Archive for the Cooking Category


Posted in Cooking, Cornwall, French canals and rivers, Music, Photographs, Sailing, Surfing, the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores, the Canary Islands, the Madeira archipelago, Walking, Wildlife with tags , , on August 19, 2016 by maidofmettle

5 years ago yesterday night (yesternight?) I sailed between the Wolf Rock and Gwennap Head / Tol Pedn to the accompaniment of fireworks exploding somewhere over Land’s End (yep, I’m claiming they were for me ūüėČ ).

And 5 years ago today I dropped anchor in Mullion Cove after leaving the Azores on the 3rd of August.

2011-08-19 #09 Mullion Cove (Custom).JPG

That was the beginning of the end of two years of living on Maid of Mettle, just over a year and over two thousand miles with Chris and Caroline and another 10 months or so and a couple of thousand miles on my own. It seems a while ago now..

So, what don’t I miss?

  • handling wet and very cold ropes on the canals, not to mention stamping my feet to keep the circulation going while motoring in a wet and chilly France. This may have had a permanent effect – warmth is definitely one of the things I do miss!

2009-11-10 #01 Vitry-le-Francois to St Dizier (Custom).JPG

  • rough seas, when you know things may well get worse before they get better and there is no escape till they calm down – while they were only a small part of the trip, and on the whole a price well worth paying, they do leave some lasting impressions. I seem to have blanked nearly the entire trip from Madeira to Tenerife from my memory after a few days when I didn’t feel well, despite the fact that looking over some photos and videos there were clearly some nice parts to the journey as well. Some passages you just want to end.

2010-10-25 #06 Madeira to Tenerife (Custom).JPG

And what were the best things?

  • the freedom – the time to properly enjoy cooking, to go walking and get to know places, to meet people, to take up new hobbies such as surfing and playing harmonica, or simply spend at least an hour in the surf to end up with one half-decent picture of a breaking wave – this is special, more so than exotic places.

2010-10-18 #07 Boaventura (Custom)

2011-03-22 #21 (Custom)

Thanks Jon for that photo

2011-02-07 #04 (Custom)

and thanks Quiksilver for that one

2010-08-02 #04 Praia da Culatra (Custom)

Though that said:

  • discovering beautiful places, and experiencing things I never knew existed. I could name something in any region we went, but the following stand out particularly:
    • the peaceful waters of the Guadiana,

2010-05-20 #6 Vila Real to Alcoutim (Custom).JPG

  • the levada canals winding among the peaks, valleys and terraces of Madeira,

2011-06-15 #40 Boca da Corrida to Barreiras (Custom)

  • the hill country of northern Gran Canaria

2011-02-13 #11 Cruz de Tejeda to Artenara (Custom)

  • and the hot springs of the Azores

2011-07-12 #37 Sao Miguel - Poco da Dona Beija (Custom)

  • ¬†the people – while getting to spend time with my family and friends in this country again is fantastic, for meeting and getting to know new people it’s much easier while sailing (though the same effect can be true coastal sailing in this country, especially in the west country).

2011-01-18 #01 (Custom).JPG

  • Also in the first part of the trip having so much (okay – yes, sometimes too much at times!) time with two of my best friends

2010-09-07 #01 (Custom)

  • the sailing on passage – there is a real satisfaction in taking plenty of time and patience to the boat set up to travel as safely, quickly and comfortably as you can, and a peaceful night sail miles from anything is a delight. There are similar pleasures in coastal cruising but it’s a different mindset as you usually have to change things much quicker!

2010-09-05 #01 (Custom)

  • the accomplishment of offshore passage-making – it’s a rare opportunity,¬† definitely a special feeling, and one that lasts whereas so often in other fields there is always the next deadline lurking.

2010-09-07 #06 (Custom)

  • the stars at sea – an incredible spectacle. You could reach out and touch them, but you could never count them (they’re not easy to photograph from a small boat either)
  • dolphins – very hard to predict when they’ll turn up, and there is something utterly magical about their presence, bringing an instant and lasting smile (that got crossed off after seeing dolphins several days in a row sailing west down the Cornish coast, culminating in them playing round the boat for ages sailing into Portscatho in the evening sun)

2014-08-17 #36 (Custom)

  • the food – the Madeira market is the greatest for spectacle, but my favourites are those in Alcoutim (tiny but welcoming, frequently including a massive bunch of coriander as a gift) and Las Palmas (enormous and well worth browsing all round), the challenge of provisioning and cooking on a boat in general and especially on passage, and the many regional delicacies. Except the barbecued dried squid, which I’m not convinced was actually edible

2011-06-17 #03 (Custom)

You’ll notice many of those overlap – a symptom, I think, of a fundamentally different lifestyle. Though that said, there are many things I have taken (or try to) from the time away:

  • the willingness and confidence to try new things – without some of the experiences while away I’m not sure I’d ever have ended up playing for my football team, or sung at my local folk club (to be fair that’s pretty rare even now)

2014-07-29 (Custom)

  • friendships with people I/we met while away. While I hear from others further afield, it was a special pleasure to be present when Si and Cat launched Kensa, the fishing boat they’d built since returning from their extensive travels in the Mediterranean

2012-08-19 #19 (Custom).JPG

  • and more than that, I think I’ve managed to stay in better contact with at least some friends since being away and having that bit more time and impetus to keep in touch via email etc when not meeting face to face (if you’ve read this with some surprise, disappointment and/or offence, please drop me a line and we can start putting things right! ūüôā )
  • enjoying a continuing connection to offshore sailing through various friends; the members of the Ocean Cruising Club – I am still amazed and humbled that they awarded me their Rose Medal for 2011, just being part of a club containing so many people who have achieved extraordinary things is an honour; and the general collective of sailors coming and going from and enjoying the south-west

2014-08-24 #04 (Custom).JPG

2011-08-30 #11 St Mawes - Wylo II (Custom).JPG

  • speaking of which, discovering south Cornwall as a cruising ground – it is a very special area

2014-08-23 #23 (Custom).JPG

It seems a good time to repeat this sentiment from 2010, for adventures near or far ūüôā


“A toast to onward voyages on land and sea”

(that last picture and inspiration for the style of post come from Caroline’s last entry 400 days to get there 400 minutes to get back)

The Azores to England Part I

Posted in Cooking, Photographs, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean on November 4, 2011 by maidofmettle

normal service is resumed : )

Day 1: Wednesday 3rd August

It was a pleasant surprise to have a nice breeze leaving the sheltered eastern coast of Graciosa, and an even nicer one when the wind and waves didn’t increase significantly on getting clear of the island. In fact, my immediate reaction was ‘is this it?’ – though with a fair bit of excitement at starting the trip, with over 1000 miles to go.

