New And Improved

Yet another Dog Patch dawn.
Life goes on down on the waterfront without my daily presence. Jack and I continue to survey the rhythm of life from afar.
‘Rolano’  In the first photo this is the boat in the distance on the right. This shot of her was taken two years ago on Cortes Island. I would expect to see Popeye doing a jig on the foredeck. She’s someone’s dream. “I yam wot I yam!”

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that the format and appearance of this blog have suddenly changed. I have found a local cyber wizard whose magic fingers worked their wonder before my eyes. He left me feeling like a cave man! The blog is hopefully now more appealing and easier to navigate for both myself and visitors to find specific subjects. My ulterior motive is to increase my readership and thereby make the site a good place for businesses to advertise. I thank all my regular readers for their support but it’s time to try and monetize. All donations gratefully accepted even though I have no Phoenix church fire fund. I should explain why the blog is now called “Part II.” It is simply referring to the blog as it evolves past the sale of the boat for which this work was first named. The crew lives on.

The Rig. I join the millions of Rvers on North American roads. Hopefully my small (18′) trailer makes some sort of statement… it is all I need. Yes, all the lights work, even the ones on the roof rack. After a near-fatal near-encounter with a mule on a Mexican road in the night, I’ve decided that seeing what I’m going to hit is a good idea.
Them’s the brakes. To avoid worst-case scenarios I inspected and serviced all four trailer brakes. Auto manufacturers make bold claims about what their product can tow but never discuss stopping. It is one of the reasons I decided to buy a larger truck. It achieves the same fuel consumption as a smaller four-cylinder import truck I owned and yet has the mass to keep the tail from wagging the donkey.

A few days ago my old dog Jack and I walked around what know as our river loop. It is within a local regional park and our regular route is a little over a mile. That’s not far but Jack, with all his sniffing side-explorations, he is usually exhausted by the time we arrive back at our vehicle. The return leg is along one bank of the Nanaimo River where we often see interesting wildlife and flowers. At the moment fawn lilies and current bushes are in full bloom. We usually meet other fine dogs in the company of their lovely owners. Despite a gloomy damp overcast, we enjoyed our trip there. That evening a message from Google appeared on my mobile phone. “Did you enjoy your visit to the Nanaimo River Regional Park today?” What the hell? This old dude was frightened and angry. What cyber eye watches when I go to the bathroom? Or hug my dog? Or anyone else for that matter! Is there no privacy or any more respect for the individual? I have no secrets nor conduct any nefarious activities, so why are my daily activities being monitored. I know it has to do with the settings on my phone but what an affront! I am not broadcasting my activities. Why can’t they focus on the bad guys?

Damn I miss my boat! I suddenly ache to again be in places without cell phone coverage. On the water, I’m less vulnerable to other’s invasive snooping. Obviously, by using GPS tracking, big brother monitors who is where doing what. The thing is, I did not use my phone while on my walk today and I am totally mystified. If I’d made or received a call I would understand. If I go online to research any item I’ll soon get popups about similar available products. That I understand, irritating as it is. But this! Some days the biblical prediction about “The Mark Of The Beast” seems entirely possible. Suppose we all were required to bear a micro-chip which would work not only as an electronic transaction facilitator but also as a constant tracking device. If you did not have one, you could buy nothing, get no medical services, have no employment, in short, do nothing within society. Not having one would be an ultimate crime. Big brother would know where and how long you slept, with whom and how often you went to the bathroom. If one truly wanted to live “off the grid” they would have to become like a Sasquatch and probably be hunted as vermin. A wild, far-fetched idea perhaps; but try travelling without a credit card. Really! We’re not that far away from such madness.

George Orwell knew his stuff, just like Alfred Einstein knew his black holes. I understand that I use the internet to to do my research, communicate with folks, post my blogs and videos. Every time we look at any imaginable item online we have to endure pop-up cyber sales pitches from several sources for that item for days afterwards. Privacy is what we give up for modern convenience. It is part of what we call being on the grid. We live like sheep with ear tags, which, by the way, are now often herded with drones. Shepherd for hire!

Work on the truck and trailer is finally at an end. (for now) The time has come to actually hook up and go somewhere. As usual the spending curve has been steep and alarming but I now have all the gear to be fully self-sufficient for extended periods. I have tools including a massive jack-all, shovel, axe, mechanical tools, a power saw, an air compressor and a lovely little generator to run it and charge the trailer’s batteries as needed be. There is also a solar panel. I have a kayak to perch on my home-made roof rack and an inflatable boat which I can roll up and transport in the back of the truck along with a new outboard motor and all the other gear. To complete my heap of “stuff” there is also an old bicycle. It is rebuilt but looks suitably shabby to help discourage thieves. I know it works. I look shabby and no-one ever tries to make off with me!

A Trillium in the woods. They are beautiful to me.
Beside the pathway a few days ago.
Their evolution this morning.
Perfection.
To soothe an old sailor’s heart.
Weep not for me. I will bloom again.

I know I’m doing the same old thing as I have with all my boats. I put my time and resources into trying to make a perfect vehicle and never get around to actually leaving. The funds have all gone into my notion of perfect road worthiness. Other folks just go and deal with issues along the way. Learning a little more spontaneity is clearly something I need to work on. My positive negativity was learned during my aviation indulgence and usually, I have few nasty mechanical surprises on my adventures. Of course, there was the old van which I recently took south that, despite careful preparations, still managed to provide plenty of troubles. Those issues did lead me to meet new folks and have new adventures. Blessings and curses, they go hand in hand.

Where Jack and I begin a favourite walk… flowers everywhere.

Here’s a link to my eighth completed video posted on You Tube. As my self-taught skills slowly evolve I already look on my first efforts with a little bit of chagrin. Videography is a challenging and frustrating art. I had to start somewhere and have a huge new respect for accomplished video artists, especially those who produce brilliant wildlife works. Maybe, one day I’ll be able to humbly approach their ranks and stand among them. That’s something to work toward!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KesX8D9ETxQ

Seen one, seen them all. Well maybe for you, but not for me. I am still in a state of numbness at the moment, my recent blogs explain why well enough. It’s called mourning. However, spring is reluctantly advancing and although late, there is a profuse display of flowers. First the snow drops, then the fawn lilies and next as berry blossoms and periwinkles appear, so come the trilliums. A long-ago refuge from southern Ontario I revere them as the rare and official provincial flower of that province. Here in BC, they are much more common but just as magically beautiful. Despite their delicate appearance they are hardy and grace the forest for two or three weeks each spring. I find each one is unique. It is impossible for me to settle on one single photo as representative of their fleeting spring extravagance. So here are a bunch . Not one was picked. Enjoy them while they last. All photos in this blog were taken with my mobile phone. My serious photo gear languishes on the shelf. As usual, all images in my blogs can be enlarged simply by clicking on them.

Blooms on Forward Street on another rainy day. Ladysmith Harbour lays in the background.
WTF flowers. I found these in a local front yard. I don’t know what they are, but I sure like them.

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” …Maya Angelou.

Changing Spark Plugs In The Rain

Schooner Spring
How can I post a ‘Seafire’ blog without at least one nautical photo? Beyond the greening meadows of Swallowfield a schooner drifts gently on calm water.

We’ve had several lovely days of spring weather. The afternoons have been glorious. The blossoms have emerged and the woods are leafing out with that fabulous early-spring chlorophyll green. Magnolia trees bloom. In order to survive the reality of being boatless I have been head-down busy. I have over six years of blogs to review, categorize and tag. In that process I’ve come across wonderful photos which I’ve forgotten and I realize how rich were the years when ‘Seafire’ was part of my life. I am a very fortunate fellow.

I swore that I’d never buy a black truck again nor one manufactured in North America. Here’s my previous truck parked beside my new one. I swear I’ll never own another boat again!
Original paint! I saw this 1952 GMC flat deck at the BC Ferry Terminal in Horseshoe Bay. The same age that I am, it is still working for a living and in much better shape! My GM truck is 67 years newer and will probably be in the scrap yard while this old beauty is stilling going strong.

I am also tinkering up my new old truck and trailer and it seems that I am turning that endeavour into a career. The to-do list goes on and on. A final job under the hood was to install new spark plugs. It sounds easy enough but with the sexy new-style spark plug wires, it was a challenge. Of course, as soon as I opened the hood and disabled the engine a cold, steady wintry rain began that was born on a gusting wind. I’m sitting beside the fireplace now with a tepid coffee and soggy joggy togs. They’re not sweat pants this morning. I haven’t had breakfast yet, which is part of the trendy Keto diet I’ve embarked on. My health issues demand that I shed some poundage so it’s fish and spinach for me. The doctor was mumbling about getting my stomach stapled, I replied that it would be a lot easier to staple my mouth. I also responded that after my recent trip through the US, I know I am NOT obese!

And now for the ubiquitous annual spring flower photos. This is the first Dogwood blossom I’ve seen this year. The petals are green before they mature into white or subtle pink. The Dogwood is British Columbia’s provincial flower.
A feral daffodil
Gravel blossoms. I’ve no idea what these little flowers are.
Fawn Lilies have emerged everywhere in the woods.
Oregon Grape in bloom.
Trilliums too.

But I know he’s right, I’ve spent too many years talking about going back towards my flat-bellied youth but lip laps don’t burn many calories. It’s get off the pot time. There was a time when buying shirts was an effort to find some that allowed my arms to fit through the sleeves. Now it is about finding something which will button around my belly. I’m in big shape. I’ve joked about having a place to set my beer but I can no longer be a gluten glutton. It’s killing me. As Hercule Shwarzenegger might say, “My pecs have fallen.”

I retain an indelible image from my recent trip south of a portly man wearing sweat pants with a revolver in a holster strapped around his girth. The sheriff from Bigofme! Bib overalls are another fashion favourite. I’ve even seen those striped beauties cut off above the knees for a summer fashion statement. Ad diamond knee socks and rubber Walmart sandals. You’re stylin’ dude! Now add a T shirt that says “I’ve Beat Anorexia.” It ain’t funny but it is! Some folks actually seem proud of their personal grandeur. In a US motel a while back I saw a TV ad from a liposuction clinic advertising how you could lose thirty pounds in one day. The next ad was for McDonalds. That’s funny!

Spring trail. Jack is somewhere ahead of me absolutely savouring all the spring scents.
“Run through the jungle.” Well crawl, hack and stumble maybe. Soon to be hidden under a fresh verdant blanket, this tangle will get a little thicker.

One bit of progressive news is that I’ve acquired a dinghy for the next boat. It is another Achilles inflatable which is in great shape. Achilles are made from a product called Hypalon which survives the UV damage of southern latitudes quite well. They also perform very nicely. This one can be deflated and packed in the back of the truck. I’ll have a seaworthy boat wherever I go, even in the desert. I found a fabulous price on a brand-new outboard for it, which is a first for me. (Both the price and something new) No more cobbling on someone else’s cast-off. How decadent is that?

Fresh! A spring morning after the rain ends.
The greening of the slough. After a long bleak winter, everything is lush and beautiful.

Nothing lasts forever, everything comes to an end. Since the first paragraph of this blog, I have finally completed the dreary ordeal of reviewing and stuffing each blog into its own little box. I can see how the blogs have improved through the years. My attitudes have changed and I hope that the boring, repetitive rhetoric which I’ve produced at times can be forgiven. There has been a lot of navel-gazing and negative comment. If I can see that now, surely I am evolving positively. I have also noted how friends have set out and completed adventures and dreams. I’m still here blogging away and yapping about what I’m going to do. Seafire is gone. She was the precipitation of this blog which was supposed to be about all the voyaging ahead. It would be a good time to say thank you to my readers and end the blog.

Oh for the wings of a vulture!
Ugly as sin when perched, a turkey vulture is incredibly beautiful in flight. They are soaring masters and ride fleeting breaths of rising air like dreams. For some reason they kept circling me!

But, the blog has become a force of its own. And, there is plenty of voyaging ahead. This effort helps give my life added meaning and from reader’s comments around the globe, I know it does make a positive contribution. If I achieve nothing else, I provoke some folks to ask questions and wonder at all the wonders. So begins ‘Seafire Chronicles’ Part II.

BLISS!
Jack in dog heaven in the soft sand on the banks of the Chemainus River.

Life is what happens while you are making other plans.” … John Lennon

Everything improves with age … I’m incredible!” … Bumper Sticker

You Guys

I TOLD YOU I’D BUY A POWERBOAT!
…but not this one.The ‘Taconite’ was built in 1930 by Boeing of Canada. The solid teak hull is 125′ long. Her annual budget just for paint and varnish must be formidable.
Back in the puddles again (You know the tune!) This is Jack’s bliss. He can plunk around like this all day.

Last blog I briefly outlined some experiences with scammers while shopping for an RV. Well, some folks don’t learn. Through various windows on-line I came upon a site that promised to find paying work for my writing and also offered online training manuals to help my writing and marketing skills. All I had to do was sign up. Yup! Dummy!

Being wary I did peruse their site carefully and then decided to take a chance. Their prices seemed reasonable enough to consider risk-worthy. I subscribed. While I was immediately welcomed to their fold, there was no receipt provided for my payment. A warning light began to flicker. I downloaded their manual but my computer refused to open it and offered some dire warnings. I finally noted that there was no upfront contact phone number or email address. My brain was finally on full alert as the monkeys on my shoulder again began to chant, “chump, chump, chump.”

Daylight in the swamp. A little sun and warmth changes everything.
When I was a young boy I’d gather these, soak them in paint thinner and light ’em up…just like in the movies.

I called my credit card provider and began the process to unravel my stupidity. They helped me find a contact e-mail address and so the letters began to flow. The counter-measure dialogues began and continued until I mentioned my blog and a promise for negative advertising. They agreed to reverse the charges and told me in polite terms that it was my fault if the download could not be opened. However, all the gadoodle settings are just fine and always updated. I am since wisely advised that I should always first check online to see if there are any reviews or scam alerts about any online services that are enticing. Good advise! So… will you take a posted dated cheque for that bridge? It’s more proof that there’s no fool like an old fool.

Wonderfully camouflaged and a master of stealth, the rare Log Elk could venture forth in broad daylight for a drink yet seldom be seen.
An ancient Gary Oak beside the moth of the Chemainus River. Imagine all it has seen through the centuries.

