Saturday, March 28, 2015

Miradors' Galley

An army marches on its stomach, so you had better be able to feed them.

I like to eat well. I know that sounds like an obvious statement, but it's not. I can't be happy eating poor quality food, it doesn't matter how beautiful the scenery. I can make short term adjustments, a week, or a month perhaps, but I wouldn't call our 2 year cruise a short term endeavor. Don't misunderstand me, I wouldn't call myself an epicure, but eating for me is much more than simply sustaining oneself. All too often the word "cruising" is used embellish what is really simply substandard living conditions. Yeah, we have plenty of poeple doing that out of necessity already, no thank you.
Beyond immediate gratification, I believe the food you eat directly influences your disposition towards experiences throughout your day. It can be the only difference between a pleasant day, or an ordeal. Your enjoyment of a hike across a beautiful island is directly influenced by your previous meals. If you have a breakfast of say "eggs Benedict with Canadian bacon" you are probably going to have a great hike, but if you've been unhappy with your food for the past 4 months, chances are it's going to taint your memories of that beautiful island, the same experience, different food and different outcomes.
I have met people that don't seem to care much about what they eat, like the rat colony in the movie "Ratatouille". I know some who's only eating utensil is a spork, barbarians. "I wish they just made a pill for this", I once heard a guy say, complaining about taking the time to eat lunch...I can't say that I understand those people. At the other extreme, if it were up to me every meal would be a celebration. 
Cooking has been my therapy from an early age, perhaps because it's more cost effective than a shrink. Just to establish credibility, for whatever reason, I have been burning things up in the kitchen for a very long time now. My cooking is a skill that has improved over time, with lots of practice. In the Bahamas, when our friends were successful fishing, we would be invited to dinners if I would prepare the catch. I thought this was a great arrangement, in fact I was flattered.
A boats galley (that means kitchen for you land lubbers) is always cramped compared to any home kitchen. Don't even think about bringing aboard any of the gadgets that sit for years in the dark corners of a typical kitchen cabinet because they were more of a novelty than anything else, sorry George. With no room to spare, equipping a boat's galley for even reasonable cooking is a challenge. Tools must be compact and serve multiple functions whenever possible. I like to take pride in my tools, and I try adhere to the old adage "if you buy gabage, you own garbage" by buying good quality tools. There is no replacement for quality, especially when you're in a remote location with no way of replacing anything. I have field tested Mirador's galley for 10 years, and I feel my bases are fairly well covered with this arrangement. As such, I offer the following inventory as a guideline to anyone trying to equip a similar galley.

Miradors stainless steel 3 burner stove.

At the heart of Mirador's galley is the gas stove. It has 3 top burners and an oven. The cooking capacity is good for 4 to 6 persons. Its controls are not as precise as most common domestic stoves, yet I have learned to work (more like "deal") with all of its quirks. We carry a total of 50 pounds of propane, two twenty-pound aluminum propane cylinders and one ten pounder. That can last us up to 6 months. Hopefully we are never out that long. To store all this gas I was able to find an area behind the cockpit combing that was not being used. The compartment is completely sealed from the rest of the boat, and it has a scupper that leads directly to the outside. Any accidental gas leak will simply find its way harmlessly off of the boat... or so I would hope.
For refrigeration, Mirador has 2 separate refrigerator/freezers with a total volume of 12 cubic feet, and they are a burden on   our electrical system. We are in the process supplementing our 220 watt solar panels with a new 600 watt wind generator to mediate our energy consumption.
The pots nested for storage.

The pots un-nested for use.

We have a set of 5 nesting pots made by Magma that are very well made. They are non-stick stainless steel with a sandwiched aluminum bottom that dissipates the heat. What really sets them apart from other quality nesting pot sets is the removeable handle mechanism. The handles are easily operated with one hand. A word of advice, you really  need to protect the non-stick finishes from chafing on each other while the pots are nested. We made fabric covers for each pot, but anything that keeps the surfaces from touching each other would work. We also have a 12" fry pan, a 5 quart pot for larger stews, and a compact pressure cooker. 
For the oven we have roasting pan, a cookie sheet and 3 nesting baking pans, and a splatter screen. This is the extent of our cookware.
For mixing or whisking we have a set of plastic nesting bowls, and one stainless steel bowl for creating sauces like a hollandaise. 
Here's our built-in knife block. 

My beautiful Chicago Cutlery Legacy knife set.

My pride and joy is a full set of Chicago Cutlery knives. Yes, there was a time when they made high end kitchen knives here in America, but it seems the public scrutinized there name more than the quality of their product. I have had my knives for close to 20 years now. They are forged with full tangs, have rosewood handles that hardly show any signs of wear, and they are as sharp as the day I got them. I found a remote corner of counter to embed the whole knife block. 
I also have a cleaver, a pizza cutter, and shears. At an arts festival, my wife bought me a beautiful cutting board to complete the ensemble.
We carry a comprehensive array of hand tools.

