It’s early. For some, criminally so. For me, the day starts when the sun has yet to greet the eastern horizon and is just beginning to warm the sky with the kiss of its glow. I quietly make my way down the wooden deck to my dark galley and cold wood stove, consciously trying to muffle my usual purposeful stride to a dull patter in consideration of a boat full of guests and crew who are still asleep.

The first warmth and the first light of the day is from the small fire in the wood stove that I fan into a blaze. This will be the source of heat for all of the cooking to come during the day. The first thing on the list? Coffee.

For many people, morning coffee holds a special place of importance in their lives. For modern boat people, this bitter brew – not rum – is the elixir of life. It is the warmth that greets a chilly Maine morning still wet with dew and the ending of an adventurous day hard on the wind.

Our old-fashioned drip pots were prepped the night before, so the only thing I can do is wait for the water to boil, usually at least an hour. Sometimes this wait is interminable, but hopefully our guests sleep in long enough that I can greet them with coffee first thing. This is why I get up so early in the morning.

It doesn’t take long, however, for me to be joined by my assistant cook, Cassie. Her alarm clock is the grind of the wood stove damper turning, the crumple of paper and thud of wood against wood as I build the fire.

She rolls out of her bunk behind a curtain in the galley and stands up, bleary-eyed. We don’t speak to each other at first. We don’t make eye contact. One, we haven’t yet had coffee and, two, this is one way of giving privacy to another in tight quarters, to wait until they are ready to add the verbal component to their day.

It doesn’t take long before I hear a third set of footsteps lightly treading the deck. This must be Glen, a longtime guest and friend. He has his own hook in the galley for his apron and one of his favorite times of day is early morning in the galley, when we are furiously chopping and prepping for the day. It’s also a time when we adjust the menu to our current list of ingredients, any event that might be scheduled for the day and the weather. Glen likes to hear and be involved in that banter, and we like having him there.

The spit of water boiling interrupts my planning, and I turn to pour our first pot of coffee. Very soon now, Cassie and I will fill three mugs of coffee, for her, me and Glen. I might pour the coffee and she might pour the cream, but before we move on to our hectic morning, we will both turn to each other with smiles in our eyes, clink our mugs, say “good morning,” and take our first sip of the day together.

Next, we are on to breakfast. Today, it’s Pecan Orange Sticky Buns that will grace our morning table along with a myriad of other dishes.


This dough is interesting because unlike most breakfast rolls, it is not a yeast dough. It is a sweet biscuit dough and much easier to work with. It also takes much less total time to prepare. Treat this dough like you would any biscuit dough – with a light hand, little kneading.

For something a little different, substitute cardamom or cloves for cinnamon and the lime or lemon zest for orange zest.

Serves 12


21/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons cold butter cut into 1/2-inch cubes

3/4 cup milk

1 egg


3 tablespoons melted butter

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Zest from 1/2 orange

The topping amounts will vary depending on the size of the pan. These amounts are for an average sized 12-muffin tin.


1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter

Zest from 1/2 orange

1/2 teaspoon orange extract

1/4 cup chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium-sized bowl, sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Press the cold butter in with your finger tips until the mix looks like coarse cornmeal. Add the milk and egg and mix until just combined.

Sprinkle a countertop with flour and turn the dough out onto the countertop. Knead 5 to 6 times and dust with flour as needed. With a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a little more than 1/4-inch thick.


Brush the dough with melted butter. Sprinkle with the brown sugar, pecans, cinnamon and orange zest. Carefully roll up the dough into a log and cut into 12 pieces.


Combine the rest of the melted butter and sugar and stir until well incorporated. Add the orange zest and extract. Spread the mixture into the bottom of the muffin tin or 9 x 9 baking pan. Place the dough, crosscut sides facing up and dab a little butter on top with a pastry brush. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the insides are just cooked and the tops are golden brown. Turn out onto platter or cutting board and share at least a few.

Anne Mahle of Rockland is co-captain of the Schooner J. & E. Riggin and the author of “Sugar and Salt: A Year at Home and at Sea.” She blogs at and can be reached at:

[email protected]

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