Monthly Archives: April 2015

Degnen Bay

Degnen Bay morning

Degnen Bay Morning

One thing about working on boats has always bemused me. No matter what the repair or refitting job, there is always a requirement to make yet more holes. Whether a drilled hole, or a sawn-out opening, every improvement requires: Yep! More holes. Go figure! A boat is supposed to be a floating vessel which keeps as much water out as possible out. Making ever more holes seems a complete antithesis and sometimes it can indeed go wrong, very wrong.

Chocolate Lily Only for a few brief days in spring.

Chocolate Lily
Only for a few brief days in spring.

Once I was twisted into a tight spot on a beautiful 53′ Spencer sailboat, installing a battery box on a small platform fibre-glassed to the hull. The drill bit was dull but in order to hurry up and get the job done, instead of wriggling out to sharpen it, I pressed on. In fact I pressed and pressed until suddenly I felt moisture. I’ll never forget the feeling of that moment as I realized what I’d done. I did not have to taste it to know it was seawater. In my panic to remove the drill, I broke off the bit which plugged the hole reasonably well until the boat could be hauled out for a proper repair. I certainly recall the chagrin as I sat humbly at the bosses desk and told him what I’d done. Yeah, it’s funny now and once in a while someone will joke “Oops here comes Fred, hide the drills!” Well, we all screw up, no matter how experienced we are and so long as no-one is hurt and a lesson is gained, it’s all good. And, I might add, the only folks who don’t make mistakes are those who never do anything. My brother, an airline pilot, once quoted a friend who said, “All’s well that ends.” Imagine hearing that over the intercom as a flight comes to its conclusion!

Seafire anchored in Degnen Bay behind 'Snug' a Truant 33 I almost bought. Valdez Island across Gabriola Pass in background.

Seafire anchored in Degnen Bay behind ‘Snug’ a Truant 33 I almost bought. Valdez Island across Gabriola Pass in background.

So old ‘Seafire’ and I are on the lam and tonight we’re anchored in Degnen Bay on Gabriola Island. It’s been a lovely day and evening with an invigorating Northwest wind howling. We were immersed in seawater several times on our little passage over from Ladysmith. The various residues a boat accumulates while sitting at the dock are washed away. Actually we’re here because there is some confusion about mooring at the Ladysmith Maritime Society where ‘Seafire’ has spent the winter but one excuse is as good as another and here we are. Monday will look after itself.

Golden moment. 'The wooden schooner 'Aja' returns home at sunset

Golden moment. ‘The wooden schooner ‘Aja’ returns home at sunset

While that is being sorted I have a little job here in Degnen Bay on a friend’s boat. Tonight we’re anchored about hundred feet from the dock where that boat is tied. She is a rare old beauty. A friend purchased an old wooden cruiser with a beautiful layout and the classic lines of a wooden powerboat. ‘Django’ is a 1946 35′ Chris Craft and she’ll be a head turner wherever she goes. There are two lovely GM 4-cylinder gas engines She’s in good shape but like all fine boats is in a state of constant refit and upgrading. The job is a good reason to be here and for the moment I feel whole again.

On Golden Pond

On Golden Pond

Degnen Bay is named after an early family who homesteaded here. Degnen is apparently also an old Spanish term meaning ‘to rest’ and I like to think that perhaps the first explorers found and named this lovely spot as a point of rest. It is surrounded by homes and more are being built. They must have splendid views. The bay is littered with mooring buoys and the docks have no empty berths. Yet there is a feeling of tranquillity here. The bay is guarded by a rocky shoreline and the restless waters of Gabriola Pass. Beautiful, wild Valdez Island forms the far side of the pass with miles of trails there to wander and explore as well as an old farm which is now part of a Provincial Park. Sheltered from damaging winds Degnen’s bottom mud is very thin in places and anchoring securely can be a challenge. Hence all the buoys which in turn make anchoring properly even more difficult.

Beauty under wraps. 'Django' a 1946 Chris Craft.

Beauty under wraps.
‘Django’ a 1946 Chris Craft

That's a lot of bronze!A Stephens electric windlass, now a rare find.

That’s a lot of bronze! A Stephens electric windlass, unique in 1946, now a very rare find.

Access! The engine bay in the Chris. It's a joy to work on these with all that room around them.

Access! The engine bay in the Chris. It’s a joy to work on these with all that room around them.

