The Sailing Gourmet

By Hannah Wallace July 31, 2004

Sean Murphy owns the Beach Bistro and Islands End restaurants on Anna Maria Island, winner of Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence, and the new Mangrove Grill at Riviera Dunes in Palmetto.

In the late 1970s, I took a leave of absence from law school because it was driving me nuts, and worked for two years as a seaman on the Bluenose II. It's a replica of the original Bluenose two-masted schooner whose image is engraved on the back of the Canadian dime. It's 165 feet long, the main mast is 125 feet off the deck, and the mainsail is over 5,000 square feet-the largest single sail of any sailing ship in the world.

The Bluenose II was basically a marketing tool for the Nova Scotia government. We sailed it up and down the Northeast coast, stopping at ports and taking dignitaries out for day trips-governors from all the New England states, for example.

The boat was narrow and designed to be fast, and in the North Atlantic 30- to 40-foot wave tops are not uncommon. You're 125 feet in the air, canted on an angle, moving forward at 12 to 14 knots while being rotated through an arc of 45 degrees, and holding on with one hand. It was an exhilarating experience.

It was the best job I ever had. I call it my Peter Pan job. We were paid well, we lived on the boat so we had no rent, and every time we sailed into port there'd be lots of girls waiting to meet us.

I love being in the restaurant business because I have independence and an outlet for my creative and romantic energy. That boat had a lot to do with developing that.

I have seven boats right now, and I sail regularly up the eastern side of Anna Maria Island. It gives me an opportunity to think and keep things in perspective. The world can seem like an incredibly complicated place until you get a hundred yards offshore.

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