It is the second day of July. Last night the holiday fireworks resolved into a mere two huge explosions. Then all was quiet. I hope there were at least a few survivors. This morning it is raining, a beautiful steady warm rain. The doors are open and I listen to the music of water gurgling in the downspouts. There is a lovely aroma of freshness. We need this, desperately. There were a few hours of precipitation last week, the stream beds did not swell at all. Now this. I swear I can almost hear the parched earth soaking it up. More please! This blog will be a simple photo essay about life in my little patch here on Vancouver Island. Rain or sun, bring your hat.
“ For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out. James Baldwin.
My blogs have been so gloomy-doomy lately that I think they could make a hangman cry. This little life of mine seems to be hove-to at the moment. So, no mention of boats or Rvs or shattered dreams. How about a walk on a perfect weather Sunday morning? The joy of it was that Jack seemed to completely be himself this morning. He is certainly not a bounding puppy anymore nor does he lunge off after rabbits now but he is taking a full interest in life and actually has some vigour. We went to our beloved estuary at the mouth of the Chemainus River. I simply sat and watched him play for over an hour. He loves to chase little creatures, shadows and sparkles. He always has. It was very healing. Here are some pictures.
I saw this on a bumper sticker. “Don’t believe everything you think.”
A barred owl begins its night time serenade of hoo-hoo-who-hoo. Darkness settles over the calm water as frogs croak into the darkness and from somewhere out on the lake a loon utters its plaintiff cry. Here in the campsite there is the crackle of a freshly-lit fire and the steady gnawing crunch of Jack dogging on a bone. We are in a campsite on the west end of Horne Lake on Vancouver Island. The view over the darkened lake is framed by the black silhouette of newly-leafed branches and a few subtle lights twinkle over the glassy water from cottages on the distant shore. It is tranquil and lovely, lonely, complete. Jack has now gone to bed. I will join him shortly. This setting is perfection, yet it is not the ocean.
Twenty four hours have passed. We did not do much. It was a grand day. The same scene as last night lays beyond the extravagant fire I have set. Haunting Yiddish violin music from a treasured old Cd I have found sifts out of my stereo at a low volume. I let it repeat around and around; it blends perfectly with the night sounds. The pulsing glitter of a jet’s trajectory crosses from behind the lofty rock cliffs above the lake and is paralleled by its reflection on the water. The owl repeats his booming hooting again, slowly coming closer to our campsite. Jack snores gently in his bed at my feet. Soon we will both retire to the comfy bunk inside the trailer. There is an extra bed. I wish you could be here.
Another twenty-four hours finds Jack and I in another Provincial Campground on the other side of the mountain. Now we are on Sproat Lake a few kilometres west of Port Alberni. As the crow flies, we are only about 15 kilometres from where we set out this morning. The drive from one valley to another took well over an hour. There is a climb and descent up and over a steep grade which is a good test for truck and trailer after recent adjustments. The Alberni Valley is famous for fierce summer heat and here, before mid-May, the mercury climbed well above thirty degrees Celsius. The forest fire hazard rating rose from moderate to high today and will rapidly become extreme if the weather persists. I’m enjoying the campfire tonight as the evening cools. There may soon be a ban on any fires for the rest of the summer.
The lake was liberally dotted with white and pink bodies of squealing exuberant youth frolicking in the water. After Jack’s refreshing swim we plodded back to our campsite along the dusty trail where we met motley groups of young folk in various states of intoxication. The aroma of marijuana smoke wafted through the forest. Worldly as I think I am, it was still a rattler to meet gorgeous scantily clad young ladies who met Jack ever so gushingly yet chattered sweetly all the while in the rawest, four-lettered sailor-speak I’ve ever used. It seemed incongruous for a moment, and then, I just felt old.
A day later, a day older. I have yet to master the art of doing nothing without feeling guilt. Jack (A master at living without guilt) and I walked our walks, I visited with a dear friend whom I learned was in Port Alberni. The day passed, now it is dark again. The sound of neighbour campers visiting around their fires mingles with the happy din of children playing. A huge shining (Yes, gold in colour) motor home appeared at dusk and now runs its generator despite the rules. Such is life when you accept the challenge of co-mingling with strangers. Come morning the grand escape vehicle fired up its diesel engine to idle for a half-hour of exhaust stench before hoisting the automatic levelling jacks and buggering off somewhere else after a hard night of roughing it.
Other folks were making coffee over a wood fire after a night in a tent behind their car; a very good aroma.Some folks still possess a primal urge to be close to the earth. Organized campgrounds may be as primitive an experience as they will ever have but at least they are off the couch and away from the goon box. I am not a fan of these places but this weekend they served my purpose. It’s better to have some of these folks organized and protected than to have their edge-of-the wilderness forays and random fires occurring hodge-podge. The problem on Vancouver Island is that it is hard to find untainted wilderness. There is evidence of man’s exploitation everywhere and of course the roads we use to get to the back of beyond were all built by logging companies.
