On becoming a Foodie

You know, I come from a family of amazing cooks. My grandfathers were both bakers, and one of them even a world class Danish pastry chef, Sven. He had a son who is a professional baker, Gus. He also had a daughter, Susan, who’s deliciously diverse cuisine skills are pro-level. She had a daughter, Ella, who makes the world’s best crèpes, among other delicacies. Together these two ladies, Susan and Ella, have been known to gourmet-cater to over a hundred people… while camping… for THREE days.

Get it? They’re good. Really good.

And I’ve kinda always been the one that wasn’t so good. Not that I’m known in the family as a ‘terrible cook’ or anything…  it’s just I’ve never been the one whipping up new recipes or organising feasts for dozens at a time. I’m the dishwasher in the kitchen, or chopper at best. And I know what my mum would say to this: “but you make great bread!”

My bread is alright. I’ve had better. But you know what? I think I might actually be growing into a ‘good cook’! Whether it was my early passion for heathy, sustainable food (vegan), my various jobs in hospitality, or just my damn good genes, I believe I can now officially call myself a ‘foodie’.

The culmination of my culinary experience has come in the form of my current job – cook on board a privately owned yacht. I’ve had to learn quickly, cater to lots of different preferences and figure out how to do ‘gourmet’ while sweating your weight in salt, inside a steaming, rolling, galley.

And it’s been a lot of fun! Obviously I still have a LONG way to go in being anything close to world-class, but I reckon I can whip up a pretty delicious dinner party these days.

I’ve been learning from lots of different sources, altering recipes here and there to suit. One of my favourite cook books is Pete Evans’ “Healthy Everyday” which I draw a lot of inspiration from. I’ve been baking exclusively sugar-free treats, and a lot of these dishes are gluten free too. Here are some of the things I’ve been trying my hand at:

Polenta patties with mozzarella cream and seared arugala

Polenta patties with mozzarella cream and seared arugala

Sushi with crushed sunflower paste, fresh herbs and raw vegetables.

Sushi with crushed sunflower paste, fresh herbs and raw vegetables.

Pumpkin Soup with grilled prawns and a hint of miso and sesame flavour

Pumpkin Soup with grilled prawns and a hint of miso and sesame flavour

Avocados stuffed with marinated shrimp

Avocados stuffed with marinated shrimp

Mmm, a Pete Evans winning recipe - Pomegranate and herb crusted salmon.

Mmm, a Pete Evans winning recipe – Pomegranate and herb crusted salmon.

Sushi with freshly caught (I love sailing!) fish and goat cheese

Sushi with freshly caught fish, cucumber and goat cheese

Beetroot-goat cheese salad, zucchini boats and rosemary potato wedges

Beetroot-goat cheese salad, roasted zucchini boats, rosemary potato wedges, and quail egg mushrooms

Oven-grilled filo quiche

Filo quiche with oven-grilled smokey vegetables

Sugar-free date and walnut slice

Sugar-free date and walnut slice

 

I love these little guys - Crushed Pea patties with smoked salmon and quail eggs

I love these little guys – Crushed Pea patties with smoked salmon and quail eggs

A wheat pasta alternative - zucchini ribbons with a raw tomato and peppers salsa

A wheat pasta alternative – zucchini ribbons with a raw tomato and peppers salsa

Dairy free, sugar free,  chocolate raspberry mousse

Dairy free, sugar free, chocolate raspberry mousse

 

That’s it! Lots more learning to come, but so far I’m quite happy with the progress… and I sure am having fun!

 

Advertisements

Cycling For The Moment

IMG_0816 2014 comes to an end. Imagine, in say 20 years, we’ll be blogging “2034 comes to an end”. Doesn’t that just seem like such a distant future? And yet each day goes faster by so that decades might slip on, unnoticed…

Not that I feel 2014 was unremarkable! Quite the opposite. I fell in love (!!), started two jobs, moved back to the northern hemisphere, learnt to cook (sort of), and helped dream up a future business (more on that later!). But today, I am reminded of making the most of each day, each year. Today I have returned from a wonderful bike trip, and the fire, the passion.. the ‘carpe diem’ is burning bright.

