Vancouver, my home, is a beautiful, safe, clean cosmopolitan city of glass towers and green spaces perched between ocean beaches and mountain playgrounds. Yes, this is what it really looks like and yes, we are so lucky.
And if the city itself isn’t spectacular enough, across the romantically named Salish Sea we have Vancouver Island, home to our provincial capital, Victoria. Once derisively called the home of the “newly wed and nearly dead”, Victoria has gone through a renaissance as young professionals seeking (slightly more) affordable homes for themselves and their families move to “the Island”.
The jewels in our geographic crown are the stunning Gulf Islands, a collection of eclectic, magical islands dropped in the middle of the Salish Sea between the mainland and Vancouver Island.
I have the great good fortune of working in both Vancouver and Victoria, traveling back and forth on a regular basis. A scenic, but somewhat time consuming way to travel is on a BC Ferry. Imagine a small cruise ship that loads vehicles from 18 wheel trucks and buses to RV’s and personal cars into the cargo holds, with amenities for several hundred passengers in the passenger lounge areas. And spectacular topside viewing decks. If you have the time, the crossing from the mainland to Vancouver via Active Pass and the Gulf Islands is spectacular.
The last time I sailed over, it was a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon and I was happy to relax in the lounge, reading and taking in the gorgeous scenery. We were all absolutely thrilled when a pod of Orcas (Killer Whales) decided to put on a show off the bow of the ferry. On other trips I’ve seen Orcas hunting seals on the rocky shore line and been entertained by dolphins playing in the ferry wake.
But if you have a bit of spare change, or if it’s a work trip and you have expense account, the only way to go is flying Harbour Air float planes, or in deluxe mode, Helijet. You can ride in style on a Sikorsky from Vancouver harbour to Victoria in 35 minutes. And it’s AMAZING! This was a fun, sunny trip last summer. My commute never looked so good.
Tonight it was Harbour Air on a 12 seater float plane and it was my lucky day because I finally got to ride co-pilot! It was a blast to watch the pilot doing his thing to get us safely back to Vancouver.
This is what the little float planes look like on a sunny day in Victoria So cute, so much fun!
This is what it looked like when we landed in Vancouver today. Less cute, more dodgy.
Part of the serious responsibilities of the co-pilot is wearing the headset and monitoring air traffic control (well I wasn’t really monitoring, that’s the pilots job). But I did get to listen in. Who knew there were so many planes and helicopters flying through the Gulf Islands that they need air traffic control for both harbours. As we left Victoria we had to check in with air traffic control for a weather update (rainy, not too windy but a growing chop coming up on the water) and then get our direction for take off and cruising altitude.
As we headed into Vancouver, we flew straight into this big black cloud.
We had a Sikorsky off our right wing, it went past us and then we all dropped down to get under the weather. We were not much above the water, following each other into Vancouver as we were passed off to the surveillance of the Vancouver harbour air traffic control. Loved listening to all the chatter between the air traffic control and the planes, it was a whole different flying experience. Home looked a bit gloomy on final approach, that was only outdone by how damn cold and rainy it was when we landed!
If you live here and have to go to the Island or are visiting Vancouver and have some time and money, fly to Victoria for the day, it is a trip you will never forget, though maybe do it on a sunny day!
Check out our local Island boys, Towers and Trees, with their dreamy song for the magical place we call home, the “West Coast”.