I was in deep slumber in my bunk aboard Stressbuster, our Atlantic 70, when my husband, Kostas, shook me awake at 0330. We weren't at sea changing watch; we were at the Greek island of Pátmos, awaiting the arrival of charter guests coming from Athens on the 0400 boat. "Hurry up!" he said. "The ferry's coming!"
Shortly afterward, we greeted the sleepy group-Carl and Jean, Jim and Sue, Arleen and Al, and Chris and Dave. All are avid Chesapeake Bay cruising sailors, CW readers, and members of the Bay Region Marine Sailing Association, and they'd sailed with us twice before. On their first cruise with us, it only took a day or two for everyone to realize that we five couples hit it off in a way that doesn't often happen when two complete strangers are added to the mix of friends who've known one another for years. Now we were meeting not only clients but dear friends.
We spent the next 10 days exploring the beautiful Dodecanese islands, strung like a pearl necklace along the western coast of Turkey. Our days alternated between motorsailing in hot, flat calms and fantastic romps in boisterous winds of 30 to 40 knots.
As has become our tradition on the final night with the gang from BRMSA-they pronounce it brimsa-we anchored out for dinner on board and a farewell party under the stars, this time at the island of Íos. After so many days in close proximity to Turkey, it seemed an appropriate time to try Chicken Constantinople-a family recipe given to me by a Turkish-born friend who hails from that former Greek city, today's Istanbul. It proved a perfect choice.
The celebration, as it had in the past, also coincided with Arleen and Al's wedding anniversary-this year, their 33rd. Multicourse feasting continued far into the night, punctuated by Greek music and dancing down below in our roomy saloon. Lacking a cake and candles, I improvised a traditional, simple dessert: creamy, to-die-for Greek yogurt topped with plump, sweet cherries in syrup, with some of the cherries arranged to read "33." A sparkler added the final festive touch.
The gang had written us a song about the cruise, sung to the tune of the theme from Gilligan's Island. They serenaded us, and I responded with a tribute of my own-a silly limerick: There once was a crew from BRMSA. / They sure had a lot of charisma. / From Chessie they came / And were good at the game / Of "stressbusting" captain and crew. / And lo, o'er the years / There were friendships and cheers / With farewells that always brought tears.
The last day's sail-to Santoríni, where they'd begin the next leg of their Greek adventure-was bittersweet, with good-byes looming. "We love Greece," said Jim. "But we keep coming back to see you guys."
When we hugged our farewells that afternoon, there were few dry eyes around.
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
3 tablespoons carino* (or more to taste)
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
Dash of orange juice
1 16-ounce can apricots in heavy syrup
4 fresh apricots, diced
1/2 to 1 pint heavy cream
1 1/2 cups dried minced onion
* Carino is a chicken spice; mix equal parts black and red pepper, curry powder, onion powder, oregano, dried mustard, and sugar.
Coat a large baking pan with oil. In a resealable bag, combine chicken, spices, garlic, and orange juice. Marinate for 30 minutes for extra flavor. Purée canned and fresh apricots in a hand-operated
or electric food processor. Spread chicken over bottom of pan. Spread apricot purée over the top, then cream. Top with minced onion. Bake at 350 F until browned and bubbly, about 45 minutes to one hour. Serve over basmati rice. Serves eight.