Monday 18 November 2013

Epilogue: Tortola after 20 000 Leagues Over The Sea

The last part of our voyage included the customary stopover at St Maarten for essential repairs and maintenance before delivering the boat to Tortola. These repairs are very small, basically removing the odd rust spots from the stainless steel parts and buffing the stove back to a pristine, shop floor condition. And servicing engines, of course.

All part of the price to pay for being allowed on a brand new boat to cross the ocean.

The last day at sea did not offer much adventure. We basically motored all the way from St Lucia, as there was hardly any wind. The views of the islands at night, with all the lights shining, the cars moving and aircraft flying made up for the lack of wind, though. It forms an urban backdrop to the voyage, making a gentle psychological transition from a seaward frame of mind to a landward one.

The last transition is when you enter the Sir Francis Drake channel through the Round Rock Passage just south of Virgin Gorda. A beautiful scene early in the morning, flat water and boats sailing all over the place.

For me, this is the last of an era, as I shall not be sailing with my skipper and friend again. Nothing due to a broken friendship, but a career growth path for me. This simply means that I shall be sailing with other skippers before getting my own command, so to speak. There is some hope of a future in the sailing world, as the world's recessions ebb and people spend more of their hard earned money on holidays.

This crossing put my log up to just over 20 000 nautical miles. I used some poetic freedom in the title, misquoting the title of the book by Jules Verne. It just sounds so much more romantic. Actually, a league in terms of a distance unit is not a nautical mile at all.

A league is the distance to the horizon when standing at sea level. This translates to about three odd nautical miles, being the distance to the horizon from an eye height of about five feet six in old terms. It is the distance to the end of your visual range at sea.

For me, a league means more of a psychological distance. It relates to a rite of passage in one's life, perhaps. Certainly, this last voyage put me into this thing mode. I learned a lot about the sea and ocean voyages, as well as the technical aspects of provisioning, sailing, boat husbandry, if you will, and the mundane parts of sailing.

But more, I learned coping skills. The art of adjusting to the vagaries of life on board a small vessel in a very large ocean. Coping with the various forms of fear that your ego tends to instill in your mind due to a lack of external stimulation. The exact same external stimulation that we get an overdose of, living in cities.

An extended ocean passage provides a golden opportunity for some self examination and review of your inner self. A cleansing of the mind, perhaps. There is also the skills acquired to cope with interpersonal relationships on board. No use in having major disagreements and serious conflict all the time. One learns some leniency.

Well, at least one would hope so. Stories about weird behaviour patterns on board abound. Cabin fever, it is called. Luckily, we managed to avoid this by proper social interaction. It helps with letting off steam.

And the quiet times on watch in the wee hours of the morning helps a lot with personal meditation. I used this frequently when getting upset about something happening during the day. The quiet time allows for some clear and rational thinking.

We had lots of sun on this last part of the voyage. As opposed to the lack of sun during the first part of the voyage.

Winter is a very relative concept. I was purchasing some perfume as a present to the missus and asked the sales assistant for a summery, floral fragrance. She remarked that it is all winter at the time. I had some difficulty in understanding this, as the outside temperature at the time was in the middle thirties (°C, middle 90's F). I took a deep breath and explained to her that I was from Cape Town where it was summer and that I was not coming from some way out mental place. In spite of looking like Santa Claus in board shorts after six weeks at sea. I decided that that would take too much explanation.

Although the temptation was there. I had just finished reading the Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and was still in that weird and quaint frame of mind projected by the book.

I actually had this vision that the modern smart cell phones are almost the same as the little machine  that carries the name of the book. Very small differences between what I have physically in my  hand versus the description of the machine given in the book. Not scary, but very much enlightening. Mr Adams was not so weird in his thinking after all.

I read a lot on this voyage, as always. This time I made a point of reading some classical books as well. I am about a third of the way through Homer's Odyssey and read The English Patient, a few of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's best Sherlock Holmes stories and the Kama Sutra by Vatsyayana.

Yes, THAT book. Apart from the technical explanations on various techniques and positions, the book carries on to explain when and with whom one may have sex. Having read this, I then realised that extra marital sex has been going on forever, otherwise the author would not have gone to the trouble of including those chapters. Quite enlightening. I also then read the Odyssey with a different frame of mind, seeing more unfaithfulness unveiled in the famous work by Homer.

