SSCA Islesboro Gam

Back in the days of pre-planning for cruising life, Brian and I became members of the Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA). At that time, the SSCA had assured me that cruising communities did exist. We’d read through monthly bulletins “ooo-ing” and “aahh-ing” about exotic destinations throughout the world. When we began cruising, the SSCA provided a link through which to access a cruising community when we had questions, sought assistance, or simply wanted to socialize with people who could empathize with our situation. We’d look for the SSCA burgee in anchorages and often dinghy over to say hello. Now that we are living aboard, we’ve joined the ranks of the SSCA cruisers. We can now answer questions, provide assistance, or offer a friendly conversation over cocktails. This year for the first time we attended an SSCA Gam in order to mingle with our peers.

Our Islesboro hosts (fellow SSCA members) shared their beautiful home and property with us as we joined roughly 60 other members for the event.

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This was the largest pot-luck I’d ever attended! I’m not a fan of pot-luck; having always been a bit of a picky eater I survive pot-lucks by eating a hearty breakfast. So I contributed my signature chocolate chip cookies and then sampled the wine while Brian chowed down on every entree imaginable. Not only was there an eclectic mix of food, there was also certainly an intriguing mix of cruisers. Several had circumnavigated, many were avid racers, all were full-time or part-time livaboards. Here was a gold mine of knowledge, experience, and fascinating stories!

Brian and I are typically on the young end of the spectrum when we gather with cruisers. Here was no exception, we easily had 15 years on the seemingly younger attendees. We schmoozed easily with the 50-60 somethings only this time was a bit different than our previous interactions. This time we’d met others who were just starting out, having recently retired, and they were eager to learn of our experiences. We were eager to share! We also couldn’t resist picking the brains of those well traveled cruisers who continue to inspire us. They’ve been there, done that and blazed a trail for our curiosity to follow.

The day’s highlight was guest speaker, Rob Snyder, who represented the Island Institute. Rob held a captive audience while he presented a brief history as well as current issues pertaining to island communities in Maine. He and his colleague, a physical oceanographer, work with Maine’s island communities and collaborate with island communities throughout the world to ensure that this way of life may continue successfully.

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It had been a beautiful day at Islesboro and Brian and I look forward to meeting our old friends (pun intended) and new friends out on the water!

Bonfire at Hoffman Cay

Brian and I were puttering around the boat deciding what to do with ourselves. The weather report told us we wouldn’t be leaving White Cay until possibly Thursday. For some of you I’m sure having at least three, possibly five, days with no schedule would be glorious! You’re probably jealously reading along right now thinking, “those lucky, ungrateful, little devils!” Well we weren’t being ungrateful so much as we just weren’t sure how to approach a day without scheduled events. For us staying put in an area that seemed to offer few opportunities for exploring was a challenge! We did our usual breakfast, wash the dishes, shake rugs, sweep floors, tidy the boat things. Yup, Brian even helped since his boat projects are few at present. I went about cleaning out cupboards to ensure that things were staying dry. Then, a pleasant interruption. Our neighbors whom had introduced themselves the day before stopped by to invite us to a beach party later today. We were to meet at 4:00pm at the beach near the Blue Hole trail, bring something to share and bring any burnable garbage. Great!

The afternoon came and went. Brian did some fishing which is quickly becoming the ‘ol standby of pastimes, and I got started on Spanish lessons to prepare for our possible Western Caribbean venture. I also prepared a pasta salad and packed our drinks, plates, and utensils ready for the beach party.

At 4:00pm dinghies were on the move from the five neighboring boats. We headed ashore and were looking forward to meeting other cruisers. All the dinghies anchored at the beach and out came coolers and buckets be be used as tabletops. Brian helped to find scrap wood for building a fire. I discovered I’d brought the wrong dish as nobody had brought their own plates and utensils. The sharable things were brownies, cheese and crackers, and chips and salsa. Doh! I apologized and was told, “it’s not a pot luck, sweetie.” Beach party and bonfire at dinner time translated into picnic to me. I envisioned spread out blankets, roaring fire, swapping stories and maybe someone would have a game of bocce…fun times. At our next grocery opportunity I’ll have to find some sharable finger foods to keep in my back pocket.

Some of the guys started a fire, which wasn’t really for admiring but was truly for burning garbage. Brian and I sipped our drinks and chatted wherever we could find common interest. Everyone was very nice but we felt we didn’t have much to add to conversation, this being our first visit to the Bahamas. The others had been coming here for years. At sunset a conch shell was blown. This tradition was introduced to us in New England by The Great Catsby, also a yearly Bahamas cruiser. Shortly thereafter the no-see-ums came out in full force. It was time to go, I was being eaten alive by bugs and was also quite hungry myself. We gathered our non-sharable things and politely excused ourselves from the party. Back at the boat we had left-over porgy to eat along with a delicious pasta salad!

Conch Salad

During the afternoon following our Blue Hole expedition, we took the dinghy ’round neighboring islands where Brian scouted the coral lined shorelines for fish. He lucked out when he found a group of conch on a sandy patch below the water. What do you call a group of conch anyway…a heard, a gathering, a flock? He pulled up six! “That should keep us busy for the rest of the day,” I said. Brian continued snorkeling for a bit while I sat, cornered in the dinghy on the opposite end of the conch. They were making gurgling noises and starting to turn themselves right side up. I backed as far us as I could now sitting next to the outboard on the wooden support. Then, one spatted out little fish! EWE!! I screeched and called Brian, “um, can we get these back to the boat!? This is NOT fun anymore.”

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Back at the boat I was able to distance myself from the gurgling, squirming conch. I fired up the computer to review the directions for getting the conch out of their shells from our electronic copy of A Cruiser’s Handbook of Fishing (thanks, Scott & Kim). Then I directed Brian through the process of breaking the shell, cutting away the conch, pulling out the conch, cutting off the eyes, and peeling away the skin. Sounds gross, eh? It was. It took approximately 30-minutes to process the first conch. It was a slimy mess.

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Mid-processing we had some visitors from a neighboring boat. They were also Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA) members and came by for introductions. Not a great time for visiting as we were covered in slime, but they encouraged us and gave us some conch cooking tips.

After the second conch was ready we’d decided that two were plenty and threw the other four back into the ocean. I took the meat below, chopped it, and added lime juice and spices for a makeshift conch salad. We didn’t have any fresh produce but typically a conch salad has tomato, onion, and pepper. Brian stayed on deck fishing with his newly acquired bait, conch bits.

Success! Out of the water Brian pulled a porgy. Hopefully this fish would be delicious as it was plenty for both of us for supper. Living on the outskirts may not be so difficult after all with all this good food just swimming around.

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