Archive of ‘Underway’ category
“flot flot flot… flot flot flot…”
I was trying to get some sleep before my watch when I heard it. Damn, another flying fish flew in the hatch, I thought. I’ll just get it when I get up. I promptly rolled over and went to sleep.
My alarm went off at 3:45 a.m. and I dressed for watch. Just before going up, I went to the head (toilet) in my room to brush my teeth.
“Oh!” I cried, as I turned on the light. A pigeon-sized dark-grey bird sat on the floor looking up at me. I went outside and brought Mori San, who was just going off watch, in to see. He must be one of the little dark birds we had seen flitting over the waves almost our entire 4,000 nautical mile passage.
I say he because everyone on the boat was convinced that any bird visiting the girl’s cabin had to be male. I pointedly ignored Zeus comments.
I had wondered how on earth these birds managed to make it so terribly far from land without rest. We were thousands of miles away from any land. Maybe that was the reason the little guy made his way into my cabin. He just needed a break. With a long curving beak and clear dark eyes I wondered what kind of bird my new friend was. I did want to make sure he was okay. It was night, but he seemed far too sedate to be entirely healthy.
I took a towel out of the bathroom cupboard and covered the bird, and scooped him into my arms. He weighed less than air as I carried him outside. He didn’t struggle or put up the least bit of resistance to my moving him. I was worried. Had he hurt himself on his way inside Umineko? Was he sick? Wild animals tended to avoid humans like the plague unless they are sick.
Setting him on a bench I filled a small bowl with fresh water and placed it in front of our visitor. He didn’t pay a bit of attention to it** nor did the flying fish I offered have any effect.
After 10 minutes he got down off of the bench and moved into the saloon. He tucked in behind the table and made his way into the darkest shadowy corner he could find, away from the red light in the saloon.
“Maybe just needs to rest,” Toshi San suggested. “He wants to go somewhere that’s quiet.”
At 5:45 the faintest hints of light brushed the Eastern horizon. Dawn was on its way. I went inside with the towel. I didn’t want dawn to come and the bird to start flying around the boat. It was vital to get him out when it was still dark.
He wasn’t in the saloon. He wasn’t on the port side, I peered down the dark steps to the starboard side. There he was, a darker pool in a darker shadow resting at the bottom of the two stairs. Directly in front of Mori San’s berth. I breathed a sigh of relief that Mori San hadn’t needed to use the head and accidently stepped on our guest.
This time when I draped the red towel over him he struggled. I smiled as he tried to stretch his wings and placed him on the back of the port side bench. After a few minutes he hopped down to the bench, and then thought better of it. My heart soared as he flapped his way back up to the ledge. A few minutes more and he disappeared into the dissipating night. He had just needed a place to rest.
Finding a bird in your cabin is fun, always provided you don’t step on it. On the flip side spent the next day cleaning up er… presents our friend had left.
I love breakfast burritos. They are healthy, tasty, and meet the requirements of sailing food: Easy and portable. Even better, they don’t require complicated ingredients. If you have leftover rice or beans from the night before they’re a fantastic way to use up ingredients.
Breakwater Breakfast Burritos
- 4 tortillas
- 4 eggs
- 4 slices of cheese (or 8 small slices)
- 2 c rice
- 2 c black eyed peas (soaked and cooked)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 T taco seasoning
- Crack egg into nonstick skillet over medium heat
- Immediately lay tortilla over egg squish around so that tortilla is coated in egg
- Allow to cook 2 minutes and flip onto plate
- Fry garlic in oil for 2 minutes
- Spoon rice and black eyed peas into pan
- Mix in taco seasoning
- Put tortilla in clean skillet over medium heat, egg-side up
- Lay cheese on top
- Spoon ¼ of mixture onto each of the tortillas
- Wrap and serve with salsa
*When handling wild animals always wrap them in a towel. This is safer for both of you.
- Wild animals don’t know what is happening to them. More often than not they are terrified of the person holding them and the towel protects you and curbs their movement.
