Once again I begin a new blog while aboard ‘Seafire’ and anchored in Silva Bay. I’m here to work on ‘Aja;’ that lovely little wooden schooner I’ve been helping revive.
She’s moored on a lee shore at low tide in a brisk wind. I need to raft alongside of her. There’s no room for a mistake and so I’ve dropped the anchor to wait things out. Sometimes it is best to use your superior judgment to avoid demonstrating your superior skill. Prudence is a good thing. There are times when a lifetime of experience allows me to show off a little. Today is not one of those. So here I sit with the wind moaning a dirge in the rigging, the anchor burying itself in the mud while I tinker at the endless chores on a boat. I’m half a cable off an islet I’ve named “Dog Rock” because this tiny island is where the summer yachters bring their pooches in the morning. Jack and I use it too. Mind where you step. This area is an archipelago known as the “Flat Top Islands.” The islands actually form and protect this bay nestled in the shoreline of Gabriola Island. I have many memories of this place, both bitter and sweet. It keeps calling me back. The surrounding small islands provide several narrow, tricky entrances. Careful chart study is required of the newcomer. The old shipyard here is a clear warning of the rock-studded passages. It sits like a spider in its web waiting for the next victim. Every year there are a few hapless skippers who can’t read their charts or GPS plotters. Crunch! Gotcha!
The following morning I get up in the dark and put on some coffee. The blackness is palpable. All night I’ve lain in my bunk sleeping lightly, tossing restlessly, craving for a sound or a bit of light. The sky is now overcast and in this corner of the bay the blackness is multi-dimensional. ‘Seafire’ is a cozy refuge, a storm shelter and a wonderful time machine which has transported me to new realms and wonderful adventures. On nights like this, it is also a prison. So now I seek distraction sipping at my mug and battling with the computer. It insists the paragraph I wrote last night does not exist. I finally find a back-way to sneak in to the app and add these words. I was weary when I crawled out of the bunk, this little cyber battle leaves me feeling exhausted already. The day awaits.
And, it proved to be a long but successful day. ‘Aja’ now has a reliably functional engine and among other things, a dependable bilge pump. I’m weary of repairing and rebuilding boats but there is something special in the seams of ‘Aja’ which leaves me wanting to dig in and begin the restoration. The boat is a shrine of all that is sacred to me. The full refit of this old beauty will be a career for the new owner but, I think, a worthwhile endeavour. I meander homeward with ‘Seafire’ wondering what lays ahead. I have no money and no prospects, only dreams. It will be an interesting winter.
Meanwhile the weather is fabulous and I’m well aware that these golden days must be savoured fully. I know what lays ahead in regard to weather, and it ain’t pretty. Good weather is never paid for in advance. So here are some pictures of the fullness of autumn.
“Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night.” …. Hal Borland
Two days back was the first real day of autumn here. When I stepped outside early in the morning the sky was a velvet black and the stars were brilliant. They seemed to be moving until I realized a bright satellite was passing and creating my first illusion, or perhaps delusion, of the day. A thin film of frost formed on the windshield as I turned on the wipers to clear away the heavy dew. First frost! At the beginning of October! Here on Southern Vancouver Island! Proof! Global Warning! Meanwhile fellow bloggers send brilliant posts from their exotic travel locations. Bugga! Now, as we stumble into Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, it is raining furiously, intermittently drizzling as it will for the next six long dark months. The good thought is that it is not snow. Yet.
Life goes on as I try to resolve technical issues on friend’s old boats. They’re people I like and their boats are wonderfully unique; character vessels worth special attention. I’m an older character with the experience to see a project through but I really would rather be done with resolving challenges. Poverty, however, is a powerful master and I find myself grubbing for the next dollar while sliding backwards. I know there are lot’s of of folks my age in the same state of financial duress, but it doesn’t make life any easier. A former tugboat dispatcher used to say, “ She’s all bluebirds, just freakin’ bluebirds!” Yup I can hear the flutter of their little wings. A shoe maker told me this week that his business is booming. “People,” he said, “are repairing their shoes again instead of just throwing them away.” That is a good thing, but also a sign of how the middle class is being eroded. Enough said.
Some times things just go in streaks of bad and good. Like the bio-degradable dogshit bag I found stored in my jacket pocket from months ago. No, no, it was an empty bag. The little green sacks have a shelf life after which they start becoming earth once again. I discovered I had a pocketful of ragged green confetti which fluttered everywhere and stuck to everything. I’ll have little green bits appearing inside the boat for months to come. They don’t like being vacuumed up and they sure do not want to wash away. They just stick harder. On the trip back across the Strait from Steveston the boat took an especially nasty roll. The kettle, which I had not bothered to stow, leapt off the stove. It landed on its spout and the whistle vanished. While tidying away the green stuff, I finally found my beloved kettle whistle. Some days, life indeed seems predestined. At least I leave no loaded little green bags tied neatly and sitting on the edge of paths or even hanging in trees. Why DO people do that with their dog’s do?
