Bang! It’s autumn again.

Flags, or what is left of them, crackling in the cold, wet onshore wind.

It has already been forgotten by most. Like all the other tragedies in our culture, the recent events in Las Vegas are already well-faded into a blur with all of the other horrific mass killings in North America. Given a little time some sick bastard may try to make a movie about it, just like two films just released about the marathon bombing Boston Marathon Bombing. Of course WWII is still rich fodder for films and books. It’s been over 70 years and we’re still fighting that one…and haven’t learned a damned thing! Greed knows no shame.

It’s not any hurricane, but still enough to draw storm watchers to the beach.

Surf’s up! This is at Point Holmes,just inside Cape Lazo at Comox. The view is Southward looking down the Strait of Georgia. These boulder-strewn tidal flats were so-named by the Spanish explorers. It means the “Snare.”

Life goes on. Finding a parking spot in the mall is as tough as ever, the nine-month television hockey season has begun. In the Caribbean, so recently in our amazement and now forgotten, millions are still without power and water after the hurricanes. Then there are those digging out from Mexico’s earthquake and in Lala land coroners are going from burned home to burned home looking for remains to identify. There are famines, floods and ethnic cleansings occurring around the planet. In Mogadishu, Somalia, a single bombing vapourized hundreds of people and injured hundreds more. That incredible evil has barely made our news. It seems we’re more concerned that our very wealthy Federal Finance Minister failed to report,in his list of assets that he owns a multi-million dollar villa in the south of France. “Oh yeah I forgot about that one.” Now here’s a guy who wants to reboot the middle class! All this comes to mind aboard ‘Seafire’ before going to work on Monday morning. It is still pitch dark outside at seven o’clock. An angry wind swirls around the boat. The mast and rigging are moaning and I sit here sputtering and gasping in the grip of a vicious virus; Snyphlis Exotic. I have decided that I’m too ill to go to work today. Somewhere in the rush of the wind I can hear Louis Armstrong singing “What a Wonderful World.” Then a leg falls off of my table.

Now that I’ve cheered everyone up, I’m going back to my bunk. At the moment I’m virtually useless and there’s no point in infecting the rest of the work crew with this nasty bug. As the thin light of a stormy morning reveals the low scudding clouds I ruminate with a mug of hot chocolate in hand. I think of good things.

A week earlier, before a previous storm. Looking across the Strait of Georgia to Desolation Sound. Calm and pleasantly warm.

North to Alaska. it is much nicer meeting these guys here than in a narrow, fog-bound channel of the Inside Passage. The smoke in the distance is from the paper mill in Powell River. It is an excellent wind indicator. Mittlenatch and Savary Islands are behind the tug.

Godsmile! I soon found out why she was looking so content.

This is why! These photos were taken while delivering a boat from Campbell River. An hour later we were running for shelter. I stood hand-steering in an open cockpit with a bitter cold wind and driving rain with only two hours to go. It’s all about the romance of the sea.

Never look back! I had right-of-way but this fish boat held it’s heading although we were on a collision course. Some things never change, world over. Never trust the other guy to play by the rules. The squall has just passed ahead of us.

I’m not in Shearwater anymore.

I have roads to drive away upon in any direction.

My wife, and my dog, are only a short drive to the south.

There are times when I would have had to work no matter how sick.

I’m free to write nearly anything I want without fear of any kind of persecution.

I am aboard a wonderful boat which I can untie and go anywhere in the world.

I’m not in Shearwater anymore.

The table was easy to fix.

The leaning shed of Fred.
One of my projects, more storage on the docks. It is built on a narrow raft and we have a small shed stability problem.

After the storm, low snow for mid-October.

In the evening the weather has advanced to a full gale. I sit inside beneath the shuddering mast listening to the screeching wind. I write placidly, while safe, warm and dry, recently-fed and still able to dream about a future. Who could ask for more? Someone to love, something to do, something to look forward too; while doing no harm. There is nothing more.

The sea is the last free place on earth.”… Humphrey Bogart

A Blog About Nothing And Everything

Harvest moon rising through the rigging. Silence, only crickets chirping.

06:30. It’s still dark out there. There is fresh snow on the mountains. An e-mail from Jill tells me she has arrived safely in France. So the setting this morning is cold, dark and lonely. The heater is on in the boat. Tomorrow is the last day of summer. The intense heat of two weeks ago is already forgotten. We’ve had no earthquakes or hurricanes here and I’m sure there are many who would trade places with me. So, no complaining, just explaining.

Summer is clearly over.

On the beach. A vicious early-autumn squall tested every boat’s ground tackle. This one failed.

Help arrives.

A week later, I’m taking a day off. I’m totally exhausted and have taken to the decadence of sleeping in until mid-morning, like normal people. I go back for a nap after brunch and sleep again despite the sounds of a busy marina all around me. I’m missing Jill, and Jack and have plenty of chores here on the boat to accomplish. Mornings now bring a blast of cold air descending from the glacier. Winter seems to be advancing aggressively. Through the efforts of a friend I’ve been reconnected with a lost friend who bought my last boat, ‘Pax.’ That cheers me immensely and there will be a reunion in the weeks ahead.

PAX, my beloved former boat. Dan, the current owner strolls her decks. Late-breaking news is that Dan has just had emergency bypass surgery. He has my most urgent best wishes. Don’t ever take the day, or even the moment, for granted.
Photo by Byron Robb.

They keep on coming! Billions of them. Herring are the datum of our fish stocks, They eat little fish then are eaten by bigger fish and so on. I wish we would stop the spring herring roe fishery for a couple of years to see what happens to the rest of our fish populations.

A flash of herring. Millions swarm beneath the docks.

Moon Jellyfish by the billion. Salmon fingerlings, baby eels, and perch crowd beneath the docks.

 

 

A mid-afternoon fog lingers beneath the Comox Glacier

Waiting it out. the fog slowly dissipates late in the day. Mount Arrowsmith in the distance.

The world staggers under the aftermath of various disasters, both natural and man-made.Friends on their boat in Saint Lucia managed to survive the path of wrath of bumper to bumper Caribbean hurricanes and have sent out an appeal for Dominica. This island is an agriculture-based economy and it has lost both 90% of it’s infrastructure and housing as well as it’s crops. It is not getting much notice. The rest of the Caribbean is in dire straits and the gringo tourist haunts will surely receive prime attention. Southern Mexico has been devastated with two major earthquakes. Resourceful and energetic, the country will look after itself although nations like Japan have provided rescue assistance crews without notice or fanfare. In contrast there is a marauding global low named Trump which meanders erratically on the planet trying to foment disaster and dread, including nuclear war. How I ache to hear the nation say, “Donald, you’re fired!” Every newscast is loaded with fresh accounts about millions of refuges whom nobody wants to help. The planet swarms with human tragedy, the dark news of which we use as entertainment. And sorry Donny Boy, it is REAL news.

Sea Lions on the Cape Lazo buoy. Notice how the big guy gets the level spot in the middle.

Say no more!

I agree. This grumpy old mechanic has asked, “Mister, if you know so much about it, why’d you hire me?” Testosterone and wrenches are a bad mix.

I live in a very nice place where there is not really much to worry about. It is an area where one missing baby whale is a headline story. We tend to forget that here we are all a privileged few. I can’t imagine trading places with any of the millions who cannot take even the next meal for granted, let alone clean water, ready medical support or even walking to school without being shot at. Thanksgiving in Canada is here and it is not about any sale at the mall. As I proof-read this blog I blanched to read my words now in the wake of events in Las Vegas. While I browsed various news stories online I tripped over an ad for the current film “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.’ The abuse of weapons is an ongoing theme of entertainment. There’s something very seriously wrong with our culture and it is not all those guns out there. They’re just a symptom of a grave illness. I’m glad I have a boat.

The swimming raft abandoned. Mid day in Deep Bay. The Chrome Island fog horn sounded in the distance.

It has been quite a year. There has plenty to write about. At the moment we’re hove-to and speculating what the next adventure will be. As usual, old ‘Seafire’ is tugging at her lines, ready to head out. In a few more weeks, when the winter wind is howling in the rigging and the rain is driving horizontally, it’ll be time to move on southward, like the birds.

“Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.” Not a sight to warm you heart, summer is coming to an end.

Going down in flames. A southbound flight catches the evening light.

…only then did he understand that a man knows when he is growing old because he begins to look like his father.” …from ‘Love In the Time Of Cholera’ Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Beyond The Smoke

(Note: All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them. In this blog, all images were taken with my cell phone.)

Skyfish. I’ll let you figure it out.

Last blog found me apologizing for the dull content I was producing. Well, isn’t it interesting how mundane drama can punctuate routine? And Oh Lord, how i hate routine! It does not have to be an international crisis, any little bump in the road will do. I bought a used Ford truck earlier this year from friends whom I trust. I know I have a way of stumbling into bad luck but “Geez Louise!” Other friends have raved about their Ford trucks and I was confident I’d done something right this time.

My truck is one of the nicest vehicles I’ve ever owned. It drives nicely, looks good, is easier on fuel than my previous small SUV and pulls and stops my little trailer with ease. I’ve been upgrading it a bit and preparing for a driving trip southwards this winter. Then began a intermittent herky-jerky idling issue. OK, I’m a mechanic. I did my homework, poked about a bit and decided the issue was with something called VCT solenoids. I could easily deal with the job myself although unfamiliar with this particular engine. I believed that it would take less than an hour to put things right.

