Boat Ballet in Victoria Harbour

What have we been up to since our last blog? Our feet haven't touched the ground with so many enjoyable activities during the month of December and January. The weather has turned wintery with hail, sleet, snow and ice (very unusual for this area) and now as predicted by the locals, the temperatures are rising and spring is in the air. Each day delivers surprises.
First and foremost we have met many liveaboards here on the dock. A very friendly, close knit, kind bunch of people who have made us feel so welcome in their community.
Victoria is the provincial capital of British Columbia and the largest city on Vancouver Island, situated on the southern tip of the island.
Victoria is influenced by the culture of it's forefathers - First Nations people (originally known as aboriginal people). Many of these families such as the Songhees, the Saanich and the Sooke lived off the land and sea. Victoria was then known as Camosack and it became a Hudson Bay trading post from 1843. In 1854 Camosack was renamed Fort Victoria as an honour to Queen Victoria. The governors negotiated with the various native families and managed to relocate them to reserves nearby.
1858 brought many gold miners to the area when the gold rush started. The main deposit of gold was found in the lower Fraser River on the mainland but to mine, the gold miners had to obtain their mining license in Victoria. These global visitors swelled the population of Victoria bringing a diversity of cultures and beliefs to the area. In the 1880s several thousand Chinese immigrants arrived to work on construction projects such as the Canadian Pacific Railway.
1871 saw British Columbia come under the Canadian domain with Victoria as the capital city.
Victoria, today, is a city based on tourism, native heritage, a huge retirement community, marine, forestry and agricultural research, technology and the home of the BC government. It continues to be the hub of Canada's western naval facilities and has a major fishing fleet. Academically, Victoria has many notable educational, art and musical institutions.
The quality of life here is very comfortable with a mild climate, extremely scenic, rich heritage and some of the friendliest people that we have met on our travels.

Butchart Gardens

Ian and Susan, our Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) friends took us to Butchart Gardens for their 'Magic of Christmas' display with tens of thousands of lights adorning the trees throughout the garden. It had snowed the previous day and the gardens were transformed into winter wonderland. Traditionally the gardens display the Twelve Days of Christmas, using mannequins, trees, shrubs and clever coloured illumination. As adults we became children for a few hours.

Toss a Teddy

On our "to do" list was to enjoy a live ice hockey game and we managed two. Firstly we watched the Christmas charity game between rivals, Victoria Royals and Vancouver Giants. The Giants won by one point. Money was raised for a children's' foundation by buying teddies and lightweight pucks which were tossed onto the ice when directed during the intervals. The winning number on the puck or teddy won a prize. Hilarity with grown men attempting to cycle around a race course on the ice and huge roars for the children who kitted up and gingerly showed us how to play ice hockey. Several weeks later we saw the Royals win against the Prince George Cougars, who are top of the league. Naturally we are Royals supporters!

Blue Peter Moment

The marina got into the swing of the festive period and encouraged us boat owners to decorate our boats. With a few wire coat hangers from the dollar store and with a Blue Peter mentality, Stephen rigged up an illuminated star. Ensconced in the bosons chair, Debbie hoisted him to the top of the mast....twice.....and 200 cable ties later, Amelie had a Christmas tree outline up her mast. We would like to thank Bubbles for lending us her miles of twinkles to enable us to win third prize in the competition....a local bottle of Syrah. The marina also hosted a Christmas party and the table groaned under the weight of food and booze, including Linda's 1.5 litres of Tequila. We were welcomed by the friendly bunch and had a brilliant evening, plus a couple of shots of Tequila.One of the nicest things about being attached to land is walking and exploring the land. Stephen and Debbie have walked miles, enjoying the coastal path but also some of the beautiful parks. Much of Debbie's solitary exploration has been due to getting lost, generally when she has a hair appointment to keep.

Tallest Totem in Victoria

Ogden Point is a deep water port facility with four piers to handle huge vessels. The port of Victoria is currently the busiest cruise ship port of call in Canada. Ogden Point Breakwater is 762 metres long and built in 1916. First Nation art is depicted along its length, known as Na'Tsa'Maht, the Unity Wall. The walk is bracing as you are open to the elements but the views are spectacular. Fishermen and women at the end of the pier, using tubular worm bait appear to have success although the resident seals and grebe are canny fishermen. Along the shore after a storm, huge bleached trunks are tossed up the beach with the debris being used to make natural fences for protecting the habitat and preventing erosion of the shoreline.
The Royal BC museum was the best museum we have ever been to. At the time of our visit we saw the baby mammoth exhibition which was simply amazing. With a break for lunch so we didn't get too swamped with detail we returned in the afternoon to experience the natural and modern history displays and the First Nation history floor. Some of the information was distressing regarding the treatment of the First Nation people but overall an excellent day.
Preparation for Christmas is always a highlight for Debbie, with lots of thought going into the food. As we were going to be alone (our decision despite two invitations) and we were having our first cold Christmas in five years we decided to have a traditional Christmas meal with roast Goose with all the homemade trimmings. The Canadians tend to have fresh Oysters on the day and that's exactly what we ordered from a superb fish market close by with Champagne. We found a great family butcher a bus ride away who butchers excellent quality meat and poultry. Stephen even found Debbie's favourite Rosemary jelly in their deli area. The portion sizes for steaks and pork chops are enormous and we share a steak at each sitting. Leaving Victoria at the end of April will see us stocking our freezer with fabulous meat from Slaters.
Music of various genres can be found throughout this beautiful city and being Christmas we took a trip to the campus of the University of Victoria where we listened to the Messiah conducted by a vibrant Maestra.
We have made some friends during our time in Victoria and fellow boat owners Ian & Susan, Arlene & Bob (A&B), Rick & Renae and the lovely Captain Ron are some of the nicest people you could meet. We met A&B in the summer and Jaz said, "Mum, they are your kind of people". We have made a fast, special relationship and often roar with laughter, the stories we share get more colourful and we have shared memorable evenings and days together. Arlene's Mum who is 91 but has the mind and energy of a much younger woman is astonishing. We enjoyed a fabulous few days at A&Bs with Stephen managing to flood their bathroom. Luckily no lasting effects!

Cheers Clive & Ju

Birthday celebrations for the first mate were topped off with Ju and Clive organising Champagne to be delivered to the boat. Overwhelmed and emotional, Debbie couldn't hold back the tears.
Christmas Day was spent skyping for six hours with the entire family, so we didn't eat until the evening.
Captain Ron lives on his boat "Dauntless" close to Amelie and on New Year's Eve he invited us to join his party onboard. He organised the famous water ballet in five Pickle Boats (Victoria Harbour Ferries) within the Inner Harbour. Five captains on five 12 person, illuminated ferries accomplished choreographed sequences for the first time in the dark, driving within six inches of one another to classical music. Celebrations continued with live bands and a huge firework display to celebrate 150 years (sesquicentennial) of Canada becoming a federation. The word Confederation is often used instead because it represents the country and the events that created the "Dominion of Canada".
Stephen and "M" helped Ron tow Dauntless back to his berth in the marina from the inner harbour, with a few of us on the pontoon, guiding him in with mooring warps. Quietly and uneventfully Dauntless was safely back home.
Captain Ron had given Stephen some geographical tips on crabbing just outside the harbour and successfully he caught six good sized crabs , which he cooked and dressed.

Whistler - yes we had snow

We were fortunate and grateful to get an invite from Ian from Yantina, to stay with him in Whistler for a skiing break. Kindly Ian and his partner, Nicola lent us various pieces of kit and we had three days of skiing on the prettiest of slopes with amazing snow. Debbie was fortunate to go out Nordic skiing for two hours with Nicola who was enormously patient and a great teacher. No queueing as such for the lifts, Canadian patience and organisation allowed people to get up the mountain without stress, no moaning and groaning, no pushing in the line. European ski resorts could take a leaf out of Whistler's books! An added bonus of the trip was spending some time with Edward, Ian's son who we had last seen on the rally.
The Vancouver Boat show and the OCC supper was fortunately on the same weekend but even more exciting, we went to stay with A&B in their home on the mainland. The boat show was quieter than what we are used to and no sailing yachts apart from dinghies. It was held in the main football stadium with the boats displayed on the playing field. The OCC supper was held at Andy and Liza Copeland’s house, where we joined with friends from the island and met many like minded sailors. The supper was fantastic, all homemade standing in front of a roaring log fire in the sitting room.
A&B gave us a tour around their local area, showing us where Arlene was brought up, went to school, her grandparents house and where her Mum taught. Many funny stories shared over the days brought us closer.
Obviously tied to a pontoon we had the chance to do some boat maintenance with Stephen checking Bubbles on a regular basis. Purchases of spares for engines, cooker and a new charcoal barbecue drained our bank account. We discovered together with other boat owners that we have heavy condensation on our boats at this time of the year, particularly under the mattress, so bedlinen changing has turned into a major chore on a regular basis. The washing machine continues to cope although it had some TLC recently. People that know Debbie well are aware that our laundry is well cared for and whiter than white. Captain Ron affectionately named Debbie the "Laundry Lunatic". The main engine and generator are undergoing a professional overhaul with some replacement parts, making our future journey to the Southern Pacific towards the end of the year, hopefully trouble free.
Visitors to our boat are not always the human kind. Under the cover of darkness, whilst tucked up in the warmth below decks, we believe a Racoon has parties in the cockpit. Regularly we find crab claws and shells discarded on the side of the boat and pontoon but one morning there was bloodied carnage throughout the cockpit. The resident Great Blue Heron scared the living daylights out of Debbie as she climbed down onto the pontoon. They make a horrendous racket when they are disturbed.

Fan Tan Alley

Chinese New Year in Victoria, is held in the oldest and best preserved China Town in Canada. In 1995, this area of Victoria was made a National Historic Site of Canada. We entered China Town by the narrow, cobbled famous Fan Tan Alley which was originally a private walkway. Festooned with colourful lanterns and tiny shops poking out of the niches in the alley you’re transported back to the 1850s but then reality hits with finding discarded syringes and needles on a windowsill. Fisgard street with its ornate ‘Gate of Harmonious Interest’ was filled with people looking forward to welcoming in the year of the Rooster and to witness the ceremonial dragon dance. This river spirit is a symbol of China and brings good luck to the community. The organisation of this event was hopeless to the point of amusement with the weather deteriorating and after an hour we decided to have brunch. As Arlene said "the puff had gone out of the magic dragon”.
On the 11th of January, baby Evan was born to a young couple residing on our pontoon. All ages reside here.
Excitement was building due to our imminent departure to the UK to see family and friends. Last minute shopping for presents, packing and organisation of our time in our homeland took up most of the last week. A special surprise was in store for Stephen before we left the boat and then it was the ferry to the mainland staying with A&B who kindly drove us to the airport.
A busy three weeks ahead of us trying to catch up with as many people as possible covering many miles and visiting various areas of the country.



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