Monthly Archives: October 2014

DRIP! DRIP! DRIP!

A Bad Snack A deadly but beautiful toadstool appears to announce the end of summer. Three days later it was brown slime

A Bad Snack
A deadly but beautiful toadstool appears to announce the end of summer. Three days later it was brown slime

Yep. It’s that time of year again. Suddenly we have our winter weather back, it’s still warm but then we have lots of warm wet days all winter long. There may be snow, but not every winter. The gulls have a ritual each autumn of pecking the mussels off the dock floats then depositing them up and over the tops of the docks. They break them open to eat. The crows join them and soon you find yourself crunching and slithering along in copious puddles of guano and razor-sharp shells.

Misery at breakfast

Misery at breakfast

Of course each boat is covered in the same slimey debris and my little marina world is a disgusting mess. This too shall pass, I just wish it didn’t have to go through the birds first! Suddenly the feeding frenzy will end and winter will be imminent. Jack loves chasing dock birds, in fact he’s out on patrol as I write. Otters and herons are also part of his mandate. I rest assured that despite his vigorous efforts he’ll never catch one. Wow! There’s a metaphor….chasing birds that will never be caught.                                      

It is also spider season

It is also spider season

 

Guts!  A ball of mussel shell bits, sharp as razors, after they've been through the bird. How do they do it?

Guts!
A ball of mussel shell bits, sharp as razors, after they’ve been through the bird. How do they do it?

Another starfish down the hatch. How gulls manage to swallow whole starfish is a mystery, but their droppings will eat through anything.  "More bitter than gull bile!"

Another starfish down the hatch. How gulls manage to swallow whole starfish is a mystery, but their droppings will eat through anything. “More bitter than gull bile!”

Misery loves company... A mussel lunch

Misery loves company…
A mussel lunch

Jack on patrol while the morning fog holds us captive

Jack on patrol while the morning fog holds us captive

It’s too wet to complete various small pre-winter boat jobs and so I busy myself renovating a friend’s bathroom. It’s not an illustrious endeavour but it’ll improve their lives and give me the rewards of having helped someone as well as a few more days sustenance. There’s certainly nought romantic about gypsum dust and broken tiles bu I remind myself that lots of folks do this all day, everyday, for their whole working life. Think of all the jobs that somebody has to do, things like caring for Ebola patients. There are many different kinds of courage which each of us do or do not possess! Meanwhile, a certain soggy doggy has returned from his dawn patrol and lept back into my bunk. Well, nobody else has ever kissed me awake in the morning! I know, yeech! But then what’s real love without a few sloppy kisses now and then? An elderly English lady recently referred to him as “a stalwart chap” which I thought was charming and accurate.

Teak, hemp, bronze water

Teak, hemp, bronze, water

Yesterday Jack broke into some groceries in my vehicle while I worked at the bathroom job.

He had never done that before and so as usual I left them easily available. I’d bought a package of soup bones intending to give him one each day. I hoped this would keep him from from wandering and it worked! I emerged outside later in the day to discover all six soup bones neatly cleaned and arranged on the lawn. Checking the bags I found the chicken had been merely inspected but the sausages were gone. All of them. It’s hard to get angry at a dog for being a dog especially when they look so smug with their executive decision. There have been no nasty after-effects. So far.

How's this for a  figurehead? A souvenir Musk Ox skull

How’s this for a figurehead?
A souvenir Musk Ox skull

A red boat has appeared in the marina. She is clearly a home-built steel boat and is not especially glossy and slick. Yet she is registered to Brussels and has reportedly just completely a Northwest Passage east-about. This, despite several reports of ice conditions which made transits impossible for many. She’s clearly battered from her ordeal and is in for some overhauling. There are skull’s of a caribou and a muskox tied to the pulpit and fuel cans lashed all over the decks. Her named is ‘Perd pas le Nord’ which is a twist on a French colloquialism. “Ne perd pas le nord” can translate literally as “no fear of the north” but it generally means “Someone who has their head screwed on right” either way this is a wonderful name for a boat which has clearly been out there doing it. She bears honourable scars. That is always a mark of beauty to me.

