Sailing with Grass: on the Chickahominy

Sailing the Chicahominy River

I have enjoyed sailing on and off since I was a kid. For a few summers I remember going to Biloxi Mississippi and sailing on my granddad’s sailboat in the Gulf of Mexico. I am pretty sure we mostly motored and the few times I recall having the sail up were either dull or horribly frightening. Perhaps that is what has keep my interest in them, trying to find some middle ground experience. I also love the idea of being under wind power and traveling around the world and am working on Kate’s attitude about that as well.

In the meantime I will settle for an easy day of sailing with my wife Kate and father-in-law Bill across the Chickahominy river in a 20 foot sailing dingy, Pipsqueak! Bill has a larger sailboat that could go around the world but the water pump is on the fritz. Since that makes it very difficult to navigate a marina we opted for the lil’ guy. Just as well in my opinion. Setting off in the larger more capable craft may tempt me to just keep on keepin’ on and seeing how far around the globe we could get.

Driving the Grass Mini sailboat to the river
Driving Pipsqueak the sailboat to the river.

With the smaller boat we could drive a few minutes to a county park and launch the boat, sail a bit, and get back home in time for dinner. For a few dollars the county has setup a nice boat launch facility for anyone to use.

Bill shared a story of a new boat owner recently showing up to launch for the maiden voyage. An interesting fact about sailboats is that they have very tall masts. In order to tow a sailboat you need to lower the mast to avoid reducing its usefulness when it is driven into a bridge or even a power line. Once you arrive at the marina you hoist the mast while it is still on the trailer, since walking on pavement is much easier than water. The trick is that you don’t want to hoist the mast until all bridges and say, power lines have been cleared. The problem at this marina is that it has a power line fairly close to the launch. This poor fella, not being a veteran captain and such, missed this fact and hoisted his mast outside of the “drop zone”, as it were. Apparently he started backing the trailer down the ramp area and those power lines had another idea and tore the mast right out of his boat. I imagine that ruined his day a bit. Lesson learned: watch where you hoist your mast’s yo!

Launching the grass mini sailboat into the river
Launching Pipsqueak the sailboat into the river.

We, that is to say Bill, pulled the trailer around to where the power lines would have nothing to say about our plans and set her afloat for our afternoon tour of the Chickahominy river. Everything went smoothly with getting into the boat with Bill sharing another yarn.

This time Bill was the main character and while no power lines were involved a fair amount of swimming was. As you may know boats float on top of water. This means they are at the whim of surface tension. They like to rock back and forth at the slightest suggestion. This is important to understand especially when in a small boat that doesn’t weigh very much. Apparently one time Bill got a little fast and lose with his interpretation of Physics and boats. As he entered the craft he stepped a bit too close to the edge causing the boat to pitch towards the vertical. The surface tension was very angry about that and gave Bill a choice to make: Either roll all the way around with your boat to what is known as a capsize, or take one for the team and taste some Chickahominy River water. Bill, being the natural decider that a captain must be, opted for the latter option and created a wonderful way to teach others about how to step into a small boat. Lesson Learned: Step towards the center of a boat that is narrower than you are tall.

So we launched and were floating and sailboating!

Bill rowing the grass mini sailboat on the river
Bill rowing Pipsqeak on the river

Well, almost anyway. At this particular launch there is a nice grove of trees which provides great shade but also likes to block the wind. Without wind a sailboat is an unmoored buoy. Fortunately Bill had outfitted this boat with a 2 stroke engine made of some timber and a strong back. Handmade oars by Bill allowed us to get out of the tributary and into the Chickahominy where the wind was freed from the forests interference and we were sailing!

Bill driving the sailboat on the river
Bill driving Pipsqueak on the river

It was fun to remember some of the terminology and mostly be corrected with the correct terms by Bill. No skin off my back as I am never going to pretend to know anything about ships. That doesn’t keep me from guessing wildly.
-Never! Sheets man, sheets!
Just keep your head out of the booms way and everything will be hunky dory.

Kate and Bill falling over I mean sailing on the river.
Kate and Bill falling over I mean sailing on the river.

The wind was blowing us up river and after one trip across the river we realized the rest of the day would be spent tacking back to the marina. Kate took the helm and I helped by releasing the sheets and tying them down and also taking photos.

Roger sailing on the river
Roger sailing on the river

I used a wide angle lens for this shoot as I knew it would be close quarters and since we would be having fun the distortions of the lens would be perfect. With a polarized filter on most of the water reflection was removed allowing me to be pretty free flow with lighting conditions.

