Cooking On a Boat

Well, friends, we are ready to go!  After three months in marina, the last of the tasks has been completed.  The refrigerator is stuffed with food and the bulkheads are crammed with cans and dry goods.

The water maker, solar panels, dingy davitts, AIS and SSB radio have been installed and all systems are go.  The rigging and sails have passed inspection and endured what repairs they required.  The new toilet and plumbing smell delightfully un-head-like.

The new teak cockpit table is varnished and sturdy.  We have roared around in our new dinghy and with a brand-new outboard motor and installed both on deck.  The ditch bag is filled with everything we can think of that we hope never to use, including a small stash of dark chocolate and honey, which cleans and disinfects wounds and never goes bad.  Whew!

Ryan has completed a myriad of other tasks to get the boat ready to go.  My contribution has been largely interior and decorative, furnishing useful galley supplies (such as a Breville immersion blender that also functions as a mini-food processor; a hold-load of lock n’ lock boxes and globe glass solar lanterns for the cockpit).

Our weather window has opened and we are going to step into it tomorrow morning at 9 am.  We expect to sail most of the way for three days, crossing the Gulf Stream at 32 N, off the coast of Charleston, where it’s narrow and runs west-to-east.

We need to arrive in Whale Cay, in the Abacoes, by Sunday morning to avoid the high winds expected to stir things up dangerously Sunday evening and Monday.  If we can’t get there on time, we’ll either round the Abacoes and head for the Berry Islands or veer off course to Memory Rock on the North west Abacoes.

For the passage, I have made the following dishes:  Beef, barley and lentil stew; Arroz con Pollo (both using stock from scratch); Bacon, onion, and gruyere quiche; cornbread with unbolted flour (crunchy!); and roasted potatoes.  I brought three cookbooks: Deb Morgan’s Kripalu Seasonal Menus; The Boat Galley Cookbook by Carolyn Sherlock and Jan Irons; and Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.

O, and of course I’ve loaded up the Kindles with largely free or very cheap classics, Melville and Burney and Hardy and Woolf and Edgeworth and Dickens and even Goethe, in addition to some great Sci-fi, Doris Lessing’s Shikasta (which I’ll be reading for the 10th time) and Nancy Farmer and Ursula K. LeGuin and Octavia Butler, the great classics of Sci-Fi in my opinion.

Also old childhood favorites: Treasure Island and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea and Anna Karenina, Wuthering Heights and the Collected Stories of Poe.

Also Marlon James and Tiphanie Yanique and Anne Carson. It’s currently raining in Oriental, as it has been for the majority of our time here.

It patters down with irritatingly regular gentleness.  It has soaked my hat, which I set out on a flat part of the deck to reshape. I hear tell that I will enjoy sunny, lovely weather in the Bahamas.

But as I’ve never been there, I don’t really know what to expect. And then there is the worry I carry, a heavy burden, my concern for my son, who has not finished college or found a job (although he says he has looked), or found a direction for himself in this life. He is a wonderful, charming, beautiful person, a joy to talk to, a Mensch, intelligent and engaged in thinking outside the norms that most people don’t even recognize.  I love him very much.  But I also worry.  What will become of him?  How will he pay his bills?  He lives with his wife, who has little money, barely enough to feed the two of them.  I pay their rent, but only until April, and that is far longer than I had expected to do so.

The plan was that he would get a job or go back to school and start his life.  My intention was to help him launch, to move him out of the house, like a mother bird, shoving her fledglings into the air.

All of these details amount to so little about him.  I despair of understanding him.  I try not to feel guilty.  It is the nature of motherhood to feel guilty. Thank you, my wonderful friends, for your thousand kindnesses to me.  I miss you all!  I will write next when I have an internet connection.  I can’t say when that will be, but I expect it will be soon.

One of you asked to see our home’s inside, so I scrubbed and straightened and took the following photos to satisfy your curiosity.  Welcome to our abode.

The hatch (our front door)

And here is our little sanctum, viewed as you come down the steps into our boat, a 36-foot Sabre built in 1986.

The Salon looking towards the bow.

That’s the whole shebang, folks.  Our entire house.  But let me show you a few little details.  The table can be pushed down and fitted with cushions to create a double berth.  We sleep forward, in the v-berth, which you can glimpse beyond the hallway where you also see the padded mast.  First, look to your right and check out the navigation station.

The nav station.

