August 15, 2003|
Lighthouse Atoll, Belize
17° 12.505 North
087° 35.875 West
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?”)
“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
Food fantasies are a normal part of the cruising life for sailors
who havent been near a store in a month or more
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!
“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…”
We had one squash left, and precious little else in the way of
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
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
More than three
years later, Douglas and I are still eating from that original shopping spree.
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
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.
With bananas in the tropics, its feast or famine. A stalk of green ones will all go ripe at once.
A couple of days
later, sure enough, a dive boat called Wave Dancer II picked up the mooring
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.
Where’s Brigitte?” I asked, as we zoomed out to the dive ship.
Three partners in crime: Brigitte, Kris and Bernadette (left
“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.
as focused as a laser beam, and asked if we could see the captain. We were
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?)
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!
The captain of Wave Dancer II offered to do the shopping for the three boats an incredibly generous offer
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.
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
Tonight, on Dutchess, Gabrielle, and Ithaka, there would be feasting.
Crewed Chartering In The Northwest Caribbean
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.
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.
Dining on Gabrielle or Dutchess is an elegant experience.
Here is an example of lunch for charterers on Gabrielle.
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, 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.
For information, pictures of the boat and its amenities, and
details about costs, log on to www.svDutchess.com.
Erwin and Kris
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.
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. For
more information, and photos of the boat, log on to www.OutIslandCruising.com.
John and Brigitte
are two excellent bareboat chartering companies in Belize
-- The Moorings and TMM. We’ll tell you more about
them in an upcoming log.)