Flying Back To Bunga Bunga

 (No disrespect intended, it’s what some of us call Bella Bella. Bella Coola is Bunga Cunga)

Yes Really!
They’re out there.
Like it or not, it’s spring…and the flowers know.

Well now that I’ve showed you mine…! Another Southern delight for me, Arbutus trees.

The hook. A salmon jaw left over from last autumn’s spawn, hangs at shoulder-height. Part of the annual drama is the distribution of the dead fish. They feed both flora and fauna as their bodies return to the natural world.

Jack’s new ride. He loves it! So do I. My new used 4×4, full-sized crew cab truck, with a V8 engine gets slightly better gas consumption than my previous small SUV and import truck with much smaller engines.
Go figure!

I know you’re leaving. Again! Without me!

Little Boxes. People choose to live in this sterile environment on the water front. It’s all about a view. There was a time when poor folk lived by the sea and ate fish. If I had the price of one of these condos, there would be photos in this blog with palm trees. In three hours I travelled from this warm sunniness…

…This! WTF? It’s officially spring tomorrow. The long white strip is the airfield on Denny Island. We’re about to land in Bella Bella. Kliktsoatli Harbour is reflected in the spinner.

Moments later over the metropolis of Shearwater. Check gear down. You can see the nose wheel in the spinner. The aircraft is a Beechcraft 1900D; a fabulous airplane.

Dodd Narrows. Just out of Nanaimo Harbour we pass the yachtsman’s dreaded southern approach to Nanaimo. Here the narrows have recently turned to ebb. soon there will be nasty whirlpools and back eddies and a current of 6.7 knots. Oh yeah, add some spinning logs and a few terrified weekend boaters!

Trincomali Channel. Looking south through some of the Gulf Islands past Porlier Pass and into far-distant Plumper Sound. A tug tows logs between two deep sea bulk ships waiting to load in Vancouver. The anchorage on the right is Pirate Cove, famous to Westcoast yachters and former home of notorious Brother Twelve.

My old stomping grounds. Degnen Bay below and Silva Bay beyond. Hello old friends all.

“That you Mac, or is it Harmac?” A tired, ancient joke about Nanaimo’s smelly pulp mill. In the distance on the left is the other foul pulp mill in Crofton. In the center is Nanaimo’s busy Cassidy Airport. Ladysmith is just beyond on the shores of Oyster Bay. A fabulous place to come home to.

The curve.
The open horizon has always been impossible to resist for this old pilot and sailor. This view is of the Southern Strait Of Georgia.

South YVR. The floatplane is a DHC3 Otter. I’m sitting in another one. The seaplane terminal is on the Fraser River on the south side of Vancouver International Airport. The terminal is adjoined with a wonderful pub, ‘The Flying Beaver.’

The Otter Office. The panel of an Otter cockpit. When I first sat in this seat, fifty years ago, these aircraft were powered with a thundering radial engine. All instrumentation was analog “Steam gauges”
Modern computerized “Video games and turbine engines have turned a wonderful airplane into an incredible one.

 

On arrival at the YVR South Terminal I flopped my big old wheeled travel bag onto the weigh scale. The ticket agent raised an eyebrow at the readout. I looked down at the bag and said, “Don’t move around granny, you’re almost through.” The young lady raised her eyebrow again and asked with a posh English accent, “You are joking!?” I grinned.

Well, we have to be sure!” I wasn’t actually feeling jovial, I was just trying to mask my dismay about returning to Shearwater. Lately it has not been the magical destination one could hope for; more of a ‘Club Dread.’ As I pocketed my boarding pass, I looked away over my shoulder and said, “Hi Jack.” Then I smiled to the ticket lady. “Nothing like a sense of humour to stir things up at the airport.”

Rather!” But then she began to smile.

I’d ridden the float plane across from Nanaimo with two former neighbours. They were on their way to Varadero in Cuba, a five hour flight from Vancouver. As I edit today’s snowy photo’s back aboard ‘Seafire’ they’ll be sipping mojitos on the hotel patio and watching the sun set over the Carribbean. BUGGA! Some co-workers have quit and left during the week I’ve been away. Will I be next? One of those folks has since been in contact from Thailand. Good for him.

Goodbye Nanaimo. Now bound for Bella Bella the view is west across the strait to Nanaimo and it’s magnificent harbour. I wonder when I’ll see it again.

The letdown. Beginning our descent to Bella Bella, we get a glimpse of a snowy mountain.

There was brilliant sunshine on the south coast today. We flew north over a broken overcast. Near Bella Bella we slid down through a hole in the cloud and began our final descent. I hope I didn’t curse aloud. More fresh snow! Bloody hell! Three hours earlier I’d been watching a woman blow huge soap bubbles for kids on the Nanaimo waterfront in the warm spring sunlight. Now back to this! What the hell? I throw my gear aboard ‘Seafire,’ slam the hatch, turn up the heater and hunker down for the long night ahead. The forecast for the week ahead calls for rain and snow flurries, just like last week. The next light on my horizon will be the Easter long weekend and I’m resolved to gloomy weather then.

Moments Before…
landing in Bella Bella. One of my joys in a 1900 is being able to watch the instruments. An old seat-of-the-pants pilot, I marvel at the efficiency and precision of today’s modern aircraft and crews. They possess an entirely different skill set than mine.

The real thing. After repairs our travel lift is back in action. First up is this locally designed and built offshore sail boat. It incorporates traditional and novel ideas. Built of aluminum, twin-engined, twin-ruddered, it is a floating bomb shelter which I can see sails and works very well. It is a joy to see. There is a great beauty in this practical and capable vessel.

The poor old boat is suffering mightily thanks to the weather. The finish on the exterior woodwork has been seriously damaged this winter. I cannot do anything about it or the other jobs waiting for a little warmth and dryness. The general spirit of the whole community seems diminished as we wait for signs of a reluctant spring. Yesterday morning, in Nanaimo, while walking Jack, a flock of wild swans flew low overhead. They weren’t heading north.

