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From the Galley: Pasta Caprese

Posted in: From the Galley on Monday, September 24th, 2012
Pasta Caprese

The finished product

A quick and easy pasta dish, Pasta Caprese comes from the small island of Capri in the Campania region of Italy. Although it uses few ingredients and simple flavours, the resulting dish is rather delicious, certainly one I’ll be making for a long time to come. Fresh tomatoes, basil and spring onions and a fruity olive oil are crucial in bringing out the distinct flavour of this dish, so it’s best saved for after a trip to the farmers markets (Jan Powers Farmers Market here in Manly is a great place to pick up fresh fruit and vegetables).

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 spring onion, finely cut
  • 3-4 fresh tomotoes, cored, seeded and 1cm diced
  • 250g mozzarella cheese, 1cm diced
  • 400g penne pasta
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • Salt and ground pepper

Steps

  1. In a large bowl, add olive oil, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, garlic, spring onion, salt and pepper and whisk until combined. A rather large bowl is essential as we’ll be adding the mozzarella and pasta later.
  2. Add tomatoes to the mixture and gently toss. Allow them to marinate for about 30 minutes.
  3. While the tomatoes are marinating, bring some water to the boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
  4. Dice the mozzarella, but make sure it’s nice and cold before we add it to the pasta and tomatoes, otherwise it’ll end up clumpy and chewy (not nice!).
  5. Drain the pasta, then gently combine the pasta and mozzarella into the tomato mixture. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
  6. Before serving, stir in the chopped basil and season to taste. I also add the leftover lemon juice at this stage, if desired.
  7. Dress with some fresh basil leaves.

Enjoy!

[Source: Cook’s Illustrated]

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The Galah Session

Posted in: Marina Wildlife on Monday, September 17th, 2012
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One of the things I love about my new home on the water is the frequent and close encounters with wildlife.

Having come from a highly populated and urbanised suburb on the northside of Brisbane my previous encounters with wildlife were limited to the occasional possum incursion on the back veranda, terrifying spiders making their homes in the backyard and pigeons and crows, the usual scavenger species of the cities. Nothing very remarkable.  In fact I went through life largely ignorant of the abundant variety and beauty of the wildlife that also called this beautiful state (Queensland) home.

That was until I moved out to the bayside suburb of Manly and made Tygress my home.  It has sparked a new found love of bird watching amongst other things, like a love of the calm that the ocean brings. My random encounters with cormorants, pelicans and other fascinating shorebird species is a highlight of daily life by the sea, and each one feels like a blessing, a gift from the universe just for me.

And it’s not only shore bird species that I’m gifted encounters with, a few weeks ago I was treated to a visit from a pair playful of Galahs.  Being Galah’s I heard them before I saw them giving me time to grab my camera.

Galah’s are a gregarious and raucous species of cockatoo which can be found all over Australia. Like most other species of cockatoo they can be found in flocks from 10 to 100 and form strong lifelong pair bonds, so it’s likely that these two visitors of mine were a bonded breeding pair which had parted from the flock to nest.  As they nest in the hollows of gum and eucalyptus  trees which are a common local species, they were probably nesting nearby and had ventured out in search of food.

They’re also quite a destructive bird. Being ground feeding seed and grain eaters farmers consider them a pest and they’ve been known to damage building facades and other items in urban settings.  These two were no different, worrying at the stitching of furled sails with their strong beaks, trying to chomp on rigging and swinging playfully on mast mounted antennae.  They stayed for about 15 minutes flitting from mast to mast, from our boat and over to our neighbours.

They were quite willing subjects for my camera, at times it seemed they were looking right at me and putting on a show.

When I was reading up on Galahs for this post a few quirky facts turned up.

Australian language is as unique and varied as it’s wildlife, and the term galah in Aussie slang is used to refer to someone being a fool, or silly person most likely because of the birds playful antics and the noise they make.

And it’s probably the Galahs loud and social nature that gave rise to the term ‘galah session’, the title of this blog post.  During the 1940’s-1970’s, the days before modern communication networks in the bush, women who lived on isolated cattle and farming stations would be allocated time for private conversations and social chit-chat over an outback radio network, which became known as galah sessions.  It served as a way to share information, to strengthen social bonds and to ease the loneliness of bush women who lived hundreds sometimes thousands of kms from the nearest township.

