Update: Buying land and a change of plans

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Those of you keeping track have undoubtably realized we are back in Texas. We left the Bahamas right after Christmas and it’s now the middle of March. So, you ask, what on earth have we been doing? Why aren’t we back on the road sharing our adventures with you, dear reader?

We always planned to spend the month of January at home in Texas. We would visit with our friends and family. Spend time with our dog. But most importantly, we would shop for a plot of land where we could eventually build our home. Once we’d found the land we could get back on the road and drive east towards Florida. My mother doubted that we could find and purchase land in only a months time. She and my dad had spent a full year looking for the right place when they built their house 30 years ago. Well, she was wrong, but I think we just got lucky.

While we were still in the Bahamas, Brandon came across a listing for 35 acres just outside of Bastrop. As soon as we returned he drove by to have a look. He was sold. I was skeptical. We hired a realtor so that we could go have a proper look at the place. From outside the gate all we could really see was a hay field and a nice grove of mature oak trees. We knew that there was a dry weather creek running through the property, which is absolutely magical, but also a bit concerning. A portion of the property is a known flood zone.

It was the very first property we looked at and, honestly, we could have just stopped right then. I find that the biggest decisions in life are not actually that difficult. Who to marry, which house to buy, whether to quit your job and live in a big blue bus. If you trust your gut instincts you don’t really have to think much to make the right decision. You just know. Continue reading “Update: Buying land and a change of plans”

Christmas at the Abaco Inn

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Since buying the Irie Joe my parents have been spending more and more of their time here in the Bahamas. We joke with them that they might as well just move here but they say Texas is still home. Over their many trips they’ve learned that staying one extra day after packing up the boat really takes the sting out of leaving.

Their absolute favorite place to stay over is the Abaco Inn on Elbow Cay, just a few minutes down the road from Hopetown. When the boat isn’t being used it lives in Hopetown Harbour, which made transferring our bags to the Inn a cinch.

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During the Christmas holiday the Abaco Inn has a four-day booking minimum, turning what would usually be a quick stopover into a vacation in and of itself. Staying here was so relaxing, even more so than being on the boat. It’s a small boutique hotel made up of 20 or so small cabanas that surround the pool, restaurant and bar. What makes this place unique is its location on a very narrow section of the island. It is so narrow that the Inn is literally the only thing that fits between the ocean and White Sound. From the porch you can see both the breaking waves of the Atlantic and the calm shallow water of the sound.  Continue reading “Christmas at the Abaco Inn”

Back in the Abacos: Man-o-War & Matt Lowe’s Cay Redux

We left Harbor Island in the same fashion that left Little Harbour, right before sunset so that we could sail through the night, arriving at our destination around sunrise. On the return journey, however, we had significantly more wind. Our sail from Little Harbour to Harbour Island had been a calm, slow motor-sail. We never made more than 5 or six knots. On the way back we averaged 10 knots under sail alone and reached occasional top speeds of around 15 knots. The strong wind also made our exit through the cut a bit exciting. We were never in any danger but we all got a little wet when a wave splashed over the bow of the boat before any of us had remembered to lower the front windows.

It was peaceful to just sail for hours without the sound of the engines but we were actually going much faster than we had planned. My dad had calculated our leave time based on an average speed of 6 knots. So, of course, we arrived hours before sunrise and had to kill a bit of time before going through the cut at Little Harbour. Oh well, my dad and I had finished our 4 hour watch by then, which meant it was the perfect time for a nap.

Mom and Brandon took over and were kind enough to let me sleep a little extra. We were pulling up to the dock at Man-O-War Marina when I awoke. Still a little groggy, I decided to go for a walk around Man-O-War to try to perk up. (Four on/Four off is not really my optimum sleep schedule.) I didn’t spend nearly enough time exploring the town when we were here last and I’m so glad I took the time on the second go around. This place is picture perfect!  Continue reading “Back in the Abacos: Man-o-War & Matt Lowe’s Cay Redux”

Top 10 Reasons to Love Briland (Harbour Island)

The locals referer to Harbour Island as simply Briland, a condensed version of the two words. Seriously, say Harbour Island really fast and you’ll hear it. Briland is only 50 nautical miles away from the Abacos, but has a completely different vibe. The Abacos are home to seasonal cruising sailors, retirees, and middle-class Americans on vacation. Briland, on the other hand, is the Bahamian playground of the ridiculously wealthy. The difference is obvious as soon as you pull into the harbour and notice a distinct lack of sailboats and the sheer size of the mega-yachts all around you. But Briland somehow still manages to feel unpretentious and welcoming to all. Honestly, it was one of our favorite stops of this entire trip. We probably mingled with some Silicon Valley tycoon or some famous actor and had no idea because it really didn’t matter. Everyone was drinking the same rum punch and eating the same conch fritters. We just happened to arrive in a much smaller boat.

