04/16/2012, Mid Atlantic
The final family leg of Queen's Ransom's stint in the Caribbean has drawn to a close. Still Anders and I will go there to sail her to Florida, before the trans Atlantic crossing starts on June 1st. It is time for her to return. However, there is with some emotion that this part of the story has come to the end.
These two weeks were supposed to have been easier on everyone than the previous ones. Firstly, It started and ended at the same point; Emerald Bay Marina on Great Exuma. Hence, we only would need to make the distances we choose. The other nice thing is that the Far Out Islands of the Bahamas can be done in a circle so no need to go back the same way. Secondly, only limited work was being done (or could be done!) to the boat given the remote location, so we shouldn't need to wait for days for the workmen to be finished. However, I am not sure it panned out so much easier...
The weather was great. Only rain really once as the front was passing over us for an hour between 2-3 am at Rum Quay one night. It wasn't as hot and we were using the aircondition quite a lot while in harbour. The first few days Imelda and the boy were suffering from mosquito bites, but that wore off as we left Great Exuma.
The tricky things this time were the previously mentioned weather front and lighting one night with strong winds and rain towards a lee shore. We started the engine as a precaution if the anchor would drag. The instruments first went crazy with 84 knots of wind, but I think it was more like 30-35 knots for 15 minutes max. The only lasting damage was that Princess Ransom anchor and chain must have rocked out of her and was lost. We had one accident which was a deck locker slamming on my toe. That together with some tooth ace made life a little miserable for a while.
On the equipment front, the main problem was the leaking fresh water pump. We used the manual pump instead, but it meant that showering was done with a trickle of cold water! However, as you guessed water consumption during this fortnight was rock bottom. The anchor windlass worked on the cockpit controls, but the mechanic trying to install the brand new controls for the foredeck managed to create a short cut in that unit so it all fried. However, everything else important worked which is an achievement!
The highlight this time was the uninhabited island called Conception Island. An untouched gem with beautiful sandy beaches, reefs and clear waters. The dinghy trip up the creek to the "blue hole" and the turtles in their greenish "lake". We made this trip together with Stuart and Chuck of "Long Gone" which was a fantastic adventure! I also enjoyed being on the several miles long empty beach at Calabash Bay, Long Island, together with Quinn and Elliott. A third highlight was Elliott and myself going to the Anglican Easter church service at Rum Cay as the only outsiders!
As always with the family, it was mainly motoring, but we did some sailing between Long Island and Rum Cay and some very fast motor sailing at 9-10 knots on our final stretch back to Great Exuma. Last time that we crossed the Atlantic, we didn't use the engine once. We are unlikely to be that lucky this time, but certainly it will be mainly sailing.
The Far Out Islands of the Bahamas can be recommended. They are remote and the beaches, waters and reefs are very clear and unspoiled. However, obviously island life cannot match the authentic feeling of Kuna Yala (or the San Blas islands of Panama) or the more diverse identities that you come across in the Eastern Caribbean.
Family life brings out the high and lows on a trip like this with five people living so close on a small space for a fortnight. It was both fantastic and at times infuriating. However, the children are getting older and more independent. They pick up good new skills and can be (!?) immensely helpful at times. Now family sailing is over for some time as Queen's Ransom will head back across the Atlantic and then receive some TLC upon return to Gosport. Maybe slowly the thoughts and dreams of her Northern trip to Scandinavia and the Baltic can start to take shape.
With lots of thanks to both the family and bear crew for this time for being on Queen's Ransom for sharing these weeks in the Bahamas with me.
Our flight is delayed. That is to say: first it was moved forward, then a delay occurred. We arrived at Exuma International Airport two hours early. The taxi driver warned us that our flight time had changed. We raced to the airport and stood in a long line. The boys started an "Oreo Party" because we were not allowed to take food or drink through security. The bulk of the food we gave to the taxi driver. Hope she likes cheese as much as we do!
One "American Eagle lady" joined the Oreo Party as she checked our bags. "Boat!" she said. How do I know that you stayed on a boat?! Yes, all soft bags (the only thing that threw her was my Santa Fe suitcase).She says: your luggage screams 'BOAT!' She certainly does have an Eagle's Eye.
We set up base camp in Kermit's lounge across the road. Dad is wearing a shoe for the first time since his accident and it is agony. I am not surprised. We ordered a hot bite. The boys discovered that the door to the restrooms kept opening and closing. They concluded that there is a ghost living behind that door. Kermit's ghost?!
Elliott was brave enough to go and investigate. Then Quinn lined up on our side of the door to practice some Obeah and give him a fright.
The food arrived. We sent Quinn across the road for an update on our flight. He returned and reported that the flight is leaving in 30 minutes! Total confusion. I ran across the road. I tried to speak to the lady who checked us in but she was too busy snogging the burly security guard and was NOT pleased that I interrupted. I went to see the Eagle Lady instead and explained our predicament. (We do not wish to miss the flight because we are in Kemit's Lounge!) She said that there is only one airplane bound for Great Exuma Island right now and it left Miami at 2.25PM. That will bring it just after 4 PM and you will hear the roar when it lands. Then it is a good time to go through security! She then showed Elliott and me her secret stash of Belgian biscuits kept behind the check in desk. She says that they are all the rage with American Airlines' staff, who trade them like gold coins. She then gave us two packets and said: for you and your family, look upon it as compensation for the inconvenience! BUT DON'T TELL ANY OTHER PASSENGERS!!! I suppose that the Oreo Party was something to do with her generosity.
The door to the restrooms keeps flapping. I suppose that Kermit's Ghost fancies Belgian biscuits too....
I am actually typing this on the airplane to Miami. We got a fabulous aerial shot of Emerald Bay Marina and therefore Queenie.
Soon I will say goodbye to my four boys at Miami Airport as they will fly on to Boston. I will check into a hotel and fly on to Santa Fe tomorrow afternoon. A hotel room all to myself - will I cope???!
Daddy was asked at the Californian Pizza Factory at Miami Airport for his ID when ordering wine.
At 2.30 am on the shuttle bus to the hotel, we were asked by an American Airlines pilot if we all came from Iceland; Elliott carrying an Iceland shopping bag. No, no, no...
In the morning at Donkin Donuts, a lady remark on the resemblance of the four Almqvist boys, Daddy included, and saying that their mother MUST also look identical! We set her right.
04/14/2012, Emerald Bay Marina, George Town, Great Exuma, Bahamas
Saturday 14th of April 2012
Emerald Bay Marina, Great Exuma Island
"I feel seasick in harbour!" Elliott announced this morning as we were having breakfast in the cockpit.
The water here is extremely agitated and choppy - AND THAT IS BEHIND THE BREAKWATER!
As we were tying up the boat a man from the Marina came over with a clipboard to argue about rates. Apparently Ulric had agreed one thing with someone and now this person was insisting on a completely different arrangement that does not take into account that Queenie has been berthed here since January. He was going to charge us the same rates as a new arrival... "But we were only away for 8 days!" said Ulric. I thought: good grief! We carve out 16 days from the demands of life at home in London, five of us fly across the Atlantic for this. The end result is that EXACTLY HALF THAT TIME goes on hassle - stress - provisioning - boat repairs - cleaning - waiting out bad weather etc. Only 8 days we managed to escape from all that and actually sail. To me (and not for the first time!!) this seems barely worth the effort and expense but husband stonewalls me when I raise this issue.
What is done, is done. I am packing for Santa Fe now. Reaching point of insanity in terms of solitude-deprivation.... Just give me that hotel room and the She Bear (Ursa Major) will retreat in her cave, not to be seen again for days!
One of the more fun jobs today is emptying out the cupboards and fridge and eating AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. Quinn was born to the challenge. At this exact moment we are all munching carrots.
All boys are on deck scrubbing out lockers and deflating the dinghy. I am ploughing through laundry. Makes sense... Ursa Major contains the star constellation 'The Plough' (or The Big Dipper).
I have 'sussed' what is going on here: the Great Slave Driver makes us all work more than 12 hours a day so he can impress his boat buddies Anders, Sven and Hans with a shiny glossy ship, when they show up here later. Having realised that, I went officially on strike. This is supposed to be a holiday not a labour camp!!!
However, late this afternoon we took a short break from hard work and made a visit to the beach. All three boys LOVED jumping and riding the waves. With some moral support and practical suggestions from Quinn even Brendan astonished us by tackling waves taller than himself. The seagulls were riding the airstreams just above the waves and enjoying themselves - seagulls don't have slave drivers breathing down their necks...
As I sat watching the boys, Ulric collected two glasses and some rum punch from our ship bar. Cocktail Hour on the beach - it doesn't get more decadent than that, surely?!
But after that it was BACK TO WORK.... and you can sing this to the tune of Amy Winehouse's song Back to Black.... "And I go ... back to.... WOOOOOOOOOORK..."
By Imelda Almqvist