Monthly Archives: September 2018

Sleepless in Ladysmith

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

‘Seafire’ in the night. The bright light is an underwater led I installed on the boom gallows to light the cockpit. The boat is as snug and cosy inside as she looks.

It is one of those sleepless nights when things are heaped up and buzzing relentlessly in my head. There is a program on the idiot box about “Micromorts.” You look it up! I’m working from notes made in the past few days and will leave this blog’s text with just these two paragraphs. There are only so many times I can write about being alone in the boat at anchor in the dark and the pouring rain. And yet here I am once again. There is no internet in the sky here and so no phone or any of the other Cyber amenities we all take for-granted. I must like it, I keep doing it. I am not really a hermit, I’d love some company on the boat, but that’s the way it is. Grumpy old fart that I can be, I don’t mind my own presence and if I’m anchored far enough from shore I can even try singing without making dogs howl or babies scream. Actually I’m on my way to Steveston, a famous fishing community a short way upstream from the mouth of the mighty Fraser River. A local fisherman there has put together a small duplicate of the Fisher Poet’s Gathering in Astoria Oregon which I attend every year as one of the many performers. So I’m off to a reading gig in the old Steveston Cannery which is now a museum. It will be fun and I look forward to meeting many friends, both old and new.

Meanwhile, in Ladysmith, the filming goes on for a few more days. Here is a quick photo essay on that Hollywood event. It is really hard to show the impact, scope and complexity of this endeavour in a small community, but I’m sure folks will have something to talk about all winter. Today, on the main street, there were two cars, complete with Montana license plates, sitting neatly on their roofs side by side, each neatly parked in their own spot. Of, course I was there without even my mobile phone to grab a photo. I am amazed at the massive crew. They all work like gears in a well-oiled machine, efficiently and with great attention to minute detail. It is done without the fumbling and waste we are used to seeing. I hope our municipal works crews have taken notes. Yeah right!

It began innocently enough with a few workers and some work vehicles. Soon the entire downtown with film-making equipment, scores of security people. The town was soon overwhelmed.

WOT!? We’ve got a UPS office! Reality and fantasy merge right down the the mailboxes..

Next door, the Wigwam Cafe, our mainstreet Chinese eatery has become the ubiquitous small town diner of Green Hill, Montana.

Our mainstreet pharmacy has become a little grocery store.

Remember these?

The local art store transformed. Not the Montana license plate on the vehicles in the foreground.

An old building on main street, currently being renovated, has become a sidewalk restaurant. Dang, these Amuricans sure eat a lot!

Generators in the alley. The sets require massive amounts of electricity. These units are incredibly quiet.

“Cain’tcha read? Huh? Git yer pitchins offa our land! The massive movie crews set up camp wherever they could. This is in the boat ramp parking lot.

Third dressing room on the left!

Now THAT’S an RV!
Actually, would you believe mobile washrooms?

The filming goes on into the night. These lofty manlifts provide dazzling arrays of lighting. It must be a long way to the washroom when you’re perched up there for hours! The hundreds of folks in the jet in the upper left corner are thinking of everything except making movies…unless it is a load of extras!

While the movie-making happens on main street, traffic has to find a way along the alleys. This wonderful old building could be a film set itself. It is reputed to once have been a brothel.

Bleary-eyed, he sat at his writer’s desk aboard his boat late into the night.

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”…Maya Angelou

Wandering And Wondering

Mid-September. I’m anchored in a placid cove, the rain is gently pattering down. Darkness came early this evening. I tip-toed in through the narrow rocky entrance in the dark and now sit peacefully in less than twenty feet of water. I’m on my way to Silva Bay again to get the old diesel running in that little schooner. First I had to make repairs in ‘Seafire’ and spent two hours after arriving here contorted into the bilge repairing a leak in the shaft log. It’s fixed and I won’t have to sleep in a sinking boat. How do people manage in boats they can’t fix themselves? Well manage they do but I’m happy to be self-sufficient.

Back in Ladysmith the movie making is in full swing. The streets were crowded with people trying to catch a glimpse of something, anything and anyone. There was a movie to be made off-set of the crowds. I’m happy to be where I am tonight with the rain spattering down and an aromatic pizza bakes in the oven. Let it rain, let it blow, I’m snug in my little home.

A few blogs back I simply posted photos with interesting captions and guess what yer gonna git again. The feed-back was very positive and so here we go once more.

Wandering into the magic, and the mystic of late summer. It goes by so quickly.

Think you’ve got problems? Imagine owning this beautiful wooden monster. Imagine the boathouse!

No, not somewhere in Mexico but rather a campground on Gabriola Island. Please, no dog-washing!

An Australian Cedar. You know the joke: “Brace yerself Sheila!”

It’s complicated

The bumper crop of blackberries this year far exceeded what people could pick. As the berries became over-ripe, bees and wasps became drunk on the fermenting berries. Now dessicated, the berries will provide excellent winter forage for the birds.

Right then!

The bicycle remained secured to a stout chain with an old boot lace. However, the seat, the chain and both wheels had been stolen.

Long, long after the old tree had been cut down and hauled away, its progeny wash firmly established and thriving.

Resplendent in its ancient demise, the old charred cedar stump still reaches for the light.

Watching from the edge of the forest, wild creatures regularly surveyed what happened in the fields..

One day at the end of summer, the old swimming hole was suddenly quiet. its clear water was empty and ran placidly and pure.

Where dogs and children climb out of the water then leap, screaming with delight, back in again.

Well past middle age, he still looked at the wonders of the forest with the blue-eyed wonder of the boy he had been most of his life.

Abandoned in the forest, the old hay rake remained well spoken.

It’s just fungus man! Picked,baked in an oven then lit to smoulder, these make an excellent although pungent insect repellant.

I will strangle you, ya old stump.

A bumper crop of maple seeds and datum of the passing of summer.

THe way we were

The way we are

It was not a place to visit on a moonlit night yet during the day dogs and children loved to explore.

The old head rig stok like an abandoned neolithic alter where virgins were led to the top and then sacrificed by the big wheel shamans who cast them into the bottomless pit beneath.

It could be imagined that this donkey was descended from those used to haul loads into the sky on the big wheel.

An old coal chute in a back alley of Ladysmith. The date on the cast handle is 1895

TILT! A self-dumping log barge is pumped back to level in preparation to head back up the coast for another load. The logs will be sorted and the best will be reloaded onto a ship bound for Asia. Several ship loads of raw timber leave our coast every week. All the while, our sawmills are closed due to lack of a good log supply. You figure it out!

In morbid silence the crowd watched as the old woman was hoisted aloft with a noose around her neck. Then the rope broke and she silently walked away with her rope necklace through the opening which parted from her path because they knew, now, that she was indeed a witch.

I arrived in Silva Bay the following morning and rafted onto ‘Aja’ once again. A long day followed squirming my ribs into impossible spots freeing badly corroded bits, trouble-shooting wiring, clearing water from tanks and gearboxes. Finally the moment came, wires were jumped and blappety, blap, blap the poor mistreated little Yanmar sprang eagerly into life after a very troubled two-year sleep. Fixing boats is one of those things that you do, in part, because it feels so good when you’re done. My old bones protest loudly at the continuing abuse and it’s time to move on to other things. Maybe if I wash my face and hurry back to Ladysmith, those Paramount picture people might…! Uh huh.

Not sure what these gorgeous mauve flowers are, I was amazed to find them blooming on a path in mid-September. Old tales claim that new violets blooming in the fall herald a death or an epidemic.

And finally, a mobile phone still life.

 

IF you smile when no one else is around,you really mean it.”… Andy Rooney

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Crickets And Tree Frogs

Crickets and Tree Frogs

OLD BOATS NEVER DIE
They just become planters
This delight was found in a suburb of Victoria

On the way home from Silva Bay. A few days ago, folks were complaining about the heat. We need the rain.

September 10th. I’m back in Silva Bay. I have some work to do on the engine of a small wooden schooner. I know and love the little boat and hope I can put things right for the new owner. I scan the bay with my first morning coffee in hand, recognizing a mast here, a power boat there and realize how much of this place is in my heart. A bleak rain borne on a southerly wind intermittently lashes down. Summer is drawing to a close. On the journey from Ladysmith sunlight between the squalls lit the sponge-brown meadows along the shoreline. The earth drinks greedily. For the first time in months I pulled on a pair of jeans. I slid them up over my sponge-brown legs but I won’t be stashing the shorts away just yet. After this bout of rain we should have at least another month that we can wear our summer gear. Meanwhile the crickets still sing their dry rasping late-summer song “Winter’s coming, winter’s coming…” and yesterday I heard a tree frog, a sure sign of damper weather ahead. Where did summer go? It was just the long weekend in May! Wasn’t it?

Autumn comes
A little rain as a maple leaf begins to turn

I raft ‘Seafire’to ‘Aja’ which is secured between a mooring buoy and an anchor to the aft. She is facing off the prevailing wind so every time the hatch and companionway are open the rain wants to pelt right in. It makes for miserable work. The boat broke loose from her mooring two years ago, running aground, then filling with seawater on the next high tide. The engine was started after the boat was pumped out, but without all the electrical connections being thoroughly cleaned, there is a mess to deal with with. Electricity requires good wire and clean contacts to flow correctly so there is a challenge at hand. I remove all of the brine-seized components and head back to Ladysmith to find and repair the parts I need; a “back up and reload” situation.

