Friday, March 12, 2010

The Truly Essential Crew

On many boats the four legged crew rule. It is no exception on our boat. Kita has worked out well as a boat dog, too well.

She is not paricular who's boat she is on. She is often an unwelcome guest on the boats of others. I think it is cute when she goes below on my neighbours boat to wake up their kids. They don't.
I don't see her to scold her when she down below on my friends boat checking out how the seafood salad is coming along.

She has her friends and feels free to go visiting when she pleases. At home, she prefers walking on boats, so she merely jumps from boat to boat, foregoing the docks when possible.

Travelling with the four legged crew, (friends cruise with their cat Lucky), requires some safety measures, just as travelling with children. The dog life jacket works in most cases. Not all dogs can swim. Those that can are unable to make great distances in rough water should they go overboard. We have had some boaters with bad luck visiting our harbour. A dog is a difficult thing to spot in the dark or heavy seas.

I keep a leash on Kita while at sea. She has fallen off the dock and has no interest in jumping in. On the boat, she perfers the cockpit floor, which suits me just fine. A large bone and she is set for a lake crossing. I do not put on her life jacket on unless I am sailing alone, or the weather is really rough. It restricts her comfort level and she tends to not want to lie down when she wears it.

I attempted sailing with one of the cats. He was almost enjoying it until we tacked. The noise of the rigging and the shift of the boat ended that in a hurry. He was scared to go many places down below, including the only suitable place I could find for a litter box. I decided the cat could stay home. I think the best time for a cat's sailing lesson might be when it is a kitten.

Dogs are not welcome everywhere. Unless you have an easily portable pooch, Toronto Island's Royal Canadian Yacht Club is not a practical destination for you. The Oakville Club has a no dog rule, but is a little more lax in enforcing it if your dog is fairly well behaved. Most clubs, however, are fairly dog freindly as long as you stoop-and-scoop and keep the animal out of the clubhouse.

Kita has so many dog friends to hang with when crusing. She loves the water, digging in it, laying in it and even sometimes swimming. She would rather be with be with me than home. She senses or smells land onboard, before we can see it sometimes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Essential Equipment

I think I like sailing because of the challenge of the unknown. You never really know until you’re on your way what the trip is going to be like. The wind and the waves are always different and never what the weather forecast said. They are never what the same at the end of a trip as they are at the start.

Provisioning and cooking on the boat offers its challenges. It does save us money, but I think I am more into the challenge of being somewhat self-sufficient. That being said, I pack so much stuff that should never be seen on a little boat. My list of standard equipment includes an electric frying pan, a toaster oven, a barbeque wok, an electric kettle and a large electric coffee maker for breakfast guests. I also carry a portable barbeque and a butane stove; a lot of crap on a little boat, I admit. I am assured no matter what the weather; I can cook a good meal, inside the boat or on shore.

I am often criticized for slowing my would-be fast boat down or trying to make my boat into a cottage. Of course many of those comments are from other cruisers, who are on my boat, drinking my coffee, hinting for me to make them breakfast because they didn`t realize the clubhouse was not open.

Monday, March 1, 2010

In Praise of the Little Boat

I love my boats. I have had the Mirage 24 for 10 years, but as half of a working couple, I can only cruise on week-ends and holidays. As cruise director in our yacht club, I cruise regularly in large groups. I am used to having one of the smallest boats in the fleet.

I do believe cruising on the wee boat has its challenges. Over the years, however, there have been so many times I have been grateful for my small boat.
As summer nears I cannot help but think of them.

The advantages:
• Everything on a small boat is cheaper, (and I mean everything from keel bolts to winches, sails to docks.)
• I have yet to be turned away from a destination because they have no room; there is always room to stick the wee boat for the night. I may not always get the best slip, but any port in a storm.
• More often than not I get a convenient slip. Most clubs were built some time ago, when all boats were smaller. As a result the slips for small boats are the ones closer to the club house (meaning closer to the restaurant, the bar, the toilets, the showers, the swimming pool and the laundry.)
• There is no room or need for complicated systems on a small boat, which means all systems are fixable. (Toilet new porta-potty, outboard engine breaks...switch for dirt in the gas tank...switch it, and I can replace any wiring myself.) There is no need for expensive marine mechanics and I am never stuck on the dock due to mechanical problems.
• Small boats can be easily sailed single handed. This allows crew to work in shifts on long trips, one sleeps while one sails. I can go by myself when crew is not available.
• A smaller boat means less bottom to paint, less deck to scrub and less mast to climb, (not my specialty.)

What other fans of small boats say:

"Life is too short not to leave when you are ready. make the boat work for you rather than working for the boat."

"I am content and happy... things rarely break here, mostly simple maintenance, most complicated piece of plumbing is a hand pump."

"Smaller boats are cheaper. There are harbors and anchorages that will be more accessible in a small boat. You won't need a full crew every time you want to go for a sail."

"The money we didn't spend on a bigger boat means that we have money left over to have a good time in the places we get to. After all, seeing the world is the goal and it takes a bit of money to do unless you want to limit yourself to seeing places you can walk to from wherever you are anchored."

