August 15, 2003
Lighthouse Atoll, Belize
17° 12.505 North
087° 35.875 West

Whats Cooking?

By Bernadette Bernon

- We checked our e-mail the other day, and got a note from Douglas’s mother consisting entirely of two words: “What’s cooking?” (Of course, the translation is: “What’s wrong? Why haven’t you written?”)

Food fantasies are a normal part of the cruising life for sailors who havent been near a store in a month or more
“Funny you should ask,” I typed immediately. “All’s fine here. At the moment we’re anchored at Lighthouse Atoll -- a plateau, the top of an old volcano that collapsed on itself eons ago. All around us is a reef, plenty of colorful fish and coral. As a matter of fact, there’s one area of the reef here that the professional dive boats call “The Aquarium,” because the fish there are trained! Scuba divers on special excursion boats grab a buoy there, dive in and feed the fish. So now, when any swimmer comes along, hundreds of them surround you as if you’re the Good Humor truck on a hot afternoon. They swim right up to your mask, like they’re looking in. We snorkel in The Aquarium everyday with our friends on Gabrielle and Dutchess, and we’re all treasuring our last few weeks down here.

“ But, Betty, here’s REALLY what’s cooking on Ithaka. After being away from grocery shopping on the mainland for several weeks, this is what’s left: a two-month-old squash, a small tomato that never ripened, and one lime. That's it for fresh produce. Oh, and we have a small cabbage that’s sort of banged up on the outside. I’m getting desperate enough for salad to resort to it. Of course, we have plenty of canned and dry foods, so we’re not going to starve. But Betty, WE HAVE CRAVINGS!

We had one squash left, and precious little else in the way of fresh food.
“When we get to Mexico, we'll do a big shop, and also stock up on whatever’s cheap there, from Tequila to cherimoya, Douglas’s favorite fruit. Clearly, if you haven't noticed, my mind is on food these days, as we have fewer and fewer nice things left to eat…”

Ordinarily, when our fresh food runs this low, we move on toward somewhere where we can re-provision. But for us, today, that would mean setting sail north, all the way to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, and then we’d only be one step away from the United States. We just aren’t ready for the barn yet, so we lingered at the reefs, and made do with what we had. It was no hardship, though. Douglas, Erwin and John were spearing fish and lobster every day, and we were eating like kings. But, some veggies and fruit and variation would be welcome. As we got together with our friends, talk was focusing on food more and more.

Douglas was doing an admirable job catching or shooting fish for dinner, but we craved crunchy greens

Kris from Dutchess, Brigitte from Gabrielle – both of whom are extraordinary cooks -- and I, were sitting around one evening, talking yet again about eating. Kris and I were telling Brigitte all about the wonderfully cheap gourmet restaurants we’d found in Cartagena, and how you could go to the big Carulla’s grocery store there and buy fresh-fruit smoothies for a few cents. Even to talk about those memories made my stomach growl. Brigitte told us about some of the great places in Quebec she’d take us when we came up to visit some day.

We all laughed about how we’d provisioned when we first started cruising. I’d bought so much canned food before we left the States, that I’d filled every available space on Ithaka, and resorted to cramming two laundry baskets full of food and wedging them into the guest cabin, which by then we were calling the “gar-room” – a name coined by a friend of ours who’d made his garage into his office. Our gar-room was chockablock full.

Gabrielle underway
More than three years later, Douglas and I are still eating from that original shopping spree. We have enough risotto, olive oil, barley, Ziplocs, Earl Grey tea, dried fruit, tapinade, garbage bags, couscous, Grape Nuts, lentils in every color, and tins of tomatoes, ham, vegetables, and fruit, that we could feed all of Guatemala. In fact, when we were in Guatemala, we emptied many of Ithaka’s lockers of canned foods that had been sitting untouched, and gave them to an orphanage that needed them a lot more than we did. Ithaka rose in the water.

I don’t know what I was thinking back then, but I provisioned as if there was no food available outside US borders, when in fact there are terrific supermarkets throughout the Northwest and Southwest Caribbean, and for many goods, prices are lower than in the US. These stores may not have our favorite gourmet goodies, like the Angostura bitters that Douglas likes in his rum, but overall, they’ve sure got everything you’d need. One of our lessons in provisioning was, if you didn’t eat it at home, you won’t like it any better on the boat. Why I bought so much barley, I’ll never know.

With bananas in the tropics, its feast or famine. A stalk of green ones will all go ripe at once.
As Kris and Brigitte and I talked about our cravings for fresh foods, we hatched a plan. We’d noticed that every few days one of the large scuba-diving tour boats, parts of the Aggressor fleet from Belize City, would motor up on the outside of the reef and tie up to one of the enormous mooring balls out there. We tossed the idea around that the next time one came in, we’d dinghy out and, as nicely as possible, entreat the captain to “sell” us some of his fresh fruits and vegetables. We imagined the great bounties of crisp Romaine lettuce, firm asparagus, and rock-hard Ben & Jerry’s coffee ice cream just a dinghy ride away. The added bonus, if this worked out, would be that all three boats would have the freedom to stay together longer out here. From Lighthouse, Dutchess and Gabrielle would be heading south to the Rio Dulce. Once we split up, it would be good-bye till who knew when. None of us was ready for that.

A couple of days later, sure enough, a dive boat called Wave Dancer II picked up the mooring ball. My pulse quickened, and I knew how a bank robber must feel when he sees the Brink’s truck pull up on payroll day. The VHF crackled to life, and I heard Kris call us to arms: “Ithaka, Ithaka. Gabrielle, Gabrielle. It’s Dutchess. Girls, put on your bikinis. We’ve got a job to do.”

Let me note right here that Kris was a flight attendant for KLM in Holland before going cruising, and Brigitte is a yoga instructor from Quebec. They both look like a million bucks in bikinis. I balked at this last instruction, but Kris was as firm as a drill sergeant. “Look,” she said, “we’re talking about broccoli here.” Alright, alright. I did what I had to do. She picked me up in her inflatable.

Three partners in crime: Brigitte, Kris and Bernadette (left to right)
“ Where’s Brigitte?” I asked, as we zoomed out to the dive ship.

“She chickened out,” said Kris. (Chicken? Mmmmm…chicken Kiev, chicken enchiladas, grilled chicken, curried chicken, chicken with cashews….I could barely think straight.)

I re-focused. “If we get anything, we’ll still share it with Brigitte, right?” I asked my leader.

“She’s toast,” declared Kris. (Toast? French toast, garlic toast...)

We arrived at the dive boat, and climbed aboard. It was luxurious, and the dining room was set for lunch. On the center buffet table was a giant bowl of tossed romaine, radicchio, radishes, tomatoes and basil. There were croissant roast beef and cheese sandwiches, potato chips (potato chips!), fruit, chocolate-chip cookies, and----Oh…oh….oh….was that a strawberry cheesecake? It was all I could do not to pull up a chair.

Kris remained as focused as a laser beam, and asked if we could see the captain. We were escorted by a steward to the upper deck, and introduced to a handsome man who watched Kris in awe as she tossed back her mane of long blonde hair (a master stroke!) and explain in her captivating Dutch accent why we were visiting. The captain seemed amused that our quest was about something as simple as food. He did a lot of smiling at Kris -- a good sign, I thought – and mulled our request. (Did I mention how Kris looked in a bikini?)

The captain of Wave Dancer II offered to do the shopping for the three boats an incredibly generous offer
Finally, he said he couldn’t give us any food today, because it was the first day of his charter and he couldn’t gage yet what level of feeders he had on his hands. But, he said, “I’d be happy to have my kitchen manager pick up whatever you’d like when we return to Belize City in a few days. We’ll be back here at Lighthouse in a week.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He was saying: make up a list and we’ll do all your shopping for you!

