Monday, June 29, 2009

Three's a Crew

Summer is reading time. I take my books out on the deck and read while soaking up some of the warm summer rays. My new Utopia floating lounge is also a great reading location.

I like to read books about our local area and destinations I'd like to explore. Scrounging through one of my favourite used book stores, I found Three's a Crew by Kathrene Pinkerton (Horsdal & Schubart, 1991). You can get it online through Amazon.com or Amazon.ca if you don't see it in your used book store.

In Three's a Crew, Kathrene Pinkerton recounts the many annual cruises she took with her husband and daughter up the Strait of Georgia, through the Inside Passage and all the way to Alaska. It sounded like it could have been set in present day, but the family's voyages took place from 1924 to 1931. In some cases, places along the BC coast were more populated then than they are today. As fishing and logging have declined, so have many of the remote camps, homesteads and outposts. Yet, some of the more resilient and resourceful have persisted.

Several weeks ago, Wayne and I cruised in our Bayliner to one of Kathrene's favourite destinations, the Yacultas Rapids (spelled Yucluetaws in her book). We didn't find Henry's Tiny Cove, but we did spend the night in Big Bay just past the rapids. At mid-tide, the rapids roar. But at high and low tide, the water goes slack so that even the most simple boats can navigate them safely. And sport fishing is still an important pastime in these salmon rich waters. As we sat at the dock, I thought about Kathrene's adventurous spirit all those many years ago. Now it's our turn to follow in wake.

What are you reading this summer? Have any good recommendations for me? -- Margy

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Showing Off Their Broods

I haven't been lucky enough to see any geese and goslings around our cabin in Hole in the Wall yet, but down at the Shinglemill Marina they are out in full force. A little over a week ago while having a brew and appies on the outside deck at the Shinglemill Pub, Mr. Hat and I saw two families paddle by.

The Canada Goose makes its nest near the water's edge. Pairs are known to stay together for life. Mating occurs in the spring on the water. A clutch of 2-8 eggs hatch in about a month and the chicks grow to sufficient size in 6-7 weeks to begin flying. By late summer, it is hard to distinguish the kids from their parents, except for the order of the procession on land or in the water.

During summer, the Canada Goose goes through molting. The flight feathers that are worn out from long migratory trips are shed leaving the birds unable to fly for up to 8-10 weeks. During this flightless period they prefer areas near lakes or ponds for security from predators. When geese gather in large numbers during the molting season it can be very damaging to local vegetation, not to mention messy. Fortunately, in the Hole we usually only get one nesting pair. We enjoy their presence and look forward to Mom and Dad showing off the kids as they grow. Hope that's soon!

Want to know more? See ...

Love Canada Geese
All About Birds
Ducks Unlimited Canada
Hinterland Who's Who
And there is a great movie about Canada Geese called Fly Away Home. It's about a thirteen year-old girl who raises and teaches a brood of orphaned Canada Geese to migrate using her father's ultralight airplane. A must see!! -- Margy

Friday, June 26, 2009

Under the Clouds

Flying is an important means of transportation up here in Coastal BC. When we need to get from Powell River to Vancouver in a hurry, we take Pacific Coastal Airlines. The pilots are very experienced in all kinds of weather, especially clouds.

If there are mid-level clouds, sometimes you can fly underneath. That gives you a different perspective and reflective.

Thanks for flying with Pacific Coastal Airlines. -- Margy

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ouch! That Stings!

Yesterday I shared information about hornets nesting near our cabin. When our friends John and Mr. Hat came to visit, Mr. Hat got stung by a hornet. Hornets are very aggressive in defending their nest. Mr. Hat learned that the hard way. The stinger is a modified ovipositor and, unlike bees, wasps and hornets can sting multiple times. When we got back to the cabin I got out The Doctors Book of Home Remedies to see what was the best course of action.

Mr. Hat (and I) were a little worried that there might be a bad reaction, but fortunately it was mild. The venom injected causes sharp, instantaneous burning pain followed by continued pain, redness, swelling and itching. In normal situations, the discomfort can last from hours to a day.

What did the book suggest?

