A beer cellar

Our good friend Malcolm, explained on his Facebook page, how he had gotten an excellent deal on some excellent wine outside Rome, when we were there many years ago. And had carefully placed them in the bilge of his boat. Since he has just sold his boat, he gathered up the wine and opened a bottle in celebration. He pronounced it excellent!

I thought the following comment was a little long to politely put on a Facebook page, so I will put a link from his Facebook page to this page, in case anyone cares.

A wonderful story Malcolm! Sorry to hear that you sold your boat, but I totally understand. And certainly a boat should be used and not just sit around. They seem to deteriorate much faster when they are not used.

One needs a happy ending when one sells their boat. So, I’m glad that your wine was very tasty. It’s common for the boat to have been a major thorn in a person’s side by the time the person sells it. So, parting with what should be a dear friend, is sometimes actually a relief. But I don’t think that was the case for you Malcolm. It’s just that with the requirements of your present lifestyle, owning a nice boat did not really make sense anymore.

Ken, a very good friend of ours that we met in Guatemala, sailed his steel boat, through the Panama Canal and up to Alaska. At that time he normally, or nominally, lived in the interior of Alaska near Fairbanks and he left his boat at a good marina in the Panhandle of Alaska.

Things are generally much more expensive in Alaska. Therefore, just before he left the Seattle area in the mainland United States, he had bought a large number of 12oz bottles of the least expensive beer he could find. Because it would be at risk of breaking on the passage and because he would not be making any really long ocean voyages, it occurred to him, while he was cleaning out one of his water tanks, through the inspection cover, that this water tank would be a very good place to put the beer. The weight is down low. It’s a very uniform temperature, quite cool, and it’s a space that would be empty otherwise. The bottles stacked into the available space very securely. Since he was buying all the food he could buy while he was in the mainland USA, his other, normal food lockers were pretty full.

He had a nice trip up from Seattle, to the Alaska Panhandle, and but he got in kind of a rush moving his things off of the boat and taking them to Fairbanks. In the rush, because he had never previously stored anything in the water tanks except water, he totally forgot about the beer.

I think it was a couple of years later, when he was making his annual trip to visit his boat. She was very lonely because his life in Fairbanks kept him from being able to take her sailing. He suddenly remembered the beer. His first assumption was that the bottles were probably broken, or the beer would now taste like horse urine, etc.

When it was brand-new, it was drinkable to cheapskates like us, but it certainly was nothing special. The only attraction was it was very inexpensive for beer. And everyone knows that most low-price American beers, are made fun of by countries that really know what beer should taste like.

However, he cautiously took a sip of the first bottle, and pronounced it outstanding! He had a friend that lived in the city near the marina, that had very particular tastes about beer, and only drank the finest beers. Snob is a word that comes to mind, but let’s not use that word. Forget I said anything about that. How do I delete that?

He invited the friend over and said that he had imported a special beer and it was not like anything he’d had before. He really liked it and he wondered what his friend thought of it. He very ceremoniously did not allow his friend to see the bottle, which just had a plain white label on it with a large word BEER, printed on it. It was one of the first generic products.

His friend with the refined taste, thought the beer was outstanding! And wanted to know how he could get some. I’m not sure what he thought after he heard the whole story. Would he by a boat of his own?

But, Ken had a theory, that the very stable, cool temperature, of Alaskan waters, combined with the gentle motion of the boat in his marina, and the total darkness of inside a sealed water tank, had combined to be a very nice beer cellar.

That is the only data point that I had until now, but I will assume that Malcolm’s wine cellar had similar virtues. I don’t know what extreme motion might do to the equation. On an ocean going boat that spends most of its time at sea, jumping up and down, one’s mileage may vary. But I would encourage people to try a small amount of whatever they want to try, aging in their bilge. Usually space is at such a premium on a boat, that you go to some trouble to NOT, have things laying around that are not needed.

When we went to help my mother, in Houston, Texas, near the end of April 2010, we expected to return within about three months. So, we consumed, or got rid of, the very perishable items, but we left two bottles of ‘Efes’ beer in the bilge, where we normally keep such things. It’s a dry portion of the bilge. For those of you that have not yet had the pleasure of coming to Turkey, Efes is a Pilsen, that is perhaps the most popular beer in Turkey. There are several brands of good beer, and wine, and stronger beverages, made in Turkey.

The boat was on the hard the whole time we were gone, so it gets hot in the summer time, and I was not optimistic about the beer. It seemed unlikely that I would have Ken’s pleasant experience, but I was very pleased when I opened one. I am certainly about the least critical beer drinker in the world. But, I thought it tasted just fine. I did not want to serve the other bottle, to anybody because it seemed too hard to explain why I was offering them a beer that might taste like horse urine or worse. So, a few weeks later, I drank the other one and I thought it was also as good as ever. I don’t drink much, especially not alone. I took these two functions that I was invited to, that were BYOB.

In all the years that we been cruising we have found that many things do not age well in storage. For example, in Mexico, in the 1980s, canned tomato products in particular would go bad in the can, and sometimes a short as 4 to 6 months. I think that the plastic coating that they used in those days was weak.

But, we have had many success stories, where things seemed quite palatable far longer than their rated shelflife. Whether there were still any vitamins left, or if it was a good idea to eat the item, might be quite debatable, but it tasted okay. But proceed with caution. Except in starvation, the cost of most nonperishable food items, is trivial compared to the pain and perhaps expense of getting violently ill.

I’m just saying, to keep an open mind. Cautiously experiment. See for yourself. Be careful with assumptions.

And keep your eyes open for trade secrets. In the tropics, normally, the small limes that we would buy, would just keep for a week or two at the most. They would either rot or dry out to the point of being very hard, like large ball bearings. But, after a long time of thinking that that was how the world worked, we were shown that if you wrap them in something airtight, like clinging plastic wrap, or aluminum foil, that they would usually, last for six weeks or more. The plastic wrap is better because you can see which ones are starting to look distressed and eat those right away. The aluminum foil, you don’t know what’s going on until you open it. They don’t all last but most of them do. Be sure to wrap them separately so that one going bad does not make a large number of them die.

There also tricks to preserving eggs, and other staple items.



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