Waiting

There went several B.N.D.s! My work sometimes requires two compatible cameras. This is the very first frame with my new Sony dslt. It has been cloudy again all day long but what lighting!

I’ve deleted this entire blog and am starting over. It is a season for renewal so my sarcasms can be hung up, at least for a while. I had first begun with a sardonic remark about our local prize fire engine/ ladder truck tip-toeing down a very steep icy hill on New Year’s Eve with sirens wailing as it followed a creeping sanding truck. All is well that ends. There was no crash. They were out there and that’s what matters. Hats off to all of the town’s volunteers. Ladysmith, like all communities, would be a total shambles without them.

So all is well that ends and it is now a new year with loads of thrills and challenges ahead. My first dreaded task is already out of the way. Jack now has been successfully re-vaccinated for rabies and other nasty dog maladies. Trips to the vet have always been an ordeal and this was certainly one. This anxious old dogdad sweated it out in the waiting room while many long minutes of crashing, snarling and yelping dragged on in the veterinarian’s examination room. I resolved not to interfere unless there were shrieks of pain or a cry for help. The vet and her assistant, both lovely young ladies, eventually subdued Jack by rolling him in a blanket and making their point. I am indebted.

Jack Tar Hisself

Once he was cute, and smaller, and quicker…just like his owner!

Jack, I’ll admit, is like a surrogate son to me. He is a rogue; defiant and stubborn, but also loyal, deeply affectionate and protective. He suffers no fools, human or canine. A “Res. dog” he came from Penalakut Island. He was born about the time of a massive dog cull there. Apparently it involved a pick-up truck and a shot gun but I have no idea what traumas he endured during his early life. He can wag his tail and even his whole body, but if the karma runs over the dogma, Jack may turn himself instantly into a whirling dervish of snapping teeth and arsehole. He has taught me a lot about patience.

There are those who condemn the affection and funds spent on dogs. They say all that effort should be directed at our own children and yes, they’re right, but if you can’t even interact with dogs, you have little hope of success with humans. Perhaps that should be a pre-job test for teachers and counsellors: lock them in a room with a dog for a while. But then, we have laws about cruelty to animals. That was a joke Lucille! I think dogs are one of man’s higher achievements. All we have to do is let them teach us what they know. Insult me if you must, be leave my dog alone.

Read my lips!

photo: Jim Poirier
‘Seafire’ and owner enjoy a few days away from the home dock.

Two old farts on the same dock. Jim and his Corbin 39 have sailed extensively including two years in the South Pacific. It is a rugged and capable vessel to say the least.

Winter evening at Panther Point, looking south. The forest was a tangle of freshly blown-down trees, the paths were submerged in water. Night fell quickly.

Conover Cove. A view to Vancouver Island over the northern tip of Saltspring Island. On the fourth morning there was a hint of sunlight.

It was glorious.

While it lasted…. Soon the sun climbed above the overcast.

A Frank Lloyd Wright home in nearby Princess Cove. It suits the landscape perfectly, but in thirty years I’ve never seen anyone home. That is an Arbutus Tree hanging over the house.

NOT a FLW home. Just an original farm house at Conover Cove. Note the high spring tide, two days after a full moon.

Another Gulf Island home, a crow’s nest.

Long overdue, I spent some quality time with an old friend. Jimmy and I have know each other for over thirty years. Among his many talents, Jim has also sailed extensively. We have travelled in our own directions and have certainly never spent four days tied to the same dock. The days and evenings were spent commiserating. They flew by. The weather was perfect. January dark and rainy, there was little incentive to be outside. We rendezvoused at Conover Cove, a popular cruising destination in the Gulf Islands. There was no one else around. With plenty of laughter long into each night, and even some tears, nobody woke up hung over. We’re getting too old for that any more. What was discussed on that dock will remain there but it was perhaps the best start to a new year; ever. Thank the gods for good friends.

Arbutus tree in the morning light

Nothing warms my heart like the sight of these magnificent trees in sunlight, especially after a night-long rain.

The month wears on, creeping like a fire truck on a slippery slope. Daylight is already noticeably longer and soon little yellow flowers will begin to appear in parks and glens in the forest. Next the buds now swelling on limbs will burst and we’ll begin to expose our fluorescent skin to the eternal sun. Here’s to spring. We‘re waiting.

“Wanna take a turn around the block?” An overturned piece of dock floatation during some renovations at the Ladysmith Maritime Society Marina. The wonderful volunteer work never ends.

Truth is everybody is going to hurt you: you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for “

…Bob Marley

Donuts In The Snow

IT’S OVER!
Red light, green light, crossing the highway in Ladysmith. Taken through the windshield with my mobile phone.

I posted my last blog ten days ago. When I awoke the next morning it was beginning to snow, just a wee skiff to keep the children happy; so I thought. I’ve spent many years in the great white north where a metre or more of snow overnight was not newsworthy. You just carried on. I regularly drove hundreds of miles on wilderness roads in extreme conditions of cold and deep snow. If you ended up in a ditch or broken down it could prove fatal so you drove accordingly and carried a few extra items in the event of emergency. If you saw someone off the road you stopped and made sure no-one was in trouble. It was all in a day’s passing. Here, if there’s enough snow to cover the ground, it is best to simply stay home. Today, the forecast is for 17 or more centimetres. A few people will die out there. Only half that fell and the sirens still wailed constantly all day.

Well, Jack enjoyed his Christmas. His new blanket was tasty!

The white stuff is slippery and if you have experience as a winter driver, you know that no amount of ability is enough when there is zero traction. Superior drivers use their superior experience to avoid situations which require superior skill. Unfortunately there are many motorists who apparently have no clue about winter driving. Steep hills covered in wet white grease and littered with goggly-eyed drivers stuck in their suv’s is reason enough to stay home. Those television ads depicting an all-wheel drive vehicle bursting through a bank of fluffy, dry snow forget to tell you one thing: you’ve got to stop sometime. Last night I saw a plug for an Alfa Romeo suv. (Stupid Urban Vanity) It was a gorgeous vehicle! But somehow I doubt the Italians fully understand Canadian driving conditions, not that many of these look-at-me-mobiles ever leave pavement. So I stayed home that morning and sat here pecking away at my writing.

The same old view south. In the distance, ships wait for cargo at another sundown, not a nice way to spend Christmas.

Then there was a horrific train wreck just south of Seattle. It was the very first run with paying passengers on a new high-speed rail service between Seattle and Portland. The train leapt off the rails and crashed down onto the main interstate highway in the state of Washington. The carnage incurred prevents this from being a hilarious story. To ad to the ludicrous tale, our boy Donny Trumpet (He’s always blowing his horn) was tweeting within three hours of the crash that this was a great example of why his infrastructure funding bill should be passed forthwith. The gormless ass! There were still people, dead and alive, trapped in the wreckage as he massaged his pathetic ego! Here on Vancouver Island we have solved any issue with railway safety. We cancelled our rail service.

Christmas morning; a brief respite. Jill and Jack savour a few minutes of sunlight.

 

Tracks in the snow.

Now over a week later I slide this blog off the back burner of my writer’s stove with a story from today’s local newspaper about a visiting Calgary man who “Spun a few donuts in the snow at Transfer Beach last week to clear a path for his 70-year-old mom to walk.” There’s a photo of a little car sitting in the middle of several circular furrows. That this was a news-worthy story says a lot about the pace of life in Ladysmith. I’m wondering how long this dude has had his mom going in circles. Such is our existence between Christmas and New Years. The days are grey and wet, the nights are long and wet. My sense of humour is short and dry. Outside on the final Friday of the year, I go to the local pool to swim my final lengths for the year. This morning I crawled out of bed one toe at a time and now dawn reluctantly squeezes the black sky to a porridge grey. A thick fog descends with a syrupy penetrating drizzle. In the afternoon, the drizzle turned to snow.

The bunk job completed. The deck beam and storage shelving are new. Apart from difficult angles, the real trick was to make everything look as if it belonged.

Open for business. This is the guest berth, until recently used as junk storage. Well, it’s junk if you don’t know you’ve got it or can’t find it. Emergency tools stored handily. The wheelbarrow handle has been adapted as an emergency tiller.

When I went aboard ‘Seafire’ to check on her, it was colder inside than out, like a tomb. This old boat has been my home, warm and snug through some long winter nights. I feel as if I’ve abandoned her and wonder where I will be this time next year. Well, life has to be lived as it comes, one moment at a time. When you look back, even 365 days, you’ve already forgotten so much of the blur. Just this moment, it’s all we have.

I wish everyone the best in 2018. May we all have something to do, someone to love and something to look forward too.

Happy New Year
May your days be sunny and your seas calm.

Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” … Hal Borland 

Beyond Black Friday

Good things come in small bundles.

Santa blew it! Somehow, deflated Christmas ornaments laying all over humbug my Christmas spirits. Especially if they’re still lying there in July.

Black Friday has past. It may become known as the day that Darth Vader got stuck in the chimney. Forget the Star of Bethlehem, it’s Star Wars part 49. Bzzt, zap, whoosh! I’m not a fan, especially when the marketing of this film has be forced on us for months. “May the force be with with you” takes on a new meaning. What a way to start a celebration of love and peace and warmth and fuzziness! So it must be getting close to Christmas. Each morning there are deflated Santas and elves and snowmen lying on lawns nearly everywhere.

!The sacred act of consumerism is in the air. Even before mid-December advertisements for Boxing Day sales already clog the media which all the while keeps insisting that this year is a tight economic time, with housing and grocery costs at outrageous highs. Well, maybe so but as I drive by the malls, there does not seem to be many empty parking spots. Tap, tap, tap, click click. I’m not talking about the little drummer boy! Remember the ad, “Just say Chargex?” Jaded and cynical, I’m just not in the mood for anything other than peace and rum.

And lo, in the East, a star rose over the locomotive shed. There’s a Baldwin steam locomotive stored inside.

You recognize the view! This squint southward is over the Ladysmith amphitheatre in the local park.

