They’re Gone

The last bird? A beautifully made Purple Martin condo on the dock in Comox.
It’ll be empty until next May. Time share?

 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.

The wake. Navigating in smoke.

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.

Now THAT’S a lawn ornament! This is part of the ‘Welcome to the Comox Valley’ display. In 1967 as a young air cadet, I brown-nosed a ride in a Tutor trainer when our national aerobatic team was known as the “Golden
Cennetaires ” Yep, now long-known as the “Snowbirds,” their aircraft are that old.

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?

So what did Ethanol do wrong? Her sister’s still around! This pump is at the fuel dock in Refuge Cove where in summer, you should be content with whatever flavour of gas is available. The meters show quantity in litres, not price.

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.

Jack enjoying the “drought.” Seriously, our fresh water levels are at their seasonal normal.

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.

Wild rosehips galore. Plump and plentiful, a sign to many that we will indeed have an early, long and harsh winter.
Blood sunrise, sailor beware! another day begins under a thick pall of smoke.
As the day advanced, the smoke settled until the mountains were lost from sight. This photo is of Deep Bay on Vancouver Island at 3 pm today.

I’m not nearly as afraid of dying as I am of not living.” …Old Fred the sailor.

Bearing Up

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Sunday morning calm in downtown Shearwater. Actually, the orange object in the left background is an excavator that began smashing and bashing just after first light. The fishboat in the foreground bears the grand name ‘Pubnico Gemini’
Summer Beach
When the afternoon tide rises over the sun-warmed beach, children come to swim and play on the rope swing.

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.

Salal Flower Kakushdish
I could see a prehistoric family making their home in this niche
One of the aboriginal fish traps at Kakushdish
Kakushdish backwater
A forest grave site along the shores of Kakushdish
Kakushdish Harbour. A lovely place to hang out. The bare ground on the hills behind is a naturally occurring bog land where the ground is too wet and barren for forest to grow,

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 big one. The  68 foot ‘Island Roamer’ comes up for fibreglass repairs after finding a rock in Haida Gwaii. Despite an amazingly good chart system, there ARE uncharted rocks. Full prudence is always required. If the pro’s came run aground, so can anyone else. Note the diminutive size of the worker beside the keel. The fibreglass crew had the vessel back in business in less than three days!
A big little one. Up for a “shave and a haircut” or in other words, bottom cleaning and fresh anti-fouling paint. This is a lovely example of the ubiquitous folk boat design, also often found in these waters as a ‘Contessa 26’. This design is famous for being sailed alone around the world. Several different sailors have done it. The design sails wonderfully and is very seaworthy.

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.

Bumbles Goes Bad
A poster on the grocery store bulletin board warns that my pal does not understand the danger of being fearless.

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.

What manner of beast is this? Actually it’s only a large stump on tidal ground above yet another fish trap at Kakushdish.
Back to Beales, looking into the entrance to the lagoons beyond.
Once through the tidal rapids, one comes upon a loading bulkhead from a former limestone quarry, now long-abandoned.
Into the marsh. It is stunningly beautiful, in large part because of the natural open space.
Saltwater streams meander through the marshland.
Sandhill cranes feed in the marsh and nest in the bogs on the hills.

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.

Paer films a deer which came out of the forest directly across the stream from us. While this occurred the tide was bubbling up around our feet.

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.

The nook. one of thousands of streams running to the sea.

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.

Bella Bella as seen from the mouth of Kakushdish

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.

You’re IT! Appearing to be playing a child’s game, Bumbles is actually about to scale a 20′ vertical rock face to escape me. I’m trying to educate him that he is not welcome around people.

I’d rather see a blackbird in the forest than an eagle on TV”

Paer Domeij quoting his teenage son.

An Open Tool Box In The Rain

The Harbinger.
A sure sign of spring, this tiny hummingbird and it’s pals are migrating north. They stop long enough to rest and fuel up, then buzz off. In real size, they are never more than two inches in length. They fly thousands of miles north, then south again, each year.

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!

…And a bumminghird in an alder tree.

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.

Recycling.
It came out of the earth now it’s going back. No matter how careful we are, a little oily residue escapes in the incessant rain. “Mommy, look at the rainbow in the puddle!”

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.

– Red tool box rusting in the rain.- Broke back tool box.
– For some reason my wrench is rusty.

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.

Making a blunt point.
Log dogs on the bow of a small steel tug.

