Yoho The Coho

The bell of the Coho It's gleam says everything about the vessel and how she's run

The bell of the Coho
It’s gleam says everything about the vessel and how she’s run

It seems, for me, that many great trips begin with a passage on the M.V. COHO to Port Angeles Washington. With a minimum of fuss she backs and turns her 341′ length neatly from her berth in Victoria’s inner harbour, then manoeuvres nonchalantly out for the channel and idles her bulk past the rocks for the open Strait Of Juan De Fuca. Today we cross on a calm sea under a lowering sky. There is a gentle swell on our beam, that siren call of the open Pacific. At least to me it is. The old girl rolls gently and seems to enjoy herself. (You can easily pick out the landlubbers. “Weah not in Iowa no more Doreen!”)

Ogden Point Leaving Victoria Harbour on the Coho southbound across Juan De Fuca Strait for Port Angeles

Ogden Point
Leaving Victoria Harbour on the Coho
southbound across Juan De Fuca Strait for Port Angeles

This old beauty is the remnant of the famous Black Ball Line. Built in 1959 she is in immaculate sea-worthy condition. Clean and clearly loved by her non-uniformed crew this old ship is privately owned and actually makes a profit; she keeps on running year after year. The crew perform their duties with practised ease and in far fewer numbers, it seems, than on a BC Ferry. (We’ll blame crewing regulations!)

Her modest self-sufficiency flies in the face of our BC Ferry fleet. This provincially owned and individually manipulated (Note I did not say managed) corporation has older vessels as well as near-new European-built luxurious super ferries. Often rust streaked and grimy, the fleet is run by massively overpaid executives who are constantly trimming services and increasing fares. One recently appointed board member, whom I know, was previously at the helm of a very successful family logging business which had been founded by his father. He ran the business into total bankruptcy. He was soon accepted to help manage our provincial ferry fleet. I’m sure we would find that his annual BCF remuneration package, including benefits would have most of us feeling set for life. Yes a single year’s worth! Yet the corporation consistently tries to increase fares on its patrons. For those readers who are not familiar with life in this corner of the world all I’ll say is that other ferry services, including the one run by Washington State provide efficient, safe and reliable transport. Enough said. It can be done.

African Swan Yet another load of prime raw logs leaves the Pacific Northwest. What the hell are we doing?

African Swan
Yet another load of prime raw logs leaves the Pacific Northwest.
What the hell are we doing?

I am off once again to the annual Fisher Poets Gathering in Astoria. It seems that the last one was only a few weeks ago. Despite several health issues and my hopeless finances I am able to attend thanks to the very generous support of my wife Jill. Once home again, I must find new sources of income, finish refitting and outfitting old ‘Seafire’ and the little trailer then get down to Mexico. Two doctors have now suggested the move. Despite my general disdain for quacks I intend to take their advise this time. I’ve been talking about this dream for long enough. Einstein once said that you can’t solve a problem by using the same thinking that created it in the first place. Maybe, if I put on a tie, BC Ferries would consider me. My financial prowess would certainly put my in line for a position on the board of directors.

On the upside! Astoria is home to several wonderful micro-breweries

On the upside! Astoria is home to several wonderful micro-breweries

Four days later I’m back on the Coho northbound for Victoria. Events at the Fisher Poet’s Gathering are all a happy blur. My performances were all a splendid success and my duties as an MC went without a hitch. My ego has been massaged, my writing and reading talents have been affirmed and I’m heading back to the old dogfight with a slightly swelled head.

The Astoria Column  There is a great aerobic clamber to the top on the spiral staircase inside. The view is fabulous! A local history is inscribed on the outside of the tower

The Astoria Column
There is a great aerobic clamber to the top on the spiral staircase inside. The view is fabulous! A local history is inscribed on the outside of the tower

On the first night all the performers have a dinner where we share some of our new work with each other. By coincidence, I found myself seated next to a California fishermen whom has the same last name. It was our first meeting.

No shit, your name is Bailey too!”

Yep, even the same spelling. But then it’s a common name. I doubt we’re at all related.”

Probably not but do you know Uncle George?”

Oh yeah, you know him too!”

God yes! He must be one ancient old fart by now! How is he?”

Same old dick he ever was.” And the so the improv banter went much to the amusement of the rest of the table. It’s a great joy meeting other birds of a similar feather and the time passes in a rush as we visit with each other and present our work to the public, some of whom come great distances to see and hear what we have to offer.

