Winter Descending

Up into the gloom. Bella Bella falling away rapidly behind and below.

Up into the gloom. Bella Bella falling away rapidly behind and below.

After a few days south I’m back in Shearwater, cold and damp and tired at the end of my first day back at work. I miss my wife Jill and my old dog Jack. ( He rolled in some dead rotting salmon while on a walk during the ride to meet my return flight. I can’t blame him for being a dog, but then it was Jill who had to bathe him.) The sunken tug is now gone and the masses of people surrounding that grounding are slowly dwindling. We’re getting used to the idea of Trump, and all puckered up for what comes next. Snow is creeping down the mountains and I’m hearing folks making plans for Christmas. Some are moving south; permanently.

Out of the gloom. always at home in the sky, this old pilot always has a discomfort at not being at the controls.

Down and out of the gloom. Always at home in the sky, this old pilot always has a discomfort with not being at the controls.

A sign of home, a familiar sight. Atug tows three empty chip barges from Nanaimo to Port Mellon. Just on watch, the mate will be settling in to the wheelhouse, his deckhand cleaning up the lunch dishes. Been there, done that!

A sign of home, a familiar sight. A tug tows three empty chip barges from Nanaimo to Port Mellon. Just on watch, the mate will be settling in to the wheelhouse, his deckhand cleaning up the lunch dishes while the rest of the crew have their afternoon nap. Been there, done that!

Thar be home port! Beyond the Gulf Islands, Ladysmith Harbour sits in the afternoon gleam.

Thar be home port!
Beyond the Gulf Islands, Ladysmith Harbour sits in the distant afternoon gleam.

Nanaimo! Nearing the of the final leg,,, in the rain of course. Floatplanes are the quick, convenient, scenic link from YVR South to Nanaimo's inner harbour.

Nanaimo! Nearing the end of the final leg,,, in the rain of course. Floatplanes are the quick, convenient, scenic link from YVR South to Nanaimo’s inner harbour.

YVR... Belly button of British Columbian transport. Looking down I can almost hear the sirens and think of wolves howling from the quiet of the Great Bear Rainforest. This photo was taken from a Harbour Air Turbo-Otter floatplane, a wonderful way to cross the Strait of Georgia.

YVR… X marks the spot, the Belly button of British Columbian transportation to and from the rest of the world. Looking down I can almost hear the sirens of urbania and then think of wolves howling from the solitude of the Great Bear Rainforest. It is like two different planets. This photo was taken from a Harbour Air Turbo-Otter floatplane, a wonderful way to cross the Strait of Georgia.

I love this country, it’s people and it’s secrets and the wonderful light when the sun shines for a few minutes. That is a rare event at this time of year and when it occurs, the air is usually cold and drier. Being cold and dry is not much better than being cold and damp. There’s a chill in the air at all times and living in this California- built vessel is nippley, especially in the morning. I guess it is winter and when I hear the weather reports from the interior I’m happy enough where I am although Mexico is always on my mind. Jill will be joining me here for a few days at Christmas and I certainly wish for some rare fine days of calm and sun.

Watching the neighbour's cat. Now let's go to the creek and roll in some dead salmon.

“You’re back! You Jerk! Where did you bugger off to this time? I give what I get. Make an appointment! I’m busy watching the neighbour’s cat…. unless… you want to take me to the creek to roll in some dead salmon.”       Actually his rollicking welcome always instills an absolute sense of well-being.

Meanwhile dull daily routine is the course followed by dull evenings and long dark nights. Sometimes I can hear wolves howling in the surrounding forest. This morning, as i write, the last quarter of the super moon rises in the east. It is a thin scythe and accompanied by Venus, which I sometimes call the Muslim moon. At least the sky is clear. A thick coating of frost sparkles on the dock.

A week after I began to write this blog it is again Saturday morning. The docks are slick with a greasy pre-frost coating. After a long sleepless night, the cold-damp has seeped into my bones. My first sips of a morning coffee descend into my innards with a welcome spreading warmth. I’ve just reviewed a blog from friends in South Africa loaded with incredible wildlife photos. I wonder what the hell I’m doing here. Despite the beauty here, despite my sincere desire to be happy wherever I am, I ache for southern latitudes. Warm sand under my feet, palms rustling in a fragrant breeze…oh shit! This won’t help me make it through this day, here.

Back in Bella Bella again. Fresh snow on the mountains, the smell of it in the wind.

Back in Bella Bella again. Fresh snow on the mountains, the smell of it in the wind.

I’m building and installing a small air exchanger which will help dehumidify the boat and I’d best get to work. It is not raining, at the moment; no time to waste on a day like this.

