Thursday, December 26, 2013

Breaking Bread No More

no bread for cruising provisioning
Bye-bye Wayne’s favorite food ever.
“My life is over!” bemoaned Wayne. 

According to his dermatologist, turns out those nasty itchy red bumps driving him crazy were a byproduct of celiac’s disease, or the inability to process gluten.  Gluten, a grain protein, is ubiquitous in most of our diets. It’s in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut and tritacle.  Nothing with traditional flour is okay for Wayne to eat ever again.  No bread (much less baguettes).  No pizza.  No bagels.  No beer.  No (gasp!) ramen (click here to read about our love affair with ramen) No…. well, you get the idea. 

wheat belly cookbook
Best-selling “Wheat Belly” by
William Davis.  90% why, 9%
how  >1% recipes.  His pizza
and his flaxseed wrap recipes
are good.
Wayne loves starchy, white foods.  At least he can still eat grits and potatoes.  And corn chips.  C’mon, gotta have some junk food!

Still, once it was clear Wayne wasn’t truly afflicted with a fatal disease, I hinted he was perhaps over-dramatizing. 

Fairly, he retorted, “How would react if you were told ‘You can never eat garlic, onions or spicy food again’?” He knows the answer.  After all, he’s the guy who challenged me to cook without onions and garlic for a change.  I refused the challenge, peevishly insisting the onion and garlic-free meal he lovingly prepared (rare – there’s a reason I’m the Galley Wench!) would’ve been better if both were added.

gluten free celiac's disease provisioning for cruising
Journey’s GF cupboard:  alternative flours,
xanathan gum, crackers and other GF snacks.
More sympathetically, I concurred, “Guess given how much you love wheat, you’ve already eaten your life’s supply of gluten.”

Fortunately, getting gluten-free (GF) stuff is definitely easier than ever.  These days a little less than 1% of the American population is gluten intolerant, and thanks to books like “Wheat Belly (click here for William Davis' Wheat Belly's blog),” more folks are becoming gluten-free by choice. In fact, before Wayne’s diagnosis, disgusted with the way cruising broadened my waistline along with my horizons (click here to read about it in Lies, Half-truths and Alternative Universes), I cut alcohol and focused on eating more veggies, lean proteins, yogurt and nuts.

gluten free celiac's disease provisioning for cruising
Good source for how to make
gluten flour substitutions.
Going gluten-free makes provisioning harder.  If we want bread or pancakes in the middle of nowhere, that means cooking with wheat flour alternatives, which I do not expect to be widely or affordably available in our planned international cruising areas (heck – $9 for a 5-pound bag of quinoa flour is not my idea of affordable either).  That takes some getting used to, and a bit of experimentation before stocking up.

Wayne’s become a surprisingly good sport about it. We even were able to satisfy our pizza craving with a mashed cauliflower crust, which even I had misgivings about making.  The “pizza”’s a definite “make again!” (and it never felt so deliciously virtuous pigging out on pizza before).

gluten free celiac's disease provisioning for cruising
One of the odder GF dishes dared so far… cauliflower crust pizza.
The corn-based pastas are decent, too, for pasta arrabiata and for post-Thanksgiving Day turkey-noodle soup.

The gluten-free hit at the Ortega Marina Landing potluck crowd and my top “new GF recipe pick” so far is coconut-flour based brownies.  They taste like chocolate macaroons, a childhood favorite.

gluten free celiac's disease provisioning for cruising
Wayne took in 3 belt notches so far thanks to going gluten free.
It also doesn’t hurt that I’ve repeatedly let Wayne know how much more awesome he looks since taking in 3 belt notches as a result of his new diet.  I too am now able to once again slip into my old favorite clothes.

gluten free celiac's disease provisioning for cruising
Mom’s GF care package.  Enjoy Life’s
“Happy Apple” and more.  How can you
not like that?  (Thanks, Mom!) 
Interested in gluten-free recipes?  Are you or is someone you know gluten-free?  What are their favorites?  Happy to share (and learn!) if the interest is there!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Santa Flamingo

Florida's Season's Greeting ala Home Depot.
Wherever you are and whatever you're doing, 

Season's Greetings!

May your loved ones be with you in spirit if not in person, and may you leave commercialism on the shelf and fill your hearts with joy.

Warmly (literally & figuratively!),
Dana aka "Galley Wench Tales"
"The Keys"
Boot Key Harbor
Marathon Florida

Monday, December 23, 2013

Blissful Bottom’s Brawny Boys

boat maintenance hull cleaning
Ollie of Blissful Bottoms unloads his dive tank from the dock cart.
“Boys didn’t look like that when I was growing up!” Diane sighed, gazing in unabashedly at the bronze, built and shirtless “Blissful Bottoms” “boys,” Ortega Landing Marina regulars. 

