Writer’s Block

The Harbour Light, looking out from Silva Bay to Howe Sound across Georgia Strait
The Harbour Light,
looking out from Silva Bay to Howe Sound across Georgia Strait

Thank you! It’s working. My Flickr photostream is becoming easier to find due, in part, to your interest. https://www.flickr.com/photos/flickrfred/ will get you there; I have over two hundred forty frames up so far.

The Morning After
The Morning After

I’m hoping to earn some income from my writing and photography as I travel. In today’s world, if you have no cyber presence, you don’t exist. It would be much nicer to sit with pen and paper beneath a palm tree writing the world’s ultimate novel but that is only fantasy long lost. I know that I cripple myself by avoiding the mad scrum of twitter, titter, squeak, squack and honk yet I have to do something to validate my creative existence in the cyber world. A few years ago a publisher told me that e-books weren’t “Real”. Now it seems, writing is not legitimate if it isn’t an e-book. So, that’s what I’m up to with all this effort at seeking attention.

The old and the new
The old and the new

I’ll admit I’m a dinosaur in this modern world of computer-everything but I’ll hold my low regard for the sheep-like manner in which people eagerly accept persuasion to follow corporate marketing innuendo. Our culture has become hopelessly addicted to cyber devices. It seems that even a primal survival instict, fear, has a declining sensitivity. We are rapidly loosing the ability to fend for ourselves to the point of wandering into danger’s way while texting, tweeting and gaming. People drive and walk with head-down texting focus as they stumble through traffic, crowds, the woods and even on the docks. Kerplunk!

More old and new
More old and new

Amazingly, in our enlightened age, few ask questions. Our thumbs keep twitching out unimportant messages and we stumble along without looking where we’re going. Letter-writing has become a lost social art. Correct spelling and grammar are a foundation of clear communication. Language and communication is a cornerstone of civilization and we apparently don’t much give a toss about those basics. I recently saw a dictionary of texting abbreviations. (Lol ddba wm yy2.) No! I don’t want to have children with you! Huh? Coincidentally, as I write, a radio announcer reads a story about how people “Are married to their smart phones”.

Don’t we see how addicted and reliant we have become? Whenever the electricity goes down or we lose one of our devices we panic. Even in the backwoods of Mexico people appear entirely dependant on their cell phones. It seems like a deadly epidemic to me and I’ll admit that like it or not, I’m infected with the cyber bug as well. But I do care and will maintain a questioning attitude. You wouldn’t imagine the blank look I got in the cell phone store when I said I wanted a phone that only made calls, took calls and messages. Neanderthal!

I will readily admit that I heavily utilize the internet for research. A few minutes online can easily replace a day in the library. But, it doesn’t replace the collective intellectual energy of a building full of books.

It is important to remember who is slave and who is master.

Honey Bee evening patrol
Honey Bee evening patrol

Most offshore sailboats don’t even have a sextant aboard anymore. We DO have access to all sorts of satellite rescue systems when our incompetence prevails. If Uncle Obama flips the switch and there is suddenly no GPS available it will be a total disaster. I’ll admit that my sextant lies dormant in its case and I’ve forgotten how to use it. Mind you, leaving the dock is the first step to needing it. Here comes an embarrassed, pregnant silence.

Think Green
Think Green

I’m having a bout of writer’s block and as I poke away at my laptop the tely is on playing the 1961 movie ‘The Misfits’. It is a beautiful film made on location in Nevada. Marilyn Monroe is outstanding, her acting is incredible and Clark Gable is grand. He utters lines like “People can get so afraid of dying that they don’t ever live. Of course there’s danger in most worthwhile things”. In real life he died within days of finishing this film. Eli Wallach, Thelma Ritter and Montgomery Clift all turn out stunning performances. A believable script encompasses human longing and weakness within a parable about greed versus the environment. I love the clever use of light in black and white films and this one is certainly no exception.

The old Waco biplane had me lusting heartily. John Huston was the director and the messages about fiscal wealth versus integrity and compassion, from over forty years ago, are stunning. Not surprising, it was a flop at the box office. Few know of it. I think it should be re-released.

Quacks
Quacks

Now it’s Sunday, a week before Easter. Another stellar weather day dawns. We will almost be able to hear the leaves bursting out and see the flowers opening. Fluorescent white flesh is on display everywhere and I smugly flaunt the remains of my Mexico tan. Then as the evening sun settles behind the trees, it’s back into our woolies. Drifts of fir and maple pollen fill the air and everyone’s sinuses. Folks are finally back on the docks checking to see if their boats have survived the winter. They offer the usual annual cliché yucks about how boats are holes in the water that you shovel full of money. I offer my standard responses about how a “Stitch in time saves nine” and that houses are holes in the beach that you shovel money into while the scenery never changes. A few visiting cruisers are appearing at the marina now. Next weekend the marina circus will begin for another year.

Step into the picture
Step into the picture

A friend en route with his yacht to Easter Island and then the Marquesas stopped at the Galapagos two days ago, for forty hours! He had a passage From La Paz, Baha with light winds and he ran low on fuel but forty hours? I’m sure he has his good reasons but I can’t imagine how hard it would be to put to sea again without a decent rest and a long reconnoitre of that fabled place.

Jimmy has his daughter Karmin aboard and I hope they find a place to stop and can make their marathon a wholly pleasant odyssey. He’s put so much into preparing for this journey.

Gabriola Pass light
Gabriola Pass Light

Other friends have left their boat ‘Sage’ in dry storage for the monsoon season in Northern Phuket and are coming home to Victoria for a break away from the heat and humidity where they have been sailing. Connie and Tony did this once before on a tiny Vancouver 27. They spent seven years exploring the South Pacific and Japan. Their blog ‘Sage on Sage’, is what prompted me to start my own. I am deeply inspired and humbled by folks who are able to achieve their dreams.

Good on you all.

Now it is Monday morning. As the sun rises in the East (As usual) a high thickening overcast is rapidly approaching from the South. The barometer is holding steady, for the moment, but it looks like rain to me. It didn’t rain. In fact this afternoon my pallid shanks were sticking out again beneath a pair of tattered work shorts. This evening there is a new overcast blocking any view of tonight’s lunar eclipse.

It was quite a day. I don’t know why but I’m experiencing a massive lethargy and depression accompanied with all sorts of strange pains, swollen glands, and a generally pathetic state of being. I know, I know, it shows in my writing. Spring fever, allergic reactions to all the pollen in the air, a chronic attack of self-pity, I can’t explain it. Other folks report they are laid low with flu so I’ll go with that.

In the midst of this gloom a friend recommends going online to a ‘TED Talk’ and looking up an essay by a conductor and classical musician named Benjamin Zander. “Yeah right”, I thought as I typed in ‘The Transformative Power Of Classical Music.’

It was spell-binding, a midday epiphany.

This brilliant man explained things about classical music which I never understood and then leads the viewer on to some wonderful concepts. “Who I am being, if my children’s eyes aren’t shining?” Who am I being, if other people’s eye aren’t shining?”

His message, I think, is to apply your unique gifts in such a way that other people are inspired and enlightened.

Become a bird that flies above the fields. Fences are no longer obstacles”.

Now it is Tuesday morning already and I’ve awakened cynical and jaded as ever. That might have to do with the aches and pains of my battered old frame. (I used to wonder why old folks were so often grumpy!) Jack the dog is out on deck surveying the world and absorbing the moment in the light of the rising sun. He has, as usual, the correct philosophy and is immersed in the moment. I’m sitting with my morning coffee pecking away on this blog trying to find a clever ending. Perhaps a final quote from Zander will work.

