June 20, 2005

Vancouver Island to Bellingham

We promised a report on the BC Wineries and Vancouver Island sights, but it's been a while - so we'll also fill you in on what we've been up to the last two weeks.

Delightfully, There are some nice wines up here. They are lighter than the wines back in Sonoma. A bit pricey, due to the Canadian taxes - both for local as well as imported wines (e.g. a $7.00 US bottle of Ravenswood Vintner's Reserve for $47 CDN, that's $37.60 US).

The best of the local bunch we've found in Canada (besides Ken and Shirley's home brew) is the Chalet Syrah at $25 CDN - see http://www.chaletestatevineyard.ca/ and the Marley Farms Pinot Noir at $14 CDN (not listed on the website) - see http://www.marleyfarm.ca/. There are also a number places up here specializing in Cider and Mead (Honey Wine) - which we didn't stop at. Many of the wineries also have fruit wines (no comment) and interesting varietals that we don't see in California.

Generally, British Columbia is not yet a threat to the Russian River Valley, the Willamette Valley (OR) or Burgundy for that matter. For our non-wine geek friends - those are the regions that grow the Pinot Noir grape - generally cool areas which those grapes love. We refer you to the movie "Sideways" for more laughs and background.

There's a loophole in the Canada tax law: home vintners and brewers can make wine and beer (basically) tax free. So every hardware store has wine and beer kits. Every community we visited had shops specializing in helping you make wine or beer. Basically these stores took care of pretty much everything, but you were responsible for pitching (adding) the yeast and bottling the results. One shop we visited even had a value added barrel aging service in French Oak!

OK, now the skinny on the sights.

Butchart Gardens http://www.butchartgardens.com/ was simply lovely. Depending on what season you go it's always different, with a constantly changing scene as the different plants come into bloom. Our favorite was the sunken gardens. The Japanese Garden looked to us to be basically a pacific northwest scene with some oriental features. Some of the other areas were not at their prime this time of the year. The biggest disappointment was that the specially designed duck pond had no ducks! Humpf!

What we liked even more than the Gardens was the Victoria Butterfly Garden http://www.butterflygardens.com/. It was surprisingly interesting, with many different colorful butterflies, plus other critters. Plus the orchids and bromeliads added a depth of color not found in the Gardens. Plus other outrageous, rare, in-your-face, colorful tropical and semi-tropical plants. Not to mention the China Quail, especially imported for "ant" patrol, the pink Flamingos, Parrots, Cockatoos and they even had ducks (the smaller Teals).
Oh, I forgot to mention all the butterflies flitting around. We went on a rainy day - and there was still lots of action. On a sunny day, it's even more fantastic as the butterflies are more active.

On June 10th, we moved from the lovely B&B (see our last message) to the Marriott Inner Harbour in Victoria - aren't frequent flyer miles great when you get to use them!

The next 5 days we spent exploring Victoria and environs. We visited the BC Museum http://www.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/, the Maritime Museum http://mmbc.bc.ca/, the Swan Brew Pub and Restaurant http://www.swanshotel.com/pub.html, Chinatown, a harbour tour and lot's of other sight seeing. Highly recommended. Lot's of fun and great food.

We also drove out to Sooke one day and out to Tofino for an overnight trip.

Now in the realm of "What a small world this is!" we had several interesting times:

We visited Rob and Shannon Reiner of MV Sea Bull (who we met in Mexico) at there water front home in Crofton. It turned out that they were related to Ken and Shirley Moncur, our B&B hosts.

Then at the Swan Pub, the couple at the next table turned and said to us, "Aren't you from Raptor Dance". They had been on the Baja HaHa with us, but we had never met before. We had a great chat.

Roland van Rijn, who owns the Valiant 50 Engelenbak (as seen on our web site - http://raptordance.us/valiant1.htm - that's the boat we sailed on back in 1999 on Lake Texoma). He's from Ohio, and friend Laura Gongos took the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria to get together with us.

In Canoe Cove, we stayed in the slip normally occupied by Coyote Moon, Valiant 40 179, owned by Jim and Marilyn Ming - who are off on a 6 week circumnavigation of Vancouver Island.

British Columbia place names are really interesting. Most of them are from the original inhabitants - called the "First Nation" up here. It seems that BC got all the vowels - unlike the Welsh, who don't have any. I'm sure that Vanna White could establish a vowel mine up here to gather the raw materials for the Wheel of Fortune.

After all our wanderings Raptor Dance went back in the water, last Friday the 17th. We stayed in Canoe Cove for two more nights to get things shipshape before setting off for a night in Friday Harbor then over to Bellingham, WA where we are now.

I highly recommend the gang at Canoe Cove http://www.canoecovemarina.com/ and Black Line Marine http://www.blacklinemarine.com/ for work that you may need done to your boat (if you have one). They do great work. We had our bottom done, bow thruster cleaned, a new through hull put in, rig work done, our bi-annual survey performed all done - very high quality.

When in Friday Harbor, we had dinner and visited with a friend from high school - Candy Lowry (now Candy Bowers), who just happened to be living locally. She saw a reference to our website, noted we were in Sidney and sent us a note. We had a great time after a short break of 39 years!

The runs between Sidney, Friday Harbor and Bellingham highlighted the difference between cruising in Mexico and up here in the Northwest. When we left Canoe Cove, Mary was up on the bow as we threaded our way out of the marina - seeing the bottom shallows with Sea Anemones on the shallow rocky bottom on our right and left (but, thankfully not in the deeper water in front of us).

The voyage to Friday Harbor (where the spell it Harbor and not Harbour) only took 3 hours with the current at near slack. Today, we had current pushing our normal 7 knot speed to almost 10 at some points and down to 4 at other times. It took us 4 hours to go the 26 miles to Bellingham from Friday Harbor.

Anyway, this message is getting pretty long and Mary say's "enough already". So

I'm going to sign off for now.

Warmest Regards to all,
Bill and Mary
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