Thursday, December 27, 2007

Mist on Cates Hill

It has been a lovely Christmas on Bowen again this year, with snow and fog and rain and a colder start to winter than we normally get. I have upgraded my camera and now am the proud owner of a Cannon Sure Shot 720 with which I have resumed documenting life around here. And so here is a recent set of photos from today and yesterday, walking around the island. The highlights:

Monday, December 17, 2007

Cool weather the last few days. We had a bit of snow mid week and then yesterday high southeasterly gales. Aine and I were crossing to Horseshoe Bay and she spotted some foamy white spray on top of the water in the lee of Bowyer Island. As we watched water rose up in swirling clouds off the sea, more like huge dust devils than tornadoes. It was only the second time in my life I have seen these things in the Queen Charlotte Channel although they aren't that uncommon. We should have a local name for them...suggestions in the comments.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

It is a beautiful still morning. The sun has just risen above Eagleridge on the mainland. THe water is the colour of a summer sky and the sky is the colour of a robin's egg. It's cold and yet there is no hint of a katabatic breeze, meaning that overnight all of the cold air has sunk to the valley bottoms and the creek beds where rocks will be coated with a thick layer of frost. Juncos and chickadees are the only noise makers outside, except for a deer which has taken up temporary residence beneath our house where it empties out the chicken feed we leave for the neighbourhood chooks.

Much is happening on a Bowen Saturday. Thinking about chopping some wood this morning, taking the recycling out, going to juggling club and then witnessing friends testing for their blackbelts before heading to the annual Tir na Nog Christmas party. But for now, I'm sitting before the fire, tea in hand, eye on the rising sun.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Currently in the midst of what passes for a blizzard here on the west coast. The snow is falling heavily and has been all day. The winds have been strong at times, with the Squamish blowing at 75km/h this morning out at Pam Rocks. The island is coated in snow which is melting a little on contact with the ground and then freezing, so it's very slippery out on the roads.

I have to head out to Phoenix tomorrw, which will be a nice escape, but I have no idea what will happen with my flight. And poor Caitlin, Aine and Finn will be left alone here to fend for themselves. Lots of split wood for the stove and a big pot of soup on the boil for the inevitable power outage.

Friday, November 30, 2007

We have had a relatively tame November thus far. Only one big wind storm some rain and a 15 cm snowfall earlier this week. But mostly it's been clear and cool with lots of sun this week and the mountains sporting their coat of white down to the 1000 meter level.

The salmon have been having hard time of it this year. Only seven chum have shown up and no coho yet. That's the poorest return in all the years I have lived here. It doesn't necessarily mean anything - salmon are notorious for being unpredictable - but it's a little sad nonetheless.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Stats from yesterday's storm are in. We received more than 60 mm of rain and the winds gusted upwards of 90km/h, which was my guess.

Today is beautiful, a crisp and clear fall day. Finn and I went down to the golf course to play his first ever full round. I shot a 56 despite bogeying two holes (I'm not shy! Tough greens again...), and he beat me on bingo, bango, bongo by one point. That's where you receive a point for the first on the green, closest to the hole and longest putt. With three points available on each hole, it doesn't matter much what your stroke score is. He beat me on the ninth hole when I misread the distance and lofted a six iron over the green. He had a beautiful 30 yard approach shot end up about 15 feet from the pin. I pitched on, closer than him for the point, but then missed my putt by a hair. He putted out with a six incher and won the game. His short game is pretty good for a seven year old and he hit his stride with his five wood on the fairway.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Paul Hoosen's trouble continues. For want of a 4$ fare, the Crown has now added charges to Paul's assault by tresspassor charge, and he is facing an obstruction of justice charge.

Nice. Just makes me want to scream out "It's Paul Hoosen for crying out loud!" He is one of the most gentle men I know.

And as part of my Hoosen solidarity campaign, I am taking extra special effort to connect with the BC Ferries employees we ride with every day. It is important that there isn't any souring of that relationship. We need each other too much. We need them to save our lives an dget us home in a friendly and timely manner, and they need us for their livelihood. Let's remember that we're in a relationship here, and it demands respect and courtesy on all sides.
Our first big blow of the year. Yesterday afternoon the wind built in the southeast and by nightfall the rain and wind were lashing the house. We managed a soak in the hottub at midnight amongst the swaying giants around us, and we retired to sleep in the howling gale.

All night the wind built and at one point I felt spray on my face as rain was being forced through the windows above our bed. In the morning the downstairs windows on our protected frontporch were sprayed with rain, something that only happens when the wind gusts towards 100 km/h. I have only seen rain on these windows a handful of times since 2001.

In the morning we lost power at 8am, and there was nothing to do but boil water on the wood stove and drink tea while we awaited the day. It was Finn's birthday party today and after carefully considering what to do, we decided to go ahead, making a fun day out of a powerless holiday Monday. By the time folks arrived at 12:30, the sky was clearing and we heated a massive pot of chili on the barbeque, finishing it just as the power came back on at 2:00pm. After lunch we all went over to the school to play capture the flag and soccer in the cool crisp sunshine.

There is a lot of duff on the roads and trees down all around the island, but most are in good shape.

One addendum. While I was away last week, my friends Martin Clarke and Leah Cline had a fire in their house. It seems they have saved some of it, but the damage is massive. Martin and Leah are great kitchen junket hosts, and great lovers of community culture. We'll do what we can to help them out.

Friday, November 2, 2007

More Bowen Island food news...

