The Cast of Characters & Quick Guide to the Story

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Who's on Deck?

Bluefish choo-chee style.

When we're at sea, the rest of the crew divides into watches. Two people on each watch except one, which has three.

Last night Smith had to man the watch with all the squalls. Sometime in the night when she came to do boat checks, I told her that it sounded like the boat was surfing.

It was rather calm this morning. At first muster Cap called the crew to raise the sails back up. We'd been going all night with just the staysail and the jib. Smith said she'd rather have dead calm than squalls any day.

We're coasting along nicely, the sun is out and the water is sparkling. It's a welcome change from storms and beating tacks. Everyone seems to have gotten their sea legs, too, yesterday having been enough to empty the guts out of even the most stalwart of sails.

He was warned
I'm the only one who loves this: orzo in chicken 
stock with asiago. Simple. Comforting. Delicious.
When our new first mate, Seth #2, entered the galley this morning he was singing the Mr. Roger's theme song. As he opened wide the doors and the hatch, he asked if I minded. I said I just didn't like to be cold, but we could see how it went.

Then, as he was about to go below to the main salon for breakfast, he asked about the strange green monster on the ledge across from the fridge.

"That's so I can beat up on people who aren't good eaters," I said. "Smith's mom gave it to me. Mamma Smith is a big fan of mine." Then, realizing that might sound odd, I added, "I have a blog."

"I know," said Seth#2, "I've known Mamma Smith a long time. She sent me the link."

Restless, cold sailors
We're making good time. Though we ran smack into that cold front. I was cold in the galley and my fingers hurt unless I had all the windows closed and the door shut. It was crisp, but sunny.

I also got to steer today. I've always had a harder time when the wind is from the side, rather than from behind or in front. But it went okay. Mostly it just reminded me of how much I used to love sailing the Like Wow!

Today was good for thinking. A former lover has been on my mind. While doing the dishes we talked about last loves, and close doors. I thought to myself that it was of course always possible to try and open the door; it's just that it's messy and complicated and scary as hell.

We've become a sleepy, contemplative vessel. You can tell it's time for us to find land. How funny it is that we long for transit, and then when we're on it, we long to be finding ourselves ashore in some new landscape.

Cap said tonight that we're 60 miles off the coast of New Jersey, 100 miles from Montauk, 130 from our destination. The motor is on. See what I mean? Restless sailors.

I'm going to bed with a hot nalgeen bottle and a sheet tucked inside my sleeping bag.
Electric Energy cookies.
Saturday's Menu
Waffles and bacon
I struggled with the stove all day. It took so long to heat everything, the oven never getting over 275, and the stove top never getting hot enough to boil. So the first watch had to eat cold pork sandwiches - nothing was ready. When it was time for the second watch to eat a half hour later, it was all cooked. By then only Smith and Bly joined me in eating the Choo Chee Fish curry I made.
Carnitas on tortillas, with lettuce, cheese, sauteed onions and peppers; mushrooms for the vegetarian; salsa and sour cream. They ate it up. I love that they love Mexican.
Electric energy cookies (with peanut butter. chocolate chips, oatmeal. crushed peanuts and coffee grounds.

Friday, April 29, 2011

One Fish, Two Fish, Bluefish, Bluefish

Cap says we were over halfway, but not in terms of speed. After our record-breaking night, we had slowed to a crawl. We were forced to turn on the engine.

Although Seth #2 was hired to be our first mate, it often feels like we have two captains onboard. One night, as we were sitting down to eat, he gave the deckhands permission to take down the flags early and something about the transaction felt odd. Maybe as first mate he could make that call, but I kept expecting him to check with Cap' to make sure it was okay with her. That kind of thing had never been allowed before.

The dynamic is more obvious because Seth #2 is older than the rest of us, and probably has twenty years of experience on Cap. He's used to being in charge. So essentially, we have two captains onboard. It got me thinking about the characteristics of a captain and/or the personality types that are drawn to be captains - as well as which types might be good at it, and which types not.

And is there a personality type for cooks? Do the people who become cooks generally assume the caretaker role? And what about deckhands? Eve said today that the industry actually encourages you to go from boat to boat - the more you've been on, the more experienced you are. She said it's not like acting where you stay at one theatre for a long time. So there's another criterium: you must be nomadic, and you must like change. Is it any wonder everyone in the industry knows each other?

Fish on the hook
Smith caught two bluefish today by pulling a baited hook on a line behind the boat. Harrison gutted and filleted them for me (!) and one set is now marinating in a Thai-like sauce of chili, soy, fish sauce, brown sugar, garlic and Ginger.
Rigby sees the fish.

Smoke 'em Out

The stove is back in business but the air coming out of the fo'c'sle hatch smells of gas. Cap says she thinks its carbon dioxide, not carbon monoxide. So it's not bad for you. She says she's never heard of anyone ever having health problems from it. She said the worst she'd seen was this one summer when the deckhands used to wake up with black soot around their nostrils.

