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Boating used to be one of my favorite pastimes. These days I neither have a boat nor water to float it in, but I still amuse myself on beautiful days like today with thoughts of soaring across the waves. I’m not a large ship girl, preferring smaller craft like sailboats or speed boats for my water transportation. Cruising, though the food is generally amazing, is definitely is not the way I would choose first to make my vacation plans. Thus far, I’ve been on three cruises and none of them have made me want to continue the relationship beyond this point. Possibly, I could be convinced if someone held a plate of baked Alaska in front of my nose and walked up the gangplank ahead of me, but other than that I’d prefer not.

I think sailing might be my favorite type of boating. Possibly because it’s largely interactive, and also because I enjoy the peace of a full sail propelling you along rather than listening to the whir of a motor.

Early on, boats were an integral part of my world. Fish was the featured meal at our table on a regular basis. Often when small, I would accompany my grandmother to the docks to buy fish fresh off the boats at the fish market. For a while, my mother worked as a secretary in one of the offices located behind the market itself. When she leaned down to kiss me on arriving home at night, the pungent ocean smells lingered in her hair and on her clothes. I was fascinated both by the market itself with its mountains of ice piled high with the catch if the day, as well as the rows of docks lying beyond the open warehouse doors. The docks secured every type of vessel from the smallest tug boat to massive cargo ships or streamlined luxury liners. I liked all the sights, sounds and smells associated with the dock area. Walking over the weather worn planks the dark waters of the Atlantic were visible through the cracks in the boards. Occasionally, a curious gull would land and strut about looking to see if we were good for a stray morsel. Sometimes, my grandmother would bring a small sack of bread cubes to hand out to them.

Once I moved to California, my association boats became limited to those I saw at the beach, which wasn’t far from where we lived in Santa Ana. However, I didn’t step a foot on one again until the summer between middle school and high school. My parents rented a cabin in Lake Tahoe for a week. It was my first time visiting Northern California and I can still remember rounding a curve and seeing a panoramic view of the glorious lake stretched out in front of us. Truly it is the jewel of the Sierras. Our cabin slept eight, and was of the A-frame variety. My stepbrother and I were the only children present among six adults, so we made ourselves scarce as often as possible. With the lake at our doorstep, and the Sierras for a backdrop, neither of us had any interest in sitting inside playing gin rummy or hanging with the grown ups on the porch listening to Herb Alpert while they downed dry martinis. What a glorious summer that was. I got my first kiss at Lake Tahoe before I returned home. A momentous right of passage I recall vividly to this day. His name was Jim. He was blonde, blue eyed, tan, and at the time I believe I wrote in my prolific diary, “dreamy”. We met taking water ski lessons off the dock of the lodge. It was puppy love at first sight. Both of us got up on skis for the first time that week and shared our first kiss together. Often I wonder if he remembers me as fondly I remember him. I would never want to see him again. That time sitting in the warm sun with his lips touching mine is permanently etched in my memory book perfectly captured just the way it was.

Lake Tahoe is an alpine lake. If you’re expecting to drop into it off of the side of a boat and not have the breath sucked out of your lungs, you would be sorely disappointed. I believe my lips turned blue the moment I hit the water. The idea, of course, was to stand up out of the water and ski once in the lake. Intellectually,I grasped this concept, but my knees hadn’t gotten the memo. The instructions from the young man teaching us were “Hold on to the rope. When the boat starts to pull you forward, stand up.” The first three times I held on for dear life and remained submerged the entire time nearly swallowing half the lake. On the fourth attempt, by some miracle, I was up and gliding along on the surface. The wind stirring the water made for a bit of a bumpy ride, but it felt heavenly to me. Feeling exhilarated, with over confidence I glided up and over the wake. The instant I hit the smooth water on the outside, I performed a very ungainly triple somersault, pinwheeling across the waves nearly beating myself to death before landing. I kept at it though. Perseverance truly does win the prize. By the end of the week, I had the beginners course mastered and learned something about kissing to boot. A win/win.

