Warm Comfort Food–Corn Chowdah


Idle Queen's "Galley" sign
Idle Queen’s “Galley” sign

Idle Queen is resting at Solomons, MD, anchored up Back Creek.  The air temperature is in the 30’s, the wind is howling out of the northwest, and it is raining.  It is time to dig a couple of those rust-spotted cans of creamed corn out of the bilge and turn them into a hot, super-tasty meal.

This is a meal that is easy to plan for even on a boat without refrigeration, as all of the ingredients keep well.  Here’s what you need:

  • 2 cans cream-style corn
  • 1 package (about 10-12 ounces) of “side meat”, or other salty, tasty meat of your choice.  Sausage, and bacon work well, but the cured “side meat”, which resembles bacon, requires no refrigeration.  Canned meat will work, too.  Of course the dish can be made without any meat at all, and this is what my parents served when I was young, but adding the meat adds a whole lot of flavor.
  • 3 medium potatoes (about 1 pound
  • 1 medium onion
  • A few cloves of garlic (more or less to taste)
  • 1 tsp Thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional, but delicious:  1/4 cup of cream (Those little “half and half” creamer cups don’t need to be refrigerated.)

Here’s how I go about cooking it all up:

First, cut the “side meat” or bacon into bite-size pieces and fry in the bottom of a large saucepan.  While this is cooking, dice the onion and garlic.  Add to pan when cut so they can start cooking and adding their flavors.  Cut up the potatoes into pieces about 1/2 inch on a side, and then add them to the pan.  Barely cover it all with water–just enough to cook everything.  Add the thyme and bring it all to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes and onions are cooked through.  When the potatoes are cooked through, add the cream-style corn and cream.  Bring it all back to a boil (or just hot if you’re conserving cooking fuel), and then it’s done.  Pepper to taste, preferably with fresh-ground peppercorns.  Since “side meat” is salt-cured, there is probably no need to add additional salt, but add some if desired to your taste and the ingredients that you used.





Entering the Chesapeake

Sunrise at Sea
Sunrise at sea off the coast of New Jersey

After leaving Martha’s Vineyard, Idle Queen’s bowsprit pointed across a glassy, starlit sea toward the Block Island Light, and later the powerful beacon at Montauk.  After a couple of days spent waiting for strong headwinds to blow themselves out, we were left with nothing to stir the sea or fill the sails.  Hourly trips to turn the grease cup that lubricates the drive shaft bearing provided a means to mark time on this passage as the engine droned away noisily.  How since we passed Cuttyhunk Island?  5 turns of the grease cup I noted at one point.  There were a few brilliant shooting stars that night, providing some excitement when they left trails glowing in the sky where they cut into the atmosphere.  We carried a fair tide all the way to the Race, thanks to having picked a good departure time and to the engine for keeping the boat moving.

A meaningful amount of wind did not cross the deck until we were on Long Island Sound. I had decided to head up the Sound because a strong cold front was forecast to sweep southward before there was any chance of making it to shelter if we had headed to the south of Long Island, and there was no reason to be caught offshore in the forecast gale that was to follow.

We were hit by the first blast of southwest wind when we were just short of Oyster Bay.  I had really hoped to make it to Port Washington, as it would have left us in a favorable position for continuing with a fair wind later.  Once the wind built enough to leave Idle Queen overpowered with just a double-reefed mainsail and the staysail, I began to have second thoughts about making it to Port Washington.  It’s only 15 miles.  We have a fair current.  We can make it.

It was not to be.  Rain came with curtain of fog and blotted out an overtaking tow that I had been watching that was only at that point about a mile astern.  We have no radar, and it wouldn’t have done us any good as we pitched and heeled anyway.  If I couldn’t see the tugboat’s powerful running lights, they sure couldn’t see the feeble glow from mine.  I estimated visibility at about 50 yards.  Idle Queen may have been lost in the rain and sea clutter on the tugboat’s radar.  Even though they should have passed almost a mile to our north, I didn’t want them worrying about where that sailboat went, so I tacked away to the south, putting us perpendicular to their course and any danger of collision.  With visibility so bad, it was time to seek shelter, so I made for Oyster Bay, where we sheltered for an entire day from the howling wind.

