Friday, 30 October 2009

Gabriola in the dark

One of the first things I was told when I came to Gabriola was to be prepared for power outages. In fact, our housewarming present from Cousins Robbie and Mary was a delightful hamper containing all that was needed to survive just such an event.

Gabriola's electricity comes from Vancouver Island along a rather tired supply line that is reputedly on the verge of overload or collapse much of the time. Power outages are frequent - sometimes it's a tree falling over a line and blacking out part of the island; sometimes it's the whole island plunged into darkness - maybe for hours on end. And, being an island, there's always the potential for the outage to occur too late in the day for BC Hydro's repair gang to make it over - and back again - before the last ferry leaves. In which case, you just wait till tomorrow.

Travelling late around the island, it's sometimes difficult to tell whether there's a power outage or not. With only 3 streetlights, all within a short distance of the ferry, you can drive for miles without seeing another light - especially after curfew  (generally somewhere between 9 and 10pm) when all good folk have retired for the night. Arrive on the last ferry at 2315 and it feels like you could be the only ones here.

So far, I've not experienced a prolonged outage here after dark - but earlier this evening it seemed like that might all be about to change. Lights flickered a couple of times and then went out. Complete and total darkness under a cloudfilled sky without even a star to break through.

Where's my torch, I wondered? I've been using it every day in and out of the crawlspace under the house, where much of the plumbing and wiring lurks in constant darkness. Did I plug it back in when I'd finished, so that it would come on if the power went out? No, of course I didn't.

Tonight's outage lasted less than a minute - but it was a reminder that maybe I needed to pay more attention in future to the little things. Where are the candles and matches? Hmmm, I think I saw them last week.

Despite the very brief interlude without power, I just happened to have my camera at the ready and was able to capture the full effect for posterity. I thought I'd share it with you while I go look for the matches.

G'night all!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Space is growing

Here are the latest photographs showing progress in clearing the space for the kitchen.

This picture shows the joist which provides extra support to the ceiling. A second joist will be put in about 6" this side of it, so that the void in between can be used for concealed downlighting. The whole thing will then be encased with stained boarding.

The one remaining piece of studwork from the old wall is actually held up by the wiring - it's not fixed to anything else at the top.  As soon as the wiring is moved, the studwork will come down.

...and there it was, gone! The two cables that disappeared into the ceiling both ran right across the front bedroom, so there is a bit of work to do there tomorrow!

Anchors aweigh!

I recall one occasion on the River Thames when my failure to weigh anchor resulted in our dutch barge making embarassingly slow progress to the boatyard where I was seeking to refuel.  Fortunately, I was the only one aboard at the time and it proved only to brighten the morning of the dockhand at the boatyard as he pointed out to me that there was a long chain emerging from the anchor locker and disappearing into the water below the bow.

This morning, the captain of the BC Ferry Spirit of British Columbia suffered a somewhat more public humiliation. The 7 a.m. sailing from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay came to a juddering halt shortly after negotiating Active Pass when its bow anchor unexpectedly plunged to the ocean floor. 

One truck driver described how he was woken from his sleep by a loud banging sound and the ship juddering and swaying from side to side. Another witness had earler described how the vessel had "done a doughnut" before coming to a halt. Not sure what "doing a doughnut" could mean, but it sounds impressive!

Deborah Marshall, spokeswoman for B.C. Ferries, confirmed that the vessel's anchor had inadvertently released after the ferry cleared Georgina Point on Mayne Island. "The crew did not deploy the anchor," she said. At 9:20 a.m., after an 80-minute stop, the ship was underway again.

"There is nothing mechanically wrong with the Spirit of B.C.," Marshall said. So what did cause the anchor to drop?  A disgruntled passenger wanting to get home to Mayne Island? Maybe one day we shall be told.

Until then, maybe we should just remember that the Spirit of British Columbia was supposed to have been taken out of service 2 weeks ago for annual maintenance and recertification. Because of the fire aboard her sister ship Spirit of Vancouver Island, BC Ferries decided to delay the annual maintenance on Spirit of BC.

There may be no connection of course, but it does make you wonder.....

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Back to basics

Removal of the old utility cupboards has been completed and the old wall studwork is next. These pictures give a feel for the space that the new kitchen will occupy.

Old kitchen meets new

Wall panels have come off the back of the internal wall to the downstairs bathroom

Wiring and wall to be removed next.

Meanwhile, the door has gone in to conceal the hot water tank and plumbing:

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Food for thought

At last there's food in the pantry.          Now to remove the old cupboards......

Monday, 19 October 2009

Queens at rest

Lying forlornly alongside Nanaimo's Assembly Wharf are two former Queens of the BC Ferries fleet. Although all trace of their former identity is now gone, they are believed to be the Queen of Vancouver and Queen of Saanich, two 'V' Class vessels dating from 1962 which were put up for sale by BC Ferries earlier this year.

Originally built with just one car deck, both vessels have been cut in half twice - once vertically, when an extra 35 metre length was added in 1972, then again horizontally in 1981 when a second car deck was inserted. This increased their car carrying capacity from the original 109 vehicles to almost 300.

