Go West, Day 17 – Nanaimo, BC

Author: Larry St Aubin

Today we are taking the ferry to begin our exploration of Vancouver Island. First stop will be Nanaimo. Before heading to the ferry, we take a stroll along Coal Harbour. A lot of things happened today so it is a long post.

Nanaimo Tourism: “We would like to gratefully recognize and acknowledge that we live, learn, and work, on the unceded territories of the Snuneymuxw, Snaw-naw-as, and Stzuminus people. We also acknowledge the ancestral and continued connection to this land of the Métis Nation.”

Coal Harbour Seawall – Vancouver. Despite the fact that Coal Harbour is right downtown, it’s a surprisingly calm little neighbourhood, right on the water’s edge. It’s even more surprising given its industrial history as a former shipyard sitting right next to the railway terminus. The area starts at Canada Place and stretches west to Stanley Park, and is bordered by Burrard Inlet to the north, West Georgia Street to the south. Coal Harbour is a charming mix of business and residential, being home to both the Vancouver Convention Centre as well as condo towers. Around this area the locals and visitors mingle on the Seawall. There are neighbourhood cafes and restaurants, a popular marina, and the odd harbour seal bobbing around and greeting passersby.

There is an Urban Fare open for breakfast. Ham and Swiss omelette gets the day started off.

Now it is time to check out and say goodbye to Vancouver

Horseshoe Bay. We are 2 hours early for the ferry so I decided to head to the Horseshow Bay Village. Exit 3 is the same exit as the ferry terminal but the 2 lanes are clearly separated by a wall. The outside parking lots are packed. The inside one is almost filled. I can’t figure out why, on a Sunday morning, so many cars. And the minimum time I can choose on the meter is 6 hours. Who wants to be in this village for that long?

We take a stroll to a viewing point. I can see the ferry in the background

I ask the ferry information person about the cars. He explains that people park here and then walk on to the ferry. I then ask him how do I get to the ferry from the village with a car. I have to drive back out to the highway, take Exit 4 then turn around to come back to Exit 3. Sure enough, as I reach Exit 4, there are clear signs on how to U-turn back to the ferry. I’m not the only one.

I pull up to the booth to have my ticket scanned. The woman sees Eve and Greta looking at her and asks – “Do they want a cookie”. Of course their ears perk up at this work. I said yes and she gives me two on a pink slip. The slip is to let the staff know I have paid.

I pull into lane 2 and head toward the ferry. Lanes 3 and 4 are a long line of cars. Lane 2 I’m the second car. Means I won’t have to wait long to park in my spot.

Ferry Queen of Oak Bay. We are taking this one to Vancouver Island. The ferry has a pets area where Greta has a pee. Unfortunately, the paper towel dispenser is empty. We leave Greta’s statement on the floor.

The following account of the Queen of Oak Bay accident from Wikipedia.

“The vessel underwent a $35 million mid-life upgrade in early 2005 at Vancouver Drydock Company in North Vancouver. The project prepared the vessel for another 20 years of service with upgrades to engineering components, lifesaving equipment and improvements to onboard services. Major maintenance work included steel replacement, piping and cable renewal, hull sandblasting and extensive painting. The vessel was outfitted with four state-of-the art marine evacuation systems, supplemented by two rescue boats and eight life rafts. She returned to service on June 13, 2005”

“On June 30, 2005, at about 10:10 in the morning (17:10 UTC), Queen of Oak Bay lost power four minutes before she was to dock at the Horseshoe Bay terminal. The vessel became adrift, unable to change speed, but able to steer with the rudders. The horn was blown steadily and an announcement telling passengers to brace for impact was made minutes before the ship slowly ran into the nearby Sewell’s Marina, where she destroyed or damaged 28 pleasure craft and subsequently went aground a short distance from the shore. No casualties or injuries were reported.”

“On July 7, 2005, BC Ferries concluded that a missing cotter pin was to blame. The pin normally retained a nut on a linkage between an engine speed governor and the fuel control for one of the engines. Without the pin, the nut fell off and the linkage separated, causing the engine, clutches, and propellers to increase in speed until overspeed safety devices tripped and shut down the entire propulsion system. The faulty speed governor had been serviced 17 days before the incident during a $35-million upgrade and the cotter pin was not properly replaced at that time.”

From my window I can see the spot where I took the photo of the girls.

“Nanaimo was founded as Colvilletown around a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post, it developed after 1849 when coalfields were discovered nearby by the Indians. In 1860 the settlement was renamed Sne-ny-mo (whence Nanaimo) from an Indian word meaning “a big, strong tribe,” which was applied to a tribal confederation.” Encyclopedia Britannica

Large cloud over Gabriola Island

I’m not sure how they determine the lane number or berth but I’m in the second row so get to exit right away. The boat did not crash.

Gina’s Mexican Cafe 47 Skinner St. has a pet friendly patio. The cafe is a locally owned and operated, family-run restaurant that was established in 1986. This funky, colourful Mexican restaurant is often referred to as the “pink house on the hill”.

We head to Gina’s for lunch.

It is a very good choice. It is a bright, sunny day with a cool temp of 15. Perfect for pug patio pleasures.

I go inside to let them know I’m on the patio with my dogs. Gina is at the bar making a pitcher of margaritas (a pitcher!!!). She looks out and says “I have a pug too”. It is a small world.

I order a margarita, quesadilla and chicken tostada. The waitress brings me home made tortilla chips and salsa to start. I realize how famished I am. Break off pieces of chip for you know whos.

Greta was getting sleepy on the patio deck. After lunch I put her in the stroller as we head to the waterfront. She nodded off so I brought her near some flowers to give her some excitement.

The Harbourfront Walkway in Nanaimo is a multi-use trail along the Newcastle Channel and downtown waterfront. The walkway varies and width and traverses different types of land ownership. This section is owned by the City of Nanaimo. It is paved, wheelchair accessible, and the harbourfront walkway is lined with lots of local coffee shops, ice cream stores, and gift shops. The harbourfront walkway stretches from the Gabriola Island ferry terminal to the Brechin Boat Ramp.

“During the Victorian era when coal fuelled the settlement at Nanaimo, barques, square-rigged schooners and colliers plied the local waters. In 1854, 24 English mining families disembarked after a six-month voyage around Cape Horn aboard the Princess Royal. They were welcomed by the few settlers already here and ushered to their new homes, square-hewn log cabins that lined Front Street.”  

When the harbour was named a point of entry in 1863, influential local merchant John Hirst built a stone warehouse that is still standing next to the Bastion. Below the warehouse, Hirst’s Wharf was one of many jutting into the harbour to accommodate ships from around the world trading coal and goods. The stone warehouse remains underneath all the later stucco.

In the 1930s, Canadian Pacific Railway cruise ships ferried luxury travellers from Vancouver to Newcastle Island for picnics and tea dances. In 2011, the new Nanaimo Cruise Ship Terminal opened and the city is again welcoming cruise ship visitors to its harbour.

We found a walkway pier. It was stroller friendly so we headed down to get some great seaside photos.

However, when we got down to the bottom of the ramp, we found this. Why didn’t they put that at the top of the ramp?

Went back to follow the harbour walk.

“Pacific Sails” is a stainless steel sculpture by John Charnestski. “it refers to the city’s nautical history. It is a group of three 6.8 metre high stainless steel sculptures, each topped with a 2.74 metre kinetic sail. The three masts rest on tapered roller bearings that allow for free horizontal movement in the changing sea breezes. The base of each sculpture provides a seating area. The technical development of the artwork was supported by the welders and fabricators of Geo-Tech Industries Inc. of Cedar.


I had dinner at the hotel. They had Father’s Day specials on the menu. I went for the prime rib only because it had been so long since I had a traditional prime rib dinner (I know, I know. But I’m going to have to eat less after this trip.

I was seated at a table with a tree trunk. I often can’t wait to see where they seat a single person. I had made a reservation so the knew I was coming

I wondered why they call it The View – Oceanside Grill? Is it the view of the hydro pole? Or the tree? The restaurant extended down the room and around the corner. I guess that is where The View is.

Started with French Onion soup because, like the Prime Rib, it’s been a long time since I had it.

And then the main event. They didn’t hold back.

When I checked the events for Nanaimo on this date, imagine my delight when I saw that ABBA Revisited was playing at The Port theatre. They are a tribute band, playing ABBA for 20 years. And The Port is an excellent theatre space. Because I booked early I was able to get Row B (second row right hand side)

Here is there opening number

I really was transported back to 1974 – the songs, the costumes and the smoke machine.

I don’t know if the actors are married to each other. However they played the part of husband and wife. They incorporated the part into the songs – like “I do, I do”

Bjorn was playing the guitar on the far side. Finally he came over to my side with his sparkling shoes.

They talked about the history of ABBA – the winning of the Eurovision contest with “Waterloo”

And it wouldn’t be the 70s without the cigarette lighter. Frida told people to use the flashlights on their phones.

The encore, of course, was “Dancing Queen”. Young and old alike came up on the stage to sing and dance.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable day in Nanaimo. Heading to Port Hardy tomorrow but we’ll come back to Nanaimo for a day before leaving the island.


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