The same thing makes up the gist of Kipling's stories about life in India in the heyday of that British colony. Victorian times indeed! My English teacher at school will be proud of me.

I also crossed some mental hurdles on this voyage and put my baking skills into a higher realm. The bread on this voyage will go down as the best I have baked by far. It just shows what a little extra study and application of the knowledge can do, even in this uncontrollable heat.

Now it is time for a rest and some recuperation before tackling the new year. Time for some consolidation of thoughts and experiences. But not too much planning. Otherwise life will pass by while I am making plans, in the words of the late John Lennon.

Going with the flow is perhaps a good idea. Less taxing on the body and the mind, I venture. And perhaps including more adventures.

Who knows...

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-11-18

Saturday 16 November 2013

Day 43: Last Sourdough Twists In The Caribbean

Today is the last day of the long legs of our voyage. We are sailing past the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean at the time of writing this.

In weather that is very hot and humid, the only respite from the heat being the breeze caused by our moving through the air. There is literally no wind to speak of. Not even the famous zephyrs that the Vaal dam sailors in inland South Africa know so well.

My last watch will be tonight from 00h00 to 03h00. During this time my last baking efforts for this voyage will come into fruition when the loaves are baked. This will be the last use of the oven before decommissioning prior to handover. The refrigerator is almost empty, ditto for the freezer.
Slowly but surely we are packing away all loose personal items and getting everything in order to clean up and hand over the boat.

This period in the voyage always comes with some nostalgia. You are now handing over your child, which you so very carefully looked after and nursed through sickness and health, to some foreigner.
Enough of nostalgia. Hungry sailors also need to eat. So we turn again to the age old staple:

Sourdough bread.

This time around I decided on a similar dough than the challah I made earlier on the voyage. As this is the last baking of the voyage and we still have a night sail to Tortola, I decided to make two loaves. Hopefully they will last long enough!

The dough is again quite soft. I started with the last of my sourdough, ditching about half of it as the gluten in the flour was already consumed. Half a cup of white bread flour was fed to this, along with enough water to make it just runny.

After leaving this starter to ferment for six hours, I mixed in the rest of the ingredients, barring two cups of flour and the currants. This quite soft, almost runny dough was left for another seven hours to ferment before the next mixing and kneading.

The last ferment was left for five odd hours before final shaping and proofing. Final proof was four hours.

Shaping was done by making four long snakes and twisting them in pairs, as opposed to the three stranded braid of a challah. The loaves were cut on top to facilitate even oven spring, and basted with some whisked egg white.

These were baked at 230ºC/450ºF for twenty minutes. The oven was turned down to 190ºC/375ºF after twenty minutes and the loaves turned back to front to facilitate even baking in the small oven.


For the starter

½ cup sourdough
½  cup white bread flour
Mix and allow to ferment for at least six hours

For the main ferment

All the starter as above
2 cups brown bread flour
3 cups white bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 eggs
1 egg yolk (The white is kept aside for the basting)
4 dessert spoons brown sugar
1-2 dessert spoon vegetable fat
2 cups water

Mix all the above thoroughly. The consistency should be almost runny, too runny to knead. Cover and allow to ferment until double in volume. This took some seven hour in my case.

For the last ferment

All of the above
1 cup white bread flour
1 cup brown bread flour
½ cup blackcurrants

Mix all of the above thoroughly. The dough should now be still soft, but foldable if not kneadable. Fold for ten to fifteen minutes until the dough is satiny and quite elastic. It should not be sticky any more.

Pat with some cooking oil against drying out, cover and put aside to ferment until double in volume.
Take the dough out, turn out onto a floured kneading board to rest for fifteen minutes, then divide into two loaves and do final shaping. Try not to degas the dough. I opted for a twisted format, so there was quite a bit of handling of the dough.

Allow the shaped loaves to ferment at least another hour before baking. They should be at least 1½ time their original volume.

Baste with beaten egg white, slice the tops to facilitate even oven spring, then pop them into the oven. Bake for twenty minutes at 230ºC/450ºF, then turn the oven down to 190ºC/375ºF. Turn the loaves back to front to facilitate even baking and bake them for at least another twenty minutes. Check for through baking. The loaves should make a hollow sound and should be reasonably crisp on the outside.

Remove the loaves from the oven and turn out onto a cooling rack. Allow at least forty minutes for these to cool before slicing them. Don't worry, they will still be warm!

