Tag Archives: dragon boat

Merry Christmas from Robbin and Co.

The tree is decorated, the cookies are made, the gifts are wrapped; now all that’s left is to wish you a Merry Christmas!

I took this photo above in our front room on one of our rare snowy and chilly nights just days ago.  It looks like Christmas perfection, and luckily my head elf / youngest daughter got us moving towards Christmas this year by picking out the perfect tree, decorating, and even doing a lot of the shopping and wrapping for us!

I’ve been reexamining Christmas and what it means to me, in particular as our world changes so rapidly around us. Although I was raised Catholic, on the surface Christmas appears to be a day we work towards, to come together and share gifts we’ve purchased or made, and eat, drink and be merry. The time together is the real gift however, and it’s should be done more often. I am grateful that Christmas gets us all together, but I am becoming more of the mindset to just leave all the present shopping for birthdays!

Photo: Christmas 2015 at Tohni's house... (Jackie, Tohni, Patrick, Brian, Nathen, Lorraine, Loryn, Mom)
Photo: Christmas 2015 at Tohni’s house… (Jackie, Tohni, Patrick, Brian, Nathen, Lorraine, Loryn, Mom)

My children are all young adults now, and it’s been a long time since I’ve written a Christmas Letter.  This year marks over 5 years that I have been back in Canada after life in The Bahamas, and no regrets. I love being home and I love my country.

My mother Corae has been living with us since September 2015 and all is going well. She turns 83 on December 23rd. For those that do not use Facebook, mom’s become quite the star as I share stories about her under the hashtag #ParentingOurParents.  They are tiny little excerpts of my life as I grapple with trying to be a good daughter, while what seems to be, ‘parenting’ my aging parent.

This year The Bahamas took the brunt of Hurricane Matthew, and I took my ex husband Brian into my home! For those not aware, Brian has Parkinsons, and his health spiraled downhill rather rapidly this summer. He’s been back in Canada since October and although glad to be home, and with family, he has a long road ahead. I’ve been helping him transition back to the real world as he awaits his new healthcare assessments. He’s improved a lot just by being here.

My eldest Loryn (26 years) is now a married working woman, and is speeding through life not only on the snowboarding slopes, but she’s progressing very quickly in her career as a banker. Go see her at HSBC if you are looking to invest.  She and Lorraine (a nurse) have purchased their first home, as well as their first car. The girls live conveniently just down the road from us.

Tohni (now 24 yrs) has been enjoying life in the fast lane and lives in East Vancouver. She’s in a great relationship with Patrick and has been co-managing a fun restaurant called The General Public on Main Street in Vancouver. Do stop in to see her, she’ll give you a super discount. This year Tohni worked her butt off so she could take in as many music festivals as she could over the summer, and traveled a couple times to the USA.

Nathen (22-yrs-old) is studying now at Simon Fraser University and is working at Vision Electronics. Go see him, he’ll also give you a good deal!  While taking on a full course load, he managed to move out last month, so his life is full of responsibility.  He lives just up the hill from us. His present goal is to become a chiropractor like his father, but he said he’ll see how things progress.

Jackie (20-yrs) is the last egg in the nest and has been a huge support around the house with helping take care of her grandmother and father. She’s been working at Dynamite women’s clothing at Coquitlam Centre and is still keeping up as the voice of the ‘community calendar’ on 98.7 FM. She can be heard every hour, on the hour at ckpmfm.com.

As for me, life is full on! I’m still working TheBahamasWeekly.com and this year we celebrated our 10th anniversary. I had hoped to get back for a celebration but the hurricane took care of that.  I’ve taken on several other clients that I do writing or social media work for.

Some 2016 highlights
Some 2016 highlights

This  year I was elected president of the Hoy-Scott Watershed Society which manages a salmon enhancement program in the woods near my house. I love my volunteer work there, and have been furthering the HSWS public relations by building and managing a new website, Youtube and social media accounts. Check us out at hoyscottcreeks.org.

I’ve just completed my first year of dragon boating with the 50+ Nothin’ Dragon Masters, and loved every minute of it.  I raced with the team in 4 or 5 festivals this year, which was very exciting. Our oldest teammate is 80. I’ve also been playing soccer with my daughter Loryn on a Div. 3 team once a week, and it’s special time with her and my favourite game. I took my love for the Coquitlam Crunch, a hiking mountain in our city, to new heights by co-chairing the annual event, the Coquitlam Crunch Challenge, and was featured in the city’s promo video. In fall of this year I joined Ultra Throw, a brand new local club of 20+ athletes training and competing in javelin, shot put, discus, hammer, and weight throwing. In 2017 I will start competing. I am excited (and scared) of this, as competing in sport ‘solo’ is brand new to me.

