FROGS

Say Goodbye!
A last glimpse of Seafire with a new owner at the helm. It’s all over but the drinking. There shall be no looking back. This blog will continue to bear the same name for the time being.

I am an autodidact. The trouble is that I never payed attention in class. I did well enough in school and even graduated with a scholarship a year ahead of the rest of the class. Then my real education began and don’t, for a moment, confuse schooling with education. Some of the stupidest people I have known possess box loads of degrees and certificates. I attended the old school and the university of hard knocks. Some folks ask me from time to time where I went to university. I simply say that I graduated from Perdue, which really was the name of my high school. There’s no point in explaining further.

The problem is, that at my age, the clever self-taught one who thinks he is some sort of writer, has new-to-me words appear and I wonder why I’m only learning them now, words like autodidact which is the name for someone who is self-taught.

And if I am so damned clever why am I standing on an empty dock with my prized ‘Seafire’ moored somewhere else, now documented with someone else’s name? I should be softly singing “Free at last,” but I am now living in a big emptiness. It is, however, only temporary.

Now that I’m beach bound all I can do is watch the boats head out. Leaving Ladysmith Harbour, someone greets the morning light and  fading fog. That will be me again. Just watch me!

I have a plan. In the weeks leading up to this wistful day, I’ve been scouring on-line sites which advertise RVs and others which advertise trucks. Eventually, I want to own a displacement-hull powerboat, big enough to live in and seaworthy enough to voyage at least as far as Mexico. The right boat will be tough to find. First I need more funds. For the moment I will satisfy myself with land-based expeditions.

Nice RV dude! Precariously perched, the shack’s straps have come loose. I scooted on by.

I do want to satiate my strong land travel-lust. I have considered every option. There was a time when crawling under a tarp stretched across an overturned canoe was perfect, even romantic, but now my knees are too shot for kneeling in a canoe. I am well past even the tenting concept. I have tried the camper van notion and am not inclined to repeat that. I’ve considered truck-mounted campers but don’t like that idea for a few good reasons. Motor homes are not my cup of tea. So I have settled on the trailer concept. For me a trailer that can leave the pavement and also be dropped while roaming about with the towing vehicle only.

I first owned a home-made teardrop trailer. My early blogs of five years ago described a trip to Mexico with that trailer. I loved it but soon the romance wore off. I almost froze to death in it one night in Nevada. It had only sitting head room; so the simple endeavour of getting dressed while inside was challenging. Getting dressed outside was also interesting. “Mommy, what is that man wearing,” and that before I’d pulled on a shirt! Sticking your bare feet outside into the darkness with a good chance of stepping on scorpions while going to pee did not pique my sense of adventure. The tiny, cute kitchen in the back, under a huge lid, was not so great or exotic when the rain and wind came.

My first rig. Cute but a bit too tight for a fat-arse like me. It was a memorable trip.
Everyone loved that tear-drop trailer. The Mexicans called it ‘La Chiquita.’ The smell of coffee first thing in the morning always brought someone by to say hello and beg a mug.

My second trailer, was a beautiful conversion of a 12’ cargo trailer. I loved it. I could stand upright in it and I had a porta-potty for those night time functions. Cooking inside, or sitting to eat and write was next to impossible. There was a lovely retractable awning outside, which is where you spend most of your time as you go further south, but the notion of cooking or writing there in inclement weather soon paled as well. What would be perfect for me was a trailer small and tough enough to survive being towed on primitive roads. I needed separate, comfortable beds for at least two people, indoor cooking and dining facilities, some sort of bathroom facility and adequate storage as well. That will allow total self-sufficiency for 7 to 10 days without going to town. That’s a tough order to fill, especially on my budget. Building exactly what I need is very appealing but the cost of doing it right would be formidable.

My second attempt at dreams on wheels. I was proud of this trailer, but had not thought about what to do in foul weather.
When finished it had a lovely interior and the most comfortable bed ever with loads of storage space beneath. The bunk also converted instantly into a great work bench.

For a towing vehicle I also required an affordable, reliable short-wheel base 4×4 truck with enough power to tow the trailer yet be good on gas, have a canopy to store extra fuel and water, a small generator, a small air compressor, extra tools and also enough room to carry a small boat, outboard motor and a kayak. Most of the time, four-wheel drive is not necessary but when you need it, by gad you really need it. I wanted all of this for less than $20,000. I know! I am a dreamer. Both pre-owned trailers and good used trucks have ridiculous prices. My only hope was to find something online, even if it meant flying and driving across the continent. Importing any vehicle from the US is essentially straight forward, yet there are so many clauses and codicils, that one has to be quite wary. Imagine showing up at the border with a vehicle which may not be imported under any circumstance because the clearance lights are wrong. Vehicles over fifteen years in age are generally permissible but still vulnerable to subjective opinions of individual customs officers about things like the location of clearance lights. Yes, I did read that. And, every import is subject to GST which really chips into tsavings you’d calculated. Then, once over the border into Canada, there are two separate safety inspections to pass before the vehicle can finally be registered in your home province. Geez Louise! I looked anyway. Day after interminable day, all over the continent, for several hours at each sitting. This endeavour furthered my autodidact education and my standing as a masochist.

Next, I considered something a little bigger yet still affordable.
The chickens were not included. I declined.

Simply put, we’ve all heard it before, “If it’s too good to be true, it is.” I think I can safely claim that three quarters of the ads I pursued were scams. Firstly, if something is advertised in an area a great distance from where it is alleged to actually be, raise a warning flag. There was a disconcertingly consistent bullshit story with an almost word for word same script. Repeatedly the story was that a lady officer in the military was about to be re-posted, usually overseas. Old dad had died and this beloved truck, or RV, was a too-sad reminder of him and they just wanted to clean things up before their imminent deployment. The transaction would be done through E-bay and the sale item would then be shipped to me. Photos of the vehicle were extensive and showed something in immaculate condition. I made several inquiries, simply out of bemusement and also the theory that once in a while the ad might actually be legitimate. WRONG! That gambling philosophy is what gets a lot of folks into trouble.

One ad, placed in Craigslist-Kootenays described a near-virgin Rialta motor home which, it turned out, was claimed to be located in Prince Rupert, several hundreds of miles away from the Kootenays. (First Alert) Considering the remoteness of this location, it did seem plausible that the price was less then half of other quotient prices especially with the story I was given. A senior lady from Prince Rupert was in a California hospital with her husband who was waiting on a donor to provide a heart for a transplant. Because she was so far from home, and desperately short of funds, she had arranged for a quick sale through a third party, a shipping company in Prince Rupert. If I met her price the RV, and all paperwork, would be shipped to me. In response I explained that I never buy shoes without first trying them on. I proposed to fly to Prince Rupert, inspect the RV, do a lien check and then pay by bank draft. Clearly, paying a shipping fee out of such a low price did not make sense, nor did the notion that some unnamed shipping company was quarter-backing the deal. I have not heard back from her. In previous years there was an experience with some Nigerian scammers claiming an interest in a sailboat I advertised. That is a whole story in itself.

There must be masses of stupid people out there. Scammers would not be plying their trade so vigorously if they weren’t making money. There was a strange pleasure pretending to be a potential dupe until I finally wearied of kissing all those frogs.

I’m sure it will be here in a day or two. I know I put it in the mail. The side of this old mail truck was too good to walk away from.
One more shot I could not resist. This is part of the remaining old town in Nanaimo

Well I did find both the right trailer and a great towing vehicle, right here on Vancouver Island and within a day of each other. Oddly, the same thing happened when I bought ‘Seafire’. I looked at boats all over the continent, as far away as North Carolina and Toronto. I found her languishing in Blaine, about forty miles away. Go figure eh! Including taxes and insurance I am well within my budget for truck and trailer. Now I just have to get rid of the frog breath. Speaking of which, today is a fine clear, warm and sunny day. While writing this I am in a beautiful, luxurious semi-rural home dog-sitting for some friends. At the bottom of this acreage lies a small swamp. The frogs are singing heartily. Wherever I look, I can see no snow. Is it really spring?

