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Voyager

Ireland was scheduled to open its borders to "non-essential" travel on July 19, 2021. So when Trevor Robertson arrived in Bantry, County Cork, Ireland on Ironbark 3 and on schedule I was very relieved. With no way to communicate for the month it took for him to sail from Bermuda (last port of call and contact) it was unclear when he would arrive or if he would be allowed to enter the country. The main difficulties being trying to find out exactly what the entry requirements were with so much conflicting information, changes and websites not being updated. The usual Covid confusion.


Having flown to Ireland from LA, I was prepared to wait if necessary until he arrived. Fortunately I found a friendly B&B in Bantry town run by the very hospitable Kevin Barry of Barry's B&B. It's located right in town on the quayside with views out into the bay and it's very clean and neat. Kevin puts on a great breakfast spread. After all the uncertainty, meeting up and getting things done was a lot easier than it could have been, due mainly to the innate generosity and easy going friendliness of the Irish.


With the destination of Scotland in mind, we looked at a few options for starting our cruise but Covid confusion and complications resulted in delays. The first idea had been to meet in Iceland, open to non-essential travel earlier than the UK, but as time and circumstance ate into the summer days, we decided to meet in Ireland once it opened its borders to sail up the wild west coast.

A pretty boat. Ironbark 3 riding on anchor in Bantry Bay, County Cork, Ireland.

When I joined Ironbark 3 in Ireland I had just spent 2 months in an extreme heat wave in California and by then was looking forward to maybe putting on a jumper or a jacket, but Cork was having their own heat wave when I arrived. It had not rained in two weeks, there was talk of water rationing and the locals were struggling with the heat—much pink flesh on view. Even I found it oppressively humid at times but the sea was still cool and refreshing and the sunshine delightful for long walks.


We needed to spend some weeks sorting things out before we could move on.


Living on boats in not new to me but I am a newbie to 'voyaging' and expect that my time on IB3 will present me with some personal challenges should I choose to undertake the longer passages. The set up of such a boat equipped for voyaging is different to boats like my own coastal cruiser. Trevor's attitude to what is essential or necessary is also very different to the norm, mostly because he has worked out the best possible and most economical ways of doing things through long experience. Using simple systems, the boat is easy to manage and there is no big compromise on comfort. It means that you can repair everything yourself and makes you safer and more independent to explore and enjoy the places you go. It also means you can go to more remote places, which has been the main thrust of Trevor's sailing (as you will learn if you look up his blog at the end of this post).


Boat life is not like living in a house or even a camper van and it's not for everyone, but my feeling is that if you want all the comforts of home, you might as well stay home. With no pretence to any sort of glamour, I find the boat lifestyle suits me very well.


For those staying at home, contemplating off grid lifestyles, hikers, bikers or campers, the following information might be of some use.


Disclaimer: The information supplied here is from personal experience and I do not assume any responsibility for its accuracy or food safety.
The galley. Everything has its place. Note the strap to keep you in place when sailing and the gimbal stove keeps the cooking surface level when the boat is leaping about or healing over in the wind.

No refrigeration necessary: one can still eat well without stocking items that need to be refrigerated. As a trained chef it has been surprising to me to find out how many foods do not need to be refrigerated - though they need to be used sooner than the ones you store for months or years in your fridge.


Refrigeration is a recent invention. Items that say "keep in a cool dry place" although found in the refrigerated section of the supermarket do not need to be kept at 5°C. Almost all the fermented foods I have come across do not technically need refrigeration. Nothing keeps forever so it's best to plan your provisioning so that things get used and restocked as they need to be. And keep an eye on those rusty tins in your bilge/cupboards because they can rust through and fill that area with a smelly, slimy mess.


Essential condiments. Buy mustard in tubes so that it doesn't mould or oxidise. Vegan mayo is great for those who love mayo. No need to elaborate on the importance of hot sauce.

Butter can be kept submerged in salted water, even in warm temperatures, for long periods. Make sure it is well covered.

Cheeses, especially waxed or vacuum packed, keep well (as long as it's not too hot). You might have to cut off a bit of mould here and there but still quite edible.

Feta cheese keeps 'indefinitely' submerged in olive oil. I have also made labne and kept it under oil for long periods. You can reuse the oil once you've taken out the cheese.

Yoghurt, (real plain natural stuff) will keep for weeks in the unopened pots.


Milk powder is helpful for those who use milk. Full cream milk powder is not readily available everywhere so depending on where you are, you might have to order it in from far away.


UHT long life cream is easily stored and versatile. There might even be a powder form.

Reduced cream in tins can also work for some things.


Artisan salami, which is a fermented product can be kept. All those hams and salamis you see hanging at the grocers (and in bars) in Italy and Spain are not refrigerated. These spicy tidbits can add zest and substance to any soup or stew.


