Monthly Archives: March 2017

Flying Back To Bunga Bunga

 (No disrespect intended, it’s what some of us call Bella Bella. Bella Coola is Bunga Cunga)

Yes Really!
They’re out there.
Like it or not, it’s spring…and the flowers know.

Well now that I’ve showed you mine…! Another Southern delight for me, Arbutus trees.

The hook. A salmon jaw left over from last autumn’s spawn, hangs at shoulder-height. Part of the annual drama is the distribution of the dead fish. They feed both flora and fauna as their bodies return to the natural world.

Jack’s new ride. He loves it! So do I. My new used 4×4, full-sized crew cab truck, with a V8 engine gets slightly better gas consumption than my previous small SUV and import truck with much smaller engines.
Go figure!

I know you’re leaving. Again! Without me!

Little Boxes. People choose to live in this sterile environment on the water front. It’s all about a view. There was a time when poor folk lived by the sea and ate fish. If I had the price of one of these condos, there would be photos in this blog with palm trees. In three hours I travelled from this warm sunniness…

…This! WTF? It’s officially spring tomorrow. The long white strip is the airfield on Denny Island. We’re about to land in Bella Bella. Kliktsoatli Harbour is reflected in the spinner.

Moments later over the metropolis of Shearwater. Check gear down. You can see the nose wheel in the spinner. The aircraft is a Beechcraft 1900D; a fabulous airplane.

Dodd Narrows. Just out of Nanaimo Harbour we pass the yachtsman’s dreaded southern approach to Nanaimo. Here the narrows have recently turned to ebb. soon there will be nasty whirlpools and back eddies and a current of 6.7 knots. Oh yeah, add some spinning logs and a few terrified weekend boaters!

Trincomali Channel. Looking south through some of the Gulf Islands past Porlier Pass and into far-distant Plumper Sound. A tug tows logs between two deep sea bulk ships waiting to load in Vancouver. The anchorage on the right is Pirate Cove, famous to Westcoast yachters and former home of notorious Brother Twelve.

My old stomping grounds. Degnen Bay below and Silva Bay beyond. Hello old friends all.

“That you Mac, or is it Harmac?” A tired, ancient joke about Nanaimo’s smelly pulp mill. In the distance on the left is the other foul pulp mill in Crofton. In the center is Nanaimo’s busy Cassidy Airport. Ladysmith is just beyond on the shores of Oyster Bay. A fabulous place to come home to.

The curve.
The open horizon has always been impossible to resist for this old pilot and sailor. This view is of the Southern Strait Of Georgia.

South YVR. The floatplane is a DHC3 Otter. I’m sitting in another one. The seaplane terminal is on the Fraser River on the south side of Vancouver International Airport. The terminal is adjoined with a wonderful pub, ‘The Flying Beaver.’

The Otter Office. The panel of an Otter cockpit. When I first sat in this seat, fifty years ago, these aircraft were powered with a thundering radial engine. All instrumentation was analog “Steam gauges”
Modern computerized “Video games and turbine engines have turned a wonderful airplane into an incredible one.

 

On arrival at the YVR South Terminal I flopped my big old wheeled travel bag onto the weigh scale. The ticket agent raised an eyebrow at the readout. I looked down at the bag and said, “Don’t move around granny, you’re almost through.” The young lady raised her eyebrow again and asked with a posh English accent, “You are joking!?” I grinned.

Well, we have to be sure!” I wasn’t actually feeling jovial, I was just trying to mask my dismay about returning to Shearwater. Lately it has not been the magical destination one could hope for; more of a ‘Club Dread.’ As I pocketed my boarding pass, I looked away over my shoulder and said, “Hi Jack.” Then I smiled to the ticket lady. “Nothing like a sense of humour to stir things up at the airport.”

Rather!” But then she began to smile.

I’d ridden the float plane across from Nanaimo with two former neighbours. They were on their way to Varadero in Cuba, a five hour flight from Vancouver. As I edit today’s snowy photo’s back aboard ‘Seafire’ they’ll be sipping mojitos on the hotel patio and watching the sun set over the Carribbean. BUGGA! Some co-workers have quit and left during the week I’ve been away. Will I be next? One of those folks has since been in contact from Thailand. Good for him.

Goodbye Nanaimo. Now bound for Bella Bella the view is west across the strait to Nanaimo and it’s magnificent harbour. I wonder when I’ll see it again.

The letdown. Beginning our descent to Bella Bella, we get a glimpse of a snowy mountain.

There was brilliant sunshine on the south coast today. We flew north over a broken overcast. Near Bella Bella we slid down through a hole in the cloud and began our final descent. I hope I didn’t curse aloud. More fresh snow! Bloody hell! Three hours earlier I’d been watching a woman blow huge soap bubbles for kids on the Nanaimo waterfront in the warm spring sunlight. Now back to this! What the hell? I throw my gear aboard ‘Seafire,’ slam the hatch, turn up the heater and hunker down for the long night ahead. The forecast for the week ahead calls for rain and snow flurries, just like last week. The next light on my horizon will be the Easter long weekend and I’m resolved to gloomy weather then.

Moments Before…
landing in Bella Bella. One of my joys in a 1900 is being able to watch the instruments. An old seat-of-the-pants pilot, I marvel at the efficiency and precision of today’s modern aircraft and crews. They possess an entirely different skill set than mine.

The real thing. After repairs our travel lift is back in action. First up is this locally designed and built offshore sail boat. It incorporates traditional and novel ideas. Built of aluminum, twin-engined, twin-ruddered, it is a floating bomb shelter which I can see sails and works very well. It is a joy to see. There is a great beauty in this practical and capable vessel.

The poor old boat is suffering mightily thanks to the weather. The finish on the exterior woodwork has been seriously damaged this winter. I cannot do anything about it or the other jobs waiting for a little warmth and dryness. The general spirit of the whole community seems diminished as we wait for signs of a reluctant spring. Yesterday morning, in Nanaimo, while walking Jack, a flock of wild swans flew low overhead. They weren’t heading north.

It will be a while until we see them flying over up here.

A bouquet of hope. Surely spring will come some time soon.

Don’t let the same dog bite you twice.” Chuck Berry

Snow Job

My last few blogs have repeatedly mentioned the tenacious winter weather. Yesterday, March 8th, we awoke here in Shearwater to the beginnings of a mini blizzard. It snowed ferociously for about four hours. Here is a photo essay on yesterday’s weather. At 7 am this morning, the sky is cloudless.

AGAIN?
The forecast was for snow flurries with accumulations to 2 cm.

Steady as she snows.

Whoosh!

Never Look Back

Seafire sits forlornly at the dock, her bow pointing in the direction of Mexico.

Stacking it up. I have been places where no-one would notice  a small flurry like this.

I don’t know what I thought was so funny!

Don’t slam the door.

Home is where the boat is.

Warm and snug inside….make the world go away.

In late afternoon the skies clear and the temperature tumbles

I’d prefer that the only ice I see is beneath a palm tree…in a lime margarita!

Cold feet, cold heart, cold beak, cold fish!

The morning after. Cold, clear calm. By the end of the day another storm was moving in.

Dreaming of spring
…Any day now.

 

Hold fast to dreams For when dreams go Life is a barren field Frozen with snow. Langston Hughes.

Cabin Fever

YEAH RIGHT!
Sunshine? When? Daily snowfalls continue.

It is the last weekend of February. This is a time which is one of the pinnacles of my annual life cycle; the Fisher Poets Gathering is on in Astoria Oregon. Composed of a large contingent of Alaskan fisher-folk, the event draws men and women from around the world. Various performers offer samples of their writing and music. The depth of talent is stunning. Uplifting and affirming to mix with other blue collar creative souls there is also humility in realizing the tremendous creative energy among simple working people. The website is fisherpoets.org If you click on ‘performers’ then go to ‘in the tote’ you’ll be able to find some of my work to read and to listen to. There are plenty of other performers listed there whose work is spellbinding. I am honoured to find myself among them.

