Thursday, September 30, 2004

For those of you new to the island, or just visiting, or contemplating a move here, take heed of the most important information you will ever need to know: ferry line-up etiquette

  1. parking in the ferry line lane and leaving your car there over a ferry loading time is a no no. In fact, using the ferry marshalling lane as a parking spot between ferries can be dodgy. Getting back to your car (or truck) after the vehicles have unloaded from the ferry is pushing it. Driving around a driverless vehicle is OK if the line in front of that car (truck) is moving to load

  2. parking on the faint painted cross hatch lines is also a no no

  3. leaving gaps between your vehicle and the buggy in front is not to be done

  4. filling in gaps when there are no vehicles in the ferry lane west of the crossroads seems to be OK

  5. when irritated because you just missed the ferry (for any reason) try to think of an aphorism that Ed Sanders would quote

  6. letting lineup rage overcome you, even when you’re totally in the right, will eventually put you in an early grave. Just get in your vehicle, close all the windows and scream.

  7. try to understand that the ferry is what makes this place the place it is. A bridge would make it just another Richmond.

  8. it is not appropriate to assume that catching this ferry is more important to you than it is to anyone else in line.

  9. try to give in and go get a coffee when the lineup is dangerously getting past the school

  10. always carry reading material.

  11. do not idle your engine in th eline up and don't start your engine until the car in front of you has started theirs (and even then, make sure it's just for loading). Bring blankets or a close friend to keep warm in the winter. And never start your engine when the footpassengers are waiting to get off in Snug Cove. There is nothing more unpleasant than standing in a cloud of carbon monoxide in the pouring rain waiting for the ferry to berth.

The last one is a bit of a rant, I admit, by hey, it's my blog! So That is the current state of collected wisdom on the subject. Ignore it at your peril!

Note: Post updated October 2 with the last two points

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Another stunning day.

The leaves are turning now. Not as spectacular a display as I grew up with in Ontario, but they mark the seasons nonetheless. It's the Big-leaf Maples that are putting on the real show at the moment, as their huge leaves turn yellow and stand out in stark contrast to the evergreen shades of Douglas-fir and Western Red-cedar.

More alarming though is what seems to be happening to the Western Red-cedars. Many of these trees, especially along Miller Road and in Crippen Park are changing colour. Substantial numbers of their leaves are going yellow, curiously, only on the inside of the branch closest to the trunk. The leaves at the end of the branches are green, but the pattern seems to be that along each minor branch, several sprigs close to the trunk are yellowed and dried up.

I've never seen this before, and my instinct is that it's the result of the last few years of stress on the trees from the soils drying out. Cedars like moist conditions, scarce in the droughts of the past three summers. It seems like the trees are focusing their energy on growth and on the leaves at the edges where the light is, sacrificing the shadier branches which perhaps don't produce as much food for the tree.

What do you think is happening?

Monday, September 27, 2004

Ahhhh. Back to what we normally expect in Spetmeber. Clear skies, no wind, morning fog. It's lovely. The trough of low pressure that has given us the wettest September on record has dissolved and it's nothing but high pressure systems languishing here on the south coast.

You can see from this weather map that the nearest trough of lows is lying just east of Kamchatka at the moment. That should give us days and days and days of fair weather.

The orb weavers are starting to come out of hiding now, covering a stand of Japanese Knotweed along Miller Road and appearing in their usual haunts under eaves. My friend Will Husby, and entomologist, tells me that they probably did suffer a population decline from the heavy rains.

I'm off for a walk in the woods now. Enjoying it while we can.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

It's official. It's been the wettest September on record, and we're only two thirds of the way through. We've already had double the average precipitation.

All that was forgotten today though. Coming across tonight on the ferry from Vancouver Island, the sea was a little sloppy but the sky was clear blue, turning a million shades of orange with a fat crescent moon hugging the horizon just over the Malahat Mountains.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Man. At the moment it's hailing. I expect a decent snowfall any day now.
For some strange reason, I haven't seen any orb weavers this year. These beautiful little spiders build the classic spider web and they can grow quite large over the course of the fall as they consume the various flying things that get stuck on their strands.

But this year there is narry a one of them. Not on my house, not on the blackberry bushes. It could be this spell of downpours we've been having but something tells me it's something else. Are these critters cylical? If so, why, and what determines their abundance year to year? If not, what's going on?