Now that I’ve joined the ranks of the Rv world I find it interesting that despite the massive effort to charm folks into coming to indulge in “Super Natural BC” there is a paucity of camp grounds and facilities like sani-stations and places to fill tanks with potable water. One is now charged everywhere for a dribble of air or water and who wants to try manoeuvring a clumsy large vehicle near the awkward places where those hoses and their coin boxes are located. It is intriguing that we know face shortages of water in a place abounding with snow-capped mountains, streams and lakes. Of note is a recent news item I heard which claims that despite our long snowy winter, Coastal BC snow sheds hold a sixty percent less than normal amount of water. If it doesn’t rain all summer, which is entirely possible, it may be a paint your lawn season once again. Now back in Ladysmith, the skies have gradually become overcast and this morning shows evidence of overnight showers. Soon, it begins to rain steadily. Of course, I’ve yet to see a Victoria Day weekend when the weather was not foul, cold and wet. That having been said I recall once being advised that “Only fools and newcomers predict the weather.”
“Bad weather always looks worse through a window.” …Tom Lehrer
Jack is sleeping in the truck two decks below. I am no longer permitted to stay down there during the crossing. so here I sit by a portside window in the cafeteria on the BC Ferry ‘Queen of Alberni’ watching the world slide by at about seventeen knots. We’re running downwind so it’s hard to tell our actual speed which is probably faster over the bottom than it looks. It is a perfect sailing day. The seas are low, it is not cold (but not warm) and the sky is mostly clear with no rain squalls in sight. And damn their teeth, there are sailing boats out actually sailing. Yep, once a sailor, always one.
When I worked on the tugs this vessel was known to us as the ‘Overlander’ because it had ran aground a couple of times in quick succession. I suppose if one worked out the miles and hours it has spent traversing the Strait Of Georgia back and forth this old tub has an excellent safety record. “If you ain’t been aground, you ain’t been around,” a friend has told me and I’m not about to recount the times when I’ve gone bump. There have been a few. I’ve always been able to get myself free in short order and there’s never been any dramatic damage but…the gig’s not over yet.
It really is hard not to be pessimistic. I’m sure that thousands of years ago old geezers commiserated and proclaimed that “This can’t go on much longer.” I was raised by two zealous fundamentalist evangelical parents who could achieve a state of near ecstasy listening to yet another shouting leaping trickster behind his pulpit describe the “Second Coming” and the impending horrors of Armageddon. Well, the doomsters are still at it and somehow, we’re still here. So long as we keep asking questions and challenging those who try to manipulate us, there is hope. The moment is all any of us have and at this point in my little stumble through life I’m trying to savour all the small joys and forget the imperfections. I was once told that if I’m being run out of town, get to the front of the crowd and make it look like a parade. Anybody got a tuba? Speaking of tricksters, check out the TED talk given by a very brave reporter. Here’s the link https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/apr/21/carole-cadwalladr-ted-tech-google-facebook-zuckerberg-silicon-valley. This lady, Carole Cadwalladr, is Queen of the Questioners in my opinion. She sums up what I go on and on about, asking questions and hopefully inspiring others to do as well. She has blown the lid off some very grave business. Send me a comment, let me know what you think.
Its sound and that of the trains are drowned in the steady roar of the river. Living on Vancouver Island where our single railway has been rendered redundant, working trains have become a rarity to me. These trains are amazingly long, over a mile I’d say, with locomotives in the middle and at both ends. They seem quieter than I recall but all are amazingly filthy and in dire need of fresh paint. The rails are now welded instead of being bolted together so the old clickety-clack is another sound of the past. In the last half-hour a chill Easterly wind has sprung up and I won’t be sitting outside pecking away at this computer for long. Jack is off sniffing about for Easter eggs in a tight radius of our little campsite. He discovered prickly pear cacti last night and is not keen to adventure far on his own.
To escape the madness I drove up into the Kettle Valley. It parallels the Okanogan and is perhaps now best known for a massive forest fire which swept along a massive area in the valley a few years ago; all, apparently, in the wake of one tossed cigarette butt. Miraculously, near Rock Creek, a small parcel of forest nestled in a bend of the Kettle River was spared. It is a Provincial campground, a green oasis in the middle of extensive devastation. I sit writing tonight beside my campfire in this piece of interior forest. It is very different from coastal rainforest and lovely in its own right. I’ll bank the fire and go join Jack who has already put himself to bed.
The morning brings a cloudless sky and the sound of mating geese honking along the river. Jack is rested and anxious to go explore. So we shall. A few short kilometres further we find ourselves in beautiful downtown Rock Creek. It may have a population of two hundred. I sit writing on the back porch of a small enterprise which is a pleasant camp ground with wifi, handcrafts, second-hand goods, snacks and laundry facilities where I sit. A potential obligation has passed and I am free to enjoy myself. I drive across the high, spectacular country around Anarchist Mountain then descend to the route up through the Southern Okanogan which still bears a semblance of its former self. It has orchards! I still had a sense of it, then I arrived in Pentiction. Yep, back into the Okanogan strip mall. Along the highway, boarded-up fruit stands languish beside endless expanses of vineyards and wine tasting rooms. I had to drive half-way toward Kelowna to find an RV Park which was grudgingly accepting transient RV folks. Most parks I passed were filled with permanent residents living in mouldering motor homes and travel trailers. These grotty places charge ridiculous monthly fees but such is the economic situation for many folks. When you are too poor to have options, you just have to pay, and pay.