Fidel Castro died last night. His passing truly marks the end of an era. I remember the Cuban missile crisis, the air raid drills and how we all expected to be nuked. My fundamentalist parents knew that he and Khrushchev were the Anti-Christ and that Armageddon was imminent at any moment. I wonder now who the fundamentalists believe is the devil re-incarnate. Trump the fornicator? Putin perhaps?

I’ll end this short blog by using a lengthy quote from a book I found on the shelf in the local laundromat. Isn’t it wonderful how the gems of life turn up in moments and places least expected and are often not realized at the time? This pocket book is called “The Wayfinders” by Wade Davis. CBC co-sponsors an annual series called the Massey Lectures. They are, in some ways, a fore-runner of Ted Talks. Their content is profound and cerebral. This series of lectures explored “Why ancient wisdom matters in the modern world.” Davis is an explorer who has travelled the backwoods of the world. He writes here extensively about the future of resource-based industry in his home province of British Columbia.

Environmental concerns aside, think for a moment of what these proposals imply about our culture. We accept it as normal that people who have never been on the land, who have no history or connection to the country, may legally secure the right to come in and by the very nature of their enterprises leave in their wake a cultural and physical landscape utterly transformed and desecrated. What’s more, in granting such mining concessions, often for trivial sums to speculators from distant cities, companies cobbled together with less history than my dog, we place no cultural or market value on the land itself. The cost of destroying a natural asset, or its inherent worth if left intact, has no metric in the economic calculations that support the industrialization of the wild. No company has to compensate the public for what it does to the commons, the forests, the mountains, and rivers, which by definition belong to everyone. As long as there is a promise of revenue flows and employment, it merely requires permission to proceed. We take this as a given for it is the foundation of our system, the way commerce extracts value and profit in a resource-driven economy. But if you think about it, especially from the perspective of so many other cultures, touched and inspired by quite different visions of life and land, it appears to be very odd and highly anomalous human behaviour.”

Phew! In review of my recent blogs about the local diesel spill, this book really hit home. We are all trained in our culture that our prime purpose in life is to make money and then consume voraciously. How do we de-program a lifetime of that indoctrination and learn tseparate need from greed?

The air exchanger is now complete and installed and running. It is intended to perform as a maintenance-free dehumidifier. Hopefully the boat will be cozier inside with drier air. By morning I’ll know.

My home-made air exchanger, shoe-horned into the rope locker. It is a simple device that removes the damp air from the bottom of the boat and draws fresh, drier air in. IT WORKS!

YES! IT WORKS! My home-made air exchanger, shoe-horned into the rope locker. It is a simple device that removes the damp air from the bottom of the boat and draws fresh, drier air in. I need to remove the rest of the muck from the locker on a warmer, drier day.

Finally, a note of inspiration. I’ve just listened to a report  about an incredible sailor named Jeanne Socrates. She’s made two attempts this fall to set out from Victoria on her sailboat for her next solo circumnavigation. Jeanne has already sailed around the world alone a few times. She’s had to turn in for San Diego due to heavy weather. That, in itself, at this time of year, is a considerable feat.  Her boat, ‘Nereida’ is a 38′ Najad, which can be a handful in heavy weather for a full crew. Jeanne sails alone. She is seventy-four. Her website is svnereida.com. As I posted the following photo, my weather station began bleeping out the latest gale warning. The barometer is at   990.6 mb and plummeting rapidly. Have a nice day.

As you read this caption, somewhere on a distant storm-tossed sea, a lone sailor waits through long minutes for an easing of the elements and the continuation of the voyage. A storm never ends, enjoy it while it lasts.

As you read this caption, somewhere on a distant storm-tossed sea, a lone sailor waits through long, long minutes for an easing of extreme conditions and the continuation of the voyage. A storm never ends, enjoy it while it lasts.

I think that a man should not live beyond the age when he begins to deteriorate, when the flame that lighted the brightest moment of his life has weakened.”

… Fidel Castro

4 responses to “Winter Descending

  1. I miss Jack, thanks for bringing him in once again.

  2. That dehumidifier looks like a great idea. Care to share your secret on how to make one?

    Thanks for the inspirational note re: Jeanne Socrates – wow! I thought I was doing well back in the days when I single-handed my 23-ft Alberg around in the Gulf Islands…when I was only 40. Whew!! She’s amazing.

    BTW, there was a minor typo in the website address you gave for her – correct URL is http://svnereida.com/

  3. Hi Laurie:
    Thanks for your note, glad you also fins Jeanne Socrates inspiring.
    Best, Fred

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