Thawing Out

Holiday-decorated lighthouse at Hampton, VA

I am writing from a coffee shop in Portsmouth, VA.  I can just see Idle Queen‘s mast from where I am sitting.  It is wonderful not to have 6 layers of clothing on for the moment.  Temperatures have moderated from the unseasonable cold that we experienced from the time we left Cape Cod until just a couple of days ago.  Today’s high approached 60, and the low stayed way above freezing.  It finally feels like we have made good progress south.  Of course, it can get down into the teens here this time of year, but that is unusual.  A week ago, we actually had temps that low.

The trip down the Chesapeake was slow, cold, and at times, rough.  From Annapolis, we motored to Solomons, MD, where we spent Thanksgiving waiting out a gale.  I decided to ride the tail end of that wind down to Little Creek, to visit with friends.  The forecast called for light NW winds, so I figured that we would have to motor part of the way.  We set out with 20 knots.  OK.  I thought it would taper off.  Actually, it ended up staying up there, and then some.  By the time we were nearing the southern end of the Chesapeake Bay, it was blowing 25 knots and gusting higher.  The only sail up was a double-reefed main and the staysail, but we were cranking along at 6.5 knots and more.  It was obvious that we would arrive in Little Creek much earlier than I wanted to.  I was cold and tired, as the temps were in the high 20’s, so I decided to heave-to rather than enter the harbor at 0300.  I found enough room and hove-to under just a double-reefed main.  The next few hours were spent getting bounced around in a steep Chesapeake chop, but I could rest.  Michele kept a lookout for traffic while we waited for first light.

As soon as 0600 rolled around, I unlashed the tiller and pointed us for Little Creek.  With steep waves standing up in the entrance, the channel provided a bit of a challenge for the 35-foot sportfishing boat that I watched crashing out of the harbor in great white plumes of spray, but Idle Queen rode in on top of the waves without shipping even a few drops on deck.  I needn’t have worried about entering this port in the dark.  Little Creek has a huge, well-marked channel and I easily found a spot to anchor between the first two marinas.  Sleep came quickly once the boat was secure.

In Little Creek, we had a marvelous visit with friends who also own a Dreadnought 32.  They are a couple in their 30’s, which is a pretty small demographic among the cruising community.  They have done a beautiful job renovating their boat, and I enjoyed soaking in ideas for improvements to make on Idle Queen.

As tempted as I was to stay in Little Creek for the winter, it was decided that we should push a little farther south before hauling Idle Queen for some much-needed maintenance.  The current plan is to go at least as far as Oriental.  We will be taking the Dismal Swamp Canal route, and will be making an early start tomorrow morning to catch a fair current.  I am looking forward to a couple days on sheltered water…

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.