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Sunday, 2/8/09                                                                                Day 372

Today was completely AWESOME!  This evening didn't turn out the best but the rest of the day was just AWESOME!  To start things out, I sang my little song (see 2/6/09) about the front on the net.  I got many compliments.  Luckily, it was a bit breezy, but blue & clear all day.  Sunny too!

We went in at 8:30 to get ready for Beach Church.  At 8:45, Gotta Life & Emily Grace showed up and we practiced our song until it was perfect.  Then I also got to practice at 9:00 with the Norman Casurena-nacle Choir.  I am now singing the alto harmony parts with Cheryl off Eleanor M.  About 120 people came to Beach Church.  That's the most this season!  For the Beach Church Youth Choir, we botched the end, but that was okay.  We did very well for the first time by ourselves, and the congregation did real well three more times.  Mr. Dick (Penobscot), our guitarist, did well too!  Mom videoed it.  Popular demand (led by choirmaster Mr. Bill) wants me to organize another Youth Choir appearance.  I'm thinking about two weeks from now.  That'll be Grandparent's/children's Day.  I want to play "Amazing Grace" on the flute (Erin), the saxophone (Geneva), and the clarinet (me).  I've got the music.  I hope it works out.

We stayed on the boat until about 2:30.  At 2:07, something very special and wonderful happened.  Dad came home!!
J  He brought back lots of good stuff like cereal and ranch salad dressing (I specifically asked for the latter).  I'm sooo glad Dad's home.  He's been gone for two days shy of two weeks!  That feels like forever!

At 2:30 we went to the beach.  We all started to construct (or re-construct from a past year) Hunka Junk HQ.  It's a big tree with hammocks and platforms in it.  It used to be the kid's HQ.  We are putting it back together.  We already have a hammock and a flat in the tree.  We also have ropes as a climbing system.  I tried (for at least 30 min.) with Dakota to make a lookout tower 20+ ft. about the ground.  It failed horribly.

At 5:15, after having a snack on the boat, we went to St. Francis to play Trivial Pursuit.  There were 12 kids, so we formed 3 kid teams.  Mr. Willis and Ms. Kathy (Whistling Winds), who are in charge, made a free kids vs. kids competition and the winner of the kids' teams would get free drinks.  I was on the Rum Punch Rulers with Dakota, Declan, and Erin.  At the end, we graded side by side with an adult to avoid mistakes.  We got 27 wrong.  When we talked with the other teams, the Platypuses (Brady, Anne Marie, Geneva, & a new girl) got 29 wrong, and the Limpets (Kaeo, Bird, Brian, & Josh) got 30 wrong.  But when some odd recount happened, the Platypuses only 26 wrong.  Something was messed up in the recount.
L  So we lost our free drinks.  Things just went downhill from there.  While being a good Samaritan and picking up empty cans and bottles by order of Ms. Kathy, Dad says something to me about not doing what I was doing and got mad when I tried to tell him that I had been told to do it.  We go home and everyone's' crabby and we try to make a small dinner and everything's crazy and blah! L  All that bad stuff.

The end of the evening could have ruined the day, but, looking back on it, my day was pretty great. And, Grandma & Grandpa come in on Tuesday!!
J  I can't wait.  You know, there's always something to look forward to in life.  That's a good thing.  J

Monday, 2/9/09                                                                                Day 373

Today was great.  And I've decided that not just any day can be great.  A great day has to meet certain requirements.  Here they are:

Chris' Great Day Checklist

A great day must...

1) start fairly early in the morning (between 5:30 and 7:30am).

2) have at least 2 events you would categorize as "fun".

3) have at least one adventure or out of the ordinary event.

4) have at least a rating of "good" all day long.

5) leave a smile on your face when you look back on the day.

Today was definitely great.  The whole family was up by 6:00 (requirement #1).  To start off, we had Mr. Bill and Ms. Laverne (Rocinante) over for breakfast.  This was the pancake breakfast we had promised Mr. Bill when we dragged and to thank him for all the help he's given us.  That satisfies requirement #3.  They left after the net.

At10:00, after a tiny bit of schoolwork, we went to a knot tying clinic, courtesy of Mike from Pagan Chant.  He was very patient and helpful, and I learned two new ways to tie a clove hitch, and two new ways to tie a bowline.  He also taught us to make Turkshead bracelets.  I was the only one of the 4 of us who learned it.  The whole clinic was fun and I learned a bunch (requirements #2a and #3+).

Unfortunately, Dad convinced Mom to make us do school, and we got to the beach late.  We were late, but most of the other kids were also late.  Clara (13, off Socia), the girl who played Trivial Pursuit with us last night, is hanging out with us.  We did beachy stuff all afternoon.  We played in the tree (HJHQ) and got new stuff (requirement #2b).  One of our additions was a broken and ripped car seat that we found in KB's (the owner of Chat 'n Chill) personal junkyard!  Believe it or not, I found a gecko inside the car seat!  I named it Alli, because it did something that felt like it bit me, so I joked that I'd caught a baby alligator!  I played with it and it scurried around on my arm.
J  (requirement 2+)  Mom and Dad wouldn't let me keep Alli. L  Grandma & Grandpa come tomorrow! J!  Whoopeeeee!! J!!  All in all, today was very J (requirement #4 & #5).  Today was GREAT!

Tuesday, 2/10/09
                                                                                Day 374

Today was pretty good.  We mostly did errands, but an awesome thing happened this evening.  Quite obviously.  Grandma and Grandpa flew in from Texas!!  Junior, Taxi #4, was a great help getting them here, and he hasn't failed us yet.  He has always been Dad's taxi driver.  Grandma and Grandpa brought us homemade fudge and Texas pecans!
J  They were good dessert for after our light dinner.

Now for the rest of the day.  We brought Liberty to Exuma Docking, a marina in town, for the day.  Mr. Bill (Rocinante) came with us to help us out and work on some t-shirt stuff with us and to run some errands here in town.  With the help of some other people on the dock, everything was secured and in good order by 8:45.

Mr. Leroy, a mechanic, and his assistant came over, as planned, to fix our transmission at 9:00.  Though we had a lot of work done and got a new transmission at Zimmerman Marine in Deltaville, VA, somehow it's having trouble again.
L  Luckily, the mechanic got his work done and everything fixed and back to normal in just a few hours.

We also did t-shirt stuff with Mr. Bill.  We're going to sell t-shirts on the beach tomorrow when we go back over.  We hope to make lots of sales.  We have taken a good selection of everything we have left (we are out of many sizes and colors) and loaded them onto Liberty. Mom had made a project of taking an inventory and sorting and folding t -shirts.  Folding the t-shirts!  Only a mom, only a mom. 

For the rest of the day, we ran errands.  We provisioned for the next week at Exuma Market.  We did laundry.  We got internet at J&K, helped out, did school, and just hung out.

So, that concludes today. Christopher's Journal - your home for the events and adventures of a boy at sea.

Wednesday, 2/11/09                                                                        Day 375

Today was (officially) a great day.  Early, around 8:00, we went across the harbor, back to Volleyball Beach.  We anchored just off the beach.  We all just hung out until the afternoon, but there was a cool "event' mid morning.

Grandma & Grandpa brought Christmas presents because they didn't get to send them to us in December.  We got our presents this morning.  First, Grandma & Grandpa gave us little tree ornaments, my favorite of which was a red kangaroo with a green hat and scarf and a gold bell.  I thought that that was it, but no, there was more.
J  Next, we (Josh & I collectively) got a homemade card (Grandma is a pro) saying something about sharing a gift.  She told us to look around the corner.  Well, there are no corners really on our boat; just a salon with a part separated because of the mast and a folded up card table.  I went and looked into the forward head, that being the first real turn.  Josh looked somewhere else, near Grandma & Grandpa's bags, and said, "I found it.  It looks like a folded duffle bag."  I said, "I found the commode!" J  It turned out to be a huge duffle bag that said, but that was just an extra to "the main gift."  I was pretty amazed because at first I thought the ornaments were our gifts, then it turned out to be a card with a riddle.  Next I settled on a big duffle bag, but more?! J  We spent a few minutes trying the bag out for size (it was large enough for me to climb into and be sealed up) before really getting down to business.  Grandma presented to us a digital underwater camera!  This is a good underwater camera set; it goes to a depth of 200 ft!  There are a lot of rules and manuals to read over, but this is one of my best Christmas gifts!  Hopefully, we'll get to use it before Grandma & Grandpa leave.  Wow.  This is sweet. J

