Monthly Archives: April 2016

Sea Wrenching

Cruising in Ireland? Actually it's Spieden Island in the San Juan Islands

Cruising in Ireland?
Actually it’s Spieden Island in the San Juan Islands (Click on photos to enlarge)

Into the mystic. San Juan sunset.

Into the mystic.
San Juan sunset.

There’s no wrencher like an old wrencher; and a sea wrencher at that. There’s also no fool like an old fool! And so there I was with a dead engine in the tide slop’s rock ‘n roll off Smith Island in the Eastern end of Juan De Fuca Strait. The forecast wind had not developed. I couldn’t sail. The boat was drifting backwards toward the open ocean which is not a bad thing, but the tide would eventually turn and the wind would rise from the wrong direction. I contemplated that if all else failed, I could inflate my dinghy and use it’s outboard motor to tow mother boat toward safe haven. It was looking like a long day ahead. My fuel system was sucking air. Diesels demand an unadulterated supply of clean fully liquid fuel.

How ya doing' Duen? One of my favourite Canadian charter boats, Baltic built, almost a hundred years old and still earning her way.

How ya doing’ Duen?
One of my favourite Canadian charter boats, Baltic built, almost a hundred years old and still earning her way.

Arrgh1 Furling the headsails, the old fashioned way. Fun in steep seas!

Arrgh! Furling the headsails, the old fashioned way. Fun in steep seas!

Seafire clearing US Customs in Roche Harbour

Seafire clearing US Customs in Roche Harbour

Plastic Galore A Selene Yacht rendezvous in Roche Harbour

Plastic Galore
Part of a Selene Yacht rendezvous in Roche Harbour

Back in February I posted a blog about my new used fuel filter brackets and how, for once, I’d beaten the system by recycling cast-off parts. I’ll never bloody learn! It turns out that those parts should probably have gone into the garbage. This old country boy has spent a lifetime trying to make silk purses out of pig ears or, put another way, spending thousands to save dimes. Another expression has to do with putting lipstick on a pig. No matter how you go about it, in the end you still have a pig. Well, all good sailors have a knife in their pocket and soon enough I swallowed my pride, cut the fuel hoses and bypassed those “free” filter assemblies. A little bleeding of the system and then a very sweet purrr! Albeit I was now running on a single set of filters, but I was under way. I glumly motor-sailed on toward Port Townsend realizing all of my efforts with the new/old filters were for nothing. Now I have to take it all apart and put it back together with new filter assemblies, probably worth about $500. plus all the repeat labour. I was proud enough to have figured out what to do out there, it’s what I’ve done for a living. Most folks would have sat there waiting for salvation. But then most folks would have had it done right the first time. (No tools were lost in the bilge during this adventure.)

Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. There are several other shops to the school.

Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding.
There are several other shops to the school.

The whole town of old Port Hadlock

The whole town of old Port Hadlock. Original tiny houses!

The lights were on and someone was home

The lights were on and someone was home

 

There’s no point in crying over spilled diesel. I’ve run away from the accrued tedium of health issues and the long weeks of couch potatoing (So now I’ve turned potato into a verb) and immediately discoverd a new bit of hurt.

Clematis cottage, Port Hadlock

Clematis cottage, Port Hadlock

Serves me right. I was admonished not to be expecting “Bailing out” if I went to the US with only a pocketful of medications and no health insurance. Because I’ve been in the hospital recently I can’t get traveller’s medical insurance. We all know horror stories about Canadians in the US needing urgent medical attention and not having any medical insurance. They suddenly find themselves with a bill of many thousands and the shit storm is enormous. I travelled in the US for years on business with no medical insurance, which I’ll concede was bloody dangerous and stupid, but I’m following my instincts and hoping for the best. I’ll have to be sure to look both ways when crossing the street. Thank God I’m not a texter! There is, I believe, no emoticon for “I’ve just been hit by a car!”

AJAX CAFE 1977, Apparently a roaring success

AJAX CAFE 1977,
Apparently a roaring success.

