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travel: maine by sea (long)

Recipe: artichoke roasted pepper crab dip

***Jump to the recipe section***

I grew up sailing in southern Virginia since the age of nine, but living in Colorado doesn’t present many (any) opportunities to sail. So it was a huge enticement for me when part of my trip to Maine included a 4-day (4-night) cruise aboard The Schooner J. & E. Riggin, a historical landmark as decreed by the National Park Service. You can find the recap of the first half of my trip to Maine (the part on land) here.

Full disclosure: The Maine Office of Tourism and The Schooner J. & E. Riggin sponsored my transportation, lodging, and meals with no obligation on my part. All photographs, words, experiences, and especially opinions, are my own.

Day 4: Rockland, Russ Island, Lobster Bake
Day 5: Stonington, Islesboro
Day 6: Camden
Day 7: Rockland

Day 4: The Riggin was originally an oyster boat, built in 1927 and converted to a passenger boat in 1977. Now when I say cruise, I should note that this is not the kind of cruise that most people envision when they hear that word. It’s a real sailboat and guests participate in many of the manual operations on deck (no motorized winches or even winches for that matter) and partake of chores like dish duty. The sleeping quarters remind me of camping… but different. Each cabin has a small sink with cold running water and there are two communal heads (bathrooms) above deck which require manual flushing and minimal use of toilet paper (8 squares max per flush, kids). One of the heads doubles as a shower stall.


down the hatch leading to my cabin

where i slept

It’s an adventure, and if you’re game – it is a tremendous experience.

Before we set sail in the morning, chef and co-captain Annie Mahle (wife of Captain Jon Finger) and her galley crew, prepared a hearty and beautiful breakfast of banana cardamom pancakes with cinnamon pecan coffee syrup, fruit, and bacon for everyone. Maine boasts the largest windjammer fleet in the United States, but the Riggin is only one of two that has an actual chef on board. Annie has authored two cookbooks: At Home, At Sea: Recipes from the Maine Windjammer J&E Riggin and her latest book Sugar & Salt: A Year at Home and at Sea. Most of what is served aboard the Riggin is locally sourced and masterfully prepared in a closet-sized kitchen on a wood-burning stove under the restrictions of limited water usage (there is a finite amount of fresh water on board). Annie does not waste food, the Riggin composts as much as possible, and tries to keep trash to a minimum.

breakfast was served below in the galley

you can’t not love a woman serving a heaping pile of bacon

Sharon joined us for breakfast, but hugged us good-bye before we set sail, leaving us in the care of Captain, Annie, and the crew. I learned from Captain that there is no set agenda per se, that they sail based on the wind.

first mate, scott or “scoot”, keeps it tidy

scott and ian do a safety demo

the galley is small, but everyone congregates there

Once we cleared the harbor, passengers were asked to help the crew raise the sails. It was a bluebird day with steady winds as Captain sailed us across West Penobscot Bay past North Haven and through East Penobscot Bay. Annie served up a lunch of Asian rice noodles, cilantro and coconut duck, salmon zucchini rice cakes, and a whole slew of fresh vegetables and pickles on deck as we sailed. We set anchor just off Russ Island and Annie gave us a lesson on lobsters.

ian and scott on the throat

tying off the sheet


we got schooled

Captain shuttled us from the Riggin onto Russ Island where Annie and crew had set up a lovely spread of crudités, bacon blue cheese dip, watermelon, chips, and homemade apple cider. While the crew prepared for the lobster bake, Annie and Captain sat with their youngest, Ella, for some quality reading time together. Ella is part of the crew and you would be hard-pressed to meet an eleven year old as mature, hard-working, talented, and sweet as her. It’s a testament to the loving environment that her parents have provided for her. The kid is awesome.


boiling the lobsters

family time

It takes about 30 minutes to boil the lobsters and corn (and bake the potatoes), so I went exploring around the tiny island and found a cute little trail that led me around in the lush green forest that sprouted atop this granite outcrop. I even found boletes (mushrooms), but had no idea what kind they were, so let them be. By the time I wandered back to the group, dinner was ready – woohoo! LOBSTER! We ended the evening toasting marshmallows over the fire and eating s’mores before heading back to the boat to enjoy a lovely sunset and a cup of hot cocoa as night fell.

