Like everything aboard its a work in progress. But its joyful work.
There are endless varieties of rum punch throughout the Caribbean. I’m happy to have sampled quite a few from Ti Punch in Martinique and French Guiana, to the Caipirinha in Brazil, to Pusser’s Painkiller in the BVIs to local mixtures in Barbados, St. Lucia, Trinidad and elsewhere. I suppose rum punch is to the Atlantic what the Mai Tai is to the Pacific. But the best rum punches are anything but syrupy sweet like many of Mai Tais I’ve enjoyed.
Over the last several weeks I’ve worked on developing a rum punch that is not cloyingly sweet, not crazily alcoholic (some recipes add vodka for no reason other than to boost the alcohol content. Eew.) and complex enough that you want to enjoy it slowly and not down it like Gatorade. I think I’ve reached a happy place with a nice balance of sweet, bitter, and spicy notes and just enough kick to take the edge off after a stressful day of relaxing.
Tastes vary. I take zero responsibility for yours. But I suggest the following as a starting point for your own exploration. Here then follows the basic recipe for Andante’s Walking Pace Rum Punch.
Shake all ingredients with some ice. Pour into ice-filled glasses and garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg (optional, but definitely recommended) This makes approximately 2 drinks depending on the size of your glass and the amount of ice involved. The recipe is easy to scale up should you have friends aboard. I don’t, so this serves one.
Note the measurements provided are in cups rather than ounces as is traditional for cocktail recipes. I don’t have a cocktail jigger aboard so I’ve been using a 1/4 cup (2 oz) measuring cup for my experiments. You’ll have to eyeball the 1/8 cup measurements – or just double the recipe and plan to sleep in tomorrow.
Enjoy responsibly. And preferably while afloat somewhere warm…
The cold north wind keeps on blowing so no passage to the Bahamas anytime soon. So today I ferried some water and fuel, spent some time exploring the Fort Pierce Inlet / Indian River Lagoon area in Dinghy, cooked up some more of those yummy shrimp, and climbed the mast to fix a loose tether on the radar reflector.
Andante and I are still hanging out in Fort Pierce Inlet waiting for a weather window to head south and cross to the Bahamas. The latest forecasts suggest the next opportunity may be Sunday or Monday so I’m starting to get organized. Groceries, fuel, water, then Covid test, then go. Or not, depending on the actual weather that materializes. Good thing Fort Pierce is a nice (and relatively inexpensive) place to wait.
Like many of the boats around here waiting to cross I’m using the daily summaries and interpretations from Chris Parker for weather guidance in addition to my own analysis. I really like how his team understands that sailors are not looking for optimistic forecasts. I’d much rather plan around the worst likely scenario than hope for the best. Andante can handle some pretty nasty conditions without complaining. Not me.
Earlier this week I had a chance to visit the long-running and well-organized Fort Pierce Farmers Market. Lots of vendors selling foods and art and jewelry and whatnot. The actual local farm goods were less evident than I had hoped but I did pick up some fruits and some local shrimp. The honeybells, in particular, were fantastic. Almost ridiculously sweet and juicy and only available in January. Lucky me.
I also purchased some local shrimps from the farmers market. This booth had one of the longer lines at the market and there were folks in front of me ordering hundreds of dollars in shrimp. I settled for a pound each of two varieties. I did a quick taste test that afternoon and then a few nights later made a really yummy risotto with a stock based on toasted shrimp heads.
Since we’re on the subject of food I will mention that my bread baking, by necessity, is improving. I’m now making a loaf about every third day. I’ll share my recipe in a future post. Everyone is making no-knead bread. I’m trying to perfect no-mess bread since cleaning up splattered flour and sticky dough is a PIA (and water-waster) on the boat.
The waiting is tough since I’d much rather be sailing. But I’m using the time as best I can to catch up on engine maintenance (oil changes, etc.) and some ongoing deck and rigging projects. I’ve been shuttling fuel and water from a nearby marina so that all the tanks are in a near-constant state of fullness just in case there is an opportunity to leave. The required Covid test complicates matters somewhat but with a weather window of reasonable duration shouldn’t be a show-stopper.
Several folks have asked me what I eat onboard. In fact I cook pretty much the same stuff that I’d eat ashore with a few modifications. To some these mods may seem like laziness but there are good reasons for taking certain shortcuts.
Onboard there are some critical supplies that are limited. Chief among these are water, fuel, and time. I tend to favor dishes that use very little water, preserve cooking gas, don’t require hours of preparation or fiddly pot-watching, and minimize clean-up (which saves both water and time). Also, because the galley is in the center of the living area its important to minimize the generation of heat and steam. Excess heat is an obvious concern in warm climates. Steam (for example, from boiling water) can be a real concern when its cold as it exacerbates condensation on the inside of the hull and in poorly-ventilated lockers.
I tend towards a vegetarian (or at least pescatarian) diet and eat a lot of pasta. At home this pasta would be cooked first in a big pot of salted water (until the dog tells me its ready) and then drained and topped with a sauce that was cooked separately.
On the boat that approach would violate almost all of the concerns raised above. Instead I cook pasta directly in a very loose sauce in one pot on one burner. Is the result perfectly al dente pasta? No. But it saves water, fuel, dirty dishes, generates less steam and tastes really good.
Here’s how I do it:
And that’s that. One pot, one bowl, one spoon and one fork to clean. No water wasted. Texture is as good as can be expected but wasn’t perfect to begin with so reheated leftovers taste just as good tomorrow. And the boat smells fantastic for hours afterwards.
Basic formula: 2 cups (15 oz +/-) of crushed tomatoes + 2 cups of water + 2 cups of pasta feeds 2 normal people.
The origin of the ICW in Norfolk is about as urban and industrial as a place can be. Tall buildings, commercial activities of all sorts, trains, planes, heavy industry and shipbuilding. By the afternoon on the first day we left all of that behind.
On the first day we passed through 13 bridges (auto and rail) and one lock. The bridges were all different. About half of the bridges required some sort of movement (lifting or swinging) to allow a tall sailboat to pass through. Some bridges operate on a fixed schedule, others open on request. Railroad bridges generally remain open and passable until a train approaches.
Odd as it may seem, I don’t actually know the height of Andante’s mast. I’ve measured and figured in several different ways but am only really confident to +/- 1 foot. My best guess is that the tip of the VHF antenna that sticks up above the masthead is 61 feet above the waterline. Most fixed-height ICW bridges have 65′ clearance above mean high water so we should be fine — but this can vary a bit with wind and extreme tides. Bridge pilings generally have markers that show the current air draft and based on these I know we’ve successfully passed through bridges as low as 63.5′ on this trip. That’s low enough for me.
Shortly after leaving the Norfolk area boats have to choose whether to follow the (straighter, deeper) Virginia Cut or detour into the winding, shallow, more wild Dismal Swamp Canal. I’d like to seem them both at some point — but Andante’s draft is not a good match for the Swamp route.
Just a little further along the route the Great Bridge Lock was an interesting experience. Once an hour about 10 boats are loaded into the lock chamber and secured to the walls. Then the gates are closed and the water level allowed to rise — on this day the change was only about a foot. Then everyone filters out and loiters while waiting for the adjacent bridge to open.
Soon after leaving the tidy little town of Great Bridge we settled into a landscape that was far less manicured and far more monotonous. Swampy land, scraggly trees, and ever-present stumps and submerged logs along the banks. We tried to stay in the center of the channel all the time to avoid bumping anything. Even with GPS I would not want to transit these narrow channels at night — too many barely-visible obstacles to be avoided.
The first night we found a spot to anchor just outside the channel in a bend south of the Pungo Ferry Bridge about two miles north of the NC border. Later that evening I checked Maps to see what was nearby: Lots of nature, not many people.
The second day out we pressed on through northern North Carolina crossing Albemarle Sound (under sail) and the Alligator River. We spent the night in a small cove just north of the Alligator River – Pungo River canal, near the 100 (statute) mile mark on the ICW.
The Alligator River – Pungo River canal was apparently the final piece of dredging required to complete the 1090 mile Atlantic ICW. While it may be a feat of civil engineering, it is not a particularly exciting or photogenic passage. It is long, straight, and mostly featureless for 20+ miles until reaching the Pungo River.
Tonight we are anchored in Belhaven, NC near ICW mile marker 136. Its been a cold and wet and windy day and more stormy weather is anticipated. As always, tomorrow’s movement will depend on tomorrow’s weather. If it looks messy (and cold rain is forecast) we may just stay here for a while.
A faithful reader of this blog asked about how I stay warm. Andante does not have a heater. Perhaps a diesel heater will be a project for next year. For now I have warm clothes, a sleeping bag, and a limited supply of refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough and cinnamon rolls. The oven is a pretty effective cabin heater so I’ve taken to baking in the evenings to make the cabin more comfortable. The engine’s residual heat also helps. I don’t yet have a solution to cold mornings other than coffee and getting active as quickly as possible.