About Tom Tripp

Tom is the publisher of www.OceanLines.biz, a website about passagemaking boats and information. He is also a contributor to Chesapeake Bay Magazine who has been at sea aboard everything from a 17-foot homemade wooden fishing boat to a 1,000-foot-long, 96,000-ton, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

Video – Wilbur 46 Launched, Cool Green Features

The New Wilbur 46 from Maine Boatbuilder Wilbur Yachts

The New Wilbur 46 from Maine Boatbuilder Wilbur Yachts

Wilbur Boats, the Maine custom yacht builder, has launched Betsy, a Wilbur 46 that brings together classic design elements of Downeast lobster boats, with some of the most advanced green energy technology available.

With a crossover-type hull that can be driven efficiently at both displacement speeds and plane at 27 knots, the Wilbur 46 you see here has a Caterpillar C-18 diesel with 1,015 hp for main propulsion. The yacht also incorporates solar panels and a fuel cell to replenish batteries. Fuel cells are often considered one of the Holy Grail clean power technologies but are still extremely rare aboard boats.  Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine has a nice story about the launching here.

General Arrangement Rendering of the New Wilbur 46

General Arrangement Rendering of the New Wilbur 46

Here’s a nice video from the company of the boat after launch:

And here are the main specifications:

Wilbur 46
Specifications

LOA                      46′ 1″
LWL                     44′ 8″
Beam                    14′ 7″
Draft                      4′ 6″

Builder:     Wilbur Yachts, Southwest Harbor, Maine

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Rescue Video – BoatU.S. EPIRB Rental Saves Three

BoatU.S. EPIRB Rental Program Saves Lives

BoatU.S. EPIRB Rental Program Saves Lives

Okay, the title of this post isn’t really fair.  After all, it was the U.S. Coast Guard, whose men and women risk their lives every single day for boaters like us, who actually rescued these three catamaran sailors off the coast of California last week.  But if it wasn’t for a last-minute EPIRB rental from BoatU.S., they likely would have perished. As it was, hypothermia almost got them anyway. If you’re not a regular offshore cruiser (meaning – you don’t already own an EPIRB), rent one from BoatU.S. and give yourself a real chance to be rescued if it all comes undone.  The following video and press release are from BoatU.S., who authorized this republishing in its entirety.


———-

Rented at the Last Minute, Emergency Beacon From BoatU.S. Foundation
Saves Three Lives Off California Coast

Crew Sends Mayday Just Before Capsizing

ALAMEDA, Calif. July 8, 2010 — The day before departing Crescent City, California, on July 1 for an offshore passage bound for Alameda, California, the shore-bound father of one of three crewmembers aboard the 32-foot catamaran sailboat Catalyst wanted to ensure his daughter was safe. So he went to www.BoatUS.com/Foundation/epirb to rent an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB).

Normally costing about $800, the BoatU.S Foundation rents the life-saving units for just $65 per week. The rental program is intended to fill the short-term safety need for occasional offshore cruisers. When activated by immersion in water or manually by pressing a button, the units broadcast an emergency mayday signal via satellite along with precise location information of the vessel in distress, allowing for a speedy rescue. A dedicated global satellite system relays 406-MHz EPIRB distress signals to rescue stations around the world.

The last-minute rental saved all three this past weekend when stormy seas led the crew to activate the beacon just minutes before massive waves capsized the vessel, plunging all three into the frigid Pacific waters 20 miles off Fort Bragg on the Northern California coast.

On Saturday July 4 with winds gusting past 50 mph and seas treacherous, the three crew — two men in their 40s and a woman of unknown age — activated the EPIRB at about 12:44 p.m. Soon after, 15-to-20-foot waves knocked the boat completely upside down, pinning all three underneath. Once they freed themselves from the overturned boat, the three lashed themselves to the overturned vessel, but without survival suits to protect them from the cold water, hypothermia quickly set in.

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter was able to home in on the signal given by the EPIRB, and after commencing a search pattern, quickly found the floating wreck awash in the sea. With the help of a rescue swimmer, Catalyst’s three crew were quickly loaded into the helicopter for a life-saving flight to the hospital. The female crew member’s body temperature was only 79ºF and pulse barely 30 beats per minute. All are expected to fully recover.

