Thursday, 30 September 2010

Rum, Sodomy and the Lash.

We have a standing tale in our family of a conversation when the eldest daughter Charlotte was at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. TBH and I were attending a parade that she was taking part in and were chatting to the Commanding Officer. He asked us how Charlotte was getting on and whether she was enjoying the experience.
Quick as a flash I came back with 'Well the rum and the lash are going okay but she's having a bit of a problem with the sodomy, can't get the cat to keep still!'

(The story goes that after being told by an indignant member of the Admiralty that the conversion of the fleet from coal to oil would scuttle its tradition, Churchill replied: 'Don't talk to me about naval tradition, it's nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash.')

Well he roared with laughter and she turned scarlet with embarrassment(a common condition for our kids). All ended well though as he certainly remembered her as he saw her around the college.

The reason for this story being Rum, sodomy and the lash... that was the least of it: 19th century Royal Navy medical journals reveal the perils of a life at sea , that I read this morning, have a look it's fascinating about the dangers of sailing in the Royal Navy in days of yore.

Seven-foot worms in the stomach, tarantula bites and lightning strikes made life at sea a dangerous activity in the 19th century, medical archives revealed today
Strikes me that not a lot has changed, we still have the big spiders aboard and the lightning strikes, the snakes and the malaria. Thank God no seven foot worms in the stomach yet though....

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

I guess that by now you may have realised that I am a pretty keen cook, bit of an understatement that!

What I am also interested in is cooking without all those 'wonderful' appliances and gizmos that the marketing world seems determined to sell us. The rice cookers, breadmakers,egg boilers et al.

Much as I am tempted by some of them, no lets be honest here many of them, there is no way that we can supply the required power on our boat to generate them.

So when I stumbled upon this site, STONESOUP I  was delighted. Here's a wonderful guide to cooking simply but well with minimum fuss. Just what you need on the boat. You can download a FREE e-cookery book here and I can vouch for the excellence of the contents...

Sunday, 26 September 2010

My family's crazy gap year.

Just caught up with this series from the UK, My Family's Crazy gap Year. First set of programmes followed a couple on an amazing jaunt around the world and this set follows a couple on their sailing adventure...
You'll find all the episodes on YouTube.


OMG that first episode had me cringing in my seat, and yet we too were that inexperienced once!
But with two small children in tow, certainly not for the faint-hearted. I can empathize with their wonder at how quickly conditions change, how fear arrives and the speed at which you can recover.

I was so pleased that they finally slowed down and started to smell the roses, what's the rush? Just a chase to get miles under the keel or a truly life changing experience.Their learning curve was immensely steep and with potentially lethal consequences, thank goodness they all survived.

You can read their blog here.

England to Marquesas in eight months. Not for me. I love the slow pace of life, the understanding of a culture that can only be experienced over time. maybe it's my age!

What struck me was how new their clothes looked and how many white ones they had when they started and how as time went by the colours became significantly darker!! Think I need to do some internet shopping...

Thursday, 23 September 2010

A raggedy sort of week... where the days are filled to the brim but at the end of them I just am not sure what I have been doing all day!

TBH has been busy with some extremely complex computer work so I have been trying to keep out of his way. Let me tell you that's not easy on a 40 foot boat, even if you are in a marina. So a lot of the time I have been perusing ,my selection of cook books and trying out a few recipes, both new and old ones that haven't been used for a while.

Coronation chicken was a great success, original recipe from Constance Spry back in the 50's. The light creamy curried sauce and apricots combined with chilled moist chicken breast went down a treat in the hot and steamy climate here.

A baked lemon cheesecake turned out far better than I had hoped. I am not a great fan, often find them a bit sickly but this one had just the right 'tang' to it, not even crumbs left on the plate.

And the climax of the culinary week was a full Chinese meal. Something that we have been fantasizing over for a while. Sweet and sour ribs, lemon chicken and egg fried rice. Pretty good though I say so myself. Didn't quite get the ribs as tender as I would have liked but I have plans for a rerun.

It was great to thumb through my small collection of cook books  again. Space being at a premium on the boat I still dedicate more than a fair share to my cookery library. Elizabeth David is my favourite. Such a literary writer I can read her books like the best fiction. I am looking forward to the next visit from the UK so I can get my hands on the copy of English yeast and bread cookery that I bought on ebay recently. Yum.

