8 Tales of Regret from 8 Countries
In the span of 8 months, we sailed through 8 countries/territories on our journey to our current location of Brazil. We visited Seychelles, Mayotte, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, Saint Helena, Ascension Islands and accumulated some food and internet regrets along the way.
Regret is an emotion where you feel responsible for having done or not done something,and have the feeling that things could have been better. Could I have done or said something differently? Bought more or less? Should we not have fed the wild Macaws? The regret possibilities can be endless, but when channeled correctly it can be a very productive emotion.
It is possible to try and live with NO REGRETS and justify that while things could have been different, they may not have been better. However, I have discovered it is nearly always better to buy more of your favorite locally sourced foods or beverages before departing from a country you don't plan to return to for a while on your yacht.
After reading the book ‘The Power of Regret’ by Daniel H. Pink, I learned that when feeling is for thinking, and thinking is for acting, the power of regret can improve your future, including your yacht provisions. Initially, I planned to write this blog relating to general cruising regrets that result in ways to improve in the future such as having spare parts for toilets or learning about all the canvas that is on board so you don't cross an entire ocean being cold and wet and then finding out you had an enclosure the whole time in the locker that could have prevented days of misery etc. I quickly realized that most of my biggest regrets over the past eight months that effect me today, are primarily food or internet related. When I reflect on the remote island internet fiasco and all of the foreign delicacies that we could have stocked up on to offer guests or enjoy during special meals, I feel the dreaded emotion of regret and can learn from it.
Life is full of lessons, and traveling is the best education. If you are always going to the same places or eating the same things, you never give yourself the chance to make mistakes by not trying or buying enough of something special that can be difficult to find elsewhere. This is why when a lady is selling home-jarred mussels from her car in the Walvis Bay Yacht Club parking lot asked me if I wanted some, I bought a jar. This is because they can turn out to be extremely delicious, which they were, and we never got sick. Every country we visit, we learn something new that is not always apparent in the moment. Sometimes you do not always know what you had until it’s gone. There are no guarantees what you have access to in one country will be there in the next, so as long as it's acceptable at your next destination to have on board then stock up!
We are currently in Brazil, a country that is vibrant and full of life including being an absolute food paradise. Brazil offers a wide range of specialties that I didn't even know existed or wanted until I tried them. I had no idea street venders walk around with a pot of hot coals and sticks of cheese to grill on the spot for you or that the national dish of Brazil is feijoada, a bean stew mixed with various cuts of
meat(including organs). I have been actively sampling everything I can possibly can get my hands on, and plan on leaving with large amounts of the best hot sauces, cachaca, picanha, and other delights I have yet to discover. This time, we will sail off with no ration regrets!
Seychelles - Our Beloved Bilimibi
The Seychelles is a chain of islands in the West Indian Ocean. The Seychellois cuisine is typically a creole masterpiece with excellent side dishes and is abundant in seafood.
Our friends Paula and Roy came to visit us on Skylark in the Seychelles for a couple of weeks. Before leaving, Paula wanted to buy some local products. I had already checked out of the store with a few items for myself, and I returned into the shop and saw Paula walk up to the register with several local jars that looked enticing. She pointed me in the direction of where the products were, and I spotted a jar called ‘Sa Zafer Bilenbi’.
I was informed by a lady stocking the shelf, that the Sa Zafer Bilimbi (possibly a typo on the label) was a new product. My first purchase is from batch number 1 and the ingredients included organic bilimbi, onion, garlic, ginger, chili, olive oil and vinegar. It was both pure and a delicious accompaniment for many of our meals or wonderful on a piece of bread. In our Spicy At Sea hot sauce tasting enroute to Mayotte, it was the clear winner.
What is bilimbi? Looking back, it was nothing what I thought. I initially thought bilimbi was some sort of eggplant, since the relish has the consistency of a baba ganoush, but the primary ingredient of bilimbi is actually described as a fruit too sour to be eaten raw that is crunchy when unripe and also compared to a cucumber. However, when combined with garlic, ginger chili and olive oil its pure magic and that’s all what matters.