Michelle Pentz posted a Bowfeast roundup on the OneDayBowen site. I was bummed to have missed it this year. Carol Wallace from Blue Eyed Mary's had a funny letter in the Undercurrent this week about the steady nature of BEM's menu and status. Ninety six menu changes since 1999 and counting.

And in more local news, I ate a breakfast of toast with salal jelly this morning. Still got about three cases worth of blackberries in the freezer for making Christmas jam with and to get us through until salmonberry season again.

Meanwhile, down at the lagoon, the relatively peaceful fall has meant that the salmon aren't back yet, and there is no snow on the mountains to speak of, which continues to provie my theory that the chum retunr when the snow comes to stay in the uplands. There were all sorts of duck though out there, including a flock of western grebes, some buffleheads and scoters.

Monday, October 29, 2007

It's an interesting time for Bowen's eateries. Almost all of them are going through some period of change at the moment. So, starting from the top of the hill and working down, here's what's up...

The Galley at Artisan Square has changed its menu and is now serving a lot of pasta dishes. Still very few vegetarian entrees and not so much on the moderate ricing although their portions are large.

Further down the hill, the Pub (careful with that link - they have thoughtfully embedded some horrible sound) changed it's menu back in the summer and I like it. I really like the pub. It's just a great pub. I don't go there enough. Anyone want to go for a beer this week?

Moving on down, Tuscany is up for sale as Julie and Christoph, who bought it from my friend Sarah Allen a few years ago have big dreams of travelling Europe together. They would like to sell it to an islander if possible, so get on it if you're interested. And if you buy it, please bring back the Apulia pizza. Please...

BowMart is under new management and also experimenting with a new menu. They've scaled back on the diner vibe, with more contemporary music and less burgers. They have steaks and stuff now too. We were in there this weekend between lunch and dinner and had a limited choice from a small menu. Chili was good though.

The big news though, has been the surprise closing of Doc Morgan's. I really have no idea what happened there but it seems unseemly. Doc's is a Bowen landmark, and the food was pretty good this summer. Something weird happened there though and now the place is shut down and everyone is scurrying around trying to figure out what to do next. I have no details, but if you are a visitor and planning on coming over for a supper there, forget it, at least for the next little while. Head to Blue Eyed Mary's instead, which continues to offer up a monthly variety of seasonal west coast food with nice wines and effervescent service.

As for the coffee shops The Snug, The Happy Isle and The Village Baker are all going great guns, with The Snug still pulling the most consistently great espresso shots. And Cocoa West is still just brilliant.

If none of that appeals, there is always the do-it-yourself local fauna. Good to know that in a pinch, we could all survive on our indigenous bananas...(but yuck anyway!)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Just back from an opening at The Gallery for my friend Lori Stringer's first solo show, entitled "Breathing Spaces." It's a bit of a surprise to me that this is Lori's the first solo show. These pieces are really remarkable - collections of landscapes that together invoke both breath and space in which to breathe. There is much air and quiet in the paintings, which are done in both oils and watercolours. These landscapes are both meditative and meditations.

Many of these landscapes seem to be late summer and they are perfect for gazing at now, as fall has settled in and the grey and damp days have arrived. It reminds me of the line from Joni Mitchell's song "Urge for Going": I'd like to bring back summertime, and have her stay for just another month or so...but she's got the urge for going and I guess she has to go."

There are two types of landscapes represented and both resonate strongly with me. One type is composed from a sky and a foreground element like a grove or a road or a river that somehow contain things within darkness and silhouette, while offering the expansiveness of sky in which to breathe. These are like the landscapes of my childhood in southern Ontario and the rural UK. The second type are ocean landscapes (or prairie landscapes) in which the land and the ocean and the sky offer wide openness. These are the landscapes I live in now, here on the Pacific coast. The whole show is quite emblematic of a personal narrative for me, and actually helps me to understand a little better the way I feel about living here on the edge of North America.

Worth a visit if you're up in Artisan Square over the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Beautiful today. A morning Squamish gave way to bright sunshine and warm air and still waters this afternoon. I walked with friends Toke Moeller and Monica Nissen at Cape Roger Curtis and we had the whole place to ourselves. Not even any big rafts of scoters; just a solitary sea lion patrolling the point and some cheeky ravens. It almost felt warm enough to swim. Strange weather.

There is snow on the mountains but no sign of the chum yet. Salmon calling season is in full swing, but we haven't been hit by any substantial Pineappl Expresses yet. One last week that hit the souther part of Vancouver Island didn't make it to Bowen which was very strange. It has been wetter than usual this year, but I think the fall has been average so far.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Some people move to Bowen and buy a house. Some people buy a house and move to Bowen.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Islanders are up in arms, or I should say up in noses, about a recent incident that happened on the Queen of Capilano. Last week, my friend Paul Hoosen was arrested after he boarded the ferry without a boarding pass.

Here's Paul's version of events:

I was in the line-up for a ticket 9 minutes before the scheduled sailing,
but didn't get to the ticket window until about 6 minutes before. The ferry
was a bit late, and was just unloading cars, so we went up to the front
right away to ask if Boweners should come forward. The agent said no, that
there was time,but called us forward two minutes later.

When the ticket agent called us forward, I was first in line. I handed her
my credit card, and asked for a book of commuter tickets, and to use one for
that passage. She was about to scan it, but heard on the radio that Bowen
was clearing (they hadn't even finished unloading cars at that time). She
refused to allow me to purchase tickets, saying she didn't have time to
process a credit card. When I responded that it was legal tender, and that
it takes no more time to do this than to pay with cash, she again refused my
payment. the Boweners behind me were astounded, and spoke up for me, to no

I went down to the dock, and talked to the marshalling employee directing
foot passenger traffic, and she refused to let me on the ferry to buy a
ticket there. I was also denied use of a commuter ticket that another
passenger offered for me. The same happened when I talked to a Supervisor,
whom I had suggested she call.

