Battle of the Breads

Cruising in the Bahamas often finds one in a feast or famine condition.

No really "famine" just an urgent fridge defrosting on Christmas Eve.

Not really “famine” just an urgent fridge defrosting on Christmas Eve.

This may be a slight exaggeration but still it seems that we have either stocked up to the point of bursting or we’re down to our last carrot, sustained only by.. you guessed it- rum. I’m making a broad statement there, but usually we find that one or two food items end up in that feast or famine category. Coconut bread, especially the real deal (not a commercial one) was our first searched for foodstuff in the Bahamas. Hours, days would be more like it, of pouring through books, websites, cruising forums and the Explorer chart books, assured us that coconut bread paved roads awaited us. A feast I tell you.

Our first winter began in the Berrys where you’d be hard pressed to find a morsel of food let alone a baked good. Flo’s was once “the” place to get a meal and coconut bread. As it turned out we considered ourselves lucky to have scored a meal, calling ahead the day before to say we’d be there. (didn’t help that we were very early in the season) However, we did not give up and even stooped to buying a commercial loaf in Nassau just to make French toast. As we traveled down the Exuma chain, becoming more desperate with each passing island, our pot of coconut thankfully appeared at the yellow house in Staniel Cay. A fresh home-baked bread, a step up from a commercial loaf, but not quite what we’d hoped for. Our next stop, Black Point should have been where we found manna from heaven, but an ostrich could not have had its head in the sand any more than we did and we missed out on Mom’s bread. A small blessing at least was that we had no clue what we’d missed; until our next visit.

So then we arrive in George Town, home of Mom’s Bakery. More like Mom’s Bakery is further south but she’d drive up to GT in her van loaded with baked goods and of course, coconut bread. Surely, this would be the place. Our SSCA webinar, “First Timers Guide to the Exumas” promised Mom’s Bakery van in GT. You can guess what we found, or rather didn’t find when we arrived; yep, no Mom’s Bakery van. Mom’s age and health kept her away. One announcement was made on the Net that maybe she’d be coming up, but sadly that didn’t happen. The bakery is run, so we understand, by her daughter and on occasion Exuma Market will have Mom’s Bakery breads on the shelf.

By now you are thinking, “why don’t we just bake our own?” Not so easily done, plus we wanted to be authentic and use fresh grated coconut meat; not that sweet shredded stuff in a package. My compromise was to bake a sweet dessert-like coconut quick bread that used cream of coconut and then the sweet shredded stuff was acceptable. Tasty on its own; it was not French toast material.

Fast forward to the present and our third year in the Bahamas; we’ve finally enjoyed several loaves of what we believe to be the best coconut bread in the Bahamas. Lorraine’s mom at Black Point; perhaps you recall me raving about it more than once 🙂

Bread number one in the battle of the coconut breads in the Black Point corner: Black Point Mom.

Black Point Mom's coconut bread. Mom bakes other types, but this one rocks

Black Point Mom’s coconut bread. Mom bakes other types, but this one rocks

This year we zoomed to GT to be sure we arrived enough ahead of our son flying in for the holidays.  Not many cruising boats and not many vacationers or winter villa owners around. So we get to the market and there on the shelf is a loaf of Mom’s Bakery coconut bread. Halleluiah!  Grabbed that quick as a wink. Could we be so lucky to now have three loaves of coconut bread on board?  Yes- the feast has begun.

Bread number two in the battle, in the George Town corner: George Town Mom.

George Town Mom's coconut bread. Fresh grated coconut meat is throughout the loaf

George Town Mom’s coconut bread. Fresh grated coconut meat is throughout the loaf

On our trip to Long Island with Benj, we received a gift of two coconuts in addition to the one Benj dispatched himself. Russ, our on board bread baker, had already found a recipe online for Bahamian Coconut Bread and now that we had fresh coconut meat to grate we’d see how ours would compare.

Bread number three in the cruising corner: s/v Ortolan (you could think “Dad” for fun).

Here’s how we made ours.

Climb a tree and cut down a ripe one- or select one off the ground, like most do

Climb a tree and cut down a ripe one- or select one off the ground, like most do

We used our heavy duty large chef's knife to cut around the outer husk first

We used our heavy-duty large chef’s knife to cut around the outer husk first

Not a job for weaklings; rip open the outer husk after you cut all the way around

Not a job for weaklings; rip open the outer husk after you cut all the way around

We were surprised that the nut sits at the bottom not in the middle

We were surprised that the nut sits at the bottom not in the middle

Crack open the coconut and save the milk- or add gin and drink it, then nap

Crack open the coconut and save the milk- or add gin and drink it, then nap ‘cuz you must be pooped by now

Russ grated enough for the bread; the rest we cut into easy-to-snack-on morsels

Russ grated enough for the bread; the rest we cut into easy-to-snack-on morsels

Boil the milk from one coconut with water, then pour over shredded coconut and let steep

Boil the milk from one coconut with water, then pour over shredded coconut and let steep

Mix ingredients, stir in flour and divide dough into two bread loaf pans

Mix ingredients, stir in flour and divide dough into two bread loaf pans

If the dough looks a bit moist here, well it is. The recipe, unfortunately did not give an exact liquid quantity so we went with what we had and hoped the result would be OK.

The result. Extra baking time and a bit heavy but loaded with coconut

The result. Extra baking time and a bit heavy but loaded with coconut

Did our bread pass the french toast test? Yes- as long as you have plenty of egg batter. It soaks up a lot, but is tasty and so effortless. 🙂  Next time we’ll use less liquid and determine the exact quantity. We are down to our last slice; time to hunt down more coconuts and I know just where to find them now that we are back at Long Island.

Dispelling the Notion

Even the hair dryer serves a dual purpose aboard

Even the hair dryer serves a dual purpose aboard

As many of you know firsthand and others suspect, living aboard and cruising is not always fun and games; although drinking rum is routinely involved.

As we neared the Bermuda Triangle aka the Devil’s Triangle, that’s when our temperature troubles began. I’ve already mentioned how the temp disease infected the isotherm cooler box and our house freezer; and we foolishly thought the freezer would continue on the wellness path. No such luck. Every few days Russ needed to attack it with the hair dryer since one of its maladies was miniscule amounts of water freezing in the tube. Lord knows how and when it got in there.

The faux Engel’s service was switched from freezer duty to fridge duty, then back to freezer mode on Christmas Eve when we played Chinese fire drill with the food in the dysfunctional house freezer. Since then I’ve lost track of the numerous times we’d get the freezer working, only to have it stop the next day, then the stoppings got closer together.  Russ found additional info online and after a noisy hammer and screwdriver session one morning, the freezer sounded healthier than ever… until it quit. As of Jan 13 we said, “uncle” and moved the freezer contents into the isotherm and shut down the house freezer until back in the States.

The repair is not an easy one and while we don’t think we can find the solution in the Bahamas, we’ll do some checking while here in George Town. And to think I’d been bad-mouthing our isotherm cooler box; now we are 100% at its mercy. If we hadn’t bought it though, talk about being up the creek with no paddle and no rum!  Dare I even mention that our four aging house batteries need replacing? Where and when we tackle the freezer repair would be ideal to get new batteries; they weigh 162lbs each- yikes!

Throughout this time, the igniter unit on the stove played games with us but lately, I’m happy to say, it’s been behaving after a major adjustment by the resident mechanic. And that dependable temp probe we use when grilling meats (pork tenderloin primarily) you know, the kind with the remote display- well the unit crapped out so now we have gut feel and an instant read. The grill-meister is feelin’ the pressure! Maybe he needs a rum drink.

Crossing the Tropic of Cancer, lying approximately at 23 degrees north these days, may have influenced our head (toilet) troubles I teased you with in the Jan 3 post. Benj had reported that his muscles were no match for a handle that would not budge- uh oh.  Not sure if toilets or refrigeration problems are the most frequent boat repairs, but we’d been very lucky so far with no major toilet issues. We’d arrived at the serene and empty anchorage by Hog Cay near Joe’s Sound after our brisk sail back from Conception. A late afternoon sun held promise of the pretty sunset to come and provided pleasant surroundings for the unpleasant and ultra-smelly repair.

I was happy to see the instructions appear from their storage folder as two able-bodied and intelligent men began the process.

Checking the instructions first proves to be a wise move

Checking the instructions first proves to be a wise move

 Just because you have the product/equipment info doesn’t mean that the installation was done properly or as shown in the diagram. This time it was close enough. First, the door between the head and the bow got removed. Next step was to remove the back cover and shelf section (the surround) that is attached to the other side of the wall next to the toilet. Doing so exposed the pump cover which would spill its guts when opened.

