Sunday, November 7, 2010

Book Review: Always a Distant Anchorage - Hal Roth

Since I launched into this undertaking two years ago, the two cruising writers I heard most frequently mentioned were Eric Hiscock and Hal Roth. I have a set of Hiscock's books on the night table and expect to get at them this winter and I just finished my first Hal Roth book last week. Always a Distant Anchorage is the retelling of Hal's and his wife Margaret's circumnavigation from Maine, through the Panama and Suez canals onboard their yacht Whisper.

I have read a couple dozen books about people's sailing adventures. More than any other genre, it seems that sailing a long distance inspires even the most pedestrian of writers to put pen to paper (digit to digital input interface?) and tell their tale sailing. Of those, Hal stands out as a guy with the most solid of writing skills.

This guy can tell a story. I was riveted from start to finish, even taking the book along with me to work, which I don't often do. It was easy to pick up and read for a short bit, or again for longer stretches and it was loaded with both a mix of immediate and interesting adventures, reflection on the lifestyle and experiences, and background on the places and people they encountered.

This particular book also offers a nice blend of sublime moments in beautiful oceanside settings and adrenalin-inducing moments of risk and uncertain outcome, as when Hal and Margaret run up on a reef that their chart mistakenly mis-mapped.

Two thumbs up, highly recommend! Kris is reading it now.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


A former colleague and friend died this weekend. Colette was young, in her thirties, and one of the most vibrant people I know. I wasn't very close to her and her family. I would have liked to have been closer. When I worked with Colette, I always enjoyed the parts of projects where I got to work side-by-side with her.

People always talk about her positivity and her energy.

If eyes are the window to the soul, then Colette's eyes betrayed a bright, happy soul. I remember her in a little black cocktail dress, when my wife-to-be (our future together unbeknown to either of us, or at least me) and the rest of the women who worked on a floor in our office we fondly referred to as the Lido Deck, hosted a company party by outfitting the place like a swanky lounge and greeting the rest of the company in a line of similarly attired hostesses, offering silver trays of hors d'oeuvres as we entered.

She will always live in my memory as a pair of sparkling eyes.

I ran into Colette socially, on occasion, too; Portland is a small town, after all. I shared a drink with her at a housewarming party, when Kris moved into her downtown condo. I recall seeing her on fifth avenue, arm-in-arm with Michael, who I hadn't met yet, waiting for a bus. My impression was that they would have been happy if the bus never came and they would have stood there all night, canoodling each other on a beautiful Portland evening.

How do we spend our time? The minutes filled with memory and experience because we are here, now? Or does the hour-hand move too slow on our way to the next thing?

I know that, partly, that image stuck with me because I wanted that in my life. I wanted that love from a partner who wanted to meet me and be my match. Michael and Colette, in that moment, modeled that thing I knew was possible; that thing I wanted and found not too long after.

So, what do you say when a young, beautiful woman dies much too soon?

I wept a bit for her small children. I felt a hollowness for her husband, who has so passionately advocated for her over the course of fighting this disease for over a year. I felt the warmth of my wife's tears on my shoulder, as we recalled our moments with Colette over the past seven years; most of those moments piled up early on.

I don't feel like saying goodbye, because I can still feel the bright blaze behind those beautiful eyes. How about see you later? Let's catch up again, my friend.

I think I'd rather leave it somewhere like that.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Paellas, Pies, and IPAs

I won't spend too much time in the bloggers hair shirt, but I've been consumed with working two jobs lately in the hopes of shortening our timeline to get into a keel boat. So, time for blogging has been consumed by paying projects.

I do want to join in on Carol Anne's food writer challenge. I have three meals I've made in the past couple of weeks that were new for me. First, I made a recipe for Fiesta Chicken out of a recent issue of Cruising magazine. Came out pretty good, but no pictures to prove it. More fun, and more interesting to me, however, I did steamed clams and a paella twice in the last week. First time around I used a nice bulk chorizo from a local grocery and it was nearly a perfect meal. The heat was not overwhelming, but it definitely inspired me to tilt the IPA bottle quicker a couple of times. The second time I made the meal, the kids were here, so had to spice it down. The grocery man had a nice Spanish chorizo that was very mild and worked well for a kiddie meal; it was in tube form, so I put the kids to work helping me peel away the casing and break up the sausage. I'm not as interested in that one, so let's get on to the one I am~

I spent my teenage years around New Orleans and love well-spiced foods. What I ate down there growing up was done nearly exactly like my paella recipe. Unfortunately, nearly everywhere outside of NOLA that I try for their Cajun or Creole recipes, substitutes well-spiced with over-spiced. Simply stomping on the chili pepper accelerator does not make something Cajun, my friends.

As for the beer part of the meal, I was trying to some beer pairing. The guys I was preparing dinner for are friends with which I've been doing a meal once a month for a few years. We've gotten pretty good at sharing some great wines and have even gone in to purchase some wines together. I wanted to take a break from all of that classiness and notch it down a bit. Anybody can pair wines, or find out how to do it.