Pushing rope. Towing a broken-down charter boat to safety. Just as I snapped this frame, the tow rope shifted on the overhead tow bit. Note the crack-the-whip bight in the towl line.

I’m “Old School” and well aware of the fact. I’m reluctant to mess with modern hi-tech computerized engines because I don’t fully understand how they work and I do not possess the computers I need to diagnose and adjust them. I may be a mechanic, but I’m no motor head. My reasons to exist have nothing to do with knowing the latest in automotive technology. For me, a ride is just a ride. My ego is not influenced by the way my camshaft is ground.

Manshadow photographing bicycle in morning light. Life moves slowly for some folks.

When all my parts finally arrived I dove in under the hood. There is an external seal around these solenoids which sit in a pocket in a valve cover on either side of the engine. My new seals looked slightly larger. I assured myself that it was only my imagination and removed one seal. Damn! They were different and I assumed I’d acquired the wrong parts. Then I learned the rest of the story. The Ford dealer was soon able to determine that the factory had “upgraded” the valve covers at the time the truck was built. With the new, smaller seals much of the top of the motor has to be disassembled so the valve covers can then be removed in order to change the solenoids. Air conditioning lines, along with various sections of plumbing and wiring need to be disconnected and stripped off to achieve this. A forty-five minute job has become eight hours.

Having no choice but to proceed I left the project in the hands of a local repair shop whom I trust. Fortunately I’d conceded the matter before I’d starting disassembling anything. Mechanics absolutely hate someone bringing in a job that they’ve already messed with. I certainly do. Because of extreme corrosion (due to road salt damage) the bolts holding the valve covers had broken. That’s a misery at any time. Theses bits were only available as part of a kit which includes new valve covers. Then, also due to corrosion, even the transmission dipstick has broken. So much for Ford’s “Better Idea.”

I’m amazed at how calmly I’m taking all this but I’ve learned that foaming at the mouth accomplishes nothing. I’m becoming an old fart and have learned that everything passes. It does seem to be a classic tale of two conjoined events, Sod’em and Go for more. Haar! I think of the clanky-bangy $4500. Nissan truck with which I dragged a trailer to Mexico and back. I believe I’m inclined toward Japanese vehicles from now on. In actual fact, everything on the road is over-priced junk and while they are bliss when running properly, the costs to buy and operate a vehicle are stunning. All that money which should be going into ‘Seafire. The cost of this one repair (almost $1800.) is much more than I’ve paid for many vehicles in the past.

Manyberry season. Despite the dry summer, we have a bumper crop of succulent blackberries. These vines have enveloped a cherry tree.

So, language. We understand that language is the foundation of culture. We also understand that the English language is corrupted with many Americanisms. That’s understandable due to the overwhelming global influence of the US. See, I’ve just used one. Abbreviations are increasingly popular to the point that sometimes I don’t know what the hell folks are saying. As I write, my radio is on and I am intrigued at how careless radio announcers are with language. There was a story just aired about a school which will not permit children to bring sugary drinks to class. The announcer said, “From now on students will only be allowed to drink water.” What, no studying? I think the statement should have been “From now on all that students will be allowed to drink in school is water.” Yeah, yeah, I know we know what she meant but my point is that every word and combination thereof actually means something specific. Anything else is babble. Say what you mean, mean what you say. And don’t, like, LOL get me going on slang and texting. OMG! I mean yeah no because like I totally do. Whatever dude! Shaddup! Good clear communication is the art of saying as much as possible with as few words as possible. That’s what makes for good writing. Flowery digressions are not what people want to read; even when you’re writing about flowers.

The public piano. This sits on the waterfront in Comox. Some folks, like this woman, play it very well.

When I was in school penmanship was an important class. Not only was legible handwriting import, but spelling, grammar and formatting a letter were all part of a basic regimen. I enjoyed exchanging letters. There were always distant relatives to share news with as well as “Pen pals.” Blogging, I suppose, is an extension of that lost art. Nearly every exchange of information is now done with a bleep and an emoji. We descend toward gibberish. Perhaps one day we’ll all speak dog. Being “Barking mad” will have new meaning and I’m not looking forward to the bum-sniffing.

Happiness times five. Dog spoken here. A Comox parking lot moment.

Ziggy. The boss’s dog. He’s a beauty and dignified too. Not just the dog!

Jack surveys part of his kingdom. This photo is looking northwest toward Comox and Cape Lazo. We’re on top of a mountainous coal pile that extends fro many acres. It was once part of a coal-loading terminal. Imagine the foreshore being ringed with full-rigged sailing ships.

