Google September 2012 | Ziets' Ramblings

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Epilogue

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We arrived at Fort Lauderdale after motor-sailing through the night. The extra diesel that we got from the passing ship helped us to keep up a decent speed. All of us were relieved that the voyage was over. It was a long haul mentally, the stretch from St Maarten to Fort Lauderdale. You start to wind down mentally because the end of the voyage is near, then most of your troubles come to the fore. However, we overcame these mental blocks and sailed safely into harbour. The funny part was that we observed proper protocol by calling the harbour master and asked permission to enter harbour. We got a somewhat terse reply. Then we realised that nobody bothers, they just enter and leave as they please. And our puny little 39 ft (12 m) boat appeared to be one of the smallest ones around. We were dwarfed by the larger motor yachts and super-yachts playing around on the sea and in and out of harbour. This while big ships were entering and leaving harbour.
Perhaps we have much to learn.
The mosquitoes devoured us in the marina, which is dredged out of the Everglades. Luckily these are not the Anopheles that carry malaria. I am still nursing a gazillion mosquito bites. I am taking an anti-histamine to relieve the itching. Something to remember in your planning; plan for conditions at your destination as well.
In retrospection, we have had a good trip. Lots of opportunity to learn something new. We took along a Spanish course on CD and progressed some way. But you need an opportunity to speak the language, else the learning goes for a six. You also need some decent discipline in the group aboard to keep it up. One person will have severe difficulty in keeping the practical exercises alive.
I took my sextant and reduction tables along yet again. This proved to be somewhat therapeutic, the open sea navigation. Gives one a sense of where you are. In addition, I think the dead reckoning skills that you develop by doing this will stand you in good stead in coastal navigation on shorter voyages. It keeps you alert and whelps a lot with situational awareness. Something that you tend to lose when looking at a computer screen only. Remember, you are on a boat, it helps to look outside from time to time. And not just for the proper lookout thing either. Vaal dam sailors will be very aware of this, as you can beach your boat quite easily over there.
You also need something to keep the group together on board. We took a pack of cards and another pack of UNO cards. These were quite popular and we would have a league for the whole voyage. The card game provides some way of letting off steam, so the crew tend not to get 'cabin fever' and lose their sense of decorum.
This time around we took along a backgammon board. This works well, as we were three people on board. So, while one would be preparing dinner, the other two would play backgammon. Another game allowing you to exercise your aggression.
Reading is quite a big pastime on board. This time I had a Kindle, an e-book reader. This is a boon, as it enables one to have a lot of books but little weight. On the first trip I had to ditch all my books at the destination, as it constituted too much weight to fly back. Remember, you fly back. The e-reader also gives you the opportunity to read at the airport while waiting for your flight.
On this trip I managed to wade through Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by TE Lawrence (of Arabia, that one), Dave Barry's Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need, The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams, The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory by Brian Greene and Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. Three books by Chelsea Handler, one of which is about her one-night stands, a start on The Prince and The Pauper by Mark Twain and some of the Magician's Nephew, part of the Tales of Narnia, nogal.
I also perused extensively the book Classic Sourdoughs Revised by Jean Wood and Ed Wood. This one gave me the inspiration and helped me out of trouble when I almost had some mishaps with the dough.
Heavy reading, perhaps, but you have sufficient time to digest what you read. I also got through a major part of The Power of Now by Eckhard Tolle towards the end of the trip. This helped me to overcome the mental and psychological fatigue of worrying over sufficient fuel and food and the planning associated with that. You need to stay sane and on the ball.
Then there is the music. You need a lot of music. We had quite a variety on board, ranging from opera to heavy metal and pop. Don't forget the classical stuff and classic jazz, not to mention Piaf and some of the more modern soft vocal jazz artists. BB King and Gary Moore. Jacques Brel, Bruch, Beethoven and Mozart,Handel. Led Zeppelin, Amanda Strydom, Laurika Rauch, Cindy Lauper, Cliff Richard, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joan Osborne, to name but a few. You need variety, else you get bored by your own music. Fifty-nine days at sea is a long t ime.
People nowadays use an MP3 player and earplugs.
Personally, I have a problem with that when in confined waters with lots of traffic. I think it is distracting when on watch, but then I am getting long in the tooth anyway. A caveat then, perhaps. But you need music. It is quite an experience to be listening to Edith Piaf or Maria Callas while surfing down the swell at fourteen knots. We played music on the sound system in the afternoons when everybody was awake. The sleeping hours tend to diminish after some days at sea, as your body clock grows into the routine and you chill into the quiet atmosphere of the boat and the sea.
The sprout growing is also a good pastime. It takes up very little time and provides good fresh food. And eating fenugreek sprouts will help keep your blood sugar levels down.
The bread making was the highlight of the trip. I nursed my wild yeast sourdough through all the weather and used the last of it for the last leavened bread. I could not feed it and did not need to anyway, as we were at t he end of the voyage and the stove had been decommissioned and polished for hand over. The bread tasted wonderfully delicious and was a lot heavier than commercial bread. Being heavier it lasted a longer time and we got the idea that it is a lot lower in GI (Glycemic Index.) It means the bread is a lot heavier than the ones you buy in the shop. We had the opportunity to try out various combinations of flour and preparation methods, giving us a reasonable experience in what works and what not. For example, sweetcorn in the dough does not taste overly good, but the bread is edible. You need a different combination of flours to make it worthwhile. Dawid had a bash at making bread as well, a useful skill to have at home. So we had some transfer of technology, so to speak. Perhaps we are now slightly better house trained. I shall certainly do this again. You don't need an oven, as most of the bread can be made in a dry pan, lightly oiled pan or deep oil. Take your pick. The vetkoek-style flatbread is quite handy on board, as you don't need a bread knife, thereby easing the logistics of handling food during adverse weather. Deep oil in a pan is dangerous, so do keep it in mind when cooking on board.
The storm that we encountered in the last two days at sea transpired to be the tropical storm Isaac. To me it felt like a huge thunderstorm. It built up for a long time, clouds thickening on the horizon, the humidity growing to unbearable levels in the oppressive heat. Then it lasted for about two hours, blowing us around like a leaf in the wind. This catamaran is not built for these conditions, being square from various angles. But the boat is quite sturdy and we made it without much ado. I got very wet, but that's sailing for you. It is a water sports after all.
Fishing is always on the cards. Make sure that you know how to handle the fish when you want to get it aboard. Or remove the hook to release it. We caught several snoek, queen mackerel to some people. These have teeth. We also caught a billfish or two. These things are dangerous, especially the bigger ones. We talk here about the ones that only just did not manage to snap the line and get away. They are big and heavy, as in over 40 kilograms (or 90 pounds), and you may sprain your back getting them out of the water.
Having said all this, the question remains: will I do it again? The answer is an unequivocal yes. The open ocean provides an environment for a complete cleansing and detoxing of the soul, not to mention the clean air and quiet solitude. And the beauty of the little Caribbean islands amongst which you sail, quietly taking in the sights and fragrances wafting in from the land as you pass.
Well friends, this is all for now. Another voyage over and the jail doors slamming shut behind you as you go from the freedom of a seaward existence back to the land and its bureaucratic institutions.
I do not know what the future holds for me, but stay in touch. Perchance I shall sail some more and discover new places and more of the inner nooks and crannies of my soul and share it with you.

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2012-12-12

Monday, 17 September 2012

3rd Leg Day 11: Pumpkin Fritters And A Storm




Yesterday we bent to our cleaning tasks. The boat now looks like a new boat again. Even the mooring lines are clean.

We were able to motor at a decent speed after we filled the tanks with the additional diesel. The storm clouds were gathering at dusk and they built up steam during the night.

Then, during the 03h00 to 06h00, the storm blast came. Much like the one of the Ancient Mariner. The wind was blowing twenty two knots, gusting twenty five. The boat was going in all sorts of directions until we got the motor revs up and got control back. We were in a situation of wind over current, where one gets big choppy waves and the boat bounces around, and you with it, in a most ungentlemanly manner. After getting the revs up we were making headway at about one and a half knots. Scary at times, one would say. We were rather hoping for a nice steady wind that would allow us to have a sliver of the genoa out and sailing along merrily riding out the storm.

The storm lasted for about an hour or so. Much like the highveld thunderstorms in and around the Witwatersrand area of South Africa. The driven rain was cold enough for me to reach for my rain jacket. But, alas, this was not to be. The zipper has a crust of salt on it and needs some fresh water treatment to work properly again.

So there I stood outside, the saloon door closed against the driven rain and me hanging on to anything that I could find. I was standing in the most sheltered part of the aft deck, which is not really sheltered. You get rained on multiple times. The first time is the driven rain. The other times are from various sources off the bimini top as the boat rolls and pitches, pouring the collected rain water down various parts of your upper anatomy, not least your armpits, because you are holding on to something higher than your shoulders. Another character building exercise, forsooth. You need to keep your cool, take a deep breath and count to ten. Then do it again. Then remember that this is what you chose as the idyllic life style of sailing. Otherwise your bad language may just put you in some negative mood and then all the enjoyment is out of the experience. Heaven forbid!

This all came to a logical end and at 06h00 I was relieved by Renier, who then came on duty. By that time the storm had subsided and it was getting light, a balmy morning after the storm. I dived into my bunk and slept a solid two and a half hours, wet swimming trunks and all.

We basically completed the cleaning that we could sensibly do during the rest of the morning, leaving us with some spare time in the afternoon. The distance remaining on this voyage amounts to less than 150 nautical miles, which we should complete during the night. This puts our arrival at early Saturday morning, giving us a nice long rest and some recreational time before handover on Monday. There is also the odd bit of cleaning and polishing that needs to be done while alongside. Too tricky or dangerous at sea. We don't want anyone to fall overboard this far into the voyage.

The wind came up nicely on the beam and we could hoist the mainsail. This got us sailing along at around eight knots on a flat sea. The idyllic sailing conditions that you dream of. And wish for during the times of bad weather. Haven't I heard this before?

As the last of the last legs food, I made pumpkin fritters for lunch.


Butternut Fritters


We had half a butternut, sugar and some self raising flour left. And of course, some salt. I peeled the butternut and cut it into thin slices to allow fast cooking. The thinner something is, the faster it cooks. Our oil had run out, but we still had two or three blocks (500g/ 1 lb) of butter left, so I popped half of one into the wok for frying the fritters.


Ingredients


Half a butternut

1 cup sugar

small stick cinnamon bark

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups self raisning flour

oil for frying


Process


Cook the butternut in a little water along with the cinnamon stick. Mash the lot when done. Remove the cinnamon bark first. Allow it to cool to a level where you can handle it. Add the sugar and salt and mix thoroughly. Keep on mixing while adding the self raising flour a little at a time. Continue until you have a dough, not a batter.