My challenge was figuring out what beer paired well with each aspect of the meal. So, for the salty appetizers (thinly sliced Serrano ham and steamed clams), I chose a dry Irish stout. It was local, so not Guinness or Murphys, but probably a better choice.

For the main paella course, the IPA was a perfect balance with the hoppy-ness able to cut through the heat of the chorizo and peppers. The IPAs I used were from Ninkasi (I looked them up, expecting the name to be a mashup of some sort; turns out, Ninkasi is the Greek goddess of fermentation. So, say your prayers!), a brewery in Eugene, Oregon (Track City U.S.A., if you didn't know...). I had the Spring Reign seasonal, the Double Red, and, what is currently my favorite beer, Total Domination IPA. I know that the first two don't have IPA in their names, but trust me, their IBUs were well into IPA territory.

I loved making the paella. It is very close to my jambalaya recipe that I've been using for thirty years. I went and got a carbon steel paella pan that I'll keep and use often. However, I think you could probably do the whole thing in a wok just as easily. It seems the key is getting the heat evenly distributed as you work your way through the process of adding ingredients and letting them soak up the oils and saute.

The final course was a raw-foods pie that my friend the doctor brought along. We had a Belgian Lambic dark cherry that had a lovely balance between the light fizzy body and the fruit flavor.

I went here for my paella recipe and here for the steamed clams.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Dolphins Under My Bed - Sandra Clayton

This book makes me say 'meh.' I enjoyed the concept--husband and wife sailing away in middle age--and most of the sailing-related narrative was well done, especially the waterspouts they were chased by and the vagaries of passage-making. However, speaking of vagaries, the pace of the book is bogged down with the regularly interspersed little vignettes in which this woman would complain about the annoyances she encountered in each new port of call. It was pretty obvious she missed the familiarities of home. It was also pretty obvious that she's one of those sorts of English people you don't want to meet. The sort who have a permanent facial expression seeming to ask the question, "Who farted?"

Sunday, April 25, 2010

In the Year 2025

My participation in Homme de Talleur's latest group writing project.

In the year 2025 the most interesting thing about sailing will be Kris and I out there cruising for our tenth year. Interesting to whom, you ask? Well, to me of course.

And away we go...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Birthday, Proper Course

I didn't start this, but I'm jumping onboard. Blame frogma.

There was an old man from Sakonnet
He moved there to sail in his bonnet
A Laser it was
Blogging he does
Now he's five years older, doggone-it!

Somebody needs to work on the Tillerman-TeaPartyBagging angle ...

Bonnie started it. I joined in. And now it's official, because everybody's favorite commenter, has composed an opus.

And another from Pandabonium (best name ever!). For those scoring at home, this IS a haiku, since it does mention something with regard to the season and offers a surprise (aha!) moment in each line.

And, finally (finally because it's last here and it took me forever to find it; which is a testament to my skills with my google), this resonant beauty from Zen.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Princess and the Boatshow

I made it out to Excel in the Docklands for the London International Boat Show yesterday. It's a good-sized show and I was able to spend three hours solely on the sail side of the hall and still feel there was a bit more to see, were I to look closer and spend more time with some of the displays.

I looked at all of the boats, but only went aboard the Southerly 49 on display. I was impressed with the swing keel and was fortunate to have a naval architect as my tour guide. He was even more enthusiastic about opening everything up and looking at how it was put together and talking about how things worked. Loved the washing machine tucked in behind the owner's head.

One feature of the Southerly I really liked was the raised salon table and the narrow galley along the starboard bulkhead. I could see this working well underway.

I saw a large military presence at the show, including sailors and marines, and was told that Princess Anne [early readers who re-read may note that I've added an e to the Princesses Anne; later readers are left with this unnecessary note] was visiting. She's Chuck's sister.

To top it all off, I ended the day at the Duke's Head for supper and a drink with Captain JP.

I understand the Duke's Head is Adam's favorite. It's a good spot, but a longer walk from the train station than the Boathouse.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Excel-ling Tomorrow

Arrived in London yesterday, despite Air Canada's best efforts to delay us on the frozen tundra of Alberta for an indefinitely long and white weekend. We made the best of our day+ stay in Calgary and have had our first pints in jolly olde.

The boat show tomorrow! It's at a venue here in London called Excel, hence (I'm using pommy conjunctions whilst amongst the speaker's of the King's English) my pun.

Some shots from our walk around town last night, whilst (!) trying to keep ourselves up and awake to adapt to the time change.

I especially like this front view. There was a very light snow falling and I think it gave the sky the special purplish glow you can see here.

The iPhone occasionally takes an exceptionally great picture that surprises you. These shots of Westminster Abbey from side and front, plus that of the tower clocky thing, came out kinda arty.