Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Honduras, Roatan (Pizza nights) 2016-03-23

Over the last few months in between fixing the boat and playing with monkeys, we have been making pizza. Lots and lots of pizzza. More pizza than you can imagine.

It all started on Garth’s birthday in January. I asked him what he wanted, and the answer was pizza. Pizza and margaritas. That didn’t seem like too much of an ask, so I decided to throw a little party in the Tiki Palapa. We didn’t tell people we were having pizza, in case they all rocked up expecting a big meal. But I stocked up on all the ingredients, Pete gave us permission to use the Palapa as well as his big grill (we just had to replace his gas) and Debbie brought along a birthday cake. She even supplied a blender for the margaritas! It was a great night.

Garth spent all afternoon making pizza dough and then we took everything up to the Palapa for our pizza party. I chopped up all the ingredients and he went about casually rolling out the dough and sprinkling toppings on them. They were rectangular pizzas, made to fit on the top shelf of the grill. With the lid closed and the temperature cranked, it worked just like a pizza oven. They were done so quickly! The crust was crispy and the cheese was all gooey. I chopped up each pizza with a borrowed pizza cutter and passed it around. There was enough for us all to have a piece from each one, and they were all different flavours. There weren’t mass amounts of people around and it turned into a really fun, relaxed night. We even made friends with a few of the hotel guests who stopped by and joined in the celebrations.

And that was that. Except our friend Fred was planning on leaving Roatan for a while, and he asked us if we could do it again. Just once more before he left. Please more pizza!?

So we hesistantly decided to try it once more. Except we couldn’t afford to pay for all the ingredients again… so this time I figured we had to charge people if they wanted to join in. We both loved the whole concept of it… all you can eat, each pizza is different. If you don’t like what’s on one, you just wait five minutes for the next one to be passed around. On Garth’s birthday we were all stuffed by the end, completely unable to eat another bite. We both had a piece of each one as it came out, and the whole thing was a lot of fun.

But now people were paying for the food, we were both nervous. What if it wasn’t good enough? What if people didn’t get enough to eat? What if they didn’t come out fast enough? Neither of us has ever run a business before, although I’ve worked in the hospitality industry long enough to know what needs to be worried about. And there was a lot of worry. We were only really charging people because we wanted to eat pizza but couldn’t afford to feed anybody except ourselves… so we decided on an amount that converts to about $3usd if you brought along a pizza topping to contribute, and $5 if you didn’t. We figured that way it would cover the cheese, sauce, pepperoni and any other things I bought… and the extra toppings would be provided. And in case lots of people decided to just pay more and not bring anything, I came equipped with a huge bag of tins from our cupboards (olives, capers, sundried tomatoes… we really do have a lot of food onboard!). I had to invest in a pizza cutter, and without a rolling pin we just used a cold wine bottle out of the fridge to roll out the dough (it was the only rosè and had been there for a while – we removed the label, washed the bottle and it became our designated rolling pin each week. When I was packing up our apartment in Wellington our good friend Rebecca helped us downsize… she chucked out my rolling pin and declared that all we ever need is wine. This has since become standard practice!)

Garth rolling out the pizza dough with a wine bottle.

So it was a good plan. We were having pizza again! Except it quickly turned into a madhouse. Lots of people turned up, I panicked when I felt like people weren’t getting enough to eat, and there was a lot of stress. I think the difference was the first time we did it, Garth and I were both eating a piece from each pizza along with everybody else. There were leftovers from each one, so some people had two pieces before a new one came out. The pizzas came out at the right time so that we were never hungry and it was all very relaxed. This time I was cutting the pieces smaller and smaller so that there were enough to go around… we weren’t getting any at all. So we were starving. And I assumed everybody else was starving as well. How could they possibly be full from such tiny pieces!? Then we ran out of pizza dough. We had made twice as much as the time before, but there were lots more people. I had to run back to the boat and we ended up making the last few pizzas with dry pre-mix pizza dough packets. But everybody seemed to be full and happy. It quickly became evident that this wasn’t just a casual dinner – it was an event. You couldn’t just rock up for half an hour, eat and go home – it spread out over a few hours. Then the clean up at the end took about 40 minutes… the whole Palapa was covered in flour, there were food scraps everywhere, and there were a lot of dishes. We started the dough at around 1pm and finished the night at 10pm.

The end of the night… not much food left!

We were exhausted, and we had made about $20usd profit. We were pleased, considering we hadn’t been trying to make any money. But it was a lot of work. We were not going to do it again for $20. Pete had originally agreed to let us take over the Tiki Palapa if we split the profits with him, but after about 10 minutes of watching us run around like crazy people, he decided all he wanted from us was his gas refilled after we used it. Which we were super grateful for!

Sunset from the palapa

There was a lot of positive feedback after that night - people wanted pizza again. So we raised the price to something close to $5usd if you brought a pizza topping, and $7usd if you didn’t. Everybody told us we could legitimately charge more for the amount of work we were putting in (plus it was all you can eat, and there isn’t anywhere else around here to get food from – the closest place is way more than we could afford). But as cheap cruisers, we would go out for a $7 meal. $10 each was too much.

The next week we were a bit more prepared. People knew the system a bit more as well – the week before a lot of them who hadn’t gone to Garth’s birthday were a bit confused until they rocked up and saw how it worked. We got a routine going. Marty and Liz brought home cooked sauce, which kicked the pizzas up another notch (I would normally make my own, but the pizza dough was already enough work as it was). Garth figured out how to fit two pizzas onto the grill at a time, and we started getting into the swing of things. We ran out of dough AGAIN… but I raced back to the boat, grabbed flour, salt and yeast, and mixed up some flatbread that rose in half an hour. Nobody even noticed the difference.

We started making a decent profit! And it was a lot of fun. So week after week we continued. It’s been a big part of our week – after a while we started going through about $50USD of cheese a week. We were using 20lb of flour each time (that’s a big bag!) and Garth was making so much dough that we had to start perparing everything by around midday. Garth would mix up the dough and leave it to rise for a few hours. After a while our boat was just filled with pizza dough. Every bowl, pot or pan that could hold dough was balanced pecariously around the boat with cling wrap over the top. Because it’s so hot, they would rise very fast and we couldn’t slow them down by putting them all in our tiny fridge… so we spent a lot of time punching down dough so it wouldn’t explode. Eventually Pete just let us make the dough at the Palapa and fill his drinks fridge with all of our pizza stuff.

Pizza dough so stubborn that even glad wrap cannot contain it!

Everybody got really into it, and each week more and more people turned up. At the supermarket, people would excitedly tell me that they’d picked their topping for the week. And people started bringing really fun things, which Garth loved. He got really into creating different flavours with the different toppings. Two of the weirdest things we had were beetroot and dried figs (which our friend Anju had dried herself!). They were also the two toppings that people kept talking about and asking for more of! Everything that could be put on a pizza was, and we were having a great time. Once we got the dough amounts right, I even got garth into the habit of making me an extra pizza at the end so I could take it home for breakfast the next day (Garth and Pete usually took what was left of the last two pizzas before that – people were always still peckish at the end but not enough to eat more than a slice or two). We had garlic bread going at the beginning of the night as well, and people figured out not to rock up all at once. The people who were there from the start were full by about halfway through, so even though the place would be packed not everybody was eating at the same time which made it much less stressful. Pete was really good at keeping an eye on everybody and letting us know who had been waiting for a while and who had just rocked up and needed food immediately. We definitely couldn’t have done it without him!

Aussie Pete and our friend Shelley

Debbie and Steve left for Rio Dulce for a month, but when they came back Debbie was super helpful as well. They returned when the pizza nights were getting really busy and she helped pass the pizzas around while Garth and I were running around like crazy. We were getting around 40 people a night, which is a lot of mouths to feed and a lot of pizzas to make!

Debbie helping us hand out pizzas while it was quiet enough for me to take pics!

We even did a few individual pizzas once we got organised and had a routine going. One couple brought their own cheese every week so they could still have pizza without the dairy, and we had a few other legitimate food requirements that we could work around. We generally made one meat and then one vege, so we had a good variety for everybody.

They were so good that one week as I walked home with my breakfast pizza I came across a group of drunk Americans who had been out on the town. My pizza looked so delicious they convinced me to sell it to them for $20, which I did reluctantly (although I regretted it the next morning when there was no breakfast pizza!)

No time for breakfast anyway when there's monkeys around!

Apparently Garth’s hair is delicious...

My favourite night was a few weeks ago, when it was absolutely pouring with rain. Like torrential rain. We thought about cancelling pizza night, because the Palapa is pretty leaky and not really indoors (its just a shack with open walls). But the rain let up for a while and we decided to do it anyway. Then the rain started again. We managed to get the pizza toppings in a safe place away from the rain, but the BBQ was a few metres away from the Palapa. Not under cover. We couldn’t move it, so thanks to a generous soul who loaned us their giant umbrella, we transported pizzas between the Palapa and the BBQ very carefully with me holding the umbrella and Garth carrying the pizza. The BBQ had steam pouring off it all night as the rain came down on top of the lid.

We didn’t think many people would show up. We were wrong. People started flying towards the shore on their dinghies, like mice escaping a burning building. Most of the boats here are at anchor, but they all came in through the rain wearing full wet weather gear. I think every single cruiser at Fantasy Island came along that night (except our friend Ellen… she tried to come, but the path from her boat had been flooded and she couldn’t get to us!). Everybody was crowded under the leaky roof, laughing and drinking and having a great time amidst this crazy, torrential rain. It was really bizarre and really lovely. They really like our pizza!