"If your major priority is to get out there and cruise, then going with a smaller boat, that has simpler systems and fewer amenities is the way to go. If you need to have all the comforts of a shore-based life and want to have the big queen size berth, the 42" LCD tv, with DVD, hot and cold pressure water, 110 VAC available at all times, then you won't be happy."

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Just Chill'n

The fridge just isn't an option on most small boats.

You can't be a goumet if you start with water logged, squished food that has been you dug out from the cooler or icebox. Travelling with a cooler or two is a must on most small boats, even if it is equipped with some icebox. Keeping your food resembling the stuff you took out of the refridgerator takes some practice.

The zip lock baggie is the greatest invention ever made, not only for packing the cooler but for a multitude of uses on a boat. I carry at least three different sizes on boat.

In my early days, I bought a nifty set of three nesting round plastic containers with lids. I was so proud of myself, thinking they would be so handy to stop food from getting smushed and they would all pack away so nicely when the food was gone.  Like a bad carpenter, I forgot to measure twice, or even once. The largest of the three bowls would not fit in any of my coolers. (Yes, I have many.) Round containers meant much of the space in the rectangular cooler was made useless. Worst of all, none of the lids were as waterproof as advertised. My other half does not view green salad dressed in swampy cooler water as a delicacy.

Great ice bags can be made out of ingredients frozen in baggies. One of my friends who fears of rough weather always travels with a one-pot dish frozen in a baggie. Another buys the wine box, takes the plastic bag out of the box and lays it in the freezer. You pick your priorities, but when you're ready to go take the bag out of the freezer and put it on top in the cooler, works much better than having just water melt.

Boeuf Bourguignon
  • This is definatley a make at home dish and always tastes better the next day.
  • Works well if frozen in meal size portions in ziplock bags. Good for a big crowd.
  • Great for rough or raining days when asking the cook to do anything more that heating one pot is likely to result in a mutiny.
1/4 pound thick-sliced bacon
3 pounds boneless beef chuck
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound onions, chopped
1 Stack of celery, sliced thin
4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup brandy
1 tablespoon parsley
2 teasppoons of dried thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 cloves
2 onions, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 (750-ml) bottle dry red wine (supposed to be a Burgundy, but I improvise.)
1 pound mushrooms, quartered if large

Cook bacon in boiling salted water 3 minutes, then drain.

Pat beef dry and season with salt and pepper. In a large bowl toss the beef with the flour to coat.

Heat 1‚ tablespoons oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in a wide 6- to 8-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown beef well on all sides in 2 or 3 batches, without crowding, adding remaining ‚ tablespoon oil as needed. Transfer to a bowl.

Pour off any excess oil from pot, then add brandy to pot. Deglaze by boiling over high heat 1 minute, stirring and scraping up brown bits, then pour over beef.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in cleaned pot over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté bacon, stirring, 2 minutes. Add chopped onions, garlic, and celery, then sauté, stirring, until onions are pale golden, about 5 minutes. Add wine, meat with juices, parsley, thyme, bay leaves, and cloves simmer gently, partially covered, until meat is tender, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. (Or cook in a slow cooker for 8 - 10 hours.)

While meat simmers, blanch boiling onions in boiling salted water 1 minute and drain in a colander. Rinse under cold running water, then peel.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then saut
 boiling onions, stirring occasionally, until browned in patches. Season with salt and pepper. Add 2 cups water (1 1/2 cups if using pearl onions), then simmer, partially covered, until onions are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to a glaze, 5 to 10 minutes.

Heat remaining tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then saut
 mushrooms, stirring, until golden brown and any liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir mushrooms into stew and cook 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Guest Advice - Cruising with Children - Allison Pressley

Being new to the whole sailing lifestyle, I had no idea of what to expect or a through grasp of how we were ever going to be able to cruise with two young Children. Fortunately, my husband Dave has an extensive background sailing. As a young child with his sister and his parents and a dog on a 24’ shark they sailed to the Thousand Islands for a week’s vacation. I couldn’t even fathom how that was even possible! Our boat is 30’ and at times we are all tripping over one another. The most important tips that will be paramount when sailing SAFELY with young children aboard.


Before we even arrive in Port Dalhousie and the boat leaves its berth we routinely, repeatedly go over what behaviors are accepted and what are not. Therefore they know what to expect ahead of time and there are no surprises.
• Life Jackets are always to be worn before they even open the gate to the dock and they can not to be taken off unless safely on land and not near any water source.
• There is no running or horseplay on metal docks as well as on or near our boat or any of the other member’ s boat.
• We’ve taught them the appropriate way to board a boat. (They have each not listened and they have fallen between the boat and dock. Needless to say it only happened that one time...a valuable lesson learned the hard way!)
• Not to get in the way or attempt to help a boat dock -- they are too young and could get seriously injured.

Out on the water on a beautiful sunny breezy warm day no one ever wants to think of things going terribly wrong. But we do! Like the fire drills we practice at home, out on the water we practice “Emergency Drills” so that they know what to do when a real emergency arises!
• To remain calm -- panicking or creating hysteria helps nothing.
• We all have positions and very important Jobs to do. Mom steers the boat, Alyssa immediately throws the life ring, the man overboard pole goes into the water with moms help. Kaitlyn never takes her eyes off her Dad and keeps her finger on him. Alyssa helps out where ever needed.
• We’ve taught them how to use the VHF, when to use it and that it is not a toy, but like using 911 but only out on the water.

In all of our drills it is usually the most experienced on the boat who goes overboard, so that the less knowledgeable will gain the necessary skills to be able to react swiftly in an emergency and for it to have a favourable outcome.

In unfavourable weather conditions, the girls have to go down below, no matter how seasick they feel or become. Before we leave shore we make sure we have an adequate supply of gravol.

During the winter months the girls take swimming lessons at Brock University, where they have learned how to swim with a life jacket and many other very important skills, which they will be able to incorporate if they are ever thrown into an emergency situation out on the water.

Cruising with Alyssa and Kaitlyn has been such a wonderful experience. It IS possible to cruise with young children. Safety is paramount and cannot be taken lightly. If all the appropriate safeguards are in place your destinations won’t be limited by your family but rather on your time it takes to explore them all.

Monday, February 1, 2010

First Things First - The Essential Coffee

The golden rule on a small boat is that you never bring anything onboard that cannot do two jobs. Coffee is an essential for me. I am talking about real coffee, instant doesn’t cut it. How instant coffee survives on the market is an entirely different conversation. Instant coffee is not on my boat and never will be.

I attempted to be a coffee snob, bringing the coffee grinder and whole beans on board. I reasoned that the coffee grinder could be used to grind whole spices, as a second chore. I never brought the whole spices on board. The coffee grinder was loud. My desire to be a coffee conessuer where not always appreciated by the couple on the next boat at 7 am. I finally relented, and returned the coffee grinder to the kitchen at home.

I have gone through a number of brewing methods. A friend of mine has an electric perculater, circa 1950. To me it always looks a little electrically unsafe and does seem to overload the breaker on the shore power on far too many occasions. The newer electric perculators all seemed too big for my needs. A stove top model meant giving up a burner on the stove. Since I had no stove, that was an easy choice not to make.

That left the drip filter. I bought the individual cone and made one cup at a time, illiminating the need for a separate coffee pot. That had its downsides. The process was slow. I made a cup and gave it to my partner Jeff. Then I would make mine. By the time my coffee was made and I felt ready to get ready to make breakfast, Jeff was looking for his second cup. Keeping coffee filters on board was problematic. They always seemed to get wet, crunched or lost. On the plus side, all you needed was an electric kettle. The electric kettle could make teas, coffee, cup a soup and warm dishwater. Yes, the electric kettle had no trouble justifying its place onboard.

Eventually I settled on the French press. The pot is small enough to be stored easily, it makes 3 boat sized cups at time and only requires the kettle. The resulting coffee is superior in taste to any other method, in my humble opinion. The down side of the French press was everyone else likes it, too. I had to replace my French press twice. I lent it to other boaters and instead of returning it they gave me money to replace mine. They would not give me my French press back. I must be honest, I do now, also carry a regular 12 cup coffee maker on board. There is a reason for that, but that story belongs in a different post.
Jamaican Coffee - This will not help you navigate to Jamaica, but will keep you warm until you get there!
1 ounce Jamacian dark rum                                
1 ounce Tia Maria
3/4 cup hot strong coffee 
Whipped cream fro topping                                                      

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"Comes with a fully-equipped galley"

Our boat came equipped with what was supposed to be a galley. I have come to the conclusion that boat designers don't ever eat, cook or sleep on a boat. Our galley was under the main hatchway to the cabin, the kitchen counter actually forms the first step into the cabin. There is nothing like prepping dinner on the same surface that your duck-poop laden shoes just stepped on.

The supplied alcohol stove, slid out to a position right in front of the main hatch. Entering and exiting the boat entailed an Olympic long jump if dinner was underway. I never perfected that long jump. It only took one flying frying pan full of half cooked dinner and a good burn to convince me to remove the alcohol stove to the basement. I am a quick learner.

The icebox was under the alcohol stove. For a small boat it had a fair capacity of about two cubic feet. It blocked access to about 12 cubic feet of good storage, and it drained into the cabin. One whiff of a cabin filled with "eau de rotting spilt milk" resulted in the icebox joining the alcohol stove in the basement.

The sink was under the hatchway but posed no serious problem. It was far too shallow to allow me to hurt myself if I stepped in it by error. It held spare change and the nuts, bolts and screws that always seemed to be left over from every project. The drain fit a dime perfectly. The supplied water pump overshot the sink, which wasn't really a bad thing. I washed the counter top far more than I washed any dishes in that sink.

So after, I removed all the factory installed galley equipment, I needed to outfit the boat with things I could actually use. I bought and re-bought, as I figured out what worked and what did not.