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Cowichan BayBy Catherine Dook

Cowichan bay

Where do you find the best ice cream?

We had sailed around the Gulf Islands for a couple of weeks, dropping the hook wherever we wanted, and then lying there for days so relaxed as to be in an altered state of consciousness. John called it euphoria, but I called it a ‘coma.’ Whichever it was, we had a wonderful time.

Our two solar panels, shiny with the brilliant sunshine of July, kept our refrigerator running so well (at least during the day) that I was able to keep artisan bread dough chilled, half-a-dozen Mars Bars hard, and a litre of milk safe for human consumption until we poured the last of it into our coffee and had to open a can of Carnation Evaporated Milk. Dinners were leftovers at first, then canned chilli, then canned soup, and finally pancakes - once I’d assessed the harm factor of night-time room temperature on my two remaining eggs. Lest anyone feel pity for my husband, be aware that he was born in England, a land not famous for its cooking. I could never have married, say, a Frenchman or an Italian. Actually, considering my culinary ability, I may have been restricted to only this one, undiscriminating man. Fortunately, I think my husband’s accent is cute.

“Honey,” I said, “Would you like a treat?” We were at anchor in Genoa Bay.

“Do we have any Mars Bars left?” he asked.

“It’s hot,” I said. “I was thinking more of ice cream.”

“We don’t have any ice cream,” he replied. “Our freezer is too small, and besides, it melts every night.”

“I bet Ben, wharfanger and muffin man, sells ice cream. He sells everything else in his store at the marina.”

“Oh, all right,” John said. “Are you going to row?”

Yves At Udder Guys Yves at Udder Guys - gourmet ice cream at Cowichan Bay 

We’d left Cowichan Bay without an outboard because our outboard repair man, Tony, had selfishly taken time to haul his own vessel and paint the bottom. This wouldn’t have been a problem, except we own an inflatable Zodiac dinghy with windage from hell, and every afternoon a convection wind blows straight into Genoa Bay.

We climbed into the dinghy and I rowed and rowed; I arrived gasping at the marina and crawled onto the dock, nose down and hind end elevated.

“Ice cream,” I said. My voice was determined.

Ben, wharfanger and muffin man, did not disappoint me. There, right by the door of his store, humming softly with the kind of self-satisfied smugness that comes of unlimited electricity not dependent on solar panels, was a rectangular display case full of thirteen flavours of bar ice cream.

“And which,” I asked Ben, “Is your favourite?”

“King size chocolate and caramel Klondike,” he said. There was no hesitation in his voice.

“Three dollars and twenty-nine cents!” I exclaimed. “Cheap!”

“Plus tax,” said Ben smoothly. “Will that be one or two?”

Genoa BayGenoa Bay, Inuksuk in background.

Now, there is no ice cream as delicious as the ice cream you can buy when your vessel is at anchor. As we prepared to sail further into the Gulf Islands, I was dying to find out what excitement in ice cream lay ahead of us. I knew that as our water supplies dwindled and our clothes and hair became sticky, compared to power-boaters who all smell nice, we would come up short in social situations. As we sailed further into the heart of darkness of tinned food and souring milk, I was sure that the ice cream we would find would seem more and more wonderful.

I was not wrong.

While anchoring at Montague Harbour, I let out 350 feet of chain completely by accident, which was 10 feet better than my personal best three summers ago. We only HAVE 380 feet of chain and the end isn’t fastened to anything, so this is bad.

“Darling,” I said. “We MUST mark this fool anchor chain in such a way that I can actually READ it as it rattles past at incredible speeds. Also, those little stand-up plastic ties give me the finger on the way past.”

“Three hundred and fifty feet,” John moaned. “Can you pull some of that chain in? Please?”

Marine StoreMarina store Genoa Bay.

As the dutiful crewmember I am, I fired up the anchor winch and 150 feet of chain rattled back into its locker. By the time I was done, John was also ready for ice cream. We climbed into our Zodiac and rowed to Montague Harbour Marina. Our spirits rose with every stroke that brought us closer to the marina store. John was so pleased he hardly critiqued my rowing technique at all.

