Eco-Friendly, Green and Local – What’s Next?

As a food writer and business owner I’m constantly challenged by what the next new idea is. It used to be that we were on the leading edge of things. We were one of the first 50 businesses in Maine to receive the Leadership in Hospitality award from the Department of Environmental Protection. Our “It’s All About the Food Cruises,” where 90% of our food came from within 100 miles of us, were the first of their kind in our area. Even composting and recycling on the boat — which trust me, took some effort to figure out — are places where we led the way.

But now that everyone and every business is “green” — or at least they say they are — where do we go from here to be a leader? Likewise, everyone is talking about how local they are. Now that we buy entire sides of local beef and pork, raise nearly half of our veggies in the garden and buy almost all the rest from a CSA, what’s next? Raising our own animals? On 0.6 acres of land? That’s “zero point six” acres, not 6 acres. Not likely. Perhaps we should have hens on the boat like they used to do on the ships that sailed around the world; from the beginning of the voyage those early sailors carried many of the animals that would become their sustenance.

Then my mind wanders to what prompted us to go green, local and sustainable to begin with. At the core, it was about providing a clean environment and healthy food for our family. In the end, the business received the benefit as well, but initially, all I wanted was to avoid hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, and chemicals in our food.

We began with the goal of healthy food for our family and in the process created a healthy food experience for our guests and for our schooner business.  Do we relish being a leader? Definitely. And will we keep looking for the next new good things for our family…AND for our schooner?  Absolutely.  And, in the meantime, we can also bask in the enjoyment of what we’ve created.  To love walking in the gardens early in the morning with a cup of coffee and deciding what is to be harvested for the next trip.  To know that the bulk of what we are serving and eating is full of that which is good for us.  And to enjoy the literal and figurative fruits of our creations.

I can be satisfied with that.  Absolutely.


Chloe Harvesting Sailing Morning

Gardening Duo 1

Gardening Duo 2

Maine – A Place to Stop and Smell the Sea Air

The state of Maine is a place of unrivaled beauty in so many ways, but none more eye-popping than the day when, after a hard spring rain, the sun emerges and suddenly, the grass turns a shocking green and the flowers all open to show off their finery.

Such was the day I drove back from Portland after doing a 207 shoot.  I had Sugar & Salt books to sell and ended up winding my way down and around the peninsulas around Boothbay Harbor.  It’s so rare for me to be exploring our state this time of year what with a schooner to get ready to sail, a household to pack up, girls to organize and crew to train.  However, the day was just too much of a gift to not enjoy.  And so I stopped, several times, to enjoy and to sell a lot of books too!

Thanks to Southport General Store and Gift Barn (Janet, De and Maria you made my day!  I hope we end up getting to enjoy each other more on one of our knitting cruises.), Oak Street Provisions, The Village Store, Sherman’s Books and Stationary and Maine Coast Book Shop for your purchases.

Other than the fantastic stores that I visited, some all ready for the summer season, and some with shelves just being dusted and stocked as I walked in the door, this is what I saw that day:

Cozy Harbor, Maine
Cozy Harbor, Maine
Cozy Harbor, Maine
Lobster buoys in Cozy Harbor, Maine
Nature path – Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Sun on bright green moss
More sun on more bright green moss
Southport, Maine


Sherman Zwicker in Boothbay, Maine
Sherman Zwicker in Boothbay, Maine

Lovin’ my state

Pies On Parade

Both a benefit for the local food pantry, Area Interfaith Outreach (AIO), and a festive mid-winter party, Pies on Parade has grown into a major event over the past several years.  Sold out a week ago at 600 tickets, it proves to be the event of the month for at least AIO if not Midcoast Maine.

This year, Rheal Day Spa (my favorite place ever) and I are partnering to make both Lemon Lavender Honey and Yogurt Pie and Cinnamon Raspberry Gallette from my cookbook Sugar and Salt.  Rhonda Nordstrom, spa owner extraordinaire, and I have shared tea a time or two as we plot and plan our menu and the details of cooking pies for 600 people out of a kitchen almost as small as the galley on the Riggin.




