Since I first floated out of the womb, I’ve been trying to get back to the water. Growing up at the southern tip of Halifax harbor in Nova Scotia, the ocean was as much a given in my life as the air I breathed and the sun rising over the horizon.
During the summer, when the window was left open to allow a breeze into my room, I drifted off to sleep with the sound of the waves against the rocks and woke to the screeching of the gulls searching for their morning meal.
Sitting on the rise of the hill I would watch for hours as the ships entered and exited the harbor. Freighters riding low in the water heavy with their loads, dwarfing the graceful yachts far beneath them seeming to puff up under full sail as if to announce they too commanded space in the sea.
As an adult, I have dipped my toes in the waters of beaches on both coasts, swum in the glorious clear blue waters off Hawaii and seen the Atlantic from the opposite side of the pond. Lately, my thoughts about finding new living quarters often drift to a houseboat. The idea of waking up on the water is intoxicating to me in so many ways. Ever since I first saw Sleepless in Seattle I’ve coveted the houseboat Tom Hanks lived on but in California, although there are a few, houseboat communities are less prevalent than in other areas, and most likely to come at a far dearer cost. Consequently, I will probably find myself looking into my backyard at a bright blue double tube blow up pool with an inflatable polka dot seahorse floating across it.
My second husband was an excellent water skier. Shortly after moving from L.A. to the Bay Area we purchased a ski boat. Among our group of friends could be counted many avid sailors. They skied with us and, in turn, we sailed with them. Never having sailed solo, it happens I am considered a fair hand on a sailboat, able to differentiate fore from aft, and if someone yells “prepare to come about” I will duck, not turn and face the opposite direction.
One free-spirited couple in particular we sailed often with. For three years, at the time we first met them, they had shared quarters on board their 48′ sailboat in a South San Francisco marina. Before that, they worked together two years restoring the beautiful old craft. Wood trim was sanded, stained and varnished to regain its former glory and below deck had been completely gutted. Once rebuilt, a spacious galley was installed, as well as a functioning head, and a queen sized bed. Under full sail she was an impressive vessel and in the San Francisco Bay, which tended toward chop in smaller boats, the old girl moved through the waves as smoothly as a hot knife through butter.
On a clear summer weekend we were invited to join them for a longer sail which was to take us beyond the Golden Gate bridge, a first for us. Both feeling exhilarated and I must admit a little trepidatious, we accepted. Sailing on the Bay, even on the warmest of days, you tuck a windbreaker in your backpack. Anticipating going under the bridge and into the Pacific I packed an anorak. Cold mornings on the Bay with the chilled wind biting at your skin like lasers will teach you early on to dress in layers and never try to out think the capriciousness of the weather out there. Fog can drift in while you’re eating a sandwich and you can quickly find yourself invisible, and cold, mind numbing cold. As a child, I was taught to respect the ocean first, appreciate it second, and enjoy it third.
Along with other water enthusiasts enticed by the already hot sun, we parked in the marina parking lot. According to our friends, choosing a marina that suits you if your plan is to live on your vessel is paramount. Also, making sure you really enjoy the person you’re going to share space with if you are planning on cohabiting, because below deck can become a microcosmic hell if you are not compatible.
Once on board, we stored our gear below deck and put the food from our cooler in the refrigerator. Under good wind we made our way out into the Bay around 10:00. Unusually warm, bathing suits and shorts were comfortable attire. As the marina faded behind us our captain issued instructions from time to time, but we were mainly left to tilt our heads back into the warm sun and allow the sea breeze to run over us. It was glorious.
As we approached the bridge the water seemed to get rougher, and the temperature definitely dropped. It was almost surreal to pass beneath the awesome structure of the bridge rather than passing over it.
Out in the Pacific our participation was needed. At one point I was handed the wheel while others dealt with the sails. Plowing into that water under full sail gives you such a sense of the power of the sea and how small we humans are in the scale of things.
After a while finding ourselves in calmer waters the ladies went about the business of plating iced shrimp and crab and a fabulous pasta salad with slices of artisan bread. Too nice to stay below, we put some music on the stereo and joined the men up top.
A huge fog bank creeping in signaled it was time for us to head back. Going under the bridge once again with the fog on our tails felt like something out of a Stephen King novel. A fabulous day to write in my memory book. Last I heard of my friends, they’d pulled up anchor and headed for warmer waters. Whether they made it or not or are still together, I don’t know. Somehow, so well suited for one another, I like to picture them sailing along azure waters silhouetted in the sunset.
On my bucket list is Santorini, Greece with its beautiful stark white buildings framed on a backdrop of aquamarine. Known for their tomatoes, this recipe or one’s like it, originated there.
Greek Tomato/Zucchini Fritters (Domatokeftethes)
4 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped fine
2 medium zucchini, grated fine
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions (mostly white with some green)
4 oz. Feta cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
1/8 tsp. mint
1/8 tsp. dill
1/8 tsp. oregano
1 1/2 cups flour
Olive oil for frying
Freshly ground black pepper
Mix all ingredients but flour and oil together in a large bowl. Gradually add flour until mixture forms a thick batter. Form into small, flat patties.
Heat 1/2″ of oil in skillet over med-high heat. Add patties (don’t crowd). Brown on both sides (turning just once) until fully cooked, about 4 mins. per side. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Serve with Tzatziki (Greek Cucumber Salad) or dill/yogurt sauce.