Sunday, September 21, 2014

BC Lighthouses

Beacons of hard work and commitment

Lighthouses have always fascinated me...withstanding weather and waves, lighting the way for many seafarers, doesn't that seem grand, heroic and a bit romantic?
As we prepared for our "explore BC tour" I knew we would hit the coast and I started to research which lighthouses would be on or near our route.
In my research I stumbled over Donald Graham's books, which drew me into a completely different world:"The fact that the men and women who came before us [the light keepers] to this life were among the most ill-used in all of Canada's long and troubled labour history, who knew real hunger, deprivation and despair as constant companions in the absence of any others, who contemplate and sometimes carried out the ultimate escape from their nightmarish existence subtract nothing from their marvelous sacrifice."[1] Now that doesn't quite sound that romantic anymore.
But after reading his books I got even more interested and so I "collected" as many Lighthouses as I could on our trip.
Each of the following lighthouses has a rich history. Sometimes entertaining, sometimes cruel. To tell all the stories I read would be way beyond the scope of this blog, so I just picked some interesting tid bits.
I will list all my resources at the end for further reading.

Since the location of the lighthouses in most parts reads like:" Situated on Robb Point on Surf Inlet this light guides into the entrance of Seaforth Channel when moving across Milbanke Sound." [3], and since I'm quite confident that only a very few will actually know where that would be, I highly recommend this google map that a genius lighthouse fan created if you would like to know the exact location of any of the below lighthouses:
Lighthouses of British Columbia

The first two lighthouses we saw on the ferry from Tsawassen to Swarzt Bay (aka from Vancouver, to Vancouver Island)

This is the Active Pass (est. 1885) lighthouse. Above how we saw it and below how it looked in it's early days. Quite a change....On our way through all the little islands it became quite clear why lighthouses are needed. The fog was wafting in and out at all times. Strong riptides and narrow clearance made this busy waterway a treacherous one before Active Pass was established.

From "Lights of the Inside Passage" by Donald Graham

Portlock Point Lighthouse was established soon afterwards in 1896. Low lying rocks in the area were feared in the times before Portlock Point.  One of the most scenic ones we saw but..."Today, thousands of visitors view the diminutive lighthouse on Prevost Island as they comfortably slip past the Portlock Point aboard a ferry, but most will remain ignorant of the pain, suffering, and death that occurred at this seemingly peaceful outpost."[2]

The following lighthouses are on Vancouver Islands coast. The closest one to Victoria is Trial Island (est 1906). Trial Island is one of the few BC lighthouses that survived the governments de-staffing program. It might have helped that a watchful light keeper as recently as 2009 saved 5 capsized kayakers by informing the coast guard.

Trial Island's original Fresnel lens, that was used until 1970 stands now in front of the Maritime Museum in Victoria.

Next stop: Fort Rodd and Fisgard National Historic Site, location of the oldest lighthouse in BC, Fisgard. Fisgard lighthouse got automated as soon as 1928. Time took it's toll but after it was declared a historic site 1960, Parks Canada restored the lighthouse in the 70s and early 80s to it's former Victorian style looks.

In 2009 followed another renovation and now it is a real gem.

Window details

the old staircase, unfortunately closed to the public...

and a closer look of the lantern room

Sheringham Point lighthouse (est 1912) was a bit off our path, but well worth the detour.
It's on Vancouver Islands west coast overlooking the Juan de Fuca with great views of the Olympic mountain range.

To get to the lighthouse one needs to walk through a little forest with hundreds of blackberry bushes. Our timing couldn't have been better....;-)
With it's "mainland" location and so close to Victoria, Sheringham Point was a favorite place to work for the light keepers. One daughter of the last light keeper liked it so much that she got married in the lantern room with 16 people attending in 1976.
Sheringham Point got de-staffed in 1989.

Dryad Point Lighthouse (est 1899) was the first lighthouse we saw on our journey along the Inside Passage. The first one we should have seen, Addenbrook, was so completely fogged in we couldn't even catch a glance. Located close to Bella-Bella and with a lot of First Nation heritage it's no surprise that the first light keeper was a First Nation decedent "Rainbow" Carpenter. And he was not only the first, he also held this job the longest, for 31 years!

Due to it's rather isolated and exposed location, Ivory Island lighthouse saw quite a few light keepers since it got established in 1898. To demonstrate just how rough the weather can be there I would like to quote what light keeper Sweers wrote on Christmas 1981:
 "Our only indication that we were “over our heads” came when the outer door to the radio room filled entirely with white sea water.
For a second the door seemed to resist – then the dam burst, flooding sea water and debris into the kitchen pantry, basement, living room and cistern. Neither keeper was injured by flying glass, even though I had bare feet and fled the room while it was still awash.
Andrew [Findlay] followed abruptly, since the same wave in uprooting small trees and severing larger limbs had stripped the radio room roof bare of shingles.
With an outer kitchen window shattered, we moved back into the safety of another room, but were again interrupted while ebbing the flow of water.
There is no way of knowing whether the 32-foot metal tower was knocked down by the same wave or one succeeding it, yet the DCB 10 main light shone [its] search beam hard through the living room windows for several minutes before burning out. In the confusion I had briefly mistaken it to be the beam from a ship driven off course by the storm."

