Archive for category The Hungry Kayaker

Spice, A Kayak Cooking Tip

A random find on Pinterest and a great idea for my kayak kitchen is born. Looks like I will have very fresh breath for the next while as I build up a collection of these containers for my essential spices.

A great idea for the kayak camp kitchen.

A great idea for the kayak camp kitchen.



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Food Safe

As a Wet Belly I have a hard time justifying my boss’s need to send me to school for a day. However, she wanted me to have my basic food safe certificate, the restaurant would pay for the one-day 8-hour course for food handling and serving as well as bribing me out of a precious day off by paying me for the day as well. So I walked into the conference room reserved for the course with the kitchen I work at out of sight and sound on the other side of the wall. Only the occasional quiet moment did I hear a distant clatter of dishes. There I was, reluctantly and without a cup of coffee, back in school if only for one day. Anywhere else would have been preferable even on that rainy day in June.

Over the years I have toyed on occasion to sit once more in a classroom but I would refuse to take anything useful that would send me hurtling down the path of a quote, career. Why start now after all, I did get a degree in Fine and Visual Arts with an emphasis on art history way back in the 80’s when all my graphic design homework was done by hand, with a pen or brush and not with a point of a mouse. If I were to wander wayward back into a classroom it would be to take such wayward rewarding and real-day useless subjects like comparative religion studies, or folklore of ancient Celtics, or English.

Alas, there I sat in a stuffy, close humid room with strangers save the young woman who serves at the restaurant and another person I know from the island. I sat in the back  row with the bad kids talking in class and asking, nay debating the course at every turn if only the aid in staying awake. Did I mention the humidity? The close heavy room and a full meal at the short lunch break had the entire room near snoring levels by 2pm. The circa 1970’s era styled tutorial videos supplied on VHS no less didn’t help matters in the staying alert department. Then around 4pm with our heads filled with kill temperatures and too much information about pathogens and micro-organisms that live on us and all over everything on the plate we had the exam. I fared pretty well, only dropping the ball on a couple of the multiple choice questions. Perhaps I should have just chosen C because if in doubt that is usually a best guess.

I walked out and met my wife waiting for me in the restaurant and I ordered my staff beer. I needed it. It was the carrot on the stick (which I am sure is not food safe) to get me through the last hours of boredom. She asked about the day and I had to say, proudly so that I was one of the few not completely ‘grossed out’ after the first hours of information about flies vomiting on lettuce and how fast microbes multiply on a hamburger bun at room temperature. In fact, the course only had me dreaming of dangerous foods. As Anthony Bourdain would describe as the Nasty Bits. I wanted something that may or may not live forever in my lower intestine. I wanted to eat from a street vendor in Vietnam. Drink the snake blood poured into moonshine. Anything to purge the constant dripping from the instructor that food is risky stuff. I agree, but I did get there to the class in a car. I survived my childhood without wearing a helmet and I eat for pleasure and with no fear. If I pay later on with an uncomfortable night on the can, so be it.

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Madness Under a Midnight Sun

What would Robert Service make of the wild goings on that will happen in the Yukon in just a couple of weeks?

Painted on the wall opposite Klondike Kate's cafe in Dawson City, Yukon Photo by Dave Barnes

Painted on the wall opposite Klondike Kate’s cafe in Dawson City, Yukon
Photo by Dave Barnes

Two years ago my wife and I were support crew for a couple of paddling friends attempting to complete the 700 + km Yukon River Quest, and though our race ended at the midway point in a place called Carmacks the experience of living under the midnight sun for a week was hardly diminished. In two weeks my friend and paddling mate Gus will return for the third time to the mighty Yukon River. Last year he took on the challenge as a solo kayaker and placed well, meeting his goal of 50 hours. What this year’s race will hold is anyone’s guess, strange thing are done under the midnight sun and what the river, wilderness paddling over such a vast distance, and the toils that will fall upon the paddler’s bodies will tell the final tale. Perhaps it will be told in rhyme.

For my part, I envy the chance to go back up to that wild and untouched landscape. Bears, Moose, Fox and the stunted forests cut by a huge river and the northern spirit that draws paddlers from all points of the world for the opportunity to suffer greatly as they kayak and canoe through the non-night hours. The spell was indeed cast upon me during that not-so-relaxing trip to the north. The events and dramas unfolding in our camp was under the shadows of something that has seen so many more larger scale events and dramas unfold under the weird light of a day that does not see a sunset.

Old grave sites on the hillside above Dawson City, Yukon.  Photo by Dave Barnes

Old grave sites on the hillside above Dawson City, Yukon.
Photo by Dave Barnes

The case can be made that our experiences on that trip two years ago are nothing more than human folly, ego and our will to be seen doing something unusual, compelling and to a degree rather dangerous. What put if in perspective for me was a mosquito infested wandering through the graveyards in Dawson City as we awaited the last paddlers to find the finish line.

What were we really about? As one of our paddlers reached too far with a stranger he convinced to finish the last leg of the river in our tandem kayak, pushing the limits, the rest of our group strolled through hillside grave yards witnessing a deathly history of the northern people and the ego, the greed and most often empty promises of gold. The finish line for them reached. A story of a miner who was gone for six months working a claim for a financier who stayed in comfort in a local hotel. The miner returned home knowing his toils would be rewarded with the arrival of a son he had never met, born while he was away in the wilds. He returned to his cabin to find neither wife nor child. Still born was the boy and she passed in childbirth. Two markers on a bramble-covered hillside was all he found.

We discovered too many such tiny graves and after a pair of hours it was too much to bear. We left, lumpy throated and clear that our own desires of the Yukon were dictated to us not by our own fates or destiny, but by the place itself.

Our paddler arrived somewhat intact, exhausted and sick, but he made it. Awards were handed out the following morning to all those who met the river on their own terms, and survived to tell the tale another day. With luck, this year will provide new stories, a good adventure on the river and maybe even beating a personal best. But remember Gus, the river bats last! I expect that would the advice that Robert might give to those endeavouring to challenge themselves on the wilds of the Yukon River.

Anyone can follow the racers during the Yukon River Quest simply by following the links on the river quest website using the race tracker. The one to watch is Dharma Bum. To all the paddlers heading up there this year, good luck and have a pint of the Yukon Gold as Bombay Peggy’s in Dawson.

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Camping and Cooking, the Hungry Kayaker

The Hungry Kayaker

I can hardly believe that so much time has passed by since I first sat in a kayak 17 years ago. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I gingerly lowered myself into a burgundy Current Designs Solstice GT feeling the slight tippiness of a rounded hull on something so sustaining as the ocean. The moment I took hold of the paddle and pushed away from the dock at Sea Otter Kayaking where a good friend was a guide, I felt right. I had not even taken one paddle stroke when this sensation of rightness hit me like a ton of bricks. Then the joys of self-propulsion as I found my new wings in the seat of a kayak on a cool late fall afternoon. Little did I know how many kilometers I would travel and how much this thing called kayaking would take over my being. The Hungry Kayaker

The years of kayaking along wilderness shores with friends of like-mind or soloing gifted me with some insights that I had not had before my kayaking life. I also discovered, usually the hard way how to avoid some of the pitfalls and discomforts of wilderness camping and kayaking. The evolution and transition into all things kayaking was simple though and is my passion. As is eating. I love a good meal at the end of a paddling day, so the idea was born not long after I began kayaking to write a guide for those entering at the novice level as I had done. I had hte advantage of paddling and camping with people in the know and wanted to pass on a bit of what I have gathered over time.

The end result is the Hungry Kayaker-a common sense guide to cooking an camping.

With the weekend adventurer in mind, as not all of us can get away for longer trips I give some good old fashioned advice and tips for entry-level camping in the great outdoors. These tips are not for those hanging about parks but for those who go to find that out of the way notch in the shore line to pitch a tent for a night or two. There may not be an outhouse close by but that is not the end of the world. I will guide you through a set of routines that will have you out of the kayak and sitting comfortably in front of your campstove in no time.

A communal effort on the beach at Clark Island, Broken Group.

A communal effort on the beach at Clark Island, Broken Group.

The second part of the book is dedicated to eating. Seeing as you are only out for the weekend it is easier to bring the whole nine yards, kitchen sink and of course those yummy fresh ingredients that will take your camp cooking experience away from freeze-dried noodles, to something a little more interesting. In the Hungry Kayaker you will find several easy to create recipes for the camper. Most of which can be cooked on a single burner camp stove. With a little forethought, you and you paddling gang can eat like kings as the sun sets on another perfect day in the kayaks.

Spring is around the corner, and with it the start on another camping season. With that in mind, I invite you to head over to the link below and there you will find the Hungry Kayaker and a few more of my goodies.

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Pacific Rim Beef Stew

Pacific Rim Beef Stew

On a cold evening or as an easy mid-day snack a bowl of soup on a camping trip or while kayaking can really hit the spot, and can be made at home ahead of time.

