Oct 23, 2014

Exotic Sailing Locations : Staniel Cay, Bahamas

   Do you ever sit in front of your computer drooling over the "top 10 must see travel spots" that overwhelm your facebook feed? Do you ever look at the pictures and wonder if anyone actually ever travels there, or is it just one lucky photographer working for National Geographic that is allowing us all to dream. These "must see" articles seem to be domineering social media these days. I recently came across LOOK's latest media campaign, focusing on exotic sailing locations. Well, I can say that we know of a few destinations, that we have visited personally. And so, although they are not at the far reaches of the world, I have decided to do yet another mini-series highlighting some of the exotic sailing locations that we have visited, that are right in your backyard. So to speak. They are actually a little ways from your backyard, but in the sailing community, the Caribbean could be considered North America's backyard.

   The first sailing location that I would like to write about is Staniel Cay, Bahamas. For many cruisers leaving the States this upcoming season to sail into the caribbean, you will most likely be making a stop in Staniel Cay. And I believe it is well worth it. Even if you are only stopping for a few days, like we did, you have ample time to take in, what we believed to be, the highlights of the island. In, and around, this island we quite enjoyed:

The Swimming Pigs (Big Major Cay, next to Staniel Cay, within a dinghy ride)

   I mean, you are not going to come across this many times in your life. Actual swimming pigs. And not ones that just swish around in mud puddles. These hogs (yes big hairy hogs, not cute "Babe"-like pigs) will leave the beach to come and meet your dinghy that is floating out in the bay. They have gotten quite used to all of the cruisers coming to gawk at them, so be prepared and have some food on hand to share with them once those ginormous beasts have paddled all the way out to you. I feel like after such a workout they deserve a snack. We fed them cabbage, which we threw towards them. I had no desire for any of them to come "that close" to our dinghy that one of their piggy hoofs might catch the side of our inflatable and sink us. We also had a cute and pudgy Arias that may look like a yummy snack to a carnivorous pig. So we hucked cabbage instead. I have also heard of some of the braver cruisers bringing their dinghy to shore, on the beach of Big Major Cay, where the pigs live. But during our visit there were piglets running around on the beach, so I didn't think it wise for us to go for a beach stroll and piss off big momma pig. 

Thunderball Grotto

   Whether you are a James Bond fan or not, this place is totally worth checking out. And once again, bring food! Before entering the grotto it is good to check the tides and make sure you go on SLACK TIDE, to make your entry easier. It was a bit scary going under the first lip (underwater) because you don't know what to expect or how long you will have to swim underwater before you reach air again, but it's actually only that one lip. We even had our 2 year old, in a life jacket, do it. Once you are inside there is a huge amount of space, so even if you are there at the same time as other boats you wont feel like you are at a paid tourist attraction looking for elbow room. The current inside is surprisingly strong, nothing insane, but I just didn't expect it to have such a pull. 

   The food that you bring is to feed the array of colourful fish that inhabit the Grotto. If you don't feed them something yummy they may opt to nibble on your toes, which is a totallly creepy feeling. We just sprinkled the crumbs left at the bottoms of our cereal bags into the water and the fish were our best friends. I spent most of my time sitting on one of the ledges with Arias, looking at all the fish, while Eben and Kurtis adventured around and pondered jumping through the hole at the top of the grotto. I convinced them not to, since we didn't know if it was doable, but we later saw a youtube video of someone doing it, so I have a feeling that a return visit is soon approaching.

   For a good laugh, picture this. When we visited the grotto I was 7.5 months pregnant. Big. We dinghied over to it, everyone jumped in the water, swam into the grotto, and marvelled at the beauty of it. After about an hour there, we started getting chilly and decided to head back to the dinghy. This is when it clicked for me...I had never gone from the water back into our dinghy with a belly this size. I usually just hoist myself up the side of the dinghy and pull myself in (imagine that usually looking pretty athletic), but now with this baby inside of me turning me into a manatee, hoisting myself was not a possibility. Instead, Eben and Kurtis had to get into the dinghy and then grab me under my arms and hoist me up and in, I went from "athletic mermaid look" to "beached whale look". We all had a good laugh about how not a single one of us thought about this scenario occurring until it actually did.

I wouldn't let them jump through the grotto hole so they found another mini rock formation to jump off of!

Secluded Beaches

   We went to Staniel Cay about mid-way through the sailing season (around February) and although there were plenty of boats around the island, there were still a ton of beaches that no one seemed to occupy other than us. We had a blast on our white-sand, turquoise water, secluded beaches. We would bring food along with us, have picnics, and spend our time beach combing, sand castle building, critter chasing, and sunbathing. ALL BY OURSELVES! It is picturesque, lets you feel like the Swiss Family Robinsons, and it's free! What more could you ask for? Oh, but do watch out for sharks, not big scary whites, but there was a nurse shark that was quite intrigued by Eben and Kurtis snorkling near the beach.

   And if you have any landbased needs, such as the local drinking hole, getting rid of your accumulated trash, seeing other humans, or getting a non-boat cooked meal, you can always head over to the Staniel Cay Yatch club. There you can find a nice cold beer and oogle over all the pictures of a young Sean Connery and crew from their time spent there filming the James Bond movie.

