Saturday, March 31, 2007

One bite wonders...

The heat is stifling in Antigua; the walk down the dock from the boat to the coffee shop and my face is already bright red, and of course, I never remember to put on sunscreen. Unlike St. Martin, with its never-ending traffic jam that stretches around the island and last from 9am to 9pm, and its rush of cruise ship tourists, Antigua is quiet and laid-back. The background music to life here are birds chirping, the rustle of palm trees from the breeze, the broadcasts on television at the café and two bars of the cricket match drifting from the open windows, and the occasional car. I walk down the quiet road to English Harbour, a man walks in front of me, lanky and tall and with long dreads stretching down his back, I can see every muscle, tendon and vain in his long, sinewy body. His dirty shorts, 3 sizes too big, held up by a piece of rope are a reminder of the poverty that plagues much of the Caribbean. It seems almost sinister against the backdrop of, literally, hundreds of millions of dollars of yachts in the harbour less than 1/4 mile away. He reaches down to look through a garbage bag on the side of the road, scrounging for liquor, or perhaps something valuable, I don’t know. True to the New Yorker that still lives in me, I walk around him and continue on my way… How easily we become disaffected by the world around us.

I find Aubrey, in English Harbour, the local fruit man with the miniature Antiguan pineapples that I’ve been told I simply must try. I greet him with a big hello and jokingly inquisition him to make sure he’s the Aubrey I’ve been told about. He is, but nothing breaks his matter-of-fact, business like demeanour and until he knows exactly what I want his hands don’t stop moving – cutting ripe galleon melons and pineapples into chunks and bagging them up for his customers. I look longingly at the perfectly ripe fruit he’s cutting, “can I try? can I try?”, I plead with my eyes but don’t dare say it out loud. I admit, I’m slightly intimidated by his stoic persona. I pick up a tiny pineapple, not much bigger than my palm and I ask him, “are these sweet?”, “yah mon” he replies in his thick island accent, “very sweet, very good, how many you need?”. I tell him I don’t need them until Monday or Tuesday, will they last that long or can I buy them tomorrow or Saturday? “No ma’am, maybe no more after today. Pick out what you want now, I hold for you and you come back again”. Someone else asks for papaya – he says tomorrow, I’ll have to come back again tomorrow for those too. In the meantime I pick out 10 little pineapples, perfect for serving underway, 3 of the most beautiful galleon melons; bright gold, and smelling sweet and ripe. He holds them for me, and as I walk away he says, “here miss” and hands me one of the tiny pineapples, peeled except for its leafy top, which I grip like a popsicle. I take a bite, core and all, juice rolls down my chin and fingers– it’s as sweet as honey. An “mmmmmm” escapes my lips between bites (they’re really only about 2 or 3 bites big) and Aubrey looks pleased. “See you tomorrow miss”, and without skipping a beat he returns to his task of peeling and chopping fruit.

I head back out to the main road, this time to catch a taxi to the big grocery store in St. John – 30 minutes and a $50 taxi ride away. My feet melt into the pavement, an all-too-gentle breeze teases the air, not enough bring relief, but more of a reminder of just how hot it is…

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

And the beat goes on...

8am Monday morning in Antigua and the dock is abuzz with crew, day workers and Mega Yachts coming in and out. I’ve just stepped off of the yacht I’ve been freelancing on for the past three weeks and walked down the dock to my next freelance job aboard an 80 ft. custom build sloop.

Chrome and white shine against the teak deck and the backdrop of Folmath Harbour, the tender is hoisted up on the bow, white canvas awnings stretched taught to provide shade to the cockpit with its teak settee and highly varnished captains wheel. I stub my toe on a wench and I’m instantly reminded that there is inverse relationship between the size of yacht and the multitude of things one can stub a toe on, bang ones head on, etc… I wince, step into the cockpit, stretch over and around “things” and make my way towards the entrance.

