“How did you come up with your menu?“
This might be one of the most common questions we are asked, usually shortly after fresh cinnamon buns grace the breakfast table, deep in the Northern Wilderness. Like anything, if you want to be good at it you have to practice. And to practice you have to enjoy it. Cooking has long been a Hibbard family pastime and we are always looking to add new dishes to our repertoire while on personal expeditions. Our most recent journey was no exception and throughout our journey, food was a constant topic of conversation and preparing it excellent way to pass to the time.
To celebrate the New Year and few of the Nahanni Wild family embarked on an ambitious plan to sail from the outer islands of the Bahamas to Turks and Cacois. The planned route would have seen us cover 400 km and take us through one of the least developed areas in the Caribbean. Stocked up on supplies and with fair winds expected for at least a few days we headed out to try and cover some distance.
The first day was one of those sublime sailing experiences. A smooth following swell slipped under our hull and the wind filled our sails setting us up for a few hours of fishing. With flying fish skimming the surface around us we knew their were mahi-mahi close by. Within twenty minutes of dropping our line into the water, the scream of a reel let us know we had a fish on.
Mahi Mahi are one of the most beautiful fish I know of. The incredible gold and green of their scales is a visual affirmation of their strength and power. Inhabiting warm ocean waters these predators spend their lives chasing schools of flying fish and can reach weights of 34 kg (75 lbs). Striking their prey from below, their power is displayed when your lure is suddenly launched into the air, and the battle to land one is not something you forget. Turning into the wind to slow our speed, we eventually brought this gift from the sea on board.
Should we spice and blacken on the BBQ or pan fry and serve with a slaw for impromptu fish tacos? With generous fillets to work with the decision was made to blacken for dinner and to look forward to tacos for lunch the next day. Wendy has even taken to growing herbs on the sailboat and fresh cilantro and a spicy mayo were rounded up as we celebrated the beauty of the world around us with great food.
Ancient wisdom states that it is always better to receive bad news with a full stomach. When the forecast turned for the worse we were forced to make a run to a sheltered anchorage on Long Island.
As with the North the history of the area’s we travelled is both fascinating and deserving of contemplation. In the midst of sustained weather event, with constant winds of 50 km/hour and fast moving squalls, we turned our attention to land and began to explore Long Island. As one of the Bahamas most agriculturally productive islands, its 3000 residents can be found in small settlements where they combine small scale farming with fishing, sea salt production and tourism keep a vibrant island culture alive.
With the wind expected to remain too wild for sailing we again retreated to three time honoured traditions when weathered in on the boat.
Reading - We read all the books, even to the point where the manual on the functions of the pump that operated the sail boats head passed hands.
Cards - Crib, uker, kings corners... I lost at them all. Apparently I am better suited to keeping everyone's wine glass full and organizing the next adventure...
Eating - We cooked and ate and then planned what we would cook and eat next. Carrot cake from scratch with cream cheese icing, rich curries with turmeric and chillies and our famous Nahanni pancakes where all prepared and consumed. As always notes were taken and our endless push to create the best wilderness dining experience continues!
With a small break in the weather we found ourselves able to move and we quickly set sail for Georgetown. As the closest airport this was going to have to be our final destination. With its white sand beaches, Big Exuma Island and the smaller cays around it are that kind of idyllic destination that is printed on brochures in any travel agency across Canada. While not the norm for us we can enjoy a cold beer and some white sand as well as anyone!
Though we were disappointed to be unable to reach our original destination we filled our days and always found ourselves coming back to the coming expedition season. No matter the weather when you bring good people and great food together the memories will last forever!