After reading a sailing novel as a child, I was always enchanted by the story of a man taking his girlfriend on a picnic sail on his Dragon. I don’t have a Dragon, but a much loved Corsair Sailing dinghy called Toccata (permanently rigged on the slip in my backyard), which means I’ve never really moved on from my childhood. Now was the time to picnic. Continue reading “An Australia Day Picnic”
I want to be hundred percent sure about the consistency of the temperature of my fridge (based on battery level!) on the yacht before taking seafood aboard, but based on the size you make the cakes, they can either make fabulous canapés, entrees, or cold as a snack lunch. We recently sailed Toccata to a deserted beach in Moreton Bay, and enjoyed these fishcakes with a lovely bottle of Tassie champagne, but it washes down with a beer on a hot day just as well!
These can be cooked in a frypan or on the BBQ.
- 1 onion, finely grated
- 4cm piece of ginger, grated
- 150g sweet potato, grated
- 1 green chilli, chopped finely
- 100g green beans chopped
- 2 spring onions chopped
- 150g rice flour
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 200g of firm white fish, such as roughy or queenfish, cut into 5mm dice
- Zest of two limes
- Oil for shallow frying
With a food processor with the grater blade, add the onion and ginger, then set aside. Then grate the sweet potato, and put in a separate bowl. Of course you can use a grater instead.
In a small frying pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the onion and ginger, then the garlic and chilli and cook till soft but not brown, then set aside to cool.
In a bowl combine the rice flour, salt, sugar and 130ml of water, and mix thoroughly. Add the cooled onion mixture and stir in, then add fish, sweet potato, green beans, spring onion and lime zest.
Heat the BBQ or frypan to hot and well-oiled, and add spoonfuls of the mixture at the size that you would like. Cook till well browned on both sides, turning once.
Serve with sweet chilli sauce or chilli jam. Or something like this….
Pound two birds eye chilli, a clove of garlic and a tablespoon of sugar until it is a thick paste. Add juice of two limes and 30ml of fish sauce. You can then add between 30 and 100 ml of water, to tone it down to your taste!
If you (like me) struggle with filo and uniform bite size morsels, this is a great stepping stone dish to assist with technique. These are a little fiddly, but well worth the effort. Serve them hot at a cocktail party, cold handing them up the rail in a race on the yacht. Continue reading “Lamb and Feta Filo Rolls with Seeds”
At 26, when I first decided to cross the Tasman Sea on my own, I was light on ocean experience but big on fear. So I read books. Not the inspiring travel guides “sell your house and run away aboard a yacht” books. Disaster books. Everyone I could put my hand on.
Accounts of the 1979 Fastnet, Storm in the Pacific, Red Sky Dawning (now called Adrift after the movie made about it), Once is Enough,and three accounts of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart race. Always with a notebook handy; I would write notes (sometimes with a trembling hand) about how I would prepare the boat. I enacted all of the recommendations on my yacht before leaving for that first, solo, ocean voyage.
I don’t think anything I will write in this article is rocket science, however I was shocked when our Cat 1 Safety Inspector told me he thought we had the best layout of safety gear, and the best strategy for dealing with a crisis, that he had seen. This isn’t revolutionary; we have just spent a lot of time thinking about what we would do if we had to step off the yacht, or if we were in a collision, or a near miss, or dismasted.
Everything we do with regards to safety on the yacht we work on the theory, that if we have to do it, then we are going to be under stress. We will probably be fatigued. It will probably be the end to a very bad day, and the beginning of an even worse one. And that is the time when you are likely to forget, or make dud decisions. On this basis I have tried to make the safety plan on the boat as dumbed down as possible, and, where possible, replace an under pressure decision with a practiced process.
From Category 2 up in Yachting Australia safety regulations, you are required to have a diagram of where all your safety gear is located. I have sailed on many yachts with “compliance diagrams” which meet the rule. But in my opinion, there is far too much information to be contained on one diagram; on Apriori we have three. The first is for safety gear above decks, the second is safety gear below decks, and the third is for the through hull fittings. Then there is a fourth, with emergency radio procedures.
Our boat is the only one I have seen with the third diagram. But my logic is simple; if there is a large, sudden ingress of water without an impact, chances are it is a skin fitting that has failed. I imagine that if this happened to me, I would remove the laminated diagram from the navigation table bulkhead, then walk the boat from transom to bow and check each one in order.
