Monday morning. It’s tough waking up. The dog is curled into the crook of my arm snoring softly. There is the occasional drip of water on the deck. It is so quiet! Then comes the clatter of my Pratt & Whitney morning alarm. The Beaver float plane moored just past my boat is fired up to warm the engine in anticipation of the day’s flying ahead. I resolve to hit the deck as soon as I hear it start up the second time. This means the passengers and freight are aboard and the flight is leaving the dock, but this morning there is only quiet.
I finally get up to see that we are fog-bound. All is calm. A kingfisher sprints past, its chattering flight pierces the calm for a moment. Fog drifts through the tree tops and slowly burns away to reveal the sun climbing above a cloud-mottled golden sky. The flight is still bound by the fog lying across the Strait and blanketing its destination in the Fraser River. The pilot uses his time to scrub the airplane. Passengers caught up in the thrust of their day pace the docks, texting messages or gesticulating with cell phones jammed to their ears. There are no float planes droning overhead. Slowly the sounds of busyness pervade the sanctity and the day moves forward. The sun begins to heat the bay, steam rises languidly from all the damp surfaces.
In my last few blogs I have used a derogatory tone in describing certain tourist yachters who haunt the docks during the summer season. I grudgingly admit that it is their dollars which provide the foundation for this facility where I live. They are necessary to my existence here, like it or not. They are also a microcosm of a society, of which I am part, whose values are alienating me.
There are, thank the Gods, other folks. ‘Native Girl’ is living evidence that there is indeed another breed of character on the docks. Across the slip from me, my neighbour boat ‘Native Girl’ rests awaiting the day’s industry. The owners are a younger generation than mine yet they hold a passion for a way of life built around the ancient art of maintaining wooden boats and building new ones. They respect traditional nautical values and their enthusiasm for the art of maritime skills and perspectives is a hope in itself. Jon and Ryan are the proper owners for ‘Native Girl’. They live aboard her as their careers allow. Together the couple are methodically maintaining and restoring their historic vessel to her former glory.
This boat has a special place in my heart. I once missed buying her by two hours; it just wasn’t meant to be. I was an acquaintance of Allen Farrell, the designer and builder of ‘Native Girl’. He and I were friends as were hundreds of others who knew him and his wife Sherry. All I’ll say here is that they were the only real hippies I have ever known. They didn’t talk about it, they lived it. Whether it was sustainable living, peace and love or thinking green, they were role models. I miss them both, dearly. I ache for the idea of them and their living proof that financial abundance has nothing to do with real wealth. Allen once told me that true wealth was knowing how little you need and realizing how free that left you. As I write I look around inside the expanse of this boat and wonder what it is that I truly need. What the hell has driven me from one fine boat to the next and then the next? The first one could have taken me anywhere in the world I wanted to go. Then I remember how Allen also told me that a boat needs to be big enough for everyone aboard to have their own “Pouting space.” He was a wise man.
There are several other folks dedicated to a lifestyle of eating, breathing and sleeping wooden boats and following diverse personal disciplines in the pursuit of their common passion. There are some wonderful examples of boats, big and small, built and rebuilt here in Silva Bay and various other settings around Gabriola Island. I’m glad to be in their company, even though I’m a fibreglass boat kind of guy; ‘Classic Plastic’ is my niche.
So then, plan B. As the window closes on being able to take the boat south this fall I know I will not be able to endure another long dark, wet, winter. I hear folks talking about winter vacation plans and my body begins to ache in dread of being left behind. You can tell me all you want about adjusting my attitude but I can tell you we all have a tangible physical reaction to the long darkness of winter. It is a primal thing and some of us are more sensitive to it than others. I’ve spent a lot of my life working like a mule at sea and in the woods so often, it seems, in the dark. It didn’t bother me then but I’m not nineteen anymore so I while I respect the bears and other hibernating creatures I’ll try migration to sunnier latitudes for a while. This old flower needs a regular dose of UV rays and that demand seems to increase with the passing years.
It seemed the gods put a practical solution right in my path. These creaky bones don’t like lying on the ground overnight anymore so how about a compromise? I’ve been contemplating small holiday trailers for a while. They seemed too awkward to tow to places I like to go. Ones I could afford were not in good condition. Tent trailers were overpriced and didn’t really suit my needs. The wobbling tin-foil condos lurching down the highway behind a monstrous diesel pickup truck appear to me to be the antithesis of easy rider freedom.
Well now, suddenly I have a mobile bed and a light utility trailer. I drove around a corner on Gabriola and there it was with a for sale sign, exactly perfect for my needs. Of course, the right thing always shows up when you’re dead broke so I had to solicit help from my wife. Thank you Jill.
I now own a beautiful tear drop trailer. It is home-built and very well put together. Clad in a sturdy sheet of aluminium it is an essentially a bed on wheels with room inside for a comfortable double berth. The back of the trailer hinges up to form an open-air roof over a tiny galley area. It is very light and easy to tow with enough ground clearance to tow behind my little 4×4 truck into the back lands of Baha or wherever I have an urge to go. It can also double as a utility trailer for hauling my tools around. It might even fit in a large inflatable boat.
What’s this got to do with the sailing dream? The boat and my finances aren’t ready to ‘Do South’ this fall but if I camp along the way with my sleepy-time bubble I can hopefully afford to get away for a while during the middle of the coming winter. I can leave the rig anywhere I want or even play leap-frog with the boat as I move down the coast. Then I’ll have access to all of the country inland from the beach. There is plenty more to Mexico and all those other places south than just their coastline.
Two more days and it is officially autumn. The fleet of white plastic boats is gone. Only a few committed yachters visit the marina. The little birds have flown south, the daylight is noticeably less each day, the morning dew lingers until noon and in the late afternoon it settles again. Painting brightwork is now an urgent order of business. I’m two weeks short of the deadline for sailing away. It is not going to happen this year but life should be an adventure so we’ll find a creative way of dealing with winter and all its dark gremlins.
One of the secrets to good writing is to quit before the reader does. My first blog, almost a year ago already, was a commitment to go sailing and indulge a very long-lived dream. It would be very easy at this point to produce big fat excuses and pack it all in for an existence in front of the television.
That won’t happen. I owe it to my readers, myself and my wife, (Whom I have tortured with this passion for decades.) The dream is alive, I’ll blog on. One day soon I’ll be able to post a photo in a blog of clear, warm green water surging through the scuppers with a palm-fringed shoreline in the background. I hope you’ll be there with me; it is going to be a grand day. In the meantime, the journey continues one stumbling step at a time.
By the way, one of the reasons I ended up with this boat is that it has an extra double bunk in a separate cabin. There are two other comfy bunks and lots of room topside to sleep under the stars in southern climates. Guests are welcome, especially….. if they can help defray costs and want to enjoy a unique, inexpensive vacation. Think about it. The ‘Seafire’ Hotel will be opening soon somewhere down there. See ya in the movies!