In A Fog

A trillium in the sun. When you live in the dark dripping Northcoast jungle, seeing real wildflowers is an absolute thrill

Feral tulips picked from a vacant lot on mainstreet Ladysmith.

NOTE: All photos in this blog were taken with my cell phone. Click on any photo to enlarge.

First of all I must confess to providing some “Fake news” in my last blog. I was told the nearest advance polling station for the BC election was in Masset, when in fact it is in Bella Bella. ALWAYS confirm your sources!

I awoke wondering where I was. The room was bright and there was someone in the bed beside me. That, I realized, was my wife. I was home in Ladysmith, not alone as usual in my berth in the boat. There was a strange yet vaguely familiar sound outside. I realized it was the sawmill on the other side of town. I was hearing the clack and bang of lumber in a drop sorter. The sound was from the past, that of a working sawmill, now a sadly rare song of what made this province great. Once, nearly every town in BC had at least one sawmill. A few days ago when my flight was landing in Nanaimo Harbour I looked down into the gaping holds of an Asian ship on the wharf of a former sawmill. It was receiving yet another load of raw, prime BC logs. All the while, fewer folks can afford to buy houses built with BC lumber.

While this is not a political blog I like to get a few jabs in now and then. Right now we are in the middle of a provincial election campaign and one of the hot topics is the lack of affordable housing in British Columbia. That story has now been extrapolated to people living on their boats and pumping raw sewage overboard. In enclosed waters, such as False Creek in Vancouver, doing something as thoughtless as that will certainly draw attention. In places like Shearwater, where I live on my boat, there is no sewage facility on any of the docks, so feeding the crabs is ‘De Rigeur” but , at least, we do have plenty of tidal action to dissipate the DNA from a few boats. In an area of dense population and no open tidal flow everyone will end up with a shitty situation. I’m far more concerned about the oils and chemicals that wash out of our yard in the incessant rain.

I like to preach that the price of freedom is responsibility. If you want to live beneath the, radar,”off the grid,” great! Just quit firing rockets for attention. Don’t do things that piss everyone else off, then demand your right to live as you choose. There is an eternal debate about raw sewage and how it is dealt with. For years in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, filtered sewage is piped out into the Strait Of Juan De Fuca. There is a recurring outcry in the cycle of popular protests about that, although few seem to note that in the vicinity of those discharges is where some really big salmon get caught. It’s the food chain thing; big fish eat smaller fish which eat tiny fish, you know how it goes. Few people seem at all concerned however about all the toxic crap that flushes off of our streets, into the storm sewers and out to sea. The oceans of the world are all in deep peril from over-fishing and every type pf pollution from noise to plastic to chemical and nuclear. Frankly, I see our species treating the whole world as a toilet. Our bowl is running over.

Wreck Beach, Ladysmith aka Dogpatch. When folks in the small liveaboard community find their basements too wet, they scuttle their old hulks on the beach and often the venerable vessels are burned. The debris below the pilings in the background is the ashes of a floathouse lost to fire this winter. Eventually someone else has to clean up the expensive, toxic mess.

Coincidentally the same newspaper page that carried the sewage story, ran a report about a very expensive construction property which has been abandoned. The project broke into an aquifer and now the city of Vancouver is saddled with the expensive problem of containing and diverting the millions of daily litres of fresh clean water into the Fraser River. Um, you know ,…there are many cities around the world that would love to have this problem. Even Vancouver runs out of water in the summer. When life gives you lemons make lemonade, go with the flow. Truly amazing isn’t it? Human beings are determined to try forcing nature to conform to our will and a gift from the Gods is considered a problem.

Today was to be my return to Shearwater after a few days south. An early morning drive of about two hours to Campbell River got me to the airport in good time. The near-empty flight roared into the sky and eventually landed in Port Hardy for fuel after much circling and two aborted landing attempts in Bella Bella. The fog was thick and especially viscous right over the airfield. We probably passed 500′ over the terminal building. So now it’s a day’s pay lost, plus the price of a motel room and meals. Remember last blog’s quote about making God laugh by telling him your plans? We’ll see how tomorrow unfolds.

Tomorrow has become today. I sit in my motel room looking out on Discovery Pass where the fog drifts and lifts and settles. Flocks of snow geese fly northward, low over the water, hooting and calling their distinctive sounds. On an adjacent wall, a woodpecker hammers his way through the wooden siding of the motel’s dining room. I find it hard to photograph the bird through the sifting fog. It is very peaceful. I have a suspicion that today’s game will be called “Hurry up and wait.” We’re here because we’re not all there.

Name that bay! A glimpse of earth before we venture lower toward an aborted landing. It’s so hard being an old pilot sitting in the back!

“Is a flashing bunny a good thing?” The little guy on the right watches cockpit procedure as we buzz Bella Bella a second time..


Looking up from 13,000′ The contrail high overhead represents a few hundred people hurtling eastward
enjoying some sort of lunch and completely oblivious to the speck crossing beneath them. It leaves me feeling very tiny.

Breathe! Finally the fog dissipates over Queen Charlottle Strait. We’re passing over a tiny nook known to mariners as ‘God’s Pocket’

Short final, Port Hardy.
With empty fuel tanks and bursting bladders, a very welcome sight.

A sexy airplane nobody wants to ride in. This immaculate Beechcraft Super King Air is part of the BC Air Ambulance fleet. On the ground in Port Hardy.

Phweeeeeeeeep… all night long. The fog whistle at the Cape Mudge Lighthouse across Discovery Passage from my motel room. The Campbell River airport was still fogbound.

 

Snakehead Rock. Sitting on the tidal flat beneath my motel room balcony this large naturally sculpted rock faces the flooding tide and makes it easier to comprehend aboriginal mythology. Even the bird dropping in the eye is perfectly placed.

A lousy photo of a rotten guy. In the early morning fog this flicka hammers out a second condo in the motel wall. Fortunately his union doesn’t endorse working night shifts.

I’d barely finished breakfast when the phone rang to tell me that a bus had arrived to take the Bella Bella refuges back to the airport. At the airport, we were loaded onto a second bus and hauled off to the airport in Comox. After a little more shuffling the passengers were herded toward a waiting aircraft sitting on the far side of the tarmac. The pilots were wrestling with a stubborn fuel cap on a wing tank. It was the same crew with whom we’d flown the previous day and the young captain was showing rising frustration with his ongoing bad luck. I know that feeling. You can’t start cursing and jumping up and down on your hat when there’s an audience of passengers belted into their seats. We were grounded without an airworthy fuel cap. I volunteered my services as a former aircraft mechanic and soon found myself out at the wingtip on a ladder. Letting a passenger tinker on a aircraft is not the way to run an airline but it is wonderful what you can accomplish with a screwdriver and a pair of vise-grips. The innards of the special cap were worn out and jammed. I persuaded it to function for one last time. We flew. The flawless landing in Bella Bella was right on legal minimums in fog and torrential rain. I made a whole bunch of people happy today.

The red thing goes where?
Passengers were beginning to raise concerns as this young pilot tried unsuccessfully to repair a faulty fuel filler cap. I finally went and helped. The aircraft in the background is an Argus, part of the Comox Aircraft Museum’s collection. It was used for long-range anti-submarine patrol.

What a feeling!
Northbound out of Comox,
Bella Bella or bust.

All’s well that ends. I’m back in Shearwater. The heavy rain continues.

The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.”

… Will Rogers

5 responses to “In A Fog

  1. your “skill set” is amazing and disappearing….
    you remind me of the “millwright” in dad’s camp up north, amazing people
    like old “shipwrights” able to fix anything with anything, the very definition of “ingenuity”
    and your talent to write and photograph and thus share
    provides some hope of a least a record

    thank you still

  2. Wow, what a journey! Glad you were able to make it work, and finally get there in (relative) safety. Enjoyed the post and the images, especially the two flowers and “Wreck Beach” – good that you are making them clickable now to enlarge.

  3. Laurie;.
    Thanks Laurie. all photos have always been “clickable” I get a kick out of using my cell phone and am amazed at times what can be accomplished.
    They’re certainly a long way from the Kodak Brownie I started out with as a kid. Hope to get out cruising around here soon if the weather improves, …it is time!

  4. Bernie Bailey

    Thanks Fred!

    Those 1900 pictures/stories bring back good memories – and amusing memories of flying very large loggers in small airplanes. That was a fun airplane to fly!

    Hope all is well,

    Bernie

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