04/13/2012, Emerald Bay Marina, George Town, Great Exuma, Bahamas
Writing this around 8.30 AM, still for anchor by Cat Island. The weather is changing... High winds and bad weather are on their way.... Today will be our last voyaging day.
Ulric had hoped to go ashore, climb the mountain and visit Father Jerome's Monastery. However, for once it was me making a nautical decision (or rather: a strong suggestion to the Captain of this Vessel!). If the weather is worsening by the minute (and my own senses tell me this, I don't need a weather report to feel this in my bones) let's get out of here. I manage to squeeze out of husband the fact today's crossing is expected to take 7 hours. SO LET'S GO!
I played the "trick of the disembodied hand" on both Elliott and Brendan this morning, to give them a little taste of OBEAH. I grabbed Elliott's foot through the galley portholes as he was doing jobs in the cockpit. He was NOT pleased.
Then another disembodied hand tickled Brendan in his cabin to wake him up for the day. He had the good grace to giggle. Then asked: "It's not really Obeah, is it Mummy?!" "No darling, it's Mummy!"
We called Long Gone to say goodbye. Chuck felt that we had made a wise decision. They will ride out the bad weather here at Cat Island, until Tuesday.
The Moon looked like half a slice of lemon this morning: faint, exhausted, washed out.
9.15 AM and WE ARE OFF!
4.30 PM We are back at Emerald Bay Marina, with strong gusts of wind pounding all around us and black clouds overhead.
We made good progress this crossing: we combined motoring with raising the genoa for optimal speed. We did indeed slice through the waters at speeds of 8 - 9 knots.
The waves rose like walls of water to meet us. At one point Elliott was bounced from one side of the cockpit to the other. Lifted by the wind and deposited like a parcel. We made Brendan move to safety at that point as he weighs less than Elliott.
I looked at those walls of water and the yellow bucket Elliott clutched for nearly 7 hours and thought: thank goodness I am not crossing the Atlantic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
By Imelda Almqvist
04/12/2012, New Bight, Cat Island, Bahamas
Thursday 12th of April 12, 2012
For anchor by Cat Island
This morning we made a final excursion to the beach on Conception Island, to say our goodbyes. With sadness in our hearts, knowing that this island will always have a place in our souls.
Then we cast off and headed for Cat Island, hotbed of OBEAH: native sorcery and witchcraft, spells and curses. Brendan has expressed some concern about this: will the local sorcerers come and grab us or curse us, the minute we set foot ashore? I very much doubt this!
Apparently ghosts abound on this island and people have a healthy respect for spells, curses and supernatural powers. Quinn has just delivered the travel guide for the 'gory details': on this island you find trees with bottles hung from their branches containing graveyard dirt, human hair and fingernails and other artifacts. These bottles are meant to protect their owners' properties from robbers. Throughout the Bahamas Cat Island is known as 'Big Obeah Island'. Powerful Obeah men and women practice here. Tales do the rounds of illness, death and retribution. Grisly stories about hands appearing out of nowhere to strangle people in the night. No wonder the boys are a little nervous. They are all old enough now to read travel guides and cruising guides!!! It is peculiar that most islanders are zealous church-goers and at one point Brendan commented: 'There are more churches than supermarkets here!" Yet. this doesn't stop the ancient occult arts from thriving - though few people openly admit to this.
Cat island was named for a pirate: Arthur Catt who used to hang out here with a friend known as 'Blackbeard'.
Dad's toe (the one that got trapped in the locker) is now blue and has swollen to double its normal size. To make matters worse he dropped a heavy tool on his foot this afternoon (a wrench or something) so now his foot is bleeding as well. I have just been scrubbing the bloodstains off our wooden deck. Brendan however has the Almqvist gene for relentless optimism: "Isn't Dad's OTHER FOOT VERY LUCKY, Mum? If he had trapped both feet he wouldn't be able to walk AT ALL right now!" Ulric had some difficulties seeing how 'lucky' he was but got there in the end because he had to admit that Brendan is very much his child and not only in looks. (The title 'DAD'S OTHER LUCKY FOOT' was a runner up for this entry.