Will they see further passenger service somewhere in the world I wonder?

Vancouver Island weekend

Time out on Sunday afternoon to visit Parksville and Qualicum Beach

Parksville's Community Park still in full colour

Parksville Bay

French Creek Boat Harbour

Welcome to Qualicum Beach

Fall colours by the ocean

Sky spectacular

Pebbles in brine

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Friday, 16 October 2009

Bowen Queen returns to Gabriola

For the next 6 months or so, the Bowen Queen has once again replaced Quinsam on our regular ferry link to Nanaimo.  Here she is, fully laden, entering Descanso Bay at 4pm today.

A fine vintage

A range of fine wines from British Columbia........?

........not quite; it's the product of 40 years of sediment in the 1967 hot water cylinder which I've just moved - and that's after I've flushed it through with a hose for an hour. The range of fine tipples (above, from the right) - 5 minutes, 20 minutes, 40 minutes and an hour after reconnection. The fifth glass came from the cold tap as a comparison!


(left) where the tank was since 1967                                                    (right) it's new home for the next 40 years

They don't make them like that any more!  Pity the same can't be said for the compression joint purchased yesterday to make the new connection. It collapsed an hour later, sending water everywhere! An unscheduled trip back to Home Depot tonight to get a different fitting. So far so good......

Friday, 9 October 2009

New laundry open for business

Back at the house, any excuse for dirty clothes is now over. There's even space to store the ironing board. Two different floor surfaces - one for the wet, one for the dry. Nice effect, don't you think? Both machines are, of course, being road tested this evening!

A little creativity was needed to get the dryer to vent through the floor.

Long way home

It's just after 7pm, and pretty much every ferry from Tsawwassen tonight is now fully booked.
This was the view from outside the Tsawwassen terminal

.....and for those lucky (?) enough to be inside.

There may be more than one person reminding David Hahn that he promised "to sail through the night if we have to" to get everyone to their destination.  

No fun in Tsawwassen

By lunchtime today, 4-6 hour queues were building for ferries to Vancouver Island at the start of the Thanksgiving weekend. By 2pm, it was a 4 hour wait to get to Victoria and a 6+ hour wait for ferries to Nanaimo. Happy holidays!

Challenging times for BC Ferries

Last week it was the washrooms aboard MV Quinsam being closed, following the apparent failure of the sewage disposal system installed just a few months ago during the first part of the vessel's mid-life refit.

Yesterday, BC Ferries announced reduced capacity on its Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay route starting 13 October, while the giant S-Class vessel Spirit of British Columbia (410 cars, 2,100 passengers) is taken out of service for annual maintenance and recertification. In its place the 45-year old Queen of New Westminster will accommodate only 270 cars and 1,300 passengers.

Just as the Thanksgiving weekend gets underway, a generator fire aboard the second S-Class vessel Spirit of Vancouver Island has resulted in the cancellation of 4 out of the 14 round trips today on the busy Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay route. Holders of Assured Loading Tickets on that route today will find that they are not being honoured, meaning that they will have to join the line-up like everyone else. With 1,600 fewer car spaces each way today, that could be a pretty long line.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Recycled teenagers

This seniors group has a sense of humour!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The ultimate cruise?

Okay, so I don't have time to read the Boston Globe online. But if I hadn't, I could have missed the opportunity of a lifetime. Maybe the final opportunity. Let's see if I can remember the detail - I'll probably get it wrong.

A trans-Atlantic cruise is being offered in April 2012 to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Fred. Olsen's cruise liner "Balmoral" will follow Titanic's wake from Southampton, England on April 8 and arrive at the spot in the North Atlantic where Titanic sank on April 15. Icebergs permitting, a memorial service will be held onboard exactly 100 years after the liner sank, between 11:40 p.m., on April 14, 2012, and 2:20 a.m. on April 15.

Survivors will then head to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they can visit the three cemeteries where Titanic's victims are buried. With luck, the final stop on the cruise will be New York, Titanic's intended destination.

The cruise will include menus  from the original voyage, a live band offering music and dancing from that era and, for those booking the cheaper inside cabins, the opportunity to watch passengers from suites and balcony staterooms sail away in their lifeboats as the ship goes down. 

Apparently all lower-grade inside cabins and some suite categories are already sold out. For those of you with an insatiable desire to re-live the tragedy, there's still time to visit

Ironically, it was Fred. Olsen's parent company, Harland and Wolff, who built the Titanic.

I feel we should offer a free holiday in Gabriola to the first passenger to swim ashore?

Monday, 5 October 2009

Before and after

It's not in my nature to cut down healthy trees, but sometimes it has to be done....

..and the logs will be warming the family next year.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Trains, Planes and Automobile - but no bus

Long distance travel either works, or it doesn't. It only takes one slip up to throw the whole journey into disarray. Delays, queues, missed connections or just bad weather. They can all turn an adventure into a mysery. This morning, the air traffic control computer at Prestwick, Scotland, broke down and grounded all transatlatic flights from the UK. But that was today, and by the time that chip got fried I was catching up on my sleep back here in Gabriola.

