Monthly Archives: November 2015

Unfinished Business

A November view toward Canada over the dock in Bella Bella. Note that there are no kids swimming nw!

A November view toward Canada over the dock in Bella Bella. Note that there are no kids swimming now!

My time in Shearwater is coming to an end. This may be the last blog I post from here. By mid-December old ‘Seafire’ and I will be making our way south to whatever lays ahead. Of course I’m waiting for some really heavy weather to make the trip. There’s little drama with fair weather. I may still not be home to Ladysmith for Christmas if I flounder into a typical winter weather system. In my tugboat days, I’ve waited in one spot for up to two weeks. I’m sure the trip southward will provide some interesting material for a future blog, one way or the other.

"Heckle? No, I'm Jeckle! These Bella Bella crows will raid your grocery bags on the water taxi dock...right under your feet!

“Heckle? No, I’m Jeckle!
These Bella Bella crows will raid your grocery bags on the water taxi dock…right under your feet!

Things just haven’t worked out for me here. I didn’t amass the funds I had hoped to; in fact I’m further behind financially than when I arrived. I can’t say that I’ve discovered any other good reason for having come here, perhaps that will be revealed in the future. Life is like that. A rear view is often very clear but for the moment I have a sense of unfinished business. I don’t know what it is. That aside, recently the weather has turned cold, clear, and calm. There’s been no rain for a week! If a stormy winter night is an adventure, a dead-calm darkness of nearly fifteen hours is an ordeal. Staying warm is a challenge and condensation inside the boat is an eternal battle.

Where have all the gringos gone? The Shearwater transient dock requires no reservations these days.

Where have all the gringos gone?
The Shearwater transient dock requires no reservations these days.

Certainly, the notion of leaving a job to go into a situation with no money and no prospects seems suicidal and it will be a challenging time. I’m not expecting any warmth or fuzziness for a while. These thoughts are punctuated by photos emailed by friends in Mexico.

The Frosty Dock. when the sun is out, it's always in your eyes and it is no warmer.

The Frosty Dock.
When the sun is out, it’s always in your eyes and it is no warmer. ‘Seafire’ whispers “South, let’s go south.”

 

. I recently read that the pursuit of happiness should be secondary to the happiness of pursuit. We’ll see. Certainly it is up to me whether my life is an ordeal or an adventure. There is not much to write about when life is a daily grind of dreary work and long, lonely evenings. The boat is ready to go, I just need a couple more pay cheques before I can untie and sail away. This is the same country which had me spellbound during the summer months but there is something about winter which brings on a profound loneliness and depression. Certainly there are some folks left here who have not already gone south. They live their lives one way or the other. I am not prepared to socialize in the local pub and so here I sit poking away at my laptop alone in the night. Stay tuned, more to come.

Heiltsuk Dawn. Wet with melted frost this totem pole commands the Shearwater foreshore

Heiltsuk Dawn.
Wet with melted frost this totem pole commands the Shearwater foreshore.

The Barnacle Express. Is it a bridge? A cattle trailer? A what? A boat trailer! This innovative locally-built trailer was salvaged fro the ocean floor where it has sat for the past year.

The Barnacle Express.
Is it a bridge? A cattle wagon? A what? A boat trailer! This innovative locally-built trailer was salvaged from the ocean floor where it has sat for the past year.

A chance to go back in time when I was a tugboater. On the way to drag up the trailer. Bella Bella in the background.

A chance to go back in time to when I was a tugboater. We’re on the way to drag up the trailer. Bella Bella in the background. Note the natural open bog in  the distance on Campbell island.

 

He said, " I'd love to swim in your ocean." She said, "You'll have to settle for Pool 13." A mysterious Department of Fisheries decal, circa 1998.

He said, ” I’d love to swim in your ocean.”
She said, “You’ll have to settle for Pool 13.”
A mysterious Department of Fisheries decal, circa 1998.

Bogtrotter's Lane This corduroy road was built across this Denny Island swamp during WWII. It is a testament to the durability of Yellow Cedar, also known as Cypress.

Bogtrotter’s Lane
A corduroy road was built as a jeep trail across this Denny Island swamp during WWII. It is a testament to the durability of Yellow Cedar, also known as Cypress.

WWII happened here! A 70 year old roll of concertina wire in the bog marks the former camp perimeter. would it have delayed a horde of Japanese infantry attacking the air base?

WWII happened here! A 70 year old roll of concertina wire in the bog marks the former camp perimeter. Would it have delayed a horde of Japanese infantry attacking the air base?

Welcome To De Swamp! Hundreds of hectares of the Great Bear Rainforest are open swamp and bog, even on steep slopes. With solid granite beneath, there is inadequate drainage or topsoil for the rainforest to grow. These open, wet areas are important ecosystems and wildlife habitat. Here there were calls of ravens all around but none to be seen.

Welcome To De Swamp!
Hundreds of hectares of the Great Bear Rainforest are open swamp and bog, even on steep slopes. With solid granite beneath, there is inadequate drainage or topsoil for the rainforest to grow. These open, wet areas are important ecosystems and wildlife habitat. Here there were calls of ravens all around but not a one to be seen.

All is calm, all is bright. Whiskey Cove on a rare clear November afternoon. The gorgeous and famous old tug, 'Charles Cates' is careened high and dry at the head of thee jetty.

All is calm, all is bright.
Whiskey Cove on a rare clear November afternoon. The gorgeous and famous old tug, ‘Charles Cates’ is careened high and dry at the head of thee jetty.

Murphy knows! The mascot of the Hodge Podge store in Shearwater seems to know I'm leaving. I'll miss him.

Murphy knows!
The mascot of the Hodge Podge store in Shearwater seems to know I’m leaving. I’ll miss him.

I won’t belong to any organization that would have me as a member.”

…..Groucho Marx

Friday The 13th

 

Saturday morning I awake in my bunk which I soon realize is dripping with condensation. It is winter time on the Northcoast and my boat was built for more southerly latitudes. There are puddles under the mattress and all the efforts I’ve made to insulate and keep a dry bed are in vain. I’ll rip the forepeak apart in the spring and rebuild it but I realize I must move the boat south even before I arise. Enough! Neither of us can endure this sort of winter climate my old bones scream in protest. I’ll sleep in the main cabin for the duration of my tenure here.

Snow below. Hunter Island, November 11th

Snow below. Hunter Island, November 11th

I get up, put the kettle on for coffee, wipe thick condensation from the windows and see soggy heaps of hail on the dock. There is snow low-down on the not-so-distant mountains. I can smell it in the air. There was a time when I would have revelled in this on-the-edge living but the romance went out of that a long time ago and I’ve decided being warm and dry has certain acceptable nuances as well.

Coffee made, I check my e-mail and open one from Twisted Sifter which has a video-clip of a pianist playing “Imagine” on the sidewalk in front of a concert hall in Paris, France. It is only then that I learn of the multiple horrific terrorist attacks the night before. At the hour those dark events were unfolding I sat in this boat watching a movie about a Buddhist monk and his novice who live on a floating temple in the middle of a lake. The ironic contrast of that overwhelms me. So I write this:

Flying Home

Flying Home

But There Must Be A Heaven

Ice on the dock,

Dripping, dead, bitter winter.

Now-cold bitter coffee in mug in hand

Hot bitter tears on my face.

I learn the latest news

And hear distant thunder of apocalyptic hooves.

Why do we tear out each other’s hearts

And crap in the wound?

What inspires such fear and self-loathing

to work so hard at destroying our planet,

All hope, all innocence? What rage?

Why are peace and tolerance so difficult?

But there must be a heaven

because surely there is a hell.

The politicos and generals

The god-botherers and holy-talkers

Raise a renewed paranoid clamour

Ever-grasping at the profits of fear

Stirring doubt about any loving god

Confirming the reign of evil.

But there must be a heaven

because surely there is a hell.

I retreat to the darkness of my bed

As yet another storm churns this bay.

Through the wind and rain and slap of waves

I can hear the blare and thump of

Grating desperate tunes from the gala in the pub

As people drink and cavort

And deaden the pain in their soul.

But there must be a heaven

because surely there is a hell.

Peace. Please.

Peace. Please.

A Scent Of Apples And One Lucky Duck

The Bomber CF-YVR Some lovely, funny sculpture hanging in Vancouver's South Terminal

The Bomber CF-YVR
Some lovely, funny sculpture hanging in Vancouver’s South Terminal

The driving rain is relentless, cold and stinging. The Shearwater winter weather, where you can wring water from any handful of air, has followed me all the way here to Ladysmith. I’ve come south for a few days to take care of business and medical appointments. It also turns out that my beloved dog Jack needs some surgical attention at the veterinary clinic. I’m anxious about that, as if he were my own child. If you don’t understand the affection and healing that can occur between a person and a dog; well, you have my sympathy.

Jack in the Woods, A happy morning after three month apart...Bliss!

Jack in the Woods,
A happy morning after three months apart…Bliss!

So here I am standing in the rain, worrying about Jack when I’m overwhelmed by the aroma of ripe, red succulent apples. I follow my nose. It turns out to be a bin of apples in front of a feed and garden shop across the street. I am amazed to be able to smell the fruit so far away and suddenly understand how it is being a creature like a deer or a bear near an apple tree. Perhaps my acute sense is due to being in the Northwoods for so long but as always, the sense of smell is a great memory stimulant and suddenly I am taken back to my childhood. For a while my father worked as an orchard keeper and we lived in cottages at the edge of. orchards. The aroma of that single apple bin brought install recall from over half a century ago. There is also a sweet tang of smoke from my mother’s wood cookstove and that leads to memories of another little black dog so long ago. I’m suddenly blinking back tears and shake myself free of the moment, all brought on by the scent of apples. Bloody hell, have I gone round the twist?

Unhappiness is. One very unhappy dog on the day of his surgery. Two days later he had the funnel and his bandages off.

Unhappiness is.
One very unhappy dog on the day of his surgery. Two days later he had managed to remove the funnel and his bandages.

There are months of this bleak weather ahead and I wonder how I will survive it. The boat is over three hundred miles north and I’ll say that, for me, home is where the boat is. I’ll be back there in a few days but it seems very far away and I desperately wish the boat and I were somewhere far south. I see all the consumer convenience and gratification here, and yet despite the incredible pervasive dampness on the North Coast I miss the solitude and natural richness such as the humpback whale that swam by the docks a few days ago, with the howling of wolves in the background. That was a moment which will last a lifetime. I can concede that my aching bones feel much better down here, even when it is raining. I do find it fascinating that things I would normally take for granted, like the colours of autumn leaves, a near-infinite diversity of shopping, restaurants and stores with profuse inventories of food for sale, all of that leaves me slightly overwhelmed. I do not miss the frantic rush of nearly everyone, the sound of sirens and at the moment, the tsunami of Christmas marketing. Give it a rest! Bloody hell! Bumhug!

I wonder how I’ll feel about it all once back in Shearwater.

November roses at the corner of Seemore and Do-less. Actually it's the mainstreet of downtown Ladysmith.

November roses at the corner of Seemore and
Do-less. Actually it’s part of the main street in downtown Ladysmith.

Robert's Street Pizza. Almost world-famous, folks come from miles around for the succulent fare.

Robert’s Street Pizza.
Almost world-famous, folks come here from miles around for the succulent fare.

The highlight of this Southern jaunt was attending a performance by my hero, Billy Connolly. A Glaswegian musician, comedian, actor and philosopher (in my opinion) he is world-renowned. Now in his mid-seventies, he has various health issues yet stood his gig on stage, non-stop, for nearly two hours. The entire sold-out audience was doubled over with laughter at his apparently impromptu ramblings. I suspect it’s the only chance I’ll ever have to see him live. If you’re not familiar with this brilliant character, there is a lot of his material available simply by googling up his name. You’ll love him or hate him.

In the dark room beneath the street Where in came sounds of laughing children And Tramping feet There lived a little boy Who knew no light or joy He possessed not even one small toy.

In the dark room beneath the street
Where in came sounds of laughing children
And tramping feet
There lived a little boy
Who knew no light or joy
He possessed not even one small toy.

Time passed As the boy grew The window slowly sank Until as a man Hew was the foundation of the local bank.

Time passed.
The boy grew
As the window slowly sank
Until as a man
He became the foundation of the local bank.

Ladysmith, where everyone has one leg longer than the other.

Ladysmith, where everyone has one leg longer than the other.

At the Duncan Farmer's Market, all seasons, rain or shine. I can't explain how good fresh produce looks to a guy from Shearwater who's groceries come bi-monthly by barge

At the Duncan Farmer’s Market, every Saturday, all seasons, rain or shine.
I can’t explain how good fresh produce looks to a guy from Shearwater who’s groceries come bi-monthly by barge

It ain't Mexico but it's bloody good...especially on a cold, rainy day

It ain’t Mexico but it’s bloody good…especially on a cold, rainy day

The Duncan Farmer's Masrket

The Duncan Farmer’s Market

Somewhere there goes a naked clown. A clever use for outgrown children's clothing.