 Bill and Kate glam shot sailing on the river
Bill and Kate glam shot sailing on the river

Of all the shots this one is my favorite. We are heading East with the sun off to camera left but a bit forward as well. The lens hood helped keep to much aberration from happening. Obviously the Sun is the Key light for just about every outdoor shot. The cool thing about this shot is that the main sail acted as a giant white reflector. When the sun hit the sail it bounced back and acts as a fill light on Bill and Kate. Bill’s pose is perfect with that shit eating grin and the bright yellow Nike shirt works with the deep blue sky.

The Sail of Grass mini sailboat on the river.
Pipsqueak’s sail on the river.

After a dozen or so tacks we made it back up to the tributary. Once we got on the other side of the forest we kicked up that 2 stroke rowing machine again. We got to the launch and wrapped up a lovely afternoon quietly going with the wind.

Here it is your moment of Zen…

Sunset sailing on the river
Sunset sailing on the river

Miso and Bok Choy Rice Noodles with Hoisin Tofu or Seitan

Click Here to go straight to the Recipe!

Kate and I love us some miso. “It’s miso good!” should be an alternative way to say “It’s very good!” even though the miso phrase means its much better. (I have a slight head cold right now so if things sound strange its the cold’s fault. I am a respectable person, dammit!)

One soup I made when we first started dating was a basic miso soup. You boiled a pot of water with soy sauce, green onions, spinach, mushrooms and seaweed. Then simmered for a few minutes. Then add the miso paste and tofu. Its a great soup for anytime of the day and especially if your buddie Pete’s birthday was last night.

A few nights ago it was my turn to cook dinner and it was also super cold in Durham North Carolina so a brothy soup sounded like a great way to roll. We had also just stopped by a little farm shack on the side of the road and purchased some beautiful shitake mushrooms. Shitake’s are this crazy named food item that are really easy to cook with. Just remove the stem and throw it away. Then do what you want with the cap. However for about half the price I am fine with white mushrooms as well.

I did a little Googlin’ and found this recipe: Recipe: Miso & Shiitake Ramen with Hoisin-Glazed Tofu – Blue Apron The photos were what sold me for sure, hopefully mine are enticing as well. I had to make some alterations as I didn’t have Choy Sum, Enoki Mushrooms, or Fresh Ramen Noodles.

I guess if I ordered from Blue Apron they would bring me all of those items – Blue Apron: Fresh Ingredients, Original Recipes, Delivered to You. That sounds like a nice thing for people who can afford to spend $10 for a meal that they have to cook. If I was able to be that reckless with spending I would either go out to eat all the time or hire a manservant to shop and cook my meals. Best of luck to them though. The site is nice looking and the recipe was easy to follow either on my iPhone or Laptop.

We ran down to the Kroger and picked up a few items like Bok Choy(which is good to get since that’s in the name of this friggin recipe), organic soy sauce (we use a lot of that stuff, getting the organic is supposed to be a good idea as soybeans are heavily sprayed with stuff that isn’t safe for us to eat, its also a fun way to spend more money!), and organic firm tofu(same reasoning as the sauce). We might have grabbed a box of wine as well… What can I say? I like wine and not spending a terrible amount of money, combine those together and bam! Almaden Vineyards – California’s First Winery.

Good God man! On to the recipe!

Recipe for Miso and Baby Bok Choy Rice Noodles with Hoisin Tofu

  • 2 teaspoons Sesame Oil
  • 6 Ounces Baby Bok Choy
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 2 Scallions/Green Onions
  • 1 Package Firm Tofu or 12 oz Seitan
  • 3 Ounces Shiitake Mushrooms
  • 4 Cups Veggie Broth – We like Frontier Vegetarian Chicken Flavored Broth
  • 2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce or Bragg’s
  • 1 Tablespoon Miso Paste
  • ¼ Cup Hoisin Sauce
  • 2 sheets of Nori dried seaweed
  • 1 cup Bean Sproutsa
  • 12 Ounces Thin Rice Noodles

Step 1) Cut everything up and have it ready to roll.

Smash and dice the Garlic and put it in a bowl. Cut the white parts of the Scallions off from the green. Put the green parts aside for now. Chop up the white parts about quarter of an inch. Put in the same bowl as the Garlic.

Peel the Bok Choy leafs off and wash the dirt from them. Cut the leafy part off the stems. Rough chop the leaves and thinly slice the stems. Put them into in their own bowls.

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and rinse. Then slice the caps so they are about 2 inches long and half an inch thick. Put them in the same bowl as the Bok Choy stems.

Get four cups of water and add the broth and soy sauce.

Have the miso scooped up in a spoon and ready to cook.

Drain the tofu and pat dry. Cut it until you have half inch cubes (they better be perfect too!). For Seitan cut it into half inch pieces.