There is no poo fairy which comes along and gathers them up. Ya packed it in. Now pack it out.
The weather forecast for the weekend is a mixed bag of sun and then rain. What a great job; to be paid for being correct once in a while. Certainly here in Coastal British Columbia where the entire North Pacific slams against a barrier of jagged mountains and tortured inlets, the local geography often makes its own weather. What is happening in one place can be entirely different than the weather even ten miles away. Any one of the Gulf Islands can have entirely different weather occurring at the same time on opposite ends of that particular small land mass.
I do wish that people would stop being so arrogant as to believe we alone are responsible for Global Warming. We certainly are not helping and urgently need to clean up our act, but hard, clear evidence shows a warming/cooling fluctuation that has gone on for millions of years. Our existence is a gnat’s fart within that history. Long after the passing of the virus that is us, the weather will still vary wildly as it always has.When I was in school, there was speculation about the impending doom of the next ice age. Wherever the profit of paranoia leads, we follow. Remember the Ozone Layer? We need to remove our heads from where the sun never shines, give ourselves a good old dog shake and indulge in the available joy and beauty of the moment. It is all we truly have. And go ahead, be brave, ask questions!
“ We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know.”
Well, a week and a half later I’m writing the next paragraph in the middle of another sleepless night. I’m back in Ladysmith after a very successful gig and back to frantically scratching around for survival dollars. The movie scrum is gone. A few remained to repaint the shops and put things back the way they were. Did it ever really happen? The fall rain and drizzle are back and life settles into a dreary routine. Only six months till spring. Southern latitudes are calling loudly.
Once in a while I find a media item that I feel is worth mentioning. A friend mentioned a BBC series on YouTube called ”Great Canal Journeys.” It is hosted by geriatric British actors Timothy West and Prunella Scales. You do remember her. “BASIL!” Say no more. They’ve spent much of their fifty year marriage touring the canals of Britain aboard their own narrow boat. This series is beautifully filmed and presented; a welcome and refreshing interlude. Also prescribed by another friend, and also on YouTube is a series by Philomena Cunk (Hmmm, two lugubrious English female names!) She too is utterly delightful with subtle humour and charming wit, a master of Elegant rudeness.
I think I’ll make a cuppa and watch some more canal yachting. I always find myself wondering how they manage to find all those sunny days in England.
“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another.” ….Thomas Merton
Coddiwomple, Old English slang meaning to journey purposefully toward a vague destination. It is also the name of a cute little boat recently arrived on the dock. Of course I had to look it up. It could be the description of a person’s life. Then there’s the timeless oxymoron about military intelligence. Two young men in naval uniforms complete with black life jackets and black crash helmets arrived yesterday morning at the dock in a hefty inflatable boat. When it was time to leave, their outboard motor would not start. I watched the performance which largely involved frantic heaving on the starter rope. This old mechanic finally volunteered to them that for whatever reason the motor was not getting any fuel and that they should check the connections on the gas line. They thanked me and continued to jerk the rope. I couldn’t go have a look, I was in the midst of my final bit of painting. There was prolonged loud discussion with mothership on their vhf radio which descended to a focus on the fuel primer bulb. “No, no, the bulb is still soft.” (It becomes hard when full of fuel and the system is pressurized.) After nearly a half-hour they finally clipped the fuel hose back onto the tank and zoom-zoomed off into the sunrise. Sleep tight, your navy is awake!
I’ve watched folks become infuriated with their dead outboard and pull away on the starting rope until it broke or until their arms nearly dropped off. There’s nothing to diminish your spirits like the sound of the starter recoil spring zlithering and sproinging around inside the engine cowling. Then, finally, it is discovered that all along, the ignition safety switch was off. To further the frustration, it takes someone else to make that discovery. Yep, I’ve done it too. Remember the movie “Sling Blade?” There’s a wonderful scene where the village idiot quietly watches the local lawn mower mechanic fight all day with a dead motor. Finally the protagonist announces that he “Reckons it’s outta gas. Uh huh.” Start with the simple things first.
The painting is now complete on the boat, so instead of having been on the dock at first light to beat the sun, I sit here enjoying the decadence of writing while sipping coffee. Of course, today there is some cloud cover, perfect for painting. You can tell I am not an enthusiastic painter. The secret is in the preparation which can means hours of sanding, filling and sanding. Pull marks from a dry brush or runs from too much paint are the marks of carelessness. Then there are the spatters, especially when applying a dark colour near a lighter one. There is a technique of applying the paint, first by roller then followed by brush, not too dry, not too wet. Painting in direct sunlight is an invitation for disaster, the paint wants to dry faster than it can be applied and there is a sticky mess waiting to happen. Only experience can teach the best method. Then in gleaming glory, the paint begins to dry, all the while attracting all sorts of insects, airborne seeds, hairs and pieces of lint. Finally you peel off the masking tape and…SHIT! It ran beneath the tape. Actually, there is no substitute for good masking tape, which, of course, is the most expensive, but you get what you pay for. I’ve found a product called ‘Frog’ which works really well.
