Life on a Boat during a pandemic. Some things are the same. Some things are different. But one thing, is the past eight weeks have been unlike anything I’ve experienced.
Isolating on a boat
Weirdly (perhaps), I feel somewhat safer living on a boat. Maybe because our community is small and our boats are naturally isolated from each other. And with the exception of the shared washroom and laundry facilities, it’s easy to avoid touching communal surfaces. When I think back to our condo, I remember the stairways, elevator, doors and more, all shared by 30 or so units.
Our marina is also in a remote part of the city. So it’s easy to go about life’s necessities while maintaining social distance. And as long as we stay on the docks, we’re away from people walking or biking along the river (which seems to have grown exponentially during the pandemic).
Grocery shopping on a boat during a pandemic
On average I’d say we eat about 80% plant based (except for Handsome Hubby’s lunch and breakfast). So the majority of our grocery list is focused in the produce section which is usually well stocked. But we have a bar sized fridge. Until this pandemic thing began, I refilled the fridge once a week and we
almost always included at least one pub meal.
Before our province started to flatten the curve, I wanted to stretch the time between grocery runs as far as possible (and without pub visits). With some creative meal planning and advanced fridge Tetris skills, we now last about nine days before the produce bin is empty.
Not only has this reduced our grocery store trips, it opens up possibilities for our future cruises. Not needing to get groceries as often means we can stay out on the hook longer than I ever thought possible!
Socializing during a pandemic
Obviously, spending time in person with family and friends has changed. Handsome Hubby works in an essential service and therefore continues to go to work daily. So the last thing we want is any unnecessary exposure – both from him or to him. We’ve kept in touch with family and friends virtually and chatted with dock friends while keeping our distance. I’ve also enjoyed a few walks, especially when the spring flowers were in full bloom!
Sadly, our boating club’s annual rendezvous is cancelled along with some of the smaller events. Not to mention the Canada-US border is closed to non-essential travel so we weren’t going regardless. In the grand scheme of life, it’s not a big deal. Except it kind of is. Social interaction with friends is part a healthy life. But it’s not worth the risk.
Our life during a pandemic
Overall, we are very lucky and I’m grateful that. While COVID-19 touched near us, it has not been as devastating as others experienced. And with Handsome Hubby continuing to work, our day-to-day life is pretty much the same (minus the socializing and traveling).
I’m pretty sure I’ve never cooked as much as I have during this time. At one point we had a 32 day streak of not eating out! And since March 9, we’ve ordered take-out exactly four times (soon to be five). I’ve worked on dough recipes (hasn’t everyone?) and tried lots of new recipes and enjoyed many of our old favourites meals.
As things in BC start to ease towards the new normal, here’s a look back at life on boat during a pandemic
What We Ate – the Highlights
Using the smoker on the dock
When I met my Handsome Hubby almost 15 years ago, he had a wood smoker. In fact, his smoked ribs were among the initial attraction. But our condo prohibited wood burning items, so the smokers had to go. So for Christmas one year, I found a propane fueled smoker that gave him the fun of smoking food while adhering to the rules.
Serendipitously, this same little smoker fits on the boat so we are enjoying even more smoked goodies! And being home every weekend has led to some very tasty meals!
Smoked Oyster, Bacon and Spinach Pizza – Deep Dish Pizza Day
Covid-19 prevented us from going to our favourite pizza joint for National Deep Dish Pizza Day. But it couldn’t keep us from enjoying Smoked Oyster, Bacon & Spinach Deep Dish Pizza inspired by San Remos Pizza and Pasta in Port Coquitlam. Handsome Hubby had fun smoking some canned oysters and I finally succeed in making a pizza crust on the boat.
Ribs and slaw
Summer-like weather arrived in British Columbia in early May. Temperatures in the mid to high 20s (and that was on the water) and sunshine for miles. And seeing that we’re not taking our boat out while non-essential travel is discouraged, it was time for Handsome Hubby’s famous smoked ribs! Baked potatoes and spicy coleslaw were the perfect side dishes. And even though we ate it with pork ribs, the spicy coleslaw is 100% plant based.
There’s something comforting about those recipes that are old favourites. They are kind of like a hug – soothing and nourishing.
Bangers and Mash (Plant Based)
For the longest time, I didn’t really know what bangers and mash were. I’d see them on restaurant and pub menus and skip over them to my tried and true favourites. Then I tried them one night when Handsome Hubby ordered them. Boy had I been missing out!! But it’s hard to find vegan or plant based versions.
