Boat Provisioning and Sailing to Norman Island

Saturday, March 4, 2017

After a great night's sleep and breakfast at the Marina, it was time to provision the boat.  Moorings does offer provisioning services, but it is expensive and this part for me is fun.  Checking out the local grocery stores, seeing what kind of produce, meats and groceries they have on offer.  I love to explore and see what kinds of things are available versus what is available at home (and the pricing).

The boys got up early for the boat briefing meeting with Moorings and after conferring with Captain Rob, we planned on getting enough stuff for two days' worth of sailing.  Even though we would be stopping every night, the places we stopped would not always have provisions.    We checked out the store at the Marina - which had a great selection of alcohol with reasonable prices, but not very much food (grocery-wise).  We decided to leave the marina for our shopping.  Everyone made their donations to the boat kitty ($100 USD per person to start) and we made inquiries at the front desk about where to get groceries.  Lori, Rob and Christine stayed behind to wait to get the boat and the rest of us were to go shopping.  We found out there was a large grocery store nearby which had a free shuttle!  Excellent.

Our driver, a very nice Filipino gentleman whisked Dale, Meghan, Scott and myself to the One Mart grocery store.  It was only 5 minutes from the marina - may have seemed longer for me from the back seat not realizing why were stopped and waiting (couldn't see the traffic light we were stopped at the marina entrance...ahem).

The store was crowded - expected for a Saturday morning.  We got a cart and set out.  One of us with the cart, others making various scouting trips for ingredients.  90% of the food is familiar, albeit sometimes with a twist.  For example, hot dogs (a boating staple, trust me).  Lots of different brands, but mostly you find chicken (or chicken and beef) hot dogs.  Got some cans of tuna and some crackers (snacks are VERY important...which we were reminded of later).  I always find the tuna here has a higher water content.  Not the tightly packed cans I'm used to.   Condiments, rice, produce, snacks and paper products (napkins and paper towels).  Protein is always a challenge.  We decided on 7 skinless boneless chicken breasts, which were surprisingly inexpensive - at about $1 each. Most likely because boneless skinless meat is not a large part of most ethnic diets.  I was going to get some beautiful snapper filets, but at $7 a piece, decided on the chicken.  We also got a large bag of chicken wings for $8 (about 35 whole wings).  Yes, if you are willing to pay, there were huge scallops, steak, pork filets and other delights.  When trying to stock the boat, it's best not to blow your whole wad the first day.  Plus, even though we like to eat, we don't want to spend that much money on food.  We enjoy cooking and try to take advantage of it often.  It is an interesting dilemma.  One one hand, you spend thousands of dollars chartering a boat and getting to your destination, but we don't want to spend too much money on food and eating out.  Savings wherever we can.  It's like looking for a free parking space downtown, to go shopping and spend money...hmmm.

Scott unloading our precious cargo
We checked out and packed our haul ($378US for one very full cart) into the shuttle and headed back to the marina.  By this time, the others had gotten the boat and had started to get organized.  We grabbed a hand cart and got ourselves to our home for the next 7 days - 'Surprise'.  A 46' catamaran with 4 berths (each with it's own washroom).   I couldn't have taken a better video than this one which Moorings put together.  In my excitement I did manage to get a shot of our bed before it became a disarray of tangled sheets, clothes and luggage.

We pulled out of the marina at 14h30 and sailed to Norman Island in about an hour, mostly under sail.  We spent the remainder of the afternoon unpacking, organizing the food, snorkeling, swimming and listening to music.   For dinner we enjoyed a spectacular ginger risotto (prepared by Meghan and Scott) along with some grilled basil and garlic chicken and a salad.  Great first day.  Hot (28C, mild winds).

A rain shower in the distance.

Captain Rob and First Mate Dale

Leaving the Marina

@_heysailor - follow her on Instagram!

Basil is all set for some snorkeling!

BVI Sailing Trip 2017 - Departing...eventually

San Juan Airport, early morning 
Thursday, March 2
Finally, our trip has arrived after months of planning, emails, research and deciding what to pack.  The night before our trip, we went to bed early, knowing we would have to get up early to meet our friends for our ride to the airport.  As usual, when I have to get up early for a flight, sleep is elusive and patchy.  I got up at 3 am and was going to get in a few rounds of  'Words with Friends' to kill some time, when I noticed a voicemail notification on my phone.  It was from an unknown number so I was prepared to listen briefly and delete.  It wasn't a spam call.  It was American Airlines telling us our early morning flight was being pushed back.  Groan.  Our itinerary was going to take us from Ottawa to Philadelphia, Philadelphia to San Juan, San Juan to Tortola.  These itineraries are as delicate as a game of Jenga.  One piece gets pushed the wrong way and, well, you know how that goes.  The first flight being pushed means we would miss all other connections for the day.  Not good.  I texted our friends and we decided it best to arrive at their place, as scheduled, to figure things out.

We arrived and to our relief, Rob had already been on the phone re-organizing our flights.  Having lots of flying experience and dealing with airlines does come in handy!  He managed to get us new flights booked, but knew we would have to spend the night in San Juan.

The flights were relatively uneventful and we arrived in San Juan and checked into the San Juan Airport Hotel at midnight. We've stayed here before.  This hotel is located in a section of the airport which is not in operation.  A great spot to film The Walking Dead!  Counters still in place, eerie lighting, tumbleweeds (kidding) and generally creepy.  At best the hotel is functional, clean and a place to sleep - it's better than sleeping on the floor by the check-in counter.

Friday, March 3
In the morning, we made our way to the 'live' part of the airport.  Again, so eerie - one minute you are the last people on earth, then you turn the corner and it's alive - like someone flipped a switch. So bizarre.  After getting through security and a light breakfast, we started the trek towards the gate for Seaborne Airlines.  After walking for what seemed like a small eternity, we were met by a kind Seaborne employee who offered us a ride to the gate.

A short wait later, our flight was called.  Finally, we would be on our way to our long awaited adventure.  We showed our boarding passes and headed down to the tarmac to get on our flight.  While waiting on the tarmac, the airlines staff called out three of our party of five.  Dale and I looked at each other, shrugged and proceeded with the rest of the travelers, following the leader to the plane.  They loaded our bags, we boarded, strapped ourselves in and waited for our friends.  While looking out the window, we heard the flight attendant say something along the lines of  'That's it, close the doors'.  Um...where were our friends!?  Dale and I looked at each other in disbelief - were they not coming?  What's happening?  With no one to answer these questions, we sat back and wondered what had become of our traveling companions?

The short flight to Tortola from San Juan is very picturesque because of the low altitude of the flight - you can see all the small islands along the way.  We were able to pick out the Spanish Virgin Islands (Culebra and Vieques) along the way.

We landed in Tortola, cleared customs and got into our taxi, still not knowing where our friends were.  We checked into the Moorings Mariner Hotel.  Although it was only 9 am and check in wasn't until 3 pm, we had pre-paid the room so I fully expected to be able to get into our room and have a nap.  We had to wait a few minutes while they confirmed the room was ready (to me there was not reason why it shouldn't be because we hadn't slept in it yet!).  There was a message from our friends explaining there was some confusion with their boarding passes, but that they would be along in a couple of hours.  We got to our room, then went down to the store to get some light snacks and beverages for our friends' arrival.

Our transport to Tortola - Saab 340B (seats 34)

View from our hotel room at the marina - masts in the background

Snack time! 
After another nap (yes, I'm a napper, don't judge me please), we met for a late lunch at Charlie's restaurant at the Marina.  The restaurant overlooks the marina and the sea beyond.  We could also see a couple of shopping mall sized cruise ships which were in the harbour.  Lunch consisted of a delicious fresh tuna salad and a long awaited Pain Killer.

First Pain Killer - a BVI speciality

Seared Tuna Greek Salad at Charlie's
For dinner we asked for a recommendation and took a taxi to a local spot called The Pub in Road Town.  It wasn't as local as I would have liked, but the food was good.  I ordered a chicken breast stuffed with cheese and plantain (that was a first, but nice flavour) and a rum punch.  We headed back to the hotel and waited for Meghan and Scott to arrive - the last of our group of 7.

After a long day it was nice to get some (more) sleep and recharge for a full day ahead!

Travel Companions

I thought I would share with you some things that I often travel with in my carry-on luggage.  I prefer to travel with carry-on luggage only, for many reasons.

1)  Many airlines now charge for all checked bags.  
2)  Less chances of your bags getting lost or your bags missing the connections.   There are very few direct flights from where we live, that will take us to places that we like to go, which means two or more connections.
3)  Space limitations.  We usually rent cars when we are away and they are usually small with very small trunks.  In the past there were times when I felt that I had to practically strap myself to the hood in order to accommodate bags and bodies!
4) We try and rent accommodations that have laundry facilities.  Or, I bring a bar of laundry soap and wash by hand.  Perhaps a nuisance but less of a nuisance than having no clothes to wash due to lost bags.

Most of these things were borne out of necessity while we were travelling.  Dull knives, dark hallways and queasy tummies.  Traveling can be tough and these things make life easier for me.

A pill container from the pharmacy works great for storing herbs and spices..  Each section holds about one tablespoon of ingredients.  In this one (from the bottom) I have onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, smoked paprika, Mrs Dash garlic blend and togarashi spices.  

Red wine vinegar and rice wine vinegar - one ounce each. Bottles purchased from the pharmacy.

Night light, knife sharpener and a flashlight

Notebook and pen (not susceptible to computer or phone crashes)
Nothing will ruin your trip like tummy troubles.  Ginger for nausea and fiber to keep things moving in the right direction.

I love my Sony Lens.  It takes amazing pictures.  This lens attaches to my phone, creates its own WiFi network to connect to your phone and saves the picture to your phone.  Best part is it doesn't have to be attached to your phone to work.
(Sony Cyber-shot DSC-QX10). 

This mini tripod has the standard mount size to fit most cameras. 
A bottle bag

This plug lets you convert one receptacle into two receptacles and two USB receptacles.  The receptacles also swivel for convenience.

Two-way radios and spare batteries.

Beer cozies.

Freezer bags, lunch-sized bags and rubber bands.

Electrical tape (I'm married to an electrician, it's mandatory).

A disposable lighter (yes, you can - check out TSA and CATSA websites)
Happy travels!

Reddish Mole (Mole Coloradito)

 Many years ago, I brought back a cookbook from our trip to Mexico.  I read through it on the plane and when I returned, I got really excited about cooking up some traditional dishes.  I even brought back a large bag of Mexican oregano (that turned some heads at customs...).  Skip ahead a few years (has it really been 13 years since our trip??) and I had yet to fully explore everything this cookbook had to offer - including an opportunity to practice my Spanish because all of the recipes were bilingual.

A few weekends ago, as the sky had the shade of autumn grey that I love, I decided to dust off this cookbook and make something in the slow cooker.  After foraging through my cupboards, refrigerator and freezer, I decided on this mole.  I didn't want to have to spend too long preparing everything - just wanted to get it in the pot and get back to more important things (Call of Duty).

We had a very good haul of peppers and produce this year.  My husband, (the Pepper Whisperer I've started calling him), worked his magic and we had so many peppers I didn't know what to do with them!  Bajan Hot Sauce, Trini Hot Sauce, smoked paprika powder, piri piri sauce, Caribbean chopped seasoning, smoked Anchos, chili flakes and so much more.  Near the end I froze them whole and will decide what to do with them later on.

I pretty much used the ingredients as listed in this recipe, but changed the method to use the slow cooker.  We have so much meat in our freezer (thanks to my husband's diligent eye for a deal - which he inherited from his mother) that I needed to start working through it all.  I knew there was a pork shoulder (or three) down there - good place to start!  (I think a pork tenderloin would render a drier product).

The recipe calls for 2 lbs, I think the pork shoulder was a bit more, but in the end it doesn't matter if it's a bit more or less - as long as the sauce covers the meat entirely.  I also used low-sodium chicken stock versus the chicken stock powder (it's what I had).  I didn't bother to brown the meat, I just put everything into the Crock pot and turned it on high and walked away.  The smells coming from the kitchen were entirely intoxicating and was the source of much distraction whilst trying to win my xBox campaign.  I digress...

I cut the meat off the bone and kept the bone. I cut it into 2" chunks and put it in the Crock Pot.  Next, the mole.

Re-hydrate the peppers in boiling water until soft. then chop along with onions, tomato and garlic

Re-hydrated peppers
Quick blitz in the blender.  I added enough stock to make a sauce the consistency of ketchup
Poured sauce over meat and reserved bone - then set it and forget it for 6 hours on high
I decided the only thing that would make this dish better, would be some corn tortillas.  I sent my husband out to get some.  You need to know that I live in a small town, so you know where I'm going with this when I say that after many phone calls of  'They don't have any corn tortillas, can you use flour?  No!' -  from many different locations, I decided to make them myself.  Next challenge was finding Masa Harina (the flour used to make corn tortillas).  Eventually he located some.  This flour, unlike corn meal, is treated with lime (essentially calcium) and produces a nice and somewhat pliable dough.  Do not try this with corn meal, trust me on that.

I normally have a tortilla press but there was an incident a while one was hurt, except the press (ahem).   Hand rolling does not get the same uniform texture I was hoping for, but the taste was still there - slightly charred and warm.  I think I need more practice is all.  Nothing can compare to the taste of a fresh and warm corn tortilla.

Just follow the directions on the package - be sure to use warm water, it absorbs better.

Golf-ball sized dough, rolled between two layers of wax paper.
Grilled in a hot, dry non-stick pan (no oil) This one wasn't round, but it was an early one, still tasty though!
They were kept warm in my handy tortilla warmer until the rest of the meal was ready.  To me, they are not good right away (if I had some more practice maybe), they develop a nice soft texture after sitting and steaming together for a while and don't break apart when folded for inserting into mouth.

After six hours, the meat was almost falling apart.  I did check it at 4 hours, then at 5 hours, but it didn't quite 'give' when prodded with a fork, so I left it alone to do its job.

Not the most appetizing shot, upon reflection, however, you get the idea of how tender the meat was
I partially shredded the meat and added some of the cooking sauce to it. Next I thought I would make some pico to go with the mole.

1/2 c of grape tomatoes, 1/4 c chopped onion, 1 tb cilantro, 1 tb lime, salt and pepper to taste

Time for the assembly.  Warm tortilla, mole, extra sauce, pico de gallo, fresh cilantro, slivered red onion and a squeeze of lime to taste.

These were so yummy that I made them again the next week!  I couldn't throw out that precious sauce or see it relegated to the freezer, so I re-used it (thinned with a bit of water) and enjoyed them again with some fresh coleslaw and more pico.

Buen Provecho!