Yep, Still Weird.

Another week in Victoria – I can see how this place earned the nickname ‘The Velvet Rut’!  There’s just enough fun and interesting stuff happening to keep me hanging on day after day.  I know there’s more happening in Vancouver, but overcoming the inertia and just getting up and leaving seems like a huge amount of effort, when it’s so very pleasant here already.  Still, Burning Man is coming up fast, and I have a lot of work – both day-job and life – to catch up on before I leave for the desert.

The weekend started off with a bang, at a very sexy house-slash-birthday party hosted by a bunch of the girls from the Cheesecake Burlesque Review – but after that (well, ok, after a lazy afternoon of spinning firestaff in a backyard) I pretty much stayed in and nursed my hangover.  Sunday I went and saw ‘District 9’, which was excellent.

Monday and Tuesday were fairly slackful and I got a lot of dayjob work done – Monday night I had a bunch of Victorians out for a sail around the around the Juan de Fuca Straight.  It was really nice to have another sailor on board – Sarah is a racer, and it was really cute to watch her constantly watching and adjusting the headsail trim.  Such a difference between racing and cruising – I usually just set-and-forget.  I dropped the crew off at the docks in Victoria Harbour and made my way back to Gonzales Bay under motor in the dark – note to self: don’t do that.  Sailing alone at night is spooky, especially when there’s no moon – you can’t see if you’re about to hit a log or something!

Tuesday night I went to Lehna and Jamie’s for drinks and conversation, then rode my bike back to Gonzales Bay at about midnight.  It was after the lovely long bikeride home that things started to get a bit scary.  Allow me to set the stage…

By the light of my little LED MagLite, I made my way down the shadowy path towards the pitch-dark beach where my rowboat was padlocked to a railing.  I thought I could hear voices from the beach, but they grew quiet as I approached and a cursory scan of the beach did not reveal anyone – it was probably just the wind.  Still, I couldn’t help but feel a bit jumpy, being by myself in a park at midnight with nobody around to help if I were to, say, get jumped by thugs or something.  My only comfort was that Victoria doesn’t really seem to have much of a problem with violent crime – but there’s always a first time.

I unlocked my boat, put my bicycle in the bow and pushed the boat out into the bay, jumping in as it left the shore.  I rowed out to my waiting sailboat, watching the phosphorescence ripple away from me in twin glowing crescents with every pull of the oars.  When I reached Tie Fighter, I could feel a little bit of the stress fall away, but it wasn’t until I got inside the cabin and got the lights on that I really felt relieved.

I had settled in with my laptop and was checking email and chatting with Trent and Vince when I heard some splashing directly outside the boat.  Ok, that’s normal – it could be another boat pulling up, but the sounds were also not inconsistent with waves lapping at the hull, especially in this unprotected bay.  I told myself it was nothing.

Then I heard my dinghy thump against the side of the boat, and some more minor splashing – ok, still normal, waves knock the dingy against the side of the boat all the time.  Nothing to be concerned about, just the wake from a passing ship or something.  The boat wasn’t rocking yet, but it will any second…

Then there was more splashing, from both sides of Tie Fighter at once, and the unmistakable sound of someone getting into my dinghy.  My heart leapt, my adrenaline spiked, and I grabbed my huge spotlight and ran out to the deck, shouting “WHO’S OUT THERE?!?”.  I shone the spotlight at the dinghy, and one of the oars – which had been laying across the benches lengthwise with the dinghy – jumped up to a 45-degree angle in response!  A bunch of splashing from the other side of the big boat made me turn to look that way, and I saw…

Sea otters.  A bunch of them, swimming around my boat.

Scared the crap out of me!  I turned back to look at the rowboat and saw one of the otters jump out of it – he must have hit the oar when he jumped in, causing it to lever up against the bench.  I watched the otters play for the next few minutes, my adrenaline rush slowly being replaced by delight.  They didn’t seem to care at all about the spotlight, and stuck around checking out Tie Fighter for a few minutes, though they would dive at the slightest sound – one of them came right up and looked directly at me (or at the spotlight, anyway) with big, blinking, liquid -brown eyes, but dove instantly when I laughed.

Obligatory link to the famous YouTube video of sea otters holding hands at the Vancouver Aquarium…

you don't want to meet one of these in the dark.
a "mud worm" (nereids vexallosa), native to BC - you don't want to meet one of these in the dark.

I counted eight otters in total – as they moved on from playing around my boat, from a distance their eyes reflected the light like cats eyes.  Also in the night waters, I saw a large (ie about 18″ across) red jellyfish, dozens of fast moving little water worms, and one of these terrifying creatures, a centipede-like thing about a foot or so long, swimming near the surface – it swam up to my rudder and then disappeared under the boat.  I shudder to think of what it would be like meeting one while swimming!  A call to a marine biologist friend this morning helped to identify the thing and to verify that I was not, in fact, seeing monsters where there were none.

I’ve only had two interactions with sea otters before last night, one in person and one… well, let’s say I saw the aftermath.  While I was anchored in False Creek, something – at the time, I suspected a harbour seal, as there’s one that hangs around the dinghy dock at Monk’s – defecated off the dinghy dock onto (and into) my dinghy.  Yep, you heard right – an otter took a crap in my rowboat.  They may be cute, but man, the steady diet of raw crabs, mussels and oysters makes for a particularly pungent leaving, and it wasn’t pleasant to clean up.  A few weeks later I was stumbling home at 3am to the dinghy dock by the Cambie Bridge; as I came down the ramp I heard a noise, and at the bottom of the ramp stood an otter, sizing me up nervously.  I stopped and tried to say something calming (I don’t speak otter), but he bolted, right over the top of my dinghy, into the water and gone.

I’m not sure what it is about my rowboat that seems to attract otters, nor what I’ve done exactly to deserve these crazy, wonderful interactions with them, but I’m really glad I’ve gotten to experience them.  Now if only my replacement battery charger for my digital camera would just hurry up and arrive…!

Anyway.  The wind forecast for the rest of the week shows the wind turning to southeast late tonight, staying southeast all day tomorrow, then switching to northwest tomorrow evening – that’s just the sign I’ve been waiting for.  I think if I can get an early start, I can ride that southeast wind all the way up to Porlier Pass or maybe even Gabriola, anchor for the night in a bay there, and then ride the northwest wind across the Georgia Straight to arrive back in Vancouver sometime Friday evening.  Victoria has been wonderful to me, but my Vancouver contingent has gone from friendly requests for my return to mildly belligerent demands, and now on to thinly-veiled threats – I guess I should probably go home for a while.  It does raise the question of exactly what “home” means, when your apartment and dayjob are both mobile… but that’s a subject for another blog post someday soon.

One thought on “Yep, Still Weird.”

  1. hey, they get to keep you most of the year…let us victorians have you for awhile!

    and be thankful you are dealing with otters, not sea lions. i was up in fanny bay during herring season and they are EVERYWHERE, on every dock—and weigh a couple tonnes. their constant barking was deafening and i can’t even imagine how much havoc they wreaked on boats!

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