Home Again, Home Again Jiggety Jig.

Finally home from the drive back east visiting relatives in Georgian Bay, Ontario, and then my month long stay with my daughter and her new baby in Salmon Arm.

We left home July 19th and it’s good to be back to my little island rock in the Nanaimo harbour. But, in true island fashion/frustration, there was a hitch getting here.

It was 9:00 pm when Bob and I got off the B.C Ferry from Vancouver, and its monsoonal rainfall. We got  to the marina where we dock our boat and unloaded all our gear from the car down the dock ramp and into our boat, then drove the car over to our parkade a block away, walked back to the boat, jumped in and Bob turned the key to start the 50 hp outboard- and nothing happened.

Dead battery. Probably caused by the bilge pump sticking and not turning off after it had pumped all the water out that had collected in the boat during our time away.  Bob let out some pretty (in)decent expletives as I check the time and said it’s 9:55, the Dinghy Dock Ferry to the island (and home) is at 10:10.

We have to make that boat. Bob swore some more. So a mad dash back to the parkade, retrieve the car, drive back to the boat basin, reload our bags into the car, drive back to the parkade to re-park the car, and hustle down to the ferry landing.

We made it. And once on the island, and relief set in, the tranquil 20 minute walk to our house from the little ferry was a pleasant homecoming.

Yesterday Bob took the Dinghy Dock Ferry back to town, dropped our dead battery off at the battery shop to recharge. Today, both of us taking the little ferry, we picked up the now charged battery and put it in our boat, along with all our luggage from the car, and the three bags of groceries we bought. Now everything is home!

What’s missing in my feature photo is what we couldn’t carry ourselves and had left at the dock head. A bag of potatoes, two coolers, a big bag containing my coats, and another containing two pillows. Bob was off with our wheelbarrow retrieving them.

We are still thinking of getting a small truck for over here. But then where’s the strain and exercise with that?

So goes island life. It’s not without its worthy efforts!

 

The big Ice of 2017

Our little far western corner of North America has alway been mecca for vast populations of eastern Canadians ever since the West was settled and word got back that no one out here owns a snow shovel. True, there have been exceptions throughout the years that we get a surprise dump that shuts down the city of Vancouver, or over on the island may give the kids a few Snow Days.

Bob who was born in Ontario smirks at these times. We don’t know snow he says. Because our dumps, er, snowfalls might bring 4-5″ at most and even this will hobble us for a bit. We don’t have a big budget here for snow removal, sanding trucks, salt stockpiles. We also don’t drive in it very well in it.

This can be a tragic event. I’ve seen cars approach a stop sign like it was an afternoon in the middle of July. Oh yeah, palm-to-face, there’s white stuff under my tires; you can literally read the realization on their face as they pirouette through the intersection.

Busses don’t fare any better.

This year Vancouver got hit with a few good winter storms that brought a fair amount of snow for them. Then it would warm a bit and rain, then freeze again and snow. It got messy for the residents. No one could make it down the road without serious injury it seemed, people careening and slipping everywhere. The city used 5,000 of its 6,000 tons of its annual allotment of salt.

Cue the beleaguered store clerks as they brace themselves for a sudden frantic run on all the hardware stores and Home Depots for bags of salt and those elusive snow shovels. Sorry, they say, we’re out of stock we have more coming in on Friday. They tell you this on a Sunday with a lopsided shrug and a twitching eye.

Meanwhile across the pond here on the big island we didn’t have the full extent of that. For the most of any winter here we generally bask in greenery, but this year we did get damn cold though and things froze hard along with some snow. We had temperatures well below freezing for weeks at a time. The upside was all the dry, clear, crisp sunshiny days that came with the big chill.

It was so cold the sea around my tiny island and half way across the harbor froze.

Luckily for us we have an aluminum boat which makes it easy to break the ice, which we did around a good area of the anchorage and docks in an attempt to help others that have smaller boats and are under-powered to break away through the ice from their moorages. Also for those living on their sailboats in the harbor who become ice-locked and unable to use their dinghies to get to town. So we made our way around slowly and chewed up the bay a bit.

Protection Island 01/2017

While scooting around the sailboats anchored in the bay near Newcastle Island we noticed a woman who was in a kayak working her way from town, where there wasn’t ice and I don’t know if she knew how much ice there was out near the middle of the bay when she started out, she  gained enlightenment too late as she sat perched upon a massive ice sheet. Make way, us to the rescue. We freed her then crunched ahead of her breaking a chunky swath for her to paddle through to get home.

The crew for the wee ferry had to work hard to break ice, just as iced in as everyone else, they had to cancel the early runs. Once they could get under way the harbor Search and Rescue boat appeared and continued to break ice for them well into the middle of the bay where the ice ended before heading off to see where else they could be of service.

So that’s our big ice saga, created a small community burble around here. Today the weather warmed a bit, the sea is once again fluid and things are as they normally are in January: grey, drizzly, and cold. A few degrees above freezing. But I have to be honest, I loved the past few weeks of brilliant sun and piercingly clear days and nights, and secretly hope we get a bit more of it in the following months. January especially can be such a long dreary grey month otherwise. I’d rather have sparkle.

