April 17-23, 2013 – The Crossing: Chapter Two – Sailor’s Delight

On the 18th, the crew woke to a lavender sunrise and a light breeze.  It was a beautiful day.  We were rested and ready to go.  We tore through the Hampton Inn schmorgas board breakfast and hit the road.  Our sail groupies were eager to make the big send-off.


The parents and I headed to Publix to make the big provisions run and, I have to say, I ran a tight ship.  Mary was assigned canned goods and other non-perishables while I ransacked the produce and meat departments.  I sent Paul to the back to gather boxes and bags and he cleaned them out.  We looked like the old Supermarket Sweep contestants



Minus the matching numbered jersey sweatshirts of course.  Man, these people are excited.  And, just for an extra laugh (so all my hard blog work doesn’t go to waste) – this is worth a minute of your life, trust me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UO_tm-C7yfU).

I texted Phillip a few pics to make sure I had picked up the right items.


Annie:  The pink right?

 Phillip:  That’s my favorite color.

This was for the shrimp feta pasta we made on Saturday night.  Yum!  (Although Phillip’s version is way better, this recipe will help get you there: http://www.food.com/recipe/michelles-penne-with-shrimp-tomatoes-and-feta-318465).

364 dollars later (ouch!) we made it to the boat and started stacking up all the goodies in the cockpit.  Down below, I was initially a little worried about how we were going to fit everything in the boat.  Remember all that crap on the Provisions List?  Well, now we had it – we just had to find a place to put it on a 35 foot sailboat.  But, I will say, that turned out to be a non-issue.  There were more nooks and crannies on that boat than an English muffin.  (Which, interestingly enough, are patented and were recently the cause of a top secret muffin scare.  Oh my!  A riveting read I assure you: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2010-07-29-english-muffin-lawsuit_N.htm).  Thankfully, we were able to cram all the crap in all the crannies in record time.  We shook hands with Barbara and Jack and engaged in a nice photo op to memorialize the big event.


They were excited for us but a bit sad to see their beautiful boat go.  We promised to take good care of her and they assured us if we did, she would certainly take good care of us.  We set off around 11:30 a.m. and headed out into Charlotte Harbor.


The sailing was prime that day.  The sun was out.  The wind was blowing 8-12 knots and the waves were 2-3  feet all afternoon.  We started to play around with the sails some and learn the systems.  No matter how much you know about sailing, it always takes a bit to learn the rigging when you’re on a new boat.  For us, this consisted of a very complicated pull-and-wiggle approach where I would pull or wiggle a line from the cockpit and Mitch, up at the mast, would find the line I was expertly pulling and wiggling and determine what it controlled, the outhaul, or the boom vang or a reefing line, etc.   We, of course, forgot most of that when it came time to reef (pull the sail down a bit) but it just takes a while.  After we got the sails up and trimmed and on a nice tack, the crew took a collective breath and let the afternoon seep in.  We put on some good music, made some snacks (tuna salad sandwiches and homemade guac!) and, as all good sailors do, shed a few clothes.




Some of us relaxed more than others:


Now I did promise a full-fledged Chaucer rendition of Mitch, didn’t I?  You readers … so demanding.  Mitch.  Where do I begin?  First, I must say, he’s an incredible friend to give up five days to sail across the open Gulf with us and help get the boat back.  As fun as it is, remember what I told you about sailing, it is indeed hard work, and we were out of touch with the rest of the cellular world for days at a time.  That’s a big commitment, and there is no way we could have done it without him.  There, now that I’ve given Mitch his due praise, let me give him his due description.  As I’ve told you, Mitch is all of six feet, four inches.  While that may seem pretty normal for a guy … on land … it’s a bit much for a 35-foot sailboat.  Mitch lumbered and bumbled around that boat like an elephant going through a carwash.  Each step of his foot on the deck sounded like Neal Armstrong landing on the moon.  I honestly felt sorry for him while I watched him clamor up and down the companionway stairs and through the hatch.  He must have felt like he was crawling around on Playskool equipment.


I think the fear of getting stuck in the hatch prompted him, each time I got up to go down the stairs, to ask me for something he needed from down below, rightly earning him the name “Mitch, While-You’re-Down-There, Roberts” for the duration of the trip.  He was a talker and a screamer but he had a heart of gold.  Mitch taught me a great deal about sailing and he was a true asset on the trip.

We watched the sun set over the bow of the boat on Thursday evening and congratulated each other on an excellent day of sailing.



I got industrious and labored away on some sweet potato chili in the galley.  I managed not to blow the boat up and fed the crew right and proper.  It was a sailing miracle!  Clearwater was still another 15 hours away and we had a long night of sailing ahead, but the crew was full and content and ready to make way.

March 26, 2013 – Some Food for Thought

Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait long.   Jack had the boat well-priced and we made a reasonable offer.  After a few small moves on both sides, we quickly reached middle ground and struck a deal, contingent, of course, on the survey/sea trial, which was scheduled for April 3rd.  That meant another trip down South to Punta Gorda to make sure the ole’ gal was truly sea-worthy.  I figured in the meantime, I better do some things to make sure this ole’ gal was sea-worthy – like, learn how to cook … in the galley!

Cooking on a boat is not much different than cooking at home.  You’ve got a stove, an oven, some pots and pans.  Aside from having to strap yourself into a space the size of your pantry and keep boiling pots from sliding around and toppling over while the boat is heaving to and fro, it’s exactly the same.  For a visual – imagine this sea state while you’re gingerly sprinkling a little oregano on your soup: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nf7FddPO5QM).  To replicate the feeling at home, you can get yourself nice and sloshed one Friday night, spin around 10 or 12 times in your kitchen and then try to cook yourself a nice, hot meal.  You’ll find on occasion, you’ve punched garlic right onto the counter and dumped an empty ramekin into the pot, or that you’ve seasoned up an empty burner to perfection while your sauce turned out a little lackluster.  Cooking in a boat galley requires a lot more agility and hand-eye coordination than actual culinary skills.

The primary differences you want to keep in mind are fewer pots and less provisions.  The more meals you can make in one pot, the better.  With fresh water in short supply, the less dishes you have to wash, the better.  So you can either up your one-pot meal repertoire or improve your spit-shine capabilities.  I recommend the former.  One good book we found useful for inspiration was The One Pan Galley Gourmet.

One-Pan Galley Gourmet


This little gem is chock full of quick and easy one-pot dishes that are perfect for the boat.  I also got a little creative one night and perfected a sweet potato chili that has now become a staple at Châteaux de Phillipé.  It’s a nice, filling substitute for the traditional beef and bean chili.

Sweet potato chili


Pairs well with a sweet red zin or syrah (as it has a little kick).

We also tried a beef and broccoli stir-fry one night that made the cut.  The trick is to roll the beef around in the corn starch mixture first to get that nice, brown crust on it before stir-frying with the broccoli.

Beef Broc 2


Pairs well with a bold cab or even a malbec.

And, another go-to, of course, is a classic vegetable soup.  Now, I’m not talking about that watered-down Minestrone crap they serve at Olive Garden.  This recipe allows you to throw pretty much any leftover veggies in the pot (perfect for cruisers trying to use up veggies that are about to turn, or, as my grandmother would say, “ruirnt” (that’s a technical, Alabama term for spoiled.  I’m serious, although Urban Dictionary had an entirely different, yet equally entertaining, take on it: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=ruirnt.  Note the usage: “Dude, he is … “).

You really don’t need a recipe for the veggie soup.  Just know you’ve got to start by cooking the heartier vegetables (carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, etc. – those that take longer to soften) first – in a little oil and salt.  After they soften add your spices, broth and lighter vegetables (tomatoes, mushrooms, any leafy vegetable, etc.).  Bring to a boil and let it simmer for about a half hour – seasoning and tasting as you go.  (I also recommend sipping wine all the while and throwing some in the pot).


Soup 2

Depending on your seasoning, this pairs well with a good blend, granache or hearty merlot.

If you’re not hungry after all of that, your taste buds don’t have a pulse.  Or, better yet, if they do, they’re the scrawny kind that get their lunch money stolen at school.

If these seem like easy recipes, it’s because they are.  Remember the whole strapped-in-a pantry, heaving-to-and-fro bit.  You need easy recipes on the boat.  Forgiving, lasting recipes that you can make under any conditions and that will keep you and crew going for days.  You’ll learn.  Until then, pour a few extra glasses at home, do the spins and shout hearty sea expletives while you cook up a storm and mimic life on the open seas.  Enjoy!