Monthly Archives: July 2013

DIVERGENCE AND CONVERGENCE OF THOUGHT

Dionisio Point moonrise

Dionisio Point moonrise

Huh?

…Well that’s what I first thought when I read the title back.  What the hell does this have to do with a blog about realizing a dream against all odds? Specifically, getting the boat I’m sitting in at this moment out of here and sailing south within the next three months. 

To paraphrase something Einstein said, you’ll never be able to solve a problem by using the same thinking that created it in the first place.  And…the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over always expecting a new result. I guess I know where I am.

I’m reading a book loaned to me which I’m finding timely to my situation and it’s quite inspiring: ‘Ship Of Gold In The Deep Blue Sea’ by Gary Kinder. The title is a bit lugubrious and probably some editor’s idea of a commercially viable handle that does no justice to a very absorbing read. It is about the sinking and ultimate finding of a gold-laden ship, the ‘S.S.Central America’. One of the central characters is obsessed with process and linear thinking. He lives with a conviction that the only things impossible are those which we think are impossible. It is about how the quest for one solution leads to other discoveries and solutions. That happens in the divergence and convergence of conversation and thought about one specific problem. New possibilities arise out of the quest for a single solution.

An anecdote is provided about a young man from Ohio who was deeply inspired by the accounts of a sea captain about his travels in the Amazon jungle. Highly motivated by that account he decides to go to Brazil and duplicate the adventure. Travelling by boat down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers he arrives finally in New Orleans to discover that no ships ever sail from there to Brazil. He has, however, experienced a rich life on the great rivers where he often heard the boatman’s sounding cry of “mark twain”.  Samuel Clemens becomes one of America’s most beloved writers and the world becomes a better place because of a simple dead end. Divergence becomes a happy new convergence.

Hanging in therre

Hanging in there

I’ve been trying to make sense of my sojourn in Silva Bay. Why did the gods put me here? I held the job which brought me here for the best part of three and a half years. I have made some wonderful friends, learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the location and its archipelago of small islands. However, I’ve made only a survival income, spent a lot of dark and lonely nights on one boat or another, parted with my beloved ‘Pax’ which was ready to sail away, started yet another refit and am left pondering what I’m really doing here; especially during the apex of summer with grand weather and all these gringo boaters around the marina trying to have ‘Fun’. I thought I’d simply let the universe unfold as it will and discover the big reason why I’m here but no epiphanies yet. I am anxious to move on.

I’ve recently been in touch with a long-lost cousin who used the term “Cognitive remodelling”. I love the linguistics of that but frankly I think I already do too much of that and should perhaps apply a little more  “Kinetic remodelling” and get this damned old boat out of here. So I’m tackling the project I’ve been dreading most. It began in January when I upgraded the galley counter and cupboards. I fitted a new water heater in a dead space there and have now decided it needs to be relocated lower. One of its heat sources is the engine and I thoughtlessly installed the heater at too high a level for the engine coolant to flow correctly. I may as well change it now. Damn my teeth for the oversight! So, lower it ten inches,;sounds easy right? It proved to be a day’s work and seemed to be rather like trying to perform heart surgery through the rectum.

The old water heater was stored in a cavernous storage locker beneath the bunk of the guest cabin. There is also a large sewage holding tank and an amazing snot-garble of plumbing, wiring and furnace ducting. It is a sad waste of much-needed stowage. The settees in the main cabin are on top of two monstrous fuel tanks. There is nothing other than chart storage there so it is imperative that I have as much space for stores elsewhere. The next mega-project begins.

First the guest bunk-junk moves onto the forward cabin bunk. Hopefully it will all end up neatly stowed in the new storage space or in the dumpster if I don’t have a valid use for it. I’ll sleep, for the time being, on one of the settees in the main cabin. Those have new foam cushions and I’ve redesigned and built new seat-backs to hinge up and allow for some comfortable snoozing space. Next the old mattress from the guest bunk goes. God! It reeks of three decades of fermented human presence, my imagination decides that’s it is just spilled wine but I don’t know who it’s been through before permeating the mattress. I’m stunned that I have lived with this disgusting element for so long. Out, out foul demons! Then it’s dunging out the space below the bunk area and realizing how poorly it was utilized. The aged water heater, rusted and leaking, is torn out. It’s a miracle that it still worked. There’s a hodge-podge of plumbing and redundant pumps. Each line needs to be traced, removed and relocated.

