(The Bastards!)

Click on images to enlarge

Coo, Coo KaHappy New Year! A shot from my Upcoast archives.

There’s no fool like an old fool. Sadly, that weary old axiom is as true as ever. Yesterday, in the middle of a busy morning my computer went KABLOOWEY KERPLUNK. The Screen was suddenly frozen, white with a broad red band across it. There was no way to escape (At least so far as I knew.) A bold message read that Microsoft had detected an insidious virus and had frozen my computer to prevent further damage. A toll-free phone number was provided for me to contact immediately. There’s no-one as gullible as someone in deep panic. I was on my way to an important meeting and the timing of this cyber trap completely blew my cool.

A friend and a view. May you have a higher view on the world.

A man with a thick Asian accent answered my call through a very bad connection and the fun began. I should have caught on immediately. For half an hour I was switched up the line to yet another supervisor, with difficult accents, and then another who soon had control of my desk-top. An alien curser began dancing across my screen at their will and reams of data scrolled on and on. I was told that my IP address was severely hacked, all my personal data was now in the hands of these bad guys and with such a high-end computer, now drastically infected, I had huge problems. Eventually prices in the hundreds of dollars began appearing on the screen. I finally began to smell fish. I was warned of dire consequences if I switched off the computer and/or took it to any computer repair facility. At this point I became the next curser, and a loud one at that. Bastards! Looking back I knew that Microsoft simply does not operate in such a way. Hello! Hello!

Alluring! A shiny spoon and some line tell of a disappointing afternoon one day last summer.
On winter’s pond. Incredibly a few late spawning salmon rose and broke the tranquility.
I could not catch one with my camera.
Gotcha! At a tiny stream mouth a flash of red betrays a late spawning salmon.

Originally assured that there were no fees for this online repair, the story evolved. Now the scam was that my IP address was in the hands of nasty hackers and hopelessly irretrievable. The only way I could ever use my computer again was to buy a license for a new IP address. This is yet another version of my ongoing theme about the profit of paranoia. Scare the crap out of folks and you’ll be able to steer them in any direction you want. That ageless persuasion continues to work very well for the church and for politicians. That, and greed. I was once selling a boat for a friend when a nasty Nigerian scammer tried to pull my chain. That’s another story. I should have known better this time. I’ve already skipped through the big scam about Revenue Canada threatening me with imprisonment. I’d been warned. Now this! So you too stay alert.

Winter rush.
It is the time of year when there is water running everywhere.

Suddenly I could see that I was being had and knew I’d soon be asked for credit card information. Finally I hung up and headed for my neighbourhood computer guru where I was met with a quiet smile. Yep, just another old fish who had bitten the dancing lure. Fortunately I spat the hook. All is well that ends. My chagrin has not. These dudes were utterly convincing and part of my fury was at myself for being swept through some very obvious signs, in retrospect, that I was being had. Almost duped I felt like an absolute stupid ass. Here’s what you do if you find yourself in the same pickle. Shut it down and go to your computer repair man. They’ll remove any nasty thing that was installed… by the hackers. Those were the guys who installed the problem. I’ve also been shown how to unfreeze my screen should the same thing ever happen again. Bastards!

Flatrock beach.
Sandstone makes for some fantastic rock formations in our part of the world. High tide with a rising westerly wind puts the picnic notion out of mind. My Corona umbrella would blow away!
A winter view across the Strait Of Georgia. Northwest winds clear the air and sometimes produce a prismatic effect. These mountains on mainland Canada are almost forty miles away.
Feel the Brrrr!

The rest of the story is that I was heading off to an appointment to look at a vehicle. A very good friend was having dinner with another of his amigos and learned that their old camper van was for sale at a very, very reasonable price. He e-mailed me immediately. Now I’m flat-assed broke for the moment but many of my pals have noted how badly I’ve been faring with winter and other problems which are rapidly becoming a great dungball of darkness. One of those friends has graciously loaned me the means to acquire the van and go south for a while. So, there will be some interesting blogs as I travel down the cactus trail to old Mexico. Meanwhile the rain hammers down as usual. There was a time when the sound of rain on the roof was soothing and peaceful. Now, it is an irritating white noise. That’s a bad sign in itself. Yesterday, I had to walk several blocks in the downpour when I could hear a red-winged blackbird singing. That is one of the first joyous sounds of spring. Instantly uplifted, the singer soon proved to be a starling, one of the great mimics. I’ve actually heard a starling perform a perfect eagle song. I spotted the little bugger singing his head off after I had looked all over the sky for a big baldy. That seemed quite funny at the time. Now it just depressed me a little more. Is everyone up to some sick trick? Bastards!

You never know what you might find in old barns and sheds. A friend spotted this aging camper van while visiting another friend. Room to stand up and to lay down, what more do you need?  Like me, it’s rough on the outside but has a heart of gold. Hopefully I’ll be seeing cacti and palm trees through that windshield sometime this month.

The rest of the story is that my benevolent friend wants to buy a sailboat in Mexico which he will leave there to use during the winter months. He wants this old salt to watch his back and offer a second perspective and any other relevant assistance. So we’ll call this a bus-man’s holiday. Of course cameras, both still and video, will be whirring all the while and evenings will be spent working at the computer keeping everything sorted out and recorded. Spring arrives in the Sonora Desert next month and the flowers are profuse and fantastic.  There will be blogs.

Meanwhile I have a plethora of woes to sort out on the new old van. It has sat unused for years and as old Lord Nelson said “Ships and men rot in port.” The vehicle was stored under a roof and as soon as it was moved out into the pouring rain, windows began to leak. I turned on the pressure water system, the plumbing leaked badly. Electrical systems need attention. The rig needs a full service, including brakes and steering. I’ll have some busy days ahead.

The shape of boats.
I added an abstract touch to enhance the “Peaceful, easy” feeling of this bay. This is my minimal obligatory nautical image required in each blog. Another song says “Dream on.”

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.”

… André Gide

The Martian Wind (Correspondence between two aging blue-collared friends)

A dashcam view of Ladysmith’s main street..touted as Canada’s award-winning best. The annual light-up festival is a huge drawing card but one has to ask of a town that claims to be green…how many kilowatts of light do we burn up every year?
Just asking!

A thin, grey light began to seep through the skylight. Snug and warm, I cracked one eye open. Protruding my feet from beneath the cozy covers, I rose into the day one toe at a time. Yesterday had been crackling cold, today was back to the normal dank drizzling wet of a coastal winter. I made coffee and reviewed the news headlines. Buried amid the tales of war and corruption is a story about the machinery we have dropped onto the face of Mars. Of all the data it is busy gathering, the audio recording of the Martian wind leaves us spellbound. A gentle murmuring over the face of our marvellous contraption is soothing, like a summer breeze in long grass. That sound is one more encouragement on our quest to find our way home, somewhere out there.

Well, that’s how my next blog began. Then I received an e-mail from a good friend in response to some remarks I’ve recently made. I replied and the rant is on! I haven’t posted a good rant for a long time.

Corn field in winter. As the winter rains return this flooding will increase and then one day, wild swans will descend to swim and feed on the yummy bits in the rich soil below. Man and nature can work together.


Hello Fred.  It seems that many of the self proclaimed environmentalists have never left a city, have no idea how goods are transported, where the minerals that are used to make the every day essential goods we use come from nor how they are mined.  We have a whole group of citizens who are educated by books and yet are totally clueless about the real world.  Now unfortunately we have elected politicians that come from this group!!  It does not bode well for our future.  I would like to see them all go back to the caveman days.  Walk, don’t ride bicycles because iron and aluminum have to be mined to manufacture the components to make bicycles.  Live in caves because God help us if we cut down a tree!  What a bunch of hypocrites they are to eat food that has to be trucked here from warmer climates where it can be grown.  Oh and don’t let them buy anything made in China!  Make them use sticks and bones as tools, and NO GORTEX high tech synthetic clothing that may have been made by petroleum byproducts. AAAAHHHHH!!!

Well, I have to go now.  I am going to drive my diesel pickup truck to the store and buy some grapes grown in Chile and a bottle of South African wine, and I’m not going to feel guilty about it one bit.

Panamanian-flagged, Greek owned, built in China of North American iron ore and recycled Japanese automobiles smelted with British Columbian coal. It will load with raw logs for Asia where they’ll be turned into furniture and other goods to be sold back to us. Did I mention that the flags were probably made in Pakistan? It gets confusing.


Will the wine be enjoyed with a New Zealand Lamb roast or Australian beef?  Either way it came on a ship made in China fuelled with oil from Romania and delivered to your store in a Japanese truck rolling on tires made in Korea. And why, I ask, are we, in BC of all places, eating seafood from Asia? Even the otters are apparently getting into the act! (Remember Koi Boy?) Once again I offer my old saw about the chicken farmer who goes to town to buy eggs.

It is the biggest ongoing rant I have. In British Columbia, which with its natural boundaries, immense resources of energy, industry, clean water and agriculture could be a very, very wealthy  sovereign state. (I’m quite in favour of the idea of Cascadia.) Anyone who can put down their I-pad and sweat, maybe even bleed a little and get some dirt on their hands, in other words produce something, should be wealthy. Instead, we import folks who are willing to do the grunt work and then regard them as inferior beings and complain if they get ahead in life.

We could, and should be, completely self-sufficient for food. We have been in the past. Those monster green houses in the lower mainland area could easily grow tea, coffee and citrus fruits instead of the marijuana they probably will cultivate in the future. The price for one cauliflower in the store yesterday was $8.99! That is to cover, I assume, the immense amount of diesel required to move it from Mexico to Vancouver Island. Or perhaps, from a Vancouver Island farm to a Toronto warehouse and then back here! Gawd! You now need to take out a mortgage to acquire a handful of asparagus! As you know, I have no acumen for financial management but I do understand that before you go off spending money on anything else, you figure out how to first feed yourself. We have, or had, very prime farmland throughout the province but we’ve managed to flood it, pave it over for malls and roads, or build subdivisions and golf courses.  And, think of all the food we could grow if we simply replaced the expensive vanity and environmental stupidity of our lawns with vegetable gardens. Why are we importing any foodstuff? It is sheer political genius multiplied by our collective idiocy and comfort zone apathy.

We indeed will end up back in the caves as we deserve. We may now be able to listen to the Martian wind, but have learned bugger-all of basic value about living on this planet. With all of our technology we have dummied ourselves into a state of mental oblivion. A few years back someone came up with the bright notion of only consuming food produced within 60 KM of home. WOW! That’s original. The human race has been doing that in a much tighter radius for millennia. We don’t need rocket science to feed ourselves. Remember the Paul Simon lyrics? “Isn’t that astute, why don’t we call ourselves an institute?”

Once a tremendous effort was made to clear our rich Southern coastal land of its massive timber. After all that effort, most of this prime ground has been abandoned to eventually become “Developed ” land. With ever more people and less arable land, the idea of being able to feed ourselves is becoming more remote.
Abandoned fields are eventually overrun by Himalayan blackberries, an aggressive invasive species. Hardly anyone tries to even harvest the berries, a rich food source. Doesn’t it make you want to ask a few questions?

On a parallel note I watched a report on Scotland’s green energy program last night. Their goal is to be 100% green in a few years and are now rising through the 80% mark. This is a country which until recently, relied entirely on coal and its own rich resource of North Sea oil and gas. (England switched from coal to nuclear power years ago and is realizing the horrible pitfalls of that.)The Scots are now placing tidal generators on the ocean floor of their coastal waters, each of which will supply the needs of 1000 homes. They do not rely on sunlight or wind but use the regular and predictable diurnal tidal currents. They can calculate the energy that will be produced over the next twenty years simply by consulting the tidal books.  I have advocated for that here in BC for decades. Both our coastal ocean currents and our mighty rivers produce massive amounts of unharnessed clean energy. Think of the electricity we could produce without flooding another inch of land or erecting ugly expensive wind generators.  River turbines in Europe have proven themselves long ago. A few years ago, on the banks of Northumberland Channel near Nanaimo there was a serious proposal to build a natural gas-powered generating station. That immediately beside uncalculated kilowatts of eternal unharnessed tidal energy. The gas has to piped to Vancouver Island. Just what were they thinking?  Fortunately, for once, public outcry was massive and the project was abandoned.

Oh to hell with it. At my age it’s easier to just move south and live with the unique problems down there. At least they grow their own food. Cave For Sale!


Well, so it goes for two old farts who are still audacious enough to ask WTF! We may not have any answers, but refuse to live in a world where asking for simple logic seems increasingly out of order. And… I don’t know how to say Baaaaaaaaaa with a down-under accent.

Three more quotes from Thomas Sowell:

People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.”

Stopping illegal immigration would mean that wages would have to rise to a level where Americans would want the jobs currently taken by illegal aliens.”

You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.”

Well balls to it all. I don’t really care where they were made. Remember to hang on to your sense of humour…it may be the most valuable thing you possess.                   Happy Christmas!





A Hoot In The Night

Home is where the boat is...and where the blogs come from. 'Seafire' is the left of the tiny liveaboard community here at Shearwater. There are five of us in all.
Home is where the boat is…and where the blogs come from. ‘Seafire’ is to the left of the tiny liveaboard community here at Shearwater. There are five of us in all.

 In my last blog I made disparaging remarks about computers. I must admit that all of my writing is done on a computer and that the internet has saved me years of research in libraries and various archives. I mentioned a childhood memory of a grist mill in the tiny village of Kilbride where I first lived after being born. Suddenly it occurred to me that a little on-line research might confirm my memory. Blam! Boom! There it was, a history and photos to confirm that flickering memory. The Dakota grist and sawmill, built in 1844, burned down in 1979. It was named after the indigenous people who originally lived there. Wow! This blog is not about my childhood memories and I’ll leave my fascination about that old mill right here. I’ll write about it elsewhere and have already mentioned it in one my books.

A guardian in the forest.
A guardian in the forest.

The advantages of our cyber age are huge and wonderful if computers are used as a tool and not a master of our lives. Stay focused and keep your shoes on the dock. Ask questions of all things. I am amazed that in a place like Shearwater, with very limited media availability, that people form strong, unshakable opinions based on someone else’s skewed perspectives. Politicians, everywhere, try to manipulate our loyalty with fear and our laziness about questing the “rest of the story.”

A friend commented on my last blog and closed by saying “By the way say hello to the royals as you sip tea with them while wearing your work gloves.” My reply was “I’ll wear my cleanest overalls, one of those T-shirts with a tie painted on the front, and try really hard not to fart. “I say old chap, was that the call of an eagle?” Prince Frederick.

In the rainforest.
In the rainforest out on a limb.

Royal Monday morning arrived with a building deluge which soon proved to be the most intense rain some locals claim to have ever seen. A river ran through the hangar which has apparently never happened before. Perhaps a drain was plugged but I can affirm never having seen such a prolonged downpour. Unfortunately I did not have a camera with me as I worked. I busied myself on a project in a far corner and came out only when I was sure the whole royal flap had passed. I don’t know how things went in Bella Bella other than that William and Kate came and went and all the efforts of the Shearwater gang to grab a little attention proved for nought. The disappointment was clearly profound. All’s well that ends and I’m happy to get on with life here without worries of stepping in any Grey Poupon. Take that as you wish. As their allotted number of minutes in the Great Bear Rain Forest came to an end the rain eased and our sodden skies began to clear. They flew off to their next engagement. I hope the noble pair did not take the weather personally.

Earth, wi.nd, sun, rain
Earth, wind, sun, rain.

On that same evening the first television debate between the Frump and the Trump was aired. Apparently 80,000,000 people watched/listened. Our sole radio station here, CBC North, aired the debate and I listened for a while. My God! Those are the best two candidates anyone can come up with! “It’s the end of the world as we know it,” are lyrics from a song by the band R.E.M. Perhaps I’m moving in the right direction with ‘Seafire.’ There are plenty of long inlets up here with a place to hide away. The rest of the world could go to hell. It seems determined to do exactly that anyway.

The afternoons have been sunny ever since our royal deluge on Monday. Today, Saturday, was exceptionally nice. All boat owners in our little corner were out cleaning, sanding and painting. It was delightful, such days are very rare here. I took the afternoon to begin a quest. One of the small islands which surround the waters between here and Bella Bella has some very ancient Heiltsuk petroglyphs. The island, I discovered, has three cemeteries. I must confess that I felt as if I were trespassing although I have previously enquired of locals if it would be permissible for me to explore the small island. Of course, the forest is thick tangled jungle and you can try to trespass as much as you want, you won’t get far. That I found three, instead of one burial ground, was surprising but it was a grand experience. I had no sense of dread or foreboding and of course I was respectful in all ways. I took only photographs and any of those I publish, will have family surnames erased out of respect.

A Heiltsuk gravesite.
A Heiltsuk gravesite.
A hand-made banner on a grave.
A hand-made banner on a grave.
Little is left to be permanent. It is part of the culture to return to nature from which all things come.
Little is left to be permanent. It is part of the culture to return to nature from which all things come.
The art thrilled me.
The art thrilled me.
A brilliant token of love and respect.
A brilliant token of love and respect.
It is hard to guess how many graves there are. The forest re-claims them rapidly.
It is hard to guess how many graves there are. The forest re-claims them rapidly.
The graves go on and on.
The graves go on and on.
The amount of work that went into this little canoe betrays a deep affection.
The amount of work that went into this little canoe betrays a deep affection.
A strong nautical heritage is clearly evident.
A strong nautical heritage is clearly evident.
A totem of the eagle clan
A totem of the eagle clan. Note the ancient, huge red cedar tree in the background.
More eagles
More eagles
Returning to mother earth.
Returning to mother earth.

There is a curious blend of traditional aboriginal sensibilities blended with Christian persuasions. A grave marker displaying beautiful native art often also declares that the deceased has gone to be with Jesus. There were many depictions of praying hands, rosaries and other rhetorical biblical nuggets. The grave sites blend peacefully into the overhanging forest and are all located, for practical reasons, close to the beach. Always, the echoing call of ravens in flight resound through the tangled forest. The graves must be extremely difficult to dig between the roots and the rocks and it’s clear that the sense of extended family and deep, strong love is an enduring quality of local culture. It was unsettling to realize how young many of the interred were. I am decades older than many of of those in the ground. I should also mention that there were also local Caucasians buried there as well. A little over a mile away lies a burial island, barren and lonely, guarded by a grim-faced totem pole. Older local folks tell of of that island in their childhood when coffins on burial platforms slowly disintegrated to reveal their boney contents.

A gift from the sea on the beach in front of some of the graves. Yet another vision of the cycle of life.
A gift from the sea on the beach in front of some of the graves. Yet another vision of the cycle of life.
On the beach. Rebirth in the roots of a brine-burned stump.
On the beach. Rebirth in the roots of a brine-burned stump.
The beach in front of the cementary
The beach in front of the cemetery.

Tomorrow I fly south for medical appointments. After this afternoon’s experience I find myself considering my own health, longevity and sense of purpose. It would be so grand to be one of those folks who progress through life without a questioning mind. TV hockey, beer and chips, the latest headline, a shiny truck, a new lawnmower and a steady union job with a good pension….bliss with never a question, total fulfilment as a consumer. That has always eluded me. I was one of those children who took things apart. Toys, clocks, radios and so forth; I’m still dissecting things decades later.

The Goose Islands and the waters of Millbanke sound beyond.
The Goose Islands and the waters of Millbanke Sound beyond.
A favourite anchorage of mine and some of the confusing water ways around it.
A favourite anchorage of mine and some of the confusing waterways around it.
A splendid set of saltwater rapids hidden in the backwaters...but I know where to find them.
A splendid set of saltwater rapids hidden in the backwaters…but I know where to find them. The poor image quality is due to the aircraft window.
Fog over the Western approach to Hakaii Pass. Japan is somewhere over the horizon.
Fog over the Western approach to Hakaii Pass.
Japan is somewhere over the horizon.
Calvert Mountain, the pinnacle of Calvert Island.
Calvert Mountain, the pinnacle of Calvert Island. The clear areas are natural open meadows due to the soil being too wet and thin to support large trees.
Goletas Channel, the entrance to Bull Harbour. Nahwitti Bar and Cape Scott beyond. This is the Northwestern tip of Vancouver Island.
Goletas Channel, the entrance to Bull Harbour. Nahwitti Bar and Cape Scott beyond. This is the Northwestern tip of Vancouver Island.
Cranberry fields forever. The fruit is harvested by flooding the field and skimming the floating berries.
Cranberry fields forever.
The fruit is harvested by flooding the field and skimming the floating berries.
Farmland becoming suburbs and industrial parks, malls, denser housing and downtown Vancouver in the distance. Not my cup of tea.
Farmland becoming suburbs and industrial parks, malls, ever-denser housing and then downtown Vancouver in the distance. Not my cup of tea.

The flight was marvellous, clear smooth air, some wonders of the Central BC Coast revealed. Seven long days of passage in ‘Seafire’ equals an hour and a half in a Saab turbo-prop. Another few minutes in a floatplane, with a pub at either terminal, and there in the golden autumn sun of Nanaimo. I am greeted by Jack and Jill. On the following day, a urologist dons a surgical glove and tells me to bend over. Right! He then declares that I need another appointment for another procedure in that damned shit-brindle beige hospital. Bugger me! Today I’ll see another vet about other problems and then with their monthly Porsche payments covered, I’ll make my way back to the Great Wet North.

A tale on a tail. I love these graphics.
A tale on a tail.
I love these graphics.

I lay in bed in the middle of the night, listening to the peaceful breathing of my wife beside me and that of Jack in his bed on the floor. I savour every moment, knowing that all-too-soon I’ll again be a lone in my bunk in shearwater. Truck tires howl on the highway, a short distance away. They sound the same as they always have and stir memories of sleepless nights as a child in a bed in a house not far from a highway. A weird regular hooting howl punctuates the darkness every few minutes. It drives Jack frantic. Sounding like an an escaped fox from one of those BBC detective series it probably is some sort of owl. It’s nothing I’m familiar with and I half expect the appearance of a figure with a hockey mask who is wielding a gory chainsaw. It’s been a long way to travel for a finger up the bum and a hoot in the night.

The banana boat. A view from my Port Hardy motel room. The yellow boat is one of two pilot boats based there. The two sailboats rafted together out in the bay both sport Swedish ensigns. They passed through Shearwater a few days earlier. did they come via the Northwest Passage?
The banana boat. A view from my Port Hardy motel room. The yellow boat is one of two pilot boats based there. The two sailboats rafted together out in the bay both fly Swedish ensigns. They passed through Shearwater a few days earlier. Did they come via the Northwest Passage?
Meanwhile back in Shearwater. a morning view from my cockpit beside the dock.
Meanwhile back in Shearwater. A morning view from my cockpit beside the dock.

Wednesday afternoon sees me back up to Port Hardy. I’ve dropped off my vehicle for it to be delivered by the company freight barge to Shearwater. There’s nowhere to go but it will be quite nice not having to pack laundry and groceries in the pouring rain. I’ll sell it up there and acquire a vehicle more suitable to my Mexico needs but for now it’s going to be workity-work-work and pay off some bills. But first, there’s a long weekend ahead and a boat straining at her lines wanting to go exploring. The weather forecast for this part of the coast is looking fine so off I’ll go. Who knows what I’ll discover this time?

My doctor tells me I should start slowing it down – but there are more old drunks than there are old doctors so let’s have another round.”

… Willie Nelson

All’s Well That Ends

The prince is coming! The prince is coming! They didn't put up any nee flags when I showed up.
The prince is coming! The prince is coming! They didn’t put up any new flags when I showed up.


Shearwater Central Common This is a tribute by the owners to the location's history as a WWII RCAF seaplane base. it was a photo of the flying boat that helped to first entice me here. Note beautiful Heiltsuk art on the left.
Shearwater Central Common. This is a tribute by the owners to the location’s history as a WWII RCAF seaplane base. it was a photo of the flying boat that helped to first entice me here. Note beautiful Heiltsuk art on the left.

Have you ever looked up at the sound of an airplane and instead seen a bird? I suppose it’s happened to most of us. I find it hilariously funny. I’ve heard starlings making a perfect imitation of an eagle which amused me immensely. A friend of long ago had a huge, geriatric macaw which used to declare “I can talk, can you fly?” I smile at even the thought of that. Aviation is in my blood. It has been so since I was a small child and I always look up at the sight and sound of any aircraft. I have no control over my instinct. Today I heard a beaver floatplane and looked up to see a seagull. Yep, I laughed and I can’t explain why. Then we had a sunny day and my eye caught a seagull high in the clear sky that was motionless. It turned out to be a drone. What the hell? For some reason that offended me.

A spectacular annual event as thousands of Sandhill Cranes migrate south. These birds have a six foot wingspan and a loud haunting call. Few people notice.
A spectacular annual event as thousands of Sandhill Cranes migrate south. These birds have a six foot wingspan and a loud haunting call. Few people notice.

That day’s weather was flawless. The afternoon passed under a clear sky and several flocks of Sandhill cranes passed high overhead. I looked up to all I heard in the sky. Three large flocks of migrating cranes passed low overhead, all calling raucously and impossible not to notice. A few people stood on the dock, all engrossed in texting on their mobile phones. No one looked up. No one noticed this marvellous spectacle of nature. How sad! Even here, away from any urban din and bustle, folks still can’t absorb the grandness of a wilderness that so many others pay handsomely to come and hope to see.

The gringos are migrating south too. This beautiful double-ended steel motor cruiser is home to two. Her name is 'Constant' I wonder if the tender is named 'Never.'
The gringos are migrating south too. This big beautiful double-ended steel motor cruiser is home to two seniors. Her name is ‘Constant’ I wonder if the tender is named ‘Never. That’s little old ‘Seafire’ in the background.


The 'Serengetti' St. John, USVI Their dinghy is on the left. I assume they are in quest of rustic wilderness charm.
The ‘Serengeti’ St. John, USVI
Their dinghy is on the left. I assume they are in quest of rustic wilderness charm. This look-at-me floating plastic palace did not have enough cash left over for a Canadian courtesy flag.
So where's your regulation stern light? The 'Serengeti' after dark. The clatter of the generator which kept all those deck lights burning went on all damned night.
So where’s your regulation stern light?
The ‘Serengeti’ after dark. The clatter of the generator which kept the signboards and all those deck lights burning went on all damned night.
Boats of a feather seldom flock together. 'Serengeti' and tender in background, RCMP patrol catamaran 'Inkster' on right, and that's me in the corner. 'Seafire' with a whale bone on her sprit above Happy Harry Heiltsuk.
Boats of a feather seldom flock together. ‘Serengeti’ and tender in background, RCMP patrol catamaran ‘Inkster’ on right, and that’s me in the corner. ‘Seafire’ with a whale bone on her sprit above Happy Harry Heiltsuk.
The winner...and the loser. Shearwater held a cardboard boat race. This was the only entry. It took all the cups.
The winner…and the loser. Shearwater held a cardboard boat race.
This was the only entry. With two paddlers it took all the cups.

On another note of modern mindlessness I just heard a story on CBC radio that I had to check out. Established in 1819, that’s 197 years ago, the Arva Flour Mill in Southwestern Ontario has operated continuously without any accidents. It is the oldest water-powered mill in Canada and should be considered a working museum. The Feds have recently inspected the mill and declared that the mill contravenes several points of the Canadian Labour Code and must close down. Can you believe the idiocy?

The website is http://www.arvaflourmill.com and there is a petition to sign for support of the mill remaining in business. There is a lovely short video about the history of the mill. It certainly tugged at me. I suppose I have a bit of an affinity for this story because the tiny village where I first lived after my birth, Kilbride, in Southern Ontario, had a wonderful water-powered mill. It burned down in the 1960s but I remember the huge wooden shafts and crude hardwood gears all joined by long flapping belts. The mill ground flour, sawed lumber and, if my memory is accurate, also had a machine shop and blacksmith’s forge. It was a very “Green” operation. I can recall that even as a young boy how fascinated I was to see such industry powered by one small stream. I am convinced that in many ways our culture is regressing. We achieved so much with raw intellect before we became addicted to computers.

The organic mechanic and a cyber Neanderthal. "Wot's a compuder?"
The organic mechanic, a cyber Neanderthal. “Wot’s a compuder?”

The modern diesel engines I work on sometimes have up to three separate computers. Last week I worked on a Gardner diesel that was at least fifty years old and going strong. I don’t believe it has ever been rebuilt, can be hand-started in a pinch, has great fuel economy and guess what?… It has no computers!

I’m bemused here in Shearwater at the number of people, both visitors and locals, who indulge perpetually in texting. Some folks can’t seem to walk anywhere without their heads down while poking away at some sort of cyber device. I’m amazed that someone hasn’t stumbled right off of the dock. There was a time not so long ago when people knew how to write letters and were able to hold a conversation with each other in person in real time. I have sat in a restaurant and actually watched a group of teens text each other across the table. I’ve watched a young mother with head down and thumbs flying as she heedlessly pushed her child in his stroller out into rushing traffic. Now there is a concern that public school curriculums include something called ‘coding.’

As we become increasingly detached from our fellows we also seem to loose our regard for other people. In the past week, at Shearwater’s guest dock, I’ve lost a lot of sleep due to other’s rudeness. One night a mega yacht’s generator throbbed relentlessly. Another night the vessel across the dock from me had a large furnace which spewed fumes from a thundering exhaust pipe. On yet another night in the wee hours, a shouting family with a squalling child held a prolonged conversation in the cockpit. Yesterday I spoke harshly with another gormless lout who, for some reason, delighted in leaving his twin unmuffled Detroit diesels at a fast idle for prolonged durations. He couldn’t understand or care that the din and the stink would offend anyone. Finally, the wiring at the worker’s dock was installed and here I am, having had a night’s sleep uninterrupted by anyone else. The wind blew as forecast, shrieking and shaking the boat horrifically; the rigging clattered and moaned. I fell asleep like a happy puppy. The wind quit, a few hours later. I was instantly awake.

On Monday Bella Bella will endure a brief royal visit. It is bringing out the utmost in local foolishness. Shearwater and Bella Bella function as a single community and the water taxis I help maintain are the link between the communities and local areas. Union Jacks are now flying and the flagship of the fleet, the ‘Clowholm Spirit I,’ has been reupholstered, had new name decals and local art applied, has had the upper deck refitted as a promenade deck complete with chairs and umbrellas and two huge British flags. I have a nagging doubt about the vessel’s tipping stability once it is loaded with all that royal meat up top. Can you imagine if the boat rolled over? Remember what happened in Tofino last year? How many drowned? The aspiration, of course, is for a little incidental publicity for the company. Chances are it will be raining and blowing like hell come Monday and the boat will stay at the dock. Each of the three engines in this boat has three computers which we’ve disconnected to prevent damage while the upper deck accoutrements are welded in place. These computers are somewhat fickle and once they are all reconnected they may well have to be reconfigured before the engines will even start. One of the local jokes is about how we know the union jacks are not being displayed inverted. I’ve suggested finding a few dozen of those bullet hole decals and applying them all over the boat. I’ll possibly end up in handcuffs if I don’t keep my cynical perspective under a lid.

The Royal Barge. 'Clowholm Spirit I' being fitting out for her few minutes of glory transporting the royal flock a few miles down Lamma Pass. The building in which she sits is the one remaining hangar from WW II.
The Royal Barge. ‘Clowholm Spirit I’ being fitting out for her few minutes of glory transporting the royal flock a few miles down Lamma Pass. The building in which she sits is the one remaining hangar from WW II Shearwater.
A work in progress. A local Heiltsuk artist decorates the 'Clowholm' with an eagle and a kermode bear. It is beautiful even when half-finished.
A work in progress. A local Heiltsuk artist decorates the ‘Clowholm’ with an eagle and a kermode bear. It is beautiful even when half-finished.
Promenade Deck B. An impromptu effort at royal accommodation. I have an image of Princess Kate clinging desperately to an umbrella as a blast of wind and rain whisk her off and up into the mountains.
Promenade Deck B. An impromptu effort at royal accommodation. I have an image of Princess Kate clinging desperately to an umbrella as a blast of wind and rain whisk her off and up into the mountains.

It’s amazing how folks who otherwise wouldn’t give a toss are suddenly falling-down gaga about two baby-faced descendants of an empire which tyrannized our aboriginal people and resources. There are ongoing endeavours about freeing ourselves of the remnants of that oppression. Suddenly we’re on our faces to worship two ambivalent characters who have all the same bodily orifices which we do. I’m sure they’re lovely people and we could find something to laugh about over a beer or two but I would not want their job. It must be a horrible life sentence of always being watched, adulated, protected, scrutinized and organized. I do hope it all goes well, but really, I just don’t get it.

The hotel here at Shearwater has over eighty guests this weekend who are all part of the entourage supporting this hours-short visit by Prince Billy and his wife Kate which won’t last more than half a day. I’ll bet they’d probably prefer to simply bugger off alone and do a little fishing, even if it’s pouring rain. That would probably allow them a much clearer perspective on what this region is really like. They might even see some wildlife without the hordes tagging along. There has been a security force lurking about for weeks which probably has enough troops and weapons to start a war. We’ll never know how much money goes into a brief visit like this but I’m sure that if the same amount went into a lasting community improvement it would be significant. While all of the fuss and frenzy unravel, I’ll be head-down in someone’s bilge.

Poop Tank Peek While working on this sewage system I needed to take a photo for the dealer. Somehow my mobile took pictures both ways at once.
Poop Tank Peek
While working on this sewage system I needed to take a photo for the dealer. Somehow my mobile took pictures both ways at once.

As I edit this blog, CBC radio is playing a live broadcast of the royal arrival in Victoria. Military bands toot and drum and fire their guns, people hoot and whistle rudely, rhetorical speeches blither on and on. Then the prince regurgitates the words written by someone else. Tears gush down many legs I’m sure. I’ve just plugged in a Stan Rogers CD. Now there’s some real “Oh Canada.”

Blue skies and bluebirds.
Blue skies and bluebirds.

Hardly anyone recognizes the most significant moments of their life when they happen.”

… W.P. Kinsella

THE TRAILER (It can’t be done)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bureaucracy 101, Lesson 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May it happen to you. …anonymous

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



Deep in the forest, with the sound of rushing clear sweet water, and the spring song of mountain birds, Nepal we weep and we pray for you.
Deep in the forest, with the sound of rushing clear sweet water, and the spring song of mountain birds, Nepal we weep and we pray for you.


I am posting this brief, amateurish video as a tribute to the mourning and suffering in Nepal. I shot these forty seconds of video a few minutes ago along the banks of Holland Creek. I submit the images of a Budha carved into a granite boulder. I hope the roar of the cascade behind and the song of birds offer a fitting tribute to a nation in terrible grief.     I hope you are able to open this video (When it comes to moving pictures, I am an amateur.)

As a comparison, when one Canadian military person dies while helping our government meddle in something that is none of our business half-way around the planet, all our flags across the thousands of miles of breadth and depth of our country fly at half-mast. I respect that person’s intentions and sacrifice but they did go to a far-off place with a weapon in their hands. If I’ve pissed you off by saying that….Good!

Nepal is a country noted for its peaceful nature, its beseigement on all sides by oppressive nations and its resolve to placidly go about living in one the most rugged geographies on the planet. It is a nation of innocent, generally non-aggressive people (Despite their toughness) who only strive to look after themselves without infringing upon their neighbours. As the death toll rises by the thousand in the aftermath of this nation’s devastating earthquake, I see no symbols of national mourning, not here anyway. All we have is the media’s exploitation of a massive horror.

This blog means nothing in the face of anything, but it is the best I can do. Shed a tear for Nepal.

The Dog Has A Gun

The sign read, “DANGER! The dog has a gun and refuses to take his medication.” To me, any expression of humour is an invitation to get closer but in this case it is clear that somebody has a claim on a piece of the earth and wants me to stay outside the fence they built. OK fine!

The longer I live the less I accept this notion of owning a piece of the planet. I do understand the aboriginal concept of respecting the earth and sharing it and thanking it sincerely for resources you need to stay alive and feed your family. Remember the animated film, “Finding Nemo?” All the gulls screamed “Mine, mine, mine!” That powerful metaphor was profound and describes our human nature as well as anything. Our time here is so fleeting. How can we possibly think we have an exclusive right to something which we are merely visiting? Somewhere I have a photo from the Gulf Islands of a lovely sign on a tree announcing a Bed and Breakfast. Spiked immediately beneath it was a larger sign declaring, “Private Property No Trespassing.” With that mixed message I’m not sure those folks enjoyed a brisk trade.

First flowers of spring. January Snowdrops on Gabriola Island
First flowers of spring.
January Snowdrops on Gabriola Island

Many of the Gulf Islands were a haven to hippies and draft-dodgers back in my good old days, the sixties and seventies. They arrived with nothing and I recall their whiny rants about peace and love and “Share the wealth man!” Once mom and dad passed on and they could acquire the turf they had so long squatted on, the “Private Go Away, My Land” signs began to appear on every tree. I’ve heard a capitalist defined as “A socialist who’s found an opportunity” and maybe that’s so. When I see someone with long white hair wearing a headband, and stepping out of their European SUV wearing designer gumboots, I’m really tempted to stroll over and say “Peace man! Share the wealth?”

Elgie Road in the morning, Gabriola Island
Elgie Road in the morning,
Gabriola Island

There are stories about new landowners appearing next to a neighbouring property where llamas or other exotic creatures roamed on that piece of already-cleared land. There were almost shooting wars about the newcomer removing his own trees to suit his needs and changing the view of those who were there first. I recently saw an old Western movie about the battles between cattlemen and sheep ranchers. Both sides were indignant about their “Rights” to overrun the natural world for their own needs. There were times when guns were drawn over the notion of fencing the open range. Of course, we‘re now understanding that “Leave it as you found it” has always been right but the fences won’t be coming down anytime soon. MY LAND!

The pioneers went to great lengths to import European cattle which still don’t really suit their new world. Now some agricultural circles are recognizing that the yield per acre in a given time period, factored in with the ability to be self-sustaining, from calving to finding water and enduring severe weather, indicates that bison are best-suited to live in their native habitat and can produce both profit and minimal environmental impacts. Who would have thunk? Wow! That’s amazing. Fields used to produce grain to feed cattle in feedlots, can be reverted to the natural grasslands they once were when the bison thrived splendidly in massive herds. We won’t need to burn any diesel harvesting the grain. And just think, ruminants were never intended to eat grain like birds. So, we could have “Gluten-free” beef. I admit I’m over-simplifying to make my point but nothing is perfect and nature has never needed our help, or interference, especially if we can be content with our truly simple needs. Now I just have to get my head around the bison being raised here on the Westcoast islands of BC. Shouldn’t we be raising elk here? They’re indigenous. Oh God here we go again sailor!

I often have the television on while I sit and write and sometimes there is something to draw me away from my keyboard. A few days ago there was a BBC program about a group in England who replicate various historical situations and film their efforts. At the moment they are working at the lives of tenant farmers on the land of a Tudor monastery, even complete with authentic costumes. “Hey Cedric, nice codpiece!”

