Ode To Summer

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

The summer staine faces southward looking up at the arc of the summer sun, the moon, the stars and the planets. It absorbs the sky’s warmth and wisdom, storing that energy for the long winter ahead. The rock and its mysterious visage are divided by pointers to the five corners of the earth. The fifth pointer being the mark toward the land of fairies and other creatures of imagination who, on moon lite nights, carve symbols on certain rocks in the forest.

We are now in mid-summer. The morning sunrise comes later and the evenings are clearly darkening earlier. It is a time of easier living but when wells and streams dry up, forests burn and crops ripen we begin to look toward autumn with a growing anticipation. Soon, we will be rain-bound in the dark and look back on summer with a deep longing. Now is a time to celebrate life and simply savour the moment.Summer is when fat trout cautiously laze in the shade of low, leafy branches and cast their own shadow through clear running water.Downstream, dogs wet their bellies or swim out to chase sticks. They revel in the moment with a joy that only dogs truly know.Further on, the stream meanders toward the sea where it will become cloud and rain to sustain life further around the planet.At the water’s edge, ferns mark the narrow zone where the waterworld becomes forest.A short distance from the stream bank apples fatten and slowly ripen.Some will fall among delicate flowers.Many will nourish the creatures of the forest.Some apples will be made into hearty drink. Every plant returns more than it takes. These flowers nourish bees who in turn, nourish us.Remember that weeds are merely flowers for which someone else has decided they have no use.Where there are thorns, there is also sweetness and sustenance.Despite the sweat and toil of men who clear the land for their own design, the forest always returns at the first opportunity.At the edge of town, there is still harvest from the forest and dogs scheme and dream while wiley rabbits watch and wonder.While smoke fills the evening sky, Purple Martins still swoop and fly, banqueting on a plague of insects and so saving us from a minor curse.Following the plume of smoke, Thorag soon found the crash site but could see no survivorsOn the headland, young engineers continued to build a mighty fortress to stand against the impending invasion. They had docks and ramparts and even a store of coal should the battle last into winter.In the village, shop keepers had taken to keeping massive dogs for protection.Paths between the village and the fort were heavily trodden.  A heady aroma of leaves crushed beneath foot filled the air. Outdoor furniture vibrated and rocked. There was a tension in the air.A lone flower hid among the bracken which grew on the edges of the last stream where the earth’s life-essence drained thinly into the sea. Even the forest’s air was heavy with drought. The forest continued to dry until leaves which were not able to contribute sustenance to the tree were cast away. There was need of a mutual nurturing. If not met, it could not be tolerated.As if caught in a permanent state of falling, one dessicated leaf was snared incongruously by a spiders silk and hung fluttering in the wind.All the while, vultures circled in the hot, rising air and waited.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” – John Lubbock

Smoke and Brass Monkies

First things first! My friend Kerry, who has a deep passion for our First Nations People, and also canoes, was given this beautiful dug-out. It is believed to be from Haida Gwaii and up to 150 years old. Its symmetry is almost perfect, the hull thickness is exact. No computers, no lasers, no 3D printers. It is a fine little boat, about ten feet long and suitable for smaller folks or children who could have used it for harvesting clams and so forth. It may also have been used as a serving bowl at feasts and potlatches.              The real thing!

I took this photo in False Creek in Vancouver several days ago. This country bumpkin was a bit uncomfortable there. Friends (See their blog: Sage on Sail) are anchored in New York…and liking it! This scene would be Hooterville in New York City!

Our town. I can’t help but love a small town with a traffic roundabout at the foot of main street built around a genuine antique ship’s anchor. We’ve still got some water and, apparently, a bit of detergent. Note the auto body/ collision shop in the background. Some folks have difficulties negotiating roundabouts.

I have always wanted to have a boat named the ‘Brass Monkey.’ As I contemplate selling my beloved boat and replacing it with a smaller trailerable boat, I believe I would name it the ‘Brass Monkey.’ I’ve never seen a vessel with that name. ‘Seafire’ was very close to having that handle but fate intervened and she ended up with the name of a previous and beloved vessel. It’s a complicated story best saved for another time. The Brass Monkey fixation has to do with my perverse sense of humour. Over breakfast this morning I mused about a new blog called “Tales Of The Brass Monkey.” It could begin: “Hello my name is Balls; Claude Balls. Perhaps you are familiar with my first novel “Tiger Hunting in Burma.”

A “Brass Monkey” candidate. It is an Albin 27 and a perfect boat for “Frederizing.”

Bah ha ha, I get it, I get it!”

It’s a tired old joke from my elementary school days so very, very long. I recall we could get ourselves doubled over in gales of laughter about ‘Rusty Bedsprings” by I. P. Nightly. Was I ever really that innocent and so easily amused? Such are the weird mental meanderings of a creative old sailor on the Saturday morning of the beginning of a long weekend. It is BC Day this time. Years ago an edict was issued that declared there would be a statute holiday in every month of the year. That’s very civilized I suppose.

Taken late in the day on ‘Seafire’ with all the hatches open and a breeze wafting through. Just as we become acclimatized things begin to cool down. Today, it is a frosty 22 degrees C

Not bad for a temperate rain forest.

It meant moving Thanksgiving from November to October. Halloween was apparently not an adequate excuse for an official day off with pay. I don’t think Remembrance Day should be a legal holiday but there’s no point in blowing against the wind. When you retire, every day becomes a sort-of holiday and all too often you have to grope to remember what day it is. Too soon it will be guessing the month; and then the year. Your existence can become something measured by the space between medical appointments. I’ll tell you right now that I’m becoming increasingly suspicious of the whole damned Western Medical system and wonder about how many Porsche payments I’m helping make.

Hey Dad, it’s walk time. I’m waiting!

“I’m waiting again! Let’s go to the boat and have a treat. Huh?Huh?”

Jewelry store security. Bono is an 18 month-old Irish Wolfhound. He’s bloody gorgeous!
The local kennel where his likes are raised can be found at TyrconnellIW.SPACE (that’s a capital I before the W)

The weather continues to be clear and hot. There are several forest fires burning on just on Vancouver Island including a local one of over 190 hectares. All due probably to some idiot with a cigarette. So each day is smoky and airless. Last evening, even with hatches open, the boat’s interior was 43º C, that’s 108ºF! I’m painting the boat’s cockpit so for me it is up in the early morning to put the next coat on before the baking sun rears its angry head once again. I’d love an ocean breeze but I’m glad the firefighters don’t have any more wind than the fire itself creates. I know, from younger years working in the woods, what a hellacious ordeal forest fire fighting is. There is no romance in any of it.

The day the tree ran dry.

Ah c’mon! No jokes eh?

There’s certainly dick in the brook. Sorry folks, but if it doesn’t carry running water all year, it ain’t no salmon stream.

Our local forest fire, still burning and threatening almost eighty homes and farms.

The smoke settles in thickly at times. The ‘Averie Rose’ in the foreground is the gorgeous home of a couple who built her deep in the interior, then trucked her hundreds of miles to the coast. She’s very much “Eye Candy” and a good boat too.

There’s nothing like fresh sea air. Cough! Cough!

There is an expression about being “Drier than a popcorn fart” Here’s a meadow full of them. Pffft.

Wot a life! I met an old man this morning racing down the sidewalk in his electric scooter. He was resplendent in flowered Bermuda shorts flapping around his skeletal legs which were wrapped up in knee-high socks. He wore thick, huge sunglasses beneath a broad straw hat. A smouldering cigarette was stuck in his pie-hole. He complained about the smoke in the air. How do you respond to blatant idiocy? The smoke is acrid enough but nothing compared to the weekend past when a dock caught fire in Port Mellon over 30 miles away. The choking stench of burning creosote filled the air for most of the day. It is a toxic funk that sticks in your throat and nose, strongly reminiscent of a time when everyone used either coal or wood for cooking and heating and thought nothing of whatever might be spewing from local industrial smokestacks. Bleaach! Despite our local air quality warnings, there are millions of folks on the planet still living daily in far worse air pollution and know nothing different. Oh, the things we take for granted!

The pirate ship “Wannabe.”
She’s a beauty in her own right. At least she’s flying a courtesy flag.

A very handsome boat.
It must have taken all of the owner’s money…he had nothing left for a courtesy flag!

My kind of boat. A Bill Garden design, built of steel, dead shippy and able to go anywhere, any time.

It’s wood! Really? This is the bow of a classic Monk cruiser, immaculately kept and named ‘Thelonius’
You’ll get it in a minute.

The forehatch, “A ting of beauty.”

Our marina is so crowded with transient vessels this year that member’s slips are being assigned whenever possible. The revenue is most welcome I’m sure as we continue to expand and improve our facilities. Two temporary neighbours this week were tied on either side of the same finger. One, a typical fibreglass trawler, clone was crewed with two pre-geriatric couples. Drinks flowed copiously accompanied with loud guffaws and “Golly-gee, I think we’re having fun” raucous, imposing laughter. I said nothing (because I seem to have forgotten how to have fun.) Their dock mate was a cruise and learn vessel belonging to a lady who has run a successful sailing school on her boat for many years. In the morning she held class in the cockpit and then coached a teenage girl who, incidentally, backed the big sloop out and away; quite possibly for the first time ever. She did a great job. All the while, the trawler’s matrons stood up on their top deck with hands-on-hips, watching and making comments, especially during the backing out manoeuvre. The body language and mindless quips were entirely inappropriate and distracting to the student. Gormless people, finding entertainment with someone else’s dire circumstance, infuriate me. I tried to keep my head down but finally spontaneously offered that the student really did not need an audience. Two blank faces turned and regarded me with the all the deep wonder of pigs having a pee. I know, I’m just a cranky old curmugeon, but the instructor grinned and waved. The next day another guest dumped out the dock’s dog water bucket because he “Didn’t know what it was for.” Later he complained about the purple martins “Picking on him.”

As Jack might say, “Grrrrr.”

‘Puffin,’ another Bill Garden design. She’s decades old and pristine. She should be in a glass box on someone’s fireplace mantle.

How boats should look. These are the mast bands and the pin rail for the gaff-rigged mainsail. This twenty-six foot boat has sailed uncountable miles over very many decades…and, I think, she’s just getting started.

‘Puffin’s’ boom gallows, carved in the South Pacific more than twenty-five years ago. I think it says something about Lulu’s hand-made grass skirts and ukuleles.

For every goof there are also very many lovely people, with gorgeous boats and even some with wonderful dogs along for the cruise. I’m quite proud to be a small part of the Ladysmith Maritime Society which has become an ultimate cruising drop-in spot for vessels from as far away as the bottom of Puget Sound and even Southern California. One appeared the other day with home port displayed as Isle Grosse, Michigan. I don’t know where the boat is really kept but… goshdernit; we’re famous!

At the moment, I’m finishing up the final licks of the face lift on old ‘Seafire.’ The cockpit has lost its grubby tugboat ambience. Now if someone could do the same for me. I’m also working on an engine in a friend’s 1946 Chris Craft. This beautiful old wooden classic is the sort of boat I watched in the harbours of my youth. Whodda thunk that one day, nearly sixty years later….! Actually I do work on these old beauties every once in a while and it is always a bit of pleasure. No computers!

‘Django,’ a buddy’s 1946 Chris Craft. It has just been sold. Bittersweet indeed.

The final painting in the cockpit is now done. That, in itself, feels good. Also, the heat has eased and we have actually had a few sprinkles of rain today. Does this mean we’re on the slippery back side of summer already? Between the showers, the sun breaks out through a brassy pall of smoke. At least we’ve had no fire-starting thunderstorms, here, yet. I might be frustrated with my little life but I’m not bored. Summer wears on.

All finished. My outdoor office is back in business. It’s time to go sailing!

Don’t judge other people’s ability by the level of your own incompetence.” … Old Grumpy hisself

“Aaaah! Finally!”

“Trade Goats For Canoe”

(Remember that you can enlarge any image simply by clicking on it)

It sank beneath the horizon without a single hiss.

Trade goats for canoe.” The ad. caught my eye immediately. I have neither goats nor a canoe but I certainly understand that urge to go to sea. My sea lust has not diminished even with the notion of selling my boat. The response to my notice that ‘Seafire’ can now be bought has been overwhelmingly negative. “You can’t be Fred without your boat!” “What will you do?” So far there have been no offers of cash nor potential partnerships in the boat. I am not selling my beloved boat because I am weary of it or the sea. I simply cannot meet the financial demands of owning a boat any longer, at least within my current financial perimeters. There are fixed costs to pay whether you use the boat or not and there are no more rabbits in my sack. One window closes and another opens. If I am boatless on the beach for a while I will still be a salty dog, something I can neither hide nor deny. There are a number of folks who are boat owners who are clearly not water people no matter how hard they try to impress otherwise.


