Monthly Archives: March 2019

FROGS

Say Goodbye!
A last glimpse of Seafire with a new owner at the helm. It’s all over but the drinking. There shall be no looking back. This blog will continue to bear the same name for the time being.

I am an autodidact. The trouble is that I never payed attention in class. I did well enough in school and even graduated with a scholarship a year ahead of the rest of the class. Then my real education began and don’t, for a moment, confuse schooling with education. Some of the stupidest people I have known possess box loads of degrees and certificates. I attended the old school and the university of hard knocks. Some folks ask me from time to time where I went to university. I simply say that I graduated from Perdue, which really was the name of my high school. There’s no point in explaining further.

The problem is, that at my age, the clever self-taught one who thinks he is some sort of writer, has new-to-me words appear and I wonder why I’m only learning them now, words like autodidact which is the name for someone who is self-taught.

And if I am so damned clever why am I standing on an empty dock with my prized ‘Seafire’ moored somewhere else, now documented with someone else’s name? I should be softly singing “Free at last,” but I am now living in a big emptiness. It is, however, only temporary.

Now that I’m beach bound all I can do is watch the boats head out. Leaving Ladysmith Harbour, someone greets the morning light and  fading fog. That will be me again. Just watch me!

I have a plan. In the weeks leading up to this wistful day, I’ve been scouring on-line sites which advertise RVs and others which advertise trucks. Eventually, I want to own a displacement-hull powerboat, big enough to live in and seaworthy enough to voyage at least as far as Mexico. The right boat will be tough to find. First I need more funds. For the moment I will satisfy myself with land-based expeditions.

Nice RV dude! Precariously perched, the shack’s straps have come loose. I scooted on by.

I do want to satiate my strong land travel-lust. I have considered every option. There was a time when crawling under a tarp stretched across an overturned canoe was perfect, even romantic, but now my knees are too shot for kneeling in a canoe. I am well past even the tenting concept. I have tried the camper van notion and am not inclined to repeat that. I’ve considered truck-mounted campers but don’t like that idea for a few good reasons. Motor homes are not my cup of tea. So I have settled on the trailer concept. For me a trailer that can leave the pavement and also be dropped while roaming about with the towing vehicle only.

I first owned a home-made teardrop trailer. My early blogs of five years ago described a trip to Mexico with that trailer. I loved it but soon the romance wore off. I almost froze to death in it one night in Nevada. It had only sitting head room; so the simple endeavour of getting dressed while inside was challenging. Getting dressed outside was also interesting. “Mommy, what is that man wearing,” and that before I’d pulled on a shirt! Sticking your bare feet outside into the darkness with a good chance of stepping on scorpions while going to pee did not pique my sense of adventure. The tiny, cute kitchen in the back, under a huge lid, was not so great or exotic when the rain and wind came.

My first rig. Cute but a bit too tight for a fat-arse like me. It was a memorable trip.

Everyone loved that tear-drop trailer. The Mexicans called it ‘La Chiquita.’ The smell of coffee first thing in the morning always brought someone by to say hello and beg a mug.

My second trailer, was a beautiful conversion of a 12’ cargo trailer. I loved it. I could stand upright in it and I had a porta-potty for those night time functions. Cooking inside, or sitting to eat and write was next to impossible. There was a lovely retractable awning outside, which is where you spend most of your time as you go further south, but the notion of cooking or writing there in inclement weather soon paled as well. What would be perfect for me was a trailer small and tough enough to survive being towed on primitive roads. I needed separate, comfortable beds for at least two people, indoor cooking and dining facilities, some sort of bathroom facility and adequate storage as well. That will allow total self-sufficiency for 7 to 10 days without going to town. That’s a tough order to fill, especially on my budget. Building exactly what I need is very appealing but the cost of doing it right would be formidable.

My second attempt at dreams on wheels. I was proud of this trailer, but had not thought about what to do in foul weather.

When finished it had a lovely interior and the most comfortable bed ever with loads of storage space beneath. The bunk also converted instantly into a great work bench.

