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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”