|Jayne Preparing Lunch|
Shortly after boarding, we gathered in the salon where the captain and entire crew introduced themselves to the guests. As soon as Chef Jayne identified herself, I knew I would be stalking her in between dives for the rest of the trip.
In my 20+ years as a diver, I've been fortunate enough to travel on several liveaboard dive boats in remote corners of the world. For you nondivers out there, liveaboard dive vacations are taken on a boat with usually 16-25 other divers to a remote place where guests dive repeatedly all day long (and sometimes at night). Most times there is an extremely long ocean crossing 16-26 hours to get to unpopulated areas to dive. Nonscuba folks would find very little to do unless they just want to chill, read, eat and snorkel.
Depending upon the boat, the accommodations range from basic to kinda cushy. The food usually follows the same scale. The Nautilus Explorer falls on the "kinda cushy" side of the scale.
We had 23 divers and nine crew members aboard. Chef Jayne was responsible for feeding us all. And peeps, diving makes you hungry. This apparently has to do with nitrogen laced air you breathe from your tank and also involves your body trying to keep warm during diving. Whatever. I just know many of us are starving after a dive.
|Divers gearing up for the first dive of the day & a sunrise shot|
When we emerged from our first dive of the day, Jayne had a full breakfast prepared. Sometimes it was a tasty and generous buffet. Other times, one of our two lovely hostesses, Lauren or Katie would venture around on the dive deck as we were removing our gear and take our orders (eggs Benedict, french toast, pancakes, etc.) Then Jayne would make us our breakfasts individually to order.
After the after breakfast dive, there was a snack, another dive and then lunch and then after the after lunch dive, there was a bigger snack before the before dinner dive followed by a full dinner with a special dessert. Homemade soup was always available as well. In between, Lauren and Katie were churning out and delivering cookies to the divers they baked themselves.
During our stay on the boat, I often caught Jayne by the stairs on the back deck with her canvas bag and asked her if she was going shopping. She was. As we were in the middle of the ocean, she did her shopping in the food storage locker located on the upper deck, not at Trader Joe's.
|Nautilus Explorer Hostesses Katie & Lauren and their delicious homemade peanut butter cookies|
|Lunch aboard the Nautilus Explorer|
|Breakfast potatoes bagged for repurposing and food for the fishies|
Each day was had fresh baked bread at breakfast, fresh baked goods, and homemade dinner rolls at dinner. Every. Damn. Day.
|Chef Jayne's homemade applesauce cake made with homemade applesauce and freshly baked pound cake|
There is a large window in the kitchen. Jayne says sometimes dolphins and whales pass by as she's chopping and whisking away. How annoying. Seriously. I need to order that feature for my own kitchen.
One has to have a pretty nomadic life, to begin with to work on a boat. Jayne, one of the loveliest and most gracious staff members aboard, is from Belfast. She used to operate a restaurant in Vancouver until she got tired of it. Her son is still in Vancouver and earned a scholarship to the best pastry chef school there. Culinary talent obviously runs in the family.
|More of Jayne's homemade bread|
As for planning the meals, she joking calls Spirish (Spanish-Irish) influenced, Jayne made sure we had plenty of fresh greens and at least two proteins at dinner. In addition, she catered to vegetarians, gluten free-ers and whatever other dietary restrictions came with the latest round of guests. She told me she likes cooking dedicated meals for people as she enjoys making them feel special and catered to. Wow.
|Preparing mushrooms for soup|
Although I never saw Jayne without a smile on her face or a sparkle in her eye, I had to ask if she ever feels stressed while singlehandedly preparing so much consistently wonderful food for so many people. She said she gets overwhelmed sometimes. When she does, she leaves the galley, walks to the back of the boat, sits and looks out at the ocean enjoying a chill moment until she feels refocused.
|The Dining room on the Nautilus Explorer. Sitting on each table a great collection of Mexican hot sauces.|
And focused she is. We had a full Thanksgiving style meal one evening along with stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce, thick juicy slabs of prime rib with creamy mashed potatoes on another. Desserts were crazy good. Homemade shortbread with caramel pecan goodness, strawberry shortcake, warm apple crumble with ice cream, key lime pie, a different delight to punctuate each dinner. Lunches were often Mexican influenced in flavor and style and snacks ranged from homemade guacamole to seasoned edamame and sushi to generous and gorgeously presented cheese, nut and dried fruit platters, often accompanied by another freshly baked treat (blondies, brownies etc.).
|Homemade Soups & Sauces|
I loved my time on the boat. The great diving is a whole other post. Meeting and hanging with the top notch staff was a delight. They took excellent care of everyone. And as most happy guests are, we were sad to leave.
Now back on land, I like to think of lovely Jayne smiling while working her creative culinary magic in the galley for some other lucky group of divers, occasionally gazing out the window as random marine critters pass by and dreaming of her adopted home in Central America.