The signal from the EPIRB was the only distress signal received by the Coast Guard from Catalyst. The Coast Guard also credits the crew for staying with the boat after it capsized and filing a float plan, which allowed the rescuers to expedite the search.

“That EPIRB saved their lives,” said USCG Lt. George Suchanek, an MH-65C Dolphin helicopter pilot that responded to the call.

The BoatU.S. Foundation EPIRB Rental Program is funded by the voluntary contributions of BoatU.S. members, and 65 lives have been saved since 1996. For more information, call 888-663-7472 or visit www.BoatUS.com/Foundation/epirb .

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Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved

First Look at the New Nordic Tugs 39


The new Nordic Tug 39

The new Nordic Tug 39

Nordic Tugs’ latest model, the 39, will be making its East Coast, U.S., debut next week at Warwick, Rhode Island, Trawlerfest, so we thought it was a good time to give you the details on this boat. While it is the same hull as its predecessor, the NT-37, the NT-39 has significant changes topside, and several new standard features. From the company:

“Nordic Tugs President and CEO Andy Lund described the new vessel as an evolutionary advancement developed to offer a better cruising experience. “We began with an enormously successful design, and then contacted our many Nordic Tugs 37 owners for their feedback on how we could improve it,” he said, adding that many of
the features offered in the new 39 are in direct response to customers’ suggestions.”

Nordic Tug 39 Interior

Nordic Tug 39 Interior

The 39 is still very obviously a Nordic Tug; the classic pilothouse lines remain, but the look is updated with larger pilothouse and salon windows that make the boat look larger. Obviously, these also brighten the interior and improve visibility. Gone are the thick windshield mullions of the original Nordic Tug pilothouse, with only thin strips dividing the panels into three.

Nordic Tug 39 Helm

Nordic Tug 39 Helm

The inside of the pilothouse sports a new, wider helm dash that will accommodate big-screen electronics – an extremely welcome change. The captain also gets a standard Llebroc chair for more comfort on longer runs.

Nordic Tug 39 Salon Looking Aft

Nordic Tug 39 Salon Looking Aft

In the brighter, more open salon, there is a new, long U-shaped settee with “enhanced cushioning” and a pull-out berth like on the 37. The optional overhead-mounted flat-screen TV is opposite the settee, which is nice, since it means everyone on the settee can actually see the TV — not always the case in many salons. The galley now has a Force 10 electric cook top, Sharp convection-microwave oven and top-loading freezer as standard features. There’s also a new Dutch door and two larger sliding windows — all by Diamond Sea-Glaze — in the salon.

Nordic Tug 39 Guest Cabin

Nordic Tug 39 Guest Cabin

Below deck, the guest cabin features a pull-out lower berth that serves as a settee during the day, and a wide bunk at night. The head has been re-designed and now sports a Tecma toilet, a molded shower stall with bench seat.

Nordic Tugs has switched to all-LED lighting for its 2011 models, including interior lights from Imtra, which the company says it chose for their warmer tone. The LED lights use about one-fifth the electricity required by halogen lamps and produce considerably less heat. The boats also now feature LED nav lights, which can last 10 times longer than old-fashioned incandescent bulbs.

Another move that really modernizes the Nordic Tugs line is the incorporation of a full Mareton NMEA 2000 network, extending from stem to stern, and including the engine room, helm station and signal mast.  According to Nordic Tugs, “the network offers “plug-and-play” installation of electronics, gauges and equipment ranging from chart plotters and rudder angle indicators to ultrasonic tank level indicators, depth sounders and the GPS. The system is compatible with the most popular electronics brands for display on the Maretron monitor at the helm.”

Nordic Tugs and Wilde Yacht Sales of Essex, Connecticut, will have the new Nordic Tug 39 on display at the Warwick, Rhode Island, Trawlerfest from July 15-17.  Wilde has supplied a nice brochure on the new boat here.

Nordic Tug 39
Specifications

LOA                             40′ (with anchor roller)           12.19 m
LWL                             37′ 4″           11.4 m
Beam                           12′ 11″         3.9 m
Draft                            4′ 4″            1.3 m
Power                          Cummins QSB 380 hp diesel         283 kW
Weight (dry)              22,600 lbs           10,273 kg
Weight (full)              26,000 lbs           11,793 kg
Fuel                            320 US gal                1,211 L
Range (approx)        1,000 nm @ 8 knots; varies with load and conditions
Fresh Water             144 US gal         545 L
Black Water               32 US gal          121 L
Grey Water                 9 US gal            34 L

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Got 30-Foot-itis? Buy this Nordhavn 86

The Nordhavn 86

The Nordhavn 86

I know this one stretches the price range for many of us, but not all. So I thought we should take a look at a specific Nordhavn 86 that PAE is building in China and which is currently lacking an owner. The Nordhavn 86 is still the queen of the fleet — until the N120 is launched — and it is safe to say there are very few yachts like it. Here are a couple of gee whiz items on the N86:

  • Her fully loaded displacement of more than 400,000 lbs. is equal to that of many megayachts in the 120-foot to 140-foot class.
  • At a long-range economical cruise speed of just under 8 knots, the N86 has a range of more than 5,000 miles.
  • Not counting the genny fuel burn, that’s about 1 mpg, which is incredible when you think of that much mass moving smoothly and relentlessly through the ocean.
  • At wide-open throttle (2150 rpm), she will easily top 12 knots and has been run as high as 12.8 knots. Even then she’s only burning approximately 45 gph. Check out the ACTUAL performance stats of the N86 here.
  • Her massive 4.59:1 reduction gear costs as much as one of the main engines.
  • Her 24-foot beam is half the length of the house I grew up in (ok, I couldn’t resist that one).
  • The N86 is the first ABS-certified (with +A1 Yachting Service rating for the hull and AMS rating for machinery and installation) yacht built in China; adding MCA certification to allow full charter use is straightforward.
  • Special vibration-damping materials are bult into the hull layup directly above the propeller rotation plane.
Nordhavn 86 Pilothouse

Nordhavn 86 Pilothouse

As the largest yacht currently in the Nordhavn line, the N86 is normally run with a crew, not that there’s anything inherently more complex about such a yacht, just that there’s so much more OF it. Then again, that size makes possible some amazing possibilities, like the double master on the pilothouse level, which could also be a master and sky lounge. Perhaps you’d like to turn some of that rooftop acreage into a nice sunpad? No problem; just done on N86-07.

Nordhavn 86 engine room

Nordhavn 86 engine room

You might notice the wet exhaust system on the N86 and think that was unusual for a Nordhavn, but in this case, with the big MTU twins, wet exhausts simply allow more flexibility with interior design. Running that much hot exhaust plumbing up through the interior doesn’t make sense.

At this level of yacht-building, many of the things that might be considered options at lower levels are standard. Some examples from the N86 overview:

An extensive list of standard machinery details includes a central hydraulics with 20-square-foot stabilizers, 50 hp bow and stern thrusters, hydraulic bilge pumping and anchor wash downs, high output hydraulic alternators and 8kw inverter system, dual Northern light 33kw generators, a universal AC electrical system for world wide use, 3,500 lb. Marquipt davit, chilled water air-conditioning system, two (2) 1,000 gallons-per-day water makers, automatic engine room and lazarette fire system with ventilation dampeners, an on-deck Jacuzzi and much more.

In fact, with the options already incorporated into N86-09, about the only extra equipment required for commissioning will be electronics and tenders. With its master and captain’s cabins, three additional staterooms and crew quarters for four, an extended family could easily enjoy several years of world cruising on the N86.

Take a good look at the general arrangement drawings here, as well as the standard specifications sheet, and especially the price sheet for N86-09 as currently being built. With a base price — fully commissioned on the West Coast of the U.S. — of $6.75 million, she’s not as expensive as some of the fast, planing bleach bottles of her size class.  This yacht has several additional options already specified that bring her price to $7.3 million. You don’t often see this kind of detailed information about a build in-progress.  PAE says this yacht is looking for an owner and one thing is clear, whoever buys this yacht will indeed be getting the very top of the line. Who says the queen can’t be bought?

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

The New Ranger Tugs 27

The New Ranger Tugs 27

The New Ranger Tugs 27

Ranger Tugs has introduced its new R27, an all-new boat that combines many features of the R29 with the extended sport cockpit of the latest R25.  Introduced at the recent TrawlerFest in Anacortes, Washington, near the home of Ranger Tugs, this trailerable tug is going to be an attractive option for cruisers who want as much flexibility as possible.