On a final note about communication, I’ve just heard from my friends who are in the Caribbean with their boat. They’re fine and that’s a relief. I thank them. I’m intrigued at the coverage of Hurricanes Hugo and Irma balanced against that about the massive earthquake in Mexico. Both disasters are horrific and incomprehensible but it seems however that there is not a lot of interest in the aftermath of the events in Mexico. I cheered to learn how Mexico has withdrawn it’s offer of aid to Texas in response to Trump’s lack of reciprocal interest. Mexico was not asking for help, it just wanted the minimal dignity and support of recognition. You don’t insult Latinos. I’m told that the most popular pinata in Latin American these days is an effigy of Donald. Apparently, when you finally get one broken open, there’s nothing inside. Much gusto!

When wild roses go bad. I’d like to learn what this sort of blight is called.

Here on the coastline of BC, where we’re once again reminded that we sit in a paradise on top of a major earthquake fault, we luxuriate in the last sultry days of summer. For the moment, we are safe from the misery out there beyond the smoke. But any minute now…

Sunup once again.

I like to think of myself as a natural disaster. If you really piss me off, naturally there will be a disaster.”         … anonymous

They’re Gone

The last bird? A beautifully made Purple Martin condo on the dock in Comox.
It’ll be empty until next May. Time share?

 First things first. Last blog I described a plant as being a zucchini when in fact, as I have been corrected, it was an English Cucumber. I’m glad I didn’t try to name it something like a Nigerian Horse Radish. No fake news here! Around the docks on Southern Vancouver Island, folks build bird houses for Purple Martins. The birds arrive in the spring with their chittering calls. They swoop and dive and gobble up tons of insects which are then bombed onto the shiny yachts moored below. Some people gripe about the tiny blobs of potential bug bites on their boats but I’m quite happy to pay that small price for the presence of these happy and colourful birds.

They raise their chicks until they are peeking out from the bird houses. Their fluffy demanding offspring can’t seem to ever be fed enough. Once they are big enough to survey the world outside, it is only a matter of days until all the birds are gone for the year. Yesterday their thunderous absence rang out. They’re gone. South. There must come a moment when some sage old martin says “Right squadrons, it’s time to go. Now!” and off they all fly. Now the crickets and their tireless concert will chirp on night and day until the first heavy frost. Some swallows remain for the time being but the Martin houses are empty. One day soon, there will be a sad quietude. The swallows will be gone too.

Creatures know. Birds know when to leave on their migrations and they know where to go. Jack the dog, on the morning of the recent eclipse, went and hid in a closet, a place he never goes otherwise. People have those same instincts and intellects. We’ve simply buried them in our mad rush to do abstract things. Being in touch with our planet and it’s driving forces has lost value in our primal sensibility. That’s why for example, you’ll see a young mother, head-down texting, pushing her progeny in a stroller out into hurtling traffic. Apparently, in recent years, global pedestrian fatalities have soared due simply to people texting.

Summer is roaring by as I work for and with a fine bunch of people. The days pass quickly maintaining and preparing a fleet of yachts for the next round of charter customers. Most are lovely people as well they should be; they’re on vacation. Then there are others. I’ll simply say that the couple who own this business possess a courage and graciousness which I do not. The weeks go by in a blur. Repairing boats, inspecting them, delivering them and sometimes charging across the strait when they break down while on charter can all be in a day’s demands. There are few dull moments. I go home to Ladysmith for two days each week and sleep the whole time away. I feel old. I am having serious doubts about ever getting out and southbound on the open ocean. That, of course, is what this blog is all about. How I try to be like people who can simply relax in the moment and squeeze it like a sponge until every possible drop of life has been tasted. Working for tomorrow while folks around you are on vacation at the moment is torture.

The wake. Navigating in smoke.

Every morning begins with a huge flock of honking Canada Geese flying by low overhead. These airborne thugs practise a few circuits just over the mast heads like boys on motorcycles demanding attention. Then there is quiet again, but now it’s time to get up. Perhaps they are practising for a southward migration, deciding who will go and who must stay for the winter. It used to be an uplifting song to me, the ultimate Canadian anthem of travel, freedom, vast distance and self-determination. Now I curse these braying, flapping creatures with their bomb loads of greasy green excrement. When I was a child there was grave concern about these birds becoming extinct. They’re now the bane of parks, schoolyards and waterfront areas everywhere. The flocks which live along the shoreline are apparently barely edible. They taste strongly of their inter-tidal diet. But these grey flapper are certainly excellent organic alarm clocks.

Now THAT’S a lawn ornament! This is part of the ‘Welcome to the Comox Valley’ display. In 1967 as a young air cadet, I brown-nosed a ride in a Tutor trainer when our national aerobatic team was known as the “Golden
Cennetaires ” Yep, now long-known as the “Snowbirds,” their aircraft are that old.

My wife Jill is a voracious reader and I often read books she has  finished with. I found one book was very dull and she agreed, saying that she was not able to finish it. She declared that “Life is too short to waste reading boring books.” Perhaps writing dull blogs is part of that mantra. In my recent experiences there have been no explosions, leaping whales or exciting intrigues.’Seafire’ remains tied to the dock, a floating apartment, while I work on all the other boats around me. I’ll have to stir the pot and see what I can scrape off the bottom. I’m shrinking from my efforts here perhaps in response to some of the nonsense I hear on the radio. I think I’m writing about nothing! How a resource-rich country like Canada should be paying exorbitant spiralling fuel prices is stunning. That we push back with only a few mumbles is incredible. I’m sorry about the weather tragedy in Texas but there is no way it truly affects us. We happily live like chicken farmers who go to town to buy eggs and accept whatever we’re told, even that the recent solar eclipse is also reason to jack up the price of petroleum. Huh?

So what did Ethanol do wrong? Her sister’s still around! This pump is at the fuel dock in Refuge Cove where in summer, you should be content with whatever flavour of gas is available. The meters show quantity in litres, not price.

Speaking of things Fort McMoney, I am not aware of reciprocal interest this year from those people who accepted global help to prevent them all from being barbequed last year. Perhaps there is some concern and help from them. I’m not aware of it. As wildfires ravage British Columbia this year I do hear the media describe a “Drought” we are suffering. C’mon! We’re paying the price for decades of gross forest mismanagement. It is a normal hot, dry summer. Thazzit! A drought is when the streams and lakes dry up, crops and livestock wither and die, folks can’t find any water even to drink. All the car-washes are still operating. Life goes on, shiney as ever, even with the high price of fuel.

Today on our walk Jack and I met two gorgeous dogs, recently rescued from Iran. They had both been mutilated. Apparently some fundamentalists see dogs as unclean and fair game for torture and mistreatment even though the Koran demands that all of God’s creatures be respected, especially those which by nature live in families. Fundamentalists, whether Christian or Muslim, don’t need to dig deep to find excuses for heinous behaviour. We’ve all been at it for millenniums. For the record, I believe that dogs are one of man’s highest achievements. If you don’t like dogs, you probably don’t get along well with people either.

Jack enjoying the “drought.” Seriously, our fresh water levels are at their seasonal normal.

Labour day is now past. Once again the air is filled with smoke from numerous intense forest fires burning in the interior. We’re caught in one last coastal summer high pressure ridge. It doesn’t seem so long ago that folks were fed up with the long, damp, cool spring. Soon enough again we will forget these last warm days of summer. Let’s enjoy them while they last.

By the way, the swallows have now all departed.A t the end of the workday today, six southbound Sandhill Cranes flew low overhead trumpeting their unmistakeable call. They’re a month early. Whatever that mean’s.

Wild rosehips galore. Plump and plentiful, a sign to many that we will indeed have an early, long and harsh winter.

Blood sunrise, sailor beware! another day begins under a thick pall of smoke.

As the day advanced, the smoke settled until the mountains were lost from sight. This photo is of Deep Bay on Vancouver Island at 3 pm today.

I’m not nearly as afraid of dying as I am of not living.” …Old Fred the sailor.

The Wharfinger’s Zuchinni

“Just walk on by and take that floppy-eared, skinny-flippered creature with you. Jack is fascinated with the temerity of these seals.

Suddenly the evenings are noticeably shorter; and cooler. The morning light comes a little later each day. A few days ago we had a lovely warm rain. After our dry smokey weather it felt grand. That is despite all the wetness of Shearwater which I’ve sworn I was so fed up with. The crickets chirped on through the downpour just as they do now that it has dried again. Suddenly we’re in mid-summer. There is a mild sense of the distant yet approaching winter. We savour the beauty of each day, and it’s fading flowers, knowing nothing is forever. Part of the fascination is knowing how fleeting the moment is.

On the morning tide. This derelict, capsized sloop was towed in to the boat ramp during the night. It was later dragged ashore and put on a trailer. Hopefully it will sail again some day.

Drifting and dreaming. a long passage northward with smoke obscuring the horizon.I passed this beautiful boat while delivering another vessel to a shipyard in Campbell River.

The Dream. A soft focus image to portray the sense of glassy water and low visibility.

Crossing The Bar. Northbound from Comox requires a circuitous route across a shallow bar and around Cape Lazo. There’s a sailboat ahead on the starboard bow.

Fishing for pinks. It is a time of harvest and bounty. Coho salmon are spawning and provide feisty sport for fly fishermen. They’re out there in their chest waders from first light to last.

Crows in a weeping willow. Their dry rasping calls are an anthem of midsummer.

Look up. A view from my table in the pub.

Ah summer! The Blackfin Pub in Comox has an amazing panoramic view.

There is an abundance of fresh produce. Even the wharfinger’s flower box has a tumbling wealth of vegetables. The tomatoes are ripening and the zuchinni is ready. Happily adopting the lazy spirit of the season I’m posting this blog as a photo essay. See you at the beach. I’ll be under the Corona umbrella.