It will be a while until we see them flying over up here.

A bouquet of hope. Surely spring will come some time soon.

Don’t let the same dog bite you twice.” Chuck Berry

Snow Job

My last few blogs have repeatedly mentioned the tenacious winter weather. Yesterday, March 8th, we awoke here in Shearwater to the beginnings of a mini blizzard. It snowed ferociously for about four hours. Here is a photo essay on yesterday’s weather. At 7 am this morning, the sky is cloudless.

AGAIN?
The forecast was for snow flurries with accumulations to 2 cm.

Steady as she snows.

Whoosh!

Never Look Back

Seafire sits forlornly at the dock, her bow pointing in the direction of Mexico.

Stacking it up. I have been places where no-one would notice  a small flurry like this.

I don’t know what I thought was so funny!

Don’t slam the door.

Home is where the boat is.

Warm and snug inside….make the world go away.

In late afternoon the skies clear and the temperature tumbles

I’d prefer that the only ice I see is beneath a palm tree…in a lime margarita!

Cold feet, cold heart, cold beak, cold fish!

The morning after. Cold, clear calm. By the end of the day another storm was moving in.

Dreaming of spring
…Any day now.

 

Hold fast to dreams For when dreams go Life is a barren field Frozen with snow. Langston Hughes.

Cabin Fever

YEAH RIGHT!
Sunshine? When? Daily snowfalls continue.

It is the last weekend of February. This is a time which is one of the pinnacles of my annual life cycle; the Fisher Poets Gathering is on in Astoria Oregon. Composed of a large contingent of Alaskan fisher-folk, the event draws men and women from around the world. Various performers offer samples of their writing and music. The depth of talent is stunning. Uplifting and affirming to mix with other blue collar creative souls there is also humility in realizing the tremendous creative energy among simple working people. The website is fisherpoets.org If you click on ‘performers’ then go to ‘in the tote’ you’ll be able to find some of my work to read and to listen to. There are plenty of other performers listed there whose work is spellbinding. I am honoured to find myself among them.

Last Year’s Poster Boy.
Not quite the cover of the Rolling Stone but here’s yours truly in action.

This weekend in Astoria has been, for me, a great way to shake the blahs and recharge wintered-down batteries. It is a fabulous town to visit in its own right. I go to participate every year. But this year I’m writing this aboard ‘Seafire’ while moored in Shearwater, a very long way north of Astoria and the Columbia River. Health issues are keeping me here. It is snowing outside and a severe brown-out is settling over me. I have to get out of here. Now! I slip my lines and idle out into the thick snow well aware I’m totally alone. This is no cure for cabin fever, the boat looks the same inside but I have a sense of being in control, able to go wherever I choose. Soon lost from sight in the slanting snow, only I know where I am. My sense of isolation increases slightly but I feel slightly better.

No Light Today
Dryad Point Light Station in a snow storm
The light was not operating despite the low light and visibility.

A Cold Dawn
Clear sky and brisk wind in the anchorage at Troup Narrows

Two hours later I am at anchor just past Troup Narrows. I began to turn in to my intended anchorage but found a neighbour’s boat already anchored there. In respect for their deliberate solitude I moved on. It would have been rude to impose my presence when there are so many other snug places to anchor. Here I sit, alone in a wilderness night and the driving snow of the Great Bear Rainforest. Almost asleep with my fingers on the keyboard I sit here in a thick stupor with a whole night of long black hours ahead. Those hours pass with a long series of nasty dreams and general anxiety. It is probably just my state of mind but I note that this is an area heavily marked with ancient pictographs and petroglyphs of local indigenous peoples. It is probably just my imagination, but It has happened to me in similar places elsewhere and I wonder if there is a presence that effects some people. It is probably all bugga bugga but still; what if? The sky is clear, swept by a brisk Northeast wind. It has kept the boat taut on the end of its anchor chain all night. It pinged and grumbled but the Rocna anchor held firmly as it always does. I finish my second coffee as the aroma of a pork roast in the oven fills the cabin. I’ve impregnated it with several cloves of garlic. The oven helps warm the boat on this chilly morning and I’ll have meat cooked ahead for several meals.

Leroy Brown
My very handsome new neighbour.

Time to go. The anchor comes up encased in thick mud, the best material to hold a boat. I intend to amble along a circuitous back route looking for petroglyphs and paintings. The sun, by 9 o’clock, is finally high enough to cast enough light to see but then the light becomes too harsh with deep shadows and the wind howls too boldly for me to take the boat close to the rocky unfamiliar shoreline. I resolve to be content with the day as a simple outing with nothing accomplished or discovered. People do that I’m told. It was actually rather pleasant.

The Squeeze.
To remove this old diesel engine I had to fit myself into the space on the far side. After all the rusted hardware was removed the big ugly lump had to be shoe-horned up, sideways, forward, up and out. To do that the boat had to be tied along a bulkhead above some sharp rocks on a falling tide. All’s well that ends.

The last days of February are bitterly cold. An older power boat stored in the yard requires attention in its engine room. The vessel was built around the engines, which after several decades, are balls of grease and rust. After fighting with seized bolts in cramped quarters in numbing cold, I am yet again confronted with the ugly reality that this is work for a younger, flat-bellied person. My Rubenesque form is not contorting as it needs too, the knees don’t unbend and my attitude is hardening and it seems that my lament is constantly about health and weather. March 1st daylight creeps reluctantly beneath a thick, dripping blanket of cloud. It is calm. Yesterday’s slush clings on. By the end of the week nothing has changed. I’ve prepared yet another old yacht’s engine room for engine removal. It too will be a shoehorn endeavour. For some reason similar jobs often occur near the same time. I remind myself that nothing is forever and that soon I’ll find myself looking back on this misery from a happier place. The weather, and the forecast, continue with wind, rain and snow. I’m having difficulty finding something of interest to blog about and the motivation to care about anything. Some folks here live within a drug and alcohol- induced fog. I can almost understand that.

Old Beauty
Under the verdigris and rust stains, this old wooden double-ender is still a solid boat and evidence of someone’s dream.

A Spanish Windlass
This is an ancient method of drawing two objects together, in this case, two sections of dock.

The first weekend of March arrives in a snow storm. I take some pictures and go back to bed, feeling as motivated as a hose. N old hose. My ambition for today is defrosting the boat’s fridge and I’m going to savour that wild craziness for a while yet. Two hours later, the bright, warm sun is hanging in a clearing blue sky. I shut off the heaters, throw open the hatches and savour dry fresh air. The sunlight reveals layers of grime. I scrub away, disheartened at my slovenly boat keeping. Admittedly, the boat has been closed up tight since sometime in October while I’ve cooked and lived within. Yeech! At least the recognition and resolve of my detritus is a sign of hope and ambition. Haar! Yet there be life.

On Saturday evening the community got together and put on a Greek food evening. This old recluse was reluctant at first but ended up being glad he went. The food was spectacular, kudos to all who cooked. There were even samples of venison and moose cooked with Mediterranean recipes and someone made Baklava that was exquisite. The folks were all amiable and I will confess to having had a very pleasant time. It was wonderful to have exotic food in such a backwater.

On Sunday I stowed away on a water taxi running up to Bella Coola to pick up an employee.

The Long Run
Heading for Bella Coola

It was great to just be a passenger with no responsibilities. Outflow winds at first provided a back-jarring ride but conditions eased under a cloudless sky. The vastness of this country is stunning. Shearwater is well inland from the open Pacific and Bella Coola is about sixty miles further inland within a labyrinth of deep inlets with vicious winds and swirling currents. The forest changes from coastal cedar and becomes predominantly fir. The mountains rise higher and become more rugged. After hours of travel one feels well imbedded in the continent yet on the chart it is clear you’ve barely begun.

Oh what a feeling
Dolphins join the boat at approximately 25 knots. Their swimming and cavorting seem effortless.

I wish… that I could swim like that

As Far As He Got. Mackenzie Rock, a very long way by foot from Scotland.

A lovely pictograph along the way. Who knows what it means.

End of the line. An old cannery in Bella Coola

Canada, solid land all the way to Labrador. It’s a big country.

 

Today for the first time I briefly looked on Mackenzie Rock, an ambition I’ve long held This is the site several miles seaward of Bella Coola where Alexander Mackenzie ended his fantastic westward trek in1793 when Heiltsuk warriors turned his expedition back. It must have been a massive disappointment to have travelled on Pacific seawater yet be denied the sight of open ocean horizon. The man stoically turned around to canoe and walk all the way back to Toronto. He originally came from the Isle Of Lewis, when just making it to the mainland of Scotland was a personal achievement. Wee Alex went on to tramp across and up and down huge parts of Canada. Eventually representing the North West Company he made his way to the headwaters of what would become known as the Mackenzie River. Then he canoed the massive river’s length to the Arctic Ocean. I have always been amazed how intrepid it was to come from a small country and set to hoof and paddle across incomprehensible distances. A few years later he showed up in Bella Coola, after a trip back to Scotland. That dude got around! Apparently he missed a meeting there, by a few weeks, with the dauntless George Vancouver. Eventually, at the age of forty-eight, he made it home to Scotland once again where he married a fourteen-year old girl and fathered three children. Hagis Power! I’m left feeling dead wimpey.

Waiting for spring. Waiting and waiting.

Boredom: “the desire for desires.” Leo Tolstoy

Out And About

Out Of the Mystic Morning mist clings in one of the passes out of Kliktsoatli 1harbour

Out Of the Mystic
Morning mist clings in one of the passes out of Kliktsoatli 1harbour

A thin warmth. Cloudless sky. Sunlight in the eyes. February 13th, Family Day, a holiday. With all of that said in one line, Valentine’s Day arrives under the forecast of more rain and wind. There’ll be no wine and chocolates here. February 15th proves the weatherman right, Torrential rain begins in the evening and is still drumming down in the morning. With yesterday’s news came the story that iconic CBC story teller Stuart Maclean had died. I confess that I envied his success and how everyone seemed to love his work, no matter what their personal tastes were. He will be long missed. His eloquence and ability to consistently deliver a simple yet compelling story, punctuated with clever humour, will remain a standard for all writers and story tellers.

Winter finger. The ravages of wet and cold and all the chemicals a mechanic gets his hands into. Latex gloves last mere seconds for me. The, in the evenings, they peck out my next blog.

Winter finger.
The ravages of wet and cold and all the chemicals a mechanic gets his hands into.
Latex gloves last mere seconds for me. Then in the evenings, they peck out my next blog.

Another story comes from Nanaimo. Young parents contacted the media with a plea for their autistic youngster. Apparently the child had been introduced to Kraft Dinner in specially packaged “Star Wars” boxes. Now, he’ll eat nothing else. Yeah right! Let him miss a meal or two and he’ll start looking at real food differently. The request, carried by several national media sources, begged for more of the non-food. I can’t believe it. Golly gee molly-coddler! This poor kid has a bleak future. Flash ahead a few decades and he’ll be another dude in a studded dog-collar panic-stricken about getting to a metal concert. I mention this only as example of our world gone mad. To me, it is ludicrous that so much press be given to a non-story and that such crass values are promoted. Once again I’ll gently mention Syrian refugees (As one example) and what our perspectives would be if we walked a short way in their shoes. Imagine walking across a continent hoping to find a place, any place to make a new home. The next meal? Who knows what or when? So many of us live in a world so abstract we’ve lost our grip on basic reality.

Something to do, someone to love, something to look forward to, all the rest is gravy. By week’s end, the kid has a lifetime supply of the crap. Hmmm! Maybe I could sell the media on a plaintive tale about an old dufus who needs to sail south for health reasons.

Seafire at the Bella Bella Dock. What a day!

Seafire at the Bella Bella Dock. What a day!

Greetings Uncle! Huge ravens and bold crows frequent Bella Bella. Some say they are the spirits of ancestors.

Greetings Uncle! Huge ravens and bold crows frequent Bella Bella. Some say they are the spirits of ancestors.

Pedal, pedal, pedal, kerplunk!

Pedal, pedal, pedal, kerplunk!

The boat beneath my boat. The clear cold waters at Bella Bella. The bumps beneath the rudder are clumps of mussels beginning to grow. Time for a haulout!

The boat beneath my boat. A sinker in the clear cold waters at Bella Bella. The bumps beneath my rudder are clumps of mussels beginning to grow. Time for a haulout!

Red to red. mjariners prefer to meet in channels by showing their port sides to each other, or with red navigation lights visible.

Red to red. Mariners prefer to meet in channels by showing their port sides to each other, or with red navigation lights visible. The seam in the hull is where the bow section hinges open for loading.

The tin wedding cake. The BC Ferry 'Northern Expedition' in Lama Passage northbound for Prince Rupert.

The tin wedding cake. The BC Ferry ‘Northern Expedition’ in Lama Passage northbound for Prince Rupert. One salmon says to another, “Look at all the canned people.”

Saturday morning brightened under a light fog. Soon blue sky began to show. ‘Seafire’ and I were gone like a shot. With the weight of winter weather, health issues and all the trials of life I desperately need to remind myself of why I’m living here alone and clinging to a dream. I stop in Bella Bella for groceries then head south. Within a short while I found myself at the opposite corner of Denny Island, out of sight and out of mind of my daily drudgery. What a feeling! I had the world to myself and every possible destination lay before me on this pristine, cloudless, glorious day. The urge to keep on going was compelling. I met the Prince Rupert ferry as I exited Lamma Pass. We chatted briefly on the radio before we saw each other. There is some comfort in hearing another human voice within the emptiness of this massive wilderness. We pass and the seaway is empty again. I looked down the long stretch of Fitzhugh Sound and ached for the distant open horizon. Instead I’m writing at anchor in Codville Lagoon. It is cold, there is a skim of ice on much of the lagoon. The boat sits at anchor as if it were aground in butter. The stars are incredible. Their reflection on the calm black water leave me feeling as if I’m adrift in the universe with stars all round. I have the universe to myself. It is a fantastic feeling.

Last light in Codville Lagoon. Calm and cold.

Last light in Codville Lagoon. Calm and cold.

Icebreaking in Codville

Icebreaking in Codville

Having a bash. My Rocna anchor proved an excellent tool for breaking the ice ahead.

Having a bash. My Rocna anchor proved an excellent tool for breaking the ice ahead.

Ice prawning. My prawn trap breaks the surface.

Ice prawning. My prawn trap breaks the surface.

Supper. The fish went back into the water. I was unable to indentify the bottom-feeder. It was so ugly it was rather cute!

Supper.
The fish went back into the water. I was unable to indentify the bottom-feeder. It was so ugly it was rather cute!

Sunday dawns with a high thin overcast. All around the boat there is a skin of ice on the lagoon. I have about a mile of ice-breaking ahead of me. Even a thin layer can damage the gel coat on a fibreglass boat. When I weigh anchor I leave it dangle at the water’s surface. It helps break the ice before it contacts the bow stem and only a few chips of bottom paint are knocked away. I pull my prawn trap and head back across Fitzhugh Sound and back up Lama Passage toward Shearwater and another week of work. There is no wind, the sails stay furled. It was not an especially remarkable little trip but I’ve reaffirmed that I hold the option of leaving at any time. At any time I can be gone in a couple of hours. That, in itself, is worth more than any sum of money. Three hours later, ‘Seafire’ is back in her berth. I wash her down, fill the water tank, make a mug of tea and start to edit the weekend’s photos. It begins to rain.

The world beyond. Looking southward into Fitzhugh Sound past Walbran Rock.

The world beyond. Looking southward into Fitzhugh Sound past Walbran Rock.

Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”

                                                                                 Omar Khayyam

Here We Go Again

Here we go again! Southbound, looking down on Pruth Bay on the northwest corner of Calvert Island.

Here we go again!
Southbound, looking down on Pruth Bay on the northwest corner of Calvert Island.

The nook An embracing anchorage facing the open Pacific

The nook
An embracing anchorage facing the open Pacific

Port Hardy Potty Pause A Saab 340 of Pacific Coastal Airlines on the flight south from Bella Bella. Ten minutes for fuel and more passengers and a chance at the washroom. A clear, cold beautiful day.

Port Hardy Potty Pause
A Saab 340 of Pacific Coastal Airlines on the flight south from Bella Bella. Ten minutes for fuel and more passengers and a chance at the washroom. A clear, cold beautiful day.

February first, Bella Bella airport. Calm, clear, bloody cold. Again! I’m off south to the big smoke to see the vets again, for the same thing. The flight is uneventful but I can tell you that travelling with a UTI (Urinary tract Infection) has reduced my sense of manliness to a new low. Perhaps I’m just living out my life as a dog but moving about with the incessant urge to piddle becomes an incredible burden. It pisses me off. There are just not enough bushes out there some days. A residual effect from my bladder surgery at Christmas, it is definitely a gift that keeps on giving. Jill accompanied me to Vancouver for yet another heart procedure. It snowed persistently and on the crossing it was announced that all the Vancouver buses had been shut down. A big burly fellow began wailing loudly. He wore an interesting costume which included a studded dog collar. He whined loudly that he’d put all his money into attending a “Metal Concert” to the point of missing meals and now what would he do? I truly felt the urge to apply some slap therapy and wanted to ask him how he’d deal with being a Syrian refugee. Feckwit! More on the stupidity of our species shortly.

As it turned out, the buses were running, on time, and once again I was amazed at the efficiency of the Translink system in the lower mainland. People still find room to complain, but for less than the cost of one hour’s parking downtown, you can buy a day-pass that allows you to be whisked anywhere all day long without risk of theft, accident or parking problem. Jill and I were bemused to recall the panic on the ferry about how foot passengers were going to get themselves downtown. There were negotiations for rides with driver-volunteers and while I admired the obvious milk of human kindness, It was intriguing to see how easily blind panic was induced with a simple pre-emptive inaccurate announcement.

A view with a crane. Looking east from the hotel room at Lonsdale Quay. Yes that's snow!

A view with a crane. Looking east from the hotel room at Lonsdale Quay. Yes that’s snow! No, ‘Attessa’ is not my boat.

Lonsdale Quay The hotel is on top of the market.

Lonsdale Quay
The hotel is on top of the market.

Beautiful Downtown Bella Bella. The public wharf and center of the community. A very different world, perhaps planet, from Vancouver, two hours away by air.

Beautiful Downtown Bella Bella. The public wharf and center of the community. A very different world, perhaps planet, from Vancouver, two hours away by air. Note the perched eagle surveying his kingdom.

Back on Vancouver Island, also snowy and slushy, I ventured forth in my new-used truck. It is a lovely thing and will take my little off-road trailer on many future adventures. I have seldom acquired a vehicle, new or used, which did not provide some sort of an initiation break-down. Today was a repeat performance. In the middle of a slushy street, my lovely new used truck died. It turned out to be a corroded computer module which shut off the fuel supply; expensive, but easily remedied. My capitalist pride turn to instant frustration. A previous time when I’d just put a fresh set of tires on a new used vehicle, the engine promptly blew up at the top of the Malahat Summit. Yes, there’s another set of new tires in the store this time!

A nasty surprise. Fresh snow at the Nanaimo Departure Bay Ferry Terminal.

A nasty surprise. Fresh snow at Nanaimo’s Departure Bay Ferry Terminal.

The stunning part of that wee adventure was the incredible stupidity of many motorists. Some folks stopped to offer assistance which was dead lovely. Many others, although my full-sized black 4×4 truck, stalled in the middle of the snowy road with emergency flashers pulsing, could be seen for several blocks beforehand, would pull up immediately behind the vehicle. They would either sit with a blank look on their face or begin sounding their horn. In the hour it took a tow truck to arrive, this occurred many dozens of times. With my leaky plumbing issue, it was not at all a pleasant experience. Mein Gott! These folks are licensed to hurl themselves around the planet in large, deadly projectiles at high speed, yet apparently have the cognitive skills of a mudflap. No wonder the Trumps of the world can so easily take control. Living in a backwater like Shearwater clearly has some advantages. The only fool I need worry about here is myself. Fortunately, while repairs were being made, my dear old pals, Grethe and Niels, took me under their wing and soothed this sorry beast. Thank the gods for good friends.

Checking my e-mail I discovered that other friends has just completed the very long passage from South Africa to Trinidad on their sailboat ‘Sage.’ Tony and Connie left Victoria on Vancouver Island a few years ago and now have sailed over half-way around the planet. Where they go from Trinidad is anyone’s guess. What an intrepid pair. You can find a link to their blog site on the right hand sidebar of this blog. Another friend is sending me amazing photographs from Thailand. A sailor friend wintering in Mexico is urging me to just “Do it” and get my old buns down there. As soon as I can take the next breath, and the next pee, for granted, I’ll be on it like never before. The tears are running down my leg. (there’s a lot to be said for kilts.)

Monday morning, back to Vancouver today. It’s still snowing. Another adventure lies ahead.

Outflow Wind. Looking up Howe Sound from the deck of a ferry in Horseshoe Bay. Outflow winds from the snowfields and glaciers beyond Whistler accelerate down the Sound and head out to sea. It is bloody cold!

Outflow Wind.
Looking up Howe Sound from the deck of a ferry in Horseshoe Bay. Outflow winds from the snowfields and glaciers beyond Whistler accelerate down the Sound and head out to sea. It is bloody cold! The ferry to Langdale and the Sunshine Coast can be seen in the distance.

I find myself worrying about ‘Seafire’ languishing in Shearwater without me to look after her. There is another strong wind warning up for the area and within the next few days they’ll be blasting a monster pile of rock that has been being drilled for several weeks near my dock. I’d like to be able to take my beloved boat away a mile or two from the blast site. What will be will be and there’s enough to worry about right where I am; after all, it’s just a boat. Right? I have to haul myself, the old “wutless gonder,” off to the meat shop and get probed and zapped some more. That’s all that matters today….and a place to pee. Damn! How the mighty are fallen. There are so many kinds of courage and I marvel at those folks who bravely face horrible illness and injury and the ubiquitous poop-brindle beige halls of medical institutions. Then there are those who go to work in those places on a daily basis. I could not do that. We took a room in the lovely Lonsdale Quay Hotel. I’d planned to take Jill for an early Valentine’s dinner in a favourite restaurant; there was a gas leak and all the local restaurants were closed. We ended up enjoyed a fabulous meal in a Thai restaurant a few blocks away. You never know what’s around the corner!

A favourite view. I have long loved the northerly view to the north from the ferry lane between Nanaimo and Bowen Island. Texada Island looks like a small country, bounded on the west by Sabine channel and Lasqueti Island and Malaspina Strait on the east. Low clouds on the island's peak are usually the harbinger of bad weather.

A favourite view. I have long loved the view to the north from the ferry lane between Nanaimo and Bowen Island. Texada Island looks like a small country, bounded on the west by Sabine channel and Lasqueti Island and Malaspina Strait to the east. Low clouds on the island’s peak are usually the harbinger of bad weather.

February eighth, Campbell River Airport. At the hospital in Vancouver yesterday, in preparation for yet another “Cardioversion” (It sounds a bit like a religious experience …and it is!) the anaesthesiologist asked me if I remembered anything of the previous treatment. I replied that I did. I said I recalled a helluva bang and then the smell of bacon. She berated me for being a smart ass, although the rest of the attendant crew seemed to appreciate a little humour. This time I don’t remember a thing and the application of high-voltage has brought my pulse back to a normal rate. Now I can focus on getting my plumbing problems under control. A prescription has turned my discharges a brilliant orange. Tracking me in the fresh snow will be no problem.

