Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Good Night's Rest

If I had to say what was the most important aspect of the care and feeding of The Crew, it would be a hard tie between a good meal and a good night's rest.  When we bought Kintala, it didn't come with a V-berth mattress and that was probably the biggest blessing in disguise of anything that happened.  We set about to get a mattress first thing, since we intended to sleep on the boat while we worked on it.

We're fortunate to have a mattress manufacturer in the area called Verlo Mattress, a company with locations in seven states that we've used before to custom make some foam mattresses for various kids' beds, so I contacted Dave there who was incredibly helpful in designing our v-berth mattress.  I used some old rip-stop material laid out in the v-berth to draw the three-piece pattern because it doesn't stretch and I happened to have it on hand, but if you don't have anything like that you can order the reinforced patterning material from Sailrite.  I visited the Verlo store in St. Charles, MO so I could lay on various thicknesses and firmness of foam that he had in stock, and after testing a few I chose a 4" thick very firm foam, which he constructed in three pieces per my pattern, covering the foam with a regular quilted and bound mattress cover.

We laid these pieces out in the clubhouse at the marina and cut pieces of Wal-mart 4" thick memory foam mattress topper. I know it looks like two pieces of 2", but it's actually a firmer layer on the bottom topped by a softer layer on top and glued together.  You can buy the one-piece type if you prefer it.   I bought a king-sized one but I probably could have fit it out of a queen-sized one and, in fact, Dave at Verlo told me he got the three pieces out of a queen-sized piece of foam.  When we spoke to Verlo they gave us the option of making the mattress with 4" firm foam topped by 4" memory foam all inside the cover, but we opted to put the memory foam on top because we've found it doesn't last quite as long as the regular foam mattress and we wanted the option of replacing it without having to replace the whole mattress.  The bill for the mattress in 2011 dollars was $289.00.  The memory foam from Wal-mart was $119.00 but you can spend upwards of $200 if you get the better quality memory foam.

After we got the mattress laid out in the v-berth I set out to find some comfy bedding.  You have to choose your bedding depending on the location you intend to cruise, and you may need to buy two different types to handle all the climates.  We've found that the jersey sheet sets work really well in cold weather because they're not such a shocker when you climb into the cold bed and they tend to hold the heat a little better than the cotton ones.  They also stretch so they tend not to pull off the mattress when you shift around, something that's pretty important when you have an oddly-shaped bed like a v-berth.  If you're going to use cotton sheets it's a good idea to take an afternoon and custom-make a fitted sheet for the bottom so it's easy to make the bed and it doesn't pull off.  Cotton sheets are really great in hot weather because they tend not to stick to you if you're sweaty.

Whatever berth you sleep in on your boat, you should take the time to create a place you like to go to.  Choose colors that are soothing and that make you happy.  I chose an turquoise that reminded me of the water off Hoffman Key for the sheets. Choose a light blanket for over the sheets, then a lightweight quilt if you're in colder weather.  You'll notice I have a cotton blanket in this picture which I only have because I'm close to laundry facilities.  Once we actually leave to go cruising I will switch to something synthetic that can wash and dry quickly.  The quilt is a very lightweight silky quilt that I found at Wal-mart and I wish I had bought 10 of them.  It's the warmest quilt I've every slept under and it dries unbelievably fast.  Also choose good quality pillows.  This is not an area to scrimp on.  You can buy non-crush pillows that are soft and comfortable but that rebound to their original shape and dry quickly.  We have our pillows for our heads, as well as a few pillows down each side of the v-berth walls to insulate us from the cold outside. 

After all of our efforts, we ended up with a bed that is much more comfortable than the one we have in our house, a place that we enjoy spending time in, a bit of a refuge from whatever happens to be going on in our weekday lives.  There is just not quite anything like laying in the v-berth with the hatch open and the breeze wafting over your face on a cool summer evening while you are anchored in the cove and you have nothing better to do than watch the shooting stars overhead.  Or waking up completely buried in the quilts when it's 17° outside and the cabin temp is struggling to stay above 50° and you have absolutely nowhere else to go.  So when you're outfitting or refitting your cruising dreamboat, be sure to spend the time and the modest amount of money required to do yourself the favor of a good night's rest.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Nutritious Muffins