The Wharfinger’s Zuchinni

Coming down. What better way to chill out in the evening than a flight in a home-built Sopwith Camel replica?

Jack and Fred row back from the beach. Jill took this shot of us returning from our dawn patrol.

Jack and Jill on the beach at low tide.

Jack’s Bliss. A tidal pool is all he needs for day-long self amusement.

I can’t get enough. the views on the sandy northern tip of Denman Island amaze me.

Beach Apples
This old apple tree, rooted in sand, manages to still bear fruit!

 “A little bit of summer is what the whole year is all about.”
John Mayer

Smokin’ Hot

Summer of the red sun

At first light the air was cool, pure and sweet. There was a brown pall over Vancouver. I assumed it was smog. By mid-morning a high, thick overcast covered the sky. One could smell smoke. The gloom was cast out from the forest fires burning in the interior of the province. Late afternoon was airless, the sun’s heat was fantastic and oppressive. I recalled cruel children cremating live insects under a magnifying glass. For a moment I felt a sense of smallness. I recalled when, as a young man working in the woods, I would be summoned to fight forest fires. The incredible heat, the smoke, the ash, the spark-laden dust, the long days, the weariness and thirst, the harsh din of machinery I drove, snatched moments of dreamless sleep during the dark hours and the fatigue in rising at first light to do it all over again. I feel that fatigue now but it is because I’m older and perhaps because I worked too hard when I was younger.

Night after night, the same smokey red sunsets.

Comox Glacier.
Before the smoke. Somehow the sight of all that snow and ice has a cooling effect.

The same view with smoke. The bird is a purple martin.

I’m on my first time-off from my new job. I’ve commuted home for two days from Comox and don’t feel at all like going back to work. I’ll return in a few hours so I’ll be there in the morning. In my younger years I’d just get up earlier and put in a full day once I arrived. My doctor shakes his head at my determination to keep on chasing an income despite his advise otherwise. Poverty is a hard master. You don’t hang up your debts, or dreams, just because you’ve reached a certain age. I drive north squinting into a copper sun. A fire has broken out up-island near Nimpkish Lake and the smoke mixes with the general funk already filling the sky. I can smell and taste it. It is only the first of August and we could have three months of volatile fire season ahead. We were all dismayed at the long wet winter and spring, it seemed that it had been wet and miserable forever. That seems a distant memory now.

The summer wears on. At 0:600 this the morning the thermometer reads 17 degrees. It feels chilly! The forecast temperature will double later today. In Mexico this weather is what a person goes to enjoy. Working in it at home is an entirely different situation. In the afternoon the sound of singing and chanting carried in from the bay. Eventually over two dozen native canoes passed up into the mouth of the Courtenay River. It was part of an annual event called ‘Tribal Journeys’. Canoes from Puget Sound and southern regions are making their way north in an armada that may have up to 2500 participants. It looked like thirsty work, all that paddling and chanting and drumming. I found the sight and sound of it all quite uplifting. I hope the builders and paddlers of the canoes find empowerment and pride in their grand adventure.

A haunting sight and sound of a native canoe filled with chanting paddlers.

Coastal cruising the old way

Honest Joe’s Used Canoes
Part of the armada lines the shoreline, in the background there was drumming and singing..

Team work.
Finding the log, building the canoe, paddling it… no place for personal ego.

Old Copper Eye
Nobody’s average garden gnome

Two days later, before the sun had risen, in the smokey first light, songs and chants carried across the water. Silhouettes of the canoe flotilla appeared and then faded into the blur of dawn as their journey northward continued.

How’d he get that boat up there? An iconic Comox waterfront novelty for decades, the owner, builder, designer and resident of this boat lives a simple lifestyle in the face of modern sensibilities.

The Fugitive. Note the name of the boat beneath the questing contrails overhead.

Edgar?
For a moment it seemed that perhaps the totem eagle from Shearwater had found me.

Dog patch dawn. Ladysmith.
Smokey sunrises are part of life on the island…for the moment.

A dog day dawn. Another hot day ahead on the docks in Comox.

The Race. Sailing school on a perfect afternoon before the smoke came.

“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, The Use Of Life

A Plague Of Doves

Anchor set, mooring light aloft, supper in the oven, end of a very good day.

I’m feeling as worn as Willy Nelson’s guitar. Hopefully I too can still produce something good. But not today.

“Feeling nearly faded as my jeans.” My favourite mural in Chemainus, the lovely little town just south of Ladysmith.

ODIKA! Jill waits for what proved to be an excellent birthday dinner. If ever in Chemainus, this a fantastic restaurant. Lovely people, fantastic food.

Chemainus hydrant patrol. A joy of sidewalk tables is meeting the locals.