Rafted up
‘Seafire’ alongside ‘Aja’

Aja’s stern rails. A squid is beautifully carved on either side by a local artist, Tony Grove.

A Yanmar 2 cylinder, 16 hp marine Diesel. Sadly, during a winter storm, ‘Aja’ broke free of her mooring, went ashore and filled with seawater on the next tide. Run briefly, the engine has since sat idle for two years. I will make her run again, achieved in part by stuffing my corpulent self in beside the motor. It’s a greasy pig show.

In Ladysmith, the first block of the main street is being feverishly transformed. That block is being made over to become Green Hills Montana. Paramount is shooting part of a movie called “Sonic The Hedgehog” starring Jim Carrey with James Marsden and Tiva Sumpter. Tsunamis of money ($7 million) are being splashed around. I’ve got to manoeuvre downwind and try to catch some of the spray. Up-island a section of highway has been closed for several days, with traffic being re-routed while segments of the same film are being remade. This island, with its wonderful scenery and stable climate, I always remember the final scene in “Five Easy Pieces” with Jack Nicholson. When driving south one crosses a bridge over the Chemainus River. This is the background for that scene when Jack hitches a ride with a loaded logging truck and heads off into the sunset. There are many places om this beautiful island which I am sure would make great settings for filming. At the moment, looky-loo tourists are filling the streets, all adding to the excitement and annoyance in our sleepy little town. I wonder if somewhere in darkest Kansas there is not a movie set being erected called Ladysmith, British Columbia.

Wot? Whose gonna be the sheriff? Wyatt Twirp?

The local art and framing shop becomes the Sheriff’s station of Green Hills, Montana.

The Framing Shop as it was

The film crew is hard at work. Locals, including the municipal works crews, watch in amazement.

WIRED
everywhere!

Movie be damned! You’d better come out of that store with a treat.

Waiting to load cargo across the Strait in Vancouver. Waterfront locals are decrying these vessels as eyesores and environmental hazards. I wonder what they would have said about the parade of coal ships in days gone by.

I recently watched part of an interview on YouTube between Joe Rogan and Elong Musk, our contemporary Techno Guru who is pushing the boundaries of many technologies including Tesla and SpaceX. His conjecture is that Artificial Intelligence is a real and growing reality, an insidious and unstoppable force. He suggests that the force is gathering intellect by taping into social media. Whether you use Facebook, Twitter or any of the other Cyber venues, you are feeding the monster. I don’t understand anything about this, or the parameters of the coming age but what I can grasp scares the hell out of me. I hope I do not live long enough to experience what George Orwell so clearly predicted. I think I’ll keep the boat.

Rail apples.
Any fool can count the seeds in an apple, but only the Gods know how many trees can come from that fruit.

She had always been dead funny and so she had asked to be buried in her beloved truck.

While there may be such a thing as artificial intelligence, so far all stupidity is real.”…hisself

Hanging On

Midstream
Summer rushes past like a stream and life goes on toward the coming year.

If the world didn’t suck, we’d all fall off!” A friend e-mailed me a collection of humorous signs. That message was the only one I remember. I spent last week with some horrible flu virus, flat on my back most of the time, projectile-dehydrating in simultaneous directions all at once. That dark experience had me afraid of dying, then angry because I might not. It went on for days. I’m back up onto my knees now with the complexion of used paper, a bit wobbly yet but onward and sideways as ever. As another buddy put it, I’ve been through Satan’s anus and successfully cast out. Whohaa!

Looks like I feel. This sweating fungus is a visual description of having the flu.

Through part of the ordeal of this spiritual experience (I spent considerable time prostrate at the old porcelain alter) I did some bargaining and parted with my black Ford truck. No complaints, I’ll simply say that I’ll never own a North American-originated vehicle again. If Asian and European auto manufacturers can produce superior products in the homeland of Chrysler, GM and Ford, there’s nothing further to discuss. An old Croatian maxim says that a fish stinks at the head first. No apologies Donald! Just fix it.

And now for a little humour. A sign beside the trail near Kinsol Trestle here on Southern Vancouver Island

The Turkey Sisters
High-strutting feral birds, they thrive here.

I’ve ended up with two vehicles as part of my deal, an old GMC bush-basher truck and a lovely little 16 year-old Honda CRV. It was designed to be easily towed behind an RV, but more on plan F another time. I apprenticed as an aircraft mechanic and have retained some of my anal make-things perfect attitude. It’s kept me alive more than once but has also caused a load of hurt along the way. I really like this little AWD car and can easily see it putting along some narrow Central-American dirt road. I am going through it, making sure all is order and to my personal satisfaction. The ‘Check Engine’ light came on. After several checks and some computer codes I determined to change the PCV valve. This little widget allows the engine to recycle combustible vapours from the crankcase and is an essential part of modern engine emission controls. It had not ever been changed and was certainly overdue.

On this engine it is located in a spot which is barely visible and hopelessly inaccessible, especially with hands like mine, each of which are the size of banana bunches. My philosophy is that if one man put it there, then I should be able to deal with it. And so with my characteristic brute force and ignorance I soldiered in.Of course the job involved dropping a tool into the splash pan in an impossible-to-reach spot which meant removing that pan and breaking half of the brittle plastic clips that hold it in place. While I had my arm contorted up beneath the engine to grope for the wrench a friendly neighbour came along and bade me a boisterous good morning. She scared the hell out of me. Well I managed to do the job, minus some skin, but the engine purrs beautifully. However! Resetting the computer fault codes requires disconnecting and reconnecting the vehicle’s battery. This in turn lobotomizes the radio in a measure to make the darn thing worthless to anyone who would steal it. At one point today I was ready to give the damn thing away. I discovered all of this while trying, and trying, to reset the radio’s clock, which eventually further dummed out the radio. By holding this button and that while pushing a third, all at the same time, you can eventually re-enter your personal radio security code and the music box is freed from its cyber dungeon.

Like all good modern mechanics I looked up pertinent information on YouTube and found a tutorial by some well-intentioned fellow speaking with a broad Quebecois accent. He said things like navy code when he meant navicode and vecule instead of vehicle. I was already confused thank you! I was referred to a Honda radio-code-recovery online site where I entered all sorts of information, serial numbers and codes, which the site kept rejecting. Finally realizing I was on a US site, entering Canadian numbers and zip codes, I stomped back out to the vehicle in frustration and despair. Tabernac! Thankfully the first owner had kept all pertinent documents and I found the original radio access security code tucked away inside the owner’s manual. After trying over and over, it eventually twinkled on me that I had fumbled my entry attempt too many times. I had to disconnect the battery, let the onboard computers have a nap, reconnect and reboot the “devices.” Finally the code was accepted, I have a radio and clock again. Bugga! Wot an ordeal! This is on a 2003 Honda, a simple product which came 16 years before the rolling I-bots we now call vehicles. They’re starting to want to drive themselves and I’m beginning to understand why older vehicles have an increasing value. Now I can go for a drive and see if changing that little valve was the fix. It’s funny now!

A mid-sixties Corvair in amazing condition. This was one of the vehicles condemned by Ralph Nader as “Unsafe At Any Speed.” It was in fact, an excellent car. The biggest problem was that it was about thirty years ahead of its time. Mr. Nader, however, was well aware of the profits of paranoia and did very well with his fear-mongering.

“Don’tcha buy no ugly truck!” This mid-fifties Ford was in the parking lot at the local grocery store. This is not a Ford truck I’d part with were it mine.

Car wash colours found beside the vacuum and the garbage cans. There’s some beauty everywhere.

Deer trail through the corn. (Sung to “Riders On The Storm”) Hard to spot for our eyes, it is a super-highway for the critters of the forest. You do see it?

Nearing the end of a hot dry summer the paths are littered with dry leaves. The streams are dry. Jack’s footfalls kick up little clouds of dust. The sky is blue again, there is a refreshing wind and no-one is complaining about the heat. The evenings are lovely and cool, it is almost dark by 9pm, sleeping is easier. It seems I was just posting photos of spring flowers a few blogs ago. Late summer is a splendid season and time for some good sailing now that the anchorages are more open and the plastic pirates have gone back to the marinas until next year. Let’s go!

Hurry up. Let’s go!
Jack has made himself the darling of the docks and is always eager to see who has what treats for him.

A Brown Creeper. It flew into the house and exhausted itself in the skylight, eventually falling down into a bath tub. I did my best to save it, including an ambulance run to a wildlife vet. It died on the way.

0.8 grams. This old farm boy and outdoorsman, once callous to taking lives, wept for this little creature. Is my life worth more than this bird? I’m not so sure anymore.

The frenzy of winter preparations goes on.

‘Herself’ has returned to our docks again. She looks better than ever in her new paint. It is the time of year when the wooden boat festivals are at their peak and the season for a frenzy of spit and polish.

“It is always in season for old men to learn.”       …Aeschylus