04/11/2012, West Bay, Conception Island, Bahamas
Wednesday 11th of April 2012
For anchor by Conception Island, Bahamas
About 9 AM. Breakfast is over. Elliott is drying dishes and telling me about the Star Diary he has started. I have lent him my book about the night sky and the star constellations, as well as my homemade 'red torch' that preserves night vision. Elliot has been bitten by the 'astronomy bug' and intends to do things properly, writing down his observations! The dish towel rotates in his hands as his mind leaves Planet Earth. I have to remind him to focus on the task "in hand"! Men can't multi-task, it is a well-known fact. This goes for 'little men' too.
Last night phosphorescence danced on the inky waters here at Conception Island. Like small lanterns or small spirit ships, surfing the waves. For a while the sea resembled the starry sky above us (as above so below!) It felt like the stars had descended to visit us. The sea twinkled. Big fishes came to chase the 'fireworks'. Jumping out of the water to catch the sparkles, which only made the night sea twinkle more vigorously!
We thought of the sharks that came to visit (inspect?!) our ship at Warderick Wells Cay. They moved more stealthily and did not attempt to eat the stars. I also thought of Jerome's book about the 'Night Sea Journey', a project I am working on at home.
Inevitably reality 'bites'. I am now trying to find out when the boys last brushed their teeth. Elliott sinks deep into thought. My conclusion is that 'if it is so hard to remember, IT IS A TOO LONG TIME AGO!!!' so I herd the boys into the heads (toilet), under much protest, yelping, elbowing and blaming each other. Even in paradise we still brush our teeth, guys!!!
About 4 PM.
This morning we set out on an excursion to visit the Turtles that live up the creek. We invited the crew from Long Gone (Stuart and Chuck) to join us.
The two dinghies followed the coast of the island south until we found a creek. We had timed our visit to coincide with high tide so we would be able to get in and out again. At first we did not see any turtles (it seemed like a long shot at best!) We went ashore where Chuck was sifting through the debris with a stick, looking for 'sea beans'. I was not familiar with them, but apparently they are seed pods from Africa that wash across the Atlantic. They come in three types, Chuck tells me: 'heart shaped, "hamburger" and smaller egg-shapes' (if memory serves). They bring beauty, luck and healing! Chuck found some heart shaped ones but no 'hamburgers'.
We decided to move further down the creek. The place was so beautiful, it took our breath away (we literally stopped breathing a few times). We came across a blue hole where we all went for a swim. There was a turtle in that blue hole but also a lion fish and manta ray. Chuck explained that Lionfish are non-indigenous (as well as very dangerous because they are poisonous!) They have no predator in these waters so they multiply abundantly which affects the indigenous wildlife. Chuck said that normally he has his spear with him, but not today. This Lionfish got off lightly. I am glad we escaped witnessing the 'murder'.
We then took the dinghy even further down the creek where we found an 'emerald pool' - it was a natural round pool in the Creek where the water was remarkably green. Here dozens (if not hundreds) of turtles were cavorting, swimming, racing and coming up for breath. We have never seen anything quite like it. This clearly is their home, their habitat and there are plenty of small beaches for them to lay and bury their eggs.
We could have stayed forever watching them but we were aware of the tide changing and we did not wish to be trapped in the creek until late tonight. Slowly and reluctantly we started making our way home. Chuck pointed out a barracuda cruising the creek. Brendan was just paddling out very close to this creature and I called him back to the beach. Are barracudas dangerous? I can't remember in truth, but I am not taking any chances with my babies! Maybe I confuse barracudas with piranjas?!!! I need to do some googling when we have internet access again. (Ulric has now informed me that barracudas are completely harmless creatures. For anchor by Rum Cay we had a barracuda 'hiding out' under our keel for a few days. Maybe it wanted some solitude? Their shape and pale blue colour is distinct).
I was also observing the most common sea birds here. I think staying any longer on Conception Island makes you an ornithologist as well as an astronomer. you just can't escape it! The most common birds here are the size of seagulls but they have a remarkably long tail that looks like a ribbon extending behind them. The birds are white (on top) but when they fly overhead you see that their bellies and wings are the brightest possible turquoise. Is this camouflage? Is this the reflection of the dazzling turquoise waters or are they really so blue? I am not able to tell you at this point. (Editing this blog at 9 PM in the evening before we send it by satellite phone: these birds are called TROPIC BIRDS and the 'ribbon behind them' are extremely long tail feathers. Okay!!)
The turtles we saw were green sea turtles, the same ones we met in Bequia on the Turtle Farm (the man who rescues turtles and baby turtles and releases them back in the wild once they have gained size and/or strength).
The plan for tonight is to make one more outing, to see the Sun set from the beach. Then Elliott will go on deck as the stars start appearing one by one and Mum will cook dinner, to be served by the light of an oil lamp in the cockpit (unless phosphorescence is so strong tonight that we won't need the oil lamp!) The boys will then go to bed and Mum and Dad will do some 'shark watching'.. (she writes hopefully!)
