Wednesday, September 9, 2009

10 Things we learned this time.

Every time we have to get up and catch the 6.30am ferry from Horseshoe Bay, we wonder why we didn't book on the 8.30am sailing. However, we didn't, so Friday we heaved ourselves out of bed at 4am, packed the cooler boxes, left home at 5.30am and headed off to The Republic. Not so easy hitching the boat to the truck in the dark (lesson #1). Thus far it's been light when we've left. Note to self: get Nev to put in light on lower parking spot. B&B will need it duing 2010 Olympics anyway.

This time we did a tailgate breakfast with the usual B&B leftover buttermilk biscuits (signature item at The Tree House) and as usual with the new ferries we were stuck among all the overheight/overlengths ie 18 wheelers, buses and RVs. The whole Lions Bay Climate Action Task Force volunteer experience has had me quite frustrated lately (see my post title Green Volunteer Grouch) so I have to say I wasn't quite in vacation mode at that point. I was also pretty sleep-deprived, what with a sleepless night during the thunder storm, a late night packing the night before, and two very early starts. I can be quite miserable when I'm that tired (no comments, Nev).

In fact, I don't think I started unwinding until about 2 days later: unusual, for sure. But we'll get there.

We got to Gorge Harbour Marina on Cortes Island in the early afternoon as planned and managed to set up camp before the rain started. For the record, it didn't stop except for a couple of watery sunny patches, and it's still raining if it's anything like the weather here in Lions Bay today. We got The First in the water at high tide - perfect timing for us, around 6pm. They only charged us $5 to launch when it should be $8 and we told them so. Lesson #2: it's not worth trying to pay more when someone wants you to pay less. Just pay the $5 even though you are not in a kayak.
We went back to our little campsite, which looked more like a squatter camp by now, what with tarp for outdoor BBQ area etc strung up. We were the only tent there.

I had prepacked and frozen chicken pieces in various marinades, and we chose to BBQ my tandoori chicken, with rice and curried chickpeas I'd made a few days before the trip. Yum. (Recipes at end of this posting specially for Julie.) Those prepacked meat packs worked really well (lesson #3 - do it again).

Got to bed early and slept late because we had a so much rain and even a bit of wind. The sun came out and so did the deer that wander around the camp site eating the little green apples that fall from trees that were probably part of the original orchard.

Decided to go check on The First, but it didn't seem likely we'd be going anywhere given the weather at Gorge Harbour, which is on the west of the island. However, Squirrel Cove was a whole other story: we just had to go over to The Republic. Lesson #4: when camping, always apply sunscreen, because you never know when you're going to be spending time outdoors! Although I didn't get burnt badly; no sting even, just a little heat.

It was so amazing to be back on our piece of paradise. I do so love the ocean when it's battleship grey, everything's a little desolate, and the cries of the eagles and the gulls sound completely forlorn...

We unloaded the siding to above the highwater mark, but then it started raining again, so we headed back to the government dock. One thing about an aluminum hull is that it's a rough ride when there's a swell of any kind. Kinda fun though; every 7th wave is a big drop like a funfair ride.

That night it thundered and lightninged like crazy, which Yukon did not enjoy one bit, although he was as always very well behaved. I got him to lie next to me, which happened to be where we had a few minor drips in the tent, mainly because the fly sheet doesn't cover the 2 sides where the "windows" are. All in all, the tent held out really well. Every now and then a little waterfall would fall off the "portico", as we jokingly call it: the little entryway where we store the cooler boxes. It's not water proof, and unfortunately that's where Nev left his hiking boots so they got completely waterlogged (lesson #5 - keep boots inside tent).
After all the rain and storm we'd had, it was amazing to arrive at Squirrel Cove on Sunday to see the sea as smooth and silvery as as taffeta, hardly a breeze to be found (lesson #6: the weather differs from spot to spot on the island). But we could see the weather moving in from the southeast, so we knew the trip to The Republic would a quick one. All we did was carry the packs of siding to the site of the shed and make sure the tarp was still firmly in place for the winter. I have to admit, the site we've picked for the bunky is truly sheltered from the worst winter winds, because it's on the northwest side of the lot. We will definitely have to take the dock around there for winter storage.

Yukon seems to have taken to the boat in a big way. He climbed onto the bow and sniffed the wind like a wolf. It was hard to believe this was the dog who wouldn't get in a car when we got him. Lesson #7: it can be done!

