Monday, December 31, 2012

Goat Soup at Toney’s

Goat soup:  colorful and most important, tasty. It came with a
lime wedge, a crusty piece of bagette and Caribbean
hot sauce.  I was happy it was not served in stryofoam,
so common at most affordable ($4 Euros or $5 US,
a slight discount as it’s $1.30 Euros to $1 USD) Caribbean eateries.

“We gotta stop there on the way back!” I insisted when Wayne pointed to the “Goat Soup” was the only item written on the chalkboard of a small, simple sidewalk café and Wayne knew I’d been Jonesin’ to try the legendary local Caribbean favorite, a stew called “goat water” and this was close enough.  The café was a bit off the beaten track from the other beach eateries on the main drag, but then so were we, on our walk to “Happy Bay” beach, in between Grande Case and Friar’s Beach, St. Martin (the French side of the island).

I knew the café was a sure winner; not only was it a bit off the beaten track, there was no restaurant name posted anywhere.  Even though we didn’t see anyone eating when we passed, it still screamed local, word-of-mouth favorite, been here long enough we don’t need a sign.

The eye-catching candy-apple red stools were more than cute,
they were quite comfortable.  While the road was dusty,
the white kitchen tiles were spotlessly clean.
“You know it’s not going to be open when we come back,” Wayne said as we prepared to leave our lazing on Happy Bay beach.  “Yup,” I agreed, “But we’ll check anyway, and if I come back here on my own, I’m gonna give it a try.”  It was about 4 pm, oft the no man’s land between lunch and dinner when it comes to open eateries. Plus, I was hungry. Lunch was hours ago, well before a good walk and beach frolic (we didn’t totally laze).

Toney’s (named by its chef-owner and one-man-show, Toney) was open!
Toney, showing off the patty he uses for his burger.  His hands
are not small; he must make BIG burgers. 
I make the best burger ever, Toney claimed with a quiet pride.  He told us “One guy liked my burgers so much, he gave me a $60 tip for them.”

We settled into our stools, perused the local paper (St. Martin YTD hit 1.7 million cruise ship passenger visits!) and watched Kathe interview 70-year-old Judge Judy on t.v.

Toney brought a grateful Wayne “The coldest beer I’ve had since I left the States.  This is awesome!” and our bowl of goat soup.  Chock full of veggies – onions, peppers, pigeon peas, carrots) it was a beautiful orange color from pumpkin squash.  It had a light dusting of pasta noodle bits, several small chunks of goat meat (tastes like turkey), a nice bite and was hearty and bursting with flavor.

The men, especially, like my soup” Toney told us.  “As we get older, well, we need a little extra help.  You know?  Soup helps.  I make a fresh soup every day. Tomorrow’s is bull heel,” he added with a sly smile.  ”Have you ever had it?”

In fact, I had, though it was listed as cow heel soup, not bull heel, as it wasn’t positioned as an enhancement for male sexuality.  “It was delicious,” I told him.

The town where Toney’s is, Grand Case, forms a picture-perfect
shore alongside a lovely bay.  Here’s we’re looking out from
a beach bar at dusk.
We’re here on St. Martin for about a month while doing boat maintenance and reprovisioning before we head up to the more expensive Bahama islands.  That gives me another chance to return to Grande Case and try Toney’s burger, but it means passing up his hearty local daily soup special.  Life is short, and my stomach is only so big.

We're back here in Grande Case, St. Martin again fr New Year's eve.  May yours be as picture perfect as this sunset in Grande Case!

We’re Baaaack! Cheese, Wonderful Cheese

Chevre, camembert, brie, Edam, dry salami… Ahhh, sweet
re-provisioning. in the French territory Caribbean isle of
St. Martin.  Happy tongues and tighter waistlines,
while supplies last.

At last, we return to the land of irresistible food fashonistas… French territories!  In this case, it’s the French part of Sainte Martin (the Dutch part of the island is Sint Maarten).  Alas, however, we’ve yet to re-encounter Leader Price, a culinary paradise and the closest affordable equivalent we’ve seen to Trader Joe’s -- our culinary mecca in “the States.”

We haven’t tried this yet, but are betting it’s better
than the plastic jug wine Wayne picked up
in Guadaloupe (and is still finishing up, but a
deal, click here to learn more about that)
from a mini Carre Four, not a Leader 
Price store.
There was also Bordeaux and merlot, boxed.
This pinot noir was 26 Euros, ~$34 USD for 5 liters,
or ~$7 @ USD for 5 bottles of wine.  It was
marked for $12 Euros, but we did not catch
the overcharge until we reviewed the receipt
back at our boat, too far from the supermarket.
In Marigot Bay, St. Martin (not to be confused with Marigot Bay, St. Lucia, which we sailed to) Francophile foodie goodness is still at hand; in this case at Marigot Bay’s Simply Market (for those in the States, think Zupan’s).  A feast for the eyes, their selection is excellent, albeit expensive.  We’ve already downed our crusty baguette, sampled their salami, eaten our Edam; they were all good.

The artiste behind these specially available Catalan-made
salamis was there; she’s the pony-tailed gal in yellow.
I was fascinated by the variety.  I indulged in purchasing
her favorite, and am saving it, for now.  I refuse
 to admit what I paid for the haute equivalent of a dry slim-jim.
I was riveted to Simply Market’s deli case, even though we’re not big on pates, besides the rare occasion I make Dad’s light and luscious chopped chicken liver recipe.

Are these not beautiful?  Only their price tag kept my curiosity
well in check.
These too are a feast for the eyes.
Our basket was light, as we will continue our quest for Leader Price before we leave this French territory island.

Reverse Returns, Triumphantly

In between our rudder and our keel, is the Kiwi Prop that
came on our boat.  This photo was taken while our boat
was hauled out into Rodney Bay’s yard so we could
sand, strip and refinish our hull.

It looked identical to a mooring ball.  Instead, it was a swim area marker, something we did not discover until the line from the marker wrapped itself tightly around our prop.  Not good.

The place was Soufriere’s Anse Chastenet, a lovely snorkeling spot.  Normally I would’ve donned my snorkel gear and untangled the line.  That is a pink job in our boat.  I offered not to do it when I saw the thousands of tiny jellyfish in the water around our boat.  The day before, in Marigot Bay, I was stung in several places when I snorkeled through a cloud of them, which fellow cruiser Kim Dickensen called “sea wasps.”  I was not interested to repeating the experience.

When the local marine park motored up with an assistant, we reluctantly paid his assistant to untangle the line from our prop.  Getting a lecture about mistaking a swim area marker for a mooring ball added insult to injury, but not as much as paying $20 US when we assumed the $20 was EC – US dollars are worth significantly more --2.67 per EC dollar.  Lesson: repeated many unfortunate times:  always clarify up front if EC or US dollars, despite what seems logical or even reasonable.

Note the crack on the plastic prop collar?  This is why we have
a warranty replacement part waiting for our Kiwi prop in the States.  It is not the prop currently in use on our boat.
Much more than the $20 US; that close encounter cost us reverse gear on the boat. For non-boaties, reverse is particularly important when checking to make sure your anchor, once you’ve dropped it, is holding.  In “The Saintes,” a set of islands in the Southernmost part of and our entry to Guadaloupe, when snorkeling I disconcertingly noticed every single one of the boats “anchored” in Pain De Sucre bay’s anchor was loosely lying atop the bay’s bottom, not really holding any of the boats there in place. Reverse is also helpful when moving in tight spots, which often happens in docking areas, especially when crossing under bridges.

We knew we could replace the part of prop that was broken under warranty.  It’s a known manufacturing defect; a part to be replaced.  Wayne’s Dad has it, waiting for us in the U.S.  We preferred to not pay international shipping and customs charges for it

Replacement prop and parts lined up and ready.
Fortunately, the prior owner left a spare bronze prop for us.  All we had to do is replace our old irreversible prop with the bronze backup, which isn’t as hydrodynamic as our current prop, but adequate in a pinch.  The tricky part was how to make the change.
Option 1:  Haul out (for non boaties, that’s lift the boat out of the water with a big, specially-made crane) our boat, a quickly replace it ourselves.
Option 2:  Make the replacement underwater, and hope nothing was lost underwater in the process.
Extra challenge:  We needed the use of a puller, to gently yet effectively remove our original prop without damaging it, as later, we plan to reinstall it.

Wayne, hooka (underwater breathing apparatus) on
as he heads down the ladder into the water replace the propeller.
Point a Pitre divers, working with Wayne, in the process of
replacing our propeller underwater.
We checked or at least tried to check both options in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, in Le Martin, Martinique.  Unresponsiveness, inferior equipment, unavailability and language barriers conspired.  It was not until we reached Pointe a Pitre, Guadaloupe, limping in with broken mizzen mast standing rigging (click here to read more about that – for non-boaties – it’s a rope / cable set that together keep the masts stably attached to the boat) we were connected with sufficiently competent divers to make the prop exchange happen.  Other than (our) dropping an ideal and relatively expensive prop nuts underwater in a too mucky-to-find-bottom (fortunately, Wayne had an alternate workable part), the replacement went off without a hitch. 

We were happy reverse was an option the very
 next day, when we passed through the
especially narrow bridge to the River Sallee

(click here for more about that – exquisite sunrise!).
Again recently, it was comforting to 
know we
had reverse if we needed it exiting past the
raised drawbridge from Simpson Lagoon to
Marigot Bay, St. Martin.  See how little room
there is on the sides of this catamaran sailboat
passing through in front of us?
It only took us 3 countries, ~$175 USD and a month and a half to fix it.  Sure, we found a way to get by without reverse for a while, but it is nice to have it fixed, and anchor and navigate tight spots with confidence. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Eat, Drink & Be Merry: Yuletides Yachtee-Style

Dinghys galore and no nearby store?  Sure evidence there’s
a yachtee party afoot!  Indeed there was in the lagoon
at Simpson Bay St Martin.

Overheard at the Boxing Day Beach BBQ:
  • You’re drinking… water?
  • Ummm, yeah.  I’ll just tell everyone I’m drinking white rum.  They’ll believe it. [Ok I admit… this was me.]

  • My daughter must be pregnant.  The only thing she’s drank since she got here is Diet Coke.  I bet she just believes it’s too early to share yet.
  • Wait until New Year’s Eve.  If she turns down the champagne toast, that’s a dead give-away!

  • I learned to drink when I was cruising Mexico with my Dad, back in the late eighties.  I was 27.  Highballs.  Martinis.  Gin and tonics…. Those cruisers knew how to drink! 

A Little Literary Liquor Lore
A Barnacles employee offered to trade whisky for
our Mount Gay Rum.  We politely declined.  Was
it the party of the 2 for 1 drinks that prompted
our Christmas dinner invitations?  Dunno, but
it was a nice welcome regardless.
In “The Log from the Sea of Cortez” Steinbeck waxes warmly and often about the virtues of drink… “Alcohol has been… a warmer of the soul, a strengthener of muscle and spirit.  It has given courage to cowards and made very ugly people attractive.”

Andrew Thesingh was delighted with the horn
we brought from our “bilge.”  He plans
to bring it along when he moves, a bit
reluctantly, after 8 years in St. Maarten to
Wisconsin, where winters are a bit cooler.
Perhaps that’s why the two presents we brought home from the “Treasures of the Bilge” Christmas Eve party were a bottle of wine and a bottle of rum.  Appropriately, the Mount Gay Rum label proclaims “Savouring the smooth and rich character of MOUNT GAY RUM has been a ‘rite of passage’ among the world’s finest sailors, which has earned it the reputation as the ‘quintessential spirit of the seas’”.

Christmas Dinner & Almost All the Trimmings
Our "Treasure of the Bilge" tablemates, Larry and Pat of Polar Bear III, kindly invited us to their Christmas dinner. 

We don’t mind that we were the stand-ins to bring dessert and we unable to proffer the plum pudding.  It’s fitting that without time to get in a shopping run, and a galley devoid of most company dessert ingredients, “The Galley Wench” made a nod to the islands and brought baked bananas with rum raisins.  Aptly, as well, the recipe came from Kay Pastorius’s “Cruising Cuisine” a gift from fellow cruiser Lili Pelko of Heron.

The rest of the meal was a delicious traditional British holiday feast… turkey and gravy, two kinds of stuffing, wild rice with leeks and squash (brought by Steve O’ Brien and Alice Kilgo of Ocean Star), cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts, baked potato balls.

We were bummed to not get a chance to sup with newfound friends Madeline Polss and Skip Pond of SaraLane.  We look forward to another opportunity to get together for good company and good cheer.

Lovely end to the Boxing Day BBQ.
Good Cheer & A Happy New Year
We don’t yet know what we’ll be doing to bring in the New Year here in St. Martin.  We just know that there is good food and good drink, but more importantly, good company among the boating community here.  We look forward to giving as good as we get, and the welcome here is warm, with or without a drink.  Cheers to that!  And to you, to bring in your New Year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Clack-clacks Gone!

Here’s what a cicada looks like; I’ve never knowingly
seen one.  Photo courtesy of Turtuga Blanku,
a musician and biologist.

CLANK-clank chime the halyards inside our mast as we rock ‘n roll in the swells 0f Simpson Bay, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, ROARRRRR soar the jets at the nearby  Princess Juliana International Airport  (also known as Saint Maarten International Airport)  airport.  BBBRRRRRrrrrrrr echo the smaller craft, from the same location.  In quieter moments, SLOSH-slap, whispers the water, rocking us side to side (it is quite swelly here -- for non-boaties -- that is not a good thing).

What we don’t hear is the “clack-clacks’” “squeeeee-EEK,” which Robert Devaux, from The St. Lucia Research Centre" clarified “are cicadas, not grasshoppers.  He adds, “They are one of the loudest noise-makers of the insect world and can potentially cause deafness in humans at 128 decibels. They’re really quite harmless and cannot bite or sting, but might try to penetrate your skin and suck your juices only if allowed. There are hundreds of species worldwide; they vary considerably, but all do basically the same thing and that is to make NOISE.”  Leon Pors, a wildlife conservationist and environmental educator, further explains the sounds is made by males, wooing their ladies, to initiate the cycle of life. 

Not surprisingly, cicadas are considered symbolic of rebirth and the cycle of life, fertility, happiness, a happy time with old friends…. No wonder we found the sound joyous!

Oh sure, we knew the day would come when we would no longer hear the orchestral sound of thousands of stuck wheel bearings chirping together.  In anticipation, I’ve searched to no avail for a sound file that captures their nocturnal song. I’ve found other cicada recordings, but their song is not the same.

We expect we’ll hear clack-clacks again soon enough once we move on from Simpson Bay, but we know the day will come when they’re gone forever, and we’ll miss them.  Nomadic as we are, we’ve come to associate clack-clacks with the sound of home, a time to slow down, watch the sunset, enjoy supper and reflect on our blessings especially as we enter the New Year, including clack-clacks.  

Monday, December 24, 2012

Cock Love & Holiday Irreverence

These fellows (and on gal) provided excellent entertainment
in our fruitless wait to officially check in at the Port of Stacia.
After a 45-minute wait, a gal working at the port
blessed us to not worry about it, and just enjoy
the island.  Bargain!  We did.

St. Eustacia (aka Stacia), more than any other island we’ve seen yet, is the land where the roosters roam and the hens run quickly away.  It is the land of cock of the walk, roosters strut proudly.

And with good reason.  These are handsome fellows, they put their fellow tatty Caribbean feathered friends to shame.  Their backsides sport a solid, sassy swoosh of shiny, slightly iridescent green-black feathers; their chests a rich tapestry of red-orange.  Their golden eyes are bright, quick and alert, their red cocks-combs vibrant accents.  They move with energy and purpose.

This rooster met us at the summit of the Quill trail, at the rim
of Stacia’s currently inactive volcano caldera.  This fellow
was particularly fond of Wayne, even before sharing a
granola bar, which we thought was reasonable chicken feed. 
They are intrepid and in some cases, fearless, too.    Here, we met the coolest rooster ever, and we’re not even normally fowl friends outside a dinner plate.

