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At the Bahamas’ Deep Water Cay, the Art of Conch Cracking

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - November 15, 2014

Above: Conch cracking master Shervin Tate (All photos by CJ)

By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
CJ Travel Editor

DEEP WATER CAY — I’ve eaten a lot of conch in my time. But this is the first time I’ve had to crack one.

And it turns out that cracking conch (extracting the live mollusc from the shell using a knife and a chisel) is quite a skill.

Just ask my instructor Shervin Tate, front of house manager at Bahamian private-island resort Deep Water Cay.

At the tender age of nine Tate beat grown men in his first conch cracking competition, and can extract 25 sea snails in four minutes 48 seconds. (It would take mere mortals about an hour to do the same.)

It’s a feat that has made him the winningest cracker in McLean’s Town on Grand Bahama, where for the last 41 years competitors have converged for a chance at the title of champion conch cracker at the annual conch cracking festival.

I’m planning on entering (and winning) the visitors’ division and Tate has graciously agreed to share some tips. “It’s all in the angle of the knife,” he advises, demonstrating his prowess with a deft stab and quick twist of the table knife. “And, of course, knowing where to put it.”

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It takes Tate less than 20 seconds to gracefully remove the conch from its pink-lipped home. I take considerably longer: about two minutes between my first crack and the triumphant moment when I finally and forcibly eject the glistening gastropod.

It’s not bad for a beginner. And its practice that’s crucial to my performance in the competition the next day, where I waltz off with the trophy for second place in the Visitors (Female) division.

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I get back to Deep Water Cay glowing with pride and eager to show Tate my prize. He seems as happy for me as if he’d won the title himself. “You did it!” he crows, as I tell him all about my triumph. “You’d better come back and defend your title next year,” he says.

And as I clutch the precious trophy to my chest, I already know that I will.

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