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!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Our First Passage - The Photos

So it turns out the technical difficulties I was having the other day were of my own making. We get our internet through the phone and we had the phone on power saving mode so every time it went to sleep, the internet would turn off and I would lose the connection! This combined with the fact that I was trying to upload files that were too big were my problem!

I've figured it out now though so can finally post some pictures of the last few days! We've settled into a bit of a routine, doing jobs in the morning and relaxing in afternoon. Bryce and Tim have spent every afternoon fishing and are perfecting the art of using the cast net. They have even succeeded in catching a few of their meals!

Preparing to leave through the Mooloolaba Bar
A quick sunset climb up the mast. So thankful for the steps!
Sunrise behind Double Island Point
The beautiful Australian coastline
and more jellyfish!
Trying to catch their lunch
Mastering the cast net. A Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang moment as the tide comes in!
Sunset over the anchorage
Living the dream.... finally!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Our first passage!

~I wrote this last night but was unable to access internet to post it. We have some spotty internet now and I have been trying to upload photos to put with it but it's a no go and would much rather be out exploring or doing some sort of boat job (not really but I don't want to be glued to the computer) so will hopefully get some photos up in the next few days.~

Well, we finally did it! We left Mooloolaba and have headed north. I was hesitant to announce our departure for fear of jinxing us after our long series of bad luck but we have made it so I can finally share our success! After waiting so long for our engine mounts to arrive and install them, we were disappointed to find that the northerlies had set in. This basically eliminated any chance we had of heading north. We were disappointed and wondered if we had made the right decision by having our mounts shipped for cheaper from further away but decided to spend the next few months sailing around Moreton Bay before heading south after Christmas instead. As a surprise, we found that we had a less than 48 hour window of Southerly winds starting late Thursday night and decided to give it a go! Bryce’s uncle Tim and our friend Grace, came along for the ride. We were prepped and ready to go first thing Friday morning. We had some breakfast and made sure we were all well-medicated (sea-sickness prevention to preempt any comments) as the seas were predicted to be high and the winds predicted to be low to make for a very choppy ride. After being in the anchorage for so long, I felt the need to check our “site” and make sure we weren’t leaving anything behind. Everything was attached! Right off the bat the anchor chain got jammed and Tim needed to perform surgery on it so we could secure the anchor before we went through the bar.