Wednesday, December 31, 2003

The light snow has been falling for 30 hours now and has acculmulated close to a foot of puffy but wet stuff. We are now snowed in, and the road is pretty slick, so we're not going anywhere. The kids are stoked and this is perfect snowman weather so pretty soon we'll hit the septic field with meaning, and get some snow structures built.

The weather forecast is for snow and flurries right through the weekend which will be nice. I fully expect all of this to be gone in a couple of weeks once the weather warms up a little. Before that happens though, there is every chance of the conditions coming together to produce utter magic as the clouds lift and mountains blaze in a coating of white from the peaks 5000 feet down to the sea. There are only one or two days in a year when that happens, and hopefully we'll get one of those days this weekend before the rains come to wash it all away.

Happy New Year to all.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Snow here today. A couple of days ago it tried really hard to snow, but it ended up just raining on the lower slopes of Mount Collins where we live, which is at about the 200-230 foot level. . However, the air was really cold and I suspected that it had snowed and stayed elsewhere on the island. Taking a drive into the middle of the island, we discovered that he snow line had descended as far down at the turn at Cates Hill Road off Grafton Road. From there through the Adams Road corridor it was really snowy, like nearly 8 inches on snow on the tress and ground. At this time of year, we call that relatively high stretch of road "Adams Pass" for it's tendency to have more winter than we do closer to the sea.

The kids and I went tobogganing up high on Apodaca Ridge in the Sunset Drive area. We went up to a spot where the land is being cleared for some new houses, on a small peak called Bob's Knob which has views across the valley to Mount Gardner and then north up Howe Sound, as well as views up the Strait of Georgia to Texada Island and Vancouver Island. There was a lot of powdery snow up there, at maybe 800 feet above sea level.

Today a light snow is falling, with small flakes. It's foggy out in the Channel and the wind is totally calm. Winter comes to the coast.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Even though Thea Partridge lived most recently in Toronto, she was very much a part of Bowen Island. She passed away a couple of days ago and left us with this amazing site.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Back to weather blogging. We've had a wind and heavy rainfall warning in effect since last night, with something near 80mm of rain on the ground and storm force winds gusting above 90km/h which is rare for the inner coast. The sustained blast from the southeast has produced a leak in the roof for only the second time in two and a half years. Water seems to get in when it is driven into a seam where one of the dormers connects to the roof. The only other time we saw a drip in the living room was Christmas two years ago when similar weather conditions - heavy rain and sustained southeast gales - produced the same result.

The weather warning has been downgraded to a gale warning and things should lighten up this afternoon. I might be mistaken but it seems to me that the really heavy winds hit at night. It must have something to do with the earth cooling that accentuates winds. This time of year, the inlets on the coast are windy at night with either outflow or inflow winds being channeled through the coastal fjords. I imagine these regular blows simply compound the storm winds.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Well the ferry strike ended on Friday, but not before I took the Kinbasket Queen along with 39 other commuters into Horseshoe Bay, riding the fading swells of a southeasterly. There were really no major inconviences to me, and probably to the vast majority of Bowen Islanders. Cormorant Marine did a great job with the water taxi service, and Al Leigh got a barge of fuel over to the island for gas and heating oil.

In fact the comment that best sums up how Islanders dealt with strike was uttered by a commuter on Wednesday morning. Faced with a CBC TV camera crew on the dock at Snug Cove first thing in the morning, he responded to the question "How has the ferry strike affected you?" with a classic Bowen answer:

"Well, no one's shined a bright light in my face at 6:00am before."

Friday, December 12, 2003

Those of you who read this blog regularly or who may be familiar with British Columbia will know that we are currently in the midst of a ferry strike, which means at this point, there is no ferry to or from Bowen Island, and we all have to rely on water taxis to get where we are going. It's a curious situation from a community standpoint, one of the those defining moments that marks a certain period in Bowen history. Years from now people will say "Were you on the island during the strike in 2003?" in the same way as they say "Were you around in 1990 for the week long power failure?"

Anyway, for those of you interested in what life's been like, here's a bit of chronology:

Last weekend

BC Ferries and it's union reached a stalemate in their bargaining and the union indicated on the weekend that it would strike the ferry system. This meant that service would be reduced to essential sailing schedules, designed to offer the minimum required service for island communities off the BC Coast. For Bowen, this meant losing only 3 sailings, but it meant that on Monday the last ferry would leave the mainland at 6:30.

Unluckily for me, this is the first week in 2.5 years of living here that I had to be in town every day. So I went into one-sailing-at-a-time mode.