Maple Bay spring dawn. It is spring! Beneath the fog lays a flooded field where swans swim and feed up for the long flight northward.

Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail.” Kinky Friedman

A Last Night

The last light on the last night. What a comfort this lantern has been.
A last look. Then I turned away and refused to look back.
It is spring time! Somewhere.
Life at the edge. Eeech.

Hunched over the steering wheel with bleary eyes I was once again in my old camper van driving into a town where I had never been before. It was raining and sleeting heavily. I was tired and hungry and just wanted to find a place to park for the night. The gas gauge was tsappingon empty. I worried that when I went to fill up the gas tank, my credit card would be rejected. Then I woke up from my terrible dream. There were a few nights much like that on my recent trip. That lost and lonely feeling is much how it is for me again tonight.

I am aboard my beloved ‘Seafire’ anchored in a beautiful nook known as Maple Bay. It will be my last night aboard this wonderful vessel. Tomorrow I meet with the buyers for a sea-trial. On the following day the boat will be hauled out for a survey and once that is past, the deal is near completion. I feel like a convict on the night before his appointment with the hangman. At least he has the sweet hope of oblivion. The ship’s chronograph rings out seven bells, right on time. It is nineteen-thirty hours (7:30 pm) I am reminded that the clocks are to be turned ahead tonight for daylight savings. The clear evening sky held a little light until about a half-hour ago. It is damned cold. There is snow along the shore right to the waterline.

Maybe I’ll buy a tiny motorhome and run away to the desert. Isn’t this sweet? I’ve  never seen one so small.

So here I sit, the aging man who lived in this egg, surrounded by the teak and brass in what has been my world. The one oil lantern remaining in the boat is glowing brightly, its cloying bittersweet reek fills the cabin. The furnace is belting out a lovely warmth and I reminisce about all the nights through the years spent aboard sitting right here, at this table, while the rain hammered down or the wind howled while the boat slammed against a dock or tugged frantically at the anchor chain. There were summer nights when the hatches were open to let in the fragrant night air; sometimes there were swarms of mosquitoes. Around the boat, seals and sometimes whales or dolphins snorted and splashed. Occasionally while anchored in some remote north coast bay there would be wolves howling in the surrounding rain forest. Sometimes the northern lights would begin to pulse and throb in the black, star-studded sky. There have also been nights in the harbour of some city where the lighted buildings towered above me and sirens howled above the constant drone of traffic. I don’t like cities. There have been times when I have sat here feeling like the loneliest man in the world but so very often I wanted to be in no other place.

And the days, those magic days, when the world passed at a stately speed between five and eight knots. Grey days, sparkling sunny days, none of then were bad; even those long hours bashing through monstrous breaking, foaming, hissing mountains of briny water when you knew that what you were doing was insanity. Sometimes the boat was surrounded in thick fog. It always made sense to me. I and this beloved little ship have seen an awful lot. We never made it to Europe, or even to Mexico, which was the original plan, but without that dream I would not have experienced much of what I have. A friend e-mailed me today to remind me of my recent metaphor about having to draw the arrow backward to launch it forward. Life is a long series of rapidly passing moments which ricochet between choices, some good, some bad.

When I edited this photo I had to go check that it was flying right-side-up. It was. For a moment the wind had folded it over. An inverted flag is an international distress signal.
I felt the wind and the sun on my face as we skimmed along slowly toward our destination.

Today on the short three-hour voyage to this bay the wind freshened out of the north. It was cold and clear and beautiful. I hoisted the sails which have been tightly furled away far too long. For two hours I motor-sailed, then the wind faltered and died. It was as if the gods wanted me to have one last dance with the wind. I will miss this boat, dearly and desperately, I know that. I also understand that you can’t steer a steady course by looking back at your wake. There is no ocean voyage that is not made between points on shorelines. Land and sea are meaningless without each other. After days or weeks out upon the broad, curving eternal face of the open ocean you make a landfall, often in a port where you’ve never been before. You rest, re provision, find new charts, make repairs and modifications. Then recharged you sail off on a new course to a new destination. Life is an eternal journey. I will send postcards, many of them. Meanwhile, tonight will be very long.

A light in the fog. Then darkness fell and the long night began.

Two days later, the sea-trial is completed, the buyers are happy. I am waiting for the surveyor this morning. There are only some simple formalities to complete the transaction. Then I will be boatless, for the moment.

I learned last night that a new friend, one I made on my travels in the desert, has died. For many years Frank was only an acquaintance until I spent a few days visiting with him in Ajo Arizona. We bonded like brothers and made plans about where and when we would meet again. We had met through a mutual friend who was a life-long close friend of Frank’s. Fortunately Jimmy was able to spend Frank’s final hours at his bedside. Any man who has a friend like that is successful indeed. When circumstances took Frank’s leg he was able to give it a positive spin and became an advocate, at a high level, for the disabled. He took his personal challenge and turned it into an advantage for himself and many others. He was courageous and positive. Nothing held him back. Only a few short weeks ago he took me for a drive in the desert. This one-legged guy drove his standard shift vehicle by using a stick to work the clutch. He didn’t miss a shift.

This short eulogy is all that I can do. My sadness is overwhelming. This is a reminder that one should live among their fellows like each goodbye is the last one. It just might be.

Those who knew him will miss Frank dearly. I took this photo just a few weeks ago. I am assured that his beloved little dog Xena (his half-a-lap dog) went to a very good home.

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

… André Gide

The Ides Of Marches

On the road to Tonopah Arizona. I wonder how the weather is there today.

Well there’s my tired clichė about the beginning of March. It can go right on the shelf beside the lamb and the lion, and oh yeah, the groundhog. Spring must be coming. Herds of dock inspectors roamed the marina yesterday, peeking into windows, thumping hulls and scanning boat rigs. After empty docks all winter, they’re back. It is nice way to spend some time on a sunny day, drifting and dreaming. Despite my despondency about parting with my boat, I too savoured the warm sunny day and I tried to see the world through the eyes of a landlubber. Like the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, winter still holds Vancouver Island in its icy grip. We do spells of clear skies, there is a little snow melting during the day and I did see some snow drops growing among the bushes. Other years there have been daffodils at the end of January. Both scenarios have the doom-gloomers declaring clear evidence of global warming. I’ll leave them to sort it out. And yes, I am aware of all the gasoline I burned on my recent trip.

There will be an incredible flower show in the desert in a few more weeks. I want to be there.

Of doom and gloom, the final transaction for the sale of ‘Seafire’ is a week away. I have spent days unloading the boat, one groaning, squeaking wagon-load at a time all the long way up the dock and ramp. Every time I have moved off of a boat I have been amazed at the “Stuff” a person accumulates. Now I’m giving my beloved her final scrub, removing winter’s grunge. And we all know that the deal is never done until it is done. The suspense is killing me. Oddly, there are two new inquiries, one of which involves delivering her to San Francisco, but truth be told, I am beseeching the gods for a last minute miracle which will allow me to keep my wonderful boat and travelling companion of so many miles. We have endured a lot together and I shall sorely miss her, and the whole idea of her, when the final day comes.

I have also decided to sell my old van. Wanna buy a camper van? It is a faithful little old bus but I know what I need now so I may as well clear the table and start over. I see other people settling into a comfortable retirement and the notion of a new beginning seems odd at my age but life is an adventure. I remind myself of Francis Chichester, who well into his seventies, and fighting cancer, set sail alone on an incredibly difficult-to-manage yawl ‘Gypsy Moth IV’, travelled around the world and then wrote his memoirs. Then a dark monkey on my shoulder asks, “So what’s your point?”

