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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Perfect Day on Texada Island (Let's try to keep this amazing place our little secret, okay?)

Originally, our plan was to fly out to the little gravel strip in Bamfield. Bamfield is a small fishing village which lies about 25km south of Uclulet on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and it has become very popular among eco-tourists. Being a very short and unfamiliar airstrip, I elected not to take the Jodel, but rather to fly in the back seat of David B's Titan Tornado for the excursion.

The night before our planned adventure, we checked the forecast and it was calling for fog on the west coast of Vancouver Island for most of the day. We quickly went to our back up plan of flying to Texada Island, and because of this change, I was able to take the Jodel.

Texada Island is a 50 mile long island located up the sunshine coast, just off shore from Half Moon Bay near the south end, and Powell River abeam the north end. Near the north end of the island is a nicely appointed airport called Texada/Gillies Bay (CYGB). It boasts a 3000' paved runway, a little terminal building, and loads of transient and overnight airplane parking. 20 minutes down the road from the airport is the town of Gillies Bay, but that was not our destination for this trip. Our destination was the fabled beach just a short hike from the airport. I've been to Texada twice before, but I never had enough time to find the beach. This time I would finally be seeing it.

Photo: Sharon Toorenburgh
The plan was to be wheels up out of Delta Airpark and King George Airpark at 10:00am. Since I would now be bringing the Jodel, I would have an empty seat, so I filled it with my sister, Tessa. I hadn't taken her flying in ages, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to take her up and have her meet all my flying buddies! David B would be flying co-pilotless, but taking food and equipment in the Tornado. Jen B would be riding along with James in the S-6 Coyote, Greg (Stumpy) and Heidi would be in the Technaam, and Sharon and Darrell would be joining us in their Eurofox.

As it happened, Tessa and I got the Jodel prepped, got our transponder code from Kamloops FIC, and were ready to go before the rest of our airborne armada over at King George.

After getting airborne, we decided to fly over to King George to do a low pass of the field to check on the progress of our friends. As we crossed midfield we could see the airplanes just starting to be pulled out of their hangar bays.

Photo: Jen Bianchi
Photo: Jen Bianchi
After our "hurry up" call, we continued northbound to Burnaby Lake, through Vancouver Harbour, up the sunshine coast, and once we hit the south end of Texada Island, we cruised up the west coast of the island to Gillies Bay Airport, crossed midfield and joined the circuit for Runway 32.
We taxied into the apron and noticed a taxiway leading to a large grass tie-down area. After we parked the Jodel we waited for our friends to arrive. While doing so, we bumped into Barry from the Texada Aerospace Camp, who showed us their mobile simulator called the "Airbuzz Mk II."  Barry's group runs a youth aerospace camp every summer at the Texada Airport. The dates for the 2015 camp are July 15-18.

Eventually our friends showed up. In all, 5 airplanes, 9 people, some food, and an empty bucket.

With all the planes parked in the grass, we led the crew to the Texada Aerospace Camp hangar to show them what Tessa and I had discovered just moments before. 
There was only one problem with doing this, and it has to do with how pilots easily lose track of time when they play with aviation related thingies. Another gentleman involved with the aerospace program, Doby, led our group through a tour of their operation. He explained that the simulator is mounted on a trailer that allows them to take it to parades, community events, and schools. What made this tour better was that Doby started up the simulator and let some of us have a try at it. The simulator ran on X-Plane software, and a brilliant woman named Sandra scratch built the control systems including actual instrumentation, dual control columns, rudder pedals, flap levers, and a multi-engine throttle quadrant. 

David B and Heidi each took turns "flying" it, and about an hour later we were finally leaving the airport on our way to the beach.

More information about the Texada Aerospace Camp can be found at http://texada.org/events/texada-aerospace-camp-2015/

Luckily, we still had plenty of time to find the beach. Out of the airport gate we finally went. We followed the road to the left, then took another left at the trail just before the road barrier. 

Down a beautiful treed trail we went, curving back and forth under a constant canopy of trees that kept us cool during our walk under the hot sun. After an easy 30 minute hike we arrived at our own private beach.
The beach was phenomenal. As we set up our camp for the day we noticed that we were sharing the beach with a beautiful bald eagle. 

Photo: Sharon Toorenburgh
It was perched on a rock looking out over the strait, much like we were. The tide was out and the rocky beach extended out into mud flats. almost immediately Heidi and Greg headed out towards the shoreline with the bucket David B. brought. 

I joined them soon after and helped them in their search for fresh west coast oysters. The search was easy because there were oysters practically everywhere. I grabbed a single oyster and decided I was going figure out how to get it open. 
Photo: Sharon Toorenburgh
At fancy oyster bars downtown they use special tools to shuck (open) oysters, but on the beach at Texada we had nothing of the sort, so I was forced to improvise. I came up with a technique where I used one small rock as a makeshift chisel, and a second, larger rock, as a hammer. It worked like a charm and we soon started enjoying ultra fresh oysters. 
David B made a fire and started roasting wieners over it for him and Jen. The fire was also used for cooking up loads of oysters for those who didn't like it raw.

After practically everyone had a chance to enjoy at least one oyster, we had a moment of perfect hindsight. We wondered whether the area we were in was under the influence of red tide, or any other seaborne bacteria that could cause us serious food poisoning. Hmmm... Good question. David B looked it up on his smart phone and thankfully we learned that we would all be fine. The oyster feast continued.
Photo: Sharon Toorenburgh
Photo: Sharon Toorenburgh
Then an amazing thing happened. Darrell, as he was eating an oyster, felt something hard in his mouth. He pulled it out and to our amazement, it was a little PEARL! Sure it was small, but it was a real pearl!

The odds of finding a pearl in a wild oyster are very slim. In fact, the odds are about 1 in 12,000, which is about a 0.00008% chance.

As it turned out, it was Heidi's birthday that day, so Darrell happily gave the little pearl to Heidi as a birthday gift. The fact that it was Heidi's birthday was a surprise to us all. Had we known sooner, we would have planned something for her, but it was really nice to hear Heidi say that just joining us on our trip to Texada was an excellent way to spend her birthday. Happy Birthday Heidi!

With our tummies full, a few of us started to explore the beach a little further. There was a massive tidal pool that was full of sea life. There were countless little fish, many different species of crabs, sand dollars, and even a few starfish.
Sharon and Tessa also set out to find the next additions to their home rock collections, and they came back with more than enough to put an airplane over gross. Because of this, they had to make the tough decision of which to bring home with them, and which to leave behind.

With everyone satisfied with the way the day went, it was time to head back to the planes. For the sake of exploring, we took the alternate route back to the airport. 
The way back led us more directly to the airport and popped us out of the forest into a field of daisies right beside the runway. 
Remaining clear of the runway, we walked back to our planes, packed up our things, called Kamloops for squawk codes, and prepared for departure.

Because of our limited range, David B and I both made a fuel stop at Sechelt Airport while everyone else flew past us on their way home.

Once we had our tanks filled and we were airborne, it was past Kits Beach Pool, through Vancouver Harbour, then straight back to King George and Delta Airpark for the two Davids.

Photo: Tessa McIntosh
Because our group has gotten quite close, we never seem to get tired of each other, so after we had all our planes put away, we met up at our "regular" post-flying restaurant, the Big Ridge Brew Pub, for dinner and drinks.

It was another truly amazing day. We all can't wait to go back again. In fact, we're planning an over-night camping trip to Texada in August. Keep your eyes on this blog for more information.

As usual, flying smart, fly safe, and have an excellent summer!

By: David McIntosh

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Langley Fly In

Hello Aviators,

I got notification that Langley is hosting a Fly in on June 20th.

time: 0900 to 1500.

spread the word :-)


David B.