Kids Travel – Its Not Just for the Grownups!


As many of you already know, we typically have an age range of around 12 and up on our regular sailing cruises.  That said, we also make space in the schedule for families who want to travel with their kids and have other families on board at the same time.  This article is written by a guest and mom who traveled with her family on the Riggin a few summers ago.  Michelle and her family had a great time and she was generous enough to share her experience for the benefit of new families coming to us.  Thank you MiniTime for the shout out on traveling with kids on a Maine Windjammer.

Our next scheduled Kids & Family cruise is July 8th – 11th and we are offering for kids to sail at half off. That’s right kids (18 and under) sail at a 50% discount! If you’re looking for a unique fun family adventure – we’ve got you covered.

Family Fun

Happy Halfway Day!

Isn’t it awesome when you figure out what makes you more efficient, life run smarter, processes cleaner, efforts smoother?  We just had one of those moments here in the office and as of today, Maine Sails Blog will be folded into the At Home, At Sea blog.  Only one blog instead of two.  One blog that integrates the ‘at home’ part with the ‘at sea’ part.  Of course that’s always happened here anyway, I’ll just end up sharing a little more about life as an owner of a Maine Windjammer.

Out on a beautiful Penobscot Bay day... Coming soon!
Out on a beautiful Penobscot Bay day… Coming soon!

With that, a letter from a dear friend and guest, Pinky R., came by email to remind me and now you that we are officially at the halfway mark between the end of last sailing season and the beginning of this one.  And so begins what always feels like a fast and slippery down hill sled ride to the opening day of our season.

I should also remind everyone that there are only three more days before the early booking discount ends.  February 1st is the last day!

Thanks, Pinky!

Greetings Fellow Sailors,

Periodically throughout the off-season, I find myself counting the months, then weeks, until we sail again. The sailing season always seems too short to me, even though each individual day is blissfully slow. That’s Maine for you! As one of my favorite t-shirts says, “If you can’t take winter, you don’t deserve summer.”

As we came ashore on the final day of the final cruise, counting ahead to when we will once again be out on Penobscot Bay, I was somewhat sad. Eight months!

Then there has been this particular winter. There has been more sickness in our house in the last month than in the last 5 years! In terms of activity, shoveling snow has its place, but hauling lines holds more appeal right now. And then the Patriots. . .

So, I started counting the days until sailing season, and there is good news. (Well, for those of us who are not busily working and wondering if she’ll be ready to go in time, it’s good news.) Tuesday, January 29, is the half-way point between the last day of sailing of 2012 and the first day of sailing of 2013. Yeah! Now it will be less time ahead than behind. When you’re looking forward to something, like a kid waiting for their birthday, that’s an important distinction.

So, Happy Halfway Day! Looking forward to seeing you out on the water soon!

Happy to have a Halfway Day to celebrate and one fewer thing to do.

Joy the Baker and Use Real Butter Bloggers Come to Maine

Before they came to us to sail for 4 days, bloggers  Joy Wilson of Joy the Baker and Jen Yu of use real butter ate at El Rayo, Ten Apple Farm, In Good Company  and last but not least, Fore Street.  They cook, they write recipes, they write books, they blog about food and they were coming to sail with us.  And taste my food.  Cooked on a wood stove.  In the middle of Penobscot Bay.  At a heal.  Sometimes in the rain.  I prayed that after having Sam’s food (Fore Street) that they would recognize how little space, refrigeration, staff, time and precision I have in my little galley and love my food for what it is.  Made with good heart, excellent ingredients and and attention and love for the craft and art of cooking while taking advantage of what I do have and letting the rest go.

I need not have worried.  They got it alright and I feel blessed to know these two wonderful women who write about food like I do with their own flare and style.  Thank you both for your kind words.  I was sort of speechless before you came, chattered away with you while you were here, and now I’m again speechless from both of your posts.  Thank you.  Joy Baker (Joy Wilson) on the Riggin and use real butter (Jen Yu) on the Riggin.

