It is the second day of July. Last night the holiday fireworks resolved into a mere two huge explosions. Then all was quiet. I hope there were at least a few survivors. This morning it is raining, a beautiful steady warm rain. The doors are open and I listen to the music of water gurgling in the downspouts. There is a lovely aroma of freshness. We need this, desperately. There were a few hours of precipitation last week, the stream beds did not swell at all. Now this. I swear I can almost hear the parched earth soaking it up. More please! This blog will be a simple photo essay about life in my little patch here on Vancouver Island. Rain or sun, bring your hat.
“ For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out. James Baldwin.
My blogs have been so gloomy-doomy lately that I think they could make a hangman cry. This little life of mine seems to be hove-to at the moment. So, no mention of boats or Rvs or shattered dreams. How about a walk on a perfect weather Sunday morning? The joy of it was that Jack seemed to completely be himself this morning. He is certainly not a bounding puppy anymore nor does he lunge off after rabbits now but he is taking a full interest in life and actually has some vigour. We went to our beloved estuary at the mouth of the Chemainus River. I simply sat and watched him play for over an hour. He loves to chase little creatures, shadows and sparkles. He always has. It was very healing. Here are some pictures.
I saw this on a bumper sticker. “Don’t believe everything you think.”
Jack is now on the mend. His nose is wet, his eyes are shiny and he is taking a full interest in life. He was near death it seemed. A wonderful vet came by in his mobile clinic and deduced that Jack had eaten something nasty while out on walk. With other dark clouds in my sky I was terrified that he wasn’t going to make it through the night only four days ago. My hope was thin. I am happy to report that he was out on the trail with me this morning sporting along almost like his old self again. I am deeply grateful to a wonderful veterinarian who brought his mobile clinic to the door, just the way things used to be done. Thank you Tom.
While I am being thankful I cannot let my appreciation for the love and support of family and friends to go unmentioned. The last two weeks for me have been hellacious, the support has been life-sustaining. THANK YOU!
I am able to check statistics for my blog site. I know how many people have looked at each posting, what country on the planet they are in and how long folks on average have spent looking at each post. I’m sure there’s more I can learn but being the cyber-caveman I am; good enough!
I only have access to a viewer’s e-mail address when they contact me with a comment. I always reply to every one, even when it’s a criticism and I do stay respectful of other folk’s information. Always grateful for every interaction I’m always eager to hear from my readers. I’ve noted something interesting. Posts that draws the least views also produce the most comments. It is like a lottery. The higher the main prize, the more tickets sell and the odds rise to very, very thin odds. The latest blog drew comments about personal bicycle memories and concerns for Jack have also come in. Thank you!
As you may recall I recently had a local computer whiz tune-up this site. That man has two huge computer screens on his desk which he is able to work simultaneously. His hands flash over his keyboards and text heaps up before your eyes. He never looks at what his hands are doing. Half of his spelling is incorrect but at the end of each bit of writing he pokes a button. Everything is spell-checked, the punctuation is correctly arranged, line spacing and indents are perfect. That is amazing; yet I see the big possibility of mistakes which can go unnoticed, especially if the computer is thinking in American-English.
My old saw is the question about ‘checking your cheque book.’ I also know what happens when you become dependant on technology. You lose your basic skills. That is the reason I rail against using electronic navigation in the marine world. You should have the basic old-school knowledge in the back of your head if the Global Positioning System ever fails for any variety of reasons, including deliberate human intervention. Once you become dependant on anything, you quickly give up of freedom of self-reliance and in the case of writing, self-expression.
I have used the two index bananas on my gnarled paws to peck out two novels, several other books, copious poetry and musings. Each letter is typed one at a time and spelling errors are fixed as I go. I edit everything. I trim away all the ands, buts or other conjunctives I can. Should the same word be used twice to describe anything, I try to find another word to replace one of them. The art of good writing is to say as much as possible with as few words possible. Flowery just does not cut it.
I think of some of the world’s great writers who produced everything longhand with a dip pen and a candle for light. If you wanted to change a word or sentence, you’d have to rewrite the whole page. And, operating like I do, as you jotted down the final period, you’d manage to tip the ink pot over the whole manuscript. Haar again. But then with a computer, now and then some writing and photographs manage to vanish into the ether never to be seen again. “Oh golly,” I think to myself. Yeah right.
There is another “Phew.” I’ve finally made a decision about my little trailer. It is for sale as salvage. It is a hard decision but also a relief and a viable consideration. “First loss, best loss.” If the ducks line up for a rebuild I am open to options but at the moment, with no repair facilities, the economics of a major rebuild just did not add up from any angle. There is another home on wheels, a good one, out there somewhere with my name on it even as I write. Christmas in Baja…or bust. My dark drama may have come about, in part, because of my ingrained farm-boy sense of economics. It seems to be in my DNA, this life-long propensity to spend thousands of dollars trying to save dimes. But then, if I’d had spent more on a trailer it may also have been a write-off. Who knows? I’ve certainly gained a million dollars worth of experience.
