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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Extra Freshwater Rinse


Yes, that is my soggy SUNdress that’s getting all
those extra freshwater rinses, courtesy of
Mother Nature.  When it’s dry, it’s time
to wear it again!  Maybe.

Yes, it rains in paradise, or, in this case, St. Thomas, which at this moment is my least favorite Caribbean island to date.  It’s not even the rainy season.  And today Wayne didn’t even apply Cetol to prompt the rain (click here if you’re curious about that). 

Yesterday’s squalls led to rougher than usual water in our foray into Gregory Channel West, thoroughly saltwater soaking us in our dinky dinghy.

We warmed up with a hot freshwater shower, giving our clothes a rinse along with us.

Then we hung our clothes out to dry in our cockpit, not wanting to add any more humidy to our already stuffy salon.  We realized our clothes would get a little more freshwater rinse before the day was done.  Today is day 2 of their freshwater rinse.

Will they get a third rinse before they’re ready to return to what eventually will be the dehumidified confines of our cozy salon?  Dunno.

Someday, we’ll have our water catchment system installed and this rain will be a bounty.  We’ll be using it instead of our generator to refill our tanks when our solar sytem isn’t saving up for a rainy day ‘cause the sun isn’t shining.

Meanwhile, perspective and humor helps.  Drip. Drip. Drip.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Discovering Oldest US Lager – in the Caribbean!


Case of Schaefer, which we first discovered
in the Caribbean Virgin Islands.
It’s thirsty country here in the Caribbean.  We’re always on the lookout for the cheapest acceptable refreshment we can find.  In the Virgin Islands, the cheapest beer we found was Shaefer, which bills itself as “The oldest lager in the United States.”  Only, neither Wayne or I ever heard of Schaefer before.  I figured they were taking advantage of what I was guessing are laxer laws on product claims.

I was wrong!  Thanks to the wonderful world of Beacon internet access, I discovered Schafer’s claims are indeed accurate.

First produced in in New York 1842 by the F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Company, Schafer introduced lager beers to the United States.  Amazingly, according to Wikipedia,  (click here for Schafer wiki link) until the mid-1970s, Schaefer Beer was the world's best selling beer before ceding the top spot to Budweiser. In 1981 Schaefer Stroh Brewery Company bought Schaefer, and in 1999 Pabst Brewing Company acquired it when they bought out Stroh.

Of course, both Wayne and I grew up on the West Coast.  Schaefer’s is an East Coast beer; no distribution where we hailed from, in the Pacific Northwest,  (click here to learn more about Schaefer’s history and distribution).

Wiki says the advertising slogan for Schaefer beer is "Schaefer is the one beer to have when you're having more than one."   Considering that most beers come in 12 oz cans, and Schaefer comes in 10 oz cans, and it’s cheap, yeah, on an 80 degree day, it’s a bit more likely you’ll drink more than one.

Schaefer’s alright.  It’s a light lager, similar to a Bud or a Michelob.  Honestly, if all things were equal, I’d rather drink a 12 oz natively produced Carib.

I just find it funny Wayne and I discovered “the oldest US lager” in the Caribbean Virgin Islands, rather than the continental United States.  Travel is all about discovery, I’m just learning more than I expected in the Caribbean about food from home.

Cheers to that!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Pantry Moth Plague Continues

Ziplock bags are ineffective at keeping pantry months
out of their favorite foods, walnuts in this case.
 I tossed the bag and all its contents, pronto!

“Oh, it’s just a little moth.  What’s the big deal?” Wayne said, dismissively one eve. I muttered curses whilst the little f---ers adroitly vanished into the dim, murky  recesses of our cabin.  More disconcerting, they even sprang back from a good swat; anything short of a full body contact slam against a 100% solid surface was insufficient kill force.

Normally Wayne’s the worrier and I’m way too laissez faire.  But when it comes to something amiss in “my” galley… diamonds are more flexible.

I had the ominous sense these dimutive nervous flutters were not just passing through. 


See that icky webby stuff?  It’s pantry moth web sacks.  They’re
gone now and I’ll be regularly inspecting them to wipe
out further colonization.
Nearly every eve one or more wily wingers made their rounds; it was clear to me they’d made themselves at home without my permission.  I do not harbour unwelcome guests with grace.  I am decidedly not zen when it comes to all insects in my home except mosquito hawks, butterfies and a limited amount of ladybugs (I once experienced hundreds of ladybugs -- that was too much of a good thing).  Spiders, bees and wasps I trap under a glass, slide a paper underneath to secure them inside, then transport them outside and release.  All other household insects are subject to the death penalty unless their leave-taking is muy rapido.

I was beginning to consider bug bombing the boat, when my brilliant best friend Anna sprang to the rescue with errdication info over email.  Anna, whose housekeeping habits are in the Martha Stewart league, knew from firsthand experience exactly what these little buggers were – pantry moths.  In a few weeks – Anna won The Moth Battle.

“You really have to do a thorough cleaning...it is a pain,” Anna wrote.  Finding and jettisoning infested foods is also key.  They’re particularly fond of bread crumbs, nuts, flour, wheat products, corn products, some spices, some chocolates with nuts, Anna shared.  Any uninfested favorites need to be kept in very tightly sealed containers.  Freezing suspect food was an additional precaution.

Anna also deployed traps (http://www.cleanertoday.com/Moth-Traps-s/85.htm) with a pheromone scent to attracts then trap egg-laying females, which eventually eliminates reinfestation.

This moth debris –eggs -- is what I found under the plastic
aerating grate in my cupboard.  It’s gone now!
I thoroughly scoured all my cupboards, two of which were definitely infested. There was some plastic grating that made it easier for them to hide; they were dunked repeatedly in the bay (we’re in a very clean anchorage right now), then sprayed, then scrubbed.  I checked out every potential food source, and found more invaders.  I also killed two fleeing flutterers.  Sealed ziplock bags are no match for pantry moths.  I found them in a sealed ziplock bag of sugar, another sealed ziplock of my big stash of walnuts.  Bags still sealed, they were tossed without delay into our dinghy then taken to the marina’s dumpster.

I obliterated my supply of rubber-sealed storage containers. 

On a tip from Goldilocks cruiser Michael (click here for their blog), I also added bay laves to my flour containers for weevil prevention.

I could not deploy our shoebox-sized freezer as a precautionary cold-kill zone, as it’s just too small to accommodate any more than its already meager, crammed contents.  

My friend used these moth pantry traps
effectively, but they’re not available in
St. Thomas’ Home Depot.
Though Anna bought her tentlike pantry moth traps at Home Depot, St. Thomas’ Home Depot does not carry them.  I endured a rather awkward conversation trying to explain the product to one of their employees when I didn't see the product on their shelves.  I swear he thought I was trying to hit on him, as I babbled about how the product “attracted the females with pheneromes so they couldn’t lay their eggs.”  We’re not in St. Thomas long enough for me to count on being here if I mail order the lethal “tents,” so I will look again when we sail to Puerto Rico. 

Still, after two days of cupboard cleaning, I’m betting I’ve finally got those moths on the run.  If not, they will find, eventually, resistance is futile and fatal – even without a toxic bug bombing of our boat.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thank You Caribbean Craigslist!


Sold! 
Header for my Craigslist ad.  It worked!
In less than 24 hours, we were the happy recipient for a C-note in exchange for the inflatable kayak my husband regularly cursed.  Our buyer was thrilled to spare himself the $160 Sea Eagle wanted to charfge for shipping.

Don’t get me wrong – the kayak, a Sea Eagle 370 “Deluxe Package” was in very good shape and a nice kayak, too.  It’s just that 32 bulky pounds of an infrequently used kayak taking up space in a heavily used lazerette just didn’t make sense.

I wanted a kayak I could get to quickly, toss in the water with no preamble and go.  The Sea Eagle, which came with our boat, was a hassle to unearth and too big once inflated to leave that way anywhere in, on, or around our boat.

When I spotted a brand-new 1-person, plastic sit-on-it kayak with a paddle for $249, Wayne said, “Get rid of the inflatable and you can get it.”  We can secure it to our safety lines, which keeps out out of our lazerettes and is a good quick-release location.

Faster than you can say “Craigslist” I went for it.  Found Craiglist Virgin Islands.  Checked the competition and sales alternatives.  Looked up my kayak’s specs.  Converted all the metric data to imperial.  Posted the ad and…. Sold!

Now I just hope the kayak I want to buy will still be available when we go there and spring for a cab ride back.  We’re waiting until just before we depart St. Thomas to make the best use of a trip to Cost U Less to provision again before heading off the more expensive Bahamas.  Meanwhile, we still await the status of what we believe is the culprit to our dead diesel.

Even if the kayak that inspired my sale is gone, Wayne’s happy to bid the Sea Eagle bye-bye.  That alone was worth the sale.  Whenever and wherever I find its replacement is fine.  A used kayak would do, too. Maybe I’ll find one on Craigslist.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Final Brushstrokes – and -- RAIN!


This is what the cockpit teak looked like before we
prepped and Cetoled. 

“Nice overcast morning; perfect for varnishing [Cetol]”  Wayne said.  “Looking all around… no rain.  I’ll go for it!”

And so he did.  It took only an hour for him to lay down the 2nd the 3 prescribed coats on the teak in our cockpit.  We’d already removed the blistering varnish with a heat gun and sanding, attempted to even out the wood tone inconsistencies with teak brightener, sanded again, taped and laid the first coat the day before.  Just as the last strokes were laid, the rain began.

Arg!

Uh oh!  Here comes the rain!
Now there are plenty of purists out there who point out Cetol is not varnish.  It has an ornany-finish, one that compared to varnish even I find a bit muddy.

But… the slight mottling left by the rain on just applied Cetol disappeared with the 3rd coat, applied the next day.  It may not be as beautiful as varnish, but it sure is forgiving.

If we’re lucky and good on maintenance, even with the harsh Caribbean sun, we should be able to just do small spot and one annual all-over touch-up coat, and that’s it!  No sanding down to bare wood.  No teak brighters.  Just a little dab will do it.
See the water just beading up?  The just brushed on Cetol
still shone.

With all the other boat projects that crop up, we’re thrilled our brightwork is one annual chore that’s going to get easier.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Eating Chicken Feed: Pigeon Peas

Paid about $2 for these in Tortola.
They were great in curry!

We kept seeing canned pigeon peas in Caribbean supermarkets and I had no idea what they were, what they tasted like or what to do with them. 

Seeing them canned with coconut milk intriugued me further, figuring they’d be great in curry.  The checker in the Fat Hog Bay Tortola IGA said she used pigeon peas in curries and stews. Why not?

They were great in curry, very earthy tasting, almost nutty.

Then I got braver, and reconstituted the dry ones, then cooked them with sofrito – a tomato – bell pepper – onion sauce and rice.  Also good. 

Did a bit more research and came across this tasty-looking classis Puerto Rican dish:  Rice with Pigeon Peas - Arroz con Gandules (click here for recipe).  Once we finally escape St. Thomas, Puerto Rico is our next stop.  Sounds like a Puerto Rican Arroz con Gandules local food junket is in order!

I wondered, though, are pigeon peas healthy?  Yes!  High protein, excellent roughage and a good source of B vitamins (according to these guys … click here).  They’re also healthy for the environment; great at pumping nitrogen back into the soil.  Good livestock food, too.

Before coming the Caribbean, I’d never heard of pigeon peas, and I’m a bit of a foodie.  No, their relative obscurity was not part of my imagination.  “Although the pigeon pea is not well known in the United States, it remains one of the most popular bean crops in the world” notes “wisegeek.org.”

Beans? Peas? Whatever.  They’re good and deserve further exploration.  Give ‘em a try! 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Bare Facts: St. Thomas’ Secret Beach

Does this look like a beach entry welcome sign.  It’s what
we’ve come to expect.
Our Caribbean clothing optional beach survey continues….  

On St. Thomas, we’d heard Magen’s Bay fit the bill.  As the crow flies, or here, the pelican, it was just a few miles across the narrow part of the island from Charlotte Amalie.  However, in between was a shoulderless narrow mountain highway, not walker-friendly trails.

While Megan Bay is a popular beach, there are no taxi-bus routes going there. We caught a “Gypsy Cab” – unofficial cabby -- at the Kmart parking lot in Charlotte Amalie.  Cost?  $8 for each of us, and our cheapest option. 

But it still didn’t quite get us there.

Even though I blog about nude beaches with Wayne’s blessing, he didn’t want to tell the driver we were looking for the clothing optional beach.  We got dropped off at the main beach, and were unpleasantly surprised with an $8 entrance fee ($4 each for non-locals) to a broad but crowded “textile” public beach. 

The options? 
  1. Pay $8, and rock-hop along the shore.  Shorter, but less goat-like a hiker than Wayne, would’ve taken me a long time.  I'm a decent hiker but not the best rock-hopper.
  2. Give up.  
  3. Hike, blindly, in search of it.
We chose option #3.  We walked, and walked, and walked some more, up to and along a ridge road.  The couple of cars parked just outside a gate with a “No Trespassing” sign was our tip-off we'd arrived.  The entrance was about as friendly and obvious as St. Martin’s Happy Bay (click here to see that but no cows on the loose this time.  Past the No Trespassing sign, we bailed down a hillside trail; just took some faith to persevere and find that, too.

Still… we’ll take our chances on this typical pocket beach welcome any day over paying $8 for a crowded, swimsuits required beach.

Didn’t get a shot of the iguanas at the beach, but they
looked similar to these, in nearby Charlotte Amalie.
Not only did we not need to worry about the fit of our swimsuits, we were enterntained by the antics of several diving pelicans, and a couple good-sized iguanas.  One iguana was mounted atop another.  Were they mating or fighting?  Dunno. 

We also met some great, equally intrepid folks at the beach. 

Beautiful!  The not-quite-public pocket beach at Magen’s Bay.
No entry fee or swimsuits required.
One couple offered to make a trade for the night—they’d spend a night on our boat, we’d enjoy their landlubber shower and a night to ourselves in their king-sized bed.  Another gave us a lift to a place we could and did flag a taxi-bus, sparing us a rock-hop or long hill hike back.   We were grateful.  No way would we hike the shoulderless ridge highway between Magen Bay and Charlotte Amalie, with cars and taxi-busses careening along its sepentine spine.

Our take on Magen Bay’s unofficial beach? Tough to get to. Tough to find.  Tiny. Definitely worth it.  We’ll be back.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

“How’s the Food?”


Photo of Goya canned bean section taken in US Virgin Islands
chain grocery store, Pueblo in St. Thomas.  We’ve seen a
wide range of Goya products in nearly every large or small
grocer we’ve gone to from Antigua and North.

That’s what my brother, a cruiser-curious and far superior cook than me, asked. 

“Excellent,” I replied, immodestly.  “I do the cooking.”  We don’t eat out much; it’s how we can afford cruising.

Caribbean cuisers of yore complained about the inability to get decent food – or – I’m guessing – more of what they’re used to eating at home.  For us, exploring  new cuisine is part of the adventure and raison d’ĂȘtre for Galley Wench Tales’ moniker. 

Yet when my best friend Anna asked, “What’s surprised you most, cruising?” one of my answers was just how big a bread basket the United States is in the Caribbean.  The majority of the agriculture we’ve seen is from the US and Canada. Rattle off whatever non-perishable brands you see lots of on US grocery shelves -- like Kellog’s, Coke, Nestles -- you’ll most likely find them easily in Caribbean grocery stores, too.