Interior of the new Ranger Tugs 27

Interior of the new Ranger Tugs 27

Chesapeake Ranger Tugs has an early incentive base price on the new R27 of $149,937, which includes a remarkable number of standard features that would normally be options. These include bow and stern thrusters, Garmin VHF, stereo, windlass and electric head.  Have a look at the complete list here.

Helm and  forward cabin of new Ranger Tugs 27

Helm and forward cabin of new Ranger Tugs 27

A “Chesapeake Edition” from CRT includes air conditioning, 2.5kW generator, macerator, Garmin 5215 15″ touch-screen chartplotter/GPS with radar, sonar and autopilot, an anchor package, a Bimini for the cockpit and a “Cruise Kit” which is basically the Coast Guard-required equipment.  See the details in this brochure, which includes the price.

Enclosed head aboard the new Ranger Tugs 27

Enclosed head aboard the new Ranger Tugs 27

The photos you see here were provided by Chesapeake Ranger Tugs. Chuck Wistar, who co-owns the dealership with his wife Andrea, said the new Ranger 27 will be at his dealership early this autumn and will make its East Coast debut at the Baltimore TrawlerFest.  Wistar also said that the first customer to step up and order the new R27 will get a spectacular deal on the price. That’s gonna be impressive since the published price (see above) is already pretty reasonable for a diesel-powered boat with these kinds of options and with an expected lifespan measured in decades before it needs major refit.

Another interior view of the new Ranger Tugs 27

Another interior view of the new Ranger Tugs 27

We will have some more photos to share with you soon.

Ranger Tugs 27

Specifications

Length Overall
27′ 1″ 8.1 m
Beam 8′ 6″ 2.6 m
Draft 26″ 0.66 m
Displacement 6,200 lbs. 2450 kg 
Fuel Capacity 100 USgals. 379 ltrs
Water Capacity 40 USgals. 151 ltrs
Holding Tank Capacity 30 USgals. 114 ltrs.
Engine Yanmar 180 hp
Efficiency 3MPG @ 21ktsw

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Maxi Speedboat First to Reach Bermuda

Maxi Speedboat at start of 2010 Newport Bermuda Race. Photo: Barry Pickthall/PPL

Maxi Speedboat at start of 2010 Newport Bermuda Race. Photo: Barry Pickthall/PPL

John Rousmaniere reports from the Newport Bermuda Race Committee that “Alex Jackson’s maxi 100-footer sloop Speedboat finished the Newport Bermuda Race early Monday morning at 3:49 AM EDT. Finishing second at 6:25 was Il Mostro (Puma), a 70-foot Volvo Ocean Race boat sailed by Kenny Read, whose brother, Brad, was in Speedboat’s afterguard.  Boat boats sailed in the Open Division for racing yachts with canting keels.”

Here’s an interesting video from Sailing Anarchy on YouTube that gives you a detailed tour of the deck of Speedboat. The tech level is impressive. These are NOT inexpensive boats.

Quite a few boats are still slowly beating their way toward the Onion Patch, with light winds from the SW dominating.  Says, Rousmaniere, “It was a slow race, with Speedboat making the 635-mile course in just over 59 hours after the start at Newport on Friday.  The crew of 25 never reefed the boat. In the light to moderate conditions that prevailed through most of the race, Speedboat was hard pressed by Il Mostro, Rambler, and several boats in the mini-maxi 70-80 foot range over the first third of the course.  “We really didn’t get away from them until we were in the Stream,” navigator Stan Honey said after Speedboat tied up at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club’s marina early Monday morning. “Then they gained a lot in the light stuff as we came into the finish.” ”

One of the great traditions of the Newport Bermuda race is the ritual drink offered to arriving sailors.  Called a “Dark and Stormy,” it’s been called the “national drink of Bermuda.” Here’s a nice recipe from cocktail blogger Jeffrey Morgenthaler. Don’t forget a squeeze of lime! How about serving them up after your next dinghy race back to the boat?

