Iced Christmas Cake with Cherries on Top and a Red Ribon
Never Too Late Christmas Cake

I Stir-up Sunday is the last Sunday before advent and was traditionally the day for making your Christmas puddings. I use this day to make all kinds of Christmas goodies and this year it had to include the Christmas cake as I had not managed to find time to make it before.  I  usually try to get the crimbo cakes made in late September so I have plenty of time to feed them before Christmas, but not this year.

 It usually means that whoever eats it; has to stay over, as the cake is so well fed, that you won’t be fit to drive after even a small slice.  That’s the way we like it in our house, but those of you who know us, know we’re close on alcoholics anyway. 

I like this recipe though because even with minimal feeding, it’s still lovely and moist and you can get away with making it up to about a week before Christmas.  I once tried to just make it and eat it. Fortunately I made two small ones that time, because without at least a week to mature and a good feed, it tasted bit dry and nasty.

I say feed, but really, what I mean is drink. I give my cakes  port and brandy alternately every couple of weeks if I have made them in September or at least one drink of each if I make the cakes last minute.  Then they are ready to paint with vodka  to prevent mould growing between the cake and the marzipan if you keep the cake for a long time. I then paint on a thin layer of thinned down apricot jam to help the marzipan stick nicely and finally I can ice them if I want or sometimes I just make pretty patterns in the marzipan and toast it a little with a blow torch for a more natural look.  The cakes will keep longer if iced as well. 

I say cakes because usually at Christmas time I have a whole list of friends and neighbours who put their orders in and the cake making becomes a bit of a marathon.  This year ladies and gents we are off on our jollies so I’m giving you the recipe instead and you’ll have to get busy and make your own. So without further a do 

100g / 4oz dates 

100g /4oz figs 

50g / 2oz prunes 

75g / 3oz cherries 

75g / 3oz mixed peel

75g /3oz walnut pieces

150g / 6 oz raisins  

150g / 6oz currants 

Rind and juice of 1 lemon  

Rind and juice of 1 orange

I slug/tablespoon of rum or brandy 

150ml strong cold tea

3 teaspoons mixed spice

3 teaspoons of cinnamon

 

150g / 6oz butter 

150g / 6oz dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons black treacle 

3 eggs 

200g / 8oz plain flour

pinch of salt 

50g /2oz ground hazel nuts

 or almonds         

75g / 3oz plain chocolate pieces                            

 Mix all these ingredients together and let them    steep/soak for a couple of hours or overnight until the fruit has swollen and absorbed  most of the liquid                                                      

If there are fruits in this list that you don’t have or don’t like, leave them out and substitute something you do like. This time I couldn’t get prunes so I substituted dry cranberries and I  couldn’t get mixed peel so I chopped up some fresh thin skin mandarins instead                                            

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add in the treacle and then the eggs.  Sieve together the dry ingredients and fold them in.

Finally fold in the steeped fruit mix and the ground nuts and chocolate.

Pour into a tin double lined with 2 layers of baking paper and bake for 2 ½  hours on 150C/ 300F/ gas 2

 

In the Video I said gas4 which I need for my tiny low power oven on the boat. at home in my regular oven 150C works perfectly.

Too hot and it will burn

The secret to good christmas cake is

Plumping up the fruit with a bit of liquid first 

and 

Cooking the cake on a low temperature for a long time

For long slow cooking, it’s so important to put more than one layer of paper to prevent it from burning on the edges and the bottom. You will also need to cover the top while baking.  You will need to test if it’s ready by sticking a knife or skewer in from time to time. If it comes out clean the cake is ready.

  The cooking time is a bit of guess work depending on your oven and the size and shape of the cake tin you use.  The deeper the cake tin you use, the more time the cake is going to need for cooking.  Up to 3 ½ hours for a really deep cake is normal.   A 8”/20cm or 9”/25cm tin is fine for this recipe. If you are feeding a crowd and want a big show-stopper cake, double up the recipe and use a larger tin. I have a big 8” x 12” 20cm x 30cm rectangle roasting tray for my oven and I usually make a big, double recipe, cake in that in 2 ¼ to 2 ½ hours.

 

This time because of the constraints of my tiny boat oven, I divided the mix into two 7”x9” 18cm x 23cm rectangle tins which were cooked in about 45 minutes.  When I ice the cakes I have decided to sandwich the two layers together with a layer of marzipan between them to make one full height cake.  If you are in a rush thinner layers is the way to go to speed up the cooking time.

