Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bounties of the sea

It has been hot and sticky all week with barely a breath of wind. Every so often a gentle breeze passes through the boat. We moved around to the north side of the uninhabited island where for the most part we had the bay to ourselves. Every day we swam in the warm sea, snorkeled on a small reef and walked on the wild windswept beach where fishing debris was washed up on the shore and small tidal pools of iridescent colours divided the sand from the sea.

Underwater, conch were lying everywhere but unlike the myriad of undersized empty shells that were on the beach we were intent on picking one that was the right size and not too young or too small. The West Indies Pink Conch is a shellfish with a spiral shell. They are a delicacy out here and can be eaten in a variety of ways including conch fritters, conch curry and cracked conch. We eventually came across one where the flare of the shell (the lip) seemed to be the right size. We dived down and picked the shell up off the grassy seabed where they like to live. The next job was the coax the animal out of its home. This is not easy. Sim and I have had (semi) serious rows whilst trying to extract the animal in the past. But this time under expert advice previously stored away from friends on how to do this, we were successful. Sim counted three notches in from the largest point and then made an incision with a hammer and chisel. A sharp knife is then inserted and the animal is severed from its muscle attaching itself to the shell. This is not for the faint hearted. A slime that is slimier then the slimiest slime gets everywhere and is hard to remove from your hands and tools. The animal finally dropped out of the shell and we took it back to the boat to prepare for conch fritters. The black slug like skin and claw are then cut away and the white meat that is left is tenderized with a mallet. We then cut the meat into tiny pieces and mixed it together with finely chopped onion and a little green pepper, flour, water, baking powder and an egg before shallow frying small spoonfuls in a pan. Delicious! With that and freshly made cheese rolls we had a meal fit for kings.

Later in the week we moved around to English Harbour. With yet another pretty anchorage to add to the list, English Harbour is another special place. A green hillside slopes down to a sandy beach lined with palm trees and small chalets dot the shoreline. This harbour was used in the 18th century by Lord Horatio Nelson and has been restored to its former glory and is a popular hangout with yachties especially the rich ones. The entrance to the harbour is guarded by rocks on one side and Fort Berkely on the other which made it the perfect location for a naval base. Meg took us out for a lovely meal at Johnny Coconats on the waterfront where we were wooed by the man himself. We caught up briefly with Sam and Jon on Imagine of Falmouth, who very kindly gave us a couple of Tuna fillets that they had caught on their trip over – Sim with his aversion to fish went ashore and bought chicken for himself!

After a brief stop in Falmouth harbour with spectacular displays from the pelicans we once again got on the move. A steady breeze filled in and we pulled out the sails and chucked a fishing line over the side. Just as we were rounding the corner of the island Sim noticed that we had something on the line as the bungee sprang tight. We pulled in the hand line to find a 3lb Bullet mackerel just over a 1ft long. Caribbean Mackerel is not like the Mackerel we have back in the UK; it is a much darker meat similar to Tuna. We bled the fish and gutted it. The kitty was on her best behaviour, although dribbling at the jaws while we were cleaning the fish. Tonight at the “Sea View” restaurant aboard “Alianna”, we ate fresh Mackerel steaks on the BBQ even Sim graciously joined us albeit with a slightly smaller steak. Yummy! Oh how we love to live off the bounties of the sea.

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