Galley Guys Western Exposure, Larry and Robin Page with Frank Leffelaar and Greg Nicoll

By Greg Nicoll

It is never the ‘same old, same old’ if you keep moving, laughing and making friends. And over the years, the Galley Guys have made many friends, laughed way too much and probably drank a little too much wine. One of our great friends, Frank Leffelaar, is a Dutch expat who has made the study and enjoyment of the foods and wines of British Columbia his mission in life. Frank is an avid sailor and has taken part in many Galley Guy adventures. On this year’s sailing trip, with Frank as cruise director, we seemed to spend a little bit more time on food and wine than hardcore cruising. I’m not really sure what ‘hardcore cruising’ is, but I have heard that some cruisers use that freeze-dried stuff. Not on this trip…only great menu with perfectly paired wines.

Frank is a digital marketing strategist at his company, Crush Marketing. He is passionate about wine and is a self-proclaimed ‘foodie’. As we cruise through the spectacular Gulf Islands, I learn he is also a coffee aficionado or as I would say – borrowing from the wine term –a ‘coffoisseur’.

Saturna Island 2011 ReislingOne stop on our sojourn was Saturna Island. Why this island, you ask? Frank had set up a ‘meeting’, which is a very formal expression for what our host Larry Page refers to as a ‘noggin’. Larry and wife Robyn are the proprietors of the 60-acre Saturna Island Family Estate Winery that they purchased in 1994 as a possible retirement home. When some of their friends saw the newly acquired, stunning south-facing property zoned agricultural they became very instrumental in it become a vineyard. Over the next four years, 48 acres were prepared and planted with Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier. They built a tasting room, bistro gift shop and a temporary winery. In 2002, Saturna Island Family Estate Winery made the big move and constructed a new building that became the permanent winery, now making it possible to make the first vintage of estate wines. 

Saturna Island is a short sail from the Sidney marina. The winery dock at Saturna Beach is easy to reach and large enough to tie up the 40-foot catamaran called Amritha. There are also mooring balls and anchoring just off the beach for cruisers making their way up the coast. After a short uphill walk, we rounded the path to a spectacular vista with gently sloped hills filled with row upon row of vines reaching down to the water’s edge. In the background stands Mount Warburton Pike named after one of the first inhabitants of the island, a wonderful focal point of the island’s girth. 

Our ship Amritha, a Lagoon 400After our ten-minute walk to the winery, we were ready to explore what this off-the-beaten-track winery had to offer. We were treated to a generous selection of wines – all from the 2011 vintage. The winery’s terroir is unique and cooler than most of the Okanagan, which results in lower-alcohol wines and is a good thing, especially in the summer. We tasted the Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Riesling Wild Ferment and Pinot Noir Rose, as well as the Vinsera Port style wine. All wines were very reasonably priced around $16.

The Riesling stood out for me as it clearly benefited from the bottle age. It has a beautiful golden hue, notes of apple and honey, and paired well with all the dishes we were served. You don’t find wines like this very often, so we picked up a few bottles to take home. 

The selection of wines on Saturna Island are characterized by being on the lighter side and pair very nicely with seafood; if you are like some of us from central Canada, being able to eat the fresh fish from the Pacific Northwest was an every meal indulgence on this trip. 

Artisan beets from the Saturna Winery menuThe wines of Saturna are blessed with the extra-long growing season of the Gulf Islands. Homan Haftbaradaran, the winemaker who honed his academic skills in hospitality, viticulture and oenology in the UK and Germany takes great pride in nurturing cool-climate winemaking on the island. Homan works with his team to deliver traditional wines but in the context of the modern terroir-driven wines. His great smile shows the mark of a person who loves his job!