Rick Stein gets space, of course. Fish is a great thing for us so his wonderful pictorial guide to preparing almost every monster of the deep is well thumbed and a little stained these days. (As an aside I first met Rick some 45 years ago when we used to stay next door to his family home in Cornwall,the  boy has come a long way since then. My family now live close to Padstow in Cornwall and we have been fortunate to eat at his famous restaurant a few times. It's good. I look forward to returning on the boat one of these days, tying up in the harbour and walking over for a meal!)

Copies of an old 'Farmer's Weekly' collection of recipes, including one of mine. It's also filled with nostalgic tips for making your own furniture polish and hair setting gel!!

There are quite a few more too...

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Avast there ye landlubbers ye!

Twas on the good ship K..... I did spy this fore noon an ancient and barnacl'd old salt aloitering aroun' the forstay of me ship.

A hangin' thair in me riggin' repelling boarders, dragonflies and any man a downwind o' him!

His swarthy countenance  makin' me girlish heart a swoon wi desire, okay so I don't get out much...
'Ahoy there me hearty' says I. 'come below wi' me and I'll show yee sum fancy knotting!'
'Belay yur blatherin' wench and get thee t' galley. It's vittals that a pirate o' these parts is wantin, damnation to the knottin' I wants me grub!'

Oh well such is life... Let's be grateful that 'Speak like a Pirate Day' only comes round once a year.

And this lovely dragonfly stopped by to observe the strange habits of humans who have been alone on a boat just that bit too long...

A sobering video.

Left me with tears, just imagining the horror of losing your boat....

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Fujiwhara effect.

Ooh goody, something new to worry about on the weather front!

Have you ever heard of the Fujiwhara effect? No, me neither. That is until I was perusing the YBW site earlier this morning.

It seems that with the current pile up of Hurricanes Igor and Julia in the Atlantic conditions could be conducive to the formation of this rare and potentially lethal phenomena.

When the cyclones approach each other, their centers will begin orbiting cyclonically about a point between the two systems. The two vortices will be attracted to each other, and eventually spiral into the center point and merge. When the two vortices are of unequal size, the larger vortex will tend to dominate the interaction, and the smaller vortex will orbit around it.
The effect is often mentioned in relation to the motion of tropical cyclones, although the final merging of the two storms is uncommon. The effect becomes pronounced in these storms when they approach within about 1,450 km (900 mi) of each other and are at tropical storm strength or stronger.

Seems that makes predicting the path that much more difficult. It'll be interesting to see what happens with these two...

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Monkey Bay Marina.

A little bit of heaven here on the Rio.

This is one of my favourite spots to sit. Gently rocking under the soothing breeze of the ceiling fan.

Watching the patterns on the water, the boats going about their business...

And listening to the squawks of the parrot from the neighbouring property who thinks it is a duck!

Cruisers gather here in the evenings to spin a yarn, meditate, share a drink. There's no pressure to take part.

The choice is yours...

This morning I took a stroll around the gardens and buildings here, it was HOT, humid as hell and with the sweat trickling down my back I stood and looked at the tiny gem of a property that makes up the marina here at Monkey Bay.

Raised pathways keep your feet out of the mangrove swamp and the owners have done a wonderful landscaping job.

I love the huge jungle versions of the plants that I used to raise so carefully in the hothouse back in the UK.

Butterflies, dragonflies, bees, beetles and even a  domesticated hermit crab!

All these and more can be seen feeding on the plants and vegetation around the property.

Humming birds a-plenty, the occasional glimpse of a bright green snake in the bough of a tree and a frantically paddling freshwater turtle down in the swamp.

We have been to a number of places here on the Rio but like that old saying goes - 'They don't make diamonds as big as bricks'. That's certainly the case with this little beauty. If you're looking for a base on the Rio it doesn't come much better than this. BUT the slips are all full so you'll have to wait, Ha!

 Calabash and coconuts, wonderful vibrant colours that change with the progress of the day.

And all within just steps of the boat.

It's going to be REALLY difficult to leave this place...

Monday, 13 September 2010

Talk like a Pirate Day.
This Sunday, 19th September, will see those of us with romance in our souls join in the talk like a pirate day.

I can promise you wild pictures of Mad Dog in his complete pirate attire. Including, wait for it, his Johnny Depp look-a-like hair and hat. Be still my beating heart!