I again employed my inept fiscal instincts today. I found my computer mouse laying on its back with its little feet in the air. Dead! Stopping by the local dollar store I proudly came home with a bargain mouse I’d bought for ten dollars. It worked, sort of. This afternoon I came out of the local computer store with a brand name product which works beautifully. So there you are. In my determination to be cheap, I’m now out the price of a piece of junk. Maybe I’ll throw it in with the trailer. That’ll clinch the deal!
“If you want to buy good, clean, fresh oats you must pay a fair price. Ones that have already been through a horse cost a bit less.” …anon.
First things first. Last blog I described a plant as being a zucchini when in fact, as I have been corrected, it was an English Cucumber. I’m glad I didn’t try to name it something like a Nigerian Horse Radish. No fake news here! Around the docks on Southern Vancouver Island, folks build bird houses for Purple Martins. The birds arrive in the spring with their chittering calls. They swoop and dive and gobble up tons of insects which are then bombed onto the shiny yachts moored below. Some people gripe about the tiny blobs of potential bug bites on their boats but I’m quite happy to pay that small price for the presence of these happy and colourful birds.
They raise their chicks until they are peeking out from the bird houses. Their fluffy demanding offspring can’t seem to ever be fed enough. Once they are big enough to survey the world outside, it is only a matter of days until all the birds are gone for the year. Yesterday their thunderous absence rang out. They’re gone. South. There must come a moment when some sage old martin says “Right squadrons, it’s time to go. Now!” and off they all fly. Now the crickets and their tireless concert will chirp on night and day until the first heavy frost. Some swallows remain for the time being but the Martin houses are empty. One day soon, there will be a sad quietude. The swallows will be gone too.
Creatures know. Birds know when to leave on their migrations and they know where to go. Jack the dog, on the morning of the recent eclipse, went and hid in a closet, a place he never goes otherwise. People have those same instincts and intellects. We’ve simply buried them in our mad rush to do abstract things. Being in touch with our planet and it’s driving forces has lost value in our primal sensibility. That’s why for example, you’ll see a young mother, head-down texting, pushing her progeny in a stroller out into hurtling traffic. Apparently, in recent years, global pedestrian fatalities have soared due simply to people texting.
Summer is roaring by as I work for and with a fine bunch of people. The days pass quickly maintaining and preparing a fleet of yachts for the next round of charter customers. Most are lovely people as well they should be; they’re on vacation. Then there are others. I’ll simply say that the couple who own this business possess a courage and graciousness which I do not. The weeks go by in a blur. Repairing boats, inspecting them, delivering them and sometimes charging across the strait when they break down while on charter can all be in a day’s demands. There are few dull moments. I go home to Ladysmith for two days each week and sleep the whole time away. I feel old. I am having serious doubts about ever getting out and southbound on the open ocean. That, of course, is what this blog is all about. How I try to be like people who can simply relax in the moment and squeeze it like a sponge until every possible drop of life has been tasted. Working for tomorrow while folks around you are on vacation at the moment is torture.
Every morning begins with a huge flock of honking Canada Geese flying by low overhead. These airborne thugs practise a few circuits just over the mast heads like boys on motorcycles demanding attention. Then there is quiet again, but now it’s time to get up. Perhaps they are practising for a southward migration, deciding who will go and who must stay for the winter. It used to be an uplifting song to me, the ultimate Canadian anthem of travel, freedom, vast distance and self-determination. Now I curse these braying, flapping creatures with their bomb loads of greasy green excrement. When I was a child there was grave concern about these birds becoming extinct. They’re now the bane of parks, schoolyards and waterfront areas everywhere. The flocks which live along the shoreline are apparently barely edible. They taste strongly of their inter-tidal diet. But these grey flapper are certainly excellent organic alarm clocks.
My wife Jill is a voracious reader and I often read books she has finished with. I found one book was very dull and she agreed, saying that she was not able to finish it. She declared that “Life is too short to waste reading boring books.” Perhaps writing dull blogs is part of that mantra. In my recent experiences there have been no explosions, leaping whales or exciting intrigues.’Seafire’ remains tied to the dock, a floating apartment, while I work on all the other boats around me. I’ll have to stir the pot and see what I can scrape off the bottom. I’m shrinking from my efforts here perhaps in response to some of the nonsense I hear on the radio. I think I’m writing about nothing! How a resource-rich country like Canada should be paying exorbitant spiralling fuel prices is stunning. That we push back with only a few mumbles is incredible. I’m sorry about the weather tragedy in Texas but there is no way it truly affects us. We happily live like chicken farmers who go to town to buy eggs and accept whatever we’re told, even that the recent solar eclipse is also reason to jack up the price of petroleum. Huh?