The storage space

The storage space

But next, more foul demons. I decided it was propitious to remove the old holding tank. I like to get the worst out of the way as soon as possible. I discovered that some rocket-scientist installed the pump-out fitting almost a third of the way from the bottom of this twenty-five gallon tank. That means that only two-thirds of the tank was ever usable and the bottom third was full of a very ripe sediment. (The boat is thirty years old, so…?) Of course, the tank had to be slid out of it’s fastenings, (Every screw-head is filled with paint) then wriggled upright so the sawn-off fittings were on the top side. Next, the tank, one third full of fecal delight, had to be manhandled out of the boat without spilling anything.  I hugged that stinky, sloshing puppy as if my life depended on it. It was 30 degrees Celsius outside but it felt cool when I finally landed the tank on the dock. The folks going by to the float-plane  passed quickly. The dog reappeared an hour later.

Bunk junk

Bunk junk

Now I can start putting it all back together The fun-part!  Pressure water system first. Remember divergence and convergence. Well this too shall pass and it  should be remembered that it’s all about the romance of the sea.

Simple pleasures

Simple pleasures

PLAN ‘F’

What a week! An e-mail came from a friend declaring that he’s on track for his scheduled departure for a year-long cruise to the South Pacific and back. Another pal sent me a blog about his small armada of friends in yachts leisurely circumnavigating Vancouver Island. Rodger and Ali have arrived with ‘Wave’ in Hay River, are all rigged up and waiting on winds to ease so they can leave on their odyssey. They’re probably out there and at it as I write. One more friend has spontaneously decided to leave on Monday for two weeks in Portugal. Tony and Connie, on ‘Sage’ are in Langkawi, Malaysia trying to get some paint on their boat during the Monsoon Season. Well I love you all and wish you well but I’m still in Silva Bay singing ‘Sitting on the dock of the bay watching the tide roll away……’ you know how the song goes!

Hold on to the dream

I am grudgingly admitting that while the dream is very much alive that I have to fall back to Plan F. I’m destroying myself trying to find a way to raise funds and get old ‘Seafire’ ready enough to safely and boldly venture forth this fall. Many items on my ‘To do’ list are slowly osmosing on to the ‘Mexico Mañana list but some things must be done here first.  I’m finding life too stressful, and I’m too miserable, as the days whizz by with not enough happening and the departure window of early October rushing toward me like a train in a tunnel. If a sack of money falls on me, (And doesn’t kill me) I can still meet the challenge. However the present reality will probably prevail (Now there’s a mouthful!) I cannot meet the deadline as things stand at the moment. It’s time to back up and reload. So, still clinging to Plan A, I’m now considering sliding toward F.

Plan F involves working on ‘Seafire’ until the winter rains become horizontal then laying the boat up for a couple of months. I’ve acquired a little old Nissan 4×4 truck in good shape which is perfect for Baha driving conditions. I’m thinking of also finding an older small travel trailer and meandering down to the San Carlos/Guaymas area  at the top of the Sea Of Cortez. I can leave the truck and trailer there and then return to fetch the boat. If I can get ‘Seafire’ as far as Astoria Oregon for the Fisher Poet’s Gathering at the end of February, then I’m definitely on my way. The Columbia Bar and the entire Pacific Northwest Coast is an ugly piece of work at that time of year. I’d much prefer to stay 300 miles off the beach until abeam Los Angeles then angle in to Ensenada, Mexico to clear customs. However, if I were to tip-toe from port to port southward from Astoria along the Oregon Coast, making one final jump in a good weather window to San Francisco I can hang out there for the summer. It is a great place to tinker up the boat with a ton of places to check out between the Bay area and the Sacramento Delta. Hurricane season in Mexico lurks until approximately mid-October so you don’t want to be too far south too soon. So, Plan F for Frisco Bay. Of course there are plans B through E and failing to plan is planning to fail; right? And…too many plans are like no plans at all.

On a definitely upbeat note, I think I have finally solved my dinghy and life raft quandary. I had a fine little inflatable boat with a hard aluminium bottom. I loved it and deemed it perfect for pulling up on rocky shorelines anywhere. The problem was carrying it on open water passages. I’ve also been unsure about what to do for a life-raft.

There are three enemies on a lightly-crewed vessel:

-Fatigue, which leads to all sorts of dumb-assed mistakes even to the  point of       sitting on your own shoulder and watching as you wilfully do something stupid and dangerous.

-Fire, the most serious dumb-assed mistake. For whatever reason a fire starts, there are only a couple of minutes to get it out or it is time to abandon ship . I feel that an onboard fire is more reason to carry a life raft than the possibility of sinking. If you’ve ever seen a small vessel, especially fibreglass, catch fire you’ll never forget.

-Chafe, yes even on various body parts when failure to maintain good personal hygiene, (Probably due to fatigue) produces debilitating symptoms. More importantly, there is chafe occurring to all moving parts of a boat during the constant motion of being at sea. It is especially critical with sails and rigging but like anything else, an inflatable dinghy will wear somewhere.  Stored on deck and deflated it is still in the way and chafing somewhere. Hanging in davits over the stern of the boat it is even more susceptible to chafe and is also likely to be swamped with a big wave. Not only does one risk losing the dinghy, there is a good chance of seriously damaging the mother ship where the davits attach.

Life rafts are a great idea but even on a forty-something foot boat like ‘Seafire’ storage space is a challenge. Rafts are expensive, must be regularly serviced and not entirely reliable. In fact, in heavy weather they are a terrible place to be and are not especially inclined to stay right-side up. If you’ve ever sat in one afloat you know that bobbing around in a life raft with a few other puking people might be a fate worse than death.

So, I’ve compromised.

I was able to sell the dinghy I had in the hope of finding something more suitable and also able to serve as a life raft should the need arise. There are two types of material used in the manufacture of inflatable boats: Hypalon and PVC. The latter is much less costly but very susceptible to wear and punctures. It is especially unable to tolerate even moderate exposure to UV damage. If you are heading south, you are going to have trouble. A boat made of Hypalon is approximately twice the price but it will live an infinitely longer time. There are some here in the marina easily twenty-five years old looking a bit scruffy but still going strong.

I looked feverishly everywhere for a good used boat or an affordable new boat which meant accepting a big compromise in quality and so ultimately, value. While checking all the online advertisements twice daily one boat suddenly leapt out at me. The timing was perfect and I’m taking it as a good omen that I’m moving in the right direction. I now own a ten-year old, but never used, 11-foot Achilles Hypalon inflatable boat. It has a high-pressure inflatable keel and floor so it is dead easy to store and to inflate on the decks of ‘Seafire’. It came with a set of wheels for rolling it up the beach and even a second, electric pump for rapid inflation.  The price was reasonable and so I’m set. All I have to do is figure out a  bright tough canopy which will install easily and it can double as a life raft. Now I have to see how she goes with the outboard motor I have. I’ll be back shortly…

First ride, barnacles and oyster shells, Perfect!

First ride, barnacles and oyster shells, Perfect!

Well she goes like hell ! The Achilles is a virgin no more. Even with a full load this little baby planes easily and scoots along nicely. The floor flexes a bit like a flying carpet. It’s a keeper. ‘Seafire’ and her tender ‘Backfire’. Progress in the right direction, hope springs eternal.

???????????????????????????????Passing neighbour

I’m definitely not one to be impressed with high-end, look at me boats, especially power boats. ‘Fart Parkersons’, I call them. On a rare occasion I’m forced to make an exception. I arrived back at my boat  the other day to discover I had a temporary neighbour in the form of a gleaming perfect blend of burgundy fibreglass, varnished teak and polished stainless steel. No strutting skippers or bikini-clad trophy barbies aboard, just a very nice couple meeting some family arriving on the float-plane. The boat is a 40-something foot Hinckley ‘Picnic boat’. So there are folks who can manage affluence and civility all at once. Now I know having money isn’t everything, but I could sure stand a change of problems!

Hinckely logo in teak

Hinckely logo in teak

Let me add that managing poverty and civility is also a bit challenging. If only my dog knew how well-off he is. ‘Eat it, copulate with it, piss on it, have a nap’.

Not a bad philosophy at all!

Fetch yer ass!

Fetch yer ass!

Whiskey And Tea

 

As a writer I often hear clever lines or turns of phrase which leave me wishing I’d written them.

One of the dreads of being an artistic sort is to be accused of plagiarism, which is of course what we all do, at least subconsciously. We hope our work isn’t recognized as the subtle, or not-so-subtle, paraphrasing it really is, but none of us are that clever all that time. This morning I caught the lines of a song on the radio.Some like smokey whiskey, some worry their tea’s too strong”.Damn! I wish I’d written that! How do I reword this one and make it sound like a Fred original?

Flight to forever

Flight to Forever

It is Canada Day Monday, July 1st. Damn again! It has been over six months since my first blog, that commitment to set sail before the end of this year. Whiskey or tea for me? I like to think I’m a single-malt kind of guy but I’d better put some razzle in my dazzle, the days are flying by. Time and tide wait for no man. It’s been several weeks since the door closed on my job in the shipyard but the work accomplished on ‘Seafire’ is pitiful. The weather has been nasty and wet and I’m helping refit a friend’s boat but then busy people are the ones who get things done without making excuses. Yeah right! I just can’t seem to get motivated and don’t know why. Well I do, but it’s hard to admit openly.

