Category Archives: Life onboard

Uber – the traveller’s transportation lifeline

I love technology and simplicity and get very excited when I find new stuff that helps my life run a bit more smoothly – which is why I am sharing with anyone who will listen about my UBER experience.  Yes I have found UBER and am now wondering how I ever existed beforehand.  Well I do know really, I existed in a travellers world where I walked miles and searched for a taxi stand only to find myself joining the end of a queue so long I audibly groaned.  Yeah that was me.  Or I called a cab company with appalling attempts to explain my location in Malay/Chinese/Spanish/French/Thai.. you get my gist, only to wait eternally for the appointed car to arrive, or not arrive as was often the case.

Here’s my shameless plug – if reading this inspires you to create an UBER account please enter my referal invite code ubersalty123 and we will both receive free rides!

In Asia the cabs with the TAXI lamp on top are not always in the best condition, often no seat-belts or air-conditioning and with questionable cleanliness.  All over the world these branded Taxis charge such inflated rates I never get that ‘value for money’ feeling. Taxis in Perth, Australia wins this title with a $55 fare for a mere 13 minute and 14km drive.  Ok they did have seatbelts and I get they have to cover various license costs but I don’t really want to foot this if I don’t have to.

Then I found UBER.  This company uses technology to link registered drivers in their own vehicles operating their car as a small business with passengers like me and everything is managed through an App on your smartphone.  UBER determines the fare – not you or the driver – which is calculated by distance and estimated in advance and you know EXACTLY how long it will be before your driver arrives.  If this wasn’t enough good stuff the awesomest part is they are often over 50% cheaper than the corresponding taxi quote. Yep! that’s 50% travellers transport savings. Here’s a recent test quote for a ride I took towards Singapore – minimum fare for Taxi was $17 vs UBER $7 and I was actually charged $7.40 when I completed the journey.

Fare comparison for a 22 minute journey.
Fare comparison for a 22 minute journey.  The exact fare eventually charged by UBER was $7.40

For the booking you can choose what type of car you’d like from standard UBER-X through to UBER XL (Executive Luxury) depending on what is locally available.  Then you enter the pick-up point and destination (both with GPS locations) and this not only tells your driver where to find you but gives them the map navigation route to follow to your destination.  If there is more than one route option they will ask which one you prefer when they collect you.  But for me the real travellers magic is the that it conveniently manages the payment through your registered Credit Card or PayPal. Absolutely no cash is exchanged, no fare negotiation is required.  You simply get charged on the milage and demand rate.  If you are someone who likes to know these things upfront the fare can easily be estimated before you book.

There is no taxi rank here but I can see two UBER cars available within 2 minutes of me.  Once I book they get my GPS and I can track their arrival in real time.
There is no taxi rank here but I can see two UBER cars available within 2 minutes of me. Once I book they get my GPS and I can track their arrival in real time.

Travelling UBER feels very safe to me compared to flagging down any marked cab on the road.  Before the car arrives I have the name and photo of my driver, the car make/model and plate number to identify them with. In Malaysia I’ve been transported by Mums who do it part-time when the kids are at school, supply teachers making up the hours, Uni students supplementing their cash to study, people in-between jobs and similar friendly and interesting drivers were encountered in the UK and Singapore.  In Australia we met an entrepreneurial driver who had his own limousine hire company in Sydney but had recently relocated to Perth.  He had taken the decision to drive with UBER for 6 months to learn the streets and obtain first hand knowledge of the transport trends and anticipated costs in order to establish a similar set-up to his Sydney business.

My experiences so far have all been exceptionally good.  Beautifully maintained new cars sometimes bottled water, mints and even the daily paper have been offered.  Sure UBER is not everywhere (we found none in Spain) but for travellers and especially boating cruisers with no wheels and often no knowledge of the local area it is a real godsend.  Hey, if you look on the UBER map and there are no cars available you can always revert to old-school taxi/bus/pre-UBER existence!

So how do you get it? Easy! Log on to uber.com or Install the free Android or iOS app to your phone, launch it and follow the steps to set up your account and you are ready to go.  Here’s my plug – if reading this inspires you to create an UBER account please enter my referal invite code ubersalty123 and we will both receive free rides – now that’s UBER love 🙂

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Saltygardener in Sweden?

