Land ahoy!

It’s been just over a year that the three of us have been living aboard. We’ve moved boats a few times, and have had plenty of challenges to overcome. Lately though, our plans have started to shift.

Originally we had planned to set off from Vancouver and sail for a year or two (or more), and then to come back and settle down in the country and build a small house. We figured that the family would grow at some point, but never worried about when. The world has a funny way of changing priorities though. Now that there are reasons to worry more about starting a family down south (Zika is not a risk I want to take), we have had to take a less laissez faire approach.

We still plan to live aboard here in Vancouver and to one day sail off into the sunset, but until we are ready to have a family that is bigger than just us and Lenny, we have decided to stay here in BC. We have bought a piece of land, and spent our honeymoon starting to develop it. To better reflect our shifting plans, I’ve decided to put Yoga in Uncharted Waters on the back burner, and to start a new blog to chronicle the next chapter. I hope that you’ll still follow our adventures on These Green Roots.

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It’s a good thing we like lemonade

It may sound cliche, but over the past year we have found ourselves with a great deal of lemons – those situations where things go wrong and you have two choices: let things get you down or make lemonade. We may not always have the best of luck, but we always make the best of whatever happens.

Having said that, I’m sure everyone is curious as to what happened this weekend! It’s a long weekend here (thank goodness for BC Day), and after camping for the last three weekends we thought it would be nice to be out on the water, and to check out the fireworks in the bay. We are still without a mast, but have a solid diesel engine so figured that motoring would be better than sitting at the dock. We wanted to leave Friday evening to go with the tide, so by the time I finished work, Alex had all the shopping done and the boat warmed up and ready to go.

It was a beautiful evening, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. There was a bit of wind, but nothing too crazy when we left. By the time we reached First Narrows, things were a bit different. The wind was gusting, and was blowing against the current. This is always a recipe for trouble, and we ended up battling 10 foot waves as we passed under the bridge (but at least we had plenty of clearance). Our engine had been getting a bit hot as we were in the turbulent bits, causing us to gear down to let it cool off. We weren’t sure exactly what was wrong with the engine, but then saw the water intake stop. This meant that there was no water cooling the engine, and we had no choice but to shut it off and hope it wasn’t already damaged.

At this point, things started to get dicy. There were a couple of other sailboats caught in the same waters, and all of us were just getting tossed around. Alex tried to hitch the dingy with its 25hp engine up to the main boat, to try to get us out of trouble, but the waves were too big and too dangerous, and the dingy (and Alex) were at risk of getting crushed each time we rolled. At that point, we had no choice but to call the Coast Guard for help. When they arrived, they were able to help the other sailboat who was also in distress and then come back and help tow us to safety. They helped us get to some mooring buoys just off Ambleside Park, then went on their way to rescue someone else.

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The view from our mooring buoy

Once we were safe, we were able to take stock of the situation. Of course, everything inside was thrown around the cabin, even things we thought were safe. Once again, we had broken glass everywhere – but at least this time my Kombucha survived, and only a little bit of tea leaked!

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Kombucha!

Lenny and I were both pretty shaken up, and I was suffering from fairly severe sea sickness at this point. Alex felt broken, from all of the physical strain of trying to self-rescue with the dingy, but he was the only one who was able to go below deck and clean up the mess. Shortly thereafter we all crashed and tried to sleep: me on the settee in the main cabin (easier for me if I was sick), and Lenny in bed with Alex, as he required constant touch and comfort after that ordeal.

The waters were still rough, and the Gravol I took wasn’t enough, so by the middle of the night I had to use one of the motion sickness patches for the first time. It seemed to work well, and the next day (Saturday) I was weak but no longer sick to my stomach.

Since we were already tied up to the mooring buoy, we decided that even with the drama of the night before, we got what we wanted: to be away from the dock and to be able to relax on the water. There was an arts and music festival on the beach, and the weather was lovely for the entire weekend. It was also nice to be in an area where we had never stopped before (it’s just so close), so we decided to do some crabbing and fishing while we were there.

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What else to do while stuck at sea?

For those of you who know Alex, you probably know that he likes to fish, and may even know that he hasn’t caught a single fish since leaving Ontario. Well, that all changed on Sunday! I was busy fishing with the crab trap, when all of a sudden Alex had a fish on his line. He pulled it up, and what a fish it was!

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Once Alex had him on the boat, we had the chance to look at him – and couldn’t believe our eyes – this was clearly a small shark! Now, maybe I’m a bit naive, but I had NO idea that there were sharks around Vancouver. We wanted to make sure we did our research and figure out what exactly it was – and most importantly, if we were even allowed to catch them! We made him a temporary home in a plastic container, with a very curious Leonard standing guard:

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Leonard and his new pet

After a bit of research, we found out that Alex had caught a spiny dogfish, and one that was small enough that we were able to eat him without much worry about mercury levels. Needless to say, once we had that information, Leonard lost his new friend. I’ll spare the pictures of him becoming dinner – but know that we some lovely grilled dogfish with guacamole on the side.

Shortly after the fish (which wasn’t really a complete meal), we were trying to decide what to have to go with it. Alex figured he’d throw the line back in the water, and lo and behold, got a second bite! This time he caught a sole:

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Dinner round #2

We quickly checked the regulations again, and once we knew there was no problem keeping it, onto the BBQ it went! While Alex was dealing with this fish, we figured that I should keep the line in the water, just in case. I ended up with the biggest bite of them all… It was so big, I couldn’t get it in myself, and apparently wasn’t able to set the hook, because while Alex was trying to bring it in, the fish got away. The moral of the story: we can now say we saltwater fish successfully!

When we got up this morning, it was another lovely day. We started to fish and crab a bit after our morning coffee, and figured we would make the most of the day before calling to get towed back home. Alex decided to brave a dip in the water (although we decided the current was too strong to let Lenny in too), and I decided that a cock pit shower with warm water was more appealing to me. After washing my hair, it felt like I had gotten soap or something in my eye. When I went to rinse my contact, I got quite the surprise in the mirror – one of my eyes was completely dilated!

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My eyes sort of freaked Alex out most of the day

We weren’t sure exactly what was going on, but found out that it can be a side effect of the motion sickness patch I had been wearing. I took it off right away, but the pupil issue was persistent so we decided to be safe and head home sooner rather than later.

Once we were back home and safe, I did what most people my age would do – I asked the internet about the situation. I am part of an amazing online community of women who sail, and they were the first (and only) people I posed the question to. Within minutes I had some great responses, and one situation that completely echoed my own: the water from washing my hair would have run over the patch (they go behind your ear at the hairline) and then down into my eyes. Now I know to be far more careful if I need to wear one again!

With that figured out (and knowing it was nothing to worrisome), some new wine glasses from the dollar store, and dinner on the BBQ, we both agree that although it got off to a rough beginning, the weekend was exactly what we needed. We hadn’t had much time on the water yet this summer, and that’s what this weekend was. Besides, it wouldn’t be a typical Shinwell family vacation without a bit of lemonade!

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Surf ‘n’ Turf – the best of both worlds

Once again, I’ve fallen behind and owe an apology for slacking off with the blog. I do have a good reason though – planning and hosting a wedding where 90% of the guests were from out of province is a lot of work! I’ll hold off on any form of recap until we have the professional photos back from the lovely Lea of Marcucci Photography, but will share one of our sneak peak photos:

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Once the wedding was behind us, we had the bandwidth to focus on something new. As you all know, we recently broke the mast on our beloved Alcidae. Along with the wedding planning, we have been researching costs to have a shop fix it, and let’s just say it isn’t pretty. We’ve decided that the responsible, adult thing to do is to not rush it back together and foot the added bill for someone else to do it but to source the parts and put it back together ourselves. This means we have time for another hobby.

A more grounded one. We began to shop for a small piece of land where we can build a tiny house and be predominantly off-grid.  Which was the plan before we got carried away with boat life. We decided that our first weekend alone in the city as a married couple was a perfect time to escape and explore some of what BC has to offer.

We decided to leave as soon as I was done work on Friday. We headed up towards Squamish and found a place to camp. We managed to find a perfect camp spot – other than the fact that the river was a bit strong and Lenny almost got swept away.

Although it had been a year since we had last been camping (on our journey across the country), we quickly fell back into our routine: I set up camp, Alex deals with the fire and cooking. In no time at all, I had my job done and was able to sit back and watch him struggle with the wet firewood (did I mention it had rained for the entire week?):

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For some reason, he wasn’t overly excited about picture time

After the fire finally got going, we were able to have our first camping meal in a year – which obviously included marshmallows as both appetizer and dessert. Unfortunately for us, we foolishly assumed that the rain was done, so we didn’t bother to tarp the campsite before we went to bed. Of course, it rained that night. We were awakened early in the morning to Lenny standing in the middle of the tent shaking – he had reached his threshold for laying in water and was trying to dry off. It was only 5:00am, but we decided to pack up quickly and hit the road. We had a long drive ahead of us, since the first lot we wanted to see was all the way up in Prince George:

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The drive up to Prince George is quite incredible: we went through mountains and desert, and ended up back in forest land.

Most of Saturday was rainy, but we still stopped for a few pictures along the way:

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Along the way we found a little fruit stand that had a selection of local fruit. We had to get peaches (my favourite) and raspberries (Alex’s favourite), but we also couldn’t resist the blackberries. Not an ounce of exaggeration, there were some that were as big as my thumb! Not to mention that they may have been the best blackberries either of us have had:

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We finally made it to Prince George, only to be a bit disappointed in the lot. At the same time, it would have been disappointing to find THE lot on the first try, and to miss out on the journey.

After leaving PG, we drove back to Quesnel, which was a couple hours back the way we had come. We saw another lot there on our way into town, which was much more along the lines of what we were looking for. It wasn’t enough to make us stop looking though, so after staying the night there, we continued on the next morning. I’ve tried to capture the day in another map, so study it well:

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From Quesnel (the yellow point) we headed to 108 Mile Ranch (green), a small, unincorporated town. There was a cute spot there that I liked, although it was a bit too close to people for Alex’s liking (not completely ruled out though!). After that, it was back to Lillooet where we were hoping to have lunch at a local vineyard. Unfortunately, after the first person saying we could have Lenny beside the patio, we ultimately got turned away and had to grab a quick bite in the town.

From there it was on to Bralorne (purple). Now, this looks like a short drive in comparison to the rest, but it’s actually a couple of hours through a canyon and some mountains. The road wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t exactly your typical highway:

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Along the way we went though thunderstorms and sunshine, from the top of the canyon to the bottom, and from 12C to 29C. At one point, we found a spot to stop where Lenny could run and Alex could jump in the water:

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Where’s Lenny?

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Same spot, opposite direction – quite the change in weather

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From the bottom of the mountain to the top – Alex’s gratuitous Jeep shot

We finally made it to Bralorne. It’s this small town (population 77), a remnant from the gold rush. There were a couple of spots there that we wanted to see, and both of them would be perfect for us! The only problem? They were literally in the middle of nowhere. We wanted to be a bit remote, but two and a half hours to a store, or doctor, or anything – that’s a bit more than I can handle at this point, not to mention for when we start a family! We did take a moment to enjoy the view from one of the lots, which was on the side of the mountain peak:

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Then we reluctantly herded the dog back to the car and headed to our last campsite in Pemberton. The road was another adventure of a drive: it was another couple hours on a Forest Service Road (only open May to October), with a mountain pass at 6000 feet. The changes were quite drastic, going from hot and muggy to having snow along the side of the road. And of course, the views were stunning:

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We finally made it to our destination spot in Pemberton (the red marker on the map). It was late, and there were other people at the same spot we were planning on camping. We decided to make the most of it (they did already have the fire going), and happily co-existed for the night. Besides being tired, we couldn’t resist the view:

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The next morning we headed back home to take stock of what we had seen. We had a few options for land, but more importantly had rediscovered our love of camping and had the opportunity to see some of the incredible diversity of the province we decided to make our home. We were also reminded of how lucky we are to be able to have the best of both worlds, land and sea, and to hopefully soon have a home on each.

Now, the weekend is practically here again, and we are already mapping out a new route to take, and new places to see…

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A little bit of heartbreak, but a whole lot of gratitude

I want to apologize in advance – this is going to be a fairly lengthy post, with a lot of back-story and catching up in the first half. If you just want the exciting bit, skip down about half way!

As I posted at the beginning of the year, we recently upgraded to our “THE Boat” boat – S/V Alcidae III, a 39′ Folkes. The boat was located in Victoria, BC and we decided to leave it there for a few months until we were closer to the sailing season.