The sea around us seems to be teeming with life, yet we only ever catch glimpses. Today we had a false sighting of a whale: it turned out to be a big while piece of moulded plastic bobbing.
Cat Island has another interesting piece of history. In the early 20th century a man called John Hawes was sent to this island to (re)build churches after a great hurricane struck the islands. He built a hermitage on the highest point in the Bahamas. We are hoping to visit it tomorrow morning. Let's hope that Dad will have 'two lucky feet' by then, allowing him to climb the mountain.
This holiday draws to a close and I have started dreaming about Santa Fe. I rather dread the moment at Miami Airport where I will say goodbye to my four boys and part ways with them. Having said that, I am hugely looking forward to my two weeks in Santa Fe and the great privilege of training with Sandra Ingerman.
For anchor by Conception Island was a boat called WILD HAIR. I considered this as a blog title for today! My hair always becomes unmanageable on the boat and this is not helped by the lack of running water here. At the moment I pin it all up in a messy beehive and I am planning to make good use of the posh shower facilities at Emerald Bay Marina the day after tomorrow.
The boys have concluded that it will not be possible for Dad to be on the phone for hours a day when he sails across the Atlantic later this year (in June, with Hans and Sven). I have pointed out to them that this may well be one of the attractions of crossing an ocean. A bit of enforced solitude, some time for contemplation and reflection. Personally I hate phones. I cannot quite understand how our society has allowed an instrument into our homes that rings in the middle of absolutely anything (dinner, conversation, playing the cello) and demands an instant response. I have turned NOT answering the phone into an art form. The only reason I answer it at all is because it might be a school ringing about one of the children. Other than that: forget it, e-mail me instead and I will respond in my own time!
Earlier today Dad and I kissed. Quinn told us off immediately: "It is NOT Sunday today!" Apparently one of his rules is that we are only allowed to kiss on Sundays. A few days ago we committed some kind of transgression and the boys decided that the punishment was going to be: being locked in one cabin together for half an hour. That actually sounded pretty good, we thought! At our gleeful response, the boys decided not to enforce the punishment... Sadly... Earlier today I said to Quinn: "you won't see me for two weeks from Sunday!" His reply: "That won't be a problem and Dad can always find someone else. there are all these online dating agencies you know!" It is good to know that no one is indispensable - not even a mum, not even ME!
Yacht Long Gone is also for anchor here. They just called us on the VHF: "Queen's Revenge, Queen's Revenge, this is Long Gone calling!" I didn't even respond but Quinn got it and laughed loudly - so Ulric responded and corrected, HAHA! It seems like a HILARIOUS and OMINOUS greeting on arrival at BIG OBEAH ISLAND: hotbed of curses, spells, sorcery and all things supernatural! The Queen of yachts has arrived to take revenge. I will be chuckling over my rum punch. cocktail hour has dawned and the Sun is about to set..
It seems that we are raising opinionated children. They talk constantly, simultaneously, even when no one listens. Earlier today I tuned into the various channels:
"We must make a point of not turning fishes into cannibals.." (Quinn)
"Super Tiger's Mum was the first woman to walk on the Moon in Tiger Island, she was an astronaut!" (Brendan)
"I can't wait for the stars to appear!!!" (Elliott)
While the Sun was setting Elliott was lazily drawing the infinity symbol (or lemniscate, Lazy 8 in mathematical speak) on the windows of the cockpit. This boat is like a floating salt mine, you can harvest kilo's off salt of her deck and fittings. Elliott was told off for that, Grumpy Limping Captain Dad was NOT pleased.
However, as Father Sun set, another sun rose from the sea to meet him. It must have been his reflection, or his twin brother. Elliott was as excited as I was: Mum, look there are TWO SUNS AND THEY MAKE A LEMNISCATE!
As the sun set there was a loud keening noise from the shore. Not foghorns exactly. Horns bidding farewell to the Sun, probably. Even the local dogs joined in and howled at the sinking Sun. For a moment I thought: Yes, we have clearly arrived at Big Obeah Island!
By Imelda Almqvist
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