Sunday, September 23, 2012


Living in downtown Vancouver with its close proximity to the ocean and some of the most magnificent cruising grounds in the world, I feel extremely privileged to own a boat, our modest 28 foot Crown Jewel, and be able to spend time exploring the waterways of our coastline. While the cost of moorage, insurance, and maintenance can certainly be cause for grumbling, not to mention the fuel bills, it all seems to disappear once I drop the hook somewhere, fire up the BBQ and pour myself a drink.  It's hard to find anything else that can match the pleasure of being on the water.

Crown Jewel
Obviously I'm not the only one who feels that way, and the various marinas of the lower mainland are filled with motorboats and sailboats (stink pots and rag hangers as they affectionately class themselves) of various styles, but most of them under 50 feet/17 metres in length.  Though technically speaking these boats can be called yachts (a word that comes with connotations of luxury) for the most part these boats are more like floating cabins with each owner working hard to keep them as comfortable as their budget permits.  The word "yacht" defines any recreational boat over 24 feet/8 metres in length, a mega yacht as being over 98 feet/30 metres, and a super yacht as being over 164 feet/50 metres.  If super yacht isn't big enough there is a new term, giga yacht which refers to boats over 220 feet/67 metres in length.

Nova Spirit
At 150 feet in length, Jimmy Pattison's Nova Spirit was for a long time the biggest boat in the Vancouver harbour.  As befits our famous, self-made, local billionaire, the luxurious interior demonstrates the world of difference between the merely fortunate and the truly rich.  Even so, this boat only makes it to the mega yacht category.

Inside Nova Spirit
Our beautiful cruising grounds attract boaters from around the world and this past summer the 135 foot Komokwa and the 163 foot Casino Royale were in town and moored close to Jimmy's yacht providing a little competition and giving something for all the gawkers around Coal Harbour to stare at. But it was over on Lonsdale Quay where the super yachts the 180 foot Galileo and 199 foot Meduse were in town, that really upped the ante.  One can only imagine the luxurious amenities and other creature comforts these yachts offer.


Casino Royale
What makes Meduse so special, apart from the helicopter pad and built in recording studio amongst other amenities, is the fact this super yacht belongs to Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, and that it's the smallest of his 3 yachts.  The other two, the 303 foot Tatoosh and 416 foot Octopus have also visited Vancouver in the past.  At one time Octopus was listed as the largest yacht in the world, it's now #12, and it comes with a swimming pool, 2 helicopters, recording studio, 7 other boats, a 10 man submarine and accommodations for 26 guests within its 41 suites.  The other rooms are for the 57 crew members.  Presumably this is now enough boat for Mr. Allen so the Meduse is up for sale for $55 million and Tatoosh #35 for $163 million if you are interested.

The largest permanently moored boat in Vancouver now belongs to Dennis Washington, owner, amongst other things, of Seaspan.  His latest boat Attessa IV is a stunning 330 foot super/giga yacht that is # 27 on the list of the biggest yachts in the world.  Over a 3 1/2 year period Washington spent millions refitting a boat originally called Evergreen and turning it into a masterpiece of design.  Good thing he had his own shipyard and staff to do the work.  For more pictures of the interior check out the link below.

Attessa IV
Another notable super yacht that came to Vancouver a few years ago was Le Grand Bleu a boat once owned by John McCaw and then sold to the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich who then had it refitted as well.  But at # 21 of the world's largest yachts this 370 footer clearly wasn't good enough and so Mr. Abramovich has now taken possession of the largest private yacht in the world, the Eclipse.  At 538 feet in length it is the largest and most expensive boat ever built and comes with a submarine, 2 swimming pools, 3 helicopters and room for 36 guests and 70 crew members. Not sure if it will ever come to Vancouver but you never know.

Le Grand Bleu
To even make the top 100 you need a boat that starts at 247 feet/75 metres and the price to build them averages $500,000.00 per foot.  Annual maintenance is usually around 10% of the purchase price, and then there is the fuel they burn.  Of course if you have to worry about fuel costs then a giga yacht isn't really  for you.  While these dreamboats are truly something else I'm glad I can still get around in my baby yacht.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I Can Hear Music

If I'm not swimming in the ocean I'm often walking along the seawall and, like so many other people these days, I'm usually listening to music at the same time.  As I pass others coming and going I've noticed that most folks are using the same ear bud style headphones and they are either black or white in colour.  White presumably being the colour of the Apple crowd, and black being that of the Android set.  Of course it's hard to say with any certainty these days, given that everything is so interchangeable, and the devices people are listening to their music on could be either an iPod, cellphone or something else entirely.

Listening to music while walking has been around for a long time, at least since the 60's when the portable transistor radios first came out, and I got my first one in 1968 after saving up my paper route money.  Back then it was only AM radio that was initially available, though it later expanded to FM as well, and there was only one earphone because AM sound was mono, not stereo.  Curiously enough the size of the device then wasn't much different than the iPod or any of the new cellphones available now; it was something that could fit inside a shirt pocket.

Sony was the dominant portable transistor radio manufacturer in those days, and it also later came out with the famous Walkman that allowed people to listen to their own recorded music on a cassette tape and then, later still, on CDs.  The next wave was the MP3 or digital media player, but this time it was Apple's iPod that really took control of the market and put something new into everyone's shirt pocket.  By combining the MP3 player with a cellphone they also eliminated the need for people having to carry two devices around with them, three if you counted a camera. Other manufacturers quickly caught on, mostly powered by the Android operating system, and now the fashionistas of the world are divided into two main camps; Android or Apple.

One person's music is another person's noise and for that reason headphones are a blessing for everyone, even it means we are somewhat disconnected from other people around us and the sensory experience of wherever we happen to be walking.  But, whether the music is meant to soothe, pump up the adrenalin, or simply help us escape, the appeal is universal, and the selection now available is almost limitless.  The little device in your shirt pocket can play music from AM/FM radio stations, live streaming of any genre off the Internet, and of course whatever music you've already downloaded.

As popular as these new combination phone/camera/music devices are it's worth noting that the humble transistor radio is still the most popular communication device ever invented.  There are an estimated 7 billion of them floating around the planet and they continue to be made in spite of their seeming irrelevance.  But whether you pick an Apple, Android, or something else to plug into your ear it doesn't really matter as long as you can hear the music.