Sunday, March 17, 2013

From the Galley: Decadent Chocolate Sorbet

My dad and a certain cruising couple we know have an almost incorrigible sweet tooth and they all absolutely love both chocolate and ice cream! When we recently saw a recipe for chocolate sorbet featured on Yahoo we immediately thought of them.

I know what you're thinking: ice creams and sorbets are a rare treat on board, but they really don't have to be! If you have a freezer box (or your refrigeration plate is cold enough make ice), you can make easily enjoy ice creams or sorbets any time.

The original recipe is from David Lebovitz's book The Perfect Scoop but we modified the techniques slightly to make it more cruiser friendly. He recommends using an ice cream maker, but we've found that you really don't need one to make ice creams or sorbets. Which is good since we don't have one on Phoenix, and you probably don't have one in your galley or kitchen either!

Aside from this recipe's simplicity, what impressed us about it was how rich and velvety it is, especially for a sorbet. The mixture of cocoa and semi-sweet chocolate is so decadent that you don't even miss the cream! And unlike most homemade ice creams and sorbets that need to thaw for 15 to 30 minutes before serving, this recipe is amazingly scoopable right from the fridge.

Whether serving at a gam or just for a special celebration on board, this dessert is guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser!

Makes about 1 quart (1 liter)

Decadent Chocolate Sorbet

2 1/4 cups water
2/3 cup sugar (David uses a cup, but we reduced it to 2/3 and it was plenty sweet)
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
6 ounces semi-sweet (or bittersweet) chocolate chips (regular or small if you can find them)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, whisk together 1 1/2 cups water with the sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Let it boil, continuing to whisk for 45 seconds.

Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate chips until they're melted, then stir in the vanilla extract and remaining 3/4 cups water. Transfer the mixture to a Pyrex or stainless bowl and blend for a few seconds with a hand blender. Let the mixture cool, then place your bowl in the freezer (or next to your refrigeration plate). Using a stiff spatula (we prefer silicone), stir the mixture every 30 minutes or so until it begins to stiffen to a scoopable consistency (a few hours). Transfer to a freezable (Tupperware) container, and either serve or store for up to 2 weeks -- if you have the restraint to keep it around that long!


Monday, March 11, 2013

Switching to LED Lights Without Breaking the Bank

Phoenix came equipped with older Aqua Signal Series 41 navigation lights (port, starboard, stern, steaming, anchor and tricolor). Bill cleaned up and/or replaced the wiring for each light, and we were really surprised to see the amp draw each light consumed when underway!

Despite our 940 amp hour battery bank, we like to keep power draw to a minimum so we decided to replace all of the incandescent bulbs with LEDs.

Regardless of age, all of the Aqua Signal Series 41 lights use the same BAY15d bayonet base bulbs. Dr. LED and other marine outfitters sell replacement LEDs for upwards of $40+ each. The rationale for the high price is that many of these bulbs claim to contain built in regulators, providing the bulb with a constant current and extending the overall life of the bulb.

Yet if you really look at these bulbs, they are essentially brake light bulbs that are available through many non-marine vendors. After a little research we found these LED bulbs at We opted for warm white rather than the cool (bluish) white option, but either bulb provides plenty of lumens (250-306) and is very bright.

Not only was the price right, but the people at EverSale had excellent customer service! Shipping was cheap and timely, and their staff was more than helpful. We originally purchased the BAY15d (offset pins), which is recommended for Aqua Signal lights and sold as the replacement through competitors. However, when we received the bulbs, none of them worked. After speaking with the staff at EverSale, we learned that the current flow was directional and backwards for our Aqua Signal lights, so we needed the BA15d instead.

Note the pin difference between the BAY15D AND THE BA15D

They immediately sent us the correct bulbs free of charge, along with a postage-paid return shipping label to return the original bulbs. The new bulbs did the trick. Now with the anchor light on, it barely moves the needle on our amp meter, and we may draw 3 amps when we have the running lights on.

