Sunday, March 15, 2015

Now You See It, Now You Don't

Fog. It's simultaneously pretty, gloomy, mysterious and even eerie. And for the last two days, it's been moving in and out all day here at Lake Nickajack (Hales Bar Marina)! This morning, we awoke to the sun filtering through a thin layer of fog. By eleven, it was all clear, and the temperature got up to 73 degrees for the day. I guess spring is finally here!

Now you see it (Fog at Hales Bar Marina)
Now you don't
In boating, fog is your foe. When it rolls in, usually without warning, it stops you in your tracks, messing up your schedule BIG time. Even worse, you could be navigating in a narrow channel congested with barge traffic. Or in a shipping lane with container ships and submarines.

Our scenery as we crept out of Bashi Creek anchorage off the Tenn-Tom Waterway
We were caught in the fog several times, three of which were quite memorable. The first time was intentional; the captain wanted to learn to navigate in the fog. We had taken our friends out on our old Mai Thai. No sooner had we left Marina Bay did we find ourselves enveloped in a pea soup fog! We idled the engine and tried to listen for the sound buoy, and every so often sounded our horn. We had been boating for a few months and had taken some classes, so we knew a thing or two about boating safety. After what seemed like forever, the fog lifted, and we could see our surroundings. 
This was the weather when we were heading for Newport, Rhode Island
Our second encounter with fog was when a flotilla of us weekend boaters headed to Newport, Rhode Island for the July 4 celebration. This time, we had a radar and a schedule (reservations at Newport Harbor Marina). When we left, we could only see the silhouette of the buddy boat ahead of us. It's a blur now, so no details of the Cape Cod Canal crossing (maybe friends reading this might be able to recall the event). But I remember stopping and staying the night at Kingman Yacht Center due to the high winds. The next morning, we pressed on to Newport only to find the July 4 fireworks cancelled. The good news is the party goes on in the yachting capital no matter what the weather. Newport Harbor Marina is right in downtown, so we could walk everywhere, including the famous Cliff Walk, where glorious mansions (summer "cottages" built by the rich and famous during the gilded age) and breathtaking ocean views awaited.  
Fog at Hampton Roads, north of Norfolk, Va
Our third encounter with fog was when we were cruising south, from the Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk, Virginia. We had left our anchorage an hour before the fog rolled in, so we had no choice but to soldier on. This time, we were equipped with an autopilot, but no radar. Below is our trip's log:

Cruising the Chesapeake Bay: Solomons Island to Norfolk (2001)
Nov 1 Another beautiful day for cruising except that the fog rolled in about 8:30. We got our portable fog horn ready, listened intensely to the radio all the while inching along painfully at 6 knots. This went on for 4 long arduous hours, landing us at Thimble Shoals/Hampton Roads around noon.  We knew how busy this harbor gets with container ships, war ships, submarines, ferries, etc. Visibility was barely 50 yards away, so we were going to wait for the fog to lift before continuing. Miraculously, the sun burned through and the fog cleared as we approached the entrance to the harbor!  Gradually, boats and markers unveiled before our eyes. What a lovely sight! Then activities started to pick up. 

What are your experiences with fog?

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring!

It's March. Does that mean spring is here?

Only a few days ago, winter storm Remus pummeled us with 8 inches of snow, creating a magical winter wonderland in the deep South. All schools in the Chattanooga area were closed on Thursday, and I was so glad Chattanooga State Community College was too, as I did not want to be driving out there. The snow accumulation atop the roofs had caused docks to collapse in several marinas in Tennessee.

We had our share of adventure at our marina. Around 10:30 pm on Wednesday, fellow boaters diagonally across from us found the end of their finger piers on the verge of submerging into the river. Apparently, the snow had accumulated more on their side, and the weight of the snow on the roof was pushing the finger pier into the river.

They decided to move their boat out of their covered slip to the ship store area, which is on the other side of the marina. We donned our winter jackets, gloves and scarves, and hurried over to help tie them up. Come to find out, some finger piers of that dock were also partially submerged in the river!

We had a community working to get the snow off the main dock with whatever tools we could find - shovels, brooms, etc. By the time we called it quits, it was almost midnight. Back on our boat, the captain also pondered whether we should move out of our covered slip, in case of a collapse. We decided to stay put, but opted to remove the satellite dish so that Mai Thai has enough clearance to move out, if push comes to shove. Never a dull moment living aboard a boat, that's for sure. Thanks to warmer temperatures the next day, the snow melted fairly quickly.
Finger pier about  to submerge into the river
Winter wonderland in southeast Tennessee
For some people, February might already be a distant memory. For me, February will be remembered as the month spent baking (lots of cookies!) and keeping the boat warm at the same time. Au Bon Pain was my inspiration. This was the café  we used to patronize for coffee and breakfast items on the way to the office in Boston back in the 90s (before Starbucks and Panera came on the scene). The one baked goods I love from Au Bon Pain is their delicious oatmeal raisin cookies - chewy, moist yet crispy. Every time I see an oatmeal cookie recipe, I'd clip and file it. After many tries, I settled on the oatmeal raisin recipe from Cook's Illustrated.
Fabulous oatmeal raisin cookies, recipe from Cook's Illustrated
This February, I finally got around to baking Cocolocos, the oatmeal cookie recipe with chocolate,coconut flakes and pecans, that I had dog-eared in the March 1994 issue of Food and Wine magazine (did I mention I'm a pack rat?) It was so good I couldn't stop eating them! I copied the recipe into this post. Hope you like them as much as I do!

Cocolocos - oatmeal with chocolate, coconut and pecans.Yum!
Cocolocos [print recipe]
(recipe from Food and Wine magazine, March 1994)

These satisfying cookies get their crunch from pecans and their chewy texture from coconut and oats. Use the best chocolate you can buy to make the chunks.

Makes About 3 Dozen Cookies

2 sticks (½ pound) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ pound (1 cup) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into ½-inch pieces
1½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup sweetened grated coconut (about 3 ounces)
½ cup coarsely chopped pecan (about 2 ounces)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter with the brown sugar and granulated sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in the chocolate, oats, coconut and pecans.

2. Spoon rounded tablespoons of the dough about 2 inches apart on a large cookie sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes until the cookies are golden. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. (The cookies can be stored for up to 1 week in an airtight container.)

Bet you're wishing spring is here too.

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