I didn’t grow up on the water but from a very early age I realized the opportunities for escape that it afforded. Whether it was the vast civil engineering projects of dams, dikes, canals and tidal diversions, the pursuit and capture of any living and especially moving creature or the appropriation of any watercraft available I had that inborn love of the beckoning blue water.
My father was an Irishman born no more than 10 miles from the sea but he never saw it until he was 15 years old and to say that he was a poor swimmer was an understatement. He was cheap as they come and to catch a mess of fish or dig up some clams and get a free meal tickled him. When he discovered sailing it was a revelation. Free movement! If we could get off of the mooring, go for a sail and return without ever starting the engine it was a victory. He was a very hardworking man and as much as he loved the thrill of good wind and a heeled over boat, he was just as happy to sit quietly on a calm sea.
We were by no means fancy yachties. Our boats were always in the 25-30′ range and when we cruised the coast, in keeping with his philosophy, we would seek out free anchorages. The small coves, estuaries and various illegal and inadvisable places to drop anchor for the night. My father viewed the ocean as free and I took those lessons to heart. If someone came along and told you to leave and no amount of obstinance and cajoling would change things to our favor we’d leave but we weren’t going to hang our heads for having tried.
My wife grew up on Nantucket and when I met her still lived there. She owned a small health food store, surfed and loved the beach. I learned to surf as well, naked, sunburned, out on Miacomet, I found a whole new communion with the sea. We started a family and I bought a small sailboat for the harbor and I spent many days with the kids exploring all the coves and inlets of that great bay. Then I saw a picture that changed my life. My wife had always been an incredible chef and I was alright making a fire and burning some meat but this photo was revelatory. It was a traditional Maine clambake shown in an old Time Life cookbook and it just grabbed me and never let go. I organized my own clambake out on Coatue inviting locals and friends from off-island who came and camped in the yard and although in retrospect my technique was quite lacking it was a smashing success.
Every year since then we have had this clambake and it has become our own tradition and holiday. A revolving and ever growing cast of characters gather from locations as far flung as Japan, Nicaragua, St Vincent and the Netherlands and celebrate a weekend of surf, sun, food and music. I have refined my methods over time, adjusting to the lack of stones on Nantucket and switching to all wire baskets but the idea is the same. A hole in the sand, many bags of charcoal, lay down corn, clams, mussels, lobster and potatoes and feast.
In the intervening years I learned where to gather the clams and mussels, where to catch the bass, blues, bonito and tuna and I’ve developed other culinary and beach passions. Making chowder on the beach with fresh shucked clams and home cured bacon. Bringing a pot of oil and deep frying clams and striped bass bites with hand cut potato fries. Salt curing striped bass. Smoking bluefish and making a pate spread. Until a few years ago I realized that this was something that could be a business that I would love doing and take far less of a toll on me physically than the construction which I do professionally and so I began offering a service shucking shellfish for raw bars.
The name Yoho in Raw Bar Yoho is a reference to the mythic creature who would fly at night from his lair on Coatue out to Tuckernuck where he would snatch children in their sleep and carry them away. I was introduced to him by my dear friends the Souza brothers and my departed mate Spongey during night time bass fishing expeditions on Tuckernuck. Hidden in a secret spot on the island there is a statue of a gargoyle which represents that ancient beast but to us Yoho has come to mean a breed of people who live close by the sea, collecting and celebrating its bounty and enjoying it in an unconventional but thoroughly joyous manner. If you’d like to have this passion of mine at your event or beach party then give me a call there is no limit to the good times we can bring!