Sunday, November 29, 2009

Anything But Turkey

I should say that Thanksgiving was outstanding and the turkey was beautiful and I even ate a piece (twice). I stopped having traditional Thanksgiving fare several years ago. My daughter will tell you this led her straight in to counseling.

I've never been fond of turkey and pumpkin pie is nothing short of disgusting if you ask me. I spent years trying to make both in a more interesting way. But you can dress a turkey up in a cheesecloth gown if you like. It's still going to emerge a turkey.

Enough said. I had a great Thanksgiving with turkey, pumpkin pie and sweet yams mashed. So when friends decided to get together for dinner following the holiday there wasn't a moments hesitation. We will have anything BUT turkey.

When the weather changes noticeably from fall to winter; When the skies turn dark at 4:30 pm and when wind and rain greet you every time you venture outside; And when the first thing to greet you when you start your car is Christmas music (especially if this sort of thing bothers you). Then I say get your comfort food on! The only way I know how to fight back is through comfort food.

We had Shepherd's Pie.

A rich, red-wine & veal demi sauce filled with heirloom carrots, onions, mushrooms, parsnips and tender braised lamb. Topped with creamy, comforting mashed potatoes. It was so emotional there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Okay. that's a lie, but there wasn't an empty belly and the weather outside went unnoticed.

I still can't look at this picture without my tummy hurting. It's never good to head right into a Shepherd's Pie with Turkey rebellion in your heart.

While we labored (not) in the kitchen. Chris was in the garage producing Nancy's dream design of the perfect Christmas tree.

Perhaps you are not a visionary. Perhaps you've forgotten the transformation of Charlie Brown's mournful Christmas tree. I'll bring back a photo when this tree is all adorned.

In the meantime I think the big ride has left the station. The holidays are officially here. Remain seated with your restraint device securely fastened and keep your arms inside the ride at all times. Try to enjoy the scenery.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

August 19, 1980 - November 14, 2009

It’s been difficult, even for me, to find the balance in life lately.

My friend recently had to say goodbye to her 29 year-old son.

For four weeks he lay in a coma after his vehicle was struck by another in an intersection.

We all waited and prayed and wished we could take away the agony my friend was experiencing. We longed to will Jared to wake up and be okay again.

The doctors gave hope and then something would go wrong and the hope would be deferred. Finally, they had to make the choice to unplug the machines that kept their son, brother, grandson, friend, and nephew alive.

My heart would ache for this family no matter what. But I knew this young man, Jared. He was friends with my daughter of the same age when they were both teenagers.

My head understands (though it protests this injustice). But my heart cannot rest with its laundry list of questions, what if’s and why’s.

As we approach these holidays where we gather around the table and break bread together with those we love I plan to embrace longer, listen more closely, truly study the faces of my loved ones, and say a few words about this incredible young man that touched so many lives. He will not be forgotten.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


As much as I pine for the warm days of summer that invite me out doors. I have a special place in my heart for these slow-stewing-soup-making-comfort-food days of fall.

The chilly dark days seem to invite us into the kitchen to leisurely chop and dice and play with dough and yeast and listen to NPR and hardly look up to see where the day has gone.

I grew up in a much colder fall and winter climate. I have fond memories of opening the door to the house to the warm embrace of dinner's aroma greeting me like a lover returned from a long journey. All was well in my world.

I love to try and recreate that memory not only for myself but for others. After all, life's best memories are those we share with the ones we love.
I had some fresh posole that a friend had brought back to me from New Mexico. So posole it was that starred in our Sunday night dinner this week.

Posole is made from nixtamalize cacahuazintle corn (hominy) with meat. (usually pork, chicken, turkey, pork rinds, sardine, chili pepper and other seasonings and garnish) It's a traditional pre-Columbian soup or stew from Mexico.
In reading the history of posole I found a fact that made me giggle. The ancient Mexicans believed the gods made people out of cornmeal dough. Let he who has not winced when biting the head off a gingerbread man cast the first stone!

Like most stews and chili dishes, this one benefits from being made a day ahead.
I freshly ground ancho chili powder and I can't stress enough how that flavor rises to the occasion. The recipe I used as a guideline called for canned hominy. I was blessed with fresh so that's what I used.

There were 9 of us for dinner on Sunday and there was enough posole for 4 more people. We topped ours with finely shredded cabbage, chopped avocado, cilantro, lime wedges and jalapenos. We passed creme for those interested as well.
I made fresh corn tortillas to soak up the broth. They were wonderful but the hominy had pretty much done the dirty work of soaking up the broth before the pot of posole ever made its way to the table.

Day one: before the posole opened up

Day two: I like to call this "piggy goodness"

On my plate with all the toppings and a fresh soft corn tortilla

Fresh corn tortillas

Pork Posole

4 medium onions, divided
7 tablespoons canola oil, divided
4 tablespoons ancho chile powder, divided
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons dried oregano (preferably Mexican), divided
1 6 to 61/2 pound bone-in pork shoulder (Boston butt), cut into 4 to 5 inch pieces, some meat left on bone
5 cups or more chicken broth
4 7-ounce cans diced green chiles, drained (I like to chop my own)
5 large garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons ground cumin
4 15-ounce cans golden or white hominy, drained
4 limes, each cut into 4 wedges
chopped white onion
fresh cilantro leaves
chopped avocado
shredded cabbage
Mexican Creme or sour cream

Method: Preheat oven to 350 f. Thinly slice 2 onions. heat 4 tablespoons oil in heavy large oven proof pot over medium-high heat. Add sliced onions to pot and saute until onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon oregano; stir to coat, sprinkle pork with salt and add to pot. Add 5 cups broth. Bring to boil, cover and transfer to oven.

Braise pork until tender enough to shred easily, about 2 hours. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to a sheet pan and strain liquid.

Slice remaining onions, Heat remaining oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions: saute until soft, stirring often, about 7 minutes. Add remainig 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons ancho chile powder, remaining 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon oregano, diced chiles, garlic and cumin. Stir 30 seconds. Add pork, reserved juices and hominy. Bring to a boil. If making a day ahead of time remove from heat and refrigerate then cover after it has cooled.

On day 2 remove the fat that has risen to the top and congealed. Reheat slowly and simmer until (if using fresh) hominy has opened up.

Serve with toppings and tortillas.

Monday, October 12, 2009


I have been wrestling with a couple of obsessions lately. One of them is a landmark birthday which I seem to wrestle with in the middle of the night, in my dreams and during those hours set aside to lay awake and obsess. And the other is gnocchi.
The thing about wrestling with gnocchi is that you can't really "take it out on the gnocchi" (like you can on bread dough). Gnocchi requires a gentle hand.
My first attempt at making gnocchi wasn't so bad. I really had nothing to compare it to. I'd never tasted it before. No really. I'd seen packages of it in the deli section of my grocery store but I wasn't naive enough to believe that those little lumps were going to provide me with the best example of what to shoot for in a finished product.
Having to resort to a recipe was really difficult! However, if you look at most gnocchi recipes (like bread recipes) the amount of flour varies significantly. It is a "by feel" method of preparation. I'm totally comfortable with those sort of guidelines. So, how does one prepare something by feel if they've never felt or tasted it before? BWAHAHA you thought I'd have an answer to that didn't you? It's just crazy...that's all I can say. I made gnocchi the first time for a friend who'd traveled to Italy numerous times and consumed copious amounts of gnocchi in his travels. That's how I did it. You can try it out on children if you like. Just try it out. It's fun and it's wonderful (even if you don't get it right). (Trust me, I have done it wrong plenty of times it still gets eaten.)
I read a lot before I made gnocchi too. I tried to get a sense of what it was that made good gnocchi good and in turn what constituted bad gnocchi. (It's a mystery to me how anything made with potatoes can actually be "bad") It was my understanding that gnocchi should be a "soft pillow" not heavy or "gummy". I wanted to make potato gnocchi but there are other kinds of gnocchi, ricotta for example.
In my first attempts I used Yukon Gold potatoes and steamed them. Later, I moved to good old russet potatoes and I baked them. I scooped the warm flesh out of the baked potato and riced it onto a cookie sheet to cool.

I treated the riced potato as though it were the "00" flour I used to make pasta dough. I heaped it up into a mound once it had cooled and made a well in the center. I used 3 baked potatoes (medium size) and 2 egg yolks and 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and a generous fine grating of parmagiano reggiano cheese. Finally, I added a few turns on the pepper grinder and gently mixed in 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour until just blended.

In this particular batch I was feeling feisty and full of success so I added a couple of finely minced scallions. They called out to me and assured me that they were the perfect match for my russet potatoes.

After blending in 1 1/2 cups of flour and reserving another 1/2 cup I used my pastry cutter to divide the dough into about 6 parts. I dug deep for all the Play-Doh skills I'd developed as a youngster and gently used some of the extra remaining flour to roll out "snakes". They were about 3/4" wide and 12" long. Then I cut them into approximately 1/2" pieces.

After that it was simple. I brought a pan of water to a gentle boil (be sure to keep it a gentle boil). I added a generous amount of salt and added enough gnocchi pieces to keep them from sticking together and waited until they were floating and removed them with a strainer to a cookie sheet. Then, because I wasn't using them right away I drizzled them with some melted butter.

When it came time to cook them I chose to sear them and drizzle with a red wine and veal demi reduction. I adapted a recipe from for the gnocchi. Because I hacked the recipe so badly I don't feel it's fair to even print it. I'm done obsessing about gnocchi. I feel like I can successfully make it now.
Now for that landmark birthday and all that it represents.... I like to treat it pretty much the way I do gnocchi: with a gentle hand and a kind heart. I have a dear friend whose motto is "Be kind to yourself". I recommend you try making gnocchi and I also highly recommend my friend's advice. Be very kind to yourself.

Potato Gnocchi

3 medium sized russet potatoes, scrubbed and poked
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly grated
1/2 cup finely grated Parmagiano Reggiano cheese
2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 400 f.
Rinse and dry potatoes and poke a hole in each. Place in preheated oven and bake until tender. Check after one hour.
Set baked potato aside until you can handle it. I use a folded paper towel to hold the potato while scooping out the flesh with a spoon.
Cut potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out flesh.
Press potato flesh through a ricer onto a sheet pan to cool completely.
When cool, make a mound with riced potato with a well in the center. sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of flour, the grated cheese, salt and pepper over the potatoes. Put egg yolks in the center well and with a fork gently mix everything together. The dough should be slightly sticky.
Separate the dough into 6-8 pieces with a pastry cutter and using the leftover 1/2 cup of flour roll the pieces out into "snakes" about 12"x 3/4" x 1". (remember... no hard and fast rules!)
You can roll the gnocchi on the tines of a fork for the traditional ridges if you like. I just wanted little pillows.
Bring plenty of water to a gentle boil and toss in a generous amount of kosher salt. Drop the gnocchi in batches and wait until they float. Remove with a strainer or slotted spoon.
Be sure to drizzle with olive oil or butter so they don't stick together once they cool.
These cooked gnocchi can be frozen for later use or stored for several hours (probably overnight as well) in a container in the refrigerator.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


It's here. It's really, really here. Fall.
One day you're sprinkling a little salt on a warm slice of just-picked tomato and turning your face to the sun and the next day you're preheating the oven for an all-day braising session. It happens just like that!

I love fall almost more than spring (it's a toss up). But sometimes my love of fall is stolen by the dread of pending winter. You never know with winter. It's the unpredictable teenager in the family. It can either sit day in and day out without displaying a sign of life or personality or it can shout obscenities at you as though you've been enemies for life. Sometimes there is just no love in Winter's cold heart. But that's not why I'm here. I'm here because it's fall and things are changing outside in such a beautiful way.

Living urban, one can miss the memo that harvest is taking place on farms everywhere. People think that summer is the source of produce's bounty but fall is where it's at. Just when our seasonal farmer's markets close for the year a few miles away the farms of eastern Washington are pounding out an embarrassment of riches.

For months the oven sits unused. Watching me as I pass from the refrigerator to the grill and back again. The oven, with hands on hips seems to say, "Oh, you'll be back. I know you'll be back soon." That's just what happened. Last weekend I dug out the cast iron Dutch oven and offered up some beef short ribs and a bottle of wine for braising to my oven.

The house filled with warmth and the aroma of comfort and richness. I tried again, my hand at the elusive tender pillows of potato called gnocchi. I finally got it right. I adapted a recipe online and everything I've done wrong in the past and the memory of the perfect gnocchi that I had earlier this year at Art of the Table in Wallingford. The planets were aligned for me because I finally found success.

Wine Braised Beef Shortribs with Potato Gnocchi

Start a day ahead.