As for my love life, when a girlfriend from the Bahamas asked if I was dating, I said, “I’m open to it, but any group I join, or people I meet, the guys are either gay, already in relationship or married.” Another girlfriend suggested I join the dating group, “Events and Adventures,” to which I chuckled and replied, “My life is already an event and adventure! I don’t need to pay for it, and I don’t have the time in my schedule.”  Another girlfriend suggested I try online dating. I tried that once – went on one date, and although it was fine (meah), I’ve resolved to waiting to see what life doles out. So yes, I am happy and single.

In 2017 I look forward to keeping my life afloat, and also have some long-range writing goals I hope to get started on if I can find the time!

Below is my interview with Tri-Cities Community TV featured on Shaw TV where I talked about #ParentingOurParents, my salmon work, The Bahamas Weekly, and dragon boating. Click the image to view or HERE.

My interview with Cathy Cena on Tri-Cities Community TV
My interview with Cathy Cena on Tri-Cities Community TV

Whether I’ve seen you this year, or not; whether we only communicate now and again, or via social media; thank you for being in my life.  Have a wonderful holiday season!

Dragon boat team narrowly escapes harm as car crashes into water in Port Moody

 

On Monday, May 16th, like any other training day for the Nothin Dragon, dragon boat team, before heading out on the water we were doing our warmups and stretches on the grassy picnic area to the left (west) of the boat ramp at Rocky Point Park.

Our coach, Erica was just coming in from leading the high school team she coaches and was walking down the wharf.  We heard a car engine rev, and then accelerate, causing us to look up and within the blink of an eye, a red Toyota came pummeling through the boat parking area  heading directly at our team warming up on the grass.  The Nothin Dragon Masters is made up of men and women, 50 years plus, with some of the team in their early 80s.  Several members were in the direct line of acceleration. Screams were heard and split-second decisions were made, as to which way to run to avoid being hit.

The car jumped the cement curb with increased speed heading straight through us  toward the water.  The car then made contact with a cement-secured park bench  (still holding the paddles of team members). The bench and the car then went airborne over the rock embankment and landed in the water on rocks since the tide was on its way out, finally standing still, in water only up to the front wheel-well.

This is from the vantage point of where the car drove toward the water. People in this scene were looking down at the Toyota, but this is the direct path she took when she drove through our training warmup. Photo: Robbin Whachell
This is from the vantage point of where the car drove toward the water. People in this scene were looking down at the Toyota (you can see the break in the mesh orange fence), but this is the direct path she took when she drove through our training warmup. Photo: Robbin Whachell

Coach Erica was walking her students through the gazebo, just east of the scene and saw it all take place. She ran to the car along with my teammate Charlie and she opened the passenger door. We heard the engine rev, shocked that the car was still running, and the driver still wanted the car to move.

Erica managed to get the  motor turned off. The driver was conscious, but delirious it seemed.  Several calls were made to 911 by onlookers,  and an open line to BC Ambulance was maintained until they arrived  on the scene.

Erica and Charlie stayed with the driver until the paramedics arrived. She told us later that the female driver said she was tired, and wanted to get home. She had tried several times to reengage the car to leave.

After the authorities arrived and were in control, and with all of us still very much in shock, our team gathered in a circle near the gazebo to take a moment to internalize what had just happened and to give thanks that no one was injured (save the driver).

Port Moody police officers approached us and took statements from team members. Some of our team who had arrived late, had seen the woman driving down the grass bank beside the Old Mill Boathouse just moments before the incident. The fact that no people were hurt or other vehicles damaged before she made that final leap, was a miracle.

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View from the gazebo at Rocky Point Park looking to the red Toyota that was driven through our training session, through a park bench and over the rocks. It was driven by an Asian woman approximately in her 50s (Photo: Robbin Whachell)

Our coach suggested it might be good for us to continue with our practice (for those that wanted) to shake off the experience.

On our way to the dragon boat we watched as the first-responders helped the woman from her car, and covered her with a blanket. I was surprised she was able to walk over the rocks to a stretcher. She seemed completely dazed however.

We took our seats in the Dragonfly and Firefly, utterly grateful that no one was hurt, and headed out onto the water, a little numb, until the strokes put our bodies and minds in unison.

Upon returning to shore , we were surprised to see emergency vehicles were still there. The red Toyota was hoisted out of the water by a tow truck, and we returned to the comfort of our homes and families…

(Note: Much of this account was written by, or adapted from the words of our club’s president, Brian. No point rewriting what he articulated quite accurately.)

For more photos see the team’s Facebook page HERE.

I paddled the Fraser River from Fort Langley to Coquitlam for FraserFEST!

Once I had a vision:  I was a young native man, and I was walking down the mountainside to  the water. I could see my canoe down at the shore.  As I walked down the bank I noticed a bear in the distance. I placed my canoe on the water, got in and took my paddle. A wind came up suddenly and the skies darkened. The water turned choppy and I felt the rain spray across my face. I became afraid. So afraid, that I thought I might die. I remembered the bear, and I found peace in my uneasiness. I began to focus on the shore across from me, and found my rhythm in paddling. I became one with the waves, and before I knew it, I was safe upon the shore across the inlet. As I stood solidly upon the river rock, I heard an eagle’s cry. I  looked up to see the clouds had opened, to blue sky…

I am new to canoeing, but I am registered to begin training with Nothin Dragon, a 50+ paddling team that trains in Port Moody, BC, close to where I live in Coquitlam.  Being a director of the Hoy-Scott Watershed Society and I manage their social media pages, I try to keep in touch with other like-minded community groups.

Last Friday, while winding up my work day, I received an email  from Rivershed Society of BC about FraserFEST, a 3-week event created to educate on the Fraser River’s history, culture, and the issues threatening its health. The mighty Fraser is the longest river in B.C.  The email advised that spots were still available on a 25 km canoe trip from Fort Langley to Coquitlam that coming Sunday.

I thought, how perfect it would be to get a taste of being out canoeing, before I start with the dragon boat team in October. Within minutes I had registered for the Sunday morning event (even though my mother was moving in on Saturday night), and later on Facebook saw that they still had openings available, likely due to the foreboding weather, so I tagged my eldest daughter and encouraged her to join me, which she did.

Our Voyageur Salute! FraserFEST paddlers on the Fraser River, en route to Colony Farm Regional Park Left to right: Fin Donnelly, Loryn Blower, Robbin Whachell, Jon Torrence, Samantha Lorber, Deb Taylor, Brenda Flynn, Michael M, Rob Lorber, Thom Giberson, Yuan Radies (Missing from photo, photographer and skipper, Doug Radies)
Paddles up for a Voyageur Salute! FraserFEST paddlers on the Fraser River about to leave Fort Langley. —— Left to right: Fin Donnelly, Loryn Blower, Robbin Whachell, Jon Torrence, Samantha Lorber, Deb Taylor, Brenda Flynn, Michael M, Rob Lorber, Thom Giberson, Yuan Radies (Missing from photo, photographer and skipper, Doug Radies)

“It is no coincidence communities and cities are built on large and healthy waterways tend to also have healthier financial foundations with more abundance of wealth and prosperity to go around.”

A solid number of intrepid cyclists and paddlers showed up on August 20th at Colony Farm Regional Park, which is located on Kwikwetlem First Nations territory at the Coquitlam River, and served as host site for the Coquitlam festival portion. The forecast called for rain, winds and possibly lightening, but we were all geared up as ‘west coast’ people know how to, and were ready for an adventure.

We  were treated to coffee and yummy Uprising Bakery goodies.  I was not aware this was the inaugural event, nor that cyclists would be joining us. They would be pedaling along a trail on the north shore of the Fraser as we made our way by water.

The group was welcomed by Kwikwetlem Band Council member, Ed Hall, and founder of the Rivershed Society of BC, Fin Donnelly, who is also an environmental activist, and local politician. Donnelly is well known for  swimming the 1,400 km length of the Fraser River twice, and was our excursion leader for the day.

I had heard Fin speak before, and I introduced him to my daughter,  asking him to tell her about his historic swim and the annual 20 day trip that he leads each summer providing young adults the amazing opportunity to travel down the Fraser River.

"Canadians are explorers..."
“Canadians are explorers…”

Later, bikes were loaded into a transport vehicle, and we boarded the school bus to Langley. Being new to canoeing, I was a bit nervous about the weather, which worsened as we crossed the Port Mann Bridge. After meeting a few people on the bus, I learned I was not alone with those feelings.

