Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Guest Post: James and the Gulf Islands

2012.01.22 Salt Spring (2)

Not so long ago Matt and I had a guys weekend.   Our only ambition was one of my long time ambitions, that is to visit British Columbia's Southern Gulf Islands.  The plan was to go Saturday when the weather was fine and sunny a nice change after a cold snap.

Friday afternoon, which found us going head to head for some cut throat Goldeneye action, led to Friday night where we explored some of Vancouver's poorly lit and terribly loud establishments.  Our condition on Saturday as a result, was a tad slow and we soon understood that our hopes of a beautiful gulf islands day trip was departing in half an hour.

As we are both such ambitious chaps the next days poor weather and extreme wind warnings - gusts up to 100 km per hour, did not dissuade us in the slightest way.  We roared down the 99 to Tsawassen.  Parked, paid, paid again, boarded as the last call for boarding was announced.

Onboard Matt and I tried to stay out on deck for as long as possible it was fierce, it was damn cold, the decks were wet.  Once the ship drew out of the dock, and the smokers had puffed their last I suggested we head in.

We weren't in for long having been told by a crew that BC Ferrys radio warnings about staying inside and off the decks, were really only a recomendation.  SO like all good young men we ignored the recommendation and headed out on the port side on a lower level.  Exceted and training our eyes for whale spouts and enjoying the green hills coming towards.  I was glad Ibrought my jacket and touque.  Matt looked pretty uncormfortable in his super space age MEC material.  He did spot something and we were very excited  untill it proved to be a significant piece of driftwood.

We turned in and watched the rest of the journey from a portside window hear the stern - close to the coffee.  The wind really was fierce and the Georgian Straight had healthy rollers deep grey and nasty.  We chatted, one of use drank more coffee but mostly watched these waves, signicant ones would shake the whole ship.  Matt and I tried to open a Port door against the wind.  I tried, Matt tried, we failed.  I've never expierenced wind like this before.  A little doubt settled in my mind.

Behind me a two men chatted about moving the other to Mayne Island.  And the ferry docked first at Galiano, Pender, and finally Salt Spring.  The wind and the waves were more calm amongst the islands.  Matt saw a sea, we both saw many birds, interesting birds.

When we arrived at Long Harbour on Saltspring the officials at the ferry told us that the ferry back to the mainland was currently cancelled, although the Capitan was willing to hold out until four o’clock until giving up.  Return for the usual departure but be prepared for other possibilities.  Okay.

We hiked up a short path to a lookout.  The distant shore stretched and there were trees stripped of their bark, the wood smooth and clean. We followed this path until it led back to the road, then followed the road which rose slowly.  Inland the weather was more gentle but it was still raining.  Matt and I walked along making note of many interesting houses, and one especially with a remarkable front door and two sheep in the front yard.  Presumably acting as guard sheep, so no one could pull the wool over their owners eyes.  So to speak.

2012.01.22 Salt Spring (3)

We turned at old scout road for a change of scenery, and continued to enjoy looking at all the interesting houses. 

The ferry Office was full when we got back.  We waited with one half of a Canadian sister rock/pop group.  She and her friend talked about going back to their house to drink gin and wine “We have plenty left.”  They left without inviting us.  Thanks a lot lady.

I said to matt that this was funny in the worst kind of way, the kind where your life is ruined funny.  At this point I should disclose that not only would my trusty host not make it to work for Monday, I would miss a phone interview I had scheduled for Monday at noon.  Goodbye life.

We waited for an hour in a half in that uncomfortable room with grumpy people with large luggage, desperate people.    Then the woman announced that the ferry was cancelled due to high winds until further notice, next possible ferry was at 6:10 in the morning.  But don’t count on that, the forecast is for winds of 30km per hour and usually we don’t operate under those conditions.

No no no.

Trapped on Saltspring.  Yes.

We set out again over the same road, only this time we were cold and wet from our hour hike in the rain. 

How far is it to town?

It’s a 15 minute drive

We’re walking

Oh.  I don’t know. “   She looked at us like we were crazy.  Perhaps we were by that point.

A hour later we flagged down a white JEEP and hitched a ride to the turn off into town.  We walked in, down a steep hill and into the Ganges bay.  It was now 530 on a Sunday night in the off season in a tourist town.  Not a good place to be, but also a great place to be.  The streets were quiet and the harbour was filled with sailboats and yachts, even a coast guard ship.

2012.01.22 Salt Spring

The second hotel were tried had a decent price, 70 bucks for a double bed.  I couldn’t spend much money and so we took it.  The proprietor and his black cat rita eyed us down.  Two men on an island stopping in for an unplanned night out of town.  Yes he got the picture all right.

“Crazy weather today eh?”  We asked him.

“Yes, actually it’s a sad day today, a local went to repair his sailboat today and they pulled him out of the water.  Cold.  Dead.   Just right here, I knew him for twenty years.”

We got into our room and sorted out our sides of the bed and then went down to have dinner.  We ate on premises.  Would we like the table next to the fireplace?  No we would not, thank you.

Matt and I watched television, a rare treat for matt as he doesn’t have cable or satellite.  I had heartburn from the dinner, and went to a gas station to buy tums.  We both called our lady friends at this point.  Yes we’re still alive.

The next morning was far too early for any human being.  450am.  We dressed and hit the road, or would have if we weren’t trapped in the hotel.  The door locked.  Should we just leave and leave the dead bolt unlocked for all those deviants.  Someone was washing pots in the kitchen and we attempted to get their attention.  This didn’t work so we flicked that dead bolt and busted out into the night, already late, tired, hungry.

Getting to the ferry in one hour for a two hour walk seemed highly possible the night before.  But now it was grey and cold, the boats hit the peirs under the yellow marina lights and matt’s knee was acting up.  If this wasn’t serious it would be a lovely scene.  I imagined staying here and watching the sunrise over the place where the man had drowned.

We started thumbing to the gigantic pickup trucks driving off to their construction projects all over the island.   The way was further than I remembered from the day before.  Matt suggested we start running.   I was out of breath and we hadn’t even reached the main road to the ferry terminal, or reached the hill near the turn off, or the t intersection that led to the hill that led to the turnoff that led to the ferry terminal.

But our ship came in, a small white compact stopped for us, our angel was none other than the officer of the watch who had kicked us off the deck the day before.

“I remember you guys from yesterday, get in, I’m already late.”

Matt climbed in the back which was packed full of refuse of one kind or another, and I think he must have been sitting on the remains of at least two different fast food meals.  

“They don’t run the ferrys during heavy winds not because of a danger of the ferry sinking but because the passengers can have a mass panic.  I was on a ferry where one person puked, that made another person, puke and then everyone was puking and it stunk and there was a woman who was pregnant who started having problems and a man with a heart condition collapsed, but that won’t happen today.”
“Looks like things are on boys” The officer said as we careened around the sharp corners whipping by the deer crossing signs.  I could see his speedometer and was glad my eyes were terrible so I couldn’t make out at what speed I was going to die at.

He parked and we thanked him, paid and joined the early risers waiting to board.  On board the ferry the night was still thick and the ferry was large enough that we didn’t feel our departure or notice that we were underway until matt suggested that we go out on deck.  I thought he was nuts but I couldn’t stay inside while he went out on deck by himself. 

Later we had breakfast.  Matt raved about the eggs.  “I didn’t know eggs on a ferry could be this good.”   The two men who sat behind us on the way out boarded from Mayne Island and sat behind us again.  One man confessed that he had a secret family in Haiwaii who blackmailed him for half a million dollars.  They chatted away and it filled our silence as we watched the islands and the sea and the sun rose slowly until it was bright and the passengers filled the seats and grew loud.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like quite the adventure. Ahoy! You are also a formidable opponent at Goldeneye.