Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Different Kind of Black Friday Sale

The day after Thanksgiving marks the ultimate in shopping--Black Friday. Since I don't seek out opportunities to wait in long lines or be reliant upon public restrooms, I don't partake in the festivities (I'm more of a Cyber Monday kind of gal). However, this year, Sea Gem's crew conducted our own Black Friday Sail... It didn't involve any deep discounts--just beautiful weather, family, and turkey sandwiches!

Black Friday Sail

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Since Fall began, Eric and I have been fielding all sorts of questions about our plans for making a Thanksgiving feast aboard our sailboat. Many were skeptical, but we are happy to report that we successfully hosted our first Thanksgiving aboard Sea Gem for 8 of our family members. This means there were 11 humans aboard our boat (although one of the eleven is a baby, so that doesn't really count). Of course, if you factor our dog into the equation, it felt as though there were 20 people on board (Moishe has a knack for being everywhere at all times--particularly when food is involved).

Happy Thanksgiving from Sea Gem's Crew
Our Thanksgiving menu was as follows:

15 lb Herb-Roasted Turkey
Cranberry Bourbon Compote
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Gravy
Turnip, Potato, and Pear au Gratin
Cauliflower with Roasted Garlic, Dates, and Pine Nuts
Green Beans with Scallions & Black Truffle Butter
Carrot Ring (courtesy of Eric's mom)
Kale with Caramelized Onions, Sauteed Apples, and (turkey) Bacon
Baked Sweet Potato Mash with Pecan Crumble
Crescent Rolls (Pillsbury, of course) 
Pumpkin Pie
Sweet Potato Pie 
Old World Apple Cake (also made by Eric's mom)
Red Wine, White Wine, and Apple Cider

Making all of this was a challenge. To make things easier, I outsourced pie production (i.e. I bought pre-made pies at the grocery store) and started cooking the night before to ensure the majority of the side dishes were done before 11am (which is when the turkey needed to go into the oven). Eric's mom also brought a few dishes, which meant even less work for us.

Thanksgiving aboard Sea Gem
Leading up to Thanksgiving, there were two questions everyone asked us: 1) How do you cook a turkey on a sailboat? and 2) Where will everyone sit?

Originally, our plan was to buy a pre-cooked turkey, but in the end, we decided to cook one ourselves. We began by buying a small(ish) turkey. Essentially, I eyeballed the turkey selection at the store and attempted to find one that appeared to be small enough to fit into our convection oven. The main challenge with the turkey, aside from finding one that fit in our oven, was finding a circular drip pan for it to rest in while roasting. You see, our oven operates much like a microwave--there is a little glass plate inside of it that rotates while you cook, spinning whatever is on it around to ensure an even bake/roast/nuke/whatever. As such, we couldn't use a traditional roasting pan because a) they were too big and b) their oval shape wouldn't allow the turkey to rotate while cooking. Our solution? We placed the turkey in one of our saute pans (they have no handles), which was large enough for the job, yet small enough to fit inside our oven.

The only surprise we encountered was when we went to hit "cook." Not shockingly, our oven doesn't have a "roast a Thanksgiving turkey" button. It also doesn't allow you to cook something for more than 99 minutes and 99 seconds... So, we roasted our bird at 350 degrees in 90 minute blocks of time, basting it in between. In the end, we had a thoroughly cooked turkey with crispy golden skin and a juicy interior (more or less anyway).

So where did everyone sit? All over the place! The woman and children sat below and ate at the table in our salon, while the men braved the cold and sat in the main cockpit (yes, it really was cold--there were jackets involved).

With the turkey monopolizing our oven (which is also our microwave), making sure all of the sides were hot when served was a challenge, so we relied on our stove to reheat many of the dishes that we had originally planned to pop in the microwave. All in all, it was a success. And, of course, Eric and I had a fantastic Plan B in case the entire meal was a failure--go to one of the two Brazilian Steakhouses within a block of our marina.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

T minus 9 days 'till Thanksgiving

Most people are surprised to learn that we cook (in a normal fashion) aboard Sea Gem. People presume we eat, but they seem to believe the method we use to prepare our food most closely resembles what happens at a camp site as opposed to what is done on the Food Network. Even upon seeing our galley, which is quite large for a sailboat, people remain doubtful. Not surprisingly, people are shocked when they learn that, this year, we intend to have Thanksgiving aboard Sea Gem.

Preparations are already underway. The menu is set, the list of ingredients is made, and our plan for undertaking this feast has been drafted. Right now, my task at hand is keeping our refrigerator free of excess food so there is room to fill it with Thanksgiving-related necessities and staples for our guests.  

Sea Gem has a beautiful refrigerator that, for a boat, is substantial in size:

Double-door refrigerator
Prior to moving aboard Sea Gem, I was worried that our refrigerator and freezer space wouldn't have the capacity to support a normal supply of food. Although what we have is not nearly as large as any land-based version, our two-part refrigerator suites our needs. The top portion of the fridge is where we store our food:

Interior of top fridge
And bottom portion is where we keep drinks, particularly beer:

Drink storage
Although the top portion of our fridge is looking good space-wise, the bottom portion needs a bit of work. Clearly, if I'm going to cram a turkey in there, Eric and I are going to need to drink a lot of beer in the next few days...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Drowning in Toys

I would describe myself as organized. Other people might conclude I have (mild) OCD. Whatever the case, the result is the same: I find comfort in order. Every day, Eric and I are vigilant about keeping the boat tidy. We make sure that everything has a place and everything goes in its place (I am much more enthusiastic about this process than Eric). It is tedious, but since our space is small, it only takes a few items "out of place" for the entire boat to look like a disaster zone. And this was before we had a baby.