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!

Cut me loose!
Shorelines to the docks at low tide. Anenomes grow on the chain.

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!

Wreck Beach…Bella Bella.
Under the jetty at low tide.
Technical Advice.
Boat filth imbedded in my paws despite a thorough scrubbing. By the time I’m heading back north again, they’ll be coming clean.
Shearwater suspense.
Morning fog three hours before flight time. It lifted. We flew.

, 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.

From far overhead above the clouds, there comes the thunder of passing jetliners

John Cleese… “ Want to make God laugh?

Tell him your plans.”

Edgar Came Back

Edgar came back. He didn't like what he saw and disappeared the next day.
Edgar came back. He didn’t like what he saw and disappeared the next day.

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?

The Wall Fern growing on the rock wall behind the Shearwater hangar.
The Wall Fern
Growing on the rock wall behind the Shearwater hangar.
Summer's End
Summer’s End

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.

Spike Africa
Spike Africa
Spike Africa A full size replica of our original coastal freighters
Spike Africa
A full size replica of our original coastal freighters
No real schooner is complete without a good dog. Meet Skunky, the sea dog.
No real schooner is complete without a good dog. Meet Skunky, the sea dog.
Aloft Baggywrinkle, ratlines, parceling and serving, trailboards. Rigging components from traditional methods.
Aloft
Baggywrinkle, ratlines, parceling and serving, trailboards. Rigging components from traditional methods.
Beneath the bobstay An essay of light on water for all of those who love the shape of boats.
Beneath the bobstay
An essay of light on water for all of those who love the shape of boats.
Gaffer Details The lower throat halyard block and the main gaff crutch. A place and a name for everything.
Gaffer Details
The lower throat halyard block and the main gaff crutch. A place and a name for everything.
A very fortunate young man.
A very fortunate young man.

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.

More Petroglyphs. These were uncovered and photographed on a sunnier day. They can best be portrayed by making rubbings ont5o heavy cloth.
More Petroglyphs.
These were uncovered and photographed on a sunnier day. They can best be portrayed by making rubbings onto heavy cloth.
The watcher
The watcher
This Sitka Spruce Tree, about five feet across at the base, was just a seed many centuries after these carvings were made.
This Sitka Spruce Tree, about five feet across at the base, was just a seed many centuries after these carvings were made. It shades the petroglyphs.
This etching was found on the back of a headstone at a nearby burial site
This etching was found on the back of a headstone at a nearby burial site.
Who knows? What wonders lay in the woods beneath the moss and ancient trees.?
Who knows? What wonders lay in the woods beneath the moss and ancient trees.?

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.

Send a postcard, see you in spring.
Send a postcard, see you in spring.

The superior man understands what is right, the inferior man understands what will sell.”           .Confusius

Home Waters

(Click on photos to enlarge)

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.

First light, First photograph, 2016
First Light, First photograph, 2016
Mount Baker Taken from one of my favourite anchorages on the entire Bc Coast, Dogfish Bay, Kendrick Island at Gabriola Passage
Mount Baker
Taken from one of my favourite anchorages on the entire BC Coast, Dogfish Bay, Kendrick Island at Gabriola Passage
Old Glory shakes A Leg The day, the year begins
Old Glory Shakes A Leg
The day, the year begins
The Shadows Vanquished It IS as cold as it looks
The Shadows Vanquished
It IS as cold as it looks
The Cave An excellent acoustic chamber, it amplified the party din of noisy neighbours a few miles down the beach
The Cave
An excellent acoustic chamber, it amplified the party din of noisy neighbours a mile down the beach
Hey Guys! It was midnight hours ago. turn it down huh?
Hey Guys! It was midnight hours ago.
Turn it down huh?
Old Tattoo. This old thug would look right at home on a Harley. The tattoo is how research people track these sea lions. Some them migrate hundreds of miles.
Old Tattoo.
Wouldn’t this old thug would look right at home on a Harley? The branded number is how research people track these sea lions. Some them migrate hundreds of miles.
Whadya mean "New Year's Annual Polar Bear Dip?"
Whadya mean “New Year’s Annual Polar Bear Dip?” Sing or Swim!

 

Some revellers slept where they fell
Some revellers slept where they fell
Fish for breakfast, again.
Fish for breakfast, again.
Keep your bow pointing south and the sun on your port bow. Happy New Year.
Keep your bow pointing south and the morning sun to port.
Happy New Year.

