Meals on Keels

Hi, hello, and howdy dear readers! Chris and I are currently holed up waiting out some nasty weather (this gets old, let me tell you), so our journey home has turned from sprint to mosey. However, this gives me an opportunity to finally write this post, which I’ve been meaning to get together for some time now.

Meal preparation is a huge challenge here on “Firefly,” mainly because we don’t have a galley or refrigeration (or, ahem, room to do much of anything). What we do have is a two-burner Coleman camp stove that we hook up to our propane tank (a 10-lb aluminum tank that lives in a stock pot on the stern rail), and a cooler (which sometimes has ice in it and sometimes doesn’t). We also have a nice set of “nesting” stainless steel pots/pans that my in-laws very kindly gave us for a Bon Voyage gift.


Coleman camp stove, which lives on the counter under the companionway, along with the cutting board and plastic washtub. Every time we make a meal we have to pull out the stove, pull out the propane tank, hook everything up, cook, then put it all away again.


Nesting cookware tucked away(ish). Note: This photo was taken before we left. The interior of “Firefly” has never since looked this nice, clean, or organized. 

We also don’t really have room for the cooler, so we have made it the second step that you use to come down the companionway.

That being said, we have to buy food that will store well, that (mostly) doesn’t need refrigerated, and that is still (hopefully) yummy. We usually have some combination of the following produce on the boat: Onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, avocados, apples, oranges or clementines, and lemons. They live in a net. We also learned that eggs don’t actually need to be refrigerated (you have to turn them over once every couple days), and these are a staple for us. We have way too much canned food on the boat as well, to include salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, roast beef, chicken, black beans, kidney beans, mixed veggies, canned tomatoes and tomato sauce, soups… well, you get the picture. Then we keep other staples like pasta, brown rice, quinoa, etc around. Excess canned items live in the bilge and the items that we need to get to easily go in what has been dubbed “the meat locker.” Coffee, condiments, etc live on some of the easy-to-reach shelving we happen to have.


Produce (and a baguette we grabbed before leaving Tavernier)!


The kind of foodstuffs that live in the meat locker…


…stuffed unceremoniously into the meat locker.

So, as you can imagine, getting a good, nutritious meal together can be a production, especially while we are underway.

As Chris mentioned a while back in his A Day on the Waterway post, I make coffee and breakfast down below every morning while Chris gets us going and mans the tiller. I think I got the better end of that deal… mornings can be chilly! I very much believe in the cliche that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I know we burn a bazillion calories while we’re sailing, so I try to pack in quite a bit of food to our first meal of the day.

I make coffee using a stainless steel french press, of which I am now very enamored. We both like Italian roasts and have been really enjoying Trader Joe’s Italian Roast coffee beans. I hand grind the beans with a little stainless steel grinder on the coarsest setting, dump the grounds into the french press, and then get the tea kettle on the camp stove with enough water to fill the press.


Coffee beans in the coffee grinder.


Kettle on to boil.

Here are some secrets I discovered (using the Google) to a good cuppa: Let the kettle boil and then set it aside for around 30 seconds to just cool a bit. Then, pour a bit of the water and try to evenly wet the grounds in the bottom of the press. Wait 30-45 seconds (this is also a great time to stick your nose in there and get a good whiff of deliciousness) and then vigorously pour in the rest of the water (you want to agitate the grounds now) so that you get a nice frothy foam in there. Wait another 30-45 seconds before putting the lid on the press.


Coffee coffee coffee!

Now, after you put the lid on the press, set the timer for 12 minutes (none of this 4 minutes crap like most people tell you). Then, after your 12 minutes, push the plunger down gently and enjoy! You’re welcome!

I’ve also developed a couple different breakfasts that work well for us while underway. One I call “Ryan’s Not-Yet-Famous Underway Breakfast Bowl,” and this is how it’s made:

Ryan’s Not-Yet-Famous Underway Breakfast Bowl

Serves 2.

Slice up 1 Onion and 1 Potato or Sweet Potato (or both!)


Coat a pan with cooking spray, then add some olive oil. Get the onions sizzling and then throw in the potatoes. Cook until potatoes are done and season to taste.


Meanwhile, as the onions and taters cook, slice up an avocado and put half in one bowl and half in another.


When the onions/potatoes are done, add half to each bowl on top of the avocado.

Then, crack a couple eggs into the pan you cooked the potatoes in (we don’t want to do any more dishes than necessary, yes?) and fry over easy. Throw an egg on the top of each bowl.


Hand one bowl up the captain, and take one for yourself. Devour.

You’re welcome (again).

I think Chris is usually pretty content when I hand him up his coffee and his breakfast bowl in the morning!

