Monthly Archives: November 2017

B.N.D.

Morning Glory after a night’s heavy rain. Bailing can be a daily routine in winter.

My wife has a great idea. She’s come up with what she calls a B.N.D. or, Buy Nothing Day. In our consumer culture we nearly all have the craving to spend money. We’re incessantly prompted and programmed to do it. “How do you like it? How do you like it? More. More! More!” was a jingle for a local supermarket chain. In remote locations yachters who’ve been confined to their boats for a few days have an overwhelming compulsion to buy anything, something, as much as possible even though it may be useless, over-priced crap that they never needed until they saw it. I know that when I’m down and out, it makes me feel momentarily better to buy something. Prozac is a prescribed medication for compulsive shopping disorder. Yep, it’s considered a medical condition! The compulsion to acquire is a certain symptom of depression just surely as Prozac is a common drug for that illness. And tomorrow is Black Thursday which precedes the Black Friday and Pink Monday sales events.

Anyway I’m happy to recommend B.N.D. as a means of achieving some empowerment and control over one’s life. It sounds easy but I dare you to try it. For those of us driven to spend on credit I recall an old Welsh lady who once asked me, “If ye canna pay for it once, how will you pay for it twice?” That is sage thinking that I still have difficulty with.

Anapaya has risen again, this time to be broken up. The breaker’s crane and barge mark the spot. Meanwhile someone has tried to burn the beached wrecks. The boathouse in the back ground is a newcomer.
Will this squatter be the scene of the next fire

Anyway, I’m often informed that sailors are cheap buggers the world over. Sailing is often described as being like “Standing in an ice cold shower while ripping up thousand dollar notes” and that the word boat is correctly spelled with two T’s. Break Out Another Ten Thousand. I’m one of those backwater types who really doesn’t care about impressions. Let’s just say that I’m not a snappy dresser but I keep my old boat seaworthy if not always shiny. If it is a choice between new underwear or a box of flares, you know what will be burned. So, it’s not that we sailors are compulsively cheap, it’s just that all our money goes into the boat. If anything, we’re compulsively broke. And before someone spews out the weary cliché about boats being holes in the water I’ll reiterate that houses are holes in the beach to shovel your money into, and the scenery never changes. You can’t untie your house and sail away when you’ve had enough of your neighbours. See ya later!.

Frost on the skylight. With much of the province buried under snow, this is a small price to pay for a rainless morning.

 

The last one, I promise.
A final shot of autumn colours. The rain and wind have knocked down most of the leaves by now.

Another symptom of depression is hoarding. I was recently horrified to realize that maybe I’m inclined toward hoarderism myself. I’ve been living on ‘Seafire’ for years in remote locations. I wear only work clothes and can destroy outer wear sometimes daily. When in town I cruise my favourite second-hand clothing store and acquire shirts, jeans and other outer wear “just in case” I run out of togs. My brother once said of me that “Somewhere there goes a naked clown!” Today was spent unloading the boat. Sacks of manky clothing, bedding, towels, extra tools and never-used boat parts filled my truck. And there’s more to come! I realize that when I go south I won’t need nearly as much “stuff” crammed into every locker. I’m sure only one parka will do. I swear the boat has visibly risen on her marks. If hoarding is a symptom of depression then our culture is seriously ill. You can’t go far without finding extensive storage facilities. Folks have so much “stuff” they can’t cram it into their too-big houses so they rent space to store even more “stuff.” Once, all I owned could be fit into a backpack. Then it became what went into a pickup truck. After all the years wasted acquiring “stuff” now my joy is getting rid of it. If you see an old geezer on the roadside, stop and offer a ride; it could be me.

On Autumn Pond. An all-day downpour in Victoria.
Wet beyond words.

Now ‘Seafire’ is safely tucked into a berth for the winter. The space is available permanently.

That is a frightening prospect. I won’t let her sit and gather green, but for the moment there are no voyages planned. November wears on. I tidy out my tool boxes, tend to little jobs around the house and wonder where the money is coming from. When I first arrived I never wanted to see the boat again and I’ve forced myself to stay away from her for over a day at a time. Now there is a building tension. I check my lotto numbers; yeah right! I check the weather; yeah right. The rain and wind continue.