  • Don't get stung. Easier said than done. Wear white, don't wear perfume, take zinc, oil your skin and/or run for shelter or water.
  • Don't smash the wasp or hornet. If the venom sack is broken it releases a chemical that incites the others to attack.
Well, too late for that. What next?
  • Wash the site with soap and water.
  • Use ice to reduce swelling.
  • Apply an antiseptic.
What about the pain?
  • If you are not allergic to aspirin, moisten the skin and rub a tablet over the site to neutralize the venom.
  • Apply heat or use a hair dryer over the site.
  • Apply household ammonia (also available as commercial towelettes for stings).
  • Use a paste made from baking soda and water.
  • As strange as it sounds, apply meat tenderizer.
  • If nothing else is available, apply mud and let it dry.
I am not a medical expert. If at any time the victim is having difficulty breathing or experiences extreme swelling, seek immediate medical assistance. Stings can be fatal for individuals with allergic reactions.

Keep your eyes and ears open this time of year. Prevention is worth a pound of cure. -- Margy

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Stirring up a Hornet's Nest

Well, hopefully not! This time of year bald-faced hornets start making nests. Dolichovespula maculata is actually a member of the paper wasp family commonly found in North America. In Insects of the Pacific Northwest (Haggard & Haggard) they are described as social vespids.

If you can get close enough with getting stung, you will see their dark bodies with white face markings. They can also be identified by the way they fold their wings longitudinally over their abdomen while at rest. Plus, they have the distinguishing narrow (wasp) waist between the thorax and abdomen.

Nests are built in spring by new workers born from females mated the previous year. The first offspring are sterile female workers who chew wood into pulp to form a nest, sometimes reaching up to three feet in length. That sounds just about right for a hornet from a paper mill town like Powell River.

When I first saw the hornets there were two small half dome structures under a niche in our rock wall. After a few days, they were both incorporated into a larger nest with one opening at the lower end. Last year a nest was started under our cabin eves. I could watch them build it up layer by layer until our good friend John volunteered to knock it off for us. You can use wasp spray to kill them first, but if you wait until the cool of night they become somewhat dormant and the nest can be knocked off with only a little danger of getting stung. Unfortunately (for us that is) the rock wall nitch is in a place that we can't reach. We'll just have to more careful while swimming in our natural pool.

More sterile female workers are born throughout the early summer to tend the queen and feed the larvae. In late summer, reproductive males and females emerge to mate so the cycle can continue. In fall, after the first frost, all members of the colony die except for the newly mated females. They live through the winter to start new colonies in the spring. Maybe then we can remove the nest and maybe preserve it. Click here for some directions. But I think I'll forget about the relocation procedures. -- Margy

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Top 10 Reasons to Visit Powell River this Summer

Summer's here and I would like to invite you to come visit the most wonderful place on earth, Powell River, BC. Here are 10 great reasons you should make Powell River your vacation destination.

10. An exciting ferry ride to get here. BC Ferries serves Powell River. You can easily turn your visit into a Circle Route vacation. Check out the Experience Card for extra savings. On the Vancouver to Powell River route you will travel through majestic fjords and pass towering snow-capped peaks. It's an E-ticket ride for sure.

9. Uncrowded campgrounds. We have a special place in our hearts for Willingdon Beach Campsite. We stayed at this oceanside campgound when we discovered Powell River. Hookups are available at Kent's Beach near Saltery Bay, Garnet Rock near town and Sunland by-the-Sea near Lund. We love the remote forest and wilderness campgrounds such as Nanton, Dodd and Khartoum Lake.

8. ATV adventures. Do you ride a quad or off-road motorcycle? Logging and forest roads take you to trails, lakes and quiet forests. The Powell River ATV Club loves to help visiting riders. They even have a map book with GPS coordinates. Some of our favourite destinations are Theodosia, Fiddlehead Farm, Poki's Place and Khartoum Lake. You can read about more ATV adventures in Up the Main.

7. Restaurants with views. From everyday to fancy, we have it all. South of town at Beach Gardens is the Savoury Bight, great for sunset dinners. North of town on Okeover Inlet is the Laughing Oyster for great seafood. Continue to the end (beginning) of Highway 101 to the Lund Hotel's for a marina view. And don't leave town without a brew and steak at the Shinglemill Pub on Powell Lake. Sit and watch boats coming and going from logging sites and float cabins up the lake.

