A thin warmth. Cloudless sky. Sunlight in the eyes. February 13th, Family Day, a holiday. With all of that said in one line, Valentine’s Day arrives under the forecast of more rain and wind. There’ll be no wine and chocolates here. February 15th proves the weatherman right, Torrential rain begins in the evening and is still drumming down in the morning. With yesterday’s news came the story that iconic CBC story teller Stuart Maclean had died. I confess that I envied his success and how everyone seemed to love his work, no matter what their personal tastes were. He will be long missed. His eloquence and ability to consistently deliver a simple yet compelling story, punctuated with clever humour, will remain a standard for all writers and story tellers.
Another story comes from Nanaimo. Young parents contacted the media with a plea for their autistic youngster. Apparently the child had been introduced to Kraft Dinner in specially packaged “Star Wars” boxes. Now, he’ll eat nothing else. Yeah right! Let him miss a meal or two and he’ll start looking at real food differently. The request, carried by several national media sources, begged for more of the non-food. I can’t believe it. Golly gee molly-coddler! This poor kid has a bleak future. Flash ahead a few decades and he’ll be another dude in a studded dog-collar panic-stricken about getting to a metal concert. I mention this only as example of our world gone mad. To me, it is ludicrous that so much press be given to a non-story and that such crass values are promoted. Once again I’ll gently mention Syrian refugees (As one example) and what our perspectives would be if we walked a short way in their shoes. Imagine walking across a continent hoping to find a place, any place to make a new home. The next meal? Who knows what or when? So many of us live in a world so abstract we’ve lost our grip on basic reality.
Something to do, someone to love, something to look forward to, all the rest is gravy. By week’s end, the kid has a lifetime supply of the crap. Hmmm! Maybe I could sell the media on a plaintive tale about an old dufus who needs to sail south for health reasons.
Saturday morning brightened under a light fog. Soon blue sky began to show. ‘Seafire’ and I were gone like a shot. With the weight of winter weather, health issues and all the trials of life I desperately need to remind myself of why I’m living here alone and clinging to a dream. I stop in Bella Bella for groceries then head south. Within a short while I found myself at the opposite corner of Denny Island, out of sight and out of mind of my daily drudgery. What a feeling! I had the world to myself and every possible destination lay before me on this pristine, cloudless, glorious day. The urge to keep on going was compelling. I met the Prince Rupert ferry as I exited Lamma Pass. We chatted briefly on the radio before we saw each other. There is some comfort in hearing another human voice within the emptiness of this massive wilderness. We pass and the seaway is empty again. I looked down the long stretch of Fitzhugh Sound and ached for the distant open horizon. Instead I’m writing at anchor in Codville Lagoon. It is cold, there is a skim of ice on much of the lagoon. The boat sits at anchor as if it were aground in butter. The stars are incredible. Their reflection on the calm black water leave me feeling as if I’m adrift in the universe with stars all round. I have the universe to myself. It is a fantastic feeling.
Sunday dawns with a high thin overcast. All around the boat there is a skin of ice on the lagoon. I have about a mile of ice-breaking ahead of me. Even a thin layer can damage the gel coat on a fibreglass boat. When I weigh anchor I leave it dangle at the water’s surface. It helps break the ice before it contacts the bow stem and only a few chips of bottom paint are knocked away. I pull my prawn trap and head back across Fitzhugh Sound and back up Lama Passage toward Shearwater and another week of work. There is no wind, the sails stay furled. It was not an especially remarkable little trip but I’ve reaffirmed that I hold the option of leaving at any time. At any time I can be gone in a couple of hours. That, in itself, is worth more than any sum of money. Three hours later, ‘Seafire’ is back in her berth. I wash her down, fill the water tank, make a mug of tea and start to edit the weekend’s photos. It begins to rain.
“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”
February first, Bella Bella airport. Calm, clear, bloody cold. Again! I’m off south to the big smoke to see the vets again, for the same thing. The flight is uneventful but I can tell you that travelling with a UTI (Urinary tract Infection) has reduced my sense of manliness to a new low. Perhaps I’m just living out my life as a dog but moving about with the incessant urge to piddle becomes an incredible burden. It pisses me off. There are just not enough bushes out there some days. A residual effect from my bladder surgery at Christmas, it is definitely a gift that keeps on giving. Jill accompanied me to Vancouver for yet another heart procedure. It snowed persistently and on the crossing it was announced that all the Vancouver buses had been shut down. A big burly fellow began wailing loudly. He wore an interesting costume which included a studded dog collar. He whined loudly that he’d put all his money into attending a “Metal Concert” to the point of missing meals and now what would he do? I truly felt the urge to apply some slap therapy and wanted to ask him how he’d deal with being a Syrian refugee. Feckwit! More on the stupidity of our species shortly.
As it turned out, the buses were running, on time, and once again I was amazed at the efficiency of the Translink system in the lower mainland. People still find room to complain, but for less than the cost of one hour’s parking downtown, you can buy a day-pass that allows you to be whisked anywhere all day long without risk of theft, accident or parking problem. Jill and I were bemused to recall the panic on the ferry about how foot passengers were going to get themselves downtown. There were negotiations for rides with driver-volunteers and while I admired the obvious milk of human kindness, It was intriguing to see how easily blind panic was induced with a simple pre-emptive inaccurate announcement.
Back on Vancouver Island, also snowy and slushy, I ventured forth in my new-used truck. It is a lovely thing and will take my little off-road trailer on many future adventures. I have seldom acquired a vehicle, new or used, which did not provide some sort of an initiation break-down. Today was a repeat performance. In the middle of a slushy street, my lovely new used truck died. It turned out to be a corroded computer module which shut off the fuel supply; expensive, but easily remedied. My capitalist pride turn to instant frustration. A previous time when I’d just put a fresh set of tires on a new used vehicle, the engine promptly blew up at the top of the Malahat Summit. Yes, there’s another set of new tires in the store this time!
The stunning part of that wee adventure was the incredible stupidity of many motorists. Some folks stopped to offer assistance which was dead lovely. Many others, although my full-sized black 4×4 truck, stalled in the middle of the snowy road with emergency flashers pulsing, could be seen for several blocks beforehand, would pull up immediately behind the vehicle. They would either sit with a blank look on their face or begin sounding their horn. In the hour it took a tow truck to arrive, this occurred many dozens of times. With my leaky plumbing issue, it was not at all a pleasant experience. Mein Gott! These folks are licensed to hurl themselves around the planet in large, deadly projectiles at high speed, yet apparently have the cognitive skills of a mudflap. No wonder the Trumps of the world can so easily take control. Living in a backwater like Shearwater clearly has some advantages. The only fool I need worry about here is myself. Fortunately, while repairs were being made, my dear old pals, Grethe and Niels, took me under their wing and soothed this sorry beast. Thank the gods for good friends.
Checking my e-mail I discovered that other friends has just completed the very long passage from South Africa to Trinidad on their sailboat ‘Sage.’ Tony and Connie left Victoria on Vancouver Island a few years ago and now have sailed over half-way around the planet. Where they go from Trinidad is anyone’s guess. What an intrepid pair. You can find a link to their blog site on the right hand sidebar of this blog. Another friend is sending me amazing photographs from Thailand. A sailor friend wintering in Mexico is urging me to just “Do it” and get my old buns down there. As soon as I can take the next breath, and the next pee, for granted, I’ll be on it like never before. The tears are running down my leg. (there’s a lot to be said for kilts.)
Monday morning, back to Vancouver today. It’s still snowing. Another adventure lies ahead.
I find myself worrying about ‘Seafire’ languishing in Shearwater without me to look after her. There is another strong wind warning up for the area and within the next few days they’ll be blasting a monster pile of rock that has been being drilled for several weeks near my dock. I’d like to be able to take my beloved boat away a mile or two from the blast site. What will be will be and there’s enough to worry about right where I am; after all, it’s just a boat. Right? I have to haul myself, the old “wutless gonder,” off to the meat shop and get probed and zapped some more. That’s all that matters today….and a place to pee. Damn! How the mighty are fallen. There are so many kinds of courage and I marvel at those folks who bravely face horrible illness and injury and the ubiquitous poop-brindle beige halls of medical institutions. Then there are those who go to work in those places on a daily basis. I could not do that. We took a room in the lovely Lonsdale Quay Hotel. I’d planned to take Jill for an early Valentine’s dinner in a favourite restaurant; there was a gas leak and all the local restaurants were closed. We ended up enjoyed a fabulous meal in a Thai restaurant a few blocks away. You never know what’s around the corner!
February eighth, Campbell River Airport. At the hospital in Vancouver yesterday, in preparation for yet another “Cardioversion” (It sounds a bit like a religious experience …and it is!) the anaesthesiologist asked me if I remembered anything of the previous treatment. I replied that I did. I said I recalled a helluva bang and then the smell of bacon. She berated me for being a smart ass, although the rest of the attendant crew seemed to appreciate a little humour. This time I don’t remember a thing and the application of high-voltage has brought my pulse back to a normal rate. Now I can focus on getting my plumbing problems under control. A prescription has turned my discharges a brilliant orange. Tracking me in the fresh snow will be no problem.
Seriously, it ain’t no fun. Loss of bladder control is an agony, night and day, and I’m in pursuit of a new urologist for a second opinion and to see what’s going on. The one who did the reaming and ripping is arrogant and dismissive. Tests have revealed that there is no infection. Something else is wrong. Bugga! I understand why some folks launch malpractice litigation. I’m almost ready to rig up a bucket and hose tied to my leg. Patience I tell myself, patience, this too shall pass. Meanwhile the fluorescent tears run down my leg.
Jill drove me to the Campbell River airport this morning and I hope to shortly be back in Shearwater. The trees and roadside were laden with snow. There is more forecast for later today. Up in the Great Bear Rainforest, there was a fire on Denny Island along the power line from Ocean Falls. Aerial photos on the TV news show miles of power line in flames. How that could happen, in rain forest in mid-winter is everyone’s mystery. The high winds must have fanned the flames. Some local local natives are trying to use this as yet another example of whitey’s disregard and neglect of First Nation needs and priorities because they were without electricity for a while on the weekend. No comment!
Meanwhile we’re holding our breath about the weather being good enough on for today’s flight. I’d rather be sitting under a palm tree wondering which cantina to go to for dinner. Finally back in Bella Bella, there is a sinus-pinging north wind blowing. The wait on the dock for the water taxi was interminable. I returned to Shearwater a short while after the blast. A few rocks fell on the far end of my dock but ‘Seafire’ sat unscathed. A rock was fired through the wall of a house above the dock. It emerged through the ceiling into the kitchen. Collateral damage and all’s well that ends. In the afternoon I soon found myself head-down unbolting an engine for removal from a water taxi. Life goes on. This morning, as I write, a fresh blanket of snow is descending. Ordeal or adventure, life is what you make of it. Suddenly it is nearing mid-February and I’m still here. It is the Saturday of the year’s first long weekend but I’m going to work today. The weather is crap and the work in the shop is piling up. Too much time away gallivanting around in southern hospitals!
On Sunday morning any plans for the long weekend have dissipated. A full storm has raged all night but fortunately with steady howling winds. No slamming gusts! I slept peacefully most of the night! Sleep has become a rare commodity because of my health issues which demand I visit the loo several times through the night. I’ve discovered Tibetan and Mongolian throat singing among other soothing types of music I can stream from You Tube. It’s weird perhaps, but it works and to be able to nap for two continuous hours is now a rare treat. As the day drags on the rising wind begins its slamming gusts. I clean and tinker on the boat as I upload the photos of this blog on our flickering internet. It will be a long day. I’m not complaining, just explaining. There will soon come a morning when the skies are clear, the wind will be warm and dry. The old verdigris-stained sails will fill and the compass will read due south.
“Now is the winter of our discontent.” William Shakespeare