Friday, June 01, 2007

Hurricane season begins...

Big Galliot Cay, Exumas, Bahamas
0 nm
Wind: E-SE 20-27 knots
Seas: 6-8 feet offshore

I’ve been rereading my last two weeks of entries to overcome the depression that’s settle on my shoulders like a cirrostratus cloud. They don’t sound as bad as they’ve felt. I’m glad I’ve managed to remain relatively chipper, at least on paper.

We went to the island again today--a big step, even though it was cold and windy and stormy. Because the wind’s shifted to the southeast, I felt safe enough snorkeling among the rocks and coral, something I hadn’t done yet. The fish here are breathtaking, perhaps just because of my long absence from them. I pulled out my Peterson Field Guide to Caribbean Seashores when I got back to the boat, a great value (it was included in our boat’s purchase price, though unsurveyed), and it’s great fun scouring it for the genus and species names of Purple Sea Fans and Disk Algae. I might be using a lot more Latin in my journal entries from here on. I may even develop an affection for sea cucumbers, the one animal I’ve been most afraid of since I was a wee child, though they’re utterly harmless. I saw a gargantuan black spiked one today, and I stayed as far away from it as I could. If I had had my Peterson Guide, I may have been seduced into identifying it. I only wish I had a fish guide, but I’ll make do with coral and shells.

We also took a conch today, a giant granddaddy of a conch that I discovered, and about which I feel profound guilt. We were hungry, though, and living off couscous and sausage and sardines just wasn’t cutting it. Not to mention watching the Bahamian fishermen waltz by in their fishing boats with 180 conch a day, and our little cruising neighbors taking them just for bait, and the ocean floor littered with crushed shards of pink shell left by past boats. “One measly conch,” I convinced myself. “Fried with our last onion over rice. Delicious. What could it hurt?”

A lot, evidently. My conscience, for one. Karl bashed the thing in the cockpit for what felt like hours with a ball-peen hammer, while I shuddered in the corner, the whacks resounding in the hull, the conch still alive and huddled in its formerly gorgeous curled shell, oozing green fecal matter. Karl finally gave up bashing it after scattering knife-sharp shell fragments, sand, yellow and brown goo, and sickening conch death smell all over our boat. I discovered that the Joy of Cooking recommends boiling them for three minutes and then “easily” removing the meat with a skewer.

So we dutifully boiled the conch alive, half-crushed, for three minutes, then five, then ten, until Karl was able to “easily” remove it. The Joy of Cooking also says that everything is edible and “delicious” aside from the operculum, the hard disk that serves as a door to the conch’s shell. Gazing at the gray-green interior end of the conch, full of internal organs and linings and mucus and black ooze, filled me with dismay. Karl cut off its cute little face, at least, to use for bait, leaving inch-long chunks of black eye-stem to go in our pot. He was unable to tenderize it as we had done for the conch cleaned for us by our Bahamian friends, it having been boiled for ten minutes. Even the chunks he was able to hew it into were huge because it was so tough.

Our dinner was intestiny, mucusy, and full of sand. We didn’t discover the inner sand-filtering lining that we were evidently supposed to remove. I got what I deserved for my moral turpitude. I don’t think I’ll be taking conch anytime soon. We have a huge pot of leftovers (there’s so much meat in a conch!) and I don’t know if I’ll be able to stomach anymore. I feel so badly for Karl--it was his idea, he did all the hard work of bashing and cooking and cleaning, and for what? A barely edible, albeit quite flavorful, meal. It sums up our lives lately. We’re trying, hard, and all we’re doing is running in place.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

check with the natives but im pretty sure if ya bang a hole in the pointed end then slip a fillet knife in you are able to slice the conecting muscle and slide the meat right out.that is if you wanna eat your bait ha ha st