There was a large hiatus in my boating experience from that point until I was in my early twenties. My husband, my children’s father, was working for a waterbed heater manufacturer in the Bay Area. Waterbeds were the hot ticket back then, and the owner of the business, a young entrepreneur, Jerry, got in on the ground floor. Making a lot of money in a short period of time, he was living the life. One of the perks of this high rolling lifestyle was a lovely sailboat docked in a South San Francisco marina. Several times we had been invited out, along with other employees and their families, to join Jerry for day trips on the bay. The San Francisco Bay is not for beginning boaters. If you slip over the side out there, or capsize, you won’t last long before hypothermia sets in. Also it is a shipping lane so there are a lot of boats of all sizes coming and going twenty-four hours a day. One night my husband came home to tell me Jerry had asked us to sail over to Tiburon on the opposite side of the bay from South San Francisco. The plan was to sail over after work on a Friday night, eat dinner at one of the many excellent restaurants in Tiburon, then do a little partying and dancing at one of the local nightclubs and sail home. I arranged for a babysitter and six or so of us boarded the boat a little after five. When you are young, you really do think you are invincible. Most times at that age you haven’t developed enough sense to find your way out of a paper bag. This would be true in our case. It was a gorgeous mid-summer night. As we motored out of the marina, I remember thinking it felt nearly perfect. Sails could be seen bobbing up and down as we made our way out into the open sea. Jerry was an experienced and adept sailor and the other members of the group, though novices, pitched in as he belted out orders to prepare to come about or tighten this or loosen that rigging. What a glorious sail over it was. After tying up at the dock in Tiburon, we enjoyed a delicious meal el fresco at a lovely cafe. Feeling in a party mood we moved along to several different watering holes to dance and enjoy a cocktail or two. This perhaps not the best option with a sail back across the San Francisco Bay in our near future. Feeling a bit tipsy, we all laughed and talked as we walked back to the boat. Jerry, in particular, though in charge of navigating his crew home, was a bit more tipply than the rest of us. Uh-oh. Once on board, the sea looked far more menacing than it had earlier on. Jerry stood at the bow of the boat barking orders to his tired and slightly drunky crew. This was not boding well for getting home without incident. The bow dipped and rose cutting deeply through the rough waters. At one point we were leaning so far to one side we were standing nearly vertical leaning against the opposite side of the boat. Jerry began to sing, “yo, ho, ho, ho, a pirate’s life for me”. Sigh. One of the crew members who had begun to look a lovely shade of olive green, leaned over and heave hoed across the side. Secretly, I was hoping the sharks didn’t consider this chumming. A huge tanker was coming along at what seemed to to be perilously close to where we were headed. That didn’t seem a good plan. I pointed and my husband made his way up to Jerry to point at it with him. “Avast ye swabbies”, says Jerry. Great. I began to say my goodbyes to my mother and my two babies waiting at home. What a trip that was. I remember seeing that huge ship cutting through the water behind us and being told to hold on tight lest the wake surged under us. Mommy. Finally after what seemed like days, the lights of the marina were visible ahead. Never have my feet been so pleased to find themselves standing firmly on solid ground. The next time a similar trip came up, I passed.

No matter how scary my adventures on the ocean, I will always be drawn to the sea. My dream, though I don’t voice it often, is to own and run a B&B somewhere along the coast. Fairy tales can come true you know. Would Walt Disney lie?

Have a great day. Have adventures, get a little scared. Life needs a bit of edge to keep you alert.

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After watching all the clips of people enjoying the beaches and boating over the holiday weekend I am left pining for our boat. In the midst of the chaos of owning the restaurant we sold our power boat. Twenty-four seven devoted to keeping our heads above water with the business left little free time to to do so out on the water itself. Also, there is far more to boat ownership than signing the paperwork at the dealer. Monies need to be set aside for mooring, maintenance, accessories and gasoline.

The day you purchase a boat your list of friends increases simultaneously, peaking at the onset of the first hot day of the year. Acquaintances never really finding time for you before suddenly can’t wait to share your space. Add a pool to the mix and you could run for state office.

When my kids were in high school we had a boat as well as a cabin at Bass Lake at our disposal. The kids friendship pool swelled as this news got around and often when packing up for a vacation at the lake we had three or four bonus children and several extra adults to account for when purchasing food and supplies. I have been known to say a week at the lake was “relocation” rather than “vacation”, at least for me such was the case. All the tasks I did at home simply relocated themselves to a different venue. Admittedly it was more fun doing them because of the “vacation feel” of the trip, but in truth I still cooked and cleaned much as at home only in a more beautiful setting. After several years of doing for my brood on such getaways, Susie’s chore lists came into being. This after a particularly boisterous morning where I’d fed ten people five different breakfast entrée requests, cleaned up the ensuing mess, and prepped for the lunch crowd while everyone else had lathered up with suntan lotion and gone off on their first ski run of the day. Really? I didn’t think so either. On their return new rules were in place which remained as thus until both the cabin and the boat had been sold.

