Ukraine – A search

OK, so this isn’t an “I’ve been there” type of post, but rather an “I will go there” type of post. Finding out exactly where to go is part of the journey that I’m going through.

Both of my Paternal Grandparents were born in Ukraine, or Poland depending on when we’re talking. The area was mostly farmland and the border flipped back and forth several times.

In 1980, my Aunt sat down with my grandmother and had the foresight to record a series of conversations talking about her life in “the old country”, meeting my grandfather and their time as new immigrants to Canada. Those tapes were the Genesis of our family podcast BabasBeach. I poured over the tapes and took some sound clips when she mentioned her hometown of Batyiv and the nearby town of Radehue. Not knowing how these were spelled or where they were located, I asked for help from my friend Sergey who lives in Sevastopol, Ukraine.

Batyev and Radehiv

After listening to her voice 25 years after it was recorded, he was able to send me maps of both places.

From time to time, I check Google Maps satellite imagery for the area. When I started in 2005, it was barely possible to see the village of Batyiv. It is now possible to see buildings.

There is a woman who lives in Vancouver who operates a travel agency that specializes in taking Canadians to trace their heritage in Ukraine. Every one of her tours is different as she customizes them to suite the travellers.

I hope that in a few years time, Moe and I will be able to visit Batyiv.

Posted in Family | 2 Comments


Sometimes it isn’t how far you go, or what you get to see or do once you get there that makes a trip special. Many times, it’s who you go with.

My parents have everything that they need for their home, so buying useful gifts for them has become more and more challenging.  For their 50th wedding anniversary, we decided that time together was something that we could give to them. We booked several rooms at the beautiful Pacific Sands Beach Resort at Long Beach on Vancouver Island and spent a Friday and a Saturday night there.

We spent our time walking the beach, relaxing by the fire, listening to the sea and enjoying each other’s company.  On Saturday, Rose & Don had arranged a whale watching trip through their good friend, Jamie. We saw whales, sea lions and more bald eagles than we could count. We went for dinner in Tofino on the Saturday night and had a wonderful weekend.

I’m grateful that I have a close family and that we were able to spend that time together.

Posted in By Land, By Sea, Family | 1 Comment

St. John’s

I’ve been to St. John’s Newfoundland and Labrador 4 or 5 times over the years…usually on the way to somewhere else. Once I went there only to watch helplessly as all of our gear was quickly removed from the ship before it departed for a Search and Rescue (SAR) call offshore.

Without a doubt, the most exciting trip out to the Rock was in 1997 when we went out to deploy a couple buoys near the Hibernia Platform as well install some receiving equipment on it.


After the buoys were put into the water, Jim and I used one of the Coast Guard Zodiacs to transfer to one of the two supply vessels that are always standing by the rig. They are there to ensure that vessels do not stray into it’s exclusion zone.




As Hibernia operates in an area where icebergs are common, the structure was designed to withstand a collision with a one million tonne iceberg without any damage. It is also designed to withstand contact with a six million tonne iceberg, which will happen only once every 10,000 years, with repairable damage. If a sizable iceberg is spotted by patron aircraft or satellite imaging, these support vessels can also be used to lasso the iceberg when it is still 20km away and change the berg’s trajectory.

The Frog

Accessing the Hibernia from the ocean surface requires a unique form of transport called a Frog (named for it’s ability to bounce on landing). Jim and I waited on the supply vessel while the Frog was lowered from the platform. Riding it down to meet us was our escort for the two hours that we would be onboard the rig. Since we had had a very abbreviated safety course for our short stay, we stuck to him like glue as he was our ticket off in the event that something suddenly went sideways. The platform was not yet producing, so the risk was fairly low, but the still very real.

I sat on the same side of the Frog as our escort and Jim sat on the other side, alone. The wind was a little gusty as we were being hoisted up by the platform’s huge crane, and the frog started to spin. I’m not a huge fan of heights, so this was little unnerving. Jim later confessed that he had stuck his leg out to “catch some air” to get a better view.

I think he still owes me a beer.

For those keeping track…there is now a brewpub (Yellow Belly Brewery) in St. John’s.



Posted in By Land, By Sea, CAMRA | Leave a comment


No, not that one. OK, that one too.

We’ve been doing business in Brazil for about 10 years now. In the beginning it was to the Navy’s Southern Base in Rio Grande do Sul. It is so far south, in many ways it reminded me a lot of the West Coast of Canada. It can be cold, wet and windy out on the water.

One of the things I love about Brazil is the food. It’s simple meat and potatoes (and more meat) sort of cooking. If you’ve never had Churrasaria, you should. It usually consists of a self serve salad/vegetable bar and a barbeque. The waiters bring around skewers with a variety of meats, cheeses and innards they serve at your table. There is always a card or indicator that has a red and a green side to indicate when you’ve had enough (or need a rest).

See the breakwater in the upper left?

Something that my hosts showed me on my first visit was a small scale rail track that you could sail on. The rail was laid when a breakwater was being built to get the stone blocks out to the working edge. After the work was completed, the rail was left and entrepreneurs have made a small business of taking people for rides. On the weekend we were there people were fishing, cooking barbecue or just relaxing in the sun. Below is a short video that shows some of the sites of Rio Grande

Lately, our trips have been to Rio de Janeiro and Niteroi which is city across the bay. People from Rio joke that the only reason to go to Niteroi is for the view (of Rio). I prefer Niteroi. During the times that I have spent in Rio, I always felt (rightly) wary of everyone and every situation. Niteroi is much more relaxing and we would think nothing of taking a walk on the beach back to our hotel from the restaurant district. It is not recommended for foreigners to wander Rio in the daylight let alone the dark.

We were lucky to be invited to join a group that were going to one of the local football matches in Maracana Stadium on a recent trip. It’s an unbelievable experience to be in a stadium that holds 200,000 people. On the night we went, there were perhaps 30,000 people cheering for their team and waving some of the biggest flags that I have ever seen.

Of course, what makes any travel truly memorable is the friends that you meet and keep in touch with over time.





Posted in By Land, By Sea | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Quebec City

I’ve been to Quebec City 3 or 4 times and have always enjoyed myself there.

It’s great to see first hand where some of the key events in Canadian history took place. Until I’d been to Quebec City, my vision of the Plains of Abraham had been formed in Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.  I wandered the Plains of Abraham and learnt more of Canada’s history in an afternoon there than in all of my grade school lessons.

Those that know me, know that I seek out Real and Craft Ale wherever I go. Quebec does not disappoint. My usual stop is at Bar L’Inox and for the longest time, it was the only brewpub in town. On my last trip though, I found that a new one had opened. La Barberie is a little off of the beaten track, but it was well worth the hike. I tried many of their offerings and was pleased with most.

I love wandering the streets and alleys searching out small restaurants with their fixed price meals that I can come back to later in the day. Or I might end up finding a small Lebanese restaurant with an outdoor area where I can hang out, listen to the cover band from the bar next door and enjoy a Unibroue Ephemere (or two).


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment