Sewing tales…

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There is no shortage of handy types living on and around boats. But men who can captain boats, fix boats, fix motors, rewire electronics and sew too? Not as common, but they are out there!

Our new friend, Mike, a shy type who doesn’t like to have his picture taken, lives a few boats down from us. He is one of those Renaissance men who can turn their hand to most things boat-related. And sewing is a very useful skill to have on a boat.

You could say that he and Bob are cut from the same cloth, so to speak.

One day they got talking and Mike offered to help us make hatch covers out of sunbrella fabric for our boat.

It just so happened that we brought our special sewing machine — a Sailrite — with us from Canada. It is a beautiful piece of machinery, very heavy duty and designed to sew sails and other heavy fabric.

So Mike and Bob spent the better part of two days working on measuring, cutting and sewing and they had a great time doing it.  We set up the Sailrite in our cockpit and they went to town.  The outcome is above — two beautiful new hatch covers. (The round shiny things are snaps.)

At home Bob had used the Sailrite to do repairs on our bimini and our sails and he was looking forward to completing some projects on our new boat.

So he decided he would tackle a companionway cover. The one that came with the boat was ill-fitting and badly weathered. The cover provides protection from the weather and sun for the varnished hatch boards and plexiglass hatch over the summer while the boat is on the hard. The Florida sun takes a real toll on these materials. In addition, should a tropical storm come through, the cover should prevent the wind from forcing any water into the boat.

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It took a day to lay it out on the sunbrella fabric and cut it out. The wind can be a pain when doing this kind of work. After the fabric is cut out, all the seams are glued together with seam tape, the project is put into position and checked for fit and then brought back to the sewing machine and sewn. There’s five pounds of sand in the bottom to hold it down.

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What makes the Sailrite so unique is that it has a “walking foot,” which combined with the heavy steel construction,  allows the machine to grab big, heavy pieces of fabric, pulling them through the machine, in order to sew them together. These machines are a favorite among sailors, and are a part of the culture.

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Here’s the product of Bob’s efforts in place over the companionway. He really enjoyed the project and it’s comforting to know that the boat is better protected from any big storms that may hit this summer. (I will not mention the H word.)

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Baking on board…

I had been meaning to do some baking on board. There’s nothing quite like fresh, warm, homemade goodies, but it took St. Patrick’s Day to really get me going.

Being part Irish, we both love Irish food so we decided to have corned beef and cabbage and Irish soda bread on March 17.

I used a simple recipe that called for ingredients we had on hand and away I went. Well, I didn’t have buttermilk so I soured our 2% milk with some Key lime juice, which worked very well. (So I guess it’s Floridian Irish Soda Bread, really.)

I didn’t have a big enough mixing bowl so I used one of our pots.

The small propane oven on Windsong II couldn’t accommodate a turkey, but it did quite nicely for a loaf of bread.

It was rainy and a bit on the cold side that day so the corned beef cooking away (see corner left pic) and the bread baking created wonderful aromas and warmed up the cabin so it was nice and cosy.

When the bread came out of the oven, it was all we could do to let it cool before we slathered it with butter and scarfed it down with a dollop of our friend Deb’s homemade strawberry jam.

I’m going to have to do more baking!

Happy birthday to me and me and me!

sherry-times-3OK, so it was my birthday today and I thought I should have a birthday pic of me. But I hate having my picture taken — isn’t that so predictably photographer-like?

But then I thought if I can make it fun and different, maybe it’ll be OK.

So I tried out a technique I’ve been wanting to experiment with for a while now. It just involved setting up a tripod on the dock and getting the settings right, using a few test pics. Then I had Bob press the shutter a couple of times with me in each position. I layered them over each other in Photoshop and masked off the parts I didn’t need.

You could of course use a wireless remote control if you didn’t have a Bob, but I don’t have the first and I do have the second and he’s always up for an experiment.

The main challenge was the wind, since the boat needed to be in exactly the same position for each shot. But it wasn’t; it was being blown slightly by the wind. But it still worked fine.

So all three of me thank everyone for the lovely birthday wishes I received today. It is so kind of all of you to remember my birthday while I am away. I’m half way through my sixth decade (yikes), and so far it has really been a great one.

My dear mother was reminiscing in a long email this morning about the years in Singapore and my birth lo these many years ago. She loves reminding me how this famous author mistook me for a boy on the cruise back from Singapore when I was six months old. I guess I wasn’t dressed in pink — yeah Mom!

Joyce is still a force to be reckoned with at 85, captaining her Heart and Stroke canvas team for the 34th year and posting her first Facebook post today. I can’t reconcile her activity and energy with her real age so I think of her as about 70. Very self-serving, of course, since that would make me about 40!

Tomorrow I will be heading to West Palm Beach to see a photo exhibit by Annie Liebovitz who has mastered the celebrity portrait, of course. And Friday I’ve signed up for a photography seminar at the Jonathon Dickinson State Park with a couple of well-known Florida photographers. All together a great birthday week!

I’ll close with a quote from Bob. “I’m glad this photo isn’t real, Sherry. I don’t know what I’d do if there were three of you on the sailboat with me.” So I said: “Think about how easy docking would be…” and he sort of grinned and said, yeah, maybe it would be OK…

Linking with Sweet Shot Tuesdays.