Of course it helped that things were going well – sailing quickly and comfortably, and also with some desserts from a cafe in Vila da Praia to savour. I’ve forgotten what this is called, but it’s effectively a pastry containing a caramelised miniature rice pudding, and extremely tasty.

I was heading almost due north initially, following the advice of the pilot book and also hoping to follow the movement of favourable winds for a significant chunk of the way back towards England.

There was some initial excitement that night – I called an approaching ship up on the radio and was told they could see me were keeping well clear of me, but it didn’t look that way. The AIS showed them swerving suddenly to one side after I called them, and then back again after they’d passed, and 3-400m (confirmed on the AIS) didn’t feel like a long way off at all in the dark!

Day 2: Thursday 4th August

Maid was still sailing very well the next day, though the latest forecast suggested I might not be quite as lucky with the weather as I’d hoped.

Here’s another anonymous dessert (or two!) from Graciosa – this one a layered coconut confection.

The wind had been gradually increasing and by the middle of the night I’d taken one of the jibs down and reefed the mainsail to it’s smallest possible sail area. We were still making excellent progress northwards, though I was careful to make sure we stayed clear of a large underwater ridge extending north from Graciosa.

Day 3: Friday 5th August

The next day was similar, although the wind was forecast to get significantly lighter that evening and Saturday.

It did reduce during the day, but also swung round to come more from ahead rather than the side, and together with me putting more sail up again we kept moving nicely.

Day 4: Saturday 6th August

That lasted though the night, but not long after breakfast the wind pretty much died for half the day. I did have another visitor, though much less chatty than Cheepcheep, and more inclined to lurk in corners than perch on heads.

I definitely need the Passagemakers’ Bird Care handbook, as this one died as well..

The last time that had happened a strong headwind blew up not long afterwards. There was indeed a forecast of strong winds for the next day, but from a more favourable direction, and a nice light wind to get going again in the meantime. It was a bit shifty at first but I was glad to be able to get onto a settled course by the evening.

Then it changed again. It’s hard to convey the depth of the (ridiculous) indignation this can inspire when you think you’re just going to be popping out for the occasional look around overnight and then find you’re heading for Portugal.

Still, having tacked I was able to head in about the right direction….

Day 5: Sunday 7th August

…until very early the next morning. The situation eventually resolved itself with a dead calm. No concerns about sailing in the wrong direction now!

This is one of the things I was getting on with – cutting some plywood blanks to go over the fittings where the anchor chain passes down through the deck into the chain lockers below, and tying the chain on and lowering it right in before sealing it up.

Normally that’s not necessary, but a near gale was forecast which would probably mean that area of the deck getting quite wet, and draining water out of the chain lockers is a time-consuming and awkward job, definitely best avoided if possible.

After a while of pottering around doing jobs with all the sails down the wind eventually increased a little. I guessed wrong the first time about which side to pole out on of the largest jibs, but didn’t mind too much since we were moving again.

This continued steadily for a while, until quite a sudden increase in the evening. I got the large jib down and was rather impressed to see Maid was sailing at 2 knots with no sails up at all!

Unsurprisingly, putting a couple of smaller jibs up made for even better progress.

Day 6: Monday 8th August

There was a very odd sea state early the next morning. The waves weren’t at all big but breaking a lot – noisy and disconcerting, and making the boat roll quite jerkily. I tried altering course and setting a jib either side of the boat, but that didn’t improve matters at all.

It seemed a bit better by the morning – I think the waves had settled down a bit though of course daylight may have helped! Noises and motion are definitely more significant when you’re trying to sleep.

The wind was gradually decreasing, and by the evening I set the mainsail to get going a bit faster.

It gave a nice speed boost for a while, but later that evening the wind increased and it came down again. It seemed to be a pattern that the wind was stronger overnight – not particularly welcome!

Day 7: Tuesday 9th August

The next day broke the pattern though, with the wind increasing further and gusts reaching the forecast near gale strength. With the wind slightly from behind it wasn’t a problem though, and Maid was storming along doing around her theoretical maximum speed despite a lot of weed and barnacles on the bottom.

I was glad I wasn’t further west, where there was a lot more wind, and hoped to keep moving north-east to get closer to home and keep away from the stronger winds nearer the centre of the low.

There’s always a balance to strike between progress and preparedness though, and I took one of the jibs down late in the evening and turned more away from the wind for a quieter night.

Day 8: Wednesday 10th August

Things were still going well on Wednesday, gradually increasing sail a little as the wind dropped. The weather was not great though..

I decided it definitely wasn’t worth setting an alarm to keep looking round when I couldn’t see anything anyway, and it actually led to a very nice night’s sleep – a very pleasant novelty not to be regularly interrupted for once!

Day 9: Thursday 11th August

I might have been less at ease if it had been the next night, as I was clearly approaching a shipping route, and after ages without seeing any several appeared in the space of a few hours.

There definitely weren’t enough to interfere with cooking though…

All in all, it was a pretty good first week.

Gran Canaria to Madeira part 1

Posted in Cooking, Photographs, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean with tags , , on June 14, 2011 by maidofmettle

Day 1: Thursday 26/05

In the end leaving Las Palmas proved surprisingly easy. I’d actually considered going on Wednesday evening. The forecast suggested that would give me the best chance of getting north enough to catch the edge of a low pressure system and moderate fair winds up to Madeira, which is very unusual. However, I was feeling fairly tired, and it looked as though the wind might die overnight – I didn’t fancy spending the first night rocking around going nowhere still near land and shipping.

But on Thursday morning it still looked pretty good. After all the time deciding not to go – and if debates about when to leave can seem like they take an excruciatingly long time when there’s three of you, when there’s just one the freedom to second-guess yourself sometimes means they actually do – deciding to go was very simple indeed.

My goodbye committee made sure that I cast off:

I stopped briefly on the reception pontoon to give my keys back to the office and then headed out. The wind was a bit less strong than it had been earlier in the morning and gave excellent conditions for sailing once I’d motored clear of the port to get away from ships.

The wind held nicely until I’d got clear of La Isleta, the very north-eastern tip of Gran Canaria which protrudes from the end of Las Palmas, and then went very light and swung round to behind. I was just about to change all the sails round to see if I could make some use of it when I spotted a turtle swimming along behind.

It looked like it was gaining….

Until I think Maid got rather offended and splashed a bit, scaring it into diving. And handily at this point, the wind swung round another 90 degrees and became a nice light westerly breeze, so I was very glad it had distracted me and saved a fair bit of work.

With things settled down nicely it was time for dinner – pasta, mushrooms, courgette and olives with a sauce made from cream cheese, milk and parsley.

And a shower. Some things at least are actually simpler when you’re sailing on your own!

In light conditions, sleeping could possibly even be included in that. It was so calm I didn’t need to bother using the leecloth, and with very little traffic around, Horace steering and the AIS keeping an eye out for big ships I didn’t have much trouble taking 30-60 minute naps between having a look around.

Day 2: Friday 27/05

The second day was lovely – steady wind from the same side, and still reasonably fast but gentle progress. Lots of time for relaxing as well as keeping an eye on the boat and looking out for ships. Dinner was rather nice too.

Day 3: Saturday 28/05

The third day started similarly, but with the wind getting slightly lighter again. The morning was interrupted by a loud wailing (I wired the AIS ship monitoring device up to the burglar alarm) signalling some company, which came past fairly close on one side, but clearly not coming too near.

There were very light spells though: . The boat’s movement in the periods of little wind was a bit unpleasant at times though – I was sick once, though the feeling went away very fast after that, and luckily we were moving fast enough that Maid wasn’t left sloshing around in it!

Otherwise it was another nice day – very slow progress off and on, but still comfortable, and nice weather. It did get a bit hard to keep track of time – the main reason for putting the dates and days in this entry was to make sure I didn’t get too confused.

Day 4: Sunday 29/05

Today brought even more visitors. First some dolphins arrived – probably the nicest conditions I’ve ever seen them in (they usually like plunging in and out of big waves), but they still seemed to have a good time playing under the bow.

It was quite late before getting round to making breakfast after spending a while watching the dolphins, so I decided to have something a bit more substantial as a change from cereal, and improvised some very Canarian banana-and-gofio cakes.

The recipe is very simple indeed – just mix 2 very ripe bananas and 1/2 cup of gofio together and work till you get a very soft dough, then form into flat discs and fry. That probably serves a couple of people – I ended up saving two of them for later.

The wind was rather fitful though – but it was calm enough I could be quite philosophical about it:

It was often tricky to decide which way to sail, with neither tack making much ground to the north. Sailing westish would make some progress towards the Azores but possibly make it harder work, and quite likely make it harder to call at Madeira. Sailing eastish would make the trip to either longer but probably easier in the long term, but in the short-term the forecast suggested it might lead into even less wind. I tried to strike a balance…

The second arrival, who I’m fairly certain was a red-rumped swallow, was a nice distraction.

It was good to have someone around to judge my little steering competition with Horace (the hydrovane self-steering gear):

Though he didn’t actually seem to be paying that much attention, and at times didn’t seem that responsible – careful with those claws on that tube, we don’t want petrol everywhere do we? As a bird I’d think you’d know that petrochemical spills are undesirable.

Then again, maybe he wasn’t that clever. Most stowaways would realise that sitting on the captain’s head while he’s eating dinner would generally be looked on as insubordination, if not actually defined as mutiny. He was very uninterested in offerings of fresh water and food as well, though I admit I was a bit short on insects.

He got named Cheepcheep, as that was all he ever say, whether meaning ‘hello’, ‘okay, I’ll sit on your shoulder instead, though doing the washing up isn’t that piratical you know’, or ‘I’m going to top myself if you don’t get somewhere soon’. Unfortunately that last translation was only worked out with the benefit of hindsight.

The conditions were still pleasant that night, except for the slight worry that Cheepcheep might come and sit on my face while I was getting some sleep, but the wind’s direction kept changing inconveniently, meaning we weren’t making very much progress overall. The dot on the screen is my GPS position at the time and the line my past track.

When I went to bed I’d been heading NNE, towards the top right of the screen. Unfortunately, this had changed rather significantly within the hour or half hour, curving off to the right, which wasn’t really where I wanted to go. The big change in angle is then me tacking, to sail with the wind on the either side so I was heading vaguely north again.

Day 5: Monday 30/05

That happened several times in the course of that night. Not great fun..

Sadly it did prove too much for Cheepcheep. Glad he wasn’t an albatross, though the wind did definitely pick up after the funeral.

After the peace and quiet of the first few days, and a night without much sleep, it came as a bit of a shock, though on other days I’d definitely have said it was beautiful sailing.

Happily I did start to feel slightly differently: .