“FraserFEST’s goal is to increase watershed awareness of those who live, work and play in the Fraser River Basin, through river adventures and community festivals blending music, art, speakers, food and culture…”

In Langley we were greeted by Wendy Dadalt, Manager, Metro Vancouver Regional Parks. Bikes were offloaded, and cyclists mounted up and were on their way along the 25 km trail beside the Fraser.

The rest of us were traveling by canoe, and we were joined by Jay Lundy of Voyageur Adventures, who expressed that the canoe is a symbol of Canada’s culture. He spoke of the early years and spirit of Canada, and how we still rely on our waterways, to connect us, providing us food, energy, and enjoyment. “As Canadians, we are diverse and we are explorers,” said Jay.

It made me think of my Canadian-German grandfather, who was a Hudson’s Bay trapper. I wondered if he ever went by canoe when he would head out and lead trapping exhibitions in the 1940s. I bet he did.

My trapper grandfather Heintz married a Metis woman, and I noticed Jay Lundy wore a Metis sash on his hat.  Jay made sure we were educated  on the basic canoeing strokes, and showed us how to do a ‘voyageur salute’ with our red paddles, which was fun.

Amid a heavy rain, we got seated in the 34’ voyageur canoe which are built in Alberta. I sat up front behind Fin, and my daughter Loryn was behind me with Michael, a young member of the Kwikwetlem Nation, who has just moved up from the USA and was also new to canoeing. He was honoured to be with us and his people had given him a special Kwikwetlem paddle to use for the journey.

“A river is a river, always there, and yet the water flowing through it is never the same water and is never still. It’s always changing and is always on the move. And over time the river itself changes too.” – Aidan Chambers

Fraser River log boom (Photo: Robbin Whachell)
Fraser River log boom (Photo: Robbin Whachell)

From historic Fort Langley, with Fin leading as stroker, and Doug at the back as our steerperson, our 12 member group got underway! Our aim was to keep in unison, but it did become tricky at times, especially as arms tired. With Fin in front of me, and setting a pace that never waned, I did my darnedest to keep up with him, and I feel I did a pretty good job over the 4 hours.  There were moments when I’d get into the strokes, and my mind would wander, and then I’d snap back to reality, finding I’d lost the group’s rhythm. We were encouraged to take breaks when we were tired, or get water, take photos, etc. The large canoe felt extremely safe, and hardly tipped sideways, event when we were met with choppy waters.

On our journey we paddled past Barnston Island, under the Golden Ears Bridge and by Douglas Island to the mouth of the Coquitlam River. The weather changed many times, and we saw eagles and seals. When we stopped for lunch at a camping area, we watched a log boom pulled by 5 tugboats go by – a scene common to the Fraser.

The cyclists who were well ahead of us, waited for us to catch up at a dock along the trail, and it was so nice to see them.  They waved, cheered us on, and took photos as we saluted them with our paddles.

After 4 hours we were elated to finally turn in, and head up the Coquitlam River  into Kwikwetlem territory, where we were greeted by those we’d seen earlier in the day, as well as many newcomers.  We helped hoist the canoe from the water, and then formed a circle as we were officially welcomed back by Kwikwetlem Nation.  Each of us were given flags to carry into the festival area, where we enjoyed a hot meal of salmon lasagna from Pasta Polo.

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The inaugural FraserFEST at Colony Farms during a short reprieve in the weather (Photo: Doug Radies)

The sun came out over the festival grounds, as well as a rainbow,  and along with others, we enjoyed live music,  a variety of speakers, and educational community booths.  Words were offered by Founder, Rivershed Society of BC, Fin Donnelly, MP, New Westminster- Coquitlam & Port Moody; Selina Robinson, MLA Coquitlam-Maillardville; Mark Angelo, Founder, BC Rivers Day / World Rivers Day;  Bonita Zorillo, Coquitlam City Councillor; and Ed Hall, Kwikwetlem Band Council.

“Our early forbearers held many festivals to give thanks to the land and the rivers from whose bounty they thrived. The Fraser River is still one of the largest salmon producing rivers in the world. FraserFEST will culminate with World Rivers Day, the last Sunday in September. Participants are invited to come celebrate the watershed in which they live while enjoying local entertainment and food.” – Rivershed Society of B.C.

There are three more festivals planned this week, in New Westminster Quay on September 24th; in Vancouver at False Creek Fisherman’s Wharf on the 26th; and the final one in North Vancouver at Cates Park on Sept. 27th. FraserFEST will be held annually.

Listen as Fin Donnelly speaks about FraserFEST to our group that morning.

You will find more information about FraserFEST at: www.rivershed.com

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