I’ve made the cover of a national magazine… both cover story and the cover image are from our spring cruise last year. My first national sale. Should be out in the next week or so…
When we bought Never for Ever we had one major requirement: we wanted a turnkey boat — something we could board and sail away for most of year without having to worry about anything major. But it occurs to me now, so many years later, that at the time I had no idea what a “turnkey” boat was. Or what a good deal we actually got. And, it occurs to me after writing the first draft of this post, I never realized just how much we got — so apologies for the length of the post.
In the boat shopping phase I had compiled a list of “wishlist” items that I wanted with the boat. Not so oddly given my inexperience, many of those wishes are still unfulfilled and, as I mentioned in a recent post, priorities change and now I am not so sure just how much I am now willing to invest to acquire them. Check the end of this post if you want to see a selection of some of the more ridiculous ones. But my original wishlist notwithstanding, our intention when we purchased Never for Ever was to cast off and head north, at least to the Broughton’s and further if we were feeling adventurous. We wanted to be able to cruise with no home port for up to 6 months and not have to worry.
And that’s what we got.
I’ve watched a lot of Youtube videos in the last couple of years of people buying their first boats and you know, I have been surprised by the kinds of things boats can come without. And by the kind of work that has to go into some of them — even if they weren’t project boats. Before we bought, and over the years since, I have regularly checked in at YachtWorld and tracked prices, models and ages of sailboats for sale in the PNW. My parameters always change but essentially I look at 36-40 foot boats under $120,000 CDN. But I also keep an eye on boats under $50,000 to see what there is in classic boats that an extra $30,000 of refit would make cruise-worthy. This seems to be more of what the current crop of younger YouTube sailors are doing and their equipment lists vary significantly.
But what we bought was a $120,000 boat that was ready to go. And I want to do a summary of what was on Never for Ever when we got her and maybe rate items on a scale of frivolous to necessary.
There weren’t many items on this list.
- Reliable engine. We bought an ex-charter boat with 2000+ hours on the Yanmar. I had the opportunity to talk to the original owner and was convinced that it had been maintained and my reading led me to believe a marine diesel is good for up to 5000 hours. And so far it has proven to be true. I am not so worried about engine hours anymore.
- Solid rigging and sails: turnkey meant we could trust our gear while we were “learning the ropes.” We did spend a bit of money post-purchase on this but we were building on a solid foundation.
- Canvas. I new I wanted at least a dodger (can you buy a boat in the PNW without one?) and a bimini. One 2 week spring charter to the rainy Broughtons without one was enough to convince me. And as we were staying aboard over the winter, a full enclosure was high on the list. And that’s what we got. I definitely think this was the plus I thought it was going to be. I spend a lot of time in the cockpit and we sail a lot in the shoulder seasons. Just the side panels cutting the cold wind paid for itself many times over.
- Windlass. Actually I had no idea that so many boats were sold without a windlass or with manual ones. But given our two handed crew system, I definitely think it is an addition well worth having.
Some things I knew I wanted:
- Chain rode: 110 feet (120 feet now) of chain and another 300 feet of rope rode have made a lot of our anchorages comfortable and worry-fre.
- Outboard (and RIB): we got a nice 8 hp Yamaha that is just enough to get the two of us and our gear up on plane in our West Marine RIB. While I think we could do without the planing, it has made some of our explorations a lot more feasible. Now we occasionally get frustrated when there is a third person and can’t get up on plane. And the RIB? I would never get a non-rigid bottom—I have put enough holes in the pontoons as it is.
- Webasto hydronic heater: I love it. But would I fork out the $$ to buy such a cantankerous piece of equipment? I don’t know. There are a lot of other heating options that might make more economic sense.
- Robust autopilot: we got a tough chain driven autopilot and I love it. We have cruised without an autopilot and long days get much longer if you are always at the wheel (especially without an enclosure). And I have seen enough flimsier autopilots to make me appreciate how robust ours is.