From my anchorage the moon rises on the opposite side of the planet from where the sun set.

Jitters. Hand-held while on my boat. Gibsons after the fireworks. The smoke lingers over town.

I, of course, am hoping for something to happen which will alter my direction and I am not about to give my beloved away to the first punter. My truck is also for sale and I’m not too proud to take money for just about anything else. I just want to relieve the mental constipation of debt and say “Aaah” as my creative juices flow freely. I can’t live here on my small pension so I need to be where I can do that. Yes I’ll miss the boat which has been my snug home and mobile refuge but life is not always about happy choices. Maybe I’ll soon be able to announce plan F, (whatever that is,) has fallen into place and that ’Seafire’ and I are headed south. But I do have a lovely backpack which is free and clear and the blogs can continue from wherever I am.

This blog is supposed to be about the adventure I would find aboard ‘Seafire’ but I’m hard aground. So onward and sideways. As the old English slang goes, I’ll do my best to “Keep my pecker up.” Haar! There are millions of people out there who would feel deep delight simply to have a cold drink of clean water let alone one nutritious meal a day; let alone daring to have a dream. Ordeal or adventure, it is all up to each one of us. We, who are so blessed, and so naive, take so much for granted. We cannot dare even try to understand the depths of misery and poverty of human existence. The bums sleeping under a bridge tonight are royalty compared to masses of others. We would be horrified to have to live even one day as most of our fellow species do. I often think of writers from the past who despite cold, hunger, illness, addictions at times, wrote so eloquently without spell-checkers or any of the many amenities we now enjoy and take for-granted. If it had been me, I would probably have found a way to dump my inkwell over the completed manuscript.

Well, finally all the sanding and filling and painting are finished. New life lines are rigged, now plenty high enough to keep my own herd of goats on deck. The boat looks like a new penny. I’ll finish painting inside the cockpit later. Now it is time to cast off the lines and get out of Dodge. It’ll soon be mid-summer and I’m weary of the sound of laughing, drunken gringo yachters having fun while I toil away.

Finished. Look at those stanchions and new lifelines! I wonder how many goats I could keep aboard.

Manly hands, just like the old days. Finger tips sanded and greased to the bone. I wonder what Madge would say. Ha… I know how old you are!

Last flight for the day. My old friend ‘Sea-fart.’

After having begun this blog I awaken the following morning in bliss The boat is anchored in Silva Bay, I’m in my bunk, there is a gentle pre-dawn glow coming through the open hatch. I put the kettle on the stove and soon enjoy the forgotten aroma and sound of my coffee press. I sit watching the rising sun play its light across the bay. A US yacht with no courtesy flag leaves the end of the dock, a straight-out departure yet the grinding din of the bow thruster shatters the tranquility. But then they are gone and only the soft call of mourning doves enhances the peace. A friend’s boat needs my help and I enjoy the moment before I crawl into a bilge and begin what could be a sweaty day.

The work was completed as far as it would go by noon. We had to lift the rear of the engine to get at the stubborn, rounded and rusted bolts which hold the old starting motor in place. It was a frustrating endeavour but such is life. I’ve had worse. I’m happy to have ended my career as a marine technician, this is no longer a gig for this chunky aging dude but for old time’s sake I have black grease back in my pores. I’ve spent the afternoon peacefully napping and reading, doing nothing. I’m trying to teach myself not to feel guilt about simply being. It’s hard, really. The descending evening is clear and calm, like warm milk. I’m wondering what to do with myself. It was full moon last night and I’m thinking… yeah you know what I’m thinking.

Off into the sunset, leaving the shore behind. Always a good feeling.

I weigh anchor just before eight pm and motor out onto the Strait of Georgia. There is no wind so the autohelm is set on a course for Howe Sound. I believe it is the most beautiful inlet on the coast but it is industrialized and heavily populated. Deep, with plenty of steep-sided rocky islands, the inlet’s shoreline is crowded with homes built with amazing feats of engineering and spending. This is the first inlet north of Vancouver and so first access into the wilderness of British Columbia. On clear days you can see the magnificent mountains towering over the skier’s mecca of Whistler. Altogether it is a grand place to be. I speculate that much of this urbanization was brought on in a mad rush to the Westcoast inspired in part by a CBC television show filmed here in Gibsons. ‘The Beachcombers’ episodes can still be found on YouTube. All of its stars are long-gone but the impressions and flavour of the series lingers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nj9bd-4qu4I Hopefully this link will take you to some clips of the series. You’ll have to clip and paste to make it work.

My crossing is swift with a flood tide in my favour. There is a spectacular sunset. Eventually, what was last night’s full moon rises through the murk of distant Vancouver Airport. I can clearly see the city and Lion’s Gate bridge. There are suddenly fireworks in English Bay. Above the scene, in the velvet purple sky, brilliant lights of far-distant aircraft descend in an arcing approach toward the airport like stars on a string. As I arrive at my anchorage that scene is backlit with another fireworks display in the town of Gibsons. WOW!

Deer feed on kelp at low tide beside my anchorage.

Later, in the lazy early morning light, I lay listening to seals snort and splash. There are photos and films to edit but for the moment the fullness of nothingness is wonderful. These are lonely moments but even that longing ads to the gentle intensity of Sunday morning rising up. CBC radio plays a tribute to Arvo Pärt, one of my favourite classical composers. Last night, I listened to a regular Saturday evening feature, “Saturday Night Blues’ hosted by Holger Petersen. It is a CBC tradition and always a pleasure of good music. A great jazz program follows. Yep, I’m actually plugging good old CBC.

Boop! Boop! Boooooop!

But I have the right of way!
The flooding tide churns at the bow of a freighter anchored in English Bay, Vancouver.

The madness on the waters around Vancouver. Due to a monstrous lack of facilities, folks have to anchor wherever they can and take their chances.

