Sunday, February 26, 2012

A perfect day - Montserrat by helicopter

  Friday was a special day for me - as an early birthday present I got a helicopter tour of Montserrat from the captain. Ok, I might have twisted his arm a little bit :-) 

We got up earlier than usually, we needed to be at Caribbean Helicopters on Fort Road near Fort James at 9 in the morning. When I looked out of the window, my heart just sunk - the rain has just stopped and a big patch of dark clouds was passing over our heads toward west, but the next one - the bigger one - was already getting nearer from the east. By the time we were ready to leave the boat and dinghy ashore, the sky was grey and it started to rain heavily. We waited for 10 minutes, but then it was time to go, even if we could get wet. We put on our rain jackets and cover ourselves with tarp (sotorka in Slovene). By the time we reached shore, rain have stopped and we weren't to wet. And soon the sun came out.

After a very fast taxi ride we arrived at the destination. I learned that there will be two other passengers on the same ride and after they arrived we've been given the safety briefing.

This is me, waiting for departure, with safety jacket in the bag around my belt.

Soon we boarded the helicopter and I couldn't believe my luck - i got to sit next to the pilot. It is without a doubt the "best seat in house" - with great view in all directions. 


 We flew over Jolly harbor, then out over the sea.

While the weather in Antigua has improved, this was our first glimpse of Montserrat

We turned left towards the volcano, flying over the "rivers" of pyroclastic flow, that made the island bigger than it was prior to 1995.

We tried to approach the peak of the volcano from several sides, but there was a thick rainy cloud sitting on top of it, preventing us to have a look at the volcanic activity.

We flew over the Plymouth, the former capital of the island and saw the devastation that volcano made in 1995 and 1996.

This is what's left of the the church.

It must be heartbreaking to loose everything like this. There were  many homes destroyed and many left empty, because they are too close to volcano. It is going to be long time until people are allowed to live in these areas again. Volcano is still active, although relatively quiet since February 2010, but scientists predict the next bigger outburst in 2012.

 The landscape in exclusion zone still looks somehow beautiful, although wild and rugged .....


Soon it was time to fly back. All the way back I was looking down at the sea really hard but couldn't spot any whale or turtle.

Maybe I was a little disappointed that we didn't see volcano puffing and spitting stones, but I was enjoying the flight immensely, more than I thought I would. It is not like flying on the plane, not even on a small one. It's much more fun, you are right in the middle of it, almost touching the trees and the rocks, with great view all around and feeling every sharper turn or acceleration. It was like riding in a cabrio through the air, and there was a smile on my face all the time. (Tomaz was laughing at my comparison, he said i am obviously missing my car :-)

On our way back we flew over Fort James.

  And landed softly despite strong wind.

But the day was not over yet - we hitch-hiked to St.Johns, had a delicious lunch in Cafe BamBula and strolled through the town. We walked down to the vegetable market and seeing the buss station on the opposite side of street, idea came by itself - we took the bus back to Jolly Harbor. It was a fun ride, lady next to me was singing gospel songs aloud and the guy sitting next to captain has crossed Atlantic 10 times - on board of his 72 ft sailboat!

What an icredible day it was! And in the evening I was googling how to get a helicopter pilot license, was I too old, how much it costs etc. I'm afraid I might got hooked ....

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Making bread on a sailboat

 I have to admit - i like to eat. The food is important to me, so i try to improve my cooking skills all the time and enjoy good food in restaurants, especially if it's different and local. 

 Food on a sailing trip was one of my biggest concerns even before i started sailing  - it came from hearing the stories of crews eating pasta with canned tomato sauce each and every day of the week. In my mind it was obvious - how could you prepare anything more complicated in the tiny kitchen equipped with only two post and three spoons while boat was bouncing and rolling on waves? But no way would i eat pasta with tomato sauce for seven days in a row. So the first time i went sailing i made a plan - in the week before sailing i cooked food for three meals and froze it and for the rest of the days i chose restaurants on different Dalmatian islands (Croatia), where we would eat. Crew was a bit surprised about my plan, usually wind and weather determine where and how you sail and not the restaurants, but they went along. And afterwards agreed, that this week of sailing was one with the best food ever - we just didn't call it a sailing week any more but "traveling from one great restaurant to another, from one great meal to the next".

 With the time, as i spent more time sailing, i got more used to using the boat kitchen or galley, as it is properly called. Before first sailing vacation in the Caribbean, i decided it was time to try to start baking bread - it is annoying to have to leave some pretty anchorage just because you ran out of bread. I practiced at home a couple of times, trying to simplify the process to make it easy (i don't like long kneading) and "sea worthy". I took dry yeast with me - this was the only ingredient i was in doubt if it's available everywhere. And it worked perfectly.

