Our meals for the past few months have been pretty simple; rice, a salad or a few veggies sautéed quickly with some garlic and ginger, a bit of roast chicken, maybe an egg that I boiled in it’s shell along with the rice, or a few slices of tofu fried until golden. A splash of soya sauce, a drizzle of spiced cane vinegar, a smattering of fresh chilies and a squeeze of calamansi.
There might be a few nights where I cook noodles in lieu of rice or I fry the leftover rice from the night before with whatever veggies are left in the fridge. I’ve made spaghetti twice this year, once using a store-bought sauce, we’ve eaten maybe 6 potatoes between us. Meals have been about hunger, not so much about enjoyment. After a long, hot, frustrating day that’s all I can muster, and quite frankly all I want.
That is until this past week or so.
I haven’t wanted to cook, so much as bake, something I haven’t done since I was back in Canada. I want to make cookies and cakes and elaborate desserts. And I could care less about eating them, I could easily give all my hard work away. (OK maybe a bite of cake, or a couple slices of fresh bread…just for quality control purposes, of course.)
Last fall, when I was home in Canada, I had the opportunity to help my oldest nephew out with a school project.
As a grade nine student Cameron was looking for someone to job shadow for a day. Usually this means going to work with a parent, but as he had already spent time with his Dad at the office I suggested that if he wanted to experience something new I would be happy to share my typical work day with him. To my surprise he jumped at the opportunity to get a glimpse inside the life of a writer.
To give him a real feel for what it’s like be self-directed and self-motivated I suggested that he could write a blog post for this site, as long as it related to boating. Cameron, an outside-the-box thinker, quickly came up with the idea to compare his family’s summer experience living in the camper, which they sometimes loving refer to as their “Land Yacht”, with our life on board. I asked him to read through a couple of blogs posts to get a feel for what he would be writing and told him we would start work at 9am the next morning.
We set up shop at the kitchen table and each started writing; Cam his blog post and me an upcoming article. For two hours, except for the clicking of laptop keys and the odd question or comment, the room was quiet. We broke for a quick snack (I raided Cam’s Hallowe’en treat bag) and then it was another couple hours of work before we stopped for a picnic lunch outside on the deck.
Exciting news! This arrived in the mail this week!!
It seems appropriate that my submission was an article about Vanuatu, a place I have described as my “unicorn of the South Pacific”, as I had to wait 8 long years before we finally sailed into Port Villa Harbour. The wait, however, was certainly worth it. Vanuatu and it’s people captured our hearts.
Published in Cruising Helmsman, Black Sands, Black Magic; Vanuatu by Sail was described by judge Gary Beckett as, “A compelling, detailed and at times riveting first-hand account of the writer’s adventures cruising waters of the Vanuatu Islands chain.”
You can find the complete listing of winners for all 17 categories in the Boat Writers International Writing competition HERE. (You’ll also find me under Seamanship, Rescue & Safety, Merit Award.)
Our bed, the vee berth, is in the bow, and as the name implies is shaped like a “V”, or triangle. It is comfortably wide at one end but quickly gets uncomfortably narrow at the other. Measuring six foot at the widest by six foot down the middle it requires nothing less than a king-sized sheet, a near impossible find outside the western world.
A few years ago, I decided to convert a double duvet cover from our first winter on board in California (not as warm as the Beach Boys made it sound) into a sheet for the bunk. By cutting ¾ of one side of the duvet off I was left with pocket that fit snuggly around the wide end and enough length to tuck in the narrow forward end. For a while the vee berth looked rather spiffy, better yet the sheets stayed neatly tucked no matter how much we flopped around. However, the tropical sun is harsh and eventually our nice bed sheet developed several small tears.
Recently, I came across two very nice, and rather expensive, white cotton sheets that I inherited long, long ago and have barely used. Unfolding the king-sized flat sheets, I discovered that I had ample material in each to recreate my pocketed vee berth sheet. I had been “saving” these sheets for so many years but all they had been doing was taking up space. With my less is more mantra fresh in my mind I decided to finally put them to use.
I use several techiniques to make our provisions last, with limited cold storage space I have to. Years I ago I discovered that you can preserve ginger, and other rhizomes like turmeric, simply by submersing it in alcohol. The method that has a two-fold result; fresh ginger/turmeric that is ready to add to any dish, and some delightfully flavoured alcohol ready to add to your sundown cocktail. And best of all, no fancy equipment or refrigeration required.
I wrote all about this quick, easy and delicious perserving method for Marisa over on Food in Jars last month, check it out! Also tumeric gin is CRAZY delicious and a great way to perk up a less-than-topshelf bottle of booze.
We are two months into a hefty list of very necessary projects and I can feel my sea legs atrophying. It’s not the time spent on land that is causing the problem, it is living on the hard.
I have always liked that turn of phrase, “living on the hard.” It sums things up nicely. Nothing about living on a boat out of water is easy. It is completely and utterly unnatural.
Firstly, there is the whole fish out of water feeling with the boat being propped up, whether it is in a hole, on stands or in a cradle. No matter how secure it is, it still moves. And in the high winds that have been the standard here in the Philippines this season it down right shimmies and shakes…but mostly only at 0300, of course. Continue reading →
There is an old sailors mantra that says you should always step up into the liferaft, or in other words abandoning the vessel should be the very last resort. We had a chance to inspect our Viking life raft when we had it serviced in Fiji. Sitting inside the small, orange inflatable compartment was sobering; we would be expecting a bouncy castle to save our lives. However, your life raft deserves some consideration, so take a few minutes to read about the Small Boat for Big Emergencies.
A ditch bag is boat speak for the last thing you grab before abandoning said ship and the first you should review before leaving port on a passage. So, What’s in your ditch bag? Find out what’s in mine by reading that one.
A few solar gadgets will never go astray during an emergency, and can make everyday life on board a little more emjoyable too. I tested a few and wrote about them for Blue Water Sailing.
Hot days beg for cold beer, but many sailors struggle with the refrigeration unit on board. Want to know how to keep your cool and learn how the fridge works? Check out my September column in BWS, includes a delicious recipe for Leftover Rice Salad!
Or, maybe you are curious about the difference between an alcohol stove and an LPG stove on a boat, and want some tips about using them safely, whether at anchor or at sea. Cruising Helmsman in Australia published an article about that in October. You can read it here.
As part of my “Less is More” ethos for this year I recently did a major clean out on board. Our wee closet and drawers were thinned out yet again, the cupboard in the head was decluttered and all the holds in the galley were sorted through. What I ended up with was pretty impressive rag pile, several tubes expired of sunscreen, some make-up that is embarrassingly old and enough to canned goods to survive the apocalypse, (zombie or otherwise).
I usually keep a healthy stock of canned goods on board (I write on the tops for easy indentification in my vertical storage compartment). Food in cans come in very handy when you’re sailing in more remote destinations like the Solomon’s and Papua New Guinea, where refrigeration is non-existent outside urban centres and the general population are subsistence farmers and fisherman. And to be honest there is nothing wrong with beans, lentils, tomatoes, corn, soup, mussels, pate, dolmas and tuna out of tin, just to name a few of my regularly stocked items.