Our last visitors this season were daughter Kristy and her boyfriend Josh from Hollywood, CA.
We packed a lot of activity into their time with us… a week after their departure Stan is still hitting the Advil. This is largely due to a new watersport we added to our repertoire: water skiing. Josh brought us a rig and a pair of skiis from the States, and Plug Nickel rose to the occasion admirably. Note Kristy’s well executed camera wave below. Look ma, one hand!
Conditions were certainly calm enough, so we just needed to find a sheltered patch of water away from the reef, and distant from anchored boats or resorts that could be annoyed by the sound of us buzzing back and forth.
There was kayaking of course. Josh opted to try the sail, which turns into better exercise since, without benefit of a keel, much of your time is spent righting the kayak from its inverted position and heaving and squirming your way back onto it when a gust of wind blows you over.
We visited the limestone caves, my first visit there. Below are Josh and me in the outer cave, which gets some sunlight.
You have to swim through an underwater tunnel to get to the inner cave, which is pitch black, with all kinds of side caverns and general eeriness. Stan had been there before so knew to bring underwater flashlights.
We presented sevu-sevu to the village chief nearby, an 87 year old woman. She didn’t speak a word of English, but chattered on happily regardless and seemed awfully feisty. They gave us the full kava-ceremony treatment.
For snorkeling, I’ve decided the ‘gorgeous coral’ award goes to Octopus, we posted a pic in our ‘Julie and Brooke’ entry earlier. But the ‘greatest fish’ prize has to be Manta, because… Nemo!!
I’ve been dying to see clownfish nestled with their poisonous anemone pals since I began scuba diving in the 1980’s, long before Pixar ever realized how cute they were. And finally we found them here in the Yasawas.
Plus, I guess manta rays qualify as fish too, right?
Josh spotted this guy and alerted us with an admirable underwater Tarzan scream so that Kristy and I were able to follow him too. They come to feed on the plankton, which is what clouds the visibility in this water compared to the crystal clarity elsewhere in these islands.
Together we worked miracles in Buffalo Nickel’s finely appointed galley. Here we are about to enjoy some osso buco (we made it with lamb shanks.) It seems the photographer really likes mashed potatoes – just a guess.
But the real creative effort was called for at cocktail hour. I became a fan of craft cocktails years ago. When Stan and I visited Kristy and Josh in their L.A. home some time ago and found the proverbial bare cupboard, we outfitted them with all kinds of spirits and equipment, prattling on about pre-Prohibition era drinks and when to shake and when to stir. We dragged them to trendy Hollywood speakeasies where drinks cost way north of $15 and you can’t even get a bowl of peanuts to eat. We figured they found the whole business unbearably annoying, but at least we wouldn’t have to put up with vodka and orange juice when we graced them with our presence.
Flash forward to New Zealand. Unable to import our spirits collection from the States, and finding ourselves intrigued by the Kiwi wines and craft beers, I don’t know what happened. Perhaps we just couldn’t find the energy to provision a bar, with so much else to buy for a new boat. Or maybe we opted to preserve, as opposed to pickle, our livers by transitioning to drinking only wine and no spirits.
So when sunset approached on Kristy and Josh’s first day, and Josh gamely asked “What’s on the bar menu?” we hung our heads, looked at each other and stammered something about a glass of wine with dinner.
Jaws dropped. Eyes widened. Stan said something poignant, I think, about that painful moment in every parent’s life when he senses his children no longer perceive him as a deity.
Turns out the seed we had planted with them had taken root mightily. Josh has turned into a great bartender and even creates his own recipes now. He and Kristy bantered back and forth, naming exotic ingredients that probably can’t be found in all of Fiji, let alone on our boat.
This clearly would not do. So we combed Buffalo Nickel’s nether regions, located some decent rye whiskey and cooked up a batch of simple syrup. Then Josh kept us in delicious whiskey smashes for much of the week.
That photo is from liquor.com, by Erik Adkins. I grabbed it online because my own drinks seem to have disappeared too quickly for digital image capture. The Whiskey Smash is a pre-Prohibition era cocktail traditionally made with fresh mint, but I like mine with fresh basil instead. Either way, it’s a refreshing, citrusy concoction with herbal undertones that makes a perfect sundowner in the tropics.
That thing in the pic above that looks like a lime with leprosy is actually a Fijian lemon.
Here is Josh’s version:
2 ounces rye or bourbon whiskey
1 ounce lemon juice
½ ounce 2:1 simple syrup*
small handful of fresh herb leaves: mint, or basil
Add liquid ingredients to shaker. Smack the fresh herb leaves by clapping them between the palms of your hands a few times, to liberate the oils, then toss them in. (The smacking is probably not strictly necessary, but it really makes your hands smell great right afterwards.) Add ice cubes, shake well, and double strain over rocks, or ideally one of those giant single ice cubes or chunks. Sip, and grin.
*2:1 simple syrup: Combine 1 cup of granulated white sugar and ½ cup of water in a saucepan. Heat until sugar dissolves, does not need to boil. Pour into a clean jar or bottle. Should keep several weeks at room temp. Note: most commercially available simple syrup in specialty stores is 1:1, not 2:1.