The other side. Looking into the morning mist in Dogpatch. On a sunny winter morning, everything is beautiful.

Winterberry

Online, folks are posting yummy recipes. I have some good ones too but gluten, glucose and alcohol are bad for you, at least this year. I don’t know what happened to trans-fat, but apparently eggs, butter and coffee are OK again. My Christmas cake is delightfully heavy, dripping with syrupy alcoholic elixir; one slice is guaranteed to bring on a case of acne. Then there’s my glug, a mulled concoction of fruit completely desecrated in a blend of wine and brandy and other secret flammables with exotic spices. This year it’ll be cranberry juice and soda crackers. It’s the high life for me.

Frosty meadow.
Jack and I love walking at first light.

Once a simple pagan celebration of winter solstice and a return to lengthening days, this time of year was an affirmation of hope and familial security despite the long winter ahead. It was a simple defiance against the elements, things that went bump in the long dark nights and all there was to dread. It is supposed to be a celebration of life. Then religion imposed it’s toxic notions and Christmas was gradually perverted into an orgy of money grubbing. I’m well aware of the entire Christian story, I was force-fed on it for too many years. It’s dark and cold and wet outside tonight. There’s homeless folks out there, lots of them, and all the church doors are locked. In Victoria recently I saw security personnel guarding a church entrance. Homeless people were setting up camp for the night on the grass boulevard in front of the church. Shopping carts and garbage bags just didn’t look like the makings of a warm and safe winter night; in front of a church. Remember the stable?

Frozen Light

I do have golden memories of Christmas from a childhood many decades ago. A sudden aroma of home-cooking, woodsmoke or the tang of frost, the smell of wet woollens and barnyards (Yes, good old cow shit) the pungence of a real tangerine, fresh-cut conifers and a puppy’s gentle musk are among the stimulants that bring those old memories back to life in an instant. I know folks wrung their hands back then and worried about what the world had come to and how things just couldn’t go on like this much longer but by today’s comparisons, it was, at least for me, truly an age of innocence. That smells can induce memories, good and bad is an affirmation of our primal origin. I wonder about all the other senses which we have stashed away in the dim light at the back of our caves beneath the hanging bats.

In this particular area on Vancouver Island some hummingbirds spend the winter. This morning I was contemplating the brilliant multi-coloured led lights decorating a neighbour’s tree. A hummingbird zoomed down and began examining each light. Clearly, I’m not the only thinking creature confused about reality. With the thousands of lights gleaming through the night in Ladysmith It’s a good thing the wee bird is not nocturnal.

I’ve busied myself with a few projects on ‘Seafire.’ First a thorough cleaning in the main cabin and the galley. I was stunned to realize how much cooking effluent had accumulated behind and on the curtains and in niches my regular cleanings had missed. That accomplished, I turned my attention to a long-delayed project. The foredeck was slightly flexible. There was no issue with strength; I simply wanted to feel a rock-solid deck beneath my boots. Besides, the deck beam job will incorporate more book shelves and storage space in the forward V-berth. “Idle hands do the devil’s work” is something people liked to say when I was young.

I am not sure that boat projects are not devil’s work but it helps maintain some level of sanity within my chosen madness. While I’ve been fiddling around inside ‘Seafire’ different sorts of madmen are hard at other endeavours. Francois Gabart has just returned home to France on his massive trimaran after sailing around the world in 42 days and 16 hours. He set out on November 4th. I can remember where I was on that day, it is that recent! I’m not interested in going hyper fast on a sailboat, but I respect the achievement. To be alone and drive a boat that hard without a catastrophic mechanical failure while staying mentally and physically sound all the while is a miracle. It must seem very strange to be back ashore.

I can’t hear you! Jack charges a flock of pigeons, oblivious to all else.

Feet on the ground, now there’s a concept. The massive storm of inappropriate sexual behaviour accusations leaves me afraid to even smile at anyone of any gender, however many genders we now recognize. This tsunami of innuendo began with Bill Cosby and now anyone with eyes and hands is a suspect. I don’t want to dissect the issue, nor sound dismissive but… The US president openly bragged about his aggressive misogynistic sexual behaviour before he was elected. If an avowed pervert is running a country with impunity, surely that raises several obvious questions. He’s not welcome on my boat.

One of the ways I endure winter is to have something good to look forward to. Last year I had sequestered myself away in Shearwater and missed my annual pilgrimage to the Fisher Poet’s Gathering in Astoria. This annual event is held on the last weekend of February in Astoria, Oregon where poets and singers gather to celebrate the many aspects of the commercial fishing industry. It is a wonderful festival of blue collar eloquence and Astoria is a fantastic town to visit for any reason. You can learn more by going to the Fisher Poet Website (FPG.org)and can even hear some performers, including myself, read their work. If you’re in the area and want some late winter cheer, check it out. By the Way, Astoria has some of the best craft beers and ales anywhere.

Well, back to Christmas. I’ve just received a Christmas card from an uncle in England. The photo he enclosed shows himself and my aunt. It was hard to accept how they’ve aged. I have been receiving letters from him since childhood. They used to come on tissue-thin blue Royal Airmail paper. The letter cleverly folded quarterly with two sides reserved for the addresses. They were self-sealing and were bought prepaid, like a postage stamp. The sender wrote in as small a font as possible in order to say as much as possible on the six blank quarters. Somehow, the Brits had a style of handwriting that was generic. Everyone’s looked the same. That’s all gone now along with the whole fine art of letter-writing. Uncle’s handwriting is unchanged after all these years. There’s a comfort.

Early birds. Swans usually don’t show for winter until January. What does it mean?

The English journalist I mentioned in my last blog, Johnathon Pie, is actually a self-described political satirist whose real name is Tom Walker. He also calls himself a “Devil’s Advotwat.” His work, which appears on You Tube, is impeccable and utterly cutting as he rants about local and global political issues. He is crisp and irreverent and convincing, confirming my contention that our contemporary philosophers often appear in the guise of comedians. That, of course, should not be confused with a clown appearing in the guise of a politician.

“Dontcha buy no ugly truck!” When this GM pickup was new, that was the company’s marketing slogan. It appears to belong to a firewood harvester and is well-equipped for the backwoods.
Don’t laugh, I’ll bet she’s almost paid for!

Yep, as the song goes “It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas.” But I’m not dreaming of a white one. If you are celebrating the season, do it with your bow into the wind and your sheets hard. Wishing everyone empty bilges and full sails.

See! Toto emerges from beneath his Christmas blankets. He seemed offended that I thought he was funny.

The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.” …Jay Leno

Going dinghy

There’s that view again from Ladysmith!
Yep, still looking south. On the horizon, a freighter sits anchored, waiting for her cargo.

 

The sky brightened.

An hour later.

So what’s Mr. B.N.D. doing up here buying a dinghy?” A friend’s wife queried me when I arrived in Campbell River to purchase a used tender for ‘Seafire.’ It was a fair question especially when my last blog was about buy nothing days. It was also a fair question in consideration of the wintery weather. A viscous rain was being driven by the rising sou’east wind. The water in Discovery Pass was a mass of building foaming hard lumps, the usual meringue of wind against tide. I know this piece of ocean all too well, but for once I was ashore. I’d come to buy a nine foot fibreglass dinghy already modified to hang almost perfectly from the davits on ‘Seafire.’

Look up.
Big Brother is watching.

I already have a nice little kayak and a splendid inflatable tender. There’s no place for the kayak on mothership in the winter where it doesn’t get hammered by the wind, or partially filled with water. It also blocks visibility from either helm. Getting into it in winter weather raises a good possibility of a frigid dunking as I try to finesse my Rubenesque thorax into the bobbing little cockpit while clad in clumsy boots and rain gear. The willowy, flat-bellied former younger self still hiding within my senior mass cringes as he realizes what he has become. Gawd! The Michelin man in a kayak.

The Achilles inflatable is a wonderful little speedboat but also an awkward thing on the davits. It refuses to accept being lashed solidly under the davits and has caused me much grief during heavy weather passages. The drain hole in it’s transom only allows shipped water to dribble out; not a good thing in big seas. It constantly moves no matter how I secure it to the transom of ‘Seafire’. Chafe is a sailor’s worst enemy on a boat. This inflatable is built from hypalon, a very tough, long-lived material, but it won’t live long if I allow it to continually wear on parts of the big boat. If it were a hard-bottomed dingy there would be little problem with the davits but I wanted an inflatable that could be rolled up for long passages. I refuse to tow a dinghy any distance for several other good reasons. Every thing is a compromise. Oddly, my first boats all had a hard dinghy; I longed for an inflatable. Now I’m back where I started.

The fibreglass dinghy affords me a way to get ashore from an anchorage and still provides the hope of being a life boat in dire circumstances. It already has solid lifting points and two drain plugs in it’s keel. I can also carry it about 30 centimetres higher than the inflatable, so there’s less chance of flooding it in rough weather. The little cockleshell was also reasonably priced. Nautical items tend to be less money at this time of year; about half-price in fact. So there, I’ve blogged half a page to explain my spending spree on Black Saturday. The drive home took two hours in a nasty downpour, darker than black. It was one of those night drives when your headlight beams are eaten in the spray and other drivers were demonstrating their worst motoring manners and low skill-sets. I arrived home to find a blog from friends in the Caribbean showing idyllic anchorages in clear tropical water. Swear words! It just ain’t right! In the morning an e-mail comes with photos of the beach in La Manzanilla, Mexico. Curving miles of golden sand, surf on one side, palm trees on the other. The TV weather girl tells us it has been the wettest November here since 1953.

Last summer, laughing children swung from this rope and swam across the pond. There were none playing there today.

On Winter’s Pond. It was so calm you could hear the birds shivering.

I step into my tiny garage/workshop and there lingers an aroma of spring and of hope. The fresh smell of curing paint is aroma therapy to me. Suddenly I can hear twittering birds and feel warm sunlight, all of that in a whiff of paint. It is December 1st today and I’ll cling to whatever I can as the rain drums on the skylight above my desk. Bumhug! It’s Christmas time again, already, so soon! As if there would be a chance of forgetting. Happy Consumermas. Two days later it proved to be a sunny Sunday. Jack and I went exploring and found a lovely walking loop beside the local river which I’ve been driving past for over thirty years. Then in the afternoon Jill and I drove to Crofton to take the ferry to Saltspring Island to see a movie in a 120 plus year-old building call the “Fritz.” The film was the “Viceroy’s House” which never played in the mega theatres of Nanaimo. That is probably because there are no explosions, gunfire or graphic violence. And that is probably why it lost out to film titles like “A Bad Mom’s Christmas.” Tis the season!

A Brrrird!

Viceroy’s House” was spectacular in all regards and helped clarify how much of the mess in India was created by the British colonialists. I heartily recommend it. All that adventure in one day! The decadence of travelling to another island just to see a movie did not elude me, so we crowned the afternoon by having a lovely dinner in a humble but wonderful Thai restaurant in Chemainus. Now it will be all dénoument for the rest of the month. Then the daylight will begin to increase each day. Yeah right!

While I’m in a complimentary moment, check out Johnathan Pie on You Tube. He’s a British journalist who manages to turn every report into a very raw rant. His ability to provide candid in-your-face opinions is very refreshing indeed. He has clearly been around for a while but he’ll probably disappear in mysterious circumstances. Catch him while you can.

In the woods, there’s still beauty on a gloomy day.

Ball, brook, branch.
Jack’s bliss. That’s his raincoat!

Jack has a quiet moment. Someone decorates several trees along one of our walking routes. This is the main one, also brightened with photos of dogs who used to walk here and are now in the ‘Big Kennel In The Sky.’

 

Waiting for the ferry at Vesuvius on Saltspring Island.

The fibreglass dinghy is now hanging from the back of ‘Seafire.’ It rows beautifully and fits the davits perfectly. Jack sat in the back looking like a little prince surveying his realm, clearly enjoying the ride while I rowed the royal barge. I love it when something works out and even the ship’s dog is happy.

The dinghy.
All tarted up and ready for sea. Note that ‘Seafire’ is not all wrapped in plastic. Ready, Aye ready!

 

Downtown Ladysmith, Christmas lights. They plant cabbages in the flower beds of town hall then leave the holiday lights on for months. Apparently the main street of Ladysmith has been vote the nicest in Canada

I don’t know what they’re called but these are one of my favourites. They stay like this until spring.

The phantom decorator strikes again. A gentle soul wanders far and wide, hanging a few decorations randomly throughout the woods. It’s lovely.

If it’s a wrong number, why did you answer the phone?” James Thurber

B.N.D.

Morning Glory after a night’s heavy rain. Bailing can be a daily routine in winter.

My wife has a great idea. She’s come up with what she calls a B.N.D. or, Buy Nothing Day. In our consumer culture we nearly all have the craving to spend money. We’re incessantly prompted and programmed to do it. “How do you like it? How do you like it? More. More! More!” was a jingle for a local supermarket chain. In remote locations yachters who’ve been confined to their boats for a few days have an overwhelming compulsion to buy anything, something, as much as possible even though it may be useless, over-priced crap that they never needed until they saw it. I know that when I’m down and out, it makes me feel momentarily better to buy something. Prozac is a prescribed medication for compulsive shopping disorder. Yep, it’s considered a medical condition! The compulsion to acquire is a certain symptom of depression just surely as Prozac is a common drug for that illness. And tomorrow is Black Thursday which precedes the Black Friday and Pink Monday sales events.

Anyway I’m happy to recommend B.N.D. as a means of achieving some empowerment and control over one’s life. It sounds easy but I dare you to try it. For those of us driven to spend on credit I recall an old Welsh lady who once asked me, “If ye canna pay for it once, how will you pay for it twice?” That is sage thinking that I still have difficulty with.

Anapaya has risen again, this time to be broken up. The breaker’s crane and barge mark the spot. Meanwhile someone has tried to burn the beached wrecks. The boathouse in the back ground is a newcomer.
Will this squatter be the scene of the next fire

Anyway, I’m often informed that sailors are cheap buggers the world over. Sailing is often described as being like “Standing in an ice cold shower while ripping up thousand dollar notes” and that the word boat is correctly spelled with two T’s. Break Out Another Ten Thousand. I’m one of those backwater types who really doesn’t care about impressions. Let’s just say that I’m not a snappy dresser but I keep my old boat seaworthy if not always shiny. If it is a choice between new underwear or a box of flares, you know what will be burned. So, it’s not that we sailors are compulsively cheap, it’s just that all our money goes into the boat. If anything, we’re compulsively broke. And before someone spews out the weary cliché about boats being holes in the water I’ll reiterate that houses are holes in the beach to shovel your money into, and the scenery never changes. You can’t untie your house and sail away when you’ve had enough of your neighbours. See ya later!.

Frost on the skylight. With much of the province buried under snow, this is a small price to pay for a rainless morning.

 

The last one, I promise.
A final shot of autumn colours. The rain and wind have knocked down most of the leaves by now.

Another symptom of depression is hoarding. I was recently horrified to realize that maybe I’m inclined toward hoarderism myself. I’ve been living on ‘Seafire’ for years in remote locations. I wear only work clothes and can destroy outer wear sometimes daily. When in town I cruise my favourite second-hand clothing store and acquire shirts, jeans and other outer wear “just in case” I run out of togs. My brother once said of me that “Somewhere there goes a naked clown!” Today was spent unloading the boat. Sacks of manky clothing, bedding, towels, extra tools and never-used boat parts filled my truck. And there’s more to come! I realize that when I go south I won’t need nearly as much “stuff” crammed into every locker. I’m sure only one parka will do. I swear the boat has visibly risen on her marks. If hoarding is a symptom of depression then our culture is seriously ill. You can’t go far without finding extensive storage facilities. Folks have so much “stuff” they can’t cram it into their too-big houses so they rent space to store even more “stuff.” Once, all I owned could be fit into a backpack. Then it became what went into a pickup truck. After all the years wasted acquiring “stuff” now my joy is getting rid of it. If you see an old geezer on the roadside, stop and offer a ride; it could be me.

On Autumn Pond. An all-day downpour in Victoria.
Wet beyond words.

Now ‘Seafire’ is safely tucked into a berth for the winter. The space is available permanently.

That is a frightening prospect. I won’t let her sit and gather green, but for the moment there are no voyages planned. November wears on. I tidy out my tool boxes, tend to little jobs around the house and wonder where the money is coming from. When I first arrived I never wanted to see the boat again and I’ve forced myself to stay away from her for over a day at a time. Now there is a building tension. I check my lotto numbers; yeah right! I check the weather; yeah right. The rain and wind continue.

Last week I visited with my friend Pär Domeij. He was passing through Victoria on his way home to Sweden for the winter. His beautiful boat ‘Sjoa’ is stored in Shearwater and he’ll return in the spring to continue filming and exploring the mid and north coast. His short films are stunning. You can see several of his works on YouTube. The camera skill and editing are brilliant. His narration is gently understated and the final result is superb. One of his recent films is posted as “An Ode To An Estuary.” His work and his deep enthusiasm for the backwoods of Coastal B.C. will inspire you.

Less than two weeks after my return, I’m becoming antsy. I’ve worn out the blog themes of autumn colours and yet another storm. Now there’s a part of me that wants to shout “Bollox” in sheer frustration. I’ve tidied up my tools, which was no small job, and now I’m beginning a serious clean up of old “Seafire.” We’ve removed the cooking-grease-stiff curtains which were also coated with coagulated dust. I was disgusted to realize how badly things had become. I do regularly clean the boat but after a few years of living aboard I have to admit to some root-bound grime in my hermit’s man-cave. Jill is helping me bring things back to life and I’m very grateful. If nothing else, the curtains were a serious fire hazard as Captain Olive Oil sizzled up yet another one-dish meal. When the boat’s interior is again immaculate, there’s plenty of writing to dust off, edit and market. There are certainly no excuses to ever be bored.

And that’s how it is in my world for the moment. No dramas, no thrilling events. I’m not dressed up, nor sitting out in the pouring early morning rain waiting for any trains. I know I’ve missed the last one. There’s even plywood on all the station windows. Haar! Life goes on.

The abandoned railway and train station at Ladysmith. The E&N railway should be a vital artery on southern Vancouver Island and it is genius that it is seldom used.

 

Looking to the south at high noon. The urge is overwhelming.

 

I’ve always wanted to go to Switzerland and see what the army does with those wee red knives.” … Billy Connolly

The Third Napoleon

Wednesday Afternoon
Southbound in the Strait Of Georgia
Looking east toward Mainland Canada at 2 pm

 

Something felt very different Wednesday night. I was in the galley cleaning up after supper and mused how the boat looks the same inside no matter where she is. It was inky dark outside and if I were to step off the side of ‘Seafire’ there would no longer be a dock there. I’ve cut her loose and am on my southward, unfortunately only as far as Ladysmith for the time being. Still it feels so very good to be away from the dock.

My work in Comox is finished. Now I’m anchored in False Bay on Lasqueti Island. I tip-toed through the rocks into the bay an hour after nightfall. I have fond memories of this place and two iconic people who based here. They have both passed away. Allen Farrell was a famous wooden boat builder and his wife Sherry was a lovely and charming lady. I have plenty of yarns about them, how I befriended them and times we shared. I often describe them as the only real hippies I’ve ever known. The world is a sadder place without them. In the morning as a creeping grey dawn slowly illuminated the bay, plenty of signs showed that people have staked out everything possible. I remembered Allen’s comment once that the system these folks had come to escape was not nearly as bad as the one they brought with them. Why can we not simply respectfully share the beauty and bounty of the planet without laying claim to it and desecrating it. My ocean! Mine! This remote island was once a mecca for draft-dodgers and folks who believed they could reinvent the world. Their descendants live on here. “Peace man, share the wealth” was once a mantra. Now “No Trespassing” signs seem to be everywhere.

