We don’t really mind being stuck here, in one of the prettiest anchorages in the Bahamas. We’re the only boat tucked behind White Cay in The Berry Islands, pretty much where we started this winterlude, waiting for the squally weather to settle down and the winds to calm before we move on. We can look out past the coral reef and check the sea state each morning. Still looks a bit rough out there. One more day.
But our provisions are running a little low. Fresh food is hard to find in these islands. Really hard. Unless you’re lucky enough to be near a settlement when the mail boat comes in. Even then meat is scarce and the produce is in pretty rough shape, travel worn and wilting fast in the heat. Much of it comes from the United States—Romaine hearts from California, what are clearly the “B” oranges from Florida. But a huge amount of it comes from Leamington, Ontario, the tomato capital of Canada. Also, obviously, the greenhouse capital. Not many tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers being grown in Ontario in April.
I think longingly of last summer, as we sailed the Bras d’Or Lakes, truly the land of plenty when it comes to provisions. I worked happily at perfecting my recipe for pot en pot, inspired by a scrumptious meal we had in Îsles de la Madeline. It’s essentially chunks of seafood swimming in a creamy sauce and topped with flakey pastry.
Most of the essential ingredients were easy to come by—a fish truck came to St. Peter’s Inlet every Tuesday, selling bags of fresh scallops, beautiful pieces of halibut, fresh shrimp. No lobster, though. The season had closed. And lobster is what makes pot en pot so special.
Ah hah, I thought when we arrived in the Bahamas. Chris will be able to spear us a big juicy lobster.
I was wrong. The seafood cupboard is bare here, some say a result of the hurricane but given the number of boats crowding into the anchorages, I’d say overfishing is the real cause. Chris has tried diligently, but apart from the fish head he caught on the way here, the only thing he’s landed is a barracuda—a nasty, skinny fish with razor-sharp teeth. After carefully extracting his hook (I’m happy to report that he still has all his fingers) he threw it back in.
Oh wait—he’s also caught an impressive amount of Sargasso weed. And a plastic grocery bag.
We’ve seen more sharks than fish here—way more. Nurse sharks loaf on the bottom near docks where the local fishermen come in to clean their catch (how do they find fish?) Along with enormous rays, and needlefish, for some reason. And the occasional sea turtle. Don’t worry. I didn’t even think of turtle soup.
We even had a family of lemon sharks take up residence under our boat in Black Point Settlement, a sure sign that we had stayed too long. I first noticed them when I tossed an apple core over the side and a large, strange looking “fish” darted out from under out keel to check it out.
“Look at this, Chris.” I tossed some carrot peelings over the side and not one but three lemon sharks swam out to investigate. For the record, sharks do not like apple cores or carrot peelings.
Now that we’re on our way back to Florida where we’ll store the boat for the summer—we’re heading home to work on Meadowlark, our other “boat”—I’ve stopped looking for fresh provisions and we’re trying to use up our canned goods. Last night I made corn chowder with our last potato, our second-last onion, and a can of niblets corn.
“This needs something,” Chris said, spooning up the thin, mean soup.
Yes, I thought. Some carrots or celery.
“Maybe some fish,” he suggested, reaching for his tackle box.
We’re definitely having weiner soup tonight.