Defeat Point and Beyond

Western blink Seaforth Channel, Westbound, 9:30 pm. Getting the hell out of Dodge
Western Blink
Seaforth Channel, Westbound, 9:30 pm.
Getting the hell out of Dodge!
The writer's Buzz A heap of horseflies begins to pile up with the first morning coffee
The Writer’s Buzz
A heap of horseflies begins to pile up with the first morning coffee

 

I’ve killed my first horsefly of the day. That is the only sign of time’s passing here. The damned things only come out once the temperature has risen to a certain point. Everything else is the sort of silence you can hear. If you think that statement is silly then you’re overdue to get the hell of of town for a while. Of course some folks couldn’t survive without a din of some sort to drown out the voices in their head. I feel blessed to be able to savour solitude and quiet. My voices prefer it like that. It is where I write and think best. The notion of going back to work and mechanical problems and other folk’s agendas and impositions leaves me feeling selfish and anti-social. I like it here! I don’t want to leave.

Conjuction Reflection. Look closely. Jupiter and Venus aligned to make one very bright star just after sundown
Conjuction Reflection.
Look closely. Jupiter and Venus aligned to make one very bright star just after sundown
Last light, Kynumpt Harbour
Last light, Kynumpt Harbour
Bambi on the beach, my partner for breakfast
Bambi on the beach, my partner for breakfast

Last post I mentioned the squeeze put on native people and even the ungracious allotment of reserve land. I’ve dug into my archives and pulled out an old photo of the crumbling edifice at Church House between the mouths of Toba and Bute Inlets. I remember the glow of the light that shone over the entrance to the church.

The last I saw of the old church at the Church House Village on Raza Island, 2006
The last I saw of the old church at the Church House Village on Raza Island, 2006

I was happy to see how that symbol of oppression had finally earned an obvious contempt. But, more than once, that feeble glow in the cold winter rain was a beacon which offered a gentle solace while passing in the dark aboard various tugboats. Then the village was abandoned, the lights went out, the church eventually fell down. Now, right down to the border of the tiny piece of reserve land, logging has denuded the forest. The photo says it all.

Respect The borders of the tiny reserve are easy to spot. Treaty? Yeah rightT!
Respect
The borders of the tiny reserve are easy to spot. The village is gone. Treaty? Yeah right!

I’m starting this blog while anchored in Kynumpt Harbour which, more correctly in Heiltsuk pronunciation I’m told is more like Ki-nump. No matter, I’m most content to be here all alone. I stood in the cockpit with the sun warming my body while eating my morning orange and watching a deer ashore leisurely grazing her way along the forest’s edge above the tide line. She nibbled at the flies bothering her and then de-materialized into the brush as if I’d only imagined seeing her. These are moments of feeling an intrinsic part of nature’s mosaic and its wrong that they be so rare. Then the horseflies arrives.

Kynumpt Village site
Kynumpt Village site
The last rose of Kynumpt ...and just look at the hips on that beauty, rosehips that is. some say that big rose hips are a sign of a long, hard winter ahead.
The last rose of Kynumpt
…and just look at the hips on that beauty, rosehips that is. Some say that big rose hips are a sign of a long, hard winter ahead.
Lunch in a sweaty hat with an infusion of crushed ferns.
Lunch in a sweaty hat with an infusion of crushed ferns.
One Sheet Hung Low Seafire in Kynumpt Harbour
One Sheet Hung Low
Seafire in Kynumpt Harbour
Seaforth Channel from Kynumpt Harbour
Seaforth Channel from Kynumpt Harbour

This harbour clearly houses the site of a former native village and I’ll go exploring ashore in a while. It is located inside a spot named on the chart as Defeat Point. I’ve no idea if that refers to a native battle or some explorer’s navigational flub. I’m beyond it and after yesterday’s debacle the name suits me fine. I worked on the July 1st holiday and took yesterday off in lieu to attend the local medical clinic and to enjoy a three-day weekend. It was a blistering hot day, by local standards, and the wait in the little Bella Bella hospital seemed interminable. I did certainly meet some very nice people on staff there. Finally I bought some groceries, stowed them away and the fun began. The engine started, but without tachometers and any sign of electrical charging. I tightened the alternator belt, checked the wiring harness, decided to replace parts of it, could find no other problem, and started out again. Kapoof! Within minutes, the engine temperature was out of sight. The belt had broken.

The waters here are very deep and anchoring just anywhere is not an option. The tide was taking me toward a steep rocky shoreline and so with tools and sole plates cluttered about, I sailed with just the jib toward a neck of shallower water. It was slow going but I didn’t want to complicate things with more sails and more lines strewn about in the mess. One of my tricks when in such a situation is to let out a hundred feet of anchor chain so that as the boat approaches shallower water there is an audible alarm of the chain on the bottom as well as having ground tackle already down to catch and keep the boat off the beach. That way, I can go about my repairs without popping up topside to constantly check my drift. And so I bent to my crisis. The new belt had broken and flung itself into the bilge. The engine was crackling hot, the air was crackling hot and so was the attack of the horseflies. They love heat, the smell of engine fumes, and sweaty human bodies, especially ones where the victim has both hands fully engaged. New belt installed, charging system still defunct, engine cooled enough to add coolant, off I go again now worried about having enough reserve battery power to hoist the anchor chain.

Pecking Order. Officers of the watch on snag lookout.
Pecking Order.
Officers of the watch on sundown lookout snag.

Yep, you guessed it, kapoof again! The brand-new belt had jumped a lower pulley and jammed itself against the engine. Now I had to pry that out from the hot, hot, hot engine, swatting at flies and cursing the gods in general. I had one more spare belt, slightly heavier than the previous ones and so much harder to install, but all’s well that ends. Greasy, scalded, fly-bitten, I cursed myself for thinking I was any sort of mechanic, for owning a goddamned boat, and for ever coming to this bug-ridden corner of the godforsaken world. I hobbled back to Shearwater but couldn’t bring myself to go to the dock. I was close to parts and extra tools should I need them, good enough! I anchored , out and began to change more wires and connectors, feeling utterly defeated. All’s well that ends. At 9 pm, permanent repairs complete, greasy, tired but determined, I headed off into the lingering sunset, hoping to put the day behind me. It was a good decision.

I realized my bittersweet luck was that I hadn’t found myself in the same situation on some distant rocky lee shore miles from the hope of parts and help. Once again, self-sufficiency is the mantra of the cruising sailor and yes I’ll have an armload of new belts put into ship’s stores right smartly. Murphy will find something else to dump on me. That thought has me alluding to the incredible ineptitude of many of the yachters passing through Shearwater on their way to and from some distant point on this wild, uninhabited coast. However, that’s one of the reasons Shearwater Marine is here and how I make my living but there’s at least one blog due to be written about the amazing ,inability of people to wipe their own bottom in any sort of imperfect situation. HOW do they survive? Well the sun is rising, there is a growing mound of swatted horseflies at my feet and I’ve just heard the wonderful din of Sandhill cranes which must have just arrived somewhere nearby. More later.

On the fold It seems that everywhere you want to go is on the fold in the chart. Unfortunately, there'll never be a boat in my life with a full-sized chart table.
On the fold
It seems that everywhere you want to go is on the fold in the chart. Unfortunately, there’ll never be a boat in my life with a full-sized chart table.

The clearing proved to be an old native village and more recently, a logging camp, with old machinery bits on the beach, cherry trees growing in the middle of what was a large clearing. I’m also told that this was once the site of a Nordic pioneer settlement. The mystery is sweet. The ugly evidence of old-style logging (Hand saw and axe) lingers on the hill behind. The self- regenerated forest is very eerie.  I may post a blog of those photos alone. On the way back to the beach I picked a hatful of succulent berries on the edge of an old clearing. They were delicious and I savoured them in the heat of the day as well as the cool aroma of crushed ferns under my feet. Now I’m in a place Called Blair Inlet and that too may well deserve a blog for itself. I’m now well beyond Defeat Point and as happy as an old clam can be.

Now it is Sunday morning and the air warms as the tide ebbs. The colours are surreal. My photos cannot capture the glacial-like topaz of the water, the source of its colour is an absolute mystery. The trees add their greens, the sky its blue. The thick ancient forest, as usual, appears dead and deserted but little birds twitter and eagles watch silently. You know a deer or a bear or wolf can appear anywhere at any time. Instinctively one begins to move quietly and cautiously with the hope of a glimpse of wildlife. There is always a sense of being watched. I’ve tried, unsatisfactorily, to photograph a massive eagle’s nest, currently in use. The inhabitants watch over me as I write. I am utterly and wonderfully alone. There is no sight or sound of any other people having been here. No drone of motors on the water or in the air, no contrails, no logging. Just a view of the jungle and ocean the way it has been for a very long time.

Well except for the horseflies. They rise early in the morning and ply their trade of absolute fiendish anarchy throughout the heat of the day. Thankfully they vanish in the early evening. Trying to nap when they are about is impossible. They employ strategies. Sometimes they come alone and attach silently. Other times they have a sonorous buzz. While one distracts you others attack from behind. The only way to kill them is to wait until they settle and lock themselves into a painful bite. Then, if you are quick, you can smack them and feel the satisfying crunch-squish of vengeance. They still seem able to revive if you are not willing to smear them into eternity. They could be called Lazarus flies. Eventually as the day wears on, one is harried to a manic mindless slapping, even at imagined flies. Perhaps they are disenfranchised souls and in their frantic efforts to reproduce, death in battle is an honourable way to achieve a new level in the next life. There’s the name! Isis flies!

Beating out of Seaforth Channel against a warm Westerly breeze
Beating out of Seaforth Channel against a warm Westerly breeze

This inlet is dotted with many small islets. I suspect they may well have been burial islets. I sense no presence, only a languorous peace. The spirits are content and so they should be. I took a long tour about the area in the dinghy last even until I was off the chart. There is an infinity of inlets, islands, coves, nooks, reefs and bays. In all the miles I meandered, I found two boats anchored in a cove about an hour from here. It’s not an area where I’d want to break down but the overwhelming beauty, and magical light draw you on and on in awe.

I’ll be back.

A little to the left! The hilarity of trying to catch a decent selfie.
A little to the left!
The hilarity of trying to catch a decent selfie.

Everywhere there is an ominous faint smell in the air of woodsmoke from distant forest fires and yesterday’s evening sky held a red tinge. In this present drought the threat of fire is all too real and one can only only pray for rain. (Even bottled water in the stores has become a sold-out commodity.) In Shearwater the crew has checked out the fire trucks in preparedness. My heart tightens at the memories of fighting forest fires. There is nothing pleasant or romantic about any of it. CBC Radio is all we can get here and they have an incessant barrage of reports about the forest fire situation across Western Canada. It seems we are burning up this summer and the drought shows no sign of breaking.

It was released. to catch a cod like this, you have to be trolling too close to the bottom.
It was released.
To catch a cod like this, you have to be trolling too close to the bottom.

were two mornings this past week when it was cool and foggy. It was amazing how suddenly cheery folks were. The doomer-gloomers have it that this is a sure sign of global warming and we must to change our ways. While we do have to try much harder to be better guests on this planet, the cycles of nature are far beyond our control. There have been years like this before. Meanwhile, it’s swat and sweat while we look forward to the return of steady rain and fog.Then, some of us will be anxious to go south and find the sun again.

It was eaten. Just enough for one meal, gear stowed and homeward bound. I don't believe the regultions should allow you to keep more than one fish per day. How much can you eat?
It was eaten. Just enough for one meal, gear stowed and homeward bound. I don’t believe the regulations should allow you to keep more than one fish per day. How much can you eat?

I’ve finally be able to get a satellite dish installed so now I have reliable, useable internet which allows me to work as a writer who can now reliability send and receive necessary data. I know, I know, I’m always going on about minimizing our needs and about dependance on external sources. Unfortunately I need to stay in touch with the rest of the world and its frenetic modern pace. While shutting out the rest of the world entirely is appealing, to have a hope of working as a writer, doing research and sending data, I must have a reliable cyber-link. I’ll also confess that having a good movie to watch on exhausted lonely evenings is a fine luxury. And, winter is coming. Already he long lingering light of late evening is noticeably shorter. It was pitch dark by 10:30. Soon enough, nightfall will occur before the work day ends. Movies or not, it’ll be due south

The hairy monster. Someone's old dock becomes someone else's new dock. Time for a change of bio-mass.
The hairy monster. Someone’s old dock becomes someone else’s new dock. Time for a change of bio-mass.

The days have passed in an ugly blur. It has been a week since I began this blog and the weather has been hot and bug-ridden. People have been short-tempered and ill at ease. Work has been a daily drudgery tramping up and down the dock for more tools to look after demanding customers. Oddly, many issues this week have been overheating engines. One small job was to check out a motor in a lovely Kelly Peterson 44′ center cockpit cutter. It was a gorgeous, solid, capable vessel crewed by three women. They have sailed her from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Mexico and then on to these waters to produce an overview of British Columbia’s Marine Parks. Nova Scotia, apparently, does not have a similar program and these women are working to inspire a change to that. Having once worked very long and hard to help save one marine park in BC, I wish this trio a grand success. This is nothing finer than a voyage which is also a mission.

This afternoon the skies have clouded and the temperature has dropped from the mid-thirties to, at present, nineteen degrees. It feels positively nippy. It is a testament to the nature of life on the mid-coast of BC, that the overcast has cheered everyone up immensely. It might even rain soon. YES!

The nail. The get home fix. A year later.
Good enough! The nail. An essential marine steering component.
The get home fix a year later.

 

The boat beneath my boat.
The boat beneath my boat.
Low tide on the Hooterville dock. That's Seafire on the end, poised for flight.
Low tide on the Hooterville dock. That’s Seafire on the end, poised for flight.

The perfection of a yacht’s beauty is that nothing should be there only for beauty’s sake.” …. John MacGregor.