To feed the cake prick holes all over it with a toothpick or skewer and spread the port or brandy all over it liberally with a teaspoon.  After a couple of feeds the cake is ready to be covered with marzipan and Icing.

 I usually make my own  and I’ll be showing you that in a video  coming up soon.  If you are out of time both marzipan and ready-made icing are both available in most supermarkets round about Christmas time.  This is a really easy recipe! if you’ve never made a Christmas cake before, why not give it a go? You can check out my accompanying YouTube video where I show you what to do.              

Happy baking everyone
              and       
a lovely festive season to you all!

Part 2 Icing the Cake

Collage of Caves, a Crator and Cacti taken on our Island tour of Lanzarote

Island tour – a Change is as good as a rest

How many times have I quoted the old saying, that the Cruising life = fixing your boat in Exotic places?  Well we finally got to see a little of this exotic place in which we now find ourselves fixing our boat and it was fab! Lanzarote  the most easterly of the Canary Islands is a bleak and barren place  peppered with  volcanoes  some of them active as recently as 1824 which has left  more than a quarter of the island  covered with lava and ash.  A lot of the island looks more like a moonscape than regular earth. This landscape combined with the fact that they only get on average 16 days of rain a year on this island, makes it a very dry and dusty place.  In no time at all, every inch of the boat, especially the forward facing surfaces that are blasted by the wind while at anchor were caked in ochre dust and after only one day we could write “also available in white” all over the boat. 

In spite of its dust and bleakness the island is incredibly beautiful and the people give it real character and charm.  Although the volcano ash makes for very fertile ground, very little grows there because of the lack of water.  A very few weeds manage to populate the landscape despite the harsh environment. In the north there are fields and fields of cacti formerly for the cochineal beetles surrounded by dry stone walls made of lava rock.  In the centre and south of the island grape vines have been planted, each surrounded by its own little wall on three sides to give it protection. As Lava rock is porous it soaks up what little moisture they do get and gives it up gradually but pretty much every speck of green on the island needs to be watered.

The islands beauty comes from the different shapes and colours of rock formed by exposure of different minerals or different rates of cooling when the volcanoes erupted thousands of years ago.  Most of the beaches on the island have black volcanic sand, though we did anchor off of Playa Blanca for a few days. This beach is rather obviously named because it is one of the few beaches on island with white sand that shows its original topography before all the volcanoes poured their mayhem over most of the island. 

We hired a car for a day and did the tourist thing. I have to warn you that Steve and I have both done a lot of travelling in our lives and seen some stunning places. Because of this we are very picky sort of tourists and have become rather hard to impress.  Tourist attractions have to be going some for us to give them the thumbs up for wow factor but on Lanzarote our thumbs are definitely up. 

We bought a ticket that allowed us to see three places on the Island for the handsome sum of €21 which seemed like a good chunk of cash but at the end of the day We feel we definitely got our money’s worth.

We visited the Cueva De Los Verdes, the green caves that were in fact ochre and red and yellow and white and every shade of brown and grey in-between.  Actually the caves were a huge array of colours due to the iron oxide, sulphur and mineral salts seeping out of the rock. The only colour they were not, was green. The name green comes from the family that made the caves their home many years ago. The caves have offered shelter to many of the Islanders who used the caves as a refuge from the marauding pirates in the 16th and 17th centuries. 

These caves formed by air pockets trapped between the lava were very different to the normal stalactite, stalagmite formations in all the other caves we have seen. These caves were by far the biggest and longest, we have ever had the pleasure to visit. The caves start at the centre cone of the volcano and run all the way for 6km down into and under the sea. We were able to visit about a kilometre of it and it was truly impressive.  In some of the caverns you could see three stories above and below you.  For the benefit of tourists like us, the Cabildo of Lanzarote, in collaboration with the artist Jesus Soto very sensitively installed lighting, sounds and footpaths to make it into a spectacular visitor attraction. The deepest part of the caverns where it seems you can look down deep into the bowels of the earth is a surprise all of its own.  Very impressive!

Our second destination was the cacti garden.  The garden is a gorgeous space which was created by the artist Cesar Manrique that beautifully blends art and nature. Hundreds of different species of cacti from all over the world are planted in a big tiered bowl, reminiscent of an old quarry.  You can look down from each level and admire shapes and colours below.  There was lots of inspiration here for my garden back in Portugal when we return.

Our final tourist trap was the national park of Timanfaya the site of the most recent active volcanic eruptions on the island between 1730 and 1736 and again in 1824.  The park covers a huge area and you are taken on a bus tour on a tiny windy road with spectacular views down steep ravines and into crators through the ash scattered land.

It was a bit of a surprise to be herded onto a bus, but in hind sight we were very glad not to have had to negotiate all those hairpin bends ourselves. The road seemed rather treacherous in places but fortunately the bus driver knew it well and was able negotiate the tight steep turns with seeming ease.  Being driven meant we were able to just take in the awe inspiring views all around us and the commentary in multiple languages was very informative.

  Back at the visitor centre a few bore holes have been drilled, into which they pour water; and after a few seconds, a huge boiling hot geyser spurts out of the hole into the air.  This shows how just under our feet, the volcano is still ruminating and could erupt at any time.

 Also at the visitor centre there is a restaurant which we didn’t eat at, but their menu offers a selection of barbequed meat and fish dishes cooked by the volcano. They have a huge hole in the ground with a wall around it that looks like a big water well with a grill over the top. The heat of the volcano cooks your dinner at a temperature of about 285 degrees.

We wound our way back through the moonscape land, past some of the islands larger vineyards to the marina after a busy day full of lasting impressions. We didn’t have time to visit any of the bodegas that day but we did sample some of their produce and I must say the local wine is very pleasant indeed! We can’t let you taste the wine but we can give you a flavour of our day out in our latest YouTube video  that accompanies this blog. 

Why not go there next and take a look? 

Cacti Caves & Craters       Click to view 

 

Erik the Green at the helm of SY Christina Pearl

Erik the Green Eco warrior of the Atlantic –

Saving our planet one soul at a time.

Erik the Green I decided to call him. Well Erik the Red is already taken. Anyway green is his favourite colour and green is his ethos. We reckoned he needed a pirate name. His mission in life is to inspire everyone he meets to give more of their time, energy and consciousness to helping our planet stay lovely and green. An honourable mission into which he puts his own heart and soul.

He is on his way to help his friend in Puerto Rico rebuild his house after Hurricane Maria.  But he wants to get there as far as possible by the power of the wind leaving as small a carbon footprint as possible.  In any case his style of living, travelling from place to place, couch surfing where he can, meeting  interesting people, learning new skills;  spreading ‘peace and love to all he meets and cramming as many experiences into his young life as he can, lends itself to trying the cruising life for the first time ever.  He carries his world in his backpack and what he doesn’t own he asks the Universe to provide and with pure blind faith, is lucky enough to receive most of the things he lacks from her.

Well he wondered down our pontoon on the morning before we were about to leave with a big smile and a lot of charm and charisma, and he got his lift to the Canaries from us. We sent him running to the supermarket to pick up some provisions while we fuelled up and an hour later we were off.  In his week on board he has tried to cram as much sailing and boat knowledge as he can, he has found his sea legs, learned to steer, kept a couple of night watches with minimal supervision and generally kept us entertained with stories  of his travel packed life. 

He has already seen more of the world than most of us could hope to peruse in a lifetime. He has Hitch-hiked all over Europe including lesser visited parts of eastern Europe  such as Albania, Kosovo and Armenia. He has travelled South East Asia, Japan and Australia and now he’s on his way to experience the delights of the Caribbean and later South America.  He has been everything from a Pizza man to a tree planter in Canada.  He has been a fruit picker in Australia, a Customer Relationship Management  Advisor in Prague and many more random jobs in between.

He has a sunny disposition and a can do attitude.  He was a pleasure to share the first leg of our trip with and seemed to soak up all the knowledge we were able to share with him like a sponge.  We wish him lots of luck, fair winds and lots of good green vibes for his future.   We hope he can avoid the   bad greens such as feeling green about the gills and green ones over the bow on his onward voyages. x

P.S Check out Erik’s Acting/Sailing debut on our latest Youtube Video Pirates, Blow-outs and a Ship Sandwich .

Click on this link  https://youtu.be/iAdw_purh3w

 

Picture of our blue red and white spinnaker flying in a blue sky with fluffy clouds

Day four of our trip and the wind is finally starting to free up, swinging round to the eastward allowing us to finally put some westing into our course. We can now head away from Morocco towards the Canary Islands and escape those dreadful fishing floats.  This is what was forecast on the long range weather before we left and what we have been waiting for all the while. 