After sampling many of the winery’s offerings, we six merry sailors found a perfect table and were joined by owners, Larry and Robyn to learn more about the history of the winery and the events that led them to build and grow the largest vineyard in the Gulf Islands. We could have just as easily been in some far away destination, sitting on a sun-drenched terrace sipping wine for the afternoon, watching sailboats as they meandered up and down the channel in a beautiful sustaining breeze, dining from a small but delightful menu that features many of the local delicacies: Dungeness crab, Cowichan Valley duck and, of course, the catch of the day. 

The Saturna Island winery is a great destination and getting your wines straight from the source in a gorgeous setting is a lot more rewarding than having to drive to the nearest store. 

View from the terrace of Saturna Winery of Plumper SoundLeaving Captain Frank and the lovely memories of Saturna behind, we then met up with Captain Lorne. Once while salmon fishing on the Fraser River, I was told by our guide that if you hear someone yell ‘Spring’, it is customary for you to pull in your line and give the angler room. Spring salmon – also referred to as Tyee, Chinook or King – are a prized and much sought after catch for many anglers, but unfortunately no one in our party landed a ‘Spring’ that day. However, on this trip, my newest Galley Guy friend, Lorne Chapman – who happens to be a really old sailing friend who migrated to the west coast many years ago – invited us for a great day of sailing on his Dragon sailboat. Afterwards, we headed back up to Howe Sound for the feast of feasts: Lorne’s planked Spring salmon. The Spring is the largest and scarcest of the salmon species and because of the high omega-3 oils they are coveted and considered to be the richest salmon in the world. Now I was finally going to find if they are also the tastiest. Check out how Lorne and Mary Lou, his very right hand, prepared and cooked our dinner. (See recipe below/page ##.)

When the fillets were deemed ready by the pros, we removed them one by one and just before serving, we squeezed some extra fresh lemon juice over them. We choose basmati rice with fresh grilled summer vegetables to round out our feast.

It was so much fun watching the preparation of the salmon and carefully choosing the wines to pair with this great meal that I sadly forgot to take pictures. The fish was rich in colour and the green toppings of shallots, dill and onions made for a stunning presentation. But here is a picture of a perfectly prepared Spring salmon; you’ll just have to imagine the contented smile that this Galley Guy wore as we pushed our seats back after dinner to look out over a beautiful sunset on Howe Sound.


Recipe for Planked Spring Salmon

1) Soak a food-grade cedar plank in water for 3-5 hours making sure that it has been soaked throughout.

2) Prepare the crust coating by mixing together the following ingredients:

¼ cup chopped shallots

½ cup fresh chopped dill

2 chopped garlic cloves

1 finely chopped green onion 

1½ tbsp. of cracked black pepper

1 tbsp. olive oil

Juice of one large lemon

3) Preheat grill on high 

4) Cut salmon into dinner portions to make sure they cook more evenly. (Spring salmon fillets are very thick). 

5) Sprinkle 2 tsp. of BBQ seasoning over the salmon

6) Generously coat the flesh side of the salmon

7) As the grill is almost ready, rub the cedar plank with course sea salt, place onto the grill and close the lid. When you hear the plank crack and start to smoke (after a few minutes), carefully place the fillets nicely spaced on the plank, crust side up. Always keep an eye on the plank to make sure that it doesn’t catch fire. (It always wise to be prepared with a spritzer bottle, just in case of a flare-up.)

Grills vary in temperature and the salmon fillets differ in size. Try not to overcook the fish. 1 1/2”-2” fillets should be done in about 15 minutes. 



Photo 1 - Saturna Island Family Estate Winery owners Larry and Robin Page with Galley Guys Frank Leffelaar and Greg Nicoll.

Photo 2 - Saturna Island 2011 Reisling, Galley Guy Frank`s personal favourite.

Photo 3 - Our ship Amritha, a Lagoon 400 tied up at the dock at Thomson Park, a short walk to Saturna Winery.

Photo 4 - Aritsan beets from the Saturna Winery menu that features locally grown delicacies.

Photo 5 - View from the terrace of Saturna Winery watching a sailboat slowly moving down the Plumper Sound with South Pender Island in the background.