After our encounter, Cock love, we wonder, is it wrong?

Holiday Irreverence

In the light of the Caribbean, may enjoy this spoof I wrote

Grandma Got Run Over By A Rooster
(sung to the tune of Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer)

Grandma got run over by a rooster
Walking home from our house Christmas eve.
You can say there's no such thing as Santa,
But as for me and grandpa we believe.
She'd been drinking too much rum punch,
And then things got a little out of hand.
But she forgot her sun-screen lotion, and she
Staggered out the door into the sand.
When we found her Christmas morning,
At the scene of the attack,
She had bird-prints on her forehead,
And incriminating Claus marks on her back.

Now we're all so proud of grandpa,
He's been taking this so well.
See him on the beach ogling jailbait,
Drinking Carib beer and
Playing strip poker really late.
It's not Christmas without Grandma,
All the family's dressed in shorts
And we just can't help but wonder:
Should we mourn in nude,
Or try bobsledding sports?
Try bobsledding sports!!

Now the goat is on the table
(alt line: Now the roti’s on the table)
And the pudding’s coconut
And the sun is shining brightly
Reminding us all of
The bulge on grandma's gut.
I've warned all my
Calypso dancing partners
Better go on out and yell,
They should never give a license
To a man who drives a sleigh
And whose roosters raise holy hell

...& a Happy Holidays... wherever you are and whoever you're with!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Shorn & Storm

Wayne’s $25 EC cut was about $9 USD, about what he paid
at the PX in the United States.  Wayne's barber is sitting
outside the shop.
Haircuts & Rainstorms in Nevis
Wayne’s hair was in his eyes, a point well beyond when he’d get his haircut.  Mine, normally perennially frizzy, now achieved a brillo-pad like consistency.

We’d both made a point of getting our hair cut from our favorite places just before we left the country.  For me, it was Jenny, my longtime Portland Oregon hairdresser.  For Wayne, it was the gals at the Vancouver military PX, whose service included a head and neck massage from their vibrator-gloved hands, for only $9.

That was 4 months ago.  It’s one thing to go to someone you know, it’s another to place your head in the hands of stranger holding sharp objects in a foreign country.  There was no way we’d wait until June. 

I almost broke down and went to seek some chi-chi place in Antigua, but I wasn’t really looking for a high end salon experience.  It’s just what was there, in the land of luxury yachts.  Nope, we decided to await serendipity and brave a cut from a locals salon.  Wandering Charlestown, Nevis, there was a barber or beauty salon on every block.  “This is the place we gotta do it, honey!  When the hairdressers are as common as coffee shops in the Northwest, it’s just meant to be.”

We stopped first in a salon.  The proprietor refused to do men, so we decided to divide not just our tresses but also where the deed would be done…  That meant a salon for me, barbershop for Wayne.

My cut, shampoo and blow-dry cost $60 EC (about $23 USD);
a respectable price.
My hair must have been extra disgusting; they shampooed it three times before conditioning then cutting.  The sink did not have the usual u-shape to cradle necks for shampooing; instead I held my neck horizontally while clutching the plastic shampoo bid around it, as instructed.

“My” hairdresser, who hailed from Haiti, and trained in London.  She chatted to her assistant and a boy toy who dropped in, in Patois and French and Spanish and English to me, all while competently cutting my hair.  Initially, I just wanted a shampoo and cut, but with Wayne’s encouragement – his cut already done – agreed to a blow dry.  I had a hunch she’d blow dry it straight, a rare event for me, both because it was rare for her to work with Caucasian hair and because it would less the blow of how much hair “just to trim off the damage” was cut.  She did.  Wayne snapped a picture as soon as we left the shop. We both knew one day would be longest we’d could expect before my naturally Shirley Temple curls returned.

Golden Rock is a former sugar plantation, repurposed for tourism,
with lovely garden paths artfully decorated, a dining verandah
and lodging.
We caught the local bus up to Golden Rock Estate, to see the gardens, enjoy the view and maybe catch a glimpse of the monkeys wandering there. We found ourselves quickly pulling out our umbrellas as we’d entered a rainforest, wetly doing what rainforests as we watched long monkey tails disappearing into the forest.

Even in the mist, Golden Rock’s
swimming pool emitted a turquoise
luminescent glow.
We missed out on Golden Rock’s views, but there’s something
to be said for seeing a rainforest in its most natural state.
From straight newly shorn locks to Goldilocks, sans the three bears, with moneys, in less than 1 hour.  Fortunately my hairdresser will never likely know.  And it is still a good haircut (photo coming in an update soon – a good reason to check backJ).  And now, 4 days later, my hair is still soft.  Wayne of course, is cute as ever, with or without the electrical gloved massage.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Octopus's Garden

Yes, that is an octopus on the floor of our cockpit!  Wayne said
he thought the octopus looked pissed off.  Can't say that I'd
blame him.... or her.
With no disrespect to the Beatles & Ringo Starr, today I found an octopus's garden... in a conch!

Here's the conch....
Found this in about 20 feet of water,
snorkeling off our boat.  My plan was
just to show it to Wayne, take a picture
and return it to the sea.  I was sure

there was no conch inside.

This gives you a little better sense of the octopus's size.
The blue is the tip of my snorkel fin.
They're relatively small fins.

He (or she) slithers his octopussy tentacles back into its shell.
Getting ready for his (or her) return to the sea....

In the future I will be more cautious about being an unintentional homewrecker!

Killer Bees & Dr. Pastry: Food Finds, Nevis Style

Much fancier than we expected for lambi (conch) from
Sunshine Beach Bar, Nevis.

Who could resist trying something called the “World Famous Killer Bee” rum drink from Sunshine beach bar on Nevis?  Not Galley Wench Tales!  And a side of lambi (conch – think really big shellfish a bit like a chewy scallop) with that,to boot.

It seemed the perfect end to a big chunk of our day spent on country entrance regulations.  It was.

 I was curious and it was no trouble findingKiller Bee recipes, including this one from,
so I guess it really is world famous.
Pinky, our bartender and waitress, whipped out the premixed concoction from a bottle of Mount Gay Rum (though betting the Killer Bee was not Mount Gay), sloshed it over ice, and grated fresh nutmeg over the top.  Presto. 

Much like a Long Island Iced Tea it was smooth, refreshing, and in this case Caribbean-fruity.  But unlike a Long Island Iced Tea, I could definitely taste that this was no Shirley Temple drink.

The lambi was $50 EC (about $18 USD) and more of a meal when I wanted a (cheap) snack.  But it was beautifully presented and buttery and garlicky delicious.  It was the texture of a meaty mushroom.  Wayne asked Pinky if they pounded lambi.  “No, we marinated it, then cook it in a garlic-butter sauce.”  Finding a recipe that looked like their was less fruitful than my “Killer Bee” google.  Bummer for Wayne was afterward I was too lazy and full to cook dinner, but he did wheedle me into baking fresh bread – thanks to Lili for her easy recipe)

Wasn't able to get Dr. Pastry to pose with his work, but
he was willing to have his picture taken.
Despite the Caribbean, I guess I’m still not that used to rum drinks.  Got a late start sluggy yesterday after waking up with a slight headache – major rarity for me.  I’d been warned about those Killer Bees.  That why I only drank one – and nothing else but water!

Does that mean more rum drinks?  Or less?  Hmmmm.  You tell me!

Our next taste of Nevis, literally, came when Wayne flagged down a fellow walking down the road in front of us, carring a clear plastic box of what looked like turnoevers.  “Are you selling those?” Wayne asked.

“Why yes.  They’re $5 [EC – so about $1.75 USD] each.  I make them myself.  I’m the most popular guy on the island; I’m Doctor Pastry.”

Savory salt fish pastry -- not at all "fishy."
Wayne ate one of his apple turnovers, and I savored a salt fish one, which even the less culinary adventurous Wayne liked.  Perfectly light and flaky.  Even my Dad, piemaker extrodinaire, would likely agree.

Apple:  Doctor Pastry’s
favorite,and happily, not
too sweet.
They were pretty as a picture. Dang!
We were too hungry after our walk
to get a photo before we took a bite.