Friday, March 26, 2010

I blame it on the Cracked Conch, Key Lime Pie and Rum Punch

There can definitely be too much of a good thing…I don’t know about you, but I go through periods where I think I can eat anything I want and I won’t gain a pound, and then I suddenly wake up one day to discover that I seem to have put on 10 pounds overnight and my clothes don’t fit…well, thanks to Vernon’s homemade bread and Key Lime Pie, not to mention a rum punch here and there, I have once again come to that realization. So, it is back to good eating and exercise…and, speaking of good eating and exercise, that is what we have been doing for the last few days.

The day after Lynn returned safely from his boat delivery mission, we decided to take advantage of a predicted string of good weather days (three in a row, which is long for this winter) and head south to Lynyard Cay, one of our favorite anchorages. It is relatively secluded and offers a lovely place to hang out without lots of other boats around. Chuck came along in his own boat. We had to wait till high tide to get out of Hope Town and arrived at our destination late in the day where we finally met up with Kathi and John on Makani.

I’ll start out with the eating…we dropped the hook, got organized and then had everyone over for dinner on Coyote…and what a meal! It was all conch, starting with delicious conch chowder that I made using a recipe from my latest addition of Coastal Living that just happened to be featuring conch and lobster recipes. John made fabulous conch Polynesian with a twist and I liked it better than my own…MMMMM…so yummy. The following night we gathered again and made a meal of lobster tails with basil butter sauce as appetizers (using lobster caught by Makani and another recipe from Coastal Living) followed by pork tenderloin, fried rice and a salad of hearts of palm. In between dinners we breakfasted on pancakes and had lunches picnicking on shore and at Pete’s Pub in Little Harbour (including the requisite rum blasters). As an aside from eating, in keeping with tradition we all signed a t-shirt (generously donated by Lynn) and left it on the wall of the bar so we will live on in Pete’s Pub posterity. I guess with all of this eating I shouldn’t be surprised by the expansion of my waistline!

Now for the exercise…early on our first day at Lynyard, John and Kathi guided us out the Little Harbour inlet to snorkel on a reef they discovered on the Atlantic Ocean side…it was spectacular. We were treated to incredible coral formations and lots of fish. John spotted a shark and Kathi saw two turtles. I was my usual wildlife-loser self and did not see either species, but was delighted just the same. After getting our fill of the reef, we hopped back in our dingys and headed to conch and lobster territory. By the way, hopping in a dingy is not as easy as it sounds, at least not for me due to my lack of upper body strength…which brings me back to not enough exercising, remember? Boarding a dingy from the water involves me attempting to pull myself up while frantically kicking my flippers and with Lynn pulling on my arms or any part of me that he can grab. There is definitely nothing graceful about it as I grunt and groan and try to get a leg up.

Anyway, back to hunting. We all got back in the water and spent about an hour looking for conch and lobster but were unfortunately skunked. It was then on to another conch hot spot where we did find about six (more conch chowder for us!). Later that afternoon Kathi took me back to look for lobster because it was high tide and she thought we might have more luck, which we did, in a way. First I have to tell you that lobster hunting is not so easy…actually, it’s the lobster finding that is particularly hard, at least for a novice like me. They hide under rocky crevices. Well, they think they are hiding. It is pretty funny because they back themselves in and leave there antennae hanging out rather conspicuously. So, those practiced in spotting these long black things can usually find them fairly easily. As I have mentioned before, my powers of observation are not very strong so I don’t find them so easily. A few times I thought I had a bead on one but it turned out to be just leaves. Anyway, I did finally find and spear my first lobster, but it turned out to be a juvenile and under the size limit. We left him there still alive, but maybe injured, which made me feel bad. I don’t think lobster hunting is for me…I think I’ll just stick to lobster eating.

Before heading back to Hope Town we made an expedition to the beach on the Atlantic side of the island in search of the elusive sea glass. It is becoming more and more difficult to find since lots of people are collecting it and glass bottles are not used as much. It is easier to find beach plastic now, but it is not nearly as pretty. Since Lynn and I have poor memories, we went to the wrong spot to begin with…after hiking along a path all we found was a jagged shore of volcanic rock. It looks cool but is quite hazardous to walk on as it is all sharp shards of rock jutting up…one tumble would cause serious damage. It was then that I remembered the path was actually on the south end of the island. We finally found the beach and spent a while looking for sea glass trophies. We weren’t completely skunked, but our booty was disappointing. Oh well, we’ll keep looking.

