As stories go, this one has more than its share of nostalgia. Going back in history, there was a time when the S.T. Kiddoo was re-christened the Mary A. Whalen. On that occasion, command was given to Captain Alf H. Dyrland. It was 1958.
Alf Dyrland’s story goes back, across the Atlantic, to 1931 and the fishing village of Skudeneshavn on the southernmost tip of the island of Karmoy just off the southwestern coast of Norway. That year, having completed his seventh grade studies, 14 year old Alf went to sea as a “cabin boy.”
We dissolve to Christmas, 1979. Alf was retired after twenty years as Captain of the Whalen and yours truly, courting his daughter Karen, was a guest for the holiday in the house he built in northeast Connecticut. Of the many ritual observances associated with this holiday, perhaps the most intense, as well as joyous event was the baking of traditional Christmas cookies…Norwegian Krumkake.
The recipe was handed down from Alf’s mother. The batter, mixed and chilled overnight, was cooked by Alf on the stovetop using the iron from his mother’s kitchen and rolled into its cone form on a hand turned wooden dowel. You can find recipes for Krumkake on the web and in Scandinavian cookbooks. Alf’s has a wrinkle or two that are special and, in as much as the holiday always was a gathering for an extended family, it produces between ninety and one hundred cones.
Alf taught me how to bake and roll, and Karen prepares the batter from her grandmother’s recipe. For a few years after Alf died (1996) I used the old iron. Then an electric Krumkake baker became available and we purchased it at one of the last surviving outposts of Norwegian culture in Brooklyn, “Nordic Delicacies” on 3rd Avenue and 69th St.
When Carolina founded PortSide NewYork and rescued the Mary Whalen from the jaws of the scrap heap, she invited the public to visit for Open House New York in 2006. Karen and I arrived and were warmly welcomed by Carolina. The welcome was so warm, we never left and, now Carolina and the Mary Whalen have become part of Alf’s extended family and her ration of Krumkake graces the galley table every Christmas.
(Top photo: Captain Alf Dyrland the day the S.T. Kiddoo was re-christened Mary A. Whalen, and converted from gasoline service to heavier oil products.)
(Bottom photo: Bill & Karen Dyrland, two of Captain Alf's children, in the Whalen wheelhouse in 2008)
Note: In 2009, Skudeneshavn only has a population of 3,229. Imagine how small it was when Alf Dyrland left in 1931.