When we departed, akin to the wise foodie Paula, we purchased several jars of local products including our beloved bilimbi relish. When I discover a food item I love, instead of hoarding it for myself, I take great pleasure in talking about how amazing it is, and sharing it with friends so they can experience the same delight. Our Bilimbi relish supply was finished quickly after we gave a couple of jars away, served it at parties and had the remainder with on board meals. We only bought six jars of Bilimbi relish before leaving the Seychelles. I do not regret sharing, but we should have purchased much more. If only we had bought more Bilmibi.
Mayotte - More Cheese Please!
Mayotte is a French Territory part an archipelago in the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and Mozambique. The Mayotte cuisine is heavily influenced by the French, and usually includes locally caught seafood.
The grocery store we visited in Mayotte is similar to what you might find in France with some islandy African vibes. There was an abundance of french wine, cheese, cold cuts and delicious baguettes along with a wide selection of seafood and a small selection of both local and imported fruit and vegetables. It was a bit overwhelming to us after being in the Seychelles where these types of products were very limited and far more expensive.
We found several varieties of Brie, Camembert, chèvre, gorgonzola and more. We initially bought several types of cheese including a french Raclette style cheese. Raclette cheese is often shaved off of massive wheel, or in squares to fry on a personal size pan in the middle of a table as a social meal similar to fondue. This cheese came in a small wheel about 6 inches in diameter and designed to be heated up. This wheel had a beautiful edible crust on the outside that became slightly crispy when heated up on a pan or bbq, and the inside transformed into a gooey delight. This was a particular favorite as an appetizer during our many beach BBQ’s where we wrapped the precious wheel in tin foil and placed it on the fire allowing it to melt into magic. Once it was ready, we cut pieces to put onto a cracker or piece of bread. It was so good, that it usually disappeared before it had time to completely cool down.
We arrived to complete chaos during our final provision at the Sodifram shop before we departed Mayotte, since the store closed at noon on a Saturday and everyone was completeing their last minute weekend shopping! In a rush to escape the mass amounts of people, we did a quick run through the grocery store without careful considering the products we would not see until South Africa or beyond. We only bought three wheels of raclette cheese. We should have bought at least twice as much and taken pictures of the cheese. If only we had bought more raclette Cheese.
Madagascar - Shellfish Trader
Madagascar is a large island country in the Indian Ocean about 250 Miles off the East coast of Africa. Along the coastal regions the meals are primarily seafood based.
We did not need to spend any money during our brief stop in Madagascar. Surrounded by the beauty of Moromba Bay, from the swim platform of Skylark we traded clothing and household items with the locals for fruit, vegetables and shellfish. Usually either a solo
woman or man, or a group of boys or girls would paddle up to Skylark and hold up their fresh catch or a basket waiting for our offer. Sometimes they had a mango, a few limes, some eggs, or a huge Crab that had their pinchers neatly tied with straw! We would quickly run inside Skylark and look around for old cutlery, pots and pans and clothes that no longer suited us and hold it up for them to say yes or no.
Whatever we offered them they were seemingly always happy and never were greedy for more. They had huge smiles when receiving items such as a few forks, t-shirt, dress, or flip
flops and we had huge smiles in return as we welcomed huge crabs aboard Skylark that would have cost us $200 at Ministry of Crab Maldives(granted it comes with an amazing sauce and luxurious atmosphere, but for the difference in cost between $200 and a couple of old t-shirts is still quite vast). Each day we ate fresh crab omelettes, crab pasta, crab risotto and plain crab dipped in garlic butter. We were not crabby at all, other than a few times where I cut my hand on sharp shell pieces when extracting all of the delicious meat!
When we sailed south to Baly Bay, we entered prawn country. We woke up each morning surrounded by fishing boats. Occasionally they would approach us and hold up a huge bowl of jumbo prawns, some of which I estimated to be close to size to a $70 prawnzilla at Ministry of Crab Maldives. Thank goodness we don’t suffer from gout or it would be hell seeing all of these wonderful prawns and not being able to feast. We continued trading goods, and managed to get to the point where we started to run out of items we were willing to part with. Each morning we continued to be shown large bowls of prawns by passing fishermen
and even began justifying trading items we still required since we knew we could purchase it again in South Africa. There is something special about food that you traded for rather than buying it at the supermarket or even paying money to the fisherman. We traded two relatively new pairs of shorts and two t-shirts to a pair of fishermen that were in completely torn
clothing, and it gave us joy to see them so delighted by their catch getting them a new outfit. In the photo of Skylark and the pirogies taken by the talented photographer Jo Jagot of Sagar rani, some of their sails are torn. The fishermen were also very delighted to receive boat parts such as canvas and ropes to improve their vessels. Each of those prawns we ate was not only delicious but also sustainable, and it tasted better that we could see our “payment” go directly to the fishermen for their hard work rather than a large corporation.
