Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Retrospective from Powell River Books

2009 was a great year for Wayne, me, and Powell River Books. Here are a few exciting moments:

January - After the holidays at our beloved float cabin on Powell Lake, we returned to Los Angeles to finally sell our condo and pull up stakes. Driving a rented U-Haul we took our remaining possessions north.

February - February 11 was the first anniversary of our Canadian permanent residency. We may be Americans by birth, but we're Canadians by choice. An extended visit with my mom in Bellingham included some fun flying trips in 997.

March - March brought some pretty rough storms with the CCGC Cape Caution on full alert. Our float cabin was highlighted on Kent Griswold's Tiny House Blog and we shared the "Top 10 Reasons to Visit Powell River" in the spring.

April - Spring is a good time to go quad riding and for garden planting. My most popular blog post was about planting potatoes in a barrel. Wayne is in "Nirvana" playing with his new remote control sailboat.

May - Plants, animals and insects are reveling in the warming weather. Small brown bats arrive to live under our roof. We move our Bayliner from it's winter lake home to raft up in Lund for the cruising season. Wayne's first science fiction book Echo of a Distant Planet is released.

June - My floating garden starts to produce lots of tasty veggies. John and Mr. Hat come to visit us and we share the "Top 10 Reasons to Visit Powell River" in the summer. We take the Bayliner for a cruise and back in the States we go airplane camping on Orcas Island.

July - Mom joins us to enjoy the warm summer sun at our cabin. Wayne helps with Aerospace Camp, we host a Star Party and PRB has a booth at the Texada Airport Fly-in. Wayne and I embark on our first Canadian trip since discovering Powell River in 2000.

August - Our camping by airliner trip takes us by rental car from Montreal through New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and by ferry to Newfoundland. Back home I try canning for the first time, we host a Star Party and move the Bayliner back up the lake for a cruise to the Head.

September - We stuff our woodshed while everything is dry. Wayne helps John with his new cabin and lets everyone know the "Top 10 Reasons to Visit Powell River" in the fall. Coastal BC Stories are ready for Kindle and science fiction Inbound to Earth is released.

October - Our tin boat gets a much needed replacement engine. It's bread baking time and I try canning spiced apples. We're both going to get fat if I'm not careful. Fall colours make Powell Lake beautiful and Wayne continues to help John with his new cabin.

November - Off to Oregon for USC football. The wood stove is going and we get ready to install our new thermoelectric generator. Heavy winds make us appreciate our chimney cap and anchor cable shock absorbers. PRB is again honoured at the Horizon Business Awards in the tourism category.

December - The "Top 10 Reasons to Visit Powell River" in winter was aimed at Olympics visitors, but I hope my favourite sign along the Sunshine Coast wasn't a victim to the "say nothing negative" campaign. Mom joined us for the holidays and we got to spend some cherished time up the lake.

The PRB blog had over 27,500 visitors this year. Thank you for being one of them. It's been great and I've had fun sharing it with you. Wayne and I wish you and your family a happy new year. May it bring you peace, love and contentment. -- Margy

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Santa's Beard?

On Christmas Day, Wayne and I went for a quad ride. Our destination was the nearby Blue Trail. Along the way, I saw something very unusual. Periodically, along the side of the trail, I saw what looked like the most amazingly white, fine moss. From the seat of my bike, it looked like pieces of Santa's beard strewn across the forest floor. It was growing on small sticks by the side of the trail and on larger fallen trunks further into the bush. I stopped to take some pictures.

Wayne came up to see what I was doing. He touched the "moss" and said, "Silly, that's just snow." I touched it, and sure enough it was cold and crumbled instantly. It didn't look or feel like snow, what could it be?

When we went to our friends Dave and Marg's house for Christmas dinner, I asked them. They said it was frost and it was found typically on alder sticks and trunks, especially ones that had fallen earlier in the year. Of course, I Googled it when I got home and here is what I found.

I wasn't too far off thinking it looked like Santa's beard. It's called a frost beard. That's a form of a frost flower. Dave told us how water gets under the bark of fallen alder trees and branches. It is then squeezed through the pores in the stick and bark into long thin strings of ice that make it look uncannily like a white beard. Dave says he's only seen in on alder in our area. Here's an interesting video by Country Scientist on YouTube of how frost flowers and beards are formed. I'm just glad it wasn't the result of reindeer gone wild! -- Margy

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Boats, Floats and Mountain Goats

Last week Wayne, John and I celebrated the break in rainy weather and the lengthening days with a boat trip to the Head of Powell Lake.

Powell Lake is a glacial carved fjord that filled with fresh water after the end of the ice age, trapping salt water from the ancient ocean at the bottom. It's a big lake that's 51 kilometres (32 miles) long with 480 kilometres (300 miles) of shoreline.

Like all fjords, the rocky walls are steep. While most are covered with trees, there are some bare outcroppings. These areas are home to Mountain Goats. From a distance they stand out as small white dots on the moss covered rocks. This time of year they are easier to see. The snow level has pushed them lower on the cliffs, just about 120 metres (400 feet) above the water level.

This trip we saw a group of four followed by a single goat in a separate location.

The days are short, so we had to leave the Head after lunch and a quick hike along the logging road. Then we skirted around the empty logging booms on our way down the lake.

We would have liked more time to explore, but the short winter day made us hurry on our way. -- Margy

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Blue Trail

Wayne and I treated ourselves to a short Christmas quad ride. That's easy here in Powell River with trails right at our back door. We parked near Edgehill School at the head of Abbotsford Street. From there, the Edgehill Trail system winds through large stands of trees with an understory as beautiful as any in the area. This handy launching point can be used to reach any area east and south of town. We rode it to the Washout Trail, our starting point for today's ride.

The forecast was for a sunny day, but the actual weather was foggy. That made the views along the trail a bit eerie. If you've seen the movie New Moon, you get the idea. The Washout Trail was dotted with big puddles along the way. In places, the trail building group had created bypasses on drier soil to prevent damage to the area.

At the well marked junction we turned up the Blue Trail. This trail has been the location of extensive work by the local ATV trail building group. With a combination of volunteer workers, donated supplies and a $3000 grant from ATV/BC, two replacement bridges were built this month. The Blue Trail is a multi-use trail for hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders and, of course, ATV riders. It's also an interpretive trail used to teach the youth of Powell River about their forest environment.

Follow this link to an article in the Powell River Peak for more information about the project. Through the efforts of Dave, our Club president, and all the trail builders, everyone has better access to our back country with its unparalleled exploring.

Do you want to explore the great outdoors in Powell River? Would you like a book full of maps like this one? There's a great map book written by Dave, the president of the Powell River ATV Club. It’s called the ATV Trail Guide and costs $25. If want a copy, you can contact Dave through the ATV/BC website. All profits support trail maintenance and building activities just like the Blue Trail. -- Margy

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Grand Opening of Magpie's Diner

Last week my friend Margaret and her husband Art opened a new restaurant here in Powell River. It's called Magpie's Diner and is located at C 7053 Glacier Street, north of Joyce Avenue on the left. Parking is right in front or up the street. It opens at 7:00 a.m. for breakfast and closes at 2:00 p.m. after lunch. Head on over except on Mondays when they get a much needed rest.

Today Mom and I made our first visit to Magpie's. They serve homemade breakfasts and lunches made with healthy local ingredients. Breakfasts include large eggs cooked the way you like them and lots of meat choices. Of course there are pancakes, home baked muffins and breads, and mugs of hot coffee or tea from Art's coffee bar.

Lunch platters include hamburgers, hot dogs and sandwiches. There are salads and soups and sweets for dessert. Mom and I had Margaret's signature carrot cake. It got our vote as the perfect way to end a meal or as a snack with coffee like we had.

Margaret is the chef (and sometimes chief bottle washer). She's an amazing woman. I've enjoyed following her blog Thistle Garden where she shares recipes and natural ways of living. Now I'll be able to sample her goodies as well.

The turn out for Magpie's Diner's grand opening has been excellent. I wish Margaret and Art all the success in the world. -- Margy

P.S. Please note that you will now find Magpie's Diner in Cranberry. Head on over to enjoy breakfast or lunch.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Is this a great town or what?

Today there was free public skating under Christmas lights at the Powell River Recreation Complex.

It was provided by CUPE (The Canadian Union of Public Emplyees) Locals 798, 476 and 873 representing the Powell River Municipal, Library, and School Board workers, and Ambulance Paramedics.

In addition to two hours of free skating, there was hot chocolate and a visit with Santa.

New and gently-used coats, boots and toys were also collected to be distributed later through a local charity. It's so wonderful to live in such a great town with so many caring people, especially this time of year! -- Margy

Friday, December 18, 2009

Power to the People

Along the ferry route between Saltery Bay and Earl's Cove you will see power lines spanning high over Jervis Inlet. On Google maps you can follow the path of the lines carrying much needed power from the Powell Lake dam south to the Vancouver area.

High on a ridge just east of the Saltery Bay ferry terminal you'll see the northern starting point for the wire span and then the ferry passes under the three heavy cables crossing the watery expanse. Each of the cables has large orange marker balls attached to them. These balls help low-flying aircraft see the nearly invisible cables in enough time to avoid a collision. They are clearly marked on aviation charts, but the extra visual precaution can prevent accidents.

What you can't see on the Google map is the new power line coming in from Toba Inlet. It's from the new run-of-river green energy project being installed by Plutonic Power. A new swath of bare ground and with tall power lines heads south from the remote fjord to join the grid here near Saltery Bay. There's quite a bit of controversy on both sides about this project. No matter which side you take, you have to give them credit for a huge undertaking. Click here to see video of how the new power cable is put in place by helicopter. - Margy

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's Baaaack!

The last several trips along the Sunshine Coast from Powell River to Vancouver, my favourite sign has been missing.

I first saw it in January 2008 just after they released the cost for 2010 Winter Olympic tickets. I thought it was a classic. Yesterday, when we were driving home, I saw it again. I let out a shout for joy. I was afraid it was "silenced" by new rules limiting Olympic signs and protests. In it's new mobile format, maybe it can stay a step ahead of the sign police.

New rules around comments about the Olympics in Vancouver include restrictions against blogging. Maybe even this post will become disappeared at some point. I hope not. I hate to think we live in a country that could let that happen. -- Margy

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Easy Decisions Are Hard to Make

We were supposed to be heading home to Powell River today, but a little bit of weather got in the way. It's late, but this is the first snow of the season for the Sunshine Coast.


Things seem to easing from the south, but the morning forecast is calling for freezing rain in Vancouver, never an easy drive anyway, and snow along Highway 101 on the Lower Sunshine Coast. If it was just Wayne and me, we'd probably go, but this trip Mom and Stick Tail are riding along with us. Feeling more protective of my 93-year young mom, we are opting to wait another day for warmer weather and light rain.

Wayne and I can't wait to get back home to our cabin up the lake. Here's a picture from last year after the first snow. I think you can see why we want to get there. We'll start a fire in the wood stove, snuggle up on the sofa, drink hot chocolate and munch on popcorn.


It just doesn't get any better than that! - Margy

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cold Weather Flight

Sunday, Wayne and I just missed a weather window to take 997 out for a test flight after her required annual inspection. There were two problems that kept us out of the air. First was less than perfect starting technique. When 997 sits in her cold hanger for several weeks, her battery doesn't always maintain enough cranking amps to rotate the propeller and start the engine. There's a fine line between cranking too long and stopping too soon. Long story short, I stopped too soon. Secondly, snow started falling, reducing visibility with all that white stuff in the air.

Today I had city chores, it's always that way when we come to Bellingham, but Wayne got to give 997 her exercise. He pushed her out of the hanger, but the icy tarmac was a challenge. Fortunately, the gas attendant gave him a hand. Everything checked out fine, so Wayne went over to tell John at Whatcom Territory Aero Services. Next trip it'll be my turn to fly. Hopefully it won't be quite so cold, slippery and stormy. -- Margy

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The American Air Campers Association

Do you fly a private airplane? If so, you probably either subscribe to the Flight Guide by Airguide Publications, better known as the Brown Book, or have used one in planning your flights. Today, subscribers got an e-mail from Don Abbott about a new venture he's starting, The American Air Campers Association. It focuses on on a topic that is close to Wayne's and my heart, airplane camping.

If you're familiar with my blog, you know I have a section about flying. Wayne and I love airplane camping. In fact, that's how we originally found our home in Powell River. But that's a whole different story.

He also has an excellent video describing what he's trying to accomplish.



Go visit his website at www.AmericanAirCampers.com for more information. It's a service that is really needed. -- Margy

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Fabulous Ferry Firmament

This week when we took the ferry from Powell River to Vancouver BC. We had some fabulous early morning skies to watch along the way.

The Island Sky travels from Saltery Bay south of Powell River to Earl's Cove on the Sunshine Coast. Along the way you wind through an ancient glacial carved fjord, past rocky granite islands and green forested hills, with snow capped peaks in the distance. It's as pretty as a picture!

The low coastal clouds were beginning to break, heralding the beautiful sunny fall day to come.

Are you coming to the 2010 Winter Olympics? Yes, Vancouver and Whistler are going to be exciting destinations. But don't stop there. Hop on a ferry at Horseshoe Bay and explore the Sunshine Coast all the way to Powell River. It just may be the highlight of your entire vacation. -- Margy

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Woodstove Smoke Blow Back Solution

November is very windy here in Coastal BC. Storms tune up in the Gulf of Alaska and march down the coast with very little respite in between. One blustery evening, Wayne and I were talking about improvements to our float cabin that have increased our quality of life. Little surprise, the top two relate to storms. One was the shock absorber system John invented for our anchor cables. The other was our woodstove chimney cap.

Last December, I shared a solution to our wood stove smoke blow back and downdraft problems. Our friend John found a wind protection chimney cap at RONA. As long as the wind was less than 15 kph (9 mph), our wood stove worked fine. But if a stiff breeze came up, especially a southeast wind, smoke was forced back down the chimney and into the cabin. It sometimes got so bad we had to stop using the stove (hard to do if there was wood burning) and start up our Big Buddy propane heater.

The solution was a GW Metal (Item #90142) 6" Revolving Weather Cap. GW Metal is a Canadian company and the Rona shelf name is Cap B Vent High Wind. The cost is $51.99 CAD plus taxes. Check your local home hardware store for a similar version.

Last week we had strong 24 kt (47 kph/29 mph) winds during a passing weather system. The result was much different than our previous chimney cap. After about six hours of strong, gusty winds, there was only one small blow back of smoke through the wood stove door. Here's a video of our new chimney cap in action.



The only problem we've encountered is some smoke escaping from the stove while lighting a fire during light breezes. Sometimes we use a long pole to manually move the cap to point into the wind. If it's a very light breeze, burning a twisted piece of newspaper under the smoke shelf before lighting the kindling is enough to start a draw up the chimney pipe. That usually does the trick.

So, if you are looking for a solution to a smokey woodstove, try a new Revolving Weather Cap. -- Margy

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mr. and Ms. Wizard

The next step in installing our new wood stove thermoelectric generator by TEGPower.com was setting up the water cooling system. Wayne has a background in physics (from college) and I was a school district technology director, but neither of us had the practical skills needed to easily complete the simple electrical "puzzle." Thanks to help and advice from John, and his father Ed, we had the confidence to give it a try. All the trial and error experiments made us feel a bit like Mr. (and Ms.) Wizard from our elementary school days.

First, we stopped at Canadian Tire to purchase some wire, connectors, a soldering gun (we haven't found a use for that yet) and a crimping tool. Wayne (lovingly nicknamed Wire Guy) did most of the thinking and wire work and I served as a sounding board and testing assistant. Because we live on a floating cabin, Ron from TEG suggested we draw our water directly from the cold lake that serves as the "foundation" for our home rather than using his standard recirculating cooling system. The colder the water, the more efficient the power generation.

We want to use all the generator's power to recharge our cabin's battery bank. So, we repurposed the 12-volt battery from my float garden watering system (don't need to water in winter) to run the water pump and plan to keep it charged with our 15-watt Eliminator solar panels. Since we have two, Wayne wired them in parallel for more charging power on the one battery. We don't know for if there'll be enough sunlight this time of year. We're still searching for a low amperage submersible pump that can raise water seven feet from the lake surface to the generator. Once that's solved, we'll be ready for actual operation. -- Margy

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Canadian Tire Eliminator Solar Solution

If you live in Canada, you know Canadian Tire. Even small towns like Powell River have their own store. It's where you go for everything from gardening supplies to small appliances, oh, and of course, tires.

Lately, we've been using two Canadian Tire Eliminator products for extra power at our off the grid cabin, two 15 watt solar panels and a PowerBox 800 battery pack.

One nice thing about this 12 volt, 15 watt solar panel is its quick-connect plug that mates directly with the PowerBox. But it also has DC clips to use to charge other types of batteries. The regular price is $99 CAD, but watch for occasional sales. We mounted our panel on the same pole as our wind generator. At the bottom of the pole is a wooden case to house the battery pack during charging. This protects it from the elements (we do get our share of rain).

The PowerBox 800 is the most powerful of the four models. It has AC outlets and 28 amp-hours of stored energy when fully charged. There's also a built-in radio, light and alarm clock. If you want to use it as a booster pack for starting or charging a vehicle, it comes with its own cables. In addition to the direct connection for an Eliminator solar panel, it comes with an AC charger.

UPDATE: We've now owned two PowerBox 800s with problems. The first lasted two years before the inverter died. Last night, it's replacement had a malfunction in the charging system. Because they are sealed units, they can't be repaired. We couldn't find the receipt, but took it back to Canadian Tire anyway. Because we used our Canadian Tire credit card, they were able to search their computer records. They found it and the full amount was credited to our card without question. That's GREAT customer service! We still like our Eliminator solar panels, but have switched to a Nautilus Booster Pack. It doesn't include an internal inverter, but we feel that is one less thing to go wrong. We can easily plug our DC to AC car adapter inverter into the built-in DC outlet to run cabin devices. Plus, it gives us five more (33) amp-hours of stored energy. Regular price is $169 CAD but we got ours on sale for only $99, a 40% savings. I'll keep you posted about it's performance. -- Margy