Spirits were high motoring out of Gaviotta Bay. We were going to Cuba! Cuba… home of the mojito and the daiquiri, with salsa, fabulous music and better cigars. The Bahamas had been lovely, but we were ready for a little culture and some fabulous night life. Maybe some lush jungle treks as well. Who knew everything Cuba had in store. We were more than ready to explore all that it had to offer.
I was in the galley making grissini for the passage when a spirit-crushing crunch shook the boat. The guttural scrape of metal on rock tore at your very soul. It was sound that made fingernails on a chalkboard sound like a choir of angels. What had happened?
“It was so shallow. There were so many rocks,” Sato San said numbly.
Sato San went into the water. He didn’t come back with hopeful news. The starboard rudder was bent. Not just bent, the fiberglass had been shattered. We motored to a mooring ball and tried to think. Plans can change in an instant.
The Spanish aptly named the Bahamas – Baja Mar because the sea is so shallow. We hadn’t thought anything would happen just coming out of the bay. Accidents always happen when you let your guard down.
Umineko is a catamaran so we did have another rudder but what if something happened to that rudder?
No, we needed our starboard rudder.
Would we have to go back to the States to haul out and replace the rudder? What could we do in the Bahamas? We’d even had problems finding places to haul out a boat with a 24″ beam in the States.
There couldn’t be somewhere to haul out around here, could there? At least we were at the St. Francis headquarters so it would be easier to order a new rudder here. If they even had a rudder for the 23-year-old first hull.
I was near tears when we dropped the dinghy and headed over to St. Francis Resort to talk to George. If anyone could give us advice it would be him. In his jovial South African accent George managed to cheer us up a bit. Apparently, we had tried to leave
at low tide, the worst possible time. He could talk to St. Francis headquarters in South Africa, but he wanted to look at the rudder first. They had to straighten one or two rudders a year, so it was possible he could fix it in his workshop and get a nearby boat yard to repair the fiberglass.
George is a legend. He straightened the rudder shaft in an afternoon and by that evening had the thing being fiberglassed at the boat yard. It would take some time to set though, he warned us. I shuddered to think what that might mean in Bahaman time.
George must have bribed, threatened, or implored the boat yard because three days later we had our rudder back. On the fourth day we were underway to Cuba (again). Though the stress was dreadful, having those extra days in Gaviotta Bay was lovely. We met some delightful people and managed to have a classic Umineko karaoke party the day before we set sail. If you go to George Town, Bahamas I highly recommend stopping by St. Francis Marina. Great drinks, some of the best calamari I have ever tasted, and lovely people.
I also got to make a few more tasty treats in preparation for the passage to Cuba. I love quiche because it is easy and delicious hot or cold. I bought a large chunk of feta the month before in Florida. Keeping it frozen I was using it for special occasions and I thought that we needed some tasty food in light of upsetting events.
This quiche is easy and tasty, but I do not recommend trying to make it underway because the filling has the unfortunate tendency of spilling all over the oven when there are even little waves.
Fair Weather Feta Leek Quiche
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 c heavy cream
1 t pepper
1 t salt
½ t thyme
½ c feta, crumbled
½ recipe painter perfect pie crust
Preheat oven to 350 F (170C)
Whisk eggs, cream (or milk), and spices in medium mixing bowl
Roll-out pie crust dough
Put into pie tin, pinching edges into a crust
Bake for 20 minutes
Scatter feta and half leek slices over bottom of pie
Pour egg mixture into pie tin
Arrange remaining leek slices on top of pie crust
Bake for 30-40 minutes or until filling puffs up in the center and is solid to the touch
Pinky and the Brain
Before we could even pick up a mooring ball off of George Town a dinghy motored up, calling to us. “We have a mooring ball for you. Just follow me.,” a boy who couldn’t have been older than early 20′s led us around the island to the St Francis Resort. We had been looking forward to getting to the North American St. Francis headquarters. We had met George, the owner at the Annapolis Boat Show and it was always nice to see other St Francis catamarans; Umineko was a St. Francis. The first hull. But we hadn’t expected such a warm welcome.
I was still glowing from my dolphin encounter the day before. But one of my priorities reaching land was finding a home for the orphans I had acquired…
When I opened a interesting fan-shaped mollusk I had collected, I discovered two tiny baby lobsters, one pink, the other so young it was still clear. The pink one was about 1/18” from the tip of his claws to the end of his tail and the clear one smaller yet. I dubbed them Pinky and the Brain and put them in a make-shift salt water terrarium determined to find a home for them with someone on land.
The first thing I did when getting to the bar (well, after ordering a delicious frozen strawberry daiquiri) was ask around to see if anyone would take my charges. To my delight George’s wife offered to. This delightful woman adores animals and welcomed Pinky and the Brain into her menagerie. It was a wonderful introduction to the St. Francis Resort.
Okay, so it may be in poor taste to have a lobster spread, but it’s not like I actually ate either of the babies. Even nicer she doesn’t even like lobster so Pinky and the Brain are safe from becoming an appetizer.
I created this spread on crewing on a different boat and it is divine. You don’t need a food processor to make it but it is handy if you have one.
Luffing Lobster Spread
- 1 package Philadelphia cream cheese
- 1/4 c lemon juice
- 3 T milk
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 T salt
- 3 or 4 steamed rock lobster tails (about 2-3 lb lobsters)
- Steam lobster tails
- While steaming tails mix remaining ingredients in medium bowl
- Chop tails finely and mix into cream cheese mixture
- Chill in refrigerator for a day for the flavors to blend (if you can wait that long)
I slipped on the snorkel and slid off of the paddle board into the shallow aquamarine Bahamas waters. Looking down I saw the shapes of 5 rays hiding under the sand, their tails sticking up just their eyes exposed, watching warily. The ethereal form of one meter-wide ray glided gracefully past. He must have given his brethren some sort of signal. I shrieked in surprise (as much as one can shriek around a snorkel) as 5 enormous rays exploded upward in a cloud of sand. That was the start of it.
I had promised to find lobster in the Bahamas. The last time I was sailing there it seemed that the islands were thick with them, hiding in every rock and crevasse. We had eaten them until we couldn’t face another bite of lobster. This time was different I had found lobster! Paddle-boarding up to a fishing boat, but Sato San wanted to actually hunt lobster. Wild lobster. Today was our last chance. Our last stop before George Town, then it was on to Cuba.
We anchored off of Leestocking Cay and I looked approvingly at the rocky coastline. Rocks and crags… this was lobster territory. We dinghied slowly over to the rocky shoreline to search for the lobsters that were surely hiding there.
Taira San and Sato San in the dinghy, me in tow on the paddleboard looking for potential dinners. I stopped several times to pick up a couple of conch and some interesting fan-shaped shellfish that stuck out of the sand. In case we didn’t find any lobster it would be good to have a back-up plan.
Sato San, Taira San and I split up and did a thorough scouring of the area, checking under rocks and crannies from one beach to the next. Sea cucumbers, dozens of dead conch, thousands of miniscule transparent fish, but not so much as a lobster antenna to be seen. Near the second beach I saw Sato San again who suggested we head back to the dinghy. I was all for it, over an hour in the water and I was getting cold.
As everyone else had flippers and I didn’t, I was the straggler. Not that I minded. The ocean-life was beautiful, especially in the 3’-8’ waters near the shore. The porous volcanic rock hosted a myriad of fish and sea life. Still, I was half on the lookout for dinner.
From out of nowhere, a lithe grey shape whizzed up to me and slowed for a swim-by. My eyes widened. A dolphin! I hadn’t seen a single dolphin since leaving the States almost a month earlier and now one swam right past me! The dolphin turned tightly to hook back to swim within a meter.
His soft black eye looked inquisitively at me as he swam past. If he had been wearing a cap he would have doffed it. A few feet further the dove-grey gentleman looped back swimming back towards me. My heart soared. I could hardly believe it. Less than 5’ long, my dolphin friend had to be a teenager. He clearly fascinated by the strange creature in the water. Still, he had small notch out of his left flipper, maybe curiosity had gotten the best of him another time.
The spritely character swam inclined his cute snub nose to look at me before circling out a meter away and let out a high-pitched squeal. I tried to make a similar high-pitched sound, but dolphin is even harder to pick up than Japanese. After a few minutes of interaction my new friend swam away. I watched the tail grow fainter and fainter in the water.
Suddenly, to my delight, the dolphin was back at my side. He started big 5’ loops around me. One towards the surface, another diving to examine me from all angles. Time stood still as he started swimming in faster, tighter circles around me. I could have reached out my arm and brushed him, but somehow I sensed that wasn’t proper dolphin etiquette.
We danced, me twirling around almost in place his circles were so close. Not wanting to miss a second of the experience I drank everything in. The aero(hydro?)dynamic rounded lines that slid through the water with ease. The trim figure, but most of all the expressive features. I had read of dolphin’s intelligence, but experiencing it first-hand it struck me deeply.
He drifted out several feet and rolled over on one side exposing his belly to me. I rolled over in the same move. When I let my legs drift down, he “stood up” in the water, his tail near the bottom, head near the surface mimicking my upright stance. We were imitating one another!
When my friend surfaced for air and dipped back under the waves I smiled. This was another mammal. We had the bond of air-breathers in this underwater world. I wanted more than anything to be able to communicate. His deep intelligent eyes and actions, told me the dolphin clearly wanted the same. But I was the slow ape in his fast-paced world. After 10-minutes I stopped being quite so interesting and my friend swam away leaving me with a warm sense of connection.
It lasted about a minute. As soon as I turned away and begin to swim back to the dinghy a menacing grey dart-shaped form took my friend’s place. Ice-cold chills crept up my spine as the razor-sharp lines of a 4-foot barracuda cruised up and hovered a meter away from me. I wasn’t about to turn my back on this sinister character. If the dolphin’s eyes had seemed playful, this character’s cold, flat eyes and jutting teeth screamed one thing: danger. I hoped and prayed the dolphin would come back to no avail.
I called for Sato San and luckily he was nearby with a lobster spear and frightened the predator away. Luckily, I had taken off my ring. I had no desire to offer swimming destruction any shiny temptation. We got back to Umineko the boys lamenting the fact that we didn’t find any lobster. I opened up the fan-shaped shell to reveal more than just the slimy sea creature. Two baby lobsters were living in the shell too! One red and the other clear, both around the size of an eraser! Hey, they asked me to find lobster – they didn’t specify what size.
I cooked the conch and the disgusting slimy fan-shaped shellfish in a seafood biryani. The adorable baby lobsters are my new pets and live in a shallow bowl of salt water with half the shell. I am hoping to find an appropriate home for them in George Town.
Douglas Adams may not have been too far off in So Long and Thanks for all the Fish. Dolphins might not be extraterrestrial but who’s to say they aren’t as intelligent as humans. I don’t want to anthropomorphize dolphins. They are an entirely different species. Their surroundings have caused their brains to develop in very different ways from us. But they are intelligent, curious, inquisitive, and interested in exploring and learning about their world.
I think that it would be anthrocentric of us to claim humans are smarter than these creatures. Intelligent in different ways, of course, but humans could learn so much from these creatures. I long to communicate better. I know that scientists have been working on it for years, but if somehow we managed to crack the dolphin language…
Backstay Seafood Chana Biryani
1 lb conch, chopped
1 fillet fish, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb squid
2 c rice
1 c chick peas, cooked
½ onion, chopped
½ carrot, chopped
5 cardomom pods
1 t cinnamon
2 t garam masala
1 t turmeric
2 t grated ginger
1 t cumin seeds
½ t coriander seeds
1 t salt
3 c water
2 c rice
¼ c cranberries
½ c cashews
Cook seafood in pressure cooker about 20 minutes
Sauté garlic and onions in oil in deep pan for about 3 minutes
Add carrot and cook another 2 minutes
Add spices and stir until veggies are coated
Add rice and stir until coated
Add water and bring to a boil
Steam for 15 minutes
Add chick peas
Drain seafood and stir into biryani rice mixture
The Bahamas are brimming with hidden treasures. Even crawling with island-hopping cruisers there is always a new adventure to embark on. If you’re into that sort of thing. The guidebooks give highlights of the major tourist destinations: swimming pigs, iguana islands, sunken planes and that sort of thing.
But as with anywhere, some of the most exciting things are hidden. The best is meeting someone in love with the place just bursting with suggestions. We met that couple in George Town.
Suddenly, I saw a life-sized grand piano materialize out of the blue background with a mermaid sitting at the keyboard. I can’t say whether or not it was a life-sized mermaid as I haven’t seen one yet.
“It’s here! I see it!” I shouted to the guys in the dinghy to stop and tried my best to swim over to it.
Even with Taira San’s flippers on it was like running on a treadmill that’s gone insane I wasn’t gaining any ground against the strong current. I struggled back to the dinghy and grabbed ahold of the paddle “Just go back to where I was,” I instructed. Easier said than done: the current hadn’t merely kept me away from the statue. Much to my chagrin they hadn’t thrown out the dinghy anchor when I had shouted discovery and we were almost back at the yacht. We had to start the search all over again. At least we knew we were in the right place.
With Sato San and I dragging through the water holding on to the back of the paddle board we earched, peering into a world of blue. Sato San spotted her first this time. The mermaid sat at her massive grand piano, stone tresses flowing. This time we anchored the dinghy close to our quarry.
After fighting the current swimming to the mermaid and fighting the current conching I was more than ready for an afternoon nap when we got back to the boat. By the time I woke up the boys had gone through the rigorous task of shelling and cleaning the conchs we had gathered that day. They had already planned what was going to be for dinner.
I had been leery of working with conch for quite a while. More than just being difficult to clean and cook, the only ways I have seen it served in the Bahamas is in a stew or as cracked conch, or deep-fried. I have had good cracked conch, but still. I’m not the biggest fan of fried food and Umineko is a fry-free boat. Seriously, Sato San has a rule… frying is dangerous underway and too messy in port. So absolutely no frying on Umineko. I’m not complaining.
The more I work with conch though the more I like it. The delicate flavor is reminiscent of clams, but it is a taste entirely its own. Better still, each conch (which you can buy from fishermen for $2-3 or catch and clean yourself) has an enormous amount of meat (compared to other shellfish) and if you pressure cook it tender you can use it in any number of ways.
I’ve never seen conch in white wine sauce in restaurants or recipes, but this may be my favorite recipe:
Whitecap Conch in White Wine Sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t freshly ground black pepper
½ c conch stock (half salt water half fresh)
1 tomato, sliced in wedges
Chop conch into chunks and pressure cook ½ hour or until tender
Cook spaghetti 7-8 minutes
Sauté garlic and onions in olive oil until onions translucent and garlic golden-brown
Add conch, stock, lemon juice, salt, and ground pepper and simmer for 7 minutes
Stir in butter until melted
Add flour and simmer another 3 minutes until slightly thickened
Mix sauce with pasta
Dish out, sprinkle with parmesan
I like to serve with rosemary garlic foccacia
*tip* If you do try to catch and clean it by yourself – seeing the enormous shells in the translucent
waters is hard to resist – then a word of advice. Vinegar. Once you get the animals out of their shell it is like a giant sneezed all over the meat. I am sure there is an organ or something that you can remove to take care of the mess. I just don’t know where it is. The nasty stuff is almost impossible to get off without a ton of soap, water, and paper towels. However, your basic white vinegar cuts right through it like magic. I just wish I’d known that the innumerable times I struggled through removing the snot the old-fashioned way.
The Bahamas are one of the only places in the world where fresh seafood is cheaper than fruits and veggies. Even in Nassau, one of the most touristy, expensive islands of the Bahamas you can buy a conch, caught and cleaned for $2-3. Go to the grocery store and you’ll find a head of lettuce for $5, if you’re extremely lucky.
But conch are everywhere in the Bahamas. They litter the ocean floor. Why you can dive down and pick one up almost anywhere. It’s not like they run fast. Unfortunately once you’ve caught one then the hard part begins. Getting them out of their rock-hard shells is all but impossible if you don’t know the trick. Personally I would recommend either getting a local to actually give you a tutorial on how to get a conch out of its shell and clean it.
Locals have told us, we have researched it on the internet, and still the process of removing the little bastards from their home takes strength of will, arm, and whatever you are trying to make the holes with better have a diamond tip or be a laser.
In other words it really is better to buy your conch and get someone to clean them. It is worth the $2-3. But once you get the meat back to your galley what do you do with it? If you don’t cook it right the consistency is somewhat akin to that of boot leather. Believe me, years ago, before I knew there was a right and wrong way to cook conch I ended up with an inedible lump of muscle that could have doubled as a dog toy.