Somewhere there goes a naked clown. A clever use for outgrown children’s clothing.

Town Hall, on one side of the Duncan market square

Town Hall, on one side of the Duncan market square

Rolls Royce in the rain.

Rolls Royce in the rain.

Autumn mobile

Autumn mobile

Maple treasures for a guy from the land of monotonous conifers

Maple treasures for a guy from the land of monotonous conifers

Natural Composition

Natural Composition

A Cowichan Acknowledgement as a fountain beside the Duncan town hall.

A Cowichan Acknowledgement as a fountain beside the Duncan town hall.

 

I’ll be returning to Shearwater tomorrow. That will on be Remembrance Day. I’ve previously expressed my polemic views on the incredible stupidity of the military and the mindless waste of war and how all enemies think God is on their side. I’ve offended some people deeply and inspired others to look at the whole picture and think for themselves. I hope that this day is taken as an opportunity to see ourselves as the potentially naturally nasty creatures we all are and what a concerted effort it is necessary to avoid violent conflict. I know I’m a dreamer but I believe it Is possible for us to become creatures of a higher level. That is a personal and individual endeavour, which requires massive introspection and sometimes painful growth and I’ve said enough. Just imagine if everyone stayed home and cleaned up the mess in their own yards. What a wonderful world it could be!

I’ve stood stiffly at attention in a military uniform in the cold, cold November rain and wept as the Last Post was played but now the most poignant sound for me is the 1942 BBC recording called Nightingales And Bombers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_MHqW5KVds

This is a spring recording made in the woods of Southern England. The objective was to record the spring songs of nightingales but as the tape reels turned, squadrons of RAF bombers were climbing overhead on a bombing raid to Germany. It is the sound of sweet peace juxtaposed against the ominous thunder of young men going to kill and be killed. If the recording doesn’t shiver your timbers, I truly hope you have no sons or daughters to send to war. Have a very nice day.

Something really odd occurred today. I’ve been trying to search my inner self for answers to some personal issues and have been sceptically looking for a sign. Well today I think I got it and I’m not sure what the hell it means. Jack and I were having a morning walk along the banks of the Nanaimo River before I went to my final round of appointments. There was a sudden raucous sound ahead and then veering directly toward me, about twenty feet high, was a large bald eagle carrying something which I first assumed was a fish. Pursuing the big bird was another eagle. It was an incredible sight. I furiously tried to extract my camera but before I could, the second eagle knocked the treasure free from the first bird’s talons. It fell with a thunk immediately beside Jack who, startled, was suspicious of why it was raining ducks.

WTF? It's raining ducks!

WTF? It’s raining ducks!

LUCKY THE DUCK!

LUCKY THE DUCK!

It proved to be a Mallard hen lying on its back. My first thought was that “Verily, verily the gods doth provide a succulent duck for dinner from the heavens above.” I bent to pick it up and noticed it was breathing and so I flipped the lovely wee quacker onto its feet. It was alive despite a punctured breast and, for some odd reason, appeared to be in shock. I decided to wrap it in a blanket of maple leaves. A few minutes later its head popped out of the covering and then it waddled off into the safety of a patch of blackberries. Now that’s one very lucky duck! And, I’m sure, there’s one very pissed off eagle. What is really interesting is that this old farm boy was once easily able to bonk any barnyard animal on the head with sledge hammer when it was time for butchering. As a hunter, I’ve been remorseless about the countless creatures I’ve dispatched for their meat. Once I proudly blew ducks out of the sky and now I’m proud at having done something to try and save one humble duck.

I don’t know how to interpret this one as an omen other than a moral which has something to do with never giving up. And that’s the whole shituation. In the morning I’ll be winging my way back to Seafire and the next adventure.

A Simple Beauty

A Simple Beauty

Progress is man’s ability to complicate simplicity.”

…. Thor Heyerdahl

Wolves Howling

Wotcha lookin' at? Edgar the eafle returns to his winter perch on the waterfront of shearwater.

Wotcha lookin’ at?
Edgar the eagle returns to his winter perch on the waterfront of Shearwater.

Isn’t it interesting how things work out? It is early on Wednesday morning, the brightening of the day is occurring reluctantly after a very rainy night. My toilet clogged first thing and I’m taking time off from work to resolve the problem. It might become a shitty day. As I returned to the boat after booking out from the job and grim-lipped at the task ahead, I heard something unusual.