Instead, I’ll revel in the glory of the day. The temperature in the main cabin yesterday was over 100° F and it felt good! More of the same today with no wind. Summer is here.

Ladysmith Maritime Sociey Clubhouse

LMS Clubhouse

I’ve broken away from the long-weekend madness at the docks in Silva Bay.

107 years old!

107 years old!

‘Seafire’ spent Friday night at the Ladysmith Maritime Society marina. What an amazing job those folks have done! The docks have been upgraded wonderfully. A stupendous clubhouse and visitor facility have been built. There is a great little floating museum with a lovingly restored and maintained fleet of vintage vessels. It even includes a gig from HMCS ‘Ontario’. These immaculate boats are used to provide harbour tours and certainly help provide a glowing example of what happens when people work together.

Varnish

Varnish

I’ve been a member of the LMS for a few years and am amazed at the transition in such a short time. It was not so long ago that these docks were decrepit and even dangerous. It was an extension of ‘Dogpatch’, a neighbouring fleet of derelict boats and liveaboard owners or squatters known for low-life activities and their ever-sinking vessels. The society then seemed to be a ‘Good old boys club’ strangled in bickering and personal agenda. There was a grudging acceptance of newcomers and a resistance to growth and change. Dogpatch is still there, abandoned vessels still litter the foreshore. But there is now a distinct divide among the two entities.

Pipe me aboard

Pipe me aboard

The old guard attitude seems gone now and there is a cordial welcoming atmosphere. With some new blood at the helm there has been a massive communal volunteer undertaking to upgrade the entire site. It is a wonderful success. There is plenty of guest moorage and some stunning new facilities which include clean washrooms and showers, a laundry room, a place to buy snacks and a huge area to mix and mingle or just hang out. The much-loved Purple Martins return each year to nest in their condos on the pilings and it’s great to see such progress in sleepy old Ladysmith. Kudus to all! It’s a great place to visit.

A gig's helm

A gig’s helm

The docks often host some interesting visitor vessels. This weekend it was the ‘Sarah Elizabeth Banks’. Now registered to the port of Seattle, this old steel-hulled beauty was originally a fireboat in Sunderland, England. A little online sleuthing shows ths vessel entered into service in 1906, with a pair of coal-fired steam engines! This vessel endured two world wars in a port famous for shipbuilding. Imagine the stories she knows!

Secret Beach

Secret beach

The last two nights have been spent anchored in Preedy Harbour on Thetis Island. The weather remains stunning, clear and gloriously hot; the water is quite swimmable and almost all is languorous bliss. This archipelago known as the Gulf Islands must be a jewel of the planet but I, for one, regret the influx of affluent gentry who seem to have overrun the entire area. No matter where you go among the islands there is no escape anymore from people. Solitude is not a sense I find in the Gulf Islands, at least in the summer months. Yesterday I watched a near-disaster as a small powerboat ran over the fallen water skier he was following. There were no bobbing bleeding baby yuppy bits and it all ended well as two boatloads of now-subdued drinkers absorbed their hard-earned lesson. I guess they were just trying to relax?

The Race

The race

This morning as I write, I can only hear the guttering of gulls and the gossiping of two ravens. Well… that changed as I typed that last line, now comes the whine of an outboard to which I’ll soon add my harmony as I take the dog ashore. Soon there will be the clatter of float planes, the drone and snarl of various boats, the incessant splatter of colliding wakes, and on shore there’ll be shrieking children, barking dogs and loud vehicles. In the background I can see and hear the sonorous presence of the Crofton pulp mill. Here again comes the Thetis Ferry emitting its piercing hydraulic howl.

Petrified Reboot

Petrified Reboot

I wonder what these islands were like before we white folks arrived to ‘civilize’ and otherwise desecrate this incredibly rich and beautiful region. Well that’s the way it is and I know I’m part of the problem. I’m here. I wonder how my perspectives would change if I were able to own one of these islands where I could erect my own garish and huge unoccupied mansion with accompanying monster dock and guest house. I understand the urge to stake out one’s own patch but with the evident multi-million dollar extravagances so prevalent I wonder why the hell they seem so little used. Money isn’t everything, but Oh Christ! I sure wouldn’t mind a change of problems!

Drifting and dreaming

Drifting and dreaming

Bitching and pondering will only underscore my envy of all the disposable wealth. I may as well admit that no matter where I travel I can think of no finer place to call home. So I’ll adjust my straw hat and sit back with some whiskey the colour of good tea. Oh by the way, ‘Happy Canada Day’. I raise my glass to thee. Eh?

Keep yer pecker up

Keep yer pecker up