It was a beautiful night - the sky split open with stars and suddenly boats appeared on the horizon, far off, freckled.

Harrison's sandwich.
Friday's Menu
Sandwiches with leftover Texas brisket and mashed potatoes
Thai-style bluefish, cucumber salad, a tom ka (without the gai; just mushrooms), rice and chopped peanuts to go on top of everything

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Any Stove in a Storm

Delicious pecan sticky buns. Thanks Abby!
And thanks Barbara Hersberger (The
Other Bread Bible's writer.)
I awoke to find the stove had gone out. Probably one big gust slid down the inside of the staysail, and that was that. I cleaned it but did not light it... Though i might regret this by tomorrow morning since we just left the Gulf Stream and are hitting a cold front. The stove is our only source of heat - and although we have a backup water heater, it's also what heats our water.

There's a lot of weather out there. Some of the waves pounding us are smashing down into the galley. The soles are slick with sea water and anything slightly loose is banging up a storm. Though I went through and sea-stowed everything before we left, I had to do some rearranging today, and stuff a layer of rags between the glass bowls and another between the cutting boards. Without Ol' Dies, my only cooking options are the hot plate and the convection oven. The hot plate is a joke in these seas. I'd basically have to hold the pot on it the whole time - and if I lost control because I couldn't keep my balance, it would be a disaster. So I made everything in the electric oven.

Today Bly said he recorded our fastest speed ever and didn't realize it until Smith asked him: 14.1 knots.

Apparently there are possibilities of tornados and strange stuff tonight. I can hear the rain just starting. It's going to be messy on deck.

Thursday's Menu
Pecan sticky buns, yoghurt and fresh strawberries
Sandwiches on freshly baked bread; leftover lasagna
Pork loin in teriyaki; sweet potatoes with maple mayonnaise; salad; bread-in-a-pot
Pineapple cakes

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What do you do With a Sea-sick Sailor?

Smith and Bly putting up the safety line (aka., the sailor strainer).
Left cell phone range about 1 pm. Took HOURS for the crew to reef and raise the sails. I think until just after five - so 4-5 hours. That's a long time. Especially given the fact that they needed to start dividing up into watches, getting sleep before their turn. 

Cap gets sea-sick "Like it's my business" - and it's true, she was sick before we were barely out the gate, before we hit the ocean.

When we hit the ocean, I started noticing a little nausea, but it comes and goes. It always helps to go on deck. And in my case to eat.

Brownies at sea - you can't even see the heeling effect, 
thanks to an old can of coke stuffed under one end of the pan.
Wednesday's Menu
Leftovers: leftover hash; leftover bread pudding and eggs scrambled with leftover ham and cheese.

Two white lasagnas; with beef for the meat-eaters as well as celery/carrot/onion mixture, cottage cheese and parm in top ... Made a similar one for the vegetarian but with mushrooms, but she wasn't feeling up to it.

Oven-fried chicken (in panko) and mashed potatoes, salad with feta and sweet chili;


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Good-bye World

Our new first mate arrived a few hours ago. The rest of the crew has been working in overdrive all day - sanding and varnishing the wheel, tying on the new preventer, doing all the ship's laundry. I've been busy, too. I got the stove going, after hours of struggle. I defrosted and restarted the freezer, and the fridge is in the works.

Tomorrow we leave for Greenport, near the top of Long Island. We'll be gone 5-10 days, and miles offshore, out of cell phone range, cut off from the world.

We are expecting 35-45 knots of wind. The wind will be from the south, which means that it will first be at our tail and then at our starboard aft quarter. A lot of wind. It should make for good sailing.

I've decided to try harder to record time's passing during this transit. Otherwise, days spent in transit pass by like in a dreamstate - events roll over into one amorphous time cloud. Whales; a mid-ocean swim; catching fish; all the events from my first transit on the Neverland are vivid memories, yet I could not tell you the order or the date. Even being at the helm, which I remember so clearly that I can close my eyes and feel the tension on the wheel, is lost to me somewhere in the dreamy rush of it all. But I remember so much of it, that I surely must have been fully present and fully alive at that moment.

Is it any wonder we're all so excited about being at sea again?

Tuesday's Menu
Leftover bread pudding, hash made from Saturday's ribs; and veggie hash with sweet potatoes in it and maple butter
Leftover goulash, carrot sticks and celery
Texas brisket with buttermilk dinner rolls and a salad with feta, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, carrots and tossed with a bit of Teriyaki and sweet chili sauce
Cap' Flash's grandma's chocolate bunnies

Monday, April 25, 2011

Boxing the compass

I found a bottle of wine with tall ships on it en route to the party,
displayed here by Mr. Splat.
I'm so tired I keep falling asleep as I type this. The laptop on my lap is no deterrent. (And this was my day off!)

Last night after getting dinner all ready, I left it in Harrison's capable hands to put on the table and went to rent a car at the airport. From there I drove 35 minutes to Kure beach to meet old friends.

I got there just in time: my friend's five-year-old was making a sign that said, "Welcome to our party."