This is my all-time favorite muffin recipe because as long as you have the wet and dry ingredients in the same amount as the recipe, you can substitute pretty much anything for each ingredient, a useful thing when cruising as you usually don't have the ingredients on hand that any particular recipe calls for.  I'll print the original recipe here which is from the Bob's Red Mill website and has a lot of other highly useful recipes on it.  This morning I substituted toasted wheat germ for the oat bran, and grated apple for the grated carrot, and white flour for the whole wheat flour, just so you get the idea of the types of substitutions you can make.  I've used sour cream instead of yogurt, I've used applesauce or pumpkin instead of the banana, I've used 1/4 c. flax seed to replace half of the nuts, I've used dried apple fiber in place of part of the oat bran.  It's only limited by your imagination and what you have on hand.  The key to excellent muffins every time is to mix well your dry ingredients together in one bowl and your wet ingredients in another bowl, then quickly mix the two together just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.  If you mix them too  much, the gluten will begin to develop and you will end up with tough muffins. 

1/2 C. walnuts, chopped
3/4 C. oat bran cereal
3/4 C. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 C. brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 C. banana,  mashed - 1 medium (squeezing the banana in the peel before you open it works well)
1/2 C. yogurt, plain ( I have experimented with various flavors but felt it detracted from the result)
2 egg whites or 1 whole egg
2 TBL cooking oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 C. grated carrot (or apple or hard pear)
1/2 C. chopped dates (or raisins)


Preheat oven to 400° Lightly grease bottoms of 12  muffin tins.

Mix dry ingredients together in one bowl.  Mix wet ingredients together in another bowl.
Quickly mix dry and wet ingredients together with wooden spoon and spoon into muffin tins, mounding up in center.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, or toasted wheat germ.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until browned and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool on a rack in pan for 5 minutes.  Remove to towel-lined bowl and serve warm.  Keep any leftovers (not likely) in an airtight container. 

Cheddar Drop Biscuits


  • 2 C. sifted flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tarter
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 c. shortening or butter or canned butter
  • 1 C. shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1 C. milk
Sift flour.  Measure flour and sift again into bowl with baking powder, salt, cream of tarter and sugar. Add shortening or butter and cut in with wire whisk or other pastry blender.  Add cheese and stir.  Add milk and stir quickly with wooden spoon until blended.  Depending on the humidity you may not need all of the milk.  It should be a very thick batter that clings to the spoon and holds its shape. Drop by large spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. and bake 11-13 minutes at 450° or till golden brown and baked through.  Brush with melted butter if desired.  Serve warm with Fish Chowder or any soup of your choice.

Tilapia Corn Chowder

What do you make on a cool evening when you have a group to feed and you have a freshly landed catch of some fish to use up?  Fish Corn Chowder of course, which in this case is called Tilapia Corn Chowder (original recipe on but I modified it a bit), but you can use any mild white fish. In this preparation I used Swai, a relatively new fish to the US market which is in fact a catfish from Vietnam. Whatever fish you use should be firm like Cod or it will disintegrate into the chowder, which is not to say it won't taste as good, you just won't have hunks of fish to eat.  This chowder is good with cornbread or any biscuits, including the Cheddar Drop Biscuits which I have included the recipe for in another post.


  • 3-4 slices of bacon
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 leek, white solid part only, halved lengthwise, rinsed, and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper (I used 1 tsp lemon pepper because that's what I had)
  • 4 C. reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 medium Idaho potatoes, in large cubes
  • 2 C. fresh corn kernels (or frozen if corn on the cob is out of season)
  • 2 lbs firm white fish cut into large chunks
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 C. heavy cream or 1/2 and 1/2 if you want a lighter version of the soup
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 TBL fresh chives, chopped (optional)

Cut bacon into small bits with kitchen shears and cook in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until crispy, 3-4 minutes. Drain on paper towels and set aside.  Add oil to the pan. Add celery, leek, salt and pepper and cook unitl the vegetables just begin to soften, about 2 minutes.

Add broth, potatoes and corn. Bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until the potatoes are just tender and the corn is cooked through, about 8 minutes.

Stir in fish and thyme.  Return to a gentle simmer.  Cook until the fish is cooked through, about 4 minutes more.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in cream, lemon juice, and the reserved bacon.  Garnish with chives, if using.

 Serves 6