Sunday, 19 March 2017

We enjoyed the St Paddy’s Day dance at the Big Yellow Merville Hall

by Keith and Heather Nicol

    On Saturday, March 18 we attended a contra dance at the Big Yellow Merville Hall for St Paddy’s Day.  The Funtime Fiddlers seem to attract a large following since we had also attended their Robbie Burns Dance in January and in both cases they had to set up more tables and chairs for the 100 plus people that showed up. What we really appreciated about the evening was the wide range of ages that attend from young children to teens to adults. You change partners during lots of the dances and people don’t necessarily come as a couple or paired up. 

Heather heading to the Big Yellow Merville Hall

The dances are either circle or line dances  and June - the dance caller- had a great way of explaining the steps needed to do each dance.  The night usually starts with a 15 minute warm up period  when June goes over the basic steps that most dances will use. So don’t feel that you have to be a Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers to attend since learning the dances is easy to do on the spot.  The Funtime Fiddlers play a range of lively jigs and reels as well as waltzes and polkas in between sets. If you are looking for a family friendly event or want a chance to learn some new dances we recommend checking out the next contra dance in Merville since they offer several throughout the year.

The Funtime Fiddlers played lively jigs and reels

  Merville is located on the old island highway just 12 km north of Courtenay, B.C. For more information on the next contra dance contact:  or  

The contra dances attract a wide range of ages

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Vancouver’s Seawall between Third and Second Beach makes a fine winter walk

by Keith and Heather Nicol
A kayaker paddles just off shore
    Coastal B.C. has been hit hard with cool weather and snow this winter so when the forecast for the Feb 11-13 Family Day weekend looked sunny and “warm” we decided check out the seawall on our most recent visit to Vancouver.  The seawall is roughly 10 km in length and we have biked around it many times in the past (see: but we have not walked the section between Third and Second Beach for ages. Since the temperatures were still cool in the shade we wanted a route that was mostly sun exposed for our early afternoon walk and this fit the bill perfectly. We were joined by our daughter Kristie, her boyfriend Eric and our son Michael. We parked near the Teahouse at the Third Beach Parking area in Stanley Park and although we had to negotiate some snowy sidewalks to start we were soon on the snow free seawall.  
Lots of walkers out enjoying the seawall
The tide was low which exposed some nice areas of flat lying rock and we saw a sea kayaker out enjoying the light wind conditions. There were many other people out walking sections of the seawall and roller bladders and cyclists as well. For those people who have not walked the seawall there is a nice separation between cyclists and walkers so you don’t need to worry about collisions. We also enjoyed spotting the winter ducks in this area and we saw several Common Goldeneye, many colourful Surf Scoters as well as the more common Mallards and American Widgeon. Once we reached the pool at Second Beach we decided that this was a good turnaround point and headed back along the seawall. This route was about 2.6 km return so is doable by a wide variety of people. Stanley Park is a great asset to Vancouver and the seawall must be one of its most popular attractions, especially on sunny winter day. For more information see: 
We saw several pairs of Common Goldeneye along the shore

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Check out the World Community Film Festival in Courtenay on February 3 and 4, 2017

by Keith and Heather Nicol
    On Friday evening, February 3 th we will be heading down to the Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay, B.C.  to check out the first night of the 26th World Community Film Festival. The Friday night film is called Koneline: Our Land Beautiful and is about NW British Columbia. Like many of the films in this festival this film will focus on a variety of social and environmental issues.  On Saturday, February 4th the festival organizers plan to show 27 other films in four venues that deal with a wide variety of social, environmental and economic consequences of human activity at both local and international levels. They also have five films as part of a family programme on tap. We are looking forward to seeing several of these Saturday films including “A New Economy”, “River Blue” and “Atlantic” among others.   Many of these films had won awards at other film festivals and our only complaint is that we couldn’t see more of the films being presented since they run simultaneously. 
The Native Sons Hall is one of the venues for the film fest
 World Community which is headquartered in the Comox Valley is to be commended for organizing this event. And a great aspect of this event is that it travels to a variety of B.C. and other Canadian locations over the coming months. We have already told some of our friends in Nanaimo, Duncan and Kelowna the dates that it will be in their communities. In addition to the films, World Community also organized a Saturday Bazaar and evening banquet for the event. Overall we were very impressed with the festival and the organizers must feel encouraged by the large turnouts for the films. For more information on World Community and the traveling film festival see:  

The bazaar provides a chance to meet and mingle


Sunday, 22 January 2017

Adaptive Cross Country skiing is alive and well at Mount Washington

   by Keith and Heather Nicol
Cross country skiers know that one of the great aspects of the sport is that it gets us out in the fresh air and is an ideal form of exercise since it strengthens our legs and arms and is also an aerobic workout.  Mount Washington in the Comox Valley has been having a great 2016-17 season so far with a very busy Christmas season and so far January has generally had very good weather for skiing. But people may not know that Mount Washington also has a well established adaptive skiing programme.  Recently I spoke to Steve Latta, the programme’s Nordic coordinator about how it works and who can participate. “We try to get people with a variety of challenges to try x-c skiing and this might include people with spinal cord injuries, amputees, visual impairment and cognitive issues. We have 12 trained guides who help out on a regular basis. Our main focus is helping with the Woody Gundy School programme and last year we had 54 students in our classes over the winter. We also have a number of adults who use our services and we also have a 4 day Ski Festival in early January where skiers get to come to really get immersed in the skiing since they are out day after day. This year we had 6 skiers take part which is about the maximum we can take”.  
Some of the skiers and guides at this year's festival

One of the best parts of the programme is that it is financially attainable for most people. Once people join BCAS (British Columbia Adaptive Snowsports)  for $47 per year all rentals and instruction is free. And Mount Washington offers trail tickets for ½ price to BCAS members under VISAS (Vancouver Island Society for Adaptive Snowsports) guidance.  People can also try x-c skiing with the VISAS “Have-A-Go” programme where skiers can buy a 1 day membership in BCAS for $10. For more information you can phone Steve Latta at 250-871-4488 and you can book a lesson at 250-334-5755.

A sit skier has 3 people to help guide them around the trail