It can certainly be tough to stay positive and buoyant. On occasion I’ve let it slip that I have lived with clinical depression of all my life. I’m not complaining, just explaining. It has certainly been no sleigh ride and there are times when enduring another dreary day seems absolutely pointless. Being a blue-collar character I have lived in a world where such a thing is never admitted or discussed. That I live into “full maturity” (how’s that for a positive spin on ‘pre-geriatric’?) is, I think, a positive and happy story. On my recent trip I met inspiring people who deal with many challenges which would shatter others. Their life-force is a positive radiation and a wonderful influence which helps inspire their fellows forward. I consider how folks live elsewhere and marvel often at the obvious poverty and dreariness and wonder how people live a life which, to me, appears unbearable. There are secrets and courage which I do not begin to understand. As bleak as I’m feeling these days, I am struggling to finish reading a book called “The Bookseller of Kabul” by Asne Seierstad. It is an amazing inside look at the everyday lives of Afghani people, incredibly well-written and depressing as hell. The normal life of these people, especially the women, could make a stone weep. Their lives can only be endurable because they know nothing else. Are our expectations the root of our unhappiness?

I may be a creature of the sea but I left a piece of my heart at Baboquivari and in the desert . I will return.
I think I left a wrench here. I’m going back to find it.

I also marvel at the new things I see. In the desert, with the eyes of a newcomer, and a sailor, I saw flora and fauna which survive and thrive in incredibly harsh conditions. There is a reason for life to go on against massive odds beyond my comprehension. A joy which helps life make sense and have purpose is seeing those things and realizing that we too have a place in those circles, even if we don’t understand the total sum of the all the parts.

Stuff! It’s all just stuff. As much a personal temple as ‘Seafire’ has been, it is just stuff and there will be new pleasures in the future. The trick is finding joy in the moment. Belongings should never be a measure of who we are.
This delightful image was made and provided by my dear friend Kerry.

Giving up my boat is a step forward. While it feels like an ending, I know it shall be the beginning of a whole new set of adventures. Seafire Chronicles will continue to be posted under the same name. Comments from readers tell me there is value in what I do and in response, the sense of mission that I am afforded, in part, by this blog helps carry me forward. To give is to receive. Thank you. I often use the Lord Nelson quote, “Ships and men rot in port.” Staying busy keeps me alive; I subscribe to the mantra of “use it or lose it.” Some of my busyness will be to continue to hone my video-making skills. The first video from my trip is now posted on YouTube. It is a simple short clip made with my cell phone and a very good essay on the winter we’ve had. Here’s the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REe71VHzJxU See ya in the movies.

A storm always ends. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Remember that happiness is a way of travel, not a destination.”

Roy Goodman

“Trade Goats For Canoe”

(Remember that you can enlarge any image simply by clicking on it)

It sank beneath the horizon without a single hiss.

Trade goats for canoe.” The ad. caught my eye immediately. I have neither goats nor a canoe but I certainly understand that urge to go to sea. My sea lust has not diminished even with the notion of selling my boat. The response to my notice that ‘Seafire’ can now be bought has been overwhelmingly negative. “You can’t be Fred without your boat!” “What will you do?” So far there have been no offers of cash nor potential partnerships in the boat. I am not selling my beloved boat because I am weary of it or the sea. I simply cannot meet the financial demands of owning a boat any longer, at least within my current financial perimeters. There are fixed costs to pay whether you use the boat or not and there are no more rabbits in my sack. One window closes and another opens. If I am boatless on the beach for a while I will still be a salty dog, something I can neither hide nor deny. There are a number of folks who are boat owners who are clearly not water people no matter how hard they try to impress otherwise.


From my anchorage the moon rises on the opposite side of the planet from where the sun set.
Jitters. Hand-held while on my boat. Gibsons after the fireworks. The smoke lingers over town.

I, of course, am hoping for something to happen which will alter my direction and I am not about to give my beloved away to the first punter. My truck is also for sale and I’m not too proud to take money for just about anything else. I just want to relieve the mental constipation of debt and say “Aaah” as my creative juices flow freely. I can’t live here on my small pension so I need to be where I can do that. Yes I’ll miss the boat which has been my snug home and mobile refuge but life is not always about happy choices. Maybe I’ll soon be able to announce plan F, (whatever that is,) has fallen into place and that ’Seafire’ and I are headed south. But I do have a lovely backpack which is free and clear and the blogs can continue from wherever I am.

This blog is supposed to be about the adventure I would find aboard ‘Seafire’ but I’m hard aground. So onward and sideways. As the old English slang goes, I’ll do my best to “Keep my pecker up.” Haar! There are millions of people out there who would feel deep delight simply to have a cold drink of clean water let alone one nutritious meal a day; let alone daring to have a dream. Ordeal or adventure, it is all up to each one of us. We, who are so blessed, and so naive, take so much for granted. We cannot dare even try to understand the depths of misery and poverty of human existence. The bums sleeping under a bridge tonight are royalty compared to masses of others. We would be horrified to have to live even one day as most of our fellow species do. I often think of writers from the past who despite cold, hunger, illness, addictions at times, wrote so eloquently without spell-checkers or any of the many amenities we now enjoy and take for-granted. If it had been me, I would probably have found a way to dump my inkwell over the completed manuscript.

Well, finally all the sanding and filling and painting are finished. New life lines are rigged, now plenty high enough to keep my own herd of goats on deck. The boat looks like a new penny. I’ll finish painting inside the cockpit later. Now it is time to cast off the lines and get out of Dodge. It’ll soon be mid-summer and I’m weary of the sound of laughing, drunken gringo yachters having fun while I toil away.

Finished. Look at those stanchions and new lifelines! I wonder how many goats I could keep aboard.
Manly hands, just like the old days. Finger tips sanded and greased to the bone. I wonder what Madge would say. Ha… I know how old you are!
Last flight for the day. My old friend ‘Sea-fart.’

After having begun this blog I awaken the following morning in bliss The boat is anchored in Silva Bay, I’m in my bunk, there is a gentle pre-dawn glow coming through the open hatch. I put the kettle on the stove and soon enjoy the forgotten aroma and sound of my coffee press. I sit watching the rising sun play its light across the bay. A US yacht with no courtesy flag leaves the end of the dock, a straight-out departure yet the grinding din of the bow thruster shatters the tranquility. But then they are gone and only the soft call of mourning doves enhances the peace. A friend’s boat needs my help and I enjoy the moment before I crawl into a bilge and begin what could be a sweaty day.

The work was completed as far as it would go by noon. We had to lift the rear of the engine to get at the stubborn, rounded and rusted bolts which hold the old starting motor in place. It was a frustrating endeavour but such is life. I’ve had worse. I’m happy to have ended my career as a marine technician, this is no longer a gig for this chunky aging dude but for old time’s sake I have black grease back in my pores. I’ve spent the afternoon peacefully napping and reading, doing nothing. I’m trying to teach myself not to feel guilt about simply being. It’s hard, really. The descending evening is clear and calm, like warm milk. I’m wondering what to do with myself. It was full moon last night and I’m thinking… yeah you know what I’m thinking.

Off into the sunset, leaving the shore behind. Always a good feeling.

I weigh anchor just before eight pm and motor out onto the Strait of Georgia. There is no wind so the autohelm is set on a course for Howe Sound. I believe it is the most beautiful inlet on the coast but it is industrialized and heavily populated. Deep, with plenty of steep-sided rocky islands, the inlet’s shoreline is crowded with homes built with amazing feats of engineering and spending. This is the first inlet north of Vancouver and so first access into the wilderness of British Columbia. On clear days you can see the magnificent mountains towering over the skier’s mecca of Whistler. Altogether it is a grand place to be. I speculate that much of this urbanization was brought on in a mad rush to the Westcoast inspired in part by a CBC television show filmed here in Gibsons. ‘The Beachcombers’ episodes can still be found on YouTube. All of its stars are long-gone but the impressions and flavour of the series lingers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nj9bd-4qu4I Hopefully this link will take you to some clips of the series. You’ll have to clip and paste to make it work.

