Sunday, May 13, 2007

BC Ferries: Cruising The Straits

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Well, this is the thanks I get for going off half-cocked.

It turns out my big day trip to Nanaimo was a flop, so rather than dwell on the failure of it, I have chosen to look upon it as a) a learning experience, b) a fact-finding mission, and c) an excuse to have a lovely boat ride and take a lot of pretty pictures.

In fact, I took enough pictures to do three or four photo essays.

First, I should explain: the title isn't mine.

There is a legend (which many claim is true, which is the way it is with legends) that either in the 70s or in the 80s (legends not being known for their accuracy) BC Ferries commissioned that very slogan and either was about to or had already rolled out their ad campaign based around it, when someone explained to them what it meant.

Ever since, certain muck-raking bitches (myself proudly included), have refused to let the legend die. I would love to come into possession of some piece of proof that the story was true, and so I am making my wish upon the Internet, which has done so much for me thus far.

Maybe some day the evidence I seek will surface.

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British Columbia's waters are very much working waters: the Port of Vancouver does a massive amount of the Nation's business, car and passenger ferries chug between the mainland and dozens of offshore islands (the largest of which is Vancouver Island) and fishing boats, whale-watching and other eco-tours, cruise ships, and pleasure craft make up the rest.

On this day I took the ferry from Horseshoe Bay, on the mainland, to Departure Bay in Nanaimo, which is on Vancouver Island. It sailed at 3 PM, arrived at 4:40, at which time I turned around and came back on the 5 PM, returning at 6:37 - three minutes early! It cost $11.50 to go, and $5.95 to return, plus $4.50 for bus fare there and back - $21.95 for a nice day out.

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The ferries themselves can be quite large, but they are dwarfed by the sheer immensity of the Coast Mountains. The arrival and departure provide the best scenery (if you can find a spot at the rail between photographers) mainly because the boats are moving more slowly, but also because of the stretch of open water in the middle of the journey.

This is more pronounced on the southern route from Tswassen to Saanich/Victoria.

It can be furiously windy, too, as it was this day. As warm as it was on land, I was wishing I'd worn long pants once I was on the boat. Fortunately there are many places to go to warm up, and the amenities on the boats are ample.

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Leaving Horseshoe Bay, the ferry gets a pretty spectacular view of Vancouver between the mainland (on the left) and Bowen Island (on the right). I was unprepared for this, as it had been 25 years since I'd last taken the trip. Also, 25 years ago, the view would not have looked quite like this. Our little city has certainly done some growing up!

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Mid-water can be the most relaxing. The passage itself is a symphony of blue and grey tones at the best of times. This combined with the sea air and the gentle rocking motion is almost worth the fare itself. Since I have no time or money with which to travel, I was looking for an experience that would feel like travel, and I got it, right down to the relief at finally being home.

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Approaching Nanaimo the spiny back of Vancouver Island looms up; some of these mountains are visible from Vancouver's English Bay (on very clear days). Though it is thought of as something of a backwater populated by yokels, this is a typically urban myth. Most of the people on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands are refugees from the city.

Besides which, there are plenty of rednecks and yokels living right here in the city. I know this because, in my line of work, I either deal with them or work with them regularly.

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I don't know anyone who's moved offshore, so I have no pied-a-terre on the Sunshine Coast as of yet. But some day, maybe... I keep telling myself that I'll one day rent a kayak and travel around these islands a little more intimately. I may yet do that as well.

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I was surprised to see so much snow cover so late in the season. Though it's picturesque, it spells potential disaster if a heat wave hits, which has been known to happen in May. Some of the snow cover is glacial, though, in which case, I'd prefer it if it stayed right where it is.

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I decided to end on a poignantly arty shot of a fishing boat sailing off into the sunset. I tweaked it a little, casting a golden hue over what was originally almost black and white. The BC fishery could use a little golden glow right now seeing as it, like all fisheries, is threatened.

I will get the trip to Nanaimo I originally planned, only next time I'll put a little more preparation into it. In the meantime I hope the pictures show that the day wasn't a total wash.
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Gay Canuck in the Capital said...

I miss YVR and kayaking off Bowen Is. sigh. great pics.

michael sean morris said...

Welcome to the Pop Culture Institute and you're welcome to Vancouver any time.

Glad I could tweak some fine memories for you. Stay tuned: there's more where this came from.

Y | O | Y said...

Beautiful, gorgeous, incredible!!!

Seumas Gagne said...

So, why was the trip a flop? Why did you turn around and sail home after just 20 minutes onshore in Nanaimo?

The water-ish pictures are lovely!

michael sean morris said...

It was a flop in that I didn't actually get to see Nanaimo. But I made my lemons into lemonade by enjoying what I did get to do.

I had to turn around because I had a haircut client and the only day we could meet was Saturday, and because I failed to plan the trip better.

I have since learned from the experience, and I think I'll be going to Nanaimo next month when I can actually see the city.

Doug Barr said...

I can't remember when that Cruising the Straits to Victoria series of ads was on, but I do remember seeing it on the BC Ferries. Early 80s I think, but not sure...

michael sean morris said...

I'm sure BC Ferries has done everything in their power to destroy all evidence of it, but they couldn't have gotten it all. If I could narrow it down to a year I'll go to the library and look through catalogued copies of the Sun and Province.