Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Hopping down the Oregon and California coast, part 2

(Once again, I'm behind, but this gets us up to Monterey. I'm working on getting all our photos off the camera and I think the next post will be a photo dump with captions to get up date.)

After a second night in Eureka, we left around 1:00 in order to not get to Fort Bragg ridiculously 
early. Rounding Cape Mendocino (another one of those capes you have to be careful about) was a big
nothing. The seas were gentle and we joined a group of sailboats outside of Fort Bragg, waiting for
daylight in order to negotiate the Noyo River bar crossing. 
That was an interesting entrance. A bit of waves to buck through, but nothing concerning. However, 
the river has a narrow navigable channel, as well as twists and turns to negotiate. It was fun to go through
for multiple reasons. Years ago, Joe and I spent our anniversary in Fort Bragg and watched boats go
through that entrance in the middle of a December storm. While we had no desire to repeat that
performance, we did think it would be fun to take a boat of our own into Fort Bragg someday. Also, being
big fans of the movie Overboard (the original with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell!), we were looking forward to being docked somewhere near where a lot of the scenes from the movie were filmed.
Once we managed to get into the harbor, it took some doing to figure out where our assigned slip was as the float letters and slip numbers weren't easy to see. We ended up in the wrong spot, but thankfully the slip's owner didn't mind! Despite being tired after an overnight run, Joe and I managed to get Kyrie safely backed into the slip and tied off. Four other sailboats followed us in that morning, including a fellow Ha-ha'er--SV Indy.
We ended up staying in Fort Bragg for four days while a storm blew through and then the seas calmed down. Fort Bragg was a neat place, but our problem was that to get into the downtown area, we either had to commit to a two-mile walk one way, or pay for the bus. The bus won out for our one visit to downtown! When it was time, we were itching to get moving again. The other boats we had arrived with had planned to stop in the Bay Area, but Kyrie's crew planned to bypass San Francisco and beeline straight to Monterey. Friends and the aquarium awaited!
It was a relatively uneventful trip, except for my round of "Dodge the container ships." While approaching the shipping lanes outside the Golden Gate, I had to turn to avoid a cargo ship coming our way. For whatever reason, I turned to port instead of turning to starboard. A turn to starboard would have kept us on our chosen path outside the Farallon Islands, which sit about 30 miles outside of the Golden Gate. That goofball moment meant we were now on the inside of the shipping lanes. Ugh! The first cargo ship steamed by and then I had to wait for two more to go by before there was a break large enough for us to get across the lane. When those big ships are traveling at 12 knots and rapidly gaining speed, it's not a good idea for a 6-knot boat to play chicken with them! So, trying not to grumble at my mistake, I waited for those other ships, before turning 90 degrees to starboard to "dart" across. Of course, then there was another ship going the other direction, so I had to alter course yet again to make sure I crossed the lane behind that ship! Naturally, that course put the waves directly on our nose... Joe woke up and asked me if the seas had shifted or something. At that point I was completely disgusted with myself and our situation and I said rather snottily, "No, we're going the wrong way right now, but I'm getting us back on course. Go back to sleep." Once I had us back on track, according to the chart plotter, I turned the autopilot back on, relaxed, and had a good laugh at myself!
The next day was--surprise, surprise--fairly light winds. We did see a bunch of whales, dolphins and sea lions, all along the edges of the Monterey Canyon. It was a quiet day, but we were glad to finally roll into the anchorage outside Monterey's harbor, just after sunset. After a calm night and good sleep, we felt ready to explore a little bit. I called friends who live in Pebble Beach--Alan and Ingrid have been friends with my parents since college, so they are like another set of parents to me. Perfect timing! Their son Doug was visiting with his family and were leaving to go home that afternoon. Did we want Alan and Ingrid to come pick us up and have lunch over there? Yes please!
That night was awful--the storm we weren't expecting until the following afternoon decided to roll in early and set Kyrie to rolling. The wind kept us beam to the waves and kept Joe and me up most of the night. The coffeepot relocated to the floor a time or two, as well as some of our books. Finally, we gave up trying to sleep around 5:30 and watched TV until first light, when Joe called the harbormaster's after-hours line and practically demanded a slip be found for us! Leaving the anchorage required a trip through 3 to 4-foot waves--no wonder we were rocking so much!--but it was lovely and calm inside the harbor. Once tied up safely, Joe and I decided a nap was in order before we did anything else!

Monday, October 21, 2019

Hopping Down the Oregon & California Coast, part 1

(Obviously I’m behind in posts again! These next few posts will be an attempt to catch us up to present day!)

After leaving Newport, Kyrie pointed her bows south again, hoping to make it to Brookings or Crescent City as another weather front was approaching. The weather came up a bit sooner than anticipated, so we ducked into Port Orford as it was supposed to provide nice protection from the Northerly blow that was running up our tails.

