Monday, 16 August 2010

Extreme fire alert reinstated

Gabriola Fire Department have today reinstated the Extreme level of wildfire alert, meaning a complete shutdown on the use of gas powered equipment at any time.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Double whammy for regular ferry users

Hot on the heels of BC Ferries' announcement that they are to reduce the fuel rebate on the minor routes from 5% (average)  to 2% came a splendid email yesterday to those of us who are registered Experience Card holders (or "valued customers" as the email calls us) informing us that, in future, the rebate will now be calculated as a percentage of the discounted fare, rather than as a percentage of the standard fare. 

This being such good news, it is, of course, a "system enhancement", as this extract confirms : Effective August 17, 2010, BC Ferries is implementing a system enhancement which will enable us to apply a percentage based system for fuel rebates and surcharges on the fares paid. Customers who use an Experience Card and receive a discount will now see that the rebate or surcharge percentage is based on the discounted fare paid.  Currently our system calculates the rebate on the fare prior to the discount.

What does this really mean for Gabriolans? Well, if you currently pay the regular fare for a car and 2 adults ($39.85) the fuel rebate will reduce from its present 3.6% ($1.45) to 2% ($0.80) - effectively an increase of $0.65 on the amount you will pay.  However, as "valued customers", Experience Card holders will see their fuel rebate reduce from $1.45 to $0.49 - an increase of $0.96 on the final charge. Or, put another way,  that's a 4% increase in fare for Experience Card holders compared to a 1.6% increase on the regular fare. 
So that's not just one, but two more examples of "Ferryspeak" for my fellow blogger to add to his collection:
System enhancement = a mechanism for doubling the fare increase for prepaid customers
Valued Customer = someone who is mug enough to pay the double increase

Monday, 2 August 2010

Rain and Suffering - again?

Of sea lions, the author of Rain and Suffering - the Real Gulf Islands Guide says that the Gulf Islands have twice the load of sea lions as most places. The Californian sea lion, born quite a ways south of here, shares much of the territory of coastal British Columbia with the locally born Stellar sea lion. This unfortunate sharing makes both sea lion populations edgy, and name-calling and fighting can frequently be heard up and down the Straight of Georgia.

True enough, the bellowing at certain times of year can disturb the sleep of those poor unfortunate souls with beachfront property, but for the rest of us the chance to see one of those edgy, angry Californian beasts at close quarters preparing for battle, makes up for all those sleepless nights.

This solitary Californian sea lion prepares for battle on the floating dock right alongside the Mill Bay ferry terminal.  Apart from having to swim out into Mill Bay a couple of times each day for lunch and dinner, only the arrival of the Brentwood Bay ferry every hour so so breaks up the obvious stress of the battle lines.

Rain and Suffering

On a visit this week to Galiano Island, we picked up a great little guide book to life on the gulf islands. Entitled Rain and Suffering - the Real Gulf Islands Guide, it starts to answer some of those questions we hadn't dare ask. Questions like "why do people choose to live here?"

The guide claims to be the antidote to travel guides, stating that "an overzealous travel industry with neither shame nor morals has created the myth that the Gulf Islands are a paradise waiting to be discovered - a myth perpetuated by lying tourists who stayed here and are now too proud to admit their mistake."  Instead, the book focuses on 'the true perils of visiting the Gulf Islands, and the wretchedness that comes with Gulf Islands living' - extending a sympathetic thought or two for those who now realise that island life has its downs as well as the occasional up.

Of Gabriola, the guide says we are a 14.5 km by 4.2 km sausage shaped retirement community - rumoured to rise six to eight feet every week when its senior citizens catch the 9am ferry for their weekly shopping in Nanaimo - and to really get a Gabriola resident going, start talking about how easy it would be to create a bridge across to Mudge Island and on to Vancouver Island. Depending on the company, you might just be returning to Nanaimo duct taped to the last ferry of the night.  Hhmmm - there could be some truth in that.

Of BC Ferries, the author concludes that the management have stripped and sold off anything worth buying on the ferries - including most of the life saving equipment and much of the mechanics of the ships, so spend your trip across the Gulf itemising all items in your car that could be used as flotation gear.  Maybe a little extreme, but after experiencing the best and worst of BC Ferries this week, I can see where he's coming from.

A closer inspection of this picture of the Queen of Burnaby reveals what can best be described as a rotting hulk, still plying the waters between Powell River and Comox. Rust everywhere, bulging decks, sealed off lounges oozing asbestos from every crevice. 

 Not everything is bad about BC Ferries of course - and this week we've enjoyed many pleasant "mini-cruises" aboard that reviled fleet - top among which must be the 50 minute journey aboard the Island Sky between Earls Cove and Saltery Bay - and 40 minutes each way aboard the Bowen Queen (remember the Bowen Queen?) through Active Pass en route from Salt Spring to a relaxed dinner at the Galiano Inn one evening. Active Pass is so much more impressive on a smaller vessel like the Bowen Queen, on which you can actually feel the swirling currents.