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Friday, July 31, 2009

Back in Nanaimo

Here we are, back and getting ready to move in. In fact, Gesa and I have the magic school bus all loaded up with stuff and are off to collect the keys to the house and unload the first lot into the garage. One more night on the boat then we all go up to Cumberland tomorrow.

Had a great, great cruise up to Desolation and back, wonderful places, amazing weather and great swimming. Some photos here and more to come. N.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Up North

Apologies to our regular readers, but we've been a bit quiet on the blog. As usual this reflects the opposite in daily life - things are getting busy as we begin to reattach ourselves to the land. We did, though, have a great trip across to Vancouver where we met up with friends and had a great afternoon and evening with Gesa's sister. It was very good to catch up with everyone, and the anchorage was perfect. We stayed in False Creek, near a place called Granville Island, which is a pretty big tourist and artist place, with markets, studios, playgrounds and other attractions. We had a lot of fun, especially on the hot day when the kids found the water park, and spent too much money - but the food from the market was superb and shows that you really do get what you pay for.

On the way back we stopped for a couple of nights at a nice place called Plumper Cove, a little park accessible only by water about twenty miles north of Vancouver. It was a nice quiet stop and some good walks in the forest and on the coastline.

Back to Nanaimo we made a trip up to Cumberland and Comox to check mail and see that our house is still there - it is and it looks like it will be ready for us in a few weeks time. WE sorted out gas, power, internet and phone - the usual necessities of modern life, although we have eschewed cable TV and will try to get by on dvd's and video over the internet for now. We've also been thinking about stuff we want to have for furnishings and houseware. We have ended up finding pretty much every thrift (charity) store in Nanaimo and Courteny, and there's a superb selection of second hand stuff. In most cases, this ticks the boxes of being more environmentally friendly as well as much cheaper. For example, we all have cycle helmets now, four of them cost us twelve dollars. One new one would be thirty, and have a load of cardboard and plastic packing. So it's thrift stores for most stuff, then if we buy new we buy high quality so that we only buy it once, hopefully.

We then spent time preparing for my parent's arrival on Friday. They are with us for two weeks sailing then another week as we move into the new house, so they will see some of our new life too. We found that the marina has some small storage cages up in the underground carpark, so we rented on for a month and took loads of stuff off the boat - mostly books and clothes - as well as storing our new houseware purchases. There is a lot more space on board right now, many lockers are not even close to full. It's amazing how much can be accumulated even on a small boat.

Mum and Dad's arrival coincided with the start of some superb weather, and we have had a great trip up the coast. Apart from motoring everywhere because of light or northerly winds, it's been a really good trip so far. We've had a couple of quiet coves all to ourself - rare at this time of the year when everyone is on vacation - and are now in the famous Desolation Sound. Poor old George Vancouver was pretty down by the time he got here, and it was raining too, so the area gained it's undeserved name from that. In reality, it is majestic, and, like Princess Louisa Sound, defies description or photography in it's grandeur. Massive mountains rise behind the shore line, and sheltered coves make perfect anchorages. It is a deservedly popular place, and sadly it has some of the features of beautiful places in the Caribbean or Bahamas, it is a spot where the rich gather to burn gasoline. There are quite a few big motor yachts, with powerful dinghies to zoom around the area and even a float plane anchored just next to us, probably to ferry guests in and out and avoid the need to spend a day or two on the water traveling here. Of course, I might argue that when it's so easy to get here, the experience is dimmed and just becomes another neat place you flew to once.

Thankfully, this place overwhelms even the most vulgar attempts to show off. The best anchorages are too small for the big yachts, who anchor outside in the deep water and all their toys don't buzz around where we are. Next to these mountains, even the biggest boat is just a dot on the water and we can all admire and enjoy these surroundings together. It really is fabulous, especially when the sun shines!

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Engine fixed - let's go!

So we got the engine problem repaired, relatively simple once we found the right mechanic - experience and the correct tools make all the difference.

Today we cast off the lines once more and head for Vancouver itself, a chance to visit the city, meet friends and, hopefully, meet up with Gesa's sister who will be there briefly as part of her flying rota, she works with Air Canada.

Time to go sailing, yipee!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Swallowing the anchor....

Swallowing the anchor is the cruisers' term for packing ones bags and moving ashore. The term is apt, the process can, at times, be about as pleasant as swallowing a large lump of pointy steel. In our usual way we aren't hanging about too much, choices are thought about, options explored then we go for it in a pretty decisive way.

The key things here are a house and transport. Up in Cumberland we found a brand new house, very close to the kids school and ready to rent just when we want to move up there, at the start of August. The house ticks a lot of boxes, three good sized bedrooms for all of us, a large basement room for office / guests, and a big garage to set up as a workshop area. Lots of storage too. Sadly, it's darned ordinary, unimpressive and contains one of my biggest pet hates about North American houses, which is that the most distinctive feature is the garage door. Sigh. This is temporary, we keep reminding ourselves, although we expect to be here at least a year.

Next up, a car. Given that we are likely to be hauling around a lot of stuff, and/or kids friends, and/or guests, the obvious choice was a mini-van. Seating for seven, lots of space, comfortable. Also boring, not very fuel efficient and wallowing around the bends. We'll do our best to shop very locally and use the car as little as possible. We kind of managed it in Cambridge so hopefully we can do so here too. We think we found a decent example, it's 2002, with quite a lot of miles but seems to be in good shape. There are so many to choose from that prices are very reasonable, in fact it's less expensive than any car I ever bought in the UK.

To help us drive less, and enjoy the local area, bicycles are essential. I found a good one locally, second hand, and spend a half day with Max helping me to clean, adjust, oil and generally turn a scruffy neglected bike into a pretty good one. Then, yesterday, we were browsing the Charity stores (a favourite activity lately) and found a nice mini-mountain bike for Issie for $30, which seems like a good deal. It's very like the bike she had back in the UK which she did very well on. In the same store were cycle helmets, and Max got a very cool one for three bucks. Reduce, reuse, recycle.....
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Friday, July 03, 2009


We've all been learning the national anthem, Gesa found a great book in the library and the kids are enjoying it. Max sings:

'O Canada,
Our home and native land.
True pastry of love...'

That'll be 'true patriot love, in all our hearts command', Max.

O Canada, Our home and native land

Here we are in Canada for our first 'Canada Day' celebration as residents. Many of you will have been to one of our annual Canada Day parties in Cambridge, where we all dressed in red and white and invited any canadians we knew to come over for a BBQ. Now it is our chance to join in someone else's party, and it was a lot of fun.

Nanaimo held a gathering in the big waterfront park, and took the opportunity to open a new section, the Spirit Square. The weather cooperated, the choir sang 'O Canada', speeches were made and a most enormous cake was cut. There were plenty of activities too, Issie and Max got to try kayaking and street hockey - Max showed an aptitude for hockey which he must get from me, obviously, and I can see him chasing a puck or ball around the street or a rink in years to come. Issie turns out to be pretty good at throwing an american football too, but perhaps I'll do my best to steer her towards rugby. She shows talent when it comes to tackling her brother and I reckon American Football just wouldn't be physical enough for her....

I reckon Canada does this national celebration thing pretty well. More evident and patriotic than England's complete apathy to St Georges Day, not as alcoholic as St Patrick's Day and much less jingoistic than the Fourth of July. We fit in well here.

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A day out in Victoria

Here's some pictures from our day out in Victoria. Our friend on the next door boat, Jim, was at an event in town for the day and offered to take us, so we jumped at the chance. The event was an outdoor equipment show, so Max and Issie had fun on the climbing wall and other entertainment. I went off to find the fast ferry and go to America and back to get my residency visa activated. Meanwhile, the team looked around the city, took in an IMAX movie and kept a lookout for all the painted eagles that we find all over Vancouver Island.

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