My crossing is swift with a flood tide in my favour. There is a spectacular sunset. Eventually, what was last night’s full moon rises through the murk of distant Vancouver Airport. I can clearly see the city and Lion’s Gate bridge. There are suddenly fireworks in English Bay. Above the scene, in the velvet purple sky, brilliant lights of far-distant aircraft descend in an arcing approach toward the airport like stars on a string. As I arrive at my anchorage that scene is backlit with another fireworks display in the town of Gibsons. WOW!

Deer feed on kelp at low tide beside my anchorage.

Later, in the lazy early morning light, I lay listening to seals snort and splash. There are photos and films to edit but for the moment the fullness of nothingness is wonderful. These are lonely moments but even that longing ads to the gentle intensity of Sunday morning rising up. CBC radio plays a tribute to Arvo Pärt, one of my favourite classical composers. Last night, I listened to a regular Saturday evening feature, “Saturday Night Blues’ hosted by Holger Petersen. It is a CBC tradition and always a pleasure of good music. A great jazz program follows. Yep, I’m actually plugging good old CBC.

Boop! Boop! Boooooop!
But I have the right of way!
The flooding tide churns at the bow of a freighter anchored in English Bay, Vancouver.
The madness on the waters around Vancouver. Due to a monstrous lack of facilities, folks have to anchor wherever they can and take their chances.

A day later I’m absorbing the rising heat and activity of a Monday morning in downtown Vancouver. One phone call persuaded me to join some friends who are anchored in False Creek in Vancouver. I was curious, I haven’t been here in years. The buildings are higher and denser than ever. Crossing English Bay on my way in was a gauntlet of vessels going every way, threading their erratic courses between the anchored freighters with apparent oblivion to anyone else. Entering False Creek was mayhem. Every sort of floating object was pelting about, from pedal boats and kayaks to huge tour vessels. Skittering through all of that were a plague of water taxis, all apparently in defiance of any rules or basic courtesy. On shore, the walkways and beaches seemed to bulge with masses of folks. Finding a place to anchor was a challenge, nearly every possible spot was full. None of this circus is for me. I’m finishing my second mug of chewy black coffee then I’ll catch the ebb tide out of here. This is no place for old sailors. The anchor chain came up so fouled with slimy muck that I wanted to cut it.

An urbanscape with some green. The tupperware boats crowd the shoreline everywhere possible.
What happens when you don’t hold your plumb bob steady! I had to admire this amazing piece of design work. The floor are actually dead-level despite the illusions.
Placidly we go amid the rabble. There is so much going on I’m sure these beauties are seldom noticed.
Someone has made a valiant effort to disguise concrete silos in False Creek.
We be gone! Happiness for me is the big smokey city behind my sparkling wake.
Goodbye Mr. T
Point Atkinson Light Station. Now unmanned it is, I think, one of the most beautiful lights anywhere. Also, once past it, Vancouver is soon out of sight.
Seafire anchored off the Gibsons waterfront.
A few minutes earlier, on board Seafire, I got these sunrise shots. It made all the previous week’s labour absolutely worth while.
A glimpse of part of Gibson’s crowded inner harbour. Stout breakwaters shelter it from vicious winter outflow winds.
Almost fifty years after the Beachcomber show was first aired, this cafe is still the center of the local scene. And, they still serve good food!

I spend the day meandering around back in the mouth of Howe Sound, stunned at the number of fantastic new summer homes and the lack of anchorages. The waters are too deep, right up to the steep shorelines. I arrive in Gibsons and anchor off the beach in front of Gramma’s Pub, a waypoint for me for over thirty years. The air is hot and still with a hint of the pulpmill at Port Mellon, a few miles north up the sound. The next day rushes past in the company of two wonderful friends I’ve know for years. Their hospitality was grand, their cooking superb and I delighted in the warmth of their friendship.

A bizarre poster I found in a Gibsons restaurant. It reads in part, “Gibson, Castle: the royal castle of the United States of America…The most suitable city in the world. The most suitable city in the world. Land of idyllic beauty, fairyland, vacation pension paradise.”                                                      I think someone likes the Gibsons area!
Keeper of the paddles. My dear friend Kerry is deeply immersed in First Nation culture and has a passion for canoeing.
A made-over loggers bunk shack on skids used as a shed, gracefully again becomes part of the forest from which it came. It is beautiful to my eye.
My best deer photo ever. She was laying on the lawn beside the shed.

It is too soon that I find myself sailing back toward my home dock. The wind, as usual is a little too fine on my bow and so, as usual, I find myself motor-sailing toward the Gulf Islands. This morning, I’m anchored off the docks of the Ladysmith Maritme Society. My space has been rented out in my absence to a transient boat. I don’t mind the inconvenience. The summer has brought a roaring trade in visiting boats. It is good for the town and the marina. I’m writing as the boat shifts in the tide and breeze so that the sun remains in my eyes, as usual.

Homeward bound. The wind was too close on my bow to be able to sail directly toward where I needed to go. It was another motor-sailing crossing.
Madly off in the opposite direction at about 40 knots. This is an oil spill response vessel which needs to haul ass when called. I wonder how many gallons an hour it burns.
“Tha,tha, tha, thas all folks!”

The most courageous thing is to think for yourself. Aloud.”                                    …Coco Chanel

A Plague Of Doves

Anchor set, mooring light aloft, supper in the oven, end of a very good day.

I’m feeling as worn as Willy Nelson’s guitar. Hopefully I too can still produce something good. But not today.

“Feeling nearly faded as my jeans.” My favourite mural in Chemainus, the lovely little town just south of Ladysmith.
ODIKA! Jill waits for what proved to be an excellent birthday dinner. If ever in Chemainus, this a fantastic restaurant. Lovely people, fantastic food.
Chemainus hydrant patrol. A joy of sidewalk tables is meeting the locals.

I learned this morning that a distant friend had died suddenly. He was the husband of my wife’s longest friendship and so after fifty-two years of marriage to his wife, Phillip had become an essential component of my wife’s friendship. I really liked him. I did not know him well, having only visited with him for a few days but I intended to befriend him more deeply. Now he’s gone, all those gonna-do moments have passed. The simple essay here is that we only have this moment, not the one in another minute’s time, only this one. And, every time you say goodbye, it may well be the last time. A few blogs back I briefly alluded to a dogma which includes being impeccable with your word. Don’t leave regrettable words without apology and preferably let your words be worth speaking and remembering. Believe me, this verbose writer and story teller wrestles with that one constantly.

In the teeth of a Qualicum. The wind blows strong and steady but there are no large seas because you’re sailing in the lee of the windward shore. It’s bliss!
Chaos below. I had not stowed anything because an hour earlier the wind was coming the opposite way and everything was happy in it’s place. No worries mate!
Chrome Island coming up like the clappers.
Chrome Island.
Anchored in the lee. The current kept the stern into the strong wind. Look at my flag.There was a whole lot of bobbing going on.
Rocks and cormorants on Chrome Island.
A peek at the edge of the keeper’s beautiful gardens and where I think some of the petroglyphs are.
Chrome Island looking back. The light was perfect and it never waits until tomorrow.

As I absorbed the news about this distant friend now gone, I sat with the day’s first coffee in hand. The mourning doves continued their serenade. A soothing sound, comforting and reassuring, this morning it was almost a thunderous din that seemed overwhelming. I wanted to shout at them to stop, shut up, fly away. I was already disoriented with arriving home. Now I’ve accepted a new job offer in Comox for a yacht charter company. I’m a bit reluctant to head back northwards for a low-paying job but it seems the gods dumped this one in my path. I’d best not step in it, or around it. I’ll just go see what’s up.

The light drew me on.
Smoke, mountains, low light.
The end of the world… over there.

Three days later I’m sitting in Seafire on a mooring buoy in Comox. Jill and I were still travelling south a week ago. I look ashore into the town, watching the traffic lights change on main street. They didn’t have any when we lived here thirty years. The community has grown up, a lot, and so have I. Well not actually, I’ve I just grown old. I truly believed I was coming south to retire but I need the money and here I go for some more work. These seem like nice folks and the job could prove to be fun. Every door leads a person to another door with yet more doors beyond. So…close the door, you’re letting the flies out!

