Monday, 25 July 2011

Gas prices - who's kidding whom?

While the cost of regular unleaded fuel in Britain remains around £1.30 ($2.00) a litre, here on Gabriola it's been steady for the past few weeks at $1.26 a litre - typically 1 cent a litre more than Nanaimo prices. 

In fact, gas prices across the whole of Vancouver Island appear suspiciously "fixed"  at this level, other than in Victoria where regular unleaded costs around 4 cents a litre more, reflecting local taxation.

So how is it that - according to - regular gas is on sale in Courtenay for less than $1 a litre?

At first I thought it must be a misprint, but it's remained steady around 99.4 cents a litre for a couple of weeks now.  If Superstore, Costco and Petro-Canada can sell gas at under $1 a litre in Courtenay, why are we paying 25% more in Nanaimo?

HMCS Nanaimo cruises into town for a spot of fun

Saturday's Open House at the Nanaimo Cruise Ship Terminal provided the first chance to take a close look at the Port Authority's new $22 million showpiece - and the double treat of a guided tour of HMCS Nanaimo - one of the Canadian Navy's fleet of Kingston-class coastal defence vessels.

Nanaimo's cruise ship facility is a far cry from the Manhattan cruise 'shed' through which we were herded four weeks ago on our arrival from England. It's small and functional - but wonderfully light and welcoming. What it needs now is a steady flow of cruise visitors, and the development of a waterside park to link the terminal with the city's harbour area.

No cruise ships in town on Saturday, but HMCS Nanaimo was there, with sister ships Whitehorse, Brandon and Edmonton - and the chance to learn a little more about the former minesweeper's latest role as a coastal defence and training vessel.

Passing by the thought of life aboard HMCS Nanaimo as a junior officer billeted (along with five others) in a half size shipping container strapped to the stern deck, visitors were given a sneak preview of the Canadian Navy's latest weapon, the ocean bathtub - being readied for a secret mission around Gabriola's coastline on Sunday morning.

Supported by a crew of five aboard Nanaimo's powerful Zed, the secrecy of the mission was clearly evident from the full-face protective mask worn by the bathtub's intrepid commander.

Maybe not the most risky mission on Nanaimo's current tour of duty along the pacific coastline from Alaska down to Mexico - but certainly an unusual one.  Regrettably, Nanaimo's crew was unable to keep pace with their prime target, Nathan Barlow - winner of the 2011 Nanaimo Bathtub Race in a blistering 1 hour 11 minutes and 54 seconds.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Blogging resumes......

All is not lost. There is still life to report - though the past six months have been, shall we say, challenging.  Mostly challenging on the other side of the pond, needless to say, and somewhat less so as far as our Gabriola life is concerned.

In February, we put our Aylesbury home on the market and, to our relief, found a buyer within a few weeks. Next we embarked upon the search for a house in Coventry which turned out rather less straightforward, with a deal teetering on the brink right up to 36 hours from moving date. And so we became interim Coventrians awaiting our departure back to Gabriola in July. With renovations (almost) complete, the temptation to get away early became stronger and, to our amazement, it became evident that flying was not always the most economic means of crossing the North Atlantic. And so, the concept of embarking on our new life by ocean liner was born.

We were, as far as I can detect, the only passengers travelling to Gabriola aboard the Queen Mary 2 - and clearly she was not going to take us the whole way. After seven days of benign ocean, we sailed into New York Harbo(u)r and bade farewell to this little bit of the Carnival Corporation still masquerading as a traditional British liner. She may no longer be the largest passenger ship afloat, but she is among the most impressive - especially within in the confines of Gabriola's twin land mass, Manhattan.

After two days R&R in the big apple, the time came to forge westward to British Columbia. No so glamorously this time, departing Newark Airport between thunderstorms aboard one of Mr Boeing's flying machines.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Our home on Gabriola had survived the mild ravages of a gulf island winter and recovered from a springtime ant invasion. Since my brief visit in April, the vegetable garden had flourished - as had the half acre of grass, which was by now approaching shoulder height for a basset hound. Clearly this must be our first priority, to ensure safe passage for visiting bassets, so six hours (and several tanks of gas) later, the jungle was tamed.

Time to relax? Well, maybe. A veritable library of good ideas emerged as we whiled away Atlantic hours and some will no doubt need to be progressed to meet the expectations of management. Meanwhile, there's still time to breathe in some real Pacific air as we relax into our first full Gabriola summer.

And so, Island Blog is back. And the critics who decry the lack of effort in maintaining this unique commentary on a life just slightly more adventurous than their own may, for the time being, fall silent. As for me, I'm off to the dragon boat races. Farewell!