As much fun as it’s been, we’ve had to put an end to all this pizza madness. We’ve got to get moving soon, and we still have things to do to the boat before we go. So no more pizza. On our last night everybody was especially amazing. Almost everybody paid us extra, and somebody even brought 2lb of huge prawns to put on the pizzas (they were SO GOOD!). So it was a really nice end to what has been a pretty fun adventure. I think it’s safe to say that if we wanted to, we could start up a little pizza shop somewhere. I think it was more fun just making whatever we wanted though, rather than having people put in orders. Plus it was great having a different flavour for every slice! We made enough money to pay for our boat to be at the dock, which is a big deal for us. So thank you to everybody at Fantasy Island who helped us out by eating our pizzas, offering a hand or just for being fabulous! I was expecting I’d be sick of pizzas by now, but I could totally go for just one more…

Xxx Monique

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Thursday, 6 October 2016

Honduras, Roatan (Tattoos) 2016-03-22

I no longer have milky white virgin skin.

It was my 30th birthday the other day, and as the date was approaching fast it suddenly dawned on me that I was about to lose my 20's. And I definitely haven't done as many crazy things as I would have liked to do. Sure, I moved to another country on a whim, instantly fell in love and got married to a crazy ginger. Then I took all the money that I'd been saving for my entire adult life and essentially threw it into the ocean by buying a sailboat with little to no experience with, or previous desire to sail. Then I abandoned my new home and sailed off into the unknown, along a ridiculously crazy route that almost nobody else is stupid enough to take. But for some reason it all seems kind of normal now. I wanted to enter my 30's with the same level of craziness that I've managed to uphold during my 20's. There are no nearby planes to jump out of and nothing else accessible that I haven't already done (I greet each day by hugging a monkey. And is swimming with sharks supposed to just be for special occasions? Because those guys are just my friendly neighbours that come round to hang out occasionally). So I decided to get inked.

I always figured I would mark this adventure with a tattoo of some kind. With such a short attention span, nothing has ever struck me as being amazing enough for me to want to have it etched permanently on my body. But this has been a trip of a lifetime and it's one thing that I'll certainly never change my mind about in a hurry. I might not end up a sailor forever, but I have no regrets about sailing off into the sunset. Or straight into the waves, in our case. I've never gotten to the stage of sitting down and thinking about tattoo designs though, so I figured my 30th birthday was as good a time as any.

After doing some research into the local tattoo parlour (Foxy’s Ink), I decided that this was going to happen. Roatan is a tropical paradise in the Caribbean, so instead of ending up with one or two dodgy tattoo artists plucked from a very small pool, really good artists come over here for a working holiday. There’s only one reputable tattoo parlour here and their current guest artist from overseas (Rene) is good at artsy pretty tattoos, so I was in luck. (I should mention that the resident artists are very good as well. Foxy, the owner, has just started out. But she's learning from a revolving door of amazing people and has her own unique style).

Tropical paradise!

I thought a lot about what I wanted, and after a lot of scouring through images, scribbling down ideas and talking with Rene, we were a go. I had hoped to get it over and done with before I turned 30, but my appointment ended up being on my birthday itself. Not a fun birthday. But I was excited nonetheless.

I wanted a boat, which is probably obvious. After travelling over 20,000 nautical miles, mostly upwind, I think I deserve to have a permanent boat on me. Luckily we have one series of photos that our friends Liesbet and Mark took of our boat sailing next to theirs in French Polynesia. We were floating along on calm seas in hardly any wind, so we don't look that impressive. But they are the only photos we have of us sailing – normally there's nobody around to watch us heel over! So Rene took one of Liesbet’s photos and turned it into a silhouette. I was not going to have a random boat tattooed on me forever. It was going to be our Heartbeat.

The basic design I wanted was swirling waves curling over my foot and up my ankle, with our boat in amongst them. Hopefully with a koru kind of design, because New Zealand and my Kiwi husband have definitely set my life on a completely different path. Because of the ridiculous sailing route that we took and the fact that we didn't die, I was hoping my tattoo boat could be sailing upwind as a reminder of how many shitty days we have endured in crappy conditions. But I eventually decided to butt out and just let Rene just do his thing, because the design he came up with was kind of awesome. I've had too many bad haircuts from trying to tell the hairdresser what I wanted instead of just letting them do something sensible. I've definitely learned my lesson. Luckily hair grows back...

Rene made a perfect swirl on my ankle bone, which left us sailing downwind. But he added a heap of swirly waves all around us to make up for this change. There is no doubt that the boat on my ankle is sailing through some crazy waves. Because this is my first tattoo, I was nervous as hell that he wasn't really drawing much onto my foot before the needle came out. He traced on the boat, the words I wanted ("Let's go on an adventure!"), and the perfect circle for my ankle. He added a few outlines of waves but the rest he was going to freehand. I'd seen a lot of his other works so I knew he was talented, but I was still scared!