You may even hear such immortal lines as 'Prepare to be boarded.'
'That’s the finest pirate booty I’ve ever laid eyes on'

And as the day continues songs may be heard drifting across the sweet waters of the Rio....
When the day draws to a close we'll be drinkin' rum and watching Pirates of the Caribbean, what else could you possibly do? 

Bet you can hardly wait! Me neither. TBH isn't quite so sure.....

Pork Pie Heaven.

It worked! Well mostly, the decorative finish maybe needs some refining but it tastes great, came out in one perfect piece and has transported my tastebuds back to England.

A bit of a performance though.....

Day One.
First was the making of the aspic to top the pie off with when it had been baked. This is where the pig's trotters came into the equation. Boiled for HOURS in a pan with celery, carrot, onion, peppercorns, bay leaves. Strained and left to cool.

Day Two.
Started with finely chopping 2.5 kg pork, 250g bacon into tiny pieces. Of course I had to do it by hand, would have beeen easy-peezy in a processor. But hey I'm out cruising...

Swiftly followed by making the hot water crust pastry. The recipe I used calls for lard but you can't get that here, or at least I don't know what to ask for so I took a chance and used Crisco, it's a vegetable shortening. I googled to see if it would be ok but found no definitive answer. What the heck I used it anyway and it was perfect!

Few dicey moments as the pastry has to be worked when it's warm and moulded into shape. Filling in, top on, cursory decorations(I'll try harder next time) and into the oven.
Fortunately it was a lot cooler yesterday as we endured 30 minutes at Gas 4, followed by 90 minutes at Gas 3. Quick paint job with beaten egg and back for another 30 minutes.

Break for wine, for me not the pie!

Out she came golden and perfect, I couldn't believe it.
Final stage was filling the voids in the pie with the aspic. That was warmed till liquid again and at this point I lost my nerve a bit. With such high temperatures here I decided some help was needed and I added an envelope of powdered gelatine in to ensure a good set.
Putting a small funnel in the center of the pie I started to dribble in the golden liquid, man did that smell good!
But is was SO slow! I thought I was going to have a lot left, however I persisted until finally, 2 hoiurs later, I had the thing full.
Then let it all cool down until putting in the refrigerator overnight....

Day Three.

The unveiling... Heart in mouth I sprung the clasp on the tin and out she slid. Perfect, golden, complete!
The knife slid through the resistant but not tough pastry case slicing the succulent filling and seperating the well set aspic.

Oh My God! It tastes wonderful. It was a lot of work, there is a lot of it but it was certainly worth it.

Must go a slice awaits me!

This is the recipe I used from Nigel Slater.

Pork pie

1kg boned pork shoulder
250g pork belly
250g streaky bacon
2 bushy sprigs of thyme
2 sage leaves
½ tsp ground mace
½ tsp ground white pepper
2 good pinches ground nutmeg

For the pastry:

200g lard
220g water
575g flour
1 beaten egg
1 x 20cm cake tin

For the stock:

bones from the pork (left)
2 pig's trotters
1 onion
1 small carrot
1 small bunch of parsley stalks
1 rib of celery
6 black peppercorns


Make the filling
You need to chop the pork into small cubes, about 5mm in size. You could mince it, but the texture will be much more interesting if you can bear to cut it by hand. Or you could chop half, then whizz the other briefly in the food processor.
Finely chop the bacon.
Remove the thyme leaves from their stems, add the sage leaves and chop both finely. Mix the herbs into the chopped meats together with the mace, white pepper, nutmeg and 1 tsp each of salt and coarsely ground black pepper.

Make the pastry

Put the lard and water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Sift the flour with a good pinch of salt into a large bowl. Pour the hot lard and water into the flour, mix with a wooden spoon, then leave until cool enough to handle. The pastry must be warm when you start to work it.
Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Lightly grease and flour your mould or cake tin (with removable bottom). Pull off a quarter of the pastry and roll it into a lid that will fit the top of the cake tin. Roll the remaining pastry to fit the base of the tin. Lay it in the bottom, then firmly push the dough up the sides with your hands. It should spread quite easily. If it slides down, leave it to cool a bit more. Make certain there are no holes or tears. This is crucial, as the jelly will leak out. Spoon the pork filling into the lined cake tin and press it down. It should come almost to the top of the pastry.
Brush the edges of the pastry above the meat with beaten egg. Lower the lid into place and press tightly to seal with the edges. Poke a small hole in the lid to let out the steam and put the tin on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, then lower the heat to 160C/gas mark 3 and bake for 90 minutes until the pastry is pale gold. Brush with the beaten egg and return to the oven for 30 minutes.

Make the stock

Put the bones into a deep saucepan with the onion, carrot, parsley stalks and the celery rib. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and leave the liquid to cook for an hour, watching the water level carefully and topping up where necessary.
Remove from the heat, decant the liquid into a bowl and leave to cool. Refrigerate overnight. If it has set very firmly, simply remove the fat from the top of the stock, transfer to a saucepan and bring to the boil. If it is still on the runny side, then remove the fat as before, pour into a saucepan and boil hard until it is reduced to about 400ml. Season carefully with salt.
When the pie is ready, pour the stock into a jug and then pour it carefully through the hole in the top of the pastry. A funnel is invaluable here. Leave the pie to cool, then refrigerate overnight.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Twitter ....

TBH has started to twitter, does that make him a twit?

He is trying the thing out to see what all the fuss is about. I am not convinced, I guess if you don't have time to read, trawl the net etc yourself it's a quick way to gather knowledge from others but there seems to be an awful lot of dross out there. I mean who can take in info when, as some are, you can subscribe to thousands of feeds. All becomes just so much hot air doesn't it?

Anyway if you want to see what he is thinking about, catches his fancy etc you can find him at 

Me? I'm off to defrost my trotters ready to begin the great pork pie challenge! Wish me luck...

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Now that's a BIG wave!

I have been known to shriek 'BIG WAVE' in moments of stress on board, but I can see that I have never had anything to worry about after watching this piece of video...

A cruise liner caught off the New Zealand coast, oh my.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

The Devil made me do it....

...well TBH's desire for cake actually. Still as this is my 666 post on blogger I think the devil may have had a hand!
So Tres Leche Cake, THE celebration cake here in Central America. Served chilled it's rich but not sickly, simple to make and oh so moreish!!



  • 1/2  cup  unsalted butter
  • 1  cup  sugar
  • 6  large eggs
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla extract, divided
  • 1 1/2  cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  baking powder
  • 1  cup milk
  • 1  (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1  (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2  cups  whipping cream
  • 1/4  cup  powdered sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 13- x 9-inch baking dish.
2. Beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; mix in egg yolks and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder; add gradually to butter mixture, stirring to blend.Whisk egg whites until stiff and then gently combine with the mixture. Pour batter into prepared dish, and bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Pierce cake with a fork all over.
3. Combine the 3 milks, and pour on top of cake; cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.
4. Beat whipping cream, powdered sugar, and remaining vanilla at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until thick; spread over cake, and serve.

I am afraid that we may never walk, let alone dance again after this very successful effort at a local recipe!!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

N'Kosi Sikeleli, God Bless Africa.

Last night it was TBH's turn for an emotional musical ride...

As we were looking through our vast collection of DVD's we turned up the copy of Paul Simon's famous concert Graceland from back in 1986. A time when Nelson Mandela was still imprisoned and apartheid was very much a part of life in South Africa.

TBH was born in Africa, in a place that was called Nyasaland, it's now known as Malawi and is on the eastern side of central Africa. His birthplace was the town of Blantyre some distance from where his parents lived in Zomba. It was here that his Dad was a bigwig in the colonial police force of the day. TBH's Mum used to tell me stories of their lives there. Very few white families, TBH was raised pretty much by African wet nurses, he loved to tease his Mum about that!

He says that he remembers sitting around the campfires in the evening being fed mealie-meal and fish by the staff when his parents were off on one of their many official engagements. To this day he has nightmares about hippos and elephants, a result of the dire warnings that he was given as a child not to leave the compound.

Returning to the UK aged 6 he remembers driving to Cape Town via Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.They came through the Kruger National Park and there he experienced his FIRST taste of Coca-Cola and peanuts. Not a good combination on a long road trip.

He recalls traveling to and from the UK on the Union Castle Shipping Line.He traveled on the Arundel Castle and was often to be found visiting the engine room. Some things never change! Even at that age he says he loved the roll of the ocean!

The picture is of that ship in Capetown (I just love the internet).

They say that the call of Africa never leaves those born on that continent and this morning he surprised me by saying, 'That's my country'. I have never heard him identify with any geography before, having lived all over the world he is a real gypsy. So I was a bit shocked by his statement.

Later in life he returned to live and work in South Africa, at the goldmines and then in Alexandria a predominately black area of Johannesburg. His work took him into Soweto, this was just before the riots...

I've asked him if he wants to go back and his answer is that he would find returning to Africa too heartbreaking.

So that's enough musical memories for a while, my emotions can't stand the ride! Red eyed and exhausted by the memories. The DVD's are firmly back in the box as we concentrate on creating a new set of memories to pull out in the future. I wonder what they will be?

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Let's Dance!

Diddley, diddley dum. Diddley, diddley, deee.

Guess what we did last night?

Can't guess?
OK I'll tell you.

We watched a DVD of Riverdance! Remember the amazing stage success that was an offshoot of the Irish half time display during one of those interminable Eurovision Song Contest TV specials?

It certainly was awarded more that Nil points (has to be said with a strong French accent), and went on to be a massive international phenomena.

This is a video of that original performance back in 1994, from that six minute entertainment came the whole show!

Oh my it was wonderful, my feet were tapping, tears misting my eyes as those irrepressible Irish lads and lassies twirled across the stage of Radio City in perfect formation (the envy of many a drill-sergeant), hair whirling and feet moving faster than the speed of light. Must be my Irish blood coming to the fore...

Anyway rampant emotions aside it opened a maelstrom of memories, and kept me awake half the night as I relived them all. When I really get down to thinking abut travel and wondering what it means to me there are a number of avenues that my mind can take me down. The iniquities of wealth and poverty, the cultural imperialism of my country, but the avenue that brings me most pleasure is that of music.

My first visit to the South West of Ireland began with a wild ride from the airport in Cork to a local ceilidh and an immediate introduction into the Bacchanalian rites of Irish Dance. I danced my feet off, whirling and laughing,struggling to keep up.Handed from person to person,trying not to trip over my own feet. Partners from the youngest to the oldest members of the community. It was wonderful. Everyone joins in, they all know the steps and the invigoration of social interaction was intense. Mind you I could hardly move for days after, sweet memories.

Countries will be forever associated with musical events in my head. The soulful singing of the drunken fishermen in Portugal. They were sitting in the only bar in the village where we were anchored, their voices floating down the hillside to our cockpit. Sad, slightly off key but immersed in the words of their culture. It made us think of the continuity of village life.

Spain where the rhythm of flamenco lit the fire in my blood, the drumming of heels on the wooden stage, the violence of the staccato hand claps. The intense sexuality of the dancers , creating extraordinary forms of the human body, writhing and whirling across the stage. Did you know that the female flamenco dancers often dance their way to orgasm?? A round of applause from the troupe, a glass of water and a quick sit down to recover from the event and they are off again. Fascinating.

Gibraltar where the 300th birthday of the Nation was celebrated with a concert by Elton John. We sat on the deck of the boat in the drizzle with a bottle of wine and sang along to 'Saturday Night', 'Crocodile Rock' and all the other wonderful classics.

The Caribbean islands with their gospel and steel bands. TBH's Dad always claimed that he was one of the sponsors of the first steel bands in Trinidad, where he lived back in the 40's, donating his dustbin lids to the cause of music making!

Central America with it's wild Latin beat, even the music in the supermarkets gets your hips swaying. Little kids sashay across the room with that Latino strut that makes me smile every time.

And Cuba! Ah what can I say about Cuba. Music everywhere, dance, classical, latin, contemporary. All accompanied by the infectious sound of laughter and the wide smiles of the Cubans. If ever there was a place that could win over your soul it is here.
Walking across the town late one night TBH and I spied a group of local youths clustered around a bench. Oh Oh , could be trouble. Were we ever wrong. The dozen local lads were practising their Beatle numbers to the accompaniment of a lone guitar. Magic, pure magic.

The cry of the muezzin early in the morning as the faithful are called to prayer in Morocco. It sends a tingle up my spine just thinking about it. So foreign, so alien to where I come from, so evocative of the heat, the desert, the vast continent of Africa.

Oh and drums, and kids singing and and. I could go on and on.

It made me sad too. I can't remember the last time I danced . Too old, too fat, husband with no sense of rhythm, bless him. But that's gonna change!! You are never too old, so they say and as the newspaper's are telling me that 54 is the new 40 my time has come. Stand back world!