House halfway up a hill. An example of how many homes in Astoria have been restored

House halfway up a hill.
An example of how many homes in Astoria have been restored

I spend my free time there touring and photographing the town which is a lovely place self-resurrected from the ashes of its demise after both the fishing and the forest industries collapsed. Spring is arriving a bit early this year, blossoms were out everywhere and there were some warm, clear sunny days much to everyone’s delight.

Lots of rooms with lots of views

Lots of rooms with lots of views

See!

See!

Original paint This one is actually older than I am. note the bullet hole above the driver's window.

Original paint
This one is actually older than I am. note the bullet hole above the driver’s window.

Astoria's Liberty Theatre It is even more breath-taking inside

Astoria’s Liberty Theatre
It is even more breath-taking inside

The amazing fish stocks drew a large influx of Finnish immigrants. Now that's finished.

The amazing fish stocks drew a large influx of Finnish immigrants.
Now that’s finished.

On the way to the bottom you'll meet somebody on the way to the top

On the way to the bottom you’ll meet somebody on the way to the top

I’m posting plenty of photos which help describe Astoria and some of its charms. I’m looking forward to next year already. I’m also happy to report that I have finally successfully posted one of my books, ‘The Water Rushing By’, on Amazon/Kindle where it is available as an e-book or as a print-on-demand paperback. I’ve several other books to upload into their inventory so there’ll be no dull moments. Sideways Ho!

The last cannery to be seen out on pilings. There used to be dozens.

The last cannery to be seen out on pilings. There used to be dozens.

Out of Ballast, ready to load some more raw resources

Out of Ballast, ready to load some more raw resources

The din and the smell are amazing. "Who farted?"

The din and the smell are amazing. “Who farted?”

EXCUSE ME! That spot's reserved!

EXCUSE ME!
That spot’s reserved!

Aren't you glad they can't fly?

Aren’t you glad they can’t fly?

Rusty checks his pee mail

Rusty checks his pee mail

Shift worker's window

Shift worker’s window

River's edge at low slack

River’s edge at
low slack

"Let's do lunch." Some wildlife hanging around outside the motel room door.

“Let’s do lunch.”
Some wildlife hanging around outside the motel room door.

Pier 39 A cannery now turned museum. This is a former Columbia river gillnetter. The net was shot and retrieved off the bow. There were once hundreds working the river.

Pier 39
A cannery now turned museum. This is a former Columbia River gillnetter. The net was shot and retrieved off the bow. There were once hundreds working the river.

State of the art, once upon a time.

State of the art, once upon a time.

When men were men

When men were men

Cold Stream Dave and Renee hold an open boat day for the Fisher Poets weekend

Cold Stream
Dave and Renee hold an open boat day for the Fisher Poets weekend

An Unapus Creative sculpture adorns the streets of Port Angeles

An Unapus
Creative sculpture adorns the streets of Port Angeles

 

When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem starts looking like a nail.”…anonymous

4 responses to “Yoho The Coho

  1. Wonderful photos abd great comments about the M.V. Coho. Have spent many hours on the Coho and marvelled at how quietly and efficiently she goes about her business. Not sure I agree with you comments about Washington State Ferries though. They have a sad and poorly maintained fleet in comparison to BC Ferries. I’ll leave it at that!

  2. Tony:
    Great to hear from you. I’m afraid for once we disagree. Re WSF vs BCF. The fleet down there in WA is ancient but I’ve never seen any rust or filth nor met a surly crewmember nor endured a delay because of a breakdown. There is no incessant whining about cutting services and raising fares and all their boats were built locally. Living on Gabriola really opened my eyes on how shabbily BCF treats their boats and their passengers. Having once lived in the interior where public ferries are free also raises some obvious questions.
    I hate to say this, but I’d love to see someone like Dennis Washington take over BC Ferries. However, all that being said, our ferry services have never had a capsize due to overloading. We do tend to bitch about a service we can generally take for granted. It’s all good. At least you and I have the option of using our own boats!

  3. Keith, Robert A

    Thanks Fred for the words and images; don’t know how I stumbled onto your site but I’m very happy I did. I enjoy your missives, sense of humour and social commentary. I’m headed out to Sidney soon for a sail charter and will be avoiding the ferries. I agree there’s something very wrong going on there. I also agree that we are sending far too many raw materials away for processing – what is wrong with us?

    Just wanted to let you know you’re appreciated – thanks.

    Keep the faith; cling to the wreckage.

    Rob Keith
    Misplaced Sailor
    Calgary Alberta

    • Yo Rob,
      Well we’re all misplaced sailors. Some wanderers are never home, some are always home. Glad to hear you like the blog, thanks for you kind remarks.
      Keep your eye on your star.
      Best, Fred

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