You may say John Lennon was a dreamer. But he was not the only one.
Among those moved by "Imagine," the songwriter's paean to "a brotherhood of man," were Terry and Linda Bosley of Ocean City. With the tidy sum that Mr. Bosley had earned as a record-breaking real estate salesman, they bought a 41-foot sailing yacht, named it Imagine, and set out with their three preteen children in search of freedom, adventure, new lands, pure waters and "above us only sky."
Twenty years after the song caught their fancy and their boat got its name, the Bosleys are back home in Maryland. After more than a decade of operating their yacht home as a floating restaurant in Palm Beach, Fla., the Bosleys -- their children grown but their idealism undimmed -- are ready to switch their base of operations to the Chesapeake Bay and to introduce Baltimoreans to their healthy shipboard "movable feasts." And, of course, to share stories about the famous folk who have sailed and eaten with them, a roster that includes Robert Mitchum, F. Lee Bailey, Laura Ashley, Peter Pulitzer and divas Rosa Ponselle and Roberta Peters (the latter of whom who came aboard in a full-length sable coat, according to Mrs. Bosley).
Not to mention John Lennon himself.
On their travels around the world, the family became expert at living in close quarters, as well as at cooking in the tiny galley and making creative use of fresh-caught seafood and items traded with other sailors they met on their travels. These skills were to serve them well when they decided to return to the "real world."
"For about six months beforehand, we'd been serving three meals a day to friends in the Bahamas," Mrs. Bosley explains. "We were broke, and decided it was time to come home and go to work again. Neither of us wanted to go back to what we had been doing before. So I said, 'You know, we ought to start a restaurant on this boat, and start charging for what we had been giving away.' A Movable Feast was launched at the White Marlin Marina in Ocean City in 1975, then, after stops in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Miami, relocated in Palm Beach, which would become the Bosley's major port of call. It soon racked up impressive critical notices and was recommended by the New York Times as one of Palm Beach's best dining spots.
Dinner and a sail aboard the Imagine was a normal restaurant experience for some of the resort town's residents: "We were the place to go for banana grouper, just like Tony Roma's was the place to go for ribs," Linda Bosley says. Many customers were regulars, including one high-rolling English lawyer who would make reservations several times a week during his visits to town, and would always show up with a different woman on his arm.
In early 1980, John Lennon, whose vision had launched the Imagine adventure, came aboard for a day's sailing with his wife Yoko Ono and their son Sean.
"The phone rang, and I picked it up, and this voice says, 'I'd like to book a charter for today,' " says Terry Bosley (who is called Skip, for "skipper," by his family). "I told him we almost never book a same-day charter."
The caller was insistent; Mr. Bosley reluctant. "I said, why don't we make it for tomorrow?" he continues. "He said, 'If I told you it was John Lennon, would that make a difference?' I said, 'It sure would!' "
He tracked down his wife, got the teen-agers John ("Camper") and Mimi out of school -- eldest son Terry Jr. ("Kettle") was away at college -- and sailed off with his most celebrated customer.
The Bosleys remember Lennon as a genial, unassuming man -- humorous (he treated the party to his own rendition of "Popeye the Sailor Man"), affectionate with his family and enthusiastically curious about the family's sailing lifestyle. He was also fiercely protective of Sean -- kidnappers were a constant worry -- but he did let Mimi take snapshots of the boy and the rest of the family. When the singer was assassinated later that year, these pictures were worth thousands of dollars to the tabloids. But Mimi -- who at 14 was too young to remember the heyday of the Beatles but knew what John Lennon had meant to her family -- refused to sell.
Although the Movable Feast concept was an established success in Palm Beach, the couple decided to return to their home state a few years ago, when Linda Bosley's mother, who is in her 80s, broke her hip in a fall. She didn't want to leave her Maryland home, so they chose to relocate to be near her. They sailed back to Ocean City and ran their dinner business there, until relocating recently to the Baltimore area. After living so long aboard ship, the couple is now settled in Monkton, and the Imagine is now running dinner cruises from the Inner Harbor.
Mimi and Kettle (who is now married and has a son) live in the area too and contribute to A Movable Feast both in the food-preparation and sailing departments. All of the Bosleys are Coast Guard-licensed captains; this means that guests are in good hands, Skip Bosley says -- but he also points out that if the Imagine ever sinks, the whole family would have to "go down with the ship."
The Imagine's galley is just as tiny now as it ever was, but after thousands of movable feasts served, Linda Bosley (or her designated head cook) can easily turn out a multicourse meal for six visitors with a single burner and a single stove.
"I have it down to a system," she says. "It has its own rhythm. For me it's just like getting in a car and starting it."
For a 7 o'clock sail, she won't even begin shopping until 5 o'clock. "If something happens at 4 and we have to cancel, I don't want to be stuck with $100 worth of food," she says.
Then, as the yacht sets sail, she starts the meal, choreographing each course so that it will emerge at just the right time.
The first item to be prepared is the bread, a honey and whole-wheat loaf nicknamed "Pope's bread" because it is infallible: more than 3,000 loaves without a single slip-up. "It's an hour from start to finish, and we don't start it until we get on board," Mimi Bosley says. "It's our barometer. When the bread is done, it's time to anchor."
By the time the Imagine anchors and the main course is served, the diners have already enjoyed several courses, which might include a smoked sailfish spread and a melted Swiss cheese dip topped with Vidalia onion relish and slivered almonds; mushroom caps stuffed with a mixture of spinach, blue cheese, feta and Parmesan; and salad of fresh romaine, watercress, mint from the garden, purple onions, radishes and orange, dressed with homemade vinaigrette.
The main course is usually seafood; red meat has never been served on board the Imagine. The most popular entree is grouper fillets baked with banana sauce; Mrs. Bosley invented the recipe after being inspired by a similar dish years ago at Tio Pepe. Alternatively, she might serve sweet-and-sour scallops, or baked chicken with honey and fresh fruits. (The Bosleys, who are concerned about the possible pollution of the Chesapeake's TC seafood supply, are looking into more poultry dishes.) At a luncheon cruise, raclette, a Swiss dish of melted Gruyere with red potatoes, gherkins and pearl onions, might be served, with a spinach salad.
Main dishes are accompanied by a Caribbean favorite, pigeon peas and rice, and fresh vegetables, such as carrots steamed in pineapple juice and spices. On the return trip, expect a dessert like puff pastry filled with fresh black raspberries -- picked by Kettle on a Monkton roadside -- flavored with Chambord, and melon balls in Pernod. Maryland's own Boordy wine is served with the meal.
Everyone on board eats the same thing, but the diners' individual likes, dislikes and food allergies are taken into account. Also considered are ease of eating -- when you have a plate on your lap, you don't want to use a knife -- and health concerns.
"I've tried to keep things natural and organic," Mrs. Bosley says. "I don't use salt, and I do use a lot of herbs. I keep things very basic and simple.
"My philosophy is, there's no better doctor than a good cook."
Bimini Rodney's peas and rice
Serves six to eight.
This dish was named for a young man the Bosleys met during a stay in Bimini. It can be made either with dried or canned pigeon peas -- both are available locally at international and Caribbean markets -- but, Linda Bosley says, women in the islands prefer the ease of the canned variety.
1 cup short-grain brown rice
2 cups water
1 can pigeon peas or black-eyed peas (or 1 cup dried)
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
hot sauce, to taste
1/4 cup currants
1/4 cup grated coconut
If using dried peas, soak them until soft but still firm (overnight, if necessary).
Put rice and water in a pot, cover and bake in a 350-degree oven for an hour.
Saute peas lightly.
Saute onion and green pepper, and add hot sauce to taste. Add peas, cooked rice, currants and coconut to the onion and green pepper and stir to blend.
Sweet and sour barbecued scallops
For barbecue flavor without barbecuing, try this dish. It was reportedly served aboard the 19th century New Bedford clipper Lucy S, whose crew discovered it on a voyage to Hawaii.
2 pounds scallops, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
1/4 cup grated onion
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons powdered mustard
-- of pepper
Thaw scallops, if frozen. Rinse fresh scallops in cold water. Cut large scallops in half.
Place scallops in a well-greased baking pan, 11 by 7 by 1 1/2 inches.
Combine remaining ingredients and pour over the scallops.
Broil about 3 inches from heat source for 12 to 15 minutes (depending on size of scallops) or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.
Makes 1 large loaf or 2 small ones.
This "infallible" bread never goes wrong, Linda Bosley says. It tastes great the next day, thinly -sliced and toasted -- if it lasts that long.
4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups warm water
1 package or 1 tablespoon dry yeast
1/2 cup honey
Mix together all ingredients. Let rise 20 minutes in a warm area.
Push down dough, and form a ball.
Place dough in greased loaf pan, or divide in half and form 2 smaller rounds. Let dough rise until it doubles in size (about 20 minutes).
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove bread from oven, and brush the top with butter. Bake 5 more minutes until the bread is shiny. Let cool slightly before slicing.