I’ll Have A Boat Bottom!

Another note from dah island, mon.

Two recent events in my little universe sent me down a slippery slope to discovery.  The first was rather mundane, a trip to the grocery store.  Several times during this visit I carelessly veered off my shopping list. I was drawn to a sweet-smelling aroma coming from a mound of fresh pineapples just shipped in from the Dominican Republic. They were golden, aromatic and ready to eat.  Yum.  I picked out a 2-pounder and tossed it in the cart.  Next, I found myself wandering among the soft beverages rows.  I’m not a soda drinker but I thought a can of ginger beer might be nice.  Instead, I found agua de coco, coconut water which can put a serious dent into a hot tropical afternoon. Yes.

The other event was event more humdrum.  Every three months I have to take our two boats from dock to an offshore mooring and clean their bottoms.  They attract barnacles, algae, crabs and crusty critters that are all detrimental to the boats’ performance and fiberglass.  It is quite a process.  I start by schlepping 40 pounds of dive gear to the dock.  I bring a metal scraper to knock of the barnacles, scrub pads for the algae, and a dive knife for the stubborn bastards.  It’s an exhausting hour-plus effort working mostly upside down.  I do one boat a day.  The only redeeming value of this labor is that once complete, I float down forty feet to check out the reef below. The last time I was greeted by two French Angelfish and five curios barracudas.

Returning home yesterday after two days of boat bottom cleaning, I was knackered.  My knuckles were scraped raw from hitting the crusty hull buildup.  I had stings on my face and hands from underwater beasts that were furious for being evicted from their homes.  My entire body felt pummeled.  Thoughts drifted to an exotic elixir to restore my mojo.  It was then that the sweet smell of pineapple wafting through the air drew me to the kitchen.  The can of Conchita coconut water was chillin’ in the frig and I remembered an unopened bottle of Mount Gay Black Barrel rum that I had stashed in the cabinet months ago.  Hmmm. It was time to get creative.

Now I’m not a fan of fruity tropical drinks and have little knowledge of them.  Give me a good rum, a slice of lime and some bubbly water and I’m happy as a clam in the mud.  So, I contacted our son for advice. He was a bar manager in London for a few years and became a quite a talented mixologist.  “Put the pineapple in a blender and blend.  Dilute with coco water and blend again with the rum.  Maybe you want to add a pinch of cinnamon.”  I did just that and poured the mix over ice.  It was fantastic and not milky sweet like a piña colada.  The mellow yellow concoction  delivered the distinctive flavor of each ingredient.  I was feeling better already.  I wrote our son back for a name suggestion.  “Well, since we are in the thick of a pandemic, how about a Piña Corona?”  Clever boy.

But this drink was inspired by my underwater toil over the weekend—drudgery at sea.  I prefer to simply call it a Boat Bottom.  Try ordering one next time you can go to your favorite watering hole.  My bet is that you will stump the bartender.

The Big Circle 7 – After the Mast, the final installment.

Royal Clipper delivered us to the far-flung island of Barbados after a 10-day Atlantic crossing.  This was my first time here and I soon found out how different it is compared to the rest of the Caribbean. 

The beach at Saint Lawrence Gap.

This rock is the most easterly of the West Indies positioned at 59.5432° W longitude and is often called “Little England”.  Unlike most islands in the region that witnessed repeated conquests by various European powers during the colonial era, Barbados experienced 400 years of continuous British rule.

Daddy serves up the best ‘roti’ on the island, mon!

But modern Barbados, teeming with 380,000 residents, continues to be unique within the region.  On a wild and loud local bus ride through the outskirts of Bridgetown, we drive by Garrison Savannah.  It is race day at this 6-lane grass track and the crowd here is there in their Sunday best to cheer on a winner. 

Take a ride in the wild side!
Old British cannons at Garrison Savannah.

Then there is the island’s obsession of eating flying fish. We have flying fish around Bonaire but no one eats them. Here, Bajans (the locals) stew the fish with onion, garlic, thyme, tomatoes, and pepper. Or it is fried, steamed, baked or pickled. I could not get flying fish in any form during my visit. After getting the same answer in several restaurants, a waitress finally confessed, “Come back at Easter. That’s the beginning of our flying fish season.” I just might have to do that.

Fried flying fish with cou cou (cornmeal & okra)

Barbados is home to the oldest continuous-running rum distillery in the world.  Since 1703, Mount Gay has been producing some of the best rum, often the first choice by sailors.  But the island sports a number of smaller distilleries that are quite notable.  Kill Devil, Plantation and Cockspur are some of the favorites.  I have become partial to Doorley’s XO Fine Old Barbados Rum.  How can I not as it sports a handsome blue macaw on the label. 

With only two days here I missed catching the east coast’s famed Soup Bowl where the world’s top surfers take on huge swells. Nor did I catch a glimpse of pop star Rhianna, a Bajan superstar who still comes back for visits to her homeland. And I never got to see the green monkeys, imports from west Africa 350 years ago. Combine that with no flying fish to be had, I have a burning desire return to “Little England” once again.

The capital of Trinidad, Port of Spain.

Our next stop was Trinidad where we met up with guide Jenelle Guy for a day tour.  Trini is not known first as a tourist island.  It has 1.3 million people and is an economic powerhouse in the Caribbean. The island gets its financial mojo from vast reserves of oil and natural gas.  But it also has a vibrant multi-ethnic culture of Blacks, East Indians, Chinese and Venezuelan refugees. Trinidad also has some beautiful nature areas so we head up the lush Northern Range to the Asa Wright Nature Center. 

Cartoon-colored birds flit among the dense foliage. There are 166 species here including toucans, eagles and the rare oil bird. Many species come from South America as the continent’s coast is only 7 miles (11 km) away.

Back in town we stop for ‘doubles’, that delightful Trini Indian snack of two baras (flat fried dough) filled with curry sauce, chickpeas, green mango and tamarind chutneys and hot sauce.  We devour the savory street food and before our departure the next day, we ask our taxi driver to stop at a stand just outside the airport. Doubles are to die for.

Two plane flights later we are back home on Bonaire.  A killer sunset and a spectacular green-yellow-white meteor on the next evening marks the completion of The Big Circle.  The incendiary flash triggers reflections of our month-long meandering—ancient Portugal, exotic Marrakesh, the rugged Canary Islands, a smooth Atlantic crossing and eastern Caribbean delights.  Now it’s time again to enjoy our island, but I know deep inside that it won’t be long before I have ramblin’ on my mind.