It started to turn north east in the early morning, a good sign, but there wasn’t much of it.  As the day progressed it continued to swing more east and build little by little.  As we had been dying to head west for several days we turned for our destination and let the wind follow us.  By mid- morning there was just enough to stop the motor, hoist the spinnaker and keep it flying.  Erik was a little in awe of the size of our ‘circus tent sail’; I think it looks a bit like a circus tent.

 Even though there was still only about 8 or 9 knots of wind it was dragging us along nicely at 4.5 or 5 knots in the little gusts.   I love the moment when the motor stops and all you hear is the slight flap of the sail as the top corner starts to turn and the sound of the water rushing past the hull.  That’s what real sailing is about!  As the day continued the wind kept coming eastwards little by little and was increasing in strength  too.  We were just finishing up lunch and were now horsing along. The wind was generally about 11or 12 knots with the odd burst of 15 though the 15’s were starting to be a little more frequent and Steve said “I think we should take in the Spinnaker it’s starting to get windy” I think, I said something like lets hang on a minute it’s only the odd 15 and it probably will die off in a minute. 

Next minute there was a small pop. I thought Steve had let the jammer go on the halyard to take it down as the sail was starting to gently lower into the water.  We dived onto the foredeck and started to pull the mountains of wet fabric onto the deck.   That pop was our favourite sail ripping all across the top and down both sides of the luff OOOOOOOOps!

If you are thinking about reefing, get reefing! Its probably already too late!!

We continued with just the main and foresail but it was much slower than with the spinnaker and instead of arriving that evening as planned, it took us till the early hours of the morning to arrive, almost exactly to the minute 5 days after we had departed from La Linea.

After checking in and a few hours well needed kip we headed into town with our granny trolley loaded with the spinnaker in search of the sailmaker.  We found him easy enough, but  it wasn’t good news.  With the height of Atlantic crossing season fast approaching he was absolutely snowed under. He said he couldn’t even look at it for 10 days and then he estimated it would cost about €1000 to fix.  That was much longer than we wanted to stay and a lot more money than we wanted to spend.  That sail is 11 years old and has had a hard life. It has done two Atlantic crossings already where it flew for much of the way and a lot of Med sailing as well.  It’s looking a bit worn and tired and a grand for a patch seems like a lot of money to spend with no guarantees the next thin bit won’t give way next time we fly it.  A grand is also a very good start towards a new one if it comes to it.  So we bought some rip stop fabric and a ton of sail repair tape off the fellow and trundled off back to the boat.

We’ve never fixed a spinnaker before beyond the odd small sticky patch, but we have a sewing machine on-board and we took some tips off the sailmaker and we’ll have to learn to be our own experts at this too.  Cruising life requires you to become “Jacksperts” jack of all trades, expert at everything.  In the middle of the ocean with no help around you have to read the books and the manuals and become experts at just about everything from fixing the heads to mending your sails and everything in between.   No time for the grey matter to dwindle here, too busy becoming “Jacksperts”.

 

silhouette of our Starboard winch set against a colourful sunset
Beautiful sunset day 3
Collage of a beautiful red Cactus, the bear Volcano tops and the boats Anchored infront of the town of Arrecife

 

We arrived in Lanzarote almost exactly 5 days and zero minutes after leaving the Bay of Gibraltar.

Setting off from La Linea in darkness at Sparrow fart, we  wove our way through all the anchored ships. We tried to avoid being run down by the fast Cats to Morocco,  that sneak up on you at 20 knots. It seems as though they would happily run you down if you were not paying attention.  We headed to the North African side of the Straits to get the best advantage of the currents, though Africa was still hiding in the early morning mist as we approached.

 As soon as we left the bay of Gibraltar and headed west, we had the wind behind us and we were cruising along at a lovely speed.  As we approached the North West corner of Africa the wind had picked up and the swell had kicked up a fair bit too. This was the first test of Erik’s sea legs.  Never having sailed before we had filled him full of Stugeron and breakfast,  and although he was looking a little bit pasty, he was doing fine.

 Erik is the young lad we took pity on in La Linea and gave him a lift to the Canaries as his ride had fallen through.  We only met  him on the pontoon the morning before.  We pondered on the merits of taking  him, but we figured this leg of the trip was  still a bit of a shakedown for our ‘Pearl’ and if anything did go wrong, an extra pair of hands wouldn’t go a miss. So on-board he came. 