Hi slack gleam. The sun catches surface tension in a backwater. Interestingly, a friend first saw this as a picture of city lights.

Hi slack gleam. The sun catches surface tension in a backwater. Interestingly, a friend first saw this as a picture of city lights.

Brined-burned branches. a super-high spring tid pushed even higher by the advancing wind of a storm front. (thanks to the full moon)

Brined-burned branches.
A super-high spring tide pushed even higher by the advancing wind of a storm front.
(thanks to the full moon)

I paused and listened. To my delight what I could hear was a chorus of wolves howling. The music drifted down through the timber on the slopes above. A sacred sound to me, it is a terrifying and hellish siren to many who chose to believe the dark myths and embellished lies about wolves. Curse or blessing, that is up to each of us. My point in mentioning any of this personal moment is that had the timing of my movements not been exactly as they were, I would not have heard those uplifting notes. I think that’s pretty cool. Now…Dung ho!

My life as a worm. The convoluted casings of sea worms on the end of an old plastic barrel. The picture could be a social comment don't you think?

My life as a worm. The convoluted casings of sea worms on the end of an old plastic barrel. The picture could be a social comment don’t you think?

On the note of a wolf howl let me direct my readers to an incredible website. pacificwild.org is how you will find the incredible photography and video work of Ian McAllister and his organization, Pacific Wild. The endeavour is based here on Denny Island and does wonderful work to heighten awareness of the beauty and fragility of the Great Bear Rainforest as this area is known. The stunning images leave me feeling like an amateur photographer and wanting to throw my cameras away in humility. If those photos don’t stir your heart, you’re dead. Stay in your city, zombie!

Fall colours. Desperate for some autumn gold I turned my attention to individual plants. a day later, these leaves were brown mush.

Fall colours. Desperate for some autumn gold I turned my attention to individual plants. A day later, these leaves were brown mush.

A shave and a hair cut. Seafire on the hard last weekend for bottom inspection, cleaning, paint touch-up and new zinc anodes. While working on the bowsprit, a humpback whale swam past the docks...always a wonderful sight.

A shave and a hair cut.
Seafire hauled up on the hard last weekend for bottom inspection, cleaning, paint touch-up and new zinc anodes. While working on the bowsprit, a humpback whale swam past the docks…always a wonderful sight.

A murder of crows. A seafood buffet of mussels scraped from the bottom of someone's boat.

A murder of crows. A seafood buffet of mussels scraped from the bottom of someone’s boat.

Autumn sunrise on the model Stranraer. It's been making some very interesting noises during the storms.

Autumn sunrise shining on the model Stranraer here in Shearwater. It’s been making some very interesting noises during the storms. Soon it’ll be stored away for winter.

Vigorous II in dawn's early light. An old wooden tug converted to a yacht. What lines! Sunshine, as you can see, becomes a most treasured commodity now that summer is past.

Vigorous II in dawn’s early light. An old wooden tug converted to a yacht. What lines!
Sunshine, as you can see, becomes a most treasured commodity now that summer is past.

Two days later, the wolves are at it again. Two packs, one on each side of the bay, called back and forth to each other through the morning. The serenade of quavering howls and yodels went on for hours until the cold autumn rain began again. Soon it was pelting down. Its rising roar drowned out the wolves. I imagine them snuggled up together under a thick cedar tree, warm, dry and loved. Yes, even wolves are very capable of great love.

"Bloody hell it's cold!" "Wouldn't be so bad if we cuddled up." "Wot? We're eagles!"

“Bloody hell it’s cold!”
“Wouldn’t be so bad if we cuddled up.”
“Wot? We’re eagles!”

This is a short blog. I’ll be away south taking care of business but I’ll be back to my beloved Seafire as soon as possible to see where the universe might lead me. Here’s a short piece I wrote the other morning just before the wolf songs began.

Rising

When I awoke this morning

in the dark before the dawn

the sky was cloudless after days of storm.

High in the east two stars rose

side by side, newly joined

bright, equal, clear

it was all I needed to know.

_______________________________________________________

(Then, to my chagrin, I later learn that one of those stars is in fact a Russian space station.)

Life on the edge ...and the value of a good route system.

Life on the edge …and the value of a good route system.

Sea And Fog

Sea and fog…water silently becoming air…air silently becoming water.

…Ray Grigg, The Tao Of Sailing

Well all right! One more eagle photo.

Well all right! One more eagle photo.