A red boat from Brussels via the Northwest Passage, Caribou skull lashed to the bow

A red boat from Brussels
via the Northwest Passage, Caribou skull lashed to the bow

On the subject of red boats there has been a story running on the news for the past few days about a Russian freighter broken down off the Haida Gwaii islands. There was much dark speculation of her running aground and the inevitable environmental disaster as her fuel and cargo contaminated that pristine shoreline. Native voices were added that linked the unfolding event to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. There were even speculative comparisons to the Exxon Valdez disaster! I understand the passion which is using every possible means to oppose the bitumen pipe to Kitimat but discrediting the integrity of an argument is not beneficial to the cause.

October Harvest Moon

October Harvest Moon

The rest of the story is that the storm winds were blowing Sou’east and the ‘Shimushir’, out of Kholmsk, was being blown away from land as confirmed by the Canadian Coast Guard. She has since been safely towed to Prince Rupert for repairs. The reporting continues to be grossly irresponsible and speculative. Allegations by environment groups claim Canada is clearly unable to rescue ships in peril (Ever hear of the ‘Sudbury’?) and that it was a “Fluke” that an American tug completed the rescue. There is no mention of the standard Lloyds Open Form Salvage agreement and the profits involved, nor why one of the many Alaskan-trade US tugs might transiting the area. There has apparently been no research into standard maritime protocol. Instead there is verbose rhetoric about the proposed pipeline which most of us already strongly oppose.

'Native Girl ' morning. Imagine the smell of woodsmoke from the stove and the cry of a newborn child. Taya has arrived, q beautiful little girl

‘Native Girl ‘ morning. Imagine the smell of woodsmoke from the stove and the cry of a newborn child. Taya has arrived, a most beautiful little girl

I for one, am weary of the media avoiding the standard who, why, what, where, and when of basic journalism and turning instead to creative narrative that distorts facts. If a local story can be so badly skewed then what of the information provided about all the rest of the planet’s events? In an age of instant information I am stunned at how masses cling to tabloid-style uninformed opinion and may even base the course of their lives on someone else’s lies.

Silva Bay Harvest Moon, the night before it was full

Silva Bay Harvest Moon, the night before it was full

Do you remember Y2K? It was a scam that extracted billions from the masses. I call it the profit of paranoia. Thankfully, information is there for everyone and an enquiring mind can ferret out the true story and then form an informed opinion. Speculation and distortion has no place in objective journalism. If you say that you “Like little boys who are kind to animals” and I quote you as having said that you “Like little boys”, have I represented the truth? End rant.

'Seafire' herself, the old prune barge hunkers down for another Pacific Northwest winter

‘Seafire’ herself, the old prune barge hunkers down for another Pacific Northwest winter

For Canadians, Thanksgiving has passed and the next event in the turning of the seasons is Halloween and the turning back of the clocks. The dream of sailing ‘Seafire’ south has been delayed yet another year. The dream, as ever, is very much alive. Hopefully it will all make sense in the end, but I confess that I write this blog as much to convince myself as anyone else. I occasionally offer, and remind myself of, an anecdote about climbing mountains. Finally at the summit, one sees more peaks to climb. Usually however the climb up the next shining mountain requires descending into a valley before beginning to climb again. When up to your arse in a snake-filled swamp in a shadowed valley it is difficult to maintain awareness and belief that you are actually in the process of mountain climbing. Is success about the height of the mountain or the depth of the valley?

Noli illegitimi carborundum”  Don’t let the bastards grind you down!

Drip

Drip

IT IS OVER summer's done, even the spiders have gone south

IT IS OVER
Summer’s done, even the spiders have gone south

IT IS FINISHED

Into The Mystic Sea trials on 'Avanti' in the fog

Into The Mystic
Sea trials on ‘Avanti’ in the fog

(And so am I)

My little boat project has been completed with rave reviews and even a kudu from the marine surveyor. Fellow yacht tinkers have expressed their approval which has left me very chuffed indeed. It has been a very expensive ordeal for the owner but he now has a head-turner that will take him everywhere he wants to go. She sails as well as she looks. ‘Avanti’ is a 1966 Frisco Flyer Mk III, built by Cheoy Lee (Hull1691) and designed by Tord Sundén, creator of the famous Folkboat. Essentially this Cheoy Lee is a Folkboat with standing headroom and a very cleverly designed interior. She sails like a dream and with all her teak she has very traditional feel. She may be tiny but she’ll never be a sandwich at anyone’s banquet.

Pretty from all angles

Pretty from all angles

Now another Cheoy Lee has arrived at the dock. Oddly, just like ‘Avanti’ I installed an engine in her while I worked in the shipyard. Here we go again! A new owner has brought her back to Silva Bay and yep! He wants me to do a bunch of work on her. I don’t want to see another Cheoy Lee at the moment, but a monkey on my shoulder is whispering something about looking a gift horse in the mouth. We’ll see.

From this ...an old bulkhead

From this
…an old bulkhead

And where do I want to go from here? I’ve been here on Gabriola Island for nearly four years. I came for a job offer and what I thought would be a great opportunity. I truly believed it was where the gods were leading me and that soon enough it would

To this

To this

make sense. It’s all turned sour; well at least I certainly have. I love the beauty of this place and the wonderful friends I’ve made. There are also a few folks here at the end of the road at the end of the island who

The dragon pit

The dragon pit

Good for another 48 years

Good for another 48 years

A proud little ship

A proud little ship

make living here a misery. Without any grand prospects ahead it maybe time to move on. My personal life is under deep duress and I’m becoming a bit over-reactive to foolishness and rudeness. Of course when your karma is dented it seems some people have an acute predatory sense. I’m sure that somehow signals are unconsciously sent and received. Suddenly “Punching Bag” seems to be tattooed on your head. If one’s personal spiritual health is good, the normal bumps of life go virtually unnoticed. When you’re bruised, every touch and poke is painful and it is hard not to react. It can be a spiral or a growing experience and some lessons seem to need to be relearned.

The Ides of August

The Ides of August

Every morning now comes with a heavy dew and the rainstorms are becoming more frequent. Soon they will be a daily or week-long fact. Boat owners are busy finding and repairing the leaks which have developed through the long, hot summer. I find myself marking the passing rush of time by the ‘Best by’ dates on the milk cartons I buy. We’re into October dates already, November soon. It was September 1st a blink ago. The evenings are cool and dark and damp. The tree frogs are beginning to sing. Mist and fog are common now and there is wood smoke in the evening air. Soon the clocks will go back to “Daylight Savings” (Which, I think, is yet another piece of stupidity we accept.) It is time think south.

The end of summer in Silva Bay

The end of summer in Silva Bay

My buddy Jimmy Poirier has arrived home from his great South Pacific marathon on his Corbin 39 cutter ‘Noroue’. He’s deeply tanned, grinning broadly and minus a lot of weight.

Sailing is something you do because it feels so good when you stop. My pal Jimmy hope from his South Pacific marathon

Sailing is something you do because it feels so good when you stop. My pal Jimmy hope from his South Pacific marathon

He looks great despite not having cut his remaining hair(s) for the whole adventure. It is an inspiring personal achievement and I’m happy that he’s happy. I don’t know how many miles he’s travelled in less than a year. I’m much more of a flower-sniffer but I’m looking forward to sharing a jar or two with him and hearing the whole story. I’m also delighted that he repeatedly offers praises for Donna, the steadfast wife who has been his base support all the way. This is yet another story about how there’s a good woman behind every successful man.

Noroue One fine boat

Noroue
One fine boat

My friends Tony and Connie are about to finish a wonderful adventure in France and go back to their boat ‘Sage’ where it is dry-stored in Phuket. Check out their blog ‘Sage on Sage’ which can be accessed through the sidebar of this blog. The photography is wonderful.

Looking out from Nanaimo harbour

Looking out from Nanaimo harbour

I am left feeling quite frustrated that I’m not making any apparent progress toward my own goals. It is now the beginning of October and old ‘Seafire’ should be on the move down to Mexico. After the devastation of Hurricane Odile a few weeks ago I’m sure I can find gainful endeavours there.

I know that dreams are realized when things look bleakest and one refuses to quit. That is often when a glimmer of new possibility begins to glow. But like the old buzzard said, “Patience my ass, I want to kill something!” I’ve got another month’s work here on Gabriola so I must soon make some important decisions. Ordeal or adventure, it is a matter of choice in how we deal with life. The hardest part of a voyage is untying the knots in the dock lines.

