Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Chinese night

You know sometimes, just sometimes, I think that TBH and I may be spending too much time together...

Take last night, deprived of our regular eastern fix it was determined that we needed a 'cultural immersion' evening. Do you ever do those? No I guess not. It takes a bit of a sad old git to understand the desire to transport oneself to exotic places when you are already sitting in a REAL exotic location.

Be that as it may the desire came over me and I was off..

Being a complete foodie there was no place to begin but with the food.
Pretty obvious really.
So out with the recipe books, on with the internet and a delightful trawl began through the worlds culinary masterpieces. It so wonderful to be able to pull up a recipe, any recipe I can imagine.
 Then of course the down to earth bit when I realise that I don't have, and have no hope of buying, many of the ingredients needed for the more exotic dishes. Right now there isn't a tin of cornstarch to be had for love nor money and kaffir leaves, well you can forget that!

From time to time TBH peers over my shoulder to see what I am looking at. I know he's there 'cos a puddle of drool starts to pool on my left shoulder, yeuch. He's a terrible dribbler , say no more. Guess that could be termed too much information. Sorry!

Anyway to get back to the important issue here, food.
Chinese was the chosen theme. I already had some super spare ribs in the fridge and planned around that. What else  is in the fridge? Aha some ground pork and theres a bowl of rice left over from yesterday. Bingo!
From that moment my voice took on a singsong quality. Weird. TBH even said that my eyes narrowed but I think he's exaggerating...

Sticky spare ribs, lion pork balls with a chilli dipping sauce and special fried rice. I did contemplate lemon chicken as well but that was a step too far in terms of quantity.

First step is to marinate the ribs, longer you leave them the tenderer they get, well within reason.  wouldn't want any that had been marinating for days, nasty.
I mix together soy sauce, rice wine, chinese five spice, honey, salt and pepper, tomato puree and mustard. Cut the ribs into smaller pieces mix with the ribs and set aside.
So on the night of the deed the ribs get popped in the oven at it's highest temperature for 1-2 hours,keep a close eye on them to make sure they don't burn and turn regularly.

Then onto the lion pork balls. This is a new one for me. they have this name as the balls are rolled in rice, making them look like a lions mane, well that's what the book said!

Mix a pound of ground pork with 1 tsp chinese five spice powder, 2tbsp chopped fresh coriander, a spoon of flour, 2 cloves crushed garlic and a tbsp rice wine. Form into walnut size balls. Actually before doing this you need to soak 3ozs sushi rice, the sticky stuff, in water for two hours.
Roll the balls in the drained rice and then steam for 20 minutes until cooked.

Whilst they are cooking mix up a special fried rice, any kind. I use what ever is lurking in the rack. last night it included bacon,red pepper, carrot, spring onion, ginger and broccolli.

TBH set the table, including chopsticks! He also selected the entertainment, a mystical Chinese film- Hero starring Jet Li.

So the scene was set, TBH dressed in his Chinese silk smoking jacket(don't ask), me in my satin Chinese pyjamas and the evening commenced.
God alone knows what our neighbour made of the discordant Chinese music coming from the boat and my dulcet tones shrieking ' Waaaa yurrr name? 'at TBH in a fake Chinese accent.....

The film was stunning. The cinematography quite breathtaking and outstanding soundtrack by one of my favourite composers, Tan Dun....

Anyone up for the next event? TBH fancies Italian with Cinema Paradisio!

Monday, 17 January 2011


Bananas, those yellow sweet fruits that we all know. My time in Central America has taught me a LOT about bananas, the different kinds, how to cook them, where they are grown and so on. I have driven through vast banana plantations in Costa Rica, picked fruit from the side of the road, haggled over bananas in the market. I mean here we are in one of the original Banana Republics!

What I have also learned is the story of the exploitation of the indigenous populations by the big Corporate boys who along with the CIA overthrew Governments and manipulated nations, all through bananas!

The history of the United Fruit Company  is well documented in the book BANANAS  by Peter Chapman.One of the most interesting stories that I have read about the intrigue, money and power that circles around this seemingly harmless yellow fruit. Yet fortunes have been won and lost in this game, political power wielded and nations exploited.For most of the twentieth century United Fruit dominated a dozen countries, it was more powerful than than many states and a law unto itself....

 The Dole company now dominate the market, a US company that has attracted the attention of the worlds press with a court case bought on behalf of a group of Nicaraguan banana workers.

The documentary Bananas, directed by Fredrik Gertten follows the story.

Today bananas are the worlds fourth major food after rice, wheat and milk! I no longer see them solely as a fruit but as an instrument of power and corruption. Put's a whole new slant on a banana split I can tell you.....

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Monkey Bay Marina...

...cruisers and other animals.

TBH and I are not very social animals these days. It's quite a surprise as most of our previous lives were spent 'moving and shaking' in the social whirls of life. These days we tend to say that we are not stand offish, just socially independent! Don't think anyone believes us though...

So we don't really get in to conversation with a lot of the other cruisers, beyond the niceties of a quick good morning or polite decline of invitations to potlucks and other 'group' events. It's not personal just the way we are.

It probably doesn't help that we are in work mode these days too. Not busy doing boat jobs or planning passages (well only in my mind). It means that we don't have a lot in common right now with the folk that surround us.

One of the reasons we enjoy Monkey Bay Marina so much is that there is no bar, no restaurant, no pressure to 'join-in' activities. I find that all a bit too much like practice for the dribbly farm! There have been more than a few social bullies on the Rio this season, the ones who 'insist' that you really will enjoy whatever it is they are planning to organise next. Yuch!

But every so often somebody pops up who enthralls me with their conversation. One of the recent additions to my 'passion for life' category is Joe. Joe is a big guy, tall and well built with surprisingly delicate facial features, a neat clipped white mustache and a twinkle in his eye. Married to his high school sweetheart Cathy for 51 years they are here on their sailboat Sundog.

Now Joe was a biologist before his retirement. he worked in Alaska and his great passion in life was the  Char, a surprisingly interesting fish. I sit mesmerized as Joe guides me through the geological upheavals on our world that have let to the division of the species of the Char. His explanations of the adaptability of this fish fascinate me. And just as delightful is to hear the passion in his voice as he describes the research that he undertook.

Most mornings I wander across to the palapa that sits over the river, right now the mimosa tree that abuts it is alive with hummingbirds, flitting from bloom to bloom gathering nectar with their needle like beaks. I can sit for hours watching them at work. Joe has taken some wonderful photographs of the animal life here at Monkey Bay and kindly has allowed me to reproduce them. You can see how lucky we are to enjoy surroundings like these.

The hummingbird is a variety call 'rufus tail' , that refers to the colour of the tail and it is a common variety from Mexico down to Venezuela. being from Europe I find it all very exotic!

You can actually hear the sound of the wings humming as they are flapped at incredible speed.

Amazing! In case you can't work this one out it's a snake swallowing a rather large frog. Joe said that the frog nearly got away a couple of times but ultimately became just another lunch....

Monday, 10 January 2011

33 million can't be wrong!

What a joyful piece of film, made me smile, a lot. Hope it does you too.

Happy, happy Monday morning everyone...

If you want to know more visit this site

Friday, 7 January 2011

Jeanne Socrates

Oh my god the poor woman...

You may remember that I have followed Jeanne for some time on her quest to circumnavigate without stopping. Her first attempt came to an abrupt halt just 100 miles short of completion when she lost her boat, Nereida, on a beach in Mexico.

Jeanne is no spring chicken but she certainly wasn't going to accept defeat. A new boat was commissioned, built and launched and off she went again! This time thwarted by a series of mechanical problems(worrying in a new boat).

Recently off she went again, can't keep a good woman down! I was horrified to hear yesterday that she had been knocked down and lost her boom, amongst other things, just off Cape Horn. Thankfully she is safe, albeit battered and cold. The photographs of the boat make your heart bleed...

Here is her blog entry for the last couple of days, makes you realise what a treacherous place the ocean is.

Wednesday/Thursday 5/6th January 2011

Wednesday 5th January

The NW winds of 30-35kt of Tues evening were up to 36kt, gusting 41kt, by midnight with seas of 5-6m, occasionally with sections of breaking crests. Hit by waves often and frequently surfing to 11-12 kt..... By early morning, it seemed to have calmed down a lot, with a weak sun trying to get through a thin layer of cloud and wind down to 24-30 kt. Among the prions I spotted a white-chinned petrel and there was a pair of black-browed albatross. Checked in to Patagonia Cruisers' Net with Wolfgang - asked him about ice situation - he felt it was OK and in chatting to someone else, it seemed that within 200 miles S of Chile, there was no problem.

By midday, with occasional waves hitting us and washing the decks, I was beginning to feel decidedly concerned, with the wind back up to 35-37kt, forecast to increase, and big seas to match, we hove to with triple-reefed mains'l and stays'l. Changed the running backstay over and centred the mains'l kies, some rain. We were well heeled, and there were plenty of big seas...and suddenly, near 2.30pm, while I was fortunately leaning against a wall in the head, all hell let loose - and everything that could move was re-located to a starboard side of the cabin.... Water was pouring in from under the sliding hatch and there was chaos everywhere.

Slowly we righted and soon after I looked to see what damage there was - clearly there was some - no instruments, for a start!.. but I could not budge the hatch to open it - try as might...! I had to climb out of the aft cabin hatch to access the cockpit - which I'd already seen enough of to realize the boom was broken in half and the canopy/dodger over the companionway was missing, along with its framework ..... there was safety glass everywhere. I soon realized why the hatch wouldn't slide open - the halyard bag full of heavy wet lines, was lying on top and was soon removed along with several lines lying loose... Going down below, I noticed the perspex hatch was cracked in half vertically - a worry if we should ever get pooped. Next, I got the instruments working - a connection in the aft cabin had been hit by flying/sliding objects...
In brief, I didn't know where to start... Tried to clear up a bit on deck - not much I could achieve there... down below - impossible to clear up wet things ( all pillows and bedding were sopping wet at their end.. still beam on to oncoming seas... not good ... another knockdown imminent??- I tried eveything I could to get us to head downwind... a bit of genoa plus some stays'l... downed the remaining main as much as I could.. tried to tie it but that got dangerous in the big seas running, so was forced to abandon that... Later decided to reduce all sail since series drogue shouldn't need any - furling line on stays'l broke - sail unfurled totally and flappes madly and violently - whole boatvshook with bthe violence... not good ... what to do? Had to lower it - and keep it inboard and low and together in the strong wind, not easy... As it flapped, it caught the pole and broke it in half .. Things were going from bad to worse...!

Once finished on deck, I returned below to the awful,dripping, wet mess there - even the chart table lid had clearly been flung open and its contents had been thrown across to the galley, to mix with spilled items there, including toiletries from the head - wet paper all over everything else... impossible to deal with and not drying in the cold, damp air. Decided I'd better let the authorities know of my plight - not yet life-threatening but not good... Here I was in the Southern Ocean ... and fore-reaching south in the dark at over 2 knots!

- - - - -

To cut a long story short, the Chilean Navy and Falmouth CG both got involved - it was lovely to get the friendly, helpful Falmouth phone calls - an English person at the other end of the phone - no language problems!!! Helping with all that was Bob McDavitt initially - deeply appreciated, Bob - and the American Maritime Mobile Net on 14300 kHz - Bill (KI4MMZ) in particular, with Fred (W3ZU) helping with relay. Good for my morale was chatting to the Pacific Seafarers Net also.

A fishing vessel, Magallanes III, came along, ready to tow us to safety ... the winds not expected to ease much until next day...and seas later...

Conditions were pretty strong then and for a time after - no sleep until early morning (3hrs). I felt another knockdown was only too likely since we were beam on still to the seas - makes for feeling very vulnerable! The only ray ogf light was my realization that we had an engine - I tried it in neutral - it worked!! Slight problem was two lines I'd seen overboard - one I retrieved but the other was jammed in something - the prop?? ... or the rudder??

Thursday 6th January

Been a good day since waking up to clear skies & bright sun after 3 hrs sleep this morning - and then getting engine going OK. Removed wire on gear shift cable with some difficulty - but I finally won out and was delighted to find there was no problem with the propellor, having thought a line might be caught around it. (There's a sharp rope-cutter on propshaft near to the prop so it could have been cut away) End result was no tow was needed.. sigh of relief on my part - no worries about additional resulting damage..! The fishermen, who'd been not far away all night, didn't seem to mind too much losng the income from a tow and sent me their best wishes!

I'm making a straight line for the Horn now - the sunny, clear skies of this morning have slowly clouded over and there's invariably an albatross of one kind or another not too far away. Swell has slowly been dying down - hardly noticeable now - just an occasional one bigger than usual.

When I retrieved my series drogue, my suspicions were confirmed ... Looks as though the fishing vessel, when approaching and circling us in the night, cut the line with its prop - of 125 cones, only six are now there with a very reduced length of line... and no chain, of course...!

I've been contacted by Falmouth CG and the Chile Navy by satphone, and have had regular radio contacts on 14300 over the day - all very supportive and friendly - very many thanks to all of them. (The Chilean Navy phone me for 4-hrly position updates from Puerto Williams!)

I'm also looking forward now to rounding Cape Horn in daylight and in good conditions! The reason for heaving to in the strong winds and big seas of Wednesday was to let that system pass so as to be on the shallow shelf near the Horn in reasonable conditions - now and for the next two days. Should be at Horn around 1400Z on 7th and in to Beagle Channel early on 8th Jan. - have slowed down to avoid arriving too early in morning but lookd as though I'll need to anchor for a few hours at least.......

24hr DMG to noon UTC: Wednesday: 140 Thursday: 69ml (supposedly hove to!) (See maps showing track & position via links on my website 'Travels' q

At 1200 Wednesday UTC: 55:40S, 072:34W. Cape Horn 180 ml; Chile (nearest point) 58 ml ; N.Z. (S.Island) 3916 ml 222T; Mexico (Cabo S. Lucas) 5080ml

At 1200 Thursday UTC: 56:33S, 071:15W. Cape Horn 137 ml.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year

2011, amazing! Let's hope it's a great year for us all...

We sailed to an isolated bay yesterday. haven't anchored here before but it's wonderfully peaceful. Not a sign of life on the shore and loads of curious turtles surfacing around the boat.

We saw the new year in on deck under the most amazing canopy of stars, truly magical.

Now we are have a lovely time reading and catching up on small jobs on the boat. Life is good, hope yours is too.