I love island shopping day! It’s always hot and sweaty, but also, always an adventure – you can’t say the same about a trip to Safeway 😉
It starts with a wet dinghy ride to the tiny town of Ashton. Before jumping into the dinghy, don’t forget to grab a small bag of trash to throw out at the dock, and don’t forget shoes (been there, done that). We usually stand up in the dinghy to attempt to get soaked with salt water only from the knees down. Then a two mile walk to the slightly larger town of Clifton – luckily there’s only one big hill to conquer on the way. I keep a running contest going to find the cutest baby goat family on our “urban hikes”. Extra points for little black sheep. Clifton is bustling with many small grocery stores, veggie stalls, and even a few clothing shops. Streets are busy right before lunch time – I guess you could call it Union Island rush hour.
I wouldn’t call it one stop shopping… We stop at the cheapest, most rustic veggie stand next to Determination Bar first, where the super nice ladies help me pick out the best grapefruit and the local spring onions. But no chance of finding imported delicacies such as green peppers, green beans, or the kind of big ripe bananas us Americans are used to. So I finish my fruit and veggie shopping at Jenny’s brightly painted veg stand down by the town dock. She has chopped callalou and much nicer tomatoes, but I still have to keep searching for green peppers. About 130ec later ($48) our backpacks are full of about 10 days worth of fresh fruit and veg. Just one more stop at the grocery store for cheese, butter, and eggs and we’re good to go. No, scratch that. It’ll be better to return to the market for unrefrigerated eggs – they’ll last longer.
Now this is not at all the way the islanders shop. They seem to buy a day or two of food at a time and shop more often. Island friends say it’s because they rarely have enough cash to buy much at one time. Grocery stores usually have staples such as rice, flour, and sugar repacked into small plastic bags of a pound or 2 cups in addition to the 5- and 10-pound bags I’m used to finding. I really appreciate how lucky I am to be able to afford fresh, healthy food – we can stretch our cruising budget by cooking fresh food on the boat instead of eating in pricy tourist restaurants regularly. And when I stock up like this, we can take Sanitas off grid and get away from civilization for a week or more at a time. I know that the islanders are really suffering due to the lack of tourist income in Covid times, so I don’t negotiate on the price of produce. Sometimes I’ll exclaim, “Really?!? That much?” and the shop keeper will throw in a piece of citrus or a few extra bananas 🍌🥭🍈🍋
Another 2-mile walk back to the dock (we never seem to time the mini buses right here in Union Island), another dinghy ride (it’s not quite as wet in this direction) and then I have to clean and repackage all the veg. Take everything out of the plastic bags, check for bugs, pack in green produce bags to make things last longer, rotate the contents of my top-loading fridge to store the newest and most durable items on the bottom and the fragile things I need to eat first on top. While I’m at it, check the contents of the fruit hammock – make sure nothing’s going bad. And… Since I’m really on a roll…I found tiny bugs in the cornmeal last night. Good thing I package all my dry goods in sealed containers! But just in case, let’s take everything out of the galley cupboard, wipe everything down, and make sure the bugs didn’t escape their plastic prison. Phew!
When people ask, “What do you actually DO all day when you live in a sailboat?” I answer, “all the things you do – everything just takes a heck of a lot longer”. I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into island shopping… I’m going to get started making falafel, a tomato cucumber salad, and maybe some butternut squash for dinner. What are you having?