Vegan life at sea: A day at anchor in the Caribbean
We live aboard our sailboat “Robin Hood” with our three boys, River (5), Van (3) and Rocky (8 months). As vegans, it can be challenging when sailing in remote areas, but it has made us much more in tune to what is seasonally available around us. This winter we are spending four months in Antigua while we have some work done on our boat, but we still get out for a few sailing adventures. This is not the island hopping life we typically aim for, but it does make a lot more sense with a new baby aboard. The large Rastafarian community in Antigua means that “vegan” is a common word and there is a plethora of fresh fruit and veggies available.
The boys wake up around 7, and we go straight up to the cockpit. I’m not big on pre-coffee adventures, but I do like to get them into the fresh air right away. (I have the “perfect-mom vision” of myself adding a few kid-yoga moves to the mix, but it’s very much still a vision.) Rocky has a bouncer attached to the canvas cockpit covering so he can work his legs and bounce away, while his big brothers start the day as usual—building a giant magnatile castle. I make a raw oatmeal granola that is basically the same mixture we use for granola bars. I usually just make them oatmeal but I must be feeling extra motivated today. We were lucky to find a lot of fresh papayas recently, so we have been cutting one open every morning and it is bliss!
After breakfast, Rocky needs a rinse down so we fill up his collapsible tub and the other two fight over who will squeeze in with him. I usually start to feel antsy at this point, like I should have them on an adventure already…but then I look around and remember we are surrounded by 360 degrees of blue, with a few smudges of green lined with sandy beaches- these boys are doing just fine!
By this time I also realize it is time for Rocky’s nap, so I make the boys a big plate of peanut butter and banana toasts to keep them happy and head below with the baby. Their dad is on a work call up top so River goes to the bow with his bait and his rod, and Van monkey-swings around the cockpit for 20 minutes while I get Rocky to sleep. Then I head up top and hang with the boys while he naps. At this point I realize it’s almost lunchtime, and we still have not left the boat!! Major face-palm moment. I really want to make lunch before we *finally* head to the nearby cove, but cannot believe we are still on board, so I solve the dilemma with a quick swim.
At this point, I’m starving and staring at a bunch of veggies and not much of a plan. I’m sure most sailors plan their meals a little better, but this little trip was fairly spontaneous so we’re working with what we had already on board. I put on some sushi rice and chop a bunch of veggies and we make nori roll ups with sushi rice, veggies, and papaya, plus rice bowls with leftover tofu and fish for the boys, who still eat a small amount of seafood and dairy. When cooking the rice I forget that the rice wine vinegar and sugar goes in at the very end, so we have slightly crispy brown-around-the-edges sushi rice, but when you’re at sea it all tastes good! Rocky apparently likes nori rolls because he smells like seaweed for the rest of the day.
Finally, we get in the dinghy and head to the nearby beach, bringing chips and granola bars with us. River skimboards on the little beach while Van plays football with his dad and I keep Rocky entertained in my shadow (literally…I carry him everywhere in my shadow ???♀️) and take videos for River of his skimboarding moves. I snorkel with River for about 3 minutes until he completely freaks out claiming he saw a deadly stone fish. (There are no stone fish here, he’s been watching the surf classic “Endless Summer” too much!) We go for a little hike to see the beach on the other side of the island and watch the kiteboarders do their thing. We find a snake and loads of hermit crabs and walk through a giant cactus forest.
We dinghy back to the boat, taking pictures of her in the late afternoon light. We get the music going and have a dance party on the bow, while River does some more fishing. We take an impromptu trip back to the beach to fly the drone at sunset. The boys get back in the water and practice their writing in the sand. We go straight back to the mooring and shower everyone on the back of the boat, while I try to think of something we can eat for dinner. We have some fresh basil on hand that a man offered us while we were walking through town the day before, so we make a pesto pasta and salad. I take my chocolate stash out of hiding for dessert and put on a movie for the boys. Rocky goes to sleep and even though it’s the big boys’ bedtime, we take them back up top to look at the stars. We drop the fish light in the water and sit waiting for the fish to swim through. The little guys come first, then the medium sized fish, then the big ones.
The crazy thing is that I worry every day whether I do enough with these boys. Like every mom probably does. And this is the first time I’ve ever written out what we’ve done in a day! Holy moly it does sound like enough when it’s written out…this is a great reminder that even on days when we feel like we are slacking—not even leaving the “house” until after lunch!!—we are still giving our kids our time. And that is what matters. The other lesson I internalized while writing this is that just physically going outside can solve a lot of problems. Whenever anything is falling apart, I just get them outside. Even if it’s just to the cockpit. An activity usually develops from there. Not always—don’t get me wrong, we sometimes end up back below watching a morning movie or even two—but oftentimes just the act of going outside can lead to an adventure. Or at least a few good gulps of fresh air ?
I mix the peanut butter and cashew milk with a fork, then start mixing in the dry ingredients. It can take a while to get it mixed. Eat what you want and freeze the rest for granola bars to eat later. This list of ingredients was purely based on what we had on hand. With unfettered access to an organic grocery, I may have chosen different ingredients…use what you love or just what you have!
*I usually prefer maple syrup or dates but this is what I had on the boat and it turned out fantastic!
I blended some of the pesto with 2 avocados, a handful of pepper slices leftover from lunch, more cashews and a little water to make a creamy pesto sauce to top our pasta. Being on the boat means using what you have on hand and trying not to think about what you might be missing!
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