By Andrew Court
What makes a dive knife gay?
The debate began as John used his personal underwater stiletto’s blade to bleed out the mutton snapper he’d just speared. No one asked, but John barked at us nonetheless, declaring that Captain Eric’s dive knife, with its Rambo-style serrated edge and built-in bottle opener was definitely, unequivocally homosexual. John switched from his stiletto to a filet knife but kept silent regarding the carnal proclivities of that particular piece of cutlery.
We were floating near Brown’s Cay in the Bahamas, a short boat ride from Bimini and the atmosphere was tense. The sun beat down as we bobbed in the transcendently blue water and pointed digs like the dive knife comment kept coming. Perhaps everyone was just sunburnt and hungry?
Ceviche, made on a boat with a fish you just caught, is the king of foods. It’s easy, if not exactly quick. First you have to bleed the fish before it hits the ice box, then clean it. There are a bunch of recipes to try; John used lime juice, mango, jalapeño, and mezcal. Cut up the meat and mix it in a plastic bag, chill, and in a couple hours it’s ready. The citrus literally cooks the fish.
Tortilla chips are ideal, but I like it straight.
Maybe it was the drop in temperature with the incoming evening, or the ceviche with a cold beer, but moods improved as we headed back into the harbor.
We were just over an hour from Miami but it felt a world away. Bimini is a small island, and probably not the nicest in The Bahamas, but it is still ringed with white sand beaches out of a bikini calendar. Locals hang around outdoor bars drinking rum living the island life. We were staying at the Bimini Big Game Club, a dubious lodging for reprobates and fishermen. Ukrainian war zones probably have cleaner showers, and not even Hunter Biden would do a line off these toilets. When it rains, the bar is circled with drunks telling tall tales.
Fancier vacationers stay at the Hilton; this suited our purposes just fine.
Fishing is the real draw. The hotel made this clear with the record marlin hanging out front. And fishing is what we did, with some success. We speared snapper, hooked yellow tail, and caught barracuda and wahoo trolling. Some of it we grilled, some we stored, some became ceviche.
Eric was disappointed he didn’t get a bull mahi, but as the cliche goes they call it fishing not catching for a reason. He cares deeply about the sport, exactly who you want to be with when you’re serious.
Saltwater fishing and ceviche go together like a rod and reel, it somehow tastes better when you’re at sea.
In Peru, historical accounts suggest that ceviche has been around for centuries, before the arrival of the Spanish. Ancient Inca civilizations made a primitive form of the dish. With the arrival of Spanish colonists and African slaves, different cultural influences further shaped it, leading to the various styles found all around Latin America.
My favorite land-based spot is the market in Coyoacan, the oldest part of Mexico City. Stalls have plates piled high with different types of fish in different types of sauce. Sitting at the counter they will likely serve it to you on a crispy tostada. Chase it down with an agua fresca, the tequila comes later.
Speaking of tequila, ceviche led to one of my more interesting cocktail experiences. I was at a Peruvian restaurant in West Palm and I was getting pretty tight. What I really wanted was a cocktail—nothing sweet, not a Bloody Mary, something different. The frustrated bartender said he could make a drink that was off the menu. What he served was a big glass of Leche de Tigre, a signature ceviche sauce, and a couple generous pours of well tequila. While I wanted to complain, it tasted fucking excellent.
It was midnight and we were back on the boat. The evening had been spent at the casino drinking Bahama Mamas and losing at craps. All of this is hard work and we were hungry. The trouble with Bimini is that the food sucks. John reminded us we had a bag of ceviche left so we unlocked the cabin for a snack.
Sitting there in a mix of dock and moon light munching fresh fish there was no discord. We got along, talked about how slow our rental golf cart was, and generally shot the shit. We had no plates, just paper cups, but that was fine. A little more time cooking in the sauce and the fish was even better than before.
This is where the crew bonded, and while the trash-talk continued the next day, no one was actually bitching so much as having a good time. We started working better together on the boat, and the fishing became more productive.
Cruising back to the Miami Beach Marina we made plans for the next trip. John wanted to go next week, but my sunburn needed some time to settle.