Wednesday, February 20, 2013

El gran show

Mon petit dejuner

La mañana comienza. Tout bién!. Un café con leche, pasteles franceses, la nevera llena de pescado fresco y el día programado, sólo para ser feliz. En contradicción con la noche nublada y la amenaza de lluvia; il fait beau!
Anoche, tras las montanas, una luz surgió como estadio de baseball que se acaba de alumbrar, en mi imaginación podía escuchar el vitoreo de los fanáticos de cada equipo. El impacto de la pelota contra el bate, los gritos de ovación, la carrera del bateador, la arena desplazándose bajo sus pies cuando se desliza por la primera base. La luz se hace más intensa con cada base que toca. El narrador deportivo, desde la cabina, anuncia exaltado el final glorioso de tan esperado juego. Segunda base lanza la bola pero es muy tarde, el corredor se impulsa y todos le ven volar, tres metros que parecen interminables mientras su cuerpo se avalancha hacia la base. “¡Save!” Grita el árbitro y extiende sus brazo inclinando su cuerpo sobre el ganador que mira hacia el cielo, mientras el catcher sostiene la tardía pelota.
El juego termina en gran celebración , el equipo alza al ganador. Y tras las lomas nace la luna llena, esplendida, brillante como un sol nocturno, abarcando toda la tierra y mi exaltado corazón.

Îles des Saintes, Guadeloupe

La villa

Rue principale, Bourg du Saites

La villa está despierta. Se escuchan martillazos, motores, un grupo de niños reman a toda prisa en sus kayaks, ríen con gozo y gritan “bon jour!”. La alegría flota en esas canoas plásticas. Luego se alinean cerca de la boya que marca donde descansa un barco hundido; y desaparecen en intrépida carrera, dejándome la sensación de un flash.
La Iglesia suena sus campanas que marca las 7:45 de la mañana. Veo un hombre vestido de blanco que camina por el muelle y un perro que corre felizmente a su encuentro. Todos los veleros en la bahía permanecen silenciosos, son tan tranquilos. A lo lejos uno pasa con sus velas izadas y detrás de él se asoma, entre la neblina, la isla de Guadaloupe, recordándome que debemos partir.
El norte nos espera inevitablemente. Le digo: ¡es tan bello aquí! Mientras sueño con un futuro en esta tierra. Este lugar me dona una paz interminable, el sonido de las olas cuando rompen en las rocas y la luz del sol tintineando como estrellitas alrededor de los botes pesqueros anclados a la orilla.
Los niños caminan hacia la escuela. Las campanas otra vez. Son las ocho. Una gallina cacarea corriendo alrededor del huevo. El gallo canta. Una cabra en la loma llama a su mamá.
La villa se despierta y yo sueño con ella.

Îles des Saints, Guadeloupe

Al umbral de la belleza

Terre d' Haut

Sentada en la plataforma del barco miro la tarde. El agua bajo mis pies se refleja tan azul, tan intensa. Se siente fría, pero refresca todo este calor de sol caribeño. Desde mi balcón la escena es un cuadro hecho de acuarela en una tarde de lluvia. Todos los colores corren hasta el mar. Las casas me recuerdan la ciudad que solía construir de niña con mi juego de lego. Las tejas rojas, puertas y ventanas pintadas de blanco, las flores y las lomas cubiertas de verde, completando la foto que termina en el cielo, perfectamente azul.
El la playa dos perros juegan a perseguirse, la carrera termina en el agua, nadando a toda prisa hasta que el amo les ordena que regresen. Los pelícanos expanden sus alas, tal ves juegan a planear cerca de la superficie serena, o persiguen su reflejo fantasmagórico sobre el agua. Al frente, la villa se dibuja a si misma con cada ferry, cada botecito, cada persona que se pasea por la arena. No se escucha un ruido que no sea el de las olas golpeando el barco, o los perros que juegan en la playa o mi respiración que con tanto asombro se ha convertido en un ¡oh! ante la belleza de esta tierra: Bourg des Saintes.

Îles de Saintes, Guadeloupe

One or two sea legs?

The good thing about this islands is that if you take your prescription bottle, you don't need to get another prescription or if you know the name of the medication the pharmacist is willing to help you.

We were in St. Lucia, anchored in Rodney Bay. We needed some things from the grocery store and the pharmacy, so we made a trip to the town. I was wondering through the aisle of the store when I saw a box that captured my attention. “Sea legs”. I grabbed it and put it on my shopping basket. Because as you can tell: I still get seasick. That night before I went to sleep I took one and next morning before we started sailing I took the other one. Just as the instructions says. The journey began and the captain asked: “Did you take your sea leg?” “Yes!” I said. “When?” He requested. “Last night and this morning”. Thirty minutes later I was feeling like I had drank a whole bottle of rum. I couldn't keep my eyes open, it was worse than being seasick. Finally I lay down in the cockpit with several pillows and slept the entire trip from St. Lucia to Martinique.

I woke up entering Ste. Anne Bay, and the Captain said: “Well, you got your two sea legs”. We dropped the anchor. I put everything away down bellow and hit the bunk for four more hours.

This pill maybe kept me from puking, but made me stupid for a whole day. I rather go back to my old sailing days: up side down.


Watch out for your weight!

In the last four month we've met a lot of people and eventually got together for drinks and dinner. Food seems to be a motivation or a good reason to have a conversation. Most of the first mates I've talk to, complain about the same thing:gaining a lot of weight on the boat. You would think that it is because we are seating around most of the time. Actually we are not. But we might be eating more calories than we really need. “Now, how come men don't suffer from this problem? They stay pretty much in the same shape.” The ladies said. Well, they spend theirs calories thinking about the mechanical systems, water makers, toilets heads, generators, and on and on. Especially the: “What is going to break next?” It's got to be that, because Jim's belly goes down in less than a week, and then I need to move the buttons of his pants again.

But me? My blouses are fitting tie! I do Yoga, drink a lot of water, walk as much as I can when we go ashore and swim. I cut down the coffee, the bread and cheese, but nothing seems to improve. I don't know what to do next: run around the deck? Then I found this book: “French Women Don't Get Fat”. By Mireille Guilliano. It is about the secret of eating for pleasure. On the first lines I read on the cover page says: “not guilty or deprivation but learning how to get the most from the things you enjoy”. Then my French friend Chantal, who loves and enjoys food as much as I do, proves to me this theory of “not guilty”, after she finishes a huge plate. She is so slim! I feel like I should starve, when her husband says: “French women have svelte legs, because they eat a lot of frog legs”.

I rather be anchored though, then we avoid all the bad treats of restaurants in the marina. Raw fish and fresh fruits, at least keep me in a good mood. And the French women theory, I rather think is a genetic thing.


The first mate

The first mate

In the last few posts I've been talking about repairs, mishaps, my puking and you might think I'm just complaining all the time. I am not. All this trip has been a learning experience.

As you can tell I'm not a sailor. I am the first mate, even when there is nobody else to give orders. My job is mostly keep everything nice, clean, and the captain happy. Since he said, almost two month ago “this is not a journey for the sailing, this is a culinary trip”, I have been recollecting herbs, fruits and recipes for the specialties of my galley.

A little bit from every island has made this chef improve it skills. From Dominica we enjoyed the fresh orange and grape fruit juices. I also prepared a dessert with the orange peel, very delicious with cream or white cheese, a lot of work to prepare though. In Martinique I learned what is the easiest way to cut and peel a pineapple. It was at that carnival day in Fort the France, we went to the boulevard for lunch. We stopped first at the fruits stand where two young kids were making a killing with the smoothies. We got a Hawaiian smoothy with lots of pineapple and strawberries. It was so good! But what really impressed us was how easy and quick they peeled the pineapple.

In St. Lucia Jim tried the blogo plantain for the first time. In Cuba we call them donkey plantain or fongo. Not many people like them in the eastern part of the island, where they generally use them to feed the pigs. I introduced Jim to the semi ripe mashed boiled blogo with saute garlic, chives in olive oil and coking wine. The green mashed fried and ripe fried blogo were in the menu too.

Sour sop or guanavana is a fruit Jim never tested before, because when he saw it for the first time he thought “and if that thing comes to life at night and attacks me?” It is an ugly, spiky green thing, but inside it has the most tasty white flesh and it's good in ice creams, milk shakes and juices. Since he tried it, we always carry several green spiky little monsters on the boat.

There was not much of food discovering in Bequia, but I did a lot of cooking and we ate in some of the restaurants there. There was a new addition, to be honest, and that was the rum punch with nutmeg. The ingredients? Very easy: one of a sweet, one of a sour, lots of rum and grated nutmeg.

Then we got to Grenada, where we reached the culinary peak. There we found everything, but mostly the spices. I learned their traditional fresh herbs blend to season meat and fish. Ready? “You put your chives, your thyme, your shadow beni or cilantro, celery and seasoning peppers, in the mixer with oil and a little bit of water”. That is how they explained it to me.

In Trinidad and Tobago; where everybody has their own curry recipe, and they blend it from scratch; I found a little tough to get information. When I asked what do they put in their curry, I got lots of different answers and always that “secret ingredient” part. Well I put my sari on and made my own blend too: saffron, coriander, cumin, bay leaves, chili prouder, black pepper and if you want it really hot, slice some hot pepper and add it to your sauce.

I think that my cooking has kept the captain happy, because one night after dinner he stated I was his first mate. I don't now if dancing with the Gipsy Kings is part of my duties, but he seems to like my show too.


The leatherback turtles

Leatherback turtles
To ride in a minivan across the country for three hours. To pay 60 dollars for that trip, that included meals, drinks and the fees for the tour guide, it is nothing. To walk on a muddy road to reach the beach while the jungle bugs are munching on you, it's too little, insignificant compared to the effort of climbing the wet sandy beach with a 550 to 2000 pounds body and digging a hole with the back fences, just using the animal instinct and senses.

When we got to Matura, our destination, it was already dark. We took the road that leaded us to the jungle. This one line road was only lighted by the minivan lights, and Jessie James was showing us little birds that only come to feed at night time and lay on the middle of the street to catch bugs.

Then we got to Matura beach, where is prohibited to go on less you have a special permit and a guide, we waited for a while to get all the paper work done (register the names of the people and pay the fees). Everybody on the group was impatient, ready to get on the sand, specially when the tour guide's radio was crying “the another turtle is walking up the beach”.

We finally started fallowing our guide, Jim and I were walking very close to him, we wanted to hear all the details and he spoke in a very low voice. When we got to the site, the big mother was still digging the nest. Then, as soon as she started laying we could take pictures, touch her. They are so soft and smooth, I got on my knees and padded her head, fences and back, she was breathing deeply and contracting hard every time she pushed. She closed her eyes in pain and tears came out of them. In all that time she was in a trance that nothing bothers her. Then she stopped, covered the nest, camouflaged her trail and got in the water without looking back. I guess she thinks: “I did it right, everything is going to be okay”.

This was one of the most tender experiences in my life. This amazing creature deserves all our respect and protection. We've been always concern about the trash, but after that day we became the plastic trash police. Because that is one of the thing killing the turtles.

We have to be aware, every creature in this planet dissevers to have its own space.