The last lighthouse on our journey through the passage was Boat Bluff (1931), safe guarding the very narrow Tolmie Channel with fast flowing tidal currents. The average weather at Boat Bluff sounds really tempting: "Boat Bluff gets more rain during the summer than any other British Columbia ligthstation, and during the dark winters, it is constant rain, snow, and then more rain."...;-)

And just to proof this right Boat Bluff disappeared before our eyes into a fog so dense it was almost a drizzle.


"Keepers of the Light" by Donald Graham [1]
"Lights of the Inside Passage" by Donald Graham [2]
Map of Lighthouses of BC
"Points of interest along the Inside Passage" BC Ferries brochure [3]

Friday, September 19, 2014

September Conservation Tip

It's that time of the year again, it's time for

What it is all about?

To raise awareness how much processed food we are eating, Andrew Wilder, author of the "Eating Rules" blog, came up with the idea to cut out any processed food, starting with three simple rules:
  1. When you eat grains, eat only 100% whole grains.
  2. Don’t eat high fructose corn syrup.
  3. Don’t eat hydrogenated oils, trans fats, or anything that’s been deep-fried
That was 2009...
A year later, in October 2010 he tried again, this time trying to get more people to join him by taking the pledge: October Unprocessed. 415 joined him.

In October 2011 over 3000 took the pledge. It was my first year to sign up and it changed our eating habits quite a bit...annoyed comment of our son: "Why don't we have any junk food in our pantry anymore?" 

October 2012 saw more than 6000 taking the pledge!

Last year, October 2013, 15.500 people took the pledge!!!

Can we beat this in 2014? Let's try.

Here is all you need to know:

To learn more about Andrew and his mission, check out his blog:


Ready to take the pledge?

Take the pledge

Want to follow along?

eatingrules on facebook

Need support and/or want to communicate with like-minded folk?
Join the facebook group:

October Unprocessed 2014 facebook group 

This is the fourth time now that I'm taking the pledge. In these years our eating habits have changed quite a bit. To the point that the challenge is ALMOST no challenge anymore.
There is one food item though, I'm really fond of although I know it's not good for me, the one item that makes October Unprocessed a real challenge for me. I can hear my family and friends murmuring the name while they read this, they know's.....Nutella....

And you can't make home made Nutella, right? That's what I thought until a friend suggested searching the internet for a recipe....I really didn't think there was a good tasting recipe out there, but the Brown Eyed Baker proofed me wrong. 

Here the recipe slightly adapted but with all the credit going to the Brown Eyed Baker:

The ingredient list is surprisingly short

You will need:

2 cups of  hazelnuts
1 cup of powdered sugar or 3/4 cup of liquid honey
1/3 cup of Dutch processed (or any other unsweetened) cocoa powder 
2 tablespoon hazelnut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon of salt, sounds strange, but don't omit it 

all my ingredients are organic, but that's just me. I could not find hazelnut oil in any store so I ordered it online, quite pricey but you won't need much.

How to:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spread the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 6 to 10 min. I usually shake them up a bit half way through. You need to watch them, every oven is different, my first try burnt.....
Once roasted give the nuts in a glass bowl

Now comes the tedious part...once the nuts cooled down sufficiently to be handled, cover the bowl and shake it, hard...until the skin around the nuts loosens.
Pick out the "clean" ones and put them in the food processor. Repeat with the remaining nuts. Once you done it should look like that:

Time to let the food processor work. Let it run for a few minutes, until the hazelnuts release their oil and the nuts are transformed into a smooth paste.

Once that stage is achieved add all the remaining ingredients. If you are using honey instead of sugar make sure the honey is liquid and add it to the running food processor.

Let the processor run for a few more minutes until the paste becomes loose and shiny.

That's it. It will make about 1 1/2 cups and stores well in a mason jar. It does not need to be refrigerated and regarding to the Brown Eyed Baker it should be good for a month....I can't vouch for that because it never gets to be that old in our house...;-)

Now enjoy it on a home made bread with home made butter and you are ready for October Unprocessed 2014!

Yes, I will admit, it's not 100% like the "real" Nutella, but it comes pretty close and the hazelnut aroma comes out even better than in Nutella. The consistency is a bit coarser. To make it smoother I tried honey, which gives it a slightly different taste and does not change the consistency much. I just like honey better than sugar.