Well, as you may have noticed, I wrote most of this before the loaves went into the oven. This is where the twister became a real twister. The dough rose beyond comprehension and I had to do the shaping much sooner than anticipated. The dough was quite soft still, too soft, in fact.

But I did not heed any warning.

So it appears that the dough has morphed into something alien. Or is the proper word “mutated”? Whatever the case, the dough dripped through the oven grid between popping the loaves into the oven and the end of oven spring. Much like something escaping from one of the lesser known planets in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Perhaps I should write Peter Reinhart about this alien effect. Or perhaps just send him a link to this blog post...

The two loaves became one in the oven, restricting the air flow and thus the proper baking. The shapes of  the loaves were completely lost, but the taste remained.

There is a lesson in here somewhere, I think.

But then I got hungry.

Fresh bread is always wonderful.

And remember, use real butter.

This blog post also linked to Yeastspotting!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-11-06

Monday 11 November 2013

Day 41-42: Marigot Cove, St Lucia

We stopped at St Lucia, thereby making our landfall in the Caribbean. What a wonderful experience.
We went alongside at the Moorings base in Marigot Cove on the north western side of the island. For us, that is the cheapest place, as we are part of the company personnel, if only for the delivery of our boat.

However, it is not cheap in general terms. The cove is so secluded and protected, I think the inhabitants will read about hurricanes in the news. This cove is almost a fjord, having only the smallest of flat ground along the sides, with quite steep cliffs surrounding the cove of about three quarters of a mile in length and less than two hundred odd yards across. Long and narrow.

Of course, this seclusion has not gone unnoticed and the result is some charming villas overlooking the cove. I think some film stars would go there for a holiday just because of the seclusion. The place has been spared the monster of high rise development, so the essential Caribbean character remains, which helps to round off the Caribbean island experience.

There are at least three beach- or waterfront restaurants within shouting distance of each other.  Which includes crossing the water. I know about the shouting distance, because the ferrymen crack jokes and keep conversations going across the cove. Think of the quaint Caribbean accents and dialect, complete with laughter in the distance and you will get the picture.

Add at least three ferry services to help carry people to and from the various beach bars and restaurants and you have a merry time.

The ferry services are free. Sort of. Some are attached to a specific restaurant and patrons are carried for free. All other passengers have to pay.

Being newcomers, it boggled our minds for a while to figure out which is the ferry attached to the beach bar we wanted to go to. If you call the wrong ferry, you have to pay, instead of getting transported for free.

And the beer is cold. I had one, which did not touch sides. A month at sea does that. Then I had another one. After that one, I had several more at a leisurely pace. It is exceedingly hot in this neck of the woods, and steamingly so in the cove, with almost no wind. Which means you work up a thirst very fast. Luckily, the waterside restaurants have large open verandas with proper shade, so it is quite cool there.

The stop was for the crew to get medication which had run out on the crossing. Long voyages are clearly not for everyone.  So I relaxed in the shade. No need for any shopping, which was a blessing. This provided a golden opportunity for me to really have a proper island experience. Relaxing in the shade, sipping languidly at a cold beer, watching small ripples on the water. The boats on their mooring buoys only bobbing from the wake of passing ferries. Chilled out living par excellence.

Sight-seeing fell off the bottom of my last reserve list of things to do on St Lucia. There is only one thing.



Perhaps, some day, I shall be able to have a proper holiday in these parts.

At present we are motor-sailing along the coast of Martinique, having left the paradise that is called St Lucia at around eight this morning. We are about 200 odd nautical miles from St Maarten, our next planned stop. Back to the grindstone for another two days. Some shopping, essential maintenance and repairs,  Cleaning. Then an overnight sail to Tortola to end off the voyage and hand over the boat.

Already one starts feeling the pain of pulling roots after the long voyage.

This boating life grows on you.


Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-11-05

Day 40: Land Ho And Onion Cashew Risotto

And beef. The risotto had beef strips too. But more of that later.

Today we made our landfall after crossing the Atlantic. We passed Barbados at a distance of about eighteen miles on our way into the Caribbean Sea. We are now officially out of the Atlantic ocean.
I took the last sun sights of the voyage, as we shall be within sight of land for the remainder of the voyage.