I have paid off a loan with the Royal Bank from the proceeds of the sale of ‘Seafire.’ which releases me from a hefty monthly payment. Being on a fixed income, I can now breath much easier. This ‘Omnipotent Bank’ is like all others, an organization which is not warm and fuzzy. I had no such expectations. They squeezed me for every possible penny. One of the reasons I had to give up ‘Seafire’ was that this bank refused to honour a disability insurance for which I dearly paid a monthly premium. Heartless greedy bastards! They can go on the ‘S’ shelf with the other scammers.

Spring in the saltmarsh.
It was covered in snow two weeks ago. This is the estuary of the Chemainus River. It looks like an interesting place to kayak.
Ah shucks! For me? It’s tulip time again.

Here in Ladysmith on Southeast Vancouver Island it is safe to finally declare that it is spring. Afternoon temperatures are suddenly into the teens. (We’re metric here, you folks in the US.) In town the streets are alive with the sound of lawnmowers, leaf blowers and pressure washers. Down on the highway there is the snarl and throb of motorcycles. Young folks in their cars are over-revving their engines and squealing their tires with the slam-slam-bam of rap music on boom box speakers at full volume. I think I preferred heavy metal, and I hated that. Folks are wearing shorts that display their fluorescent white shanks all the while still togged up in toques and winter jackets. As I write, neighbours cavort on their sundeck in the shade of late afternoon. The men are shirtless, the women are wearing tank tops. It is still very cool out of the sun but clearly spring is a state of mind as much as temperature. Birds sing spring songs, children play loudly in the streets, old farts sit and write blogs about what other folks are doing out there.

On that note let me share this with you. It is too hilarious to just leave. I swear it is true; I am not making it up. Subscribing to a daily e-bulletin board, which is faithfully and wonderfully posted, from La Manzanilla, Mexico I have read some amazingly stupid and gormless gringo complaints. Presumably folks go down there to see something different and experience the exotic. But then there are characters who write stuff like this. It is the ultimate and I copy it verbatim. “While I have enjoyed my stay here (For the most part) this morning I was again awakened by really, really loud birds. I could take this if it was a once in a while occurrence but it’s been happening every morning. Shouldn’t you guys form a committee or something to do something about this? My landlord neglected to mention this “little issue” and it’s another reason (dusty streets, buses without climate control) I’m withholding my rent payment again this month.”

I repeat that I did not make this up. This uproarious humour was seriously posted by someone calling themselves “Broman.” Imagine having this dude on your strata council!

I had to comment. I suggested that birds, dusty streets and warm buses are all part of the romance of Mexico. I wondered which Arctic city the whiner calls home. Maybe the problem is a daily tequila hangover; but Geez Louise! I know we are surrounded with the “me” generation and then there is the “me too” bunch but where the hell do these people come from? YOU GUYS…yeah right! There were sixteen other responses as scathing as mine.

Another sure sign of spring.

At my home, I’m busy tinkering-up my new used truck and trailer. This old aircraft mechanic does not like to wheel out onto the runway without having everything in top shape. No Max 8 surprises for me. This habit has helped kept me alive through the years. I call it being “Positively negative.” I have repeatedly learned that by assessing worse case scenarios and preparing for them is an excellent habit. In addition, my frenetic activity is a way of dealing with my loss of ‘Seafire.’ In my “spare” time I’m working to upgrade this blog and do a much better job of marketing it. It’s gonna be good! But busy, busy for now.

My ubiquitous annual snowdrop photo

Living on Vancouver Island has its transportation problems. Residing on an outlying island multiplies the expense and inconvenience as well as lost time. But no-one is forced to live removed from the mainstream. Commuting is a big business here. BC Ferries has a stumbling way of dealing with what is a life-line to thousands. Many folks commute to daily business in Vancouver by riding on a scheduled floatplane service. Harbour Air has become the main player after acquiring most of the smaller charter companies along the South Coast. It is a lovely flight between either Nanaimo or Victoria to Vancouver. Another company, Helijet provides a spectacular fast and high ride joining the three cities but at a spectacular price.

Now Harbour Air is actively working to prototype the first e-seaplane. There is a thorough description of the plan and its practicality in the Forbes article linked below.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeremybogaisky/2019/03/26/the-first-electric-passenger-aircraft-could-be-50-year-old-canadian-seaplanes/#66ef79cc2c3b

I envision the flight manual. “ When preparing for flight, be sure to unplug the electrical supply to your aircraft. Coming to the end of your cord may abruptly impede the takeoff run.”

On another page in the Times Colonist Newspaper, an editor rehashes considerations for a bridge or tunnel between Vancouver Island and the mainland. It is weary rhetoric but Jack Knox writes nicely. “Moving to an island and complaining about the lack of a bridge is like moving next to a farm and complaining about the smell of manure.” Well put, I think.

Willow Flowers
A Downy Woodpecker. Constantly on the move,this wee character is very hard to capture with a cell phone.

In many communities, volunteer police informers whom I call “Wannabe cops” stand on the side of the ride with fluorescent vests and clipboards. They try to intimidate motorists into submitting to the letter of the law, whatever their interpretation may be. They infuriate me. There are laws about intimidation. I weary of people trying to empower themselves at someone else’s expense. I hate any hint of a police state. We already live with enough fears. Yesterday, while in nearby Duncan, I watched three geezers, as described, put on a grand show of making notes on their clipboards, apparently recording driver’s infractions of the rules. Two of these enforcers, deep in conversation, stepped off the curb to cross the street without looking and nearly had their bottoms dusted by a car making a left turn through a red light. They noticed nothing. If you can’t see the cars, how do you see the cell phones? I wished I’d recorded the event with my cell phone, but then I might have set myself up for a ticket. You guys! There is just no cure for stupidity!

I photographed this photo hanging on the washroom wall in a Thai Restaurant. A perfect picture of pure joy and innocence, some-one had to add the leaf and completely pervert the message. You can come up with your own caption, there are plenty.
Seafire III. It’s not very salty but she sure pulls to windward quite well. What adventures lay ahead?

From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.

…Dr. Suess

Coastal Light

The sea, eternal, infernal, a constant ever-changing state of both peace and rage. An ending for some, a beginning for others. It will always be a first passion despite my deep and growing love for the desert and all its moods.
Heceta Head, part of a network of lights strung along the Oregon and Washington coast to guide mariners away from danger and into port.
Look there! Something’s swimming down there! In churning surf, up to thirty feet high at moments, sea lions paddle as easily as a fat boy in a bath tub.
Inside their cave they retreat to rest and argue. Their incessant grumbling echoes within this monstrous cavern and makes a strange and eerie music as it blends with the crashing surf. The more you look into the dark recesses the more of these heavy characters you see.
I am de boss! Now listen to me! These characters will strike a pose like this and then hold it for hours. They laze and play in the surf and foam effortlessly. That same smashing brine would reduce any of us to mince in seconds.
When gulls gather inland take heed, it is a sure warning of foul weather to come. The weekend storm watchers were not disappointed.
The suddenly, for a while, the sky cleared, the wind was gentle, the sunlight warm. People mysteriously appeared in large numbers. This is the lighthouse at Yaquina Head.
This is another spectacular location on the Oregon coast. When there is sunlight it is always superb.
The light station is a temple of all things nautical…except making a landfall. Almost always, lighthouses are intended to warm a mariner away from danger, not beckon him toward safety.
Lighthouses are always an interesting study in architecture. Both form and function must interplay. Durability and beauty work together.
What dramas have unfolded before these windows?
A poignant salute to mariners lost at sea.
A thing of beauty.
“Please stay on the path.”
Clearly an invitation.
You are being watched. The hill overlooks the Yaquina Light. Paths angling upward conjures up stories about widow’s walks.
OhmyGawd! I forgot to set the parking brake! Not all turnouts have guard rails.