Hurricane Warning

Watch this guy. He's pointing something at us.
Watch this guy. He’s pointing something at us.

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!

A chance of wind and rain. The Thanksgiving weekend, hurry up and wait
A chance of wind and rain. The Thanksgiving weekend, hurry up and wait.

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.

The kickers are spawning! A load of lease-return outboard motors heads south at the end of the sport fishing season
The kickers are spawning!
A load of lease-return outboard motors heads south at the end of the sport fishing season.
Some clever recycling at the Bella Bella Dock. An old pickup truck box has been converted to an all-weather pilothouse on a locally popular aluminum punt.
Some clever recycling at the Bella Bella Dock. An old pickup truck box canopy has  been converted to an all-weather pilothouse on a locally popular aluminum punt.

 

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.

The dawn before the storm. Sunrise over Hunter channel.
The dawn before the storm. Sunrise over Hunter channel.
A moment of sunlight on a quiet shell beach
A moment of sunlight on a quiet shell beach
A small touch of autumn colour
A small touch of autumn colour

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.

Doing the Heron Hokey-pokey. "You put your left leg in, then you step right out."
Doing the Heron Hokey-pokey. “You put your left leg in, then you step right out.”

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.

The Mummy is watching you! An interesting rock formation on the shore of Kliktsoatli Harbour., Shearwater
The Mummy is watching you! An interesting rock formation on the shore of Kliktsoatli Harbour, Shearwater

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

"Don't encourage him! Look the other way; maybe he'll leave."
“Don’t encourage him! Look the other way; maybe he’ll leave.”

SOUTH

Off to Mexico! Sandhill Cranes are migrating southwards by the hundreds
Off to Mexico!
Sandhill Cranes are migrating southward by the hundreds.

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.

An old buddy drops in. Rick drops in as the pilot of this Kamov 32. Russian-built, it is an incredible heavy-lift helicopter.
An old buddy drops in.
Rick drops in as the pilot of this Kamov 32. Russian-built, it is an incredible heavy-lift helicopter.

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.

Good enough! Definitely not Tupperware. A home-made console and who the hell needs two axles on a boat trailer? We're not going far anyway.
Good enough! Definitely not Tupperware. A home-made helm. And who the hell needs two axles on a boat trailer? We’re not going far anyway.

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.

Waiting...and waiting. This photo was taken in July, some of these boats are stiil here.
Waiting…and waiting.
This photo was taken in July, some of these gillnetters are stiil here.

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!

Spread your wings. we'll see you down south dude!
Spread your wings.
We’ll see you down south dude!

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 from whence my Seafire blogs flow.
The cabin from whence my Seafire blogs flow.

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.”

– L. Francis Herroshoff

Here are the photos I promised in my last blog.

Fungi Gigantis. This old fungus growths are huge.
Fungi Gigantis.
These old fungus growths are huge.
Don't stand still... something g will start growing on you!
Don’t stand still… something will start growing on you!
Seafire in heaven. Cultus Sound anchorage
Seafire in heaven.
Cultus Sound anchorage
This gang of ravens followed me everywhere I hiked. Their aerobatic skills and amazing vocabulary kept me spellbound
This gang of ravens followed me everywhere I hiked. Their aerobatic skills and amazing vocabulary kept me spellbound
A Stellar encounter. This Stellar Jay harrassed me until I pointed my camera and took this one shot
A Stellar encounter. This Stellar Jay harrassed me this closely until I pointed my camera and grabbed this one shot
There's no shell like an old shell
There’s no shell like an old shell
Out of the jungle and down to the sea. A secret bay with a hidden entrance
Out of the jungle and down to the sea. A secret bay with a hidden entrance
A jewel in the sand. Worn abalone shell
A jewel in the sand.
Worn abalone shell
Hanging in there. Bull Kelp and cedar snag
Hanging in there.
Bull Kelp and cedar snag
Think green. Moss and witches hair on a Spruce limb
Think green. Moss and witches hair on a Spruce limb
Lush Life. Wandering out of the forest on Gosling Island
Lush Life.
Wandering out of the forest on Gosling Island
Lion's Mane jelly fish. It's sting is vicious
Lion’s Mane jelly fish.
It’s sting is vicious
Colour on a grey day. Wild peas growing in the beach sand in the Goose Group
Colour on a grey day.
Wild peas growing in the beach sand in the Goose Group
Out of the rock grows a forest. A fresh perspective on the meaning of life.
Out of the rock grows a forest. A fresh perspective on the meaning of life.
I'd see a doctor about that! The old tree is about three feet in diameter. Grow baby, grow!
I’d see a doctor about that! The old tree is about three feet in diameter. Grow baby, grow!
There's always another corner to explore. What a place to visit. I'll be back to the Goose Group.
There’s always another corner to explore. What a place to visit. I’ll be back to the Goose Group.
Wolf tracks for company. What a wonderful thing to see these fresh paw prints.
Wolf tracks for company.
What a wonderful thing to see these fresh paw prints.
Bubbles in the sand. sung to the tune of "Strangers in the night".
Bubbles in the sand. Sung to the tune of “Strangers in the night”.
Happy feet. Gull tracks in the sand
Happy feet.
Gull tracks in the sand
A gentle dawn. Labour Day sunrise, Gosling Island
A gentle dawn. Labour Day sunrise, Gosling Island
A perfect arrangement. The beauty everywhere is amazing
A perfect arrangement.
The beauty everywhere is amazing
And so I moved on, my tracks being erased behind me.
And so I moved on, my tracks soon erased behind me.