I am rather pleased with my progress in the field of celestial navigation after closing off the navigation across the Atlantic with a difference to the GPS of twelve nautical miles. This due to a counter current during the last forty-eight hours that I did not estimate sufficiently accurate. Still accurate enough, though.

My plot put us twelve miles closer to the island than the GPS, which translates to an hour or two additional sailing. At night the difference would be negligible, as the lights on the island and the aircraft movements would give the direction.

Our freezer is almost empty. Soon we shall switch off the freezer altogether as part of the close  down and clean-up before handover.

Today is my last turn at cooking. It is also the last 16h00-18h00 watch of the voyage for me. Lots of lasts coming through now.

I planned to make a beef korma and reserved the ingredients accordingly. However, I received a request for a last risotto. I inclined to acquiesce, if I may misquote the pirate from the film Pirates of the Caribbean.

Means I said yes.

So I had to come up with a risotto using similar ingredients. Beef strips in an onion and cashew risotto, flavoured with mild spices and coconut milk.

This was a bit of a culinary excursion, perhaps even an adventure, to me. The vagaries of designing end of voyage dishes!

The beef cubes were cut into small strips, then fried in cumin and coriander before being put aside to repose.

We do not have arborio rice on board, so it was brown rice. Somewhat out of the ordinary, even for me, I would venture.

The cashews were roasted in a dry pan, then crushed into crumbs. This got mixed with finely and coarsely (mixed), chopped onions, fried in butter. Add the raw rice, fry a little and you are well on your way to a decent risotto a la The Hungry Sailor.


400 g beef cubes cut into fine strips
1 1/2 cup raw rice
3 onions, finely and coarsely chopped
½ cup raw cashew nuts
1 teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fresh chopped garlic
½ cup dried musrooms finely chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon garum masala
1 can coconut milk or cream
Salt to taste
3 cups of water as required


Roast the cashews in a dry pan until they go dark. Allow to cool, then crush them in a coffee mug using the back end of a spatula or wooden spoon. That's what we have on board instead of a mortar and pestle, or, even better still, a blender.

Roast the beef strips in a dollop of butter to flavout the pan. Remove from the pan and keep aside once they go brown. Now add the onions and fry them until they go brown, not just translucent. They need to caramelise. Add the cashews, the cumin, coriander and the rice. Stir fry this until the rice goes brown. Add some butter if the pan goes dry.

Now add the white wine and keep stirring until it has been absorbed. Add the soaked mushrooms with the soaking water and keep on stirring, making sure that everything comes off the bottom of the pan. Add some water to make the dish mushy and keep on stirring.

Add the coconut cream towards the end, it will thicken the dish and add some flavour. Add salt to taste. Add the garumm masala towards the end. It serves as garnish.

This dish needs to be mushy, so don't overdo the water. You don't wantto end up with a crunchy soup.

As always, allow the dish to repose. This one will take much longer than anticipated, as it is quite thick and therefore will retain enough heat to make it not immediately edible. Have some wine on the side while you wait for everything to cool down before dishing up.

This dish had all the flavours of the korma, but without the bite.The mushrooms and cocnut milk took it away from the realm of curries and more towards an avant garde risotto.  It came out good enough to warrant a trial at home.

Bon appetit!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-11-03

Day 39: Sunshine And A Salty Shower

Our weather continues to be very summery. In fact, so summery that we are now taking salty showers on the aft deck to get rid of the after effects of the daily heat.

It is very humid. Perhaps Kipling got some of his idea of mad dogs and Englishmen going out in the midday sun while in the tropics on route to India. Whatever the case, we are suffering in this heat and humidity.

I took my penultimate sun sight of the voyage today. Tomorrow will be the last that we see of a clear horizon circling us. We are now a day's sail away from Barbados, which we shall leave to starboard. Which means we shall pass south of the island on our westward voyage.

I am actually looking forward to the last part of the voyage from a navigation point of view. We shall be doing coastal navigation all the way to St Maarten in the Dutch Antilles, our next stop. Coastal navigation in these parts is easy and interesting, as you can see airliners taking off and landing at night, giving a good idea of your whereabouts relative to airports. The islands themselves are also mountainous, thereby making it even easier to navigate. Much easier than the Cape West Coast with perhaps less prominent features.

The moon phase is not really in our favour, as it is close to new moon, making the nights quite dark. The stars are amazing, but we have yet to see a clear night on this voyage. Lots of loose clouds about and a lot of haziness, making stargazing a bit difficult at times.

