A Little Victoria Wildlife

We’ve been enjoying some warmer weather lately, and that means I can get to some of the outside chores that need attention.  I was on the dock the other day and I watched this baby harbour seal zoom around and do loop-de-loops playing with a school of fish right near our boat.  He stayed around long enough for me to get the camera and shoot some video.  I’m still learning a new camera and this was my first attempt at shooting video with it – but the little guy was so cute, I had to share.

We’re seeing more seals, otters and even a big raccoon around the docks.  Mergansers and cormorants fish nearby every day… the tulips are coming up, and the whale watching boats are busy every day of the week with tourists.

Spring!

March 20, 2014

Not only is today the official First Day of Spring, but the season has already arrived here in Victoria (the warmest place in all of Canada in the winter).  We’ve had temps in the 50s, and the cherry blossoms in town are already past their prime.  The daffodils have been up, and the adorable little water taxis have reappeared in the harbor in front of the Empress Hotel.

water taxis

Bob and Cathryn from Washington came up to Victoria on their boat for a few days, and we hosted a dinner party with them and our Victoria friends Diana (my knitting buddy) and Perry.  We used to have a lot of these kinds of parties, but we don’t know as many people out here… yet.  We did Roxy’s Ribs in the pressure cooker, and had a very fun visit!

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The days are getting longer by about 3 and a half minutes per day – it’s very noticeable.  To celebrate the arrival of spring, we headed over to the famous Butchart Gardens to see what’s in bloom this week.  I was afraid that I missed the cherry blossoms, but was happy to learn that the Gardens are a couple of weeks behind downtown.  We’ll go back in a week or two to see how things are coming along, but in the meantime we enjoyed the crocus…

crocus

…and the little daffodils…

daffodil

…and the look of the Sunken Garden with just the earliest hints of spring.  It should be fun watching the Gardens come alive.

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The amazing thing at Butchart Gardens was their “Spring Preview” display, where they took over the entire restaurant, emptied it completely, and installed an elaborate indoor garden complete with stones, meandering pathways, a pond, and an explosion of spring flowers.  Incredible!!  The amount of work that went into that display was staggering – all to make something fleetingly beautiful.  Lilies, orchids, rhododendron, hyacinth… I can’t name most of the flowers, but it just blew us away.  I can’t wait to see what will be next.

As winter departs, I’ll share a funny Canadian story.  While waiting in line at the hardware store, the cashier told a story about her friend in northern Manitoba who left her purse in her car overnight.  The new Canadian money is made of plastic instead of paper, and apparently it doesn’t do well in extreme cold – she found that all the new bills broke in half when she tried to use them.  You can’t make this stuff up.

Snow, Ice, Fog and Alligators

March 6, 2014

We haven’t blogged in a while because we were traveling – by air and by car – back to the east coast to visit family, friends, doctors, and to attend the DeFever Cruisers Rendezvous.  It was a hectic trip where we crammed a ton of things into a short time, but it was a fantastic trip… except for the weather.  We started in NJ to see Robin’s brother and sister-in-law (and their great dogs), an old childhood friend from the Sea Scouts, then we got caught in a snow/ice storm as we drove down to Maryland to visit friends.  It was pretty slippery driving that last part of the trip, but we arrived in one piece.

Everyone laughs at us for spending the winter in the Pacific NW, but it’s much warmer and nicer here than it was back east (except for the Florida part of the trip).  We weren’t used to all that cold and snow!  We did all our annual doctor visits and they renewed our warranties for another year.  We saw some Power Squadron friends, and we got to see one of Jim’s brothers and his wife, but missed his sister Margaret because of another snow storm that slammed us in Virginia.  We holed up in a hotel for 2 nights to wait out the record-setting snow and had a few things cancelled because of it.  We wrapped up the northern part of the trip spending some time with the Halls and then visiting with Jim’s son, his wife Valerie, and to meet the newest grandbaby – James (4 and a half months).  Little Donald is 21 months already – an active little man!

We escaped the ice and snow, driving down to Florida to visit more friends, then a quick stop in Orlando to shop at the ham radio store, then on to see Jim’s Dad in Clearwater.  From there we drove to lovely Captiva Island for the DeFever Rendezvous, and it was great to see so many old friends and all those big flared DeFever boat bows!

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As you might notice in the photo, there is a lot of fog in the air.  What was really strange was that the fog persisted through most of both days – highly unusual.  It dampened our hair and clothing but not our spirits, though it made for a very odd “sunset beach party” since we couldn’t see the sun and barely saw the beach!

We zipped down to Marco Island to visit boating friends, and they took us on an adventure looking for wildlife in the Everglades – which was terrific.  Even though we had warm days we saw lots of alligators.

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 Our friends showed us some hidden little gems – nature walks and small state parks with interesting things, such as this example of a strangler fig.

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We saw anhingas, wood storks, bald eagles, herons, egrets, glossy ibis, moor hens, and a nice kite, but my favorite were these little burrowing owls.

burrowing owl alert

We really crammed a lot into a quick 3 week trip, but we miss our family and friends and it made us very happy to see everyone.  There’s never enough time to see everyone we want to – we keep trying.

Seattle Boat Show

February 3, 2014

In past years we would make the trek from the Florida Keys up to the big Miami Boat Show for one long marathon day to talk with all the vendors and suppliers in the enormous Convention Center.  We made up lists of questions and things we might want to buy well ahead of time – the boat show is a big deal for us.  This year we went to the Seattle Boat Show instead, and it was a different experience – more than just the temperature (which was a reasonable 50).

Most boat shows run for a long weekend but the Seattle show runs for 10 days, which is both good news and bad news.  The bad news is that it’s too long and most of the major suppliers don’t participate – the return-on-investment isn’t worth tying up some of the sales force for that long.  The good news is that the show offers a ton of seminars – many free 50 minute sessions as well as some inexpensive 3-hour in-depth sessions, so we spent a number of days learning more about boating in this area.  The seminars were very good, and we were able to get a ton of great information about routes and weather for heading north to SE Alaska as well as other little tips, history, and information.

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The show floor was smaller than we’re used to, but it was interesting to see the different style of boats used in the northwest, as well as the emphasis on fishing, crabbing, and prawning.  I don’t eat seafood so it’s all lost on me;  the locals can’t figure out why anyone would want to boat out here if you don’t care about the seafood.  Dare to be different.

The boat show was held at CenturyLink Stadium (in the conference center and indoor areas), which is the home of the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks.  Every day at lunchtime the facility opened the field for boat show attendees, and it was really cool to walk out on the playing surface of an NFL stadium!

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Being in Seattle the week before the Super Bowl was a blast.  I’m a life-long NY Giants fan, but I can appreciate any town where they are passionate about their team… and people from this area are truly rabid fans.

It’s a bit of a trek for us to travel from Victoria down to Seattle (by car).  30 minute drive up to the ferry, 90 minute ferry ride over to the mainland (wiggling through the beautiful Gulf Islands – always fun), a 30 minute drive to the US/Canada border, then a 3 hour drive down to Seattle.  We take advantage of being in the US to mail things (it’s faster), and buy a few things (it’s cheaper, minding the rules about what we can bring back into Canada)… so it’s always a Big Trip with lots of errands and shopping.  We also took our amateur radio (ham) license exams, and we both passed the Technician and General.  Ham radio will let us add more communications capability in remote places with the SSB/ham radio we have on our boat, and it will be fun to experiment with a handheld ham radio when we hike up tall mountains, etc.  Studying for the exams was a good challenge too, and we might go for the next license level when we have time next winter.  Never stop learning.