Visiting Cowichan Bay Village? A few Pointers.

February 9th, 2013
Float Homes in Cowichan Bay Village

Float Homes in Cowichan Bay Village

Commentary originally published December 12 2011

The other day I was on foot in Cowichan Bay Village, on my way to visit friends in a neighboring marina, when I passed an older gentleman in front of the village cheese shop. He was there with his bicycle, which he had outfitted with large carrier bags. I had never seen him about before and he didn’t notice me as I approached, so intent was he on his work of that moment. He was busy emptying the recycling bin located in front of the cheese shop as rapidly as possible, adding the aluminum cans he found there to the collection he had already stuffed into his bike’s bags.

Noticing that the fellow appeared rather prosperous, with a new touring bicycle and riding gear, the collecting of cans apparently being a hobby rather than a necessity, I asked him what he was doing. I did this in a friendly sort of manner. He replied with a bit of a scowl and words to the effect that if I couldn’t figure that out for myself, I ought not expect any enlightenment from him. Not discouraged by his unhelpful tone, I then asked him why he was removing all those cans from the recycling bin. He responded by suggesting that it wasn’t any of my business, but also admitted that he was taking the waste cans away, the plan being to turn them in at the bottle depot in Duncan for the deposit money.

Cowichan Bay Village

Cowichan Bay Village

I told him then that I wished he wouldn’t do that, and explained that the money collected off the aluminum drink cans goes to pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the recycling bin, a bin that has slots for paper waste and garbage as well, items for which there is no deposit money. In fact the bin pays for several other garbage cans, a service provided and made self sustaining by the folks who run the cheese shop. I further told him that I would rather wish he’d put back all the cans he had taken and to refrain from taking any more. He rode off in a bit of a huff and while I’m not here every week and certainly don’t patrol the recycling bin on those days I am here, I haven’t seen the fellow since.

I mention the story above to illustrate the point that while the Village of Cowichan Bay seems like any other Island Community, there are a few things the casual visitor ought bear in mind when planning to pay us a call. There are rules of conduct here of which the average visitor might not be fully aware, rules which may not apply in other places on this Island.

What follows is a humorous look at some of the things we as residents have experienced while interacting with visitors in the Bay.

1. With the exception of the Government Wharf, most marinas are private. That means they are open to those who keep their boats in them, those who are guests of these boat owners and to those who live in the Village itself and are visiting neighbors, as I was doing the day I met the Can Man. Everyone else, is politely asked to refrain from wandering around these privately held docks. Visit the Government Wharf by all means, and do take time to tour the Maritime Centre’s pier. But please respect the privacy of those places where you aren’t officially invited.

2. If you really want to visit a Private Marina, simply ask one of us who live here. You’ll find us wandering about from time to time. More than likely you’ll be invited to wander to your hearts content. We aren’t anti-social, it’s just nice to be asked.

Quiet Time

Quiet Time

3. Once out on the docks, it’s considered impolite to knock on boats “to see what they are made of”, to peep in windows or to step aboard float houses to ask “can we see inside your cute little cabin”. These are our homes and we wouldn’t stop by your house asking to be let in would we? Knocking on float-house doors with offers of purchase are also a bit on the tacky side. This is particularly the case if the offer wouldn’t cover the cost of the float itself, never-mind the home. If it’s for-sale, we’ll generally put up a sign. Little children should wear life jackets for their own safety while on the docks and avoid running at all times, unless they were born on a boat in the harbour, in which case they routinely tear about at 100 kilometers an hour and are seemingly impossible to drown.

NO! Bad Dog Owner! Bad!

NO! Bad Dog Owner! Bad!

4. If you visit Cowichan Bay Village with your pet, please make sure you clean up after it. You’d be surprised how many people are excellent about this sort of thing, and probably equally surprised about how many simply don’t seem to care. Pets on the docks must be leashed and are generally discouraged. This is because they tend to get into fights with the unleashed pets belonging to those of us who live here which roam the docks seemingly in packs. Bowls of water left out by merchants for the benefit of visiting four legged friends are not to be used for filling car radiators, unless efforts are made to replenish the supply. Just ask, we can help.

5. Flowers in flower-boxes are for looking at, for sniffing and for photographing, not for picking. Really.

6. Parking can be a problem in the Village Proper. Some of the lots beside the buildings offer parking for residents only and are rented by the month. Please park as closely as possible to the car next to you while still being able to open your door without smashing it into your neighbor’s. That way more people can avoid having to walk in from Cobble Hill. Driving 50 feet between parking stops is discouraged. This isn’t the Walmart parking lot, and you aren’t headed to Canadian Tire. RVs and Motor Coaches should park at the Hecate Park boat ramp. No, there isn’t room for tour buses in front of Pier 66. No you really ought not park your truck/camper/boat combination right in front of the bakery all day.

7. Bathrooms are available at the Government Wharf, at the Maritime Centre when it’s open, (They seem to have adopted a “closed door” policy since the Taj Mahal was completed earlier this year.) and at some businesses for customers only. There are port-a potties at Hecate park, but I really can’t recommend them. Remember, it is not acceptable for gentlemen to relieve themselves off the Maritime Centre Pier or behind the fuel tanks at Pier 66. It’s really not.

Vegetable Garden Cart

Vegetable Garden Cart

8. Photography is encouraged! But please see #3 and avoid trying to stick your digital camera into open portholes. Yes it’s been tried. No it did not end well. Yes the camera was eventually returned. It’s nice to be asked if a photo is to include resident sunbathers. This gives us time to put at least some of our clothing back on.

9. Remember that the speed limit in the Village is a whopping 30km/h. Not 60. Not 80. This is a Cittaslow Community after all, and we’d like all of you to get that relaxed, laid back feeling we all enjoy. Drag racing is frowned upon. Our village might be exactly 1/4 mile along it’s frontage but the shut-down area involves a sharp curve and a steep uphill grade which your 1969 Mustang might find a bit of a challenge at 135 miles an hour.

Rob's Tiny Lighthouse

Rob’s Tiny Lighthouse

10. When arriving by water, please refrain from picking any old spot at any old marina, tying up and wandering off to the pub. Even on Regatta days, when racing sail-boats compete for every spot at the Government Wharf, it’s unpleasant to find someone camped in the spot you pay for by the month for and in which you’ve become accustomed to mooring your boat. When I bring my 60 year old 32 foot wooden troller in from a morning’s crabbing to the dock space I rent, it’s always a bit of a challenge trying to avoid damaging the weekend squatters. I use car tires for fenders and the black marks never look too good on the polished hull of a 50 thousand dollar 25 foot racing sail-boat.

That’s the list folks, a few suggestions to help your visit go smoothly. Interaction with the Village locals isn’t all that difficult once you know a few of the insider secrets. You’ll fit in just fine. Yes, you will, and you’ll be welcomed too.

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