In a few days I’ll be home again. A home, that at the moment, is a place of snow and ice, of heaps of bills, a deal on my beloved ‘Seafire’ to complete and a plan about what comes next. But, that’s in a few days. I drove up the coast today toward fulfilling a very big item on my bucket list. There were patches of blue sky, and sunlight. Although the wind still roared bringing yet more rain and hail squalls, people were out and about everywhere. Trust the Americans to turn bad weather into a business opportunity. I also learned that it was a long weekend, ‘President’s Day,’  and I’ll keep my remarks to myself on that one. Checking out places I’ve always passed before, I actually enjoyed just being. When the light is good on the coast, it is amazing. This photographer, like all others, is a sucker for soft, golden light and the special clarity it brings to the visual world. Finally I turned off the coast highway and headed inland toward a place I’ve been dreaming of for years. Another pass to cross, with yet another sleet storm but this time the elevation sign read 760’, not 7600’.

As I drove into McMinnville I found a farm machinery Museum. Thankfully, it was closed.
No computers! Low profile tires. It got the job done.
Near the tractor, this is what drew me to make a U-turn back to the museum gate.
This sculptor knows horses! The work is beautiful!
I was spellbound.
There is a bird’s nest inside the nose.
I wonder if this is it? A stunning sight. Who fell out of bed and thought, “Let’s turn a 747 into a waterslide?” It must have flown poorly with those big pipes hanging out of the belly. The air museum is surrounded with its own vineyards and markets the wine in its gift shop. The Willamette Valley has become a huge wine-making area. There are vineyards and wine-tasting opportunities everywhere.
So…Having arrived too late to begin my visit, I was told to go park in the far corner with the rest of the rockets. That’s me in the corner. “Beam me up Scotty!”

An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. When life is dragging your back with difficulties, it means it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming”anon.

Bliss!

But this is California! The backroad to the coast twisted and wound up and down through magnificent forest and valleys. The snow I could handle, the poor road maintenance and endless potholes had me shouting. Yes! Swear words.

There is a mystery in this old van. Every once in a while I misplace something and joke about “Oldtimers” setting in. Well now, I have something going on that is downright weird. There is slide-out crockery locker in my little galley. In it, with the plates and bowels, I have stored three saucers. Occasionally, I absentmindedly put them in an adjacent drawer. Now they’ve disappeared. I cannot find them in the van, anywhere. Three saucers are no big deal, but where in the hell did I put them? Lurching and winding over the twisting California mountain passes could possibly have shifted them. But they are gone. Gone! Hopefully, I’ll be able to report where I found therm. They must be in the van somewhere…unless! Call a priest! California, by the way has some of the worst roads I’ve travelled, both here and in southern regions. Patches on patched patches, sloughing grades, 10 mph hairpin turns and, nobody’s fault, …more snow!

Would the bad dream ever end?
Finally, down into the redwoods, out of the snow.
Always wonderful, even in the dripping wet of winter. I found another backroad and headed for the open coast. I have always wanted to see Cape Mendocino. It’s well off the beaten route, but a darkly famous spot for mariners.
Aw, c’mon! One more high pass, one more bit of snow. Down the hill is a hawk hovering in the wind.
Then things turned green again.
The California Shoe Tree, a sure sign of nearing the coast.
It blooms in mid-winter.
And thar she be Billy! A new kind of white stuff!
Cape Mendocino! Mariners give it a wide berth. Fifty to a Hundred miles out, the seas  are still notoriously nasty.
I decided to name this one ‘Battleship Rock’
Whassamatta…never seen a heifer before? I was stunned to find some of the most beautiful cattle ranchland I have  ever seen. Imagine having a North Pacific beach for a fence line.
Boris The Beach Boss. He did not need horns to enforce his status. He looked like he’d really enjoy having me come over the fence to his side. “You can be the ball!”
Who’s your daddy?
What a place. I’d like to go back in summer. Take the road to Honeydew and follow the coast. Go slow, it’s no freeway.
The wild game seemed less wary than the livestock. This doe had two yearling fawns with her. She’s in great shape.
How’s that for a home on the range?
Here’s the neighbouring spread on the north side of the cape. It is a long way to the corner store.

I am writing this at my little table in the van looking out the windows and watching the surf roll in and collide with the breakwater approximate 600 feet away. There is spume in the air and a steady thunder of breaking seas. It is a terrifying sound to the mariner in his boat but I am on the beach, safe, warm, dry. The wind and rain are horrific. I love it. I’m going to stay in the same spot for a while. A week ago I was looking for my night’s spot in that frozen gravel pit near Williams, Arizona. Next time, no more marathons. I’ll amble south until I am where I want to be and I’ll stay there, for days and days, maybe weeks. I’ll also have an RV far more suitable for back roads. I know now what I need. I’ve learned a lot this trip. When not at sea I want to be in the desert.

There were more redwoods. A former logger, i now find it incredible to look at such a forest and see only board feet.
The trouble with looking up all the time is that you miss some very wonderful things at your feet.
When a redwood falls in the forest… how long before it becomes earth again? I knew that these old-growth Sequias could support no large fauna, there’s just no feed for them. Right?
Oh yeah!
Oh yeah?
At first I thought this was an elk farm but then I saw that the huge herd of elk cows was between a fence and a river. They were instantly aware of me and magically disappeared below the bank.
The boys were just around the corner. These really are wild Roosevelt Elk bulls. They’re free to go and do as they please. Don’t go trying to feed them apples.Those magnificent antlers are designed for them to try and kill each other. Survival of the fittest, fatest, horniest!
Aw shucks!

At the moment, the pelting rain and wind are outside. I’m in an oasis of warmth, with a spectacular view. On the stove are three massive chicken legs slowly sizzling with an aroma of Pollo Sazonado, 3.32 pounds for $3.29! I splurged and also bought a pre-packaged Caesar salad. Be still my gypsy heart! This is bliss.

I arrived ai Gold Beach Oregon and hove-to for two days. The wind and rain and hail were horrific. I was snug inside with my frying chicken. This is the view over the fence behind my van. The booming surf is somehow comforting.
Pretty in Pink.
“Dear mom, I’ve bought a bigger motorhome. It needs a little work, but nobody will steal it and I’ll be able to find it in any WalMart parking lot.” The owner, my neighbour in Gold Beach drove, incongruously, a huge shining silver Lincoln.
On the wall above the urinal, a little poetry to muse on. There were other framed efforts including campground rules and completed jigsaw puzzles.
Highway 101, which follows the coast from Tijuana, Mexico, to Lund in British Columbia was built when esthetics mattered. This lovely old bridge spans the Rogue River at Gold Beach. The weather looks no better inland.

A day later, I’m in the same place in my van. The weather does not break. Every time I try to go for a walk an even heavier blast arrives. I’ve been working on getting caught up with my blogs, but the internet here is behaving strangely and I cannot get photos to download correctly. I decided to finally get my bike out and oil it up for when the weather improves.. I haven’t ridden it during the entire trip. Way back on Oak Creek I found a place to pull over and get some good photos. I decided to back the van up to leave as much room as possible. During that manouver a family in a little car wheeled in behind me. I did not see her in my mirrors. Yep, bang! We were worried about damage to her car which was fine, and she drove off. It turns out that I’d rammed her trailer hitch with my buckboard. It was bent up and today I discovered the front wheel on the bike was too wonky to be used. More swear words. I’ve been inside this little van for days and certainly most of the past twenty-four hours. I’ve had no significant exercise for days. I am frustrated. I could have stayed home in the boat, warm and snug in this weather and at least have some room to stretch out a bit. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!!!