please respect the land

baby trees growing everywhere

corn and lobster


sunset on the water

Day 5: We had a lovely view of sunrise from where we were anchored off of Russ Island. I made a point to wake before sunrise each day, and I would always encounter Annie, Toni, and Anna hustling between the galley and the refrigeration chests on deck as they prepared breakfast. That day we started on deck with Annie’s fabulous granola, homemade vanilla yogurt, oatmeal, hard boiled eggs, zucchini lemon muffins (I watched her make these – I spent a good deal of time in the galley), and fresh fruit.

russ island

the sun just peeking over the island

good morning!

you will never go hungry on the riggin

Captain sailed us into Stonington, a quaint little island hamlet of Deer Isle, where we had a few hours to noodle about. I poked around the main drag and popped into shops to see what was what. The first store I walked into had Annie’s cookbook on display! There are cute little shops for visitors to get their piece of Maine as well as a few art galleries, bookstores, and an ice cream shop that also sells lobster rolls (they weren’t open yet, but it sounded good).

the post office

annie’s book

gardens were bursting with colorful blooms

nautical arts and crafts

Back on the Riggin, we sailed in the direction of Islesboro. Lunch was getting prepped in addition to a special root beer chocolate cake with chocolate frosting because it was a passenger’s birthday. All of this was made from scratch and prepared fresh in that little cubby hole of a kitchen, on a boat that was sailing and sometimes heeling (leaning or tilting at an angle). We enjoyed penne with bolognese or mushroom marsala cream sauce; roasted garlic, sage, and caramelized onion focaccia (totally, utterly fabulous); green salad with walnuts, garbanzo beans, and lemon balsamic vinaigrette; and chocolate cake.

annie dresses the salad

and frosts the cake

toni (“hoot”), slices the focaccia

birthday caaaaaake!

We anchored near Islesboro as the sun dropped low in the sky. Annie briefed us on the appetizers for the evening: Permaquid oysters on the half shell with spicy cocktail sauce or a mignonette, and a butter, salt, and olive oil tasting with baguette slices. Everything was so fresh (Captain made one of the butters from cream). Dinner was served below in the galley, family style. We had poached haddock with a Kalamata olive, garden tomato, and avocado salsa; pan-seared zucchini and summer squash; roasted red pepper couscous; rosemary and garlic sourdough; and raspberry galette with homemade peach ice cream (cranked on the ship by the passengers!).

captain was conscripted into making butter while annie announced the menu

wonderfully sweet and salty oysters

butter and salt tasting

galettes cooling on deck

After watching the sun set, crew members began to bring out their musical instruments. Not only does the Riggin serve phenomenal food, but all of their crew play music and sing – AND WELL. I was able to catch Scott warming up on the banjo at the stern of the boat under pink skies. Then everyone came on deck to listen to the crew perform some beautiful songs for us. Best. Crew. Evah.

as the sun goes down

lovely colors and a neighboring schooner in silhouette

scott on banjo (26 seconds)

scott and ian play guitar

singing by lantern light

Day 6: I almost missed sunrise because a fellow passenger gave me a pair of earplugs so I could get more than four hours of sleep. You see… one of my neighbors was a snorer and the sound proofing is pretty much non-existent. So if you’re a light sleeper, get ye some earplugs. Clouds sat on the horizon and the sun rose as a glowing red beacon in the sky, forgiving me my late wake up. Our breakfast feast consisted of: scrambled eggs, baking powder biscuits, sausage gravy, roasted grapefruit and plums in a vanilla bean-cherry syrup, and homemade jams and marmalades.


moisture in the air

red sparklies on the water

delightful roasted fruit


annie listens to ella in the galley

We spent a few hours tacking south toward Camden, which kept the crew busy. When they weren’t bringing the sails around with each come about, they saw to various chores (maintenance – boats demand constant maintenance) and helped Annie in the kitchen. Ella was everywhere!

hoisting the sail

tying it off

arranging congo bars

peter tunes his banjo

a sweet moment

bright and healthy salad

I mentioned before that Annie does not waste any food. Part of her job is to incorporate leftovers into subsequent meals. So the haddock from the night before became a hearty, steaming haddock and leek chowder with oyster crackers (she also made a vegetarian chowder for those with dietary restrictions). Alongside the chowder was a broccoli, tomato, and feta salad, corn bread and honey, dilly beans (my favorites!), and for dessert: Mexican congo bars (blondies) with chili and cumin. Addictive.

