Just a few pics for now…here we are boarding the Viking Princess at 3 am. Chris taking a turn and making some good tracks. Out of order…but had to post a bit. Still stoked and proud of the Crazy Cannucks. It wasn’t pretty but we got it done!
It’s go time already! We’ve been to check out our boat and will make our swim bid starting early this morning!
Three years in the planning and training preparation have come down to one week before our swim window of July 26 to August 1 where, fingers crossed, the Crazy Canucks will don goggles and approved “swim costumes” and take turns launching ourselves into the salty drink so one of us get plant our feet in France. My pulse is racing as I type this in the mixture of excitement and trepidation that accompanies all crazy schemes like this.
John, Chris, Charlie, Janet, Jaime, Elaine (me) and alternate Al are the Crazy Canucks. We arrive in Dover on Sunday and then wait for the call from our boat pilot Reg Brickell that the weather is favourable for our attempt. We head out on Reg’s boat…the Viking Princess and I take a quick swim and then clamber on a rocky shore to the high water mark on a Dover beach and with the sound of a horn we are off. Al and Chris (Janet’s husband) will help us as Reg, his brother Ray and an English Channel Observer coax us on as we take our hour turns avoiding ships, jellyfish and seasickness (good drugs and good wishes).
Collectively we have many fears but our biggest is that we end up in England and the weather gods conspire against us and we go home without dipping a toe in the Channel. Long-term forecast is looking pretty good to me although I’m not sure what wind speeds are safe to swim in… The sea temperature is 16.7 C (62.1 F) today which is not too bad considering the 12 degrees we braved in May.
Here are some Qs and As from team members as the countdown begins…
How does this rank on your life achievement scale?
Jaime — Ironically, when I was young, I got stuck on my grey Red Cross badge as I could never complete the continuous swim. Who knew I’d ever be swimming across the English Channel? Not to take anything away from my marathons and triathlons but the swimming takes the cake. I took adult learn-to-swim lessons in my late 20s and for a long time dreaded the swim portion of my triathlons.
Janet — This would be number one on my life athletic achievement scale. I never would have thought I would be involved in anything like this — not in my wildest dreams! I have had to overcome a lot mentally to get this far but with Elaine’s and my Chris’ support I believe I am ready although the butterflies are certainly there.
Do you dream about it?
Charlie — Hard to dream about it when I can’t sleep worrying (freaking out) about it. Yes I am sick of swimming but I do use the time to plan mental strategies on how to get over hurdles that I anticipate. As of now, my theory is that the water is too cold for jelly fish and no matter how cold I get swimming, I know I will get colder when I get out of the water and so far, I have always warmed up eventually. Waves are just waves, roller coasters of the sea.
As scared to death as I am, I refuse to think of failing. We can do this! I committed to my sister that next year I will be normal again…..so, don’t anyone talk me into anymore crazy shit, ELAINE!
Why do we humans need to do this shit?
Chris — I honestly believe that “normal” life has become too easy/boring/humdrum and we need to find something to scare the shit out of ourselves to get a rush. This ought to do it! (Editor — yup)
Why do this?
John — I’ve always been fascinated by the English Channel. I’m a bit of a history buff and there’s a personal connection with Isabel’s father having landed at D-Day with the Canadian Scottish regiment. I’ll be thinking of that on our swim day. The channel was viewed as a barrier to overcome – initially, for Hitler’s plans for invading England and then subsequently the immense challenge of conducting the Allied landings at the Normandy beaches.
Chris — I have always viewed swimming the English Channel as a great challenge taken on by very dedicated, driven folks and never dreamed that I would be able to have such a unique experience. I would not have organized such an opportunity myself so I feel very fortunate to have been included in this group of Crazy Canucks.
Share your innermost fears with us.
John — I’m a bit worried how my body will respond to the colder water. I’m not the most flexible guy and I’ve noticed that my back gets “tight” in cold water. Add that to the list of “things” !!
Elaine — I feel responsible for dreaming up this scheme and want an all’s well that ends well scenario. I hope we all have a great day out there and that one of us has the privilege of touching a French beach. I can’t even think of the possibility of trying to convince five people to have to try this again if we don’t get the call from Reg that we are good to go. It would be a bonus if we are all still friends afterwards as well.
Some random quotes…
“Acupuncture is my friend,” Janet.
“I’m back and forth between thinking this is the coolest thing ever and wondering what the hell I’ve gotten myself into,” Jaime.
“Because it challenges us to push ourselves. Because it scares us. Because we can say WTF, let’s do it! Make it so. And so it was,” Chris.
“Are we there yet?” Elaine
“Next sport I choose will have more clothing involved and less cold…” Elaine
“I dream of octopus,” Janet
“I will be dedicating this swim to my mom and to my life buddy Chris,” Janet
“My swim is for Al and our kids,” Elaine
“Swimming for Ian and Ella,” Jaime
“I will be thinking about people who cannot do something like this. I’ll think about family members and team members,” Chris
In a karma exchange I acquired 30 pounds of the most beautiful sour cherries known to man from Forest Green Man Lavender Farm in Naramata. I started some white lavender from cuttings for the farm in the spring and traded for these coveted puckery babies. The farm takes names every year for these Balatons, which originally hailed from Hungary, and they sell out. The catch, which really wasn’t a catch at all, was I had to pick them myself.
Then it got messy. Hot tip…wear something red.
I made four pie fillings and froze them and then went on a jam-a-thon with a recipe that couldn’t be any easier. After pitting all the cherries they went into two large pots. I added the zest and juice of two fresh lemons to each pot and cooked them until wilted and soft, which takes about 20 minutes.