Speaking of things Fort McMoney, I am not aware of reciprocal interest this year from those people who accepted global help to prevent them all from being barbequed last year. Perhaps there is some concern and help from them. I’m not aware of it. As wildfires ravage British Columbia this year I do hear the media describe a “Drought” we are suffering. C’mon! We’re paying the price for decades of gross forest mismanagement. It is a normal hot, dry summer. Thazzit! A drought is when the streams and lakes dry up, crops and livestock wither and die, folks can’t find any water even to drink. All the car-washes are still operating. Life goes on, shiney as ever, even with the high price of fuel.
Today on our walk Jack and I met two gorgeous dogs, recently rescued from Iran. They had both been mutilated. Apparently some fundamentalists see dogs as unclean and fair game for torture and mistreatment even though the Koran demands that all of God’s creatures be respected, especially those which by nature live in families. Fundamentalists, whether Christian or Muslim, don’t need to dig deep to find excuses for heinous behaviour. We’ve all been at it for millenniums. For the record, I believe that dogs are one of man’s highest achievements. If you don’t like dogs, you probably don’t get along well with people either.
Labour day is now past. Once again the air is filled with smoke from numerous intense forest fires burning in the interior. We’re caught in one last coastal summer high pressure ridge. It doesn’t seem so long ago that folks were fed up with the long, damp, cool spring. Soon enough again we will forget these last warm days of summer. Let’s enjoy them while they last.
By the way, the swallows have now all departed.A t the end of the workday today, six southbound Sandhill Cranes flew low overhead trumpeting their unmistakeable call. They’re a month early. Whatever that mean’s.
“I’m not nearly as afraid of dying as I am of not living.” …Old Fred the sailor.
On the chart it is named Kakushdish Harbour. The locals called it “Gustafson’s.” I much prefer the Heiltsuk name but I have no idea what sort of spices are used in a kakushdish .(She fed him some kakushdish and he was up all night) Seriously, the name rolls off one’s tongue in a lovely way and I’d guess it means something to do with shelter or safety. This is a short, shallow inlet only a few minutes from downtown Shearwater but a world away from the industrial ugliness and near incessant dirty clatter. I’ve avoided coming here, partly because it’s too close to home base but mostly because one has to pass under an electrical power line. I just don’t like overhead wires while on a moving sailboat. On the chart there is a clearance indicated of twenty-three metres. That is plenty enough for Seafire’s mast of sixteen metres but still I have a bad feeling about overhead wires and bridges. Unless the overhead obstruction is very high, it always looks as if you’ll go bump or zap; that tense anticipation is a nasty sensation.
Once under the wire the bay is wide and calm. In places there are long grassy shores to stretch your legs. With our late spring, the colours seem especially intense. This morning there’s a high overcast but the bay is still lovely. The season is very near summer solstice and nights have long lingering dusks. It is a time of richness and plenty. All creatures are busy feeding, raising their young, and preparing for the coming winter. The last one seems to have barely passed. As I get older the seasons, for me, spin faster and faster. Summer is the apex before the long descent into the next cycle of cold, dark and wetness. Yeah you know it, south, south!
A few days ago I crawled out from beneath a customer’s boat to find myself fifty feet from a young black bear. He was a beauty. My immediate concern was where the mother bear might be but it was soon obvious that this character was alone. There were a few people watching him but he was oblivious as he perused the aromatic garbage bins. Wild animals that accustom themselves to humans almost invariably meet a nasty end. I threw my hammer at him, several times. Bumbles, I named him, belonged in the safety of the forest, not in the middle of a shipyard at midday. He ambled slightly away but was determined to find a meal. We finally steered him up the hill, towards the school; plenty of lunch buckets up there. A yearling, probably orphaned, he has not been taught to forage for wild food and will need some strong persuasion to avoid the temptations of civilization. He has been spotted several times within the community. I fear for his future.
Because I am in my last days at Shearwater time is passing slowly for me, just as it did when I sat in a public school classroom this time of year so long ago. Friday afternoon finally arrived. I slipped the boat’s lines. We were quickly around the corner and out of sight. I spent the night and following day in Kakushdish most pleasantly. After a morning exploration of the bay by dinghy I settled down to work on the boat’s teak. I almost sanded my fingertips to the bone but tonight one cap rail is done. It has been scraped and sanded, had two coats of teak oil applied and all the metal fittings are back in their place. I enjoyed my simple honest work. A cool breeze hummed and whistled in the rigging. I knew a great sense of well-being. Funny how contentment can come from such a simple thing.