Walking us to the dinghy, he told Kris not to hold back, to ask for whatever she wanted, and in whatever quantities, and bring the list over before the end of the day. Meanwhile, I toddled behind them, making a mental note to work on my Dutch accent. He didn’t even want our money. “Just pay when I return with the food,” he said.

A dinghy of riches Wave Dancer returns from Belize City with enough fresh food for the three sailboats to last a few more weeks.

Like clockwork, in a few day’s time the dive boat returned, and we went out to collect the treasure. The captain was gracious, and told us stories about working among the reefs, and about his love for the sea, and for diving. He asked us lots of questions about our lives on these little sailboats anchored like toys in front of him. We shook hands and told him that because of his generosity, we’d all stay together a bit longer and put off, for a bit anyway, the inevitable good-byes that are the hallmark of the cruising life. Tonight, on Dutchess, Gabrielle, and Ithaka, there would be feasting.

Crewed Chartering In The Northwest Caribbean

If you dream of getting off the beaten track on your next vacation, if you hope for a little pampering, and for an insider’s look at paradise, consider flying down to the Northwest Caribbean, and chartering a luxury sailboat or powerboat for a week or two. The price of such a vacation, including scuba diving, all beverages, and gourmet dining, compared to staying in a hotel, is one of the great bargains in travel. Plus, the itinerary is yours to decide. By chartering a private boat, you’ll get a far more intimate look at the cultures, eat fabulous meals prepared to your tastes and cravings, and have the best snorkeling and dive sites all to yourself.

Dining on Gabrielle or Dutchess is an elegant experience. Here is an example of lunch for charterers on Gabrielle.
Dutchess and Gabrielle are private cruising boats that are also available for charter. Douglas and I know the boats well, and have been very fortunate to have Kris and Erwin on Dutchess, and John and Brigitte on Gabrielle, as friends over the past two seasons of sailing. We can recommend both boats with enthusiasm. They are commodious, well cared for, offer maximum privacy and comfort for guests, and are sailed by crews whose company you’re sure to enjoy. They are active people, with interesting backgrounds, who are full of enthusiasm for boats, nature, and the cruising life.


Erwin and Kris Pino have been cruising their beautiful Morgan 60 for four years. Dutchess has all the modern conveniences: diving equipment and compressor; two large staterooms with queen-size beds; air conditioning; email availability; washing machine and dryer. Kris and Erwin take groups of two to four guests for five to 20 days, and encourage active participation in the sailing of the boat, if guests wish.

Erwin and Kris
Erwin, a former electrical engineer and computer software specialist, is an avid spear-fisherman, enjoys taking guests out to the reefs to fish, dive and snorkel, and is a great teacher. Kris, also an avid diver, is a musician and fabulous cook, and wonderful fun to be with. For 2003 and 2004, Dutchess will be exploring the waters of Belize, Mexico, Cuba, and Honduras.


This Cheoy Lee 64-footer is well known in the western Caribbean, as are John Kornahrens and Brigitte Simoneau, who’ve been cruising the region since 1998. John grew up boating on Great South Bay in Long Island, New York, was a Pratt-trained architect, and then became a successful offshore fisherman before buying Gabrielle, restoring her to all her former glory, and setting off cruising. Brigitte owned a home-accessories shop in Quebec, is a certified massage therapist and yoga instructor, and has been the hostess on several luxury-class charter boats.

John and Brigitte
Gabrielle is a beautiful and classic boat, lovingly maintained to excellent standards. She has state-of-the-art electrical and communications equipment, dive compressor, anti-roll stabilizers, 14-foot inflatable, a rowing dinghy and two kayaks. For 2003 and 2004, Gabrielle will be exploring Belize and Mexico.

(There are two excellent bareboat chartering companies in Belize -- The Moorings and TMM. We’ll tell you more about them in an upcoming log.)