(Once again, a reminder that you can enlarge any image by clicking on it)
The last blog was cut short when the host, WordPress, informed me that I had used up all my cyber bits and bytes. I had to purchase a business-grade subscription. I was delighted to hear from several subscribers who wanted a part 2. So, now I’ll now finish my photo essay on this wonderful aviation museum. No matter how many photos I post, it is impossible to portray the enormity of this incredible display.
It is a real place and home of a very fine aviation exhibition, The Evergreen Aviation Museum. I arrived too late to go in for a self-guided tour. I would need at least a half day. They let me park in the back corner, dry-camping next to old US Air Force rockets. There are four massive buildings. The largest one houses the Hughes Hercules and is nearly big enough to fly some of the small aircraft I have known, around inside it! The massive airplane is known worldwide as the “Spruce Goose” although it is actually built almost entirely of birch plywood. Howie himself flew it, once. An icon of dreams, it is the world’s largest wooden airplane ever and among the world’s largest airplanes, even today. Of all the amazing achievements of old weird Howard, this is the big one. Just imagine all the people telling him and his crew that it couldn’t be done. But he did, and so did it. Then WW II ended and the need for a massive air transport machine ended, at least for the time being.
Even as modern airplanes go, the Goose thing is a monster. I am amazed at the survival of this wooden wonder. How it has not rotted or burned in 75 years is yet another wonder. The aircraft that I came to see is the only one of its kind ever built. This is my Mecca, the object of a pilgrimage for a guy who has been flying and otherwise messing around with airplanes his whole life. I’m hoping to find inspiration to cope with some tough weeks ahead. I’ve looked up at it already. The only time I’ve know that same feeling before was when I stepped aboard ‘Cutty Sark’ in Greenwich.
The museum itself is massive with its four huge (Ha… Hughes, get it?) buildings, three are for display and a third is a swimming pool. They have somehow hoisted a Boeing 747 (Imagine the fleet of monster cranes required to work in full co-ordination…with no wind)) onto the roof and converted it into the apex of a water slide. The parking lot behind the buildings would be adequate for landing smaller aircraft.. Imagine having rows of jet fighters for lawn ornaments!
The exhibits go on and on, with a movie theatre complex in the middle of the complex. I am a small airplane guy and there were plenty of these dispersed among the big fellows, both civilian and military. It was a dull overcast day for taking photographs, but I managed to click off about one-hundred-fifty frames that I’m keeping. That is a lot of editing. I could have easily taken twice as many.
Evergreen, a private enterprise, draws a very close second to the amazing Boeing aircraft museum in Seattle which doesn’t have a water park. Ha! It also doesn’t have the Goose or, the SR71 Blackbird. There are also two other great aviation museums in the state of Oregon, one in Tillamook and another in Madras. Here are a few of the photos taken at Evergreen, I once again repeat myself in saying that they don’t begin to compare with actually seeing this operation in the flesh. When I was growing up in the post-war, pre-space age, aviation was still a bit of a novelty. That, despite the massive aviation advancements of WWII. By the time we had put men on the moon the reality of flying machines had become a ho-hum fact of everyday life. We no longer look up when an aircraft passes overhead. Yet, clearly, there are a great many people who do hold a deep fascination for a highly and still rapidly evolving technology which is only a little over a century old.
I have long held the theory that the human race is not indigenous to this planet. We certainly do not fit in here. As far back as we know, we have had an affinity for the sky, for the stars, for flight. God is always from somewhere up there ( God being the concept which is our convenient pigeon-hole for all that we cannot comprehend including love, wisdom and infinity) Many of our wisest ancients speculated on ways and means to rise above our earthly bonds. We have scrambled frantically to fly, then to fly ever higher and faster. It is a compulsion which now has us sending machines beyond the known edges of our universe, looking for ways to personally visit and inhabit places like Mars. I believe that it is all part of that ancient quest to find our way home. Yet at the same time, we need to look within and consider our aberrant nature, and that that is perhaps why our ancient ancestors were dropped off here. Once we realize the way to get along with each other, as well as other species, only then will we be truly ready to go home. Then we won’t need to. In the meantime, to survive that long, we need to become considerably more gracious toward the beautiful planet that is hosting us. For now, it is the only place we have.
The computer grinch says that I have run out of space for any more photos in this blog, even in my edited series. I’ve challenged him three times because there is so much more to show. If, readers care to send a comment in favour of posting a part 2 to this particular blog, I’ll be glad to post more images. Happy Landings!
“Sometimes, flying feels too godlike to be attained by man. Sometimes, the world from above seems too beautiful, too wonderful, too distant for human eyes to see. ”
NOTE: All photos in this blog were taken with my cell phone. Click on any photo to enlarge.
First of all I must confess to providing some “Fake news” in my last blog. I was told the nearest advance polling station for the BC election was in Masset, when in fact it is in Bella Bella. ALWAYS confirm your sources!
I awoke wondering where I was. The room was bright and there was someone in the bed beside me. That, I realized, was my wife. I was home in Ladysmith, not alone as usual in my berth in the boat. There was a strange yet vaguely familiar sound outside. I realized it was the sawmill on the other side of town. I was hearing the clack and bang of lumber in a drop sorter. The sound was from the past, that of a working sawmill, now a sadly rare song of what made this province great. Once, nearly every town in BC had at least one sawmill. A few days ago when my flight was landing in Nanaimo Harbour I looked down into the gaping holds of an Asian ship on the wharf of a former sawmill. It was receiving yet another load of raw, prime BC logs. All the while, fewer folks can afford to buy houses built with BC lumber.
While this is not a political blog I like to get a few jabs in now and then. Right now we are in the middle of a provincial election campaign and one of the hot topics is the lack of affordable housing in British Columbia. That story has now been extrapolated to people living on their boats and pumping raw sewage overboard. In enclosed waters, such as False Creek in Vancouver, doing something as thoughtless as that will certainly draw attention. In places like Shearwater, where I live on my boat, there is no sewage facility on any of the docks, so feeding the crabs is ‘De Rigeur” but , at least, we do have plenty of tidal action to dissipate the DNA from a few boats. In an area of dense population and no open tidal flow everyone will end up with a shitty situation. I’m far more concerned about the oils and chemicals that wash out of our yard in the incessant rain.
I like to preach that the price of freedom is responsibility. If you want to live beneath the, radar,”off the grid,” great! Just quit firing rockets for attention. Don’t do things that piss everyone else off, then demand your right to live as you choose. There is an eternal debate about raw sewage and how it is dealt with. For years in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, filtered sewage is piped out into the Strait Of Juan De Fuca. There is a recurring outcry in the cycle of popular protests about that, although few seem to note that in the vicinity of those discharges is where some really big salmon get caught. It’s the food chain thing; big fish eat smaller fish which eat tiny fish, you know how it goes. Few people seem at all concerned however about all the toxic crap that flushes off of our streets, into the storm sewers and out to sea. The oceans of the world are all in deep peril from over-fishing and every type pf pollution from noise to plastic to chemical and nuclear. Frankly, I see our species treating the whole world as a toilet. Our bowl is running over.
Coincidentally the same newspaper page that carried the sewage story, ran a report about a very expensive construction property which has been abandoned. The project broke into an aquifer and now the city of Vancouver is saddled with the expensive problem of containing and diverting the millions of daily litres of fresh clean water into the Fraser River. Um, you know ,…there are many cities around the world that would love to have this problem. Even Vancouver runs out of water in the summer. When life gives you lemons make lemonade, go with the flow. Truly amazing isn’t it? Human beings are determined to try forcing nature to conform to our will and a gift from the Gods is considered a problem.
Today was to be my return to Shearwater after a few days south. An early morning drive of about two hours to Campbell River got me to the airport in good time. The near-empty flight roared into the sky and eventually landed in Port Hardy for fuel after much circling and two aborted landing attempts in Bella Bella. The fog was thick and especially viscous right over the airfield. We probably passed 500′ over the terminal building. So now it’s a day’s pay lost, plus the price of a motel room and meals. Remember last blog’s quote about making God laugh by telling him your plans? We’ll see how tomorrow unfolds.
Tomorrow has become today. I sit in my motel room looking out on Discovery Pass where the fog drifts and lifts and settles. Flocks of snow geese fly northward, low over the water, hooting and calling their distinctive sounds. On an adjacent wall, a woodpecker hammers his way through the wooden siding of the motel’s dining room. I find it hard to photograph the bird through the sifting fog. It is very peaceful. I have a suspicion that today’s game will be called “Hurry up and wait.” We’re here because we’re not all there.
I’d barely finished breakfast when the phone rang to tell me that a bus had arrived to take the Bella Bella refuges back to the airport. At the airport, we were loaded onto a second bus and hauled off to the airport in Comox. After a little more shuffling the passengers were herded toward a waiting aircraft sitting on the far side of the tarmac. The pilots were wrestling with a stubborn fuel cap on a wing tank. It was the same crew with whom we’d flown the previous day and the young captain was showing rising frustration with his ongoing bad luck. I know that feeling. You can’t start cursing and jumping up and down on your hat when there’s an audience of passengers belted into their seats. We were grounded without an airworthy fuel cap. I volunteered my services as a former aircraft mechanic and soon found myself out at the wingtip on a ladder. Letting a passenger tinker on a aircraft is not the way to run an airline but it is wonderful what you can accomplish with a screwdriver and a pair of vise-grips. The innards of the special cap were worn out and jammed. I persuaded it to function for one last time. We flew. The flawless landing in Bella Bella was right on legal minimums in fog and torrential rain. I made a whole bunch of people happy today.
All’s well that ends. I’m back in Shearwater. The heavy rain continues.
“ The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.”
(No disrespect intended, it’s what some of us call Bella Bella. Bella Coola is Bunga Cunga)
On arrival at the YVR South Terminal I flopped my big old wheeled travel bag onto the weigh scale. The ticket agent raised an eyebrow at the readout. I looked down at the bag and said, “Don’t move around granny, you’re almost through.” The young lady raised her eyebrow again and asked with a posh English accent, “You are joking!?” I grinned.
“Well, we have to be sure!” I wasn’t actually feeling jovial, I was just trying to mask my dismay about returning to Shearwater. Lately it has not been the magical destination one could hope for; more of a ‘Club Dread.’ As I pocketed my boarding pass, I looked away over my shoulder and said, “Hi Jack.” Then I smiled to the ticket lady. “Nothing like a sense of humour to stir things up at the airport.”
“Rather!” But then she began to smile.
I’d ridden the float plane across from Nanaimo with two former neighbours. They were on their way to Varadero in Cuba, a five hour flight from Vancouver. As I edit today’s snowy photo’s back aboard ‘Seafire’ they’ll be sipping mojitos on the hotel patio and watching the sun set over the Carribbean. BUGGA! Some co-workers have quit and left during the week I’ve been away. Will I be next? One of those folks has since been in contact from Thailand. Good for him.
There was brilliant sunshine on the south coast today. We flew north over a broken overcast. Near Bella Bella we slid down through a hole in the cloud and began our final descent. I hope I didn’t curse aloud. More fresh snow! Bloody hell! Three hours earlier I’d been watching a woman blow huge soap bubbles for kids on the Nanaimo waterfront in the warm spring sunlight. Now back to this! What the hell? I throw my gear aboard ‘Seafire,’ slam the hatch, turn up the heater and hunker down for the long night ahead. The forecast for the week ahead calls for rain and snow flurries, just like last week. The next light on my horizon will be the Easter long weekend and I’m resolved to gloomy weather then.
The poor old boat is suffering mightily thanks to the weather. The finish on the exterior woodwork has been seriously damaged this winter. I cannot do anything about it or the other jobs waiting for a little warmth and dryness. The general spirit of the whole community seems diminished as we wait for signs of a reluctant spring. Yesterday morning, in Nanaimo, while walking Jack, a flock of wild swans flew low overhead. They weren’t heading north.
It will be a while until we see them flying over up here.
“Don’t let the same dog bite you twice.” Chuck Berry
It’s a metaphor which a friend, now long dead, used to express the vagaries of life. It makes a wonderfully descriptive image for me. More than once, as we stab at it with our fork, the ubiquitous pickle of life squirts us in the eye or stains our best shirt. We never know which way it might go, just like everyday life. We may as well find some humour.
Almost a week ago I was at work in a sooty, greasy bilge desperately trying to get a sailboat engine back together. The client had been tied to the dock for over a week while we waited for parts. They were very nice folks but did not understand that to do finicky work, a mechanic needs to be left alone to focus on the process.
The following hand-held video is intended to leave you with the sense of wonder I hold for the mid-coast of British Columbia. Note the stream running down the beach, the distance surf and the call of an eagle. If you can’t open it, the still photo below is from the same location.