Thin Ice

Treaty Celebration Day celebrations included a potlatch and canoe races
Treaty Celebration Day celebrations included a potlatch and canoe races

These are interesting times at Shearwater. The R2AK race from Port Townsend to Ketchikan Alaska is passing by. It is a race for boats, paddle and wind-powered, along our 750 miles of rugged coastline. I have no interest in racing of any sort but I admire all of those who set out on this gauntlet of both inner and outer stamina. Yesterday morning, in the rain, I heard my name called out from beneath a sheltering cedar tree. It turned out to be Quill, Dylan and Mitch, the Barefoot Boot racing crew from Silva Bay. They were participating in the race with the boat which was purpose-built this past winter. All looked trim and fit with a healthy light in their eyes. Travelling by self-propelled boat does that for you. In days past the Haidas of these latitudes built and paddled dugout canoes as far south as Puget Sound. They were feared and respected by all along the way and returned with slaves and booty all the way back to Haida Gwaii. “How was work honey?” “Blew a paddle on the big bend.”

Bella Bella Kerplunk The water's never too cold for kids on a hot summer day
Bella Bella Kerplunk
The water’s never too cold for kids on a hot summer day

 

The Decision "I know I've got to, but what's holding me back?"
The Decision
“I know I’ve got to, but what’s holding me back?”

On notes about the hardiness of indigenous people a news story this week reports the recent discovery on Calvert Island, just south of here, of great archeological significance. Foot prints and the remains of a campfire have been confirmed as 13,200 years old. This is apparently the oldest confirmed evidence of human habitation in North America. Check out www.Hakai.org This is the website for the research group on Calvert Island who found the site. There are some fabulous photos there which may leave you wanting to rush up this way for a visit.

McLoughlin Bay big HousB
McLoughlin Bay Big House

I know I jump out on thin ice with a few things I write, but you nor I could not respect what I write if I’m only trying to please popular opinion. That, ultimately, never works. One of the intriguing features of this area is that there is ample evidence to prove the long presence of previous occupants. As the indigenous people were over-run by the colonists they were constantly shuffled to smaller reserve areas before being moved finally to municipal, or sub-urban residential locations and where they can be easily “administrated.”

The way we were Abandoned net loft, Old Bella Bella
The way we were
Abandoned net loft, Old Bella Bella

I believe that everyone’s mutual humanness must have first priority over gender or race. No-one should have special entitlement because of who their ancestors happened to be. I understand that is a controversial perspective, but I also know folks of indigenous descent who feel that this attitude is the only route to full equality. I also however feel strongly that the measure of character for anyone is evidenced by how we keep our word. Our governments have manipulated and ignored the agreements made with our first nations people. A deal’s a deal and I am embarrassed by how our politicians have altered treaties to suit their own agendas.

I swear! I saw it move.
I swear! I saw it move.

In the recent self-righteous uproar about the report submitted by the Truth And Reconciliation Committee Of Canada on the abusive native residential schools, we’ve learned the term “Cultural genocide.” (By the way folks, BULLSHIT! WE DID SO KNOW what was going on, we just chose to turn our heads) This report is no epiphany. It has always been the way of conquerors through history to decimate their victims by destroying their language and culture and then writing the history books to their your own agenda. Introducing new diseases which almost obliterated indigenous populations was an incidental and convenient weapon of great benefit. Obliterating prime food sources worked pretty well too. Then along came the priests and their damnable schools and churches to save the surviving dark, pagan souls. That endeavour condemned so very many to a miserable and unthinkable existence, all in the name of Christian peace and love. Now, a few weeks after the residential school report’s release, the politically correct rhetoric has died and the beat goes on as ever.

Boardwalk Place The main office and boardwalk which were the center of the cannery.
Boardwalk Place
The main office and boardwalk which were the center of the cannery.

I’ve just finished reading “The End Of Faith” by Sam Harris. He presents a conjecture that all religions are based on imagination and raw fiction. Masses through human history have been controlled and manipulated by the imposition of countless religions. We continue to let this devious mindlessness (Yes, I perceive consumerism as yet another religion) to direct the course and meaning of our lives. I agree with the implications of Harris’ rant but cannot deny our spiritual being. The blackness of religion is that it so often strives to actually diminish the spirit it claims to enhance and uplift. As the old cowboy song went, “Send your money to Jesus, make out the cheque to me.” Religion, commerce, capitalism, greed, misery. Enough said.

Knot Funny
Knot Funny
And then the rope broke
And then the rope broke
The circle is now broken! Debris at the old cannery
The circle is now broken!
Debris at the old cannery

Most of the copious resource-based communities of the past few centuries along this coast are already decayed, forgotten, gone. Fish canneries, docks, mines, shipyards, sawmills, entire communities in many places are now mere memories mouldering back into the environment from which they were so laboriously carved. The population on this coast was quite large until mass urbanization began to occur in the late 50’s and 60’s. There was an entire industry just serving the needs of these communities. Eventually nearly everyone wanted to abandon rural life and lemming their way to town where they could load their dishwasher and then try to get a good picture on their new colour TV. “A little more to the left, no, no back a bit. Keep your hand right there!“You’ve just stale-dated yourself if you understand what I just wrote about.

The Sliver King Here is some excellent power saw work, square and vertical. Bring your own cushion to watch the sunset.
The Sliver King
Here is some excellent power saw work, square and vertical. Bring your own cushion to watch the sunset.

Small communities, some built entirely on rafts, began to disappear. A very long list of place names like Holberg, Allison Harbour, Butedale, Namu, Port Harvey, Minstrel Island, Port Neville, Ocean Falls, Zeballos, Winter Harbour, are some which are now ghost towns or don’t exist at all. They are once again just jungle, where the forest reaches quietly out over the ocean as it almost always has. Older nautical charts will display a small square dot, with a place name and the letters P.O. meaning Post Office. That’s all gone now. Pilings, crumbling buildings, and a few rock berms mysteriously linger in many backwaters. The people who worked so hard are gone, their industry forgotten and now meaningless.

Looking back under the brine-burned branches
Looking back under the brine-burned branches

Native villages like Mamaliculla (Or Meem Quam Leese) and Karllukwees were evacuated as tuberculosis epidemics swept over them. I recall visiting Mamaliculla in the mid-80s when the last remaining totem pole leaned precariously. A half-finished long house sported massive cedar beams. It was a wonder how these huge carved logs had been hoisted into place. The homes appeared to have been abandoned overnight, with clothes still in drawers, food in cupboards, utensils in kitchens. In the school, the piano remained in its place, destroyed by damp. There was an eerie sense to the evidence of how the place had clearly been abandoned so desperately quickly. I wanted a souvenir but didn’t want to feel I was robbing anything of value. I found an envelope addressed to Harvey Mountain c/o Vancouver Police Jail. I thought it was a poignant cultural essay on how a proud culture had been decimated and homogenized. Apparently there is still a large, respected family of Mountains in the Alert Bay area.

A beautiful junk passing through
A beautiful junk passing through
A famous BC-built schooner 'Passing Cloud'
A famous BC-built schooner
‘Passing Cloud’
Other men's dreams
Other men’s dreams

The remaining populations were relocated in places like Campbell River, Port Hardy and Alert Bay. Succeeding generations remain there but wonderfully those folks are fighting to retain their culture and language before it is gone forever. They have the respect and endorsement of most people. The Haida have regained control of their ancestral homeland and proudly share their culture with outsiders who hold an interest. What a wonderful thing that is!

I received an e-mail about Koala Bears in Australia actively approaching people and begging a drink of water during days of extreme heat. I found that fascinating but what intrigued me was the accompanying quote which read, “Until one has loved an animal, part of their soul remains unawakened.”

Some friends, whom I love dearly, passed through Shearwater on the weekend. While we share many views, one of our disparities is that they are not animal lovers. I’ve endured lectures from them on how North Americans spend too much time, money and affection on their pets when there too many children in need of love and nourishment. They’re right of course, but inspired by the above quote, this dog-lover would like to add that until one is able to love, and accept the uninhibited love of an animal, they will never be able to fully share non-conditional love with any person. One of the joys here in Shearwater is some of the lovely resident dogs as well as some from visiting yachts. I desperately miss my own buddy Jack, and hope he’ll forgive my infido-elity. Speaking of critters one of the things I’ve noticed here is the lack of seagulls. There are some, but they don’t live in mobs and don’t swoop in when there are scraps to be had. There are crows and ravens who stay on top of the local clean-up duties and there is a large number of eagles looming large over nearly every scene. Where ‘Seafire’ is moored there is a squeaky little bird who goes on, and on, through the day with an energetic metallic noise like a worn-out pulley. A raven hides somewhere in the trees above and sounds like a one-bird Punch and Judy show. It has a variety of weird, silly voices. On a gloomy day one could easily believe in ghosts.

There are also swarms of horse-flies, or moose-flies, if you prefer. There are also deer-flies and while they disappear after the heat of the day, the cooling evening draws out the black-flies and sand-flies. The bugs certainly don’t begin to match the numbers I’ve known elsewhere, but these nasty pests can still ice the cake on a hot, airless day. You’re hunched down over a mechanical job, with sweat-smeared glasses, skinned knuckles bleeding scarlet out of the black grease on your hands. That is when these chunk-biting beasts descend and begin their feast. At least they leave no itchy bumps; just blood. Gee thanks. We’re supposed to love all of God’s creatures. Right!

An amazing model This 17' wingspan model was custom-built to commemorate the Stranraer flying boats once based here. They were know by some as the whistling birdcage because of the noise made by all the rigging wires.
An amazing model
This 17′ wingspan replica was custom-built to commemorate the Stranraer flying boats once based here. They were know by some as the whistling birdcage because of the noise made by all the rigging wires.

As I sit writing into the dusk the sky overhead is laced with jet contrails west and east bound on their great circle routes to and from Asia. We are clearly immediately beneath a North Pacific air route. My brother is a pilot for Air Canada and I wonder which of those shining specks might be him. I also look up and find myself thinking that now we’ve delineated every possible inch of the earth, we’re drawing lines in the sky.

Ghostwriters in the sky. Beneath the flyway to Asia
Ghostwriters in the sky.
Beneath the flyway to Asia

Now, on July 1st, there is a conjunction of planets which will produce an illusion of a super star as Jupiter and Venus align themselves although they’ll still be several hundred million miles apart. These are interesting times at Shearwater.

That you bro?
That you bro?

 

Remember it was a professional who built the Titanic

and an amateur who built Noah’s Ark.” …Vanessa Linsley

Fraggle Rock

BACK OFF DUDE! Guardian totem of Bella Bella islet, sacred burial ground of the Heiltsuk Nation
BACK OFF DUDE!
Guardian totem of Bella Bella Islet, sacred burial ground of the Heiltsuk Nation

My new life here on Denny Island is proving to be more than a bit enigmatic. There are times when, with my twisted humour in full swing, I rename it Fraggle Rock. The big challenge is dealing with all my fellow citizens, and yes, I am well aware that I am now one of the denizens. (how’s that for a clever pun?) The people here can be divided into three groups. There are those who have lived here their entire lives, they may even be second generation locals. The second group is comprised of folks like me, who have come here for something different or because, like me, they don’t quite fit into the sensibilities of urban life. The third group are the indigenous people whose ancestors have lived here for millennia, the Heiltsuk Nation.

Denny Island was once the site of the original native community, Old Bella Bella. In front of that abandoned village lies Bella Bella Island, a sacred burial islet guarded by a fierce totem.

None of us non-natives dare set foot there and rightly so. Across the waters of Lamma Pass sits the present community of Bella Bella and Waglisla. They are complete with public wharf, general store, police station, school and hospital. That’s not much; but it is enough to cover basic needs and proof that the human race can survive very nicely without institutions like Walmart and MacDonalds; believe it or not. There are airfields on both Campbell Island to serve Bella Bella and here on Denny Island. There are also, of course, float planes to charter and BC Ferries provides a very expensive service to Port Hardy. Return airfares to any place out of here exceed fares to Europe. Life here without a boat is, for me, unimaginable.

Murphy, Shearwater greater, dog-and child sitter, and guardian of the Hodge Podge store.
Murphy, Shearwater greeter, dog-and child sitter, and guardian of the Hodge Podge store.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A tribute to Murphy
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A map from home to Murphy at “Danny Island”

.

The Heiltsuk Nation, as described by Wikipedia, is a First Nations Government on the Central Coast of British Columbia. It traditionally occupied about 6000 square miles in this region and evidence shows they have lived here continuously for the past 9,700 years. These are the people who turned Alexander MacKenzie back on his famous trek across Canada. He was able to dip his toe in Pacific waters but was not permitted to travel all the way to the open ocean. Presently they number about 2,200 and 1,400 live in Bella Bella. I have been befriended by some and find most of these good folks dignified and wonderfully gregarious. I can respect their culture and heritage and at the same time feel embraced simply as a fellow human being. I feel none of the racial tension I’ve found in some other first nations communities. I arrived here just as the federal report on Native Residential Schools was released. Coincidentally I just finished reading ‘The Inconvenient Indian’ by Thomas King. I recommend this book as a candid and articulate overview of the injustices our indigenous people have endured and often continue to. The balance achieved between the native community here and the white population, I think, is a good example of successful human interaction.

Downtown Shearwater
Downtown Shearwater
When the bait well goes dry
When the bait well goes dry

Denny Island is a great rocky island named in 1866 by the British Captain Pender for a Lieutenant Denny. There’s no information about what he’d done to deserve the honour although the British, like other colonizers, loved naming new places after themselves. The forest that grows here is ragged but thick and ancient. There is not enough soil for a larger forest to take root and the island, because of the hard rock base and the copious rain, is covered by cedar swamps, stunted forest, and small lakes. As the second world war advanced into rampant paranoia of a Japanese invasion on the West Coast, the Canadian military performed a major engineering feat. They carved a seaplane base out of solid granite in very short time. Number 9 Squadron operated here between 1941 and 1944.

The Orifice! The engine shop where I work is in the right hand corner of the old hangar. This phot was taken at approximately the corner of the second hangar, long burned-down. On the concrete apron between the two, I can imagine the parked flying boats, men in blue marching to brass band music, shouldered Lee Enfields and a sense of tension as fog swirls over the roof tops.
The Orifice! The engine shop where I work is in the right hand corner of the old hangar. This photo was taken at approximately the corner of the second hangar, long burned-down. On the concrete apron between the two, I can imagine the parked flying boats, men in blue marching to brass band music, shouldered Lee Enfields and a sense of tension as fog swirls over the roof tops.

