Mar and Gar's Adventures

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Week One-Ireland

We have been gone for 2 weeks now and I am finally finding time to do some writing for the blog. The occasional Facebook post doesn’t tell everything.

We were so glad we flew business class to Amsterdam.. it is a long flight but we had little areas each that were almost like sleep pods. After a 4 1/2 hour layover in Amsterdam we finally arrived in Dublin. It was quickly off to our hotel and bed!! The next morning we picked up our rental car and it was a re-learning experience driving on the left side and on very narrow roads. I don’t know if we ever got the knack of it the whole week we were there. Garry said it was easier 11 years ago. I white knuckled it most of the time as I navigated with iPad! But 11 years ago I didn’t have the iPad, so that was a great change.

We were in Ireland 11 years ago almost to the day but had not done Northern Ireland so spent most of the time there. To us, it seemed newer and more industrialized than the Republic of Ireland, but still beautiful and friendly. We always just wing it and hope that when we are ready to stop we will find a place that we like. Saturday we stayed in Drogheda which is on the river Boyne – famous for the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 between deposed King James II and his son-in-law Dutch Prince William of Orange. William won and that aided in ensuring Protestant rule Ireland. That also explains why Northern Ireland’s main color is orange.

Crossing the river Boyne we got into Northern Ireland. We stayed Sunday night in Strangford. I picked that place because you take a little ferry ride over to Portaferry as you drove along the coast. That sounded like fun, but little did I know Strangford  is known by Game of Thrones fans. I have never seen an episode but I guess I need to now. Parts of season one were filmed nearby at Castle Ward. There are 2 tour buses a day that bring people in to the town and to the castle. If you google it you will see pictures of the new castle but we walked the short distance to the old Castle Ward where filming was done. We were smart and got there in the morning before the tour buses.

Sunday night was the Seahawks game and there was one pub in town with the satellite sport channels and they turned one tv on our game. It was a very small pub… just us and about 6 other locals in a different side of the pub. The game started at 9:25 pm in Ireland. The pub closes at 11:00 but let us stay until midnight. We watched the Seahawks eeek out a win watching the last 5 minutes on our iPad in our room.

The 5 minute ferry ride was easy but it was super windy and rough so got some salt spray on our car. We parked at Portaferry to walk around and a couple parked behind us. They were from Arizona and thought we were locals. They wanted to catch the ferry but didn’t have enough pounds and didn’t want to use the ATM and get a bunch because they were heading to Dublin where you use euros. We had pounds, they had US dollars, so we did a banking exchange on the street. They had just come from a town called Bangor which was our destination. They really liked the Salty Dog Hotel so we took their advice and stayed there a couple nights. It was a great place. We decided to take the train from there to Belfast rather than driving in the city and that was the smartest decision ever!!! We took a city tour of Belfast plus walked a bunch. People were amazingly helpful as we constantly took wrong turns walking. We were trying to find a pub that had been recommended and could not find it. One really nice lady just walked us to it saying it wasn’t far out of her way.IMG_3812

Northern Ireland was interesting in that there is still a lot of talk and things you see that are about what they call The Troubles. The history of fighting between the Protestants and Catholics goes back years and years but it is also pretty darn recent… it seems hard to believe how recent until you hear them talk about it and you see the signs of it.  It was uncomfortable at times to see and hear some of the stories.  We were told some golfers from the Republic of Ireland won’t golf in Northern Ireland because they consider it an occupied country (by England). In Northern Ireland there was no news on tv about the Republic of Ireland. They didn’t even show the weather.

After Bangor we continued on the northern coast to a couple of big tourist attractions. The first one was the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. This is a bridge used by salmon fisherman for over 350 years to reach an area that is best for catching salmon. It used to have only one rope hand rail but now there are two. Of course, once across you have to go back. It was another really windy day but I got it done!!

Just a ways down the road from the bridge was the Giant’s Causeway. It is a amazing area of 40,000 basalt columns and formations that according lore extend all the way to Scotland under the sea. There are many myths and legends about the causeway. It was rainy and windy when we were there but the weather cleared enough to enjoy it and get some good pictures. Lots and lots of tour buses were there. In fact there are a gazillion tour buses all over Ireland. It got interesting at times on the narrow roads!!!

We decided to turn our car in early and not drive it into Dublin our last 2 nights. A taxi was much easier!!! Dublin is so much fun. We did the Off and On tour bus that takes you to 33 stops and you can get off and on as many times as you want. Of course we had to go back to the Guinness place and the Jameson Whiskey place. We did window shopping on Grafton street and pub hopping in the Temple Bar area.

The week went by way too fast. I guess we will have to do it again some time. Stay tuned for week 2 and our adventures in Germany.

 

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Picture Time

 

These pictures are totally out of order.  Oh, well! Just enjoy.

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The kids’ plane landing at Sydney Bay

 

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Looking Waaaayyy Back

Well, I am totally the worst blogger, I guess!  Once again I have managed to not write about the last part of our trip.  So, here will be a short update just so you know we made it back (and are getting ready to leave on another adventure).

After we left Campbell River we headed back to what I would call northern Desolation Sound to get ready for my daughter, Theresa, her husband Jason and their two girls Natalie and Isabel to join us for six days.  They arrived by float plane at Sydney Bay in Loughborough Inlet.   Northwest Seaplanes, out of the south end of Lake Washington in Renton, is a great service.  They are basically the same price as Kenmore Air but much more convenient for those who live south AND the coolest is that if a possible you can give them a latitude and longitude and they will fly right to your location.  That makes it really nice if you don’t want to be in one of the scheduled stops.

It was a blast to have everyone with us.  We celebrated Theresa’s birthday at Denham Bay; the girls loved to fish and they learned how to behead prawns.  Natalie took to kayaking like she had done it forever and Isabel rode with Theresa in a kayak.  Amazingly, neither kid fell in the water and they were great boaters.

As soon as they all flew home out of Ramsay Arm Garry and I headed for home.  We only had a couple weeks to get the boat unpacked and cleaned and winterized because this week (the 7th) we leave on a 5 1/2 week trip to Europe.  I will try to do a better job of sharing stories of the trip.   We spend the first week in Ireland, then head to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and then the last week we are on a river cruise from Switzerland to Amsterdam.  Watch out for us driving over there!  I am a bit nervous but hopefully those countries will survive us!

P.S.  I would do pictures but they are in the cloud and it is too smokey out today for me to find them.  Darn wildfires.


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Long Update

Wow, I just realized how long since I did an update. It is partially because I am getting lazy and partially not much wifi so I put it off.

I am trying to remember the order of our trip after Port Hardy. We went to Blunden for 3 nights. It was really windy in the harbor. We were anchored safely but there were white caps inside the little bay. It was pretty crazy. We got a few crab but no fish. After Blunden we had to go back to Port McNeill which I wrote about already. After there we headed over to the Broughton Archipelago and spent a couple nights at Claydon Bay. It was really quiet there. Very few boats. We had pretty successful prawning but not much good crabbing. The morning we were leaving to head to Sullivan Bay marina friends from Des Moines – Frank and Trish on the Double Eagle pulled in. They were starting their trek back toward Des Moines after making it to Port Hardy for some fishing.

We spent 3 nights at Sullivan Bay. It is really a nice marina up here and not considering the larger marinas on Vancouver Island is one of the two busiest and most successful in the Broughtons. It is a well run, clever and fun place to stay with several really nice float homes in addition to the marina. We met some really nice boaters there and ran into some friends we had not seen in many years. They do 3 dinners a week and we were lucky to get in to their prime rib night. It rained all one day so I did laundry that day. One of the really nice float houses there used to be owned by a Des Moines club member. I found out it had been sold and I met the new owners who are from Van Isle, BC, near Sydney.

After our one day of rain, we have had lots of sun again but this time of year also brings fog. After we left Sullivan Bay we decided to go into Greenway Sound and try some prawning. The marina at Greenway has been closed for years and now all of the old docks and buildings are completely gone. We were the only boat there and it took awhile to find a decent place to anchor because it is either too deep or too exposed to potential wind. We found a small good spot and spent 2 nights there. The prawns were huge! Like scampi size! But very few. In 2 days we got all of 20 so have crossed this off our list.

Leaving Greenway we tried some fishing in the fog at the entrance to Fife Sound near Booker Lagoon. As the fog slowly disappeared we were close to a rock with about 20 or so very loud and smelly Stellar sea lions. We were salmon fishing but caught a nice ling cod instead. Oh, well. And then a humpback whale surfaced near us and did a bunch of spectacular tail action over and over. It was really cool! We fished until the current was safe enough to take the narrow channel into Booker Lagoon. Just before we headed in we caught a nice coho.. yay!

We spent 2 nights in Booker anchored nicely. Gar would go out fishing in the dinghy in the fog and wind and I would stay on the big boat and relax. I had told him no more prawns, so we didn’t try there. He did catch another really nice coho.

We don’t need to be down into Desolation Sound until about the 10th so decided to try a new place as we slowly head toward Desolation. We have spent the last two nights at a small First Nation dock on Harbledown Island called New Vancouver. The proper village name is Tsadzis’nukame and is the most recent ancestral home of the Da’naxda’wx people. We took a private tour given by 26 year old Ellie. Her grandfather, who passed away 15 months ago, had been the chief. She gave us a wonderful sense of the village, their people and especially her very smart and clever grandfather. It was a thriving village from the 1890s into the 1950s but in the ’60s the government shut down the school and so many moved away and finally all left. In 1992 Chief Bill Glendale (Ellie’s grandfather) began the repatriation of the village starting from scratch. They have a replica of another previous chief’s original big house which was built all by hand in the old traditional ways. As of 3 weeks ago the village is running 100% on solar power. Before Chief Bill passed he had done research, received all permits and his vision of this project was approved. It is the first of its kind here and if successful may be expanded to other areas. This is a small village with only about 40 summer residents and 12 year round but the solar power runs their homes, power on their docks, and so far they have been really happy with it. No more noisy and smelly diesel generators running. They have a good septic system and a really good water system for their village too. As a Chief with only a 4th grade education he was a man with a vision and the ability to make things happen. If you have an opportunity to come here you won’t be disappointed. The docks are nice. Power is limited but adequate. The people are friendly and the tour is well worth it.

Yesterday a dinghy came over with a couple from a boat anchored close by that wanted to check the place out. They are from Bellevue and had seen us at Sullivan Bay. Anyway, I was doing dishes so missed the part of the conversation when the guy told Garry they had been members of our Yacht Club in the 1970s when they had a sailboat. Did Garry get their names?.. No!!!! They have a Nordic Tug now and gave us some hints on fishing in Blackfish Sound, which is about 5 miles from here. Anyway, we took the dinghy out there yesterday and while fishing and no catching we were watching 4 orcas, 1 humpback whale, many many kayakers and even many more small boats like us fishing and also like us, not catching.

So you are caught up. Garry is going out fishing this morning and then we are leaving mid day for a new location.

Oh, a technology update. The new gps for our navigation quit. I redownloaded the drivers and rebooted computer and got it back. That has happened twice now so it might be our computer giving up the ghost. Also, our radar only wants to work for about 2 hours and then it has a power failure. So……all is good but I have back up plans and everything. It is more of an annoyance than a serious problem as we are in very familiar territory.


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Plug and Play

Why is it called Plug and Play when that rarely happens? On the 23rd while anchored in Blunden Harbor our gps to our Nobeltec navigation program quit working. Luckily we know a Nobeltec expert ( that is you, Simon) and with one bar cell service we were able to text back and forth and test lots of different things. The end result was that the actual gps antenna had probably died. Well, crap-a-doodle. We also have another brand fishfinder/plotter than can be used for navigating but it has very poor detail. I then remembered I had an app on my iPad called SeaNav. I was able to purchase and download Canadian charts and decided it was better than nothing. There is always paper charts and radar but you get amazingly spoiled by technology and feel so much safer when in tricky areas.

Anyway, we had to go back to Pt. McNeill for different/additional antibiotics for me unexpectedly so checked around and up in Pt. Hardy at Stryker Marine they had a Nobeltec plug and play gps that just plugs in a USB port and you follow the installation wizard and all is good. NOT!

But first we have to figure out how to get the device. A taxi ride to Pt. Hardy was going to be about $55 each way. There is bus service and we were leaning toward that but then wonderful Emma at the Pt. McNeill Harbor marina- where we were staying- said she lived in Pt. Hardy and she would pick it up for us and we could get it the next morning at the marina office. Woo hoo!!

So the next morning I got the package and opened it. Our first problem is that you have to download drivers to your computer for it to work. Well, the computer on the boat is a dumb computer. No wifi or internet capability. We use it just for navigation. Back to asking Simon. He says no problem. Go buy a cheapy $20 thumb drive (aka do-hickey) and find a place that will download the drivers, save it to the thumb drive then put it on our dumb computer. Of course I have lots of thumb drives at home but now I have a really cute one with the Canadian flag on it.

We lucked out again with the marina staff. Michael knows all bunches of techie stuff so he was quickly able to do what we needed. Off to the boat I go. Except when we plugged it in it gave an error message and would not download the drivers. Back to Simon. He suggested contacting Nobeltec which made the device. They no longer do support for their navigation program but they do offer support for their gps and he thought they could help me with the problem.

Again, we lucked out. I got a nice young man named Lucas. He had me try several things and it still would not work. Then I mentioned that we were running Windows XP. Oops! This won’t work on XP. Wrong drivers. We bought a newer version …if it had been an old version sitting on the shelf and not sold for quite awhile it would have the correct drivers. He put me on hold and found someone who did some digging and was able to find the drivers needed for Windows XP. They emailed me a link. Now I am back to the office and Michael. I sign into my email and he downloads the drivers to my thumb drive and back to the boat I go. By the way, it is a loooong walk to the boat and it is extremely low tide so the ramp is really steep. I am getting my exercise.

I am able to successfully download the drivers. Now what? The plug and play instructions sounded so simple but it did not make sense. Another call to Simon. The problem was that the device was using different terminology for the actual install. This is because Nobeltec now is going to something called TimeZero so what they said to click on didn’t quite match. Simon became my personal wizard. He had me do 3 steps and boom! We had gps! The chart now showed us in Pt. McNeill instead of Blunden!!! YAY!