A day later I’m absorbing the rising heat and activity of a Monday morning in downtown Vancouver. One phone call persuaded me to join some friends who are anchored in False Creek in Vancouver. I was curious, I haven’t been here in years. The buildings are higher and denser than ever. Crossing English Bay on my way in was a gauntlet of vessels going every way, threading their erratic courses between the anchored freighters with apparent oblivion to anyone else. Entering False Creek was mayhem. Every sort of floating object was pelting about, from pedal boats and kayaks to huge tour vessels. Skittering through all of that were a plague of water taxis, all apparently in defiance of any rules or basic courtesy. On shore, the walkways and beaches seemed to bulge with masses of folks. Finding a place to anchor was a challenge, nearly every possible spot was full. None of this circus is for me. I’m finishing my second mug of chewy black coffee then I’ll catch the ebb tide out of here. This is no place for old sailors. The anchor chain came up so fouled with slimy muck that I wanted to cut it.

An urbanscape with some green. The tupperware boats crowd the shoreline everywhere possible.

What happens when you don’t hold your plumb bob steady! I had to admire this amazing piece of design work. The floor are actually dead-level despite the illusions.

Placidly we go amid the rabble. There is so much going on I’m sure these beauties are seldom noticed.

Someone has made a valiant effort to disguise concrete silos in False Creek.

We be gone! Happiness for me is the big smokey city behind my sparkling wake.

Goodbye Mr. T

Point Atkinson Light Station. Now unmanned it is, I think, one of the most beautiful lights anywhere. Also, once past it, Vancouver is soon out of sight.

Seafire anchored off the Gibsons waterfront.

A few minutes earlier, on board Seafire, I got these sunrise shots. It made all the previous week’s labour absolutely worth while.

A glimpse of part of Gibson’s crowded inner harbour. Stout breakwaters shelter it from vicious winter outflow winds.

Almost fifty years after the Beachcomber show was first aired, this cafe is still the center of the local scene. And, they still serve good food!

I spend the day meandering around back in the mouth of Howe Sound, stunned at the number of fantastic new summer homes and the lack of anchorages. The waters are too deep, right up to the steep shorelines. I arrive in Gibsons and anchor off the beach in front of Gramma’s Pub, a waypoint for me for over thirty years. The air is hot and still with a hint of the pulpmill at Port Mellon, a few miles north up the sound. The next day rushes past in the company of two wonderful friends I’ve know for years. Their hospitality was grand, their cooking superb and I delighted in the warmth of their friendship.

A bizarre poster I found in a Gibsons restaurant. It reads in part, “Gibson, Castle: the royal castle of the United States of America…The most suitable city in the world. The most suitable city in the world. Land of idyllic beauty, fairyland, vacation pension paradise.”                                                      I think someone likes the Gibsons area!

Keeper of the paddles. My dear friend Kerry is deeply immersed in First Nation culture and has a passion for canoeing.

A made-over loggers bunk shack on skids used as a shed, gracefully again becomes part of the forest from which it came. It is beautiful to my eye.

My best deer photo ever. She was laying on the lawn beside the shed.

It is too soon that I find myself sailing back toward my home dock. The wind, as usual is a little too fine on my bow and so, as usual, I find myself motor-sailing toward the Gulf Islands. This morning, I’m anchored off the docks of the Ladysmith Maritme Society. My space has been rented out in my absence to a transient boat. I don’t mind the inconvenience. The summer has brought a roaring trade in visiting boats. It is good for the town and the marina. I’m writing as the boat shifts in the tide and breeze so that the sun remains in my eyes, as usual.

Homeward bound. The wind was too close on my bow to be able to sail directly toward where I needed to go. It was another motor-sailing crossing.

Madly off in the opposite direction at about 40 knots. This is an oil spill response vessel which needs to haul ass when called. I wonder how many gallons an hour it burns.

“Tha,tha, tha, thas all folks!”

The most courageous thing is to think for yourself. Aloud.”                                    …Coco Chanel

Coddiwomple

CODDIWOMPLE

(Click on images to enlarge)

Summer Sky

Coddiwomple, Old English slang meaning to journey purposefully toward a vague destination. It is also the name of a cute little boat recently arrived on the dock. Of course I had to look it up. It could be the description of a person’s life. Then there’s the timeless oxymoron about military intelligence. Two young men in naval uniforms complete with black life jackets and black crash helmets arrived yesterday morning at the dock in a hefty inflatable boat. When it was time to leave, their outboard motor would not start. I watched the performance which largely involved frantic heaving on the starter rope. This old mechanic finally volunteered to them that for whatever reason the motor was not getting any fuel and that they should check the connections on the gas line. They thanked me and continued to jerk the rope. I couldn’t go have a look, I was in the midst of my final bit of painting. There was prolonged loud discussion with mothership on their vhf radio which descended to a focus on the fuel primer bulb. “No, no, the bulb is still soft.” (It becomes hard when full of fuel and the system is pressurized.) After nearly a half-hour they finally clipped the fuel hose back onto the tank and zoom-zoomed off into the sunrise. Sleep tight, your navy is awake!

Our marina early in the morning. As usual, even in mid-week, it is full.

I’ve watched folks become infuriated with their dead outboard and pull away on the starting rope until it broke or until their arms nearly dropped off. There’s nothing to diminish your spirits like the sound of the starter recoil spring zlithering and sproinging around inside the engine cowling. Then, finally, it is discovered that all along, the ignition safety switch was off. To further the frustration, it takes someone else to make that discovery. Yep, I’ve done it too. Remember the movie “Sling Blade?” There’s a wonderful scene where the village idiot quietly watches the local lawn mower mechanic fight all day with a dead motor. Finally the protagonist announces that he “Reckons it’s outta gas. Uh huh.” Start with the simple things first.

We have all kinds of visitors.
At least he had a courtesy flag.

A venerable Pacific 30 beautifully refitted with a pilot house. You don’t have to be big or shiny to be gorgeous.

The painting is now complete on the boat, so instead of having been on the dock at first light to beat the sun, I sit here enjoying the decadence of writing while sipping coffee. Of course, today there is some cloud cover, perfect for painting. You can tell I am not an enthusiastic painter. The secret is in the preparation which can means hours of sanding, filling and sanding. Pull marks from a dry brush or runs from too much paint are the marks of carelessness. Then there are the spatters, especially when applying a dark colour near a lighter one. There is a technique of applying the paint, first by roller then followed by brush, not too dry, not too wet. Painting in direct sunlight is an invitation for disaster, the paint wants to dry faster than it can be applied and there is a sticky mess waiting to happen. Only experience can teach the best method. Then in gleaming glory, the paint begins to dry, all the while attracting all sorts of insects, airborne seeds, hairs and pieces of lint. Finally you peel off the masking tape and…SHIT! It ran beneath the tape. Actually, there is no substitute for good masking tape, which, of course, is the most expensive, but you get what you pay for. I’ve found a product called ‘Frog’ which works really well.