I’m a big fan of “you make the mess, you clean it up”. I explained to my children when they were old enough to understand though I purchased the dishes they ate from, once they took possession of a plate with food on it it was by way of a rental agreement. Use of Mom’s plate in exchange for being responsible for getting it from the table to the dishwasher once they were done. Children, contrary to modern thinking, will not be harmed by the act of actually doing physical labor. By this I do not mean lifting their tablet or other device from the table to their laps. My kids participated around the house. When old enough they washed, dried, folded and ironed the clothes they wore and yet still grew up to be relatively undamaged human beings. I was a working mother, at times a single parent, and for me their participation in our upkeep was not only helpful but necessary. I don’t harbor one ounce of guilt about this as both my kids grew up to be responsible hard working adults.

Owning a boat was a group effort as well. You didn’t just hop into it, throw on a pair of skis and enjoy. There is a responsibility in owning a boat the same as owning a car. If the plan is to use your boat for more than a season, you must help clean it up, store the gear when you’re done, and help load it on the trailer when it’s time to go home. All hands on deck, so to speak.

There have been some boating disaster stories along the way. Wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have one or two. I have watched a newly purchased boat I was in sink to the bottom of the Colorado River, become becalmed on the way to Catalina in the middle of a shark feeding frenzy. Oh yes, my friends, there are stories. The one below always make me laugh ….. well, now it makes me laugh.

Twenty years would pass between my first boat and the second. That’s a long time to forget everything you ever learned the first time afloat. Rick and I bought our boat in 2004. I assured him I knew how to load the boat on the trailer and drive it once on the lake and would be happy to teach him. Words to live by, or die by as was possibly more true in this situation.

We picked the boat up and drove the two hours home to our lake where we’d rented a slip. Backing the boat up to the water I quickly realized I had no idea what the boat salesman had said about launching it. After an hour in the sun wrestling with it we hired two kids from the marina to help us get it off the trailer. Sigh. As humiliating as this was it was only a slight ripple compared to what was about to roll over the horizon.

The trailer parked and both of us finally in the boat, the second realization I had was that I’d forgotten how to drive a boat and certainly had not one single clue on how to get it docked once at the marina. Somehow we managed to maneuver ourselves into the back of the marina where our slip was located. As luck would have it our slip was in a tight right angled corner between two huge sailboats. Swell. First I hit the right side of the dock, then the left, then ricocheted from one to the other several times. We backed out nearly sideways nicking the edge of the extended propeller on the sailboat next to us. Rick, at this point had both hands on his head and was beginning to totally panic. I was long past that point. I pushed free of the propeller and noticed two parents pulling their children out of the water on the opposite side of the marina as I continued to be a loose cannon. Coming dangerously close to the ramp, Rick climbed out onto it leaving me circling alone. Chicken. On my next pass he hopped back in and with onlookers watching in amazement we got the boat into the slip without further incident. Someone on the other side clapped but my face was hung too low in embarrassment to acknowledge them. My humiliation was complete.

Fortunately there was no serious damage done to our boat or the sailboat. I did ding our boat slightly but as we took the boat out more often we improved greatly on handling it and had lots of fabulous days on the lake before buying the restaurant.

This is so pretty on the plate and absolutely yummy on the taste buds.

Baked Peaches with Orange Sauce and Caramelized Walnuts

For the peaches

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

4 large ripe peaches, halved and pitted
2 Tbsp. butter, quartered
1/2-3/4 tsp. cinnamon

Place pieces cut side up on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Place 1/4 pat of butter in center of each peach. Sprinkle cinnamon on top of each piece (add more as desired). Bake in a single layer for 30 mins. Brush melted butter across tops of peaches and continue cooking 10 mins.

Orange Sauce

2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups orange juice (no pulp)

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 2 min. Whisk in orange juice and brown sugar and continue cooking until thickened stirring constantly.

Caramelized Walnuts

2 cups walnut halves
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/3 cup maple syrup

Heat dry skillet over medium high heat. Add all ingredients and cook stirring constantly until nuts are browned and caramelized

Place 1 baked peach on each place. Ladle sauce on top and place nuts around the plate.

Serves 8

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