Actually we were just heading out for fuel when he approached us so we told him to run round to the supermarket to get some provisions and we would pick him up in an hour.  When we returned he came staggering up the dock, laden down with 12kgs of water, two bags of shopping, a huge backpack on his back and a small one on his front.  Having run most of the way from the supermarket, he was a puddle of sweat.  We headed for the anchorage as it was much easier to slip away from there, early in the morning and Erik went in for a swim to cool off.

Back to the trip, We had good wind to start us off and we were powering through the swell nicely, then all of a sudden, mid- afternoon, as if we had gone over a trip wire the wind died.  It wasn’t the usual gradual petering out and fading to nothing, we crossed a line and suddenly it was gone.  In all our sailing careers I don’t think we’ve ever had it stop dead like that, from one second to the next.  All through the trip, the wind came and went. When it was there, we sailed and when it died out, we motored. Much more diesel was consumed than we’d have liked but hey- ho, that’s how it goes sometimes. The motoring was also giving our mysterious shortage of electricity a little boost from time to time. We had installed brand new batteries just before leaving and couldn’t really explain this little niggle.

When we set off the grib files showed  good wind for our trip, but Ophelia was obviously still messing with the weather men, as none of their predictions were correct.  Each time we were able to download new grib files  via the SSB (single Side Band Radio) they had changed their minds about what the weather was doing.

As night time approached on day one of the trip we were about 100 miles off the Moroccan coast.  With no moon it was really dark and the night sky without any light pollution was awesome. The Milkyway right above our heads and all the millions of stars were so bright and clear.  As if looking in a mirror the sea all around us was glittering too.  It was far too rough to reflect the night sky, but the phosphorescence in the water as we splashed along was like another set of little stars all around us.  The magic you feel when you are surrounded by stars never gets old. 

Then all of a sudden we were surrounded by loads of other little white lights flashing all around us. It was reminiscent of the boat scene in Phantom of the Opera where they sail their boat through a sea of tiny little lights. 

Boat Scene from Phantom of the Opera
Boat Scene from Phantom of the Opera

Play Video

Click to see the clip from Phantom of the Opera on our Just Bella Vista Facebook page

There were literally hundreds of them as far as the eye could see. Scary as we didn’t know what they were and they don’t appear on any of our charts.  We couldn’t work out whether they were little fishing boats or markers for nets that we shouldn’t run into, whether they were joined together, or not, or what?  Trying to navigate through them while sailing so close hauled without going through the wind was a complete nightmare and we took one or two of them, rather close.   The silver lining to those couple of close calls was that we were able to establish that they  are not linked together but simply lines of hooks with weights and lights on, not connected to anything, as we were in very deep water. We think they just float with the current catching fish as they go and the fishing boats come and collect the catches from them.

For three nights they plagued our passage but on the fourth day the wind freed up a bit and we were able to sail west away from the Moroccan coast.  To be continued… 

Next episode – disaster strikes! ….

 

 

Picture of Rock of Gibraltar at sunrise as seen from La Linea

Waiting in Gibraltar for the wind to play nice so that we can leave, we thought we would only have a few small tasks to complete and we’d be off. Having just spent 10 weeks in the boatyard giving almost every inch of this girl an overhaul and a load of long awaited TLC, we thought we would only have a few tweaks to make to our new rigging and maybe a few little glitches to iron out before heading south. Wrong again!

Murphy, Sod whoever it is in charge of these things, has been getting in the mix again.  The only things we didn’t touch while in the yard, because we thought they were fine, decided to ’shit the bed’  If you  think you want the cruising life, you better be someone that likes DIY because most of your trip you’ll be fixing your boat in exotic places. We thought there’d be time now to sit back and enjoy the ride. Boy were we wrong!

On the way here, we had a little baptism of fire. We had everything from no wind at all to 30 Knots on the nose with a decent swell running. Not what the weather man had predicted.  Just when we really needed the “iron horse” to help us out a bit, the engine stops and we find we have a serious fuel blockage.  We staggered into the bay at Barbate to get a little shelter, though it was still pretty lumpy. We stayed  just long enough to change the filters and see if we could get some joy out of the engine.  Success, progress again in the right direction until we reached the headland at Tarifa,“the windy city”. Here we always expect the wind and the waves to be at their liveliest and this trip was no exception.  Once you reach Tarifa it’s not that far  up the Straits to Gibraltar and we thought we’d be there in time for breakfast, or brunch at the latest.  No such luck filters clog again and we arrived at La Linea at tea time having spent the entire day tacking up the Strait against 30knots of  wind and the current.  We thought by 5pm it must surely be “Beer O’clock” only to find the fridge that has been keeping our drinks delightfully cold in the boatyard all summer  long, has also decided not to play nice.  I can drink most things, but not warm beer!  And when I said go south till the butter melts, that’s not quite what I had in mind!!