So here is the "Original Caribbean bread recipe" - also works anywhere else in the world :-)

 The ingredients:
- 1 kg of plain white wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons of sugar
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- dry yeast - enough for 1 kg of flour (check the information on the sachets)
- 0,75 l of tepid water (not to hot or you'll kill the yeast)

Sunset is optional :-), but you'll also need a big bowl or pot, preferably with the lid, and an oven.

 Put the flour in the pot (on charter boats i used a biggest pasta pot), sprinkle salt and sugar on top and put the yeast in the center. Start pouring in the water while working the dough with the spoon - from the center outwards. I'm a person of habit, i always do it this way - it might also work if you just throw everything together and mix it well.

After you poured all the water in, it's time to get your hands dirty - well, perhaps not dirty, but definitely sticky.

Knead the  dough well for about a minute to mix the ingredients. It should be soft and wet, without the lumps of flour.

Cover the pot and leave the dough to rise for about an hour - if you are not in the warm climate, you might want to cover the pot with the blanket and maybe leave it to rise a bit longer.

After an hour it should look like this - stringy and soft and at least twice in size.

 I knead it once more to "deflate" it. And then let it rise for another hour.

Then pour it into a baking tray or form (this pyrex one was not most suitable, but it was the biggest available on charter boats) and put it in the oven. I preheat an oven for 10 minutes. I bake the bread for an hour on maximum gas in gas oven with heating only from below (at home i bake bread at 200 degrees Celsius also for about an hour).

And this is the final product. I leave it in the form for couple of minutes, then it's easier to get the bread out. Don't leave it in for to long, or you'll have to chisel the bread out - at least from this kind of form.

Bread will keep well for couple of days - if it lasts that long :-) For longer storage keep it in fridge, especially in warm climate.

 Through the time and more sailing trips i made some modifications to the basic recipe. Now i am using my own baking forms, nonstick of course, so i don't have to chisel and scrape bread out any more. I still leave the bread in the form for couple of minutes after taking it out of the oven, then i just turn the form and bread jumps out. Putting dough in two forms shortened the baking time to 45 minutes (time might depend on your oven, you'll have to experiment).


 And one very important improvement - i always wished to have fresh warm bread for breakfast but didn't want to  get up in the middle of the night to make it. So i make a dough in the evening, let it rise for the first time, then knead it again and then put it right in the forms. And then i put it in the fridge for over night. In the morning i take it out of the fridge, preheat the oven for 10 minutes and put the bread in. And bake it as usually for 45 minutes. It has a bit different taste, more like farm bread and captain likes it even better than original recipe.

I use the same dough for rolls or pizza. You can experiment with other types of flour, but if you take wholegrain or rye you will need to mix it with white flour and knead it for longer. Use your imagination.

All the photos for this post have been taken on sailboats, first nine in Seychelles in 2009 on a chartered boat and last two in Sardinia in 2010 on Heron. Thanks to Simon (  ) for contributing the photos from Seychelles.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Atlantic passage summary: provisioning

We made our provisioning in Lanzarote and it was a great place to shop, the big supermarkets have everything one would want. It was hard work, but Mirjana nad myself were happy that we got everything we planned for and on top for a very good price.

We planned for food and drinks for five persons with healthy appetite for four weeks plus additional 3 weeks of dry/canned food to be on a safe side. 

This is how part of our food and drink stock looked like.

Here is the list of things we bought and how much of it we used:

Bread, flour, rice, pasta:
  • 5 kg of fresh bread – it lasted us for 9 days until we ate all
  • several packages of toast with prolonged lifetime, Crostinis, Wassa bread and German rye bread with prolonged lifetime – we used cca one third of if
  • 20 kg of white flour – we used 6 kg
  • dry yeast for 20 kg of flour – we used it for 6 kg
  • 15 kg of different pasta – we ate 3 kg
  • 7 kg of long grained rice – we ate 2 kg

  • 14 boxes of non- or little-sweetened cereals – we ate 13 of them; they were very popular, especially on the days with rough seas, which was often
  • 4 boxes of chocolate cereals (also for snacking at night) – we ate 2

Sugar and sweets:
  • 3 kg brown sugar – we used 1 kg
  • 15 x 10dkg chocolates – we ate 12
  • 22 boxes of cookies – we ate 18
  • 1 big jar of Nutella spread – we ate it all