Never say anything that won’t stand if it is the last thing you ever say!”

Hmmmmm. Flap, flap, flap, bang!

Skunk Cabbage, all through the woods, A hydroponic aroma clung in the trees
Skunk Cabbage is blooming all through the woods
A hydroponic aroma hangs in the trees, but then that smell is common on this island in a lot of places!

Reluctant spring

Reluctant Spring

Looking for Alice ...Stepping stones in a local forest
Looking for Alice
…Stepping stones in a local forest

We’re doing OK. Just because the beaches of Jalisco are far away, and it still seems cold and wet here, doesn’t mean there’s anything to complain about. A little to the south, in Oso Washington, a massive mudslide has wiped out that entire small community. Despite appallingly unstable ground conditions, rescue crews are still looking for bodies and the faint possibility of more survivors. Tonight’s adjusted figure reduces the remaining number of missing to thirty, down from ninety. Over two dozen bodies have been recovered so far.

Skunk Cabbage ...they smell like a local hydroponic product
Skunk Cabbage
…they smell like a local hydroponic product

The East Coast of the country has endured it’s first spring blizzard with up to 120kph winds and 30 cm of snow. (There’ll be at least one more blast sometime around Easter…Well, it happens every year!) Subsequent bad weather has kept some schools closed for five days.The missing Malaysian Air flight is a growing mystery. In an age when satellites can read the numbers on lost golf balls laying in the brush this story is becoming a real-life James Bond epic.

Russia and the whole of Europe are slow-waltzing about the recent invasion of Crimea. Mr. Obama and the Pope have met to discuss growing global poverty. I doubt that either considered liquidating some of the Catholic church’s incredible wealth or to quit buying rockets.

Know the feeling? Low slack tide
Know the feeling?
Low slack tide

If you are fool enough to consider the chains of trivial event which trigger global wars and then factor into that notion the planet’s vast over-population, much of which is very hungry and discontent, well we’re head-first deep in the outhouse basement. So, the only way to make sense of it all is to quit trying and just enjoy the moment. It is all we have. Implement change by example and step out of the gloom and doom. The moment, it’s all we have!

Maple flowers
Maple flowers

A miserable slanting drizzle this morning gave way to thin sunshine filled with promise. Jack the dog and I went for a walk in the woods. Deer tracks fresh in the mud show that fawns are being born. The skunk cabbage is sprouting, blooms are now everywhere and there is a profusion of daffodils. Lambs cavort in the fields and it is still light at eight pm. The wharfinger is muttering about new contracts and increasing my moorage fees. Weeds are starting to grow on the bottom of the boat. It must be spring. March here came in like a lion so we’ll see if the bit about the lamb holds true. Jack and I took our before-bed sortie ashore. The moonless sky was clear and the stars were especially brilliant. Somewhere in the timber a Barred Owl sang its loud echoing call of Who-Hoo Hoot Hoot. There is a bog hole surrounded by blackberries above the marina. Last night a thunderous chorus of frogs burst out there. This morning the boat rides an uneasy swell as the thick cold rain pelts down again. Yes, it’s spring! See ya at the beach, I’ll be under the Corona umbrella. The only one!

Rodger the rigger ...some spring maintenance before another adventure with Betty Mc
Rodger the Rigger
…Some spring maintenance before another adventure with Betty Mc

So, seize the moment the man said. I want to step outside my incessant introspection and share some happy and even uplifting thoughts. All my endeavours are now focused on getting back south. I haven’t made any decisions other than to re-affirm that one’s regrets are usually about the things we didn’t do. I’ve been planning on taking a boat south for a very long time. I’m frightened to think of how I’ll feel if I did sell ‘Seafire.’ But it’s only ‘Stuff’. Right?

Betty Mc on the ways. This Tasmanian lobster boat has travelled here on her own keel with her owners Rodger and Ali
Betty Mc on the ways. This Tasmanian lobster boat has travelled here on her own keel with her owners Rodger and Ali

A few days have passed. Yep, I’ve been busy with stuff; more buying and selling. The little green truck is gone. It is now the property of a friend from Gabriola Island who shared his accommodations with me in La Manzanilla. He expressed great interest in the truck and now that it’s home and all fixed up, it belongs to him. I’ve managed to find a lovely older SUV (Remember?…Stupid Urban Vanity) It is in great shape and will soon be broken of any urban tendencies. I will now be able to tow a bigger trailer than the teardrop and orf we go again.

So now it’s heads-down time. One project boat to finish and then old ‘Seafire’ gets her just and overdue rewards. The weather is grudgingly admitting that it may be spring. Periods of two or more hours of undiluted sunlight are beginning to occur without rain. It’s time to get up the mast and finish installing mast steps to the top. Then new companionway doors, brightwork, more wiring and fiddly pre-voyage chores as well as the eternal pursuit of loot, ever more loot.

Betty Mc business end. all wood to the bitter end
Betty Mc business end.
She’s all wood to the bitter end

Meanwhile I’ve successfully put up a photo stream on Flickr. It’s an online portfolio of my photography to which I’ll be adding more of my camera work as time permits.

The URL is https://www.flickr.com/photos/flickrfred/

The more a link is used it rises in the pecking order of search engines and becomes easier to find. So go ahead, hit me please. (I was amazed and humbled to discover how many Freds and Fred Baileys there are out there.)

There are even a few of us on Flickr. Next time I set up a site I’ll use an illustrious handle like ‘Aardvark Rocketman Fred.’

Jack hunting rabbits... he's never caught one yet, but!
Jack hunting rabbits… he’s never caught one yet, but!

One more morning. Now it is April 1st. The joke came last night when the power failed in phases. The dock lights were on but my neighbours and I frantically assumed the charger/inverters on our boats had failed. These are expensive devices we use to keep us dependant on the electrical grid ashore. It is amazing to realize how dependant even we fringe-dwellers are! Our collective angst was huge until we began comparing notes. Now the sun is rising into a cloudless sky. If this too is a prank, it’s a happy one.

Morning in Dogpatch Bay
Morning in Dogpatch Bay

I took an hour for myself in the middle of the afternoon. The frogs were in full rehearsal and somewhere in a far corner of the bay a pair of loons joined the chorus. Two fat cheeky river otters frolicked on the dock and I decided to go for a walk with my camera. The first three photos are the result. I don’t feel at all guilty.

By the way, come to think of it, March did go out like a lamb!

Ursa Major slightly to the left
Ursa Major slightly to the left
Life goes on
Life goes on

Crash And Burn

Until I come again
Until I come again

It has been two weeks since my return from southern latitudes. I do live in a beautiful place right here and finally winter is losing it’s grip. Most of that welcome-home blizzard is now gone, only piles of debris remain where huge trees and limbs blew down. It is obvious that this was an extraordinary storm. There are green buds, snow drops, daffodils, and the odd crocus beginning to appear. Last evening I photographed plum blossoms. It is now about time to go collect the early spring crop of nettles. They’ll sting the hell out of your unprotected hands, but once boiled they become a delicious tonic of greens.

Plum blosom
Plum blosom
Plum pretty
Plum pretty

Russia has marched into Crimea. Obama has rightly condemned the action. ( No one had dared to respond by asking about the US in Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Vietnam. Oh right! No ranting! ) Meanwhile the Para Olympics are in progress in Sochi, Russia just to the east across the top of the Black Sea. A Malaysian Air Boeing 777 with a load of passengers has vanished into the sea somewhere off the southern tip of Vietnam. We think. There is also speculation that it may have gone down in the Straits Of Malacca, in the opposite direction. Implications of hijacking and terrorism are rife. There is tremendous innuendo about each of these stories. Of course, media speculation leads to more stories and so someone’s misery is milked for maximum profit. While perusing these areas on Google Earth I discovered some fantastic islands of the SE coast of Vietnam. It is an archipelago known as Con Dao. I’ve never heard of it before and wonder how to get there. It is beautiful, exotic and almost unknown, yet another destination for the bucket list.