I learned to hate painting when, as a boy, I often made a little cash schlocking white on fences and houses. My passion for painting is right next to mowing lawns and anything involving shovels. Then there’s picking berries. At least there is a reward at the end of the endeavour without any delayed gratification. Jack and I went out at first light armed with a bucket. A light breeze prevented any dew; perfect! Mourning doves wha-coo-hooed while a bumper crop of rabbits kept Jack entertained. I dealt with the bumper crop of blackberries. The first ones are ripening and there will be a harvest that goes on for weeks. I’ve never seen so many.
The biggest, sweetest berries are at the end of the highest thorniest vines, well above where dogs may have peed. Having leathery old mechanic’s hands is a bonus. I hold a smaller cup-sized container beneath the fruit I’m picking and then transfer that, when full, to the bucket. That saves a lot of painful moves among the brambles and speeds up the gathering. There’s your blog-tip from this hunter-gatherer-mechanic. Now as the sun rises and the world heats up, it’s time to head to the boat for some finishing touches. Just another perfect early-summer Sunday on a beautiful Pacific Island.
“We are all the architects of our own despair.” …Jill Bailey
Rain! It’s my fault. I’m busy ripping the windows out of my boat and replacing them. Then I plan on painting the cabin sides and the rest of the decks. Nature abhors a vacuum and so with each window being about eight square feet in size, guess what! Sploosh and whoosh!Actually it could have to do with the long weekend, we seem to seldom get one without wet weather and then in the days immediately following the skies will clear and I can carry on.
The guest dock here at the Ladysmith Maritime Society is filled with guest boats. The Ladner Yacht Club is here to celebrate its 60th anniverisary and the fleet which has arrived is one of pristine boats. Good on them! They are a group of very nice people with lovely dogs and I don’t need to worry myself about Canadian courtesy flags because none are foreign vessels.
A few days ago there was a fleet of US Tupperware tugs at the dock. Only one flew a visible courtesy flag. (When visiting any foreign waters in your boat it is basic marine protocol to display a small flag of that country above all other flags.) While I was at the head of the ramp a pair of our venerable Sea King helicopters flew over, low and slow. A lady from one of the visiting boats was passing and inquired if indeed these were military aircraft. Perhaps she was intrigued that such antiques were still in service. Being the quick quip that I am, my response was that since the insults uttered against Canadians by President Trump, we had begun a daily aerial patrol checking that US vessels were flying the correct flags. “Oh my!” she exclaimed wide-eyed, “ I’m so glad we have ours up.” Of course it was all in fun, but I’m sure she’ll pass the message on. I am really flummoxed that it is not an issue which our border personnel do not address but I suppose that’s the Canadian way.
Yesterday I was bent to my work on ‘Seafire.’ (which seems to go on and on) A strident female voice began to make inquiries on the marine VHF of “Ladysmith Maritime Society Marina”. Half of the boats on the guest dock leave their radios on at a high volumes. I can only surmise that it makes then feel saltier. The radio voice went on and on with sporadic silly inquiries, even when the boat, a Catalina 34, finally arrived alongside the dock space assigned to it.
The docking crew stood looking out at the little sailboat laying twenty feet or so away. The boat’s crew, a man and woman, stared back. Finally the voice erupted again, strident and indignant. “We don’t have a bow thruster you know!” I kept my mouth shut. Clearly, I am not Walmart greeter material.
(A bow thruster is a small propeller installed on a boat below the water line and pushes the bow sideways when attempting to dock.) This old salt reckons that the device is absolutely unnecessary on any vessel with someone competent at the helm. Some boats, complete with twin engines, have a thruster installed at either end of the vessel. The boat can be manoeuvred in any direction or turned in its own length but it still all depends on the nut that holds the wheel. Every extra device does make life easier at times, but it also increases dependability on that gadget and decreases skill levels. For me sailing is a religion of traditional skills and self-sufficiency. Enough said. I’ll carry on with my sanding and painting and keep my head down, like a fly on the wall.