Cut the seaweed up into cigarette size pieces with scissors and put in a bowl.

Rinse the bean sprouts and place in a bowl.

Chop up the green parts of the scallions and put in a bowl.

Finally have the noodles package open and sitting on the counter.

Great work, pour some of that box wine into a glass and take a sip, you earned it!

Step 2) Cook that tastiness up!

Add 1 teaspoon of oil to a 2 quart or larger pot on medium heat. I like sesame for this recipe cause the flavor is nice but you could also use vegetable or olive oil. Once its got some heat to it add the garlic and scallion whites. (That was nice having everything ready to just plop right in the pot huh? Bam!)

Let them cook for a few minutes but don’t you dare walk away. Garlic loves to burn and once you burn garlic it is garbage. Stand there with your spoon or heat resistant spatula or stick and stir things around. Everything should get some free time on the bottom of the pot and get a nice golden color to it.

As soon as you see the gold and smell the garlic get powerful you pour in that broth mixture, add the Bok Choy stems and mushrooms, and the miso. Stir things up!

Bring the heat up to a light boil or simmer and then reduce the heat a little and let sit for 10 minutes.

That was really impressive stuff! Did you manage to burn the garlic, your hair, or a child? If no, then great work, go have some more wine. If yes to all three, then you may want to put the wine away at this point and look for burn cream and maybe a hat.

Step 3) Hoisin Tofu Craziness!

Get a medium saute/frying pan out and add the second teaspoon of oil up to a medium/high heat. Once it gets warm add the tofu.
Miso Mushroom Broth Pot Vegan Soup
Be ready cause tofu likes to stick like a mofo to your pan. If you have nonstick it might be less bad but for the most part its gonna stick. I like stainless steel pots and pans personally cause they won’t offgas crazy stuff like the non sticks do. Also they are easier to clean if you get some Barkeepers Friend.

For frying the Tofu or Seitan, I take a page from The Sexy Vegan Cookbook on his Tofu Scramble recipe where he instructs you to let it sit there on the pan. You start to freak out a little as you think about how hard it will be to scrape it off the pan. This is where stainless steel is nice. Once the tofu or seitan has been on the pan for 4 minutes or so you grab a metal spatula (suck it non stick!) and you scrape everything nice and neatly, or so, off the pan and flip it over and let it sit for another few minutes.

Ideally you will get all four sides of each tofu cube crispy and perfect. The reality is that you will be luck to get the first side so be happy with that. As you start flipping the tofu too much it will start to crumble and fall apart. Stop before it becomes tofu scramble, unless thats what you want.

Now turn off the heat and pour the hoisin sauce on the tofu or seitan and mix it all around. Get every piece covered in that tasty plum sauce and then let it sit for a moment.

You are doing a really great job, congratulations! Did you burn the shit out of the Tofu? Don’t worry, your children can go eat next door anyway.

Step 4) Finish it and serve it!

Turning our attention back to the big pot o’ broth its time to add the Bok Choy leaves and noodles. Turn the heat up to medium/high for a couple of minutes until the noodles are done, mine said 8 minutes.

Once the noodles are done add some to a bowl, grab some veggies, and pour some broth over everything. Now put the tofu on top of that and serve with a fork and spoon.

Use the Seaweed strips, bean sprouts, and scallion greens as toppings. Add as much as you like. The seaweed will soften immediately and the bean sprouts and scallion greens will supply a nice crunch.

Great work! Its time to sit down with the soup and your glass of wine. What? You finished the glass? No problem, you bought a box, there is plenty more.

Here it is, your moments of zen.

Tofu Miso Mushroom Soup
This is the Shitake Mushroom version with Tofu and Baby Bok Choy. Mmmm baby.
Seitan Miso Mushroom Vegan Soup
This is the full load of condiments and with Seitan instead of Tofu. Also the mushrooms on this one are regular white and taste great.

Kotobuki Vegan Sushi in Norfolk, VA

As vegans, one thing we miss is the artful and tasty delights of sushi as most sushi restaurants tend to have one or two items we can eat.  Sure an avocado roll is good, but it would be nice to get something with some texture and umami flavoring to kick things up a notch!

Welcome to Norfolk, home of PETA

The fact that PETA is based out of Norfolk Virginia blows the minds of most people who live in Norfolk. There are not a lot of vegan options in the town that is home to one of the most prominent animal rights groups in the world.
Fortunately for us, we have the best friends in the world and, vegan or not, they are looking out for us and recommending places like Kotobuki. They are a sushi bar with an entire vegan sushi menu! WTF? OMG! Our friend Meredith took us here for dinner one night and it was awesome.