So our plug and play took 3 hours but it was worth it! Once again, our heros are Emma, Michael and especially Simon! !


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Port Hardy

July 20th… tonight will be our third night in Port Hardy. We are leaving in the morning for Blunden probably. The winds are predicted to start picking up tomorrow and I don’t want to be out in the Queen Charlotte Straits if it is too windy. It is only about 14 miles to Blunden but it can be an easy 14 miles or pure torture.

We have had a great time in Port Hardy. We were very lucky to get a reservation at the marina. There had been a cancellation, otherwise we never would have come here. We travelled most of the way in fog on Tuesday and just inside the bay we decided to fish some while the sun burned off the fog.
Within a couple minutes Garry had caught about a 8 to 10 pound coho (silver). He caught 2 other small ones that we let go and then headed in to the marina.

Just after we tied up we saw a boat across the dock from us with a Des Moines Yacht Club burgee but I didn’t recognize the boat or boat name. Turns out it belongs to club member Jim Davis. He is out for a few months. He is taking a few friends at a time up fishing further north near Shearwater. They had just got back and were getting ready to get their very successful catch up to the local packing and processing place. We had a fun time getting to know Jim and his friends Gary and Eric that night. They were going to pick up their fish in the morning and drive home to Des Moines ….about a 12 hour trip including ferries. Jim left his boat here and will be back in a week or so with a couple more friends and do it all over again. Eventually, his last group of friends will go around Vancouver Island with him and fish the west side as he brings the boat back to Des Moines.

Our friends, Gord and Marilyn, have sold their home here and are having a home built north of Nanaimo. Gord stopped by for an hour Tuesday to chat and then yesterday they both came down for a nice visit. They are going through what we did last fall….. pack, pack, sell, sell, donate, donate, junk, junk. They were also lucky like us that the new owners wanted to keep a lot of the furnishings. They are downsizing since they also bought a place in Mesa Arizona last year and will spend 6 months a year there. We were really glad to share some celebratory champagne with them.

There is little room at Port Hardy for large boats. The marina we are at can hold about six to eight. Most of the slips are for smaller fishing boats and guide boats. There is a government dock right by here and there are a couple large boats there but most are commercial fishing boats. Of the seven large boats here at these two places, four (including us) are Westbay Sonships. We are the smallest. The others are all 6 feet longer. One is a boat we see here almost every year.

Will catch up with you down the way.


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Peaceful Friendly Sointula

We are at the Sointula marina on Malcolm Island. It was a short hop of about 4 miles yesterday. I know I wrote about Sointula before but I will do brief recap. In the early 1900s a group of Finns from Vancouver came here to get away from oppression working in the coal mines. The name Sointula means “place of harmony”. The goal was to create a society where property was communal. Everyone shared. Everyone participated. They formed a foundry, a brickyard, sawmill, and blacksmith shop. They believed in “Sound body, sound mind”. They had regular exercise sessions, gymnastic programs, music instruction, concerts, drama productions. Unfortunately there were leadership issues and eventually assets were sold back to the bank and the land returned to the government of British Columbia. Many purchased their own land and fishing and hand logging became the industries. In 1909 the Sointula Cooperative Store Association was formed as is the oldest running co-op in British Columbia. It is a great store that is a grocery store and a variety store, and a great place to meet locals and learn the local gossip and news. There is a ferry to Pt. McNeill and we met boaters in Pt. McNeill who take ferry to Sointula for the day.
I love walking up the long dock to shore and hearing roosters crowing and sheep baaaahh-ing. At the marina you can hope on pink bikes and head the 2 km to town and beyond. If you get off the ferry you can check out and use the green bikes. Yesterday Garry and I biked into town and discovered the Co-op is closed on Sundays and Mondays, but we really don’t need anything. The Upper Crust Bakery was open and we bought a couple pastries to fuel us for some more biking. It was so beautiful and peaceful. The bikes are one speed, pedal brakes and big wide handles. It was a blast. Many residents and businesses take older bikes and turn them into works of art, many with their baskets turned into flower pots. People wave as the drive past you. I stopped to ask a lady working in her garden about a particular plant and we the nicest visit. I saw her again today when we biked back to the bakery to get a couple more things.  

I took pictures yesterday but they are on my phone so will post those separately rather than try to move them to the iPad. If the wifi was strong enough they would sync over but it is a bit too slow.

Tomorrow we are heading to Port Hardy for a couple days. Our friends, Gord and Marilyn, have sold their beautiful home there and will be gone by the 28th so we want a last visit with them in Pt. Hardy. I know we will see them elsewhere but this is something we were hoping we could do. I called and was able to get reservations in the marina there which is not always possible and they wind predictions sound like it should be a nice couple hours up there tomorrow.