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Newport Bermuda Race Underway

Start of the Newport Bermuda Race. Photo: Barry Pickthall, PPL

Start of the Newport Bermuda Race. Photo: Barry Pickthall, PPL

The 184 boats of the 2010 Newport Bermuda Race are heading out to sea as this is written. The latest weather forecasts indicate a lot of reaching, a nice strong Gulf Stream with eddies-a-plenty to deal with, and the notorious Bermuda High building in from the south. In fact, a quick look at the 24-48 hour surface wind forecasts from the National Weather Service (NWS) give the impression that a square-rigged tall ship would do well this year, with a stiff breeze well abaft of the beam to start.

I’ve put up a link to the iBoattrack service in the right sidebar that will remain live for the duration of the race. As I mentioned earlier this week, it’s a fascinating way to watch strategies develop, with the consequent successes and failures becoming more apparent as time goes on. Each boat is fitted with a satellite beacon that sends its position to the iBoattracking station ashore. The displays are not quite real-time because of race rules that prevent real-time competitive observation, but they’re close enough to be meaningful when you check in.

The video below from the official organizers gives a great flavor of the race. Newport Bermuda is one of the unique sailing races in the world because of its amateur-dominant culture.  Yes, there are professional crews — in their own class — but most of the competitors are friends and family, racing in their own family boats. Some are more serious and experienced racers than others, but all have met the rigorous standards for safety and experience.  Enjoy the videos and tracking and if you know of someone in the race, let us know in the comments and we’ll follow along with them!

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Photos — Hullish Weather on the North Atlantic

F/V Harvester showing her deep forefoot in rough Atlantic seas.

F/V Harvester showing her deep forefoot in rough Atlantic seas.

Let me say at the outset that it is NOT impossible for a semi-displacement, or even a planing hull to survive conditions like this. But I think it’s safe to say that it’s much less likely, while at the same time being MORE likely to induce a heart attack in the captain.  These photos were brought to my attention by the Nordhavn Dreamers Group on Yahoo, and a link posted there by one member. I would like to give credit to the photographer, but his/her identity is not established.

These are truly dramatic images and they show how even a 93-foot, deep displacement-hulled steel fishing trawler can have a “sporty ride” on the worst of the North Atlantic’s seas.  In fact, I’ve heard it said of some of these North Atlantic fishermen that they refer to the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” cast as the “Deadliest Whiners.” Probably unfair, but pictures like this make it clear that ocean fishermen everywhere literally risk their lives for our seafood.

One of the images clearly shows the very deep forefoot of the hull and it’s obvious how much of this boat is below the waterline.  These are Scottish trawlers, built in Denmark and feature all the latest in fishing technology. Here’s a link to detailed descriptions of the boats. Enjoy the photos and if anyone knows who the photographer is, I will happily add the appropriate credit line.

Harvester heads down into a trough.

Harvester heads down into a trough.

Harvester about to head uphill in some wild seas.

Harvester about to head uphill in some wild seas.

Harvester almost disappears in the troughs.

Harvester almost disappears in the troughs.

Is this what they mean by a "beam sea?"

Is this what they mean by a "beam sea?"

Bottom paint looks okay from here.

Bottom paint looks okay from here.

"Captain wants a flybridge so he can see better."

"Captain wants a flybridge so he can see better."

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Sea Fare June — Victoria Allman in the Galley

Editor’s Note — Victoria Allman is the chef aboard a 143-foot megayacht and the author of the recently released “Sea Fare:  A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean.”  This is the sixth in a series of periodic columns here on OceanLines featuring her irresistible recipes. Best of all for OceanLines readers, who are travelers of the first order, Victoria also gives us a nice taste of the environment and context in which her recipes were developed. Last month, we devoured the lamb of her Moroccan Mechoui.  In this month’s installment, she is in Vietnam and her guide brings her to a remarkable lunch experience on the Mekong River. If you’d like to read her book, just click on the ad in the right sidebar on OceanLines and that will take you to an Amazon link where you can order it.

 
 
 
 

Vietnamese Elephant Ear Fish Deep Fried. Photo courtesy of Victoria Allman

Vietnamese Elephant Ear Fish Deep Fried. Photo courtesy of Victoria Allman

—–

Elephant Ear Fish

By Victoria Allman
Author of: “Sea Fare: A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean”
www.victoriaallman.com
Victoria on Twitter

“You have lunch today?” My guide asked.

