Americans don’t need tourist visas to Cuba! How could they? Americans couldn’t go to Cuba, or at least they couldn’t spend money there. That would be “Trading with the Enemy.” When Sato San first started talking about getting visas to Cuba in Nassau I was sure I wouldn’t need one.
Right, why would Cuba charge the people of a country that put an embargo on them? Ahh well, hindsight is 20/20. Clearly I was wrong, but on the up side Cuba doesn’t charge US citizens any more than other countries.
The Cuban Embassy has outsourced its visas. Well, technically Cuba doesn’t have visas. They have “tourist cards.” You get them at tour agencies! Havanatur sells them $15 for a tourist card in Nassau.
Just go, give them the money and you get your tourist card. Of course you have to brave the mean streets of Nassau to get there.
Nassau is a trip, and I do mean that in the vernacular. With dingy strip-malls and rundown street markets, a good portion of the island gives the impression of the Bahamas being a developing country.
Or more accurately, a colony abandoned by its benefactor. Juxtaposed with that is the opulence of Atlantis, the island’s 5 star resort, rising out of the meager background. The resort is a get-away for Americans with more money than time who want the comforts of home paired with tropical weather and an island setting.
We didn’t actually make it to Atlantis or its casino, but sailing past was enough for me. (Okay, I might be talked into visiting sometime.) The building is stunning, but when you see the rest of the island and how the locals live it does seem a little out of place.
Yacht Haven marina, where we moored, is a far cry from Atlantis. It isn’t terrible by any means; decent showers, hot water, wifi… but the street outside is like stepping into the ghetto. And that was where I had to go to get my tourist card.
I wished I had sent my passport with Sato San so he could pick it up for me, but I really hadn’t thought I’d need one. The travel agency was on the same street as the Marina, not even a long walk. Still, taxi drivers tried to solicit my business every half a block or so.
The agency didn’t look like much from the outside and was almost empty. Still, I had to wait almost an hour to get my tourist card. Not an involved process by any means.
Still, it was late afternoon by the time I got back to the boat. I had my tourist card. Everything was set – we were going to Cuba! I had to make a celebration dinner.
I am a big fan of cream sauces and gnocchi sounded good. You don’t have to use cream, for a lighter version just use half a cup extra of plain yogurt and the sauce is still delicious.
Tidal Thyme cream sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T butter
¾ c plain yogurt
½ c cream
1 t thyme
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1 T corn starch
Sauté garlic in butter over medium heat 3 minutes
Turn temperature down to low and add yogurt, cream, and seasonings
Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
Add corn starch, stir in well and cook another minute
Serve over gnocchi or other pasta (I’m a sucker for gnocchi though) and garnish with dried cranberries
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
We anchored in the middle of the ocean. In 20 feet of water. Many a Spanish galleon ran aground in the Bahamas, giving it its name. Spanish Baja (low) mar (sea). Unfortunately, unlike the last time I was on a boat anchored in the middle of the Bahamas the seas were anything but flat. Thinking back to sailing across lake Erie I should have remembered how choppy shallow bodies of water get. So it makes sense that it doesn’t take much of a wind to stir up water that shallow but still
A rolly anchorage didn’t begin to cover it. Waves slammed into us from what seemed like all sides. At
least it was a good test for our new Rocna anchor.
Anchored in the middle of the ocean, fish for dinner just made sense. Though white fish isn’t my favorite it does lend itself well to glazes and sauces and we had picked up some cheap frozen tilapia at Costco before leaving the States. I know, fresh fish is invariably better but we like to hedge our bets. Just in case we don’t catch fish it’s always good to keep your freezer stocked. You’d think a Japanese boat wouldn’t have any problems catching fish, but we hadn’t had the best luck so frozen tilapia fillets it
We had just done our last time in the States provisioning extravaganza and I was doing what I could to use the fresh vegetables before they went off. Leafy greens go first so I always try to use them as quickly as possible. As much as I adore salads keeping fresh greens on a long passage is all-butimpossible.