While the adults had long, meandering conversations about food and history and school, the kids entertained us by telling stories or saying funny things.

I told Eve and Harrison how much I enjoyed this.
They said I could read them bedtime stories anytime.
Several days ago Eve talked about having to get the compass on her last boat "boxed," which means that, because of metallic changes in the boat, the compass was no longer was accurate. (Apparently navigating through places like the Bermuda Triangle may also set your compass askew.)

Returning to the boat on Monday morning, this was the metaphor that came to mind. I felt like my inner compass had been boxed. I was reminded that certain things are constants, even when everything else around me is changing.

Yeah! Crew Appreciation: Cap hands out gift
certificates for ice cream.
Preparing to Leave Again
On Tuesday we get a new chief mate, and on Wednesday we set sail for Long Island. So, like every good sailor, I worked on my day off. I went provisioning when I got back from Kure Beach. I bought about $500 worth of groceries - about 45 pounds of which was meat!

Mondays's Menu
Louisiana Hash from the Dixie Grill (just as good as it sounds)
Watermelon slushie from Sonic, where the waiters still roller-skate to your car (except ours didn't. Lame.)
One scoop Turtle Cheesecake, one scoop Pecan Praline ice cream

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Great Marlin Easter Egg Hunt (or, The Something Hilarious)

"I found one!" came Eve's whispered voice when she got up on Easter morning.

Today was the day that The Something Hilarious happened.

After my post earlier this week, Eve kept asking me, "Has the Something Hilarious Happened yet?"

Not yet, I'd reply. Last night she said, "Is the Something Hilarious still going to happen?"

I pondered this as if I had no control over the matter and really wasn't sure. " I don't know," I answered.

Then in the morning, I got up early, put the bread pudding in the oven and got to work hiding Easter eggs.

Can you spot three eggs?

When it was time for my daily wake-up call I hollered, "Good morning, foc'sle. When you get up, you are not allowed to touch any interesting things you might see en route to breakfast!"

Eve was already up and about, looking into her various projects. "Aaahhh!" she groaned after peeking into the barrel where the hoses are stored. And when she came into the galley for her coffee she said, "I'm trying really hard not to look."

"Look all you want," I said, "Just don't touch.

I had asked Captain Flash's consent for the hunt a few days prior, so when the subject came up at dinner one night, and Smith asked if we could have a hunt, I shot Cap' a look. "No-ho," she'd said (though there were signs of a faint grin on her face).

On Saturday night I asked Cap' if she wanted to help hide eggs. "Have we met?" she asked. Cap' is not a morning person and doesn't join us for breakfast. We discussed the timing of the hunt and decided it would start once the last flag halyard was secured. This required them to come to breakfast first, and then she added muster to that, so you can imagine the mad dash that ensued after Cap' called muster to an end and said, "Ready, set, go!"

The hunt is on.
Full-contact Easter Egg Hunt
I got the idea from my friend Lia, who held one every year. The objective? To collect the most eggs the fastest while still being excellent to your ship.

These were the rules:
Rule 1 - All eggs are fair game. Yes, even those in other people's baskets. Conclusion of this rule: guard your eggs.
Rule 2 - No hitting or tripping. But jostling, holding, tickling, etc., are all permissable.
Rule 3- There are 36 eggs. it's quantity, not quality. But a special prize is reserved for one egg in particular.

It had been Cap's only condition placed on the hunt. We had to find all the eggs.

They found every egg but one.

Last Egg Standing
Cap' and I stood talking after the hunt, and it was driving me crazy that I had lost an egg. I went looking again, one last time. I finally found it in the folds of the mainsail. I stood looking at it, waiting for her to find it.

Cap' had not participated in the hunt because it was a little too aggressive for her taste.

Smith poked her head out of the aft cabin and immediately spotted the egg. But Cap' saw it and swooped it up just in time.

Later in the day, I was about to say something to Eve and then stopped myself; I thought, "I'll write it instead." But she read my mind.

"It was hilarious," she said.



The throw-down.
It was Harrison, who won, by hook or by crook. He loaded the pockets of his Carharts with his eggs, thereby keeping them protected. He also made a play for Bly's eggs, which went rolling all over the deck, causing a flurry of deckhands to congregate around the fallen basket. This is why, at the end of the hunt, Smith and Bly each had two unmatched egg shell halves. I just stood on the sidelines making sound effects.

As Winner, of both the Most Eggs Found and of the Specially Placed Egg, Harrison won his choice of spirits, to be enjoyed once we arrive in Greenport, as well as his choice of dessert one evening during the transit.

Bread pudding.

Easter's Menu
Bread pudding with cranberries (Harrison helped me make it the night before. When I told him he could choose what to add and how much, with characteristic judiciousness, he put in about ten cranberries. The good thing about this was, just as with an Easter Egg hunt, you were always surprised and delighted when you found one.)

