[Guest post 2/3] Mermaids and midsummer

This is part 2 of a series of 3 guest posts written by my friend Catharina, who spent a week with us in Bonaire. Enjoy!


I slept for 9 hours straight in the starboard aft cabin (the girls share the port cabin) and woke up, as is my wont, at 6 AM local time. Through the small windows the sun was shining brightly.

Deciding on bathing suit over bikini, I went to the aft deck, and hesitated. No idea how deep the water was. Would there be jellyfish? Do these reef fish bite? How long had it been since I swam? Mentally giving myself a little shake, I plunged in. Intense salt taste permeated my nose and mouth, but the water temperature was lovely. I fixed my gaze firmly on the narrow strip of sand next to the walkway, maybe 130 meters  from Blue Pearl. I made it without getting bitten or stung and felt both proud of having swam that far in one go, and very silly for going straight back to land at the first possible opportunity. After a good amount of squats and sit ups, my back muscles relaxed the tension built up during the flight and a night in a new bed.

As I swam back to the boat, a small figure walked around the board and onto the prow. She waved at me and OH HOLY HELL what if she fell in? I tried to speed up and wave at her to stay put at the same time, getting a mouth full of brine for my trouble. In the mean time daughter#2 moved lithely around the boat, her home for the last 13 months.

The Swedish family in the next boat, Nausica, had invited us to celebrate Midsommar with them. The crews from Swedish boat Major Tom and Dutch boat Zouterik would also join in. The plan was to have a long relaxing lunch and BBQ and swimming party on Klein Bonaire. Blue Pearl went out first to scout and we quickly found the wind to be too strong. Klein Bonaire is uninhabited and offers very little shelter. On motor power it took us 15 minutes to get out there and almost 45 minutes to get back to our buoy, wind whipping up the waves to meet us. I saw flying fish for the first time!

Both daughters and I had a lot of fun in the mean time, making a crown of paper flowers to  celebrate the longest day of the year.

Nausica invited everyone on board and we had an amazingly tasty lunch of new potato salad with fresh dill, smoked herring, Swedish meatballs and boatbaked bread. The six children of all boats combined, quickly went overboard and played in the water between the boats. I kept watching them, wincing whenever one of them went under for a second, but they were not afraid and very capable swimmers all.

I barely made it to my cabin after lunch, and collapsed from exhaustion, heat, and overeating. When I woke up, daughter#2 was desperate to try her mermaid tail. It’s an ingenious invention: one wide flipper with slots for both feet, and a shiny nylon skin you can pull up all around it, to your belly button, printed in a pattern of glittery scales. René jumped overboard and the little mermaid jumped after him, holding her nose closed. And she swam like a mermaid! It was amazing…as if her spine was supple like a fish’s vertebrae.

I learned how to snorkle not long after. Daughter#2 would come lean on me from time to time, tail and all, which would promptly sink me. After 30 minutes in the water, I felt sick from all the swallowed sea water. Joline said the sea was murky that day, but to me, first time ever snorkling, it was amazing. Like swimming in a fish tank in a fancy restaurant or in an aquarium. I spent the rest of the afternoon leafing through the Caribbean Fish Guide, and simply staring out into the blue.

The day was long, not in terms of light, but socially: around 7 PM we convened on shore with the crew of 3 boats, where the men clustered around the BBQ, the women sat together talking and the children disappeared into the playground. I barely remember boarding the dinghy, though once the children were in bed, we sat and talked until midnight.

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