When you sail a few days food does not matter, but after weeks at sea you tend to be choosy about what you eat," remarked Sir Francis Chichester at the end of his voyage around the world in Gipsy Moth IV. "When you cruise with us," says Danielle de la Sabli�re, "you are on board only a week or two. But G�rard and I are always here. The food has to be good all the time."
G�rard and Danielle own and operate a 64-foot ketch, the Eudroma, which earns its keep, and theirs, in the grooviest way its owners have been able to think up—by charter cruises in the Caribbean. G�rard is the sailor and Danielle the chef, and, fortunately for the charterers, Danielle is just as choosy as Sir Francis.
A charter cruise is a relaxing vacation—mostly swimming, sunbathing, skin diving and sitting around picking up seashells. Eudroma sails the Caribbean route between the Virgin Islands and Grenada, making stops for sightseeing and shopping in calm and beautiful anchorages at Antigua, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia and St. Vincent. The tempo varies from island to island: one day a beach picnic in the Grenadines with only the lizards and the yellow-breasted sugarbirds for company; later a party at Nelson's Dockyard in Antigua complete with the gonglike rhythms of the BOAC Speedbird Harmonates steel band and son et lumi�re effects in the harbor.
As Eudroma cruises up and down the island chain, Danielle shops for food and plans the meals. Her menus are as varied and exotic as the island markets. There is plenty to choose from: French food flown into Guadeloupe and Martinique, a fantastic fish market in Antigua, a huge American supermarket in the Virgin Islands, land crabs and sea eggs in St. Lucia, flying fish that leap aboard and crayfish speared by G�rard.
"I have to improvise," says Danielle. "I ask our guests what they like, and then I hope I can buy it. You can sail around for a week looking for fresh lettuce or a pound of tomatoes. Only in Guadeloupe and Martinique am I sure to find them. So many of the islands are too dry to grow anything but tropical fruit and vegetables—the Grenada market sells mostly nutmegs, and St. Vincent grows nothing but arrowroot. The first time I saw the American supermarket in St. Thomas I went wild and spent $300!"
But for fruit and vegetables Danielle prefers St. Lucia and the French islands. "The Pointe-�-Pitre market has everything," she says. "It's both French and Creole. I have to drive right across Guadeloupe to get there, because we anchor on the other side, at Anse Deshaies. But it's worth it. The fruit tastes better than anywhere else. They even fly in lettuce, fresh, thick cream and haricots verts from France. Right next to them there are land crabs, with their feet tied up in sugarcane leaves so they won't walk off."
Unlike many cooks afloat, Danielle does not rely heavily on cans—nor does she have a freezer. Instead she buys top-quality, superfresh food and backs it up with canned fruit juices and a few vegetables, such as asparagus, hearts of palm and celery, to make lunchtime salads when the island markets run dry. Tea and coffee, herbs and spices, oil and vinegar and a vast restaurant-size jar of hot French mustard complete the permanent collection. "I can't keep too much around anyway," Danielle says. "I have worse storage problems than a girl in a Pullman kitchen in Manhattan."
Danielle was raised in Belgium, and she met French-born G�rard in Sicily, where he was leader of the Club M�diterran�e village in Cefal�. They were married in 1966, and one of their wedding presents was Eudroma. Along with Eudroma came a cookbook, La Cuisine est un Jeu d'Enfants (Cooking Is Child's Play) by Michel Oliver, published in translation in the U.S. by Random House.
They began life afloat in the Mediterranean and then sailed across the Atlantic to Antigua, where they joined V.E.B. Nicholson's fleet of 37 sailing ships available for hire.
Eudroma is a Marconi-rigged ketch with a 100-hp marine diesel inside. She was designed by Fred Shepherd and built in England in 1937, which makes her older than either of her two owners. She is a double-ender—a style particularly favored by Shepherd—and sleeps six in comparative comfort. The charter fee for the boat is $1,253 a week from Dec. 15 through May 1, $994 off season. Fuel, operating expenses and Danielle's marvelous meals are extra: a flat $8 per guest per day.