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The Bakerman is Baking Bread

The wind is in the North West so we have it forward of the beam at the moment so are only managing 2.5 knots in about 15 knots of wind which is disappointing but we have been very lucky up to now so nothing to complain about.

We made 84 miles to noon yesterday. We’ve now done more than 500 miles without a mast and less than 1000 miles to go to Campbeltown which is where I’m doing my distances to. I may or may not stop at Campbeltown depending on how things are when we get there, there’s currently an area of light winds due in about a week but as a week is a long time in prediction terms it may not actually materialise. I have fuel which I’ve not used much of so far but need to keep some for the coastal areas in case of adverse winds and exposed coast lines so don’t want to blow it all getting somewhere and then finding myself needing that which I’ve already used.

We had a ship pass in the night. The AIS alarm went off so I had a look and it was a ship on the bow due to pass within half a mile in 15 minutes. She was visible fine to starboard. I put my side lights on (the only lights I have left, they are normally my steaming lights and I’ve not changed the bulb to an LED so it uses a lot of energy), we altered course about 15 degrees to starboard, I’m not sure whether she did or didn’t alter too as she should have but we passed at about a quarter of a mile apart which is fine but much closer than one normally gets to other vessels mid ocean. I was doing 3 knots and she 14 so my alteration would have been commensurately feeble.

Yesterday, having set up the ‘main’ sail and done some blogging I made some bread. I wasn’t anticipating any problems but hadn’t really thought it through. I had trouble getting the consistency of the dough right, it was too wet initially but with judicious additions of flour it came good. I was mixing it in the pressure cooker, the biggest container that I have, and aluminium is a lot stickier for dough than is my normal china mixing bowl at home. Having made the dough I then wanted it to rise and realised that the cabin temperature was too cold (I know it doesn’t need to be that warm, but it does if you want the bread for lunch!) so put the oven onto minimum. I don’t have a loaf tin so put it in a round baking dish, put a tea towel over it and put it in the bottom of the oven. I think that this is too warm, in any event instead of rising it spread out to fill the baking tray, and when I thought that it had expanded (I can’t say risen because it didn’t) enough I took it out to take the tea towel off. The tea towel had stuck to the top of the dough so when I pulled it off quite a lot of the dough came too and what remained started sinking in the cold air. Normally I’d want to put it into a hot oven but of course the oven had been on minimum and the cabin temperature and draught were not agreeing with the dough, so I put it back in the oven and turned the oven to maximum. This is not according to Elizabeth David’s recommendations. I managed to scrape off the tea towel, using a knife, around about a bread roll’s worth of dough so put this on another baking tray and covered it with a tea towel and put it on top of the oven for a bit. Once it had rested for about 10 minutes, I don’t think it had really risen, I popped this in the oven too. In any event it all came out fine, and tasted great, a huge improvement on sliced bread which had the additional encumbrance of being 3 weeks old. I had the bread roll with a big dollop of butter just before lunch. There is something magical about the smell of baking bread, it is such an evocative and delicious smell it cheers the whole day. I had the last of my ‘honey roast, wafer thin’ ham with lunch which was tasting a bit musty but I disguised this with mayonnaise and it needed eating.

One of the blocks (pulleys to landsmen!) which is used by the self steering to move the tiller seized yesterday making a horrible squeaking noise so I had to change it for another one, I’m running out of small blocks because I put one up the mast for the jib halyard. Whilst doing this I’d wanted to use the autopilot so that the boat could steer herself but all the instruments had been tripping out over the last few days more and more frequently and when I tried to put them on to use the autopilot it tripped off almost immediately so I had to manage without it. Having no instruments doesn’t matter too much but not having the autopilot would be difficult when / if I need to use the engine because the wind powered self steering doesn’t work with the engine. I tried turning off the autopilot thinking that the tiller drive mechanism in the cockpit maybe had got wet and was causing the problem but it wasn’t. It then occurred to me, being a bear of very little brain, that the wind instruments which had been attached to the mast had disappeared and there was a broken wire on deck exposed to the elements. I found the connector inside the boat and disconnected it and that seems to have been the problem which is a relief.

It’s a lovely day today again but there is still a horrible jerky motion in the sea which although it’s died down has not died enough to make life aboard comfortable. I’m going to have a wash, shave and change of clothes which is always a bit of an upcheerer.

I hope Alastair’s friend is not still struggling with his towel rail and manages to make it to the ‘Three Cheers for the Lifeboat’ rally at lunch time today off Gourock or Largs, depending. I’ll be thinking of them all.

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