'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch


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“Go while you have your health”

To look around this place, you’d think we owned stock in a facial tissue company.

Either that or we hate trees…

We’ve been sick here at Rancho Keith & Nicki. It doesn’t happen very often, less than once a year in my case. I might come down with a mild cold, and it’s one of those obnoxious sneezy/wheezy intervals where I feel stuffed and logy for a couple days, but I keep working – a little slower perhaps – and then it’s gone.

But I don’t get sick.tissue man

Ask a wanna-be cruiser who’s actually working on making the break to the boat “why now?”, and you’re almost certain to get “I want to do it while I still have my health” as one of the reasons – especially if they’re approaching that psychological speedbump we call “middle age”.

There’s good reason for that.  In our twenties, the only “health issues” my peers had were sports injuries and motorcycle accidents. In our thirties the occasional minivan fender-bender or one-too-many headache.

But somewhere approaching the magic age of 40, things started to get real. The first time you hear about someone your age unexpectedly passing away, it’s a shocker, but it’s at a distance – arms length.  By the third or fourth “Hey did you hear about Joe? Geeze, he looked fine yesterday…”, though, you start to feel like there’s a message there that you should be paying attention to.

So maybe the last week for us has been a gentle reminder of what we’re hoping to accomplish in the next few years, and why all the effort to sell up and sail off is worth the heartache.

Yeah, having the flu – twice – sucks.

Having an un-lived life would be a lot worse.

 

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PS – beginning April 1st, and continuing to April 30, I’ll be participating in the A to Z  Blogging
 Challenge.  Once post every day (except Sundays) for the whole month, each based on a different letter of the alphabet.  Aren’t you curious what I’ll find to write about for “Q” & “Z”?
Me too!

 

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What’s for Dinner?

Or breakfast? Or lunch?

There’s something about a nice meal. It just settles the mind and eases the stresses of a day. But the opposite is true as well.  A lousy meal can take a hard day and just make it harder.

Eating ashore is one answer, but with what money? Once in awhile, absolutely, but all the time? This cruise would last about three weeks. The answer is to cook.

I think it’s relatively easy to eat well on shore, particularly if you have some basic cooking skills and the time to use them. (Don’t have time to cook? Here’s a great opportunity to work out your priorities!)  And when I say “Eat Well”, I’m not saying fancy, overly expensive, huge preparation times and $5000 8-burner gas ranges that would launch a hot-air balloon in 3 minutes on a cold day.

No, I’m thinking simple with high-quality ingredients. A fresh salad (lettuce, avocado, tomato, maybe some peppers, a balsamic vinaigrette), a loaf of fresh bread, and two lightly seasoned pork chops on the grill for five minutes a side. Add a glass of Merlot if you wish, and relax: This is that good life.  Can you do that on a boat? Of course.

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But it’s a choice.  Like so many things in cruising, you choose where to spend your energies and time.  You can have a boat with every possible advanced and convenient feature, but you’ll work full time to pay for it or work full time yourself maintaining it if you do. For us, part of the fun of cruising is the two-fold process of hunting/gathering the raw materials for meals, and then experimenting to see what we can create with the relatively limited space and equipment we have available aboard.

(As a reference, I’ve got to put in a plug for a blog and book called The Boat Galley.  Carolyn does the blog, and she co-authored the book (available HERE) with Jan, who also has a blog of her own called Commuter Cruiser.  I can’t say enough good things about these two ladies, who are savvy, charming and helpful to a tee! Check ’em out.)

Mind you, our options will be expanding by a factor of many x 10 when we next take to the water.  2016 will be the first time we’ve had a boat with an actual, honest-to-God gimballed marine stove, the first time we’ve had an oven aboard, and the first time with refrigeration.  Previously it’s been a portable cooler and a Coleman camp stove, plus the propane grill on the rail.  Are we excited? You bet!

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Maine Mussels, al la Keith & Nicki

So where do you get ingredients? Granted you can’t always eat from the bounty of the sea (and no, I’m not telling you where I gathered 25 pounds of fresh mussels in less than 10 minutes without even getting out of the dinghy) but when you can, you learn about “Fresh”.  As in, “it’s-been-ten-minutes-since-these-mussels-left-the-sea-floor” fresh, and “They don’t even know they’ve been harvested yet” fresh.  Difficult prep?  Yeah, it was rough: knock off the barnacles, rinse in salt water, put in a pot and add 3 cups of water, steam 8-10 minutes-just til they open. Eat.

No, feast. Dip in a little melted butter if you’re addicted to butter like I am, or not. If you’ve got some bread to go with, even better.

There seems to be a conception among many folks just considering cruising that you’ll be eating out of cans the whole time, or you’ll be stuck with camp-food the whole time. If that were true I wouldn’t be going cruising.
The reality is that you’re most likely to continue eating – or trying to eat – about the way you do ashore, with a few adjustments. That could be great, but it could also be unfortunate if Haute Cuisine for you has always been a package of pop tarts and a coke. After all, your home is now a traveling kitchen, and every country, region and town has its own culinary speciality.  Why wouldn’t you branch out and explore all those opportunities?

Except chicken-fried anything.  I’m not sure exactly what “chicken-fried” is, but I do know that deep frying is usually what you do to disguise something that isn’t really edible otherwise. Except french fries – I love good french fries.100_4262

Perhaps what I’m really saying here is this: Don’t let the fact that your kitchen (galley) is tiny scare you off from cooking. Wherever you cruise, every single person you meet eats, and most of them cook. Yes, you’ll need to make adjustments for the limitations of storage space and tools (my Kitchenaid mixer stays in the RV while we’re aboard!), but you can cook. You can create amazingly sumptuous meals from the provisions you find along the way in stores, road-side stands and farmers markets, and the simpler and closer to the source you provision, the happier and healthier you’ll be.