The painting job on ‘Seafire’ has turned into a career; it goes on and on. It began simply enough with the intention to replace two windows and spruce up the window frames. Oh yeah, while I’m at it, I should update the lifeline stanchions seeing as I had a replacement set laying in the crawlspace at home. Then, while doing that, I damaged a side window with cleaner and decided to replace them all. While I had the stanchions off and the window frames off, it only made sense to paint the cabin and the side decks. I’ve tried repairing the paint on the cove stripe along the hull and have now decided to repaint that while I’m at it. One of the things my years have taught me is patience and that certainly is a prime ingredient for a job like this. Painting is not simply the act of apply fresh colour to a surface. First there is the preparation and therein lays the rub. Yep, a pun! Preparation is everything. There are incessant hours of sanding, and filling and more sanding. My fingers are abraded down to near-bleeding stubs. Then, if the sun is not too hot, or the threat of rain not too imminent, there is the application of a smooth gliding coat of liquid colour. Not too much however, it will run and drip. Once that is done, I stand back to admire the fruit of my labour and flies begin to land in the sticky gleam. Bugga! As I finish one section, the rest of the boat looks shabby. Also, with the new shine, all the manufacturing defects in the fibreglass are revealed. But, there is progress each day.
If refurbishing the boat is not enough challenge I am also in the middle of consummating a relationship with a new laptop computer. It is a supercharged gaming computer, the Grand Ferrari, something with all the giga-properties I need to use the film editing program which I’m trying to teach myself. The computer is a delight, but Windows 10, and downloading updated programs is a huge challenge for my old-school thinking. Mix that all in with my painting career on the boat and you’d think that all this masochism might indicate an English ancestry. You’d be correct.
A friend called to remind me of the British car show at the waterfront park in Ladysmith. I’d gone in previous years and was not eager to go see the same few dozen vehicles. WOW! Apparently there were over 200 cars and motorcycles on display. All ran, most were driven to and from the show. All have been lovingly restored and maintained. The spectators glided about in hushed awe, thrilled at what they were seeing. British cars are famous for their design and craftsmanship as well as their demands for incessant fiddling maintenance and enduring unreliability. For a very long time, British automotive electrical systems were hopelessly complex and comprised of components built by Lucas, known by many as the “Prince Of Darkness.” Yet there is a mystique and romance built into English vehicles that no-one else can match.
When the day is done, I read myself into sleepy oblivion with a copy of “Lord Jim” by Joseph Conrad. I haven’t tackled this novel in over half a century and it is clear why I first laid it aside. This guy did not have a word processing machine of any sort yet he stuffed every word possible into anything he was trying to say. Lots of folks love to gush about what a wonderful nautical author Conrad was. I find him lugubrious. One sentence can, at times, fill half a page. There is far too much wrapping around the golden gift of his story. Yet I find the weight and cadence of his writing evocative of the days I’m living at the moment. Here, in closing, is one sentence.
…”Such were the days, still, hot, heavy, disappearing one by one into the past, as if falling into an abyss for ever open in the wake of the ship, lonely under a wisp of smoke, held on her steadfast way black and smouldering in a luminous immensity, as if scorched by a flame flicked at her from a heaven without pity.” ….PHEW!
“It is not that life ashore is distasteful to me. But life at sea is better.” ― Sir Francis Drake
Sunday morning, Silva Bay, Gabriola Island. The air is cool and damp, there is clearly a threat of rain. The sun is a brassy point of light glowing through a high overcast. The big ebb tide for the day is drawing the sea water through the bay like a river. Chunks of sea weed rush past and I wonder what mess is tangled in my anchor chain. There is a muddy tint in the water, a sure sign of the Fraser River’s spring freshet. The mouth of the river is twenty miles away across the Strait of Georgia. It drains the interior of British Columbia from over eight hundred miles inland. I consider that some of the mud in the water is from places where I have lived and that my past has found me. A river of conscience, hmmm.
Then I consider that another loop has closed with my return to Silva bay after a three year absence. Thousands of miles have passed beneath my keel since I made my way northward from here. I thought that journey would become a track that led directly to Mexico but it wasn’t to be. Now I’m back here and I wonder where the next loop of my life will lay. The bay is unchanged with both grand yachts and derelict hulks still littering its waters. The restaurant at the head of the docks suffered a nasty fire last winter. As usual, there are plenty of rumours and speculations about who is doing what and what the future holds. This bay is a beautiful place with tremendous potential as a cruising destination but for the moment there is little left to attract folks. There are still three marinas but the restaurant and pub, the swimming pool and both grocery stores are all gone. Fortunately the Islands Trust will not permit condo developments or luxury resorts and one can only speculate on how the future will unfold.
Once Silva Bay was a small community that even enjoyed regular visits from a coastal steamer but those glory days are long gone.
Old friends have also just returned. Rodger and Ali have brought their beloved ‘Betty Mac’ back to Silva Bay. It was deck cargo loaded in Golfito, Costa Rica and unloaded in Nanaimo. This intrepid couple had plans for voyaging on to Patagonia but the scheme changed. They first arrived here from their home in Southeast Australia via Japan and the Aleutian Islands. They returned to Alaska the following year and then headed southward. In the meantime, they bought a former Canadian Coast Guard boat, ruggedly built of aluminum. They installed a rough interior, trucked that boat to Hay River, travelled from Slave Lake down the Mackenzie River to Tuktoyaktuk. They then spent subsequent summers exploring eastward in the Northwest Passage. That vessel is now stored in Greenland. In the fall they’d voyage further south in ‘Betty Mac’. Who knows where their loops will lay. In spite of their intrepid nature these two are also very nice people and I’m proud to call them friends. They are also a splendid example of what happens when a couple share a common dream and work together. Ali has returned to Australia so Rodger and I shared a meal on the deck of ‘Betty Mac’ comparing notes on our adventures and future plans. It was bliss.
The Beaver float plane based here taxis past and takes off on its Sunday morning mission. I make a sumptuous omelette. By the time the dishes are done and the morning chores are complete it taxis past in the opposite direction, arriving back to Gabriola with a fresh load of folks. C-FHRT (Seafart) is the same aircraft that was my dock neighbour when I lived and worked here. A former aircraft mechanic, I’ve made repairs to it at times so the flight schedule could be maintained. I’m impressed that this enterprise has survived serving this one island. It is a classic Canadian tale of the romance of the bush plane business. The DeHavilland Beaver is world famous and an icon of frontier aviation everywhere. I dearly love the sight and sound of these machines. Once, while on the Silva Bay dock payphone to a friend in California, CFHRT began its takeoff with a classic ear-splitting snarl. “What was THAT?” They exclaimed. “A Beaver” I calmly replied. “My God!” was the awed response. I explained that the Beaver was a float plane. “Oh” was the diminished reply. “I thought you meant the animal.”
I also had long overdue visits with other friends this weekend then I went fishing on the east side of Gabriola. I set out the prawn gear and watched in utter dismay as the floats dove beneath the surface and did not reappear. That was over $200. of prawn gear gone. Obviously I did not have enough extra line to compensate for the set of the spring current. I knew better! In the middle of that frustration, a rogue wave, probably caused by a distant ferry’s wake mixing with the wind against tide, smacked the boat down onto her beam ends. The dining table, not lashed down, flipped upside down onto the far side of the cabin, books levitated, dishes in the galley flew. There was no apparent damage. I caught no fish, of course, and in a rising vicious wind I retreated for shelter, confirming once again that I am one of the world’s worst fishermen. Tinned salmon was on the menu for dinner. The recipe was humble pie. Sailor’s superstition says it may have been that canned fish which prevented any catches.
Monday morning finds me waking in Ruxton Passage where I’ve anchored in a bight which I call South Pirate’s Cove. It is calm and the skies are clearing. I lay in bed listening to the morning news on CBC radio. The furor is now about an escalating trade war with Donald Trump. So here we go peeing either way through the same fence. I guess we’ll soon be due for a wall. Our timid leader, Mr. Trudeau II has raised his voice an entire half-octave and the Americans accuse him of over-reacting. We point out that we provide the aluminum for the mighty fleet of US military aircraft. That force could be turned against us should we decide to cut off our supply to the US of water, electricity, uranium, oil, timber, singers, actors and space arms. A day may come when our children will learn a nursery rhyme that starts with “Old Humpty Trumpty sat on his wall, old Trumpty had a great fall….” Just remember Donny Boy (There’s a song for you) that it was a military force based in Canada which came down and set fire to what you now know as the White House. Don’t mess with us beaver-skinners. Oops! Some jaded wanna-be actress will probably take that as a sexist slur. Really folks, ain’t it all just nuts?
Here’s a thought. If Mr. Trump really wants to support the American labourer and economy then decree that that the grand American institution, WalMart, can longer market anything manufactured outside of the US. While we’re at that, let’s make sure that anything we buy, no matter what its label, is actually produced in North America. If you want a piece of global pie then the game has to be played both ways. It’s call “Free Enterprise.” How’s that for a good old-fashioned American term? I’m no economist, that much is clear, nor am I an unemployed steel worker but I have a hard time taking our border disputes without disbelief. We’re friends and neighbours! With all the social and environment issues on the table, surely we can get our collective shit together and work in unison on something important…and do some good.
As I proof-read this blog I learn that Doug Ford has just been nominated as head of the Ontario Conservative Part as so becomes Premier-designate. It is hard not to think of this fellow without remembering his notorious brother and politician Rob. He is certainly another political cartoon-character like Donald Trump making all manner of nonsensical statements and impossible promises. This hermit-sailor is happy to stay detached from a world that chooses these sort of dudes to be our leaders. Apparently we are so comfortable that we are that apathetic.
I’m happy to be here head down on my boat. I’m spending the balance of the week painting the deck on ‘Seafire’. There are voids in the gelcoat to fill and sand, teak to be cleaned, and finally priming then painting. Of course the forecast is for rain and drizzle and my early morning effort to beat the next squall failed absolutely. I hate this sort of work but the end result is worth it and long overdue.
