Archive of ‘Quick and easy’ category
“flot flot flot… flot flot flot…”
I was trying to get some sleep before my watch when I heard it. Damn, another flying fish flew in the hatch, I thought. I’ll just get it when I get up. I promptly rolled over and went to sleep.
My alarm went off at 3:45 a.m. and I dressed for watch. Just before going up, I went to the head (toilet) in my room to brush my teeth.
“Oh!” I cried, as I turned on the light. A pigeon-sized dark-grey bird sat on the floor looking up at me. I went outside and brought Mori San, who was just going off watch, in to see. He must be one of the little dark birds we had seen flitting over the waves almost our entire 4,000 nautical mile passage.
I say he because everyone on the boat was convinced that any bird visiting the girl’s cabin had to be male. I pointedly ignored Zeus comments.
I had wondered how on earth these birds managed to make it so terribly far from land without rest. We were thousands of miles away from any land. Maybe that was the reason the little guy made his way into my cabin. He just needed a break. With a long curving beak and clear dark eyes I wondered what kind of bird my new friend was. I did want to make sure he was okay. It was night, but he seemed far too sedate to be entirely healthy.
I took a towel out of the bathroom cupboard and covered the bird, and scooped him into my arms. He weighed less than air as I carried him outside. He didn’t struggle or put up the least bit of resistance to my moving him. I was worried. Had he hurt himself on his way inside Umineko? Was he sick? Wild animals tended to avoid humans like the plague unless they are sick.
Setting him on a bench I filled a small bowl with fresh water and placed it in front of our visitor. He didn’t pay a bit of attention to it** nor did the flying fish I offered have any effect.
After 10 minutes he got down off of the bench and moved into the saloon. He tucked in behind the table and made his way into the darkest shadowy corner he could find, away from the red light in the saloon.
“Maybe just needs to rest,” Toshi San suggested. “He wants to go somewhere that’s quiet.”
At 5:45 the faintest hints of light brushed the Eastern horizon. Dawn was on its way. I went inside with the towel. I didn’t want dawn to come and the bird to start flying around the boat. It was vital to get him out when it was still dark.
He wasn’t in the saloon. He wasn’t on the port side, I peered down the dark steps to the starboard side. There he was, a darker pool in a darker shadow resting at the bottom of the two stairs. Directly in front of Mori San’s berth. I breathed a sigh of relief that Mori San hadn’t needed to use the head and accidently stepped on our guest.
This time when I draped the red towel over him he struggled. I smiled as he tried to stretch his wings and placed him on the back of the port side bench. After a few minutes he hopped down to the bench, and then thought better of it. My heart soared as he flapped his way back up to the ledge. A few minutes more and he disappeared into the dissipating night. He had just needed a place to rest.
Finding a bird in your cabin is fun, always provided you don’t step on it. On the flip side spent the next day cleaning up er… presents our friend had left.
I love breakfast burritos. They are healthy, tasty, and meet the requirements of sailing food: Easy and portable. Even better, they don’t require complicated ingredients. If you have leftover rice or beans from the night before they’re a fantastic way to use up ingredients.
Breakwater Breakfast Burritos
- 4 tortillas
- 4 eggs
- 4 slices of cheese (or 8 small slices)
- 2 c rice
- 2 c black eyed peas (soaked and cooked)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 T taco seasoning
- Crack egg into nonstick skillet over medium heat
- Immediately lay tortilla over egg squish around so that tortilla is coated in egg
- Allow to cook 2 minutes and flip onto plate
- Fry garlic in oil for 2 minutes
- Spoon rice and black eyed peas into pan
- Mix in taco seasoning
- Put tortilla in clean skillet over medium heat, egg-side up
- Lay cheese on top
- Spoon ¼ of mixture onto each of the tortillas
- Wrap and serve with salsa
*When handling wild animals always wrap them in a towel. This is safer for both of you.
- Wild animals don’t know what is happening to them. More often than not they are terrified of the person holding them and the towel protects you and curbs their movement.
- It is terrible to get human scent on the animal. Often others of its kind will shun it after that
- It is some protection from disease
**In retrospect he probably didn’t know what fresh water was! Sea birds have internal desalination systems so that they can just drink sea water. There have been numerous times at sea I wished I were built like that.
The sailing world is fraught with myths, legends, and tradition. That it is bad luck have a woman on a boat may have fallen by the wayside (for some at least), but others remain. In name at least. Some, like the equator crossing tradition can be a fun way to break up a long passage.
To cross the equator you need the sea god’s permission. There are different takes on it. Some legends state that newbies, the people who haven’t crossed before, must perform a ritual. Others say that the oldest member on board must make the sacrifice, but luckily (for me) Sato San decided that the newbies had to come up with the skit.
Rather than doing an actual skit we agreed that we would do a picture skit. Each scene would be a still shot and the pictures would say everything. No memorizing lines, no action. Just implied action. Apparently this kind of thing was extremely popular in Japan.
Toshi San and I thought about it for a few days. Cross dressing and nudity were common in these ceremonies. I vetoed removing any of my clothes, or wearing a coconut bra or Brazilian string bikini the guys had been suggesting. Cross dressing on the other hand… now that was a definite possibility. And who better than to dress up as a woman than Sato San, the biggest advocate of me wearing less clothes.
Here’s how our story went:
The winds had died because we needed to ask the sea god’s permission to cross the equator. The sea god needed a sacrifice.
One sailor catches a beautiful mermaid (as played by Sato San) and decides to give her to the sea god to marry.
One sailor prepares the mermaid for the marriage but gets jealous that the mermaid is marrying a god so calls in her friend in Pacific Al Quanaika (the word means “where it is” in Japanese, but Toshi San wanted it as a play on Al Qaeda) who stabs the mermaid
The sea god appears saying he doesn’t want his beautiful mermaid hurt or need a sacrifice so he brings her back to life with rum. (this is also a joke as alcohol can be used to kill fish)
The sea god brings the wind and everyone happily sings a song.
It must have worked. Not half an hour later a pod of 7 small whales, possibly pilot whales breached alongside of us. I was delighted watching the creatures surfaces so close to the hull. Sato San, on the other hand just wanted them gone. They weren’t big, only 2-3 times the size of a dolphin, with curious rounded heads and dark bodies.
When Toshi San made the joke about whale steaks I knew the gentle giants must not have seen the Japanese flag.
One of our favorite meals is somen. It’s quick, easy, and delicious on a hot day, which we get quite a few of in equatorial waters. Somen isn’t for rough seas, but it’s a great thing to eat on calm waters, at anchor, or in a marina. Healthy, delicious, and above all easy it’s a fun cool meal for crew to eat together on the deck with a breeze blowing over you.
South of the Equator Somen
- 1 500 gram package of somen noodles
- Tomato, thinly sliced
- Spring onions, finely chopped
- ½ carrot, julienned
- 1 can fish (sardines or Japanese canned fish)
- ½ cucumber, julienned
- 2 eggs, beaten
- ¼ c katsuo dipping sauce
- Boil water
- Put somen in and cook for 2 minutes
- Drain and run cold water over noodles until cool (it stops the noodles cooking and cools them)
- Fry eggs in small, oiled pan (ideally square) over medium heat about 2 minutes on one side and flip.
- Slice egg into very thin slices
- Arrange egg and veggies on a plate with fish in the middle
- Set on table with wasabi and katsuo
- Each person has a little bowl and each person makes their own lunch:
- Pour katsuo dipping sauce into bowl
- Stir in wasabi to taste
- Sprinkle in spring onions
- Add noodles, veggies and fish
- Refill bowl and eat until full!
The worst single word you can hear at a cash register. It worse still when you have spent 4 hours provisioning and the cashier has rung up a month’s worth of groceries. When the store in question is over an hour taxi ride away from the marina it is like something out of a nightmare.
Umineko had gotten to Balboa marina the day before and it was lovely. It had a swimming pool, hot showers, fast internet, not to mention it was filled with WARC yachts resplendent in their flags. This was a new WARC so I didn’t know most of the yachts, but I had met a few of them in San Blas.
The large crew of Boingo Alive, delightful men (and 2 women) from a Swiss yacht whom I had met in San Blas, Panama were drinking at the bar. It is always fantastic to see familiar faces in new ports and this was no exception. We spent a late first night drinking, catching up, and getting to know one another.
The next morning we all went provisioning; their entire crew and me as Umineko’s representative. I couldn’t believe how far it was to Cologne from Balboa. What made it worse was that the taxi had to stop for nearly an hour waiting for ships the size of city to transit the Panama Canal locks and the bridge to go down. There was actually a roadside stand selling banana bread, sandwiches, and drinks for people who had to wait while the canal bridge was up!
We arrived at the dilapidated shopping center a little before 10, and made plans with the grocery store’s drivers to take us back at 14:00. After a quick neunies (a Swiss traditional snack between breakfast and lunch they had drunkenly told me about the day before) we got down to provisioning.
Provisioning is far from my favorite thing to do. Buying enough food for months (or at least one) at sea is overwhelming to say the least. Just imagine if you had to do all of your shopping for a month+ in one go and you can’t buy or get anything else. Well, possibly some fresh fish but that’s it.
Still, I was going through the aisles, crossing things off the list and getting things done. I filled up the first cart. By 13:30 the second cart was overflowing. Myself and half of the marina. The queues of WARC members provisioning, each one with several carts piled high with groceries, was comical. By the time I finally got to the register I was more than ready to be back at the marina.
It took 20 minutes for the plump Panamanian cashier to scan all of the items. When I handed her my debit card I was already helping the bag person arrange items in heavy boxes.
“Your card was not accepted,” she told me in Spanish handing it back.
“Try it again,” I said, the panic building.
The world went grey. I’d left my credit card on the boat for safe keeping. After all, we were in Cologne, reputedly dangerous. I looked through my wallet just to see if money had miraculously appeared. No luck: I didn’t have even close to enough money on me.
“Could you run it again?”
The woman obliged, but shook her head. Declined.
My eyes went big. We were well over an hour away from Balboa yacht club not to mention the fact we’d taken an expensive taxi to get here.
I did the only thing I could. Harry, one of my new friends on Boingo Alive, was in line several carts back.
“They declined my card!” I told him in a wail, my face ghost white.
“How much do you need?” The shaggy-haired Swiss artist asked, not missing a beat. He pulled out his wallet and counted out twenties.
I almost fainted with the strength of the wave of relief and gratitude that washed over me. When Harry met Sally? Yeah, he saved her life. Cruisers are amazing. The welcoming nature of the sailing community seems to draw the best people to it. Or maybe sailing simply brings out the best in people. I’m not sure if it is because sailors are more in tune with nature, realize their own mortality on the high seas, are just doing something they love, or any number of other reasons, bit sailors are some of the friendliest, most helpful people in the world. To other sailors at least.
Harry had known me for less than a week and without hesitating he lent me the money to pay for the groceries. No, he wasn’t a Swiss banker.
Earlier Harry had asked if we had any wasabi we could trade Boingo Alive (they weren’t sure for what but that’s how things work in sailing). Later that day I paid Harry back and brought over a tube of wasabi. Boingo Alive went through the canal the day before Umineko so sadly we didn’t have time for a dinner party but hopefully I will get a chance to cook for them in some port in the future.
Boingo Alive wanted the wasabi for all the fresh fish they were going to catch, but I love to use wasabi in all sorts of dishes. I was delighted when I found a vegetable truck in Portobello, Panama selling watercress and all sorts of delicious treasures. I’ve loved watercress sandwiches since childhood and wanted to put a Japanese spin on them.
Winch Watercress Wasabi Salmon Sandwiches
- 1 8 oz package cream cheese
- 1 c watercress leaves (and thinner stems), chopped
- 2 T wasabi paste
- 2 T lemon juice
- ½ t pepper
- 1 t salt
- 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
- 8 oz smoked salmon
- Mix cream cheese, wasabi, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in small bowl
- Stir in watercress leaves
- Spread on slice of bread
- Arrange cucumber slices on top
- Lay smoked salmon over cucumber
- Top with second slice of bread and cut in half
I cried when we left Cuba. I had to! Well, if I wanted to leave, that is.
Half-sunken ship in Cien Fuegos marina
Immigration always makes me nervous, no matter how many times I cross a border I invariably tense when dealing with the shifty border officials. You never know what hoops they will make the foreigner jump through or what taxes, bribes, or fines they will expect you to pay. Or if they are just in a bad mood or are bored what power trip they will try and pull. Crossing the border from Zimbabwe to South Africa the South African border guards made us wait 24-hours and then threatened to make our bus wait another 24-hours before they would let us in the country. Border guards have absolute power and you know what they say about absolute power.
Now I understand entry formalities, countries don’t want bugs coming in on foreign food. They need to make sure no one is bringing drugs, weapons, or anything from a long list of banned items that a country might quarantine. But exiting is usually a breeze. Especially in a yacht. The United States, the Bahamas, and many other countries don’t even need you to get an exit stamp! Cuba on the other hand is quite different.
It was raining our departure day. A miserable drizzle that soaked everything. It had been interesting to visit Cuba but I was more than ready to get on to Panama. The longer we were there the more I realized it: Cuba is decidedly not a country for cruisers. At least not cruisers who don’t like getting stuck in red tape.
We finished a last-minute provisioning before heading out and waited for the dock master to check us out.
He showed up right on time, he brought a massive entourage with him. I gaped as a formidable gentleman, clearly in charge, two women, and a man with a large German shepherd in tow, all filed onto Umineko. Suddenly the spacious saloon seemed cramped.
The dock master explained to us in his limited English, that the gentleman with an air of authority was the customs officer. He needed to check our boat to see if we were taking anything out of the country that we shouldn’t.
head of immigration in Varadero
What not to take leaving the country? I was confused. I was more baffled when the dog was led on a once-over of the boat. Looking for drugs, the dock master explained. Apparently Cuba wants to keep their drugs within the borders.
The customs stepped up next. Peering at me over his bushy grey moustache. When he asked if we had anyone on board who hadn’t been on board when we had arrived I understood. He was checking for stow-aways or people trying to escape.
No, I told him, just us.
Had we bought any Tobacco during our stay? He asked next.
No, I told him… my heart raced. I didn’t have a receipt for the expensive cigars I had gotten.
Had we bought any art?
Art? Well, I couldn’t really lie about that given one of my fellow crew members had the numerous paintings he had bought hanging all over his room to prevent the fresh paint from sticking.
I led him around the boat him looking in every cabinet, nook and cranny for anything we shouldn’t be taking out of the country. Then he got to Mori San’s berth, practically wallpapered with paintings he had bought on the streets of Havana.
The officer told me he needed to see the receipt. A game of telephone-translation between Mori San who only spoke Japanese and the officer who was limited to Spanish ensued. We didn’t have receipts because the paintings had been bought on the street.
Hanging paintings covered in garbage bags
The officer was not pleased with that answer. We couldn’t take the paintings out of the country without the receipts, he insisted. At once it made sense. Cuba was a communist country: the artwork the painter produces doesn’t belong to the painter. It belongs to the government. Buying a painting directly from the painter was essentially stealing from the government. But how could I explain that?
The officer was getting annoyed with me, the crew and captain were frustrated with me. I continued showing the officer the Port hull, apologizing and allowing myself get increasingly upset. By the time we reached my berth, tears were welling up in my eyes.
He sat me down on my bed and explained to me that he knew it wasn’t my fault. He would let it go. This once. But he could get in a lot of trouble for what he was doing.
I don’t know if he wanted a bribe. After he told me that we could go I did my best not to look at him. I never found out why the women were there, nor did I want to ask anything. I just wanted to leave before they found an excuse to keep us.
After the unexpected exit stress I was all for cooking a simple dinner. One of my favorite cruising vegetables is kale. It lasts weeks and weeks without showing its age, and doesn’t bruise or squish easily either. Better yet it’s packed full of vitamins and minerals. Some people like to eat it raw but I’m not quite so hardcore. I prefer to steam it.
But steamed kale can be a little boring. Just little splash of kombu soup stock can transform it into one of the most delicious things imaginable.
Kombu dashi is a common ingredient in Japanese cooking. It is a soup stock made out of seaweed. Though it is generally sold as powder, you can also buy it in little bottles. Powdered dashi is great to throw in miso soup, or other recipes. However, I really do like bottled kombu soup stock better especially when using as the main flavor in a dish.
Captain’s Kombu Kale
- 4 c chopped kale leaves, stems removed
- ¼ c kombu soup stock
- Chop leaves into bite-sized portions.
- Cook large pot with ½” of water at the bottom
- Drain and toss with kombu soup stock
Floridita, Hemingway’s favorite bar
Touristic Havana can be expensive, or at least the prices can be comparable to the US. Often even at higher prices selection is limited (I couldn’t find something as simple as flour in Havana to save my life). But if you know where to go, or are lucky and stumble across them, there are wonderful hidden treasures to be found for next-to-nothing.
While walking through the streets of Havana Vieja, a Cuban invited an Australian couple into his house and sold them 4 good-sized lobster tails for 5 CUC! I never had that happen, nor as a girl walking around on my own would I have gone inside a strange Cuban man’s house alone. I found my treasures other places.
We were running out of seafood on Umineko so one of Marina Hemmingway’s expats took me in search of fish on his scooter. We asked several Cubans on the streets of Jaimanitas, a suburb of Havana. Most of them shrugged their shoulders, but at last a little Cuban grandmother pointed out the house where a man had fish. The man opened his freezer and it was brimming with frozen fish. He took out one enormous bag of fillets, followed by a large bag of lobster tails, and finally an enormous block of grey-brown something.
“Cangrejo,” he told me. Crab. After a bit of bargaining he sold me 5 kilos of cleaned crab for 8 CUC. We were eating delicious crab on Umineko for months. As Sato San’s favorite American dish (and one of mine) is crab cakes. This is perfect as crab cakes are extremely easy to make, freeze, and then heat up again as needed.
If you have the ingredients, I definitely recommend making a bunch of crab cakes and freezing them for a passage. They are easy to make, easier to heat up, and are always a hit.
Catamaran Crab Cakes
- 1 lb lump crab
- ½ large onion, finely chopped
- 2 T mayonnaise
- 2 T Dijon mustard
- 1 T old bay seasoning
- 1 T lemon juice
- 4 eggs
- ¼ c green onions, finely sliced
- 1 c bread crumbs
- Stir all ingredients together until mixed but not too much (leave crab lumps) in medium bowl
- Heat large skillet over medium heat until hot
- Spray with cooking spray
- Spoon crab mixture onto skillet in ⅓ c portions
- Press down into patties
- Cook 3 minutes
- Flip and cook another 3 minutes
- Enjoy then or freeze for later
Crab cakes freeze extremely well and are great for heating up underway
Wandering the streets of Havana Vieja is like a photographer’s wet dream. I walked from the historic Hotel Nacional with its crystal chandeliers, ornate furnishings, and pictures of stars who had visited from the 1920s to today. I walked through the crumbling sections, with the locals playing football, baseball, or dominoes in the street, and finally to the touristic “Havana vieja,” refurbished, reconstructed, and fit for outside eyes.
Like a post-apocalyptic Cartagena, vines and decay are well on their way to reclaiming parts of the city . Stunning art deco buildings are crumbling in disrepair. Bullet holes in buildings stand as ghostly reminders to the class war that ended Batista’s era of opulence. It would be tragic, but for the vibrant Cubans living in the ruins. The juxtaposition of the glorious architecture and the inhabitants, each one a story in him or herself is incredible. It is like walking back in time.
Cars from the ‘40s, and ‘50s line the streets. I had heard of this phenomena, but I thought it would be one or two, but no. Every second car is a beautiful vintage automobile. The engines have been replaced by Russian diesel motors, but the shape that they are in is fabulous.
One of my favorite corners had a building that said it all. The skeletal remains of a building with the street sign “Havana” still hanging on the corner. A Canadian cruiser I know lamented the art deco buildings falling into ruin. No amount of reconstruction could help these buildings. Not when the rebar skeletons of the buildings had rusted and collapsed.
According to him what they needed to do was just to tear the buildings down and rebuild them from the inside out. Brushing up the exteriors wouldn’t prevent the building from collapsing in a year or two. When I peered inside some of the buildings I was shocked. Many of the buildings with passable exteriors were destroyed inside. But with Havana a UNESCO world heritage site it was illegal to tear the buildings down.
In the potholed streets surrounded by dilapidated grandeur, fruit sellers pedal their wares, children play games, and day to day life continues. But one story up, buildings appear in better repair. The people leaning out over their balconies and interacting with one another from on high fascinated me. The colorful clothes hung out to dry and their residents washing windows, chatting, or gazing out at their surroundings piques the curiosity.
I am overjoyed that I got to see Havana when I did. Before it was flooded with American tourists. Before it was remodeled into something else entirely.
This French toast is a delightful twist on the normal style. More than that you can just throw it in the oven and then everyone’s breakfast is ready at the same time.
To me rum always gives French toast a little something extra and, of course, some of the best rum in the world comes from Cuba.
My absolute favorite rum is a Cuban brand called Legendario. The sweet nectar is certainly meant to be sipped in small quantities than mixed or (god forbid) used for cooking. Okay, it’s more of a liqueur than a rum. Even though I didn’t actually use this delicious drink in cooking I thought a picture of the bottle was necessary when writing about Cuba.
Cutter Cuban French Toast
Makes 6 portions
- 1 ½ c butter
- 1 ½ c sugar
- 2 T molasses
- 2 t cinnamon
- 1 t nutmeg
- 1 French baguette, sliced in about ½” slices
- 1 T vanilla
- 8 eggs
- ½ c milk
- ½ c rum
- 2 T sugar
- Preheat oven to 350° F 170° C
- Combine butter, 1 ½ c sugar, molasses, 1 t cinnamon, and nutmeg in saucepan
- Cook over med-low heat stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves and mixture is uniform
- In a small bowl whisk together vanilla, eggs, milk, rum, and remaining t cinnamon
- Arrange bread in greased baking pan in two layers (a lasagna pan is ideal)
- Pour egg mixture over bread
- Bake ½ hour or until center has risen slightly
Remember to take all of it out of the pan immediately. When the sugars cool they will harden and stick!
Cuba is one of the most fascinating and frustrating places I have visited. The local population and the foreigners are in two worlds and the government does everything it can to keep them separate. Cuban citizens aren’t allowed in marinas if they are not working there. No Cuban who isn’t on official business, in other words checking a boat in or out of a marina, is allowed on a boat or even allowed to stay in the same hotel room as a foreigner.
Because of this, several of the expats living at the marina had married Cuban women or rented flats outside of the marina so that they could be with their girlfriends. I heard stories of foreigners who had rented a hotel room for a night with a Cuban girl, but the hotel made the foreigner rent two rooms. The whole thing seemed strange to me from the start and the more I learned the more unsettling.
The average monthly wage for a Cuban is between $18-25 CUC a month, or about $20-28 dollars. Doctors or garbage men it doesn’t matter. The wage is the wage. Cubans aren’t paid in CUC, or onvertible pesos, though. They are paid in pesos nacional, or national currency. To reinforce the separation of Cuban and foreigner there is a dual currency system. 1 CUC is 24 pesos nacional. In more touristic areas foreigners are charged about 30 times as much as locals.
The dual currency system actually did not start because the government wanted to separate the locals from foreigners though. A little over a decade ago, US dollars were flooding the black market to the point that it was in danger of destabilizing the economy. To fight this, the Cuban government came out with CUC and told Cubans that they would buy their US dollars with this new currency at a 1-1 rate. And thus the dual currency system came into being.
Now CUC are strong, worth about $1.20 USD (and there is also a tax for converting USD to CUC. If you
go to Cuba I suggest bringing Euro or Canadian dollars) but the dual currency system is annoying to say the least. You can buy some things with pesos nacional but not with CUC and vica versa. Almost any shop in more touristic areas will only accept CUC from foreigners, however the local markets only deal in pesos nacional.
I love going to farmers markets, or any open-air market with fresh produce and local color. They always seem to have better produce and fresher products. Not to mention the fact that I am er… frugal and would rather have adventures to stretch my money than fall back on the easy option.Street stands in Havana sold produce as did the Saturday market in Jaimanitas, the town within walking distance of Marina Hemmingway. There isn’t a whole lot of variety in the markets, but they generally have tomatoes, small onions, and bananas. Sometimes eggplant or beets and I did see lettuce once. Curiously they don’t have potatoes though.
Backstay Basil Tomato omelet
1⁄2 c milk
1⁄4 c fresh basil
1 T dried basil
1 tomato, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1⁄2 small onion
2 t olive oil
Whisk eggs and milk together
Sauté onion and garlic in 1 T olive oil small skillet with dried basil about 3 minutes
Heat 1 T olive oil in large skillet
Pour in egg mixture and cook 2-3 minutes until solidifying but slightly liquid on top
Spoon onion mixture over more liquid half (for some reason 1 side always cooks more quickly on Umineko)
Lay tomato slices over onions
Place leaves of fresh basil over tomatoes leaving several sprigs for garnish
Fold other half of cooked eggs over ingredients
Cook another 2 minutes
Divide and garnish with basil sprigs
Menacing nurse sharks are thick in Staniel Cay. Not quite the ominous beasts from the James Bond film Thunderball, but it amuses me to no end that there are in fact sharks that populate the Thunderball Grotto.
It may be one of the Bahamas biggest tourist attractions, but Thunderball Grotto is well worth a visit. I’ve been to James Bond shooting locations around the world. Thailand, Udaipur India, and I’m sure there were a few others. Not that I’m making a point of visiting, it just works out that way. This is the coolest one I’ve been to.
You swim into the grotto through one of several openings in the porous rock island. I chose an opening that you actually dove down and swam underwater through a passage until the cave opened in front of you. With a high arched ceiling and dim blue lighting flickering off the cave walls the hollow center of the island is a natural cathedral more beautiful than anything manmade.
True to the film, there is an opening in the top of the cave. Sadly the grotto makes only a fleeting appearance in the film in which James Bond is helicoptered out of the cave. In real life visitors can climb to the top of the island and those braver than I am can jump into the grotto from the top of the island, probably a 30-foot drop.
More my speed, there are hundreds of fish of all shapes, sizes, and colors that flock, or school perhaps, to the cave for tourist treats. Naturally we brought the fish some bread and I was immediately clothed in a cloud of opportunistic fish begging for handouts.
We watched Thunderball that night and feasted on lobster tacos. We still had frozen tails left from our incredible deal with the fishermen in Chub Cay (I didn’t realize just how amazing a deal it was until I saw 3 tails being sold for $25-40 in Nassau on the side of the road). Tacos are delicious, healthy, and easy to make. Not to mention perfect for a boat.
We always try to have cabbage on board, I make it a point to stock up on flour tortillas, and most of the trimmings (rice, beans, etc) are pretty standard ingredients on a boat. The sauce is what really makes this dish though. I have played with the recipe for ages and this is definitely my favorite.
I would love to hear what you think!
Lighthouse Lobster Tacos
Makes 8-10 tacos
Soft flour taco tortillas
½ head cabbage very finely chopped
Meat from 4+ lobster tails, shredded
½ c yachting yogurt
2 T kewpie mayonnaise
1 t salt
Juice from 2 limes
½ t taco seasoning
Boil lobster tails
Cut up cabbage and put in small mixing bowl
Mix yogurt, mayonnaise, salt lime juice, and taco seasoning – sauce should be thin
Put lobster in line along widest part of tortilla
Sprinkle cabbage over half of the tortilla
Drizzle sauce over cabbage
Serve with rice, beans, guacamole, chopped tomatoes, or whatever your heart desires and galley offers.
Diving (okay snorkeling, let’s be honest here) shipwrecks is always fun. Seeing how man made ruins have been converted into a make-shift home, no an entire underwater ecosystem never ceases to amaze. Yes, shipwrecks are great, but sunken planes? When I heard that Norman’s Cay boasted a sunken plane from the 1970s I was dying to explore it.
To my relief Sato San was all for it. We anchored half a mile away right off of the archetypal desert island, one palm tree sprouting up in the middle. Of course, under the tree sat a wooden bench, but you could always imagine the Swiss Family Robinson had a hand in that.
A few sheets of metal barely stuck out of the azure water, the last remnants of the plane’s top. The rest had long since rusted away, ravaged by the elements. Still, it was enough for us to spot it and dinghy over. There is a feeling of mystique about sunken planes, shipwrecks, and ruins. It gives you a shivery feeling of wonder, danger, and opens a thousand questions. What had happened? Who had been on this plane? Did they survive?
I slid over the side of the dinghy into the warm Bahamian water and came face to face with rusted -propellers and the nose of the barnacle-covered wreck. I swam around it. Nothing remained inside the wreck. It had been too long; the ocean had taken its due. Resident yellow and black striped fish surrounded the wreck. Two rays were hiding under the sand, only their tails and a thin outline visible. Until an eye blinked open watching.
I never knew the graceful creatures spent time hiding under the sand, but with flat bodies it made sense. The underwater world was just as marvelous as I remembered. I examined the plane from all angles, though decided against actually going inside the wreck and swam until the warm water started to feel cold. It was time to head back to the dinghy.
Taira San, our new 70-year old Japanese crew member who had taken up sailing, kiteboarding, and countless other adventure sports after his 60th birthday, was waiting back in the dinghy. Almost immediately Sato San joined us and we headed over to the desert island to explore.
