Saturday, 31 October 2009

I wish I'd written this.

This piece in the Times,written by Janice Turner says everything that I don't have the skill to pen about the Chandlers and their current plight.It's not often that another writer completely captures your own thoughts on a subject but Janice eloquently describes my immediate thought on hearing the pirates statement that they had captured 'two old people'.

Who are they calling old was an immediate response in my head too! We are similar ages to the Chandlers, as are the majority of cruisers we meet. Choosing to leave the security of our previous lives in order to grasp the time we have on this planet by the throat and LIVE.

Her piece highlights that cultural mismatch that we rarely addressed on land. One that taxes me on a daily basis. It's so hard to put yourself in to somebody else's shoes.In a culture that is totally alien to where, certainly I, come from.

TBH always quotes Nietzsche, who said we should live our life at the top of a hill or mountain where we can enjoy a broad horizon. And not just any old mountain, a volcano that could erupt at any moment and so makes every second special and precious, amidst the spewing rocks and lava of life.

Initially I thought;what were they doing sailing in those waters they are dangerous! But of course that's how many people view the Rio. We've had hostages taken, murders, thefts here. It's a calculated risk. We take the precautions we can as no doubt the Chandlers did. Sometimes fate plays a duff card. It could be our story and maybe yours too...

The film Up, that deeply affecting study on mortality masquerading as a kids’ cartoon, tells of a couple who from childhood share a dream of adventure. They fill a jar with spare change, saving for their big trip to Paradise Falls. But the roof leaks, bills need paying: life keeps emptying the jar, until one day death smashes it for good.

What had me — and, I guess every adult in the cinema — snivelling behind our 3-D specs, was the aching contrast between youthful hopes and old-age unfulfilment. Fate mostly doesn’t reward honourable, careful folk — instead, with random injustice, it squelches them flat.

It takes guts in uncertain mid-life to unscrew the jar, trouser the pennies, rent out the house, flout family expectations and Money Box Live and the risk of I-told-you-so’s from envious Steady Eddies; to do like Paul and Rachel Chandler and road-test your dream.

Thirty years ago it would be inconceivable outside a sitcom, that two grey-heads in prudent professions — a quantity surveyor and an economist — would desert quintessentially square Tunbridge Wells for a life on the open sea.

But the Chandlers, aged 59 and 54, are part of the luckiest generation who lived, beneficiaries of property bubbles, enduring health, a global sensibility and a flinty me-generation selfishness. (And unlike those of us behind, they got out before the great final-salary scheme massacre or the Government tagging more working years to our life sentence.) Rather than die in discontent these lucky oldsters preferred to face risks, whether pension-sapping currency dips or pirates. So they colonise northern France or southern Spain, you see them wearing well-cut linen in the world’s most chi-chi boutique hotels, ticking off Machu Picchu or Kilimanjaro with the hunger for experience of those acutely aware of a ticking clock.

Reading the Chandler’s blog of their three-year voyage, it is thrilling to realise what happiness might lie ahead when one is untethered from work, family or nation. Mr Chandler’s face as he fiddles with his engine bears the beam of a man truly alive. Unlike the moany expats who hole up in remote châteaux and Brookside villas, stewing their boredom in all-day vino, looking out alone, unvisited, unbefriended, upon their perfect view, the Chandler’s grabbed the globe and spun it with glee.

Instead of soul-deadening idleness, they chose a life of perpetual challenges, both major (crossing treacherous waters) and minor (how to sleep during a monsoon). They celebrate their self-sufficiency and resourcefulness, their route calculations, new friends and small triumphs; Rachel pens a cheery photo-story of how she scrubbed and dried their dirty sails. They step ashore with curiosity and boundless amusement. As Bruce Chatwin observed in The Songlines, Man, a nomadic beast, is never more content than when in motion.

So I wonder how, once they are free, this apparently wry and understated pair, will look at their Somalian kidnappers’ declaration: “We have captured two old British [people], a man and a woman.”

Old? Who are these damn pirates calling old? And yet there, in one sentence, is the ultimate culture clash. “Old” has no universal meaning. In Britain the Chandlers might expect 20 years more life; in Somalia they would have died, most likely, a decade ago. In Somalia — life expectancy of 48 years — there are few we would call old: only 2 per cent of its population is over 65, compared with 16 per cent in Britain.

There is no cruder inequality than how many years you are permitted on the planet. The very concept of retirement, that elderly people should enjoy well-earned repose, is the mark of a benign and civilised society.

We should perhaps remember that the next time we beat ourselves up at how we in the West dispatch our ancients to urine-stinking nursing homes, whereas Asia (or, more precisely, the women of Asia) cares for them at home.

In Hanoi this year, I observed a tiny, frail woman, probably in her seventies, sitting outside her family business at 11pm, barely awake, selling bottled water to tourists. What is a preferable old age? Toiling exhaustedly yet being respected and useful or being allowed to put your slippered feet up for ever in a too-hot TV lounge, an isolated irrelevance? It is a tough call.

How bemused the Somalians must be at these “old” people, who abandoned their own families. How peculiar the notion of taking to the sea for pleasure must be for those who do so because there is no living to be made on land.

Like the Mafia emerging from the Italian American ghettos, the Somalian pirates are a metastasised form of high capitalism. When their failed state was unable to protect its coastline, allowing European and Chinese factory boats to hoover up their fish stocks and destroy their livelihood, while foreign companies paid warlords a pittance to dump toxic and nuclear waste in their seas, the coastal people moved into a new and more lucrative trade: ships and hostages for cash. Who cares if the vessels contain aid supplies bound for Somalia’s starving?

In their extreme youth, ruthlessness and amorality — the disconnection between their gain and the terrible consequences for others lower down — they resemble our own reckless bankers. “They [the pirates] have money; they have power and they’re getting stronger by the day,” one Somalian said. “They wed the most beautiful girls; they are building big houses; they have new cars.”

Unlike the City bonus boys, they justify their greed and undeserved windfalls by saying that a whole economy — the fishing villages where they spend their ransom cash — is sustained by their largesse.

Let us hope the pirates are sophisticated enough students of economics to believe the Chandlers’ relatives when they insist that they have no money — “it’s all in the boat”.

Because the concept of being asset-rich yet cash-poor must be unfathomable in a nation where assets are snatched at gunpoint and million-dollar cash ransoms fall out of helicopters in waterproof sacks.

But we need the Chandlers back safely — not least because it helps to know that some ordinary adventurers do get to Paradise Falls.

And she gets the anomie of today's world. The fact that it's Somalia today and where tomorrow? Take what you can, beggar the consequences. Just like the West's politicians and bankers.

Maybe it is a salutatory lesson about where our societies could end up if we don't address the problems in our own backyards?

Friday, 30 October 2009

Lynn Rival Update

Update on the kidnapping in the Indian Ocean here states that a $7 million ransom has been demanded.

Seems the Somali pirates don't know many liveaboard cruisers or they'd realise that sum is way out of the range of almost everyone out on the ocean onboard a 38 foot boat.
Far from a glamorous superyacht lifestyle most people I know have sacrificed a good income in favour of a priceless way of life.Why does the world at large, and the media in particular continue to portray us as champagne swilling socialites? I guess 'cos it's easy and they don't get contradicted very often. It seems that the crew of Lynn Rival could be paying a great price for such misapprehensions.

Pirate boarding.

Every morning on channel 69 we get the local cruisers net here on the Rio. It starts with calls for emergency and priority messages. The other day an American voice announced in a concerned way that a British boat had gone missing off the SAY SHELLES.

He appeared to have heard the message on CNN and I have a sneaky feeling didn't know where these islands were!

Not quite what we were expecting for that segment of the net which usually deals with the theft of dinghy motors! Still at least he tried.