For Short ribs

5 lbs bone-in beef short ribs
1 tablespoon olive oil for browning
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
4 medium carrots, cut in 1" pieces
1 medium onion, cut in 1" pieces
3 celery stalks, cut into 1" pieces
1 head garlic cut in half crosswise
4 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups dry red wine (I used Zinfandel)
4 cups brown veal stock or 1/2 cup good veal demi and 31/2 cups water
4 large sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Heat oven to 325 F.
Pat beef dry. Heat oil in a wide, heavy pan (I used a 5 quart cast-iron Dutch oven) over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking.
Generously season each rib with salt and pepper and brown on all sides, turning with tongs, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and hold.
Add carrots, onions, celery and garlic to oil in pot and cook over moderate heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until they begin to caramelize a little. Stir in tomato paste and "cook" for a minute or two. Add wine, and boil over moderately high heat for about 8 minutes until sauce is slightly thickened. Add veal stock, thyme, bay leaf and vinegar. Bring to a simmer. Add browned ribs and any accumulated juices on the plate and cover the pot with a tight fitting lid. Liquid in pan should cover or almost cover the meat.
Transfer to oven and braise until beef is very tender, 3 to 4 hours. Check at 3 hours. If meat is tender and falling off the bones it is done.
Remove meat from braising liquid and hold in a bowl. Strain the braising liquid through a medium mesh strainer pressing on the solids and then discarding them. Pour the sauce over the ribs, cover and refrigerate over night. (meat needs to be completely submerged in juices in order to remain moist).

On day two remove ribs from the refrigerator. There will be a layer of solid fat on top of the dish. Remove the fat and then remove the meat of the ribs from the bones. Discard any fat and gristle from the meat leaving the meat in large pieces. Bring the braising liquid to a boil in a heavy saucepan large enough to hold it comfortably. Boil until liqiud is reduced to about 4 cups and has thickened slightly. Taste for seasoning and pour it over the ribs and hold while you brown the prepared gnocchi.

I adapted a Gourmet recipe for gnocchi and seared it in clarified butter before adding it with the rib meat and sauce.
Since I didn't know I was going to finally "get it" with the gnocchi I didn't take pictures of the process. However, because I finally "got it", I'll make it again soon and come back with some pictures of the process.
In the meantime, dust off your Dutch oven and show your oven a little love.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I have come to call my friend’s island getaway on Orcas Paradise. That’s how it feels when the days slowly evolve and curling up in an Adirondack chair with a good book evokes no guilt whatsoever. Bloody Marys and fresh crab from the waters just down the sloping lawn for breakfast.
Looking back down at the boat after arriving at the house. On Monday morning before we left, we spotted an Orca Whale at the distant shore. That was jaw-dropping amazing.

We left Seattle early Saturday morning under a downpour that was unrivaled so far this year. Something about the dampness that accompanies that kind of deluge made it easy to leave town.

As we drew closer to Anacortes where the boat is moored we saw patches of blue sky with puffy clouds. It seemed too much to hope that we’d actually have nice weather. We were prepared to graciously accept anything short of a rain bath. How pleasantly surprised we were to encounter blue skies and sunshine that accompanied us to the island and revisited daily until our departure on Monday.

The boat is launched with this ancient looking contraption from overhead. Kathleen and I agreed that the sight of your boat being hoisted through the air is just... well, creepy.

After arriving we situated ourselves in the sunshine at varying spots and the guys set crab pots and motored to the store near the ferry landing.

What followed was a lazy day of banter, music, wine and reading (and in my case a nap or two). Even Bernie (L) and Bruce (R) lazed in the warm afternoon sun.

Trips up and down the sloping property to unload luggage and supplies are made easier with the "gator" appropriately adorned with a hood ornament of ... a gator.

The guys grilled steaks and local corn that we'd picked up at a farm stand in Anacortes.

Dinner was nothing short of amazing. Fresh crab, perfect steaks, grilled sweet corn (oh the season is almost over!) and some rich, rich gratin potatoes.For me personally, that crab was the show stopper. We all ate too much that night but we were wise not to complain of our own folly.

Sunday morning I got up to see the early morning sun rise over the water. I sat in the quiet enjoying a cup of coffee and when I'd fully embraced the decadence that was paradise, I crawled back in bed and fell fast asleep. I woke to the sound of the gator below my bedroom window. The guys had brought in more fresh crab and I had to take a moment to wipe the sleep from my eyes, stretch and then pinch myself before heading downstairs to join the others.
We call it the breakfast of champions. A spicy bloody Mary and fresh crab.

Actually, Steve made great bacon and egg breakfast sandwiches for everyone. Lest anyone think that we went tearing into the vodka bottle early in the morning. And if you did think we tore into the vodka bottle early in the morning guess what? You're not the boss of me. It was at least 9:30 or 10:00.

There were more naps to be had, more reading to be done and more eagles to watch in the skies overhead.
Chris perched on a nearby boulder and strummed his guitar, Kathleen worked in her little garden and Steve pulled weeds and looked far busier than me. I read and napped until we took Chris and Nancy to the ferry dock and said farewell.

