Salt by George Krzaczynski

Salt. We all know salt. We use it every day whether we think of it or not. It is an important part of our culinary adventures without which food would not tase good. You would never know till you talk to someone who is on a salt free diet. They will tell you how good it feels if you manage to get a bite with normal amount of salt in it. And yet we all take salt for granted. Back in the old days salt was a very desired commodity, an important part of international commerce and was even used as currency. We don’t think of it when we consume a good tasting meal even if we don’t reach for the shaker. We may think of it when we have a margarita...served in a brim salted glass.

We Great Lakes sailors appreciate the fact that we are able  to sail our boats is fresh water. Fresh water is kind to boats. It does not corrode our electrical and electronic connection, does not corrode our engine mounts, it just eliminates lots of maintenance issues. Boats that have never been in salt water are worth more money on the boat market. Fresh water is kind on our bodies. You don’t get the rash in tender areas of your body when the swim suit becomes hard like a cardboard. You appreciate a real shower once in a great while if you are offshore or in the islands. This says a lot.

We love to sail on Lake Michigan. What’s there not to like. Pretty shores on one side of the Lake. Ugly commercial shoreline in some spots can be tolerated if you sail far away enough from it. We cruise...where do we go? From our port in Waukegan we go to Kenosha for lunch and back.  Or to Winthrop Harbor. Sometimes we sail to Chicago, we enjoy the city atmosphere at the same time trying to avoid it as we look for nature and some degree of freedom of civilization. Maybe cross the lake maybe once or twice a season. If we are racers or if we have lots of vacation time or we are retired, we may venture to the North end of the Lake, to Mackinac Island and beyond to the North Channel. This is great. But we don’t have colorful coral here, we don’t have pretty tropical fish. We don’t have multiple destinations. We are more or less confined to the same area every season. But we have fresh water.

Once you decide to look for different horizons and to venture beyond the Lakes, the scenario changes. Yes, the pretty tropical fish are there but the water is salty. Still, you eat your food which contains salt and the last thing on your mind would be running out of salt. You can run out of fresh water of which you use gallons, but you never think of running out of salt. Well, it did happen.

That time I was in Georgetown on Great Exuma in the Bahamas. A few of my friends arrived to join me for the run from the Bahamas to Florida. Georgetown is a sizable settlement and a favorite destination for sailors. There are always several hundred boats in a few well protected anchorages. There are things to do, from potlucks to valley ball, bridge and chess groups. Also a good market and nice restaurants serving local food. So I did not mind hanging out in Georgetown for a couple of weeks until my crew arrived. One of my friends, Janusz, is a very accomplished chef, and so we were looking forward to good food during this passage. Extensive provisioning was done in the Exuma Market, we stowed our provisions and we were all set to sail. We were going to take it easy, hang out at various interesting anchorages for a total of three weeks. Some few days into the cruise we realized that we forgot to buy salt. The boat’s salt shaker was nearly empty. Ironically we were surrounded by over abundance of salt and we did not have any to cook with. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Some brilliant mind among us decided to evaporate sea water and collect salt. He filled a dinner plate with sea water, placed it in the sun and let it evaporate. We had enough sea water and enough sunshine and the future looked bright. Unfortunately this only works at anchor as if you can imagine, one cannot keep water in a dinner plate underway. Eventually we collected some salt, not nearly enough to fill our needs. The Guide to the Bahamas mentions that there was a grocery store on a small cay, somewhere in the middle of the chain. The name of the little island escapes me at this moment. We decided to stop there and check out the store.

As we approached the island we noticed more civilization than one expects to see in these parts. There was a nice breakwater protecting the harbor, consisting of a small bay with room for just a few boats to anchor. But, to our amazement, there were docks!  Not many, but the docks were there and it seemed like a wonderful thing to tie up rather than deal with the anchor. So we did tie up. We could see a small building up the hill presumably the market. As we found out later this was a private island and the owners did not encourage tourism. They kept it exclusive and pristine.

At one point we saw a uniformed dude walking toward us. His golden insignia shined brightly in the tropical sun. He informed us that he came to collect dockage fee. We tried to explain that we only want to visit the store and had no intention to stay. He did not budge, he wanted twenty dollars for dockage and five dollars for every person who walks out of the boat. Which adds to be a minimum of thirty dollars for the smallest amount of salt we could buy. We were not happy with paying top dollar for something that should cost a dollar or two. But we did want salt...and really, it was a very small amount of money considering the budget of the adventure. So we bit the bullet. We bought the salt. Most expensive salt of my life.  We left shortly and enjoyed good dinner aboard that evening. The rest of the trip was uneventful and we tied up in Fort Lauderdale days later.

Needless to say, eventually we returned to the routine on Lake Michigan. Back and forth to Kenosha or Chicago, no colorful coral and warm water for snorkeling, but no salt to eat our boat away, but abundance of salt for cooking.