. While I bend to my labours, transient boats come and go. I bite my tongue as some foreign yachts arrive proudly displaying their US ensign, their yacht club burgees but no Canadian courtesy flag. Some have the temerity to not even display a vessel name or home port! I’m somewhat dismayed that these dudes are not turned back at our border. A courtesy flag, for the land-lubbers, is a small flag of the country in which your vessel is plying their sovereign waters and should be displayed above all other flags. It is a traditional act of respect and a strong point of basic nautical etiquette and at times even safety. The only thing more upsetting to me is that other Canadians don’t take umbrage enough to speak up. I do. The reactions are mixed but usually my point is well taken. Try taking your Canadian yacht into US waters without that little flag flying. It just isn’t done. Canadian are known as nice folks but we are NOT a 51st state, you Trumpys! So what gives… eh?
There are two kinds of pride, both good and bad. ‘Good pride’ represents our dignity and self-respect. ‘Bad pride’ is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance….. John C. Maxwell
Well, the exuberant celebration of spring blossoms is winding down. I’ll post a couple of Dogwood flower photos,.They’re now all gone from the trees. We’re into the black cottonwood, or alder as they’re commonly known here, season of blowing seeds.
It’s clear why they’re called cottonwood. The Scotch broom is in its spring bloom, much to the misery of allergy suffers. There will be a second flowering in late summer, but for now we’ll just worry about what we’ve got on our plate. Already, there is a smell of smoke in the air which heralds forest fire season. that’s just too darned early.
Before I go further I should mention a really awesome shop I visited up in Courtenay. A good kayak store is hard to come by but Comox Valley Kayaks have been in business for many years, and for good reason. I’d never stopped in before but was looking for a couple of items I could not find anywhere in Nanaimo. Even without my kayak along they fitted me out with the perfect items and at a fair price. The service was great, the staff knowledgeable and friendly (Even the lovely black German Shepherd) and the inventory quite impressive. I’m recommending them because I am that impressed. They only offer what is reasonable to expect, and all too rare it seems. That makes it commendable.
There was a wooden boat gathering in the Ladysmith Maritime Marina last weekend where ‘Seafire’ is moored. I walked the docks early on Sunday morning before many other folks were up and about. My camera whirred. Now these folks are gone home to more varnishing and painting and I’m left here praying for some cloud cover to do my own painting out of the direct sunlight. So without any social comment (for a change) I’ll simply post my photos and hope you enjoy them. By the way, the mystery about the little aluminum sailboat in the last blog has been resolved.
Lou, one of my faithful readers sent me information which reveal the boat was sold by Aerocraft Petrel Sailboats in the US. The boat was designed by the famous Philip Rhodes and built by Alcan Limited right here in Canada. Go figure huh? One photo I found shows a boat with a Transport Canada approval that indicates it was also sold by Eaton Viking. Cool! Thanks for the help Lou.
“If you can love the wrong person that much, imagine how much you can love the right one.” …Bob Marley
It has already been forgotten by most. Like all the other tragedies in our culture, the recent events in Las Vegas are already well-faded into a blur with all of the other horrific mass killings in North America. Given a little time some sick bastard may try to make a movie about it, just like two films just released about the marathon bombing Boston Marathon Bombing. Of course WWII is still rich fodder for films and books. It’s been over 70 years and we’re still fighting that one…and haven’t learned a damned thing! Greed knows no shame.
Life goes on. Finding a parking spot in the mall is as tough as ever, the nine-month television hockey season has begun. In the Caribbean, so recently in our amazement and now forgotten, millions are still without power and water after the hurricanes. Then there are those digging out from Mexico’s earthquake and in Lala land coroners are going from burned home to burned home looking for remains to identify. There are famines, floods and ethnic cleansings occurring around the planet. In Mogadishu, Somalia, a single bombing vapourized hundreds of people and injured hundreds more. That incredible evil has barely made our news. It seems we’re more concerned that our very wealthy Federal Finance Minister failed to report,in his list of assets that he owns a multi-million dollar villa in the south of France. “Oh yeah I forgot about that one.” Now here’s a guy who wants to reboot the middle class! All this comes to mind aboard ‘Seafire’ before going to work on Monday morning. It is still pitch dark outside at seven o’clock. An angry wind swirls around the boat. The mast and rigging are moaning and I sit here sputtering and gasping in the grip of a vicious virus; Snyphlis Exotic. I have decided that I’m too ill to go to work today. Somewhere in the rush of the wind I can hear Louis Armstrong singing “What a Wonderful World.” Then a leg falls off of my table.
