Monthly Archives: May 2013

Things That Make You Say HUH?

Blog sites attract quite a bit of spam….. (And I’m so old that I remember when spam was something you ate.) It was disgusting stuff!

Anyway I regularly check and delete spam, sometimes pausing to read some of the gibberish. Now this one caught my attention and I’m trying to make sense of it.

“CAUTION: If you have a pet bird, it may be wise to avoid non-stick coatings.”

The first image that those words brought to mind was of a live canary stuck to a frying pan in a slather of congealed bacon fat. Then I considered an all-night blues bar called the ‘Sticky Parrot’. Now I wonder if it’s not a coded message from MI5 or perhaps CSIS warning about the perils of Asian funding in regard to the Fiscal Wall or perhaps…. perhaps it has something to do with the rising cost of spark plugs for military drone aircraft. Maybe it has to do with the bow to stern flotilla of ships that come to our coast and load up entire forests of raw logs. Is one thought anymore ludicrous than the next? Why would anyone send such a message?

You can drive yourself totally mad trying to make sense of the world around you and these little pimples of twisted wit that pop out at you. There’s no point, because there is no sense or rationality to human presence. If there is one organism on this planet which is clearly non-indigenous it has to be the fungus that calls itself the human race. We clearly don’t belong here! How’s that for polemic conjecture? I’m on the edge of a rant, it’s time to move on.

Old boats tell no lies

Old boats tell no lies

Sailing, now there is an endeavour that leaves millions mystified. Why would any sensible person want to do it? There are those who love to race their boats. That, to me, seems a fine art of practicing a vicious sort of seamanship where one tries to destroy every expensive component of a perfectly fine vessel while proving who has the tiniest willy. I’m clearly not a racer.  I’ve tried it and know that despite some vague camaraderie among those whose bible is a copy of racing rules, there’s just too much testosterone, male and female, for my sensibilities.  And yes, there IS a female testosterone, just go racing with the ladies, you’ll find out!

I spend too much of my life whirling around to acquire the means  to  take my boat and simply meander where the wind wills me to go. Maybe that’s why I know poverty so well, I’m just not competitive enough. Let’s just say I try to be a lover, not a fighter. I prefer to try and live in harmony with the elements instead defying them. Unless of course I stumble onto a lee shore or find myself at sea when the bearing of an approaching ship is not changing. Thank god for little diesel engines!

Some people just enjoy owning a boat, the simple bliss of maintaining the vessel and never straying far from the harbour. Perhaps these folks are the most blessed, they have mastered the art of simply being. They are also probably good gardeners.

There are also those tortured souls who are addicted to becoming, to growth and its inherent pain, to discovery and wandering. I am a wanderer, but let me point out that not all wanderers are lost. I understand that if you don’t know where you’re going, you will end up somewhere else and you know what? That’s just fine!

Buddies through the end

Buddies through the end

I cannot explain to someone, who does not love the ocean and boats and those who do as well, why anyone has an affinity for the ocean and being on it, sometimes out of sight of land, cold, wet and frightened, why that is what we sailors must do. I suppose the simple answer is that it’s for those few moments of purest bliss when we feel in harmony with the planet, and yes maybe even the universe with all its inhabitants. There is also the bright light of illusion when we feel completely in control. The purest radiance of all comes when we give up all control to the forces we know we cannot  defy. We resolve to relax and enjoy the storm while it lasts. It never does. That can be damned hard to remember when you’re in the middle of one when each minute of the ordeal is an eternity. A Taoist would say that to surrender control is to be in control.

Papa Polita: Surrendering control

Papa Polita: Surrendering control

When I was younger I read everything I could about sailing and the sea.  One of my heroes is still Jean Gau. He sailed alone around the world twice in a Tahiti ketch, a very traditional, and slow, 30′ wooden boat. He was infamous for running aground, usually due to fatigue, but I loved his determination and his pelagic passion. He was not a writer but he did pen this:

They did not understand the dream

That charmed the seas of his voyage

Since it was not the same lie

That was taught in their village.

……..Jean Gau

Sleeping in

Sleeping in

It has bucketed rain for the past few days. This evening is blessed with clearing skies and a golden sunset such as we have only here in Silva Bay. Anchored out and glowing brilliantly is the ‘Joshua.’ I do not know much about her because I cherish the mystery of her peregrinations. She is an iconic harbinger here of mid-spring and again of fall when Southbound. Her home port is displayed as Alameda, CA. The vessel is a full-scale wooden replica of Joshua Slocum’s famous ‘Spray.’