At 1:00, we went in to the beach.  Mr. Bill (Rocinante) met us to help set up/bring in the t-shirts.  Mr. Ron and Ms. Karen (Sea Dancer) and Ms. Cathy (Mariah Joy) also came, for they were also selling with us.  I helped sell and bring in sales on & off all afternoon.  At some point I stopped to play with the other kids.  We played Snipers.  That's Capture the Flag, but instead of tagging intruders, you tackle them.  My team won.  We also swung from the tree and did other beachy stuff.  We left the beach around 4:30.

At 5:00, Mom and Dad went to Charisma to look over charts with Mr. Bill.  We stayed back on the boat with Grandma and Grandpa.  We watched The Roy Rogers Show, an old western that Grandma saw when she was little girl.  It's old.  Eventually Mom and Dad came back and made lamb chops for dinner.  They set up a thing with Anne (Carpe Diem) to go see the stromatolites with my grandparents tomorrow.  It should be a nice day tomorrow.  It's been a nice day today. 

Thursday, 2/12/09                                                                                Day 376

We MOVED!  For the first time in weeks, we have left George Town.  And oh, we had such a great trip to Lee Stocking Island, Exumas, Bahamas.  We had a longer trip than expected (6 ½ hrs. instead of 4 hrs.), but  it was a peaceful, eventful sail.

We were trolling fishing lines all day.  On one pole we had a ballyhoo and on the other we had a squid skirt with a big weight in front of it.  Somewhat soon (within the first two hours), the line with the ballyhoo zinged.  We all dropped what we were doing to watch.  We brought in a 32 ½ in. Mahi Mahi!  It was cool.  It crossed over one of the lines, but we overcame the difficulties and landed it.  The wet towel came in handy.  Later, we caught a second Mahi on another ballyhoo we deployed.  This was also a cow, but much bigger - 40 in. long!  We got a lot of fish!!

Some other cool things happened as we cruised along the coast of Great Exuma Island.  The wind was light and aft of the beam, so we deployed both the spinnaker and the mizzen staysail.  We sailed most of the trip averaging 3-4kts.  As I already noted, it was tranquil.  At one point, we heard, over the VHF, the sightings of whales, but it was not near us.  Then, later, a large trawler named Monarch, who had just passed us, called us.  They told us that they had just seen whales off their side, and they should be near us.  Immediately, everybody (yes, nobody watching the instruments) was at the bow.  We saw their backs for a while, but no blows, breaches, flukes, etc.  That was cool.  We think they were humpback whales because they are currently migrating through the area, but we could not see any features on the whales.

We got into the anchorage at Lee Stocking Island through Adderly Cut by about 3:30.  I dove on our anchor.  We are in about 5 ½ ft. of water (mean low low water) over a sandy bottom.  Oddly, the bottom is covered (literally) by humps of sand.  Each lump is about 1 ½ ft. tall.  There are also lots of little clam-type creatures all around.  We are one of about 10 or 12 other boats anchored off of the Perry Institute for Marine Science.  We are going to take a tour tomorrow morning.  There is talk of Dad, Josh & I going diving for bugs (lobsters) early tomorrow morning, but I don't know.  They'll wake me if we're going to go.  But, for that to happen, I have to get to bed now!  G'Night Mon.