A simple ham, sailor-style.
Ham with pineapple in a maple-brown sugar glaze
Sweet potato soufflé
Salad with toasted walnuts
Rye bread
Goulash with noodles
Onion goulash for Eve
Leftover baked potatoes
Buttered, candied carrots
Stewed kale
Leftover buns
Pineapple upside down cake

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Overheard on the Dock

A lot of people stand and talk about us on the dock. They read the sign (often aloud) and comment on it. Sometimes they say some really goofy things. Today someone said, "Baltimore, Maryland? That's in Boston Harbor."

"Look, Bonnie," Eve overheard a man say to his wife, "I told you: The women are sanding!"

Actually, right now, our captain, our first mate, our engineer and our cook (yours truly) are all women. And actually, it's the guys who are doing most of the sanding. I think it's pretty badass. When our new first mate arrives on Tuesday evening, it will shift the balance, but until then, it's a ship run by women. You should see Cap at the wheel. She handles this boat like it's no big deal.

Off my game
Sometimes - though not often - I wonder if I'm too old for this. I was just really exhausted by lunch time. I think it showed. I heated up sausage gravy for breakfast but forgot it on the stove. The hamburgers I made for lunch were strangely blah and too moist. The sweet potato fries weren't quite cooked through in some places. At dinner, the ribs were good, but overly salty or maybe it was the garlic salt that killed it. Don't try this recipe. The bok choy I bought at the Farmer's Market was too bitter when I undercooked it, but it became impossible to eat once I overcooked it. At least I had made baked potatoes and cooked up some frozen corn... and that's what Cap ate.

I took a nap in the afternoon, so dessert was the first thing to go... I know there must be a way to use more prepared foods and therefore get more rest, but I hesitate to do it. I will find my own way, my own balance between homemade and prepared. I have to, or else I will burn out.

There is a lot to get done before transit. Smith has the wheel off and is putting a coat of varnish on it. Eve is still in the engine room and it's 11 pm. I've been putting off re-starting the stove, and the fridge and freezer will both need to be defrosted on Monday and Tuesday. Still, I'm going to steal away tomorrow to go see my old friend Franzi. I'm looking forward to a brief time away from the boat. Just to get the outside-in perspective. To be, in a way, in my regular life again. Since I'll have a car, I'm also going to use it to make a provisioning run. My budget is for over $500.

Saturday's Menu
Cheddar and jalepeno scones and scrambled eggs
Burgers on homemade buns and sweet potato fries
Leftover carrot salad
Kansas City spare ribs
Baked potatoes
Corn off-the-cob
Sauteed boy choy
Rye bread

Friday, April 22, 2011

Learning the Ropes

Tucked away at our new, temporary dock.
This morning Smith gave us a lesson in plotting and dead reckoning. I had to miss out on part of it, but I've really been enjoying this new practice Captain Flash has instituted. Every morning for the past few days, she has given a short lesson. First she talked about the war of 1812 and its effect on shipbuilding. 

In another lesson, she pulled out the plans to our ship, The Marlin, and we looked them over. Much of it was Greek to me, but I'm learning in small bits, the way you'd learn a foreign language. Nouns first, then verbs. Get the fundamentals, then fill in the gaps. Which is exactly what today's lesson was: We had to move the boat because a cruise ship came into town and needed our dock. With help from Eve and explanations from Smith and Cap, I got to man one of the docklines. It felt pretty cool to be of more use than my usual role as Fender Girl.

The new dock is a bit off the beaten path, and because of the way we had to tie onto it, we can't have guests coming on and off. After we re-docked, Mr. Pink left us and went home to his wife. Our remaining skeleton crew spent a rainy, cozy day to ourselves. And I baked. A lot.

Eve helped me do dishes tonight because she was on watch and we talked about various things. She laughed when I went to go show her my rig knife (you might want to close your eyes for this part, Marc), and had to get it out of a box. I still need to get a belt to attach it to, then I would be one cool cook, prepared to slice through a mess of lines to save a fellow crew-mate from otherwise certain doom.

This time after dinner with each of the crew members has become increasingly important to me. While they are above-decks working together all day long, I'm isolated in my own world in the galley. I probably talk their ears off. But I also like hearing their take on the day - it makes me wonder what they would write about if they, too, kept blogs.

Rigby's sandwich-building shows more discretion.

If you can name it, it' s probably on Bly's sandwich.