Sunday night we BBQ'ed again under our tarp. In the rush to leave The Tree House, I ran out of time to cut herbs from the garden and take them with us. I usually put them in our veggie packs. Although I have to say, lemon juice with our "French condiments" (see pic) is always a pretty good combination.
Monday morning we had to admit we weren't getting any work done and sitting in the tent was making Nev antsy. I was quite happy reading my trashy novel, or as Kate calls it, "modern women's literature" (the industry calls it "chick lit"). I actually got through the entire 3" book in the trip, for the record.
Given that poor Yukon had been damp for days - and he doesn't like getting his hair wet! - we decided to use the morning's sunny spell, our 30% non-rain in a day Environment Canada said had a 70% chance of rain, to pack up and book into Cortes Island Motel (they take dogs) and move our ferry booking forward from Thursday evening to Tuesday evening. We had to phone the weather line because everything internet on the island got wiped out in the storms, first Telus then Twincom. Lesson #8: go for the satellite internet option on The Republic.
The motel option gave Yukon a chance to dry out, at least. BBQ'ed again though, best meal of the trip, and then Tuesday hopped in the ferry line-up at Whaletown. Yukon had a wonderful time with another large dog - everyone stood around smiling at the 2 of them charging up and down the road. Socialised with everyone as usual and I was sooo sad to be leaving... it would be so nice to be able to STAY. I didn't listen to a single newscast (couldn't anyway) or see a newspaper in all the time we were there and it didn't bug me at all. For the first time since being in SA in 2006, it didn't bother me at all. (I felt so isolated while in SA, when I came home I became news-obsessed, watching CBC, CNN, some BBC and both local channels almost all day long. I'm sure this is not good.)
Made it to Campbell River no problems - had a great chat with Gordon from Cranbrook in the CR lineup - and had a wicked lunch of fish and chips (the only time we don't call them fries). For the record, they let us take Yukon on the patio with us!
On the road to Nanaimo it became clear we'd be there way earlier than our 7pm sailing reservation, so we called to switch to the 5pm sailing. Lesson #9: you have to make the change at least 2 1/2 hours before your booking, which we missed by 30 minutes. But it was a charmed trip - they put on an extra sailing due to the volumes and we were put on the 4pm sailing, among the normal size cars, which means we were on an open parking deck WITH VIEWS!
Somewhere between the sound of the rain on the tent in the dark, the mindless storyline of abovementioned book and the gentle rhythm of Cortes, I came to the decision that life is too short to let things like the aggravations of getting involved in Lions Bay grind one down (lesson #10, and the biggest lesson learned this trip) and that I would resign from the LB CATF. However, I'll stick with Lighthouse for now and see how things progress.
I also found a focus for moving forward with something interior design-related and we'll have to see how that unfolds. It involves making some money, which is good. Truth be told, I'm quite excited about it. As a start I'm having lunch with my friend Barb from school. I think together we can hatch some plans, whatever they might be.
Tandoori Chicken Recipe
Skinless chicken thighs (choose how many you need)
About 1 C plain yoghurt (no-fat if you like, and you might need more if you're doing a lot of chicken)
2 T Curry paste or more (I found a great Tandoori one in the store, but I think curry powder would also work)
Some fresh chopped garlic (one or two cloves)
Mix everything and marinade chicken thighs overnight or longer. You can even freeze the chicken in the marinade (my fave trick) so it marinades while defrosting.
BBQ until cooked, basting as you go. We are going to try this on a piece of foil until cooked, then put on grill to char because the chicken dries out easily if you're not careful.
You can also cook in the oven at 400 degrees F on a rack on a baking tray, turning once, until cooked. Then raise the shelf so the chicken is closer to the grill and grill until slightly charred. I did this and next time I will not use a rack until I get to the grilling part.
Curried Chick Peas (can be served warm or at room temp)
You can use canned chick peas, but I soak dried chick peas overnight and cook in pressure cooker with salt till cooked but intact. You need to have enough water in the pot to cover the peas plus a little and I cook them with only one ring showing for about 22 minutes.
Drain chick peas and for around 2C of CP's, add 2t curry powder, about 1/4 of a largish onion, chopped very finely, plus about 1/4 of a large red bell pepper, also finely chopped. Check seasoning (salt and freshly ground black pepper) and mix. I have also used my own curry spice blend that I got years back from my friend Shads (top secret). You could also add finely chopped garlic if you're not dating :) and if you have fresh cilantro, one of my favourite herbs, add that, too.
You can serve immediately, but as with all curry dishes, keeping it in the refrigerator for a couple of days improves the flavour. It's a great dish to take to BBQs because you can prep it beforehand and it's not expensive, so you can scale it up to suit the number of guests you have.
Also good mixed with white basmati rice as a side dish to a curry.
NOTE: the formatting is bloody awful, I know, but I've been fiddling with it for a while and nothing is working so I'm publishing this now so I can start cooking dinner!

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