Back in the USA!

So…. we’re back in the good old US-of-A.  Ft Lauderdale, actually.  And the feeling is…. EHH. Sorta anti-climatic.

Not gonna lie… We’re split between being super happy and super sad.  The Bahamas we nothing short of ah-mazing, but man, did we miss the amenities of home.  Seeing family & friends again?  Can’t wait!  Free water that’s not reverse osmosis (and tasting a little funky)?  Yes!  Grocery stores that stock everything under the sun and where we can find a can of Pringles for under $5?  Sold!!  McDonalds? I’m Lovin’ It!  The shitty brown water here at the marina?  The hectic pace of life?  The feeling that you always need to be somewhere.  Doing something.  UGH.  Welcome back to the states.

The sail back to the states was pretty nice.  The wind was directly on our nose almost the entire time and we didn’t get to do much actual sailing until pretty close to Florida, but it was nice and calm, and we’ll take those conditions any day. MUCH different than our crossing to the Bahamas just two months ago.  Was it really TWO months?  Damn.  Feels like just yesterday.

As Matt lowered the Bahamas courtesy flag I almost teared up.  Wow.  Our trip is over.  That can’t be.  We just got here!  I was definitely singing a different tune when we were tethered to that marina in Emerald Bay for 18 days.  I couldn’t wait to get home.  Oh well, guess I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t.

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Speaking of our flag, look how tattered it is!  It seems to have shrunk a bit during our trip.  We’re plan to frame it and hang it up so we can always remember what a great time we had.

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Somewhere around hour four or five of the trip, I remembered that we had a coconut onboard still.  Matt found this on the golf course trail by the marina and picked it up because of it’s size… it’s huge!  We were going to break it open and enjoy the water, but never got around to doing it (which is OK…. fresh coconut water has a weird after taste that I don’t particularly care for anyway).  I grabbed a Sharpie and wrote a little message on it before tossing it overboard.  Seems fitting that we set sail in October with a pumpkin onboard and we finish up with a coconut.  I wonder where it’ll float to?  Ah, who am I kidding?  That marker has probably already washed off and it’s just another random coconut floating in the Gulf Stream.  It was fun while it lasted.

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As we approached the coast, we could start to make out faint buildings on the horizon.  At first they looked like a mirage.  Could that be the Motherland?  Are we home already?  As we got closer, the images took shape and the city of Ft. Lauderdale appeared clear as day before us.

Skyscrapers as far as you could see.  Six cruise ships all lined up in port.  Huge jet planes roaring overhead en route to the airport.  It was sensory overload.  We haven’t seen life like this since we left Miami in November.  Certainly nothing like this in the Keys and the Bahamas where the buildings we were used to were two levels at best, and the planes usually had pontoons on the bottom.  It was a shock to the system for sure.

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As we approached the Inlet, our anxiety levels began to skyrocket.  Not just because we were home and our trip was over, but because there were boats everywhere.  It was a Sunday, and it seemed like absolutely everyone in Ft. Lauderdale who had a boat was out and about.  And being complete assholes in their tiny little day cruisers circling around us like a swarm of bees.  Some had drunken spring breakers passed out on their bow.  Most had their rap/latino/classic rock music turned up at full volume for the rest of us to enjoy along with them.  Yeah, we know you have a good sound system onboard.  Thanks for sharing.

Just past the inlet was one of the many bridges we had to pass under as we made our way up the New River to the marina.  It had a fixed opening schedule (only on the hour and half hour), so we had to do a complicated little dance of holding the boat still amidst all of this chaos until the next opening.  Those little day cruisers just buzzed right by us and the few other sailboats who couldn’t clear the closed bridge.  Guess they had the last laugh.

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Finally made it thru “The Gauntlet” and had a pretty trip up the river via the narrow canals that cut through downtown Ft. Lauderdale.

We made it to the marina, and are tethered to a dock once again.  Instead of having two world class resorts nearby like we did in Emerald Bay, we have I-95 as our backdrop.  Most of the time the noise drowns out any sort of conversation we’re trying to have, but hey, at least we have air conditioning again.

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Homeward Bound

It’s the beginning of the end of our trip.  Bummer.  It’s been a quick five months, that’s for sure.  Good news is that we’ve finally made it out of George Town, after 18 (!!) days of being at the marina.  Thank God for that.  I think we were both ready to just start swimming north – seas be damned! – if we didn’t make a break for it soon.

Jeremy left us on a Thursday and Alex & Char left us on Friday.  They met the owner of a 70ft motor yacht who was looking for crew to help him and his wife make the trip south to Turks & Caicos / Dominican Republic / Puerto Rico.  Sounds like a hell of an adventure, and we’d be lying if we said we weren’t slightly jealous.  We’ll be sad to see them go – meeting them was definitely one of the highlights of our trip.

We’ve (finally) have a fantastic weather window and have been busting out some serious miles on our journey north.  Sunday we left Emerald Bay and made it to Black Point, just off Great Iguana Cay.  It was a little hairy getting out of the marina… the sea was still pretty swelly from all of the crazy wind we’ve been having for the past two weeks.  Once we were out a bit, the swells subsided and it was smooth sailing – pun intended – the rest of the way up.  Matt even caught another mahi!  Whoop!  Not as big as the first one, but still plenty enough for a few dinners.  They are probably the prettiest fish I’ve ever seen, especially when they first come out of the water.  It really does pain me to kill them because of this.

Wait who am I kidding?  They’re freakin’ delicious.

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We threw the line back out and said something crazy like “I really don’t want to catch another today”, just as the line hit and we turned to see a massive wahoo on the end.  He ended up snapping the line and taking our little rubber Ballyhoo bait with him.  Not sure what we would have done with all of that fish, especially since we ‘re on our way home. We decided that it would probably be a good idea to pull in the line in after that.

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We spent the night in Black Point and headed to Staniel Cay on Monday.  Here we gave the bottom of the boat a good scrub (we had some growth from being stagnant at that marina for so long), and went up to the yacht club for one last cheeseburger in paradise.   Mom, I tried to call home, but for some reason the phones weren’t working…

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From Staniel we made the long trip up to Highborne Cay, under pretty much perfect conditions.  There was hardly any wind, so you could see straight down to the bottom of the water, which wasn’t too far down, maybe 20 feet at best.  The whole bank looked like one giant pool, and our boat was just a toy floating along in it.  We could make out tons of fish swimming about, beautiful coral heads, and tons and tons of starfish, as if they were only in a few feet of water.  It kinda blew our minds.  You don’t see stuff like this back home in the Bay, that’s for sure.

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Alex and Char recommended Highborne Cay to us and said that we should grab a bike from the marina and ride around the island to take in the views.  We haven’t ridden a bike since Key West, so this sounded absolutely fabulous to us.  Unfortunately we didn’t.  Highborne was a bust.  The marina office quickly (and quite smugly, I might add) informed us that it was a private island and if we weren’t staying at the marina then we’re not allowed to explore the island – out of respect for the privacy of their guests.  But if we wanted, we were more than welcome to spend our money at their general store or bar.  What a joke. Guess we should have took the huge mega yacht that nearly ran us over just outside the channel as a sign.  That’s right… our trip (and our boat) was nearly cut short very abruptly as a mega yacht in the 120-150’ range came barreling at us, full speed, trying to beat us into the channel entrance going into Highborne.  Matt tried to hail it on the VHF to make sure that they saw us, but got dead silence on the radio, which we think they were ignoring us since we just heard them call the marina moments before.  We were in quite a pickle here…. we have a huge yacht approaching us rapidly with no signs of slowing down, with no one answering our calls, and it looks like they’re going to take a huge chunk out of our port side or completely demolish us.  When they get to the point where we can practically read the writing on the deckhands t-shirts, Matt whips out the air horn and just lets it rip.  Like… Lets.It.Rip.  The crew and guests onboard the yacht turn and look at us startled, like “What the hell are YOU doing in OUR way”?  Matt threw our engines in reverse to avoid a collision, but we still got rocked by their wake.  What a jack ass.  I guess it’s true… money can’t buy you class.  Thank you “BLACK SHEEP, mega yacht” for almost killing us (I suggest no one ever charter them, especially after their incompetence).