That something this large could be conceived, built and abandoned in such a short time is a wonderful example of human genius and industry. It also begs the question about why such endeavour can so seldom be employed for peaceful means. The base was never manned by more than a thousand people but it gave a presence in this wilderness from which our waters could be patrolled and from which attacks from invading vessels could be repelled with force. Originally there were two large hangars which supported a squadron of Stranraer biplane amphibians and then Canso and Catalina flying boats. It is that aviation heritage which, in part, drew me here.

My Little bomb shelter in the woods. Entrance to one of the old bomb shelters, a great place to practise graffiti art and smoke a joint!
My Little bomb shelter in the woods.
Entrance to one of the old bomb shelters, a great place to practise graffiti art and smoke a joint!

After the war, the base was sold as part of the war assets liquidation program. Andrew Widsten and his wife bought the development and the Shearwater Marine Group was born.

Denny Island Old Growth Forest. STRUTH! You don't have to be big to be old. With not enough soil and too much water, this is what happens in many areas of primordial forest here on the raincoast.
Denny Island Old Growth Forest. STRUTH! You don’t have to be big to be old. With not enough soil and too much water, this is what happens in many areas of primordial forest here on the raincoast.
Drought in the bog, it's apparently unheard of in these parts but this is the year.
Drought in the bog, it’s apparently unheard of in these parts but this is the year.
PULL UP, PULL UP! A view of the Western end of the Denny Island Airstrip. Never a view you want to see from the cockpit.
PULL UP, PULL UP!
A view of the Western end of the Denny Island Airstrip. Never a sight you want to see from the cockpit.
The bomber. A Pacific Coastal Airlines Grumman Goose. A classic aircraft form the '30s, poetry in motion.
The bomber.
A Pacific Coastal Airlines Grumman Goose. A classic aircraft from the ’30s, poetry in motion.

Approximately midway between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert it is a logical stopping point for fuel and servicing. It is located in the middle of some of the world’s best sport salmon fishing and that is certainly no liability. BC Ferries offers an infrequent service here and Shearwater itself provides a barge service to link this base and surrounding small communities to the outside world. Now Craig Widsten maintains the dynasty as a second generation entrepreneur. I can only imagine the challenges and logistics of successful commerce out of the mainstream.

Beyond Spiller Channel. a view Westward from the airfield.
Beyond Spiller Channel. A view Westward from the airfield.
My neighbour. perfect Pacific Northwest year-round liveaboard cruising vessel.
My neighbour. A perfect Pacific Northwest year-round liveaboard cruising vessel.
Hooterville Sunset. My home moorage for the time being. The light here can be magic.
Hooterville Sunset. My home moorage for the time being. The light here can be magic.
The Root Source A twisted piece of yellow cedar, perfect for a bowsprit cap.
The Root Source
A twisted piece of yellow cedar, perfect for a bowsprit cap.
Cutting the sacred wood to size
Cutting the sacred wood to size
Fitted to the bowsprit, ready for the carver to work his magic.
Fitted to the bowsprit, ready for the carver to work his magic.

 

I’m presently enduring a weird sort of flu to which many newcomers apparently succumb for a couple of weeks. I miss my previous endeavours restoring old boats and I can’t say I’m enjoying the tedium of being bent over corroded, greasy motors every day. You can never work fast enough and everyone feels they have a priority emergency. There are characters parachuting into your already-overloaded daily agenda with things they try to demand be attended immediately. There also is an issue of bringing in the correct parts from far-off suppliers in a timely and affordable manner. Coordinating the local air service with the water taxis can be a bit challenging as well. It certainly ain’t dull and I drag myself back to the sanctuary of my boat at the end of each day feeling like a very weary old sod.

Value-Added Forestry This sawmill produces beautiful cedar lumber from beach-combed logs.
Value-Added Forestry
This sawmill produces beautiful cedar lumber from beach-combed logs.
Blurry, my friend the red squirrel. he's very hard to photograph, he moves around so quickly.
Blurry, my friend the red squirrel. He’s very hard to photograph, he moves around so quickly.
Shearwater Gym, the big yellow punching bag. It is actually a helicopter water bag used for fighting forest fires.
Shearwater Gym, the big yellow punching bag. It is actually a helicopter water bag used for fighting forest fires.
Roughing it. how the poor folks come to fish.. The Shearwater helipad, often a very busy place.
Roughing it. How the poor folks come to fish… The Shearwater helipad, often a very busy place.
Shearwater's main artery The freight barge and ferry ramp.
Shearwater’s main artery.
The freight barge and ferry ramp.
The rather good, the not so bad, and the very ugly. Shearwater "Hobo" dock.
The rather good, the not so bad, and the very ugly.
Shearwater “Hobo” dock.
Don'tcha buy no ugly boat! Local "Punts" not pretty but very handy.
Don’tcha buy no ugly boat! Local “Punts” not pretty but very handy.

I’ve moved ‘Seafire’ from the transient work dock, called the “Hobo” dock to the employee’s moorage which I’ve decided to name Hooterville. Things are a bit rustic but it is sheltered and offside from the din and dust of a very busy shipyard. Wi-Fi and cell service are marginal but there are solutions coming. My first pay cheque has hit the bank and of course it’s a fraction of what I need but life is an adventure and we’ll stay the course. Meanwhile the weather is generally clear and warm with a minimum of biting insects… although the horse flies are very friendly indeed. Today’s blog is again more of a photo essay than any sort of diatribe. I look forward in future blogs to sharing anecdotes about local history, local characters and points of interest, all the while striving to get this old boat to a latitude with indigenous palm trees.

The wharfinger's shack at dawn
The wharfinger’s shack at dawn
Tide-locked. Low slack at the dock.
Tide-locked.
Low slack at the dock.
Indian paintbrush, Rainbow Island
Indian paintbrush, Rainbow Island
Cornerstone of the planet. A view eastward in gunboat Pass...or is it somewhere in Scotland?
Cornerstone of the planet.
A view eastward in gunboat Pass…or is it somewhere in Scotland?
Red-Headed Whoopers Beautiful in flight, incredibly noisy upon landing
Red-Headed Whoopers
Beautiful in flight, incredibly noisy upon landing and big enough to peck your eyes out…while standing!
Recycling. fresh water returning to the sea.
Recycling.
Fresh water returning to the sea.

The cure for anything is saltwater.

Sweat, tears, or the sea.”… Isak Dineson

Over The Horizon

One Last Look Back Lewis Channel at dawn, the magic light of the coast
One Last Look Back
Lewis Channel at dawn, the magic light of the coast

I’m settling into my new life in Shearwater. There are some enigmas to sort through. It’s interesting how wilfully coming to a semi-remote location magnifies our dependence on modern technology. A marginal, overloaded internet system leaves me in absolute frustration trying to communicate with the outside world and while posting my blogs. The computer is determined to crash and burn and none of my red-neck vocabulary helps at all. My mobile phone works marginally and at the moment I have also been blessed with some many-tentacled virus which is insidious. It snot funny but it will pass. I may have brought it up from the south with me. I hope I don’t start an epidemic. One of the few pleasures of getting older is knowing that nothing is forever. Yet there is also value in tenacity. While I recently heard hope described as the ultimate human torture, it prolongs suffering; I have also been inspired by the ship’s spider.

Town center, a thing of wonderful beauty
Town center, a thing of wonderful beauty

While travelling up Fitz Hugh Sound, I polished the metal work on the boat and discovered a spider sitting in the middle of its web beneath the bowsprit. Despite all the plunging and dunkings it endured in Queen Charlotte Strait the wee beast has endured. I’ve named him the Baptist. This superstitious sailor believes a ship’s spider is a good omen and so I wish him well.

The Raven and the Eagle, Bella Bella totem
The Raven and the Eagle,
Bella Bella totem

The area is pristine, immense, wild and free. So are many of the people drawn here. Some are aberrant personalities and where I fit into the complex culture here is yet a bit dubious.

The Raven and The Eagle, Waglisla
The Raven and The Eagle, Waglisla

Those dark waters seem to swirl and back-eddy daily. For the time being I remain the new hermit cautiously settling in to life on a rickety dock nestling at the edge of a small industrial slash in the mid-coast jungle. My welcome in the engine shop was a large jar of Vasoline set on top of my tool box. Redneck scatological humour, I can relate to that easily enoughand iff you don’t get it, there’s no point in me trying to explain. The available internet here is, to say the least, terrible. There are some cockamamie excuses about life in a remote location. But by my experience, this place is neither remote nor off the grid. It is 2015 and I know what is available in truly remote locations. Nevertheless there is a good solution soon available, and one of the joys of living on a boat is being able to untie and bugger off. That option sustains me.

A Guardian. One of many.
A Guardian.
One of many.
See! Here are ten.
See!
Here are ten.
The 'Chilcotin Princess' a droemer coastal trader in these waters. Fortunately I grabbed this photos only a few days before she was towed off to the breaker's yard in Prince Rupert
The ‘Chilcotin Princess’
a former coastal trader in these waters. Fortunately I grabbed this photo only a few days before she was towed off to the breaker’s yard in Prince Rupert

After two weeks I already have plenty of anecdotes and observations about the area and its characters, its history, its culture. For this blog however, I am simply posting photographs with captions. Hopefully I can convey my sense of wonder for this place and how this adventure becomes part of my journey to a life in Mexico or points south. I realized recently that the legend on the boat’s dipstick is in Spanish.

Yep! It's a panga! Built in Florida, registered in Montana, fishing in Shearwater.
Yep! It’s a panga! Built in Florida, registered in Montana, fishing in Shearwater.

To my great wonder one of the first boats I saw as I entered Kliktsoatli Harbour, where Shearwater is located, was a beautiful Panga. Some local folks have sailed their boat from here to Ensenada, Baha in seventeen days. So, I can lay out a rhum line southward and then turn left when the butter goes soft. Meanwhile I’m a bilge ape again for the time being, like it or not. Hi ho, hi ho, it’s down into the bilge I go.

Edgar the Eagle, mascot of Shearwater
Edgar the Eagle,
mascot of Shearwater

 

The dreaded wheel barnacle
The dreaded wheel barnacle
In many backwaters here, there are abandoned boats in various states of natural recycling. If only they could talk!
In many backwaters here, there are abandoned boats in various states of natural recycling. If only they could talk!
Donkey cove
Donkey Cove
Dryad Point Light Station, a mid-coast landmark
Dryad Point Light Station, a mid-coast landmark
Kakushdish Harbour sunset
Kakushdish Harbour sunset
Into the jungle from the beach
Into the jungle from the beach
The cannery, old Bella Bella
The cannery, old Bella Bella
Seafire at the Shearwater "Hobo" dock
Seafire at the Shearwater “Hobo” dock
A very high tide a day's end
A very high tide a day’s end
Snoop, a passing mariner
Snoop, a passing mariner
The Bosun's mate, snoop's fellow deckhand
The Bosun’s mate, Snoop’s fellow deckhand
Shearwater sunset, Edgar's perch.
Shearwater sunset, Edgar’s perch.

Each day as I trudge to work I look ruefully toward the mountains in all directions. I ache to explore the inlets winding among them. On calm mornings, I swear that, faintly, I can hear the boom of surf on the outer islands only a few miles away. My fate lies out there. I am impatient. And nearly always, from somewhere, there is the call of eagles.

The way of water is special. That which changes cannot be lost. That which yields cannot Be broken. That which breaks cannot be destroyed.

How easy, then, to be unmastered.”

….Ray Grigg ‘The Tao Of Sailing’

Into The Jigsaw Jungle

Good Bye Ladysmith Life is a journey and a new adventure begins
Good Bye Ladysmith
Life is a journey and a new adventure begins

I like to mention occasionally that the amazing coastline of British Columbia runs Northwestward to Alaska and ascends through four hundred nautical miles of latitude. Within that distance we have over seventeen thousand nautical miles of shoreline. There is an intricate labyrinth of islands, islets, and inlets. It is as if someone has dumped a monstrous jigsaw puzzle out and nobody gives a toss about fitting anything together. There is a writhing network of very long dead-end inlets, or fiords if you prefer, and also interconnected waterways of seething tidal waters that are studded with hungry reefs. Prudent navigation and local knowledge are essential.

A Cumulus Eclipse The gods seem to smile as I head northward
A Cumulus Eclipse
The gods seem to smile as I head northward

As you travel up the coast by boat the geography and forest vegetation change rapidly with noticeable new features. The water becomes clear, cold, jade green and rich with marine life. The presence of people diminishes quickly once north of the Strait Of Georgia and those who do live there often have characters of strength and individuality. I feel at home and whole once clear of the South coast and its complexity of sprawling population in the prime retirement zone of Canada. The ordeal of the boat trailer as described in the previous blog underscored my growing inclination to find a simpler world. Pre-seniors like myself compete fiercely for menial employment which rewards a lifetime of experience for token remuneration.

Careening on the beach for bottom maintenance among the wrecks of Dogpatch in Ladysmith Harbour
Careening on the beach for bottom maintenance among the wrecks of Dogpatch in Ladysmith Harbour. The N or King is a former WWII mine sweeper which also had an illustrious career as a fishpacker. It seems nearly every other fisherman claims to have crewed on this boat at some time.

At the same time I have uncovered a job possibility as a marine technician in a place called Shearwater which is on Denny Island located between mainland Canada and Haida Gwaii. It is a beautiful area, tiny within a huge archipelago of pristine wilderness. You can travel an entire day without meeting other boats and little, if any, evidence of human presence. I tied up some loose ends, pooled my limited resources and sailed away. Jill, my long-suffering wife, gave me tremendous support despite the demands of her very demanding career. For the time being at least she’s got me out of her hair with only Jack the dog to trip over at the end of the day. Meanwhile I’m steeling myself for the transition between being my own man and jumping to the edicts of someone else.