Exposed pump cover with shield and slide in place

Exposed pump cover with shield and slide in place

Ideas and solutions were discussed; I have to say that I’m always impressed by how well father and son work together to problem-solve. My job was go-fer and photographer; easy. Benj suggested that we use plastic sheeting to create a combo shield/slide into our largest flexible bucket. My stomach is getting lurchy just writing this!  This worked very well and oh the pee-u smell was nearly gagging in that confined bow space. The first clean out wasn’t up to Roto-rooter standards, but with a second try and Benj cleaning the pump cover while Russ did further extractions, all seemed to be ship-shape.  Got it all reassembled, lots of flushing then dug out our mint holiday candle in glass to light for some air freshening. Done by 5:30 and guess what? Rum time!  P.S.- Cathy please note we spared you this story (and potential worry) during your visit 🙂

Lunch, lobster, laundry and laughter

Sailors aren't the only ones who delight in red sunsets

Sailors aren’t the only ones who delight in red sunsets

Our iSotherm freezer box thingy, better known as our faux-Engel or lately a P-o-S, has been making us a bit crazy with its inability to consistently regulate itself, often transforming into a massive power hog. Of course, this power hogging seems to happen at night when we can’t see that our house batteries have dropped below 12volts. We’ve tried setting it to Eco mode to conserve energy, but then it gets too warm. The last straw was when the ungrateful schemer put our behaving house freezer under its spell and we woke up to a low voltage house battery and a house freezer at 26 degrees that had been running for hours but not getting colder. Lately it hangs around 20-22 degrees which is acceptable for warmer water and air temps.

Fortunately the Russ-of-all-trades has a trick up his sleeve to nudge the house freezer into working properly and we think we’re good to go for another month or so. Cancel that- try only two days before it stopped at night again. The only answer for the faux-Engel is to consume all the food (can you say “have our son with us for 3 weeks?”) then switch to use it as a fridge; a mode that suits it much better. Or perhaps, as I think I’ve mentioned before, as a contribution to Davy Jones’s locker.  In this case L is for lucky we didn’t experience a major meltdown- the freezers, not us. Ha.

Monday we rode in style in Cort’s yet-to-be-named harbor taxi (little inside joke) to St Francis for lunch then over to Hamburger Beach/Big D’s/Monument to gaze upon the uncleared acreage; building permit pending.

Lots of visualization required. Lots are narrow but cross the island - harbor to ocean side

Lots of visualization required. Lots are narrow but cross the island – harbor to ocean side

The property is set back a couple hundred feet from the beach with a row of breezy Casuarinas offering limited camouflage. And would you be surprised to learn that the project is behind schedule?-by U.S. standards not Bahamian of course. A foundation was expected by now, but with no building permit just yet, the wheels churn very, very slowly. Maybe by next fall mon.

Later that afternoon we learned we’d be dining on lobster for lunch, but even one large tail can’t feed three so additional salads were prepared; not just by me!

Cort prepares fruit and yogurt salad, Russ bartends and I sautéed the parboiled lobster

Cort prepares fruit and yogurt salad, Russ bar tends and I sautéed the parboiled lobster

Lunch is served. Life is good.

Lunch is served. Life is good.

Wednesday would be the last day until Monday when we could easily and safely dinghy across the harbor without getting tossed about like salad with salt water dressing. Wednesday in George Town is propane day, when Clarence brings the truck over to Eddie’s Edgewater and the guys line up with empty tanks to be filled on the spot. (this isn’t the only way to do it just the easiest and perhaps most economical)

Over the past few days we’d been filling our water tanks, planning the last two trips today. We’d also purchased and dumped 15gals of diesel into our starboard tank (at $5.25/gal); as running the genset two-three times daily was sucking down the juice big time. Did I mention our power hog faux-Engel?

Met up with Cort at the market and soon we were driving north on Queen’s Highway on the left side of the road, the driver seated on the right. Way too weird.

Got the laundry started; not sure the last time I used machines without having to insert coins. Come lunch time we fell into our natural roles and managed to prepare tuna salad, spinach salad, fruit with yogurt (cheated- it was left over from Tues) and G&Ts in real glass. Sweet

Checking out the "camp house" plans, elevations, etc

Checking out the “camp house” plans, elevations, etc

Cardboard scale model of future camp-style house- front view

Cardboard scale model of future camp-style house- front view

An important order of business, seeing that Christmas is a week away, was to decorate and acquire a tree. This was an amazing event to watch unfold. Using items found inside or outside the house, a tree, complete with stand and tree skirt was erected within 30mins. The only purchase was the light set.

First- cut casuarinas boughs with machete found in closet

First: cut Casuarina boughs with machete found in closet

Create tree by sticking branches into upside down milk crate found in closet

Create tree by sticking branches into upside down milk crate found in closet

The branches wouldn’t stay upright very well, so we found a large plastic mixing bowl in the kitchen, filled it with moist sand. The crate fit snugly over it.

The side table was the perfect height- who needs the lamp?

The side table was the perfect height- who needs the lamp?

I found some sort of curtain in the linen closet for the tree skirt

I found some sort of curtain in the linen closet for the tree skirt

After this picture was taken Cort placed a few conch shells on the table at the base of the crate. Pretty good uh? Looks even better in real life- my iPhone doesn’t take the best quality photos.

A full load: laundry, water, meats in cooler, diesel and propane

A full load: laundry, water, meats in cooler, diesel and propane

Worked up an appetite after that strenuous tree raising so we headed a couple of miles north to a relatively new place, Prime Island Meats & Deli where they have stateside quality meats, salads, baked goods and deli meats.  You’d think we hadn’t seen U.S. meats in ages, rather a mere month. But this type of market is a rare find in the Bahamas. If I showed you a picture of the cuts of meat you find in nearly all Bahamas markets, you would understand. We snagged a piece of freshly made lasagna for $5, fresh sausage, and not frozen from prehistoric times boneless chicken breasts.  Cort scooped up a small frozen turkey for Christmas; wife and two grandkids arrive Sunday so he has been preparing.

Somehow we got back to the boat in our overloaded dinghy in calm seas (oh that harbor can get nasty) and felt very lucky to have a friend with a house, car and boat in George Town.

Thursday through Monday are forecast to be windy enough to keep us boat-bound much of the time. What better opportunity to bake, make ornaments and get a certain someone’s bed cleared off so he has a place to sleep come Monday night 🙂

We score big in Black Point

Black Point Sunset - Bahamas Defense vessel stands watch

Black Point Sunset – Bahamas Defense vessel stands watch

Hanging out at Staniel Cay, anchored reasonably close to shore allowed us to pick up Exuma Wifi from the boat. A better deal than  Warderick Wells at $10 for 250mb or 24 hours whichever comes first (pricey anyway uh?), we did all our online stuff and still didn’t use up the 250mb.

The forecast was pointing to a jump down to George Town Thursday and if we didn’t take that, the next opportunity was indeterminable. Most sailing craft want some north in the wind to reduce major pounding into the waves for 40 miles. The prevailing wind is generally E and ESE; ENE only pops up once in a while and sometimes it could be more wind than you want.

Before that we needed to attend to laundry and more importantly, score some of Lorraine’s mom’s coconut bread; manna from heaven. The trek to Black Point was an easy nine miles; ran the water maker since we couldn’t sail that angle. Only four boats in the large anchorage told us once again how early we are this year; just wait a few weeks!

Ida wasn’t around so we left our laundry at the machines and headed over to Adderley’s market – the backup place for tokens. But they only had dryer tokens. Ok then we’ll try her on VHF16- nope. Went to see Lorraine at the café and she said she’d call Ida at home for us 🙂 She greeted us with hugs; gee I guess we’ve become known regulars. Her mom had fresh out of the oven coconut bread which caused me to do a little happy dance; we’ll take two! The bread was still hot and the aroma filled the house. We chatted and told her that no one makes coconut bread like she does; not that she hasn’t heard that a million times.

Ida appeared and we began our three loads. Had the place to ourselves but Ida was chatty and remembered us from when we were at the airport for Benj’s flight out last January. She and her daughter were Nassau bound on the same small plane.

Benj, the multi-talented pilot, Ida and her daughter wait to board (Jan 2013)

Benj, the multi-talented pilot, Ida and her daughter wait to board (Jan 2013)

We learned her daughter is 19, her son is 22(?) and currently in France. They both sound like motivated young adults who take after their successful business owner parents. In addition to Rockside Laundry, Ida and her husband own Rockside Cottages overlooking the harbor.