No, this isn’t a dirty post.  Well, actually, it is; it’s about a clean-up business.  More specifically, it’s about an Atlantic Beach based boat bottom (aka “hull”) cleaning business, called “Blissful Bottoms.”

 “Everyone likes a girl with a clean bottom,” quips my cruiser friend Larry of Jacari Maru, with a coy wink, only in partial reference to the need to haul out a boat, scrape its hull and repaint it, to deter boat slowing and system clogging hitchhikers like barnacles.
boat maintenance hull cleaning
Ollie’s tank, all strapped up and ready to go.

In Jacksonville, where we stayed, the St. John’s river is a warm, opaque tea-colored waterway. Visibility is about… 4 inches.  The river provides a flourishing breeding ground for mussels as well as a variety of other flora and fauna, including otters (click here for more about that) deadly algae bloom (more on that in a future post) and alligators (click here to read that post).

“I wasn’t anxious to dive in this nasty water to clean my hull,” admits our Ortega Marina Landing neighbor Rich, of Side by Side, who started every morning spraying down and cleaning his boat’s topside.  “But when I saw that alligator in the marina, that did it!  No way am I going down there; I’m hiring someone else to do that here!”

boat maintenance hull cleaning
Ollie’s other tools of the trade, all lined up.
While far less fastidious than Rich, Wayne and I regularly dove down and cleaned our hull – elsewhere.  At Ortega Landing Marina, we too, decided to join the bandwagon, and happily hired Blissful Bottoms to do the deed, scrape our boat’s bottom and bag our boat’s propeller to protect it from St. John river’s invaders.

Enter Ollie, owner of Blissful Bottoms.  Before going down under, he and his partner slug their whey protein powder drinks and chug down some good clean water to do what they can to stay healthy, despite messing about in St. John’s murky muddy muck.  Trim and toned, they “don’t need weight belts to sink like a stone,” as they don their dive gear daily, jump in, then carefully scrape their customer’s hulls clean, while doing their best to avoid stripping off whatever hull paint remains to prevent future invasions.

cruising liveaboard ortega landing jacksonville
Last chance for getting good
stuff down the hatch before
entering St. John’s pea soup.
Here in Florida Keys’ Boca Chita, we just encountered our first clear water since the Bahamas last May.  We’ve yet to see how clean our bottom is, anti-ablative paint and all.  Soon, though.

Worst case, we can echo another marina neighbor Ron’s take -- “I decided to do Dee [Ron’s wife] a favor.  I hired the Bottom Boys.”  Ron’s normally proud of his penny-pinching prowess.  Yet, he was smiling when he remembered his Blissful Bottoms hire.  We’re betting Dee would, too.

GalleyWenchTales asked and emailed Ollie some business profile questions to beef up this post with more than beefcake.  But Blissful Bottoms had no website, and they were too busy to follow up.  Guess that’s enough of an answer in itself.
cruising liveaboard ortega landing jacksonville
Splash! In Ollie goes!
cruising liveaboard ortega landing jacksonville
Blissful Bottom’s truck, full of dive tanks, whey protein and
water bottles.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

F------ Crab Pot Slalom on the ICW

dodging crab and lobster pots
They’re hard to see, but the speck in the lower right
is one of the pot floats we were slaloming.
“Watch out!  There’s a crab pot! And another!  And another! And…”

Left.  Right.  Left.  Right. Left.  Right….

Our sailboat slalomed through thousands of crab pots (or lobster pots – we’re not sure which), often as frequent as every 20 feet, stretching even across the ICW (intracoastal waterway) shipping channel and across Hawk’s Channel on the Atlantic Coast into Boot Key, Marathon.  Forget using an autopilot (hands-free boat steering); they do not have the smarts of Roombas (click here if you’re not sure what a Roomba is).  Autopilots can only go where you tell them, and will only avoid hitting things if they’re naturally outside a set path.

bridges channel 5 bridge in florida
Channel 5 Bridge gave us a brief respite from the crab pot slalom. 
We just had to sidestep the power towers and bridge struts.
Marked by rope-tethered dimunitive balls, the pots are usually but not always bobbing clearly at the water’s surface.  We had daymares of our prop (propeller) catching a tether, bringing the boat to a rapid halt, cleared only by a dive under our boat, to cut free the ropes binding our prop.

