Saturday, 30 May 2009

Mystery solved!

Over the past couple of weeks, we've noticed the bird feeder has been raided most evenings - and a couple of times we've caught sight of the culprit.

Tonight, he finally posed for the camera, enjoying a stale blueberry muffin and a mixed salad! Raccoons are noted for raiding dustbins - but some are less shy than others!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Big Bike back in Nanaimo

The Harbour City Star reports.....

The Heart and Stroke Big Bike is peddling back to Nanaimo, and it's looking for new riders.

In 2008, Big Bike riders in Nanaimo raised more than $44,000.00 to fund groundbreaking heart and stroke research. This year they hope to do even better, with a goal of raising $7 million across Canada.

Big Bike is a bicycle built for 30 that travels across Canada from April to September. It will be making its way along high-profile routes through more than 200 communities across nine provinces. Measuring eight feet across at the wheels and extending 30 feet long, it's a sight you won't soon forget.
Join a Big Bike team, or start your own, and help pedal our monster bike across Canada.

Each team has up to 29 enthusiastic riders, and one driver provided by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, who leads them on a fun-filled 15- to 20-minute ride.
Nanaimo ride dates are June 4 at Port Place Mall and June 5 at Woodgrove Centre. To register or for more information, contact the Nanaimo Area Office at 250-754-5274 or visit

Watch the Big Bike video here!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Star Wars - high and dry

High tide at Whalebone Beach

Through the hollow log shaped window......
Only the brave.......

Calm waters.......

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

A nation without plaster

Canada is advanced in many ways - but now and again the odd idiosyncracy shines through. I first came across this when debating lumber sizes (note to Brits: it's lumber, not timber) and realised that I was conversing with people who never bought an 8'x4' sheet of plywood, or a length of 4"x2" timber (sorry, lumber) to frame a wall. "You mean 4x8 and 2x4 - round here it's always the smaller measure first" Six months in, and I'm starting to get the idea.

Next is the idea that a 2"x 4" measure actually means 1.5"x 3.5" - and even for rough framing, the lumber is never the size you expect it to be. However, a 4' x 8' sheet of 3/4" plywood is just that, 4' wide, 8' long and 3/4" thick. And everything is sold in standard (note to Brits : standard=imperial, unless you're talking about a car gearbox when standard=manual) lengths - 8', 10', 12' and so on.

Nothing unusual about that of course, except that as a nation, Canada adopted metric distances on its roads many years ago (to be different from the USA, so they say) and food is sold in grammes and kilogrammes. Except mushrooms. Yesterday I bought half a pound of mushrooms.

Back to the building lark. Plasterboard comes in 4' x 8' sheets, and it's drywall, not plasterboard. Why? Because there is no plaster. Back home, plasterboard is covered with a skim of finishing plaster to seal the surface and make it ready for paining or papering. Oh no. Drywall goes up, the joints get taped, screwheads filled and filling compound is feathered in and sanded down to ensure a smooth surface with the drywall panel. Hmm... this sounds like a shortcut to me. When you tape over joints and then apply filling compound, the surface will be higher than the surrounding wall area, won't it? Yep. So you apply some more compound, spread it out further and by the time you've finished, you've plastered the whole wall with polyfilla! The difference is, it then has to be sanded down again (cough!) to get a surface ready for painting.

So, on to the plumbing. It's inches again, not millimetres. I've spent the past 20 years adapting old 1/2" pipework in the UK to 15mm metric, and here I am going back again. Ho hum. It's a good thing it's only 5 km (note to Brits: 3 miles) to the building supplies shop.

Back there, we take our cars across the water to Europe and the clever cars can change from miles per hour to kilometres per hour at the flick of a switch. Same here, of course - so that when you drive across the border to the US, you can switch back to miles. US miles are, by the way, the same as UK miles..... so why is a US gallon only 0.83 of an imperial gallon? So that it converts readily to litres of course (not...) at just 3.79 litres to the gallon instead of the 4.54 litres that we have to buy in the UK to fill a gallon can. So, in the US, petrol (sorry, gas) is sold at a price which relates to 0.83 of a proper gallon, or 3.79 metric litres. Simple eh?

Well, just to confuse the Americans, Canada sells its gas by the litre (so they can convert it readily back to US gallons by multiplying by 0.26417205235814844), whereas back in the UK we buy our fuel in litres and simply multiply by 0.2199736031676198 to get it back to gallons. Why do we convert it back to gallons? It's obvious - it's so we can measure our fuel consumption in miles per gallon!

Canadians have grown out of that, naturally, and instead have adopted the European standard of measuring fuel consumption in litres per 100km. So, a Ford Explorer sells in Canada with a fuel consumption on city roads of 16.2 litres per 100km. Ouch! That's only 17.4 miles to the gallon in town. Unless you're in the USA, then it's just 15 miles to the gallon. No wonder they're called gas guzzlers.

All this became clear when I bought my 2003 Ford Windstar in March. Like most Fords, the Windstar will keep going for ever in a country that doesn't have an annual MOT test to pass. There were dozens of Windstars on the market with a quarter of a million kilometres on the clock (note to Brits: that's 155,230 miles) but, not surprisingly, they are starting to get a bit tired by then. So how do you ask for a car that's covered fewer kilometres in Canada? You insist on a low mileage model of course, what else?

I'm confused. Oh well, it must be an age thing.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Back on the island

Today started around 5 am when my body was telling me I really should be out of bed and eating lunch. The journey from England had gone well - apart from the fact that a wheel on my bag had collapsed about 50 yards from closing my front door and having dragged it to the station, one wheel was round and the other very definitely not.
Too late to worry about minor technical problems; it would have to be carried onto the underground anyway in London and it would be good practice for my arrival in Canada.
Air Transat (or Air Transh*t as Emma would say) was punctual, if a little spartan, and arrival at YVR went well, until the queue in the immigration hall blocked the bottom of the escalators. Almost an hour later, the baggage was waiting on the carousel and I took the shuttle to the hotel.
The morning dawned to a bright blue sky and I decided to head back to the airport early for breakfast at Tim Horton's. I had an hour before the Nanaimo coach left and I sat there considering whether I really wanted to carry my bags across Nanaimo to the harbour. A phone call to Graham at the Silva Bay HQ of Tofino Air and I'd actioned Plan B, so it was down to the SeaAir terminal on the shuttle to prove to myself that a seaplane really could lift off with 4 people (and my luggage) on board. It did.
It's an interesting first time experience sitting behind the pilot on a 50(ish) year old DeHavilland Beaver, with the only acknowledgement to the 21st century being the GPS Navigation system by the front seat passenger's knees. The lever protruding from the floor next to the pilot's seat was not the handbrake or the seat adjuster, it controlled the flaps - with the throttle, propeller pitch and fuel mixture all controlled by sliding knobs reminiscent of the heater controls on a 1949 Ford Prefect. In fact, they may well have been the heater controls from a 1949 Ford Prefect. I never did quite work out what the red knob over the pilot's head was for, but it evidently needed regular tweaking throughout the flight.
As the engine spluttered into life we donned our ear protectors and taxied down the estuary to take off. The water below turned from a muddy brown to a deep blue as we approached the islands and 15 minutes later we were over Silva Bay. After a quick loop round the bay to check that the 2 or 3 sailboats on the move were not going to get in the way, we were brought in to a smooth landing in the marina.

Graham was waiting at Silva Bay terminal to take my money and he confirmed that he had the booking for Pete, Sally, Gav and Jess in June. There's no going back now, Sally! I think even Heidi may enjoy it.
All's well back on the island - the grass has grown madly of course, so that's where I'll be spending the afternoon. The car's still away visiting Richard, so I may see that later on!