I did not walk far. Every time I ventured out, another horizontal blast of hail arrived.
Between the incredible views and the blasting wind, it was hard to stay on the road.
Cape Blanco LIght. A beautiful place, the quintessential setting for a novel. I was happy to not be blown off the cliffs, the wind was at least 40 knots. I almost lost my new video camera…and the driver’s door on the van!
Wonder what the weather in the desert is like today.
Even the sheep were hove-to
A little colour on a dull day.
Back to old haunts.
Out of ballast, this old girl appears ready for the breaker’s yard. With all those scars on her face, I’m sure she has many a wonderful story.
The dreams never die.
Leaving Coos Bay, I had to  speeed up and grab this shot. The messages left me in wonder. Vape Junkies/ Order Online/ Drugs Are Garbage/ We Deliver.
The Bar is Closed.
Same old, same old.The rivermouth at Florence Oregon.
I’ll gitcha!
Gotcha! It is amazing to me how these tiny birds can be so tenacious in even the heaviest of weather. “Eat like a bird!”
Life can be a lonely flight.

I’ve only made it to Florence, about 100 miles up the coast, but I’ve finally been able to shoot some footage of an Oregon Coast winter storm. I did not get blown off the cliff but all my old winter aches and pains are back. I’m almost home. As Canadians say, “No doubt about it!” In the morning there is a strange blue patch overhead. A brillant light beams down out of it. I think I’ll go check it out.

A storm always ends, enjoy it while it lasts!” …meself

The High Road To Winnemucca And Beyond

(Click on any image to enlarge)

It has been a very long time since a certain travelling tractor salesman once plied these roads. These roads being those of the American Pacific Northwest. Tonight I’m in my van in a roadside rest area on Interstate 5 near the Oregon border, parked beside sleeping big rigs and listening to the rain drum on my fibreglass roof. I am exhausted. It has been a very long day. After the ferry ride to the mainland I performed some roadside repairs so now I have a functional house battery which means there is a working furnace and lights, etc. etc. Such decadence! (There was a time when sleeping beneath an upturned canoe on a rainy night was a matter course for me…long ago!)

I once regularly travelled this route, Interstate 5, the north-south transportation artery between the Canadian border near Vancouver and Tijuana on the Mexican border. Maybe I’m just older, the traffic now seems much heavier and faster despite an obvious police presence. In Seattle, which now is always in rush hour, drivers clearly have a death wish. I’ve never seen such risk-taking and I recall when Seattle traffic was noted for courteous driving. Some may argue that my memory fails me, but that is how I recall the good old days. And you could time your movements to avoid the morning and evening commute. Not any more. It is all a monstrous throbbing cancer despite the wonderful artistic community which I know thrives there. I’m a country boy at heart and so I’ll head for the hills. I just hope that all this rain is not snow at higher elevations. Yeah right! I was going to I5 it all the way into Northern California, then cut across to Reno and head on south through Nevada and Arizona.

I’m finding this freeway too much work and anxiety. Although I’ve made some repairs to the old van’s steering, it still handles like a hay wagon especially when travelling at the truck’s legal speed limit of 60 mph and the eighteen wheelers go by as if you are parked. They actually do try to blow you off of the road. The air compression at their speeds is incredible. Think of all the diesel being burned to rush someone their fresh lettuce. I kept the window open a bit to help myself stay awake and I swear there are times when I can smell and taste the exhaust swirling around out there. Well I’ve taken my meds, washed my face, brushed my teeth and it is time to go to bed for my first night in my little bus. Tomorrow is another day.

And so it is; after a very long night. I’m sitting with my morning coffee, pecking away at the computer in the thick black of 06:30. Something is draining my house battery and shortly after going to bed, the furnace died. I pulled on another blanket and tried to sleep. Stupidly I’d parked where directed, in the big truck area. I’d forgotten about engine brakes, air brake pressure relief valves, throbbing idling diesels, flashing lights as trucks arrived and departed all through the night. This morning I first could nor find my mobile phone, then couldn’t locate my hidden envelope of US cash. The adrenaline of panic is not a good way to begin a day. I wander off to the washroom, far across the parking lot in the driving rain and sleet. To my amazement, on a lowbed trailer sat a huge Bell 212 helicopter looking very out-of place.

Next the curser on this golderned computer screen vanished; gone to the loo I suppose. It returned, eventually. The coffee is good and I soldier out into the wet and dark of morning on the road. Ordeal or adventure, it is all in the journey I choose.

Om a mountain pass eastbound toward Sisters Oregon, I pause to make a short film clip explaining that I am on this road trying to escape the winter rain of Vancouver Island.

The journey has now led me to be parked beside a rail line near La Pine, in Central Oregon on my second night. You know it, rain and wet snow. Tombstone Pass over the mountains was slick with sticky wet snow. In the dark I missed a turn in Bend and now here I am. I’ve finally sorted out my electrical problem and am happily listening to the fan of my lovely little furnace. It was an arduous day that has passed quickly. I fell into my bed, which was damp with the storm’s humidity. Earlier today, I finally exorcized my electrical gremlins and now I do have a working furnace.

Diesel pickups with loud exhausts roared past on this remote backroad all damned night. I was parked close to a level crossing and every time I almost drifted off, guess what? Yep! Too whoo, clickety clack, who dat trying to sleep beside the old railway track? Fully exhuasted, I was cooking breakfast before dawn. I drove eastward toward a place called Winnemucca, Nevada. It sounds like a medical condition but it is a real name, probably of a native origin. At first the sun was in my eyes with a promise of a brighter day but for a while I squirm around yet more wrecks being attended with emergency crews. It is not just Canadians who have a death wish.

Dangerous curve ahead!
Once east of the coastal mountains, The roads in southern Oregon and Nevada are often arrow strait.

The winter roads here are sanded with crushed, brick-red lava rock so the old van is coated with red muck. It hides the weathered paint and rust. I drove on through high Ponderosa pine forest and emerged onto the Southern Oregon high plains ranchland. I have been gobsmacked with the incredible beauty of this country. It is vast. It is stupendous. I tried to imagine how incredible it must have been before the pale-faced hordes invaded and desecrated everything with roads, fences, power lines, mines and waste. It is still stunning. As I drove across the plains and mesas, around and over thrusting slabs of tilted, weather rock sometimes a thousand feet or more high, I finally began to feel my months-long anxiety begin to ease. If I has stopped to take all the photos I saw, I would not have travelled fifty miles. Each time I leapt out of the vehicle with my camera I thought of another note to make and soon snatches of poetry began to appear. A very good sign indeed.

Downtown Summer Lake Oregon. That’s it! These rural centers are not uncommon.

