2011-05-21 49 -122
This is the famed Vancouver graticule's 2011 Geohashing Day expedition.
Update: it was a success! - Elbie 22:50, 21 May 2011 (EDT)
Partway across the Pitt River near Siwash Island. Meet at the boat launch at Grant Narrows Regional Park. It's a couple km north of the geohash, at the end of Rannie Road. We'll be there at 11:30 a.m. The boat guy will be there at 11:00 because he said it would take us an hour to get there from UBC, even though I warned him we'd be late. Or we'll see you in the water.
See the talk page for real time planning.
For Vancouver, it wasn't really all that convoluted. No ferries, or helicopters were involved. And we never really got lost.
Wade and Robyn packed the car about halfway to the roof with towels, kayak, dry clothes, ropes, food and other items from a long geohashing day checklist, then dropped Wade off in Burnaby to prepare special equipment while Robyn drove to UBC. At UBC she collected Elbie and Elbie's kayak and other gear, leaving there with the car packed three-quarters of the way to the roof. The two drove back to Burnaby and loaded in Wade and his final gear, filling the car the rest of the way to the roof. Mirrors double checked for adjustment, the fully laden vehicle returned to the road.
Following Google Maps directions we took Highway One to exit 44, and then tried to obey "take left fork to highway 7 East." On exit ramp 44, there was a fork. The right fork was signed "7 East". The left fork wasn't. We took the left fork. It eventually led to highway seven east, so we suspect that fork was kind of like a choice in a choose your own adventure book, one that doesn't really matter, because you end up on the same page anyway, but it gives you the illusion of choice.
We continued over the Pitt River Bridge, and managed to turn left on the correct version of Dewdney Trunk Road, or at least one that led to the correct place, the Grant Narrows Provincial Park boat launch. It was a very well set up little park, with a pay-launch for the motorboats and a separate and explicitly signed free boat launch for "canoes, kayaks, and boats without trailers." Next to the free launch area were four "five minute loading zone" parking spots for people to unload their gear, before driving off to the main parking lot, about 200 metres away. Wade, Robyn and Elbie pulled into the loading zone.
Meanwhile, and almost simultaneously, Arbron arrived in a much less densely-packed automobile.
We had arranged to meet canoe guy at the boat launch ramp at eleven, but told him we might be late, so no rush. We started setting up and inflating the kayaks while we waited. It was more a former than formal canoe renting establishment: there had once been a canoe rental business at this location, but when the park became a provincial one, the land use rules changed and apparently the very business that helped to make the park accessible and fun was no longer allowed to operate. So the website declared the operation no longer in business, but suggested those wanting to rent canoes call a different number. We speculated that the website was now abandoned and the poor guy who now had that number amused himself by telling people their canoes would be waiting for them, when really there were no canoes to be had. When the inflatables were ready but no canoe had arrived, we called to find out if we needed a new plan, and discovered he was on his way.
We took a quick break for lunch, pita bread with humous, tomato tapinade, gracamole, alfalfa sprouts, cheese, salami, salsa and nacho chips inside. Not all at once, but at least one person consumed at least one pita sandwich containing each of the listed items. Wade had the nacho chip one. The cake we saved for later.
Canoe guy arrived and nimbly and single-handedly carried one of the canoes from the trailer in the parking lot down to the launch ramp, supplied us with life-jackets and paddles, collected the rental fee and deposit, then left again. We carried all the leftover gear back to the car and prepared to set out. Robyn launched from the shore to leave room for the others to manoeuvre and the canoe cast off with Wade and Arbron and special gear on board. Elbie boarded her kayak and found it to be much more flexible than it should be. She looked concerned and asked Wade, "Has Robyn put her pump back in the car?" Robyn had, although she almost didn't. I mean how are you going to pump up a boat mid-voyage? After some discussion, Elbie decided her kayak was too ... we're grasping for non-sexual sounding terms here to describe its state ... for the intended mission. She decides to ride in the rigid canoe, instead, towing the kayak behind.
Robyn had the only GPS on the mission, so she led the way 2.8 km to the geohash. It was fairly smooth water, not raining too much and we managed to go in a pretty straight line to the geohash in under forty-five minutes, where the GPS zeroed easily, surrounded by all our grins. It was a first water hash for Arbron, and one of the easier ones for our geohashing team. Other graticules might think that converging four people in three boats, one of which didn't float, on the exact coordinates in the middle of a river was a great achievement. But this is Vancouver on Geohashing Day. We needed something to up the spectacularity. Fortunately, Wade had come prepared.
 Special Equipment
The special equipment was SCUBA gear. Wade's plan was to achieve his first underwater geohash, and, as the river surface elevation was -2 m MSL (told you it was a slow river), by going to its 12 metre depth also claim the lowest altitude geohash. That was the extent of his plans.
Wade not knowing of a procedure for SCUBA entry from a canoe (nor from a kayak, either fully or partially inflated), he directed the flotilla about 200 metres away to the reedy shore, for a wading entry. He put on his wetsuit jacket and stepped into the knee-deep water. He put on the rest of his SCUBA apparatus (yah we know) but omitted gloves and hood, because "the water didn't seem that cold" and "it's only going to be a short dive." He tested all his gear, posed for a few 'before' shots and headed for deeper water, under navigational instructions from the holder of the GPS.
(Very) shortly after reaching water deep enough to swim, Wade discovered that gloves and a hood may have been a good idea. He also realized that swimming with full SCUBA gear is really difficult, especially if you are trying to keep your face and hands out of the water. Two hundred metres is a lot further swimming than kayaking, particularly if you can't swim in a straight line. We tried towing him to the geohash with first the kayak, then the canoe, but discovered that a SCUBA-equipped Wade makes a phenomenal anchor. Honestly! If you're planning on designing a sea anchor, please come and take measurements. It was unbelievable. After twenty minutes of struggling and drifting further from the hashpoint, we decided to document Wade's underwater presence near the geohash, and leave the first successful SCUBA underwater hash to another day.
We put the flag on an underwater flagpole at the canoe, and Wade submerged less than a canoe-length away. We waited for him to approach, but the bubbles started moving away from the boats, so Robyn chased after them. The water was so murky that Wade couldn't find the flag and got turned around. Wade surfaced, found the canoe, and on the second attempt descended down the flagpole, where he barely managed to find and photograph the flag.
At that point Wade was very cold, so passed his weights and air tank to Arbron, then gracefully flopped into the partially-deflated kayak under tow. Unfortunately, Wade still had the camera, so there is no photographic record of the procedure. Wade basked in the warmth of not being in the water while contemplating his next move.
 Back in the Boats
After towing Wade in the partially-submerged kayak for a few minutes, Elbie tactfully asked if Wade was rested enough to start paddling. Apparently, even in a kayak, Wade is a very good anchor. Wade gingerly transferred himself from the kayak to the canoe without anyone [re]entering the frigid waters.
The current at this point was downriver. (That's not as obvious as it might sound: the river is tidal and at some times of day flows upriver to the lake). Rather than retracing our wake upriver against the current, we elected to act out our cover story and paddle around Siwash Island, coming north through a sheltered and relatively calm channel in the bird sanctuary on the other side. This made it a longer, but easier route with a change of scenery. We were back on the dock by four, and hungry again.
 The Cake Was Not A Lie
With all the boats on the beach and the kayaks spread out to "dry" in the rain, we entered stage two of the picnic. Canoe guy arrived and put the canoe away, everyone changed into dry clothes, and we ate cake and Rice Crispie squares.
All the loading zone spots were taken--it's unusual for a geohashing launching spot to be so well-populated. After a while we noticed that one car, the one in the very best spot for access to the kayak staging area, had not being loaded, unloaded or even attended throughout all the comings and going from the other spots. We were considering leaving a note to explain how not to be rude at a launching ramp, but we figured if they couldn't read the sign right in front of the car, what chance would they have at a note? The driver did return and drive away right as we were leaving. He had no boat, nothing to load at all, and appeared to have just returned from a walk in the park. Grrrr.
The cake was good, as were the rice crispie squares. The cake had no icing, because Robyn didn't know how to make icing that matched everyone's dietary preferences, and we chose not to use guacamole, salsa, hummus or tomato tapinade to serve that function. The rice crispie squares also had no icing, but who puts icing on rice crispie squares?
Once we were sugar-sated, and starting to get our dry clothes wet again in the rain we posed for one last group photo and departed.
 And Home
The route worked backwards as well as forward, and nobody who was driving fell asleep in the car. After a brief stop for warm drinks we all went home and washed our boats and SCUBA gear for another day. We were kind of glad that Mouseover Day and Geohashing Day were the same this year, because we're too tired to do this again tomorrow.
| Everyone earned the 2011 Geohashing Day achievement
| Everyone earned the Water geohash achievement