Friday, December 27, 2013

Back to Work

The day after the waterspout, we we did head over to Riverheads. In June, Bryce interviewed for a short term job in Papua New Guinea. He wasn’t thrilled with the idea of going to back to work but it was easier to think about doing it now and giving us a bit more of a financial cushion, then doing it in a year or two when we were actually out there. So this was six months ago and we had been living in limbo waiting for the final, official approval for the job to go ahead. It finally came this week. We thought we would have enough time to sail the boat back down to Brisbane or the Sunshine Coast so got a delivery of groceries from Woolies to make the trip down. Turns out they expected him on a plane out on Monday (this was Wednesday), which would’ve been doable but stressful. After some research and failed plans, we decided to leave me and the boat on a mooring in Maryborough. In addition to the groceries, which we had delivered to the “Boat Ramp, Riverheads,” we had a courier pick up Bryce’s passport to take it to the PNG High Commission in Brisbane to have a visa put in it. A very handy boat ramp. We also had an unimpressive experience with the local doctor. He basically refused everything we asked for and needed and was rude and hurried us despite the fact that we had booked two appointments. The chemist at “La Farmacia de Riverheads” (Seriously!), on the other hand, was lovely. Francisco is from Chile and is a sailor and was so helpful to us. We would highly recommend visiting him if needed. We had decided to spend a few days back over at the resort before taking the boat to Maryborough. The scripts that Francisco wasn’t able to fill on the spot, he ordered and sent over the resort the next day on the ferry for us to pick up at reception. A great service! 
We headed back to Resort and spent two days relaxing in and by the pool before taking the boat 20 miles up the Mary River to Maryborough. We started out with the intention to sail the trip but it started raining and we were worried about depths and debris that is commonly floating in the river and after the first tack at a shallow depth, quickly abandoned and motored up. It was beautiful trip with only a few stressful points. At one point the depth gauge read that we should’ve been on the bottom but it very quickly went back up again so we were safe. When we got there, we had to to pull up a mooring ball. We had never done this before on Aquabat and it wasn’t the graceful execution ever but we did it. We ended up moving to a mooring closer to the Marina and it went much more smoothly that time. We wanted to run the mooring line over our bow roller so it was a bit of a project to figure out what to do with our anchor. We ended up securing it to the bow pulpit with it resting on the toerail. 
Leaving the boat in Maryborough was a great short term solution, because unfortunately they have flooded at least once in January for the last five years. In last years flood, the water was 10 meters up, so we knew we would need to move the boat when Bryce was back at Christmas. All the boats leave the river but the marina owners stay there on their Catamaran and tie up to the trees once the water get too high as they have to tie the pontoons to the pilings at that point as well. 
I decided to accompany Bryce on his travel down to Brisbane and stay there for a week before heading back up to the boat. Having not done much train travel in the past, Bryce and I really enjoyed the train ride down to Brisbane. It’s a lovely way to travel. Due to visa delays, we had a couple of extra days getting Bryce ready to go and then he was off. The way his contract is structured he is working for three weeks and then coming home for two weeks over Christmas and then is back to finish up in PNG for three months. 

Bryce's job is based in Port Moresby and he will be completing a workforce planning activity for the Village Courts and Land Mediation Secretariat.  Basically, they provide centralised monitoring of grass-roots justice functions.  In essence, these semi-formal justice functions act as a "pressure-release valve" for disputes; ideally resolving them before they escalate into larger acts involving retribution and/or formal judicial processes.  They are undergoing substantial changes (including targets to triple the number of Village Courts across the country) and need to figure out how to respond to that and Bryce is there to help them plan what to do with their workforce. So that's what he's doing...

Despite my initial plans to go back to the boat, after a busy week of babysitting (aka exclusive time with) nieces and nephews, spending time with grownup family and friends and running errands, I got 'comfortable' and decided to spend the remaining two weeks Bryce was gone in Brisbane. I also opened a large can of worms when I took it upon myself to organize Bryce’s mum's craft room (with her blessing). Well, one thing led to another and it kind of became the whole house. I really enjoy cleaning and organizing and living in a small space has definitely fueled the desire to have everything organized and neat. I can't seem to help myself! Organising other people’s spaces and stuff is especially fun and I still have the craft room left to do after Christmas. 

