The Spandex Brigade

Seafire in Dogfish Bay
Seafire in Dogfish Bay

How the hell did the human race survive and thrive before  modern inventions like the discovery of spandex? Understand that the guy writing this is a jaded old curmudgeon. He knows that if he tried squirming his Michelin man wattled physique into a body condom dogs would howl and babies would cry.  Perhaps I am somewhat envious but I can’t comprehend the human need for generics. What is the need for sameness, especially when we like to glorify the indivual? Why do so many folks feel the need to wear a costume? What does looking like an insect clone have to do with fitness? Why do people drive to the gymn to exercise instead of going for a walk? Think green?

As I began to write this blog I researched Spandex on Wikipedia. Let’s just say it is not a ‘Green’ product. Apparently up to 80% of North American clothing contains at least some Spandex. Of course, if you’re charging around the ocean in a five-hundred horsepower boat, thinking green is not part of your mantra. Synthetic clothing, by the way, is not something to wear near any possibility of fire. It is nasty stuff.

I recall a classic photo poster of a Tour de France race in the mid-thirties. As he rides, one competitor leans out from his bicycle to light another rider’s cigarette. Perspectives! How they change.

It’s high summer now. (My panic factor is growing with an awareness of the noticeably diminishing daylight.) The marina is chockablock full with generic white plastic boats.

(“Daddy, why are so many boats named Bayliner?”) The bay is liberally sprinkled with more at anchor. Folks scoot about in their generic white RIB dinghies loaded with generic yapping, squeaking little dogs and children. These activities bemuse me but it’s the Spandex brigade that confounds me. This morning I’ve watched several people arrive at the dock in their Leakmore inflatables loaded with bicycles. They are all similarly costumed in Spandex with helmets, gloves, wrap-around sunglasses (Even though it’s cloudy today) and other speedy accessories. Off they go to explore Gabriola Island. Other landlubber bicyclists, yes, clad in Spandex, arrive from shore-side to ponder the gleaming mayhem of the summer fleets. There also non-cyclists who wander the docks extruded into a Spandex sheath,  even on blistering hot days. They are often mesmerized with texting and I wonder how many actually walk off the end of the docks into the cold embrace of the sea. I grumped at one texting dude in oblivion to others walking on the dock, “Didn’t you come here to get away from that bullshit?” Well I know that just because I don’t understand, that it’s wrong; but it all seems incongruous.

The refit on Seafire continues. I’ve now completed the pressure water retrofit complete with new water heater and cockpit shower. After several circular efforts all leaks are finally exorcized and my four-letter vocabulary is well-lubricated. There are few Rubenesque marine technicians for good reason. It’s really hard to fit into all the tight, awkward places one needs to access on a boat and  get yourself out again, without sawing off an arm! There’s often some painful contortion to reach that place an inch-too-far but eventually a new ingenuity arises and the job gets done. Chiropractors must make a bundle from we bilge-apes.

How?
How?

Day two of the weekend marathon sees  the new holding tank in place and plumbed. All of the storage space is now opened up and cleaned up. Cuttting two access lids gained me about a cubic meter of previously never-used space, an addition of huge value on any boat. I was also able to clean out thirty years of smelly muck that had accumulated in the void. A coat of paint and all of the essentials odds and sods and tools can now be stowed out of sight beneath a useable double guest bunk. (Well that depends on how friendly they are with each other , (“ Henry, we’ll have you kip in with Dirk”… So then the fight began!)

New and Improved
New and Improved

Day three; finished! The new crapper is in place, plumbed and working without any leaks. All of the bunk junk is now stuffed beneath it awaiting further sorting, culling and stowing. I slept on top of it all last night too exhausted to savour the victory. I woke up this morning, still exhausted but now smug with my success. I’ll have to admit that it will make a rather tight double-bunk. Still much better than some of the coffin-like sleep holes I’ve endured. Some nights, on a stormy passage, being wedged into the sail locker is the perfect place to try and rest.

Helms-a-loo
Helms-a-loo

Of further relief, the fleet of weekend warriors dissipated about noon yesterday. There was much angst and loud speculation about the wind. The weather report boomed  in high fidelity from vhf radios all over the marina. Apparently crossing back to the mainland is risky business if there is a white-capped ripple anywhere in sight. Perhaps it has something to do with hangovers. There was much revelry the night before. Several boats entered into a stereo competition, each demonstrating a personal bad taste in music. One neighbour boat was crewed with a couple and their copious spawn, complete with a squeaking shitlick dog, who were determined to hurry up and relax, no matter what the price… to their neighbours.

The female component was a hefty lass who, just at dusk, leapt overboard to declare that the icy, dirty water was “Beautiful”. She then began castigating her bookend-jumbo partner into joining her with loud invectives about his general manliness. He shrugged, poured himself another drink, and cranked up his stereo in the ‘repeat track’ mode. For the next half-hour the  marina endured Jimmy Buffet’s “Let’s get drunk and screw”, over and over, and over.

In the morning they joined into the deck-chair folding competition, which also involves struggling with shorepower cables, coolers, crab traps and other accessories to be restowed aboard. Then the race evolves into who who can leave the dock first. Usually the ones trapped in the back  of the marina are the first to cut loose. A few seconds ahead of the boats in front, they may swap gelcoat as they scrape past. In their haste they sometimes cut a few too many corners and run aground on the falling tide. There’s a reason it’s named “Shipyard Rock”.

You know I really don’t miss working in the shipyard;

At all.

Home waters
Home waters

PLAN ‘F’

What a week! An e-mail came from a friend declaring that he’s on track for his scheduled departure for a year-long cruise to the South Pacific and back. Another pal sent me a blog about his small armada of friends in yachts leisurely circumnavigating Vancouver Island. Rodger and Ali have arrived with ‘Wave’ in Hay River, are all rigged up and waiting on winds to ease so they can leave on their odyssey. They’re probably out there and at it as I write. One more friend has spontaneously decided to leave on Monday for two weeks in Portugal. Tony and Connie, on ‘Sage’ are in Langkawi, Malaysia trying to get some paint on their boat during the Monsoon Season. Well I love you all and wish you well but I’m still in Silva Bay singing ‘Sitting on the dock of the bay watching the tide roll away……’ you know how the song goes!

Hold on to the dream

I am grudgingly admitting that while the dream is very much alive that I have to fall back to Plan F. I’m destroying myself trying to find a way to raise funds and get old ‘Seafire’ ready enough to safely and boldly venture forth this fall. Many items on my ‘To do’ list are slowly osmosing on to the ‘Mexico Mañana list but some things must be done here first.  I’m finding life too stressful, and I’m too miserable, as the days whizz by with not enough happening and the departure window of early October rushing toward me like a train in a tunnel. If a sack of money falls on me, (And doesn’t kill me) I can still meet the challenge. However the present reality will probably prevail (Now there’s a mouthful!) I cannot meet the deadline as things stand at the moment. It’s time to back up and reload. So, still clinging to Plan A, I’m now considering sliding toward F.

Plan F involves working on ‘Seafire’ until the winter rains become horizontal then laying the boat up for a couple of months. I’ve acquired a little old Nissan 4×4 truck in good shape which is perfect for Baha driving conditions. I’m thinking of also finding an older small travel trailer and meandering down to the San Carlos/Guaymas area  at the top of the Sea Of Cortez. I can leave the truck and trailer there and then return to fetch the boat. If I can get ‘Seafire’ as far as Astoria Oregon for the Fisher Poet’s Gathering at the end of February, then I’m definitely on my way. The Columbia Bar and the entire Pacific Northwest Coast is an ugly piece of work at that time of year. I’d much prefer to stay 300 miles off the beach until abeam Los Angeles then angle in to Ensenada, Mexico to clear customs. However, if I were to tip-toe from port to port southward from Astoria along the Oregon Coast, making one final jump in a good weather window to San Francisco I can hang out there for the summer. It is a great place to tinker up the boat with a ton of places to check out between the Bay area and the Sacramento Delta. Hurricane season in Mexico lurks until approximately mid-October so you don’t want to be too far south too soon. So, Plan F for Frisco Bay. Of course there are plans B through E and failing to plan is planning to fail; right? And…too many plans are like no plans at all.

On a definitely upbeat note, I think I have finally solved my dinghy and life raft quandary. I had a fine little inflatable boat with a hard aluminium bottom. I loved it and deemed it perfect for pulling up on rocky shorelines anywhere. The problem was carrying it on open water passages. I’ve also been unsure about what to do for a life-raft.

There are three enemies on a lightly-crewed vessel:

-Fatigue, which leads to all sorts of dumb-assed mistakes even to the  point of       sitting on your own shoulder and watching as you wilfully do something stupid and dangerous.

-Fire, the most serious dumb-assed mistake. For whatever reason a fire starts, there are only a couple of minutes to get it out or it is time to abandon ship . I feel that an onboard fire is more reason to carry a life raft than the possibility of sinking. If you’ve ever seen a small vessel, especially fibreglass, catch fire you’ll never forget.

-Chafe, yes even on various body parts when failure to maintain good personal hygiene, (Probably due to fatigue) produces debilitating symptoms. More importantly, there is chafe occurring to all moving parts of a boat during the constant motion of being at sea. It is especially critical with sails and rigging but like anything else, an inflatable dinghy will wear somewhere.  Stored on deck and deflated it is still in the way and chafing somewhere. Hanging in davits over the stern of the boat it is even more susceptible to chafe and is also likely to be swamped with a big wave. Not only does one risk losing the dinghy, there is a good chance of seriously damaging the mother ship where the davits attach.

Life rafts are a great idea but even on a forty-something foot boat like ‘Seafire’ storage space is a challenge. Rafts are expensive, must be regularly serviced and not entirely reliable. In fact, in heavy weather they are a terrible place to be and are not especially inclined to stay right-side up. If you’ve ever sat in one afloat you know that bobbing around in a life raft with a few other puking people might be a fate worse than death.

So, I’ve compromised.

I was able to sell the dinghy I had in the hope of finding something more suitable and also able to serve as a life raft should the need arise. There are two types of material used in the manufacture of inflatable boats: Hypalon and PVC. The latter is much less costly but very susceptible to wear and punctures. It is especially unable to tolerate even moderate exposure to UV damage. If you are heading south, you are going to have trouble. A boat made of Hypalon is approximately twice the price but it will live an infinitely longer time. There are some here in the marina easily twenty-five years old looking a bit scruffy but still going strong.

I looked feverishly everywhere for a good used boat or an affordable new boat which meant accepting a big compromise in quality and so ultimately, value. While checking all the online advertisements twice daily one boat suddenly leapt out at me. The timing was perfect and I’m taking it as a good omen that I’m moving in the right direction. I now own a ten-year old, but never used, 11-foot Achilles Hypalon inflatable boat. It has a high-pressure inflatable keel and floor so it is dead easy to store and to inflate on the decks of ‘Seafire’. It came with a set of wheels for rolling it up the beach and even a second, electric pump for rapid inflation.  The price was reasonable and so I’m set. All I have to do is figure out a  bright tough canopy which will install easily and it can double as a life raft. Now I have to see how she goes with the outboard motor I have. I’ll be back shortly…

First ride, barnacles and oyster shells, Perfect!
First ride, barnacles and oyster shells, Perfect!

Well she goes like hell ! The Achilles is a virgin no more. Even with a full load this little baby planes easily and scoots along nicely. The floor flexes a bit like a flying carpet. It’s a keeper. ‘Seafire’ and her tender ‘Backfire’. Progress in the right direction, hope springs eternal.

???????????????????????????????Passing neighbour

I’m definitely not one to be impressed with high-end, look at me boats, especially power boats. ‘Fart Parkersons’, I call them. On a rare occasion I’m forced to make an exception. I arrived back at my boat  the other day to discover I had a temporary neighbour in the form of a gleaming perfect blend of burgundy fibreglass, varnished teak and polished stainless steel. No strutting skippers or bikini-clad trophy barbies aboard, just a very nice couple meeting some family arriving on the float-plane. The boat is a 40-something foot Hinckley ‘Picnic boat’. So there are folks who can manage affluence and civility all at once. Now I know having money isn’t everything, but I could sure stand a change of problems!

Hinckely logo in teak
Hinckely logo in teak

Let me add that managing poverty and civility is also a bit challenging. If only my dog knew how well-off he is. ‘Eat it, copulate with it, piss on it, have a nap’.

Not a bad philosophy at all!

Fetch yer ass!
Fetch yer ass!

Soft Butter

 

Finally! A few days ago, as I prepared my morning toast, I realized that the weather had warmed enough for the butter to have gone soft. It’s still pliable today. A friend who was once giving me advise on sailing to warmer climes suggested that “You hold a heading due south until the butter melts, then turn left!”

Lately, other friends seem to parrot each other in their advise to me that the boat is looking good, “Just untie it and go!” They’re right I know. Sometimes you just have to shut your eyes and jump. Still, there are bills to clear up and I don’t want to be looking over my shoulder once I leave. And, like it or not, there are a few items of prudence to be addressed before venturing out onto the briney deep. You can’t steer a steady course by looking back at your wake for bits bobbing behind or men in brown shirts with pieces of paper to serve to you. So the plod forward continues into the warmth and brightness of late spring and early summer. I know I have the positive emotional support of many; so with all that good karma I can proceed with confidence believing that this will work out quite well and that by Christmas of this year, I’ll be blogging away from somewhere in the Sea of Cortez. There seems to be, in all worthwhile endeavours, a steep climb through fog where one’s faith is severely tested. From previous experience I know that fog may not clear until you are crawling onto the summit. So, in the meantime, may all of our karmas not run over any of our dogmas.

Neither fear no ignorance nor poverty!