We couldn’t wait to leave Highborne as soon as possible the next morning.  We pulled anchor as the sun was coming up and made our way to Nassau – Athol Island, just to the northeast – where we anchored Wednesday night.  I forgot how many coral heads we had to pick our way through across the Yellow Bank en route to Nassau.  The sun was low in the sky and partially obstructed by clouds making the water very hard to read.  We were so eager to get the hell out of Highborne, and were making some great time sailing at 7-8 knots, that we got to the bank earlier than expected.  Matt was at the helm and I was on the top of the roof trying to spot any dark spots in the water that were best to be avoided. Needless to say, it was a pretty stressful stretch.  We dropped anchor in the early afternoon and proceeded to watch movies until after dark.  Here we are, our last days in Paradise, and we’re holed up on the boat watching movies.

Thursday morning, and another long day of travel.  We pulled anchor super early again and headed west across the Tongue of the Ocean over to the Grand Bahama Banks.  The Tongue is a super deep trench with depths of 2,000-3,000 feet, nestled in between the Grand Bahamas Banks and the Exuma Banks which range in depth from 8-25 feet.  We had anchored in about 9 feet of water by Nassau, and within a mile we were in 1,000 feet (or so we thought… our depth finder stops working around 500 ft and was blinking dashes or something weird like 3.5 feet at this point).  Crazy, right?   This is the final stretch of nothingness on the way to Bimini, and as we watched the towers of Atlantis grow smaller on the horizon, we knew that would be the last bit of land we’d be seeing for quite a while.  It was a slow day with hardly any wind, so we cranked up the engines and listened to some podcasts to get us through the day.  We anchored right smack in the middle of the Banks that night, and let me tell you how unnerving it is to anchor with no land or lights or signs of life anywhere on the horizon to comfort you.  You feel so utterly alone.  But man, you can’t beat that sunset.  Time seems to almost stop in those few moments it takes for that big ball to slowly sink down into the ocean.  It’s the most magical part of the day.  With no moon, the stars were out in full force and kept watch over us ‘til morning.

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After a week of intense traveling, we finally made it back to Bimini today, almost two months exactly from the day we arrived.  We were hurrying because our perfect weather window is closing on Monday, and we wanted to get to Bimini ASAP so we could cross back over to Florida in the same window.  After the hellish two weeks of 20mph + winds and big seas that kept us pinned at Emerald Bay, we’re all for taking advantage of good weather while we can.

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We’re a little bummed that our trip is over, and were wallowing in silence when a pod of dolphins came up and swam with us.  This made me so darn happy, you have no idea.  I love, love, love watching dolphins swim off the bow of the boat – it’s probably my favorite thing about sailing, actually – but we’ve hardly seen any during our time in the Bahamas, which was a little disappointing.  Having these guys pop up and give us a little love definitely made my day.

Finally arrived in Bimini around 1:00, marking an end to our week long trip up from the Exumas.  God, it feels good to be here.  This past week has been nothing short of aggressive, with 8-12 hour sails every day and a different island every night.  We were relieved to see the entrance to the harbor was calm and flat… MUCH better than our initial arrival a few months ago.  I really don’t know what the hell we were thinking coming in, all guns-a-blazing like that.  Instead of crashing waves, we had a strong outgoing current, making our top speed an excruciating 2.5 knots.  Oye.  I’ll take that over surfing down waves any day of the week.

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And so we find ourselves back at the Bimini Blue Water Resort, one slip over from the one we had when we cleared into the Bahamas two months ago.  It feels so good to step foot on land again after a week of straight cruising.  And they have Coors Light here!  The only island in the Bahamas that stocks Coors Light!  God bless them.  Looks like Sunday will be the day to cross back over to Florida.  Pretty excited to be coming home again!

 

 

A Visit from Beall!

Our friend Jeremy paid us a visit last week.  We’d been getting pretty stir crazy being stuck at the marina for so long and were really, REALLY excited to see him.  Like, literally counting down the days and hours.  Unfortunately for all of us, a massive snowstorm decided to dump a foot of snow in the Baltimore/DC area the same day he was supposed to fly out, so his arrival was delayed by a few days.  Bummer.  But hey, we’re used to running on Island Time down here in the Bahamas, and are totally used to the couple two-tree hours/days delay with anything.  It gave us time to prepare a proper welcoming for Jeremy, which included a homemade sign and a batch of rum punch.  Both were pretty epic.  I mean, seriously, who gets a welcome like this at home?  Only a couple of sailing gypsy friends with nothing else better to do could dedicate the time and energy into such a grand welcoming party.  You’re welcome, Jeremy.