The boat that swallows stuff…

Some of you have asked to see how we store all the stuff we need for living (and maintaining the boat) in such a small space.

Sailboats of this size (36 footers) are designed to be self-sufficient for a month or two at a time. That means being able to carry enough food, water and fuel for the time you’re away. Now, of course, you need lots of other stuff, like books [not too many!] and DVDs and camera equipment and computers and maybe a few tools [maybe a lot!], dog necessities and some clothes.

We have found Hunter sailboats to be designed for both for comfortable living and for optimal storage — every nook and cranny has a storage function.

Bob likes to say that this boat just “swallows up” our stuff. Our sailboat swallowed up the entire contents of our pick up truck easily, and we still have room!

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Starting with provisions…

The fridge and freezer combined hold more than a typical fridge/freezer combo in a small apartment. The freezer is actually quite amazing. We can’t keep it filled up here. The fridge I have no problem keeping filled up. But sometimes things drop to the bottom, never to be seen again!

Each of the six settees has a large storage compartment beneath it and storage behind the backrest. We use two of these for food storage. Here’s one. We found the perfect size of plastic container and bought a bunch to keep the dried and canned food organized.

under-settee settee

For supplies that we use everyday, there are two handy storage compartments in the galley on each side of the microwave. We keep our coffee, condiments, olive oil, salt, oatmeal, vinegars and such here.

Bowls, plates (small and large), mugs, cutlery, cooking utensils, measuring cups and spoons, dish towels and other miscellaneous galley items fit beautifully in the small bank of drawers beside the sink.

Well, that’s a start on storage. There are some other neat features that I will photograph and show you in another post. One of my very favorites is the great design for the kitchen garbage. (Never thought I’d get excited about that, but good design is good design and I appreciate that, no matter what it’s for.)

Galley recipes — or cooking in a small space…

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When you live aboard a 36-foot sailboat, you don’t have a huge amount of space for anything, let alone preparing meals. Our entire galley is about 45 square feet. And in that space is everything we need to cook and clean up, plus a lot of food. Additional dry and canned food is stowed away beneath the settees in the salon.

One thing I love about living on a sailboat is that you pare down to just what you really need and everything has to have a place to live, so you can find it quickly and easily. Maybe I’ll do another post on storage…(I just wish I could follow this practice at home!)

Anyway, it is amazing what you can do in a small galley. There’s certainly no need to eat canned beans every day.

The main challenge is not having many burners to cook on. We do have a propane stove with two burners and an oven but we mainly use this when we’re at anchor and don’t have power.

When we’re at the dock, we can use shore power and take advantage of our one-burner induction hot plate, which I just adore. (Our friend Jim suggested this might work for us and I am eternally grateful.)

Why? Because the stove only heats the pot, which reduces excess heat in the galley; it heats extremely fast; and the temperature of the pot is easily and precisely controlled.

We also have a small microwave and a BBQ — cooking tools that supplement the hot plate and propane stove.

Our freezer and refrigerator are top-loading which saves energy and prevents the food from falling out when you’re underway. They are huge for a boat this size; in fact, I can’t reach all the way to the bottom.

I enjoy finding and experimenting with recipes that are tasty, filling and healthy and can be put together easily with the tools we have — and where clean up is not too time-consuming.

This Thai Red Curry recipe was inspired by the meal our friend Jane made for us on her boat on St. Simons Island. Jane was the one who gave us the tip about rice noodles not needing to be cooked, just softened in hot water. This saves a burner and allows the noodles to be ready when the curry is.

You can adjust the heat of this recipe to your liking; we like a little heat so I add extra red curry paste.  This has turned out to be one of our favorite recipes for the boat. It meets all our criteria and adds some variety to our diet.

Do you have any reliable one-pot meals that could be adapted for boat use? If so, I’d love to hear from you…

Thai Red Chicken Curry

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Celery, onions and red pepper or other preferred veggies, chopped to make 2 cups
  • 1 tablespoon very finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • I was going to add fresh pineapple to the recipe but I forgot…

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk the coconut milk with the curry paste and fish sauce until combined. Heat a large skillet until very hot. Add 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil and heat until just smoking. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add it to the skillet in a single layer. Cook over high heat, turning once, until the chicken is browned but not cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and pour off the fat in the skillet. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to the skillet. Add the veggies and stir-fry over high heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ginger and garlic, stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the chicken, red curry mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

It’s the simple things…

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Deb’s raspberry, red current, gooseberry jam for breakfast.

There is nothing so comforting as bringing a little bit of home along with you when you’re living on a sailboat.

We’re lucky to have an uber-talented jam and jelly-making friend back home who gives us a care package of her delicious treats every Christmas. We hold back on opening them until we get to the boat.

The first day we open one of her jewel-coloured bottles is a big event. Today was inaugurated with her astounding raspberry, red current and gooseberry mix. The sweet, tart flavours fairly burst in our mouths.

With a steaming cup of coffee and a toasted english muffin, what a superb way to start the day. Thanks, Deb!