Red meat—I stick to beef and a single piece is best. Do not try to keep mince. I salt my meat liberally and cover it with olive oil to store for a day or two or three. If the oil doesn't cover it, it will go mouldy in 3 days. When it doubt, sniff and see. Meat stews are best eaten the same day or if reheated in a pressure cooker can go to the next day, any longer I cannot vouch for.


Meat substitutes. We have a lot of TVP which can be used in place of meat, you can also buy it in tins. I haven't yet had to use any! If you don't eat meat or fish, nuts are a great way to get that extra fat and protein you need in an active lifestyle.


Fish... I am still working on this one. Fish is best eaten fresh but I have made ceviche that kept 24hrs (you will most likely eat it before it can go off).


I use a vacuum packer on my boat. You can vacuum pack anything to keep the damp out and the bags are reusable. As long as you make sure your seals are good and that the bags aren't somewhere that they chafe, the sealed bags are a great way to go for bulk items and are easily stowed—but check them regularly. I am hoping to get a vacuum packer for IB3 if we are to provision for a longer trip.


See what works best for you in your own galley or situation. Inform yourself about what the food safety dangers are and do not take risks. Reading up on traditional food preservation can help you learn more about ways of keeping food without refrigeration.


A foot pump at the sink for fresh water and a bucket of sea water for rinsing helps keep water usage down between water sources. Water can be heated for washing up if needed but sea water is a good way of rinsing without using up valuable fresh water.


A pressure cooker is essential. It is the single most important pan/pot in the galley. Not only because it is fuel and time efficient, but the locking lid means the contents stay in the pot in a lively sea. There is nothing more devastating than having your meal thrown about the galley and having to start from scratch when you are cold, hungry and tired (not to mention having to clean it up!)


The red Heylo Bag is "cooking" barley that was brought to the boil then the pot snugged into the bag to continue cooking for a couple of hours until it is needed. If you only have one pot, make it a pressure cooker, they come in all sizes.

The "Heylo Bag" is a modern take on the old hay box system of cooking.The fuel savings is huge when you compare boiling something for 10 minutes to boiling something for 50, things also do not scorch.


Get yourself the best stainless steel pressure cooker you can afford, on a boat for instance, it is the single most important piece of equipment in the galley. The pressure cooker uses a lot less fuel to cook food than regular pots and if you put it into the Heylo bag after bringing up to pressure you save even more fuel. You can also stow your pressure cooker in the bag in a cupboard safely for it to continue cooking while you get on with your day.


IB3's cosy saloon


The saloon converts to a sleeping area. Trevor has collected many interesting souvenirs from his travels that make the saloon more homey. I've added a few flax baskets made from the Harakeke (NZ Flax plants) that grows well in Ireland.

The the new saloon table Trevor made in Bantry while we were busy with getting sorted. I found the wood in a back room of forgotten hardwoods at the local building supply. The very friendly chaps there sold us a lot of exotic hardwood for almost nothing. Not being usual stock items, this treasure trove of beautiful wood was probably left over from when it was a locally owned mill many years ago before it was sold to the chain of building supply stores.
Keeping warm. Everyone I have told that I am spending the winter on the boat in Scotland has said "Sounds cold!".

I'm not sure how cold it will be but I am assured by Trevor that is not cold (he is probably comparing it to Antarctica). We do have this diesel heater to keep the boat warm and dry.


The division of work seems to suit us both, while I am getting to know the boat I do what I am good at: provisioning and food preparation. Trevor takes care of the repairs and technical aspects. I hope I too can shimmy up the mast when I am 72! I'll need to practice a bit though, now that he has shown me how to do it.


Sharing a small space often brings challenges with it. Because we are captain and crew and not a couple, I think it is easier that I can retreat into my bunk and have alone time when I need it. Fortunately I have a little space to call my own and this is great. Sometimes one needs the ability to withdraw in order to be better company later on. Having said this, the time I need to do this is amazingly little, our shared interests keep conversation flowing.

Trevor uses rock climbing gear to ascend the mast. I awoke after a nap to see this and got a fright because I had never seen anyone go up a mast unsupported by someone hold the end of a safety line.

One of the main repairs we had to make before going anywhere was to replace the anchor windlass. There were none available in Ireland and getting anything sent from the UK is now a virtual impossibility thanks to Brexit. Fortunately I found one in Germany that we could get sent to Barry's B&B and it only took a week. Additionally we had some amazing warm sunny weather in which Trevor could do the deck surgery and wiring required to put it in place.

I consider myself incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to crew with Trevor, who has so much knowledge and experience and can make me laugh.


Below is a link to Trevor's blog.


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