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1st - 31st August 2017 - Vancouver Island (our thanks to Debbie & Dave)

Wednesday 2nd August

BC Ferries have a special promotion for oversize vehicles, called Size up the Savings. Our full length with tow dolly and car attached is 53 feet and we made a good saving with this offer (cost 194 CD

We managed to get on an earlier ferry than expected and was the last but one vehicle loaded on the 3.15pm ferry. We headed north along the Strait of Giorgia towards Duke Point near Nanaimo. The journey took two hours, unfortunately the weather was very windy, nearly took us off our feet, and the visibility not good, therefore we didn’t get a good view of Vancouver as we passed.

We stayed at Living Forest RV Park just a few kilometers from the ferry port. This is a big wooded park with large secluded sites. Situated at the side of the Naniamo River there are good dog walking water front trails.

We found a very authentic English pub nearby in a small place called Cedar. It has beautifully planted gardens, creating the strong scent of summer flowers. The original owners came from Sussex and they have done a good job of creating a rural Sussex pub, complete with black beams, in the heart of Vancouver Island. The bangers and mash were not bad either.

Thursday 3rd August

We got to Debbie and Dave’s house just after midday. They live in the small town of Chemainus in a beautiful house with a deck that looks out over the water. The RV fitted in nicely next to their fifth wheel in the drive at the side of the house.

Friday 4th August

After breakfast, we went into Chemainus town centre. Bought tickets for a show at the town theatre for next Friday and also tickets for the Beer Festival taking place in town next weekend.

Headed south along the coast to Genoa Bay where we had lunch overlooking the marina.

Debbie and I took a walk along the row of covered boat moorings they have at the marina. It is like a tiny quaint village street.

We were invited in by Doug and Darlene to have a look at their mooring. Since retiring Doug had been working on his mooring and making it very homey with sixties style hanging chairs and various lights and decorations. Secured by a rope, Doug hauled down an old mirror that acts as a table which was full of shells, we got to take one home as a memento. They have really done a sweet job on the dock and have family parties there at weekends.

Saturday 5th August

This morning we headed north to Qualicum Beach where there is a Saturday morning Market.

First, we met up with Roger and Diana - friends of Debbie and Dave – both were originally from England. Roger was born in Solihull in the same hospital as Tony and came over to Vancouver when he was ten. We went into the garden of the local Canadian Legion where they were serving a pancake breakfast for six dollars each. The breakfast was delicious, fluffy pancakes with maple syrup and tasty sausages.

After breakfast we said goodbye to Roger and Diane and went for a drive around Qualicum Bay with Debbie as our tour guide.

Logging has long been an industry on the island and along with that there is a tradition of wood carving. Here are some superb examples.

Sunday 6th August

One of the large logging barges being towed along the straights. Forestry is still an important industry in the area.

Took Sandy for a walk on a local beach.

Had an early dinner and then headed north to the town of Ladysmith where there was to be a firework display. At the marina we met up with April and Mark (friends of Debbie and Dave) and went out onto the water in their boat. We dropped anchor and waited for the firework barge to float into position. From our location we had a front row seat for a spectacular display.

Monday 7th August

A visitor to Debbie and Dave's garden first thing this morning. There is still quite a heavy smoke haze around because of all the wild fires on the mainland.

Travelled along the Pacific Rim Highway west to the far side of the island. We passed lakes, rivers, creeks and wall to wall trees along route.

We finally left the smoke haze behind us as we neared the west coast town of Ucluelet. The sun was shining as we sat on the deck of a restaurant above the marina watching the fishing boats come back in. Some people had a pretty good catch judging by the size of the fish being filleted near the dock.

Unfortunately, Sandy had to sit outside the deck area because BC do not allow dogs to be where food is served. We sat near to an entrance gate so that she could sit one side of the gate and we the other whilst we had something to eat, how ridiculous.

Ucluelet Campground overlooking the harbour was our stop for the night.

Tuesday 8th August

Woke up to the sound of fog horns. Sea fog had come in and coated the coastal area.

Talking to Cerys and Rich on the phone.

Walked some of the Wild Pacific Trail this afternoon, in the very atmospheric sea fog.

Early evening we motored through the provincial park to Tofino. This town has a very different feel than Ucluelet, much more laid back, surfing town vibe and the sun was out.

On the beach it was back to the sea fog.

Wednesday 9th August

Back to Chemainus today. On the way we stopped of at Cathedral Grove to see the tall first growth Douglas Fir trees.

This giant Douglas fir is over 800 years old.

Thursday 10th August

We picked up Mark and went down to the boat in Ladysmith Marina. April couldn't come, one of their three dogs was poorly.

Mark took us over to Thesis Island – one of the small islands that pepper the east coast – to have lunch at the marina restaurant.

Tug pulling a raft of logs.

Sawmill at Ladysmith.

Approaching mooring at Thesis Island.

Friday 11th August

We started the evening with a drink at the Riot Brewery, met Ali, one of the owners. On to dinner at The Sawmill Taphouse and Grill and then Chemainus Theatre to see Rock Legends.

Chemainus has over 40 large wall sized murals and a number of sculptures around the town. They depict the towns heritage and the history of the First Nations people.

This is a great little theatre with about 250 seats, big enough for a good size audience but small enough to make you feel part of the action. The show celebrated rock music from 1955 to 1975. The performance was set up similar to an Ed Sullivan style show that was finishing after a twenty-year run. The host came on and introduced the acts that had performed on the show over the years. Either side of the stage were tv screens showing old adverts from the time, hilarious, how times have changed. The show was great fun with a young talented cast that sang, danced and played the music brilliantly.

Saturday 12th August

Debbie and Dave went over to Vancouver for Roger’s ‘big’ birthday party at his daughters.

We went to the Artisan Village in Chemainus for the Cowichan Craft Beer & Food Festival. Everyone was given a small beer glass and several tokens to spend at each of the thirty or so brewery tents. The event was well attended and there was a lively atmosphere out in the afternoon sunshine.

A couple of sliders to soak up the beer.

Music in Waterwheel Park.

Sunday 13th August

Today we went on a four-hour whale watching adventure to see Orca’s and hopefully humpback whales. Ocean Ecoventures out of Cowchin Bay was our start point. Got their early and had great coffee and cookies at the bakery in town. We suited up and went down to the marina to take the zodiac out around the off shore islands. There were seven other passengers in the boat, plus Captain Gary and his first mate Tish. We went north and south around the islands, Gary was in contact with eight other boats but there were no whales sighted. The boat was fast and we covered a lot of water, we saw harbor seals and bald eagles but no whales. It was not our lucky day but we can go out again, free of charge, anytime there is a space available on any of the boats.

Monday 14th August

Tony found a place in Duncan that could just fit the RV into their facility for an oil change.

Debbie’s niece, husband and children came over from Vancouver for a visit, Amy, Kevin, Arianna (3½) and Alyssa (1½). The afternoon was spent out on the deck having fun with the kids, we had a lot of laughs.

Tuesday 15th August

This morning we said goodbye to everyone and set off in the RV south to pick up highway 18, the Marine Pacific Road which is a logging road going down to Sooke.

A very scenic route through a heavily forested area. We saw evidence of logging operations going on with deforested hillsides and logging trucks passing by.

We reached Port Renfrew and had a view across the strait to the USA with a ribbon of cloud lying off the far shore. Stopped off at the Renfrew Hotel for lunch. Sat out on the deck looking over the water in the sunshine

The road continued on along the coast into Sooke.

Our campsite, Sooke River Campground (with seniors discount 31.50 CD per night), is set alongside the river and we have a large site overlooking the water.

Wednesday 16th August

Dull chilly morning, temperatures in the mid 50’s fahrenheit.

Paid a visit to the Sooke Museum where there was information about the history of the logging industry in the area. There were two cross cuts of large trees on display that were cut down near the town. One dated from the 700’s and the second from the 1500’s.

Had a look along the estuary and found an oyster farm. The edge of the shore nearby was made up of layers and layers of discarded oyster shells.

Along the lane we saw a very exotic looking duck that had his own little swimming pool.

Sooke was first developed when a pipeline was installed to carry water from Sooke Lake to supply the fast growing city of Victoria. The Pacific West Coast Trail also runs along the coast here and was first installed to keep the telegraph line working to all the light houses along the coast.

To the Stickleback Westcoast Eatery for lunch. The day brightened and we sat out on the patio overlooking the estuary. We had a sharing plate for lunch, ribs, chicken, salmon, sausage, mussels, prawns, veggies, all delicious. Rating as one of our top meals for freshness, variety and taste.

Thursday 17th Augus

Travelled 40 km east this morning to Victoria, the capitol of Vancouver Island. Our camp was at Fort Victoria, a large RV Park, west of the city in the View Royal district (52.50 CD per night). Our site was a large end site with plenty of parking space.

Friday 18th August

Debbie and Dave arrived this morning. Tony and Dave went into Victoria and Debbie and I went to Butchart Gardens, north of the city in the Brentwood Bay area.

Oh what a treat this place is. Built out of a former quarry by Jennie Butchart over a hundred years ago it really is a work of art. The garden covers 55 acres and consists of the Sunken, Japanese, Rose, Italian and Mediterranean gardens.

A ceiling of hanging baskets full of summer flowers.


Sunken Garden


Ross Fountain

The Children's Pavilion, Rose Carousel

Lunch in The Dining Room Restaurant which was part of the Butchart family home. We sat out on the veranda overlooking the lawn. It had Edwardian Colonial style.

Butchart Cove.

Sturgeon Fountain


After a wonderful day looking around the spectacular Butchart Gardens, we went for dinner in Victoria. The Livet is a tapas style restaurant and we met up with Sandy, a friend of Debbie and Dave’s who has just moved into an apartment in Victoria.

The British Columbia Parliament building at night.

Saturday 19th August

Road and walking tour around Victoria today with our ‘guides’ Debbie and Dave.

First, into the suburbs to the east and Oak Bay. Here we had views across to Washington state.

