“YOU WILL EAT THIS!!”
“I WILL NOT!!”
Thirteen pairs of eyes stare at me expectantly. We’re doing a ten hour sail from the island of St. Martin to Nevis. Nevis to me is the epitome of what the traditional Caribbean is like. It is sleepy, lush & tropical with a gorgeous landscape and the sound of heavy reggae comes from everywhere. The sail is incredibly beautiful on an azure ocean with the perfect wind at our backs. We’re moving along rapidly and our captain – Luke – had thrown a line overboard and caught an enormous tuna. He promptly cleaned it, cut it into bite sized slivers and threw it into some soy sauce.
I have never eaten raw fish and if I was going to save face with these 13 American teens, I’m going to have to cowboy up and swallow it down. I pinch my eyes shut and swallow the first piece whole. Wait a minute! This flavor is amazing! I took another bite and this time I chew and close my eyes in ecstasy. The fish has the texture of silk and the fresh taste of the ocean plays with my senses. I see ocean all around me. I feel the spray on my face. I smell the fresh watermelon smell of the water, I touch the warm ocean next to the catamaran and now I taste the sea as the flavor explodes on my tongue. Thus begins my taste journey with raw fish and in time I will learn to sear the perfect tuna.
At the end of my contract I will spend 2 weeks on St. Maartin with my husband. There I drag him to an obscure little restaurant so small that I can’t remember its name. Linton Kwesi Johnson plays on the jukebox and I know I’m in the Caribbean. I want to introduce Stan to the delights of the raw fish, but like me, he is hesitant and pulls a face. Never! Come on, just a small bite from mine. He relents and his reaction is the same as mine and we will continue to eat tuna like this on a regular basis.
I’m working for three months teaching scuba to American teens on a 48 foot Leopard catamaran based in St. Martin. We’re sailing and diving the 6 leeward islands and there are some challenging moments for me. I’ve never lived with so many people in such a small space. Thirteen raucous teens and three staff members. We do have our memorable moments though. In Saba we climb the 1062 steps to the top of Mt. Scenery, the highest point in the Caribbean. In Nevis we have a beach party and dance around the bon fire with the kids. In Gustavia, – St. Barths – we eat burgers at Jimmy Buffet’s Hamburger in Paradise. In St. Kitts we visit an old fort with a gorgeous view. We dive some unspoiled sites that commercial outfitters don’t visit. We sail into gorgeous little bays, see incredible sunsets, full moons and interesting sites. I learn how to walk again on land after being on a boat for too long. It is a strange sensation. My legs feel like rubber and I feel a little seasick and long to get back to the boat. Every night the 3 of us cram into a small space to have a quick overview of our day and to plan the following day. We’re about to get to the island of St. Eustatius (Stacia) to visit a marine biology center that does turtle research and conservation and we will be doing a hike through the crater of an inactive volcano. Chris told the kids what our program will look like the following day and Jesse looks seriously concerned: “What if it erupts?”
“We will give everyone steel umbrellas,” deadpans Chris.
Jesse believes every word and is appeased. I laugh until my tummy hurts and the journey continues. At the end of the trip, we all gather in a circle to play our last game. A line gets thrown to the person you feel you learned something from. Jesse throws me the line and says with a big smile on his face that he learned from me that even though you’re an adult, you can still behave like a child and enjoy it. I feel surprised by this, as I’m not sure what I had done to make him see this. It also makes me grateful that perhaps I’m not always as serious as I feel and that there is some frivolity lurking behind the serious me. Unbeknownst to me, the kids had taught me to let loose my inner child and I enjoy the notion that an adult can learn something from a child.
By the end of the trip I realize the Caribbean and an insistent captain gave me raw fish. I cherish the moment.
If you’d like to know how to sear the perfect tuna, click on the Recipes section of this blog for tips.
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