I’m no food critic, but I absolutely recognize a lovely meal when I eat one. And, you can, too, if you decide to enjoy dinner on The Martese, the little cruise ship that plies the waters of Clear Lake spring through fall each year, since it arrived here in 2004.
Kelsey Connor, the new owner of The Martese and The Clear Lake Marina, spent the winter renovating the vessel. “The only things remaining from before are the motors and the aluminum superstructure. For the most part, everything’s brand new,” he said.
When you climb on board, the first thing you notice is that everything is bright white and scrupulously clean, from stem to stern. The most noticeable change is the second-deck dining room, where new roof trusses support an opaque ceiling and three-season windows provide comfort in inclement weather, while still showcasing spectacular views. Bright-orange life jackets suspended in hammocks from the ceiling add to the atmosphere.
“When it comes to rain, it’s actually a pretty cool experience to enjoy ‘fine dining’ while watching the rain travel across the lake, or being completely surrounded by it,” said Connor. “You’re welcome, rain or shine.”
And, fine dining it was! After being offered a pre-dinner cocktail, a basket of hot buns with pats of shell- and starfish-shaped herbed butter was enjoyed, followed by a large, fresh, crisp salad garnished with tiny edible flowers.
For the main course I chose the golden and juicy Chicken Martese and my dinner companion had the “tender and lip-smackingly good” prime rib, both beautifully garnished and presented. We also sampled the delicious mini cream puffs for dessert.
Sometimes, meals that are so elegantly presented miss the mark when it comes to flavour, quality and quantity, but this was definitely not the case aboard The Martese.
“Eugenia Willey, one of the former owners of The Martese, is our caterer. She and her assistant Kendra Erickson, prepare and cook the pre-ordered meals on land, delivering them to the ship just before departure,” said Connor.
“I believe Eugenia’s amazing meals are the primary reason that our dinner cruise is held in high regard by all the passengers who have experienced it,” he said.
The cruise, which takes two hours, from 6 to 8 p.m., is perfectly timed, as the main pier came into sight as we sipped our after-dinner coffee.
Connor, who pilots the ship himself, welcomes passengers, both young and old to the wheelhouse. Instrumental music plays softly in the background, interspersed with short, but interesting commentaries on the biology of the lake, the history of the townsite and The Martese herself. The dining room can seat 60 for dinner and the vessel can safely accommodate 95 people without formal dining.
Conner is a year-round resident of Onanole and self-professed lover of his surroundings. For cruise times and prices go to www.clearlakemarina.ca.