We roasted a chicken and made mushroom risotto for dinner followed by a crossword puzzle that I made quick work out of learning how to use the Internet to cheat on. That's right. I cheat (except when I play Scrabble) (Cheating at Scrabble would make me too discomfortable)

I hope I get invited back. It really is paradise.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Paella: It's crack

How much am I giving away if I confess (as I did early on in my blog about brisket) that I've never made paella? There you have it. I just can't formulate a clever enough lie to cover up the fact! I've eaten a lot of it (and a lot of BAD paella I might add), read a ton about it and talked and thought and dreamed and planned...but no.. I'd never made it until tonight.

I used to visit Seattle's Spanish Table all-things-Spain store near the Pike Place Market and drool over the paella pans. I have sought out Spanish chorizo for years and again, read and reread paella recipes and grew a little more intimidated (I like to do things authentically and having tasted bland and pedestrian paella on so many occasions I figured the real thing MUST be difficult to make) I've read about its origins, and various family and regional twists. I consider myself a bonafide arm-chair paella expert. Until tonight when I put the Barca-lounger to rest and stepped up to the hot paella pan.

Sunday dinner saved my paella bacon! I have Vivian to thank. It was enough that Vivian and Kevin arrived in their full-on kitsch vintage Le Mans convertible complete with Kevin's kilt. That was enough!! But Viv brought her massive paella pan and her paella spoon. I was balls out in.

Nancy had shopped earlier for the best of the best shrimp, Penn Cove mussels, Spanish chorizo and fresh chicken at Whole foods (actually the chorizo had come from another source). We had busied ourselves chopping, marinating and readying ourselves for the arrival of the paella master.

Vivian produced paella the way she does just about everything else I've witnessed her do - with the toss of her hair and an ease that comes from an inner peace and genuine joy of life. I was so thrilled to be making paella for the first time with Vivian! I knew it was going to be great when Vivian didn't even glance at the recipe on the counter near the mis en place!

We started with a hot paella pan over a wood fired grill. A generous dose of Olive oil and then the chorizo.

Okay, here's another great thing about Viv: She laughs in the face of high heat! That's right. She was so aware that the action hitting the bottom of that paella pan was not to be disturbed. And together we respectfully watched as chorizo gave up it's fat and sizzled away over the heat of the coals.. little stirring and much less fussing all together. Then we added the chicken and waited for that perfect golden brown crust to develop on it.

Then the red onions, Piquillo peppers, sliced garlic, the rice, stock, tomatoes, saffron and smokey paprika.

Vivian measured NOTHING! She waved her magic paella spoon over the whole conglomeration and closed the lid and picked up her wine glass without skipping a beat finished her story. After about 15 minutes we opened the lid, tasted the rice, added a little salt, some mussels and shrimp and truly, the best paella I've ever had emerged from that effortless dance!

I ate all this (and I have to admit...a little more).

It was great to learn from someone who cooks with a natural ease. The elusive crusty rice that forms on the paella pan is called "socaratt" and has been the missing element in almost every rendition of paella I've had thus far. It was not only present here but Vivian informed me that in Spain it is the prized part of the paella and saved for the elderly members of the family.

Fortunately there was enough to go around our table even though we are all still youngsters.

I need a magic paella spoon of my own (and a pan to go with it). Off to The Spanish Table.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Whisper and Waistlines

So okay, I get a little carried away in the food preparation department. I try to control it but I really either don't know how or refuse to learn. I guess feeding people is just too much of a temptation for me and I constantly go overboard.
Well, in defense of myself I should say this. I made some (a lot) of chicken enchiladas about a week ago for my daughter and her family. So many in fact, that her freezer could hold no more so I took one of the 8x8 pans home with me. On my way home I stopped by the house of some good friends conveniently close to the dinner hour and offered up enchiladas. There were only 3 of us but the enchiladas disappeared too quickly and my friend tipped his plate to me in the is-there-anymore? gesture and I had to say "no". I felt a failure and every time this happens (which isn't often) I gird up and start cooking for an army-even if it's only an army of 3.

For our little excursion to the San Juan Islands I made chili for at least 12 (really), clam chowder, lasagna (two pans!) and assorted other side dishes and salads. Being out in the weather always gives you an appetite and I didn't want to be caught short not knowing exactly where we'd anchor. The end result: We've eaten like pigs day after day. We are all on food overload yet I think we loved every bite.

My favorite (and probably the most fattening) was the Clam Chowder with fresh-baked focaccia bread. Shut up! It was smack-your-mama good.

One day I made nachos with the chili. Again, the guys looked at the pan of nachos as it came out and asked who else was invited to lunch. The crabs ate well that day.

I'm not sure if it was the waistline gods that were with us or what. We ran out of water after our showers so there would be no dirtying of the dishes said the captain.
Today: peanuts and beer.. so much better for the waistline.

Monday, September 7, 2009

House Call

Rodney's new glasses.

On Sunday we left Friday Harbor for Roche Harbor with only one incident. The Jib line got hooked up on the fore hatch and provided us with a little piece of hell. Lesson learned.

Chris has a patient who lives on San Juan Island on the very north end. He had ordered new glasses and Chris thought it would be wonderfully unique and unexpected to deliver the glasses in person. He did phone ahead of course.

We motored in close to the house and Chris took the dinghy to shore while Teddy and I circled slowly in wait for his return. Mission accomplished and everyone has a great story to share about above-and-beyond house calls.

The house-call hand off.

The volunteer photographer did such a great job of catching both guys and the Whisper beyond them.
Rodney escorted Chris back to the beach and waved us all good-bye.

We continued on to Roche Harbor from there and anchored out away from the marina for a restful afternoon and evening. We grilled steaks and finished the last of our wine while watching an instant-watch Netflix movie with Teddy's air card. We learned to appreciate all the buffering for its opportunities to visit, pour more wine or tell a short story. It was a great movie. Peter Sellars in Being There. We noticed a roaming message on the air card today and wondered if it was there last night and perhaps we should call Being There a $200.00 movie. We'll see soon enough. It was worth it.

We motored into Roche Harbor Marina for provisions (wine). Okay, we bought eggs too and set sail for Cattle Point where we are anchored tonight amongst a group of impressive commercial fishing boats.

We watched a small sailboat come collect crab pots earlier this evening and counted no less that a dozen crabs make their way into buckets on board. Teddy tried waving the boat's captain over to our boat where we'd devise a plan to schmooze fresh crab from him to no avail. The man, a local it appeared gave us a friendly wave and headed to shore.

We will eat leftovers tonight. They're all good.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

I found my fear factor

After the better part of a day fighting the waves and winds through the Strait of Juan de Fuca I’m rethinking that open-water-sailing dream. Not really, but I did encounter my fear limit today.

We started out from Elliot Bay Marina at about 6:00 PM on Friday night and followed the full moon as to Port Ludlow where we anchored in a cozy little bay. Somewhere around 6 this morning the rumble of the anchor being raised jarred me to life. It had rained hard last night and the wind had tossed us around significantly.

I got up briefly but went right back to bed. I really don’t think I should be up before the sun. It’s a personal thing.

I got up around 8:00 and made some breakfast and when Chris (captain) had eaten I said I felt confident to keep watch for awhile while he rested.

We were nearing Port Townsend on our port side and the Strait of Juan de Fuca lay ahead of that.

With auto-pilot it’s not really sailing. Chris instructed me that I was in the shipping canal and to watch for freighters both coming and going. The sun was peaking through the clouds to the west but to the east the cloud cover was too heavy to reveal the sun. I saw a Dahl Porpoise right away.. a sign I thought. As the guys slept soundly below I entered the strait and felt the immediate tug on the jib which was the only sail that Chris had left up. I watched carefully and as the jib snapped loudly under the pitching of the boat and the gusting of the wind I began to formulate how I would handle disaster. Aside from screaming for Chris to come on deck.

The boat did begin to pitch a little more violently and the wind grabbed the jib and threw it to the port from starboard side in no time at all.

From then on it all happened so fast. Chris was donning his foul weather gear and climbing up on deck and Teddy who had been asleep but awakened by the snapping jib and the pitching boat also came up.

We found ourselves in a situation where the sails needed to be completely cut and the motor was our only hope for some resistance to the weather.

We scrambled to bring in the jib against the raging winds and then… THEN.. we put on our life vests and saw a first aid kit floating in the water. It was not ours but some other unfortunate boat weathering the same small-craft-advisory pleasure cruise.

We gained control and our winds dropped from 30+ knots to 20 or less and then Chris was confident that we could put up some sail again.

Let me be honest here.. there was hurling (barfing) involved in this trip through the strait. But we arrived safely if not exhausted and ready for a nap at Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

It’s been a wonderful evening in one of the last slips available in the marina. We had a nap, a stroll through the touristy town and guitar serenade on the deck of the boat.

All in all.. it’s still magical.. despite the fright factor.

Tomorrow: Roche Harbor and more sailing.