- It is terrible to get human scent on the animal. Often others of its kind will shun it after that
- It is some protection from disease
**In retrospect he probably didn’t know what fresh water was! Sea birds have internal desalination systems so that they can just drink sea water. There have been numerous times at sea I wished I were built like that.
You’re crewing on a Japanese-owned boat? You much catch a ton of fish!
Well, not so much. Not a one in the Bahamas. We did catch a ton of barracuda in Cuba, but we’d thrown all of them back. It may have been open water but we had absolutely no desire to mess with ciguatera, the fish-borne illness that’s featured in various places on the spectrum from wish-you-were-dead to actually deadly. We had caught a king fish and a few little things in harbors, but fish seemed to be keeping clear of Umineko.
Toshi San cleaning bonito
But our luck seemed to be changing on our long passage. We caught our first big(ish) fish. And a tasty one too, a bonito, and perfect for a Japanese boat. Japanese cooking uses bonito, or katsuo, flakes and stock in a whole lot of their dishes. I just had never tasted a fresh one.
When Toshi San, our resident fish expert, deftly cleaned our catch I found out the 10 pound catch had red meat. I’m not sure why I’d been expecting it to have white, but the dark red meat looked good. For this catch we had a real Japanese feast, curtsey of Toshi San, or as I like to call him, my sakane sensai (fish sensai).
He showed me how to trim all of the edges off of the fillets, leaving only the “beautiful” meat, for sashimi and chirashi sushi. We waste all of the scraps? I asked him, horrified. Not at all, he replied, putting them in a small pan.
He chopped up some fresh ginger and arranged it over the fish. Then he poured a little mirin, a little soy sauce, a few spoonfuls of sugar, and enough water to cover the fish.
“I’ve been cooking fish since I was a child,” he told me. I never measure anything. I don’t have to!”
The dish was delicious but as I’m still not up to judging how much of what goes in I won’t put the recipe up. I’ll just have to experiment a bit more.
For the “beautiful dishes,” we made easy sushi rice, cooking the rice, folding in a sushi powder packet, and then training a fan on it: The modern take on hand-fanned sushi.
Then we thickly sliced the most beautiful fish rolls, each piece about 1” thick. He explained to me that dark meat was generally sliced more thickly in Japan.
He sliced the meat and arranged the pieces one after the other in elegant lines on a plate. Each one fit together perfectly. Next he chopped 3 cloves of garlic and spread it over the bonito. Finally he sprinkled finely chopped spring onions over the top, wrapped it in plastic film, and refrigerated it until dinner time.
I was in charge of arranging the toppings for the chirashi sushi. With the three dishes we had a glorious bonito feast that day.
Blue Water Bonito Sashimi
Blue Water Bonito Sushi
- 3 cloves chopped garlic
- Spring onion
A flight of something thwacked into our path as we were dinghying across the Bahamian waters.
“What do you think that was?” the captain asked me.
“Flying fish,” I replied. What else could it be?
“Calamari!” the captain replied, grinning and holding up a small squid.
I had never even heard of flying squid before a sail around the Bahamas several years prior, or since. Until the passage from Panama, that is. The first day after we passed the Galapagos flying fish started appearing on our trampoline. Gifts from the sea gods, of course. The first day there were a few flying fish and one little squid.
Cook them for breakfast, Sato San urged. The flying fish were alright, but the squid was scrumptious.
“There’ll be 10 squid this morning,” I said to Toshi San on watch that night. I didn’t really believe it, but to my delight there was a flock of flying squid on the trampoline as the sun came up. Not quite 10, but enough for a tasty snack.
That morning for breakfast I served them as a side dish to our usual rice breakfast. They were delectable, perfectly done. And what a wonderful addition of fresh food to the provisions! Unlike catching monstrous tuna or mahi mahi you aren’t eating it for weeks either.
We didn’t have as many flying squid gifts on the trampoline, but they really are delicious. I highly recommend frying them up if you find them on your deck or trampoline on passage. You do have to take out the little plastic-y tube
Falling off Flying Squid
- ½ lb squid, about 10
- 2 T soy
- 1 T cooking sake
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 T butter
- Clean the squid, they always have a little plastic-y tube inside but they are usually small enough not to have a beak or anything else that needs removal. Place in small bowl
- Sprinkle cooking sake over squid (it removes any possible odor)
- In small frying pan heat butter over medium heat
- Fry garlic 1-2 minutes
- Add soy
- Cook squid 30 seconds on each side, they will plump up a little bit and translucent flesh will turn opaque
- Put over rice
If you’re going to keep the squid until lunch you might want to refrigerate it.
Floridita, Hemingway’s favorite bar
Touristic Havana can be expensive, or at least the prices can be comparable to the US. Often even at higher prices selection is limited (I couldn’t find something as simple as flour in Havana to save my life). But if you know where to go, or are lucky and stumble across them, there are wonderful hidden treasures to be found for next-to-nothing.
While walking through the streets of Havana Vieja, a Cuban invited an Australian couple into his house and sold them 4 good-sized lobster tails for 5 CUC! I never had that happen, nor as a girl walking around on my own would I have gone inside a strange Cuban man’s house alone. I found my treasures other places.
We were running out of seafood on Umineko so one of Marina Hemmingway’s expats took me in search of fish on his scooter. We asked several Cubans on the streets of Jaimanitas, a suburb of Havana. Most of them shrugged their shoulders, but at last a little Cuban grandmother pointed out the house where a man had fish. The man opened his freezer and it was brimming with frozen fish. He took out one enormous bag of fillets, followed by a large bag of lobster tails, and finally an enormous block of grey-brown something.
“Cangrejo,” he told me. Crab. After a bit of bargaining he sold me 5 kilos of cleaned crab for 8 CUC. We were eating delicious crab on Umineko for months. As Sato San’s favorite American dish (and one of mine) is crab cakes. This is perfect as crab cakes are extremely easy to make, freeze, and then heat up again as needed.
If you have the ingredients, I definitely recommend making a bunch of crab cakes and freezing them for a passage. They are easy to make, easier to heat up, and are always a hit.
Catamaran Crab Cakes
- 1 lb lump crab
- ½ large onion, finely chopped
- 2 T mayonnaise
- 2 T Dijon mustard
- 1 T old bay seasoning
- 1 T lemon juice
- 4 eggs
- ¼ c green onions, finely sliced
- 1 c bread crumbs
- Stir all ingredients together until mixed but not too much (leave crab lumps) in medium bowl
- Heat large skillet over medium heat until hot
- Spray with cooking spray
- Spoon crab mixture onto skillet in ⅓ c portions
- Press down into patties
- Cook 3 minutes
- Flip and cook another 3 minutes
- Enjoy then or freeze for later
Crab cakes freeze extremely well and are great for heating up underway
I hate mornings. Not that I loathe the actual time of day. Sunrise can be stunning, animals come out to play, and the world is bright and fresh. No, what I despise is the actual getting out of bed portion of it. Leaving your toasty covers for the chill air to shock you awake, and unless it’s sweltering out the air is always chilly compared to the nice pocket of warmth under the blankets. That and the fact that I just don’t seem to function as well at that time of day. No matter what time I go to sleep, 6 am is just early.
Unfortunately, as cook, I have to get out of bed before everyone else. Nightwatch notwithstanding. Because I lack the proclivity for mornings that some do I would much prefer to have something that doesn’t take terribly long to prepare and one way to do that is to work with leftovers.
I often try and have a bit of cooked rice around because, especially on a Japanese boat, the variety dishes that one can make with a little cooked rice are astounding.
“Rice for Breakfast?” a disbeliever asked me.
Rice for breakfast isn’t simply Asian. Far from it, these rice pancakes are one of my childhood favorites. Quick, easy, and requiring minimal preparation these pancakes are perfect boat food. Sometimes I add a little corn or other veggies for variation.