All in all it is the most exercise I have had since arriving here. Later that day, in a little floatilla of our three boats, we made the two-hour journey back to Hope Town, our home away from home. I have found that I enjoy the adventure of moving about to discover nice anchorages but I also find comfort in being in a familiar place that I love. Most of all I like experiencing new things and having fun with great people, both of which I got plenty of on our latest little expedition.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Hershfeld Clan Comes to Visit and Dingy Driving for Dummies!

After Jami and Steve left we returned to our routine, which has ended up being an early start of coffee and listening to the cruisers net, spending the day doing something like working on the boat or roaming the beach, then usually having Chuck, our friend from Havre de Grace who is single-handing on Driven, over for dominoes, dinner and Battlestar Galactica (to which we have all become addicted.) A few evenings we have had friends over for cocktails or been invited to visit other boats. We have mostly hung around Hope Town for 2 reasons…we like it here and the weather hasn’t been very good for anchoring elsewhere.

We did make a hop over to Marsh Harbor for a few nights to get re-provisioned in anticipation of the arrival of Lynn’s son’s family, Jeff and Kim and their daughters Kaylee and Caroline. While there, we met up with several of our cruising buddies, including Mark and Willie on Liahona, and Jerry and Laurie on Free Spirit. We also finally reconnected with Kathi and John on Makani; we traveled here as buddy boats but have seen little of them since arriving in the Bahamas. We had a few euchre grudge matches and enjoyed an excellent homemade pizza dinner, Makani’s specialty! Although Kathi may kill me, I have to tell you about her unexpected swim. After playing cards until quite late one night (past midnight, which is definitely a record), Kathi and John left to head out to their boat that was anchored out in the harbour. We were docked at a marina and Coyote was tied to one pier and their dingy was tied to the next pier over. It was very dark and Kathi was apparently gauging the length of the pier she was on by the length of the pier we were on, which was unfortunately longer. Consequently, she walked right off the end and plunged six feet down into the water. She quickly scrambled back into the dingy; unhurt except for the shock…it was a chilly, windy night! Being an avid diver and snorkeler, Kathi had declared earlier in the evening that she would go crazy if she didn’t get wet soon…well, that happened much sooner than expected!

So, after a few quiet weeks, Jeff and his clan arrived and we had a great time! Lynn had worried for 2 months about the weather and it turned out just fine. Once again we rented a skiff and were able to easily travel to all the best spots. I was the daytime activities coordinator and I must say that I planned the week perfectly, taking the weather and guest desires into consideration. The first day we made the obligatory stop at Nippers on Great Guana Cay then on the Treasure Cay to hang out at the beautiful beach. The following day included a trip to Sandy Cay for some snorkeling and then on to Little Harbour for lunch at Pete’s Pub. We then had two excellent days touring Hope Town and Elbow Cay and enjoying more beaching. One morning we recruited Chuck to help us take the gang out conch hunting. We used our foolproof technique of pulling Kaylee, Caroline and me behind the two dingys and quickly found 12 legal-size conchs. When Kaylee and Caroline finally came up for air they both declared it was the best thing they had done yet! It was then back to the boat to clean the conch for dinner. Chuck and I grossed out the group by eating the pistil and all helped to peel and pound the meat. After three days of touring, Jeff decided his favorite town was Hope Town, his favorite marina was the Treasure Cay Marina and his favorite drinking establishment was Pete’s pub (where all but Lynn and Caroline may have had one too many of the house rum punches!). Caroline was the evening activities coordinator and expertly determined the after dinner entertainment, such as games (Apples to Apples and trivia) and movies (Captain Ron…what else!) We even danced for a while on the boat one night…feed the chickens, girls!! We continued to eat yummy meals of lunches out (treated again by our guests) and dinners of conch, crab and lobster on the boat…the lobsters were the biggest I have ever eaten. Jeff felt confident he could polish off two tails, but conceded defeat after just one! Oh well, the remains became Lobster Newburg for Lynn, Chuck and me. Sadly their visit ended much too soon and we are again feeling lonely on the boat.

We have now fallen back into our routine, except for Lynn and Chuck’s big adventure. Chuck is a Captain and was asked by a local friend of his to deliver a boat for his boss from Florida to Scotland Cay here in the Abacos. He invited Lynn to go along. This involved being picked up in the boat-owner’s private plane and flown back to Miami. There they picked up the 36-foot Hinkley picnic boat…for those of you who are not involved in the boating scene, a Hinkley is a very expensive make and this one, designed for day trips on the water (like picnics), is worth several hundred thousand dollars. They departed the next morning at 3 AM to bring the boat back across the Gulf Stream and arrived home around 6 PM. It was an unusual experience and definitely a glimpse at how the other half lives!

I stayed behind to watch over the boats and quite enjoyed spending two quiet days on my own with just a few mini adventures, which brings me to dingy driving for dummies. Although I have been practicing this year so I would not be dependent on Lynn to get off the boat, I still have to master the finer art of dingy driving. I have been known to take no less than three tries to pull up to the back of the boat on a windy day. I have always had trouble starting the motor, so not surprisingly my first attempt after they had left was unsuccessful. I sat there in the dingy fruitlessly trying to pull the starter cord until my arm felt like rubber and only sputtering coming from the motor. I tried the choke out…I tried the choke in…until after fifteen minutes I no longer had any idea where it should be and whether I had flooded the engine or not. Feeling very frustrated, and cursing just a little, I was determined not to resort to asking any male for help, not yet anyway. Finally, I tried once again with the choke out and realized that I had not actually been pulling it ALL THE WAY OUT…once I did the motor immediately purred into action. So, after all these months of telling Lynn that we have a crappy motor and having him tell me I just wasn’t pulling the cord hard enough, I discovered my problem. I happily headed over to town where I spent the afternoon combing the beach for sea glass and made a few good finds, including one chunky piece of black glass that is apparently most likely the remains of a whiskey bottle from the 1800’s.

On my way back to the boat, I had a second dingy challenge as I tried to negotiate my way off the dingy dock through a maze of other dingys. I became flustered as I tried to avoid their stern anchors lest they become wrapped around my prop. This caused me to inadvertently gun the engine in reverse, then forward, then reverse again. After playing bumper dingy I was propelled back into the pilings across from the dock. At this point I decided the prudent thing was to shut off the motor until I calmed myself down and manually navigate myself away from hazards. Of course, all of this was under the watchful eye of my friends from JilliQ and a large group of strangers on the shore. Well, as Jill (from JilliQ) says, “sometimes you watch the show and sometimes you are the show!” Happily, Lynn and Chuck arrived home safe and sound the second night and I was definitely glad to have them back.

Today is a very rainy day, which is good for the locals as they are filling their cisterns with much-needed water. It is also good for us to catch up on relaxation, blogging and other inside activities. I did venture out for some yoga this morning…I have noticed that the past months of acting like I am on permanent vacation is catching up with my waist line…so it is time to stop eating and start exercising…hmmm, wonder what I will make for dinner tonight!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Most Wonderful Visit and More Excellent Adventures

We continued to have a great time with Jami and Steve and packed lots into their one-week visit. The second half of their trip was spent in Hope Town with daily jaunts to the town or beach. We rented a golf cart and toured the island with stops at the Abaco Inn for lunch and then Tahiti Beach. I think Jami had fun driving on the wrong side of the road and doing a whole 14 MPH! We had a few excellent beach days and spent one beautiful day at the Hope Town Harbour Lodge where we opened a tab in the morning and acted like we were at an all-inclusive resort (Jami and Steve treated…again!). In typical Bahamas hospitality, they let the public use their amenities, like beach chairs and the pool, whether guests there or not. It is a new discovery for us this year and we have been thoroughly enjoying it (on the few good beach days we’ve had)…including bartender Gary’s Goombay Smashes!

I could go on about the many fun memories from their week, but I think Jami summed it up best in her thank-you e-mail…

“So, when you think of our trip and time spent together remember these things:

steak night, 8 knots of sailing and hanging on, the lost snubber, conch fritters, nippers rum punch, smoking cigars (w/ my dad ), fresh lobster tail twice (yum), Florence's sticky buns, balls and balls and balls of cookie dough, movie nights, port wine, great home cooking, golf cart drag racing, the sketching artist, the mad cross word puzzler, ahhh the smell of pipe tobacco (I can still smell it), watching the stars at night through my porthole, spicy Bloody Mary’s, Vernon’s bread and key lime pie, bargaining for the bread heals, and more balls of cookie dough, turtles! and dolphins! and more turtles! oh the stinky overflow (couldn't leave that out), front and back street walks, the Hope Town Lodge, cold dips in the pool, Gary the bartender and his kick butt Goombay Smash!!, Steve’s zodiac 360, and especially......for the first time in almost 41 years I was able to "treat" my dad on vacation...what a great feeling!! (Thank you for teaching me to be stubborn...hehe!) and most importantly....spending time with you!”

I couldn’t say it better…but, I should explain one thing….Steve’s Zodiac 360. Our friend, Chuck, had just arrived from Florida (after having to wait for the ice to thaw on the upper Chesapeake to get his boat out!) and he called us to help him pick up his mooring in Hope Town Harbour. Lynn and Steve headed out in the dingy to answer the call. Steve was driving and after apparently becoming airborne a few times he dropped Lynn off at Chuck’s boat. As he attempted to pull away from the boat, he was sucked into the vortex at the bow, which caused him to do a complete 360 and pop out the other side. Unfortunately, none of us actually witnessed the spectacle, but it must have looked pretty funny. I think Steve was just glad to survive!

Their last day sadly arrived and Steve and Jami headed home via the ferry to Marsh Harbour, after just a couple of tears. Lynn and I followed in the dingy taking pictures and then hopped aboard Driven (Chuck’s boat) for a quick overnight trip to Green Turtle Cay. Since then we have been mostly seeking shelter in Hope Town as no less than three cold fronts whipping through the harbour and bringing 35+ knot winds. But, we have had a few days of respite between fronts with lovely weather that allowed us to do some snorkeling.

One such calm morning we headed to Tahiti Beach with a group of six other cruisers to look for lobster and conch. As usual, Lynn and I searched for about an hour but did not sight a thing. Just as I was about to head for the dingy, a lobster swam by. This took me by surprise for two reasons…(1) he was huge, and (2) he was swimming…fast. I thought lobsters just crawled along the bottom, but they do in fact swim, upside down with their legs and antennae hanging down and flapping their tails for propulsion. Astonished, I watched him to see where he went foolishly thinking that maybe I could catch him for dinner. As I did so, I felt something grabbing my bottom, which obviously startled me even more. When I quickly turned around (or as quickly as possible in a wet suit with flippers on my feet), I saw a second, smaller lobster swim away from the vicinity of my backside. I don’t think it was actually attacking me intentionally, I had most likely just managed to swim into it as it was making a getaway. But, I have decided that while lots of people can claim to have speared a lobster, how many can say a lobster has bitten their bum?

One night we went out with Luisa and Jay for happy hour. They took us to Wine Down Sip Sip, which, unbeknownst to us, is the Friday night place to be. As soon as we walked in the door we were invited to join the Sip Sip Sots. For the low price of $4.00 we are now official card-carrying members. I will paraphrase their greeting newsletter, which states that the intent of the four founders was to start a group that has as its purpose nothing but chatting with friends over a flagon (or wine glass or tumbler). It is a group without rules, directories, by-laws, meetings, committees, or fundraisers. Their only goal is to gather like-minded souls for the camaraderie. I think we will fit right in.

Two days ago I had what I consider to be a perfect day in the Bahamas. To start with, the weather was a balmy lo 70’s with lovely clear blue skies and just a slight breeze. I first went to yoga on the beach and then to the local coffee house for a tea with my friends Jill and Phyllis. I then headed to the Chopping Block where I had the best hour-long pedicure of my life. With my new brightly painted toenails I called Lynn on the VHF who picked me up in the dingy. We then met up with Chuck and went out to Johnny’s Cay to snorkel for conch. We spent a few hours and found 11 legal size fellers (they must have a large, fully-developed flare on the shell). We discovered the best method was to hang from a rope behind Chuck’s dingy as he trolled through the shallow water. We just had to reach down and grab the conch as they passed underneath. We also found about 30 very pretty sea biscuit shells. We headed back when we were starting to get too chilly and approaching shark feeding hour. Back at Coyote where we had an afternoon cocktail, blew the conch horn at sunset and then proceeded to clean the conch.

Conch cleaning is a labor-intensive effort. It requires first punching a hole in the pointy end of the conch and then sticking a knife in to cut the muscle that attaches the animal to the shell. You then grab the claw foot and pull it out. Then you have to use a knife to peel away to outer stuff that is not edible. In the process you find the “pistil” (I think that’s what it is called), which is a semi-hard, sort of rubbery, worm-like thing that you are supposed to eat…which I did after building up the nerve. It is apparently an aphrodesiac…but they say that about lots of things you would not otherwise be inclined to consume. Then, you take the remaining edible portion, which looks like a deboned chicken breast and hammer it to smithereens with a meat tenderizer until it looks like lace. Only then is it actually fit to cook and eat. We have had enough for three dinners for the three of us…including Polynesian conch, cracked conch and conch boats (which we are having tonight). I realized after the first meal that it was actually the first time I have ever cooked anything I caught myself! It was pretty exciting.

Other than that we have spent our time roaming the beach, playing games, watching the Canada/US gold medal hockey game (YEAH CANADA) and just having a lovely time. I have polished off a bunch of books and Lynn has filled three crossword puzzle books. Off I go now to beat Lynn and Chuck in dominoes. Next we await a visit form Lynn’s son Jeff and his family…we can’t wait!