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We only had a few days together and wanted to make the most of them.  The wind was still blowing like a banshee, making sailing somewhere out of the question unless we all wanted to be chumming the water with our lunches, so we decided to take advantage of the surrounding resorts – Grand Isle and Sandals Emerald Bay – and have ourselves a nice relaxing time.  We loved the view from Grand Isle’s pool, and certainly made the most out of the little palapa huts they had on their beach.  I think we must have spent at least 10 of the 18 days we were in Emerald Bay curled up in a chaise under one of those palapa huts reading a book.  It definitely wasn’t the worst place to be stuck at while waiting for weather to improve. IMG_4511

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We did another day pass to Sandals, which coincidentally was exactly one week after our first visit. I think the staff there were really confused when we told them that we only had a day pass, especially since we may or may not have wandered back on occasion to grab a drink at the bar in the week since our last visit.  I’m sure they thought we were staying there for the whole week.  Whoops.  Since we were visiting on a Tuesday again, the agenda for the day was the same as the week before – including the infamous water balloon toss, which Matt and I claimed victory the last time around.  This time, Alex and Char beat out a dozen other couples, including Matt & Jeremy, to bring home the prize for Team Foxfire, which was – as predicted – a  bottle of rum.  Hard day at the office, indeed.

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To switch it up, we rented a car to make the 25 minute drive to downtown George Town, which actually isn’t that much to see.  There’s a grocery store, a few dilapidated restaurants, a gas station, a dive shop, and that’s about it.  It’s crazy to me that hundreds of cruisers rush down to this very spot every year and spend months here.  I don’t know how they can do it… there really isn’t much to do unless you’re really into those super organized cruiser events, which we totally are not.  In fact, we’re getting so sick of George Town, we cant wait to leave.  Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.  We did a quick walk down the main drag, then headed down to the water taxi to get a lift across the channel to Stocking Island.  What a ride that was.  If the smell of diesel from the old fishing boat they are now using as a taxi didn’t get to you, the reggae rap blaring from the old stereo up front would.  It was a horribly amusing situation.  Our destination was the famous Chat ‘n Chill restaurant, which Matt was really excited to show us both. I was sick when he came with Alex & Char the last time, so I really wanted to see what it was all about.  This place that is nothing short of a cruiser’s Shangri-La.  A tiki hut bar that also served food, picnic tables lining the beach, hammocks stretched under the trees, volleyball courts and several yard games like bocce and horseshoes all free for anyone to use.  I’m guessing it’s the epicenter for those organized cruiser events.  Fun for the day, for sure.  But to spend months at?  With the same people? Might get a little old if you ask me.

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Just as soon as it started, it was time for Jeremy to leave.  We tried hard to convince him to stowaway and stay longer.  If it hadn’t been for his dog waiting for him at home, we just might have had him convinced to do it.  Not long after he leaves, we’ll be headed back north ourselves.  It’s about that time to wrap up our time in the Bahamas and make our way back to the Motherland.   Just in time for spring in Annapolis.  Ahhh…can’t wait.

Bummin’ around in G-Town

Hello there.  Yes, we’re still alive.  I know… I’ve been such a slacker in posting lately.  I’d blame it on the hit-or-miss Internet connection down here in the Bahamas, but I’d be a liar.  Truth is, we’ve been having such a great time just soaking up the surf and sun the past week, that blogging has been the last thing on my mind.  I keep reminding myself (or rather, Matt’s been reminding me) that this is a journal of our trip and that I really need to do a post, so here goes.

Exactly what have we been up to?  Not much actually.  We dropped Tim & Mischelle off in George Town two weeks ago, and have been hanging around town waiting for our next visitor – Jeremy Beall! – to fly in.  He was supposed to arrive today, but a major snowstorm postponed his flight by a day.  Bummer.

Snow?  What’s that all about?  I keep asking people to send me pictures of a snowman in return for a shot of a sandman.  No takers yet.  I’m guessing they don’t think it’s as funny as we do.