 

Ain’t Complaining, Just Explaining

 

Find the Orca! The wonder of this coast is the magic moments that pass as if they never happened.
Find the Orca!
The wonder of this coast is the magic moments that pass as if they never happened.

It is August twenty-second. I have been planning to attend a barbeque party tonight which was intended to be the christening of a new sun deck at the house of my supervisor. I slogged back from the public showers in a driving rain. I should have just sat in the cockpit with my soap. My dinghy, which I’m intending to take, is filling with rainwater. Two tiny swallows sat huddled together in the middle of an overhead wire, looking forlorn and miserable. There are few insects on the wing to eat when it’s pouring rain and the little birds will have a long night ahead of them. They’re still here but soon the swallows be on their way south. At work, I’m beginning to winterize boat engines in preparation for their storage through the long, long winter ahead. At five pm the dock lights are already on, it is that dark this afternoon.

Unchained. A bald eagle breakfasting on a salmon carcass at low tide near my dock. The chain is a relic of the airbase days.
Unchained.
A bald eagle breakfasting on a salmon carcass at low tide near my dock. The chain is a relic of the airbase days. All the docks here are moored this way.

I’ve been upgrading the wiring in my mast. The boat is thirty-five years old, it’s due. It is an unpleasant chore, clambering up and down the spar, working alone and unaided. Standing on the top two steps, hanging back from a safety harness, the time up there is limited by the pain in my legs and back while scrunched in under the head of the backstay. There’s no room left there to have a bosun’s chair to sit in. Oh to again be that flat-bellied, willowy fellow who’s clothes I once wore. I was one tough monkey; then. As soon as I pulled out the old wiring and prepared the new, the rain began. Now I’m waiting for a break in the deluge to get to the party. It’s like beginning a painting project and having the sky open up. Sailors even joke that when the rain begins, somewhere, someone has just opened a can of paint. So blame me. Haar! Meanwhile I’m starting this new blog post while I wait on the weather.

Crossed wires. My first attempt at a new harness for the mast. The cross-ties are intended to keep the wiring from rattling inside the mast. It was a good idea! NOT!
Crossed wires. My first attempt at a new harness for the mast. The cross-ties are intended to keep the wiring from rattling inside the mast. It was a good idea! NOT!

The party proved a grand success with heaps of delicious food and crowds of happy people. Nobody talked shop and the rain ended with a lovely double rainbow. Sunday became another mast marathon. Up and down to the top, pulling on the harness of new wires, tugging it back down, then up a little more, until I’d exhausted all the ways that it was not going to work. Finally, in the early evening, the new wire emerged from the head of the mast. Just another jaunt or two up on the folding steps and that part will be finished.

Rainbow at the end of the party.
Rainbow at the end of the party.
Standing Headroom A thing of beauty, from the inside on a nasty day. There's even a heater.
Standing Headroom
A thing of beauty, from the inside on a nasty day. There’s even a heater.
Shipshape. Paint is the glue that holds old .boats together
Shipshape.
Paint is the glue that holds old .boats together

Now I’m writing over my Monday morning coffee. It is a ritual that I take a few minutes of “my time” before going off to work. It leaves me with a sense of empowerment and being in control before abandoning myself to the demands of the job. Apparently we start the week with three, out of six, water taxis with broken engines. The fleet manager with be wringing his hands anxiously. Some miserable days lay ahead. Of course there will also be some transient boaters each with the most important problem in the world. I just want to get my mast project done. That’s the most important problem! Right now! All those personal perspectives and I know where my priority will fall within the lineup of woes. End of the line son!

What do you see? After months of staring out my galley portlight at these old logs, I've begun to see a mummified pirate. Is it time to move on?
What do you see?
After months of staring out my galley portlight at these old logs, I’ve begun to see a mummified pirate.
Is it time to move on?

Tuesday morning coffee. A day older, more of the same. I was back up the mast last night, a brute for punishment to the bitter end. I borrowed a soldering torch but while up the mast, it broke, the nozzle and control fell to the deck with a load bang and then careened overboard with a dramatic splash several feet away. Remarks of a fecal context thundered down as a rain squall began to splatter my perch in the sky. For now I’ve finished my penance at the masthead, at least until new wiring connectors and a new vhf antenna and another torch arrive. That job should take only a few minutes and it will feel so good to know I’m finally done up there.

Now a recurring back injury is producing crippling pain but it’s up the ramp and hobble off to another delightful day. “Work shall set me free”. Haar! By first coffee break my back was in such a dreadful spasm that I went off to the Bella Bella hospital clinic for some la-la medication. It was closed. After a round in the emergency ward I finally emerged with a few pills that will help ease me through the remains of the week. This is the second visit to that small hospital. Both times I’ve been bemused and somewhat horrified by a character who sits in a dark corner in a wheelchair croaking repeatedly in a loud demanding parrot-like voice “I want my pampers!” It is bizarre yet strangely amusing; for a while. I admire a staff who can endure that daily grind. There are many types of courage which I do not possess.

Once back aboard ‘Seafire’ my e-mail included a video produced by Orbital Mechanics (you can find it on YouTube) which visualizes all of the world’s nuclear detonations since 1945. There are 2153 portrayed in total. It doesn’t sound like many. Right? It takes over thirteen minutes to watch them all flicker rapidly by! A staggering proportion have occurred in the US Southwest and the mid Pacific. Climate change? Dunno. Thirty dead whales (that have been found) in Alaska recently. Dunno! I do know that we do not fully understand all of the dynamics and properties of electricity yet all the while we’ve been messing with atomic energy for well over half a century. Nobody knows what the hell to due with all the atomic waste which continues to pile up. “Let’s bury it in your county!” Children quickly learn not to burn their fingers twice. What goes wrong with our brains?

Yep she’s all bluebirds and rainbows folks.

'Wonder' passing Bella Bella docks. A Disney brings fantasy past reality
‘Wonder’ passing Bella Bella docks. A Disney cruise ship brings fantasy past reality. Note Mickey Mouse on the exhaust stacks.

 

Economy Cruise. Someone's boat seat floats away.
Economy Cruise.
Someone’s boat seat floats away.

My internet is performing well enough now to acquire Netflix movies. Last night I watched ‘Mr. Turner’ starring Timothy Spall. No explosions or gun play, but a rich portrayal of England’s famous painter. It was a refreshing interlude from the drudgery of life in a shipyard. It is one of the few films I ever recommend and while I’m at it I’ll also plug another splendid movie named ‘Whiplash’.

Wednesday. Another day of trying to be three places at one time. Transient boaters who have a breakdown soon lose sight of the charms of this place when the necessary parts don’t arrive on time, or at all. They pay even more moorage and tediously wait and wait. It’s this old dog in greasy coveralls who has to placate them until their boat is finally ready to chug away around the corner to head for the next place, a hundred miles or more in any direction, where they can have yet more repairs made if required. I’m always bemused at how incapable some folks are of making even basic adjustments and inspections on their boats. They can’t grasp that self-sufficiency is a basic tenant of seamanship. To come into a remote area and throw yourself on the abilities of strangers seems, at least, naive. It is a recurring rant of mine.

Air Dried Lumber cascade fresh.
Air Dried Lumber
Cascade Fresh.

I think back to when boats had no engines or electrical gadgets. Sailors then were a very different breed. It was a time when, ashore, you got around by horse. Many of today’s white-knuckled warriors wouldn’t know which end the hay went in! At least the horse knew!