We froze the prawns in ziplock bags with six prawns per bag, which is very convenient for pulling out of the freezer for a curry in a hurry or fried rice. We left with maybe 60 prawns but we should have sought out more. If only we had bought more prawns.
Mozambique - Peri-Peri Problems
Mozambique is a nation on the South East Coast of the African Continent. The cuisine is portuguese influenced and involves a lot of seafood.
We stopped in Bazaruto, which is a beautiful island within a marine park that is known for their abundance of wildlife and many sand dunes. From anchor, we were able to order fresh fruits and vegetables from a lovely man named Thomas, in exchange for actual money this time. This was a relief since we had little of substance left to trade that we didn’t want to keep, and were happy to spend cold hard American cash instead. We did have several kids who would paddle to the back of Skylark and ask for things, without offering us any goods in return. We ultimately gave a couple of hats and some line to them since it gets a bit awkward after a while saying “we don’t have anything” to a group of boys who are paddling around
your boat while you are trying to read a book peacefully in your cockpit. Their strategy worked, and it made us notice the difference of the attitudes of the children in the remote villages in Madagascar versus an Island that has previously been abundant with tourism. Smiles are still smiles though, and a baseball cap and some ropes made them happy.
The first time I met Thomas was the morning after our arrival into Mozambique and I had just woken up from a long post passage sleep. I did not see Chris and called out for him with no answer. I walked up into the cockpit and saw him talking to a couple of guys on a boat at the back. Chris was super excited and declared “They can bring us beer!” It was an exciting moment for Chris since we had been exclusively drinking rum since since the Mayotte, and when a man enters a new foreign land he likes to sample the new brew. In the case of Mozambique it was a 2M beer, which had been recommended by Paula. It was a delight that we could order beer, fruits, vegetables or even sim cards if we wanted. With South Africa around the corner, we did not have a huge requirements to stock an abundance of groceries and ordered a modest amount. On the day of our order, he brought us a couple of peri peri peppers to try, which was essentially an African Birds eye chili. We had long since run out of chili on board Skylark, and it was delightful addition to our meals.
On our final order, we asked for Peri Peri and Thomas responded by requesting our desired amount. Two? five? Ten? I usually buy chili by the kilo, but he was selling by the individual pepper. I responded ten sounded good!, but we consumed them within a day or two and had no fresh peri’s remaining passage!! I should have ordered about twenty or forty! If only we had ordered more peri-peri!
South Africa - Biltong Junkie
South Africa is a country on the southernmost tip of the African Continent which boasts a beautiful rugged coastline and interior filled with many game parks and lush wine lands. It is a meat paradise teeming with Biltong, Boersworst and Braai’s.
We arrived in South Africa lacking in provisions after our Mozambique Channel passage. We had not seen a huge grocery store since we were in the United States, and it was a sensory overload entering a Woolsworth, Checkers or a Pick N Pay. Not only were the grocery stores amazing, but the restaurants were delicious and affordable compared to our last real restaurant visits in the Seychelles.
Biltong was a particular favorite of ours on Skylark as it is for every carnivore who steps foot in Southern Africa. If you accidentally call biltong beef jerky, then the South Africans take serious offense. It is so much superior. It is so irresistible that if there was biltong in the fridge or on the counter I could sense it. I seemingly had a second stomach for biltong, and I was never finished with it until the bag was finished. During our three month stay in South Africa, I often purchased biltong at the mall(every mall seems to have a biltong shop), where you tell the Biltong dealer either how much in weight or cost you fancied. Usually about 100 rand ($7) seemed like a reasonable amount for a hearty snack for two and we
rarely bought in bulk. Early on, I asked one of the dealers ‘How long does this last for?’ He replied that it only lasts a few hours since its so delicious. He was right. I learned that if you are very disciplined or a temporary vegetarian, you can freeze Biltong and it will last a very long time!