As for having above and below decks, I split them out as there is too much information to be on one diagram. While discussing too much information on one diagram, it also means smaller lettering. Both my partner and I need glasses for fine print. At night or under stress, glasses are essential. So why make the print small? (Note: We keep $5 magnifiers all over the boat, including several in the first aid kit and navigation table, just in case).
Our fourth diagram above the navigation table has all the information that you would need to call out on the radio if you have a mayday. But it is also great to have it at hand for less experience crew who we are trying to upskill at using the radio for logging on and logging off with the authorities. It all helps to build confidence and a process that will be useful in the event of a disaster.
Leaving the boat:
We have an area in the boat I call “Evacuation corner”. If you need to leave, and leave fast, everything is in the one place. The first item is the EPIRB’s, of which we have two. One is out of date but the battery still tests positively, the other is in date. They are both still registered and functioning, but the “in compliance” EPIRB is clearly marked TAKE THIS ONE FIRST. But if you have two, why not take them both. During our recent Safety at Sea course, they recommended setting off two in an emergency. From the rescuers point of view, one could be an error. Two going off in the same boat means it is time to scramble.
There are two ditch bags, one with flares and signaling devices, the second with the VHF, spare GPS and batteries, signaling mirror and sea water dye. These are both kept in place with shock-cord, however there is a lanyard attaching them both of them and in the middle is a snapshackle. As standard, the snapshackle is attached to a prominent saddle above both of them. In need, just remove the snapshackle from where it lives on the saddle, attach it to your harness, grab the EPIRB (two if you have time) and walk on out.
Assuming you have a little more time, there is a 20L jerry jug of water within reach under the navigation table, just to the right. It is strapped in but with a quick release snapshackle. If we are getting on the raft, I would enjoy supplementing our drinking water.
Adjacent to the companionway on the starboard side, is “Attracting attention” corner. Within easy reach of the cockpit and without looking, there are three white handflares velcroed in. Just next to it is an air horn (yes, it needs replacing due to rust issues!). We also have a range of cyalume sticks for any occasion you need, but I imagine having them to throw overboard if someone went over at night. They are also good for attaching to small children at night to make sure you know where they are.
Reading Adrift/Red Sky Dawningas well as the classic Smeeton book Once is Enough (their yacht was pitch-poled twice), I became paranoid about weight forward of the mast as well as what would happen to the crew below in a severe capsize. I was explaining to a friend how I would like an aircraft style seatbelt to contain me to my bunk in the event of the worst. Being a diver, he suggested a weightbelt bolted to the pilot berth. That is what we have now. I’ve only used it once, and thankfully then, it wasn’t necessary.
We have a towing bridle which we use for both towing or being towed.
We have had to tow a number of boats, sometimes planned, sometimes unplanned. But when your yacht, which was not designed to be a tug, is being used as one, there are two things to consider.
An effective towing bridle will spread the weight. Ours goes around the primary winches, loops around the secondary winches, then loops around the deck cleats, through the fairleads, spreading the load over six fittings. If we were sailing and towing, then we would omit the leeward primary winch, but we still have five. Secondly, the tow-line is on a bridle which makes steering the tug boat infinitely easier.
If we need to be towed, then again, we do not wish to put all the load on one cleat. We also have a bowsprit, which is very vulnerable to being damaged by a tow rope. For a short tow in good conditions, we can use the bridle around the bow cleats and it will keep the towline clear of and (hopefully) under the bowsprit. For a long tow, or in rougher conditions, we have looped the bridle around the bow cleats, then attached it to mooring lines, which we have wrapped around the mast and then back to the winches on the cabin top, effectively spreading the load across six places.
While we have never used it in anger, we would also use the towing bridle to launch our drogue over the stern, if caught in cyclonic conditions.
It’s probably of less relevance now, with more accurate EPIRB’s, but one of the issues in “Rescue in the Pacific” was that the helicopters did not know which boat was under them. I had this safety sheet made, which could be used to cover over a broken window or hole in the deck. But everyone will know it is us. It is next to the regulation sail number; a requirement of the YA Safety Regulations.
STORAGE OF THE LIFERAFT:
Our liferaft lives in a locker under the cockpit floor, rather than in a cradle (we are currently looking at a new raft that is able to be stored on it’s side, on the transom). But for the time being, the way we secure it is with a snapshackle on three fixed pieces of line, which we tighten with lashing. The snapshackle is opened with a woven rope loop handle. In the heat of the moment, you just pull the loop handle and the liferaft is released.
Books could be written about this, but there are a few key issues for us. Firstly, the Lifering, which needs a drogue, and in our case a jonbuoy (inflatable danbuoy) need to be secure enough to not go over, but easy to deploy. We also carry a lifesling and have a heaving line if the person is conscious and nearby. We carry a side opening snapshackle which can convert the spinnaker brace to a crane, when attached to the mainsheet bail, to pull an unconscious person out of the water. We have practiced this and it works.
My last point on this topic, is just to think it through, and then further to that, actually practice it. We have practiced putting our stormsails up. We have practiced MOB (I have gone overboard and pretended to be unconscious). We have dry runs of launching the liferaft and collecting the gear. When I told a member of my local yacht club that we do all this, he commented “What a waste of time, as you are practicing in good conditions and when you have to do it it will be bad!”. My response was, “When you have to do it in bad conditions, wouldn’t it be better if it wasn’t your first time?”.
My mum was very much a “meat-and-three-veg” cook, until the mid eighties, when she really started trying lots of new, more technical and sophisticated recipes. Continue reading “Chicken stuffed with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Basil and Cheese, wrapped in Bacon”
I have put a lot of effort in keeping junk (and weight) out of our yacht, and so we have spent a lot of time making sure that all of our galley gear is highly functional, and preferably multi-purpose, as well as space saving. Like most things we write about, there isn’t a lot of difference between efficiency on board, or efficiency in the small kitchen in the city unit we have recently moved into, after letting out our large waterfront home! Here are a few things I cannot live without……
Biome Lunch Box
These lunchboxes change the way I eat at work, and are perfect for inshore racing lunches, or semi-prepared Friday night meals on the yacht after a busy commute to get to the marina.
Consisting of three sections, one large enough for two sandwiches, they also come with a small and medium size container. They are so flexible. In the simplest form, you can put a sandwich in one side, and leave the items that make them soggy (such as tomatoes) in the smaller section, for adding at the last minute. But I usually use this section for a salad, and put the dressing into one of the smaller containers for the last minute add. Then in the smaller sections, add some olives or strawberries as a snack.
On a Thursday night, I can pre-marinate some meat, and put the dressing or marinade in the smaller containers, or herbs in the smaller section.
The greatest change that it has made for us, is that I am always prepared the night before. I spend a lot of my work time in the car, and Lucas is in concerts or on-air. But when our workday begins, it is just a matter of taking our meals out of the fridge and into a bag, and off we go. Mine is red (Apriori) and Lucas is green (Toccata)!
Stacking bowls, colander and measuring cups
Joseph Joseph has this off the shelf solution which gives you everything you need, but it all stacks in one place. The purple and orange spoons start from a teaspoon and go up to a cup, then you have a small bowl, a stainless steel mesh sieve, a colander, and a large mixing bowl. And it all stacks into one space. We have had it a year, and it appears to be extremely good quality. The sieve hasn’t rusted, even though it has lived on the yacht for a year!
Aldi collapsible containers
Some of the items that I have outlined are rather expensive, but I consider that all represent value for money. These fabulous containers, sourced from Aldi, represent incredible value, and we use them all the time. They win out as when they are empty, the can be collapsed down and take up little room.
This is a winner on the yacht with no rusting and light weight; if it slips off the stove and is dropped it will not shatter. It comes in two sizes, and the lid can be used as a shallow baking dish as well. For storing, the lid slots upside down into the base, taking up minimal room.
Joseph Joseph Chopping board
This is one of my favourites. The board itself is on a slight angle, with a ridge around the side. My pet hate when cutting up food with a lot of liquid, such as tomatoes or roast meat (at home, but especially on the yacht) is that the liquid runs everywhere. This neatly contains it so it can be poured down the sink. Turn it over, and it also has a meat grate.
Compact food processor
We have experimented with hand drawn food processors, but have found them difficult to clean and unreliable. We have a small multifunction food processor that fits into a plastic container, which we run off the inverter and swap from apartment to yacht. It gives us a lot more scope for our cooking, and I couldn’t live without it.
Joseph Joseph washing up caddy
These keep everything nice and clean. We have a washing up brush with liquid in attached to the bulkhead, with another caddy with the scourer and hand wash. I have some “Thank you” sanitiser restrained by saddles and shockcord if you are on the run and don’t want to use the galley water.
Sink Colander – again, Joseph Joseph
This flat colander fits directly into the sink, and it is really handy to put in if you are washing up, as it collects all of the food scraps and stops them clogging up your drains!
I love water, and the Soda Stream has a number of benefits. Besides being cheaper than buying soda water, it means we eliminate single use water bottles. The added benefit on the yacht is that it seems to take away the “Tank water” taste. Don’t understand why. We have one at the house and one in the yacht; unlike many of the fairly extravagant purchases on this post, we bought both of ours second hand for about $30 combined. Jump on Facebook marketplace or Gumtree or equivalent wherever you might live.
Knives on boats are really dangerous; I don’t like them to be unsheathed if we are anywhere except the marina. And as you plunge your hand into the drawer and the boat lunges, you don’t want to be cut by a sharp knife! These were purchased very inexpensively via Peters of Kensington.
Paper towel dispenser
We are always looking for ways to use “wasted space” in the yacht. With two saddles, a little bit of shock cord and a shackle we lost the pin for, we now have a use for this wasted bit of space.
And a bit of fun…..
If I can’t drink out of crystal, then these fine, stemless champagne flutes are the next best thing. And they fit into a winch handle pocket – so you are sure not to spill a drop! We don’t allow glass on the yacht in case of breakages, so these are made of a hard plastic, making them very durable.
We often get asked to go to picnic BBQ’s, and quite frankly, all the fuss and taking dirty dishes home annoys me! But this simple combination takes away all of the fuss and you have a delicious lunch!
We recently spent a week house sitting on Coochie Mudlo Island. We did a lot of sailing on Toccata and we had a BBQ on the beach just by our house, which is where we tried it out!
- A nice camembert or brie, in a box
- A few sprigs of rosemary or thyme
- A head of garlic
- Four small or two large fillets of garfish, per person
- Four slices of bread, per person
Before you leave for the picnic, butter the bread, and wrap the garlic in foil with a little olive oil and black pepper. Remove the cheese from the box, remove all of the packaging. Use a knife to put six wholes in the top, and stuff with rosemary or thyme. Then put it back in the box. I then pack it all in our Biome lunchboxes. Now you are organised!
Start the BBQ and get it hot. Cooking times (working backwards for when you would like to eat) are approximately as follows:
- 30 minutes – put garlic on the BBQ.
- 15 minutes – put cheese box on the BBQ.
- 5 minutes – put some butter on the BBQ and fry the garfish in it. Put the bread butter side down and brown, then flip.
- 0 minutes – Remove the garlic from the foil. Cut across the top of the head and squeeze it out. Spread on two of the pieces of toast (per person) then cut the toast into soldiers, to dip into the molten cheese. With the other two pieces of toast, make a sandwich with the garfish.
Open the Rosé or Riesling and enjoy the lack of washing up!
Happy Friday! Have a great weekend.
For most of us, buying a yacht will be the second biggest purchase of our lives, next to our home that we live in. But given the gravity of the purchase, I find so many people I know have bought yachts with their hearts rather than their heads, and in the worst case, ended up with a totally inappropriate yacht, or more often, just paying a lot more than they needed to.
I had a small yacht and a trailer sailor in my late teens, but they were “stepping stones” rather than “forever” yachts. At 26 I bought my “forever” yacht, but it only lasted four years before I was looking for something new. But the process of buying and selling yachts is both painful and expensive, as is the process of getting a new yacht up to your standard. I was determined not to make the same mistake again.
My career has been in commercial banking and my decision making tool of choice is MS Excel. I don’t believe there has been a problem I can’t solve with a spreadsheet. While I joke, I think writing the results of the following questions down crystalises your decision making process. It also is vital if there are two of you making the purchase, so you know where each other stand and what they are looking to get out of this transaction. It’s a bit like pre-marriage counseling.
And writing down the plan enabled me to critically evaluate all of the boats that I went to look at. My original plan regarded two cabins as a not-negotiable, as I planned on having guests aboard. When I found a boat that kicked it out of the ballpark for all of my criteria except that it had only one cabin, then I went back to my decision making tool. I decided that, better than expected performance, handling, and pricepoint, was worth trading away what I originally decided was a not negotiable. But the point is I had a decision- making framework to judge each boat.
For my current boat, I established a folder full of sleaves with loose leaf printouts of excel spreadsheets, covering all of the below. Every time I looked at a potential boat I would scribble all of them, then think, and assess. The yacht I bought 13 years ago is the yacht that I will stop sailing when I am in a wheelchair. I got it right.
What are you going to use the boat for?
This sounds ridiculously simplistic, but particularly when it is a couple buying a boat, this seems to rarely be discussed prior to purchase. I have seen people buy a yacht with the intention of offshore racing, yet when they buy the boat, it never even gets used for a SAGS race. So I question, did they buy the best boat for the purpose? Another friend of mine started looking at big, multi chine steel cruising boats to live aboard. She ended up buying a racy Sayer design, which she went on to compete the Solo Tranz Tasman, match racing me for nine and half days, the whole way across the ditch! A fantastic result. I think she will keep that yacht forever too.
At the risk of my corporate background sounding like spin, before buying a boat I think it is a good time to take a hard look at yourself and your relationship. What is my skill level, and how easily can I develop it? Is my partner wiling to endure the long term challenges of living aboard? Are we committed to racing, or is that something I will do on my own and leave my partner behind? How will we manage the deliveries home after an offshore yacht race? Can we afford to keep buying racing sails and paying for the breakages? And if we can afford it, then what are we giving up in lieu? (overseas holidays and early retirement etc).
When it comes to decisions about boats and partners, your first thought may not be the best. One of my female friends was looking at a yacht and was keen on racing. I guided her towards a Lidgard 28; a beautiful fast yacht, but with no double berth and only sitting headroom. Her husband hadn’t sailed, and due to not being able to swim was unlikely to be converted. She instead purchased a significantly roomier Spacesailer 27, and he regularly joins them in the marina at the end of a passage (via car), and has been spending more and more time on the boat bay sailing and at anchor. She made the right decision.
So my decisioning criteria when it comes to use of the boat is based around the following questions. And give some serious thought about whether your next boat is a stepping stone boat, or a forever boat. I consider each in respect to the short, medium and long term, and what will it look like when retired from work?
Racing (occasional or regular):
- How many days aboard a year will we spend?
- WAGS and SAGS with no spinnaker
- Inshore/Club racing with spinnaker
- Coastal Racing
- Crossing oceans
- If crewed racing, where will your crew come from?
- Who will do the deliveries? How will this be managed?
- How many days a year will you sleep aboard?
- Day sailing/picnicking
- Overnight in sheltered waters
- Crossing oceans
- Will we spend time (extended or otherwise) living aboard?
- Who will be your crew? Do we need crew?
I think the above is fairly straight forward, but I would emphasise the crewing aspect. Many years ago I decided I would sail everywhere single handed, and as such I am not beholden to anyone. I met my partner and that has now converted to short handed. We all know that getting together crew is a challenge, and marinas are full of boats that do not get used due to lack of crew. I think it’s important to have a realistic view of this before buying the boat.
If you are working as an employee, it is important to consider how you will spend your holidays. I only get four weeks a year. Lucas gets five weeks, plus RDO’s due to his shift work. We have an agreement. One year is focused on big trips in the boat, the next we go to Europe to visit his family and only do weekends on the boat.
What’s your style?
The parameters of this heading are endless, but I will try to explain with the words of the great Australian designer, Joe Adams. Joe designed a lot of solid high volume cruising boats. When I was 13 I read an article in a sailing magazine where Joe was interviewed about his new “racing” design, the Adams 13. Ultra lightweight and narrow, he instantly rebutted saying it was a boat he had designed for himself and his wife to go cruising; it was not a racing boat. His idea was lightweight, less use of motor, smaller motor, less diesel, smaller sails, smaller winches, less cost and less drama. The faster you go, the more storms you can outrun.
When I bought my second to last yacht, it was a heavy, ex IOR half tonner of 30 feet. With a distorted waterline, heavy displacement and a pinched in transom, it was lovely upwind but a handful down, and realistically, not that fast or nice to sail.
Our current boat is 40 feet, with the same displacement as the last one. She is a surfboard. She is light on the helm and a pleasure to sail. We can reef deeply and she is a doddle to sail but doesn’t lose any speed. In light airs we don’t have to use the motor, and carry a lot less diesel. However she does slam a lot more to windward, especially under autopilot, but we get there quicker.
If I were in a cyclone, I would still pick my current boat. She surfs free of problems, straight and true. And we have a better chance of not being there in the first place.
At the end of the day its personal preference, but I think you need to come to an educated conclusion on where you sit beforeyou start looking at boats.
List of equipment and the budget
Once you have decided what you will use the boat for, then you can figure what gear you need to make it happen. If you are racing, this is simple as the races you have chosen to compete in will have a Yachting Australia Category that you will need to comply with. In my folder for my current yacht I had printed out all of the Notices of Races and checked them methodically that the boat I was buying was appropriate for the current requirements.
When it comes to racing or cruising, then storms or crew injuries do not differentiate. When we cruise, I have always made sure that our yacht is equipped to the appropriate racing category for the journey we are undertaking. Is a cruising yacht caught in the same storm as a racing yacht less likely to sink? Of course not. Are the crew less likely to need first aid? No. The Yachting Australia safety categories are comprehensive and not difficult to comply with. As a cruising yachtsman, I can gain leverage from all of the research that has come after yacht racing disasters.
Once decided the Category the boat will be equipped to, you can compile a list of equipment and a budget. When comparing two boats, perhaps of the same design but equipped differently, it will be easy to see how much the upgrades will cost, and which is the best value.
Just refitted, or just needing refit?
The reality is that if you have two yachts of the same model, and one has had a complete refit, and the other hasn’t, they will be listed for the same price. But a full refit is basically the value of the yacht.
After completing your list of equipment, extend it to essential gear like sails, motor and sterngear, standing and running rigging. We recently had a stainless steel rudder stock fail, which was an expensive fix. My insurance company declined the claim, saying that a stainless steel rudder stock has a 20 year lifespan, and ours was 32 years old. Make sure you are comparing the boats in detail, and again update your budget.
What can you afford?
When I bought this boat I made a pact with myself that I would never winge about the cost. A commitment I have generally kept.
If it’s your first boat, expect the running costs to be double what you first thought. If you are going from 30 feet to 40 feet, expect your running costs to double.
Complete a maintenance budget. Start with the things that are known and fixed, such as marina fees, insurance and registration. The engine will need servicing. Get a quote from your local yard for antifouling, which will need to be completed at least every 18 months. Standing rigging needs to be replaced every ten years, according to most insurance companies. How long sails last depends on the fabric you choose and how you look after them and use them.
Then make an allowance for the unknowns. Breakages, electrical and plumbing issues. Don’t be optimistic, and refer back to your list of equipment and your estimated replacement schedule.
Are we going to fit?
One of the biggest mistakes I made in purchasing my penultimate yacht was I didn’t lie in the bunks. The spec sheet said there was a double, I saw the bunk and moved on. It wasn’t until I tried to sleep aboard with my partner, I realized it was just too small. Builders specifications are often optimistic. But this was a deal breaker. We wanted to live aboard but we didn’t have a berth big enough to be comfortable. Sounds simple, but how many people lie in every bunk of the boat before buying? (Don’t forget to take your partner on this journey too).
The decision making process:
My partner and I use the above decision making framework regularly, when we are faced with any major decision in life. We call it a “Board meeting”. It generally involves going out to dinner, a bottle of wine and our Mac laptop with an excel spreadsheet. We usually make the right decisions.
I recently had the pleasure of sailing 30 miles on my mate’s Jeanneau Sun Fast 3600, down Port Phillip Bay (Melbourne, Australia) the day before he set off on the double-handed Melbourne to Osaka race (5,500 miles). Continue reading “Old Dogs and New Tricks – retrofitting an older boat for Short Handed Sailing”
My mother loved food, but dying young, she never got to retire. She was the master of the magnificent weeknight meal, and this is my favourite. The champagne means it is probably best for a Friday night. I am happy to put a splash in the meal and then drink the rest. I am my mothers son. Continue reading “Champagne Salmon in 10 minutes”