6. Events and festivals. Summer is event time in Powell River. July brings the Texada Sandcastle Weekend on the 4-5th, the Texada Fly-in on the 12th and the 46th Annual Seafair at Willingdon Beach from the 24-26th. Then Marine Avenue closes on Friday, August 21, for the annual Blackberry Street Party. The weekly Farmers Market in Paradise Valley is open April to September. For more activities, read Around Town in the PEAK or PowellRiverDirect.com.

5. Beaches. Powell River is overflowing with fresh and saltwater beaches. In town, Willingdon Beach is the place to go with it's grassy park, sandy beach and Beach Hut. South of town there's Saltery Bay Provincial Park and north there's Gibson's Beach. Keep going towards Lund and you will find Dinner Rock Park tucked away on a gravel road. Or take the Lund Water Taxi to Savary Island for some of the best sandy beaches in BC. Prefer fresh water? Try Mowat or Haywire Bay on Powell Lake, or one of the many smaller lakes in the region.

4. Hiking. Whether it's a stroll down historic Willingdon Beach Trail or a hike on the 180 km Sunshine Coast Trail, we have a path for every ability. Inland Lake's circumnavigating trail is wheelchair accessible. Stop by Breakwater Books or Coles to get Eagle Walz's books (Sunshine Coast Trail Guidebook and Along the Edge of the Salish Sea) about hiking in and around Powell River. They are a must! Also, stop by the Visitor Centre for maps and information.

3. Kayaking and canoeing. Powell River is a great destination for both kayaking and canoeing. Bring your own, or rent one when you get here. Choices include Skeeter Jacks, Powell River Sea Kayak, Alpha Adventures and Y-Knot. Each outfitter also offers lessons and guided tours. The Powell River Forest Canoe Route through pristine lakes is world famous. So are nearby ocean destinations such as Desolation Sound.

2. Boating on the chuck. Around here we call the ocean the salt chuck. The Westview Harbour is the perfect fueling, restocking, maintenance and jumping off for Coastal BC cruising to Desolation Sound and all points north along the inside passage. Nearby Lund also has a marina with fuel and moorage. Check out some of the exciting anchorages and marinas along the way in Wayne's book Up the Strait.

1. Heading up the lake. Powell Lake is a land-locked glacial carved fresh water fjord. I love living in a float cabin up the lake in Hole in the Wall. You can rent a float cabin or houseboat to experience life on the lake for yourself. You can also read about off the grid living on Powell Lake in Up the Lake and Farther Up the Lake by Wayne J. Lutz at www.PowellRiverBooks.com.

Stop at the Tourism Powell River Visitor Centre in the Crossroads Village Shopping Centre next to Quality Foods on Mondays through Fridays 9:00-5:00. They will give you great tips about our wonderful community. Pick up a free Powell River Living magazine or buy a Powell River PEAK to see what's happening around town. Need more reasons to come? Visit the Tourism Powell River website. I'll see you here soon! -- Margy

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sucker Holes

If you're a pilot, you're probably familiar with the term sucker hole.

In the United States, it's legal for a non-instrument rated pilot to operate in VFR (visual flight rules) conditions above clouds, but to get there you need a clear path to get up and down. A sucker hole can provide the means, but it isn't always the safest thing to do. Once through the hole, it might close behind you, making a later descent very problematic. Non-instrument rated pilots can become easily disoriented in clouds. Besides, it is illegal.

In Canada, VFR above the clouds is not permitted. You must be an IFR (instrument flight rules) certified pilot on an IFR flight plan to fly above the clouds, even if it is clear up there. -- Margy

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

John and Mr. Hat Come to Powell River

We don't have many visitors to our float cabin on Powell Lake, but Wayne's friend John is an exception. John taught with Wayne at Mt. San Antonio College and they both supported the Flying Team. John stopped by two years ago on the way back from Alaska in his Cessna 172 4GM.

Last week John returned. He was on his way to Alaska again, and this time he had a friend with him, Dave. Dave is an important person at The Hat restaurant. That's how I nicknamed him Mr. Hat.