We Spent what should have been our down time in Gibraltar, chasing round after a sheet of Aluminium so we could make a big inspection hatch in the fuel tank and give it a really good clean and for some fridge gas so we can get the beers chillin’.  Before we knew it our sleeping cabin was filled with the pungent odour of diesel and metal shavings everywhere.   Don’t you just love boat living?

Then came all the jobs we had actually planned, tuning up the rigging, that had now had its first good stretch; making a few repairs to our Bimini; realigning the frame of our solar panels, which seemed to have suffered a bit of abuse and was looking a bit Squiffy; filling up with provisions and catching up on a bit of blogging and editing. 

Now It’s all up to Hurricane Ophelia to stop messing with the wind  and then we can make tracks.  Next stop Arrecife Lanzarote and I’m sure there will be more jobs on the list by then.

 

A Picture of our house in NE Algarve Portugal

“ Home is where you leave everything you love and never question that it will be there when you return” Christopher Lee

In spite of being really excited about setting off on our next big adventure I locked our front door and gave the Key to Eduardo with a lump in my throat.   I’ve spent a good chunk of my life travelling and most of the rest of the time suffering with itchy feet.  In all that time, its never been so hard to leave home as this time. 

I’ve been looking for the right place to call home for a long time and I guess I finally found it.  I remember when, having spent several weeks up the Guadiana River over Christmas and New Year in 2010, almost a year later we passed under the Bridge at Ayamonte, to go up river, for the second time.  After a summer out on the water and in the Boatyard it felt like going home. 

A Picture of the bridge at the mouth of the River Guadiana linking Portugal and Spain at sunset

 

With Brexit on the horizon who knows if we will still be able to call it home when we return. This time there is place where we feel at ease with the world, a house that we built with our own hands and a little scrap of a cat that we rescued from starvation wondering why if we feel so settled our feet are still so itchy. I don’t know, some of the places we are going to see have been on my bucket list for a very long time and in the end we rarely regret the things we’ve done in life, rather the things we didn’t. Despite many more ticks against our bucket lists, that are planned for this trip,  It still is really hard to leave this time.

Our first leg of the trip has only been a tiny hop to Gibraltar and in truth it doesn’t even seem like we have really left. We have been in Gibraltar so many times, it’s like a home from home and more so because we can indulge in all the things we miss from the homes we grew up in like a nice pint of bitter, stinky stilton cheese or a steaming plate of fish and chips drenched in malt vinegar for me and a Steak and Ale pie for Steve. 

Preparations are getting to the final stages now though and Im just beginning to feel like it may actually be real. The butterflies in my stomach are beginning to flutter and in a few days  once this swirling stormy mass of low pressure has passed through  we are heading off in earnest south to the Canaries,  then Cape Verde Islands  and finally into the South Atlantic and across to Brazil.  I’ve just bought an extra pack of butter so I can watch it melt as we head south to run away from winter.  I’m definitely looking forward to that!

 

How to go about provisioning for a boat trip   (with difficulty!) 

For a few weeks of cruising for the holidays provisioning for the trip is no big deal. The easiest way is to plan the menu for each meal on each day plus a few snacks and shop for that, job done. You don’t have to actually cook the things in the order on the plan but you will have the ingredients for all of those meals.  

When you are off on your travels for a couple of years or more the simple truth is you can never take enough stuff.  For me as an all-out foodie neither do I really want to.  For me going to markets, supermarkets and small shops in foreign places and seeing what different things are available there, things I may never have seen or heard of before and learning how to prepare them is an adventure all of its own. I can’t wait to get stuck into all the tropical fruits and vegetables Brazil has to offer, to learn their names and delight in their flavours.  I’m sure plenty of them I already know from the time I spent living in Malaysia, though they may come by different names in  Brazil,  I’m sure I’ll manage to find a plethora of things I’ve never eaten  before and I’ll enjoy the chance to try new recipes with them.

The adventure of newness aside, I’m still going to provision our boat with of all the things we like and as many of the things that I know will be difficult to find as we travel Including ingredients for my gluten free diet.

Tea, coffee, sugar, bread, some form of milk and chicken these things you can find everywhere.  Flour and Rice are also readily available though I know from experience that in most countries outside Western Europe they come complete with their resident beasties and that’s just a fact of life you have to learn to deal with. You can sift them out or float them off in most cases, or just get used to a little extra protein in your diet.  I remember reading Annie Hill’s account of life aboard where they toasted their Ryvita’s to re-crisp them and then flicked off the weevils that came crawling out of the holes with the heat before they ate them.  I remember thinking right then that if anything on my boat ever got infested with beasties like that it would be straight over the side!  But having spent some time in the tropics where much of the food available for sale is contaminated you just have to learn to get on with it and add the extra rinse or sift into your cooking routine. 

Other things even things we consider staples like eggs are not so plentiful in some of the places we have been.  I’ve been experimenting with some recipes that use Aquafaba, usually a waste product on lots of boats to see what recipes are possible with it as a substitute for eggs.  If you don’t know what Aquafaba is, it’s the gloopy liquid that comes in cans of beans and peas such as chickpeas that most people throw away when they open a can of beans.  I have tried it as a binding agent in baking, for pancakes and to make mayonnaise so far and the recipes have come out perfect.  As fridges are generally small on boats, if they have them at all, and tins are a large part of any boats long term supplies  I’ll be planning my cooking to include the gloop from the tins as well as the normal contents. 

I’ll also be squeezing in some of the things that I know are expensive over-seas like good wine which is ubiquitous and cheap here in Portugal, good olive oil and  good honey a must have in my cupboard as I come from a beekeeping  family. Good honey is the cure for so many things I don’t know how to live without it.  (An in-depth topic for another blog maybe?)  Olive oil in Portugal and Spain is often eaten as a substitute for butter which is difficult to store on boats unless you can find it in tins as it takes up valuable fridge space.

The other thing going in our bilges are a few special ingredients that make the holidays without old friends and family feel festive.  For me Christmas is not quite Christmas without mince pies and for Steve its Christmas Cake and sausage rolls so to make the party happen I’ll be stashing some dark brown sugar, treacle, suet, dried fruit, mixed spice and some decent port and brandy.  I think it’s important to think ahead to things like festival times and bring the ingredients to make it a moment to remember. The devil is in the details. Without those small reminders of Christmases gone by, our next one could just be another bbq at the beach with a load of boat-bums. What will make that one any more festive than any other beach  bbq  we are likely to enjoy?   A few dodgy carols playing on a beat box in the background?  No way! Let’s feast and be merry!!

 

SV Fatpadds Catamaran in Olhao Bay at sunrise with orange sky
SV Fattpadds in Olhao Bay

 

Thankyou Mareijke Van Ekeren for the fantastic photo of Fatpadds in the bay at Olhao

Boatyard Friends

Some of the most long lasting sailing friendships are the friends made in boatyards rather than in a little anchorage or a port somewhere.  So often in the cruising life you only pass through each place and that’s not enough time to build true friendships. It always takes more time than anticipated for the new parts for your vessel to arrive so in the boatyard you get the chance to actually get to know your fellow sailors.

Assembled boat friends Drinking coffee under the boats
Coffee time in the Boatyard

Now back in the boatyard almost exactly 6 years since my late partner Chris and I spent a few weeks in this very yard  building a new dinghy together. It drags back so many memories, actually of good times we spent together and lifelong friends we made right here.  There is just a big taint of sadness that he’s no longer here to share the next adventures with us.

Building that dinghy turned out to be the last big project we did together and repairing it was the first big project Steve and I tackled together when we first met. 

rear View of Dinghy just completed with Chris and I beside
Mieow dinghy Just Completed with Chris and I
Front view of Completed Dinghy
Mieow Dinghy front view


 

Poor ‘Mieow’ suffered a bit of damage when she got wedged under someone’s jetty while I attended a ‘singlehanders’ party one night.  Big tip! If you are going to a party where everyone will be arriving by dinghy be fashionably late so your dinghy is on the outside, not wedged in a compromising position by all the other boats. Another big tip! When they say its marine ply in this part of the world, don’t believe them, it never is.

 The upshot of the altercation with the jetty – she needed a whole new floor. 

Self built colourful plywood dinghy
Mieow Dinghy

The bonus is she got a lovely new paint job making her look much more at home with the local boats.

So just being back here in the height of summer is dragging up a lot of stuff for me. Grief changes you. The person that was here with Chris went with him. The life I had back then, all the plans we had, all had to change the moment he got sick.  I guess  in actual fact you find yourself grieving for your own life, the one that you planned, that has been taken from you as much as the loss of the person you love.  You then have to reinvent yourself in a new world without  the  soulmate that made you feel complete and try not to let the brutality that life throws at you sometimes  make you bitter and hard. 

“When life gives you lemons” 

I know I know, make lemonade, but you need water and sugar to make lemonade.  Chris always used to say “I want to complain to the management” when things didn’t turn out quite the way we anticipated and by management he usually meant me, though sometimes it was just out there for whoever is in charge of bad luck.

It’s taken me 5 years to get all my ducks back in a row. We left England all those years ago, on a mission to see as much of the world as we could. Then life gave me lemons and the dream was on hold for a while.  But it’s still there it was my dream and it’s still strong. Life is not a rehearsal and time and tide will not wait for you. Few people end up regretting the things they did.  At the final hour they regret the things they didn’t do. So here’s to lemonade, cheers!

Well now I’ve got sugar, well a ‘sweet thang’ back in my life, Steve, and a whole lot of water coming up! But I’m not sure about lemonade – I think mines a Caipirinha.

Brazil here  we come!                                                                                                                                                      

 

 

Culatra the perfect chill-out zone for dreamers and doers.

 So we are sitting in this lovely anchorage surrounded by boats many of which we know waiting for the high spring tide on Friday so we can be lifted out of the water.  We came a little early because with “Squeak” on board we didn’t want to risk an awfully lumpy passage if the weather wouldn’t play but while we need  a decent high tide to be lifted out we also need a nice and low tide to make it under the low bridge at Vila Real de Santo Antonio with our 23M mast. So we have a few days or R&R and pottering, before the work begins and what better place to do it, than Culatra.

 Culatra  a unique place seen  by many  sailors as the “chillout zone”. A place to spend your summer, away from the ferocious inland heat with the sea breeze to keep you cool, clear water  to swim in and long sandy beaches to stroll along and collect seashells.  Then retire to one of the islands bars for a sun-downer, where if you speak just a little of the lingo you’ll be made to feel like one of the locals who has lived there all their lives.  It’s the perfect place to kick back and do nothing all summer long.  

To many this is the perfect life that everyone dreams of, especially those on the 9-5 daily grind working for the ‘man’ with no end in sight.   But how do they do it without going out of their tiny minds?   To spend my summers with so little to do seems like both a torture and a waste.  Sure I dream of moments, like the night-watches  on passage when I am all alone in the darkness with nothing for miles around me but water and starry skies. Then I have time and space to plough through all the books on my reading list that I never seem to find time for in our everyday full tilt life or simply to  sit and contemplate things .  Just passing time doesn’t do it for me though, and fortunately not ‘him’ either. In that regard we are the perfect match.

I believe there are two kinds of people in life; ‘doers’ and ‘thinkers’.   We are doers.  I don’t wish to downgrade thinkers. Some of them, are the  creators  or inventors of new ideas, and the world would not be evolving without them.  Some are just the dreamers of dreams however, and their life’s ambitions, sadly will only ever be, lost dreams.  We are busy turning our dreams into reality.  I have often said I would be happy to die anytime.  I don’t mean that in a morbid fatalistic sense, I don’t want to die, at least not yet.  It’s simply that if I had tried to cram any more into the life I have already had, there wasn’t time.  And I’m going to keep living my life that way!

Yesterday this popped up on my facebook feed and I reposted it on my timeline.  Sure I still have a pretty big bucket list and I hope I manage to do most of it but if not, I’m more than happy with what I’ve achieved.  There is so much out there though, so many possibilities that I find I am now picky and  hard to please.  One white sandy sunkissed beach with palm trees and crystal clear water is a lot like another to me.  There needs to be more to keep interested, thinking  and  building those knowledge banks. I don’t want to be the ‘doer’ that rushes impulsively from one thing to the next without thinking . I want to be the best of both, the intelligent doer who can      apply what they have learned  to making their dreams come true.  

In the meantime – more doing and less dreaming as off to the boatyard we go.