Life Aboard Phoenicia
Stories of what it was like to live on Phoenicia by Danielle Eubank
  Cooking on the boat is an art, and one of my favorite experiences aboard Phoenicia. First you have to create a meal for 11 hungry people. Second, after the 5th day at sea, you have to create a meal that doesn’t rely on anything fresh. Finding the ingredients involves delving into the pitch-black bowels of the boat, past the billowing diesel bilge pump (and hole in the floor that goes all the way down past the ballast to the keel). Bending completely over, you have to maneuver the large wooden lids off the boxes that contain rusty cans of food, with most of the labels peeling off. Third you have to be able to cook the meal on one burner because the others are broken. (I had a whole routine for getting that thing lit. Another story.) Phoenicia under sail  
  Now let’s just pause here a minute. I don’t want anyone to think I take the gas stove for granted. Of course the Phoenicians didn’t have gas cookers 2,500 years ago, so I am grateful for the convenience. In fact, even on Borobudur (Philip Beale’s replica boat that was some 1,200 years newer in design), we had a more primitive cooking routine involving two kerosene burners that we used on the floor. The gas hob on Phoenicia merely has a personality. One burner that works, one that sometimes works, one that always works but only at a low setting, and one that never works.  
  Once the fire is lit you have to be able to cook while jostling to and fro, back and forth. The whole time taking care to not slosh any hot food about, or letting any roaches drop into it (I was told to always check the oven for roaches after an incident involving a dead roach on a pizza. Indeed I found one in my cup once. They often taunt the cook by brazenly crawling back and forth on the wall behind the stove while you are cooking). I could just imagine a whole series of Master Chef where the cooker rocks unpredictably. Phoenicia under sail  

Next, you have to choose the right pan. I always chose the one with the highest sides for fear of splashing hot oil on someone. Somehow I managed to deep fry bananas, although it was a white-knuckle ride the whole way. The best pan is a Dutch oven, serviceable for almost any meal. After you boil some rice or pasta, the need for creativity kicks in. What creative concoction of canned goods will satisfy your 11 hungry customers? Don’t forget to avoid any foods that some people will be deadly allergic to. NO LEGUMES for example.

  I think I was most proud of my orange-zest and cinnamon rice pudding with freshly ground nutmeg, or perhaps the garlic and clove lamb shanks roasted to celebrate Eid (made before the fresh rations ran out). Thank you to John, Suljan, and Yuri who volunteered to peel a mountain of garlic, and grate cinnamon and nutmeg with the cheese grater.  
  Set the table with utensils and plates. Be sure to allow yourself time to find all the spoons you can. By the end of my last leg we had precisely 3 spoons. I suspect there is a trail of spoons on the seabed circumnavigating Africa. Probably they were accidentally thrown overboard during the washing up process. Washing up involves washing and rinsing in two buckets of sea water on the foredeck, and cutlery could easily get left at the bottom of a bucket of dish water. Why the spoons tended to go missing more than the forks or knives is a mystery that I will never solve.  
  Finally, call both watches to eat, and enjoy. Thank goodness your 11 customers are hungry.  
  For more information please email  
  danielle eubank          




at the easel