Reef Knot Rice Pancakes
- 2 c cooked rice
- 4 eggs
- 2 t Vegeta or seasoned salt
- 1 T butter (for frying)
- In medium bowl mix eggs, rice, and vegeta
- Let stand 3 minutes
- Melt half of butter in frying pan over medium heat
- Spoon rice batter onto pan and fry each cake until golden brown on the bottom 2-3 minutes
- Flip and cook until golden brown on the other side
These rice cakes can be served hot or cold and are tasty either way
They say 64 is the magic number for the ICW. If your mast is over 64’ you can’t get under some of the fixed bridges. That’s what they say.
The charts and guidebooks said there isn’t a problem. You might have to check the bridge clearance signs posted beside each bridge and wait for low tide, but if you’re careful it’s fine. Lies.
In reality the “magic number” is more like 62.
With our mast right at 64’ we were nervous. Rumors were floating around about mismarked bridges and ones that were too low for our mast. It didn’t help anything that this had been an especially wet year and the canal was up.
Our second day on the canal I called ahead to a few marinas near Wilkerson Bridge, just south of Alligator River where we wanted to stay. The chart said the clearance was 64’ but we weren’t taking any chances. It was a good thing we did. The woman at the marina told me sympathetically that because the water levels had been high the bridge clearance was 62’ ½.
Unfortunately Umineko wasn’t equip with a retractable mast so we couldn’t play limbo with the bridges. If a bridge was too low, even by inches, we could lose the mast. We would have to go outside to the ocean.
We decided to stay in Ocracoke a historic beautiful island that all of the guide books talked up. Boasting a musical population (reportedly almost all of the nearly 1000 residents play an instrument), historic buildings, and incredible seafood I was surprised that I had never heard of the place. Its neighbors Roanoke and Hatteras took all the charming little fishing island’s glory. Part of the reason for its low profile could be that it is only reachable by ferry or private boat, but that is also part of its charm.
Long past the “season” the island was all but deserted. Even with a grey day and brisk air (yes, it went from being nice and warm to chilly drizzle. So far the south was not living up to expectations) it was nice. There was publicity everywhere about the island’s “claim to fame:” this was where the dread pirate Blackbeard had met his untimely demise.
Unfortunately the local seafood market was closed and there wasn’t a shrimp boat in sight. It had been ages since we had had anything Greek, so I decided to make a Greek rice dish.
It’s amazing the things you can transform rice into with just a change of trimmings. A different seasoning, add some cheese and the grain that was just used in a curry can now pass as Mediterranean.
Genoa Greek Rice
- 2 C rice (uncooked)
- 2 C water (for cooking rice)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ c shitake mushrooms, sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 2 T dried Oregano
- 2 t cumin seeds
- 2 t ground pepper
- 1 T salt
- Juice from one lemon (about 3 T)
- 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
- ¼ olive oil
- Cook rice in water. Boil 5 minutes and set aside to steam.
- Sautee onions and garlic in 1 T olive oil over med-low heat about 5 minutes in large skillet
- Add bell pepper cook 2 more minutes
- Add shitake mushrooms
- Stir in spices and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Pour over rice and mix thoroughly
- Add remaining 3 T olive oil, lemon juice, and feta.
- Serve with olive garnish (kalamata or green)
Branches scraped the side of Umineko’s hull as we motored down the narrow, winding canal. There was a line of boats inching along the ICW single file. How on earth boats passed one another when someone decided to go against the flow of traffic and head north for the winter was beyond me.
It was a completely different world from the well-manicured, wide Erie Canal. We had chosen to take the scenic Dismal Swamp route. A windy route fringed with lush foliage unlike anything we had seen along the Erie. The blue herons that followed us along the Erie Canal had become white water birds. Even the water was different; the peat growing in the water had dyed it a rusty shade that came up in our toilet bowls.
That morning we had been sure we could make it through two locks and to Elizabeth City but the languid pace that the bridges tenders and the first lock master operated on made us realize that there was no way we could make it even half that far. The second lock had its last opening at 2:30. No way could we make it there. Especially if we were stopping at the North Carolina welcome center.
