Sundries of a Sailor’s Life
The Settlement of Staniel Cay
Located about halfway
between the big city bustle of Nassau on the island of New Providence, and the small town tranquility of Georgetown, Great
Exuma lies the petite isle of Staniel Cay
. Though less than two square miles, this cay offered every sundry supply, service, and situation ever sought by a sailor.
On the sheltered western side, the Staniel Cay Yacht Club offered easy access to potable water, fuel, ice, trash disposal, and adult libations. Just through a cluster of shady
Australian pines sat a strolling sized settlement that provided grocery stores, propane fills, marine supplies, restaurants,
and Wi-Fi. And secluded, powdery white beaches for solitary sunbathing, as well as high rugged cliffs with dramatic
ocean views could be found on the Atlantic side.
Taking the Trash Out
The calm lagoon’s
curve of sandy shore at the edge of the village was a perfect place to beach Dinky Duck and some rubble from an old breakwall
provided secure purchase for her anchor. The first attraction on our island tour was the ever popular garbage dump.
We could have dropped our trash bag off at the marina, but being stingy sailors we figured we'd make the trek and save ourselves
the $5 disposal fee. So, following yet another abstract map that’d been sketched by an artist bereft of cartography
skills, Don and I untangled the bikes and, Hefty in hand, peddled into the great unknown.
|~ Pirate Jungle ~ |
I’d often thought
that the crisis of over-consumption and reckless wastefulness occurring so rampantly in the U.S could easily be rectified
if Americans were forced to carry around all their own trash for an extended period of time. Having to do just that
made us extremely mindful, and since leaving Nassau, we’d managed to limit our refuse to just one bag.
But having to shuffle that bag around for 11 days was downright
annoying and hanging it from the handlebars of a rusty little, lopsided bike while peddling up and down a hilly island with
limited signage made us realize that the Yacht Club’s fee was a bargain! On the bright side, this little sojourn
did let us see so much more of the island, and that alone was priceless!
The next destination on our tour was the Isles General Store where we could get our propane tanks
filled. Fortunately, a nearby creek allowed us to tote our tanks via dinghy and bypass another bicycle balancing act.
Back in the States, pumps assisted in the process and transferring 5 pounds of gas took almost no time at all. But here
in paradise, costly electricity wasn’t wasted on such ‘time saving’ frivolities when gravity did the trick
for free. Though a slower source of power, it bestowed the leisure to sit and chat for a spell. It seemed that
the village stayed in an era when energy was spent on only the most precious and valued resources - communing with the community
of the cay.
|~ Don Poses Under the Ridge ~ |
a Little Color
While in the vicinity, we decided to investigate the colorful 'downtown' area; the Pink Pearl Supermarket,
the Blue Wing Grocery, and Titta Emil’s little yellow bakery where we purchased fresh, coconut-flavored sweet bread
- a real Bahamian treasure.
Besides fresh fruit and raw vegetables, bread was the one other provision that vanished soon
after departing the land of plenty. Although I loved making my own loaves when I had a well-equipped bricks and mortar
kitchen, Re Metau’s galley oven was not only too small for the dough to rise, but it also doubled as a furnace.
Heating up the boat in a subtropical anchorage was never desirable.
I once tried my hand at making bread onboard via
an age-old alternative method. Pressure cookers were standard equipment for any knowledgeable shipboard chef for several
reasons. First, they cooked much faster, thus saving precious propane and sparing the cook from swelter at the stove.
Additionally, their lids locked down - reducing the risk of scalding splashes in unsettled seas. And last, but not least,
they whipped up moist meals that were much tastier than anything nuked in their successor, that voltage-sucking, desiccating
I’d childhood memories of my mom preparing stews and roasts in her pressure cooker; the sound of
the bell-shaped valve rattling with the hiss of escaping steam still made my mouth water. But explosive accidents and
modern technologies relegated those pots into the past. By the time I’d enrolled in high-school home economics,
learning to cook with steam was excluded from the syllabus.