I can't guarantee that these bulbs have an internal regulator, but at this price, we figure we could replace each bulb 8 or 9 times and before equaling the price of one "marine" LED bulb! If you are in the market for new LED bulbs, we highly recommend you check out They have a great selection, great prices, and we were really impressed with how much they care about their customers; very refreshing in this day and age!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Port Inserts: A Little Privacy, Please!

One of the great things about the Andromeda/Christina design is that the number of fixed ports in the hull provides extra light down below. On the flip side, with the boat's freeboard, the ports are exactly at eye level when you approach via dinghy, and provide a great vantage point for peering eyes from a dockside approach as well.

This became quite obvious to us last summer when some neighbors stopped by in their rib to chat and check on our progress. Mid conversation, one visitor exclaimed, "Oh, I can see your new salon table from here!" We smiled politely at the time, but knew that we needed to remedy the situation ASAP.

Neither of us really cares for curtains -- while effective they're just not the look for us. We wanted something that would prevent people from looking in, but still provide the light, airy look that we're striving for below deck. We wanted something that would blend in with, rather than detract from the white hull when view from outside, and that wouldn't draw your eye from the inside the boat either.

The solution: port inserts made of white Phifertex mesh, edged with 1" Heather Beige Sunbrella binding for a finished look and to prevent the mesh from scratching our mahogany port trim.

I love working with Phifertex -- it's durable, easy to sew, easy to clean, blocks UV rays and peering eyes but still allows some light penetration where you want it and doesn't obstruct your view when looking out the ports from inside the boat. Regular Phifertex blocks ~70% of UV rays, while the tighter weave Phifertex Plus blocks 90-95%. Both will provide excellent privacy while still allowing light into your ports (or hatch covers, cockpit enclosures, etc.). Textiline has similar characteristics and I'm sure would work just as well, though I've personally never worked with that material.

Now that we knew the look we were going for, time to make the pattern. I used scrap newspaper to trace the inner dimension of our ports (most were the same size, though 2 were slightly larger). I wanted a snug fit in each port and the newspaper was too flimsy to help me really visualize how the insert would fit, so I traced the pattern onto an old manila file folder to give me a new pattern that would sit firmly in the ports.

Once I was happy with my pattern, and knowing that we didn't want the Sunbrella edge to show from outside, we determined that we would need to add a small amount to the width of the pattern to adjust the fit once the binding was sewn in place.

Pattern with width adjustments

Checking for fit in one of the ports

Using the pattern and necessary notes, I cut out the Phifertex inserts, set up my 1" binder attachment on the sewing machine, and set out to work.

If you do a lot of canvas work, having a swing arm binder attachment really makes the projects and hems go quickly.

Swing arm binder attachment
The initial investment can be expensive, but it really saves time in the long run. I originally bought a 3/4" swing arm binder attachment, which I used on the 4-way wind scoop, but it can be a little small for many applications. The 1" binding does a better job for most applications. The stationary attachments are much cheaper, but the swing arm is nice because you can simply move it out of the way when you don't need it. Also, if you invest in one swing arm, you can buy the stationary versions (cheaply on eBay) in other sizes and attach them interchangeably with your swing arm. This will give you the flexibility to use various binding widths without breaking the bank.

The Sunbrella binding really firmed up the edges, and our new privacy inserts fit snugly in each port without snaps or any other fasteners.

Finished insert

Plenty of privacy now!

One note: at night, with the cabin lights on, you can see through the inserts into the boat, and your view out is obscured. Adding a cutout sheet of opaque plastic is a quick, cheap fix. Bill used similar plastic sheets in the opening ports when living aboard the Yorktown at a marina, and it helped prevent walker-bys from looking in as well.

All in all, this was a quick, easy way to increase our privacy. Unlike curtains, they didn't require any hardware installation, no holes drilled in the port trim or hull, and can be easily removed, stored and cleaned as needed. Whether at port or heeled over, they stay firmly in spot and this was a simple fix; wish they were all this easy!