Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The New Mill Bay

Mill Bay Marina and Brentwood College School upland
Nice Concrete Docks at Mill Bay Marina
We arrived at Mill Bay Marina and were completely taken by surprise; to borrow Steve Martin’s words, “wow, all I can say is wow.”  This is not the Mill Bay we remembered from several years ago when there were just a few deteriorated wooden docks and old buildings on the shoreline.  Mill Bay Marina now sports wide, roomy slips with large concrete docks and steel pilings.  The marina offers 700 feet of transient moorage and can accommodate boats up to 200 feet.  A state of the art 'floating wave break' provides year-round protection.  Line-handlers in uniform greet you upon arrival and you can purchase drinks and ice cream bars right at the docks.  
Bridgemans Bistro at Mill Bay Marina
Kayak rentals and even drop-in yoga sessions on the docks are available during the summer months.  At the head of the substantial ramp is the beautiful Bridgemans Bistro serving lunch and dinner with a brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays.  Meals are well prepared with beautiful presentations.  The architecture is warm and inviting with wood ceilings and a wall of glass for the expansive views of the bay and Mt. Baker in the distance. 
Bridgemans Bistro Bar, Mill Bay Marina 
The uplands at Mill Bay have changed significantly too; the shoreline now hosts new condominiums, lovely new homes, and the impressive buildings of the Brentwood College School, a college prep boarding school.  
Great Views from Bridgemans Bistro, Mill Bay Marina
Boaters will find the Mill Bay Plaza within easy walking distance from the marina for convenient grocery shopping and other needs.  
Mill Bay Marina, Bistro, and Offices
Mill Bay is a pleasant stop for boaters exploring Saanich Inlet and is within easy reach of Sidney and Butchart Gardens.  While Mill Bay has changed its look and appeal over the last five years, boaters are still discovering the new Mill Bay, now classy and upscale.
Mill Bay Marina, a beautiful stop

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Changes Come to Cowichan Village

Fishermen's Wharf at Cowichan Bay
Fishermen's Wharf has a number of docks for moorage
Cowichan Bay, a long-time favorite with many boaters, has seen some recent changes.  Fishermen’s Wharf, located behind the breakwater, is the main facility in Cowichan Bay that offers transient moorage.  Dungeness Marina was recently sold and no longer offers transient moorage.  Bluenose Marina is currently on the market but still offers 100 feet of transient moorage, boaters should call ahead to make a reservation.  Permanent moorage is still offered at these two private marinas.  Fishermen’s Wharf is responding to calls on VHF 66A for transient moorage requests at Dungeness Marina from boaters arriving in Cowichan.  
Grain Mill Bakery in Cowichan Village
Grain Mill Bakery
Pier 66 Fuel Dock is now managed by ‘Ocean Ecoventures’ with varying hours of operation, boaters should call ahead (250-748-3800); the fuel dock is best suited for small craft.  Due to a possible shortage of transient moorage, rafting with other boats at Fishermen’s Wharf may be necessary; however, we had no trouble finding space when we arrived late July on a Monday.  
Udder Guys Ice Cream shop
If space is full on Fishermen’s Wharf docks or at Bluenose Marina, boaters may wish to moor their boat at nearby Genoa Bay Marina and ride the Genoa bay Shuttle (Greylag Boat Tours) to Cowichan Bay.  Shuttle fees are reasonable.  The good news is, the specialty shops in Cowichan Village are thriving, including the Grain Mill Bakery, Hilary’s Cheese Shop, and the Udder Guys Ice Cream shop.  
Hilary's Cheese Shop 
We enjoyed a nice selection of cheeses from France, Holland, and Germany, served with crackers and fruit as a late afternoon snack.  Other restaurants and cafes appear equally busy this summer season, and the Maritime Centre is better than ever.  The Centre is managed by the Wooden Boat Society as a museum as well as a wooden boat restoration shop.  
Cowichan Maritime Centre 
Displays at Cowichan Maritime Centre
The collection of artifacts, archival photos, model ships, and collection of antique outboard motors are fascinating.  The building itself is also of interest, with pods extending out over the water connected by a boardwalk.  
Antique Outboard Motors at the Maritime Centre
The entire village is very picturesque with boutiques and cafes on pilings along the seashore, a quintessential postcard setting.  
Float Homes and Maritime Centre
The village of Cowichan continues to be a delightful place to visit.  In the early 1920's, Cowichan Bay had only a few log boom dolphins and private floats for a fish camp. 

Village Homes and B&B's along the shore at Cowichan Bay
As the population grew around the city of Duncan with increased consumption of oil, oil tanks were installed along the hillside above Cowichan Bay and piers constructed along the shore for transport by ship.  Today, condominiums and homes overlook the bay; and the 'Masthead' building that once served as a shipyard is now a fine dining venue.

Maritime Centre Wooden Boat Society

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Cowichan Valley

Another hop and a skip south, we arrived at Maple Bay Marina via Sansum Narrows.  Maple Bay, Genoa Bay, Cowichan Bay, and the inland city of Duncan make up the greater Cowichan Valley area on Vancouver Island.  Duncan is known for its excellent Farmer’s Market, one of the best in western British Columbia thanks to the rich, fertile valley producing excellent vegetables, fruit, wine, and meat products.  
Fresh Produce at the Saturday Farmer's Market in Duncan
Our friends Bob and Shino arrived by boat at Maple Bay Marina to meet up with us, and together we went into Duncan to enjoy the Saturday Farmer’s Market held from 9am to 2pm.  Maple Bay Marina offers a shuttle service twice a day into town for a fee; but as we discovered, the van fills quickly and boaters should reserve space for the shuttle ahead of time.  No worries, we called for the Duncan Taxi (250-746-4444) which was fast and efficient.  
Mushrooms found at Duncan Farmer's Market
When we arrived at the market, we weren’t disappointed; the market proved to be excellent with a wide variety of produce as well as crafts and food vendors.  Several city streets around Market Square and City Hall are blocked off for the event held year-round.  As it turned out, we attended on a Saturday which happened to be Duncan Day, adding to the festive atmosphere that included a parade and carnival rides for the kids. 
Duncan Day Parade
Local organizations were represented in the parade­ – the fire department, dance groups, music groups, and various clubs including the local curling club, of course.  Participants in the parade covered the age spectrum from the very young to the elderly, a fun time for everyone.  
City Hall with Clock Tower, Duncan B.C.
The city of Duncan was named after William Chalmers Duncan who settled on a farm in the vicinity around 1862, his son Kenneth became the first mayor of Duncan.  The name Cowichan is of aboriginal origin meaning ‘the warm land,’ and is a fitting name for the rich, fertile farmland.  Today, Duncan serves as the Cowichan Valley Regional District.  Lush vineyards, a river system, and scenic back roads wind through the area.  After a quick lunch, the four of us headed back to Maple Bay Marina which is an enjoyable spot all its own.  
Maple Bay Marina
The marina office includes a gift shop with a selection of nautical clothing and art.  The shop also has food items, a coffee bar, and ice cream.  On Sundays during the months of July and August, an Ice Cream Sundae Bar is available along with live music in the courtyard.  Picnic tables around the courtyard provide a nice place to relax and meet other boaters.  A marine supply store is also located here.  And if you don’t feel like cooking, the on-site Shipyard Restaurant & Pub serves tasty meals for lunch and dinner.  
Shino and Lorena aboard the SeaSport
Prior to dinner, we decided to go on a short excursion to nearby Genoa Bay with our friends in their SeaSport; at 22 knots, we quickly covered the eight nautical mile trip.  Genoa Bay is tucked in a small cove between Maple Bay and Cowichan Bay and is the site of the popular Genoa Bay Café, advance reservations are a must for dinner.  
The intimate Genoa Bay Marina, Cabana, and Gallery
The intimate marina offers transient moorage with dock-side picnic tables and a cabana, where folks gather for coffee and baked goods each morning.  The marina/store carries books and gift items; and you don’t want to miss the Genoa Bay Gallery housing beautiful paintings and sculptures available for purchase.  
Outdoor dining at the Shipyard Restaurant & Pub, Maple Bay Marina
After a short visit at Genoa, we headed back to Maple Bay Marina to enjoy dinner followed by dessert aboard Got d’ Fever with the company of good friends.  The second night found us together again for a potluck dinner, the evening was filled with fun conversation and lots of laughs, it was a nice break from our regular routine of daily work on edits and updates.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Discovering Vesuvius

Vesuvius Public Dock
Outdoor seating at Seaside Restaurant in Vesuvius
From Chemainus, we took another short hop south, this time to the tiny village of Vesuvius located on the northwest side of Salt Spring Island.  Boaters are quite familiar with the town of Ganges on the east side of the island but often overlook the more remote, quiet setting at Vesuvius on the west side.  The tiny village has a number of homes along the shore with houses tucked in the hillsides above.  The Vesuvius Store (a coffee shop with tasty lunch items) and the Seaside Restaurant are both within easy walking distance of the Vesuvius Public Dock, a 40-foot float.  
Seaside Restaurant, Vesuvius on Salt Spring Island
The Seaside Restaurant, which serves good pasta seafood dishes, has a guest dock suitable for dinghies and small craft for guests of the restaurant.  Views from the dining rooms and outside deck are wonderful.  Although we didn’t have reservations at this popular restaurant, they were able to find us a table for two.  
Great Views from the Seaside Restaurant
Part of Vesuvius history, the Seaside Restaurant began in the 1940’s serving coffee, pie, and ice cream.  Visitors can still buy ice cream (Island Farms) from the street-side take-out window.  
The adorable Vesuvius Store
The adorable Vesuvius Store, serving coffee, tea and pasties, is also worth a stop.  The store carries a few convenience grocery items and gift items as well.  We enjoyed some tasty Veggie Samosa for lunch along with their specialty potato salad.  
Vesuvius Bay Beach, a popular swimming, picnicking site
Also of interest is the popular swimming beach located at the head of Vesuvius Bay.  You can access the beach from a long, steep set of stairs off Langley Road, look for the small beach access sign.  The beach is a great place to take in a beautiful sunset.  
Beautiful Sunset seen from Vesuvius Bay
To visit Vesuvius, smaller boats can easily make use of the Public Dock, while larger boats will need to anchor out.  We chose to anchor our 46-foot vessel in Vesuvius Bay rather than tie-up at the dock.  The bay has good holding but is exposed to northwest winds.  Waves created by the ferry from Crofton, which lands at Vesuvius, regularly roll into the bay.  A better option for anchorage is located in Duck Bay nearby.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Charm of Chemainus

Beautiful Murals are found throughout the town of Chemainus
From Ladysmith we continued a few miles south to our next stop, Chemainus, a tourist town known for its large murals painted on the sides of many buildings by professional artists.  The murals are taken from historic photographs and research of Chemainus' past history.  
Horse-drawn carriage tour of the Murals in Chemainus
For a self-guided tour, you simply follow the yellow foot-prints on the sidewalks, or you can ride in a horse-drawn carriage through the streets with a driver who provides background for some of the 46 murals and 10 sculptures throughout downtown.  
Chemainus Mural depicting the earlier Asian population
People come from all over the world to see these exquisite works of art.  
Alleyways and cafes' tucked around downtown Chemainus
The streets of Chemainus are equally intriguing with potted flowers, lawns, and alleyways leading to public spaces and delightful cafes.  The beautiful Chemainus Theatre is also a draw providing stage performances from notable actors.  
Performing Arts Theatre at Chemainus
Chemainus has definitely invented itself as a tourist town, a big change from its early beginnings as a logging community in 1858.  In the 1980’s, British Columbia’s forest industry experienced a period of deep recession.  The forest industry as well as the town had to re-invent itself.  The local sawmill (owned by Macmillan Bloedel Company) was overhauled with automated, state-of the-art machinery providing flexibility to produce a wider range of products.  
There are numerous cute shops in Chemainus to enjoy
The town also began its tourist industry with the help of local citizens and businesses.  Both the logging industry and the tourist industry is thriving at Chemainus.  
Mural depicting people of the Stz'uminus First Nation
The name Chemainus comes from the Native shaman and profit “Tsa-meeun-is” of the Stz’uminus First Nation.  Thousands of visitors are drawn to this unique town; as boaters, it seems a shame that the Municipal Docks have not been significantly expanded to accommodate more boats.  

Perhaps enlarging the marina facilities will become another project for Chemainus sometime in the near future.  We found the docks to be full when we arrived but found a mooring ball among the eight mooring buoys located just northwest of the marina (north of the park and launch ramp).  
Municipal Docks at Chemainus
Mooring balls are ten dollars per night and provide the option to take the dinghy into the Municipal Docks and see the town.  We think the charms of Chemainus shouldn’t be passed by.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Indulgence at Ladysmith


Transiting Dodd Narrows south of Nanaimo
Today we departed Nanaimo and transited Dodd Narrows an hour before slack, the current was running at 3 knots.  We arrived early to avoid the onslaught of boats that would be transiting the Narrows at slack during this busy summer.  Passing through with only one other boat, we continued our journey to Ladysmith on Vancouver Island.  
Older buildings in downtown Ladysmith
Ladysmith, originally called Oyster Harbour, is located on the 49th parallel, from which the town’s popular market chose its name, the 49th Parallel Grocery, a local favorite.  Ladysmith was founded around 1898 by James Dunsmuir who owned the coal mines in Nanaimo, he created the town to house the families of his miners and renamed the harbour Ladysmith before the town was incorporated in 1904.  Later facing competition from oil, coal production began to decline.  In 1931 during the height of the Great Depression, the mines were closed. 
Shopping in downtown Ladysmith
New opportunities arose in 1935 when the Comox Logging and Railway Company purchased a tract of forest west of Ladysmith and the town began a path to recovery.  By the late 1940’s, Ladysmith was the center of major logging operations.  Logging and lumber milling is still ongoing at Ladysmith.  
Logging equipment found throughout downtown Ladysmith
Some early logging equipment, now painted with bright colors, can be seen on the street corners of town.  Maritime history also played a role in Ladysmith, and boaters today have several options for moorage:  the Ladysmith Community Marina, the Ladysmith Fisherman’s Wharf, Ladysmith Marina, and Page Point Marina.  
The Docks were filled at Ladysmith Community Marina
The attractive office and café at Ladysmith Community Marina
The Ladysmith Community Marina is the first set of docks inside the harbour and is the closest to town.  The beautiful office building with a lounge and café is a delight and the small Maritime Society museum at the docks is worth a visit.  Just upland from the docks is the Harbour Heritage Centre which is currently undergoing renovation.  
Bouma Meat Shop, Ladysmith
The town has cute shops, cafes, and historic buildings.  Like most boaters, we stopped at the Bouma Meat market and the Old Town Bakery, a special indulgence that's hard to resist; the shops were full with tourists and locals alike, trying hard to decide from which specialty item to choose. 
A difficult choice at the Old Town Bakery