Posts Tagged ‘sailing’

I am currently pet sitting for a friend of mine. She has two senior felines who truly are the sweetest of beings. The furry mother and daughter are usually waiting for me at the door when I arrive and don’t leave my side until I again make my exit and go home. I believe I am going to sign up to be a kitty sitter once I get the part-time job situation tied up and have some idea what days I will be actually working. I have a second interview at one place today, and a first interview at another on Tuesday. The results seem to be positive from the people I’m interviewing with. I’m not sure whether this can be attributed to my undeniable charisma or the fact that there seem to be more jobs than applicants applying for them in the job market currently. I prefer to think it’s the former because my ego seems to be a bit in the tank over the past few weeks, and I need to add some air to my tires.

I mentioned quite a few blogs back, I had begun dating someone about three months ago. You can cross him off my list. Dating at this age is not an easy process. I believe I’d rather sign up for a daily root canal. Perhaps I should have gotten a puppy and called it good. Men of a certain age are pretty settled on their foundation. I’m sure if I polled the guys in that category, they might express the same opinion about the women they are encountering. The gentleman in question, I thought perhaps might have serious potential. The one big road block to us moving forward was we share different political ideologies. Now, twenty years ago I don’t think I would have looked at this as closely, if at all. Rick and I shared different points of view politically when we met in 2000, and it never interfered in our relationship. Now, however, there are so many “hot button” issues floating around people have dug in firmly joining one camp or the other and there isn’t much going on middle ground. When we realized we were polar opposites politically, we originally agreed to disagree, and decided not to discuss the subject when together. This might have been a solid plan, but our families and our friends all tend to lean into the same values and views as we espouse so, pretty soon that isn’t going to be a fit either. Sigh. Life, at times, feels to me like I’m trying to drag an elephant up a steep slope. The good news will be, and I’m holding on to this tightly, once I get the pachyderm to the top of the hill, I can hop on it’s back and ride easily down the other side.

I’ve talked often about discussing what you want in a relationship with a potential life partner earlier rather than later. Once the hormones have begun to work their magic on your brain, and wherever else they might be doing their magic, it is much harder to take a clear and objective look at the situation. I have asked myself why I want I am even considering bringing another relationship into my life. On that, if little else of late, I do feel clear. I like to have a partner. By nature, I enjoy sharing my life with another person. It’s not that I cannot live a fulfilling and satisfying life without someone else by my side, I certainly can. It is rather, I prefer to share the stage with someone. That being said, I feel as a codicil to that statement, I would rather have a puppy hands down and never share my life with another mate, then be involved in a relationship that was draining or demeaning in any way. I am also crystal clear about that.

So I reset my sail and rethink my destination, and begin my journey on my own once again. At times there is something incredibly freeing about only being in my own company. I find myself more contemplative and likely to to pick up my pens and begin a new piece of artwork when only dealing with me. Also, I begin to think of the things I haven’t done in a while because there was someone else in my life to consider. Thinking along these lines, I realized, one again, how very much I am missing the water. Being by the water, in any form, helps me to free my mind of any heavy or disturbing thoughts, and find joy in simply being. Having mentioned this desire to several friends, I am excited to report my dear friend Nancy, who has two kayaks leaning against her lovely little house in the tall trees, has suggested a day on the lake. The thought of kayaking has always made me a little squirmy. My first question to her after seeing the kayaks was, “how stable are they”? My fear has always been turning over in the water and becoming trapped inside. Nancy assured me her kayaks were not turning upside down any time soon. Though I know this to be probably true I still checked them out with a cautious eye. Fear and I go way back. People seem to think I am not afraid, because I try a lot of different things some people might find a bit edgy. It’s not I’m not afraid, admittedly I seriously am. It is more I feel I am in a tug of war with fear, and am not willing to let my hand hit the table and let it get the best of me. I will report back once the deed is done who won for this round.

Boating is definitely on my mind. It has been a hot, hot week here in northern California, and when the heat is on, I want to get in the water. Boating is one of my favorite activities. I’ve owned two speed boats, one during my second marriage, and one when Rick and I lived in the big house on the lake. Often, after a long and grueling week in the restaurant, he and I would go down to the marina, untie the boat, and motor out to a quiet cove for a swim and dinner. Floating along in the water on a warm summer night you could almost see the tensions of the day lifting up from your body and dissolving into the air above you. Unfortunately, at that time of day these tensions will most likely carried off by a marauding band of mosquitos, but it is peaceful nonetheless. I miss that, I really do, and Rick.

I like most types of boats, but sailing is a particularly lovely way to be on the water. To my mind, anyhow. Unless you are becalmed, when under full sail, the only sound you hear is the wind rushing past your ears and the hull of the boat groaning as it cuts through the waves. Growing up in Nova Scotia, on clear summer days I would sit with my arms around my knees on the high hill below my house and watch the sailboats cutting through the choppy water. From such a distance, they looked like tiny ants each carrying a bit of sugar cube back to the nest. Boating was a fact of life living surrounded by the Atlantic as we were. It was what you did in the maritime provinces, when you weren’t skiing, hunting, or fishing. My Uncle Gordon, my mother’s brother, served as Commodore of the Yacht Club in Halifax, and was a consummate sailor most of his life.

Gordon’s estate, Jollimore, sat on the northwest arm of the Halifax harbor. During the warmer months his yacht was moored there. I always enjoyed a visit to Jollimore when I made it to the east coast. Truly that was one gorgeous piece of property. I will never in my lifetime come to understand that high level of living, but from an observers point of view, I have to think it can’t be a bad way to spend your days. There were three houses on the property, as I remember it. The main house, further down the hill a guest house and lanai, both situated around the salt water pool, and finally the groundskeepers home, which I would happily have taken up residence in if invited. My uncle was a bachelor most of his life, and a urologist all of it. Jollimore was purchased as a joint occupancy situation with his best friend, Allen, and his wife, Kay. Gordon had his living quarters on one side, Kay and Allen on the other, then there were shared common rooms in the center of the house. The three roomies, friends since grade school, found it to be an equitable living situation for all three participants. Kay, the only female in the trio, was both a gifted cook and hostess providing that feminine influence for both men. When Allen passed away, after a respectable time had gone by, my uncle, unmarried until he was seventy, married his best friend’s widow. They remained happily together until Kay and then Gordon each went on as well. To my mind, that was a story that ended as it was supposed to be written.

When I visited Nova Scotia as an adult, my family usually was invited to a formal dinner at Jollimore with all the relatives still living in the province in attendance. Let me preface this story by saying, I am probably the only Canadian citizen who will go on record saying they loathe salmon. Sad to say in my case, it is true. Fish is one of my favorite meals, and I like most varieties I find on restaurant menus, …… except salmon. Euuuw. Perhaps this is because I was weaned on it. My grandmother could find a way to slip the orange fish into everything. She made salmon loaf, salmon cakes, poached salmon, stuffed whole salmon, salmon salad, salmon aspic. You name it, she could make a case for including salmon in the ingredients. Had there been such a thing as a salmon pancake, I’m sure that would have been incorporated into the meal plan somewhere as well. Every time it showed up on my plate as a kid, I longed for a dog, so I could hand it off to a waiting mouth under the table. Because it was considered such a “treat”, often it was the star of the formal dinner at my uncle’s home. A covered silver tray would be placed on the center of the table, and when the lid was removed everyone oooohed and aaaahhhhed over the fish as though greeting the royal family. Usually this was the whole fish, poached and topped with a delicate cream sauce, served with fiddleheads. Fiddleheads. For those of you going fiddle what, are the coiled tips of the ostrich fern, considered delicacy in some circles. My circle happens not to be one of them. Now, there isn’t much I won’t eat. I am definitely not what you might call a finicky feeder. However, the two food items topping my list of vomit inducing foods would be salmon and fiddleheads. Served together, they create a gastronomical nightmare for my internal digestive system. Ugh. As an aside, I also find nothing appealing about a meal such as a whole fish capable of making eye contact with me as I prepare to eat it, just saying.

So, I think of my roots this morning, orange fish, another relationship slipping to the side of the road, gliding across the cool clear water, and the confusing state of our country and feel a bit like I am standing in front of a road crossing with signs pointing in twenty different directions. This will smooth out and the right path will become clear, but for now I want to be sailing along without a thought in the world but the sun on my face and the salty spray in my hair.

Happy Saturday to you.

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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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Summer has definitely shown its face over the past few days.  With virtually no spring this year we went from umbrellas to air conditioning without any sensation we’d transitioned from one season to the next. The good news is that California residents and those of  the surrounding areas dependent on us for water, won’t have to suffer through a drought this summer. 