“Of course,” I replied.

“Today is special,” Luc told me. “Elephant ear fish.

Elephant ear? I had seen so many different things here in Vietnam, but I had yet to come across any elephant ear fish.

We had been cycling along the mighty Mekong River for four days. I had rented a mountain bike and hired Luc to guide me through the Mekong River Delta, expecting to explore the countryside, get some exercise, and see what life in Vietnam was like. What I hadn’t realized was that we were, above all else, embarking on a culinary adventure.

Each day, we cycled past fertile emerald green rice paddies that stretched around us, as far as the eye could see. Vietnamese women dressed in the traditional long flowing white ao dai and conical hats, shielding their lily-white skin from the fierce sun, bent over the fields. We cycled past old crones, standing out on the side of the road, surrounded by rice drying in the sun. Around the next bend, we went by bamboo mats lying low in the sun with delicate round sheets of rice paper drying on top of them. We had cycled the small dirt roads to village markets where cages of turtles, mice and small puppy dogs were on display, all for that night’s dinner.

The morning we set out for the floating market to eat elephant ear fish was an early one. “Best time to see is between sunrise and 9:00 AM.” Luc told me as we started out. “After that the boats start to go away.”

We rode for an hour before stowing our bikes on the back of the long dragon boat that would take us to the market. A thin bony man stood on the back of the boat, rowing us past waterways overhung with dense vegetation. I settled in to the luxury of someone else providing the sweat for transportation. As we approached the market, I saw dozens of boats gathered together. Large barges anchored in the water, creating lanes, with smaller wooden boats rafted up to them. Villagers from up and down the river traveled through the lanes, their boats laden with branches of bananas and piles of mangoes. Sampans with overflowing baskets of coconuts and bushels of water spinach took over the view.

Each wooden boat’s bow displayed a long pole. “That tells what is for sale.” Luc pointed to a hand of bananas flying above one boat like a flag.

I pointed to the spikes of fushcia skewered through one pole. “How about dragon fruit for breakfast?”  Luc broke into a smile and asked our boatman to stop.

Later that morning, we were taken to see a floating fish farm of the Mekong. From afar, it looked like a one room cottage with a small veranda in front of a single door, the river delta its yard. Inside, a white-haired, hunched back Vietnamese man smiled a wide toothless grin of welcome as I entered the shack. He bent over a trap door in the center of the floor and lifted the hatch to reveal the water below us. His shaky hand was covered in raised veins like a chart of the delta. He reached into a plastic bucket beside the hole in the floor and produced a handful of fish pellets that resembled cat food. Scattering them across the still water, he laughed as I jumped in fright at the sound of hundreds of catfish torpedoing to the surface of the water for the feed. The catfish wrestled and wriggled over one another, creating a boiling pot effect in the water under the house. Within seconds the turbulent thrashing ceased and the water was calm once more.

“Large net under the house penning in the fish” Luc explained to me.

I was muddy, sweaty and sun burnt when we pulled into the guesthouse. I was too tired from a long day’s ride to look at the menu and was glad when Luc reminded me that he had already arranged lunch.

“Remember, elephant ear fish,” he said.

How could I forget?

We sat in the shade of the porch at a small rickety wooden table already set with the ubiquitous bowls of Vietnamese cuisine: nuoc cham, wedges of lime, and chopped chilis. A porcelain doll of a woman approached with a plate of fresh fragrant herbs. Mint, cilantro and basil explosively filled the air. She smiled demurely, her almond eyes cast downward as she placed the plate on the table in front of me.

As the girl scurried back to the kitchen, Luc explained “She make you salad rolls with elephant ear fish from the pond out back. Her family grows fruit for the market in the garden and they have fish for lunch and dinner. Fish being killed now.”

The girl returned a few moments later carrying a fifteen-inch fish shaped like a bass, which was standing straight up in wooden holders. The fish had been fried and its scales were curled and flaking off, creating something of a 3D effect. This piece of art looked as if it were still swimming through a sea of fresh herbs and carved vegetables on the plate.

The woman delicately picked up a pair of wooden chopsticks and expertly flaked the fish’s flesh away from the bones. She made a small pile of the white flaky fish and retreated to the kitchen.