And so we tied up at the North Carolina welcome center for lunch and ended up staying the night with a myriad of other boats all heading south for the winter. It was a short wall, but we all managed to squeeze in. 3 boats from Vermont rafted up (one boat ties up to the wall and the next boat ties up to the side of the boat, and so on) to one another in front of us. A lovely French Canadian couple rafted up to the side of Umineko, and a third boat rafted up to them.
Luckily no boats travel on the ICW at night because we certainly blocked even this wide part of the canal.
After a long day on the canal I decided to make something simple quick and tasty.
Everyone thinks of Japanese food as complicated and extremely involved. Some of it certainly is but I’m finding out that a surprising amount is unbelievably simple. Simple and delicious. You may have to pick up some katsuo dashi (stock) but it’s a great thing to have around. It is basically bonito soup stock. Flavorful and delicious, you can use it in a ton of quick, easy recipes that are ideal for galleys.
Ginger Chicken Udon
- 300 grams udon
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 t ginger
- 1 t pepper
- ½ t 7 chili
- 2 T soy
- ½ c orange juice
- 1T butter
- ½ carrot julienned
- ¼ c onions chopped
- 1 can of chicken chunks (or one 6-oz package ginger chicken chunks)
- ¼ c katsuo stock
- Scallions for garnish
- Boil udon (about 8 minutes)
- While cooking udon:
- Fry garlic and onion in 2 t vegetable oil for about 2 minutes in medium skillet
- Add carrots and ginger and cook another 2 minutes
- Stir in butter until melted
- Pour in orange juice and soy sauce and cook stirring another minute
- Add seasonings (7 chili and pepper)
- Finally add chicken and simmer for 2 minutes
- Mix sauce and udon together and pour katsuo stock over mixture
- Serve and enjoy!
As we started down the ICW, or intracostal waterway, I marveled at the differences between South and North. Heading into the Southern United States was like stepping into another country. The shift in scenery was just the start. The weather is warmer, mosquitoes were still active in mid-October, but more than that it was the pace of things. Where workers had been on-point along the Erie Canal, filling or draining locks in minutes, things seemed to take eons along the ICW. Admittedly it was lovely eons, but eons none-the-less.
Umineko wanted to take “the Ditch” to see a little more of the United States. None of us had seen this part of America. A relaxed sail, guidebooks put it and that was an understatement. Bridges and locks might open 4 times a day, the last opening at 2:30pm. We made it 20-miles the first day. The narrow North Carolina channel had room for yachts to go in single file, branches sometimes scraping Umineko’s sides.
This lovely setting and warmer temperature made me want to prepare a beautiful salad for lunch. Naturally I thought of one of the prettiest grains I know: rainbow quinoa.
Extremely nutrient and protein-rich quinoa is a wonderful addition to your cruising grainsQuinoa has a marvelous uniquely chewy texture and a slightly nutty flavor. It can definitely hold its own in any dish and doesn’t need to be coaxed into tastiness with over-seasoning. Not only is it yummy hot, but it’s fabulous as a cold lunch-time salad or side dish. . If you haven’t tried it I highly recommend picking a bag up. It’s at any health-food store, often in bulk, and is increasingly available in regular grocery stores as well.
Tri-Colored Chive Cherry Quay Quinoa
- 1 c quinoa
- 2 c water
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 T lemon juice
- 2 T white balsamic vinegar
- ¼ c Dried cherries, chopped
- ¼ c chives
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook Quinoa 10 minutes in water, in covered pot. Steam for an additional 5 minutes
- Move to mixing bowl
- Stir in olive oil, lemon juice vinegar, and seasonings
- Stir in chives and cherries
It’s also delicious the next day eaten cold
Unagi, barbecued eel, is one of my favorite Japanese foods, one of my favorite foods period. In sushi or over hot rice. But always with the sweet, savory unagi sauce over it. Yum yum yum.
When I first started crewing on Umineko, the Japanese catamaran I asked if we had unagi sauce any on board.