It was a short little bike trip. Just 30kms up, and 30kms down. Marc and I have both done tours where we pushed out 30kms before breakfast, so it may even be exaggerating to call it a ‘trip’. But like any bicycle journey, no matter the distance, it had plenty of sweat, ups, downs and adventure.

Christmas is a time for family, to be sure, but with Marc’s in Canada and mine in Australia, we decided to make the most of a romantic holiday. We found two bicycles, lashed on a couple of plastic baskets, loaded them up with way too much (*heavy!*) deliciously home-made treats, and set off, wobbling, up the road. Our destination was a little village called Lofou, about half way up the mountains of Cyprus. A night in a ‘traditional guest house’ suite, complete with fire-place, loft and stone cottage vibe would be our prize. Would our makeshift bike racks, bald mountain tyres, and out-of-practice thighs be up to the task?

IMG_0768IMG_0779

It may only have been 30kms, but it was 30kms of unrelenting climb. Up, up, up. Sometimes, a nice 5-6% grade, the kind where you can click into your middle-of-the-low-end gearing and push on up at a moderate pace. Other times it hit the 12-14% mark, and despite being in my lowest-possible gear, I was cursing the wide nobby tyres and too-small bicycle frame, thighs burning as I urged my weight forward. We did, however, punctuate the journey with an out-of-this-world picnic, and munched on treats white taking in the majestic view.

IMG_0811 IMG_0803IMG_0807

We did make it to the top, and our incredible accommodations were every bit as charming as we’d hoped. Champagne, chocolate mousse and scrabble by the fire… not a bad way to spend Christmas! By noon the next day we were packed and on our way back down the mountain. Another 30kms… but this time? Downhill baby!

IMG_0829 What a joyous feeling to be careening down a perfect slope, wheels spinning, watching vineyards roll by and goat-bells ringing through the hills. What a truly, live-in-the-moment feeling. The euphoria that comes over me in times like these, reminds me how important it is to follow your fire, as often as you possibly can. Sailing and cycling are my fastest ways to that freedom, and in those moments… whether it’s my gears propelling me down a mountain or the wind pushing me down a swell… in those moments, time is frozen – the moment just is.

60kms, two days and about 100euro each. Why not go?

And the memories? The memories are the kind you know you’ll remember, even as they are unfolding, even in, say, 2034.

What I havn’t told you

Why do I write this blog?

Is it to simply share my travel experiences? To inspire, to encourage, to reflect? To give a voyeur-view into my life, as a young woman on the road? Or maybe just to self-indulge? I always said it was a platform for me to practice my writing, to keep me writing. And to share in this human-experience, to explore ‘the meaning of life’ together, as part of a community, all searching relentlessly for answers to questions or questions to answers.

I believe strongly in the value of transparency, of openness, so that we might all learn more, grow faster and understand one another better. I write because it’s a way to share life, to connect with people both known and unknown and explore ideas as part of the bigger picture.

But it’s not always easy. Sometimes I find myself slipping into the tedium of “I went here, I did this”, or glossing over my experiences so they all sound like passionate, fulfilling adventures. And when I am living my dream (to sail my own boat across the Pacific) it’s all too easy to leave out the rawness of it, the tears and grit that are inevitably involved in risking yourself while following your heart.

——

Charlie and I have always questioned the institution of marriage, challenged the assumptions made by society, by couples in love. It’s why we had a commitment ceremony and not a wedding, it’s why we tried open relationships, it’s why we’ve travelled apart for months at a time and it’s why now, after 5 years of being together, we’ve decided to separate.

I shared very little of our slowly disconnecting relationship, even with closest family and friends. I felt embarrassed at our failure to make it work, felt other people’s disappointment, those who love us both dearly and think of us as a team, felt that so soon after our heartfelt and powerful Union Ceremony, we should be doing better.

But then we sailed into Brisbane, and the time came to share our lives with others. It came as a shock to most, as it might to readers of this blog, because (through my own fault) what they didn’t see was the fighting, the misunderstandings, and the differences we found in each other. Our relationship has always been a balancing act, a hard won passionate battle of communication and empathy – always talking, working or moving our way through big impossible issues. We haven’t made it easy on ourselves, and maybe this is just what happens when you live through so much together in such a short time. I don’t know. Thankfully, what Charlie and I do know, is that we don’t want to go on with the struggle – we need to go our separate ways, to follow our dreams in different directions.

