Saturday, June 9, 2018

What I'm Reading (w BONUS Boat Recipe)

Reading the book SevenEves aboard solar canal boat Dragonfly
When I'm traveling, I like to read books about the place I’m visiting. My current read is NOT set on the Erie Canal. But it’s entertaining to make some connections between this book and our current situation.

The book Is SevenEves, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi doorstop by Neal Stephenson. It’s excellent. (If you haven't read it, I promise no spoilers in this post.)

Put Everyone in a Small Space and See What Happens

The SevenEves plot, super-briefly: Earth is destroyed. Just a few hundred people have escaped to space. Space station . . . boat. Both small, enclosed spaces. 

Heroic on-the-fly engineering ensues as the brave new citizens re-purpose limited materials to address each new challenge. Devise algorithms to avoid being hit by space debris? All in a day’s work. Lasso a comet to use its ice for jet fuel? Roger that!

Bill Carlsen, captain of solar canal boat Dragonfly, works on wiring diagrams
Working on wiring diagrams
Meanwhile, back on OUR small enclosed space, Cap’s been rooting in lockers and sorting through tool chests, drawing up blueprints, wiring and unwiring.  

This new propulsion system is unique. It's his own invention, using some new parts but many scavenged old ones. Every day brings some urgent new engineering challenge. Small canal towns don't have boat supply stores. (Most don't even have auto parts stores!)

Regenerative Braking? If Only!

Center, vertical gray box is motor controller for solar canal boat Dragonfly
See those twin black cables with
yellow at the top? They connect to
 the motor controller
Take a gander at this nice new motor controller (left)  installed while we were becalmed in Lyons. With this device, we'll use our new pair of electric motors more efficiently. But our motor controller is a piece of machinery that was designed (and is marketed) to be used in a car or a motorcycle--you can hook it up to an accelerator pedal, or a twist grip. It doesn’t come with a boat-suitable user interface.

Temporary throttle for solar canal boat Dragonfly
The temporary throttel. Notice the label at right:
BRK. That's the control for regenerative braking.
Not gonna happen on a boat.
So for now, Cap has got it hooked up to this little throttle box (at right, neatly taped to the steering podium). This box is a device you’d use at your workbench, to test your system--it's NOT meant for controlling the speed of a 14-ton boat.  

But it will do for now, till Cap takes it apart and figures out what wires go where, and how to make them interface with our Morris controller (a more normal kind of boat throttle.)

It's a good thing we don’t have to dodge space debris while he’s doing all this. (Considering we're a SlowBoat.)

And unlike the characters in SevenEves, we haven’t yet been reduced to eating the algae grown in the transparent hulls of our “Arklets.”  

Instead, we eat Boat Pizza. (See below. Recipe follows.)

Boat Gourmet! Recipe for quick and easy pizza you can make on your boat
You asked for boat gourmet recipes . . . we provide!

1 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp dry yeast
White flour

Pizza dough is very forgiving, so you don’t have to strictly follow the usual rules for yeasted breads.

Combine the first four ingredients in a good-sized bowl and let sit for a few mins while the yeast foams up.

Add white flour to the yeast mixture, half a cup at a time, mixing with a wire whisk. When the mixture gets too gummy for a whisk, switch to a wooden spoon. Stop adding flour when it pretty much holds together.

Cover the mixing bowl (I used a plate, to avoid wasting plastic wrap) and set it on top of your boat oven which (if you are me) is nice and warm because you are roasting asparagus to go with the pizza.

In 20 mins the asparagus is done and your dough has risen. Punch it down, right there in the bowl and add enough flour so it’s not sticky.  Punch it some more in the bowl (no space on my tiny boat counters to knead the dough on a big board.)

Have ready a cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Make the dough into a nice round ball, plop it on the sheet, and press it out gently so it fills the entire sheet.

Topping time! I used pizza sauce from a jar, shredded mozzarella, salami, and some red pepper and onion that needed using up.  Your boat fridge may contain other useful pizza toppings.

Sprinkle w oregano, parmesan, and garlic powder. Into that already warm 450-degree oven for 10 mins and dinner is served. Don’t forget the red-wine-in-a-box. (Box wine lighter and easier to store on your boat)

Makes enough pizza for two hungry boaters. Ready in less than an hour.

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