One more big post to get out of the way, and hopefully after that I can just update frequently instead of having to play massive catch-up games!
Monday night I arrived in Victoria and stayed in the harbour in front of the Empress, meeting Amanda and company for drinks. The moorage was an awesome location, in super rockstar style. I spent Tuesday morning working, but mostly cleaning the boat and enjoying the parking spot. Tuesday afternoon I went sailing with the lovely Laurel, and scoped out Esquimalt Harbour for a place to anchor. She had to be back at work, so we turned around and I dropped her off at the docks at Fleming Beach and headed back out to find an anchorage. After a few false starts, I stopped at the Canadian Armed Forces Yacht Club to ask advice – nobody had anything constructive to say, with the only exception being the bartender. She took me out to the parking lot, down a rugged, windy little path through burdocks and blackberry bushes to a tiny little beach, half covered by a large arbutus tree.
“You see the bar from here?” she asked. I nodded.
“This beach is probably on the Songhee reserve, but most folks think it belongs to the base. Most of the base thinks it’s on the reserve. The property line is around here somewhere, but nobody is certain where, so it’s kind of a no-man’s land. If you pull up your dingy here and hide it under the tree, you should be ok…”
So that’s what I did for the night. Anchoring in Thetis Cove in the Esquimalt Harbour, then rowing a half-mile through harbour swells – not quite as large as the open ocean, but not what you’d consider “sheltered” either – only to sneak onto a disputed beach, hide and lock my dinghy, sneak onto and off of a naval base, and finally ride my bicycle 10km or so into town to go visit with friends. Some days the mind just boggles. After riding 10km “home” again at 2:30am, only to have to row another half-mile through the waves with a bicycle in the dinghy, I started to understand that this trip would be a pretty damned good series of workouts!
When I woke up in the morning, I realized that I had accidentally left my laptop power supply at Amanda’s house – d’oh! This meant I couldn’t actually start work until I did the row-bike-bike-row sequence again. I kicked myself thoroughly and was starting to make breakfast when I heard voices outside. Out a window (one of the only two in the boat that is actually translucent enough to see through), I saw a small powerboat with two men in it idling nearby. I poked my head out to see what they wanted, and they seemed startled to see me and quickly sped away. Uh oh.
There was no way I’d leave the boat now, so I pulled anchor and headed back towards Fleming Beach. I had noticed a lot of “NO MOORAGE” signs, but since I’d be anchoring those wouldn’t apply, and since the only “allowed” moorage around was surrounded by reserves I was willing to push the rules a bit. The “beach” in Fleming Beach is almost nonexistent – but the bay itself is very well sheltered by a large man-made breakwater. The bay is surrounded by beautiful, million-dollar homes on one side, a large cliff infested with rock climbers on another, and a lovely park on the third. I anchored, rode in, and got my power supply from Amanda’s house, sneaking a shower in the process. Now that I was clean, powered and mobile I headed to Habit for coffee.
As I walked into Habit, a beautiful blonde woman was walking out. Our eyes met and stuck, until she reached the door, and left. I shrugged and ordered coffee, then sat down and began my workday. Not five minutes later, the woman appeared in front of me again.
“Excuse me,” she said with a thick accent, “I think… we are… supposed to talk.”
Her name was Hanne, and she was visiting Victoria from Denmark, enroute to Seattle, then Iceland and finally home. We talked for several hours, and then she invited me to an open mic night at the Bent Mast. I had to be at a Burning Man planning meeting first, so I went to that – meeting many of my soon-to-be campmates for the first time – and then headed down to join them. After a few beers, I ended up playing guitar and singing a few songs and having an excellent jam with two locals. Adam, a bassist with a huge stand-up bass complete with preamp duct-taped to the side, and Vincent, who played fiery leads on a classical guitar with a small amp with the distortion circuit turned up. Hanne was due to leave for Seattle in the morning, so we talked long into then night, then parted ways.
I got a text the next morning from Hanne, saying she’d stayed in town another day. We made plans to meet that night for drinks, and I went back to my day job for the day. Later on we went to a wine bar, and then wandered around Victoria with a bottle of rum until late, having deep discussions on the nature of memory and consciousness – fascinating stuff.
Friday night was a house party at the home of one of the organizers of the Victoria contingent of our Burning Man camp this year – it was Marion’s birthday, and so a large group of folks gathered for drinks, dancing and fire play. I forgot to eat dinner, and wondered why the rum had such a negative effect on me, until I supplemented the rum with pizza and all became balanced again.
Saturday afternoon, I wandered into downtown Victoria with my mandolin and a busker’s license borrowed from Laurel. I set up on a side street full of vendors, and played and sang for about an hour, making a few bucks, until the vendors packed up and suddenly the street emptied. I put my mandolin away and wandered down to Bastion Square, where a guy was playing guitar with a mic and a little guitar amp. After hearing a few of his songs I figured I could follow his style, so I asked him if I could sit in and he said sure.
We played for about an hour together, with his income going up significantly now that he was a “band” instead of just a guy with a guitar, and eventually the next act showed up to take over – Bastion Square apparently is a very popular busking location, and requires acts to sign up weeks in advance. The new guy listened for a while, while unloading a tonne of gear, and finally came up to speak with me.
“Listen,” he said. “My backup guitarist is out of town, and my bassist has run off with a cute French brunette, so I think it’s just me today. Do you want to sit in with me?”