Capricio a sailing dream begins

Capricio
a sailing dream begins

Now here I am at 04:00 on the final day of September. I’ve just returned from an exploration under the pilings on the jetty. A few weeks ago I lost a treasured silver pendant through the cracks of the deck above. It is the lowest tide of the month this hour today and so there I was beneath the slimy, dripping pilings, slithering over the barnacles with a flashlight and one gumboot full of seawater. I knew it was a hopeless quest but I had to go look. I’m always fascinated at the night life in the shallows and so it was not a wasted venture. The shrimp with their fluorescent red eyes, big Dungeness crabs, little fish in an inch of water and other wriggling creatures were all out in the middle of the night. Jack has gone back to bed, disgusted I suspect, with my nocturnal interlude. “Nutter human!” After a couple more hours of sleep, Jack the dog is on deck enjoying the sunrise in a clear blue sky. The DeHavilland beaver woke us as usual as its engine clattered to life for the first scheduled flight of the day. Not many people have a float plane for an alarm clock. There is a load of chores to address on this beautiful morning, life goes on.

Just when you were tired of boat photos! A Hawk,  Canada's fighter training aircraft. You never know what you'll find in the back of a hangar.

Just when you were tired of boat photos!
A Hawk, one of Canada’s fighter training aircraft.
You never know what you’ll find in the back of a hangar.

It has been few weeks since the last blog. There’s not a lot to talk about, it has been mostly head-down drudgery. Enough said, ‘Avanti’ is finished. There was a hangar-tour at the Victoria Airport which stirred this once upon a time helicopter mechanic into nostalgia and even regret for leaving that industry. The absolute hi-light of the month was a concert in Nanaimo. Carlos Nunez is a Spanish piper from Galicia. If you are interested in Celtic culture you may know that it’s influence was spread from Spain and Portugal north to Brittany and as far east as the outer islands of Ireland and Scotland. We tend to think of Bagpipes as being unique to Scotland but they are in fact a fairly new arrival there of only a thousand years or so. Bagpipes, of varying design and sound were once common across Europe. In many areas the instrument is enjoying a renaissance even in places like Sweden and Syria and India.

Jack Tar in the morning

Jack Tar in the morning

If you don’t appreciate the sound of tortured cats (As many people describe traditional Scottish piping) you may be blown away, (Yes, that’s a pun) to learn how piping, including flutes, whistles and other wind instruments have evolved into contemporary music genres including rock and jazz. Carlos Nunez, Susana Seivane, Cristina Pato as well as many others are all on Youtube and well worth checking out if you have eclectic musical tastes. For humour check out our own Johnny Bagpipes from Vancouver Island who can play ‘Thunderstruck’ as well as AC/DC. There’s also a dude who calls himself the ‘Bad Piper’ who actually has flame throwers built into his pipes! And while we’re in the mood for exploration let’s go the extra inch and explore some Portuguese Fado music. Names like Mariza, Madredeus and Cristina Branco will lead to some rich, mesmerizing entertainment. It’s musical talent at its basic best. I wandered on to discover Scottish tribal drumming and then a guitarist named Tom Ward. Check out his rendition of Asturia. Which leads to an interesting question: Why dos so much of the music we listen to sound the same? Dull, dull, dull.

Funny how a blog about sailing and boats can include a mini-essay about random musical interest. It’s especially odd coming from an old salt like me who couldn’t carry a tune on a barge. “You are the wind beneath my kilt, You could make a bloody thistle wilt…” that’s where I take the gong. Once a sailor, always a sailor! Gentlemen need not apply.

Thanksgiving on the hoof. Gabriola has loads of these feral turkeys

Thanksgiving on the hoof.
Gabriola has loads of these feral turkeys

I thought that in closing I’d research a clever wee quote about bagpipes. Little did I know!

I have found fistfuls! I’ve refined them to four.

– “Bagpipes– the secret behind crop circles.”

– From the journal of Alvisa da Cadamosto, a Venetian explorer in Portuguese service in Senegal in1455 “The sound of one of our country pipes, which I had played by one of my sailors, also caused wonderment. Seeing that it was decked out with trappings and ribbons at the head, they concluded that it was a living animal that sang thus in different voices, and were much pleased by it. Perceiving that they were misled, I told them it was an instrument and placed it deflated in their hands. Whereupon, recognizing that it was made by hand, they said it was a divine instrument, made by god with his own hands, for it sounded so sweetly and in so many different voices. They said they had never heard anything sweeter.”

– “At a funeral I played, the priest pointed at me during the eulogy and said, “so long as there are bagpipers, there will be free people.”

– “See you, Jimmy…..you’d best throttle that shite down now..”

Auch aye!

Can you hear bagpipes?

Can you hear bagpipes?