Beautiful downtown False Bay… Thazzit! Wood smoke hangs in the air as the ‘Centurion VII leaves on the first run of the day. This water taxi is the only link to Vancouver Island and the world outside.

My Scottish mother-in-law, may she rest in peace, once called me a “Bloody Bog Canadian.” I accepted it as a wry term of endearment. Now I think she may have been right. It’s interesting how one can go an entire lifetime with an idea fixed in one’s head, right or wrong; even worse, how about no idea at all?. I reviewed a documentary about Russian history and remarked to my wife that the Russians seemed to have been under siege by Napoleon for a very long time. He even set fire to Moscow once. My wife replied that there were three Napoleons. The second was a son and the third a nephew. What they did and did not achieve, where and when, is irrelevant. You can look it up yourself. I was gobsmacked to realize once again how history is written, what is not written and what is embellished or even invented. It doesn’t really matter how many Mao’s or Mohameds or Jesus’ or Hitlers there really were. Some academic, I’m sure, can prove how important it is that we understand how the sum of three Napoleons affects our modern existence.

I couldn’t resist! I don’t know who deserves credit for the original photo but hopefully I’ve mutilated it enough. There seems to be a resemblance to someone else, maybe it’s the hair!

Frankly, I don’t much give a toss about history and who wrote what about anything. I’m not that confident in the accuracy of any history. I’m sure we can all give examples of blatant lies we were led to believe. We just don’t learn anything from history. We’re still the same nasty creatures we’ve always been. No amount of information changes our compulsion to be destructive and hateful. It has nothing to do with geography, gender, religion or just cause. We’re all assholes. Until we accept that hard reality about our nature, nothing will ever change. And don’t go blaming it on anyone’s Satan. Look in the mirror. We must change.

We the pumpkins. A post Halloween tradition is to amass your Jack ‘O Lanterns to decay together in the cold, wet weather of autumn.

For example, in the wake of the recent mass shooting in a rural Texan Baptist church, a local politician offered the solution of posting armed guards in every church. Jesus loves me, now pass the ammunition. Remember that Christianity uses a symbol of capital punishment as an icon for peace and love. Instead of a cross, it could well be a hangman’s noose, an AK-47 or even a hockey stick. There are no doves on any bible I’ve seen. Whether you agree with my slant, or not, you have an obligation to yourself and your species to exercise your expansive abilities as a thinking organism. Ask questions. It is that simple.

 

An old rusted rail shed matches the autumn russet of maples and alders.

 

Nothing lasts forever. Heavy autumn rain and wind will soon knock the leaves from the tree. Then, after a long winter, new green leaves will bud in spring.

I am now back in Ladysmith writing on a drizzly November 11th. It is Remembrance Day across much of the world. A squadron of WWII military aircraft just flew over. My old pilot’s heart skipped a beat. I wonder as their sweet throbbing thunder fades in the grey sky, how much we believe and remember is truth, how much is myth and what it is we choose to forget.

More raw logs leave our country. They are being loaded onto the ship from a working sawmill. The orange mounds are chipped cedar which will be processed into paper. That we export any raw resources is ludicrous.

This bright beauty popped out of a tidal narrows I was about to enter. I can’t claim I didn’t see it.

 

Going with the flow. Dodd Narrows is a tidal pass with currents nearing 10 knots. Here I’m running with the ebb about one hour before slack water.

 

Thunk. Sunk. One of the dangers in this churning tidal narrows. My boat is plenty tough but a log in my propeller could be interesting.

Several good reasons to not travel by boat at night.
Winter waters are often choked with logs.

In 2017 politicians and religions of the world still mesmerize millions into embracing nonsensical stories, conflicted values and convenient lies. People still eagerly sacrifice themselves for other people’s myths and profits.

Ladysmith Harbour as seen from the next town south.

I’d rather just go sailing.

Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.”

… Napoleon Bonaparte (the 1st)

Snowy Palms

First Frost. One of my favourite trees. In the heat of summer, a herd of cows lounges in it’s shade.

On October 22nd The latest Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante Spain. I am not a racer but it was fascinating to watch the beginning of the race. The start began like any sailing race with competitors jostling for a good position. The fleet then competed through several legs in the bay before heading out to race each other around the world. I prefer simple, traditional boats to these modern hi-tech floating computers but to see such massive boats (65 feet long, their hinged keel draws 15 feet! ) manoeuvring like dinghys with crews smoothly handling sail changes at each mark is a wonder. Sailing boats, in my opinion, are one of man’s higher achievements. I don’t know if high tech vessels are an advance or a retreat.

The race route stitches itself around the globe with monstrous legs like Lisbon to Capetown and twice dips down into the ice-filled, wind-ripped Southern Ocean, a vicious body of frigid water. The boats hurtle along at speeds in excess of 20 knots. When not beating themselves to death while cold and wet, these sailors have to face massive parties in each of the many far-flung ports which mark the end and beginning of each leg. This madness will continue for nearly 9 months when the race ends in Sweden. How are you spending your winter?