When I went on the ferry, it was against the orders of this Supervisor, and
I went upstairs to buy a ticket there, which I was sold without incident.
The First Mate didn't have to catch up to me. I went back down to the car
deck, and showed him my valid receipt for passage (he had just finished
loading cars), but he said the Police had been called, and that I had to
disembark. That's when I calmly but firmly told him I would not (so I didn't
comply), and he asked that I wait by the ramp for the Police to arrive,
which I quietly did.

The officer walked straight up to me and demanded that I leave the ferry. I
showed him my ticket and refused. He said a second time to leave the ferry,
but was already starting to execute the judo move to take me down, according
to witnesses. I had exhibited no signs of violence, or anger towards him, so
the "without provocation" is certainly true.

The charge is actually "Assault by Trespasser", and is a misdemeanor charge,
so shouldn't technically affect my work in hospitals, other than to be
confusing for kids and parents, and to precipitate a lot of discussion that
takes away from the purity of the character.

Paul complied, although he was frustrated at the situation. What happened with the police officer was, in the minds of everyone concerned, unconscionable. Paul met the police officer from the West Vancouver Police Department, who, without warning or provocation, dropped him with a judo sweep, kneeled on him and handcuffed him. The whole incident was caught on a cell phone camera and dozens of witnesses watched. Paul was escorted off the ferry, a little bruised and fairly steamed by now. He was charged with "assault by trespasser" and made to sit in the police crusier for 70 minutes and then released and told not to board the ferry until 9:30, the last sailing of the day.

Now, this is bad enough, but the whole situation is made worse by the fact that it happened to Paul Hoosen. Paul is a longtime Islander, a dedicated and tireless champion of the Community and Performing Arts Centre initiative and a professional clown who works at BC Children's Hospital with kids who are desperately sick, lonely and scared. He has a huge heart and is loved and respected all over Bowen. This incident triggered a flood of support for Paul, including a "rubber nose" campaign whereby Islanders have been dropping toonies in buckets all over Bowen and buy rubber clown noses which they have been wearing or displaying on the ferry in solidarity with Paul. The money is going to help pay for his legal costs, some of which he will incur when he makes a court appearance on November 7.

The protest is on the one hand serious and on the other hand completly silly, capturing the absurdity of the whole situation. Global News picked up the story and ran interviews with Islanders who were decked out in their red noses, sacrificing a little bit of dignity to stand with Paul and make their concerns known to the world. BC Ferries could only respond with classic PR spin which made them look silly - they arrested a clown and are being confronted with rubber nose wearing Islanders and the best they could do was to respond with their PR officer reciting policies.

But this incident is serious for BC Ferries because it has actually catalyzed some simmering frustration that Islanders have felt with the Corporation. This has been brewing for a number of years. It's not about the crews who staff the ships, but about the increasingly distant and cold corporate relationship that BC Ferries has taken with its long standing customers - those of us who depend on the ferry daily and to connect us to the mainland. I have no quibble with our crews, and I've written before of my admiration and support for them. They are courageous and generally pleasant folks. In recent years they have worked closely with the community on issues such as the behaviour of school kids and ferry marshalling. I have seen them save lives, rescue other ferries and stand up against the corporation that tried to renegotiate their contracts.

The Corporation on the other hand is a different beast. Over the years they have raised prices significantly for passage to Bowen, added a fuel surcharge and increased the prices far beyond the rate of inflation. Ferry service is generally reliable but in the summer time it is crazily out of whack. The Corporation has promised us a new boat for years (which I don't see the need for) but they refuse to improve service on the run until Bowen builds them a new terminal on the Island. In the meantime, BC Ferries has done exactly this at Alert Bay and maintains terminal on all the other islands. Yet we are expected to pay for ours.

The Coporation, which is a semi-private body owned by the Province and governed by an appointed Board is only accountable to the BC Ferry Commissioner who approves and enforces the terms of the contract that BC Ferries has with the province. Over the years I have sent submissions to the ferry commission regarding price increases and fuel surcharges, but I have never once received so much as an acknowledgement of my submission. The Corporation does not respond to complaints other than with the odd acknowledgement and exhibits little flexibility or creativity when it comes to developing new ideas such as length based pricing, commuter cards or charging for bicycles (which is a ridiculous notion, but so far they won't budge). Worse still, they have been talking about securing the ferry terminal at Horseshoe Bay under the auspices of security, thereby preventing locked in passengers from access the shops and restaurants of Horseshoe Bay. If they lock the gates and prevent people from leaving, the merchants in Horseshoe Bay wil suffer terribly and security won't be improved in any way.

So all of this, which is long simmering, has come to a head with Paul's arrest. The incident somehow captures the spirit of the relationship between BC Ferries and Bowen Islanders. Many of us feel empathy for Paul because we have all felt treated badly by the Corporation at some time or another. Although Paul is only person I know that has been wrestled to the ground and handcuffed at the behest of BC Ferries, we are all handcuffed by the monopoly that BC Ferries has over our route and the unaccountable nature of the Corporation and the Commission that is supposed to oversee it. So we're with Paul, and in a bigger way, I think we are all about inviting the Corporation to really understand the way we feel treated by them. If there was a competing service to Bowen I have no doubt that it would do well. BC Ferries HAS to notice this frustration, but there is very little improvement.

