Sailboat Tuna Salad

February 8, 2011

I spent my summers on a sailboat for the first twelve years of my life. My parents and I would sail up and down the New England Coastline, stopping at little harbors along the way and anchoring for a few nights. Each morning we were at anchor, my dad would row to shore with rolls of quarters and make international phone calls from payphones in little fishing towns. My mom and I would row or swim to the beach and spend all day playing in the sand and looking for seashells. I made friends with other boat kids hanging out on the beach. Sometimes, we’d have sleepovers and cookouts.

It was always bittersweet to have boat kids for friends. We knew from the get go that our friendship would be short. But that made it really fun, too. We’d look for seashells, and talk about home, and sometimes even bring our parents together for family dinners.

One boat kid became my very good friend for many years. Her name was Suzanne. She had a whole bunch of brothers. We met on a beach in Rhode Island when we were 7 or 8 years old. We were the only two little girls on the beach one day, and we eventually got to talking, then swimming, then collecting hermit crabs. Pretty soon her dad was digging barbecue pits in the beach while my dad was filling them with charcoal. We’d talk for hours, bobbing around in her family’s rowboat until the overly-aggressive swans freaked us out. We tried to build card houses on a sailboat. We had tons of sleepovers.

Suzanne’s life fascinated me. Not only was she living out my childhood dream of being part of a large family, she was also allowed to eat Coco Krispies for breakfast. And, she voluntarily went to bed early. I asked her infinitely many questions (“But what about when everyone in your family has to go to the bathroom at once?”) I could ask her questions all day, and sometimes I did.

Suzanne was different from all my other boat friendships because we actually stayed friends past the summer. We remained penpals during the school year. And each year our families would meet up on the same beach at the same time. One week of vacation with my good friend. That was a blast.

Making this simple tuna salad reminds me of a lot of the dinners we had on the boat. Many dinners highlighted non-perishables with a few very special ingredients from the shore. Spaghetti with butter, garlic, and cracked pepper. Canned tomatoes warmed up with spices and served over fresh fish from the habor. Or, my childhood favorite, crackers with cheese and apples! This tuna salad would have gone over very well on the boat. Tuna fish, olives, pickled onions, and lemon.

I realize that I am unbelievably lucky to have had a childhood like this. Full of adventure and exploring, and a good friend to share it all with.


Serves 1

Click here for the pickled onion recipe. The onions need one day to rest before being eaten.

You may notice that I did not include a picture of the final product. Tuna salad is tasty, but tuna salad is not beautiful.


1 pouch (2.5 oz) tuna packed in water

1 teaspoon capers, rinsed

2 tablespoons chopped pickled onions (if you don’t have pickled, use one tablespoon chopped raw onions)

5 olives, quartered

1/4 lemon

1 tablespoon olive oil

Cracked black pepper


Mix all ingredients together. Eat on crackers.


One Response to “Sailboat Tuna Salad”

  1. Patti Howe Says:


    We did have great times with Suzanne, BJ, John and her brothers. Those memories are better than any picture I could ever take! xomom

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