Desolation Sound Trip: Part I
I am not a “roughing it” kind of person by any stretch of the imagination. My idea of camping out is booking a Jacuzzi suite at the downtown Sheraton, where Jordan & I can enjoy a room-service breakfast in the king-sized bed. When J and our friend Doug decided to buddy-boat into Desolation Sound, I immediately went into panic mode. Not only was the thought of spending ten days in a tiny cuddy cabin together frightening, but even worse was the thought of having to go an entire day without being able to run to the store for needed food items, or even worse, not being able to drop into Silva Bay for my favourite halibut burger. I knew that my only hope for success was to tap the wealth of experienced people on the island; people who had gone before, and survived.
One of the great things about ferry line-ups (yes, there are several including time to meditate or finish your crossword puzzle) is that everyone else is trapped and often bored like you are. What a perfect time to start my quest for advice on boating-trip food. The first car-full of friendly Gabriolans I ran across were eager to offer up some useful tips, such as: “Take along ten cases of beer, unless there are two of you going, then take 20.” Well, I’ll just tuck that one under my hat. I also learned that duct tape was indispensable. I am not sure how that relates to cooking, but I don’t remember any time when duct tape couldn’t solve a crisis. Always make sure that the person in charge of stove fuel remembers to pack it. By the end of my survey, I had the distinct impression that many of the tips I received were from first-hand bad experiences.
Next, I saw one of our neighbours, Maurice Carse who with his wife Nancy have spent years boating and camping. He is also one of those sorts of people who you just know has sensible advice to give. His first words of wisdom: take along two can openers. You just know that there is a story behind this, but probably one best left alone. Maurice also suggested that you plan your menu ahead of time, so that you don’t waste food, using up the most perishable foods first; canned and dried foods later. You also won’t be wasting precious space carrying foods that you aren’t going to use. And don’t forget the corkscrew.
Later that day, I was in Artworks, purchasing an adorable plastic table cloth for the trip. I may have to rough it but I will do it in style and with matching dish wares! I asked Kathy, who I know travels into Mexico with her family each year, what foods she would recommend, and in two words she summed up her menu: rice and beans. Of course she does soak and cook her own beans, but canned will work well, and both of these can be the basis for a substantial and filling meal. For variety, she says she sometimes serves beans and rice! She also recommends lots of wraps. That makes sense, because I know that anything can be put into a wrap and suddenly you have a meal. Potatoes and eggs are also good staples to keep on hand.
Carole Lemieux and her husband Andre took a 3-month boat trip to Alaska last year, and someone suggested that she could likely shed some more light on the boat-food thing. She was great. Stock up on canned and dried staples such as chili, soups and canned tomatoes. Take along lots of your favourite spices to vary the flavours of staples. Think “stews.” One thing she did mention that I hadn’t thought of was that while pasta may seem an ideal choice for a dried staple, it really takes too much water and too much cooking fuel to be practical. Stick to quicker cooking starches such as couscous and other noodles that only need to be immersed in hot water to soften. Cabbage (although this may not be a good idea if sleeping in a tiny cuddy with J), lemons, onions, garlic and potatoes all keep well, while lettuce and most other fresh produce will have to be used in the first few days. In their larger boat, they were able to keep produce stored close to the water-line where it is cooler. That won’t be as easy in our small boat. I have heard from several sources that finding good breads was nearly impossible in some of the small ports. Carole solved this by baking her own, but unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I don’t have an oven. I think that frozen tortillas and naan will do the trick for us, as well as packages of pumpernickel that you can find in the deli; they keep almost forever. Freeze meats well before packing and don’t forget the smoked oysters and smoked salmon. Obviously this is a woman who, like me, believes that there is always room for good taste even on an outdoor adventure.
Neil and Aileen from across the street have kept journals on their trips and Aileen read me some of her notes. The can-opener was mentioned here again… hmmm! Lots of water is important; they even freeze bottles of water to use as their freezer packs, so that they will have back-up. Aileen likes to take hard-boiled eggs, lots of canned meats, peanut butter, instant hot beverages, condensed milk and packaged soup mixed. She also will cook her meats before freezing them because they will last longer and also use up less fuel to prepare. Another good thought I would add to this would be to pre-marinate any meats in zip-lock bags before freezing: this will save time and mess later.
Almost everyone mentioned sun screen, bug repellent, a hat and a good book. You won’t enjoy even the most gourmet meal if you are burnt to a crisp and covered with bites.
I once watched a woman who had just
left the grocery store ahead of me, drive up to the
recycling bins in the parking lot, open up the back of her
van, and one-by-one remove all of the boxes from her
purchase and recycle them. I thought, “Now that is a great
idea!” So, wherever possible, I have already removed any
extra packaging so that I will have less garbage to deal
with later. I have also unpackaged and portioned out any
meats into ziplock bags to be frozen. For foods requiring
cooking instructions that I know I will never remember
later, I have used sticky labels and have written out brief
directions. That is my piece of advice to pass along to you.