Luckily we haven't had really heavy squalls to complicate the sailing. Just enough for the odd free fresh water shower every now and then. Depending whether you are on watch or fast asleep having just completed your watch keeping stint. In his regard I have sorely missed out on this voyage and had to do with salty showers on the aft deck.

At least the sea water is almost tepid, so there is no shock reaction as the cold water hits you. You use your soap to get the sweaty grime off and it is quite refreshing. I opt to not rinse in fresh water as I like the salt on my skin. Makes it less greasy, but others get itchy from the salt.

Around the boat you can see the voyage is nearing the end. The freezer and refrigerator are both quite empty. Tools and pastime things are being packed away. Cupboards are being cleared. Lots of small things.

We also decanted diesel into each diesel tank to see us through the rest of the voyage. Ditto for the extra fresh water in loose containers.

Our food is running low too. We are almost out of coffee and the tea is basically gone. Thanks to more cold weather on the way here than anticipated, we had much more coffee and tea and less cold drinks.

We all have one more meal to prepare and I have two loaves to bake. The second one will serve as snacks on the last night sail from St Maarten to Tortola. Just an overnight trip, hardly worth the name of a voyage after what we have been through up to here!

So here I sit and write these humble words at the end of another long voyage. Another voyage full of meditation and chilling out, some companionship and lots of alone time.

I wonder how I got by in my previous existence without this time out, laid back lifestyle.

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-12-06

Day 38: Random Ramblings In The Heat

We are now just over six hundred nautical miles from St Maarten, our next stop. About four odd days of sailing. The weather is sublime if you are on a holiday cruise and normally live in mild to colder climes. But we are not.

Living in milder or colder climes, that is. Neither are we on a holiday cruise. Today is certainly holiday cruise weather, the temperature well over 30ºC (late 80's F) and the humidity quite high. A fifteen knot breeze to carry you along with sails billowing in the wind. Balmy summer weather, if ever there was. Wonderful as an escape from the winter frost and snow for a week or so.

After several weeks of effectively having a sauna in your bed every afternoon before dozing off, it begins to extract its toll from the body and the mind. The strict and rigorous routine of keeping watch is not far behind.

It is at this stage of the voyage where one tends to get impatient and wants the voyage to be over. The baking sun does not make it any easier. The mind actually starts to play games with you in that small things appears to go wrong, or some forgetfulness begins to rear it's head. Nothing wrong with anybody, just a vague feeling.

I have seen this before where I worked with people on short term contracts in a foreign land. Three months. During the first month everybody is working well and the emails and reporting are word- and letter perfect.

After the second month, every paragraph of an email or report have a at least one spelling mistake and a grammar error. By the second half of the third month, practically every second word is misspelt and there is more than one grammar error in every paragraph. This even allowing for my lack of knowledge of the British written English.

The same sort of thing is happening to all of us. But it is not noticeable, as it happens gradually and it afflicts everyone. We are not writing reports and emails, and certainly not for every one to see. But, being aware of this trend, I can see it insidiously creeping up on us.

This is probably the origin of the stories about raving mad sailors. Perhaps they are not mad, just a little homesick and longing for some solid earth beneath their feet again.

To me the cooking every four days is actually a bit of a catharsis, in that it is a channel for creativity. In this regard we have done well on this voyage. The way it is going, we may just have to have a cooked breakfast to consume all the frozen food left in the freezer. The result of bringing more food aboard than the skipper originally planned, perhaps.

I have seen this as well, especially on hunting and camping trips. One person gets charged with arranging provisions. But then everyone else bring something to braai or something to cook in any case. This normally ends up with food being wasted as a result of oversupply.

The way to get past this tendency is to have a very strict discipline about bringing food aboard. Normally the skipper will supply the provisions for everybody on board, with snacks being the individual's responsibility. It is up to the individuals to ensure that the skipper understands their special needs, but, more importantly, that the skipper makes a decision on how fancy or elaborate the menu will be within his or her budget. This normally works out quite economically, with a decent variety included in the provisions to circumvent the problem of boring repetition of dishes.

In our case things got a bit out of hand with the weather playing tricks on us just prior to our departure. This caused us to have more food aboard than intended while sitting out the weather in Cape Town.

“There are more things in heaven and in earth, my dear Horatio, than man can dream of in his philosophy.” This from Shakespeare himself.

