Monday, December 18, 2006

Trees down in Crippen Park
Photo by Opa

So the third of this series of three storms has come and gone and it was a doozy.

When it landed off the west coast of Vancouver Island it was basically a hurricane and the surprise was both that it didn't let up much AND that the winds were westerly, which made it different from the southeasterlies that usually batter us. Point Atkinson had a record wind speed of 115km/h early Friday morning.

The real fun began Friday at about 3:30 am. The trees outside our place were really moving, and the wind was stronger than any I had ever felt. The strange thing was that they were blowing from behind us. We hardly ever feel a westerly wind blowing, but this one was wrecking havoc outside. Miller Road looked like someone had carpeted it with fir bows. I stood on our front porch and saw lots of lightning and watched patches of power go out in Whytecliff. We lost ou power at 3am.

The worst of the wind was over by 8am or so, but the damage had been done. There were trees down everywhere and huge damage to the power grid. The speculation was that we wouldn't have power for three or four days. We decided to use the event as a test run for earthquake preparedness. We broke out our wind up radio and cooked on the woodstove all day Friday and Saturday. Our water supply is gravity fed, so we had no trouble with water (unlike folks on wells) and we had heat and a cooking surface. I didn't even have to fire up the barbeque. In fact, other than going about our regular routines by candle light, things were surprisingly normal around here. That was, I think, in large part to our preparedness and the set up we have. It feels like we could go for four or five days without any trouble. That is what the provincial emergency preparedness program recommends for earthquake preparedness. Of course, if the house had sustained damage, we would have been camping out, but our emergency supplies are all at hand and it would have been no problem to move out of doors. All in all we fared very well.

The power came on about 7:30pm on Saturday, just as Caitlin and I were completing our black belt test in taekwondo, which we did at Cates Hill Chapel in a candle and lamp lit setting. It was a very traditional way to acheive this level in the Korean martial art and it was a very wonderful experience to have been able to do that with friends and family about in the cold and dark as we kicked, sparred and broke our way through the afternoon.

Once the power was on, we were able to see the real damage. There are trees down, and the Hydro crews were heros getting the island back on the grid by Sunday. A few plaes sustained damage from falling trees, but there were more stories of good luck than bad. We were in Vancouver today though and drove through Stanley Park and it is a mess. There are hundreds of trees down there and while not as devastated as Halifax during hurricane Juan, it's as bad as anyone has ever seen.

Bottom line is we're fine, not even a little shaken, and more confiedent tha ever about our ability to weather a bigger disaster if and when it comes.

As for what might come this week, the north Pacific weather map looks like a coache's diagram for a hockey game. There are five lows steaming towards us but we have two all-star defensemen in the form of a couple of huge high pressure zones to the southwest that might steer them north and give us some nice clear weather for Christmas. The forecast calles for more rain but stay tuned...anything could happen around here!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Winds continue to blow strong all day today. Aine and I went down to Pebbly beach to see about a report of a boat sinking there. We saw it moored offshore a little ways - pictures to follow. It looked like its bilge pump must have failed and it just took on water. The wind and waves didn't help.

We had the chimney sweeps over this morning as well. Quite a sight to see them up on the roof in the gale.

The pressure slope has been souteasterly at 7 millibars/60nm this afternoon. That's high conditions for the kinds of winds we have been getting. Ninety km gusts, big swells travelling along the long fetch of the Strait and slamming into Dorman Point and Miller's Landing. The Channel in front of our house has been chaos all day, and as the very high tide receeded, some big water piled up out there. I rode through it this evening in the ferry coming over to the mainland and we shook around coming across the westernmost reach of the fetch. Once the boat gets behind Point Atkinson, about halfway across the Channel, things flatten out considerably, although the wind is still strong.

And, to my delight this afternoon I glanced out the window at the water and saw three waterspouts heading south out of the Sound, the result of some kind of strange wind shear no doubt.

Forescast offshore continues to be harsh, with another system building huuricane force wionds ahead of another warm front. The seas out at La Perouse Bank, about 100 miles of Vancouver Island are running 8 meters tonight. Here is the forecast from that buoy:

Storm warning upgraded to hurricane force wind warning.
Winds west to southwest storm force 60 knots with gusts to hurricane force 80 easing to southwest 20 to 30 early this evening then to easterly 15 late this evening. Winds rising to southwest 20 to 30 overnight then to southeast gales 40 to storm force 50 Tuesday afternoon. Periods of rain. Morning fog patches. Seas near 8 metres subsiding to 5 this evening.
Outlook. Winds gale to storm force southeast veering to southwest gales.

Eighty knots is almost 150 km/h. That's a strong wind. It will ease by the time it hits us but we'll have more wind warnings I expect later in the week as well. As for me, I'm staying in Vancouver tonight, finishing an evening meeting here and preferring not to have to travel back by water taxi.

Nice to have the storms back.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

SPent a lovely afternoon up at Rivendell, celebrating a traditional Christmas. There were about 50 people up at the open house, lighting candles on a Christmas tree, eating food and enjoying each other's company. A really nice time.

Came home to tuck into a pot of soup and watch a storm develop. There is a series of little hurricanes steaming our way from the North Pacific ocean, and the first of them is slamming the coast tonight. We're expecting winds of upt to 90km/h - about half the force of a hurricane - but out on the open ocean the winds are blowing at hurrican force. Here is the weather report from the offshore bouys:

An intense 970 millibar low 120 miles west of cape St James will move rapidly northward west of the Charlottes tonight and reach The southern Alaska Panhandle early Monday morning. A trailing cold front will sweep across south coastal waters overnight and Monday morning. A second low to the south will deepen while moving northeastward towards central Vancouver Island as a 990 millibar low midday Monday then move inland.
Over northern waters storm force southeasterlies prevail Ahead of the intense low with hurricane force winds tonight. Winds will shift to gale to storm force southwest in the wake of the low.
Over southern waters moderate to strong southeasterly winds Will rise to gale to storm force this evening then ease to strong southwest Monday afternoon.

Storm warning continued.
Northwestern half..Southwest gales 40 to storm force 50 knots easing to 20 overnight. Winds shifting to easterly 20 Monday afternoon.
Periods of rain. Seas 7 to 9 metres subsiding to 5 to 6 Monday morning.
Southeastern half..Southerly gales 40 knots easing to southwest 15 to 20 late this evening then to variable 5 to 15 overnight. Winds rising to north 20 to 25 Monday morning then backing to southwest 25 Monday afternoon. Winds backing to east 20 Monday evening. Periods of rain.
Seas near 6 metres building to 6 to 8 late this evening.
Outlook. Winds veering to moderate southwest then rising to gale force southeast.

Crazy eh? Once these lows get past us, there is another one steaming it's way into the Gulf of Alaska. I'll keep you posted. It should bring down lots of good fir boughs for our Christmas wreath.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Ambrose comes through with a lovely set of photos of this week's snowy weather. All the man needs now is a blog...*hint hint*

Saturday, December 2, 2006

A great day to reconnect to this beautiful place. I have been working away for so long that I sometimes feel like I've begun to forget what it is like to live in community here. Today was one of those days that put me right back at home.

I began the day by taking the kids out for brunch at The Galley in Artisan Square. We ran into Amrita Sondhi there, who has just published an amazing cookbook of Ayurvedic cooking. Many of the recipes and anecdotes are by and about Bowen Islanders, making it surprising local. It is a wonderful book, very beautifully designed and full of incredible food. I've been on Amrita to launch the book here in a typical Bowen way: with a potluck. Perhaps soon...

After a hot chocolate and a Perfect Marriage at Cocoa West, I stopped in to hear Jude Neale read and sing a little at her book launch. She has compiled a book of poetry - very spare poems and very full of little twists, like haikus. Jude is a woman of tremendous presence and these poems seem to take that presence and drill it deeply into single moments.

Home to play and eat a little and then we returned to the Cove for the annual Lighting of the Cove which really kicks off the Christmas Season. Islanders gather at Artisan Square and accompanied by Morris Dancers and caroling choirs, we troop down to the the lower Cove, stopping at Village Square, the Orchard Cottages and finally the Union Steamship Marina, where Santa arrives on the water taxi and hot chocolate and mulled wine is liberally distributed. Along the way we sing carols and visit with each other. This year, I finally met Ambrose Merrel and his family who have been long time readers of this blog from the UK. They moved here this fall to start a new life on our little rock and are just as lovely in person as they have been online for all this time.

Crunchy snow and crisp air was the canvas upon which today's events played out. Some years we have drowned in rain during the Lighting of the Cove. This year was a perfect, lovely and seasonal event. I feel right back at home.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

And so it hasn't really stopped snowing in the last few days. Over the weekend we had something like 20 centimeters of wet snow that fell, and for awhile Sunday morning, all you could hear in the forest were the rifle cracks of branches falling from the Douglas-firs and the odd alder plunging to the ground. I had to walk to Xenia on the weekend as we were snowed in and I was running a retreat there. Sunday morning was eerie. By Sunday afternoon, the temperatures had plunged to at least -10, which is cold for the coast and the snow dried out a little. It kept snowing though and all through Monday and Tuesday more snow fell.

Around our place there is probably 30 centimeters on the ground. It took us 3.5 hours to shovel and salt the driveway enough to get the car free today. We ran out of time though and drove a borrowed car to make the ferry. It kept on snowing today and is expected to turn to rain tonight. There have been some power outages on the west side of the island but we have only suffered the occasional flicker and a plugged bathtub drain which I suspect has to do with freezing. Other wise, we're just fine, having weathered the storms of November 2006 quite well.

This November has been the wettest month on record of any month. In Vancouver 350 mm of precipitation has fallen, and we have gotten more, maybe as much as 400mm. I'm not cure we have had a day this month that didn't have rain or snow. The salmon are happy though, with lots of chum returning to Killarney Creek. We're waiting for the coho to come in any time now I should think.

In other news, unrelated to the storm, Andrea and Mike have sold The Snug, which is very sad for us, but I understand the new owners, who are local, have the same loving intention for the place. Andrea and Mike, and their son Finn have been amazing, letting us play Irish music there for the past year, being insanely generous and kind and just amazingly inspiring as business owners. They are moving to Mexico for a while to try out living there, which will be great for them, although they will be deeply missed around here. And in other business news, Dr. Sue has opened her medical practice finally. She moved to the island with her family in 2004, partly because of this blog, and now she has become the first female doctor to open a full time general practice here, which is great news and long overdue. Hopefully, we'll soon see her return to blogging after her year-long hiatus. At any rate, we'll be playing some tunes for her official open house sometime next month, so look for that.

Friday, November 24, 2006

It's snowing out.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I am stuck in a meeting room in Chilliwack reading reports of the storm raging outside and down in Howe Sound. Notice this afternoon that the ferry was cancelled for the first time ever due to weather. Things must be bad. Unfortunately, no windows here so I have no idea what is going on out there. Hope everyone is okay...I know the power has been out most of the day.
From Environment Canada for tonight:

A low will remain in the northern gulf of Alaska. A second Low well offshore this evening will deepen to 978 millibars and track to northern Vancouver Island Wednesday morning and into the bc interior Wednesday afternoon. The associated front will move to central Vancouver Island Wednesday afternoon and onto the south Coast Wednesday evening.
Over northern waters strong to gale force west to southwest Winds will continue.
Over southern waters strong to gale force southeasterlies will Rise to storm force tonight with hurricane force winds around the northern tip of Vancouver Island. Winds will shift to strong to gale force northwest in the wake of the low and front Wednesday.

HURRICANE force winds off the north tip of Vancouver Island and seas running 4-6 meters. The biggest storm of the year is slamming the coast right now.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fall is right back on track. There is snow on the mountains and the chum slamon have returned to Killarney Creek. There are dozens on the gravel beds in the lagoon by the causeway and several more in the new spawning beds in at the base of the fish ladder at Bridal Veil falls. The chum don't use the fish ladder, that's for the coho, and I've yet to see them arrive yet. They usually follow on later.

There is another run we are watching at Tunstall Bay on Explosives Creek. So far, there is a lovely deep channel that has scoured out the gravel on the beach but no one has seen any of the chum return there. There are seals in the bay, but that isn't unusual. It would be nice if the chum would return to that creek as it is one of the few creeks that can support a chum run on Bowen. Davies Creek, the one that flows into Snug Cove beside the picnic field, has too much water in it and it has eroded to the clay bottom with all the gravel washed into the cove. The Bowen Island Fish and Wildlife Society may look at building some obstructions in the creek to slow the flow down.

Good rains and colder weather over this past week. Ferry woes too, with one major breakdown that had the Cap out of service for a day and a smaller ding on a log that disabled part of the steering system. The Cap is due to go for her annual refit for nearly six weeks this winter which is sure to drive the single occupancy car coimmuters nuts as the smaller Howe Sound Queen comes on board. The wise ones will start now to make their ride sharing arrangements. I love the smaller boat, but I'm not a commuter. It's faster than tha Cap and cozier and, at 45 years old, a lot more rustic. It really reminds you of being an islander.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Whooosh! The Pineapple Express has finally arrived! Wind and rain and warm air has flowed into the Georgia Basin and the creeks are running and the forest is soaking and fir needles are everywhere. The power has been tempermental and we're having trouble keeping the tarps on the exposed parts o fthe woodpile.

But inside here all is warm and toasty, with a fire burning and the Leaf game on and after a couple of weeks of being anxious about the weather pattern, it seems like the fall has finally arrived in full spirit.

More rain expected tomorrow, with gale and ranfall warnings in Howe Sound. Oh joy for these storms! They are ennervating to say the least.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

And while we are on the subject of weather, and because Ambrose asked, I found a great resource explaining the climate and weather of BC. NavCanada (the people that control air traffic) have produced a beautiful set of books about the weather of Canada, and best of all they are free for downloading. The British Columbia one is great and explains in easy to understand ways the basic climate of BC and all the forces that go into producing our weather. You can download the guide from the NavCanada publications site. The book is a great complimentary read to what is probably the definitive book on the subject, "The veil of chaos: Living with weather along the British Columbia Coast" by Owen S. Lange which is a superb treatment of the topic. You can find that book at the Bowen Island Library.

Now all we need is the weather to show up. Hallowe'en night was cold, and colder especially in Deep Bay where we gathered for fireworks. On calm nights like this the cold air from the mountains pools down in Mannion Bay, and there was actually a fair breeze at my back as I stood watching the fireworks. The air comes flowing down the mountainsides at night and it was downright chilly. Once we got back up the hill to home, the usual inversion took over and I could barely see my breath. Very cool the way these very local patterns work.
Autumn blue

It has been probably one of the driest Octobers on record here. The fall storms have not yet arrived in any volume, and, in fact the last couple of days have felt like we made the switch to winter. It has been colder and sunny with strong Sqaumish winds pouring down the Sound.

Winter is clearly coming to the north, as today I saw scaups, hooded mergansers and pied-billed grebes on the Lagoon. We don't have nearly enough water in the creeks yet for the salmon, but a rain storm last Sunday put some flow to the weir. Still, no chum yet, no snow on the mountains. We're two weeks behind. It's all making for a really nice Hallowe'en night though.

Despite the strange climatic dynamics, things are moving along on the Island. Gin has moved Tha Happy Italian coffee bar from his space beneath the pub to a space beneath The Ruddy Potato, across the road. He has renamed it “The Happy Isle” as a nod to Bowen's past, and he's now the first coffee bar on Bowen to be doing latte art.

Up the hill, in Artisan Square, our Bowen Island Taekwondo dojang has moved into a new building next to the Galley, and the Galley owners have opened a small movie theatre above the restaurant. Down the road a little a phenomenal art show has opened at the BIAC gallery. It is a show of art produced in chocolate sponsored by Cocoa West and the Bowen Island Arts Council and it is the perfect blend of the enterprise and art that is bubbling right now at Artisan Square. It seems that the square is really coming into its own now.

And so we get ready for Hallowe'en tonight and I'm hard at work preparing the October edition of Island Time which will have more audio about all of the above. In the meantime, enjoy these photos of a crystal clear autumn day on Bowen.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

It has been a worryingly dry month so far. The almana in the Vancouver Sun said that we have had 24mm of rain this month, and 20 of those fell on Sunday. Altogether that is less than half the average for the month.

What it means principally is that the creeks aren't flowing enough for the salmon. They are due back soon, and I think there are chum in Deep Bay at the moment, but there is nowhere near enough water going over the weir at The Causeway for them to get up. It won't be long I'm sure.

El Nino is taking shape. It feels like the snow is still a long way off from dusting the mountains.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

It reminds me of 2002. There is a mild El Nino brewing up for this winter, a warm current that develops along the California coast peaking around Christmas and bestowing us with beautiful weather for the winter. So far, that pattern has begun to take shape and we are bathed in what feels like summer weather - calm and sunny with patches of fog in the mornings quickly burning off to reveal clear skies and spackled ocean.

This afternoon, I took some time to sit in shirtsleeves at Pebbly Beach and read for a whiloe, as if it were summer. In fact it feels like spring, with a bit of chill on the breeze but warmth in the sheltered places.