I said sure, and he continued to set up his rig – a full PA system with monitors, mic stands, preamps, a mixer, etc. Then, out of the blue, his bassist showed up – and to my surprise, it was Adam, the bass player from the Bent Mast a few nights previous! We did a quick soundcheck, and then they launched into a rowdy set of energetic bluegrass and country, straight out of an east-coast kitchen party. My roots were tickled! We played and sang and danced for an hour and a half to a crowd of probably 60-80 people, making decent money along the way. I did alright I think, especially considering that I’d never heard most of the songs before, and definitely had never played any of them before! It was a lot of fun, and they asked me to come back to play again the next day – but their set would be early in the day, and I had no intention of being awake that early.
Saturday night I went to the nightclub ‘Hush’, where “Boy 8-Bit” was playing. I wasn’t impressed with his music, but the opening act “Neon Steve” had me dancing from start to finish. I ended up drinking and carousing with a great crew of Victorians until well past dawn, before starting the bikeride back to Fleming Beach and Tie Fighter. When I arrived, I found a little note written in sharpie and taped to one of my oars.
“REMOVE YOUR BOAT FROM THE BASIN IMMEDIATELY! NO MOORAGE AT ANY TIME! YOUR NUMBER HAS BEEN REPORTED TO HARBOUR AUTHORITY!”, it said.
Now, those three sentences raised my hackles a little bit, for three reasons:
- “moorage” means tying to something, ie private property, which can be owned. I’m anchored in a navigable channel, ie public property, which is protected by the Canadian Navigable Waters Act and has been for hundreds of years,
- “Harbour Authority”, regardless of whether they meant Esquimalt Harbour or Victoria Harbour, has no jurisdiction here – I checked, the only folks that do are the police, the coast guard, Transport Canada and the military, and lastly,
- if you don’t have the balls to sign your snippy little note, I can’t muster the respect required to listen to you.
I looked around, hoping that the author was nearby so that I could discuss this with them, but they were nowhere to be found – probably a good thing, as I had been awake for twenty-odd hours and wasn’t even close to sober. I rowed out and went to bed.
I didn’t leave the boat on Monday at all, staying in and working. Tuesday was almost the same, though I met Bunny, Amanda, Lori, Mike and Will for beers and pizza, scammed a shower from Bunny, and hit the hay early again.
That brings me up to today. Today, the police showed up, along with a nice man named Bob in a red sweatervest, who served me with a yellow slip of paper essentially telling me to GTFO, citing Municipal Zoning Bylaw 63(2)(c).
As it turns out that the Township of Esquimalt has actually put a zoning bylaw on the books somehow prohibiting anchoring in this “water lot”. I’m aaaaalmost certain I could challenge that law and win, as it goes against federal laws protecting my rights to anchor. We actually discussed it briefly, with me mentioning the federal Act, and the municipal governer admitting that yes, in a storm, anyone could anchor in the bay, but that the bylaw prevents permanent anchorage. According to other live-aboards in False Creek (I don’t know exactly how reliable a source they are, but regardless), the Act doesn’t specify how long “safe harbour” lasts, and nobody has ever managed to challenge that in court and win.
So being the gentleman that I am, I recognize when I am not welcome and agreed to leave, saying that perhaps it wouldn’t be today, but at the latest I would get out of here by tomorrow morning. The police took my identification and phone number, ran the usual background check (clean I assume), and left without hasle.
However, being the inquisitive soul that I am, of course I had a few more questions – for one, how exactly are they kicking me out? The Township of Esquimalt fortunately puts all of their bylaws online, and so I downloaded the zoning laws and had a look. I’ll save you opening the .PDF:
63. MARINE SMALL DOCK [M-5]
The intent of this Zone is to accommodate small private docks on Water Lots adjacent to
(1) Permitted Uses
The following Uses and no others are permitted:
(a) Boat Moorage Facility for small pleasure boats.
(2) Prohibited Uses
(a) Commercial or industrial activity
(b) Floating Homes and Floating Boat Shelters
(d) The mooring of more than two small boats
(e) Accessory Buildings
(3) Siting Requirements
(a) All Boat Moorage must be located within the boundaries of the Water Lot.
(4) Maximum Size
(a) No section of a Boat Moorage ramp shall exceed a width of 1.5 metres.
(b) The combined length of a Boat Moorage Facility [wharf, ramp, landing and
dock], measured from the shoreline, shall not be more than 21 metres.
(c) The area of a dock or float shall not be greater than 18.5 square metres in
Wow. Damn. They do have me there.
Still, I’m betting that if I had the time or interest to challenge this bylaw in court, I’d actually have a case – as I understand it, the feds frown on bylaws that go against federal laws.
My second question was, of course, the subject of fines – Bob let it slip that if I refused, they would fine me $100. I noticed that aside from the yellow slip of paper in the photo above, he was also holding a ticket book, open to a new page, and I think he was a little disappointed that I was both polite and accommodating. I wondered afterwards just what the frequency of fines would be. Staying the night in Victoria Harbour cost me $58-something – if staying a week in this sheltered bay would only cost me $100, I count that as a deal! So I checked, and:
(1) Every person who violates any of the provisions of this Bylaw or who suffers or
permits any act or thing to be done in contravention of this Bylaw, is punishable in
accordance with the “Offence Act”, and shall be liable to the penalties hereby
(2) Any person who violates any of the provisions of this Bylaw shall upon summary
conviction thereof be liable to a penalty of not more than ten thousand dollars.
(3) Each day that violation of this Bylaw is caused to continue, constitutes a separate
Yep, looks like I pretty much have to move.
So anyway, back to work for me. I will likely head back to the Bent Mast tonight for the open mic night again, which was fun last time, and likely will head over to Oak Bay or somewhere around there tomorrow morning. Or maybe later today? Who knows. At least this brings me finally up to date, and now I can start updating the blog in a more timely fashion.