“Hi captain!” I say as I look through the port and step onto the ladder extending down to the salon, “oh hello, yes, yes, do come in” he says in a proper British accent. Sporting white blond hair, blue eyes and elongated, British features I can instantly picture him in a grey suit and tie, and with a dour and dry persona examining loan papers at a bank. But on the contrary, he is laid-back, easy going and, like his Kiwi girlfriend (the stewardess), as cool as a cucumber. His girlfriend shows me my bunk. I’m on the bottom, she’s on the top and he’s on a cot that pulls out of the wall. Like I said, it’s a small yacht…

I drop my bag, get right to business and head towards the galley. I’ve already got a list together of my staple ingredients and now I’m just looking at what the yacht has and doesn’t have to tick it off on my list. Fortunately or unfortunately, small yacht = small storage space. Easy to examine, tough to store. Two tiny cupboards under the settee, a few tiny cupboards in the galley, and storage underneath 4 trap doors on the floor make up the extent of it. Plus, 4 small refrigerators and 2 small freezers. This galley makes the galley of the yacht I just got off of seem almost imposing! I compared the oven of the last galley to that of my Easy-Bake oven I had when I was 7, well, this one runs more along the lines of a dollhouse. I almost expect to look inside and find a tiny, plastic turkey with all the fixings, moulded out of clay and intricately painted…

The World Cup of Cricket is going on in the Caribbean right now – basically an opportunity for all the colonies of Great Britain to sock it out in a sporting and civilized manner. Up until now I had only thought of cricket as that annoying little creature that rubs its wings together making a racket enough to keep every living thing awake at night within miles of the little bugger. But no, apparently it’s a game too – similar to baseball, only they call their pitchers “bowlers”, the bats look more like the paddle my brother carved when he was rushing to get into a fraternity at USC, there are two hitters instead of one, they have sanctioned “drinks breaks” (leave it to the British!) and they eat their hotdogs and French fries with Branston Pickles, call them “sausages and chips” and prefer to drink their beer warm. This also means that I have to get my order in today to the provisioner because tomorrow is a national holiday, declared just for the cricket match, and everyone on the island, myself included, will be watching Britain and Australia duke it out on the playing field…

At 10am the provisioner I’ll be using drops by the yacht with lists of ingredients, I’m to fill them out and get them back to her by 3pm. I’ve sorted most of the cupboards and drawers, have put together my provisions order and am working out the details of my menus based on the guests preference sheets. At 11am, I begin to fix lunch for crew from whatever I find in the fridge – green coconut curry with veggies and fish and basmati rice. One pot wonders are really practical on small yachts and I know I can always make crew happy with curry… Plus, I have too much to do to be messing around with anything complex. The Roti Lady comes by the yacht, damn, I have to make lunch for the new crew but I haven’t had a roti yet this year. She came by last year as well and the rotis were always delicious. Warm, thin bread (like a tortilla) filled with curried potatoes, shrimp, chicken, peas… There’s always Wednesday…

At 2pm the flower lady arrives and I talk to her about what flowers I would like for garnishing plates and fruit platters. She suggests some tiny orchids and she is going to bring me some banana leaves and other tropical leaves from her backyard on Saturday (our guest pickup is on Sunday). She tells me about a local company making fresh yogurt and goat cheese on the island (Yao brand). I have to try some, so of course, I place an order. I find some coconuts aboard, left by the previous chef, and the captain and I discuss how we can cut them with a band saw and fashion them into bowls to serve something out of, that will be Wednesdays task.

3pm the provisioner is back to collect my list and discuss delivery dates and times. I give them to her and continue to work through the details of my menus and making up lists of what I need to prepare in advance (deserts, flavoured oils, sauces, etc.).

7pm and I meet up with the crew of the yacht I’d just departed, for sundowners and a bbq. Life is good.

Our guest is someone very, very special and that’s really all I am obliged to say right now. But, this should be a really, really cool charter…

Friday, March 23, 2007

On to the next...

The charter ended with much fanfare. The guests had caught a king mackeral as we cruised back to Tortolla to drop them off. The mate brought the mackeral into the galley and did a beautiful job cleaning and fileting it. I sauted it and served it atop a mango, spinach and fennel salad with an avocado and cilantro vinaigrette. The guests were thrilled to see that we were able to serve up what they’d caught only a few minutes earlier. It was a perfect ending to the trip.

The guest who chartered the yacht wrote me a beautiful letter of recommendation and everyone had a fantastic time, myself included. It was challenging and fun and although I never saw the light of day – I enjoyed every moment. And, the guests have asked me to cook for them again on a charter in the Mediterranean in June!

We’ll see… I’m sailing to Antigua today on the yacht that I finished this charter on. I’ll be joining another yacht on Monday and doing a two week charter through the Grenadines. After which, I’ll be flying to Mexico to cook for a couple there and if that goes well, then I’ll be joining their yacht in Genoa, Italy.