Last Year’s Poster Boy.
Not quite the cover of the Rolling Stone but here’s yours truly in action.

This weekend in Astoria has been, for me, a great way to shake the blahs and recharge wintered-down batteries. It is a fabulous town to visit in its own right. I go to participate every year. But this year I’m writing this aboard ‘Seafire’ while moored in Shearwater, a very long way north of Astoria and the Columbia River. Health issues are keeping me here. It is snowing outside and a severe brown-out is settling over me. I have to get out of here. Now! I slip my lines and idle out into the thick snow well aware I’m totally alone. This is no cure for cabin fever, the boat looks the same inside but I have a sense of being in control, able to go wherever I choose. Soon lost from sight in the slanting snow, only I know where I am. My sense of isolation increases slightly but I feel slightly better.

No Light Today
Dryad Point Light Station in a snow storm
The light was not operating despite the low light and visibility.

A Cold Dawn
Clear sky and brisk wind in the anchorage at Troup Narrows

Two hours later I am at anchor just past Troup Narrows. I began to turn in to my intended anchorage but found a neighbour’s boat already anchored there. In respect for their deliberate solitude I moved on. It would have been rude to impose my presence when there are so many other snug places to anchor. Here I sit, alone in a wilderness night and the driving snow of the Great Bear Rainforest. Almost asleep with my fingers on the keyboard I sit here in a thick stupor with a whole night of long black hours ahead. Those hours pass with a long series of nasty dreams and general anxiety. It is probably just my state of mind but I note that this is an area heavily marked with ancient pictographs and petroglyphs of local indigenous peoples. It is probably just my imagination, but It has happened to me in similar places elsewhere and I wonder if there is a presence that effects some people. It is probably all bugga bugga but still; what if? The sky is clear, swept by a brisk Northeast wind. It has kept the boat taut on the end of its anchor chain all night. It pinged and grumbled but the Rocna anchor held firmly as it always does. I finish my second coffee as the aroma of a pork roast in the oven fills the cabin. I’ve impregnated it with several cloves of garlic. The oven helps warm the boat on this chilly morning and I’ll have meat cooked ahead for several meals.

Leroy Brown
My very handsome new neighbour.

Time to go. The anchor comes up encased in thick mud, the best material to hold a boat. I intend to amble along a circuitous back route looking for petroglyphs and paintings. The sun, by 9 o’clock, is finally high enough to cast enough light to see but then the light becomes too harsh with deep shadows and the wind howls too boldly for me to take the boat close to the rocky unfamiliar shoreline. I resolve to be content with the day as a simple outing with nothing accomplished or discovered. People do that I’m told. It was actually rather pleasant.

The Squeeze.
To remove this old diesel engine I had to fit myself into the space on the far side. After all the rusted hardware was removed the big ugly lump had to be shoe-horned up, sideways, forward, up and out. To do that the boat had to be tied along a bulkhead above some sharp rocks on a falling tide. All’s well that ends.

The last days of February are bitterly cold. An older power boat stored in the yard requires attention in its engine room. The vessel was built around the engines, which after several decades, are balls of grease and rust. After fighting with seized bolts in cramped quarters in numbing cold, I am yet again confronted with the ugly reality that this is work for a younger, flat-bellied person. My Rubenesque form is not contorting as it needs too, the knees don’t unbend and my attitude is hardening and it seems that my lament is constantly about health and weather. March 1st daylight creeps reluctantly beneath a thick, dripping blanket of cloud. It is calm. Yesterday’s slush clings on. By the end of the week nothing has changed. I’ve prepared yet another old yacht’s engine room for engine removal. It too will be a shoehorn endeavour. For some reason similar jobs often occur near the same time. I remind myself that nothing is forever and that soon I’ll find myself looking back on this misery from a happier place. The weather, and the forecast, continue with wind, rain and snow. I’m having difficulty finding something of interest to blog about and the motivation to care about anything. Some folks here live within a drug and alcohol- induced fog. I can almost understand that.

Old Beauty
Under the verdigris and rust stains, this old wooden double-ender is still a solid boat and evidence of someone’s dream.

A Spanish Windlass
This is an ancient method of drawing two objects together, in this case, two sections of dock.

The first weekend of March arrives in a snow storm. I take some pictures and go back to bed, feeling as motivated as a hose. N old hose. My ambition for today is defrosting the boat’s fridge and I’m going to savour that wild craziness for a while yet. Two hours later, the bright, warm sun is hanging in a clearing blue sky. I shut off the heaters, throw open the hatches and savour dry fresh air. The sunlight reveals layers of grime. I scrub away, disheartened at my slovenly boat keeping. Admittedly, the boat has been closed up tight since sometime in October while I’ve cooked and lived within. Yeech! At least the recognition and resolve of my detritus is a sign of hope and ambition. Haar! Yet there be life.

On Saturday evening the community got together and put on a Greek food evening. This old recluse was reluctant at first but ended up being glad he went. The food was spectacular, kudos to all who cooked. There were even samples of venison and moose cooked with Mediterranean recipes and someone made Baklava that was exquisite. The folks were all amiable and I will confess to having had a very pleasant time. It was wonderful to have exotic food in such a backwater.

On Sunday I stowed away on a water taxi running up to Bella Coola to pick up an employee.

The Long Run
Heading for Bella Coola

It was great to just be a passenger with no responsibilities. Outflow winds at first provided a back-jarring ride but conditions eased under a cloudless sky. The vastness of this country is stunning. Shearwater is well inland from the open Pacific and Bella Coola is about sixty miles further inland within a labyrinth of deep inlets with vicious winds and swirling currents. The forest changes from coastal cedar and becomes predominantly fir. The mountains rise higher and become more rugged. After hours of travel one feels well imbedded in the continent yet on the chart it is clear you’ve barely begun.

Oh what a feeling
Dolphins join the boat at approximately 25 knots. Their swimming and cavorting seem effortless.

I wish… that I could swim like that

As Far As He Got. Mackenzie Rock, a very long way by foot from Scotland.

A lovely pictograph along the way. Who knows what it means.

End of the line. An old cannery in Bella Coola

Canada, solid land all the way to Labrador. It’s a big country.

 

Today for the first time I briefly looked on Mackenzie Rock, an ambition I’ve long held This is the site several miles seaward of Bella Coola where Alexander Mackenzie ended his fantastic westward trek in1793 when Heiltsuk warriors turned his expedition back. It must have been a massive disappointment to have travelled on Pacific seawater yet be denied the sight of open ocean horizon. The man stoically turned around to canoe and walk all the way back to Toronto. He originally came from the Isle Of Lewis, when just making it to the mainland of Scotland was a personal achievement. Wee Alex went on to tramp across and up and down huge parts of Canada. Eventually representing the North West Company he made his way to the headwaters of what would become known as the Mackenzie River. Then he canoed the massive river’s length to the Arctic Ocean. I have always been amazed how intrepid it was to come from a small country and set to hoof and paddle across incomprehensible distances. A few years later he showed up in Bella Coola, after a trip back to Scotland. That dude got around! Apparently he missed a meeting there, by a few weeks, with the dauntless George Vancouver. Eventually, at the age of forty-eight, he made it home to Scotland once again where he married a fourteen-year old girl and fathered three children. Hagis Power! I’m left feeling dead wimpey.

Waiting for spring. Waiting and waiting.

Boredom: “the desire for desires.” Leo Tolstoy