Sechelt

I woke up to another lovely, sunny, November morning. All of a sudden, the prognoses for a solid day’s work in the hangar were not so good. OK, I thought. I quit smoking cold turkey many years ago, so I should be able to resist the temptation for going flying. How difficult can it be? After all, it is not an illicit substance I am hocked on, it is just flying I am talking about!

I have a proper door on the hangar, but for some reason I reached down, unlocked the padlock, and pushed the sliding door full open. There he was, my flying friend. Even the half-polished spinner, the ugly paint, and other signs of his age, could not take away from his cheerful disposition. I managed to quit smoking, but to resist going flying – impossible. I topped of the tanks, and soon we were on the way. Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast seemed like a good destination.

Cleared over the Alex Fraser Bridge, I wanted to stay low. The folks operating the Vancouver Harbor tower are a very friendly bunch, while over 2500 feet, I would be under the Czar of main Vancouver control zone. I tried that once before. They told me to climb to 6500 feet, and then minutes later I had to come down for landing. Flying at a comfortable 2000 feet, at least I could enjoy the view much better.

Port Moody Harbor

Port Moody

Here is Port Moody. I lived there once; in fact, I found my wife there. The Vancouver Harbor Tower has a jurisdiction from the Second Narrows Bridge, barely visible at distance, up to Point Atkinson Lighthouse.

Capilano Water Reservoir

Capilano Water Reservoir

Hugging the North Shore Mountains I had a great view of the water reservoir. It looked quite full, spilling its water over its dam. This is from where the Vancouverites get their drinking water.

West Vancouver Hosing Community

West Vancouver Hillside Housing Development

Just a bit west from the reservoir, I was amazed to see the expanding residential developments of West Vancouver. Yes, I knew that there were houses there, but seeing it from the air, and how far up the hill they extended, was a bit of a surprise.

West Vancouver

West Vancouver – ships waiting for entry to the harbor

To my right was the entry to the Vancouver Harbor, filled with cargo ships waiting their turn to get to the dock. I marveled at the view for a moment, remembering the meandering coastal road down below, and the memories of driving there in my 1958 Pontiac Stratochief, many years ago. In a jiff, I was over the Point Atkinson Lighthouse, leaving my distant memories behind.

Sunshine Coast

Nearing the Sunshine Coast

With the last of the mainland disappearing quickly to my right, I could see the Sunshine Coast Ferry carrying its passengers and cargo to their destination. I made this trip many times as an Earthling  on my way to visit relatives in Garden Bay; how much more satisfying it is being up here. I noticed something, slightly above and to my right – about two-o-clock position. It was approaching fast. I wish I had my camera ready. A majestic eagle soared just over me – what a splendid site.

 

Once past Gibbsons Landing, it is only a short distance to Sechelt. I listened to the airport radio frequency for a while, and soon realized that there was not much going on there. I flew over the airport with a good margin of altitude safety, looking for the wind direction. It looked like it was blowing from the sea. OK runway 11 it is. My approach would be from the north over the descending hill. It is amazing how deceptive approach like this can be, if you are in an unfamiliar area. My approach was a bit too high, so I elected to go around. My second approach was just right – I touched down right on the numbers.

At Sechelt Aerodrome

At Sechelt Airport

I parked my plane, on what I determined to be the main apron, shut down the engine, and went searching for a bathroom. There was not a living soul to be seen anywhere.

RAA Clubhouse

Recreational Aircraft Association Clubhouse

I walked towards a building that look like may have the desired facilities. I looked inside, but this was not it. It was a meeting place for a local chapter of Recreational Aircraft Association. The sign in the windows called for a Saturday meeting. I carefully avoided the frost on the deck, and went to search some more. There must be a bathroom somewhere, I thought, or better say I had hoped.

Sechelt airport terminal

Sechelt Airport Terminal

Ah, here it is, I found it, the airport terminal. The sign over the door informs visitors that the local aero club runs it, and that everybody is welcome to use it. It was cozy inside; I took a beeline to the washroom first. It was very clean, with ample supplies of toiletries at hand. There was a desk with a computer, and a telephone – the essentials for a visiting pilot to file a flight plan, or get information on the town’s offerings. Oh, did I mention that the coffee was on.

Ready to go back

Ready to go home

I heard some distant voices. A quick look around, and I noticed two men readying a Cessna for a flight. These were the first souls I encountered at this quaint sleepy aerodrome. Then as I was walking to my plane, I noticed a man walking towards me. We exchanged a few words, he urged me to come again, and wished me a pleasant flight back home. He assured me that in the summer there is much more activity there. He suggested that on my next visit I should go for a hike in the hills, and definitely visit the town. What a friendly fellow, I thought.

Approaching Stanley Park

Stanley Park Ahead

We departed on runway 11, and soon we were back under the watchful eye of the friendly folks of Vancouver Harbor Control Tower. The tower cleared us to fly over the Third Beach, towards Simon Fraser University. I requested 2000 feet, and the tower obliged.

North Vancouver Harbor

North Vancouver Harbor

Within minutes, the beautiful Stanley Park slipped underneath of our flight path. In some distance to the north lies the busy North Vancouver Harbor, with its mountain of bright yellow sulphur – a picture I remember from many years ago. It looks like this heap of yellow substance is the only thing that did not change over the years. It is still gleaming in the sun, as I always remember it. I am quite sure that even the size of it is the same.