Now that I’ve cheered everyone up, I’m going back to my bunk. At the moment I’m virtually useless and there’s no point in infecting the rest of the work crew with this nasty bug. As the thin light of a stormy morning reveals the low scudding clouds I ruminate with a mug of hot chocolate in hand. I think of good things.
I’m not in Shearwater anymore.
I have roads to drive away upon in any direction.
My wife, and my dog, are only a short drive to the south.
There are times when I would have had to work no matter how sick.
I’m free to write nearly anything I want without fear of any kind of persecution.
I am aboard a wonderful boat which I can untie and go anywhere in the world.
I’m not in Shearwater anymore.
The table was easy to fix.
In the evening the weather has advanced to a full gale. I sit inside beneath the shuddering mast listening to the screeching wind. I write placidly, while safe, warm and dry, recently-fed and still able to dream about a future. Who could ask for more? Someone to love, something to do, something to look forward too; while doing no harm. There is nothing more.
“The sea is the last free place on earth.”… Humphrey Bogart
06:30. It’s still dark out there. There is fresh snow on the mountains. An e-mail from Jill tells me she has arrived safely in France. So the setting this morning is cold, dark and lonely. The heater is on in the boat. Tomorrow is the last day of summer. The intense heat of two weeks ago is already forgotten. We’ve had no earthquakes or hurricanes here and I’m sure there are many who would trade places with me. So, no complaining, just explaining.
A week later, I’m taking a day off. I’m totally exhausted and have taken to the decadence of sleeping in until mid-morning, like normal people. I go back for a nap after brunch and sleep again despite the sounds of a busy marina all around me. I’m missing Jill, and Jack and have plenty of chores here on the boat to accomplish. Mornings now bring a blast of cold air descending from the glacier. Winter seems to be advancing aggressively. Through the efforts of a friend I’ve been reconnected with a lost friend who bought my last boat, ‘Pax.’ That cheers me immensely and there will be a reunion in the weeks ahead.
The world staggers under the aftermath of various disasters, both natural and man-made.Friends on their boat in Saint Lucia managed to survive the path of wrath of bumper to bumper Caribbean hurricanes and have sent out an appeal for Dominica. This island is an agriculture-based economy and it has lost both 90% of it’s infrastructure and housing as well as it’s crops. It is not getting much notice. The rest of the Caribbean is in dire straits and the gringo tourist haunts will surely receive prime attention. Southern Mexico has been devastated with two major earthquakes. Resourceful and energetic, the country will look after itself although nations like Japan have provided rescue assistance crews without notice or fanfare. In contrast there is a marauding global low named Trump which meanders erratically on the planet trying to foment disaster and dread, including nuclear war. How I ache to hear the nation say, “Donald, you’re fired!” Every newscast is loaded with fresh accounts about millions of refuges whom nobody wants to help. The planet swarms with human tragedy, the dark news of which we use as entertainment. And sorry Donny Boy, it is REAL news.
I live in a very nice place where there is not really much to worry about. It is an area where one missing baby whale is a headline story. We tend to forget that here we are all a privileged few. I can’t imagine trading places with any of the millions who cannot take even the next meal for granted, let alone clean water, ready medical support or even walking to school without being shot at. Thanksgiving in Canada is here and it is not about any sale at the mall. As I proof-read this blog I blanched to read my words now in the wake of events in Las Vegas. While I browsed various news stories online I tripped over an ad for the current film “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.’ The abuse of weapons is an ongoing theme of entertainment. There’s something very seriously wrong with our culture and it is not all those guns out there. They’re just a symptom of a grave illness. I’m glad I have a boat.
It has been quite a year. There has plenty to write about. At the moment we’re hove-to and speculating what the next adventure will be. As usual, old ‘Seafire’ is tugging at her lines, ready to head out. In a few more weeks, when the winter wind is howling in the rigging and the rain is driving horizontally, it’ll be time to move on southward, like the birds.
“…only then did he understand that a man knows when he is growing old because he begins to look like his father.” …from ‘Love In the Time Of Cholera’ Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The swallows are back. One day in the past week they were suddenly here, flitting and swooping and chattering like no other creature can. Photographing them is very hard. They tend to nest in the rafters of the old hangar here where it is safely dark and out of reach from the likes of me. They feed, in part, on the plague of black flies that has arrived in the same week. By blackfly standards these are tiny specimens, but like scorpions, it is the smaller ones which produce the nastiest reaction. The bites become tiny, itchy bumps that last two days or more and they’ll be in any exposed place the little pests choose to attack. They still don’t hold a candle to the ones I recall in the tundra of the Northern Canadian Shield. Soon to arrive here will be swarms of horseflies which, hopefully, I’ll avoid by leaving in another month. Also out and about are what I call Shearwater flies. They look like half-scale houseflies and hover silently in small groups in front of your face. They don’t bite but are damned annoying. They disappear for a few days then come back to perform their mysteries yet again. There is a small patch of lawn at the head of the ramp. Yesterday a flock of ten mourning doves fed in that grass. It seems incongruous to find these birds here. Their gentle cooing is exactly the same as from those I have heard in the Sonoran Desert. It is one of the most relaxing and reassuring sounds I know and also another call southward.