I learned this morning that a distant friend had died suddenly. He was the husband of my wife’s longest friendship and so after fifty-two years of marriage to his wife, Phillip had become an essential component of my wife’s friendship. I really liked him. I did not know him well, having only visited with him for a few days but I intended to befriend him more deeply. Now he’s gone, all those gonna-do moments have passed. The simple essay here is that we only have this moment, not the one in another minute’s time, only this one. And, every time you say goodbye, it may well be the last time. A few blogs back I briefly alluded to a dogma which includes being impeccable with your word. Don’t leave regrettable words without apology and preferably let your words be worth speaking and remembering. Believe me, this verbose writer and story teller wrestles with that one constantly.

In the teeth of a Qualicum. The wind blows strong and steady but there are no large seas because you’re sailing in the lee of the windward shore. It’s bliss!

Chaos below. I had not stowed anything because an hour earlier the wind was coming the opposite way and everything was happy in it’s place. No worries mate!

Chrome Island coming up like the clappers.

Chrome Island.
Anchored in the lee. The current kept the stern into the strong wind. Look at my flag.There was a whole lot of bobbing going on.

Rocks and cormorants on Chrome Island.

A peek at the edge of the keeper’s beautiful gardens and where I think some of the petroglyphs are.

Chrome Island looking back. The light was perfect and it never waits until tomorrow.

As I absorbed the news about this distant friend now gone, I sat with the day’s first coffee in hand. The mourning doves continued their serenade. A soothing sound, comforting and reassuring, this morning it was almost a thunderous din that seemed overwhelming. I wanted to shout at them to stop, shut up, fly away. I was already disoriented with arriving home. Now I’ve accepted a new job offer in Comox for a yacht charter company. I’m a bit reluctant to head back northwards for a low-paying job but it seems the gods dumped this one in my path. I’d best not step in it, or around it. I’ll just go see what’s up.

The light drew me on.

Smoke, mountains, low light.

The end of the world… over there.

Three days later I’m sitting in Seafire on a mooring buoy in Comox. Jill and I were still travelling south a week ago. I look ashore into the town, watching the traffic lights change on main street. They didn’t have any when we lived here thirty years. The community has grown up, a lot, and so have I. Well not actually, I’ve I just grown old. I truly believed I was coming south to retire but I need the money and here I go for some more work. These seem like nice folks and the job could prove to be fun. Every door leads a person to another door with yet more doors beyond. So…close the door, you’re letting the flies out!

One of the nice things about being at a more southerly latitude is that my mobile phone works inside my boat. No more huddling on deck ahead of the mast in the wind and rain, moving my head back and forth trying to find the best reception all the while swatting at squadrons of biting insects. Such decadence! I just finished a phone call with a friend who agrees that I should monetize my writing, my blog and my books and my photography. I find it hard to solicit myself and my work but I’m not too proud anymore to ask that if anyone knows someone who knows someone…. well, you can’t catch fish if you don’t go fishing. I’m not asking for any free lunch, just an agent who’s willing to take a chance on over twenty-five years of writing. That includes two novels, four other completed books plus a few on the back of the stove. I’m no one-hit wonder.

Yesterday proved to be an amazing day. Old ‘Seafire’ brought me all the way north from Ladysmith to an anchorage five miles south of Comox. That is a distance of—– miles in eleven and a half hours which included an hour out in Nanaimo for fuel. The shortest route from Ladysmith to Nanaimo requires transiting a notorious gap know as Dodd Narrows. Yesterday the tidal rate at maximum flood was 8.5 knots. I know the narrows, I know my boat and I know that the wild ride will keep most boaters away at maximum flood and ebb. I fear other yachts far more than tidal whirlpook. The worst part of turbulent water on a flood is downstream of the narrows and there is nothing to run into here, except other boats. One huge, overpowered motor yacht rushed up behind me and passed immediately after we’d exited the gap together. That wake mixed with the whirlpools and standing waves and produced a tsunami which broke dishes in the galley. ‘Seafire’ and I have know some rough going, but we’ve never before broken anything. The goon was towing a large fishing skiff on a long line and the entire show moved northward in excess of twenty knots. Somewhere there lurks a log. Thunk! Sunk!

While entering the narrows I was fascinated as I watched a bald eagle take a common murre. I’m no bleeding heart but it was painful to watch the murre’s agonizing demise and yet see the eagle’s strategizing and brilliant flying. He kept diving on his prey until it was too exhausted and injured to dive any more. The murre flew a last time, but now it dangled from the eagle’s talons. There is no place for warmth and fuzziness in nature and I’m sure that when feeding our offspring is a priority, we can all demonstrate our vicious nature.