Really good masking tape.

It is finished. New windows, new paint, new stanchions, new lifelines, new ‘For Sale’ sign. I feel horrible to even try selling her, but life goes on with or without things and it is time to put the fleece out and see what happens.

I learned to hate painting when, as a boy, I often made a little cash schlocking white on fences and houses. My passion for painting is right next to mowing lawns and anything involving shovels. Then there’s picking berries. At least there is a reward at the end of the endeavour without any delayed gratification. Jack and I went out at first light armed with a bucket. A light breeze prevented any dew; perfect! Mourning doves wha-coo-hooed while a bumper crop of rabbits kept Jack entertained. I dealt with the bumper crop of blackberries. The first ones are ripening and there will be a harvest that goes on for weeks. I’ve never seen so many.

Never before have I seen such a crop of blackberries.
Himalayan Blackberries are an invasive species which thrive here. We all have a love/hate relationship with them.

A few days later. The love part.

Jack the hunter, I the gatherer. Note the rusty rails, a sad comment on our island railway.

There’s a whole lot of gathering going on.

Meanwhile in the forest life evolves with the seasons as ever.

A paper condo.

Things are even busy on the web.

A Dogpatch drifter, it looks interesting from a distance.

A local beach shack. I remember when poor people lived by the sea and ate fish.

The biggest, sweetest berries are at the end of the highest thorniest vines, well above where dogs may have peed. Having leathery old mechanic’s hands is a bonus. I hold a smaller cup-sized container beneath the fruit I’m picking and then transfer that, when full, to the bucket. That saves a lot of painful moves among the brambles and speeds up the gathering. There’s your blog-tip from this hunter-gatherer-mechanic. Now as the sun rises and the world heats up, it’s time to head to the boat for some finishing touches. Just another perfect early-summer Sunday on a beautiful Pacific Island.

It is a busy time under the waxing August moon.

We are all the architects of our own despair.” …Jill Bailey

We Don’t Have A Bow Thruster

Bo-Peep II
The varnish and paint are flawless. It must have an awesome boathouse. But no bow thruster.

Yep! 1926 Not many look this good at 92 years.

Rain! It’s my fault. I’m busy ripping the windows out of my boat and replacing them. Then I plan on painting the cabin sides and the rest of the decks. Nature abhors a vacuum and so with each window being about eight square feet in size, guess what! Sploosh and whoosh!Actually it could have to do with the long weekend, we seem to seldom get one without wet weather and then in the days immediately following the skies will clear and I can carry on.

Thane came back for a visit. The long guest dock is full, full, full.

Knowing the ropes.


Now then hoy the peak halyard and slack the fore-tops’l. NOW!

Little goes to waste. Old lines get worked into something useful like mats or baggywrinkle.

The guest dock here at the Ladysmith Maritime Society is filled with guest boats. The Ladner Yacht Club is here to celebrate its 60th anniverisary and the fleet which has arrived is one of pristine boats. Good on them! They are a group of very nice people with lovely dogs and I don’t need to worry myself about Canadian courtesy flags because none are foreign vessels.

Flag Patrol.  Sea King helicopters

A few days ago there was a fleet of US Tupperware tugs at the dock. Only one flew a visible courtesy flag. (When visiting any foreign waters in your boat it is basic marine protocol to display a small flag of that country above all other flags.) While I was at the head of the ramp a pair of our venerable Sea King helicopters flew over, low and slow. A lady from one of the visiting boats was passing and inquired if indeed these were military aircraft. Perhaps she was intrigued that such antiques were still in service. Being the quick quip that I am, my response was that since the insults uttered against Canadians by President Trump, we had begun a daily aerial patrol checking that US vessels were flying the correct flags. “Oh my!” she exclaimed wide-eyed, “ I’m so glad we have ours up.” Of course it was all in fun, but I’m sure she’ll pass the message on. I am really flummoxed that it is not an issue which our border personnel do not address but I suppose that’s the Canadian way.

Now THAT is a down-rigger.
A Canadian hydrographic survey vessel was doing some local work and stopped at our docks.

Yesterday I was bent to my work on ‘Seafire.’ (which seems to go on and on) A strident female voice began to make inquiries on the marine VHF of “Ladysmith Maritime Society Marina”. Half of the boats on the guest dock leave their radios on at a high volumes. I can only surmise that it makes then feel saltier. The radio voice went on and on with sporadic silly inquiries, even when the boat, a Catalina 34, finally arrived alongside the dock space assigned to it.

The docking crew stood looking out at the little sailboat laying twenty feet or so away. The boat’s crew, a man and woman, stared back. Finally the voice erupted again, strident and indignant. “We don’t have a bow thruster you know!” I kept my mouth shut. Clearly, I am not Walmart greeter material.

(A bow thruster is a small propeller installed on a boat below the water line and pushes the bow sideways when attempting to dock.) This old salt reckons that the device is absolutely unnecessary on any vessel with someone competent at the helm. Some boats, complete with twin engines, have a thruster installed at either end of the vessel. The boat can be manoeuvred in any direction or turned in its own length but it still all depends on the nut that holds the wheel. Every extra device does make life easier at times, but it also increases dependability on that gadget and decreases skill levels. For me sailing is a religion of traditional skills and self-sufficiency. Enough said. I’ll carry on with my sanding and painting and keep my head down, like a fly on the wall.

The job begins. The port windshield out and being prepared for a new piece of acrylic. None of the work is fun. The starboard windscreen is installed.

The painting job on ‘Seafire’ has turned into a career; it goes on and on. It began simply enough with the intention to replace two windows and spruce up the window frames. Oh yeah, while I’m at it, I should update the lifeline stanchions seeing as I had a replacement set laying in the crawlspace at home. Then, while doing that, I damaged a side window with cleaner and decided to replace them all. While I had the stanchions off and the window frames off, it only made sense to paint the cabin and the side decks. I’ve tried repairing the paint on the cove stripe along the hull and have now decided to repaint that while I’m at it. One of the things my years have taught me is patience and that certainly is a prime ingredient for a job like this. Painting is not simply the act of apply fresh colour to a surface. First there is the preparation and therein lays the rub. Yep, a pun! Preparation is everything. There are incessant hours of sanding, and filling and more sanding. My fingers are abraded down to near-bleeding stubs. Then, if the sun is not too hot, or the threat of rain not too imminent, there is the application of a smooth gliding coat of liquid colour. Not too much however, it will run and drip. Once that is done, I stand back to admire the fruit of my labour and flies begin to land in the sticky gleam. Bugga! As I finish one section, the rest of the boat looks shabby. Also, with the new shine, all the manufacturing defects in the fibreglass are revealed. But, there is progress each day.

The final window, installed under threat of rain.

Dry-fitting the new-used stanchions. A few more days of painting then I can begin working on the starboard side of the boat.

If refurbishing the boat is not enough challenge I am also in the middle of consummating a relationship with a new laptop computer. It is a supercharged gaming computer, the Grand Ferrari, something with all the giga-properties I need to use the film editing program which I’m trying to teach myself. The computer is a delight, but Windows 10, and downloading updated programs is a huge challenge for my old-school thinking. Mix that all in with my painting career on the boat and you’d think that all this masochism might indicate an English ancestry. You’d be correct.

Now for some serious engineering.
Children love this sand box on the dock.

A friend called to remind me of the British car show at the waterfront park in Ladysmith. I’d gone in previous years and was not eager to go see the same few dozen vehicles. WOW! Apparently there were over 200 cars and motorcycles on display. All ran, most were driven to and from the show. All have been lovingly restored and maintained. The spectators glided about in hushed awe, thrilled at what they were seeing. British cars are famous for their design and craftsmanship as well as their demands for incessant fiddling maintenance and enduring unreliability. For a very long time, British automotive electrical systems were hopelessly complex and comprised of components built by Lucas, known by many as the “Prince Of Darkness.” Yet there is a mystique and romance built into English vehicles that no-one else can match.

An ancient and pristine Rover

A slightly modified MGB

Land Rover with a Dormobile RV conversion. I wannit!

Peeking into a classic Rolls Royce. Real wood, real leather, real money but no airbags.

A Velocette and a Triumph

When the day is done, I read myself into sleepy oblivion with a copy of “Lord Jim” by Joseph Conrad. I haven’t tackled this novel in over half a century and it is clear why I first laid it aside. This guy did not have a word processing machine of any sort yet he stuffed every word possible into anything he was trying to say. Lots of folks love to gush about what a wonderful nautical author Conrad was. I find him lugubrious. One sentence can, at times, fill half a page. There is far too much wrapping around the golden gift of his story. Yet I find the weight and cadence of his writing evocative of the days I’m living at the moment. Here, in closing, is one sentence.

…”Such were the days, still, hot, heavy, disappearing one by one into the past, as if falling into an abyss for ever open in the wake of the ship, lonely under a wisp of smoke, held on her steadfast way black and smouldering in a luminous immensity, as if scorched by a flame flicked at her from a heaven without pity.” ….PHEW!

Cream rises to the top…
so does scum!
Summer algae blown against the dock.

“It is not that life ashore is distasteful to me. But life at sea is better.”
Sir Francis Drake

Boats And Mountains

‘Thane’ A spray replica gleams under the love of new owners. Built in the mid-80s, this boat has become a Southcoast icon. She recently visited the docks at the Ladysmith Maritime Society.

We’re moving into the doldrums of early summer, this time with a short heat wave. Well, that is heat as defined by our coastal standards. I saw 34°C yesterday on my thermometer. The forecast strong NW winds did not come. The air was hot; it felt good to me. The streams have already dried up, all the open grassy knolls are brown, I fear for what may lurk in the fire season ahead. I’m tinkering on little jobs on the boat which go so much better when it is dependably dry. Unfortunately dry also comes with the intense heat of sun reflected from the calm water around the docks. In two more days it will be officially summer. While I work, touring boats come to the dock, full of happy laughing people. That’s always a rub when the sweat is running into your eyes.

Fresh paint on the cabin top is the beginning of the facelift project. It can be called, “Putting lipstick on the pig.”

Finally! A transom ladder to make getting out of the dinghy much easier after clipping into the davits. It has been a bugger through the years.

 

I am wondering what the future has in store. I ache to untie the boat and go on a jaunt but finances, or the lack thereof, are preventing that. Often however, when things appear desperate, it can be a time just before a great adventure or opportunity begins. So like the little boy locked in the barn, I’m shovelling all the manure aside because, with all the shit, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere! The scene fades with the old Lyle Lovett song “If I had a pony, I’d ride him on my boat….”

Salvaged winches newly installed to help hoist the dinghy on the davits. Such decadence!

Two days later it is now officially summer solstice. The days will begin getting shorter again. Any day now we’ll see our first Christmas ad. Haaar! Speaking of ads here are two products I’ll mention. First is something new to me called “30 Second Cleaner.” It reeks of bleach but whatever else is mixed into it does indeed work miracles. A sail cover which was embedded with black mould from the wet north coast did not respond to any of my efforts. With a bit of this stuff it was looking like new in five minutes and that included a prolonged rinse. So it was whoohaw for me.

By Cracky! Deep-cleaning Simple Green. The windows were old but clear the day before.

The other product must be familiar to nearly everyone, the liquid that cleans everything, is environmentally-friendly, you can even drink it they say, the concoction smells good and won’t harm anything. It’s a cleaner called “Simple Green.” I’ve been removing the frames around my plexi-glass boat windows to repair and paint them. I sprayed the organic gorp beneath the frames to remove years of muck. It ran down over the windows but heck, it was “Simple Green” so I didn’t even think of rinsing things down. Two days later, I returned to discover the effect as noted in the photo. The windows were old but craze-free before. It “Cleans everything by cracky!”

A great way to deal with a problem, a Turkish wine. I couldn’t resist the label. These guys have been making the stuff for several thousand years. Very, very nice!

