Bartering for Fresh Seafood in Vivorillos

Vivorillos Cays, Honduras

Still here, still rolling at anchor, waiting for an opening, which Chris Parker, the weather guru, says we will have tomorrow as the wind slows and shifts more northerly and the seas calm down to 3-5 feet toward Providencia.

We have a feeling that the “incessant begging” that Capt. Raines speaks of in his guidebook may actually be the local fishermen, who boldly paddled up to us yesterday in little fiberglass cayucos and offered to trade us fresh shrimp for gasoline. Three or four pounds of shrimp for about 2-1/2 gallons of gasoline. Not a bad trade. We took the tank out of the dinghy, passed the guys a funnel and a hose, and asked that they leave us about half the tank. You could tell who the captain was by who was sucking on the siphon and who wasn’t.

Today they were back – with fresh (like right out of the water) conch and lobster that they cleaned off the back of the boat, and traded for cigarettes and rum. So it was fresh scampi with linguine for dinner.

So here’s the haul: Lobsters – 16. Conch – 4. Shrimp – 4 pounds. Perfect helmet conch shells – 2. Conversation – half an hour/45 minutes. Cost: 4 packs of Marlboros, 1 bottle of Captain Morgan rum, 1 bottle of bad tequila, and the gasoline from yesterday.

Keeping Capt. Raines’ anecdotes in mind, we boldly said our names and shook hands with each of them, asking their names as well, while Ole took a few pictures. We figured if we exchanged names and took pictures, any scheme of robbing/mugging a visiting cruiser might be harder to implement. Plus, taking the time to chat with them about their life and their work and sharing that Ole used to fish in Alaska helped us build a bit of a bridge. It’s that karma thing.

Tonight it was improvised conch ceviche. Neither Ole nor I have ever dealt with a conch – we’ve bought fritters (Alabama Jack’s in Key Largo) and conch chowder (15th street Fisheries in Ft. Lauderdale), but had no clue about how to dispatch a monovalve of such weight. So after consulting the trusty Joy of Cooking and finding the first listing under “the best way to eat fresh conch” was “raw,” we sliced them thin, splashed on the lime juice, and added celery, cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, bell pepper, and a dash of red pepper flakes – and yummed our way through at least a quart of salad.

What incessant begging?

A big however – we traded away a bit too much gasoline to spend a whole lot of time in the dinghy.

We did make a trip to the bird end of the cay, and walked among nesting boobies, some with young ones just coming out of their downy stage, and fearless enough to let us get within 3 feet. We packed our trusty Pentax in a zip-lock bag, took three pictures, and poof. No batteries. There we were, in a truly National Geographic moment, caught with our batteries down. Here are the only pictures we got. I guess a career as a wildlife photographer is out of the question.

The one flaw in the excursion to the cay was noticing all of the plastic junk piled up on the ocean side of what we considered a wild reef: water and soft-drink bottles, flip-flops, six-pack rings, Styrofoam. More than just a little. Here we are, 30 miles offshore, with the next land somewhere close to the Leeward Islands, and there’s all this junk. Yes, we know that it is illegal to dump plastic of any kind into the ocean. But we are educated people. When we were in Norway this summer, I noticed the same thing on the beach at Ole’s house. As a species, we’re not only fouling our nest, but the nests of these magnificent birds and reef creatures too.

I hear that we’re planning to take off tomorrow morning at a reasonable hour, and Ole’s devised a short cut to shave about 25 miles (4 hours) off the trip. We’ll consult Chris the Guru, and see what develops.

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