Monday, January 28, 2013

Girls’ Day Out

The girls at lunch in Philipsburg, St. Marteen, midway through
our shopping jaunt.  Clockwise:  Alice Kilgo, me, Jan.
Photo courtesy of Alice Kilgo
Ocean Star.  Alice blogs her
adventures at
“My husband would go nuts after 15 minutes of this,” Jan of Wild Thing said.  “Wow,” I countered.  “Wayne is allergic to shopping.  He’d be climbing the walls within 3 minutes.”

Alice, our ringleader and guide from Ocean Star, apparently is less afflicted; she just smiled.  Steve, her partner, provided dinghy ferry service for us.

We spent the day in Philipsburg, St. Marteen, the Dutch side duty free Mecca for cruise ships and beyond.  Everything from the $10 dollar store to 10 million dollar diamond rings (okay, I don’t know how much is the high end, but the area is chockablock full of both designers stores and high end jewelry) are available, tax free and competitively priced.

Lunch: an ample serving of delicious goat stew and sides
from the BBQ joint along the waterfront cruise ship promenade.
That, and a Red Stripe Jamaican beer (my new favorite Caribbean
beer) and a generous tip to our excellent waitress ran
a reasonable $15 USD.
Our mission?  Lots of girl stuff.  Barrettes.  Hair ties.  A white sundress.  Scoping out pressure cookers.  A discontinued Channel concealer.  Athletic tank top.  Whatever cool jewelry freebies we could pick up that were readily available (aquamarine necklace and a black sapphire today).  Sheets.  Gossip.  Getting to know each other.  Sharing a variety of tips on how to find bargains, make life easier and more enjoyable.

“You can tell your husband how much you saved, shopping here” Jan said.

“Nope,” I countered. “He doesn’t fall for that.  He’ll want to know not what I saved but what I spent.  Hmmm.  Hair stuff.  Bracelets.  Lunch.  Sundress – he’ll like that, at least.  That’s about $80; $30 over our average targeted daily allowance for the two of us.  I could’ve done a lot worse.”

He did like the white sundress.  So do I.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Inedible. Confessions of a Culinary Failure

This is the face Wayne wanted to make when
he ate my rubbery, gluey calamari picatta.
Capers. Olive oil.  Lemon juice. Vermouth.  Calamari (aka squid). What could be bad about that?

Sometimes I follow a recipe.  Sometimes my cooking starts with a recipe, and I improvise from there. Sometimes I wing it – especially if there’s some base ingredients or condiments to use up.  Usually the result is pretty good.  Once in while, though….

In the case of “calamari picatta,” I followed a recipe.  I love chicken picatta but my calamari cooking experience is limited.  My mistake was too wet calamari, which sat too long in a flour dredge.  And, possibly, the quality of the previously frozen calamari and our freezer capability, where the calamari spent a couple weeks, further contributed to the recipe’s demise.  The result?  A rubbery, gluey, disgusting substance, not remotely picatta-like.

Gamely, Wayne played the dutiful husband and attempted to eat it, and he doesn’t even care much for most seafood.  What can I say?  My husband loves me.  But he sighed audibly with relief when after a few bites I admitted, “I can’t eat this,” and pushed it away.  “Whew!  I thought it was just me,” he said.

We couldn’t eat it.  We didn’t eat it.  But somewhere in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, we’re betting we made some crabs very happy when my culinary disaster went overboard.  At least it came from our plates, instead of our gullets.

Note:  This is a flashback to when we were in St. Lucia; four months ago.  We are currently in St. Barts and happily have not needed to throw out a meal since, unless it was buried in the fridge too long.  Though I will admit to stubbornly choking down some of my less than stellar culinary creations since then.  Yes, even "Galley Wenches" have bad cooking days.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ouch! Stung!

This is a little bit what the little bugger that stung me looked like.
Photo courtesy of
Most folks know wasps find BBQs as mouthwatering as us homo sapiens.  Walking along Grande Case’s beach BBQ cafes, I would’ve expected to be more likely to fight a wasp for a bit of BBQ, not a piece of my arm, especially since I was just passing through, not eating anything. 