I wonder how many voyages to Norway he did before coming to this conclusion.

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-11-01

Sunday 10 November 2013

Day 37: Laid Back Boule

The wind at last dropped us. This after sailing continuously for over sixteen days, running the motors only to charge the batteries.

I had the 03h00 to 06h00 watch this morning, which saw the last of the wind disappearing. We are now about 450 miles from Barbados, three days' worth of sailing. At this time of year we are almost into hurricane season still. The weather certainly looks ominous enough. Real Halloween stuff, in tune with the date.

But not to worry, we have weather info at the end of a telephone call. I still like to observe the cloud and wind patterns, though. It is like being really at sea and understanding your environment. A telephone call does not impart understanding, it is a short cut. To me, far better to make observations and an associated prediction, then confirm your predictions via the telephone. One lives closer to your environment in this fashion.

The sky was quite clear this morning, hardly a cloud in the sky. This is tropical holiday weather. Clear, sunny skies in the morning, with some thunderclouds building in the afternoon, making for very romantic sunsets. Pity we are not on holiday with our loved ones. But is still a blessing to live through these experiences.

I had clear sights of the sun and horizon, so I decided to forego the dead reckoning adjustment from the previous set of dead reckoning data. Proper sun shots, taken with care provide better data than a rushed sun shot through a hazy cloud. Which is what I managed to do after writing the blog post yesterday.

This paid off in that I got a proper fix with 12 nm difference to the GPS. In fact, my dead reckoning position and the final fix basically bracketed the GPS fix. QED.

Having made dinner last night, today is my day off. I had the two twilight watches today, sunrise and sunset. It carries a message to relax and take it easy.

But it was also baking day again. I decided to make a real rustic loaf in boule shape. Heavy with coarse brown bread flour, this serves as a proper meal. I normally have mine with butter only. Real butter. There is no substitute for the taste of real butter.

This loaf has just the basic ingredients of water, flour, salt, fat and yeast. Nothing else. The caraway seeds on top counts for garnish only. I decided to go the full hog with this loaf, making the dough on the dry side and having three sets of proofing. These are the first rise, then the second rise after kneading it down, followed by the final proofing after shaping.

This loaf was also allowed more time for final proofing than the previous ones I made on this voyage. Just for the learning experience. The loaf responded well and rose to double the original size. The oven in this case was set to 230ºC /450ºF for the first fifteen minutes, then turned down to 190ºC /375ºF for another forty minutes. I found on the previous occasions that similar loaves did not caramelise enough on top and the crumb seemed a bit doughy to my taste, so I am upping the baking regime this time. Perhaps this one may over-bake a bit, which is manageable, I reasoned. Just check for status towards the end, I argued.


2 ½ cups unbleached stone ground white bread flour

2 ½ cups unbleached stone ground brown bread flour

10 g ( 1 sachet) instant yeast

1 ½ teaspoons salt

1 dessert spoon vegetable fat

2 cups water

2 teaspoons caraway seeds for garnish

Some flour for dusting the kneading board and the baking sheet

1 dessert spoon cooking oil for patting


Mix all the dry ingredients thoroughly, then add one cup of the water. Mix through, then add the rest of the water until the dough has a knead-able consistency on the dry side. Allow this dough to rest for five minutes, then add the vegetable fat. Mix through, then turn out on a well-floured kneading board. Knead until the dough is quite elastic and satiny, then form into a flat ball. The dough should keep this shape quite easily. Pat the dough with oil against drying out and set to rise for at least an hour, but mostly until doubled in volume.

Turn the dough out on a floured kneading board and allow to rest for five minutes. Knead it back to the original volume, form into a ball and set to rise until doubled in volume again. Turn this dough out on the kneading board, allow to rest, then shape into the final shape without degassing the ball.

I chose a boule shape, for the rustic character of the intended loaf. This one is supposed to be a real artisan loaf, so I went with the traditional shape too.

Spread the caraway seeds on top, making sure that they stick. I had to press them down a bit. Allow this final shaped loaf to proof for another thirty minutes, then turn on the oven. I allowed about eight minutes for the oven to heat up. Make some cuts on top to allow for oven spring. I went for the traditional square pattern on the round boule, but any cuts will do. Just make sure that they are just through the crust, not too deep. The loaf may deflate.

Pop this loaf into the oven at 230ºC /450ºF. Allow to bake for fifteen minutes, then turn the oven down to 190ºC /375ºF. For another forty five minutes. Turn the loaf around after twenty minutes to allow for even baking on all sides.

Check for baking status: the loaf should be crisp on the outside with a hollow sound when tapped. After the loaf is fully baked, remove it from the oven and turn out on a cooling rack. Cool for at least forty minutes, this one is quite thick and will take longer to cool.

Then slice and enjoy. Remember, again: Use real butter!


PS – I had to wait until my night watch-keeping slot before having a taste of this one. It came out beautifully spongy and dense without being heavy. The crust was nice and chewy. And the taste was quite sweet, in spite of not having any sugar in the mix. A result of allowing sufficient proofing time and long enough rest after baking?

You tell me.


This blog post also linked to Yeastspotting!


Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-10-31

Day 36: Boerewors And Mash In The Rain

Today dawned with some sun. It woke me from my slumbers after my twelve to three watch. Then the sun promptly disappeared for the rest of the day.

Typical warm front weather, with lots of drizzling rain. The visibility is not too bad, about two miles I would say. But the rain is enough to have the saloon door closed against the driven splatter, making the atmosphere inside quite stuffy.

It also makes for quite close personal spaces, as everybody now has to sit either in the saloon or in their cabins. Cabins get stuffy too, so the conversation is somewhat subdued as well. The conversation is halting, stuttering, stumbling along. It feels almost like the weather has cast a wet blanket on everything, including the intrepid crew aboard our little vessel in this huge ocean.

Not being able to see far also has a side effect of dampening the conversation.

Needless to say, there is no chance of a sun shot today, as the sun is hidden behind the clouds. This makes for some interesting navigation practice for me, as there are now several factors to keep track of. We have now turned away from the South American cast and are making way towards the famous island of Barbados. The wind is fickle and we are losing the current as well.

With no sun I am now facing the challenge of determining a position by dead reckoning over a 48 hour period, complete with a guesstimate (fancy word for wild arse guess) of the change in the current and our effective distance and course made good. Hopefully the weather will clear sufficiently by tomorrow to allow a sun sight.

Today is my turn at the galley again. Our provisions are running low and the fresh vegetables are beginning to go off, so my choice was in this direction. Boerewors, mash, gravy, gem squash with butter and some sweet corn. Traditional South African fare.

The boerewors is done with a bit of a twist. This traditional South African sausage is fried in light butter until almost done, then simmered for a minute or two in some soy sauce garnish. The soy sauce adds a little flavour to the wors.

The gravy is then made by frying chopped onions in the pan fats, adding some water and perhaps a little stock for a creaminess. The sauce can be further thickened by mixing in a spoonful of the mash.

The gem squash is steamed along with the potatoes as they boil. This saves on dirty pots and pans. When done, the pips are removed and the flesh scooped out straight on to the dinner plate. Our sugar is running low, so there is only butter in the squash, with the sweet corn accompaniment bringing sufficient sweetness to the dish.

Voila! A traditional dinner.


400 g boerewors

6 medium potatoes, peeled

4 gem squashes

2 onions chopped

1 can sweetcorn

dot butter for every gem squash

dollop butter for frying

Some milk for the mash

salt to taste for the mash

Vegetable stock to taste for the gravy

3-4 tablespoons soy sauce




Fry the boerewors in a little butter. When almost done, add the soy sauce and simmer for two to three minutes. Remove the wors from the pan and keep warm. Add the chopped onions to the fluids in the pan and fry until the onions are translucent. Add some water for more gravy. Add to this some vegetable stock for flavour, if you so wish. Simmer the gravy until it all has cooked through, then add some mashed potato to thicken the gravy. Add the boerewors back to repose in the gravy.

The potatoes are peeled, then sliced reasonably thin. Not cubed. The thickest dimension should be no more than 10mm/ just a tad under half an inch. Thin vegetables cook faster. Add the halved gem squashes to the potato pot to steam. They will cook faster than the potatoes anyway, since they are less dense than the potatoes.

When done, remove the squashes from the pot and scoop out the flesh from the skins. Add a dollop of butter for some creaminess.

When the potatoes are done, pour off the water, then mash them in the pot. Add some salt to taste and some milk for creaminess.

Then dish up. As simple as that.

Bon appetit!



Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-10-30