Enter, Helina.

Babies seem to require a lot of stuff. Some of it is necessary and some of it is not. We try and only buy what is necessary, but "necessary" is a word subject to broad interpretation, and as such, I find us accumulating more and more baby contraptions with every passing day. That being said, I have no doubt Helina has less stuff than many of her peers (that is, with the exception of those living on a sailboat smaller than 54 feet). However, considering Helina's favorite thing to play with is her burp rag, I don't feel too bad about failing to outfit her with every baby product under the sun.

Even though we strive to get by with as few things as possible, on any given day, the interior of our boat resembles some version of this:

Helina's World
Now, if you look closely at the photo, you'll see that Helina really doesn't have that much stuff--it just seems that way because our space is so small.

So, how do we keep from being overwhelmed with baby gear in a small space? For starters, we don't leave everything out at all times. The photo above is accurate as far as what we own, but also a bit misleading. In general, when Helina isn't using something, we put it away. This practice helps us preserve our sanity, but I also think it helps Helina stay calm. I've noticed that she gets a little stressed when there is too much stuff around her (she either takes after me or she is tuned in to my stress level), so I try to not surround her with too much at any given time.

We also make sure that at the end of the day, all baby-related items are out of sight, so our salon remains an adult living space and not a child's play room.

So where does all of her stuff go? Right here (look closely):

Hidden Baby Gear
The majority of her toys, blankets, devices, etc. are stored in one of the small cabinets behind our recliners:

Nesting Owl
Some of her belongings are too large for the cabinet, so we needed to find other places for them to reside. When not in use, her tummy time blanket folds flat and hangs inside the forward stateroom, on the doorknob to the forward head (guest bathroom):

Forward Stateroom 
Since Helina's blue chair is small and (somewhat) resembles adult furniture, it remains in the main salon, in front of our ice maker and in between our recliners:

Staying on top of Helina's baby gear is important, not just for our own mental health, but also so we can go sailing (the whole reason we have the boat). If Helina's things were always out, readying the boat would be a huge ordeal. Since everything is always put away (including our stuff), we are always ready to set sail.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Itty Bitty Micro Mini

Prior to moving aboard our sailboat, Eric and I spent a lot of time searching the Internet for space-saving alternatives to our various household items. Our research led us to purchase many new things, like cups, mugs, plates, pots & pans, hangers--even musical instruments.  Thankfully, everything we bought has served us well and we no longer spend our time actively shopping for space-savers...until last week.

The other day, the travel hairdryer that I had been using since we moved aboard exploded. It was even more terrifying than you might imagine, as I was standing in a puddle of water when it happened. Needless to say, I left for work that morning sporting a wet ponytail. 

I, of course, was devastated. I wasn't upset about losing the actual hairdryer, rather I was disappointed about having to spend money on a replacement for something that gives me no pleasure whatsoever. I was also worried that finding a hairdryer that fit my strict size and wattage (900W-1,000W) criteria would be difficult. 

Although Target didn't have any hairdryers that fit the bill, Amazon did: 

BaByliss Pro TT
The reviews for this item said it was small, and the pictures indicated it was tiny, but even with all this information, I still wasn't prepared for the actual size of this hairdryer. It is shockingly small. When I opened the box from Amazon, my exact words were "OH MY GOD! What is this?!" The dryer is so small  it can fit inside of a mug (and our mugs are smaller than whatever mug you're likely drinking from):

8 oz Dryer
Despite its toy-like appearance and low wattage, it is a powerful hairdryer. And, although I didn't buy it for travel, I have no doubt it would be easy to shove into a suitcase (or your pocket), as the dryer literally fits in the palm of your hand:

Tiny Dryer!
Overall I'm pleased with my new hairdryer. It requires almost no space, is energy efficient (1,000W), works well, and so far, it hasn't exploded.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Label Me

A boat of Sea Gem's size has countless devices (pumps, electronics, lights, fans, motors, etc.), and each of these devices is operated by some combination of switches, buttons, and levers.  Unfortunately, because most of these devices were custom fit to the boat, it is not always easy to tell what switch, button, or lever controls which device.  Unlike, for example, a television, with a "power" button directly on the front of the television, many of our devices are located far away from their respective controls.  And, even if we knew which switch controls which device, it is not always easy to tell which direction is "on" and which is "off" (not to mention the various valves aboard with control levers with more than two positions).

The solution?  Labels.  Lots and lots of labels.  Sea Gem's former owners fortunately labeled most of the devices and controls with a labelmaker, but I am nonetheless constantly trying to figure out what various mystery switches are for, which pump controls which freezer, etc.  And so we recently bought our own labelmaker and have picked up where Sea Gem's former owners left off.

Epson Digital Labelmaker
Take, for example, the refrigerator.  We need to be able to turn off the refrigerator every once in awhile to defrost it.  But if we turn off the "refrigeration" switch on our electrical control panel, we turn off both the refrigerator and the freezer, which we may not want to do.  Fortunately, I eventually discovered that one of our mystery switches turns off the refrigerator alone.  How did I figure it out?  I flipped it, and nothing happened.  A couple days later, our fridge wasn't cold anymore, and so ended the mystery of the mystery switch.  (A boat fridge runs for only an hour or so per day, so flipping the switch on or off is unlikely to result in any change in noise, function, etc. - at least until the food spoils).

Now, the mystery switch has a label, both to identify it as the fridge power switch, and also to identify which direction is on and which is off:

We also labeled the light switch for our electrical panel:

And lest we not forget: