Sailor & Galley: A Northwest Nature’s Bounty

This rich, steaming stew from the Pacific Northwest warms chilled sailors’ bones and brings back a lifetime of memories.
Seattle Leukemia Cup Regatta
The extended Lehfeldt family sails in the Seattle Leukemia Cup Regatta to help raise money for this worthy cause. Courtesy Dan and Donna Lehfeldt

My husband, Dan, and I are based in Bellingham, Washington, in the sailors’ paradise known as the Pacific Northwest. For almost 20 years, we’ve sailed Moonlight, our 1979 Seawind 31, surrounded by the beauty of the blue-green Salish Sea, the San Juan Islands and, to the north, Canadian waters. We bought Moonlight as a 25th wedding anniversary gift to each other, and raised our three young teenagers as sailors.

Our teens’ ever-changing priorities made us seriously consider changing the boat’s name to Intuition because we always had to guess whether they’d want to join us for weekend or vacation cruises. But through the years, sailing brought us together in good times (there’ve been many) and hard times, such as when, in early 2007, our oldest son was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It was a difficult three years with an outstanding medical team and cutting-edge treatments before his disease went into full remission.  

That same year, the ­entire family joined together aboard Moonlight to sail in the annual Leukemia Cup Regatta, sponsored by the Seattle Yacht Club. It raises money to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, with sponsors supporting each crew. Usually, about 50 teams compete for top spots. Live music, silent auctions, parties, food, drinks and awards round out the fun. We’ve since participated in eight of these regattas; team Moonlight always sports sponsors’ decals on our sails, and we always place in the top three teams for donations. 

Every year we did the regatta, the kids and their spouses came to Bellingham to help sail Moonlight to the venue—Seattle’s Elliott Bay. On those pre-regatta cruises, we shared many memorable meals aboard. Moonlight’s relatively small galley means that a one- or two-pot meal is our absolute go-to, especially when sailing with a full crew. We regularly cook up a good, hearty soup. 

Pacific Northwest weather can be brutal, with ever-­changing seas, winds and temperatures. Hot soup is a must, and Pacific Northwest Salmon Chowder is one of our favorites. It’s easy to make, and the flavors are all about the Northwest, with the salmon simmered amid peas, carrots, onions and potatoes in a creamy broth. The wild-caught salmon and almost everything else is locally sourced. What could be better? 

Our family, with the sea as our playground, learned to enjoy and appreciate nature’s bounty. This salmon chowder uses that bounty, and brings back happy memories of ­sailing in those regattas. Above all, every time we eat it, we’re grateful that our son is thriving: Sixteen years later, he’s still in full remission. Thanks to that, we hope we’ll all be sailing—and eating chowder—together for many years to come.

Pacific Northwest Salmon Chowder (serves 6 to 8)

bowl of salmon chowder
Pacific Northwest salmon chowder Lynda Morris Childress
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 6-8 baby potatoes, sliced, or 2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ¾ cup celery, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 3-4 cups seafood or chicken stock
  • ½ cup white wine 
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼-½ tsp. black pepper
  • 1-1¼ lb. fresh, skinned salmon fillet 
  • 1 cup heavy cream (or to taste)*
  • 1 bunch fresh dill, to taste
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • Liquid red-pepper seasoning or red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2-3 Tbsp. flour (optional)

* at least 35 percent fat or it might separate

Melt the butter in a large soup pot. Briefly saute the potatoes and vegetables in the butter. Add stock; bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and let cook until the potatoes and veggies are al dente (8 to 10 minutes). 

Meanwhile, poach the salmon. Add white wine and water, plus a few sprigs of dill, to a large saute pan with a lid. Bring the liquid to a steady simmer over medium heat. Salt and pepper the salmon fillets to taste, and add to the pan. (If skin remains on the fillet, place the skin side down.) Add additional water, if required, to just cover the fillet. Cover the pan, and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on thickness. The fish is ready if it begins to flake when prodded with a fork; the inside might not be cooked. Remove it from the liquid with a slotted spoon, and let it rest on a plate. Peel off any skin and discard. 

Add heavy cream to the soup pot, stir, and bring to a low simmer. Flake the salmon into the pot in chunks. Add chopped fresh dill to taste and, if desired, Worcestershire and red pepper. Simmer and stir until cream is thickened and salmon is cooked, about 5 minutes. 

For thicker broth, place the flour in a small bowl. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of broth from the pot, and blend until creamy. Stir the mixture into the chowder. 

Taste, adjust seasonings, and ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with snipped dill, and serve immediately. 

Prep time: 1 hour
Difficulty: Easy
Can be made: At anchor

Cook’s Note: You can substitute thawed frozen salmon, or use 15 ounces of canned salmon.
Editor’s Note: Leukemia Cup Regattas are held throughout the United States. Visit

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