Now then, discussing karma, I do intend to take a little time and enjoy life a bit this summer. Gabriola is a wonderful place to do that, especially in summer with most folks are in generally good spirits. There are all sorts of summertime art and musical events happening here on this island which is populated with so very many talented people. Currently, I’m trying to set up a gig for a friend who will be here in mid-summer. Richard Grainger is someone I describe as the Stan Rogers of England and he’ll be playing Vancouver Island at various venues in mid summer. A link to his website and wonderful music can be found in my ‘Blog Roll’.

Gab morning 11

At the moment the local museum has an exhibit up about the Hippy era when so many islanders first arrived here. Now advancing into a pre-geriatric age these old flower children have come a long way. Last night I reviewed a long series of snapshots of life back then. Some of those young hopefuls are now entering their geezerhood. I peer into the faces of of those I encounter and wonder at how quickly forty years and more have passed. Some of them still look vaguely recognizable against their aged photographs. Now some have their own grandchildren out in the marijuana patch breast feeding their own progeny. The beat goes on!Gab morning10

Gabmorning8

Political and social protest now seems to have largely devolved to online petitions. Of course, with broader comfort zones it is interesting to see how perspectives change. Now these once barefooted squatters whose mantras included ‘Share the wealth man’ have come by inheritances that allow then to wear designer gumboots while driving an exotic foreign SUV (Stupid Urban Vanity) sporting a ‘Think Green’ bumper sticker, listening to satellite music stations and grumping that texting on their BumbleBerry cell phone is not possible everywhere on the island; the signal here is intermittent. The trees on the perimeter of their private estates are festooned with ‘Private Property’ signs. I’ve heard a capitalist defined as “A socialist who’s found an opportunity”. It’s true! I know of people who were threatened with violence for the offence of anchoring in front of someone’s beachfront holdings. That was on a local Gulf Island especially noted for it’s free thinkers and liberal lifestyle.

Not everyone became a happy heir or a successful entrepreneur. I see the dead look in some eyes which seem to grieve for how life turned out so unjustly. (Or maybe…..it’s just drugs) I don’t know if many of us deserve our fate, good or bad, but for those who realize that their hope of communal enlightenment and nirvana generally turned out to be bullshit, here’s a quote from Winston Churchill: “The inherit virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.” Then again in all fairness, as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans”.

That is being relayed by this failed capitalist who has come to truly wonder at the sad concepts we all hold of being owned by our stuff and of people actually feeling we can have exclusive possession of own piece of the planet. Other folks do seem to have truly found themselves a comfortable niche and apparently live a contented and harmonious existence. Kudus indeed!

A few of the island’s residents are quite opposed to concepts of people living as they choose, for example, on their boats. I guess that I may well be regarded as just another old boat hippy who doesn’t know the war is over. For some, it’s not. If you insist on employing the hyper-anality you came to escape, go for it. If it bothers you more than me, who’s got a problem? 

Most folks understand that the price of freedom is responsibility and you can’t “Do your thing” if it means getting in someone else’s face. Unless, of course you are one of those devil’s advocates whose thing is peeing in someone else’s cornflakes. So put on a tie-dyed T shirt with a slogan that says something like “Nuke A Gay Whale For Jesus”. Different strokes for different folks dude! If you like to ride naked on an alpaca while playing a didgeridoo, there is plenty of real estate available here. Just make sure you have a good water well and don’t dare to cut down any of your own trees!

A grand thing about living on this beautiful and diverse island is how so many different flavours of humanity, from career-welfare potheads to semi-retired multi-millionaires, are generally able to mix and mingle and live together peacefully on this little rock. Gabriolans are noted for their loyalty to each other as fellow islanders and often joke about the ferry link to Nanaimo as ‘Going to the other side”. Thankfully, it is a reliable ferry service.

Peace Man!

Degnen Bay
Degnen Bay
Welcome to my nightmare!
Welcome to my nightmare!

MUSINGS ON A DAMP MAY SUNDAY MORNING

SOMETHING TO DO

SOMEONE TO LOVE, SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO

….WHILE DOING NO HARM

Jack The Flying Dog
Jack The Flying Dog

 Sometimes the enormity of life is overwhelming. My last blog described the gormless sense of self-entitlement some people demonstrate in their frantic quest for distraction from the drudgery of life. I realized that a symptom of my own flaws is when I find annoyance at other folks trying to celebrate life. When I’m in a ‘Ha, Bumhug’ mood nothing will cheer me up.

 Yes, this crusty old barnacle admits to having fought a lifelong battle with, what the medical bunch describes as, chronic depression. One of my books, ‘Sins Of The Fathers’ deals with the darkness of living with bi-polar disorder and overcoming the weight of this much misunderstood condition. I’m not sure I did a good job of enlightening those who don’t understand the illness or of helping those who do. I’m not about to make an effort to further those interests here except to say that regardless of what many people think, it IS a tangible illness, it is NOT simply a matter of bad attitude, self pity or negative thinking. To survive a lifetime despite the instinct for self-destruction is a very positive achievement on its own. To find occasional joy, to pursue creative interests and to cling tenaciously to a goal, no mater how remote it seems, is a triumph. I’d be happy to discuss this subject person to person. (Or even sell you copy of my book)

 "Keep yer pecker up!"

“Keep yer pecker up!”

This past week has been one where dark demons have been shaking my tree and I’m plodding out of it ever towards the shimmering mirage of a dream I’m determined to reach.

It occurs to me that depression is not merely a personal cross. It is the unacknowledged epidemic running rampant through Western society and is the root from which so many other medical and social illnesses grow. To consume has become our reason to be (See my link to ‘Story Of Stuff’) and none of us can live up to the demands of all the advertising imposed on us incessantly. None of us are good enough, pretty enough, wealthy enough, drive a fine enough car, go on enough exotic vacations, have a good enough sex life, have happy enough pets…… The pressure is relentless and insidious. Is clinical depression a product of nurture or nature? Yes!

When I was a child the world you were born into was believed to be the one you would inhabit. It was reasonable to think that the world had parameters and you could actually be educated and prepared for a place in it. How do you prepare children now for an environment that is evolving so quickly, no one can comprehend it or what the future holds? Think back five or ten years to what the world was like and how it is now. Honestly, did you have any idea? Without the sense of security of a tangible existence and future, no wonder we’re all a bit anxious. No wonder so many people have substance abuse issues, or can’t keep functional personal relationships or spend so much time in pursuit of distraction.

Seacross

Seacross

The headline for this blog is a quote from a man I was interviewing for a job; now many years ago. Those words are his description of the meaning of life. I’ve since found nothing more eloquent; a few words from one simple blue-collar working man.

Meanwhile, work on the preparations of ‘Seafire’ continues, one screw at a time.

 I’ll close out this musing with the following quote from Marianne Williamson which was used as part of Nelson Mandela’s inaugural speech.

 ‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful, beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us.

We ask ourselves, ”Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?”

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that

other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It is in everyone, and, as we let our light shine,

We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,

Our presence automatically liberates others.

Fog
Fog

IT MUST BE SPRING

 

They’re back! Victoria Day weekend has just passed and now we’re careening toward the first day of summer in another four weeks. First the swallows and Purple Martins reappear, then with the long weekend in May other weird birds show up. Now I know that when I use the term, weird, it means someone or some thing is beyond my comprehension. When the entire Status quo trends that way, I understand that I’m the one who’s weird. Or am I ?

My perception of what is correct in the nautical world is complex yet steeped in simple tradition. I value things being done ‘The old way’ and feel that self-sufficiency, independence, and simplicity are essential components in being a proficient mariner. Clearly, masses disagree.

I was evicted, for the weekend, from my spot on the dock by noon on Friday. The weekend warriors happily pay premium moorage fees.  (Those with the gold make the rules) A gleaming white Tupperware armada began to arrive. I retreated to anchor across the bay in a secluded spot. Long before nightfall all the marinas in the bay were bursting with gleaming plastic, pulsing light and noise. As darkness settled, the boats kept on coming. For once, no-one ended up aground on the reef at the harbour entrance.

The docks, choked with shouting boaters in folding chairs sitting at folding tables, were impassable. Caustic music of different flavours throbbed from various stereo systems around the bay. The din was constantly punctuated with the squeals and forced guffaws of drunken people trying to convince themselves they were having fun. There is a braying, frantic tone that betrays the desperate existence so many of these folks were trying to escape for a few hours. They only manage to bring it with them. There are four months ahead when we have to endure these vicarious wannabe Vikings stumbling into the bay and overrunning our generally peaceful existence. Here on the West coast I don’t know what ‘Going boating’ or ‘Boating season’ means. There are those of us who’s existence is intrinsic with being on and near the sea; all year long. It’s the way some of us live, all the time. Weird huh? I should mention here that I realize I am categorizing. There are plenty of competent and experienced mariners out there doing what they love and don’t give a damn for making impressions or joining herds. I also know that these kindred spirits tend to avoid the madness I describe.

This old cynic left the bay when the small anchorage I had chosen became littered with ever more boats anchored too close. It happened twice again during the weekend as I retreated to more secluded anchorages. As usual, there was yet another kayaker who thought that this boat at anchor was a captive venue for his demands for attention as he clung, shouting, to our cap rail. As I recall, key words I used were “Privacy, respect, solitude, and piss-off!”

Yeah I know I’m a grumpy old fart. ‘Hey you, get off of my cloud!”

