Category Archives: Travel tales

Covid diaries 2

Week 4 and technology is changing everything.

The gym closed and so I ordered a folding bike online so that I can continue to exercise. Added bonus – I can move through any busy areas quickly. Second added bonus – weight lifting in moving the bike into the lift and down to the street.

Zoom, for all the reported issues, is providing opportunities to meet differently. Last night was a zoom quiz with friends in Australia and the UK a welcome break from constant Covid, although we did compare experience. Have had a couple of family zoom birthday parties which are chaotic but fun.

Off tech the cockatoos come over late afternoon for a snack and a chat which is fun.


Covid diaries

Week 3 into isolation and I realise that this is both like and completely opposite to cruising.

I am in Sydney in a one bedroom apartment, the two rooms are both less than 4m squared but I do have a small balcony and an ocean view. While I can go outside to exercise or to shop I am mostly in this small space. Very similar to an extended time away from a port.

There is however easy access to the shops and to fresh food. I have a small freezer and a reasonable size fridge.  Very different to life on board, particularly when travelling.

Company is mainly at a distance or from the birds – now that is just about the same.


A new galley

2018 brought change. Most of the story isn’t relevant here but one piece is, and that is that I have a new galley. April I saw the boat for the first time, May was sea trials and surveys and 6 June she was mine.

I arrived on board fresh from a flight Sydney to Hobart at 10.30 on a winter morning, excited and nervous. I was planning to spend the next four days and nights getting to know my new home. I looked around, faced the galley and realised that all that I had on board was 6 wine glasses and 6 mugs.

I turned around and headed for the shops immediately. First I had to find the shops – I didn’t know Hobart then – and on the way I was making a mental shopping list. Tea, coffee, sugar, milk, kettle, blankets, sheets, pillows, frying pan, saucepan, cheese, beans, wine…

The first shop I found was an Indian spice shop so, of course, I bought red lentils, mungbean lentils and packs of spices. Then I found a department store and a supermarket and bought those things that were actually on my list. Back to the boat and I started to feather my new nest.

Provisioning in Panama – part two

Preparing for an 8 month cruise from Panama to New Zealand involves a lot of planning and a lot of food shopping.

April to November = 244 days = 732 meals for two, plus snacks and entertaining.

I had kept a food diary for the four weeks between Margarita and Bonaire. We were sailing between the small offshore islands of Venezuela which were uninhabited other than small fishing camps and so this was an opportunity to test my provisioning skills.

I analysed the meals by ingredients and came up with the quantities of all of the staples we would need to see us through – then added contingency. It made an overwhelming list, 25 tins of tomato, 12 kg of flour, 5 jars of English mustard, 48 loo rolls.

Neither Colon or Panama City were safe places to walk around in 2002 but jumping in a taxi to the supermarket was reasonable and so that is what we did. On the way into town we would share a taxi with friends but we each needed our own taxi back to the Flamenco anchorage. Loading the taxi we didn’t need to give directions “gringos with groceries” only had one destination.

You can always get….

When we started cruising I made the classic mistake of anxiously provisioning for our first trip as if we would not see another shop for the next six months. It didn’t take long for us to realise that where there are people there is generally food for sale. However, some food are more ubiquitous than others.

Soy sauce, and Worcester sauce (aka Worcestershire sauce and salsa Inglesa) seemed to be available in even the most remote islands. On the other hand peanut butter, cheese and English mustard are tradeable in many places and, if they are to your taste, stock up on the Marmite and Vegemite.

Provisioning in Panama – part one

As we sailed into Colon harbour the Pacific crossing sharpened to a reality.

The anchorage lies to one side of the main channel into the Panama Canal with a steady stream of ships passing by 24 hours a day. Ashore in the Panama Canal Yacht Club there is an undercurrent of anxiety and anticipation. Everyone leans in to share plans and vital information.

“What are you feeding your transit crew? Make sure you have bottled water, some of the pilots won’t drink tank water.”
“I’m doing pizza, can’t go wrong with pizza.”

“Can I get Marmite here?”

“Do you want to share a taxi to the supermarket tomorrow?”
“We can get one together there but I think we will need one each to bring stuff back.”

Transiting the Panama Canal in a small boat in 2002 meant supplying a crew of five plus paying for an official Pilot to guide us through. The crew were one at each ‘corner’ of the boat to throw, catch and secure lines plus the Captain to steer. The pilot’s role was to direct us up through the locks from Colon to Gatun Lake, across the lake and then down the locks to Panama City and the Pacific Ocean. The transit starts at first light, around 5.30 am, with luck and good progress you can make the trip by sundown, around 6.00 pm. For half of the sailors, including Whimsey, the trip takes two days and includes a night anchored in the lake.

Catering breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks seemed to take on epic proportions and an element of competition. I decided on kedgeree for lunch and pasta for dinner, we provisioned with plenty of fruit, crisps and other snacks as well as cans of fizzy drinks. Space in the fridge was at a premium – note, cooked rice cannot be stored unrefrigerated. The batch made in advance fed the fish and the fresh batch was probably the best rice I have ever made.

More to follow…

Drying fish in Minerva Reef

June 2007 and we left New Zealand to head to Fiji. We had waited for 3 weeks for the right weather so we grabbed the first ‘window’ and headed north. Ten days later and we were still 400 miles from Fiji but only 80 miles from Minerva Reef so we headed there to rest up and wait for some decent wind.

Minerva Reef is a magical place. A dormant underwater volcano chain 600 miles north of NZ, 350 miles south of Tonga and Fiji. North Minerva is about five miles across and barely breaks the surface of the water at low tide. There is a small pass in the volcano wall – big enough to sail through. Inside the wall is around 35 feet deep, outside the drop off is over 1,000 feet.

We sailed through the pass and headed to the south of the volcano, anchoring in 25 feet around 200 feet from the southern wall. After 2 days we spotted another sail boat who headed around to the pass and anchored about half a mile away. 10 minutes later we had a call on the radio – did we want some wahoo? The skipper headed over in our inflatable and came back half an hour later with half of a 3 foot wahoo – much too much for us to eat so, without a freezer the only answer was to dry the fish. Recipe to follow.

Lunch for Nepal

Recently we held a lunch at work to raise money to help the people of Nepal following the earthquakes that have caused so much damage and destruction.

Using the recipes in this blog I took along hummus, red bean dip, tzatziki and veggie sausage rolls.

The team is multi-cultural and the food reflected this with Yorkshire pudding and gravy, wontons, pasta, chicken pie, curried veggie patties in tamarind and coriander chutneys, cup cakes and gulab jamun.

Late night reviver

St Patricks day 2002 we invited neighbours from the anchorage over for a celebration lunch. The afternoon progressed, we celebrated sundown and at 8.30 we had a group that needed something to soak up the Guinness and Champagne – let alone the Jameson.

A large pan was hauled from the cupboard and I raided the deep stores. Within 20 minutes I was serving a spicy corn soup in bowls and mugs to the merry crew. Tin Can Galley was germinated!