Bryce made it back from PNG and we headed back up to the boat for a couple of day before heading back to Brisbane to spend Christmas with his family. This is a very different Christmas than I am used to but no less wonderful. For starters, despite growing up in Australia, after spending the majority of my christmas’ in Madison, Christmas for me is synonymous with snow (if we are lucky) and being cold and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Part of our family tradition is that we don’t leave the house on Christmas day. Our christmas is generally a very quiet and relaxed event with only immediate family plus three for lunch. In contrast, Christmas with Bryce’s family is loud and chaotic, in a good way, with 24 people present for lunch and varying numbers throughout the day. Having excited little kids around definitely contributes to the chaos with presents flying every which way and excited yells before they toss the present aside and tear into the next one. There was always a willing volunteer to help unwrap my presents. We were able to skype with my family for a while on our Christmas as well as the next day, for their christmas. It was a lovely day. We are mindful of the fact that next christmas (fingers crossed) we will be spending on the boat somewhere exotic! On Boxing day, Bryce and I headed back up to the boat to have some fun.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Boats Work in Mysterious Ways

Back in June, we noticed that a tiny bronze piece from one of cupboard latches had broken off. Since we have an aluminum boat, this was caused a lot of concern as we constantly worry about electrolysis. If a bronze piece were to sit undiscovered in our bilge, it would gradually eat through the hull and cause major problems for us. We searched for it everywhere and could not find it. Instead of driving ourselves crazy, we had to eventually settle on the fact that we couldn't find it and hope that it had somehow fell off into a bag or something and magically worked it’s way off the boat.

Fast forward to August when we were driving Dingbat back from the Library and Bryce randomly found this small tiny piece in the bottom of the dinghy. We were estatic. Thinking that now that we had the piece, I could repair the latch, I put the piece in a “safe” place for when I could get around to it. Of course, I forgot where that "safe place" was and we could only go back to living with the uncertainty of it being in the bilge somewhere. 
A couple of weeks ago, we were going through some of our spares and in a ziplock bag marked “random,’ we again found this tiny little piece. We do need to replace all of these latches at some point soon, so to avoid any future confusion we both watched as I ceremoniously dropped it overboard.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Midge Hell

Photo credit: CDC PHIL
While we were anchored at River Heads, we were attacked by sand flies. Sand flies aka midges or no-see-ums in other parts of the world, live in mud flats and mangroves, their reproductive cycle is linked to the moon and the tides and love the absence of wind. This was this exact situation we were in: mud flats & mangroves, full moon and absolutely zero wind. The day that was the worst we opened up the hatches and it was like the midgees were all waiting to be invited in. We made a tent out of a sheet and spent the morning hiding out. To no avail as I got completely devoured.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Middle Percy Island

No, we didn't actually make it this far north. We were recently sent this photo from our friends Paul and Annie on S/V Dema. They took this picture for us while visiting the Percy Islands, which are Southeast of Mackay. 

We are definitely the only Aquabat originally out of Byron Bay so this is something for our history books! We had vaguely heard of a shack in the Percy Islands where visiting yachties can leave momentos of their visit. This was it. Not knowing much about the shack or the island, we did some research and the island actually has quite an interesting story. I would never be able to do the story justice in summary so click here to read the full story as it was originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald. 

Hopefully someday we will be able to notch some more years onto the tally.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Black Bean Sweet Potato Spring Rolls

You may remember the story of our hilarious provisioning trip when we arrived at River Heads for the very first time. While we were looking around the very small and overpriced shop, I was trying to find something fun for a treat. The best I could come up with was Spring Roll Wrappers. 

Provisioning results.
Once a very long time ago, I had actually tried to use spring roll wrappers. Turns out in this instance, what I was actually trying to make was rice paper rolls, I just didn't know it at the time and so upon steaming them, the wrappers disintegrated and they became a sloppy mess. In my defense, this was so long ago that googling it wouldn't have been a thought. I was determined to succeed this time. We did try some traditional spring rolls with a cabbage filling but we fell in love with this black bean sweet potato filling. This would also be an awesome filling for quesadillas as well. Unlike spring roll wrappers, tortillas don't need to be refrigerated and will keep indefinitely which makes them more desirable on board. You can also relatively easily make your own tortillas. The spring roll wrappers do keep easily in the fridge though. These spring rolls are really easy to make as I had cooked the beans and sweet potato for something else and intentionally made extra for these, so it was just a matter of mixing everything together.

I tend to overstuff everything, rice paper rolls, tacos, burritos, you name it so these were no different. This just made them a little more tricky to roll but rolling them is essentially the same as a burrito. See notes below about how I roll them. We tried baking them in the oven but this took longer and we ultimately preferred the texture of pan frying them. These topped with some creamy chipotle sauce and we were in heaven.

Black Bean Sweet Potato Spring Rolls

2 c sweet potato; cubed & cooked
1 1/2 c black beans; cooked, drained & rinsed
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground chili
Salt, to taste
8 spring roll wrappers
Oil, for pan frying
Creamy Chipotle Sauce
Cilantro/Coriander, to garnish

1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl.
2. Roll spring rolls. (See notes below)
3. Coat hot pan lightly with oil. Cook spring rolls on both sides until crispy ~ 3-5 min each side.
4. Serve with Creamy Chipotle Sauce and Coriander, and Enjoy!

