The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Surviving on Vegetables and Fish

Lately, it's been nothing but hassles and work.

The other day, taking a break in the backyard soaking up some sunshine, I began thinking about how my life is slipping into a boring routine, and who's to blame? Me, of course. Having a sailboat, living in a semi-exotic place and being a freelance translator is no guarantee for an exciting life, I tell you. You have to work for it.

Although I don't have any revolutionary plans to make life more exciting (actually I do, but I'm not going to tell), a really small idea popped into my head.

The Big Small Plan - instead of packing a pile of cans, jars, bags and whatnot, why not try surviving on fresh vegetables and the fish I catch on my next cruise, even if it means going hungry. Going hungry is better than being bored numb. Besides, I need to lose a few pounds.

I began by experimenting with sprouts to decide whether sprouting on a boat is feasible. I tried lentils and the results were pretty good. It consumes a fair amount of water, but that shouldn't be a problem considering the size of my water tanks. Besides, I'm not planning to eat sprouts for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Growing lentil sprouts
My first lentil sprout crop
I also know a thing or two about vegetables because I used to be, among many other professions, a farmer - both in Canada and Portugal, and not a hobby farmer either - a real big-tractor, big-truck, big-machinery bad-ass, straw chewing farmer.

So anyway, here's my provisioning list:

Butternut pumpkins - they last for ages and are delicious even when simply boiled, better than bland potatoes (as far as I know, I introduced butternut pumpkins to Portugal 30 years ago).
Carrots - will last quite some time if kept cool and dry, not in a plastic bag.
Onions - hard onions without any soft spots will easily stay fresh for a month.
Dry chickpeas, lentils, beans, etc. - will last forever and you can soak them for a few days or sprout them.
Nuts - a variety of shelled nuts (the last thing you want is nut shells all over the boat).
Cabbage - the dense head variety will last for a couple of weeks; the outer leaves will gradually get yellow but you can peel them back and eat the inner compact leaves.
Green tomatoes - will last quite a few days until you go ashore to a market.
Green bananas - no brainer.
Green apples - no brainer.
Peppers - green without a speck of bruises, but will only last a couple of weeks.

I haven't researched about edible seaweed yet, but I'm not too optimistic, not to mention enthusiastic.

I'll need more lures for fish and squid to use both while sailing/motoring or when anchored. A good way for catching octopus is drop a clay pot to the bottom when anchored. Octopuses use it as a hiding place and, when you pull it up, instead of fleeing they hunker down even more because they feel safe inside the pot.

At anchorages with a rocky shore, I can also go "pole poking" for octopus. You secure a dead fish to the end of a pole with a bit of netting and you poke the stinky fish into rocky holes, preferably at low tide (sardines are best because they stink, but you can also use a small crab or even white rag tied like a bow-tie). When you feel the octopus grab, you gently pull up until you're able to net it much like you would net a fish, and then you bite it hard and repeatedly between the eyes. If you're a wuss, you can knife it. They take forever to die good and proper. For the record, I've gone octopus pole poking many a time, and usually you end up catching a lot of small crabs too.

If all that fails, I can go shelling in the mud flats of Alvor and Culatra and pray I don't get toxin poisoning.

See, it doesn't take all that much to get a grown man excited. Most women will never understand, they just roll their eyes and look at you pitifully. As one guy once asked me, "you sailed across the Atlantic? Wouldn't it be easier to fly?"

I spent today on the boat and started practicing. Since I was too busy working to go fishing, I ate vegetables.

cooking on a boat
The recipe, bottom to top: olive oil, onion slices, carrots, leek, tomato, lots of red pepper. No salt, no herbs...nothing more.
Frying with olive oil
I have to admit that I cheated a bit halfway through the meal. I dug up some 8-month-old packaged toast from the last trip. Eight months and it's still edible: it's gotta be bad for you.


  1. Where's the rice!! I tried sprouting once but failed miserably. But I'm sure it's the way to go.
    Fishing ... everyone asks me why I don't fish. As a single handler, I've got my hands full! I did catch a small one once. And was real careful and didn't make a mess. But the next day I was riddled by so many flies I weighed anchor! As for octopus, as much as I love eating them, I love them alive and can't kill them anymore. Biting them between the eyes was fun back in the day and yanking out their brains was quite effective. I wonder if pouring some booze on them would do the trick. It works wonders on fish!

    1. Rice? I normally make pasta because it's faster and easier. I know what you mean about the mess of catching and cleaning fish, and I don't enjoy killing octopus either but I eat them - so I'll have to apologize first and keep in mind that a regular octopus only lives about 6 months anyway (they grow fast). If they're a fair size, they're probably almost senior citizens.
      Opening cans gets a bit boring even when I'm anchored in the Algarve. Must be a mid-life crisis.

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