Provisioning for Gourmands and Glutenphobes
On a bareboat flotilla sailing the Windward Islands from St. Vincent to Grenada, a group of U.S. sailors from the Midwest learn to go with the flow, with and without wheat. "Hands-On Sailor" from our August 2010 issue
This is a story about eating my way through the Grenadines. But it starts in Ohio last November, in a dimly lit ballroom at the Cleveland Yachting Club. My father, John Lovett, dressed in a wool suit with silly-looking insignias on the cuffs, was sworn in as commodore before a crowd of family and friends. His first order of business was a tough one: lead a charter trip, anywhere he wanted.
The commodore chose the Grenadines, and it didn't take much convincing for my wife, Lauren, my mother, Mary, my sister, Katie, and I-as well as about 30 other snowbound Cleveland sailors-to convene at the Sunsail base in St. Vincent last February.
The commodore has food allergies, so we planned a number of wheat- and dairy-free meals before departure. Given our specific menu, we decided to do our own shopping. Other members of our five-boat flotilla selected Sunsail's provisioning starter pack (see "Leave It to the Pros, page 62), which provided the basics needed to reach our first anchorage, the well-stocked island of Bequia.
Upon arrival in St. Vincent, we walked across the street from the airport to Sunrise Supermarket, loaded up the collapsible coolers we'd stashed in our checked baggage, and hopped a cab to the Sunsail base. While the commodore attended the skippers meeting, I took a taxi into Kingstown, the island's capital. The driver pulled up to a shack on the hillside, and a dreadlocked man emerged with a 30-pound block of ice-from which, sailing into Grenada a week later, we chipped, no lie, the last cube.
Despite our planning, by the time we reached Bequia's Friendship Bay, on the south side of the island, we were already shuttling ashore for forgotten supplies. And how could we walk by the Friendship Bay Resort's Moskito Beach Bar and Grill without testing the playground-style swing chairs and asking the bartender to pour us his signature rum drink? I took one sip and nearly puked.
"What do you call that?" I asked.
"Naked Lady," he says. "Rum, rum, and rum."
"And the Naked Lady is your favorite rum drink?" I asked.
"No," he laughed. "I don't drink rum. Stuff makes me crazy."
The Naked Lady didn't go down without a fight, but she quickly put me on island time. The provisioning plan was the first to go. That night, we passed up pasta on the boat to join our flotilla at Moskito, where we enjoyed our first tastes of callaloo soup and grilled barracuda, two Grenadines staples we'd come to seek out in every port.
In the morning, though we had no need for more produce, we took a cab over the hill to the island's main port, Admiralty Bay, to visit the Rasta-run fruit market. We loaded up on pineapples, avocados, tomatoes, spices, and soursop, a gooey, white fruit that, to be honest, I only bought because the salesman slicing me samples put on such an impressive show. We ended up with about US$30 worth of fruit that though it was excess baggage, at least we made a few new friends.
I sliced fruit southward through the Windward Islands, looking out the galley porthole at some of the most idyllic anchorages I'll ever hope to see. At Petit Nevis, just south of Bequia, we capped off a midday snorkel with arroz con pollo-and fruit salad. In the private-island playground of Mustique, we substituted barracuda-filleted by the clerk at the dockside fish market-into our spicy shrimp kebob recipe. For a day trip to Baliceaux, northeast of Mustique, we prepared black bean, corn, and avocado salsa, sans avocado, which had yet to ripen. As the latitude diminished, so did our adherence to recipes. By the time we reached the Tobago Cays, wayward ingredients were colliding into tasty, if not cholesterol-free, creations like peanut butter, bacon, and banana bread sandwiches.
The banana bread came from the wife of our new pal, Walter, one of the countless, courteous, and enterprising boatmen zipping through Grenadines anchorages in colorful plywood speedboats. He brought us baked goods, cases of Hairoun beer-the beverage of choice for us wheat-eaters-and bags of ice. Come dinnertime, his friend Captain Harris delivered a lavish spread of grilled lobster tail, fried plantains, potato boats, and more. Along with a visit to Basil's Bar in Mustique, treating yourself to a catered lobster feast is one of two indulgences no Grenadines bareboater should forgo. The best part is the after-dinner entertainment: Simply plop your lobster shell into the drink and watch dozens of rays coast into view, the moonlight casting diamond-shaped shadows on the sand.
At Union Island's Chatham Bay, the fleet gathered for a beachside jump up featuring-in addition to the requisite rum punch and grilled lobster-a calypso band playing covers by The Police.
On our last day, with the boat docked at the lavish Port Louis marina at St. George's, Grenada, we made a pleasant discovery when we dinghied to the Grenada Yacht Club for lunch. While waiting for our chicken platters, we gazed at the burgees in the rafters and eavesdropped on the old-timers at the bar as they reminisced about passages made decades ago. Cruising a few miles in a chartered Beneteau might not qualify us as old salts, but right then, we felt like kindred spirits.
The disintegration of our provisioning plan proved to be a good thing. In the Grenadines, where the opportunities for shoreside provisioning and dining are plentiful, provisioning doesn't have to be an exact science. Cook a few meals, sample the local fare, and experiment with leftovers. Just make sure, of course, that the commodore doesn't go into allergic convulsions.
Michael Lovett is an associate editor for CW's sister publication, Sailing World.
Easy, Gluten-Free Recipes
Arroz con Pollo
3 to 4 pounds bone-in chicken pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3/4 cup ham or prosciutto, chopped
2 cups rice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon saffron, or a few threads
3/4 cup peas
3/4 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
3/4 cup Spanish olives, halved
In a large pot over medium-high heat, brown chicken in oil. Remove from pot; drain all but about two tablespoons of the liquid. Reduce heat to medium-low, add onions, green pepper and ham. Add rice, coating the grains with oil. Add garlic, paprika, salt and pepper, chicken stock, oregano, and saffron. Return chicken to the pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Add peas, roasted peppers, and olives. Simmer for 10 minutes more then serve. Serves 4-6
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off, spears cut diagonally into 1-inch lengths
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup Gruyere or Swiss cheese, shredded
Preheat oven to broil. In a 10-inch, ovenproof pan over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Add onions and salt, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft (about 3 minutes). Add asparagus; reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, covered, until asparagus is barely tender (about 6 minutes). Add eggs and cook until almost set, but still runny on top (about 2 minutes). Sprinkle cheese over eggs, place pan in oven, and broil until cheese is melted and browned (about 4 minutes). Remove from oven, cut into wedges, and serve. Serves 4