Ready to go

So may blues!

I shouldn't have been. He produced a pile of different coloured blue ink and got to work. It was really sore at first, then after the first hour it became excruciating. I'm not sure who's stupid idea it was to get my first tattoo on the bone of my foot and ankle, but here we were. I had thought long and hard about it, and had come to the conclusion that I would rather sit through a bit of extra pain than spend the rest of my life with a tattoo in a place other than where I wanted it. I quickly wished I had wanted it somewhere else! After an hour or two I was screaming into the pillow, trying so hard to stay still. My foot kept twitching when he was doing the words, because it kept hitting all the nerves in my foot. I was terrified I was going to involuntarily move and wreck it. Garth was amazing, holding my foot down to stop it moving and just generally being lovely. I'm not sure which part hurt the most because after a while it just became a big blur of pain. But I'm probably going to go with that pretty swirl on my ankle bone. That was never going to be a stroll through the park.

As he moved up my ankle and onto the sails, the pain reduced significantly and it was more like getting laser hair removal. After talking to a lot of tattooed people this is what I had been expecting the whole thing to feel like - very painful but not too bad. I've had lots of laser and for a while I managed to distract myself the same way that I do when I'm having hair removed - by playing games on my phone. But once he'd finished that little section of my ankle where it wasn't just all bone, he went straight back down and continued torturing my foot. Foxy, the owner of the shop, was really sweet and lovely. She cranked the music so I could scream into the bed to my heart's content. Everybody kept trying to distract me, but all I cared about was keeping still.

So after a few hours of torture, I had an explosion of colour on my ankle. Which had swollen up to twice it's size. Rene told me not to walk on it for at least three days, which I tried really hard to do and then failed miserably. How do I not walk when I live a boat? I can't exactly hop from one room to another! It took five days for the swelling to start going down and over a week before the first bit of skin started peeling. I couldn't wear shoes or walk to the showers. The marina bathrooms are down a dirt path, and I was supposed to wash my foot every day without walking or getting dust on it. After care on a boat is really, really hard.

The next day

Still puffed up a few days later

I ended up wearing a sock whenever I could, and half hopping half limping between the facilities and our boat. The hotel lobby (wifi!) and the tiki palapa are even further away than the bathrooms. So I ended up losing a bit of colour exactly where Rene said I would if I didn't keep my foot up. Damn. Luckily we'll be back in civilisation again soon so I can get a touch up like a normal person.

A week and a half later

While I was at it, I got a wedding ring tattooed onto my finger. I'm so sick of not having my wedding ring. It's super dangerous wearing a ring on the boat, even when the boat's not moving. I've seen so many pictures and heard so many stories of people getting gloved by their rings, even just getting in and out of the boat on the dock. So the ring always stays off and the newlywed inside me is sad. Now I have it forever!

Interestingly it didn't hurt at all when Rene was tattooing my finger. Like at all. I could have had a nap. I guess my fingers have more skin on them than my foot!

After a whole day of anticipation and a whole afternoon of pain, the rest of my birthday was lovely. Everybody came out to celebrate with me. Our friend Ellen made me her special ribs which she finished off on the BBQ (one of the best things I've ever eaten), Debbie produced cake and cocktails and after driving me into the tattoo parlour that morning, Fred came all the way back out to Fantasy Island bearing champagne. There were a few thoughtful presents small enough to fit on the boat and I just generally felt really loved. I'm going to miss these people so much when we go!

After spending all afternoon watching me scream and squirm, the next week Garth decided he wanted in on the excitement. He has always wanted a tattoo of a monkey, but has never been able to figure out exactly what it is that he wants. After chatting with Foxy, he decided he may as well get on the bandwagon if she could figure out how to get the image of what he wanted out of his head and onto paper.

Foxy’s original design, which she was nice enough to let us have

She came up with a very cool design to start with, which was amazing. But it wasn't what Garth had been picturing for all these years. It turns out that he just wanted a simple outline of a monkey climbing up his back. To make it more special, the monkey he settled on is a Capuchin, just like his little friends here on Fantasy Island.

Foxy doing her thing

In an attempt to annoy me, Garth decided to get a tattoo that didn't take long and hardly hurt at all. Damn him. Fred was amazing enough to give us another lift into town and then then he even stuck around to take us back. It was late when we got home, so we went out to dinner. That's where I discovered one of my new favourite things - a Corona tipped upside down into a margarita. It starts off as all margarita and ends up as mostly Corona. Awesome.

Garh couldn't wait to show Cheeky the new tattoo and he was pretty interested in it at first, but then he went back to searching Garth's pockets for almonds and eating all of his hair. Typical.

What’s all this then?

Edit: My tattoo a few months later

X xx Monique

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