So at the risk of being overly optimistic, and wanting to be constructive, here are some ideas that I have for the Corporation.

  • Fifteen minutes before a sailing, dedicate one foot passenger booth to that sailing. That way Bowen Islanders won't get caught in the line up with a busload of passengers heading for Nanaimo. Do the same with the Langdale run. Everything will speed up.
  • Implement an electronic card system, similar to the one used on transit systems the world over. Commuters can buy a monthly or annual pass and simply scan the card at the terminal, receive a boarding pass and hit the ferry. The ferry cutoff time can be sent to the machine, and if a passenger is late, no pass gets issued. Simple and it takes no time at all.
  • If a customer runs into a problem assume good intentions. No one boards the Bowen Island ferry with the criminal intent to assault anyone by trespass. Unless a passenger is inebriated or violent there is no reason to call the police. Staff need to be flexible creative and communicative and they need the support of the Corporation to make discretionary decisions without getting in trouble. The Queen of Capilano crew has a relationship with Bowen Islanders and that relationship is stifled when the Corporation forces them to follow dehumanizing policies. We are all people, all friends and colleagues. Let the adults work it out.
  • And to alleviate the issues on pricing, I sent a submission to the Ferry Commission years ago stating that I was in favour of the fuel surcharge if a small percentage of it went to developing a long term plan to wean the ferries off of fossil fuels. This doesn't have to be an overnight thing, but to simply charge the fuel surcharge and not appear to be address the economics of ever scarcer fuel seems short-sighted. Many of BC Ferries' own customers could help them in this regard. On Bowen alone, there are people involved in the bio-fuels industry with extensive experience in large scale fleet conversions and planning. I'm sure they would be willing to offer advice. If you are going to charge increasing prices that outpace the rate of inflation, at least demonstrate some creativity and openness to addressing your long term cost structure. Give us some confidence that we are not just being soaked.
  • Adopt length-based pricing in a more graduated way to give smaller cars a break and to charge larger vehicles for the actual space they are buying. Reward carpooling, as these people are ultimately helping you to keep down costs by lessening the demand for bigger boats, and let bikes on for free.
  • Institute an ongoing and creative conversation between BC Ferries and Islanders to find mutually beneficial solutions to problems. Instead of sending PR flacks out, or holding "town hall" style meetings - which are little more that show and tell - atcually come and engage in creative processes to find new ways of doing things for mutual benefit. Practice a little bit of deliberative dialogue with the smart people on Bowen Island, and reap the rewards of good ideas and better relationships. It;s not hard to do. Many of us on Bowen are skilled at designing and facilittaing these kinds of processes. Ask us for help.

I would love it if BC Ferries would comment here, or send me an email, or sometime let me know that the ideas I have sent them over the years were received. (Blogs are all the rage you know. This one has held my musings since 2001). I think Islanders want to have a constructive relationship with the Corporation, and to avoid the kinds of dynamics that lead to a clown getting thrown to the ground and charged with assault all because he tried to play by the Corporation's own policies and was denied.

And of course, good luck to Paul. We're all with him and we support him because if it could happen to this big hearted lion of a man, it could happen to all of us, and that's not a cheery thought.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

It has been a magical fall weekend here on Bowen. The weather has been clear and crisp, with cool temperatures in the evening. We have started burning our wood now, for an evening glow, and the air is laced with the smells of woodsmoke and leaf litter. Fall has begun today, and the harvest moon is on the rise.

Bowen Island Football Club started up today and Finn joined a couple of dozen other Under-8s for a hour long session today. They played a couple of four on four games and did some dribbling drills. There is no standing around in this club - these kids spend the whole hour with a ball on their foot or running in a small sclae game. This capped a weekend of athletic endeavour for him, which also involved him and I hitting a few buckets of balls at the Bowen Island Golf Course with Clive Scarff, the resident teacher. It's fun watch on's kid come into sports, and to have it all happen locally to boot.

And I think I have a golf partner for life.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

From BowFest to weekend the island will be exploding in a fit of local eating. Our little One Day Bowen coalition has put together a festival of local foods during which farms, food stores and restaurants will all be on board. You can read more at the One Day Bowen site and even follow along on the map as well.

The challenge is for as many Islanders as possible to eat as much of their food as possible from local sources. I'll be participating and I'll blog it all here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Another summer is coming to an end here on Bowen, and there have been a number of highlights over the past couple of weeks that bear some note in passing:

  • Bowfest was fantastic this year, with the celebration of island life taken over by a lovely community committee who worked their butts of to make for a great day. I was pretty busy, involved in taekwondo and juggling demonstrations, playing music with the Headless Ceili Band (so called because the tent on the day music stage prevented us from seeing the audience) and singing a commissioned song for the Bowfest masses. I also managed to score first place in the jam contest for my Bowen Island salmonberry jam.
  • Speaking of songs, I've collected my Bowen Island songs and published them on my website. I'll post mp3s of the songs as well as I get them done.
  • The summer has continued to be variable weather-wise. We haven't had a long stretch of sun and high pressure this year. I have been musing a little about this and posted a question at Ask MetaFilter which elicited some interesting answers.
  • I have finally made it down to the Bowen Island Golf Course and played a couple of rounds with my parents. It's tough, with some tricky hazards, two holes that start with drives over deep stream beds and some rolling terrain and the greens are wicked. They are fast and impossible to read, have no mercy and the rob you of your dignity. Other than that, it's a lovely way to spend a couple of hours.
  • The water is a glow at the moment with bioluminescence. Very pretty.
  • Lots more blasting around our house and over on the other side, where work is proceeding apace on the Eagleridge Bluffs section of the Sea to Sky Highway Upgrade Project or what I have taken to calling The Scar. There was lots of opposition to this project and the extent of the blasting in incredible. It sounds like thunder blasts followed by ten to fifteen seconds of gravel rumbling. It's pretty ugly too.
  • Our sessions are going again at The Snug and the kitchen junkets are on too. There is still music on the pier on weekends and the Paradise Grill is still open. The summer season is over, but the summer itself still lives on. Enjoy it!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