meal planning for the next cruise

baking bread

making spaetzle

plating up the salad

We sailed into Camden Harbor where the Camden Windjammer Festival was taking place. I believe ten of the fourteen windjammers were in dock that afternoon. People lined the docks and listened as an announcer recited the history of the J. & E. Riggin over the loud speaker – a grand entrance. We had a few hours to run loose around Camden, a lovely town that is a giant tourist magnet. It just felt good to get out and stretch my legs on some hills. I missed the cheese board (appetizer), which is just as well because then there was this amazing dinner: paprika and sea salt beef rib roast, roasted spaetzel, swiss chard with garlic dressed in grapefruit white balsamic and blood orange olive oil, roasted root vegetables, green and purple bean salad, black olive and walnut bread, and a sea salt chocolate tart on orange shortbread crust with a shard of pistachio caramel brittle. Several friends of the Riggin joined us for dinner, including Captain and Annie’s oldest daughter, Chloe (she was in school, so couldn’t go on the cruise), and the head of shore operations who was our wonderful liason, Elizabeth Poisson.

just in time for dinner

rib roast, spaetzel

gorgeous roasted beets and carrots

The evening had the promise of a crew talent show and fireworks, but we were rained out and were unable to catch the blue moon rising. The events were cancelled. Instead, we were comfortably dry on deck under the Riggin’s extensive awnings, listening to our crew sing and play flute, drums, guitars, banjo, and violin. It was like a huge party on every boat, and in the distance we got our fireworks show, albeit in the form of lightning.

Day 7: I forgot to put my earplugs in, so I was totally up for sunrise the next morning. It was glorious. I took a walk around the docks and then got back to the Riggin in time for some of Annie’s sticky buns. We left Camden by 8am and headed back to Rockland. En route to Rockland, Annie announced brunch (I thought the sticky buns were breakfast, but no – I was wrong): lobster and cheddar frittata, ham steak, home fries, granola, yogurt, and fruit salad.

dawn in camden harbor

old lobster traps in camden

mmm, sticky buns

good-bye, camden

perfect weather again

brunch in the galley

Once we arrived in Rockland, our group didn’t have much time for good-byes as we had flights to catch. We jotted down contact information and gave out heartfelt hugs. I thanked Annie and Captain for allowing me to get all up in their business with my camera and questions for four days straight. They are genuinely warm and good people who work hard to ensure the safety, comfort, and happiness of their passengers. As I was about to step off the Riggin, I realized there was one person to whom I had yet to say good-bye. She was practically buried under all of these tall people, but Annie got Ella’s attention and I asked if I could get a hug. Her intent facial expression broke into a wide, sweet smile as I kneeled down to receive a hug from the coolest little girl in Maine (as I told Jeremy, Ella is basically the sea-faring version of my neighbor’s kick ass daughter). Thus ended my awesome adventure at sea on The Schooner J. & E. Riggin.

thank you, captain and annie, for inviting me into your home

Special thanks to Sharon for organizing and coordinating this incredible trip, to the Maine Office of Tourism and the J. & E. Riggin for sponsoring the trip, and to all of the wonderful Mainers who met with us and shared your love for your beautiful state.

I couldn’t possibly let you go without one of Annie’s recipes. So bear with me and this will be quick (and easy!). A copy of Annie’s latest book is in transit between Maine and Colorado at the moment, but her blog, At Home And At Sea, is a wealth of great recipes too. I had it on authority from Elizabeth that this dip is IT. First, Annie mentions the option of adding crab. I’m all over that. Second, there are roasted green chiles in the ingredients which I happen to have in spades right now. Third, it’s the kind of recipe that calls for mixing everything together and chucking it in the oven. Oh, and it is meant for sharing. That’s the best kind of food, in my opinion.

mayonnaise, roasted red peppers, artichokes, crab, green chiles, salsa, cheddar, pepper, cream cheese

you can use crackers or make crostini from a baguette and some olive oil

brush one side with olive oil and bake

I also added cream cheese to give some heft to the dip, but it seems like a flexible and forgiving recipe such that you can do whatever you like to it. Just make sure you include a creamy ingredient (cheese, cream cheese, mayonnaise) or else you’re going to wind up with something that isn’t a dip.

dice the peppers

chop the artichoke

prepped and ready to mix

Because I added a block of cream cheese and a cup of crab meat, the volume of the dip increased quite a bit. Based on experience, I don’t recommend filling your baking vessel to the brim, because the dip does expand and it will bubble over, and there will be dripping of cheese and oils. So if your dish is too full, scoop some out and bake the excess in a ramekin or two. Just a suggestion. I also increased the baking time to 35 minutes and I suspect the cream cheese made that necessary because it wasn’t bubbly at all after 15 minutes.

stir it all together (you could use a paddle attachment and a stand mixer)

fill your baking dish

bake until golden and bubbling

This dip is a winner. It’s a tad spicy, which I like, but you can control the amount of heat in the dip by choosing a mild salsa and mild green chiles. It’s perfect with the crostini and is equally good with crackers (yes, I tried both). And if you have other variations on this recipe that you really like, I’d love to hear about them!

spicy, creamy, artichokey, crabby

a lovely dip for entertaining

Artichoke Roasted Pepper Crab Dip
[print recipe]
from At Home And At Sea by Annie Mahle

baguette, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
olive oil
8 oz. marinated artichokes, drained and minced
4 oz. (1/2 cup) roasted green chiles, skinned, seeded, and diced
4 oz. (1/2 cup or 1 medium) roasted red pepper, skinned, seeded, and diced
8 oz. cooked crab meat
1/2 cup mayonnaise
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup salsa
2 cups cheddar or jack cheese, shredded
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush olive oil on one side of each slice of baguette and place, olive oil-side up on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until the crostini are golden. Remove from heat.

Increase oven temperature to 400°F. In a large bowl, combine the artichokes, green chiles, red peppers, crab, mayonnaise, cream cheese, salsa, cheddar or jack cheese, and black pepper. Mix thoroughly and pour into a baking dish (I used a 9-inch quiche pan which was very full). If you fill the pan to the brim, it will likely bubble over and make some amount of mess in the oven. Either spoon the excess into small ramekins or place a baking sheet or foil under the dish in the oven. Bake for 35 -40 minutes until the top is golden and bubbling. Remove from oven and serve with crostini. Makes 4.5 cups.

25 nibbles at “travel: maine by sea (long)”

  1. Kristin says:

    Oh wow…TODAY I’m drooling over the food. What a wonderful trip that sounds like! Thanks for sharing in so much detail!

  2. Memoria says:

    WOW! WOW! WOW! Gorgeous photos and great recap of the trip. I must applaud Annie for all of the work and dedication she showed on the trip. Wow. She cooked and baked almost everything from scratch. i’m surprised she had time to step out of the kitchen. It is evident she enjoys what she does.

  3. Diane, A Broad says:

    Words cannot express how jealous I am and how much I want to go on a sailing trip in Maine now.

  4. sharon kitchens says:

    AMAZING. That’s just the tipping point – best coverage to date of the Riggin. Gorgeous pics, but more than that – you got it. Really dug in your heels and took every salty bit in. I hope we get to go sailing together some day. xo Sharon

  5. Annie Mahle says:

    Wow. I’m floored by your words and images. Thank you so very much. You DID get it! I’m so glad you were able to absorb the whole experience. Hoping we get to see you again either here in Maine or in your lovely Colorado, sooner rather than later! xx Annie

  6. Manda says:

    What an amazing recap of what looked to be a simply amazing trip!!! Annie’s food looked spectacular!

  7. Brianne says:

    This cruise sounds amazing! I would love to take a windjammer just between Camden and Rockland. This summer I worked at an organic blueberry farm on Beech Hill in Rockport, the town between Camden and Rockland. The highlight of the property is a 98 year old stone hut that I’ve been told was a landmark for sailors coming in to Camden and Rockland Harbors. It would be spectacular to see the hill and the hut from Penobscot Bay!

  8. Peggy says:

    Goodness, what a trip! Sounds like an amazing week – the food alone would sell me on this trip! This dip looks phenomenal, and will definitely be made during this football season =)

  9. Susanne says:

    Love that picture of Annie and Ella – really beautiful photos, as always!

  10. Babs says:

    love your pictures, as always. You definitely know your stuff ^-^

  11. Tiff says:

    Salivating!! Whoa, so I was just on Joy the Baker’s blog & she did the exact same thing you did. I wonder if you guys were on the same boat at the same time or if there were at different incidences, because you both have similar photos! Crazy awesome.

    & I’m absolutely bookmarking this recipe. It looks amazing. I loved baked artichoke dips. Yum!

  12. JulieT says:

    Arg! Sign me up matey. Hoist me some sails and suds and sunrises.