I started watching the story after an announcement on some sailing forums that their epirb had been activated a week ago and did anyone have any knowledge of the boat. Isn't it extra-ordinary how quickly information can be disseminated by 'tribes' of people interested in the same subject?

Within hours the sailing community were listening out for news of Lynn Rival, the boat that was missing.

Lynn Rival is a similar boat to ours and we learnt to sail on that make and model of boat

They were sailing in some of the most hazardous waters for pirate activity in the world and the immediate consensus was that they had probably been boarded. Sadly this proves to have been correct and we now await the outcome of their families efforts to get them released.

This piece of video contains a phone conversation with the kidnapped couple, I must say they sound pretty together so fingers crossed for a happy outcome.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Night thoughts.

You awake?


Talk to me.


I need to chat.

Brain still asleep.

Well grunt then.

Lately I am wide awake around 11pm and want to talk to my beloved. I don't know why but the brain has started to stimulate random thoughts deep in the night. Not convenient.

First I lay there quietly. Listening to the sounds of the river. A rhythmic quiet splashing as a canoe paddles by.What's he doing out this late?

Frogs croaking over on the bank. Howling dogs building toward a crescendo of sound and then sudden silence. Wonder what disturbed them? A snake? Bitch on heat....

The boat creaks from time to time. I try and identify where the noise is coming from. Must be contracting metal after the heat of the day. The nights are much cooler now.

I wonder what the meaning of life is. Will Lucy's new restaurant be a success. Did I shut the companionway hatch. Is it locked. When are we going sailing again. I want a long shower. And a bacon sandwich.

Scratch my back. Right, left, up, that's it! mmmnnn.................

Then TBH is awake, intelligent conversation begins. Last night we covered the anomie of society in this chaos driven crisis world. The break down of society as we know it. Obama. Gordon brown.limitations of the medical profession....


You awake? (TBH asking now)


Damn now you've woken me up and I'll have to write down what's going on in my mind. Blast you!

MMnnn....segue to gentle snoring!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

What a lovely sight!

Finally after a sweaty few days our delightful bank manager, Graca, has sorted our problem. Thank you. Rarely have I been so pleased to see a banknote!

Seems there was some kind of computer glitch but after many emails and telephone calls all is well. A relief that we won't be on short rations after all.

A big thank you too for all our lovely cruising friends who offered to tide us over, it wasn't needed but we were grateful for the thoughts!

Monday, 26 October 2009

The Bank Card Two-step.

That's what we have been doing for the past few days!One step forward and two back.

One of the most difficult things about cruising is money, no, not just the need for it, but how to get at it!

I guess we have been pretty fortunate but this is the first time we have had a serious hiccup in our financial arrangements. It is just one of those nasty combination's of events that sometimes cause a big problem

Our new cards did not arrive at our UK address before the old ones expired.So I re-ordered them just in time to get caught up in the current British Postal Strike-sigh!

Not to worry we had another card and that surfices. Oh no it doesn't...for some bizarre reason the ATM in town decided it no longer liked our piece of plastic. Quick email to the bank."Oh yes you probably need a new pin number I'll send one"

Well to cut a long story short TWO arrive in identical envelopes,well apart from a few numbers on the outside, the information is conveyed via our son. Neither of them worked and THEN the whole card got locked down so no access to cash or services.The local bank in town proved totally unhelpful,they claimed to have run out of vouchers to do a manual transaction, oh yeah.

Oh Dear!

Our lovely bank manager has sent another that she assures me 'is agonna work manana!"(She's not British!)

Fingers crossed that she's right or we could be on short rations until Lucy and Alex arrive.

Oh I do love technology, sigh!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Caframo price rise.

Bit of a shock last night as I was surfing to buy some new fans for the boat.

I've been a 'fan'(sorry) of caframo for years. In the Tropics they are a vital bit of kit to ensure a comfortable existence below decks. Low on power use, quiet and efficient they answer all my needs. But of course as they are in almost constant use we get through one or two a year. The bearings finally fail with a nasty whooshing sound and another one bites the dust.

Well at around 25.00 pounds each I can live with that. So there I was ready to order a couple for the stores. What! the price has risen to 55.00 EACH!!!?? What the f....... Is this the result of a devalued pound??

I surfed all the sites suggested by Google and finally found them at 34.95, ordered a couple swiftly before they sold out.

Somebody explain to me what caused a 100% price rise in under 12 months??? Last ones we purchased were 24.95 pounds, nine months ago.....

Friday, 23 October 2009

It Breaks...'s a boat!

Well after a reasonable run of NO breakages of course it had to happen.

As we moved anchorage the other day TBH called out 'Anchor aweigh!'. That's my cue to move the boat into gear and head on out.

Ah Ah! No way was that gear lever going to move into forward, or backward for that matter.

It's happened a few times before, once(horribly) in Cartagena which caused a few heart stopping moments as we navigated a crowded anchorage.

This time I knew the routine. TBH went below, opened up the engine compartment, disconnected the control cable and moved the lever at the mounting. Crude but effective.

So a few days later we have got to grips with the failed knob! Taken all to pieces it still refuse to release the 'neutral' button. Surfing the web we found the manufacturers(teleflex) help line. They were super, said after 18 years we probably need a new one but in the meantime use a bit of brute force and ignorance. Obviously a technician after my own heart!

With TBH in muscle man mode it was released and a cheer resounded around the boat.

...of course being a boat that's not the end of the story. To reattatch the cable from the pedestal to the engine involves a great set of body contortions, much grunting and liberal use of expletives###!!

Finally it's done. We have transmission.

But just to be certain I've ordered a new part to come out with the next visitor. I'm not taking any chances!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Birthday celebrations.

Today is TBH's birthday. He is definitely heading back down the scale now!
The day started with prezzies, well one actually. A scale cobra sportscar, he had a real one in a previous life. We found one in the local supermarket toy section. Needless to say he was thrilled and has been going 'brmm-brmm' up and down the saloon table ever since. Worrying or what!

All the offspring and relatives called with best wishes and he is currently wearing a face-splitting grin.

He chose the menu for this evenings dinner a deux.

Chicken liver pate.
Pork tenderloin with poached plums in a wine sauce
Bread and butter pudding

I must say the aroma through the boat as the plums cooked in their spicy sauce was amazing...very dribble making. It's such a good dish that I have written out the recipe for anyone who wants to give it a go, highly recommended.

• 6 sweet firm red or black plums, quartered, pitted
• 2 cups white wine
• 1 cup dry red wine
• 2 whole star anise
• cinnamon stick
• 1/4 cup plus 1 1/4 teaspoons sugar, divided(I used honey 1tbsp and 1tsp)
• 2 cups chicken broth
• 5 fresh thyme sprigs plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme, divided
• 2 tablespoons chopped shallot
• 1 1/4-pound pork tenderloin
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme(I used dried)
• 2 garlic cloves, minced

For Plums:
Combine first 5 ingredients and 1tbsp honey in heavy large saucepan; bring to boil, stirring until honey dissolves. Reduce heat; simmer until plums are tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer plums to platter. Strain wine mixture.
Return strained liquid to same saucepan. Add broth, thyme sprigs, and shallot. Boil until mixture is reduced to 1 cup, about 25 minutes. Strain sauce; stir in 1 teaspoons honey and chopped thyme. Season with salt and pepper.

For Pork:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush pork with 1 tablespoon oil; sprinkle with thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook until brown on all sides, turning often, about 5 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven, and roast pork about 20 minutes. Remove skillet from oven and let pork stand 10 minutes. Cut pork crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Serve with poached plums and sauce.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

We can make a change.

Whether you are a dirt or water dweller some things are affecting us all right now. I am talking economic crisis here.

I know that lots of people don't want to even think about it and are closing their eyes to the reality of the dire situation but thank god there are increasing numbers of ordinary folk who are getting organised and demanding change from their governments.

People power should never be underestimated. You, me, we can make a difference BUT we have to get off our butts to do it. Those in power would like us to believe that the 'little people' hold no sway but they are wrong.

Look at this site and this one they are fighting to make a difference, orchestrating actions that need to happen.They make the point that change has not come from the top.

So get involved, make your voice heard, if you don't the price you will pay will be unthinkable.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009


Innovation is a word that figures largely in our current conversations. We have a rather unusual double life, living on a boat, enjoying the freedom of movement that allows whilst on the other hand developing a business at the cutting edge of innovative thought and technology. Sometimes it's hard work!

As we explain many times a day, the idea behind TBH's new web application didn't just materialize fully formed.It developed over a lifetime of work, interest in philosophy, technology, applied social psychology and business. It is challenging to explain something that exists nowhere else on earth.

"But what's it like?" is the most asked question.
"Is it like Facebook?" No.
"Is it a project management tool?" No.
Actually at it's heart it's a rewiring of the collective mind. A superbrain if you like....

Change is hard. As human beings we hate to change, usually only succumbing when there is no other choice or it is just too painful to stay where we are. Sailing has bought this message home to me in some very practical lessons.

The need to act in the moment; be it repairing a broken part, changing the sails, altering travel plans to accommodate a weather change. Every day it seems that we are faced with the requirement to change and adapt our lives. At times it can be overwhelming.

I have a theory that is the main stimulant for those who find cruising is not for them. It is tiring to constantly be changing and for some people, the challenge just becomes too great.

Dreams are sold on the idyllic sailing lifestyle, the endless parties, beaches, friends. The reality is more often writhing in the bowels of the bilges with a spanner in your hand, mouth drying fear at unexpected weather systems...I could go on!

The payoff though is the satisfaction as you master the new challenge, overcome the obstacle, succeed.

Our 'enery(the generator) has been playing up again, TBH took him totally to pieces and has rebuilt him. Mastered the technology. He feels great about that!

Innovation, change, learning. All challenging environments. But if we don't learn, change,adapt and grow what is there? Decay and stagnation.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Do it.

We met 'Do It' in Panama, anchored side by side at the Flats in Colon. They were preparing to transit the canal and we shared a couple of evenings, some hot tips and a mutual fascination with the TV series 'Desperate Housewives'- don't even go there!

They have gone on to explore the South Pacific and I highly recommend their site particularly if you are headed that way yourself.

Friday, 16 October 2009

One minute to save the World.

Plastic Soup from Lara Leslie on Vimeo.

One minute to save the World is a competition to highlight the problem of climate change across the globe.The above short film is one entry that focus's on the bane of sailors lives, plastic. It never rots, floats and gets caught in many a prop. Never mind the damage to sea-life.

Take a look at their site and vote for your favourite film...

Thursday, 15 October 2009

TED turns me on!

Do you know about TED?

TED has become an important part of my it's OK I haven't gone off the rails and TBH is not worried. Let me share TED with you.

TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, California, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK, TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Program, the new TEDx community program, this year's TEDIndia Conference and the annual TED Prize.

I really love TED, it has a fantastic varied selection of informing, inspiring, quirky and fascinating speakers. From the well known to the downright eccentric. But each has something to say that often stimulates your own thinking.

Today I stumbled on this extra-ordinary musician,Imogen Heap. Her recent recording touched me deeply. I hope you enjoy it too.

..and how about this talk by Rebecca Saxe on how the brain handles moral judgement? Wow! Imagine making a discovery like this when an undergraduate!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Cutural Imperialism.

A couple of weeks ago there was a tapping on the hull. I went up to see who it was, it was a young local lad in his cayuco. In broken English/Spanish we ascertained that he was looking for work on the boat.