These vast plains and thrusting slopes are a landscape that the gods slash with bursts of changing colours and light, rainbows, and swirling clouds while ten thousand cattle turn their backs to yet another winter squall.” At one point it was raining and blowing so hard, I turned on my dash cam to capture the show while fighting to keep the careening vehicle on the road. Stunned, I came upon a jogger out in the tempest and then, incongruously, I saw that he was waving to another jogger approaching him. These ranch folk in spandex are a tough lot! I wrote some more, “And the land rose up, the sea fell away, as the plains turned green, out came hoofed creatures at play.” Well it’s a start.

Paisley Oregon
The vastness is wonderful to me and left me wanting for a horse.
Imagine having to name them all. Each black dot is a cow. I saw millions of the critters. Say moo!

Then I realized a freedom that I was actually stopping to write these ideas down. The day unfurled before me like a wonderful dream. As I drove I also seized upon one of the joys of this old van, it has a cassette stereo. At the last minute I tossed in a bucket of cassettes I hadn’t looked at for years. What a way to enhance the bliss! Occasionally I’d meet another vehicle, perhaps twice an hour. Everyone waved! I have forgotten how it was to live in a world like that. I saw magpies several times and realized that I had also forgotten these once-beloved birds. The day rolled on on on. There were often huge round boulders laying in random places. I recalled a Swedish friend once explaining to my wonder at such things that they were there because some Troll had once thrown them at a church. Every so often I would pass a cattle guard. Traditionally, these are  gateposts at either of a series of pipes or rails laid side by side for three or four feet. Cattle can’t walk on them, the metal tubes must hurt their hooves. On the highways, these gates are merely heavily painted lines across the road. The cows have duped themselves into believing they cannot cross. Hoof prints and manure stop abruptly at these lines and then turn back. It is clearly not only people who can be convinced to believe in the impossible, whether it is true or not.

Whoa little doggie!
A painted cattle guard.
Apparently, to relieve the tedium of driving these high plains roads, State Highways Departments randomly post targets for motorists to practise their marksmanship!
Many motor-shootists have low confidence levels and… shotguns create much more damage.
Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow can stop the shooter’s blow.
Heart shot! It took a while for me to understand that the perfectly placed hole in each target was actually a rivet. The three real bullet holes in this one were all clean misses. One for the pronghorn!
Aw c’mon guys! Farmers too!
I thought that perhaps the profile of a few presidents would be good. Let’s see, there’s Dick, There’s Don, there’s a few Georges….

Perhaps folks waved because it’s obvious that I’m a stranger in their big country. I am not driving a silver Dodge diesel 4×4 truck at over eighty miles an hour. The grandest wonder of all to me is that for all the hundreds of miles I drive in this sprawling majesty, it is only a tiny scratch within a very, very huge land. Tonight I sit in my camper van just south of Battle Mountain. There has been a labour of love here. Some folks have made two huge letters on a mountain slope overlooking the bleak little town. BM. We know what that can mean. Las Vegas ahead in the morning. It is a city I abhor and I’ll do my best to go around it.

A delightful shock in Tiny Austin Nevada
The rest of the story
Imagine waking up every morning with this as the view from your tower.
Looking back on the climb eastward from Austin. That’s the village below, once a thriving mining town on the Pony Express route.

So guess what? There I was in downtown Las Vegas, in the dark, after ten hours on the road, with every zoomhead in the world wanting to play bumper cars. I have an ancient GPS mounted on my dash. It saved my life. I only had to backtrack once. Now I’m backed into a dead end at the Searchlight Nevada municipal airport. Almost five hundred miles today since Battle Mountain. I’m bagged.

The shining mountain

I’ve seen more amazing scenery and incredible sights than I can assimilate. I’m WOWed out! From hereon I’ll try formatting the blogs from this ongoing trip as pictorials with captions. Editing all my photos and films at the end of each day is plenty enough work. This is supposed to be a holiday! I’ve finished stashing the day’s take in photos. A marvellous mariachi bands plays on the radio. Outside, a cool wind blows beneath a clear, full-moon desert sky.

Buenos Noches.

Moondog over Battle Mountain, Nevada
Later in the night it would eclipse and become the blood moon

I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really.

Get busy living, or get busy dying.” …Shawshank Redemption

IT’S OVER!

All over but the chewing
Jacks stocking is empty now
Most of the gift treats are chewed up or safely hidden for future emergencies
Happy New Year folks!
Dad has just posted his latest video on Youtube. It’s all about me! I’m incredible! Here’s the link below:

(Click and drag red play line to the left to see video from the beginning)

Christmas is past. The birds and squirrels are back in the trees. Isn’t it a miracle how these tiny creatures survive an extreme wind? The devastation on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands has been massive. Thousand of trees have blown down onto houses and power lines. Power poles, in many places, were broken like match sticks. The overhead wires have been snapped like string and macramaed together with tangles of tree limbs. Roofs have been stripped bare all over the south coast. I am amazed to repeatedly see incredible carnage in a specific area and yet a few hundred meters away, things appear almost unscathed. Water supplies, fuel supplies and groceries have all become commodities that have moved from a taken-for-granted status to desperate scarcity. Portable generators are unavailable at any price. The snarl of power saws and brush chippers can be heard in all directions near and far. Some folks, nine days later, are still without electricity. The line trucks and crews are still out there, wearily restoring power. Fortunately, so far as I know, there was only one fatality attributable to the blast.

The Second Wave
Sunday Dec.23rd. another ferry-load of men and equipment head for Gabriola Island to help restore electricity. It was a stupendous effort and the crew’s tenacity and determination was amazing. They gave up their Christmas to put things right.
Selective Carnage
It appears that vicious swirling winds, much like small tornados, struck randomly. It is natures way of pruning and thinning for reasons we don’t always understand.
Yet it stands. I could hear Hendrix singing ‘The Watch Tower’ This old silo should have been toppled but it survived unscathed by the wind.

Our population, with its modern urban sensibilities and softness, is unable to cope with a relatively minor disaster and the basic realities of survival. We’ve all had a wake up call. We need to be reminded about what frail creatures we are and how we become seduced into total dependency and subsequent vulnerability. These few hours of wind on December 20th do not begin to compare to a full-blown hurricane, earthquake or tsunami. It is very sobering. Even an old bush rat like myself realizes how spoiled and dependant I am on an infrastructure that is delicate at the best of times. I have good backwoods survival skills yet here, softness creeps in. Vancouver Island has 3 days of supplies ahead at the best of times. Most of us cannot even cover that gap. Some folks have had a very lean and cold Christmas. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the planet, Indonesia reels from another massively deadly tsunami. We can can our blessings indeed.

Within a stand of supportive surrounding trees this beautiful arbutus was torn off its base and shattered with bits laying in all directions. Think of the energy required to this.
Ironically, less than 50 metres from the open, crumbling shoreline this ancient, brittle arbutus survived the wind nearly unscathed.
Safe haven.
This niche in the base of a maple, complete with a tiny toadstool, could well have sheltered a little bird during the storm.
Thank goodness there are no trains for the time being. This blowdown is only 30 meters from the niche in the maple.
The old priest was in his bathroom at his morning ablutions and devotions. He prayed for a sign from his heavenly father. There was a huge noise as the roof disappeared. There he sat on the loo with a tree in his lap. “Well holy shit!,” he muttered.                This downed timber was bucked off just enough to open the road and there it will remain until  all local infrastructure is functional.
The pet’s memorial Christmas tree. Each year, in the woods beside a well-travelled path, this tree is decorated and then hung with photos of pets passed on that once roamed here. It’s very touching.

Time is ticking through the last hours of 2018. It’s over. For me it has not been a memorable year. I have achieved little other than staying alive, which is always a good thing. My life seems to have been what I did to pass the time between medical appointments and that I resolve to change. Yes, there are some things to look forward coming along very soon. I thank all those who love me and support me. You know who you are. It is remarkable how some friends and family continue to believe in you when you have lost all faith in yourself. That, in itself, is a blessing beyond any other wealth. I am grateful beyond words. So I will say it simply. Thank you. You’ve made a difference.

Rigged. All set up and ready to record interesting images.

May everyone have a grand and wonder-filled year ahead.

Happy New Year from Happy Harry Heiltsuk Now get that whalebone off my back!     That is a vertebra from a Fin whale.

My pain may be the reason for somebody’s laughter. But my laughter must never be the reason for somebody’s pain.” …..Charlie Chaplin

Hard Frost At High Noon

Arrivals and Departures. A floatplane lands in Departure Bay in Nanaimo as a speedboat heads out toward the anchored freighters. Entrance Island is in the distant background off the Northern tip of Gabriola Island. This is a prominent landmark for mariners in the Strait Of Georgia.
Departure Bay with Nanaimo Harbour in the background. The pall of effluent in the distance is the Crofton pulpmill adjacent to the old farm where Jack and  love to walk. The venerable BC ferry ‘Queen Of Coquitlam’ is leaving the terminal for Horseshoe Bay on the mainland north of Vancouver.
“Dorothy! I do believe it ain’t summer no more.”
Mosscicles
Fluffy Vines

It is a time of year here on Vancouver Island when we usually have incessant wind and rain. For the last week we’ve had clear, cold weather under a massive high with light Westerly winds. High-flying jets leave contrails that dissipate quickly, a sure sign of stable air aloft which means the fine weather will last a while. This afternoon a high ridge of cloud advanced rapidly from the Southwest. Now the cloud cover is descending which means a warm front has penetrated the high. Soon it will bring rain, perhaps with snow flurries at first. As a sailor and former pilot it is instinctive for me to keep an eye on the sky and I can confirm that the forecast appears accurate this time. I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas.

A school of higher learning. One adult bald  eagle and three juveniles share a sunny perch .
Wire and Ice.
An unusual sight on Southern Vancouver Island

I have worked in Northern regions where winter was long and hard. The romance of the great white north soon wore off. There were many feet of snow and the cold was extreme. In the dead of winter we would service our machinery around mid-day because it had warmed up to -40. (Celsius and Fahrenheit are both the same temperature at that mark.) Now, much older, some of my health issues probably stem from those days when I was young and invincible and seldom wore gloves or hats. Now with temperatures at a mere 6° and humidity at 90% it hurts. My old bones ache and burn. I am glad that I am not back on the Great Lakes where I grew up. The humid winter chill there was bitterly horrid. The only worse damp cold I have known was in the Northeast of England along the shore of the North Sea.

C’mon eh! With the frost there are a whole new set of smells. Old Jack is eager to explore.
Frosty greens. A deer grazes at midday while heavy frost remains in the shadows.
Frost can make the most mundane things beautiful. These oak leaves would go unnoticed without the wintery touch.
S’no berries like frosty snowberries.
A touch of sunlight.
A road in the swamp.

Incidentally, while working in Quebec long ago, I spent some time one winter in Baie-Comeau. The temperature one night dipped briefly to -72°F and a brisk wind blew in from the Gulf Of Saint Lawrence. Gawd! I shall never forget that insidious, penetrating chill even inside the motel where the steam radiators clicked and banged, threatening failure at any moment. All’s well that ends. We drank a lot of cognac. My employer hired pilots retiring from the French Air Force. They could speak the language and they had considerable experience flying turbine powered helicopters. (The local Quebecois held a huge contempt for these foreigners who were perceived to be taking their jobs.) I went to meet one new recruit at the airport. There was no trouble picking him out as he stepped out of the airplane. It was a balmy -40°. He had left Algeria two weeks earlier where the desert temperature regularly rose to 120°F. He told me that mechanics there often kept their tools in a bucket of water so they were not too hot to handle. I was used to having tools freeze to my bare hands when I had to reach into a tight spot. It’s all relative I suppose.

A sunny picnic. Pass the salmon please. These majestic birds are also voracious scavengers.

Jack and I have taken advantage of the dry days and with life on hold we have gone on some grand walks. Here are photos from this week. There has been a hard frost, even at mid-day anywhere the sun’s radiation could not reach. There are two weeks to winter solstice.

As I was about to post this blog a very happy story came up on the evening TV news. A week ago a disabled Vancouver man in a wheelchair who earns much of his  living by panhandling had his sole companion abducted; a tiny chihuahua. He and those who knew him were shattered. The local community rallied and went on a dog hunt. Eventually they found him in the hands of a n’ere-do- well in a city alley. Dog and owner are reunited.

And…remember Koi Boy as described in my last blog? He’s gone; disappeared in the night, last seen crossing Hasting Street. Eleven prized Koi eaten, he’s got away with his gig. And so there are two happy Christmas stories.  The way I see it.

…And an eaglet in an oak tree.
Well alright! I guess it’s Christmas. Some folks take to randomly decorating trees in the woods. It’s lovely!

Too much of what is called “Education” is little more than an expensive isolation from reality.”

It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.”

… Thomas Sowell

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE

There Will Be T-shirts

Click on images to enlarge

Morning Ebb
Boats at anchor swing to wind, ships swing to tide. The morning tide in Ladysmith Harbour has just turned to ebb. The ships are turning into the rising current. This was a great shot to manipulate until it looked like a painting

Like many folks around the time of the full moon, I often have trouble sleeping. I’m loony enough at the best of times and right now have a special sense of unrest. This month we have some especially high tides so clearly the moon is showing a potent effect on this planet. The abode where I live has several skylights. They are a delightful feature providing plenty of light. The rain has hammered incessantly on them in the last thirty-six hours. It stopped sometime in the night and the silence woke me up. I drifted back to sleep and into twisted dreams only to be awakened again with a bright light in my eyes. It was the moon beaming in through the skylight. So now I sit at my keyboard, pecking out this blog.

Uphill to the dock. Well it seemed that way. The ramp is almost level. On low spring tides, the far end can sometimes be fifteen feet lower. Note the cold, cold rain on the sea’s surface.
Young Engineers awash. The high tides invade a summer project. A winter storm on a high tide will erase all the efforts.
Winter dock berries, actually last summer’s strawberries. The plants were laden with berries but I did not partake. Dogs like to pee on them.

I’ve already grinched on about how our culture celebrates Christmas, or, at least, the shambles it has become. There are still Black Friday sales pop-ups appearing on my computer screen. That only exacerbates my Scroogely darkness and even if I had cash to spend, I’ll be damned if I’ll succumb to this invasive cyber badgering.

Look ma, no leaks! These skiffs are all partially filled with rain water. They await a little attention from their owners, perhaps on the next low tide.

Now here is a current TV news item that is warming my heart. In the heart of Vancouver lies a lovely place on the edge of Chinatown called the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden.

Here is the link: https://vancouverchinesegarden.com/

You can learn more about this lovely “Urban oasis of tranquility and reflection.” It is claimed to be the only classical garden of its kind built outside of China. Someone had the foresight to acquire the land and create this place while it was still possible. Land in downtown Vancouver is now probably valued by the square inch. Chinatown as it existed is rapidly vanishing inside the swelling cancer of neo-urban renaissance sweeping over Vancouver. All is now glass and metal and concrete. It is easy to claim that the whole of Vancouver has become the New Chinatown, but that is another story.

