Monthly Archives: September 2016

All’s Well That Ends

The prince is coming! The prince is coming! They didn't put up any nee flags when I showed up.

The prince is coming! The prince is coming! They didn’t put up any new flags when I showed up.

 

Shearwater Central Common This is a tribute by the owners to the location's history as a WWII  RCAF seaplane base. it was a photo of the flying boat that helped to first entice me here. Note beautiful Heiltsuk  art on the left.

Shearwater Central Common. This is a tribute by the owners to the location’s history as a WWII RCAF seaplane base. it was a photo of the flying boat that helped to first entice me here. Note beautiful Heiltsuk art on the left.

Have you ever looked up at the sound of an airplane and instead seen a bird? I suppose it’s happened to most of us. I find it hilariously funny. I’ve heard starlings making a perfect imitation of an eagle which amused me immensely. A friend of long ago had a huge, geriatric macaw which used to declare “I can talk, can you fly?” I smile at even the thought of that. Aviation is in my blood. It has been so since I was a small child and I always look up at the sight and sound of any aircraft. I have no control over my instinct. Today I heard a beaver floatplane and looked up to see a seagull. Yep, I laughed and I can’t explain why. Then we had a sunny day and my eye caught a seagull high in the clear sky that was motionless. It turned out to be a drone. What the hell? For some reason that offended me.

A spectacular annual event as thousands of Sandhill Cranes migrate south. These birds have a six foot wingspan and a loud haunting call. Few people notice.

A spectacular annual event as thousands of Sandhill Cranes migrate south. These birds have a six foot wingspan and a loud haunting call. Few people notice.

That day’s weather was flawless. The afternoon passed under a clear sky and several flocks of Sandhill cranes passed high overhead. I looked up to all I heard in the sky. Three large flocks of migrating cranes passed low overhead, all calling raucously and impossible not to notice. A few people stood on the dock, all engrossed in texting on their mobile phones. No one looked up. No one noticed this marvellous spectacle of nature. How sad! Even here, away from any urban din and bustle, folks still can’t absorb the grandness of a wilderness that so many others pay handsomely to come and hope to see.

The gringos are migrating south too. This beautiful double-ended steel motor cruiser is home to two. Her name is 'Constant' I wonder if the tender is named 'Never.'

The gringos are migrating south too. This big beautiful double-ended steel motor cruiser is home to two seniors. Her name is ‘Constant’ I wonder if the tender is named ‘Never. That’s little old ‘Seafire’ in the background.

 

The 'Serengetti' St. John, USVI  Their dinghy is on the left. I assume they are in quest of rustic wilderness charm.

The ‘Serengeti’ St. John, USVI
Their dinghy is on the left. I assume they are in quest of rustic wilderness charm. This look-at-me floating plastic palace did not have enough cash left over for a Canadian courtesy flag.

So where's your regulation stern light? The 'Serengeti' after dark. The clatter of the generator which kept all those deck lights burning went on all damned night.

So where’s your regulation stern light?
The ‘Serengeti’ after dark. The clatter of the generator which kept the signboards and all those deck lights burning went on all damned night.

Boats of a feather seldom flock together. 'Serengeti' and tender in background, RCMP patrol catamaran 'Inkster' on right, and that's me in the corner. 'Seafire'  with a whale bone on her sprit above Happy Harry Heiltsuk.

Boats of a feather seldom flock together. ‘Serengeti’ and tender in background, RCMP patrol catamaran ‘Inkster’ on right, and that’s me in the corner. ‘Seafire’ with a whale bone on her sprit above Happy Harry Heiltsuk.

The winner...and the loser. Shearwater held a cardboard boat race.  This was the only entry. It took all the cups.

The winner…and the loser. Shearwater held a cardboard boat race.
This was the only entry. With two paddlers it took all the cups.

On another note of modern mindlessness I just heard a story on CBC radio that I had to check out. Established in 1819, that’s 197 years ago, the Arva Flour Mill in Southwestern Ontario has operated continuously without any accidents. It is the oldest water-powered mill in Canada and should be considered a working museum. The Feds have recently inspected the mill and declared that the mill contravenes several points of the Canadian Labour Code and must close down. Can you believe the idiocy?

The website is http://www.arvaflourmill.com and there is a petition to sign for support of the mill remaining in business. There is a lovely short video about the history of the mill. It certainly tugged at me. I suppose I have a bit of an affinity for this story because the tiny village where I first lived after my birth, Kilbride, in Southern Ontario, had a wonderful water-powered mill. It burned down in the 1960s but I remember the huge wooden shafts and crude hardwood gears all joined by long flapping belts. The mill ground flour, sawed lumber and, if my memory is accurate, also had a machine shop and blacksmith’s forge. It was a very “Green” operation. I can recall that even as a young boy how fascinated I was to see such industry powered by one small stream. I am convinced that in many ways our culture is regressing. We achieved so much with raw intellect before we became addicted to computers.

The organic mechanic and a cyber Neanderthal. "Wot's a compuder?"

The organic mechanic, a cyber Neanderthal. “Wot’s a compuder?”

The modern diesel engines I work on sometimes have up to three separate computers. Last week I worked on a Gardner diesel that was at least fifty years old and going strong. I don’t believe it has ever been rebuilt, can be hand-started in a pinch, has great fuel economy and guess what?… It has no computers!

I’m bemused here in Shearwater at the number of people, both visitors and locals, who indulge perpetually in texting. Some folks can’t seem to walk anywhere without their heads down while poking away at some sort of cyber device. I’m amazed that someone hasn’t stumbled right off of the dock. There was a time not so long ago when people knew how to write letters and were able to hold a conversation with each other in person in real time. I have sat in a restaurant and actually watched a group of teens text each other across the table. I’ve watched a young mother with head down and thumbs flying as she heedlessly pushed her child in his stroller out into rushing traffic. Now there is a concern that public school curriculums include something called ‘coding.’

As we become increasingly detached from our fellows we also seem to loose our regard for other people. In the past week, at Shearwater’s guest dock, I’ve lost a lot of sleep due to other’s rudeness. One night a mega yacht’s generator throbbed relentlessly. Another night the vessel across the dock from me had a large furnace which spewed fumes from a thundering exhaust pipe. On yet another night in the wee hours, a shouting family with a squalling child held a prolonged conversation in the cockpit. Yesterday I spoke harshly with another gormless lout who, for some reason, delighted in leaving his twin unmuffled Detroit diesels at a fast idle for prolonged durations. He couldn’t understand or care that the din and the stink would offend anyone. Finally, the wiring at the worker’s dock was installed and here I am, having had a night’s sleep uninterrupted by anyone else. The wind blew as forecast, shrieking and shaking the boat horrifically; the rigging clattered and moaned. I fell asleep like a happy puppy. The wind quit, a few hours later. I was instantly awake.

On Monday Bella Bella will endure a brief royal visit. It is bringing out the utmost in local foolishness. Shearwater and Bella Bella function as a single community and the water taxis I help maintain are the link between the communities and local areas. Union Jacks are now flying and the flagship of the fleet, the ‘Clowholm Spirit I,’ has been reupholstered, had new name decals and local art applied, has had the upper deck refitted as a promenade deck complete with chairs and umbrellas and two huge British flags. I have a nagging doubt about the vessel’s tipping stability once it is loaded with all that royal meat up top. Can you imagine if the boat rolled over? Remember what happened in Tofino last year? How many drowned? The aspiration, of course, is for a little incidental publicity for the company. Chances are it will be raining and blowing like hell come Monday and the boat will stay at the dock. Each of the three engines in this boat has three computers which we’ve disconnected to prevent damage while the upper deck accoutrements are welded in place. These computers are somewhat fickle and once they are all reconnected they may well have to be reconfigured before the engines will even start. One of the local jokes is about how we know the union jacks are not being displayed inverted. I’ve suggested finding a few dozen of those bullet hole decals and applying them all over the boat. I’ll possibly end up in handcuffs if I don’t keep my cynical perspective under a lid.

The Royal Barge. 'Clowholm Spirit I' being fitting out for her few minutes of glory transporting the royal flock a few miles down Lamma Pass. The building in which she sits is the one remaining hangar from WW II.

The Royal Barge. ‘Clowholm Spirit I’ being fitting out for her few minutes of glory transporting the royal flock a few miles down Lamma Pass. The building in which she sits is the one remaining hangar from WW II Shearwater.

A work in progress. A local Heiltsuk artist decorates the 'Clowholm' with an eagle and a kermode bear.  It is beautiful even when half-finished.

A work in progress. A local Heiltsuk artist decorates the ‘Clowholm’ with an eagle and a kermode bear. It is beautiful even when half-finished.

Promenade Deck B. An impromptu effort at royal accommodation.  I have an image of Princess Kate clinging desperately to an umbrella as a blast of wind and rain whisk her off and up into the mountains.

Promenade Deck B. An impromptu effort at royal accommodation. I have an image of Princess Kate clinging desperately to an umbrella as a blast of wind and rain whisk her off and up into the mountains.

It’s amazing how folks who otherwise wouldn’t give a toss are suddenly falling-down gaga about two baby-faced descendants of an empire which tyrannized our aboriginal people and resources. There are ongoing endeavours about freeing ourselves of the remnants of that oppression. Suddenly we’re on our faces to worship two ambivalent characters who have all the same bodily orifices which we do. I’m sure they’re lovely people and we could find something to laugh about over a beer or two but I would not want their job. It must be a horrible life sentence of always being watched, adulated, protected, scrutinized and organized. I do hope it all goes well, but really, I just don’t get it.

The hotel here at Shearwater has over eighty guests this weekend who are all part of the entourage supporting this hours-short visit by Prince Billy and his wife Kate which won’t last more than half a day. I’ll bet they’d probably prefer to simply bugger off alone and do a little fishing, even if it’s pouring rain. That would probably allow them a much clearer perspective on what this region is really like. They might even see some wildlife without the hordes tagging along. There has been a security force lurking about for weeks which probably has enough troops and weapons to start a war. We’ll never know how much money goes into a brief visit like this but I’m sure that if the same amount went into a lasting community improvement it would be significant. While all of the fuss and frenzy unravel, I’ll be head-down in someone’s bilge.