Late in the day I moved ‘Seafire’ to Beales Bay, a short distance around the rocks and reefs of Gunboat Passage. ‘Sjoa’ is anchored st the far end of the bay, I wonder what magic video footage Paer has made. I look out one last time just before bed. Last night’s full moon shines down between the scudding clouds. In the morning I awake with my eyes glued shut. I have to peel them open. Insect bites, or teak sanding dust, my whole head feels puffy. It’s snot funny. I force myself into the day; and soon happy for what it becomes. Paer comes over to ‘Seafire’ for a visit and we finally get to know each other a little. What a delight to meet someone new who closely shares similar perspectives and philosophies. I learn of adventures in Sweden along the Arctic Circle and in Lapland. Paer tells of sailing there and how life is in summers of the midnight sun and intense winters of near eternal darkness. He has an advantage of being able to see things from an outsider’s perspective and finds a positive view of things where I see only the negative. He points out that Shearwater, a tiny oddball community of misfit refugees from urban latitudes, manages to survive in relative harmony. He also points out, that despite our industry, we are able to make a minimal environmental foot print. The morning flew by as, in happy discovery, we plumbed each other’s philosophies, values, perspectives. Affirmation is very good for the soul.
I’ve been wanting to explore this huge wetland and estuary. Today the weather and the tides are in my favour. There is a lively and shallow, drying tidal rapids which guard the entrance. I’m able to pass through with a few inches of water beneath my kayak and slalom around three points and rocky islets into the marshland. It is unique as it spreads broadly around three saltwater streams which almost dry out at each low tide. Certainly they are navigable only on a rising tide. I am able to penetrate the green marsh by bumping along the bottom only as the tide rises up the stream bed and lifts me along a little further at a time. It is fantastic. The bottom of the streams are very course sand with glinting bits of mica. The water is slightly tea-coloured but clear. I am able to penetrate the grassy marsh and see birds and minnows in abundance. It is a place where I expect to see deer and bear at any time. I’m not disappointed.
Up one reach of the stream network I find Paer hiking in the marsh. We chat at the stream’s edge, marvelling at how quickly the tide rises. As we stand there a deer emerges from the forest, walking directly toward us. Eventually she senses our presence and we all stand motionless regarding each other across the flowing water. Mesmerized, we don’t notice how the tide is rising over the mud at our feet. Paer has to scramble for higher ground. I paddle out against the flood arriving back at the narrows just as the tide is about to turn again to ebb. I imagine how the marsh streams must be when salmon are spawning. They will be lined with bear and churning with spawning salmon. My one regret is that it has taken me so long to discover this wonderful place. Paer spends days there, always alone. He loves the marsh and lagoon and has developed an intimate knowledge of this area. His film work is of superb professional quality. Clearly he loves filming wildlife and wilderness. He points out that he has never made a living with film; it is something he does in amateur passion to share his vision of the natural world. I note again that his film vignettes are published for viewing on Vimeo and YouTube.
Look for his name: Paer Domeij or titles like ‘Ellerslie Lagoon Waterfalls,’ ‘Two birds and a bear’ or ‘Sommarpromen i Lulea.’ ‘Gransfors Yxmedja’ is fascinating and ‘Cruise Canada’ is my favourite. I have not mentioned his exploits as a man who built a boat and went voyaging as he still is. I am both impressed and inspired by Paer. High praise indeed from this cynic.
Monday was the usual hectic day with transient boaters lining up at the shop door to present their tales of woe. We serve folks on a first come first serve basis but somewhere else there be a place that serves people on the basic of the best dramatic account of their perceived problem. Uncle Harold’s ingrown tone nail and that the cat had diarrhoea six weeks ago really don’t have nothing to do with solving your present mechanical failure mister. You are number seventeen in the line-up so far this morning. We’re working on work order three from yesterday. Uh huh.
At least my little bear came back, he’s still alive and hungry. He did not seem as cavalier about the presence of people today and in fact scrambled up a vertical rock face to escape me. There are reports of a mother bear loitering in the surrounding forest. Hopefully, as the berries ripen during our late spring, our furry friend will prefer eating in the rough to biting the bullet if he continues to scrounge around people. Run Bumbles, run.
“I’d rather see a blackbird in the forest than an eagle on TV”
The evening is clear, the sky is clear. The temperature is not frigidly damp. In fact it is almost tepid. Outside in the last of the day’s light two Kingfishers dart and chase, chattering vigorously. Inside the boat, I’ve just turned the heater on for the evening. It was off for most of the day and the hatches were open. Ever so slowly the reluctant spring shuffles in under the faltering embrace of winter. During my dinner, and in the hour since, I’ve been watching ‘2 Cellos,’ a dynamic pair. Their music is amazing and flawless whether a classical prelude or a rollicking cover of a famous rock song. I heartily recommend them to anyone with a love of good music. The duo has a concert tour passing nearby. Seats in Washington and Oregon were sold out for as much as $US 395. each!