Given that, when I felt a sudden sting, it caught me by complete surprise to find myself brushing a wasp off my wrist. I was even more surprised to find a good-sized stinger left behind, still sticking out of my wrist.  Wayne quickly removed the stinger.

Day 2 wasp sting symptoms:  Swollen hand.
Note the difference between my left (normal)
hand and right (stung) hand.
The sting… stung, and felt a bit sensitive, like a bruise.  However, as I’m not overly allergic, I did my best to block the irritation from my attention. I did maintain just enough awareness of it to make sure I wasn’t experiencing any severe allergic reactions that would require prompt medical attention, or the retrieval and use of an epi pen, which was on our boat, nearby.

Wayne and I proceeded with our hike to a local beach, where we hung out for a while, swam, and hiked back.  It was a warm day; we probably hiked about 4 miles round trip. 

Several hours later, back at our boat, my wrist still felt irritated; I put a topical for insect bite on it, repeatedly, through the eve as the itching kept me awake.  In the morning, the sting was still irritating.  My hand began swelling.  I took an antihistamine and repeated the topical salve.

This is still Day 2.  Note the difference between my left
(normal)arm and right (stung) arm.  See the bulge?  By
Day 3,my right arm was swollen not just a third of the
way to my elbow, but all the way to my elbow.
If I had medical insurance, at that stage, I probably would have sought medical care.  Without it, I chose to watch for other symptoms and wait.  As the day progressed, my hand swelled more, as did my arm, but still no other symptoms, such as headaches, loss of energy, weakness, body temperature changes.  If we had ice, I would have used it; taking ocean swims and placing cool liquid containers helped, but not enough.  By the third day, my arm swelled to my elbow, but still no other symptoms.  I purchased a better antihistamine and the pharmacist recommended a compress solution.  
This is the poultice solution the
pharmacist recommended.  It was
not difficult to figure out how to use it
despite French instructions at the
pharmacy and on the packaging and
labeling.  It was stinky, but did
a great job!

The compress felt really good, and over the next two days, the swelling receded almost completely in my hand, wrist and arm. It took over 5 days from the sting for my arm to return to normal. 

Bottom line:  watch out for those wasps!  If stung, if your symptoms and personal allergy history aren’t severe enough to require medical attention, at the very least, consult with a pharmacist as soon as possible. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How to Apologize with Aplomb

Breaking bread together is a good way to conclude an apology.
The recipie from this “no knead” bread came from our
close friends Ron and Tricia Bergman.  You can follow
their international travel adventures on their insightful and
well-written blog, by clicking here.

In case you ever hit our boat (click here to read about that) or commit some equally lame offense to me or another boater, consider following these 10 scripted steps to issue an appropriate apology.  In a nutshell, it’s about taking ownership for your role, and making appropriate amends.

  1. Are you okay?
  2. Is your boat okay?
  3. I really blew it.  I shouldn’t have… (admit what you did wrong).
  4. I can understand if you’re upset.
  5. I’m really sorry.
  6. In the future I will… (explain what you will do to avoid this in the future).
  7. Can I fix or pay to repair or replace what I broke?  And, or, if no harm was done, a goodwill token – offer something small and thoughtful, like a hot cup of coffee on a cold day, or cold beer on a hot one.  Note:  if there’s no physical damage, this step is not necessary, but for those willing to go the extra mile, it is genuinely appreciated, even when it’s not accepted by the injured party.
  8. Again, I’m really sorry.
  9. Thank you for your understanding and forgiveness.
  10. I’ll be much more careful in the future and will (repeat what you will do to avoid this in the future).

Good friends Nancy and Larry of Jacari Maru.
Our initial contact came about because Iwas in
 a boat Larry believed anchored too close
 to his.  We were several boat lengths away, but
within swing range (For non-boaties, that’s
if the total rope length from each boat’s anchor
stretched out in opposing directions, a collision
could happen.  Usually most boats swing in
parallel, not opposition, but not always.  Also,
sometimes anchors dislodge, or “drag,”
which can also lead to a collision).  We did not
collide, but “broke bread” together.
Executed correctly, it’s possible to not only right the wrong, but spread good cheer and even become the start of a friendship.  Trust me, it’s happened, to me, and among my former mediation clients.  More often than not, it’s not money that’s the issue*, but understanding, empathy and a positive path forward.

None of us are perfect.  Mistakes are inevitable. When we learn from our mistakes, and move on with grace, we can make the world a better place.

*If money is truly the issue, while behaving with dignity will not likely change the outcome, it is still worthwhile simply for your own self-respect.  Click here for a heartening example of change in the medical profession.

Head Boats: The Good, The Bad & “Quality Time”

Head Boat “Quality Time” at Happy Bay, St. Martin, as seen
from the cockpit of out boat.  At this point, the majority of their
passengers had already left their boat, but before Quality Time
hit our boat! As Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson wryly quips,
“Objects… may be closer than they appear.”  They were.

If you’ve ever been a fan of Clint Eastwood movies, or spaghetti westerns, you’ve heard of “The Good, TheBad & The Ugly.”   Similarly, among “head boats” there is The Good, The Bad and “Quality Time.”

What is a “Head Boat”? 
A little explanation.… Cruising friends Scott and Kim Dickens of Bella Blue introduced us to the “head boat” term  

Among the recreational boats we encounter these days, there are
  • Locals:  they have a “home base” where they spend most of their time and typically don’t venture too far from there
  • Charter boats:  are rental boats booked through a charter company, rented generally for the day or longer, but usually less than a month, sometimes with a crew to “drive,” cook, etc. or, more commonly as a “bare boat” where the renters, whether they know how to handle boats or not, act as captain and crew.
  • Cruisers: much like a motor home, cruisers “live” on the boat and it’s also their primary mode of travel – we (Wayne & Dana aka “Galley Wench Tales) are cruisers
  • Head boats” are predominantly in popular tourist areas, usually large catamarans with a professional captain and crew who provide tours most likely booked through cruise liners, following a predetermined route, with rigid departure and return times.  Because they’re usually carrying 40 or more passengers, you see lots of heads on them; hence the “head boat” moniker.

The Good
This is where I went with Snorkel Bob in Maui.
Awesome trip, competently run.
Good head boats, in my opinion, provide their passengers a positive, enlightening experience.  At the very least, they do it safely, smoothly and are minimally invasive to the environment, flora and fauna, including any homo sapiens in the area.  Snorkel Bobs, in Maui, for example, does a great job taking snorkelers and divers to Molokini.  We arrived, without fanfare, before anyone else was there, and we beat a hasty exit as the other hordes of boats descended upon the same spot. The snorkeling visibility was a phenomenal110 feet, in a reef rich with vibrant and varied life where we looked but did not touch… coral, a dense multitude of colorful tropical fish, moray eels…. We arrived and returned without incident.  It was 15 years ago and I still recall it clearly.

Our headboat crew, feeling no pain, fully anesthetized
as they did indeed heartily inhale their herbal campfire.
The Bad
While we got a killer deal and enjoyed a fabulous sunset cruise on a catamaran head boat in St. Lucia (click here for more about that), the crew was clearly content to kick off the sail, stoned.  Before we left the dock, they smilingly lit up some serious spliffs, the size of big, fat Cuban cigars.  The herbal campfire scent, unmistakable.  About midway through the cruise, the boat’s steering failed, though the crew fixed it within a half hour.  The sails never came up, though we’ve since noticed on most head boats, regardless of whether sailing conditions are perfect or not, they almost always strictly motor.  Typical of most head boats we’ve encountered, anyone within a mile of us had little choice but to hear our boat’s music, whether they liked it or not.

Quality Time, anchored a more reasonable distance
from us in Grande Case.
Quality Time
New Year’s Day, we were startled when head boat Quality Time whipped past us, with its 40 or so passengers, many curiously staring down into our cockpit from only 15 feet away.  Suffice to say, we were not suitably dressed at the time (use your imagination).  Less than a boat length from us, Quality Time dropped anchor.  We did our best pantomime of head shaking and casting dirty looks about Quality Time’s overly close proximity.  About 10 minutes later, Quality Time drifted, hitting us.  Specifically, their bow sprit punched the GPS antennae on our boat, dislodging it. Understandably, I believe, I loudly expressed my extreme displeasure with a number of three finger salutes and using the words "f---ing incompetence!" repeatedly.

