Cooking at sea

So yeah, wow, the Canaries!

...and again at night
Sunset on Yaiza

We got here and anchored off the island of Lanzarote on May 10th, got chased out of a marina for rowing, pulled up the hook two days later, went about a kilometer south, plopped the CQR in one place…baaaaad, the ferries were all over us like cops on a Dunk’n! We reset about 100 meters back north and we’ve been here ever since.

Through the lower mainsheet block
North of the ferry terminal at Playa Blanca

Well you know us, we’re going around the world in the smallest electric sailboat in history but we’re not in any big hurry to get there…wherever there may be.

Better together!
Not in a hurry

We started provisioning for the next leg of the adventure as soon as we could get the dink off the bow and almost immediately ran out of cooking gas. We broke out the spare tank, hooked it up, and went to work on our new article for Practical Boat Owner magazine “How to Rebuild a Monitor Windvane Self Steering System While Underway.

Dena and Beluga Greyfinger on the job!
Dena at work with Gatolicious

We got the article written and submitted. We then wrote a piece for Spinsheet on having been underway for a year with an electric motor. We scored an interview with the publisher Imray on writing a new Brazilian cruising guide, got the gig. Scored another handful of articles for Spinsheet (the Latitude 38 analog for the east coast of the US) and, all the while, we were cooking on the daily.

Canary's Wrinkled Taters
Wrinkly Taters and yummy sauces

When we show up in a place, we research the veggie or pesce food people are eating locally. We try to replicate at least one dish on the boat, just to see if we can add something to our cuisine that we can take with us. Just like any island chain, the Canary Islands have different cultures with different foods and beverages with each of the islands within that chain.

In the Azores, it was the cheese and butter…in Madeira, it’s that famous sweet wine…and on Lanzarote, it’s the papas arrugadas…wrinkly potatoes…with mojo rojo and mojo verde! Wow, that shit rocks!!!

Epic Walk
Walking in the desert

Lanzarote is a desert island situated 72 nautical miles from Africa’s northwestern Sahara Desert and their crops are limited, to say the least. The winds are almost constantly from the northeast and have an unsettling lack of moisture for ocean breezes. The main food crop that thrives in Lanzarote is a small yellow waxy potato that, when cooked in ocean saltwater, is absolutely delicious. We’ve done it a few times since we got here. Oh my Gato, it’s so good!

Sunset over Yaiza
Dena rowing

Like most folks, every once in a while we like to pay people to cook for us and the Indian food here in Yaiza is particularly good. There’s even an Asian buffet-ish where the sushi is self-serve and the hot stuff is made to order. We haven’t been cooking every meal…but it’s been pretty damn close. And when we cook, we use cooking gas.

Cool Mohawk on the soy

For years, we’ve been searching for alternatives to cooking gases such as propane and butane, but the only options out there, at this point in history, are cost and power prohibitive. Electric induction cook tops are nearly there, but the lack of direct current (DC) options keeps them just out of our (cost-and-power) budget reach. Just like with our electric propulsion system, though, when we discover a viable alternative to the evil petroleum industry…we’ll jump on it. Until then, we have five options: propane, butane, solid fuel, diesel, and alcohol.

Alcohol is awesome and you can get it anywhere in the world but it’s slow and marine alcohol ovens aren’t a thing. I (James) saw one once in a cabin in the Colorado mountains but it was home-built and the owner absolutely hated it because it cooked so slowly.

Solid fuel is awesome because you can burn almost anything in it and it gets hot as hell, like our cabin heater. The problems with solid-fuel stoves, like the sexy pot-belly types, are storage of fuel, gimbaling, and temperature control. It cooks like crazy but good luck finding a place on a 30 ft boat to store a year’s worth of wood next to all of your food and water.

Coal, are you kidding? There’s no fucking way we’re going to use coal for anything on this boat, ever.

Diesel, never again!!!

We settled on propane about 25 years ago because it was easy to stow, lasted a good long time and there are so many gimbald marine stove options out there that it’s easy to find an efficient stove/oven combo for the marine environment…In the US!

Our galley stove
Our galley is totally awesome

S/V SN-E Cetacea came with an awesome propane stove/oven combo that works just like a land-based system. It has valve controls for the stove-top burners and a thermostat that controls the temperature in the oven to some close approximation of the setting on the knob. It has never let us down and we totally love cooking with this machine. Going from three (on Nomad and Sovereign Nation) to two burners (Cetacea) required a “settling in” period where the dance of fried potatoes, hollandaise sauce, fried (not poached) eggs, and oven-toasted english muffins (or bolo levado on Terceira) seemed daunting but, yes, it can be done with two burners and an oven.

Breaky @ Sea
AYFKM Yummy!!!

When we ran out of propane in the Azores, we started filling our propane tanks with the only cooking gas we could get in the islands: butane. They filled our existing tanks with the lighter gas, we hooked it up to our existing system, and, sure enough, that shit worked. We have a totally awesome isolated cooking gas locker that has a totally awesome overboard ventilation system so, even though it leaked (a little), we could still cook our totally awesome food and rock that totally awesome coffee in the morning. The only problem? What used to be a four-month tank suddenly turned into a two week tank. WTAFO?!

We started shutting the tank off manually between uses, even in the interminable Terceira rain, and went back to lasting much longer between tank fillings, but who knows how much butane we vented into the atmosphere in that time? Ugh! That’s not what we’re about at all. We hate using any fossil fuels but buying them and venting them in the environment without using them is even worse.

Drop biskets aboard
Drop biscuits with herbs de Provence are incredibly delicious with white gravy and garlic-butter mushrooms

Our last haul of butane took us from the Azores to Madeira and for a month in the Canaries before the flame started running orange instead of blue. We were running out on the second tank.

Galley Manager
The galley manager approves of the tomato-pesto ravioli, but only with Azorean-butter toasted bread. He loves the smell of hot butter.

Reluctantly, we decided to take the information on Noonsite (lies, lies, lies) at face value and did four hours of bus rides on four different buses for a total cost of 20 (fucking) euros…having loaded an empty tank into the dinghy and then carried it, slung between us in our laundry bag, to the bus station and to the depot…only to be told by those bored or irritated or just simply lazy workers that they ‘couldn’t’ fill it for us. It was supposed to be the only place that would put actual propane in our propane tanks. The sign on the door gave the current price for propane. Yet somehow they just couldn’t. Or wouldn’t.

The main job there is industrial and household propane: leasing big tanks to people with buildings to put them in (well, near) and sending a tanker truck to refill them periodically. We were gnats, fleas…the sand in the ointment of a smooth workday. Maybe I get it but… TFG!

Sunken ship off Arrecife, Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain
This is, weirdly, in one of their maps pics and you have to wonder…

It was time for us to engineer and rebuild the system to support any kind of fuel that was available to us in whatever environment we happen to be in and we were up to the challenge. Two days of reconnoitering got us invested in the Plan. We bought a tank (and carried that son-of-a-bitch three miles in that same laundry bag), a regulator, a short length of hose, and a couple fittings that we thought could make the project happen.

From propane to butane...a done deal

I (James) got up at 0500, made coffee with the old leaky system, rebuilt the entire shit-show, and now we have two empty propane tanks and a regulator/pigtail getting no action, but the new plastic butane tank and regulator are firmly on the safe side of the solenoid, which allows us to make sure no gas of any type can flow into the cabin unless we want it to.

The finished project, perfect...
Fin cooking system

We sailed and walked, and bused, and walked and walked and walked and ultimately we engineered and built a system that would feed gas to our cooking system without venting that evil shit into the environment without burning it first. Sure, it’s horrible and antiquated but it’s absolutely as efficient as our affordable technology can sustain and for now that has to be enough.



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