Bog Trotter Day
Bog Trotter Procrastinators Club Day

I am also fascinated at people who have an addiction to spending. I’ve been making my observations about this for many years and I swear it is true. For days they’ve been away from any place that will take their money and here they find a few small stores, a restaurant and an engine shop to help them satiate their urges. They’ll buy anything and seem quite happy to complain about the price. The other frantic activity involves cell phones. Folks will spend hours, head down, poking away at their “devices” trying to contact the outer world. The signal here is very weak and their frustration is a sadistic pleasure for me. I’ve asked a few people if they did not come up here to escape all that frantic urban claptrap. Their blank-faced responses are, well, blank. Text, text, text.

Heiltsuk Dugout Canoe Bella Bella dock
Heiltsuk Dugout Canoes, traditional and modern
Bella Bella dock

In the late afternoon today a pair of Orca whales suddenly and dramatically appeared at the docks where Seafire is moored. Only the whales know why they ventured into this shallow lagoon at low tide but I’ll accept the visit as a good omen. The adventure goes on.

I am a rock. Move me.
I am a rock.
Move me.

Friday night finally arrives with a promise of steady rain for the foreseeable future. My latest transient neighbour at the end of the dock is a 1947 vintage Cessna 195. I’m probably one of the few people here who knows what it is. It was a new-tech civilian aircraft at the time. She’s looking a little worn for all her years but still possesses a bull-nosed beauty representative of that post-war era. Come to to think of it, so do I.

A 1948 Cessna 195 Businessliner. 67 years old and still flying regularly!
A 1948 Cessna 195 Businessliner. 67 years old and still flying regularly!
All steam gauges, no video games on this instrument panel. Notice the handle for the crank-down window.
All steam gauges, no video games on this instrument panel.
Notice the handle for the crank-down window.

Saturday, August 29th, rain, low cloud, wind warning. The forecast was correct. The rain and humidity are horrific. The old Cessna leaves in mid-afternoon. It vanishes into a gray squall but is back at the dock within the hour. Apparently, hundreds of miles to the south Vancouver and Seattle are experiencing a massive wind storm and are bracing for torrential rain. People have died because of falling trees. Flood warnings are posted. Forest wildfires still threaten huge areas in the interior of the province but with the breaking weather, campfire bans are now being lifted in some areas. It is still August but we seem to enduring our first North Pacific autumn low pressure system. As I write, old Seafire is slammed against the dock by a violent burst of wind. It is only eight pm but the evening is already nearly pitch dark. We wear on into the next week.

Wishes and fishes
Best Wishes and Big Fishes

 

We do not really know what draws a human being out into the world. Is it curiosity? A hunger for experience? An addiction to wonderment? The man who ceases to be astonished is hollow, possessed of an extinguished heart. If he believes everything has already happened, that he has seen it all, then something most precious has died within him… the delight in life.”

Ryszard Kapuscinski ‘Travels With Herodotus’

Hard Butter And Strange Birds

Hard Butter and Strange Birds

Blackberry season began in July, with a little rain at the right time it'll be a bumper crop
Blackberry season began in July, with a little rain at the right time it’ll be a bumper crop

The seasons have moved from late spring to mid-summer. We’ve had blistering hot weather, then a few days of rain. Now the evenings and mornings are cool. The butter in the galley is once again hard at breakfast time. It’s great weather for sleeping. My dog Jack and I wake up one toe at a time. The rain has helped produce a profusion of blackberries and some are already ripe for picking. It seems the plants are producing their treasures a month earlier this year.

Silva Bay is blessed with an annual migration of Purple Martins and Barn Swallows. They’re delightful as they chatter and zoom about through the rigging. I wonder if the annual influx of yachters aren’t a clever device which the birds use to attract the biting insects they in turn feed upon. This year’s brood of baby birds is well on its way to being ready to fly south. That magic is amazing. Birds return to mate and nest and produce tiny eggs. Those eggs in turn become ugly little dinosaurs which rapidly evolve into beautiful creatures born with a navigational intuition which which will take them as far away as Central America then back to this bay next spring.