We were certainly making good progress, and it was a beautiful day as well. It was a slightly tricky decision to make on whether to keep heading for Madeira or not. It would have given the boat a much easier motion to turn away from the wind a bit more and head for the Azores, but would have made the trip quite a few days longer, and made it fairly impossible to change my mind and shorten the trip by calling at Madeira.

I wanted to keep that option open as long as I could in case the forecast started to suggest getting to the Azores would be a problem, so I decided it was worth carrying on for now.

Getting some rest was definitely becoming a theme in videos recorded that day: .

I’m not sure that last bit is something I’d normally say. It was certainly a bit optimistic.

To be continued..

(shortly I hope, videos are all processed and just need slotting in).


Preparations part 1, and having a go with gofio

Posted in Cooking, Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Music, Photographs with tags , on April 29, 2011 by maidofmettle

I’ve now finished installing the AIS system. This recieves signals from all ships with AIS transmitters – large ships or deep-sea fishing boats, and some yachts – and tells me where they are.

It uses the same kind of aerial as my VHF radio but I’ve added a separate one so they can both be used at the same time without having to swap cables around as soon as I get hold of the right adapters.

Here it is working. The visual display is centred on my boat, and the other icons are nearby ships. The information on the right shows the details of the ship I’ve selected.

It’s useful to see the track and the names of ships, but the handiest thing will be the ability to set an alarm when it picks up any ships approaching within a given range (say a couple of miles).

I had to drill a hole out a bit more to get the cable from the aerial into the boat but otherwise it went fairly smoothly, though I had to move a lot of things out into the main cabin which is giving the boat a distinct tilt to one side.

This makes it a fairly high priority to work out how to secure the AIS display box, as it currently swings half-open and obstructs the hatch…

While I have everything out of the quarterberth I am installing a water tank underneath it again. I’d got rather fed up of flexible water tanks and chucked the last one out when it failed rather than trying to fix it, thinking I just didn’t trust them enough.

I’m still not that keen on them, but I do regret it – eventually I realised that replacing it with bottled water just wasn’t going to be appealing when getting to it would require moving all the stuff I just had to move to deal with the cable, plus the dinghy.

So I bought a new one. Grr.

Replacing water tanks isn’t going to do that much good if the water filter isn’t working properly, so I’ll be replacing that too, as I’m getting quite a taste of charcoal at the moment.

This should be quite easy as I had everything out of the galley cupboard (yes, the boat is a mess at present) to do work in that. We’d been putting up with lots of things wanting to fall out of it if Maid was heeling to port or rolling significantly for quite a while.

However, going to the Azores is likely to entail one or both of those conditions the entire way, so I decided it was time to deal with it. So I now have nice holders for various food containers..

(hmmm, need to refill the flour)


and plates / chopping board.

I’ve also replaced the irritating bits of string for securing the hinged¬† worktop in bad weather with some buckles that won’t hang down getting in the way of the cupboard door below.

The tape round the handle of the buckle is to stop them from rattling when the boat rolls. As you can see the paintwork on the top edge needs redoing, but isn’t that high on the priority list. I have managed to sort it out in the seating area though, as the paint tended to sneak onto people’s clothes when they leant on it.

There’s still a bit more work to do, especially in the galley – not only are self-raising flour and lentils still a flight risk, but I’ve realised I should buy some containers for bread flour and gofio and incorporate those.

What’s that? What is gofio?

Tricky question, actually – it’s defined quite broadly. It’s basically a type of flour, made by grinding roasted wheat, corn, barley, fern seeds, rye, lupin beans or chick peas. I’m not sure if there is an equivalent available in England or not, but if it is I suspect it’s rather harder to find. This is the gofio section of quite a small supermarket…

There are even more uses for it than types of gofio. One I was intrigued by was making a bread-like dough that doesn’t need cooking. Field workers would often make this for their lunch in a bit of goatskin.

Mine wasn’t quite authentic, but tasted pretty good for a first attempt. The flavour was quite strong so I was glad I’d used smallish balls of it in my salad. Recipe to come when I’ve carried out some more trials.

It’s also very handy as a nutritious thickening agent that doesn’t seem to form lumps – for example making a red wine sauce (in different proportions that’s another a bread recipe, possibly for vineyard workers!)…

or a very easy white sauce with some cream that needed using up:

So, when you see it proclaimed as a ‘superfood’ by all and sundry, remember you read it here first!

Experimenting aside, I’ve had a few people round for dinner – Dave, Sarah, Bethany and Bryn from Cape, and Hampus and Lotta from Ingeborg (on separate occasions, or that would have been a challenge!), and forgotten to take photos on every occasion.

I’ve also got to enjoy other people’s cooking as well – a very fine curry with Hampus and Lotta and another Chris who got in the other day:

and a very tasty barbecue cooked by Chris on his cob oven the other night.

On other evenings our music group have been practicing quite a lot, getting ready for tomorrow night’s charity concert at the Sailors’ Bar. We’ve got about 30 or so songs we’re happy with, and at least one other bloke is going to play a bit, as well as the owner of the bar singing a bit, so it should be a good evening.

Fingers crossed for the weather though, looks like there might be a depression heading this way..

The English Armada…about as successful as the Spanish one

Posted in Cancer, Cooking, Fun, Malignant melanoma, Photographs, Sailing, Skin cancer with tags , on March 5, 2011 by maidofmettle

Firstly the medical update – I was getting quite worried by last weekend about when the operation would be – a Wednesday in March, but which?

I then got a call on Monday and went in for an ECG and a blood test, which¬† gave some reassurance that things were happening. Well, I found that out later anyway. I’d initially thought (looking AWAY from the needle) that they were injecting the tracer substance to find the nearest lymph node, and was somewhat concerned that they didn’t seem to be going to look for it…

Then I was very happy to get a call saying the operation will be on the 9th (next Wednesday, though I don’t know what time yet) – hooray! As I’ve said before, it’s much easier knowing that things are happening fairly soon.

Now, onto the blog title and beyond…

It’s a slightly amusing fact that the people who’ve sailed hundreds or thousands of miles to get to Las Palmas rarely go out sailing from here. When you’re living aboard a boat you tend to make yourself comfortable in harbour or at anchor, and preparing to go to sea again will probably take a while. Still, Mike and Caroline had kindly offered to take a big party of friends out on their boat, and I decided to take Maid out as well to make a mini-regatta of it.

Phantom Lady – the other half of our fleet for the day

They left at around 11, and I was about to follow – wind vane self steering ready, engine running, most of the mooring ropes untied and coiled on deck – when I spotted them coming back in again. I was rather surprised to find they’d tied the boat back up and opened a bottle of wine (before midday seemed a little early), and a couple of people seemed to be sporting minor scrapes. Very strange..

I discovered they hadn’t even made it to the marina entrance when the engine went into overdrive and started gushing smoke. The ‘stop’ button didn’t stop it so Mike had to very hastily shut the fuel off while Dave put the anchor down. Having been busy preparing, I was probably about the only person who didn’t watch them get towed back into their berth…

So since nearly everyone was gathered and it was a Sunday most of us decided to go to the beach instead. We took the boules set, but most of the adults (Dave was a very notable exception, but then he is also known as ‘Dangerous’) didn’t have enough energy, and the kids had too much, so we’ll have to play another time.

Mike had a rather more productive afternoon with his diesel engine maintenance book and has happily fixed the problem. So one plan worked out!

I didn’t actually take any photos that day, but never mind, there’s always more to catch up on. It’s always interesting looking through photos a few days afterwards – both the pictures themselves, the memories, and my reactions to them.

This is probably my favourite view on the island so far – an incredibly steep cliff, then a huge gash between two great crags of rock framing the village of Tejeda on the valley floor, with even bigger ridges on the other side, and the spike of Roque Nublo sticking up in the background. It’s incredible, and the photograph really doesn’t do it justice.

Sorry photo

But just occasionally, you come across one that preserves a sight that otherwise wouldn’t have stuck in the memory as well – by isolating a small window and focusing on a particular object, it creates an image almost as memorable as the sight itself. It’s just a pity it can’t convey the warmt and the scents.

The rest of the recap seems to involve a lot of entertaining. I’d now had a couple of meals on Simon’s boat moored next door to mine, so I’d invited him, Brian and Sue (friends he met earlier on his trip who come round quite often) over for dinner in the evening on Thursday. Lemon cheesecake once again for dessert, some tortilla chips for starters, and some kind of stew with rice for the main course, and some salad made with Caroline’s Lebanese recipe – but that’s been posted already. A couple of things that haven’t:

One ripe avocado
Juice of up to half a lemon
mix all that together, adding the lemon juice gradually and tasting occasionally, then keep covered until you use it. Makes more than enough for 4, probably good for 6-8.

1 large onion and an aubergine fried with a little cayenne pepper

400g stewing steak, chopped into small pieces
1 HUGE tin of chickpeas and 1 tin of tomatos
A handful of fresh parsley and some lemon juice

I’ve liked aubergines for a long while, but I’ve been using them a LOT since Simon made a very spicy side dish for a barbecue in which they were a main feature. I’ve tended to chop them pretty finely and let them largely disappear into the sauce, which is fine if you’re cooking for people who don’t like them that much but really wastes them otherwise. Fried in big chunks they have a very distinctive, almost meaty taste – well worth trying if you don’t know you dislike them.

Speaking of exciting flavours, something I hadn’t mentioned about the walk last Tuesday was the discovery of rather a lot of wild thyme, which lead to discussion of what one might do with it, which lead to me picking some and folding an origami thyme pouch from the paper bag my lunch was in, and Carolyn and Yann coming round on Friday for lemon and thyme-flavoured chicken with Canarian potatoes and spinach.

Well, sort of. I haven’t fathomed the mystery of Canarian potatoes yet. Apparently they’re just boiled in lots of salt, but the ones served in restaurants are incredibly wrinkly, giving the skin a slightly crisp texture almost like baked potatoes. Probably I’m just using the wrong variety. I’m not sure how close my mojo sauce is to other versions in ingredients, but it’s pretty close in taste, and very easy to make, just using mojo powder (I kid you not) and bechamel.

The main recipe is very simple as well:
Lemon & thyme chicken
~400g chicken breast, thinly sliced by the butcher with a quite terrifying knife – it went through it like butter
juice of half a lemon
a small handful of thyme sprigs
olive oil
I marinaded it for a token five minutes or so in the pan, and then fried it. I think it was probably cooked within 10-15 minutes, but I kept it on longer to brown the chicken nicely. I had to drain off some of the liquid in the pan – the lemon flavour had definitely been absorbed though.

Bjorn, who organised the walk last Tuesday, joined us for the dessert

Having made a lemon cheesecake the previous evening I felt like being a little more experimental this time.

Dark chocolate and vanilla cheesecake

I’m pretty pleased, though it needs some work – I still haven’t pinned down the quantities of biscuits and butter to get a solid base, and in this case it was exacerbated by the chocolate stripe being far too solid. Of course, if it’s less solid it might get significantly harder to sculpt.

Still, I’m pretty pleased with it for a first go. Once I’ve perfected it I might have another try at the orange version I’d concocted a couple of weeks ago, which was sort of nice but bafflingly indescribable – something like eating marmalade with biscuits in it.

One I won’t be trying again is a version I made for Dave and Scott a few weeks ago, just before they headed off across the Atlantic.¬† We decided to make it on a Sunday when no shops were open, so had to use a lemon I acquired from a bar and the remains of their herby cream cheese. It was surprisingly tasty, but not very set (too much condensed milk trying to counteract the chives), and had an aftertaste curiously like cheese and onion crisps.

So, what have your latest culinary adventures and misadventures been?

And while we’re at it, any feedback on the blog now I’ve written a few entries? – more of this, less of that, etc.