Friday, 2/13/09
                                                                                Day 377

Unexpectedly, I was woken up this morning by Josh & Dad at 5:30.  We were going diving/hunting.
J  We set out with all our gear at 6:00 for the areas of reef off the northeastern side of Leaf Cay.  We found some patch reef and coral heads, and anchored on a large reef.  Though that larger reef had logs of fish and coral, none of the fish were eating size and lobsters were absent.  Josh shot two somewhat decent (smallish) black margates.  Soon enough, we picked up the dinghy anchor and moved on.  We tried a couple more heads and finally found some good structure.  Josh and I weren't going to go in, but Dad shot a small bug immediately, so we joined him.  About halfway through the dive, I found a giant lobster in a coral head.  I saw the antennae moving and I knew what it was.  I took some shots, but couldn't get at it.  Dad's spear is better for that kind of stuff.  It is only one large point with a folding barb, whereas mine is three smaller points with little barbs.  So I called Dad over, but he didn't hear me.  I shot some more. And guess what?  He ran out of his hole through another entrance.  I shot at him, but missed, and only got his antennae broken off.  Finally, I got Dad over.  He found the lobster and a third hole.  Through that hole, he shot the lobster.  It made the pole thrash around and started pulling the spear into the hole!  Dad grabbed it and the pole spear came out, without the lobster! L  Then, the lobster came running out of the first hole right beneath me.  I speared him right through the body.  I pressed him into the ground and he thrashed.  Eventually though, I had to take a breath, so I brought the lobster up.  That darn bug took the opportunity to swim off my spear and back into his hole!  But Dad shot him from behind and got him home.  We left soon after.  We came home heroes - 2 nice enough fish, one small (and so very sweet) lobster, and a huge (2 ft. long w/o antennae) lobster.  I called the big one my lobster because I found it, watched it, tickled it out, and shot it twice.  Dad also shot it twice and got it home, but it wouldn't have been in the boat without me.  I put a lobster-shaped waypoint on our chart plotter called Chris1 because it was my first lobster.

We immediately went to the Perry Institute for Marine Science for the 9:30 tour.  A lady named Meredith showed us around and told us all about the work done there.  We went to the dive room with the scuba tanks and diving HQ, the lionfish lab, two other labs, the salt pond, the generators and watermaker room, and the dormitories.  She gave us the scoop on the research done here and told us about future projects.  We saw Dr. Mueller (the scientist who gave the lecture at St. Francis; see 2/7/09).  Ms. Meredith also gave us dive/snorkeling charts for the area.

After lunch, an okay lobster salad (like chicken salad but with lobster0 we went to the beach.  We went to the beautiful one on Norman's Pond Cay.  That island is across from Lee Stocking Island, near Leaf Cay.  We spent the afternoon looking for shells, playing in the sand and water, skipping stones, etc.  I built a little raft, but it kind of sunk.  We had fun nonetheless.

We came home and hung out.  We ate an appetizer of lobster stuffed mushrooms and lobster chunks before a main course of Mom's Family-Famous Chicken Parmesan.  It was fabulous (as always!)  For dessert we ate more of Grandma's fudge.

The plan for tomorrow is to go to the salt pond in Norman's Pond Cay in the morning at high tide, and then maybe go to the beach.  Josh and Dad may go diving for lobster tomorrow morning, but I'm going to sleep in.  I'm tired.  It's probably from getting up at 5:45am.  It's been a long day, close to 15 hours.  Good (yawn) night (yawn, snore). 

The Very Early Morning of 2/14/09

I woke up at 4:15am to go to the bathroom.  I saw the beautiful moon - very large and bright and illuminating the water.  An idea came to me.  I went back to bed to think
about it.