When we headed out the next morning to try to make it through the East River and out to the Atlantic in order to continue south, the wind was down to about 30 knots out of the northwest.  That, however, was enough to make it painfully slow to make it out of Oyster Bay.  Idle Queen is not a powerful sailer to windward–her keel is shallow; she has high freeboard to hold her back; and her sails have assumed a very relaxed shape when compared to the nice foil shapes they had when they were new.  We can’t power very quickly into a blow, either.  The engine is reliable and in good condition, but it is small–we have less than 1.5 hp per ton of boat.  Take a headwind and add a short chop, and the result is slow going for Idle Queen.  It took almost four hours to claw the three miles to windward so that we could make the turn to continue west on Long Island Sound toward the East River.  That put us way behind the tide, so we anchored near City Island to wait for the next ebb to flush us through the East River and down New York Harbor.  We would do that leg at night.

After breaking the anchor out of the thick, oyster-studded mire at City Island, I stood in the cockpit and motored toward the Throgs Neck Bridge.  My hands went numb after just a few minutes, despite doing my best to avoid exposing them to the below-freezing might air.  I needed to frequently pull out my flashlight to check my position and verify the upcoming lights, and the switch on the flashlight was too small to push when my hands were in gloves.  With the exception of a moment’s confusion near Riker’s Island (where a few channels come together), the trip went smoothly.  With a fast-running fair current and many rocks lurking in the dark, it only takes a moment’s confusion for the boat to end up against something solid.  Fortunately, I figured the marks out and avoided getting into shallow water.

We ran the gauntlet between ships, tows, ferries, and patrol craft and made it down New York Harbor to where it meets the sea at Ambrose Channel.  There, I enjoyed the wide, well-marked channel with few background lights to confuse after the hectic hours in the East River and New York Harbor.  The wind was fair and whipping, so I set the staysail.  We sailed into the Atlantic and turned right, making 5 knots with very little canvas set.

Dawn found us well past Sandy Hook.  As the wind lightened, I set first a double-reefed, and later the full mainsail.  Progress was good, but the ride was bumpy, with Idle Queen bouncing uncomfortably down the 4-6 foot swells.  We were moving well and my spirits were high, despite an uneasy stomach.  Maybe it was that can of peaches I ate earlier.  I shouldn’t have felt so queasy given the conditions.

Late that night, with the incredibly huge video screen of Atlantic City still visible, I finally had to give in to my body and void my stomach.  I am not sure what caused me to get sick, but it took a few hours to get over.  Probably something that I ate.  Feeling a bit weak, and with the forecast calling for headwinds the next day, I decided to turn in to Cape May and head up the Delaware Bay.

We fueled up at Utsch’s Marina, where I spent a short while chatting with the owner about the weather and the declining state of the pleasure boating business.  “Ten years ago, all of these marinas had more transients than they could handle,” he said, sweeping his hand through an arc past at least three other big marinas.  “Now, we don’t have half the business we were doing back then.”  He knew that he was part of a dwindling number of family-run marinas, and seemed to indicate that he could already imagine the day when he couldn’t make it pay anymore.  I was thankful to have given him my business, though it was just a small fuel sale.  We continued on our way with some helpful tips about the Delaware Bay and a free cup of coffee.

The fair tide carried us to the Upper Bay, where we anchored not far from a nuclear power plant.  We were completely exposed, with miles of fetch in every direction, but the water was calm by this point.  The whole trip from Cape May had, at the most, about 10 knots of wind, which was on the nose, of course.  After the sun set, the water was glassy.  It was wonderful to be able to catch a couple of hours of sleep before the tide turned once again and we continued on through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal at night.

Daybreak brought more headwinds.  Fortunately, they were light and we were able to motor the rest of the way to Annapolis without ever having our speed over the ground fall much below 3 knots.  Yeah,  I am happy as long as the boat is at least moving at a good walking speed.  We worked the shallows to avoid the flood tide, and stayed in deep water to get a push from the ebb.  It was about 3 in the afternoon when we motored under the drawbridge to enter Spa Creek.  It was time to take a break…  The forecast called for freezing temperatures and gale-force winds.