Three weeks ago, it was finally time to go across and bring her home. We were both excited at the prospect, and I even took three days off work so that we could go on the mission together. It was a challenging few days: we had to kennel Lenny for the first time ever, missed our ferry by 6 minutes, and ended up having to delay the crossing by a day. The extra day gave us time to be a bit less rushed when we arrived, and we were able to start to take in just how amazing (and large) our new boat was:

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The S/V Alcidae III, in all her glory

When we left the following afternoon, we only had to make it up to Active Pass, where we would anchor for the night before crossing the strait the following morning:

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The route for the first leg of our trip

The next morning we were up early to cross – unfortunately, the morning held a migraine in store for me. The first trip across the strait, and I spent it in bed thinking that I should have stayed home.

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The second leg of the journey – not that I saw any of it!

 

I didn’t start to recover until we were almost home, and then we had a few hours of errands to do, as Alex was headed out of town the following morning.

Being excited to have our new home, and hoping that we might have the opportunity to sell the Monk, I did most of the move alone Friday after work. The plus side of Alex being out of town? I was able to organize things exactly as I wanted them, and it was too late for him to have an opinion by the time he got home two weeks later!

We went away to Whistler and Pemberton the weekend Alex got home, to celebrate his birthday. By the following weekend though, we were itching to get back on the water. We got everything ready, the tides were coming in, I snuck out of work a bit early, and we set off! Our plan was just to head up the Indian Arm (the favourite spot), and we figured we didn’t even care at this point if we just motored in, and then had the weekend to play around and sail.

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Off we go!

Now for those of you who wanted to skip ahead – here’s where things start to get a bit more exciting (though I’ll warn you – not entirely happy exciting).

On the way inland from our marina, we have to pass under two bridges at Second Narrows. The first one is part of the TransCanada Highway, and is built to accommodate freighters passing under it. The second is the CN Railway Bridge – it’s significantly lower, but has a section that can be raised or lowered as needed.

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Second Narrows

We’ve passed under these bridges countless times, with no issues. Friday, however? We learned the hard way that our new boat was significantly taller than our old boat. Combine that with extremely high tides, and we had a recipe for disaster.

As we were getting close to the bridge, we started to second guess the clearance. The thing is, and any sailor will know what I’m talking about, you ALWAYS have a moment of doubt with clearance. When we approach the first, freighter-height bridge, it still looks like it’s far too low. Because of this optical illusion, it took us a fraction of a second too long to trust our instinct, and we ended up caught in the rapids, headed towards a collision.

This is where things get fuzzy, although there are certain moments of absolute clarity. The boat being pinned over so far that fear of tipping overrode the logic of knowing that it wasn’t possible. The sound of breaking glass from inside the cabin. Seeing Leonard cowering on the starboard seat, which was the one closest to the waters. Watching the top of the mast drag along the beam of the bridge, then pop under and bounce off the next one. Alex and I both trying to stay low, knowing that the mast might snap. Him doing his best to steer us through, me grabbing the handle on Lenny’s lifejacket and pulling him to my side of the boat.

At the same time, I couldn’t tell you the moment that the mast broke. I don’t remember seeing it come towards us, but luckily off to one side. I didn’t hear any of the wires stays break. All I knew was that we were suddenly upright. Everyone was unharmed, but our mast was broken and we were still in the middle of the rapids.

At this point, we were both able to jump into action. Our dingy had gotten caught up in the mast and all the lines and wires that were in the water with it, plus there was the fear that any one of them could get caught in the propellor and render us completely helpless. I took over the wheel, and Alex carefully worked to make as much sense as possible of the mess. Once that was semi-safely contained, I went down to survey the damage in the cabin. Somehow, although all of our glassware had been knocked over and strewn around the cabin, none of it was broken. The only casualty below was my poor kombucha, which had shattered when it fell over on the steel wood stove.

We managed to make it safely to the shore of Belcarra Park, where we were able to drop the anchor and take stock of the situation. We got C-Tow (like CAA but for boats) to come and help us secure the mast, but we were still left with several feet of it dragging in the water:

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Our poor mast

Once that was done, we had two choices: we could sit and feel sorry for ourselves for breaking our new boat, or we could pull out the oysters and Prosecco that were meant to celebrate the start of the sailing season, and instead celebrate that we came through the a dangerous incident unscathed (Leonard included). Even though we knew we had thousands of dollars of damage to the boat, we chose to focus on the positive and toast to being alive.

The next day included many phone calls, as we tried to figure out both what our options were (could the mast be repaired, or would we have to replace it), where we could get that done, and how we were going to get there. Luckily, right beside the bridges was a boat yard where the mast guy in the city has his shop (coincidence? I think not…). We managed to get a hold of someone from the boat yard, who confirmed that we could come in over the weekend and then deal with the situation when everyone opened up Monday morning.

Once that was settled, we did what we had set out to do: sit on the boat for the afternoon, have a glass of wine, and enjoy the sun and the peacefulness of the nature around us.

Sunday morning we set off early to make the most of the tides, and got back to our home-for-the-next-few-weeks uneventfully. We have settled in, and surveyed the damages:

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Not the happiest looking sailboat

Now comes a few more weeks of hard work, but also the opportunity to learn more about our boat, as well as masts and rigging in general. We’ve also met a whole new community at our temporary home – once again, a community that rallies around its members, offering support and advice that are hard to come by in other social spheres. For that, and for coming through this as fortunately as we did… the gratitude far outweighs the heartbreak.

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But, how do you… make bread on a boat

After publishing my post about cooking on a boat, I’ve had a few people ask about my recipe for focaccia, so I thought I would share it here.

I’ve experimented with a few different recipes, and finally came up with something that works for us. I feel like it is a fairly forgiving recipe (so long as  you don’t stray too far from the basics of bread making), so feel free to modify it to suit your needs.

Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp dry active yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar or honey
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • 1 tbsp oil (olive, vegetable, canola, etc.)
  • 2 tsp Italian spice mix (or a blend of your own choosing)
  • 1 tsp roasted garlic sea salt (you can also just use regular salt)
  • 2 1/2 cups flour (we like a 50/50 blend of all purpose and semolina, although I’ve also done just all purpose as well as all whole wheat and they turned out fine)
  • olive oil and sea salt for topping

Directions:

  1. Combine the yeast, sugar and water in a bowl and let sit for 5-10 minutes to proof. IMG_5503.JPG
  2. Add the oil, spices and salt and stir to combine. IMG_5505.JPG
  3. Add flour (you can do this in increments, but I tend to just dump it all in and stir like crazy) – if you are having trouble getting the last bit to mix in, use your hands and start kneading the bread in the bowl. This should work the stubborn bits of flour into the dough.

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    You can see that I’m using a blend of unbleached all purpose flour and the more yellow semolina

  4. Flour a counter top, then turn the bread out onto it. IMG_5509
  5. Knead the dough for 8-10 minutes, until it becomes smooth and elastic feeling.
  6. Lightly oil a mixing bowl; place dough into the bowl and turn to coat with oil.  
  7. Cover with a warm damp cloth, then set somewhere warm with no draught. Let dough rise for 40 minutes (it should at least double in size).  
  8. Punch down dough to remove the air bubble, then form into desired loaves (because I have to cook in a toaster over, I do two small loaves and have to cook them separately). If you have to bake in batches, cover the waiting dough with the warm damp cloth again, to keep it from drying out.
  9. Once you have the flattened loaf, make dimples into the surface (use your fingers, or the end of a wooden spoon); brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  
  10. Bake at 425F for 12-15 minutes, until bread is golden brown on top.   
  11. Let cool on a wire rack, then enjoy!

If anyone has a recipe they would like to share, I’d love to try it out!

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But, how do you…

Whenever living on a boat comes up in a conversation, there are inevitably many questions that come up, a lot of them starting with those four little words: “But, how do you…”

I’ve tried to provide small snapshots of what life is like onboard, but thought I’d write a few posts to give more in-depth answers to the most common questions that we get asked.

Cooking

The question that comes up most often is how do we cook? Anyone who knows me knows that although I do like to cook, baking is much more my passion in the kitchen. Alex on the other hand is an ex-chef and still loves to create gourmet dishes. Given that, it’s easy to see why people are so curious as to how we handle the obvious restrictions of the boat.

Living on the sailboat was definitely a culinary challenge. The galley (kitchen) consisted of a small two burner stove, an ice box, a small cold-water sink and a $35 toaster oven.

Even with that, we still managed to eat well. Admittedly, a lot of what we ate was fresh crab but I also managed to do a fair amount of simple baking, such as cookies, muffins, and individual crumbles:

Once we moved to the Monk, we had more countertop to work with (and a real fridge!), although still just a two burner stove and my trusty toaster over:

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It’s amazing how much difference a couple square feet of working space made. Even though Alex has to carefully plan how many pots he is going to need, he can still make an impressive meal. His latest kick has been homemade Caesar dressing, which can accompany anything from steak to lamb to chicken. Last night? Steak with roasted potatoes and vegetables sautéed in white wine, butter and herbs:

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I have also been baking up a storm. I am limited mostly by size – no 9″ x 13″ cake pans for us! Instead, I have to modify any recipe to be suitable for an 8″ square pan. This hasn’t hindered me too much though – in the past couple of months we have had carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, brownies, banana cake with homemade mocha icing, and a classic chocolate:

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Seeing as it has been ‘winter’, we’ve also been eating a lot of bread. I used to make homemade bread fairly often, but hadn’t in the past few years. I had been wanting to make bread lately, but knew that I faced two big obstacles: size (the height of the oven wasn’t enough to accommodate a loaf of bread) and living in a draughty wooden boat (not conducive to rising bread). The first problem proved to be the easiest to solve – make focaccia! It took a bit of ingenuity for Alex and I to solve the second, but finally we figured out that we could use our cupboard and a heater to make a toasty (but not too hot) spot for the bread to rise. After that? Lots of focaccia!

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Yes, Alex had to taste test the bread for quality control!

It’s been at the point of having bread almost every weekend: sometimes just with oil and vinegar, sometimes as part of a charcuterie, and sometimes with a fancy Caprese salad:

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I won’t lie though – not everything turns out picture perfect. The other dish I have been experimenting with is chocolate lava cakes. The first batch turned out perfectly, but of course I didn’t get a picture of that one. The more recent ones though? Although they taste divine, have not come out of the ramekins properly:

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Definitely a work in progress recipe, although we both willingly take care of the of all of the trials.

Well, that’s the basics of cooking on a boat. Soon our galley will change yet again when we move onto the new sailboat… New challenges and new culinary adventures to come!

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A new year… a new boat

In my last post I promised a big reveal… our newest boat!

After flipping the salvage boat, and selling Griffin (which was hard to let go), we’ve been down to one boat for MONTHS now. Lucky for us, my job sent us to Victoria BC for two weeks in December, which meant a whole new boat market to explore.

During one of my lunch breaks, I was browsing boat listings and came across a boat that seemed too good to be true. I quickly sent Alex the link, with no words other than the subject “THE boat”. After a quick look at the posting, he agreed and we reached out to the owner. A couple of days later, Alex went to see it and fell in love. The only trouble? It was a bit out of our price range, plus we have been known to act impulsively when it comes to boats (although so far, it has always worked).

We decided to take some extra time to think about it and look at some more listings to see what was more in our range – but we kept coming back to this dream boat. Finally, in the middle of the holidays, we decided to go for it, and two weeks ago we went back to Victoria to draw up the paper work, and to spend our first night on the Alcidae III.

Although she isn’t the prettiest boat, she is a steel hulled sailboat, so she is about as sturdy as they come (plus, her previous owner made all of his repairs using extra thick steel sheets). I had hoped to get a few exterior pictures while we were there, but the water was a bit rough and I had forgotten my phone’s lifejacket so thought I wouldn’t take any chances. I did get some pictures of the interior to share though:

 

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A real stove – with oven!

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Another view of the galley

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Looking back towards the galley

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That’s right – a proper wood burning stove!

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The v-berth, which has a significant amount of storage space

We have left her safely in Victoria for the time being, but cannot wait to get her home! Although it has been a mild winter, it’s still not the nicest for sailing – but the season is just around the corner… so close in fact, that we saw tulips starting to come up the other day – in January!


Speaking of the adventures we have lined up… One other reason we are so excited for the summer to get here?

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We’re tying the knot this June! Next thing you know, we’ll be sailing off into the sunset…

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