Around 4:30am, I went into Mom and Dad's cabin.  I shook Dad gently and, when he stirred and looked at me, said, "Hey Dad, you want to go diving?"  After he looked at me funny, I continued, "It's 4:30 and perfect outside.  The moon is high, bright, and large.  It's still real early - about 4:30 - and maybe the lobsters will be out and about like we've heard tell of."  He replied, "Let me get out of bed."  We looked at it for a bit and saw that low/slack tide was at 5:00.  After thinking it over, we decided - YES.  We double-bagged two good flashlights and got our gear, including towels (it was quite chilly).  We put on our wetsuits and left Mom a note.  So as not to wake anybody up, we paddled out of the anchorage.  We spend an hour motoring around off Leaf Cay, looking for structure, reefs, lobsters, etc.  We couldn't find anything and didn't want to just swim around in the dark.  So we anchored, wrapped in blankets, and talked until the sun started to peek up.  Then we found an area of heads, coincidentally the same area as yesterday's success, and went hunting.  We spend a while scouring the area for lobster.  We got nothing.  Just as we were getting ready to try another spot, Mom radioed us and said that it was 7:00 and time to come in.  Now for the day:

Saturday, 2/14/09
                                                                                Day 378

We got back and everybody was getting up.  We had bacon (not lobster
L) taquitos for breakfast.  We (Dad & I) had also hoped to make lobster ravioli, but no lobsters means no lobster dishes. L  We hung out until 10:00 when we dinghied over to Norman's Pond Cay.  We wanted to go into the island's salt pond.  Somehow, because the tide was not in enough and we came too early, the water was running out of the creek that leads to the pond, even on the rising tide.  We dragged the dinghy over the algae-covered rocks of the entrance and got into the creek.  We dinghied up the creek, looking at the many starfish, baby snappers and grunts, minnows, mangrove stuff, etc.  AT one point, we got to a point where there were lots of dry flats and little creeks and sandbars.  We all got out and looked around.  I showed Grandma the baby fish, mangrove upside-down jellyfish, other upside-down jellyfish, etc.  I even saw a swollen claw mantis shrimp!!  That's a cool creature that I've only seen in books! J  We also saw blue crabs, a live true tulip (a big snail in a pretty shell), and a bunch of egrets and herons.

Eventually, after thorough exploration, we all got into the dinghy to explore the much deeper (about 3-4 ½ ft.) salt pond itself.  We explored the underwater ruins of the abandoned salt harvesting facility.  The company had walls of stone that created artificial pools which could be filled part way with salt water.  They let the water evaporate and the sun-dried salt could then be scraped up.  It was really cool.  Surprisingly, when we left the creek that led out, the water had become high enough to make no current, but still too shallow in some places to use the motor.  Unfortunately, Dad made Josh & I pull us all the way , and we both cut our feet on the sharp limestone.  We also got soaking wet on the way home.

After eating a snack lunch and sitting through a little squall, we proceeded to our afternoon activity.  We dinghied to Coconut Beach, south of the anchorage to go hiking.  Perry Institute maintains some trails.  On the way to the beach, we noticed tons of cushion sea starts which Grandma & Grandpa had never seen before.  I jumped out of the dink and got a big red one for them to see.  It was cool.  There were also lots of orange ones and red and yellow ones.  At the beach, we chose to hike to Perry's Peak, the highest point in the Exumas at a mere 123ft.  The hike was nice, but Grandma couldn't get up a particularly steep portion and Grandpa stayed with her about ¾ of the way up.  The view from the top was really nice.  You could see the ocean (really Exuma Sound) to one side, the banks and Brigantine Cays off the opposite side, the islands south to Barraterre on a third side, and the Exumas up to the north.  I wanted to take a panorama movie like I do from so many high places, but Mom wouldn't let me.  L

We went back to Liberty and 5 out of the 6 of us stayed on board for the rest of the day.  Dad went snorkeling, but it's not how you think.  We moved the boat up to Leaf Cay anchorage, between Leaf & Norman's Pond, to be closer to tomorrow's snorkeling spots.  The time Dad left the boat was to dive on the anchor.  J  We had dinner without lobster.  L  Now we are going to bed.  Tomorrow is out last day at Lee Stocking Island.  We are going diving at least once.  I am going to use the underwater camera for the first time.  I cannot wait.