If I had to credit one thing that has helped our family cope with the surreal scenarios that Covid-19 has brought us this year it would be our sailboat, Moonstone. When the tedium of quarantining became overwhelming, my husband and I would sail for nearby Catalina Island. A four hour sail from our homeport, I could feel myself relax and enjoy all the sights and sounds of the ocean as the island grew closer with each passing hour.
Our first couple of visits earlier this year, guests were not allowed on shore without a mask and could only visit for the sole purpose of purchasing food or to pursue an activity such as hiking. We stayed aboard our floating home as it felt safest, but enjoyed the change of scenery and the sense that we had “escaped”.
Now with nearly a dozen trips under our boat shoes this summer, some of the restrictions have relaxed and ferry service began in August, giving the island a much needed boost in their tourism season. Meeting our boating friends in Catalina has been a definite improvement over our initial Zoom happy hour calls. Spread out on the beach with our chairs spaced six feet apart to enjoy our summer drinks, watch the sunset and compare notes on activities enjoyed that day gives us all a much needed social break.
The fun part of Happy Hour in Catalina is how you are notified that it is time to bring out the libations. A nightly tradition in the various inlets and coves is the cacophony of horns sounding promptly at 5:00PM. Traditionally ship horns are very LOUD and resonant as they are usually blown in cases of an oncoming collision or dense fog. So, imagine 30 to 200 boats simultaneously honking their horns! Of course, the best part is what happens immediately after the sounding-Happy Hour!
Another favorite happy hour spot for us is located at beautiful Crystal Cove State Park and you don’t need a boat to get there. The Beachcomber restaurant is literally on the sand, steps from the Pacific Ocean. Besides having a gorgeous view of the wide sandy beach, each day at 5:00PM the entire restaurant comes to a standstill to open their Happy Hour with a short ceremony.
We were bewildered on our first visit here when the waitstaff abruptly left their tasks and gathered in the front of the restaurant to salute a large martini emblazoned flag which was raised to a bugle reveille. The nightly ceremony is a nod to the rich history of Crystal Cove and its humble beginnings as a seasonal summer encampment in the 1940’s.
The history of toasting goes as far back as the ancient Romans. Highly suspicious of being poisoned by one’s enemies, it is believed the Romans “toasted” their companions by literally banging their goblets together to “mix” their individual wines to avoid a possible poisoning. Sounds like they should have been drinking with better friends! And to be even more literal, it turns out that toasted bread was a part of the Elizabethan era wine set. Apparently the spirits of the time were not so tasty and it was customary to put a piece of toast in your drink to make it more palatable!
While we all consider toasts a fun acknowledgment to our guests, in Europe, many countries require eye contact when toasting. Maybe this is to affirm the toaster is being sincere or not flirting with your significant other? Whatever the reason, if you fail to maintain eye contact, the penalties are severe-seven years of bad sex! If you happen to toast with mere water in Spain, the sex curse applies as well! While in Czech Republic do not cross arms while toasting-this can put your love life at risk as well. If it’s more dangerous than Spain’s curse, you may want to do something else!
When in Russia, each round of vodka is preceded by a toast and you never put your glass on the table until it is empty. Sounds like a sure way to empty those bottles! In Japan, one never pours their own drink. A sign of respect, you always pour for your companions and they will see to your glass as well.
Exclaiming “Cheers!” goes back to ancient Greeks and Romans and their ceremonial offerings to the Gods. They would raise their wine filled glasses proclaiming respect to the dead and good health to the living. The phrase carried over to England where it originated and is likely one of the most popular toasts today.
There has been an ongoing trend among the restaurant industry to remove happy hour from their premises. Once a popular way to promote their establishments and gain new customers, the practice has been waning. States such as Alaska, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Oklahoma have made Happy Hour promotions illegal. Seen as a way to curb binge drinking and the dangerous consequences of it, it seems like the trend is growing. The mocktail has become a popular and safer choice these days.
On a normal Friday evening, you will find our patio arranged with chairs correctly spaced for distanced socializing. Our guests arrive with their own libations and glasses and I provide individual snack plates. Any opportunity to unite with our friends in the flesh does wonders for our hearts and souls. Now that the days are getting shorter and cooler, we may have to move it up to afternoon tea instead. It really is not about the cocktail or food but good old fashioned fellowship. Cheers, here’s to your health!