To roll Spring Rolls:
- Remember: I am no expert at this, and I'm sure there are better, more traditional ways to do it but this is how I did it.
- Make sure you keep the wraps from drying out. Take out the quantity of wraps that you are going to use and put the unused ones back in the fridge right away. Cover the ones to be used with a damp cloth or paper towel. 
- Place one wrapper out diagonally in front of you. Place a couple of spoonfuls of mix in the middle of the wrapper. Tuck the corner closest to you over and under the filling. Tuck in the two edges and roll away from you, keeping the edges tucked in, until the roll is complete.
- Keep a small bowl of water nearby. Use it to wet your fingers to dampen the wrapper in order to seal the roll.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Wizard of Oz: Ocean Edition

As I mentioned in the last post, we were currently at the time of the month with lowest low tides, this also meant that we had the highest highs! When we had arrived at Kingfisher Bay, it was high tide and we were now trying to leave at the low. We had a LONG way to drag Dingbat, which with her outboard and jugs full of water, it not a light boat. So we set at it. We could see the predicted storms across the bay and wanted to get back to Aquabat before they got over to us. As we were dragging Dingbat down to the water, both Bryce and I noticed a weird finger-like cloud pointing out of the sky. We both had our thoughts as to what it could be but just dismissed it as weird because things like that are so rare and would never happen here! This was a good lesson/reminder to trust our instincts. When we finally got down to the water, we were dragging the boat through knee high mug. When we got out far enough, I got in and Bryce tried to drag us a little bit further before he got in too. With both of us in the boat, we were essentially sitting in the mud. Bryce started to “row” us out through the mud and it was at this point that I noticed that the waterspout had formed. 
I pointed it out to Bryce and he looked up, noted it and kept rowing with a bit more urgency, determined to get us out of the mud. It was about this time that we could here yells coming from people up at the Beach Hut, making sure that we knew that there was a waterspout behind us. Thanks guys, we were well aware! I was fighting the urge to dig out our phone so that I could take pictures! I let Bryce go on rowing for as long I could (I think it was minutes, Bryce says it was 5 seconds) before I firmly declared that we needed to get out of there. Bryce nodded and said “You’re from the Midwest. What do we do?” Leaning on all my tornado drill experience, I decided we just needed to get out of the water. We set off with Dingbat, with me at the front and Bryce at the back, dragging her to tie her off under the jetty. When I got there, I looked back and Bryce was basically where I left him. Apparently, I just took off and he could’t keep up but wasn’t about to stop me. Superwoman here! We tied her off and went up to the beach hut to watch. On the way up there, I was so busy watching the waterspout behind me that I ran into one of the mollusk covered jetty pilings and cut up my foot a bit (It’s all healed now). Once we got up there, Bryce asked around and was able to find Carolyn and Greg who had taken these awesome photos of the waterspout and were willing to share them with us! Bryce pointed out that in a strange or perhaps not so strange coincidence, earlier in the day I had commented that the sky had an eerie yellowish tinge like that which precedes a tornado.
We got outta there and so did the ferry.
The spout didn’t last long and we finally felt it safe to head back to the boat. We walked back down under the jetty and were back to dragging Dingbat to the water. The second Bryce stepped out from under the jetty, the hair on his head all stood on end. His hair is quite long lately so this was a sight. I stepped out and my hair did the same (though mine was tied back so not as cool). The thunderstorms hadn’t started yet over here but there was clearly electricity in the air. After waiting and trying to leave multiple times, we decided to stay and wait out the storms. They were quite spectacular to watch and we eventually made it back to Aquabat around 5pm when there was a break in the storms. We hadn’t taken lunch or any money so we were pretty hungry by the time we made it back. 
It was eerie...
With the afternoon gone, we decided to stay where we were for the night! There is a ferry that makes 6-8 trips a day from Riverheads to the resort. In the middle of the storm that night, I poked my head up for a look and saw what looked like a roadtrain (the ferry) barreling down upon us, headlights glaring. This was obviously amplified by the dark and rain and other weather and the ferry turned into the dock with plenty of space to clear us, but I was momentarily terrified none the less. 

Bryce saysThat was an amazing day. I'll never forget us slogging through the mud with dingbat, giving her a haul and she'd move a couple of feet (SLURP and she suctioned out of the mud)... give another haul for another couple of feet... repeat ad nauseum. Give Alissa a waterspout chasing her down and she took off (dragging the dinghy by herself) so damn fast I couldn't keep up with her, even without being burdened by the dinghy! I was supposed to be pushing, but she just took off! It was quite an effort.

We learned from our experience and the next day when we went ashore (at high tide), Bryce waded Dingbat out as far as he could to tie her to one of the jetty pylons so that when we left later, we wouldn't have as far to drag her. As he was swimming back in through the beautiful, crystal clear waters, a big stingray zoomed underneath him. 

