Report 35: Grain feeds the man
How that happened is a mystery to us. We had crossed the equator days ago, but were still close to it. For weeks, we had to wait for wind, and we waited, and waited, just because we did not have enough fuel for the engine motoring two or three days to free us out of this situation. What little we had was supposed to be kept for an emergency and for the English Channel. So far so good, but now we have another problem.
How could it happen that we did not have enough provisions on board! Almost exclusively grain! Since yesterday, we knew about it. It was also quite unspectacular when we, the lower ranks were informed. We were instructed to grind grain with a “thing” in the steerage of the second hatch. Actually, the “thing” was probably first invented as a coffee grinder, now it was abused as a flour mill.
These two men of the watch should fill the mill with the grain stored in front of them, and then to make flour by turning the two levers on the left and right. The production was slow, exhausting and required relief every thirty minutes. The result of processed bread tasted fine. It seemed that we have found a feasible solution.
Since Sunday, it is clear that production needed to be increased to feed about 80 people to some extent. With the coffee grinder it did not work out, even with continuous night work. More grinding was not possible. So now Simon had the idea to knock the grains flat with an iron pin. No sooner said than done. From several buckets filled with grain, we each picked two hands full of cereal grains and looked for a hard surface and an iron pin. Then we got started. It took more than 100 to 200 attempts until you got the hang of hitting the grain so that it would lay there flat and floury. Even then, considerable time was required to transform only 100 grams from round to flat.
It was clear that in order to keep us alive, the flattening action next to the flour milling would be necessary until new provisions could be brought on board. Everyone had to sacrifice at least one hour off watch to produce enough grain mush. Simon did not seem to like the term “mush”. That sounds so negative
This flattened grain was just great. In his home country of Switzerland, one would say “cereal”, and so he also wanted to present our creation to his family who owned a mill operating firm in Basel County on his next vacation. What should we say against it? Maybe it will be known one day as the Pamir or Swiss muesli. Since yesterday, we subsisted on flour, cereal, and the hope that the wind and good navigation would bring us to a port that had enough supplies available.
Now I have to go again: making cereal.