Because a chronological approach just doesn’t work in Briland, here are our top 10 reasons to love Briland (in no particular order). Continue reading “Top 10 Reasons to Love Briland (Harbour Island)”

A Storm’s blowin’ at Little Harbour

When my dad was planning this trip he had only one big goal—to sail his boat from the Abacos all the way to the nearby islands of Eleuthera. The 50 nautical-mile passage is not that far in the grand scheme of things. After all, sailors cross the Atlantic in boats smaller than the Irie Joe. But for us, an overnight crossing would be a big deal. Brandon and I had never sailed at night or farther than a simple day sail. We had also never sailed out into the open ocean. For my parents, this would be the first time (since delivering the boat from Maine to Hope Town) that they would leave the protected Sea of Abaco. My dad was super excited and had spent months going through charts and guidebooks, planning everything he could. But when it comes to sailing, planning only goes so far. In the end, it all comes down to weather.

We had been watching the weather for the past few days and could see a northern front moving in. These fronts happen frequently during the winter months and tend to settle over the islands for a few days of wind and rain before moving on. Luckily, we had plenty of time and my parents knew of the perfect little harbour to wait out a winter storm. Continue reading “A Storm’s blowin’ at Little Harbour”

Exploring Man-O-War & Matt Lowe’s Cay

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Our dingy “Little Joe” anchored outside of Man-O-War Harbour at sunrise

From Hope Town we sailed straight to Man-O-War Cay. By motorboat this would take less than an hour. But by sail you can stretch it out into a leisurely morning or afternoon.

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Man-O-War is vastly different from just about every other settlement in the Abacos. They have the same colorful buildings and white picket fences, but no matter how hard you try, you won’t find anyone willing to sell you a rum punch. The main source of revenue in the Bahamas is tourism and most of the villages are full of bars and restaurants happy to keep the you well-lubricated all day long. I suspect tourists spend more money after a few rum drinks. Of course, the locals also spend their fair share of time sipping rum punch. In fact, we noticed a distinct lack of rules regarding alcohol in the islands (or at least a serious lack of enforcement). Unlike in the states, you can order a drink to-go and drive off in your golf cart with a drink in your hand. I have no idea if this is technically legal but literally everyone does it. Except in Man-O-War.

Man-O-War is a dry community. You cannot buy booze (of any variety) in any of the stores or restaurants. After chatting with some locals, however, we learned that they are not complete teetotalers. Many keep booze in their homes, have cocktails with friends, throw parties, etc. They just don’t want the bar scene that has developed on so many of the other Bahamian islands. They have a quiet peaceful community and they like it that way.  Continue reading “Exploring Man-O-War & Matt Lowe’s Cay”

Livin’ on Island Time

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Our journey begins in Hope Town, a colorful colonial village on Elbow Cay, which is a small out island in the Sea of Abaco. Technically, every island in the Bahamas is considered an “out” island, all except for the capital island of New Providence where the capital city of Nassau is located. The Bahamian island chain includes around 700 islands or cays (the spanish word for “island”), many of which are uninhabited. We would spend most of our time in the Abacos, the most northern of the island groupings. The Abacos consist of Great Abaco Island and a number of smaller cays on the Atlantic side. This string of small cays protects the Sea of Abaco from the raging Atlantic Ocean. The result is a sea of calm, shallow (generally under 12 feet!), beautifully turquoise water.

On the map below you can see the general location of the Abacos, just east of Florida and around the same latitude as Ft. Lauderdale. At center far-right you will find Elbow Cay.

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On Elbow Cay you will find the village of Hope Town, and in Hope Town Harbour you will find the Irie Joe, our home for the next few weeks.

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Continue reading “Livin’ on Island Time”

Update: Alpha 1 is on the rum!

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Those of you that also follow us on Facebook already know that we are currently in the Bahamas and having a ball. For those of you that only follow us here on the website, Welcome to the Bahamas!

We are spending the entire month of December down here with my parents on their boat, the Irie Joe. Our boat is a 41 foot sailing catamaran built by Maine Cat out of Bremen, Maine. The boat is part of the charter fleet with Maine Cat Charters, which means that it is available for rent part of the year and my parents retirement plan the rest of the year. For more info on the boat and chartering visit www.mecat.com.

The last time you heard from us we were off-roading through the sandstone canyons of Moab. Wow! We’ve gone through quite a change of scenery! Before we made our way to paradise here in the turqouise waters, we high-tailed it to Texas so we could spend Thanksgiving with family. It was the first time we had been home with family for Thanksgiving in six years! It was very special, but our visit was short.

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After all the turkey had been devoured, we set about getting the Alpha 1 ready for a month of storage. It felt so strange to leave our home after so many months on the road. But we were headed to warmer weather and clear water and couldn’t feel luckier.

We’ve been in the Bahamas for a couple of weeks now. Actually, tomorrow is our last day on the boat. Thankfully, we plan to dull the pain of leaving the boat by staying at the Abaco Inn for a few days. From the Abaco Inn you can see the Sea of Abaco from one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. We haven’t seen it yet, but I can only imagine perfection.

I had hoped to blog our Bahamian adventures while we were here but we’ve run into a few problems. For starters, we discovered the joy of living on island time. Everything moves at slower place here. Everything also comes with a healthy dose of rum.  Nothing like rum to kick your level of productivity overboard. But mostly, the internet down here is slow and hard to find. Producing posts of the quality we like on a regular basis was just not feasible. After about a week of struggling to find wifi between the rum drinks and beaches, we decided to just enjoy our selves (take notes) and document the trip when we make it back to the states.

So stay tuned! New posts will be coming in January when we return.

Happy Holidays and Fair Winds!

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Fantastic Jeeps & Where to Find Them

AND SO IT BEGINS…

Hey everybody! It’s Brandon, back in the blog saddle to bring you another look into the Jeep life. By now you have probably asked yourself where this addiction to Jeeps comes from. This blog was created in order to chronicle our honeymoon adventure, not all this Jeep stuff. The origin of this addiction is a longer story than I had realized originally but I’ll sum it up quickly.

My first taste of driving was at roughly 10 years old when my family had a Jeep Cherokee Laredo. At the time, we lived in Dugway, Utah with plenty places to go play near home. We left the pavement, ran some dirt roads and I got to cut my first donut in the desert! Needless to say, I had a blast and couldn’t wait to drive legally. Fast forward a few years and you’d find me in central Texas. My family has 250 acres between Austin and Houston. My grandpa had stumbled upon a really cool old jeep and acquired it, much to my delight. That beauty was a 1968 CJ-5 with a Buick V-6 Dauntless edition engine and the appropriate amount of “patina” to call it a real Jeep. Crazy fast for a vehicle with manual steering and brakes! It wasn’t long before I had tested the strength of this Jeep. The mechanical math equation goes as follows: Jeep + teenager + 250 acres + swamp on property = blown transmission. I still regret killing that rig; it’s one of my favorite vehicles to date. Little did I know, that was not the end of my Jeeping.

When we decided to live a nomadic lifestyle it became clear we needed a tow vehicle. Jeep seemed to offer the best vehicle for the job. Jeeps are lightweight, equipped to flat tow, and, of course, four wheel drive. So I sold a big bad black diesel pickup and went home with a vehicle that didn’t even have a hitch. Even more embarrassing was having to return to the dealer in Jenny’s hatchback to retrieve the soft top because I didn’t have the cargo room. I was totally out of my element. All of a sudden a Mazda became the utility vehicle in our life. I was in a awkward place to say the least. Our Jeep has changed immensely since then, but here’s a look at it before I got my way with it.

I needed a way to learn more about my new car. I also knew there was plenty of off-road fun to be had in our area but didn’t know anyone in that mindset. I took to social media and found a Facebook group called Jeep Nation that was based in my area and fairly new to Facebook. This page showed me just how friendly and knowledgeable the Jeep community is. This page in particular was very well managed, and a corner of the internet that wasn’t full of trolls and negativity. All questions are good questions and the page focused on how to have fun on the local trail systems and give advice to those who asked. After some modifications to the Jeep and some time spent studying the local’s idea of fun, I wanted in! You can see that maiden voyage into the woods here.

Life is funny sometimes. One of the reasons we sold our house was to relocate near friends and family. Oddly enough, while planning to leave the state of Oregon, I gathered more friends through Jeep Nation in the final months than I had in the five years I’d been there. It was bittersweet. On one hand, we were going on a grand adventure but couldn’t believe we were leaving after meeting so many people through the the Jeep community. On the other hand, none of that would’ve even come to fruition if we hadn’t planned to leave and get into RV life. So now we will have a life of revisiting the beautiful state of Oregon that we called home for half a decade. Cool by me! I love reconnecting with my buddies!

So all these pre-game paragraphs are to help explain how drastically we changed our plans and ended up in Moab mere days before we had Thanksgiving with family back in Texas. It all started when a couple of Jeep Nation’s finest  members inquired about our whereabouts around that time. They knew damn well that we lived the RV lifestyle and roughly the route we were taking to get home. Luckily they asked if we would like to join them in the Moab area at the perfect time. They were celebrating an early Thanksgiving with their family in Moab and asked us to tag along. We hadn’t booked anything past the time they had in mind. It was a very easy decision. The Mecca of off-road play was a mere 220 miles from my current location, couple that with Jenny’s childhood love of Arches National Park, it was a no brainer, we were Moab bound! Continue reading “Fantastic Jeeps & Where to Find Them”