- A good house bank: we have 450 amp/hours of batteries. I knew we wanted to avoid the expense of marinas as much as possible. Our bank gives us 4 days at anchor without having to fire up the engine. These days I think this really is more of a “must have” than a “wanted.”
- Midship cleats: such a small thing. But we have chartered boats with just the two of us and that middle cleat makes docking in difficult circumstances so much easier. Something I would immediately add to any boat.
- RAM mic: a remote, helm-mounted mic for the VHS really is a necessity if you are cruising busy waters. The ability to communicate with other traffic, contacting crowded marinas or even listening to the Coast Guard from the cockpit just makes cruising a whole lot safer in my opinion.
And there were some things Never for Ever came with that I hadn’t realized I wanted. I have subsequently seen a ton of boats that were sold without these “necessities” but they are things I personally would add almost immediately.
- Charger/inverter: she came with a Magnum with a remote screen — I love this thing. A 2300 watt inverter (that we rarely use but is nice to have) combined with high tech charging system for maintaining our batteries. We later added the BMK (Battery Monitor Kit) and it has made life on anchor so much less stressful.
- Cockpit cushions: I didn’t realize how much time I would spend in the cockpit and how quickly these would become a necessity.
- Closed cell foam: (in the the above cushions) it means we can leave them out and have a reasonable expectation they will be dry without having to have them dry in the sun for hours.
- High density foam mattress topper: our aft cabin was one of the reasons we chose the Hunter and the 3 inch memory foam topper was icing on the cake. It’s certainly something I would look into adding to any boat I was spending a lot of time on.
- Radar: I know, I know, but who would have thought there was so much fog on the West Coast? <head smack>
- Racor: it never occurred to me boats would be sold without a secondary fuel filter. Seeing the problems some of our boating buddies had fuel-wise I wouldn’t leave the dock without one.
- Screens for all hatches: well maybe all was an unnecessary bonus, but having some opening ports with screens really is a necessity.
- LED lights: Never for Ever came with 4, at least one in each space except the aft cabin and we quickly remedied that. Incandescents are a huge power hog and, despite the price of LEDs, if you are spending any time on anchor, they are worth the cost.
- Rail mounted bbq: I didn’t realize this was a necessity but it really, really is.
And here a few things, big and small, that we got on Never for Ever that have made life a lot easier, but I don’t think I would include them as “must haves” when boat shopping or outfitting.
- AIS receiver: when I finally got the Standard Horizon VHS hooked up to the chartplotter, it was great to be able to track AIS targets…just added a level of safety.
- Handheld vhf: the boat came with one and it sure is handy when we are off exploring in the dinghy.
- Campbell Sailor 3 blade prop: I am not experienced enough to know just how much benefit we get from this, but I will say the boat backs well and the prop gets lots of good reviews online.
- Autopilot remote: until it stopped functioning one day I never realized how much we used it. It’s nice to be able to huddle under the dodger and still be able to dodge logs etc.
- Boat manual: as an ex-charter boat she came with a manual that listed all the common systems and instructions for use. Not a necessity in any way, bit it helped us get up to speed quickly in those first few weeks.
- Forespar Outboard Crane: almost a necessity with the 8hp motor and it makes it really convenient for the two of us to get the engine on and off the dinghy.
- Backup Fortress anchor kit: we’ve never used it but this little kit with anchor, rode and convenient carrying bag is a nice addition to our tackle.
- 5 fenders, extra docking lines: who knew how much this stuff costs? You can always use them and it’s nice they came with the boat.
- Brass barometer: we love to track the changes and see how they relate to the actual weather.
- 4 speakers: what can I say, we like music.
- 2 sets of drinking-safe hoses: self explanatory and great to have at some marinas where hose bibs are few and far between.
- 4 life jackets: spares we don’t use but makes having guests easier.
- 200′ of stern line: in the PNW? Without one you are limiting your anchorage choices.
Hunter 386 Brochure
- Aluminum Boom Vang: I am not sure what the standard option would have been?