A glance at the weather maps shows high after high piling up along the coast, keeping the fall storms deflecting northwards. It won;t be long before these highs collapse, unable to be sustained by the ever sinking sun, and soon enough the storms will arrive, drenching us in wind and rain and filling the creeks for the salmon to return too. I can't imagine this weather will hold for more than a couple of weeks, and indeed the 14 day forecast has average or above temperatures and just showers rather than full storms. The chum will be late this year, but we're relishing it while we have it.

Friday, October 6, 2006

James Glave is trying to get a good idea going.

Many of the cars that drive off Bowen Island are single occupant. In an effort to alleviate this problem, James is trying to start a movement whereby drivers put their hazard lights on if they are driving into town and have room for a passenger. That way foot passengers can easily scan the deck to catch a ride.

I like simple. I hope it catches on.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

We are pleased as punch around here to announce that the first episode of "Island Time" is up and available for download. You can find it hosted at the Internet Archive, where you will also find show notes and three different audio formats.

The show will be aired on Artisan Radio this month as well.

Download the mp3 here.


00:00 Intro
00:38 Bowen Moment - Cocoa West Soundscape
02:31 Our Island's Ours Again
06:41 Bowen Moment - Deep Bay summer afternoon Soundscape
09:53 Searching for plumnose anemones at the Union Steamship marina
16:43 Bowen Moment - First fall rain
19:04 Making jelly from wild berries
28:04 Outro and credits

Produced by Chris Corrigan, Caitlin Frost, Aine Corrigan-Frost and Finn Corrigan-Frost for Artisan Radio (http://www.artisanradio.com0 88.7FM, Bowen Island, BC, Canada.

For more information


Saturday, September 30, 2006

Turning to the water in the dying days of September. Local diver Adam Taylor has discovered YouTube and posted this great video of plumnose anemones eating a lion's mane jellyfish. These jellies are the nasty red ones on our coast, and their sting is very painful. Aine got one last year. At this time of year they mature and die so they are all over the beaches at the moment. Yay anemones for helping with the cleanup.

And a couple of days ago, tipped off by David Smith, I took a bunch of off-island visitors down to Tunstall Bay to see the sunset and the bio-luminescence in the water. It was stunning. Looked like we had flashlights trapped to our feet as we walked in the relatively warm water.

I love it that Bowen is a tree-covered rock in a sea of light.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The drought has passed. It broke last week as the weather turned colder and wetter and less stable. The Gulf of Alaska high has deteriorated and we are living now beneath a grey blanket with the odd splash of sunshine. Yesterday reminded us of summer, today reminds us of the fall.

This season needs a name, this interregnum between the drought and the flood, when the sky seesaws between its offerings. It will be like this until the first big rain that leaves snow on the mountains, which will happen in a month or so. That is when fall and winter sets in and the salmon return.

So perhaps now, with the rains filling the creeks and sending freshets into the sea for the salmon to taste on their way home, we could call this "salmon-calling season" followed by "salmon return" and then, truly, winter.

Here is a Bowen moment of the first rain of salmon-calling season. (mp3)

Saturday, September 9, 2006

A great tune from oldseed a Winnipeg songwriter who tours around constantly. He'll be on Bowen Island on the equinox, September 22, performing a house concert at Julie Vik's house. If you want to go, contact Julie at 2345 and see what's up. I think I'll head over there after our little Snug session wraps up.

Dig the crazy harmonies at the end of this song...amazing passion there.

mp3: Oldseed - If you've got nothing but light, let it shine

Friday, September 8, 2006

After long last, I have finally made some jellies from local salal and Oregon grapes. The jelly turned out pretty well.

Here is the recipe I used:

Salal or Oregon Grape Jelly

1 L (4 cups) juice of Oregon grapes or salal berries
1 L (4 cups) sugar
1 box Certo

Prepare wild berry juice by barely covering cleaned, washed berries with water in a saucepan, heating until they come to a boil, simmering, then straining the juice. About 1 L (4 cups) of berries will yield about 500 ml (2 cups) of juice. Sterilize jelly jars, spoons and Pyrex measuring cup to pour boiled jelly into jars. Place new canning jar lids in saucepan with water, bring to a boil and boil for 5-10 minutes. Mix sugar and certo crystals with berry juice in large stainless steel pot, bring to a boil, boil hard for one minute, then pour into sterilized jars using sterilized Pyrex cup. Fix lids in place, screw on ring caps and let sit until cool and until the lids have sealed.

And we made a podcast of this cooking episode, which you can find here (.mp3). Bon appetit!

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

There is a tradition on the GulfIslands that the last ferries to leave on Labour Day are accompanied by a terrifically robust send off by Islanders. It is the time when the mainlanders and summer people ae sent home with a cheerful wave,and a sigh of relief.

Summer is such a busy time on these islands that the Labour Day weekend is a relief to everyone. And to capture the spirit of the fact that we have our island backm, but only the winter to look forward to, I penned a song which we have been singing around Bowen for a couple of years. Every year, some of us sing it to the ferries as they leave, and this year, a small and hardy band of three of us met to sing off the 3:00 ferry. You can hear an mp3 of this particular performance here.

And here are the lyrics for "Our Island's OUrs Again" aka "Farewell to all you Mainlanders", for your amusement:

Our island’s ours again
(Tune of “Rolling Down to Old Maui”)

On the first of May of every year
They come by boat and plane
The ferry starts to overload
And the traffic is a pain
All summer long down in the Cove
The shop doors open wide
The rest of us head for the hills
And find some place to hide

Chorus: Farewell to all you mainlanders
And welcome to the rain
So raise a cheer, the autumn’s here
Our island’s ours again!

Their money spent, the continent
Will accept them in its fold
The beaches are available
Though the water’s freezing cold
Once more we can find our favourite seats
On a barstool down at Docs
And the women who run VONIGO
Can replenish all their stock


Now the nights are cool, the air is brisk
Mount Gardner wears a shroud
The wind has swung southeast again
And the Sound is full of cloud
For the next eight months we’ll hide away
And slowly go insane
But what care we, we’re finally free
Our island’s ours again!


The Squamish winds will blow for days
And the breeze will chill our bones
But the firewood’s stacked and the pantry’s packed
And we’ve battened down our homes
We’re done with yard work, cleaned the eaves
And there’s nothing left to stain
Let winter send its best at us
Our island’s ours again!


Friday, September 1, 2006

The Labou Day weekend is upon us, and the weather is supposed to be positively the hottest yet, so it's all good. WE went swimming today at Hood Point in cold water. Lots of little ochre seas stars around, On the rocks the babies were scouring the barnacle beds for mussles and there were numerous skeletons on the beach of small ones.

The air is changing now, and there is an inversion tonight. Cool air has slid down the mountains so that it's quite chilly in the Cove where we were playing music at The Snug but up here at home, 275 fett above sea level, it's a warm night. TH elonger nights are leaving more cool air and water, and the cycle of declining temperatures is in full swing.

Crickets are chirping. Fall is in the air.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Alan Fotheringham weighs in with his annual "how I spent my summer holidays" piece. He comes over here in the summer and often writes something like this at the end of the year. A piece he wrote in Maclean's a while back made some really offensive comments about Vanessa, who runs the Paradise Grill. This year, as usual, he gets some truths late and some half baked. The community consensus last time was that he thinks of us islanders as quaint.

He's out of touch, indeed more out of touch than any of you far flung readers of this blog. So he assumes that the cougar that is currently on the island is simply an extension of the old rumour about lions prowling the place. There is a persistent rumour of cougars here, but in the last year the sightings and scat have proved that there actually is one here at the moment.

He makes some really disparaging remarks about the Dalai Lama and the work that is being done to find a place to build a retreat centre here. He has a tender review of the Bow Fest parade, but, friends, the woman on the horse was not drunk. It was Karo, sure, but she wasn't drunk. And he trots out his usual amazement that he can get the New York Times here on Sunday morning.

And then there is this total historical mash up: "My retreat is called Bowen Island, named after a rear admiral in the British Royal Navy who discovered this little piece of heaven in 1860. Evidence would suggest that he wasn’t the first guy in the territory. It would seem the Spanish high-riggers, sailing around Cape Horn at the tip of South America, beat the Brits to the job. Witness the names of the other islands built in Paradise: Saturna, Galiano, Valdes, Texada, Ganges, Lasqueti, Gabriola, Hernando. I rest my case."

