Wow so the last post was a quick over view of the summer of 2011 and now I must catch up with 2012 so I can get up to date again and begin a fresh start of 2013..even though I have missed January and if I am not careful it will be March before I know it missing the whole of February as well !

2012 was a long year of cruising, not that I am complaining it was a lot of sea miles, and a lot of hours cooking and creating, which together were great.

Starting out in Antigua, in the West Indies where we cruised south through the islands.The islands are volcanic, and lush full of vegetation rain forests on some, sugar cane on others, or sand cays just made literally of sand, broken shells and maybe a palm tree with reefs around them full of fish, squid, shells and live coral, wonderful different sea weeds but this year was the year of the Sargasso seaweed invasion. It was so bad that on the eastern side of Antigua people had to be evacuated from hotels as the fumes were so toxic after the seaweed had filled up the bays. We saw the seaweed all season and even out into the Atlantic on our crossing back to the Mediterranean.

Pitons, St Lucia

Pitons, St Lucia

The winds are always fair in the Caribbean, so everyday the sails go up and we are sailing in fantastic conditions down island. As we are sailing almost all day meals are somewhat restricted to what I can prepare at a 30degree angle without everything in the fridge flying out of the doors if I dare open them ! My repertoire of sandwiches or wraps has grown so much in the last few years and so now in the Caribbean waters it changes again with the different foods stocks I can get there. The Caribbean is dominated by American imports until you get to the French or Dutch islands where the European foods are shipped in ( much to my delight !) They have wonderful fresh tropical fruits here which we devour with enthusiasm, pawpaw, mango, local pineapples, the black pineapple, avocados so big you have to hold them with two hands, passionfruit so sweet and full of flavor, pink grapefruits, soursop, custard apples, limes then there are the real starchy root vegetables used in all kinds of West Indian dishes dasheen, breadfruit, yams, sweet potatoes, callalilou, with plenty of ginger, nutmeg, chillies, lemongrass, coconuts and young coconut to drink and sugar cane ready to be chewed, not to mention the herbs and other locally grown veggies. The markets are always lively, full of noise ladies singing, men arguing, discussing the cricket. The colours are vibrant with umbrellas protecting the produces, the stall holders clothing and then the fruits and veggies.Johns Market, Antigua The fish markets are often filled with reef fish, that they sometimes skin before you see them which I find quite hard to look at, but there are also the Mahi Mahi, Tuna, spanish mackerel, conch and of course spiny lobsters are caught locally in the waters around the islands, and are sold from the local boats or sometimes in the markets.

Buying Lobsters from local fishermen in St Lucia

Buying Lobsters from local fishermen in St Lucia

Finding more organic produce this year was such a bonus, in the BVIs and the USVIs. Being able to find locally grown produce is such a benefit to us all, not only does it provide income to local farmers, but the produce lasts longer, has such wonderful taste, is in season and so therefore is full of nutrients as opposed to the ones flown in or shipped in, in refrigerated containers. These foods do not last and have very little flavour. We did do an experiment with some strawberries that we bought, obviously shipped in from the USA, and they lasted for 5 weeks in the fridge with no sign of mould, or decrease in shape or size… Did make me wonder what they had pumped into these poor fruits before they made it onto the shelves. I now make sure I do not buy that brand. Strawberries are spring and early summer fruit so why not just enjoy them then!

Dog Island, Anguilla

Dog Island, Anguilla

We had a great season cruising the Grenadines, Windwards, Leewards, St Barths, the British Virgin Islands and the US Virgin Islands before turning Eastwards and sailing back to the Mediterranean via the Azores. Catching fish along the way but our biggest catch was just inside the Mediterranean as we passed through the Gibraltar Straits, ships all around us a big fat yellow fin tuna, about 25kg.

Yellowfin Tuna in the Gibraltar straits

Yellowfin Tuna in the Gibraltar straits

We arrived in Valencia in early May and had about a 4 week stay there which was magical. Cycling to the market each day in Cabanyal was wonderful as I would come back to the America’s Cup Port, balancing bags on the handlebars, tied onto the back and of course in my backpack swerving through the barricades that they were putting up for the Valencia Formula 1 Grand prix. Each day I would have to go another way. Sometimes I would cycle there with another chef off another boat and other times alone. It was the start of my day.

Valencia

Valencia

Valencia has so much to offer so many cycle lanes, the old town, the new city of arts which is build in the old river bed, the paella rice paddies, the long sandy beaches, the vineyards close by… If you have not been go and visit. Being there at that time of year was great, all the spring vegetables young favas, asparagus, wonderful rafa tomatoes, speciality of this area together with the Valencia tomato which is like a large beef tomato that they fill with tuna to serve. There was dried fish, smoked dried tuna, the markets are just so alive with food, and people I hated the days I would miss going there. My Spanish improved yet my Italian took over with most words but I was understood by most people. I am still not fluent by any means but one day..

