Land-lubber, for the time being…

After a successful season aboard the TS State of Michigan, fall 2023 brings a time of recuperation and rest. The cause; a self-inflicted elbow injury that went untreated for over a year. Now, a week into the 6 + week surgery recovery period, I’m thankful my wife and family are willing to take on the challenge of caring for a “oversized human being” that is extremely limited in the movement of his left arm.

I’m blessed to live in a sparsely populated area of northwest Michigan that affords me a view of an ever-changing fall landscape on my wooded property surrounded by state forests. Dark, gray clouds and rain melding with passing, fluffy white clouds, breaks of sunshine and blue skies, thunderstorms, frost covered leaves in the morning… it is truly awe-inspiring.

With “most” of the outdoor tasks completed for the fall season, I’m better able to enjoy the “rest” while catching up on some reading and listening to books, podcasts and favorite music. Being able to relax, without stressing over the remaining work, is a direct result of my ever-growing faith. Resting in His presence, knowing that everything I have is a gift, is quite an assurance to my spirit. Looking out any window in my home, it is easy to be thankful for the blessings and provision the Lord has given; a minute by minute reminder of the power and majesty of His creation, the all-encompassing Grace He provides, and the un-surpassing Love that is offered. Yes, the mounting uncertainty of our American culture, ongoing and escalating turmoil around the world, even the oncoming seasonal weather challenges are ever-present in the back of my mind, all relentlessly gnawing at the Peace that only He can provide, but knowing the “end of the story” allows me to rest well.

As the 2023 freighter season approaches its end, and planning for winter work begins, I am hesitant to move too quickly away from this respite… “slow down, breathe, heal, and enjoy this much-needed break,” the next chapter will be written before we know it…

#acf, #acfnwmi, #freighters, #galleylife, #glma, #nmc, #tsstateofmichigan

Open-water Sunsets Rock! The Sunrises Aren’t Bad Either!

I am never unmoved when witnessing an open-water sun event. At the break of dawn, sky still dark, but the earth’s rotation is moving ever-closer to a sunrise, first purple starts to brighten towards dark red, then red-orange, then a distinct pattern begins to warm the sky to a golden orange just above where the sun appears, and daylight begins. Glorious to say the least. Sometimes, when blessed with a layer of clouds that hang softly above the horizon, the light show above the sunrise can be awe-inspiring. The range of colors, from bright and exhilarating to dark and threatening, meld together to dazzle the visual senses.

Early morning in August, 2022, Lake Huron.

Mid-day sun, really, any time during the day that precludes it from being a “rise”, or a “set”, is not without it own spectacular qualities, and depending upon how the wind effects the surface of the water, the effects are stunningly beautiful. Mostly white and gray hues bounce about the surface, mixing with the bow-wash and resulting wake, to create a continuous churning of light rays.

My favorite, however, is the sunset! I consider it part of the benefits package for the steward’s position. Most days, the galley work has ended, and a well-earned hot shower is now past, my preferred “un-wind” spot on the ship is out back, on the aft deck. Kicking back with a sparkling water and quick phone call ashore, the eyes are tantalized by the varying colors and shimmers of a quickly sinking sun upon the water. Always different, always unique, never a letdown… and if you are lucky enough, you can almost hear the water sizzle as the sun finds its resting place below the horizon. These beautiful, daily sun-events only confirm the blessing we enjoy of being created by a loving and merciful God. One that loves us so much, He chose to make our existence abundantly beautiful beyond our imagination.

Sunset over the Straights of Mackinaw, August 2023.

A Galley “Blackstone” – Takes Me Back to the “Egg Days”.

If you are unaware, most cooking equipment, save the propane BBQ grill on the aft deck of the ship, is electric. Not a big deal to many folks, as this is a common means of cooking in many a modern home today. But to a seasoned veteran of the land-based “hot food line”, this is a departure from the norm. I am used to working with high BTU, natural gas burners, fire that singes the hair on your knuckles and arms, the stuff that gives you a sunburn of sorts after an 8-10 hour shift on the aforementioned hot line. When a commercial electric range is working properly it pales in comparison even to an old and worn out gas range. Sure, it is difficult to singe the hair off your knuckles on the electric version, but that bit of comfort is lost on the waiting for a pot of water to come up to a boil. Yes, the old adage is true, a watched pot doesn’t come to a boil… not for a long time.

It seems I’ve gone on rambling about equipment deficiencies, and I have, but not all electric equipment suffers from weak heating elements. No, the “Blackstone” of the galley, aka the electric griddle, does not suffer the same inadequacies. Fact is, it is the equipment of choice for a plethora of cooking, warming, and holding tasks. I will often prepare three or four different items for the same meal period, at different temperatures, and with excellent results. The most important thing is to plan well. You would not like to see the results of pouring scrambled eggs on a 350 F. griddle because you forgot to adjust the temperature after cooking the pancakes or hash browns. It’s not pretty, and the eggs end up brown and tough. Just this afternoon I “pan-fried” catfish on the ole griddle, right after I seared my garnish ingredients for the batch of “fiesta corn” accompaniment.

“Galley Blackstone” on the M/V Mesabi Miner

Yes, working each day in the galley on the griddle takes me back to my earliest days of cooking in “family diners” and “greasy spoons” where the typical size of the griddle is six feet. Many diners have two or more griddles, each having a specific food dedicated to its seasoned and slick surface. I once worked in an upscale-family diner, that featured a 6’ griddle for hash browns, a 2’ griddle for sausage, bacon, and ham, and a 4’ griddle for omelets. The “cooked to order” eggs were handled on an 8-burner gas range. You might be wondering why we needed that much griddle square footage, (as did I when I was interviewing for a breakfast cooks position). Several restaurants in the area were very competitive on their breakfast menu prices. That, along with the demographics of the northeast side of the greater metro Detroit area warranted the equipment. When I hired in, the local restaurants were in the midst of a breakfast price war. We were serving a breakfast special that consisted of the following: two eggs, two pieces of either bacon or link sausage, hash browns, one piece of toast and a cup of coffee for…….. $0.79 in 1983 dollars. Although I didn’t work the big griddles, I got to cook the eggs, sometimes upwards of 120 dozen of them in four hours, along with the sausage and bacon on the 24” griddle attached to the 8-burner range.

“Workhorse” of the family diner!

Griddles are not as common in upscale cuisine, not until you get to the ultra-fine dining establishments that use “anti-griddles” for flash freezing desserts and the like, but that is another story for another day. Over the last thirty years, I have rarely used a griddle, with the exception of moonlighting part-time for extra income. It is a nuanced kind of “weird” to see griddles showing up in the backyards of America. Search online for one of the many “smash-burger” recipes that are popular today, and you will no doubt see one of the consumer variations of the “Galley Blackstone”! Handy tool, and loads of fun to work with!

Typical backyard griddle.