We have Alex and Char on board again.  They made us shepherds pie for dinner the other night, and boy it was delicious.  Aside from their amazing culinary skills, it’s been so much fun having another (young) couple to cruise with.  Crazy to think we just met them a few weeks ago.  Seems like we’ve known them forever.  Char is so sweet and funny, and Alex… well, who wouldn’t love a guy who’s able to rock a beard like that?  I think him and Matt have a bromance brewing, however I think they’ll adamantly deny anything of the sort.  To say it’s been a great few weeks would be an understatement.  Looks like we’ve made friends for life.

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We’ve been hanging out here at the Emerald Bay Marina, just north of George Town for the past week.  At less than a dollar a foot and free laundry, it was a no brainer.  Plus, it’s affiliated with the Sandals resort, so it’s probably the nicest marina we’ve found in our travels through the Bahamas.  A place so nice and so affordable, and we hardly see anyone out and about.  It’s sorta weird.  We’ve been taking advantage of it by completely dominating the clubhouse during our stay.  Every night at 8:00 we take our laptop to the lounge and stream at least two episodes of the latest season of House of Cards.  Our own little movie nights.  Matt even brought our microwave up to the lounge the other night so we could make popcorn.  We really have no shame.  I guess it’s a popular thing, because another cruising couple and one of the security guards have been joining us at our nightly viewings.  Unfortunately for us, the guard has never seen the series and is constantly asking questions during the episodes.  We all try to ignore him thinking he would get the hint and be quiet, but he never does.  The last episode showed Frank Underwood defacing a religious artifact, which seemed to seriously offend the guard, so I don’t think he’ll be back for any more viewings.  Oh well.  At least we don’t have to sit through his questions anymore.  Oh, and there’s a billiards room.  I swear, I haven’t played this much pool since college.  Life has been really, really hard the past few days, I’m telling you.

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A funny thing happen the other day as I was walking up to do laundry.  I was wearing my Natty Boh t-shirt, which is like a Baltimore icon, and a couple stopped me and asked if I was from Baltimore.  I said yes…. not from Baltimore actually, but Annapolis.  Turns out they’re from Severna Park and used to live in our old neighborhood!  How freaking crazy is that?  Meeting neighbors from our old hood al the way down here in the Bahamas!  They invited us onto their boat (which was GORGEOUS, by the way…. clearly the other half has it much better than us!), and we spent the night reminiscing over MD and discovering all of the friends we had in common.  MIke & Trish – thank you for an amazing evening and can’t wait to see you again soon!

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Lot’s of beach days for us this week.  We have the Sandals beach and a small private beach right at the marina to choose from.  We went to the private beach the other day and were accosted by a very friendly pitbull named Ryder.  That’s his owner in the background.  Apparently he wasn’t throwing Ryder’s toy enough and Ryder came over to solicit us for some help.  Matt gave it a few throws and had a friend for the rest of the afternoon.  Tough life, we know.

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We splurged and bought a day pass to Sandals the other day.  We ate and drank like kings, making the price totally worth it.  Another lobster tail?  Absolutely!  Another wine?  No… I’m sick of wine…. make that a pina colada.  Oh, you want us to participate in a couples balloon toss?  For a bottle of rum?  We think we can spare 15 minutes for that.  (We won, by the way).  For twelve hours straight, we WERE the other half, and man, it felt great.  And they had a HUGE pool, which we had been dreaming about after many days of picking sand out of every crevice imaginable.  KINGS, I tell you.  Kings!

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And I’ll leave you with a new skill Matt’s acquired.  Cutting open fresh coconuts.  He’s a natural.

#islandliving

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Cruisin’ with the Wilbrichts’

We had our first visitors aboard Foxfire last week, when Tim, Mischelle, Luke and Noah flew down to George Town to share the dream with us, if only for a week. I can’t even describe how good it felt to see friends from home, especially Tim & Mischelle, who were by far our biggest supporters and mentors through the whole process of buying a boat and making this crazy dream of cruising a reality.  They were the ones who picked us up and encouraged us to just do it, even when our family and friends thought we were completely looney.  We didn’t realize just how home sick we were until we saw their familiar faces piling out of the cab and walking down the dock towards us.  We also didn’t realize what a dark island tan we’ve developed until we were standing next to them.  Guess we should probably bump it up to SPF 50+ from now on.

