The Boozephiles

 

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A year and some ago C said “We should try some cocktails.”

We said “Ok.”

She said we should take pictures. Maybe have a website.”

We said, “Uh…ok.” We are so articulate.

“She said “Try this…”

We did. It was good. And boozephiles.com was born. We also added @theboozephiles on Twitter and theboozephiles on Instagram. So once a week we gather, try a new cocktail and occasional make faces when it doesn’t suite the tastes, palatesor sensibilities of one of us.

That was 67 drinks ago and we are still going strong. So tag along if you want to discover some wonderful new concoctions or learn about some old ones. And let me know if you have any suggestions.

Sourdough Roundup

I mentioned the other day I was working on my sourdough skills. 

Loaf #3 looked like it was going to be a complete failure (no rising action, so I feared for the denouement…) so while I didn’t completely abandon it, I decided to start a new levain so I could try again on Sunday morning. Upon waking Sunday am, the first batch had risen magnificently so I shoved it in a hot oven and 40 minutes later I produced this:

But that left me with a fresh levain all puffed up and ready to go. So I decided to go ahead and make another loaf.

So I suppose a bit of background info and vocab is in order. Sourdough is made from a sourdough starter which is just flour and water that has been left out and fed regularly with more flour and water until it attracts enough of the natural yeasts in the air to start reacting without additional yeast. Once you have a good starter going you can store it in the fridge and feed it once a week or so (with flour and water) indefintiely. 

When you decide to make bread, you take the starter out, feed it up for a day or two or three (again, flour and water…getting the trend here?) to make sure it’s going again. Then take a tablespoon or two, add more flour and water and let it sit overnight. This gives you a levain which is what will go on to form your bread dough. The starter just goes back in the fridge until next time. The levain is then used, with even more flour and water, to form a wet dough which you allow to rise (this stage is called autolyse) for an hour or so. Then you add salt and go on to make the bread in a fairly traditional manner. It kills me that this stuff is, other than a tablespoon of salt, completely 100% just flour and water. Ain’t science cool.

The first loaf was a boule (round, french-type, bread thing) which I made in a preheated dutch oven, but for the second loaf I wanted to try something different. I decided to form it while it was rising and then stuffed it into my oven  — on parchment paper — using the proofing setting with a bunch of boiling water in pans. What do you know, 4 hours later the loaf had risen fairly well. I then moved it to a Staub casserole, scored the top (to let out the steam that causes a quick rise in the initial part of the baking) and popped it back into the oven at 475° or so.

 

Voila. The temps and cooking times varied and I will have to experiment a bit more to nail down the process but they both turned out fine. Loaf #1 had a bit more “sour” to the sourdough, but they say that happens when you let it rise longer.

Sourdough Experiments

A couple of weeks back I decide to try my hand at sourdough. In principle its pretty easy, but nothing is really all that easy when it comes to bread. 

After a few false starts I successfully got my starter to work. It’s pretty amazing what flour and water will do if you let it “fester.” Then I moved on to my first actual loaves. I will call them a tentative failure because although the final product was edible, it wasn’t in any way what it was supposed to be. Both loaves formed a hard crust when rising and then fell inside the crust. But I ate it anyway.

My next loaf was at Xmas and I used a slightly different technique and sealed the dough with clingwrap to keep the moisture in. This one worked out pretty damn good. I am not sure why.

Today I am working on attempt #3. I think I will let it rise overnight in the fridge and bake it tomorrow. I’ve got my fingers crossed…

Instagram This Week

Competitive food bank shopping! Annual donation all dropped off at Station 14. Time for some Tony’s Pizza...
Competitive food bank shopping! Annual donation all dropped off at Station 14. Time for some Tony’s Pizza…
The latest lead piece. #stainedglass #sailboats
The latest lead piece. #stainedglass #sailboats
Last minute colour change? #cantdecide #stainedglass #artistsdilemma
Last minute colour change? #cantdecide #stainedglass #artistsdilemma

October in the Gulf Islands

I had been bugging a buddy of mine to go sailing for years now and he finally managed to get a week off…in the middle of October! But what the hell, Never for Ever has a heater…

We also talked another old buddy into tagging along—this would be the first “road trip” we had taken since just after high school—exciting stuff. As I had previously mentioned neither had much experience on boats so I was a tad nervous about making sure everything was right.

The Cruise

I arrived early to make sure everything was ready and to sort through our stuff in storage for anything I wanted on our short cruise. I walked over and met Brian S (did I mention both my friends are named Brian?) at the Seaair terminal and and brought him back to introduce him to the boat. Then we grabbed the courtesy car and made a provisioning run.

The next afternoon Brian R arrived and we finished off the “last minute” (insert the word booze) provisioning and, since we had missed slack at Dodd’s, went out for dinner.

We did spend an hour or so running around on some last minute errands. We couldn’t find the sides of the enclosure (they were stuffed in a locker) and the bloody Webasto wouldn’t fire up. This turned out to be one of the  major flaws in my plan. The Webasto hadn’t been run since  May and something had gummed it up. We tried again and again through the trip to get it running but in the end we did it without any heat.

Day One

We were off the dock at 1159 and hit Dodds just before the 1350 slack with Brian R at the helm. A half dozen or so sea lions were frolicking and hunting in the current and a few of them seemed like they playing chicken with us as we squeezed through the narrows. It was a sunny calm day and there was no wind so we motored all the way to Pirates Cove and I let the crew maneuver us around the shoals and in through the narrow entrance.

Apparently my instructions were clear and coherent because the two Brians managed to drop the anchor and get us secured in the centre of the cove with no issues. We crowded aboard Laughing Baby (three grown men apparently take up a lot more space than just Leslie and I) and rowed ashore to hike around. Unfortunately it was close to high tide so we didn’t see much along the shoreline but had a nice tromp though the woods regardless.

Day Two

We were off the anchor by 0945 and after just a few miles the winds started to climb and we hauled out the sails. They stayed a steady 12-15 knots as we tacked back and forth down Plyades Channel and into Trincomali. My stalwart crew kept the sails up and we beat right past Reid Island and into Houston Passage.

Eventually our tacks were getting broader and broader and the wind was dying enough that our progress south was almost non-existent. So we reluctantly hauled in the sails and started up the motor. The winds did pick up again but by that time it was getting late and we just wanted to get into Ganges.

We tied up on B dock at the Ganges Marina right at 4:30 and  then headed into town to explore. There was some interest in real estate potential so we picked up some flyers and debated the pros and cons of living on Saltspring Island before heading to the Oystercatcher for dinner.

Day Three

It was another nice day as we cast off around 1130 hours and motored out of Ganges Harbour. An hour later with the Channel Islands just ahead we (I think it was Brian S) spotted a spout just ahead which we quickly identified as a pod of orca.

I took over the wheel and sent the crew forward with cameras rolling. For almost the next hour and half a pod of 8 or 9 orcas led the way as we rounded Beaver Point and headed to Portland Island. At one point they completely disappeared only to reemerge about 100 feet off our port side. Needless to say everyone was ecstatic. We didn’t lose sight of them until we angled away to head for Royal Cove and they seemingly headed into Fulford.

We stern tied in Royal Cove around 1400 and once again headed ashore to explore. A short walk took us the middens at Arbutus Point where poked around before heading back to the boat.

Day Four

It was slightly rainy as we raised the anchor and the winds were predicted to be up. We motored west as we wanted to catch the current up Sansum Narrows. All day the wind and waves built and we were treated to a pretty bouncy ride. Everyone seemed ok with motion (which was a relief). Eventually we had 20–25 knot winds from behind as we cleared the narrows into Stuart Channel. We decided to head for Telegraph hHarbour and I called ahead just make sure they were open.

What I failed to asked them was what services they still had. Because we had all been talking about a hot shower and it turns out they had turned the water off and the showers and toilet facilities were all closed. Bummer.

And in all the rain we had been having all day I discovered that what had been, 6 months ago, a small intermittent leak from somewhere near the mast was now a raging torrent. We cleverly rigged up some string to direct the water into a bucket which allowed me to sleep in the salon and stay relatively dry. In case you are wondering I had left the tarp in the storage unit (why on earth would I need that for just 5 days…) and yes, the leak is now fixed in time for winter.

 

Day Five

The weather was better when we cast off the next morning and headed for early slack at Dodds. The plan had been to spend the last night at anchor in Nanaimo Harbour, but the winds were predicted to build from the south and some of the crew were jonesing for a hot shower. So we headed to the fuel dock instead (Brian S successfully  bringing us alongside) and then tied up in our slip for the last night.

The aftermath

The next day Brian S caught his flight out and Brian R and I cleaned up the boat and stored our gear. The plan had been for us to fly out by Seair the next morning but a fog set in and Seair wasn’t guaranteeing the flights would go on time. We ended up cancelling our flight and hopping on the ferry. It turns out our flight did go but by that time we were already at YVR waiting to fly back to Edmonton.

All in all it was a great, albeit rushed trip. The lack of heater wasn’t too much of an issue but something to keep in mind for next time. The leak was a bit more of an issue, but who could predict after such a long dry summer. And I successfully managed my first cruise with new crew. Hey, maybe I am good at this…

A static version of the map for prosperity:

 
—Bruce #Cruising

Where we’ve been

I realize I owe everyone at least a summary of our October sailing trip, but I haven’t managed to sit down and write it up. What I did manage to do was start thinking about next year and places we haven’t visited yet. Which brought me to thinking of all the places we have.

So I made a map. This includes everyplace we have visited by boat since 2013. Most have been on board Never for Ever, but some also include the destinations visited when cruising on Northwest Passage II, Shearwater, Ocean Pearl and Santé.

(I’ve included a static version of this map below in case my Google Map ever goes kablooie)

What’s remarkable about this is the number of places we have left to see. There is a lifetime of cruising just around Vancouver Island and yet we still have all of Puget Sound to explore and then north all the way up to Alaska. After that, who knows…there is always the big left hand turn south to Mexico.

I find it so amazing that so many other boaters we have talked to haven’t been to half this number of spots but are comfortable visiting the same old places. But then again I suppose they haven’t been blessed with the kind of time off we’ve managed to take or the blessing oft he cruising buddies we’ve had along the way. So much to see…


—Bruce #Cruising

I’ve Got New Crew

So the good news is that that Never for Ever has been booked for charter pretty steadily this season. The bad news is that if I want to go cruising again in 2017 it will have to wait until October. But what the hell, how cold could it be… 😉

And, since Leslie is back at work (although ironically it looks like she will be in Minnesota at a conference when I head out), I had to do some recruiting for crew. After some pleading, couple of old friends volunteered. These are guys I have known since high school, but the last time we travelled together was a highjinx-filled attempt to drive to Vancouver for a weekend from southern Alberta. And one of them is the guy who ostensibly taught me to sail, albeit in Lasers and on a lake. The other, as far as I know, isn’t much of a water person.

New Crew

Passenger or crew?

This will be the first time I have headed out on a cruise with a) someone other than Leslie and b) an all n00b crew, and that has me thinking a bit about what cruising my own boat with new crew entails. My conclusions? Well, for one thing, I have to up my game. I can no longer rely on having a familiar and trusted partner to consult and double-check my decisions. Leslie and I have learned to sail together and, although I technically have more qualifications (at least on paper), she has been there throughout the process, learning at her own pace. The result is our cruising status quo has always been more of a partnership than the traditional hierarchical captain/crew arrangement.

The original team.

With new crew the balance of responsibility shifts completely onto my shoulders. Back when we did a lot of rock climbing, we once hired climbing guides to take us up the apron on the Squamish Chief and I asked my guide (from the most excellent Squamish Rock Guides) how he could trust us as unknowns to belay him up the mountain. His reply was that he essentially had to be confident that he could climb it solo. Looking ahead, I think that this is going to be true  for me as well. Sure it will be nice to have help, but I am going to have to be able to do all the main operations by myself and then really work on my communication skills so I can transmit expectations and be confident that we are all safe. And that starts with a little review of what to expect when you are expecting (to cruise). We have previously done up a Boat Briefing Checklist for passengers, so that takes care of the basics. And the point of this post is to serve as a review of any other factors that I need to consider.

Skill Sets

So what are the minimum skills I expect from crewmember? And which ones will I actually need? A lot of my reading has stressed the difference between passengers and crew. I’ve had passengers before and expected them to do very little other than avoid clogging the head. But I have always had crew and I am not sure I am up to sailing solo in any but the most benign conditions. And October in the Salish Sea always has the possibility of some “interesting” weather.

So I started the specific skills I might take for granted. Thinking about it — and going back through my Competent Crew workbook — I concluded there were only a few really important ones that I either need to teach or ensure are done correctly.

Remember when we didn’t know what one of these was!

And number one skill will be knot tying and line handling. Because if I want to complete the trip with things like fenders, tenders and fingers intact, I am going to have to have faith in how lines are handled and made fast. For me the three main knots are the clove hitch (fenders and tying up to bull rails), the round turn with two half hitches (fenders and general securing of things like the dinghy) and a cleat hitch (self-evidently for attaching things to cleats). In the case of any stressful dockings or moorings, I might not have time to double check everyone’s knots so it would be good to be confident that nothing gets loose right when it shouldn’t.

Flaking and storing lines is also important although I can always find time to do that myself later. I do think it is important to communicate the difference between coiling and properly flaking. When were climbing, a properly stored line often was literally a matter of life and death, but most people tend to be pretty casual about handling “rope.”

In the end, it’s not the actual sailing I worry about because I have been conscientious enough to take the time to learn to do most things solo (although now that I think of it, I haven’t practiced reefing by myself). It’s docking, anchoring and basic seamanship that have always up to now been two person operations.

Ah docking. Is it a skill or a procedure? Leslie and I have a great system and although we can switch up the roles (and often do when it’s straight forward), when conditions are challenging as with a strong current or wind, I man the helm and she takes care of securing us to the dock. With new crew, lines and fenders can be set well in advance so that’s not an issue and we can talk through the steps and let everyone know what to expect before approaching a dock. And I don’t anticipate going into a strange marina, so I should know the general layout of anywhere we are likely to stop. But will my new crew know what to do once we are alongside?

One issue/skill set which we should probably practice before we leave the dock will be dealing with bull rails. Here in the PNW, marinas generally have rails running the length of the docks for boats to tie up to rather than cleats. Most often these consist of a 4×4 rail that is supported 4 inches off the dock every 8 feet or so. When tying up you generally wrap your line around the rail and tie off with a clove hitch. It’s easy to do with practice, but can look a wee bit gordian if you don’t understand what the lines are doing.

That’s a knot?

If you are called on by the skipper to secure a line quickly (indicted on our boat by the instruction to “take a wrap”), the thing to do is wrap the dock line over the top of the rail, tuck it under the gap and over the top again. That gives you enough friction to  stop the boat if necessary but is still easy enough to slacken or cast off again if necessary.

Competent Crew? Competent Captain?

But there’s the rub, how do I ensure my new line handlers know when things are necessary? Some of my most hilarious hijinks on a dock have been when someone secured a line and I lost control of my own boat. Shudder.

Good communication should take care of that but that’s on me. I have been informed that I have a bad habit of mumbling and assuming people can read my mind. In a high-stress docking situation that habit just might be a bit of an issue.

So we will go over the various procedures of docking and undocking, anchoring and weighing anchor, and general boat handling before hand. Doing it out loud should also reinforce it for me and remind me that I can’t assume anything, which I think is the biggest danger I am going to face. Thankfully I’m not proud and have been known to radio ahead and let the marina know just how incompetent we are so we can have plenty of theoretically competent people on dock to help out. If we take things slow and easy and avoid those rare docking situations where “gusto” is called for we (I) should do ok.

Anchoring is another thing I have never attempted solo although I know its theoretically possible. I intend to review the steps, maybe even write down the math and make sure we review  each time we approach an anchorage. They say that the most dangerous time in  learning any skill is when you have achieved unconscious competency…that’s when you get complacent.

 

Sailing Away

Hopefully there will be wind. It would be nice to get in a couple of good sails and nothing gets people working together like beating into the wind, tacking back and forth. Plenty of repetitive actions and a little excitement to get the adrenaline flowing. I am looking forward to some good times.


Competent Crew 101

Things to review either before we leave the dock or before actually attempting:

  • Basic safety orientation (see Briefing Checklist)
  • The running rigging
  • The sails (roller furling jib and mainsail)
  • Reefing
  • Knots & line handling
  • Winches
  • Line handling dockside
  • Points of sail
  • Gybing & the boom
  • Windlass operation
  • MOB 2.0
  • VHF & distress signals
  • Dinghy & outboard
  • Basic chart reading and buoyage
  • Tides and tidal rapids
  • Basic terminology (port & starboard, etc.)
  • Using the engine
  • Fueling

What the hell is all that?


—Bruce #Cruising