First taste of the big blue

29th July

Day One of the Atlantic proper and we have wind; not too much but enough to make the GC decide to try one of the two gennakers we picked up in La Ciotat.  We’d been talking about getting one of these for years to use in the light Omani winds; it’s a light sail made of spinnaker fabric but cut smaller; more like a genoa thus easier to handle on a big boat like this with only light crew.   The boys had spent some time in La Linea installing the pole that we would need to run this in La Linea; and the GC was really keen to see exactly what we’d been given.  First out of the bag is one that came from a Swan; so it’s a little long for our mast but not too bad.  It comes in it’s own sock; so won’t need to be tied (I’ll explain that bit later) so can be launched by being hauled to the top of the mast and then have the sock pulled off it (from the bottom up; leaving the sock at the top of the mast).. Handy for something that big and light.. It’s smaller than we thought it might be; quite bellied at the bottom but skinny on top.. Works a treat though; fastest speed we recorded in the day was 14.7 knots.  After averaging 6 or 7 in the Med we are fairly cranking along.

The day was overcast, too; and with all that wind and speed very wet on board.  Never thought I could love gumboots so much.  Quite a big cooking day too; lunch was fun – hot dogs that our friend Immaculada-of-the-markets gave us (the previous day we’d gobbled up her home made upside down pineapple cake; her gift to us for the second jamon!) with a pea and Puy lentil salad from a Nigel Slater book I picked up in Gibraltar.


Poor Betrave had a deprived childhood and has never made a cake!!!! So we did the basic lemon drizzle; she did all the beating by hand (got to teach the child the right way!) and though being a bit burnt on the bottom (the gas oven is having a bit of a hard time in the wind) it was very nice indeed.


For dinner I’d decided to do a tortilla bake; it started as soft tacos but as the wind had picked up (we were back on genoa at this time but were doing 12 – 13 knots!) I decided a bake was a better idea and we could eat in the galley instead of trying to keep things together at the table.  So I borrowed an idea from Sam Sifton at the NY Times; and did a layer – cooked up the beans and then layered eight tortillas with the beans in between;  a hefty later of cheese in the middle and on the top and we were good to go  The Genie actually hummed while he was eating it; it was nice!  Did a salsa with canned corn; one of the last rockmelons from Provence; white onion; fresh coriander and an avocado.. Very nice.. Tried to make sour cream from cream and vinegar as I’d read in a nautical book – wouldn’t bother again unless desperate.. Dessert was that cake with fresh raspberries and pouring cream – the rest of the carton I didn’t waste trying to make sour!. Yummy.. Had another piece on watch as well; went down a treat.. Next stop a choccy cake I think.


Interesting the things that you read that don’t really work out in practice.  I’ve ‘known’ for years – and I think from no less an authority than Marcella Hazan – that you should put enough salt into the water you are boiling for pasta ‘to the consistency of sea water’.  So I always heap in the salt and have waited all this time to get sea water clean enough to cook in!  I finally tried that the night before last; the Genie brought me in water over the side and I cooked up a big lot of beef and pork mince that I’d picked up in Gib.. Kilo and a half and I didn’t want to use too much tinned tomato (I have heaps but I know how I use the stuff, it’s as much of a staple to me as olive oil) so I tarted it up with a packet  of unsmoked lardons and a big handful of dried tomatoes; lots of garlic and fresh parsley.. The sauce was amazing but the damn pasta was far far too salty for any of us except the GC.. Won’t be doing that again.. Note to anyone; more than a 50/50 ratio of salt to fresh water is far too much salt.. So there.


I am looking forward to trying bread with that ratio though; will do that today with any luck.  Betrave says that I should have a new page with all our meals and the recipes – so we will try to get that going.

Yesterday the GC stopped drinking in order to go on a course of medication that he’s been putting off for a while but is very important for him to take.  I’ve decided to quit with him; mostly because the thought of not having a drink was so dreadful that I’ve obviously become a worse alcoholic than I thought and I’d better do something about it.  So fruit juice with dinner; cut with a bit of Perrier it wasn’t bad.  Sigh.  I was enjoying having Betrave make different cocktails; she’s good at it.

It seems completely stupid but yesterday I made the GC show me again the course we would take as we are nearly in the Canary Islands already (I said we were making good time!)  He showed me the crossing that we’ve been preparing for – the long one – and we discussed how long it could take.  He said it may be 21 days but he had done Cuba in 17.  For some reason I looked at that big patch of blue and realised that I hadn’t really thought about the implications – not with the reality of what I know or knew now!  I must really talk to him today about how we will manage various things – not the water and the food but the wet!  I had no idea that it would be quite this WET and that nothing would dry  … It’s been ok with the stops so far; laundromat and nice drying winds – but what if we have 21 days of great wind and sloshing wet everything else?????


Hmmmm well I asked him and he said no it wouldn’t.  I wonder if I believe him …. But seriously on a downwind run we should not have such a wet run … surely?  Well; only one way to find out.  The thing I’m worried about in that situation is that absolutely nothing dries; every time you hang something out it gets saturated with a wave and salty as hell and good for nothing.  Bloody Moitessier claimed that you could wash clothes in salt water; let them dry and then beat them into the wind and the salt flakes would come out; leaving the clothes clean; well on this at least I can say that Moitessier may have been bending the truth because in my experience nothing that has been saturated with salt ever feels dry enough to try and flap the salt crystals out!!!  Oh well; cross that bridge when I come to it I suppose.

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