16 September 2015
Hey, we made it to Wednesday! Because I’d never been to Vancouver, and didn’t really have any idea what was here (ask a Customs Agent!), I cast about for things to do, and found the Vancouver Maritime Museum. I was interested in this because a) I’m always up for sea-related things, and b) I wanted to see how it stacked up to the Columbia Maritime Museum I visited last month.
But there was the (by now) usual spate of problems to deal with. The travel debit card I’d procured for the trip had been declined on a couple of occasions, and my phone had stopped making outgoing calls. The phone was the first priority, but to call customer service, I had to use the in-room hotel phone. I didn’t want to do that, because I knew there would be a charge (C$20, it turned out) , but there was no choice. The first few suggestions by the rep didn’t work, so I had to tie up the hotel desk phone to get the problem resolved. Desk agent wasn’t happy, but I had to have a phone. The problem got fixed, but another annoyance. The debit card was more difficult. Turns out that there were some strange charges made, and the bank shut the card down. Small charges, but not ones I’d made. So that left my personal debit and credit cards to pay for the trip. The entire purpose of securing a travel account was to limit damage in case of fraud, so I guess it worked as intended, but something else not going to plan. Then I found that my bank was charging me $5 every time I used the credit card to cover currency conversion. Nice. That was the morning. What was supposed to be a week of active relaxation and discovery had turned into the anti-vacation. I don’t work this hard at work.
On the way to the museum, looked for a place to get a late breakfast. Surprisingly hard to find breakfast places in downtown Vancouver. Found a place called the Elbow Cafe, and their shtick is to have a flaming waiter insult the customers. Food is decent, and by Canadian standards, not overly expensive. The waiter commented that ‘You’ll enjoy putting those sausages in your mouth, won’t you honey?’ My reply was that I was used to something bigger. Hey, I can play too.
On the way to the museum, I found a 100′ tall totem pole:
The Maritime Museum is right behind the pole:
The submersible is the PX-15 Ben Franklin, and is most famous for a mission in 1969 when 14 men drifted in the Gulf Stream for several weeks. The mission was overshadowed by another voyage of exploration that same year.
Not overly large for 14 men on a weeks-long voyage.
The museum sits adjacent to a waterfront park, and there are several other museums in the immediate area. There’s a basin in which several historic vessels with ties to the Vancouver area are moored. The vessels are all privately owned, and you can walk the docks and have a look at them:
Inside the museum proper, the exhibits are on the right, and the main attraction is on the left, although I didn’t know that at the time. After paying admission, I turned to the right, where there’s an art exhibit. The main attraction in this part of the museum is the model ship gallery. One man’s hobby of modeling ships related to Vancouver’s maritime history has resulted in a stunning display. Highly detailed models abound, and one gets a sense of the variety of vessels that have plied these waters.
The special exhibit was ‘Across The Top of the World’, and details the search for the Northwest Passage. As you walk into each room appropriate sounds play. As you work your way around, you can walk through a replica of a 16th century fo’casle (tight), the children’s discovery centre, and a replica of a tugboat wheelhouse, complete with sound. There are exhibits about the Canadian Coast Guard, and lighthouses and shipwrecks.
The other half of the museum, and the part under the A-frame, is the vessel St. Roch. This was the first ship to complete the Northwest Passage. The ship was put into a concrete drydock, and the museum was built around it. There is access below the waterline, and the ship is opened up with a guide to answer questions. You can access the upper decks, but to do so you have to climb a ladder, and the guide won’t help you with that. The ladders have a placard stating that you climb at your own risk. Of course I went up.
In a corner of this hall is a full-motion simulator with a replica bridge from the St. Roch. You can steer among ice flows, and while the simulator accelerates the speed, the handling of the ship is stated to be accurate. I managed to put the ship onto an iceberg. Arctic explorer is not in my skill set.
Afterwards I walked around the park for a bit, then decided I’d better get a boarding pass for tomorrow’s flight. The Vancouver Public Library was no great distance away, so I headed over. The library is housed in a building reminiscent of Roman coliseums, and there is an atrium and food court:
I haven’t seen that in library.
I got a guest pass for the public computers, and discovered that my paid-for flight the next day had disappeared. On the phone to Air Canada, and learned that during the shuffle Monday the agent in Portland had deleted my ticket. So, if I hadn’t checked, I’d have gotten to the airport Thursday with no flight. They booked me on the next available flight at 1000 Thursday (no charge), but I still didn’t have a boarding pass. The library computer system wouldn’t access the page I needed. Oh, well. I’d just show up early and get a boarding pass at the airport.
Because I was turning in the car the next day, I went for some gas. Recall that I had to change cars. I didn’t pay much attention to the gas gauge on the new car; assuming it was full, as rental cars tend to be. I always reset the trip odometer on rental cars so I know how far I’ve driven, and saw that I’d put fewer than 70 km on this car. After pumping almost 30 liters, the gas gauge registered 3/4 full. Assuming the car was full at the outset, this didn’t make sense. Called the rental company to try and sort the situation, and was told to take it up with the manager in the morning. Fine. By this time, I was loosing my cool. Every day of this alleged ‘vacation’ was full of trials and tribulations. Just one thing after another.
Got dinner at the hotel bar\restaurant, then called it a night.