It was one of those shoehorn engine jobs which requires a fully articulating third hand, on a three-foot-long arm with an eyeball in one knuckle of some very nimble fingers. My hands are two bunches of arthritic bananas. I hate asking folks to leave their own boat while I work but surely one shouldn’t have to ask for something so bloody obvious! Once I even explained that this particular job was rather like trying to do brain surgery through the rectum. They still had a way of pouncing on me just when that last one and only special-thread nut or bolt was almost in place and again went ka-ping down into the bilge. Murphie’s law says that nothing in an engine room falls straight down and that magnets will retrieve every bit of metallic debris before finally clicking on to the missing item. It happens over and over. Grrrrr! Finally the engine was back together, a second time, everything was good, all their ancillary problems were resolved, the bill had been ‘edited’ as tightly as possible, they left the dock next morning.
Three hours later they were back.
I had carefully explained that with their particular cooling system they would have to check the air bleeding valve regularly during the first day of operation. They now raged that the engine had overheated. They had charged off until the engine boiled over and then finally bled out a copious amount of air. Fortunately with no new harm done, the temperature had returned to normal, but now they were “gun shy” and were determined something might still be wrong.
GRRRRRRRR! With some folks you just can’t win! July was a blue moon month (Two full moons within one calendar month) and the boat with the engine trouble was named ‘Blue Moon’. This leads to yet another song title, “There’ll Always Be Another Blue Moon.”
The mid-coast area is not a place for weekend warriors who don’t understand the basics of boat and engine maintenance. But still they come. It’s how we make our income. One gets worn down as the summer grinds on. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of quitting at least once in frustration with either a customer, my employer or both. Clearly my days as a marine technician are nearly over. Physically and emotionally, I’m too worn, bent and busted to keep doing this. My finances are at an all-time low but I can’t go on like this. I was sure that I was on my way to Mexico from here but now I’ve got that old dead-end feeling again. That’s got to be yet another blues song! The problem is that when one turns a passion into a career, the risk of becoming jaded is very real. And here I am. Thankfully, I can untie the boat on weekends and re-affirm my sea lust is real and entirely reasonable; at least to me.
Since that sooty engine compartment of last week, I’ve taken a quick sabbatical back south to Ladysmith to take care of business, visit home and make sure my buddy Jack still recognized me. I’ve had so many setbacks this summer that my finances are in full tatters. My wife Jill provided tremendous support to get me the hell out of there for a few days. The soot from that last job is almost gone from my pores and I’m heading back to work at Shearwater already. Those few days off have passed all too quickly and I’m pecking this out at the BC Ferry terminal in Port Hardy. The huge hinged-open bow of the ‘Northern Expedition’ looms over me. Up at 04:30 to be here for 05:30 for some verbal abuse from a surly baggage cart attendant, (With arms folded, and head cocked she demanded, “Yeah, let’s talk!) I can’t find a hint of coffee or breakfast anywhere.
This paragraph now comes from aboard. I’m sitting in a luxurious cafeteria waiting for the breakfast gate to open at 06:30. We’re supposed to sail at 7. The vessel is lovely and I know this wannabe cruise-ship is a jewel in the crown of the BC hospitality industry but speaking for coastal residents, I think a little less glitter and more accountable, affordable regular service would be grand. Features like a high-end gift shop selling cheap reproductions of Haida silverware has nothing to do with basic transportation. I’ve already ranted in previous blogs about the ineptitude of the entire BC Ferry Corporation so I’ll leave this alone. However, there was a time when this Northern coastline was much more heavily populated and served by various private carriers. I’ve never heard anyone recall that they felt at the mercy and whim of a down-south crown corporation board office. It seems the time when people said what they meant, meant what they said and kept their promises is a fiction from some other era. Folks have always been folks but I recall when integrity was a personal mandate. (Engines at full throttle since 07:07, we finally back from the dock at 07:35) By the time we have left the dock, Jill has driven back almost as far as Campbell River. As I sit writing, a “Rubenesque” lady and her clone daughter have reclined and fallen asleep. Their snoring takes me back to some of the tugboat foc’sles I’ve known. When i awoke from my nap, there was nobody around. Funny thing!
The summer grinds on, the daylight ever shorter, the evenings cooler, the rain more frequent. The list of before winter to-do jobs on ‘Seafire’ is begging attention. How it will end up is anyone’s guess but with all the crap, there has to be a pony somewhere. Yeehaw! There’s got to be a bright side I haven’t discovered yet.
Enough grumpy rambling. Here are another batch of photos. As I edit them, I look forward to the summer when I can come to these wonderful waters and simply cruise. I’ll have my own tools and parts aboard. We’ll see what Murphy can do to me then. I recently explained to a lady on a passing yacht in for repairs that ubiquitous old Murphy was so devious she has us actually believing she’s a man. With a twinkle in her eye, this woman quietly replied, “Yeah, God too!”
“Being hove to in a long gale is the most boring way of being terrified I know.” …. Donald Hamilton
It is March the fourth already. The sleet is angling down and my hands are numb from being outside with the dog. I should be working on my client’s boat but first I warm up with the dregs of my morning coffee pot and this bit of finger aerobics. Did anything, as portrayed in the last few blogs, ever happen? The heaped-up bills are real enough and all I have to show are my photos and blogs and a few souvenirs. I am very tempted to put my few significant possessions up for sale, pay my debts and go south with whatever is left. Tell me why not.
Yesterday the price of gasoline here went up twelve cents a litre, allegedly because of the unrest in the Crimea. We have our own abundant petroleum resources and I can’t make sense of it. I joke about a chicken farmer who goes to town to buy eggs but that’s exactly what we do. I drove up the Oregon Coast where I saw Asian ships being loaded with raw logs in world-famous timber towns where the sawmills now sit idle. It’s just the same here where our raw logs are loaded into foreign vessels tied in front of more shut-down sawmills. What the hell is going on? At least in Mexico, folks eat the eggs and chickens they raise in their own front yards. Not once down there will you hear the wasting drone of a lawn mower, They have livestock.
The only way to make sense of life is to stop trying and simply get on with what works for you. What a curse to be someone who has to constantly feed their questioning mind! Sometimes I envy those who can be content with a case of inferior beer, a sack of potato chips and a television. Sometimes; for a second or two, but I just can’t say baah.
The last lost photograph I’ll try to describe is from the morning I awakening in my little trailer on the beach in Bandon Oregon. It had been battered by frequent squalls throughout the night. Now a sunrise back lit the crashing surf and the grey storm clouds offshore. Seagulls, fluorescent in the sunlight against grey clouds, hurtled sideways in the gusting wind. Then in the rain of the next cloudburst appeared a brilliant rainbow which framed this timeless scene.
Eventually after coffee and breakfast I trundled northward toward Astoria and the Fisher Poets Gathering. It is an annual event and can be checked out through the link posted on this blog.
Tillamook Oregon is a couple of hours south of Astoria. Perhaps most famous for it’s cheese industry it also has one of the world’s largest wooden buildings. During WWII a coastal patrol base was established here. Two monstrous blimp hangars were built. One has since burned down but the remaining hangar housed up to nine blimps! Some of the airplanes I have flown could burn off a full tank of fuel flying inside this building!
Essentially a monstrous quonset hut it is built as a single incredible arched truss, almost a thousand feet long. My first thought was of all that old-growth clear fir timber, air-dried for over seventy years. Its value as boat lumber is incredible!
I was alone and took the liberty of a prolonged indulgence in the aircraft museum now based here. A collection of airworthy vintage aircraft, some of which I have flown many years ago, It is sobering to see icons of your youth now in a museum. Flying was once a huge a part of my life as the sea has now become. I miss flying immensely, especially the old school of flying where it was personal skill and not electronics that got you there. I understand that not everyone is passionate about aviation so I’ll try not to post too many airplane pictures.
I was intrigued to discover a collection of derelict locomotives in a yard behind the hangar. Yes damnit! I also remember working steam trains when I was a child. I know, I know, I’m older than dirt! It was all a great photo opportunity despite the poor light. Fortunately I used my trusty Olympus T2 pocket camera. Those photos were stashed in a separate folder and so all is not lost.
I confirm my previous rave about what a wonderful camera this is and I heartily recommend it as a back-up, or single travel camera capable of both great still photos and movies with excellent sound above and below water. I have proven that it is water proof and shock resistant and am confident it is superior to competitive products.
The Fisher Poets Gathering was the usual affirmation for me. Kindred water folk bared their souls in song, poetry and prose behind the microphones of several venues. It is uplifting and deeply inspiring to be among such incredibly talented performers. There are always some new faces and voices who manage to raise the talent bar yet another notch. This year, two nautical poets from England came to read and record us for the BBC. Then, on the last Sunday morning of February, under the brave glow of a sunrise beneath the cloud cover, I crossed over the five-mile long bridge across the Columbia River. As I drove northward through the long miles of raped forest, the sleet and rain thickened. I was home without a doubt. But the dream is more alive than ever. Soon I’ll be gone again.