Rainstorm Gourmet

Continuing “Trekking by Sail, Exuma Islands”
I had never tasted fresh tamarind before. We cracked open the furry skins and picked out stringy strands of sweet-and-sour fruit, Mother Nature’s “Sour Patch” candy. Washed down with a Kalik Gold beer, the tamarind was our special treat for making it through the night.

We had arrived at Farmer’s Cay the previous evening, after an idyllic day of sailing, snorkeling, and hiking. As we put down our anchors, large clouds marched over the horizon, and when I looked up ten minutes later, they were on top of us. The wind freshened as we struggled to pitch our tents poorly in the shallow sand, and I pulled my bedding inside just as the sky opened up into a downpour. Meanwhile, our guides Dallas and Ian had been swiftly setting up our mobile kitchen and getting to work on dinner.

It took about seven minutes for everything to get thoroughly drenched. We were cheerful, noting that storms in the tropics are short-lived, and more cheerful when someone had the idea to drink all the liquor, to keep us warm on the inside at least. Everyone had a different strategy: some went swimming in the lukewarm shallow water to get out of the cold downpour, some donned rain gear from head to toe, and some went straight to bed without dinner. I was starving and determined to wait for that fresh fish.

The rain never let up, and the scene was so miserable after a couple of hours that I was shocked to realize that Dallas and Ian were still slaving away over dinner. I would have been satisfied with a triage-style granola bar meal, but they were committed to feeding us right. Somehow they kept the stove lit and managed to produce a steaming pot of savory rice with baked macaroni and cheese, as well as some fresh fried grouper. We ate like horses at the trough–I’m pretty sure I just skipped using a fork altogether. After that, some people crawled back into their wet tents, but a few of us were feeling reasonably good out there in the rain, with warm food and booze heating us from the inside. We took turns teaching everyone songs, but the one that stuck–and I mean STUCK for the rest of the week, tattooed on beaches, referenced in 20 Questions–was the NuGrape Song.

As we sucked on the tart tamarind fruit the following morning, with every article of clothing hung out to dry on the trees, the sun wiped away the last traces of wetness, and a breeze filtered freshness into everything. We enjoyed a day of rest and so did the boats. Some people went seashell hunting, I read my book and did yoga on a secluded stretch of beach, and Dallas took a group to Little Farmer’s Cay where they met some colorful locals and returned bearing fuzzy, sweet-and-sour gifts.

The storm had tested everyone, but it had also imbued us all with a sense of adventure, strength, and comradeship that only those sorts of situations can summon. Dallas’s remarkable commitment to providing us with a good meal, even in the worst of all situations, was a clear testament to his outstanding commitment to the flotilla experience with Out Island Explorers. There are things that no one can control–such as random lightning storms. But these guys have a gourmet grip on all the rest, and we were enormously thankful for that, rain or shine!

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