Joy Wilson of Joy the Baker blog on the Maine Windjammer J. & E. Riggin
Joy popping out of her companionway. Photo credit Hilton Carter
Jen Yu of use real butter blog on the Maine Windjammer Schooner J. & E. Riggin
Jen – a self portrait. Photo credit Jennifer Yu


We Are All Weird

A few days ago, someone said to me ‘It must be weird to sail with all of those strangers every week.’  On the boat we often get the question, ‘What do you do if someone’s a real jerk?’  (they usually use a different word, but I’ve gone family-style here).  Here’s the thing – we are all odd in our own way.  Even your best friend was a stranger when you first met them and if we are doing our job correctly people are so happy that they don’t have time to think about reverting to jerk status (if they have one).   Also, sailing on the Riggin, with its rustic cross between camping on the water and staying at a bed and breakfast, is a self-selecting trip which is not everyone’s cup of tea.   We know this and it’s okay with us.  It’s a perfect crossroads that creates week after week of like-minded folks coming to us wanting to relax and have an adventure all at the same time.

Everyone is quirky in their own way, some more obviously than others of course, but we all have things that make us happy and aren’t we lucky that we aren’t all the same.  For example, I’m perfectly happy to let someone else worry about their nails – the color, the length, the funky designs of swirly seashells and gems – I couldn’t care less, AND what does it matter to me if crazy nails are fun to someone else?  No skin off my nose when they look at my short, unadorned, somewhat battered, working-in-the-kitchen nails and think, “Lord help me, girl!”

This summer I overheard one of the best partings ever from two couples who didn’t know each other before spending a week sailing, eating, hauling, sunning, napping, singing, etc. together.  They’d been strangers before and were parting unlikely friends, especially so in this climate of political opinions which each of us holds so dear.  As the man of one couple was shaking the other man’s hand he said with true astonishment and delight in his Southern drawl, “You know, you’re alriiight for a bunch o’ liberals.”  Best thing I could have heard all summer.

No matter who comes to us, no matter what they believe or what they look like or what they wear, they all are adorned by the same skin which encases a heart and a brain.  That’s what I care about.  It’s our job to meet them where they are with all of the literal and invisible, but heavy never-the-less, baggage that they carry on their back and to maybe help them set it down for a while.  Even if only for four days.

A Toast to Our Individualness!

Not saying that any of you are weird, just love this photo and you all!

Knitting Cruise – Creativity, Outdoor Travel, Learning – What more could a woman wish for?

Our knitting cruise on the J. & E. Riggin, taught this year by Bill Huntington, is from June 9-11, 2011.  Bill owns Hope Spinnery yarns and is a knitting wizard.  Last year when I boarded the boat after getting the girls off to school, Bill was surrounded by rosy-cheeked, vibrant women, all clamoring at once to tell me what they’d learned or show me what they’d knit.  A happier group I’ve yet to see – loud belly laughs and hands moving furiously were what occupied the galley after dinner that night.

Join us and share in the fun as we sail, knit and eat our way along the Maine Coast!  It’s the only trip in June that still has space and from now until June 1st we are offering a Buy One, Get One Half Off Special.  Call 800-869-0604 for more details.

If you can’t make this trip maybe our Sept. 5-10 knitting cruise with Maggie Radcliffe fits your schedule.

Hope we get to sail with you this summer

German Chocolate Cake – Maine Ingredient

This rich cake is saved from being cloyingly sweet by the bittersweet chocolate ganache and the pecans which both add a slight layer of tang or acidity that combines to big time advantage with the sweet frosting.  It ran with a Homemade Macaroni and Cheese recipe in the Portland Press Herald last Wednesday.