Joshua

Joshua

The builder/owner/skipper of this beauty, whom I do not know, is an older gentleman who sports a red beret and a braided beard. He rows ashore in a Gloucester Gull  dory and walks with a limp like all real old sailors . That is all I know about this little ship but it is always an affirmation of all that is right whenever she’s in port. Harrrrrrr!

Something real

MUSINGS ON A DAMP MAY SUNDAY MORNING

SOMETHING TO DO

SOMEONE TO LOVE, SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO

….WHILE DOING NO HARM

Jack The Flying Dog

Jack The Flying Dog

 Sometimes the enormity of life is overwhelming. My last blog described the gormless sense of self-entitlement some people demonstrate in their frantic quest for distraction from the drudgery of life. I realized that a symptom of my own flaws is when I find annoyance at other folks trying to celebrate life. When I’m in a ‘Ha, Bumhug’ mood nothing will cheer me up.

 Yes, this crusty old barnacle admits to having fought a lifelong battle with, what the medical bunch describes as, chronic depression. One of my books, ‘Sins Of The Fathers’ deals with the darkness of living with bi-polar disorder and overcoming the weight of this much misunderstood condition. I’m not sure I did a good job of enlightening those who don’t understand the illness or of helping those who do. I’m not about to make an effort to further those interests here except to say that regardless of what many people think, it IS a tangible illness, it is NOT simply a matter of bad attitude, self pity or negative thinking. To survive a lifetime despite the instinct for self-destruction is a very positive achievement on its own. To find occasional joy, to pursue creative interests and to cling tenaciously to a goal, no mater how remote it seems, is a triumph. I’d be happy to discuss this subject person to person. (Or even sell you copy of my book)

 "Keep yer pecker up!"

“Keep yer pecker up!”

This past week has been one where dark demons have been shaking my tree and I’m plodding out of it ever towards the shimmering mirage of a dream I’m determined to reach.

It occurs to me that depression is not merely a personal cross. It is the unacknowledged epidemic running rampant through Western society and is the root from which so many other medical and social illnesses grow. To consume has become our reason to be (See my link to ‘Story Of Stuff’) and none of us can live up to the demands of all the advertising imposed on us incessantly. None of us are good enough, pretty enough, wealthy enough, drive a fine enough car, go on enough exotic vacations, have a good enough sex life, have happy enough pets…… The pressure is relentless and insidious. Is clinical depression a product of nurture or nature? Yes!

When I was a child the world you were born into was believed to be the one you would inhabit. It was reasonable to think that the world had parameters and you could actually be educated and prepared for a place in it. How do you prepare children now for an environment that is evolving so quickly, no one can comprehend it or what the future holds? Think back five or ten years to what the world was like and how it is now. Honestly, did you have any idea? Without the sense of security of a tangible existence and future, no wonder we’re all a bit anxious. No wonder so many people have substance abuse issues, or can’t keep functional personal relationships or spend so much time in pursuit of distraction.

Seacross

Seacross

The headline for this blog is a quote from a man I was interviewing for a job; now many years ago. Those words are his description of the meaning of life. I’ve since found nothing more eloquent; a few words from one simple blue-collar working man.

Meanwhile, work on the preparations of ‘Seafire’ continues, one screw at a time.

 I’ll close out this musing with the following quote from Marianne Williamson which was used as part of Nelson Mandela’s inaugural speech.

 ‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful, beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us.

We ask ourselves, ”Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?”

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that

other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It is in everyone, and, as we let our light shine,

We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,

Our presence automatically liberates others.

Fog

Fog

IT MUST BE SPRING

 

They’re back! Victoria Day weekend has just passed and now we’re careening toward the first day of summer in another four weeks. First the swallows and Purple Martins reappear, then with the long weekend in May other weird birds show up. Now I know that when I use the term, weird, it means someone or some thing is beyond my comprehension. When the entire Status quo trends that way, I understand that I’m the one who’s weird. Or am I ?

My perception of what is correct in the nautical world is complex yet steeped in simple tradition. I value things being done ‘The old way’ and feel that self-sufficiency, independence, and simplicity are essential components in being a proficient mariner. Clearly, masses disagree.

I was evicted, for the weekend, from my spot on the dock by noon on Friday. The weekend warriors happily pay premium moorage fees.  (Those with the gold make the rules) A gleaming white Tupperware armada began to arrive. I retreated to anchor across the bay in a secluded spot. Long before nightfall all the marinas in the bay were bursting with gleaming plastic, pulsing light and noise. As darkness settled, the boats kept on coming. For once, no-one ended up aground on the reef at the harbour entrance.

The docks, choked with shouting boaters in folding chairs sitting at folding tables, were impassable. Caustic music of different flavours throbbed from various stereo systems around the bay. The din was constantly punctuated with the squeals and forced guffaws of drunken people trying to convince themselves they were having fun. There is a braying, frantic tone that betrays the desperate existence so many of these folks were trying to escape for a few hours. They only manage to bring it with them. There are four months ahead when we have to endure these vicarious wannabe Vikings stumbling into the bay and overrunning our generally peaceful existence. Here on the West coast I don’t know what ‘Going boating’ or ‘Boating season’ means. There are those of us who’s existence is intrinsic with being on and near the sea; all year long. It’s the way some of us live, all the time. Weird huh? I should mention here that I realize I am categorizing. There are plenty of competent and experienced mariners out there doing what they love and don’t give a damn for making impressions or joining herds. I also know that these kindred spirits tend to avoid the madness I describe.

This old cynic left the bay when the small anchorage I had chosen became littered with ever more boats anchored too close. It happened twice again during the weekend as I retreated to more secluded anchorages. As usual, there was yet another kayaker who thought that this boat at anchor was a captive venue for his demands for attention as he clung, shouting, to our cap rail. As I recall, key words I used were “Privacy, respect, solitude, and piss-off!”

Yeah I know I’m a grumpy old fart. ‘Hey you, get off of my cloud!”

The old prune barge herself

All dressed up with everywhere to go

I’ve previously promised to describe my boat ‘Seafire‘, the dream machine after which this blog is named. The design is called a Downeaster 41, entirely a misnomer in a couple of ways, all in the cause of marketing. Actually the hull is 38′ with the extra 3’ being added in the form of a bowsprit/platform. The designer, Henry Morschladt, drew several sizes of vessel for Downeaster Yachts of Santa Ana, California. Apparently, if you hang an Eastcoast handle on a boat, it is supposed to seem saltier. This line of sailboats is famous for being over-built and seakindly. Many have have successfully completed extensive offshore voyages. ‘Seafire’ is one of twelve 38′ hulls built and sold as 41′ motorsailers. Allegedly my hull was produced in 1981, near the end of the company’s history when so many businesses failed in that great recession. I wonder sometimes, if my hull wasn’t one of the last built. Some of the fibreglass work in out-of sight places is very, very rough and the plumbing and wiring were clearly installed by amateurs. The teak wood work is gorgeous.

Home of the blog, the meditation both, dining salon and board room. Galley, guest cabin, skippers quarters and stowage forward

Home of this blog, the meditation booth, dining salon and board room. Galley, guest cabin, skippers quarters and stowage forward

Those criticisms out of the way there is not one osmosis blister on the hull after 32 years of soaking in the briny deep. That’s a very good sign of her integrity. The engine is a trusty old 65 Hp Ford Lehman, recently rebuilt. (That is an American engine, not at all related to the British Leyland, an entirely different product. )The transmission is a ubiquitous Borg Warner velvet drive; it’s all good. There is an inside helm, massive water and fuel tankage, a huge forward berth and a separate private cabin with a comfortable double berth. The galley is better than some which I’ve known in tugboats and is located in the belly of the vessel, where it is easiest to produce a hot meal in heavy weather.

Sadly, the boat had apparently not know much of a life as other than a ‘Gin Palace’, one of those boats that is used to entertain and impress people and seldom leaves the dock. Her neglected state made her affordable to me, the effort to bring her up to my standard of seaworthy has financially shattered me. I knew better !

Pretty from all angles

Pretty from all angles

She is cutter-rigged with furlers on both headsails which makes her easy to handle and the old ‘Prune Barge’ sails pretty well for a motorsailor. She looks after herself and her crew just fine in nasty weather and I have grown quite fond of her. Now, I just have to finish enough of her refit to get her to La Paz Baha for Christmas. There have been plenty of recent setbacks so I know I’m doing the right thing although there are days when I nearly drown myself and those close to me in despair and doubt. If I drop this dream, my life becomes meaningless, my writing and everything else hinges on sailing and so I can’t give it up.

Exposed

The whole situation exposed

‘Seafire’ is the eighth sailboat I’ve bought and refitted. There was a power boat or two along the way as well. Six of the sailboats were all very capable offshore boats. If only I’d just buggered off in the first little sloop ‘Jenta’, what a different tale I’d have to tell. You cannot steer a steady course by looking back at your wake so there’s no point in regrets. The boat previous to ‘Seafire was ‘Pax’, an Australian-built IOR half-tonner which had been raced in the Southern Ocean for ten years before embarking on a fourteen-year East-about cruise around the world. One of her claims to fame was when she had been rolled 360 degrees by a rogue wave off the mouth of the Platte River in Uraguay. Even the mast stayed in place!  She is one tough little ship to have survived that well enough to sail on in to shore. I had ‘Pax’ fully refitted and ready to go again.

Pax

Pax

However, I wanted a boat which I could sail from inside and which had the capacity for enough tools for me to be totally self-sufficient and also earn some cash along the way. I also wanted some private quarters for a few guests. I want to be able to offer friends the chance to join the boat, wherever in the world she may be. This will help with the expenses and also provide folks the chance to affordably see a bit of the world away from home in a unique perspective.

Yes, you’re invited.

The open Pacific, Todos Santos, Baha

The open Pacific , Todos Santos, Baha

La Paz Baha

La Paz

 

 

USE IT OR LOSE IT

The water rushes down on its way to the sea

Spring time in the forest

 I’ve put up a couple of links today in my Blog Roll to a web site and  to a blog site of a man named Pat Dixon. Pat is a compadre I’ve met through the Fisher Poet’s Gatherings. He has been instrumental in putting up the expanded FPG website and seems able to cruise through the cyber jungle with ease; especially in comparison to my ability for stumbling and nearly drowning in the first puddle I find. I’m honoured to have Pat’s permission to post links to his work and hope readers find it as uplifting and inspiring as I do.

The value I find in the inspiration of people like Pat is the reiteration that if you have a gift you must use it or lose it or….as old Lord Nelson said, “Ships and men rot in port.” When people put their shoulder to the proverbial wheel, and like Pat, who writes a poem a day for an entire month, amazing results follow.

All things must end

Jack chases down the stream….Whoa! What stream? 

This week, while driving to Victoria on business my dog, Jack, and I stopped at one of our usual watering holes. It’s a place to have a stretch and a pee and a drink of water before diving into the maelstrom of frantic, lurching traffic know as the ‘Colwood Crawl.’ The place I describe is only safely accessible while southbound from the Malahat through Goldstream Park. There’s a small parking area and then a lovely walk to a beautiful waterfall. It was cascading as usual under the canopy of lush spring-green foliage. Bellow the falls the stream always runs fully with tumbling clear water. At this time of year one expects the water to be a foaming madness of spring run-off. Clearly the logs littering the stream bed are testament to boisterous currents. This year the water runs through quiet pools for a few hundred metres then disappears into the rocks of the stream bed. It is quite disconcerting and I wonder what it means.

Meanwhile the tides rise and fall and the sun and moon go round as ever. Some sailing friends are presently exploring the Himalayas. Others are preparing for a summer of cruising in the Northwest Passage. An old friend has his boat in final preparations for a year-long voyage to the South Pacific. Another buddy has recently completed the purchase of a fifty-four foot ketch as the tangible  journey of his dream begins. The energy of all those dreamers is something wonderful to draw on as I weave loose fibres into the fantastic fabric of my own flying carpet.

I thank them all.    

Up the creek without a stream

Jack ponders the disappearing stream.

WARM AND FUZZY

WARM AND FUZZY

Yesterday felt like the first day of summer. The temperature was in the high twenties, the sky was cloudless and the air was filled with the aromas of cut grass, blossoms, and barbeques. Even the reek of cowshit as I passed a local dairy farm seemed, to this old farm boy, an assurance of promise and continuity. For once life felt warm and fuzzy.

This weekend also marked an important step in my journey toward sailing away. My job and I have gone in separate directions. It feels good .

That may seem an odd thing for a guy who’s main concern is money. But now I have time to prepare to go sailing and things have a way of working out if you are headed in the right direction. You’ve just got to hang in there until well into the eleventh hour no matter how bleak things look. At least, that has been my experience.

Frankly this weary old work horse just can’t pull the plow like I used to. Running around all day, clambering up and down ladders and squirming into hot, dank bilges is often a a painful challenge. It’s a younger man’s game.

I now feel much more in control of my life. I can take time to address things important to me, like writing this blog. I read somewhere that unless you’re the lead sled dog, the view never changes.

We’ll see.

The old prune barge herself

The old prune barge herself