If you were upper class you could afford to eat a varied diet with plenty of meat. The peasants and priests all lived on a near-constant diet of home-made bread and ales. Their concept of time was very different and they would work as daylight and weather permitted. There were few holidays or weekends off. Their lives as bipedal donkeys were usually over at age thirty-five to forty.

Kinsol Trestle Built by the railroad over the Koksilah River near Duncan on Vancouver Island. An amazing piece of engineering, no computers, just blood, sweat and brains.
Kinsol Trestle
Built by the CN railroad over the Koksilah River near Duncan on Vancouver Island.
An amazing piece of engineering, no computers, just blood, sweat and brains.

It occurred to me that their prime nourishment was almost purely gluten and I’m sure there weren’t many obese farm workers. Of course nor were there many geriatric ones. We’ve endured the paranoia about cholesterol, sodium, glucose, trans-fat and now gluten. This is especially poignant to me this week; I’ve just been diagnosed as being diabetic. That came as a shock! Most of those whom I know are diabetic were once chronic drinkers. I’m a bit portly but I stay very active and while I love good food and drink I have also worked on curbing the excesses which I once did embrace heartily. (Or is that heartlessly? How about mindlessly?) In the redneck world I knew for so long being a glutton was a mark of manliness. “Work hard, play hard!” Being overweight largely contributes to the onset of diabetes and one of the symptoms of diabetes is the weight gain it brings on. Cause and effect, round and round. The simple fact is that too much of anything, even water or air, can be a bad thing.

The rebuilt bridge sports miles of shiny sailboat rigging!
The rebuilt bridge sports miles of shiny sailboat rigging!

So the odyssey of Seafire and her crew takes an added twist. I must quit talking about healthy lifestyles. It’s time to do or die. I promote free original thinking and it is humiliating to admit I’ve fallen into a common state of mindless consumption. Maybe it is just the luck of the draw but there are things I can do to rectify the situation. Perhaps this is another example of my mantra about responsibility being the price of freedom. Another documentary titled “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” decries our collective dietary lemming race to the grave and also promotes the advantages of an all-juice diet for weight loss. The narrator also happens to be the owner of Breville, a company which markets juicing machines along with copious other kitchen gadgets. Hmmm! Do the potential plots ever end? Meanwhile my daily intake of pills is increasing and yes, I do have a conspiracy theory about that. There was a time when buying shirts, my concern was finding something my arms would fit into. Now it’s my belly. Yeah, I’ve got a lot of guts. Could you pass the chips please? Wannanother beer? This too shall pass. When I grow up I want to be a flat-bellied geezer.

Coincidentally, I finally saw parts of the famous documentary “Super size Me.” I’ll confess to indulging in fast food and that it is indeed both toxic and addictive. With the growing numbers, of people in poor health and the availability of instant malnourishment, we’re destroying ourselves in a gross and painful way. McDonalds, whom I can recall advertising, “Over a million served” now serves over forty-six million a day! And that’s just the big M. What of all the other purveyors of crap on a cardboard? We love the stuff! The marketing strategy seems to be “Eat shit, a billion flies cant be wrong.” And we buy it.

Koksilah River from Kinsol Trestle. Bungy-jumping? Kayaking?
Koksilah River from Kinsol Trestle.

One of my childhood icons has died. Don Harron was a Canadian actor and CBC Radio personality. Remember the wonderful voice of Peter Gzowski on CBC radio’s Morningside? Harron preceded him. He also developed a wonderful character named Charlie Farquharson. He nailed the mannerisms of an old Ontario farmer almost perfectly and, in his costume, was a dead ringer for my own  Canadian grandfather. His charm was in the way he misspelled things, writing them down phonetically. “Anyways if yer ready, put yer feet in the stove and we’ll git started with my oriole histry of Canada..that jist means it was took down by the wife Valeda, writin’ fast as Billy-jo jist as it come outta my mouth. I woulda writ it down myself, but Valeda says nobody’s gonna read writin’ when it’s written rotten.” Off he’d go about pre-Cambrian Shist and yer Plastocine Period.

He‘d ramble on about esoteric things Canadian, gently mincing it up such as describing the early fur traders as voyeurs-de-boys and if something needed special explanation he’d mark it with an “Astrix” and continue in his feetnotes. “RCMP means Roman Catholic Members Of Parliment and what they was doing with pillboxes, nobody knows”. His humour was dated and parochial and wonderfully innocent. Don Harron is gone, another piece of a lost era. An era, I’m afraid, of which I am part. Yeah I know, back in the good old days. I just don’t get yer CBC 49 and guys like Jeans-on Gomeshme. (Only Canadians have a hope of getting that! And he’s gone from there now because he was supposed to be a nasty piece of work.) Then there’s that George Stompsonalotofus!

My pals Tony and Connie from Victoria have arrived in Sri Lanka after sailing the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal on the way from Phuket. These guys are intrepid and have a wonderful way of mixing journey and destination into equal parts. They take the time to smell the flowers and produce a fantastic blog about their adventures. See the link in my right sidebar which will take you to ‘Sage On Sail’. Between two different boats this pair have now spent over ten years sailing the South Pacific. Other friends, Bob and Deb are somewhere in the American Southwest exploring in their Mercedes van which they did a magnificent job of turning into a modern gypsy caravan. They are apparently having a grand old time travelling in a land where everything is larger than life.

The earth awakes as January ends.
The earth awakes
as January ends.

Other friends are wintering at home in Australia. As soon as Ali recovers a bit from back surgery, she and Rodger will be back to their beloved wooden baby, “Betty Mac” presently moored in La Paz, Mexico. Off they’ll go again. The world keeps spinning ’round.

In a bay called Dogpatch, another old beauty dies a horrible death
In a bay called Dogpatch, another old beauty dies a horrible death

Meanwhile, here on the West Coast, it’s still too wet to plow and I’m laying by the door like an old dog waiting for the mailman. I’ve got some loose ends to tie up and then hopefully, will be soon be posting a blog from somewhere south. I’ll be busy this month preparing to participate in another annual trek to Astoria Oregon for the Fisher Poet’s Gathering. This is a fantastic event and celebration of those who work at sea. You’re all invited. Check out the Fisher Poet’s link on this blog’s right hand sidebar.

Astoria Oregon on the Columbia River looking out to the Columbia Bar and the open Pacific.
Astoria Oregon on the Columbia River looking out to the Columbia Bar and the open Pacific.