Normally we make it a practice not to use itinerant labour, certainly without a reference from another yachtie but we told him we were leaving that anchorage shortly, he could come in a couple of weeks and we'd give him a job.

So we returned here and Ricardo found us a couple of days ago. TBH set him to cleaning the hull. A test of anyone's stamina. We agreed a price, less than he asked for but with the promise of extra if he did a good job...

Ricardo set to with a willing attitude, it was an extremely hot day and he was feeling the heat. That was a bit consoling to us as we sometimes feel a bit feeble in our intolerance of the high temperatures here. We chatted a bit, so far as the languages allowed. He said he taught reading and writing at Casa Guatemala and it was the holidays so he needed more work. Come lunchtime he disappeared, to get a meal we assumed. Time passed and he failed to return. Ah well we thought, we haven't paid him so maybe he's unwell.

Next morning up he pops, his eight week old daughter was 'malo' (ill) and he had stayed with her. Fair enough we thought and again he set to. Did a magnificent job on the hull, she looks as good as new!

By mid afternoon the heat was fierce and we paid him for the work he'd done, and indicated that was enough for the day, he could come back early in the morning before it got too hot.

So yesterday he arrives at 7.30am. Apologizing for something that frankly I couldn't understand. He says he's hungry would I feed him, he would pay...

It's difficult walking the tightrope of cultural differences I find. On one hand I try to remain uncynical, despite a couple of unpleasant rip-offs in past, and yet on the other hand nobody wants to be taken for a ride. I cannot imagine what his life is like. I believe he paddles for at least an hour to reach us, has dreams of becoming an engineer or computer operator, a wife, a small sick child.

There is a huge desire to help him BUT I have seen too much cultural imperialism to be comfortable with that. My decision is to pay a realistic wage for a good job, I hope that way to help him maintain his own esteem and dignity and not to see the 'rico' gringos as an easy touch. That does neither of us any favours.

As TBH so accurately predicted, damn him, travel is, at its finest, an unsettling experience. An opening of doors in your own mind that in many ways are so much more comfortable left shut. Yet once walked through there is no return.

So I wrestle with my thoughts, confused between my head and heart, touched by the culture.

I have been reading a book,; The White Man's Burden by William Easterly. It talks about why the West's efforts to aid the rest have done so much ill and so little good. It's a difficult read but sobering in it's condemnation of the arrogance that has in so many ways sentenced large populations to continued struggling in poverty and misery. He comes up with no answers but certainly stimulates his readers to ask many more questions.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Tsunami aftermath.

We have a number of friends who are cruising in the South Pacific and have been watching with concern to ascertain their whereabouts after the recent Tsunami in Samoa. Fortunately all our immediate friends are safe and well but there have been some terrible stories and reports from the worse affected area, even loss of life.

I think one of the biggest surprises to me has been to read of the ignorance of many cruisers of the potential after effects of an earthquake, you can read on this site how many cruisers joked about a 'big wave ' coming ...

We had a fairly substantial quake when in Belize earlier this year. My first thought was tsunami.
Although we were well behind a reef and a land spit I insisted that we close all the hatches, securing both the boat and ourselves. At the time I felt a bit daft, sitting sweltering below but in the light of what I have been reading over the past week it wasn't at all stupid.

I am constantly amazed at how ill informed cruisers are about the effects of 'Mother Nature' in the raw. Casualness cost lives. As TBH says the only word to describe the sea is 'treacherous'.

This photograph from Cruising World accompanies an informative piece on the devastation amongst the cruising community in the Pacific.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Blazing Sea Berths.

We'll get to the title in a minute...

Yesterday I decided to cook one of my few vegetarian dishes. The ones that we resort to once the fresh produce has run out, usually after about 10 days. That's pretty much the longest I can keep stuff as we have no Freezer.

Well I must say this one is delicious, in fact I think I prefer it to the meat version, tastier.