Scoop out a dessert spoon ful of the dough at a time and put into the oil. Fry until the fritter is nice and golden, then remove and drain on a paper towel.

A word of warning: Be careful when using oil in a pot on board, especially when the boat is bouncing a bit. Hot oil causes severe burns for which you may not have the proper treatment on board.

The other caveat is that you may burn your tongue if you don't let the fritters cool down properly before digging in...

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2012-12-12













3rd Leg Day 10: The Big Cleanup, Last Puri And A RAS Exercise


RAS is an acronym for Replenishment At Sea. We did that today. We hailed a passing ship by the name of Carib Trader on the VHF radio and enquired about the weather. It transpired that we could expect some twenty to thirty knots of wind in the next sixteen to twenty hours. Not something to sneeze at.

The captain of the small container vessel then enquired after our well being and, after some short negotiations, gave us sixty liters of diesel fuel. Then the fun started. Our puny little catamaran is not up to the speeds that freight ships can do, so the captain of the freight ship hove to, allowing us to catch up. A line was passed to us,almost tethering the vessels, but not quite. Something to avoid. Two drums of diesel were then passed via the line, us hauling fiercely to take up the slack. The empty drums were passed to the ship in similar fashion, working the other direction. An interesting exercise. Luckily the sea was quite calm and flat, so the exercise was completed under safe conditions. No fingers pinched or thumbs amputated.

A very kind gesture from a fellow seafarer and we thank them for it.

We gave them our empty diesel drums in return.

The extra diesel now enables us to motor at 2500 rpm instead of 1600 rpm. So we are making way at 3.8 knots over the ground instead of just over one knot. I have to write the word “one” in letters to make it sound faster.. We are going at 5.2 knots through the water, but have a counter current yet again. Of just under 1.5 knots. No wonder we are running out of diesel.


Last Puri


Or is it khubz, perhaps? Today I made the last bread of the voyage. Literally. All the flour has now been consumed. I did not even bother to treat the sourdough nicely. I just fed it some rye flour and a little water after taking it out of the refrigerator, then left it in the cupboard for nine hours to wake up.

The oven has been decommissioned, so the bread had to be baked or fried in a pan. I chose to make a thin flat-bread, Even the flour mixture was sort of pot luck. I used all that was left over. I saved a cup or so for after the rise, that I may have some reserve in case the dough was hungry. It turned out that it was and it sucked up all the rest of the flour.

I fried the bread in a little cooking oil in the wok. Somewhere along the way I ran out of oil, so I popped in about half a pound of butter (250g). Call it Ziets' fast ghee. This lasted only just until the last slice was fried.

The bread had a delicious sour taste, along with the characteristic taste of rye. It is easy to make and no oven is required. And no bread knife required either. Incidentally, we forgot to bring a bread knife. Chalk up another score for flat-bread made on the hob.

This recipe is an adaptation of the one for khubz from Classic Sourdoughs, Revised by Ed and Jane Wood. It conforms also to an Indian style of making bread, hence the name Puri.


Ingredients


2 cups white bread flour

2 cups rye flour

½ cup brown bread flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup sourdough proof

1-2 cups water


Process


Mix all the dry ingredients thoroughly. Then add the sourdough proof and mix through. Add some water. I used about half a cup in addition to the sourdough proof. It may have been too much, as the dough swallowed at lot of flour during kneading. Take it easy on the water and keep some flour in reserve.

Keep on mixing until the dough gets too firm to mix with a spoon, then turn out onto the kneading board and knead until the dough gets satiny. Cover the dough against drying out and leave to rise for around eight to twelve hours. Check for the doubling in volume, that is your key. Then turn out the dough on a floured kneading board and knead it back to the original volume. Leave to rest for at least an hour.

Pat and roll the dough into a long cylinder of about 50 mm (2 inches) thick. Cut the cylinder into two if it gets too long to roll on your kneading board.

Heat some oil in a wok or frying pan. Cut a small disk from the cylinder of dough, oil your hands and pat the disk into a ball. Roll it out to a 100-120 mm (4-5 inch) disk and fry it for a minute on neither side. The flatbread should go a nice golden colour. Remove it from the oil and drain on a paper towel. Repeat the process until all the dough has been used.

It is useful to do one at a time. It gives you time to prepare the next flatbread while its predecessor is frying in the pan. A nice one person production line.

These things are exceedingly hot when they come out of the oil, so watch your step with splashing and dripping of oil. I have some extra blisters now.

Bon appetit!

We had some interesting scenery on our way today. We passed a channel marker light standing on the northern side of the Bahama Channel. The interesting part is that it appears to stand all alone in the middle of the ocean, as much of the surrounding reefs are just submerged. So you see this lonely light on a small rock in the middle of nowhere.

We also saw some American warships as they passed us on their way. The narrow channel makes for interesting viewing. Also, an interesting life, as we are small fry and need to keep out of the way of the big ships. There is a separation scheme running here to prevent collisions  A collision in this neck of the woods could spell a disaster to the sensitive coral ecosystem around here. So we tread carefully and stay on the safe side of the channels. We have had enough interesting times already.

Today was also the day of the big cleaning exercise. We plan to make our landfall at Fort Lauderdale tomorrow, so this is it. No more leeway, literally. Everything has to be spotless. Dawid and I get to do the outside, while the skipper does the inside. Everything got removed from the cupboards and was stashed in boxes or plastic bags outside to get access to the cupboards for the cleaning. If you have ever moved house, this is what it looks like. And everything has to go into our bags or get dumped on arrival. Binary choice, no less.

And now the motions come out on just how attached we got to certain things and habits. I had to use the saloon table and our cutting board to knead and roll out the dough for the bread. The normal working surfaces used to be covered with some protective plastic, which now has been removed. So the working surfaces of old are now also decommissioned, just like the oven. And our living space is severely cramped, even extending to our cabins. All your personal stuff that used to live in the saloon for the last two months are now living quite comfortably next to you on your bed. And all of it have to go into your bags. It is now that we all learn to kick habits, make salvage or jettison decisions and stand by them. Perhaps a good psychological exercise for all of us. And perhaps also for those at home, except they will have to do it by proxy. Or perhaps a garage sale. Or a big spring cleaning. It is spring in South Africa after all.













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Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2013-01-18

3rd Leg Day 9: Final Risotto And Planning For Handover




The contents of our freezer on board are now really on the last legs. About one third of a head of cabbage, the last scraps of the last fenugreek sprouts, mixed with a few leftover mung bean sprouts from a previous harvest, three or four portions of frozen fish and a half portion of frozen chicken breasts.

In the pantry there remains some rice, chicken stock and three dried shitake mushrooms. From the the refrigerator I dug out the last half cup of white wine, all the way from Robertson in the Western Cape. There was also the last of the green masala paste I brought from home.

You guessed it. On my last turn to cook on this voyage, I made a chicken risotto. To the ingredients outlined above, I added a small dried Jamaican chili I obtained from a small grocery on St Maarten.


The Last Risotto



Ingredients


250 g deboned chicken breasts, cubed

1 dessert spoon green masala paste

1 onion, chopped

3 dried shitake mushrooms, redydrated in ½ cup hot water and chopped

1 dessertspoon chicken stock powder

½ cup white wine

1 dried Jamaica chili pepper, finely chopped

1 cup finely sliced cabbage ( as for coleslaw)

1 cup fresh sprouts, I used a mix of fenugreek and mung bean sprouts because that's what was left over in the refrigerator.

½ cup milk. I did not have cream, so I used milk.

2-3 cups hot water

dollop of cooking oil

300 ml uncooked rice. I used long grain rice obtained from the grocer in St Maarten. This one has more starch than the South African version.


Process


Marinate thye chicken cubes in the msala paste for thirty minutes. Fry the chicken and mushrooms in a lightly oiled frying pan or wok. The chicken must start to stick to the wok. Remove from the wok and keep it warm.

Add the chopped onion and chili to the wok and fry until the onion goes brown, then add the fresh cabbage and sprouts. Stir fry this until the vegetables go soft, then add the dry rice. Stir fry the rice until it starts to pick up a colour, then add some water. Keep on frying the rice until the water has been soaked up. Then add in sequence the chicken stock dissolved in some water, then the wine, then water as required. Keep on stirring the dish to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the wok and burns.

Keep stirring and adding water as required. When the rice is almost done, add the chicken and mushroom back to the dish and simmer until done. Add the milk towards the end and stir it through properly. Add more water if required.

Bon appetit!

We sat around the oat today, cleaning up messes and planning the rest of the spit & polish work. We want to have the boat as clean as possible before we get alongside at Fort Lauderdale. This will alleviate our task in the marina. We shall then be doing the bulk of the work here at sea, where there is a breeze or two to cool you down. As opposed to the oppressive, sweltereing heat of a basically inlnd marina. Our destination marina is about two odd miles inland, so there won't be any sea breeze to cool you in your labours

The various schemes that we think up not to do work in a hot marina are quite hilarious. Overtly, all these schemes are aimed at not to have to work in the marina. But underlying to all of this is a desire not to work at all and have a decent weekend before the final handover and the flight back home.

As the situation stands at present, we are about three hundred odd nautical miles from our final destination. This should take about three days. But we are getting almost hysterical about this planning. We have misjudged the sailing conditions by a wide margin for the last four or five days. We had counter currents and a lack wind, resulting in some anxious calculations on fuel reserves. We went so far as to dip both the diesel tanks, as both fuel gauges have now stuck in the three quarter full position. Never to reset again. Your mind does strange things to you when things like these happen. There is a roller-coaster of emotions going through your head.

These accentuate the feeling that we have had enough of these weird failures. We need to get some psychological rest. It is not nice to sit in fear of the next breakage, even if you are resourceful. And this on a brand new boat.

At least the wind is playing along and for the third day in a row we are sailing at over six knots average. This goes a long way in soothing the nerves, let alone eating away at the miles remaining. Hopefully we shall have currents with us after passing through the Bahama Channel, which will work like a slingshot to end our voyage.

We are now just fifty miles away from entering the Bahama Channel, so here's to the hope that there is no more counter currents and that we have fair winds for the rest of our voyage.

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2012-12-12




Sunday, 16 September 2012

3rd Leg Day 8: Decommissioning And A Magical Sail



Last night ended with a burst of excitement. The wind came up towards sunset and we raised the mainsail in anger for the first time on the voyage. The wind played along and we were merrily sailing along at around six to seven knots.

Until about 19h00 last night, after dark. Then the wind increased to 13 knots on the beam and we were flying along, the boat making all kinds of new noises. Sounds that we are unaccustomed to, as we have never used the mainsail extensively on this voyage. I had all kinds of emotional ups and downs, between being excited and being scared. But I hung on and decided that this is what sailing is all about and that I need to get used to it. Also, it is not a good thing to let your shipmates get the idea that you are not quite up to the job of watchkeeping, let alone first mate.

I had the time of my life. Sitting at the helm in the dark, bouncing over the small swell, punching through wavelets, all accompanied by the sound of water rushing past the hulls. Sailing at around nine and a half knots in pitch darkness. Magnificent, I tell you. I had chance to experiment with trimming the mainsail using both the traveler and the main sheet. The wind blew reasonably steady, so there was no danger of missing a gust and breaking something. The last time I did anything like this was on my Mosquito catamaran, a little dinghy size boat of sixteen feet. The Leopard 39 is a cruising boat, not meant to sail on the edge, but with an exciting performance nevertheless. Well, at least in these conditions.

I was on a high for half the night, nary a wink of sleep as a result.

The sea around here is littered with, well, litter. Empty shampoo bottles, broken slipslops, The odd plastic sandal, plastic bags and sundry pieces of plastic. All floating on the high seas.We think it comes from dumping activities on the surrounding islands, but cannot be sure. One can but wonder about the application of regulations in the third world coutries around here.

And wonder just how long before we see this as rife in South Africa as well. I suspect that a large part of our country already looks like this. It is just that we simply don't see it because we don't usually travel through those areas.

Today also marked the start of the decommissioning of the household on the boat. Which means clean up some parts of the boat, not to be used again on this voyage. And ditch all the wrappers, papers, magazines that have accumulated in your cabin and elsewhere during the voyage. The cabins will be cleaned as the last duty before vacating the boat, as we all still need a place to sleep. The fishing kit was packed away, as was most of the electronic gadgetry not required for the rest of the voyage.

We also decommissioned our sprout garden, harvesting the last of the sprouts. These happen to be fenugreek sprouts, which we came to like quite a lot. They give a slight bitter taste a salad in addition to the crispiness of the fresh sprouts.

The plastic protective covering we put on all working surfaces will be removed at the last minute. The refrigerator and freezer need to be cleaned,as the freezer is iced up and there is water slopping around in the bottom of the refrigerator. Luckily both are practically empty. We shall probably swwitch them off a day before arriving at Fort Lauderdale. That would give us time to get them back to shop floor condition.

But the oven have to be clean and looking new. I tackled the heat distribution plate in the oven and took the crust of rust and oxide off using water paper and buffing compound. And lots of elbow grease. Now I know where to find a mirror when I need to trim my beard. It's in the oven. I know, I polished it myself.


So, no more bread baking. I shall make bread once more on this voyage, but it will be bread fried in oil. We also cleared out the stowage below the saloon seats and consolidated the food stores in two cardboard boxes underneath the saloon table.

Now one realises just how little food remains on board. Basically we have some emergency stock left. And lots of fresh water. At least we shall not die of thirst.

On this leg of the voyage at least we are reasonably close to civilisation, so a radio call will be sufficient to not have to go on a huge rationing.

There is a wisp of wind today, making the environment aboard slightly more liveable after the heat and doldrums of the last few days.

At four in the afternoon the wind picked up and we could yet again hoist the mainsail. The wind varied between eight and twelve knots apparent wind just abaft the beam. We let the main sheet out and sailed on a broad reach, tying the boom down with a preventer to alleviate the bouncing of the boom. The boat performed magnificently, doing six knots in eight knots apparent wind. And with a beautiful, soothing motion through the flat water. At last we were able to sit back and enjoy the sailing experience. This lasted until two in the moning, when the wind dropped and veered to astern. We stowed the main until the next change in wind.

We are praying for a steady wind like this, that we may swiftly complete the last leg of our voyage.

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2012-12-12


3rd Leg Day 7: Persisting Doldrums And Puri


Puri


Puri is the collective name for bread fried in oil. You can make bread in several ways. With or without leavening. Then bake it in the oven, over the coals, fry it in a dry pan, light oil or deep oil. All come out slightly different, depending on the leavening, the flour, the yeast and the cooking method.


Vetkoek, the South African version of the bread, is made with yeast, cake flour, salt and water.

We used white bread flour, brown bread flour salt, water and instant yeast. This is part of our last legs dishes aboard. We have five odd days left on this voyage. We may make another batch of these breads using sourdough, and the rest of the flour, which includes rye. But that is for another day.


Ingredients


1½ cup white bread flour

1½ cup brown bread flour

½ packet instant yeast (5ml or 1 teaspoon)

½ -1 cup lukewarm water

1 teaspoon salt

Dollop of cooking oil


Process


Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly, then add the water a little at a time while mixing. The dough needs to have the consistency of normal bread dough. When it has, turn it out on a floured kneading board and knead for ten to twenty minutes. Wet the hands with a small amount of oil and pat the dough ball on the outside to cover it with oil against drying. Then cover and leave to rise for an hour or two until the dough has doubled in volume.


Knead the dough back to the original volume, then roll it out into a sausage shape of around 60-80 mm (2½-3 inches). Cut 20mm (¾ inch) slices off this sausage and roll them out on the kneading board to about 3-4 mm (Just under a ¼ inch) thick. Fry them one at a time in a little oil. Turn them over after a minute or two. They may puff up, it is normal. Put them out on a paper towel to drain. Let them cool, then dig in.

We made this to go with some mince dish that Dawid wants to pprepare for dinner. At present the breads are sitting pretty in a bowl and we are sitting here salivating, wanting to dig in. I had a sample, which tasted delicious. A low GI vetkoek, complete with a dollop of smooth apricot jam.


Our doldrums are continuing in respect of the lack of wind. All of us now had our fill of reading, watching movies and playing cards and backgammon. The weather is not assisting either. The overnight low is now 30ºC (86ºF). The humidity has risen to over 75%, which makes for very high levels of discomfort. I took a bucket salt water shower this morning around 10h00. The relief was like heaven, but of short duration. Perhaps I shall do it after dinner as well. The sea water is tepid, like lukewarm tea.came out,


We had a visit from a red helicopter this morning. They circled us once, then flew back where they came from. We think it is the Coaast Guard people from Great Inagua. A comfoting feeling to see them around. Then there won't be pirates. And a sure sign that civilisation is near.

It is so hot that we all are seeking shelter the sun outside, as the saloon is now like a sauna. Especially after frying the vetkoek.

It is in fact so hot and humid that I feel like I am losing my blog stories. I have never felt like this before.

Except for the time we hiked the Fish River Canyon in the south of Namibia. Where the day temperature in winter goes to somewhere in the middle forties and there isn't any shade at all. You dry out like biltong and your tongue sticks to your palate, in spite of having water close by. It's just that you dry out so fast. At least the evenings were tolerable and we had to make a fire every night against the coolness of the river.

Or perhaps the time when I lived in Nigeria, in the Niger River delta. Right in the middle of the swamps. Where the temperature goes only to 35ºC, but the humidity is over 90% most of the time. You sit soaked in your own sweat. Ther I learnt to wear loose fitting clothes, it helps to cool you. Also, you don't chafe as badly as with tight fitting clothes.

But here on the boat I hardly wear anything, just swimming trunks. So I don't chafe. I also don't move about that much. And here is no place to hide from the het or the humidity. The cabins get sweltering hot from the sun baking down on them all day. Not even the open hatches help with cooling. The engines actually help to heat up the cabins.

I have a good understanding now of how the seafarers of old felt in these climes. Especially when they were becalmed. Not something to laugh about.

We are now about six hundred nautical miles away from our destination. Hopefully we get wind, in which case we shall be arriving in Fort Lauderdale sometime early Friday morning. The weather forecast is for wind from Wednesday (next tomorrow in Nigerian dialect) onwards. We shall then be in the Bahamas Channel and be sailing with the Gulf Stream. This should give us a slingshot heave on our way.

I suspect that we shall after our arrival experience real Everglades weather, not the relative coolness of the open ocean. If the “skeeters don't get get you, then the 'gators will”, as the song goes. Perhaps we shall also partake of some Southern Comfort and relax before the final spit & polish for hand over of the boat.

And then, just before sunset, we hooked a fish. To the great delight of Dawid, who has craved for sushi for the whole voyage. Had our heads spinning with stories about how good it is and how delicious fresh Tuna is. The fish was a small Bonito, one of the Tuna family. Dawid's dream come true.

So he landed the fish, we coached him on dressing the fish, then left himto his own designs. The skipper and I had a quiet moment on the trampoline watching the sunset. An hour later we went to look for Dawid and found him gaily soldiering on, cutting up his fish. He vwanted to cut the fish into steaks, but found out halfway through his efforts, that it may have been easier to cut out the fillets and ditch the rest of the fish.

Whatever the case, he and I had some sashimi, complete with soy sauce and wasabi. Great stuff.













This blog also linked to Yeastspotting!

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2012-12-12

3rd Leg Day 6: A Flare Over An Oily Sea and Sticky Spicy Fish



The day again dawned sweltering hot. A portetn of things to come. The breeze that sprung up yesterday petered out to nothing during the night. We had just over seven hours' worth of sailing, saving us some diesel.

Today we motored the whole day. There was a lot of intermitttent counter currents. Rather like a snake coilining and uncoiling, writhing on the ground, with us on top. Or perhaps us floating on a gigantic saucepan of water that is just short of boiling. The water in turbulence, but not so that you get bumped around, just slewing the boat here and there. And adding to our diesel fuel consumption. Very worrying when you consider our diesel supplies.

From an artistic aspect, the sea has this oily, lazy look. The water is an indescribably blue colour and crystal clear. Towards afternoon, when the sun was before the mast, the aft deck gave some shelter against the blaze and we took some comfort there. At least you could feel some breeze there. We took turns to sit on the starboard pontoon aft deck in the shade offerered by the bimini top. The aft portion of the deck is just clear of the water and you can hang your feet in the water. The water has this tepid temperature, much like lukewarm tea. But it does provide some modicum of cooling. But more, it provides a soothing foot massage, as the boat is rocking gently in the small swell, so your feet get pulled out of the water every so often. A very calming effect, somewhat therapeutic.

Surprisingly, there is not much traffic in this vicinity. This in spite of being a relatively narrow seaway. The skipper says it is normal and that one sees a little more traffic in the Bahamas channel hugging the north coast of Cuba.

During late afternoon we saw a rocket flare against the clear sky. We diverted to render assistance. After three hours we resumed our voyage. There was no radio traffic, no response from other vessels and the sea is flat calm. We assumed some pranks from fishermen or a ship over the horizon. In any event, we found nothing. A bit perturbing experience in this neck of the woods with the threat of piracy too.



Yesterday we started the last big clean-up and did the stainless steel spit & polish thing. We also washed some of our mooring lines that got very dirty on the mooring at St Maarten. We soaked them for a few hours in fresh water and some washing powder. Then we scrubbed them using a scrubbing brush we bought for exactly this job. Then the lines were streamed in the wake for a rinse, turning them around after a few minutes. By this morning they were dry. Now they are as white as anything, causing a glare on the aft deck.

