Sunday morning, Silva Bay, Gabriola Island. The air is cool and damp, there is clearly a threat of rain. The sun is a brassy point of light glowing through a high overcast. The big ebb tide for the day is drawing the sea water through the bay like a river. Chunks of sea weed rush past and I wonder what mess is tangled in my anchor chain. There is a muddy tint in the water, a sure sign of the Fraser River’s spring freshet. The mouth of the river is twenty miles away across the Strait of Georgia. It drains the interior of British Columbia from over eight hundred miles inland. I consider that some of the mud in the water is from places where I have lived and that my past has found me. A river of conscience, hmmm.
Then I consider that another loop has closed with my return to Silva bay after a three year absence. Thousands of miles have passed beneath my keel since I made my way northward from here. I thought that journey would become a track that led directly to Mexico but it wasn’t to be. Now I’m back here and I wonder where the next loop of my life will lay. The bay is unchanged with both grand yachts and derelict hulks still littering its waters. The restaurant at the head of the docks suffered a nasty fire last winter. As usual, there are plenty of rumours and speculations about who is doing what and what the future holds. This bay is a beautiful place with tremendous potential as a cruising destination but for the moment there is little left to attract folks. There are still three marinas but the restaurant and pub, the swimming pool and both grocery stores are all gone. Fortunately the Islands Trust will not permit condo developments or luxury resorts and one can only speculate on how the future will unfold.
Once Silva Bay was a small community that even enjoyed regular visits from a coastal steamer but those glory days are long gone.
Old friends have also just returned. Rodger and Ali have brought their beloved ‘Betty Mac’ back to Silva Bay. It was deck cargo loaded in Golfito, Costa Rica and unloaded in Nanaimo. This intrepid couple had plans for voyaging on to Patagonia but the scheme changed. They first arrived here from their home in Southeast Australia via Japan and the Aleutian Islands. They returned to Alaska the following year and then headed southward. In the meantime, they bought a former Canadian Coast Guard boat, ruggedly built of aluminum. They installed a rough interior, trucked that boat to Hay River, travelled from Slave Lake down the Mackenzie River to Tuktoyaktuk. They then spent subsequent summers exploring eastward in the Northwest Passage. That vessel is now stored in Greenland. In the fall they’d voyage further south in ‘Betty Mac’. Who knows where their loops will lay. In spite of their intrepid nature these two are also very nice people and I’m proud to call them friends. They are also a splendid example of what happens when a couple share a common dream and work together. Ali has returned to Australia so Rodger and I shared a meal on the deck of ‘Betty Mac’ comparing notes on our adventures and future plans. It was bliss.
The Beaver float plane based here taxis past and takes off on its Sunday morning mission. I make a sumptuous omelette. By the time the dishes are done and the morning chores are complete it taxis past in the opposite direction, arriving back to Gabriola with a fresh load of folks. C-FHRT (Seafart) is the same aircraft that was my dock neighbour when I lived and worked here. A former aircraft mechanic, I’ve made repairs to it at times so the flight schedule could be maintained. I’m impressed that this enterprise has survived serving this one island. It is a classic Canadian tale of the romance of the bush plane business. The DeHavilland Beaver is world famous and an icon of frontier aviation everywhere. I dearly love the sight and sound of these machines. Once, while on the Silva Bay dock payphone to a friend in California, CFHRT began its takeoff with a classic ear-splitting snarl. “What was THAT?” They exclaimed. “A Beaver” I calmly replied. “My God!” was the awed response. I explained that the Beaver was a float plane. “Oh” was the diminished reply. “I thought you meant the animal.”
I also had long overdue visits with other friends this weekend then I went fishing on the east side of Gabriola. I set out the prawn gear and watched in utter dismay as the floats dove beneath the surface and did not reappear. That was over $200. of prawn gear gone. Obviously I did not have enough extra line to compensate for the set of the spring current. I knew better! In the middle of that frustration, a rogue wave, probably caused by a distant ferry’s wake mixing with the wind against tide, smacked the boat down onto her beam ends. The dining table, not lashed down, flipped upside down onto the far side of the cabin, books levitated, dishes in the galley flew. There was no apparent damage. I caught no fish, of course, and in a rising vicious wind I retreated for shelter, confirming once again that I am one of the world’s worst fishermen. Tinned salmon was on the menu for dinner. The recipe was humble pie. Sailor’s superstition says it may have been that canned fish which prevented any catches.
Monday morning finds me waking in Ruxton Passage where I’ve anchored in a bight which I call South Pirate’s Cove. It is calm and the skies are clearing. I lay in bed listening to the morning news on CBC radio. The furor is now about an escalating trade war with Donald Trump. So here we go peeing either way through the same fence. I guess we’ll soon be due for a wall. Our timid leader, Mr. Trudeau II has raised his voice an entire half-octave and the Americans accuse him of over-reacting. We point out that we provide the aluminum for the mighty fleet of US military aircraft. That force could be turned against us should we decide to cut off our supply to the US of water, electricity, uranium, oil, timber, singers, actors and space arms. A day may come when our children will learn a nursery rhyme that starts with “Old Humpty Trumpty sat on his wall, old Trumpty had a great fall….” Just remember Donny Boy (There’s a song for you) that it was a military force based in Canada which came down and set fire to what you now know as the White House. Don’t mess with us beaver-skinners. Oops! Some jaded wanna-be actress will probably take that as a sexist slur. Really folks, ain’t it all just nuts?
Here’s a thought. If Mr. Trump really wants to support the American labourer and economy then decree that that the grand American institution, WalMart, can longer market anything manufactured outside of the US. While we’re at that, let’s make sure that anything we buy, no matter what its label, is actually produced in North America. If you want a piece of global pie then the game has to be played both ways. It’s call “Free Enterprise.” How’s that for a good old-fashioned American term? I’m no economist, that much is clear, nor am I an unemployed steel worker but I have a hard time taking our border disputes without disbelief. We’re friends and neighbours! With all the social and environment issues on the table, surely we can get our collective shit together and work in unison on something important…and do some good.
As I proof-read this blog I learn that Doug Ford has just been nominated as head of the Ontario Conservative Part as so becomes Premier-designate. It is hard not to think of this fellow without remembering his notorious brother and politician Rob. He is certainly another political cartoon-character like Donald Trump making all manner of nonsensical statements and impossible promises. This hermit-sailor is happy to stay detached from a world that chooses these sort of dudes to be our leaders. Apparently we are so comfortable that we are that apathetic.
I’m happy to be here head down on my boat. I’m spending the balance of the week painting the deck on ‘Seafire’. There are voids in the gelcoat to fill and sand, teak to be cleaned, and finally priming then painting. Of course the forecast is for rain and drizzle and my early morning effort to beat the next squall failed absolutely. I hate this sort of work but the end result is worth it and long overdue.
. While I bend to my labours, transient boats come and go. I bite my tongue as some foreign yachts arrive proudly displaying their US ensign, their yacht club burgees but no Canadian courtesy flag. Some have the temerity to not even display a vessel name or home port! I’m somewhat dismayed that these dudes are not turned back at our border. A courtesy flag, for the land-lubbers, is a small flag of the country in which your vessel is plying their sovereign waters and should be displayed above all other flags. It is a traditional act of respect and a strong point of basic nautical etiquette and at times even safety. The only thing more upsetting to me is that other Canadians don’t take umbrage enough to speak up. I do. The reactions are mixed but usually my point is well taken. Try taking your Canadian yacht into US waters without that little flag flying. It just isn’t done. Canadian are known as nice folks but we are NOT a 51st state, you Trumpys! So what gives… eh?
There are two kinds of pride, both good and bad. ‘Good pride’ represents our dignity and self-respect. ‘Bad pride’ is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance….. John C. Maxwell