Bowen Island was never seen by Bowen. It was actually named by Captain Richards in 1859, taking the lead from Vancouver who named the Sound for Rear Admiral Richard Howe and the heros of the Glorious First of June. And of course it is true that the English weren't the first in the territory, and neither were the Spanish. The Squamish have been here for at least 9,000 years. And the Squamish name for Fotherham's little retreat at Hood Point is Kwumshum, which means "fast drumming ground" or "thumping feet" for the sound the tide makes as it rolls over the rocks between Bowen and Finnisterre Island. I rest my case.

See you next year Alan.
Alan Fotheringham weighs in with his annual "how I spent my summer holidays" piece. He comes over here in the summer and often writes something like this at the end of the year. A piece he wrote in Maclean's a while back made some really offensive comments about Vanessa, who runs the Paradise Grill. This year, as usual, he gets some truths late and some half baked. The community consensus last time was that he thinks of us islanders as quaint.

He's out of touch, indeed more out of touch than any of you far flung readers of this blog. So he assumes that the cougar that is currently on the island is simply an extension of the old rumour about lions prowling the place. There is a persistent rumour of cougars here, but in the last year the sightings and scat have proved that there actually is one here at the moment.

He makes some really disparaging remarks about the Dalai Lama and the work that is being done to find a place to build a retreat centre here. He has a tender review of the Bow Fest parade, but, friends, the woman on the horse was not drunk. It was Karo, sure, but she wasn't drunk. And he trots out his usual amazement that he can get the New York Times here on Sunday morning.

And then there is this total historical mash up: "My retreat is called Bowen Island, named after a rear admiral in the British Royal Navy who discovered this little piece of heaven in 1860. Evidence would suggest that he wasn’t the first guy in the territory. It would seem the Spanish high-riggers, sailing around Cape Horn at the tip of South America, beat the Brits to the job. Witness the names of the other islands built in Paradise: Saturna, Galiano, Valdes, Texada, Ganges, Lasqueti, Gabriola, Hernando. I rest my case."

Bowen Island was never seen by Bowen. It was actually named by Captain Richards in 1859, taking the lead from Vancouver who named the Sound for Rear Admiral Richard Howe and the heros of the Glorious First of June. And of course it is true that the English weren't the first in the territory, and neither were the Spanish. The Squamish have been here for at least 9,000 years. And the Squamish name for Fotherham's little retreat at Hood Point is Kwumshum, which means "fast drumming ground" or "thumping feet" for the sound the tide makes as it rolls over the rocks between Bowen and Finnisterre Island. I rest my case.

See you next year Alan.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Our new local radio station, which has been on the air for a little while, is now live on the web. If you want to tune in, go visit Artisan Radio. David is playing mostly non-stop music and old radio shows these days. It's great stuff. And be sure to tune in for the Bowen Showcase daily from 5-6pm, for an hour of local music. David has been kind enough to include some of my stuff in the mix.

Soon we'll be contributing with local programming, but in the meantime, it makes a great work accompaniment.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

It's a thick day here in the coastal atmosphere. Clouds moved in overnight from the west and this morning there was a thick haze in the channel. There are no boats out on the Sound today, in stark contrast to the traffic of the last few days, the last hot summer weekend. There is no wind, but the air is cooler. It might rain today which would be good as we've only had 4mm all month. The pile of split maple I stacked in the spring is dry and I'm looking at it like I know it won't be long before it starts to get used in the woodstove.

August is dying on the vine, and we are entering the last month of summer, the transition into fall, ever so gently and cautiously.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Back home again after a couple of weeks away. One notices the stuff that has changed. The nights are cooler now and the ocean is getting really cold. The blackberries are in full swing with a good crop this year. There is something decadent about blackberry pie. When you cook blackberries, they dissolve into some kind of perfume. It's gorgeous.

I know have enough Oregon grapes and salal to make a lot of jelly, so I'll probably do that tomorrow.

Bowfest is today, our annual Island gathering and this year's theme is medieval.

Friday, August 4, 2006

I have begun to assemble a collection of Google Earth placemarks on Bowen Island.

You can view them by making sure you have Google Earth installed on your machine and then downloading this .kmz file: Bowen Island.kmz which contains all the place marks. I'll be adding to it over time, and current versions will be uploaded here, and accessible on the sidebar.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

SPent a day snorkelling at Cates Bay beach today.

Holy crap, what a beautiful place to snorkel. At the north end of the public beach is a rocky point and lots of underwater rock reefs. The visibility was amazing, easily 15 feet, and there were lots of little fish around, shiners and plenty of rockfish deeper down. Some of the rockfish were good sized ones too. Lots of crabs in the mussel beds and plenty of ochre sea stars and little blue stars as well

Diving down about 15 feet or so there are lots of eelgrass beds with dungeness crabs and big red rock crabs scuttling about. It's probably great diving down there, heading into the steeper deeps. I'll bet there's scores of rockfish in there,being that it's part of a Rockfish conservation area.

You can see the whole area on this satellite photo. In the bay north of the point, you can see how the sea floor is shallower. That's where the reefs are. Next time, I'm going around the outside of the far point into the surgier areas to see if there are anemones and urchins.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

We're a pretty friendly bunch around here, but if there is one thing that gets the goat of most Bowen Islanders, it's the folks that jump into the ferry line up ahead of others.

We have a pretty straightforward ferry loading scheme: you line up. There is a slight glitch however in that elegance in that the lineup happens on Bowen Trunk Road, and there are several gaps in the line due to restrictions such as not blocking fire hydrants, fire lanes and driveways. But the municipality has helpfully painted cross hatching on the road where you are not allowed to park. Despite that, there is sometimes confusion when, coming around the corner from Miller Road, you might pull into the ferry lineup without checking whether the traffic is lined up above you on the hill. This often happens, especially to visitors.

(You can see what I mean in the Google Maps image of the crossroads.)

And it happened this afternoon. As I was riding up Bowen Trunk Road on my bike, I saw a grey Mercedes pull into the lineup when there was clearly an overload - the traffic was backed way up the hill and it was the first sailing after dangerous cargo - 5:00pm on a Wednesday - so it was bound to be full. This car pulled up behind a black Mercedes convertible just above the General Store. Both were parked in the cross hatched areas.

Helpfully, I went over to the driver of the grey car and filled him in on the etiquette and told him there would probably be an overload, so he might want to get up to the top of the line to be fair. He asked if that applied to his friend ahead of him, called Fred, who also arrived late. I said it did. He thanked me and got out to talk to Fred.

I went to the Ruddy Potato, did some shopping and came out, only to see that neither the grey car or the black one had moved. I returned and asked him if he was going to move and he said no. I said it would be the polite and neighbourly thing to do and he thanked me again and simply sat at the wheel of his car looking ahead. I asked Fred the same thing. Fred's wife started making some noises about how they didn't know that was the rule and just as I was about to give them a chance to make good on their mistake Fred barked at me "We're NOT moving."

And they didn't.

And the ferry was overloaded.

Now, my guess is that these three people were embarrassed. They probably felt embarrassed then ashamed when I returned and saw that they hadn't moved even when they knew they were being unfair to others. I can understand that. I've felt that way before. But when offered a clear way to make amends, to do the right thing, they refused. I wonder if it compounded their suffering? I wonder if folks confronted them on the ferry and then later on if they thought about what it means NOT to do the right and fair thing when you know so clearly what it is?

I hope they aren't Islanders. If they were visitors, I can appreciate that it was an honest mistake and that they weren't resourceful enough to deal with politely. I mean, what's in it for them if some Bowen Islanders miss their boat to town because they snuck in? But if they were Islanders, it shows a kind of frightened contempt for their neighbours.

If you are coming to visit us on Bowen Island, remember, please check the line up above the crossroads. If there are no cars up there, you can line up down in the Cove. If there are cars there, you can line up on the hill. And don't take it personally when one of us points out the rules. If you've made an honest mistake, we're very forgiving and friendly people. We'll all thank you for taking the chance to do the right thing.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

In other news, I may have taken my last hike to Cape Roger Curtis in its near wild state. The owners have hired security guards and are seeking to erect a fence to keep people out.

Well, it's private property, but that seems a little over the top. Only way to visit those beaches now is by water. I suppose they can do what they want, but fences and guards aren't very neighbourly.

A perfect Bowen Island summer weekend. Friday night we played Irish tunes outside at The Snug and we probably played there until close to 11:00pm. Then yesterday the fun continued with an impromptu gig up at David Chamberlain's new bookstore, Sherlock Tomes, which is also the site of Artisan Radio. We were all set to go online with the first ever live music broadcast when a tree feel across Grafton Road right at the entrance to the square knocking out power for hours. So no live boradcast, but plenty of fun playing music blackout style.

Later after harvest a bunch of salal berries, it was down to Cates Hill Chapel to accompany Jude Neale in an amazing concert of Opera, standards and celtic songs. Jude is a remarkable woman, a true character - all dressed in ball gowns and shocking orange hair - and her voice can fill a concert hall. Amazing.

To cap it off early this morning we were rocked by a thunderstorm that crashed and slashed it's way up Howe Sound. THankfully it was accompanied by a deluge of rain which was good for the garden and kept the lightning from starting any fires.

Now, it's off to the beach.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Finally back home after traipsing all over Ontario for a couple of weeks.

The huckleberries are still holding on strong, to my delight, and I'll be out to harvest some of them this week. The blackberries and salal are starting to come into their own which is nice too, although they are at least three weeks away from intensive harvest. Haven't checkd my secrete wild raspberry patches yet.

The water was cold yesterday at the beach, on the flood tide, but it didn't stop us from swimming at Bowen Bay and later consuming a supper of grilled veggies with sundried tomato pesto on Italian bread with salad and one of the most intensively perfumed melons I have ever eaten.

This is what summer is all about.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Van posts a great set of directions to the two most accessible mine adits (horizontal shafts) on Bowen island:

There actually two mine shafts that I am aware of. The first one what i will call the lower mineshaft is in the Bluewater area with the entrance off of Mutiny Lane which runs off Upper Windjammer. Access is on the right side of Mutiny Lane about 100 feet or so further up from the pump house on your left. If you reach the gate at the end then you went to far. The mine shaft is about 100 yards up the trail. This mine shaft is the most interesting in my view is this lower one because the shaft splits into a "Y" about 100 feet in. The other one which I call the "upper mine shaft" is just goes straight into the mountain side about 200 feet.

The second mine shaft which I previously called the upper shaft is about 30 -45 minutes hike going up towards the Mt Gardner summit off of the same trail. Take a left turn at the signs for Mt Gardner. It is about 25 minutes or so form this point. Look for a "slag heap" thing on your right just at the head of the creek bed that you will have hiked up. You will see what is left of a flatten ore car laying at a foot of a tree at the base of this 'heap". However watch out for a very deep vertical shaft filled with very cold water about half way in. There are planks laid across it but you still must watch your step. Please note If you have crossed a creek bed without seeing 'slag heap" and mine shaft, you again have gone to far and must retrace your steps.

The over all hike is a good one for those who do not want to go all the way to the summit. If you keep to the trial on your left you will end out coming out at the Blue Water Reservoir and water tower which is about a 100 yards from where you started from. Alternately you can start at the gate by the water tower.I have done this hike from this end in about 55 min. to 1 hour 10 minutes with only a couple of 2 minutes stops. It has also taken me up to three hours when taking guests on the hike and stopping at three view sites as well as the two mine shafts.

The location can be seen here.

Friday, July 7, 2006

Crow in teh rhodos

Flying off to Onatrio for a couple of weeks. The huckleberries are probably going to be done before we get back, but I'm looking forward to making some blackberry jam and swimming in the phosphoresence then.

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Also today, Mark Groen posted a series of photos from a recent hike to the top of Mount Gardner, the highest point on the island.
Another great day of snorkeling at Bowen Bay today.

This afternoon I cruised both ends of the beach and the extended rocky headlands. At the north end of the beach I swam as far as the next beach along, under the pier to the west of Bowen Bay beach. Heading west from Bowen Bay beach, you travel over some very rocky terrain covered mostly in bladder rack and a tall seaweed that looks a little like a fir tree. There are great forests of this, and they obscure kelp down below. Lots of stuff hides in here, most common are the shiners, with the breeding males quite large and black. Today there were three species of crabs scurrying over the rocks (yellow and purple shore crabs and large red rock crabs) and lots of ochre sea stars hiding at the base of the rocks. Several sculpins and a goby were seen here too.

Heading further west around the point towards the pier, there is a large flat and shallow area covered in a thick green algae. There were schools of what I think were herring here - very take and relaxed and not jittery at all. I could just drift into their midst without a problem. These were large schools, the largest was maybe a couple of hundred. There was also a school of needle fish here too. I turned at the second beach and swam back for a look at the south end of Bowen Bay. Swimming together, Aine and I swam all the way along the rocks and under the first pier in the photo and into the bay. We saw shiners, crabs, a juvenile black rockfish, a small cod and more of the herring. Also the same sea stars and less crab action on the steeper rocks. The little bay at the end is quite rocky and the water was very murky in there from plankton. No sign of the bay pipefish today, but on the way back we saw these gorgeous tiny fish swimming at the surface in small schools. They were no longer than an inch and the had a bright irridescent spot at the base of their tail. Their bodies were long and thin. Very beautiful tiny fish.

The water was really warm today, even down at ten feet where I dived looking for flounder and rockfish. Cloudier than last time though with maybe eight feet of visibility although nothing came clear until it was two feet away.

Finished the evening off with an impromptu picnic of cheese, bread, fruit, tabouleh and fresh picked huckleberries with friends we ran into. A lovely, quiet Bowen sunset. The beach was quieter than it had been on the long weekend and populated by more friends than strangers.

Saturday, July 1, 2006

It has been a week of unusual things in the water.

First on Thursday, coming back from Victoria we saw a pod of killer whales off Mayne Island. There were five or six and one breached a couple of times. An unusual sight to be sure.

Then last night, the red tide in Deep Bay.

And today, during our first picnic of the season at Bowen Bay beach, we saw a deer swim across the mouth of the bay, his four points sticking out of the clear glassy water with the sky turning pink behind him. His mate jumped in too, but she came right back out. Too cold for her, I guess.

But not too cold for me. I went for a nice leisurely snorkel around the rock face at the south end of the beach and between the beach and the dock I saw the following:

  • Bay pipe fish in the weeds (related to the seahorse)
  • Black rockfish
  • Sculpins
  • Shiner surfperch
  • Moon jellyfish
  • Cod
  • Needlefish
You can get a good view of the beach in this satellite photo.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Aine and I went for an after dinner swim in Deep Bay tonight at Sandy Beach. The red tide was thick and the water even smelled a little weedy. This is the biggest red tide bloom in resent memory on the west coast and it has closed the shellfishery. Not at all dangerous to swim in, but startling to see the murky purple water.
We have just past our fifth anniversary of living on Bowen Island. Five winters, five springs five summers, five falls.

In that time, I think this blog has been all or partly responsible for attracting five great families to Bowen too. I like to think that this is part of the human voice of island living out there in world, documenting the trials and joys of dwelling on this lovely rock.

Thanks for being with us!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Google has finally updated the satelite photos of Bowen Island and they are much better resolution. You can see my house in this shot, just to the northwest of the green arrow which is pointing at the southeastern edge of my lot.

Huckleberry season is in full swing. I pick about a cup every time I walk to the Cove these days. I'm freezing them to see if I can get enough to make some jam this year.

And I've been swimming for a week, in Deep Bay. The water has ranged in temperature and salinity. Today was nice, Friday was freezing.

Happy solstice!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The transformation of Cape Roger Curtis has begun. The owners have punched a road into the lot from the end of Whitesails, officially making it a subdivision and changing all of the options at the same time. Once there is work on the land, a comprehensive plan becomes a difficult thing to do.

Islanders will be out there tomorrow for a rally. I'm not sure what the options are at this point but I know they are substantially limited by the fact that the road is being built.

It's a sad day. I wrote a song about this in the style of an Irish Aisling which has been sung around the island for a few months now. Seems like a good place to post it.

One stormy spring day
As I rambled at the Cape
And gazed out to the ocean
Where the seals sport and play.
From the sea foam and spray
There arose a fair maid
As she stepped on the rocky shore
To me she did say:

Oh the old world is dying, and the new is yet to come.
Oh the old world is dying, and the new is yet to come.

Her gaze met my eye
And she began to cry
And her keening stilled the south wind
In the far distant sky
Said she "Sir, you stand
Firmly rooted on this land
I appeal to your true heart
Will you give me your hand?"

For the old world is dying, and the new is yet to come
For the old world is dying, and the new is yet to come

The wind died away
And the sea foam and the spray
Took back the fair maiden
At the end of the day
In a grove of old fir
I felt my heart a-stir
To respond to her calling
And devote my life to her

For the old world is dying, and the new is yet to come
For the old world is dying, and the new is yet to come

I suspect next spring, we will be unable to harvest nettles down there. This is a big change for the island in many ways. I am certain we will look back on the building of that road as a turning point.

