Rodney Bay, St. Lucia:
March 7, 2011
Fickle fish markets, and miserly ATMs
Two great day sails brought us from Admiralty Bay, Bequia, to Rodney Bay, St. Lucia. (We spent the night in between anchored at the base of hulking Petit Piton at the southern end of St. Lucia.) The only thing that could have made those two sails better was the sound of our fishing lines zinging off the reels. But, hey, you can’t have everything and, frankly, we’re as likely to be skunked at the fish market as we are when we troll our own lines. Take last week in Bequia.
Seven in the morning and I was listening to CBC Radio’s Metro Morning (live via the Internet) and mixing up another batch of bluggoe muffins when I heard a conch horn in the distance. In this part of the world, long blasts blown on a horn made by cutting off the tip of a conch shell are the signal that fish has arrived at the market.
However, the odds of there still being fish in the market when we reach town a couple of hours later are probably a trillion to one. Just because there’s a fish market on small islands such as Bequia and Carriacou, and just because it’s during opening hours, doesn’t mean you can buy fish. It’s not like North America – there isn’t a steady supply of product flown in from somewhere. Here, there’s only fish for sale when a local fisherman brings in a catch. When it’s sold, the fish market is empty until another fisherman arrives with another catch.
We’ve rarely won the game of fish-market roulette in Bequia. Usually, the humble chicken wire–enclosed structure is barren and deserted when we pass by. And even when we’ve spotted someone with a promising-looking fish, we’ve been told it’s presold to a hotel. But the other day we got trapped in town waiting out a squall when we heard the conch horn. I couldn’t run out into the rain fast enough.
We scored four pounds off a dorado (mahi-mahi) that was gutted in front of our eyes. The fish cost $36XCD (the equivalent of $3.40 US per pound) – plus we paid an additional $10XCD to have it excellently cleaned and filleted. The scale was the old-fashioned type, where the fish is placed on one side and weights are piled on the other. Payment was the old-fashioned type, too: Cash only, and best to hand over the exact amount. Any bills you’re handed back are going to be damp and fishy.
Good thing we had cash on us, because the ATMs on these small islands can be as capricious as the fish markets. Just because a bank has an ATM that’s available 24 hours a day doesn’t mean it will spit out money when you want it. Port Elizabeth, Bequia’s only town, has a grand total of two ATMs. One day they were both out of service simultaneously. In Carriacou’s Hillsborough, there are three machines…..but for us, the odds aren’t any better: Only one of them accepts our particular Canadian bank cards. It was working only one of the three times I tried to use it.
Cash and fish, they both disappear quickly on Receta. That night, Steve rubbed one of the dorado fillets with green seasoning, then pan-fried it until it was just cooked through. It needed nothing more. In fact, it would have been a sin to gussy it up. It was so fabulous that we did exactly the same thing with the other fillet the next night.Back to top
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