Raising the oars from the water, I let our dinghy ghost ahead into the small cove surrounded by moss covered rocks and tall conifers. A bald eagle wheeled high above the island group and, besides the rustling of water from underneath the boat and the drip from the oars, not a sound could be heard. Sitting on the stern seat, my son, Porter, didn’t stir and I could tell he was taking it all in, too. Soon, the silence was broken as a blue heron’s wings burst into action, taking it in flight across the anchorage.

Scenes like these were a regular occurrence during our time in British Columbia’s Octopus Islands, and we reveled in the quiet moments, beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife, and few other humans. In the mornings we awoke to birds singing. Bald eagles were a constant source of entertainment and any number of gulls, ducks, mergansers, geese, and raccoons graced us with their presence. Beyond this company, the clear water underneath our boat was teeming with crabs, fish, oysters, clams, mussels, sea anemone, and starfish.

The author and his son, Porter, row through the Octopus Islands.

This is where our family first started to feast on what nature provided, which would be a theme throughout our summer in B.C.—cruising counter clockwise around Vancouver Island and trying new recipes created with local delicacies as we went. Since then, when we visit a new cruising paradise, we try to discover something unique and delicious to eat that perfectly fits that particular locale. Cruisers throughout the PNW are profoundly fortunate to have yet another way to connect them to these extraordinary places, and enjoy some gourmet natural offerings along the way.

The crabs were so plentiful in the Octopus Islands that Porter and I checked our crab trap after only two hours and found four large keepers picking at our bait. After soaking in this wilderness spectacle, we rowed them home to our Grand Soleil 39, Yahtzee, where we cooked, cleaned, and devoured the succulent meat in the cockpit. With the leftovers, my wife Jill decided to work her culinary magic and turned the rest of the meat into crab stuffed mushrooms and crab mac ‘n’ cheese. Delicious.

While crab is by far one of our favorite foods to eat while cruising the Salish Sea, oysters and mussels are probably a close second. I have to begin with a warning here, though. It is imperative that you take heed of all shellfish closures (go to www2.gov.bc.ca for more information and closure maps) so you don’t risk getting sick. If there are no openings where you plan to cruise, take advantage of the quality seafood markets throughout the Pacific Northwest where shellfish can be found.

During our circumnavigation of Vancouver Island, we had the ability to harvest shellfish in various places. One of the most memorable was south of the Brooks Peninsula in the Bunsby Islands. We’d arrived after a foggy and rainy sail from Columbia Cove and were delighted to have sunny skies and light breezes.

On our way into the islands, we noticed a beach set among the rocks that we were determined to find, so the following morning we set out in our kayak and dinghy to do just that. Weaving our way out through the islands over waving forests of kelp and reefs teeming with sea life, we came upon a beautiful white sand and shell beach protected from the nearby ocean swell.

Strung between rocks and islets like a pearl necklace and backed by tall, green mountains on one side and the expansive, blue Pacific Ocean on the other, the beach and tidal flat was exactly what we were looking for. A beachcomber’s paradise was there to explore and we spent the morning tromping through tide pools full of an immense quantity and array of life, enjoying a snack on the beach, climbing over rock formations, and swimming in the gin clear water. We also picked mussels, oysters, and nodding onion (similar to green onion) to add to our dinner menu centered around grilling our catch of the day.

Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

A true delight, crab stuffed mushrooms were a hit with the Yahtzee crew.


  • 6 to 12 large mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 green onions, minced
  • 1 cup soft bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup cooked crab meat (preferably fresh)
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (we used cheddar, which was delicious!)


Wash mushrooms; remove caps and set aside. Finely chop stems and set aside. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Saute garlic, onion and mushroom stems until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stir in bread crumbs, parsley and crab meat. Gently fold in mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stuff mushroom caps with crab mixture and place on greased baking pan. Garnish with cheese. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Serve hot.

Magnus and Porter enjoy a snack on the beach in the Bunsby Islands.

Plunging from the sky to the sea, the Coast Mountains of British Columbia enveloped us as we sailed up Tribune Channel on a gentle westerly towards Watson Cove and Kwatsi Bay. Waterfalls tumbled over rock faces high above, cascading towards the thick, green forests and clear sea below. Cell service had long since faded in our wake and, with the sun breaking through the clouds, it seemed yet another week of grand adventure was upon us.

When we nosed Yahtzee’s bow through the narrow entrance to Watson Cove on a Friday afternoon, the sound of a waterfall could be heard over the engine and cliffs rose dramatically skyward on either side. Our mast seemed like a minuscule alloy toothpick in the grand playground before us and, with much to explore, play we did. We also gathered part of the necessary ingredients for one of our next meals—sea asparagus salad.

While cruising through British Columbia the prior summer, we’d noticed the green, string-looking plant known as sea asparagus that grows wild along the many tidal shores that we like to poke through with the boys. A boat buddy had pointed out that the plant is edible and when we came across it as a prepared salad in the grocery store in Campbell River a couple weeks before, it was a sign that we finally needed to harvest it and make it on our own.