Poop Tank Peek While working on this sewage system I needed to take a photo for the dealer. Somehow my mobile took pictures both ways at once.

Poop Tank Peek
While working on this sewage system I needed to take a photo for the dealer. Somehow my mobile took pictures both ways at once.

As I edit this blog, CBC radio is playing a live broadcast of the royal arrival in Victoria. Military bands toot and drum and fire their guns, people hoot and whistle rudely, rhetorical speeches blither on and on. Then the prince regurgitates the words written by someone else. Tears gush down many legs I’m sure. I’ve just plugged in a Stan Rogers CD. Now there’s some real “Oh Canada.”

Blue skies and bluebirds.

Blue skies and bluebirds.

Hardly anyone recognizes the most significant moments of their life when they happen.”

… W.P. Kinsella

Odds And Sods

 A Brief Respite. As I was posting this blog, a bright reflection appeared on my computer screen. It was this break in the clouds. Three minutes later, the rain whooshed down again.


A Brief Respite. As I was posting this blog, a bright reflection appeared on my computer screen. It was this break in the clouds. Three minutes later, the rain whooshed down again.

Waiting for fish. "Fog...The sea silently becoming air. The air silently becoming sea." Ray Grigg

Waiting for fish. “Fog…The sea silently becoming air. The air silently becoming sea.” …Ray Grigg   (Both frames taken from ‘Seafire’ while at the dock.)

There came a rumble. Damn! He’s at it again. The few kilometres of road here on Denny Island are rocky and potholed. Mufflers are inevitably shaken loose and so the din of passing vehicles is a familiar sound. After a while, you get to recognize each vehicle’s unique noise. Now it’s this guy again. This early? C’mon dude! And so I got out of bed, one toe at a time. An albino garden slug emerging from his slimy lair. It was dark and hammering rain. Bugga! I’m in no mood for this.

The Fix. Courtesy, Shearwater Muffler and Exhaust

The Fix. Courtesy, Shearwater Muffler and Exhaust.

The rain stopped, the sun rose in a clear sky and then fog crept across the bay..

We’ve had two sunny days back to back this weekend. I should have been working on my boat. The exterior wood work is screaming for attention. However after a gruelling week in the shop I worked all weekend running a wheel loader stock-piling gravel. A large barge delivered 8000 cubic yards of fine gravel to upgrade the roads here. An experienced operator was needed and I was soon reminding myself of how I ruined my back. I’ve spent too many years running big yellow machines in years long past. Now I’m a wreck, in large part, due to the bashing one receives while sitting in a piece of heavy equipment. I’ve got a bit of a cold and feel weary and ragged. We have another sunrise this morning. Before the crack of dawn the gill net fleet left the dock for another fishing opening. There was the usual cacophony until finally I was on my feet groggy and grumpy. Now it’ll be back to my wrenches in a few minutes and I’m not in the mood. In my spare time, I’ve also got to sort out a problem with my windlass. I hate it when my beloved boat is not fully seaworthy. Well, as the British say, “Keep yer pecker up!” I can’t imagine being on this island without the means to leave fully within my grasp. The notion of that option makes daily realities much easier to endure.

THE BARGE. A wheel loader on the barge dumps gravel onto a conveyer which dumps onto a smaller barge where an excavator loads the gravel into trucks which forward it a few hundred metres to me where...

THE BARGE. A wheel loader on the barge dumps gravel onto a conveyer which dumps onto a smaller barge where an excavator loads the gravel into trucks which forward it a few hundred metres to me where…

...I pile it as high as I can . This requires running the loader up into a near-vertical position. If I screw up, the loader flips over. All's well that ends.

…I pile it as high as I can .
This requires running the loader up into a near-vertical position. If I screw up, the loader flips over. All’s well that ends.

Shearwater Terminal...such as it is. The ferry 'Nimpkish' is on it's dock and the tug 'Jose Narvaez' waits for us to finish unloading the barge.

Shearwater Terminal…such as it is. The BC ferry ‘Nimpkish’ is backed onto it’s dock and the tug ‘Jose Narvaez’ waits for the barge to be unloaded..

 

Yesterday afternoon a large flock of Sandhill cranes circled and called raucously to other birds resting in the bogs far below. The sun glinted on their wings and I ached to be up there with them, south bound. The only way to survive this ordeal is to bury one’s soul and plod on toward the flickering light of a dream. It is really no place for a sensitive, creative character to be but I’ll continue to function as a bilge ape until I can find an easier way to progress toward a sensible (for me) existence. There are other lumps in the fan which I can’t discuss and it is very hard to stay positive. Damn! I haven’t been back here for a month yet and the gloom is closing in.

 anchore blues. This old CQR anchor on the bow of a charter boat, has definitely earned it's keep.


Anchore blue. This old CQR anchor, on the bow of a charter boat, has definitely earned it’s keep.

The Autopsy. Part of a Volvo Diesel engine wiring harness after an electrical fire. Each engine has three computers to the utter despair of this old fart.

The Autopsy. Part of a fried Volvo Diesel engine wiring harness after an electrical fire. Each engine has three computers to the utter despair of this old fart.

Shearwater AC electric outboard. Warrantied to the end of your cord. for a slight extra fee we can provide you with a generator.

Shearwater AC electric outboard. Warrantied to the end of your cord. For a slight extra fee we can provide you with a generator.

Electrolysis on the hobo dock. A mish-mash of electrical cords like this is a sure-fire invitation to electrical disaster. That's the way it is done in Shearwater and... Mumbai!

Electrolysis on the hobo dock. A mish-mash of electrical cords like this is a sure-fire invitation to electrical disaster. That’s the way it is done in Shearwater and… Mumbai!

A piece of baleen. Instead of teeth most larger whales strain their food in through baleen. This was found near the whales bones shown in a previous blog. Local knowledge reports the skeleton to be that of a Fin Whale.

A piece of baleen. Instead of teeth most larger whales strain their food in through baleen. This was found near the whale bones shown in a previous blog. Local knowledge reports the skeleton to be that of a Fin Whale.

My D-I-Y video camera mount on my kayak. a fishing rod holder and some scrap plastic did the trick

My D-I-Y video camera mount on my kayak. a fishing rod holder and some scrap plastic did the trick.

Monday proved to be a sunny day, all day! Despite being dead weary from my weekend heaping gravel I put in a full day at work. Then back at home on the boat I finally found the gremlin in my windlass wiring and sorted it all out. What a relief! An anchor is a vital piece of equipment, especially in this huge wilderness area. Without reliable ground tackle a boat cannot stop for rest, darkness, bad weather or any other reason. There are no docks or marinas, anywhere. There are plenty of places to anchor. Now I’m free to leave any time I want and my sense of entrapment is gone. I’ll sleep much better tonight.

A heavy plankton bloom has appeared here. The water is a dark beef-boullion brown. One local wit seriously intimated that the paint-like quality of the water was a direct result of the transient fishermen pumping out their toilets into the bay. Heh dude, shit happens, and global warning is not responsible for the bloom. Nature offers no concrete agendas, live with it. In a few years our paranoia may well be about the next advancing ice age. I can hear indignant bristling as I write this but I have a reluctance to bend with popular trends and I’m aware how our sensibilities warp with the influence of external persuasions, informed or otherwise. At least ask questions; do your own research. Don’t hang your life on someone else’s uninformed opinions.

The bloom> when condition are right, there is a massive over-abundance of plankton in sea water. It isw called a bloom and may be red, green, yellow or brown. It is an entirely natural phenomena...don't eat local shellfish until long after a bloom has passed.

The bloom
When conditions are right, there is a massive over-abundance of plankton in sea water. It is called a bloom and may be red, green, yellow or brown. It is an entirely natural phenomena…don’t eat local shellfish until long after a bloom has passed.

And so writes a solitary man in his boat at the end of the dock in the night and the driving rain. It’s mid-September and there will be seven months of this existence before spring arrives. There are people who sail to the Arctic and Antarctic to be deliberately frozen in for up to ten months of Polar winter. Whatever they run from or toward I have no idea. I do understand that solitude and loneliness are two different things. On this Friday evening I sit here peering out through the boat’s rain-streaked windows to the pub at the head of the dock and know that I don’t belong in that world. I am thankful for that. I’ve telephoned home and I’ve also telephoned my sister. I’m despondent, perhaps because of those calls. I’ll shortly go to bed with my self-pity for company. Thank God for books to read.

I’m not complaining, just explaining. I chose to be here knowing full well what the circumstances would be. When I feel loneliness it is always in the near-by presence of other people. If, tonight, I were in some God-forsaken anchorage in the surrounding Great Bear wilderness, alone with only the wind and the rain for company within a three-dimensional infinite blackness, I’d feel fine. I would even savour the experience, feeling harmony and peace there.

In the morning I awake to the still-drumming of rain and the throb of idling diesels. The din goes on and on. I crawl out of my bunk into the thin smudge of daybreak to happily discover that the fishboats across the dock have left. I have an unlimited panorama of the bay and the rugged mountains beyond. Seconds later another gillnetter arrives and stops-up immediately abeam. There was two hundred feet of empty dock. He apparently needs to be as close as possible and in the middle of that space. There is an unwritten rule of seamanship which says you take up as little space as possible at a dock and you do that by tying your boat at the end, not middle, of any available space. After securing his boat this guy stands on the dock peering into mine. He doesn’t grasp that I’m sitting three feet from his bleary eyes writing about what a gormless jerk he is. Finally he goes back aboard and pulls his window curtains. I’m going to change oil in my engine today and that will require running it for a long while first. Ha!

As I write, CBC news is on the radio. I learn that WP Kinsella has just died. He usually wrote about baseball which does not interest me at all yet he is one of my favourite Canadian authors because of one book, ‘the Miss Hobbema Pagent.’ Long before it was cool, Kinsella was bridging the gap of our ignorance about First Nation’s reservation culture. This is also the week that ‘HMS Terror’ has finally been discovered after a centuries-long quest for the missing Franklin expedition. ‘HMS Erebus’ was found two years ago and now her sister ship ‘Terror’. This newest find reveals a vessel very much intact and there will be years of nautical intrigue as we learn details of what is aboard the vessel.

Two serious cruising boats. In September, long-distance boats head south after up to a half-year in Alaska. The blue steel boat is a design called a 'Diesel Duck' my ultimate dream boat.

Two serious cruising boats. In September, long-distance boats head south after up to a half-year in Alaska. The blue steel boat is a design called a ‘Diesel Duck;’ my ultimate dream boat. Imagine if Franklin had boats like these!

The day drags by, I change my engine oil and put everything shipshape in the engine room. I’m good to go. As I work I still listen to CBC North, the only radio station here. There is endless rhetoric about the Trump and the Frump. The idiocy leaves me content that that madness is far away from here. I’ll accept the insanity at hand. The rain continues.

Success is getting what you want, happiness is wanting what you get.”

…W.P. Kinsella

Around The Corner and Up The channel

Sunset over Milbanke Sound, Friday night

Sunset over Milbanke Sound, Friday night

Saturday morning. Wigham Cove, Yeo island. I wasted not a minute yesterday afternoon slipping my lines and leaving Shearwater for the weekend. The rain finally stopped in the afternoon after a final vicious cloudburst. I want to savour every possible moment of sunlight. Monday is labour Day and I’ll make the best of my free time. This anchorage is within the archipelago of islands along both sides of Seaforth Channel. It is secure, secluded and utterly quiet. All I can hear is the ringing in my ears, (A memento of a lifetime around noisy machinery) the gentle clicking of my keyboard and the thumping of my heart.

Where the ocean meets the land.

Where the ocean meets the land.

I may be here a while. The electronic controller for my electric anchor windlass failed last night and I’ll have to haul the chain and hook back aboard by hand. This simple breakdown underscores my ongoing mantra about keeping things simple and being self-reliant. This is a mere inconvenience to me, but many people would be desperately unable to look after themselves even with such a simple challenge.

I awoke this morning with a happy realization. In previous times I would have worked well into the night, frantically trying to repair my breakdown and have everything perfectly shipshape before looking after myself. Instead I went to bed. I’ll deal with it this morning. Seaworthiness is one thing, anal naval perfectionism is quite another. I like myself much more like this. I realize that to survive here I must adapt the relaxed perspective of folks who live here permanently. I’m beginning to see that to constantly wring oneself out in an effort to keep life slam-bam perfect is a losing battle. I’ve been doing that for most of my life. It is an insecurity which many fall into and I want to rise above it.

Roughing it. Cooking Coho for two meals at one time.

Roughing it. Cooking Coho for two meals at one time.

On that note I must add, that despite my often cynical perspectives, there are many people here at Shearwater whom I appreciate and admire very much. They are self-reliant, amiable, have simple tastes, are helpful and also not afraid to ask for assistance. They live peacefully within the embrace of this small community and their own inner self. Of course there are also some aberrant personalities. I’m probably one of those, but generally I have come to accept that being here as a good thing. Survival is an endeavour of assimilating the local environment. There is beauty and goodness everywhere, one simply needs to adjust their personal focus to see it. Harmony, beauty and peacefulness are what we all seek and yet too often have so much trouble accepting.

Oliver cove. I believe this is the nook where Vancouver careened his boat.

Oliver Cove. I believe this is the nook where Vancouver careened his boat.

Saturday afternoon, Oliver Cove. I’m now miles west of Wigham Cove. I’ve turned north at Ivory Island, transited the rock piles that guard the entrance to Reid Passage and am snugly anchored in twenty-five feet of water near high tide. I’m being prudent about anchoring as shallow as possible, I don’t want to hump up any more chain than necessary. I’ll repair the windlass when I get back to Shearwater. For now I have the whole delightful little cove to myself. Even the raven whose call of “kuuk, kuuk” echoed over the cove has left. A few boat lengths away is a perfect-as-possible beach for careening a large vessel. It is known that George Vancouver did that here in the Port Blackney area and I’m confident this is the very spot. There are no others like it. I’ll explore by kayak.

Kayaking out pf Oliver Cove

Kayaking out of Oliver Cove

And explore I did. Off I went, feeling a little bit of trepidation at being alone in the midst of a vast wilderness. At that moment, rounding an islet at the edge of the cove, there came a woman in another kayak! I was shocked to say the least. That meeting turned into a lovely evening. After my explorations I joined Sharman and her partner Mike aboard their lovely Arthur Brown trimaran ‘Rauxa’. A bottle of Crabbie’s genuine, wonderful Scottish ginger beer was followed by a fabulous progressive gourmet meal that took us through a wonderful conversation of several hours. They were both mountain climbers and sailors. There was a lot to talk about between new friends in the backwaters of the Great Bear Rainforest.

Port Blackney

Port Blackney

Returning to my boat in the darkness became an indelible memory. The sky had cleared and the stars lay around me, gleaming reflections on the black velvet surface of the water. The brilliant green glow of bio-luminescence burned in the bow wave of my tiny boat, in the scoops of water cascading off my paddle and in the wake of tiny darting fish. I could have paddled on into that dream all night.

Sunday morning, September 4th. A week since I started this blog. I sleep until after eight o’clock. The tide and the sky are both low this morning. I’m determined to have a lazy day. After yesterday’s exploration of all the little bights in this area known as Port Blackney, I’m confident that the beach I’m anchored closest to is indeed the most probable site used by George Vancouver to careen his vessel. There is one other possible place in this cove but in consideration of a gentle bottom, an easy approach from deeper water, a little open space in the surrounding forest, and sufficient tidal range to lower and raise the hull, this is the spot I’d choose. I’ve written about this place before and I continue to be amazed about the feat of seamanship this underscores. To find this tiny beach, steer a safe way around jagged rocks in while towing mother ship with rowing boats in an aggressive tidal current, make sufficient repairs with the materials at hand, all the while being stranded in a place where the locals weren’t always friendly, knowing where you were only by the chart your skipper had drawn and then extricating yourself and eventually finding your way back home to England; it was an amazing accomplishment for every man on the crew. With all of today’s technology, replicating that event would be a difficult but wonderful project.

As I clattered about preparing my Sundy brunch there came a wonderful hooting just above my mast. A pair of Sandhill Cranes landed in the careening nook and began foraging voraciously. They seemed to accept Seafire’s presence, it was here when they arrived. The huge birds fed and preened unabashedly.

Sandhill Cranes, photographed from 'Seafire'

Sandhill Cranes, photographed from ‘Seafire’

Splendour in the grass

Splendour in the grass

I sat for hours doing my best to photograph them in the dull light, for once coveting a great, phallic telephoto lense. Out of sixty-two frames I kept five. I doubted they’d let me get closer with the kayak. Finally, they rose again into the air with a loud, nasal croinking. They bore away out of sight on their broad, strong wings. Reviewing those photos I am amazed at how well they blend in with their surroundings. If I had not at first heard them, they might have spent their hours on the shore completely undetected. I am feeling a little ill, but I am at peace

here, completely happy in the moment and where I am. The weekend is a complete success.

Islet with no name.

Islet with no name.

And then another great day unfolded before me. First I must again offer accolades to the good folks at Seaward Kayaks. This is the finest small kayak I’ve ever owned. It handles nimbly, is stable, comfortable, spacious, fast and rugged. I can haul my half-crippled frame in and out on Seafire’s boarding ladder well enough. Today’s success is due entirely to this little Riot-brand kayak. I’ve mounted a JVC sport camera on the kayak so that in fact the whole boat is a camera base. I know nothing about film-making but have come back with some great footage.

As I left Oliver Cove I noticed a small, circling flock of gulls. Two sea lions were feeding on salmon in Reid Passage. I approached with the camera running and got a great few seconds of footage before I was discovered. There was great alarm and I suddenly realized how vulnerable I was to this pair of massive creatures. Once, when scuba diving alone, I was surrounded by a small pod of these characters. They can become quite aggressive if they sense their advantage. They have huge yellow teeth and are called lions for good reason. I remembered that day. I retreated. I am no sea lion whisperer. One of them surfaced noisily immediately behind the kayak as if to intimidate me. He did.

The island which forms the western side of Reid passage is called Cecelia Island. It’s northern quarter is nearly bisected by Boat Inlet. The inlet is narrow and shallow with a nice safe basin to anchor in but you are trapped there when the tide falls. Today I paddled to it’s furthest end then dragged the kayak to the bay on the opposite side of the island. Two hundred yards of slightly higher ground prevents the northern section of the island from being a separate body of land. There was a well-used trail in the beach grass and I had to be careful not to step in copious leavings of wolf scat. Once afloat again I paddled out into Milbanke Sound. It was calm today with only a low swell and a light breeze. To be out there at any time, alone in a kayak was risky business, and in any harder weather would have been madness. I paddled outside the kelp beds and admired the polished granite foreshore. In a southwest storm the surf pounds thirty feet or more up and into the forest. I recall some vicious passages in this sound while working on the tugs and how happy we were to make our way into the relative shelter of Seaforth Channel.

It is only a mile up to Bird Point and the shelter of the bay behind. It has a broad rocky beach which I’ve admired from afar and have longed to explore. And so today I did. To my wonder I discovered a whale’s skeleton on the beach. There were numerous ribs, a pelvis, the skull and jawbones. I recovered one vertebrae and the cochlea, or inner ear bones. I believe these are the bones of a Grey Whale which is far from being one of the largest leviathans yet they are huge. I am humbled to realize the size of these creatures and their ability to dive to great depths, navigate whole oceans and survive the incessant threats posed by man. I feel privileged to have had this experience.

Whalebone beach Cecelia Island

Whalebone beach
Cecelia Island

Amazing!

Amazing!

One Jawbone

One Jawbone

Whalebone beach

Whalebone beach

That was one big guppy!

That was one big guppy!

A bone for the dog

A bone for the dog! One vertebrae.

As I paddled up the bay back toward this anchorage a pair of loons began to call behind me. That sound instantly evoked memories of being a boy in a wood and canvas canoe, long ago, on some North Ontario lake. The roiling gurgle of my paddle and the chuckle of my tiny bow wave sound exactly the same. There is a special wonder, an intimacy with the natural world, which comes from being on the water in a small, light boat. I felt it again today. Returning to Oliver Cove I find an offshore sailboat anchored here. Her name is ‘Cambria’ and she is registered to the port of Whitby, England. The harbour was home port of James Cook. It is also of great significance to me and I have some poignant memories of that distant town. Wow! To find a yacht from Whitby in this remote back water is amazing to me. What a day!

Whumpa whumpa whumpa. somedays it sounds like Vietnam around Shearwater.

Whumpa whumpa whumpa! Some days it sounds like the Vietnam war around Shearwater.

The eastward journey back to Shearwater on Seaforth Channel was uneventful. !t was a three-hour slog in driving rain. As a cap to a lovely weekend I spotted a very large sea otter feeding on a bright fish. He lay on his back, big webbed hind feet sticking up and apparently oblivious to my presence. I was so gob-smacked I forgot to reach for my camera. When I turned back he was gone. These beautiful creatures, once so close to extinction, are making a slow comeback and to see even one is truly wonderful.

NOT a whalebone. Imagine the coffee table you could make from this spruce burl.

NOT a whalebone. Imagine the coffee table you could make from this spruce burl. It’s about 5 feet in diameter.

Tonight I sit writing within the cozy embrace of the main cabin of my beloved ‘Seafire’. The dinghy and it’s motor have remained aboard the entire weekend. My miles of exploration have been travelled by paddle alone. For the moment, I know peace. Nothing else matters.

If you can not arrive in daylight, then stand off well clear and wait until dawn. After all that’s one of the things a boat is made for … to wait in.”

… Tristan Jones

Ah The Light!

So the she says...

So the she says…

Back in Shearwater again with a little organic rigging. This boat sank at the dock.

Back in Shearwater again with a little organic rigging.
This boat sank at the dock.

Here's why! A sprung plank.

Here’s why!
A sprung plank.

Sunday morning. August 28th, pouring rain, the heater is on. The forecast is for rain continuing into the days ahead. Summer, it seems, is over here in the Great Bear Rainforest. The salmon need the rain. It raises water levels in the rivers and streams where they spawn. Soon they’ll able to swim to the place of their beginning and repeat the drama and magic of life’s timeless cycle. Dampness has become my bane as I age but I hope the rain continues and the fish can spawn successfully before they are harvested by commercial fishermen hovering at river mouths and prime spawning routes. Every dry day from now on will not be taken for granted. In the soggy gloom dock lights began flickering on before eight pm last night. The boat’s exterior bright work needs attention before winter sets in. There will be leaks to repair. That will all be done in a state of urgency. There may be a reprieve which we call “Indian Summer” but moments of dryness are becoming precious. My old bones aches from the dampness which hasn’t even begun yet. This old pagan is praying for a miracle.

On the dock, a small herd of Fisheries officers are knocking on the hulls of boats. I’m assuming they are checking for licenses and any infractions. I’m staying out of sight. Their presence raises a pointed horn on my forehead. I hate goon squads. They are imposing themselves for the sake of being seen. The handguns on their hips are certainly prominently displayed. I’m sure that this year, as happened last, during the season of rape and pillage by the sport fishery, a DFO officer was a rare sight. That frenzy is now coming to an end and it’s safe for them to come out. The sport fishing industry on this coast is huge. It is a raw resource being exploited to death but we don’t want to ruffle the feathers of certain big birds. When I see sport fishing clients arriving by helicopter and stumbling down the dock while still busy texting, I know they are not here to savour the wilderness and the sanctity of the “Great Bear Rainforest.” They’ll pay big bucks to ravage fish stocks for a photo of a pose with a really big lunker to hang on the office wall back in the ivory tower. Then they’ll leave.

Thunk, thunk, thunk, all over but the drinking. Another four inches o f water would have allowed this boat owner to continue without grief.

Thunk, thunk, thunk, all over but the drinking. Another four inches of water would have allowed this boat owner to continue without grief.

Other countries have developed very successful sport fishing industries with catch and release programs. Here, we’ll take voraciously until (to many folks) this apparently infinite resource requires being “Managed”…just like the East Coast. There is a small commercial opening tomorrow and bureaucracy has to make it’s appearances. “Ah shaddup Fred, if you’re so damned smart, what the hell are you doing up here at all?”

That's me in the corner. Seafire is rafted alongside a beautiful J-boat which is rafted to a plastic palace.

That’s me in the corner. Seafire is rafted alongside a beautiful J-boat which is rafted to a plastic palace.

The other flap here is an impending visit by British Royalty. Harry and Kate will pass through Bella Bella for a few hours next month. Yep, more posturing and appearing. Apparently their entourage will be billeted in the small hotel here in Shearwater. Police are swarming all over already. Swat teams are practising whatever it is they think they need to practice, RCMP boats of all sizes meander around the docks and serious-looking dudes in sunglasses stroll around trying to look purposeful, which is bloody hard in Shearwater. When asked “What’s up?” their standard answer is, “Don’t know. Nobody tells us anything.” I’ll have to be wary of not being tasered or shot for having a deadly-looking wrench in my hand. Then they’ll leave.