Spa Creek
Idle Queen anchored in Spa Creek, Annapolis, MD

It blew hard all day today, but the wind is tapering off now.  With a couple of days rest and freshly-laundered clothes, we are again ready to continue our journey south.  The current plan is to leave tomorrow morning and see how far we make it before the wind turns on us again.

A few photos from Marthas Vineyard follow:

Moon path
Idle Queen’s mast is touching the moon!
Gannon and Benjamin
Gannon and Benjamin
Packet ship sign
Packet ship sign

Waiting for the Weather

Dreadnought 32 Idle Queen
Idle Queen on arrival in Vineyard Haven

Those of you who have been following Setforsea on Facebook know that we are now in Vineyard Haven waiting for today’s southwesterly wind to turn around to the southeast so that we can quickly cross Block Island Sound and make some meaningful progress on our trip south in search of warmer winter weather.  I have recently been following the pattern of only checking in on the Facebook page, so there is quite a bit there that hasn’t been published here.

Hadley's Harbor
Boathouse on Hadley’s Harbor

There hasn’t been much in the way of sailing travels to write about in the past couple of months, as the time was mostly spent visiting with family and friends, but Idle Queen is now on the move again for more than just daysails.  It feels great to have the bowsprit pointed south; to be poring over charts to pick the next anchorage; and have the day’s activities again dictated by the weather.  Recently, we careened the boat to clean the prop and change zincs; beat down Buzzard’s Bay to Hadley’s Harbor, where we got stuck for two days when an Arctic front brought sub-freezing temperatures, gusty winds, and snow; and then sailed to Martha’s Vineyard where we are waiting on better weather for heading south.

Of course, Idle Queen and her gear weren’t forgotten while she rested on a sheltered mooring through September and October. She was visited almost every day to make sure that she was secure. Her sails were removed and washed, and many other pieces of gear were taken ashore for cleaning. A good portion my time was spent rebuilding the little Dyer “Midget” that I bought to have a hard-bottomed tender. Every piece of the boat needed to be redone, as I had purchased only an empty fiberglass shell, some pieces of wood, and a bag of hardware.  Read about the restoration here.

I put together a video from footage taken during a daysail this summer on Buzzard’s Bay that shows Idle Queen charging right along.  It can be viewed below, or on the Setforsea YouTube channel.


View From Aloft- Video of the Great Dismal Swamp Canal

Here’s a unique perspective on the Dismal Swamp Canal–the view from the top of Idle Queen’s mast.  Hope that you enjoy the latest video on the Setforsea YouTube channel!

New Video- Sailing on Narragansett Bay

I have finally had the time to do a bit of video editing and just put up a new short film of Idle Queen sailing on a beautiful afternoon on Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island.

If you enjoy the videos, please subscribe to the Setforsea YouTube channel.  The quality of the recent videos is much better than the older ones thanks to a better camera and the editor finally learning a few things about proper workflow.  There is still plenty of room for improvement–something to look forward to!  Your comments are welcome here or on the YouTube channel.  Thanks.

You can also view the video directly on YouTube in a new window by following this link.

Cape Cod!

Dreadnought 32 Idle Queen
Idle Queen in a sweet, well-protected spot

Well, we made it up to the Cape safely.  When I last left off, we were just getting ready to head out from Hampton, VA.  We were assured of a couple of days of good weather, but after that, there was a strong front forecast to push through the northern waters of our journey, bringing up to two days of contrary winds and unsettled weather.

IMG_0999_2So, here’s the short version of our travels from the time we left Hampton, VA– After leaving the anchorage across from the public pier, we motorsailed in light, but favorable conditions up to New York harbor, where we waited out two days of nasty weather before heading through Long Island Sound.   After motoring through the East River, we grabbed a free town mooring for the night in Port Washington; filled up on overpriced diesel fuel; met some friendly and interesting people; and raised a few eyebrows sailing through the mooring area.  We headed out with a fair tide early the next morning and sailed overnight to Newport, RI, where we dropped the hook and soaked up a little of the “sailing town” atmosphere (or was that just fog?).

