June 7, 2008


When we were first learning to sail and considering buying a boat, I remember having a conversation with cousin Larry about the comfort of rituals, and how much sailing revolved around the successful completion of rituals that were not only satisfying, but also necessary to the execution of a safe spin on the water.

I didn't exactly have the morning coffee ritual in mind during this conversation, but as it turns out, morning coffee aboard Smitten is every bit as necessary and satisfying as it is at home or work.

Our first few summers on the boat, we brewed coffee in this old camp kit percolator that followed us from our camping days in California:

It's a great little workhorse, and it means well, but the stovetop percolator brewing method, as you may have learned yourself, produces just about the most toxic coffee you will ever taste. The boiling action absolutely punishes the grounds and renders a bitter, scalding brew that peels the tastebuds off your tongue.

By last summer, I was desperate for a brew method that would render a decent cup of morning joe.

We tried a 12 volt drip coffee maker from a notable marine store that cost close to a hundred clams and didn't even have a self-timer. Ideal for boats, RVs and cars! it promised. First time I plugged it in, it darn near burned the boat down. Consequently, I have no affectionate pictures or nicknames for it to offer here. Happily, the notable marine store accepted the merchandise return, no questions asked.

And I went back to the drawing board, cup of stewed java in hand, pondering my next move.

I thought about the various brew methods and coffee makers we had used over the years, and one morning, as I was standing around at home brewing my jump-start cup with my little single-issue Melitta cone I thought, well duh Emily, maybe the answer is right in front of you.

I thought about how it might work on the boat, and I resisted the Melitta method at first. So many pieces to the ritual. First you need a vessel in which to heat the water. Then you've got your cone. Then you need another vessel into which the brewed coffee will collect before it goes into your cup. I thought, crikey, it's only a 30 foot boat, where am I gonna stow all this stuff?

But, like anything in life, if it's important to you, you'll make room for it. In my usual single-minded pursuit of pleasure, the idea held fast, and soon I was online choosing the implements I would need to execute the method. So here's the routine:

Water is heating to a steam in the old workhorse (who is proud to still be on the coffeemaking team) while three big scoops of Dominick's Organic brand (yes, pre-ground...no, sorry, I'm not grinding on board) wait patiently in a #4 filter, within the #4 cone, atop the six-cup carafe.

Thar she brews:

And soon I'm enjoying my Sunday morning cup and a long-distance yak with my sister:

It's all about the simple pleasures, no?

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