Category Archives: 2010

Bread Modifications

We’ve updated the bread recipe and cooking instructions here: Bread Mods see comment at bottom

Ice and Electrons

Yesterday, a local contractor, MTS, showed up 10 minutes early to remove our injured batteries and replace them with new ones of a better pedigree. We got a very good price by being part of a truckload order, something folks should consider around boat show time.  We found several vendors were doing this with commodity type items.

The guys were professional, polite, friendly, and competent. Together there were more than 400# of batteries going off and a bit more coming on. Generally, I like to do just about everything on the boat — not this time.  When they left, I pulled the blanket (the switch) from the solar array, changed the AH capacity setting, and the sun did its work. A lovely feeling this.

And what about the ice? It was two-three inches thick at the shore line and around a half-inch at the boat. Even though the day warmed to 43°, the toastiest high this December, when the wind blew across all that ice it was a stern reminder we need to be somewhere else.  I don’t know which is worse, snow, ice floes, or Starling and Crow poop with no spot farther than three inches from the next.

Today we have 40 knot gusts.

Writing: Bread for the Mind, Chocolate for the Soul

In 1992 we unexpectedly sold our boat, and because a military reassignment loomed, we delayed replacing it. In the interim, I decided to see what had transpired in the world of nautical fiction. By the end of the third book, I came to the conclusion I could write as well as the people I had just read and in some cases with much more experience in the topic.

So I started work on a novel. And then life and another boat intervened. I have rewritten that first manuscript at least ten times with at least five major redirects in story line. Since it was intended to be “contemporary adult adventure” at least three of those re-writes were to adjust context. I can’t even remember the characters original names.

And when I set it aside for a while, two more stories suggested themselves, and so I wrote them down in pieces and parts. In the meantime, I discovered the vagaries  of author representation. I secured the services of three (successive) literary agents through reputable channels. The first, while representing me ran into professional “difficulties” and took his boat and disappeared. [I later stumbled across him and his boat in a California marina. He hadn’t run far and his “difficulties” hadn’t looked that hard for him either.] In his favor, he did return my three-pound paper manuscript.  My second agent had a nervous breakdown. My third, and the most hope inspiring, decided, in mid-representation, she was going to drop my genre from her list of such and return exclusively to bodice-rippers, literally. My characters tended to wear t-shirts or foulies, so we parted company.

I had too much else going on in life to put up with any more high maintenance third parties, and so I let the writing  drift into therapy I would seek whenever my working life didn’t offer much positive stimulation. And then came e-books, and self-publishing shed some and ultimately most of its stigma.

So, I decided to rewrite once more and that first manuscript is now a novel for the Kindle*. I hope you give it a read and enjoy it, I’ve either enjoyed writing it and/or needed to, and either way, I decided to “share” it. It’s priced to keep me in dark chocolate. Writing is not a pursuit of wealth or fame for me [though I suppose I could get used to that]. I’m looking at those other two manuscripts and may share them as well.

“WINDRIVEN” from Amazon.com

And as is usually the case, All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

*While the Kindle is a device with a price, Free Kindle reading Apps for other platforms are available via this link.

Bread

Bread is fascinating. Simple and complicated, Straightforward and nuanced. Culturally defined and defining cultures. It would appear that only the dog has been a human companion longer than bread. There are almost as many recipes for bread as there are opinions on anchors, and many are more honestly tendered.

I have been experimenting with recipes that we can take along with us. They have to take into account the limitations of boat-dom. Ultimately for us those limitations may be only a matter of heat. The recipe I like best needs 500°F for 10 minutes and then drops to 425°F to finish.  I’m not sure the Force 10 oven will do this so there may still be adjustments to make.

This “artisanal” bread makes excellent toast and provides a vehicle for all kinds of savory additions before baking such as sun-dried tomatoes, cheddar cheese, olive tapenade, basil and pecans.  Consequently a slice or two can provide a “meal at the wheel” for a watch-stander.

Enjoy.

In a sauce pan or mixing bowl, combine three cups less three tablespoons of bread* flour with 3 tablespoons of graham wheat flour. Add one and one half teaspoons of sea salt. Add the same amount of dry (activated) yeast (with a distant stale date). Whisk together. [These can all be vacuum packed ahead of time, however, I would leave the yeast out if this is done and add it after the package is opened.]

