Japanese Noodle Soup
It was a trip that was long overdue. From our slip on the St. Johns River, south of Jacksonville, Florida, Georgia's southernmost barrier isle-Cumberland-lay just 65 miles away. Accessible only by water and inhabited only by wild horses and wealthy vacationers, it was a destination that had intrigued us since the day we bought Ukiyo, our Catalina 34.
Early on the Fourth of July, we set off down the river. All day we fought headwinds, tides, and an overheating engine until we were perched in Sisters Creek, on the Intracoastal Waterway, ready for the last 25-mile dash up the coast the next day.
The stars were still twinkling when I fired up the diesel in the morning, and we caught the last of the outgoing tide. We made good speed as we motored into the mouth of the St. Johns. I thought I'd planned our five-day cruise well: From our slip near Green Cove Springs, I'd watched the weather carefully and properly prepared and provisioned the boat. Though my wife, Kanako, and our two little girls were no strangers to ocean sailing, it had been a couple of years since we'd cruised anywhere but on the gentle St. Johns, with its many muddy anchorages.
As the sun cracked the horizon, I could see the end of the riprap and the ruins of at least two boats whose skippers had not been paying close attention out here. The ripples of the tidal stream gave way to the large swells of the ocean; before long, we were hobbyhorsing. I heard stirring below and the clink of dishes in the galley. Where was that south wind that was promised?
Still under diesel power, we dodged small fishing boats and outgoing shrimpers and pushed our way into the Atlantic. Everyone was up now, but the girls wanted to stay in the saloon, despite my admonitions that they wouldn't feel well down there.
When all sails were up and the engine was off, we rolled with the morning swells. I experienced the serendipitous feeling of unexpectedly running into an old friend.
Then it was back to the reality of being a dad: From the wheel, I looked down in time to see my youngest daughter get sick on the cabin sole while my other daughter looked on in horror. Quickly, Kanako and I brought the girls on deck, gave them water, and instructed them to look at the horizon. This improved the situation slightly, but then I looked at Kanako and could see that she was also feeling the effects of the dreaded mal de mer from the relentless pitching and yawing of the boat.
Beautiful Cumberland Island, with its sand dunes and wild horses, was just over the horizon, but an unhappy crew means an unhappy captain; crestfallen, I brought Ukiyo about and headed back for the jetties. The tide, now on the flood, gave us a smooth ride with a following breeze that took us all the way to the free docks by Jacksonville Stadium. Everyone was feeling a bit better by then, and as an evening thunderstorm pelted our deck, Kanako whipped up Japanese noodle soup.
After dinner, I reminded her that when sailing, one always says "bound for" instead of "going to." We'll be bound for Cumberland Island again sometime, and when we set out, it'll still be there waiting for us.
Japanese Noodle Soup
4 cups chicken broth
3 to 4 cups bok choy, chopped
4 ounces Japanese* or other egg
1/2 package medium-firm tofu, diced
3 slices kamaboko (Japanese fish loaf) or
cooked turkey breast, diced (optional)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 green onions, sliced
Bring stock to a boil in a large soup pot. Add bok choy and cook for 2 minutes. Add cooked noodles, tofu, and fish loaf or turkey and cook for another minute. Add soy sauce, wine, and sugar. Stir. Add beaten eggs to pot, stir, and wait until eggs are cooked (about 2 minutes). Stir in green onion just before turning off heat. Serve immediately. Serves two.
* Available at Asian grocery stores