To their credit, the first mate, and later, the captain came by to apologize and ask if any harm was done.  As Wayne was able to re-attach our antennae. Our issue was less about damage and more about the invasion -- being hit by a 40-passenger boat whose captain should know better than unnecessarily anchoring too close to another boat.  However, excuses of “I just do what the captain says” and “Not wanting to inconvenience their passengers” sandwiching their half-hearted apology just didn’t cut it for me.  (Click here to read How toApologize with Aplomb.)

Still pissed off, and not much of one for undirected anger, I emailed their booking company, who I discovered through some online sleuthing. Again, to their credit, they responded within a few hours of my email.  “The Captain … has been with us for some 4 years and we have not had complaint or observed impolite operations previously.  I called the captain and he admits he ended up closer to your vessel than was prudent. He explained the eddies and a wind shift caught him unawares, resulting in the contact with your vessel.  He assures me he will endeavor to keep a better distance in future.”

If anyone neglected their deoderant that morning, everyone
in this dinghy would be painfully aware.
A week and a half later, exiting our boat cabin in Grande Case (not far from Happy Bay), guess who we saw newly anchored next door?  Quality Time!  This time they anchored a good 3+ boat lengths away. Whilst they ferried their passengers to shore, we did wonder what about their maximum dinghy weight capacity.   They carried 10-12 folks at a go.  Our small dinghy’s maximum weight including the motor, is 750 pounds, or about non-overweight 4 adults. Even with only the two of us, and we’re not that heavy, it’s painfully slow.  Quality Time’s dinghy was a little larger, though certainly less than twice ours’ size.  Dinghy overloading is not something unique to Quality Time.  Remember the (lack of) life boats on the Titanic?  Fortunately, there are no icebergs here.

Scott and Kim Dickens, cruisers
on the sailboat Bella Blue who
introduced us to the term,
“head boat.”
There you have it – the Good, the Bad and “Quality Time” head boats.  As for me, I’m just very happy we now can travel where we want via our own boat, a captained by the man I trust with my life.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Worth A Puke

Perhaps the most magnificent sunset we’ve seen
on this trip.  It was certainly from the most beautiful spot
we’ve seen so far, Low Bay, Barbuda
 “You will find a wealth of anchorages… Unusual… and they stay this way because they are difficult to navigate, and only those proficient in reading the water colors are going to feel comfortable… sailing over to Barbuda.” –The Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands by Chris Doyle.

Yet, our cruising friends who explored Barbuda reminisced dreamily about its pristine beaches.  “They’re the most beautiful we’ve seen… and you may well be the only boat anchored there.”  In fact, one of Barbuda’s few exports is… its sand.  (click here to learn a bit more about Codrington, Barbuda)

A bit nervously, we tackled the sail, in a weather window that was supposed to be relatively light winds and calm seas.  Emphasis on supposed to be.  We spent a tense half hour or so, carefully picking our way through the very shallow, rocky area separating Antigua’s relatively placid Nonsuch Bay and the deeper waters beyond it, which eventually led to Barbuda.  Then we jostled through the bumpy ride, spurred by 20+ knot winds and 10-foot seas, that while not huge, hit our hull at a rough, rolly angle.

My stomach did not like it, and doing a few tasks in the strewn and lurching space below deck several times was most unwise.   I foolishly keep thinking it’s possible to just talk myself out of seasickness, though it’s worked sometimes.  This was not one of those times. It’s started with the “Are you okay?” shortly followed with “Noooooooo.” In one of my less proud moments, I was not quite able to neatly eject my stomach’s displeasure off the side of the boat.  My mind was taunted by the wry childhood ditty, “Hasten, Jason, bring the basin.  Whoops, too late.  Bring the mop.” Eventually, the Dramamine, taken probably a bit too late, knocked me out until the seas calmed, as we approached Barbuda.  I felt doubly bad for the extra burden my inability to help put on Wayne, who was reluctant to go to Barbuda, and went only because he knew I really wanted to.  Worse still, this was one of our longer day sails, nearly 30 miles and it took us 8 hours, anchor-to-anchor, from our 6:45 am start.  We saw only one boat, a power catamaran, the entire sail.

