Saving St Brendan’s Voyage

Posted in: Featured, Uncategorized on Monday, July 23rd, 2012

There it sat. All alone. This little book on a post. Exposed to the elements.  It’s unread pages called to me every time I passed it. What story was contained within it’s covers? On one trip I stopped to read the blurb on the back and was hooked immediately but reluctantly left it.

It sat there for a day and a night after that, through wind, rain and what little sun we had.   I told myself that the next time it rained I was duty bound as a book lover and collector, some say hoarder, to save it and give it refuge.  So I eagerly waited for the next rain to fall (the first time in a long time since I was actually keen for rain, we’ve seen too much lately) and I scooted out there as soon as the coast was clear, wiped it down on the sleeve of my jumper and returned inside as inconspicuously as I could.

I didn’t feel all together okay with taking it, after all I didn’t know whose it was or why it was there, but I was too intrigued to just leave it be.   And I’m glad I did.

It turned out to be a fantastic and gripping read and as I read it chapter by chapter as they each dried out with the aid of my hair dryer I became more and more engrossed in the exciting adventure.

‘The Brendan Voyage’ by Tim Severin tells the story of four men with a shared love of the sea who attempt to cross the Atlantic ocean travelling from Ireland to America in a handcrafted leather boat based on ancient designs.  As the blurb of the book says…

“The sixth century voyage of St. Brendan to America is the most fascintating of sea legends.  Could the myth have been a reality? In an Extraordinary attempt  to recreate the Brendan legend, Tim Severin and his crew embarked on one of the most hazardous and inspiring expeditions in the history of world exploration. This is the story of their epic journey.”

It’s compellingly and engagingly written and I found myself being carried along with and immersed in the journey, feeling fear and relief along with the crew, sharing their awe at unbelievable experiences and encounters with natural wonders.  I too came to love and respect the little curragh ‘Brendan’ made of leather, love and elbow grease (and a goodly coating of wool grease too).

The legend of St Brendan’s voyage to the new world was not one that I had heard of before, I don’t recall learning about it at school (but it didn’t take long after leaving school for me to realise my education barely touched on all the fascinating things in the worlds history). It fires the imagination with it’s epic scope and tales of wondrous sights and strange beasts.

It goes a little something like this…

St Brendan was a famous and influential saint in the early half of the sixth century. One day he was visited by another priest who told of a bountiful promised land across the ocean and he told that it was possible to get there and that Brendan must go.  So Brendan built a boat with a wooden frame and oxhide leather stitched together for a hull, he loaded supplies enough for 40 days, spare leather and fat and was joined by 17 other monks. In a supreme act of faith and trust in God, they set out from the west coast of Ireland heading for the new world. It was a long journey which lasted a total of seven years as they wandered from island to island having many strange and wonderful encounters along the way.  Eventually they reached the promised land, they explored and enjoyed the bounty of the land for 40 days before making the journey home.

All this having taken place over 800 years before the accepted arrival of Christopher Columbus!

‘The Brendan Voyage’ in it’s attempt to recreate and validate that journey made by St Brendan  and his companions all those centuries ago in no way diminishes the fantastical nature of their tale, but enhances it and gives it a modern framework of believability and credibility.  It proves to the reluctant mind (and reluctant academics) that a journey of its nature in a boat of medieval design made of leather is indeed within the realms of human achievement.  And if Tim and his crew could do it with the same materials in our times, why not a group of Irish monks in antiquity.


From the Galley: Chicken and Cheese Chimichangas

Posted in: From the Galley on Monday, July 16th, 2012

The 'before' shot

If you like burritos and tacos you’ll love these fried treats!

1/2 roast chicken

200g jar medium (we used mild) taco sauce

400g can of refried beans

8 soft tortillas

1/4 cup olive oil

Baby spinach

1 red capsicum cut into strips

1 small iceberg lettuce

1 1/2 cups of grated tasty cheese

1/2 cup of sour cream

Lime wedges, to serve

On the fry pan, two at a time.

1 Shred the chicken and place in a bowl with the taco sauce. Mix to combine. Lay tortillas on a clean work surface. Spread 2 tbsp refried beans over each tortilla. Top with spinach leaves, chicken, capsicum and 1 tbsp cheese.  Roll up tortilla, tucking in ends, to enclose filling.

2 Heat 1 tbsn of oil in large frying pan on medium. Cook chimichangas, in batches, adding extra oil when required, for 2-3mins, turning, until nice and golden in colour.

3 Cut lettuce up into wedges. Serve chimichangas with lettuce, sour cream and lime wedges.


This recipe looked so simple and easy and contained so many things we love we just had to give it a try as soon as we saw it. Which was funnily enough, as we were driving away from one Coles while I was flicking through the free Coles mag I saw the mexican delight, showed Ben and the decision was made to head straight to the next nearest Coles to get the ingredients.  We weren’t disappointed, it is as simple and easy as it looks and tastes just as good as i hoped it would.  I do have some suggestions if you plan on trying it yourselves.

    • They can be a little hard to wrap. This job should go to the one most skilled and patient in the kitchen, which in our case is Ben. Mine were okay in the end, but I got a little too obsessed with attaining perfection in the wrapping process and I got a little frustrated.
    • We recommend Mission tortillas over El Taco branded ones. We enjoyed the first batch so much we made them again the next night, but with one big change.  We used El Paso “soft” tortillas instead. They fried up a little different and had a different taste than the mission ones, and were harder to use.
    • Heat the tortillas prior to wrapping, if you can. We have no microwave on board and couldn’t think of a way to heat the tortillas before wrapping, usually they get nuked for 1 minute, so we used them as they came out of the pack.  I think this is why we had some trouble with them breaking and crumbling when we tried to tuck the ends in. The El Paso ones out of the pack were stuck together and hard to separate when cold.
    • Add guacamole! How can adding guacamole (or mashed avocado with sour cream as I make it) be a bad thing? Spread it over the refried beans for something extra. I haven’t tried it yet, but I will be next time.

The finished product, they tasted just as good as they look!


Unexpected Sights

Posted in: Marina Wildlife on Friday, July 13th, 2012

This morning while heading out for a walk, we got distracted by one of the coolest sights we have seen since we began living at the marina.  I usually check below the waterline on Tygress to check the amount of growth on the hull, and as you can see she has a pretty impressive beard at the moment from sitting stationary at the marina too long.

"The Bearded Lady"

A shot of the growth on the hull, she’ll need to be slipped again soon.

While looking her over this morning I spotted a streak of silver and black stripes in the depths. When my eyes adjusted they revealed an amazing procession of a large school of silver fish with vertical black zebra-like stripes swimming past underneath the boat.

The were just lazily cruising past, three to four fish across.  Every now and then one would swim on it’s side and what little light there was would catch the scales and they would flash a brilliant silver for the briefest of moments.  I called wildly to Ben so he could see  and be amazed too and we tracked the school along and under three berths. There were so many of them.   If only it had been a sunny day, they would’ve been dazzling!

The lighting was too poor for a decent photo otherwise I would’ve taken one to share, but once I had my computer in front of me it didn’t take long to identify them (in my opinion, I’m new to the art of fish identification) as what are commonly called Striped Scats or Selenotoca Multifasciata for the scientific types.  Thanks to Google Image search and the Australian Museum, linked below.

It’s hard to put into words the unexpected wonder of encounters like these, I give thanks that I can see sights like this outside my front door.  And it makes me curious to know what’s swimming below us right now.