400 days to get there 400 minutes to get back

Posted in Cooking, Fun, Photographs with tags , on December 30, 2010 by maidofmettle

Sand castles in Gran Tarajal

As someone once said, it’s the end of an era…but the beginning of a new one, or in fact two new ones.

Chris and I made it back to Bristol airport and once again managed to avoid the cancelled flights because of snow or erupting volcanoes, arriving back in England in time for Christmas.  The cold air hit us hard on our arrival, having been used to temperatures around 25 degrees it was a bit of a shock being reminded how cold England can be in winter.   Thank you Mat for picking us up, we had fun entertaining the masses in Bristol on our arrival before you got there.

Chris brings 'Mad World' to Bristol

We spent some time packing in the lead up to our departure and thanks to a bit of cunning, a set of scales and some very big pockets in our sailing jackets we managed to get almost everything we needed from the boat and onto the plane.

So all of this needs to go back?

But seeing as packing is quite stressful, we decided a bit of luxury was needed before we flew so we took the oportunity to stay in a lovely all inclusive hotel for a couple of days.¬† This was also good because it meant we didn’t spend up to the last minute packing and weighing…and then weighing some more.¬† Once we’d left the boat that was it…more or less.

Some luxury before leaving

Two nervous travellers before the weigh-in

Ok, I've got a many books will fit in my jacket?

A word of warning about Easy Jet (who incidentally I am generally very impressed with).¬† We thought we’d found a loophole in their baggage allowances.¬† In a way we had, though it’s not quite as magical as we thought.¬† We found out that you can buy sports baggage allowance for about ¬£18 which gives you an extra 12kgs of weight as long as you travel with some sports equipment.¬† This enabled us to take the inflatable kayak, bodyboards and various other bits and bobs back.¬† We bought one lot of sports baggage each (total 24kg much cheaper than paying for excess baggage in advance) and because of the confusing nature of EasyJet’s website we thought it was possible to buy as many of these sports allowances as you need.¬† To cut a long story short, you can only buy an extra 12kgs worth of sports allowance per person so buying the third one didn‚Äôt get us any extra weight.¬† Luckily we found this out before arriving at the airport.
Anyway (mini rant over) now we’re all back and starting to get a bit more time after Christmas I thought I’d¬†finish up with¬†this, my¬†final blog post (before handing it over to Pete) as a reflection on our experience.

So, it took us 400 days to get to the Canaries by boat and amazingly only about 400 minutes to return by plane.  Those 400 days have given us plenty of adventure, interesting sights and relatively few unfortunate events.  It will be strange going back to the real world where jobs and houses seem to dominate our thoughts but it is also where our family friends are so that is nice.
Below are some thoughts from Chris and I on what we’ll miss and what we won’t from our extended trip…

Chris’ Lists:

Things I’ll miss:
Seeing Caroline 10 hours a day
The nice bits of sailing, when there’s not too much wind and not too little, and the sea is calm
Arriving in places
The sun!
Not having to work 9-5
Seeing dolphins
Being on holiday
Things I won’t miss:
Emptying the loo (its a composting toilet for anyone who’s wondering about what that means)
Worrying about salt getting into everything and mould growing in things
Lugging of food back to the boat
Fixing the cooker
Sail changes – more annoying than I imagined they’d be when the wind increases and decreases
Filling up the water tanks by dinghy
Windy nights when the boat rocks and the ropes bang against the mast
Caroline’s Lists:

¬†Things I’ll miss
Seeing wildlife like dolphins etc
Exploring on land
Spending so much time with Chris
Being off work on a long holiday
Beach BBQs
The clear night sky
Watching a lot of Red Dwarf on DVD (Rather too much perhaps)
Reading a lot – I have read more this past year than in my life pre-boat.
Having so much time to learn mandolin 
Things I won’t miss:
That toilet – indescribable
Rolling boat (especially when trying to do anything like using the toilet above)
Sea sickness
Not having running water -many times I wished for a sink despite Chris’ protests that it would have been much more scary and annoying with one because it would have meant having a hole in the boat.
Walking/rowing to toilets and showers ashore
Being woken up to do night shifts
The sound of a big wave crashing against the boat waking me up with a start
Looking for and staying connected to WIFI – It feels like far far far too many hours have been spent trying to do this.¬† It took us a long while to work out that if you can’t get internet access at the start, you are not all that likely to have any after trying for an hour.

So as you can see we both had some similar thoughts.  Overall though we both enjoyed what we have achieved, even though it wasn’t entirely what we were expecting to have done.  All three of us have learned a lot about many things, including ourselves.

Final group shot

So it’s goodbye from me and good luck to Pete as he continues his voyage, wherever that takes him.  Thanks for following our adventures on this blog…I’ve really enjoyed writing it and I will leave you in Pete’s capable hands as he takes over writing.

"A toast to onward voyages on land and sea"

Now all we have to do is start the job hunting…

P.S. Here’s the final Bolo do Caco (Mark II, slightly more complicated but infinately better) recipe

Boil 200g of sweet potato until soft

Reserve the water from boiling and mash the potatoes

Then mix:
300g plain flour
7g yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
The mashed potato

Gradually stir in up to 130ml of the water from boiling the potatoes until you get a soft dough

Knead for 10 minutes (yes, actually 10 minutes…this is the workout bit for you so don’t cheat)Flour a frying pan then flatten dough into it.

Add a little flour to top of dough.

Leave to rise for 1 hour in a warm place.

Heat on a low heat for around 15-20 minutes until it looks golden and then flip over and cook for a further 5-10 minutes.

Remove from pan and leave to cool or eat straight away with garlic butter for that authentic Madeiran taste…

To Fuerteventura…and some even stranger developments

Posted in Cooking, Fun, Photographs, Sailing, Unfortunate events with tags , , on December 10, 2010 by maidofmettle

Journey from Gran Canaria to Fuerteventura

I spent most of yesterday afternoon asleep having travelled over from Gran Canaria to Fuerteventura the afternoon and night before. We were all pretty tired when we arrived after about twenty hours at sea. The journey itself was generally good, with quite a lot of wind but no huge waves which was a relief. We didn’t entirely escape sea sickness unfortunately so once again it was a case of going into survival mode a bit and seeing how little you can do in the cabin.

However we did see a whale of some kind (outside, not in the cabin luckily) so that was very exciting. I imagine it’s a bit like trying to see the big five in Africa on safari, you hope to see all the exciting animals before your journeying is over…now I’ve seen a whale I can go home! It was amazing even though it was quite far away you could tell it was big and we were sure it was a whale when it blew water out into the air.

Now feeling much more awake I intend to have a look around Gran Tarajal, the second largest town in Fuerteventura and highly recommended by a few people we have met. Chris and Pete managed to leave the boat yesterday so have had a head start on me. The marina itself is quite small and lacks showers and toilets for some reason (despite there apparently being a building for them) so we’ll be back to solar showers again. I guess that’s how it can be so cheap here, but at least there is electricity and running water.

We are quite glad to have left Gran Canaria in a way. The day we left we discovered the rudder to the wind vane had been moved from where it had been stored on the side deck of the boat and was dangled over the other side into the water with a piece of thin rope. In fact it hadn’t just been moved but the ropes that were tying it on to the boat had been cut and it looked like it had been hidden just under the water near our pontoon. We don’t know how long it had been there or when it had been moved but it all seemed a bit suspicious, especially given that these rudders are worth quite a lot of money. Whether someone had tried to steal it then got interrupted so left it there to come back for we don’t know but it was a bit worrying.

Weird…cut ropes

In other news, there has been no more signs of our little cockroach friend though I did see another one trying to smuggle on board yesterday from the water.
Also we used the last tin of beans the other day.

Chris distraught over the last tin of Tesco beans

Despite his shock over using the last tin of beans, Chris has surpassed himself by making a Christmas cake too, which we will eat on our boat Christmas not long from now.

It has been a week of culinary surprises. We went to a Lebanese restaurant in Las Palmas just before we left. Unsure of exactly what to order we opted for a set menu that was a sort of buffet between the three of us. It was really good. Fresh salad, bread, fried meats, kebabs, pasty-type things etc. Below is the recipe for the Lebanese salad that I decided to try and recreate with a little bit of help from Google. Dad, you will like this one because it has parsley in it!

Lebanese Salad

Parsley (finely chopped)
Mint (finely chopped)
Tomato chopped into small pieces
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
dash of lemon juice (optional- I forgot to put any in)

Mix all of the ingredients then eat

Bolo do Caco Recipe and some fish

Posted in Cooking, Fun, Photographs, Wildlife with tags , on November 14, 2010 by maidofmettle

Also, I promised to publish the long awaited bolo do caco bread recipe which after some honing is finally here…

Bolo do Caco (basic recipe  without potato)

Boat Bolo and a proud cook

250g flour

7g yeast

1/2 tsp salt

1tsp sugar

Add all of above together.

Gradually add up to 150ml water until you get a good dough consistency.

Knead for 10 minutes (yes, actually 10 minutes…this is the workout bit for you so don’t cheat)

Flour a frying pan then flatten dough into it.

Add a little flour to top of dough.

Leave to rise for 1 hour in a warm place.

Heat on a low heat for around 10 minutes each side until it looks golden.

Remove from pan and leave to cool or eat straight away with garlic butter for that authentic Madeiran taste…
In other news

Tenerife has lots of lovely fish swimming about near the beaches.  Below is a video Chris took whilst we went snorkelling a little while back.

To the Canaries…tweet tweet…I mean woof

Posted in Cooking, Photographs, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean with tags , , on October 28, 2010 by maidofmettle

We made it to the Canary Islands!

We left Madeira in a slightly less than perfect forecast but with a fantastic rainbow.

Bye bye Madeira

We had decided that we wanted to move on and the weather and wave forecasts suggested we would have a safe but possibly uncomfortable trip. As a result of the forecasted twenty knot winds we undertook a rather ‘bumpy’ sail to the Canaries. In fact, the word ‘bumpy’ is a well known sailing euphemism for rough, uncomfortably rolly and one of those sails that means you spend a bit too much time staring into a bucket. Fun as staring into a bucket is, there are things I would rather do.

We aimed first for Graciosa, an island at the West of the Canaries near Lanzarote and the first daylight hours of the trip weren’t too bad actually despite a rather unwelcome soaking near the start. This prompted a mass donning of full waterproofs which proved to be a good decision. The motion in the cabin was surprisingly ok as we were travelling nice and fast, though none of us wanted to outstay our welcome there. All three of us managed to eat lunch (good old lidl tuna salads, yum) and we all spent lots of time outside in the fresh air getting used to the boat’s motion again.

Some big waves

It is always slightly nerve-racking leaving and going out to sea again. It takes a good few hours to start to relax and not feel quite so anxious at the start and also to get used to doing things you once found easy whilst in port. A good example of that is getting in and out of the cockpit. Stepping over a couple of hatch-boards isn’t exactly difficult in harbour, but add in a safety line to get tangled in and the waves rocking the boat (and you) from side to side at inopportune moments and you can start to wonder how you even managed it before. However after a while you learn to look out for waves that might cause trouble and time your entrance and exit accordingly.

After over a month on Madeira it soon became clear that our sea legs weren’t as solid as we would have liked. As a bit of an experiment I had decided to try the Traveleze that we’d been given a while back by the Trycha and the girls. It seemed a good plan given that you only need to take them every twenty-four hours and they taste good too. I think they were helpful for the first twelve hours until it got dark and we started night shifts. The seasickness monster caught up at night. Pete suffered most followed by me. Chris escaped unscathed thanks to frequent drug taking. A combination of this, the waves splashing over the cockpit and the cold wind meant I was about ready to give up by the time I had eventually got to bed for the first time and was wondering why this was a good idea again. Yet again, I had just an inkling of why Ellen Macarthur spends so much time crying on her video diaries..seasickness makes you feel rubbish. No one should ever underestimate how difficult it is to get out of waterproofs in a rolling boat. It’s probably fair to say that all of us were at a pretty low point by night one.