Thursday's Menu
Bittman's banana bread in an 8x8, so you 
get more crust/crunch per square inch.
Biscuits and sausage gravy and eggs. Today I made biscuits the way I've perfected them - but I used Lily White flour, which I'd read that you can only find in the south. It uses only winter wheat and is therefore very light. They were hands-down my best biscuits ever. See recipe below.
Build-your-own sandwiches, with yesterday's salads and leftover mac-and-cheese. I think the only thing I added was a chipotle egg salad and a pot of orzo cooked in chicken broth and tossed with Asiago. The latter was something I was just really in the mood for on a day like today.
Afternoon snack
Yesterday I told the crew to eat the aging bananas in the hammock or I would turn them into banana bread. The cry went out and echoed against the bulkheads: "Don't eat the bananas!" So today I made banana bread using Mr. Bittman's fantastic recipe with only one variation: I reserved some coconut for the top and it got nice and toasty.
Beef enchiladas, rice, and carrot salad
Butterscotch brownies

Biscuits, from More with Less
Makes 8 extremely large biscuits, or a lot more small ones.
4 c. flour (White Lily if you can find it!)
6 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
Cut in:
1/2 c. shortening (I can't believe I'm admitting this, but I've been using Crisco)
1+1/2 c. milk (or buttermilk)(both can come from rehydrated sources without change to results that I can see)
Perfect biscuits.
Turn dough onto lightly floured surface, and knead lightly 20 times. Then fold it once in half and then again. DO NOT USE A ROLLING PIN. Use your hands to push it into a somewhat flat piece, 1/2 to 1 inch thick. Cut into circles or use biscuit cutter or an upside-down glass. DO NOT ROLL OR SHAPE INTO CIRCLES. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 425 degrees. My oven bakes them in 10 minutes. Watch for when the tops start to brown and don't let them bake much beyond that.

I cook a lot out of More with Less, and will eventually type up the Honey Wheat Bread recipe because it turns out perfect loaves of whole wheat sandwich bread.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

An Unwelcome Guest

Bly put strawberries AND yogurt on his Dutch Baby.
I always keep a rope across the galley doors, because coast guard regulations don't permit people to come inside, and because it would be a real pain if visitors kept getting underfoot while I was cooking. I had not yet put the rope up after lunch today when this creepy guy got onboard and stepped boldly down two steps and plunked himself down.

This was not the first time he'd paid us a visit. I thought he was creepy the first day. The second day, I couldn't wait for him to leave. Today was overkill.

This time he came with the express purpose of talking to me. Bly saw him coming but was stuck aft working on a stuncil.

I felt sick to my stomach the moment I saw him. But it was too late. He was sitting down.

So I said something about coast guard regulations and that he had to back up. He protested mildly. Then asked me what I would do if I caught a fish. I told him we hadn't caught a fish. But if you did?, he pressed.

"Sushi," I answered, hoping that he would not ask how to make sushi. But he did.

I was flustered, trying to concentrate on getting the washing done so I could do my grocery run and hoping short answers would make him leave. Not in the least.

"I have a great picture of you in the galley," he said. "You look really cute. I'd love to email it to you. What's your email?"

"I'm off the grid," I said. "No email."

"So what's that hole in front of you, on the other side of the galley? Where does that lead?"

"The fo'c'sle," I said, "where the deckhands sleep."

"Is that where you sleep?" Then he corrected himself, "No, that's right. You sleep down below here."

I wanted to barf.

"What's your name?"

That was it. I did not want to tell him my name.

I called out to Mr. Pink, who was going to drive me to the store to do my provisioning. I walked over to him and told him I wanted to leave - now. We were out the door within ten minutes. I forgot to tell Cap we were leaving and ask for the credit cards - I even forgot the grocery list!

There's only one other time that I've been so discomfited by someone. I told the story to Mr. Pink on the way to the store, and later to Bly.

I think Captain Flash thought I'd gone a little loony.

Bly said he'd take care of it and make sure to show the guy off the boat if he returned.

Thursday's Menu
Dutch Baby with fresh-cut strawberries
Build-your-own sandwich with leftover chicken, lettuce, a cucumber raita, cous cous salad, and more.
Amazing Texas brisket; carrots baked with brown sugar, salt and cinnamon; macaroni and cheese made like carbonara with cheddar; salad with dried cranberries, sunflower seeds and asiago cheese; brown bread.
Mr. Pink bought dessert - ice cream - hurrah!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Aye, There's the Rub

Bly's tacos - with everything but the kitchen sink.
Today Smith's mom and dad drove through on their way home from a trip to Alabama. Momma Smith has spent many summers cooking on tall ships, so she knows the gig. She brought bread flour from a Mennonite community near their home and King Arthur flour, which I don't buy because of the cost-savings I get from buying the store brand. In the gift box there were also spices and a jar of maple butter(!), dried veggie chips and Michael Ruhlman's book, Ratio. Mamma Smith also brought a fantastic treat: flats of strawberries. Pappa Smith gave us a bottle of his home-made wine.

It was like Christmas. And it didn't stop. About a week ago my salad bowl cracked up the side. Smith took her folks to the local Goodwill and texted me a photo of the salad bowl selection, and I now have an awesome new wooden bowl.

No news is good news?
I told our hosts last night about the blog and today was paid a visit by a blogger for the local news. She asked if she could mention the blog...

It was a bittersweet moment.

As much as I would get a kick out of any new readers, it would pull off the cloak of anonymity and reveal the identities of the crew and the boat. I really struggled with it for a bit - the typical writer's need for a public that understands or hears and the oh-so-human desire for fame and noteriety.

But there are of course real people here with me that didn't sign up for this. Even though they have consented to a kind of complicitness in the story, they agreed believing, because I told them so, that their real identities were disguised.