I worked today, even though it is Sunday. A water taxi needed some maintenance and repairs. Just before finishing the job, an operator appeared without notice to take the boat away ASAP. Then we found the battery in the Travel-lift was stone dead. (This is the machine which transports boats, weighing up to sixty tons, to and from the water.) Such is life here. We’re braced to see what will be jammed into tomorrow’s schedule. There is plenty of work already on the slate but there is always something unexpected to deal with. The engine shop tries desperately to run a preventive maintenance program but ‘Break and Fix’ is the way things have always been done here and no amount of persuasion affects permanent change. It is frustrating to see the incredible and unnecessary expenses the company deliberately endures. Combining my inability to affect positive change, and with my health issues, it is time to move on. I’ve given notice here. After a replacement has arrived I will leave this place. I love this wild country but my experience here does not seem to be on any path toward my goal. Perhaps I’ll see things differently once I’ve left. Meanwhile, pass me some dry socks please.
Earlier today, while trudging back to the boat during a rain squall, my eye was caught by a battered box of tools sitting beside a boat stored in the yard. It sat with drawers and lid flipped wide open. Everything was filled with rainwater, the tools in the drawers were beginning to rust. Rain water ran over the edges of the box. Days later, the battered tool box is still in the same place. Mechanics treasure their tools which are the instruments of our trade. Without them we could do little. It is hard to see anyone’s tools treated with indifference. But that is often the way things are done here. I don’t get it, I never will. I’m hardwired another way. Sometimes I truly wish I were not.
I mused that perhaps my life is a bit like that toolbox. Filled with good potential and valuable skills, have I abandoned my life and simple ambitions to rot with neglect and disuse? Why does everything seem at a dead end? Certainly, my potential far exceeds what I do here. My worn body is in pain all day and night. Finances are holding me where I am and it seems that the friends who are financially secure are telling me to “Just do it.” What is it I don’t understand? A good buddy and I are in similar situations and we both have the same dream. We each sign off our regular communications with “Due south!” Meaning of course, we will do this thing no matter what, meet you down there. But a dark, nagging doubt towers over each of us.
Meanwhile the provincial election campaign rails on. There are another two weeks of verbal masturbation to endure. I listened to part of an on-air debate last recently between the three candidates. They all espoused various idiotologies yet all sounded the same. I have long refused to vote for any candidate whose platform is about what’s wrong with their opponents. The debate was a childish game of turd-toss. There is no-one to vote for. And by the way candidates, all of you, no government has ever been a source of wealth. And, although all politicians make the claim, no government has ever created one job. Never! Stop the bull!
You can’t catch a fish by chasing it with a hook. Offer me something enticing and I just might bite. Here in Shearwater a lady removed her voter’s card from her mailbox. Apparently the nearest advanced polling station is in Masset, on Haida Gwaii. That’s an ocean voyage of over two hundred miles across the notoriously vicious Hecate Strait. We are a hardy bunch of folks! For weeks, CBC radio provides thin speculations and dreary reviews of the electoral race. Journalists pick out every bit of lint from every corner. Such a weary business!
, I’m posting this from the Bella Bella Airfield. Fog and a thin spattering drizzle are the weather this morning. At the moment, conditions are not flyable. I’m hoping to head south on yet another medical excursion. I’m very much looking forward to seeing my wife Jill and my buddy Jack, the dog. For the weekend, I’m doing south.
He’s back. One of the disappointments on my return to Shearwater this year was that Edgar was gone. Someone, with a burst of artistic genius, installed the gnarled top of a tree on the waterfront. It accents our sweeping panorama of the Great Bear Rainforest and proved to be a perfect perch for an eagle which the locals had named Edgar. Last year he sat placidly twenty feet above the ground while people stood beneath and clicked their cameras merrily. The old tree sat empty this year. Yesterday, there he was! Even if he moves on I know that yet he lives. It is tiny moments like that which make life here survivable for me.
I’m starting to write this blog only a day after I posted the last one. Apparently the containment boom around our sunken tug in Seaforth Channel has broken in heavy weather. While I’m concerned about environmental aspects I’m getting damned weary of the whole situation. CBC’s “On site” report by Chris Brown yesterday was skewed and poorly researched. The story he presented was largely uninformed opinion and quite misleading to the broadcast audience, most of which swallows anything viewed on television as God’s truth. If Mr. Brown would like to report on environmental devastation he should return when the gillnet fleet is at our docks when, for months, there is a thick film of diesel and oily bilge water punctuated with copious beer cans and every sort of plastic garbage. All of that on the ocean which these fishermen depend to provide the bounty of their livelihood. Report on that Mr. Brown. Perhaps he could spend more time, than that between flights in and out of here, and review the rape which our sport fishing industry annually imposes on our fish stocks. Perhaps he could review some of the hypocrisies and environmental travesties our indigenous population imposes on the land and sea they claim to cherish so dearly. Report on that Mr. Brown.