And yes, that lobster roll above was the 5th lobster meal in 3 days, when a charter crew handed us a plastic bag with nearly 4 pounds of picked Maine lobster in it, saying “our guests didn’t eat lobster.”  Wow – Pity that. Twist my arm a little…

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Bon Appetite!


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The New “Do”

Same blog, a new look.

Not because I think we need to change the look every few months. Actually I’ve had the same hairstyle going now for over 30 years (except for that brief experiment with a mullet… please don’t ask me about that.)

No, I just wanted more options in the display for the blog – side-bars and drop-downs and all that googy stuff.  So now all the fun tools and widgets should display on the home screen, as well as the new picture of Sionna, reefed down and flying across Rockland Harbor in a stiff Sou’wester last fall.

I think the new theme is easier to use, more readable, and with more options and information for your reading pleasure. Hope you agree!

In the mean time I’ve been suffering through a visitation by a fellow named “Influenza”, which means I’ve done almost nothing on the boat these last four days, and nothing at all on creating posts for the A to Z Challenge, which starts April 1st. Going to have to get busy.

But lest you think I’ve been wallowing in illness, I have managed just a couple hours on the boat most days, working to add shelving in the aft cabin.  It’s going to totally change our lives, since we hope to use the aft cabin as our primary sleeping space as we head down the ICW.
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The aft cabin originally was set up for two single berths, oriented fore-and-aft. I made the two inserts to fill the space between them, and created…

 

 

 

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This.

The existing mattresses, turned 90 degrees, fit the space fine, though there is a triangle-shaped gap at one end which we’ll have to fill with a separate piece.

But look at all that unused space where our feet used to go. Hmm… can’t let that go to waste!

So I’m building shelving to take advantage of all that space. Once it’s painted and trimmed out in varnished teak, it should blend in nicely – and think of the storage! The lower shelf will be easily removable so that we can convert back to two single berths if needed, but meanwhile, Nicki and I will have a comfortable, dedicated berth to share. No more tearing the salon apart for bedtime and rebuilding it for breakfast – at least when the weather is settled.

Now, if I can just figure out where the drip is coming from that lands on my right hip when it rains…


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Blogging from A to Z

I love to write.

Actually up until about 5 years ago I was still hand-writing letters and invoices and all sorts of things.  On paper. With a pen.  And I even went so far as to put those letters into a paper envelope, affix a self adhesive token known as a “postage stamp” to the face of it,  drop it into a metal box and just walk away.  And damned if that envelope didn’t arrive – at the specified remote location I’d selected – a couple of days later!  Magic!

But now we have email and blogs and social media, and life is ever so much better. Easy, instant, inane communication has finally arrived.  Now I can spout my opinions into cyberspace and know that the world is a better place for the random firings of my neurons.  Ah… Progress!

Which brings me to blogs.For those of you who don’t know, Forced-blogging seems to be a thing, and in this case, it’s called the a-to-z Challenge.

In this case, I’ve voluntarily signed on to blog every day of April (except Sundays), with the additional caveat that each post be related in some way to a different letter of the alphabet. April first has an “A” theme, April 2nd, “B”, etc.

This means that for the month of April, I’m going to be posting way more often than usual.
I generally try to stretch it out to 10 days or so between posts.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing – I do.  But I also enjoy living and reading and spending time with my wife and working on the boat. In short, I have a life.

None-the-less, starting April first, look for 6 posts a week. Don’t expect that to continue into May, by the way – that just isn’t happening.  And chances are those posts will be shorter and simpler than my usual – like I said, I’ve got a life, too.  But I’m actually looking forward to this.  If I succeed (meaning I actually write something coherent for every letter) it’ll be the first project I’ve lived long enough to finish in quite some time!  Hope you enjoy.


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Follow the Bouncing Ball

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Where in the world is Sionna?

“Where are you headed?”  “How will we know where you are?” “I wish we could come…”

These are the sorts of questions you hear when you announce your intention to unplug from the ordinary and follow a dream.  Friends and family, and sometimes imperfect strangers; all would like to have a way to follow along.

Perhaps it’s to live vicariously through your adventures. Maybe they’d like to reassure themselves that you’re safe – the logic being that if you’re still moving, you must be ok. (Is that really logical?)

Whatever the reason, those questions, combined with the pleasure I’ve had following OTHER people’s adventures through their blogs and trackers, led us to search for some sort of affordable tracking system for our trip, so that we could let interested parties of all sorts know our position and kind of ride along with us.

Sionna does have AIS (Automatic Identification System) aboard, and there are several sites on the web that allow you to check in on all the AIS equipped vessels in a given area and see what they’re up to. (Marine Traffic AIS map is one)   The down side of Marine Traffic is that it’s not tracking any specific vessel – just every vessel (with AIS) that’s in range.

There are also paid services, such as that offered by DeLorme with their Inreach  system, but given our fetish with frugality, we’re not likely to go there.

However there is another option – it’s called Farkwar.

Ok, I don’t know how he came up with the name. But the basic idea of the service is that you create your own position reports when you have internet capability, add a comment if you like, then post it, and anyone who’s signed up to receive your updates will get an email telling them you’ve updated your position.

If you didn’t click on that Farkwar link already, check it out – that’s Sionna’s page, which shows that she’s currently parked in our yard in Warren, eagerly awaiting spring, and a completion of her pre-cruise refit.

As we all are.

So if you too would be interested in seeing where we get to and how long it takes, head on over to the Farkwar site and sign up to follow the sailing vessel Sionna: we’d be happy to have you along.