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: It would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”………C.S. Lewis


A single dark event in the history of the world has produced an amazing positive result. All of the media posts of the world covered the story ahead of all else, and there are some dire circumstances out there. Of greatest interest to me was that throughout the day no-one discussed the tragedy. It was, I think, too poignant, too personal to toss around. I am writing about the suicide of one of my heroes, Robin Williams. I too suffer from chronic depression and like all of my fellow sufferers around the world it was easy to recognize in this incredible man. He denied being bi-polar or clinically depressed but I can tell you that all those manic, hilarious public highs we knew him for were often matched by similar private lows. From the various accounts I have gleaned, his death wasn’t an easy one. There are much easier, painless methods of ending your life than slashing your wrists and then hanging yourself in the closet with a belt. I know. I’m 62 years old and I’ve thought about it on and off for nearly a lifetime. He was determined to go.

When I first heard the news I was shattered and immediately plunged into a manic state of grief. Williams was an icon of positive reinforcement to me, an example of turning dark energy into something uplifting and joyful. He was a symbol of hope to me. Think of the light this one incredible comedian and actor left in millions of eyes. Clearly fame, wealth, and all the available options that can bring, while surrounded by adoring people were not enough to stay the massive urge to self-destruct. His sense of hopelessness overwhelmed him to a point of not being able to stand his personal pain anymore.

Depression is NOT simply weakness or bad attitude. It is a disease of the brain, electrical and/ or chemical. I like to see myself as one tough old blue-collared dude who was able to out-work, out-endure extremes of pain, cold, heat, loneliness, poverty; generally a tough old sonofabitch. I took a very long time, until I was forty years old, to admit I had a serious issue with depression. I shall always feel profound sadness when I think of all the pain I’ve caused so many who have tried and those who still try so hard to love me. I’m very bright and talented and I’m no axe-murderer but it must be damned hard to believe in someone who doesn’t feel the same way about themselves. I’ve written a book about my experience with this bastardly thing called depression and all the stigmatizing that society imposes.

Writing “Sins Of The Fathers” was somewhat cathartic but putting it out there was also the toughest thing I’ve ever done. The book is available online through ‘Chipmunka Publishing.’ My hope was that it would enlighten folks who don’t understand how severe depression is indeed a tangible disease which affects many aspects of a person’s life and well-being. I also wanted to offer affirmation to fellow sufferers. A sense of utter loneliness and feeling that no-one else can possibly understand you is often part of the incredible weight you carry. If you have any of all the myriad of other human afflictions, for example cancer or a heart problem, there is a ton of empathy and sympathy. When the human brain, easily our most complex organ, and probably most abused, doesn’t perform flawlessly, the sufferer is often shunned and treated like a pariah. That only exacerbates the problem.

That is why Williams death can be used as a positive thing. He has left a lot of joy and even wisdom behind that will have lasting benefit to us all. But that someone as prominent, as adored, deified, and as accessible to help as Robin Williams was, has killed himself stunned the world. The other thousand or more daily suicides never make the news. They never will but I believe this story has raised everyone’s awareness. One of four people, have, have had, or will have some form of mental illness in their lifetime. Look in the mirror. Think about it.

Na-Nu Na-Nu Mork.

“You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”

….Robin Williams



Putting the coffee on, a sunrise view through the galley portlight
Putting the coffee on, a sunrise view through the galley portlight

I’m determined to squeeze out one more blog this year. It’ll be blog twenty-four, an average of one every two weeks. There’s been an excess of introspection and navel-gazing and I’d love to end this year on a cheery, warm and fuzzy note. Despite the blahs about lack of cash and daylight and warmth there has to something positive and uplifting to share on this dark night at the end of the dock. It’s late, I’m yawning, my toddy mug is empty and I’m reluctant about the inevitable clamber into the large cold empty bunk up front in the boat. Doggy, and his warm snuggly self, stayed in town this week where it’s warm and dry.

My bunk buddy, warm, dry and safe, the boat gently rocking, dock lines squeaking gently
My bunk buddy, warm, dry and safe, the boat softly rocking, dock lines squeaking gently

Last Friday I stood in a cashier’s lineup in a Chapters store. A small wide-eyed boy just ahead of me looked up to his mother and asked with deepest longing how many days there were until Christmas. I looked at him and smiled despite being the crotchety old curmudgeon I seem to have become, especially at Christmas. In that brief moment I was the saddest, loneliest man on earth.  How had I become so insensitive to the mysteries and joy and warmth that come at the coldest, darkest time of the year? I had become Scrooge!

Jack Frost2
Jack Frost, the joy of Christmas past

Time swirled back fifty-eight years to the first Christmas I can recall. I was three years old. Suddenly that wide-eyed look was mine, from inside. I won’t burden anyone with fruit cake memories but one of the two things that are indelible above all was the incredible intensity of the Christmas season. Maybe it’s because it began then in Mid-December, instead of August like it seems to now, but here I go again being jaded and cynical. The other thing I recall about Christmas was the wonderful smell of it all. Evergreen fragrance, snow, woodsmoke and kitchen aromas, wet wool mittens, wintery thick car exhaust, the hayloft, the livestock and the barnyard were among all those rich and real and delicious aromas. I remember how slowly time dragged by loaded  with the weight of anticipation. I compare that infinity to the incredible passing blur of this present year and the one ahead which seems a package already open and partially spent.

Of course we know Christmas is about a lot of things among which is innocent child-like wonder and belief in magic. All year-long my blogs have been, essentially, about the energy to set and achieve goals which grow from sheer faith and willpower. It occurs to me that it is the same thing as Christmas in esoteric, adult terms. Believing in something before you can see it, perhaps even in spite of the negatives thrown at you by other people and events, is what sets humans apart from the other critters. We can dream and we can work toward our ambition. We can also convince ourselves of impossibility and so do nothing. But…“Can’t catch fish if you don’t go fishing.”

Suddenly, as I write, I recall a fellow salesman back in a time when I sold logging equipment.  Old Tom was in his late seventies then and absolutely loved every aspect of the logging industry. He was always a tough act to follow. One night, (Remember the spotted owl years?) we were in an Oregon tavern entertaining a group of our clients. Tom regaled them with tales of his early days in the woods. As the evening wore on, one smart ass asked him if he could describe the best sex he’d ever had. Without missing a beat, Tom replied, “Dunno, haven’t had it yet!” Tom’s logger humour reflected his approach to life. Every day was a fresh adventure and he had more plans than he could ever achieve in two lifetimes. He inspired everyone who knew him and probably still does. Setbacks were merely challenges to keep things interesting.

‘En Theos’ is ancient Greek for ‘God within’. (My spell checker suggests “In thermos!”)

So that is what I wish for everyone, “Enthusiasm”. May our new year be filled with it as well as joy, peace, confidence, fulfilment. And this time next year, may we all meet in a palm-fringed anchorage where the water is clear and warm, the beer is clear and cold, laughter fills the air while the best will be yet to come.

Holly Flower
Holly Flower

Happy Christmas Everyone.

Polar Express2
Christmas Express, a long way from that tropical lagoon