As for quoting local environmental activists who consume the same products and fuels we all import on barges by burning, yes diesel, try reporting on how ALL of us are consumers and part of the problem. If we really don’t want the bulk transport of fuel in our waters, fine. I live on my boat, I’ll be OK. Stop our fuel deliveries and let’s see how long it takes for the squeaking to rise in a different direction. And as for quoting Heiltsuk executives who are criticizing the alacrity of the clean-up process, perhaps you could check on the accuracy of their claims. There were vessels on site within six hours of the grounding. Fifty-four million dollars were spent in the first week and I’m told the daily operational costs are around $1.3 million. And by the way, check out how many folks from the Heiltsuk Nation are being paid obscene hourly rates to merely wander the beaches with a bundle of absorbent pads. Furthermore, what IS the wildlife death toll? Report on that Mr. Brown. I am damned weary of hearing about what someone else is supposed to do. We are ALL part of the problem. What are YOU doing about it? Hello? Mr. Brown?
As I sit writing this morning, for a few minutes, there was a burst of golden sunlight on the trees above the dock. Now the forest is again plunged into various dim tones of grey and green. I find that my life here scuttles between those moments of light and rainlessness. Now pelting rain is clattering against the pilot house windows. Last evening, the schooner “Spike Africa” returned briefly to the dock. I managed to grab some photos with my mobile phone in the soft afternoon light. I love traditional boats and it was an inspiration to see this beautiful, lovingly-maintained, wooden vessel. Just about every boat here is a utilitarian conveyance and the notion of keeping a boat clean, tidy and shipshape is considered frivolous. This morning, at first light, the schooner was gone. But that is the way of sailors.
The afternoon today was warm, calm and sunny. Back at my secret petroglyph site more moss was cleared away. More carvings, some under up to six inches of soil, roots and moss. It has been a while since anyone else looked on this ancient art. I wonder at how these images were made in such hard rock and what spiritual energy inspired the endeavour. I wonder what these ancients would have thought of their descendants. I have no illusions about the noble savage, past or present. I choose to see us all as human beings first, complete with our amazing strengths and pathetic weaknesses. I look at evidence of a time when we humans were apparently in harmony with our environment. I can only wonder when our slide backwards will stop and when technology and profit will cease to be our god.
All the while, as they have for the past several days, thousands of snow geese wing their way southward. They fly high, fast and strong, constantly shifting their formation to take a turn at sharing the effort of breaking the way. Even the birds know. They know and do not forget.
“The superior man understands what is right, the inferior man understands what will sell.” .…Confusius
Happy New Year! Wishing you all health, happiness, someone to love and something to look forward to. This is ‘Seafire’ blog 92. I just received my annual stats and I’m a bit chuffed. This blog is now viewed in 82 countries by over 4700 regular viewers. Thank you everybody!
There’s no text this time, no polemic conjectures, no wry humour or candid observations.
Jill and I took the boat out for New Year’s Eve and quietly slept our way into 2016. Yesterday, January 1st was spent leisurely although, despite the sun, it was bitterly cold. I photographed the dawn and then we took the dinghy to grab mug shots of some some noisy neighbours down the beach. In the evening we warmed our feet and our hearts sitting by the wood stove in the home of some dear friends on Gabriola Island. Then we idled back out from the icy beach through the bitter darkness to the sanctuary of ‘Seafire.’ It was a wonderful way to open the year. Here are some photos of those first hours.
Two posts back, I mused about the approximately 50 miles distance I covered in one day aboard ‘Seafire’ and compared the mileage other folks might be able to cover in relative times. At Christmas I chatted with my brother, an Air Canada pilot. He now flies a 787 on a non-stop route between Toronto and Delhi, India. That is roughly half-way around the planet in about fifteen hours! How’s that for relative? Just remember that if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else. Stay the course.