Oh the adventures we have!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Northern Sandy Straights

So when I said we headed off out into the world... We didn't go far. After a week of dawn to dusk manual labour, we were exhausted and the boat was a mess. We anchored just outside the harbor in the protection of Round Island and were soon asleep. 
We had been warned about dragging our anchor in this particular location and we did drag a small amount when we set the anchor but that’s why we set it! Otherwise no problems. We woke early the next morning eager to get back on our way and were able to restore order to the boat fairly quickly. We were distracted only a little bit by a preview for the final round of the Australian Offshore Superboat Championship in Torquay that weekend. 

We had seen the boats preparing for it all week right next to the boat yard so it was pretty cool to see them in action. Our pictures really don't do it justice but it was pretty incredible! Ignoring the fact that this is clearly a promotional thing, this video is the best I could find that really shows how cool it actually was!

And then we were off, headed to Sandy Point. On our way, we were surrounded by flocks of birds feeding. Bryce hasn’t had much luck fishing so this seemed almost too good to be true. We turned off the engine and and just drifted for awhile with the fish and birds, trying our luck. We didn’t catch anything. 

This week at Sandy point was our “vacation.” We still did little things around the boat as it never completely stops but it was break after the intensity of the week prior. We had a lovely week, exploring Fraser island, walking on the beach, crabbing, fishing, reading and just overall relaxing. We found these interesting sand piles on the dune that was only exposed at low tide. We hypothesized that they were from some sort of crab.  There was so many jelly fish constantly washed up on the beach and a rather nasty smell coming from one end of it. There were a couple of spectacular storms that came up over the Harvey Bay area that we had a great view of. 

Our time there also fell during the lowest tides of the month. This was only a problem when during one windy and stormy night, we started to bump the bottom at the low tide. We solved this for the short term by pulling in a tiny bit of our anchor chain until we got some of our water back and then letting it back out again. We didn't get much sleep... The next day we moved over into some deeper water but as the tides continued to get shallower and shallowed, continued to pull in some chain at each low, just in case. 

We left Sandy Point early one morning to head back back to Riverheads to resupply and run some errands before starting our journey south again. The tide was strong and we were early so instead of going against the tide, we decided to stop and spend the day at Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island before crossing over to Riverheads with the tide helping us across later that afternoon. The resort has wonderful with free facilities for day visitors that include a pool, restaurant and showers. There are two more pools and more restaurants up at the actual resort and we were “instructed” by some locals to definitely head up there and check them out. We were luckily able to join in on a tour of the local bush tucker. We learned all about the Butchalla people and the plants that they ate and used in their daily life. One of the customs we were told about was a coming of age tradition for the young girls in the tribe. In order to become a woman, they had to successfully rinse clean a poisonous plant and turn it into a meal that they had to feed to the older women in their family. If they were successful, noone was poisoned. If they failed, someone died. Nothing like a little pressure! After a swim and a shower, it was time to head back to the boat and this is where things got really interesting!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

On the hard... again!

So, we are well aware that this is now our third time on the hard this year. To help ourselves feel better about it, we rationalise that coming out in April was routine maintenance. Coming out in June was to repair some damages done in April and we didn’t have to pay for the haul-out or the repairs. So coming out this time is hopefully going to fix the engine problems that have plagued us since we joined forces with Batty. We were hoping to come out on Friday so that we could have the weekend to drop the propeller shaft and do prep for the other work we planned to do while we were out. The yards schedule was a bit hectic but they did get us out on Friday and we are so thankful. 

This combined with the kindness everyone showed helping to de-ground us, was just the start of a wonderful series of kindnesses that we encountered being here. The boat yard is attached to the marina and this was our first experience of marina life. Everyone was just so kind and open to sharing their knowledge, tools, boats, and cars. The guys at the yard put up with my endless questions about painting and helped when I was terrified to use a powertool on the hull. Partly due to our use of kneepads (a wonderful thing!), we were affectionately referred to a yachties during our time there. We were out of the water for a week and the kindness and friendliness that we experience here was definitely one of the highlights.

We had a busy week. Having just redone the antifouling in April, we didn’t need to do the whole lot again but had some extra paint so redid the leading edges and waterline. We removed some bolts that had been through the back of the hull (above the waterline) and had the holes welded shut. We also had an anode welded onto the rudder.

Dingbat’s paint job was crap and is constantly flaking off on deck and getting caught under our fingernails. We wanted it gone so I went at it with the wire wheel on the angle grinder. I spent days on her and she still isn’t done. The parts that were flaking the worst are gone but she is now uglier than ever which hopefully works in her and our favor, hopefully making her a less likely target of theft. 

The big news though is that our engine is fixed! The clanging noise that was constantly there is gone! We are so excited. Our current engine is on flexible mounts so that it can wiggle around a bit while it’s running. Because of this the prop shaft needs to be able to move around relatively freely with one bearing distal to the engine. Our hypothesis is that the previous engine that the boat had was on rigid mounts and so had two extra bearings around the prop shaft proximal to the engine to keep it in place. When the engine was replaced, the old bearings weren’t removed and a new one was put in as well. So we discovered three bearings in there when we took it apart, which is what the prop shaft had been banging against. We removed the two extra and Voila... No noise!
Inside the propeller shaft
Bryce did most of the work, under the guidance of an awesome mechanic. I was the trusty assistant as needed. We were all ready to go back in the water on Thursday afternoon, when the mechanic came to check over Bryce’s work and told him that some screws weren’t tight enough. In trying to fix this, everything was thrown off and made it it tricky so we ended up staying out another night. It ended up not being such a big deal but the awesome mechanic showed up at 6 am the next morning to reassure us and the only payment he wanted was a follow-up phone call, letting him know how it all worked out! Another example of the niceness that we experienced! 

As we were lowered back down into the water, everyone held their breath as Bryce put on the engine and put her through her paces as much as he could while we were still in the slings! The difference was noticeable to everyone immediately! We spent a couple of hours at the work dock reattaching the jib furler, which needed to come down in order for us to fit in the boat lift and then we headed off out into the world.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Cutting the cord... sailing on our own!

After we returned from our quick trip to Brisbane, we were exhausted and went straight asleep. The following day was spent putting away all of our nice machine cleaned laundry and newly procured groceries in preparation for us to leave following day. We were very keen to get out of River Heads as we (mostly I) were being attacked by Sandflys. There were many sleepless and scratchy night resulting. While we were in Brisbane, I had gone to the doctor to get some stronger antihistamines and creams and he said me (before giving me what I wanted) "My advice to you would be to avoid being bitten in the first place.” Thanks dude. Armed with these drugs I wasn’t as scared but we were still pretty keen to get moving. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Back to the beginning...

When we last updated the blog, we had just arrived at River Heads and had put Tim on a bus back to Brisbane. We planned to be there for a couple of days to recharge our batteries but shortly after we arrived we received word that Bryce's grandfather was dying and on October 20th, he did pass away. The whole family had just recently been together to celebrate his 90th birthday which had a wonderful tribute to his great life. Bryce's Grandpa Tim was a keen fisherman. When (Uncle) Tim was with us on the boat and fishing was a daily activity, not a day went by when stories about fishing with Grandpa and his various techniques were discussed. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Where in the world have we been?

That’s probably what you’ve all been asking yourselves. Well so much has happened that accounts for our absence from the blog: land trips, no Internet, lots of sailing, a lost document containing blog updates, corrupted photo library, fishing, thunderstorms, waterspouts, etc... The list goes on! It's what we call life! 
Sunset from White Cliffs, Fraser Island
For awhile I felt really guilty about it, like I was failing at blogging but then I realized that as much as I want to share this journey with you all, there's nothing more important than being in the moment and prioritizing. The more time that passed that I had to catch up on the harder it was to actually force myself to sit down and do it. The blog just wasn't a priority until now but I finally made the time to do it and it’s already to go. The document is saved! Part of what I have enjoyed so much about this journey so far is sharing it. I have loved blogging about it and am going to make a effort to create a blogging routine so that it doesn't become a tedious chore. I'm looking forward to getting back into it and to everyone being caught up on our adventures. 

Here’s to staying up to date! 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Smoked Almonds

In May, Bryce and I went down to Adelaide to visit my family. While we were there, my grandparents introduced us to a delicious snack that they get from their wonderful local Italian shop: smoked almonds. At first thought you may not think there is much difference but once you try one... They melt in your mouth and are seriously addicting. Short of being able to buy enough to keep a constant stash in my cupboard, I set about making my own version.

Without a smoker on board Aquabat, I turned to liquid smoke. This is another ingredient that I have had a hard time finding in Australia but in the US it’s very easy to get. I have no idea about the rest of the world. I found some at a spice market in Brisbane a long time ago but they have since closed. Thankfully, my wonderful mother sent me a bunch of goodies, including some liquid smoke (not just one flavor but two - I am spoiled!). If you can find it, you should be set for awhile as a tiny bit goes a long way. If you have the oven space (more than is generally available on a boat) you may wish to double or triple the recipe as they will be gone before you know it. I'm looking forward to experimenting with lots of different flavours!
Smoked Almonds

1 1/2 c raw almonds
3 tsp liquid smoke
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste (~ 2tsp)

1. Whisk Olive Oil and LIquid smoke together with a fork.
2. Pour over almonds in a sealable container and shake to ensure almonds are throughly coated..
3. Add salt and toss through.
4. Preheat oven to 300 F. Let almonds sit for 15 min.
5. Bake for about 40 min, occasionally stirring.
6. Let cool and store in an airtight container.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Provisioning & Eggplant Brinjal

So as I shared the other day, we moved anchorages and then decided to go provisioning. From where we were anchored we could see the shops just next to us up the top of the hill. It was low tide and there was a long (we know now) mud flat before the mangroves but we could see a rock path leading up through them to the base of the hill. It looked doable, so we went for it. We motored Dingbat in and about 40 ft from the edge of the water, the prop turned up mud. Up with the outboard and out came the oars! Bryce rowed us in until we grounded. He tried getting out to pull us in but with one leg in, the mud came up to his knees so he hopped back in the boat. He then “rowed” us through the mud a bit more until we were truly grounded. At this point we figured the tide was coming in so we could just wait it out. But sitting around with the midgees eating away at us (more me as I am the sacrificial being) didn’t really seem like fun! The bottom of the rock path that we were aiming for was surrounded by oyster beds so Bryce got out our grappling anchor and hauled us in the rest of the way by throwing the anchor and getting it to catch on something.
Bryce was finally able to get out and pull us in the rest of the way. We tied up the boat on one of the higher mangroves, figured we had plenty of time before the tide crept up on us and went to the shops. It was just a small IGA express but we were able to quickly top up our supply of fresh food. When we got back down to water, we couldn’t see Dingbat (uh-oh), but we could hear her banging against a tree. The tide had come up quite a bit and the oyster beds and mud were all covered in water. Bryce waded out to the tree where she had been tied off and tried to pull her gently around to us but she really didn’t want to come. Finally Bryce just gave her a big tug and she came barreling through the mangroves bringing branches with her, like a superhero ready to save the day.  Despite this adventure, we would still do it again with a bit different timing!

View from Aquabat: shops up to the right, path in middle of screen
We are still at the same place. Bryce may need to head home in a few days so we are trying to stay close to civilization. Finally today the wind has picked up. The last few days have been horribly hot and still. This was of course not helped by the midgees presence which meant we kept the boat closed up. We anchored right in the middle of their ideal habitat, mangroves and mud flats! Other ideal scenarios for them include no wind and a full moon, which we had last night. One morning we woke up, opened up the boat and welcomed an infestation of them into the boat. All we could do was build a tent out of a sheet and hid out under it until they were all gone. As I mentioned before, I get bitten a lot and have a really strong reaction to them. I am currently covered in bites and am trying everything we have to stop the itching. Apply cider vinegar seems to have the best results. Bryce doesn’t seem to be as affected by them. Lucky Duck. 

While we were at Garry’s Anchorage, Tim and Bryce did alot of scrounging and it seemed like everything they wanted they found, and some! Tim mentioned that some half bricks would be perfect to put in the bottom of the crab pots to keep them from being taken away with the tide... And there were two half bricks. They found a hatch with a functioning solar fan and shiny hardware, which we left prominently displayed on the side of the boat for a few days in case it belonged to someone nearby but no one claimed it, so Tim got some new parts for his boat. Bryce wanted to make a rudder for the dinghy, well there’s a big sheet of marine ply. Our sturdiest bucket is on it’s last legs, they found a new one! There seemed to be so many things! The weirdest things by far that they came back to the boat with were a sweet potato and an eggplant. They both seemed fine, though the eggplant had a few small bruises which were easy enough to cut out. Presumably, someone didn’t like the bruises in the eggplant threw it overboard? Who knows! We figured it couldn’t hurt to cut them open and check them out. As we were running low on fresh food, I was estatic and I had been craving this particular eggplant dish for some reason. 

In the Solomon Islands, the bigger restaurants are more known for the cuisine, rather than their names. Within the sub-categories (Chinese specifically), the restaurants are known by their names and everyone has their preference. Will we dine at the french, indian, chinese, japanese or the yacht club tonight? There is (was?) one Indian restaurant in town, which was actually Sri Lankan and called the Taj Majal. It was out near the airport so was generally a useful way to pass the time between checking in for a flight and actually flying out. My favorite dish there was called Eggplant Brinjal. Everytime we went we got it and every time it was a little bit different. I once asked the cook how to make it and he told me the recipe which involved deep frying the eggplant three times. This clearly made me feel so much better about eating it and is obviously why it was so delicious! :) I have tried different ways in the past to follow his rather vague instructions and using our washed up eggplant was able to try again! Although the texture was not the same (I didn’t deep fry it!), the flavors were remarkablly similar. This would work really well to be done in a pressure cooker, though I didn’t as I wasn’t really sure where I was going with it!
Eggplant Brinjal

