Friday, 30 April 2010

It's a strange world.

It's been a strange week. I think that I have to blame the excessive heat. With the temperature regularly at over 100 degrees life has slowed down to almost a virtual halt. When the air starts to feel like treacle due to the high humidity you just have to give in. There is nothing tangible to fight against so you may as well accept the torpid pace that is the only way to survive. In my case I find that difficult to do with any grace and, certainly, very little elegance! Hard to be calm when the sweat is literally pouring from every part of your body. When the decks of the boat are so hot it is physically impossible to walk across them!

We get up at 5am, do all the necessary jobs in the fiirst couple of hours 'cos by 8.30am all you can do is concentrate on keeping the sweat to a minimum. regular showers, like every hour, lots of fluids and understanding that the irritability is heat driven!

Little cooking, just too dam hot!

We have removed ourselves downstream again to a nice swimming bay so that is an improvement, and today we even have a little breeze to ease things.

I am watching the run up to the UK General Election with trepidation. What a poisoned chalice awaits the new incumbent, I cannot believe that Gordon Brown will be reelected after the mess and almost irreparable damage he has inflicted on my country, but I wouldn't like to be in the oppositions shoes either. The British people are in for a really hard time in the coming decades, we ain't seen anything yet......

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues to grow, wonder if BP will ever be held accountable for the complete failure of all their so-called safety systems? Cruisers here who are headed that way are concerned enough to change their routes away from the area, can't say I blame them.

As we pulled in to the anchorage this afternoon back came the mangrove swallows, diving at the boat. All ready with nesting materials to lay claim to the hollow in the boom and the gap in the roller-furling drum. But I stopped the little buggers with the judicial use of a couple of binliners. Ha! 

It's a strange old world!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Hot, hot, hot.

The time is 2.18pm, it's 100 degrees below decks and a good deal hotter above.

To keep cool we are soaking the decks with water every couple of hours. The evaporation brings the temperature down by around 5-7 degrees. Running all the fans below decks. Showering every couple of hours. Drinking gallons of iced water...

And its forecast to reach a heat index of 125 tomorrow. I am dreaming of ice cream and polar regions....

Just seen that there is a,severe weather warning( tornado watch) out on part of the Florida coast near Panama City, must be the heat!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Sinking slowly!

We had gone to bed early last night, hush those bad thoughts! Dozing off I heard an unusual amout of activity on the dock,cruisers bedtime here is around 7.30pm so any activity after that is strange. Then I heard a voice calling for an underwater light. Oh dear sounds like trouble. TBH bounded, well crawled, out of bed, grabbed the light and went to join the boaters 'committee' on the dock.

Joe, in the next slip, was taking on water, fast. The bilge pumps were manned, John, the manager here, was in the water looking for the external thru-hull that appeared to be the cause of the problem and everyone else was offering advice! Sometime later I retired back to bed, the 'men' were firmly in charge and there seemed to be more than enough of them confusing the issue! Besided which the boat didn't appear to be settling too far in the water, no need for real panic it seemed.

It turns out that an elbow joint had broken to a thru- hull(?), the handle of the seacock was missing and a wooden plug magnificently hammered home underwater wasn't staunching the flow. After various attempts with underwater putty, a crash pad, more wooden plugs the leak was finally stopped with some aluminium tape and a couple of hose clamps! Too much excitment for me...

Talking about events this morning we realised that although we have the correct size plug attached to each seacock we need to have a selection  of plugs available as well. We have arranged to buy some of the aluminium tape that was the final solution. I must service the seacocks even more often!!

Monday, 19 April 2010


I have been having great fun in recent months trying to cook different things. The main criteria has to be that the recipe chosen must be something that in a previous lifeIi would have thought too complicated or time consuming to attempt...or a food that brings back lots of memories.

This weeks creation was profiteroles with chocolate sauce, yum.
As a kid one of the treats was a visit to Lyons Corner House in Marble Arch, London. I don't think it's still there but it was an institution in during my formative years. Within sight of the big triumphal archway in the centre of the road just into Oxford Street, I associate it with all sorts of things. the orthodontist, yup braces were in even then! Sightseeing, loads of shopping expeditions.

There were three huge restaurants down an escalator, that added to the excitment. A long concourse and the first one was the Silver Tray. A sort of cafeteria, self service number. Bit of a disappointment if the parents chose that one. Tinned tomato soup, sandwiches, boring. Next along was the Haywain, waitresses in gingham overalls, chicken pies and fish and chips. But the ultimate, the one my heart always desired was the |Star Grill. Oh the sophistication! Little white aprons and those funny white paper hat things. It all seemed so chic!
But best of all were the profiteroles, a white bowl with 4 or 5 balls of light, crispy choux pastry, stuffed with cream and covered with a rich chocolate sauce. Ah sweet memories!

So finally this week I made them, they came out a treat! And the sauce was a triumph, so much so that I am going to share the recipe with you...

200g good quality plain cooking chocolate
30g unsalted butter
3tbsp honey
125ml milk

Melt the chocolate, butter and honey in a pan over a pan of simmering water until all melted.
Whisk in milk until smooth.

Thats it, simple huh? Totally delish.

My thanks to Ann from Galivant who generously gave us some of the honey from her own bees and to Judy from Lapis who left me her supply of chocolate when she and Woody returned to Canada. It's not going to waste girls!

(Had to use an internet pic as we ate them all! Mine looked just the same though, really!)

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Can you Sea-me?

Ever since the lightning strike last year, when we lost the radar(amongst other things), we have been thinking about the safety features on the boat.
We have an aging epirb which needs new batteries, and the usual nav lights, liferaft etc. There is an original radar enhancer somewhere in the mast but thats a bit elderly now.