Luc scolded me when I picked up my chopsticks. “Not yet, just wait.”

I looked again to the kitchen. This time the woman appeared with the same rice papers we had seen drying on bamboo mats. They had been softened in water and lay stacked like pancakes awaiting their filling. Again the woman picked up her chopsticks and with nimble hands layered a mixture of the fresh mint, cilantro, basil and fish in the center of one of the rounds. Using only the chopsticks, she tucked the filling in close and rolled the paper-thin wrapper around the contents like a cigar. She placed it on my plate and using hand signs indicated that I should dip the roll into the bowl of nuoc cham and eat.

Fresh and pungent flavors filled my mouth. The saltiness of the fish sauce, the heat of the chilies and the zing of the lime in the nuoc cham mixed perfectly with the fresh herbs and soft fish. The rice paper wrapper added a chewy texture that was so light and fresh I could not help but inhale the whole thing in seconds. “Wow!” I said.

“You like?” The woman inquired as she tucked a strand of her dark shiny hair behind her ear.

“I like.” I said as she giggled and began rolling another. Another salad roll was placed on my plate seconds after I had finished the last, not a minute before. You could not ask for fresher than that.

I was exhausted from the ride and dirtier than I had been in years, but I was being treated like royalty, my lunch being prepared in front of my eyes. Quickly the pile of rice paper wrappers vanished, as did the fish. Soon all that remained were the bones being held aloft by the wooden stand.

The exhaustion I had felt earlier vanished. I was refreshed and ready to tackle another afternoon of riding.

“You follow me?” Luc asked in his questioning command.

“Only if you are leading me to another great meal like that” I said.

He smiled “You like elephant ear?”

“I like elephant ear” I replied.

“Next, we try snake” he said, as I clasped my bike helmet and set off for another culinary adventure.

 

 
 
 
 

Vietnamese Summer Fish Salad Rolls. Photo courtesy of Victoria Allman

Vietnamese Summer Fish Salad Rolls. Photo courtesy of Victoria Allman

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

By Victoria Allman

  • 2 pounds mahi-mahi, red snapper, or tilapia (flaky white fish)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 package of rice vermicelli noodles (250 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 cup mint
  • 1 cup Thai or regular basil
  •  1 cup cilantro
  • 16 rice paper wrappers, (have extra on hand in case you rip some)

Combine fish, olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper.  Marinate 10 minutes.  Pre-heat oven to 350.  Heat a frying pan (or grill pan, if you have one) over high heat and sear fish for 30 seconds on each side.  Place in oven and bake for 10 minutes until cooked through.  Cool and flake the fish.

In a soup pot, boil 1 liter of water with 1 tablespoon sea salt.  Add rice noodles, stirring to separate.  Cook for 3-5 minutes until soft.  Drain.  Rinse with cold water and drain again.  Using scissors, cut into 5-inch lengths.  Set aside.

Slice herbs into thin strips and mix together.

Place 2 rice paper sheets in the soup pot and cover with 6 inches of lukewarm water to soften for 20 seconds.  When soft and pliable remove one carefully and place on a paper towel in front of you.  Place 1 tablespoon of the herbs in the center of the circle 1/3 of the way from the bottom in a rectangular shape (6 inches long by 2 inches high).  Place 2 tablespoons flaked fish on top and 2 tablespoons vermicelli noodles on top of that.  Roll the bottom of the rice paper up and over the filling, tucking the ends in to close, like rolling a cigar.  Fold both right and left flaps into the center, creating blunt ends of a roll.  Be careful not to roll too tightly or the rice paper will rip (which happens often until you get the hang of it).  Roll the filling gently towards the top of the circle, taking care to tuck the filling in to make a snug package.

Repeat with next sheet of rice paper and add 2 more to the soup pot to soften.

Serve with a ramekin of Nuoc Cham (recipe below) for dipping.

Makes 16

Nuoc Cham

  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • ½ cup fish sauce
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sambal olek (read about sambal here)
  • ½ cup water

Combine all ingredients together and stir.  Taste and adjust flavors until you achieve a balance of sweet, tart, and salty.

Makes 1 ¼ cups
Recipe and narrative Copyright © 2010 by Victoria Allman.

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