- Electric Anchor Windlass: see above
- Inmast furling: I’ve not seen a 386 without this option, but maybe they did make a few.
- Inner-Spring Mattress: this is a not option.
- Refrigerator/Freezer (as opposed to an icebox)
A Great Deal
So, quite the list eh? I really didn’t realize how well equipped a boat we got until I started working on this list. I have not seen a lot of boats for sale that didn’t include at least a few of the above, but I have seen an awful lot that that didn’t weren’t equipped with most.
Not Wanted on This Voyage
I will finish off with some of the things that were on my original boat-hunting checklist that didn’t make the cut. I am not saying that I wouldn’t want (or need) them if we were cruising in different waters but for now they have become extravagances I mistakenly thought I would need.
- Fitted sheets (And we didn’t even sleep in the v-berth!)
- Hammock (Really? This was on my wishlist?)
- Watermaker (In the Salish Sea? Because freshwater is so scarce?)
- Drinking water filtration system (see above)
- Generator (Still dreaming, but such a luxury)
- Solar panels (Still, still dreaming… I think…)
- 100 amp alternator (Sell, not the worst idea but oh, the expense.)
- Wifi booster (because I wanted to stay connected? Sheesh.)
- Davits (I think I was in a lazy phase)
- Code zero (Sail envy is a thing!)
- Fender socks (Because they look tidier?)
- AIS transponder (Oooh, an electronic toy!)
- Folding wheel (What was I thinking? Oh right, that crowded cockpit on the Bavaria 33 we chartered…)
Well I finally got around to finishing my videos of our Spring 2017 cruise to Desolation Sound and the Gulf Islands. I have been working on them since we got back, but could never bring myself to invest the energy to just finish them. As a result the final product looks (and sounds) a little rushed and unpolished. But they are done in time for me to start contemplating 2018 videos…so that’s a plus.
A few notes. I wanted to use maps and realized that technically speaking I couldn’t use anyone else’s without violating copyright. So I decided to build my own BC coast map based on several sources. A fun way to refresh my Abobe Illustrator skills. Then I animated them using Adobe After Effects. After a lot of hours, I came to the conclusion that I was doing things the hard way again. But c’est la vie — I learned a lot about what not to do. And they worked out pretty nicely. The whole thing was put together using Adobe Premiere.
I shot everything on my iPhone 5, Nikon Coolpix L80 and SJCam GoPro knockoff. I then used my iPhone 7 for the voiceover. I tried writing a script, but it came out worse than if I just winged it. So I wung it. And it shows. I was however, surprised at the quality and if I concentrated when actually speaking it was pretty damn clear.
Our cruise was 8 weeks so I divided the videos up into 1 week episodes (except for the week on the hard), so 7 in total. I also shot footage on a very sporadic basis because I was often too busy enjoying myself to remember.
Anyway, I now have even more respect for all those YouTubers out there. Enjoy.
—Bruce #Cruising, #Posts
I mentioned in 2018 Wishlist post that getting our Scuba certification was something I had wanted to look into. I like the water and generally prefer to be under it than bobbing around on top so diving seems like a natural for me. And there have been several times in the boat ownership experience when being able to work on the boat below the waterline would have been helpful: checking/changing zincs, removing a tangled dinghy painter etc.. And snorkling without a wetsuit is often contra-indicated in our chilly water.
Against that I know I have control issues, mild claustrophobia and ears that don’t much like the deep end of the pool. I also remember reading Matt from Gudeon’s blog posts (SCUBA DIVING IN THE OCEAN IS FUCKING TERRIFYING) about when he got his certification in Victoria — the kind of creeping panic he experienced on his first dive is something I can really relate to. Maybe I don’t really want to do this? But why let that stop me?
The process of learning to dive goes something like this: you take an online study module (which in recent years has replaced classroom study), then do 4-6 hours of diving in a pool with instructors. After that’s done you have to do 4 separate open water dives over 2 days. If you pass you are certified to dive in open water down to 60 feet. There are several certifying agencies of which PADI (Professional Association of Divers) is the most prevalent. So I got it into my head that we could do all the school and pool work here in land-locked Edmonton and then do our open water dives on the coast this June. And since we’re going to be in one of the coast’s most beautiful places (the Broughtons), why not do our dives there?
