Ode to the Sailing Cook

In praise of an excellent sailor and cook.

Todd Mennillo

Elaine Lembo

"God brings meat. The Devil brings cooks."
--- Old U.S. Navy Saying

As Flyer seasaws gently on a broad reach in 12 knots, a few days away from the Port du Crouesty, France, and the end of a passage of about 3,000 miles, this maxim came to mind.

I haven’t run into the Devil of late, but I’ve come across plenty of boat cooks. A bad one leaves you hungry and cranky and with a lot of messes to mop up; a good one is worth every minute of longitude you cross, whether heeled way over or on a fairly even keel. Before I again set foot on land and with some heftily spouting whales as my witnesses, I can confidently attest that the Devil did not bring us our cook, mate, and general right-hand man, Todd Mennillo. While it might be too bold a leap to say God had anything to do with it, Todd, who’s been at it since long before we voyaged from 070W to 002W, is more than worth his weight in gold.

You don't find guys like Todd on any old waterfront, no sir-ree. This Rhode Island native, Newport resident, and citizen of the world is cut from no mold I can conceive of, and we crew aboard Flyer and everyone who knows and has met Todd are all the better for it.

For Todd isn’t just a great sailor, skipper, racer and raconteur of the City by the Sea. Besides being a font of knowledge of history (nautical and general), literature, movies and music, Todd lays valid claim to his role as Renaissance Man and Nobody’s Fool. In the few short years I’ve known him, I’ve sat back in amazement as he’s dashed off after a long session day skippering in the hot sun for an evening at the duck pin bowling lanes or a few late-night sets at a club. Bottle his energy and put a trademark on his microscopic memory and we’d be all set, I’ve mused.

But that's a tale for another day. For now, lets stick to Todd's ways with food and provisioning. While in no time he can calculate Flyer's 24-hour noon to noon mileage, check course and sail trim and throw in for trivia's sake the distance due west to the Statue of Liberty with a glance at the Nobeltec, he's also way ahead of the pack on good grub. The eggs are turned, the bacon is thick, the butter is at galley temperature. The watches are stood and with a smile, interrupted only by "supper's up." Incredible.

Drawing from the repertoire of 21 dinners he made at home from scratch and froze in portion-sized foil containers ahead of the trip, he knows the exact one to pick each night according to sea state, weather conditions, and crew morale. Too rough on deck? Beef and broccoli in a bowl, then. Reaching lazily along? Let’s go for meatloaf.

From the day we shoved off in early June, it was apparent his efforts weren’t confined to the evening meal. Splendid egg and bacon spreads and hearty sandwiches at noontime are also his specialty. Of course.

Perched in the companionway one evening on a cigarette break, Todd mused, “In the Marion-Bermuda Race, they give an award to the cook of the boat that finishes last.”

Flyer isn't racing, but she'll reach France soon enough, in good form, and with a winning cook aboard --- at least in the log book of this well-fed delivery crew. Thank you, Todd!

Track Flyer at www.cruisingworld.com/flyer