I was waiting for my friend, the Nomad, to arrive from New York City, when Neb came into the galley with a hideously large cake. One of those kind you get at the grocery store with tons of sickly sweet icing on it, and made with cheap cake batter that has a taste reminiscent of cardboard.
“Where did this come from?” I asked.
Neb shrugged and looked uncomfortable. “This woman gave it to me,” he said.
“Do we know her?” I asked.
“I don’t think so,” he answered, uneasily.
“Well, I guess I ought to go thank her,” I said, leaving the galley.
He pointed out a woman in a pink shirt. She wasn’t looking at me as if she knew us, or had just given us a cake, but I walked over to her.
“Thank you so much for the cake,” I said.
“You’re welcome,” she answered without making eye contact. She was slightly hunch-backed and had a crooked nose with moles on it, and a wiry mop of hair. She learned into me as if to tell me a secret, and put her hand on my arm. I felt suddenly like Snow White getting the apple from the old witch.
“This is my son,” she said. And as I looked around for a small child, I saw a guy in his twenties who was the spitten image of the woman in the pink shirt. He looked half-crazy, half-cocked, and he waved at me giddily, as if he were about to win the lottery. “He really wants to come on the sail, but we just don’t have the money,” she said.
I thought about the cake in the galley and felt sick. I was being blackmailed.
“Oh,” I said uneasily, now realizing why Neb looked the way he did when I asked him where the cake came from. I looked again at her son, wishing he was five so at least I could have some sympathy for a five-year-old who can’t go sailing because his mom doesn’t have the money. The son stood just behind her, with that silly grin on his face. “I don’t think we can do that,” I said.
“If I could just speak to the captain,” she insisted, her hand tightening on my arm.
I looked back at the boat, but neither Captain Dashing nor Captain Flash were anywhere in sight. I did what I was taught to do in the corporate world: make sure this was not something someone hirer up had to deal with. I told her I was sorry, that the captains were very busy and that we couldn’t make exceptions like that, but thank you for the cake.
|My guest, and soon our new passenger, the Nomad.|
The Nomad’s train was supposed to arrive in Rochester at 2 pm. Naturally, it was delayed, and his taxi took a wrong turn, and if there hadn’t been a tugboat in our way, holding us back from our 3 pm battle sail, he never would have made it on the boat. But he did make it, stepping over the gangway just as I was called to put the fender over the side.
When I finished fender duty and came back toward the galley to help him stow his gear, you can imagine my surprise when I turned around to find the lady in pink and her son sitting on the cabin top. I had no idea how they made it on the sail, but I suppose it pays to be persistent.
Just when I thought we’d had our share of crazy people for the day, a voice that sounded as if he were mocking us echoed out one of Smith’s commands. The voice came again, “Hands to braces!” I tried to identify him out the galley window. The Nomad gave me a look and said, “He just did King of the World… from Titanic.”
A few minutes later the kid popped his head through the galley hatch. He was maybe 16-years-old, slightly reddish hair and something about him said that he didn’t get out much. “You’ve either got to be brave or ignorant to be working in here when you’re at sea.”
I thought this over. I did not consider myself especially brave – but I certainly wasn’t ignorant!
“I guess I’m brave then,” I called back.
“What? You say you’re angry?”
“No,” I said, “I’m not ignorant, so I must be brave!”
But he had already moved on.
“Ms. Smith,” he called out, “Ms. Smith, just let me know when I can be of assistance to you.”
Sometime during the sail we tacked, and the grilled yellow squash salad I made slipped off the top of that damn cake box where I stupidly put it because I was out of room in the galley, and tumbled to the floor. Every last bit of it. I cleaned it up, and doggedly went to work making a new batch with zucchini instead. It was one of those days.
Smith was tired. We had new crew and were short-handed. I was tired too, since I’d had to prepare Sunday’s meals in advance, since I had the day off. The Nomad and I were about to head out when Smith asked if I could go up and fold the topsail. But by the same I got out my fleece and changed my shoes, she waved me on.
“You two can head out of here,” she said, looking defeated.
I wasn’t going to insist. I got my things together and the Nomad and I headed out for dinner on the town.
Bread pudding with fruit, and smoothies
Asian pork stir fry with pineapple, onions, beans and zucchini
Pulled pork sandwiches
Zucchini salad: this is an old favorite of mine from The Moosewood Cooks at Home. You “grill” the squash in olive oil in a skillet, until it browns a bit. Toast garlic lightly in the skillet after that. Lay the squash in a pan, sprinkle the garlic over it. Then chop a tomato and scatter that on top. Top, too, with chopped parsley, or preferably basil or mint, or tarragon, and then douse in red wine vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let sit to marinate for 30 minutes or so. Delicious.
Macaroni and cheese, using an aged white cheddar