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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.

castries_fish_market_1
Striking silver.....
The fish market on Carriacou relocated recently to a bright, airy, high-ceilinged new building in Hillsborough, at the water’s edge next to the MNIB (the Marketing and National Importing Board, which sells produce). New quarters don’t mean a change in procedures, however. When I got off the bus on a trip to town one morning before we left the island, I popped in for a look: The white stalls were scoured clean — completely, utterly empty. When I walked back to the bus stop an hour and a half later, I popped in again: Bingo. This time, the stalls were filled with everything from giant spiny lobsters to small tunas, to toothy barracudas, to potfish (such as parrotfish and snappers), to lambi (which was my goal – I had lambi fritters on the brain). It was easy to tell it was fresh: Not only hadn’t it been there earlier, the conch were still moving when I prodded the bag.

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.

castries_fish_market_2
....and gold: Another dorado (mahi-mahi) score,
this one in the Castries, St. Lucia, market,
where the odds of success are higher than
on Bequia or Carriacou

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.

portsmouth-market-tuna
Timing is everything: We scored great yellowfin one Saturday morning
in Portsmouth, Dominica

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3 comments on “Rodney Bay, St. Lucia:
March 7, 2011
Fickle fish markets, and miserly ATMs

  1. Natalie on said:

    It’s so fabulous that even something that would be on the mundane side at best at the grocer’s, getting a bit of fish, is an amusing and wonderful adventure in your life. (I credit you as well as your location for this.) Hurrying to the sound of the conch -utterly romantic. As usual, I leave your blog, like your books, hungry for a beautiful silken hunk of fish. And, also as usual, out of superlatives.

  2. I have enjoyed your books immensely. i have a question from Spice Necklace. you referred to the oregano (growing on trees) that the goats in DR fed upon. As a horticultural hobbyist i was wondered what that tree is and if it grows where i live in southeast Florida and the Bahamas. do you know the scientific name or have picturs of the tree with flowers or fruit? Many thanks and i hope there will be more books to follow..

  3. Lynn on said:

    Hi Ann, I found the best way to get lambi in Carriacou was to hang out on the beach at the north end of Hillsborough around lunch time. When the boat comes in, a couple of cold Caribs from the grocery store promises fresh, cleaned AND pounded lambi for a fair price!

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