At the end of my sixth day on the road I have visited with new friends whom I met through the passing of my friend Frank. (See the blog posted March 13th) It was a lovely and all-too brief visit but made my short stay here more than worthwhile. I was also able to tour the Naramata Area on the Eastern shore of South Okanogan Lake. I had never been there before and was amazed at what I found. Although grapes have taken over much of the old orchard land, there is a happy mix of crops and an amazing profusion of wineries. I’m not much of a wine taster, especially not when alone and I did manage to bypass all the enticing bistros, this time!
A week after I started this blog post I am freezing body parts at a campsite south of Whistler. This the latest trendy world skiing destination. In my jaded opinion it is all a bloody horrible mess. I am in a RV park which has a spectacular view and the highest price I’ve ever paid including a $10. fee for wifi. It has crashed this post twice and is still hopelessly slow at 6 am. Enough! I’ll finish the rest of my travelogue as part two…elsewhere.
“All knowledge is not taught in one school.” …Hawaiian Proverb
We’ve had several lovely days of spring weather. The afternoons have been glorious. The blossoms have emerged and the woods are leafing out with that fabulous early-spring chlorophyll green. Magnolia trees bloom. In order to survive the reality of being boatless I have been head-down busy. I have over six years of blogs to review, categorize and tag. In that process I’ve come across wonderful photos which I’ve forgotten and I realize how rich were the years when ‘Seafire’ was part of my life. I am a very fortunate fellow.
I am also tinkering up my new old truck and trailer and it seems that I am turning that endeavour into a career. The to-do list goes on and on. A final job under the hood was to install new spark plugs. It sounds easy enough but with the sexy new-style spark plug wires, it was a challenge. Of course, as soon as I opened the hood and disabled the engine a cold, steady wintry rain began that was born on a gusting wind. I’m sitting beside the fireplace now with a tepid coffee and soggy joggy togs. They’re not sweat pants this morning. I haven’t had breakfast yet, which is part of the trendy Keto diet I’ve embarked on. My health issues demand that I shed some poundage so it’s fish and spinach for me. The doctor was mumbling about getting my stomach stapled, I replied that it would be a lot easier to staple my mouth. I also responded that after my recent trip through the US, I know I am NOT obese!
But I know he’s right, I’ve spent too many years talking about going back towards my flat-bellied youth but lip laps don’t burn many calories. It’s get off the pot time. There was a time when buying shirts was an effort to find some that allowed my arms to fit through the sleeves. Now it is about finding something which will button around my belly. I’m in big shape. I’ve joked about having a place to set my beer but I can no longer be a gluten glutton. It’s killing me. As Hercule Shwarzenegger might say, “My pecs have fallen.”
I retain an indelible image from my recent trip south of a portly man wearing sweat pants with a revolver in a holster strapped around his girth. The sheriff from Bigofme! Bib overalls are another fashion favourite. I’ve even seen those striped beauties cut off above the knees for a summer fashion statement. Ad diamond knee socks and rubber Walmart sandals. You’re stylin’ dude! Now add a T shirt that says “I’ve Beat Anorexia.” It ain’t funny but it is! Some folks actually seem proud of their personal grandeur. In a US motel a while back I saw a TV ad from a liposuction clinic advertising how you could lose thirty pounds in one day. The next ad was for McDonalds. That’s funny!
One bit of progressive news is that I’ve acquired a dinghy for the next boat. It is another Achilles inflatable which is in great shape. Achilles are made from a product called Hypalon which survives the UV damage of southern latitudes quite well. They also perform very nicely. This one can be deflated and packed in the back of the truck. I’ll have a seaworthy boat wherever I go, even in the desert. I found a fabulous price on a brand-new outboard for it, which is a first for me. (Both the price and something new) No more cobbling on someone else’s cast-off. How decadent is that?
Nothing lasts forever, everything comes to an end. Since the first paragraph of this blog, I have finally completed the dreary ordeal of reviewing and stuffing each blog into its own little box. I can see how the blogs have improved through the years. My attitudes have changed and I hope that the boring, repetitive rhetoric which I’ve produced at times can be forgiven. There has been a lot of navel-gazing and negative comment. If I can see that now, surely I am evolving positively. I have also noted how friends have set out and completed adventures and dreams. I’m still here blogging away and yapping about what I’m going to do. Seafire is gone. She was the precipitation of this blog which was supposed to be about all the voyaging ahead. It would be a good time to say thank you to my readers and end the blog.
But, the blog has become a force of its own. And, there is plenty of voyaging ahead. This effort helps give my life added meaning and from reader’s comments around the globe, I know it does make a positive contribution. If I achieve nothing else, I provoke some folks to ask questions and wonder at all the wonders. So begins ‘Seafire Chronicles’ Part II.
“Life is what happens while you are making other plans.” … John Lennon
“Everything improves with age … I’m incredible!” … Bumper Sticker
On October 22nd The latest Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante Spain. I am not a racer but it was fascinating to watch the beginning of the race. The start began like any sailing race with competitors jostling for a good position. The fleet then competed through several legs in the bay before heading out to race each other around the world. I prefer simple, traditional boats to these modern hi-tech floating computers but to see such massive boats (65 feet long, their hinged keel draws 15 feet! ) manoeuvring like dinghys with crews smoothly handling sail changes at each mark is a wonder. Sailing boats, in my opinion, are one of man’s higher achievements. I don’t know if high tech vessels are an advance or a retreat.
The race route stitches itself around the globe with monstrous legs like Lisbon to Capetown and twice dips down into the ice-filled, wind-ripped Southern Ocean, a vicious body of frigid water. The boats hurtle along at speeds in excess of 20 knots. When not beating themselves to death while cold and wet, these sailors have to face massive parties in each of the many far-flung ports which mark the end and beginning of each leg. This madness will continue for nearly 9 months when the race ends in Sweden. How are you spending your winter?
One boat is named ‘Clean Oceans’ and draws attention to the massive global pollution of all our seas. One recent report suggests that the tonnage of plastic clogging the waters and beaches of oceans worldwide matches the mass of our remaining fish stocks.
That is a sobering consideration. As I ruefully watch this boat knifing through the green Mediterranean waves, the irony of it’s own synthetic composition was not lost. From mast to hull to sails and clothing of the crew, everything is a plastic derivative. When I was a child fibreglass boats were beginning to find acceptance. One concern was about how long a ‘Tupperware’ boat would last. From what I’ve seen while wandering our Westcoast beaches the answer is forever! The plastic, in places, is a thick strata along our high water lines.
In Mexico, old bits of plastic littler the country. Fence lines and cacti are decorated by the wind with fluttering bits of tattered plastic to the point that it could be a national flag. Mexico is a place that I love despite the litter. I’ve seen many clever examples of recycling in that country. “Necessity is the mother of all invention” is an old wisdom. It is one of the reasons I go there. The seasonal window for getting ‘Seafire’ to Mexico is now closed. Local sailors generally agree that mid-October is the latest that one should depart our waters for a direct voyage to Mexico.
Halloween morning finds me up for another day at work, there are only a few of those left. I’ll soon be unemployed. It is still pitch-dark at 7am. It is cold and clammy-damp. We’ve had a few days of spectacular sunny fall weather, the forecast is now for a few days of payback weather which includes snow flurries. I’ll be heading southward with ‘Seafire’ next week, foul weather can be expected; naturally. In the meantime, I’ll post this as another short blog with photos of fall colours. I doubt readers will notice anything different, but I’ve acquired a new-used dslr camera. I couldn’t afford the purchase, but I couldn’t leave a good deal behind. My old Canon gear is showing it’s age. You can only drive so many nails with your camera, they just don’t make them like they used to. Seriously I’ve been coveting the quality and abilities of Sony and so here I go. Some of the slick photo technology has me stumbling but I’m sure I’ll be quite happy. I’ve proven all I can using my mobile phone as a camera. Now I look at the keys worn shiny on my laptop, or notebook, or whatever we’re supposed to call themthis week. I know what’s coming next.
In Ladysmith, the anchorage known as “Dogpatch” has claimed another vessel. The venerable ‘Anipaya’ now sits on the bottom of the bay. No-one seems to know her real history. The old wooden lady, about 90 feet long, with plenty of shear and a lofty crow’s nest, cut a salty profile. She looked like a former whaling vessel to my eye. The problem is that old boats are sold off as affordable housing because they’re too old and tired to be worth repairing. They’re rotten. When they become too difficult to keep afloat they are either abandoned on their moorings or dragged ashore and left derelict. Sometimes they’re burned. Someone else (Usually the taxpayer) is left to clean up the mess which is often toxic and dangerous.
Currently the politicians are discussing appropriate legislation to deal with the growing number of derelict vessels along our shoreline. I think it is simple. Live as you wish, so long as you are not imposing yourself on others. If a life afloat is what you choose then your boat must be maintained in a seaworthy condition at all times. If you are not able or willing to do that then you should be legally obligated to be responsible. No-one else should need to clean up your mess. The price of freedom is responsibility. Have I said that before?
A popular topic among mariners at the moment is about the two women rescued in the Pacific a few hundred miles of the coast of Japan after drifting with their dogs for five months. My information comes only from the media so I can merely speculate. The interview I did see placed their credibility as being very low. What they were claiming made little sense to this seasoned old salt. If indeed this is some sort of hoax, I truly hope they both pay a suitably heavy penalty. They’ve certainly done nothing to further the cause of voyaging sailors anywhere.
In Victoria, politicians are discussing making yet another law. It will try to deal with “distracted pedestrians!” Personally I am amused and saddened by those cannot even walk along a street without feeding their device addiction. No matter how many laws we make, there will never be a way to legislate stupidity.
Late-breaking news. As I post this blog… BUGGA!
“Be whom it was you needed when you were younger.”anonymous
On the chart it is named Kakushdish Harbour. The locals called it “Gustafson’s.” I much prefer the Heiltsuk name but I have no idea what sort of spices are used in a kakushdish .(She fed him some kakushdish and he was up all night) Seriously, the name rolls off one’s tongue in a lovely way and I’d guess it means something to do with shelter or safety. This is a short, shallow inlet only a few minutes from downtown Shearwater but a world away from the industrial ugliness and near incessant dirty clatter. I’ve avoided coming here, partly because it’s too close to home base but mostly because one has to pass under an electrical power line. I just don’t like overhead wires while on a moving sailboat. On the chart there is a clearance indicated of twenty-three metres. That is plenty enough for Seafire’s mast of sixteen metres but still I have a bad feeling about overhead wires and bridges. Unless the overhead obstruction is very high, it always looks as if you’ll go bump or zap; that tense anticipation is a nasty sensation.
Once under the wire the bay is wide and calm. In places there are long grassy shores to stretch your legs. With our late spring, the colours seem especially intense. This morning there’s a high overcast but the bay is still lovely. The season is very near summer solstice and nights have long lingering dusks. It is a time of richness and plenty. All creatures are busy feeding, raising their young, and preparing for the coming winter. The last one seems to have barely passed. As I get older the seasons, for me, spin faster and faster. Summer is the apex before the long descent into the next cycle of cold, dark and wetness. Yeah you know it, south, south!
A few days ago I crawled out from beneath a customer’s boat to find myself fifty feet from a young black bear. He was a beauty. My immediate concern was where the mother bear might be but it was soon obvious that this character was alone. There were a few people watching him but he was oblivious as he perused the aromatic garbage bins. Wild animals that accustom themselves to humans almost invariably meet a nasty end. I threw my hammer at him, several times. Bumbles, I named him, belonged in the safety of the forest, not in the middle of a shipyard at midday. He ambled slightly away but was determined to find a meal. We finally steered him up the hill, towards the school; plenty of lunch buckets up there. A yearling, probably orphaned, he has not been taught to forage for wild food and will need some strong persuasion to avoid the temptations of civilization. He has been spotted several times within the community. I fear for his future.
Because I am in my last days at Shearwater time is passing slowly for me, just as it did when I sat in a public school classroom this time of year so long ago. Friday afternoon finally arrived. I slipped the boat’s lines. We were quickly around the corner and out of sight. I spent the night and following day in Kakushdish most pleasantly. After a morning exploration of the bay by dinghy I settled down to work on the boat’s teak. I almost sanded my fingertips to the bone but tonight one cap rail is done. It has been scraped and sanded, had two coats of teak oil applied and all the metal fittings are back in their place. I enjoyed my simple honest work. A cool breeze hummed and whistled in the rigging. I knew a great sense of well-being. Funny how contentment can come from such a simple thing.
Late in the day I moved ‘Seafire’ to Beales Bay, a short distance around the rocks and reefs of Gunboat Passage. ‘Sjoa’ is anchored st the far end of the bay, I wonder what magic video footage Paer has made. I look out one last time just before bed. Last night’s full moon shines down between the scudding clouds. In the morning I awake with my eyes glued shut. I have to peel them open. Insect bites, or teak sanding dust, my whole head feels puffy. It’s snot funny. I force myself into the day; and soon happy for what it becomes. Paer comes over to ‘Seafire’ for a visit and we finally get to know each other a little. What a delight to meet someone new who closely shares similar perspectives and philosophies. I learn of adventures in Sweden along the Arctic Circle and in Lapland. Paer tells of sailing there and how life is in summers of the midnight sun and intense winters of near eternal darkness. He has an advantage of being able to see things from an outsider’s perspective and finds a positive view of things where I see only the negative. He points out that Shearwater, a tiny oddball community of misfit refugees from urban latitudes, manages to survive in relative harmony. He also points out, that despite our industry, we are able to make a minimal environmental foot print. The morning flew by as, in happy discovery, we plumbed each other’s philosophies, values, perspectives. Affirmation is very good for the soul.
I’ve been wanting to explore this huge wetland and estuary. Today the weather and the tides are in my favour. There is a lively and shallow, drying tidal rapids which guard the entrance. I’m able to pass through with a few inches of water beneath my kayak and slalom around three points and rocky islets into the marshland. It is unique as it spreads broadly around three saltwater streams which almost dry out at each low tide. Certainly they are navigable only on a rising tide. I am able to penetrate the green marsh by bumping along the bottom only as the tide rises up the stream bed and lifts me along a little further at a time. It is fantastic. The bottom of the streams are very course sand with glinting bits of mica. The water is slightly tea-coloured but clear. I am able to penetrate the grassy marsh and see birds and minnows in abundance. It is a place where I expect to see deer and bear at any time. I’m not disappointed.
Up one reach of the stream network I find Paer hiking in the marsh. We chat at the stream’s edge, marvelling at how quickly the tide rises. As we stand there a deer emerges from the forest, walking directly toward us. Eventually she senses our presence and we all stand motionless regarding each other across the flowing water. Mesmerized, we don’t notice how the tide is rising over the mud at our feet. Paer has to scramble for higher ground. I paddle out against the flood arriving back at the narrows just as the tide is about to turn again to ebb. I imagine how the marsh streams must be when salmon are spawning. They will be lined with bear and churning with spawning salmon. My one regret is that it has taken me so long to discover this wonderful place. Paer spends days there, always alone. He loves the marsh and lagoon and has developed an intimate knowledge of this area. His film work is of superb professional quality. Clearly he loves filming wildlife and wilderness. He points out that he has never made a living with film; it is something he does in amateur passion to share his vision of the natural world. I note again that his film vignettes are published for viewing on Vimeo and YouTube.