It has been an interesting summer, variable weather, quite wet and cool in places (63 mm of rain in July, more than ten times what we usually get!) and alos hot and sunny, like today. The water has been too cold to swim in regularly and so we haven't really been in a beach mode much. Still there has been lots going on.

Every weekend there is some kind of festival. The Dock dance was a couple of weeks ago, and then last weekend was the men's softball tournament and Dog Days. In a couple of weeks we'll have Bowfest to end our summer together on the island.

The ball tournament was a blast this year, with many close games, and some upsets and some amazing triumphs. Perhaps the greatest triumph of all was Eddie Weismuller's home run. He's 55 years old and he's been playing ball for more than 30 years and never hit a home run. Saturday, he hit one off his son and received a standing ovation, and the tournament MVP award. Great stuff.

This week the weather is relaly stable, although it is supposed to deteriorate again a little towards the weekend. We're enjoying soaking in our new hot tub, watching meteors and planning our garden.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Our traditional summer high has crashed and let the cold northern low pressure masses in. It's pouring rain right now and pretty cool out. No change expected for a few more days.

Took the recycling over to the new depot today, even though the hours are Thursday to Monday, 8:30am - 2pm for now. It's amazing. Nice clean concrete floor and tons of space. They are taking tetrapaks now.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Look what I discovered today: Bowen has a disc golf course!
There could not have been a more perfect evening here on Bowen. After a day of hosting juggling at the community school, we headed home for a bit and then decided to go down to the Cove for a barbecue dinner on the Pier at the Dallas Marina. This is one of my favourite spots in the Cove, tucked away between the little cliff on Snug Point and the quiet side of the little Cove which is the entrance to our island. The tide was so high tonight that the blackberry bushes growing in the seawall were underwater. Nancy, who owns a taco stand was laying out Greek shishkabobs and the retro tunes of Taunting Mabel - a band of, shall we say, refined older women - belted out the tunes. Lots of friends there and to quote my friend Tom Moynihan, everyone had smiles on their faces.

When an impromptu shower came down around 8pm the party broke up and we wandered up to the ballfield to catch the last few innings of a convincing Firefighter's victory over the Cruisers. When that ended we decided to head home but got stopped by a party happening on the north east corner of the crossroads. The owners of Cape Roger Curtis had purchased a lease on the ld gas station and turned it into a temporary gallery and they were hosting a party with more kabobs and beer and fruit and juice for the kids. I stayed for a while, caught up with more friends I haven't seen in a while and met some of the people involved in the project. They are putting up a good front and to paraphrase one friend, they seem to have finally realized that their development project is actually taking place in a community full of people. One hopes that they will quickly come to realize that these lowly burghers are in fact the biggest asset that the Cape Roger Curtis consortium has going for them. It is us, well fed and libated on this night that make the project worthwhile and easy. The land itself is the star player, but the biggest asset for the project is the community. They owners seem to be realizing this, but I'm not sure it has fully sunk in. When it does, something magical may happen down there. Until it does all that will happen there will be business. But tonight it was a hopeful gathering so let's take it at face value.

As a result of everything happening, the Cove was hopping and just looked really good. The village was dressed in its finest - a warm night a high tide, lots of music floating on the air, the sounds of groups of people enjoying each other and the smell of food on the breeze.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

It was 38C in the shade yesterday, but the ocean was so cold I could only manage a dip.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

It is as hot as it ever gets around here. Last night was unusually sticky, and sleeping outside was really the only option. Even still, a hot wind came up in the night - a warm Squamish - and provided some air movement, but it wasn't much cooler for the breeze.

We've been doing all kinds of summer things tha last week I've been at home. Swimming and eating at the beach, playing music down on the Pier, picking huckleberries (which are not a great crop this year) and trying to stay cool. It's fantastic. Lots of tourists around but only in the Cove and the trails and forests are surprisingly empty. Fire ban has taken effect, so no more burning in the new fire pit and the water ban is sure to follow soon.

We are transforming the outside of our house, with the new woodshed, which is what I am calling the walling in of the understory of the house. We're going to rip the deck off the front and replace it with a fenced in patio and raised beds for growing food. To make it easier to get to we'll add a set of stairs off the front porch. It's al back of the envelope at the moment, but it will completely change the property.

All around us, property is also being changed. The last remaining uncleared lots on Seven Hills have been sold and logging has started. And across the Channel, there are frequent huge explosions from the crews blasting apart Black Mountain to make the Horseshoe Bay by-pass. There is an atrocious scar there now across Eagleridge, and within a year or so four lanes of traffic will be happily winging their way to Whistler.

Monday, July 9, 2007

It is "baby seal left alone on the beach" season again here on Bowen Island.

Every summer, mother seals give birth and then put their babies on beaches while they go fishing. Baby seals don't have much stamina, so they rest and wait for mom to come back and nurse them. While they are waiting they kind of loll around alot and sleep. It seems that every year, a seal gets left on a public beach where it naturally attracts the interest of humans, some of whome think the lolling around and sleeping part means the seal is dying.

Baby seals left alone on beaches are generally just fine. If you see one LEAVE IT ALONE. If you are wondering what else to do call 604-258-SEAL for instructions. That is the number for the Vancouver Aquarium. Unless a seal is bleeding, it is fine. Even if it is making little "pleading" mewling sounds, it is fine. If it closes its eyes it is not dying. It is sleeping. If you remove it from the beach and the mother returns, you will orphan it. If their babies are gone, mother seals will not go looking for them. They will simply disappear and get on with their lives. Removing a baby seal from the beach will certainly orphan it and will likely kill it.

So here's the drill: if you find a seal on a beach leave the seal alone, keep dogs and well meaning humans away from it and call the Aqaurium, CAWES or the vet before you do anything else.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Just trolling around the BC Ferries website this afternoon and discovered a humorous little page of strange but true ferry stories.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Six years of blogging here at Bowen Island Journal. Thanks for reading along.

It has been a great long weekend here on the island. Yesterday had a great Canada Day celebration at the picnic field, with authentic Tex-Mex music (alright, wtf?) and the traditional kids vs. adults tug of war which I am pleased to say the adults won after getting our asses spanked the last two years by the little rug rats.

Summer. Awesome.

Friday, June 29, 2007

We've been at the mercy of rain showers, the odd thunderclap and sunny stretches in between. What is decidedly mixed weather. It's clear that the summer high is trying to build, but it's not coming in very strong.

A nice full day on the island today, out an about. Finn and I went berry picking by Grafton Lake and harvested another batch of salmonberries. We have more than enough for another full case of jam, and this time I'm going to try making it mostly yellow and see what happens. The huckleberries are starting to ripen and we picked a few of those, experimenting with a scraper, to try to harvest them more efficiently. They aren't exactly dripping off the bushes this year, and the best patches were still just a touch underripe.

We returned to the Cove for some lunch: a veggie burger at Paradise Grill and some tacos at Nancy's taco stand on the pier. Then, to top it off, up to Artisan Square for an espresso and a "perfect marriage" (milk chocolate with cranberries) at Cocoa West. And to my surprise, owner Carlos invited me to look around the corner at a space they have been renovating, and low and behold I stuck my head into Canada's first ever boutique Bed and Breakfast suite focusing on the finest chocolate imaginable. The suite is right at artisan square, is fully appointed, and comes with very fine chocolates and all the hospitality that Joanne and Carlos can muster. And it's a beautiful little space, all done up in chocolate tones. It opens this weekend, and is yet another creative offering from these two.

After we were amazed by that, Finn and I took off across the island again to beachcomb for campfire firewood at Bowen Bay beach and to pick up our weekly dose of pyrogy from Ruta Yawney. I think we must be faithful regulars of hers, as we have been consuming this Ukranian soul food every Friday night for the past several months, since she started offering it. If you're on island, head down to the market this weekend where she will be selling some Saturday and Sunday.

And here's a perfect way to spend a decadent car free weekend on Bowen Island: book into Carlos and Joanne's Bed and Chocolate suite on Friday night, call George and get him to pick up and order of Ruta's food for you, kick back with a movie, brunch at Tuscany, spend Saturday hiking the island by day and kayaking with Martin in the evening, and retire to Blue Eyed Mary's for supper. One more night at the suite, book a massage with on Sunday with Jackie at Artisan Square, brunch at The Galley and tootle around the Cove during the early afternoon. Grab a latte to go and catch an afternoon ferry home.

By the way, yesterday marked six years we've been on this rock. The blog turns six on July 2. Thanks for reading along.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

It poured rain last night, bringing some beautiful fresh green to the world this morning. We had a bunch of guys scheduled to come help lift the hot tub in place but it was still pissing at 9:30 so we cancelled. At 10:00 however, the sky cleared and we called everyone back. They all returned and in less than 20 minutes we had the beast lifted and skidded on improvised 2x8 rails up the stairs and into place. We are just awaiting the electrician to hook it up and we're soaking.

We've moved out on to the deck to sleep full time now. It's so beautiful out there. Last night the barred owls we're hooting their "who-cooks-for-you" call through the sounds of falling rain

Friday, June 22, 2007

Claudia Schaefer has just posted a lovely set of photos from last weekend's nature dive led by Adam Taylor. Every year during the low tides in June, Adam leads a dive at Mount Gardiner to bring up the sea life that lives around our island so kids and adults alike can have a peek at it all. In the slide show, you'll see a variety of sea stars (vermillion, ochre, sunflower among others), different crabs, sea cucumbers and a bay pipefish which is an elusive relation of the seahorse. I've been lucky enough to see one of these in the wild at Bowen Bay last summer while I was snorkelling.

What you don't see in the slide show is an octopus, but there are many living in the area where these animals were found. North Pacific giant octopii grow to huge proportions (up to 14 feet across) and are both common and gentle creatures and highly intelligent. I can't wait to get the snorkel gear out. Won't be long now.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summer solstice came and went at 6:00am this morning. Up at Rivendell, Marks McAvity reports that the labyrinth is officially done and was opened at that moment.

The weather is changeable, very humid, but mostly sunny with the odd rain shower precipitating when the air gets too soggy. Mornings are cloudy, evenings are clear and the ballgame last night (in which the Celtics achieved a huge triumph over the Firemen) had players trying to hit pitches that were coming right out of the midsummer sun.

