"We're Turning Back to Key Largo," Said the Captain; Time for Lamb With Mint Sauce

Chef Sara Ventiera is on a three-week trip to the Bahamas, manning the kitchen on a 91-foot yacht. She will file regular updates from the waters about what it's like to work on a yacht, from pretrip provisioning to seaplane produce delivery. Click here for previous reports.

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Photo by Sara Ventiera
One positive of a failing engine: mint sauce that wouldn't be possible while at sea.
"We're turning back to Key Largo," said the captain as he returned from the engine room. He and the engineer had just run down after hearing the obnoxious, low-pitched blare of the engine-room alarm. It's the kind of sound that gets stuck in the lower part of your eardrum and just stays there, like the reverse alert on a golf cart. The starboard engine was overheating. A small fitting had broken loose. There was no spare onboard. Because of our distance from Nassau, our best option was to head back to Key Largo.

We are now sitting on anchor. Waiting. Waiting for the tide to rise to get back through the channel and into the dock. Waiting for the engine technicians to clean up the problem. If you haven't noticed yet, this is  a common situation in yachting. We are at the mercy of the weather, the boss, and, as is the case today, the yachts themselves.

On the bright side, I was able to prepare lunch and start dinner under relatively calm conditions. For lunch, I prepared a ham, Brie, green apple, and mango-chutney sandwich on warmed naan. It was quite refreshing not having to worry about the entire contents of the fridge crashing out on top of me as I fished through the drawers. We do have removable rails that are used to keep the provisions in place, but you never know if something will decide to jump out and crash on the floor.

It's just about 1 p.m. We are now waiting until 3:30 for the tide to rise in order to get back to the dock. I've decided to start prepping dinner. Again, the calm seas have made it much easier to cook. I'm roasting a leg of lamb tonight. I have just started cooking my mint sauce on the stovetop. I usually try to avoid cooking anything with this method while under way, because it needs to be watched vigilantly and possibly held the entire time. Most of the larger yachts have fiddles, metal bars that are used to keep the pots in place; we, unfortunately, do not. I usually try to stick with preparing dishes that can be thrown in the oven; hence, the lamb.

Luckily, I noticed the lamb while at Whole Foods yesterday. My captain is British, and it's one of his favorites. Taking into account the crew's meal preferences is of utmost importance in this industry. The job is tough. There are many rough and strenuous days. Coming into the galley at the end of a taxing day to savor a favorite meal can make up for much of the stress and exhaustion. For my captain, today was one of those days. Good thing I stumbled by the butcher.

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