Meredith, Roger, and Kate at Kotobuki vegan sushi norfolk va oct 2014
Meredith, Roger, and Kate at Kotobuki

Vegan sushi, really?

For the uninitiated vegan sushi involved mock fish like salmon that is then used in place of actual fish. This gives a similar taste and texture to fish sushi just without the ethical and environmental issues which vegans try to avoid. If you are open minded and want to learn more about why vegans don’t eat fish check out these articles:

Vegan sushi is very good

Hugged Rolled Salmon and Seaweed

Vegan salmon and avocado wrapped in soy wrapper; covered with seaweed salad and sesame seeds, 8 pieces.

Peta Roll

Seaweed salad, inari tofu, fried tofu, and steamed carrots rolled inside, 6 pieces.

Hugged roll and peta roll at Kotobuki vegan sushi norfolk va oct 2014
Hugged roll and peta roll.

“Japanese Room” seating

One cool feature of the restaurant, besides having vegan sushi, is that they have raised the floor around a section of tables. This gives the effect of a traditional Japanese kotatsu table which is low to the floor. Fortunately for us inflexible westerners Kotobuki has simply raised the floor around the table giving you space to put your legs underneath without having to get all origami. Some raise the roof at Kotobuki they raise the floor!

Tasty Adult Beverages

Another cool feature are the super awesome adult beverages:

Red Dragon

Ty-Ku Sake, vodka, pomegranate juice, lemon juice and agave nectar.

Asian Sangria

Ty-Ku Sake, fresh seasonal fruits, and a splash of agave nectar.


Ty-Ku Sake, vodka, sliced cucumber.

Sake Sunrise

Ty-Ku Sake, orange juice, a splash of champagne.

Ty-Ku Cosmo

Ty-Ku Sake, vodka, cranberry juice.

Directions and Info

721 W 21st St
Norfolk, VA 23517
Lot parking is available in the back, and street parking is available in the surrounding neighborhood.

Hours of operation:

Monday – Thursday
Lunch 11:00 am – 2:30 pm
Dinner 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Friday – Saturday
Lunch 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Dinner 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm

Here it is, your moment of Zen…

Kotobuki vegan sushi menu
Kotobuki vegan sushi menu

O’Connor Brewing Norfolk VA

Lots o’ love for beer and business

Kate praying at the taproom atlar at o'connor brewing norfolk va rolling with grass oct 2014
Kate praying at the taproom atlar.

We love beer. Our first conversation/argument was about how dumb I was for not drinking IPA’s. Kate enlightened me on the subject and ever since we have been happily travelling around enjoying various IPA’s from various breweries.
We also love local companies and supporting them as much as possible. Combining two of our love’s means we like to visit local breweries as much as possible.
While visiting friends and family in Norfolk, VA we found O’Connor Brewing.

From backyard to brewery

Kate looking cute at oconnor brewing norfolk va rolling with grass oct 2014
Kate looking cute in front of brewing machines.

O’Connor Brewing was started by Kevin O’Connor when we learned about craft beer and started brewing at home. Since then we immersed himself in the industry to learn how to brew successfully and commercially. Today they have a litany of beers on tap in their taproom and sell them by the six pack, 22oz, and growler.

Tasty Tasters of Tasty Beers

Whats left of the tasting flight at o'connor brewing norfolk va rolling with grass oct 2014
Whats left of our tasting flight.

Naturally we sampled all 7 of their current beers on tap. We liked some better than others but all were tasty and in the end we got a growler of their Great Dismal Black IPA

Directions and Info

View from the street of o'connor brewing norfolk va rolling with grass oct 2014
View from the street of o’connor brewing.

211 W. 24th Street
Norfolk, VA 23517
Phone: 757-623-2337
Retail and Tasting Hours: Tues-Thurs 4-8, Fri 4-9, Sat 12-9, Sun 12-6



It’s Vinyl Night! Bring in a record or just jam to the great tunes we got playing in the tap room.


Drink specials on everything served in a pint, flight, or growler. Plus 30% off all merchandise, too. You’re welcome.


What could be better than a live music performance, delicious street food from our local food truck partners, and some tasty beers fresh from the tap to kick off your weekend?


Come enjoy live music by local performers from 5 to 8pm, and delicious eats from our mobile food vendor partners from 3 to 8pm.


It’s Service Industry Night at OBC from 3 to 6pm every Sunday. So if you work in a bar or restaurant, we’ve got an exclusive happy hour just for you!

Here it is, your moment of Zen, with power lines…

sunset from o'connor brewing norfolk va rolling with grass oct 2014
Sunset view from o’connor brewing taproom patio.