Before our departure from Cape Town, I developed a love-hate relationship with biltong. I had become a both a biltong connoisseur and snob, and discovered all the best places for a delicious bite. There were times that I was full and didn’t necessarily want or need a snack, but then I would find myself in the galley gnawing on another piece or waiting for a taxi snacking like a biltong junkie.
We knew that when we left South Africa we would need to provision properly, since we heard horror stories of the remote island provisioning both in cost and availability. "Stock up while in South Africa!" our friend Amber hammered into us! With all of the attention on provisioning healthy foods and beautiful wines, we only bought one little bag of Biltong before leaving. Thinking about the Biltong from the V&A food market now makes my mouth salivate and mind plagued with regret. I miss it so much. I should have purchased several vacuum sealed bags for the freezer. If only we had bought more Biltong.
Note 1 : I am not the only one with this regret. We met a South African father and son duo in Brazil who departed Cape Town with the same worries. The son bought about 300 rand ($20) worth. He said he regretted not buying more because even though he tried to be careful in consumption, he ran out before Saint Helena. His father quickly told him "even if you bought 3000 rand ($200)worth, it would have been gone the same time."
Note 2: The universe has a way of giving you what you need. I’m serious that right after I typed the words above “Thinking about the Biltong from the V&A food market now makes my mouth salivate and mind plagued with regret. I miss it so much.”, I heard the voices of a couple from a South African boat who we met in Saint Helena. They arrived late the previous night, and were docked across from us. They were talking to Chris who was on the dock. I went over to greet them, and they invited us on board for a coffee. I kid you not, they had a pouch of Biltong hanging from their ceiling. Maybe she noticed it catching my eye and she declared “We have Biltong from South Africa still! Please take some!” So I ate a piece and all the delicious memories came flooding back…Thankfully I didn’t try and sneak a bunch of Biltong out in my pockets, so perhaps I’m not a Biltong Junkie after all!
Namibia - Cray Cray for Crayfish
Namibia is a country in Southwest Africa, featuring a desert by the coast. It is also another meat paradise. Thankfully (or unthankfully) Namibia another meat paradise with delicious Biltong and I was able to get my fix there. The food in Namibia has a lot of german influence and you can expect to find great pork knuckle, cordon bleu’s and schnitzel. They are also home to world famous Walvis Bay oysters and crayfish.
This was our second visit to Namibia, and first visit exploring the coast with Skylark. We enjoyed a road trip around Namibia, checking out the dunes in the desert and having a few Braais at the spectacular lodges.
The real highlight for us while in Namibia was our short stay in Hottentot Bay. Hottentot Bay lies
about 30NM north of Luderitz, and is a protected anchorage completely surrounded by dunes. We anchored for two nights and had the opportunity to buy Crayfish from some local fishermen. We were warned in Luderitz that these crayfish must be of a certain size, about four finger width, or else it is unethical.
The first evening we ventured on shore to explore, and our friends on Whisky Jack called us on the hand held radio to advise that some fishermen were bringing them crayfish! When they joined us on shore, they brought a huge bin filled with 40 live crayfish, which was our half. They traded 80 crayfish for 12 tall-boy beers. We had a few crayfish that night on the BBQ.
The following morning the fishermen returned, and they still weren’t interested in money, but instead something to quench their thirst. We traded with the thirsty fishermen for about 80 crayfish! They were all legal size and alive and creepy and crawly and I tried my best to extract their tails. I managed to remove a total of two heads, before calling Whisky Jack and asking if Tim, the expert shucker, could help with the rest. That day we went aboard Whisky Jack for a complete feast, where Tim made crayfish three ways. Crayfish with an irresistible dipping sauce, BBQ crayfish and crayfish linguine. Thankfully we had delicious crisp South African wines to enjoy with the ten plus tails per person. On Whisky Jack they know how to eat well and its always a pleasure going to their boat for a meal.
After only a mere two nights and two trades, we proceeded north to Walvis Bay, losing out on additional encounters with the fishermen to stock our freezer. We should have stayed longer in Hottentot Bay to trade for more crayfish and enjoy the beauty of the anchorage. If only we had bought more crayfish.
Saint Helena - The Land of Cheap Tuna and Expensive Internet
Saint Helena is a remote island part of the United Kingdom and a typical stop during a South Atlantic Crossing. The cuisine is British Island style and there are very few restaurants on the Island.
While in Saint Helena, we visited Napoleons house, went on several beautiful hikes, and discovered some of the most delicious tuna. You can either buy it at the pier from the fish monger(If you go very early morning) or vacuumed sealed from Star Supermarket on Napoleon street. At the supermarket it is 5.50£/kg and vacuum sealed in 400-500g sashimi grade(we ate as sashimi and it was delicious and we didn’t get sick which makes it sashimi grade to us) packages.
The tuna melts in your mouth, and is perfect for ceviches, Tahitian salad or seared. The ratio of price to quality made it an exceptional buy, and before our Cinqo de Mayo party, I had bought about 8 pieces from the supermarket. On the way back to Skylark we met some Americans who were leaving that night, and gave us the remainder of their internet voucher that had about 20 minutes left. I was telling them about how great the tuna was, and they had not tried it yet so I gave them a piece, and later at the party used about a kilo to make ceviche. When we left a couple days later, I went by the shop to buy an exceptionally greedy amount for our freezer, and they had none available. We left with less than 2kg of tuna in the freezer. It wasn’t enough. We should have stocked up in huge amounts when they had it available! If only we had bought more tuna.
Now to one of my biggest regrets related to internet in the last eight months that took place between two islands. Thinking about it makes my stomach turn, and if you are more interested in reading about our food adventures then stop reading now.
We knew internet was going to be expensive in Saint Helena, and were prepared for that. After all, we were in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and don't need to be on our devices constantly. However, it is nice to research parts we need for the boat, or details about entering the next port. Forget about free cafe internet, in Saint Helena it’s 6.60£/hour at a cafe whether you order anything or not. When a friend comes to say hello, I would log off before engaging in conversation. Every minute counts and it’s difficult to justify scrolling facebook. It was getting quite tiring using the internet with such purpose. Alternatively, if you want to enjoy intermittent data at the anchorage, you can buy a sim card. It is 6£ for a SIM card then packages are 150mb for 10£ or 350mb for 20£. We initially decided to only use it for WhatsApp and only essential safari searches (like how to make fresh pita before Whisky Jack came over for Greek night). Each page goes through about 1-2mb, and WhatsApp seems to use less than 5mb per day which is very little considering how many group chats I'm in and being quite popular. However, if you are not careful and do not turn off items like iCloud and location, then background services on the iPhone eats through your precious megabites like a hungry termite. I found myself becoming an internet nag, verifying regularly with Chris that all of his settings were correct and his system services was going through a normal amount.
We saw that our next stop at Ascension Island also was home to a SURE network. I went into the SURE shop to ask if our SIM cards would work in Ascension. Sure it worked! "But top up before you go!" It was a bit vague, and the lady was difficult to understand. Part of me thought if Ascension Island has the same network and our SIM cards were supposed to work there for our current data package, SUREly we could buy top up cards there. A taxi driver we had a few days prior seemed to think they didn’t work there and it planted the seed of doubt in my mind and I was worried we would spend money on a top up that wouldn't even work. I began wondering if the internet there was cheaper in Ascension Island because how could it possibly be more expensive? I went through several minutes of cafe internet trying to find a concrete answer. Ultimately we left with about 80mb remaining on our Saint Helena SIM cards and our fingers crossed. A big mistake.
Ascension Island - The Island of the Worlds Most Expensive Internet
Ascension Island is a remote island in the South Atlantic about 700NM north of Saint Helena and part of the United Kingdom. They have no local cuisine and only a couple of restaurants and one grocery store. This is a place you want to arrived stocked up because there is no guarantee you can even find basics like cooking oil! For what they lack in food and internet, they do have some beautiful beaches and a bamboo forest at the top of the island that makes it all worthwhile!
