing the girls get to play with their friends. Since they had a powerboat, we were able to move far further in an afternoon than we could sail in a day. We headed up to Compass Cay to swim with the Sharks and hike to Rachel’s Bubble Bath. It was a fantastic day!

Those smiles were the theme of the visit.

You have to swim with the sharks when you visit the Exumas, but I’m not sure Savy expected him to swim that close ; ). Check out those kicks!!!!

So we’ve gone from a pet dog, to a pet pig, to now a pet shark?

Girls hiking up the tidal stream to Rachel’s Bubble Bath.

Hanging out in the Bubble Bath created by waves breaking over the rocks.

Our stay at Staniel finished with our niece, Jenna, joining us from Nashville. This is a big deal – to have weather, schedule, (and Pluto) align to have someone meet us to spend a few nights on the boat has been near impossible, but Jenna made it ! ! !

Cockpit selfie with Jenna…

We left Staniel Cay and headed next door to Big Majors to revisit the Pigs and the Thunderball Gotto. We didn’t quite time the Grotto right with the tide (insert Michael Phelps reference here), so we had to abandon… however, the pigs did not disappoint.

Remember the pig that Tali was holding from a couple posts back? He grew up a bit in the past month!

We picked up anchor early the next day to head to Cambridge Cay, back into the National Park. It was a nice motor sail, until we rounded the corner to get into the north side of the anchorage. There was only a 400 yard piece of raging water with breaking waves separating us… darn current running against wind. We joke, we’ll have it all figured out for next time (ha ha ha!!!). So we did a u-turn (literally) and headed for what ended up being our first private anchorage in the Bahamas off of Obrien’s Cay. It was one of those situations where we looked at each other, looked at the chart, made sure that we were only a few hundred yards away from two top snorkeling spots and wondered why no one was there… we dropped the hook, waited for slack tide (getting the theme of snorkeling in the Bahamas at this point about the tides) and headed out to the Aquarium (which literally looks like you are swimming in a fish tank), and a plane wreck. The girls loved it and we have to admit – the Aquarium is some of the best snorkeling we’ve seen.

After a great night of stargazing in our private anchorage, we picked up the anchor the next morning and turned back south (momentarily) for Black Point on Great Guana Island – a must stop for cruisers. We dropped the anchor, launched the dingy and headed in to explore the town. Jenna’s flight left the next morning, so we did not have a lot of time to explore, but did walk the main street. It took us a while to figure it out, but there was something very unique about this town. The restaurants/bars/hangouts, were all on the street. The owners’ houses were behind the bars/restaurants, on the water with the view. So the proverbial happy hour overlooking the harbor for sunset did not exist, except for a nice gazebo behind the laundromat – yes you read that right. So what does this crowd do, go into one of the bars, without a view, pick up some roadies (which, BTW, needed to be poured in plastic cups because they could not technically serve alcohol until 6PM on Good Friday), walked back to the gazebo and enjoyed the breeze and the view. Finished up the day with happy hour and snacks with fellow cruisers and then headed back to the boat.

Black Point is not far from Staniel Cay, where we needed to drop off Jenna, so we rolled out the genoa and had a very slow and relaxing downwind sail. We anchored, had lunch and Chris dinghy’d Jenna into the airport. We did some last provisioning ashore, hoisted the dinghy and prepared for our offshore trip up the Exuma Sound.

As we write this, we have stumbled onto another Bahamian tradition – homecoming… so we are downwind of Rock Sound Homecoming – smells fantastic and sounds great!

Happy Easter to everyone…