“Left,” he said every now and then, or, “you’re going to hit that boat at anchor.”

We docked at the government wharf dinghy-dock, where you are allowed two hours free moorage, and walked to the store at the marina next door.

“Eight flavours of scoop ice cream,” I gloated. The marina store serves Island Farms ice cream, made from contented cows who live on farms near Vancouver. You can always count on Island Farms ice cream for quality and taste and – who am I kidding? It was summer and we’d just anchored and this was ice cream - I was prepared to love all of it.
Lauren stood patiently behind the counter waiting for me to make up my mind.

“Black cherry,” I said aloud. “Double chocolate. Lauren, what’s your favourite flavour?”

“Maple walnut,” she said promptly.

“Then it’s mine, too,” I said.

Montague HarbourMontague Harbour Marina store.

Before we left we shopped for KD, canned goods, apples, and milk, and took note of all the useful things you could buy there, like fish flashers, striploin steaks, paper plates, and utility candles. They sell my books, too. I love that store.

A few days later we hauled anchor and left for Port Browning. The tide was with us most of the way and Navy Channel was not too harrowing, except abreast of Active Pass, where the current tossed our heavy vessel about a bit, but as we entered the Port my tension increased.

“Left,” I told my husband. “Don’t hit that boat at anchor.”

We anchored, and again I let out too much chain and had to pull yards of it back in. We were only in 23 feet of water and by the time we were done we had a 7:1 rode and were so well stuck in, I was thrilled with myself and ready for more ice cream.

The marina office sells seven flavours of bar ice cream. I couldn’t believe my luck. And then we walked down the road to the Driftwood Mall and there, at the Vanilla Leaf Café, we found another eight flavours of Island Farms ice cream AND baked goods.

“Sea salt Caramel,” Kenta told me, “and the date squares are my favourite.”

Delicious. And nearby we found an actual supermarket where you can buy whatever your heart desires, though we settled for a carton of milk, two oranges, and enough ground beef to make spaghetti that night.

LaurenLauren in the Montague Harbour Marina store.

Before we left, we checked in with Talisman Books, whose owners have a wonderful collection of new and used titles, including mine. I love that store, too.

“Darling,” I said, “I don’t want to leave.”
But all vacations must end sometime, and so with ice cream on our lips and reluctance in our hearts we hauled anchor and aimed the bow of Inuksuk for Cowichan Bay and home.

We were tired and our vessel is heavy. Our docking was ragged, but neighbours caught lines and cradled Inuksuk into place. Then we tied up and I went in search of more ice cream.

Ice cream embraces Cowichan Bay like bookends embrace a library shelf. At one end there’s The Udder Guys, with a friendly staff, retro candy, and 24 flavours of hand-crafted scoop ice cream to die for. Docking is hot work and there’s nothing like a scoop or two of Yves’ fabulous flavours to give you a reason to live. To my sorrow, he makes the ‘whisky’ flavour only for the Christmas market.

Alisha With a KlondikeAlisha with a Klondike cone at Pier 66 Convenience Store.

I staggered in the doorway exuding diesel exhaust with rope-burn on my fingers and hunger in my heart.

“Ice cream!” I cried. “What’ve you got?”

“Everything,” Yves said. His quiet voice was full of confidence.

I left $5.25 poorer with a scoop of Wild Blackberry ice cream in my fist.

By the time I got to the Pier 66 convenience store at the other end of the strip, my cone was eaten, enjoyed, and digested. There, by the door of the store in a case all its own, sat 16 flavours of bar ice-cream

“And another four flavours in tubs in the stand-up freezer,” Alisha told me. “Not bad, considering we’re competing with a gourmet ice cream parlour.

And so, my quest ended as it had begun at Genoa Bay – with a king-sized Klondike Cone.

Ice cream. It’s ALL good.