Look for his name: Paer Domeij or titles like ‘Ellerslie Lagoon Waterfalls,’ ‘Two birds and a bear’ or ‘Sommarpromen i Lulea.’ ‘Gransfors Yxmedja’ is fascinating and ‘Cruise Canada’ is my favourite. I have not mentioned his exploits as a man who built a boat and went voyaging as he still is. I am both impressed and inspired by Paer. High praise indeed from this cynic.
Monday was the usual hectic day with transient boaters lining up at the shop door to present their tales of woe. We serve folks on a first come first serve basis but somewhere else there be a place that serves people on the basic of the best dramatic account of their perceived problem. Uncle Harold’s ingrown tone nail and that the cat had diarrhoea six weeks ago really don’t have nothing to do with solving your present mechanical failure mister. You are number seventeen in the line-up so far this morning. We’re working on work order three from yesterday. Uh huh.
At least my little bear came back, he’s still alive and hungry. He did not seem as cavalier about the presence of people today and in fact scrambled up a vertical rock face to escape me. There are reports of a mother bear loitering in the surrounding forest. Hopefully, as the berries ripen during our late spring, our furry friend will prefer eating in the rough to biting the bullet if he continues to scrounge around people. Run Bumbles, run.
“I’d rather see a blackbird in the forest than an eagle on TV”
Warning: This blog contains a photo which some may consider offensive
“You’re getting past your shelf life.” How’s that for a remark from your doctor? He’s a great guy, one of the last country doctors I know and an avid permanent local. He has a great sense of humour which is a tremendous virtue for a doctor. On the water taxi ride back from the Bella Bella Hospital to Shearwater I began to reflect on what he really meant. The life I’ve lived has already taken me decades past my shelf life. I’ve done a lot of dangerous and stupid things in my time and know full well that none of us has more than the moment; no matter what we might think. I am not afraid of dying but I certainly hate not living. And living up here alone in the boat, through the winter, is proving to be nothing but an existence. After enduring a winter here in the Great Bear Rainforest I know I must make some immediate moves to change the prospects for the rest of my days. I don’t quite know how to change my status as an economic refugee, a common whore, especially when this old bilge ape is just not able to work as hard as he used to.
This blog was originally begun as a running narration of my vessel ‘Seafire’, myself and those who would join me on adventures and voyages to exotic destinations. It has taken on a life of its own and seems to teeter on a theme of finding wonder, humour and insights from the moments at hand. The years roar past like a runaway express train. For some reason I was cursed with hard wiring which seems to prevent me from ever getting my leg over a financial fence and achieving my simple dreams. Some friends tell how easy it is to just “DO” things but that formula eludes me. I have had many adventures which are too incredible to describe here; yet what I have dreamed of the hardest and longest still eludes me. Now my health is failing me and I have to modify those dreams and my lifestyle. I do also understand that with the correct lifestyle I can regain fair health and still live out some of those dreams. It is a conundrum which only I can resolve. The end of January is fast approaching and I’ve accomplished nothing here except to barely survive. But perhaps that in itself is an achievement.
Some sailors cheerfully go to extreme regions where they freeze-in for the long cold polar night. I’ve done my time in the Great White North. I cannot imagine eight to ten months of this as I sit here in the boat, writing at 03:00 and looking out at the blackness around the bay. There is no wind or rain tonight, for the moment, which perhaps is why I cannot sleep. It is too calm. What a place this is! Endeavours here are a strange waltzing boogie between the practical and the incongruous, the insane and the brilliant. To survive here one must mould themselves to bend around, and into, the culture of a many-faceted work camp community manned by characters, like myself, (Imagine a little town full of Freds) who don’t fit into the mainstream of the Southern Coast. I tend to simply do my job and then retreat into a hermit crab existence within this boat. But enough claptrap about the gloom of winter weather and frustrated dreams. There’s lots else to write about.
I often bemoan how my prime link with the outer world is CBC Radio. The radio and this laptop computer are my only company aboard the boat. (Really! No rubber dollies.) With a patter of human voices in the background, life is a little more bearable although many CBC programs are eternal manure heaps of rhetorical blither. Occasionally, for me, a nugget shines out from within the brown. One of those recent undungings was a half minute playing of an old but recognizable tune. No-one announced what those notes were, but it was instantly clear to me as a snippet of the theme music from a CBC series called ‘The Beachcombers.’ That tune is available online as are many of the 387 episodes aired over eighteen years. The show began in 1972 and was a near-instant hit. Set in beautiful little Gibsons BC the simple plots unfolded along the waterfront and still, even now, hold a pleasant charm. If you know who Relic was, you know the show. That series accomplished two things. First, I believe, its portrayal of life on this coast drew a migration of Eastern Canadians to the West. The image of an easy-going life in a picturesque setting had to be a magnet to a hippy generation that often travelled with only a thumb and a backpack. Those same folks are now entering their geriatric years and became the next generation of middle-class establishment which now owns some of the most expensive properties in the country. There’s a quote that goes, “A capitalist is just a socialist who’s found an opportunity.”
I think the second achievement of this TV series was that it portrayed as perfectly normal for whites and indigenous people to work and interact with each other on a fully equal basis. There were no exclamations about race or gender. Everyone was just one of the community. A local Sechelt native and prominent Hollywood actor, Chief Dan George, often guest-starred on the program and added a rare dignity. Anyone old enough to remember the show will soon fondly recall their favourite episode. However, there are now folks old enough to have a driver’s license who have never seen or heard of the production. If you see a geezer on the side of the road, wearing a headband and tattered bell-bottomed pants, they may well be on their way to check out the Sunshine Coast. It’s never too late. The food at Molly’s Reach is great. Peace man!
Speaking of peace there is the Trump subject. How many damned times a day do we have to hear something else relating to Trump? I’ve found myself counting the seconds after the radio is turned on until I hear the dreaded T-name. I try to avoid political contemplation at length in this blog but the media has been battering us with all things Trumpety, Trump since the beginning of the long presidential campaign. I’ve had enough. I’ll simply say that I wouldn’t want to spend any time in a life raft with this dude. Same thing, by the way, for Hilary. My dog is so smart he is well able to play stupid as it suits him. I think Trump may be playing a similar game. Listen carefully when he speaks about his “Big beautiful wall.” While it is assumed he is talking about his contempt for Mexico he carefully talks about protecting “Our borders.” Guess who has the only other border Canada. Many US citizens do not really see Canada as a sovereign nation and we have all these resources. Get it? Sleep tight.
Clearly he also has low regard for China so here’s a proposal. Major US retailers, like Walmart and Costco, sell little that is NOT made in China. Maersk shipping built special container ships just to accommodate Walmart’s huge demand. The shipping line returns those tens of thousands of containers to China; empty. So Mr. T, if it’s America first, perhaps US businesses should sell only US manufactured goods. Huh? And you say you will close all your hotels outside the borders of the US? Oh, and please, please bring all those crap fast food American restaurants back within your beloved border. Free enterprise. Ever hear of that Donny? NAFTA. Not A Freakin’ Thing’s Allowed! I’ve done a lot of business in the US and it seems to me that Americans hate being beaten at their own game. How’s that for a rant?
Meanwhile, up here in Gulag Shearwater the vicious weather has returned. High winds with massive gusts have stormed us for the past two days and nights. Old ‘Seafire’; is slammed repeatedly. The heavy boat is tossed about like a bath tub toy. Sleep for the past two nights was impossible. My binnacle cover, which was tied securely, was gone this morning. There’s another few hundred dollars blown away. It was due to be replaced, but I wanted the old one for a pattern. Shingles nailed to the dock were torn up by the wind and flung helter skelter. The weather was too foul even for our intrepid tugboat skipper to run a freight barge over to Bella Bella. I’ve sold my vehicle to a fellow there and need to deliver it. By water taxi we’re about fifteen minutes apart with rides an hour apart. BC Ferries offers a vague and irregular service which runs bi-monthly on average. Tonight I’ll board the ferry at 23:30 hours and then spend the night trying to sleep in the vehicle once ashore in Bella Bella.
All’s well that ends. It pummelled down rain all night, I slept fitfully. The transaction is complete, paid in full along with some fish. Then my new friend delivered me back to my own boat with his. There really are plenty of good folks out there yet.
At least Donald has never heard of Shearwater. Ah, here comes the wind again.
“Cream rises to the top. So does scum.” …Ian Graham.
No comments are necessary here. These photographs were all taken within a couple of hours at the official residence
of British Columbia’s Governor General. Nice work if you can get it! The grounds are open to the public, and believe it or not, there is no admission charge!
The ocean view from this property is fabulous and the gardens are indescribably beautiful. The gardens change with the seasons and are well worth the visit, even if you’re not interested in some incredible flora, and surprising fauna. They are not far from the bustle of downtown Victoria and have been a well-kept secret for a very long time. That is changing and they are being discovered by the tourists but the aura of peace and order has not been diminished. This garden may not have anything, or it may have everything, to do with sailing. Without destinations, the voyage between is meaningless.
“The world laughs in flowers.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
I swear I have been passed on the road by a shiny Hummer with a ‘Think Green’ bumper sticker. All this enviro-speak is very trendy but when if comes to giving up personal comfort, well yeah but…! I saw a photo recently of a fat man jovially sporting a T-shirt saying “I beat anorexia.” Yeah, it’s funny, but underscores how we love our extremes. We want to drive 300hp SUV’s and also get fifty miles a gallon. People’s vehicles are bigger than ever and obesity is worn by many as a badge of well-being but I’m just not that interested in global stupidity, I’ve got a full-time job dealing with my own.
A growing number of folks are taking pride in living fully by enjoying a fresh awareness of how little they need. Perhaps in result of recent economic events, it is a refreshing turn away from our perversion for lemming gluttony. After living in a boat for years I can claim the benefits outweigh the inconveniences. Not much room for clutter here and if something aboard hasn’t proven its worth within a year; it’s gone. Use it or lose it! Forty-one feet up one side of the boat and the same down the other gives me eighty-two feet of untaxed waterfront property. I can change the view and the neighbours any time I want and, Yeehaw! You won’t find a damned lawnmower anywhere in this boat. Yes, I’d love to have a workshop aboard and I can think of other essential amenities but soon enough I could could end up with an aircraft carrier and still be wanting a little more room. Some of my happiest memories have to do with canoes and rowboats and backpacks; enough said.