Goodness, I am sounding like a cheap TV ad!

The sea is flat calm and by this afternoon we had left behind the last of the counter currents for the next day or so. Rather, we hope so. It chewed our diesel. We get the idea that there may be lots of eddy currents from the bays on the island next to us, where the Dominican Republic and Haiti is situated. I think the island used to be called Hispaniola.

It was my turn at the galley again. We are on the last legs of the freezer's contents, so in the dying throes of the voyage all the dinners are last legs dishes. The choice of ingredients is dimishing very fast to a binary situation. Makes for interesting creativity. Today was no exception. I made sticky spicy fish with plain rice and caramel butternut. No sauce or gravy with the rice. The spice mix is from National Foods in Karachi. I obtained this from my local spice shop in Gordon's Bay. Your local spice shop catering for the Muslim community will have it.


Sticky Spicy Fish



Ingredients



For the fish


400g fish fillets, cubed into lsrge cubes. I used Dorado. Mahi mahi for the Caribs.

½ packet of fried fish mix.

1 teaspoon fresh chopped garlic

dollop of lemon juice

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup water

½ cup flour. I used white bread flour, as this is what I have.

Some cooking oil or ghee, as required. The recipe calls for deep oil, but we have a dearth, so I used shallow oil in a wok.


For the butternut


½ butternut, cubed

Some cinnamon bark

2-3 dessert spoons sugar


Process



For the fish


Mix the lemon juice, salt and some of the masla mix. Marinate the fish in this for 30 minutes. Make a paste of water, ½ teaspoon of salt and the flour. Dip the fish cubes in the flour paste to cover it completely, then fry it in the oil. I put the fried cubes on a plate with a paper towel to drain the excess oil.


For the butternut


Cut the butternut into cunes after peeling it with a potato peeler. Put this in a pot withabout 1- 1½ cups of water. Add the sugar and the cinnamon bark. Simmer until the water has boiled off and the sugar has caramelised.

The rice you boil as normal.

Bon apettit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2012-12-12












3rd Leg Day 5: Waiting For The Wind And Other Decisions



How far can you motor on 100 liters of diesel? How much food is left over? How far still to go? How much counter current can we expect? Where can we buy diesel if we have to? When will the wind come through?

These are some of the questions that start to pervade one's thinking in conditions like we are having at present. The overnight low temperature was 28ºC/82ºF. And we have no wind. In fact, that may be technically incorrevt. We do have wind. The swells that come past make their own wind, making the boat's wind vane do spins. At least it provides some element of cooling, even if it just mills the hot air around.

We are motoring at about four knots, but making way at less, sometimes more, depending on the counter current that we go through. It is excruciatingly slow.

So we start making plans. About getting this trip over and done with. All and sundry ideas to make the boat go faster. Most based on wishful thinking and a prayer for wind. A good friend in the sailing industry once remarked that delivering a boat is not sailing, it is boat sitting. Rather like baby sitting. Except this one is prone to the vagaries of the wind and weather. And becomes very expensive and high maintenance when there is no wind and you are under way. In this instance it feels like boat sitting in the transcendental degree of comparison. You dig deep in your personal psychological resources to keep sane.

One wonders how the sailors of old kept sane in windless conditions. Sitting there becalmed and at the mercy of the sun. Nowhere to hide. The cabins are getting hot enough to make them feel like a sauna during the day. We all pray for some relief after sunset, that the hot air may vent out of the boat and allow some respite from the heat.

The conversation on board now centers on the future. What are we going to do when we get home. The adjustment to the rat race and urban living. The crowds. The summer season in South Africa is on us, the shops probably preparing for the Christmas season already. We have missed winter, biltong, the braais, red wine and friends. But it seems that there will be some catching up. Especially on the red wine and steak on the coals. And there is always the new horizons and plans for a better life. It is good to dream and plan a little while you have the opportunity. It lies easy on the mind and one can do it uninterruptedly here on board.

The night was quite interesting. Instead of having clear skies, there is a haze lying on the horizon. This gives an impression that you are submerged in the ocean. The water is smooth and the surface looks oily close to the boat. As your gaze goes further afield, you look into the haze and there is no horizon, just this dark mass of haze. Then, looking higher up, the haze thins and the stars start peering myopically through the haze. Right above us the stars are shing brightly. Perhaps we have transmuted into a fairy tale, a bit like the Tales of Narnia, where one enters into a different world by going through some form of gate. Some science fiction stories have a star gate. And we are approaching a traditional celestial star gate with the equinox coming up on 22 September.

Well, we travelled through such a gate. A real gate. It's called The Narrows and takes one from the Caribbean Sea into the North Atlantic. For my money it is a totally different world, not much different from the fantasy world of literature. We may well have travelled into a different world, for all we know. For us it is easy now to associate ourselves with being in a fantasy world. We don't have effective contact with the outside world, except for a few text messages. No TV, radio, newspapers or other external media to influence us.

We are also passing the Dominican Republic and, hopefully soon, Haiti. The origin of voodoo, the world of traditional pagan magical rites. There may be something in this after all. We do create our own reality, don't we? One can easily get sidetracked in these conditions.

We have seen other signs of life on land in addition to the birds that came to visit yesterday. A small butterfly fluttered around the boat, then on, into the wild blue yonder, away from land. Also, we now have flies on board. Perhaps another form of refugees from these lands of rife paganism?

And then the wind came, at the end of the day. At dusk. A blessed wind that is carrying us gently along at around four and a half knots over the ground. The sea is still quite flat with long, even swells of about two meters and small wavelets of around half a meter splashing merrily in our wake, making a restful musical sound. And no drone of diesel engines. It is now getting on for seven hours of this wind. Not using any diesel fuel, sailing along quietly at a pace that gives a comfortable movement to the boat.

The mood on board lifted discernably and there are happy, smiling faces shining relief all around.

A soulful end to our doldrums indeed.

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2012-12-12

3rd Leg Day 4: Another Loaf And A Visit from The Birds

We were all a bit weary from yesterday's dismal daily run this morning. The day dawned with some promise of wind, a small network of little ripples on the water. And the wind did come, except it was a headwind yet again. We altered course to be able to use it, but to no avail. The wind veered and we were back to square one. We resignedly furled away the sail and carried on motoring. At least we are making some way and are now crossing the Mona Passage between Puerto Rico and the island of Hispaniola, on which resides the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Real voodoo country.

It was still early and I called a spit & polish party. Fatigues is the word used in some military circles. It is my duty and prerogative as the first mate to make these decisions. It is also a good way to break the monotony. So there we sat, Dawid and I, polishing the stainless steel fittings at six fifteen in the morning. But I am getting ahead of myself.

We decided the work order over a cup of tea. The bread was finished and we decided to get the dough going, then to do the polishing, after which the loaf should be ready for our final attentions before going into the oven. We decided on a simple brown loaf this time.


Simple Brown Loaf



Ingedients


2 cups white bread flour

2 cups stone ground brown bread flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon instant yeast

2 cups lukewarm water


Process


Mix the flour and salt thoroughly. Sprinkle the yeast evenly over the dry flour and mix it in. Then add about ¾ of the water. Mix the dough until it gets to very dry clumps, then add a little water at a time until you get a nice elastic consistency in the dough.

Turn the dough out on a floured kneading board and knead for ten to fifteen minutes until the dough gets a satiny texture. Wet your hands and handle the dough to get the surface wetted. Place the wetted dough in a plastic container and cover it against drying out. Then place it in a warm place to rise. We placed it back in the cupboard in a closed plastic mixing bowl. This is as good as any place on the boat. Even at six in the morning the ambient temperature is around 28ºC (lower 80's F) in this neck of the woods.

After the dough has risen to attleast double its size, turn it out on to a floured kneading board and knead it back to the original size. Pat it into the required shape and let it rest for twenty minutes. We divided the dough into two small loaves. Make some shallow cuts on the top of the loaf to facilitate even oven spring, then bake the loaves. We baked the loaves at 190ºC/375ºF for 30 minutes. then turned off the heat and left the loaves in the oven for another twenty minutes. The loaves were then removed from the oven and turned out on a kneading board to cool. They came out quite soft and springy and not too crispy crust. Another success.

After the cleaning duties were completed, I took a welcome shower, the first since we left St Maarten. Although this leg of the voyage is only ten odd days and we have ample water, we still observe a frugal usage, lest we get into an unforeseen situation.

We had some interesting interludes today as well. A ocean tug came past towing a huge barge. And by huge I mean huge. Probably as large or larger thyan a cruise ship. Quite a sight. We actually talked to them. Firstly, when the tug boat captain enquired of us whether we shall keep our course and speed, so as to not interfere with his difficult navigation. A little later we realised that he may have better weather information than us, so we called him again and got some info. He also suggested that we push the weather channel button on the radio. We were a bit puzzle dabout this, as we were not able to figure out whether he was serious or not. Perhaps we are just uninformed about the information channels available around here.

We also received a visit from some feathered friends. Two land birds the size of a sparrow visited us. They lookede like a pair, a male and a female. I managed to get a pixture or two, but not good enough to identify these birds. They looked like pale sparrows, LBJs in my dictionary. Both were light brown in clour, with a dark line along the wing edge. They had beaks like seed eaters, like sparrows. The one that I will identify as the male looked a bit stressed out and was panting heavily. We assumed they got lost and put out some water and bread crumbs. They did not partake of this and took off again. I saw one of them flying across the water at low height, perhaps half a meter above the surface, a few minutes later. And that was the end of them. We assumed that one had ditched. We were puzzled about their presence this far from dry land. They were clearly land birds with normal land bird feet and claws, no webs. And we are about a sixty miles from the closest dry land. They have nowhere to rest. The skipper told us of a previous experience of a similar nature, where they tried to revive the birds, which died shortly after landing on the boat. Both sorrowful experiences, accentuating the briefness of life.

Perhaps also, in this case, the dedication of the partner in flying along, then also perishing for the effort. But we don't know for sure.

On a lighter note, the second temple on my reaading glasses broke off this morning. Between the heat and the amount of sweat it is subjected to, the plastic just rotted. I was able to repair it in a similar fashion than the other one. Now I have a pair of spectacles that look like the name. A spectacle. The repair was done using binding wire and duct tape. The picture says it all. I would rather not have a picture published of myself wearing these...


We also managed to hook a piece of the sea grass that looks like whale diarrhea. These small clumps grow everywhere and they clflock together in patches fifty by two hundred meters. Then the wind blows them into the stripes giving rise to my comparison. They have small globules of air, so they can float. And it smells like sea grass. We declinede the edibility experiment on the grounds that we don't have proper medical backup on board. Perhaps we should hook some more and try it for soapy characteristics in sea water.






This post also linked to Yeastspotting!

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2012-12-12