Tea, anyone?

When people write about sailing, it’s usually about the dramatic stuff – storms, near-disasters, actual disasters, exciting or terrifying experiences. But in between those fairly rare events, sailing is a lot more comfortable and safe. Often there’s not enough wind, let alone too much. You’ve tried all the possible sail combinations to keep the boat moving and sometimes you just have to give up and start the engine.

The upside of a slow and stable boat is that’s the time you can do other things: drag out a bag of old ropes and start whipping or splicing unravelling ends, or fix something that broke during a tougher passage. It’s an opportunity to do some baking, write letters, or even knit (ok, just me, not Lex), and we read, or play Scrabble. Or do nothing at all but gaze at the sea and think. Or sleep. This is where the statement Sailing is 98% boredom and 2% sheer terror comes from! But really, unless you’re in the Doldrums for days on end, there’s always something to do, so boredom’s not really an issue.

 Not much terror happening here…


It’s a different story when it’s rough. A few people have asked how you do the things you need to do like cooking, or just making a cup of tea when conditions are not so sublime. You still need to eat and drink!

      This isn’t rough! just heeled over...

Preparation’s the key. I hate canned spaghetti and baked beans so before a voyage, I make and freeze several meals that can be chucked into a saucepan and heated up, saving the dramas of chopping up ingredients on a tilting bench and cooking from scratch. Another fall back are those great bags of ready made soups – La Zuppa is my favourite – and by adding say, a can of white beans or sweet corn, I can have a hot meal ready in minutes, no matter how much the boat is tossing around.

Marine stoves are swung on a gimbal so that they tilt to stay level when the boat is being rocked around. If the boat’s on one tack for a while and staying on the same angle, I have a harness that holds me in place at the galley bench. It attaches to the bench and means I can use both hands to work instead of trying to hang on with one. It’s not a good look! (does my bum look big in this?) The terms galley slave and chained to the kitchen sink come to mind, but it works.

Tramontana’s galley – loose objects like teapots and wine bottles indicate tied up in marina!


When it’s wet and cold, hot drinks keeps you going through a rough night. The stove has gadgets called “fiddles” on it, pairs of stainless steel “arms” that hold a pot or a pan in place and stop it sliding around – even a gimballed stove can only tilt so far before it stops at a not-quite-level point. Obviously, if conditions aren’t very calm, boiling water is dangerous. To answer Diane’s query: to make a cup of tea at times like this, boil the kettle in the fiddles, brace yourself, mug with teabag in one hand, kettle in the other, wait for the lull between waves and pour carefully! Getting the mug of hot tea up into the cockpit is the next challenge…

Sometimes (very rarely!) it’s just too uncomfortable to cook and we’ll eat cheese and crackers and dried fruit. But the rough patches don’t last long and we usually eat as well and as normally on board as we do at home.

We’re still in Scarborough, waiting for the unsettled weather up and down the east coast to abate. There’s been some crazy weather around, as people in Sydney and Brisbane know all too well. We’re not in a hurry so no point heading out into a brace of thunderstorms if we don’t have to. We’ve been using the time to get a few jobs done on Tramontana, and hanging out with family and friends between here and Byron Bay. It’s good to be stopped for a while!





4 thoughts on “Tea, anyone?

  1. Thanks, Jo, for another interesting update.
    I love reading about your travel experiences.
    Happy sailing!
    Di. ⛵️

  2. Thanks for the read, cooking can be one of the most challenging but rewarding tasks done at sea.. what about the fish on the way, got any mackeral recipes?

    • Dan, I discovered that fresh mackeral makes great nummus. Cut it into thin slices and marinate in vinegar, tamari, sliced onion, garlic, ginger, black pepper and fresh chillies, and leave for an hour or three in the fridge… wonderful!

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