Monthly Archives: June 2016

The education of cruising through history and nature

After dropping the anchor in a small cove on the western end of Village Island, I looked around, surveying the foreshore and the skeletal remains of a pier that once jutted out over the clear water. Questions swirled through my mind about its history, and even Porter asked, “Dad, what did that used to be?” It was a dock left by the former inhabitants of the island, and now it sits going the way of time and tide.

The old pier sits just beyond Yahtzee's bow.
The old pier sits just beyond Yahtzee’s bow.

When we landed the kayak on the beach, remnants of the abandoned First Nations village of Mamalilicula could barely be seen. The old village has since grown over with bushes and brambles that have all but swallowed what was once home to 90 to 100 people of the Kwakiutl Nation.

Cruisers who visited the island even a decade ago have a hard time recognizing the spot today as it is so overgrown. Tall totems that used to stand here have fallen and been covered, as have most of the village’s structures. But just because it hasn’t been preserved for tours and tourists doesn’t mean we couldn’t explore it, learn its unique history and imagine what life would have been like here.

Pushing our way through head-high brambles, we were able to find a gateway built of huge logs and an old house. Walking through the house, we tried to envision what it would have looked like furnished and how its inhabitants went about their daily lives. Who were they? What did a typical day entail here?

All that could be seen of the gateway and house.
All that could be seen of the gateway and house.

What we know of the island’s past was gleaned from a few cruising guides and the excellent book, Totem Poles and Tea by Hughina Harold. She was a nurse and teacher who came to Village Island from Victoria in the 1930s to work for the local population. Her memoir offers profound insights into life on the island, its history and what the Broughton Archipelago was like during that time. It also provides a deep look into how the modern world was creeping into the lives of people whose ancestors had inhabited these same places for thousands of years, subsisting happily on the bounty of the land and sea that they respected. That is, until foreign diseases ravaged the population, a religion not their own was foisted upon them as superior and the idea of money was introduced, which forced them to work in ways they never had before. Fascinating. Continue reading The education of cruising through history and nature

Sailing, hiking, swimming and paddling in a gem of the Broughtons, Greenway Sound

Ghosting over the top of North Broughton Island on a gentle following zephyr and flood tide, I watched as our boatspeed leisurely climbed above 2 knots. Perfectly slow.

Not far from our destination and with Magnus and Porter resting below, only the rustle of water trickling from the stern could be heard as mountains slid by and I tended to a fishing line trailing behind us. It couldn’t have been more relaxing. The breeze soon filled in and when we turned south into Greenway Sound, a pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins broke the surface around us, jumping and playing as though we weren’t even there.

Even on an overcast day, Greenway Sound shows her beauty.
Even on an overcast day, Greenway Sound shows her beauty.

The afternoon was a grand start to our time in the sound, which kept getting unexpectedly better as it unfolded.

A cozy spot

Greenway Sound is a six-mile long channel between Broughton and North Broughton islands that runs east-west for the first three miles before making a turn south for the last three. At its elbow is the eastern terminus of Carter Passage, which completes the cut that splits the two land masses into islands. Entering the sound, you can easily see why the word “green” was applied when naming this body of water. Much like the rest of the area, vibrant green rain forests flow from the mountain and hilltops down to the sea. And even though a fair bit of logging activity is evident as you travel up and down the sound, its effects don’t diminish the overall beauty of the anchorages within. Continue reading Sailing, hiking, swimming and paddling in a gem of the Broughtons, Greenway Sound

From the Galley: Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

As far as seafood goes, we love it all, but there’s nothing better on a summer’s evening than some fresh crab meat. During a recent stop in the Octopus Islands, we got four big ones and while cleaning and devouring the succulent meat in the cockpit, decided to save the rest for a few recipes.

There's nothing like a bowl of freshly cracked crab that you caught yourself.
A bowl of freshly cracked crab caught yourself is a thing of beauty.

We had some big mushrooms on hand and after digging through the cabinets to make sure we had all the right ingredients, we decided to go with this easy and delicious recipe. So, with crab season open in British Columbia, and open or nearly so throughout Washington, here’s a great recipe to give a try when you get a few fresh ones aboard.

Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

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Ingredients:

6 to 12 large mushrooms

1/4 cup butter

1 clove garlic, minced

4 green onions, minced

1 cup soft bread crumbs

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 cup cooked crab meat (preferably fresh)

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese (we used cheddar, which was delicious!)

Directions:

  1. Wash mushrooms; remove caps and set aside. Finely chop stems and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Saute garlic, onion and mushroom stems until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stir in bread crumbs, parsley and crab meat. Gently fold in mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  4. Stuff mushroom caps with crab mixture and place on greased baking pan. Garnish with cheese. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Serve hot.

Looking for a salad to go with your mushrooms? Try this one! 

This recipe was adapted from Dawn Ashbach and Janice Veal’s excellent cookbook, San Juan Classics.

