Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Small Boat Domestics

Food glorious food!

  We cruise week in and week out, often unknowingly neglecting our health by eating convenient foods. Here I take a delve down below to see whats cooking (or not) on board my little pocket yacht Shoal Waters. 

  Eating while cruising can be a tad difficult while underway, especially on a long passage involving a considerable time heading to windward. And sailing has to be one of those activities where it is often all to easy to eat quick food that is mainly junk. Biscuits, chocolate and energy bars, and sweets for example. Thankfully, the cruising sailor is always active and therefore burns some of this calorific mass off as there is always some little task or other to do that involves climbing all over the boat, anchoring, hoisting sail, just helming even. It is an activity  that can give one that partakes in it a general account of good health and a sense of well being. Sailing is also one of those activities that unlike going for a run, or a work out at a gym, you are in general doing exercises without realising it.  This could be through the sub conscious act of controlling your stability by the bodie's use of major core muscles of the torso ie, the lower back,  abdominal and obliques, and if standing (even sitting when hiking out etc) the legs muscles are constantly at work as well. The mind is also benefiting by constantly working at our proprioception which is just as vital, if not more so, as the years pass by (vitally important then in my case).  All in all we are doing something that is good. Some of us get these benefits by just owning a boat and the placebo effect this can have.

  The latest from the food gods is that tea is supposed to have health giving anti oxidants. How lucky are us tea drinkers then? There are worst vices but you can be sure as I come off the wind the kettle goes on. Not a fixed rule as I am well known for making a brew while my little ship is riding gunnel-up (No gimble either). For the beer drinkers, alcohol is good for you! According to those same health gods two units a day can have the same health benefits as regular, moderate exercise. This can be depressing news for investors in gymnasiums but walk tall active cruiser-worker-outers as no one has ever become fitter or stronger through alcohol consumption...

  If you do not need a hot drink every half hour while under way then perhaps you will save on gas, and a little hassle having to sail the boat while leaning through the companionway in order to light the stove and fill the tea cup.

  To just add one more to the health bit, and particularly sailing health and fitness. To become healthy, government guidelines recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate activity per day, seven days a week. Fitness is a different matter as we now need to work harder for extended periods, be it cardiovascular or muscular. We need to raise the heart rate to a level that is higher than normal for an extended period of time on a regular basis. To quote the ACSM's seventh edition guidelines ie at least 20 to 60mins at 77 to 90% max heart rate, three to five times a week.  Therefore, as cruising sailors, we may become healthy or healthier than a normal sedentary individual by doing our type of sailing, but still not particularly "fit" in relation to other activities. Ok, no more of this fit nonsense I'm beginning to get a sweat on...

  What I am lethargically getting to is the minefield that is cooking afloat to fuel our bodies in order that we can go cruising for extended periods of two or three days, to a week or so, away from water taps and sinks, and flushing dunnies. As we are afloat most weeks it is easy to eat crap most weeks to. But why? I see it as a good time to try and eat conservedly, (can "steak and kidney pud" be mentioned alongside "conservedly"...) and on the whole trying to eat sensibly.

  We all have our ways of doing things and what foods we like best so I will just give a hint at some of my domestic habits while cruising. I am not saying they are healthy or the right way to do things so take from it what you will but do share yours with us if you have some good practices that you do on board your little ship.

  What I prefer to eat are simple foods that are easy to eat and cook while small boat cruising. This also relates to a dinghy even though I think the open dinghy is a world away from a small cabin boat where everything has a particular place under cover. Sure, Shoal Waters is a sixteen foot dinghy that gets just as much thrown about by waves as does any other dinghy, or boat come to think of it, but, the coachroof and deck does change her comfort level and also her sea keeping qualities.

  So, here we are going a step further than taking a pre-packed lunch on a day-sail and are placing a few items in our galley cupboards.

  Fresh vegetables, generally I find need washing which when low on water is not too good. But I try and get fresh when and where possible. The plus point with veg is it keeps for a few days or more and anything needing peeling doesn't need washing. My samphire habits are mentioned elsewhere so I will not repeat them. But there are also shellfish and even fresh fish if you can catch them. Throw away barbies were costing £1.00 just the other day in the supermarket, a bargain.  A driftwood fire is free, foil rapped those fish cook a treat.

