Episode 13: Victoria

So we were at the end of the road. Our last episode took us to British Columbia’s capital, Victoria, at the southern tip of Vancouver Island. We’d been on the road filming for a month and working from north to south it was only natural to finish off the series in our Province’s capital. We checked in at Swans Hotel and Brewpub, very nice digs by the way, and grabbed a bite to eat before catching an early night for we had a busy couple of days lined up.

At Fisherman's Wharf

Our first visit was to the CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum where Sara, the Public Affairs Officer for the Navy, had lined up a tour of the museum and a couple of interviews. We rolled up to the security booth, showed our IDs, and followed the painted blue line to the museum, simple as that. Our first interview was with a volunteer, Paul, a retired serviceman who had flown fixed wing aircraft and Sea King helicopters. He was one of the last pilots to land on a Canadian aircraft carrier back in the day and boy could he tell a good story, but I'll save that for the TV show. Then there was Norm, who went over some of the models on display and rattled off some stats. Did you know that at the end of the Second World War Canada had the fourth largest navy in the world! Apparently so. It was a real pleasure talking with them both as they were passionate about their roles at the museum and the navy. Going to museums is definitely about seeing exhibits and boning up on history, but it’s also about talking to volunteers that put the meat on the bones of what one is looking at. Both Paul and Norm did just that. Then it was time for an interview with the Acting Base Commander, Cdr. Boutin. It was a very enlightening interview and not what I expected at all. Having spent five years in the military and being subject to it’s structure I was caught a bit off guard by Cdr. Boutin. She had an interesting story to be sure, of joining the Navy and becoming a Wren, then joining a second time and moving up through the ranks to where she is now, Acting Base Commander of CFB Esquimalt. That’s an incredible journey by anyone's measure, and is a huge testament to how far woman have come in the Canadian military. Canada really is at the forefront in this area which is impressive, but I think what caught me off guard a little more than that was her sense of humour. She was a riot, I know I probably shouldn’t be speaking in such a way of an officer of the Canadian Forces, but it was so refreshing considering the sometimes very staid image some of the officers put forth. Time moves on, technologies change, and so do personnel. During my time in the military I came to realize that one of the greatest attributes an officer can have is the ability to communicate effectively with their subordinates whilst maintaining the respect that goes with their rank. It's a very fine line, especially in today's 'social media' world, but one that I suspect Cdr. Boutin walks with ease. It was a fun interview, and for that we thank you Cdr. Boutin, and thank you Paul and Norm for your time and great stories, and Sara, a huge thank you to you as well for lining up such a great shot list. Cheers!

Acting Base Commander Cdr. Boutin giving us some background

Norm filling in the blanks

HMCS Beacon Hill

Paul getting animated

Launching depth charges

Attack diver

The museum, open to the public Mon - Fri 10:00am - 3:30pm entry by donation. Check it out!

With time unspooling we whipped over to Fisherman’s Wharf in time for a whale watching excursion with Eagle Wing Tours. Brett, at Eagle Wing, hadn’t hesitated in ‘comping’ us a couple of tickets so we could film, and what an outing it was. Before Victoria I had never gone on a whale watching tour, the fact we’d lucked out on the Uchuck III and the MV Francis Barkley were bonuses, lucky spottings during water born passages. This on the other hand was a dedicated ‘whale watching’ tour, so I was interested to see how it would turn out. Just as our Grizzly Bear viewing trip out of Campbell River, we embarked on the tour with the knowledge that there were no guarantees where nature's concerned, so I had some doubts.

An amazing day on the water

As it turned out we didn’t have to worry. After clearing the harbour Captain Rod throttled up ‘4 Ever Wild’ and we motored out to smooth waters. For whatever reason we’d been blessed with good weather during the filming of our series and today was no exception. The overcast sky that started out with us gave way and everything smoothed over, the water, the sky, and even the sun. It was quite a surreal experience, like the calm before the storm, only the storm never came. Instead there were Humpback whales on either side of the vessel. I can’t say I’d ever thought I would complain of too many whales but for a couple of instances I was torn as to which side to film off as we had pairs on either side. It was an amazing time on the water with the crew helping spot whales and giving talks on what we were seeing. And for me, I thought that was the trip, we’d seen the whales, now let's head back, only we didn't. Turns out Eagle Wing isn’t just a whale watching outfit, it's also a ‘wildlife’ tour, so we motored over to Race Rocks Lighthouse to admire the sea lions. They were everywhere, both Steller and California varieties shared the rocks around the lighthouse, and of course there were also some seals in the picture. From there we headed toward the shore and followed it north a ways as we spotted a Bald Eagle, a Blue Heron and other seals. It was like an open water safari, cameras instead of guns. We followed the coast a ways, looking for elusive Orcas but our luck ran short on them, so the skipper nudged the bow back toward Victoria and we motored home. For the awesome afternoon we’d like to thank Brett at Eagle Wing Tours for setting it up and Rod and the crew on ‘4 Ever Wild’ for doing such a great job. Amazing. Thank you!

Thank you Rod

Eagle Wing whale watching boats

'4 Ever Wild' - a sweet ride

Sea lions at Race Rocks

Then it was back to Swans for an ‘honest beer’ and burger. Swans was an interesting choice for us. Obviously we like Brewpubs, but we also like heritage buildings, good locations, and art. Just so happened Swans had it all. Swans was the vision of Michael C. Williams, a local Victorian that believed in preserving heritage and adorning it with eclectic art. By the time of his death he had accumulated numerous properties in Victoria and one of the largest private art collections in Canada, some of which is still on display throughout the building. We were fortunate that the manager, Isaac, arranged a tour of the artwork by one of the staff, Stacey, which was very interesting, and when we'd done that the Brewmaster, Andrew, invited us into the brewery for an 'Honest Beer.' Yes, that's their branding, and I have to concur after imbibing on a couple of brown ales, very honest indeed! For the tour and the room we'd like to thank Swans and Isaac for putting it together for us. And as we're talking about beer I guess a 'cheers' would be in order.

The Swans - a cool heritage building

VIP parking

Stacey giving a tour

Jason and Isaac

Brewmaster Andrew

Michael C. Williams - a very interesting man

Our last day of filming took us out to CFB Esquimalt again, this time for a tour of the harbour. We connected with Sara at the museum then whipped down to one of the docks where a very impressive naval tug, the Glendyne, came and picked us up. I’m not sure what we were thinking, a rigid hulled Zodiac or something similar, but definitely not a tug, and was she a beauty. For the next hour we cruised around the harbour and got a good sense of how things worked. The facility has an fascinating history as it served the British Navy before the Canadian navy was a thought. When the Brits finally left, the base fell dormant for a few years before the Canadian Navy was formed and took it over. Many of the buildings from that time still exist including an old dry dock from ‘back in the day.’ The tour was impressive and the Glendyne turned out to be the perfect vessel for it. It doesn't have traditional screws you see, but two sets of blades that hang down on each side at midships. 'Like a pair of blenders,' was how the drive system was explained to us. Because of the technology the Glendyne could literally turn on it's own footprint, which was very important considering one of her main jobs was to move vessels around the harbour.

The Glendyne, what a way to see the harbour!

Cheers Captain John

Thank you very much Sara!

Quite the show

Part of the line-up

The crew on the Glendyne were incredible. It was great to feel their enthusiasm regarding what was going on in the harbour and what was considered a committed future to the force by the government. Very impressive tour, thank you Captain John, and thank you again Sara.

And that was that. Our month of exploring Vancouver Island had come to an end by the inner harbour of Victoria. It had been an incredible month, we’d seen a whole lot more of the island then we could have imagined. Thirteen destinations, numerous activities and a whack of interviews. Dominik painted throughout the month and his paintings are for sale on the site. He also gathered a lot of reference material that he’ll use for future gallery paintings and I think we’ve got the footage we need for a good second series of Changing Landscapes, once I put it all together that is. In closing I’d just like to encourage you to check back now and then for news of how things are going. The object of the month on the road was to film obviously, so that was my primary focus. The blogs, well I wrote the blogs for two reasons. The first was so you could see where we’d been and what we’d done, kinda of like an itinerary of places and actions if you will. To that effect they aren’t particularly detailed as we want to take you to these spots in the show, not write about them in the blogs. The second reason for the blogs was one that I thought was equally, if not more important. There was a great deal of time and effort put in by Dominik and I to make Changing Landscapes Vancouver Island happen, but it’s because of all those folks that said ‘Yes’ when we asked them for assistance that made the show a possibility. We stayed at some pretty impressive places, visited some great museums, and embarked on some very cool adventures during the month of filming. All of that was a direct result of the kindness of people and businesses on Vancouver Island, so I wanted to make sure that during each episode they were mentioned and thanked in the blog. They were the largest factor in this production, and for that I'd like them to know that's how we feel.

And for all you reading this that helped in some way, you know who you are…thank you!

And that's a wrap!