Lichen or not
Lichen or not

Life goes on, no matter who lives or dies. A week ago I was writing about how clearly I could see the world after my little sabbatical. For some reason, only a week later, I’m feeling desperately low and aching to be south again. It is an absolute puzzle to me that despite my questioning mind,  it has led me back to the labyrinth that I hoped escape on my short sojourn. A certain type of personality, once released from prison, soon deliberately commits a crime that puts them back into the familiarity of the incarceration they have come to accept as normal and comfortable. Life outside of the box is too much to bear.

Alder bark
Alder bark

I used to live within a prison of busyness. It didn’t matter what I was accomplishing so long as I was distracted from the torments of my soul by staying busy to the point of utter weariness.

My manic father taught me indelibly that indeed, “Work shall set you free.” (That is the infamous epitaph above the gates of the death camp of Auschwitz) This is all an affirmation of my previous notion that we are a manic race desperately in need of distraction so often achieved by our incessant doing versus being. Suddenly I see travelling as yet another form of doing, a distraction from our unrest and insecurity. It is not necessarily a pilgrimage of discovery and enlightenment.

Pollinate me baby, it's spring!
Pollinate me baby, it’s spring!

I suppose that’s what becoming a monk is all about. Trash all ambition and immerse yourself in an endless routine of simple existence; no creativity, no lust, no abstract pleasure, just work, prayer, meditation and other self-inflicted penances. I’ll never be a monk. Then again, with all of the self-denial, maybe I’m one already. 

Hope
Hope

Mind you the pounds so proudly lost, have almost instantly reappeared like putting on a fat shirt and yes, I have been careful about diet. My Mexican program of fish and beer was working so well! I simply must get back down there!   To do that, I need to develop a mental fortitude that is also required to permanently lose the excess baggage.                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Jack stands the dog watch, happy in the sun on a level deck
Jack stands the dog watch, happy in the sun on a level deck

                                                                                                                                                                       I’ve I have researched ghost towns of the North American Southwest. With numerous ancient native ruins and all the natural wonders of Western North America I realized that therein is a lifetime of exploration. A friend today suggested that my fascination with the ocean and my new infatuation for the desert begs a simple solution. Take my boat down to the Sea Of Cortez where there is an abundance of both. A good idea, and my original plan.

Checklist; Blanket, white wine- chill in stream pastry, cheese, chocolate. Leave mobile phone at home. Oh yeah, significant other!
Checklist:
Blanket, white wine- chill in stream.
Pastry, cheese, chocolate.
Leave mobile phone at home.
Oh yeah, significant other!

So, the time has already gone ahead an hour to Daylight Savings, the first quarter of the year has blipped past and here I sit. This has to be the year, there is no doubt about it.

Well, the rising sun is in my eyes, it’s time to get off the boat and do something on this fine early spring morning. I close today’s blog with a quote. It’s a bit abstract but, if you wade through it, entirely appropriate to my musings.

– From Ernest K.Gann, ‘Fate Is The Hunter’

... I was suddenly very lonely. And I found it agreeable.

For loneliness, I thought, is an opportunity. Only in such a state may ordinary minds, spared comparison with superior minds, emerge victorious from thoughts which may prove perilous to explore in company. Loneliness presents no challengers to undermine by argument and stipulation those comforting theories born of it. Loneliness is not deadening, even for dullards who contrive against the condition because it forces them to think. Unless men are transformed into true imbeciles and simply stare at nothing, or play with their physical toys, then loneliness can form a magic platform which may transport the meek to thoughts of courage, or even cause the scoundrel to examine the benefits of honesty. Mere physical separation from other human beings can energize new conceptions for those usually incapable of any mental experiment. Yet to be thought lonely is automatically to be pitied, which is an insult, since pity is most loudly offered by the patronizing and hypocritical.  Pity for the lonely speaks of uncleanliness and rejection (Poor fellow, he is not as admirable as I know myself to be); thoughts so often nursed by those terrified of separation from the mass.”

Submarine Races, Starting soon
Submarine Races, Starting soon

Runamuck In Tillamook

Tillamook blimp hangar. The rig, beneath an airplane called a Guppy and finally a workshop almost big enough for all my projects
Tillamook blimp hangar. It once housed up to nine K-class blimps each 252′ long!
The rig in front of an airplane called a Guppy and finally a workshop almost big enough for all my projects.

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.

You'll never find something like this driving the freeways!
You’ll never find something like this driving the freeways!
Wot! No airbag?
Wot! No airbag?
Is there a car named Darkness?
Is there a car named Darkness?

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.

Out behind the blimp hangar
Out behind the blimp hangar

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.

Teenage boys once flew these off aircraft carriers. They're old men now but this baby is still good to go.
Teenage boys once flew these off aircraft carriers.
They’re old men now but this baby is still good to go. This is a Chance Vought F4U-4 Corsair. In WWII over 12, 500 were built.

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.

It's all larger than life!
It’s all larger than life!

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.

Brute force and ignorance. P-47 Thunderbolt
Brute force and ignorance.
P-47 Thunderbolt

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! 

A Stearman 17 More people have learned to fly in these than any other single type. I knew these as crop dusters when I was starting out in the flying business, late 1960s
A Stearman 17
More people have learned to fly in these than any other single type. I knew these as crop dusters when I was starting out in the flying business,
late 1960s
The basics of real flying
The basics of real flying

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!

Contact!
Contact!

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.

Grumman N3N3 So ugly it's beautiful
Grumman N3N3
So ugly it’s beautiful

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.

1930 Bellanca Aircruiser This one was a bush machine in Northern Ontario. One snow ski sitting under port wing.
1930 Bellanca Aircruiser
This one was a bush machine in Northern Ontario. One snow ski sitting under port wing.
No inflight movies! This is how you got to your trap line and fishing camp -40 outside, -50 inside But, if you could get it loaded inside, it would fly it! Yes it IS fabric-covered.
No inflight movies!
This is how you got to your trap line and fishing camp -40 outside, -50 inside
But, if you could get it loaded inside, it would fly it! Yes it IS fabric-covered.
Fond memories
Fond memories

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.

Bell 206A Jet Ranger I was 17 years old when I began my apprenticeship on these. They were absolute civilian hi-tech at the time, obsolete junk now. this one has over 22,000 hours logged
Bell 206A Jet Ranger
I was 17 years old when I began my apprenticeship on these. They were absolute civilian hi-tech at the time, obsolete junk now. This one has over 22,000 hours logged

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.

Iraq veteran
Iraq veteran
Damn! It's ugly! But it flew. This one was used to transport S-64 helicopters, which are huge themselves
Damn! It’s ugly!
But it flew. This one was used to transport S-64 helicopters, which are huge themselves
Photo of a photo
Photo of a photo
The office
The office
Leg room
Leg room
Bomber nose art
Bomber nose art
Not a way to see Europe
Not a way to see Europe
Ubiquitous Mig 15
Ubiquitous Mig 15
BORIS! Don't point that thing at me!
BORIS! Don’t point that thing at me!
1001 projects for the home handyman
1001 projects for the home handyman. The roof!
Radio room ...Roger blimp 69
Radio room
…”Roger blimp 69, where are you?”
Columbia River view Astoria Oregon
Columbia River view
Astoria Oregon
Inside the Wet Dog Café A Fisher Poets venue
Inside the Wet Dog Café
A Fisher Poets venue
Looking back to Astoria from Dismal Nitch Washington, five miles across
Looking back to Astoria from Dismal Nitch Washington, five miles across
Home from Mexico ...and planning to go again SOON!
Home from Mexico
…and planning to go again SOON!