The often echoed advice from many a knowledgable cruiser
emphasized the advantages of that vintage culinary convenience, and an indepth discussion with the author of Gourmet Underway ultimately prompted me to acquire a modern pot (and, of course his book). With tentative trials, I trained myself how
to blanch, braise, boil, poach, roast, simmer, stew, and even can. However, baking was a whole new ballgame.
|~ Sweeping Views ~ |
|~ Diana Poses ~|
I studied a few pressure cooker bread recipes,
gathered up all the ingredients, then put my buns to work. A corner under the cockpit dodger provided the perfect warm,
humid place for the dough to rise. That heavenly aroma of yeast wafting around made my longing for a soft, buttery
bite even stronger. Since the baking was going to be done on a burner, the recipe I’d chosen instructed me to
grease the inside of the pressure cooker, then dust it with cornmeal, which was to serve as a separator. Once the dough
had doubled, I popped the pot on the propane, brought it up to pressure, dropped the flame down to low, and set the timer.
long, that wonderful fragrance of freshly baked bread was obliterated by the odor of burnt popcorn. The dry cornmeal
scorched in the oil, and the unappetizing smell permeated through the whole disastrous loaf (which did NOT pop out
of the pot as promised). That was my last attempt at producing yeast-based boat bread, so Titta’s loaf was to
be the centerpiece of our evening meal.
Oceanside Ridge Photoshoot
With our mundane needs
fulfilled, we could turn our attention eastward, toward a landscape so beautiful it drew professional photographers to scatter
bikini clad supermodels in the foreground, and snap seductive pics for the publishers of glossy sports magazines. Once
the dinghy was appropriately replenished, we suited up and headed out toward Oceanside Ridge. That entire side of the
island was deserted and it was easy to claim our own private strip of sand - denoted as Pirate Trap Beach on our "map".
The spot could not have been more appropriately named because we were completely ensnared by the scenery.
saw the photo ops - no one could look bad while framed in this setting! But my attempts at snapping portraits were being
thwarted by my model's negative attitude. So I switched Don's focus, put him behind the lens, and in a flash he was
posing me like Ella friggin’ Macpherson! The camera pulled us along the coast, then up to the rim where stone
cairns marked many a Kodak moment. This was the first Bahamian island with any significant height, and the sweeping
views in every direction made it impossible to keep our finger off the shutter button.
Having nearly used up every
digital bit, we made our way back down to the coral dotted pool where Dinky Duck bobbed on the bank. I relaxed on the
beach while Don, now equipped with the Nikon’s underwater case, headed across the 'catwalk', a narrow gap that allowed
the cool Atlantic waters to flow through our little oasis. Unfortunately, when he returned from his subsurface photoshoot,
we discovered seawater had infiltrated the case, thus killing the electronics and abruptly ending our swimsuit modeling careers.
Contrary to Paul Simon's pleas, 'Hamas took our Kodachrome away!
|~ The Catwalk ~ |
Starvation induced us to leave the glamorous vistas on the ridge and our bread-fest awaited. Back
onboard our bellies were soon satiated, but our spirits remained eager for a bit of discourse and comradery, so we turned
the dinghy's tiller back to Staniel Cay once more. The soft light and spirited murmurs pouring from the Yacht Club enticed
us to enter, park ourselves on a barstool, and immerse ourselves in the out-islander's interests.
Under a plethora of tattered
boat burgees bordered by bar bumper-stickers from afar, everyone was caught up in the events unfolding on TV. But it
wasn’t some winning sports team that sent all abuzz; no triumphant turn, no touted trophy, no title taken. Rather
it was the nuptials of nobles Prince William and Princess Kate that had everyone in a celebratory mood! Though thousands
of miles apart; both physically, pomp and circumstantially, the family ties between Britain and the Bahamas were still very
strong in the hearts of these islanders.
Our Own Little Galaxy
Our journey home that night
was under an inky, moonless sky and my sleepy, serene demeanor was nearly extinguished by a sense of rising panic.
Completely engulfed in this lightless, colorless abyss of a night, I couldn't help but feel like we were rocketing full throttle
toward wide open ocean! Then I thought "At least I’ll die happy and
leave good looking pictures behind
But no worries. The captain knew his way and within moments, we reached the concealing edge of Big
Majors and the anchorage just beyond. All at once, a galaxy of mast lights blinked into view. We rounded the
bend and aimed toward the brightest, most beautiful star in the bunch - our floating home - Re Metau.
For a sailor,
it was just your average, sundry day. Basically, we'd taken the trash out, gotten gas and groceries, occupied ourselves
with a favorite hobby, and watched a little evening television. Yet it was the kind of day that left me with an overwhelming
sense of joy because this life as a sailor transformed normal - into memorable. The mundane became significant, the environment
always inspired awe, and the ride was invariably Outta this World!