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  • Katharine Hesmer

Bahamas | Take 2 | December 19, 2022

Updated: Dec 27, 2022

Hope Town, Elbow Cay, Abaco Islands, Bahamas

KORKZcrew is the blue dot on the map

While a 37' trawler is big for a boat, it's pretty small when it's your home — but it's just right for us. Here we are a year and a half after buying it, and I'm still thrilled with our choice of this 2008 Great Harbour N37. It's small but not too small, maneuverable, and manageable. It can only get so cluttered because you're inspired not to bring too much "stuff" on board in the first place. With few exceptions, everything has a function and a storage spot. While we were looking at boats over the past 10 years, we developed a bit of a wish list for features that were non-negotiable and those that were more flexible. When you have a budget and size range you're working within, those non-negotiables can suddenly become pretty flexible. 😂 We'd honestly hoped for a boat with two bedrooms and two baths so we could easily accommodate guests, but there are so many tradeoffs in a boat this size. KORKZcrew has an unusually large kitchen and fridge, and an insanely roomy / navigable engine room, both of which were big "plusses" for us. As a result, she only has one master bedroom with a queen bed, a smaller half bedroom (as I call it) with a twin bed, and one tiny bathroom with a shower. But it works. Greta is sleeping in the small bedroom just off the kitchen, and Skeet is staying on the bottom bunk in the pilot house. The sofa or settee also smartly converts into a queen-sized bed, but he prefers the bunk bed. I think he also likes it because it’s easy for Steve to get up and down from there and join him in the rest fest. We throw an extra blanket over the top bunk for a little extra privacy and to keep it dark in the morning. Seems like it's doing the trick 😜.

Ron and I got up early today, and I continued to unload my bags and get settled. Packing for this trip was relatively easy because I’d already done the bulk of it before Ron left in early November. And by packing I mean clothes of course, but also everything imaginable that involves food and supplies we might need to live aboard KORKZcrew for several months. I’m a list person, and for whatever reason I do better by looking at things on paper rather than on my computer or phone. So I’m big on mapping out what I need, organizing it into categories that make sense, and then tackling the list little by little. It’s satisfying to physically cross things off of that seemingly daunting list. That’s basically what I did all summer, in bits and pieces as they occurred to me. And yes, it’s boring stuff that ranges from shampoo to baking soda to windex to ibuprofen, but it’s perfect for an OCD soul like myself. The most challenging part was planning ahead for meals, and stashing whatever I could in the two freezers we now have on board. Ron bought a top-loading freestanding freezer over the summer and with my cousin Paul's help, installed it in the room under the pilot house. I already think is one of the smartest improvements we've — I mean they've — made to KORKZcrew.

Paul bringing the freezer to KORKZcrew. Notice the pause in the movie when Ron gets out the measuring tape . . . a small(!) detail he overlooked was making sure the freezer would fit through the hatch door. 😳😂

I have to give a HUGE shoutout to Paul, who selflessly offered to help Ron with countless — and I mean COUNTLESS — boat projects over the summer. They accomplished so much together, from installing a water maker, to rerouting modem lines, to designing, tweaking, installing, and retweaking a custom dinghy davit, and too many other things to name. It's remarkable what they got done, and impossible to calculate how much money we saved thanks to their handiwork.

So while they were outside at the dock tackling these tasks for months, I was inside the house doing my version of the same. I made a long list of every meal, side, or casserole I could think of that has been tried-and-true with my family AND would freeze well, and began chipping away at these projects in early October. I had no idea how long it would take me to accomplish my punch list, but just tried to do a little something every day. The vacuum sealer was on overdrive for that month, as it is the key to maximizing storage space in the freezer. I remembered how much we enjoyed finding those few remaining twice-baked potatoes stashed away last spring, so those were top of mind on the must-make-and-freeze list.

Here's the list I made for everything I wanted to make and store ahead. Told ya I had OCD 🤓. If only OCD guaranteed I'd also remember what I'd made once it's out of my sight. This way we'll actually know what we have, and can keep track of how many of each are left. PS: I had NO clue you could freeze cream cheese until I looked it up. Go figure.

It was fun that the payoff for all of this food and boat prep translated into not having quite as much to think about when I flew down to meet Ron on Sunday. My bag was mostly filled with small things he’d had shipped to the house while I was still there. I just kept a growing collection in an unused bedroom over the past several weeks, and when Saturday rolled around, I loaded it all into my suitcase. Done.

One of the first items of business today was to get KORKZcrew looking Christmas-ready. Cue the tacky Christmas tree! I’m pretty traditional when it comes to decorating for Christmas, and love being surrounded by familiar ornaments or decorations, but when your life shifts to a 37’ “house”, certain things have to fall by the wayside, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I am not a fan of tacky, and yet I've come to embrace a cartoon-like plug-in inflatable tree with every fiber of her being. I love it. What is wrong with me. Please don’t answer. I was laughing to myself watching my instant Christmas inflate on KORKZcrew’s bow, as if I was getting away with something. I had stored our few Christmas decorations from last year in the “basement” of KORKZcrew, including the wreath for the back door, so breaking it out again was a simple process. I’ve got a Santa rug I put at the kitchen sink, a dishtowel, and a few “ornaments” I hang around the interior of the boat, and boom, there’s Christmas. Martha Stewart would be appalled.