The Laundromat is 11 years old now. Five of the washers finally need to be replaced. Ida shared some figures with us: each new one cost $700 in Miami, approx. $1,200 total freight cost plus import duty. If the machines were bought in Nassau the cost each would be $1,600 plus freight to Black Point. You do the math; she went to Miami and saved considerable even with her RT travel cost included. As we headed off with clean laundry, coconut bread and smiling faces, Ida asked us to say “hello” to her cousin (I think) who is the Doctor of Libations at Peace & Plenty (P&P) Resort in George Town. Of course!

Wednesday morning, after a breakfast of- can you guess? Yes! Coconut bread French toast- sigh- we mostly-sailed 13 nm further down the Exuma chain to a spot off the beach at Big Farmers. If the forecast held up, Thurs would find us in Exuma Sound bound for George Town, Elizabeth Harbor and all that goes with being in that larger-than-life area.

Beaufort, SC to St Augustine, FL

Our last time in Beaufort (are you saying Bew-fort in your head?) was over a year ago. With only a light breeze by afternoon we anchored easily in the anchorage in 23ft! The anchorage lies around the outside of the channel’s curve so it’s deeper there. With north wind protection our only worry would be how the boats would move around during slack tide.  A boat we’d seen on and off since Wrightsville Beach was there already. S/v Wonderful Life (San Francisco) is traveling with Mom, Dad and two kids. You won’t be surprised to know their dinghy is “It’s a”.

The shops and eateries in town looked healthy and busy with a few new additions since our last visit.

The world's teeniest and cutest library

The world’s teeniest and cutest library

Dinner was at Panini’s and boy it was delish!  I chose Mediterranean Shrimp and Grits; the almost sweet flavor of the delicate sauce was very unique and I couldn’t determine exactly what it tasted like- was just darn good. Russ chose a Pork Roulade over sautéed veggies and even had enough for a lunch doggy bag.

Looking out over the anchorage- we're too far back to see

Looking out over the anchorage- we’re too far back to see

The weather checking consumed a bit of our time that evening and we decided to believe the NE 10-15 forecast touted by three services.The 163nm overnight would take 25- 27 hours depending on our speed. Passage Weather showed “something” farther out in the Atlantic that was sending in large swells but the farther south we’d get, they would lessen a bit. I stomped and pouted about using Port Royal channel to head out; it is long- and I mean long and rollers are always present in some degree. Did it once, didn’t need to do it again.

So we did because it was a safer, deeper, better marked channel compared to Calibogue, the next spot to exit out.  We ended up sailing more than 16 hours of the 25-hour trip, motor-sailing the first two hours getting out and one-engine motoring for about 6 hours after midnight; much better than we expected thanks to the wind 13-18kts Saturday and a healthy 11-15kts at night. The swells were generous, at least 5 feet, but sources we checked later indicated more.

The wind and swells calmed down measurably by the time we were within a few hours of the St Augustine inlet; a just-dredged (again) Class C inlet. No genius mind needed to know that C is not as good as A! We left the main up for stability and had to throttle back on the engines to keep under 8kts as went came in. Was real fun when three monohulls abreast coming out negotiated around us; later heard a race was taking place just past the sea buoy – it was Sunday after all.

Ok, now to get the main down before the bridge opening at 12:30- had plenty (too much) of time for that. Phew all set. Then we see s/v Tyler J looking like they plan to anchor- where?  in the ICW? We’d seen them on AIS coming from offshore too. A bunch of us pass through at 12:30 and so does Tyler J. We’d already called the marina and had our mooring assignment; M57. We have the map so we know where to find it in the large field. As we head into the field, Russ says to keep an eye on Tyler J; they seemed uninformed although we’d heard another boat communicating with them. Sure enough as we approach M57, I am at the bow with the boat hook, we see bad boy coming toward it from the opposite direction.  At first I’m confused- oh, he really plans to take our ball! I holler over that we were assigned that ball as the boat slides against the mooring and over it, spilling the pennant in the water (these balls have a collar that can hold the pennant). The current runs strong through here and one mistake can set off a chain reaction. Took me two tries to grab the pennant but we got ourselves secured without further incident. Our happy faces showed when the marina launch came by and escorted Tyler J to a mooring on the outside row further back.

A good night’s sleep and we’d be ready for town on Monday.

Southport, NC- a Safe Haven

Have you seen the movie Safe Haven? It is based on the book of the same name by Nicholas Sparks. The setting is Southport, NC which is also where the movie was filmed. Talk about getting the right feel. We’ve stopped at two different marinas over the past few years but haven’t seen much of the area as the walk is longer than our feet can manage. We watched the movie over the summer and were pretty sure we could pick out a few spots we knew and recognized the names of creeks and such. At the movie’s end you see beautiful footage of the Cape Fear River at the corner where Southport sits nestled with the ICW to the south and the Cape Fear River to the west.   so watch the movie to make up for my lack of Southport photos)

Our marina stop lately in Southport is South Harbor Village Marina at the end of Fish Factory Rd- you can make up your own story for that name. Josephs Italian Bistro sits in a small set of shops just on shore past the docks. More fabulous food and wine at reasonable prices; all in a semi-casual tableclothed setting complete with friendly and attentive service- consistently. Mama Rosie’s lasagna is outstanding and plentiful; we bring back enough for another dinner. The focaccia bread smothered with melted cheese- do I taste some garlic? Is served cut into small squares with a plate of oil and grated (closer to shredded) asiago cheese. Our waiter gained our gratitude by bringing a second basket.

A mile walk in on Fish Factory Rd takes you to a main thoroughfare and at that corner sits The Confectionery with Clems Seafood Market kitty-corner. We stocked up at both. Walking back, a man stopped his truck to talk with us and he shared a few tidbits about Safe Haven. We’d apparently just walked by a small eatery where a lunch scene was shot. If you looked carefully you could see out the window to the house across the street with a large painted metal crab on the outside. We’d noticed the house with the colorful crab and tasteful fall decorations. Me thinks we’ll be watching the movie again; with an even keener eye.

Making Tracks

dolphinsBy some miracle or a generous weather goddess, we enjoyed a wonderful 72nm mostly motor-sail on Tuesday. The forecast promised NE 5-10 and it delivered. Temps climbed to 73 degrees; the sky mostly clear and sunny. Not a sailing day (oh darn) but one we wanted, simply to have an easy trip. And we weren’t the only ones. As is typical for this area of Camp Lejeune and North Carolina in general, various training exercises are routine. Certainly every time we come through-except last fall because Sandy kept them distracted.
Naval warship 94 was conducting live firing exercises toward shore from several miles out- sitting in the middle of the charted many miles long and wide “danger” zone. The day before we heard various announcements on CH16 from the warships that exercises would be conducted Tues- Thurs. After checking a few sources, Russ plotted a course for our offshore hop that would be sure to take us outside the danger area. Going along we heard the warship state that vessels should keep clear by 15nm- come again? We’d be passing 12nm off the ship and no way were we diverting more. Turns out that the 15nm distance only applied if you were to pass in front- like you’d want to be fired on. They spent an extra hour of live firing and I’m sure that caused extra wait-time for the ICW boats who have to stop and wait in between firings. If it’s not crab pots it’s warships.

The fun part of the trip was the pod of dolphins who came by to play. They are amazing to watch as they zig-zag inches away from the hull, diving, surfacing and jumping faster than we can capture their antics. Russ is a huge fan and never tires of watching these beautiful and intelligent creatures.

Thank Russ for the dolphin action shots

Thank Russ for the dolphin action shots

Hook dropped securely at Wrightsville Beach at 5:25 a bit more than a 10-hour day. We made good time motor-sailing, then motoring when the wind died. At least 15 other cruisers were anchored and we were surprised to find only one other dinghy at the dock. Well, more room for us. The docks can accommodate 10 dinghies easily and covered trash barrels are conveniently placed at the head of each dock (I think there’s 2 or 3). Baja-Mex restaurant Tower 7 (lifeguard tower) was our destination; all of one block from the dinghy dock. Excellent food and drinks very reasonably priced. Russ chose the taco special (very surprising); one roast chicken and the other pulled pork. He proclaimed the over-stuffed tacos excellent; I’ve never seen ones with so much meat. Our noses sniffed out the baked goods in the café section; good to add a new muffins to our onboard selection.