Sailor In The Desert

From this...
From this…
...to this!
…to this!

I’ve been home a week now. If I thought things were a blur before…Wow! The memories swirl.

Boots and Saddles cowboy... it's time to ride!
Boots and Saddles cowboy… it’s time to ride!
Deep In The Coronado National forest
Deep In The Coronado
National forest

So much in such a short time; nearly 12,000 kilometres in five weeks. I feel like a big sponge, it’ll take a while to wring out. I’ve also managed to fall asleep while editing my photos and…well, there some incredible shots that you’ll never see. My banana fingers managed to keep on deleting after I nodded off. All the king’s techies can’t find Fred’s files again. BUGGA! You’ll have to take my word for it, there really were some amazing shots of Northern California and the South Oregon Coast.

Find the cow!
Find the cow!

Once out of the saddle I’ve taken my boots and socks off. Thus able to do the math I’m realizing how desperately financially broke I am for the moment. The good old truck, like a loyal pony, is dropping apart one piece at a time now that it’s home. So am I. The initial prognosis for my ankle is surgery. Of course the process requires that I help every medical specialist possible extract a Porsche payment from the system before the first diagnosis is firmly confirmed and a date for the grim day is set, and probably postponed, for some time far down the road. The weather here at home is cold and snowy and utterly miserable. In the last week a friend died tragically under very mysterious circumstances. I MISS MEXICO!

Arivaca Arizona Business district We're Closed!
Arivaca Arizona
Business district
We’re Closed!
Uptown Arivaca
Uptown Arivaca

Old ‘Seafire’ is happily afloat and looking good. The recent snow has scrubbed her clean. She’s cold and damp inside but there are no apparent leaks and the old girl is tugging at her lines, wanting to get off the dock. I am now more confused than ever. I love this boat and all the dreams and assurances she provides me. She has been my home for a few years now. ‘Seafire’ is the cumulation of all the other boats I’ve owned and put so much of my life into. However, the epiphanies I sought and found are telling me things entirely unexpected.

Ruby ... Looks like she did take her love to town
Ruby

Looks like she did take her love to town
Spring time in the desert
Spring time in the desert

For half of my life I have had myself convinced that I could not live away from the sea and that a man without a boat is a prisoner. If I did not own a boat, I felt like a worm. I am suddenly realizing that several hundred miles inland I survived healthily and happily. In fact, in the dry desert air, I found I could breath better than I have in years.

Behind the hanging tree, Baboquivan Peak from the southeast
Behind the hanging tree,
Baboquivari Peak
from the southeast
Baboquivari from the north, as seen on Kitt Peak
Baboquivari from the north, as seen on Kitt Peak
Some of the telescopes at Kitt Peak
Some of the telescopes at Kitt Peak

I actually found the same feeling of fulfilment in the vastness and mystery of the desert that I do at sea.

A surplused mirror from one of the telescopes
A surplused mirror from one of the telescopes

I have realized how much I have denied myself by accepting a barrier that kept me from travelling inland of the shore and accepting the richness of this planet which is available everywhere to perceptive people. I am also realizing the profundity of my own words when I condemn materialism.

If I had a hang-glider!
If I had a hang-glider! The T in the road is the turn-off for Kitt Peak, 12 miles to the top

Have I owned several boats or have they owned me?  Why are my sailing friends with the most sea time also the folks who’ve never owned a damned boat in their lives?

Kitt Peak Selfie
Kitt Peak Selfie

The devastation of the ongoing recession in the US is clear. I saw people of my age, begging on the street corners. They carry home-made cardboard signs saying things such as, “We’ve lost every thing. Any help gratefully accepted.” How close we all live to the edge! I know the clear-eyed dignity of Mexican peasants and their children and realize that despite my awareness and all my words, I am as hard-wired for our superficial, consumer culture as anyone. I truly wonder who are the truly rich people. Is it those who know how little they need?  In Mexico, the roadside crosses of the poor and those better off all mark people’s passing who are all equally dead.

DRY
DRY
Old Hammerhead
Old Hammerhead

  I am among the growing numbers who ask questions and I do really want to end my days outside of the sheep pens most of us willingly inhabit. I remember George Carlin’s last time on stage and his parting words, “Folks, it’s all bullshit!” I met folks who have been freed of their life in a rut, their possessions and all the entrapment of contemporary North American life. They now live as happy wanderers and have learned to see each day for the glorious experience it can be. Repeatedly, I heard from each that one of their joys is realizing how little material stuff they actually need. Collectively they all seem to be enjoying a liberation and freedom previously unimagined. The lies which ran their lives are shattered.

Catch me if you can
Catch me if you can

I am NOT turning my back on my affinity for the sea, nor my sailing dreams. I AM realizing how wonderful it is to have my head out of that place where the sun never shines. It is wonderful to feel the affirmation of wind in my hair and the sun on my face as well of the cool darkness of deep water.  I have some decisions to make and hope to find a balance to my life that I have been denying myself and those who try to love me. The journey continues.  To have written and published the last two paragraphs, I hope, is a testament of progress which I claimed to seek when I first began writing this blog. Life is a journey, grow or die.   

A mesquite fire, a cowboy singing "Git along Little Doggie" a coyote howls as the moon rises in the east; well that's the way it went in the movies.
A mesquite fire, a cowboy singing “Git along Little Doggie” a coyote howls as the moon rises in the east;
well that’s the way it went in the movies.

Once I’d crossed the border from Nogales, Mexico into Nogales, Arizona I collapsed for the night in the regional Walmart parking lot. Despite my aversion to the McWally world it is nice to have a safe, level place where you are welcome to park your trailer for the night and use the clean washrooms whenever you want.  Dare I lament the absence of shower facilities?  I mean really!  Some people do appear to live in these edifices of tacky acquisition.   

Only in america
Only in America

The next morning dawned on Valentine’s Day and I was amazed at the masses of Spanish-speaking people thronging into the place before six in the chilly morning to scoop up every card, chocolate, flower and stuffed toy.

I beat a hasty retreat into the desert. I turned Westward onto Route 289 which led me into the Coronado National Forest. The trees are twenty feet tall and a hundred feet apart. Some of the cacti are as tall. How many trees within sight of each other make a forest? As the sun rose at my back I travelled a meandering dirt track that led me through one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Rocky cliffs, caves and steep gulches form a maze that begs to be explored on horseback. I expected to meet a stage coach on every switch-back. If John Wayne or Gary Cooper stood beside a dead horse, hitch-hiking with only their saddle, I would have calmly asked then if they’d like me to brew up some coffee. I passed an abandoned mine town named Ruby and again marvelled at how the human race was able to map this country, develop it so rapidly and find rich mineral deposits so readily.

Howdy Stranger!
Howdy Stranger!

For hours I could see the telescopes on distant Kitt Peak and it seemed to take all day to drive a distant radius around Baboquivan Peak, a towering granite pinnacle which must have held great significance to the indigenous people. I stopped in tiny but lovely Arivaca, once a U.S Cavalry camp, now home to the tiny Casino Rurál and the lovely Cantina Gitana. I drove on through the Altar Valley and the massive Tohono O’Odham Indian Reserve.

What the? How'd a fishing boat end up in the middle of the desert?
What the?
How’d a fishing boat end up in the middle of the desert?

