Issue: October 2004
Too Cool

We had ice cream for dessert on our boat the other night. Cherry vanilla and rainbow sherbet, all while floating blissfully on the hook in our favorite creek. This may not seem like cause for jubilation, but you have to put it into perspective. Our boat was built 20-odd years ago with one primary mission-to deliver about eight people quickly and safely from point A to point B (such as Newport to Bermuda) or around a racecourse. Comfort wasn't really a consideration, unless you take into account the six-and-a-half-foot headroom and the pilot berths, which are quite cozy. The "refrigeration system" was an icebox. I'm all for simplifying my life, especially on a boat, and this system was certainly simple. You lugged three blocks of ice onto the boat every weekend, stacked your food around them, and there you had it.

But there were issues. For one thing, nothing actually stayed frozen. Cold was the best you could hope for, so ice cream was out of the question. Also, things had a disturbing tendency to get lost. It was a big icebox, one that could easily disappear Jimmy Hoffa or a Ziploc bag of Perdue boneless breasts. You'd root around in the thing all weekend, convinced you were losing your mind, and then at last you'd find the meat product in question-though because the drain was forever clogged, chances were you'd find it squashed and slimed beyond recognition. Yuck.

So this past winter, after much debate, we installed an actual refrigeration system. Johnny and I are not foolish enough to think that making something more complicated will necessarily make it better, especially on a boat. Replacing a perfectly serviceable icebox with a real electric fridge is like ditching your spouse of 20 years for a trophy-you're just trading one set of issues for another. We had to re-insulate the icebox, find and install the system that would fit the boat, make space for and install the batteries to support the system, not to mention the alternator and battery charger to support the batteries . . . you get the idea. And when it was all said and done, the question remained: Would we have ice cream?

Oh, we had ice cream. We also had ice butter, ice mayonnaise, ice Brie, ice ginger beer (which eventually became sort of like a ginger beer slushy, quite tasty) and ice peanut butter. The freezer portion of the box was like a black hole, sucking in everything and turning it into a brick. Even cucumbers succumbed, and a bunch of grapes was transformed into purple golf balls.

"Just turn it to one," said Jeff Hamilton of Ocean Options in Annapolis, who sold us the system. "Everybody makes the same mistake; they set the thing on ten and it doesn't make it any colder, it just makes it run more." So this past weekend we set it to one. By using some judicious food placement, I only froze two bottles of water, a quart of milk and two apples-all of which slid into the black hole when I had my back turned. But there was ice cream for dessert-Ben and Jerry's strawberry. Too cool.