Category Archives: Canada

Ripple Rock

Every year when the captain (my captain, that is) takes his commercial troller from Vancouver Island to the Queen Charlotte Islands on the northern coast of British Columbia (and back again), he has to go through a tight passage called Seymour Narrows.

Located just north of the town of Campbell River, this stretch of water was described by Captain George Vancouver as “one of the vilest stretches of water in the world.”

Whenever I have accompanied “my” captain through the narrows, I’ve nearly given myself an ulcer beforehand, as Seymour Narrows has such a terrible reputation. Yet each time, going through the passage has been a piece of cake, with calm waters. That’s how it should be, if you wait for slack water, between tides.

The passage through Seymour Narrows is now much safer thanks to the removal of the tops of Ripple Rock,  a submerged twin-peak mountain that lay just nine feet beneath the surface of Seymour Narrows. According to Wikipedia, it was a serious hazard to shipping, sinking 119 vessels and taking 114 lives.

In the case of the William J. Stewart, when it struck Ripple Rock  in 1944, I’m not aware of any loss of life, and the ship was beached and later restored. It was due to be scrapped in 2017.

On April 5, 1958, after twenty-seven months of tunnelling and engineering work, Ripple Rock was blown up with 1,375 tons of Nitramex 2H explosive. It was quite the project.  A 500-foot vertical shaft was built on Maud Island, and then a horizontal shaft of 2,370 feet  was drilled out to Ripple Rock. From that point, two vertical shafts were drilled up into the  peaks, with shafts for the placement of the explosives. Very advanced technology for 1958.

I think those columns of smoke are blowback  from the explosion, coming out through the drilled shafts.

The explosion spewed debris almost 1000 feet into the air falling on land on either side of the narrows.  After the blast, the two peaks were 13.7 m (45 ft) and 15.2 m (50 ft) underwater.

Some very smart engineers had the foresight to detonate the charge at a time when the tide was running its fastest, so the rocks  blown off the tops would not fall straight back down onto the peaks, but rather, be swished along beyond them.

Even after the top of Ripple Rock was removed, it remains a challenging route. In March 1981, the Star Philippine, a freighter, ran aground in the narrows.

When the captain was coming home from a summer of trolling, he took pictures of his navigation instruments as he went through Seymour Narrows quite close by Ripple Rock. The red triangular icon represents his boat as he is heading south, just past Ripple Rock. Arrows show the direction of the tidal flow at that time. You can see the depths of the peaks as 15.2 m, and 13.7 m.

In the monitor of the depth sounder below, you can see the twin peaks of the rock. The number on the bottom left should be the depth in meters, directly below where the boat is at that moment. The reading is taken on the far right where the scale is marked. This tells me that the boat has just passed the second of the peaks of what is left of Ripple Rock.

Even knowing that the rock has been topped, I still have a healthy respect for this stretch of water. The colour photos (near the beginning of this post) of the swirling eddies are recent, well after the explosion of Ripple Rock, so you can see that going through Seymour Narrows when the tide is running full is still not a good idea.

My preference is to stay on land whenever possible.

 

 

 

A Honkin’ Good Time

Skies are still a bit hazy from the wildfire smoke, but somehow the geese have found their way to the estuary. Many of these birds will move on further south, but many will stay for the winter, putting up with wind and rain, and possibly a day or two of snow. The farmers’ fields will provide food for them with leftover cobs of corn and grain seeds that have missed being harvested. In case of severe frost or snow, the geese have the estuary to find food as the salt water doesn’t freeze.

The arrival of the geese always tells me that summer is ending and the northern latitudes are cooling off already, driving the birds south.

For now, life is still comfortable for them and they chat and preen and enjoy the warm days and nights. Some stretch their wings while others preen their back and neck feathers. A few are resting, some are dabbling at the water’s edge, and the farthest one has his neck stretched up tall and alert. It’s like kiddies’ day at the beach.

Just before leaving, I snapped one more quick picture. When I got home I noticed that one of the geese was flying past the camera just by the tree on the left. Or was it? I zoomed in for a closer look.  You can see it on the next photo.

Here, below, is the flying goose at the end of a skinny branch.  It’s all dressed in leaves. Sure had me fooled.

Mrs. Goose is on the loose,

Chattering, she’s quite obtuse.

“There’s a party at the beach,

And I hear it’s out of reach.

Nobody will bother us,

We can honk and spit and cuss,

Holler loudly as we wish

And the place is one big dish.

Food aplenty ‘cross the way

in the fields  where corncobs may

Still be lying on the ground,

Seeds are scattered all around.

People stop and look at us

But they’re harmless, make no fuss.

It’s just heaven being here

Even though the winter’s near.”

“Honkin’ right,” the gander said.

“Still some pleasant days ahead.”

“Watch your language, Gander Dear,

Bloggers won’t approve, I fear.”

Gander stretches out his wings,

Rolls his eyes and up he springs.

Goosey scurries, much impressed,

Goes to give her mouth a rest.

 

 

 

Where There’s Fire, There’s Smoke

Generally, I look out my window at this refreshing scene. The air is clean even if it is a bit cloudy.

This morning, I took that same outlook and zoomed in for a closer look. It didn’t help make things any clearer.  There are no clouds in the sky. That would be too good as it might mean rain.

 

Here is another scene (to the right of the first photo) from some time ago when the air was clean in spite of the cloud cover.

The same view but harder to see.

 

And no wonder we can’t see much. So much smoke in the air from wildfires easily obscures the sun. This photo of the rising sun was taken early this morning.  Wildfires burning on the island are less than  100 miles away, and the smoke is drifting into our valley and hanging there.

My eyes are dry, it hurts to blink,

The smoke’s not good to breathe, I think.

My throat is scratchy, as I croak,

My vocal chords are full of smoke.

The Captain calls and asks, “What’s wrong?”

I tell him that the smoke is strong

From fires burning all around,

And ask, when are you homeward bound?

He’ll be home soon, he starts to say,

But then the sat phone cuts away.

We’ll talk again another time,

He doesn’t need to hear me whine.

And when he gets here he will sigh,

For misty isles of Haida Gwaii.

No smoke or drought does plague them there

The constant gales will clear the air.

 

 

 

Three Skies, One Moment

The last of the evening sun’s rays add a sweet pink tinge to the rare scattering of clouds in the eastern  sky. I’ve been watching for clouds, desperately hoping for a few drops of rain to end weeks of sweltering heat and parching drought.

I turn to the southwest. The glow of sunset touches clumps of cloud and wisps of smoke that have drifted into the valley from faraway wildfires.

I turn a few more degrees to the west and I’m left wondering if this is a sunset or another of those raging wildfires I’ve seen too much of on the television news. But yes, it is the sunset, searing us for a few more moments before allowing us to recover from yet another day of being barbecued.

We’ve been promised rain for today, but somehow, I don’t think it’s going to happen. The clouds that have moved in are way too high and way too thin. Just a hint of hope for relief someday, but probably not today.

Please remind me of this whining post a few months from now when I complain about the relentless wind and rain.

All Spruced Up

Did you know that the Colorado Blue Spruce is the state tree of Colorado? I did not know that, but it doesn’t surprise me one bit. This tree is amazing on so many levels. It is tough and prickly, and in the plant world, that spells survival.

Have you ever tried to touch one, or pull on it? Ouch! The Latin name “Picea pungens,” means a spruce (or type of pine) that is prickly, puncturing, or stinging. Just touch one and you’ll see what I mean.

They make a great wind break when planted as a hedge and they tolerate cold temperatures. They are listed as a Zone 2 plant, which allows for very cold weather. No wonder Colorado likes it.

The Colorado spruce in this photo is actually in my neighbours’ yard. I zoomed in on it when I noticed its beautiful cones standing tall like  candles on an old-fashioned Christmas tree, or many levels of lights on a chandelier.

Just slightly off topic is the background of the photo. You are looking at the sandy bottom of Comox Bay at low tide. Only a small streak of blue crosses it and that is the river coming out into the bay. A few hours later, that whole sandy area will be covered with water when the tide comes in. If not for the river, the tide, and the gooey sand a person might be tempted to walk across to the other side.

Wear a bathing suit, as you might have to swim back.

Alberta’s Wild Rose

Rosa acicularis, the wild rose, was named the provincial flower of the province of Alberta in 1930. It grows in most parts of Alberta and brightens up the landscape with its delicate fragrance and  colourful blooms.

Dotted with delicately scented flowers, the foliage is thick and thorny, making an almost impenetrable hedge, to the joy of small birds trying to escape predators.

This day, the sunlight was too bright for the true soft pink of the roses to show  in the hedge below.

 

The wild rose speaks:

My name is Rose, but I am told,

My fragrance may not be so bold,

Yet it’s as sweet e’en if my name 

Were something else, and quite mundane.

“A rose by any other name … “

My soft scent would be just the same.

My petals delicate and pale

Disperse aromas without fail.

The thick protective hedge I’m on

Will guard against the evil one.

My thorny branches scratch and tear

At anyone who passes there.

Sleeping Beauty’s castle stood

Enveloped in protective wood

With thorns to cut and make afraid

All  those who would assault the maid.

But after all those hundred years

I’m still around, for you, my dears.

 

Fishing is Hard Work

If only fishing were as easy as lying on your back in the grass beside a creek, waiting for the trout to bite. Commercial fishing, catching fish for people to eat, is much harder work than that.

To survive in heavy weather and rough seas, the fish boat must be in good shape structurally and mechanically. If it is a wood boat, it needs extra care in the form of dollars and sweat.

Once a year, before leaving for the north coast of British Columbia, the fish boat gets a facelift. Actually she gets a total body lift by a Travel Lift that puts straps under her hull and lifts her right out of the water and deposits her on the dry parking lot.

 

She is set down on wooden blocks. Jacks prop up  each side to prevent her from tipping over.

The hull is power washed to get rid of any sealife that may have attached itself to the wood. Once the hull is clean  and has  dried off, the upper parts are sanded and scraped to prepare them for a coat of paint.

Bars of zinc are  attached to the rudder and the iron shoe of the boat. Molten zinc is poured into a tin can mold attached to the wheel nut of the propeller, and more bars are attached to the cooling pipes not shown in this picture. All the zincs are meant to be sacrificed in lieu of the other metal parts of the boat (like the rudder, propeller, and cooling pipes). It is better that the zinc, rather than the propeller, be “eaten” by electrolysis.

The last job is to paint the bottom of the hull with anti-fouling paint. When that is done, the Travel Lift picks up the boat, carries it over to the water, and lowers it in.

In the photo below you can see that the boat has been carried away from its blocks on its way to the water again.

Feeling more comfortable now in its usual surroundings, the boat rests calmly, waiting to make the trip back home.

Passing  a sailboat  that is leisurely making its way out to sea, the fish boat hurries home.

For photos of the boat being lifted out of the water, click the link below.

https://wordsfromanneli.com/2016/03/11/uplifting/