Unfortunately there are no PADI dive schools in Port McNeill. Fortunately there is Sun Fun Divers. I contacted the owner, Steve Lacasse, who is a NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors) instructor and he said he could do the instruction there, using the McNeill pool, and we could work the open water dives around our sailing schedule. We’d actually get to dive in the beautiful waters of the Broughtons: cool!
But for me, the panic/fear thing was a bit of a worry — so I went back to the local dive shop’s website (Ocean Sports) and found they offered a Discover Scuba package for just $60. This got us all the gear, an introductory booklet and around 2 hours of diving time in the pool. Perfect. So we signed up and Tuesday night had our first taste of breathing underwater.
It was a great experience and we had a great instructor. Not to say I wasn’t hesitant, twitchy, mildly terrified and prone to idiotic mistakes…because I was. Leslie, on the other hand, was a natural. Afterwards she compared the experience to our first time climbing: an experience that for me it was a real hoot as I had no trouble with the heights or the gear and complete faith in the system; but for Leslie, she kept having to remind herself she could trust the gear (and me) and balance intellectual knowledge with visceral reality. Diving for us had the roles exactly reversed. There is something just not right about dipping your face in the water and continuing to breathe. And the Golden Rule of Diving is never hold your breath, so you could see how my brain might be at odds with the procedure — and it was. Leslie, meanwhile, took to the system like an eager fledgling jumping out of a nest.
But I got over it. Mostly. We started with a few beginner skills: clearing your mask, recovering your regulator, equalizing your ears, learning to use the BCD (buoyancy control device) etc. Recovering my regulator was something that took me a few tries to master since, according to the Golden Rule, you can’t hold your breath while trying to recover the damned thing. I didn’t swallow too much water.
After the skills bit and some practice kneeling, and breathing, on the bottom of the shallow end, we left it behind and glided slowly to the bottom of the deep end. You have to take long steady breaths (a lot like yoga) and try to equalize the pressure in your ears every meter or so — NAIT’s deep end is around 4 m so that’s at least 4 times. Again, I had trouble keeping up and was having to really work at it: my ears started to hurt before I achieved equalization and I was always playing catchup. But eventually I got it so it was comfortable. On the bottom, the instructor threw a small toy torpedo at us and had us pass it back and forth for a bit. It’s a great device because it forces your brain to concentrate on things other than not drowning and remembering to breath, and helps prove to your subconscious it’s all going to be ok.
An hour and a bit later we left the pool with my tank nearly empty and Leslie’s still half full—a sign, said our instructor, that I was a bit more anxious than she was since that uses up more air. Leslie had a huge smile plastered across her face. I think she liked it. Me? Well it didn’t kill me, I didn’t panic, and I really do want to try it again. But I am still not sure I could commit to adding the salt water ocean, the dark, fish, currents and cold into the mix after only a few more hours in the pool. Maybe I should just take this intro course six or seven more times… 🙂
It’s an odd experience: as unlike swimming as BBQing is like using a microwave. Surprisingly (even after they tell you), there is not much crossover between swimming and diving. Even the act of maneuvering underwater with all that mass and using only the fins has very little in common with swimming underwater normally. And all the while you are expelling bubbles and breathing in compressed air, feeling the pressure of the water on your body in a way that is subtly unlike anything you have ever experienced, and operating in 3 dimensions which you suddenly realize you don’t actually do when swimming. If you are like me, every time your concentration slips from doing it, back to thinking about it, you have to wrestle with a sudden urge to head for the surface. Which, thankfully, I managed.
And there is the quandary. We’d like to try again. And I have a reasonable expectation I will succeed. So we can go ahead and commit to this year, spend $540 apiece to get certified in Port McNeill although this will eat into our cruising time, run the risk of me not really wanting to complete the course in such a short period of time, and mean we are adding another grand to this year’s expenses, which might not be our best choice. Alternatively we can do the online/pool stuff here for around $399 each, gain more confidence and wait until we are in Nanaimo again to spend around $200 to $300 for our open water dives, which, money-wise, is a worse choice but at least spreads the costs out over two years. We can also wait until later in the summer and try to do the open water dives in a local lake, completing everything here in Alberta. Or just let it go for a year or two…
So we still aren’t sure if we want to commit to doing our diving certs this year, but I am pretty sure we are going to give this a go eventually. Leslie just enjoyed it too much.
So the 2018 sailing season is rolling around and it time to consider, or reconsider, the things I might want to get done this year. Perusing last year’s list I notice I hardly added anything from my wishlist. In the end it came down to cost and convenience vs necessity. We are starting to get used to this once-a-year cruise idea and our priorities have shifted a bit. The “toys” are slipping down the list and small conveniences don’t seem to be as important anymore.
The big “issue” for me has always been power. We took almost 2 months off to cruise and, while I admit that we would have preferred to stay and extra night or two in a couple of anchorages, it turns out we had enough battery power to get the most out of most of the anchorages. The early spring weather worked in our favour as we tended to spend 2 or three nights in a place rather than being sucked in my sun and warmth and trying to eke out 4 or 5. And contrary to expectations the winds were light so we motored enough to keep the batteries charged up without having to resort to marinas too often.
But, be that as it may, we do have a few things to work on this year and a few new things I want to investigate. Being over a 1000 km away from the boat is a pain.
- The crew at NYCSS replaced the oars on the dinghy and they were too long—rowing was almost impossible…and we like rowing. A couple of minutes with a hacksaw will fix that…if I remember to bring my hacksaw.
- I need to check the automatic bilge pump. There was a lot of water in it when we went for that short rainy cruise in October last year. But I didn’t have time to check the switch. I mentioned it to NYCSS but I don’t know if they looked into it.
- A rubber seal on port aft locker was coming off. A bit of glue will take care of that.
- The hydraulic arms on the fridge and freezer lids were shot so NYCSS removed them for safety reasons. I bought two new replacements and need to install them.
- The 30 amp power cord has a burnt end. Which is a pain because we were super careful with it and never had an issue. I guess this is just one of those “charter” things we will have to just swallow.
- One of the board supports under the settee had broken loose so the lid sagged. Some glue and a clamp or two will fix that and prevent it from worsening.
- I want to measure up my sinks and see if I can get my wood-working brother to make me some custom cutting boards to fit in them.
- I really want to check my VHF antenna. I read about a few DIY tests and if necessary I would like to get a SWR Meter. I had replaced a connection below the mast a few years ago but there was a lot of corrosion and while I get decent reception I am suspicious its not as good as it could be.
- I really want at least one 12v or USB plug on the binnacle. And while I am at it why not add some to the aft cabin, v-berth and at least one more in the salon. I did something similar to NorthWest Passage before we took her down south so why I haven’t done it for my own boat I really don’t know.
- I have been working a lot in stained glass. Why not do a custom piece for the boat? So I would need to find a place and do some measurements, maybe make a template or two.
- I want to finally trace & document all the navigation-related and NMEA wiring. It is no use sitting here dreaming if you don’t actually know what is in place on the boat. I spend a lot of time dreaming about adding some cheap wifi… (http://en.usr.cn/Wifi-Serial-Server/WIFI-RS232-RS485-Ethernet-Converter.html).
- I am looking into acquiring some kayaks. NYCSS rents them for somewhere around $150/week which makes me conclude I should just buy my own because it will be cheaper in the long run. Or should I try SUPs (stand-up paddle boards)? I just think some of the more isolated and picturesque anchorages might be nicer to explore by kayak rather than dinghy. Maybe I can rent them out when we aren’t there?
- I noticed last year the transducer speedo wheel had a broken paddle. I talked to Ian about it and he said he might have one kicking around. Otherwise I need to grab the spec’s and spend some time find an affordable replacement.
The Dream list…
- PADI dive certification. I would really like to get the course and pool work done here and then do the dives on the coast this year. It’s a long shot due to costs and scheduling but it’s something that has been on the bucket list for a while.
- That pesky portable generator. Still on the list. Still waffling. I have been hearing good things about Ryobi’s and they are a couple hundred less than than the omnipresent Honda’s and Yamaha’s so you never know, but it is so unlikely.
Reading other people’s blogs and watching others YouTube videos I realize we really did luck out with this “turn-key boat. When I sift through Yachtworld dreaming about my “forever” sail-around-the-world boat I realize how much investment we would have to make just to get all the stuff I have been slowly coming to think of as “normal.” I think my next post is going to be about all the things I love about Never for Ever and all the stuff she has.
So we’ve booked off our time for the boat…and guess what! We’ve got enough time to make it to the Broughtons without killing ourselves, so as of now that’s the plan.
Yup, that’s right. We have almost the whole month of June to use Never for Ever ourselves and we are finally heading north again. We visited have the Broughton Archipelago twice —once with a Cooper Boating flotilla in 2014 aboard a charter boat and again in 2015 right after we boarded Never for Ever for our year-long seabbatical. And we have been itching to go back because it is chock full of culture, wildlife and oh so much nature.
So the plan (and it is still a plan right now) is to board around June 4 and sail north like the dickens to get past the tidal rapids as soon as feasible and then slow down for a leisurely tour, hitting some old favourites and hopefully ticking some new ones off the wishlist.
Things to do before we go?
What might interfere with that basic plan is that I have a few things I kind of want to do out on the coast and they will take time that I am reluctant to give. L and I want to take the test for our ICC certification (International Certification of Competence ) because some day I am going to go sailing in Greece and Croatia and increasingly a lot Mediterranean countries are looking for some sort of official certification.
I also want to look into getting our PADI dive certificates. We can do the course work and pool dives here but we would still have to do our open water dive. And I am really leaning towards doing the whole shot out on the coast because we could get the drysuit qualification at the same time for just a little more cost.
And then there is the Hunter Rendezvous (June 7–10 at Thetis Island). The timing sucks if we are going north, but we have been telling ourselves we wanted to go again and it really was a fun weekend.
So where to we want to go back to? Here’s the list of our favourites that qualify as must see’s in our books:
- Kwatsi Bay, Sullivan Bay and Pierre’s at Echo Bay — three “resorts” that are chock full of boaters and fun and make up part of the quintessential “Broughtons experience.”
- Waddington Bay — a stunning anchorage in the archipelago proper that we visited with the flotilla (and therefore stuffed to the gills with boats) and I would love to spend more time in.
- Alert Bay — this is a ferry ride from Port McNeill and the U’mista Centre is a must see for everyone. And in our case, a “must see again.”
I have been reading through other people’s blogs and flipping through Waggoner’s and started on a long list of potential spots I want to visit. But the following have been on this list for years.
- Shoal Bay & Telegraph Harbour — these are technically on the way up. Shoal Bay has been getting more and more attention and I would love to visit this idyllic little spot before it becomes really popular and some of the charm rubs off. Telegraph Harbour is a place we have been to by car and I just want to be able to say I sailed there.
- Jennis Bay — another one of the quintessential “resorts” in the Broughtons but one we haven’t made it to yet. Tucked up Drury Inlet past Stuart Narrows it takes a bit more timing and effort to make it to. But it’s on the list.
- Glendale Cove (Knight Inlet) — this cove is home to a grizzly watching outfit. Need I say more?
- Booker Lagoon — I don’t know why I have always wanted to go to Booker Lagoon. Maybe because it’s a lagoon and I am from the Gilligan’s Island generation? Regardless I do and I fully intend to. Its supposed to be beautiful.