Boats Of Note Seafire is on the left inside the break water, then a not-so-shining example of why we pay the big dollars to ride BC Ferries and disguised immediately above the power pole is the tug 'Bandera' southbound with a log tow. I've spent many weeks of my life aboard this boat. It is where I had an accident which drastically altered my life and saw the installation of half a plastic heart. "Bionics rule!"
Boats Of Note
Seafire is on the left inside the break water, then a not-so-shining example of why we pay the big dollars to ride BC Ferries and disguised immediately above the power pole is the tug ‘Bandera’ southbound with a log tow. I’ve spent many weeks of my life aboard this boat. It is where I had an accident which drastically altered my life and saw the installation of half a plastic heart. “Bionics rule!”

Because I was northbound the wind, of course, was from the Northwest, on the nose as usual. I visited with friends in Silva Bay then headed across the strait to crawl up the mainland coast into the wind. I was disgusted by the explosion of condominiums and suburban development and happy to heading away from this insidious cancer. After a night anchored by Vananda I stopped in Powell River for fuel. Despite a massive downsizing in the forest industry the town struggles on. The locals are very friendly, the views are spectacular and real estate prices are quite reasonable. I asked one fellow for directions to an auto parts store and was promptly offered a ride. The community is like that. I left a black streak on the hull from the fuel dock fenders and while scrubbing it off, the young lady on duty offered me warm water for my hands! I decided to break for a last meal ashore and found myself enjoying the best burger I’ve ever had in Carter’s Cafe On Marine. It’s just a few steps up from The BC Ferry terminal and public wharf. Run by two lovely ladies the cafe is a spot I’m happy to recommend.

The wind eased as I motored on and with a gale warning still posted I was determined to cover as many miles as possible. For some reason marine weather broadcasts love to employ the term “Quasi-stationary”. Quasi, of course means nearly or almost and the determined use of it is certainly quasi. So I travelled northward under the influence of a quasi-stationary front.

Carter's Café. Great food served by lovely people.
Carter’s Café. Great food served by lovely people.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Their Neighbour

After a long night in Church House where the night wind against the tide from Yuculta Rapids held old ‘Seafire’ broadside to the elements. The anchor chain dragged and rumbled across

Yet another sign in Powell River... too close to the bone for me!
Yet another sign in Powell River… too close to the bone for me!
all she needs is love, and a new engine. What a little beauty!
All she needs is love, and a new engine.
What a little beauty!

the rocky bottom and I was up early to tackle the rapids ahead. The Yucultas, Dent and Green Point Rapids slid behind in a few hours and after The Wellbore Rapids I was bashing into the promised rising Westerly wind. Sometimes, it takes up to three days to move a log tow through these notorious tidal bores. I found a calm anchorage in one of the two Jackson Bays within Topaz Harbour and set about clearing a blocked fuel line from the starboard tank. That took until midnight and after a candlelight dinner of Dollarama couscous, at first light, about 04:30, I was on my way northward.

Ten PM sunset over Sonora Island from Church House anchorage
Ten PM sunset over Sonora Island from Church House anchorage
A few hours later
A few hours later
Now THAT'S a leaf blower! A Hughs 500 helicopter and a Turbo Beaver at a private home on Stuart Island, Yuculta Rapids
Now THAT’S a leaf blower! A Hughs 500 helicopter and a Turbo Beaver at a private home on Stuart Island, Yuculta Rapids

The Westerly winds which blow down Johnstone Strait can be quite vicious. The seas are horrible when the tide is ebbing against that sort of blow. Westerly winds tend to build during the day and then ease as the sun sets but I was determined to make it to Port Harvey where I could go many miles out of my way to trace a tortuous track northwards which would bring me out slightly north of Port Hardy on the mainland side of Queen Charlotte Strait. I’d need to cross to Port Hardy for fuel and groceries before pressing on. Despite a forecast of 30 knots of wind on the nose I continued on past Port Harvey until the end of Johnstone Strait at Blackney Passage. The wind was easing so I continued on past Alert Bay ending up anchoring for the night in Beaver Harbour, only a few miles from Port Hardy. I was elated with my progress and nostalgic for the days when I plied these waters on tugboats.

Mermaid Bay, Dent Rapids This is where log tows are tied while their tugs wait for a favourable tide through the next set of rapids. All the boats erect a sign, hopefully higher than all the others. I've spent many long nights here.
Mermaid Bay, Dent Rapids This is where log tows are tied while their tugs wait for a favourable tide through the next set of rapids. All the boats erect a sign, hopefully higher than all the others. I’ve spent many long nights here.
The "Ugly House" Milly Island near Port Neville on Johnstone Strait
The “Ugly House”
Milly Island near Port Neville on Johnstone Strait

It has been fifteen years since my work boat days ended but memories flooded back. I recalled how in Lewis Channel a skipper named Cliff (who could never catch enough fish or take enough crabs) had managed to lasso a deer swimming across the channel. In Teakerne Arm we arrived at 02:00 to pick up some log booms. There was a fishing boat tied to the booms and when it became clear that they were losing their moorage spot there was an angry, staccato tirade from the Asian family aboard, prompted by an elderly matriarch. They were determined that they were there first despite our explanation that we had tied our booms there days earlier. We resolutely connected our booms to the rest of our log tow and with a cheery “See you in Vancouver” headed south. The fishing boat soon untied and went its own way.

"Tings all over" Taking some lumps in Johnstone Strait
“Tings all over”
Taking some lumps along the way

Towing logs through the Wellbore Rapids at daybreak we came upon a middle-aged lady in a kayak. She had been camping on a stretch of beach when rousted by bears. It turned out that she had paddled from Seattle to Alaska and was on her way home. I remember her when some yachter boasts to me about a minor passage as if it were an epic voyage.

Beautiful downtown Alert Bay. Once home of the world's tallest totem pole it was also in the Guinness book of Records for having the most taxis per capita
Beautiful downtown Alert Bay. Once home of the world’s tallest totem pole it was also in the Guinness book of Records for having the most taxis per capita

On another trip I was in the wheelhouse as the mate bantered with another boat in the proximity of Milly Island in Johnstone Strait. There is a house built on the island and one of the mates was braying on about what an ugly structure it was. Suddenly the home owner spoke out on the VHF. “Look buddy, your tugboat ain’t no thing of beauty either!”

Beachcombing. To progress against wind or tide hugging the shore is a game of nerves and intimate local knowledge of every rock. It is not for the faint of heart. Many log tows make their progress this way, even in the dark.
Beachcombing.
To progress against wind or tide hugging the shore is a game of nerves and intimate local knowledge of every rock. It is not for the faint of heart.
Many log tows make their progress this way, even in the dark.

I rather like the sight of the house and its posture of independence, especially after that particular conversation.

Along way home...and we're just getting started. Looking south down Johnstone Strait.
A long way home…and we’re just getting started.
Looking south down Johnstone Strait.

Just south of Milly Island is Kelsey Bay. The boiling tides in that area will make passage extremely difficult to the point that one night a deckhand and myself renamed the place, “Suction city.” We fought the tide rip that night for hours. Mu experiences in these particular waters inspire as much respect as the dreaded Seymour Narrows. Across from Kelsey Bay is Yorke Island which hides the amazing secret of a massive artillery fortress. Perched on the top of the island it nestles in the trees where it was built during WWII to fend off Admiral Yamamoto and the boys, should they arrive. Even many seasoned watermen aren’t aware of the huge installation. The old fort is probably most famous locally as the site of a hippie commune in the sixties. Peace Man!

Morning, Beaver Harbour near Port Hardy
Morning, Beaver Harbour near Port Hardy

Immediately north of Yorke Island is a bald rock called Fanny Island which is a large bald granite rock clearly visible and marked with a flashing light. It is a well-known check point for commercial marine traffic. One very dark but calm night, while passing nearby with a log tow, the VHF burst into life. “FUCK!. I mean Mayday, Mayday! HOLY FUCK WE’RE SINKING!” A fishing boat had hit Fanny Island. Encumbered with a massive log tow we couldn’t rush to assist but I turned on all our deck lights and summoned the engineer to break out the pumps. While the stricken vessel limped the long mile across to us I relayed the Mayday to the Coast Guard. A Coast Guard inflatable arrived an hour and a half later, its three crewman looking like orange popsicles after their high-speed winter night cruise up from Campbell river. They relayed another pump from a passing tug. We’d already rigged a collision mat over the puncture in the boat’s hull and had two pumps going to keeps things afloat. That effort, I surmise, was perhaps aided by the thick layer of empty beer cans bobbing around in the flooded engine room. Once sufficiently warmed by our galley stove the coast guard crew officiously announced that they would take charge of the sinker. We were only too glad to comply.

The "Inseine" dock, Port Hardy fish plant
The “Inseine” dock, Port Hardy fish plant.
Mixing work with pleasure boats. some of the moorage in Port Hardy
Mixing work with pleasure boats. Some of the moorage in Port Hardy
Thar be monsters at these docks! I don't know what the hell it was, but I sure wish I could swim like that!
Thar be monsters at these docks! I don’t know what the hell it was, but I sure wish I could swim like that!
The collection. an admirable contempt for authority in Port Hardy
The collection. An admirable contempt for authority in Port Hardy
My kind of house. Adequate, sturdy, simple and right beside the sea.
My kind of house. Adequate, sturdy, simple and right beside the sea.
Goletas Channel, northbound from Port Hardy. Did the Spanish explorers, who named these waters, wonder if this might be the beginning of the fabled Northwest Passage?
Goletas Channel, northbound from Port Hardy. Did the Spanish explorers, who named these waters, wonder if this might be the beginning of the fabled Northwest Passage?

Now entering Queen Charlotte Strait, I recalled how this reef-studded body of water is sometimes known as the “Rock Garden” by skippers who have made stormy transits in the dark of this ragged corner of the North Pacific. There is ample material to write about. I’m preparing to publish a sequel to ‘The Water Rushing By’ which is now available from Amazon as either a p.o.d. paperback or as an e-book from Kindle.

A cruise ship in Queen Charlotte Strait. One salmon says to the other, "Look at all the canned people!"
A cruise ship in Queen Charlotte Strait. One salmon says to the other, “Look at all the canned people!”

Port Hardy clings to life after the decimation of the local mining, fishing and forest industries. Eco-tourism and, like it or not, aquaculture seem to have become the cornerstone of the local economy. Buying some provisions, one of my items was a vacuum-packed pork hock. I joked about how big a pork hawk must be if it can haul a pig away. The cashier didn’t miss a blink, “Maybe they’re even big enough to pack you away!” I stopped for lunch in a local bar and restaurant and noticed a sign admonishing clients not to smoke within the proximity of the establishment. Including a list of possible massive fines, it warned that “Jails isn’t a comfy place!” At the marina where I was moored, the clerk in the liquor store worried about how I was dealing with the “Heat.” It was a scorching twenty-two degrees with a cold, damp breeze blowing in from the sea. It was also worried that there was too much wind to leave to dock and then as I pulled away, I had to wait for a passing fishboat named “Eastern Sunset.” Strange, very strange. I moved on and spent the night in a popular little bight called God’s Pocket, then headed into the grey beyond early next morning.

Downtown God's Pocket. Thassit! I've always wondered where Devil's Pocket is.
Downtown God’s Pocket.Thassit! I’ve always wondered where Devil’s Pocket is.

 

THE G SPOT A log tower's mark in god's pocket
THE G SPOT
A log tower’s mark in God’s Pocket
THAR!... Yep you've got it! Grey whale ahead
THAR!… Yep you’ve got it!
Grey whale ahead.
Dive, dive, dive! Now you think you saw him, then you begin to wonder.
Dive, dive, dive!
Now you think you saw him, then you begin to wonder.

Queen Charlotte Sound is bounded on the North by Hecate Strait which is the body of water separating Haida Gwaii (still charted as the Queen Charlotte Islands.) On the Southern end of the sound is Queen Charlotte Strait and various other areas also bear Charlotte’s name. To further thicken the stew, the passage between Bowen Island and Horseshoe Bay, near Vancouver, also carries her name. When King Edward III married her in the eighteenth century her maiden name was Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Electress of Hanover. She bore randy old Ed fifteen children so perhaps that is why this area, with all of its islands, is so eagerly named after her. Thank God we don’t have to employ her entire long handle each time we refer to this area. What a mouthful that would be on the radio!

Something missing? A Grand and elegant US-registered yacht. Too bad he didn't have any money left over to buy a Canadian courtesy flag. It is an ultimate nautical rudeness not fly the ensign of the foreign country when in its waters.
Something missing?
A Grand and elegant US-registered yacht.
Too bad he didn’t have any money left over to buy a Canadian courtesy flag.
It is an ultimate nautical rudeness to not fly the ensign of a foreign country when in its waters.

My crossing was uneventful and typical with the open-ocean swell shuddering in under local tide slop and spastic bursts of wind. Rolls of light fog and drizzle welcomed me to the mid-coast. I gazed out onto the broad grey, open curving horizon and ached to head that way. My mind began to clear and I began to scrawl quick thoughts in my journal. Journal? Now there’s a good sign, it’s been a while since I did that. Where I can read my writing I find lines like “He spent money like a sailor and played guitar like an African” or “drowning in the waters you walk on.” Dunno what either one is about but someday it may blossom into sensible eloquence. Writing and photography, I find, require being able to grab to the glory of the moment and saving it for future edification. At least with a camera, there’s not a lot to interpret later on.

Scarlett Point light, Balaclava Island. Now a rare manned light station. I received a hearty wave from someone in the house on the right.
Scarlett Point light, Balaclava Island. Now a rare manned light station. I received a hearty wave from someone in the house on the right.

How about this? It was scratched out somewhere north of Egg Island.

I feel the ocean swell’s rise

As my happy boat begins to glide

This passage fills me with pride

Because I’m doing what few men do,

Exactly what I want to.

