We were on a bit of a high after our latest adventure with our bike canoe trailer, and we were excited to take it out again. Luckily I already had an adventure up my sleeve. A campsite booked at Sayshutsun (Newcastle Island) just off the coast of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Bike the canoe to the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal, walk the canoe onto the ferry, paddle the canoe across to Newcastle Island. Simple enough, but we knew it was going to be a long day, so we got up for an early start (at least for us).
Biking 30km through town with a canoe and three children turned out to a significant amount of work. F biked the first 20 km by herself, so the first part seemed pretty casual for Christian and I, although F was very disstressed going along the causeway and over Lions gate bridge. She found the cars too loud. I had done a recon trip to Lions gate bridge the week before to measure the narrowest spots, making sure the canoe trailer would fit across. The alternative would be paddling, but the shipping lanes make this somewhat more complicated than one might naively imagine. Christian was a bit worried about blocking bike traffic on the bridge, due to the width of the canoe, but managed to do the entire thing (start of the causeway downtown to North Van) in about 15 minutes and was only passed by a single cyclist who he pulled over for at one of the lookout spots.
After crossing the bridge we all needed a break, so we pulled over at Ambleside park for a play and some ice cream. We wanted to catch the 2.30pm ferry so we cut the play shorter than the kids preferred, but we knew the hardest of the pedaling was still to come. F continued on her own bike until we no longer had a choice other than Marine Drive. We didn't feel comfortable having her bike on the narrow busy road, so she went on the back of Christian's bike, while I took her bike. At this point there was an hour and forty minutes until the ferry left. It is only a 10km stretch, but it does gain (and loose) 150 m in elevation. At this point my rig weighed more than 200 lbs and Christian's more than 300 lbs (we weighed all the stuff and bikes after the trip - after consuming our food - and came up with 532 lbs total). It is a long time since I have worked that hard, but the thought of missing the ferry made me keep pushing. We were pleasantly surprised at how safe it felt - going downhill we were fast enough that no cars tried to pass, and uphill we were going so slow that it was much actually much easier for them to pass than going regular cycling speed (only slightly slower than the cars); plus the sheer size of the canoe seemed to prevent them from doing anything unintelligent. We rolled into Horseshoe Bay with a good thirty minutes to spare - both exhausted. We still managed to miss the ferry though as the girl in the ticket booth was of the opinion that there was no other way for us to get the canoe around the fenced off ferry area than to bike several kilometres back to rejoin the highway and then return to the terminal this way. This turned out to be untrue, you can just go where the baggage truck goes, but by the time we had this confirmed there were no longer any tickets available for the sailing. It therefore ended up being past 7pm by the time we rolled the canoe off the ferry in Nanaimo. We docked on Newcastle just as the sun was setting.
The next day I would have normally chosen to sleep in, but instead I chose to have children, so I got up with the little ones early. I strolled them around one of the trails for a while before we had breakfast. I think I had a nap after breakfast or at least I like to imagine that I did. We spent the rest of the day doing exactly what the kids wanted. Play on the beach, go to the playground, bike on the sandstone, find sand dollars and a little bit of swimming. Friends from Nanaimo made a visit in the afternoon, we haven't actually seen many people since the pandemic started, so it was a great opportunity to spend some time with friends (2m apart).
On Sunday it was time to head back. We knew it was going to be a long day, so we opted for an early start, hoping for the 10.30am ferry. We must have set some sort of family packing record that morning, because it only took us 1.5 hours from we woke up until we were on the water. Everyone was fed, everyone had been to the washroom, gear was packed down and portaged to the beach and everything in the boat. Even the family having breakfast on the beach was impressed - they send us off with an applause. It seemed like we were going to make the ferry, but it also seemed a little bit too good to be true, and it was. As we turned around the south end of the island we started feeling the wind that we had heard rustling the trees all morning. It still wasn't too bad, but as we rounded the southern most tip to turn into the narrow canal separating us from Nanaimo we found the wind roaring directly down the channel. I don't know what the wind speed was, but there were whitecaps everywhere and the aviation windsock at the seaplane terminal was blown straight out, except during lulls when the last segment dipped slightly, and we watched a seaplane take off into the wind at a walking pace. We pulled over right away. We needed a new plan. I did not want to risk capsizing with the baby in the canoe, so I quickly decided that I would take all the kids on the little passenger ferry back to Nanaimo. Christian would attempt the crossing with the canoe and the most waterproof of our gear. So much for being on time for the ferry.
In Nanaimo I pushed the chariot with all our loose gear, while F and N biked along the seawall. It would have been a lovely walk/bike if I hadn't been worrying about Christian. Luckily we basically arrived at the ferry terminal at the same time. He had made it across after arranging the gear for maximum stability in the wind and very carefully ferrying across the channel. Plenty of leaning hard over the gunnels on one side while paddling on the other. Instead of paddling the rest of the way to the terminal, he was going to fetch the canoe trailer and walk along the seawall, but a guy in a motorboat had watched him struggle across (expecting him to capsize and needing a rescue, as it turns out) and offered to tow the canoe up the channel once Christian made it into the lee of the yacht moorages. Needless to say that we were not on the morning or the noon ferry, but at least we made it on the early afternoon ferry. Despite the event filled morning we knew that the largest challenge was still to come - getting F to pedal as much of the way home as possible.
It was now a sunny Sunday afternoon and the West Vancouver waterfront was packed. It made it challenging to navigate with a 6 year old and a canoe. F and I ended up ahead of Christian on the bridge, as he couldn't make it up the normal cycling approach and had to backtrack to approach from Marine Drive, which made him a little slower. A guy on an e-bike (the kind you don't pedal at all yourself) had to wait a few minutes to pass at the lookout, and when it was time for him to pass us he was very rude and yelled at me for letting my 6 year old bike. F was discouraged at this point, so she got a short ride on Christian's bike to prospect point. She managed the rest of the ride through Stanley park, but we decided that it was time to pick up the speed, so she went back on the haul-a-day. We had a small stop at the Science world playground, and then arrived home just around bedtime. It had been a long day for all of us. Christian and I decided that, although it was an adventure, biking the canoe to the Horseshoe Bay ferry will probably not be repeated until the kids can ride the whole way themselves.
Say Nuth Khaw Yum
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Malcolm and Cormorant island
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The bike canoe trailer
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