John got to ride my quad, and along with Wayne came up to the cabin via logging roads through Theodosia. While they were doing that, Mr. Hat and I went up the lake to enjoy the warm afternoon sun. That evening we chowed down on pastrami dips, the signature sandwich at The Hat. Dave had brought all of the fixin's in the plane. What a tasty and wonderful surprise.

The next day the weather was fine, so they took off on the next leg of their flight to Alaska. Because we were in the midst of an extended high pressure system, they got to follow the coast north. What an adventure for two great guys.



Fly high and fly safe! - Margy

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Coastal BC Cruising - Day 3

To continue our journey we again have to negotiate several more rapids. We had two choices, 5:00 or 11:00 a.m. Fortunately, Wayne chose the latter since I hate to get up early. We have no real timetable to keep, so that makes it nice.

Immediately after leaving Owen Bay we entered the Upper Rapids. They can flow at 11 knots so using slack water is important. Two rocks almost mid-channel don’t make it any easier.

Next comes Surge Narrows and Beazley Passage. These can flow up to 12 knots and get pretty rough. You can hear them roar just like a waterfall. We’ve been through these before, but in the opposite direction. Beasley is beautiful as you pass through it’s narrow walls. Then you are back in the open and deep waters of Hoskyn Channel.

We’ve almost come full circle. For a change of pace we follow the east side of Quadra Island southbound then across the Strait of Georgia home to Lund. A trip across this expanse of open water wouldn’t be complete without a pass by Mitlenatch Island. It is filled with gulls finishing up the nesting season and sea lions warming on it’s rocky shores.

I hope you enjoyed your cruise with us in Coastal BC. Would you like to read more about the area? Check out Wayne’s book Up the Strait and join us for other exciting trips on the chuck. -- Margy

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Coastal BC Cruising - Day 2

To exit Big Bay we had to time our departure so we would have slack water to get safely through Gillard Passage and the Dent Rapids. As we were waiting, two boats arrived from the south chased by dolphins. We could see them leaping alongside the lead boat almost all the way to the docks. We left about half and hour early and motored slowly north through some ripples and whirlpools in Gillard.

Our first stop was Mermaid Bay at the southern end of Dent Island. This protected area provides emergency anchorage for tugs in bad weather or when they can’t make it through the series of rapids in one period of slack water. Here is a sign forest from generations of tug operators who have used the anchorage. Painted signs are nailed to trees and wedged in the rocky cliff above.

When we got to Dent Rapids they were all but calm. We got back up on plane to travel through Cordero Channel to Mayne Passage along the north side of East Thurlow Island. Our destination was Blind Channel Resort on West Thurlow Island. The resort is open with fuel, a store and a restaurant for evening meals. The extensive docks didn’t have one boat moored when we were there. We got some snacks and drinks at the store to fortify ourselves for the big time, Johnstone Strait.

Johnstone Strait can get some pretty nasty winds, waves and tidal action all mixed into one. The last time Wayne came here on a solo trip, he said he was getting spray from the waves all the way up on the command bridge. Fortunately today, the wind was light, to our backs and with the tide. We couldn’t have asked for better.

At Okisollo Channel we turned back east. We weren’t able to time our arrival with the tides, so we decided to stop at Owen Bay on Sonora Island near the Lower Rapids. It was a good thing we were stopping as the swirls, whirlpools and ripples were getting pretty strong for my liking. There are several places to anchor in the big bay. Even though it is more “populated” we chose the southeast corner where we would get the most sunlight into the evening. Since it is early in the season, only one other boat shared our space. It was a quiet afternoon for reading and relaxing in the warm June weather. -- Margy

Friday, June 12, 2009

Coastal BC Cruising - Day 1

Lund is our home port for the summer. It’s a great jumping off point for Coastal BC boating adventures, so we headed out for a short cruise this week. Our route took us through Thulin Passage, Desolation Sound and Homfray Channel on our way north. In windy conditions, swells can build pretty high in this exposed area, but today there was merely a light chop.

Turning up Lewis Channel we watched Cortes Island with its popular Squirrel Cove pass off our port side and historic Refuge Cove off our starboard. Since we left Lund with our tanks full, we didn’t need to make a stop at Refuge. But it's a good refueling and shopping location for boaters remaining in the Desolation Sound area.