The island beach was crawling with hundreds of young conchs. The orangey-pink little shells were everywhere. We did find a few legal-sized queen conchs with dramatically flared lips in deeper water though. Our first conchs!
After a little while we headed back to the catamaran to make lunch. After a long morning of exploring and adventures I didn’t want to make something too terribly involved and besides, everyone was hungry. Quick and easy was the name of the game. Tuna salad wraps fit the bill.
Tuna salad is certainly of the best fallback cruising foods. I make sure to keep my pantry well-stocked with canned tuna. This is one of my favorite versions of the classic. If you don’t have bell peppers you can omit them but I always like to have onions and celery.
Telltale Spicy Tuna Salad
1 can tuna
½ onion, chopped
½ bell pepper, chopped (red or yellow are prettiest but since they don’t last as long I usually just use green)
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 T relish
¼ c mayonnaise
Juice from 1 lime
1 t black pepper
1 t salt
1 t chili seasoning (or cayenne pepper)
Mash the tuna in bottom of large bowl
Mix in veggies
Add remaining ingredients and mix well
Makes 4 wraps
1 recipe tuna salad
1 tomato cut into wedges
4 burrito flour tortillas
Spoon tuna salad onto 4 wraps
Arrange tomato wedges in line on each tortilla
Place sprouts on top
Fold bottom of tortilla up and roll into wrap
Welcome to The Bahamas!
I went for my first paddle boarding in Chub Cay in the Bahamas. Sato San had been trying to get me on the thing since the Erie Canal but it was always too cold. Call me a coward but I’m just not cut out for swimming in chilly waters. I always told him that I would paddleboard in the Bahamas. When we reached Bimini, our first stop in the Bahamas, I refused. The no swimming signs in the marina might not have been enough to dissuade me, but the enormous bull sharks that the marina fed certainly were. Shark attacks might be rare, but swimming where 10’ bull sharks were regularly fed? Not a chance was I getting anywhere near that water.
Our third day in the Bahamas, anchored in crystal waters I gave it a try. Surprisingly it’s a lot more stable than I had feared. I paddled a quick circle around Umineko, getting my paddle board legs. Gaining confidence I paddled out further. Some movement on one of the boats anchored nearby caught my eye. The run-down boat just gave off a fisherman vibe. I paddled a little closer and called out to see if they happened to have any lobsters. “We have lots!” one of them replied in a delighted voice. Chub Cay was pretty far from any of the standard tourist destinations. Having patrons paddle board up to the boat cut down on gas, time an energy for the fishermen.
“We’ll bring them by later. How much do you want to pay? $50?”
$50? I was shocked. One of my favorite dinners in New York had been going to Chinatown and buying 3 lobsters 3 for their $20 special. And that was New York City. $50 here seemed exorbitant. Rather than actually laughing in their face I put on my best pathetic face and told the man that we were poor and couldn’t pay much more than $10 or $15.
The fisherman told me that we could agree on a price later when they came by with the lobsters so I paddled back to Umineko. The sun was dipping towards the horizon and I wasn’t entirely sure they were going to come by with lobster for the stingy girl so Mori San and I dinghied over to the fisherman’s boat. To my delight they handed me an enormous ziplock bag stuffed to the point of bursting with lobster tails. I had expected 5 or 6 lobsters at the most. They tried for $50 again but I bargained them down to $20 and 4 beers.
Twenty one tails. Granted they weren’t the largest tails, but they weren’t tiny either. Just large enough to be legal and small enough to be tender and delicious. A wonderful welcome to the Bahamas.
We gorged ourselves on lobster that night, eating everything we could (and probably more than we should – neither Taira San nor I could finish ours), and froze the remaining tails. That night’s menu was steamed green beans with garlic butter sauce, lobster sashimi, Sato San’s favorite, and steamed lobster tails.
I had never even thought of lobster sashimi before but the sweet meat lends itself to being eaten raw.
You don’t have to, and actually shouldn’t, marinate it. Let the luscious flavor stand on its own. Devein the tail and cut it into small chunks. With a little soy sauce and wasabi it is divine.
2-4 lobster tails
Using heavy-duty scissors, cut the underside of the shell from base of the tail to its tip
Extract the meat
Devein the tail leaving only the beautiful white meat
Cut meat into small bite-sized chunks
Arrange on a platter
Serve with wasabi, soy, and pickled ginger