Realising that at some point we will be undertaking another major ocean passage I have been using the time here, and access to the internet, to do some research. It's all very complicated isn't it. So many sites assume an in depth technological knowledge and a deep wallet! Having neither of these I was getting a bit frustrated.

That is until I stumbled upon Sea-me, a UK based firm that specialises in Sart, radar enhancement,AIS and so forth. I have been the customer from hell I think! Loads of questions but no purchase,yet! They have been superb answering all my dim queries with patience and understanding. Superb service, and they certainly seem to know their stuff....

Should we replace the radar? Buy an AIS unit? Rely on a unit to show where we are? And how do we satisfy our desire for safety with our policy of keeping things simple on board?

We haven't made the final decisions yet but when we do I'm sure the guys at Sea-me will be getting our business...

Monday, 12 April 2010

Sunday sailing.

Sunday saw us having a delightful sail upriver. After some days of grey and rainy skies we were treated to fluffy white clouds and gentle breezes, actually going in the direction that we wanted for a change. It's sod's law that whenever you set off the wind will almost inevitably decided to settle itself right on the nose. Not so this time. We had planned on staying where we were for a while longer but the call of the breeze was too strong and within minutes we were off. Sails up, engine off and sitting comfortably back, perched in my favourite spot on the portside cockpit combing. Ah bliss, was there ever a better way to spend a Sunday?
It was the sort of lazy drive in the countryside that is so much a part of Middle England. Time to see the leaves flutter on the trees, hear a distant chicken announcing the arrival of its latest egg with a soft cackling cluck.
Not another boat to be seen for miles, what a treat they were missing. The day was so blissful that we just kept on going, past our intended anchorage, through the jetskis of the holidaymakers and under the bridge. A little more challenging that with a bit of a current running against us and a dying breeze but we did it. Sailed through in style!

And on still further, past marinas, and bars and women doing their washing. Till finally we came to the 'Castillo de San Felipe' .(See above.) Immaculately restored by a proud nation it stands still guarding the entrance to Lago Izabel. Cannons bristling from the ramparts. It must have been a daunting obstacle in days of yore...

We felt obliged to turn to each other and roar piratical commands 'Look lively there you filthy swab"
TBH looked somewhat aghast and mildly asked if I fancied a cup of tea, then with a glint in his eye suggested 'breaking out the rum'!

Talking of rum, I see that the youngest daughter has "Sailor Jerry's Rum' on the menu at her restaurant, do you think she means me???

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Contentment is a good pizza.

It has been a busy couple of days. Finally the rain has stopped. It was great to get a real downpour. I would guess that the farmers locally must be delighted to see an end to the parched weeks that we have been having. On the plus side it filled our tanks with wonderful fresh clean rainwater on the minus side we discovered a leak in the hanging cupboard..aagh!

Out came all the clothes, some needed washing to remove the small stains and then on with the detective job of finding the hole. Looking through the portlight the most obvious place seemed to be the traveller track. Just above the leak was a fixing, a large screw with a nut that was then covered with fibreglass. Hoping that it would be that simple and not one of those nasty referred leaks that actually spring yards from where they originate we set to with chisel, screwdriver and patience. As TBH worked to expose the fitting it became obvious that there had been a problem here some time in the past. That raised our hopes that we were on the right track! (Pun)

It wasn't too complicated and we now have fingers crossed that the repair will hold!~

Today I was reading a posting on YBW that asked about the costs to cruise. The 'how long is a piece of string' perennial! One poster said that he felt you needed enough money to mainatin the same lifestyle that you had in a house. I couldn't disagree more. The freedom to experience the satisfaction of enjoying the smaller things in life is priceless. The time to savour a job done well, to read a good book, all these cost nothing. I woud not go back to the high pressure life that we led before under any circumstances. Yes my bank balance is certainly a lot smaller but as TBH is wont to say "You can put your money in the bank and it will probably still be there tomorrow but the days of your life end every evening. Not one can be relived".

Too bloody true mate!

So to reward him for being a wonderful partner I made pizza for lunch. As good as any from Pizza Express and in surroundings that a suburban eatery can never hope to emulate....

Friday, 2 April 2010

Spring has sprung!

As the Easter week celebrations reach a crescendo here in Central America we have removed ourselves and our boat to a quiet bay. Reasonably sheltered from the horrific wakes put out by the 'once a year' powerboaters, away from the insistent whining of the jet skiers and, we hope, well away from the alcohol fuelled small boat drivers.

As a confirmed atheist I cannot say that we celebrate Easter so, for me, it's an excuse to celebrate the coming of Spring. A time of renewal and growth. Of hope and fecundity! The dry season is crawling to a close, and boy has it been dry this season. Last night we had rain for the first time in weeks. Not enough to collect in any meaningful amounts but sufficient to give the air that 'just-washed'  scent this morning.

The bird song was loud and insistent when I climbed into the cockpit around 7am. The Mangrove Swallows are back and seem to be chastising us for our absence. Our safety lines their grandstand for the events of the day. Cormorants diving and finally an end to the numbers of dead fish that have been around recently. Not some manmade disastar this but a surfeit of salt in the freshwater that does not agree with some of the indiginous fish...mind you the birds don't mind as they shovel up huge beaks full of ready salted cuisine!

I guess there is an opportunity for some in anothers disastar. A lesson......

So with a lack of chocolate Easter eggs in the store I turned my hand to some little chocolate buns with sugar egg sprinkle. Not quite the same as a Cadbury's Buttons egg but the best I can do!