I’ve also taken to making a breakfast that I call the Modified Ploughman’s Breakfast. It was inspired by an incredible meal I had at a little British pub in Dania Beach called The Ploughman’s. It’s basically a little of everything you have lying around sliced up on a plate with a few choice cooked items. The version I had at the pub included a Scottish Egg (Google this), sliced up cheeses, a little salad, some sliced up pork, tomato slices… it was awesome. Here’s what my version often looks like:



Lunch is another story, indeed. We’re usually pretty busy around lunchtime… we’re both above-decks and involved in steering, navigation, etc. Lots of times (especially at the beginning of our trip when we were still getting into the swing of things) we’d sort of forget to eat in the middle of the day.

Lately we’ve taken to eating easy-to-prepare snacky lunches. Since we have no table or anything at the helm either, this is what a typical “Firefly” lunch can look like:


Sardines on saltines, pretzels, cuties (clementine-y thingies). Sunscreen not included in this meal.


Sliced up baguette with brie (we found a single-serving cheese wedge packaged version that is fine without refrigeration!), peanut butter, and olive oil/garlic/italian seasoning.

As you might imagine, we are often famished by the time we drop the anchor, especially if we’ve put in a 50+ mile day. Chris and I sort-of take turns making dinner (there’s really not room for two people to cook), though occasionally we will sous-chef for each other. Dinners range from heating up a can of chili (lazy, tired) to putting on a delicious production. If we’re recently coming from somewhere with a grocery store, we’ll have some refrigerated ingredients on ice in the cooler at our disposal.


Sous chef-ing! Note that the cooler is not only our step, but also our table. 


The finished product! We keep corn tortillas around and eat them a lot… tacos are pretty sweet after a long day on the water.


Christmas dinner this year was special in that we had fresh ingredients from the grocery store that day: Meat sauce with leeks and zucchinis over pasta. 

Pretty much nothing beats catching a fish and eating it for dinner (we have only managed to do this a few times)… This one time Chris caught a Crevalle Jack (fish) and we made delicious fish tacos for dinner. Another time, I caught a Blue Fish and Chris made a fantastic meal for us out of it.


Fish acquired…


…taco fixin’s prepared. Not the best photos but one of the better meals we’ve had on the trip!


Blue Fish and veggies, nom!

There have been some days where I’ve been so exhausted, windblown, and over-sunned that I couldn’t muster enough energy to cook dinner at all. But mostly, we’ve gotten pretty good at making sure to get three decent meals in, despite all the work involved.

At the end, there’s dishes and then we do it all again!


Keys Disease

Ladies and Gentleman, we are fair-weather sailors and not ashamed to admit it. I will tell you straight up that running downwind at 7 knots is more scary than fun on our little boat. As a result, we are currently holed up in a marina waiting out some excessive wind to continue our journey home. This is what we got up to these past few months.

Got out for a few daysails on Florida Bay…






We did a little modeling for our buddy Jeff’s yacht service company…



Did some dinghy exploring…



And some dinghy sailing…

…and checked out the local breweries…


The best part of our time in the Keys was all the great folks we met. We chased our pals on “Chickadee” from Cocoa all the way to Tavernier, and now we’re besties.


Florida Keys Penguin Research Team: Coldest Place on Earth


Some more crazy kids on a sailboat…with Django the dog!


Tiki Hut People…



There was also an element of this…


I can’t take credit for this particular memey-thing…

So it was with mixed emotions we turned our bow North…after a month tied up to a dock we were ready to be on the move again, but reluctant to leave our friends. Also, we don’t want to be cold. So, with “Bug” on the roof in anticipation of some weather…


…and after dodging some gnarly thunderstorms…


…we had a perfect day of sailing up Biscayne Bay. We set the big genoa, turned on the tiller pilot, and sat on the foredeck watching dolphins play in our wake.



We anchored at No-Name Harbor and met a young couple from White Stone, VA just a stone’s throw from where we keep the boat on the Rappahanock. They’re trying to get back to Virginia by April as well, and are sure to be featured in a later edition of this blog if the crew of “Firefly” can keep up with their blistering pace. We’ll see. Anyways, we left Key Biscayne for a few days of 10,000 bridges, mega-yachts, and wakes…



“Venus,” built for the late Steve Jobs

Northbound we had much less trouble than our way down…turns out running between Lake Worth and Miami on the weekend between Christmas and New Years is a spectacularly terrible idea. Lesson learned. So now you’re caught up! Our goal is to be back by April 1st, so that I can get back to work, and Ryan can start looking. We’ve got a few stops planned at places we missed on the way down, stay tuned eh?


Spiny Liebster


The Biiiggest Spiny Liebster Award EVER!