As it happens, ‘The Galah Session’ is also the name of a blog written by a Melbourne city girl who left the comforts of big city life for the adventure and challenges of life in the outback, in a town called Birdsville, population 100.  It’s a gread read, with well written articles that give a different perspective for those of us who’ve spent most of our lives in the cities and have lost touch with bush life and the characters that live in that harsh sunburnt place. Read more about Galah sessions in Kelly’s blog article below.

History of the ‘Galah Session’

 

 

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The Ships Cat

Posted in: The Ships Cat on Monday, September 3rd, 2012
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It is thought that cats have sailed the oceans with man since the time of the Ancient Egyptians. It is known they have served faithfully as companions, good luck charms, pest control and adorable furry mascots for naval men throughout history.  They were often much loved and respected members of the crew, as evidenced by those given their own little hammocks, their own little uniforms and in some cases military decoration for their faithful service.

When I began reading about the history of ships cats I had no idea of the many endearingly quirky  characters and stories that would make up that history.

Pooli in her service uniform

Like that of Pooli who served aboard a US attack transport during WWII.  She’s a veteran who earned three service ribbons and four battle stars, here she is proving she can still get into her old uniform at the grand age of 15.

Or there’s the story of Emmy who was the ship’s cat on the RMS Empress of Ireland. She was a ginger tabby cat who never missed a voyage. That was until May 28, 1914, when somewhat portentously  Emmy tried to escape the ship. She would not return and the Empress left without her. It is said that she was last seen on the roof of the shed at Pier 27 watching the ship depart Quebec City. Eerily, early the next morning the Empress collided with another vessel while steaming through fog at the mouth of the St. Lawrence river and sank quickly, claiming over 1,000 souls.

Convoy in his hammock

Or that of Convoy, the ship’s cat aboard HMS Hermione, so named because of the many times he sailed with the ship on convoy escort duties. Convoy was listed in the ship’s book and was issued with a full kit, including a tiny hammock where he would sleep. Sadly he made the ultimate sacrifice along with 87 of his crew mates, when the Hermione was torpedoed and sunk on 16 June 1942 by a German u-boat.

Nor did I know of the epic feats of endurance and survival that many ships cats went through.

Particularly that of Unsinkable Sam, previously known as Oscar, was originally the ship’s cat of the German battleship Bismarck. When she was sunk on 27 May 1941, only 116 out of a crew of over 2,200 survived. Luckily, Oscar was one of them and he was picked up by the destroyer HMS CossackCossack herself went on to be torpedoed and sunk only a few months later, on 24 October, killing 159 of her crew, but again, Oscar survived to be rescued. 

He dutifully went on to become the ship’s cat of HMS Ark Royal but alas, she too was torpedoed and sunk in November that year, the poor kitty just couldn’t catch a break.  Again, cashing in another of his 9 lives, Oscar was rescued, by this time it was decided for the best he would transferred to a home on land. By now known as Unsinkable Sam, he was promoted to the high rank of mouse-catcher in the Governor General of Gibraltar’s office buildings. He eventually returned to the UK to spend the remainder of his lives at a ‘Home for Sailors’.

And how could I not mention Matthew Flinders famous and loyal cat Trim, who was the first cat to circumnavigate Australia.  And whose words better to use than those of Matthew Flinders himself;

“To the memory of Trim, the best and most illustrious of his Race, the most affectionate of friends, faithful of servants, and best of creatures. He made a Tour of the Globe, and a voyage to Australia, which he circumnavigated; and was ever the delight and pleasure of his fellow voyagers. Returning to Europe in 1803, he was shipwrecked in the Great Equinoxial Ocean; This danger escaped, he sought refuge and assistance at the Isle of France, where he was made prisoner, contrary to the laws of Justice, of Humanity, and of French National Faith; and where, alas! He terminated his useful career; by an untimely death, being devoured by the Catophago of that island. Many a time have I beheld his little merriment′s with delight, and his superior intelligence with surprise: Never will his life be seen again! Trim was born in the Southern Indian Ocean, in the Year 1799, and perished as above at the Isle of France in 1804.”

While our ships cat may not end up circumnavigating the world or being torpedoed by Germans or be detained by the French and eaten by savages, our beloved Fluffy will take to the seas like so many of his kind before him and live a grand ‘ol seafaring life.

