Search billions of records on
 Plywood Boats or to The Cheap Page or to The Odd Sails









THE BOAT sailer or yachtsman should be able, from close observation of the barometer and the general appearance of the sky, to foretell the weather with a certain degree of accuracy. The aneroid barometer is peculiarly sensitive to all atmospheric changes, and is thus invaluable for meteorological forecasts. A regular code of phenomena has been formulated by meteorologists, from which I take the following:


A rapid rise indicates unsettled weather.

A gradual rise indicates settled weather.

A rise with dry air and cold increasing in summer indicates wind from the northward, and if rain has fallen better weather may be expected.

A rise with moist air and a low temperature indicates a continuance of fine weather.

A rapid fall indicates stormy weather. A rapid fall with westerly wind indicates stormy weather from northward.

A fall with northerly wind indicates storm with rain and hall in summer and snow in winter.

A fall with increased moisture in the air and increasing heat indicates southerly wind and rain.

A fall after very calm and warm weather indicates rain and squalls.


The barometer rises for a northerly wind, including from northwest by north to the eastward, for dry or less wet weather, for less wind, or for more than one of these changes, except on a few occasions when rain, hail or snow comes from the northward with strong wind.

The barometer falls for a southerly wind, including from southeast by south to the westward, for wet weather, for stronger wind, or for more than one of these changes, except on a few occasions, when moderate wind, with rain or snow, comes from the northward.

A fall, with a south wind, precedes rain.

A sudden and considerable fall, with the wind due west, presages a violent storm from the north or northwest, during which the glass will rise to its former height.

A steady and considerable fall of the barometer during an east wind indicates a shift of wind to the southward, unless a heavy fall of snow or rain immediately follows.

A falling barometer, with the wind at north, brings bad weather; in summer rain and gales; in spring snows and frosts.

If, after a storm of wind and rain, the barometer remains steady at the point to which it had fallen, severe weather may follow without a change in the wind. But on the rising of the barometer a change of wind may be looked for. The following rhymes are familiar to most sailors:


When the glass falls low, Look out for a blow.
First rise after lo, Portends a stronger blow.
When the glass is high, Let all your kites fly.
Long foretold -- long last; Short notice -- soon past.


The following notes may be relied on for forecasting the weather:


Red sky at sunset, fine Weather.

Red sky in the morning, Wind or rain, and often both.

Gray sky in the morning, fine weather.

Hard, oily looking clouds, strong wind.

Yellowish green clouds, wind and rain.

Bright yellow sky at sunset, wind.

Pale yellow sky at sunset, rain.


Very clear atmosphere near the horizon is a sign of more wind and often rain.

Here follow some old sailors' jingles which I heard when a boy in the forecastle:


When rain comes before the wind, Sheets and halyards you must mind;

When wind comes before the rain, Hoist your topsails up again.

Evening red and morning gray, Are sure signs of a fine day;

But evening gray and morning red, Makes a sailor shake his head.


Amateurs while on a cruise should frequently look at the barometer and take notes of its height and enter them in the log.

The action of the aneroid barometer depends on the effect produced by the pressure of the atmosphere on a circular metallic chamber partially exhausted of air and hermetically sealed. This kind of barometer is liable to changes on account of its mechanism getting out of order, and it should be often compared with a mercurial barometer, which from its cumbersomeness cannot be conveniently carried in a small craft. Aneroid barometers of excellent quality, and of about the size of an ordinary watch, are offered for sale at a reasonable price, and a cruise should not be undertaken without one.

A phosphorescent sea is a certain sign of continuance of fine weather.

When porpoises come into shallow water and ascend the river stormy weather is near.

Sea birds fly far out to sea in fine weather, but if they fly inland bad weather may be expected.

A halo round the moon, especially if it appears distant and yet very distinct, indicates a gale of wind and probably rain.

When the wind changes it usually shifts with the sun from left to right. Thus an East wind shifts to West by way of Southeast, South and Southwest, and a West wind shifts to East by way of Northwest, North and Northeast. If the wind shifts the opposite way it is said to "back," but this it rarely does except in unsettled weather.

The United States Signal Service has a local observer stationed at each of the principal ports. When the "information signal," which consists of a red pennant, is displayed, it indicates that information has been received from the central office of a storm covering a limited area, dangerous only for vessels about to sail to certain points. Ship masters and others interested will be supplied with the necessary information on application.

A cautionary signal, which is a Yellow Flag with a white center, indicates that the winds expected are not so violent that well found and seaworthy vessels cannot encounter them without great danger. A cautionary flag hoisted alone signifies that the direction of the expected wind is doubtful.





