Sunday, July 29, 2012


The Bahamian dollar (BSD) is pegged to the U.S. dollar (USD) on a one-to-one basis.  All of the business and government office in the Bahamas also accept the USD, but will generally give change in BSD.  So the trick is to ensure that you have spent all of your BSD before you leave the Bahamas because it will not be good anywhere else.  Looks like I got stuck with $1.35 BSD.

Many places in the Bahamas insist on cash because they do not have Internet for credit card transactions, of course there are exceptions.  At the Marina at Emerald Bay on Great Exuma they only accepts credit cards because they do not want their employees handling cash.  The marina at Cave Cay only accepts personal checks.  Whip your check book out anywhere else and they will think you are crazy.

The Turks & Caicos make it easy on the U.S. tourist, they use the USD.  After the somewhat sparsely populated southern Bahamian islands, Caicos seemed like south Florida with plenty of places to spend our USDs.

The Dominican peso RD$ is the official currency in the Dominican Republic.  Again, the USD is readily accepted and in most cases preferred.  The exchange rate fluctuates, but is generally about 39 RD$ to 1 USD.  The lowest domination RD$ bank note is 20 pesos, and having several 1,000 peso ($25 USD) notes in your pocket is not uncommon.  The above 10 peso coin is worth about 25 cents USD.

In Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands you are back to the USD.  I did notice that in St. Croix the bills had a well used quality about them.

In the Leeward and Windward Islands the currency gets a little more complicated and the USD gets a little less acceptance. Generally, in the French speaking islands (St. Martin, St. Barth’s, Martinique, The Saints) the Euro is the official currency, while in the English (Antigua, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Grenada) speaking islands the Eastern Caribbean Currency or EC is the official currency.

The exchange rate for the Euro fluctuates, and at the time of this posting was $1.23 USD to 1 Euro.  To quickly make the exchange in our heads we added 25% to anything we saw priced in Euros.  Interestingly, in St. Martin several restaurants were advertizing that they would accept the USD at the same rate as Euros to attract the cruisers.

Eastern Caribbean Currency or simply EC has a fixed exchange rate of 2.67 EC to 1 USD.  But, fixed isn’t always fixed.  I noticed in fine print in a restaurant on St. Lucia their exchange rate was 2.5 EC to 1 USD.  Another trick when you are first exposed to EC is for the locals to negotiate a price with you, and then when you go to pay them in EC they say, “no mon, that price was in U.S. dollars.”  When we see prices in EC we normally divide it by 3 to get a feel for the price in USD.  The ATMs allow you to get up to 1500 EC per day.  I usually only get 1000 EC, because I find it is EC come, and EC go.

Most marinas and larger stores accept credit cards, but you must make sure you are not charged foreign transaction fee by your credit card company because those fees will quickly add up.  We have found that it is generally better to get the local currency with our debit card because the change you get when using USD always seems a little short and many businesses outside of the U.S. charge a 5% credit card fee.


Americans are trained to add 15 to 20% to our restaurant bill unless the service was so horrible you complained to the manager.  In the Bahamas they add 15% on for you and the practice is generally a disincentive for the service staff.  Knowing that Americans are easy, they sometimes try to hide the 15% as a “Government Tax.”  There is no sales tax in the Bahamas. 

In many of the French speaking islands they pay their service staff a living wage that is reflected in the price of meal and do not expect the customer to supplement their income.   In many places the practice of tipping is so foreign, that I have had them chase me out of the restaurant to return the tip because they thought I had forgotten my change – I don’t think they were insulted by my meager tip.  In most of the other islands a 10% tip is considered adequate.  After a great meal in St Martin, we noticed that there was no place for us to add a tip on the credit card receipt.  The greedy owner allowed us to add a little extra to the price of the meal.  Americans are so easy – oui.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Underwater Sculpture Garden

Grenada is known for some great snorkeling and dive sites.


Just a couple of miles north of St. George’s in Moilinere Bay is an underwater sculpture garden with reportedly 65 pieces in an area of about 9000 sq feet.

A Mermaid
The sculpture garden is within an area designated as a National Marine Park.
The Lost Correspondent
 Most of the sculptures are in about 15 feet of water.

Moiliniere Bay suffered considerable storm damage in recent years and the placement of an artificial structure has provided a new base for marine life to proliferate.

Divers off of a commercial boat
The sculptures were also designed to create a diversion from other areas of coral reef currently endangered by over use from water activities.
Grace Reef
Over cocktails the night before, an impromptu snorkeling trip was put together with three other couples in 3 dinghies.

Bill free diving to a sculpture
Bill and JoAnne from Ultra became our unofficial guides because they had been to the site before.

Pollie w/flower in hair
We found it to be an easy but very intriguing snorkeling trip and cannot wait to go back.

JoAnne, always the gracious host, had snacks ready for when we came out of the water.
A special thanks to Izzy St. Clair on the Izzy R for the great photographs.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cooking Class (revisited)

The restaurant at Dodgy Dock in True Blue Bay hosts a weekly cooking class featuring local ingredients and recipes.
The stars of the show are Esther and Omega
One never knows what they will prepare until after they begin.  They say it is so people will not be selective about which classes to attend.  I don’t think they know themselves until minutes before class.  This week we are having Cou-cou and Pan Seared fish with Gravy.