The next few weeks will pass slowly. Soon I’ll be back to a life based at home in Ladysmith. It will be wonderful to have a regular life at home but this area will be forever in my heart. I’ll take some time at month’s end to explore this region a bit more.
A week has passed since I wrote the preceding sentence. That clear warm sunny day seems as if it had never happened. Winter’s weather has returned with steady rain, night and day. Today, there is first a torrential downpour then a clearing and some drying before the next torrent begins. The boat’s exterior woodwork desperately needs to be scraped, sanded and refinished after last winter’s devastation. Even now, at the beginning of June, every effort is thwarted with more rain. Today, as I write, my tools sit beside me in anticipation of being able to rush outside in the next lull. Crews from the transient yachts, now thickly cluttered along the dock, wander aimlessly looking for distraction. We may be stcuk with the same people all summer. They loiter in the laundromat for hours, with amazing heaps of laundry and endless e-mails to and from the outer world. They hang about the yard and shop looking for entertainment. Questing a better wifi signal is an ongoing pastime for them. They’re often a nuisance and a danger. Some even find their way down onto the decrepit residential dock to peer and poke where they have no business being. I once told one gormless fellow “I know that i look lile a clown but I’m not here to entertain you.” I find myself wanting to untie old ‘Seafire’ and head for the backwaters. Soon, my restless boat, soon.
One visitor has been here since last year. He’s spent the whole winter here, disappearing for a while then coming back to Shearwater for a few days. Paer Domeij is from Sweden. He lives and travels aboard his beautiful, sturdy cutter ‘Sjoa’. Paer is a professional videographer. Some of the short films he has made of this area are breath-taking. You can find his work on Vimeo and on YouTube. Each short piece is a diamond beautifully filmed and edited with a perfect amount of narration and background audio. You owe it to yourself to look up his films. His love for this wilderness is clear. Hopefully, once I’m back in a world buzzing with full cyber service, I can put up a link to Paer’s work.
One of my frustrations about leaving here is that I have not begun to explore this region as much as I’d like. That could take the rest of my life. However the arthritic pain of the last few rainy days reminds me of why south is the right direction for me. Still, there is the lure of what’s around the next corner, and the next. That mystery will always haunt me. Fortunately there are corners everywhere.
For the time being focus is on work. The transient yachts, (I call them Gringo boats) have an infinite variety of troubles. The owners sometimes arrive at the shop in groups, each with what is to them he only problem in the world. Being told they must wait in line doesn’t suit their sense of urgency to hurry up and relax. In any season you’ll see it all. From clogged toilets to suppurating hydraulic systems, dead engines and mangled drive systems, in they come. We haven’t yet this season had a boat that tried plowing through a reef so there’ll probably be a pair of those arrive together. In the midst of the shipyard mayhem, these folks will continue living aboard their vessels while we hammer and grind and heave on wrenches and curse beneath them. They ascend and descend rickety ladders as we can provide and may need help with their big dog each time. I feel pity for these family beasts who endure a plethora of noxious aromas and sounds and are then exercised in the toxic mud and dust of the shipyard among hurtling machinery.
Nein, nein zat Fokker ischt unt Messerschmidt!
The Eurocopter 105 is rugged and versatile it is a pilot’s and mechanic’s dream. The Red Bull Company uses one of these, unmodified, to fly a full airshow with plenty of inverted manoeuvres.
Rightfully, stranded crews should stay in our hotel while we ply our trade. It would be safer, more expedient and profitable. ( Often these repair jobs are covered with insurance and so are carte blanche) Other skippers are determined to loiter with their chins on our shoulders while we try to make their repairs in spite of them. I often employ a carefully practised surliness to retain some elbow-room in the shop. One character planted himself on my work stool in the middle of our doorway. I asked him to move out of the way and he replied that wanted to ensure he’d get some attention. I advised him that he’d be sure to get some “F…ing attention” if he didn’t move immediately. Simply getting the correct parts shipped in a timely manner is an eternal, complicated frustration. Happy customers are a rarity. Many white-knuckled buccaneers stop here in a frantic rush to escape the helter-skelter of home. They only manage to bring it with them.
Well, if this old wrencher knew so much about running a resort and a wilderness marine repair facility perhaps I’d have my own remote island business. Or perhaps, I’m clever enough not to. It is certainly bemusing to endure such a dystopic existence within a wonderland. Certainly, I’m not going to miss any of it. I just want to go sailing. Here’s to what’s around that next corner.
“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die, I want to go where they went.”