Land's end The northern tip of Pine Island
Land’s end
The northern tip of Pine Island
Growlers in the Rock Garden. Queen Charlotte Strait is not a place to be sleepy in the dark and/or in heavy weather.
Growlers in the Rock Garden. Queen Charlotte Strait is not a place to be sleepy in the dark or in heavy weather, or both.
The open horizon Beyond Nawhitti Bar The urge to head that way was hard to resist, Mexico is just down there, three weeks away.
The open horizon Beyond Nawhitti Bar
The urge to head that way was hard to resist, Mexico is just down there, three weeks away.
The crack out back. Egg Island from the north. The original light station was swept away by a Tsunami without trace several decades ago. Sleep tight.
The crack out back. Egg Island from the north. The original light station was swept away by a Tsunami without trace several decades ago. Sleep tight.
Addenbroke Light Station Fitz Hugh Sound
Addenbroke Light Station
Fitz Hugh Sound
Motor-sailing northward in Fitz Hugh Sound. The clear warm day was most unusual.
Motor-sailing northward in Fitz Hugh Sound. The clear warm day was most unusual.
Southbound. The Alaska State ferry 'Columbia' passing Namu
Southbound.
The Alaska State ferry ‘Columbia’ passing Namu
In one of a thoussnd secret anchorages in northern waters. Can you smell wood smoke, hear drums, see dugout canoes?
In one of a thousand secret anchorages in northern waters. Can you smell wood smoke, hear drums, see dugout canoes?
A natural totem. After ten pm, looking out to Hakaii Pass
A natural totem. It’s still daylight after ten pm. Looking out to Hakaii Pass.

Once into the shelter of Calvert Island the remains of the day turned warm and clear and calm as I motor-sailed northward up the broad waters of Fitz Hugh Sound. At the northeast tip of Hecate Island I found a calm secluded anchorage just at the edge of Hakai Pass. The ancient trees lean out from the worn granite where they cling tenaciously, their brine-burned branches festooned with moss and hanging kelp. It is my last night before arriving in Shearwater and the frantic frustrations of a new job and settling into a new community. For the moment, no-one else on the planet knows where I am.

Haida Moon
Haida Moon
Still Waters Nobody knows where I am and it's all mine!
Still Waters
Nobody knows where I am and it’s all mine!

Bliss.

The sea finds out everything you did wrong”…. Francis Stokes

THE TRAILER (It can’t be done)

 

I love taking my dog Jack for a walk first thing in the morning. His full enthusiasm for all things is cathartic and inspires me to think freely. Some mornings I gain special insights. Jack loves patrolling the feral waterfront in Ladysmith. It is all former coal mine terminals; there is still plenty of coal laying about. Now covered in blackberries it is home to vast numbers of rabbits. Some days Jack has to choose which one to chase. Their population rises and falls in cycles. I’ve noticed that when their numbers become excessive the rabbits tend to be less wary and are dull and careless. They become stupid. I think it may be part of nature’s way of thinning down their numbers. You know what I’m going to say next.

I think the same is true of people. We’re clearly in a state of overpopulation. Here’s an example.

I’ve previously written blogs about a friend’s classic sailboat which I rebuilt. Transported to Gabriola from Oregon it came on a custom-built trailer which was part of the deal. For eight years the trailer languished in the weeds at the back of a farm. Consequently the import documents became stale-dated. Finally a decision was made to sell the trailer and the paper chase was on. Travel permits had previously been obtained to move the trailer about on Gabriola Island. No problem again; we thought.

Now it had to go to the big island for a visual review by Canada Border Services. Suddenly there were grave doubts that permits could be issued to take the trailer off of the island. I pointed out that a road in British Columbia was legally the same no matter where in the province it might be. All that logic did was provoke a copious round of head-shaking and eye-rolling between desks in the insurance office.

Then, after a half-hour of “Can’t be dones” and various other “Yeah buts”, while I simmered outside, the exact same permit as ever was issued once again. Huh? Then off went my friend and I to a local lawyer where in ten minutes we hand-written a ‘Power of Attorney’ document, stamped it, signed it, copied it and got on with the remains of the day.

The Trailer This is the potential threat to Candian civility, order, national security and especially minor bureaucrats
The Trailer
This is the potential threat to Candian civility, order, national security and especially to minor bureaucrats

I hauled the trailer across to Nanaimo on the ferry. Knowing the trip back, when you pay the fare, would be very expensive, I intended to deal with matters at the office of the Canadian Border Services, then take the trailer on to the local Canadian Tire Store for (what I was assured was a mere formality) an approved federal inspection confirming correct tire inflation, working lights and brakes and so forth. That was required before the final conformity decal for the previous provincial inspection could be issued. Confused yet?

Those ladies at CBS were very kind and gracious despite one surly colleague who went to visually inspect the Vehicle Identification Number on the trailer. I had clearly told him where the number was stamped into the frame. He returned declaring nothing was there but rust. I gently offered to take him back to the trailer and show him. His two colleagues rolled their eyes at me, waved him off and filled in their papers with the number I had given them. If I was that confident, so were they. It was a jumble, but there were copious documents saying duties and fines had previously been addressed.

Now, instead of going for the final inspection as planned, I learned that I’d have to wait to hear from a federal agent in Ottawa who would issue me a numbered RIV inspection form. (RIV is the Registrar of Imported Vehicles) It actually arrived online in a few days and before I could address the matter I was advised that the permit application was about to become stale-dated, perhaps I should request an extension. If that lapsed the entire process had to begin again. The problem was that the trailer had been put to work by the purchaser to store a valuable classic sailboat which first needed to be unloaded and there were several reasons that couldn’t happen. But finally the day arrived.

The lane into the boat house is uphill, steep, soft and sloped to one side. ‘Dorothy,’ the boat, had been loaded in a hurry and was sitting too far back on the trailer. That imbalance caused the hitch to want to lift violently and so we chained it down to the tow bar of a 4×4 truck. In turn, the hitch wanted to lift the back of the truck and we almost managed to tip old ‘Dorothy’ off into the woods on the downhill side of the lane. Our second attempt had the trailer hitch flipping up and destroying the tailgate of the truck. But no one was injured, well, perhaps our pride took a beating.

Using jacks and chain blocks strapped to various trees we were able to winch and push the boat, an inch at a time, into its cradle in the boathouse. The hours flew by. Finally the trailer was free and off I roared to Canadian Tire. This time, I had decided to forget the temporary road permits and simply borrowed the license plate from my own trailer. It was a dangerous risk should I be caught but I’d had enough of hearing about what can’t be done.

The end was in sight. Yeah right! No way. The builder’s plate was too badly weather-worn to be legible. I mumbled that it would have been easier to grind of the VIN stamps and declare the trailer as being home-built. NO! I was warned that would precipitate an entire new convoluted process even more frustrating than the present situation. Hey folks, it’s only a trailer we’re trying to legitimize here, not a fleet of Russian submarines. No-one in this story is being cheated, exploited, assaulted, raped or otherwise abused. I have imported boats and aircraft into Canada. As a logging and construction equipment salesman, I bought and sold big yellow machines internationally as far away as the Philippines. Never have I know such amateurish bungling.

I’ll repeat myself: IT IS ONLY A DAMNED BOAT TRAILER!

Defeated for the moment, I hauled the trailer off to Ladysmith and parked beside my own little trailer. The VIN plate on my trailer is new and clearly legible. The wheels and tires are exactly the same as those on the boat trailer. In a moment of inspiration I transcribed all of the data from one trailer to the other. I used an electronic tape printer, then covered everything with clear tape. The empirical data was about gross weights, axle weights, tire pressure and so forth. There are no lies, the category and capacity of the trailer’s running gear are well within limits. I towed the trailer to the Canadian Tire store in Duncan for a fresh attempt. I decided to stick to the truth and explained what I had done. Fail! No tampering could be tolerated. Tampering? The VIN is clearly stamped in the frame in two places. What has been tampered with? I let your imagination cover the range of four-letter expletives now raging in my brain. It was also pointed out that there should be additional side lights installed. I drove off in a fog of defeat. But not for long.

With little left to lose I returned to the first Canadian Tire Store with a careful story. There was a line-up at the service desk and I noted the raised eyebrows when I was recognized at the back of the queue. My yarn was that with the aid of an infrared viewer I was able to barely discern the original lettering on the sticker and decided to re-apply those markings on top of the originals. And by golly, another US-built trailer with the same size wheels had exactly the same values on it’s builder’s plate. Go figure! Without going out to inspect my data, the man with the stamp said “Good enough” and clunk bump went his rubber stamp. Then the document was in the fax machine to the folks at RIV. I paid my token fees and as I turned to leave I heard, “Oh darn! I forgot. The trailer is supposed to have a spare tire.” There was a long pregnant pause as I scowled like a frustrated bull. I was waved on.

Feeling faint from the latest round but not daring to feel smug, I raced off to the Gabriola Ferry Terminal, paid a huge fare for the trailer and made it to the auto shop before it closed for the weekend. “NO! We can’t issue you the approval decal without another inspection. It’s been too long since the trailer was last here. Don’t know what you’ve been using it for.” I’m proud to say that I didn’t lose my temper but instead gently explained that the trailer had not been used on the road until today. That was after being charged a huge sum to put things right. Now I was being asked for more money to inspect their own work. Everything was back in the crapper again.

Fortunately the tiny office was beginning to fill up with other customers and I clearly wasn’t leaving without my little decal. I won. The trailer was delivered to its new owner, I received the balance due, which I needed for my next adventure, (see my following blog) and went off into the sunset, exhausted but content to think I had completed an endeavour which folks repeatedly said could not be done.

The phone ran next morning. The trailer’s buyer was at the Gabriola insurance office. Uh huh!

Can’t be done!” Despite having an official government transfer/bill of sale document signed in all the right places by the vendor, the agent was now asking for a bill of sale between the vendor and the purchaser on a single separate document. The vendor was working in Peru, I had to leave town in another day. They also required a copy of a bill of sale between the vendor and the fellow in Oregon he had bought it from.

Somewhere, regularly all these folks must get together over a pint or ten and gleefully compare stories about their bureaucratic impositions. VAC: the Vexatious Agents Club. Well, with yet more shenanigans, I believe everything has been put right to everyone’s satisfaction. All’s well that ends. The trailer, by the way, once finally licensed is never going to leave the new owner’s back yard.

Non-epilogue! Wrong yet again! The beat goes on. Now it has been decided that ALL copies of ALL documents must be submitted, even though it is obvious which copies of which documents have already been entered into due process. The serial number of the trailer has been officially inspected and confirmed by official documentation three times, this local agent wants to visually inspect it again. Problem is, there’s another boat sitting on the trailer now. An email arrived from RIV saying that all the process was complete and that they were sending an official decal to be attached to the frame of the trailer. When the new owner presented that information to his local agent he was told that the entire process had to be started again because she insisted on having all of the papers she demanded, instead of simply saying, “Oops, guess I was wrong, so sorry.”

Nope! When my friend challenged her negativity and her “Bullshit” he was thrown out of the office. An ensuing call to her head office confirmed that the documentation as provided was in fact adequate and no more was required. Eventually a contritious call from the now-chastised local agent is bringing the entire lugubrious affair to closure. There was however, no apology for inventing and attempting to enforce her own rules.

The poor frustrated friend who bought this sack of trouble, sent me the following.

Bureaucracy 101, Lesson 1

Instructor to students: “Repeat after me, this cannot be done.”

Student raises hand: “Why can’t it be done.”

Instructor to student: “You are obviously not cut out to be a bureaucrat, please hand in your books and leave now”.

Instructor to rest of students: “Repeat after me, this cannot be done!!! Any questions?”

Somewhere in the background, is a sad voice softly singing “Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen.” As other countries like China and Mexico, for example, slowly work their way toward a democratic, humanitarian and reasonable system of government and administration, it seems that Canada is determined to retreat in the opposite direction. This sad tale of the trailer is one small example of a system which is top-heavy with minor bureaucrats. There is a federal election coming this fall. For God’s sake, VOTE. It is our apathy that has allowed this infection of stupidity to invade our entire state of being.

Trailer for sale or rent ...remember the song? Just wait until I show up to register this puppy. don't laugh, she's almost paid for.
Trailer for sale or rent
…remember the song?
Just wait until I show up to register this puppy.
don’t laugh, she’s almost paid for.

This just reappeared out of my archives. It came, years ago, from a friend. The timing is perfect.

Sometimes things don’t go from bad to worse, some years the Muscadet faces down frost: sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well. A people sometimes will step back from war, elect an honest man: decide they didn’t care enough, that they can’t leave a stranger poor. Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts don’t go amiss. Sometimes we do as we meant to. The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow that seemed hard frozen.

May it happen to you. …anonymous

"When in fear or in doubt, raise your sails and bugger off out." ...Tristan Jones In the straight of Georgia heading north for an new situation. More to come in the following blogs.
“When in fear or in doubt, raise your sails and bugger off out.”
…Tristan Jones
In the straight of Georgia heading north for an new situation.
More to come in the following blogs.

 

The Barefoot Yacht Tinker, Wyatt In The Culvert And The Womanist

Welcome to Ladysmith. An early morning birdbath. Any place with a downtown roundabout has something going for it. The anchor was salvaged from the harbour bottom.
Welcome to Ladysmith.
An early morning birdbath. Any place with a downtown roundabout like this has something going for it. The anchor was salvaged from the harbour bottom.

The proverbial ‘Barefoot Shoemaker’ is someone who is so busy plying their trade that they have no time (or money) to make shoes for themself. This old yacht tinker is in a similar boat. (yes, that’s a pun) I’m so often at work in someone else’s boat. When there is so much to do on my own. When living aboard ‘Seafire’ I don’t have the energy at the end of the day to work on my own upgrades if it is possible at all while living in that same small space. I bought the boat four years ago and immediately had lists of “To do” lists. As soon as one item is crossed off, two more are added to the bottom. Some days it is just not fun and sadly the best days for working on your boat are also the nicest days to be out sailing. But it does beat mowing a lawn. Always!

A dog's breakfast. Beginning of the project to tidy and rewire engine room looms and refinish the cabin sole
A dog’s breakfast. Beginning of the project to tidy and rewire engine room looms and refinish the cabin sole
Lard liftin! look ow tick this ting is. That's an interior locker face, an inch thick. The whole boat is built this massively
“Lard liftin! look ow tick this ting is.” That’s an interior locker face, an inch thick. The whole boat is built this massively

It is the time of year when people are stumbling down onto the docks to see if their boat has survived the winter and is yet afloat. I’ve been moored in the Ladysmith Maritime Society Docks since Christmas. I am there nearly every day and can confidently state that many boats have not had a visit by their owners in all that time. Now the May long weekend is coming and there is a panic to get the old bateau ready for voyaging. “Damn boats, fix, fix, fix, nothing but a hole in the water to shovel money into.” Yuck, yuck, yuck! There are some frantic requests for me to “Git ‘er dun for the weekend” but I’ve decided that, for once, my own boat comes first. Love your boat, she’ll love you back.

The Golden Rivet The ship's lucky coin, fibre-glassed in when the boat was built, rediscovered during my recent refit.
The Golden Rivet
The ship’s lucky coin, fibre-glassed in when the boat was built, rediscovered during my recent refit.
How old is this matchbook? It was printed the same year I graduated from high school. I found in the bottom of a wooden tackle box that came with the boat. I've been using the box as a foot rest since I bought the boat and finally decided to empty it out. some lures, still in their original packages sold for 29 cents!
How old is this matchbook? It was printed the same year I graduated from high school. I found it in the bottom of a wooden tackle box that came with the boat. I’ve been using the box as a foot rest since I bought the boat and finally decided to empty it out. Some lures, still in their original packages, sold new for 29 cents!

As I write this somewhere in the Indian Ocean, my friends Tony and Connie, are aboard their boat ‘Sage’ between the southern Maldives and the East Coast of Africa. They expect to be out of touch for up to eight weeks. My thoughts and best wishes sail with them on their long crossing.

With news of the horrific earthquake in Nepal, Deadly hail storms in Texas, a monster volcano in Chile, Israeli military strikes into Syria and renewed drug wars in Mexico, I am happy enough in my own bilge. I’ve had to go backward by about three thousand dollars with the necessary installation of a new charger/inverter. This is a machine that not only keeps the batteries charged when the boat is at the dock but converts DC electrical power to AC power when at sea. This allows the use of power tools and other luxuries like microwave ovens and even, if I want, an air conditioner. If I have to make my way south by fixing other boats, I do need AC power away from the dock.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There was a time when a small gasoline engine in a sailing yacht was a decadence used only to move the boat in and out of marinas. They were aptly called auxiliaries. (For many years, part of my criteria was that the auxiliary had to have a back-up hand crank to manually starting the engine… just in case) Engines were also used to charge a battery for starting and to run another luxury, a VHF radio. Boats have become much bigger, the list of appliances and gadgets is extensive as is the amount of power required to run it all. Now some sailboat owners brag about their turbo-charged diesel. There is far more than enough power to charge the electrical system and propel the boat but excess is now often a normal state.

'Avanti' This is a 1966 Cheoy Lee Frisco flyer, 26 feet long, which in its day was a grand offshore boat. Whole families went off to see the world. Big enough to stand up in, big enough to lay down. What's changed?
‘Avanti’
This is a 1966 Cheoy Lee Frisco Flyer,
26 feet long, in her day she was a grand offshore boat. It’s a boat I rebuilt for a friend. Whole families went off to see the world in vessels like this when seamanship was a prerequisite. Big enough to stand up in, big enough to lay down. What’s changed?

During my years on the tugs, sailboats were often referred to as “Blowboats” or “Stickboats.” We jokingly used them as a wind monitor. While the sails were up and flapping, wind was nil or light. When the sails were stowed, it was getting a bit breezy. Seriously! If a sailboat was motoring with only the mains’l up, chances were good that someone was trying to declare their right-of-way as a sailing vessel, a perverse misinterpretation of collision regulations. Sometimes I took a lot of flak from the rest of the crew because they knew I was a “Ragboater.” There are also those who are determined to prove their saltiness by insisting on, and trying to sail, no matter how light the wind and no matter how they interfere with other marine traffic. In fact I suspect that is part of the fun for them.

All is calm, all is not right Dog Patch, the Ladysmith water squatter's community
All is calm, all is not right
Dog Patch, the Ladysmith water squatter’s community

An undue sense of entitlement, or perhaps a quest for empowerment, seems to a prime motivator in our culture. It is often displayed as an attempt to shoulder everyone else aside or to hold as many people back as possible. You can see this behaviour any time on the roads or in the supermarket and at times on the water. We are saddled with a media culture that attempts to diminish our sense of self-worth unless we look like, smell like, live in, drive one of those and generally consume ourselves into a wretched existence. No wonder so many folks subconsciously crave empowerment, entitlement and recognition simply because they exist.

An Audi advertisement on the television this morning stated their automobiles were about “Presence” and provided a statement of “Dominance and intimidation.” Really?

What about reliability, economy, and safety? Oh yeah, and environmental sensibility?

A few days ago I had an adventure with a dog stuck in a culvert. Neighbours were complaining about ongoing barking and howling that had kept them awake. I assumed that someone had left their spoiled-rotten dog alone in a nearby house. The noise continued and, hours, I finally went to investigate.

Wyatt's Culvert Where dogs, fools and dog-lovers crawl right on in!
Wyatt’s Culvert
Where dogs, fools and dog-lovers crawl right on in!

I found an old, very large Labrador retriever stuck in a culvert, about twenty feet in. He had been laying in cold, running water for at least twelve hours. Then this old fat boy hisself wriggled into the pipe. For a moment I worried about also becoming stuck but all’s well that ends. Slowly both of we old dogs came out backwards, me dragging the other an inch at a time until we both emerged, wet and mucky, into daylight. We must have quite a sight! Then came a trek with the rescued dog over my shoulder until I could get him laying on a blanket in the sun. He probably weighed seventy pounds and was of course soaking wet, chronically hypothermic and totally exhausted. He couldn’t even lift his head.

Eventually, reluctantly ,some of the neighbours were persuaded to help. Soon after the ubiquitous self-acclaimed expert dog whisperer arrived to demonstrate her superior knowledge. She had little actual sympathy for the dog, he was merely a platform for her warped ego, and yes I finally lost my patience with her arrogant declarations about how much she thought she knew. I cannot abide someone trying to capitalize on another’s misery. Things got quite ugly but eventually I got Wyatt to a veterinary hospital. That was his name as it turned out. (Wyatt Twerp) The vet called me today to say that poor old Wyatt had had to be put down and thanked me profusely for my efforts. Not a word of appreciation from the locals, which I didn’t expect, but ain’t folks funny? If Wyatt had expired in the culvert, I wonder how long it would have taken someone to go find the source of the smell. And if I’d expired in there too…yeeech!

On a back street in Ladysmith. a late 50s Vauxhall Victor Super One of my first cars was one of these. God, it's ugly!
On a back street in Ladysmith. a late 50s Vauxhall Victor Super
One of my first cars was one of these.
God, it’s ugly!

I recalled this story with a fellow dog lover/walker whom I met out on the trail. I said something about militant feminism. “No, no,” she said, “You were dealing with a womanist. They are the female equivalent of a misogynist and loath men in general. Their perspective is as archaic as the notion of nuns and priests.” Her view was refreshing, but I don’t like to genderize the behaviour of people who live with the sad, desperate need to constantly pee in other folk’s corn flakes.

The edge of town, behind the Ladysmith RCMP detachment
The edge of town, behind the Ladysmith RCMP detachment
Up the creek. Miner's dam on Holland Creek
Up the creek.
Miner’s dam on Holland Creek

It seems that I’ve found myself recently dealing with folks who are easily upset, determined to take offence and speak condescendingly. It happens at times to all of us and when I find myself in that groove I see myself as the common factor and sit in front of the mirror and review what the hell’s happening. I always tend to feel responsible for whatever might be wrong and acrimony leaves me upset for days after.. This time I can’t figure what’s up. Later, I was talking with someone else who remarked that he had just seen an article describing recent, extra large solar flares and their effects on this planet, including electrical grinds, communication systems, and yes, people’s moods. Apparently there is a general wave of hostility and aggressiveness in human behaviour that might be attributed to celestial influence. Dunno! Maybe? We do know that lunar cycles effect human behaviour among many other things so let’s just keep an open mind. Blame it on the sun.

The Shack Out Back Now a backyard storage shed, this may well have been an early home in downtown Ladysmith
The Shack Out Back
Now a backyard storage shed, this may well have been an early home in downtown Ladysmith

In the face of all the recent miseries of the world I’ve been wandering around Ladysmith with my cameras looking at what we have right here. Don’t we take so much for granted? It is a lovely little town. One of my constant joys in this community is how young families are buying up the older miner’s, logger’s and fishermen’s houses and lovingly restoring them. Many of those house are small, but if previous generations could raise large families in them, surely, one-point-something baby yuppies will do just fine there. The bonus is the large yards, many with mature fruit trees and space for large gardens and room for kids to stay at home and play, physically outdoors. I’m loading this blog with photos of Ladysmith and the local area. A popular bumper sticker here reads, “Ladysmith, where you’re never over the hill.”

A Favourite One of the many lovely restored old miner's houses in Ladysmith. It's probably close to 100 years old and may well have no framing but built of good solid, clear, rough-cut old growth fir planking
A Favourite
One of the many lovely restored old miner’s houses in Ladysmith. It’s probably close to 100 years old and may well have no framing but built of good solid, clear, rough-cut old growth fir planking
Heart Break Hotel On The Hill You can only imagine its history
Heart Break Hotel On The Hill
You can only imagine its history

There is a movement afoot for many folks to downsize their homes to the point of silliness. There seems to be a notion that they are re-inventing the concept of minimalism and living with less is a great new idea. The trendy yachting magazines are now glorifying those who’ve dumped their grand yacht and are enjoying life with trailer-able sailboats. They’re discovering a new sort of freedom where their possession are truly serving their interests rather than ruling their life.

Sunset on Main Street Ladysmith
Sunset on Main Street
Ladysmith
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Looking the other way. What wonderful light!
An alley detail Casting date on handle is 1896, this may have been the old coal shute.
An alley detail
Casting date on handle is 1896, this may have been the old coal chute.
What views have been seen by what eyes through this leaded glass?
What views have been seen by what eyes through this leaded glass?

Of course a lot of this is rationalization which comes in the wake of recent economic disasters in North America which have decimated the middle class and the notion of our identities being determined by the stuff we accumulate. We are all out of touch with reality in this part of the world and really have no idea of how most of the world’s population lives, forcing itself to be content with rudimentary shelter and no clear idea of when or what their next meal might be. Gluten? Trans-fat? Yes please.

Another Ladysmith classic (Damn those wires!)
Another Ladysmith classic
(Damn those wires!)
More wires! Ladysmith Harbour, aka Oyster Bay, beyond.
More wires!
Ladysmith Harbour, aka Oyster Bay, beyond.
Ladysmith Maritime Society, the news clubhouse. What a splendid endeavour, proof of what volunteers can achieve.
Ladysmith Maritime Society, the news clubhouse. What a splendid endeavour, proof of what volunteers can achieve.

By the way, a happy note from this old cynic. I often slam modern technology and express my dismay at our growing dependance on machines. But today I reviewed a wonderful application of that technology. A blind pregnant woman in Brazil, entering her third trimester, received an ultrasound of the foetus. Those images were then transferred to a 3D printer and so she was able to feel the face of her unborn baby. That made my face leak.

The town had tiny houses but great plumbing! Water supply line to Harmac Pulp Mill
The town had tiny houses but great plumbing!
Water supply line to Harmac Pulp Mill

 

One last note from the media. We’ve long known that dolphins are one of the few other species which indulge in recreational sex. Now we’re learning they also partake in recreational drug use. I’ve just just watched a video which clearly shows a pod of dolphins gently harassing a puffer fish. Once it defensively inflates itself it floats on the ocean’s surface immobilized . The spiky little bugger than begins exuding neurotoxins, which in large doses can be fatally toxic. In mild doses you get stoned so in turns the dolphins nuzzle the little guy and the effects are obvious. One the part is over, the puffer deflates, heads back to its life on the bottom and the dolphins find other distractions. Interesting!

White Bike when I die, hang me on the gate and put flowers in my arms
White Bike
When I die, hang me on the gate and put flowers in my arms.

I’m reading two wonderful books at the moment. One, ‘The Shadow Of the Sun’ is by Ryszard Kapuscinski, a Polish journalist who in the late 1950s witnessed the end of colonialism in African, the rise of independent states and the ensuing madness which still grips most of that continent. He affords a graphic explanation of so many things I didn’t think about and certainly did not understand. It is a wonderful essay on Africa and I am glad to have read it. Social studies aside, his writing style is beautiful and I heartily recommend this book for those who like to learn and understand.

Spring stream, clear and cold. Let's enjoy it while we have it.
Spring stream, clear and cold. Let’s enjoy it while we have it.

The second book is ‘The Inconvenient Indian’ by Thomas King. I believe this is a fine and even exciting text for anyone who wants a better understanding of native perspectives about their place in contemporary North American culture and how they got to their present situation. It is of course, biased, but forgivably so, and the wit and insight this writer offers is refreshing and very enlightening.

I’ll close this blog with a quote from that book.

Most of us think that history is the past. It’s not. History is the stories we tell about the past. That’s all it is. Stories.”…”I simply have difficulty with how we choose which stories become the pulse of history and which do not.”

Thomas King

Jack on track. Heading for what's around the next bend. Esquimalt & Nanaimo rail bridge over Rosewell Creek
Jack on track.
Heading for what’s around the next bend.
Esquimalt & Nanaimo rail bridge over Rosewell Creek

Grid Work

Grid Work

Yesterday was a glorious weather day. Clear and nearly calm it was perfect for doing anything outdoors. I gave old ‘Seafire’ some long overdue loving. Early in the morning, when the tide was at high slack I eased her over the grid at the Ladysmith Fisherman’s Wharf to clean her bottom, polish up the propeller and replace the sacrificial zincs.

I should explain that sacrificial zinc anodes are designed to absorb stray electrical currents that affect every boat, especially in salt water. The process,, called electrolysis will destroy underwater metal fittings such as bronze thru-hulls to the point of them becoming a crumbling powder. The zincs, easily replaced, do the crumbling instead of the important metal bits on the hull. The dangers of an open hole in the bottom of a boat are obvious. Despite copious scientific dissertations there is a mystery to the process which we do not fully understand. Stray electrical currents in marina docks, and from other poorly wired boats are the most common culprits as well as the minute or severe fields created by each boat itself. Regular maintenance to check the thru-hulls and replace the zincs is essential. There are ongoing, sometimes heated, debates about what the mystery of electrolysis really is and what causes it. I have my own theories but awareness of its effects is more important, just like respecting lightning without understanding what causes it. It is also worth noting that all those folks who tell you how much they love sailing (Hint, hint) don’t ever show up to help with the dirty work. “Call me when you need crew.” I do, where are you now? Yeah, right!