And that seafaring life began on a cold winters night when he made a stealthy trip through the marina in his familiar cage hidden under a leopard print blanket (no reason not to be stylish).  Management have agreed to turn a blind eye to his feline presence in order to secure our business.  Cats are usually frowned upon in marinas, as irresponsible owners have in the past let their cats out during the night to roam free over other peoples boats, peeing on canvas, ropes and decking.  But when they saw how resolute we were about having our furry crew member with us they relented and agreed to let him stay.

In response to their generosity we are committed to being the most responsible pet parents there are.  Fluffy is generally confined to inside the boat, but the last few weeks he has ventured more and more out into the cockpit, and climbed up on the spray dodgers, and most likely onto the solar panels if we let him.

That was over two months ago and it’s been a pleasure to watch him explore and adapt to his new home.  Every cupboard opened needed a walk through inspection and every surface is a new place to sit, walk over or jump off.

First Mate Fluffy

Inspecting the port side saloon storage cupboards.

Finding a spot for his food and water bowls where they don’t get stepped in is an ongoing problem.  He has the habit of pulling food out of his bowl onto the floor to eat, not a good habit to have when our flooring is a crappy old piece of carpet (until we can afford to redo the floors with this http://www.vinylteakboatfloors.com.au/).

Then there is the litter tray. On land Fluffy had a cat door because I hate litter trays.  But with him aboard there’s no avoiding having a litter tray, which thankfully he’s pretty good at using.  I say pretty good instead of great because he has had a few accidents.  It’s never a good sign though when he goes and sits on the top step near the fresh air after a visit to the tray, it’s usually the signal that he’s dropped a bomb and it’s all hands to their stations to deal with the threat.  And let me tell you that rank has it’s privileges when it comes to bomb disposal.  It’s not unusual to find me red of face, with my head swathed in a large scarf (for want of a full face gas mask), rubber gloves up to the elbow loudly proclaiming to the cat while scooping poop that if he drops another bomb he’ll be berlie for the bream quicker than you can say RSPCA.

But the horror of it all is forgotten the next adorable cuddle he gives me, he can certainly turn on the charm when he wants.  And like all cats he lets you know when he’s not happy. There’s been a few times that if it wasn’t for his patches of white fur or the tinkle of the bell on his stylish diamonte collar we’d never have found him hiding up the stern of the boat (or heard him up on deck when I may or may not have locked him out).

Inspired by my reading I have decided to attempt making a little hammock of his own, because a) it’d look super cute and b) now that i’ve thought of it I need to know If i can do it.  Hopefully if I succeed it will provide a safe place for him to chill either up on deck on a sunny day or down below when we’re under way.

He hasn’t had a taste of sailing yet, so we don’t know how he’ll react to the motion of the boat.  I hope he doesn’t get sea sick as I have read that some cats can and I’d hate for him to suffer because of our selfish need to have him with us.  But with that being said he’s our third amigo and we think he’s at his happiest with us.  He’s a gentle natured, loving kitty and our boat wouldn’t be a home without him.

One of his new favourite spots, on top of the washing machine peeking through the stairs

We’d love to hear about/from other sailors who sail with their pets and how they cope with day to day life aboard. Plus any tips and suggestions you may have for living with pets on the water.  

 

 

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Black Beauty

Posted in: Featured on Sunday, September 2nd, 2012
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Little Black Cormorant

I heard a large splash off the starboard side of our stern, at first glance I couldn’t see anything unusual.  Then I noticed the large shoal of baby fish that have taken to sharing our berth were schooling and fleeing in almost perfect unison.  Suddenly a large black shape was in amongst them and it was apparent why.  This beautiful black cormorant was having himself a fine feast.

Cormorants have large webbed feet which make them great swimmers and this guy was quick…and hungry.  He would dart through the school, dividing and devouring.  His slightly curved beak would be open as he chased the fish and then he would pop up and scoff down his catch.  A quick shake of the head later and he was back at it.

Here he is in action

What started as a shoal of hundreds of baby fish numbered only in the tens when he was finished.  I’m sure some would have fled for safer waters but I fear the rest became lunch.  It was a fascinating look at the circle of life in the natural world, and it was the closest I’ve had the opportunity to observe one of these beautiful birds.  I had no idea their eyes were such a bright green or their feathers so perfectly patterned.

He chased the school through a number of different berths until he had his fill and disappeared.  As cormorant feathers aren’t completely waterproof he probably went to find a warm spot to sun himself.  It’s not unusual to see a pair of black cormorants doing just that on one of the marina jetties.

 

A little black cormorant drying off in the morning sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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