Photo of Goya Spice section taken in US Virgin Islands chain
grocery store, Pueblo in St. Thomas.  
However, to keep our costs down, and to satisfy my culinary curiousity, we explore local products and new brands whenever it makes sense.  Most often, what makes sense is trying non-perishables and local produce.  Meat and poultry, thanks to salmonella and mad cow disease paranoia, we approach with much greater caution.

Ironically, the two most prevalent and affordable brands new to us here, Goya and Badia, originate out of the Unted States!

Goya (click here to learn more about them) was started in 1936 a small storefront in Lower Manhattan, New York.  Their niche is catering to local Hispanic families by distributing Spanish foods.  According to Goya, they’re “The largest, Hispanic-owned food company in the United States.”  The bulk of our cupboard is filled with Goya-branded food… all manner of beans, lentils, sauces, seasonings.
Photo of Goya Spice section taken in US Virgin Islands chain
grocery store, Pueblo in St. Thomas.  
Not as widely distributed
as Goya, Badia is still pretty easy to find, and
always affordable.
I like buying spices in very small quantities, in envelopes rather than bigger bottles.  It’s not only cheaper, it takes up less room.  Thus, we’ve come to appreciate Badia spices, which are often sold that way in the Caribbean. 

Badia is based of the Miami Florida area.  They were founded in 1960 and began by selling spices to small bodegas, or shops, in Miami. While still a family-run company, their international distribution is growing. Current CEO Pepe Badia said the secret to his company's success is a moderately priced product (click here to learn more about Badia). 

That works for me!

It is funny though… Travel to the Caribbean to explore new and exotic foods … and enjoy the culinary equivalent of meeting the boy next door.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

More Creepy Crawlers


Gopher-crazed Bill Murray in one of his less violent
moments in the movie "Caddyshack."
Remember Bill Murray as the crazed golf course groundskeeper on Caddyshack?  “Come here, little gopher!” he wheedled, attempting over-the-top, increasingly violent, unsuccessful capture attempts to rid the course of gophers (click here for a Caddyshack clip of it).  

I get it, even if we’ve gotten off fairly lightly.

To date, we’ve found the following unwelcome creepy crawler guests aboard, in order of appearance.



Product
Origin
Critter
Discovered When…
Bok Choy
Castries St. Lucia Farmer’s Market
Slug
Veggie bleachwater rinse, prior to bringing on board
Paprika
Not sure… (something international – Badia?)
Moth larvae (something webby)
After opening sealed bottle
Oatmeal
Regional off brand (Bought in Dominica)
Moth larvae (something webby and little larvae)
Before opening sealed package
Pancake Mix
Aunt Jemima (Bought in Tortola BVI)
Weevils
Before opening – box w/in ziplock bag
Crushed Red Pepper
Goya (international brand)
Moth larvae (something webby)
Previously opened bottle
Flaxseed Granola
Waitrose (international brand)
Moth larvae (something webby)
After opening – bag w/in ziplock bag

While the fast-moving pinhead-sized black weevils were the scariest, they were isolated and removed before they had a chance to make themselves at home and spread out.

The slug was the most beneign, kinda cute (click here for photo), definitely slow moving.  Technically didn’t quite make it aboard, as at the point, I was doing my product rinsing on the docks, before bringing anything aboard. 

Luckily this box was kept in a ziplock
before opening.  Who would expect
Aunt Jemima to be a carrier?
This package cost only 50
cents; easy come, easy go.
The most persistent are the moths (click here for blog post on their first appearance).  Finding them in oatmeal or granola, not that surprising.  But they’ve shown up iin bottles of paprika and crushed red pepper!  They taunt me, nearly every eve one or two, tiny little moths, fluttering around in our cabin, easily hiding in its evening dimness.  Slippery devils, they often survive repeated hits.  Wayne and I are sometimes successful, but they’re still around.

Eventually, we will bug bomb the boat.  How effective will it be for critters that apparently manage to worm their way into unopened packages and closed ziplock bags?  Dunno.

