12/27/2011, Allan's Cay, Exuma's, Bahamas
Tuesday 27 December 2011, Lizard Island, The Exumas
Last night Ulric left for shore leave with a huge monkey sticking out of his backpack. This is 'the new Monkey God': "Flamebo's Dad", Quinn's Christmas present.... (Flamebo is Quinn's most prominent money. He terrorizes the family on a daily basis...) The Monkey God decided to join Ulric for a beer in The Green Parrot.
From across Nassau Harbour, our mast lightning looks like 'a tall building or fancy skyscraper' (to quote Elliott!) My own observation was that our mast points right at Polaris, The Pole Star. However... our posh new lightning is dwarfed completely by the cruiseship just across the water, decked out for Christmas (or Junkanoo?!) in a whole department store worth of fairy lights. I said to Ulric: you just can't win, can you?!
Some of the conversations on this ship are surreal. Like Ulric saying: 'Sadly we don't have the glue to fix Brendan's poo' (one of Brendan's Christmas presents was a plastic joke turd from the Tiger Shop in Lewisham).
It is a funny existence, being thrown together like this in a confined space 24/7. The phrase 'all hands on deck' means exactly that: at the fuel pontoon this morning all five of us had a task. The Almqvist family works as a team.
Having said that... as soon as we have tied up or gone for anchor, Brendan climbs down again and says proudly: "I am off duty now!"
As I can't take an Omen Walk here (at home the school run is my 'omen walk' for client work!) I make a spectator sport out of reading boat names to get a fix on the day. The first boat I saw in Nassau this morning was called DOLPHIN ENCOUNTERS and I thought: WOOHOO!
The next boat I saw was called Mairi Read and I thought OH NO! because she was one of the most notorious pirates in the history of the Bahamas. She would dress as a man and seems to have possessed the nine lives of a cat, getting into many scrapes and shoot outs. No pirates on our path today please... maybe we can frighten them off by hoisting our own skull & crossbones flag?!
Today our destination was Lizard Island in the Exumas. We just watched the sun set behind Lizard Island. We will go and meet the lizards on the beach tomorrow morning. Brendan has already reminded us that we need to ASK FOR THEIR PERMISSION before we go ashore. Natural born shaman - that one!
Right now it is 6.15 pm. Darkness has cloaked Lizard island and we are safely for anchor in the horseshoe shaped small bay. Soon I will go on deck to greet the Moon and the stars. Ulric and I spent some time on deck last night with the new binoculars. It was fun zooming in on Uranus and Sirius, but even in Nassau there is a lot of light pollution.
Elliott has started writing a newspaper here on board, by the title of The Weekly Herald. It will report the news and have a comic strip plus the details of Elliott and Brendan's 'piano recitals'. It is going to cost about 75p a copy, Elliott is already touting for business. I have told him that Farmor is bound to be a loyal customer!
By Imelda Almqvist
Monday 26 December 2011, Boxing Day, Nassau
Early this morning Harbour Patrol arrived and requested, extremely politely, that we go for anchor closer to the shore. Apparently we had plonked ourselves bang in the middle of the 'traffic lane' here in Nassau Harbour, after dark last night.
Breakfast becomes more 'fast than feast' for every day, because we are running out of supplies. Let's hope one supermarket is open here in Nassau on Boxing Day...
We loaded the dinghy up with rubbish and family members (yes, in that order!) and Quinn piloted us ashore. The little marina that never answers the phone has no berth for us and they do not have a dinghy pontoon either. We were redirected to 'The Green Parrot'!
There Quinn dropped the lock for the dinghy in the water and decided to dive in to retrieve it. After a few attempts he managed (he lock had buried itself in the sand, not easy to find). And so four of us plus an extremely wet Quinn walked into town.
As it is Boxing Day, the great festival of JUNKANOO is on and we arrived just in time to watch the parade. I have always wanting to see a spectacle like the Carnival in Rio.
The origins of Junkanoo are unknown, though what has evolved is a musical tradition that is an enduring symbol for the country. Some claim that the name originated from the slaves that arrived here in the Bahamas during the 17th century. The Africans brought with them the legend of John Canoe, a fierce tribesman. Others claim that the word 'junkanoo' comes from "gens inconnu" (unknown or masked person in French).
Junkanoo is traditionally celebrated on Christmas because this was when the slaves were given time off. That plus New Year's morning. (If we are lucky we might celebrate Junkanoo again in Georgetown next week!)
Junkanoo is perceived as a pagan celebration of life - which is certainly how it felt to me this morning! The revelers wear masks and facepaint, but that is only the start. They also wear elaborate costumes and whole floats are created dedicated to certain themes. This morning I saw floats with a Chinese theme, a Warrior theme, an underwater theme (sea horses and mermaids!) and many MANY other concepts.
Many dancers carry musical instruments: traditional instruments such as the goombay drum (with a goat's or sheep's skin), cowbells, whistles and foghorns as well as brass instruments. This morning I saw trumpets, trombones, French horns and those really huge horns, the name escapes me in English, tubas I think!
The costumes are fabulous, it must take months, if not a whole year to make them. Lots of glitter and peacock feathers! The great thing is that normally it is 'not done' to go around taking photographs of people, but this morning it was positively encouraged! Every float, or set, is accompanied by a 'parade marshal' (a supervisor keeping an eye on things) and several of those marshals noticed my camera and invited me to 'go for it', getting the dancers to turn their faces to me and demonstrate their best moves.
This was pagan, folklore, anthropology and photography HEAVEN!!! In my most fanciful moments I call myself an 'amateur anthropologist... Pappa Ulric and the boys found a pizza place to hide in from the noise and fortify themselves, but there was no dragging Mum off the streets of Nassau. Mum was off with the band and her camera! Got excellent footage too... of little girls dancing and huge men banging huge drums... When things calmed down a little we even found a tiger float for Brendan to have his picture taken with!
All good things come to an end so we did make our way back to Queenie eventually.
Right now Ulric is fixing a leak. He opened one of the lockers in my cabin and I spotted daylight coming in. Not a good sign below the waterline on any ship... EEKS! He is out in the dinghy with a tube of epoxy. However, as we are still in the shipping lane, albeit more tucked out of the way, every time he squirts the epoxy in the hole, another boat passes and their wake knocks the epoxy right out again. So our captain is now contemplating doing the repairs after darkness when things calm down on the water... he is not the happiest of campers exactly right now...
This evening we are going to dine out at The Green Parrot! Plan is to bring a USB stick with all blogs written so far copied onto it, as we have not been able to post for nearly a week due to computer failure and complete lack of internet access.
My hardest task for today is going to be choosing a picture to go with this blog. Wish I could post 50 pictures instead....
I need to climb out now and keep my appointment with Father Sun. This is one of my traditions on the boat: everyday I sit on deck and observe the sunset from beginning to end and thank Father Sun for shining another day. Silly? As a shamanic practitioner I don't think so, someone has got to do it!
By Imelda Almqvist
12/25/2011, Nassau, Bahamas
Sunday 25 December 2011, Christmas Day
As I walked into the main cabin this morning, the boys were singing:
"Snow is falling...
All around us... " etc.
I glanced out of a porthole and was blinded by sparkling turquoise waters... so much for the "snow"!
The Almqvist family gathered around the Christmas Tree and opened presents. In truth my thought was how little it takes for a family of five to celebrate Christmas: a small tree (optical light fiber one for the boat, can be used for a human lifetime...at home we have a small potted pine tree), some old fashioned wooden tomtar (Elves) to do 'most of the work'... a modest pile of presents... there is no need for more really...
Brendan cuddles up and whispers in my ear: the 'kissing therapy' is starting to pay off, Mummy, this morning Quinn admitted that he likes kisses... an occasional kiss anyway, when no one is looking.... Brendan sighs with satisfaction: "two years of hard work Mum, but it was worth the result!!!"
The biggest Christmas present of all we did not fly halfway around the world: a Fender Strad electric guitar for Quinn, with amplifier and carry case... so he can take it to band practice on Monday afternoons! Maybe we should have bought the four family members NOT in the band noise canceling headphones.... That would have been kind... but hey, The Almqvists are entering the Teenage Years with style.... as Quinn's hormones swing into Rock & Roll mode... (and Elliott's aren't far behind....EEKS!)
Next Elliott cuddles up and says: "I have spotted a coincidence! Isn't it funny that Martin Luther and Martin Luther King have almost identical names? And both changed the world!" I suspect that ML King may well have been named after the great church reformer - but I'd need to do research to be sure. I remind Elliott that in Sweden the national religion is the Lutheran faith. Farmor is a 'Lutheran Christian with a "Zen streak"...' but Elliott has lost interest at this point, he runs off to play with his Christmas presents.... And all boys were very happy with the £10 pounds they got from Farmor Tomte! It is far more interesting of course than Farmor's religious leanings....
One human-size Tomte with a beard (but no red hat) really spoiled me. I had wished for a telescope (for observing the night sky) but the Optic Shop advised the Swedish Elf to go for stabilizing binoculars instead. Telescopes need 'terra firma' (solid ground) to be mounted and get their bearings. This is no good on a boat due to the constant motion (rock & roll!)... I can use these binoculars at home as well: climb the tree castle and lie on the roof terrace, then just point at whatever captures my interest (handsome male Goldsmith's College students undressing in their dorms across the railway tracks?! Haha!)
After lunch we left the Berry Islands and set course for Nassau. We just went for anchor in Nassau Harbour. The only 'visual' I have of Nassau is footage of palm trees being flattened by Hurricane Irene sweeping through in August. Something comes full circle as we arrive here at last: we set an intention, we had an appointment... or in American English 'a destiny date'! WE ARE HERE!
As we approached Nassau, I watched the perfect sunset followed by Venus appearing overhead. Brendan spotted the next great feature shyly taking her place in the sky: a tiny sliver of Moon returning after 3 days of New Moon, Dark Moon. Brendan and I just gazed at the perfection of it: the pink and orange 'water colour sky'... perfect backdrop for 'the smile in the sky'.... Venus (the left eye) .... One closed eye (just sky) and the Moon as a curvy crescent smiling down on us. Who says that the Great Creator doesn't give us 'proof' of his/her existence.... It is a matter of knowing where to look...
The next great event was Orion rising over Nassau, hand in hand with Cassiopeia and Uranus. Some fancy buildings on the Nassau skyline looked like elderly owls welcoming us.
Quinn is telling me how much he is looking forward to playing his electric guitar. His boy band used to be called FLIPSWITCH but the name changed recently... When I press him on the issue he says: it is either HELL HOLES AND HALOS or it is HELL HOLES AND HEROS.... I am not sure....
Then I ask him about the songs the band writes and practices. One is called UFO and another one is 'EVERY ENDING HAS A BEGINNING'... apt for the time of year... wouldn't you agree? The Band has offered to play at Brendan's birthday party.... For a fee....
Stars are shining
All around us...
Snow is falling
All around us...
It is the season for love and understanding
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!
By Imelda Almqvist