This came as a tip from a happy customer. There's plenty of Coho here to keep me eating for a long time.

This came as a tip from a happy customer. There’s plenty of Coho here to keep me eating for a long time.

On the radio, CBC drones on with yet another bleary interview. This one is about senior’s co-housing. Then I hear the words, “Social isolation can be deadly. Loneliness can kill you. How many of us look at our social portfolio?” Hmmmm! Grrrrr! Sigh!

'Passing Cloud' a BC Coastal icon and as lovely as ever

‘Passing Cloud’ a BC Coastal icon and as lovely as ever.

Passing Cloud 3

Wednesday morning, August 31st. It is still pouring rain, as it has all night and the day and night before. At times, it eases to a mere steady rain and then another deluge roars again. Everything inside the boat is damp and clammy, books, papers, my clothes, condensation under my mattress, even this table-top feels sticky-damp. There’s only eight months of this weather ahead. Then the rain will ease slowly and become a bit warmer. The sea here is tea-brown this morning. Runoff from the forest and bogs around are heavily tinted as the forest becomes sea and the sea becomes forest. It rains so hard at times that wifi signals seem unable to penetrate the thick atmosphere and the internet, such as it is here, crashes.

Humans have survived in this area for many thousands of years and developed a rich culture.I have to steel myself to make it through the day ahead. How do other folks survive and even thrive here?

Got Balls! A rare find, two glass Japanese net floats, about 12" in diameter, encrusted in goose barnacles. Most floats are now plastic.

Got Balls! A rare find, two glass Japanese net floats, about 12″ in diameter, encrusted in goose barnacles. Most floats are now plastic.

A gillnet fleet is residing here again. It’s that time of year when there is oil, beer cans and plastic garbage on the water around the docks. There is always one more boat crashing around in the night with bright lights flashing, engines roaring, someone shouting. They raft to the dock up to four boats abreast. There are parties and then there’ll be fights and so the police will arrive yet again. They’ll loiter about, hoping for a chance for one more opening until finally one day, in a few weeks, the fleet will disperse. Then they’ll leave.

Waiting for fish Some of the gillnet fleet

Waiting for fish
Some of the gillnet fleet

Thursday morning. Still raining. During a lull in the night’s downpour, I dared open the hatch over the bunk, just a crack for ventilation. That was apparently an affront to the rain gods, the deluge resumed with a vengeance and continues into the bleak dawn. A customer with a broken-down boat, waiting stoically while parts are in transit from Sweden, brought me a beautiful fresh Coho. I gorged. The freezer is full of fish. What a treat! We shared some lovely banter, which i always relish. The lady aboard has dropped an N and renamed this island as Deny Island. I love the variety of possible connotations. Then I described myself squirming around in their engine bay like a “Bull in a sex shop” which incited gales of laughter. I’ll cling to my handle for this place as ‘Weirdwater’ located on ‘Debtors Island.’ Most of us are here paying our dues, for thing or another. And so another day passes.

Thursday evening. It has finally stopped raining, not a drop for over three hours. The skies cleared enough for us to have a bit of a sunset. I talk a lot about the rain and the darkness here but it has occurred to me that one of the things I truly love here is the light. That is not only because it seems so precious after days of gloom. I am certain it is due to the ambient humidity but there is a soft golden glow to the sunlight here which provides a unique rich, warm illumination. As is apparent by my photos I love the play of light on mountains and on clouds and water. There is a surplus of that magic here when the sun shines.

If you like rainbows, you've got to go out in the rain.

If you like rainbows, you’ve got to go out in the rain.

A burning spinnaker

A burning spinnaker

Ah the light!

Ah the light!

The fuel dock. They'll put a rainbow in your tank.

The fuel dock. They’ll put a rainbow in your tank.

Boats around me include one from Holladay Utah which proves to be a south suburb of Salt Lake City. On Google Earth it looks like a great place to be from. Twenty feet across the dock from it lays ‘Distant Drummer’ a very shippy yacht called a Liberty which has sailed all the way from New Zealand.

Distant Drummer

Distant Drummer

Used Up. an old workboat slowly returns to the world it came from. Note the log dogs on the bow.

Used Up.
an old workboat slowly returns to the world it came from. Note the log dogs on the bow.

I’m in good company. I’m rafted to a fabulous 65′ J-boat for the moment which is very humbling but, I note, I can go to an inside helm as I choose. Daddy Warbucks has to stand out in the weather to con his beautiful yacht. So there! Soon the transient boats will all disappear and only the inmates will remain on the island.

Late into the night, despite the rain and darkness, he sat and...blogged.

Late into the night, despite the rain and darkness, he sat and…blogged.

The rain began again. It fell heavily, easily, with no meaning or intention but the fulfilment of it’s own nature, which was to fall and fall.

… Helen Garner