Saturday, October 10, 2009


Tonight the main topic of conversation is going to be food, and, I am going to introduce what I think is an original recipe.

How much rice is alot? How much is too much? I think in the average household, in the average neighborhood, there is probably the remains of a two or five pound bag...and possibly a replacement if the original bag is running low. I wonder what the average yearly consumption of rice is in America, because aboard Arden, I now have somewhere close to 25 pounds of rice. Yes, you read that correctly, 25 pounds. Now, its not that I like rice that much, but, it stores easily, keeps well, goes with a lot of other dishes, and, it is pretty simple to fix. But 25 pounds? Even I realize that may be a bit much. Having read a good bit, well some, about preparing food and provisioning for a voyage, I began to squirrel away food here and there in preparation for the upcoming cruise. Well perhaps not this cruise, but, whatever cruise I eventually embarked on. So every grocery trip, I bought extra. An extra can of beans, an extra jar of peanut butter, a pound or 2 of corn meal. Boxes of corn muffin mix on sale, and potatos when the price was right. Then at some point, I realized I had A LOT of food aboard. (take for example the 25 pounds of rice)

Prior to sailing north to Solomons, I did take an inventory of what food items I had aboard the boat. Just about every book I have read on cruising recommends keeping an inventory, and keeping it up on a daily basis, so that there is always a good count on how many cans of baked beans there are and how low you are really getting on potatos. Somewhere buried in my notepads and notebooks that list still exists. I intend to dig it out this upcoming week and get a fix on what I had and what I have now. I can most assuredly say, I have much, much more now than I did then. Over the course of 6 months, yes I have been in Solomons that long, it is astounding how much accumulation you get from an extra can of this and an extra can of that...hence the 25 pounds of rice.

I didn't set out to hoard food. I have never been a POW, a recluse, abused, or institutionalized. I have never truly known hunger, not like all those starving children in Africa that wanted my Brussels sprouts when I was a child. (that was a huge motivation for me to clean my plate when I was not of a mind to eat all I was given - "think of all those starving children in Africa" my mother would say, and in my mind or under my breath I would say..."if they want it that bad, pack this up and send it to them", because i am not sure even a starving child anywhere would want Brussels sprouts) I don't even know when having enough food on the boat became such a driving issue - I don't think it has reached the level of obsession, but it is close. I think the 3 things that worry me the most about long distance cruising is having enough water, food, and fuel. And I have realized that the fear of not having enough is really becoming a big thing for me. Perhaps it stems from the fact I have a reasonably good income now, and when I cruise I will be on a fairly small fixed income, so it makes sense to put aside for the future. Maybe it is not knowing what food will be available when I make land fall at all the far flung places I will visit while I am out exploring. (like they have never heard of baked beans or canned tuna in Key West) No matter, the point is, I have hoarded. I have set aside so much it borders on the ridiculous - again, consider the 25 pounds of rice that now occupy space on board my boat. In the few days I will publish my inventory, and let you draw your own conclusions of whether I have enough, or too much, food aboard. I will welcome comments and suggestions, but be advised, I do not eat canned squid in ink sauce, no matter how desperate I am, squid is still bait.

Keep in mind I plan on sailing for about 4 1/2 months, and I am actually curious to see how far my food stocks will last without replenishment.

Speaking of food, I have known for sometime that something was just not right about the icebox on Arden, like everything else on this boat, it looked beautiful from the outside - nice stainless steel box, fully soldered, beautiful wood trim sealing the door, and it did look like it really conformed to the shape of the hull. The problem was, my little 10 dollar Igloo cooler seemed to hold ice alot longer. Days longer. This really nice built-in box would not keep a 10lb bag of ice for more than a day, which was a pretty big concern. So knowing I had problems, and in an effort to improve the boat, I decided to tear into the ice box and figure out what was going on and fixing it.

From all I have read, you really want and need at least 3 inches of insulation in your icebox - 4 preferably, and from what prep work I had done I thought I had about 2 inches per side. There can also be no air pockets in the insulation - all voids need to be filled so that the air does not bleed away precious cooling, otherwise that beautiful stainless steel becomes a heatsink. With all that being said, I began to disassemble the icebox on Arden, making a total mess out of my boat. And here is what I found. The wood work and metal work was impeccable. The cabinet the icebox was built into was built like Fort Knox. The trim work was screwed, and glued, to the counter top. The substrate for the counter was nailed and glued to the cabinet frame. The cabinet frame was reinforced, and very overbuilt. A small nuclear device could detonate in that cabinet and no one would ever be the wiser. However, the insulation was lacking, to say the least. Once I got all of the above disassembled, removed and out of the way, I got a good look at the how the box was insulated, and it was not good. The insulation consisted of very ill fitting white 1/2 inch styrofoam, which was put in in double layers, only 1 inch total and not the 2 I had thought. There were very substantial air gaps and voids, and some areas where the insulation had just totally been left out. It kind of amazed me that there could be so much effort put into the construction of the icebox, but that the insulation was almost an after thought. Needless to say, it was no wonder that the icebox would not keep anything cold for any length of time.