Thankfully, there are a number of ways to cook conch that make the meat delectable. The meat is not melt-in-the-mouth tender, more akin to squid; when cooked well conch is a delicious, firm, and flavorful meat.
1. Beat the conch into submission: Take every aggression you didn’t know you had out on the poor mollusk until you have broken every fiber of its being and it is a thin sheet of tender flesh.
It really isn’t as violent as it sounds, but you do need to hit the meat until it becomes a thin sheet. This is the most common method for tenderizing conch, or at least the one I had heard about the most before trying to tame the conch myself. However, it is far from my favorite. It probably isn’t the best thing for a galley to be beating something to bits in it. I prefer gentler means. I don’t even think we have the proper conch pounding materials aboard. On top of that it takes time and effort.
2. Crosshatch it like squid: In many Thai restaurants squid is often cut in a pretty crosshatched pattern the little prickled tubes are lovely in stir-fry, soup, or any meal. This method works to tenderize conch as well. Simply score the conch in a series of vertical lines each about 3 mm apart cutting about halfway into the flesh, then cut a series of horizontal scores. The pattern is quite pretty and the resulting meat is tender and tasty.
3. Slice very thinly: Shaving off little slivers of the conch works well to keep the meat tender. The down side to this is that it can be time consuming to cut thin enough slices. The up side is that it’s freaking delicious.
4. Cook extremely quickly: Just like squid, the key is to cook conch extremely quickly or extremely slowly. Throw it in a pan and stir-fry it for 30 seconds to a minute but no longer than that.
When it is cooked the flesh will become opaque. If you are cooking it like this and using it in something else I suggest cooking it separately and setting it aside and adding it to the stir-fry or dish just before serving.
5. Cook for 2+ hours: If you really don’t care about wasting time and propane then you can boil the conch for 2+ hours. This breaks down the rubbery fibers and makes the conch delightful and tender. I haven’t actually tried this method myself (I use enough propane on the boat as is) but it certainly works.
6. Pressure cook: Pressure cooking is hands down my favorite method for tenderizing conch. Instead of boiling the meat for 2 hours, you can cook it for 20 minutes in a pressure cooker. Not only do you get delicious, tender conch, but you get some of the most delicious soup stock you have ever tasted. You can use the grey bits as well as the pink and pale as well. Cut the conch into bite-sized bits and put it in the pressure cooker. Pour in a mixture of ½ sea water and ½ fresh water until there is about ½” of liquid above the conch and cook for 20 minutes.
7. Eat Raw: Conch sashimi or conch salad are both delicious ways to eat conch raw, and I am sure that conch ceviche is delicious as well. With all these preparation methods conch should be cut into thin slices. Even if you are hesitant to eat raw conch it is certainly worth trying at least once.
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
How do you store eggs at sea?
It’s the question I get asked the most.
You do not need to refrigerate eggs: The United States is the exception rather than the rule. Most countries don’t refrigerate eggs in the store. In nature the birds actually keep the eggs warm to incubate them. It would be counterproductive if the egg went bad before it could hatch, right?
Eggs have natural defenses against the bacteria that make eggs go off. By following a few simple rules you can keep your eggs for well over a month.
Buy unrefrigerated eggs: It can be difficult to find unrefrigerated eggs. Even at farmers markets eggs are often refrigerated on the way to be sold. Unfortunately once food has been refrigerated it doesn’t last as long if you take the temperature up. It is definitely possible to keep eggs that have been refrigerated at room temperature; they just will not last quite as long as ones that haven’t been.
Buy unwashed eggs: When the egg is laid it has a protective coating on it. This natural sealant prevents oxygen or bacteria from getting inside the shell which is what makes the egg go bad. Unwashed eggs may look a little dirty. Okay, some may look completely disgusting with dirt, bird poo, or other grossness on them. However, this is actually better. If you are really grossed out by it then you can wash the eggs yourself just before using them.
Buy the freshest eggs possible: Duh, right? Something that has been sitting on a shelf for weeks won’t last as long as something completely fresh. Grocery stores unfortunately are not the best place to find fresh eggs. That said, getting in touch with local farmers is almost impossible when you are cruising and unless you know the farmer you can’t be certain how fresh the eggs really are.