Once I stopped to think just what bangers and mash actually are, I realized I could make them myself – it’s such an easy dish. Now this bangers and mash recipe is a favourite of both Handsome Hubby and myself and a perfect comfort dish for a rainy night. Or a cool spring night. Or a late fall night. Or really any night.
Slow Cooker Pot Roast
I associate pot roast with Sunday dinners. Mom always cooked hers in the oven throughout the afternoon for a delicious family dinner. But since we cook with propane on the boat, I can steam up the windows pretty good with an afternoon of oven cooking. This Slow Cooker Pot Roast combines Sunday dinner with meal prep and steam free windows! Enjoy the ultimate comfort food and a week’s worth of sandwiches with only 15 minutes of work!
Veggie Pasta in the Instant Pot
Not going to lie. We’ve had this more than a few times during the pandemic. Usually on nights when I’m not in the mood to cook and in the past we’d head to the pub. It’s so easy, clean up is a breeze and the pasta is cooked perfectly every time! No more boiling water in one pot, heating sauce in another and using a pan to sauté veggies. And this veggie pasta comes together in less than 30 minutes with minimal effort from me.
Hamburger Helper out of the box was not something mom made when I was growing up. But I did try it when I first moved out on my own. I wasn’t a big fan of the powdered cheese, but it still tasted good (especially to a girl who didn’t really know how to cook). But eventually, it lost its allure and I all but forgot about it.
Then one day, I stumbled upon a recipe from Bohemian Vegan Kitchen for a stove-top vegan version. Intrigued, I set to work to tweak it to our tastes and make it in the Instant Pot. LOVE IT!!! Now ‘Hamburger’ Helper is a regular on the boat.
Butternut Squash Risotto
When we bought our Instant Pot in 2016, I was a band wagon jumper big time!! My only plan was to to cook dry beans without pre-soaking them. It was only after we purchased it, I started looking at what exactly it could do. This butternut squash risotto by Make Real Food was one of the first real recipes I tried. And it remains a favourite today!!
I love my National Days calendar!! Not only are they fun, but they help with meal planning and often inspire new foods and recipes!
National Hoagie Day – May 5
I feel bad for National Hoagie Day. For whatever reason, the hoagie shares its day with Cinco de Mayo! So we gave it the love it deserves this year. And in the process, found a great plant based hoagie recipe by Rabbits and Wolves and a hoagie bun recipe that works on the boat!!! Thank-you National Hoagie Day!
Shrimp Scampi Day – April 28
April 28 is National Shrimp Scampi Day. And did you know, scampi refers to shrimp served in garlic butter and dry white wine with bread, or over pasta or rice. So why not pizza? And specifically, deep dish pizza? This Shrimp Scampi Deep Dish Pizza is decadent enough for special dinners and easy enough for a Tuesday!
Ravioli Day – March 20
Sometimes a National Day is the perfect time to bring out an old favourite. And this Slow Cooker Ravioli Lasagna from the Kitchn fit that bill. We actually celebrated a week late, because my local store was initially out of ravioli thanks to pandemic panic shopping. It’s rich, warm and gooey – a wonderful vegetarian treat.
Restaurant or pub meals have been few and far between since the shut-down. Or really since we returned from Mexico with new resolve to eat at home more often.
Our marina pub is only open for lunch on weekdays and the rest require driving. But one of our favourites – Frankie G’s has served up some specials that we couldn’t say no to.
And after realizing how much $$ services like Door Dash take, we pick up ourselves and leave a good tip – we want them to still be there when the new normal begins.
Prime Rib Dinner
I intentionally stopped my streak of 32 days of cooking dinner on the boat for their prime rib dinner! And it was worth it!
After the success of prime rib night, I stalked Frankie G’s Twitter feed in hopes of a repeat. Instead of prime rib they featured a Lamb Shank Stew and it was equally amazing. And as I type this, I’m excited for another one of their prime rib dinners tomorrow!!!
Baking is one of those things I want to enjoy. I mean I love eating bread and chocolate should officially one of the primary food groups. But I’m still learning how to make it work on the boat. There have been a few failures and some successes like these below.
Chocolate Banana Snack Cake – Banana Day
Some people believe bananas on a boat are bad luck. And for sailors and those wanting to catch fish, this may be true. But for our humble Tollycraft, this is one superstition I’m choosing to not follow. So for National Banana Day, I made a Chocolate Banana Snack Cake that is super easy and really good!