What I feel in my heart is that we are no longer meant for each other. We have growing opposing opinions about some fundamental philosophies, and despite still loving Charlie as the beautiful man he is, I recognize that’s not the man that helps me be the best woman I can be. Our vows to each other were clear: we would make our independent selves our first priority, always love the other, and live life together as a team so long as our happiness benefited.

Our roads have forked, our lives are separating, but we have stayed true to that commitment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tanna and The Mighty Yasur

“Never go to windward!!” Jess of Alliance had warned us, several weeks earlier about the perils of moving the boat into the wind. But with the island of Tanna and it’s unmissable live volcano lying south of Port Vila, we had little choice. Besides, the wind was light and from the East, how bad could it be?

Our new friend Cam would be joining us on this leg, continuing on until Noumea. We were excited to have him aboard, and spent a lovely calm evening aboard Portal in Havannah Harbor before setting off the next morning. What followed was easily this trip’s worst passage. 50nm became two days of constant slamming, beating and grinding as we tried to aim for the west coast of Tanna. Getting swept off the shore by West setting currents, a fierce SE wind and decently sized swells, Portal bravely pushed on. Our tiller-pilot broken, our engine over-heating and our batteries too low for comfort, the trip seemed to drag on endlessly. Unable to point up at all, we followed the coast south, getting soaked and tired through squall after squall. A new plan was set for the East coast anchorage at Lenakel, and finally, on the third morning, we were 5nm away.

Then the wind died. Typical. With our engine out of action, Charlie and I started getting creative. We rigged our 8ft oars up on either side of Portal and tried to make way in the now calm but rolly seas. Surprisingly, this didn’t really work. Our exhausted bodies ached for rest, and the now chaotic cabin cried out for a clean. At last, after 2 hours, a squall came through with winds from the NE and we were able to coast into the somewhat protected anchorage at Lenakel.

This exciting adventure was about all the sailing Cam could handle, so he jumped a flight back to Vila the next morning. We tried to convince him it wasn’t usually so bad, but with a deadline to get back for, the verdict was made. He treated us to an absolutely divine meal at The Tanna Lodge – a haven for three weary sailors.

With Cam gone and our friends Alliance over on the other side of the island, we began our mission to join them at the Volcano. What began as a hitchhiking journey through the heart of Tanna, became a 5 hour hiking escapade, often taking us in circles; but with the mighty Yasur booming close by, we were in good company and thoroughly enjoyed the adventure. By nightfall we were reunited with our good friends, and recounting our horrendous sail over tea and cookies. We slept a sweet slumber in their spare cabin, ready to take on Yasur the following day.

This live, spitting volcano is best seen at night, and in it’s current Category 3 state (there are only 4), we were treated to a seriously awe-inspiring event. I won’t even try to describe what it’s like to stand precariously on the edge of a lava filled crater that’s shooting red-hot boulders high into the sky… suffice it to say that I’ll never appreciate fireworks again.

IMG_9791 IMG_9793 IMG_9796 IMG_9808 IMG_9814 IMG_9815 IMG_9820 IMG_9822 IMG_9827 IMG_9832 IMG_9837 IMG_9841 IMG_9850 IMG_9854 IMG_9856 IMG_9857 IMG_9860 IMG_9861 IMG_9868 IMG_9872 IMG_9887 IMG_9935 IMG_9941 IMG_9949 IMG_9959 IMG_9990

Baja California in a little boat…

Portal swings briskly from side to side, as we watch the flock of birds from the beach. There is a stiff breeze and we are grateful for this reasonably protected anchorage here in Bahia Asuncion.

We arrived yesterday, after another early morning start from Turtle Bay. Since  leaving Ensenada, our first Mexican port, we have had great passages to various small bays and islands. Our first stop to Isla St Martin was somewhat disappointing –  we had hoped to explore an enclosed lagoon on the small desolate island, but I awoke with a migraine and spent the day vomiting, as Charlie and the crew moved us to the mainland, 10miles away. We read about a small village there, with a few resources, and the local “Carlos” who would answer our radio call with information. As it turned out, anchorage was taken in 5ft at low tide (barely enough for our 4ft keel) and well offshore so that rowing to land was out of the question. Mr Carlos never answered our curious calls, and our active imaginations have since surmised that the small town must have been decimated by the Cartel, nothing left but torn Tecate signs.