Cou-cou is an inexpensive West Indies dish that accompanies many meals.  It is a good dish to make 12° north of the equator where you don’t want to heat up the inside of your home (or boat) by operating an oven.
2 cups yellow cornmeal
4 local seasoning peppers
4 cloves garlic
4 strands chives and Thyme
2 large onions
½ stick (1/4 cup) butter or margarine
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups of coconut milk 
Add 3 cups of coconut milk, salt and all seasonings to a large sauce pan.  Reserve half of the seasoned coconut milk.   Stir the cornmeal slowly into the coconut milk.  Using a wooden spoon stir constantly adding the reserved mixture as needed.  Return pot to stove over medium heat and continue to stir cornmeal.  Cook and stir about 15-20 minutes.
Insert wooden spoon into center of the Cou-cou.  If the spoon stands up in the pot and is easily removed from the cornmeal, your Cou-cou is done.  If the cou-cou is loose and creamy looking, you have used too much milk.  If too much milk is used, let Cou-cou stand uncovered over low heat to “dry out.”  When Cou-cou is done, turn the entire mixture into a buttered serving bowl and garnish.  Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Pan Seared Fish w/Gravy
Ingredients (8 servings): 
3 cups water
3 lbs sliced fish
2 tbsp chopped fresh thymes & chives
½ tsp salt
Pinch black pepper
1 cup vegetable oil (frying)
1 tbsp curry
4 cloves garlic
2 large onions (strips)
4 tomatoes
1 tbsp ketchup or paste
1 cup flour (left over from fish) 
Season fish with salt and pepper (set aside).  Heat oil in sauce pan, dip fish in flour on both sides and gently place in hot oil letting fry until golden brown (remove and set aside).
The Gravy

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in sauce pan; add in thyme, chive, garlic and onion.  Simmer on low heat, stir in ketchup or tomato paste.  Sprinkle curry and stir fry, add flour until brown then add water and let simmer.

There also seems to be some peppers and maybe some christophenes in there.
The tomatoes are added last.

Is it done?

Here comes my favorite part - taste testing.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Down Island Beer

Leaving the United States, means leaving behind access to many U.S. beers.  If your first stop is the Bahamas, you will want to stock up before you leave the States because beer in the Bahamas is about $50 per case as opposed to about $16 to $18 in the states.  I suspect most of the boats crossing the Gulf Stream have a lot of beer for ballast, Motivator did.
Motivator’s Engine Room Calendar
Controlling over 50% of the market share, Kalik is “The Beer of the Bahamas.”  It is available in Kalik Light, Kalik, and Kalik Gold.  Kalik Gold has an alcohol content of 7% by volume.  Kalik isn’t at all bad, and cruisers have been known to take a few cases of Kalik Gold back across the Gulf Stream.

Photograph by:  Digital Lady Syd
Sands Beer is probably number two in the Bahamas and has some very cute advertizing.  Someone told me that it tastes like Miller Light, and I would have to agree with that assessment.

The same brewery that makes Sands also makes High Rock.  In the Bahamas copyright infringement doesn’t seem to be a biggie, so I guess a label that is a cross between Rolling Rock and Heineken is not a concern.  High Rock is marketed as a lager, and I like lagers, but not so much this one.

Haeden and I enjoying a $5 Kalik at the Chat n’ Chill
An import tax on items entering the Bahamas explains the high cost for imported goods, but I could never understand why Kalik, Sands and High Rock, produced in the Bahamas, was the same price as Bud.

As you can see from the above chart Motivator was able to stock enough beer to make it through the Bahamas without paying the high prices, but the crew was getting nervous.  Good news though, rumor had it that Presidente Beer is readily available and reasonably priced in the Dominican Republic.  But more importantly, rumor also had it that Presidente tastes goooood. 

If you buy enough Presidente, they throw in a free cooler

Presidente Beer a pilsner was introduced to the Dominican Republic in 1935.  It has become part of the DR’s identity and is now exported to the United States and other Caribbean nations including Puerto Rico, Haiti, the US Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos, Curacao, Aruba, Tortola, St. Maarten and Grenada.

“Compañía Cervecera de Puerto Rico”
Medalla, if not “The Beer of the Caribbean” it is certainly the beer of Puerto Rico. 

Advertizing for Medalla is plastered everywhere.  Introduced in 1937, Medalla is a pale lager that has recently been introduced to the States.  Medalla is not bad, but given a choice I would probably opt for a Presidente.
Christiansted, St. Croix USVI
There is a lot of U.S. influence in St. Croix therefore I was able to find a Bud Light at the Window Bar, but not a Yuengling; I asked.