  13. magpie says:

    Fabulous. I’m quivering with jealousy now. We did a two night sail on the Nathaniel Bowditch a couple of years ago – it was heaven. Must go back. Also, your cabin looks nicer than ours was!

  14. Melanie says:

    What a great post. I got to go sailing last week in the San Juans….just a three-hour-sail and it was so lovely. I may need to go again. Thanks once again for your eloquent and visually stimulating posts!

  15. Peggy says:

    You article is great and captured all the “fantasticness” that is a trip on The J&E Riggin!! The food, the friendship and the fun are even better that words can describe! I went last summer and could go again anytime. If anyone ever has a chance to go, take it!!

  16. Jill says:

    All I can say is WOW.

  17. Toni Ridout says:

    Hey Jen =)

    I’m so glad that ya’ll truly enjoyed your time with us and seem to have tuned into the the Riggin waves (ha). Have a wonderful fall and hope to see you again!


  18. Margie L. says:

    The most awesome post EVER!

    Maine was on the map…now it is LANDMARKED like never before.

    Another book(s) to buy, as well as a bucket list travel adventure…

  19. Kathy Swanson says:

    Jennifer, you made the trip come alive again right here in my kitchen! How does one purchase your photos and documentary?
    I noticed John managed to sneak into a couple of your photos. You were such a fun shipmate and will remain in our memory as an integral part of the joy of our sailing on the J. E. Riggin.

  20. Mrs Ergül says:

    What a lovely post! Maine is a beautiful place I want to visit! I love all the photos!

    This dip is bound to be a crowd pleaser! Look at that golden cheesy top.

  21. jenyu says:

    Kristin – the food was phenomenal, yes.

    Memoria – Annie is an amazing woman. AMAZING!

    Diane – you should go! Contact Annie, she’s a wonderful woman and her family is so incredibly sweet and fun!

    sharon – awww, thank you for the opportunity. What a great trip and experience. I do hope we can go sailing together so I can watch you covet the congo bars ;)

    Annie – thank you for having me on the Riggin. I learned so much and admire all that you and Captain and the crew do. You are always welcome here in Colorado and I look forward to seeing Maine again some day xo

    Manda – thank you, it was terrific!

    Brianne – get in touch with the Riggin and see what kind of cruises they offer. I’m pretty sure you would love the trip, especially knowing the area from land as it is!

    Peggy – it’s all pretty spectacular!

    Susanne – thanks. They have a very sweet family.

    Babs – thank you xo

    Tiff – Yes, we were on the same trip (I mentioned that Joy was one of the other bloggers in the previous post). We had a lot of fun!

    JulieT – ha ha ha!!

    magpie – wow! We sailed alongside the Nathaniel Bowditch for most of our cruise. It’s such fun, but I dare say that the Riggin has better food :)

    Melanie – you’re so welcome.

    Peggy – so you totally KNOW what I’m talking about, right? :) So awesome.

    Jill – :)

    Toni – hi friend! Loved it all and thanks for showing me the trick to flushing the toilets ;) Come say hi if you’re ever in Colorado, sweetie xo

    Margie – it is SUCH a great trip. Glad that it’s on your bucket list :)

    Kathy – hello! I’ll send you an email, I have thousands of photos and there is definitely one of you and John on the boat. It was so great to meet you both!! xo

    Mrs Ergül – the dip is addictive :)

  22. Carol Rodgers says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this great piece of travel writing, and love that you continued to stress the limited space in the galley. People with ballroom size kitchens should cook on a sail boat for a few days and gain the appreciation you expressed! Thank you.

  23. Artichoke Roasted Pepper Crab Dip « Dips for Karen says:

    […] From At Home And At Sea by Annie Mahle, Source: […]

  24. Joy the Baker and Use Real Butter Bloggers Come to Maine « At Home And At Sea says:

    […] again speechless from both of your posts.  Thank you.  Joy Baker (Joy Wilson) on the Riggin and use real butter (Jen Yu) on the Riggin. Joy popping out of her companionway. Photo credit Hilton Carter Jen – a self portrait. Photo […]

  25. Al Thibodeau says:

    My wife and I sailed on the Riggin a couple of years ago and it was the best vacation we have ever had. Such a great release from the daily workplace issues. Leave the I-phones and I-pads at home. They are not needed on this trip. We hope to get back again in the future. Also, unlike the large ocean liner cruises, you can do this without worrying about busting out of your clothes. Great food doesn’t have to be fattening.