Cockpit Cuisine: Joys of Al Fresco Dining on a Maine Cruise

Dropping the mooring pennant is the equivalent of an instant vacation for me. Like many vacationers, I like to eat out as a special treat. The difference is that I define “eating out” quite literally: dining out in the cockpit. It is common to see our boat at anchor with mussel shells flying port and starboard out of the cockpit. That is how we dine “out” on mussels!

My sailing weekends in Maine typically include checking the tides for mussel harvesting (using USHarbors tide charts, of course). We hunt for mussels at low tide off ledges or mussel beds. Collecting the mollusks can be chilly when reaching into water up to my armpit and my hands usually get scratched by barnacles, but it is worth the effort.

I am quite fond of feasting on these odd-looking creatures. Restaurants serve them steamed with wine, butter, garlic, and other fancy edibles. I prefer fresh mussels just plain steamed in sea water. I am talking, wild-caught, briny, chewy, pure sweetness in every bite. (You do have to watch out for biting into the occasional pearl.) If there happen to be leftovers, I am a fan of a few cold ones out of the ice box for breakfast.

Mussels purchased in a store may be raised specifically for commercial harvest. If you pluck them off remote ledges you may be surprised at how strongly they anchor themselves and how many other critters have latched themselves onto the mussels. Each one is a beautiful mini-marine system of its own.