I am sitting there as I write this.  The cabinets above the control panels hold books and all our computer components and cables, while the desk opens up to store maps and pens and what not.   The seat stretches back behind me (as I’m sitting here) into the quarter berth, also a very comfortable place for two people to sleep.  There we stash our ditch bag (a ditch bag is what you hope you never have to use.  It’s your abandon ship store, with flashlights and extra eyeglasses and sunscreen and first aid, a GPS, hand held VHF, and an EPIRB, or Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, food rations, and other stuff)  and my yoga mat (and often quite a few other things):

The quarter berth.

I’ve nursed the intention to get up and practice yoga every day.  More on that in a separate post.  On with the tour.  Coming into the cabin, look left and see our galley:

The galley

The hanging net bag holds fruit and onions and garlic, in mesh bags to keep out flies and to catch debris.  I have a bunch of them and take them with me to markets to avoid having to use extra plastic bags.  They’re machine washable.  Above the oven you’ll see a counter.  That slides up and down behind the oven to reveal the stove, below.  Notice that the teapot has moved!  Above it sits on a trivet that I wove out of old line.

The galley stove

Here’s a closer look at the “trivet” which could also serve as a block mat.  I followed Hervey Garrett Smith’s directions in his very useful The Marlinspike Sailor.  The cover of that book shows this mat in the bottom left hand corner.

Block mat made out of old line. Very useful as a trivet! I sprayed the bottom of it with plastic, so it doesn’t slide around.

I also made this rug out of old line, which feels really good under your feet when standing too cook or wash dishes.

Rug made from old line.

Hang on, there’s lots more to see in the galley! Here, for example, is the refrigerator, which sits to the left of the stove.  If you’re standing here, you’re looking back towards the stern.

Our refrigerator.

The line down the center is a hinge, which allows you to lift one side at a time.  I just cleaned it, so I’ll let you peek inside.

The freezer sits inside the refrigerator.

We can make huge ice cubes in the freezer, and store them in a large Blue Avocado bag.  Here’s the other side:

.It’s quite deep, but slanted on the bottom; not box-shaped.  You’re looking at the upper shelves.  Underneath them I put large plastic tubs with meats and cheese on the bottom.  I also bought a hard plastic egg case from Lock & Lock that stays down in the guts, as well.  It’s the coolest thing, pun intended!  In fact, I just pulled it out to make breakfast and found that it was literally too cool.  The eggs had frozen and split their shells.  I’ll be keeping the eggs closer to the top from now on.

To the left of the fridge, there is this nifty little cutting board set into the counter, standard on all Sabres: Underneath it, you find the trash! Look, I’ll show you:

Yes, all boats attract cockroaches. One must be proactive!!

Behind this counter we keep spices when we’re not underway.  We’ll pack them up into plastic bins and stow them for passages.

But check out the cool teak shelf we discovered in a consignment store.  Ryan installed it.  All the wood on board is teak, of course.

Just above the counter is a locker:

Locker in the galley.

Here we keep olive oil, precious balsamic vinegar, coffee, an insulated French press, and a coffee grinder.  At least for now.  I’m sure I’ll rearrange things again and again as I gain experience.

Basic luxuries. Coffee, tea, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

It seems most things take an extra step on a boat.  Coffee, for example.  Of course I don’t just turn on the stove to boil water.   First I have to get out of the galley, open the propane locker, and turn on the gas.  Then back to the stove, where I use a lighter to get the flame going.  While the water is boiling, I grind the beans in our ecogrinder, giving my biceps a tiny workout.

The ecogrinder. It has a ceramic grinder Coffee beans roasted in Pittsburgh: La Prima!!!

We eat quite well on board, actually.  This morning, for instance, we had homemade pepperoni bread that we got at the local Farmer’s market, lightly fried in oil and dipped in tomato sauce that I made with the last of our Pittsburgh garden tomatoes.  I had hoped to make eggs in purgatory, but you already know what happened to the eggs.

So, on with the tour.  Here’s where we keep the dishes, in the cabinets above the stove.  The cooking pot belonged to my mom.  It has a strainer inside which doubles as a colander, and the lid flips over to serve as an extra frying pan.  There is a lot of storage space of top, where I keep things in Lock & Lock boxes. The cups come from Ryan’s old boat, Zenobia, and the plates were free.

The first week we got here, an old sailor with a gorgeous North Carolina twang overheard us asking for plastic plates in a store.  The shop did not have any.

“What kind of plates d’you wa-ant?”  he asked.

“Plates that don’t break.”

“Well, I have some you can have.  Was gonna throw ’em away.  My wife doesn’t want ’em.”

“Why not?  What’s wrong with them?”

“She di’nt buay em!”

So he told us he’d leave them at the marina where he keeps his boat, and we drove out and fetched them.  They’re perfectly good plates.  The boat also came with cutlery, so we save some dollars there.

Here are photos of the other side of the cabinet, where we keep foodstuffs in, you guessed it, Lock & Lock boxes:

Wait! There’s more!  Next to the sink there is this lid:

It opens to reveal a deep storage space with shelves.  We keep foodstuffs that we don’t use as often, such as flour, and extra pasta sauce, in here.  And of course everything stays airtight in Lock & Lock boxes. Oops!  Looks like I didn’t clean very well.  Someone spilled coffee on the chicken broth.  I better clean that up.

Yes, the boxes were quite an investment, but they last forever (unfortunately) and are incredibly useful.  Plus, it’s a sin to bring foodstuff cardboard or boxes on board, since they tend to harbor cockroaches and other nasty critters.  So everything that doesn’t come in glass goes into plastic.  We are making an effort to avoid creating plastic trash, and have therefore also invested in sturdy, reusable, Blue Avocado plastic bags.

There are more storage lockers, but I won’t bore you with all of them.  Let’s go admire the salon, where last night Ryan and I played a mean game of Gin Rummy. The open cubby holds a lot of books.  There’s an identical one on the other side of the boat, above the starboard. I keep my art supplies and personal items in the locker next to my turquoise hat.   Those ugly velcro strips held even uglier framed sea-themed art, which I took down immediately.  We’ll fill the space as we find stuff we like.

Under these seats we have our water tanks and a pretty large locker where we are currently storing wine and other important drinks.  We love the conch shell decoration on the teak table:

Looking forward towards the bow from the navigation station, you can appreciate how much light there is down below.  You can just barely make out the bookshelf above the starboard settee, underneath of which is more storage.  We keep tools there.  There are also two lockers on either side of the bookshelf.In the photo above, the first door to the head is just behind the mast, on the left.  Open it, and you will see this, more or less:

The head.

Sophia came with a ridiculous electric toilet, which we hated, because it didn’t work and it seemed dumb to rely on electricity for this essential bodily function.  So Ryan tore it out and, with great labor and ingenuity, installed this lovely hand-pump commode.  We don’t use it while in port, because it’s against the law to discharge your toilet and we don’t want to fill up the storage tanks with stink.  They’re under our bed, after all.  No, we walk up to the bathroom at the marina.  It’s not so bad, we get extra exercise and keep the boat smelling fresh.

Now, there are two doors into the head; the one you’re looking through in the photo above and opposite the Tibetan curtain in the photo below.  The second door is just to right of the sink.  That one opens up into the v-berth. The Tibetan curtain covers the teak door of a large storage closet.

It swings towards the v-berth, dividing the main cabin from the “master bedroom” or v-berth.  So if we have guests, they can come in to the head from the main cabin and we can get into it from ours without having to get dressed.

The photo above is taken from the v-berth.  Turn around and here it is!

The v-berth

The white rectangle at the top of the photo is an open hatch, draped from above with a Canadian Bugbusters screen.   We have one on the companionway as well, as you can see in the first photo. It’s kind of hard to see the whole berth with all my down pillows stuffing up the place.  I insisted on bringing them. Ryan protested briefly.  The step opens up for storage (we keep cleaning products there) and there are roomy drawers on either side.

Step to the v-berth

Drawer in the v-berth

At the base of the v-berth is a rug that I made out of old line, just like the one in the galley.

Our friends Tom and Susan gave us lots of great suggestions for setting up the boat. They told us about Lock & Lock boxes and mesh bags for clothing.  Following their advice, we have organized tee-shirts, shorts, underwear, and so on, into these zippered bags, which store in the shelves in the v-berth.

Storing clothes in mesh bags

Here’s how the v-berth converts into a bed.  First you insert a wooden platform that folds in half for storage (you can see the rug I made in this photo):


Then you put the triangular cushion onto the platform:

It’s a bed!

See that little circle at the bow?  That is a door that opens into the space where we keep our anchor, rode, and chain.  There used to be a ghastly example of chintzy marine art there, but I took it down.

Here’s the bed all made up:

Cozy!  Don’t you think? We sleep with the hatch open so we can see the stars. In the morning we get up and look at this:

Well, that’s the tour, folks!  Let us hear from you, now.

Aly Chiman

Aly Chiman is a Blogger & Reporter at which covers a wide variety of topics from local news from digital world fashion and beauty . AlyChiTech covers the top notch content from the around the world covering a wide variety of topics. Aly is currently studying BS Mass Communication at University.