Everyone has a story. Some may not be as exciting, and some may not be told very well, if ever, but everyone has one. Even the homeless person dragging a shopping cart from beneath the bridge where they sleep has a story that is sometimes amazing. How the mighty can fall! It is often true of our stuff as well, certainly old boats. It turns out that the ‘Kaymac’, which I mentioned in my last blog, has had a noble life. This makes her demise even more poignant.
A fellow who has a lovely wooden boat here in the marina is also a fisherman raised in the industry. He stopped by my work site with a very long face. It turns out the old boat is named after his mother, Katherine MacMillan. Built by the famous Wahl Brothers the boat was named and commissioned in 1959. She worked as a collector boat, picking up the day’s catch from the gill net fleet which worked the mouth of the Skeena River. She retired from that endeavour in 1983. Her history since then is unknown. Clearly she has not been loved and is now in a state beyond recovery. I can only imagine the pain felt by my friend. She’s still languishing here at the dock. Her fate is unclear.
Suddenly we are well into the month of July. The number of US boats travelling through this year seems quite low. More’s the pity. I’m still at work with my fibreglass project while a gorgeous Westerly sailing wind blows steadily up to 20 knots under a cloudless sky. Two more days and I’ll have the deck rebuild job done. There’s still paint and spit and polish and fancy woodwork as well as all the fittings to clean up and reinstall but, there’s a speck of light at the end of the tunnel. The temperature is peaking up to 31º C beneath a flawless dome of blue. The wind makes it dangerous to be out working under the sun without a hat and I do feel a bit of sun stroke. (It couldn’t possibly be an excess of cold beer) Masts hum and moan in the breeze as loose rigging thwacks and clanks. Flags snap and crackle like machine guns.
Every fibre of this sailor’s heart is tugging to cut loose and while I work, from the other side of the marina, old ‘Seafire’ whispers sensuously, “Pleease, please let’s go.”
“Soon baby, soon”, I bend back to my sanding. It’s all about the romance of the sea.
I get the occasional gripe about smell and the eternal whine of my vacuum but the itching joy of the job is all mine. Careful as I am, the sparkling, invasive dust of my work comes aboard my boat on my clothes. I wash them regularly, but the scratchiness is still there. It is an insidious torture but the job is coming to an end. Some people do this for a living. I can’t imagine it. One of the few joys of getting older is understanding that nothing is forever. Thus armed, it is a lot easier to patiently persist.
The ‘Kaymac’ story continues. A fellow claiming to love old wooden boats persuaded the Marina manager to let him take the old relic off our docks. “Be gone foul barge!” He and his two pals appeared rather nautically inept, nice guys, but! The Canadian Coast Guard had stopped by to drain the vcessel of its fuel and engine oil in case it did sank. The poor rotten old boat is a chronic leaker. A swan dive is entirely probable. The new crew fiddled the engine back to life with plans to take her French Creek, a commercial marina 30 miles to the Northwest. That was to be 30 miles of foaming, crashing seas in a tired relic that is clearly opening up her seams and wanting to sink. To my observation these three fellows did not seem to know port from starboard. I’m told they had no PFDs, working VHF radio, flares are any of the other basic pieces of equipment. Sometimes it is that innocence which blindly achieves great things.
With a mighty roar and a cloud of blue smoke the old Detroit diesel pulled the vessel back from the glitter of the docks in a grand curving wake. Then it quit dead. The wind was then gusting upwards to 30 knots and the boat eagerly sailed off sideways into the anchorage, determined to vent her huge frustration with the ongoing abuse. Panic-stricken, one of the trio threw up his hands and shouted,
“We’re dead in the water!”
I shouted back, “No you’re not, you’re making about 3 knots! Throw out your anchor!” He did. Unfortunately whatever hasty knot had been used was the wrong one.
“We’re still moving!”
Throw out more line!”
The trailing dock lines tightened for a moment then fell back in flaccid failure. I think I can find the spot on the bottom where the anchor lies. It’s a classic North Hill, bent and battered, but worth salvaging. Meanwhile the poor old ‘Kaymac’ was vigorously attacking moored boats downwind, broadside. Someone lept overboard with a gnarly bit of line in tow. All’s well that ends. Eventually she fetched up on an empty mooring buoy and was made fast. Somehow the damage was minimal. All the while, folks aboard their own immaculate yachts sat with drinks and binoculars absorbing an afternoon to remember.
Late in the evening she was able to make her own way to the fuel dock. I’d just gone to sleep, for a few minutes. Yesterday morning, with more dramatic shouting and crashing about she finally cast off. Purring unsteadily and trailing a plume of blue smoke she was last seen heading Westward out of the bay. The wind was howling out of the west and the sea was all froth. There was a long, hard passage ahead. They didn’t come back. We can only imagine various endings to this little saga but I can’t conjure a happy one. I do wish them well. The latest word on the morning after it left is that the ‘Kaymac’ is on someone’s private buoy in Pilot Bay, on the North end of Gabriola Island. It is a tiny bight offering scant shelter from the Westerly wind. The local scuttlebutt says there is a fuel pump problem. I do admire the dream, naive as it may be and part of me wants to go help but I know that old boat is a bottomless pit no matter how golden the dream may be. I don’t know anything more except that, for the moment, crew and boat live on. The wind and seas have eased and the heat becomes oppresive. I wish these argonauts well..
If only I could offer my own dramatic yarn of an adventure away from the dock right now. My skin and patience are worn thin by my exertions on the little Cheoy Lee, as well as the tiny prickles in my clothing and the big prickles on the dock making sport of another man’s misery. I’m becoming very reactive instead of proactive and it is time for a day or two off…..after the fibre-glassing is finally finished.
This is my last dockside project, ever. I swear it!
“When a man comes to like a sea life, he is not fit to live on land.”
— Dr. Samuel Johnson, Writer