I love soups! While camping and kayak camping when your body is working overtime to keep you warm and fit the best way to refresh and revive yourself during the day or in the evening is with the simplest of meals, soup and stew. I have a fond remembrance of an afternoon, sunny and warm when I had done a fair bit of paddling and a soggy surf landing, then set up my camp. Though it was a mid-September afternoon and the sun was warm and good I was hungry and it would be hours before dinnertime. I found a small log and turned it into a kitchen with enough room for my single-burner stove, a pot of steaming veggie chili bubbling away on top. It was heaven and I sat watching the waves and the sparkling sea thoroughly scarfing down that pot of beans. It hit the spot, my mood improved and I was ready then for a hike up the beach.

The nice thing about soups and stews on a trip is that you don’t have to make them on the spot, thus removing the need to find extra room in already stuffed hatches, which is usually a bit of a miracle. Making soups at home not only frees up space in the kayak but also creates a refrigerator. These frozen packs placed with your fresher ingredients will help considerably to the long-lasting of those things. It will also keep that six-pack cold, yes, I knew it. Now I have your attention!

Here is a great basic and yummy stew recipe…

Pacific Rim Beef Stew

Makes 4 servings, cook time 1 – 2 hours


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 chuck steak, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 red onion, thickly sliced

3 cloves garlic, crushed

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup red wine

2 cups beef stock

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary,chopped

3 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped


At home:

In a large saucepan heat 1 tablespoon oil and add beef in batches over a medium heat. Cook until browned. Remove from pan. Heat remaining oil and add the onion, garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add beef and onion/garlic mixture to crock pot. Stir in red wine and remaining ingredients. Cook on low heat for one to two hours. Stir in coriander.

When cooled pour into Ziploc freezer bags.

This is excellent served over rice!

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How to Have Sex in a Kayak

Spalted Alder driftwood pendant. photo by Dave Barnes for Foundwood Designs on Etsy

Spalted Alder driftwood pendant.
photo by Dave Barnes for Foundwood Designs on Etsy

How to have sex in a kayak!

Now that I have your attention…I thought it was about time for a shameless plug for my woodworking Etsy shop called, Foundwood Designs. I began it a couple of years ago with the foundation of limiting my work to using only found and recycled wood. In that two-year period I have purchased only a couple of dollars worth of dowelling, not bad if I do say so myself. Kayaking gives me access to driftwood and that often gifts me with pleasant surprises inside. It also means I have a new excuse to go kayaking and search the local shoreline for useable bits of slightly rotting wood.

What you will find at Foundwood are wooden pendants, small boxes and whatever else the I can find hiding inside the wood that I gather. You will also find some ceramic pendants from my previous life working in clay and of course my kayaking books. I invite you to take a peek, browse around and if you find something you like here is a special coupon code you can use during the check-out process. Simply type in ‘kayakrogue’ in the box supplied for such things and receive 15% off your purchase.

Cheers and happy paddling!

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Spice it Up!

Spice up your camping food.

The four of us, myself and three good paddling friends landed on Rosa Island, the gem of Nuchatlitz Marine Park at about 10:30 at night. It was early July and we still displayed our Canada Day flags on the back-end of our kayaks though out there in the coast not many would see our lingering patriotic flare. Rosa greeted me for the second time in two years on that evening after the long drive and equal time spent paddling and we all were tired. None of us could meet the fatigue dealt with by one of our group suffering from the effects of kidney disease. He was knackered but unlike the rest of us who settled for setting up tents and boiling up pouches of boil-in-a-bag goop for dinner, he pulled out all the stops. Stove set up and a camping wok with sizzling bits of chicken under a shower of spices sprinkled from small containers that he brought in an old first aid kit bag. The aroma  was wild, spiced and appetizing while my indian rice and spinach lay on my plate looking pre-digested. Tic Tac Spice Rack

Since then we all stepped up to the plate and began cooking better camp meals, myself especially so much so I wrote a cookbook with some of my favorite camp cooking ideas. No more freeze-dried boil in the bag for this kayak camper!

Our kayaks now weigh in very heavy on those first few days of paddling tours, mainly due to the fresh ingredients that have pushed a bag or two of essentials to the kayak’s deck to make more room. For me, the key to a good meal is always seasoning. Not too much and never too little. The tough part is how to bring those precious dried herbs and spices? Moisture is the enemy and around here there is plenty of that. Kayaking and camping always go hand in hand with a bit of humidity or damp that can cake up your spices. My friend used old film canisters as he was the avid photographer of the group and this was in the pre-digital camera age. They worked well and were air and water tight. I have tried it all but while surfing the interweb the other night I stumbled in this. I guess I will be sucking on a few Tic Tacs this spring in time for the outdoor camp cooking season.

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