wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Walking Off Calories

After the usual overindulgence at Christmas, a walk was in order. Not too far from my house is a great place to stretch your legs. There’s a spit of land that reaches out into the part of the ocean that is between the mainland of BC and Vancouver Island. If you look towards the inland side of the spit, you’ll see the wharf at the Town of Comox.001

Looking back from the spit you can see where it is connected to the main part of the island. The left side of the photo below shows the mainland of British Columbia in the distance and the more open water that has washed countless logs and tree roots up onto the sandy spit. A breakwater of sorts has been built with short logs to make a fence, in the hope of keeping high surf from washing debris across the road that goes along the spit (beside the hydro poles). No surf today though.

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Looking towards Comox again, the chill of the newly fallen snow brings a breeze that stings reddened ears. The sleeping prince and princess of the Comox Glacier are on this photo, but hidden behind a swath of clouds.

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Doesn’t that water look chilly? That’s because it IS.


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Sea Lions

The tiny community of Fanny Bay on Vancouver Island has a very small population (something over 800 people) but I think it would be half as large again if you could count the sea lions that have taken up temporary residence there. At first it was only a stopping place for the Steller sea lions but in recent years their smaller cousins, the California sea lions, have traveled farther up the coast following the food source.

At this time of year when the herring arrive to spawn near the beaches of Vancouver Island, the sea lions have decided they like the sheltered east coast of the island. Later, many of them will move farther north and also onto the west coast of the island open to the Pacific to chase the salmon in the summer, much to the annoyance of the commercial fishermen. The last thing they want to see is a sea lion following their trolling lines, eating every fish they are lucky enough to hook before they can even think about bringing it aboard.??????????

The photo above shows only a small fraction of the clusters of sea lions of both types that are now living here, quite close to people and boats. Some even try to get aboard.

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Let’s go fishing!

I’m not sure I’d want to have my sailboat anchored so close to these guys. I suppose the side of the hull is high enough so they can’t climb aboard, but I wouldn’t be dangling that crab pot on the stern. Sea lions can leap up from the water high enough to make me nervous if I were aboard.

If you click to enlarge some of the photos, you may see that many of the sea lions have battle scars. The stories they could tell.

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Sea lions don’t sound much like lions, but rather more like dogs — huge ferocious dogs with over a thousand pounds of weight pushing the deep vibrations out of their fat throat. “OW! OW! OW! OW!” they bark in their baritone voice. I couldn’t help wondering what they were saying.

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The size difference is not always immediately apparent, but when you see the California sea lion (on the left, below) next to a Steller sea lion (the paler one on the right, below) you can easily believe that there is a difference of more than a thousand pounds between them (about 660 lbs. for the adult male California sea lion and 2200 lbs. for the adult male Steller sea lion).

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They don’t seem to mind lying side by side on the breakwater, although none of them is giving up his spot, real estate being at a premium.

One thing I wondered about, is why they sit with their head thrown back. Several theories occurred to me:

  • they’re just enjoying the sunshine
  • they’re letting their last meal digest (since they swallow their food without much chewing)
  • their head is so heavy that by putting it back over their shoulders, they don’t have to hold up the weight and strain their neck.
  • they’re being snobbish
  • they’re trying to escape the smell

If anyone knows the real reason, I’d love to know.

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The ones who are not lucky enough to get a place on the breakwater simply raft up together nearby. They seem to be relaxed enough, floating on their backs, noses in the air for easier breathing as they doze.

Their main enemies are humans, sharks, and killer whales. Safety in numbers.??????????

Another raft of sea lions. They seem to be everywhere.
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A Steller sea lion in the photo below is quite content to rest his chin on the California’s backside. Cal doesn’t seem to mind. “Oh, Stella, Do that again. Yes, right there. Scratch harder. Feels so-o-o-o good!”

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After a while, the uninterrupted clamour was enough to have me digging frantically in my purse for a couple of Advils. I suppose I could have done what this fellow did – book an island retreat and go for a soothing swim all alone, far from the madding crowd.


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Spider Hideouts

 

 

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Camped near a beautiful beach in Mexico, we often bought our fruit and vegetables from the produce truck.  One day, I lugged home three big bags of vegetables.

“Coming to the beach?” Gary asked.

“You go ahead. I’ll be down right after I clean these veggies,” I grumbled, slapping at the tiny biting flies. I soon gave up trying to work outside and brought the vegetables into the bug-free trailer to clean them in my little kitchenette.

Done at last! Now for the beach and a cool swim. I hurried outside to bring in my bathing suit from the clothesline we had strung between two coconut palms. I was about to step into it, when I let out a shriek. A brown critter about the size of a wolf spider was waiting for me inside the bathing suit bra.

Anyone passing by must have gawked at the bathing suit flying out the doorway.

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I was late getting to the beach that day, and although the water was refreshing, I couldn’t relax. Other swimmers must have wondered at the woman who kept pulling away the top of her bathing suit to look at her boobs.

That evening, we sat at the kitchen table playing cards and relaxing with an Oso Negro gin and peach juice. I tidied up the last few things before getting into bed.

Gary had just finished brushing his teeth and as he came out of the bathroom he heard me GASP! His eyes followed my arm as I pointed to the corner of the trailer. There, clinging to the ceiling, sat the biggest spider I’d ever seen. The fuzzy dark brown visitor had a body the size of my thumb and could easily straddle a saucer. If I had been a screamer they would have heard me all the way to Mazatlan.

“And I’ve been sitting there playing cards all evening with that thing poised over my head,” I wailed.

I handed Gary the fly swatter. “If it gets away,” I said, shakily, “I’m not sleeping in here tonight and I’ll be on the plane tomorrow.”

“It must have come in with the vegetables,” he said, as he tossed its crumpled body outside.

And where had it been while I sat there cleaning them? I wondered. Hiding in the cauliflower leaves? How close had I come to touching it? Shivers ran down my back.

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The next day we visited an open air market. I admired the handmade wooden cutting boards and picked one up to study the grain. Something ran over my hand. I threw the board into the air and squealed, “Una araña!” The vendor laughed and seemed unperturbed as I pointed to the gigantic spider running in his direction.

I was having serious thoughts of home. But imagine missing all this fun.


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Bucket Head

 

Did you ever catch two fish with one hook? Sometimes these freak things happen. This greedy lingcod was not satisfied to eat a salmon but had to bite at the fisherman’s lure for dessert before he even took the time to finish his main meal. If I didn’t have the photo for proof  you might well say that this is just a fish story.img718This is Captain Gary’s first boat, from many years ago. It was old even then. Older than the “captain.” But the things that boat saw were interesting nonetheless.

The opposite scenario to this one, of “two fish for one,” also happened (more than once) but I don’t have a photo of it. A salmon is jerking the fishing line. The deckhand pulls it aboard and in the time between the salmon announcing his presence and when the deckhand pulls him aboard, only the front half of the fish is left. The rest has become breakfast for a sea lion or a shark. The tooth marks on the fish’s half body tell the story.

Take a look at Captain Gary’s cap and tell me if you think fishing is a bloody job. CSI would have fun with that blood spatter.