And it's this underground aspect of it that gives me freedom to take poetic license - to make the people and the boat a bit larger than life by accentuating certain character traits, or by revealing some events bit by bit, as foreshadowing. Like, say, by noting that we may soon be getting another crew member. Or by hinting that something really hilarious is about to happen before we leave on our five to ten day transit to Long Island. See, I couldn't write that if I were writing an official, public blog for our owners. They'd already be calling to find out what I'm talking about.

Dinner table.
Wednesday's Menu
Leftover hash with eggs and blueberry muffins
taco buffet with strawberry salsa, guacamole, chorizo with onions, fried rice, refried beans, and Monterrey jack cheese (oh, and leftover pizza!)
Oven-roasted chicken, brined for twelve hours the day before
Sweet potato wedges with maple mayonnaise
Grilled carrots and turnips
Salad with toppings, including strawberries in olive oil and balsamic vinegar with saltand pepper
Oops, I did it again... Completely forgot about dessert!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Monday afternoon we got a new crew member, Mr. Pink (so-called because he arrived looking neatly pressed in a pink shirt). Mr. Pink is my Dad's age, and had intended to sail with us to Beauford. I imagine he must've been bummed when we cancelled the trip, but I'm impressed that he came anyway and spent all day Tuesday sanding the pinrails and doing other boatwork.

After my morning run, Cap' informed me that we were invited for pizza at the home of our friends who had hosted the BBQ last week. I love days like this, when you suddenly have time to do things you've been putting off. By the time we left for pizza, I had baked a loaf of honey-wheat sandwich bread; made a new batch of pickled red onions; boiled eggs for pickled eggs and for a curried egg salad; baked lemon drop cookies; and brined two whole chickens.

The hole in the sole
I even finally organized my Tupperware cupboard, which I've been putting off. Funny story about that actually. Not long after I arrived I noticed that the lids to my containers seemed to go missing. When I went to investigate I found a crack in the floor of the cupboard, so I lifted up the plywood floor-plate only to discover a cavern approximately two-square feet wide by six feet deep! At the bottom I could see a half-dozen lids, and sticking out of a ledge several inches down I discovered a set of crutches... Though how anyone would actually have found them if we ever needed them is beyond me.

It made me think about the boat and its design, and wonder how many other pockets exist in her belly containing lord only knows what kind of lost or forgotten items.

Pizza night
Our gracious hosts entertained us for the evening with stories from their past and then we watched a film about a self-declared pirate named Sinbad who built his own boat in the suburbs of Detroit back in the sixties. He is still sailing it today and we would have exchanged cannon fire with him had we not changed our plans to go to Beauford.

Eve, fending off a fellow hungry sailor.
I'm rather glad we didn't go though. I like Wilmington more and more every day.

Tuesday's Menu
Hash with ham and beets
Pasta primavera and no-knead bread with lots of cheddar cheese baked into and on top of it
Pizza from Slice of Life
Lemon Drops

Monday, April 18, 2011

Marking Time

My weekly menus, before and after.
The crew likes it when I play This American Life or stories from the Moth. Most of the time they can't hear it - they’re suspended from the mast on a bosun’s chair or painting the rails or varnishing stuncils. But for about an hour every morning they are cleaning the soles and the heads in the main salon and the fo'c'sle, and I play the podcasts for them. 

The next day they’ll say, “What happened to the kids that guy was trying to rescue?” So I have to rewind the program to the part where they finished their work below-decks. 

On Saturday I bought a set of rockin' speakers - so they can hear it over the water pressurizer and even above-decks.

The schedule
These kinds of rituals become important on a boat. Our days are broken up into mini-rituals: every morning I wake the crew 15 minutes before breakfast. “Good morning, Fo’c’sle! Good morning, Aft!” Fifteen minutes later comes the second call: “Breakfast!” Every morning we muster after breakfast and again before dinner. At muster Smith and Cap prepare us for the events of the day, and in the evening they review the day’s work.

Given the steadiness of our routine, you might wonder why I woke up at 7 AM one morning, thinking I had overslept and only had a half hour to put breakfast together. The miracle is, I did it - I made breakfast in 30 minutes. The not so miraculous part is that… um… I woke everyone up a half hour early. 

In an attempt to get things straight, I am making a concerted effort to ritualize my days. To find a pattern. After getting a run in for the first day since we arrived in Wilmington, I've decided to start getting up early and getting my lunches started before breakfast so I can immediately get a run in after muster.

I also want to get a weekly plan in place, starting on Mondays. I don’t like to shop on Saturdays because of the crowds, so my menu planning starts on Tuesdays. It’s designed to use up food from the previous week as well as to help me shop. I know I should be defrosting that fridge once a week, so I’m looking ahead, wondering if Monday nights might generally be best for this – assuming the crew eats up my leftovers during the day on Monday. 

Monday's Menu
A fried green tomato BLT, grits and a bloody marry at the Dixie Cafe.
Coffee and ice cream
Cocktail hour

Flights of beer and free meatballs at Tony's

Cuban sandwich with pickled okra at Mixto

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Pillowy corn muffins.
This morning I found some guy named Simon Arnold had left his cell phone in the galley. At breakfast the crew told me that while I lay fast asleep in my bed at the Hilton, several groups of people had boarded the Marlin during the night.

Back in Savannah, I awoke several times to find people on the deck. Usually they were drunk. It was the middle of the night. And they immediately got off the boat when they saw me. One time Cap’ found four people on deck – two of them having sex beside the galley cabin top and the other two back by the aft cabin, looking out at the river!

Until this weekend, things in Wilmington have been comparatively subdued. On Friday I heard voices at around 1:30 AM. When I stepped out of the galley, I found a couple sitting on the dock overlooking the boat. I made eye contact with the guy for 30 seconds before his girlfriend saw me, and when she did, she said in a cheery voice, “Hi!” It was as if they’d been waiting for me to join the conversation.

But on Saturday, Simon Arnold had his lady friend up on the counter beside the sink and they were getting it on. The emergency exit for the fo'c'sle is behind the sink. (I often drop cups down into the fo'c'sle that are meant for the dishrack.) So imagine Mr. Arnold’s surprise when Rigby, who sleeps directly below the exit,  popped up like a jack-in-the-box on the other side of the counter. 
Moon-set from the 9th floor of the Hilton, just hours after
Mr. Arnold's escape from my galley.

Lex Talionis
People walk across our decks all day long. They peer into the galley. We are always on display. People see the ship as a public park – a giant floating jungle gym.  Still it’s kind of mind-boggling, the lack of boundaries or self-awareness that would make you climb on a boat, enter a closed door and start having sex in the galley. 

So now, without further ado, I’d like to take a moment to invade Mr. Arnold’s privacy. I won’t quote all his text messages (the ones with his Dad or with someone named, “Don’t Answer”), but I would like to share this one exchange with a Mr. Peterson, which took place at 12:25 AM:

Arnold: Remember that poem I wrote about us going dt?
Peterson: Yeah?
Arnold: I just got done editing it and it’s fucking rad as FUCK!!! It might be one of the best ones I’ve ever done.
Peterson: Yes dats what up
Arnold: Lookin at another board Sunday. Need weed. Left mine at the house. Help, baby,’ hel’
Peterson: Where u at?
Arnold: Baby boy. My head is tilting
Peterson: Hahahahahahahahah

It's true what they say. Revenge is sweet.

Sunday’s Menu
Dutch Baby and lots of bacon in honor of Cap’ Bill’s last day.
Hamburgers and fries (though Cap was a bummed I left the skins on the potatoes, this meal was also for him). I really got the buns right this time – will post recipe later.
Rice and beans with sausage. It was supposed to be baked chicken and mashed potatoes (again, for Cap’ – who truly only likes eating meat and potatoes – but the chicken wasn’t defrosted when I went to bake it so I had to revert to emergency meal.
I also made these super light and yummy corn muffins, by adding about a cup of cottage cheese, two eggs, and a little more than a cup of cheddar cheese to the cornbread mix. After pouring the batter for four of them, I added chilies and then cracked fresh pepper on top of the other eight muffins to signify that there was spice in them. 
Frozen raspberry tart: a crust of graham crackers and butter with a topping of pureed raspberries, cream cheese, whipping cream and powdered sugar. If I make it again, I will add a tad of white pepper, salt and more sugar.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall

This morning I rode with the King and his daughter to the airport in order to borrow his car. After I dropped them off, I hit roadblocks. The detour signs seemed to be getting me further and further off track, so I swerved off onto a country-looking road that turned out to be the main access route to the prison. There was small roadblock across the opposite lane, so I slowed down.

"You here for visitation?" asked the guard.
"No," I said, "I was hoping to drive through here."
"I don't know what they're doing back there," he said. "Road's supposed to be blocked."
"So I can drive through, but just not pick anybody up? Is that right?"
He grinned and nodded; winked, "That's right, ma'am."

I rolled up my window, hit the lock button and kept on driving.

Smith helping me capture Harrison's new Harry Potter scar -
which he got when Rigby inadvertently elbowed him
during The Great Fend-off. 
All Hands on Watch
When I got back to the boat the winds had kicked up. They'd shut down the boat for visits, and the entire crew was wedged between the boat and the dock, trying to make sure the fenders didn't pop out. We're under a tornado watch until later tonight. Cap asked us all to keep our cell phones on us this evening in case we needed to rescue the boat from the three-foot waves.

It was a bit of a relief to see the King off. His presence on the boat reminded me of when I convinced my father to buy a house when I was in college, so that I and my sisters had a place to stay off-campus. Every time he came to see the house, he was frustrated by the fact that we didn't take care of it the way he would have. The King seemed a lot more hands-off than my father, which is surprising, given the fact that it's a boat and it needs a lot of constant work. Still, it's our home even though he owns it. When he was in the galley, I tried to see what he was seeing. "Sorry about that stove," he said at one point. I gave him a (small) earful.