Vaseline: If you can’t find unwashed eggs (and let me tell you, it’s a challenge in the United States) then you need to simulate the protective coating. A very thin layer of Vaseline or petroleum jelly is cheap and works wonderfully. That said, you can use any type of sealant. I have heard coconut or vegetable oil works well too, but I think it might be a little thin.
The other problem with unwashed eggs is that they are probably from a privately owned farm. This is wonderful for the chickens, the taste of the eggs, and the freshness. However, these eggs will undoubtedly be more expensive and chances are it will be difficult to buy enough for a long passage.
Going through the eggs some of them will probably have compromised spots. Some might be cracked, others may have spider-web marks that indicate the shell may be weaker. Even if the egg is slightly cracked you do not need to throw it away. Just be sure to put them into a smaller container and use them within a day or two.
Flip the eggs: To prevent the yolk from settling and sticking to the shell it is important to turn the eggs every 2-3 days. You don’t have to turn each individual egg. Just flip the package. I am (horrors) keeping the eggs in the original cardboard container and just flipping that every few days. I know I shouldn’t, but I’m not sure what else to keep them in.
Freezing eggs: It is possible to freeze eggs if you have enough freezer space. I’m not a huge fan of this method. If the freezer lets the eggs unfreeze then they go bad in less than a week. In my experience even without complete thaw, the yolk runs into the white and the consistency changed.
But how should you store eggs at sea?
These are the best tried-and-true methods of keeping eggs “fresh” at sea. These aren’t hard and fast rules. By no means do you have to follow them all. What I generally do is to buy eggs in a grocery store use Vaseline and turn them every 3 days. In other countries I try to buy eggs at markets. Even when I buy unwashed eggs in foreign countries I coat them in Vaseline.
One boat I crewed on we didn’t bother to put Vaseline on the eggs and they went bad in a week! There is a reason rotten eggs have a bad reputation. It really is the worst smell in the world.
The last time I left the States, we bought 15 dozen eggs from Costco. Refrigerated, washed, and surely not the freshest eggs, time, price, and convenience were the main factors. Still coated in Vaseline and flipped every few days it was 5 weeks before any of them went off. Considering you can buy eggs in most places I don’t think I’ll need them to last much longer than that.
In a perfect world I would buy the freshest, unrefrigerated, unwashed eggs. But it is a balance. You may not have all the time in the world, unlimited amounts of money, or even a car. The bottom line is that you have to do what’s comfortable for you. Weigh how much time going to organic farms will take and how much it will cost vs the convenience factor. How much freezer space, time, money, and how much you like eggs. Whatever the case, keeping eggs for long passages at sea is more than possible.
Just remember, after about a month make sure to check your eggs often and throw bad ones away if there are any. Also be sure to crack each egg into a small bowl before transferring it to whatever you plan to use it in. You do not want to spoil an entire dish with one bad egg.
Somehow I am reminded of the old egg commercials. I can’t fight it any longer. I have to end this entry with their tag line: the incredible edible egg!
He sat at the mouth of his cave, a king presiding over his royal court. There was no question this lobster was the ruler of this coral reef. He knew it too. The monstrous coruscation must have been over a meter long. Living in prime real estate, the “sea aquarium” that was the Exhuma Cays Land and Sea park’s pride and joy he knew that no one could touch him.
The sea park reef was nice snorkeling, but not quite as spectacular as we had been led to believe. A half hour was really enough time before we were ready to move on to the land portion of the park. We sailed the short distance to the small island in a few hours and were greeted with an enormous whale skeleton. The whale had died from plastic bags and pollution in the crystal clear waters and stood as a warning.
Curly-tailed lizards scampered along the pathway up to the gift shop, run by a volunteer US ex-pat. He regaled us with tales of how the most disastrous shipwreck of Dominican refugees to date had just happened a few weeks earlier. I was reminded of Christmas Island and the refugee problem there. The Bahamas weren’t nearly as well-organized as Australia. No one was sure the exact number but certainly hundreds of Dominican refugees had died in this accident and it was just one of many this year alone.
The volunteer ranger knew everything about the island and told us about some of the interesting hikes. We walked along the shore as several feet of sand gave way to the porous stone characteristic of the Bahamas. We wanted to find the cairn of boat signs. Umineko had put one up in Cocos Keeling and we naturally had to leave one here. Sato San had made it specially!