A perfect ending to a perfect season...

The only thing that would make it more perfect would be to get in one last dive...

The Charter Menu

March 10
Marina Cay, Tortolla

Grilled Eggplant Salad with Mint and Lemon
White Bean Salad with Sundried Tomatoes, Oregano and Sherry Vinaigrette
Cucumber, Tomato and Black Radish Salad
Vine Leaves Stuffed with Brown Rice and Chickpeas
Lemon Tahini and Pita Bread


Sautéed Grouper with Passion Fruit Reduction
Spelt and Medley of Baby Vegetables with Opal Basil Pesto

March 11
Virgin Gorda, Bitter End

Cous Cous Salad with Almonds, Apricots, Orange Zest and Mint
Endive and Avocado Salad
Celeriac Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette
Prawns with Shaved Red Onion, Mango and Coconut-Toasted Cumin Vinaigrette


Orange, Fennel and Mashe Salad with Barley-Miso Vinaigrette

Garam Masala Whole Roasted Chicken
Stuffed with Oranges, Onions and Whole Spices
Sauteed Broccolini and Roasted Acorn Squash

March 12
Virgin Gorda, The Bathes

Herb Steamed Salmon with Caper-Lemon Relish
French Green Lentils with Leeks and Tarragon
Quinoa Tabouleh


Summer Rolls Filled with Green Apple, Papaya and Christophine
Coconut-Peanut Dipping Sauce

Zucchini Cups Filled with Asian Vegetable Hash
Crudite with Whole Grain Mustard and Balsamic Dipping Sauce


White Asparagus Salad with Mitake Mushrooms and Marjoram Oil

Pan Seared Sea Bass
Fresh Mango Chutney Spiced with Vanilla Bean and Coriander
On a Bed of Spaghetti Squash

March 13
Cooper Island, BVI

Crab Salad with Miso-Wasabi Vinaigraitte
Watermelon, Radish and Sesame Salad


Fresh Caught Tuna with Indonesian Coconut Curry
Butternut Squash Mash

March 14
Peter Island, BVI

Red Snapper Salad with Garlic-Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette
Wild Rice Salad with Green Apple, Cranberries and Pomegranite Vinaigrette
Gingered Asian Slaw
Mixed Greens


Fuji Apple, Fennel and Goat Cheese Salad
Minted Ginger Vinaigrette

Herb Roasted Rack of Lamb of with Shallot-Balsamic Reduction
Celeriac Puree
Bok Choy

March 15
Norman Island, BVI

Tuna and Lobster Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette
Spelt Salad with Basil Pesto
Snow Peas, Fennel and Orange with Sesame Oil and Sesame Seeds
Mixed Greens


Gingered Butternut Squash Soup
Wild Sea Bass with Potatoes, Asparagus and Braised Fennel


Molten Chocolate Cake in a Filo Pyramid
Raspberry Coulis and Crème Anglais

March 16
Soppers Hole, Tortolla

Black Bean and Snow Pea Salad
Shredded Carrot Salad with Cashews and Sultanas
Grilled Shrimp and Scallops Marinated in Three Citrus Vinaigrette
Potato and Green Bean Salad with Whole Grain Mustard Vinaigrette


Little Neck Clams Steamed
Coconut Milk, Ginger, Lemon Grass and Kefir Lime

Red Snapper on a Bed of Portobella Mushrooms and Sugar Snap Peas
Fennel-White Wine Sauce

March 17
Sandy Cay

Quinoa Salad with Almonds, Parsley and Lemon Vinagrette
French Green Lentils with Leeks and Herbs
Grilled Chicken Marinated with Lemon, Lime and Cilantro
Mixed Greens


Chilled Minted Pea Soup
Organic Whole Wheat Pasta with Red Wine Tomato Sauce
Mixed Green Salad


Individual Tart Tatin with Vanilla Bean Mascarpone
In a Tropical Coulis and Chocolate Flower

Flourless Chocolate Coconut Cake with Coconut Sorbet
In a Tropical Coulis and Chocolate Butterfly

March 18
Green Cay

Sautéed Fresh Caught King Mackerel
Spinach and Mango Salad
Avocado-Lime Vinaigrette

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Pictures (finally)!

I have finally learned to use my camera! Now, if I could just figure out my new MacBook (I just switched off of pc's)!

White Asparagus Salad with Marjoram Oil and Miatake Mushrooms:

Sea Bass with a Fresh Mango Chutney
On a Bed of Spaghetti Squash with Haricot Verts and Plantains

Curry oil decorates the plate, as well as the toasted seeds from the spaghetti squash

The Dialy Crudite

Fresh Caught Mackeral Ceviche served atop an Upside Down Martini Glass with Fresh Flowers in the Glass

And lots and lots of Green Soups!!!

And I finally got my big, white plates - yeah!

2 Days Left, and counting...

Day 7: Two days left and counting.

“Come on little herb leaves, you can last me two more days. Just two more days”…

3pm: My galley clogs have taken on a new sheen, like paten leather, they glisten under the glow of the halogen bulbs. The stewardess and I are wrecked, but we’re keeping each other going with anecdotes of yachting and charter guests, and plenty of caffeine. “Cortado”, I’ve learned means a “split” in Spanish. So, everyday around 5ish, Cristina (the stewardess by the same name) makes us a cortado, espresso coffee “split” with something – usually milk, but the cortado of choice is cortado de Baileys, which sounds so much better with a Spanish accent. Then, we take a few minutes to yammer about politics, men, life, family and home… And then, it’s back to the grind.

Today the guests requested a plate full of steamed vegetables for breakfast; this meant the end of my snow peas that I had planned on using for dinner. I’m now down to a hand full of sugar snaps, bok choy and zucchini. The guests don’t care for eggplant or peppers – so the crew will be seeing a lot of those in the next few days, but hopefully the crew won’t shrivel up and die of scurvy from lack of Vitamin C and green leafy vegetables. Oh wait, we’ve got beer – that contains some vitamins, doesn’t it?

I made 5 salads for lunch today and have only spinach and romaine lettuce remaining for two more days of salads. God, please don’t let them request vegetables for breakfast again tomorrow! In a mere two days I have already blown through the vegetables that I had delivered to the yacht. Now, when we’re out, we’re really out…

My grandma’s four-letter-word of choice when she’s mad is F-I-S-H. When she’s really mad about something, or stubs a toe, she clenches her fists, looks to the heavens and says, “aw fish!”. I can’t help but wonder if she was once in the same predicament as me, having to cook fish for lunch and dinner for 9 days straight. Now, I understand. I too clench my fists, look to the heavens and curse, “AW FISH!”. I’ve prepared a variety in every conceivable healthy manner ways this week – baked, steamed, grilled, broiled, poached, en pappiote, etc. Fish, fish, fish – if I see fish again in this lifetime, it will be too soon!

I used to think that healthy eating was the way to go. Now, I’m not so sure. I mean, what is life without a little bacon involved? What is a simpler and better pleasure than a wedge of stinky cheese and a glass of wine? And how about the old adage, “a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down”? I’m craving a Big Mac – and I haven’t touched one of those in decades!

10pm: The evening has come to an end. To start dinner, I steamed clams in ginger, shallots, lemongrass, kefir lime, cilantro and coconut milk and prayed to God that the guests wouldn’t request a salad. They raved about the clams and thankfully I have enough salad greens now to get through the morning. Dinner was red snapper on a bed of sugar snap peas and portobella mushrooms with a saffron sauce. They raved again. As I went into the dining room the guests made a request, their final request for the trip. They said that since it was their last full day tomorrow they would like to have a nice dessert after lunch. And not one, but two! A chocolate dessert of my choosing and either an apple tart or an apple tart tatin. Since I’ve never accomplished a successful tart tatin, I figure why not give it a shot. If it fails, well, to quote my friend Charlie speaking on pizza, “it’s like sex, when it’s good it’s great, and when it’s bad, it’s still not so bad…”. And for the chocolate, I’ve decided to test out a flourless chocolate-coconut cake that I read about a few months ago on my favorite food blog Zucchine & Chocolate.

One of the guests is a painter - so I decided to add my own painterly touch to dessert:

Flourless Coconut-Chocolate Cake with Coconut Sorbet:

Individual Tart Tatin:

A little of both:
But for now - it is time to sleep…

My creative juices have been reduced to a demi-glaze, or perhaps more like a thick sludge. Just two more days- and it’s going to take A LOT of creativity to get through with what few ingredients remain…

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

No sugar, no wheat, no sleep...

I’m utterly exhausted – but hanging in. The guests are giving the stewardess and me a run for our money. Particular about their food, they are very health conscious but also have a lot of sensitiveness to what they eat; no dairy, no flour, no rice, no sugar (of any kind), but I don’t seem to be having any problems since my preference is to cook fairly healthy and I much prefer the use of herbs, spices, lemons, good olive oil and sea salt to butter and cream (not that I don’t love those things too). The guests preferences weren’t over my head, but for the fact that none of this was listed on the preference sheets and therefore I didn’t provision expecting guests that ate semi-vegetarian and now that we were out at sea, in the middle of nowhere (well, sort of) and there were requests for pureed green soups, sugar free - wheat free muffins, and salads, salads, salads – I knew my provisions were not enough!

I expected challenging requests going onto a charter yacht – I love the challenges. That is why I do this, and the preference sheets usually go out the window once you speak to the guests anyway. Just my luck, having grown up in the “granola crunchy” capital of the world (Northern California) and gone through my own periods of vegan and vegetarian dieting, many of the requests were really not a stretch for me, and I think I’m fortunate in that sense. I know some chefs that would be tearing their hair out at the thought of no dairy products, flour or sugar – and believe me, I’m definitely being challenged…

On the first day, I prepared a vegetarian Mediterranean buffet – grape leaves stuffed with brown rice and chick peas, lemon-tahini sauce, grilled eggplant salad with mint and lemon, white bean salad with oregano vinaigrette, cucumber and tomato salad and whole grain pita bread. The guests raved and decided that they wanted the “multi-salad” spread every day for lunch. This works out to about 34 salads by the end of charter and would definitely ensure a dilemma since the guests want everything buffet style and therefore I cannot exercise quantity control over my quickly diminishing fresh vegetables provisions… Day 6 and I’ve made 22 salads thus far – and that’s only lunch…

The guests absolutely love my food – and I mean LOVE. They have been raving to the captain and raving to me, to the point of it getting embarrassing! It’s great that they love my food – but this also means that they haven’t and will not be getting off of the yacht for any meals out and I haven’t seen the light of day in, jeez, I can’t even recall the last time I was above deck…

I look out my galley porthole every day and observe that the palm trees have changed or that the water is a different shade of blue from the last location we were in – and that is the extent of my out door observations. For entertainment, I’ve taken to flinging my organic food scraps out the porthole window in the galley – it’s great fun. I throw them out the window and within seconds I can hear the fish splashing around outside going after the scraps of whatever I’ve tossed. There could be a 12 foot tiger shark waiting out there for my scraps, or a killer whale for that matter. I wouldn’t know, I haven’t had time to look…

Day 6 of the charter - only three days left – and my first chance to write…

The guests are not vegetarians, but do they love their veggies and after the first day I knew it was going to be a difficult task to meet their demands. Fresh veggies are scarce in the Caribbean because absolutely everything has to be imported and most islands only receive produce deliveries once a week. So, good produce is not easy to come by and there are very, very few decent places to provision in the BVI’s. I thought I’d stocked up well before we left St. Martin, but the guests asked for crudités twice a day, pureed vegetable soups, lots of salads, etc. and even with the ample refrigeration – their demands were going to deplete what I had within a few days.

We are doing some serious cruising too – picking up anchor and moving locations two, three times a day – no time to shop! I told the captain after the first day that I would need to find somewhere to provision along the way since the guests were such veggie maniacs. Once I put together a new provisions list for fruit and vegetables, the captain made a call to a provisioner in the Virgin Islands – and amazingly, and for an astronomical fee I’m sure, the order was delivered straight to the yacht, in the middle of nowhere! Just goes to show, with enough money you can have anything you want in this world. I want sleep – but apparently I can’t afford it.

My day starts around 6am baking muffins and slicing fruit for a fruit platter, preparing eggs, making a bread starter and prepping for lunch. Our stewardess makes fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juice, tea and coffee.

The guests finish up breakfast sometime around 9:30 am and by 10am we’re getting ready to set sail. I’m usually preparing lunch while we’re sailing so I’m cooking in the galley at a 45 degree angle. Apparently I’ve conquered my sea sickness. A year ago, I’d be on the floor green with seasickness and ready to die. Today, I just lean into the upward side of the boat for balance and try to keep the olive oil or the knives from flying across the galley and landing on my foot. The worst part I find now about cooking under way is that I can’t wash up my dishes in the sink because the drains don’t work when we’re healing to our port side. And, I can’t open my portholes so it gets really, really hot and if I open up the top hatch, my herbs, garlic and onion peels start blowing everywhere! It’s a really pain in the arse…

I lay out yards of non-skid on the counter tops so things don’t roll away as I’m cooking. Today, the guests took a reprieve from their non-dairy eating and asked me to make a dessert – so, at a 45 degree angle and in 22 knots of wind I made individual bittersweet molten chocolate cakes wrapped like parcels in filo dough, and with crème englaise and a raspberry coulis to accompany it. I also managed to steam off three lobsters, sear some tuna, blanch snow peas and make a couple of salads. Lunch had to be served the moment we dropped anchor…

By 1:30pm lunch is served. The guests take their time so lunch extends until about 2:45. Meanwhile, I’m in the galley prepping for dinner and the stewardess is ironing and taking care of the guests. By 3pm, the galley is cleaned up and lunch is put away. I crawl into bed and catch an hour or two of rest. 10 hours down, 5 to go… Horsd’ouvres go out by 7pm – some days it’s something as simple as crudités, other days it’s summer rolls filled with lobster and mango, or zucchini cups filled with an Asian slaw, or hummus and spelt pita chips. 7:30pm, the first course goes out. Dinner is done by 8:45 and the galley clean. By 9:30 I’m washing the sweat and grease off of me and getting ready to climb into bed. 10:15pm, I set my alarm – in a mere 8 hours it starts all over again…

One pill makes you big...

The job started five minutes after the interview and I hardly had time to get my belongings from the crew house. I had a mere 1 ½ days to familiarize myself with the galley and get all the provisions I needed before we set sail to the BVI’s for an eight day charter with four guests.

The galley is small, to say the least; tiny, in fact, but somehow well laid out and with a fair amount of counter space. However, my Mini-bake Oven in which I used to bake miniature cakes by the heat of a light bulb for my brothers when I was seven years old was bigger than the oven in this galley, and the electric burners aren’t much better. I felt like Alice in Wonderland after swallowing the pill that makes you big. I was a giant in this tiny Barbie kitchen. But, there are a few saving graces; a small but industrial dishwasher that washes up dishes and pots and pans in about 30 seconds – brilliant thinking on the part of whoever designed the galley. Then, through a small hatch in the floor of the galley (it get’s more and more Alice-in-Wonderland-like every moment), down into the bilge are 2 side-by-side low-boy refrigerators and freezers (a low-boy is a reach-in refrigerator that would normally be under the counter in your workspace in a restaurant kitchen). Now granted, I had to climb down a latter into a crawl space, in which I couldn’t even stand, in order to access the refrigeration, but still, this is one of the few yachts I’ve worked on where the refrigeration is adequate! Most yachts have tons of freezer space, more than is humanly possible to fill (although I always do) – but never enough refrigeration. Well, The Universe heard my prayers… I had tons and tons of refrigeration. As well, the crew quarters are, thankfully, designed for full-grown people, instead of the usual Halflings that most crew quarters are designed for. My bunk is big and comfy and by far, the best bed I have slept in all season and I share a cabin with our stewardess, also named Cristina (and spelled the same). But, her nickname with the crew is “princess”, and not because she’s nice… Ha! A hot-blooded Spanish woman to put those boys in place. Yes, Cristina and I hit it off instantly…

My first task aboard the yacht was to sort through the pantry and see what was already on board. Since the galley is small this wasn’t a huge task – two small cupboards, two big cupboards and four small storage spaces under the settee in the crew mess. Sorting was easy, apparently the regular chef on board is not a big fan of spices, there were maybe four bottles of spices that looked like they hadn’t been touched since 1979. So, I knew I’d need pretty much everything – cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, black peppercorns, cayenne, kosher salt, etc. He mustn’t have liked vinegars either, again – two bottles, hardly touched. And canned goods, it was mostly jarred pasta sauces, vegemite and pickles. I had a big shop ahead of me, and I couldn’t help but wonder what that chef could have possibly cooked with so few ingredients… But then I found out, 3 quarts of heavy crème in the refrigerator and several pounds of European butter. Ah ha, fat in place of flavor – it has its place, but not my style of cooking…

Next I had to read through the preference sheets from the charter agency and write out a grocery list. The guests weren’t big meat eaters and preferred as much organic ingredients as possible, they ate light and healthy, but other than that the preference sheets were fairly vague. By the afternoon of my first day I had to have my meat and fish order ready for the provisioner so that I could get my delivery by the next day.

Early my second morning I took off in the rental car to head to a tiny organic shop in Marigot where I cleaned out their shelves and stocked up on organic olive oils, grains, breads, beans, flours, sugars, jams and spices. Next I was off to the Grand Marche, the big grocery store, to stock up on fresh produce, eggs, milk, food for the crew, etc. I had four large shopping carts overflowing with onions, potatoes, zucchini, asparagus, fennel, salad greens, herbs, cereal, fruit, dozens of organic eggs, etc. I would be responsible for feeding 9 people breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next week and half – it was a lot to prepare for…

I returned to the yacht with the car packed up to the windows with grocery bags. The crew helped me unload with trip after trip. The stewardess unpacked all the groceries while I sorted, organized and stored. And of course, with every inch of counter space and floor space occupied by boxes and bags of ingredients – three giant coolers arrived filled with tuna, mahi, snapper, grouper, sea bass, clams, lamb and chicken. $4,000.00 later… There wasn’t time in the day to find every ingredient I wanted. The staples of my pantry including za’atar and sumac were at another grocery store in St. Maarten that I didn’t have time to hit. The kitchen was also desperately in need of a few new pans and trays to fit the tiny oven – but no luck, there just wasn’t enough time.

At 8:30am my third day, we pulled away from the dock at Palapa Marina and queued up with the other yachts set to depart through the 9am bridge opening at Simpson Bay. We hit the high seas and headed for Tortolla, an eight hour trip that I would spend working out my menus for the charter…

We arrived in Tortolla by 6pm, dropped anchor and headed by tender (tender = dingy) to The Bitter End for dinner and to enjoy our last night of freedom before the guests arrived…

Thursday, March 08, 2007

My day in the sun...

“TAC, TAC, TAC’”, the captain yelled from the bow of the boat. The crew began to pull and grind. I scurried up to the top of the boat scraping my knees on the non-slip surface, scrambled to the other side, ducking under the boom and skipping over lines as they whizzed past my feet. The stay sail folded down and snapped as it was pulled to other side and then pulled taught again as it caught the wind. I fell down on my ass and threw my feet over the edge as the boat began to keel. “Rail Candy”, that was my position, adding weight to the keeling side of the yacht as we fought our way into 3rd place in the “Bare Boat” class for the 27th Annual Heineken Regatta in St. Martin.

If you’ve ever seen a racing yacht and seen all the people sitting on one side and hanging their feet over, that was me and 11 others on Sunday aboard a Swan 43’ in the final race of the Regatta – and it was a blast! The wind was blowing like crazy, between 15 and 22 knots, the best wind the Regatta has had in a few years. Last years races were cancelled because the sea was too calm, a mere 3 and 4 knots. But this year was great, and everyone was excited to be racing. I sat on the railing, waiting for the captain’s command to scurry to the other side. Waiting and watching, as beautiful sailing yachts, spinnakers out breezed past us. We were in a class of boats called “bare boats” because we only had a main sheet and a stay sail. The boat was a rental through Sunsail and the crew were a group of really lovely gentlemen from British Columbia who sail up in BC and make the Regatta a yearly habit.

Our crew shirts were fluorescent green and painted with tropical scenery of palm trees and beaches. They were an eyesore, and you could spot us from a mile away – which was perfect. I have pictures and will post them as soon as I get settled onto my new boat…

So, having gotten into the mood of sailing during the Regatta – I decided to accept a freelance position aboard a 40meter Parini Navi (that’s the build, it’s a gorgeous sailing yacht). I’ll be working a charter in the BVI’s for the next two weeks, with a chance of staying aboard for the month. The chef aboard severely injured his back and they aren’t sure if he’ll be making it back to finish off the season… We’ll see where the future leads…

Either way, in the next two months I’ll be heading to the Mediterranean, either by sea or by air – but I WILL be there for the season…

Gotta run, time to start provisioning for the charter! I’ll write all about it as time permits…

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