It’s Thanksgiving weekend; already. Time flies whether or not you are having fun. With a long weekend available I intend to get the hell out of here despite a weather forecast which includes a hurricane warning. The barometer this morning is descending through 990 Mb but so far, there has been only a strange moaning wind in the masthead. Current local weather reports have gusts to 97 knots in Central Haida Gwaii. Seas in Hecate Strait are forecast to rise as high as 9 metres. Here at Shearwater I’m moored within an archipelago of islands and inlets which appear to afford good shelter. Yet they can create a massive funnel effect under certain conditions and produce devilish, destructive forces. It is imprudent to leave a safe haven in rough weather so my sailing plans will vary from hour to hour as the day wears on. These are the leftovers from tropical storm Oho. In Masset, on the north end of Haida Gwaii, a group of surfers have gathered in anticipation of monstrous swells along the Northern Beach. One fellow being interviewed on the radio said “I’m going to tie down the woodpile and head for the beach.” Good for all of them!
By noon the wind is gusting viciously. It is not a steady blast like a full hurricane but a random series of violent blows, punch by punch. These can be more destructive than a consistent pressure. The boat is healing and surging so sharply that cupboard doors are being flung open. The internet is now down, soon I expect, we’ll loose our electricity. In the afternoon, the wharfinger’s little float house begins to break loose from its mooring. Huge swirling waterspouts race across the bay.
In the evening the power and internet are fine but the wind and rain continue their sporadic vicious assaults. Old ‘Seafire’ skews about like a frightened cat, straining frantically at her heavy, doubled dock lines. It was inky dark by seven pm. I’ve decided to stay right where I am for the night and see what the morning brings.
You know you are getting really starved for company when you leave the VHF marine weather on to play the recorded forecast loop over and over. This morning a sailboat with a man and a dog northbound from Port Hardy have gone missing. One of the reasons I need a cool change is that the only companionship aboard the boat is this computer and CBC Bloody North on the radio. I am fed up to my teeth with the incessant fecal flow about our upcoming federal election. The interviews of silly people and mindless rhetoric does not end. I advocate that citizens have a responsibility to vote. However I will not vote for any candidate whose platform is the shortcomings of his competitors. And they’re all at it. I’m at a loss. No one ever wins an election. Invariably elections are held so that the incumbent government may be voted out. Sadly none of the goofs aspiring to pick up the reins are inspiring any confidence; at least not from this old cynic. Nix! Nada! Nyet! Unfortunately it will be all the non-voters who decide this one. Apathy rules. I suspect that is what the Harper gangsters are counting on and why the campaign has been so lengthy. Blah, blah, blah… baaah.
This Saturday morning the weather has eased, slightly. My plans for weekend exploration have been modified. I’ll wait till noon then tiptoe south to gunkhole among the islands in Cultus Sound, if I can get that far. The trick is to go no place from where you can’t get home due to weather. I have to second-guess the forecast and make sure home is going to be downwind. So long as I get around the corner and can’t recieve the feeble signals of CBC I’ll have a sense of having been away.
We made it! It is Monday evening, we’re back. The weather was horrific. I holed up in a familiar anchorage and endured two days and nights of extreme nastiness. I can offer a testament for the tremendous abilities of my Rocna anchor which held without dragging even in wind which was hurricane-force at times. The rain was a biblical deluge. Explorations away from the boat in the inflatable tender were all cut short by the onslaught of the next squall and the next. Now back at the dock I’m having to admit that this boat is going to be a huge challenge to live in through the coming winter.
Ruggedly built by the Downeaster boatyard in Santa Ana California, the hull is not cored or insulated. It is solid fibreglass. This is no problem in southern climates and the simple solution is, of course, to move south. The single-skin fibreglass hull in this very damp climate is a wonderful water maker when the dew point rises and the temperature falls. The hull sweats. Water condenses and drips and puddles within lockers which hold my clothing and equipment. This is curable either with aggressive ventilation which is impossible because of the locker contents, or can be reduced by insulating the hull in each storage area. Guess what I’m doing this weekend.
Damp, cold clothing is no fun, especially first thing in the morning before stepping out for a day’s work in the rain. My piece of dock space is a long way from my power supply so the electric heater is not operating at peak capacity. I have a forced-air diesel furnace in the boat but I don’t want to rely on it, especially when away from the boat. There is no place to install a radiant heater inside but I’d love to have a small wood stove. I’ll sort through this little dilemma and then there will be new problems to chew on. It’s the time of year when folks are seizing on every moment of dryness and sunlight. The past two afternoons have been sunny and warm. I scurry home from my job to work for a few minutes on my own vessel. Tuning up the cable steering and repairing davits have been my priorities but there’s more of course. There’s always more. Oddly, during these pleasant weather windows, aggressive black flies appear and chew viciously. These tiny monsters remind me of times past in the far north when the black flies must have frozen solid at night and then managed to eat anything alive during the day.
Here the autumn forest becomes greener as the wind and rain impose themselves. The storms clear the evergreen limbs of dead boughs and needles. My decks are littered with cedar debris after each storm. The cockpit drains could clog with the stuff and soon rainwater can then overflow into the main cabin. Wintering here is going to be a full time job. I must learn how to glow in the dark if I have to stay for the long months ahead. Right now one yellow alder or a show of crimson leaves would seem very nice.
Almost a week has passed since I began writing this blog. The evenings are noticeably shorter in these few days and the morning light is more reluctant. Far to the south, I imagine the faint sound of Mariachi music.
I recommend a wonderful book to readers who are truly interested in this part of the world. All I’ll say is that you won’t regret you investment in this one. It describes the history and culture of this region in a unique and wonderful way. ‘The Golden Spruce’ is written by John Vaillant; I wish I could write as well as he does. Here’s a quote from that book.
“Fancy cutting down all these beautiful trees…to make pulp for those bloody newspapers, and calling it civilization.”
– Winston Churchill, remarking to his son during a visit to Canada in 1929
September 13th ; already! It has already been fourteen years since we were staggering in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Time flies, whether you’re having fun or not. There are teenagers starting high school this month who were then yet to be born and are now thinking about what sort of first car they might have. (Well, George Bush said to go shopping!) It seems we’ve learned nothing from those dark days except to be permanently afraid. The news has not really changed much. So seize the moment, it’s all we have.
Here in the remote archipelago where I live, the only radio available is good old CBC. They are the masters of tedium and nonsensical mindless interviews. While they do manage to produce the odd nugget from within their manure pile of rhetoric, one is soon wearied of incessant coverage of the same subject. Having already gone on for too many months, the primary babble is about the upcoming federal election, yet another damned month away. It has been dissected every possible way. That topic has now been dread-locked in with the Syrian refugee crisis. CBC’s undying, numbing perspectives are guaranteed to eventually harden even the softest heart.
All of the above has been interspersed this past week with a sudden zeal of reporting about sex education within the public school system. CBC has managed to turn even that subject into something as arousing as calculus. Their reports, interviews and forums are endless. It used to be such a tender subject. Openness is one thing. Desensitizing folks to their children’s interest in their own human biology is yet another. Allegedly some of those unborn of 9/11 are now already hardened porn viewers before they’ve left grade school. It is certainly a long way since I reviewed the woman’s underwear section in the Sears catalogue under the covers with a flashlight. Ah c’mon. Admit it! Yes, some of you did it too. That aside, CBC often manages to neither inform nor entertain although the occasional report of a beaver flooding a road is rather uplifting and, at least, real news.
We’re still a week away from the calendar end of summer but clearly winter is approaching with a vengeance. The signs are clear. In a region that often only knows two seasons, we’ve already had two winter-class storms. The numbers of gringo boats are dwindling at the docks. The ones here now are southbound from a whole summer somewhere north. Many of those are lovely seaworthy boats skippered by people who are serious mariners instead of the white-knuckled weekend warriors in their Tupperware look-at-me bobbers.
Now a motley gaggle of gill-netters clings to the dock , rafted six abreast at times, in hope of another fishing opening or two. Locals call this the “Stamp” fishery. If these fishermen can put in enough weeks trying to catch some fish, which involves endless waiting for another DFO opening of a few hours, then they qualify for employment insurance benefits to carry them through to next year. Judging by the obvious lack of maintenance on many of their boats, (Not all) these fellows are desperately impoverished. They are certainly not short of time to work on their boats although even scrubbing the decks seems too much for them. Yet they always have beer and cigarettes and often party into the wee hours of the night, waking up those of us who go to work in the morning. They don’t pay moorage, but do certainly contribute to the local economy in the pub and the liquor store which is why they’re tolerated but they’ll soon move on. Now the seine boats are showing up, to clean up the fish the gillnetters miss.
In the small lagoon where I am moored a school of Coho have circled relentlessly for the past week, apparently intent on somehow spawning in a culvert discharging fresh water several feet above the sea. Their condition is deteriorating visibly as nature takes its inevitable course. This is not where their life cycle began, their presence is a mystery to me.
The sky is now regularly dotted with flocks of cranes flying southward. Their wonderful resonant rattling calls are a haunting sound. These birds can stand four feet tall and have wingspans over six feet. They migrate from as far as Eastern Siberia to the American Southwest and Northern Mexico. Damn their beaks!
I’ve spotted several pair here during the summer. They’re furtive and damned hard to photograph. They circle and whoop to others resting in the local bogs but always they wing on out of sight as if following invisible lanes in the sky. Interestingly, they fly the same headings as the jets passing far above them. Some fly so high they are barely visible, others pass low enough so that you can clearly see them. Yesterday, several dozen circled and called while the sun glinted on their massive, powerful wings. They stir urges in me which can be simply expressed. South!
“The cabin of a small yacht is truly a wonderful thing; not only will it shelter you from a tempest, but from the other troubles in life, it is a safe retreat.”