Tricia and her man Rich live in Cornwall “On Gwen,” a ferro-cement gaff cutter. That means it’s a badass, somewhat old-school, thoroughly sea-going boat with lots of strings to pull on. They’re in the process of getting the boat ready for cruising, and potentially an Atlantic crossing. I am envious of that aspiration, I am intimidated by it as well. Tricia writes of their life and travels aboard with honesty and a certain British-Isles-Panache that is beguiling. Their photos are gorgeous. You should check out her blog here.

During our own preparations and subsequent blogging, we were fortunate to internet-meet like-minded souls who were suffering through their own fiberglass-dust-induced fits of asthmatic-lung-hacking. In some cases that dust was ferro-cement in nature. We traded trade secrets, and encouragement. More recently, we’ve been Liebster Awarded- which is a way for bloggers to recognize each other and say “hey, we dig ur shiz.” So, to the crew of “On Gwen,” many thanks for reading our stuff, thanks for the inspiration, and thanks for the recognition!

The Liebster Award is given from one blogger to another in recognition of blogging. “On Gwen” has posited some questions, our answers, as follows:

1) What’s the plan?

Chris- Our immediate plan is to take the boat North, back up the Intracoastal Waterway to the Chesapeake Bay in time for me to get back to work in April. We’re looking forward to hitting a few places we missed on the way down, as well as using our somewhat-newfound confidence to explore some nooks and crannies off the beaten track. “Firefly” is just about the perfect Chesapeake Bay boat, relatively shoal draft but also thoroughly seaworthy. We’re looking forward to Springs, Summers, and Falls exploring the nearly endless coastline of coastal Virginia. Beyond that, I’d like to gain some bluewater experience crewing aboard boats heading offshore to the Caribbean during the annual Fall migration. I definitely feel like we have unfinished business with the crossing to the Bahamas, and beyond that, I really, really want to take “Firefly” there. We’ve been talking about getting a trailer so that we can do trips to the Bahamas or even up North (all you Mainers and Nova Scotians watch out!) without taking off work for unreasonable amounts of time. That’s the plan, I’m sticking to it.

Ryan- My plan is to keep as warm as I can on the trip home, and to try to enjoy as much of the rest of the journey as I can. Then, it’s back to “real life” and I have to find us a house and find a job!

2) Who would play you both, and your boat, in the film/television adaptation of your blog?

Ryan- Emma Watson.

Chris- Rupert Grint.

Firefly- The Durmstrang Ship.

3) (stolen from Emily) What has made you poo your pants in fear so far?

Chris- Dragging anchor at Long Key Bight. We had some tense moments elsewhere, at crowded bridges maneuvering under power, or more prolonged as during our aborted Bahamas crossing and our first day out on the Chesapeake Bay. Nothing even close to the immediate necessity of getting the anchor re-set in 40 knots of wind. Honestly I had never felt fear of that nature before, my mouth was dry, and I found that I had unnatural physical strength. Weird. Scary.

Ryan- Our attempted Bahamas crossing was probably the most scared I’ve ever been. My entire body was so tense while we were out on the water that I was sore for days afterward. The darkness, the waves, the almost exaggerated healing-over “Firefly” does when she’s close-hauled, the sea-spray that completely soaked us both within 30-minutes of leaving the inlet, and then the engine cutting out in the middle of it all… I was terrified. At one point I was mewling so loudly that Chris barked an order for me to go below. But I was too scared to move, so I stayed put. I didn’t poo my pants, but I did almost pee myself because I was too scared to go below and use the head.

4) What would you be doing if you weren’t sailing?

Chris- Dreaming of sailing? Growing lots of oysters, which is also deeply satisfying. Sailing isn’t always fun, but is nearly always satisfying. I think humans aren’t necessarily wired to find satisfaction in languor and relaxation so much as action and accomplishment. Much more important to take pride in something than to be briefly content.

Ryan- I’d be doing yoga everyday, growing a big ole garden, going for long runs, and I’d have like a million pet rabbits and doggies. I’d also have a job and stuff, cuz money. Also, for the record, I love languor and relaxation.

5) What is your top tip for surviving a boat building project?

Chris- Ehhhh, we barely survived ours, I’m not sure we’re in any place to give advice. Don’t try to move out of a house, finish prepping a boat for a cruise, and tie up loose ends at work during a weeks time? It certainly takes a certain amount of hard-nosed obsession to push through. Maybe knowing when enough is enough and just slipping the docklines. Does she float? Does she move? I would say don’t take on anything with significant deck delamination, hull blisters, or structural damage. Oftentimes a “project boat” is a false economy, in our case the desire to fix up a beautiful old boat and gain boatbuilding skills was part of the attraction. If you just want to go sailing, buy a boat that can go sailing.