1 large eggplant, halved and finely sliced
4 tsp ground Tumeric
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped/minced
1 in piece ginger, finely chopped minced
2 yellow onions, roughly chopped
1 large chili, finely chopped or 1/2 tsp chili powder
10 curry leaves
2 tsp cumin
4 heaping tsp tomato paste (1 small can)
2 tbsp sweetener (sugar/honey/agave)
Neutral oil (rice bran/sunflower/peanut)

1. Coat sliced eggplant and sprinkle with tumeric and let sit for about 30 min.
2. Cook garlic, ginger, onion, chili, curry leaves, and cumin in enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan, put aside.
3. Toss eggplant in ~2 tsp oil to make sure all pieces are evenly coated. Heat small coating of oil in pan, add eggplant. Before it starts to stick to the pan, add spice mixture, tomato paste, 1 cup water and sweetener. Stir well to combine.
4. Bring to boil. Cover and reduce to simmer. It may be necessary to add more water. Dish is done when eggplant is cooked through (about 20 min). Add salt to taste.
5. Serve with rice and lime pickle and enjoy.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Batty's Brew

We had a lovely few days at Garry’s Anchorage. Fishing and crabbing was a daily occurrence for Tim and Bryce, as was beachcombing. Bryce and I went looking for what we hoped was one of the gorgeous lakes that exist on Fraser in the hopes of a swim.
We found Lake Garry and could see it from high atop the hill we were on but had no way of accessing it as the brush was so dense. We had called the Ranger station before we left to ask about access to the lake and they didn’t really know anything about it. They did tell us that no one had been out on the roads that we would be walking on in about two years as a bridge was down and had yet to be fixed.
We were using our GPS to help guide us to the lake. We realized much to late that switching it to satellite view would be far more useful as we would be able to see exactly which way the road went. Thankfully, the way we went took us to the closest point of the lake and so would’ve been the way we would have gone had we used this tool from the beginning. We had a couple of days with near gale winds, which meant that our wind generator was still producing electricity even with it’s break on.  What a novelty!

We were out of tonic water, which ruled out Gin and Tonics and it was just too hot to drink wine. So while the boys were ashore one afternoon catching their dinner, I came up with this concoction to welcome them home with. Unfortunately, I think people outside of Australia will have a hard time sourcing the ingredients for this deliciousness but if you can find them it’s well worth it. As with most drink mixing, at least the way I do it, ratios are approximate and based more upon what I have lying around than exact measures. You’ll find the recipe below.

Getting to sail Batty is still very much a novelty for us.
Leaving Garry's Anchorage

When we left Garry’s Anchorage, we were having a great time, playing with some of the rigging, trying to get the jib pole to work (we had been planning on trying to go wing on wing but by the time we were ready to the wind had died), putting the mainsail up and down, trying to find the best configuration for the jackstays.  New lesson learned: don’t get carried away in a sail and forget about the time!

All of the sudden we realized that the sun was setting and we weren’t really close to where we had wanted to be to anchor for the night. We turned on the engine quickly and got to where we needed to be at White Cliffs. We had an early start the next morning so it was early to bed. The current where we were was quite fast and was making such a racket against the anchor chain so we didn’t sleep very well.
White Cliffs by day
The next day, we were under a bit of a time crunch. Tim had a bus to catch to get home. As we were starting to come into River Head, the tide was coming out so fast that we weren’t moving at all, even under motor. So we dropped anchor and chilled out for an hour while we let it settle down. We got in, anchored and got Tim to shore just in the nick of time. When Bryce got back to the boat, we moved to a nearby anchorage and then went on a provisioning adventure, which is tomorrow’s story! :)
Sunset at River Head
 Batty’s Brew

1.125 L Bundaberg Ginger Beer (3 small bottle), cold
250 ml Gin
100 ml Lemon, Lime and Bitters cordial, diluted 1:4 with water
1 Lemon, sliced
1 orange, sliced

Combine all ingredients except Ginger Beer. Let chill and mesh.
When serving, serve 50:50, gin and fruit mixture to ginger beer.

Plain Old White Bread

The other day Bryce put out his first crab pot. One of his favorite ways to eat fresh crab is in a sandwich on fresh white bread. We didn’t have any bread, so in preparation of him bringing home lobster for his and Tim’s dinner, I decided to quickly whip some up. I love crusty, crunchy, full of grains bread. The no-knead bread recipe is one of my favorites but that takes forever and wasn’t going to help with dinner in a few hours! What I came up with is bare minimum plain old white bread.

You can let it rise for longer and may have a thicker loaf but in this instance these loaves did just the trick. It is probably worth adding that Bryce came home empty-handed but the bread still went really well dipped in olive oil! If anyone has any quick, simple bread recipe that is their go-to, I would love to hear it!
White Bread

5 1/4 c plain flour
1 package active yeast
2 1/4 c water, room temperature
2 tsp sweetener (brown rice syrup/Agave/Honey/Sugar)
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tsp salt

1. Mix 2 1/2 c flour (Reserve 2 3/4 c flour) and all remaining ingredients together with a wooden spoon in a large bowl until no lumps remaining (~ 3-5 min).
2. While continuing to stir, slowly add the remaining 2 3/4 c flour.
3. Turn out onto counter and knead about 5-8 min until no longer sticky but stiff, smooth & elastic.
4. Place dough in lightly oiled bowl. Cover and place int a warm place for 45 min.
5. After 45 min, punch down dough, put on counter, separate dough into two pieces, cover and let sit for 10 min.
6. Lightly oil two bread pans. Shape the dough into loaves by pressing and pulling into shape. Place dough in pans. Cover and let rise 30 min.
7. Bake in preheated oven for ~ 30 min at 325-350 F. Bread is finished with it looks and smells done, sounds hollow when tapping and inserted knife comes out clean. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Drop Biscuits

Yesterday morning, I woke up early and went up on the foredeck to do some laundry and wash my hair. It was a beautiful time of the day (5am). Absolutely no one else was around, it was low tide, birds were chirping, jellyfish were floating by and the sun was rising. You would think it couldn’t get better! Unless you were curled up warm in bed... And you would be right! After years and years of wishing I could be a morning person, I am somehow unable to sleep past 5am these days. It’s great for productivity. Anyway, I heard some splashing nearby and looked up thinking it was someone swimming only to see a couple of dolphins lazily frolicking by!
A couple of turtles popped their heads up and announced their presence with their big spurt of air before going back on their way. It was a great start to the day!

There is a place in Tin Can Bay were you can go and feed the wild dolphins that show up there every morning. As far as mixing the general public with wildlife goes, I think that this place does it pretty well. They have rangers coordinating the feeding, you are not allowed to touch the dolphins, and they are careful to only feed the dolphins 1/8 of their daily dietary requirement so that the dolphins don’t become dependent on this food source. Bryce and I had been planning on going over there that morning to check it out and it just so happens the dolphins that I saw earlier were on their way over there for breakfast. We thought it was a bit overpriced for what it was but still worth doing! We were able to each feed them one fish and then have our photo taken with them. Afterwards, we had a shower at the public pool and morning tea at a local cafe. Bryce then made his way back to get Aquabat and Tim, while I made my way into town to resupply. They brought Batty into the fuel dock to top up her tanks and I met them there. From there we had a quick sail up to Pelican Bay, where we anchored for the night. It was a rough night! The wind came up to the point where water was splashing through out hatches and Bryce was out checking on the anchor several times.


This morning we headed north again, leaving at low tide to give ourselves plenty of the high tide at the other end. For the first time we had the space and the time to put Batty through her paces and see how she responds. We tacked and jibed our way up the waterway and did a few man-over board drills and were happy with how she did! We, on the other hand, are a bit rusty! Coming into Garry’s anchorage, we had the autopilot on and a sandbank came out of nowhere. Some new lessons learned! The autopilot is wonderful for longer stretches but in this instance hindered us and how quickly we were able to change our course. Bryce quickly reversed out of it, no harm done. The first of many groundings, I’m sure!

So here we are anchored in the lee of Fraser Island. Fraser Island is the worlds largest sand island and home to so much unique wildlife, including the purest pack of dingoes. Tim and Bryce went ashore this afternoon to get the lay of the land and are now back fishing off the back of the boat. Tomorrow we are going to hike to a nearby freshwater lake.

After not much sleep last night, we woke up at 5 am this morning and right after breakfast weighed anchor and were on our way. Needless to say by 10:30-11 we were pretty hungry. These were amazingly easy to whip up underway. Granted we didn’t have any swell and the winds were fair, but I could see them working in circumstances that weren’t so favorable. We flipped them over and smeared jam on the flat side while they were still warm. Mmm, delicious! As you can see, there are many options listed as possibilities for the sweetener. If you prefer to use butter or margarine instead of the oil or milk instead of the water, go ahead. My preference when cooking and provisioning is to carry things that can be used in many different capacities, thus simplifying our lives. Also, the less we carry that needs to be refrigerated, the better!

***My photo uploading stopped working for this photo. Will hopefully upload it soon. In the meantime, trust me, they look delicious!***

Drop Biscuits
Makes 16 biscuits

3 cups plain flour
6 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown rice syrup (agave/honey/sugar)
3/4 cup oil (rice bran oil, any neutral flavor)
1 1/4 cup water

1. In large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder & salt. If using sugar add it here.
2. Add oil to dry mixture and cut through with a fork until coarse crumbles develop. If using a liquid sweetener, add it here.
3. Add water and mix until well combined.
4. Drop tablespoon-sized scoops of dough onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 350 F.
5. When golden brown, remove from baking sheet and eat immediately!