Now, $800. later, I have all the new plexi in hand, not to mention the bedding compound, the cutting and installation after the unpleasant job of removing each old windows and prepping up for the new. There are also lifelines to replace and stanchions to upgrade. It’s all expensive and unpleasant work and won’t increase the value of the boat one dime but I’ll feel better once it is all done. These are jobs that have been on my “to do” list since I bought the boat seven years ago. While I am at these jobs, I may as well paint the cabin-sides; there’ll never be a better time. For once, all this work requires making no new holes in the boat.

Look Ma, no computers! An antique Hercules diesel idles beautifully where it is nestled in a gorgeous x-navy gig. It is elegantly simple.

Old as me! A 1952 GMC 3600. Original paint! Beauty eh? Wish I looked that good.

NO AIRBAGS! But…there’s a deluxe push-button AM radio, two spot lights, a sun visor and factory-installed signal lights.

My incentive for all will be a cruise for a couple of weeks once I’m done. I’ll be as broke as a church window once the face-lift is done so of course it’s a great time to go. Yes, I’m looking for crew. Vamanos!

Moo Noon.
On the way to the mountain. This old farm boy can never resist good looking cattle. These are a Scottish breed, Aryshires.

A view from Mount Prevost over Mount Maxwell on Saltspring Island.

Looking down on a falcon. Taken hand-held with my new-used 500mm af Minolta lense. The bird was about 500′ away. What a great lense!

Under The Volcano. Mount Baker from Mount Prevost.

Fog on the far side of Victoria Airport. It was a harbinger of the coming rain. Note the boats fishing in Saanich Inlet. It is now pouring as I post this blog.

Hanging some old friends. These sandals died today, the worn soles finally came unglued. I’ve trod the desert , the beaches of Mexico, and many other magical miles in these. I wonder if anyone will notice them hanging up there twenty feet in the air.

Yes, there will be flowers.
Wild lilies on the mountain.

Stinging Nettle Flower

The glory of summer. Sweet peas and Chickweed.

Yep! More Indian Plums. Fully ripe now with an ant standing guard.

Twins! Two spring fawns and their mom on the road down from the mountain.

Sunday morning, one window done. It dawned to prove the weatherman correct. There was a 40% chance of rain. I know how to make that 100%: just start prying a window out of my boat. Sploosh! On top of Mt. Prevost a few hours later, we looked out on a grand vista; the Cowichan Valley. The plaintiff calls of a steam whistle echoed up through the forest five hundred feet beneath my toes. It was the little locomotive at the Forestry Museum in Duncan a few miles away. Then came the chatter of a Peregrine Falcon, soon spotted sitting on a limb far below the high cliff where we stood. It was magic. After a rest, a warm gentle rain began to spatter down. It felt great after the clamber to the top. We began the steep descent back to a parking area down the mountain. The boat is calling.

Dinghummer! Harmless and properly named a Crane Fly it is also know as a Mosquito Hawk or a Daddy Long Legs. This beast is a sure sign of summer.

The Prince of Darkness is a gentleman.” -William Shakespeare.

Loops And Purple Flowers

The watcher. A guardian of the path where Jack and I walk nearly every morning. It would be eerie on a bright moon lite night.

I’m watching too. Now don’t look back and walk on by.

Wild white roses and the dried rose hips from last year.

Rocket Berry

Purple Hairy Flower. I’ve given up trying to identify them all.

They’re everywhere this year. Indian plums are as profuse as the flowers.

They’re ripening quickly. When fully ripe they will be a rich plum-purple. although bland-tasting to us the birds love them and they’ll disappear overnight.

There’s no fungus like an old fungus.

The beginning of summer, the lupines are in bloom!

Sunday morning, Silva Bay, Gabriola Island. The air is cool and damp, there is clearly a threat of rain. The sun is a brassy point of light glowing through a high overcast. The big ebb tide for the day is drawing the sea water through the bay like a river. Chunks of sea weed rush past and I wonder what mess is tangled in my anchor chain. There is a muddy tint in the water, a sure sign of the Fraser River’s spring freshet. The mouth of the river is twenty miles away across the Strait of Georgia. It drains the interior of British Columbia from over eight hundred miles inland. I consider that some of the mud in the water is from places where I have lived and that my past has found me. A river of conscience, hmmm.

The tide rushing by the anchor chain.

Then I consider that another loop has closed with my return to Silva bay after a three year absence. Thousands of miles have passed beneath my keel since I made my way northward from here. I thought that journey would become a track that led directly to Mexico but it wasn’t to be. Now I’m back here and I wonder where the next loop of my life will lay. The bay is unchanged with both grand yachts and derelict hulks still littering its waters. The restaurant at the head of the docks suffered a nasty fire last winter. As usual, there are plenty of rumours and speculations about who is doing what and what the future holds. This bay is a beautiful place with tremendous potential as a cruising destination but for the moment there is little left to attract folks. There are still three marinas but the restaurant and pub, the swimming pool and both grocery stores are all gone. Fortunately the Islands Trust will not permit condo developments or luxury resorts and one can only speculate on how the future will unfold.

In the middle of Degnen Bay, this housing complex is accessible only by air or rowboat. The peregrine falcon’s nest is built on top of purple martin boxes. The martins could be heard chattering inside their condos.

A wooden beauty, obviously well loved.

Obviously not well-loved. It washed up during a late-winter storm and there she sits. rotten to the bone through and through and plunk in front of someone’s waterfront property.

The price of freedom is responsibility. The “owner” has left no name or phone number. Note the crack in the fibreglass, there are several.. You can clearly see the rotten wood beneath. She’ll never float again. Somehow it’s alright to leave your junk in someone else’s face.

Once Silva Bay was a small community that even enjoyed regular visits from a coastal steamer but those glory days are long gone.

Old friends have also just returned. Rodger and Ali have brought their beloved ‘Betty Mac’ back to Silva Bay. It was deck cargo loaded in Golfito, Costa Rica and unloaded in Nanaimo. This intrepid couple had plans for voyaging on to Patagonia but the scheme changed. They first arrived here from their home in Southeast Australia via Japan and the Aleutian Islands. They returned to Alaska the following year and then headed southward. In the meantime, they bought a former Canadian Coast Guard boat, ruggedly built of aluminum. They installed a rough interior, trucked that boat to Hay River, travelled from Slave Lake down the Mackenzie River to Tuktoyaktuk. They then spent subsequent summers exploring eastward in the Northwest Passage. That vessel is now stored in Greenland. In the fall they’d voyage further south in ‘Betty Mac’. Who knows where their loops will lay. In spite of their intrepid nature these two are also very nice people and I’m proud to call them friends. They are also a splendid example of what happens when a couple share a common dream and work together. Ali has returned to Australia so Rodger and I shared a meal on the deck of ‘Betty Mac’ comparing notes on our adventures and future plans. It was bliss.