Northbound from Nanaimo I lucked into a Qualicum wind which heeled the old boat over and had us hurtling on our way. Thirty knots of warm breeze on the beam is a gift and I revelled in it. At times the rails were in the water and we raced up the strait toward Chrome Island. I anchored in the lee of the island but the wind curled around the rock and arm-wrestled with the ebb tide from Baynes Sound. The stern stayed into wind and ‘Seafire’ bounded at the end of her anchored chain like a feral pony. I took the dinghy around the island and then started to go ashore. There are some incredible petroglyphs on the island, the evening light was clear and golden. It seemed meant to be.

Then the light keeper appeared. I was promptly advise that the island was his home and he was in the middle of dinner. “Come back tomorrow.” He flung out an apology; I told him I didn’t believe that. It the first time ever, anywhere I’ve been in Canada, that a light keeper has been less than welcoming to me. Usually a visitor’s concern is being able to get away again, company is usually cherished by lightkeepers. I had no intention of invading his home or demanding a cup of anything, nor trampling his beautiful lawns and gardens. I’ve reviewed this with other mariners who all agree that a Canadian light station is Canadian property and we have every right to visit our landmarks. I promised the grump that he’d been rude to the wrong writer and here ya go buddy!

The light that evening was magic. It drew me onward until finally at dusk I dropped my anchor in Henry Bay, a short distance in Comox. The trip covered sixty-five nautical miles in less than half a day. Brilliant!

And so here I am in Comox. On my first afternoon there I took the dinghy and visited the “Royston Wrecks” directly across the estuary. It has been decades since I was in this sacred place. A breakwater for a log-booming ground was built by scuttling 14 ships. Some were WWII liberty ships. Two of the hulks were former full-rigged clipper ships that had been cut down and used for log barges. One is the ‘Riversdale’ built in Liverpool in 1894. All that remains of her now is the forward section. The other, also built in Liverpool in 1876 is the ‘Melanope’. She, apparently was once an immigrant vessel to Australia. Her aft and forward sections remain to give you a clear idea of her overall size.

The bow of the ‘Riverdale’
This sprit has been shortened by forty or fifty feet. Imagine some young, barefoot seaman sitting out there watching the dolphins swimming beneath the bow in the seas foaming past.

Looking into the foc’sle. Check out the deck planking and how it has stood up to the years compared to the steel deck beams.

The bones of the ‘Melanope’ That’s the stern section in the background. A very big sailboat!

Bow detail. Note the riveted hull plates. Welding a ship together was yet to come. There were times when this hull crossed the open ocean heeled over much like this.

The mizzen was missin’.
This is the aft mast, or mizzen. It would have been cut off when the vessels was decommissioned to live out her days as a barge. The mast was rolled and riveted, then reinforced with more steel inside. How’d they do that? NO COMPUTERS! Did some poor bugger have to crawl inside the mast? There’s a belaying pin rusted in it’s rail. Running rigging would be “belayed” to it.

Chain pipes. Where the anchor chains passed out from the lockers. They were set low to prevent fouling the bob stay forward. Chafe marks are visible in the forward pipe.

The Jackstaff. This swivelling cast steel arm was used to “cat” the anchors, securing them up for the voyage. Note the arced rusted-out marks where the anchor must have chaffed on the hull plates. The huge forward-facing socket was where the massive bowsprit was bedded home. Also see the massive turnbuckle thimble above the sprit bas. It was used to harden a forestay. This was an immigrant ship and all those who sailed on her have passed on. It is very humbling.

What grand things these were! The nautical author John Villiers describes the full-rigged ship as one of man’s highest achievements. Combining technology and art they moved passengers and massive amounts of freight around the planet without burning a single drop of fuel. That was all accomplished without computers, radios, satellites. I’ve included a photo, without permission, of a full rigged barque to illustrate the wonder and glory of those vessels. I believe the ship is the ‘Cuauhtemoc’ built in 1982 as a training ship for the Mexican navy. I’ve been aboard her and she is a floating cathedral, immaculate and glorious.

This photo is reproduced in this blog without any permission. I don’t know who owns the rights but it is one of my favourite images. I use it for the desktop on my lap top and fantasize about being aboard in the rigging. This is very much how these wrecks would have appeared during their working life.

Meanwhile I’m settling into my daily grind on the docks of Comox. The bay here is surrounded by beautiful beaches and sandy spits. There is a huge glacier which looks down on the bay where dozens of tiny sailing vessels skitter about at the hands of children learning to sail. At low tide the shallow clam beds and boulders extend toward the glacier, several feet above our eye level in our floating dock house. The air is rich with the heady aroma of all that thick mud.

In the park above the docks folks exercise their dogs between happy playing children. A shelter has been built where sits a piano available for anyone to play. I’ve heard bagpipe tunes. Two nights ago, on coming out from dinner in the pub, there was some wonderful salty accordion music wafting out from a hidden corner.

It seems worth staying for a while.

How could the Greeks, who knew that one never enters the same river twice, believe in homecoming.”

…Bernhard Schlink ‘The Reader’