What is making the news is that a lone river otter has somehow found its way through the concrete jungle of downtown Vancouver to the Sun Yat Sen Gardens. They are a long way from the shore of the Burrard inlet from which he had to have started out. There are several ponds in the gardens. They are filled with Koi. This sleek beast is behaving like a fat man at a buffet. He just can’t be stopped. A dedicated sushi addict, he is slowly cleaning out the pond’s murky waters of their much loved monster goldfish. Why he would give up fresh clean fish, crabs and shellfish for scaly bottom-feeders mystifies me. But then, look at the crap we eat simply for the easy pickings that they be. A story of the path of least resistance and survival of the fattest, I find it quite amusing. Folks are frantic. All attempts to trap the otter have failed, now they are evacuating the fish to the Vancouver Aquarium for the interim. So, call me perverse, but I’m rooting for “Koi Boy.” The latest update is then when the ponds were drained in order to catch the remaining old fish, it was discovered that there were loads of baby fish no-one knew about. “Koi Boy” is proving to be a blessing as much as a curse.The intention is to catch the critter and move it miles away far into the Fraser Valley. I think it is a wonderful story and I follow it with glee. In the aftermath, someone will make a movie. There will be Koi burgers sold in local restaurants and of course, there will be T-shirts.

Where otters do not fear to tread. Jack’s tracks cover those of an otter as he tries to find the source of the scent. Koi Boy’s cousin perhaps?

Midnight, the end of a long day. Can’t sleep again. Bugga! More hot cocoa, more abstract thoughts too strange to write about. I’m not usually an insomniac. I guess life is extra troubling at the moment. I’ve just sold my beloved Achilles inflatable boat to make ends meet for month-end. It is on its way to Mexico this weekend, in someone else’s truck. Bugga again. I had my own plans for it down there. So another morning approaches and something good will happen. The dinghy is gone, there was money in the bank for a few minutes, but now at least, the overdraft on my overdraft is cleared up. Haar! The banker asked me about dipping into my investment portfolio. I said “Sure” and showed her my lottery ticket.

Manyberries
A backdrop of rose hips signals the approach of winter. The hips will feed a lot of birds in the lean months ahead. They are a great source of vitamin C and many folks collect them to make tea.
A ghost of spawning passed. Now empty, these eyes saw many things in the thousands of miles travelled since this fish left this stream and then returned to complete its cycle of life.

The rain is hammering down again and I enjoy the luxury of being warm and dry. Many out there do not have even this. Stay grateful and appreciate what you have. A week has passed since I began this post. Now it is December. The weather has turned clear and cold. Recently I’ve found myself working on a friend’s boat. It really is time I stopped squirming around in bilges. It hurts. There is a reason there are few rubenesque marine mechanics.

Well, the latest headline is that “Desperate officials continue hunt for otter.” The beat goes on.

Raw logs for China. This ship has just moored to a dock in front of a shut-down sawmill which was closed for lack of log supplies. I can’t make sense of this. The ship will be loaded with a mountain of raw logs as high as the bunks visible along her sides. It is a travesty beyond any logic. A first snow low on the hills in the background shows “Cut blocks” from which the timber was logged and then  quite possibly exported on ships like the ‘Malau Bulker’
Snow on the mountain. Winter descends down Mount Benson which overlooks  Nanaimo and its distinct waterfront.

The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.” …Walter Bagehot

Yet Again

Near-full, the November moon rises over Ladysmith Harbour. Serenity for the moment.

Black Friday is past, now it is Black Sunday and then Cyber Monday. Folks with bellies full of turkey are out there decimating themselves and their families on highways all over America. It is not a cheery thought. Wearily, once again it is the time when the annual worship reaches a frenzied climax of our religion, Consumerism. Our temples: the malls. Black Friday! What a way to start a time of year that is supposedly about peace, love, hope and togetherness.

The Dream

There is still a quarter of November to wade through and I am sick of Christmas already. People have their homes and yards draped in garish decoration. The tradition of coloured lights near Christmas time has become another competition of excess between neighbours. In the daylight, lawns are littered with deflated effigies of santas, reindeer, snowmen, and other crass visual clichés. With all those lights blazing, I wonder what happens to the “Think Green” messages about reduced consumption. Meanwhile, the communities of homeless folks hunker down for winter by adding extra tarps over their individual tents.

Hunkering down for winter. Tarpaulins add some thin extra protection. This is a homeless enclave in downtown Nanaimo.
Jack and I have been spending every dry day visiting our new stomping grounds at the old Swallowfield Farm site. The estuary and adjoining salt marsh will be the source of many great wildlife photos in future.
An oasis in a sea of blackberries. The brambles have completely overrun the old field. An “invasive species” indeed.
A rabbit hole. It is not a place to fall into from the rocks above.

When I was young, Thanksgiving in Canada was celebrated at the same time as it was in the US. It was set at this date to celebrate the end of harvest and the completed preparations for the winter ahead. Usually, winter was well set-in with snow and bitter cold. There was little to do with Christmas in the wind other than the Sears and Eaton’s Christmas catalogues which arrived in time to serve their mail order service. My mom’s birthday was December seventh and for me that was the first indication of the coming festivities. Christmas cards would begin to arrive in the mail (another lost tradition, both the cards and the post office) Christmas songs would begin to play on the AM radio and the season would rapidly build toward the fantastic peak of a celebration of life in the dead of winter. New Year’s day would mark the end of it all. It was the intensity that made Christmas such a special time. All gone now, blurred in a greyness of marketing that has gone on for weeks already. Bumhug!

Deer trails in the marsh. It is a hundred metre dash between the cover of forest on either side.

The darkness and dampness of winter has seeped into everything. ‘Seafire’ feels like a tomb inside. It takes hours to exorcise the penetrating chill of winter. I find it hard to believe that just two years ago, my beloved boat was a place of warmth and cozy shelter through a long, wet upcoast winter. To distract myself, I stay busy with my writing, photography and video-making. My most recent effort is now posted on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSuR95bfKS8&t=142s

Waterfront standoff.
For weeks the empty freighter lay off the foreshore imposing itself on the local residents. At night it provided a blaze of light and the incessant throb of its diesel generators. Then one morning, it was gone.

That is the link which should take you directly to “The Fickle Sea.” I’m excited to consider what I might achieve in future with more experience and better equipment. I have a huge archive of poetry and will try to make videos built on the foundation of some of those poems. Finding good footage to splice together into a cohesive and complimentary visual poem is the challenge. Looking for beauty and positive perspectives within the blandness of winter and familiarity is my chosen method of maintaining good cheer and a sense of purpose. This evening the beginning of our first winter storm is evident. The forecasters have warned us for two days. The barometer has slowly and steadily declined. Rain clatters on the skylight over my desk and shrubbery outside the window flails in the rising wind. If a storm is inevitable, relax and enjoy it. You can’t do anything about it. Enjoy yielding to forces greater than yourself. It’s called storm ecstasy.

November
The last leaf.
This is from a broadleaf Alder or Cottonwood. it is about nine inches wide. “How the mighty are fallen.”

The richest man is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least.” …anonymous