We fled that wild and lonely place, around 4am, with our sights set on Isla Cedros. Anticipating two nights at sea, we were thrilled when we averaged over 5.5 knots, making anchorage by the following evening. Along our way, we were intercepted by a most humbling sight – Three Californian grey whales chose to swim with us for over two hours. We turned our engine on immediately and tried to alter course, but they insisted on accompanying us, sometimes getting so close their blow-water splashed in our faces. Rising up on our stern, then diving below our keel, it was a most terrifying and beautiful experience! They never so much as nicked our vessel though, so I suppose they were well aware, and had no intent of harming us.

Arriving in Cedros, we rowed ashore in our trusty dinghy “Luckey” and were again surprised –  a quaint and vibrant town of 2500 inhabitants surrounded us, the people a friendly and relaxed bunch. Colourful buildings with descriptive drawings painted directly to the facade, small side streets of cobbled stones, and cute business’ like the Papeleria selling paper supplies. Being Easter, there was a local parade through the town, complete with Jesus on a cross and his disciples, being banished by the Romans  as the story was read aloud through a truck’s sound-system. We made good use of the local internet cafe and taqueria, making friends with the jovial by-passers. We were all a little sad to leave the following morning, grateful for the unique small-town experience, void of tourism.

At 2am we set off for our next stop – Turtle Bay. Another pleasant and swift sail, saw us anchoring in the well protected bay around 1pm. Touched by the tourism of the annual “Baha-ha-ha” cruisers race, it was never-the-less an enjoyable resting point with delicious coffee and plenty of fresh food and water provisions. We spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach under palm-tree umbrellas, grateful for some rest after such an early start.

The next morning was again a pre-dawn rise though, as we needed to make Bahia Asuncion before dark. We again averaged over 5knots, with reefs in the main and jib, flying downwind in sharp heavy seas. Occasionally we would spot another sailboat beating their way north, and all agreed they were crazy! Thankfully an hour or so of daylight remained after entering the bay, since we dropped anchor 4 times before finding a good hold. Eventually we had success by removing our CQR and installing our Danforth anchor instead. A lighter, weaker anchor, but more appropriate for the loose sand we found here. My muscles were pulsing with exhaustion, after hauling 40ft of chain in and out, in and out, though I still don’t regret removing the poorly placed windlass Portal originally came with.

Now we are here, giving ourselves a full day of rest, drinking coffee and chowing down fish tacos. This is a large bay with a significant village, and so far we have had much help from the local people, particularly in refilling our propane. We will restock on food and water here, then make the run to “Mag Bay”, 200nm from here. Provisions don’t sound promising there, but being a well-protected anchorage, it will be a good rest stop before another 150nm downhill run to Cabo San Lucas. We are definitely taking longer than expected along this western coast, but have decided it is well-worth the delay – such nice communities and the glimpse into rural Mexican life is not to be missed.

Letter Writing in Ensenada

Letter Writing in Ensenada

It's a tough life... internet on the boat!

It’s a tough life… internet on the boat!

A lazy sail

A lazy sail

Our new drifter - what fun to use!

Our new drifter – what fun to use!

Whales!

Whales!

Holding our breath!

Holding our breath!

At least twice as long as our boat, and easily one boat length wide...

At least twice as long as our boat, and easily one boat length wide…

Terrifying beauty

Terrifying beauty

Pixel lazing in her favourite spot - on top of the dodger cover.

Pixel lazing in her favourite spot – on top of the dodger cover.

Lydia's eternal struggle for clean hair - here she tries the 'hang and dunk' method...

Lydia’s eternal struggle for clean hair – here she tries the ‘hang and dunk’ method…

Barbara does some dishes

Barbara does some dishes

Captain Charlie on the electronics

Captain Charlie on the electronics

Cedros village grocery

Cedros village grocery

IMG_6902

Easter on Isla Cedros

Easter on Isla Cedros

IMG_6906 IMG_6908 IMG_6915 IMG_6921

Our new friend Armando helps us get propane in Bahia Asuncion

Our new friend Armando helps us get propane in Bahia Asuncion

A Mexican fisherman's home

A Mexican fisherman’s home

IMG_6931

Bahia Asuncion

Bahia Asuncion

IMG_6944 IMG_6949

 

 

 

 

 

Adios America!