Playing in nature’s perfect playground

Jill perched at the bow as we sail into Tribune Channel
Jill perched at the bow as we sail into Tribune Channel

Plunging from the sky to the sea, the Coast Mountains of British Columbia enveloped us as we sailed up Tribune Channel on a gentle westerly towards Watson Cove and Kwatsi Bay. Waterfalls tumbled over rock faces high above, cascading towards the thick, green forests and clear sea below.

Cell service had long since faded in our wake and with the sun breaking through the clouds, it seemed yet another weekend of grand adventure was upon us.

When we nosed Yahtzee’s bow through the narrow entrance to Watson Cove on Friday afternoon, the sound of a waterfall could be heard over the engine and cliffs rose dramatically skyward on either side. Our mast seemed minuscule in the grand playground before us and with much to explore, play we did. Continue reading Playing in nature’s perfect playground

Sailing to, and in, the beautiful Broughtons

When the alarm went off at 4 a.m. it sent me into a mental frenzy, I wasn’t quite sure what was going on. Rare is a morning when I wake up to an alarm, but we needed to get up and out of the Octopus Islands to catch the current correctly in Okisollo Channel, Discovery Passage and Johnstone Strait.

With the anchor hoisted by 4:30, we loafed our way out of the anchorage and turned Yahtzee’s bow north. Having raced up narrow and unforgiving Johnstone Strait last year aboard the J/145 Double Take in 25 to 35 knots of breeze on the nose during the Van Isle 360, I wasn’t too keen on repeating that performance aboard Yahtzee. Instead, I looked for a favorable tide and weather forecast to push us towards the Broughtons and when we had it, it was time to go.

Magnus playing on deck as the wind rises in Johnstone Strait
Magnus playing on deck as the wind rises in Johnstone Strait

Continue reading Sailing to, and in, the beautiful Broughtons

From the galley: Sea Asparagus Grilled Salad

While cruising the beautiful waters of British Columbia, we’ve long noticed the green, string-looking plant known as sea asparagus that grows wild along the many tidal shores that we explore. Last summer, our cruising buddy Chris Troutner pointed out that the plant is edible and it took us until recently when we saw it as a prepared salad in the grocery store in Campbell River to finally harvest and make it on our own.

Apparently, sea asparagus only has a 6-week harvest period (all of June and early July) and, conveniently, we’re in it. In the fall it turns from a vivid green to a reddish brown.

Sea asparagus growing on a beach in the Broughtons
Sea asparagus growing on a beach in the Broughtons

Last week, Jill and Porter went ashore and picked a bunch of the asparagus in the Pearse Islands (Broughton Archipelago) and we tried out this fantastic recipe. The asparagus has a salty flavor with a nice crisp that makes it a tasty green to add to your meals. Jill and I enjoyed it and both boys ate every bit that was on their plates. Give it a try!

Sea Asparagus Grilled Salad

IMGP6796 Continue reading From the galley: Sea Asparagus Grilled Salad

Exploring the magically serene Octopus Islands

family cabin

Raising the oars from the water, I let the dinghy ghost ahead over a flat pane of clear, greenish-hued water. A bald eagle wheeled above tall conifers and besides the rustling of water from underneath the boat and the drip from the oars, not a sound could be heard. Sitting on the stern seat, Porter didn’t stir and I could tell he was taking it all in, too. Soon, the silence was broken as a blue heron’s wings burst into action taking it in flight across the anchorage.

Magnus helping paddle between islands
Magnus helping paddle between islands

Scenes like these were a regular occurrence during our time in the Octopus Islands, and we reveled in the quite moments, beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife and time spent together. Continue reading Exploring the magically serene Octopus Islands

Heading back to Yahtzee with a heavy heart

As a stiff breeze funneled over the green hills of the cemetery, I stood by myself and looked at my grandfather’s urn sitting on the table. Tears rolled down my face while I reflected on his life and ours together. It’s been a great one.

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He was my grandfather, but he was more than that. We shared a birthday and had many memorable celebrations together. He was a role mode to emulate, a friend to laugh with and someone that meant the world to me. His passion for things that were important to him — family, faith, the Marine Corps — was infectious, and I’ll carry that with me for the rest of my life.

And though he lived in landlocked Iowa and knew very little about sailing and cruising, he always read my articles, columns and stories with the fervor of someone who did. He was thoroughly intrigued by our adventures and said as much. So while we make the trek back to Vancouver Island and Yahtzee to continue on, he’ll be in my thoughts.

My grandpa John Hunt and I on April 8, 1986. It was my third birthday, his 55th.
My grandpa, John Hunt, and I on April 8, 1986. It was my third birthday, his 55th.

I love him. I miss him. Not a day will go by that I won’t think about him. And as he would close any correspondence, “Semper Fi” — Always Faithful (the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps).