Monday, July 30, 2007

Stick on Holiday

No, not that kind! Stick as in Stick Tail, our cat. When he adopted us, he arrived with a stubbed tail, the result of a close encounter -- of the coyote kind. Hence his nom de plume.

For the first twelve years, he rarely left his cozy Pomona condo. But then everything changed in a big way. First, it was the airline trip to Bellingham (Flying with My Cat). Next, it was the car trip to Powell River (Driving with My Cat). His trip to our float cabin was also his first boat ride (Stick on a Float). I was afraid that Stick might not be able to adjust to all of these new experiences, but I underestimated his adaptability. I can't guarantee that your cat will react in the same way, but I know my worst fears didn't come to pass (International Traveling Feline).

Stick spent his summer holiday back in Powell River. This time he was an experienced traveler and settled into his vacation home quickly. Stick is an indoor cat, so it was quite a luxury for him to go outdoors, even though he was restricted to the confines of the float. He explored all of the decks and finally underneath.

Stick got to join Wayne in the Gemini, a boat reconfigured into a writer's retreat. It no longer has an engine, so it had to be towed out on the lake. Once there, Wayne and Stick were able to float for hours. Stick much prefered the silent floating to a noisy engine.

I think Stick was actually sad to say goodbye to the good times on Powell Lake and head back to the "big" city. Wouldn't you? I know we were!

Have you taken your cat on holiday? Let us hear your stories. -- Margy

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Powell River's Sea Fair - A Whale of a Success

This weekend was the 44th annual Sea Fair in Powell River. Because of the dedicated work of a small committee of outstanding volunteers, this year's event was fun for everyone. Thank you for making Sea Fair such a success for the community and visitors.

Wayne and I attended the opening ceremonies at Willingdon Beach and spent the evening talking to friends and visiting the booths. There was lots of good food to enjoy with the beautiful sunset across the Strait of Georgia in the background. The music onstage was varied and lively. On Saturday, we set up Mr. Float Cabin (our bookmobile) on the corner of Alberni and Marine for a book signing event of our own. Thank you to Shawn and Ruth from Breakwater Books. They handled the book sales while we had a chance to meet and greet passersby and book fans out on the street for the parade.

Here are some parade highlights. It had local dignitaries, floats, queens and princesses, horses, and much more. We usually sit on our condo balcony to see it from start to finish. This year we sat on Marine Avenue with Mr. Float cabin for a different perspective.

















Sea Fair was a "Whale of a Weekend" for sure. Put it on your calendar to join us next year, get to know Powell River and you won't be disappointed. -- Margy

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Leaping Lutz

You see it in movies. The hero makes a flying leap for the narrow ledge on the back of a departing train. He holds on and then miraculously pulls himself up hand over hand onto the platform and safety. It always looks so easy. Well, I can tell you, it’s not – at least for me.

We took our Bayliner for one last overnight cruise on Powell Lake before returning it to the chuck (March 23). After a peaceful night tied to the logging dock, we prepared to leave. The evening before everything was dead calm, but in the morning there was a light wind from the northwest. We each have our tasks on the boat. Wayne (the Captain) starts the engine and I (the crew) untie the docking lines. But this time I didn’t take the breeze into account. I undid the front first. By the time I got the back line undone, the nose of the boat was edging away from the dock, making a normal gangway entry difficult. Wayne yells, “You better jump on fast!”

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. The only place within reach was the edge of the swim grid. I went for it, but with Mr. Bathtub (our dinghy) on the rear, there wasn’t enough room for me to stand. I was hanging on for dear life and Wayne was on the command bridge yelling, “Hold on, I’ll take you back to the dock.” But it was too late for that. Not wanting to fall into the cold lake (and near the churning propeller), I tried to slide onto the swim grid under Mr. Bathtub. To top it off, my glasses were fogged and I couldn’t see a thing. Wayne came down to give me his hand. My grip on the railing was none to steady and my bum was hanging precariously close to the drink. First I got one leg and then the other under Mr. Bathtub. I wiggled until I was lying flat under the dinghy and then tried to climb through the narrow space under the aft rail. On my first try I wedged in tight. My jacket and life vest had to come off, but I finally made it. What an ungraceful (and stupid) entry! It was a good thing Wayne was too busy helping to snap a picture.


So, the moral of the story – stay on the dock and wait for the boat to return. In real life not everyone is superwoman. So, do you like boat stories? Wayne’s new book Up the Strait has lots of them. Check it out at www.PowellRiverBooks.com -- Margy

Friday, July 27, 2007

Buster the Garter Snake

Summer is critter time at the cabin. One resident that has been showing himself lately is Buster the garter snake. He first appeared on a warm sunny afternoon in May. Then, when the weather turned cool and rainy, he disappeared again. I've seen him go in and out of our woodpile, but I've also seen him on shore. Either place, I am sure he decided to go back to his cozy den to wait for better weather.