  Need I mention the steak and kidney pudding? This is a luxury and not a food I would eat every day as it comes in a at a whopping 50 grammes of fat (and not particularly good fat either) in one sitting, ( large tin) which is the equivalent of a whole days worth. Its plus point is it is satiatingly filling, you could well make this meal last all day - sure to get you through that cruise. Snacking on fruit such as strawberries, apples and oranges levels up the healthy bit a little.  The pudding meal is also good for knocking you out after a hard days cruising when you are still a little overtired. It should read on the tin "A Sound Nights Sleep Guaranteed"

  And then there is the old chestnut of eat like a King in the morning and graze like cattle the rest of the day.  For this I find a Monte of bacon, eggs, sausage and beans plus a few slices does the job but leaves a staggering amount of washing up, and odd bodily noises throughout the rest of the day..  Simply Ready Brek works a treat though. Boil the kettle and fill a bowl with ready brek. Its says great for kids on the box so its good enough for us old'ens. Importantly, it is easy to cook and will cook itself by pouring in boiling water and stirring, before leaving to stand for five minutes. Add skimmed milk powder to up the protein content/ taste and dried fruit such raisins to taste or add even more carbs.  This is a low fat, slow releasing energy food. Also great for an evening snack or convenient meal on its own, as are most of the cereals.

Ready Brek a great start to the day, or night, or?
  like a boiled egg? To save water the ships small tea pot doubles as a single egg boiler. The boiled egg, when cooked for three minutes, four for hard boiled, results in a clean food that makes minimal mess for cleaning up after. 

Egg boiling in the tea pot
  Uncle Ben's three minute boil in the bag rice is not only low fat but saves hugely on gas.
Add a tin of sardines, some olives and hey presto you are living life on the Mediterranean diet. Enough to keep the marsh ague at bay...  Bread is delicious. It has fat in it already so there is no harm in missing out on butter if using the yolk (the fat part) of the egg.

  Thank the lord for baby wipes and kitchen towels.  The pocket yacht's washing and drying facility in a packet. Without running water and draining sink the small boat cruising sailor has to think before use when reaching for another spoon or fork. There is always over the side for washing in the salt when the tides up and a rinse in a drop of fresh clean water.
  If you cruise single-handed you will probably have one plate or bowl, one spoon and fork etc that you can use for most jobs which minimises again any after cleaning. Everything is either washed or wiped and all rubbish bagged up and taken home to dispose of properly.

The big one. The gut busting steak and kidney pudding is easy to cook in the kettle with no mess afterwards.

Friday, 24 August 2012

V Cruise

                                                             V Cruise   Part One


  While the kids are camping in tents at  V in Chelmsford….

     Literally, the boat had just got underway, her sails flapping loosely when the summer lambs bleated a scrambling retreat behind the seawall as I closed in toward them on my way down the creek, and young black headed gulls squeaked with joy over Bulham Beach, a little further downstream.   The mains’l took some wrestling with before I could shake out the two reefs that were left in from the last trip a few days previous when an F6 easterly physically threw Shoal Waters into safety, and the snuggest of little creeks, Bawley Creek where I sat it out for 12 hours of relaxed comfort in deep mud.
  Unusually, a crabber 24 with Dutch flag raised on her stern sat anchored lower down in Goldhanger Creek, just above the oyster beds. I said to the owners how good it was to see them here and carried on my way. New withies placed in the creek, on the Osea side, just this year have already established themselves by the look of tell-tale long lengths of weed that now trail behind. East Point was already appearing from the ebb tide when I just about got into the main river as the wind died.

Ski boaters enjoying the boiling hot waters of the Blackwater
  The ships thermometer read 30 degrees in the cockpit as the whole Blackwater boiled for the first time this year. Oh well, I thought, no wind but at least it was hot and I could go swimming. There was also the magic carpet of the ebb that was sucking us down river.  Fields were being harvested all about the place which made the green trees stand out over in Ferry Wood. Apparently the wood got its name from a ferry boat back in the day of visiting hoy's, colliers and brigs, that would not only take the few people that resided nearby but also take sailors across river to the bright lights of Ramsey Island, for entertainment I expect. I suppose this makes some sense as Thistly would have been a desolate rural farm port highly likely to bore any young blooded sea-faring crew member to tears having to be anchored in Thistly Creek (now known as Thirslet Creek) for many tides.