Trump yourself a bagpipe

Trump yourself a bagpipe

School for the boatfolk

School for the boatfolk

A piece of my heart is in Port Townsend Bay and the immediate area. It is a very salty place with a long nautical history. The area is a living boat show year round. It is populated by a large number of artsy fartsy boaty nutters like myself. A centre of wooden boat building and rebuilding, sail lofts, nautical foundries and other seafaring fringe industries, it is bliss.

Western Flyer being reborn. Check out WesternFlyer.Org

Western Flyer being reborn. Check out
WesternFlyer.Org It is one helluva project!

All in order. Tools kept5 like this indicate a professional shipwright.

All in order. Tools kept5 like this indicate a professional shipwright.

that's a boat name!

that’s a boat name!

The Boat Haven in Port Townsend is a huge Disney-like centre of marine indulgences and you never know what delight lurks around the next corner. Gorgeous boats, old and new, in various states of financial decomposition abound. There is an energy to absorb from all those dreams in varying states of realization. Nearby Port Hadlock is the site of the slowly growing Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding where people can develop their sliversmithing skills. It is an apparent success.

Paspatoo foredeck Money can't buy you everything, but it can pay for all that varhishing

Paspatoo foredeck
Money can’t buy you everything, but it can pay for all that varhishing

Would you believe that, nestled among its wings, I found a shop selling bagpipes and harps! As it turned out I’d hit a weekend when there was sailor’s exchange on with all sorts of wonderfully priced boat bits (But no fuel filters) I did find a compatible brand-new portlight for my boat, complete with screen for $7. A few other small treasures came home with me as well.

The Sailor's Exchange Old charts for sale in a puddle in the rain.

The Sailor’s Exchange
Old charts for sale in a puddle in the rain.

Of tremendous delight to me was an open house to view the ‘Western Flyer.’ It is a hulk now languishing in a big boathouse in Port Townsend’s ‘Boat Haven’ Once, it was used in the 1940s voyage of John Steinbeck when he wrote ‘Log From The Sea Of Cortez.’ I had the opportunity to actually touch a sacred icon of both literary and nautical significance. I learned with some chagrin that I had repeatedly passed the boat many times in the Swinomish Canal where it languished as an abandoned hulk and then sank.

THE DIRECTORY

THE DIRECTORY

Fabulous local native art in the old courtroom

Fabulous local native art in the old courtroom

Bu odd coincidence, later that same afternoon, I found myself in the ancient basement jail cells of the old Port Townsend Courthouse. It turns out that Jack London was once incarcerated there for a night after a wild turn around the town. My imagination soon created enough horror of what it might have been like in this grim corner. So, twice in one day, a literary pilgrimage! There was a wonderful exhibit of local native art in the old court room upstairs and then a colourful little parade out on the main street of earth day folks..

Jack London slept here

Jack London slept here

Once the most likely place on earth to be shanghaied, Port Townsend retains some of its former rich colour. (Shanghaiing was the practice of drugging and/or otherwise abducting men to serve as crew on sailing ships.

The Sheriff's word processor

The Sheriff’s word processor

Some old taverns in Port Townsend still have trapdoors in floors where victims were once slipped down to waiting rowboats. Really!)

The window and the skylight. Building detail in downtown Port Hadlock

The window and the skylight.
Building detail in downtown Port Townsend.

Mainstreet Port Townsend

Mainstreet Port Townsend

In the surrounding countryside I was then shown organic farms producing a variety of fine goods from cider and berry wines to cheeses, baking and meats. There is a large effort afoot to return to practical organic farming methods and it seems to be working. Salmon are even returning to long-abandoned streams.

Beach Trash Port Townsend

Beach Trash
Port Townsend

I sailed for home on Monday morning in a welter of huge steep green lumps and spray. A sou-Westerly wind was building against a large ebb tide. The seas were chaos no matter what the heading steered, ‘Seafire’ endured a long salty baptism and I was very happy to have an inside helm. It was too rough to take any good photos and too briny for the cameras so some images are recorded only in my head. Especially poignant was a beautiful offshore tug westbound while towing a stately old freighter in minimum ballast, trimmed light in the bow, probably off to a breaker’s yard. We passed too far apart for photos so that funereal procession can only be described with words. I dreamed of the sight later that night. This time the tow passed overhead in the sky. The tug and tow were joined by the drooping catenary of the towline, the forward vessel’s twin screws slowly turning. I’ll leave my readers with that fantastic image and post this blog as a photo essay about a grand little voyage which has passed too quickly.

Earth Day parade

Earth Day parade

Wormtrap

Wormtrap

Believing my blog was finished, I shut off this laptop and started the engine in preparation for weighing anchor in my final anchorage on Prevost Island. My beloved old Lehman died on me once

"Your mother dresses you funny!"

“Your mother dresses you funny!”

more. The injection pump is again full of air! After more tweaking, tightening, and several bleedings, it again runs sweetly. So, maybe it is not the new/used bits for which I’ve condemned myself. They’re even not in the system now. Dang! I now have new suspicions and a few possible resolutions. It will be something simple but temperamental mechanical problem is no fun. But then, what’s the meaning of life without its mysteries?

Southbound with a favourable wind...for a few minutes

Southbound with a favourable wind…for a few minutes

Anchorage at Prevost Island, three more hours to home

Anchorage at Prevost Island, three more hours to home

Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul.

If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or be held at standstill in mid-seas.”

…. Kahlil Gibran from ‘The Prophet’ as copied from ‘The Soul Solution,’ Bob and Linda Harrington

BLOG 100! Reboot My Heart

SQUINT! Another cell-phone photo of daybreak in Dogpatch

SQUINT!
Another cell-phone photo
of daybreak in Dogpatch

Here’s how my luck has been going. I bought two lottery tickets at the local grocery store. As usual, the clerk, after checking my old ones, asked me if she could chuck out them out. By mistake she must have chucked the new ones, which I didn’t discover until several days later. So, bin divers, there’s a 99 trillion dollar winning ticket floating around out there somewhere. Yeah right! I was at the airport when my ship came in. And then I found myself in the hospital. After going to visit the surgeon who “hacked” my leg, I answered a call from my GP. My pulse rate was stuck well over 130 and I was persuaded to go to the hospital for a “couple of hours” to get things checked out.

Moon Bombing Dogpatch

Moon Bombing Dogpatch

Another Fawn Lily

Another Fawn Lily

I swear that the only thing done in a hurry at a hospital is how they manage to get you into one of those open-backed bum flapper gowns and to get an intravenous needle jammed into your arm. Then they’ve got you! The first night was spent in a corner of the Emergency Department on a rickety gurney with a severely worn-out mattress. I lay and waited and waited for doctors who never came. Nurses stood in small groups chatting and joking while I felt like yesterday’s roadkill mouldering in the corner. Other inmates groan, cough, weep and bleed. Your personal plight seems to be the least of priorities and of course, you are the most important, don’t they know that? Eventually I complained gently and endured an explanation of why I should write a letter to the government. It is all their fault.

I’m sure everyone who chooses a career in a hospital must start out with the best of intentions. Some just become a bit jaded along the way. It certainly takes a special courage to put in daily long shifts inside those beige walls breathing that stuffy beige air and becoming imbued with beige thinking. (I can hear Billy Connolly shouting about “Feckin’ Beigists) I know I could not do it, my brand of courage lies elsewhere. The complex infrastructure from maintenance people, cleaners, porters, technicians, dieticians, nurses, doctors, to desk pilots and all the others is stunning. I can’t really comprehend the parameters of even one hospital which, to my sentiments, is as complex the Battle Star Galactia. “Gravity engineer please call the switchboard.” The staff is all there to ultimately serve folks who are mangled, slashed, terminally ill, mortally worn-out and infectiously diseased. (And those are just the visitors) Truly, I was generally treated with compassion and respect but I sure am glad to be writing this back at home. At least here the walls are not bloody beige!

I‘ve cooked for a living at times but can’t imagine what is involved in preparing meals in a hospital. It must be horrific. There is a school somewhere for hospital cooking. There must be. Every meal I’ve ever had in hospital, anywhere, all tastes the same, if it has any taste at all. Bleech! If the food is not bad enough, it is delivered in dung-coloured plastic containers which really gets the palette twitching with anticipation. But I can’t imagine how else anyone could do it three times a day. “Ward C, please proceed to the buffet area for your daily gourmet lunch.” Not likely. Good food is a foundation of cheer and well-being and even a little garnish on top of your chunk of rubbery farmed fish would certainly help. I suppose a sack of parsley just can’t fit the annual budget. And wait until someone decides that all that plastic-infused food we eat is a major cause of cancer! That’s another subject. Eh wot, no wine!