Seriously, it ain’t no fun. Loss of bladder control is an agony, night and day, and I’m in pursuit of a new urologist for a second opinion and to see what’s going on. The one who did the reaming and ripping is arrogant and dismissive. Tests have revealed that there is no infection. Something else is wrong. Bugga! I understand why some folks launch malpractice litigation. I’m almost ready to rig up a bucket and hose tied to my leg. Patience I tell myself, patience, this too shall pass. Meanwhile the fluorescent tears run down my leg.

Collateral Damage. The Bella Bella water taxi shelter...where it meets the jetty ramp during storms.

Collateral Damage.
The Bella Bella water taxi shelter…where it meets the jetty ramp during storms.

Jill drove me to the Campbell River airport this morning and I hope to shortly be back in Shearwater. The trees and roadside were laden with snow. There is more forecast for later today. Up in the Great Bear Rainforest, there was a fire on Denny Island along the power line from Ocean Falls. Aerial photos on the TV news show miles of power line in flames. How that could happen, in rain forest in mid-winter is everyone’s mystery. The high winds must have fanned the flames. Some local local natives are trying to use this as yet another example of whitey’s disregard and neglect of First Nation needs and priorities because they were without electricity for a while on the weekend. No comment!

Gravity wins again! Buoyancy ends when that final drop of water trickles in. Bilge pumps are wonderful things!

Gravity wins again!
Buoyancy ends when that final drop of water trickles in. Functional bilge pumps are wonderful things!

Meanwhile we’re holding our breath about the weather being good enough on for today’s flight. I’d rather be sitting under a palm tree wondering which cantina to go to for dinner. Finally back in Bella Bella, there is a sinus-pinging north wind blowing. The wait on the dock for the water taxi was interminable. I returned to Shearwater a short while after the blast. A few rocks fell on the far end of my dock but ‘Seafire’ sat unscathed. A rock was fired through the wall of a house above the dock. It emerged through the ceiling into the kitchen. Collateral damage and all’s well that ends. In the afternoon I soon found myself head-down unbolting an engine for removal from a water taxi. Life goes on. This morning, as I write, a fresh blanket of snow is descending. Ordeal or adventure, life is what you make of it. Suddenly it is nearing mid-February and I’m still here. It is the Saturday of the year’s first long weekend but I’m going to work today. The weather is crap and the work in the shop is piling up. Too much time away gallivanting around in southern hospitals!

It's not spring yet!

It’s not spring yet!

TILT! As I post this blog a neighbour boat rides out the storm. 'Anarchy' is a Contessa 26. This design, tiny as it is, is famous for carrying many sailors on round-world-voyages.

TILT! As I post this blog a neighbour boat rides out the storm. ‘Anarchy’ is a Contessa 26. This design, tiny as it is, is famous for carrying many sailors on round-the-world-voyages.

Wind warped. The same boat on a much calmer evening.

Wind warped.
The same boat reflected on a much calmer evening.

On Sunday morning any plans for the long weekend have dissipated. A full storm has raged all night but fortunately with steady howling winds. No slamming gusts! I slept peacefully most of the night! Sleep has become a rare commodity because of my health issues which demand I visit the loo several times through the night. I’ve discovered Tibetan and Mongolian throat singing among other soothing types of music I can stream from You Tube. It’s weird perhaps, but it works and to be able to nap for two continuous hours is now a rare treat. As the day drags on the rising wind begins its slamming gusts. I clean and tinker on the boat as I upload the photos of this blog on our flickering internet. It will be a long day. I’m not complaining, just explaining. There will soon come a morning when the skies are clear, the wind will be warm and dry. The old verdigris-stained sails will fill and the compass will read due south.

Textured Moon

Textured Moon. Between the back-lit scudding clouds, a chance to make a creative photo of last night’s full moon.

Now is the winter of our discontent.” William Shakespeare

Cream and Scum

Seafire Dreaming some dark and stormy nights it's hard to remember perfect moments like this in Clatse Sound

Seafire Dreaming
Some dark and stormy nights it’s hard to remember perfect moments like this one in Clatse Sound…and to imagine what can be ahead.

Warning: This blog contains a photo which some may consider offensive

You’re getting past your shelf life.” How’s that for a remark from your doctor? He’s a great guy, one of the last country doctors I know and an avid permanent local. He has a great sense of humour which is a tremendous virtue for a doctor. On the water taxi ride back from the Bella Bella Hospital to Shearwater I began to reflect on what he really meant. The life I’ve lived has already taken me decades past my shelf life. I’ve done a lot of dangerous and stupid things in my time and know full well that none of us has more than the moment; no matter what we might think. I am not afraid of dying but I certainly hate not living. And living up here alone in the boat, through the winter, is proving to be nothing but an existence. After enduring a winter here in the Great Bear Rainforest I know I must make some immediate moves to change the prospects for the rest of my days. I don’t quite know how to change my status as an economic refugee, a common whore, especially when this old bilge ape is just not able to work as hard as he used to.

A Punter's View Sea-trialing a ubiquitous local punt with a new outboard motor

A Punter’s View
Sea-trialing a ubiquitous local punt with a new outboard motor

This blog was originally begun as a running narration of my vessel ‘Seafire’, myself and those who would join me on adventures and voyages to exotic destinations. It has taken on a life of its own and seems to teeter on a theme of finding wonder, humour and insights from the moments at hand. The years roar past like a runaway express train. For some reason I was cursed with hard wiring which seems to prevent me from ever getting my leg over a financial fence and achieving my simple dreams. Some friends tell how easy it is to just “DO” things but that formula eludes me. I have had many adventures which are too incredible to describe here; yet what I have dreamed of the hardest and longest still eludes me. Now my health is failing me and I have to modify those dreams and my lifestyle. I do also understand that with the correct lifestyle I can regain fair health and still live out some of those dreams. It is a conundrum which only I can resolve. The end of January is fast approaching and I’ve accomplished nothing here except to barely survive. But perhaps that in itself is an achievement.

"Feelin' nearly worn as my wheels." I decided it was time to replace the office chair wheels with something slightly less worn.

“When push comes to shove, Feelin’ nearly worn as my wheels.” I decided it was time to replace the office chair wheels with something slightly less worn.

Some sailors cheerfully go to extreme regions where they freeze-in for the long cold polar night. I’ve done my time in the Great White North. I cannot imagine eight to ten months of this as I sit here in the boat, writing at 03:00 and looking out at the blackness around the bay. There is no wind or rain tonight, for the moment, which perhaps is why I cannot sleep. It is too calm. What a place this is! Endeavours here are a strange waltzing boogie between the practical and the incongruous, the insane and the brilliant. To survive here one must mould themselves to bend around, and into, the culture of a many-faceted work camp community manned by characters, like myself, (Imagine a little town full of Freds) who don’t fit into the mainstream of the Southern Coast. I tend to simply do my job and then retreat into a hermit crab existence within this boat. But enough claptrap about the gloom of winter weather and frustrated dreams. There’s lots else to write about.

I often bemoan how my prime link with the outer world is CBC Radio. The radio and this laptop computer are my only company aboard the boat. (Really! No rubber dollies.) With a patter of human voices in the background, life is a little more bearable although many CBC programs are eternal manure heaps of rhetorical blither. Occasionally, for me, a nugget shines out from within the brown. One of those recent undungings was a half minute playing of an old but recognizable tune. No-one announced what those notes were, but it was instantly clear to me as a snippet of the theme music from a CBC series called ‘The Beachcombers.’ That tune is available online as are many of the 387 episodes aired over eighteen years. The show began in 1972 and was a near-instant hit. Set in beautiful little Gibsons BC the simple plots unfolded along the waterfront and still, even now, hold a pleasant charm. If you know who Relic was, you know the show. That series accomplished two things. First, I believe, its portrayal of life on this coast drew a migration of Eastern Canadians to the West. The image of an easy-going life in a picturesque setting had to be a magnet to a hippy generation that often travelled with only a thumb and a backpack. Those same folks are now entering their geriatric years and became the next generation of middle-class establishment which now owns some of the most expensive properties in the country. There’s a quote that goes, “A capitalist is just a socialist who’s found an opportunity.”

The Real Thing A locasl beachcomber's boat, the venerable and beautiful 'Pender Chief'

The Real Thing
A local beachcomber’s boat, the venerable and beautiful ‘Pender Chief.’ Beachcombing is the enterprise of finding merchantable logs afloat and washed up on beaches. No living timber is taken, it is solely a salvage operation. It is how I began a career which led me to full-time tugboating.

 

I think the second achievement of this TV series was that it portrayed as perfectly normal for whites and indigenous people to work and interact with each other on a fully equal basis. There were no exclamations about race or gender. Everyone was just one of the community. A local Sechelt native and prominent Hollywood actor, Chief Dan George, often guest-starred on the program and added a rare dignity. Anyone old enough to remember the show will soon fondly recall their favourite episode. However, there are now folks old enough to have a driver’s license who have never seen or heard of the production. If you see a geezer on the side of the road, wearing a headband and tattered bell-bottomed pants, they may well be on their way to check out the Sunshine Coast. It’s never too late. The food at Molly’s Reach is great. Peace man!

Knowing the ropes a beachcomber's workplace. a beach skiff and a shallow-draft tug. It's a great lifestyle and sometimes you can make a little money too!

Knowing the ropes
A beachcomber’s workplace. A beach skiff and a shallow-draft tug. It’s a great lifestyle and sometimes you can make a little money too!

Value added Beautiful clear cedar timbers milled from salvaged wood. It doesn't get better than grass roots commerce.

Value added
Beautiful clear cedar timbers milled from salvaged wood. It doesn’t get better than grass roots commerce. Bonus scr

Speaking of peace there is the Trump subject. How many damned times a day do we have to hear something else relating to Trump? I’ve found myself counting the seconds after the radio is turned on until I hear the dreaded T-name. I try to avoid political contemplation at length in this blog but the media has been battering us with all things Trumpety, Trump since the beginning of the long presidential campaign. I’ve had enough. I’ll simply say that I wouldn’t want to spend any time in a life raft with this dude. Same thing, by the way, for Hilary. My dog is so smart he is well able to play stupid as it suits him. I think Trump may be playing a similar game. Listen carefully when he speaks about his “Big beautiful wall.” While it is assumed he is talking about his contempt for Mexico he carefully talks about protecting “Our borders.” Guess who has the only other border Canada. Many US citizens do not really see Canada as a sovereign nation and we have all these resources. Get it? Sleep tight.

Clearly he also has low regard for China so here’s a proposal. Major US retailers, like Walmart and Costco, sell little that is NOT made in China. Maersk shipping built special container ships just to accommodate Walmart’s huge demand. The shipping line returns those tens of thousands of containers to China; empty. So Mr. T, if it’s America first, perhaps US businesses should sell only US manufactured goods. Huh? And you say you will close all your hotels outside the borders of the US? Oh, and please, please bring all those crap fast food American restaurants back within your beloved border. Free enterprise. Ever hear of that Donny? NAFTA. Not A Freakin’ Thing’s Allowed! I’ve done a lot of business in the US and it seems to me that Americans hate being beaten at their own game. How’s that for a rant?

I WARNED YOU! Something under this dock grows, no-one is sure what to call it. Here are some possible captions: Cojone Del Mar But it's natural! No bull A family resemblance Neurotic Photo It must be spring Got DNA

I WARNED YOU! Something under this dock grows, no-one is sure what to call it.
Here are some possible captions:
Cojone Del Mar
But it’s natural!
No bull /Got DNA
A family resemblance
Neurotic Photo/ Old Sea Scrotum
It must be spring/That reminds me
Got DNA /”Well, doc, it kinda’ feels like a barnacle.

Meanwhile, up here in Gulag Shearwater the vicious weather has returned. High winds with massive gusts have stormed us for the past two days and nights. Old ‘Seafire’; is slammed repeatedly. The heavy boat is tossed about like a bath tub toy. Sleep for the past two nights was impossible. My binnacle cover, which was tied securely, was gone this morning. There’s another few hundred dollars blown away. It was due to be replaced, but I wanted the old one for a pattern. Shingles nailed to the dock were torn up by the wind and flung helter skelter. The weather was too foul even for our intrepid tugboat skipper to run a freight barge over to Bella Bella. I’ve sold my vehicle to a fellow there and need to deliver it. By water taxi we’re about fifteen minutes apart with rides an hour apart. BC Ferries offers a vague and irregular service which runs bi-monthly on average. Tonight I’ll board the ferry at 23:30 hours and then spend the night trying to sleep in the vehicle once ashore in Bella Bella.

Night Moves Midnight, pouring rain ink darkness, I wait at the ferry dock, the only passenger.

Night Moves
Midnight, pouring rain, inky darkness, I wait at the ferry dock, the only passenger.

All’s well that ends. It pummelled down rain all night, I slept fitfully. The transaction is complete, paid in full along with some fish. Then my new friend delivered me back to my own boat with his. There really are plenty of good folks out there yet.

A gift of fish. It's lovely to do business with gracious people.

A gift of fish. It’s lovely to do business with gracious people.

At least Donald has never heard of Shearwater. Ah, here comes the wind again.

Cream rises to the top. So does scum.” …Ian Graham.

After The Crash

Eagle moon January 12th Cold, clear, calm, icy!

Eagle moon
January 12th
Cold, clear, calm, icy!

January First, 2017

January First, 2017

 

In a recent blog I promised that, despite the winter doldrums, I would find something interesting to write about. How about a runaway forklift? I repaired the wiring on a forklift which had died outside my engine shop. Once it was running, I did some final electrical checks and then gathered up my tools. That was when the back-up alarm began to sound. The heavy machine lurched backwards, accelerating as it went. One hundred feet away sat a row of boats. The first two were aluminium work punts and then a very expensive fibreglass sport fishing boat. In horror I jogged toward the impending disaster, my brain screaming “No, no, no!” The punts were shouldered aside, as the smoothly idling forklift zeroed in on the prime target. Fortunately the ground was covered in ice and the trundling attack came to rest as blocking was flung aside and a pile of pallets splintered. One driving wheel spun in useless frustration. I was able to clamber aboard and shut the engine off.

Beep, beep , beep, bee...Shit! The reverse runaway forklift. Thank goodness for the ice. The expensive boat behind the forklift was spared by one inch.

Beep, beep , beep, bee…Shit! The reverse runaway forklift. Thank goodness for the ice. The expensive boat behind the forklift was spared by one inch.

Safety First!  The ubiquitous local aluminum punt often requires welding repairs after rocky beaches and stormy seas. Stacks of pallets are a great way of positioning the vessel at the best height. Creak, crack, tilt.

Safety First!
The ubiquitous local aluminum punt often requires welding repairs after rocky beaches and stormy seas. Stacks of pallets are a great way of positioning the vessel at the best height. Creak, crack, tilt.

Collateral damage was minimal and the dislocated punts came to rest an actual one inch from the hull of the grand boat. The forklift controls were worn. As it idled the shift lever vibrated itself down into the reverse position. I made appropriate repairs immediately. In my bunk, I dreamed of the machine launching itself over the end of a barge. The reverse alarm beeped its way overboard and then made a most peculiar sound as the machine sank. All’s well that ends. As the daylight faded a near-full moon rose into a crackling clear sky. Hopefully this heralds the end of our cold snap. It has been a rare event for which we are ill-prepared.

The old castle road. Would you believe a WWII jeep trail through local bogland

The old castle road.
Would you believe a WWII jeep trail through Denny Island bogland?

The weather has now returned to the many shades of grey slanting rain and gusting wind. It’s just another long, tedious day after tedious day on the mid-coast of British Columbia. The broken dock chains have been replaced. Slam-bashing winds have wracked the docks every night since and all is well. Yesterday, despite the cold lashing rain, there were rolls of fog on the distant mountains that had a spring-like look. Perhaps it is just wishful thinking but there really was an hour of sunlight in the late morning. One of the joys of getting older is knowing that nothing is forever and winter will eventually end. The trick for me is to find and savour those brief golden moments.

Winter dream.... When the sunlight is high and warm and long each day. ....Many more sleeps!

Winter dream….
When the sunlight is high and warm and long each day.
….Many more sleeps!

The weeks grind on. Donald Trump is plugged in at his newest ivory tower and even up here, it seems, the world is puckered up in anticipation and dread. Yes, even here in the remoteness of the rain forest. I suspect that in four years we’ll discover his rhetoric was largely empty promise and threat, just like a politician. He will have been forced to acknowledge possession of all normal human bodily parts. His ambition as the world’s next fuhrer will be fully deflated. Simply understand to never, ever trust a fat man with tiny hands.

Any sign of spring is desperately cherished. A moment of sunshine, its warmth on one’s face. I heard geese today. They’re local birds, but haven’t called like that for months. Beneath the docks, billions of herring swarm and glitter. That is a sure sign of good things to come. Today while on a sea-trial out in the bay I saw a huge humpback whale. I’m sure it was gorging on the spawning herring. Later, as I walked back to my boat, I heard two wolves howling nearby. There’s hope!

January Moon Rise The long sleepy wait for spring. Beneath the calm surface, the tides ebb and flood, the herring begin to return by the billion. The year's timeless cycle turns as ever.

January Moon Rise
The long sleepy wait for spring. Beneath the calm surface, the tides ebb and flood, the herring begin to return by the billion. The year’s timeless cycle turns as ever.

Politics is the gentle art of getting votes
From the poor and campaign funds from the rich,
By promising to protect each from the other.”
~Oscar Am Ringer, “the Mark Twain of American Socialism.

Look Ma, no batteries!

Look Ma, no batteries!