For a towing vehicle I also required an affordable, reliable short-wheel base 4×4 truck with enough power to tow the trailer yet be good on gas, have a canopy to store extra fuel and water, a small generator, a small air compressor, extra tools and also enough room to carry a small boat, outboard motor and a kayak. Most of the time, four-wheel drive is not necessary but when you need it, by gad you really need it. I wanted all of this for less than $20,000. I know! I am a dreamer. Both pre-owned trailers and good used trucks have ridiculous prices. My only hope was to find something online, even if it meant flying and driving across the continent. Importing any vehicle from the US is essentially straight forward, yet there are so many clauses and codicils, that one has to be quite wary. Imagine showing up at the border with a vehicle which may not be imported under any circumstance because the clearance lights are wrong. Vehicles over fifteen years in age are generally permissible but still vulnerable to subjective opinions of individual customs officers about things like the location of clearance lights. Yes, I did read that. And, every import is subject to GST which really chips into tsavings you’d calculated. Then, once over the border into Canada, there are two separate safety inspections to pass before the vehicle can finally be registered in your home province. Geez Louise! I looked anyway. Day after interminable day, all over the continent, for several hours at each sitting. This endeavour furthered my autodidact education and my standing as a masochist.

Next, I considered something a little bigger yet still affordable.
The chickens were not included. I declined.

Simply put, we’ve all heard it before, “If it’s too good to be true, it is.” I think I can safely claim that three quarters of the ads I pursued were scams. Firstly, if something is advertised in an area a great distance from where it is alleged to actually be, raise a warning flag. There was a disconcertingly consistent bullshit story with an almost word for word same script. Repeatedly the story was that a lady officer in the military was about to be re-posted, usually overseas. Old dad had died and this beloved truck, or RV, was a too-sad reminder of him and they just wanted to clean things up before their imminent deployment. The transaction would be done through E-bay and the sale item would then be shipped to me. Photos of the vehicle were extensive and showed something in immaculate condition. I made several inquiries, simply out of bemusement and also the theory that once in a while the ad might actually be legitimate. WRONG! That gambling philosophy is what gets a lot of folks into trouble.

One ad, placed in Craigslist-Kootenays described a near-virgin Rialta motor home which, it turned out, was claimed to be located in Prince Rupert, several hundreds of miles away from the Kootenays. (First Alert) Considering the remoteness of this location, it did seem plausible that the price was less then half of other quotient prices especially with the story I was given. A senior lady from Prince Rupert was in a California hospital with her husband who was waiting on a donor to provide a heart for a transplant. Because she was so far from home, and desperately short of funds, she had arranged for a quick sale through a third party, a shipping company in Prince Rupert. If I met her price the RV, and all paperwork, would be shipped to me. In response I explained that I never buy shoes without first trying them on. I proposed to fly to Prince Rupert, inspect the RV, do a lien check and then pay by bank draft. Clearly, paying a shipping fee out of such a low price did not make sense, nor did the notion that some unnamed shipping company was quarter-backing the deal. I have not heard back from her. In previous years there was an experience with some Nigerian scammers claiming an interest in a sailboat I advertised. That is a whole story in itself.

There must be masses of stupid people out there. Scammers would not be plying their trade so vigorously if they weren’t making money. There was a strange pleasure pretending to be a potential dupe until I finally wearied of kissing all those frogs.

I’m sure it will be here in a day or two. I know I put it in the mail. The side of this old mail truck was too good to walk away from.

One more shot I could not resist. This is part of the remaining old town in Nanaimo

Well I did find both the right trailer and a great towing vehicle, right here on Vancouver Island and within a day of each other. Oddly, the same thing happened when I bought ‘Seafire’. I looked at boats all over the continent, as far away as North Carolina and Toronto. I found her languishing in Blaine, about forty miles away. Go figure eh! Including taxes and insurance I am well within my budget for truck and trailer. Now I just have to get rid of the frog breath. Speaking of which, today is a fine clear, warm and sunny day. While writing this I am in a beautiful, luxurious semi-rural home dog-sitting for some friends. At the bottom of this acreage lies a small swamp. The frogs are singing heartily. Wherever I look, I can see no snow. Is it really spring?

Maple Bay spring dawn. It is spring! Beneath the fog lays a flooded field where swans swim and feed up for the long flight northward.

Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail.” Kinky Friedman

A Last Night

The last light on the last night. What a comfort this lantern has been.

A last look. Then I turned away and refused to look back.

It is spring time! Somewhere.

Life at the edge. Eeech.

Hunched over the steering wheel with bleary eyes I was once again in my old camper van driving into a town where I had never been before. It was raining and sleeting heavily. I was tired and hungry and just wanted to find a place to park for the night. The gas gauge was tsappingon empty. I worried that when I went to fill up the gas tank, my credit card would be rejected. Then I woke up from my terrible dream. There were a few nights much like that on my recent trip. That lost and lonely feeling is much how it is for me again tonight.

I am aboard my beloved ‘Seafire’ anchored in a beautiful nook known as Maple Bay. It will be my last night aboard this wonderful vessel. Tomorrow I meet with the buyers for a sea-trial. On the following day the boat will be hauled out for a survey and once that is past, the deal is near completion. I feel like a convict on the night before his appointment with the hangman. At least he has the sweet hope of oblivion. The ship’s chronograph rings out seven bells, right on time. It is nineteen-thirty hours (7:30 pm) I am reminded that the clocks are to be turned ahead tonight for daylight savings. The clear evening sky held a little light until about a half-hour ago. It is damned cold. There is snow along the shore right to the waterline.

Maybe I’ll buy a tiny motorhome and run away to the desert. Isn’t this sweet? I’ve  never seen one so small.

So here I sit, the aging man who lived in this egg, surrounded by the teak and brass in what has been my world. The one oil lantern remaining in the boat is glowing brightly, its cloying bittersweet reek fills the cabin. The furnace is belting out a lovely warmth and I reminisce about all the nights through the years spent aboard sitting right here, at this table, while the rain hammered down or the wind howled while the boat slammed against a dock or tugged frantically at the anchor chain. There were summer nights when the hatches were open to let in the fragrant night air; sometimes there were swarms of mosquitoes. Around the boat, seals and sometimes whales or dolphins snorted and splashed. Occasionally while anchored in some remote north coast bay there would be wolves howling in the surrounding rain forest. Sometimes the northern lights would begin to pulse and throb in the black, star-studded sky. There have also been nights in the harbour of some city where the lighted buildings towered above me and sirens howled above the constant drone of traffic. I don’t like cities. There have been times when I have sat here feeling like the loneliest man in the world but so very often I wanted to be in no other place.

And the days, those magic days, when the world passed at a stately speed between five and eight knots. Grey days, sparkling sunny days, none of then were bad; even those long hours bashing through monstrous breaking, foaming, hissing mountains of briny water when you knew that what you were doing was insanity. Sometimes the boat was surrounded in thick fog. It always made sense to me. I and this beloved little ship have seen an awful lot. We never made it to Europe, or even to Mexico, which was the original plan, but without that dream I would not have experienced much of what I have. A friend e-mailed me today to remind me of my recent metaphor about having to draw the arrow backward to launch it forward. Life is a long series of rapidly passing moments which ricochet between choices, some good, some bad.

When I edited this photo I had to go check that it was flying right-side-up. It was. For a moment the wind had folded it over. An inverted flag is an international distress signal.

I felt the wind and the sun on my face as we skimmed along slowly toward our destination.

Today on the short three-hour voyage to this bay the wind freshened out of the north. It was cold and clear and beautiful. I hoisted the sails which have been tightly furled away far too long. For two hours I motor-sailed, then the wind faltered and died. It was as if the gods wanted me to have one last dance with the wind. I will miss this boat, dearly and desperately, I know that. I also understand that you can’t steer a steady course by looking back at your wake. There is no ocean voyage that is not made between points on shorelines. Land and sea are meaningless without each other. After days or weeks out upon the broad, curving eternal face of the open ocean you make a landfall, often in a port where you’ve never been before. You rest, re provision, find new charts, make repairs and modifications. Then recharged you sail off on a new course to a new destination. Life is an eternal journey. I will send postcards, many of them. Meanwhile, tonight will be very long.

A light in the fog. Then darkness fell and the long night began.

Two days later, the sea-trial is completed, the buyers are happy. I am waiting for the surveyor this morning. There are only some simple formalities to complete the transaction. Then I will be boatless, for the moment.

I learned last night that a new friend, one I made on my travels in the desert, has died. For many years Frank was only an acquaintance until I spent a few days visiting with him in Ajo Arizona. We bonded like brothers and made plans about where and when we would meet again. We had met through a mutual friend who was a life-long close friend of Frank’s. Fortunately Jimmy was able to spend Frank’s final hours at his bedside. Any man who has a friend like that is successful indeed. When circumstances took Frank’s leg he was able to give it a positive spin and became an advocate, at a high level, for the disabled. He took his personal challenge and turned it into an advantage for himself and many others. He was courageous and positive. Nothing held him back. Only a few short weeks ago he took me for a drive in the desert. This one-legged guy drove his standard shift vehicle by using a stick to work the clutch. He didn’t miss a shift.

This short eulogy is all that I can do. My sadness is overwhelming. This is a reminder that one should live among their fellows like each goodbye is the last one. It just might be.

Those who knew him will miss Frank dearly. I took this photo just a few weeks ago. I am assured that his beloved little dog Xena (his half-a-lap dog) went to a very good home.

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.”

… André Gide

A Strange Week Indeed

Winter Blues
It’s just a little ice on a puddle and an excellent example of the everyday things we look at and don’t see.

Shattered.
A different perspective.
There may different ways to look at anything.

Look before you scrape.
The car windshield on a winter morning.

This man’s curse, and his dog’s joy.
Jack enjoys a roll in the crusty snow, then a slide on his back down the hill.

Birds.
I hear birds, alway the birds.
A “murder” of crows.

Nevermore!

My last blog was about poor old me worrying my way toward the final steps in the sale of my beloved ‘Seafire’ on this coming weekend. I thank those readers who have offered their warm support and kind comments to help me through the angst of the next few days. I am coping by staying busy indoors and out. I’ve sorted through my recent photo files, tinkered on the camper van, did some dog-sitting for friends and put together yet another short video from my recent trip. I am scheming ways to produce some income and looking forward to whatever comes next. This too shall pass. Idle hands find the devil’s work it is said. So it’s head down, arse up while staying gainfully busy. I am never stuck for things to do.

The W word.
My charges, Bella the Portuguese Water Dog and Louie the Poodle give me the eager eye in anticipation of their morning promenade.

Wanderlust, the incurable condition. Across the sea and over the mountains there are so many places and people to see and meet. A Vancouver Island view of mainland Canada.

And then it happened. The van sold, in less than a day of advertising it. Remember the song, “The thrill is gone?” Change the word thrill to van…yeah you’ve got it! Yes, I immediately bought a lottery ticket. May my karma not run over my dogma. Here is the latest video from the recent trip.

I need just enough to tide me over until I need more. …Bill Hoest

The Ides Of Marches

On the road to Tonopah Arizona. I wonder how the weather is there today.

Well there’s my tired clichė about the beginning of March. It can go right on the shelf beside the lamb and the lion, and oh yeah, the groundhog. Spring must be coming. Herds of dock inspectors roamed the marina yesterday, peeking into windows, thumping hulls and scanning boat rigs. After empty docks all winter, they’re back. It is nice way to spend some time on a sunny day, drifting and dreaming. Despite my despondency about parting with my boat, I too savoured the warm sunny day and I tried to see the world through the eyes of a landlubber. Like the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, winter still holds Vancouver Island in its icy grip. We do spells of clear skies, there is a little snow melting during the day and I did see some snow drops growing among the bushes. Other years there have been daffodils at the end of January. Both scenarios have the doom-gloomers declaring clear evidence of global warming. I’ll leave them to sort it out. And yes, I am aware of all the gasoline I burned on my recent trip.

There will be an incredible flower show in the desert in a few more weeks. I want to be there.

Of doom and gloom, the final transaction for the sale of ‘Seafire’ is a week away. I have spent days unloading the boat, one groaning, squeaking wagon-load at a time all the long way up the dock and ramp. Every time I have moved off of a boat I have been amazed at the “Stuff” a person accumulates. Now I’m giving my beloved her final scrub, removing winter’s grunge. And we all know that the deal is never done until it is done. The suspense is killing me. Oddly, there are two new inquiries, one of which involves delivering her to San Francisco, but truth be told, I am beseeching the gods for a last minute miracle which will allow me to keep my wonderful boat and travelling companion of so many miles. We have endured a lot together and I shall sorely miss her, and the whole idea of her, when the final day comes.

I have also decided to sell my old van. Wanna buy a camper van? It is a faithful little old bus but I know what I need now so I may as well clear the table and start over. I see other people settling into a comfortable retirement and the notion of a new beginning seems odd at my age but life is an adventure. I remind myself of Francis Chichester, who well into his seventies, and fighting cancer, set sail alone on an incredibly difficult-to-manage yawl ‘Gypsy Moth IV’, travelled around the world and then wrote his memoirs. Then a dark monkey on my shoulder asks, “So what’s your point?”

It can certainly be tough to stay positive and buoyant. On occasion I’ve let it slip that I have lived with clinical depression of all my life. I’m not complaining, just explaining. It has certainly been no sleigh ride and there are times when enduring another dreary day seems absolutely pointless. Being a blue-collar character I have lived in a world where such a thing is never admitted or discussed. That I live into “full maturity” (how’s that for a positive spin on ‘pre-geriatric’?) is, I think, a positive and happy story. On my recent trip I met inspiring people who deal with many challenges which would shatter others. Their life-force is a positive radiation and a wonderful influence which helps inspire their fellows forward. I consider how folks live elsewhere and marvel often at the obvious poverty and dreariness and wonder how people live a life which, to me, appears unbearable. There are secrets and courage which I do not begin to understand. As bleak as I’m feeling these days, I am struggling to finish reading a book called “The Bookseller of Kabul” by Asne Seierstad. It is an amazing inside look at the everyday lives of Afghani people, incredibly well-written and depressing as hell. The normal life of these people, especially the women, could make a stone weep. Their lives can only be endurable because they know nothing else. Are our expectations the root of our unhappiness?

I may be a creature of the sea but I left a piece of my heart at Baboquivari and in the desert . I will return.

I think I left a wrench here. I’m going back to find it.

I also marvel at the new things I see. In the desert, with the eyes of a newcomer, and a sailor, I saw flora and fauna which survive and thrive in incredibly harsh conditions. There is a reason for life to go on against massive odds beyond my comprehension. A joy which helps life make sense and have purpose is seeing those things and realizing that we too have a place in those circles, even if we don’t understand the total sum of the all the parts.

Stuff! It’s all just stuff. As much a personal temple as ‘Seafire’ has been, it is just stuff and there will be new pleasures in the future. The trick is finding joy in the moment. Belongings should never be a measure of who we are.

This delightful image was made and provided by my dear friend Kerry.

Giving up my boat is a step forward. While it feels like an ending, I know it shall be the beginning of a whole new set of adventures. Seafire Chronicles will continue to be posted under the same name. Comments from readers tell me there is value in what I do and in response, the sense of mission that I am afforded, in part, by this blog helps carry me forward. To give is to receive. Thank you. I often use the Lord Nelson quote, “Ships and men rot in port.” Staying busy keeps me alive; I subscribe to the mantra of “use it or lose it.” Some of my busyness will be to continue to hone my video-making skills. The first video from my trip is now posted on YouTube. It is a simple short clip made with my cell phone and a very good essay on the winter we’ve had. Here’s the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REe71VHzJxU See ya in the movies.

A storm always ends. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Remember that happiness is a way of travel, not a destination.”

Roy Goodman