The harbour and downtown Victoria,

Lunchtime drinks and food at the Bard and Banker in Government Street. A great pub with excellent bar staff.

Debbie with a ‘flight’ of wine. This a great idea, small measures of different wines to taste. They also do something similar for whisky and beer. We shared several small plates of food for lunch.

Parliament building from the marina

The Empress Hotel, famous for its afternoon teas.

To Dave’s daughters house tonight for her birthday celebration. Heather and her partner Jay made us very welcome. This was a pie party and we had a variety of pies to choose from, I had blueberry, cherry and my favourite pecan.

Sunday 20th August

After a full English breakfast, Debbie and Dave go back to Chemainus. We stayed for another night and went back into Victoria’s harbor area for a look around.

Appy’s at the Bard and Banker. As the name suggests, the building was originally a bank.

Monday 21st August

Back to Chemainus along Trans-Canada highway 1 north. Following the east coast to complete the loop around the south of the island that we started last Tuesday. We stopped off at Malahat Overlook for marvelous views off Sannich Inlet and across to the US Olympic Peninsula and Mount Baker.

Back in Chemainus and a nice clear view over the Strait of Georgia

Tuesday 22nd August

Today Debbie was at the Chemainus Visitor Centre where she works as a part-time volunteer. Dave was in town setting up the stage and sounds system in Waterwheel Park ready for a band that will be playing there tonight. Meanwhile, we went back to Ocean Ecoventures in Cowichan Bay for another trip out into the straits and around the offshore islands whale spotting.

Three Ecoventures zodiac’s set off from the marina just after midday and headed north.

At a passage called Dodds Narrows the swirling currents rocked the boat for a while until the we came out again into open water. It was at this point that we spotted three killer whales, commonly known as Orcas.

The group consisted of a female with three young, all of various ages and size. Our Captain, Gary, said that young Orcas stay with their mothers for life. They will go off and mate when mature but come back to the mother pod. These were transient Biggs killer whales that feed on marine mammals, mostly harbor seals but also sea lions, dolphins, porpoises and sometimes other whales. Gary described them as the ‘heavy metal’ section of killer whales

The pod was very active around a couple of moored sailing boats. A seal was hiding under one of the boats trying to avoid being attacked. Orcas like to swim up through the water below their prey and ram them from underneath, therefore, they like a clear run with no obstructions. It seems they eventually gave up and this seal survived.

As the pod moved away, one of them seemed to ram a bird sitting on the water. After the attack, the bird couldn’t fly but it ran at high speed on top of the water and made it to shore, an amazing sight.

Our next sighting of the pod was in front of the wood pulp works near the town of Naniamo.

This time they had caught a seal that was not as lucky as the first one. There was a lot of movement in the water as the seal was taken apart and eaten by each member of the whale family. After a while there was a strong odour in the air, similar to the smell of cucumber. Gary said that this from the seal blubber. There was a lot of muttering in the boat about not eating cucumber again.

Workers at the pulp mill watching the action.

Biggs whales are at the top of the food chain and can be found around the world because they are smart and can adapt to most environments. Unfortunately, it is thought that there is up to a 50% mortality rate for new born's. This is attributed to pollutants, one being fire retardants that are used on wood.

What an exciting and exhilarating trip. We felt so privileged to see these creatures in the wild and witness a small part of how they live and survive.

On our way back to Cowichan Bay we passed Harbour seals who are pupping in August. Most of the young seals leapt off the rocks as the boat neared but this adult couldn’t be asked.

Ospreys feeding young in the nest. Harbour seals are pupping in

Every Tuesday throughout summer Chemainus puts on a free concert in Waterwheel Park and tonight there is a band playing blues. The music and musicianship was excellent and much appreciated by a full house audience.

Wednesday 23rd August

We are off to Quadra Island for a few days. This is where Dave and Debbie met. Dave built a house on the island and lived there for over ten years. On the way we dropped off for lunch in a small town called Coombs. The towns claim to fame is an old market building with a grass roof that is grazed by goats. Friends of Debbie and Dave's joined us and we had lunch at the Cuckoo Trattoria, where we sat out in the garden patio.

Thursday 24th August

Here we are at what is affectionately known as Willy’s Shack. In fact, it is a beautiful log cabin right on the water in Heriot Bay. The cabin is owned by the family that were Dave’s neighbours when he lived on Quadra Island. The family still live in the main house, except instead of Dave’s old friends Bob and Marge, it is now occupied by their son and daughter in law. Bob and Marge have now retired to an apartment in Campbell River.

View from he cabin across to tiny Heriot Island.

View from the cabin onto the small beach and out to Hyacinthe Bay.

Took a drive around the area. There were some steep drops down to the water!

Visited April Lodge and Spa where Debbie used to work.

View across Discovery Passage

April Lodge deck.

The spa.

Back across the island to Heriot Bay Inn and Marina.

Friday 25th August

‘The House that Dave Built’. We were very lucky to be able to get a look around the house Dave built which is on the adjacent plot of land to where we were staying. Karen, who now lives in the house, was very gracious and warmly invited us into her home or a look around.

View from the deck, another beautiful spot