Friends & Fish Dip

“Good friends are hard to find, harder to leave, and impossible to forget.”

G. Randolph

When we first moved to the Treasure Coast, I was so worried about being far away from the family and friends I relied on all the time.  I remember thinking to myself, what if I have car issues and Ross is at sea and my Daddy is 3 hours away?  Or what if I crave the comfort of my Mama’s kitchen where we just talked, had a snack, and watched my niece bounce around?  What if I need a little therapy from my best friend while I sip on an ice-cold beer in “the bucket” of her couch?  I was so unsure of how I’d handle these situations, and it was definitely a scary time for me.

There were many times when I just missed ‘home’, and to be honest, occasionally I still do.  But instead of focusing on all the things I missed, I started to focus on the life I was building with my sweet captain. Home will always be there, and family and friends are only a phone call away. We were very lucky to have my step-sister and brother-in-law close by, and we began making friends quicker than I imagined!  Nothing could ever take the place of the relationships we cherish back home, but the new additions to our “crew” are equally as important.

Ross is so much better at making friends than I am.  He’s kind of like a golden retriever that will just walk up to new people with a smile and a “how ya doin’?” Whereas I’m more of a chihuahua that needs time to figure out if I’m going to love you or if I’m going to keep my distance and growl if you get too close! All in all, we have met some AWESOME people here.  People who give us work when we need it, help on the boat when we need it, and people who love on us when we need it.

Just recently, our friend Bernie offered to smoke several fillets of mackerel we had in our deep freezer.  The fillets were in vacuumed sealed bags, thanks to another friend, Craig, who packaged them up for us.  Bernie did an excellent job smoking the variation of King, Cero, and Spanish mackerels.  We decided to use some of it to make homemade fish dip!  Here’s a video on how we managed to make fish dip for the first time ever:

I’m going to be honest; I didn’t expect the fish dip to turn out as good as it did. However, it was very tasty! The way the smokey flavors mixed with the onion, cream cheese, and mayonnaise…delicious!  We spread the dip on a buttery, flakey cracker, and topped it with our own homemade pickled jalapeños.  We couldn’t get enough of the dip! Using only two fillets of the smoked fish, it made way more than the two of us could handle.  We nearly filled a large mixing bowl! Restaurants sell this stuff for $10 or more for a scoop, and here we have a huge bowl of it!  We didn’t want any of it to go to waste and we really wanted to share our scrumptious dip , so we packaged it up and delivered it to a couple families who we knew would enjoy it. 

Here’s the recipe!

The way the fish was packaged before it went to the smoker really got me thinking.  It was still very fresh even being in our freezer for a while.  Ross has been mentioning for a long time that he wanted a vacuum sealer for the meat we buy in bulk and for the fish we catch.  I kept putting it off simply because our place is small and we don’t have a lot of room for storage.  I finally caved and bought this FoodSaver vacuum sealer:

Nothing will make you feel more like an adult than buying kitchen appliances! The FoodSaver was a great purchase and is something that will reduce waste and save us money in the long run.  I didn’t realize (DUH) that it came with 2 large rolls of plastic (so you can customize the bag size) and several loose vacuum seal bags that are ready to go, so I bought a package of Nutri-Lock vacuum sealer bags as well. Needless to say, everything is getting vacuum sealed! We broke in our new sealer by packaging all of the smoked fish so that we could freeze it and make more dip later!

While searching for the perfect vacuum sealer on Amazon, I came across a nifty little gadget that I just had to have:

It’s a Bag Sealer! Super easy to use, and the magnet on the back allows you to store it on the refrigerator which gives you easy access to sealing any bag you want to make air-tight. It takes 2 AA batteries (which come with it), and also has a blade installed for easy opening. Family and friends, don’t be surprised if you get one of these for Christmas!

A safety switch is pushed up to reveal the blade.
Putting our new bag sealer to work.

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A ‘Super’ Sunday

“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

Vince Lombardi

You guys…football is over (insert sad emoji).  We love football season in the Tomney casa! This past season was especially exciting because our favorite teams had pretty good seasons: The Green Bay Packers and the Florida Gators.  I have become a Green Bay fan by marriage, and Ross now bleeds orange and blue thanks to his newfound love for my beloved Florida Gators.  Our house was temporarily divided on December 30th when Ross reverted back to a UVA fan during the Orange Bowl game when the Gators took on the Cavaliers.  I couldn’t blame him for supporting his Virginia team, and for the record he’s all “WAHOOWA” during basketball season!  Still haven’t figured out why we are Packers fans, because there is no connection to Green Bay or Wisconsin, but Ross has loved the franchise for a long time and as for me…well, Matt LaFleur is easy on the eyes. (insert winking emoji)

Even though our Packers didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, we were still excited to watch the big game.  Some friends of ours invited us to their house for a Super Bowl party.  We had a great time watching the game with them and eating so much good food!  Even though we weren’t too concerned about the outcome of the game, we pulled for the Chiefs and were happy that they pulled off the W!

Before we could partake in the Super Bowl festivities, the Ridge Runner required a little attention.  We had another group checking in later in the week, so we spent the first part of Super Bowl Sunday preparing for the guests.  Since we had already stripped the used linens, washed them, and returned them to the boat, all that was left to do was put it all back together.  While Ross warmed up the cold motors, I got to work in the cabin.  Check out this video to see how it all came together:

As we mentioned in the video, February is turning out to be an extremely busy month for us.  We have several guests scheduled through the end of the month, so the Ridge Runner will have to be flipped multiple times for their arrivals.  This is so exciting to me!  Knowing how much effort and perseverance went into getting here, I am so happy to see this vision come to life.  Since it will be booked on the weekends, this will require that I flip the boat on the weekdays after work.  It’ll be exhausting, but totally worth it!

Besides the bookings, Ross has so much going on other than the Ridge Runner.  He has taken on an extra job in yacht maintenance, giving him an opportunity to become familiar with several different boats and their motors.  Don’t feel sorry for him yet!  This week, he’ll be mating on a private yacht for an owner who wants to go fishing out of Fort Pierce.  I know that sometimes his work is very hard, but I just can’t help but think that he has the best job in the world!  I know I’d rather be working the cockpit of a 57’ foot Sportfish than sitting at my desk all day!

In addition to all of that, later this month Ross will be taking a class at Chapman’s School of Seamanship to upgrade his license.  Currently he holds a Master Inland/OUPV Offshore license.  At completion of this course, he will hold a 100 Gross Tonne Master Near Coastal, which will allow him to charter as many as 49 passengers up to 100 miles offshore.  This upgrade could present more opportunities for his career in the future.  I am so proud of him and all his efforts to improve his knowledge in this industry! 

We have more content coming soon, so hit subscribe to follow along! Have a question? Leave a reply! This is all a work in progress and we’re definitely learning as we go. Thanks for reading and watching!

You & I

“All the boats I’ve missed, all the hell I’ve caused, all the lips I’ve kissed, all the love I’ve lost, I got kicked around, I’ve been black and blue, on my way to you. “

-Cody Johnson
Ross & Mandy Shenandoah, Virginia, December 2015

Now that you know a little about what our plan is here, I wanted to dive into the story of “us”…Captain Ross and his first mate, Mandy.

Ross is originally from a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains called Shenandoah, Virginia. From a young age, Ross has had an infatuation (or what I like to call an obsession) with boats and being on the water. He got his first boat when he was 13…a 12 foot plastic Jon boat powered by Ross, his best friend Ethan, and two paddles. I imagine there were many adventures had on the Shenandoah River aboard the vessel that created Ross’ passion for boating. A few years later, he bought a ’64 Glastron Tri-hull off of Craigslist for $175. “We went back in the woods for that thing,” he said as he was describing it to me. The Glastron, named “Four Winns”, had a Johnson 60 HP Sea Horse in the back. If you haven’t already guessed, this thing was not reliable. Chuck, Ross’ dad, went along for the ride as the Four Winns made her first splash in the river. Ross recalls his Dad requesting to begin their journey up river, as the dam wasn’t too far down stream. Four Winns is still around. She sits on a piece of property by the river, in an area ironically called “Ship Wreck.” The last time I saw her, she had a tree growing out of her hull.

In his twenties, Ross decided to get his CDL and become a truck driver. He got a job with Melton Truck Lines and began his career on the road. In two years, he got to see the entire lower 48 states! Life on the road is lonely, and eventually Ross grew tired of driving so he packed a bag and drove south to join his parents in Florida. There he took a course and obtained the credentials needed to become a boat captain.

This is where I come in…

I was born in raised in Ocala, a big town with a small town feel in north-central Florida. I always loved education…not so much the going to school part, but I did love to learn and I loved my teachers. When I was young, I forced my little sister to play school with me. I was the teacher, of course, and she was always my misbehaving student! In my early twenties, I was lucky enough to get a part time job coaching the girls JV soccer team at a local high school. I fell head-over-heels in love with coaching. I was far from the best, but I loved my girls, and my girls loved me. Eventually I got a job at the school so I could be closer to my team. Best decision I ever made! You don’t make much money in public school systems, but the relationships you build and the impacts you can make are far more valuable in my opinion.

I turned 30 in August of 2015. I was proud of my independent woman status, working three jobs to take care of myself. I “didn’t need a man” and damn sure wasn’t going to waste my time on anyone unworthy of my attention! My oh my, how the good Lord will humble you when you need it most.

In early November of that same year, I was bored and decided to do some “swiping” on a dating app. I never took swiping too serious, especially after I matched with a pizza that told me how cute I was. Then one day I matched with a cute boy with a beard. A couple days later I received a message from that boy. A few days after that, we had our first date. I left him the evening of our first date knowing without a doubt that I would marry him one day. You know how they say, “when you know, you know?” Well, it’s true. Ross and I have been inseparable ever since.

In our first two months together, we both knew that Ocala wasn’t where we wanted to be. Ross wasn’t happy with his job and he wanted to fulfill his dream of being a boat captain. I had always longed to leave Ocala and start something new, so I began applying for jobs in the Treasure Coast area after Ross got an opportunity to work on a charter boat in Fort Pierce, Fl. Hanging up my coaching whistle was the hardest part, but it had to be done. I got a job in Martin County very quickly, and before I knew it, I was packing everything up and moving south with my captain.

December 12th, 2017

On a random Tuesday night in December of 2017 while enjoying a slice of pizza in our favorite place in Stuart, Ross asked me to marry him. It was easy to say yes, especially since I knew this day would come since our first date. On April 6th, 2019 in front of our closest family and friends, we said I do. Stay tuned, as our story is just beginning!

April 6th, 2019 Photo by: Amanda Smith Photography