Ryan- I’m going to take this question in a different direction than Chris did. We built our dinghy, “Bug,” and both really enjoyed it. I say, be patient, expect it to take longer than you think, and definitely jump up-and-down when she starts to look like an actual boat. Take pride in your work, brag to everyone that you built her, and, if someone says something mean about her, flip ’em the bird. We started getting comments/looks about our tiny, hand-built, man-powered dinghy once we made it to Fort Lauderdale, but it only made me love her more.


And So, with the power bestowed upon us, we nominate Ed and Vicky of “Elara” for a Liebster. We met these good folks in Elizabeth City, NC and were fortunate enough to continue bumping into them throughout the trip. They blog over yonder at Catching the Horizon.

  1. Why are you sailing, where are you going?
  2. How do you get your mojo back after a major setback like you guys experienced in Charleston?
  3. What has made you poo your pants in fear, and poo your pants in happiness?
  4. What do you guys do while not underway?
  5. How do you divided responsibilities on the boat?



Painkillers on “Elara” in Oriental, NC.


West of Here

I hear maybe you got a little bit of snow up there eh? A bit cold perhaps? Normally, inclement weather up North is cause for unseemly gloating on our behalf. Unfortunately this time around it delayed my family’s visit by a few days, and my seesters couldn’t make it down as a result. However, the team rallied and we had a wonderful week long visit with my folks, saw the sights in Key West and Marathon, and generally lived it up. (i.e. enjoyed real beds, full size kitchen, and flush toilets)

Ryan and I rented a car and drove down to the condo in Key West. First time driving in several months…scary.


Scary for Ryan that is.


The aforementioned full size kitchen.


Homemade mango daiquiris? Uhh, please and thank-you.


Our initial plan was to try and get the boat down to Key West in time to meet the family. That didn’t work out weather-wise, so we left the boat at a marina in Tavernier. It ended up for the best- there aren’t any all weather anchorages in Key West, and with the succession of cold fronts bringing winds from all quadrants, we would have had to move the boat every other day! Case in point, we walked down to Sunset Pier and watched the poor sods on anchor bouncing their teeth out. Hard to tell in this picture, but there are 120ft megayachts bucking like a dinghy out there. No thanks.

All that wind made for some interesting beach combing…



We celebrated a belated Christmas, which consisted mostly of my mother asking Ryan if she was warm enough and me if we had enough snacks. Yes, no. (No, no?)


Thanks Ma and Da!

I came down with a wee bit of the sickness, so I hung out at the condo and everyone else went and had fun…I ate all the cookies in the house out of spite.




After recovering from my illness/cookie binge, we checked out the “Little White House” where President Truman came to get out of D.C. Very interesting guy, made a lot of big calls. Supposedly as young man he aspired either to working in politics or playing piano in a brothel, because, no big difference right?


We enjoyed a truly-unfair amount of wonderful meals, how’s all that snow treating ya?


“It’s probably cold and freezing rain in Virginia.” “Hah! Pass the rum.”



Sushi-grade tuna seared on a personal grill? Uhh, please and thank-you.

One of the nice things about living on land is that when it’s windy out, you’re like “eh.” My dad and I lucked out and were able to squeeze in a snorkel trip on the one day that it wasn’t blowing a zillion…

24552938009_11e81ae62a_cVisibility was excellent, we saw a moray eel and a pretty good sized grouper…the blood was pounding in my ears (INNERBEASTAWOKEN) but grouper is closed in Florida this time of year…I am nothing if not slavishly adherent to fisheries regulations.

On our last morning in Key West, we brunched at a place called “Firefly!” Ryan’s dad Joe did the legwork and sent us a gift certificate, thanks Joe! Clearly we were meant to eat here.


Not only that, but the staff was wearing shirts that said “Bug Life.”


Bug is the name of our dinghy, if you haven’t been paying attention.

We were able to get my folks out for a sail on their last day in the Keys, we went out to Butternut Key and anchored up for lunch with the crew of “Chickadee.” Everyone got the full experience when our motor popped off it’s mounting thingy in the outboard well and we anchored under sail…No stress eh?


The brave crew of “Chickadee.”

We had a wonderful time with my family, it reminded me and Ryan of how much we miss everyone back home, but in a good way. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone again soon! My folks winged their way back to the tundra, and we settled back into life aboard. We’ve had all sorts of things afoot here, had some excellent day sails and Keys-Adventures, and have been nominated for a Liebster award by our internet friends from across the pond…check out Tricia “On Gwen!” More on that in a few days…Finally, the title of this post is also a plug for our friends The Curry’s, their new album is called “West of Here,” and you should click on over there.


“That fried Key Lime Pie was so good I’m crying”