  I filled the kettle for a brew. Hot tea somehow has a cooling effect, one of those puzzles of life I guess. Already we were quite a way downriver where through the glare over the mirror topped sea I could make out the ski boats around the Stone, and an airplane’s distant sound sent me into a daze. I realised tomorrow mornings bacon rashers were sitting in the sun so I grabbed a bucket and half filled it with seawater for an ad-hoc food fridge.
 I still shake my head acknowledging in awe sometimes, at the passages Charlie managed to achieve in this small boat, week in and week out over many decades and with barely any helpful luxuries.  The only real modern luxury that I can recall is a time back in the late 90s early 2000s when a small solar panel was fitted to top up the battery power for the compass and navigation lights - most important as he did a hell of a lot of night sailing. I do recall him telling me how many of his trips just would not have been possible without him sailing at night.

  I keep the boat as Charlie had her which has helped me understand fully what he went through on a technical level and although I know a lot of cruisers say an iron tops’l as a backup is not only practising good seamanship but is generally very handy, other than a trip down the Thames earlier in the year most of my trips this season I have not needed to call on it, so much so that the engine is still ashore for this trip, so maybe I have improved as a sailor, but perhaps not. Maybe I am more tolerant to sitting around drifting hour on end in the doldrums. What is more important and extremely enjoyable I find is adapting to a slightly different mind-set that is needed if single-handed cruising for days at a time under the mercy of the winds that howl along the Thames Estuary’s remote rivers, creeks and inshore coast where tide tables, strong currents, steep sand banks and mud shoals, shipping and even the home family diary all play havoc in the watery bailer of the cruising man and woman.  I’m sure my little motor will be back onboard at some point but at the moment I’m flat-on-my-back enjoying being submitted in this way by nature and ringing home to give another excuse for an extra night out on the boat. 

Carving an everlasting memory across the estuary after six hours sailing
  A south west wind has just hit the starboard beam shaking us into life. All of a sudden we are racing along beside baked mudflats to Pewit Island, Bradwell. How things change on the landscape to as five or six enormous generating windmills have appeared on land behind Clacton. Bradwell Creek still looks as inviting as ever though, with its putty sides causing chaos to many who enter from the tide pole. The Baffle has been dismantled and we are left with a circular island which looks far more appealing than it once did. A unique opportunity for someone to buy and develop it maybe? 

  Hugging the south shore I spot a mast poking above the steep to sand beach ahead at Weymarks - generally a good anchorage in a southerly.  A nice breeze keeps us rolling along and passing the anchored yacht, a fleeting thought came, maybe we should think about doing something similar, after all as it is getting late and darkness will soon be upon us. Boldly I cruised on in perfect conditions adjusting the sails and settling the tiller toward the Gunfleet before carving an everlasting memory across the mouth of the Blackwater estuary.

  Low tide would be in half an hour’s time followed by complete darkness. I plugged in the old brass stern light and switched the navigation lights on. With the sun gone down behind us, a dark sky was now directly overhead  but our little lights twinkled and we rode the waves over the new flood tide. When I set out earlier in the day I had dreamt of reaching Walton pier before the tide turned so we could get into Harwich, but for the second time this month lack of wind would keep it a dream for another day.  Colne Point has a fantastic beach though so still full with high spirits I headed inshore, and doing 1.5 knots quicker, from the Bench Head.

  The Wallet is now lit up like Regent Street  on new Year’s night which is a gift if heading to the Spitway and down Swin, but next to useless for what I now had in mind of tucking up for the night inshore of the Colne Bar. I settled for a pleasant piece of water six feet deep just after low tide and out of the main Colne fairway. I lowered the hook and let it take a nice bite then laid out 30 meters of chain before I set the alarm for 03.15 hrs. The Davies brass anchor light was lit and hoisted. It glowed like a dream. Is there such a light that is more charming than a naked flame? I sat in the ambient light and watched the bright stars above for a while. All was good in the world as I retired into the cocoon down below.    

Oil lamps can create an evocative, ambient glow
Part Two next month