Reading Melville at Sea: Provisioning

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Plant growing out of sand at Wardrick Wells.  There are no fruit trees or crops of any kind on this rocky, barren island. 

Chapter 20

Provisioning.

Interesting chapter.  The Pequod requires, as Melville puts it,

“a three-year’s housekeeping upon the wide ocean, far from all grocers, costermongers, doctors, bakers, and bankers.” 

The amount of goods and provisions that a whaling vessel must store aboard is impossible to imagine.  Where did they find the room for everything they would need?  Do you know that they cooked with FIRE on board the old ships? 

But so many things have not changed in 175 years.  You still have to bring

“spare everythings, almost, but a spare Captain and duplicate ship,”

when you set out.  Everything breaks.  You can’t predict what you will need, so you bring it all.

I did my best to bring all the foodstuffs, basic medical supplies, and galley items that we would need, figuring three months out. I brought powdered milk, evaporated milk, 15 pounds of beans and 15 pounds of flour, 5 pounds of butter, pasta, rice, and canned vegetables and fruit.  I didn’t know what to expect, even though I had done my research, reading on line as well as in books, and talking to every sailor who would answer me.   There are things you can get down here in the Bahamas, and things you can’t find.   

Off the top of my head, what you can’t find anywhere in the Bahamas:

  1. Good peanut butter.
  2. Good cheese (if you have a freezer, fill it with cheese and meat).
  3. Good bread (plan to bake your own, unless you’re okay with Weber’s White and its variations.)
  4. Good wine or beer.
  5. Good pasta.
  6. Wild Rice or brown rice.
  7. Good meats, especially beef or pork.  You can occasionally find decent chicken.   
  8. Good chocolate.
  9. Good olive oil
  10. Good balsamic vinegar

The following things can be bought, but at a premium, as the Bahamian government taxes everything two or three times, especially now that they have introduced the V.A.T.  Foodstuff from the U.S., is taxed far more than stuff from the U.K, so if you MUST have your favorite American crackers and pasta and so forth, prepare to pay twice or three times as much as you would back home. 

  1. Crackers and chips and nuts (junk food)
  2. Pasta
  3. Soft drinks (you can, however, get good ginger beer and other interesting soft drinks).
  4. Fruit juice without corn syrup and added sugar
  5. Anything without added sugar.

Suprisingly, it is also very difficult to get decent fruit and vegetables here.  You can find potatoes, onions, garlic, and cabbage.  Fresh lettuce, greens, and green vegetables show up in the markets, but they have all been shipped from somewhere else and are not very good.  Forget about good tomatoes or fresh parsley or basil, even though the inhabitants have the ability to grow them here.  They don’t grow them or, if they do, they don’t offer them for sale to the public. 

You would think that you could get tropical fruits here for cheap, since they used to grow the on these islands—papayas and guava and pineapple and oranges.  But if you are lucky enough to find them in the markets, you will find that they have been imported and are outrageously expensive.

Good anchors are good

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Our travels over the last couple of weeks

 

Sorry for the long delay in posting, my friends.  We’ve been sailing and anchoring off shore, far away from the internet.  Only in the last 30 minutes have I had access to it again, here at Buddha’s Bar and Restaurant in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera.  I will post photos as soon as I can.   Until then,  I will publish what I’ve written in order.

By the way, Buddha’s is a colorful bar with an interesting gray parrot.  But the food is not that great and I wouldn’t want to be here when all the big screen tv’s are on and the music is turned up loud.  Spanish Wells is so named because the Spaniards, the ones who killed all the original Lucayan inhabitants of these islands, dug a number of wells here back in the late 16th century.  There isn’t anything Spanish about this place.  It’s a fisher-town, with lots of biting flies, hot streets, and murky water.  As on many of the other out islands settled by Loyalists during the late 18th century, the White locals look inbred as they are all rather tall and large bodied.  Most of them  sound as though they never went to school at all.  They say “ain’t got no” and seem gruff but are fairly friendly and nice enough.

We are here only to get propane and gas and provisions and to do a couple of loads of laundry.

I can’t tell you what a relief it is to be on land again, after the past four, no five, days without setting foot on solid ground.  We’ve been sitting out a “big blow,” as they call a system of 50 knot winds, torrential rains, and screaming, howling, screaming, howling.

We found out about the need for good anchors over the past few days at Royal Harbor.  The water is a lovely chalky green, due to the gloopy sands that make for poor holding in rough weather.  We were fine up to 30 knots, but we started to sweat at 40 and decided to set a second anchor when the winds started to gust up to 50.  The water was only 10 feet deep, but we had to let out 100 feet of chain, 50 feet of chain on the main anchor, a 33 pound Rocna, and 30 feet of chain and a 150 feet of rode on a 23 pound Fortress.    Still, we didn’t sleep, as the winds clocked around the entire compass during the three days we stayed here.

I’d love to show you a few pictures, but didn’t take any.  We were kind of busy keeping our boat safe.  Plus it was raining sheets and windows.  But I have posted a lovely photo of Ryan on Abaco, below.

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Ryan walking on the beach on Man-O-War Cay

 

 

 

 

Clamming on Ocracoke, O!

Ryan with our clamming spoils
Ryan with our clamming spoils

Yesterday we went clamming, which involved a long bicycle ride through flat marsh on the Sound side, then a trek through yellow-brown muck through razor sharp grass and into the murky waters where the sand is gray and studded with cob-web like seaweed.  I clamped my jaw tight, which made my teeth hurt, as I waded out, fearful of coming into any contact with the slimy, tangled, underwater strings.  It was as though I was holding my nose with my entire, rigid body, and I said over and over, loudly and crankily, “I don’t like this.”  Every three or four steps I stumbled into a whole, for the bottom is anything but even and the water very cloudy.  Ryan stomped right out into it, whipped off his shoes and wiggled his toes into the sand.  “Clam!” he chirped.

I clambered up onto a duck blind and recoiled while pretending to meditate on the broad shoal, which goes on for miles and never gets any deeper than three feet of water.  Finally I saw that Ryan was struggling to hold his shoes and the clamming bag and waded over to help him.  At first I hung around, holding his shoes, while he found clam after clam with his toes.  The backs of my legs were badly sunburned and I tried to face them away from the sun.  Then I started to rake the sand with my own shoes, still strapped to my feet.

I wandered over a sandy spot, noticed something white and round in the water, and gingerly reached down for it.  “Clam!”  I shouted.  I found another one, and then another, and then it occurred to me that I could keep my legs out of the sun if I squatted down into the water, and while there I might as well fish around in the “clean,” sandy parts for a clam or two.  Before long I was hooked and digging down even into the cobwebby weed.  The clams were plentiful and easy to find, and each one I brought up came with a cloud of inky sand.  It was fun.  I filled Ryan’s shoes again and again, emptying them into the big mesh bag he carried.  After an hour or so we must have collected 15 pounds, more than we could eat, so we headed back to shore, through the muck and the mud.  And that was our day clamming.

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