If you can make it to the rally, it's at 10:30 tomorrow morning at the end of Whitesails in Tunstall Bay, the new access road to Cape Roger Curtis.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

An update from David Chamberlain about the radio station:

Hey Chris. Just read your blog about the radio station and thought I'd correct something - we're test broadcasting on 88.7 FM, not 88.5. Could be why you couldn't get it.

As an update, we now have audio processing and a few tag lines - we're going to be recording more tag lines now that I also have a voice processor up and running (they sound somewhat hollow at this point).

Testing has indicated that it's all about line of sight. If you can see the antenna (still in the back room of the bookstore at Artisan Square, on the north side of te square), you can receive the signal (within reason, of course, considering the power output). That means that right now, it's strong at the United Church on Miller, and all along Miller up to about Scarborough Road. You can also receive it reasonably along Lenora and Melmore in Deep Bay. It starts to fade out past Miller/Dorman in the Cove, but I hope that once the antenna is raised a good 30 feet or so (I'm aiming for sometime in July, have all the equipment, just need to arrange to get it up there), we'll top the hill blocking Cove access and get into there as well. And luckily for me, the signal is strong along the Mount Gardiner valley - I hope to be able to receive it at my home on Smith Road (at the far end of Killarney Lake) once I get the transmitter antenna up and I put up a long wire antenna on the receiving end (coupled with a high end, sensitive home stereo, of course).

The bookstore now has built-in bookshelves along one wall, and one free-standing, double-sided shelf. We will be building one more free standing shelf for the opening July 1, with more to come as we get going. And once the bookstore opens, I'm really going to start the push for programming at the radio station. Expect to hear a lot of buzz over the summer as I put things into gear. And I'm working on 'live' ferry updates to go into effect when we finally launch. I have my Internet connection finally up and going and should have audio streaming within the next month. Exciting.

So 88.7 it is, and soon to be streamed to the rest of the world as well. You can see the range of the station, roughly speaking, in this Google Map. And of course, as soon as the station is live on the Internet, you'll have the link on the side bar here.

Friday, June 9, 2006

Ate my first huckleberry today.

In reviewing some posts from past years, it seems like this year is much like last year with respect to the weather and subsequent spring berry harvest. The hot spell followed by cool weather and lots of rain this week is plumping up the huckleberries. Some bushes are already producing, and others are well on their way.

Salmonberries are hanging on too, and there seems to be more this year than last year even, and they are lasting longer. Some bushes are just coming into their primes now, while in previous years, they're near done by now.

I might get a chance to check the raspberry patches this weekend. Weather is supposed to be sunny and hot, so that will bring the berries along even more.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Tuesday, June 6, 2006


Last weekend, as the rain began to abate, we headed down to the fish hatchery to release the coho into Terminal Creek. This is an annual ritual for us now, and this year we joined the Bowen Island Fish and Wildlife Society with the intention of participating the Streamkeepers program. Steamkeepers is a program designed to get more volunteers working on habitat monitoring and restoration. The program is pretty comprehensive and also consists of training on many aspects of stream care and fisheries monitoring.

Since I have lived on the west coast (coming on 12 years now) I have had an affinity for salmon. I am in awe of these fish, not only for their epic journeys but also for the way in which they bring nutrients from the ocean deep into the interior of British Columbia. It is true to say that without the salmon, BC would be a very different physical place than it is now. Joining the Streamkeepers and helping get that program up and running on Bowen again is one way for me to actually work with these fish, to become connected in a deeper way to the land and streams around me and to help preserve one of the great food sources in our ocean, a source which I feel we will need to rely on more and more on the local level over the next several decades and a source which will be increasingly under threat from everything from global warming to local development.

Over the weekend some Streamkeepers from Squamish came down to visit our operations at the hatchery and we were all speculating on why there were so few coho coming back this year. One theory was that the Pacific White-Sided Dolphin has changed its feeding habits and range since the ocean has warmed a little and is now intercepting coho around Haida Gwaii which is far north of its traditional range. That is simply one consequence of global warming.

And so these little fish that Finn is releasing into Terminal Creek will perhaps become dolphin food, or maybe they will end up on your plate, or perhaps they will survive all the odds, get a taste of their home stream from way out in the ocean and find their way back home, to climb the ladder up Bridal Veil Falls and spawn and die on the spot where it was hatched and released.

Who wouldn't want to have a close relationship with these animals?

Thursday, June 1, 2006

June has rolled in as usual with its mix of sun and rain. The temperature has been very warm the last few days and the rain has felt like summer rain when it has fallen. This marks the first real break between the colder rains of winter and spring and the summer. It is an annual pattern here on the coast that the first warm burst of nice weather in the spring is always followed by an interregnum of mixed weather before the summer arrives. I think this unstable pattern happens as the annual summer high pressure cell forms over the Gulf of Alaska. Once that is in place, the northeast Pacific becomes quite stable, less windy and warm. There is very little rain typically from the middle of July to the end of September, until the high collapses with the waning sunlight and lessening solar energy.

We're clearly about a month or so away from the stable summer weather, but the rise in air temperature and the warmth of the rain indicates that the cold air has disappeared for now from the lower layers of the atmosphere. We might yet get some cool and wet days, but it feels to me like the burning season is well and truly behind us now. My last fire was last weekend during a cool evening rain storm.

Some kids have already been swimming on the island, although I haven't yet gotten around to it. Soon though. I have a great desire to do so though, perhaps this week.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Heart Cockle

For me the first sign of true summer arriving around here isn't the deceptive burst of hot weather we get in May. Rather it is the first song of the Swainson's Thrush, and this year I heard that call today for the first time.

Aine and I were down at Deep Bay (or Mannion Bay it was known in the past) during a super low tide today (1.2 feet) and we saw a number of interesting things. Of course, we recorded a podcast for you so if you find yourself at the beach, have a look for the things we found.

In no particular order we saw:

  • A chiton
  • Japanese and native oysters
  • Herons, Glaucous-winged gulls, mallard ducks, crows, Canada geese and a family of common mergansers
  • A closed green sea anemone
  • The cockle pictured above
We also talked about seeing ghost shrimp and gunnels which are eveident if you search around the foreshore in front of the CNIB camp on Snug Point.

Deep Bay walk podcast

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Says in the news that the chinook are starting to show up off the south shore of the island, just as the salmonberries ripen. This is when the old people say that the fish begin to return and so they are here right on schedule.

But I wasn't out fishing today. Today I was playing at Watson and Bell, in a scene reminiscent of the first telephone call. I was present at the birth of Radio Bowen.

Seems David Chamberlain, tinkerer, record collector and radio fan, got it in his head that he would start up a radio station on Bowen. Having community radio here has been a dream for people for many years now, but the cost and complexity of getting licensed is overwhelming. Dave on the other hand is undaunted.

With time on his hands and a strong will to get started, he has moved into a space in Artisan Square with the aim of running a bookstore and a small radio station. I visited him there today and heard, gloriously, the first test of the transmitter.

The bookstore is nothing yet: papered over windows and shelves laid out with masking tape on the floor. In the back room, in front of a picture window that looks out over Mount Collins, is a computer, an audio processor and small, 1 micro watt transmitter which falls well within in the standards for an unlicensed radio operation. With no audio compression, and the transmitter operating right out of the box, Dave was playing Louis Prima on the computer and transmitting a perfectly clear mono FM signal not 20 feet to an old radio in the bookstore part of the space. To the untrained eye, it was nothing, not even the range of the wireless router I am using to compose this post. But to a radio fan like me, it was like watching a child being born - a glorious, stunning achievement that means much.

Dave is broadcasting on 88.5mHz on the FM dial and as I drove by the outside of the shop, I couldn't get the signal. But with some good compression and a higher mount for the transmitter, he hopes that the Cove will be in range and that's about 1km away. But of course, in this day in age, the hope for real broadcasting will lie on the internet, so get ready for a streaming feed as soon as he can get the server set up and some programming in place. I've already suggested to him that we broadcast Evensong and the Irish music session at The Snug. It would be great to do the kitchen junket too and live broadcasts from the Bowen Island Fastpitch League. And how about Bowfest and concerts and lectures and the affordable housing forum...and that's before we even put mind to regular programming of local music, classic jazz and homemade radio plays.

Having worked in community radio for years in Peterborough, I can say that there is nothing like having a broadcast outlet for the creativity, inspiration and zaniness that all communities possess. I wish Dave the best of luck with the enterprise, and having been present for the birth of Bowen Radio, I'll be first in line to help stuff the airwaves full of goodness.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The sword ferns are almost finished unfurling their beautiful fiddleheads so Finn and I took a walk down to the Cove this afternoon to see if the salmonberries were ripe yet and we were in for a surprise. There were lots of ripe ones already, having turned golden yellow, orange or ruby red in the sun and heat of the last week. We picked a load and ate them on the fly and managed to save a cup or so which we turned into muffins when we got back home.

So here is a podcast of the first day of the annual salmonberry harvest. For the record we were picking berries in Crippen Park, along the Alder Trail beside the lagoon (centre of this map). The other bushes Finn talks about are along Miller Road west of where we were standing, near the entrance to the park. We have other places to get berries, but we're not telling where!

Anyway, enjoy the podcast.

Finn and Chris harvesting salmonberries (mp3)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

My daughter Aine and I recorded a podcast today for your listening pleasure. As part of our Learning Centre program some of the kids, including Aine, help look after the salmon at the Bowen Island Fish Hatchery.

In this podcast we talk about the status of the fish at the hatchery, some rogue coho fry that have escaped to live in the creek and the Coho Bon Voyage event, coming up on June 4th at the hatchery.

I love the fact that our kids have hands on experience with the fish of our ocean. There is nothing to match the learning that comes from working to help make a difference in the world.

Listen to the podcast (mp3)

Monday, May 1, 2006

Last night the kids and I slept out on the porch. The air was incredibly fresh, borne on northwesterly winds that bring it down the coast from the Gulf of Alaska in the wake of the rain we had on Friday. I find these winds to be cleansing and relaxing, even as they blow fiercely down the Strait. Today, with much free time and a rare day on the island, I simply sank into a deeply happy state. It must be infectious, because I took a wrong call on my office phone and the woman at the other end said, out of the blue "well I'm sorry to have bothered you. I've lived on Bowen for 21 years and I love it anew everyday!" I assured her that, despite only five years on the rock, I shared her sentiment.

This morning we awoke to the strong sounds of the dawn chorus and I drove Finn across the island for a play date, stopping at Bowen Bay beach to pick a few smooth black pieces of siltstone and admire the wind and waves. I am dreaming of snorkelling the rock walls there in a couple of months.

The robins are all paired up, and we are beseiged with flocks of mergansers heading north. The flowers on the salal are coming out now and it looks to be a good year for these as well.

We have removed two ungainly and chewed up ornamental cedar trees from our small garden and replaced them with a lilac tree and a previously potted camillia. These two newcomers are surrounded by fence at the moment and it's anyone's guess if they will survive the curiosity of deer. But we are optimists when it comes to planting things. One has to be if one prefers not to garden amid a gulag in this place.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

It's all about the traffic today.

The summer season is beginning. With the weather projected to be beautiful this weekend, it seems as if everyone on the continent is coming over to Bowen. The ferry had a huge overload last night, and it seems a little early to start to avoid the Friday afternoon runs, but there you are. Ever proud of my fellow islanders, there was some beefing about how early summer seems to have started, but it was all taken in stride. Seems a lot of people just called ahead to Tuscany and ordered a pizza.

You cannot live on this island with sanity and not grow to appreciate ferry overloads and delays. I actually love them now. There is nothing else to do when you are stuck in one. Fuming at BC Ferries is futile and anyway, you can't blame them if thousands of people choose to take the same boat as you and you show up after it overloads. If we're stuck together in an overload, please don't come to me with tongue clicking and veins popping out of your face. Come shrug your shoulders and we'll share a laugh instead. The best strategy is always to appreciate the delay, take a book or some good music and chill out or visit friends and neighbours. Perhaps the Friday regulars will resume the occasional practice of carrying a bottle or two of wine and some glasses to share with fellow strandees. There is nothing more fun than a friend walking up to your car and splitting a beer with you in the shed in Horseshoe Bay while you wait an hour for the next boat. An hour is also the perfect amount of time to head over to the Troller for a pint of Guinness. Foot passengers only of course!

And also on the traffic note, the gas station has closed I think now for good. This situation has been going on for 18 months now and the landlord finally terminated the lease. There is a nicely clearcut piece of land by the entrance to Artisan Square that was intended for the gas station relocation but something fishy has stopped that whole process. Wish we could have those tress back. Someone should at least let the kids get started on a skaetboard park down there.

Anyway, the owner got what he wanted, which was some allowances to build a little inn at Artisan Square sans fuel pump and the rest of us are stuck without gas which is a huge pain in the ass now that it has finally come to fruition. It's made worse by that fact that, rushing to make the ferry overload, we neglected to fill up tonight and so we have fumes for the weekend, or another trip to town. Can't blame the principals in the dispute for that, but it doesn't seem very community minded all round that they guy with the land is holding up a relocation of the gas station. It would be a sour irony if he ran out of fuel or if the builders working on his project suddenly got stranded. Not that I would wish that on anyone...

The lesson here, especially for newcomers or those of you thinking about moving over here: living on an island is never going to be tailor-made for convienience. So come on over and join the chorus of those of us who learn to cheer ferry mishaps, power outages, cougar sightings, gas station closures and fine arts performances held in gyms. Contribute to the positive vibe of being dependant on many, many outside forces and help make things better anyway. Always look on the bright side of life: it makes it easier for everyone.

And anyway, the first time you sight a killer whale off Tunstall Bay, you'll forget everything you thought you should be mad at.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The salmonberries are loaded with blossoms and the huckleberries look loaded as well. It appears as if a good berry spring is in the offing, similar to last year's. Last year the thimble berries didn't fare as well, so we'll keep an eye on them.

With this new life springing out, comes news of the death of Gordie Begg, the appliance man. As only a small community can, he is being remembered with lovely stories of his service, kindness and humour at Bowen Online. Gord was all that and more. The flag at the Cenotaph is at half-mast as he was an active Legion member and volunteer fire fighter. But he was mostly a big warm guy who, as some have said, did well with dogs and small children watching him work. My kids always peppered him with questions when he came by to fix our stuff and he let them hang out with him and watch and never shooed them away or said an unkind word. That is a lovely legacy to leave in the world.


Friday, April 7, 2006

The weather has been balmy all week. Cherry blossoms are appearing in obscene densities. I have been travelling into Vancouver everyday and each trip I gaze up Howe Sound at the snow rimmed mountains and the calm blue sea and ask folks: "Do we REALLY live here?"

Breathless headnodding is the usual response.

Monday, April 3, 2006

Yes has been quiet around here. But the only reason I haven't written about Bowen is that I haven't really been here.

In fact, since I hit the road for an extended series of engagements around March 14, there has been a major change in the Cove. The Oven Door Bakery burned to the ground, nearly taking Docs and The Boss with it. In fact, if it hadn't been for the firewall between the buildings, there would have been a five alarm block fire in the village.

The cause of the fire was electrical but more information isn't going to help the community salve the loss of this institution. It was one of the oldest businesses on the island, having run 25 years and was the de facto labour hall around here too, where folks met in the early morning to get set for a day of building, logging, hauling and chucking. It seemed like the place was populated in the morning by folks who did the good work of lifting, hammering, binding and cutting, while those of us who talk, type, manage and write for a living get our morning joe at The Snug.

But it was more than that...long time islanders had a religious loyalty to the bread and baked goods there, and the place boasted a few specialties like the world famous Bowen Bar, and the pizza slices, which were soul food.

All that is left of the bustling little business is a hole in the ground half filled with glass and charred wood. It'll be missed.

And in other news, tonight I sang for Council. Seems that these days our local council begins its regular meetings with a song from an island artist. This week it was my turn and I offered a song about Cape Roger Curtis and the challenge of leading in uncertain times. It was a funny room to play, with folks who were there to hear about council's three year strategic plan politely applauding before turning their attention to "the real business at hand"

But, cyncisim aside, I'm going to stick to my feeling that this kind of thing is actually important. In a room covered with gant charts, binders of assessment information, power point presentations and maps, admitting a moment or two of poetry and melody into the proceedings can have no bad impact, and hopefully our warbling at the beginning of these proceedings can at least have the effect of reminding folks about the deep connections we all have to the beauty and spirit of this place, before they channel their passions into receiving the transportation committe report and approving the Snug Cove plan implementation process.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Vancouver Sun today has a report on poaching of lingcod and rockfish from Howe Sound waters. I think most of the poachers are probably not from Bowen Island - there are very few here that actually fish, and most of those that do are after salmon, prawns and crab - but it bears repeating that the fish resources of the inlet are pretty delicate to start with without having people haul them out illegally.

The good news, as the article points out, is that the lingcod population which is endangered around here, seems to be coming back. Lingcod are very tasty fish, which makes them susceptible to poaching, and like rockfish, they require several years to reach maturity before they can spawn. This summer, I plan on doing some snorkelling around the rocky parts of the island where the rockfish conservation areas are, and just checking out what I can see from the surface.