All this in a strong steady wind; strong enough for our sluggish sailboat to average over 6 knots on our 37 mile trip, despite reefing in the one sail we had up, our motor off nearly the entire trip.   Wind waves, smacking our boat’s broadside across Hawk’s Channel, were a steep, choppy 2-4 feet with as little as 10 feet between each, giving our boat a constant back and forth rocking motion. 

reefed in jib
Notice how the sail isn’t open at the top?  We reefed it in to
minimize how much sail we had out – and still cruised along at
6 knots average!
This Galley Wench’s tummy didn’t like that rock ‘n roll.  Wayne, also a little erpy, but not as much, got spotted for a helm (steering) for bathroom and meal breaks.  Otherwise, it was most prudent for this blogger gal to lie back before her stomach decided to rebel more seriously. 

We arrived no worse for the wear, and made a rapid recovery upon mooring in Marathon’s Boot Key City Marina yesterday.  At the marina potluck that night, we were envious of another cruiser’s approach to these pesky pots….

“We go right over ‘em, like a lawnmower cutting grass.  Chop ‘em up and just keep on going.”

If only we trusted our our propeller enough….

Thursday, December 19, 2013

RTFM*: How NOT to Store Your Outboard

cruising dinghy mishaps
DOH! Our Homer Simpson moment.
Doh!  Hindsight is a wickedly passive-aggressive instructor.  We much prefer to learn from other’s mistakes… Guess it’s payback time -- don’t do what we did!  Our apologies to those who would never be foolish enough make this mistake, even without this broadcasting of our “Oops!”  In that case, enjoy it, smugly.

Remember when summer ended, and you put your lawn mower away until the next spring?  Spring came, and you’d wheel it out, give it a pull, and away you’d go. 
broken outboard motor PB balaster
PB Blaster penetrant;
Wayne pulls out the good stuff.

Naively, we figured the same was true for our dinghy outboard motor, a 2012 5-horse, 2-stroke Yamaha.  We blithely pulled it out of its 6-month storage, popped it onto our new dinghy transom, and figured we’d be good to go.  We weren’t.

When we attempted our first dinghy ride, to a sweet little park at Sisters Creek, our outboard motor was frozen solid.  That night, we just stayed on the boat.  No walkies, but otherwise we were fine.

The problem?  The piston rings were frozen solid to the cylinder.  No go.

Spark plug removed
for better lube access.
Wayne pulled the spark plug out and filled the cylinder with P.B. Blaster ( penetrant and lubed the intake through the carburetor as well.  Still no go.  An overnight soak did the trick.

But that wasn’t all.

Wayne was able free the engine and get the motor to turn, but the carburetor was not delivering fuel.  He suspected the fuel was the culprit, as the motor would run on starting fluid.

In St. Augustine, we begged for and got one of the closest mooring balls to the dinghy dock (thank you St. Augustine Municipal Marina – click here for marina info).  Wayne still got a good workout rowing our dinghy against the strong current.

cruiser boat maintenance and repair
Wayne pulled and pulled, our Yamaha outboard sputtered and
coughed, but wouldn’t start.
Wayne contacted Triangle Marine Service (click here for their info on FB) on recommendation from the folks at St. Augustine Municipal Marina.  Triangle Marine came down to the marina docks that day, picked up our motor, confirmed the fuel left in the carburetor got gooey over the motor’s 6-months of inactivity. Within three hours, they were able to empty our fuel tank, clean the carburetor and fuel tank, and return our working engine to us. 

Our final runs pre-storage of the outboard in saltwater without a freshwater rinse probably didn’t help lubrication and corrosion minimization.

Triangle Marine promptly retured our Yamaha outboard.  A quick trip
back to our chariot via dock cart and she was ready to rock ‘n roll.
In the interim, we seriously considered an upgrade to an 8-horse 4-stroke Mercury, though we were less than excited about the extra weight inherent with 4-strokes.  Plus, they cost over $2000!  Replacing our 4-stroke with a Mercury 5-horse was still $1500!  Triangle Marine’s “lightly used” Yamaha 4-stroke 6-horse was a more palatable $600; a little more power (than our 2-stroke) but a lot more weight (new 2-strokes are no longer an option in the US for outboards – we bought ours in Antigua).  Fixing what we had was a better option.

The bill?  $250; less than half a used 6-horse and 1/8 of an 8-horse 4-stroke Mercury.  Expensive lesson.   Though thanks Wayne’s persistence and mechanical instincts for keeping that lesson from becoming a lot more expensive.

What to Do:  Four Simple Steps
Next year when we take out six months for hurricane season, we’ll RTFM and follow Yamaha’s four simple steps (well, three steps, the last is mine)
  1. Rinse the saltwater exposed parts of our outboard with freshwater, whether in a freshwater rain barrel or by taking it for a spin in fresh water
  2. Run the engine dry or find some other way to drain all the fuel
  3. Fog the engine with 30 weight oil; lubricate that baby before putting her to beddie bye for a while
  4. Test drive our outboard before we set sail… and rest assured when we need our chariot to fire up we will be able to do so without any ado

Bottom line?  Treat your outboard with TLC, even – especially – when you don’t plan to use it for a while.  Save yourself the stress and the potential boat bucks required to replace it.  *RTFM (for those lucky enough to not know what RTFM means – Read The F------ Manual)

Enjoy lessons learned from someone else’s mishaps?  Click here to check out Celia’s AlwaysGoBlog for less expensive and equally embarrassing, “How Not to Park Your Boat” lesson.

May we, and you, not learn our next lesson from the school of hard knocks.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Manatee Pocket vs Vero Beach

cruiser destinations on the icw
Vero Beach.  We're glad we traveled the ICW rather than
the Atlantic that windy day!
"They call it 'Velcro Beach,'" MaryAnn told us.  "Cruisers come to pass through, and never leave."

Vero Beach didn't stick for us though.

AFTER missing 3 busses to make the 2 1/2-mile trip to Vero Beach's Publix, the nearest grocery store, we finally caught the 4th bus.  Okay, we blew it.  $50+ and 3 hours later we discovered our "Skipper Bob's ICW Anchorages" explained a 3/4 mile dinghy ride would've brought us within 2 blocks of a market.  Maybe we'd like Vero better if we hadn't missed the marina happy hour because we got to a grocery store too late to contribute nibblies or our own sips.
cruising anchorages on the icw
Vero Beach bridge view from our cockpit.

Mostly though, we're just not into places that flunk the walkability index; we gravitate toward ones where it's easy to walk to basic everyday stuff like affordable grocery stores, or even a mini-mart where we could buy a soda.  Instead the Vero Beach Municipal Marina was surrounded by boring banks, uninspiring insurance companies, fancy financial advisement facilities, all-too-many attorney offices, hordes of hotels, expensive knick-knack shops and upscale eateries.
cruiser anchorage on icw
Spanish moss on trees at Vero Beach.

Vero's sure popular though.  So popular it's more the norm than the exception for cruisers to "raft" together, to share the marina's ample but not ample enough mooring balls. Sure seems like a staggering amount of weight to trust to a single ball and chain to hold fast against a swift current. Still, we were grateful to snag a spot, even though like every other ICW (intracoastal waterway) anchorage this trip, we found ourselves camped under a bridge, nicely lit but a mecca for the hum of late night vehicles passing by.

icw wildlife at cruiser's anchorage
Pelican at Vero quickly left us behind
on his cruiser rounds at Vero Beach.
As we pulled away, even the local "Whatcha got?" pelicans quickly spurned us, as they moved onto the next boat, in search of more interesting company.

What a difference a day's sail down the ICW makes.

Outside of "Skipper Bob,"  we'd never heard of Port Salerno's Manatee Pocket, a protected inlet off the ICW Free anchorage, internet, nearby access to a host of services and the right distance between stops prompted our stay.   
wildlife on the icw
We're betting these guys had pelican nummies!
Initially we figured we were due for a disappointing deja vu. When we asked what to check out in the area, the guy at Pirates Cove Marina scoffed and replied,  "We're all that's worth going to in walking distance."

Prickly pears were among the more exotic
produce at Green Apple Produce.
Unlike Vero and most of our stops,  these homes were almost painfully plain.  While not picturesque, we found it refreshing to encounter an waterfront area where home ownership was not reserved for multimillionaires.
port salerno icw cruiser destination
This fabulous strip-mall fruit stand
would be easy to miss!

The friendly folks at the marine consignment shop along Dixie Highway A1A were much more helpful the Pirate's Marina guy. On their advice we wandered across the railroad tracks to check out the local Latino market and produce stand.  We bought a bagful of spices, condiments and enchilada cheese for a mere $15 at La Tapatia Market.  We kicked ourselves for loading up on overpriced mediocre produce the day before at Vero Beach's Publix.  Live and learn!

La Tapatio's facade is unimpressive,
but easier to spot walking by.
Not everyone we know is more inclined to shopping in ethnic markets and independent produce stands, instead of clamoring for Vero's free bus to faraway Walmart or Publix.  But for us, the offbeat and the indies are what travel is all about.

Even if I didn't find the extra dried hominy I was looking for, I may just check out a feed shop or pet store like the produce guy suggested.  "They feed that kinda stuff to pigs," he explained.  What the heck; who knows what I'll find there?
cruiser stop in port salerno icw
Produce storefront also tough
to spot from the street.

Cheaper and far fresher than
Vero Beach's Publix.
Oh, and despite quite a few boats, our anchorage here in Manatee Pocket is the quietest we've encountered yet.  No bridge nearby.