The boats around us at the marina are also decorated, some with inflatables, some with lights, some with wreaths. The marina has done the same, and has an inflatable tree very similar to ours. I feel so trendy. Haha. Ron adds a spotlight at night that projects different patterns on the boat and makes it look like we’ve put out elaborate lights. They're kind of tacky too, so at least we're consistent, but it definitely feels festive here.

While Greta slept in this morning, Ron and Skeet and I took Steve in the dinghy over to Hope Town ( a five minute ride) as he’s become accustomed to a morning run on the beach to stretch his legs. Poor deprived pooch 🙄. Ron’s been here for two or more weeks, anchoring in the harbor nearby, so this has become a bit of a routine for him, but for Skeet & me it was all new, and just walking to the top of the stairs at the beach access was stunning - before I ever saw the beach itself.

View from the top of the stairs looking west toward the Elbow Reef lighthouse

And then when the whole panorama came into view, it was just eye-popping. The three of them ventured down the long staircase and I just stood there slack jawed.

You could tell Steve was in his happy place as he ran around enthusiastically, got in the water, and of course rolled around in the sand. What else. It was a perfect morning for a nice walk, and it felt great just to be here. Still pinching myself.

I just found out that Ron rented a golf cart for the week, which is a great idea for exploring the island. We visited Elbow Cay in 2007 and again in 2015, and having a golf cart really comes in handy. We enjoyed walking through the charming town on our way to meet the golf cart company owner, Wilma, who was super cute, told us where to park the cart when we weren’t using it, and reminded us to drive on the left hand side of the road. We texted Greta and when we found she was awake and ready to go, Ron went and picked her up on the dinghy, met us at the Hope Town dinghy dock, and we started our adventure around the island.

Everything was starting to look familiar, and I was amazed at how well the island has already recovered from that horrendous hurricane. I remember a few resorts that sat atop the hills just outside the town, and they are no longer there, as if plucked from their respective perches. Pretty surreal. But a lot of things also look unchanged. It’s crazy how some spots were spared, and others were just completely devastated, sometimes only yards apart from one another. We drove past Firefly Sunset Resort, and I remembered visiting there for lunch and dinner back in 2015 when we visited with the Reddin family. There are ALWAYS great memories when it comes to any trips with them, and it made me want to find the house we’d rented for the 9 of us 7 years ago. Sure enough, we found it, and it looked like most of it had been renovated. It has the same layout, with a main house and a small separately enclosed heated space, but you could tell it had been updated and probably rebuilt for the most part.

We continued along the windy road to the Abaco Inn, where I had deja vu at the spot where our families took a photo in 2007 that we recreated in 2015. Made me wish the Reddins were here so we could do it again!

Whitney, Ron, Kack, Greta, Skeet, George Jr., Will, Christine, and George

The Abaco Inn looked amazing, and apparently didn’t lose many if any buildings, which is just astounding as it essentially sits between two bodies of water in front and in back of the property. Everything looked freshly painted and pristine, and it was great to see that their comeback looked complete. We continued down the road as far as we could, seeing larger and larger homes until we reached a private neighborhood where the road ends and you have to turn around.

On our way back to town we decided to stop for lunch at a favorite spot called On Da Beach where we’d visited on both prior trips to Hope Town. It’s a tiny bar and restaurant on a bluff overlooking the water, and it’s just stunning. In the first five minutes we were there, a woman sitting nearby (one of only two occupied tables at the time), asked us if we were from Wilmington. I instantly looked at Ron’s t-shirt thinking maybe it had some reference to our hometown, but it didn’t. She said “I recognize HIM” - pointing to Skeet - “because he’s the best employee Harris Teeter’s got!! He can handle six people in the checkout line at one time!”⁣

Lou, Ron, and Skeet

It turns out not only is Lou from Wilmington, but she also lives just south of us in the condos next to the Figure 8 Island bridge. We’ve got a lot of mutual friends, and now I feel like we’ve each earned one more! Lou was so friendly, and I couldn’t get over that our “neighbor” at the restaurant in the Abacos is actually our neighbor in real life too! Ya gotta love life’s unexpected pleasures! ⁣

Adirondack chairs at On Da Beach overlooking the Atlantic Ocean

Lou was nice enough to take a family photo for us

Ron made yet another new buddy at the bar, who had come to On Da Beach challenge the bartender in a game of backgammon - Ron's favorite. One game turned into three more, and it was really fun to watch them play.

We headed back to KORKZcrew, and on the way, stopped at a beautiful sailboat we’d noticed earlier in the day that said “Wilmington NC” on its stern. We chatted with the nice family on board, who lived in Wilmington only briefly but it was still neat to see yet another “neighbor” anchored right there in the harbor.

Monday is bingo night at Cap'n Jack's, and we made that our plan, because lord knows you can’t miss bingo night. It starts at 6, and Skeet had inquired about reservations but we learned it was first come / first served.

Cap'n Jack's is the pink and white building, with outdoor seating over the water.

We headed over around 5:30, and sure enough Captain Jack’s was already standing room only, with no tables available until hours later. Time for pizza back on the boat! The favorite last minute go-to, so it was 20-minute toaster oven supper and family tv for the rest of the night. Works for me. Bingo will have to wait until next Monday, when we’ll be more strategic in our table-snaring.

Night-night from your favorite tacky tourists.

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