SimplySailingOnline.com shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.

Solar Cooker

August 25, 2014

When we explain our lifestyle to landlubbers, one common response is, "What do you do all day? I'd be so bored." If what you require is to be entertained, then perhaps the sailing life isn't for you. If you can find ways to use your time in a productive manner, however, it's amazing the places you can go, the thing you can see, and how long the lifestyle is sustainable with very little financial resources.

In an effort to increase our self-reliance, we spend our time making. Dave makes yogurt and grows sprouts. I bake bread and make our own laundry detergent. Rather than buying prepared foods, Dave cooks healthful meals and I bake homemade goodies. I bucket wash our laundry, we use solar for our electricity, we shower in about 1 gallon of fresh water. Much of our "free" time is spent increasing our self-reliance, meaning we can stay anchored on gorgeous, isolated, tropical islands for longer before having to return to civilization and all the hassle that that entails.


Stores flat under a bunk

One resource we have concentrated on saving lately, is cooking fuel, in our case, propane. We carry 2 months of propane on deck, so it's not as if it is the first resource we run out of, requiring us to return to "land." We conserve more as a principle than any financial reason. We have found a dozen ways to conserve propane, but by far the most effective method, is to not use any.

Since we have the time and Dave enjoys building things, he spent some time online researching solar cookers. The consumer habit is difficult to overcome, so his first thought was to buy one. Our limited budget precluded that option, so he immediately thought of the triangle and decided to build one.


Ratatouille makings

He had to postpone this project for many months until the perfect, large, piece of cardboard showed up at a dumpster we were passing. Now he was ready. He cut the cardboard per the plans he had found online. Then, he bought a roll of aluminum tape and lined the inside of the cooker. We found a black enamel roaster with a lid (it MUST be black) at a dollar store and a box of roaster bags that it would fit in. For under $10 we had a solar cooker.

After using small scraps of wood to point the cooker to the correct angle, Dave found he only had to move the cooker every hour or so for it to remain effective. Between the hours of 10:00 and 2:00 is the best time to use a solar cooker. Some of our favorite recipes don't require that long, however.


Open it up

We "hard boil" eggs in the cooker in about an hour. There is no water, you simply put the eggs in the roaster, secure the lid, put it in the roasting bag, seal the bag, and place the roaster in the aligned cooker. The shell will have a brown spot on it where it touched the roaster, but the egg is not discolored and it is tastier than boiled eggs. No fuel required.

Dave has made homemade spaghetti sauce in the cooker, too. He combines the ingredients, sets up the roaster and cooker, and forgets about it. No more simmering over a stove for hours. The sun cooks it for us. No fuel usage, no standing over a hot stove, and best of all, no heat in the boat from the stove being on for hours.


Assemble

But my favorite solar cooker recipe is baked bread. When the inside temperature of the boat is the same as the outside, and the heat index is pushing 100, the last thing I want to do is heat up the boat even more by baking bread. But to increase our self-reliance, we must bake bread. (Who can afford the $6 loaves in the Bahamas??) Dave's solar cooker is the perfect solution. For this type of baking, he tries to get the bread in the cooker before 9:00. It usually takes until late afternoon for a loaf to bake, depending on where we are in the world and the intensity of the sun.


Cooks in 3 hours

There are several free solar cooker plans online, and many ways to build them. Dave says if he were to build another one, he would use aluminum foil rather than the tape, decreasing the price even more. The beauty of the cooker is that it stores completely flat. It lives under the aft cabin cushions when not in use. Extraordinarily inexpensive, easy to store, and conserves a resource, thus saving us money. Besides, it's just fun, and strangely satisfying, to cook using only the sun for fuel.


Bon apetit!

We all get by with a little help from our friends. Sometimes, the help is life-altering. MONDAY we'll share how our youngest son was able to get back on the water, only with a little help from his friends.

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