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Old 07-01-2011, 01:38   #1
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The Saga of the Bread Loaf

Leaving the Pillars of Hercules and the fleshpots of Gibraltar behind we headed out into the North Atlantic. A boisterous Force 6 on the nose gave us a wide awakening plus a good soaking as we clawed away from the coast. The skipper spotted a much larger ketch to seaward and the race was on. Harsh orders where barked for the yacht to be converted from sloop to cutter rig. The large jib, which had made a very comfortable double bed in harbour, was now dragged up on deck. The vicious highfield lever resembling a huge mousetrap slammed closed on the deck and the No 3 raised. However, it was all to no avail, the large ketch left us standing much to the disappointment of the skipper who promptly retired to his berth with his favourite green bottle of Gordons, to reminisce about the Southern Ocean and his now departed strong black plastic bucket.

After a week of travelling south west with the weather improving each day, a volunteer was sought to fetch a loaf of bread from the lazarette. Now a Nicholson 55 may be a big yacht, but twelve crew are expected to live in a space no bigger than a four berth caravan. However, the huge lazarette takes up at least a third of the remaining boat. Accessed by a large hatch at the stern our volunteer lowered his way down into the dark and gloomy subterranean world. His eyes struggled to make out the vast range of stores kept for all sorts of emergencies. He crawled forward over a mountain of fenders and ropes as thick as his wrists towards a series of shelves before finally stumbling on his goal. The large orange sunblest basket did still contain loaves of bread, however, the smell reaching his nose told a sorry tale. For several days now the cook had been cutting off the mouldy crusts and combined with a long spell under the grill reducing the bread to charcoal meant the crew were blissfully unaware of what they were eating.

As each loaf with green patterns and a pungent smell were raised out of the lazarette, the Mate declared them unfit and consigned them to Davy Jones’ Locker. Finally, with the tray empty the volunteer desperately scrabbled around in case one had been missed. Instead, he came across a large heavy black plastic sack and asked the Mate what it was. The Mate peering into the gloom said, “That is a body bag, put it back or you will be using it later!” The young crewman fearful of the Mate, quickly did as he was told.

Pressing further into the darkness, the young sailor spotted another smaller plastic packet high up on a top shelf. Intrigued he pulled it down as his eyes just made out the words on the label. “BREAD MIX”

Astonished he quickly called for the Mate again who asked for it be passed up on deck. The crew crowded round to see the exciting discovery. Faded and torn the label did indeed have the words ‘bread mix’ written in large bold print, an even longer naval part number and the familiar MOD crowfoot emblem. Finally, a date could just be made out, January 197- but the final digit was missing. The Skipper advised that it had probably been there for at least a decade but try it if you want. The package was quickly opened to reveal two smaller packets and a set of brief instructions.

Mix Packet A with a quart of clean seawater until a smooth paste is achieved. Added Packet B and kneed thoroughly. Stand for one hour then bake until brown.

The crew debated endlessly if the amount of salt in the seawater would be the correct for a loaf of bread but finally the packets where passed to the cook with a pan of seawater for the process to begin. After a while a tray containing a superb looking uncooked loaf appeared from the galley and was placed on the warm deck in the sun. Instructions from the cook not to touch it if you value your life! seemed genuine, so the crew went about there business careful to avoid the precious object.

By teatime a superb smell of freshly baked bread wafted out of the companion way hatch as the ravenous crew licked there lips. The highlight that evening was dinner with a starter consisting of a thick beefy soup and two slices of bread each followed by a hot curry before the crew settled down to the long night watches.

Despite several subsequent searches of the lazarette no further mysterious packages of bread mix could be found. The crew would now have to eek out meagre rations from tins until landfall in the Canaries and fresh bread was once again on the menu.
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Old 12-04-2011, 09:39   #2
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Re: The Saga of the Bread Loaf

Pete
Great story.....
From my Nicholson 55' days (transatlantic onboard RN sailboat Dasher) I remember the seawater bread mix...... from memory, it was very tasty indeed. I have some expedition friends who would love to know more about this. Any idea if it is still available?
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Old 12-04-2011, 10:11   #3
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Re: The Saga of the Bread Loaf

From the edge of my seat I have to ask, is this a serial? Can we expect more?
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Old 12-04-2011, 18:07   #4
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Re: The Saga of the Bread Loaf

Ah, yes - happy days indeed. My favourite was Racer, which had a teak deck.

This was before "sell by" dates had been invented and I always remember trying to hack up pussers chocolate block which was date stamped 1947!

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Old 28-04-2011, 03:18   #5
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Re: The Saga of the Bread Loaf

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Originally Posted by hummingway View Post
From the edge of my seat I have to ask, is this a serial? Can we expect more?
I am just trying to track down the one on the black plastic buckets and another on soup They run together as a series.

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Old 28-04-2011, 04:42   #6
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Re: The Saga of the Bread Loaf

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I am just trying to track down the one on the black plastic buckets and another on soup They run together as a series.

Pete
Great story Pete. I can smell and taste the bread
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