The skipper, Sato San, just laughed and told me that it was easy to make. I’m convinced that almost everything is easy once you know the trick. The trouble is in the learning curve. What’s easy for a Japanese person who’s grown up with making the food and for a Westerner can be two different things entirely.
One day, Sato San’s friend came for a visit bearing delicious Unagi, frozen barbecued eel.
“It’s easy as 1 2 3… one two three the same amount and just boil it… finish.”
I was slightly skeptical, but I tried it and he was so right. It really is as easy as 123. A learning gradual incline and decline rather than curve too. Over unagi it is heavenly, but over plain rice, green beans, and so much more it’s scrumptious as well.
It might be hard to find the actual unagi (found in the frozen section of most Asian groceries) everywhere in the world, or keep your freezer stocked with it, but making the unagi sauce is definitely a cruiser-friendly recipe and a great way to put in your next stirfry.
Under Sail Unagi
- 1 package Unagi
- 1 recipe unagi sauce
- 2 cups short-grained rice
- ¼ c finely chopped spring onion
- Preheat oven to 350
- Cook rice
- Place bbq eel cooking on baking sheet covered in aluminum foil
- Cook 7 minutes
- Turn on broiler and cook another 3 minutes
- Fill 2 or 3 bowls with rice (depending on how many people are eating)
- Divide eel into 2-3 portions
- Spoon unagi sauce over rice
- Sprinkle spring onions over eel
- ¼ c mirin
- ¼ c sugar
- ¼ c soy sauce
- Mix in small saucepan
- Bring to a simmer stirring occasionally
- Cook for 5 minutes until sauce thickens slightly (try not to over-cook or your unagi-sauce can turn into syrup)
Sally plays the part of the windlass
Our windlass broke. One day we could push a button and the anchor dropped and push another button and the anchor was raised, the next we were using brute strength (and heavy gloves) to raise and lower the anchor. With our shiny new anchor weight, mind you.
One of the first catamarans I crewed on has a manual windlass, where you winched the anchor chain up yourself. Of course myself and the other girl crewing complained and whined that we didn’t have an electric windlass. Now I saw the logic behind keeping things simple. Push-button sailing could be wonderful but when things went wrong fixing them yourself was impossible. In sailing redundancies, back-up plans, and extra parts are the rule rather than the exception.
Now if we were just planning on staying in marinas a broken windlass wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately the plan was to anchor at least half of the time. Well, at least it would be good exercise until we picked up the new windlass in Fort Lauderdale.
Sailing to Norfolk, VA, fleeing to warmer climes I noticed a few of the new potatoes were thinking about starting to sprout. Their time had come. The chilly night air permeated the boat and I couldn’t think of a better time to cook something warm and hearty.
The side dish I always ordered from my favorite diner in New York was wasabi mashed potatoes. They were delicious. The creamy potatoes had just the right kick of wasabi to make your nose tingle. Then they “closed for renovations.” I don’t know what those renovations were but they somehow made the wasabi mashed potatoes vanish from the menu.
This is my approximation of Sidewalk Café’s luscious, creamy potatoes. I was more than pleased with the results. I highly recommend adding these to your list of boat staples. I know I will. Whether you’re under sail or on dry land these are a wonderfully warming on a cold chilly night.
Hopefully after all of my pulling the anchor chain up and down I won’t end up with Popeye arms. Note to self: stay away from canned spinach.
Windlass-less Wasabi Mashed Potatoes
- 10 new potatoes cut in quarters
- ½ c sour cream (or yachting yogurt if you are watching your calories)
- 2 T wasabi paste
- 2 t salt (or to taste)
- 2 t freshly ground pepper (or to taste)
- Boil potatoes 20 minutes (or until almost falling apart)
- Drain and put In large bowl
- Add sour cream and mash with back of wooden spoon until lumps gone. Potatoes should fall apart and turn to creamy consistency (okay, with a few lumps).
- Mix in wasabi thoroughly
- Stir in salt and pepper