A dangerous storm signal, which is a Red Square Flag with black center, is hoisted when the wind is over thirty-five miles an hour.

At night a Red Light indicates Easterly winds, and a Red and White Light Westerly winds. Following are the weather signals, which explain themselves.





Beaufort's scale is used to measure the velocity of the wind. It is given below:






THOSE who go a-sailing for pleasure in small craft, frequently suffer hardships, or at least inconvenience, in the way of meals, because of their lack of knowledge of the provisions to take with them, and of simple methods of preparing wholesome and appetizing dishes.

Sea cooking differs materially from shore cooking, inasmuch as the stove in a house is erected on a floor that is both stationary and stable. The yachtsman who has a cozy galley with a fixed stove that burn coal or coke or charcoal, and that draws well, has reason to bless his fortunate stars. There have now come into vogue several varieties of the blue-flame wickless cooking stove. In the accompanying illustration, Fig.1, I have depicted a stove which I have found to suit. It is wickless and burns the ordinary kerosene oil. To suit sea conditions the stove is slung on gimbals like a ship's compass, so as to yield to every motion of the vessel. The railing round the top prevents pots and pans from sliding to leeward. Fig.2 shows the finest fry-pan ever invented for an oil stove, on which broiling is impracticable. It acts as a broiler or fryer at will. The raised bars prevent the steak or cutlet from being soddened with fat, the result being equal or nearly equal to a gridiron. If frying is required put the necessary quantity of oil, butter or fat in the pan. Let it come to a boil, and then immerse in it the article, fish, flesh, fowl, reptile, or vegetable that you wish to cook.

With a stove having only one lid or burner the sea-cook might often have some difficulty in keeping three utensils on the boil at once. Luckily ingenuity has surmounted the obstacle, and Fig.3 shows three stew-pans of small size that will fit over the burner of the stove shown in Fig.1. They are in the market, but it took me a long time to find out where they are for Sale. In one you may cook curry, in the second rice, while clam broth may simmer in the third. In good sooth a very Cerberus of stew-pans! Some sort of a contrivance for storing ice go as to keep it solid as long as possible is indispensable. Such a device is shown in Fig.4. For sea picnics buy as many of the thin wooden plates (costing only a trifle) as you may require. These after being used may be thrown overboard. Take no crockery ware or china to sea in a small boat at. Cups, saucers, plates and dishes can be obtained made of enameled steel. These are unbreakable and cleanly. Stew-pans, kettles, pitchers, coffee pots and fry pans are also made of enameled steel, and they cannot be surpassed. Cooks' furnishings depend on the size of the boat and the hands she carries. I suggest the following, but leave the sizes to the discretion of the purchaser who knows about how many mouths he has to feed: One kettle for boiling water for tea or coffee, one deep fry-pan, one iron pot with tight-fitting cover for boiling meat, fish or cooking chowder, one teapot, one coffee pot, a soup ladle, a long iron two-pronged fork (known aboard ship as the cook's tormentors), two stew-pans for cooking vegetables, one broiler (if the implement can be used), one cook's knife, one vegetable knife, one swab for washing pots, pans and plates, and dish towels for drying them, soap, cups, plates, dishes, knives, forks, spoons, glasses, quant. suff. Do not forget a galvanized iron bucket for the cook, a can opener and a corkscrew. Also matches in an airtight can or glass. Fuel in either fluid or solid shape should not be omitted.


Fig.2. The Ideal Fry-Pan.

When we come to the question of the food supplies to be taken aboard, much will depend upon the individual. Hard tack, soft tack, flour, beans, corned beef, salt pork, bacon, hams, canned meats, sardines, canned fruits and vegetables, cornmeal, lard, butter, cheese, condensed milk, sweetened and unsweetened, coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, pepper, salt, mustard, vinegar, poultry seasoning, sugar and rice are some of the staple comestibles that suggest themselves, but these may be added to or subtracted from according to circumstances.

A ham is one of the most easily procured comestibles. Pick out a small one, not too fat. If you want it tough as leather, boil it furiously for a couple of hours, then haul it out of the pot and eat it. If you want a delicate, tender and juicy ham soak it in a bucket of fresh water for twelve hours. Then scrape it well and pop it into a big pot full of cold fresh water. Let it come slowly to the boil. As soon as the water reaches the boiling stage, regulate the heat so that a gentle simmering, the faintest possible ebullition is kept up for five or six hours, according to the size of the joint. Then take it out of the pot and skin it. The rind will come off as easily as an old shoe. Then return meat to the water in which it was boiled and let it remain until it is quite cold. Next, dish it, drain it and put it in the ice box to harden. Cut in very thin slices with a sharp knife, and you will admit that cooked after this scientific formula ham is mighty fine eating.


Fig.3. A Nest of Stew-pans.


Corned beef cooked after this same fashion will also be a success. The secret is a simple one of chemistry. Hard boiling hardens the fibers and tears the meat to rags. Gentle simmering softens the meat while allowing it to retain its juices.

The navy bean at present in use, though much may be said in its praise, is far inferior to the lima bean. This legume if substituted for the insignificant (by comparison only) little bean on which Boston breakfasts every Sabbath morn will be found so palatable that the lesser variety will never again be used. Procure a quart of lima beans. Pick out all that are shriveled or discolored. Soak the rest all night in plenty of cold fresh water and in the morning you will find them plump and tender. Wash them well and place them in a pot on the fire with a square piece of salt pork weighing three-quarters of a pound; simmer them gently till they are tender, but not till they reach the porridge stage. On the contrary, let each bean be separate like the soft and swelling grains of well-cooked rice. Strain through a colander, saving a pint of the water in which they were boiled. Pack in the bean pot. Bury the chunk of pork in the beans. Season the pint of water reserved as mentioned above, to your liking. Pour over the beans in the pot and put in the oven to bake. The flavoring of beans depends upon the taste of the cook.

Sirloin steaks are a good staple viand. Make the butcher cut them not less than two inches thick. If you cannot grill them heat your fry-pan almost red-hot. Put no fat in the pan. Place your steak cut into convenient chunks into the hot pan. Let one side sear for a minute or so to keep in the juices. Then turn meat over. It will be cooked sufficiently for most palates in five or six minutes. Place on a piping hot platter, spread some fresh butter on the steak, sprinkle with pepper, and pipe to grub. Chops may be cooked in the same way.

Meat may be roasted in an iron pot if the cook has no oven. Moderate heat, continuous care to prevent burning, and frequent basting are the three requisites of a successful pot roast.

So far as beverages are concerned, useful hints in that direction are given in Fig.5, which shows a picturesque and shipshape vessel to carry when a-cruising.

There is no daintier dish than a fresh, fat lobster, generous and juicy, just hauled from the pot in which he was caught. Pick out a particularly lively specimen of medium size but heavy. The cock lobster may be distinguished from the hen by the narrowness of the tail, the upper two fins of which are stiff and hard, while the tail of the hen is broader and the fins soft. The male has the higher flavor; the flesh, too, is firmer and the color when boiled is a deeper red. The hen is well adapted for lobster a la Newburg, hut for eating on the half-shell a male in prime condition is far preferable.


Fig.4. Ice Tub.


The secret of cooking lobsters is to plunge them into a pot of furiously boiling sea water, and to keep the water in a condition of fast ebullition for just twenty minutes. Fresh water to which salt is added will not do so well. Salt water fresh from the ocean is indispensable. It brings out the correct flavor and imparts an indefinable zest to the lobster. Hard shell crabs may be boiled in the same way, but ten minutes will be ample time.

All fresh vegetables are, in the opinion of the writer, improved in flavor by cooking them in sea water fresh from the ocean, not from a harbor contaminated by noxious influences from the shore. All vegetables should be immersed in boiling water and cooked till done. Potatoes will take about half an hour to boil, but cabbages, carrots and turnips much longer. I should not advise the cooking of the last-named three esculents aboard a small craft. Canned asparagus, French peas and string beans take little time to prepare and are excellent if a reliable brand is purchased. Open the can, drain off the liquid and throw it away. Wash the vegetables, strain the water off, place in a stew-pan with a lump of butter, and heat thoroughly. The liquid of canned vegetables is unfit for human food.

Hard clams or quahogs are plentiful at any port during the boating season. The recuperative qualities of the small variety served ice-cold on the half shell with a dash of Tabasco sauce and no other seasoning are beyond praise. Now while the little clam is excellent eating just as soon as opened from the shell, taking care to waste none of his precious juices, his elder brother also has inestimable gastronomic values.

The easiest and simplest method of preparing clam broth is to scrub the clams well and wash them in several waters. Put them in an iron pot, without any C water or liquid. Let them r remain on the fire for twenty minutes. Then strain the juice, into which put a little fresh butter, a small quantity of milk, and a dash of red pepper. Drink while hot.


Fig.5. A Traveling Companion.


Never add water to clam broth, and never let it boil after the milk is added, as it will curdle nine times out of ten.