German Chocolate Cake
The box recipe that my mom and grandma always used to make was never attractive to me as a child.  With the addition of a layer of ganache, however, the balance of bitter and sweet in the chocolate make this a dessert my daughters love.  Me too!  I used the traditional recipe for the frosting, but instead of standing over the stove for 12 to 15 minutes stirring constantly, I put the frosting over a double boiler and only stir occasionally.  It takes longer, closer to 30 minutes for the mixture to thicken.  The ganache is straight from Christopher Kimball’s The Dessert Bible.  It’s perfect just the way it is and needs not even a little tweaking.

German chocolate actually has less cacao, what gives chocolate its distinctive flavor, than semi sweet or bittersweet at 46%, 54% and 67% respectively.  This then the reason that the cakes are lighter in color and chocolate flavor.  (And also why the layer of ganache makes this cake so much better.)

4 ounces German chocolate, 4 squares, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces or smaller
1/2 cup fresh, hot coffee
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, plus a little more for the pan
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter two 9-inch round cake pans.  In a small bowl, combine the chocolate and coffee and cover.  Stir after 5 minutes to make sure the chocolate has melted.  Cool.  Cream the butter and sugar together and then add the eggs one at a time.  Add the cooled chocolate.  Sift the flour over the creamed mixture alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla.  Mix until just combined.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a tooth pick comes clean when inserted into the center of the cake.   Let cool in the pan.

1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
8 ounces German or bittersweet chocolate, 8 squares, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces or smaller

In a small saucepan, bring the cream, butter and syrup to a strong simmer.  Add the chocolate and cover for 5 minutes.  Stir to be sure the chocolate has fully melted.  Then cool to a point where it will set on the cake, but is still spreadable.

Coconut Frosting:
1, 12oz. can evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup butter, one stick
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cup toasted coconut
1 cup toasted pecans

Place all ingredients except coconut and pecans in the top of a double boiler, keeping at least 1-inch of simmering water in the lower pan.  Stir occasionally until the mixture thickens considerably.  Add the coconut and cool in the refrigerator until it will spread, but set well on the cake.

Assemble the Cake:
Place a dollop of ganache on a flat, round platter or upturned round baking dish.  (This is if you don’t have a cake turn table.)  Flip one of the cakes top side down into the middle of the platter.  Spread half of the ganache and then repeat with the second cake, again top side down.  Spread the coconut frosting on the top and sides of the cake.  With your hands, press the pecans into the sides of the cake, picking up what doesn’t stick and repeating until the entire side is covered.

Maine Sailing Season – At It’s End

Sigh.  The sails are now in the barn after a m0rning that graced us with sunshine and breeze – perfect for drying sails that had just been soaked by a big front that flew through a few days ago.  A little too much breeze for the boat at the dock, but hey, things are dry now.  And with that, there’s no more chance for a last minute change of the mind.  We are well and truly done for the season.

The end to a season is always met with a mixture of emotions that sway back and forth.  There’s the satisfaction and relief to have completed a happy, healthy summer – safe, well-feed, relaxed, ebullient people left our boat time and time again.  There’s the looking forward to winter – time, quiet and creative, to work on the business part of the business, birth new ideas, finish unfinished ones, and frankly nap often.  (At least that’s what I dream about.)  This is the time when I stay on the couch and read one more chapter with the girlies instead of disciplining and structuring my time so much.  The end is also a little pensive feeling.  We’ve created this terrific team of crew members who all work in concert with each other, learning their part in the orchestra so well, and then we need to let that team separate – to maybe form again next year and perhaps not to be experienced in the same way ever again.

Also, while we do get tired and the season ends just exactly when we are feeling “done,” we also say goodbye to those pieces of being on the water every day that we won’t live again until the days lengthen and the breezes warm.  For me it’s the quiet very early in the morning when I awake to light the stove and then watch the sun rise; the coming up on deck to get something from the refrigerator and opening my arms wide to take in the ever-changing, stunning view; the sound of frequent, raucous laughter; singing in the galley; the smell of “wooden boat” which is a mixture of sea and pine tar; and the giddy excitement when the CSA shares arrive at the beginning of every trip.

So I will say goodbye old friend, we will see you in the spring to sail another season.