Although Captain Bill is a nice ol' guy, I'm ready to see him off, too. Over the last few days, our boat has been top-heavy. Too many leaders in too small a space.  Like when the old cook, Mark, was still here. We probably overlapped by four days or something.

It feels like the boat has had a head-cold. I'm ready for us to get over it. Start fresh.

Saturday's Menu
I had planned to make sausage gravy but couldn't find the sausage. So I made biscuits, bacon and eggs. After breakfast Captain Flash said, "I'm not a morning person. I don't eat breakfast." I've decided that once Captain Bill leaves on Monday, I'm going to use breakfast as my spicy, experimental food hour.
Pork being seared, beside the Chablis I used on the kale.
Spaghetti and meatballs
Pork loin that I got on sale (I checked the date!) marinated for hours; it was delicious.
Rice with lemon rinds
Leftover baked beans
Kale and onions
Oops. I guess they'll survive. Totally forgot about it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Rock the Boat

Boys with shirts tucked in, going out for dinner.
Smith is on deck, making a whipping around a grommet that's going to hold the new preventer onto the boom. If this sounds like gibberish to you, you aren't alone. It's a little embarrassing though, in my case. 

The crew says not to worry about their feelings, that I can write about them. But I hesitate before I test this statement.

In one of Malcolm Gladwell's books he talks about how many happy people it takes to make a sad group happy versus how many sad people it takes to make a group of happy people sad. I can't remember the exact ratio, but I do remember that it takes far fewer sad people to being down the happy ones. In recent practice, in fact, I can say that it only takes one person to bring down the moods of six.

Remains of the manicotti.
Last night Smith was in a sour mood, and it rocked the delicate symbiosis onboard. The dinner table was quiet. Conversation was stilted. Not even pizza night could raise their spirits.

The Real Grand Arrival
Captain Flash arrived after dinner. I was hoping her presence would put things on an even keel, but there is still today a bit of drama going on between the King and Captain Flash and Captain Bill. As Allen said when I went to work at Somewhere, and we talked about the pros and cons of employing the man I was seeing then, "There is always drama. There will always be drama. What matters is how people handle it."

Look around at your co-workers. Now imagine living with seven of them. And you can't choose - so just go "Ennie-Meanie-Minie-Mo." Yep, those seven. It's your best interests to like them. If you don't initially, you better find a way, or you are not going to be very happy. And you hope to hell you trust them - because while you are in the middle of the ocean, at any given time, two or three of them are the only reason you can sleep at night.

Dining out.
Friday's Menu
Sour cream coffee cake (; cheese eggs and bacon; and leftover pizza
Manicotti Americana; open-face pulled pork sandwiches with celery and onions; and leftover salads: Fetasmic Couscous and German Potato Salad
The King took us out on the town. It was a little awkward. Hard to hear. We were all a little uncertain bout whether or not we could drink and about how much to order. Like pets let out of our cages. We watched him for cues. The food was good! (

Manicotti Americana
I followed the recipe from the back of the manicotti package - but substituted the mozzarella cheese with half cheddar and half pepper jack. For veggies I used frozen peas and corn.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Know Your Captain

Leftover Rice Krispie treats and tomorrow's coffee cake(!).
I came up with Cap’s nickname weeks ago. I decided I wanted to call her Captain Flash. I had told Kip when he asked me about names. “Hmmm,” he said, “She might like that.”

I googled her before I took the job. Like I googled Captain Wright from the Neverland. I approach it like a company doing a background check. Except I only peripherally glance at their experience or try to find what people have said about them (though I should). I do an image search. All I want to know is: does the person look trustworthy?

Hard Facts
Here is what I know about Captain Flash. She is an excellent storyteller, though if she uses the word, “Banana Daquiri,” elements of fiction are being introduced.  The crew has briefed me on her eating habits. According to Smith, “She’s a hyper-taster, so she can break down the ingredients of any dish. And therefore doesn’t like spicy things. She hates onions – not the taste, but the texture. She doesn’t eat breakfast and on transits doesn’t hardly eat at all, so don’t be offended. And she loves pineapple.” (Smith also loves pineapple, so one must question her motivation for this little tip.)

I already feel like I'm running an app in my brain designed to censor meals accordingly. I’ve already decided to make copious amounts of pickled and caramelized onions so the crew can onion-up their plates individually.

Food preferences aside, I’m ready to have a regular captain installed. I’m eager to work for a woman again. I think it's cool that she's younger than me. I'm ready for some stability, despite my need for change.

I had Harrison help stage my own little photoshoot.
Thursday's Menu
Breakfast burritos: scrambled eggs, spicy sausage, rice, tortillas , cheese, sour cream, hot sauce
Sandwiches and fatasmic couscous salad and German potato salad
Pizza (Bolognese; Ham & pineapple; and BBQ pork); and salad
Rice Krispie treats (I got lazy again)