Crossing the big blue

Painted murals of all shapes and sizes pepper the walls of the stone tombs that contain yachts like ours. They range from graffiti-like spray painted initials, to artistic masterpieces worthy of a frame and the flourish of a signature beneath. Various crew who have spent any length of time with their vessel in the Marseille shipyard decide to leave their mark in one way or another, with some long standing pieces dating as far back as 1997. So to ring in the end of our five week long stint, myself and Heather made the executive decision to purchase three tubs of paint, brushes, rollers, and nick the engineers’ grubby overalls to get stuck in to a bare piece of wall.

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All credit goes to Heather for the wonderful anchor, ribbon, and overall general design. The extent of my involvement is merely the names, which I managed to mess up three fold. Not only is the left hand side far thicker, darker and smaller than the right, but Rory’s ‘R’ merges with Will’s ‘L’, and there’s actually no ‘H’ in Christina. For that, I am eternally sorry, but I was a little bit hungover when we did it and the ledge we were standing on was actually rather narrow, such that it skewed my concentration.

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Before we left France for good, we wanted to stock up on seasickness tablets, hit up Primarni and I personally wanted to try and buy every single Nuxe product I could get my hands on. So we strapped into one of the two hire cars, everyone put their lives in my capable hands and I drove us to the Grand Littoral shopping centre. If we get into any sort of pickle with the cars, we are liable for up to $1000 worth of repairs. So this photograph was 100% taken while the car was at a standstill, probably while the security man was taking a lifetime to check our passes.

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Despite having enough ice cream to sink a ship onboard (ahem), we couldn’t resist the siren’s call of a large, luminous M, and ordered a celebratory round of McFlurrys.

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Fluffy bread rolls to go with pulled pork. This recipe is the best I’ve tried so far – they may look like they have a crunchy exterior, but were truly soft and pillowy.

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Continuing the bread theme, a batch of garlic & coriander naans to go with an Indian spread. Heather, our chief stewardess, loves nothing more than to utilise a load of leftovers rather than chuck it all in the bin. Her thriftiness is inspiring, as on these boats it is rather shocking to behold the sheer volume of food that gets thrown away. We had a fair bit of Ajo Blanco leftover from a lunch the other day, which is the Spanish chilled almond soup I keep banging on about. Well, instead of leaving it in the fridge for nobody to touch, I used it as a base for a pasanda-esque curry. Saute garlic, onion & ginger, add your spices and cook them out, choose your seared meat, add the sauce, bubble away and top with slivered almonds and fresh coriander. Et voila, a dish was created out of nothing.

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Spinach, apple, cranberry, pecan & poppy seed salad with a raspberry balsamic glaze.

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Blackened cod. Oh my goodness gracious me. Ever since my first visit to Nobu in London with my family, their blackened cod has gone down in my memory as the best thing I’ve tasted. Ever. I didn’t think it could be possible to re-create it at home (slash work), but when you have all the Asian ingredients in all the land at your disposal, it really can happen.

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Lemon, orange & poppy seed muffins.

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In an homage to the GBBO final, I whipped up a classic Victoria sponge. Ollie’s experience of working in the poshest afternoon tea hotel in Bath really came to the fore when the homemade jam I’d used was spilling out the sides. It turns out an old deckhand brought this jam with him from home a good year or so ago, and it wasn’t quite the consistency it once was. Nevertheless, it tasted bloody fantastic and re-instated my dream of one day working in the pastry section.

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On a slightly more experimental note, Heather ventured into the galley again (she openly harbours a dream of one day making the change from interior to crew chef, the pay cut being the only thing stopping her) and we baked up a storm. We had a load of day old bread to use up after a sandwich day, so set to making lemonade out of lemons. We happened to find a haul of good quality chocolate not being eaten in the crew mess, so we put them together and created a chocolate bread & butter pudding, finished off with a crumble topping. It was enough to make your insulin secreting cells pack in their job, but the crew lapped it up.

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Leaving our little home also meant saying goodbye to our beloved makeshift barbecue. On the night of Halloween, myself, Heather and Ollie were quite literally the only ones to get into the spirit of things. We pumped a spooky playlist out of the galley speakers, carved two pumpkins, one a classic grimace, one intentionally a pug, baked some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and made a feeble attempt at drawing spiders webs on our faces. As the clocks went back that day, it got dark so quickly that the engineers had to go and fetch their strong lighting so that we could see what we were eating, and more importantly make sure that the meat was actually cooked through.

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Ollie, Heather, Jhel, me and Maria.

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Ollie sadly left in the morning to spend a few days with family in Bath, before heading across the pond for a stint on Mylin. Our owners have another yacht, of practically the same size, so the three head chefs rotate out between the two (I’m yet to meet Steve, the third and most recently joined head chef). If we’re lucky enough to go to Miami this year, we may be docked alongside the other boat. It’s a bit like living in a parallel universe, and I’m hopefully going to meet my alter-ego.

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With the fridges, freezers and dry stores packed to the rafters, we flooded the dock that had been our dry home for so long. The water rushed in and filled up over the morning, until we started to float. Once sea trials were completed, involving something called ‘swinging the compass’, our first port of call was three days journey away, to the mystical island of Gibraltar.

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