This glazed fish would be delightful over a bed of rice as well, though possibly not quite as healthy. So if
you manage to pick up some spinach or similar greens along the way they accent this scrumptious fish
Lime-soy Tilapia over a bed of Spinach
2 T soy
1 T honey
1 T mirin
1 T water
Juice from 2 limes
2 T Olive oil
2 c fresh spinach
4 tilapia filets
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix soy, mirin, honey, and lime juice in bowl
Heat 2 T olive oil in large skillet over medium heat
Fry fish for 2-3 minutes
Flip fish and add sauce
Stir slowly until sauce reduces to glaze
Flip fish and turn off heat
Serve over a bed of spinach
The grey, rainy, miserable Bahamian weather lifted like a curtain to reveal some of the most gorgeous waters in the world. The shades of azure, aquamarine, and turquoise put gemstones to shame. This was the Bahamas I’d been hearing about.
The balmy mid-80s weather with a gentle 10-knot breeze was ideal for sailing to Allan’s Cay, just a few miles away. We anchored off of the island and peered through our binoculars. One solitary iguana was standing sentinel on a rock. Still, it was a wild iguana. Exciting! More were certainly in the tangled undergrowth further along the island.
As the morning progressed more and more iguanas filed to the beach, some scampering faster than I knew iguanas could move. Was this just the ideal beach for sunning yourself?
We dropped our tender and were getting ready to climb in the dinghy when a large white motorboat zoomed up just 10 feet from the island and dropped anchor. With “Powerboat Adventures” painted in large letters along the side, the boat was filled to bursting with raucous tourists.
The iguanas streamed to the tourists in droves. These “wild” animals were well-trained. They knew when the “Powerboat Adventures” tour brought breakfast. We pulled up to the shore and watched the melee. The prehistoric throwbacks dove for grapes and eyed fingers hopefully, their tongues darting forth in what I’d say was licking their lips if I didn’t know better. One creature actually jumped up on its hind legs to get a grape on a stick.
I didn’t have anything so luxurious as grapes to feed the reptiles. Just some orange peel we were saving for them and the swimming pigs. I didn’t think it would matter. After all, the creatures lived on a desert island, how picky could they be? I was wrong. After the grape extravaganza some actually turned their noses up at the bits of orange peel. Luckily not all of the lizards were so persnickety.
When the tourists got into the boat and pulled up anchor that was the signal. The droves of iguanas scattered until only a few remained sunning themselves on the beach. Cruisers were clearly not nearly as interesting (and by interesting I mean generous) as tourists with their ropes of grapes.
I wanted to try something a little different. I had been curious about farro for quite a while. Different grains add so much to a meal and a hot day was perfect to experiment with this classically Italian grain. Before we headed to the beach I cooked some farro to get a head start on lunch and let the grain cool while we fraternized with iguanas.
After making the nutty, chewy grain I’m sorry that we don’t have more on board. It’s delicious! I highly recommend trying it.
Fair Winds Farro
- 1 c farro
- ½ onion, chopped
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- ½ t oregano
- ½ t rosemary
- 1 t salt
- 2 t lemon juice
- 1 T capers
- Boil farro in 2 c water for about 20 minutes or until tender but still firm and chewy
- Drain and set aside
- Sauté onion in olive oil in skillet until translucent, about 3 minutes
- Add spices, tomatoes, lemon juice, and capers.
- Cook over medium-low heat for another 5 minutes.
- Mix into farro
- Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve cold in the next few days
The sign also said no cleaning fish, no fishing, and a myriad of other marina regulations but the no swimming really caught my eye. Of course I wasn’t going to swim in the marina. Gross! But I’d never seen a marina explicitly state that you really shouldn’t swim there.
And we were in the Bahamas! The transparent blue water beckoned, offering a delightful respite from the warm sun. I was longingly gazing at the water when a sleek grey form glided past. 10-feet of perfectly-engineered predator. Suddenly the water didn’t seem so inviting.
Now I am not afraid of sharks in general. There is a higher probability you will get killed by a falling coconut or that lightening will be the cause of your untimely demise. They don’t even like the taste of people… we’re not in their food chain. Most shark attacks are just a shark sampling something that looks tasty. Unfortunately that “sample” is enough to kill a person if taken out of the right place.
Bimini Big Game Club, the marina we were staying at had 4 “pet” bull sharks, that they fed. Bull sharks. The type of shark jaws was based off of. Now ordinarily sharks aren’t dangerous, but still. There are certain varieties I would prefer not to swim with. Especially in an area they’re being fed.