I recently bought a teardrop trailer and that has led me onto some interesting paths of research. There is a quiet trend toward downsizing homes, vehicles and RVs with folks taking pride in learning how little they realty need. That path helped me discover the tinyhouseblog.com which is a site dedicated to compiling stories about people who are discovering the joy of living in as small a space as possible. Boats, trailers, gypsy wagons, yurts and small buildings are all there. Not only are many designing, building and living in sensible homes, they are joyfully discovering the freedom of shedding the burden of being owned by mountains of “Stuff”. It is a trend which I hope gains momentum and flies in the face of consumerism. That is an insidious religion we have all been programmed to embrace. We worship in the malls and plazas that are our mosques and cathedrals. Blind consumerism is as evil and deadly as any other fundamentalist dogma.
For years I have noted some folks stepping backward when they learn that I live in a boat. I can almost hear the thought at times, ‘He’s one of those!” That’s fine, your waters are too shallow for me; I doubt we’d have become friends anyway. This old boat hippy does however firmly believe that the price of freedom is responsibility. No-one has the right to impose their personal preferences on others. I maintain my boat so that it is always tidy and seaworthy and self-sufficient at all times. There’s no point expecting respect from others unless you demonstrate you have some for yourself. I’m also learning that perhaps it is better to do big things in a small boat instead of little things in big boats. It is too easy to lose sight of the plan if you starting getting bigger boats and acquiring more stuff. Soon you are buried in a hole where your possessions own you. I know all too well! Not so long ago entire families went off to see some, or all, of the world in boats that were seldom over 30′ in length. Now the average cruising couple often has a boat at least 40′ long. Interestingly, each day’s dead reckoning is still calculated at a speed of 5 knots.
Minimalism offers the joy of being able to go now. The encumbrance of stuff and where to keep it all, and the associated debt, is gone. I have wasted a huge portion of my life preparing boat after boat. Many of those have gone on to sail away over the horizon with a new owner. The first boat I owned could have taken me anywhere. I can’t openly admit any of the excuses which have kept me tied to the dock and which I thought were so important at the time.
“When in fear or in doubt, raise your sails and bugger off out”…Tristan Jones
Emotional depression is an epidemic in the Western World. Sadly it is, I believe, a symptom of a huge malady relating directly to our consumerist culture. We all feel inadequate if we don’t look like this, smell like that, drive one of those, live in a faux castle and surround ourselves with other similarly deluded souls who desperately try to maintain a facade of bottomless wealth. Of course we can never catch up to those expectations imposed on us by a lifetime of spin doctors and marketing wizards. So very many of us become bogged in a swamp of despair because we have been convinced that we just don’t measure up. Rising crime rates, fiscally foundering governments? It is only an emulation of the mindset so prevalent in our own homes. If you have no self-love, it it is damned hard to respect and love anyone else. If the nation’s individual personal finances teeter on bankruptcy, how is it surprising that we have a national deficit?
I’m bending toward people who live in so-called third world conditions. There is a lot to learn from them. For all they don’t have, sometimes not even shoes, they have dignity and self-esteem. They can look you in the eye and actually smile. They understand, because they live so close to the wire, that you only have the moment. They are not emotionally constipated by worrying about investment portfolios or many of the problems of the future. They have not bought the myth that they are somehow immortal. If they can feed their children today that is their best expectation; feeding them tomorrow, a bonus. Most of the world lives like this; we are the privileged few. If only we could remain aware of that single fact as our middle-class erodes.
People who are not busy trying to build a personal empire have a lot more time and mental space to be philosophically and spiritually aware. A documentary I recently enjoyed, ‘La Camioneta’, is about the new life of a recycled American school bus as it moves from an auction yard in the US to a new home in Guatemala. A man there, who has a small business refurbishing buses for local commercial use is asked why he decided on his particular career. I paraphrase his reply in part, “The thing about a bus is, even if the passengers are not all friends, it is a place where for a little while, people share their journey through life together.” That thought is profound. Consider that the whole planet is a place where we must share our journey through life. There is so much we can do to make our journey together better for each other.
I woke up yesterday morning in a new year. The world was still here and so am I, not even hung-over or under. Again today, it is the usual drippy, grey dawn where thick darkness gradually gives way to medium gloom. By mid-afternoon the day will slowly slink back into a palpable darkness which invades your being a bit more with each breath.
So in this new year I have a great boat and a little trailer with which I intend to use the remains of my little existence to go unravel some of life’s mystery and rediscover basics we have left behind. (“Something to do, someone to love, something to look forward to while doing no harm”) No matter how much philosophizing and analyzing one does, a balanced life can’t be refined better than that…. in my opinion. My little odyssey will be described in part through this blog. In some small way, I hope my discoveries help enlighten others. The journey began long ago. Soon I must shut-up about “Gonnado” and actually leave town. The blogs will continue. Bring some good boots along if you like but, no bigger than you need.