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LIFE ABOARD THE GOOD SHIP LISTA!
Introducing, David and Katharine Lowrie
Katharine is the Ecologist.
She can be found with a pair of binoculars or telescope looking for birds and animals that pass the boat or land. She records the name of the animals and their behaviour.
David is the Captain or Skipper of Lista Light.
He can generally be found at the helm, mending Lista or looking after the ‘energy centre’: the wind turbine, solar panels and tow generator.
Katharine watching birds on the nature reserve of Islas Cies, Vigo, Spain.
....a sandwich tern, Baleeira, Portugal….
…with a common squid that landed on the boat near Morocco…
……diving below Lista to mend her planks…..
..and running down the mast after checking the top of it!
EL Jadida, Morocco, the old Portuguese Port. Little egrets.
Our mission is to protect, preserve, promote and enjoy the natural world.
Along the way we have been joined by a crew of travellers who have chosen to travel by sea rather than by plane.
The good ship Lista Light will ferry us under the power of the wind from Devon to South America.
Together Katharine, David and the crew run the boat: cooking, cleaning, washing, mending and sailing her from country to country.
Below Lista’s decks, looking from the sitting room (saloon) down to the bedrooms (cabins). Our parrot lives down here!
Looking down from the top mast (which holds up Lista’s sails) to Katharine and the boat below.
Imagine you are a bird and looking down into Lista Light’s insides, what can you see?
On board Lista we have two main power stations producing electricity:
The wind turbine; when its blades are removed, it becomes the tow generator as well. It is towed behind Lista Light as we sail and it works like a water wheel- with water moving at speed behind us, whipping the turbine round and round to produce energy.
We are a ‘closed system’. This means that all the power we need to run computers, lights or radios has to be generated by us, we cannot plug into electricity stations on land. We are trying to use diesel as little as possible, as green energy is clean, does not produce gases that add to climate change and is better for the environment. We also try and conserve energy by switching off lights and machines.
Sails mean we can use the power of the wind, rather than burning fossil fuels like diesel & petrol. Fossil fuels are found in the ground. They are made over millions of years & produce harmful gases.
Also in the engine room, can be found the batteries that store the energy we produce. A series of dials show us how much power the solar panels, wind and wake turbines are producing.
The solar panels.
The water tanks that are probably found in your loft, are found in the engine room. It is also the tool shed where we keep all the tools we need to keep Lista running. It houses the ‘spares’ for all the different appliances we have on board in case we need to mend Lista when we are floating in the middle of nowhere.
The other really important area in the engine room is the chart table. You should find this on any ocean going boat you visit. It would also have been present on the boats sailed by Christopher Columbus and Vasco de Gamo more than five hundred years ago. Instead of maps to guide you around the countryside, sailors have charts or maps of the ocean and coastline. They are based on longitude and latitude and show detailed information on what we can expect to find along our course, from depth of the ocean floor, to the location of light houses and potential hazards.
A Chart for the Inner Hebridee islands in Scotland
1. What is longitude and latitude?
What are the different areas in the boat? Why are they important? How do they compare to the rooms in your house and school? How is life different?
Can you find out where the energy used at your school and in your house comes from? What other types of energy could be used and how are they made?
How could you reduce the amount of energy that you use? How could you find out how much energy each electrical appliance (e.g. fridge, light bulb, washing machine etc) is using?
Can you work out what the longitude and latitude is for your house and school?
Before we set off we had to make sure we had enough food aboard our boat.
We had to think about:
· How long the food would be edible for.
· Being away from shops for a long time with lots of crew who need feeding.
· A balanced diet including: protein, fat, fibre, vitamins and minerals and fresh food.
· Finding food on our travels.
· Cooking at sea.
· Packaging, reuse, wastage.
It took a long time to find a place for all our food and provisions.
· LONG LIFE FOOD
· Tinned food: soups, butter, meat, fruit, custard, milk, vegetables etc. can all be preserved for months.
Tinned foods are, however, often high in salts, sugar and preservatives and create lots of waste.
· Vacuum packed foods-meat and tomatoes.
· UHT (Ultra Heat Treated) milk.
· Dried foods: fruit, meat (biltong), tomatoes, mushrooms, tea.
· Food preserved in oil and salt (tomatoes, meat, fish when caught).
· Naturally long life food: honey, nuts, eggs.
· Freeze-dried/processed/milled food: flour, coffee, sugar, pepper, spices, salt, rice, pasta, pulses, beans, cereals.
· Food sealed in bottles, jars and cartoons: jams, juices, alcohol, vinegar.
· Fresh food (see below).
· STORING FOOD
We cannot nip to the shops if we have forgotten an important ingredient on the open ocean, they could be days or weeks away. We are lucky that Lista Light is a large boat and has good amounts of storage; under bunks, seats and tables, wherever there’s a gap, we have filled it!