Eerie night-time waves

The next morning I vowed to start taking Biodramina once again…I had become slightly disillusioned by it on our last trip but I once again had my faith restored by a recovery I believe was prompted by it. Given the direction of the waves (on our side), the discomfort of that and the fact that the forecast suggested they might get bigger as we neared Graciosa we spent quite a lot of time wondering what to do about our heading and hence our destination. We tried out a number of headings to see what they were like and eventually, somewhat reluctantly, it was decided to head to Tenerife (nearer the East) because this made sailing much more comfortable. The waves moved from our side to almost behind us which meant it was much nicer and dryer though we also knew this would most likely prevent us from sailing toward Lanzarote etc due to prevailing winds and conditions. Pete very stalwartly refused any seasickness drugs until he realised that we’d be in trouble if he didn’t stop being ill. After another night and a bit of sleep he appeared to have made quite a miraculous recovery…Sorry to go on about it but “Biodramina you’re amazing!”

Our last full day went quite well. Appetites were returning which was great and Tenerife was getting closer quite quickly.

Approaching Tenerife

All of this put me in quite a good mood even if I was already foreseeing larger steeper waves as the water shallowed near the island. In fact, my worst fears were not realised and the bigger waves never came. I even had a go at cooking whilst at sea – something that I’d never dared do before. I decided to challenge myself by cooking something mostly from scratch (ok so I used one tin of potatoes) It was quite fun if a little stressful trying to cook with a moving boat. The hardest bit was juggling two saucepans and having to gimble them by hand the waves rocked the boat. The bowl of dirty washing up wasn’t high on my list of priorities at the time and I soon saw it fly off the kitchen surface onto the floor with an almighty crash. The pan lid bears a rather good dent as a result of that. Next time I will champion the one pot dinner so my other hand can be ready to catch anything that cares to fly away.

Feeling smug about having just cooked inside at sea,
Caroline shows off by washing up on the floor as well

It was dark by the time we reached the marina. The last bit took quite a while because the wind had dropped with something of an anticlimax to what we expected – we were worried about the wind acceleration zones around Tenerife but didn’t experience them.

Tired…no, exhausted we moored up at Marina de Santa Cruz and went to bed.

Walkies – Madeira

Posted in Cooking, Fun, Photographs, Sailing, Walking with tags , on October 4, 2010 by maidofmettle

Madeira – on our way to Funchal marina

The view from the boat of Funchal – impressive by day

We have been exploring Madeira from Funchal for the last few days. Not only is Madeira a retirement ground for old Toyota Starlets but also so far we have been impressed by the walking tracks that we have found on the island. Funchal marina itself is home to one of the least swanky toilet and shower blocks that we have experienced so far and what passes for rather dubious entertainment until the early hours. Last night we were treated to some rather loud and out of tune singing by a man and what I assumed to be his son. I suppose going from Quinta do Lorde, which actually was the height of luxury, anything else will be a little bit disappointing but we are thankfully very close to buses here so exploring is much much easier from here.

Anyway, I have been surprised by the variation in the landscape so far. We have seen craggy, clay rock faces, high mountains, areas recovering from forest fires and lush green valleys, Madeira is contrasting to say the least. The walking is equally interesting, many following the path of water channels (or levadas) which were built to direct water down the many large hills. The main advantage of levada walking is that they are generally flat which is great if you don’t like walking uphill. They are exciting in places too as you will often find overhangs to deal with and long, low tunnels with accompanying girl-eating spiders. I was surprised to actually need the torch the guide-book suggested for the tunnels.

Pete and Caroline walking along the levada at Lombo Grande

Negotiating an ‘awkward’ tunnel – note the thin path and water
channel to the right – (Lombo Grande)

Obstacle course (Lombo Grande)

Fabulous mountains and area recovering from forest fires
Eira do Serrado

The area of Eira do Serrado is famed for its nuns, a post-lady and chestnuts. The nuns apparently used to escape up the valley whenever pirates attacked Funchal, the post-lady had an epic walk to deliver post around the valley and the locals use the chestnuts to make delicious food. The only surviving evidence of the nuns are two aptly named restaurants “Nun’s Valley” and “Nun’s Valley Two”…Very original. Our walk (which supposedly follows the ‘easiest’ part of the post-lady’s route ended at Nun’s Valley where we sampled some traditional soups – Chestnut for Pete and bread soup for Chris and I.

What is this? egg..rosemary sprigs…a giant garlic clove!
…yikes something very hot. Mmm soup.

Phoenix from the flames – flowers growing wild here after the fires.

We have been making good use of the buses from Funchal. They appear to have been designed for very very small people which is entertaining when it comes to some of the corners. The roads of Madeira are extremely bendy (not to mention narrow in places with occasional holes where they are repairing after rocks have fallen. You have to hold on tight at times to stop yourself falling in the aisle.

The other day we took a bus up the hill to a botanical garden, small bird park and an orchid garden. I had no idea orchids were so complicated. Here they grow them in bottles for years and years in a small laboratory before they can eventually plant them. Some take over ten years before they even produce the first flowers!


Yes Mr Bond it is an orchid growing laboratory

Hiding amongst the orchids

After a busy day walking yesterday today is a bit of a rest day and with any luck Chris will attempt to make some home made bolo do caco bread. He triumphed the other day with a coffee and walnut cake which actually cooked well in the boat’s oven…an achievement indeed…

Coffee and walnut cake…the food of kings

We will probably stay on the island for a week or so longer before thinking about moving on.