Monthly Archives: October 2016

Tropical Depression

Let’s talk about storms for a minute. During our time on the boat, we have seen some varied and nasty weather (we have also seen some pretty good weather too, but I won’t waste your time on something so boring). We have seen towering water spouts come within less than a mile of us. We have had waves wash over our cabin top and flood the cockpit. We have endured torrential rain, hail, lightning storms (blue, white, and pink), 50-knot winds at sea, and 12-foot swells. Once, Dad slipped on ice that had formed on the deck during a record Florida winter. But so far, we have never faced a hurricane.


The monster that became hurricane Matthew started out as a tropical wave way out in the Atlantic Ocean. It was clear from early on that it was going to develop into a tropical storm, and it was headed straight for Grenada, our current place of residence. Hurricanes, or tropical storms for that matter, almost never swing this far south, so Grenada is considered outside the hurricane belt. This does not mean that Grenada doesn’t get whacked, it just doesn’t get whacked very often.

Hurricane Ivan in 2004 was the last major storm to hit Grenada. It killed 39 people, and devastated homes all over the island. The capital, St. Georges, suffered severe damage, and several notable buildings were damaged or destroyed. The entire island was left without electricity or running water, and it caused $1.1 billion in damage. The only good thing about Ivan (if you are a criminal, that is) was that the 17th century prison broke open during the storm, allowing many of the inmates to (briefly) escape.

Initial forecasts of tropical storm Matthew looked grim. It would either pass to the north of us, and hit the northern end of Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, or it would swing to the south of us, hit Trinidad and Tobago, and flood our marina with sustained high winds. The worst case scenario, however, would be if it went directly overhead and we got the winds from the eye wall. That would be bad. In anticipation of this, we began to scout out places to hole up the boat, as marina policy forbids catamarans from staying at the dock in the event of a hurricane. The ten mooring balls just outside the marina were a viable option. Attached to two eight-foot screws hydraulically driven into the bottom, as well as chain through a giant concrete block, the moorings weren’t going anywhere.

We also found a nice spot in Egmont Bay, right next door. Tied up against a wall of mangroves, we would be safe from the anticipated high winds. However, this option looked less and less appetizing, as in the days preceding the storm we watched more and more boats cram themselves into the bay. This seemed extremely foolish to us. The main danger would not be the high winds, but the notoriously poor holding in Egmont Bay. If even one boat broke loose, it would pin-ball around the harbor, cause considerable damage, and potentially break other boats loose as well. When it comes to storms in crowded bays, “safety in numbers” is a myth.

As Matthew approached, he began to swing to the north of us. The marina allowed us to stay in our slip, so we stayed. On September 27th, Matthew officially missed us. Despite all of our preparation, the worst we had to endure were two days of rain and squalls. The highest wind speed that we recorded was a good stiff breeze of 40 knots. Not enough to damage anything, but enough to make it very uncomfortable in our slip. We got a break from school, and played dominoes all day up at the restaurant. So all in all, Matthew was a bit of an anti-climax for us in Grenada. However, the same cannot be said for the rest of the Caribbean.

Soon after Matthew passed us, he underwent a drastic transformation. In only two days’ time, he rapidly became a full-fledged hurricane, and then a category 5 monstrosity with 160 mile-an-hour wind speeds, and an appetite for destruction. We watched, over the course of the week, as he plowed northward through the Caribbean. On October 4th, he made landfall in Haiti, with predictable results. Entire towns were wiped off the map, and transport and communication was disrupted throughout the region. Somewhere between 546 and 1332 people were killed, and thousands more left homeless. Later the same day, he also made landfall in eastern Cuba, wreaking more havoc. Matthew then proceeded northward through the Bahamas, causing well over $200 million in damage, and wrecking hundreds of buildings.

As if he hadn’t caused enough destruction already, Matthew headed towards Florida the next day. He swept up the east coast of the United States, causing widespread flooding and power outages. Most of his energy spent, Matthew, now a category 1, made one last tour, brushing Virginia and the Carolinas, before disintegrating off of Cape Hatteras on October 9th. During his stay in the U.S., Matthew caused $4-6 billion in economic losses; as well as the death of 46 people, one of which was the result of a heart attack where emergency services had closed down. This is in stark contrast to the huge loss of life in Haiti, and comparatively low monetary loss (close to $1 billion). All told, Matthew was around for only 17 days, but in that time, he caused $6.9 billion in damage, and killed over 1380 people, while leaving hundreds of thousands more homeless. Matthew has been dissipated for over a week, but in his wake remains a “tropical depression.”

When in Rome

Jay’s parents came to Grenada for a few days recently to visit with our family and experience a little of what the island has to offer. One of the fun things we did was to go to the House of Chocolate in St. George’s, a lovely little shop with a mini-museum to explain how they grow and process cacao. And, of course, there were treats: homemade chocolate ice cream, gourmet chocolates, brownies, and other delicious confections. My personal favorite is traditional coco tea, a mixture of pure cacao (with the cocoa butter), hot water, and brown sugar. The first time I tasted coco tea was on the boiling lake hike in Dominica when our guide shared his thermos with us. I bought the ingredients to make some at home.

This has been one of my favorite parts of traveling: to eat and drink new things, and to meet locals and ask how they prepare their favorite foods and beverages. Whether it’s shrimp-and-grits in Charleston, Maryland crab-cakes in the Chesapeake, conch fritters in the Bahamas, fish tacos in Puerto Rico, painkillers in the BVIs, or fried breadfruit in the Windward Islands, I will eat, drink, cook, and mix just about anything.

Tropical Fruit

Our trip through the Caribbean has been wonderful for culinary experimentation. While we missed the summer fruit of the United States this year, peaches and plums were replaced by mangoes and papayas and new fruits we’d never even heard of. With rum distilleries on every island, we’ve also tried all sorts of new drink concoctions. I can make a mojito with just about anything—mango (BVIs), watermelon (St. Lucia), or fresh ginger and passionfruit (Nevis). I’ve had a traditional rum punch in Anguilla, and the Ti’Punch in Martinique.

Sometimes the experiments don’t end well—we didn’t really like the fire-roasted breadfruit I bought in a Bequia market, and the first bite of fresh cashew-apple given to me in Montserrat was the last. (I eventually figured out how to peel and make a jam out of French cashew apple.)

Cashew Apples

But other times, we have added new foods and drinks to our repertoire. A friend of ours here in Grenada told me to mix “five fingers” (a.k.a. starfruit or carambola) with lime to make a delicious juice—I added ice and blended it to make a fabulous smoothie. A farmer’s market in Union (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) yielded some Christophenes (a.k.a. chayote) and a conversation with two lovely ladies who argued good-naturedly about the “correct” way to prepare it. I have found over and over again that the fastest way to break down a cultural barrier is to ask a local in a market how to prepare something. You’ll get more than just a recipe—a little piece of history, some culture, and maybe even a new friend.

Caribbean Recipes

Sauteed Christophene
4 chistophenes
Olive oil
3 cloves garlic
4 stalks chopped scallions/green onions

Peel and julienne the Christophene. Place in a steamer basket over boiling water for no more than 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet. Add garlic and scallions. Remove Christophene from steamer and place in hot oil. Sauté lightly for another 2-3 minutes. It should be crisp-tender and not mushy. Add salt to taste and serve.


Cashew Apple Jam
A dozen freshly picked cashew apples
3 cups cane sugar (turbinado or demerara)
6 small limes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peel and chop the cashew apples, removing the pit. Place in medium pot with sugar and add the juice of six limes. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 30 minutes, until cashew fruit is softened and mixture is bubbly. Use a potato masher or a blender to purée the fruit, and return to pot. Simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Remove from heat, add vanilla, and stir. Cool in the pot for 30 minutes, then put in mason jars. Use boiling water canner to preserve, or store in fridge.

Cashew Apple Jam

Five Fingers and Lime Juice Drink
3 large “five fingers” fruits a.k.a. Star Fruit or Carambola
The juice of 6 fresh limes
1 cup water
3 tablespoons cane sugar (turbinado or demerara)

Remove ends of five fingers and chop into large chunks. Place in a large blender, adding water, sugar and lime juice. Purée the fruit on high, and add ice cubes until the juice becomes slushy. Serve immediately.

Mango Salsa
2 large, firm almost-ripe mangoes
½ cup chopped red pepper
1 tablespoon minced jalapeño, if you like spice
½ cup chopped red or sweet onion
¼ cup minced cilantro
Juice of 2 small limes
Salt to taste

Chop the mangoes, squeezing the juice from the seeds into a medium bowl. Add mango chunks, lime juice, chopped onion, cilantro, bell pepper and jalapeño, if desired. Add salt to taste and serve with fresh fish, grilled shrimp, or jerk chicken.

Basic Mojito (1 drink)
10 fresh mint leaves
Juice of 1 small lime (or half a large lime)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 oz. white rum
6 oz. club soda
Ice cubes

Muddle mint leaves, lime, sugar, and rum (and any add-ins) in the bottom of a glass. Add ice and club soda and stir gently.

Add ins:
1 teaspoon diced fresh ginger root and ¼ cup fresh passion fruit juice
¼ cup fresh mango puree
1 slice watermelon, seeds removed (about ¼ cup)