Last week I visited with my friend Pär Domeij. He was passing through Victoria on his way home to Sweden for the winter. His beautiful boat ‘Sjoa’ is stored in Shearwater and he’ll return in the spring to continue filming and exploring the mid and north coast. His short films are stunning. You can see several of his works on YouTube. The camera skill and editing are brilliant. His narration is gently understated and the final result is superb. One of his recent films is posted as “An Ode To An Estuary.” His work and his deep enthusiasm for the backwoods of Coastal B.C. will inspire you.

Less than two weeks after my return, I’m becoming antsy. I’ve worn out the blog themes of autumn colours and yet another storm. Now there’s a part of me that wants to shout “Bollox” in sheer frustration. I’ve tidied up my tools, which was no small job, and now I’m beginning a serious clean up of old “Seafire.” We’ve removed the cooking-grease-stiff curtains which were also coated with coagulated dust. I was disgusted to realize how badly things had become. I do regularly clean the boat but after a few years of living aboard I have to admit to some root-bound grime in my hermit’s man-cave. Jill is helping me bring things back to life and I’m very grateful. If nothing else, the curtains were a serious fire hazard as Captain Olive Oil sizzled up yet another one-dish meal. When the boat’s interior is again immaculate, there’s plenty of writing to dust off, edit and market. There are certainly no excuses to ever be bored.

And that’s how it is in my world for the moment. No dramas, no thrilling events. I’m not dressed up, nor sitting out in the pouring early morning rain waiting for any trains. I know I’ve missed the last one. There’s even plywood on all the station windows. Haar! Life goes on.

The abandoned railway and train station at Ladysmith. The E&N railway should be a vital artery on southern Vancouver Island and it is genius that it is seldom used.

 

Looking to the south at high noon. The urge is overwhelming.

 

I’ve always wanted to go to Switzerland and see what the army does with those wee red knives.” … Billy Connolly

The Third Napoleon

Wednesday Afternoon
Southbound in the Strait Of Georgia
Looking east toward Mainland Canada at 2 pm

 

Something felt very different Wednesday night. I was in the galley cleaning up after supper and mused how the boat looks the same inside no matter where she is. It was inky dark outside and if I were to step off the side of ‘Seafire’ there would no longer be a dock there. I’ve cut her loose and am on my southward, unfortunately only as far as Ladysmith for the time being. Still it feels so very good to be away from the dock.

My work in Comox is finished. Now I’m anchored in False Bay on Lasqueti Island. I tip-toed through the rocks into the bay an hour after nightfall. I have fond memories of this place and two iconic people who based here. They have both passed away. Allen Farrell was a famous wooden boat builder and his wife Sherry was a lovely and charming lady. I have plenty of yarns about them, how I befriended them and times we shared. I often describe them as the only real hippies I’ve ever known. The world is a sadder place without them. In the morning as a creeping grey dawn slowly illuminated the bay, plenty of signs showed that people have staked out everything possible. I remembered Allen’s comment once that the system these folks had come to escape was not nearly as bad as the one they brought with them. Why can we not simply respectfully share the beauty and bounty of the planet without laying claim to it and desecrating it. My ocean! Mine! This remote island was once a mecca for draft-dodgers and folks who believed they could reinvent the world. Their descendants live on here. “Peace man, share the wealth” was once a mantra. Now “No Trespassing” signs seem to be everywhere.

Beautiful downtown False Bay… Thazzit! Wood smoke hangs in the air as the ‘Centurion VII leaves on the first run of the day. This water taxi is the only link to Vancouver Island and the world outside.

My Scottish mother-in-law, may she rest in peace, once called me a “Bloody Bog Canadian.” I accepted it as a wry term of endearment. Now I think she may have been right. It’s interesting how one can go an entire lifetime with an idea fixed in one’s head, right or wrong; even worse, how about no idea at all?. I reviewed a documentary about Russian history and remarked to my wife that the Russians seemed to have been under siege by Napoleon for a very long time. He even set fire to Moscow once. My wife replied that there were three Napoleons. The second was a son and the third a nephew. What they did and did not achieve, where and when, is irrelevant. You can look it up yourself. I was gobsmacked to realize once again how history is written, what is not written and what is embellished or even invented. It doesn’t really matter how many Mao’s or Mohameds or Jesus’ or Hitlers there really were. Some academic, I’m sure, can prove how important it is that we understand how the sum of three Napoleons affects our modern existence.

I couldn’t resist! I don’t know who deserves credit for the original photo but hopefully I’ve mutilated it enough. There seems to be a resemblance to someone else, maybe it’s the hair!

Frankly, I don’t much give a toss about history and who wrote what about anything. I’m not that confident in the accuracy of any history. I’m sure we can all give examples of blatant lies we were led to believe. We just don’t learn anything from history. We’re still the same nasty creatures we’ve always been. No amount of information changes our compulsion to be destructive and hateful. It has nothing to do with geography, gender, religion or just cause. We’re all assholes. Until we accept that hard reality about our nature, nothing will ever change. And don’t go blaming it on anyone’s Satan. Look in the mirror. We must change.

We the pumpkins. A post Halloween tradition is to amass your Jack ‘O Lanterns to decay together in the cold, wet weather of autumn.

For example, in the wake of the recent mass shooting in a rural Texan Baptist church, a local politician offered the solution of posting armed guards in every church. Jesus loves me, now pass the ammunition. Remember that Christianity uses a symbol of capital punishment as an icon for peace and love. Instead of a cross, it could well be a hangman’s noose, an AK-47 or even a hockey stick. There are no doves on any bible I’ve seen. Whether you agree with my slant, or not, you have an obligation to yourself and your species to exercise your expansive abilities as a thinking organism. Ask questions. It is that simple.

 

An old rusted rail shed matches the autumn russet of maples and alders.

 

Nothing lasts forever. Heavy autumn rain and wind will soon knock the leaves from the tree. Then, after a long winter, new green leaves will bud in spring.

I am now back in Ladysmith writing on a drizzly November 11th. It is Remembrance Day across much of the world. A squadron of WWII military aircraft just flew over. My old pilot’s heart skipped a beat. I wonder as their sweet throbbing thunder fades in the grey sky, how much we believe and remember is truth, how much is myth and what it is we choose to forget.

More raw logs leave our country. They are being loaded onto the ship from a working sawmill. The orange mounds are chipped cedar which will be processed into paper. That we export any raw resources is ludicrous.

This bright beauty popped out of a tidal narrows I was about to enter. I can’t claim I didn’t see it.

 

Going with the flow. Dodd Narrows is a tidal pass with currents nearing 10 knots. Here I’m running with the ebb about one hour before slack water.

 

Thunk. Sunk. One of the dangers in this churning tidal narrows. My boat is plenty tough but a log in my propeller could be interesting.

Several good reasons to not travel by boat at night.
Winter waters are often choked with logs.

In 2017 politicians and religions of the world still mesmerize millions into embracing nonsensical stories, conflicted values and convenient lies. People still eagerly sacrifice themselves for other people’s myths and profits.

Ladysmith Harbour as seen from the next town south.

I’d rather just go sailing.

Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.”

… Napoleon Bonaparte (the 1st)

Snowy Palms

First Frost. One of my favourite trees. In the heat of summer, a herd of cows lounges in it’s shade.

On October 22nd The latest Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante Spain. I am not a racer but it was fascinating to watch the beginning of the race. The start began like any sailing race with competitors jostling for a good position. The fleet then competed through several legs in the bay before heading out to race each other around the world. I prefer simple, traditional boats to these modern hi-tech floating computers but to see such massive boats (65 feet long, their hinged keel draws 15 feet! ) manoeuvring like dinghys with crews smoothly handling sail changes at each mark is a wonder. Sailing boats, in my opinion, are one of man’s higher achievements. I don’t know if high tech vessels are an advance or a retreat.

The race route stitches itself around the globe with monstrous legs like Lisbon to Capetown and twice dips down into the ice-filled, wind-ripped Southern Ocean, a vicious body of frigid water. The boats hurtle along at speeds in excess of 20 knots. When not beating themselves to death while cold and wet, these sailors have to face massive parties in each of the many far-flung ports which mark the end and beginning of each leg. This madness will continue for nearly 9 months when the race ends in Sweden. How are you spending your winter?

One boat is named ‘Clean Oceans’ and draws attention to the massive global pollution of all our seas. One recent report suggests that the tonnage of plastic clogging the waters and beaches of oceans worldwide matches the mass of our remaining fish stocks.

That is a sobering consideration. As I ruefully watch this boat knifing through the green Mediterranean waves, the irony of it’s own synthetic composition was not lost. From mast to hull to sails and clothing of the crew, everything is a plastic derivative. When I was a child fibreglass boats were beginning to find acceptance. One concern was about how long a ‘Tupperware’ boat would last. From what I’ve seen while wandering our Westcoast beaches the answer is forever! The plastic, in places, is a thick strata along our high water lines.

In Mexico, old bits of plastic littler the country. Fence lines and cacti are decorated by the wind with fluttering bits of tattered plastic to the point that it could be a national flag. Mexico is a place that I love despite the litter. I’ve seen many clever examples of recycling in that country. “Necessity is the mother of all invention” is an old wisdom. It is one of the reasons I go there. The seasonal window for getting ‘Seafire’ to Mexico is now closed. Local sailors generally agree that mid-October is the latest that one should depart our waters for a direct voyage to Mexico.

“Don’t laugh;she’s almost paid for!” Remember Ben’s Johnson? This old beast was once someone’s pride. Doel fins on the motor, tow post, galvanized trailer, c’mon, make an offer and answer the call of the sea.

‘Shroom Nav. Growing on the cabin top of the old runabout, could these fungi actually be some sort of stealth-nav. system?

Halloween morning finds me up for another day at work, there are only a few of those left. I’ll soon be unemployed. It is still pitch-dark at 7am. It is cold and clammy-damp. We’ve had a few days of spectacular sunny fall weather, the forecast is now for a few days of payback weather which includes snow flurries. I’ll be heading southward with ‘Seafire’ next week, foul weather can be expected; naturally. In the meantime, I’ll post this as another short blog with photos of fall colours. I doubt readers will notice anything different, but I’ve acquired a new-used dslr camera. I couldn’t afford the purchase, but I couldn’t leave a good deal behind. My old Canon gear is showing it’s age. You can only drive so many nails with your camera, they just don’t make them like they used to. Seriously I’ve been coveting the quality and abilities of Sony and so here I go. Some of the slick photo technology has me stumbling but I’m sure I’ll be quite happy. I’ve proven all I can using my mobile phone as a camera. Now I look at the keys worn shiny on my laptop, or notebook, or whatever we’re supposed to call them this week. I know what’s coming next.

In Ladysmith, the anchorage known as “Dogpatch” has claimed another vessel. The venerable ‘Anipaya’ now sits on the bottom of the bay. No-one seems to know her real history. The old wooden lady, about 90 feet long, with plenty of shear and a lofty crow’s nest, cut a salty profile. She looked like a former whaling vessel to my eye. The problem is that old boats are sold off as affordable housing because they’re too old and tired to be worth repairing. They’re rotten. When they become too difficult to keep afloat they are either abandoned on their moorings or dragged ashore and left derelict. Sometimes they’re burned. Someone else (Usually the taxpayer) is left to clean up the mess which is often toxic and dangerous.

That’s me in the middle! Anipaya’s crow’s nest looked down on the Dogpatch fleet. Now she sits on the bottom.

The ‘Spud Queen’ Once a Westcoast nautical icon. The absentee owner discovered that people were squatting aboard. The story is that it was dragged ashore and burned . One man’s problem becomes everyone else’s.

Currently the politicians are discussing appropriate legislation to deal with the growing number of derelict vessels along our shoreline. I think it is simple. Live as you wish, so long as you are not imposing yourself on others. If a life afloat is what you choose then your boat must be maintained in a seaworthy condition at all times. If you are not able or willing to do that then you should be legally obligated to be responsible. No-one else should need to clean up your mess. The price of freedom is responsibility. Have I said that before?

A popular topic among mariners at the moment is about the two women rescued in the Pacific a few hundred miles of the coast of Japan after drifting with their dogs for five months. My information comes only from the media so I can merely speculate. The interview I did see placed their credibility as being very low. What they were claiming made little sense to this seasoned old salt. If indeed this is some sort of hoax, I truly hope they both pay a suitably heavy penalty. They’ve certainly done nothing to further the cause of voyaging sailors anywhere.

In Victoria, politicians are discussing making yet another law. It will try to deal with “distracted pedestrians!” Personally I am amused and saddened by those cannot even walk along a street without feeding their device addiction. No matter how many laws we make, there will never be a way to legislate stupidity.

A morning whisper. One of the first photos taken with my new used camera.

Late-breaking news. As I post this blog…   BUGGA!

Woof’s Dis? Ziggy seems fascinated with his own footprints. The weather caught us all by surprise.

Yep. TOO RIGHT! November 2nd, Comox.
Thinking of all my chums in southern latitudes.

Be whom it was you needed when you were younger.” anonymous