Playing catch up with some older topics today. Our trip to Fort Rodd Hill made it on to the blog a long time ago but what I never got around to including was the lighthouse. We walked down the hill from the fort to see the lighthouse. We had been looking at it from the fort itself, but it was not a long walk to get down to the water and see where it was situated.
The entrance to the harbor will have been vital from the earliest days that the British established a navy base at Esquimalt. This lighthouse would have guided generations of ships into the port. I assume that it is now more symbolic than anything else. The modern navigation systems will provide accurate guidance, but it is still a landmark.
A Canadian Coast Guard boat was up on the shipyard being worked on while we were in Victoria. A ship out of the water has a very different feel given how much it sits above you and the view of the area below the waterline. It changes the scale of the vessel to my eye. I’m not sure what work was being undertaken and wonder whether it is already back in service or not.
On our trip to Victoria, we took the BC Ferries crossing to Vancouver Island. On our return journey, we got to the terminal at Swartz Bay quite early and the sun was shining so I wandered down to the water edge near the ferries to see what was going on. There were more BC Ferries vessels in place along with a competitor ferry, Seaspan, that appears to be focused on freight traffic only.
That ferry left before we loaded but it ended up following us through the passage towards the Strait of Georgia. We made a couple of turns through the passage which meant it appeared and disappeared from view for me but I managed to catch it a couple of times. The passage is also the place where the ferries pass in opposite directions since it is mid journey. A chance to get some more ferry shots. After a pause, it seems I am back on the ferry photography trail!
About half an hour from the center of Victoria BC is a large estate called Hatley Castle. It is a pretty grand place in a lot of land. Much of the land is now turned over to a university with the campus buildings spread out through the estate. The old house is still there and I think it now an administrative building for the university. I read that it is also used for a lot of filming work.
The house is quite impressive and there are also some formal gardens. We wandered around the outside of the house and up the hill a little. We could look over one of the gardens from the terrace area but it appeared the access to the gardens was restricted when we were there. Not sure whether that was a COVID issue or just for work to be done. The lawns slope down towards the sea and there is a nice view from the terrace. It isn’t hard to see why someone chose to build their home there!
Across the water from Fort Rodd Hill is the Canadian naval base of Esquimalt. This is the headquarters of the Pacific Fleet for the navy. From where we were, you could see some of the ships in the harbor. There were a few small patrol boats that were in use but the larger ships were tied up.
A while back, I produced a post about the way in which ships look a lot rougher when up close compared to from a distance. In that case, it was a Washington State Ferries vessel I was considering. In the shipyard in Victoria that was across from where we were staying, there was a catamaran ferry undergoing work. The bow of the ship was very close to the fence and you could see exactly the same thing. The steelwork welds were easy to see at that range and remind you that these ships are heavy engineering.
Our hotel room in Victoria was near to the top of the building. The window was set into the roof line. We had a flat space outside the window and it was popular with the local bird life. On several occasions, we had a gull land on the space and stand there for a while. It actually seemed interested in us rather than deterred by our presence. No guarantee that it is the same bird but we started to feel like it was visiting us on a regular basis.
As the gateway to the west coast of Canada, the area around Victoria has a military history. One location that is now no longer in service is Fort Rodd Hill. It sits overlooking the entrance to the harbor with the navy base sitting a short distance across the water. It is like many of the forts you find on the west coast with gun emplacements, bunkers, accommodation and spotting locations for the gunners. The biggest threat you now face is the large number of geese that seem intent in getting in your way and also contaminating where you are walking!
The location is well maintained and, since it was a weekday when we re there, not terribly busy. With the sun shining, it was a nice stroll to explore the facilities. The walls were pretty substantial, and it might have been fun to get a drone up to look down on everything but a) I don’t have one and b) that close to the navy base probably means they aren’t allowed anyway.
One of the places we saw mentioned in Victoria when we were staying there for Thanksgiving was Craigdarroch Castle. It was described as being in the town itself so we decided to swing by as we were heading out of town towards some other locations. The “castle” is a big house up on the hills. It has a pretty good view across the town by the looks of it. I am not usually terribly interested in the insides of buildings like this. The outside is worth a look but the interiors are usually rather old and musty, so we skipped that and walked around outside in the sun.
The building is in the middle of a residential area so it is a little strange to be surrounded by houses but it was a sunny day and the building is interesting so we had a look around before heading off on our way.
The weather in Victoria over the Thanksgiving weekend was not great for aviation photography with a fair bit of rain and definitely only one day when the sun showed up. That day was not going to be one on which I would suggest to Nancy I go photographing helicopters. That might not have been the smartest suggestion. However, when the morning was rainy and cloudy and we were planning on a relaxing day, things could be different.
I hopped in the car and drove around to the heliport which is used by Helijet for their shuttle service to Vancouver. The Sunday schedule is not the busiest so I had to plan accordingly so I got there in time for an arrival and they were scheduled to head back out again not long afterwards. I could fit all of this in before heading back for a spot of lunch.
The S-76 is a pretty elegant looking helicopter. The design has been around for a long time and has gone through a number of iterations but the basic airframe shape is good in my opinion. It is a lot larger than you might imagine with plenty of seating capacity which makes it good for this shuttle service. One of the airframes was parked at the heliport when I got there so I got some shots of that. Then it was a question of waiting for the inbound flight to arrive.
The problem with the heliport is the fencing. It has quite a tight mesh and it is possible to shoot through it but it requires some care in aligning the end of the lens with the holes. Sometimes I do better with this than other times. When the helicopter is coming in, I have to try hard to get it right. Stepping back away from the fence does provide a little elevation but not much so shooting through the fence is going to be required.
The sky was grey and dreary so approach shots were not going to be too good but I was going to try them anyway. Once it was close to touchdown, it was a sprint to the fence. They taxi off the pad to the space in front of the terminal (generous description, I know) and then shut down. It was too long before they were firing up again. Given that the wind was not too strong, they were able to lift and head straight out. As they got on to the pad, it was noticeable just how far aft the rotor was pitched. Once airborne, this resulting in a nose high altitude and then they were off.