Last night, at 3:00am a big wind came up and blew for the next three hours. I was out of the house at 6am and off to catch a ferry to town and floatplane to Victoria. I've left the family dealing with a bevy of helpers: Jeremy, who is rebuilding the front deck and building a much needed support wall and foundation on the open side of the house; the Bowen Freight guys who are delivering a hot tub; and an Israeli electrician from town who is wiring it up for us. We've been in the house six years now and it's time for some big upgrades. Our friend Julie has also been at the garden and has brought it back to life as well.

The supporting wall has to do with the fact that, despite having survived for 15 years, the pilings supporting our house are not as strong as they coupld be. We have a huge open space under the south side of the house where we store our wood and it could use more support. So instead of putting in more piles, we are building a foundation along the south side and two supporting walls to rest on it. This will substantially cut down the sway in the house when the wind blows or the dryer turns, or the kids come stomping in. It will also make the place a little more earthquake proof.

Once Jeremy finishes that, he's going to reattach the front deck, or more precisely, rebuild it. We are going to change it around as well and put in some more garden space at the front of the house. This will open up the front of our property which could be lovely if it were a little more accessible.

As for the hot tub...that's just gravy. Once we manhandle it to the top deck that is. Bowen Frieght will only deliver it to the top of our driveway. That is seventeen steps and twenty meters of distance away from where it needs to go. Anyone showing up on Sunday to help us move it gets the first soak in it once the electrician hooks us up.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

It's a beautiful morning, clearing and still cool, but today will be hot. I walked to the Cove to catch an early morning ferry, smothered in birdsong. The Townsend Solitaire's are carving the air with their spiralling song. My breakfast was a handful of salmonberries and a shot of espresso at The Snug.

Boats are on my mind this morning. There is a day tripper ketch moored at the government dock, and my friend Markus and I were speculating about it. The masts look older than the hull. Markus himself discovered a video of the boat he is salvaging on the CBC archives. Apparently it was owned by Greenpeace founder Bob Hunter, who died in 2005. If you watch the video, you can see a full shot of the boat at the :29 second mark. That's quite a find for Markus.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The final product

The final product.

It has been raining for the past could days, and cold like autumn. It happens like this every year, and every year people wonder what happened to summer. We always get a taste of summer in May and every June we get the rainy season's last gasp. I've been sleeping out on the porch for the last couple of nights, mostly due to Caitlin having a terrible throat infection, but I would be out there's beautiful at night in the cool air with the rain falling and no wind. And to awake in the full light at 5:30 am with the towhees madly trying to attract mates is a beautiful alarm clock.

I was thinking today how much Bowen has changed in the nearly six years I have been here. I'm in that spot now where people start to say "the Island isn't what it used to be." Of course that's true, it's always true, but there is a time in seeing change when you become aware that the change that is happening has changed the way you see things too. What is lamented is the fact that we don't see things the way we used to. So I am conscious, having spent so much of this year away from Bowen, of my new eyes, curious to see how things will be in the summer when I sink into the rhythm of this place.

Friday, June 15, 2007

2007 Salmonberry harvest

The salmonberries are ripe and the harvest has begun. On Wednesday the family went out picking and we loaded u. There are tons of berries around, huge in size and the bushes are just dripping with them. These ones are destined for jam and whatever else we harvest will get frozen to use in smoothies, on yogurt or in breads and muffins.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

This year's Bowfest is getting a much needed overhaul. The committee even has a blog! Hooray!
Just a note to say that I'm currently also blogging at One Day Bowen, a website dedicated to sustainable living here on the island. Go there and join the conversation!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

This is the traditional beginning of the summer season here in Canada, and typically on the west coast the weather varies from being quite summery to reminding us of the winter that has yet to entirely lose its grip on us. There is still a little snow on the mountaintops, and the temperatures are cool at night, but mostly we have just come through a week of lovely sunshine and shirtsleeves.

And then, yesterday around noon something cold rolled in and this morning it has been positively pissing rain. The fire is blazing away here and my efforts to find some moments to cut the grass have been dashed. That is the way May goes around here.

The salmonberries are plentiful this year although not yet ripe. Some of the bushes on our usual haunts seem to have twice as many berries on them as usual and there are a few down in the cove that are starting to develop some colour. It won't be long until we are cruising down the cove with containers in hand to harvest the bounty of the land.

In news around the house we have been making a few changes here. The front deck fell off the fascia board it was flimsily nailed to, a result of water damage and poor construction and so we are getting that redone, looking to build a new deck along to front of the house that opens on to the bottom of our lot. Aine had the idea to put a small patio down there which might be nice, among the salal and the blackberries. At the same time we are strengthening the support for the house, which could use a seismic upgrade. Also, we are going to build some supports into the back deck to be able to hold a hot tub, which should arrive this summer. And to complete our outdoor work, we bought a trampoline for the kids and built a firepit in the back of our place which already has proven to be a nice spot for late night conversation in the chill air of spring.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Balanced on Bowen Island

May begins...can you believe it?

I have been travelling so much away from this place that I love. When I am here I have been so present on the land, enfolding myself into Island life. Yesterday the kids and I had a great day, log hopping and building a small beach fire at September Morn beach on the east side of the island, checking the status of the emerging salal and salmonberry patches around there (and they are some healthy!) and then heading to Snug Cove filed to catch a baseball game, as the men's fastpitch season has started.