Don't look now but I'm tellin' ya, somebody's watching us! (to guage their size, the wire they're perched on is about 1/4"thick)
Don’t look now but I’m tellin’ ya, somebody’s watching us!
(To guage their size, the wire they’re perched on is about 1/4″thick)

An e-mail I received recently advised not to worry about old age: it doesn’t last that long. I forwarded that message on, explaining there are things to do before I end up as a few puffs of smoke in the crematorium chimney. A song playing on the radio has the lyrics, “If I die, I wanna die old.” Hey baby, there’s no if about it! As I rushed about the business of the day a lady discovered an inert heron floating by the docks. It was freshly killed. The bright crimson at the back of its head was evidence of a mortal tangle with an otter or a collision of some sort. In my haste I debated briefly about taking a photo but then rushed off to the tasks at hand. I can still see that dead heron. Beak slightly parted, bright, sharp yellow eye staring serenely into my soul, an image more indelible than any photo. This morning I open the hatches to a perfect dawn with the birds calling and chattering. There is a perfume of fresh newness as if the world had just been unwrapped, an incredible gift which we so often don’t quite see. Baby birds, dead birds, life, death, dawn, sunset, the days whirl by. Life has no apparent meaning for me. How I wish I could learn to enjoy life’s plateaus and find the ability to live fully in the moment!

Stainless Steel Bowtie, A custom-built SS CQR anchor at the front of a visiting mega yacht
Stainless Steel Bowtie,
A custom-built SS CQR anchor at the front of a visiting mega yacht

Now the hot weather has returned. Yesterday afternoon when I stepped into the boat it felt cool. The thermometer read 29ºC. This morning the bird’s noises are subdued. Old men wipe the dew from their white boats. Flags lift and drop flaccidly. It’s going to be a blister! Forest fires rage across the continent and the global warming faction is saying, “See, I told ya!” Uno cervesa por favor.

Pilot Bay afternoon, Gabriola Island
Pilot Bay afternoon, Gabriola Island

Days later, the grand summer weather continues, thankfully today we have a moderate Westerly breeze. Yesterday was windless and airless, an absolute torture to work bent over in the sun, at least for this aging old fair-haired boy. Days like that leave me wondering at the feasibility of my Southern dreams. I say that even as I continue my research on Mexico and Costa Rica. That seems ludicrous in this paradise which is my home; but the nights are shortening. Another long, grey wet arthritic winter is coming. I’m also questioning the sanity of staying in a place that seems doomed to self-destruct politically, economically and environmentally.

High Summer
High Summer

My pal Jim has now arrived in Hilo, Hawaii with his boat. He has sailed a hurricane- pace tour of the South Pacific. His next stop will be back here in British Columbia. I admire Jimmy totally in his ability to realize his long-held dream and I look forward to helping welcome him back. Much of his journey was cursed with a lack of wind. When you’re out there with your little windship rolling and rolling day after day, your rigging is self-destructing while your precious fuel and water supplies dwindle and the nearest ports are thousands of miles away, you are left feeling very tiny and somewhat doubtful. Fortunately on the leg from the Marquesas to Hawaii Jim had perfect winds and describes it as the sail of his life. The passage was made on one tack with only minor sail adjustments. Good for you Jimmy and mucho kudos to Donna, the wife who has provided ground support for him throughout the journey.

A winter scene in the Broughton Archipelago, something the summer sailors never see. That's a dolphin chasing a school of Oolichan. Imagine it all covered in thick, black crude oil.
A winter scene in the Broughton Archipelago, something the summer sailors never see. That’s a dolphin chasing a school of Oolichan. Imagine it all covered in thick, black crude oil.

This place called British Columbia where we live is an ultimate home, especially for the mariner. We have 17,000 nautical miles of shoreline to explore. Even in the harshness of winter our weather is often better than summers elsewhere on the planet. Despite the rising social economic issues we’re having to face, we are privileged to still hold a claim on this piece of the planet. Unfortunately the politicians on our payroll won’t respect our will and are intent on wholesaling our assets to the first bidder. We pay retail prices at the gas pumps while there is a determination to pipe oil for many hundreds of kilometres from the environmental mess that is Northern Alberta to coastal shipping facilities. It is incredible, it is stupid. We are posing a monstrous environmental threat on our land and our waters to wholesale raw resources outside the country. We in British Columbia will receive little benefit once the project is completed. The oil will be shipped in vessels manufactured from some of our own iron ore and coal. Other ships line up to load raw logs from the docks of shut-down sawmills. I repeat my weary metaphor about the chicken farmer who goes to town to buy eggs.

Whose pockets does the money go into? What the hell is going on? I know this is all weary rhetoric but the threat of impending disaster seems to skip off the top of our heads. We should be in every politician’s office, on the lawns and in the chambers of every government building with our pitchforks and chainsaws and environmentally friendly weed eaters until we regain control of politicians and their weighty bureaucracy which is pledged to serve US, the people who hired them. If it were anyone else in our hire, we’d fire them. This blog is not a venue for rants. I can easily slip into pages of diatribe about the rape of our fisheries, our forests, our water and mineral resources but we’ve all heard it before.

The real problem is our complacency. We let the corporations and bureaucrats run our lives while insidiously steering us deeper into their carefully designed consumer rut. Until our own personal comfort zone is clearly threatened we won’t lift our heads from the drinking pool. It pisses me off! Wake up! Look around! Ask questions! Don’t believe everything, perhaps anything, thrown at us. We evolved with questioning minds for good reason. Use them!

1964 Cheoy Lee Bristol, A first cousin to Avanti, the Cheoy Lee I'm finishing up. The Bristol owner reports that the boat, formerly his father's, is on its third teak deck!
1964 Cheoy Lee Bristol,
A first cousin to Avanti, the Cheoy Lee I’m finishing up. The Bristol owner reports that the boat, formerly his father’s, is on its third teak deck!

Jill, my wife has just returned from a visit to her old homeland of Scotland. (Where the price of gas is double ours despite their own tremendous petroleum resources. Yep, more inept politics) She had two gruelling weeks of dealing with her ailing mom. For once the weather there was quite agreeable but she was held to a regimen of caring for the needs of family. She came back to Canada with a delightfully funny story about a dead parrot. Her brother and his wife live in an old school house. It is a wonderful building with two-foot thick sandstone walls, high ceilings curling stones on the front steps and rolling farm fields for a view. Even their mailing address is wonderfully quaint, being in part: The Old School House, Drumlithie. One morning one of the dogs noticed a bright flash of colour in the back garden which proved to be a dead parrot and an interesting toy. This is not an ordinary find anywhere, let alone in Scotland, a country definitely not known for any abundance of tropical birds.

After a wondering discussion, it was decided there wasn’t much else to do but put the mystery of the dead bird out in the trash. Of course the bird was soon mentioned at the local pub and the thistle telegraph buzzed with the story. Within hours the telephone rang with a call from a neighbouring village, a few miles across the fields. Someone wanted to come and claim the remains for burial. Old Hagis, we’ll call him, was retrieved from the tip bin and carefully cleaned of coffee grounds, bits of eggshell and other detritus. Two women arrived, mother and adult daughter. Both, apparently, were beyond Rubenesque These two very round people, both dressed entirely in black, had come to take their beloved Hagis off to the big limb in the sky.

It’s a wonderful story with a vivid splash of Monty Python.I can see both John Cleese and Michael Palin having fun with this one. Apparently the remnants of the Monty Python gang are getting back together to work up five more shows. They don’t have to pretend to be geezers anymore. Also, in the wake of the ‘Two Fat Ladies’ cooking show, BBC is now airing something called ‘The Hairy Bikers’.Two middle-aged blokes are trying to follow in the wake of Jessica and Clarissa. Fat chance!

Rear view of a flower bent away from the sun
Rear view of a flower bent away from the sun

I’m now writing on the first Sunday morning in August. The boat is anchored in a tiny bay in the Gulf Islands which I’ve been passing by for over 25 years. I can see through Porlier Pass to the mainland mountains over thirty-five miles away. Ancient fir trees lean over this little bight. Eagles call, kingfishers chatter, schools of tiny fish roil the water. The morning breeze is fresh and warm and fragrant, the day is full of promise. Jack is anxious to go ashore. There is some wonderful exploring to be done here and I can post an entire blog dedicated to this lovely secret place.

In fact, I will.

Making honey on a very big flower
Making honey on a very big Cardoon flower

On the sea there is a tradition older even than the traditions of the country itself and wiser in its age than this new custom.

It is the tradition that with responsibility goes authority and with them accountability.

…for men will not long trust leaders who feel themselves beyond accountability for what they do.

…And when men lose confidence and trust in those who lead, order disintegrates into chaos and purposeful ships into uncontrollable derelicts.”

“On The Collision of Wasp and Hobson”
Wall Street Journal – Editorial 14 May 1952

Going South?
Going South?