This is all in the northern portion of the Sonora Desert. Once at the end of the twelve-mile drive up Kitt Peak, which rises a mile above the surrounding desert and yet still looks up at 7,738′ Baboquivan, you begin to understand the meaning of vast. You can see forever…well at least half-way to Nevada!

I can only wonder at the original inhabitants and their wonder at the abstract concept we white-faced creatures held of defining and dividing eternity.

Whatever dude!
Whatever dude!

Fortunately it appears that here, the native population truly holds a controlling interest in how the land is husbanded. I am told that only 25% of Arizona is held as deeded land. Much of the remaining area is Indian Reserve and State or National Park.

Miles and miles of miles and miles
Miles and miles of miles and miles

Sadly the paranoia of The US Homeland Security is at a fever pitch. They are everywhere, easily working their mandate up to a hundred miles north of the Mexican border with trucks, ATVs, horses, helicopters, drones, blimps and random checkpoints. They seem to operate carte blanche with an unlimited budget. At various check-points, many miles inside the border, huge tents cover both lanes of the road.

Ya can't miss it
Ya can’t miss it

The guards, armed just like their Mexican counterparts are friendly and conversational. Hell, it’s lonely out there. I ask them if they ever actually catch any illegal immigrants. Their grinning, guffawing response assures me that indeed they do and that I, “Wouldn’t believe some of the drugs they try to bring in.” They really seem to enjoy their work.

Beautiful downtown Blythe California Really, that's it!
Beautiful downtown Blythe California
Really, that’s it!

The photos taken from Kitt Peak are wholly incapable of portraying the feeling of human smallness beneath the deep blue sky. The huge granite summit is dotted with several massive telescopes. It is a place where man tries to find his way home somewhere among the countless billions of stars all around us.  Arizona is presently in a drought and there was deep concern about the peril of fire on the peak. To my wonder I noticed massive bald cliffs, thousands of feet above the valley floor, that glistened with the wetness of spring water still rising from deep within. It is a sad thing to find a tangibly spiritual place and have to move on. My funds were limited and I had a speaking engagement a few days away.

A lizard's head of rock, look it blinked.
A lizard’s head of rock,
look it blinked. This natural wind-eroded formation is huge from eye to nose is about 20′

I stopped for the night back in the Belly Acres RV Park in Ajo Arizona where there’s a pistol-packing granny doing a splendid job of keep all things organized. As she did on the previous visit, I was warned about wild pigs, or ‘Javelinas, which’ frequent the camp at night and boldly scrounge for scraps. The end of the next day saw me in Earp, California on the banks of the Colorado River which is the border between Parker, Arizona and the final Western state. It is where old Wyatt himself is planted.

Relaxing in the desert ...I guess!
Relaxing in the desert
…I guess!

The next day saw me driving in hours-long straight lines through undulating desert which becomes known as the Mohave. It finally runs up against the Sierra Nevada Mountains where I turned north and paralleled the Western edge of Death Valley. It is stunningly beautiful, even in the dull winter tones of mid-February. This is country photographed by people like Ansel Adams and it is easy to understand how one could take an entire year trying to capture the amazing light playing on a few rocks or stunted trees. The desert here affords great solitude and peace. The quiet is palpable. The views are infinite. Mirages in the distance make perfect sense. Nights under the desert sky must be overwhelming. Mono Lake is the final jewel of the desert before it climbs into the mountains and the world changes its beauty.

Old School
Old School

Sadly there are others who see the desert differently. Areas for off-road recreational vehicles are provided restrictively so that the entire desert is not decimated but it still seems horrible to come upon an area where hundreds of motorcycles, ATVs, dune buggies and other roaring contraptions turn the desert into an apocalypse of noise and dusty mayhem. A ranch I passed has set itself up for this obnoxious activity and provides a huge tavern for the thirsty to come and tank up. Toddlers clad in body armour zip around with everyone else in this mad mindlessness. I can’t condemn something I don’t understand but it seems to me that horses and burros make a lot more sense. When the chips are down, it’s damned tough to eat a jeep.

New School
New School

I visited the quaint old mining town of Randsburg. It is an intact but mined-out frontier town where things seem to be much as abandoned. A handful of folks still live there and eck out a living from the tourists and more swarms of off-road warriors.

Even I had to admire these hogs, and their riders loved the tiny trailer.
Even I had to admire these hogs, and their riders loved the tiny trailer.

This entire desert seems to be pock-marked with abandoned mines, and the odd monstrous mess of open pit copper mines, some still working. The wealth of a few has permanently scarred the countryside. I wonder at all those who worked this dry, hard country spending and giving their lives for another man’s greed. I suppose some things never change.

Once upon a dream
Once upon a dream

Eventually, on the next day at dusk, I fetched up in South Lake Tahoe. Maybe I was exhausted, but this place is one of the most vulgar locations I have found. This beautiful huge mountain lake is rimmed with a throbbing strip mall of crass commercialism and dotted with towering casinos. Everything seemed cheap and tacky. The road westward was snow-lined, steep and winding. The rushing traffic was heavy but I drove on until I was able to park at a fairgrounds in Auburn, a suburb of Sacramento. It was a long day.

Mined out
Mined out

Eager to make my way to Astoria, I drove off the next morning determined to be on the beach in Oregon that night. I did not know that the photos I was taking would soon be lost.

Dry hole
Dry hole

Through the fruit and nut orchards I went, picking and eating oranges, trying to capture some of the abundance with my camera. I followed the Sacramento River northward for miles as the countryside slowly changed. I ruefully recall one photo taken in a popular waterfowl hunting area. An entire store side was painted with the message, “We Pluck Your Ducks.”

All things shall pass
All things shall pass
Who has seen the wind?
Who has seen the wind?

I turned west at Redding, stopping to copiously photograph the beautiful old mining town of Shasta. There was no one around, the light was soft and pure. I took some amazing pictures. They are indelibly printed on the hard-drive in the back of my skull. Westward in the thickening rain I drove the spectacular highway along the Trinity River until finally I found the ocean again at Fields Landing. Home, driving through huge thick timber, horizontal rain and crashing surf. `I wondered about the sunset down in Jalisco as I crawled into my cold, damp sheets in Bandon, Oregon. My little trailer rocked in the buffeting wind. Home! Yeah right.

In the distance you could see the sheriff coming for miles. he never understood why no-one was home when he arrived with a warrant.
In the distance you could see the sheriff coming for miles. he never understood why no-one was home when he arrived with a warrant.

Fred Goes For A Drive

Fat Man In A Tiny Trailer       Part 1

This series, Fat Man In A Tiny Trailer, is the first in a series about my motor trip to Mexico and back home to Vancouver Island. I’m incorporating it into ‘Seafire Chronicles’ as part of that journey.

Orf to see the wizard
Orf to see the wizard
The little guy brings up the rear at the Coho Ferry terminal
The little guy brings up the rear at the Coho Ferry terminal

Aboard the M.V. Coho, Victoria is in the rear-view mirror, Port Angeles ahead. The journey has begun!  I’m feeling utterly ragged, old, obese, tired, even in some pain as I sit at this lap top computer blinking in the light of the sun setting over the Strait Of Juan De Fuca. There’s a fabulous sun dog hanging over Race Rocks. It’s twin lays to the south over the Olympic Mountains.  The seas are calm with a light Easterly wind and no swell. Never leave port on a Friday it is said, but I feel optimistic.

I love this old boat and its crew’s informal competence. The Coho runs as a successful example of free enterprise and should embarrass the hell out of British Columbia Ferry Corporation with its incessant whining and fare-raising. But…I’m leaving that all behind for a few weeks and hope I come back far better able to cope with life in the fat lane. (NO, not a typo!)

It’s been another day in the life of Fred, driving down to Victoria from Ladysmith, touring auto-wreckers along the way to find parts for the old truck I’m driving to Mexico. I actually found what I needed in only five stops, had a lovely visit with my daughter in Victoria, left Jack the dog in her care and I’m off.

God knows I can’t afford to do this, I already live the role of poor starving sailor-writer all too well but I also know that I can’t afford not to go. I can’t see anything clearly so I’m off to walk in the desert, literally and figuratively. It’s time for a pilgrimage. Thanks to a very supportive spouse and other good friends, I will see this through.

My personality flaws have me digging a grave with my fork. The fatter I become physically and mentally, the lower I feel and so even more comfort eating occurs. It is a deadly spiral. I’m two-hundred fifty-four pounds and with a surgically repaired heart it is overdue that I come to terms with living a whole life. I can plead to be a compulsive artistic type but I also know most artists aren’t recognized until they’re dead so better anonymous than stiff and famous. This will be a travel-log, more spiritual and esoteric than geographic but I hope its going to be as much fun as painful epiphany. 

I’m orf to see the wizard!

I’m armed with a down-loaded e-book call ‘FatLoser!’ It is about self discipline and mental toughness, explaining in blunt terms how to regain control of your life. It has grabbed my attention. I’ll share some quotes from time to time.

So rule one: Get used to feeling hungry and living with it.

I once smoked like a smelter and was only able to quit when I resolved to discipline myself to live with my compulsion. I knew that to stop smoking did not mean I would quit craving them for the while. So, a change of life style, a change of habits. Like so many in our culture I eat for every reason except to fuel a healthy mind, body and lifestyle.

Far out man!
Far out man!

This morning I’m writing in a tiny cafe on the Washington coast south of Forks. After buying a few groceries there last night I think it should be re-named ‘Knives.’ Wow! The store is the only game in town and bloody-well knows it. Their prices are

The seagull crossed the T
The seagull crossed the T

rapacious. I spent the first night in the trailer parked in a gravel pit under the waining gibbous moon. Rolls of fog drifted by, freezing in glittering beauty everywhere. All around me was the burned ruin of a raped forest and in the distance, I could hear the surf roaring on the beach. It was eerie. I managed to bend the truck’s back bumper against the trailer tool box while turning around on a muddy logging road and the trailer wiring needs some attention. But I’m taking the glitches as a good omen. I buy coffee and a small breakfast of biscuits and gravy, the sun is shining. I won’t eat for the rest of the day. The pavement where I’ll work on the ‘Rig’ is dry. Life is good.

Yeah Really.... A drift woody!
Yeah Really….
A drift woody!
As named by Lewis and Clark
As named by Lewis and Clark
Astoria Oregon and the bridge across the Colombia River as seen from Dismal Nitch, WA
Astoria Oregon and the bridge across the Columbia River as seen from Dismal Nitch, WA

In Astoria I stopped for a day to visit with my good friends Dave and Renee who live aboard their grand ketch ‘Aquarius’. I’ve met these folks through the Fisher Poet’s Gathering. I helped them in the early stages of their purchase when the boat was up in Cowichan Bay. I didn’t do much except to do a quick survey and help tie the boat deal up until they were able to close it for themselves. Mine was a tiny part but it sure is a treat to see how a plan can go right. The boat clearly is loved and responding nicely to their attention. It is very homey now and the two enthuse about the day they can cut her loose and sail South.

Astoria dawn
Astoria dawn

I then drove on down the coast as far as Newport, Oregon. The day was bright and warm and sunny. At times the road wound along a cliff-edge hundreds of feet above the pounding surf, where sea-spray clouded windshields and kept the road wet. Even though it is January the beaches

This marina is FULL!
This marina is FULL!

were filled with people. Happy children flew their kites and dogs pattered about happily. I acquired an indelible image that day while picking up a few supplies in a Fred Meyers store. This is a monster retailer that sells ever thang under one roof. I didn’t find the coffins and the used aircraft section, but I’ll bet they’re there. Some food isles ended near the sporting goods and there, next to the potato chips, I saw a father bending over with his very young daughter admiring the handgun display. Say no more!

Haystack rock, Oregon coast
Haystack rock, Oregon coast

Next morning the sky was clear and warm. I rose at five AM and headed inland to Bend. After the snowy cold of the mountain pass and the tourist town charm of Sisters the central and eastern Oregon Badlands are dramatically different from the coast. I felt a very long way from the sea and wanted to turn back. Eventually I turned south from the dying town of Burns into an ever expanding panorama of semi-desert high plains, volcanic rocks, cones and ridges and finally entered Nevada in the dark at a ghostly place called Denio. IMG_0105

A ghost from days past, when men were men, and nobody knew what a computer was
A ghost from days past, when men were men, and nobody knew what a computer was

It had been a T-shirt warm kind of day, but I awoke in my little trailer to find frost on my blankets and door windows, my water bottle was almost frozen solid.  I learned that the temperature was ten degrees Fahrenheit. Oh yeah, right, it’s still January!

Choose your ride
Choose your ride

Now writing in a dreary cafe in a deary place called Valmy Nevada, I’m catching up on my notes and taking another back road south from Battle Mountain. My diet is supported with a scarcity of restaurants in

Sport model, Sisters, OR
Sport model,
Sisters, OR

this big country with its many very big people.  I don’t know what they eat but WOW! My Fat Loser manual points our how libido and physical attraction diminish with the onset of obesity. Perhaps that’ll be nature’s way of thinning us porkers out!  It has occurred to me that a good analogy is how poorly a gasoline engine runs when it is out of adjustment and trying to burn a fuel mixture that is too rich. It just doesn’t operate smoothly, uses too much fuel, and is slowly self-destructing while offering diminished allround performance; just like a human!

Perhaps it’s the old pilot in me, but I’ve learn quickly to top up with gasoline at every chance in this big country. Signs promising ‘Next gas 127 miles’ may well be proven liar when and if you finally get there. I’ve filled a Jerry can with fuel that I carry in the back. Signs in fact are vague, sunburned blank, missing, or badly shot up. I’m glad I have a compass and altimeter which have actually proven their value, as well as the off-road floodlights I installed on the truck. Jackrabbits, deer, and antelope bound out of the dark vastness immediately in front of you.

IMG_0113

After studying maps and Google Earth I thought I had a handle on my route but nothing prepared me for the vastness and hugeness of this country. It is stunning. I have driven past a hundred fantastic photographs in my determination to get to Mexico as soon as possible. My bladder and aching bottom determine where the next photo opportunity arises. Maybe this will be known as the squirt and click trip.

The evenings are already clearly longer with the southing I’ve made but oh God how I miss the ocean! Sea of Cortez or bust! 

Posted in Parker, Arizona

Changing Pace

Well, it’s just another dreary winter night aboard ‘Seafire’.The wind and rain and darkness are a constant this time of year but I’m happy enough with what we have in comparison to the rest of Canada. Does anyone have a cure for webs between the toes? Hopefully, the little trailer is on the move within a few days and webegone for a few weeks. The blogs will continue from where they may.

A change of pace, a change of waters. This is the tideline during spring freshet in the Strait of Georgia showing the outflow from the Fraser River....here's to spring!
A change of pace, a change of waters. This is the tideline during spring freshet in the Strait of Georgia showing the outflow from the Fraser River….here’s to spring!

It has been occurring to me that ‘Seafire Chronicles’ is evolving from being merely a journal of the ‘Musings and mishaps of the crew’  to a description of a spiritual evolution of myself and some of my fellows. That, in large part, is what sailing is about but as I evolve I realize a growing interest in minimalism and movement away from the shallow waters of materialism. No worries, we’re still on track. (In my last blog, I mentioned a fascination with third world people and lifestyles. Let me recommend a NFB documentary I saw on Netflix called ‘The Chocolate Farmer’)

 I received an e-mail today from a friend who was celebrating an anniversary after realizing the cruel betrayal of a partner and then a horrible ordeal with health problems. This friend is a fighter and a survivor who, remarkably, is grateful for the better person they have become through their experience. I want to share a few lines from that e-mail. “So we love, we learn. I believe that our “stories” are always about ourselves, and the players within those stories are there for our own growth. There is no blame, no right or wrong, just discovery and truth. Finding our own truth is the key to serenity.”

 To parallel this dear friend’s inspiring words here’s a quote from Jean Gau, a solo mariner who sailed a very slow boat around the world twice. “They understood nothing of the great dream which charmed the seas of his passage since it was not the same lie taught in their village.”

 I have become convinced that you are probably doing something right when it does not agree with the status quo. If you are feeling ‘normal’ and generally fitting in, something is very wrong. Maybe I’m just a contrarian, but I have learned it is best to try to drink upstream of the herd. Popular opinion shouldn’t affect the course of your life.

Those people I admire most are able to stand out from the crowd and are not deterred from their goals by the contrary ideas of others. I am dead envious of folks who have found a partner with whom they have joined their lives and created a positive energy far in excess of their individual sums. What things they achieve! I’ve introduced my readers to a few of those couples. Recently I received an e-mail from another of these ‘Super’couples.

 A lady who was my Spanish teacher here on Gabriola Island moved home to her native Colombia with her partner. In two years Laura (Pronounced Loura, not Loro, which is Spanish for parrot. A bit of humour for a language teacher) and her partner Kelly, have cleared some land, started a small coffee plantation, built a house and started an English/Spanish language school. They are in Soccoro located in the foothills of the Colombian mountains where the climate is moderate, the soil is rich and the Eco-tourism industry is beginning to boom. The political climate has stabilized there. Cartegena is described by many as one of the most beautiful cities in the world and you can now feel at ease visiting there. If you are inclined to do something off the track and want a real Spanish immersion situation let me hook you up with Laura and Kelly. Most of the photos in this blog are courtesy of them.

Laura and Kelley have built this house in the mountains of Colombia...note the absence of insulation!
Laura and Kelley have built this house in the mountains of Colombia…note the absence of insulation!
L'escuela
L’escuela
A little piece of Canada in the Colombian Foothills
A little piece of Canada in the Colombian Foothills
Laura harvesting oranges on their finca (farm)
Laura harvesting oranges on their finca (farm)
Kelly and friend looking good at the end of the day
Kelly and friend looking good at the end of the day
YES. it works daily as the prime farm vehicle.That is really a 1966 F-100 truck. clearly, there's no road salt used there
YES. It works daily as the prime farm vehicle.That is really a 1966 F-100 truck. Clearly, there’s no road salt used there.
Doggy guards part of the coffee harvest
Doggy guards part of the coffee harvest

The drawing at the end of this blog is something I adapted with the intent of it being the logo for this boat when I was about to register it in Canada as the ‘Brass Monkey’. While in that process I learned that the name ‘Seafire’ which I had bestowed on a previous vessel had serendipitously become available. I took that as an omen. That’s why you’re reading the ‘Seafire Chronicles’ instead of ‘Tales Of The Brass Monkey’. I’m thinking of bestowing the drawing and the name ‘Monkey Business’ on my little teardrop trailer. Wotcha think?

Monkey business
Monkey business

Birds On A Wire

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The dog days of summer are over. It is wasp season. The little buggers, drunk on fermenting blackberries, buzz in your face and drive Jack the dog mad. Spiders are weaving big webs everywhere. Young swallows sit on the lifelines around my boat twittering, hovering, preening and shitting in my scuppers. I don’t mind a bit. They’re getting ready for the long flight south and I find marvel in the tenacity of this tiny yet feisty creature. How I want to fly away with them!

Yeech! I hate wasps!
Yeech! I hate wasps!

It has been a few weeks since my last blog. The days blur by in a grind of stoic effort to get ready for the coming winter. Hopefully there is still a way of getting old ‘Seafire’ south before it’s too late in the season but that leaves me a four to six week window to find the money I need and do the remaining things that need to be done. Whether or not the boat goes south, there are also annual maintenance items to be accomplished before the big wet dark winter descends. If this plan utterly falls down for autumn then I’m scheming how to take a small travel trailer south to Mexico for the winter. I’d leave it there, and maybe my truck, coming home in the spring to pick up the boat. There is an an awful lot of Mexico inland that the average yachter can’t access.

Plan F involves leaving next spring to harbour-hop south until the late summer hurricane season again eases enough to prudently move into Baha. After over twenty years of dreaming and planning it is very hard to resolve myself to waiting another year. I’d really rather get out there and just do it, without even seeing the beach until entering Ensenada, Baha to clear customs into Mexico. My Buddy Jim Poirier, on his Corbin 39, has just made the passage from Vancouver to Morro Bay, in Southern California in 13 days. He’s poised now to enter Baha waters on his way to the South Pacific. I’m very happy for him but I can’t say that his achievement cheers ME up. I’m still here.

For reasons of respect I won’t explain the personal circumstances that keep me tied to the bedpost but they must be resolved before I can leave. Being responsible can be onerous and frustrating but I want no reason that means I must come back. I want to do things I want to do instead of having to. Carrying this dream alone is a plodding ordeal of ‘I must do’ instead the serependipitous adventure it should be. Well now I’m beginning to whine and that definitely contravenes the standing orders on this little ship. Everything would look very different if I had a little money and only my attitude and persistent determination will change things to full launch mode.

It’s a cool, foggy Saturday morning on Labour Day Weekend. The butter has gone hard for the first time in months. All is blessedly quiet on the white plastic gringo boats. We locals are all counting the minutes until the weekend is over and the summer ‘Cruising’ season officially ends.  I know one is supposed to try and love all of God’s creatures but damn! Some of these folks make it bloody difficult! Going about one’s daily life should not be part of someone else’s intrusive amusement.  While bent to a very focused task I had one fellow who kept trying to tell me how to insert a screw in a hole!

After several brusk but restrained one-word responses I finally vented and bust forth in full red neck eloquence. His response; “Oh wow!”

I told another guy who was drowning me in free advise that if he “Truly knew that much about what I’m doing, then he’d know enough to shut up and leave me alone instead of yapping at my ass.” I’ve tried to explain to some about the little signs in garages which joke about doubling the rates when customers want to get involved. I’ve told folks that this is “Not an amusement park and just because I look like a clown doesn’t mean I’m here to entertain you!” I try to be a little more reasonable if there are kids in tow but when I look at a man’s hands and see that he has never done a stitch of real work, well, it’s time he tasted a pinch of blur collar perspective.

A couple of years ago, one summer visitor began quizzing me about the wind generator mounted on my boat. I seized the moment. I told him that it was a fan that enabled me to continue to sail when the wind quit. He was impressed and wondered, “What’ll they think of next?”

I know, I know, it’s time I went sailing.

Ubiquitous Pirates Cove Landmark
Ubiquitous Pirates Cove Landmark

September 1st this morning. Wow! Already! The way time flies it’ll be the 15th by this afternoon. I spent the night in Pirate’s Cove on DeCourcy Island. It was the home of Brother Twelve, an infamous local cult leader and generally slippery character, who lived here in the 1930’s. His old communal farm lives on as a lovely working farm. His group was so bizarre and paranoid that you can still find the remains of machine gun entrenchments in the encroaching woods.(After having spent yet another summer in the marina at Silva Bay I can imagine how he felt.) Last night was, despite a gale warning, absolutely flat calm. It was warm and the sky was crystal clear. The stars filled the night sky and were reflected on the water. There were a few meteorites. Satellites and high-flying aircraft crossed the arcing dome on stately courses.  There must have been a festival on Gabriola Island. Across the water came the echoing throb of drumming, all night. It took little imagination to conjure exotic images. The seals fishing outside the reef became crocodiles and the drifting log, a dugout canoe.

I know, I know, it’s time I went sailing.

You thought I was kidding about machine gun posts
You thought I was kidding about machine gun posts!
Things that go go bump in the night
Things that go bump in the night

I chatted up some folks aboard a Banjer 37 in the morning.  This, in my opinion, is an ultimate motor-sailor, Dutch-tough and very salty. It turns out to be the very same boat I was bidding on at the time I bought ‘Seafire’. ‘Wanderer’ of the Salish Sea is apparently in good hands and being well loved by Al and Lyndi, two nice people.  I’m a bit jealous of their jewel, but happy to say I love my own boat and all her unique quirks.

Wanderer
Wanderer

Home again now in Silva Bay, the long weekend is over, it’s safe to be back. The bulk of the weekend warriors are now gone till next Easter. There is a mass mindset about  “Boating Season” which I won’t try to understand and in fact feel thankful for. From now on through the winter, most cruisers will be those with the sea actually in their blood, and will generally be reasonable and interesting folks to chat with. Yes, I’m a snob. But after nearly half a year of again enduring mobs of the nautical wannabes and lookatmes, I’m more than a bit jaded.

Yeah; I know, I know, it’s time I went sailing.

A passing beauty
A passing beauty

Whiskey And Tea

 

As a writer I often hear clever lines or turns of phrase which leave me wishing I’d written them.

One of the dreads of being an artistic sort is to be accused of plagiarism, which is of course what we all do, at least subconsciously. We hope our work isn’t recognized as the subtle, or not-so-subtle, paraphrasing it really is, but none of us are that clever all that time. This morning I caught the lines of a song on the radio.Some like smokey whiskey, some worry their tea’s too strong”.Damn! I wish I’d written that! How do I reword this one and make it sound like a Fred original?

Flight to forever
Flight to Forever

It is Canada Day Monday, July 1st. Damn again! It has been over six months since my first blog, that commitment to set sail before the end of this year. Whiskey or tea for me? I like to think I’m a single-malt kind of guy but I’d better put some razzle in my dazzle, the days are flying by. Time and tide wait for no man. It’s been several weeks since the door closed on my job in the shipyard but the work accomplished on ‘Seafire’ is pitiful. The weather has been nasty and wet and I’m helping refit a friend’s boat but then busy people are the ones who get things done without making excuses. Yeah right! I just can’t seem to get motivated and don’t know why. Well I do, but it’s hard to admit openly.

Instead, I’ll revel in the glory of the day. The temperature in the main cabin yesterday was over 100° F and it felt good! More of the same today with no wind. Summer is here.

Ladysmith Maritime Sociey Clubhouse
LMS Clubhouse

I’ve broken away from the long-weekend madness at the docks in Silva Bay.

107 years old!
107 years old!

‘Seafire’ spent Friday night at the Ladysmith Maritime Society marina. What an amazing job those folks have done! The docks have been upgraded wonderfully. A stupendous clubhouse and visitor facility have been built. There is a great little floating museum with a lovingly restored and maintained fleet of vintage vessels. It even includes a gig from HMCS ‘Ontario’. These immaculate boats are used to provide harbour tours and certainly help provide a glowing example of what happens when people work together.

Varnish
Varnish

I’ve been a member of the LMS for a few years and am amazed at the transition in such a short time. It was not so long ago that these docks were decrepit and even dangerous. It was an extension of ‘Dogpatch’, a neighbouring fleet of derelict boats and liveaboard owners or squatters known for low-life activities and their ever-sinking vessels. The society then seemed to be a ‘Good old boys club’ strangled in bickering and personal agenda. There was a grudging acceptance of newcomers and a resistance to growth and change. Dogpatch is still there, abandoned vessels still litter the foreshore. But there is now a distinct divide among the two entities.

Pipe me aboard
Pipe me aboard

The old guard attitude seems gone now and there is a cordial welcoming atmosphere. With some new blood at the helm there has been a massive communal volunteer undertaking to upgrade the entire site. It is a wonderful success. There is plenty of guest moorage and some stunning new facilities which include clean washrooms and showers, a laundry room, a place to buy snacks and a huge area to mix and mingle or just hang out. The much-loved Purple Martins return each year to nest in their condos on the pilings and it’s great to see such progress in sleepy old Ladysmith. Kudus to all! It’s a great place to visit.

A gig's helm
A gig’s helm

The docks often host some interesting visitor vessels. This weekend it was the ‘Sarah Elizabeth Banks’. Now registered to the port of Seattle, this old steel-hulled beauty was originally a fireboat in Sunderland, England. A little online sleuthing shows ths vessel entered into service in 1906, with a pair of coal-fired steam engines! This vessel endured two world wars in a port famous for shipbuilding. Imagine the stories she knows!

Secret Beach
Secret beach

The last two nights have been spent anchored in Preedy Harbour on Thetis Island. The weather remains stunning, clear and gloriously hot; the water is quite swimmable and almost all is languorous bliss. This archipelago known as the Gulf Islands must be a jewel of the planet but I, for one, regret the influx of affluent gentry who seem to have overrun the entire area. No matter where you go among the islands there is no escape anymore from people. Solitude is not a sense I find in the Gulf Islands, at least in the summer months. Yesterday I watched a near-disaster as a small powerboat ran over the fallen water skier he was following. There were no bobbing bleeding baby yuppy bits and it all ended well as two boatloads of now-subdued drinkers absorbed their hard-earned lesson. I guess they were just trying to relax?

The Race
The race

This morning as I write, I can only hear the guttering of gulls and the gossiping of two ravens. Well… that changed as I typed that last line, now comes the whine of an outboard to which I’ll soon add my harmony as I take the dog ashore. Soon there will be the clatter of float planes, the drone and snarl of various boats, the incessant splatter of colliding wakes, and on shore there’ll be shrieking children, barking dogs and loud vehicles. In the background I can see and hear the sonorous presence of the Crofton pulp mill. Here again comes the Thetis Ferry emitting its piercing hydraulic howl.

Petrified Reboot
Petrified Reboot

I wonder what these islands were like before we white folks arrived to ‘civilize’ and otherwise desecrate this incredibly rich and beautiful region. Well that’s the way it is and I know I’m part of the problem. I’m here. I wonder how my perspectives would change if I were able to own one of these islands where I could erect my own garish and huge unoccupied mansion with accompanying monster dock and guest house. I understand the urge to stake out one’s own patch but with the evident multi-million dollar extravagances so prevalent I wonder why the hell they seem so little used. Money isn’t everything, but Oh Christ! I sure wouldn’t mind a change of problems!

Drifting and dreaming
Drifting and dreaming

Bitching and pondering will only underscore my envy of all the disposable wealth. I may as well admit that no matter where I travel I can think of no finer place to call home. So I’ll adjust my straw hat and sit back with some whiskey the colour of good tea. Oh by the way, ‘Happy Canada Day’. I raise my glass to thee. Eh?

Keep yer pecker up
Keep yer pecker up