Thursday, June 09, 2005

David's Weekend in Vancouver: Speedboating!

Here we are, 10 days later, and I'm finally writing my last post about David's weekend in Vancouver. I'm about a week behind -- how I know is that I have to leave shortly for Vandigicam in Coal Harbour/Stanley Park, and I haven't posted the photos from last week's photowalk around Chinatown. But, first things first:

Monday, May 30

I saved the best for last -- it was David's birthday on Monday, and he was leaving the next day. So, as a surprise I rented a speedboat from Granville Island, the same outfit I rented from last year when Heather, Krisanne, Karl, and I went boating.

Dave's Logbook: My Buoyant Birthday

David's photos
My photos
(or click on images)

The best part about boating on a Monday is avoiding the weekend warrior traffic. We were informed that it was crazy-busy out in the water and the previous day a drunken yahoo rammed his boat into five other boats, so we were glad to have avoided all that. We had the run of the place, so to speak. The day was very calm and overcast, which meant we were spared from heatstroke, too. To boot (to boat?), the rental guy gave us the larger 17-footer for a discount once we told him we wanted to cross under the bridges. He said we'd have a much smoother ride when tackling the currents and this one had a new motor. We were sold on the idea, and by all accounts it made an enormous difference.

I remember on previous speedboating outings hanging on for dear life when we hit big waves out in the open ocean, especially in '03 when the Chickens and I rented a boat in Horseshoe Bay. There were four of us and I had distinct memories of the boat -- which was the same size as this one, I think -- threatening to capsize when we got into open water. The boat we rented last year from Granville Island was bone-rattling at full throttle, threatening to come apart at the seams every time we hit a wave head-on. Or maybe that was Krisanne's driving... anyway, I remember Heather and I were holding the window when it started to separate from the pane. Those rental boats take some serious abuse!

By contrast, this boat was in fine condition, the motor purring so softly in idle it was as if we'd stalled. But when David gave it gas, it was a tiger, and so smooth! The rental guy wasn't exaggerating -- it handled the waves beautifully, very stable and responsive. What a difference!

After a slow cruise past English Bay and under the Lions Gate Bridge, we dallied around Coal Harbour, watching the floatplanes take off and land. I love floatplanes; I could watch them all day. There were cruise ships docked at Canada Place -- floating cities of tourists travelling up to Alaska, both a mark of ostentatiousness and the human desire to explore the earth while dragging along all the comforts of home.

We were one of the only pleasure boats in Burrard Inlet, passing maybe two or three other speedboats and the occasional fishing boat on our way to Deep Cove and up Indian Arm. The water was calmer than I'd ever seen it, a West Coast paradise of mountains, forest, ocean, and abundant wildlife. We spotted many seals, who waited until we got our cameras out to duck under the water. David's camera has a 10x zoom and managed to get a couple of shots, but they were still rather far and out-of-focus. The eagles that flew overhead weren't co-operative, either! The city was only a short distance away, but without a map there was nothing to indicate we were anywhere near civilisation.

We passed by the spooky Buntzen Power Station, its BC Hydro "Danger!" signs more than a bit off-putting. We killed the engine and drew closer, my mind conjuring images of Grade B horror movies. David wanted to dock the boat, but I was half-expecting people to jump out of the woods and... well, let's say I have a fertile imagination. No, I really wanted to get all the way up to the top of Indian Arm, something I'd tried to do in a canoe with a friend some years ago, but we didn't keep track of how far we'd gone and once we spotted a family of bears on the shore we high-tailed it back to Deep Cove!!

Since that canoe trip, I'd been wanting to reach the top of Indian Arm. We passed by the first set of waterfalls I'd recognised from that trip, some islands, then Granite Falls before reaching the campground and the Wigwam Inn. It's supposed to be 18kms from Deep Cove to the Wigwam Inn, but we covered the distance by speedboat in no time at all. We saw more seals and watched the gorgeous scenery as we cruised back to Deep Cove, where we bought some gas lest we got stranded in open waters.

David ended up doing all the driving while I took photographs, but it worked out fine this way. He looked like he was enjoying himself immensely, and I wanted to give him the rare opportunity of piloting a boat rather than an airplane. Pennsylvania has plenty of lakes, but even in sizeable Lake Wallenpaupack, it can get crowded at the height of summer when the New Yorkers take their boats out, I'm told. (Pennsylvanians blame New Yorkers for everything, don't they?) Here, at least, David could cut loose at top speed without worrying about crashing into anyone.

We whirled around the waters between West Vancouver and UBC, marvelling at the size of the giant cargo ships. I used to see them all the time from my apartment, but up close they are truly behemoths. Then my phone rang -- it was the rental company, asking when we were coming back! It was nearly 7 o'clock, so we headed back to Granville Island. Once there, though, they said we had time to cruise around False Creek, so we took in the sights around Concord Pacific Development, Science World, the seawall and the marina. We were passed by rowers practising for the annual Alcan Dragonboat Festival that takes place mid-June, and water taxis ferrying people between points around False Creek.

By the time we returned the speedboat, we'd been out in the water more than five hours, and even with a mostly overcast day and a hat, David's nose got sunburned and our arms and hands turned a completely different shade than the rest of our bodies! But the time flew by -- which it always seems to when I'm on a boat -- and it whet our appetites for future boat trips.

For David's last night in Vancouver, I'd made a reservation at the Sylvia Hotel in English Bay, a place I'd definitely recommend for anyone wanting to get away from the big hotel chains. It's one of Vancouver's rare heritage buildings, built as apartments in 1912 and well-located by Stanley Park and the beach. We checked in late and tired, but not too tired to take advantage of Mondo Gelato's free birthday ice cream and tapas-style eating at Denman Freehouse. All in all, a very good way to spend one's birthday, even if one had to leave town the next day.