Friday, September 12, 2014

Rum Cay Benne Cake

rum cay bahamas cruising destination
Benne cake, a sesame cookie steeped in African tradition.
This benne cake from Rum Cay's locals market was
festooned with peanuts. too, 
Rum Cay, Bahamas comes across as a forgotten child, left behind to fend for itself.  Except for a few Ex-Pat homes, nearly every place we saw looked as faded and threadbare as an abandoned movie set.... A storm-battered, free marina.  A few shanty-bars.  A restaurant (Ocean View, where the proprietor feasted upon land crabs with crunchy enthusiasm; passing up them up for a home-cooked meal wasn't an easy choice).    A take-away or two.  Homes.  A school.

This is not an island whose "culture" is Disneyfied for cruise ship passengers.  Fact is, not many folks stop by.  Rum Cay developers once had some ambitious plans for the place; now not much more than the signs remain. 

When we caught the sparse local market shortly before its 4 pm close, their benne cakes caught my eye -- a Bahamanian treat read about, but not as yet tried.  Rum Cay seemed like the perfect place to give this local fare a try; it unapologetically reeked authentic local food.  Besides, it was a mere $1.25 or thereabouts.  

West African in origin, this sesame seed based cookie tasted like a buttery Bit-O-Honey, but with the soft, yielding texture so common among comfort foods.  

Figuring benne cakes would make good passage-food nibblies, I found a recipe (click here for the benne cake recipe). Other than sesame seeds, the ingredients were typical cupboard stock. 

Since we keep a gluten-free kitchen (aka gluten-free galley), I substituted the flour for Bob's Red Mill gluten-free flour and the butter for coconut oil.  Despite the inclusion of xanathan gum in Bob's GF flour the neat little cookies all ran.  They were shaped more like soft brittle than cookies.  They tasted good, though, worthy of further experimenting, most likely with the flour substitute recipe from America's Test Kitchen's "How Can It Be iGluten Free" cookbook.

Sesame seeds are believed to bring good luck.  Betting when it comes to making a worthy gluten-free benne cake, they will.  Now that my cast is off, the time is ripe to continue expanding our gluten-free recipe repetoire, to know what hard-to-find ingredients to load up on for provisioning before we leave for the South Pacific.

Location Location
This is a recent retrospective of our mid-April 2014 time in Rum Cay, BAHAMAS (N23.38 W74.50).  Dilapidated or not, we were welcomed like family by Marcos and his friends at Rum Cay, one of the highlights of our time in the BAHAMAS.  Click here and here and here to read about our time with Marco and at Rum Cay.  We look forward to making more new friends with locals when we head into the South Pacific, setting sail in December.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Ragged Islands’ Kitchy “Cruiser Clubhouse”

cruising life, cruisers, cruising destination
Hog Cay party potluck by the crews of Holdfast, Discovery,
Amante, Andante, and Krazy Lady.
Allan Cay Pensacola’s tatty beach side shack, is waggishly dubbed the “Allan’s Cay Hilton” by some witty cruiser armed with a wet paintbrush.  Comparatively, Ragged Island Hog Cay’s set-up is the Ritz Carlton.

Dangerously shallow and remote, with storms clocking every possible direction over several days, Hog Cay is well beyond where most intrepid Bahamas cruisers cruise.  For those scrappier types who venture there, that’s part of the draw; -- its pristine beauty (though the Atlantic side was marred, like most beaches throughout the BAHAMAS, with multitudes of swept in with the tide from distant shores).

cruising life, cruisers, cruising destination, food
It's not a potluck without the food!
From Hog Cay, a trip into Duncan town -- population 70 -- the only “town” in the far-flung 110 mile island chain known as The Raggeds, is a choppy 45-minute ride each way with our dinghy’s puny 4-horsepower outboard motor.

Our first trip in provided ample entertainment for the locals when we mistook the shallow water stick for the entryway to the navigable dredged ditch through the mangroves into town.  We half paddled our way through the shallows bumping along through an extra low, low tide, discovering the way we should’ve taken after we arrived.

cruising life, cruisers, cruising destination
Newlyweds Ken & Louisa are all smiles.
Maxine, proprietor of the one minuscule grocery/drugstore in town (when she’s not too busy fishing), astutely built Hog Cay’s simple yet welcoming plen air enclave. This oddly homey outdoor rumpus room’s comprised simply… a makeshift driftwood framework with an open net ceiling adorned with clever cruiser “Calling cards,” scattered tables, benches, battered and makeshift chairs, a fire pit, a serving area, and a few solar lights. 

It’s the perfect magnet for cruisers ready for sundowners and other delightful social get-togethers on the beach. It’s clear from drums and junakanoo garb under the adjacent, small thatched roof stand, the locals enjoy this little getaway, too.  As cruisers, we may want to get away from it all, but necessarily each other, at least as long as we’re kindred enough spirits and not too big a crowd.  In fact, we were interlopers, still graciously included by small groups of “buddy boaters” (cruisers traveling together on separate boats).

cruising life, cruisers, cruising destination
The boys, busy solving the world's problems,
whilst Kathy responds skeptically
Beautiful, balmy Bahamanian days brought us together or Mah jong and cribbage (click here to to read about the instigator), potlucks, and hiking, a champagne toast to the newlyweds, tips on where to find conch (Raggeds are remote enough they are far less conched-out – at least for now) and enjoyable conversations about life in general, sharing a sunset at the end of a full and happy sun-drenched day….

Thank you Maxine, for creating a congenial play space where we connect in meaningful ways not only with nature, but also with each other, as heartfelt human beings.

cruising life, cruisers, cruising destination
Sampling of cruiser "calling cards" at Hog Cay.

Location Location
Recent retrospective from our time in Hog Cay, Ragged Islands, BAHAMAS (N22.14.920 W75.45.106), March 31 – April 5 2014.  Meanwhile, we’re temporarily land-bound in Jacksonville, FL, where our boat is on the hard at Green Cove Springs until November. We’re in the throes of planning our next big cruising adventure, to the South Pacific; lots of checklists! The countdown’s begun!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

My Left Pit: Cockeyed Gratitude

calamaties,  cruising life
Uhhh, that thing's cutting my cast off?  Yup.
This is an ode to those who've broken bones (a new rite of passage for me), or for those curious about how it affects you.  I promise, this my final post on my broken wrist... and yes, it was my dominant hand.  Next post, back to travel adventures!

Funny, the things you learn when a part of your body you normally take for granted demonstrates just how much you rely on it.  My blissful ignorance in this department reminds me of wry joke ... "War is our way of learning geography."  (Cruising, in my unbiased opinion, is a much better way.)

calamaties,  cruising life
Here it goes.

calamaties,  cruising life
Pretty clean line.  No skin cut.  Whew!
calamaties,  cruising life
Then the scissors...

My learnings?
calamaties,  cruising life
Yuck.  Dirty and stinky!  But... Off! Yay!

  • Casts these days, if made of fiberglass (mine was) are not heavy like the old plaster casts
  • I didn't itch, but I did hurt, a lot more than expected
  • Casts stink like old cheese because you can't wash under them
  • It matters less whether it's your dominant hand and more that you don''t have the full use of both hands
  • Particularly tough to do, initially
    • Putting on a bra (mine a back fastened -- then I learned to start the back to the front then slide them around and then slip into the straps)
    • Taking a shower (thanks, Bertie for setting me up with one of those thick plastic cast covers with the broad rubber gasket -- wayyyy better than a dry cleaning or garbage bag) 
      • I was unable for the entire time to wash my left armpit (hence the blog title); Wayne took pity a few times and pitched in and did it for me
    • Opening a can with a can opener
    • Opening jars, though usually I could hold it between my thighs and open it with my unbroken wrist hand
    • Chopping veggies (pre-chopped onions, celery and green pepper had an odd preservative taste)
    • Opening ziplock bags (though I could do it with my teeth filling in for my dominant hand)
    • Writing, especially if filling in little tiny boxes (truly, more a 2-handed operation -- who knew?)
  • For once, was glad our car is an automatic
  • Overall, my cooking suffered
  • Eating with a non-dominant hand isn't hard (tough Wayne graciously cut some of my food for me), but it isn't pretty, either
  • My non-dominant hand became quite capable, given the practice
  • The dremel they use to take a fiberglass cast or splint of is unnerving (the folks using it my did a great job though)
  • Scooters are not ideal for long commutes with lots of busy intersections and bridges (mine's for sale)
calamaties,  cruising life
Not as bad as expected after
2 weeks splint and 6 weeks cast
calamaties,  cruising life
Ugh, lots of gunk and dead skin.
Cleaned up well though.
I really, really miss riding my bicycle - a little less than 4 more weeks and I can ride again
X-rays taking at a hospital are horrifically expensive - still negotiation a $5,100 EMT bill; $2100 was for the x-rays.  I was uninsured when it happened and that caused far more stress than the actual injury.

I celebrated my cast removal by making two unbroken eggs over easy and baking my first from scratch gluten free sandwich bread for Wayne.  The bread, an olive-rosemary recipe from America's Test Kitchen's gluten-free cookbook calls for several minutes using an electric mixer, which I had to mix by hand.  Wayne, aka the bread lover, proclaimed, "It was delicious.  I almost came."

If you've ever broken bones, how did you work around your injuries?

  • calamaties,, cruising life
    At last!  Two eggs, unbroken yolks!
    Location Location
  • We’re temporarily land-bound in Jacksonville, FL. We’re in the throes of planning our next big cruising adventure, to the South Pacific; lots of checklists!   Last weekend we were doing some cleanup and prep work at Green Cove Springs, where our boat is on the hard, for now.  This Galley Wench is looking forward to being able to winch a sail again.  

Say What? Birdbrained Caption Contest.

humor, cruising destinations

What are these seagulls saying or thinking?

Write a caption, win a prize.

The prize?  Ummmm.  Bragging rights?

To get you started, here's what some of my Facebook friends had to say.

  • "Isn't this great guys! What a view!" -- Nancy Stillwell Yoes
  • What are you all looking at? -- Liz Hawkins
  • There's always one in a crowd, -- Ann Gates
  • Bird Flu. He needs "tweetment" -- Walt Drechsler
  • If a bird tweets at the ocean, how many followers will he get? -- Laura Manning
  • Psst dude you're looking the wrong way. Miley is over there.-- Jeff Stong
  • Papa ohh mau mau, papa ohh mau mau... papa ohh mau mau, papa ohh mau mau --Oh, I'm sorry, haven't you heard? I was under the impression everyone had heard. The word... b-b-b-Bird Bird Bird, Bird's the word! b-b-b-Bird Bird Bird, Bird's the word!. b-b-b-Bird Bird Bird, Bird's the word! -- Matt Clark 

  • My  caption?  "I am not worthy, oh Great Big Bird Poobah."  My friend's are much better!

By the way, does anyone know what these birds are?  Dunno the answer myself, but they kind of look like they sport a short mohawk.  They also seemed to behave this way (there was a clear "lead bird") when I saw them.  A pecking order? Or?  Theories welcome!

  • cruising destinations
    Location Location
  • Recent retrospective from a kayaking jaunt April 10, 2014, Rum Cay, BAHAMAS (N23.38 W74.50). We’re temporarily landbound in Jacksonville, FL.  We’re in the throes of planning our next big cruising adventure, to the South Pacific, where this Galley Wench is looking forward to a healed broken wrist and more kayaking trips.  4 more weeks 'til the doc says it's ok to hop on a bicycle.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Flatfoot Heaven, BAHAMAS

hiking, cruising destinations, churches
These craggy gates mark the entrance to
the trail up Mt. Alvernia aka Como Hill
to Hermitage monastery.
Attracted as always to eyrie perches, visiting Bahamas Cat Island’s Hermitage monastery was a must-do.  After all, it’s sited on the highest point in all the Bahamas.  This time, Wayne was more than willing to scale it with me… all the way to its tip-top whopping 206 foot elevation.  Only the heat made the short hike a sweaty one.

hiking, cruising destinations, churches
Como Hill's as high as it gets -
the Bahamas are flatfoot heaven.
The Bahamas is a veritable flatfoot heaven.