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A Ferry Tale

Since our island passenger ferry started up here about 28 years ago a lot of people have chosen to make this little rock their home. It means that they could now live in this park like neighborhood without having to own and run their own boat.

They wouldn’t have to encase themselves in rain gear over their nice clothes during the wet winter months. It means they wouldn’t have to wear gum boots while carrying their “good” shoes in a knapsack to change into later. It means their hair would look the same as when they left their house.

It is convenient and reliable. Although if it it’s really bad weather it may sit out a few runs.

But installing some kind of shuttle to the island was always inevitable. More and more people moved on permanently, it was close to town, it was affordable where renting or real estate was concerned, it would certainly develop and grow.

The first attempt for a passenger ferry was 35 years ago by a property owner named Don. But it was hit and miss.

The story went something like this:

A group of residents would be waiting at the dock to return back to the island from town. Waiting. Waiting. Still waiting.

Al: Where is Don? Its been half hour.

Mike: Bet he’s in the pub, I’ll go check.

20 minutes go by…

Larry: I’ll go get Mike and Don

20 minutes go by…

You get the drift. Eventually they all end up at the pub until Don decided he was ready to go.

During the 50’s there was a much smaller seasonal population here, summer vacationers. They came in canoes, row boats or power boats of their own, staying in tiny cabins along the Lee Shore of the island just across the gap from the huge provincial park of Newcastle Island.

It was a rustic place then. A far cry from that now since opting out of the Island Trust and becoming part of the city and hooking into sewer and water, forgoing our wells and septic fields.

And especially after Bob and Hilda moved over and built the pub and Bistro here 28 years ago along with its ferry service to carry their customers over, benefitting the residents in the process. The boats they brought in, 3 of them, are retired B.C. Ferry life boats. They’ve had a few augmentations done and carry up to 29 people safely and comfortably warm and dry.

When my kids were school age they took the ferry each day at designated “School Run” times which meant the kids rode free of charge. The ferry was given a subsidy by the school board to bring all the island kids in to town where a school bus would be waiting to pick them up, so that worked well.

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There are occasions during peak times of the day all year through that this little boat is full to capacity; in the mornings with residents going to work, and after work around 5:00. In the summer sometimes folks might have to wait for the next boat if the pub is really busy, which it is all summer long. But they are quick to send a second boat, so everybody eventually gets to where they need to get to. The key is to relax and not be in such a hurry.

I used to ride the ferry more often than I do now, back when I had an open boat and opted for warm and dry instead of cold and drenched. I used to know the ferry drivers well. I had worked at the pub for a couple of seasons as a line cook, bracing for those “double boat runs” full of customers that would pack the bistro for another busy summer night.

Now when I do ride there are more residents I don’t know that have moved onto the island.

Once not long ago when I took the ferry home and I had a few bags of groceries one of the passengers offered me a ride in his golf car. We introduced ourselves. He said he lived next door to James. I said “Oh yeah, just around the corner from my house”.

He said, “so you know James?” An infamous resident who has lived here for 37 years.

I said, “yeah, I’ve known him for 25 years.”

“You’ve been here 25 years?! Part time?” He was surprised that he’d never seen me before.

“No”, I said, “Year round. My husband has been here 38 . How long have you’ve been here?”

“Five,” he says.

The island is 1-1/2 miles long and 1 mile wide. And yet it hides people well. That’s also the beauty of this place. You can keep to yourself – be a hermit, or jump into the community and engage.

Yet while having my own boat is part of the allure of living here, part of that self-reliant and independent nature belonging to many individuals who take on the task of living a slightly distinctive lifestyle here, there may come a day when I’m really old and not capable of using my boat any longer.  Then I’ll buy my monthly ferry pass and look forward to communing with my neighbors both new and long known while plying the waters that set this “moated suburb” apart from the rest.

It’s all good in the hood.

I love my little community ~ 🙂

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Back in the Saddle

SO grateful to have our commuter boat out of the shop and back home! Yes, yes there is a passenger ferry we can use to get to town BUT when bringing groceries home it’s a 20 minute walk. No big deal if one had a car or golf car, but our car is broken down too and awaiting a haul off the island.

Fast and efficient once again!

 

 

# Island Life

So the 3 horse is working after all- thank goodness- but it’s a slow plough through the water to get to town. Bob, perched like a cormorant drying it’s wings on a log, sits exposed to the weather on the transom holding in one hand the handle of a pipe wrench that’s clamped on to the 50 horse to keep it on course, and the other hand holding the throttle of the 3 horse.

The wind was up but didn’t seem too rough. At first. By the time we got out into it the waves were oh, shoulder height. Yee- haw.

Brought back memories when we drove small open boats for about 18 years, ah yes, those were the wet, dare I say, drenched days of yore. When even the slightest chop would land us salt encrusted. But it was the dinghy years that I did fondly remember. In retrospect, madness.

Picture if you will an 8 foot inflatable holding two adults and two young teenagers. From a distance you wouldn’t even see what it was our four bodies were perched upon, a little closer you think, are they on an inner tube? Then add in the groceries. This at least wasn’t always the case, the kids used the ferry most of the time. Not as embarrassing.