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I’m not sure exactly where this post sits in saltygardener world. Definitely under travel but also very much under food as I didn’t seem to stop eating the whole time. Either way it was a wonderful, unexpected and very welcome diversion to Stockholm!
We started out in pure hotel luxury and although the room was awesome there were such little things that I appreciated so much more.  The first being an electric kettle for a cup of tea and a Nescafe pod coffee maker which I am not ashamed to admit I needed to call on the concierge for driving lessons. This simple level of ‘instant’ was a bit of a rush coming from our gas cooker for boiled water tropical lifestyle. Then came satellite TV, fresh sheets, a cloud for a pillow, a lovely cool room, a HOT shower with a head I didn’t have to hold up over me. Oh boy we were almost in nirvana folks and then I found the gourmet ROOM SERVICE menu and literally cried. As I said, it’s the little things.

Boatlife in SE Asia for a year has me fairly accustomed to going without the familiar and I guess I wasn’t at all prepared for the reverse culture shock. Take the simple experience of walking into a European (or even Swedish) supermarket.  I know, I know, not the height of adventure for most but that first aisle of mega bread choices with rustic, wholewheat, dark, cereals, spelt, crusty, baguettes and more OMG sent my head spinning.  Then came th cheese and meat choices and variety and oh yes – even with the foreign to me Swedish packaging – that lovely sense of familiarityDairy,red meats and any tinned foods (can you even imagine?) are not part of my local store that’s for sure.  As a bonus we had now moved into a self-contained apartment and this is where I confess to being both a market AND supermarket addict. I love nothing better than cruising aisles of ingredients imagining all the interesting local dishes that are created with them. Drives Captain Crackers (CC)bonkers as I literally can spend hours doing this… let’s just say he sent me out alone on the first excursion.

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Two cheese aisles was simply overwhelming

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With dinner secured it was great to join all the other summer tourists walking though cobbled streets of the city centre, waterside buildings had classical boats moored alongside,  ferries touted their river trips. The 3 hour  Shrimp and Tacos evening trip sounded intriguing if not authentically Swedish! The Royal Palace changed the guard and we walked the city, absorbed it,  rubber necked and loved every bit.

Having crossed the supermarket fix off it was time to drag Captain Crackers to the local market area in pursuit of the Östermalms Korvspecialist streetfood stall I had read about in visit sweden.  We found it Nybrogatan 55 and persevered with the massive list in Swedish until the girl took pity on us and offered an English version from behind the counter. I tried the house special which was suprisingly spicy even to my chilli loving taste and served with sauerkraut, potato salad, mustard and pickles. CC had one called The Austrian in a baguette and gave it a thumbs up. The sun was shining and we were able to use one of the 2 small tables by this roadside cafe which served us well to watch a steady stream of customers proving it was equally popular with the locals.

Next stop and pure foodie heaven was the Östermalmshallen at Östermalmstorg.  The prior sausage refuel was so we (ok, I) didn’t tackle this place on an empty stomach and buy a ton of food which would be impossible to consume in 1 day. Oh boy what a good tactic as danger hit the minute we entered and found some of the best of Swedish produce in reindeer, beef, pork, seafoods, smoked fish, gravadlax, roe/caviar, cakes, fruit, vegetables, beers, coffee and ready meals . All this inside a beautiful vaulted and skylit 1880’s building. It was wonderfully traditional, even CC loved it and rather than hinting to leave actually looked for a table to grab a beer and soak in the wonderful atmosphere. I crumbled and purchased traditional pickled herrings and fresh roe to add to our dinner menu and with that the budget was blown so we headed out for more foot touring.

I was only in Stockholm for 3 nights yet managed to put a mighty dint in my bucket list of ‘must try’ local delights. It really was an impressive degustation of cured meats, the classic shrimp sandwich,  local beers, cheeses, specialty crispbreads, pickles,  mustards, meatballs (of coarse!) and even salt liquorice. All I can say it was a very good thing the next stop on my travels was to be a mountain fitness boot camp. Thank you Stockholm,  you were wonderful!

Laughter really is the best medicine

Oh boy I love it when I get to have a good giggle. A while ago I read a blog post that tickled so much it continues to make me grin if I mentally picture the post even now. To me that is priceless and it was delivered free of charge straight to my navigation station laptop 🙂  
I love that about reading new blogs which I have been doing a LOT of since joining the Blogging101 course.  My interests were always diverse but I never thought to add randomness to my reading.  I now get updates not only from sailing blogs but from travellers, writers, comedians, cooks, food bloggersrunners, artists, students, retirees and many more.  This role call looks a lot like the one on my recent Fixing Bloggers Block post of who I wanted to follow me, it really is interesting that it is me following them!  I’ve highlighted via link to only a few as the list of awesome is rather long and invite you to go and explore.
The one that tickled? 5 Yoga poses for sailors – especially good for beginners to improve balance. My goal is to refine the Warrior 3 or ‘wind indicator’ as my signature anchoring signal for “the freaking reef is just there!” and of coarse pictures of said signal will need to follow but I haven’t had the energy for practising that one yet. On my hiking adventure the Downward Dog aka ‘fendering the boat’ gives both amazing upside down mountain views and an awesome leg stretch, ‘the chair’ is an essential requirement of wild camping and to re quote Dawn “nuff said” and ‘the corpse’ pretty much sums me up on every rest stop. So far I’m doing great!

Sailing into the wind – why would anyone do it?

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My grandmother fondly refers to me as her little bird, flitting from branch to branch and migrating with an inbuilt instinct. Perhaps this translates to our sea life as we are nomadic sailors, exploring the globe however the seasonal or Trade wind dictates. I guess that’s the best way to describe the grand plan, although anyone who knows me understands my plans are often scratched in the sand of a beach with a rising tide.

Trade winds are amazing. We purchased a beautiful chart of the tall ships trading routes which inspired dreams long before we moved aboard Tiki and has become my go-to map when dream planning our global course.   Normally we would be sticking closely to these seasonal highways, after all we are nomadic and want an easy cruising life. But sometimes we go against the wind, turn on the engine and reverse course. Why?

It irked me as we sailed south away from the idyllic turquoise waters and palm fringed islands of Terengganu state. I’m green with envy talking to other cruising boats in the area which are generally headed north or east as it’s the SouthWest Monsoon season with consistent fresh winds from the south. Their destinations include Cambodia, Vietnam, Borneo and the Philippines. Oh boy am I jealous! (read inspired)

Not us we’re going south, motoring not only into a headwind but a 2-3knot opposing current and swell.  It seems like madness and after a few nasty passages into wind through Indonesia Captain Crackers and I looked each other in the eye, spat on our palms, shook and swore never again! yet here we are.

Ahh but this time the madness has an olive grove gold and mountain peaked silver lining. This time I’m not complaining at all. Because this time for all the queasy seasick, thumping discomfort associated with this beat to wind sea leg there is a huge reward at the end. We are off on a land based awesome adventure in the form of GR11 hiking in Spain, woo hoo!

So why am I sailing south into the wind? In boatlife any long departure from our salty home means Tiki needs to be looked after in a secure yard or marina. Mediocre ones simply offer a pontoon to tie to. A good one in addition has security, will check her mooring lines, watch her waterline, listen for alarms and tie down anything which works itself loose in a storm.  Tiki is my home, she’s got soul,  I talk to her, we’ve got sand-scratched plans. She HAS to be in a good one and unfortunately there isn’t a big choice in this area, so back south towards Singapore we go.

Sailing into the trade winds? Normally would never recommend it, but this time it’s all good and the distances not too far. The real beauty of the trades to this nomad is that they will be here around the same time every year so my sand scratchings are free to follow them when we return.

Tending yeasty gardens

It took a while but I’m well into cruising mode now with long spells at sea without access to supermarkets and I’m extending my repertoire of home grown products.  A herb garden you think? Umm no… I now have a garden of yeast to tend daily, woo hoo! I have pots of yoghurt, a barrel of fermenting beer,  a ginger beer bug and to-die-for yummy bread dough all on the go at once.

The yoghurt is the least demanding, just a few tablespoons of active yoghurt with reconstituted milk powder and pop it into the EasyYo thermos for 8 hours or so.  Ta – da, fresh pot of pro-biotic goodness ready for the fridge.  Lots of recipes that call for cream, milk or even water can use yoghurt and I’m really keen to try making fresh cheeses suitable for hot climates.

We have a brewing kit aboard so there is a batch of Amber Ale now in the fermenter bubbling away – that’s the little yeasts turning sugar to alcohol. In a few days when they’ve finished the job I’ll bottle the beer, store it as cool as possible in the bilge and start a batch of Dark Ale in the fermenter. Theory says the beer is ready 3 weeks after bottling and the flavour gets better both with time and low temperatures.  As we are impatient when thirsty and on a boat in the tropics it rarely makes it to the better stage. Note to self, hide bottled beer in bottom of really inconvenient locker..

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The ginger beer bug is way cool. It’s grated ginger, sugar, yeast and water all mixed together to do their stuff.  After only a day in this heat there’s lots of frothy bubbly activity and each day I ‘feed’ it with more grated ginger and sugar to keep the living ginger yeasty alive and happy.  Why? To turn this into fizzy drink treats. We don’t have a soda stream and carting a months worth of coke/lemonade etc to the boat is heavy. It’s super easy, strain off the yeasty liquid and add it to a few litres of extra-sweetened fruit juice or ginger tea (simply grated ginger steeped in hot water, cooled drained and sweetened) for ginger ale and bottle it.  Make it sweeter than you think as the yeast eats the sugar to create the fizzzzz, the longer you leave it to drink, the drier it gets.  I’m still experimenting, some batches are awesome and some, well… aren’t.

And finally the bread. A wholesome boat-baked loaf is a real treat for us here in Malaysia and I use the ‘Famous New York Times no-knead’ recipe where the yeast does all the work of kneading and flavour adding.  All I need to do is mix flour salt yeast and water in a bowl with a spoon for 2 minutes and leave the bowl on the counter overnight or over the day to let it bubble and grow tasty. I also fold/flour/rest in the bowl before turning into a tin to bake – its a one bowl no mess affair on Tiki. The resulting bread is like a rustic air-pocketed chewy sourdough with a crispy crust, sooo good.

There’s quite a few more foods and drinks derived from yeasts and fermenting I’d love to try just as soon as boat space allows. Please let me know if you have any boat – friendly in tropical climate suggestions!

Photo credit: Tne gorgeous bread picture is from a food blog which I love http://www.theculinarychronicles.com  Mine turns out just the same (honest!) but I’m without a camera until we reach the next big city.

New chapter for saltygardener and Tiki

Hiya! it’s no secret I’ve been awol a few years from posting here and so many wonderful journeys and events happened in that time.  Neil has captured some fantastic anchorages and bits of Tiki’s ongoing refurbishment on our site at SY Tiki – Adventures on a Young Sun 43 Both sites need updating and overhauling and it’s on the nice job list for me now I have the time.

A quick summary is we journeyed up and down East Australia spending 2011 between Queensland’s coral coast down to Sydney and all of 2012 on Sydney Harbour.  2013 started in Tasmania for a haul out and refit before cruising to Pittwater, getting married (yippee!) and then north again to Brisbane where we stayed until May 2014.

The adventure continues as our route takes us further north and over the top of Australia to Darwin and into Indonesia. Let’s see how I go this time with the updates… I’m more consistent with Twitter – @saltygardener or Instagram – @saltygardener if you’d like to follow me.

Wishing you fair winds and rich soils.

Waiting for weather windows

Doesn’t matter if we are at sea cruising or in a safe anchorage for the next round of renovations, everything depends on the weather.  It decides safe from scary at sea, and possible to marginal on most of the job list.

We had such big plans for this summer in Sydney Harbour.  Hard work coupled with an injection of funds from newly found work were going to bring the boat to a new level of wow.  What we didn’t account for was the wettest summer imaginable.  It is disheartening to clean back, sand and prime an area only to wait an eternity for a 2-3 day dry spell.  It just hasn’t happened.  Neither have many of the well-intended jobs.

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Disheartened yes, but not discouraged.  It has to stop sometime and we’ve remained positive.  For example we have progressed immensely on the matter of stopping the leaks, the decks look scrubbed clean and we get to keep the tanks filled with yummy rainwater ;0)