I’ve killed my first horsefly of the day. That is the only sign of time’s passing here. The damned things only come out once the temperature has risen to a certain point. Everything else is the sort of silence you can hear. If you think that statement is silly then you’re overdue to get the hell of of town for a while. Of course some folks couldn’t survive without a din of some sort to drown out the voices in their head. I feel blessed to be able to savour solitude and quiet. My voices prefer it like that. It is where I write and think best. The notion of going back to work and mechanical problems and other folk’s agendas and impositions leaves me feeling selfish and anti-social. I like it here! I don’t want to leave.
Last post I mentioned the squeeze put on native people and even the ungracious allotment of reserve land. I’ve dug into my archives and pulled out an old photo of the crumbling edifice at Church House between the mouths of Toba and Bute Inlets. I remember the glow of the light that shone over the entrance to the church.
I was happy to see how that symbol of oppression had finally earned an obvious contempt. But, more than once, that feeble glow in the cold winter rain was a beacon which offered a gentle solace while passing in the dark aboard various tugboats. Then the village was abandoned, the lights went out, the church eventually fell down. Now, right down to the border of the tiny piece of reserve land, logging has denuded the forest. The photo says it all.
I’m starting this blog while anchored in Kynumpt Harbour which, more correctly in Heiltsuk pronunciation I’m told is more like Ki-nump. No matter, I’m most content to be here all alone. I stood in the cockpit with the sun warming my body while eating my morning orange and watching a deer ashore leisurely grazing her way along the forest’s edge above the tide line. She nibbled at the flies bothering her and then de-materialized into the brush as if I’d only imagined seeing her. These are moments of feeling an intrinsic part of nature’s mosaic and its wrong that they be so rare. Then the horseflies arrives.
This harbour clearly houses the site of a former native village and I’ll go exploring ashore in a while. It is located inside a spot named on the chart as Defeat Point. I’ve no idea if that refers to a native battle or some explorer’s navigational flub. I’m beyond it and after yesterday’s debacle the name suits me fine. I worked on the July 1st holiday and took yesterday off in lieu to attend the local medical clinic and to enjoy a three-day weekend. It was a blistering hot day, by local standards, and the wait in the little Bella Bella hospital seemed interminable. I did certainly meet some very nice people on staff there. Finally I bought some groceries, stowed them away and the fun began. The engine started, but without tachometers and any sign of electrical charging. I tightened the alternator belt, checked the wiring harness, decided to replace parts of it, could find no other problem, and started out again. Kapoof! Within minutes, the engine temperature was out of sight. The belt had broken.
The waters here are very deep and anchoring just anywhere is not an option. The tide was taking me toward a steep rocky shoreline and so with tools and sole plates cluttered about, I sailed with just the jib toward a neck of shallower water. It was slow going but I didn’t want to complicate things with more sails and more lines strewn about in the mess. One of my tricks when in such a situation is to let out a hundred feet of anchor chain so that as the boat approaches shallower water there is an audible alarm of the chain on the bottom as well as having ground tackle already down to catch and keep the boat off the beach. That way, I can go about my repairs without popping up topside to constantly check my drift. And so I bent to my crisis. The new belt had broken and flung itself into the bilge. The engine was crackling hot, the air was crackling hot and so was the attack of the horseflies. They love heat, the smell of engine fumes, and sweaty human bodies, especially ones where the victim has both hands fully engaged. New belt installed, charging system still defunct, engine cooled enough to add coolant, off I go again now worried about having enough reserve battery power to hoist the anchor chain.
Yep, you guessed it, kapoof again! The brand-new belt had jumped a lower pulley and jammed itself against the engine. Now I had to pry that out from the hot, hot, hot engine, swatting at flies and cursing the gods in general. I had one more spare belt, slightly heavier than the previous ones and so much harder to install, but all’s well that ends. Greasy, scalded, fly-bitten, I cursed myself for thinking I was any sort of mechanic, for owning a goddamned boat, and for ever coming to this bug-ridden corner of the godforsaken world. I hobbled back to Shearwater but couldn’t bring myself to go to the dock. I was close to parts and extra tools should I need them, good enough! I anchored , out and began to change more wires and connectors, feeling utterly defeated. All’s well that ends. At 9 pm, permanent repairs complete, greasy, tired but determined, I headed off into the lingering sunset, hoping to put the day behind me. It was a good decision.
I realized my bittersweet luck was that I hadn’t found myself in the same situation on some distant rocky lee shore miles from the hope of parts and help. Once again, self-sufficiency is the mantra of the cruising sailor and yes I’ll have an armload of new belts put into ship’s stores right smartly. Murphy will find something else to dump on me. That thought has me alluding to the incredible ineptitude of many of the yachters passing through Shearwater on their way to and from some distant point on this wild, uninhabited coast. However, that’s one of the reasons Shearwater Marine is here and how I make my living but there’s at least one blog due to be written about the amazing ,inability of people to wipe their own bottom in any sort of imperfect situation. HOW do they survive? Well the sun is rising, there is a growing mound of swatted horseflies at my feet and I’ve just heard the wonderful din of Sandhill cranes which must have just arrived somewhere nearby. More later.
The clearing proved to be an old native village and more recently, a logging camp, with old machinery bits on the beach, cherry trees growing in the middle of what was a large clearing. I’m also told that this was once the site of a Nordic pioneer settlement. The mystery is sweet. The ugly evidence of old-style logging (Hand saw and axe) lingers on the hill behind. The self- regenerated forest is very eerie. I may post a blog of those photos alone. On the way back to the beach I picked a hatful of succulent berries on the edge of an old clearing. They were delicious and I savoured them in the heat of the day as well as the cool aroma of crushed ferns under my feet. Now I’m in a place Called Blair Inlet and that too may well deserve a blog for itself. I’m now well beyond Defeat Point and as happy as an old clam can be.
Now it is Sunday morning and the air warms as the tide ebbs. The colours are surreal. My photos cannot capture the glacial-like topaz of the water, the source of its colour is an absolute mystery. The trees add their greens, the sky its blue. The thick ancient forest, as usual, appears dead and deserted but little birds twitter and eagles watch silently. You know a deer or a bear or wolf can appear anywhere at any time. Instinctively one begins to move quietly and cautiously with the hope of a glimpse of wildlife. There is always a sense of being watched. I’ve tried, unsatisfactorily, to photograph a massive eagle’s nest, currently in use. The inhabitants watch over me as I write. I am utterly and wonderfully alone. There is no sight or sound of any other people having been here. No drone of motors on the water or in the air, no contrails, no logging. Just a view of the jungle and ocean the way it has been for a very long time.
Well except for the horseflies. They rise early in the morning and ply their trade of absolute fiendish anarchy throughout the heat of the day. Thankfully they vanish in the early evening. Trying to nap when they are about is impossible. They employ strategies. Sometimes they come alone and attach silently. Other times they have a sonorous buzz. While one distracts you others attack from behind. The only way to kill them is to wait until they settle and lock themselves into a painful bite. Then, if you are quick, you can smack them and feel the satisfying crunch-squish of vengeance. They still seem able to revive if you are not willing to smear them into eternity. They could be called Lazarus flies. Eventually as the day wears on, one is harried to a manic mindless slapping, even at imagined flies. Perhaps they are disenfranchised souls and in their frantic efforts to reproduce, death in battle is an honourable way to achieve a new level in the next life. There’s the name! Isis flies!
This inlet is dotted with many small islets. I suspect they may well have been burial islets. I sense no presence, only a languorous peace. The spirits are content and so they should be. I took a long tour about the area in the dinghy last even until I was off the chart. There is an infinity of inlets, islands, coves, nooks, reefs and bays. In all the miles I meandered, I found two boats anchored in a cove about an hour from here. It’s not an area where I’d want to break down but the overwhelming beauty, and magical light draw you on and on in awe.
I’ll be back.
Everywhere there is an ominous faint smell in the air of woodsmoke from distant forest fires and yesterday’s evening sky held a red tinge. In this present drought the threat of fire is all too real and one can only only pray for rain. (Even bottled water in the stores has become a sold-out commodity.) In Shearwater the crew has checked out the fire trucks in preparedness. My heart tightens at the memories of fighting forest fires. There is nothing pleasant or romantic about any of it. CBC Radio is all we can get here and they have an incessant barrage of reports about the forest fire situation across Western Canada. It seems we are burning up this summer and the drought shows no sign of breaking.
were two mornings this past week when it was cool and foggy. It was amazing how suddenly cheery folks were. The doomer-gloomers have it that this is a sure sign of global warming and we must to change our ways. While we do have to try much harder to be better guests on this planet, the cycles of nature are far beyond our control. There have been years like this before. Meanwhile, it’s swat and sweat while we look forward to the return of steady rain and fog.Then, some of us will be anxious to go south and find the sun again.
I’ve finally be able to get a satellite dish installed so now I have reliable, useable internet which allows me to work as a writer who can now reliability send and receive necessary data. I know, I know, I’m always going on about minimizing our needs and about dependance on external sources. Unfortunately I need to stay in touch with the rest of the world and its frenetic modern pace. While shutting out the rest of the world entirely is appealing, to have a hope of working as a writer, doing research and sending data, I must have a reliable cyber-link. I’ll also confess that having a good movie to watch on exhausted lonely evenings is a fine luxury. And, winter is coming. Already he long lingering light of late evening is noticeably shorter. It was pitch dark by 10:30. Soon enough, nightfall will occur before the work day ends. Movies or not, it’ll be due south
The days have passed in an ugly blur. It has been a week since I began this blog and the weather has been hot and bug-ridden. People have been short-tempered and ill at ease. Work has been a daily drudgery tramping up and down the dock for more tools to look after demanding customers. Oddly, many issues this week have been overheating engines. One small job was to check out a motor in a lovely Kelly Peterson 44′ center cockpit cutter. It was a gorgeous, solid, capable vessel crewed by three women. They have sailed her from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Mexico and then on to these waters to produce an overview of British Columbia’s Marine Parks. Nova Scotia, apparently, does not have a similar program and these women are working to inspire a change to that. Having once worked very long and hard to help save one marine park in BC, I wish this trio a grand success. This is nothing finer than a voyage which is also a mission.
This afternoon the skies have clouded and the temperature has dropped from the mid-thirties to, at present, nineteen degrees. It feels positively nippy. It is a testament to the nature of life on the mid-coast of BC, that the overcast has cheered everyone up immensely. It might even rain soon. YES!
“ The perfection of a yacht’s beauty is that nothing should be there only for beauty’s sake.” …. John MacGregor.