Sunday, July 27, 2008

"I Just Wanted to Get Home Early" on the COHO Ferry

Victoria, British Columbia is like the grand finale of a fine show. This harbor city bustled with activity. People crowded the streets. Water taxis zipped across the harbor. First Nation vendors sold beaded jewelry and wood carvings. Musicians created a rhythm with drums and guitars. Street performers entertained crowds riding unicycles nearly ten-feet high. Government buildings, condos and hotels dominated the land side skyline. Flowering baskets and gardens decorated the harbor walkways. Sailing ships, small tour crafts, and ferry boats floated in the harbor. Float planes flew overhead. Noise, color, and excitement – the life of this city made it a fitting place for the finale, our departure from Vancouver Island.

During our stay on Vancouver Island, we collected sand dollars on the quite algae draped shorelines of Parksville. We strolled the nearly deserted beaches of the Pacific Rim National Park. And, we rested beneath the canopy of the woodlands in a Provincial Park. Quiet, green, and peaceful – the tempo of the island lead up to the striking contrast experienced in Victoria.

I liked Victoria’s send off. We arrived there with the hope of catching a late day COHO Ferry back “home” to the USA. Although the 3:30 PM ferry had no room for our coach and car, we secured a reservation for the 7:30 PM ride, a sunset cruise.

A custom’s officer checked our passports and cargo around 6 PM – one Canadian, one US citizen, no guns, no tobacco, and bit of Mexican tequila in the ‘frig. He gave us an orange slip of paper for the coach windshield marked with a number “2” as our permission to board the ferry.

A ferry worker directed Ed to pull the coach tight against the center wall of the vehicle deck. Then, the man moved to the front of the coach motioning Ed to pull closer and closer until I jumped up to the windshield. I had to look over the nose of the coach to assure myself the guy would not be crushed by our chrome bumper. From my seat, it looked as if he’d be sandwiched between our bumper and the flatbed ahead of us. He stopped us just in time. Later, when I commented on his confidence, trust in big rig drivers, and bravery to simply stand there motioning us forward, he smiled. “I was just looking to get sent home early,” he teased. A bump with our bumper would have surely sent him to the hospital not just home early!

On the ferry passenger deck, the buzz of Victoria continued. People took seats on the upper passenger deck for choice views of our ferry voyage. Children challenged the watchful eyes of their parents scampering up stairs labeled “Watch Your Step” or leaning over railings to peer into the water. Once the ferry pulled away from the dock, the scene changed.

The sun faded over the horizon. The air temperature dropped. The movement of the vessel sent bone chilling wind through the fibers of the thickest of fleece jackets and denim pants. Everyone retreated to the protected interior of the passenger lounge where panoramic windows still offered a view but the structure blocked the wind.

When the ferry docked in Port Angeles, Washington less than two hours later, the quiet we experienced on Vancouver Island had returned. There was a gentle thump of the ferry against the pier, the lap of water on the hull, and the lone call of a seagull.

July 23, 2008

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