We hiked through an array of landscape, mangroves, sandy beach, rocky outcroppings. The island was more diverse than anything I had seen in the Bahamas. Pushing stunted trees and vegetation out of our way we reached the top of a hill. There were several holes in the porous rocks marked “blow hole.” Air shot up through the vent startling us the first time. Then Sato San had me stand over it and practice my Marilyn Monroe impression.
The enormous pile of wooden boat plaques at the top of the hill overlooking the boats was massive. Yachts of every nationality had marked their visit with signs commemorating their visit to the Bahamas. We fixed our Umineko sign to one end of the landmark. We were here.
Seafood was in order that evening but I didn’t have any desire to make anything too terribly complicated or time-consuming. Seafood cous cous sounded perfect.
Cous cous is the perfect food for a boat. Fast, easy, it cooks quickly and uses very little water. Sure it needs a bit of dressing up to be tasty, but you can work wonders with cous cous. This seafood cous cous turned out marvelously. If you don’t have conch stock just use water and add a little vegeta vegetable stock or a bouillon cube.
Sextant Seafood cous cous
1 clove garlic
1 T olive oil
1 t turmeric
2 t garam masala
2 c conch stock
1 t coriander
1 t cinnamon
1 t black pepper
2 c shrimp
1 c squid
1 c imitation crab
½ c cranberries
½ c cashews
1 c cous cous
Fry the onion and garlic in vegetable oil about 3 minutes or until fragrant
Add seafood and spices, mix in cooking another minute
Add conch stock and bring to a boil
Add cous cous and cover cook for a minute
Allow to steam 5 minutes
Stir in nuts and cranberries
Umineko has been plagued with sickness. Nothing terribly serious, but I’ve had a cough for weeks and now Mori San has come down with it too. Cough drops, vitamin C… all to no avail I even got one bottle of cough syrup in George Town, went through it, and started on the second. Nothing could shake the miserable cough. I didn’t feel bad, other than feeling a little guilty for preparing food with a persistent cough. I even started wearing surgical masks while I cooked.
It could have been the weather. Grey skies and rain had plagued us throughout our time in “sunny” Florida, and the sullen weather had followed us all the way to Nassau. Even though vitamin C tablets weren’t working I wanted to do everything I could to kick the cough. Especially after Mori San caught it. Soup is fantastic, but not always the most practical at sea. Ginger on the other hand. Ginger is the miracle cure for everything. From seasickness to pretty much anything that ails you. And so ginger it was. I slipped a little (or a lot) of ginger into almost every meal, until miraculously the weather, and our coughs vanished a couple days outside of Nassau.
We anchored off of Shroud Cay, an island we had gotten an inside tip on, well, the prettiest beach in the Bahamas lay just through a thicket of mangroves. Sato San, Taira San and I set out to see this beautiful beach, both of them in the dinghy, me paddle boarding behind.
We crept through the maze of winding mangrove channels. How the plants managed to thrive in salt water always impressed me. I love exploring mangroves. No matter how rough the seas outside get, the waters inside provide a calm haven. A separate ecosystem grow up around their roots.
We trekked over a sandy hill scrub brush covered hill at the end of the channel. There it was: the secluded white sandy beach so unlike most other beaches in the Bahamas. A make-shift swing hung from a tree branch and several hammocks that had succumbed to the ravages of time hung in tatters marking the work of cruisers before us.
We played on the beach to our hearts content, but the wind was picking up. We needed to get back to the boat and move on. Sailing in 15-20 knots is gorgeous. Dinghying in that is less fun.
One of my favorite creations from the sick days was ginger pancakes with ginger sauce. I am a confessed pancake syrup snob. Our store of Canadian maple syrup was dwindling and I wouldn’t subject myself or anyone else on Umineko to fake maple syrup. The only thing to do was to make my own syrups or sauces.
Ginger honey butter is a stand-out sauce that would grace any pancake, ginger or not. It isn’t bad drizzled on bread either…
Ginger Pancakes with Ginger Honey
2 cup milk
3 c flour
2 T lime juice
¼ c sugar
1 t baking soda
2 t baking powder
½ t salt
1 T ground ginger
2 T grated ginger
1 T honey
4 T butter