Norman’s Cay, part 1: the Conchquest

Awoke early to the wind howling around 20 knots still. All the other boats in the anchorage cleared out in the morning, and we were the only ones left. We saw Naked Lady hauling anchor to leave, and we radiod them to ask where everyone was going. They were headed to the south anchorage–their favorite spot on the island. We thought about it, but it’s really not too protected from strong easterlies. We stayed put. Later they radiod to say we should stay put. Hey, great, we already were!

We packed up the dinghy with kiteboarding and snorkeling gear to head around to the inside of the island group to check it out. Current and wind was strong, so we were soaked but sun kissed. Turning around the corner we came upon a gorgeous idyllic island with a single palm tree. Shade!!! We knew instantly where we were going first!

Our private island in Norman's Cay

We disembarked on the island and claimed it for Wee Happy. It had the most beautiful powder soft white sand. lala did yoga in the shade of the palm, and I snorkeled in the shallow bathwater and collected pink conch shell bits for Lala to use in making a mosaic.

The crew from Naked Lady were anchored nearby, and they dinghied over to say hello. Rick and Audrey are from Panama City, Florida, and they are cruising 5 months a
year in their Cheoy Lee sloop. They told us about the best snorkeling spots for spearing and conching, and Rick said he’d show us how to clean conch if we got some.

Sweet. So we headed over to the spot on the island where the ex-drug lord had his dock and house. About 50 feet off the beach Lala and I got three conch. It was exhaustingly hard work…we had to reach down and pick them up as we were snorkeling!

Lala's first conch-quest

Rick and Audrey had us follow them to a spot up the shore where they have been cleaning conch for ten years. It is a tan coral sand beach that ends at hard sharp old rock cliffs covered with conch shells. The contrast between the sultry pink organic shapes of the conch and the cold steel teeth of the rocks was otherworldly.

Conchs everywhere on Norman's Cay

After receiving our lesson on pulling and cleaning conch, Lala and I each did one ourselves. It was disgusting. Here I am with a conch that I just pulled from its shell. It was hard not to want to vomit.

It's disgusting cleaning conch!

After finishing the cleaning process, however, we ended up with nice white meat.

Conch meat after cleaning

Back on Wee Happy, we decided to attempt a recipe from a book that Nate from s/v Waltzing Matilda gave to Lala: An Embarrassment of Mangoes by Ann Vanderhoof. Her book chronicles her and her husband’s two year trip around the Caribbean, and they basically took the exact same path that we have been taking so far. Reading her book has been like reading another person’s account of our trip. Highly recommended reading.

Regardless, at the end of each chapter she includes a recipe of a local dish from the place in which the chapter was set. The chapter from Norman’s Cay has “Cracked Conch,” which refers to using cracker crumbs as a breading to fry the fish. You have to hammer the hell out of the conch to tenderize it, and it is still a bit rubbery, but it has a great flavor, and you can’t beat just reaching out and having food fill your hands!

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2 thoughts on “Norman’s Cay, part 1: the Conchquest

  1. Pam

    What a site to behold with all the shells. However, I could not hold one of those shells and have the conch crawl out! I would have nitemares the rest of my life, which would seem like eternity!
    The water looks great! I am soooo jealous!
    As for eating the conch……….I don’t think soooo!
    You wrap it in King Crab and I still won’t eat it.
    By the time you get home your going to get sick on a Big Mac, your system wont be use to any junk food. However, I don’t think your going to have a problem with WINE!
    Love Pam

    1. Arnaldo

      Hi Deb, passing your inroamftion on to a friend who is a sailor and wants to check out your business, and maybe book a cruise with him and his wife ..


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