That turned out to be an interesting stop. As we pulled in around 6am, we got a crab pot line caught in our prop. Thankfully there was a little wind, so we raised the sails and sailed onto anchor. Later on that morning, about 20 minutes in the dinghy and the offending rope was removed with thankfully no damage to the engine, transmission, or outdrive. We moved Kyrie a little further into the harbor before the real blow started up.

About noon we met a couple guys on S/V Rainbird who warned us that the wind really howls through the area we were anchored in a northerly, and they suggested we move over by them. After an hour or two, we decided they were right - the wind was gusting well above 40 and we were jerking pretty hard on the anchor chain.

So - we moved a little outside of the harbor in the lee of a large bluff that would protect us better from the wind. It did help a bunch, but we were still getting steady winds over 30 with gusts to 45 or more, even in this more protected area, so it made for a loud night, and too much chop to put the dinghy in and go ashore.

The next 4 days were rinse-and-repeat for us--fairly calm mornings with the wind coming up in the afternoons. We were really glad to be in a semi-protected area but the swell did wrap around the point and kept us bouncing around pretty good for 3 straight days. We were able to get ashore twice during our stay in Port Orford, and it was a cute little town. It has one very noticeable oddity--no official harbor, even though they have a fishing fleet. Instead, all the fishing boats are outfitted with extra-strong chainplates at their bow and stern. To enter the “harbor,” a boat approaches the pier and attaches cables from a crane to those chainplates. Then it’s up, up, and away, onto the pier and then on a boat trailer. Each trailer has a parking spot, complete with power hook-ups. It was a fascinating operation to watch. Unfortunately, the whole situation made it complicated for us to go ashore. We ended up tying the dinghy to a ladder and the whole family, Megan included, climbed up to the pier!

By the morning of the 5th day, we were going stir crazy and noticed a sailboat heading south on the outside of us, so we asked them for a weather report. The end result of the conversation was that it was good enough, and at 3pm we were on our way motoring south again.

It was a very lumpy motor through the night with virtually no wind, so the next afternoon we pulled into Eureka, California, to catch up on sleep.

Eureka was the break we needed. We pulled into a slip and slept the sleep of the dead for 12 hours as we really hadn't gotten a single good night sleep since leaving Newport. We were able to get some laundry and shopping done--there was a farmer’s market in Old Town, as well as a Costco and a couple other grocery stores within walking distance.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Sourdough on Cruising Boats

As we travel, one of the things we have done is offer sourdough starter to fellow cruisers as we encounter them. It has been curious to note how many times people are afraid of sourdough or unsure what to do with it if they have it. The most prevailing belief is that sourdough has to be used everyday, or a portion has to be thrown out, which is simply untrue. In our opinion, sourdough is an amazing addition to your cruising boat and should be included in every boat's galley.  It is cheap, nutritious, and fun. In fact, our kids refer to it as the pet they can eat!

Our experience with keeping sourdough started with Joe's grandparents.  They would make a lovely batch of fresh sourdough pancakes every time we visited, and both us and the kids loved them.  Shortly after moving aboard on Kyrie we took home a little batch of starter from them and have been enjoying it now for nearly 4 years of living aboard and cruising.  It has meshed perfectly well with our cruising lifestyle, and has been extremely easy to maintain and keep.

**Understanding Sourdough**

Sourdough is simply a mix of flour (both wheat or standard all purpose work well), water, and wild yeast.  The wild yeast eats some of the sugars in the flour, creating lactic acid and carbon dioxide in the process, in turn giving sourdough its sour tang, and creating bubbles to raise your bread or baked goods.

Sourdough will change depending on where you are in the world.  It is a wild colony of yeast, after all.  Sourdough in San Francisco will inherently taste different from sourdough in Seattle, for instance.  As you move your home around, it is fascinating to note how your sourdough will change.

Freshly recharged sourdough after
making pancakes this morning.
We only added water and flour.
Every time you use some of your starter, you add fresh water and some flour to the previous mix until roughly the consistency of pancake batter, and let it sit on your counter for a couple days until good and bubbly.  In cool climates, you can just leave it on the counter if you're going to use it at least twice a week, or if you're not going to use it for a while, put it into the fridge.  Note that ours has lived on the counter on Kyrie, cruising Alaska and the Pacific Northwest for the last 3 years with no issues, except two cases of a bit of mold after we forgot about it for 3 weeks.  See below for the fix for that issue.

In addition, you can use wheat flour, white flour, or even potato flakes for your sourdough.  Experiment!  We found half white flour and half potato flakes made a particularly interesting sourdough!

It is best to start with an existing sourdough starter from a friend or family member, but starter cultures can also be bought on ebay or amazon.  You can even start your own by mixing water, flour, a pinch of sugar and a bit of bread yeast and letting it sit on the counter in a non-sealed container for a couple weeks to let the natural yeasts in your environment take over.  Note for the first few months, this new sourdough can be a little unstable and will require watching and careful tending to get your healthy, stable crew of wild yeast to take over.  The longer you let the starter sit between uses, the more sour it will get, so if you like it nice and strong, let it sit a little longer!

**A Home for Your Sourdough**

Normally, in a home environment a crock with a lid is used for sourdough, but this is just too fragile on a boat.  For our sourdough, we use a plastic container with a "steam vent" lid similar to this one.

Note the steam vent lid is important as the starter needs to breathe, but the small hole helps to prevent flies from getting to your sourdough.  If you overfill your container, it also keeps the lid from blowing off as the sourdough kicks!

**Sourdough Health Benefits**

First things first, sourdough is a fermented food, so much like raw sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha, and yogurt, it is fermented with lactobacillus cultures. Those cultures are probiotics, those much-touted good gut bacteria. The cultures don't survive the baking process, but they do create lactic acid. What good is lactic acid? Plenty! Lactic acid helps decrease the amount of phytic acid in bread, which interferes with absorption of certain nutrients. Break down that phytic acid and voila! More nutrients are suddenly available to be digested and absorbed by our bodies. That wild natural yeast also helps the bread last longer without the addition of any sort of preservatives. Not to mention, in my opinion, few breads taste better than a good sourdough. Try it out for yourself if you haven't done so already.

**Sourdough Recipes**

Basic Sourdough Pancakes

2 cups sourdough starter
2 eggs
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix all ingredients except baking soda in a bowl - do not overmix.  Add a little water or flour to get the consistency desired for lighter, thicker pancakes or thinner pancakes as desired.  Just before cooking add the baking soda and cook on lightly buttered non-stick skillet, flipping once.  Serve with butter, maple syrup or honey, and peanut butter.

Optional mix-ins are berries (blueberries and raspberries are both amazing), thinly sliced bananas, chocolate chips, and anything else your heart desires.  Note a double batch of the above recipe feeds our family of 5 perfectly.

Sourdough Bread (adapted from the "basic white bread" recipe from The Boat Galley Cookbook)

1 cup warm water (100-115 degrees F)
1 teaspoon regular yeast
1/4 cup of sourdough starter
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cups white flour, or more as needed.

Mix the water, yeast, starter, and sugar together and let sit at least 10 min. in a warm spot to proof (look for bubbles on top).  Add salt, oil and 2 cups of flour to that mix and mix thoroughly.  Add more flour as needed to form a stiff dough.  Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Put a small amount of oil in a bowl and toss the dough to ensure it is lightly covered in oil.  Cover the bowl with a tea towel.  Let the dough rise in a warm spot until doubled in volume (1-3 hours).  Punch down, let rise until doubled again.  Then place in your favorite greased pan.  Place in cold oven, turn oven on to 350 degrees F and set timer for roughly 55 minutes (may vary by how quickly your oven comes to temperature)  Start checking bread for doneness at around 45 minutes.  When fully baked, remove from pan to cool on counter and serve.

**The longer the bread is allowed to rise the more sourdough flavor will develop.  It is especially good if you allow it to rise overnight in the fridge, then finish rising in a warm spot.

We love our Lekue pan for bread. It makes the above recipe in one batch, with only one dirty dish.  It can be found on Amazon or sites.  Lekue Breadmaker on Amazon

**Common Sourdough Problems & Fixes**

1.  Sourdough overflows your container
Don't overfill your container!  Leave an inch or two after mixing up your starter for expansion as the sourdough "kicks".  It isn't a bad idea to put your container on top of a plate the first few times you mix it up to contain it if it overflows a bit.
2.  Mold grows on your sourdough
This one is extremely easy.  With a clean spoon, carefully scrape off the mold on top of the batch.  Take one or two clean spoonfuls from the center of the batch and place in a clean bowl.  Dump out the remainder of your old sourdough and wash the container thoroughly.  Add the sourdough you retained to inoculate the new batch with the wild yeast, and let sit on the counter for a couple days - you're good to go!
3. Flies or maggots on your sourdough
This is the most disgusting one that can happen if you don't keep a good lid on your sourdough.  If it happens and the maggots are only on the surface, you can dig down to the bottom as in #2, and restart your batch.  If it's too far gone, you might need to dump the batch and start over.  To help if you fear this, read the last paragraph in this section.
4. "Dead" sourdough
Most likely this won't happen to you, but even if it does appear to die, just simply pour off half the batch of starter, add fresh flour and clean water and let it sit on the counter for a week.  If you see bubbles, you are good!  Also note if you chlorinate your water tanks be sure to filter the water you are using through a carbon filter for the sourdough as too much chlorine can easily kill your starter!

If you aren't going to be using your sourdough for a while, you can take a piece of saran wrap, spread a bit of your starter on it and let it dry.  Keep this powder in a ziplock bag in your freezer for up to a year to innoculate a new batch!

From all of us on the Kyrie crew, we hope this has been a little educational. Sourdough is not something to be feared--it's to be used and enjoyed! If you have a favorite recipe using sourdough, could you please include it in the comments section? We'd love to hear about your experience with these wild little creatures. For a little bit of history on yeast and some fun, watch Alton Brown's "Dr. Strangeloaf" video with his yeast puppets.