One of the nice things about being at a more southerly latitude is that my mobile phone works inside my boat. No more huddling on deck ahead of the mast in the wind and rain, moving my head back and forth trying to find the best reception all the while swatting at squadrons of biting insects. Such decadence! I just finished a phone call with a friend who agrees that I should monetize my writing, my blog and my books and my photography. I find it hard to solicit myself and my work but I’m not too proud anymore to ask that if anyone knows someone who knows someone…. well, you can’t catch fish if you don’t go fishing. I’m not asking for any free lunch, just an agent who’s willing to take a chance on over twenty-five years of writing. That includes two novels, four other completed books plus a few on the back of the stove. I’m no one-hit wonder.

Yesterday proved to be an amazing day. Old ‘Seafire’ brought me all the way north from Ladysmith to an anchorage five miles south of Comox. That is a distance of—– miles in eleven and a half hours which included an hour out in Nanaimo for fuel. The shortest route from Ladysmith to Nanaimo requires transiting a notorious gap know as Dodd Narrows. Yesterday the tidal rate at maximum flood was 8.5 knots. I know the narrows, I know my boat and I know that the wild ride will keep most boaters away at maximum flood and ebb. I fear other yachts far more than tidal whirlpook. The worst part of turbulent water on a flood is downstream of the narrows and there is nothing to run into here, except other boats. One huge, overpowered motor yacht rushed up behind me and passed immediately after we’d exited the gap together. That wake mixed with the whirlpools and standing waves and produced a tsunami which broke dishes in the galley. ‘Seafire’ and I have know some rough going, but we’ve never before broken anything. The goon was towing a large fishing skiff on a long line and the entire show moved northward in excess of twenty knots. Somewhere there lurks a log. Thunk! Sunk!

While entering the narrows I was fascinated as I watched a bald eagle take a common murre. I’m no bleeding heart but it was painful to watch the murre’s agonizing demise and yet see the eagle’s strategizing and brilliant flying. He kept diving on his prey until it was too exhausted and injured to dive any more. The murre flew a last time, but now it dangled from the eagle’s talons. There is no place for warmth and fuzziness in nature and I’m sure that when feeding our offspring is a priority, we can all demonstrate our vicious nature.

Northbound from Nanaimo I lucked into a Qualicum wind which heeled the old boat over and had us hurtling on our way. Thirty knots of warm breeze on the beam is a gift and I revelled in it. At times the rails were in the water and we raced up the strait toward Chrome Island. I anchored in the lee of the island but the wind curled around the rock and arm-wrestled with the ebb tide from Baynes Sound. The stern stayed into wind and ‘Seafire’ bounded at the end of her anchored chain like a feral pony. I took the dinghy around the island and then started to go ashore. There are some incredible petroglyphs on the island, the evening light was clear and golden. It seemed meant to be.

Then the light keeper appeared. I was promptly advise that the island was his home and he was in the middle of dinner. “Come back tomorrow.” He flung out an apology; I told him I didn’t believe that. It the first time ever, anywhere I’ve been in Canada, that a light keeper has been less than welcoming to me. Usually a visitor’s concern is being able to get away again, company is usually cherished by lightkeepers. I had no intention of invading his home or demanding a cup of anything, nor trampling his beautiful lawns and gardens. I’ve reviewed this with other mariners who all agree that a Canadian light station is Canadian property and we have every right to visit our landmarks. I promised the grump that he’d been rude to the wrong writer and here ya go buddy!

The light that evening was magic. It drew me onward until finally at dusk I dropped my anchor in Henry Bay, a short distance in Comox. The trip covered sixty-five nautical miles in less than half a day. Brilliant!

And so here I am in Comox. On my first afternoon there I took the dinghy and visited the “Royston Wrecks” directly across the estuary. It has been decades since I was in this sacred place. A breakwater for a log-booming ground was built by scuttling 14 ships. Some were WWII liberty ships. Two of the hulks were former full-rigged clipper ships that had been cut down and used for log barges. One is the ‘Riversdale’ built in Liverpool in 1894. All that remains of her now is the forward section. The other, also built in Liverpool in 1876 is the ‘Melanope’. She, apparently was once an immigrant vessel to Australia. Her aft and forward sections remain to give you a clear idea of her overall size.

The bow of the ‘Riverdale’
This sprit has been shortened by forty or fifty feet. Imagine some young, barefoot seaman sitting out there watching the dolphins swimming beneath the bow in the seas foaming past.
Looking into the foc’sle. Check out the deck planking and how it has stood up to the years compared to the steel deck beams.
The bones of the ‘Melanope’ That’s the stern section in the background. A very big sailboat!
Bow detail. Note the riveted hull plates. Welding a ship together was yet to come. There were times when this hull crossed the open ocean heeled over much like this.
The mizzen was missin’.
This is the aft mast, or mizzen. It would have been cut off when the vessels was decommissioned to live out her days as a barge. The mast was rolled and riveted, then reinforced with more steel inside. How’d they do that? NO COMPUTERS! Did some poor bugger have to crawl inside the mast? There’s a belaying pin rusted in it’s rail. Running rigging would be “belayed” to it.
Chain pipes. Where the anchor chains passed out from the lockers. They were set low to prevent fouling the bob stay forward. Chafe marks are visible in the forward pipe.
The Jackstaff. This swivelling cast steel arm was used to “cat” the anchors, securing them up for the voyage. Note the arced rusted-out marks where the anchor must have chaffed on the hull plates. The huge forward-facing socket was where the massive bowsprit was bedded home. Also see the massive turnbuckle thimble above the sprit bas. It was used to harden a forestay. This was an immigrant ship and all those who sailed on her have passed on. It is very humbling.

What grand things these were! The nautical author John Villiers describes the full-rigged ship as one of man’s highest achievements. Combining technology and art they moved passengers and massive amounts of freight around the planet without burning a single drop of fuel. That was all accomplished without computers, radios, satellites. I’ve included a photo, without permission, of a full rigged barque to illustrate the wonder and glory of those vessels. I believe the ship is the ‘Cuauhtemoc’ built in 1982 as a training ship for the Mexican navy. I’ve been aboard her and she is a floating cathedral, immaculate and glorious.

This photo is reproduced in this blog without any permission. I don’t know who owns the rights but it is one of my favourite images. I use it for the desktop on my lap top and fantasize about being aboard in the rigging. This is very much how these wrecks would have appeared during their working life.

Meanwhile I’m settling into my daily grind on the docks of Comox. The bay here is surrounded by beautiful beaches and sandy spits. There is a huge glacier which looks down on the bay where dozens of tiny sailing vessels skitter about at the hands of children learning to sail. At low tide the shallow clam beds and boulders extend toward the glacier, several feet above our eye level in our floating dock house. The air is rich with the heady aroma of all that thick mud.

In the park above the docks folks exercise their dogs between happy playing children. A shelter has been built where sits a piano available for anyone to play. I’ve heard bagpipe tunes. Two nights ago, on coming out from dinner in the pub, there was some wonderful salty accordion music wafting out from a hidden corner.

It seems worth staying for a while.

How could the Greeks, who knew that one never enters the same river twice, believe in homecoming.”

…Bernhard Schlink ‘The Reader’

Pruth Bay and God’s Pocket with a few whales along the way

Somewhere there’s a tiny tractor.
Texture, texture, texture.
Dah dit dah dah dit dit
Even the trailside privy was a work of art.
Time to go. Looking due east to Fitzhugh Sound. Six miles of seaplane runway. Why RCAF seaplane base Shearwater was not built here instead leaves one pondering military intelligence.
There be monsters in these deeps.
Humpbacks galore.
A bubble net brigade. A humbling experience for the spectator.
Scarlett Point Light Station. what a great job…if it weren’t for all that damned grass to mow. Safe in off Queen Charlotte Sound.
God’s Pocket
Supper for poor sailorfolk

God’s Pocket

Where did this name come from? Why not God’s Sock, or God’s Knickers? And which pocket is it? One in his jeans? In the back, next to where the farts come out? Jill tells me I’ll find an answer. I think the name has to do with a sense of safety, a tiny place snugly out of the vicious winds that can blast this area. It is a dent in the shoreline of Hurst Island, just northwest of Port Hardy. It is not particularly notable yet provides fair holding ground and reasonable shelter in most winds. There is nothing here except a base for eco-tourism. There are no stores, no bright lights and no place to go ashore. Yet it is a name which yachties love to drop invariably in a clubhouse anywhere south. There’ll be a scrum of folks with wine glasses in hand and this name will float out repeatedly. “Oh yes it is lovely there. The problem is you see there’s no place to take Fifi ashore in God’s Pocket and she just won’t do her business on the afterdeck.

Then the widget spinner on the ice-maker broke and we had to go back to Port Hardy and wait three days for new parts to be flown in. You just don’t dare go into the north country without a reliable ice maker. Nonetheless you simply must stop at God’s Pocket. Be sure to anchor in the middle so there’s no room for anyone else.” I imagined an affected British accent with a Worshington undertone as I wrote the above.

Actually, we had the tiny anchorage all to ourselves. That seems odd, it is usually crowded in summer with some huge gin palace in the middle, sweeping around the rocky bight because it has far too much anchor chain out. Everyone else ends up in the kelp beds trying to stay clear of the lunging Fart Parkerson.

Enough sarcasm. We made our way here from Goose Island via Hakaii Pass and a night in Pruth Bay at the top of Calvert Island. It is a stunning place with amazing beaches. On our way south from there we made our way down Fitzhugh Sound passing dozens of Humpback whales along the way. The crossing of Queen Charlotte Sound was the easiest ever. We’ll stop in Port Hardy to get provisions before moving ever southward. Our trip is again best described with photos.

There are no public docks in Pruth Bay. All the facilities belong to the Hakaii Research Institute, developed in the facilities of a former fishing lodge. This sexy-to-someone boat looked out of place to me.
So did this one. Note some of the crew standing on the drop-down transom, with the deck chairs. She’s flying a Danish ensign.
The Hakaii Institute.
A very tidy operation. They very graciously allow access to the beaches via a lovely path and even provide wifi.
There are five broad, sweeping, stunning beaches of fine white sand. When dry it squeaks underfoot. I’ve previously posted photos of the vistas here during a visit last year. This time I focused on details.
Dense rainforest grows on solid rock right o the edge of the sand and sea.
It was one of those days when there was a photo everywhere.
A portal to the other side.
Never look back, or you shall have to return.
Lovely, but too bloody cold for swimming
The darting, sprinting shorebirds are always fascinating.
Deer tracks in the shifting sand.
The beach dunes are held with flowers, sedges and grass.
I could have taken photos until last light.
See what I mean?
Everything seems sculpted and carefully arranged.
Use sun screen.
Stranded
Sand script
CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE

All To Ourselves

This boat left soon after we arrived.

We arrive at the Goose Group in late morning. A sailboat is in the main anchorage. I know it is too exposed and has poor holding ground in that spot. I won’t anchor there for an overnight stay. I’ve been here before when the weather was questionable and I returned to the mainland archipelago in gathering darkness to find a secure anchorage. Now we tiptoe into a kelp-fringed bay between Snipe and Gosling Islands. We’re snug in twenty-four feet of water. The other boat leaves and we have all of the islands to ourselves. There is no way to describe this place as the unique, pristine and sacred place it is. Instead this blog is a photo essay. I hope the images convey my sense of wonder and perfection.

It was all ours! But we planted no flags.
Jill sets out to explore.
So do I.
Life is tenacious, even in solid rock.
Flowers too, if you take the time to look.
Fresh wolf tracks in the sand
The tracks led to this well-used trail.
One is left with a sense of how life always was.
The forest is primal, mysterious, forbidding and inviting all at once. I had a sense of being watched.
There are many beaches to explore.
I found wolf tracks nearly everywhere.
A delightful bay, one of many.
Wildflowers grew in profusion.
This is a part of Canada few get to see.
A net float from Japan. Sadly there is plastic everywhere. I recently heard a marine biologist claim that soon the increasing tonnage of plastic waste in the world’s oceans may outweigh the remaining fish stocks.
Goose Barnacles on a piece of flotsam.
Miles above me, hundreds of people hurtle by, oblivious to the amazing beauty below.
An old vertebrae and sea weed.
The force of life seems as powerful as the force of gravity.
Count the rings. Some days I feel that I have nearly as many.
Hot sand warms the icy water returning from the North Pacific.
Jill takes care of business aboard the old prune barge.
In the fading light, I make a final foray ashore.
I imagine a sound of distant drums.
Time to escape the bugs, drink some hot chocolate and go to bed. It’s nearly ten pm.
Dusk fell gently
Dawn followed.
100 pounds of kelp on the hook. I had to get into the dinghy to remove it before I could cat the anchor up for open water.
We sail on into another perfect day. We’re clearly sailing a southward rhumb line. It is called IFC navigation. I Follow Contrails. There are stories of novice sailors actually finding their way to Hawaii by doing this. Mount Calvert in the distance.
Seasoned salts know to grab sleep whenever and wherever they can. A shout of “Whale” ended her dream.

 

If you are unhappy it’s not because of external factors. It’s nobody else’s fault or problem. It’s not because you are poor or live in a small house, or even because you are ill. It’s because you have an inner emptiness that needs to be filled with light, and only you can do that. It is every person’s responsibility to seek that light. Happiness is not a right; it’s an obligation, because without happiness you have nothing to give back to humanity”

From: Walking the Himalayas by Levison Wood quoting from an audience with the Dalai Lama

This is from my friend Tony Gibb’s blog, ‘Sage On Sail’. See the sidebar in my home page for a link.

It’s Funny now!

Dawn, Roar Islets
A long shot of the same view.
A westward view from the roar Islets. You can see in the distance how they earned their name.

Finally the clouds begin to break up and a glorious blue sky arcs overhead. A forecast of Nor’west wind begins to show promise and then I discover the leak. We’re sinking! Having to return to Shearwater to be hauled out is a notion which horrifies me but I turn in that direction and think furiously. Along the way, I resolve to relax so I break out the fishing gear as we approach Idol Point, a famous spot for big salmon. Even I can catch fish here. Incredibly my downrigger line breaks, I lose forty feet of line and the lead cannonball which holds the baitline down where the fish are. Bugga! It’s going to one of those days. I resolve to avoid Shearwater no matter what. If a worst-case scenario evolves, I have enough pumps aboard to keep us afloat until I can careen the boat in a suitable spot.

I called this shot ‘Goodbye Weirdwater.’ I didn’t want to go back there again.

I turn southward into a narrow channel. I want Jill to feel and see the magic of these winding waterways. We pass pictographs and marvel at the miles of breathtaking scenery. Eventually we anchor in the Tribal Island Group and I attempt to make repairs. I find a broken clamp on a piece called the stern tube. It is behind and under a bundle of wiring and plumbing as far down and back into the bilge as I can reach. The trick is to install a new clamp. This requires finding one of the correct size, reaching in, wrapping it around the rubber stern tube, fitting one end back inside the screw guide which tightens it, getting that screw to start, moving the clamp into place and holding it while tightening the whole thing, but not so much that the threads are stripped and you have to start over again with another clamp…which I don’t have.

Bilge Blues. Yep, in there, stick your head and arm in there. No, no ALL the way in, to the back, about a foot past where you can see the big hose.
Yep, I know the wiring is a mess, it is another job I’m saving for Mexico. Yeah right!
Repairs complete. We move on but Jill decides to ride the foredeck while the bad karma dissipates.

This is achieved by using one hand only with my arm contorted and extended fully into the abyss of the bilge. I cannot see anything with my arm in there and I must work by feel only. It hurts. Tools and parts fall into the bottom of the bilge and have to be retrieved. I repeatedly shred my arm on an invisible sharp point but it seems a little blood is always part of the mix in these scenarios. Old fat bastard knows his days as a marine technician are near their end. I joke that I used to do my best work in the dark with my eyes closed! Ha! This is a young man’s calling. Two hours later I’m able to announce success; the leak is under control. Jill has endured my curses and grunts by trying to read. I know that standing-by during these ordeals can be at least as difficult as actually doing the work. All’s well that ends. It’s funny now.

I visit this place a second time. It is magic to see this from the boat.
100% natural. Another part of the same pictograph …unretouched.

We spend the night in the Tribal Islands Group. It is a splendid place. The sky is clear, both the sunset and sunrise cast a splendid light. Under a clear sky and a light breeze we cross Queen’s sound to the Goose Group of islands. That is a blog all on it’s own.

The gap. Looking westward from our anchorage by Iroquois Island, in the Tribal Group. We passed through there on our way to the Goose Group.
Islet and kelp bed in the same anchorage.
The winter gardener has shaped this tree well.
Green. Again taken from the same anchorage looking Northwest at low tide.
More green. Some mornings the light is magic.
Salmon oil, after it was poured down the galley sink drain.

If you can’t repair it….maybe it shouldn’t be aboard!”

Lin & Larry Pardey

Meandering

A journey begins. The seaplane base in downtown Vancouver. A quick, easy and scenic way to travel between southern Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. Clear proof that people are willing to pay for a rapid connection.

An unintelligible din bursts from the intercom speakers then dies with a strange strangled gurgling noise. All the stranded passengers look quizzically at each other. We’re stuck at Port Hardy airport. There’s a light drizzle here and low cloud. The weather in Bella Bella is below landing minimums. We’re stuck here until it lifts. We all endure random explosions of babbled gibberish from the airport speakers. Every edifice has one, that ubiquitous someone who loves to hear themselves while trying to find empowerment over a captive audience, There is no cafe, no well-stocked vending machines, no wifi. It’s miles into town. We’re supposed to just sit and wait…and wait. The weather was sunny and warm at the YVR airport, in Richmond, a little over an hour ago. I’d rather be here.

On the edge. A grab shot taken with my mobile phone while walking on the waterfront of downtown Vancouver.

After a long time in the isolation of Shearwater, everything in the city was too much for me. Our expensive hotel room was grim. (Nothing like a non-smoking room that reeks of cigarettes)The traffic and dirt and noise outside seemed overwhelming. We were some of the few Caucasian faces anywhere as we wandered an urban nightmare of concrete, steel, glass and racket. Richmond is not a pleasant place and everywhere there is more construction. Office towers, high-rise condos, even more shopping spaces are shooting up on every available patch of land. The streets are clogged with traffic. Overhead skytrains squeal and rumble while an endless stream of aircraft descend and depart nose to tail. It is hell. But, the food is good. Asian restaurants are prolific and their fabulous aromas fill the air with erotic enticements. We ate, and ate, then walked by a Chinese sex toy shop called the “Harmony Store.” What fun! How about “Wonton Whoopee?”

The Cardinal Buoy Rose. A beautiful example of the shape and colour of all four marine cardinal buoys. These mark safe passage around an obstruction in Nanaimo Harbour. Safe passage is to the north of the north-hand buoy on the left, then clockwise, east, south and west. Each shape and colour code has the same meaning wherever you find them. There’ll be a quiz later. (That’s not my boat in the background!)
Carpe Sittum. Somebody provided this grubby old chair at the bus stop in Richmond.
And so sit she did.
A Buddhist shrine in a mall in Richmond. The faces, architecture and food aromas remind me of Hong Kong.
The story of my life.

That’s all in the memory bank now. Jill and I are finally aboard ‘Seafire’ in Shearwater. It is cold and raining and we are spending the evening lurking in the warmth and solitude of this old boat. A friend has dropped by to donate some fresh salmon and say goodbye. July 1st celebrations continue ashore somewhere and somehow. We’ll stay here for the night.

Culture Shock. Back in the Shearwater restaurant for a last breakfast. This magnificent plaque, carved by Larry, a master carver from Bella Bella, has just been mounted in celebration of Shearwater’s 70th anniversary. It measures about four feet by five feet.

In the morning the low cloud and intermittent drizzle persist. After another round of hugs and backslaps, we’ve fuelled up and finally Shearwater disappears behind us. I flush the mud of the place from my scuppers and have no intention of ever going back. Well, certainly not to work there. We amble and meander through some beautiful country, new to both of us, inching our way through places with names like Lady Trutch Passage and Jackson Narrows to finally drop the hook in Clothes Bay, a beautiful anchorage just a short distance from Klemtu, a little over six hours from Shearwater, now a world away. We’ve travelled northwest, further into the Great Bear Rainforest but we now have clear Marine VHF Radio and intelligible marine weather reports. And, wonder of wonders, Klemtu has connections to a commercial radio station, CFNR “Your Nation, Your Station” from Prince Rupert. Some of the music doesn’t suit my tastes, but it is so very refreshing to have an option to CB bloody C. The rain patters down and we tuck into our gift of salmon. Bliss.

First greeters, Klemtu. I’ve mentioned Heckle and Jeckle previously. If you know who they are, you’ve dated yourself.
Downtown.
Klemtu. Main street.
Say no more.
Huh?
The uptown welcome committee. Bernie, on the right, was skilled at howling bass from a prone position.
If howling isn’t your gig, you can always build yourself a drum.
You too can own a tribal canoe. This fibreglass replica of a west coast dugout canoe looked like it belonged in Klemtu.
Signs, signs, everywhere there’s a sign.

In the morning the rain still pisses and splatters and dribbles with waves of mist between the downpours. I persuaded Jill to come here and I ache to go further, right to the end of some of the inlets where bears parade in legislated protected innocence of the threat of man. Great portions of the rainforest here have been set aside as official untouchable wilderness. Finally we are getting the ideas of protecting samples of the natural planet from ourselves.

Beautiful traditional house posts. Hey, that’s me on the right, second from the bottom!
Klemtu Volunteer Fire Department
Can’t miss it! Go to the corner of Seemore and Do Less. Go up the hill.
Old Sliver Face…on the bottom.
On the waterfront.
Klemtu Harbour.
That’s it!
The source?
This stream, where the salmon still come to spawn, may well be the reason a community developed here. There is now a salmon hatchery up this stream.
Eco tourism. A hope for the future.
Kitasoo Big House.
Klemtu’s first and last vision.

Walking around the village we are both disheartened by an air of melancholy and decay. There are hardly any folks about, Despite toys abandoned in ditches, we see only two children. Some folks drive vehicles which run poorly and have no mufflers. They pass us every five minutes. I wonder if that goes on all day. Folks we meet are friendly. A few dogs we meet greet us with a chorus of howling then return to their somnolent posts. Sadly, Klemtu makes Bella Bella seem like a thriving metropolis. I try to imagine life here through a rain forest winter and cannot. Even the newest buildings seem dilapidated. Weather-proof vinyl siding on the houses is coated with years green grunge. The swirling clouds and incessant precipitation persuade me to turn south, the forecast is, after all, for westerly winds and that promises some good sailing. However a stout breeze rises from the sou’west, right on the nose. We finally motor into Moss Passage to escape the mounting potential wrath of Milbanke Sound. I know this place all too well from my tugboating days. I drop the hook sheltered by the Roar Islets, behind Ivory Island, and hope the forecast for Westerly winds is true for the morning.

Ten Pm. Roar Islets

The wind is cool, but the sunlight is glorious. We savour the afternoon and evening in this snug anchorage which we have all to ourselves. At ten pm it is still light enough to read without a light. A sailboat picks it’s way into the anchorage from Seaforth Channel. The wind has died, it is flat calm here. Outside the islets, the swells burst on the reefs. I now know why they are called “roar.” Tomorrow we cross our Northward loop of meandering and truly begin the voyage home to our little town on the 49th parallel. That is only 240 nautical miles of latitude southward, but we will traverse at least five hundred miles along the ragged coastline.

Only Sea Meeting Sky.

In the west…sets a round, full sun. In the east…rises a round, full moon.

What is here in the full middle that thoughts cannot understand?

What are thoughts that they cannot dispel awe in the heart….. Between the fullness of everything, there is a special something that thoughts cannot quite remember, that the heart cannot quite forget.”

Ray Grigg, The Tao Of Sailing

Poised for Flight

Goodbye Edgar
As if in farewell, Edgar watches from his favourite perch

The weather has eased into spring- like conditions and I’ve managed to complete scraping, sanding and refinishing the cap rails on ‘Seafire.’ I’ve used a new-to-me product called Semco, a very expensive teak sealer. I’ll see how it stands the test of time. I’ve given up on my beloved Cetol; it failed miserably to withstand the challenge of an up-coast winter. I feel better now that the worst part of restoring the boat’s exterior woodwork, or “Brightwork” is behind me but there is plenty to do yet. That can be achieved while sailing along.’

Poised for Flight
‘Seafire’ sits ready to go exploring

Seafire’ shows her scars and wrinkles proudly, she’s earned them, and I’ll give her a good clean-up once back in Southern latitudes. I cannot, however, bear a buildup of grunge. There has been a patina of winter filth on the bottom-side of the mast spreaders and on the radar scanner’s cover. A large storm is coming with high winds and heavy rain so I‘ve scooted up the mast this Sunday morning and scrubbed away the green stuff before the rain comes again. Now I feel “Gooder.” Checking my e-mail, I find that friends on their boat ‘Sage’ have hunkered down in a mangrove swamp in Martinique in anticipation of a potential hurricane. You can access their blog “Sage On Sail” through the sidebar on the cover page of this blog. They later posted a quick blog with a note of relief. Their storm threat had passed.

The weakest link.
A very risky way of holding your rigging up. The bent tang of this turnbuckle is holding this bobstay to the sprit, which in turn holds the forestay which holds the mast. It is often the way things get done here.

 

Evidence. It’s actually fish blood, there was more inside the boat as well as prawn heads. In remote areas, police are permitted to use official vessels for personal reasons.
That’s the easy one. This is an autohelm drive motor installed in the binnacle of a German-built yacht. The visible bolt is one of four that have to somehow be  removed. The stainless steel base was bolted in place, then the bolts were welded.
Goodensafe!
Bleary eyes, after a bug-bitten night.
Heiltsuk grow-op. A community garden in Bella Bella. At the time of the next full moon, tiny alien warriors will emerge from their pods.
A lobster boat replica. It is one of the prettiest power boats to come to our docks…in my opinion.

Sunday evening in Shearwater comes with the forecast rain. I was debating about what to do for supper when there was a knock on the boat’s deck. My neighbour has just returned from a successful day’s fishing. He offered me two huge slabs of white spring salmon. Guess what I had for supper and will again tomorrow. There is nothing finer than fresh fish, What a treat!

The squirrelly heist. Learning how to swallow uphill was the hard part.

A week later, I’m poised for flight. ‘Seafire’ is now moored on the “Hobo” dock, a jetty for fishing boats, tugs, workboats, and any transient freeloaders who can find a spot here. Perfect! It is, in fact, a much better spot than where I’ve been. It was made clear that since I was beyond my usefulness and no longer an employee then I could “Git yer pitchin’s and go!” Fair enough, thanks for the memories. What I find interesting is that despite urgent repeated requests to move and make space for a fifty-five foot boat, which so far has not yet appeared, no one saw fit to advise me of the impending blast in the adjacent rock quarry. At one pm I noticed other boats leaving and learned of the coming rock blast at three pm. Last time some rock was shot, one piece went through the end of a house and more bits were found on the end of the dock. Nothing personal, I’m sure, it’s just the way things are done here.

A “Culturally Modified” tree. Cedar bark and planks have been stripped from this tree.
Heiltsuk grave marker, hand-carved board
Returning to mother earth.
Another grave marker’.
Gone but not forgotten.
An ancient petroglyph carved in granite. How did they do it? I’ve just washed it with water to help enhance it’s lines.

 

 

A beautifully painted box left on a grave.
Flowers everywhere
A flooding tide

It is an odd thing, the vagaries of human personality. Most of us have experienced them from time to time, both of our own making and from others. Many folks here have bid me a fond and warm farewell. I’ve been touched by that. Then a fellow here whom I considered a good friend and a solid character suddenly subscribed to a false rumour about something I was alleged to have said. He invented an accusation which others know is raw fabrication. There are witnesses who can confirm what actually happened and whom my accuser won’t approach. I can’t fathom his motivation and thats the big question for me. He wants his fiction to be true. Why? This old bird has to admit to feeling quite hurt and bewildered but life goes on and this will soon be forgotten. I do wonder about the snowball effects of the Franken-monster this guy has created. It will come home to bite his ass. I’m counting the days until the end of the month when I leave this place. There is a tension and darkness in the air here which no-one can define and yet most readily acknowledge. Even without my health issues, I believe I’d move on.

Salmon Berry
Flowers becoming berries

The ‘Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz is an outline of Toltec dogma. One of those agreements is to be impeccable with one’s words and for the responsibility of the good and the harm they can do. Another agreement is to not make assumptions. It is just too small a community here to wilfully create acrimony and invent false scenarios. I’ve made some wonderful lasting friendships here, and despite the corporate ineptitude, I hold many fond memories. I won’t miss the bullshit but this country will always have a piece of me. It seems sad to leave on such a sour note. So, the other two agreements are to always do one’s best and especially for me at this moment, to take nothing personally. Enough said.

Meanwhile the weather has turned gorgeous. It is clear and warm. Summer solstice passed a few days ago and my first horsefly of the summer has been swatted. I’m spending the weekend tinkering and cleaning on the boat and simply defragging. Today I found a very old friend on the dock. ‘Shukran’ is a boat I loved over twenty years ago. She’s a Fisher Noreaster 30, one of the biggest little boats you’ll ever find. ‘Shukran’ was the original name bestowed when purchased new. The owner had earned her price while working on a dream contract in the middle east. Shukran is Arabic for “Thank you”. I looked up her current owner in the restaurant here to commend him for the loving care he has bestowed on one of my passions from days gone by. He was quite pleased at the praise from a stranger.

Shukran

On Sunday my friend Paer and I took a tour around the Archipelago which protects Kliktsoatli Harbour where Shearwater is located. We visited native burial sites, pictographs, beaches and islets where a profusion of flowers and berries grow. We saw what we now think is a female Northern Elephant Seal and then journeyed back to Shearwater; all in about six hours. What an amazing rich area. Up and down the inlets and around the islands there are thousands of miles of natural wonder as well as the secure feeling that this coast is nearly infinite in it’s vibrancy and size. Soon old ‘Seafire’ will meander southwards toward new horizons and unimagined adventure. To know that this wild labyrinth and sanctuary exists will always be a reassurance. That, I think, is the best reason for preserving wilderness; just to know that it is there.

Nakwakto Rapids, One of the world’s most notorious tidal rapids.
It is a poor photo taken through the aircraft window and jet exhaust but you can see why the island in the rapids is called Trembler Rock.
Sea becoming sky, sky becoming sea.

Now at the beginning of the next week I’ve flown south once again for another round of jiggery pokery in the hospital. The flight was idyllic. I napped, waking regularly, looking out on a new vista of the passing scenery. What a fantastic place we live! Tonight I’m sitting at my desk in Ladysmith. My belly is full with Jill’s cooking, Jack is asleep at my feet and the television is on with a program about obesity. What a different world from the one I left this morning. In a few day’s we’ll be aboard Seafire to begin our meandering trip south. What comes next?

Plaque on a Heiltsuk Grave

The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.” Vincent Van Gogh