The last time I got that sick was catching some extreme conditions in the San Juan Islands (click here to learn more about that), and was snapped back to normalcy when we stumbled upon a pod of killer whales.  Barbuda’s calm and almost surreal beauty delivered an equally effective cure.

Looking across the water from the beach
at Coco Point, Barbuda.
We picked our way through the crystal-clear shallow turquoise water, skillfully avoiding the dark spots lest they make a close and unpleasant encounter with our boat’s hull.  We are fortunate the Pearson boasts a shallow, 4 ½ foot draft (for non-boaties, draft is how low the boat protrudes below the waterline and 4 ½ for a super-stable, full-keeled sailboat is pretty good -- most sailboats stick down much further – so we can get into much shallower areas, safely). 

Palapas on the beach at Coco Point, viewed from our boat.
Did we mention deserted?  If you look closely, you can see
our boat, Journey, in the background to the left of the
first palapa roof
We anchored, alone at Coco Point, an 8-or-so-mile stretch of powdery soft sand beach, across from a posh, completely deserted resort.  We were, quite simply, mesmerized by the beauty of the beach and the water, gazing out from our boat, and walking along the beach.  It was so amazing, we still felt it difficult to grasp that we were there, and able to experience and fully enjoy it.  You get the idea.
Notice the wet portion of the sand is pink? Ground coral
casts a pink glow on the sands at water from waves recede.
We then sailed to Barbuda’s Low Bay, anchoring near the supposedly yachtee-friendly Lighthouse resort, where we’d also heard WiFi was open.  The two other sailboats along that stretch also clustered in the report area.  Low Beach was part of an unbroken 11-mile stretch of pink sand beach.  Ground coral turned the sands pink as waved receded back into the ocean.  These beaches were also composed of powdery soft sand.  Out feet sunk deep in the soft sand.

Nice, but we’re not sure this Lighthouse dining view is worth
paying $19 USD for a beer.  It sure wasn’t in our budget
and thus far is at least double what we’ve seen charged
from even the most expensive places we’ve traveled thus far
in the Caribbean
Lighthouse’s $19 beers and $130 lamb dinners were way out of our pocketbook range.  No one was there, serving (or eating or drinking) that we saw.  Their  internet was not working (“server down”) and the manager said when it did come up, it was locked, “for guests only” and was unwilling to share the password for it, even if we paid for it.  We would not call that yachtee friendly.
his is Barbuda’s Codrington Lagoon; it’s the simplest cruiser
access to Barbuda’s only town.  We easily landed our dinghy and
dragged it across the ~ 1/8 mile of sand between Low Bay and the
lagoon. We’re betting this was blowing at about 30 knots.
Two to three miles of that in a dinghy was more than
we felt it was wise to tackle, even if we were out of bread and
Codrington was the only place on the island we could
buy it.  It did get me started baking bread on the boat though,
especially now since the weather cooled enough that using the
oven was no longer an action to consider as a last resort, such
as cooking a Thanksgiving turkey (and we have no BBQ).

We were still smarting from the cost of spending $1,300 USD in Guadaloupe to replace the majority of our standing rigging (click here to learn more about that) and $3,500 for a new dinghy and motor for it (click here to learn more about that).  We toyed with bucking up and paying the $100 US for a water taxi to Codrington and the guided frigate bird tour; but were too hesitant to loosen our purse strings.  Outside the Galapagos Islands, Barbuda offers the best place to learn firsthand about frigate birds, aggressive muscular feathered creatures with up to a 5’ wingspan, observe their extravagant mating rituals and see their nesting grounds and newborn chicks. 
Note the fine, powdery sand sticking to Wayne’s feet?
We wimped out on the water taxi and Frigate Bird tour, and visiting Codrington, known for its unique and affordable native food.  Instead, we enjoyed a long walk along Low Bay’s long luxurious, unbroken shore, where we did indeed see the sands turn pink.  As clouds passed, we watched a gorgeous gradation of beautiful blues wash across the clear water.

We were on Barbuda 3 days.  When the winds became sufficiently manageable to sail back to Falmouth Antigua, where we needed to pick up the autopilot Wayne bought via an online special (and was still cheap enough that it was worth paying an Antiguan broker to retrieve), we left.   We left changed, forever touched the “Oh my God, I cannot believe we are actually here in a place this gorgeous,” spiritual experience of Barbuda’s stunning beauty.

My friend Lili (click here to check out her excellent blog), who regularly sails to Barbuda with her husband Tomaz, just says, coyly, knowing we currently have not plans to double back, “That just means you’ll see it when you go back.”  We’re thinking about it, Lili, and maybe sooner rather than later.

Wayne Wears Fleece

Bare-footed Wayne checking out
Mike and Rebecca's
met at a Cruiser's shindig at Barnacles in 
Simpson's Lagoon, St. Martin and can attest
it certainly looks like they practice what they
preach -- boat fitness.  Very pleasant couple, and
in fabulous shape.
Yesterday was a major milestone -- January 13th and Wayne broke out his fleece jacket.  From the waist down, however, he still sported just
boxers.  "The fleece?  I only wore it just for an hour," Wayne points out.

The weather blogs claim it was in the low 70s.  We have no thermometer of our own -- it's on our long list of thing to rectify, though we're betting that doesn't account wind chill.  Sure, I broke out my fleece a week ago, but anyone who knows me, knows I'm a total wimp when it comes to what defines cool weather.

Do we have the temperature correct?  Is it wind chill?  Or has our blood just gotten way too used to 80 degree plus temps?

Dunno.  But it's amazing how much a cup of coffee, some hot porridge and looking at snow pictures back in the States can warm us up in a hurry.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Banana Ketchup?

Yes, there is such a thing as banana ketchup,
and it is yellow.

Tight seams prompted the need to seek some viable alternatives to the ever-tempting and overly available devilishly delicious and terribly fattening French salami.  Inspired by the squeaky clean and relatively affordable Le Gourmet Marche supermarket in Dutch St. Maarten, it seemed trustworthy enough to (overcome my lurking fear of E. coli from untrustworthy hamburger sources) buy lean Angus ground sirloin to make home-made meatloaf.

Far from the fatty diner-style meatloaf, mine is uses  ground sirloin and chock full of savory stuff… green olives with pimentos, capers, sautéed onion and garlic, herbs du Provence, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Parmesan cheese, sometimes mushrooms…. It’s lean enough I have to float a little olive oil so it doesn’t dry out in the oven.  Then it takes a turkey baster after it’s cooked to remove the extra veggie liquid the seeps out.

Banana Santa street art in
Grande Case, St. Martin.  Bananas are
cheap and plentiful here in the Caribbean.
We even had home-made herb bread with kalamata (recipe from Kay Pastorius’ “Cruising Cuisine” cookbook – a gift from fellow cruiser friend Lili Pelko of Heron) and green olives (ran out of kalamata) for meatloaf sammy makings. 

What was missing from this classic all-American lunch?  Ketchup.  Garrison Keillor (click here for a Keillor ketchup NPR audio clip) would be aghast! 

In my effort to embrace local Caribbean cuisine, I did buy some… banana ketchup.  It sat, unopened for the last two months.  I was timid, Wayne was kind of grossed out at the concept.  And it’s yellow, though due far more to yellow dye #5.

So, for the sake of using what we had on board, we tried it.  It tasted a lot like… uhhh… drum roll please… ketchup.  Maybe a bit more spicy, cinnamon and / or maybe nutmeg – the ingredient list doesn’t specify what the “spices” are.

Garrison, whatdya think?  Spoofable in a future NPR episode?  It would fly even less with Prairie Home Companion Midwestern Lutherans than Palm Springs, much less the Caribbean.