Since they had a limited time in the islands, we decided the first stop would be to head back north to Staniel Cay so the kids could swim with the piggies and do some snorkeling in the famous Thunderball Grotto. Staniel is about 60 miles north of George Town, so we were in for some pretty aggressive travel the first day, but Tim and Matt were excited to sail so off we went.

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All was going fine until we hit the Exuma Sound and the waves began to pick up.  Let’s just say all of us were unprepared for the motion of the ocean, especially the kids, who had their heads hanging in a five gallon bucket for the majority of the trip.  The rest of us were slowly eating saltines and popping Dramamine, desperately trying to avoid the same fate. Lets just say it was not exactly the perfect start, and we hoped the kids wouldn’t be scarred for the rest of the trip.  Poseidon must have heard our prayers, because by the time we reached Staniel Cay, the wind and waves died down and we were able to enjoy a few days of Caribbean bliss.  And Piggy Beach, of course.

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Unfortunately, the good weather was short lived, and another front with 30mph+ winds was expected to come thru mid week and continue into the weekend.  Instead of island hopping south, we decided to play it safe and head back down to George Town to avoid any more traumatic rough days of sailing.

The trip back was so much better than the trip north, and Tim and Luke entertained us with riddles and random facts that Mischelle likes to refer to as “Tim Bits”.  We have no idea if he was telling the truth or totally bullshitting us, but he sounded like a man who knew a lot about whatever it was we were talking about.  No wonder he’s such a good salesman.

As we were anchoring off of Goat’s Cay back in George Town, we saw someone wildly waving in our direction from the beach.  Sorta strange.  We didn’t know if they were actually waving to us or not, so we decided to play it safe and ignore them to avoid looking like complete idiots.  After we set the anchor, we saw two people, one on a paddleboard and another on a kayak coming towards our boat and we thought – “Hey!  We know them”!  It was Alex and Charlene, the two Canadians who hitched a ride down to George Town with us!  Turns out we were anchored right off the resort they were staying at with her parents.  Too funny, aye?

The boat was starting to feel pretty small with six people onboard, so we decided to get off the boat and do some resort hopping instead.  The kids had WiFi and the adults had pina coladas, so it was pretty much a win-win.

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After two-three days (two-tree as pronounced by the locals), we moved on over across the channel to explore Stocking Island, and to hike up Monument Hill, perhaps the highest hill we’ve seen since we hiked the cliffs at Staniel Cay.  You really begin to miss elevation down here, where everything is fairly flat and looks pretty much the same.  The trail to the monument was pretty neat… you began on the beach, then went thru some jungle, then back onto sand/coral, then did a small switchback trail up to the very top of the hill.  The view from the top was awesome.  You could see for miles.  IMG_4472

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I grabbed a piece of rock and left a little memento on the monument.  The way the wind and sand was blowing up there, I’d be surprised if it was still there the next day.  Hoping I won’t be sent to a Bahamian prison for defacing public property.

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We hiked around to the ocean side of the island and discovered an amazing beach with this beautiful pink sand that your feet sunk into all the way up to your ankles…  It was like stepping on some sort of memory foam mattress.  We walked the beach for a while, collecting shells and examining random flotsam, before heading back into the jungle towards the boat.

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Noah’s favorite part of the trip was using our cooler to beat out some epic drum solos along with his iPad.  After about three days of being woken up to the shrill sound of a flip flop banging on the fiberglass and echoing throughout the hull, Matt thought of a brilliant way to design him a custom “drum” set, complete with sticks made from an extra fiberglass batten and paper towels wrapped in electrical tape.  He also took a foam knee pad and taped it to the cooler for extra protection.  This worked wonders to dull the noise and had the rest of us voting him MVP of the trip.  Way to go, babe… you’re a freakin’ genius.

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Alas the week was over, just as quickly as it started.  Isn’t it funny how vacations seem to work that way?  Thanks so much for visiting guys!  We had an awesome week and hope you did too.  Hate to see you go, but sure am glad it’s not us returning to single digit temperatures back home.

Sorry… too soon?

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