Grilled Oysters

Grilled oysters were on the menu
anywhere the author could harvest them.


  • 10 to 20 oysters
  • 1/4 pound butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese


Preheat grill. In a small saucepan, melt butter and sauté garlic about 1 minute. Add capers and parsley; heat through. Cover and set aside. Place oysters, cupped-side down, on grill about 4 inches from heat source. When liquid in oysters begins to boil and the shell lifts open (about 5 minutes) remove top shells and return oyster to grill. Brush butter mixture liberally over oysters. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and top with cheese. Cover and cook for 5 more minutes. Serve.

After rounding the top of Vancouver Island, the weather was ideal to hop south.

Sea asparagus only has a 6-week harvest period (all of June and early July) and, conveniently, we were in it. I stayed home on Yahtzee with Magnus while Jill and Porter went ashore and picked a bunch, trying it raw as they went. The asparagus has a salty flavor with a nice crisp snap that makes it a tasty green to add to your meals or as a salad. Jill and I enjoyed it and both boys ate every bit that was on their plates. Give it a try!

When we arrived in Barkley Sound on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island, we were fortunate to buddy-boat with our friends Ryan and Autumn on their Wylie 31 Velella for two weeks. There were many highlights during our time together, but one of the most memorable was collaborating for meals each night while rafted up.

With an almost intentional lack of a schedule to sail to, we sat down with charts during our nightly gatherings and plotted out one day at a time. To us, that’s how life should be lived on a summer cruise. Some days we’d create a loose plan, only to chuck it later on in favor of a different idea or destination. Our meals were also combined without a regular routine.

Sea Asparagus Grilled Salad

The boys pick through tide pools
while searching for sea asparagus.


  • 1 cup mixed bell peppers sliced 1 inch wide
  • 1 cup fresh sea asparagus
  • 2 ripe peaches or nectarines
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste


Heat the BBQ to medium. Coat the peppers and peaches/nectarines [whole] in 1 teaspoon of olive oil and season with salt. Place on the grill . Put the sea asparagus on a foil sheet and drizzle with the other teaspoon of olive oil. Wrap in the foil and place on the grill for 10 minutes. Cook the peppers and peaches/nectarines for 10-15 minutes until done. Slice the peach/nectarine into bite sized pieces. Place in a bowl with the peppers and sea asparagus. Toss together with the balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper.

Tide pools area a cornucopia of sea life throughout the Pacific Northwest.

For the most part, we’d compare what needed to be eaten from the boats’ fridges, break out the cookbooks and make a plan for the evening’s collaborative meal. When not in the Broken Group—where harvesting fish or shellfish is off limits—we’d turn to the sea for our protein. Magnus and I collected a large bucket of oysters that lasted for several days and Velella and Yahtzee were often found trolling for fish before setting sail for our next anchorage. One day Velella provided salmon, and the next Yahtzee hauled in enough rockfish to feed the crews tacos. Needless to say, we ate well, and this rockfish taco recipe was a favorite.

Cruising the waters of the Inside Passage from Washington to Alaska is truly a delight and is something that our family feels fortunate to have experienced so intimately. Little did we know when we set out on this summer of cruising around Vancouver Island that making meals from the resources we found along the way would be such a big part of it. But place by place, bounty by bounty, feast by feast, we ate of the waters and strengthened our already profound ties to the cruising grounds of the Pacific Northwest. If you don’t already, we highly recommend creating your own culinary classics from what the sea gives you. Try these recipes and others—you won’t be disappointed!

Rockfish Tacos

Homemade tortillas and fresh ingredients made rockfish tacos a favorite summertime meal.


  • 3 tablespoons tequila
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large rockfish filets
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup of corn
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste


Catch (or purchase) a rockfish or two and fry up some homemade tortillas. Prepare the marinade by mixing the tequila, lime juice, garlic and olive oil. Put the rockfish filets into a Ziplock bag and cover with the marinade. Let rest for up to three hours. Prepare the salsa by halving the tomatoes, finely dicing the onion and chopping the cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste. Grill the fish and serve in homemade (or store bought) tortillas topped with the salsa and slices of avocado.

Pro tip: A dollop of sour cream really makes this recipe delicious—add 1 to 2 teaspoons of white vinegar, lemon or lime juice to a can of media crema and you’re good to go. Or buy sour cream if available.

Andy Cross is the editor of 48° North. After years cruising the Pacific Northwest and Alaska with his family aboard their Grand Soleil 39, Yahtzee, they sailed south and are currently in the Caribbean Sea. You can follow their adventures at SailingYahtzee.com. Note: Several of the above recipes were adapted from the cookbook “San Juan Classics II” by Dawn Ashbach and Janice Veal.