Monday, 22 July 2013

Rollers, breakers and swells, oh my!

These days we are learning about the differences from offshore to inshore cruising. As you can see on the satellite track, we have been sailing by day and on anchor by night, working our way northwest along the Panamanian coastline. It is a different feel then the long haul sailing we did from Jamaica to Colombia and then from the east coast of Colombia across the mouth of Uraba Bay to Sapzurro on the west side of Colombia, which took us a day and a half non stop.

First of all, and most annoyingly for the Captain, "cruising" here at this time of year means motor sailing, actually mostly just motoring with the mainsail out to stop us from rolling too much in the swell! The winds have been light to nonexistent during the first part of the day, when we've been traveling, picking up to 3 to 5 knots in the early afternoon, just as we are ready to put the sail away and drop anchor. We would leave later, except because we are inshore there are lots of reefs and shoals to avoid, which are almost impossible to see when facing into the late afternoon sun. And so we motor.

Traveling inshore we also have to make decisions about whether to stay inside the little islands and travel close to shore or go outside the islands and get caught in choppy swells. We've now done both and in both places we have to pay attention to the breakers, where the waves crest over the shallows and reefs. It is a spectacular sight from afar, but up close it usually means we are more focused on the navigation to get us out of there!

But the anchor has been up and down in several interesting places along the coast, in spite of the navigational challenges. We anchored off the Kuna village of Ustupu several nights ago, which is the largest village in the Kuna Yala with a population of a couple thousand. It's on a fairly densely packed island, and most of the buildings are thatched huts, although there were a few two-story concrete buildings, including a church painted orange and yellow. We came ashore to buy provisions and saw some of what we expected - locals dressed in their native style, which for the women means shortish skirts with a blouse on top and what looks like piles of beaded bracelets in red and yellow around their calves, with a headscarf draped loosely. We also saw the more unexpected - three teenagers using netbooks to access the internet via wifi in the town square, and snickers candy bars in the shop (they have to keep them in the fridge because it is too hot here) - yes, we bought two.

We had difficulty finding any produce in the stores because the locals grow their own and wouldn't necessarily need to buy it, but we investigated the steamer on the dock and they had brought in tomatoes, carrots, potatoes and onions, things that you would have difficulty growing here. The ship also had the most enormous pile of plantain in the back half - think of an area 20 feet by 10 feet, piled four feet high with plantain. We're not sure if they were buying or selling, but it was a lot of green bananas! While we were on the ship we asked about limes, another common local item, and so someone went off to their house to get us some, probably from his tree. When he came back, we asked what the price was for the bag of about 15 limes and it turns out all he wanted was 50 cents. We gave him a dollar and you shouda seen the smile we got - ear to ear.

At many of our stops, we've had men in dugout canoes come up to the boat to sell us items. We've had fish, lobster, pineapple and mangos. There have also been several wanting to sell us crab, but we weren't sure what to do with them so we had to turn them down. (If you have good crab recipes, email me, and include how to kill, clean and cook it.)

Unfortunately, we haven't been able to swim at the places we've most recently stayed. Reasons include:
1) Very close proximity to the town, which has outhouses that hang off shore and so the floaties in the water reallly are floaters;
2) Gross yellow scum, a pile of which we saw further out to sea as we were motoring and then a thin line of which passed through our anchorage, probably the contents of a trading ship's bilge; and
3) Crocodiles! This afternoon, while sitting on the front of the boat after we'd anchored, I notice a "log" about 6 feet long that was moving perpendicular to the current at a steady pace. I yelled for the Captain to bring the binoculars, and sure enough, my log had a snout and a tail. He disappeared into the mangroves, but there was no carefree jumping of the boat to swim today - maybe off the beach tomorrow...

1 comment:

  1. Some Crab tips :-)
    You should prepare live crabs for eating as soon as you buy them. They are difficult to store and can die quickly. If you can't use crabs immediately, store them in a cooler with ice at the bottom and put the cooler in a cool place. Keep the crabs from laying directly on the ice because the ice will melt and the crabs may use up all of the water and die. Also, keep the lid cracked to allow fresh air in, just make sure the crabs can't climb out.

    Live crabs can pinch, so be sure to wear a pair of heavy duty gloves while preparing them for dinner.

    Before you begin cooking crabs, bring them to room temperature. Clean each crab well, including the shell, claws, legs and the underside.

    Rip the top of the shell off and remove the triangular part of the abdomen on the bottom of the crab. Then remove the guts and reproductive organs from the inside. There should only be meat remaining. The legs can stay intact.

    There are variety of ways to prepare whole crabs. Two traditional ways are sautéing crabs in garlic and oil or cooking crabs in a large pot of tomato sauce and serving them with spaghetti. Crab soup is also a popular method or you can just simply steam the crustaceans and serve them with melted butter. Regardless of the cooking method you choose, keep the flavors simple in order to taste the freshness of the crab meat. Then just have fun digging in.

    Carb with lemon, chilli and tomato with pasta or rice is easy and tasty

    Here is a good recipe for crab cakes - you may need to tweak a bit depending on your supplies!

    2 pounds of crab meat
    6 slices of white bread
    2 lemons
    3 scallions
    2 tablespoon of red bell pepper
    1/2 clove of garlic
    2 tablespoons of parsley
    2 tablespoons of chopped fresh dill
    2 eggs
    1/2 cup of mayo
    1 teaspoon of Worcestershire
    pinch of Salt
    1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
    2 teaspoons of Old Bay Seafood Seasoning
    4 tablespoons of butter
    1 cup of bread crumbs
    Serves: 8

    STEP 1: Remove the crust from the bread. Stack the bread up and cut into small pieces as small as you can get them. Place your bread in a large mixing bowl and add scallions, red bell pepper, garlic, parsley, dill, and your crab meat.

    STEP 2: Use your hands to mix all ingredients well, however try not to break up the crab meat too much. The key is nice sized clumps of crab meat in your mixture. (They will melt in your mouth later.)

    STEP 3: Lightly scramble your egg in a small bowl. Add mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, old bay seafood seasoning, salt and cayenne pepper. Stir well. Pour your blend into the crab mixture, and stir everything together.

    STEP 4: Layout a sheet of wax paper on a baking sheet. (It's time to get messy!) Using your hands, gather small hamburger sized portions of your mixture (approximately 1 inch think) and lay them on your wax paper. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours to marinate.

    STEP 5: Spread 1 cup of bread crumbs on a plate, and dredge your cold crab cakes through on both sides.

    STEP 6: Heat a skillet on medium heat and melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Lightly fry your crab cakes for 3 minutes on each side. Be sure not to let the butter burn and continue to add butter as needed.

    STEP 7: Serve warm with a squeeze of lemon. Add a seafood sauce if you so desire.