On the Grid 'Seafire gets a shave and a haircut while on the grid at low tide.
On the Grid
‘Seafire gets a shave and a haircut while on the grid at low tide.

Instead of using a mechanical lift to take a boat out of the water, a centuries-proven method for working on a boat’s bottom is to position it over a grid at high tide. This is a platform of concrete, or treated wooden timbers, which supports a vessel’s weight when it settles with a falling tide. The boat leans against pilings to stay upright. When the tide falls low enough to allow work to begin, you go like crazy to get everything done before the returning tide prevents any further efforts. There is never enough time.

A backyard cabin on Vancouver Island. Someone's fascination with Mexico is clear. Note the guitar and the piñata on the porch. "Hola senorita! Donde mi margarita?
A backyard cabin on Vancouver Island. Someone’s fascination with Mexico is clear. Note the guitar and the piñata on the porch. “Hola senorita! Donde mi margarita?

Of course all of this has to be co-ordinated with the vagaries of the monthly tidal cycle. One first needs enough water to position a vessel over the grid and a tide which falls enough to allow the maximum amount of time to get your work done before the tide returns. It is also important to have enough water to float free on the next tide. Other factors affecting the tide’s height and duration are local winds and even distant storm systems.

Under the front. Variable spring weather. This row of lenticular clouds ran up the Eastern shoreline of Vancouver Island. It didn't move for hours
Under the front. Variable spring weather. This row of lenticular clouds ran up the Eastern shoreline of Vancouver Island. It didn’t move for hours

Barometric pressure, wind and run-off from local rivers and streams due to heavy rain or spring freshets may also affect the tide’s vagaries. There are tide books and computer programs to help with your planning but ultimately they are only guides. You must use your own experience and local knowledge to calculate. Here in the Pacific Northwest we have semi-diurnal tides which means that we have four tides a day to deal with. There will be a high tide and a low tide followed by a lower high and low tide. Tides are therefore approximately six hours apart, or twelve hours between useful high tides.

Old boys like to have fun too. Wrong number, no return.
Old boys like to have fun too. Wrong number, no return.

Due to phases of the moon you may find yourself working in the dark as each day’s tides lag the preceding day by thirty to forty minutes. Tides with minimum rise and fall are called Neap tides. Ones with maximum range are called Spring tides and occur at or near the full moon and also the new moon. Before grids folks “Careened” their boats by laying them against a steeply sloped soft bank, doing one side of the boat each day.

The required understanding for careening involves also knowing how to position the boat so that it floats free instead of filling with water as the returning tide creeps up. Nothing to it.Right!

Old Jack. Every day is a happy adventure.
Old Jack.
Every day is a happy adventure.

I’ve heard questions from landlubberly people who don’t understand tides. While rushing around at work while on other grids there have been variations of “However did you get that boat up there?”

Swamp creature. Mud, rinse, mud, rinse, but save some mud for the vehicle seats!
Swamp creature. Mud, rinse, mud, rinse, but save some mud for the vehicle seats!

The best comment was from a friend who overheard two old souls tottering along a seawall with one exclaiming, “I could have sworn there was a beach here yesterday!”

Hoo dunnit? The wooden owl fairy strikes again.
Hoo dunnit? The wooden owl fairy strikes again.

The grid in Ladysmith is next to a log sorting ground and a sawmill. The harbour-bottom around the grid is a foot thick in viscous black, reeking, sucking muck of organic origin. Standing in one spot requires a desperate struggle to retrieve your wading boots. Eventually water and muck creeps into your boots. You simply must keep working trying not to stand in the same spot for more than a few moments. It makes for a glorious mess and a desperate struggle to get the essential work done. Thank God I didn’t fall face-first into the ooze. I’d still be there, feeding the crabs. I scrubbed the bottom as best possible in the circumstances and removed any clumps of mussels and other fauna. The propeller was cleaned and polished and the zinc anode was replaced. Then came the usual interminable wait for the tide to return enough to float the boat free. The book time for high tide passed without enough water to float free. It was almost an hour late. Cold, wet, hungry and exhausted I had to remind myself that tide books are only guides and that reality writes its own course. The next high-slack always seems to be later and lower than predicted but eventually the same mystery which floats a vessel over an abyss floats it with only a fraction of an inch of sea under the keel. And so finally I returned to the dock in the last bit of daylight. Then the cleaning up must be done before you take the rest of the day off. God that mud stinks! But I scrubbed it off before it glued itself to the decks. The poor old boat has not received a lot of attention this winter while I’ve floundered at other things. Now she’s showing me her contempt for my neglect and there are a few projects to address before ‘Seafire’ is back in top shape. Once again, the old quote of Lord Nelson can apply, “Ships and men rot in port.”

The beauty of the beast. An old Baldwin Logging Locomotive ever so solely returns to the earth it once came from
The beauty of the beast. An old Baldwin Logging Locomotive ever so slowly returns to the earth it once came from
Recycling the slow way, textures among the rivets
Recycling the natural way, textures among the rivets

I was once famous for being anal about keeping things shipshape. After returning from a trip I’d stay with the boat until everything was ready to go to sea again. I’ll admit that pain-in-the-ass has gone somewhere else now but I still check my boat regularly and keep it shipshape, if not entirely shiny, at all times anymore. Still, despite near daily checks and a heater murmuring away constantly which kept the boat reasonably warm and dry through the winter, there are electrical issues. The dampness works its way into everything and without regular use some components begin to fail. I know these are simply symptoms of lack of use and the old girl and I need to sort this out. Of course everything in the lockers, which was stowed with a good logic, has somehow migrated elsewhere and soon the boat is knee-deep in stores and tools that need to be re-stowed as you look for the widget that you know was right here.

Old Tristan Jones famously said, “When in fear, or in doubt, raise your sails and bugger off out.” You have to keep a boat seaworthy in order to be able to do that.

A bridge over bubbled water. Tranquilty in the spring backwoods.
A bridge over bubbled water. Tranquilty in the spring backwoods.

And so spring advances. Early morning temperatures still hover down near the freezing point but the afternoons are pleasant if it is not pouring rain. The leaves and flowers are bursting out. Some are quite early this year, I saw Dogwood flowers already which is almost a month early.

See! dogwood blooms in April
See! Dogwood blooms in April

Perhaps it’s due to the “Blob.” This is a name applied by climatologists to an above normal temperature mass of warm water first noticed in the North Pacific last year. It is currently hugging our BC coastline. There is much anticipation about its cause and effects. We have warm years, cold years, wet ones, dry ones and various combinations thereof. The only constant is change and yet everyone is determined that no matter what happens, it is living proof that global warming is upon us and it’s our fault. Old time accounts from Vancouver Island of over a century ago have it that when Tofino was settled, the climate was much different. Tropical fruit plants were introduced there because it was that warm. People could easily swim in the sea, there were seldom pervasive fogs and fish stocks were quite different. Now Tofino is well known for its rain and fog and damp cold. It’s still temperate enough for Gunnera Manicata to grow prolifically. Indigenous to Areas between Columbia and Brazil, the giant rhubarb-like plant, with huge leaves over a metre wide, is now being eradicated here because it is not indigenous and tends to overrun other native species. It is like broom, gorse and bamboo, other introduced plants here which overwhelm their new environment, much like the non-native people who brought them here. What an interesting question! Why do people in quest of a new identity and opportunity, whom for good reasons chose to leave their native environment, have a need to bring along pieces of the old world they escape? We all have this missionary complex to some degree and often miss the value of assimilating a new environment with two ears, two eyes and one mouth. Anyway, I don’t believe that any of the foreign flora we’ve introduced here has done much to change the climate. The planet and the universe are in a constant state of flux and while we are an alien virus here, we need not be so arrogant as to believe we have an influence on things which we’ve never had any control over. Especially, when we tend to ignore the things we can change.

Another abandoned bridge in the woods
Another abandoned bridge in the woods

This morning, while Jack and I walked our Ladysmith waterfront patrol, I heard a sound which froze me to the spot. I’d just heard the call of a Northern Loon. A harbinger of spring the sound instantly recalled pleasant moments in my youth. Instantly I again knew magic mornings in cedar strip and canvas canoes, the soothing, gurgling coil of water behind each paddle-stroke, gentle banks of mist, light laddering down into clear water where fish could be seen gliding among sunken stumps. Echoing along the shorelines quavered the eerie cries of loons in chorus. Those calls will haunt me forever.

My father used to listen to bird recordings on lp vinyl. Damn, how I hated them! Dwibble, blap tweet, then a nasally dweeby man’s voice would declare something like: “Pink-bellied Flute Snoot, spring mating call.” One, called I think, ‘Birdsongs of the Northwoods’, suddenly emerges in my memory. I recall the narrative which I heard too often. “Across the rich gold ribbon of the rising moon’s reflection on the water, drifts a shadow. It is the shadow of a loon. It lifts its head and from its throat comes the cries of souls in torment.” Fifty-plus years back and now I remember that! What the hell did I have for breakfast? Now let’s see! Oh yeah. Nope. Hmmm!

Maple Flower
Maple Flower

If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.”

…Lucius Annaeus Seneca

The Empty Signifier, Eva’s Loo and The April’s Fool

Feeling Frisky? Feral Gabriola road runners do their spring fan dance.
Feeling Frisky? Feral Gabriola road runners do their spring fan dance.

(To enlarge images, click on each picture)

March zoomed past in a frenetic blur. And I can’t see much that I’ve accomplished. I have finally finished a home renovation project for a friend and now I’m trying to move on toward my own goals. There has been a round of medical appointments which have left me puzzled and a bit angry. After copious testing and consultation the end result is yet more prescriptions. I’m becoming convinced that it is a mix of all the damned pills that has me feeling so poorly. I quit taking them and soon felt much better. The type II diabetes I allegedly have is something I can beat with diet and exercise and perhaps my other health issues will abate as well. With several prescriptions mixing around in one’s plumbing, I’m not sure what chemical combinations are formed nor what their effects are on an individual. I can say that the tentacles growing out of my back can be darned near as itchy as the third eye which appeared on the top of my head. Whadya mean it’s only a bald spot?

Flock this! gorging gulls enjoy the annual herring spawn.
Flock this! Gorging gulls enjoy the annual herring spawn.

Once again, it appears, our Western medical acumen is eager to treat symptoms rather than address cause. It is good for business and I wonder how many Porsche SUVs I help keep on the road. I’m researching my health issues very thoroughly and am now beginning to pursue more natural sensibilities. If I’m going to sail away I need to be healthy and one doctor at least, bless him, has told me that the sailing away is on its own the best cure. Certainly, the prescription I received for diabetes soon had me feeling near death and I do want a solution more positive than that. I flushed my pills down the loo. Much better! I suppose one should consider the environmental effects of doing that, but what is the proper way to dispose of medications?

We are a culture of excess. I know I have certainly allowed myself to be programmed to consume far more than I need. Now I pay for my foolishness. This bog trotter’s research about diabetes has turned up some interesting approaches. Insulin is a hormone which the body produces to help cells absorb glucose. A lot of the crap food we eat and drink, over time, reduces the body’s ability to produce sufficient insulin hormone, which causes an increase of belly fat which in turn further degrades our ability to produce enough natural insulin. The spiral deepens.

From this. Showing old window opening and new windows framed in.
From this.
Showing old window opening and new windows framed in after walling-in an adjoining closet then opening the back to enlarge the bathroom.

Speaking of loos I have, among other things, been busy refinishing a friend’s bathroom for his wife Eva. Both go to work in far off places so communication has not been the best. The job has lasted far too long, punctuated with long delays. Now it’s done. It has turned out well and my efforts to do something exotic with affordable materials has proven a grand success. I’ve decided, however, that I am finished with this sort of work. I’ve earned my bread rebuilding boats and doing home renovation work but I’m having to concede that I’m now too stove-up to continue peddling my talents. My hands have become so arthritic that I have difficulty holding my tools at times. Working on my knees and contorting myself into awkward places is really becoming challenging. I’m not complaining, just explaining. All those years that I wasted trying to prove how tough I was. And I was! But the geezers of that time warned me. Yeah right!

To this... Heated tile floor, wainscoting, acrylic clawfoot tub, recycled shower glass becomes toilet divider. Well I'm chuffed about it!
To this…
Heated tile floor, wainscoting, acrylic clawfoot tub, recycled shower glass becomes toilet divider.
Well I’m chuffed about it!

Now it’s my turn. I recently found myself cautioning a cocky young fellow to never mess with an old bull. I think I’ve heard that somewhere before.

WET! Gabriola Organic taxi. Some folks proudly refuse to wash their cars.
WET!
Gabriola Organic taxi. Some folks proudly refuse to wash their cars.

This brings me to a new grammatical term I’ve learned. Empty signifier, apparently a word which absorbs meaning rather providing some. Wikipedia delves into a description using words like semiotics and postmodernism, which always has me back-pedalling rapidly. Apparently words like race, gender, oomph and mana are floating, or empty, signifiers and are said to possess “symbolic value zero”. If this is what having a degree in literature does for you I’m glad I missed it. It is not one of the things which keeps me awake at night. Most people to whom I’ve mentioned this respond by saying “Yeah I know some people like that.” I have to be careful that this doesn’t become an empty signified blog. If I don’t leave the dock soon, it will be. God knows there is plenty enough emptiness out there already. What a name for a boat! ‘Empty Signifier.‘ I’ll bet there’s one somewhere!

Say no more!
Say no more!
The bakery on Gabriola Island. It is wood-fired, the bread is delicious. Many people say they expect to see Hobbit folks scurrying about
The bakery on Gabriola Island. It is wood-fired, the bread is delicious. Many people say they expect to see Hobbit folks scurrying about.

