A Berry Island Family Adventure


This family vacation was unlike any family vacation EVER!  It was a wonderful week of unadulterated exploration and adventure, the likes of which none of us had experienced…until now.It’s always good to have an A plan, B plan and sometimes, to make sure all your bases are covered, a C plan.  Both our A and B plans got kyboshed due to tropical storm (eventually hurricane) Cristobal.  As we were getting ready to set sail south, Cristobal was moving north and no one knew which way she was going to veer.

cristobalCristobal lined up exactly for the beginning of our trip – it was disheartening.
So we monitored the weather and when she made a move westward we made ours south.  It wasn’t the original plan but it got us going and kept us on the opposite side of where Cristobal was.

Listening to the weather reports on  VHF raido is exasperating at times.  Every time they would get to the storm report it would cut out a really crucial bit of info like LOCATION or PATH.
When the weather report for Lake Okeechobee was on it was crystal clear, no offense Lake Okeechobee but you were not our focus!

Catamarans have a very shallow draft, 4.5 feet.  This opens up a whole world of exploration of harbours and islands.


We didn’t pass a lot of other boats as we travelled along but the ones we did were always stuck outside the really cool anchorages due to their deep keels.  Everyone has a tender so they can explore further but the catamaran allowed us to stay where we played.

The initial trip out of Freeport was 8 hours of sailing open ocean.  That was a lot for our kids, but we had to make the jump to get to the good stuff and they slept through half of it cause we left early.

Sailing provides you with those rare quiet moments.

007Without the motors running it’s just the wind and the waves.

008No wifi, no TV, just each other.


Our destination after this 8 hour run was Slaughter Harbor.  Slaughter Harbor is tucked between two “private islands” owned by cruise lines.

They anchor out just outside of Slaughter and taxi everyone in on  smaller boats.

011I guess we were looking at them as much as they were looking at us!

012We’re just a peanut compared to this guy!

These two islands are then jam packed with the cruise ship guests.  You know the TV ads where they say “enjoy your own private island” and show you a deserted beach?

Spoiler alert:  It’s not like that.
Everyone’s shuttled onto the island with you and the place is loaded with beach chairs, jet skis, jumping water slides, tiki bars etc. etc..

It’s a gong show.  They stay for the day and then head onto the next buffet or island or whatever it is you do on a cruise ship.

We were SO happy to FINALLY be at our destination (even though the name did creep the kids out a bit) we jumped right in to the water with our masks to check it out.

This harbour should have been called Jelly Fish harbour.

jelly fish

The were ALL around us,  Everywhere we looked.
So we freaked out a bit and got the heck outta the water.
That didn’t stop us from going in the water though.

014This super duper lounger has a protective net bottom AND two insulated coolers!

And there was no reason to not play on top of the water.

But boys will be boys!  So the girls got a good core workout from this Jake made waves with the tender.

016This was our first overnight anchorage and even though there were challenges, we still had fun.

We found time to hunt.

We ate the freshest lobster EVER!


Each night we would make a plan for the next day.  We would head out while everyone was sleeping and try to get to some of the more scenic anchorages.

Every day brought a new adventure – total unscripted.
Fly by the seat of your pants if you will.

There were some tight squeezes along the way.  This one was the entrance to Hoffmans Cay a beautiful shallow playground.


Some big water fun on the Atlantic.

The first leg of our Berry Islands tour was reminiscent of Ontario lakes in some ways.  The water was grassy and dark and the island had a forest like brush not really palm tree tropical.
The weather and water temperatures were 100% tropical hot hot hot!

The beautiful waters did make an appearance.


On this particular day the kids took the paddle boards over to check out this reef, maybe see some lobsters.
They got more then they bargained for – a shark of some sorts.
It took off in one direction and they the other.  I’m sure the shark was just as freaked out as they were.
Never saw the kids paddle so fast!

All the salt air and exercise can really wear you out.  Siestas were inevitable.

Just pick a spot and power down for a bit.


When the kids had asked “no really, what else do we need besides bathing suits and t-shirts” we really meant just bathing suits and t-shirts!
What else do you need on a deserted island?

No dinner jackets required – EVER!

Our late afternoons and dinner times were filled with the sound of Harry O’Donoghue.  If a ship were to pass by us during those times he would think we were a boat load of Irish.
Singing good old Irish drinking songs the likes of The Blarney Rose, Johnny Jump Up and The Old Dun Cow (Macyntire).

Our last day was spent at Hoffman’s Cay.  This is where a Blue Hole is located.  A short trek through the forest brings you out to a really deep …hole for lack of a better word.

Legend has it that someone stocked it with one grouper, why one grouper no one has an answer for this.
If he’s still alive he would be HUGE.

We all jumped off the cliff’s edge into the very warm buoyant Blue Hole.

Some more gracefully then others!


The beach at the entrance to this trail was awesome.


Snorkelling happened everywhere.


Who doesn’t love to snorkel.

At one of our stops we had a barracuda that hung around under the boat, he was weird.
You look away for a second and he was gone, then when you didn’t expect it there he was again.
He reminded me of one the kids friends, Piney.

These little guys were everywhere.

One of the coolest things was a little budgie type bird that flew right into the boat while we were making dinner.  He didn’t freak out or try to get away, he was checking out the interior, checking us out then he flew out.
Then back in again.
Obviously never seen humans before, no fear, just curious.

After dinner we sailed out for our overnighter back to Freeport.

Everyone took turns on night watch shifts.  Got a taste of sailing in darkness with nothing but moonlight and stars to light the way.


We headed back to Freeport after dropping the kids off at the airport, 15 hour sail putting us back in Fort Lauderdale in time for the 17th street bridge opening at 7 am.

Now it’s back to work again!

Here’s a summary of our sailing family vacation – the first of many…

Berry Island Route

One thought

  1. Glad that you & the gang are having such a good time. Enjoy. Tell robbie to save a lobster for me. p.s. Thank you for the detailed account of your preparations and your adventures. Joseph Conrad would be proud of you krisia.


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