The ‘Betty Mac’ is back. Tasmanian-built, she’s a wooden bomb shelter and to my eye, one of the prettiest boats I know.

The Beaver float plane based here taxis past and takes off on its Sunday morning mission. I make a sumptuous omelette. By the time the dishes are done and the morning chores are complete it taxis past in the opposite direction, arriving back to Gabriola with a fresh load of folks. C-FHRT (Seafart) is the same aircraft that was my dock neighbour when I lived and worked here. A former aircraft mechanic, I’ve made repairs to it at times so the flight schedule could be maintained. I’m impressed that this enterprise has survived serving this one island. It is a classic Canadian tale of the romance of the bush plane business. The DeHavilland Beaver is world famous and an icon of frontier aviation everywhere. I dearly love the sight and sound of these machines. Once, while on the Silva Bay dock payphone to a friend in California, CFHRT began its takeoff with a classic ear-splitting snarl. “What was THAT?” They exclaimed. “A Beaver” I calmly replied. “My God!” was the awed response. I explained that the Beaver was a float plane. “Oh” was the diminished reply. “I thought you meant the animal.”

CFHRT was my neighbour at the dock. I called her my Pratt& Whitney alarm clock. The engine was always warmed up early in the morning. Fortunately I love the sound of it.

I also had long overdue visits with other friends this weekend then I went fishing on the east side of Gabriola. I set out the prawn gear and watched in utter dismay as the floats dove beneath the surface and did not reappear. That was over $200. of prawn gear gone. Obviously I did not have enough extra line to compensate for the set of the spring current. I knew better! In the middle of that frustration, a rogue wave, probably caused by a distant ferry’s wake mixing with the wind against tide, smacked the boat down onto her beam ends. The dining table, not lashed down, flipped upside down onto the far side of the cabin, books levitated, dishes in the galley flew. There was no apparent damage. I caught no fish, of course, and in a rising vicious wind I retreated for shelter, confirming once again that I am one of the world’s worst fishermen. Tinned salmon was on the menu for dinner. The recipe was humble pie. Sailor’s superstition says it may have been that canned fish which prevented any catches.

High water mooring, ready to emerge from under the branches and sail away next high tide.

Monday morning finds me waking in Ruxton Passage where I’ve anchored in a bight which I call South Pirate’s Cove. It is calm and the skies are clearing. I lay in bed listening to the morning news on CBC radio. The furor is now about an escalating trade war with Donald Trump. So here we go peeing either way through the same fence. I guess we’ll soon be due for a wall. Our timid leader, Mr. Trudeau II has raised his voice an entire half-octave and the Americans accuse him of over-reacting. We point out that we provide the aluminum for the mighty fleet of US military aircraft. That force could be turned against us should we decide to cut off our supply to the US of water, electricity, uranium, oil, timber, singers, actors and space arms. A day may come when our children will learn a nursery rhyme that starts with “Old Humpty Trumpty sat on his wall, old Trumpty had a great fall….” Just remember Donny Boy (There’s a song for you) that it was a military force based in Canada which came down and set fire to what you now know as the White House. Don’t mess with us beaver-skinners. Oops! Some jaded wanna-be actress will probably take that as a sexist slur. Really folks, ain’t it all just nuts?

Breath taking. This refurbished WWII vessel is all wood and requires a massive, ongoing effort to be so pristine.

Here’s a thought. If Mr. Trump really wants to support the American labourer and economy then decree that that the grand American institution, WalMart, can longer market anything manufactured outside of the US. While we’re at that, let’s make sure that anything we buy, no matter what its label, is actually produced in North America. If you want a piece of global pie then the game has to be played both ways. It’s call “Free Enterprise.” How’s that for a good old-fashioned American term? I’m no economist, that much is clear, nor am I an unemployed steel worker but I have a hard time taking our border disputes without disbelief. We’re friends and neighbours! With all the social and environment issues on the table, surely we can get our collective shit together and work in unison on something important…and do some good.

As I proof-read this blog I learn that Doug Ford has just been nominated as head of the Ontario Conservative Part as so becomes Premier-designate. It is hard not to think of this fellow without remembering his notorious brother and politician Rob. He is certainly another political cartoon-character like Donald Trump making all manner of nonsensical statements and impossible promises. This hermit-sailor is happy to stay detached from a world that chooses these sort of dudes to be our leaders. Apparently we are so comfortable that we are that apathetic.

I’m happy to be here head down on my boat. I’m spending the balance of the week painting the deck on ‘Seafire’. There are voids in the gelcoat to fill and sand, teak to be cleaned, and finally priming then painting. Of course the forecast is for rain and drizzle and my early morning effort to beat the next squall failed absolutely. I hate this sort of work but the end result is worth it and long overdue.

Somebody’s dream but not my idea of a pretty boat. At least she could be washed once a year!

. While I bend to my labours, transient boats come and go. I bite my tongue as some foreign yachts arrive proudly displaying their US ensign, their yacht club burgees but no Canadian courtesy flag. Some have the temerity to not even display a vessel name or home port! I’m somewhat dismayed that these dudes are not turned back at our border. A courtesy flag, for the land-lubbers, is a small flag of the country in which your vessel is plying their sovereign waters and should be displayed above all other flags. It is a traditional act of respect and a strong point of basic nautical etiquette and at times even safety. The only thing more upsetting to me is that other Canadians don’t take umbrage enough to speak up. I do. The reactions are mixed but usually my point is well taken. Try taking your Canadian yacht into US waters without that little flag flying. It just isn’t done. Canadian are known as nice folks but we are NOT a 51st state, you Trumpys! So what gives… eh?

If only life could be put in a frame, but wouldn’t it be boring?

A breeze through the boat house. Dusting done.

There are two kinds of pride, both good and bad. ‘Good pride’ represents our dignity and self-respect. ‘Bad pride’ is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance….. John C. Maxwell