It is January the 26th 2010, one day past my due date to get the heck out of False Creek – but here I am, still about two hundred meters from the Cambie Bridge. I’ve had visits from the VPD two days in a row, but since I haven’t been able to start my engine there hasn’t been much I can do. Yesterday I managed to get my engine started again, and today I blew a large portion of the day working on day-job stuff and reprovisioning Tie Fighter for an extended stay where there isn’t a grocery store a block away. I’m still here, but I’ll be leaving in the morning. Tonight is my last evening in the Creek for a while, so I figured I’d relax and enjoy it.
I thought I’d update the blog with a few notes on what has changed in the neighborhood over the past month – besides the constant visits from the VPD, that is. As I write this, there is a massive inflatable boom across False Creek, about ten meters west of the Cambie Bridge. There is a gap of about thirty meters across, and that gap is currently being patrolled by no less than four RCMP boats. Still, I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s start from the beginning.
Southeastern False Creek is home to the newly-constructed Olympic Village. The Village will be home to all the athletes during the games, so of course security is a big question – but the sheer amount of money being spent on this project is astounding. The most recent roadblock to go up, a block or so from my boat, was being staffed by seven people at last check, including three uniformed police officers and four people in VANOC jackets! As far as I can tell, there is a similar roadblock on every road adjoining the Village. The entire area is surrounded by tall steel fences.
Still, this is all stuff you can read elsewhere. This is my blog, and so I will tell (and show) you what I am seeing from the water. For instance, my favourite bike path – the one from Cambie Bridge down towards Science World, past the shiny new Olympic Village buildings, over the boardwalks and sculpted bridge, past the immaculately landscaped gardens and artificial peninsula built for the wildlife – has been blocked off. To get downtown I have to skulk my way through five blocks of alleyways and several blocks of fenced-in sidewalk. I hate riding on the sidewalk.
Anyhow, about a month ago, a large, scary-looking navy tugboat pulled into False Creek. I did a bit of research and found the tug to be the Canadian Forces Auxiliary Vessel (CFAV) Glendyne, a Glen-class tugboat based out of CFB Esquimalt, near Victoria. The Glendyne put a pair of large, orange buoys in place just short of the Cambie Bridge, complete with orange flashing lights on top. I knew that this would be the beginning of the promised ‘boom’ under the Bridge, but I still hadn’t seen any documentation about what the end result would look like, and so I watched with interest as they set the buoys in place. I figured they’d be back in the next couple of days to finish the job, but once they were finished they motored slowly away and never returned.
Off-topic, one of my neighbors has mentioned that he expects to see at least one military gunboat in the Creek, paired up with the RCMP zodiacs and whaleboats currently patrolling the boomed-off area. I am not convinced, but given the focus on security I wouldn’t be shocked if there were some kind of small, fast Canadian Forces gunboat deployed here during the games.
Anyhow – a few weeks went past without any change to the buoys, but one morning last week I awoke to the sounds of something very large cruising past me. I popped my head up out of the hatch to see a Department of Fisheries and Oceans and/or Canadian Coast Guard (both were painted on the hull) hovercraft making its way slowly down the creek! The hovercraft – which later research found to be the CCGH Siyay based in Richmond – was outfitted with a crane and a large cargo of cement blocks. I figured they were planning to work on the boom somehow, but instead they spent the day lining both sides of False Creek with smaller, lighted channel buoys, indicating the shipping channel in the center of the Creek. This of course was followed by several days of the VPD visiting any boat anchored too far out into the middle of the Creek, issuing warnings and referring everyone to the notice that anchoring within the commercial shipping lane is banned by Transport Canada.
Personally, I think the buoys are actually a nice touch, and I hope they stay past the Olympics. It’s nice to pull into a bay and have your way clearly marked – it makes everything feel a little bit safer, a bit more professional… dare I say “a bit better-managed”?
Anyhow. Sequential Circus 7 was this weekend – it was excellent, thank you for asking – and as such I didn’t spend much time on the boat. When I returned, I found that someone had been busy, and there were now several large black inflatable sausages stretched across the Creek! They’re about two and a half meters in diameter and appear to be made of a thick rubber, with webbing straps every three meters or so, tie-down grommets on those straps, and large metal rings at the end to fasten the sausages together, or to the shore. In other words, the sausages are clearly designed and built to do one thing only: to operate as a boom or blockade over water.
One question we’d be bantering about on the Creek was what exactly they were planning to use for the boom. One guy thought large logs, another thought a very thick rope – I had no ideas, but apparently the answer was easier than we thought.
While rowing back to Tie Fighter yesterday, I made a short detour out to the opening in the boom, where an RCMP whaler was sitting. As I approached, he was quick to lean out the window and let me know that the area past the boom is now restricted waters – as an aside, I have gotten similar warnings from the people manning blockades as I approached them on my bicycle. Seriously? The huge black barrier, the orange flashing lights and the menacing police boat – or in the case of the roadblocks, the seven people in official-looking uniforms, the flashing lights, the pylons, the big orange-striped barrier sawhorses and the police car parked perpendicularly to the road – do other people really not understand these signs? Or maybe it’s just that the barricades are so universally unpopular that anyone approaching them must be some kind of threat. I don’t know. Anyhow.
The officer, once he understood that I was just there to ask questions, was quite friendly and explained that the boom would be closed to all boats except official VANOC-approved vehicles. The boom is apparently scheduled for removal at the end of March, but the officer did not know whether or not the shipping lane buoys would be removed.
Speaking of speaking with officers, I’ve spoken with two different sets of VPD in the past two days, both of whom were somewhat interested in the fact that my anchoring permit had expired. Each time the R.G.McBeath shows up there are at least two officers onboard, and often more. Yesterday there were four officers, none of whom I recognized, and when I explained to the officer doing the talking that I was planning to leave as soon as I could get my engine started, he answered “I’ll believe that when I see it.”. He then pulled slowly away without saying another word to me. In contrast, when they came by today, it was another batch of officers I’d never seen before, and when I showed them that I’d just gotten my engine running again, the officer in charge said “It’s almost 5pm, why don’t you wait until morning before pulling out, it’ll be dark very soon.”. Nice!
Anyhow. I’ve only blown my deadline by two days, but it’s definitely time to go. The only thing I know to expect is significantly rougher waters – False Creek is very protected, and I’m really not looking forward to just how bad the February weather can be out in the open. Rest assured, I’ll blog about it as I go.