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Bob's Blog

Water Category

The "Master"

bc-tugboat-nixon-100616.jpgI may be wrong but I believe no one ever demonstrated against the decision to put the Bluenose on Canada's dime.  No offence to the beaver, the loon, the wapiti and the rest, but the dime is my favourite coin, because a wooden sailing ship is a miracle.  Take some lengths of lumber and saw, plane, steambend and spoke-shave them into a craft that can safely cross the seas. 

Not many wooden boats are made anymore, but those that survive can trace their roots back to the ancients who saw in tree trunks a means to transform their world.  I suspect it's this communion with the past that inspires such devotion among the wooden boat folk in B.C.   They display a mild sort of reverence for watery workhorses like the steam powered "Master".  The skill that went into building that tug decades ago got displayed recently when she went into dry-dock for repairs.  It was worth a peek.  Steam Tug icon_video.gif

A Day at the Pool

bc-lifeguard-nixon-100613.jpgAs a kid, nothing outraged me more than having to prove to a lifeguard that I really could swim.  Sure they were just making sure I was not going to drown, but I saw it as a power play against me.  I was a little kid and this adult refused to believe me when I told them the truth - that I was a good swimmer.  I felt their true agenda was simply to torture me psychologically, make me feel weak and small. 

Watching this universal lifeguard/child drama play out again recently made me think that maybe I was not all that far off the mark.  Maybe in my day, lifeguards really were out to get me.  Because the way Gail the Lifeguard treats kids these days is quite different.  She gets them to think they're doing her a favour by demonstrating their swimming skills.  That could be one reason why she is a Lifeguard Champ icon_video.gif

Navy Centennial

bc-navy-nixon-100504.jpgGrowing up in Winnipeg, I always wondered why that city had a Navy post, HMCS Chippawa. just north of the Donald Street Bridge.  It is not on water, a block from the Assiniboine River and about a thousand kilometres from saltwater, Hudson Bay.  But tons of prairie kids learned their sea skills there and my father was one of them.  Thanks to the Navy, he and, through him,  I learned to love what Melville called the watery part of the world. 

So it was a great thrill for me to ask my dear friends in CBC Archives to assist in finding old film and video of the Navy in action for a story about the 100th anniversary of its founding in May of 1910.  The story of this force is long and justly celebrated and I could only skirt a few of the highlights in this piece.  By the way, why is there a base in Winnipeg?  In addition to offering Sea Cadet training to kids like my Dad, it also recruited prairie men and (eventually) women to the Navy, almost eight thousand sailors during the Second World War.  Navy 100 icon_video.gif

Howie the Whale?

bc-whale-nixon-100503.jpgI have done a couple of wildlife stories in Squamish over the past couple of years and both involved very good news.  The first was two years ago when massive numbers of herring arrived to lay eggs in the estruary, after largely ignoring the area for decades.  Much of the credit for the revival was due to the Squamish Riverkeepers, who had worked with industry to wrap creosote soaked pilings in non-toxic fabric so the eggs laid on the pilings could survive. 

Some people believe the success of that project, coupled with other efforts to revive the estruary, is linked to the arrival of the first Gray Whale in 100 or more years to feed in the shallow waters off Squamish.  Whatever the reason, it certainly drew scores of people to the Squamish Spit, many of whom were among to the first to catch a glimpse of this leviathan.  But let me tell you, when that whale is a few kilometres away, it is not easy to film.  Though we saw it rise more than a dozen times, we managed just one brief shot of it. Gray Whale icon_video.gif



Blue Whale

bc-whale-nixon-100407.jpgOver the past few years, I have been lucky enough to make a number of stories about Andrew Trites' efforts to bring a blue whale skeleton to UBC's new Beaty Biodiversity Museum.   As a marine mammal expert, Trites usually focusses on the mystery of why the Stellar Sea Lion's numbers are dropping on the west coast.  But anyone who has visited the Biodiversity Centre at UBC can see all manner of remarkable whale, seal and sea lion skeletons suspended in the most strangely lifelike poses.  Now he and his colleagues have succeeded in bringing this amazing acquisition to the now completed Museum.  It has been a journey that has taken this unfortunate whale - apparently the victim of a collission with an ocean freighter more than 20 years ago - from coast to coast.  Skeleton Arrival icon_video.gif

Aquatic Astronauts

bc-astronauts-nixon-100331.jpgAnyone remember the Tom Swift books for boys?  They gave the Hardy Boys a run for the money back in the 60s space race.  All kinds of Grade Six lads read them and watched Johnny Quest and Lost in Space on TV, dreaming that one day they too could become astronauts. 

I never joined the craze and do not know why.  Maybe it was because I realized that it would never happen to me and even now am one who would rather canoe a river than stare down at it from outer space (though if I could do both....).  Still, when Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield popped into town to learn how to drive an underwater rover, I admit to slight excitement.  He is, after all, a Canuck who has spent 14 hours walking in space outside the shuttle.  And like all things space related, his current project is high tech and really cool.  Watery Rocketmen icon_video.gif



Frozen Paint

bc-ice-nixon-100117.jpgWhat Canadian has not made at least one snowman during their lifetime?  Even if you live in Vancouver, the winter generally provides ample opportunities to play with snow and ice.  Not so much this year, but as the Olympic folk keep reminding us, the snow is not over yet.  But one group of folk have been working in sub-zero temperatures for more than a month - right here in the lower mainland - creating a unique Olympic display.  It about coloured ice for a giant painting at Richmond City Hall.  I did not understand it either, so I headed down to see what was going on.  Ice Art icon_video.gif

Christmas Camping

bc-christmas-nixon-net.jpgI confess this is my second kick at this story.  Last year, when Vancouver was digging out from all the snow, I decided that some souls must have seen opportunity in all the white stuff and decided to head to Porteau Cove, the nearest provincial campsite.  I was wrong, it was completely empty even though it was a very romantic looking spot - though bloody cold. 

So this year I headed up there once again, and discovered that yes - a few adventurous souls did think a waterfront campsite is the perfect place to spend the Christmas weekend.  Watch this story and tell me if you'll be doing the same thing next year.  Winter at Porteau icon_video.gif

Pool Lineup

Sure the weather is hot, people are looking for a way to cool off. 

Viking Ship

  You've got to love this boat.  Two hour sails on English Bay.  An experienced and friendly crew.  A chance to for some hands on sailing. 

Osprey Magic

One of the great things that can happen when you wander about with a video camera is you discover stories that are even better than the one you intended to shoot.  Case in point, this one.