My journey from home to home (Aylesbury, UK to Gabriola, BC) actually went remarkably well - despite learning 24 hours before departure that Pacific Coachlines had suspended the direct coach between Vancouver Airport and Nanaimo from this week because of poor usage. Plan B was now required.

The plan was to travel by train to Gatwick Airport; fly with Thomas Cook to Vancouver and get to Gabriola before the gate closed at 11pm.

Stage 1 : train from Aylesbury. Must check that Leaf Fall hasn't started, as trains all leave 3 minutes earlier for 3 months of the year, just inviting you to miss them. No, leaf fall starts Sunday 4th October, so the 07.15 train will indeed leave at 07.15. Next week it will be 07.12!  The wheels under my luggage hold out all the way to the station this time. Good omen.

Stage 2 : Across rush hour London. "There is a good service on all London Underground lines" says the PA system. And there was. Train at the platform when I get there; another just pulling in at my interchange point half way to Victoria. If only the underground wasn't underground, I wouldn't have had to carry the luggage up so many stairs.

Stage 3 : My journey planner had told me to catch Gatwick Express at 09.00 from Victoria. I was there in time to buy a coffee and catch the 08.45 with ease. Great service, pity about the smell from the toilets on the train.

Stage 4 : possibly the most tedious. The last time I flew out of Gatwick with Thomas Cook, the queue for check-in went halfway round the departure hall. "They only paid for 4 desks" said Servisair's ever-patient floorwalker. This time, the same 4 desks - plus two check-in clerks working the queue to pre-scan the passports. As I get to the front of the line, 4 more desks are opening and my luggage disappears down the belt in less than 10 minutes. Security takes just 5 minutes - and, for their own comfort, they decide I don't need to take my boots off today. Plenty of time for elevenses, as well as a browse through duty free.

Stage 5 : Flight had arrived an hour early this morning, so boarding starts promptly and we're off in good time. Captain warns of strong headwinds, so expect to arrive Vancouver 20 minutes late. Oh well, let's hope the food is good. Actually is was good - both meals were hot, tasty and recognisable - always a bonus with airline catering. I choose not to pay £2.50 for a headset, and instead try and recover my beauty sleep. Yes, I know it will take more than 10 hours to recover my beauty, but at least I can catch up on some sleep. Touch down at YVR is just 16 minutes behind schedule. Almost before we can undo seatbelts, the luggage is being unloaded. Could this be a good sign?

Stage 6 : The immigration hall is strangely empty. There are new self-service desks for Canadian Citizens, which have the same effect as they do in the supermarkets. Anyone over 55 walks straight past them and joins the queue!  It's looking good. Flight TCX84 is the first international arrival for 40 minutes and we've slipped in just ahead of a flight from China and another from the US. Immigration complete in little over 5 minutes. Match that, Seattle!  Baggage is already on Carousel 23 and on the second circuit I have my bag.  Touch down 14:56; leave terminal at 15:25. Is that a record?

Stage 7 : A check online last night confirmed all seaplanes from YVR were fully booked Friday afternoon, but the word from England is that there are still some spare seats on flights from Vancouver Harbour. A chance to sample the new Canada Line!  If I work this right, my $3.50 ticket will be valid for long enough to get to the Harbour, check the flights and (if all else fails) catch the bus from downtown to Horseshoe Bay. Canada Line train in 4 minutes; ticket machines working well (unlike earlier in the day when they had failed apparently). I forget to validate my ticket as I board. Oh well, never mind, I can do it next time!  As the Canada Line train whisks me through the suburbs, I ponder why they thought it necessary to build an escape walkway alongside the whole line. Do they expect that many train failures?

Stage 8 - A brisk walk from Waterfront station through Canada Place to the harbour. God, this case is noisy when you're wheeling it over decorative block paving! It's 1 hour 15 minutes after touchdown at YVR and I'm checking it with West Coast Air in downtown Vancouver! I'm in luck. There's one more seat on the 16:30 flight to Nanaimo, and despite the look of distain from the pilot as he eyes my 20kg bag, within a few minutes we're boarding the 6-seater DeHavilland Beaver. Yes, my bag is in the hold, not in the harbour. That's ok then. Wisely, our pilot let's the 16:30 to Victoria take off first (2 engines, lots of spray and much faster...) and we're away. Should have brought my earplugs. Unlike Tofino Air, WestCoast don't issue ear defenders on board their Beavers. 

Stage 9 - MV Quinsam is just leaving Nanaimo as we touch down, so I have an hour to replenish my caffeine levels and check out the next stage of the journey. I opt for a taxi home from the ferry, so as not to disturb the cousins from their evening meals. A quick phone call and that's arranged. Gabriola's one Taxi will be there.  Quinsam docks a little behind schedule, resplendent with Portaloo cabins at either end of the car deck. Acknowledgement to the fact that their plumbing and disposal arrangements are not what they should be. Oh well, the Bowen Queen arrives in 2 weeks so I expect we shall survive until then.

Stage 10 - Taxi is waiting and by 18:30 I'm in the house. That's 19 hours 30 minutes door to door, and the sun's still shining!  A quick run back to the shops and I can have milk in my coffee. Now what's happened to my car keys?