At least they fixed me. Apparently electric shock is used to stop the heart, then again to restart the old muscle. I had a vision of jumper cables hooked to each nipple, a horrific zap, then a quick reversing of positive to negative and another Duracell moment. Actually a very large electrode was stuck to my chest and another to my back. That’s all I recall. Thankfully, I was knocked out for the procedure, I don’t remember a thing. It’s rather like defragging and rebooting a computer, all in one swell foop, but it feels like the timing was reset and new spark plugs were installed. I’ve been rebooted. There IS a smell of burned bacon. Whatever transpired, my pulse is back down to a normal rate and I’m beginning to feel like life is worth living. These dreamy pills are intereeesting…..

Abandoned locomotive in Ladysmith. The promise of a working steam museum and a tall ships yard drew me to Vancouver Island in the mid-80s. It never happened.

Abandoned locomotive in Ladysmith. The promise of a working steam museum and a tall ships yard drew me to Vancouver Island in the mid-80s.
It never happened.

Spring morning light at the roundabout at the foot of the main street in Ladysmith

Spring morning light at the roundabout at the foot of the main street in Ladysmith. The monstrous anchor was dredged out of the harbour.

The only other note I’ll offer on ending up in the “horspital “ is that one needs to be aware of the moment. It is all you have. There is no “In a minute,” no “Tomorrow,” no “Maybe next year.” This is it. This very moment is all you’ve got and no one knows what’s coming down the pipe. We DO NOT know what the next moment will bring. It is a thought I often express in this blog but I’m beginning to feel hypocritical spouting about it out. This is blog 100 for me… and I’m still tied to the bloody dock! I can offer whinges about poor health and the resulting low finances but I feel that would be just making excuses. This is the year.

It has to happen within the remaining three quarters of 2016. No more piddling about. Old ‘Seafire’ either finds her way to Southern waters or has to be put up for sale. I want to be writing blogs from within the shade of a cactus or a palm tree. One way or another. It’s got to happen. Somehow!

I know I don’t want to end my days shuffling down a beige hall in a puce bum-flapper pushing a trolly with an IV drip on it with flakes of dried rubber salmon clinging to my beard.

Unwittingly I recently wrote this little bit about exactly that.

RUM AND TEA

Some drink dark rum straight down

others stir weak tea round and round

wondering ten lumps or twelve.

Some cling to the bottom

feeding on whatever drifts by

others soar in the cold dark sky

exploring their passion to fly

so absorbed with life

they have no thought about when they’ll die.

Some worry about dying so much,

they never live.

Some worry about tomorrow

always missing today

some only work

having forgotten a gift called play.

We only have this one moment

and can only regret

what we don’t do.

The Nurse Stump. Life goes on.

The Nurse Stump.
Life goes on.

Slumped in front of the television last night I watched a silly program about a California couple who had won $180,000,000.US in a lottery. After the IRS was done with them they probably had to scrape by on the remaining half of their winnings. A realtor was leading them around by the nose showing exotic properties. Eventually they settled on a decadent shack (16,000 square feet) on a mountainside to the tune of $5.6 million. All the while they were orgasming their way through this ridiculous faux palace, wifey kept complaining they were over-budget! They finally bought the place, then the bison ranch below them and ultimately all the land to the summit of the mountain above them. It totalled 800 acres. Mother’s final complaint was about the winding steep road. These were the same two hefty folks who were living contentedly in an average suburban home before their windfall. The area surrounding their new dream home sure looked like one of those Californian infringements that loves to explode into flame. I wish them bliss. Yes, I’m jealous, at least for the potential of all that cash.

I know that if I ever found myself immersed in unaccustomed wealth, sure as hell-in-a-handbasket, I might easily wander astray. For the moment, I believe there are people I’d help and causes I’d support, others whom I’d make a point of ignoring and quite probably there would be another certain boat I’d acquire. That is the true value of a lottery ticket, all those dreams to keep you going through an existence such as working in a hospital. Lotteries are indeed the poor man’s tax. To put our Western lives in perspective, there are billions who’d love the decadence of knowing where tomorrow’s groceries are coming from and that the shooting will stop. The notion of going to a hospital for any reason, incomprehensible. Not having to worry about the cost, beyond belief.

We just don’t get it. Do we? I know I don’t, even when I write about it.

Jack out standing In his field. Dogs can teach us so much.

Jack out standing In his field.
Dogs can teach us so much.

DO NOT REGRET GROWING OLDER, IT IS A PRIVILEDGE DENIED TO MANY.” …anonymous

How Long Is A Minute?

How Long Is A Minute?

A n Easter Picture The coo-coo-cooing of the mourning doves reminds of of this photo taken of the mission chapel in Ajo Arizona

An Easter Picture
The coo-coo-cooing of the mourning doves here in Ladysmith reminds me of this photo taken of the mission chapel in Ajo Arizona

A ship in the swamp. Strolling in the Cowichan River Estuary

A ship in the swamp.
Strolling in the Cowichan River Estuary

Easter Sunday found me strolling through feral industrial wasteland and around old farms by the mouth of the Cowichan River. The paths are on former rail beds and have no steep hills. They’re great for geezers with gimpy pins. It was a day when rain squalls were interspersed with thin shafts of warm sunlight. Little birds flitted and sang through blossomed limbs. Much bigger birds honked and splashed in the flooded fields. In the distance, I could hear the wail of a steam locomotive chuffing in circles for the visitors over at the Cowichan Logging Museum. The sound was far enough away to have an echoing quality. A childhood familiarity with the howl of train whistles brings rushing memories. Even I have become a bit incredulous that such sounds were once a taken-for-granted part of my life and I suddenly feel very old. What a wonderful haunting sound! I watched the old film ‘Bullit’ (1968) a few days ago and was bemused when Steve McQueen kept calling his partners on rotary dial phones. I wonder if anyone forty years or younger would even know how to use such a device.

Boomstick Backwater A million dollars worth of boomsticks stashed in a backwater of the Cowichan River mouth. Echoing in the distance is the sound of a steam locomotive's whistle

Boomstick Backwater
Nearly a million dollars worth of boomsticks stashed in a backwater of the Cowichan River Mouth.
Echoing in the distance is the sound of a steam locomotive’s whistle.

Tweeting, Twittering and Warbling. this spring dicky bird has all the apps.

Tweeting, Twittering and Warbling. This spring dicky bird has all the apps.

I recall my career as a travelling salesman when I spent hours every evening in a motel room dialing, dialing, dialing on one those damned phones. Rural phone services required you to listen that the ‘party line’ was clear before dialing. Some folks found entertainment by listening in to other people’s telephone calls. There was a special technique required to pick up your telephone without making a tell-tale click during the other person’s conversation. Each party on the line had their own coded ring, for example one long ring, two short ones and you soon knew who got the most phone calls. There may have been six or more parties each with their own unique code. At three in the morning when, for example, the phone rang one short and two long, you simply rolled over and went back to sleep, unless you were nosey and wanted to listen in. It doesn’t seem so long ago that to make a call from a boat or a camp up the coast required using a marine VHF radio. Even if you asked for privacy, when your side of the conversation would be bleeped out, it was easy enough to listen in and get the gist of what was being said. It was standard entertainment in the wheelhouse to have one VHF tuned to the telephone channels. Ashore, phone booths were everywhere, a local call cost a dime. The Old BC Tel service required that you deposit your coin after the called person answered. That was often interesting.

Doing south. As usual Jack leads the way.

Doing south.
As usual Jack leads the way.

Doing south correctly. A rare millpond-smooth day on the Strait Of Juan De Fuca. but wait five minutes. This vessel is pointing in the general direction of Race Point, gateway to the South Pacific and so many sailor's dreams.

Doing south correctly.
A rare millpond-smooth day on the Strait Of Juan De Fuca.
But wait five minutes.
This cutter is pointing in the general direction of Race Point, gateway to the South Pacific and so many sailor’s dreams.

A friendly comment from a friend about my last blog accused me of being so old fashioned that if I had my way I’d be found clinging to a lurching Royal T’gallant high in a wind-swept sky and singing some sea chanty, probably with lyrics about “Baltimore whores in their purple drawers.” Yep, probably. I didn’t have a warm and fuzzy childhood so there is little comfort remembering things from half a century and longer ago.I am, however, amazed at how things change so quickly and routine facts of life are forgotten so easily. Every person who has lived through even one decade has passed through an end of an era. Our culture changes that rapidly.

There was once a time when a person’s grandparents could reasonably expect to understand the world which their progeny were growing into. If your father was a blacksmith, chances were that you’d become one too. Skills were passed down and the oral histories of the family and the culture were ingrained at an early age. Folks had a sense of belonging. Not any more Dorothy! Now little value is placed in what our elders can teach us and the family is devalued and…I slap myself back into the present and wonder if any child still cooks and dyes Easter Eggs, like I once did. In times past you were able to buy egg colouring kits complete with dye and little wire egg holders but someone probably decided the food colouring was carcinogenic…I know, I know, I’m a freakin’ dinosaur!

Winterkill A sad reminder of winter's fury past. Anyone want to buy a used, unsinkable boat?

Winterkill
A sad reminder of winter’s fury past.
Anyone want to buy a used, unsinkable boat?

Now that Easter has passed, the back to school weather is clear and warm; of course. March truly came in like a lion and went like a lamb. Seven days after I began this blog I’m sitting askew at my desk with a leg propped up on a chair. I’m just back from hospital where I had a big hard lump on my left ankle removed. It is a result of a cliff-climbing accident over forty years ago. (I was a free-climber long before it was cool…) I rattled down eighty-five feet of cliff and smashed up my left leg. Years later, I fell three feet and ended up with half a plastic heart; go figure! I’ve had plenty of surgeries before and didn’t reckon how painful this little gig would be, but then we seldom pay for our sins in advance. So here I sit, with warm blossom-scented spring zephyrs wafting in through open windows with shafts of golden sunlight. Hummingbirds and bees zoom outside the glass. Mourning doves coo out their lovely music. Here I sit, bloody shore-bound! A trail of crutch tip hickies on the floor mark the perimeter of my little world. My grandfather, who was a very active fellow, had a stroke in his mid-seventies. He lay and stared at the ceiling for the next seven years before he was finally able to slip away. I can only imagine how long a minute can truly be. What a cruel fate! How do people endure such miseries?

Fawn Lilies. A spring ritual of rebirth gone all too soon.

Fawn Lilies.
A spring ritual of rebirth gone all too soon.

A poem of mine in a window of the Oregon Museum of Science And Industry looking out on the Willamette River. Photo courtesy of Cecilia Nguyen OMSI

A poem of mine in a window of the Oregon Museum of Science And Industry looking out on the Willamette River.
Photo courtesy of Cecilia Nguyen OMSI

I’ve spliced up some new prawn trap lines and done as much writing as I can stand for the moment. Now the computer has decided to lobotomize itself and my world slowly gets squirrelier. Apparently I have found my way back to the era where I “Committed fatal errors.” My wife is just back from checking on ‘Seafire’ and that’s as good as it gets. But! I’ll be up and break-dancing before I know it. (never could before!) Hiking the shorelines of Mexico will be that much closer, a very pretty motor sailor that looks a lot like mine will be anchored in the clear waters of a cactus-fringed bay beyond. South! Soon damnit!

Mucho gusto!

The Dreamer. A fellow dreamer makes no secret of his or her passion. The hammering, sawing and sanding might not make for the best of neighbours.

The Dreamer.
A fellow dreamer makes no secret of his or her passion. The hammering, sawing and sanding might not make for the best of neighbours.

A different perspective. "At night in his tiny bed, the boy dreamed of voyages in old ships bathed in moonlight."

A different perspective.
“At night in his tiny bed, the boy dreamed of voyages in old ships bathed in moonlight.”

 

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

…Mark Twain.