When off to a new land, a session of homework is always advised. As this would be a sailboat trip, I studied charts, weather, tides, local customs, Tongan word for "beer" and such. Jean is far more practical. She downloads flight schedules, exchange rates, and the local food information - and makes up menus to keep any crew hail and happy.
A week before we left for this trip, I found a sink-full of baby ocopods in my kitchen. Jean and her friend Jewel were practicing a Tongan meal (or so they thought). Jewel will be happy to know that the Internet is correct - both squid and octopus are "plentiful in Tonga". Probably, because they don't often eat them. A puzzled local fisherman showed us his squid only after we asked. I think it was his bait.
Local clams come by the bag full - not paper or plastic ... but woven. The only octopus we could find was a big old fellow frozen into a plastic-bagged block of tentacles. Local suggestions were unclear … to boil it for 3 hours or maybe that it had already been boiled for 3 hours - was cleaned or maybe it needed cleaning. 98% of Tongans are literate but the small percent of words we miss are often important ones like is/isn't, will/won't, or should/shouldn't.
As we provision for our sail, Jean is not put off by lack of menu ingredients found in the scattered food shops or even amongst the sea of mangos, melons, taro, and coconuts that fill the local market stalls. It might appear that Tongans don't use hot peppers, but Jean finds they just don't bother bringing them to market - as they grow wild, free for the taking.
So while she has me in the bush picking peppers, we also load up on the local wild spinach called pella leaf. Mixed in with the squid, it tastes more like Swiss chard. So much for food homework.
We are happily settled in aboard a friend's 50-foot sloop - all because another of The Usual Suspects phoned us with an idea - and off we went. He is John Bill, or just JB. And no, the boat is NOT the Sloop John B, but is called Cheyenne - a vintage New Zealand build racer, cruising her way from California back to the land of her construction.
JB has almost more days at sea than I've had days - so I can relax and let him worry about doing all that captain stuff. I will go diving, write dispatches, help Jean pick peppers, figure out how to saw her frozen octopus in half - and do the dishes. I have done plenty of homework on that.
- Rinsing Rod