Our silverware set looks like fish.

We have range of hand tools, spatulas, ladles, frying strainer,  whisk, muddler (for Mojitos), peeler, hand strainer, folding grater, garlic press, a full range thermometer, potato masher, tongs, basting brush, baster, cork screw, can opener, measuring cups and spoons, South American tortilla press, manual dough mixer, coffee percolator, citrus squeezer,  tenderizing mallet, mortise & pestle, and a rolling pin.
Our blender out-performs the top brands.

This microwave can warm, toast, or bake.

Every day is better when you start it with gourmet coffee.

We love ice in our drinks.

Separate appliances include a combination toaster/microwave, blender, vacuum sealer, ice maker (if you are not a sporker, you need one), barbecue, and La Pavoni  expresso machine (happy wife = happy me).
I have tested, added, and adjusted this galley arrangement for over ten years, both at the dock, and in remote locations. It can be hard to imagine not being able run to the market for a simple loaf of bread, but that's exactly what happens in the most beautiful of places, no commodities. In fact, and this is a true story, we were once docked next to a multimillion dollar sport fishing boat at a remote tropical island. They were down from New England for the seasonal wahoo run. Every evening they would return with a few hundred pounds of fish. They were planning on buying bread to compliment their catch, but there was none to be had. After a week without bread they were ready to barter me. I was happily baking away. I would make white, or whole grain breads, and even treats like Greek spinach pie. Mirador's freezers were soon packed with all the wahoo we could carry, yahoo! But seriously, I can produce the broad range of foods that not only compliment, but enhance the magnificent adventures of Mirador.

A delicious loaf of homemade bread.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cupcake and Muffin

Hooray, Cupcake (AKA Israel) is coming to see us for part 2 of his 50th birthday celebration! Yeah, he's over the proverbial hill, but his ego doesn't get what his body is trying to tell him. The catch is, there's always a catch, Israel will only be with us for 3 days which is like going to Disney World for 3 hours, just not enough time. Now I really want Israel to experience the magnificent beauty of Virgin Islands so that he might return home, and tell all of you about it, and then you will want to visit me...quite the sinister scheme!
In any case, we took a slip at a marina, and rented a car to pick him up at the airport because a taxi just costs too much. We went straight to the grocery store to provision for the weekend. At the end of the shopping spree we had more liquor than food, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
The next morning Marie returned the car while I readied the boat. Our first stop would be Christmas Cove, only a short couple of miles away, or about 30 minutes. Our friends on Necesse were there to join us. There are usually moorings that you can pick up but they were all taken. We dropped anchor in about 20 feet of water. Since it was kinda crowded I dove in to check that the anchor was well placed. Well, since I was already wet I coaxed Israel to don his gear, and we went for a nice long snorkel around a large reef that splits the cove in half. The reef was beautiful, and full of colorful fish, but there was a 15 pound mouton snapper that was just amazing. You can't spearfish in this area, and I think the snapper knew it. And so our appetite grew.
That night I had something special planned for dinner. I found  goat at a local market, and I knew Israel wound really appreciate it. Again, I out did myself, and Israel had it three meals in a row!
The next morning we lifted the anchor, and headed for the infamous Jost Van Dyke. It was a really nice 3 hour sail through the blue waters between St. Thomas, St. John, Jost. When we arrived at Great Harbor there was only one mooring remaining. As we made our way towards it a catamaran that was behind us sped up, and beat us to it. It reminded me of holiday season parking at the malls in Miami. It seems the Jerks follow me everywhere. We were left circling the harbor, looking for a spot to anchor. My anchoring angel showed its face, and found us a really nice opening close to shore, the best spot in the house. In the British Virgin Islands most moorings cost $30 a day, and they are in the best spots, leaving little or no room for anchoring. We got lucky, we have a great spot, and it's free...more drinking money!
Israel and I went to shore at about 2 pm. After a quick walk down the only street in town, we sat down at Foxy's for some drinks. There is something peculiar about the drinks at Foxy's. It seems that there is some phenomena occurring that makes people drunk faster than usual. We stumbled back home after only 2 hours, drooling like babies, and went to sleep. We awoke in the early evening, about 6:30 or 7:00. The party a Foxy's was full swing, but we dared not go for a second round. We settled for a milder social exchange on our boat that evening.
The next morning we had to head back to St. Thomas as Israel had to fly out the next day. We sailed back in half the time that it took us to get there. We picked up a mooring at Christmas Cove, and had dinner with our friends on Necesse The next morning, for the sake of comfort, Israel said that he would pay for a night the marina. We called American Yacht Harbor, and they had a slip available. The marina is located in an area called Red Hook. It's a bit like Key West, but smaller. There are over 10 bars on a 500 foot stretch of road, and Israel thought it was heaven. This is where he wanted to be all along. It's ironic that I had exhausted myself thinking of where to take him on such a short visit, and the answer was right under my nose!