Hello from Mexico!

We left Marina Del Rey on a breezy afternoon and had great conditions. Cruising along with full sails up and pushing 7knots, we were a happy crew! By nightfall the wind had all but died though, and after an hour of bashing sails, we turned on the engine. The block on our main sheet traveller had broken under the stress – our first casualty of the trip. She’s an old boat, and things are bound to break – but so soon into the voyage was a little disconcerting! Still, we lashed down the traveller and pushed on for Catalina, thankful that the fracture happened in light airs. Our ‘iron jib’ reliably propelled us forward, all be it at 3knots, and it was several hours later than any sort of wind piped up.

After!

We sailed the last miles into Two Harbors, on Catalina Island, and as we had been there twice before, the late-night land fall was only mildly worrying. It is well lit and buoyed, so we picked up a mooring easily enough, and all fell soundly to sleep.

We spent a full day recovering from the stress/excitement of leaving, just lazing about the boat and beach. Our friend Bob was sailing from MDR to meet us there that evening, but ran into serious trouble with fog, freighters and no radio. Charlie and I even went out on a late-night rowing rescue mission after we lost contact with him, though we couldn’t find him. Later we learned he had turned back and was safe and sound, thank goodness.

Another two nights were spent at different anchorages along the catalina coastline, honing our skills and finishing small tasks. By Thursday afternoon the wind looked good and we were ready to push off for San Diego.

The first few hours were hopeful, with great breeze off our beam. Once again though, by 10pm a dense fog rolled in and the wind completely abated. We were loathe to turn on the engine again, but at 0.05knots we decided it was time. Not a puff came our way until well into the morning hours, just 10miles from San Diego. The fog had lingered through the night too, and I was VERY thankful for our AIS device, which shows us nearby traffic and let’s them see us too.

So then we were in San Diego! Our final port in the USA and a great place for repairs and final projects. A whole six days went by as we rested, tromped around the city on business missions, readied the rest of the boat, and restocked on provisions. We were all anxious to get going, and days seemed to fly by with little productivity. In hindsight though, we achieved a lot and finished some important tasks. Finally, by Thursday afternoon we were off and away, ice-cream, coke and chips in hand (America FUCKYEAH), cruising out of the country on a steady 6knots.

We made great headway in such good breeze and 4 hours later were almost half way. Then the wind died. Around 10pm. Sound familiar? This time we motored in big swells and the constant rolling afforded little sleep. Thankfully, around 4am, she piped up again and we were able to make steady progress with full sails.

At 11am, we pushed into the Ensenada Chanel, jumped off the boat and begun life in MEXICO! Yeeha! Clearing into customs was simple, thanks to the helpful marina we stayed in for a night, and the tacos and tecate (beer) taste GOOD!

Mooring field at Two harbors

Mooring field at Two harbors

Our stern anchor keeps us from swinging

Our stern anchor keeps us from swinging

Lydia and Babsi row a stern anchor out

Lydia and Babsi row a stern anchor out

IMG_6765

Darling Portal. She's a little heavy in the stern, with everyone in the cockpit!

Darling Portal. She’s a little heavy in the stern, with everyone in the cockpit!

A row in the early morning

A row in the early morning

Our never-been-used Drifter sail. Excited to try it out!

Our never-been-used Drifter sail. Excited to try it out!

Lydia!
During
Before

Before

During

During

After!

After!

The captain's quarters - Vberth

The captain’s quarters – Vberth

IMG_6793 IMG_6795

Barbara's Side, Port Berth

Barbara’s Side, Port Berth

IMG_6799 IMG_6798

Lydia's Berth, Starboard side

Lydia’s Berth, Starboard side

IMG_6804 IMG_6805 IMG_6808

The galley

The galley

IMG_6806

AIS - A lifesaver in the fog

AIS – A lifesaver in the fog

The Nav Station

The Nav Station

IMG_6811

Portal's solar panel set up - 4x30watt panels, give us plenty of energy.

Portal’s solar panel set up – 4x30watt panels, give us plenty of energy.

Luckey, our trusty companion.

Luckey, our trusty companion.

IMG_6812

Boats, Bikes and Birthdays