From Lewis Channel we angled into Calm Channel, and today it lived up to its name. So far all of the waterways have been wide and deep, so they haven’t been greatly affected by tidal influences. But all of that was about to change. Our destination for the night was Big Bay and it would require us to pass through the Yacultas Rapids at slack water. We arrived about an hour early, so we slowed to idle to troll a bit. Alas, no salmon for dinner.

For a landlubber like me, it was a huge surprise to learn that the ocean can create whitewater rapids to rival many rivers. But when the tides change, the waters calm in even the most violent runs and allow boats to pass. You just have to know when (thanks to the tide tables) and be quick about it. Slack water doesn’t last for long before the tide turns and starts running in the opposite direction.

At the northeast end of the Yacultas is Big Bay on Stuart Island. There’s no fuel, but you will find dock space at the public wharf. During summer months, there’s also a store and restaurant. We were too early for that, but had lots of dock space and only three other boats to share it with. Before we fixed a simple supper, we hiked the road towards the head of the bay. Even though there are quite a few residences, all was still quiet. Just the way we like it.

At about midnight we could hear tug engines. They were using the low-water slack to get through the rapids. The waterways up here are active 24/7 for tugs pulling all kinds of loads, including booms of logs. When we got up to take a look, the resort across the bay was lit up like a cruise ship. It’s huge, fancy, with a stable of brand new fishing boats ready to cater to the big buck adventure tourists. Thank you very much, I’ll take my 24’ Bayliner any day. -- Margy

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Divers of Aca-Powell-co

Just a little play on words. Boys will be boys, whether in Acapulco, Mexico, or up the lake, Powell Lake that is.

We have been at our floating cabin for a week and really enjoying the warm weather. Over the weekend, a boat load of young men stopped by to borrow the wall for some high dives.

They had to hike up from the back side, but were really gutsy and leaped from about 10 metres (30 feet) high or more. They sure made a loud splash when they hit the deep water at the bottom. Three of them had so much fun, they went back up for a second round. I think I'll stick to diving off my cabin deck. That's high enough for me. -- Margy

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Homecoming is Sweet

Homecoming is always sweet, no matter how long the absence. Don't you feel that way? Wayne and I discovered our float cabin by chance in 2001 and haven't wanted to be anywhere else ever since. Now that we are retired, we can live our dream almost full time. But there are always some obligations that keep us away. But, that only makes homecoming a sweeter event.

Homecoming has its rituals. First there will be breakfast at Starvin Marvin's (the best eggs benny in town), then a quick shopping trip. I need some things for my garden from Canadian Tire. Then it will be a stop at Overwaitea (I hate using its new name, Save on Foods) for supplies. Wayne was alone at the cabin while I was with Mom in Bellingham, so there's not much left except for the shelf staples that are always ready and waiting. A quick stop to First Credit Union, the post office, and we'll be on our way.

Our cabin is thirty minutes by boat from the Shinglemill Marina on Powell Lake. There's no road access. We have minimal electricity from solar panels and a wind generator, but there's no television or Internet. If you would like to read more about what float cabin life is like, check out my topic Float Cabin Living. Want a unique vacation this summer? You can rent float cabins and house boats on Powell Lake and experience it for yourself.

Come back next week and see what adventures I've had this trip. There's always something exciting going on "up the lake." You can also read about Powell River living and other off-the-grid adventures in Wayne's book Up the Lake available at www.PowellRiverBooks.com and now in Kindle format.

Do you have a cabin, cottage or home off-the-grid? Let us hear some of your stories. Have a great weekend!! -- Margy

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Fish Bridge of La Conner

Highway 20 in Washington State can take you to lots of interesting places. On Sunday I shared a trip to a town with the unlikely name of Concrete. Today, let's turn west on Highway 20 to historic La Conner on Swinomish Channel.


View Larger Map

The Fish Bridge is part of the La Conner Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit. It runs from November 2008 to November 2009 and includes sixteen sculptures, seven of which are part of the town collection.

The remaining sculptures are on loan from artists around the Pacific Northwest. These are for sale at the conclusion of the exhibit, with the proceeds funding additional art for the city.

The Fish Bridge, by local artist Ries Niemi, serves as the gangway to a public dock on First Street. Here's the guide for the sculpture Walking Tour. Head on over to La Conner, there's lots more to see. -- Margy