Sunday, October 18, 2009

Part 6: From The Dinghy Dock Pub to the Island Wilderness

We’ll jump right in and start this segment out with one of my favorite pubs; The Dinghy Dock Pub. Located on the eastern outskirts of Nanaimo Harbour, off Protection Island near Newcastle Island Marine Park, the floating Dinghy Dock Pub is one of the most unique establishments in the Pacific Northwest. In the past I have sailed right up to the finger docks of this floating wharf, tied off my lines to imbibe in lagers and eat seafood with the bow of my boat directly behind my head. Now that’s my kind of drive-up service! I have made a collage from photos I found on the inter-net pertaining to the dinghy dock pub. Double click on this or any other photograph to see a larger view.
Our arrival in Nanaimo Harbour was in the early evening and Catherine & Richard both were duly impressed with the collection of various vessels anchored out in Mark Bay. Image #2 is a 50 foot, custom built, junk rigged, sailing vessel at anchor in this popular roadstead. There are several thousand boats in the greater Nanaimo area and literally near a hundred in this ever changing anchorage. One can see vessels ranging from multi-million dollar showcases to derelicts that appear to be near sinking.

The Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park is managed by the local First Nations tribe of the Snuneymuxw. The Snuneymuxw are a Coast Salish people who live on Vancouver Island and speak the Hul'qumi'num dialect. Prior to European contact the Snuneymuxw had many winter villages along the Nanaimo Harbour each one consisting of several longhouses. They maintain the park and collect the fees from moorage, visitors, shower facilities and the like. It was the hot showers that were in our focus after seeing to the boats.
For more info on Newcastle Island go to:

“Oops”… Our Snuneymuxw representative collecting the moorage fees told us. “Woman’s restroom vandalized. Must share shower in the men’s facility,” he told Catherine. “You be guard,” he told me. So we walked up the hill to the shower & restrooms. This time of evening and this late in the season there was no one else about. I checked the men’s facilities. Catherine, with a pocket full of ‘Loonies’ (Canadian $1 coins) was good to go. A few minutes later I heard her squeal and figured it was the job of her ‘guard’ to investigate and see what was up.

“No hot water,” she told me but she was already wet, soapy and determined to have a shower. Catherine doesn’t do well in a cold shower. In fact, as a fireman, I’m surprised at how scalding hot she can manage in the shower. No worries about her over-heating here. “I’m done,” she gasped, jumping out and into a fresh towel. She had left the water running for me and I was 'commando' ready & stepped right in.

“Brrr…” I thought, maybe, just maybe. I turned the water dials in the opposite direction. Hot water came bursting out of the shower head. Water so hot she could feel it through the thick, industrial shower curtain.

“You’ve got hot water?!?” she exclaimed.

“A little bit,” I lied.

“What gives?” she asked exasperated. And then it hit me. This was as far north as Catherine, a Texas born, West Coast girl had ever been.

“I forgot to tell you, once your north of the 49 parallel, halfway between the Equator and the North Pole the plumbing has to be reversed due to the Coriolis effect .”

“Wwwhat?” she asked.

Whilst showering in delightfully hot water I explained how water reacted to the shape of the earth, flushing counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere and etc. Sometime during my dissertation she got dressed and left. Upon bumping into Richard awaiting his turn at the showers she told him of her lack of cold water.

“Yeah,” Richard said (he's a general contractor as well as city councilman, sailor and musician). "A lazy man’s plumbing where they have back to back units and don’t go through the trouble of switching the pipes." She was a little grumbly at my lack of sympathy and the fact that I had a very hot shower and had the nerve to feed her a line of BS. Oh well, some opportunities are too good to pass up… We did dinghy over to the Dinghy Dock Pub just as twilight was settling into dark. We had a good time, warm drinks, a fine meal and a First Nations fellow named Lawrence who was working there. Unfortunately it was ‘Comedy Night” in the main room and even though we were sitting on the deck, under the stars and right above the water, we could still hear what was passing for humor. Believe me it wasn’t. Oh well, you take the hand your dealt and in spite of loud and lewd on stage Richard and Catherine were still impressed with the ambiance of the Dinghy Dock Pub. And Lawrence came through. He was a much better comedian than the blokes on stage. Lawrence and our table exchanged witticisms through out our evening there. He loved the story of the Coriolis effect showers. As I mentioned we were sitting right over the saltwater and I had ordered a bucket of clams. So I simply hucked my empty shells over the rail.
"Where'd all your shells go?" Lawrence asked returning to our table.
"I ate them," I replied.
"Yeah. You look like the kinda' guy who could," Lawrence chirped back with a big toothy smile. He made our night.
Photograph #3 is the bow of our Newcastle Island dockside neighbor’s boat. A beautiful, sloop rigged sailing craft.
If you were to approach Catherine today and ask her what one thing she wished we had done more of on this trip I’m near certain she would say ‘tide-pooling’. Spending time exploring the micro-world of crabs, clams, sea stars, urchins, pebbles and beach combing. Catherine is seen here on a morning exploration of the tide flats off Newcastle Island.

Here’s a look at that small world she gets so absorbed in… Given her career as the manager of Stonerose Fossil Center it seems we always have fossils and unique rocks aboard. Cathy always keeps a loupe onboard (A loupe (pronounced loop), is a type of magnification device used to see things one is looking at more closely). And it is not at all uncommon to find her closely examining the finest details of a small shell or some other treasure from the saltchuck.

Speaking of finding small things, I feel a bit like were in Alice in Wonderland in this photograph by Catherine taken in Nanaimo’s waterfront park. This was our last morning with Richard and CHAK CHAK. The city of Mukilteo had a council meeting approaching and as a member thereof Richard was compelled to cut short his explorations of the Gulf Islands and head home. Of course heading home in a sail boat this far a field meant approximately a four day trip. We parted company in downtown Nanaimo. We had all rode the Newcastle Ferry to the city, Richard for an accurate Canadian tide table, Catherine and I for a few reasons, top of which was I wanted to go to West Marine and see if they could help me with this new GPS I had purchased in Anacortes (at WM of course). We said our farewells and good lucks on the walkway over looking the boat basin. Richard had the challenge of Dodd Narrows to hit accurately. He told us later he enjoyed anchoring near Dodd Narrows for nearly four hours given he missed the first slack of the day. This image of AQUILA & CHAK CHAK docked together is by Richard Emery.

Catherine and I heading up to the busy downtown street which appeared to have a lot of bus traffic on it. Or at least it did until we arrived there. To make a long story short – We called West Marine and wouldn’t you know it, they weren’t on the waterfront. In fact it was over five kilometers of city traffic to reach their store from our current location. Hmm, want to wait 45 minutes for the next bus (according to the posted schedule). Not us. And off we go into the wild blue Nanaimo. Haven’t been around traffic in a couple of weeks; haven’t walked very far on concrete in months. But we did it. An hour later we tromped (a bit sweaty – me) into West Marine only to find they couldn’t help us and since it was Sunday there was no one at Garmin to call for assistance. If we wanted to come back tomorrow??? There was no way either of us wanted to hike all the way back to the downtown waterfront and our feet agreed. So we found a bus stop. And we caught a bus. Wrong bus. And we caught another bus. But it went to a terminal that might have been downtown but not the part we needed to go. The driver took his fifteen minute break and when he pulled out it looked like we would be going where we wanted to go after all. NOT! By the time I got to the front of the now crowded bus we were mucho blocks away from our destination. I spoke with the driver and he told me to stay on this bus until the Country Club and then catch another downtown bus. Hmm… But I thought we had been on a downtown bus. Wrong bus. We sat there watching the suburbs of Nanaimo pass by and we were definitely out of place on the bus. We made the most of it, joking about the piloting the boat through storms but our apparent inability to navigate a municipal transportation system. All told we rode the Nanaimo bus system for over an hour. Anything that we thought we had wanted or needed in the city has faded from memory and we were ready to untie the lines and head out to open water. And that just what we did several hours later…

Just a few hours after the noise of buses faded, and the bustle of the waterfront city vanished Catherine is bundled up in the cockpit, under the dodger enjoying the late summer sunshine with no other boats in sight. ‘Take a deep breath and relax’ I kept telling myself as the buses of Nanaimo disappeared in our wake…

It was a beautiful, open water sail, close-hauled northwards with the sunshine filling the cockpit. AQUILA danced across the water and even without the use of the auto-helm she went over two hours without anyone touching the wheel. In this last photo of this segment by Catherine the old bull is piloting up Big Bull Passage on the approach to Jedediah Island Provincial Marine Park. A wonderful place I will tell you about in the next and 7th installment of AQUILA’S September 2009 Cruise…
Until then…

The Strait of Georgia is approximately twenty miles wide in this area NE of Nanaimo. The red hatch marks indicate AQUILA'S probable course. We made good thirty-five miles after leaving the harbour. Arriving at the anchorage of Deep Bay on Jedediah just in time to secure the boat before darkness fell. It was a good run...

No comments: