Monthly Archives: January 2018

Hove To

“Lantern lantern burning bright
who is out on the ocean
this stormy night?”
It only took me seven years to get around to repairing this lovely old storm lantern. It works brilliantly. Ha!

First you cut a hole. It seems that everything you do on a boat involves drilling yet another hole. This is where a new fuel vent goes in the cockpit coaming. It is well over an inch thick.
The boat is massively built.

Job Done

New and improved.

EEECH! The old vent hoes sees the light of day after 37 years. It was a battle to extract it.

Any little bit of light is a treasure.

Ah, the light!

 Hove to” is a nautical expression that deals with a situation at sea, especially for a sailing vessel. After putting a sail “aback” which means that sail is now wind-filled so that it sets backwards across the deck of the boat, one sets the helm downwind so that the boat lies gently off the wind and slowly drifts leeward. The wake of the boat drifting sideways acts as a breakwater to advancing seas. This manoeuvre is used when conditions are too stormy and unsafe to hold your intended course and/or when the crew is to weary to stand a watch and requires a rest. I’ve used it a few times and it is an amazing experience. The boats sits easily, almost as if at a dock, while the ocean rages all around you. One can sleep, cook a meal, make repairs, do some writing and chart work and generally prepare to set the right sails and steer a course when conditions ease. It is important to know where you are and be aware of any land mass or rocks lying downwind of your drift.

At the moment, I’m hove-to. It is mid-winter, the wind and rain are incessant. I am not complaining; I vividly recall last winter up in the real rainforest at Shearwater. This winter seems to be especially wet, the interior of the province is heaped with snow; local ski resorts have received over 100cm of snow in one night. I can’t imagine what things are like in the ‘Great Wet North.’ My next projects on ‘Seafire’ require a few dry hours so here I sit, house-bound, waiting for a break. Fisher Poets (fisherpoets.org) is coming up. I’m working on new material for that, as well as sorting through my archives. Good grief! There are over twenty-five years of serious writing. Yes, I know, it’s time to get published and that is a story in itself.

Beauty in the wet.

It is also a time for reading. That is an eternal obligation of the writer, to read. Not only to enforce a healthy degree of humility, but to stimulate new ideas. The current tome on my night table is ‘Bark Skins’ by Annie Proulx. I am not in the business of selling anyone’s books, but Annie Proulx is one of my favourite writers and literary inspirations. ‘Bark Skins’ is the quintessential novel, all 713 pages. It draws the reader forward in a magnificent yarn covering centuries and dissects environmental, gender and racial issues brilliantly. If you aren’t familiar with this Nobel-winning author, I dare you to read it, or any of Proulx’s other works. You’ll discover a fantastic mind. End of book plug.

In the sunlight above the Cowichan Valley looking Sou’eastward over Saltspring Island.

Driving up a mountain in search of the sun.

Despite a forecast today for snow, we were blessed with a sunny afternoon. I worked like crazy and finished the next project: new fuel tank vents. It may sound mediocre, but it is a job which has been on my list since i bought the boat seven years ago. It is important not to allow water to get into your fuel tanks, especially seawater. Engines require clean, fresh fuel and contaminated fuel will cause devilish problems, especially at the worst possible time. My old tank vents were in the transom where it was both possible to inhale seawater and also to spew fuel directly into the ocean. The tanks have been slow to fill, which is usually a venting problem. Often I would have diesel fuel burp back out of the filler pipe which caused a great mess. One drop of fuel into the ocean looks as if the ‘Exxon Valdez’ has run aground again and that is not politically correct.

I installed two new vents about forty centimetres higher than the old ones and now face onto the side decks close to the filler pipe. I can now monitor what’s going on when I am fuelling the boat. If the vents do leak it will be aboard the boat and onto a fuel-absorbent pad. I also replaced the hose between the tank and the new vent with correct, and very expensive, fuel-grade hose. The new hose is half the length of the old one which, I discovered, was heater hose that drooped below the level of the tank top. Through the years the fuel had rotted that incorrect hose so that it was collapsing on itself and preventing adequate ventilation. After thirty-seven years the hose was certainly overdue for upgrading. I also replaced the flush-deck fuel filler caps with short standpipes and a proper pipe cap. Now no water can leak into the tanks although there is something new to bash your feet on. There was the usual squirming and groping and wrench-dropping, including cuts and fibreglass slivers. It was an affirmation that I won’t do boat repairs for a living anymore. Keeping ‘Seafire’ shipshape is plenty enough for me anymore.

The ‘Red Herring.’ This a 40′ J Simpson steel pilothouse cutter. She’s a floating bomb shelter! The young couple who own her are Alaska-bound.

The trick to boat maintenance and repairs is to not let jobs pile up. One deficiency is bad enough, let a few develop and they’ll rear their ugly heads all at the same time. Preventive maintenance is the key to successful voyaging. There is also a bonus in getting intimate with your boat’s innards. On that dark and stormy night when “Shit happens” you’ll have a good idea of where to look for what. Be self-sufficient. I you don’t like that idea, stay home. God knows, there is enough that can go wrong at the best of times without begging for trouble through poor maintenance. Love your boat, it will love you back.

On the rain coast, it is easy to lose track of where you’ve parked your vehicle.

I’m not sure my essay on boat repairs has captivated everyone but this blog is supposed be about a life which ultimately orbits around owning, or being owned by, ‘Seafire’ and the dream that brought this boat into my life.

Sundown at Dogpatch

In the morning the fog settled in.