Our living area (saloon) is ‘ship-shape’ after we have stowed (found a place) for all the food.
We have to make sure that all the food we store is packed well to prevent damage or wastage. We need to know exactly where everything ‘lives’. The term ship ‘ship shape’ means clean and tidy and we have now learnt why this is relevant on the high seas!
· EATING PLENTY OF LOCAL, IN SEASON FOOD WHEN ON SHORE AND STORING IT FOR WHEN WE ARE AT SEA
In the past sailors became ill from diseases such as scurvy, which is caused by a lack of vitamin c. They did not realize that food such as oranges and lemons contain vitamin c or that a balanced diet was necessary to maintain their health.
Even today, sailors could suffer from such diseases due to unplanned, long periods at sea. On our travels we have to cross the Atlantic. There is an area of sea in the Atlantic near the Equator where the winds often do not blow, these are called the doldrums or ‘horse waters’. We could become ‘becalmed’ so need to make sure we have different foods on board to keep us healthy.
· FINDING FOOD ON OUR TRAVELS
Case Study, North West Spain
In North West Spain we found markets selling: sweet nectarines, peaches, plums, clementines, huge peppers, tomatoes and lettuces in season (September and October) and all produced in Spain.
Apples, oranges and cured ham from North West Spain.
The Spanish are very keen on meat (particularly pork that has been dried and salted (cured) such as chorizo). The market stores are full of huge pork thighs, sausages and salamis. Food preserved in brine (salt and water) and oil is also popular such as: olives, blanched artichokes, asparagus and fish.
All these foods have evolved to cope with the hot Mediterranean climate. Seafood dominates many markets. In Santander we found an entire market floor dedicated to fish and shell fish. Lobsters and crabs are often bought live in tanks and there are mountains of various species of fish piled upon ice.
Another speciality of Spain is ‘tapas’ which is eaten in bars, cafes and restaurants. Tapas is little savoury snacks eaten at dinner or lunchtime. These include: potatoes, omelette, olives, meat, fish and pastries.
Differences to Home
It was difficult finding dairy products in the shops, especially fresh milk and butter, unlike in the UK where it is an important, staple food. This is probably due to Spain’s hot climate, causing milk and butter to quickly go off. Special types of cheeses could be found and also yogurts. This is because cheese and yogurt have bacteria within them that allow them to last longer in a warm climate.
· COOKING AT SEA
We have a small gas oven with four hobs. This allows us to cook just like you at home. The main difference to your oven, however, is that Lista’s oven is ‘gimbalized’. This means that the oven can swing back and forward as Lista sways from side to side, so preventing saucepans from flying across the galley (kitchen).
The oven in the galley.
Being a ‘green’ ship we are determined to use as little fossil fuels as possible. We have a pressure cooker that allows us to cook foods such as rice and stews very quickly. This means we use less gas. We are also trying to find a small microwave that will allow us to cook with electricity produced from the sun, water or wind (renewable energy).
It is important that we can quickly find food when the sea is rough and when the crew are on night shifts. We have a snack box and containers full of water up on deck. Fruit, cupper-soups, couscous and pasta are all ideal for quick meals.
Fish are an important fresh food when we are far out at sea.
We do have a fridge, but it uses lots of power, is small and temperamental! We prefer not to use it too much and to eat local fresh food when we can. When we are sailing long crossings (like across the Atlantic) we will have little fresh food apart from fish and fruits such as oranges. We do not want to buy more tinned food because of the salt and additives used in making them. We are therefore intending to bottle our own meat, fish and fruit.
· PACKAGING, RESUSE and WASTAGE
We are masters of reuse, changing food into new meals where it did not seem possible. We do not throw anything vaguely edible away! We recycle: card, paper, tins, glass, plastic containers, drinks cartons and batteries. We have found good recycling centres throughout Scotland, Spain and Portugal. When we cannot find recycling centres, we keep it until we can. We throw organic waste (peelings etc.) over board for the fish.
Cooking on the boat.
We also try to buy food with as little packaging as possible and refuse plastic bags (‘no bolsa’ to the unbelieving Spanish shop keepers).Countries treat waste very differently. Ireland had decided to charge money for carrier bags to reduce the amount of bags taken by shoppers. Modbury, in South Devon is another example of where people have decided to make the town free from plastic bags.
Washing and peeling potatoes in sea water.
2. Do you know why plastic carrier bags can be harmful to the environment?
3. What are the doldrums or ‘horse-waters?’
4. Why is dairy not common in Spain?
5. Can you think which fresh foods we could have on board?
Food investigation: Look at the food in your cupboards, fridges and vegetable racks at home and find out where it comes from. Was it made in the UK or abroad? Is it ‘in season?’If it comes from aboard, where and how was it made and how did it arrive in the UK? Think about the environmental impact of the food: how it was grown, made, processed, packaged, travelled?