Rather than take my chances on the paddle board or swimming anywhere near the marina, I opted to celebrate our arrival to warm weather with one of my favorite salads.
For some reason I can barely look at a salad in chilly climates. As lettuce doesn’t last more than a week and Spinach not much longer my favorite warm-weather fare isn’t great cruising. And try finding greens on uninhabited islands in the Bahamas. Sure you can find them in Nassau in western supermarkets on sale for just $10 for a head of lettuce.
But while I had fresh lettuce I was going to make the most of it.
Kimchee salad is one of my favorite recipes Sato San has taught me. Who am I kidding, most of them are pretty tasty. But this salad is simple, delicious, and utterly unlike any other I have tasted. It is also an excellent way to stretch your lettuce out and really make it last.
Kraken Kimchee Salad
- 1 Tomato, chopped
- ½ cucumber, chopped
- 1 ½ c lettuce, chopped
- 1 c kimchee
- 2 t salted kombu
- ¼ c dried cranberries
- 1/8 c chopped or slivered almonds
- ¼ c juice from kimchee
- Toss lettuce, kimchee, cucumber, and tomatoes together
- Mix in ¼ c kimchee juice
- Mix in salted kombu, cranberries, and almonds
- Serve with a few extra cranberries and almonds sprinkled on top
Umineko set out for Allan’s Cay with iguanas in our minds. We had had to delay a day due to foul weather and the wrong winds, but we were more than ready to leave grey, dreary Nassau. I should have known something was up when one of the resident sailors at Nassau Yacht Haven looked at us incredulously that morning. “You’re going out in this?” His charter for the day had canceled. Probably a wise move on their part.
It was James Bond sailing: shaken not stirred. The shallow Bahamian seas tossed us about relentlessly, the sullen grey skies spitting rain. The wind wasn’t from a terrible angle but comfortable was about the last thing one would call the passage.
Unfortunately the winds were not in favor of us visiting Allan’s Cay that day. Instead we anchored off of a nearby cay and huddled inside listening to the rain course down the boat. As Sato San pointed out, it was wonderful for washing off Umineko’s well-salted decks after the rolly passage.
I wasn’t about to let the rain drive me to making carb-heavy comfort food. Anyway, I still needed to use up some napa cabbage left over from the previous night’s hot pot. I settled on a happy medium. A salad with peanut dressing.
I adore peanut butter. In sauces, cookies, soups… pretty much any form you can think of. This dressing is definitely a winner. It adds protein and flavor to the salad. You don’t even have to serve it as a side dish. I ate it alone for my dinner.
Naval Napa Salad
Spicy Peanut Dressing
- 2 c napa cabbage, chopped
- 1 carrot, julienned
- Dried cranberries
- Peanut dressing:
- 3 T peanut butter
- 2 T soy
- 2 T rice vinegar
- 1 T honey
- 2 t siriracha
- Mix peanut dressing in small bowl and set aside.
- Chop napa cabbage into bite-sized chunks and put into large mixing bowl
- Slice carrot into fine strips, cut in half, and toss with cabbage
- Pour dressing over and toss until salad is coated in dressing
- Garnish with dried cranberries
Speeding our way to Annapolis through grey days full of rain, mist, countercurrents, and a headwind was anything but warm. And what do you do on unheated boat when it’s cold? Bake.
I found a container of blueberries that had fallen through the cracks so to speak. By through the cracks I mean somehow it had fallen down into the depths of the back of our refrigerator/freezer. The place you can only get to by lying on the counter and leaning halfway into the refrigerator/freezer balancing and hoping you don’t fall in.
Somehow the berries had been kept just on the edge of freezing and the low temperatures had extended their life for almost 6-weeks. I recovered the berries from the frozen part of the refrigerator/freezer plump, juicy, and beautiful as the day they were plucked. Still, they needed to be used. What better an end then blueberry muffins?
Muffins and really all quick breads are great for sailing. They take almost no preparation time. I really recommend having a muffin tin aboard because muffins take significantly less baking time (and thus propane) than tea cakes. Another reason that muffins are better sailing food than tea cake is that each one is a single serving and you do not have to bother with cutting off a slice. Just grab and go. The 6 muffins I made (we only have a small muffin tin) were devoured in less than an hour. The blueberry teacake lasted 3-days before I cut it into slices and made French toast out of it.
And unlike banana bread, blueberry muffins are best hot and fluffy right out of the oven. Tasty, tender, and scrumptious you’ll want to eat so many you’ll make a good ballast for your boat.
Ballast Blueberry Muffins
Ballast: Weights to help counter-balance the effect of wind on the masts and give the boat stability.
- 3 c Flour
- 1 c Sugar
- 1 ½ t Baking powder
- ½ t Salt
- ¾ c Vegetable oil
- 1 ½ c Milk
- 3 Eggs (or 1 ½ T egg replacer)
- 1 T Vanilla
- 1 ½ c Blueberries
- Preheat oven to 350◦ F (175◦ Celsius or medium)
- Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and mix in vegetable oil, milk, eggs, and vanilla
- When mixed well add blueberries
- Bake for 20-25 minutes
I scream, you scream we all scream for ice cream.
And you’ll be screaming for quite a while at sea. The one thing that I miss more than any other when sailing is ice cream. Sure there are yachts with fabulous freezers, but generally they are filled with fish, meats, and other “necessary” frozen things
One of the first things I do when I hit land is scout out the nearest ice cream parlor. Alas on small islands the ice cream isn’t usually the best but I’m an addict, what can I say?
Between ports though, on long passages, what’s a girl to do? Make a substitute for ice cream. That’s what. I’ve been making versions of this Indian rice pudding for years. Rich, creamy, and decadent, it is the best substitute for ice cream I’ve found. I like to make a big batch before a long passage and pull it out of the bottom of the fridge on those hot days I’m dreaming of ice cream.
Cruisers Ice Cream
- 1 ½ c rice
- 2 c water
- 1 c sugar
- 2 c milk
- 2 c coconut milk
- 2 c water
- 1 ½ t ground cardamom
- 1 stick cinnamon
- ½ c pistachios, chopped
- 1 T rose water
- Wash rice well and soak in water to cover generously for 15 minutes.
- Put rice and water in pan and bring to boil for 5 minutes
- Turn off heat and allow to steam 5 minutes
- Stir in milk, water, coconut milk, cinnamon, and cardamom
- Bring to a boil
- Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking
- Cook 45 minutes
- Remove cinnamon stick
- Stir in pistachios
- Cool to room temperature. Mix in rosewater
Chill 24 hours
Do you want to cure a woman of ever wanting to go shopping again? Put her in charge of provisioning a boat for an off-shore adventure. That will cure the most die-hard shopaholic of her habit.
Years ago, at the start of my first long sailing trip, I couldn’t understand Lindsey’s, my crewmate, aversion to supermarkets, Walmarts, and Home Depots. I had joined the crew of the Leeway at the tail end of provisioning for our adventure. Lindsey, on the other hand had been shopping for weeks straight. Now I understand.
I loathe Provisioning. Not shopping for a little trip, or picking up a few things here and there. I’m talking about Provisioning. With a capital P. All-out shop-til-you literally want to drop. On one provisioning expedition in Malaysia I came out of the store with a receipt over 7’ long. I could hold it up as high as my arm could reach, stand on my tip toes and the paper still curled on the ground
Everywhere in the world has food! Why buy the entire store? Well, technically you don’t have to, but if you are heading to the Bahamas especially you might want to think about filling your galley to the point of bursting. Provisioning in many island nations can be prohibitively expensive. Not to mention the selection being extremely limited. I remember before Cocos (Keeling) Island cruisers were given a list of foods that could be shipped in to the island to buy. A head of lettuce was $25.
Of course you’ll want to pick up a few fresh fruits and veggies, and in some places local markets are wonderful for that. But if you’re on a budget you’ll want to keep what you need to buy to a minimum. Sure it’s entertaining going into Western supermarkets in Nassau to look at the small bags of lettuce “on sale” for $10, but groceries really are three times as expensive. When they’re available at all.
And so I gritted my teeth and went provisioning. I wrote a post on couchsurfing, asking if anyone had a costco card and would help me with provisioning. Costco might not be my first choice for everyday shopping, but when you are buying supplies for months in advance it’s a good way to go. wonderful gentleman Don offered to take me.
