Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Man Bites Biscotti

We rode the bus from Vineyard Haven to Oak Bluffs Harbor to find out more about transient moorings. As a bonus we discovered some terrifically tasty treats.

Trash day in Lake Tashmoo is upwind both ways.
According to Dozier's Waterway Guide Northern 2007, "The town maintains 50 heavy-weight moorings, geared to a rafting ethos appropriate to a small and popular harbor." I was curious about how this Oak Bluffs rafting ethos worked out in real life and whether the moorings were even still there. We had chased the free, state moorings all through Rhode Island only to find that a newer edition of my guide would have stopped mentioning these ephemeral objects.

Just as importantly I wanted to see with my own eyes how much a pull would it be from one of these moorings to the dinghy dock. Everyone uses an outboard these days, so inquiring of another yachtee about rowing from the mooring to the dinghy dock is like asking a car driver how far it is to the grocery store. The estimates can be wildly optimistic, resulting in a trip that is uphill both ways through knee deep snow, like when I was a boy and walked to school.

It was a cold and wet mid-summer.
Several years ago I had taken Sweet Pea on an exploratory voyage through the Erie Canal in early May. It was such fun that Anita joined me in midsummer at Fulton, NY, and we spent the entire summer gunkholing the tiny towns along the way back and seeing the sights. When people inquired, "Where you headed?" thinking somewhere in the Great Lakes we had to answer that we were already there and yes, we sailed all the way from Georgia to summer on the canal.

My first stop after clearing the Federal Lock in Troy, NY, was Waterford, a terrific little town where I ossafied into a dock fixture, one of those old coots who hang about, eyeing new arrivals, and generally pulling down the value of waterfront property. I was part of a tiny instant community of about five boats who velcroed themselves to the town dock and didn't seem to have much else to do. Looking back I realize that arriving that early in the season was unusual though I did meet several others who were shivering they way north.

Single-handing from Baltimore had made me appreciate having anyone to talk to even if some were about as boring as white walls in an empty apartment. After a month of talking to myself, just the sound of voices would do. Pompous, bombastic, self-aggrandizing, it doesn't matter. They are cruisers, after all. Just my type and, most likely, just my style.

One of the Waterford boaters had rented a car from Enterprise and graciously issued an invitation to ride along. Four of us geezers took off for the delights of the hardware and marine stores. We sorted ourselves into skipper, navigator, and two back-seat crew -- not a one of us under sixty. The skipper handed the navigator a hand-drawn map provided by one of the town dock volunteers and off we went. After a bit the navigator asked, "Is north up on this map?" The skipper answered, "It must be." There was a thoughtful pause as everyone considered the implications of this giant leap of faith.

Every town along the Erie Canal volunteered information
In my experience the Waterford volunteers were very well meaning but generally not into navigation. It's a canal, after all, and there aren't that many intersections for them to worry about. Mostly they pointed toward the locks and suggested that once you passed the Waterford Flight you should avoid turning right or left until Oneida Lake many miles distant. The day before I had asked about walking to the hardware store and was told, "About 5 minutes." A boater overheard and discretely informed me that it was more like 5 miles and he thought it was unlikely that I'd do 60 mph, walking.

We of the good ship Enterprise had an interesting tour of upstate NY. Since we were blind lost and of course wouldn't consider asking for directions -- it was cloudy and no one thought to bring a GPS or charts -- we zoomed about, tacking at random. I sat back and watched as the same scenery whizzed by more than once. Eventually we crossed our own wake and spotted the canal. It was a straight shot back to the dock with only a few false turns. First time I can remember that a trip to the marine store didn't cost me any money. Mostly I was glad to be crew, as the navigator became tight lipped when we allowed as how he ought to be able to at least read a map.

Our bus trip to Oak Bluffs had another reason in addition to seeking local knowledge about the moorings. We were off to gunkhole The Oak Bluffs Open Market, which was one of several that were open on a Sunday afternoon. Anita was hoping to find vintage postcards and fresh vegetables. Such a find would contrast nicely with the new brochures and vintage vegetables we currently had aboard.

Portuguese Biscotti in the land of doughnuts.
 Who would have thought?
The highlight of the Oak Bluffs market was Portuguese biscotti, freshly baked and not at all vintage. This biscotti was a bagel-shaped object, rather than the traditional cigar shape and came in a variety of intruiging flavors. They differed from the more familiar Italian biscotti both in shape and in being not nearly so sweet. These biscotti barely nudged the sugar meter and never became coying, despite my standing in front of the booth and munching samples for an embarassingly long time. 

Patty, a firecracker of a talker, was encouraging me to try this flavor or that flavor. She acted as if I needed egging on when a firm command to, "Step away from the samples with your hands in the air," shouted through a bullhorn would have been perfectly appropriate. As I pillaged, Patty described the treat's Portuguese heritage and explained that burb bakes was a new venture, having started that month.

Have another! And another, and another...
 I predict that she and her sister (and her grandmother who was in the booth and is the source of the recipe) will find themselves fully engaged before too long. I hope she doesn't neglect going to markets when all the orders start flooding in over the web. I totally loved her enthusiasm and her biscotti, particularly the ones with pistachio.

What a pleasant find. Too bad I under bought and ate all of them before we got back to Sweet Pea. They would have been lovely with morning coffee.

Oak Bluffs is definitely worth calling on. The dinghy dock isn't that far from the moorings and according to the brand-new brochure I scored at the harbormaster's office, "rafting is mandatory". If the wind is up perhaps one of our raft mates will take a painter and give us a tow, turning Tendril into a proper yacht, with its own tender, complete with outboard.

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