So here is the plan. I have a friend, John Baum, that has some of that blue foam you can buy at Lowes, but the foam he has is 2 inches thick - and has an R value of 10 per layer, so I will have an R value of 20 with 4 inches, and 15 with 3 inches. I have never seen it that thick, but I am glad he has it and is willing to share it with me. I am going to line the inside of the cabinet with 2 layers of John's foam on the floor, 2 layers on the inboard and outboard sides, and 1 layer of Johns foam and another inch layer on the front and back side. Each layer of foam will be covered with a layer of aluminum foil. This will give me a box about 28l x 14d x 12w. Roughly 3 cubic feet, a bit smaller than a dorm refridgerator. I will then line this box with roving, and glass it in, much like I did when I built my holding tank-build it in place so I know it will fit. This should give me a very efficient ice box, and it will, hopefully, keep things much colder much longer. We will see how it turns out, and I am anxious to see how well it works.

And finally we come to the recipe. Again, I kind of had this idea for a bean dish, and threw it together while Liz and I were on our St Michaels sail, so it is most definately an Arden original, first prepared while on the hook overnighting in Balls Creek, off of Broad Creek, south of St Michaels. ( N 38 19.568 - W 76 27.171 )

Green Beans and Garlic - with Orange
1 lb fresh green beans
2 or 3 Garlic cloves
1/4 cup of butter
3/4 cup Mandarin Orange Slices - drained (the 4 oz Delmonte Mandarin Oranges in Light Syrup fruit cups work great for this, use 1 and 1/2 of them)
1/4 cup (or more to taste) of white wine (last time I used Chardonney, it worked really well)
Dash of salt
Dash of pepper
Finely dice the garlic cloves and set aside. Bring a pot with about 2 cups of water to a boil and boil the green beans for about 3 minutes. Drain juice off of oranges and save it. Saute the garlic in butter until lightly brown, and add green beans. Saute the green beans for about 3 minutes, add oranges, continue to cook for 1 minute. Add syrup from oranges and wine. Add salt and pepper (more or less to taste) and cook for an additional 3 or 4 minutes, stirring the mixture until the oranges break up and the wine begins to thicken.
Makes enough for 4.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Catholic Upbringing

It can be said with some certainty that I was not a model student. I know that for my parents, who were both teachers, this was quite vexing. I was also brought up in a Catholic home, where both of my parents, my aunts and uncles, many cousins, and nieces and nephews had been subjected to an educational experience that is Catholic school. I even had a cousin who was not only a nun, but taught at a Catholic school. So when a friend of mine sent me this joke, I could not help but burst out into laughter. It is not often that I will pass along jokes, many are too adult in nature to post in a forum such as this one, but I hope that everyone will enjoy this one as much as I did.

Little Zachary was doing very badly in math. (that part sounded very familiar)
His parents had tried everything.... Tutors, Mentors, flash cards, special learning centers. In short, everything they could think of to help his math. Finally, in a last ditch effort, they took Zachary down and enrolled him in the local Catholic school.. After the first day, little Zachary came home with a very serious look on his face. He didn't even kiss his mother Hello. Instead, he went straight to his room and started studying. Books and papers were spread out all over the room and little Zachary was hard at work. His mother was amazed. She called him down to dinner. To her shock, the minute he was done, he marched back to his room without a word, and in no time, he was back hitting the books as hard as before. This went on for some time, day after day, while the mother tried to understand what made all the difference. Finally, little Zachary brought home his report card. He quietly laid it on the table, went up to his room and hit the books. With great trepidation, His mom looked at it and to her great surprise, Little Zachary got an 'A' in math. She could no longer hold her curiosity. She went to his room and said, 'Son, what was it? Was it the nuns?' Little Zachary looked at her and shook his head, no. 'Well, then,' she replied. Was it the books, the discipline, the structure, the uniforms? 'WHAT WAS IT ALREADY?' Little Zachary looked at her and said, 'Well, on the first day of school when I saw that guy nailed to the plus sign, I knew they weren't fooling around.'

Have a wonderful day and God Bless.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Of Patience, Painting, and Hot Water Heaters

Another weekend is drawing to a close, and it is time once again for news, observations and commentary from the cockpit.

After much thought, (actually much cussing and frustration) tonight's main topic is patience. I have learned over the weekend that patience takes many forms, has many facets, and that there are various levels of patience. Take for instance, the patience of a parent. I thought I did well with this, you nuture your children, guide them as best as you can, and stand by while they do everything they can to get away with as much as they can. As they stray, you guide them back on track, pat them on their bottoms (read as spank) and set them on their way again. There is a rhythm to this, and as a parent you get used to it and can even begin to predict patterns that will try your patience. Now that is a topic for a whole other blog, trying ones patience. We will not delve into that tonight, but it is an art all of its own. From a young age, I knew I would have patience as a parent, because I tried my parents patience all the time. So - I had practice. I knew the drill. And I knew many of the tricks and pranks that my son would try, because I had tried them all myself. (disappearing report card anyone? I invented that, and hold the patent rights on it to this day) So, my parents had the patience of Saints. Growing up in a Catholic family, I knew the Saints had patience - I was reminded of that at least every week. But one thing I discovered this weekend was a new type of patience - painting patience, and in specific - boat painting patience. This type of patience is of a level all its own. There are so many minutae that conspire to try your patience as you paint a boat that it borders on the ridiculous. Take for example the soothing roll of the boat on the swells of the harbor. A nice, peaceful, serene rhythm, that can be quite soothing and theraputic, until that is you are trying to paint. Ever try flying a kite in a hurricane? That is what it is like trying to hold a steady line with a detail brush as it seems the boat is bucking like a bronco at the county rodeo. Or bugs. Bugs seem to have an affinity for freshly painted surfaces. I have not seen 10 bugs this year aboard my boat, it must be something about the wind and currents down on my end of the marina, but today, after the first finish coat of paint had been laid down, every insect for 5 square miles arrived to inspect my paint job. So here I am waiting for the paint to dry, so that I can brush the bugs out of the finish, and that is when I realized why there is that old saying "like waiting for paint to dry".

There I am finishing up the last bits of sanding, and getting ready to paint. I had taped off all the gear on deck, removed the companion way hatch, the doors and set up all my supplies in the cockpit. I got out a few old cans to mix paint with, and set to laying down the first coat of primer. It was then I realized that I have been alot of things in my life, held alot of varied jobs and gained tons of worldly experience, but I am no painter. I have a new found respect for painters, not those artist type guys that use little brushes and can paint a portrait so real it looks like it could come to life, but the beer swilling, tobacco chewing, belching kind of guys that you see in every neighborhood bar, wearing painter paints, painters caps and have 8 different colors of paint speckled all over them. The kind of guys that can take a 4 inch brush, and a 10 inch roller and coat a surface with paint so even and true it looks like it was sprayed on. I toiled all day on about 40 square feet of surface, and yes, there are 2 coats of primer on it and 3 coats of finish, but I am no where near done, in fact, I am only partly finished. If I were a true painter, a real painter, I would have finishe not only the topsides, but the hull, the deck, and the neighbiors boat as well in the same amount of time. Next week will bring more sanding and more painting, and more prep work and finishing. So, with all that said, my patience today wore very thin, and I could not wait for that last brush stroke of the day. 10 hours of painting, and I have about 1/3 of the topside done. Kind of makes me wonder if I should hire a painter to do the other 2/3.

Now we come to the hotly debated (well I debated it with myself at great length) subject of an onboard hot water heater. Earlier this week I got a bee in my bonnet about needing a hot water heater for the boat. It conjured up visions of warm showers aboard the boat on cold mornings, hot tap water for washing dishes just like I was at home on land again, and all kinds of neat and convienient things the advent of a water heater would bring the boat. So, I went to West Marine, got a great price on one, left with the dimensions of a, get this, 5 gallon water heater. I have space for it, aft under the cockpit, I found that it indeed would fit through the manhole cover in the cockpit floor with not much trouble, I even looked and found that running electric to it and coolant from the engine would not really be all that much work at all. (for informational purposes, boat water heaters use a 110 volt element when you have a generator - I do not - or when you are hooked to shore power. They also have a heat exchanger that uses engine coolant to heat the water in the tank when the engine is running.) So, with all the needed info in hand, I went back to West Maine to buy MY hot water heater, and it was GONE. Now mind you, there are others, but this one had been on the shelf for upwards of 3 weeks, and I was dead set on getting a hot water heater NOW. I was told there will be one coming on the truck on Wednesday, but as I was forced to pause in my water heater project, I began to think about why I needed one, and that started me thinking about all the reasons that I didnt need one. For one thing, I am headed south, so there won't be too many cold mornings this year. The water heater takes up space that I could certainly use for storage of many other things. It only holds 5 gallons, but that is 5 gallons out of 80, and that 80 gallons does not last long enough as it is. And considering I won't be tied to a dock during my cruise, I would need to start the engine everytime I wanted hot water, thus wasting fuel as well as fresh water. The purchase would use funds that I could use for other things, and, it would require the installation of a pressure water system that would incur more cost, not a hard job, but I can see the dollar signs starting to rack up in droves. And lastly, I have gone 11 months now without one, why do I so desperately need one now? So in the course of one hour or so, I completely talked myself out of getting the water heater and had begun to plan on other expenditures. Now do I really need a radar.....