I felt a little bad but he assured me that he realized what he was in for. After 3 ½ hours of shopping at costco and 2 carts filled to brimming, we headed to get some additional supplies at Publix, another grocery for 2 more carts. Did I mention the day-trip to the Asian supermarket? Yeah.
The one good thing about provisioning is that you do want to get rid of the tail ends you have left over, so the night before I threw together a blue-cheese beet pasta. We had some blue cheese that needed to be used up and a few beets and the resulting pasta turned out fantastically.
with Bleu Cheese Beet Sauce
- 3 oz blue cheese
- ¼ c walnuts, chopped
- ½ onion, chopped
- 4 beets, cubed
- ½ c cream
- 1 c milk
- 1 c yachting yogurt
- 1 T corn starch
- 1 t butter
Cook beets 15 min in pressure cooker
Boil penne in water with a splash of olive oil to prevent sticking (I like to use a mixture of ½ fresh water and ½ salt water at sea)
Fry onions in butter until translucent
Stir in walnuts, cream, yogurt, milk
Cook for another 2 minutes on low heat
Put penne and sauce back in pot and mix thoroughly
Serve with a few whole walnuts to garnish
There was a face-off. Me vs. the two eggplants we had gotten in Charleston. It had been weeks. One of them was half-brown, and the second was certainly soon to follow. They needed cooking.
Now eggplant has never been my favorite vegetable, or I guess fruit if you want to get technical. I like it in things. Eggplant parmesan where the stuff is disguised in breadcrumbs and nicely fried, sure; I generally prefer baba ganoush to hummus too. But both of those required items we didn’t have on the boat.
Oh, I may have forgotten to mention the 3 red and yellow bell peppers that were in need of a tasty dish.
Rain was pouring down the make-shift tarp shelter protecting the cockpit. We were on a mooring ball right by Saint Augustine, Florida. The oldest, and possibly most touristic town in America and we weren’t moving off the boat. I glowered at the rain. Okay, so we were on the boat all day and not going anywhere. That meant projects.
One project I had been wanting to do was to learn how to cook with a pressure cooker. Sato San had bought an Indian pressure cooker in Mauritius but it was stowed in the very back of the cupboard underneath the oven.
Other yachties raved about their pressure cookers saving time and propane but I had yet to try cooking with one.
Now using a new kitchen toy can be fun or it can be intimidating. I must admit, I was a little intimidated by the pressure cooker. If you used one wrong it could explode, burn you with steam, or all sorts of scary things. Apparently they were all the rage in the 50s and 60s until microwaves wooed people away with an even faster, easier way of cooking.
I read the manual and thankfully it was a newer version and had a weight on top that
regulated pressure and let steam out so there was (thankfully) no danger of the thing exploding. Still, I wanted a little help my first time using the thing.
As it was an Indian pressure cooker and we had eggplant to use the only thing to make was baingan bharta. I googled baingan bharta and pressure cooker and found a wonderful recipe blog site called “Honey What’s Cooking” with a recipe for Baingan Bharta that used a pressure cooker.
I’m sure her recipe is fabulous but I can never leave well enough alone, not to mention I had quite a few bell peppers to use up so this is my take her recipe.
- 2 medium-small eggplants (about 1 lb)
- 3 red and yellow bell peppers
- 1 large onion
- 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 T oil
- 1 large tomato chopped
- 1 t freshly grated ginger
- 1 t Paprika
- 1 t ground cumin
- 2 t garam masala
- 2 t salt or to taste
- 1 t black pepper
- Juice from 1 lime
- Peel the eggplants, cut in half, and place in pressure cooker – cook for 20 minutes
- Cover halfway with water and start cooking (seriously read the directions on your pressure cooker first)
- Place oil in large saucepan and cook onions for 3 minutes on medium-high
- Put bell peppers, paprika spice, cumin, garam masala, salt, and black pepper, cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally
- Add tomatoes and lime juice, cook another 5 minutes stirring occasionally
- Cover and cook for another 20 minutes stirring occasionally
- Drain eggplant (it should be cooked to the point it’s falling apart) and mash/stir into eggplant pepper mixture
- Cover and cook for another 20 minutes stirring occasionally
- Allow to cool. Baingan Bharta can be refrigerated and served for days (if it lasts that long) and the flavors only improve
In case you were wondering my first time using a pressure cooker was a great success. The three of us at all of the baingan bharta.