Fruit and vegetables:
  • 6 pieces of cabbage – it lasted the longest (till the end of passage) even outside the fridge, we ate 5 of them
  • 4 kg of green pepper – we ate all of them, they lasted for 2 and a half weeks outside the fridge
  • 3 kg of red peppers - we ate all of them, they lasted for 2 and a half weeks outside the fridge
  • 2 kg of carrots - we ate all of them, we hoped they would last even outside the fridge, but we had to move them in the fridge after one week and ate them shortly after that
  • 3 kg of tomatoes – we ate all, we kept them in fridge
  • 4 kg of onions – we ate almost all of it, we kept it outside the fridge
  • 1,5 kg of garlic – we ate half of it, we kept it outside the fridge
  • 1 kg of eggplants – we ate half of it, we kept it outside the fridge
  • 3 kg of bananas – they were green, when we bought them. So we ate everything after they got ripe - during the first couple of days of second week; they were very popular
  • 5 kg of apples – we bought Granny Smith and they stayed outside the fridge for two weeks – until we ate them all; they were very popular, but even if we had more, they wouldn't keep much longer outside the fridge
  • 15 kg of potatoes – we ate 11kg, they were kept in old Samsonite suitcase under the bench in cockpit – so they got the nickname Samsonite brand potatoes; they kept well, even after the passage, outside the fridge
  • 1,5 kg of pears – we ate them all in first couple of days; could have more of them
  • 3 kg of dried fruit – figs, apples, dates, various nuts – we ate them all; figs were very popular, could have more of them

Canned food and marmalade:
  • corned beef – 14 cans of cca 20 dkg each – we ate none
  • hot dogs – 3 cans – we ate none
  • tuna – 45 packs of 3 cans a 80g – we used 3 packs - thanks to all fresh fish we caught
  • sardines – 10 cans – we used 2
  • red beans – 10 cans – we ate 2
  • green beans – 4 cans – we used 3
  • tomato 20 cans – we ate 4
  • sweet peas – 8 small cans – we ate 4
  • sweet corn – 15 cans – we ate 7
  • Italian pesto for pasta – 4 small jars – we ate none
  • 10 small jars of sprouts, red beet, red pepper etc in vinegar – we ate about half of it
  • 5 cans of canned fruit (pineapple, tangerines, peaches) – we ate only one
  • 7 small jars of marmalade – we ate them all
  • 2 small jars of honey – we ate one
  • 18 small jars of different sorts of pate – we ate 15 of them
  • cca 3 kg of olives of different sorts – we ate 1,5 kg
Milk and co:
  • 40 x 1,5l milk (UHT)– we drank 30 of them
  • 3 packs of butter – we ate 2
  • 24 pcs of yoghurt – we ate them all
  • several pcs of cream and sour cream – we ate them all

Meat and co:
We planned to have meat for 15 meals. We froze it when still in Lanzarote. It kept frozen and well in our fridge.
  • 2,5 kg of chicken breasts
  • 2 kg of beef burgers
  • 7 kg of beef steaks
  • 3 kg of T-bone steaks
  • 2 kg of different types of grill sausages (not frozen)
We ate it all.

Things we thought would come handy – and they did:
  • 3 pcs of grilled chicken (vacuum sealed - they kept in fridge for 3 weeks) – we ate them all, they were delicious
  • 11 pcs of potato tortilla ( they kept in fridge for 3 weeks) – we ate them all, they were great just warmed up on a grill

Cheese and dried meats:
  • 5 kg of different types of cheese (all vacuum sealed) – we ate half, we kept it in a fridge after opened
  • 2 pieces of 2,5 kg of prosciutto vacuum sealed – we ate one piece, we kept it outside the fridge until we opened it, then we moved it to the fridge
  • 3 kg of different types of salami – we ate half, it kept well outside the fridge until we opened it, then we moved it to the fridge

 Grega was the "virtuoso on a mandolin" - he managed to cut prosciutto in perfect thin slices even in heavy seas - photo is of one of the "calmer" days

  • 15 bottles of wine (red and white) – we drank 12
  • 3 x 24 cans of beer – we drank 24 cans (the rest we drank in Antigua, and some more)
  • 4 bottles of champagne – we drank one at half of our way and one at arrival, the other two for Christmas and New Year already in Antigua

  • 3l of olive oil – we used one
  • 2 l of sunflower oil – we used one
  • 3 bottles of aioli mayonnaise – we ate one and a half
  • 2 bottles of ketchup – we ate one and a half
  • 2 bottles and one jar of mustard – we ate almost all
  • 3 bottles of balsamico vinegar – we used one
  • 4 jars of instant coffee – we used two and a half
  • 4 packs of toilet paper – we used 3
  • several rolls of paper towels – we used almost all
  • some dishwasher, sponges, washing detergent, toothpicks, freezing bags ....

I guess, that's more or less it – even if not, nothing big or essential is missing.

We planned well and we had everything we needed. None of the food was thrown away and nothing essential ran out. Food was good (at least to me - i was cooking mostly :-), there was a god variety and no one was hungry. We managed to cook lunch/dinner every day except once in a bad storm, although even on many other days many strong words were said when food and pots were flying around the kitchen and cooks were bumping into things in heavy seas. Our eating and drinking habits were strongly influenced by the weather.