On Monday I had a meeting in town all day, and so not knowing what the situation would be, I left the island at 5:35am. I had a lot of time to kill before my meeting began at 9:00am so I parked at Spanish Banks in Vancouver and listened to the radio. There was lots of confusion at the major terminals on the routes across the Strait of Georgia. Some sailing were cancelled because of disputes over crews assigned by the union or accepted by the company. It's really impossible to say.

However, the union did say that they would be lifting the picket on the smaller runs, like Bowen and the Gulf Islands and that we would have full ferry services restored on Tuesday. They still planned to picket the major routes.

I got out of my meeting in time to get the 5:35pm sailing home. No problem.


On Tuesday I bussed into town, sailing off Bowen on the 6:35am sailing. My meeting ended at noon and I headed back to Horseshoe Bay for the 2:35pm sailing to Bowen. When I got there around 2:00pm the situation was ugly. A group of passengers who had been stranded overnight and had been waiting nearly 24 hours to go home to Nanaimo had blockaded earlier Bowen and Langdale ferries and would let them unload. It was tense as there were cars parked all over the marshalling area and foot passengers confronting traffic.

At 2:15 or so an announcement came over the loudspeaker that the provincial minister of labour, Graham Bruce, had called for an 80 day cooling off period during which full service needed to be restored and the existing contract would be honoured. However, only a few minutes prior to this, the union and the company had actually reached an agreement on how to manage the essential services issues that had gummed up the service on Monday.

Our ferry services was already fully restored but after the Minister became involved, the union got angry and vowed to walk completely off the job.

I got home fine, and the pumped up crowd who had got their way also made a 3:00pm sailing to Nanaimo, but I wondered at what cost.


We found out the cost on Wednesday. I had an afternoon meeting, so the whole family traveled into town on the 10:35am sailing. The ferry workers on board were wearing orange buttons which said "Shut It Down" and they told us they were probably walking off the job at noon.

We proceeded to town, did a big shop and subsequently discovered that they had indeed shut the ferry system down. There was no way to get home except by water taxi, but the kids were tired and suffering a little from colds so we stayed in town at Caitlin's parent's place last night.


Still no boast running, but the excellent folks at Cormorant marine were running the water taxis to Bowen, so I dropped the kids and Caitlin off at the government dock in Horseshoe Bay and headed back to town for a noon meeting. I was finished in time for the 2:35pm water taxi, but I had to leave the car with a trunk full of groceries on the other side. I managed to stuff a knapsack full of mandarins and broccoli and and few other perishables.

All this time, Islanders had been coping fairly well. Al Leigh, the owner of the gas station barged over a fuel truck and a truck full of food got towed over too. Several people like me had cars stranded on the continent, so there was lots of hitch hiking going on. Peter King the bus driver made a special trip out to Tunstall Bay to pick up my family who were visiting friends there and he drove them down to the Cove. The Bowen spirit flowed beautifully yesterday.


It's early Friday morning and I'm still preparing for a full day meeting tomorrow. There is no end in sight for the complete strike, although the company has a court date tomorrow to get the service restored. I'll head down to the dock early and hop a water taxi to try to get to my meeting on time and play it by ear.

For all the news, check these sites:

I'll post again when I get a chance.

Sunday, December 7, 2003

Finisterre Island, by Ian Fry

Every year on this weekend in December, Bowen Island artisans and crafts people take over the community school for the annual craft fair. This year almost every room, hall way and corner of the building was full, with the gym being the centre of attraction, but many folks were squeezed in all kinds of nooks and crannies selling their wares.

A prime example of the kind of Bowen ingenuity that appears at this time of year is embodied by my friend Julie Andres, who is married to Ian Fry, a brilliant painter. On Monday Julie woke up in the middle of the night and thought "we need a calendar for the craft fair." She assembled 12 of Ian's paintings (some of which can be seen at his website), contacted Brian Creswick to do the design and had them printed at The Office. The whole thing was ready yesterday, and they sold 60 at the craft fair, and sales are swift elsewhere. I just bought one myself.

On the inside back cover of the calendar is a little text by Ian which really captures the spirit of what art making here is all about:

One of the fine things about being on an island is the potential of 360 degree sea views. Being an artist on Bowen Island gives this opportunity in spades. Even after years of being here, the beauty of my surroundings never fails to move or leave me short of good ideas. From my view across Bowen's west side to Vancouver Island, the ever-changing light and weather patterns give me anticipation of events to arrive - the west wind for ravens and eagles overhead, the Squamish for whitecaps roaring down the channel, scattering birds like chaff.

Who could live long enough to say that they have found all there is, even on this small rock?

The thing I love about the calendar, in addition to Ian's art, is that each week starts on a Saturday, which is a very Bowen thing to do.