Captain Wright caught a tuna this morning. Which was exciting. I got to stand out on deck, the morning sun streaming over us and blood running down the side of the boat. I took the fish in my hands, and felt his muscle spasms as I drew the knife down along his spine.
In the kitchen I struggled to take his skin off. Out of mobile phone service range, I couldn’t call Abby or mom or dad or anyone who would know exactly how I should prepare this fish. Lest you think I should know these things, I had never gutted, skinned or deboned a fish before. I tried my best. I’m taking a break now, but I’ll go back to work on him again, as soon as Filip finishes scrubbing the floors, and try to finish him off by taking the little scales off. I made sushi rice and had to guess about the seasoning since I was out of cell phone range. (No surprise that the Joy of Cooking lacks a sushi rice recipe.) I knew I should have bought the pre-mixed one.
I don’t know why I didn’t plan better for this meal. Wasn’t it inevitable that we would catch a fish? At least I know I hoped we would. It would have been nice to haul out a few pickled items or tofu to put in the veggie versions.The sushi was perfect and Captain Wright seared some of the tuna in black sesame seeds and salt and pepper and that was even better. I made miso soup and the captain whipped up some wasabi and it was perfect.
I was thinking today as I was cleaning a pot that I miss my life in California. I mean, I don’t mean to say I am not happy to be here – it’s exhilarating every moment. I feel so alive. But I miss my friends. I miss Lia and Asher and Mike and Brian and Larissa. I miss drinks with Mark and Beth. I miss Saga and Paul and Martina. And Claire and Chad. I wish I knew what was happening in their lives.
We are sailing now, and going too fast for fishing says Captain Wright. The waves are hitting us from the beam, from the east, and we are slammed every couple of minutes by a wave that pushes us down so that water comes spraying over the deck on the leeward side and everything in the kitchen better be tied down or it will go rolling – or worse, flying. So far the losses of the day include the water from the top of a can of corn for the corn chowder I made for lunch, which spilled all over my work station; and a jar of rice vinegar that fell and busted its lid. Minor, as things go – as things could go. “Hey,” said Filip, “it could have been worse. It could have been the whole can of corn.”
I have a new burn on my arm. That’s two burns on the same arm – both from taking hot pans out of the oven; and two cuts that never seem to heal – one from chopping to fast and furiously one day to get dinner on the table (potatoes); and the other just from general wear and tear to my right index finger.
Years ago I remember Abby saying that my hands would never be the same if I became a cook. She was right. There are also stains in the dried skin along both index fingers and last night I went to sleep with my hands smelling of fish guts.
The Captain is Right
Before we got underway the captain said that coffee seemed to get everywhere, and that he hated it, as he is not a coffee drinker, and that he would take the coffee away if it became a nuisance. I thought, geez, how hard can it be to keep from getting coffee everywhere? It is surprisingly hard. Since we got underway, I spilt my own coffee cup once, and coffee filled along the drip guard that lines my main countertop. Then today, I had the pot resting nicely between the grips on the stovetop, and one of them came loose in a swell and the pot rolled over. Coffee was dripping down the side of the stove and onto the floor. I scurried to clean it up. I am given a lot of leeway, but I have a feeling that I would not be exempt from the order to outlaw coffee if that order were to be given.
The Gulf Stream
At some point last night we entered the Gulf Stream. Before we caught our second fish, Captain Wright had come in with some seaweed which he said was a sign of it – a clump of Sargasso. Hitting the Gulf Stream was a big deal for everyone. It meant that the water temperature jumped up to 74 degrees Fahrenheit. It meant that we woke up warm, that we dressed in shorts or capris and went barefoot in the afternoon. It was a big day for me, too, because it was the first time I took the wheel. I steered the boat at a compass heading of 175 for about a half hour. It was a lot of work. She fought some and I varied at any one time by 5 degrees. I love being behind the wheel. I also love my galley. If I had a private room, a real room, I might just move in here for life. But I would have a rule: no picky eaters.