Perhaps because I grew up in Nova Scotia, virtually surrounded by ocean, there’s a part of me that needs to cohabit with the sea on a regular basis.  I found that living in West Virginia and other points inland, what I missed most was access to the coast.  Just to be able to sit on the sand and dig my toes in the gritty warmth,  the familiar smell of salt in my nostrils, and the gulls dancing on the palette of wet sand before the next set of waves move in to erase the memories of their last steps. I like it all. 

When I was about six my mother and I visited relatives who at the time owned a home in Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia.  Victoria is located on Vancouver Island and accessible by boat.  We boarded the ferry in Vancouver early on a foggy and blustery western Canadian morning.  I remember looking out at the dark ocean and thinking that I’d rather be home watching Captain Kangaroo and enjoying a steaming cup of  hot chocolate.  Mother and I stood at the rail often during our trip to ease the hint of nausea prompted by the relentless rise and fall of the ferry attempting to maneuver the choppy seas. I believe I developed my first real dose of respect for the ocean on that trip.  Growing up in Halifax boats werea part of my life early on, and the youngsters in our family were well versed in safety procedures when on board.  For all its beauty and magnificence, the sea will extract its pound of flesh from those visitors who make the mistake of treating it casually. Feeling as though my legs would never adjust to solid ground again, I was relieved to finally see shadows of land appearing and disappearing through the veil of fog before us. 

At the ferry we were met by my mother’s cousin and her three children. After stopping for lunch, we took a tour of  the city itself as well as the surrounding areas.  As the morning passed into early afternoon, the cooler weather lifted and was replaced with warm sun as if to effectively show off the incredible beauty the island has to offer.  Flowers seemed to grow wantonly in every available patch of soil.  There were grand hotels with fabulous grounds, a trademark of the city.  Their home, where we were to stay during our visit, was a stilted two-story perched high on a hillside.  From the deck the view overlooked a large cove and marina seemingly overflowing with sailboats.  It was explained, as with the majority of the locals, one of the boats was theirs. Plans were shared for boarding the following morning.  Sailing was not a new activity for me, but one I always looked forward to with great anticipation.  No formal lessons under my belt at that age, or this one for that matter, I could help hoist a sail and knew enough to duck when a member of the crew shouted “prepare to come about”.

Weather cooperating, we began our day with the sun shining brightly overhead.  The man of the family was a member of the Canadian military and an accomplished sailor.  The younger crew members were well seasoned and crewed effectively.  Large as recreational boats go, measuring out at 38 feet, the yacht was equipped with a full galley, head and sleeping quarters.  Lunch was geared toward the younger members on board.  An excellent cook, the hostess served gooey grilled cheeseburgers, chilled pasta and three bean salads, and an icy pitcher of fresh lemonade, this all finished with watermelon and fresh berries heaped on shortcake and topped with whipped cream.

Vancouver Island, with its endless coves, sandy beaches, and  intricate network of waterways was a source of wonderment to my young eyes.  At one point, we dropped anchor in a cove and bailed into the dark blue waters popping up and down like bobbers in our orange life vests. If you would have asked me at that exact moment to move there, I would have packed a bag.  Truthfully, if my family wasn’t so embedded in living the California lifestyle, I could happily purchase a houseboat and float about the world for the remainder of my time here. 

These are great burgers, definitely not cholesterol free but sometimes you just got to go for the gusto.  Smile.  I’ll be serving these on 4th of July with all the sides.  Can’t wait.

Stuffed Mushroom Cheeseburgers

2 lbs. ground beef
1 large onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup crushed Saltine crackers
1 egg
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped fine
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. Liquid Smoke
1 envelope Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing mix
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 lb. mushrooms, chopped fine
6 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
3 Tbsp. Neufchatel cheese, softened
6 Onion hamburger buns

In large mixing bowl combine onion, crackers, egg,  jalapeno, ranch dressing, Worcesterhire sauce, garlic, and pepper. Mix well. Crumble meat over the top and using your hands mix well. Do not overmix. Shape into 12 flat thin patties. Place six on a cookie sheet.

In separate bowl combine mushrooms and cheeses. Spoon 1/6 of the mixture in the center of each of the six patties. Top with six other patties and pinch edges firmly to seal tightly.

Grill over medium heat for about 5-7 mins. each side or until cooked as desired. Place buns flat side down on grill until lightly browned. I serve these with grilled red onion slices, tomato, arugula, and chunky salsa. Yum.

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