So Lentil Shepherd's Pie is one of our favourites;

2 cups lentils, puy or green variety
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 can chopped tomatoes
3tbsp tomato puree
grated cheese
mashed potatoes, I used dried

Brown onions and garlic, add the tomatoes, tomato puree, lentils and 1/2 cup water or stock. Simmer for 30mins stirring from time to time.
Put in ovenproof dish. Top with mashed potatoes, grated cheese(generous amount).
Bake at top of oven until golden and crunchy.

Now back to the title, how can I put this delicately? Wind, lots of it! Not being compulsive pulse eaters it can affect the tum in an audible manner. The confined space of the v berth may test your matrimonial compatibility in more ways than you ever wanted to experience....

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Sleeping Beauty.

Goodness we are both feeling a bit weary this afternoon. After a busy day yesterday and a late night we were up at 5am for an online conference with the UK. Man that was hard work to come alive.

You know how some mornings your bed is just the best place in the whole world..the sheets are smooth, the mattress holds you in just the right position, no lumps in the pillows and a cooling breeze caressing your face..

Well this morning was one of those and I really, really didn't want to leave it.

I did though.

So by 9am the conference was over and I had baked a tray of cherry and walnut muffins, scrumptious. Made a panacotta and a delicious plum sauce to go with it. Gave the sauce a dash of cinnamon and a glug of brandy and the whole boat started to smell of Christmas. Which is fast approaching!

We have Lucy and Alex coming to stay this year so I am getting excited and planning!

Found a wonderful website with all sorts of nautical goodies, I particularly like the fat Mermaid Christmas tree decorations!

The countdown begins!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Passion for food.

I'm going to tell you a secret, OK its not a very well kept secret! I Love Food. Everything about it. From producing it, to shopping for it, cooking it, eating it, sharing it, reading about it, everything.
I expect some of you think that's pretty sad, but I don't.

As TBH believes that mathematics is a languague. I believe that food is a language, one of love. OO er I hear you cry. Yes I freely admit that I am writing this with a large glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc in one hand and a plate of prunes wrapped in bacon just out of the oven strategically placed by the laptop. Let me tell you it doesn't get much better than this!

One of my earliest memories is shopping with my Mum, we would take a list to the grocers in town and , magically, sometime the next day a van would appear loaded with goodies. Bit like internet shopping really!

My special treat was an entire block of chocolate mousse from Sainsbury's. Oh the decadence! I would scurry off to my own hideyhole and indulge in a sensuous indulgence. Now I realise it was full of preservatives and nothing like the one I learned to make in later years but boy did it answer a young teenager's need for sensuality!

My dad, would collect me from my Saturday job in the pharmacy of Boots the Chemists and whisk me off to the towns best restaurant. this would be in the early 70's. The height of sophistication was a chicken kiev served with plain boiled rice and half a tinned peach. The excitement! The daring of eating tinned fruit with meat! The excitement of a Steak Diane flambe at the still my beating heart!

My mum would order snails! Yuck. Once I built up the courage to try them at a special evening event. My best friend, Julia, aged ten and three quarters said, just as I was about to pop it in my mouth;"Ooh just think of those wiggly tentacles and slimy trails!' That was it- I've never tried one since, what a missed opportunity.

Funnily enough it has been sailing that opened my eyed to the real expression of food. The way it transcends language and borders. As we entertain friends from around the world it doesn't matter that we don't speak each others language. Through the medium of sharing a meal together we overcome the boundaries of culture and inhibition. One of the greatest evenings we ever had was in Portugal. Way up a river in a tiny hamlet. One of the cruiser, Irish, was having an affair with another, French(they were both single handlers and of opposite sexes I hasten to point out).

He organized a surprise party for her in the only spot in town, the workers co-operative. We were all invited, two Brit boats, one German, a Norwegian couple, a Dutch family and the local Portuguese inhabitants. What a night!