Superyacht Cup Palma 2012

Superyacht Cup Palma 2012

After Valencia we sailed out to the Baleares, Ibiza, Formentera, Mallorca and Minorca. We raced in a regatta in Palma which as ever was great fun, but frustrating as we did not do as well as we could, but it was worth the effort to get back into race mode for the season. Straight after the regatta we shot off to Sardegna to celebrate birthdays with many guests onboard with wonderful summer weather, catching more tuna along the way. I had plenty of filleting to do and prepared sushi and sashimi for the guests and crews delight as it was so fresh.. From Sardegna we cruised Corsica which was full of interesting bays, red rocks, pine forests, calm seas, warm weather and long sunset sails, before we headed back to the Italian mainland, and along the French Riviera in the height of the season.

Expensive cherries ! St Tropez

Expensive cherries ! St Tropez

Tackling the market in St Tropez in July is something I could do without. I had not been there at that time for at least 20 yrs and could not believe the change, in fact saddened by the change as it appeared to have lowered its standard and the fruit and vegetables stands were nothing like they had been. But saying that I still did manage to buy some wonderful things at wonderful prices and had to fight my way back to the port loaded up with bags on shoulders filled with wonderful breads, berries, other fruits and vegetables and a granny trolley filled to the brim. I am not sure the holiday makers in St Tropez really enjoyed having to tackle me on the narrow walkways or pavements as I lugged everything back down to be picked up by the tender. Lobsters at the market were brought back for dinner that night so I prepared a feast whilst the guests enjoyed an afternoon in the sun.

From France we headed back to Italy to start out regatta preparations. We did our regatta preparations in La Spezia this year as sadly our place in Isola da Maddelena was closed, so we worked with others during Ferragosta the big Italian summer holiday, prepping up the boat, emptying her of all unnecessary items, sails, dinghies etc that we do not need whilst racing and hit Sardenga with a bang for the Maxi Rolex Cup. A whirlwind of crew, food, racing, parties etc for 10days exhausts me but I love it as we pushed ourselves and came in 2nd in our class which was fantastic.

wrap a regatta up..!

wrap a regatta up..!

Banoffee whoopee pies

Banoffee whoopee pies

A quick turn around and we were off in perfect conditions to get back to La Spezia to refit the boat before turning around and heading to Greece and Turkey for the last of the Mediterranean summer warmth. We were so spoilt with the weather it was amazing. We cruised the coast of Turkey going to Greek islands when we felt like it and had a relaxing time at the end of the season over in the Eastern Mediterranean enjoying autumnal fruits and vegetables, eating wonderful local foods ashore and enjoyed a tranquil pace of life as the season was slowly coming to an end but with a long Indian summer. Buying fish and prawns from local fishermen, small boats coming up offering fruits and vegetables, or ladies making spinach and feta pancakes which are just so tasty when freshly made I can never pass them by.

Spinach and feta pancake seller...Olu Denis, Turkey

Spinach and feta pancake seller…Olu Denis, Turkey

Being back with very old friends there was wonderful, not only did I catch up with close friends in Turkey who taught me a few new recipes using dried aubergines and courgettes, but my favourite time was with my best friend and family in Rhodes, where we ate at their restaurant and spend as many hours as I could with them. Pappou the grandfather, who is just a wonderful character, told me off for not preparing my octopus the correct way to dry it, but oh boy did it taste good once it was fully dried and then grilled. It was the first piece of seafood I had tasted in 2012 as this was the year I gave up eating all seafood, for environmental reasons.

Dried aubergine, courgette and chilled. Kusadasi market, Turkey

Dried aubergine, courgette and chilled. Kusadasi market, Turkey

Drying octopus on the life lines whilst cruising in Turkey...2012

Drying octopus on the life lines whilst cruising in Turkey…2012

<a

Our crossing back to La Spezia was just a dream, we seemed to miss any form of bad weather and hit the dock in time for a storm to come through and dump snow on the mountains in the first week of November ! Our fishing success continued until the end when we caught the most magnificent Mahi Mahi between Greece and Italy. We docked in a small village just outside La Spezia called Le Grazie which is stunning, and the small dock is full of classic yachts, so we did stand out in a crowd there being a carbon fibre yacht amongst wooden yachts. The locals were insistent that I should be served first at the only fruit and vegetable shop so long as I told them my story and where we had been, how long we would be there for, how many people onboard and anything else they saw necessary to ask me. Again my broken Italian helped me become a local for those 2 weeks we were there and I know when I go back in May they will once again question me as to where I have been for the winter and what I will be doing for the summer. I do also benefit from all the questioning as I ask them what they are going to do with the produce in their hands for lunch or dinner as everyday they come in and buy what is required for that day, no more or less. Unlike me who is always buying a bit more just incase we suddenly drop the lines and go to sea ! Once the yard was prepared for us we motored over to the other side of the bay and came out of the water for the winter. The boat is out of the water for the whole winter, having lots of maintenance done on her and I was given time off.

Advertisements