So if you're out on the water fishing, just remember that you can't use a hook and line anywhere from Miller's Landing north to Hood Point, and we'll work at keeping these magnificent local fish stocks healthy.

Friday, March 10, 2006

A group of folks on Bowen are openly musing about micro-hydro for the island. There is a thread at the Bowen Online Forum dedicated to this, and I'm linking here to keep this idea alive.

If you have experience with this stuff, let me know through a comment here or email, or posting at the forum. We're especially looking for engineers.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Wild plum

Here is the wild plum at Collins Hall. There are lots more little flowers out now. Periwinkles in the forest (an invasive but pretty groundcover), Oregon Grape and dandelions. The salmonberry bushes are getting their shoots now too and little green things are popping up all over.

It's been really windy the last week, strong southeasterlies, sometimes warm, sometimes cold, sometimes wet, sometimes dry.

After a winter of record setting consectuive rain days, spring is finally trying to get here.

Friday, March 3, 2006

Daffodil, from my friend Leah

Blossom report...

We are awash in crocuses at the moment and the daffodills have also arrived.

And, perhpas more importantly, the wild plum tree at the United Church is covered in small, snowy white, five petalled flowers.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

March has come in like a...well...sitting next to Richard Goth here at The Snug, he says March came in like a lion because the wind was fierce last night, but there was no rain and it's really mild today. There is fresh snow on the mountains, but it's about 10 degrees at sea level here, very lamb like to my tender skin. Warm enough for a wool sweater only.

So it's hard to fact we're still talking about it here five minutes later. Richard is convinced that it's a lion. He has just made a somewhat compelling argument that lions are warm and they don't like water and they do roar. Lambs are just meek. It wasn't meek this morning, so I guess Richard's right.

In like a lion then.

UPDATE: I've just gone through my blog archive and determined that this is the first year in Bowen's entire blogged history (dating all the way back to 2002) that March came in like a lion. A MEEK lion, but a lion nonetheless. Richard is suggesting that we go outside and shake some bones to restore the usual gentle rhythms of spring on the coast. I'm seeing it as a sign of climate change.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Cool report(.pdf) just released on the arts in small and rurual communities in Canada. CBC reports Bowen Island comes in fourth overall in terms of the percentage of residents employed in the arts. According to the report, 6.6% of our population are actively employed in the arts.

This is extremely significant, because I think that, of all the top communities, we are the only one that doesn't yet have a dedicated place to showcase the performing arts talent here.

It's coming though! We're working hard to raise the money and build the facility. Perhaps this report might give us some ammunition with other sources of funding apart from benefit CD sales and concerts.

For more on the arts on Bowen, go visit the Bowen Island Arts Council site.
Moving might be a huge hassle, but we welcome another blogger to our ranks: Ringo-Lo.

Kirsten has moved here just as spring has begun to arrive. The last couple of days have been beautiful and the wind has carried that soothing quality that takes the cold edge off it. When it rained the other night, Aine remarked that it was a spring rain.

There are lots of buds on the formerly dorman berry bushes, and the blackberries have started putting out new canes and trailers. Towhees and Winter Wrens are making their spring calls, both trilling in the forest.

Saturday, February 4, 2006

The hurricane landed last night. Well, not quite a hurricane, but still, it was a storm big enough to do some minor damage around the Salish Sea, and indeed, winds of 100-110km/h were recorded in the Georgia Strait. That's the strongest I have ever heard of.

We had power outages on the island, and my friend Patti had to resort to barbecueing her leftover coffee for her morning fix. That's the hardy island spirit!

This morning, Alison phoned to say that the high tide and the swell were combining to turn the Causeway over the lagoon into a spectacular sight. Apparently, the scuppers along the walkway, which ordinarily allow water to drain back to the sea were acting like blowholes every time a wave smacked the seawall. By the time we got down there at noon, the tide had started falling and the waves in Mannion Bay were calmer, but everywhere was gravel and moss, loosened and tossed from cracks and holes, and we even found a small shiner, a marine perch, stranded on the Causeway itself. A storm that throws fish from the ocean is a strong thing indeed.

Friday, February 3, 2006

I love weather warnings like the one we are under right now:

Environment Canada's Official Weather Warnings
Howe Sound
4:10 PM PST Friday 3 February 2006
Rainfall warning for
Howe Sound continued

Up to 100 mm of rain is expected for Howe Sound.

An intense low pressure system is approaching the South Coast. Strong southeast winds of 60 to 100 km/h are expected this evening and overnight for much of the South Coast. The winds will shift to strong westerlies behind the storm Saturday afternoon. Howe Sound will receive up to 100 mm of rain. Whistler will receive up to 15 cm of snow before the snow becomes mixed with rain overnight.

100km/h winds? That's harsh. And with all that rain I'm waiting to see where the house leaks. I think I got the one stopped up in the south bedroom dormer but the north dormer may have one. We'll see how it all holds up. At the moment, the winds seem to be hanging around 50 km/h but they might get more intense over night. It's not likely that we'll see those 100 click winds, but I would be surprised with a repeat of Tuesday's blow.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Stormy day

Gale force winds are pounding the house and the scene in front of us is out of Lord of the Rings. The Channel is churning, rain is lashing against the front of the house and when the wid gusts, it blows right through our place.

Great storm...great way to break a record.
Gearing up for a doozy of a storm this afternoon. If we get the rain we are expecting we will have had over 300mm this month, setting a new record. January has had 29 rainy days this month and if you add the last two weeks of December, you get, well, a pretty serious northeastern Pacific winter.

Not since 1982, the worst El Nino year on record, have we had such wetness.

So this afternoon, the gale warnings are up for Howe Sound and we are expecting 30 or so mm of rain with southeasterly winds gusting to 70 kmh. Right now, the Channel in front of us is spackled with wind and the big Douglas-firs are waving in the breeze. There will be a lot of branches on the ground tonight though.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Last night, coming back on the Apodaca from Horseshoe Bay was a study in the dynamics of katabatic winds.

I stood on the government dock at Horseshoe Bay and listened to the ocean for a while, rocking gently on the float in the calm air. I thought the water would be flat as glass, and it was until we rounded Tyee Point and got broadsided by a Squamish wind. The Queen Charlotte Channel was churning, and the Apodaca sliced through the waves dousing us with water. She's a beautiful boat...gorgeous lines and sitting high, she sprays water everywhere when she motors through a swell.

When we arrived in Snug Cove, the water was calm and glassy again and not a hint of wind could be felt. Once I got home, at midnight, I stood on the deck leaning into the air and heard the wind and spray roaring in the Channel. The steam on my tea rose straight into the air.

* * *

Of note, the skunk cabbage is coming up, several trees and shrubs are budding, most notably the alder and the salmonberries. In the garden, the osteospermum are growing and the daffodils are poking our through the leaf mould. It's a very mild winter, and there is little snow below 1000 meters. Here, 100 meters above sea level, it's as if we live 10 degrees further south on the globe.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I ran into James Glave today. I haven't met James before, but he has been a blog reader and occaisional commenter here. He gave me a nudge to write something here, and so here I am obliging him, with a little story about how he came to actually do that.

You see, today was an election day here in Canada, and our one and only polling place was the community school. I lost my voter registration card, and so I showed up to vote with my ID instead. My friend Julie Vik was in charge of the voter's list. Other friends and neighbours were scattered around the gym staffing the ballot boxes. It felt kind of funny to haul out my ID as an afterthought to satisfy the actual official requirements for showing up at a polling place with no card.

Juile sent me over to a ballot box where James crossed my name off the list with a couple of requests for a blog post. I took my ballot over the to box, and cast a vote for my friend Silvaine Zimmerman who was running for the Greens.

All told, a great exercise in trust, community and democracy.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Happy new year! I'm back in the saddle after a couple of weeks on a much warmer Pacific Island...Maui.

Apparently I've missed a fair amount, including a record setting Pineapple Express which has been blowing for something like a month and has thawed out most of Canada, let alone the west coast. We're are on track to set a new consecutive rainy days record, clocking in at 25 or so with this morning's downpour. If all goes according to plan, we'll easily break the record by Monday.

And the stormy weather has been experienced first hand by my friend Sue Schoegl who got dangerously trapped by a Squamish AND the Pineapple Express while out kayaking a couple of weeks ago. Her account is harrowing in it's description of what the ocean and the wind can do to you, and she is no mere weekend paddler, having won the women's division in the Round Bowen race last year. It's great to see her safe and sound and blogging again.