One boat is named ‘Clean Oceans’ and draws attention to the massive global pollution of all our seas. One recent report suggests that the tonnage of plastic clogging the waters and beaches of oceans worldwide matches the mass of our remaining fish stocks.

That is a sobering consideration. As I ruefully watch this boat knifing through the green Mediterranean waves, the irony of it’s own synthetic composition was not lost. From mast to hull to sails and clothing of the crew, everything is a plastic derivative. When I was a child fibreglass boats were beginning to find acceptance. One concern was about how long a ‘Tupperware’ boat would last. From what I’ve seen while wandering our Westcoast beaches the answer is forever! The plastic, in places, is a thick strata along our high water lines.

In Mexico, old bits of plastic littler the country. Fence lines and cacti are decorated by the wind with fluttering bits of tattered plastic to the point that it could be a national flag. Mexico is a place that I love despite the litter. I’ve seen many clever examples of recycling in that country. “Necessity is the mother of all invention” is an old wisdom. It is one of the reasons I go there. The seasonal window for getting ‘Seafire’ to Mexico is now closed. Local sailors generally agree that mid-October is the latest that one should depart our waters for a direct voyage to Mexico.

“Don’t laugh;she’s almost paid for!” Remember Ben’s Johnson? This old beast was once someone’s pride. Doel fins on the motor, tow post, galvanized trailer, c’mon, make an offer and answer the call of the sea.

‘Shroom Nav. Growing on the cabin top of the old runabout, could these fungi actually be some sort of stealth-nav. system?

Halloween morning finds me up for another day at work, there are only a few of those left. I’ll soon be unemployed. It is still pitch-dark at 7am. It is cold and clammy-damp. We’ve had a few days of spectacular sunny fall weather, the forecast is now for a few days of payback weather which includes snow flurries. I’ll be heading southward with ‘Seafire’ next week, foul weather can be expected; naturally. In the meantime, I’ll post this as another short blog with photos of fall colours. I doubt readers will notice anything different, but I’ve acquired a new-used dslr camera. I couldn’t afford the purchase, but I couldn’t leave a good deal behind. My old Canon gear is showing it’s age. You can only drive so many nails with your camera, they just don’t make them like they used to. Seriously I’ve been coveting the quality and abilities of Sony and so here I go. Some of the slick photo technology has me stumbling but I’m sure I’ll be quite happy. I’ve proven all I can using my mobile phone as a camera. Now I look at the keys worn shiny on my laptop, or notebook, or whatever we’re supposed to call them this week. I know what’s coming next.

In Ladysmith, the anchorage known as “Dogpatch” has claimed another vessel. The venerable ‘Anipaya’ now sits on the bottom of the bay. No-one seems to know her real history. The old wooden lady, about 90 feet long, with plenty of shear and a lofty crow’s nest, cut a salty profile. She looked like a former whaling vessel to my eye. The problem is that old boats are sold off as affordable housing because they’re too old and tired to be worth repairing. They’re rotten. When they become too difficult to keep afloat they are either abandoned on their moorings or dragged ashore and left derelict. Sometimes they’re burned. Someone else (Usually the taxpayer) is left to clean up the mess which is often toxic and dangerous.

That’s me in the middle! Anipaya’s crow’s nest looked down on the Dogpatch fleet. Now she sits on the bottom.

The ‘Spud Queen’ Once a Westcoast nautical icon. The absentee owner discovered that people were squatting aboard. The story is that it was dragged ashore and burned . One man’s problem becomes everyone else’s.

Currently the politicians are discussing appropriate legislation to deal with the growing number of derelict vessels along our shoreline. I think it is simple. Live as you wish, so long as you are not imposing yourself on others. If a life afloat is what you choose then your boat must be maintained in a seaworthy condition at all times. If you are not able or willing to do that then you should be legally obligated to be responsible. No-one else should need to clean up your mess. The price of freedom is responsibility. Have I said that before?

A popular topic among mariners at the moment is about the two women rescued in the Pacific a few hundred miles of the coast of Japan after drifting with their dogs for five months. My information comes only from the media so I can merely speculate. The interview I did see placed their credibility as being very low. What they were claiming made little sense to this seasoned old salt. If indeed this is some sort of hoax, I truly hope they both pay a suitably heavy penalty. They’ve certainly done nothing to further the cause of voyaging sailors anywhere.

In Victoria, politicians are discussing making yet another law. It will try to deal with “distracted pedestrians!” Personally I am amused and saddened by those cannot even walk along a street without feeding their device addiction. No matter how many laws we make, there will never be a way to legislate stupidity.

A morning whisper. One of the first photos taken with my new used camera.

Late-breaking news. As I post this blog…   BUGGA!

Woof’s Dis? Ziggy seems fascinated with his own footprints. The weather caught us all by surprise.

Yep. TOO RIGHT! November 2nd, Comox.
Thinking of all my chums in southern latitudes.

Be whom it was you needed when you were younger.” anonymous