This morning is placid and the sun rises into a cloudless sky.. With my morning coffee I survey the surrounding view. I realize the local public wharf possesses a relic; a telephone booth. It sits beside the dock crane and represents an era now passed. We’ve had wireless mobile phones for thirty years and now pay phones, anywhere, are almost impossible to find. Cellular reception is minimal here so perhaps that is why the booth remains. Dark stormy nights, creeping into the blackness of the bay with the dull glow of the phone booth as a beacon. It is an icon of a lingering welcome-home hug, dry clothes and a warm supper. Then the trudge up a slippery ramp in the driving rain under the baleful glare of a mercury dock lamp. There’s not enough change in your pocket. There’s no-one at home to take a collect call. It will be a two hour trudge in the wet and dark or another night in a damp bunk with only macaroni for supper. Too tired to decide. Been there!

Not all relics at the bay are meant to float. This is a late-fifties Volvo 444. No electronics, no radial tires or fuel injection...25 miles per gallon. Tell me you don't believe in plots!

Not all relics at the bay are meant to float. This is a late-fifties Volvo 444. No electronics, no radial tires or fuel injection…25 miles per gallon. Tell me you don’t believe in plots!

In my last blog I described the art of careening. Today my favourite boat, “Lil’ Abe’ was careened on the beach here. With her hard-chined dory-like bottom she takes the ground well and tonight floats with a fresh coat of bottom paint. she scampered back to her berth at the dock looking as lovely as a new puppy. (See photo in Blog 61, Mind The Gap)

A face only a mother could love... and guys like me.

A face only a mother could love… and guys like me.

Look ma no air bags.  Four black feet and factory heat- a basic car. No padded dash, no seat belts, no GPS, no power-steering, no power brakes, not even a radio but those are real leather seats, the smell of them in the sun brings back memories

Look ma no air bags.
Four black feet and factory heat- a basic car.
No padded dash, no seat belts, no GPS, no power-steering, no power brakes, not even a radio but those are real leather seats, the smell of them in the sun brings back memories. That black knob on the dash…it’s called a choke. Pay attention kids, you needed that to start the engine when it was cold.  Really!

 

Lil Abe careened on the beach of Degnen Bay. With the old house in the background this could be a scene from 70 or  more years ago

Lil Abe careened on the beach of Degnen Bay.
With the old house in the background this could be a scene from 70 or more years ago.

The tide came back and 'Lil Abe' heads for the dock. A fresh, clean bottom always feels so good!

The tide came back and ‘Lil Abe’ heads for the dock. A fresh, clean bottom always feels so good!

Rhapsody in wood. 'Fraser' a classic salmon troller.

Rhapsody in wood. ‘Fraser’ a classic salmon troller.

'Seafire'  me old prune barge

‘Seafire’
me old prune barge.

Elegance. "If it looks good, it works good."... Allen Farrell A beautiful yacht conversion of a wooden salmon. fishing boat.

Elegance. “If it looks good, it works good.”… Allen Farrell
A beautiful yacht conversion of a wooden salmon troller.

Another man's dream

Another man’s dream

Then came a show of a different sort of nautical ineptitude. A gleaming, huge phallic sloop appeared in the bay, its manufacturer and length displayed prominently on both sides of the hull. It is the sort of yacht I like to call a ‘Fart Parkerson 69.’ For an hour the young couple aboard set and reset their anchor, always too close to yet another boat. Finally they came to rest less than a boat length away from ‘Seafire’s transom. I noticed how pristine everything was, like an ad from a yuppy yachting magazine. The young couple aboard each wore the latest in extravagant yachty fashion, I’d guess thousands of dollars worth. Soon they came over in a virgin-looking dinghy, awkwardly rowing it backwards, to ask if I was content with their proximity. I replied that they were downwind of me and wished them a good night.

'Nootka Rose' A converted life boat being loved to death. (The plastic wrapping prevents desperately essential ventilation.)

‘Nootka Rose’
A converted life boat being loved to death. (The plastic wrapping prevents desperately essential ventilation.)

Later, in the gathering darkness they were off again trying to find a spot between other boats and buoys. There was a continuous drama and din of their windlass paying out all their chain then reeling it back in again, all the while plowing up more bottom mud. Meanwhile outside of the immediate anchorage there are acres of good, empty anchorage. I guess some folks are determined to be close to the shore. They’re still here this morning! They’ve made it through the night, probably lying exhausted in their luxurious ten-foot-wide bunk, empty champagne bottle sitting beside big fluffy slippers and heavy bathrobes with anchors embroidered on the pockets. “Honey I broke a nail,” he says.

The sloop 'Fart P' on the hook. Neo-decadence beside classic an ultimate boat.practicality and what was once

The sloop ‘Fart P’ on the hook. Neo-decadence beside classic practicality and what was once an ultimate dream.

A few days ago in a muddy parking lot an old man and I were approaching each other as we walked our dogs. Suddenly, between us, hurtled a shining black Lexus, backing and filling a few times before it finally came to rest in two parking spaces. We each held our dogs, well back, until the frantic manoeuvring ceased.  “Thanks,” proclaimed the driver,adjusting designer sunglasses as he rushed off self-importantly on foot. As we finally met, the other fellow proclaimed loudly, “Guess just ’cause you can afford it don’t mean you can drive it!”

Who am I to laugh at someone else’s dream? Mucho Gusto!

Down at the bow. a sad end for a once-beautiful fishboat.

Down at the bow. a sad end for a once-beautiful fishboat.

"For a good close second look, come back at low tide.' A hazard to navigation in a anchorage of sunken dreams.

“For a good close second look, come back at low tide.’ A hazard to navigation in a anchorage of sunken dreams.

A plywood reef

A plywood reef

Wot Lawnmower?  The outboard motor raises some obvious questions.

Wot Lawnmower? The outboard motor raises some obvious questions.

Waterfront Condo. Purple Martins in the nesting boxes.

Waterfront Condo. Purple Martins in the nesting boxes on a piling.

Spanish moss on a flowering maple tree.

Spanish moss on a flowering maple tree.

Add Cherry Blossoms

Add Cherry Blossoms

The old net loft.

The old net loft.

 

Waterfront blues

Waterfront blues

The Ramp "Damn ye all whom have passed this portal."

The Ramp
“Damn ye all whom have passed this portal.”

At the corner of telephone and telephone. "Degnen Bay Harbour Authority" says the green sign. Phone boxes and hand cranes will all soon be gone forever.

At the corner of telephone and telephone.
“Degnen Bay Harbour Authority” says the green sign. Phone boxes and hand cranes will all soon be gone forever.

 Another view of Degnen which the Regional district will find a way to eradicate.


Another view of Degnen which the Regional district will find a way to eradicate.

Wet coast textures on a sunny day.

Wet coast textures on a sunny day.

Seal vertebrae in the tideline.

Seal vertebrae in the tideline.

Old Fish Face. This rock looks to me like a spawning humpback salmon.

Old Fish Face. This rock looks to me like a spawning humpback salmon.

A modern pictograph

A modern pictograph

Icon of Gabriola. This petroglyph isw often used as a log for things Gabriolan. It was carved on the sandstone beach of Degnen Bay where it  is covered at high  tide. Sadly, it is eroding rapidly.

Icon of Gabriola. This petroglyph is often used as a logo for things Gabriolan. It was carved on the sandstone beach of Degnen Bay where it is covered at high
tide. Sadly, it is eroding rapidly.

All I ask is a chance to prove that money can’t make me happy!”

A sure cure for sea-sickness is to sit under a tree.”

… Spike Milligan

Grid Work

Grid Work

Yesterday was a glorious weather day. Clear and nearly calm it was perfect for doing anything outdoors. I gave old ‘Seafire’ some long overdue loving. Early in the morning, when the tide was at high slack I eased her over the grid at the Ladysmith Fisherman’s Wharf to clean her bottom, polish up the propeller and replace the sacrificial zincs.

I should explain that sacrificial zinc anodes are designed to absorb stray electrical currents that affect every boat, especially in salt water. The process,, called electrolysis will destroy underwater metal fittings such as bronze thru-hulls to the point of them becoming a crumbling powder. The zincs, easily replaced, do the crumbling instead of the important metal bits on the hull. The dangers of an open hole in the bottom of a boat are obvious. Despite copious scientific dissertations there is a mystery to the process which we do not fully understand. Stray electrical currents in marina docks, and from other poorly wired boats are the most common culprits as well as the minute or severe fields created by each boat itself. Regular maintenance to check the thru-hulls and replace the zincs is essential. There are ongoing, sometimes heated, debates about what the mystery of electrolysis really is and what causes it. I have my own theories but awareness of its effects is more important, just like respecting lightning without understanding what causes it. It is also worth noting that all those folks who tell you how much they love sailing (Hint, hint) don’t ever show up to help with the dirty work. “Call me when you need crew.” I do, where are you now? Yeah, right!

On the Grid 'Seafire gets a shave and a haircut while on the grid at low tide.

On the Grid
‘Seafire gets a shave and a haircut while on the grid at low tide.

Instead of using a mechanical lift to take a boat out of the water, a centuries-proven method for working on a boat’s bottom is to position it over a grid at high tide. This is a platform of concrete, or treated wooden timbers, which supports a vessel’s weight when it settles with a falling tide. The boat leans against pilings to stay upright. When the tide falls low enough to allow work to begin, you go like crazy to get everything done before the returning tide prevents any further efforts. There is never enough time.

A backyard cabin on Vancouver Island. Someone's fascination with Mexico is clear. Note the guitar and the piñata on the porch. "Hola senorita! Donde mi margarita?

A backyard cabin on Vancouver Island. Someone’s fascination with Mexico is clear. Note the guitar and the piñata on the porch. “Hola senorita! Donde mi margarita?

Of course all of this has to be co-ordinated with the vagaries of the monthly tidal cycle. One first needs enough water to position a vessel over the grid and a tide which falls enough to allow the maximum amount of time to get your work done before the tide returns. It is also important to have enough water to float free on the next tide. Other factors affecting the tide’s height and duration are local winds and even distant storm systems.

Under the front. Variable spring weather. This row of lenticular clouds ran up the Eastern shoreline of Vancouver Island. It didn't move for hours

Under the front. Variable spring weather. This row of lenticular clouds ran up the Eastern shoreline of Vancouver Island. It didn’t move for hours

Barometric pressure, wind and run-off from local rivers and streams due to heavy rain or spring freshets may also affect the tide’s vagaries. There are tide books and computer programs to help with your planning but ultimately they are only guides. You must use your own experience and local knowledge to calculate. Here in the Pacific Northwest we have semi-diurnal tides which means that we have four tides a day to deal with. There will be a high tide and a low tide followed by a lower high and low tide. Tides are therefore approximately six hours apart, or twelve hours between useful high tides.

Old boys like to have fun too. Wrong number, no return.

Old boys like to have fun too. Wrong number, no return.

Due to phases of the moon you may find yourself working in the dark as each day’s tides lag the preceding day by thirty to forty minutes. Tides with minimum rise and fall are called Neap tides. Ones with maximum range are called Spring tides and occur at or near the full moon and also the new moon. Before grids folks “Careened” their boats by laying them against a steeply sloped soft bank, doing one side of the boat each day.

The required understanding for careening involves also knowing how to position the boat so that it floats free instead of filling with water as the returning tide creeps up. Nothing to it.Right!

Old Jack. Every day is a happy adventure.

Old Jack.
Every day is a happy adventure.

I’ve heard questions from landlubberly people who don’t understand tides. While rushing around at work while on other grids there have been variations of “However did you get that boat up there?”

Swamp creature. Mud, rinse, mud, rinse, but save some mud for the vehicle  seats!

Swamp creature. Mud, rinse, mud, rinse, but save some mud for the vehicle seats!

The best comment was from a friend who overheard two old souls tottering along a seawall with one exclaiming, “I could have sworn there was a beach here yesterday!”

Hoo dunnit? The wooden owl fairy strikes again.

Hoo dunnit? The wooden owl fairy strikes again.

The grid in Ladysmith is next to a log sorting ground and a sawmill. The harbour-bottom around the grid is a foot thick in viscous black, reeking, sucking muck of organic origin. Standing in one spot requires a desperate struggle to retrieve your wading boots. Eventually water and muck creeps into your boots. You simply must keep working trying not to stand in the same spot for more than a few moments. It makes for a glorious mess and a desperate struggle to get the essential work done. Thank God I didn’t fall face-first into the ooze. I’d still be there, feeding the crabs. I scrubbed the bottom as best possible in the circumstances and removed any clumps of mussels and other fauna. The propeller was cleaned and polished and the zinc anode was replaced. Then came the usual interminable wait for the tide to return enough to float the boat free. The book time for high tide passed without enough water to float free. It was almost an hour late. Cold, wet, hungry and exhausted I had to remind myself that tide books are only guides and that reality writes its own course. The next high-slack always seems to be later and lower than predicted but eventually the same mystery which floats a vessel over an abyss floats it with only a fraction of an inch of sea under the keel. And so finally I returned to the dock in the last bit of daylight. Then the cleaning up must be done before you take the rest of the day off. God that mud stinks! But I scrubbed it off before it glued itself to the decks. The poor old boat has not received a lot of attention this winter while I’ve floundered at other things. Now she’s showing me her contempt for my neglect and there are a few projects to address before ‘Seafire’ is back in top shape. Once again, the old quote of Lord Nelson can apply, “Ships and men rot in port.”

The beauty of the beast. An old Baldwin Logging Locomotive ever so solely returns to the earth it once came from

The beauty of the beast. An old Baldwin Logging Locomotive ever so slowly returns to the earth it once came from

Recycling the slow way, textures among the rivets

Recycling the natural way, textures among the rivets

I was once famous for being anal about keeping things shipshape. After returning from a trip I’d stay with the boat until everything was ready to go to sea again. I’ll admit that pain-in-the-ass has gone somewhere else now but I still check my boat regularly and keep it shipshape, if not entirely shiny, at all times anymore. Still, despite near daily checks and a heater murmuring away constantly which kept the boat reasonably warm and dry through the winter, there are electrical issues. The dampness works its way into everything and without regular use some components begin to fail. I know these are simply symptoms of lack of use and the old girl and I need to sort this out. Of course everything in the lockers, which was stowed with a good logic, has somehow migrated elsewhere and soon the boat is knee-deep in stores and tools that need to be re-stowed as you look for the widget that you know was right here.

Old Tristan Jones famously said, “When in fear, or in doubt, raise your sails and bugger off out.” You have to keep a boat seaworthy in order to be able to do that.

A bridge over bubbled water. Tranquilty in the spring backwoods.

A bridge over bubbled water. Tranquilty in the spring backwoods.

And so spring advances. Early morning temperatures still hover down near the freezing point but the afternoons are pleasant if it is not pouring rain. The leaves and flowers are bursting out. Some are quite early this year, I saw Dogwood flowers already which is almost a month early.

See! dogwood blooms in April

See! Dogwood blooms in April

Perhaps it’s due to the “Blob.” This is a name applied by climatologists to an above normal temperature mass of warm water first noticed in the North Pacific last year. It is currently hugging our BC coastline. There is much anticipation about its cause and effects. We have warm years, cold years, wet ones, dry ones and various combinations thereof. The only constant is change and yet everyone is determined that no matter what happens, it is living proof that global warming is upon us and it’s our fault. Old time accounts from Vancouver Island of over a century ago have it that when Tofino was settled, the climate was much different. Tropical fruit plants were introduced there because it was that warm. People could easily swim in the sea, there were seldom pervasive fogs and fish stocks were quite different. Now Tofino is well known for its rain and fog and damp cold. It’s still temperate enough for Gunnera Manicata to grow prolifically. Indigenous to Areas between Columbia and Brazil, the giant rhubarb-like plant, with huge leaves over a metre wide, is now being eradicated here because it is not indigenous and tends to overrun other native species. It is like broom, gorse and bamboo, other introduced plants here which overwhelm their new environment, much like the non-native people who brought them here. What an interesting question! Why do people in quest of a new identity and opportunity, whom for good reasons chose to leave their native environment, have a need to bring along pieces of the old world they escape? We all have this missionary complex to some degree and often miss the value of assimilating a new environment with two ears, two eyes and one mouth. Anyway, I don’t believe that any of the foreign flora we’ve introduced here has done much to change the climate. The planet and the universe are in a constant state of flux and while we are an alien virus here, we need not be so arrogant as to believe we have an influence on things which we’ve never had any control over. Especially, when we tend to ignore the things we can change.

Another abandoned bridge in the woods

Another abandoned bridge in the woods

This morning, while Jack and I walked our Ladysmith waterfront patrol, I heard a sound which froze me to the spot. I’d just heard the call of a Northern Loon. A harbinger of spring the sound instantly recalled pleasant moments in my youth. Instantly I again knew magic mornings in cedar strip and canvas canoes, the soothing, gurgling coil of water behind each paddle-stroke, gentle banks of mist, light laddering down into clear water where fish could be seen gliding among sunken stumps. Echoing along the shorelines quavered the eerie cries of loons in chorus. Those calls will haunt me forever.

My father used to listen to bird recordings on lp vinyl. Damn, how I hated them! Dwibble, blap tweet, then a nasally dweeby man’s voice would declare something like: “Pink-bellied Flute Snoot, spring mating call.” One, called I think, ‘Birdsongs of the Northwoods’, suddenly emerges in my memory. I recall the narrative which I heard too often. “Across the rich gold ribbon of the rising moon’s reflection on the water, drifts a shadow. It is the shadow of a loon. It lifts its head and from its throat comes the cries of souls in torment.” Fifty-plus years back and now I remember that! What the hell did I have for breakfast? Now let’s see! Oh yeah. Nope. Hmmm!

Maple Flower

Maple Flower

If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.”

…Lucius Annaeus Seneca

The Empty Signifier, Eva’s Loo and The April’s Fool

Feeling Frisky? Feral Gabriola road runners do their spring fan dance.

Feeling Frisky? Feral Gabriola road runners do their spring fan dance.

(To enlarge images, click on each picture)

March zoomed past in a frenetic blur. And I can’t see much that I’ve accomplished. I have finally finished a home renovation project for a friend and now I’m trying to move on toward my own goals. There has been a round of medical appointments which have left me puzzled and a bit angry. After copious testing and consultation the end result is yet more prescriptions. I’m becoming convinced that it is a mix of all the damned pills that has me feeling so poorly. I quit taking them and soon felt much better. The type II diabetes I allegedly have is something I can beat with diet and exercise and perhaps my other health issues will abate as well. With several prescriptions mixing around in one’s plumbing, I’m not sure what chemical combinations are formed nor what their effects are on an individual. I can say that the tentacles growing out of my back can be darned near as itchy as the third eye which appeared on the top of my head. Whadya mean it’s only a bald spot?

Flock this! gorging gulls enjoy the annual herring spawn.

Flock this! Gorging gulls enjoy the annual herring spawn.

Once again, it appears, our Western medical acumen is eager to treat symptoms rather than address cause. It is good for business and I wonder how many Porsche SUVs I help keep on the road. I’m researching my health issues very thoroughly and am now beginning to pursue more natural sensibilities. If I’m going to sail away I need to be healthy and one doctor at least, bless him, has told me that the sailing away is on its own the best cure. Certainly, the prescription I received for diabetes soon had me feeling near death and I do want a solution more positive than that. I flushed my pills down the loo. Much better! I suppose one should consider the environmental effects of doing that, but what is the proper way to dispose of medications?

We are a culture of excess. I know I have certainly allowed myself to be programmed to consume far more than I need. Now I pay for my foolishness. This bog trotter’s research about diabetes has turned up some interesting approaches. Insulin is a hormone which the body produces to help cells absorb glucose. A lot of the crap food we eat and drink, over time, reduces the body’s ability to produce sufficient insulin hormone, which causes an increase of belly fat which in turn further degrades our ability to produce enough natural insulin. The spiral deepens.

From this. Showing old window opening and new windows framed in.

From this.
Showing old window opening and new windows framed in after walling-in an adjoining closet then opening the back to enlarge the bathroom.

Speaking of loos I have, among other things, been busy refinishing a friend’s bathroom for his wife Eva. Both go to work in far off places so communication has not been the best. The job has lasted far too long, punctuated with long delays. Now it’s done. It has turned out well and my efforts to do something exotic with affordable materials has proven a grand success. I’ve decided, however, that I am finished with this sort of work. I’ve earned my bread rebuilding boats and doing home renovation work but I’m having to concede that I’m now too stove-up to continue peddling my talents. My hands have become so arthritic that I have difficulty holding my tools at times. Working on my knees and contorting myself into awkward places is really becoming challenging. I’m not complaining, just explaining. All those years that I wasted trying to prove how tough I was. And I was! But the geezers of that time warned me. Yeah right!

To this... Heated tile floor, wainscoting, acrylic clawfoot tub, recycled shower glass becomes toilet divider. Well I'm chuffed about it!

To this…
Heated tile floor, wainscoting, acrylic clawfoot tub, recycled shower glass becomes toilet divider.
Well I’m chuffed about it!

Now it’s my turn. I recently found myself cautioning a cocky young fellow to never mess with an old bull. I think I’ve heard that somewhere before.

WET! Gabriola Organic taxi. Some folks proudly refuse to wash their cars.

WET!
Gabriola Organic taxi. Some folks proudly refuse to wash their cars.

This brings me to a new grammatical term I’ve learned. Empty signifier, apparently a word which absorbs meaning rather providing some. Wikipedia delves into a description using words like semiotics and postmodernism, which always has me back-pedalling rapidly. Apparently words like race, gender, oomph and mana are floating, or empty, signifiers and are said to possess “symbolic value zero”. If this is what having a degree in literature does for you I’m glad I missed it. It is not one of the things which keeps me awake at night. Most people to whom I’ve mentioned this respond by saying “Yeah I know some people like that.” I have to be careful that this doesn’t become an empty signified blog. If I don’t leave the dock soon, it will be. God knows there is plenty enough emptiness out there already. What a name for a boat! ‘Empty Signifier.‘ I’ll bet there’s one somewhere!

Say no more!

Say no more!

The bakery on Gabriola Island. It is wood-fired, the bread is delicious. Many people say they expect to see Hobbit folks scurrying about

The bakery on Gabriola Island. It is wood-fired, the bread is delicious. Many people say they expect to see Hobbit folks scurrying about.

The job site where I’ve been is a prime waterfront location with a priceless view. It has allowed me to watch the annual drama of the spring herring fishery. It appears that in these waters it was a good year for the herring fleet. Seine boats and gill netters made some spectacular sets. I saw several big seiners heading for the packing houses with decks awash, they were so deeply laden. Often, there will be an incident where an overloaded boat enters the Fraser River. Buoyancy in fresh water is considerably less. The vessel promptly sinks.

Beach Caviar with a hint of kelp. Mounds of Herring roe accumulate on the beach after the spawn

Beach Caviar with a hint of kelp.
Mounds of Herring roe accumulate on the beach after the spawn

Rows of roe. Wake up and smell the sea Billy!

Rows of roe. Wake up and smell the sea Billy!

Big Boats for Tiny Fish. Tensions rise as the weeks pass while waiting for the arrival of the herring

Big Boats for Tiny Fish.
Tensions rise as the weeks pass while waiting for the arrival of the herring

The annual herring spawn occurs later in the season further north up the coast. The Heiltsuk and Haida nations are demanding a moratorium on the herring fishery. They say the stock is too low for the extensive harvest of a datum species. Herring are a link in the marine food chain, both up and down, to which everything else relates. Ninety percent of the herring volume harvested volume does not feed any human. It all becomes fish meal and fertilizer while the highly prized roe is sold to Japan. After the herring spawn, and the fishing boats are gone, there are streaks of milt in the water. Then, after the next spring storm, mounds of herring roe, or eggs, wash up on the beach to decompose in a rich, heavenly reek. The gulls gorge themselves until they can barely fly and there is a frenzy of activity along shorelines of British Columbia. In turn, all that fish fornication and decomposition provides a huge nutrient base for marine life.

The herring arrive. At low tide one line of sea foam, one line of herring milt.

The herring arrive. At low tide one line of sea foam, one line of herring milt.

I would like to see a two or three year moratorium placed on the herring row fishery. I can hear the howls of outrage! Catch what you want for food, take the roe for personal consumption as the natives here have always done. Many fisherman claim they make little profit from herring, despite the very expensive speciality equipment they use to maximize their catches. Somebody is turning a profit when a modern aluminum herring skiff can cost several hundred thousand dollars and fishing openings, which some years, run for less than an hour.

Salmon Berry Bloom

Salmon Berry Bloom

Coincidentally, I was fortunate to recently catch a BBC documentary about a seventy-one hundred hectare reserve at Cabo Pulmo on Southern Baha, Mexico. The Mexican Government imposed a moratorium on this once heavily fished area. To the north, and to the south, rapacious sport and commercial fisheries continue, yet this reserve now again teams with fish at original population levels. It is spectacular to see. Locals are making a decent living now from eco-tourism instead of the meagre existence they knew as fisherman in this once fished-out area. The experiment is proving so successful that the Mexican government is seriously considering similar conservation strategies for up to ten percent of Mexican coastline. It is obvious once again that nature needs no help or manipulation. It just requires being left alone. We must learn that we are an alien influence on this planet. The natural planet does need our constant interference. There is a huge difference between need and greed and we all have to learn the joy of taking as little as possible instead of how much.

