Monday, September 27, 2010

"How are you going to eat?"

When we told people we were going to live aboard Desdemona and sail around The Bahamas, The Caribbean and wherever else a common question we were asked was, "Well when you go to these places what are you going to eat?" The question implying that outside of America food didn't exist. And while we never found that to be the case, certain aspects of acquiring a good meal were not as we expected. Fishing and spearfishing played a large role in how we planned to feed ourselves. When we went to the dive shop in Ft. Lauderdale to purchase our Hawaiian sling and our pole spears the woman showed us a video of serious spearfishermen. This was going to be easy, I thought, we'll jump in the water, shoot a couple of fish and dinner is served. A fine theory but what I hadn't considered was the water. Everything about the many beautiful Bahama shades of blue says, "I'm tropical and warm" and yet the water temperature read out on our instruments disagreed, "bullshit you're tropical" reading somewhere between 60-70 degrees farenheit while we were in the Northern Bahamas in February, March and April. No fish I could imagine was worth what for me, a Floridian, was the equivalent to joining the Polar Bear club.

It was in Hopetown towards the end of April when the water reached a still unacceptable but-fuck-it-I'm-sick-of-waiting 72 degrees. Lobster season had closed the day before but we could probably get away with one or two and claim stupid American tourist defense if we got caught. There was a close reef only thirty feet off the beach in front of the Hopetown Harbour Lodge, a small quiet boutique hotel on Elbow Cay. We were all excited, we loaded all of our gear, fins, masks, slings, spears in the dinghy and headed across the harbor to shore.
"Are you ready to harvest the bounty of the sea?" I asked Philip
"YEAH! The bounty of the sea!!" Philip echoed
"Do you think it's a good idea to carry these spears through the hotel?" said Anna
"Of course! How else are we going to catch dinner? I said. "Besides I don't think they'll even notice. And if they did what could they do about? It isn't illegal to spearfish."

To get to the beach we had to walk up the hotel's long stairway entrance, through the hotel lobby, across the grounds, through the pool area, then through the middle of the beach restaurant.  What Anna was trying to tell me was that if we only attempted to take the benevolent looking green and blue masks and snorkels we might have made it through this minefield without being noticed by hotel staff. Her implication was we'd look like we  didn't belong, that somehow the four, six foot aluminum spears each of us carried over our shoulder that drew the notice of the entire hotel as we made our way to the beach looking like a small band of Maori tribesmen made us look out of place. The four of us just walked across the hotel as if it was normal for us to be carrying a giant spear. As we walked I thought "Why wouldn't we be carrying a giant spear?" I stared back at people thinking "Where is your spear? Do my clothes not match or is it the giant spear you're staring at?"

When we got to the beach we stuck our spears upright in the sand and threw our gear down. I saw a mothers order her children out of the water. They looked like weak swimmers and it made me think that if we didn't find any fish what other prey we could go after.  Before we could get our masks adjusted to our face we were approached by a man who looked way to serious for his hawaiin shirt. The shirt apparently the hotels uniform, he introduced himself as the manager. He was pale for living in the Bahamas and rather paunch with a moustache. I figured he was coming to wish us the best of luck in our hunt.
"Are those your spears?" he said and looked at them shaking his head in disapproval
"It appears they are with us" I said.
"I don't mind if you use our beach. All beaches in the Bahamas are public." he said
"Ok great!" said Philip
"But I do regret to inform you that you cannot spearfish at this beach."
"Well I regret to inform you that you have mustard on your face." said Philip
The man started to feel around his lips in his moustache. "That can't be I have eaten anything today."
Anna, Chris and I started laughing at the unexpected change of direction the conversation just took. I leaned in and squinted to get a look at the man's mustard face. The man continued to paw at his face and check his hand.
"Up a little to the left." said Philip "No over. Yeah there it's covered in mustard.
The man rubbed but the patch of yellow remained in his moustache.
"I think that must be just his moustache." said Anna
"It looks like you have mustard in your mustache but you don't. I guess I just thought it looked weird." said Philip.
Mr. Mustard Face wiped at his face a little more, his face now red, he reminded us not to use our spears, turned and left. We snorkeled sans spears. Entrees swam by us, a large lobster taunted me.

As we were about to leave Chris went to use the bathroom off of the lobby. As we were waiting for him Philip and I noticed a red basket of undisturbed chicken nuggets resting on a bench in the lobby.
My hands full of snorkel gear I whispered for Philip to take it. Philip with his backpack and sunglasses on looked back and forth moving just his neck. He spun hiding the nuggets, holding them at waste level we giggled our way down the stairs. Philip and I waited for Chris on the street while Anna walked ahead wanting no part in it. Chris met us downstairs and said,
"Hey guys, I just saw Mr. Mustard Face when I left the bathroom. He was looking around in the lobby, apparently he'd left his lunch, a basket of chicken nuggets lying around."
We all laughed when we realized the nuggets were previously owned by Mr. Mustard Face.
"Who needs the bounty of the sea when you have nuggets." said Philip
Philip held out the basket to Chris and we walked towards the dinghy dipping our nuggets in what else, mustard.