Sunday 16 September 2012

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


2 cups white bread flour

2 cups stone ground brown bread flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon instant yeast

2 cups lukewarm water


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

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