How does your life at school and at home compare and contrast with ours on the boat? How could you make your life more environmentally friendly? How could we make our life more environmentally friendly?
Humans’ basic requirements are food, shelter and water. Lista Light is our shelter from the storms and provides us with a bed to lay our heads upon. Water is the key to our survival. We can last without food and shelter on land for many days. We can only last for about 3 days without water.
Water, water, everywhere?
It’s crazy on a boat that there can be, ‘water, water everywhere’, but it cannot be used. The problem is that unlike the sea birds that can spit out salt from their beaks, people cannot drink salt water. If we did, we would quickly become delirious. We must therefore carry huge water tanks on our boat for all the crew to cook with, wash in and drink. We must regularly check them in case they become contaminated.
A common gull perches on Lista Light. Like other sea birds, it has adapted to living at sea and the salt environment.
Conserving water is a priority aboard Lista. We make sure we use as little water as possible by: cooking vegetables partly in salt water, washing in a ‘cup’ of water and collecting rain water in containers. We also have a large plastic sheet that funnels water from its large surface area into a bucket below.
There is much rain in the West coast of Britain and the uplands, such as here on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Clouds come from the South West and rise above the hills and burst producing lots of rain. Rain is stored in reservoirs and transported to the lowlands.
In the UK, where it rains a lot, it is easy to think that there is a never-ending supply of water to drink, cook and clean with. This is often not the case, however. In London, the aquifers (which are underground holes in rock that naturally collect and store water) have been pumped dry by humans and will take hundreds of years to refill. Many reservoirs have been built in the uplands (this is where a river has been dammed and big lake created) but these also can run dry during the summer or during dry winters. Much money is also spent cleaning water and stripping it of germs and harmful chemicals so that it can be used as drinking water. Indeed, in London, when you turn a tap on, it will probably have been drunk by at least five people before!
People are becoming more and more aware that water is not limitless and that it should be conserved. Houses and schools collect rainwater in tanks to be used for washing, to flush toilets or water gardens. Some people have built composting toilets where organic material such as wood shavings is used instead of water.
Find out how water is used in your house and school? When you unscrew a tap, can you find out know where it comes from and where it goes? How could you reduce the amount of water that you use?
Can you find out what the water cycle is and why is it important?
Lotty the dog visiting, sadly she could not come with us on our boat!
1. Our world is round and divided up like the segments of an orange into lines of ‘longitude’, running from North to South. These show how far West or East a place lies on the earth. The earth is further divided up by lines of ‘latitude’ which cross the earth from West to East. These show how far South of North a place lies on the earth. Together they divide the earth up like a chocolate bar and together they can be used to pinpoint exactly where in the world a place lies. On the boat, we use lines of latitude to find out where we are and where we want to go.
Whale watching in the Bay of Biscay.
2. During our voyage we have seen many carrier bags floating in the sea. As well as being an eye sore, animals can become caught up in them or eat them, maybe leading to death. Turtles, dolphins and birds have all become caught up in plastic bags. Plastic bags are a symbol of our ‘throw-away society’, they are made from oil (fossil fuel) and do not rot down. When shopping, try and remember to take a bag to collect the groceries and refuse plastic!
We must protect wildlife such as these common dolphins of the coast of Spain.
3. The doldrums are in the Atlantic on the equator where winds may not blow for days. This can cause a sailing boat to become ‘becalmed’, flopping around without only a breath of wind to push it on its way. These are worrying times when water and food is used up and sailors worry that they will never reach land. Historically, this was often the period when the crew started mutinies. This is when they plotted to get rid of the captain, to push him overboard and steel the remaining food and drink. Horses were often transported on the huge galleons to pull wagons on arrival in the new countries. During the doldrums the horses were often eaten by the starving crew or steeling mutineers.
4. The hot climate causes dairy products to go off (become rancid) quickly. Milk is generally heat-treated and olive oil is used instead of butter. Fresh vegetables, meat and fish are pickled to preserve them for longer. Meat is also cured.
Home grown apples, onions and cabbages.
5. Certain fresh foods naturally have a long life. Grapefruits have been the winners. We hanged up huge sacks of grapefruits bought from Gord Tancock, the local green grocer in July and they’re still excellent for eating in October! Potatoes and carrots (best home grown, organic and covered in dirt or from Rod and Bens organic boxes), onions, garlic, oranges, cabbages, leeks and apples also last for a long time. We will build boxes below decks in the saloon for growing sprouting seeds and herbs. We are limited in space for growing anything more than this. We cannot grow vegetables or fruit on deck unless they are salt tolerant. We have to make sure that the growing boxes are strapped in place, to stop the plants falling out when the sea is rough. We have also packed multi-vitamins in case we run low on fresh food on the long crossings.