Better still, is the year I was attaining my Bakers certificate at our university. I had to be there by 5 am. No ferry leaves here until 7 am so, of course I fearlessly donned my cruiser suit (a floatation suit) and goggles when there was frozen rain, and off I went on my “inner tube” into the January blackness. Of course.

Never, I say, never underestimate a stubborn woman.

Tugs out in the bay moving log booms must’ve shaken their heads. They would train their big lights on this little dot zipping by them as I waved my flashlight to alert them of my presence. A WTF moment for them I’m sure.

The kicker in this bit of insanity was that we sold our 16 foot fiberglass powerboat with its 70H to buy said inner tube and a 6H motor. Oh yeah, you see, we had bought a sailboat the year before and we needed a Tender or dinghy for it, and because the shouts of reason and common sense were entirely ignored, we gave up a perfectly great commuter with its trailer I will add, to scoot about on a piece of rubber. Sure- a tender for the sailboat and can be our commuter boat for a family of four. One boat, two applications.

A no brainer. Well, we got that right.

We then went on to a succession of open aluminum, popped riveted boats that required a half hour of hand bailing before setting out. Scoop, sploosh, scoop, sploosh. Repetitive moves that caused rhymes in my head, (scoop) got water (sploosh) in my boat (scoop) gotta bail (sploosh) if I wanna float.

Glory days my friend, glory days. But I was (we) were younger then.

Now, as of two years ago, we have our 16 foot aluminum with a canopy. Because I made it unequivocally clear to Bob that I would now tolerate no less. On one of our final runs in our last open boat before bringing our newly purchased boat home a huge swell reared and landed square in our laps, like a final ribbing from the sea, ha-HA, take that ya scurvy dogs, one last time will ye be victims of me soakin’!  To which Bob exclaimed,” AH, wet down to the ass!”

Which subsequently prompted the christening of the new boat, Nowetass.

So next week she’s scheduled to go in to have the hydraulics and the electrical issues dealt with and we’ll be back in business. In the meantime we must putt across at a snails pace and take the weather as it comes, but with the knowing that again soon we’ll be taking whatever the sea throws at us in dry stride and 10 times the speed.

Arrrr !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When it rains it pours

Living on this little island has its charms by the cart full yes, but when things go off track the repercussions can be far reaching. Case in point, to begin we have an old van on the island, (barged over as all vehicles and golf carts are since there isn’t a car ferry here, only a small passenger ferry), which we use when we have to bring home large or heavy items or a big grocery shop day.

In the past 18 years when we didn’t have a vehicle here we used a wheel barrow, or if the item was really huge we enlisted a neighbor with a truck.

Except the time Bob, in a conduct that I can only label as masochistic, brought all the lumber and other building materials needed to build the large workshop adjoining our house by wheelbarrow. Bags of cement, 6×6’s 2×4’s, trusses. I was there, I watched it happen, I steadied the long lumber as he grunted down the road. But this type of behavior has been common when there were less vehicles over here. Once several years back Bob and a few other guys picked up a house and walked it down the road to another property.

Anyway the van is broken down, something to do with the steering column. Bob had fixed it, after spending a full day searching out the part in an auto wreckers. It worked for a couple of weeks, now not working. And because he hasn’t a clue now how to fix what he thought he fixed, and can’t simply take it to a mechanic for repair, it sits.  All right we’ve been carless before, and we have two wheelbarrows now (moving up), so it’s back to that for time being.

Now today heading down the road with wheelbarrow in hand we got to our boat, started the motor and shoved off, only to find the steering wasn’t working, hydraulics issue? We managed to get back to the dock, and when Bob looked below the console and touched a wire it sparked.

Luckily our neighbor was just then climbing into her boat and Bob got a ride to town. He needed to drop off the transmission for our sailboat today at the mechanics because that’s another thing that isn’t working.

Van down, commuter boat down, sailboat down.

After dropping the transmission off Bob drove to the marina where we moor our sailboat and picked up the three horse we use for the dinghy, brought it down to the harbor in town and put it in another neighbors boat to bring back to the island on his way back home after work.

I’ve probably lost you by now but I’ll carry on-

Bob jumped on the little ferry and came home, followed by a twenty minute walk in pouring rain.

After he rested and our neighbor called to say he deposited our three horse in our boat down at the dock, Bob then headed down to put it onto the transom as a kicker so we can at least get the broken boat down the channel where the marine repair guys can pick it up with their trailer and take it into the shop.

Bob came back an hour later. The three horse isn’t working either.

All righty then-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new addition to the Flotilla

Twenty-five years ago when we bought our sailboat and took our first cruise down through the gulf islands one thought came in my mind: Kayaking through here would be perfect. All inside waters between the string of gulf islands, nice and sheltered. From that time onward it was a desire to own one. Bob was not interested in having to paddle any where the wind could easily take him with less strenuous effort, and anyway our focus during that time was in becoming competent sailors.

The desire to have a kayak slowly crept back into the forefront once again and when a neighbor posted that he was selling his 17′ Current Design Solstice I jumped at it.

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Happy camper. Now to get Bob in one.

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