The old prune barge herself
All dressed up with everywhere to go

I’ve previously promised to describe my boat ‘Seafire‘, the dream machine after which this blog is named. The design is called a Downeaster 41, entirely a misnomer in a couple of ways, all in the cause of marketing. Actually the hull is 38′ with the extra 3’ being added in the form of a bowsprit/platform. The designer, Henry Morschladt, drew several sizes of vessel for Downeaster Yachts of Santa Ana, California. Apparently, if you hang an Eastcoast handle on a boat, it is supposed to seem saltier. This line of sailboats is famous for being over-built and seakindly. Many have have successfully completed extensive offshore voyages. ‘Seafire’ is one of twelve 38′ hulls built and sold as 41′ motorsailers. Allegedly my hull was produced in 1981, near the end of the company’s history when so many businesses failed in that great recession. I wonder sometimes, if my hull wasn’t one of the last built. Some of the fibreglass work in out-of sight places is very, very rough and the plumbing and wiring were clearly installed by amateurs. The teak wood work is gorgeous.

Home of the blog, the meditation both, dining salon and board room. Galley, guest cabin, skippers quarters and stowage forward
Home of this blog, the meditation booth, dining salon and board room. Galley, guest cabin, skippers quarters and stowage forward

Those criticisms out of the way there is not one osmosis blister on the hull after 32 years of soaking in the briny deep. That’s a very good sign of her integrity. The engine is a trusty old 65 Hp Ford Lehman, recently rebuilt. (That is an American engine, not at all related to the British Leyland, an entirely different product. )The transmission is a ubiquitous Borg Warner velvet drive; it’s all good. There is an inside helm, massive water and fuel tankage, a huge forward berth and a separate private cabin with a comfortable double berth. The galley is better than some which I’ve known in tugboats and is located in the belly of the vessel, where it is easiest to produce a hot meal in heavy weather.

Sadly, the boat had apparently not know much of a life as other than a ‘Gin Palace’, one of those boats that is used to entertain and impress people and seldom leaves the dock. Her neglected state made her affordable to me, the effort to bring her up to my standard of seaworthy has financially shattered me. I knew better !

Pretty from all angles
Pretty from all angles

She is cutter-rigged with furlers on both headsails which makes her easy to handle and the old ‘Prune Barge’ sails pretty well for a motorsailor. She looks after herself and her crew just fine in nasty weather and I have grown quite fond of her. Now, I just have to finish enough of her refit to get her to La Paz Baha for Christmas. There have been plenty of recent setbacks so I know I’m doing the right thing although there are days when I nearly drown myself and those close to me in despair and doubt. If I drop this dream, my life becomes meaningless, my writing and everything else hinges on sailing and so I can’t give it up.

Exposed
The whole situation exposed

‘Seafire’ is the eighth sailboat I’ve bought and refitted. There was a power boat or two along the way as well. Six of the sailboats were all very capable offshore boats. If only I’d just buggered off in the first little sloop ‘Jenta’, what a different tale I’d have to tell. You cannot steer a steady course by looking back at your wake so there’s no point in regrets. The boat previous to ‘Seafire was ‘Pax’, an Australian-built IOR half-tonner which had been raced in the Southern Ocean for ten years before embarking on a fourteen-year East-about cruise around the world. One of her claims to fame was when she had been rolled 360 degrees by a rogue wave off the mouth of the Platte River in Uraguay. Even the mast stayed in place!  She is one tough little ship to have survived that well enough to sail on in to shore. I had ‘Pax’ fully refitted and ready to go again.

Pax
Pax

However, I wanted a boat which I could sail from inside and which had the capacity for enough tools for me to be totally self-sufficient and also earn some cash along the way. I also wanted some private quarters for a few guests. I want to be able to offer friends the chance to join the boat, wherever in the world she may be. This will help with the expenses and also provide folks the chance to affordably see a bit of the world away from home in a unique perspective.

Yes, you’re invited.

The open Pacific, Todos Santos, Baha
The open Pacific , Todos Santos, Baha
La Paz Baha
La Paz

 

 

USE IT OR LOSE IT

The water rushes down on its way to the sea
Spring time in the forest

 I’ve put up a couple of links today in my Blog Roll to a web site and  to a blog site of a man named Pat Dixon. Pat is a compadre I’ve met through the Fisher Poet’s Gatherings. He has been instrumental in putting up the expanded FPG website and seems able to cruise through the cyber jungle with ease; especially in comparison to my ability for stumbling and nearly drowning in the first puddle I find. I’m honoured to have Pat’s permission to post links to his work and hope readers find it as uplifting and inspiring as I do.

The value I find in the inspiration of people like Pat is the reiteration that if you have a gift you must use it or lose it or….as old Lord Nelson said, “Ships and men rot in port.” When people put their shoulder to the proverbial wheel, and like Pat, who writes a poem a day for an entire month, amazing results follow.

All things must end
Jack chases down the stream….Whoa! What stream? 

This week, while driving to Victoria on business my dog, Jack, and I stopped at one of our usual watering holes. It’s a place to have a stretch and a pee and a drink of water before diving into the maelstrom of frantic, lurching traffic know as the ‘Colwood Crawl.’ The place I describe is only safely accessible while southbound from the Malahat through Goldstream Park. There’s a small parking area and then a lovely walk to a beautiful waterfall. It was cascading as usual under the canopy of lush spring-green foliage. Bellow the falls the stream always runs fully with tumbling clear water. At this time of year one expects the water to be a foaming madness of spring run-off. Clearly the logs littering the stream bed are testament to boisterous currents. This year the water runs through quiet pools for a few hundred metres then disappears into the rocks of the stream bed. It is quite disconcerting and I wonder what it means.

Meanwhile the tides rise and fall and the sun and moon go round as ever. Some sailing friends are presently exploring the Himalayas. Others are preparing for a summer of cruising in the Northwest Passage. An old friend has his boat in final preparations for a year-long voyage to the South Pacific. Another buddy has recently completed the purchase of a fifty-four foot ketch as the tangible  journey of his dream begins. The energy of all those dreamers is something wonderful to draw on as I weave loose fibres into the fantastic fabric of my own flying carpet.

I thank them all.    

Up the creek without a stream
Jack ponders the disappearing stream.

WARM AND FUZZY

WARM AND FUZZY

Yesterday felt like the first day of summer. The temperature was in the high twenties, the sky was cloudless and the air was filled with the aromas of cut grass, blossoms, and barbeques. Even the reek of cowshit as I passed a local dairy farm seemed, to this old farm boy, an assurance of promise and continuity. For once life felt warm and fuzzy.

This weekend also marked an important step in my journey toward sailing away. My job and I have gone in separate directions. It feels good .

That may seem an odd thing for a guy who’s main concern is money. But now I have time to prepare to go sailing and things have a way of working out if you are headed in the right direction. You’ve just got to hang in there until well into the eleventh hour no matter how bleak things look. At least, that has been my experience.

Frankly this weary old work horse just can’t pull the plow like I used to. Running around all day, clambering up and down ladders and squirming into hot, dank bilges is often a a painful challenge. It’s a younger man’s game.

I now feel much more in control of my life. I can take time to address things important to me, like writing this blog. I read somewhere that unless you’re the lead sled dog, the view never changes.

We’ll see.

The old prune barge herself
The old prune barge herself

BLOGGING ON

I still can’t get used to this bloggery bloggerty word BLOG! It sounds like something you’d find stuck under a school desk or a church pew or…something you’d do in a barnyard on a rainy day in your bare feet.  Of course words like net and spam had a singular meaning not so long ago.  Tweet, Twitter, Skype and Google  are all terms with an unknown or very alternate meaning not so long ago. Language constantly evolves and so must we; like it or not.

Silva Bay, April 24th, 2012
Silva Bay, April 24, 2012

Anyway, it’s another full moon tomorrow night. The forecast is for rain tomorrow so I grabbed this shot a few minutes ago. Already another month has jetted past.  There has been little progress in getting this boat ready while other urgencies have kept interrupting. I do now have a new computer, a most appreciated early birthday gift from my wife Jill.  No more vertical blank line in the middle of the screen and despite my apprehension I’m finding Windows 8 easy to assimilate….believe it or not!

I’ve fought and struggled to comprehend how to make WordPress work for me.  Their people have sent some helpful e-mails and I’ve spent some quality time with a local cyber wizard named David Vincent, who has a brilliant little business here on Gabriola Island called Sleep Deprived Computer Techs. He did more for me in an hour than I’ve accomplished in a month.

Now I have things set up so I can post blogs with photos,  set up links to other relevant sites and, I also now have a way folks can subscribe to my addled scritchings and receive then automatically by e-mail. What boggled me today was that wifi reception was, for some reason, quite spotty where David and I met for lunch but somehow he tweeked something on his cellphone which immediately produced a working connection on my laptop! I know it’s been a very long time since I built a crystal radio in grade school but I am absolutely amazed at some of the technology that I learn about and which other folks take for granted.

What’s all this cyber-musing got to do with anything? I recently offered an anecdote to a friend who was bogged down with trying to realize his dream.  I said that when you climb to the top of a mountain, the first thing you see are more mountains. You determine to climb some of those but almost invariably you have to descend from where you are, cross a valley, and begin climbing all over again. So when you’re up to your ass in wormy mud in the proverbial swamp, wrestling nasty creatures, it’s hard to remember that you are actually mountain-climbing.