Ladysmith has been my home town for several years. It sits on the East side of Vancouver Island behind the embrace of the Gulf Islands and on the northern edge of the Cowichan Valley. It is a lovely area, dotted with small communities and is a popular semi-rural area of Canada. The Pacific ocean moderates our climate, the population is eclectic and sometimes quirky. There are several small newspapers, worth reading for snippets of parochial attitude. A recent letter to the editor complained about “Excessive nudity” in the men’s change room of the Duncan swimming pool. I’m not sure what the prurient objection was really about, but one letter, written in response quipped, “Excessive nudity? How much more than naked can you get?” So much for broad-minded tolerance in a haven for geriatric flower children.

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s vessel.” But I do. This Goldrup 50 appeared at our guest dock. Locally built as a fishboat hull, she’s a go-anywhere yacht.

POLICE AT THE MARINA!
The RCMP have a new patrol boat and seem to spend a lot of time messing about on it. Each officer brings down their own official vehicle. Note the shotgun muzzle and the siren/light switch panel, the computer, and the VHF radio. They also seem to constantly use their cell phone. This is what they use to bust “Distracted drivers.”

And so we pass the days of winter, each one a little closer to spring. Tonight however, there is a forecast for snow. The rain drums on the skylight above my desk. My muse snores gently as he sleeps on the chair beside me. His front legs twitch. Perhaps he dreams of little yellow flowers. Any day now, little yellow flowers and the worst of winter will be past.

Do I amuse you? Jack at standby station number 1.

Wot de duck?
An experiment with a new lense.

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young. “

…Henry Ford

Waiting

There went several B.N.D.s! My work sometimes requires two compatible cameras. This is the very first frame with my new Sony dslt. It has been cloudy again all day long but what lighting!

I’ve deleted this entire blog and am starting over. It is a season for renewal so my sarcasms can be hung up, at least for a while. I had first begun with a sardonic remark about our local prize fire engine/ ladder truck tip-toeing down a very steep icy hill on New Year’s Eve with sirens wailing as it followed a creeping sanding truck. All is well that ends. There was no crash. They were out there and that’s what matters. Hats off to all of the town’s volunteers. Ladysmith, like all communities, would be a total shambles without them.

So all is well that ends and it is now a new year with loads of thrills and challenges ahead. My first dreaded task is already out of the way. Jack now has been successfully re-vaccinated for rabies and other nasty dog maladies. Trips to the vet have always been an ordeal and this was certainly one. This anxious old dogdad sweated it out in the waiting room while many long minutes of crashing, snarling and yelping dragged on in the veterinarian’s examination room. I resolved not to interfere unless there were shrieks of pain or a cry for help. The vet and her assistant, both lovely young ladies, eventually subdued Jack by rolling him in a blanket and making their point. I am indebted.

Jack Tar Hisself

Once he was cute, and smaller, and quicker…just like his owner!

Jack, I’ll admit, is like a surrogate son to me. He is a rogue; defiant and stubborn, but also loyal, deeply affectionate and protective. He suffers no fools, human or canine. A “Res. dog” he came from Penalakut Island. He was born about the time of a massive dog cull there. Apparently it involved a pick-up truck and a shot gun but I have no idea what traumas he endured during his early life. He can wag his tail and even his whole body, but if the karma runs over the dogma, Jack may turn himself instantly into a whirling dervish of snapping teeth and arsehole. He has taught me a lot about patience.

There are those who condemn the affection and funds spent on dogs. They say all that effort should be directed at our own children and yes, they’re right, but if you can’t even interact with dogs, you have little hope of success with humans. Perhaps that should be a pre-job test for teachers and counsellors: lock them in a room with a dog for a while. But then, we have laws about cruelty to animals. That was a joke Lucille! I think dogs are one of man’s higher achievements. All we have to do is let them teach us what they know. Insult me if you must, be leave my dog alone.

Read my lips!

photo: Jim Poirier
‘Seafire’ and owner enjoy a few days away from the home dock.

Two old farts on the same dock. Jim and his Corbin 39 have sailed extensively including two years in the South Pacific. It is a rugged and capable vessel to say the least.

Winter evening at Panther Point, looking south. The forest was a tangle of freshly blown-down trees, the paths were submerged in water. Night fell quickly.

Conover Cove. A view to Vancouver Island over the northern tip of Saltspring Island. On the fourth morning there was a hint of sunlight.

It was glorious.

While it lasted…. Soon the sun climbed above the overcast.

A Frank Lloyd Wright home in nearby Princess Cove. It suits the landscape perfectly, but in thirty years I’ve never seen anyone home. That is an Arbutus Tree hanging over the house.

NOT a FLW home. Just an original farm house at Conover Cove. Note the high spring tide, two days after a full moon.

Another Gulf Island home, a crow’s nest.

Long overdue, I spent some quality time with an old friend. Jimmy and I have know each other for over thirty years. Among his many talents, Jim has also sailed extensively. We have travelled in our own directions and have certainly never spent four days tied to the same dock. The days and evenings were spent commiserating. They flew by. The weather was perfect. January dark and rainy, there was little incentive to be outside. We rendezvoused at Conover Cove, a popular cruising destination in the Gulf Islands. There was no one else around. With plenty of laughter long into each night, and even some tears, nobody woke up hung over. We’re getting too old for that any more. What was discussed on that dock will remain there but it was perhaps the best start to a new year; ever. Thank the gods for good friends.

Arbutus tree in the morning light

Nothing warms my heart like the sight of these magnificent trees in sunlight, especially after a night-long rain.

The month wears on, creeping like a fire truck on a slippery slope. Daylight is already noticeably longer and soon little yellow flowers will begin to appear in parks and glens in the forest. Next the buds now swelling on limbs will burst and we’ll begin to expose our fluorescent skin to the eternal sun. Here’s to spring. We‘re waiting.

“Wanna take a turn around the block?” An overturned piece of dock floatation during some renovations at the Ladysmith Maritime Society Marina. The wonderful volunteer work never ends.

Truth is everybody is going to hurt you: you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for “

…Bob Marley