Post script at 9 PM. This might have been one of the most idyllic days we have EVER had on Queen's Ransom III. I have just been out on deck to look at the night sky with Elliott and Brendan. Quinn opted out and went to listen to "music" (teenage choice noise!) in his cabin. Elliott and I found Mars in the sky and indeed, Mars twinkles an orangey red - but that is nothing to do with the colour of the red planet as such. Venus is riding high and super bright. The humidity of the night gave Venus a halo or 'rainbow ring'. A black cloud came and 'ate' Jupiter altogether, bye for now Jupiter! We located CORVUS, the star constellation The Crow and waved 'hello' to Simon Cook! It is right next to 'The Cup'. We also found Arcturus and Spica. I had been meaning to have a good look at the Herdsman (BOOTES) for some time. Elliott is now updating his Star Diary. Today he also learned about LEPUS (The Hare) and PALOMA (The Dove). He is keen to see CETUS (The Whale or sea monster) but Cetus has yet to rise above the horizon as our beautiful planet Earth spins on her axis.
This is a day and place we will always remember. We went to the beach this afternoon and Elliott asked to visit a beach on a nearby uninhabited island as well. So we did dinghy across. Uninhabited and unnamed. the possibilities are endless. The island itself looks like a dinosaur that sank aeons ago. It was agreed that we will call it Stegosaurus Island and the water around it: Brendan's Bay!
By Imelda Almqvist
04/10/2012, West Bay, Conception Island, Bahamas
Tuesday 10th of April, 2012
For anchor by Conception Island
It is Happy Hour - Cocktail Hour on Yacht Queen's Ransom. Mum and Dad enjoy a fruit punch immediately after sundown. One by one the stars appear. A Manta Ray came to inspect our anchor line, then swam off again. But I run ahead of myself.
There is magic about going ashore by dinghy, making a beach landing and finding only the footprints of birds there. It could be one definition of paradise: a place free of human footprints. (Particularly so since nowadays humans have carbon footprints as well.)
Petrol was running low and our food supplies were running out. We took the dinghy in to Cockburn Town on San Salvador and started by calling at the petrol station. We passed a small graveyard by the sea. Here I met a tiny lizard that agreed to have his picture taken before scurrying off.
This is village life. Everyone says hello. Car drivers honk their horns and wave. One (black) man driving a (white) car passed us several times. The car had a name that was prominently displayed: WHITE WOMAN.
The man at the pump passed on a weather warning. He says that on Wednesday and Thursday we can expect high winds, rough seas and heavy rains. After that wild night by Rum Cay I was grateful for the heads up! He asked where we were headed. We said Conception Island. He was mystified, then explained that local people call this island 'Little San Salvador'. (Though Ulric later explained that this is another island again!) This same man also told us very proudly: "This is Christopher Columbus Island!" However. reading how Columbus described the natives as "very friendly" and went on to say that they "would make good slaves" I wonder if that fact really ought to be a source of pride.
Then we went shopping for food and visited two supermarkets. One was so bare and empty, it looked like it had been plundered. The second one looked properly stocked. The good news is that A) we will not go hungry now (as well as doing without water!!!) and B) we will not need to do another food shop this trip.
While we were shopping, two local men were having a discussion in the doorway. We have encountered the theme before: friendship and politics do NOT mix. One man said: "He was my friend, until he got mixed up in local politics". Said the other man: "But what IS a FRIEND?!" First man: "Someone you can talk to!" Sadly it sounded like they were not on speaking terms any longer.
Elliott just swings into the main cabin, tree-monkey style, and announces: "The stars are beautiful tonight! I saw Orion, Cassiopeia, Canis Major and Ursa Major as well as Polaris!" Quinn and Ulric are cooking dinner and chatting in the galley.
All five of us carried supplies back to the beach and our dinghy. Brendan ended up having a bad case of 'conch shell envy": there were many pretty pink conch shells on the beach. I allowed him to take two back to the boat, to decorate the deck of Queen's Ransom!
We met Mr Crab. He didn't bother to run. Then I went to take some photographs of the gull population - they took a more dim view of humans and flew off, squawking and complaining. Ulric told me how another afternoon Elliott was on the beach spinning his sock puppet and dozens of gulls were nervously flapping their wings synchronized with him. I wish I had been there with my camera!!!
Heavenly smells are wafting up from the galley. Quinn is working hard with a glass of red wine by his elbow (I assume it is Ulric's!) Amy Winehouse is playing (the only music Dad ever listens to. his Midlife Crisis Music as I call it in my meaner moments!) but not too loud out of respect for my blog writing efforts.
The Moon will rise very late tonight.. She rises about 40 minutes later every evening and tonight it will be close to midnight. she will look a bit like an egg with her head lopped off. we will catch up with her early tomorrow morning.. Dad is lighting the oil lamp now.
We started the day with a beach trip and we finished with another. We took the dinghy once again. Elliott spotted that yacht Long Gone is here, so we paid them a visit to introduce ourselves. Quinn and Elliott jumped off THEIR boat for a change! Their dinghy is called Honey Badger and they are Americans from Virginia who live on board about 8 months a year. Brendan told them very proudly: "I AM ONE OF THE NAVIGATORS AND I AM A TRAINEE DINGHY CAPTAIN ON QUEEN'S RANSOM!"
Dad had an accident day before yesterday. The lid of the front locker (near the anchor) slammed shut on his foot. So he is limping now and one big toe has turned completely blue. Poor Dad!!! I put on some forest green nail varnish the same day (on my own feet) and Ulric is joking that our nails look similar. Painful injury. it cost him a night's sleep and of course the boys end up standing on his foot several times a day.. We may be in paradise, but we remain perfectly imperfect human beings.. We argue and we limp.
By Imelda Almqvist
04/09/2012, Cockburn Town, San Salvador, Bahamas
Monday 9th of April (Easter Monday) 2012
Are you on speaking terms
With the Man in the Moon?
I visited him once
And met a Goddess instead
Who turned her back on me
(It was Dark Moon, she did not want to be seen)
Or were you taught to look
For the Rabbit in the Moon?
In China, perhaps
Or another Lord of the Moon:
The Man in the Moon
As he watches Earth Rise
And hides from the Sun
During that time of the month
Earth-men don't admit to
We have just said goodbye to the April Full Moon for 2012. In some Native American cultures this would be called the CROW MOON. Thought I would mention this with a nod to my dear friend Simon Cook (yes, the man who made me that FANTASTIC spirit pole!) as a cheeky crow features large in his life!
Today is Easter Monday. The low point of this trip for me. In the middle of the night I was crouching in the 'heads' (toilet) with an upset stomach, bouncing off the walls with the rocking of the boat, no longer sure what is 'up' and what is 'down'. Woke up to half a muffin and a serving of sea sickness pills and then we were en route to San Salvador. The passage was rough. I tried hiding out in my cabin but everything that wasn't nailed down became a projectile. So I went up on deck instead and counted the minutes until arrival at destination. Urgh.. I should have learned by now. sailing is SOOOOOOOOO not my cup of tea (cup of sea water. storm in tea cup..)
So we are at San Salvador now. Ulric and the boys made a dinghy trip and got embroiled in the local election campaign. There was free food, free drink and free red T shirts, or so I am told.
Last night Ulric and I made a date with the Moon, waning gibbous. meaning the Mare Crisium (Sea of Crises) is dropping from view and she is losing weight. She did appear on time and we talked to her. I then spent some time on deck star watching but there were too many dark clouds overhead, eating chunks out of the star constellations. I peered at the bears in the sky (Ursa Minor & Ursa Major) - then gave up.
Every full moon of the year has earned at least one name tying it to a season and time of the year. Like another 'accidental poem' I will list some Full Moon names here:
The Crow Moon just came and went, and now we are looking forward to the Flower Moon. It is a wonderful thought that I will greet the Flower Moon in our own garden, at her most beautiful in May. By then I will be planting and tending my herb garden (The Amateur Herbalist!) and our garden is at its most beautiful then..
Over dinner (served in the cockpit at sunset, with seagulls calling out overhead) the boys say: "On TV there is this program called WIFE SWAP where wives swap places and families for a month! Would you be interested in that Mum and Dad?!" We say: No, NO, NO!!!!!!! (Particularly not with a film crew to record the fireworks, ugh!)
However. next week Oma moves in, while I am in Santa Fe. almost like a Wife Swap and I am not sure the boys will want me back after two weeks of being spoiled by Oma..
(The Marsh of Sleep)
As the Moon resumes
Her Dance with Darkness
Her parched oceans
Drop from view
One by one
The Sea of Crises
Is first to go
Then the Lake of Fear
The Sea of Calm
The Bay of Rainbows
The Ocean of Storms
And the Marsh of Sleep
In that order
But Lunar gravity remains
Hidden from view
The Moon pulls on our oceans
Our moods and our dreams
Thanks to the Marsh of Sleep
(The March of Sleep?!)
We sail the Ocean of Storms
With our eyes closed
Until the Lake of Fear swallows us
And we reach the Bay of Rainbows
Rescued by Sunrise
Rain down on the Moon
Where they churn and turn the lunar soil
As they dig themselves into the moon dust, star dust
Selenologists call this
As an Aspiring Selenologist
Of planting a Moon Garden
For plants of nocturnal habits
Lilies and angel's trumpets
A Moon Flower
As tall as myself
My Moon Garden
A Night Garden
Of the night sky
And my internal stars
Earth herself decelerates
Thanks to the Moon
Acting as our brake
She pulls on our oceans
And we draw down the Moon
In the Battle of Gravity
The heavyweight wins
Thanks to Earth-lock
The Moon never loses face
oon-Lock will occur
And the Moon will belong
To only one half of the Earth
And People will book Moon Holidays
Like we book holidays in the Sun today.
And so we humans
Stir leap seconds
Into the celestial cocktail
To keep the peace
And preserve the seasons
And as we gain seconds
Could we slow down just a little
And break out
Of our human case of "Earth Lock"
Long enough to gaze at the Moon
While we can?
By Imelda Almqvist