I am a writer, a frustrated one. All the books I’ve written are not producing any income. It appears that blogging is another way for writers to achieve some recognition. So with that ulterior motive in mind, I hope I can write inspiring and interesting bits for other people working towards fuller lives and their own personal dreams.

The swallows and purple martins have returned to the bay as well as brown-faced friends from their winter sojourns. The motivation is there and this beautiful boat where I sit writing is tugging at her lines. The days rattle by. We dive into another one as the rising sun warms the bay.

QCS Sunset

The First Quarter Is Gone!

It was full moon again last week and then, when the Easter Rabbit left his tracks, I realized that we’re already into the second quarter of the year. Bloody hell! Doesn’t time fly whether or not you’re having fun?

Plum blossoms and sailboat motoring toward Silva Bay
Hope, after a very long winter

 

It has already been a month since I was in Astoria Oregon reading some of my poetry and prose at the Fisher Poets Gathering. Fisherpoets.org will get you to their website. You’ll find my page ‘In The Tote’ and can actually hear me reading a couple of my pieces. They’re a great bunch of very talented people and I feel very honoured to be counted among them.

It was a great end-of-winter event which will leave me feeling affirmed and inspired for a long time after that special weekend. Soon however, reality sets in and one begins to bog down once again. I came back to a month that had my boss suddenly undergoing quadruple by-pass heart surgery. That has left us all in a muddle trying to help carry on in the shipyard. Of course that puts all of the personal plans in a spin and the ideas about new things to write are left on hold as just jottings in a journal.
Ah well, the winter weather hung on interminably so boat work has been set back for both me and my customers. Yet, progress on the great dream inches forward as the pages fly from the calendar. The dream is alive and ‘Inch by inch, every thing is a cinch!” I suppose it’s worth mentioning our last winter storm. Fifty knot winds with huge gusts through the night left one 41’ketch on the rocky foreshore here in the bay. I noticed her at first light and rushed to pull her off with the small shipyard skiff. It was a rising tide and I was inching her back into deep water with a minimum of damage when the local amateur pirates arrived. I eventually left the scene as they dragged the beautiful old hull across a rocky ledge incurring a huge amount of absolutely needless damage.
There were threats of violence from them but ultimately I have some great new story ideas. Such is life.

I live daily with the frustration that this blog site is not being developed as promised and required but hopefully that will soon fall into place. My very old and much abused laptop has developed a vertical stripe mid-screen which is slowly growing in width. It’s amazing how challenging writing becomes with those few letters censored out of each line. Hopefully with a new computer and perhaps a bit of tutoring about WordPress we’ll get this sailing/writing gig heading out of the harbour with a few sails up. Patience Billy, patience!

FRUSTRATED IN BLOGLAND

Astoria bridge
I’ll admit it. I am a cyber-Neanderthal. I decided to set up a blog/web site with WordPress because it was assuredly very easy, simple steps, nothing to it. It’s the way of the future, the perfect way for a writer to interact with the world. After initial frustration with the free mode, I paid money for the hold-my-hand level. NADA! So far all I’ve learned is that a dashboard is something to bash your head on, repeatedly. I can post text, unless I somehow make it ‘Sticky’ (What the hell ever that means) and an hour’s worth of writing is splift-gone into cyber space. Now I know that,technically, I am competent. I am able to operate most machinery, including boats and aircraft and I make my living fixing things mechanical and, in fact, most other things man-made. However I am suspicious of anyone who readily understands this cyber-babble with all the mutant language. I would not be eager to loan them my car keys, they live in a different reality than the one which has served my fairly well for the past sixty years. I think I’m glad I am closer to the end of my life than the beginning, My weary brain cannot comprehend what madness lies ahead with all this electronic enslavement. Let’s see what happens when I click here…
Blipft! What’s fatal error mean?
I’ve ordered a copy of WordPress For Dummies, perhaps there’s hope.

It’s interesting what one gets into on the way to a goal. What’s any of this got to do with going sailing? My last blog was full of grand intent and now I’m already nearly sixty days closer to the deadline I set. The refit continues, albeit at a winter’s pace. Phase one of the galley refit has been completed in the gloom of winter despite the rigours of living in the boat at the same time. For the time being, I’m back at work in the shipyard, I’ll soon move on, but for the time being that’s what is going on. In a few days, I’ll be in Astoria Oregon for a few days to attend my annual pilgrimage to the ‘Fisher Poets Gathering’. (Fisherpoets.org) It’s a raucous event where commercial mariners, mostly fishermen, gather to share their writing and music. The eloquence and genius there is amazing. It is an affirmation of blue-collar dreamers who belong to the sea. I’ll be back.