Posts Tagged food
Living in the Gulf Islands we wait patiently through long wet winter months of seemingly endless grey skies crying down buckets of tears. We wait with anticipatory visions of gliding through the water in the summer heat. The reality is startlingly different when summer does arrive and all we can hope for is that the local islands will grow a mile or two higher to give some early shade as we paddle. Where is the relief from the humidity gathering in the cockpit under the spray skirt? Where can we refresh ourselves? How about on a patio overlooking the sea under the protection of an umbrella with a cold pint of amber ale in hand. What could be better than a paddle to the pub?
The paddling day begins from Southey Point eccentrically placed at the northern tip of Salt Spring Island on a day the islands surrounding us would never grow high enough to cast any shade, we pointed to Penelakut Island. This island is native land and formerly named, Kuper Island. The spit near the village of Penelakut is visible from Southey Point and we chose to cruise the shallow sandbars of Penelakut. The water was still around our kayaks and in the clarity it was easy to view schools of frantic fish zigzagging to avoid our approach. Crabs nestled face down in the sand were no match for a tag-team effort between two paddle blades scooping them up at will. Dinner would be simple if it were crab, not the grog and burgers that was our prey that day.
In the heat haze on the water the white stick ahead was thought a marker of some sort, but only recognizable as a man when our group paddled closer. Walking waist-deep along the shore, but still far from shore a resident of the island was flicking up crab into a garbage bag with a garden rack with the handle cut short. We chatted and he offered some of his quarry to which we refused gracefully. Onwards around the jetty where the chop rose slightly in the confusion of water not knowing how to go, and into the cut.
We had planned out outing around the tides, something not entirely crucial in the Gulf Islands baring any needs to sneak out into the Strait of Georgia where the narrows between islands can get up to 10 knots of current. To get to the Thetis Island Marina Pub from this direction requires a higher tide to navigate ‘the cut’. This shallow groove meanders through high sandbars, once prime clamming beds in between Penelakut and Thetis Islands. At low tide be prepared to get out and push, pull or drag your kayak, and at higher water levels keep and eye out for small motor craft coming and going from the marina. The cut narrows and becomes shallow in a bottleneck forming a muddy land bridge at low tide before opening to deeper water at the marina.
Thetis Island Marine Pub is nothing fancy and the patio is a slender deck facing the docks but the food is great and the beer is cold, except on this day. A large pleasure boat had left the bay dragging its anchor and thus severing the underwater cable giving power to the island. The sandwiches and room temperature beer was delightful, and in the many return visits to the pub I have enjoyed much of the menu of good pub fare while sipping a cold pint. As I lazed on the patio watching eagles admiring boater life from high snags on Penelakut as though separated in time.
The day ending with the return paddle in Stuart Channel, a belly scrapping slip in between Penelakut and Tent Island before crossing back to Southey Point. The beer refreshed us only if for a few moments as the late afternoon sun slowed our progress accompanied by digestion. We stop at Tent island for a brief stretch which resolves to be an afternoon nap. The only thing better than paddling to a pub is the kayak nap soon after on cool pebbles.
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.
When I think about Tofino, BC many images come to my mind’s eye in an overwhelming stream of memories from childhood wanderings and play on Long Beach (now Pacific Rim National Park) amongst the hippie kids and resident squatter community living a sandy lifestyle of the mid-70’s, and my more current experiences kayaking the area.
Much has changed in the little village that is quite literally at the end of the road to the west side of Vancouver Island, and much has remained the same. Time and tide are the constant though Tofino endures an annual invasion of summer tourist that whips the local routine into a frenzy. Campsites are bursting to overflow, beaches packed with wanderers and surfers. The town is populated with bus tours and backpackers. But in the fall, much like my home on Salt Spring Island, which is also a tourist destination the flow slows. Regulars in town reappear after a summer hibernation and everything returns to a normal pace.
In the case of Tofino that pace remains humming as the ‘storm-watching’ season begins. The surf warning sign is changed from low to moderate or even high, the campsites are plentiful and the air is always clear and crisp. That is the first thing that hits me each time I set out on whatever beach I am closest too upon arrival in Tofino. The air at home is still, rainforest calm scent of trees and seaweed. Out there on Chesterman’s Beach, McKenzie Beach, Cox Bay or Long Beach the air is like a chilled white wine by comparison to my luke warm Merlot air of home. West coast Pacific air immediately refreshes the spirit and it all seems somehow brighter.