Port San Juan

Port San Juan

Tonight I’m spending my first night in my trailer. Jack and I are warm and cozy and dry inside while huge blobs of rain fall from the limbs of monstrous Sitka Spruce towering above us. The wind is incessant and there is fresh snow on the mountains. There is no hint of spring tonight. Less than a hundred meters away surf from the open Pacific thunders on a broad shoreline. We’re staying at the Pacheedaht campground. It is located on a long sandy beach running between the mouths of the Gordon River and the San Juan River next to Port Renfrew. It is spectacular. In the distance lies Cape Flattery, land’s end for continental USA. The two kilometre beach is rightly part of the local native reservation and I believe provides a steady source of income. The surfers come year-round. Despite the intermittent cloudbursts and the subsequent boggy trail beneath the trees, the facility is nearly full. It is not hard to imagination times past when huge dugout canoes would be hauled up on the beach, resting between fishing, whaling and warring expeditions. They had to have been amazing sea people. To manouver one of these cumbersome vessels through the surf with paddle-power only would take amazing skill. I have difficulty remembering native names correctly so here ‘Pacheedaht’ becomes ‘Patch this, patch that, there’s a leak in your canoe”. I know. It’s silly but it works.

The confluence of the Gordon River and the Pacific Ocean. This is the southern end of the famous West Coast Trail

The confluence of the Gordon River and the Pacific Ocean. This is the southern end of the famous West Coast Trail

It’s Good Friday evening. The place we are camped is on the bank of the Gordon River where it runs into the sea. I think it is that outflow at certain points of tide that makes the surf so appealing. God knows I’m a sailor, surf is something I don’t want to know a lot about. At this point in my life, being deliberately cold and wet with a chance of drowning is losing its charm. At dusk, in the salt marsh across the river, a huge heard of elk came out to graze. Now in the darkness, the surfers crowd around huge bonfires despite the pelting rain. The old days of van camping are apparently gone. These surfer dudes have a convoy of generic white travel trailers with pop-out portions and huge diesel pickup trucks. So much for counter-culture. I’ll bet most of these characters don’t even know who Dick Dale is. I couldn’t see one VW van parked anywhere.

The things we do for a few moments of bliss. Surfers off the beach at Pacheedaht

The things we do for a few moments of bliss.
Surfers off the beach at Pacheedaht. Cape Flattery in the distance, open  Pacific beyond.

Camping at Pacheedaht. Jack loved the mud.

Camping at Pacheedaht.
Jack loved the mud.

The drive here from Mesachie Lake on Lake Cowichan is a piece of cake. It is paved all the way now and is named ‘Pacific Marine Road.’ I remember when it was all gravel, a series of connected main logging roads. Public use was then lowly regarded. The dust and rocks flew and you were noted as someone from out of town if your windshield wasn’t broken. All too often, out of the swirling dust, an off-highway truck would appear with a grill eight feet tall and a load of logs that loomed as big, it seemed, as New York City. How times have changed! Once it was considered prestigious to be a white, male, heterosexual making a living as a logger. That is now politically incorrect. I recently saw a logger’s truck with a logo describing his enterprise as “Vegetation Management.”

BIGFOOT Harris Creek Giant Sitka Spruce over 4 metres in diameter

BIGFOOT
Harris Creek Giant Sitka Spruce over 4 metres in diameter

Look up, waaay up!

Look up, waaay up!

GUN CONTROL

GUN CONTROL

Downtown

Downtown

Pink Fawn lily

Pink Fawn Lily

Now then, all of you who eat bread made from selectively harvested grain please raise your hands. WOT!? Good help em. Those freakin’ clear-cuttin’ gluten farmers. Send in the owls! Or is it spotted gophers? Well, so long as it’s somebody else’ fault. Well it’s Easter. Hope you’re not eating too many hot-cross buns and chocolate eggs. And if, like me somedays, you’re stricken with a flickering memory, which is certainly no joke, perhaps you can have fun hiding your own eggs.

Adventure is dealing with the unknown while moving toward the unknown.” …anon

Island in the Rain Forest

Island in the Rain Forest