After last year’s cruising, climbing volcanic peaks, Wayne, who’s far less enamored with inclines, was pretty happy with the "rigors" of Bahamas "high altitude" hikes.

hiking, cruising destinations, churches
One of several quaint, colorful
tiles at Hermitage monastery.
Can you improve on this translation?
“If so, by my Lord, praised the role
of the moon is from the stars.”
More intriguing than the viewpoint is the almost Lilliputian scale the great architect and beloved Father Jerome, née John Cyril Hawes built as his final resting place.  Wayne needed to duck to get through the passages of what appeared to be a far larger building from a distance. Though beautiful, the monastery is also humble, an apt spot for the Reverend Monsignor, a tall man who wandered the world to build churches, lead congregations and even work as a laborer and a railway teamster to ponder modest thoughts before entering eternity.

hiking, cruising destinations, churches
Chapel of the Holy Spirit.
Location Location
Recent retrospective from April 17, 2014, New Bight, Cat Island, BAHAMAS (N24.17.234 W775.25.145). We’re temporarily landbound in Jacksonville, FL.  We’re in the throes of planning our next big cruising adventure, to the South Pacific, where this Galley Wench will do her best to once again wheedle Wayne into scaling steeper volcanic peaks, to enjoy the view up top.

hiking, cruising destinations, churches
For scale… Wayne is
sitting down, yet the base
roofline is not many feet
above his head.

hiking, cruising destinations, churches
Great view of Hermitage monastery as seen on our descent.
Readers - Some Questions
  • Do you like churches?
  • What are your favorites? 
  • What makes a church or other place of worship intrigue you? 
  • Would you like more blog posts of the other churches we've visited, such as the prettier of the two Father Jerome built on Long Island?

Friday, August 22, 2014

So Sad (But Kinda Funny)

calamities, galley wench tales
My cast; which comes off
next week -- at long last!
If we were on the hook, this would not have happened (click here for Bucket List Crash Ouch for more on "this").

However, like the migratory snowbird flocks of many species (homo sapiens included), we headed North for hurricane season.

galley wench tales, jacksonville
Ironically, this sailboat is on
the steering wheel of our
temporary land-based transportmobile.
Laying over in Jacksonville Florida in the hopes of rebuilding our cruising kitty and planning for some boat TLC, Wayne took an aviation mechanic job and I set out to spend his earnings by once again landing work at West Marine to exploit their killer employee discount.  There was this dilemma about how the two of us would share 1 car, for potentially overlapping shifts in opposite parts of town.  I decided a scooter would fill the gap nicely -- until I crashed it on my first day commuting in to West Marine, breaking my 2 dominant hand wrist bones in the process.

Next week, after  8 weeks, my cast finally comes off.  Fortunately, I was able to avoid surgery -- at least that's what the doc said after looking at my last x-rays.

My first questions will be
  • How long until I can winch a sail? (November would be the earliest I'd need to for cruising)
  • Is it okay to ride my bicycle (just been walking when the car hasn't been available since breaking my wrist)?
  • Can I return to swimming?

cruising transitions, galley wench tales
My poor, forlorn local transportation vehicle;
flat tires and a frame overtaken by nature.
Given a 26-mile round trip West Marine commute crossing a steep bridge and several busy intersections I decided to put my scooter up for sale and rely on walking my bicycle for close-in travel, and restrict my available work hours to avoid both Wayne and I needing our car for commuting at the same time.  The scooter, by the way, is in excellent shape, as I so beautifully broke its slow impact with my wrist.

cruising transitions, galley wench tales
Closer view:  vines overtaking my bike.
For local errands, if not walking my plan is to resume riding my bicycle.  I picked it up at a thrift shop for $35, then dumped too much money into it for new tubes, basket, horn, lights.  When I went out to look at it, wistfully, the flat tires didn't surprise me, but the degree of strangulation by vines sure did! So sad!  Wish me luck for green light to resume cycling post haste, and a relatively painless revisit to the local bicycle shop.  Most of all, wish me luck in negotiating the horrific bill for my uninsured EMT visit!  An "Awww poor baby!" is also always appreciated.

cruising transitions, galley wench tales
The best "thumbs up" I can give and take a photo
to demonstrate how happy I am to be able to make enchiladas again. 
Meanwhile, in the last two weeks my right hand's recovered enough to resume cooking many of our favorites.... I can now (slowly) open cans, chop vegetables and even fill and roll up tortillas for homemade enchiladas.  I can now write with either hand and eat with reasonable proficiency with my left hand, though not always in a fashion fit for company (never my strong point, anyway) and found some interesting ways to open up bottles and zip-locked bags.  Bertie I owe a huge thanks to for getting me set up with an inexpensive but durable waterproof cast cover, which made showering myself do-able -- pretty important living in a land of high humidity with a heat index of 100+ on a regular basis.  I am looking forward to being to finally wash my own hair again!

Next blog post, back to some Bahamas adventures!

cruising transitions
Journey temporarily "on the hard" in
Green Cove Springs, awaiting TLC
and to resume sailing.
Location Location
August 22, 2014, temporarily land bound in Jacksonville, FL, USA.  Journey’s on the hard in Green Cove Springs (N29.58.9 W81.38.8) until hurricane season ends in November.  Then we do some boat maintenance and improvement and set sail for the South Pacific, through the Panama Canal.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Lambi Lessons Go Full Circle

fishing, beach combing cruiser activities
These mature conch shells were at a Hog Cay trailhead.  Note
how the shell lip wraps away from the spiral core?  This is
the sign of a matured, harvestable conch.
Is there any food more quintessentially Bahamian than the conch (also known as the lambi)?  Cracked conch.  Conch fritters.  Conch salad.  Conch souse.  Conch curry…. Not only is it the most served food for tourists and locals alike in Nassau’s bustling Potter’s Cay stands, about 600,000 pounds leaves the country every year, most of it purchased by U.S. importers.  While my initial experiences with this gastropod were initially underwhelming…

This Stuff Sucks!

eventually I was won over. 

Hey… This Can Be Good!

And decided to get smarter about these delicacies, first…
Learning (By the Book)

conch harvesting hog cay ragged islands bahamas
Wayne bagging mature conch.
Any immature ones we returned
to the reproduction pool.
Then I complained about my inability to find them, but was frustrated by my attempts to extract and clean them, until….

The Personal Touch
Galley Wench Tales: Local Character, Rum Cay - click for prior blog post

To truly learn something, it take
fishing, beach combing cruising life
Wayne knocking the conch... punching a hole in the shell
is in the right spot is the first step
s repetitive hands-on experience.  As when it comes to using a hammer with precision, to his dismay, Wayne became the designated conch knocker, though he’s...

Getting the Hang of It (as you can see!)

conch cleaning hog cay ragged islands bahamas
Wayne slides a knife in the hole to release
the conch's hold to its shell.
fishing, beach combing cruiser activities
Wayne then uses pliers to pull the conch from its shell.

Uhhh How Much Just to Buy It Done?
Wayne felt compelled to ask.  Competency does not alleviate a certain sense of horror in murdering these beautiful, slow moving defenseless creatures, even if they are delicious.  Not to mention the mess, for suburbia raised squeamish sorts like us.  Though I noticed with concern, when I went to buy them, they seemed to be smaller than legal size.

Finally… Are These Critters the Next Carrier Pigeon?
conch harvesting hog cay ragged islands bahamas
Everything ready for harvest, except the poor little lambis.
"In the 1800s, the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), named after the French word passager for “passing by,” was the most abundant bird in the world. It accounted for more than a quarter of all birds in North America, with an estimated population of 3 billion to 5 billion. The species traveled in enormous flocks, as wide as a mile and many miles long, and could strip an area of nuts within days. When the last passenger pigeon died in 1914,"-- AAAS, the non-profit science society, and its international journal, Science.

The minimum density required for successful mating is 50 adult conch per hectare Community Conch research confirmed that in every commercial fishing ground surveyed over the past five years there are less than 10 conchs per hectare - a density which cannot sustain reproduction.

Conch has been legally exported from the Bahamas since 1992; most of it’s purchased by US importers. About 600,000 pounds leaves the country every year, which only increases fishing pressure on our dwindling conch stocks.

There’s talk of limiting the conch season.  It’s becoming increasingly clear something needs to change for conch to avoid extinction. I don’t want to see those little lambis loved to death, though if we see a healthy population, we might harvest a few mature ones, if Wayne's willing to do the knocking.  I do the rest of the prep and cooking, making conch salad for me, conch chowder for Wayne.

Location, Location

This is a retrospective from our last cruising season, photos are from the Ragged Islands, Hog Cay, BAHAMAS  (N22.14.920 W75.45.106).  We are currently working over hurricane season in Jacksonville FL; this time with our boat “on the hard” in Green Cove Springs, until just before we leave in November, bound for the South Pacific via the Panama Canal.  There’s still lots of retrospectives coming up (including one last - short - conch blog post), plus how we’ll plan for long ocean passages.