In any case, I’m keeping a sharp eye out for anything that doesn’t flow right that’s multihued when it’s supposed to be monochrome.  Bay leaves are now in or getting added to anything that’s flour-y, as rumor says they’re prone to weevils, but repelled by bay leaves.

Gives a whole new meaning to “watch what you eat.” Yeah, I’m a protein-craver, but am a bit more particular of the form it takes.

Friday, March 22, 2013

“Just Right!” Goldilocks’ Colleen & Michael


Michael and Colleen of Goldilocks in Charlotte Amalie,
St. Thomas.  Check out their blog -- www.svgoldilocks.com.

We’re sailing for the long haul, so we’re more likely to befriend cruisers like ourselves than charter boat renters.  With clear waters, warm weather, easy sailing and lots of anchorages, the Virgin Islands are one of the most popular charter bases in the world.  Amidst the crowds, we felt lonesome for our own kind.

Despite keeping in touch over email, I missed Lili and Tomas of Heron (click here and here to learn more about our time with them and click here for their blog) and Kim and Scott of Bella Blue.  We we spent several happy weeks socializing with, as our paths crossed, off and on.  Ultimately, we sailed off in opposite directions, wishing each other a fond farewell and hoping to someday meet again.

Enter Colleen and Michael, hiking along the ridge trail above The Bight on Norman Island, BVI (click here for some great Norman Island images).  With Goldilocks, their Shannon 38’ sailboat, they too sail an older “boaty boat” like ours, smaller than the usual sleek 40+ foot cruising boat far more prevalent in the Caribbean. These are boats whose forte is not speed, but sturdiness; they’re built to withstand rough storms in the open ocean.  They are more like homes, not hotels, with lots of storage. 

Colleen plays Vanna White with her
favorite Rigid tool (for sanding). 
Blissfully, Colleen and Michael are also as frugal as we are, more likely to point out free WiFi hotspots and awesome happy hour drink deals, as opposed to their favorite $50/plate retaurant.  We enjoyed compartive rum tastings (yummy – tried their Cruzan, Pussers and Kracken), glugged Michael’s grog, loved Colleen’s Bushwackers and tried Trellis Bay’s No See Ums on their recommendation (click here to learn about No See Ums).  We shared breakfast and several dinners.

Together watched the flames lick the fire sculptures at Trellis Bay’s Full Moon party (click here and here for more about the Full Moon Party), and Colleen and I lusted after some of the same fabulous pottery pieces at Aragorn’s Studio (click here for the Aragon Studio website).   We’ve already dipped into the 100 or so movies we downloaded from Michaels 3 terabyte cache.

Like Luke Skywalker seeking Obiwan’s wisdom on the wonders and ways of Cetol and varnish, we worshipped Colleen’s refinishing prowess… we were If do do half as well as Colleen on our refinishing, we’ll be thrilled.   Colleen admitted she spied on us with her binocs... to see if we started our Cetoling….

Michael helped us with quite a few repairs – look for a future blog on that. 

Someday, Colleen’s iMovie turoring will result in some video posts; hers on their Goldilocks blog are an inspiration (click here to see them on her blog)

One of Michael’s many how-to sailing resources.
Watch for a future blog on how he put this book
to work for us on Journey. 
Best of all, Michael & Colleen are wickedly funny.  Who else would introduce us to Flight of the Concorde’s “Businesstime”?  Richard Cheese’s snicker-worthy song spoofs?  Or Hunger Games on BadLipReading.com?  Stuff so good that what we sent their way is too irreverent to mention, but we know they’ll love it. I nearly wet my pants laughing when Michael described how he was taught to extract a conch, sucking it from its shell (Lambi fellatio?” Colleen asked).  We decided the lambi would die, but die very, very happy.  Poor Michael; he wasn’t trying to be funny!

I asked Colleen about their boat’s name.  “We looked at a lot of boats.  When we found her, she was ‘just right,’ just like Golidlocks.”  Great name.  It fits the boat, and Michael and Colleen.

We’ve set sail opposite directions, but on similar paths.  Fair winds and good times to our “just right” friends from The Virgins.