Dyer midget parts
Picking up some new pieces for the Dyer dinghy

The next morning, we pushed up to an anchorage near Bristol; and the following day made our appointment to pick up some parts for our Dyer Midget from the factory in Warren, RI.  It was a memorable experience to be able to sail right up to the factory; pick up their guest mooring; and dinghy to their dock to get our parts.  We got a tour of the manufacturing floor and many tips for how to put our dinghy back together properly–I would highly recommend a Dyer for the great support alone.  They freely gave us several hours of their time and answered all of my many questions even though the Dyer that I own is probably 40 years old and was bought at a yard sale.

Dreadnought 32 Idle Queen sailing
Sailing in light air on Narragansett Bay

After loading our parts onto the already overloaded Idle Queen, we dropped the mooring and pushed against the tide for a few miles to overnight in the roomy anchorage in Bristol, RI.  The weather was dreary, so we didn’t really feel like going any farther.  The following day was lovely, though, so we sailed all day and pushed right past Newport to go directly to Monument Beach, MA; taking advantage of the typical Buzzard’s Bay southwest wind to hurry the last half of the passage along.

Dreadnought 32 Idle Queen unload gear
Unloading some excess gear from Idle Queen

Now, Idle Queen is swinging patiently at a mooring while we take care of unloading some of the extra cargo we had carried north; take some time to visit the dentist (Unplanned.  Ouch.); repair the “deflatable” Zodiac; rebuild the Dyer dinghy; and visit the area a bit.

Heading offshore…

Idle Queen will shortly be outbound from Hampton, VA, northbound to…  as far as we can before the weather closes out on us.  We are aiming for Rhode Island, but will stop in to New York harbor if we don’t make good time.

Planning on writing an update soon with pictures from the Dismal Swamp Canal.  I also have some great video from that part of the trip, but haven’t had time to edit and format it yet.  Looking forward to getting that up soon!

Meeting with Harry

Harry Heckel built Idle Queen from a bare hull, and then sailed her around the world.  Twice.  By himself.  He is now 97 years old and still getting around quite well.  It is an honor to know him.  –Barry

Click on pictures in the gallery below to enlarge them.

Oriental to Elizabeth City, NC

Idle Queen is the middle of the three anchored boats
Idle Queen is the middle of the three anchored boats

Sunday, August 4, Idle Queen finally sailed out of Oriental’s harbor.  And I do mean “sailed”.  The last errand to run in Oriental was to bring the boat in to the fuel dock to top off all of our tanks before heading out.  I was planning to sail off from the dock, but a power boat came in just as we were finishing with fueling up, so I elected to motor out instead of keeping him waiting.  Once clear of the dock, though, we put up sail and slowly gathered speed as we left the inner harbor.

Sailing north on the Neuse River
Sailing north on the Neuse River

The wind was blowing from the north, and turning to the northeast.  This meant that the Neuse River was smooth as we sailed along a mile from shore.  Unfortunately, this also meant that the wind would be against us once we turned the corner to head into Pamlico Sound.  I had wanted to head up the sound to visit Manteo on the way north, but the wind stayed northeast, which would have been on the nose, making the decision to motor north on the ICW route an easy one.  I have discovered that ol’ Idle Queen is not terribly fond of going to weather.  We anchored for a day to try to invent storage solutions for a few troublesome pieces of gear, and get the depthsounder working.

Snag pile on the Alligator-Pungo Canal
Snag pile on the Alligator-Pungo Canal
Nearing the northern end of the Alligator-Pungo Canal
Nearing the northern end of the Alligator-Pungo Canal
Scenery on the Alligator-Pungo Canal
Scenery on the Alligator-Pungo Canal

Although I generally dread hours of motoring, I do enjoy the canals for their close views of the landscape.  Smooth waters are a bonus.  We still set sail at every opportunity and didn’t transit any of the legs between Oriental and Elizabeth City entirely under power.  That didn’t do much for our speed, though.  We met a fellow sailor in Elizabeth City on a 20′ Pacific Seacraft “Flicka” who was amazed that, #1- we were sailing in the cuts; and, #2- he was pulling away from us.  Well, the wind isn’t all that consistent when surrounded by all those trees, but a fair breeze is a fair breeze.

There was plenty of wildlife to hold our interest and take our minds off the heat as we motored and sailed north to anchor up past Belhaven.  The cuts were well-populated with birds, turtles, dragonflies, and loads of butterflies.  I also enjoy looking at the trees along the banks of the canals.  It is amazing to look at the size of some of the stumps that are all that remain of old cypress and juniper trees from long ago–those stumps are huge.  The trees growing along the cuts today are just babies in comparison with the monsters that were cut down to leave stumps of six feet and more in diameter.

We sailed past Belhaven.  Even though the promise of a free city dock was slightly tempting, we had a good breeze and made 10 more miles before anchoring in the dark just outside of the channel.

Approaching Elizabeth City
Approaching Elizabeth City

The next day, we arose early to start before the day heated up.  Before leaving, I checked the engine over and pulled the zinc to have a look.  It was not much more than mush.  Hmm…  Well past time to change it.  I pulled a new pencil zinc from my stock only to discover that it was much too long and had to cut it down.  I thought I had bought a half-dozen zincs of the correct size, but it was obvious that I hadn’t.  At least I had something that would work.  A few frustrating minutes with a hacksaw and some trial-and-error fitting had a new zinc anode in the engine.  I tightened the alternator belt as well and we were soon underway.  We made it a very long day, as the wind turned fair while we were in the canal.  We sailed up the Alligator River, through the bridge, across Albermarle Sound, and up the Pasquotank River to anchor just a mile from the downtown waterfront of Elizabeth City.  It was 0200 before we had the anchor down that morning.

Idle Queen at the Elizabeth City docks
Idle Queen at the Elizabeth City docks

Arising before the wind came up the next day, we motored down to the free city docks and backed Idle Queen in to one of the slips.  We received a most friendly welcome from the assistant harbormaster and a couple of interested bystanders.

Our stay in Elizabeth City was delightful.  We arrived only planning to stay for a day, but ended up staying for three.  How could we leave, what with invitations to drive down to Edenton and Rocky Hock; head out to a mud boggin’ competition in Currituck; and let’s not forget the awesome farmer’s market on Saturday morning…  Besides the personal connections, there are great services for boaters:  free city docks; strong wifi; access to water; free loaner bikes; and access to nearby toilets.  All of this is right in a beautifully maintained waterfront park just a short walk from restaurants, art galleries, and more.  We made wonderful friends and memories during our brief stay in Elizabeth City and look forward to visiting again soon.

Clock in downtown Elizabeth City
Clock in downtown Elizabeth City
Interesting building in downtown Elizabeth City, NC
Interesting building in downtown Elizabeth City, NC




On the Road Again

Waiting for departure from Oriental harbor.
Waiting for departure from Oriental harbor.


The past few weeks seem a blur, but the result of all the long days that have been put in is that Idle Queen is ready enough to start her voyage north.

In the past two months a lot was accomplished.  First, Idle Queen was stripped bare of anything easily removable, scrubbed inside and out with vinegar and then bleach to cut down on the musty smell of long-term storage.  We removed the disintegrating headliner that was falling down, insulation that was crumbling, and about 40 pounds of dirt from the bilges.  Much of the interior was painted.  New cushions were cut and covered with covers made from bed sheets.  Personal effects were loaded aboard.  Food was stowed.  Gear was put aboard until there was no more room, and then more gear was loaded.

The boat is cluttered with gear that I hope to sell or trade.  Mostly, it is things that I accumulated in trade for doing project work for other boaters.  For the past year, I have had a “no charge” policy when doing work for others.  Some people thanked me, some gave me money anyway, and some gave me gear.  I have replaced many worn-out pieces of gear aboard Idle Queen, but still have much to get rid of.  I am heading north with three steering-gears aboard, for instance.

I will be sure to post more soon, but for now, it is time to get going…