Not all food was used since we sailed only for 22 days and half instead of 7 weeks. But I'm sure we were all happier to enjoy great 10 days holiday in Antigua than spending another 3 weeks on Atlantic eating pasta and tuna cans.
Not much pasta, rice and canned meat was used because we caught so many fish we were eating either fresh (frozen) meat or fish almost every day. 
A lot of cheese and dried meet was left over because we all preferred cereals for breakfast in the wild weather, which was very often – so most of the milk was used and almost all cereals. From previous sailing trip we expected more cheese and salamis to be used and we thought cereals would be mostly for additional 3 weeks. If we would sailed longer, we would ran out of cereals and milk in couple of days.

Some of the food we ate and drank before leaving the Lanzarote and some food and most drinks that were left from passage we ate and drank in the 10 days we were together in Antigua.

Guys were way to successful catching fish - this is our first dorado ...

... this is our second one .....

... there was a third one - smaller - a short while before this giant one ....

Afterwards we stopped fishing, we had to much fish to eat already. We ate all, they were all delicious and none of them died in vane.

Whenever the weather permitted, we had a barbeque. And ate from plates :-)

And we had a glass of wine after the meal.

Our favorite were T-bone steaks.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Holiday with Jozi - part 2

 After rainy morning in Anse de Columbier we sailed to Sint Maarten, to Dutch side, into Simpson lagoon. There is a bridge on the entrance that they open to let the ships in and out of the lagoon. Bridge doesn't look like much, so we were surprised about the size of sailboats and yachts that were waiting with us. And we were even more surprised at amount of big yachts in marinas in the lagoon.

Some of the boats really got in very slow, many "wearing" the fenders for protection. I guess with some of them there were only centimeters of space between the boat and the bridge.

 This is "on display" in the marinas in the bay - not quite as much as in Falmouth harbor, but close.

Another attraction of Simpson bay is the Princess Julianna airport with strip that runs from the beach in the west and almost to the water in the lagoon. So the planes are taking up above the masts of the anchored boats ....

... and those landing come to turn to the end of the strip right into the lagoon.

But best fun to watch the planes is from the beach in the Maho baai (bay). We dinghied there from Simpson bay (after spending three days in the lagoon, we felt like swimming again), and it was quite a ride to get there in not very calm water. Bay looked very pretty, but there was a lot of swell (big waves breaking near or at the beach, what usually results in dinghy getting turned upside down and people getting wet), so at first we thought of heading back to our boat. After a few minutes watching the swell we found the spot were it was the smallest, we made the plan that us girls jump out of the boat in 1m of water and immediately start pulling the boat on the sandy beach. And it worked perfectly!

There were a lot of people waiting for the early afternoon big planes, mostly for KLM's 747 that really flies low when landing and makes a lot of sand-blasting on take-off.

It was loud, hot and full of adrenalin, unfortunately i only got 747 landing on film and i can only post photos here. Sorry.

Next day early in the morning we sailed back towards Antigua. We were unable to sail directly, so we sailed between Statia and ST.Kitts towards Nevis. Sailing was again rough with several showers, not very nice. We stopped on the western side of the island and watching Nevis in the soft evening light made me feel sad that we couldn't stay there for couple of days. We spent the night there and sailed on to Antigua the next morning. Wind was straight on the nose, so this meant motoring and it was again a very rough ride with boat banging into the big waves, making only a slow progress.

We anchored in Jolly Harbor that afternoon and went through all the formalities on entering Antigua again. We were very happy to meet our friends Marion and Harald that evening. We got to know them in Mahon on Menorca, than we met again in Porto Colom on Majorca and were in touch ever since. We had a nice evening together.

Our original plan was to sail to Barbuda for a couple of days before Jozi's departure on saturday. But the weather didn't cooperate. Instead of "normal" 20 knots of easterly wind we suddenly got 30 knots of northeasterly, so we decided on making a tour around Antigua instead. We visited Falmouth harbour, had a walk to English harbor and a great meal at Trappas restaurant. Next we spent two nights on buoy in Nonsuch bay, which is one of my favourite spots in Antigua. It is a large bay on the northern side of the island, protected only by a reef from the Atlantic ocean. There's a lot of space, not many boats, and there's always a fresh breeze from the ocean.

This is a Bird island in the Nonsuch bay, on our previous visit we were on the buoy closest to it so i could watch the birds - pelicans, terns, fregatte birds, eagles etc.

 If you could see that far you would see Africa in this direction. And only reef protects the bay from big and wild Atlantic ocean.

The entrance to teh Nonsuch bay is not the easiest - one have to zig-zag between the reefs  and the water gets really shallow. There were victims of the reefs in the past ....

... and in present days.

This is not a boat, it just looks like one - it is called a Submarine rock.