The job site where I’ve been is a prime waterfront location with a priceless view. It has allowed me to watch the annual drama of the spring herring fishery. It appears that in these waters it was a good year for the herring fleet. Seine boats and gill netters made some spectacular sets. I saw several big seiners heading for the packing houses with decks awash, they were so deeply laden. Often, there will be an incident where an overloaded boat enters the Fraser River. Buoyancy in fresh water is considerably less. The vessel promptly sinks.

Beach Caviar with a hint of kelp. Mounds of Herring roe accumulate on the beach after the spawn
Beach Caviar with a hint of kelp.
Mounds of Herring roe accumulate on the beach after the spawn
Rows of roe. Wake up and smell the sea Billy!
Rows of roe. Wake up and smell the sea Billy!
Big Boats for Tiny Fish. Tensions rise as the weeks pass while waiting for the arrival of the herring
Big Boats for Tiny Fish.
Tensions rise as the weeks pass while waiting for the arrival of the herring

The annual herring spawn occurs later in the season further north up the coast. The Heiltsuk and Haida nations are demanding a moratorium on the herring fishery. They say the stock is too low for the extensive harvest of a datum species. Herring are a link in the marine food chain, both up and down, to which everything else relates. Ninety percent of the herring volume harvested volume does not feed any human. It all becomes fish meal and fertilizer while the highly prized roe is sold to Japan. After the herring spawn, and the fishing boats are gone, there are streaks of milt in the water. Then, after the next spring storm, mounds of herring roe, or eggs, wash up on the beach to decompose in a rich, heavenly reek. The gulls gorge themselves until they can barely fly and there is a frenzy of activity along shorelines of British Columbia. In turn, all that fish fornication and decomposition provides a huge nutrient base for marine life.

The herring arrive. At low tide one line of sea foam, one line of herring milt.
The herring arrive. At low tide one line of sea foam, one line of herring milt.

I would like to see a two or three year moratorium placed on the herring row fishery. I can hear the howls of outrage! Catch what you want for food, take the roe for personal consumption as the natives here have always done. Many fisherman claim they make little profit from herring, despite the very expensive speciality equipment they use to maximize their catches. Somebody is turning a profit when a modern aluminum herring skiff can cost several hundred thousand dollars and fishing openings, which some years, run for less than an hour.

Salmon Berry Bloom
Salmon Berry Bloom

Coincidentally, I was fortunate to recently catch a BBC documentary about a seventy-one hundred hectare reserve at Cabo Pulmo on Southern Baha, Mexico. The Mexican Government imposed a moratorium on this once heavily fished area. To the north, and to the south, rapacious sport and commercial fisheries continue, yet this reserve now again teams with fish at original population levels. It is spectacular to see. Locals are making a decent living now from eco-tourism instead of the meagre existence they knew as fisherman in this once fished-out area. The experiment is proving so successful that the Mexican government is seriously considering similar conservation strategies for up to ten percent of Mexican coastline. It is obvious once again that nature needs no help or manipulation. It just requires being left alone. We must learn that we are an alien influence on this planet. The natural planet does need our constant interference. There is a huge difference between need and greed and we all have to learn the joy of taking as little as possible instead of how much.

Port San Juan
Port San Juan

Tonight I’m spending my first night in my trailer. Jack and I are warm and cozy and dry inside while huge blobs of rain fall from the limbs of monstrous Sitka Spruce towering above us. The wind is incessant and there is fresh snow on the mountains. There is no hint of spring tonight. Less than a hundred meters away surf from the open Pacific thunders on a broad shoreline. We’re staying at the Pacheedaht campground. It is located on a long sandy beach running between the mouths of the Gordon River and the San Juan River next to Port Renfrew. It is spectacular. In the distance lies Cape Flattery, land’s end for continental USA. The two kilometre beach is rightly part of the local native reservation and I believe provides a steady source of income. The surfers come year-round. Despite the intermittent cloudbursts and the subsequent boggy trail beneath the trees, the facility is nearly full. It is not hard to imagination times past when huge dugout canoes would be hauled up on the beach, resting between fishing, whaling and warring expeditions. They had to have been amazing sea people. To manouver one of these cumbersome vessels through the surf with paddle-power only would take amazing skill. I have difficulty remembering native names correctly so here ‘Pacheedaht’ becomes ‘Patch this, patch that, there’s a leak in your canoe”. I know. It’s silly but it works.

The confluence of the Gordon River and the Pacific Ocean. This is the southern end of the famous West Coast Trail
The confluence of the Gordon River and the Pacific Ocean. This is the southern end of the famous West Coast Trail

It’s Good Friday evening. The place we are camped is on the bank of the Gordon River where it runs into the sea. I think it is that outflow at certain points of tide that makes the surf so appealing. God knows I’m a sailor, surf is something I don’t want to know a lot about. At this point in my life, being deliberately cold and wet with a chance of drowning is losing its charm. At dusk, in the salt marsh across the river, a huge heard of elk came out to graze. Now in the darkness, the surfers crowd around huge bonfires despite the pelting rain. The old days of van camping are apparently gone. These surfer dudes have a convoy of generic white travel trailers with pop-out portions and huge diesel pickup trucks. So much for counter-culture. I’ll bet most of these characters don’t even know who Dick Dale is. I couldn’t see one VW van parked anywhere.

The things we do for a few moments of bliss. Surfers off the beach at Pacheedaht
The things we do for a few moments of bliss.
Surfers off the beach at Pacheedaht. Cape Flattery in the distance, open  Pacific beyond.
Camping at Pacheedaht. Jack loved the mud.
Camping at Pacheedaht.
Jack loved the mud.

The drive here from Mesachie Lake on Lake Cowichan is a piece of cake. It is paved all the way now and is named ‘Pacific Marine Road.’ I remember when it was all gravel, a series of connected main logging roads. Public use was then lowly regarded. The dust and rocks flew and you were noted as someone from out of town if your windshield wasn’t broken. All too often, out of the swirling dust, an off-highway truck would appear with a grill eight feet tall and a load of logs that loomed as big, it seemed, as New York City. How times have changed! Once it was considered prestigious to be a white, male, heterosexual making a living as a logger. That is now politically incorrect. I recently saw a logger’s truck with a logo describing his enterprise as “Vegetation Management.”

BIGFOOT Harris Creek Giant Sitka Spruce over 4 metres in diameter
BIGFOOT
Harris Creek Giant Sitka Spruce over 4 metres in diameter
Look up, waaay up!
Look up, waaay up!
GUN CONTROL
GUN CONTROL
Downtown
Downtown
Pink Fawn lily
Pink Fawn Lily

Now then, all of you who eat bread made from selectively harvested grain please raise your hands. WOT!? Good help em. Those freakin’ clear-cuttin’ gluten farmers. Send in the owls! Or is it spotted gophers? Well, so long as it’s somebody else’ fault. Well it’s Easter. Hope you’re not eating too many hot-cross buns and chocolate eggs. And if, like me somedays, you’re stricken with a flickering memory, which is certainly no joke, perhaps you can have fun hiding your own eggs.

Adventure is dealing with the unknown while moving toward the unknown.” …anon

Island in the Rain Forest
Island in the Rain Forest

Yoho The Coho

The bell of the Coho It's gleam says everything about the vessel and how she's run
The bell of the Coho
It’s gleam says everything about the vessel and how she’s run

It seems, for me, that many great trips begin with a passage on the M.V. COHO to Port Angeles Washington. With a minimum of fuss she backs and turns her 341′ length neatly from her berth in Victoria’s inner harbour, then manoeuvres nonchalantly out for the channel and idles her bulk past the rocks for the open Strait Of Juan De Fuca. Today we cross on a calm sea under a lowering sky. There is a gentle swell on our beam, that siren call of the open Pacific. At least to me it is. The old girl rolls gently and seems to enjoy herself. (You can easily pick out the landlubbers. “Weah not in Iowa no more Doreen!”)

Ogden Point Leaving Victoria Harbour on the Coho southbound across Juan De Fuca Strait for Port Angeles
Ogden Point
Leaving Victoria Harbour on the Coho
southbound across Juan De Fuca Strait for Port Angeles

This old beauty is the remnant of the famous Black Ball Line. Built in 1959 she is in immaculate sea-worthy condition. Clean and clearly loved by her non-uniformed crew this old ship is privately owned and actually makes a profit; she keeps on running year after year. The crew perform their duties with practised ease and in far fewer numbers, it seems, than on a BC Ferry. (We’ll blame crewing regulations!)

Her modest self-sufficiency flies in the face of our BC Ferry fleet. This provincially owned and individually manipulated (Note I did not say managed) corporation has older vessels as well as near-new European-built luxurious super ferries. Often rust streaked and grimy, the fleet is run by massively overpaid executives who are constantly trimming services and increasing fares. One recently appointed board member, whom I know, was previously at the helm of a very successful family logging business which had been founded by his father. He ran the business into total bankruptcy. He was soon accepted to help manage our provincial ferry fleet. I’m sure we would find that his annual BCF remuneration package, including benefits would have most of us feeling set for life. Yes a single year’s worth! Yet the corporation consistently tries to increase fares on its patrons. For those readers who are not familiar with life in this corner of the world all I’ll say is that other ferry services, including the one run by Washington State provide efficient, safe and reliable transport. Enough said. It can be done.

African Swan Yet another load of prime raw logs leaves the Pacific Northwest. What the hell are we doing?
African Swan
Yet another load of prime raw logs leaves the Pacific Northwest.
What the hell are we doing?

I am off once again to the annual Fisher Poets Gathering in Astoria. It seems that the last one was only a few weeks ago. Despite several health issues and my hopeless finances I am able to attend thanks to the very generous support of my wife Jill. Once home again, I must find new sources of income, finish refitting and outfitting old ‘Seafire’ and the little trailer then get down to Mexico. Two doctors have now suggested the move. Despite my general disdain for quacks I intend to take their advise this time. I’ve been talking about this dream for long enough. Einstein once said that you can’t solve a problem by using the same thinking that created it in the first place. Maybe, if I put on a tie, BC Ferries would consider me. My financial prowess would certainly put my in line for a position on the board of directors.

On the upside! Astoria is home to several wonderful micro-breweries
On the upside! Astoria is home to several wonderful micro-breweries

Four days later I’m back on the Coho northbound for Victoria. Events at the Fisher Poet’s Gathering are all a happy blur. My performances were all a splendid success and my duties as an MC went without a hitch. My ego has been massaged, my writing and reading talents have been affirmed and I’m heading back to the old dogfight with a slightly swelled head.

The Astoria Column There is a great aerobic clamber to the top on the spiral staircase inside. The view is fabulous! A local history is inscribed on the outside of the tower
The Astoria Column
There is a great aerobic clamber to the top on the spiral staircase inside. The view is fabulous! A local history is inscribed on the outside of the tower

On the first night all the performers have a dinner where we share some of our new work with each other. By coincidence, I found myself seated next to a California fishermen whom has the same last name. It was our first meeting.

No shit, your name is Bailey too!”

Yep, even the same spelling. But then it’s a common name. I doubt we’re at all related.”

Probably not but do you know Uncle George?”

Oh yeah, you know him too!”

God yes! He must be one ancient old fart by now! How is he?”

Same old dick he ever was.” And the so the improv banter went much to the amusement of the rest of the table. It’s a great joy meeting other birds of a similar feather and the time passes in a rush as we visit with each other and present our work to the public, some of whom come great distances to see and hear what we have to offer.

House halfway up a hill. An example of how many homes in Astoria have been restored
House halfway up a hill.
An example of how many homes in Astoria have been restored

I spend my free time there touring and photographing the town which is a lovely place self-resurrected from the ashes of its demise after both the fishing and the forest industries collapsed. Spring is arriving a bit early this year, blossoms were out everywhere and there were some warm, clear sunny days much to everyone’s delight.

Lots of rooms with lots of views
Lots of rooms with lots of views
See!
See!
Original paint This one is actually older than I am. note the bullet hole above the driver's window.
Original paint
This one is actually older than I am. note the bullet hole above the driver’s window.
Astoria's Liberty Theatre It is even more breath-taking inside
Astoria’s Liberty Theatre
It is even more breath-taking inside
The amazing fish stocks drew a large influx of Finnish immigrants. Now that's finished.
The amazing fish stocks drew a large influx of Finnish immigrants.
Now that’s finished.
On the way to the bottom you'll meet somebody on the way to the top
On the way to the bottom you’ll meet somebody on the way to the top

I’m posting plenty of photos which help describe Astoria and some of its charms. I’m looking forward to next year already. I’m also happy to report that I have finally successfully posted one of my books, ‘The Water Rushing By’, on Amazon/Kindle where it is available as an e-book or as a print-on-demand paperback. I’ve several other books to upload into their inventory so there’ll be no dull moments. Sideways Ho!

The last cannery to be seen out on pilings. There used to be dozens.
The last cannery to be seen out on pilings. There used to be dozens.
Out of Ballast, ready to load some more raw resources
Out of Ballast, ready to load some more raw resources
The din and the smell are amazing. "Who farted?"
The din and the smell are amazing. “Who farted?”
EXCUSE ME! That spot's reserved!
EXCUSE ME!
That spot’s reserved!
Aren't you glad they can't fly?
Aren’t you glad they can’t fly?
Rusty checks his pee mail
Rusty checks his pee mail
Shift worker's window
Shift worker’s window
River's edge at low slack
River’s edge at
low slack
"Let's do lunch." Some wildlife hanging around outside the motel room door.
“Let’s do lunch.”
Some wildlife hanging around outside the motel room door.
Pier 39 A cannery now turned museum. This is a former Columbia river gillnetter. The net was shot and retrieved off the bow. There were once hundreds working the river.
Pier 39
A cannery now turned museum. This is a former Columbia River gillnetter. The net was shot and retrieved off the bow. There were once hundreds working the river.
State of the art, once upon a time.
State of the art, once upon a time.
When men were men
When men were men
Cold Stream Dave and Renee hold an open boat day for the Fisher Poets weekend
Cold Stream
Dave and Renee hold an open boat day for the Fisher Poets weekend
An Unapus Creative sculpture adorns the streets of Port Angeles
An Unapus
Creative sculpture adorns the streets of Port Angeles

 

When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem starts looking like a nail.”…anonymous