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Grilling on the High Seas


When going way outside your comfort zone, it helps to bring a little comfort food.

That goes double if you’ve decided to take your maiden ocean voyage on a rented, floating vacation craft without assistance and 3,000 miles from your doorstep.

That’s the story of Robin and Pattie Clark, who decided an adventure was in order to celebrate 30 years of happy marriage. The Clarks, who live in South Carolina, got a tip that the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington were just the kind of special trip they were looking for.

They had never operated a large vessel like the one they were renting out of Seattle, Robin Clark said. But no matter, he took a day of classes in Charleston on the Atlantic to learn the basics, like how to dock in a marina, and then headed off toward 11 days at sea.


If the idea seems a little cavalier, the execution wasn’t. Robin, an IT professional at a food management company, looked at every detail of the trip before leaving, he said. And while they were excited for a level of unknown inherent in an adventure, nothing else was left to chance.

“When you’re on a boat, it’s not like there is a grocery store nearby,” Robin said. “We had to be prepared.”

Their solution was buying a trove of Northwest Beef from Snake River Farms, including a Cowboy Steak to be made on the night of their anniversary. It came frozen, individually-wrapped and ready for a long trip refrigerated on their boat.

“It was a special trip and we wanted a nice quality of food,” he said. “It was kind of a perfect fit for me.”

Cooking Outboard

The Clarks spent their trip traveling amongst coves, marinas and just floating out under the stars. They saw dolphins, a seal catching an eating a fish, caught Dungeness crabs and would dock to occasionally explore the islands. They never caught up with any whales, a staple of the San Juans, but Robin said he had no complaints.

At night, they slept on the boat, whether it was docked in a marina or not. With the exception of a couple of meals on the islands, they cooked and ate on the boat as well.


Robin, an avid Big Green Egg ceramic grill fan – in fact, the idea for the trip came from friends on the Egghead Forums, thought seriously about getting a smaller version of the egg to take on the trip, but the logistics didn’t pan out.


Instead, he worked with the small grill that came with their boat, cooking meats and vegetables over the side of the vessel. They ate tacos, pork chops, bacon-wrapped filets and even cooked up some of the delicious crab they caught while navigating the island chain. Then, of course, was the anniversary meal with their more than 2-pound USDA Prime bone-in ribeye Cowboy Steak.


Robin said it was their favorite meal of the trip, but everything turned out as good or better than expected on his small outboard grill.

“It wasn’t necessarily ideal, but I was really pleased with the performance of the grill,” he said. “We had no bad meals, I promise you that.”

Pork Chops and Corn

The trip may not have turned them into permanent ship captains, the beauty of the outdoors and the outstanding sunsets mean they’re willing to find their sea legs again someday.

“We left plenty unexplored out there, I’d love to go back,” Robin said. “We’d do it again in a minute.”