At this point, measure how many cups of cherries you have, including the juice and add them back into the pots with 3/4 cup of sugar per each cup of cherries. I added a dash of Kirsch to each pot as well because more cherry flavour is cherrier and one package of pectin crystals. The jam may have jammed without the pectin but I didn’t want to take any chances.
While the cherries are cooking, stick a small plate in the freezer to use to test the doneness of the jam. Remain on alert and stir often. Once the jam appears a bit thick and looks like it is beginning to gel put a small amount of the jam on the frozen plate and return to the freezer. After a few minutes, when you nudge it if it wrinkles, it’s done. If not, cook it some more and re-test…
Load your jam into sterilized jars. You can either decided to store your jam in the fridge and use it up within several months or boil it in a canner for 10 minutes, which I did as it’s pretty hard to use 24 jars in a few months. No half measures here.
Adding fresh lime and ginger zings up the blueberries in this summer sorbet in the most amazing way. You need a bit of technology to make this one…a blender and an ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker I highly recommend getting one. There are a million ice cream and sorbet recipes to choose from and it’s easier to make than you can imagine.
Makes 8 1/2 cup servings.
Add all ingredients to a blender and liquefy about 2 minutes until the mixture reaches a deep purple colour. Refrigerate for about 2 hours until cool. Taste and add more sugar if you desire but I like it a bit tart so didn’t add any more sugar.
Follow the instructions of your ice cream maker. Run the ice cream maker for 20 to 25 minutes — until the sorbet thickens to soft serve consistency.
Transfer to a container and freeze for 4 hours or overnight. Scoop and serve.
My first step was to pick. Your’s may be to pick up a couple of pints at a farmer’s market or the grocery store.
This recipe involves three steps: The pastry, a gourmet crumble and the blueberries and cream filling.
For the pastry I elected to use a Pâte Brisée, which is a wonderful flaky pie dough that works well as a dough to line tart shells. Although there are many methods to make it either by hand, with a mixer or a food processor, I find the later is the easiest.
Ingredients for pastry dough
Combine salt and flour in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the butter in cubes and pulse after each small batch. Add the water and mix only until the dough comes together. It is important not to over-mix. Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, flatten and place in the refrigerator for at least a few hours or preferably overnight.
Roll out the dough, place into your tart pan, perforate the bottom of the dough with the tines of a fork and blind bake. Preheat the oven to 325 F and top the pastry with parchment and add rice or beans all the way to the edges. Bake with this faux filling for 15 minutes, the remove the rice or beans and return the shell to the oven for another 15 minutes until golden brown and evenly coloured. Remove from oven and cool completely before filling. Just before assembly, brush the tart shell with an egg wash (1 egg beaten with a tablespoon of water) and bake for 5 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Cut the butter into pieces and place all the ingredients in a bowl and rub the mixture between your hands. Spread on the parchment-lined baking sheet and bake 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp. Cool completely. Store left-overs in the freezer for future use on ice cream or muffins.
Ingredients for blueberry filling
In a saucepan, combine the blueberries and 1 teaspoon of the sugar and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and boil for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the lemon juice, water and cornstarch in a bowl and gradually stir into the berries and simmer 1 minute until thickened. If the juice is still watery and another 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch in a tablespoon of the juice and stir in. Remove from heat when thickened.
Use a paring knife and split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a medium bowl. Add the egg yolk and remaining sugar and whisk together. Add the milk and cream and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the blueberries and take a moment to celebrate the colour.
Some assembly required
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Sprinkle about 6 tablespoons of the crumble in an even layer over the bottom of the pre-baked tart shell. Spread the blueberry filling on top. Place on a sheet pan and bake 30 to 40 minutes until just set. If you shake the pan gently, the middle will jiggle a bit under the surface until it cools, when it will firm up. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Sift on some icing sugar if you like. We served our’s with whipped cream.
2. You learn a ton about your fellow harvesters and harvesting with interesting, smart people with great stories is an antidote to 34 degree heat. Topics of conversation, in no particular order, included: Naramata gossip, farming, football, antique shopping in France, tai chi, swimming, children, pesticide practices, recipes, American politics, British politics, writing, travel, sciatica, tendonitis, knee replacements, house renovation, recipes, cherries, bee hives, ski instructing, mountain guiding, tragic accidents, cycling, triathlon, the English Channel, ancestry, dogs, raspberry farming, wine, helicopters, fire fighting, the olympics, compost, lavender and a story about the lavender farm’s co-owner’s middle-of-the-night chase after an escaped chicken disturbed by a fox that ended with an descriptive image of Doug with a chicken under one arm and a 22 over his other shoulder returning home buck naked.
3. Bees are big fans of lavender, especially when most other Okanagan Valley crops are no longer in bloom and numerous apiarists have cleverly placed hives near the lavender farm. As we worked, bees would move from the plant being harvested to the next, in their quest to make lavender honey. The Handyman, who also came to harvest, was worried. “What’s going to happen when we reach the very last plant? There are going to be a great many very pissed off bees on it.” Fortunately, we left before that eventuality.
4. I am a miser. The harder I work for a buck the less I am willing to spend it. This goes for the income from our raspberry farming as well. Money earned from writing is much easier to spend on a lunch out or a drink at the lovely distillery at the end of our road.
5. This sounds completely romance novel mawkishly sentimental, but experiences like harvesting lavender at Doug and Karolina’s farm with The Handyman, our friend Bill and new friends made in the field, makes me love Naramata all the more. A last snippet of conversation to dispel the barfiness…”Doug, I think the best place to fart is in a lavender field. No one would notice.” Doug’s measured response, “I completely disagree. I think the contrast is too great. A much better place to pass wind would be in a sewage treatment plant where it would go unremarked, in my opinion.”