To the dry ingredients add one and one half cups plus one to two [you will have to experiment, it is somewhat flour dependent] tablespoons of cool (preferably carbon filtered)** water. Mix with a strong spoon until there are no dry ingredients in the bottom of the container. Cover with a vented lid or plastic wrap with a few punctures in it.

Let sit un-molested for 12-18 hours (yes, 12-18). If you are underway I recommend this be secured on a gimbaled stove top.

The dough mass will triple to quadruple in volume depending on temperatures.

Encourage the dough out of the container onto a floured surface with a spoon/floured fingers.  This mass is seriously sticky so you need to be well floured. Gently extend the mass into a one by three rectangle and fold the outer thirds over the center third. Rotate it 90 degrees and repeat the process. Do it again. Now form the dough into a ball (boule) and set it aside covered with a floured cloth or paper toweling to rise for two hours.  It should double again.

The oven, with a pizza stone or quarry tile on the cooking rack, needs to pre-heat for about 10 minutes beyond reaching the desired temperature. Before placing the risen bread dough in the oven, slash the top diagonally three or four times and spray the entire ball with cold*** water from a food safe sprayer/mister.

Cook for 10 minutes at 500° then lower to 425° for another 20 minutes.  The dough will nearly double in height before crusting so consider this when setting oven rack heights.

Cool the loaf on a wire rack (no pan or sil-pat under it) for at least an hour.

Keeps a week, but we have yet to see a loaf survive long enough for that to be an issue.

* One can use all purpose flour but the resulting bread is a bit rougher. One can also increase the graham (whole) wheat flour but this also roughens the bread. We have tried a variety of combinations and they are all good, just different.

**Yeast likes pure water, preferably without the halogens chlorine, fluorine, etc. There can be enough of these chemicals in some water supplies (chlorine shocked water tanks) to seriously interfere with the yeast.

***When a mass of dough is placed in a hot oven, it rapidly skins and then crusts over. This contains the expansion of the trapped gases in the dough and the result is a dense “doughy” bread. Spraying the dough with water weakens the surface layer of the dough and causes it to take longer to skin and crust. Hence a lighter, airier texture.  Spraying it with cold water lengthens the time further (the water has to heat  up  before it evaporates) and even lighter textures result.  There are cooking techniques that call for a baking pan of ice cubes under the stones, but on a boat, the spraying is less tedious, and as far as I can tell the spray generates equivalent results. Don’t be tempted to spray the dough once it is in the oven, any solid water of significance hitting the pizza stone or tile will crack it–I have firsthand experience.

Maintenance Blog

I have migrated two logbooks worth of maintenance records to blog format. After looking at applications available for the task, I found them to be too formated to someone else’s style  to work for me and too feature rich for the need.

So, I set up an Apache Server, MySQL and PHP instances on my computer and loaded WordPress to this.

Now each Maintenance activity is a post.

  • It is tagged with a system identifier.
  • It is categorized with a time period.
  • Engine and genset hours are treated similarly but are posted as “asides” in a column of their own (but also show up interleaved with the main postings).
  • The (Better) Tag Cloud gives me an instant picture of where the effort is going.
  • The (Expandable) Archives with post counts give me a quick view of maintenance heavy periods.
  • The calendar does what they do.

And it’s all done with a software platform that required zero learning curve.

AND I CAN SEARCH! (within the Blog or within the SQL database)

I am in the process of building pages with systems information and links.


A Net on the Network

For years, cruisers have been networking via HF radio and in more geographically constrained areas by VHF.  Generally run by enthusiastic volunteers, these nets have been central to many cruisers enjoying and in a case or three, surviving their cruising experiences.

Occasionally, I have tripped across one of these while fiddling with a world-band radio.  (Shortwave, for the old-timers). In my recent researches on the Bahamas I have found a net that records its content daily and posts it online. This is good for the internet equipped cruiser who missed the session, but it is a cruel tease for the cruiser who must bundle up to go retrieve the mail at the end of the drive way. This morning I heard a fellow cruising blogista announce their arrival in the Abacos.

It’s a far cry from that crystal radio I hid under the covers when I was 11 listening raptly to the scratchy 100,000 watts pumped out by WNO.

You will find the audio files at http://www.abacoinet.com/audio.php

Enjoy