Nice to be home, for a short time, to touch down and feel the balance on this place. I'm son to travel again, but every moment I am on Bowen, I savour.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A beautiful day here. Finn and I went out with our friends Paul and Calder Stewart to steward some trails on Mount Gardner. We were working on Hand Logger's Trail which runs from the top of a cul-de-sac of West Side Road over to where a trail ascends from the end of Windjammer Road in Bluewater. Hand Logger's Trail is part of a trail network that encircles the mountain at around the 400 metre level, meaning that it is relatively level for most of the way. We were out today clearing some branches that had fallen during the winter, moving around some bucked up timber and working on a couple of really wet spots that benefited from having the water channelled to avoid it pooling on the trail. We built a small new section of trail around a persistent swamp and started to clear a new trail beside a significant creek that flows on the west side of the mountain past the old mine shafts.

Calder and Paul have been stewarding the trails around there for the past few years. It's a quiet job they do, largely out of the sight and knowledge of most anyone who uses those trails, but you can really see their work on sections of the path that seem welcoming, or especially aesthetically lovely. We're not slashing and burning roads up there, but rather working in concert with the land itself to build very natural places where flow wants to go, whether that is the flow of water or the flow of feet and bike wheels.

It's just a gorgeous way to spend a Sunday.

On the way home as dusk was falling, the spring air rang out with the referee whistles of Varied Thrushes calling to one another. Spring is truly here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A warm and wild wind blew through here last night and today the skies are clearing today. It is spring now and the news from the hatchery is that the chums have started to emerge. If you want to see them in the wild, trek down to the base of Bridal Veil falls and see if you can spot the little ones in the pools at the bottom of the fish ladder. They're not easy to spot, but it's a lovely sign of spring when you can see baby salmon.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The strangest fence in the world

The stupidest fence on Bowen Island is the one at the end of Whitesails Drive where the trail down to Cape Roger Curtis starts. It's just about 100 meters of chain link fence that doesn't go anywhere and is basically the security version of pissing on a fire hydrant. It seems that its only function is to hold up a couple of "No Trespassing" signs.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Mist on Cates Hill

Out for a walk this afternoon. SInce I am spending so little time here these days, I'm taking more time to walk deeply in the forest around my house, to visit the land and sea and stay quite connected to the rhythms of this place. So for your edification on this misty late winter afternoon, here are a few things I noticed...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Perhaps in the grand tradition of naming years after the things that happen, this year should be called "the years things got paved." It would be more true to say that, starting in this past summer, parts of Bowen heretofore previously composed of gravel and potholes got a good coat of black top. It started with the sidewalks in the lower Cove and then around Christmas, the parking lot at the United Church got a coat of pavement too, and a curb and a fence to stop people backing out on to the blind corner on Miller Road. Now today, home after nearly two weeks on the road, I see that the parking lot at the Catholic Church, where the residents o Deep Bay stop to collect their mail, has had it's lakes and rivers filled in with sealed asphalt. Ah progress...

And in related "improvement" news, it seems that he Bow Mart renovations are proceeding along. The Bow-Mart was a Bowen institution, an exclusive preserve of a certain generation of island men, who each claimed a stool at the lunch bar and were served coffee and conversation until they died - some of them actually dying right there on their stools. It was the kind of place that defined an older island mentality - open and embracing of long time residents, but suspicious of newcomers, meaning anyone who had arrived in the past generation or so. That kind of thing is largely gone noe, although it survives to some extent in public meetings about zoning issues (!) but with it went a part of the island's character.

Now the Bow-Mart, under whose new ownership I cannot say, is sporting new, brighter coat of brown paint and a new deck around the outsides. It looks like it will reopen as a diner and it seems like the name s being kept and the plastic, occasionally illuminated sign on the post out front seems to be staying, a heritage marker if ever there was one.

It does seem like throw back week around here. The Queen of Capilano has finally gone for her refit - an event that usually happens every year, but didn't happen in 2006. She's off to get herself tuned up and refitted so that she doesn't take logs into her props and suffer the kinds of damage that has sidelined her the past couple of years. At any rate it means that the Bowen Queen is on duty until the beginning of April. She's a smaller and much older boat, having been built in the early 1960s, and whenever I ride her, I have a lovely sensation of actually living on an island. The Cap is nice, but she lacks the charm and inconvenience of the older boats that serve most of the inner islands. This one is rusty and cluttered, with pipes and cables exposed along the ceilings and a powerful diesal engine rumbling beneath decks. Her shabbier appearance belies the fact that she is actually a faster boat than the Cap and when the crew needs to make up time, you really feel it.

My work these days carries me far and wide and around this continent, but I am discovering that such sojourns make me eyes clearer and my heart sing more sweetly when I return here, no matter how fleetingly.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Another winter blast last night. Before midnight a lot of wet snow started falling and by the time I headed down to the Cove it was about 5cms deep, hard to walk on and very wet. There were lots of branches coming down and a power outage a couple of minutes after I knocked my alarm off at 6:30am.

The Snug, however was hopping. Young Will had hooked up a generator and we enjoyed warmth and coffee huddling in the cafe.

Power outages and storms are great for me. They make things inconvienient, and that is why I moved to Bowen in the first place. It seems with the crazy weather that we should expect these things to be more and more common. I travel everywhere with my wind up flashlight now, and today, as a result of the mess everywhere I got to meet a long time islander who I had only seen in passing for six years.

So if you're thinking of moving here, remember that things move slowly in the winter, and it's a good idea to learn to enjoy that.
Not much posting lately obviously, what with christmas and a holiday on Maui during wqhich another wind storm knocked things about here.

We've had a couple of days of light snow lately and colder weather, and the water is clam and flat and even a little thick looking. Into the depths of winter, after a stormy fall.