Thursday, April 12, 2007


With exception to the refrigeration breakdown, the freezer breakdown, the stove breakdown, the oven breakdown, and the mix up with the provisioner, everything is going swimmingly…

Friday afternoon: The produce delivery from the provisioner arrived. Bags of fresh basil, mint, chives, beautiful baby bok-choy, zucchinis and eggplants so fresh and gorgeous, the best produce I’ve gotten on the islands thus far, everything practically glowed. The provisioner has their own shipments flown in weekly, so they aren’t dependant upon the deliveries coming in by freighter to the grocery stores which often arrive in a sorry state of despair; sagging and wilted lettuce, over-ripe fruit – everything at least 2 weeks old before even hitting the shelves. I sorted and packed my groceries into my mini-refrigerators, washed my herbs and lettuces and wrapped them in paper towels to prevent spoilage. Broke down some of my produce to make room – but hardly an inch of space remained and I still had lots of locally made yogurts and goats cheese arriving on Saturday which I had know idea how I would make fit. I’ve been pleasantly surprised this season by the abundance of local produce in the market place. A lot of islands in the Caribbean have given up their farming culture, in the name of industrialization and convenience, and made way instead for mass produced, factory farmed produce from the States and elsewhere – but this season I’ve found beautiful local lettuces, tomatoes and herbs, as well as a lot of produce native to the Caribbean – green papayas, pigeon peas, miniature bananas (they are called “figs” by the locals – but they aren’t the figs that we know of back in the states – they are actually sweet little bananas that taste almost like a strawberry!) – but all of this that I’d found on my own had to fit, along with everything the provisioner brought.

There was a mix-up though with the provisioner, another yacht already departed had received my meat and fish order, so now my meat and fish delivery would not be arriving until Saturday and the guest pickup was Sunday. No problem, I told myself, there was still time to prep between grocery shopping trips.

Saturday morning: My Antiguan made yogurts, goats cheese and ice-creams arrived, a tough squeeze into the spare corners of the fridge. The yogurts were amazing – creamy, tart and fresh, no preservatives or stabilizers – I was thrilled. Good yogurt can be hard to find on the islands. Often times what is available is some brand loaded with thickeners and stabilizers that give it an almost grainy texture and lacks tartness. I’m finicky about yogurt; it’s one of my favourite foods. The local goat cheese was also amazing; creamy and sharp.

As I put my order away I noticed two of the three refrigerators weren’t keeping very cool. My sandwich meats and cheeses were nearly room temperature. I let the captain know that something was wrong. He pulled everything out of the refrigerators, a fan that feeds both of them had blown – no worries, another one is on its way, 15 minutes – island time. Then he got a phone call, sorry, no fan until Sunday, the day of our pickup – yup, that’s island time for you. I hoped my ingredients would last through the night. Two more half days of prep lost to refrigeration repairs.

Saturday afternoon: the provisioner said she’d be here by 3pm. 3pm came and went, as did 4pm. At 5pm she finally arrived – dropped the coolers on the dock and said she’d be right back after she made another delivery. Totally overwhelmed, my inexperience with yachts this small was apparent, three oversized coolers filled to the brim with lobsters, sushi grade tuna, filet mignon, scallops, rack of lamb, etc. sat menacingly on the dock. How would never fit everything in my limited freezer space, I thought I’d be lucky to fit half… I hastily began sorting through everything, separating what I would take and what I’d return to the provisioner, when the captain appeared. I gulped down the lump in my throat and said, “I think I over-provisioned. It won’t fit, I’m going to have to return some items”, I was sure the captain would have my head. “No worries”, he said. The captain disappeared into the galley, re-organized the freezers and amazingly fit everything, absolutely everything in!

Sunday: The day of the guests arrival and I felt totally unprepared. I wasn’t able to prep much in advance because of the refrigeration being torn apart (and everything splayed across my limited counter space) and now their was hardly room in the fridge to store anything even if I had prepped more in advance. But still, I’d made a few desserts, sauces, pestos – so I was slightly ahead of the game.

I was told the oven could be a bit temperamental – this would prove to be an understatement of epic proportion. I realized this the first morning the guests were on board. I had started to preheat the oven while I assembled my ingredients for banana bread. The oven went out 3 times before it finally decided to stay lit. The banana bread took almost an hour and a half to bake. I guessed that it may have been some sort of airflow issue and stuck a spoon in the door to allow air into the oven while it warmed up. 70% of the time, this worked. For the remainder of the charter the oven would prove as reliable a provider of heat as rubbing two sticks together. No, correction, rubbing two sticks together would be more reliable. Muffins in the morning took nearly an hour to bake, my puff pastry turned to sunken little puddles of molten butter and flour, my lamb steamed. I nearly tore my hair out of my head to get my mind off of the agonizing pain being inflicted upon my soul by this insidious, evil oven that could only have been created by the devil himself to torture me.

Then, there was the stove. The stove has four burners; three that provide just enough heat to bring a pot of water to a simmer and one just big enough to light the little Frenchman’s cigarette that built the yacht. On the third day, a burner on the stove decided to stop working – in the middle of putting out dinner. It wasn’t the cigarette lighter-sized burner that went out, it was the big one, of course. Oh, and let’s not stop there. I mean, why, after all, we’ve just gotten started? Also on the third day one of the freezers decided to go on the fritz. Fortunately it was the one with mostly bread and pastry in it – but the other freezers as well began to teeter on the verge of not-quite-frozen. On the 5th day, the odds of getting the oven to work were 100 to 1 and so the captain asked me if I could limit my meals to things that only need to be cooked on the stovetop – on the two-burner-one-cigarette-lighter stovetop. Having my eyeballs gouged out by tire irons would be a more enjoyable and satisfying experience than cooking in this godforsaken galley.

And, of course, all of this couldn’t happen under worse possible circumstances. We have a legend on board; a real-life, pinch-me-I’m-dreaming, bonafide legend. Not some tacky, Hollywood here-today-gone-tomorrow starlet. But a real legend, someone I grew up watching in the movies, someone I respect and admire and my galley is on the brink of total collapse. I am “gutted”, as the Brits would say. Crestfallen. But I put on my cheeriest face and do my best, and when no one is looking – I click the heels of my bare feet together and say, "there's no place like home, there's no place like home"...

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