Seventy Days at Sea and Counting

seashepThe 25th of February marked Sea Shepherd’s ‘action ship’ the Bob Barker’s 70th day at sea at the very bottom of the world. In icy Antarctic waters, we have been in engaged in playing an epic game of cat and mouse with illegal Japanese whalers, during which time, the lines have become blurry and our position as the cat or the mouse changes depending on whether we’re chasing them down or their ‘look out’ harpoon ships are hunting us down so our co-ordinates can be forwarded on to our nemesis, the factory ship, the Nishin Maru: our ultimate target which  we always hope to reappear on our radar. Placing our ship on their slip way means slaughtered whales cannot be dragged up and processed, meaning killing them in the first place is pointless and our aim of sparing these sentient creatures from a horrible death is achieved.

Seventy days at sea, seeing only very occasional glimpses of land in the distance is a long time and the crew is currently accepting and preparing for at least another month out here after hearing the whalers have refuelled and will be back down in the Southern Ocean searching for their quarry once more. So we have no choice but to do the same thing; this year’s campaign is called ‘Operation Relentless’ after all.

In the galley we have been ensuring we have enough food to not just keep people fed for another month, but to keep morale and spirits high. Now more than ever, meal times and treats really are one of the few things we look forward to during long days which can sometimes seem to repeat themselves like a real life groundhog day: there’s no concept of Mondays or Saturdays down here, breakfast, lunch and dinner times are the only real structure of time I have to think about.
We’ve reached the stage in campaign where fresh produce is few and far between: we’re left with carrots, potatoes, onions and beetroot to transform into different dishes every day and crew are reminiscing about lettuce and fresh tomatoes. The fruit bowl at breakfast is a sorry sight as apples and oranges are cut in half to make what fresh fruit we’ve got left last longer. However our freezers are still quite full and we’ve always got tins of food, but there’s only so inspired you can be by frozen sweetcorn and canned peas… On the plus side, lack of fresh fruit and vegetables has meant we’ve been able to occasionally treat the crew to luxury items such as Fry’s frozen country pies or their ‘meat feast’ pizzas (both available in Rice Up!)- nobody was complaining about the lack of lettuce on those evenings!

Apart from the fresh food, we are doing quite well on everything else- we still have a well stocked dry store and multiple freezers filled with goods such as frozen fruit for smoothies and emergency food like Redwoods veggie sausages for those occasions when the weather is just too rough to think about doing too much cooking.  The one thing we are running low on is tofu- a fact we haven’t made public knowledge to the rest of the crew, for fear of how they  will react: ‘Southern Fried Tofu’ is one of the crew’s absolute favourites… see recipe below.

With food limited as it is, we make sure we reserve some of the best ingredients for birthday meals and special occasions. We blew all of our small supply of vegan white chocolate and dairy free ‘cream cheese’ on a very decadent birthday cheesecake and on Valentine’s day we organised for each crew member to receive a goodie bag of chocolates and sweets that we had been saving for the occasion.

Staples such as bread and other baked goods we cook ourselves from scratch on a daily basis-  our dry store is stocked to the brim with all sorts of varieties of flour which mean we can make as many loafs, tortillas, buns, baguettes and bagels as we like and as long as we have sugar, nobody will be going without freshly prepared cookies, cakes and desserts anytime soon either.

Aside from the obvious (family and friends), there’s lots of things we miss when we’re away at sea- sunshine, privacy, lie ins, walking more than a few meters at a time, seeing green things (everything outside, here is blue, grey or white!) to name a few; but I think good home cooked is something the crew here aren’t having to go without. Having said that, there is a few things most people are already fantasising about eating again …like fresh bananas. I never thought I’d be so excited to eat one of those again!

Living in such an isolated manner and without the need for money is interesting and it’s curious to see around the ship what people use for currency to trade for the essentials which they’ve ran out of earlier than imagined… Cans of fizzy drinks and chocolate bars are swapped around from owner to owner and items such as a whole apple are suddenly a hot commodity. Occasions like Valentine’s Day and Christmas when the galley gives everyone treats result in mass bouts of trading and people compete to see who can get the most bottles of ginger beer in exchange for a bar of chocolate. It’s funny to see what people miss when they don’t have access to it and the lengths they go to, to obtain it: I heard a story that on a previous campaign, a crew member paid someone else ten dollars for one can of cola, but when you’re thousands of miles away from the nearest convenience shop, what good is money anyway?

The end of campaign is almost in sight, but I feel we might have one or two more battles on our hands before we can say we’ve won this year’s war. So in the spirit of this year’s campaign name, we relentlessly continue the fight against the whale hunt… with courage in our hearts, determination on our minds and good vegan food in our bellies!   …The bananas will just have to wait.

Here’s another  recipe until next time.

Southern Fried Tofu:
One block of firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes
Seasoning mix: 1 ½ cup nutritional yeast (‘Engivita’ brand available at Rice Up)
1 tsp each of garlic, parsley and onion powder
½ tsp each of paprika, tarragon, dill, basil, oregano and curry powder
¼ tsp each of dried mustard, rosemary and celery seeds
Coating mix:     2/3  cup dairy free milk
2 tsp lemon juice
2/3 cup plain flour

1/ Mix together the seasoning ingredients together in a bowl.
2/ Whisk together the milk and lemon (it will curdle slightly) in separate bowl.  Have the flour ready in a third bowl.
3/ Coat the tofu by first covering it in flour, then dipping it in the milk mixture and then finally in the seasoning mix.
4/ The tofu can be baked in the oven for 15 minutes or so at a medium temperature but is best shallow fried in vegetable or olive oil until lightly brown and crispy.

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