We ate everything you can imagine, beautifully prepared by the caretaker of the club and his wife. I clearly remember, before the alcohol took control, a conversation that began in English and progressed through French, German, Spanish and a great deal of sign language. But it was the food that united us, the tastes, the expressions of pleasure, or distaste, that transcended the problems of a common tongue.



If you want to see a magnificent example of what I am talking about you must watch Babettes Feast a great film that shows the uniting, extraordinary effect that food, prepared with love, can have on a group of people.It's a danish film, gentle and sensuous but you have to see it...

Bon Appetit!


Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Our 'Enery..

Henry, our little red generator, came in for a bit of an overhaul this morning. The dear little beast was losing some oil from his exhaust(nasty that). So we rooted around under the bed and found some 'liquid gasket'. Actually we found three different types of liquid gasket. It's great hiding things away on a boat, every search is accompanied by a new and wonderful discovery. Maybe its my age, I often forget what we have on board. TBH says they are CRAFT moments, Can't RememberA Fucking Thing. Bless him, such a way with words...

So the galley worktop was prepared for surgery, 'Enery made comfy and the surgeon began. There were a few 'sticky' moments but he pulled through fine and is now back on deck chugging along charging, and running, our two laptops. What a soldier!

'Enery is a basic model, just about the cheapest generator here in Guatemala, all Q1100 of him(about 110 euros) but he's just perfect. We spend a lot of time thinking about sustainable living and appropriate technology and he really fits the bill. Made for the local population he comes with NO fancy electronic processors, add ons or need for specialist equipment. What he does come with is a wonderful little toolkit, all that you need to keep him in fine fettle.

Access is a little tight in spots...

...but all things are possible. He runs for about 5 hours on 4.2 litres of petrol and chugs his little 2 stroke heart out producing 6.7 amps an hour. That takes the pressure off the boat batteries as far as the computers are concerned.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Dame Ellen, eco-warrior.

Dame Ellen, she of the single handed sailing records, is hanging up her lifejacket. Announcing that a recent visit to the islands of South Georgia was a life changing experience that has persuaded her to concentrate her energies on saving the planet.

This piece in this mornings Sunday Times tells the story.

Her new priority in life is sustainable living. Ironically, it was also looking back at her last voyage round the world which has made her think of what is precious and what we waste.

“When you sail on a boat you take with you the minimum of resources. You don’t waste anything. You don’t leave the light on; you don’t leave a computer screen on. And I realised that on land we take what we want.

“You’d never do that on a boat. If you need some kitchen roll, you tear off a corner, not a whole square. But someone somewhere thought that a perforated line was what everyone needs.”

I must say that I agree with her statement that being on a boat makes you very aware of the amount of power that we consume in our everyday lives. How much 'stuff' people waste. As we spend far more time at anchor we too count every sheet of the kitchen roll, switch off all power use asap and watch every bit of consumption. It becomes a way of life.

It does make you wonder about the newer boats on the market though. The ones that advertise their greatest assets as being TWO flat screen tv's etc...

Me? I'm happy with my form of sustainable living, mostly!

For the first time we have had to resort to running a generator for 2-3 hours when we are both working on computers. I think there are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly there is little to no sustained wind here in the Rio Dulce so our wind generator is contributing almost nothing to the batteries, and secondly, we are doing far more work electronically with the development of Yala World. Perhaps we should be investing in some solar cells but to date I haven't found a panel that is flexible enough for our boat. I hate those oversized metal arches that decorate so many vessels and I want a panel that we can stow away when not in use. No doubt I'll find one eventually.

Even though we are using a generator our fuel consumption is still tiny compared to the energy requirements of running our previous landbased lives. Particularly if you were to factor in running a car as well.

So yes I am happy, but not complacent. As my teachers always used to write at the end of a termly report; there is scope for improvement!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Friday, 2 October 2009

Marital Bliss??





Are you awake?

I am now.

Between you and me...


Just tell me...


Are my breakfast pancakes getting smaller??


So starts our day at 5.30am. What can I say.