To make clam soup, clean the clams as for broth. Place them in an iron pot on the stove. As soon as they open take them out of their shells and chop very fine. A hardwood bowl and a two-bladed chopping knife are the best apparatus for this job. Strain the clam liquor, return to the pot, add minced onions to taste and the chopped clams; simmer gently for one hour, thicken to taste with cracker dust, season with sweet herbs and pepper; let boil fast for ten minutes, take off the stove and add some hot milk and a lump of fresh butter. Serve.

Clam chowder is an old sea dish whose popularity seems likely never to wane. It is a simple dish to prepare, although many cooks make a mystery of it. Cut half a pound of streaky salt pork into small cubes. Fry in an iron pot together with half a dozen medium sized sliced onions until they are light brown. Chop fifty hard shell clams fine. Peel and slice thin a dozen large raw potatoes. Break up four sea biscuits and soak till soft in cold water or milk. Scald and peel and slice six ripe and juicy tomatoes. Put these ingredients into the pot in layers, pour over them the strained juice of the clams. Season with red and black pepper, sauces and herbs to taste. Cover an inch with hot fresh water and simmer for three hours. A pint of sour California claret added just before serving is an improvement. An old hen makes tiptop chowder cooked in the same fashion.

Fish chowder may be prepared in a similar way. Cod, haddock, sea bass and bluefish are good made into a chowder.

The soft shell clam makes a delicate stew or broth. The tough parts should be rejected from the chopping bowl. Boiled for twenty minutes and eaten from the shell with a little butter and pepper they are also very appetizing. A big potful soon disappears.

There is no excuse for the yachtsman neglecting to enjoy the delights of fish fresh from the sea. Fishing tackle should always be carried. Bluefish and mackerel may be caught by trolling; and if you have fisherman's luck, once in a blue moon a Spanish mackerel may fall to your lot. If so, that day must be marked by a white stone, for a Spanish mackerel transferred in about two shakes of a lamb's tail from the fish hook to the fry-pan, or better still, if your arrangements permit, to the gridiron or broiler, is good enough for the gods to feed on. Two axioms should be borne in mind, namely, to fry in plenty of boiling fat or to plunge into boiling water. Never humiliate a fish by placing him in a cold fry-pan or into a cooking pot of cold water.

Before frying fish dip in well-beaten egg and then sprinkle with bread crumbs or cracker dust, dip in egg again, and then add more bread crumbs or cracker dust. This is for epicures. For ordinary seafarers if the fish is rolled in yellow cornmeal without the egg the result will be nearly the same. Cut up large fish into suitable sizes, but fry small fish whole.

Soft shell crabs should be cooked in boiling fat. When brown they are done. Ten minutes is usually enough to cook them thoroughly.

Always when you boil fish of any kind indigenous to salt water or fresh put them in boiling water either from the sea or fresh water well salted. A little vinegar added is good. A two pound fish should cook sufficiently in fifteen or at most twenty minutes. Fish with white flesh take longer to boil than those with dark.

An excellent sauce for boiled fish may be made thus: Put a piece of butter as big as an egg in a saucepan or a tomato can; heat till it bubbles, add a heaping tablespoonful of flour, stir till quite smooth; pour slowly into this, stirring continually, a pint of the water the fish was cooked in, and add two hard boiled eggs chopped fine. This may be flavored with anchovy sauce or a few drops of Harvey or Worcestershire. Some prefer the addition of a little lemon juice or even vinegar. Every man to his taste!

When a very little boy I sailed in the Derwent, a small schooner engaged in carrying bottles from Sunderland to London. The bottles were taken in from the factory where they were made, stowed in the hold of the schooner and transported to a wharf at Wapping. Bottles are a clean kind of freight, and our skipper being a very particular kind of a man the Derwent was kept as bright as a new pin outside and inside, alow and aloft. On this dashing little vessel I was cook and cabin boy. There was no regular galley on deck, simply an iron cooking stove erected on the foreside of the mainmast; and on that in storm and calm I boiled and baked for a crew of four for more than a year -- in fact till I quit the coasting trade and signed away foreign. My skipper took me under his special guidance. The grub had to be well cooked and the deck kept spotless or I used to suffer. Skipper and mate were epicures after a fashion, go I had to keep my weather eye open.

My experience in merchant vessels and pleasure craft has fitted me to write with some small assumption of authority on the subject of sea cooking.

Some of my methods may seem queer and perhaps grotesque, but condemn them not till you have tested them in the crucible of experiment.



•• Next ••

To Plywood Boats or to The Cheap Page or to The Odd Sails or to the Top.


1.0 07/30/00

Edited by Craig O'Donnell.
Etext & images ©2000 Craig O'Donnell, all the usual whining applies.