Research findings will be posted as they emerge. Leave a comment if you can help.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Sue posted a comment that points out that west coast weather forecasts are as often wrong as they are right. There are several reasons for this.

First of all weather on the coast is local. VERY local. So what might be happening in Vancouver, less than 15 kilometers away as the raven flies could be totally different here. Two obvious examples are the rain and wind. Bowen lies nestled in the mouth of Howe Sound. When clouds are driven into the sound, they pile up against the North Shore mountains. Naturally they drop rain there, as the air loses density and temperature as it rises to flow over the mountains. It can be pouring for days on the north shore and be dry in Vancouver. And at the same time it can be sunny for days on end in White Rock, 50 kilometers to the south.

We have unique winds in Howe Sound. Typically in the fall, we get the southeasterly winds as the low pressure systems move in from the Pacific. These winds swirl around and deliver massive amounts of rain to our doorsteps. That's the kind of wind we're getting now. THese systems tail off a bit in the winter, but they are still the source of our heaviest rainfalls. They are known here on the coast as "The Pineapple Express" because the warm, wet air they funnel up here originates in Hawaii. Some days you would swear that you smell flowers on the wind.

When the systems pass over us, the winds back to northwesterly, coming down the Georgia Strait. This brings clear skies and cooler weather and big waves to the west side of the island, and to the beaches in downtown Vancouver. In Vancouver on stormy, rainy and windy days you would be surprised how calm it is on the water. Once the winds back and the rain stops, the big rollers make their way into English Bay, slopping over the seawall and bring great windsurfing conditions to the city.

Here in Howe Sound we also get katabatic winds which are caused by huge masses of air cooling over the mountains and flowing downhill (cold air is heavier, remember). These winds, called "Squamish winds" rip through Howe Sound in the winter, bringing bitter windchills on winter days, toppling trees and bringing down branches on the north and exposed eastern sides of the island. Typically the Squamish blows like a narrow river down the Queen Charlotte Channel between Bowen and the mainland, and can be so strong that it whooshes clear across the Strait of Georgia and right into Nanaimo. Next time it's blowing really hard I'll post a picture. In 1990 a sustained Squamish wind toppled hundreds of trees on Bowen and knocked the power out for a week. It was one of those seminal events in Bowen history for which you were either here or you weren't.

When the Squamish outflow wind is howling, it'll be calm and pleasant in Vancouver. The Squamish is so consistent at the head of the Sound that the town of Squamish has become a major destination for windsurfers. The winds blow all day long during the summer and let up around 5:00pm. Most days, if it's hot at sea level, the glacier cooled air can rush down hill at speeds of 40km/h or more making for great windsurfing conditions. In summer these winds, despite their speed, generally dissipate before they get to Bowen in any kind of force.

Bowen is also subjected to anabatic winds, which are inflow winds caused by the air rising over the land at the head of the Sound and drawing in cooler air from the Strait. These winds are not so strong right on our island, but the can get up to speed further down the Sound at Pam Rocks and Anvil Island. They aren't cold like the Squamish winds.

To make matters more confusing, the east side of Bowen gets a little more rain that the west side, and the north side gets different weather than the south. So if you live on Hood Point, you might be bracing through a cold and wild squamish wind, dodging falling branches and stopping leaks in your roof while your fellow islanders in Tunstall Bay are remarking on how pleasent the wether is. And vice versa, when the northwesterly is blowing.

For this reason, my weather links contain reports from many different stations. The Point Atkinson and Gibson's stations give me accurate weather when the southeasterlies are blowing. The Pam Rocks and Squamish stations are good for gauging the strength of the Squamish winds, and the Gibson's station is my "go to" for the weather produced by northwesterlies, although I know that I won't suffer the winds here on the east side of Bowen.

For regular weather, a combination of the Squamish and Vancouver forecasts generally gives me an accurate temperature and rainfall forecast. I usually split the difference between the two.

By far the best general source for weather information is the surface analysis maps produced by the NOAA in the States. The north Pacific weather maps shows the major systems, where they are coming from and what they are doing. Generally I can predict our weather from these alone. Low pressure systems passing over head will bring southeast backed by northwest winds and lot of rain. If the system passes to the north, pleasant weather will ensue and if they pass to the south, it'll be cool and a little wet. High pressure is nice, but will also produce the inflow and outflow winds. In the winter the Squamish will be cold, and in the summer the temperature will be hot and the air reasonably still.

So there you go Sue. That's what I have learned from watching the skies around here for three winters. Your mileage may vary, and you only live a couple of kilometers away.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

It seems that El Nino is back. While this usually means crappy winters all over North America, here on Bowen it usually means that we have a lot more clear weather than normal.

Over the last couple of days we have had low pressure systems trailing along the coast and so it's been wet, with the most recent downpour last night filling about 10 centemetres of our buck placed in the mudroom. This is just about the time of year when this blog becomes a weather log! Feel free to follow along by visiting the geosphere links on the left.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Folks who live on the coast here are blessed with meterological amnesia. This is a helpful condition in the winter time, when weeks of rain and darkness can be instantly forgottne the moment the murk lifts and the mountains reveal themselves in all of their snowcapped glory.

However, it works both ways. Today is a wet cool day, with fog and rain and low cloud, and suddenly we have forgotten summer, donned the Gor-Tex and started building fires.

Gary the roofer stopped by and plugged up the leak, which turned out to be a hole in the shingle covering the valley of the mudroom dormer. He gooped it up and we'll give it a day or so to dry out and see if that has done the trick. I hope so, because the option is taking off the roofing and properly sealing the connection between the house and the mudroom, a small addition which was added after the house was built. I'll take a few tubes of goop over that calamity any day.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

First Pineapple Express of the year last night. It rained hard for a few hours overnight and soaked everything. There was a few inches of water in my bucket in the mudroom. The leak will be fixed soon.

Usually September is very nice, with clear skies and little rain, but this year it has turned out to be a little wetter and a little cooler than normal.

The snowberries are out on their bushes and the maples are starting to turn yellow.

Friday, September 3, 2004

We've had a spot of trouble here over the weekend. A soggy Bowfest seemed to have ended with a lot of strange activity. Police running around arresting people and pepper spraying youth, folks getting drunk, kids in trees...crazy stuff.

Bowfest is a family festival and usually ends in the night with a band a dancing. There are often house parties afterwards where young people make a lot of noise. I have no doubt that there's drinking and drugs involved, but I've never heard of any major problems.

The past two years though, there has been vandalism, and the local RCMP have called in additional officers to patrol the festival. These guys clearly aren't from the Island, and they aren't familiar with the people who live here or the way we do things. This is not the big city; it's a very small community and everyone pretty much knows each other pretty well. Having off island cops working the festival without any previous exposure to the island is a recipe for disaster.

I know a lot of the people in this story. Ella Barrett, the mayor's daughter, babysits my kids sometimes and is a great kid. She is wise beyond her years in a lot of ways. She was sitting in a tree waiting for a ride when she was stopped and accused of being high. Kids on Bowen sit in trees all the time. It's one of the reasons people move here with their kids.

And I know Corporal Greg Lui as well. He is in my taekwondo class and I spar with him all the time. Earlier in the day he and one of his constables shaved their heads to raise money for cancer. I've talked to him about introducing new cops to the island and having people get to know them a bit. We have good conversations. This year Greg took the initiative of setting up an outdoor leadership training program for at-risk youth here on Bowen which I have heard good things about. He invited me to help out if I was needed, on the basis of the work I do with youth.

So I klnow these people and I like and respect them. There are scads of rumours going around about what happened, and everyone has an opinion. Me, I'm keeping my opinions in check, and instead I'm willing to let the complaintants work out their difficulties between themselves. It's not my place to judge anyone involved in this mess. I'll bear witness to how this all plays out, but I don't see things as black and white here. The kids are not "thugs" and Greg is not the "George W. Bush of Bowen Island." I don't find those characterizatins all that helpful in a small community.

What I do like though is the idea that we engage in a dialogue with our local RCMP about the kind of policing we want here as a community. Our mayor, Ella's mother Lisa, has offered to convene that discussion, and I think that's good. It's a way we can all have a voice in what happens here in the future. Lots of people who weren't involved in the events on the weekend have an opinon. I think we would all be better served as a community if people expressed that energy through a community meeting to talk about what we value here and what we want.