St. Barth’s
When you get down to the French Islands such as St. Martin and St. Barth’s there seems to be more of a beer selection.  Above I am enjoying a Red Stripe at Le Select in St. Barth’s.  Red Stripe, a lager, is advertised as a “Product of Jamaica,” but my guess is that it was brewed in nearby Antigua at the Antigua Brewery company that is also licensed to brew Guinness stout and Carib.  Their flagship product is Wadadli beer (introduced in 1993) which I will have to try on my next visit.  
Shell Beach, St Barth’s
(more about Carib later)

Biere Lorraine, a very tasty lager named after the French region of Lorraine, is said to be only available in Martinique.   I must say that I haven’t been able to find it except on Martinique and I have looked.
“Mystic Mountain Brew”
Named for the island’s most prominent geological feature, Piton Beer is king in St. Lucia.  One great feature about Piton Beer is its very active bottle recycling program.  The beer is sold locally in open plastic crates, and then the empty bottles are returned via the crates.

“St. Vincent’s Prize Winning Lager”
German brewery Haase Brauerei formed St. Vincent Brewery Ltd., and began producing Hairoun Beer in 1985.  We found it on Bequia and Union Island.  The can looks like it should contain a fruit drink, but it is a good light lager.

St. George’s, Grenada
The Carib Brewery is headquarter in Trinidad and Tobago that produces Carib and Stag beers along with other products.  While their main brewery is in Champs Fleurs, Trinidad, they also have breweries Saint Kitts and Nevis and Grenada.  Carib claims to be “The Caribbean Beer,” and certainly seems to have a large share of the Caribbean market.

I actually prefer their Stag brand over Carib, and it is not due to their advertizing slogan.

Look what I found hiding in the bilge!

After trying most of beers the Caribbean has to offer, I still prefer Yuengling, “by America’s Oldest Brewery.”

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cooking w/Esther & Omega

Each Thursday afternoon the True Blue Bay Marina at the south end of Grenada has a cooking class presented by Esther and Omega. Admission is 10 EC and transportation is 10 EC ($3.75); beer or rum punch is 5 EC.

These gals have been cooking together so long, they tend to complete each other’s sentences.  There also seems to be a friendly completion for best cooking ability and punch line delivery.

Do you know what a christophene is?

They cook with local ingredients making local dishes.  Some cruisers tend to stick with dishes that they know and do not try the local dishes.  That is why you generally see a cheeseburger on most menus.  We find that it is more interesting and economical to try the local dishes.

When handling a christophene it is important to wear gloves because peeling it is a very sticky process.

Esther prepared Christophene Au Gratin, but says it also makes a great Christophene Cream Soup.

Christophene Au Gratin:
-3 Christophenes.  Peeled, halved and seeded
-1 cup cream (approx)
-½ cup grated cheddar cheese
-¼ cup bread crumbs
-3 tbsp unsalted butter
-Salt and pepper to taste

-Boil Christophene in salt water until tender
-Remove from water and cool
-Cut into ¼ inch slices across the width
-Arrange in baking dish
-Pour cream over christophene to halfway up
-Season with salt and pepper
-Spread cheese across the top, then bread crumbs
-Dot the top with butter
-Bake at 350 degrees until tender and golden brown

Another popular side dish is Callaloo.  It is served like we serve spinach, and like spinach it supposedly has a very high iron content.  Esther and Omega say, “it is good for your man,” but refrained from explaining that statement.

Callaloo Preparation

Pollie has successfully made Callaloo with this recipe:

Local Seasoning Peppers
(small red, green or yellow peppers with only a hint of hot)

Recipe continued:
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pound fresh callaloo leaves or spinach (about 8 cups of leaves), ribs/stems discarded, well rinsed, and chiffonaded
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3 cups water


In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes. Add the garlic, peppers, thyme, salt, and pepper, and cook stirring for 30 seconds. Add the greens and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the coconut milk and the water. Cook, stirring, until the leaves are tender and the liquid is slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning, to taste.

Serve hot or warm with rice and hot pepper sauce on the side.

Fish Baked in White Wine

Fish seems to be the most popular main dish. 

Fish Baked in White Wine:

10 slices of fish (they used Maui Maui)
1 cup white wine
1 pkt butter (melted)
5 tbsp flour
10 local seasoning peppers (coarsely chopped)
5 Strands chives or spring onions (chopped)
1 Lg Onion (coarsely chopped)
1 Cup cream
Salt & pepper 


Season fish (you have to attend 3 classes before you get the seasoning recipe) slices, place on a baking sheet or dish.  Sprinkle chopped onions, chives, seasoning peppers and garlic over fish.  Add wine.
Pour melted butter over fish slices and sprinkle with flour.

Bake 5-10 mins.  Remove from oven and drain water from baking sheet or dish.  Place the fish water in a separate pot then add cream, salt and pepper to taste.  If too thin add a little corn starch or flour to thicken.  Pour over fish and serve.

While Esther is busy cooking, Omega fills in the voids by explaining other local food.

Introduced to the West Indies by Captain Bligh, breadfruit readily grows and is used much like potatoes.  To prepare, the fruit is roasted over a fire until the skin is black.  Omega prepared a taste for us by peeling off the blackened skin and frying chunks in seasoned oil.  They tasted much like home fries.

The Thursday cooking class is very popular with the cruisers and usually has about 40 people in attendance.