Wednesday, June 01, 2005

MTCMH, Chapter IV - My Buoyant Birthday

Monday, May 30th - and all over the world, in the impossibly tiny silicon switches and magnetic media where my personal data are stored and duplicated many times over, electrons flow and notch my age from 37 (100101) to 38 (100110). I don't feel any older, still a kid inside; and thanks to clean living, I estimate that my outside can still easily pass for 37 1/2.

Gail had dropped only a few mysterious clues about her birthday surprise; only that I would need a hat and sunscreen, as I would be outdoors. We left Socar's and made our way to Beach Avenue, Gail's old neighbourhood, and continued on down to catch the Aquabus across False Creek to Granville Island. Here we checked in for the surprise - Gail rented a motorboat, for us to spend the afternoon on the waters around Vancouver! My eyes lit up at the idea, I love the water and hadn't gone boating in quite a long time.

We first had a great brunch of Indian food at the lively Public Market on the island, which features a vast selection of fresh food and booths for local artists to sell their wares; and Gail stopped to buy a gift for my mother - which I won't describe, as I haven't given it to her yet!

Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
We picked up some snacks and drinks to take out with us, as we planned on staying out a long time; Gail picked healthy fruits for us, while I selected some empty sugar calories (hey, it's my birthday!) and we went back to the docks. The rental guy suggested that we take a larger 17-foot boat, since we planned a longer excursion, and gave us a good rate on a newer motorboat; a really nice one, generations improved over the old outboards I had driven in the past. We lowered the top for optimum photography (and wind-in-the-face fun!) and purred out into False Creek.

The weather was overcast, but not as hot as it had been, and we made our way along the skyline south of Vancouver and out into English Bay. Once clear of the marker buoys, I pushed the throttle over and the outboard roared - quietly! This was definitely a very civilized new boat. But it was quick, and came up on the step smoothly, and handled like a waterborne sportscar. We clipped along to the north, making a wide circle around Stanley Park, and turned into Burrard Inlet. Here there were higher waves, from currents in the channel and the wakes of the huge cargo ships that ply the waters here. I was having a ball - I'm used to boating on Pennsylvania lakes, but here there was so much to boggle at - the huge ships, the bridges soaring over the channel, the bright Vancouver skyline and beautiful Canada Place, where the giant cruise ships depart.

Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
We continued on to the east, noting the warnings on the map on the boat; our plan was to travel all the way up to the end of Indian Arm (here's a downloadable map) past where Gail had been before. We did just that, slowing the boat at times to take pictures, and stopping it when we saw seals in the water - there were quite a few, but they are very boat-shy. I managed to catch a few noses above water with my zoom lens, and also some of the most beautiful scenery anywhere. The low clouds and mist gave a quiet beauty and sense of scale to the soaring mountains on either side of the broad waterway; a few of my photos are here.

Cargo ship
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
Coming back, we worked our way down the western side of the Arm, and stopped in Deep Cove to take on some more fuel. As we came back into the Vancouver area, the sun started to peek through, and we got some wild, pounding wake-jumps from a departing freighter. Ah, to be skimming over the water in a sleek boat, the wind in my hair, a beautiful woman at my side - I told Gail, it lacked only the pursuing boats of the Chinese Mafia, shooting at us with submachine guns, and it could have been a James Bond film! Now that's a birthday.

Back on land, we collected our things and packed the two big suitcases with some of Gail's things for me to take home. We saved this night for just the two of us, and Gail had booked us a room in the historic Sylvia Hotel. Thanks to her, it was the best birthday I've had in a long, long time.

Update: Gail tells her story of the day, with much photographic enhancement, here.