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We have arrived in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island after 17 hours of mostly motoring. It was our first time travelling at night so we had to rig up our lighting systems. There is something really serene about travelling at night, especially since it was a full moon and we had both sails up. Unfortunately the wind didn’t last and for most of the next day we motored along. In the morning we were travelling on the Little Bahama Bank (max 15 ft of water) and it was so calm the water was like a mirror; we could see the coral, starfish and fish on the bottom and we were lucky to be joined by a large dolphin swimming on our bow. We then rounded Memory Rock out into the deep ocean and the colour of the water is just as spectacular – a beautiful deep blue.
We were hoping for some luck on the fishing lines, but alas we only managed to catch (and release) two barracuda. Paul really enjoyed getting up close and personal with their massive teeth while we all ran around squealing. It would have been nice to have sailed more, but it was a nice calm journey and there is something about being out alone where you can’t see any shore that is just magical. The kids managed to do some school work and passed the afternoon watching movies. We are now tied up at a marina where the boat will be left over the summer hurricane season. It must be hilarious to watch Paul and I try to dock the boat, something we have now done a grand total of two times. We have become really good at anchoring on this trip, but watch us try to dock the boat and get all the lines set up and we definitely look like amateurs. Our perfectionist tendencies don’t help and finally after two hours we are happy with all the lines and ready to head to the pool to cool off.
Freeport is where we will leave the boat and fly out in about 10 days to Nicaragua. We are at a crossroads. Our sabbatical is not over; we have 6 wonderful weeks in Nicaragua before we return home to Canada. And yet we are closing up this portion of the trip and I feel grumpy. At first I thought it was just tiredness from our long day of travelling. But now I know that the cause of the grumpiness is my reaction to the change and conclusion of this trip. I remember these feelings from other transitions – when we moved home from Malaysia and when we returned home from 6 months of travelling in 2006. We have loved cruising and living on the boat. We love the independence of cruising, the self-sufficiency, the feeling of being on the hook (even if it causes sleeplessness in me when the winds are high!), exploring new islands and meeting new people. When I reflect back, I see how well we have adapted to this lifestyle and how comfortable and competent we have become. So closing this chapter is hard. It is great to have real showers to use, to not have to worry much about weather and to have a pool to hang out at. But already I miss our routines when we are at anchor and cruising.
After spending a few weeks in the Sea of Abaco, we made the crossing through the Whale Passage into the northern part of the Abacos. The Whale is notorious for being a passage that can be quite volatile if the weather has been bad. We had already experienced crossing the North Bar Channel cut on a bad day (10 foot+ rollers on our beam) and we were not eager to repeat that experience. Luckily we chose a really calm day to make the passage and it was a piece of cake. We enjoyed getting to know Green Turtle Cay, our last settlement before we reached Freeport. It is another Loyalist settlement with a rich history and it was lovely to wander through the old buildings. We also did some snorkeling, that was the best we have seen since the Exumas. We continued our Abaco trend of finding a pool bar for Mom and Dad to buy a drink so the kids could use the pool.
The days just seem to slip by in our slow, easy routine of school, beaches, exploring and swimming. From Green Turtle, we skipped up to Manjack Cay, an island we also really enjoyed. We were finally back in uninhabited islands, which really helps our budget. Manjack is a great place for cruisers because there is a home owner there that is very cruiser friendly and is very happy for cruisers to use their beach area and they have created lovely walking trails all through the island. The kids had a blast in the forts that had been created on the island and we met another cruising family and had a spontaneous lunch campfire. It was great for the kids to have some kids to play with for the day as we haven’t seen many kid boats in the Abacos. We would have liked to linger a little longer in this part of the Abacos, but with some possible bad weather coming, we opted to move quickly and head for Freeport. We stopped at Powell Cay for a night and managed some beach time and snorkeling. We then had a night at Allans-Pensacola Cay where cruisers have set up a signing tree and left artifacts with their boat names on it, making for a unique sight. This cay was also used by the Americans as a missile monitoring centre, but we couldn’t find the ruins. This spurred a great conversation with the kids, which started with “What’s a missile” and then covered a broad range of topics about the Cold War, Great Depression, Stock Markets, the “Gold Standard”, banking regulations and the welfare state. From there we were on the move, first 38 miles to Great Sale Cay and then 85 miles to Freeport. While we enjoyed our time in the Abacos, our time in the Exumas is what will always stand out about this trip. The water, the sealife, the beaches, the isolation, are just spectacular in the Exumas. Not to mention the great friends we travelled with there.
We have 10 days in Freeport to enjoy marina living. My parents arrive in 5 days and we will spend some time helping them get the boat set up to be left for hurricane season. We are all very excited to see them and to prepare for our Nicaragua adventure (more about that to come).