Last week my wife and I revisited the place of our honeymoon and the familiar scene that welcomes us even after a two-year absence. We set up camp near the ocean and our soundtrack that first night would be pounding surf mixed with the rapid attack of raindrops on our tarp. By morning, nothing but high clouds and mild temperatures greeted us as we sipped coffee at the Common Loaf Bakery in town before heading to Cox Bay, home this year to the Queen of the Peak women’s surf competition hosting wave riders from all over, with the high content of local talent. The first day of the meet was the short boarders hitting the larger waves of the weekend following some stormy days. This was my first experience watching real surfers doing what they do best and the show did not disappoint. The joy, smiles and pure athleticism of these women was astounding. Making the paddle out through a rockery to sneak out behind the incoming sets of waves was made to look easy. The rides were in some cases long and the return paddle to get the next wave equally daunting.
This was a trip that led me to Tofino at the head of one of best kayaking destinations around, Clayoquot Sound once more without my kayak on the roof rack? Though I was not there to paddle the Tofino experiences only added to the library of lovely memories from my first sight of the endless beaches when I was still in single digits and all the way to present day when I can share the experience and love of a place with the love of my life. But next time I am taking my kayak!
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.
The muscles are no longer sore, and that knot that had developed between my shoulder blades at 10am the morning of my marathon day paddle around Salt Spring Island has been untangled thanks to the care and nursing of my wife Jen. The bubble of happy kayaker slowly drains of air like a birthday balloon hiding behind the sofa a week after the big day. Land life settles in. Worries. How unfair is that? This time last week I was pondering my sanity at taking on a 72 km paddle with only a couple shorter days on the water to prepare in past months.
However unconditioned I may be I was excited at the prospect of viewing my home from the water and in an against-the-clock style. I am in no way an endurance extreme kayaker. I love the slower pace of paddling, the oneness with everything and the bobbing on the breathing of the earth. This time last week I had to excuse myself for a moment of wanting to do more, to accomplish a bigger paddle. To not get out so many times during the day and be truly at home within the bubble of my kayak seat. To make it so that I had all I needed, that land was an option for only extreme needs to get out and stretch between long crossings. Food, water, sports drink dry clothing, first aid kit, GPS, and iPod for distraction during duller periods on the water. It was all within my grasp and land, well I was determined to gain access to that current flow farther out in the channel with no popping in for a pee when the need arose.
Having made the spontaneous decision to the paddle I hit the internet for some advice and stumbled upon a good article written by Carter Johnson, a world-class endurance paddle racer and marathoner who in 2010 set the record time in the Yukon River Quest, a 700+ km marathon paddle event in a whopping time of 42 hours and 49 minutes. The article was on the subject of food (a personal passion) in marathon paddling. I figured this guy might know a thing or two and read it over. Much of it was simple common sense stuff that he broke down into before during and after the paddle. I took it to heart and with a few adjustments for my own comforts I created a program that I hoped would get me out and back again. It did. (I later read that Johnson’s success in the YRQ was partly due to what was found at the bottom of his kayak, several finished Red Bull cans and five hour energy drinks).
What did I learn from Mr. Johnson? First, hydration. I know, we all understand that our bodies are mostly water so it goes to figure that we should put some in during the day to replace what we lost. What I learned was to drink before I needed it. The day before in fact! Several glasses of water on Saturday for my Sunday event. Food of course was upped to a new level and more than I would normally gobble down. Pasta for lunch and double portions for dinner. I felt like a brickyard was forming in my stomach that evening but later the following day I would be grateful for that bloating. Muscles filled, skin and cells well hydrated I went to bed and attempted a fitful sleep.
The morning of the paddle, I had no time for the breakfast of champions and settled for apple juice, half a Vector bar (tastes like cardboard) and at the launch spot a good gulp of Gatorade/water. I had taken his advice again on not dumping too much on my system during the day by chopping up those tasty bars into one inch squares, easy to pop in my gob about every half out to forty-five minutes spreading out the calories all day long. Every fifteen minutes drinking a few sucks on the water tube or a few sips from the bottle leashed to my deck and riding on my spray deck with easy access. This was how I spent the day, watching my speed, watching the water and watching the clock to see when it was time to fuel up again.
The last thing I learned I didn’t take from Johnson’s article, but from my own personal need to well, pee while in motion. This was not going to be the usual Sunday kayaking day when I leisurely paddled the shoreline exploring nature and feeling good about myself. This was a workout day, an against the clock event to challenge myself after a long period of not. To get he best time posted as my personal best I would have to forego the luxury of shorelines and easy access to stepping out of the boat for a quickie by paddling further from shore and grabbing the peak flow of currents in my favour. For the first time in my decade and a half of kayaking I deployed the ‘pee bottle’!
Not knowing the in’s and out’s of this simple device (a reassigned red Nalgene bottle once used to carry red wine, note to self…write Pee Bottle on red Naglene) I gave it a go while riding the tidal currents down Stuart Channel on my early morning first leg headed south. I pulled my spray deck back, adjusted the stack of snack box and water bottles to give me room to move and undid the cap on the bottle. The next couple of minutes were a reminder of how many fishermen die each year due to standing up and urinating over the side of the boat. From the seated kayaker’s position the plumbing just doesn’t want to work. Oh, there was a need and a great desire to fill the bottle I tell ya, but it was a matter of shifting, bum lifting and center of gravity balance before I found optimal flow and maximum efficiency!
With that out-of-the-way, dumped and rinsed and my deck in place I paddled on happily but worried that the time it took to organize my bladder to bottle system would take more than it would had I just stopped ashore for a moment. Alas, there I was out in the middle later that day and again tempted the fates and imminent capsizing. I suppose the last thing in the list of things I learned on a 72 km non-stop paddling day was bladder control.
A Paddle to a Pub
One of the joys of travelling anywhere by kayak is the fact that you have arrived under your own steam. Whether it be a day paddle to a small beach only accessible by water, or exploring rugged wilderness regions, or to a local pub. From Salt Spring Island there are a few choice secluded beaches, and places, though fewer where you will feel a sense of wilderness, and of course there are a few local pubs within easy day trip distances.
One such pub is at the Maple Bay Marina on Vancouver Island, the Shipyard Restaurant and Pub offers great food and friendly service inside or out on the patio.
If leaving from Salt Spring Island you have a pair of options as to where to put your kayaks in the water. One is at a shallow beach we call Baders Beach. Leaving Ganges drive up Rainbow Road to the top of the hill and then down again, stay to your left and follow Collins Road until you reach the water. There you will find a beach that is a bit of an issue at lower tides as it is mucky, but at mid to high it is a great launch site. From there, paddle southwards towards Burgoyne Bay and cross at the over-head power lines. Stick to the shoreline as the bay itself can become bustling with incoming and outgoing floatplanes and boaters. You will pass the village of Maple Bay but keep going into the sheltered alcove of the bay and paddle by the yacht club. To enter the marina stay to the outer limits and round at the end where there are several uniquely designed floating homes. Sadly, at the marina there is little for the kayaker to land upon. There are rocks you can attempt to deal with, but we opt for the dinghy dock. Find a spot with room enough to scramble out of your kayak and there you can tie off to the dock.
The second option for the day is to drive from town southward on the Fulford/Ganges Road. So named for the obvious reason that this highway connects Fulford to Ganges. Coming down the hill into the valley with vineyards on either side take Burgoyne Bay Road to its terminus at the Government wharf. Parking can sometimes be an issue here so do your best. I often unload and move the car higher up or in the park parking area. Using this route allows for a completely dry feet experience as you will be travelling from one dock to another.
Burgoyne Bay is a gem with Mt. Sullivan on one side and the best known Salt Spring Island landmark of Mt. Maxwell on the other. Cross the bay and follow the southern shore until the crossing at the opening of the narrows. Check your tide tables and don’t enter the narrows. On the opposite shore there can be some turbulence so be mindful of your course. It sounds worse than it is. Once across it is a short paddle up the shore and around the corner to your left into the bay. Crossing from either launch takes a little over an hour with little to be concerned about other than water traffic.