Ascension Island and the tale of the Island of the worlds most expensive Internet, is not about what we should have bought more of while there, but more of a tale of what we should have brought with us. It’s about finding the worlds most expensive cellular data, a fact I was able to verify when arriving into Brazil. We have been to Antarctica, and even the ships satellite wifi was not as expensive.
We arrived on a Sunday afternoon, only to discover our Saint Helena SURE SIM cards worked. In fact, they worked a little too well. Chris blasted through his remaining 88mb trying to download one song thinking it was only a mb or two and his iTunes auto downloaded through rest. By Sunday evening, I still had about 55mb remaining after checking WhatsApp and email, and did not put out for Chris with my personal hot spot in fear Chris's phone would suck through the rest of mine too.
The following morning we paddled the harrowing journey to shore in our dinghy(our outboard stopped working) to complete the check in formalities. The pier was being slammed with swell, and it was an interesting procedure to get on shore. We were lucky to get on shore Monday morning since the following day there was a 2-3m swell forecast, which we were told makes accessing the shore by dinghy completely inaccessible and there was no ferry service then either, so we would be stuck on the boat for all of Tuesday and Wednesday.
We quickly completed the check in formalities with the harbor master, customs and immigration and I had one thing on my mind. We walked over to the grocery shop to buy another top up card, and learned that the shop only sold SURE cards for Ascension SIM cards and it was different to Saint Helena. We would need to visit the SURE shop to buy an Ascension SIM card. Thankfully they were still open just before their lunch break, and we entered asking naively for a topup for our current SIM cards thinking they might just have this. It was then made apparent to us we would need new Ascension SIM cards if we wished to have data on board. It would be 32.50£ for a SIM card including a 10£ credit. To make matters worse, the packages were 10£ for 100mb and 20£ for 250mb. So a total of 42.50£ for 250mb with this new sim. 51USD!!!!
Suddenly the Saint Helena internet ridiculously felt like a great deal, and I felt both uptight and sick with regret. Why didn’t I spend more time interrogating the SURE representative in Saint Helena!???? If we wanted a mere 1 GB plus SIM card it would cost 125USD! To upload a YouTube video from the boat would cost $225 in data. (For the video, we instead later opted to buy a day pass at a cafe for the comparatively bargain price of 20£ and it took four painful hours to upload on a Sunday morning. The other option was 6£ for an hour pass with no log on/off privileges and super slow.)
I briefly thought about asking a friend who was still in Saint Helena to buy us a top up and sending the voucher code via WhatsApp, but didn’t want to make our problem an inconvenience for them. It was nearly lunch time and I could tell the staff were keen to move our transition along, and we needed to make a decision. I began wondering whether I could stretch the now 50mb to last until our departure to Brazil, and suggested to Chris we only buy him a card and we should just leave in a few days time after a quick island tour.
I realize how ridiculous this sounds. Here we were in a once in a lifetime remote destination and shouldn’t let a bit of money for internet taint our whole visit. However, it is usually the little things that bother people the most though. We decided that it was worth it to be able to communicate with our favorite people with ease and be able to check email freely. It's the 'cost of doing business' as my dad would say. We each bought a sim card.
I spent the entire day ruminating on this mistake, and then justifying aloud how it was not such a biggie. ‘We are lucky we get to visit this unique place!’ or ‘We are not paying marina fees!’ or ‘oh well, 250mb is probably enough anyways for what we need to do, we didn’t need the extra 100mb anyways!’ While I was busy rationalizing my worries away, I had let my guard down and learned Chris left his location services on still from the passage, and 80mb was wiped off his new SIM, resulting in a $16 mistake. The data nag in me returned, and I was beginning to resent our devices and the SURE network for it, and fantasized about Starlinks debut.
We stayed in Ascension for about a week and made our data last with extreme caution. As we sailed away from Ascension Island with 20mb left, in theory it didn't matter anymore, but I had and still have the regretful feeling that I should have bought a top up card in Saint Helena. If only we had bought the top up card in Saint Helena!
Lessons have been learned from the last 8 countries in 8 months, and going forward we will avoid future regrets by provisioning with purpose!