Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hot August Days

On our latest trip to the Republic from July 30th - August 3rd, we had a number of firsts.

1. There was no rain - just hot, dusty summer days. Quite a difference! Thank goodness we had breezes most of the time otherwise I truly wouldn't have lasted - I'm not good with too much heat.
2. We had guests this time: the very brave Hetheringtons, who slept in tents and made do with our supremely limited facilities! Dave helped Neville with the roof shingles, and an extra pair of hands is always a huge help.
3. Neville got to go fishing! He, Dave and Calvin got up early one morning and headed out. Alas, no-one caught anything, however, they saw dolphins and seals and if it were me, the dolphins would more than make up for everything.
4. Although we got in the ferry line-up at Whaletown at 9.30am, we had problems getting on a ferry, finally getting onto the 3.50pm ferry... usually we are prepared for one sailing wait, but this time the busy tourist season, combined with a dangerous cargo sailing and the busiest long weekend of the year ganged up against us. Luckily we had loads of food and drinks, but the book I started reading (not a trashy novel, sadly, a good book :) just didn't grab me, so I was bored. Then I discovered I'd brought my new Dwell magazine with me and that kept me going for a few hours. Hopefully that ferry wait was a LAST as well.
5. We used the showers at Squirrel Cove. Can't wait to get our instant hot water set-up going so we don't have to do THAT again.

In the end we didn't achieve much by way of building, in fact I think the only thing that happened was half the roof is now covered in shingles (the big half). Very importantly, Nev also rigged up a clothesline for the boat, which means the boat is now happily moored no matter what level the tide is.

So what did we learn on this trip? Never go to The Seagull Republic on the August long weekend, for one, or at least don't leave on the Monday or Tuesday. But the biggest lesson is to take some time to do something nice and enjoy the island... all work is not the way this was supposed to be. Are you listening, Nibblet??

Nev working on the roof.

Dave helping out.
Looks like a squatter camp, but there were zones for every function!
Still no refrigerator... sigh...

The clothesline in the making (left) and at work (right).

Cooling off.

Inside, the bunky is getting some homely touches... an oyster shell from our beach on the nightstand and a mini chart of the area on back of the door.

The long wait for a ferry. Yukon looking very pyrenees here!
Nev reading about the man who lived with wolves.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How we came to sleep in the outhouse.

We just completed our longest visit to the Seagull Republic and (drumroll, please) we spent our first night there ever. We went up on Saturday, June 26th and came back Saturday, July 3rd. Sadly, our Simon & Garfunkel reunion concert has been cancelled, so we didn't have to rush back for that on the 3rd.

The Traveling Toilet in the motel Room, awaiting its final journey!

Having booked just two nights in the Cortes Island motel, the plan was to install the composting toilet in our now enclosable outhouse (see blog entry dd June 2nd) on day 1, and then camp in our large tent ("instant cabin") as soon as that was in. However, we ran into Scott, other half of Delia, a local couple we met 2 years back, while waiting for the tide to get high enough to launch the boat when we arrived, and he echoed an opinion we'd been offered before that camping in wolf territory with a large dog was not a great idea. Neville was still pretty gung-ho, but I think the wolfpack decided it once and for all when they set up howling and yapping while we were there on Sunday.

Judging by the noise, it's a huge pack and we heard them several times a day. Although it seems they're still in the Von Donop Inlet area on the other side of Squirrel Cove, wolves travel fast and we know they've been on our land because we have found deer bones and bits of seal on what we fondly call "The Killing Field", a flat piece of land at the highwater mark where we unload the boat.

What to do? We desperately want to be able to stay on The Republic and leave the motel with its 70's sun filter drapes and brown lino for the last time. And then it struck me: build a lean-to outhouse on the side of the already-built outhouse and sleep in the outhouse. Make sense?

So we spent Sunday sketching out a new "room" for what was to become in effect our bunky, and on Monday I "popped" into Campbell River to buy all the lumber while Nev stayed on The Republic to continue putting the cedar siding on our wee house.

Let me explain what popping into CR really means... it means getting in the ferry line up from Cortes at least an hour beforehand to make sure you get on the boat (I did), doing the usual chase across Quadra Island to catch the ferry to CR from Quatiaski Cove, and then doing the 10 minute trip across the strait. The glitch being the Quadra-CR ferry was full when I got in line, so I had to wait for the next sailing. Once in CR, I headed straight to Home Depot... yes, yes, disgusting big box store and all that, but it is on that side of town (not hard in a town like CR) and we had decided to suss out those ugle pre-cut lean-to kits in the interest of a quick build just in case it made sense. Turns out they don't sell them.

A sweet young thing helped me load up my cart with 2X6's, 2X4's, floorboards, rafters and a bunch of other items (I got their last 14 joist hangers!) and even made several cuts for me free of charge. By then I'd been there over an hour, and since they don't sell shakes/shingles, I still had to head out to the the mill to buy a bundle of shingles! So much for my dream of a quick detour at Starbucks to catch up with my inner city girl.

Get to the mill and the sign on the office door said "Office Closed - please speak to Larry in the mill". In true Canadian style, although everything was wide open, Larry and everyone else were nowhere to be found. I had almost given up hope when I spotted him shovelling wood chips. After shoving a $20 bill into his hand,  I had just enough time to race back to the ferry terminal where fortune smiled upon me when BCF staff loaded  those of us heading for Cortes first, to ensure we'd make the 5.05 from Heriot Bay to Whaletown! Phew!!

We loaded most of the lumber on the boat while the tide was high-ish on Monday evening. Our new trick is to let it slide down the ramp by itself! MUCH easier and way more fun. Guess which lazy bugger thought of that (moi).

Tuesday we started building: site clearing meant cutting a log and some scrappy selal. Once we put in two posts, we built a real quick floor system.

Then the floorboards went in, and the cedar barn board siding, which seemed like a quick fix for the non-rain wall.

Before framing up the back wall, I did the VC tile flooring which was left from our Lions Bay reno in 2005. Lesson learned: that adhesive is an utter misery to use - it sticks to everything, inlcuding skin. Then we put the composting toilet in so we wouldn't have to carry it further than necessary. You can see it's rather, er, large.

By the end of Wednesday our new throne was usable. It's pretty open to the breezes, so there's plenty ventilation. We'll probably keep it that way by closing the view ports (woops - AutoCAD term there) with bug screen.

I made it sound easy, but it wasn't. We discovered, even after all our planning, that the roof line would be too low if we installed the rafters on the vertical, so we ended up using them on the flat, which means it's still tight, but a normal size human can still sit on the WC with an inch or two to spare above their head. We also couldn't follow the existing roof line, so we used a different pitch and it looks quite nice. Another woops - somehow one of our carefully installed 4X4 posts must've been bumped and was not quite plumb - if you look you can see it in the pics. This made nailing the siding on a pain since we were using pre-cut lengths.

In the interests of getting the thing built as quickly as possible, the designer on site (moi) had to drill, saw and hammer whenever a tool became available, ie when the construction manager was doing something else. For the first time ever. Sometimes I impress myself. No wonder it rained on Thursday.

Ah - Thursday! Canada Day! We packed up all our belongings and left the motel for the last time.After unloading everything on The Republic, the first thing we did was hang the Maple Leaf and I sang O Canada. It was a very still, grey day, unlike the previous two days when we had some serious SE wind (which is the winter wind). It was surreal. Who'd have thought, when we arrived here almost 10 years ago, that we'd be the very lucky owners of not one, but two beautiful pieces of BC? We are sooo blessed.

After that it was back to work even though we were so tired it was hard to move. And before dark Nev got reaquainted with an old camping tradition: manually pumping up the airbed with a beer in hand. He hasn't had to do that since I bought the new mattress which comes with 12V pump! No such luxury on The Republic yet though. Yukon had never seen the pump before and did not know what to make of it! I think he thought he needed to protect Neville from the new wierd beast.

To use a realty term, our little bunky turned out real COSY. The mattress took up the entire floor, which meant Yukon got to sleep with us, which he's never done before, and he's now 135lbs of dog!!

Notwithstanding the cosiness, it was pretty chilly, so I struggled to get to sleep... and when I finally did, I was woken by Nev who'd gone to check on the boat (no dock, so we have to be sure it's floating with the tide as per lessons learnt last visit). "I think the boat is sinking," he said. My first thought was, "what on earth did we do wrong THIS time??". Although I didn't think it that politely. The F word was in there somewhere. Fortunately by the time we got back down there, the boat was floating, bilge pump going like crazy and all we can think is that the boat got caught up on a rocky ledge, starting filling with water, and then dropped off whatever it was caught on and righted itself. Phew again!!

This is how we left it till next time; next time we hope to finish the roof.

For those of you who haven't nodded off while reading this blog, I can tell you, in closing, that we did manage to have a little down time while we were there, with Rick stopping by and us stopping to say hi to Scott and Delia who were at Nan's place putting in a new deck for her. Very civilised and a wonderful  taste of visits to come.

We have decided to build a larger cabin next year (don't get excited, it'll only have a 400sf footprint), and are seriously researching putting in a dock. On our next visit on the August long weekend, we intend to install two bunks in the bunky so Yukon has place to sleep on the floor. And we hope to finish the roof and do away with the tarp!

One could almost call it civilised! 

Big beautiful sky after the windy days.

SRS The First loaded and ready for the Traveling Toilet's last voyage.

His Royal Cuteness staring anxiously after Neville at the govt. dock. Cute from any angle!

Water like glass.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Why the three-legged stool model of sustainability is a load of BS

If ever there was a wake-up call to those who like to spout off about sustainability being a three-legged stool, the devastating oil spill in the Gulf is it. Only because it's topical and top-of-mind, because there are plenty other signs that have been ignored.

Back to the spill. Here's a prime example of how people and their economy cannot exist without the environment, although the environment would be hugely better off without either.

Experts have been stating for years that the biggest threat to mankind is global warming - crops failing, flooding, droughts leading to wildfires. What does it take to get the message through that, without a healthy planet on which to live, humankind is doomed? With or without money and jobs. Doesn't matter - you kill the environment and humankind dies, too, no matter how much money you have.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

So much to learn...

Our first trip to The Seagull Republic this year did not start well. Firstly, it was supposed to happen over the Victoria Day weekend, but in the end it happened the weekend after. Work and ferry reservations didn't work out.

With so much work and a milestone birthday in this particular week, I scrambled to get everything packed the day before, mainly food since we were booked into Cortes Island Motel for this trip and so we didn't need to pack camp gear (which is the easy part since it's mostly prepacked). Needless to say, this didn't work out so well. Lesson 1. Plan and prepare properly... no garlic for Nev's famous BBQ acorn squash is a major no-no. Never mind other essentials such as a spare pair of jeans (it was raining), the right boots for wading, you get the drift. It was way too cold still for my ATS's (All Terrain Sandals) which the locals certainly commented upon more than once. I'm sure we're the wrong kind of legends already.

Lesson 2 we learned or maybe didn't, we don't know. We thought we did everything right to start with. Suffice to say we got all the way to the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal and then the boat trailer came off and crashed into the back of the pickup. Dinged the tailgate slightly, blew the whole canopy window out. Gave us a fright I must say, sparks all over the road and all that. But how could the trailer NOT have been on right if we got all the way down through the Village (including over the speedbumps at the school), all the way along the Sea to Sky, through the U-turn at Caulfeild, only to have the trailer come off when we were slowly cruising off the highway? We do recall there being autoglass in the prow of the boat when we bought it and now we think this has happened before. We'll never know, but we did replace the ball at Skipper's Marine in Nanaimo.

Lesson 3 was a reminder that no matter what, take everything you need plus some spares since buying on Cortes is not really an option a) because they might not have it and b) Squirrel Cove Store is even more expensive than the Lions Bay Store, which is quite an achievement. So when we got to the motel (same crappy room as last time because we have a dog) and found there was even LESS in the kitchenette than last time, life got just that much more difficult around dinner time.

Oh, and when I say take everything, I mean it - a spare watch would have meant a great deal indeed on Day 2. As the main picture shows, you gotta keep an eye on the tides, so if your watch says it's 10.03am, and when you look again it's still 10.03am and you haven't actually CHECKED on the boat with your own TWO EYES, this is what happens. That's LESSON 3 right there. It didn't really matter because we worked till late anyway. But it is an important lesson to learn. It would also help to learn it the first time since we managed to forget the boat twice (on day 4 as well). Not a problem of course when you have a dock, which we don't yet.

Good news is that everything was as we left it in September - the tarp hadn't budged (pic on left) and we did manage to get a lot done on the outhouse. Yes, I know it must be the longest building phase in the history of 6' X 8' structures, but it is perfect. We bought 3/8" sheathing so it's no longer a shed structure, but will be a complete mini-house once it's done.

We erected the three walls we had framed last year and stick framed the fourth. This provided me with the yurt (square) I have always wanted :) and a dry spot to keep lunch and other stuff.

It rained the entire day and we got pretty wet even though we used the tarp to mitigate the wet and did the roof sheathing first. Yukon was one soggy doggy indeed and he doesn't much like being wet. Once the roof sheathing was up, we convinced him to lie in the slightly dryer area inside the outhouse, but he was still so overjoyed to be leaving at the end of the day that he actually jumped into the boat ahead of us! Highly unusual although I must say on this trip he was in and out the truck and on and off the boat like he's been doing it for years.

This is what it looked like once the sheathing was on. And this is what 5 layers of clothing looks like on.
Lesson 4 was a little more serious: when we tried to leave the Republic and head back to Squirrel Cove on Saturday evening, I pushed the boat off before we got the engine started (lesson 4.1). The engine never started (lesson 4.2) and we had to row to get back to our little cove. Finally after much flooding, we did manage to get going and putter back to the Government Dock and we learned lesson 4.3 the next day, which was completely wasted work-wise because we couldn't start the boat until a friendly guy called Ben came home from work and got it going on Sunday night - wouldn't take any cash at all for helping us, which is one of the reasons we love the island.

While Neville tried to start the boat, I whiled away some moments taking pics because it was one of those beautiful silky-grey mornings with not a ripple in sight.
Of course, Sunday was the day it hardly rained, but on Monday as we headed off to resume our work, it was raining again. But we did get the roofing felt on and now we're set to finish off the door and cladding on the next trip... and get the composting toilet in, I hope, because THIS time we're going to spend the night on The Seagull Republic. Unless of course anything goes wrong. The really exciting part is we can leave all the camp gear there next time, which makes each subsequent trip SO much easier.

But the biggest lesson we learned this time is how little we really need to be comfortable on our land: a tiny bunky is our next big goal... life is so much better when one can get out of the rain and enjoy it! Of course, while we were getting ready to leave, the sun came out. What you can't see in any of our pics is the eerie sound of the wolf pack howling. Quite something to experience - it's chilling even in the middle of the day. So maybe that bunky is a prerequisite to spending the night on The Seagull Republic!