Buster likes to sun himself on our transition float or my garden float. He is so "tame" you can walk within a few feet, at least when he is lulled by the warm sun. Garter snakes are common non-venomous snakes in Canada and the U.S. They have yellow stripes on a brown body and grow to 1.5 metres (3.5 ft) in length. They like to live near water and are semi-aquatic. Just the other day we were going out in our tin boat and there was Buster, swimming across our front "water" yard. His body undulated from side to side, propelling him gracefully through the water with his head held high.

Garter snakes eat frogs, worms, fish, small birds and rodents. One day last summer we saw Buster stalk and catch a medium sized frog. He caught it by the leg and held on until the frog tired. This took an agonizingly long period of time. Once the frog stopped struggling, Buster opened his flexible jaws wide and started to swallow it whole. It didn't seem possible, but after about an hour it was done. Garter snakes have to be careful of large fish, bull frogs, hawks, skunks, foxes and John's dog Bro or they may become dinner rather than the diner. Buster is a welcome addition to our float cabin life. He helps us keep mice under control and gives us lots of viewing pleasure. -- Margy

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Flight of the Tree Swallows

We're back in town after a week up the lake at the float cabin. So much to tell, but I think I’ll start with our Tree Swallows. In late May, we watched them build a nest in one of our five new birdhouses. While several pairs started nest building, only one pair completed the process and laid eggs (June 10). When we returned to the cabin during the last week of June, we could already hear the high pitched peeps of chicks in the nest. Both parents swooped along the lake and cliffs catching insects to take back to their babies. This child rearing went on throughout early July. The parents were very protective. Aerial dog fighting drove away other passing swallows or humans trying to cross the bridge to land. In mid-July, we saw one chick poke his head out of the hole in the birdhouse. He was covered in down and looked like a little ball of feathers with a funny little beak. We also saw evidence of the adults cleaning the nest by removing material (July 16).

On July 19, we returned to the cabin after a week in town. One chick was poking his head and upper body through the circular entrance. Either his sibling was below in the nest, or had already departed. The chick had lost the down from his head, but it still covered his upper body. There was no evidence of an adult returning to the nest to feed the chick that day or the next. On the evening of July 20 we noticed two Tree Swallows flying around the cabin and swerving in and out of the front porch. When we checked the birdhouse, no chick was either heard or seen. So this must have been the first flight. We don’t know if a parent returned to supervise and give flying tips, or of both siblings took to the air simultaneously. Either way, fly high and fast. Hope to see you next year with children of your own. -- Margy

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Summer Bounty from the Garden

You've seen my floating garden from spring planting, through the "Junco Wars" to save our seeds, to sprouting in mid-May. But come see, it's now in full summer harvest mode.

We pick fresh greens daily for salads. I tried a new one this year called Tom Thumb. It has small compact heads of crisp curly leaves. I pick the lower ones and leave the crown to keep producing. We also have baby romaine and curly leaf lettuce. Our onions from sets are all gone and unfortunately I can't find any more in town. I've started some from seed, but they are much slower growing. My Red Norland potatoes are ready. They produce firm fleshed small potatoes good for frying, baking or cooking on the grill. I have two beds because they take up quite a bit of room. One is on the floating garden (handy for quick picks) and another up on the cliff where I am creating a small planting bed. My herbs (rosemary, thyme, parsley, mint, savory and and basil) are doing great. I keep them in pots so they don't take over the beds. My carrots have bright green tops, but still need some more time to develop their roots. As picking opens up soil areas, I replant (primarily lettuce) for future harvests.

The strawberries are finally ready for harvest. Everything was delayed about three weeks because of the late cold and rainy weather. They will continue giving us a taste of summer through about September. The first wave began last week and they were the best ever! I was worried about their survival because of the exceptionally long, cold winter and an infestation of grubs. But as you can see, they are pretty resilient plants.

Powell River is currently participating in a 50-mile diet challenge and has earned the unlikely title of "Local-eating Capital in North America." I try to get to the farmer's market on Saturdays and Sundays, but when I can't I have some VERY local food to add to our diet. Have you ever participated in a diet challenge focusing on locally produced foods? Let us hear your stories. Happy local eating!!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Tree Swallow Chicks

In February, Wayne and I put up bird houses at our float cabin on Powell Lake. We bought them, but our friend John devised the brackets to place them in strategic locations. In June, I told you about the three different types of swallows that have arrived in Hole-in-the-Wall. Now that summer has arrived, they have settled down to rearing their new families.


A pair of Barn Swallows started building a nest of their own under our cabin roof eves. Unfortunately, after a week of industrious work, their nest fell and the pair left for a better location. Fortunately, we still see them flying around feasting on the early summer flying insects.

John installed five bird houses, three on our land-based shed, one on the cliff and one in our floating garden. In the beginning, both Violet-green Swallows and Tree Swallows seemed to be interested in all of them, but in the end, only one was occupied. When we returned to our cabin in late June we could hear chicks inside. The occupants ended up being a pair of Tree Swallows. Both parents have been tending the nest. They spend hours catching flying insects and returning to the nest to feed their hungry babies. We estimate that the chicks are now about four weeks old.

Last week, one chick posed for photos. As you can see, he is still covered with down. Another interesting thing happened. One of the parents was taking nesting material out of the nest. My guess was that she was "house cleaning" to get rid of dirty bedding. I guess that makes sense with all of the continuous bug eating that has been going on. Have you ever watched nesting tree swallows? Let us hear some of your experiences. -- Margy

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Return to Mitlenatch Island

We've had few visitors join us in Powell River. Wayne swears he gives out the wrong longitude and latitude to keep them away. I'm not sure if he is kidding or not. Anyway, this month we had our first full-fledged visitor. John (he worked with Wayne at Mt. SAC) stopped by on his return from a solo flight to Alaska. While he was here, we wanted to give him a flavor of our life in Powell River.

Our original plan was to go cruising in our Bayliner on the chuck (ocean), so we decided to proceed. Instead of an overnighter, we opted for a day trip to a favorite place, Mitlenatch Island. In April, I posted about the island and a free podcast that is available. Mitlenatch is also highlighted in two chapters from Wayne's newest book Up the Strait.

Mitlenatch is sometimes called the Galapagos of the Georgia Strait. The island is a provincial park and boasts the largest seabird colony in the strait. Primarily you see Glaucous-winged gulls, but I have also seen cormorants and black oystercatchers on the rocky cliffs and riding the updrafts in the sky. It is a raucous cacophony everywhere you go. The island is also the fall and winter haul out for California sea lions and northern Steller sea lions. Local harbour seals are resident year-round.

The chuck started rough, but after Savary Island it smoothed out. We anchored in Mitlenatch's north bay with only a light wind and swell. The only other boat was the Misty Isles, a kayak mothership out of Manson's Landing on Cortes Island. Her passengers with their seven kayaks were on shore for lunch and a hike. We ate our lunch on board and then went to hike the islands paths on our own.

Late spring and summer flowers were in full bloom. A low yellow carpet covered the cliffs where gulls still nested. Above the bay, we saw two bald eagles harrassing a seagull until he dropped his fish and fled. That wasn't very neighborly. Winter, fall, spring or summer, Mitlenatch has a different story to tell. If you don't have a boat of your own, check out the Misty Isles Adventures website. They looked like they were having a lot of fun.

Our day ended with dinner and an overnight stay at our float cabin. It's hard to top a flight to Alaska, but we gave it our best shot. -- Margy

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Up the Strait in the News

Wednesday's Powell River Peak has an article highlighting Up the Strait:Coastal BC Stories by Wayne J. Lutz. Peak reporter Jonathan Hutchings interviewed Wayne about the launch of his newest book.

Up the Strait takes the reader on a cruise up the Strait of Georgia from Jervis Inlet to Desolation Sound with side trips to Campbell River and nature rich Mitlenatch Island. No Coastal BC Stories book would be complete without at least one story about Powell Lake. In Up the Strait you will discover the prehistoric secret trapped at the bottom of the lake. If you like to read about boats and cruising, Up the Strait is the book for you.

It is available for purchase at www.PowellRiverBooks.com or at several locations in Powell River including Marine Traders, Coles and Breakwater Books. For visiting cruisers, it can also be found at the Refuge Cove Store.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

High and Low Water

The ocean has its tides, Powell Lake has its cycles. On the Pacific Coast there are four tidal changes almost every day - a high high, high low, low high and low low tide. Powell lake is similar, but on an annual cycle. High high water comes typically in June with both spring rains and snow melt. In October, the lake is at low low water after a long hot summer. The heavy rains of November through January bring the lake back up to a low high state. Then, in early spring the lake drops to a high low level because the storms are less severe and frequent, and snow remains frozen in the high country.

Powell Lake's level is determined by rain, snow melt and runoff from nearby mountains. After a heavy storm, it's not unusual to see it go up several inches overnight. The level is also controlled by a dam at the south end of the lake. The dam was built mainly to provide electricity for the papermill. It's also used to regulate the level of the lake when high water is anticipated.

The pictures in this post show two extremes. The lowest level was in October 2006. We could step from our cabin's float to the exposed rock shelf. You can see the high water mark more than 12 feet up the granite wall. That's as low as we would ever like to see it again.

The highest was tied this morning. Our bridge to shore is in the water. It feels strange because we have to walk slightly uphill to get from the shore to the transition float. Fortunately, the cabin sits in about 80 feet of water. With a little adjustment to the cables and stiff leg (the log brace against the shore), we are able to ride the high and low "tides" of Powell Lake without much trouble. -- Margy