Monday 3 September 2012

2nd Leg Day 5: Summer, Spit'n Polish and Sourdough

The days are getting more and more summery as we travel further north. The wind is holding up and we sailed 138 nautical miles over the last 24 hours. This in spite of a stoppage of over an hour for the fish yesterday after lunch. Good news indeed. We have now done 72 straight hours of sailing, barring four hours to charge the batteries. Good wind indeed.

I managed to get sextant sightings of both the moon and Venus early this morning. Then I had to dig deep in my mind (and the celestial navigation manual!) to perform the reduction calculations on these. I had two very good sets of sights, each set clustered close together, but disagreeing with each other. I still need to clarify the difference, but for now I had some proper revision of sightings other than the sun.

This is part of the exercise, to understand the sources of variation in the calculations and readings. And this is part of what you lose when working in electronic media only. The computer spews out numbers and one has to take them at face value. That is, unless you understand the quantities involved and are able to decide whether the results make sense or not. A big caveat indeed. Tomorrow, when I have some quiet time, I shall review today's readings and try to make sense of the differences.

The summer weather made for a leisurely Sunday. Towards the middle of the morning the wind started abating to a gentle breeze and we were able to do our first round of spit and polish. That means removing rust and salt crust from all the stainless steel fittings outside. Not every day is spent in lazing away leisurely! The weather had been kind to us so far and there was little salt and rust to contend with. The calm sea added to the comfort and I was able to do my part without too much discomfort: I pulled an intecostal muscle yesterday in the melee with the big fish. This lead to some very funny faces from me today as the muscle went into a spasm.

Today was also the first day that we could sit around bare-chested. Luckily there was no-one else around to see the pale spectacle! Furthermore we had an overnight encounter or two with flying fish. Luckily for me, this time not personal, as against my knee in the middle of the night. Like the last time! But still disconcerting. You hear a loud thud in the night, then a slapping sound as the hapless fish lies flapping on the deck. Not something for the faint-hearted in the middle of the night. Good thing I had this experience before, else I may have had an unsavoury accident! We picked up a dead one on the foredeck this morning, after some more bumps in the night.

Sourdough and a Rye Loaf

I started a sourdough sponge yesterday, planning to bake bread tomorrow. The sourdough was fed with some rye flour and water to make up the loss in volume. The starter sponge was made with half a cup of sourdough, one cup of rye flour and some water to make it into a paste. This was left overnight to activate fully and to multiply. The warm weather aided and the sourdough responded magnificently by foaming and bubbling. I promptly stored it in the refrigerator. The sponge also more than doubled and was bubbling away. This bode well for my loaf and this afternoon I completed my dough mix with two additional cups of white bread flour, one cup of grated cheese and one cup of chopped onions. The dough also received a dollop each of melted butter, sugar, some salt and half a cup of milk. This was kneaded until it became quite stiff, after which I wrapped the dough ball in a plastic bag and stored it in the oven to rise for 12 hours. Our oven on board is the only place where the dough can rest undisturbed and the oven is too small for any of our larger plastic containers.

The cheese and onion loaf is by request from our skipper, Renier. As I am sitting here and typing up the blog, the loaf has risen by quite a bit and seems to be quite happy in the plastic bag. I am happy too. There was a stage some days ago where I was very worried about the vitality of my sourdough. It appears that the ambient temperature could have been the major player in the lethargic performance of the sourdough. One needs to heed the environment on board, it is not the same as at home!

Our merry little band has a card league every evening after the evening meal. This is played in the game of Uno and is hotly contested. Renier is keeping score and this 'wailing wall' is a source of great merriment and rivalry. We are considering a poker league as well for when we have lots of time. Washing up turns would count as legal tender to stay in the game. Perhaps this will make participants think twice about reckless betting. However, looking at the Uno scores, I have my doubts. We also have a backgammon game board. This is getting popular as a curtain raiser for the Uno league, as one of us is washing up after dinner, leaving the other two idle. It works out quite nicely this way, setting the scene for the Uno games later. The washing up has to be done directly after dinner, as the boat has only little space in the galley and the dirty dishes clutter the sink. On bigger boats this is less of a problem and we do the washing up firdt thing in the morning. There is normally some additional dirty cutlery and crockery from the night watches.

This blog post also linked to Yeastspotting!

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

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