Vancouver Bridges

Vancouver Bridges

It always amazes me to see the spectacular growth of this beautiful city from the ground, but from 2000 feet above, it is simply breathtaking. I remember the day I first arrived here. The tallest buildings in the city were the old BC Hydro building and the Hotel Vancouver, both dwarfed now by much taller buildings, peppered all over the downtown peninsula. The bridges connecting the downtown to the mainland Vancouver, no longer span the unsightly industrial lands of my memories. These lands are now vibrant living spaces, with parks and amenities to play in and enjoy.

Vancouver Stadium

Vancouver Stadium

Recently, the ever-evolving skyline of this metropolis got its new face. The old pillow-like air-supported roof of the stadium, gave way to a new retractable one. When closed it almost resemble the old pillow – the supporting masts of the new roof are the sure giveaway. I am not sure why they had it closed on this bright sunny day; I suppose old habits are hard to break.

Once out of the Vancouver Harbor airspace jurisdiction, it was time to descent to 1100 feet for the Alex Fraser Bridge arrival for Boundary bay. The friendly controller cleared us for right base arrival of runway 25. Exit on Charlie, I bid “good day”, to the controllers, and pushed my happy Colt to his usual position in the hangar.  Some bookkeeping, 2.1 hours of cross-country to my logbook, and I left grinning for home, with the thought that I must return to Sechelt soon, spend some time exploring there, and hope to meet some more people.

Going Home

Sometime, as I am working in the hangar, I look at my Colt with such a pride – my very own plane – my first. I am not sure why some think that it is ugly. I happen to think that it is a nice looking plane. I guess it is little like a parent/child relationship for my Colt and me. This morning I thought I heard a faint voice, “Colt Go Home”, coming from the direction where my Colt patiently awaits for me, hoping that I will take him somewhere to play. How could I not?

November in Vancouver is usually not very kind to weekend aviators. Rain is the normal order of the day, but this morning was different. I woke up to a rising sun, with not even one cloud in the sky. I knew right then that I would be taking my Colt to play somewhere – but where will we go? “Colt Go Home”, rang in my ears. I got it. My little friend would like to go and visit his friends back home at CYPK. Pitt Meadows here we come.

I asked for a departure clearance over the Alex Fraser Bridge. The tower informed me that there was a police incidence there, and gave me some special instructions for the departure. I decided to take the King George departure instead. I like life to be simple. The Pitt Meadows tower cleared us for the left base of runway 26 left. My Colt must have been a bit excited on arrival at his old stomping grounds, because as all Colts do, he skipped once happily before settling down – but then again, it may have been the rider.

Colt at Pitt Meadows

Visiting Old Home at Pitt Meadows

We parked ourselves on the main apron; I left my little buddy with his friends, and went to investigate, hoping to run into someone I may know. Once in the terminal, I looked around. Not much has changed since my last visit there. The friendly faces in the restaurant clearly explained why my Colt was longing for going home. Until about two years ago, and before I bought him, this is where he lived.

Pitt Meadows Coffee Shop

The Home of Home-made Cookies

The young woman behind the counter told me that she is about to go and make some fresh chocolate chip cookies, and that they will be ready in about half an hour. “Can I get you some coffee, they are really good, worth the wait.” I politely declined, told her that I must be leaving soon, and a bottle of water would be just fine. “Where are you heading?” Chilliwack. “Then don’t forget to get a slice of their fantastic apple pie there,” she advised me. On the way out, I just could not help from taking a picture of this happy fella. He must have been excited about the fresh cookies.

Customer at Pitt Meadows Restaurant

Bring on the cookies

As I was walking back to my friend, it crossed my mind. I did not see anyone that I knew, yet, it felt like I just left a bunch of friends. I must try the cookies on my next stop there.

My Colt was patiently waiting for me, right where I left him. How could one not like a friend like that?

Colt at Pitt Meadows

Ready to go and play

I was not quite sure where to go next. I had to be home around five, and it was almost two already. The apple pie sounded good, so we left for Chilliwack. Tower advised me of skydivers in the vicinity, and we were on our way. I recall from previous flights that the busy Glen Valley corridor is a place to be extra vigilant. As we were heading east, I would frequently let others in the area know of our position. We came across two or three other planes, and a helicopter traversing the corridor. As we approached Chilliwack, I decided to forgo the pie for this time. I am sure that they will make some more.

Approaching Chilliwack

Near Chilliwack

One place I have never flown on my own before, is the famous Rowena’s Inn, and the Sandpiper Golf Resort, with a nice little landing strip, nestled just on the north banks of the Harrison River. We must go there. We rounded to the north, and followed the river for a while, until I could see the familiar cluster of gleaming greenhouses – a sure sign that we are heading in the right direction.

Over the Harrison River

On course to Rowena’s

It was a bit bumpy ride. I decided to descend to a lower altitude. I put my camera away, so I can pay attention to flying, and heed the popular saying: “Aviate-Navigate-Communicate.” One glance at my watch told me that landing at Rowena’s is out of the question today. I elected to do at least a low over flight, and pretend. Oh well, there is always the next time. I waved our wings for the golfers, the ones who were watching waved back, and it was time to go home. We landed back at Boundary Bay just after three. I wrote another 1.1 hours in my logbook, and went home to help my son Ryan to bring home a new mattress for Violet’s new grownup bed.