On the Maybe List
The rest are on the list mostly based on research and other’s journeys. I am open to suggestions, so if you have any, add them to the comments. I will also leave a list of places we have already been (and may go back to) just for your edification.
- Blunden Harbour (in Queen Charlotte Sound) — I hear it is wonderful and peaceful.
- Goat Island (Crease Island) — near enough to Village Island for a dinghy visit?
- Nimmo Bay — is hidden behind some faster water and also home to a really fancy resort. But we just want to visit the bay and hang on the hook for a while. We’ll save the spa for another day.
- Joe Cove, Eden Island — sounds like a classic Broughton anchorage.
- Laura Bay (east side of Greenaway) — Convenient location with a lot of recommendations.
- Greenaway Sound (trail to Broughton Lake) — the old resort is now gone but the hike is supposed to be fun.
Cordero Islands, Blind Channel, Port Neville,Port Harvey, Lagoon Cove, Potts Lagoon, Growler Bay, Village Island, Shawl Bay, Ladyboot Cove, Tracey Harbour, Claydon Bay, Turnbull Cove, Pot McNeill, Sointula
“Strength grows from building other strength, not from trampling weakness.”
— Eric Flint
It seems I will NOT be posting everyday in 2018. It sure doesn’t take much to get behind. Oh well, I’ll continue to try and hopefully there will be more posted than just my Instagram and Twitter updates…
How about a random picture?
A year and some ago C said “We should try some cocktails.”
We said “Ok.”
She said we should take pictures. Maybe have a website.”
We said, “Uh…ok.” We are so articulate.
“She said “Try this…”
We did. It was good. And boozephiles.com was born. We also added @theboozephiles on Twitter and theboozephiles on Instagram. So once a week we gather, try a new cocktail and occasional make faces when it doesn’t suite the tastes, palatesor sensibilities of one of us.
That was 67 drinks ago and we are still going strong. So tag along if you want to discover some wonderful new concoctions or learn about some old ones. And let me know if you have any suggestions.
I mentioned the other day I was working on my sourdough skills.
Loaf #3 looked like it was going to be a complete failure (no rising action, so I feared for the denouement…) so while I didn’t completely abandon it, I decided to start a new levain so I could try again on Sunday morning. Upon waking Sunday am, the first batch had risen magnificently so I shoved it in a hot oven and 40 minutes later I produced this:
But that left me with a fresh levain all puffed up and ready to go. So I decided to go ahead and make another loaf.
So I suppose a bit of background info and vocab is in order. Sourdough is made from a sourdough starter which is just flour and water that has been left out and fed regularly with more flour and water until it attracts enough of the natural yeasts in the air to start reacting without additional yeast. Once you have a good starter going you can store it in the fridge and feed it once a week or so (with flour and water) indefintiely.
When you decide to make bread, you take the starter out, feed it up for a day or two or three (again, flour and water…getting the trend here?) to make sure it’s going again. Then take a tablespoon or two, add more flour and water and let it sit overnight. This gives you a levain which is what will go on to form your bread dough. The starter just goes back in the fridge until next time. The levain is then used, with even more flour and water, to form a wet dough which you allow to rise (this stage is called autolyse) for an hour or so. Then you add salt and go on to make the bread in a fairly traditional manner. It kills me that this stuff is, other than a tablespoon of salt, completely 100% just flour and water. Ain’t science cool.
The first loaf was a boule (round, french-type, bread thing) which I made in a preheated dutch oven, but for the second loaf I wanted to try something different. I decided to form it while it was rising and then stuffed it into my oven — on parchment paper — using the proofing setting with a bunch of boiling water in pans. What do you know, 4 hours later the loaf had risen fairly well. I then moved it to a Staub casserole, scored the top (to let out the steam that causes a quick rise in the initial part of the baking) and popped it back into the oven at 475° or so.
Voila. The temps and cooking times varied and I will have to experiment a bit more to nail down the process but they both turned out fine. Loaf #1 had a bit more “sour” to the sourdough, but they say that happens when you let it rise longer.