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Seaplane

Started: 2019-08-23 12:25:22

Submitted: 2019-08-23 09:48:55

Visibility: World-readable

27th July 2019: In which the intrepid narrator wraps up his time in Victoria with random tourist sights and a seaplane tour of Vancouver Island

On my last day in Victoria, I had most of the day to see things in the city before my ferry left at 19:00.

Statue of Queen Victoria and the BC Legislature
Statue of Queen Victoria and the BC Legislature

I went back to Mo:Lé Restaurant for breakfast (eating the griddle cakes this time), then went to British Columbia Maritime Museum. This tiny museum started with an exhibit on ocean trash, especially the Pacific garbage patches. Its permanent collection focused on the steam ship era in British Columbia's history, when steam ships were the only major mode of transportation between Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle, and the towns along the Straight of Georgia and the Inside Passage. The collection included detailed scale models of all of the ships -- including one ship that went down with all hands after hitting a rock.

Diorama of the last spike at Miniature World
Diorama of the last spike at Miniature World

After the maritime museum I got coffee and found a sandwich for lunch, then went to Miniature World, a slightly-kitschy display filled with elaborate dioramas. The first gallery showed a blacklight sci-fi display of spaceships and space stations, then I saw military dioramas recreating battles mostly from the Second World War, and then a very long display wrapping around the corner showing the trans-Canada railroad, from its terminus on the Pacific coast through the Canadian Rockies, past the golden spike joining the two halves of the railroad, and onto the plains.

Diorama of a spiral tunnel at Minature World
Diorama of a spiral tunnel at Minature World

The most impressive display was a working miniature sawmill, built at about 1:10 scale, shown with figures working the controls on the mill and moving logs in place to be cut into boards. The whole thing was covered in saw dust, and a video showed the system in action, narrated by its creator (because the saw dust was a fire hazard so they couldn't actually have it running).

Working scale model sawmill at Minature World
Working scale model sawmill at Minature World

The path snaked through rest of the displays, showing cars, native people, dollhouses, and an elaborate series of dioramas from the legend of Camelot. (One of the displays, depicting interactions between native people and settlers, included a footnote pointing out that the original text -- written when the dioramas were created in the middle of the twentieth century -- used antiquated language now considered offensive, but the original text was maintained to as a window into how people viewed the past.) The last display was a circus train setting up a show; and then I left the darkened exhibits and emerged onto the sidewalk not far from where I entered.

Haida village diorama at Minature World
Haida village diorama at Minature World

I dropped by the Greater Victoria Public Library - Central Branch, mostly because this is the sort of thing Kiesa would do, but she didn't arrive in Victoria until the evening, after the library was closed. In the atrium in front of the entrance to the library there was a large helical sculpture climbing three stories to the glass at the top of the atrium.

Helical sculpture at the Victoria Public Library
Helical sculpture at the Victoria Public Library

Inside the entrance there was a quote wrapping around the entry:

"You see, I don't believe that libraries should be drab places where people sit in silence, and that's been the main reason for our policy of employing wild animals as librarians." - Monty Python's Flying Circus
Entry atrium at the Victoria Public Library
Entry atrium at the Victoria Public Library

I looked around the stacks for a few minutes, then made my way to the little seaplane terminal in the inner harbour. I checked in to my seaplane tour flight, then waited for my flight to be called (according to the color of reusable plastic boarding pass I was given).

When my flight was called I walked out onto the seaplane dock and found the DHC-3T "Turbine Otter" seaplane waiting for my tour. I boarded, along with the other passengers, and got a window seat under the wing, right in front of the boarding door. The ground crew trimmed the weight by directing passengers where to sit; then the pilot looked back from the open cockpit and asked if anyone wanted to sit up front. Before I realized what he was asking one of the other passengers raised their hand and joined the pilot, sitting in the right seat in the cockpit.

Looking out the window of a Harbour Air seaplane in Victoria Harbour
Looking out the window of a Harbour Air seaplane in Victoria Harbour

We pushed off from the dock and taxied into takeoff position in the inner harbour, then took off to the west. We stayed over the harbour, then turned east into the straight of Juan de Fuca, giving me a great view of the cruise ship terminal -- mostly empty ahead of the cruise ships' arrival in the evening -- and the breakwater at the mouth of the harbour.

Breakwater Lighthouse in Victoria Harbour
Breakwater Lighthouse in Victoria Harbour

We flew east along Victoria, past the landmarks I walked by the day before on the south shore of the city of Victoria at the southern end of Vancouver Island.

Victoria from the air
Victoria from the air

We turned to the north to follow the Haro Strait, staying on the Canadian side of the international border, with San Juan Island lurking in the distance just on the other side of the strait. From my seat on the left side of the plane, I could only catch a glimpse of the US side of the straight, but I got a great view of the islands on the Canadian side.

Chatham Islands
Chatham Islands

We flew north to Salt Spring Island, then turned south into the Saanich Inlet. All of the islands were spectacular and I began to lose track of which island was what; I stopped taking pictures and just watched the sea and land, all carved by glaciers during the last ice age, the distinctive shape of the exposed rock still bearing witness to the geologic forces that shaped it.

Islands in the Straight of Georgia
Islands in the Straight of Georgia

We climbed in a helix to get enough altitude to cross over land, then cut across the city of Victoria before lining up to land in Victoria Harbour.

Victoria from the air
Victoria from the air

Then we were back on the water, and the vibrating thrum of the turbine engine and prop were outweighed by the dampening effect of the water beneath the plane's pontoons.

Harbour Air seaplane lands on Victoria Harbour
Harbour Air seaplane lands on Victoria Harbour

We taxied back across the harbour to the seaplane dock, and disembarked onto the dock.

Passengers disembark from a DHC-3T
Passengers disembark from a DHC-3T

I lingered for a selfie at the front of the plane.

Jaeger with a DHC-3T
Jaeger with a DHC-3T

Back on dry land, I headed to Tacofino for an early supper, then headed back towards the ferry terminal. I got ice cream on the quay and ate it in the spectacular bright afternoon sun. I picked up my bag at my hotel, then made my way to the ferry terminal. The queue leading to US immigration and customs was empty when I arrived, forty-five minutes before the ferry was scheduled to depart (towards the end of the window the ferry company told me to arrive). I showed my NEXUS card to the officer and the only question he asked was whether I had any customs declarations ("are you bringing anything back with you?"), then he waved me on into the waiting area.

In contrast to the immigration queue, the waiting area was packed with all of the passengers waiting for the ferry. Soon we began boarding, and eventually I joined the line of people heading out onto the dock and onto the ferry. I took a window seat on the second deck and waited for the ferry to depart. It pushed away from the dock right on time, and I walked out to the open-air deck aft of the passenger cabin to watch the city of Victoria receded behind the ferry.

Victoria behind the ferry
Victoria behind the ferry

I watched from my window as we crossed the Straight of Juan de Fuca, and the sun set over the water. When we docked in Seattle I caught a Lyft to the house, arriving late in the evening after three good days in Victoria.

Sun setting over Puget Sound
Sun setting over Puget Sound
We reject kings, presidents, and voting.
We believe in rough consensus and running code.
- Dave Clark, 1992