White Sangria Berry Crumble – Blueberry Pie Day
To say that dough is my ongoing nemesis is an understatement. Recently there has been some progress made but I often cheat and make a crumble instead of a pie. And that was the case for Blueberry Pie Day. And I’m glad I skipped making a “real” pie, because White Sangria Berry Crumble will be a summer regular!
Making bread on the boat has been hit and miss to say the least. The same recipe works once but not the next time. Using my Instant Pot’s lowest yogurt setting for proofing seems to be helping. And this bun recipe by A Sweet Pea Chef has worked three times in a row (a record)!! So much so, I’ve stopped buying buns for HH’s lunches and making them instead.
Handsome Hubby’s Work Breakfasts & Lunches
We continue meal prepping HH’s work breakfasts and lunches. And we both enjoy this egg casserole – me because it’s easy to make and him because each one is different which keeps him from getting bored. A new addition that seems to be a hit is leftover baked potatoes chopped and added with the other veggies. Regular add-ins are sausage, mushrooms, onions, spinach, zucchini and cheese.
Sandwiches and the meat within are the main focus for his lunch. He’s smoked a pork roast, grilled pork tenderloins and just this week I picked up a small ham. When I do the math, this is still cheaper than buying deli meats and I’m convinced it’s healthier in the long run.
Also included in Sunday’s meal prep is Greek Salad for his lunch. Handsome Hubby LOVES Greek salad and it’s super easy to make.
We’ve completed a few boat projects that didn’t require lengthy or multiple trips to stores. Again, it’s just not worth it to risk our health or someone else’s.
A big project for us was adding solar power to the boat. We chose two 100 watt panels – we’re looking for enough power to keep the fridge happy while we’re on the hook and hopefully reduce our hydro bill when we’re at home in the marina. It wasn’t a hard project, just a bit time consuming to get the wires to run from the panels to the batteries.
Also, the cheap controller that came with panels does us no favours. So we’ve ordered a MTTP controller which should increase our solar energy input.
Last summer, when we tested our batteries we found our starter battery would need to be replaced sooner rather than later. And last week when we fired Shiloh up, the starter battery didn’t have enough juice to get her going. So it was time.
Our batteries are lead acid and require a regular check of their water levels. I don’t love that – I struggle to remember to water our plant (yes 1 plant and this reminds me to check on it). But I understand all batteries need to be the same type. And with our house battery bank in good shape, we’re sticking with lead acid for now.
So imagine my surprise when Handsome Hubby came home with a maintenance free lead acid starter battery! It’s like a plant that waters itself. It doesn’t eliminate the need to check the other batteries but it’s a start.
Years and years ago, we bought the kids hammocks they could hang in their rooms. They both enjoyed swinging and relaxing so much, that we bought one for the patio at our townhouse. There was also a spot on our sailboat that was just perfect for hanging out on the water.
Fast forward to the Tollycrafts and where to put the hammock. It flummoxed us for years – both on the 26 and 37. But my Handsome Hubby has solved the hammock problem. Using ropes and stainless steel poles and other fasteners, he created an easy spot to put the hammock. And it’s removable when we’re underway or need the extra deck space.
(And it turns out HH can grill right from the hammock!)
During our trips last year, our port engine needed a coolant refill after each run. Since we’re running new engines this frustrated me to say the least. But our heat exchanger wasn’t new so HH thought this may be the source of the problem. We were both happy and disappointed to find it is in good shape.
Now to find the source of the leak. When the mechanics finished installing our engines last year, there was a problem with the port engine and it’s gasket. Somehow, they installed it backwards. So there is a possibility that in installing, removing and reinstalling, it was nicked. In the next couple of weeks we’ll get to looking at that.
Could we have done more?
We’ve also done some general maintenance and little updates. Some days I feel I could be doing more. But I refuse to put others or us at risk by spending unnecessary time in stores. So projects like interior painting and exterior teak refinishing will just have to wait.
Our big adventures during this time include weekly grocery shopping and laundry. In the early days, I was so excited to visit the pharmacy to pick up my prescription. We’ve also gone on some socially distanced walks with marina friends. But other than that, we’ve stayed close to home.
As I mentioned our boat club’s events are cancelled and we generally plan our adventures around them. I am cautiously optimistic we can go on a cruising adventure later this summer. We’re thinking about Princess Louisa Inlet or Desolation Sound. And hopefully our September club events will take place.
Only time will tell when it’s safe enough to head out. We’re happy enough at home and love living on our boat. And scenes like this rainbow remind me this is only for now.
Stay safe and happy cruising!