   So if you are island hopping down the chain, Staniel Cay is definitely worth a stop and has left some beautiful memories engrained in my mind, minus the "beached whale look", that one is stuck there from sheer embarrassment.

Oct 18, 2014

Partying With Family

   Sometimes all you really need to recharge and refuel your personal batteries is some good ol' time with your family. We knew that by returning to Canada we would get to visit with a lot of our family, but with my family being mostly in Quebec, and the cost of flights to cross Canada being so crazily expensive, we didn't think we would get to see them. We were so happy to find out that by pure coincidence one of my uncles, who lives in Banff, was having his wedding at the same time we were in Canada, and much of my mom's family would be flying from Quebec to be a part of it. And a double bonus, my sister just recently moved from Ontario to Calgary. So we got the incredible chance to visit with my side of the family too!

   My mom's family are a crazy bunch. They are 16 kids, my mother was born the 11th, and so you can imagine once you add spouses and kids in there our family reunions gravitate towards the 100s. All related! And all partiers. Many of the aunts and uncles that flew to Banff for this wedding were the ones that were closest to my mom, in age group, and so also the ones that we as kids grew up with seeing the most. It was so incredibly nice seeing them all again. We laughed, we hung out, we drank an endless supply of wine, and we did a lot of dancing! That is one thing you can count on this family for, a good party, and once the music starts the dance floor will be packed.

   Seeing everyone filled my heart so much and made me realize how much I have missed them all, and how much I hope we get to see them in the near future again. It was also great having them meet and get to know the girls since many of them hadn't had the chance to meet them, ridiculous, I know. I hope they all realize that if we had an infinite amount of money we would be present at every single family reunion, because those people are good for my soul.

   And an extra bonus of nights like these, is that the other set of grandparents babysat our girls and Eben and I got to dance the night away, like young pups!

getting all dressed up for the wedding was fun

My sister Renee, me, my mom Agnes, and Eben

A few of my aunts and uncles that made it to the wedding (and 1 of my cousins, center, the son of the groom)

My VERY handsome hubby

my sister and I

bride and groom's first dance

and the party begins!
apparently I sing a lot when I dance, because most of my pictures from that night look like this!

I rocked those "hammer pants"

Next Day, my mom giving my uncle (the groom) a painting my late grandmother had made for him

cuddle time with Aunty Nene

Oct 14, 2014

Dinosaurs In Our Sights : The Royal Tyrrell Museum

   Just driving up to the museum the girls were getting excited by all the dinosaurs that line the streets of Drumheller, but stepping inside the Royal Tyrrell museum is a whole other adventure.

   We made the personal mistake of going on a Saturday, and so did everyone else in the vicinity I suppose, because when we arrived we had a 30 minute line up to stand in just to reach the ticket booth. We were worried that the museum would be packed, but with the sheer size of this place you could hardly tell that every family made this their adventure spot that Saturday. 

   Once inside you are greeted by full sized skeletons of the creatures that once were. And those larger than life creatures continue on for what took us about a 2.5hr walk. The Royal Tyrell museum knows what they are doing, and do it well. Many of their exhibits are kid-friendly and even hand-on, and the ones that aren't, are just astoundingly big! 

   Our family had a blast. We went in as a group of 10 (our family, Mel and Jair and their two little ones as well as Cyra and Sebas), and found ourselves splitting off from our group and reconnecting every now and again, simply because of different age groups and attention spans. There is something for everyone. It was so much fun seeing Arias realize how big dinosaurs actually were. And Ellia, she didn't seemed fazed by much, but she was also kept distracted enough to be content for our entire couple of hours there. This place is great for children of all ages; I think been and Jair had more fun than anyone in the kids' ballroom! 

   Oh and don't miss the "live" exhibits near the end. No, not live dinosaurs but some of the weirdest water lizard things we have ever seen, and an ugly soft shell turtle. Living descendants of dinosaurs really.

So many fun hands-on games

The girls didn't want to leave this station because "he's talking to me!"

the cousins

the cousins striking a pose in front of the bubble wall


who's tallest?

my favorite picture of the trip!

And to finish off, the creepy critter that still lives to this day! I find he looks like Toothless off of How to Train your Dragon

Oct 6, 2014

Inside Our Sailboat

   So often we are hanging out with friends and they want to know what our boat is like, and then Eben and I realize that we don't have a "boat" file of pictures. So I decided to conglomerate a bunch of them on here. This way everyone can get an idea of what we live in full time, and the amount of work that my dear husband has put into this boat to make her our home.

A Few Of The Before Shots

the old settee cushions

old counter tops

installing the bunk bed

ripping out the old backsplash

sanding everything to repaint

repainting the ceiling
ripping out the bathroom countertops and mirror

installing a hallway door

And Some Of The After Shots

redone settee cushions, much cleaner

the table drops down to make a queen size bed

repainted ceiling, vinyled walls, and chalk board decorations

lee cloth to keep the girls from rolling out of the Vberth (also the baby playpen)

the bunk bed at the foot of our aft bed
our aft cabin bed

new countertops

our shower

bathroom decorations

new kitchen counter tops
new stained floor pieces

sanded and stained and reinstalled the old door

wind scoops for the main hatches

Outside Of The Boat