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Today we’re eating well on the ocean. About three years ago Jack and Barbra Donachy decided to move to Alaska from California in pursuit of a subsistence lifestyle. Today they are teachers in Point Hope, and spend their summers on a boat in Seward. They named it Bandon.
“The reason the boats called Bandon is there’s a place in Oregon called Bandon, and we seriously shopped property down there with the idea of homesteading: being fully self-sufficient and fully off the grid. It’s that Robert Frost thing where you stand in the fork in the road and you can only choose one of those two paths, and this is the path that we chose,” says Jack.
And the Donachys seem very happy with their choice of Alaska, in large part because they are huge fans of seafood.
“We like to catch what we eat, and try to sort of be homesteaders on water. In the sense that we’re grocery shopping from the waters,” says Barbra.
And they’ll be doing a lot of that kind of shopping in the coming months. Their entire summer seems to be planned around food.
“On the low tides we like to go to the other side of the Kenai around Clam Gulch and we dig razors over there. Halibut is starting to come in now. In a few weeks will be going to dip net reds on the Copper River. July 1st is the lingcod opener which is a red letter on a calendar, we love lingcod. And in early July to mid July the silvers start to come toward Resurrection bay and that’s really fast fishing for really good fish,” says Jack.
“The whole time we’re out there we’re gathering more fish than we need because we’re taking it up to Point Hope with us. So we have about a 200 pound goal of all kinds of different fish that we can take with us,” says Barbra.
Sounds like a dream come true for a pair of self-described foodies. The Donachys love to cook, and they often blog about the recipes they come up with while they’re on the water. Barbra says as soon as they cast off, they’re in the kitchen.
“As soon as we hit the water and we start sailing the first thing he says is ‘I’m going to cook lunch’ and he’s down there cooking something really good,” says Barbra.
Despite its size, Jack is quite fond of the Bandon’s kitchen.
“It’s really small, it’s just a little U shape that I can wedge myself into and cook, and a lot of it is just one pan or two pan cooking. So yeah, that part of it is challenging,” says Jack.
And not only is the cooking space limited, the ingredients can be as well. But Barbra doesn’t necessarily consider that a bad thing.
“You know those shows you watch were its like ‘here are your six ingredients, make something out of that?’ A lot of times it is like that where it really forces you to be creative,” says Barbra.
Barbra, who calls herself the sous chef and baker on the Bandon, has come up with some delicacies you might not expect to be served on a boat. Including a tart she recently concocted.
“It had a hand folded crust and inside had a pastry cream in it, with strawberries on the top and port wine drizzled on it. It came out really yummy,” says Barbra.
Jack’s specialty is seafood, and he prepares it every way possible, including on top of pizza. He even has tiny pizza stones just for the boat.
Jack likes to make a variety of fish pizza, but his crowning achievement is a whale pizza he made with bowhead meat he brought down from Point Hope.
“Whale is really good meat. It’s almost like working with beef. You pre-cook the whale meat and season it the way you want. And we like something with a little kick in them so I think for this case I had a little teriyaki and spice going. Barbra made the pizza crust. Then add cheese and sauce. In the oven it goes for 10 minutes and you’ve got whale pizza,” says Jack.
Whether its whale pizza or strawberry tart, the Donachys seem to have found the perfect place to explore their culinary dreams, and to write about them.
“We feel so lucky to live in a place that’s not spoiled yet. There’s still an abundance of food, things are clean up here. With a net you can sometimes scoop a piece of glacier out of the water and ice your drink. Just little stories like that make it an interesting narrative,” says Jack.
For more from Jack and Barbra Donachy: