Puttering About In A little Boat

A pirated piece of nautical chart. It is about eighteen kilometres from Ladysmith, on Vancouver Island to Porlier Pass, the gap Between Valdez and Galiano Islands. In fair weather, that takes about an hour in my inflatable dinghy. The white patch in the upper right corner marks the shoaling waters of mainland Canada

One of my signature poems is called “The Water Rushing By”. In it, I describe the consummate need for mariners to feel the sensation of water passing the hull of a boat. That feeling is an addiction and presently, being boatless, there are days when an old log would have to do if nothing else were at hand. Fortunately I had the good sense to buy a wonderful Achilles inflatable boat before the money ran out. The size of what has usually been a dinghy to my mother vessels, it is nevertheless a boat which gets me away from shore. Equipped with a new outboard motor my tiny vessel is reliable and safe although it can certainly be rough and wet. A man of my scantlings must make an incongruous sight bobbing along miles from shore, but what is, is. Two blogs ago I described touring around this part of the coast in my little basher and this blog is about a recent day when I went off with my cameras in that little boat.

Bound up with cabin fever I launched the inflatable for a long day away. As an afterthought I threw in a small air mattress, one blanket and a tarp…just in case. With extra gas, water and a small bag of provisions I charged out on calm waters beneath a cloudless sky not knowing where I was heading. The best days start out exactly like that. Wind is always of concern in a tiny boat. In the Gulf Islands, with all its bays, and cliffs, forests and flowing water, local winds can spring up quickly. Despite prevailing winds local breezes are capricious and one must be prepared. Conditions within a short distance can change dramatically. Bouncing about impedes progress and soon has the boat and its contents soaking wet. It is safe enough, just miserable. I always try to position myself as quickly as possible so that access to the route home is downwind. Although longer and slower, it is usually much easier and drier.

Under the beautiful cliffs of Southern Valdez, I drifted with the tide and watched as Turkey Vultures rode the thermals. Ugly up close, they are beautiful in flight. Nothing can match their soaring skills.

After leaving Ladysmith Harbour, once safe under the sheltering cliffs of Valdez Island a passage of about sixteen kilometres, or ten miles, an outer island in the Strait Of Georgia, the wind can come from the north or south quadrants and actually help a small vessel on its way. Vancouver Island, the size of a small country, lies off the west coast of mainland Canada aligned in a northwest- southeast direction. On the inside lower shoreline it is flanked by an archipelago known as the Gulf Islands. The geography here is mostly of sandstone and was clearly shaped by glaciation. Along its Dali-like sculpted sandstone shores one often finds round granite boulders which must have been deposited as the ice retreated.

A Dali rock, with a natural hole right through it. Obviously a handy tie-up ring.

The archipelago was an ancient haven for indigenous people, with an abundance of edibles, especially sea food; there were a maze of sheltered nooks and bays, and a moderate climate. Hold no illusions about an idyllic lifestyle, it would have been a hard life and the numerous native nations warred brutally among themselves. Compared however to the harsh conditions in the traditional homelands of most other first nations people, with long bitterly cold winters, life in the Gulf Islands was easy enough for there to be time for a very rich culture, full of wonderful art and creativity. Sadly for them, the invasion of Europeans spelled a rapid end to that venerable culture, which only now, is regaining the respect it deserved. Hopefully we will find a balance of living together as equal human beings, each with our own piece of cultural diversity, distinct, and yet part of a brightly-coloured mosaic like a patchwork quilt. Comfortingly, local place names were often bestowed by Spanish and British explorers and many places have been returned to the original indigenous derivatives. Kuper Island, for example, is now Penalakut Island. The Strait Of Georgia, is now politically correctly named The Salish Sea.

A petroglyph in the Gulf Islands. It is covered by the sea at high tide.

The Gulf Islands are a mecca for folks from all over the world. They attract yachters, eco-tourists and those with enough money to acquire a piece of land and build an often garish neo-monstrosity that is clearly not an effort to assimilate the tone of this beautiful place, but rather seems to scream “Look at me.” The world these folks wanted to escape has been merely been transplanted here, they are tentacles of yet another invasive species. I love to repeat that I remember a time when poor people lived by the sea and ate fish. More’s the pity, those days are gone forever.

In the near-four decades that I have lived in this area, it has become a much different place and not in a good way. Over a half a century ago (Yes, it was that long ago) hippies and draft dodgers invaded the Gulf Islands. The islands were then remote, sparsely populated, land was cheap, It was nirvana for a generation of free-loaders who wanted a perfect climate for growing their organic “crops” and living close to the earth, often in communes. The mantra was “Peace man, share the wealth.” Then, as inheritances came along, land values soared yesterday’s hippies became yuppies and “Private, My Land!” signs were spiked, in places, to every shoreline tree. It has been said that capitalists are merely socialists who have found an opportunity. Mine!

The way we were. This was a common way for folks to live along the coast in days gone by. No lawns! “Johnny go through the garbage out and check the crab trap.”
A summer home on Porlier Pass. Sitting on the Valdez shore looking south the view encompasses the Strait Of Georgia, Mount Baker and a long look for miles down the southern Gulf Islands. The tide flowing back and forth twice a day is full of marine life including birds, seals, whales, sea lions, crabs, prawns, and fish, fish, fish. There is always something going on.
The keeper’s house. When I first set foot ashore here years ago an elderly couple lived here and maintained the lights and the station. It was immaculate, all was trim and freshly painted, the garden was fantastic, the fruit trees were pruned and productive. Automation replaced live people and one of the loveliest home sites on the South Coast slowly decays. It is tragic. I decided to sleep out on the old jetty.
A safe place to leave the inflatable for the night. A challenge with operating inflatables is to be constantly vigilant for the possibility of punctures. The large rock was flat and fairly free of barnacles. The tide would come back in the late morning tomorrow. Right?
Yeah right! Of course, the tide came back but first thing in the morning it looked doubtful. High tide came three hours later than the previous day instead of my anticipated forty minutes. Nature does not understand tide books.
Camp Runamuck. I used to sleep rough all the time… fifty years ago. The romance of it has faded a bit. It got bloody damp and cold by midnight and it was too dry to build a fire, especially on a wooden deck! But…what a view! The music of the rushing tide came in surround sound.
Time and sea water. These steel shackles and anchor eye are fused into a solid lump of oxidized metal.
Time knows no bounds. This freight shed, still salvageable, and even habitable is yielding to advancing natural processes. It’s decay will accelerate if not checked. What a tragedy that this whole station is not put to good use, or sold by the Canadian Coast Guard to someone who knows what to do with it. Government is a synonym for waste.
The vines come creeping in and signal a death knell for a structure.
…And strangle trees as well. Welcome to the weird forest, where people may enter and never be seen again.
I suspect someone tried to break into the boarded-up house through the basement. Alack and alas, they discovered the cistern, head-first perhaps. Fresh water is a precious commodity on the Gulf Islands and collecting it in the rainy season is very important. Note the gauge of the footings, a foot thick and indicative of how all government buildings were put together. Once again, what a tragedy, and travesty, to let it simply waste away.
They don’t make them like this anymore. The old Porlier Pass Light, still in use as a range light but now automated and powered by those ugly  solar panels. Bittersweet indeed. I’d love a chance to turn this lovely building into a tiny home. Imagine sitting up in that light reading, writing, just looking. Oh, and a wee taste of single malt.
One giant step. I can never be bored on the sandstone beaches of these islands.
How can you put a price on a view like this? How can you want it all for yourself?
There’s always one! As dusk settles and the tide turned back to flood, a small sloop struggles against the rising current and then on to find an anchorage in the dark. I’ve done it myself, too many times.
Last gasp of day. High above, a night flight to somewhere in Asia heads off on a great circle route over the North Pacific, perhaps to greet the dawn before it lands.
And then night fell. The tidal waters mumbled and chattered incessantly.
With the new day, the tide turned once again to flood. Far across the Strait Of Georgia, looking into the light, is Howe Sound. Gibsons on the left, Bowen Island to the right.
The other side. A telephoto view of Burnaby far across the Strait and past Vancouver International Airport. The sight seems surreal looking from a different world within the rugged natural beauty of the Gulf Islands.

Well, life goes on. Like the dinosaurs who could not assimilate change rapidly enough and faded into history, old farts like me will pass and “Progress” will continue. Frankly one of the foulest words I have come to know is “Development”, synonymous to me with greed and devastation. When the time comes, scatter my ashes on the local green waters where I can wash and circulate among these beloved islands. Look at these islands and try to imagine how they used to be not so long ago. The images in this blog are from within a twenty-four hour period two days ago. There will also be a video.

A whole world. This tiny tidal pool is an entire eco-system. If watched long enough, one can see all sorts of little creatures going about their lives.

Land was created to provide a place for boats to visit.” Brooks Atkinson

I Wonder

The real thing.
A genuine carved canoe and a thing of beauty. Even the seats are fitted in a traditional way. Note the carving marks inside and the repair.
Boats? Ya wanna see boats? They’re out there, from kayaks to deep-sea bulkers like the ‘Atlantic Buenavista’. Anchored in the Pacific with Panamanian registry and a Filipino crew. Think global.
The ‘Providence’ apparently on a day charter. She’s one of my favourite local oldtimers.

Lately I’ve caught myself bending toward writing rants about local social injustices. I have just deleted an entire page that was snow-balling toward a collision with the thought police. I have also reminded myself that my ire was being based solely on information from the media. Recent experience with the emu and the policeman once again confirmed the inaccuracy of news stories. What was reported and what I saw while experiencing the actual story in first person were rather different. Once I worked with a colleague to rebuild a British DeHavilland 1936 Mk I Tiger Moth which belonged to a local doctor where we lived in a remote Rocky Mountain community. The media got wind of the story and soon was reporting about a British doctor who flew mercy missions in his antique biplane. The account was absolute fabricated rubbish. If the story had a dog sled lashed to one wing it could not have been more ridiculous. My point is about how we tend to form opinions based on what we are fed by the media and how we can get fighting mad over gross inaccuracies and blatant lies. So, chill out dude!

Land fall. A day trip in a traditional sloop-rigged boat, roller-furled notwithstanding.
Sea foam! Whahoo! My little boat is very fast. In our wood-infested waters a sharp lookout is requisite at all times. Tohatsu outboards, in this old marine-tech’s opinion are unbeatable.

When I finished high school I was offered a journalism scholarship. I am happy to report that I took a summer job and instead turned it into a career. Still I recall the five W’s. Who, what, why, where, when. Those foundations for all journalism seem to have gone into the ditch. I sometimes watch TV news stories and am not informed of where or when the event occurred. Sometimes the reporter’s name is not given. Creative interpretations of an event are offered which have nothing to do with an objective coverage of the truth. I am enraged when a person who has just lost a child or spouse is grieving in front of a camera. That is wholly irresponsible and unconsciously gormless.

A Crested Cormorant, aka Shagpoke, peers out of its sandstone pocket cave at a rookery on Tent Island.
Just another shitty day. These birds eat nothing but fish. On a hot day the air gets a bit tangy.
Living high at the Guano Estates. This is a natural sandstone cliff which the birds use a convenient nesting sites. Guano is the polite term for copious amounts of seabird droppings. Harvesting it and shipping it around the world was once a booming trade. It made potent fertilizer and also nitrate explosive. Perhaps hence the term “Booming.” !!??
Cormorantiniums. White-washed the old fashioned way.
I can’t ever get enough of our stunning waterline sandstone formations.
A cliff-side swing made from a venerable Arbutus tree.

Clearly, media’s first priority is to entertain. Tabloid mentality cares little about honesty and accuracy. Get ratings, sell ads, abandon truth and accuracy. We swallow it all as sugar-coated dung. If I interview you saying that you like little boys who are kind to animals, respectful of their parents and old people but I quote you as saying that you “Like little boys,” have I been honest or ethical? There are two important federal elections coming up in North America. The drums are already beating. Remember nature’s simple formula of two ears, two eyes, one mouth.

A friend in the US sent me some political statistics. I’m always suspicious of numbers put forward by anyone. We all know how they can be manipulated to serve an argument in any direction. One figure however, leapt out at me. The US has 5% of the world’s population and 66% of the world’s lawyers. There’s something to chew on! I’ve often considered lawyers to be a breed of parasite that has a life cycle which needs to make enough profit to get into politics. Once in office they make more laws which in turn justifies more lawyers.

Just one more.
Yeah, you! We have plenty of harbour seals, always timid, always endearing. Some say they are to blame for reduced fish stocks, I think their presence, as well as seabirds, is a sign of plenty of fish. They don’t live on popcorn. There was a time when there were many more seals, whales, sea birds and….loads of fish. Figure it out, it’s not hard.

Yesterday the weather was fair, the wind was calm. I was long overdue to renew my grasp on certain points of reality. In the wake of selling ‘Seafire’ I had the opportunity to purchase a very nice used inflatable boat. A local shop was having a sale on new outboard motors and for the first time in my life I splurged and bought one. No more tinkering with some else’s cast-offs. The new motor, of course, had a few glitches but I’ve sorted them out and can confidently leave the shore. I have a boat which I can deflate and roll-up to transport with me wherever I go. It is very safe, so long as I stay inside it. That can be difficult in lumpy waters, the boat is very rough-riding but everything is a compromise and, that is what life jackets and harnesses are for. Any day on the water, rough or not, is better than a smooth day ashore. It was wonderful to spend a few hours exploring little nooks I’ve passed by for years. The photos are all from yesterday.

Jungle letter box.
This old log stood on end above the little beach where I took my lunch break. Postal Station F, Penalakut Island.
Red Right Returning. Huh?
This canal, dug between Clam Bay and Telegraph Harbour separates Thetis Island, on the north, from Penalakut Island. It has mostly filled-in again but provides a handy shortcut for little boats at high tide.
The old man’s gig. I’ve always been a bit sceptical of the tough but thin skin of an inflatable boat between me and the deep cold sea. The convenience of portability is weighed against the danger of tears and punctures along the shore. Still, I wish my own skin were this durable. This is an Achilles, made in Japan of a material called Hypalon. It is famously rugged…and expensive. There are thousands of protected nooks among the Gulf Islands where you can find some tranquility.

Being on a boat that’s moving through the water, it’s so clear. Everything falls into place in terms of what’s important and what’s not.” … James Taylor

Serenity And Sweaty Things

An old friend. ‘Seeker Of Truth’ was found by a friend languishing in a Vancouver Island barn. He restored and renamed it and eventually put her up for sale. I was sorely tempted. She was built in Norway in the early 1900’s and is a lovely example of a well built and maintained wooden boat.  With a little love she’ll live at least another century. Carved on a bulkhead below in Norwegian is a legend which translates: “A man without a boat is a prisoner.” Too true! Too true!
Not so long ago poor people lived by the sea and ate fish. Note that in mid-summer the dock is not in use. Perhaps this is the autumn cottage?
Not far away, another reality beside our abandoned island railroad.

Last blog I offered a cryptic squint at modern policing attitudes. I must add this. Four years ago a habitual drunk in a pickup truck careening through a suburb of Victoria ran a red light and rammed a police car broadside. He fatally mashed a police officer. The victim was a woman and a mother. Her husband still grieves, especially now. The sentence handed down for this horrific tragedy was a mere four years. However we may each value our human lives that punishment seems cavalier to say the least. That the victim was a RCMP constable on duty should perhaps be irrelevant but four years for wilfully dangerous and violent, mortal irresponsibility is a horrific insult to us all. It trivializes the value of everyone’s life.

The anchor for my next boat.
YEAH RIGHT!
My experience says that Rocnas, a product of New Zealand, are an ultimate anchor. This 55 pound, polished stainless steel beauty will hold a very big vessel.

I stand by my concerns about jaded and arrogant police attitudes but I also grasp how crushing it must be for all officers when they are so demeaned by a casual judicial system. It also helps me empathize a bit better with the policeman’s lot. Small wonder they become bitterly hardened in the face of such crass dismissals of what they endure while trying to do their duty, no matter how they perceive what that might be.

Disposable income, a 1930 Packard. On the wide whitewall tires is a n inscription which says “High Speed, Gum-Dipped”
The rumble seat. Complete with its own folding windshield there’s enough room to sleep comfortably beneath the hinged cowling. Nope, no air bags!

By the way, friendly comments about my last blog suggest that I “Stay out of trouble.” All I’ll say in response is this. Name me one of your heroes or anyone else the world remembers who stayed out of trouble! C’mon now, just one name!

August path. The alder leaves emit a lovely fragrance when walked on.
August browns. A sign of things to come.
The leaky pipe grows the grass. Part of the water supply for our local pulp mill. These wooden pipe lines run for miles. Superb engineering, some of these pipes are several feet in diameter. This one is only about two feet.
Bookends. These two young lovely brothers were new friends we met on the trail.
A first I thought I was bending down to photograph a ladybug. I don’t know what this cleverly coloured beasty is.

Summer is rushing past. Dried leaves fall and carpet the trails. Over-ripe blackberries ferment and drunken wasps buzz in your face. Tiny songbirds are flocking up and feeding voraciously in preparation for long southward migrations. Second cuttings of hay on local farms have been baled and stored away. Local markets and roadside stalls overflow with fresh local produce. Back-to-school ads flood the media. It seems I was just posting photos of early spring buds. The seasons whirl by. Peter Fonda, the baby-faced biker just died. He was 89!

In the Bogwump. Nothing lives forever. There is beauty in all things if you care to look.

I was shocked to realize that the classic and iconic movie, ‘Easy Rider’ was first seen back in my high school days, an entire lifetime ago. That was over half a century! When you start measuring your own life in those terms, well, you know the jokes about buying green bananas.

Beauty by the dollar. Tugboats, logs, booms, barges, chains, cables, cranes were once a chapter in my life. I am now angered that any wood is exported. This barge load of small second-growth timber is destined for somewhere in the US. Each bundle of wood is a truckload. There is a lot of 2x4s and pulp in that mountain. Logs are boomed in bundles or in flat “swifter” booms as in the foreground. Close your eyes, smell the diesel exhaust, wood aroma in the sun, and seal and otter droppings.  Elixer!

I’ve never written a bucket list; I’ve just lived it. The greatest anticipations are yet to be experienced. I’ve learned to quit wringing my hands about things like politics. I still constantly prod people to think, think for themselves but I’ve also realized the wisdom of the old Alcoholics Anonymous mantra: “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Or, as George Carlin put it, “Don’t sweat the petty things, and don’t pet the sweaty things.”

Dali Rocks. Jack and I love taking the dinghy and exploring the sandstone reefs and shorelines of our area. These sandstone formations are an eternal fascination for me.
Jack surveys his kingdom. He’s showing his years but my dear friend still has a grand sense of adventure.

This blog’s photos are local grab shots taken in the last few days.

Look into my eye. I photographed this wee beauty just a few minutes ago. It was basking under a neighbour’s vehicle. It was a whole six inches in length.
Another sign of the season. Wee button fungi begin to appear. It seems a mouse may have had a nibble.
Breathe.

A dear friend and fellow sailor presently visiting the Thor Heyerdahl Museum in Oslo Norway has just e-mailed me this:

Borders? I have never seen one, but I have heard that they exist in the minds of some people.”

… Thor Heyerdahl

Lonely Roads

Happy Dory. From my archives I unearthed this image of a classic little fishing boat. Built in the 1930s, it provided a living to support many families for many decades before retiring to a life as a pleasure boat. That face could launch a whole new series of children’s stories.

Sell, sell, sell! I warned you that there’d be a little bit of marketing in my blogs. Now posting my images for sale online with Fine Art America.com I’ve just received an e-mail from those folks saying, that to kick-start business in July, they are offering a $100. wine gift certificate with Naked Wines.com. Apparently the offer is valid in the US only but the gift card comes with any purchase of artwork, no matter how small the order. So, for a $15 mug you get a $100. worth of wine. Now you know. Apologies to my fellow Canadians. Damn eh!

What attracts folks to live in places like this?

A month ago, four blogs back, I posted a blog titled “Goldfield Calling.” I wrote about Highway 50 being described as the loneliest highway in America. The route runs East-West across Nevada. Even telephone poles along its length are a rarity. As you drive its long miles you are in the wild wide open west. Now I believe I’ve found an even lonelier road. While listening online to Radio Goldfield I learned of a community in Nevada called Gabbs. The name “gabbed” me. I’ve looked it up on Google Earth. I don’t think there will be e-mails from anyone saying “Yeah, ‘bin there, know it well.”

Miles and miles of miles and miles…I love it. This image was taken somewhere in the Mojave Desert.
Surviving hang gliders will be shot. “Dunno wot it were yer honour,. It wasn’t moving so I shot it…agin! This shot-up sign is well on its way to being a sieve.

I can’t explain why but I love lonely roads and I will certainly drive this way on my next trip south. Here’s the route: on Highway 50, a few miles east of a half-way mark between Austin Nevada and Reno is a pinprick on the map called Middlegate. I’m not sure there is even a gas station there. Don’t blink when you are getting close in case you go on by. Hopefully there is at least a road sign. The junction sits a few miles west of Bench Creek Wash and Cold Springs, location of the Pony Express Station which I have written about. I had already decided to go back there to explore and photograph that old outpost so I’m not going out of my way at all by swinging down toward Gabbs.

Turn south to Middlegate, you’ll now be on Highway 361. Gabbs is about 30 miles away. If you look this up on Google Map you’ll see bleak, brown, bare, dry desert in all directions. Actually, that kind of country supports an amazing ecosystem if you care to look. There is certainly a lot more than tumbleweed, rattlesnakes and coyotes. For me that is part of the magic of deserts. It is all a mystery to me. Well aware that I am an alien there, it thrills me to see how much is going on in an environment that at first appears bleak and hostile, just like the ocean but in an opposite sort of way. If you leave me on a remote beach here in the Pacific Northwest, with just a pocket knife and a lighter, I may not be happy but I’ll be OK. In the desert I’m not sure how I’d survive. It is a very different world to me.

Gabbs looks more like a camp than a town, the landmark there is a huge open pit magnesium mine, now closed. Wikipedia says the population was 269; it will not be higher now. It is now unincorporated but there is a description of infrastructure which among other things includes a jail; a sure sign of civilization. Folks who live in places like Gabbs are not there because of their high social yearnings. They did not seek out seclusion so they could befriend inquisitive strangers. There are bullet holes in nearly everything in the US Southwest. It’s a cultural statement best heeded. Let reclusive people demonstrate their desire to interact, at their inclination. I meet plenty of lovely folks down there, but I remain aware that I am the intruder. I’ve never felt at risk but then birds of a feather know when to flock off. In fact I always feel better whenever I go into remote areas. The desert leaves me with the same inner peace I know when far out at sea. Locals who choose to live in isolation operate on similar frequencies as me and I find an affirmation in meeting them. I might be nutters but I’m not alone. Cities leave me with a very opposite feeling. When surrounded by urban throngs I seldom feel at ease.

Whomever built this house never considered how that one day it would be a crumbling ruin. Man’s presence on this planet is like a passing virus.

Gabbs was named for a paleontologist who was fascinated with the large number of fossils in the area. So, there’s something else that may be of interest. A few miles south of town, a gravel road, even more remote and primitive, angles off the pavement to the southeast where it eventually passes the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project. In the photo on Google Earth it looks like a massive sunflower comprised of solar panels and it alone appears to make that entire back road jaunt look worthwhile. I’ll let you know.

Uh Huh!

There is another route, which is a paved road, but either way will eventually take you to Tonapah, civilization at last. Just look for the road signs if they are not too shot-up to read. Tonopah has several fast food joints, each of which will have wifi… so I can post a blog with photos describing my adventure realizing yet another little dream. This past winter I sat in the MacDonalds there trying to do exactly that. Other patrons stared me down for the stranger I was. Clearly, using a laptop there was a suspicious activity. At the table next two me, two bewhiskered old codgers loudly reminisced over their boyhood glory days in the South Pacific during WWII. Clearly, it had been the pinnacle of their life still worth reliving over seventy years later to anyone within earshot. Meanwhile, across the restaurant a near-deaf, geriatric couple shouted insults at each other. I recall deciding to do my work elsewhere. There is, by the way, another Tonopah. But that one is in Arizona, another place and part of another story.

The Nevada town’s name of Tonopah is an old Shoshone word meaning “hidden spring.” One of my joys in the US Southwest are those place names. They are lyrical, whimsical, even romantic. An illustrious place-name may now prove to be just more empty desert with little or no sign of human presence ever. What was once someone’s centre of the universe is now gone. Why it was ever there may be a profound mystery.

Google Map shows many funky little communities, or place names at least, spaced all over the desert including the perimeters of Area 51 and Nellis AFB, only a few minutes to the east by supersonic fighter jet and alleged home to strange events, including alien sightings and encounters. There are other remote but well-developed, large airfields which have no names, all very strange indeed. I’ve met people who describe themselves as “Aviation Archeologists.” They go out into the desert in hot rod offroad vehicles looking for the remains of crashed airplanes. The Southwest has long been a military aviation training region and there are wrecks littered all over the landscape. What a great excuse if you want to roar around the outback drinking, shooting and generally being a yahoo.

Suddenly a horse with no name. Wild horses and burros appear then vanish like ghosts. How they survive and thrive is wonderful.
A bottle top never opened. Little flowers no-one looks at. Green leaves sprouting in dry sand. There is a whole novel in this one image…and there are millions of square miles like this to contemplate.

Whenever you travel in desolate areas it is wise to carry extra gas and you can never have too much water, the latter preferably in bottles so that any leak is confined to one small container. Not only is carrying a few basic supplies a good idea for your own needs, you never know when you might come across someone who needs a little help. In the desert, like any remote area, a simple mishap, like a simple vehicle breakdown, can easily become a matter of life and death. You must look after other folks in distress. It is the code of pay back and pay ahead, especially when there may be no-one else to come along for a very long time.

Top up with gas whenever you can, never assume you will find more before you run out. The gas station promised miles ahead may be closed. If you must pay a little more to fill up before you venture on, think of much you’d be happy to pay if you were to run out. Living in remote areas much of my life, I’ve learned that leaving town with a full fuel tank in a vehicle is like having money in your pocket. Spend wisely and keep some cash on hand; some places do not accept credit cards.“Failing to plan, is planning to fail.”

Old Hammerhead. A Saguaro cactus in southern Arizona. This is a rare anomaly in these cacti. This one is known by locals for miles around.

And..there are infinite miles of other back roads to explore as well. Looking at the vastness of the American Southwest, it is hard to grasp that, despite its emptiness, there is not one square inch that has not been explored. Every stone must have been turned over, at least once, in a quest for the mineral riches hidden among all that rock and dirt. I marvel constantly at mine locations. Profitable or not it is amazing how someone found, then extracted, that vein of ore exactly where they did. Their tenacity, both physical and mental, was huge. There were no roads, no automobiles, minimal technology, only deprivation, grit and single-mindedness. Even with modern technology, we cannot duplicate that spirit of endeavour.

The wetback.

Meanwhile my summer is passing on what proves to be a far lonelier and dustier road than any I’ll find in any desert. Sometimes the road of life offers barren distances which you must travel to get to greener places. I’m finding life without ‘Seafire’ an absolute dreary hell. I am now among billions of others who are landlubbers. The difference is that, unlike most, I know what I’m missing. “It is better to have loved and lost…” I know, I know. Bullshit I say, bullshit!

An Arbutus. These lovely trees are unique to this corner of the world.

Nothing lasts forever, this dreary time shall pass, but I am restless and eager to move forward. No matter what one’s circumstances, you can only live one day at the time. I find myself trying to ponder good things to come. Fortunately, I can spend hours contentedly travelling virtually on Google Earth. What a wonderful technology! A daydream machine! This from a guy who often laments his cyber ineptitude! Now for the moment, I’m back from my desert musings.

The old boatshed. A relic on the beach from days gone by. There are not many of these old-school landmarks left. I’m always tempted to go peek inside to see what treasures are stowed away.
All abuzz. The frenetic sounds of winter preparations surround flowers everywhere as insects pollinate the flowers and perpetuate the cycle of life .
Playing with shutter speeds. Water on a step of a fish ladder.
That’s me in the middle. There is beauty to find everywhere you look.
The snake and the ant. Who’s going to eat who?
Tarzan of the slugs. What it was doing away up there is a complete mystery.
Suspense. Then came a puff of wind.
Just a leaf, and not a new one at that. I thought it was an interesting natural composition.
It’s over my head. Wet grass and a cousin called corn.

Here on Vancouver Island we are having what is deemed by many to be an unusual summer. It is a slightly rainy July, which is not extraordinary. I recall that most years here we have a wet July. We certainly need all the moisture that comes. Every year folks seem to forget the previous summer. Most people complain no matter what the weather is doing, too wet, too cool, too hot, too smokey, too windy. Other reports from the Northern Hemisphere describe muggy summer heat beside the Great Lakes and on the East coast friends describe constant cold.

Ebb tide in the swamp. Placid to the eye, there is a whole world living in those reeds.
The nurse stump. This massive clump of cedars began as seedlings in the old stump they have since split and pushed aside.
Up the creek. The Nanaimo River, short but beautiful. Running from a series of lakes on Vancouver Island this clear, green, pure water is a treasure too many people take for granted.
As the stones turn. The rock where these potholes are formed is not especially soft. How many milenia of annual high waters has it taken for these boulders to grind out the basins where they are trapped? It is boggling to contemplate the passing of time when you look into these pools. Jack considers how long a million years really is.

So we’re doing just fine on our island, a wonderland of moderate climate and gentle yet dramatic natural beauty. People come from around the planet to see it. Jack takes me on spectacular walks within a radius of a few miles of home. Some days I am able to actually see it all and marvel that I live here. This morning I napped peacefully on the banks of The Nanaimo River while its crystal laughing waters sang happily on their way to the sea. Jack snuffled and plunked around, chasing waterbugs and digging in patches of soft sand. He drank from the clear water and then chased more bugs before falling asleep in the sun-warmed ground. A deer wandered out of the forest a little way upstream to drink in the river. Flowers swayed in the breeze while birds twittered and flitted. I have no idea what the poor people were doing.

Bambi takes a bath. Out of focus in the distance, this doe wandered about for several minutes  in the middle of the river. Fishing perhaps?

There are three kinds of people in the world:

The living, the dead, and those who go to sea …Aristotle

CLUNK!

Ahhh. Rain! Taken an hour ago. Despite a long wet winter, all is already desperately, unseasonably dry.  The rain felt so good. Who knows? Maybe it will rain all summer.
Jack smells the flowers. Where I stood to take this photo is usually muddy year-round. Yesterday it was dusty.

I promise. ‘Seafire Chronicles’ will not become an ongoing diatribe against the RV industry. This posting will be the end of my whining and self-recriminations about my own incredible stupidity. Then it will be on with the next adventure. After realizing the terminal cancer in my sweet little trailer I began making a video about my folly. Something interesting thing happened. I was standing in front of the camera beginning to film what I was to name “Fun Finder Blues”. The light was wrong and I just couldn’t remember the lines I had rehearsed, even after several “takes.” While I was struggling with that I was approached by a fellow who told me how he had bought exactly the same model of trailer, brand-new, from a local RV dealer. His 2014 Fun Finder 189 was leaking rainwater inside before he got it home from the sales yard!

He had a hell of an ordeal with both dealer and factory before finally having it repaired by an independent shop and selling it, with a clear explanation of his bargain price, to a young couple. He was obviously a well-heeled, intelligent man who had also done his research before making his ill-fated purchase. By the way, should any of you locals need one, that shop is Adrian’s RV in Nanaimo. He comes with many high recommendations including mine. I felt slightly better to realize I was not the only sucker. So I wrote this:

There’s nowt as smart as an old buck

Until that old buck mucks up

Then he’s just a head on the wall

And a chump roast in the freezer.”

Humour, desperately needed as it may be, doesn’t resolve an issue. It does ease the pain a bit and certainly helps me make it through the day. Now, a week later, I’m very much older and a little bit smarter. I’ve picked up my custom order of new aluminum facing to which I had to commit. I bought it to expedite the repair of the trailer. There is a limited amount of time to store it in a space which had been graciously provided so I could make repairs. Ordering ahead seemed the clever thing to do at the time; especially when you live on an island. The invoice, quoted ahead of time, was almost twice what I expected and of course I’d forgotten about the sales tax. It just gets better and better! For once my usual prudence of being positively negative and assessing worst case scenarios has blown up in my face.

Just a few days ago I went to bed in here feeling snug and smug about about my lovely little trailer.  Jack cuddled up happily beside me and we never moved till dawn. Now it looks like a Taliban suicide bombers classroom. “Pay attention lads, I’ll only show you this once!”
Putting on a brave face. A temporary measure for storage or transport to the knacker’s yard or a place where I will perform a major rebuild.

As I pilot I can tell you there is a deadly situation called a spiral which most often occurs when you lose sight of the horizon. The aircraft accelerates downward in an ever- tightening turn until the aircraft disintegrates, usually when it hits the ground. The recovery procedure is to first recognize the situation as soon as possible, then pull back on the throttle, level the wings and gently but firmly reduce your speed by raising the nose. You need to avoid structural damage or entering a high-speed stall. How’s that for a metaphor? It will all seem funny when this story is in the distance and viewed through a rear-view mirror. “Pull up, pull up.”

There are some positive aspects. Imagine if this rot box had exploded or imploded somewhere on the rugged roads of Mexico or in a desert wilderness. Or, how about on an Interstate Highway as one of those behemoth trucks hurtled past pushing its wall of compressed air. I’d bet it happens from time to time. And I swear, that with my new awareness, I can now actually see self-destruction happening in very many trailers and motor homes.

I’ve decided that there was no point in wasting time putting together a video about low integrity and consumer rape when there are clearly so many other fools out there. Manufacturers clearly have all the conscience of politicians. The products excreted from their factories are marketed on the terms of bi-weekly payments. With the “Eat, drink and be merry” philosophy of our frantic culture, we fools do rush in so long as we can make the bi-weekly payments. So the marketing model becomes: “Eat crap, a billion flies can’t be wrong.”

I’ve done further research and I see now that most of these trailers are built the same way.

Losing face.The delamination on the faces of both these trailers is obvious.
Boink, boink, boink. Now I can see the problem  on trailers everywhere. On metal-sided trailers it is much harder to see, sometimes until you fall through the rotted floor!

Here is a link to a short YouTube video where the Jayco Trailer Company proudly displays how they throw together thirty-two trailers a day, each one in about six hours. The workers run like raped apes, easily showing why one should never buy this product. This video is one of the most counter-productive marketing tools ever. Why it is posted at all raises some obvious questions. But then, there a lot of fools out there, like me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXMJrRQ3SVk

It made me recall an RV salesman once eagerly telling me how what he was trying to sell was made by the “Mennonite folk, quality indeed,” he assured me although I could the ground through holes in the inside storage lockers of a virgin trailer. In the above video some costumes and hair styles prove some folks of that persuasion do indeed work in these plant. That is very sad. Their faith was once synonymous with integrity.

Well enough already! It is time for me to heave-to and see which way the wind will blow. Then I can fall off onto the proper tack to get where I am going. Negativity feeds on itself and so does being positive. Always in life the first/best resource is a good attitude and so I’ll try to go that way. But damn! It’s hard.

Woody! One of the joys of NOT owning a boat is that you still see the beauty but do none of the work, especially on wooden boats. Now I can wander down the dock, hands in pockets, accosting boat-owners bent to their tasks and say things like,”Work, work, work, it never bloody ends!” This is a gorgeous wee vessel from the days when it would have been a grand yacht by the standard of its day.

My ongoing Keto diet is still working even though I cheat a bit. There is already enough manic action in my script without any more self-imposed strictness. One of the reasons I didn’t like what I was recording on video is that I think I look older as I lose pounds. I’m half-way to my targeted lower mass but worry and depression are not part of a recommended weight loss program. I need to stay busy. I can’t seem to find a job and I’m not feeling especially creative. One of the reasons I take so many photos and make videos is to stay in touch with the amazing beauty all around us. When you stop seeing that, you are half-way dead. I live in a beautiful place. Folks from around the world travel to see Vancouver Island. The trick is to keep on seeing the raw beauty while you live here. Ladysmith sits on the northern lip of the Cowichan Valley. I have easy access to both forest and ocean all around me. The weather is perfect, hot and dry already, and so it’s boots and saddles. C’mon Jack!

Old Jack spots a rabbit. Note the deep concern of his prey.

And so…on to the next adventure.

Last evening, while sitting in front of the goon box watching a movie about a pug, of all things, a rat suddenly ran in through the open door. He was a big bugger! He scuttled back and forth along two walls of the living room with his little feet pattering loudly. We closed the door so he could not escape and then shut Jack in a bedroom. A Keystone Cops routine ensued as old ‘El Gordo’ here pulled out furniture from the walls, all the while trying to keep Rodney the rodent from moving further into the home. I seized a short chunk of two by four from the garage and finally herded the wee beast into a corner. Clunk! He was promptly dispatched to the big cheese in the sky. Me, the once-great hunter, felt both sympathy and empathy for this fellow creature of the universe. I understood, all too well, those horrible long moments within the terror of entrapment and realizing a mistake I could not reverse.

Ain’t life strange? You’ve got to laugh.

The path in the glen. This is a favourite spot on a local walking trail. Who knows where the wandering way leads?

She comprehended the perversity of life, that in the struggle lies the joy.”

From “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou

I Thought It Pulled Heavily!

The Dream. The Sea Of Cortez and all of Mexico around it . It exists even as you look at this image.

As noted in my previous blog, a week ago Jack and I were in a campsite on Sproat Lake just west of Port Alberni. It was a nice enough place although a bit too civilized for me. Yet I found myself in bliss because the trailer was proving itself as a close-to-perfect unit for my needs. This would be my mobile home for months on end so I could take exquisite photographs and make inspiring videos and write. It would be this old fartist’s (not a typo) studio and make for a healthy, affordable retirement. With that lifestyle in mind, I know my state of being and longevity will improve. I was fantasizing about sitting beside the trailer under a brilliant starry desert night sky, with a gently flickering mesquite campfire. Coyotes yipped and howled in the distance. My plan was to come home and repair the delamination in the front of the trailer. It would be an easy job for an old boat re-builder guy like me. The trailer would then be ready for adventures south. It is supposed to be a light-weight trailer. It thought it felt a bit heavier than it should, sort of like driving a loaded logging truck. I was essentially correct. The damned thing was water-logged throughout, top to bottom, front to back.

The joy of the trailer a few weeks ago. That reality was too short-lived.
Reality today.
“Whadya mean I’ve taken apart the wrong trailer. This belongs to who?”
NOT! Metal frame or not, you do not build a product like this and sell it to the public. “Good enough” is never good enough. The gap in the insulation and the poor joins are inexcusable as is the longitudinal piece which is an added chunk at the end only 8″ long.
Let there be no doubt as to who built this sorry mess. It is 12.5 years old and should not be  completely filled with moisture and rot. And…I don’t care who else builds crap like this, it is wrong. “Make America Great Again?” Start with some integrity!
Like can be simple. A motor bike and a pop-up tent. The best days of my life were when all I owned was a backpack.

Today I’ve just removed all my personal effects from the trailer which is now proven to be a hopeless rotted-out wreck. The more structure I opened up, the worse it got. I can see now that there were obvious signs of water damage but this arrogant Mr boat-fixer guy, with decades of marine experience, was too smart to get a seasoned RV person to come and have a look before I bought it. I’ve seen the same thing happen to knowledgeable mariners who decided they did not need a third party to survey the vessel they were buying in a fit of nautical lust. Now it is my turn to affirm that you cannot see objectively to pick out obvious signs when you are in a passionate state for a thing or a person. That is why so many marriages fail. Now I have nothing but a trailer frame and floor with working appliances. Worst of all, it was purchased with precious funds from the sale of my beloved ‘Seafire’.

Despite plenty of tough times in my life I have never lost something so important so quickly. A dream one minute, a disaster the next. Now I can understand the vacant look in the eyes of those who have endured a flood, or fire, invasion or earthquake or… well, there are plenty of ways your life can change instantly. Just a quick drive to the corner store can become a life-shattering experience, or perhaps a slip in the bath tub.

Part of the “South Library.” I’m keeping it handy.

This problem is not life and death, it just feels that way. Suddenly, in this moment, my dream is dashed and all looks hopeless. I know sailors who have put their boat and their whole life on a reef and considered themselves lucky to have survived the swim ashore in shark-infested waters to some distant foreign country, without water, money or passport. A while later, they had rebuilt their life and continued on, somewhat the better for their adventure. I am left wondering how to turn this into an adventure instead of an ordeal. There is a way. I will find it.

“The dream never dies, just the dreamer”
“Hope springs eternal.”
It’s up to you.

Self-produced videos online are testimonials to what a wonderful trailer a ‘Fun Finder’ is. I interviewed owners who could not offer enough praise and love for their Fun Finder. So I bought this trailer because several points of research told me the product was built with an aluminum frame and was a rugged, off- pavement capable trailer. Check out their website https://www.cruiserrv.com/travel-trailers/fun-finder.html There is, in fact, no aluminum in the structure anywhere. Perhaps my trailer, built in 2006, was before these people began using metal superstructures. I am not claiming the product was misrepresented and admit that clearly, my research did not go deep enough. I know that I did not buy a new product. That aside, the workmanship I have found points to a shabbily-built product which would have begun self-destructing as soon as it was pushed out of the factory into the weather. That is where I find an outrage. So let me suggest:

-DO NOT buy anything called a “Fun Finder” or “Shadow Cruiser” or “Cruiser RV”.

-If there is any evidence on a used RV of re-caulking anywhere, run like hell.

-A simple test for water damage (I’ve now learned) is to pull aside the insert strip in corner mouldings and remove a screw or two in the lower part of that seam. If the screw is rusty, or spins freely without backing out, the wood beneath is rotten, run like hell.

-If the vendor objects to an inspection, run like hell.

-If any interior covering such as wall paper is even slightly wrinkled, that’s water damage, run like hell.

– DO NOT but anything susceptible to the ravages of time and weather without the second opinion of somebody intimately familiar with that specific product.

I will be producing and posting a video of the damage. It will be on You Tube alongside all the accolades for the same product. It has been suggested that I park my wheeled hulk on the side of the highway with a sign saying “I’ll never buy a Fun Finder again.”

I did give  the trailer an interior sniff test, like all old boaters know how to do. It is actually a very good test for rot detection to the experienced nose. It seemed fine. I thumped and bumped all over and except for the “delamination” it appeared, to my unknowing eye, to be dandy. I’d researched that rippled front skin. Videos on YouTube show how to fix it easily. The vendor was a very nice fellow, who passed my street-smart tests for honesty and integrity. I truly believe that he was unaware of any problems behind the “delamination” which he pointed out absolutely up front. I thought I had bought myself a bargain and after a little work, I would be off to see the world. Since my dark discovery I have noticed several trailers and RVs with similar exterior signs of water ingress and clearly there are a lot of products out there in varying stages of self-destruction. Those signs are glaringly obvious now. They are out there as I write, hurtling down the roads of this long-weekend oblivious to the horror that awaits them. So, what they don’t know won’t hurt them.

It’s Indian Plum time already!
Six months from now the trailer has to be rebuilt and in Loreto Baha for Christmas. A tall order, but I you don’t make plans, guess where you’ll end up.

After a few troubled night’s sleep, I’ve determined there is only one route which is forward. I’ve some debt to clear up, no money, no workplace and can easily fall into a state of utter hopelessness. (It’s that old manic depressive thing) I know it’s just a tiny trailer, but it represents the rest of my days. So I’ll sing the old lemonade song and get to work. Creative busyness is, for me, the best distraction. So I go.

So Caveat Emptor, there’s no fool like an old fool.

As smart as he looks. The old fool himself.

We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.”…Frank Tibolt

Night Sounds

Night Sounds

A neo-traditional totem pole.
It stands in front of the band office of the Tseshaht people in Port Alberni.  After tremendous oppression for decades from both outside and inside their community, First Nations people are regaining their dignity, their voice and a modicum of control over traditional lands. Hopefully we will soon all see ourselves as equals while retaining our individual cultural identity.

A barred owl begins its night time serenade of hoo-hoo-who-hoo. Darkness settles over the calm water as frogs croak into the darkness and from somewhere out on the lake a loon utters its plaintiff cry. Here in the campsite there is the crackle of a freshly-lit fire and the steady gnawing crunch of Jack dogging on a bone. We are in a campsite on the west end of Horne Lake on Vancouver Island. The view over the darkened lake is framed by the black silhouette of newly-leafed branches and a few subtle lights twinkle over the glassy water from cottages on the distant shore. It is tranquil and lovely, lonely, complete. Jack has now gone to bed. I will join him shortly. This setting is perfection, yet it is not the ocean.

By my Horne Lake campsite, a neighbour who is travelling by motorcycle, settles in for a night.
The Morning After

Twenty four hours have passed. We did not do much. It was a grand day. The same scene as last night lays beyond the extravagant fire I have set. Haunting Yiddish violin music from a treasured old Cd I have found sifts out of my stereo at a low volume. I let it repeat around and around; it blends perfectly with the night sounds. The pulsing glitter of a jet’s trajectory crosses from behind the lofty rock cliffs above the lake and is paralleled by its reflection on the water. The owl repeats his booming hooting again, slowly coming closer to our campsite. Jack snores gently in his bed at my feet. Soon we will both retire to the comfy bunk inside the trailer. There is an extra bed. I wish you could be here.

The camp on Horne Lake.
It’s wonderful but… I miss the boat.
Here’s the dinghy for the next boat. Achilles are my favourite inflatable and Tohatsu outboards need no sales pitch. This old marine mechanic thinks they are the best.
Horne Lake sea trial. It all went well…but it’s not the ocean. My brand-new Tohatsu purrs beautifully. The wheels, by the way, are for hauling the boat up out of the water.

Another twenty-four hours finds Jack and I in another Provincial Campground on the other side of the mountain. Now we are on Sproat Lake a few kilometres west of Port Alberni. As the crow flies, we are only about 15 kilometres from where we set out this morning. The drive from one valley to another took well over an hour. There is a climb and descent up and over a steep grade which is a good test for truck and trailer after recent adjustments. The Alberni Valley is famous for fierce summer heat and here, before mid-May, the mercury climbed well above thirty degrees Celsius. The forest fire hazard rating rose from moderate to high today and will rapidly become extreme if the weather persists. I’m enjoying the campfire tonight as the evening cools. There may soon be a ban on any fires for the rest of the summer.

Sproat Lake Petroglyphs. There are nine carvings on this rock face on the lake’s edge. It is also a parry site for the local young folk. Hopefully this photo gives a glimpse of the way it has looked for a long time.
The crack tells how long the carvings have been there.
Now THAT’S a steak. One of the joys of a low-carb diet.
Jack loved the bone.

The lake was liberally dotted with white and pink bodies of squealing exuberant youth frolicking in the water. After Jack’s refreshing swim we plodded back to our campsite along the dusty trail where we met motley groups of young folk in various states of intoxication. The aroma of marijuana smoke wafted through the forest. Worldly as I think I am, it was still a rattler to meet gorgeous scantily clad young ladies who met Jack ever so gushingly yet chattered sweetly all the while in the rawest, four-lettered sailor-speak I’ve ever used. It seemed incongruous for a moment, and then, I just felt old.

Some folks have garden gnomes or plastic flamingos on their lawns. Then there are those with some of the world’s biggest aircraft. That is a Martin Mars. Coulson Air Crane converted a pair to serve as water bombers. They are now world famous and have proven their worth many times over. Not as big as the ‘Spruce Goose’ they were intended for the same purpose: To provide rapid mass transport for troops to the South Pacific. The end of WWII rendered them redundant.
The back yard is impressive too. These are the Hawaii Mars and the Philippine Mars, which is in its original colours of the United States Navy Air Transport Command. These were the world’s largest flying boats ever manufactured. There were seven built.

A day later, a day older. I have yet to master the art of doing nothing without feeling guilt. Jack (A master at living without guilt) and I walked our walks, I visited with a dear friend whom I learned was in Port Alberni. The day passed, now it is dark again. The sound of neighbour campers visiting around their fires mingles with the happy din of children playing. A huge shining (Yes, gold in colour) motor home appeared at dusk and now runs its generator despite the rules. Such is life when you accept the challenge of co-mingling with strangers. Come morning the grand escape vehicle fired up its diesel engine to idle for a half-hour of exhaust stench before hoisting the automatic levelling jacks and buggering off somewhere else after a hard night of roughing it.

Traditional First Nations carving.
Note the pendant on her belly. Or, is it a fetus?
Pedestal detail. I find this work stunning.

Other folks were making coffee over a wood fire after a night in a tent behind their car; a very good aroma.Some folks still possess a primal urge to be close to the earth. Organized campgrounds may be as primitive an experience as they will ever have but at least they are off the couch and away from the goon box. I am not a fan of these places but this weekend they served my purpose. It’s better to have some of these folks organized and protected than to have their edge-of-the wilderness forays and random fires occurring hodge-podge. The problem on Vancouver Island is that it is hard to find untainted wilderness. There is evidence of man’s exploitation everywhere and of course the roads we use to get to the back of beyond were all built by logging companies.

I found this life-sized diorama incredible. Badly in need of a good cleaning it depicts a native whaling crew at the moment a whale is harpooned. To go out on the cold ocean in a hand-made, hand-propelled cedar canoe to harpoon a whale with primitive weapons was a courage that no-one possess today. Even the water in this work is entirely hand-carved wood. “Oh shit, I forgot my life jacket …and my pants!”
DANG! The motor in my truck is a 5.3 litre V-8. This 425 hp “Kicker” is 5.6 litres! As an old salt I cannot imagine why anyone needs something like this. We won’t try to guess the price!
Jack watches a native fishery on the Somass River in Port Alberni.
A native spring fishery. This gill net is set across the Somass River on a flood tide.

Now that I’ve joined the ranks of the Rv world I find it interesting that despite the massive effort to charm folks into coming to indulge in “Super Natural BC” there is a paucity of camp grounds and facilities like sani-stations and places to fill tanks with potable water. One is now charged everywhere for a dribble of air or water and who wants to try manoeuvring a clumsy large vehicle near the awkward places where those hoses and their coin boxes are located. It is intriguing that we know face shortages of water in a place abounding with snow-capped mountains, streams and lakes. Of note is a recent news item I heard which claims that despite our long snowy winter, Coastal BC snow sheds hold a sixty percent less than normal amount of water. If it doesn’t rain all summer, which is entirely possible, it may be a paint your lawn season once again. Now back in Ladysmith, the skies have gradually become overcast and this morning shows evidence of overnight showers. Soon, it begins to rain steadily. Of course, I’ve yet to see a Victoria Day weekend when the weather was not foul, cold and wet. That having been said I recall once being advised that “Only fools and newcomers predict the weather.”

As I raised my camera a beautiful grass snake vanished into the nettles and periwinkles and one dandelion.
Jack sees a rabbit. it was not concerned.
Wild and free. These are blooming at the concrete base of a crane once used to unload logs.
Perhaps one of the last dogwood flowers I’ll see this year.
Welcoming the waxing moon of May.

Bad weather always looks worse through a window.” …Tom Lehrer

Driveabout Part II

Driveabout Part II (Back to the sea)

First I have to apologize to those who are not receiving the full meal deal in regard to my recent blogs. Apparently, and coincidental with my new formating, there were some technical glitches of my making. If the images or text have been, or are still, troublesome please let me know.

AQUA! How’s this for clean lake water? This is entirely natural and very uplifting to see.

One of the wonderful things about living in British Columbia is that you can can travel a short distance and be in a very different type of scenery. Two days ago I drove from the south Okanogan to Princeton then turned north for some lovely lakes not far from a town called Merritt. The fecund orchards and vineyards soon give way to lush ranch land and steep rolling grassy hills interspersed with forests of mixed pine and fir. A twisting road climbs and descends past rocky cliffs and winding, rushing rivers. An ever-changing vista offers a visual feast and makes staying safely on the road a challenge.

An Osprey nest. This is a man-made nesting site which does not make the birds any less beautiful. Note the plastic baling twine incorporated by the birds in their nest-building. The environmental impact of plastic is far-reaching.

Jack is fascinated with each new topography and its new smells. He is always eager to explore and stake out any new territory. When we finally arrived at the Kentucky- Alleyne Provincial Park he spent a happy afternoon snuffling into the endless burrows of gophers and ground squirrels. They would stand erect watching him from a safe distance and he never caught on that he was beaten from the beginning. But he had fun, and he slept well.

Folks who live in glass yurts shouldn’t throw anything. I found this solarium on a back street in Hedley. It is made from re-claimed windshields. I am not sure I’d sleep well inside that glass fabrication.
A landmark at Spence’s Bridge on the Thompson river. I do not know its history but it is clearly abandoned now.
Quasimoto, where are you?
The church unveiled

This country borders on the famous Douglas Lake Ranch, an area of beautiful open forest and grassland. It is wild, open country which I love. I’ve found the same landscape in Eastern Oregon. When in this kind of place I ache to once again know the squeak and rhythm of the saddle and the feel of a stout working horse beneath, a splendid way to see and know the world. I know that for me to get back on a saddle after many decades, I’d soon be aching in other places. Horsemanship is an entirely different way of life with its own sensibilities, smells, paces, knowledge and people quite apart from what most of us know. The relationship between a horse and its human is a special bond you must experience to understand. Add a good dog to the mix and it is bliss indeed. Horse people generally have a level, peaceful way of dealing with life. If they were otherwise they could not interact successfully with horses which are very spiritual creatures. It is hard to know what comes first, the horse or the attitude. That does not mean these folks always get on well with other people.

Murray Creek Falls at Spences Bridge
The high country. On the edge of range land of the Douglas Lake Ranch this is Alleyne Lake. It is stocked with trout and attracts fishermen year-round.
Prince Jack surveys his latest new kingdom. He was in bliss.
Morning at West Pond. Bull Pine, aka Ponderosa Pine, aka Yellow Pine look down on Jack’s big lawn where he was fascinated with the burrows of gophers and ground squirrels.
Kentucky Lake. Pristine!
Old barn, Nicola Valley
The old ranch house. It stands unnoticed on the side of the road. Imagine the lives that were centered here. Notice the encroaching open pit mine in the background.
The rail fence around the house and barn. Part of the old way of doing things, when labour was cheaper than barbed wire. Each time I see these relics of days past, I realize they will soon all be gone.

Fully intending to spend a day or two in this splendid place I awoke and put the coffee on only to discover that I was out of propane. Swear words! Jack and I went for a walk. I prepared the trailer for the road and headed for town. All fuelled up, I drove a little further, and then some more. It would become that sort of day. At the head of the Nicola Valley I turned back on my old track to Lytton, then on up the Fraser Valley to Lillooet. On the way I met an oncoming vehicle with flashing headlights. A little further and I came on a small rock slide on a curve above a cliff. Skirting the rocks on the road came eight mountain sheep ewes. We passed within inches of each other and no, I did not get one photo. Jack was impressed. Lillooet had no appealing campgrounds and we took to the high pass which leads to Pemberton and the Coastal Mountains. It is a tortuous drive, climbing and descending steeply, all the while filled with sharp curves and frost-heaved pavement. Huge residual blocks of winter’s old ice clogged the ditches and Duffey Lake at the top was still half-frozen.

Pemberton had no camp grounds to offer and we trundled on despairingly toward Whistler. I had thought that Lillooet would be a fine place to spend a couple of days but now here we were many hours past and over a long mountain pass. Whistler is a beautiful place with stunning mountains and plenty of snow but it has been exploited and developed to a sorry state. I have no sense of the Alpine village the former tiny, remote community once was.

Whistler Valley evening view.
Next morning
Yeah right…next morning. Brrrr!
Not just passing through. The slap-dash winter skirting gives it away. Whistler is an instant town, booming so fast that housing is a challenge for newcomers.
Supply and demand pushes costs to the limit.

Everything there now is about glitz and dollars, with garish yet boring architecture. If someone could extort you for your next breath, they certainly would. Any business with the word ‘Whistler’ in its name will be charging exorbitant rates like the Whistler RV Park. $52 for one night and $10 extra for their internet password to a service which worked very poorly. The sewage connector pipe rose 18” above the ground. And Whistler or not, sewage does NOT run uphill.

When I mentioned that their prices were the highest I’d ever paid I was told they were on par for the area and I would really love the view. As if they had provided the scenery! The view is bisected with a busy highway, a railway, and a power line. I hate power lines. They are soul-destroying visual blights. You are never out of sight of one in this area. They transmit energy from the dams back up in the hills to Vancouver. I understand that electricity is necessary to run all those ski lifts and light all those bars, condos and hotels but there is a lot lacking in the rustic charm department. Concrete and poo-brown paint might work for urban condomites but not for this old bush-ape.

In the morning, at no extra charge, we stepped out of our trailer to a very heavy frost. We drove southward, looking for a place for our morning walk. We turned in for a trail head near Garibaldi Mountain only to discover two kilometres further along, large signs clearly forbidding dogs. Grrrrr! We turned the trailer around and headed back out onto the concrete snot chute.

That’s more like it. I immediately felt at home. Some creative wit travelled for miles in Paradise Valley and brilliantly altered the road signs.
Says it all!
Crystal clear streams, even in spring, run through dense coastal rainforest.
Spring in Paradise Valley
“Hi mom, we’re home!”
Devil’s Club, very aptly named. This nasty plant can grow ten feet tall and is completely covered in toxic spines. Every skin puncture will become an itchy, infected welt. They grow in thickets, which if you stumble in, well….!

A few miles further south we discovered a lovely place called Paradise Valley just north of Squamish. It is bliss. A lovely bunch of folks operate a beautiful RV park and campground which includes a network of beautiful trails winding along the Cheakamus River and a series of streams and ponds connected to a salmon hatchery. Everything has worked out for the best. It seemed especially sweet after the crassness of Whistler. https://paradisevalleycampground.net/ It really is worth a visit. I am not a fan of commercial RV parks and campgrounds but these folks have really achieved something quite special.

Fiddleheads. They have just matured past the state of being tenderly tasty crunchy.
On verdant pond. I could not savour this place enough.

Squamish, which is losing its former “rustic/industrial charm” to the blight of concrete, chrome and glass heralds a return to the frantic rush of city folks and their desperate need to be in a constant rush to go and be among more herds of people. The ‘Sea To Sky Highway’ was rebuilt at fantastic cost in the hope of safety by widening and straightening the route to Whistler. It only allows for higher speeds regardless of posted limits. Some people have clearly lost a base instinct called fear. I swear James Bond passed me; several times. Zoomheads! I arrived at the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal with mixed feelings. It was grand to out of the Whistler gauntlet but the wait for the next ferry is always a diminishing experience. I’m sure that part of the exorbitant fare is for storage! As one salmon said to the other when the ferry passed, “Look at all the canned people.” There was a time when I used to enjoy a ferry experience. The thrill is gone. At least I’m back on the ocean. My gasping gills are happy.

In the line-up at the ferry terminal i pulled up behind this work of art. Entirely home-made, this trailer  was built by a sport fisherman needing a home away from home.
It is beautiful to the last detail.

This little jaunt over and through hill and dale was a shakedown for the miles ahead. Now, rustling up income for a big trip south is a task among all the upgrades and modifications required. My new/old truck began consuming copious amounts of engine oil, with no unusual smoke or any leaks… yet another mystery to resolve. It is probably just a gigametric fufu valve within the new order of engine technology which this old wrench bender doesn’t understand. When you are done learning, your life is over. Now then, can anyone recommend a good road map of Baha?

While cleaning the trailer i found this, a Jersey Penny. Now this is a mystery indeed.
I’m back home to the coast for the first Camas blooms.
Bluebells and Oregon Grape
Back in the old harbour again.

Life is a highway…

The Khyber Pass to Vancouver’s lights…

I wanna ride it all night long.” Tom Cochrane

Song Of The Blackbird

After the wild storms all the way up the Oregon Coast, this is what I found at Cape Disappointment on the mouth of the Columbia River. Peace!
It was a perfect mid-winter afternoon. Folks were out and about to absorb every minute they could.
The Columbia River near Astoria Oregon. It is surely one of the world’s great rivers.

In Mexico, in the mornings, their blackbirds can conjure up a symphony of calls that sound like a jungle filled with a hundred different birds. It is splendid. This morning, Jack and I went for a walk at Swallowfield Farm. The wet snow had frozen so the long trampled path was easy enough for me clomping along in my winter boots. Jack trotted along happily on top of the untrampled frozen snow with a great grin on his old phizog. In the distance I could hear the call of red-winged blackbirds. I waited until I actually saw one to confirm it was the real thing and not some starlings mimicking the song. The blackbirds, with their red epaulettes, were real and their trilling song was true. It is a first sign of spring here, despite the harsh winter the northern hemisphere is enduring this year.

Home again. Note the heron in the middle of the image. He has a long wait until the tide comes back.
Have a long look then close your eyes and hear redwing blackbirds singing from the forest’s edge.

I look back on the last month’s mad travels (8,000 km/5000 miles in one month) and see how how I could have done things much differently. I should have stayed home and completed the deal on ‘Seafire’ then ambled south with nothing to rush anywhere for. With the harsh winter, and cool temperatures with snow throughout the Northern Hemisphere, It would certainly have been best to wait a while. Hindsight! Shoulda, woulda, coulda! In another two months the Sonora desert will be starting to bloom profusely. Maybe I can return there in time for that. I do know that I saw many marvellous things and met some incredible people with a perfect timing which almost seems predestined. I know that this old salt has left a big piece of his heart in the desert.

I have previously travelled to Mexico while towing a teardrop trailer. I learned a lot from that jaunt and I now have my experience with the old camper van. It’s not sexy but it did get me home again. I’ve made up my mind that I need a small, sturdy trailer of less than twenty feet which can be used for shelter in inclement weather. I have a blind fantasy of living outside beneath an awning at a small table but the weather dictates how that happens. I’ll pull the trailer with a 4×4 truck that is old enough to be affordable and also repairable by myself. The trailer can be dropped off while I explore especially rugged areas with the truck.That towing vehicle can then hold tools, bicycles, extra fuel, a kayak, an inflatable boat perhaps. The trailer has to be rugged enough to be eased along rough back roads without falling apart. Many new trailers being marketed as “Offroad” could not survive for long off-pavement. Putting knobby tires on a trailer is stupid and does NOT make it into a rugged offroad RV.

I could write about what are my does and don’ts, but those may not be especially helpful to someone else venturing out. There are many different ways to direct the same script. I found that Northern California was very expensive. I am told that the southern part of the state is considerably more ridiculous. The secondary roads in California are in dreadful condition, on a par, or even worse than back roads in Mexico. Diesel fuel, in many places, was more expensive than regular gasoline sometimes by a dollar more per tiny US gallon. Gasoline generally was up to a dollar more than in neighbouring states. I soon learned not to buy fuel at the first location in town that one comes to, sometimes the fuel in the middle of town sells for as much as sixty cents per gallon less. Most gas pumps will ask you for your zip code when you stuff your credit card into it. It was frustrating until I was taught that with a Canadian card, you enter the numbers in your postal code followed by two zeros. It always worked like a charm. in my case I found that the road signs in the US in many places were inadequate or downright misleading. My road maps often did not agree with each other and my GPS, at times, seemed utterly confused about which planet it was on.

In any case, do not put yourself in a space where you are regretting what you did not do. Today is all you have, go for it! In the blogs I have written about this trip, I have often alluded to the vastness of the states I crossed. Despite man’s imposition of change everywhere he goes, there are still massive expanses between the horizons of a majestic, sprawling land. There are many areas where you can view the planet almost as it has always been. Then, when a person looks at a map and sees they have only travelled a tiny scratch of the earth they become very humble. That is a good thing.

Perhaps not as fascinating as a cactus but this old, rough bark has its own beauty.

Presently I am unloading my beloved ‘Seafire.’ It is a big job which I hate, especially when performed through misty eyes.This vessel is a huge part of who I am. (I have arguments with myself about stuff being part of my identity.) She’s going to good new owners but, for me, it is hard to envision a future without her. I’ve painted myself into a corner financially, this is my way out. I intend to have a trailer and a powerboat in which I will live and travel and write into my dotage.

As I write, I close my eyes and can smell the sea air of Mexico, the pure silent wind in the desert; I can see red rocks and sand, cacti and palms, high-altitude twisted, stunted pines. I have fleeting images of jackrabbits, wild burros and horses and perhaps an illegal immigrant hiding in a thicket of mesquite. I think of people whom I met there who know only their world and are very content in it. My home is here on Vancouver Island, which folks come from around the world to see, because it is spectacular. I need never leave this island to have a full and wonderful life. But I am one of those who is cursed with a compulsion to see what is around the next corner…and so I go.

Stinkeye.
Jack regarded me with his special look of disdain during my first few days home. I’d been away without him. He’s over it now.

This Saturday evening came with bursts of heavy sleet and snow during the drive to Nanaimo to see a movie, ‘Green Book.’ It has many nominations and awards and certainly deserves them. I suggest that if you see only one film during the entire year, this is the one. I’ll end this blog with one of many great lines from the film.

Buddhy. He is my travelling companion, security system and charmer of officials at border crossings. “Who’d want to deal with one of THOSE nutters?” I believe that is what they might think. In any case, he works well  for me with his incessant grin as he sits velcroed to the dashtop. This photo is about his actual size.

The world is full of lonely people afraid to make the first move.”

To The Wall

(Note: This blog is finally being posted eight days after beginning my journey southward From Ladysmith. At present I am in an RV Park in Yuma Arizona. I’ll catch up to immediate events as soon as possible)

Ladysmith, just before the Christmas light-up season ends. The wet street should explain why I am southbound

I’m almost on the road, finally, into the land of Trump, heading for the wall. It has occurred to me how that man could effectively close the gaps in the already half-built fortification, if he simply erected a continuous billboard across the continent, ten feet high with shoulder to shoulder portraits of himself, facing into Mexico. He could be shown waving his hands horizontally as he does, and with a quote saying something like “This will be very effective, very effective, you will pay.” Better than bullets! An endless chain of his porky fizog peering out from beneath that blond mop on his head would certainly repel me. Sorry Republicans, nothing personal, it’s just a repugnance I’ve developed after all the news stories about this character’s latest tweet. (Feel free to slander our own flacid Canadian Prime Minister.) Well, I know that I’m supposed to be a smiling non-partisan guest as I greet each gun-toting American child of God. And so I shall. “Is that a Smith & Wesson in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

A view south from the BC Ferry to the mainland. The big island is Orcas Island in the US San Juan island archipelago

My experience with the ordinary American citizen is that they are warm, friendly, generous and compassionate. They are trusting and complacent which is why they’ve ended up with the porcine fuhrer they presently have. When questioned about the dangers of driving in Mexico I always explain that I’ve beaten the odds once over the Mexican border. After the drive across the US I feel much safer. It is a beautiful land with lots of great people, too bad there is a cloud of constant anxiety above it.

So here I go. The old van I bought has proven to have the usual plethora of used vehicle woes but I sally forth with some tools and optimism. I’ve even cut a hole in the floor above the electric fuel pump which is mounted inside the fuel tank. If that fails, I would otherwise have to remove the entire tank, which of course will be full with gasoline when the fuel pump dies. This is accomplished by squirming underneath the vehicle, on your back, while laying in the dust of a remote desert area. I’ve been in that situation before. There’s no romance to any of it, even looking back. There is no valid excuse for putting a pump inside a tank without providing an access panel like many foreign vehicles. A friend has loaned me a used fuel pump to carry, just in case. I know that since I have that angle covered, Old Murphy will find something else to to nail me with. Well, enough nattering. Shut up and drive! Find a country music station on the radio and let the miles erase the angst. I’m worried that I have forgotten how to relax and how to play. So here goes!

So what is it that I like about Mexico? I love a journey with constantly changing scenery. I love being warm and dry. I love Mexicans. Despite all the negatives I’ve heard I am far more inclined to trust a Mexican than most gringos. I have not met a lazy Mexican, which is why the US economy is built, in no small part, on the backs of these folks. Their economic system does not allow them to sit around leeching off of others. Work or starve. They possess a dignity that defies our comprehension and also the wonderful ability to live in the moment. If you can feed your children today, bueno! Besides, what can you really do about tomorrow? Mucho Gusto!

Mexican also still embrace the concept of family. Both children and the elderly are treasured and provide elements of security within the basic unit of government in any culture. Drugs. Yep a, nasty business, made even worse by the incessant focus of the media. Nature abhors a vacuum and we all know where the huge market is for that poison. Yep, right here! If you want to stop the drug trade, stop buying the shit! There is plenty of violence and death right here at home, drugs or not. By the way, The Mexico and its people I know is always as far away from the tourist centres as possible. There are many folks who go into Mexico, stay in a resort area and never see nor taste the real country. I prefer the back roads, rural areas and remote pieces of coast. I also do not portray myself as a shiny, wealthy, arrogant Northerner. A smile and a sincere effort at the language also goes a long way. Ándale!

Well finally! January 17th, 10:15 With a mighty boooop of the ship’s horn, we pull away from the ferry dock at Duke Point in Nanaimo. Propitiously, we are exactly on time. The van is two decks below me, stuffed randomly with food, clothing, tools and cameras. I will have to sort it all out later, but the immediate objective is to cross the border. There is an electrical problem, the brand-new battery which runs the house system including lights, fridge, and furnace is flat dead. I need to find out the problem right away so the battery can recharge while driving along. I am dead shattered-weary but I’ll fix it.

There is an exhaustion which is due in part to the stress and duress of preparing the old van, worries about money and the general low health blaahs which I fall into every winter. My arthritis this year has made it difficult to walk at times, to hold a wrench, or even a pen. My handwriting is more terrible than ever. My fingers miss the letters on this keyboard and I understand why as a youngster, I knew old people were often grumpy. Now I get it. I hope that I do not yet exude the old man smell I remember when I’d have to sit near an oldster on some hard oak pew. It was not pleasant. To increase my duress there is a tentative deal cooking on my beloved ‘Seafire’ which is very bittersweet. But I have plans beyond parting with my dear old boat and I assure you, I have not swallowed the hook. There will be another boat, somehow, in my future. I have a dream. Continuing my blog is part of it. Thank you all for your support and your many cheering compliments and creative criticisms.

Onto the mainland and a stop to repair the house battery charging system.
The attempt failed.

So the first hurdle is dealing with Homeland Insecurity as I cross the border. They can see the horn which sprouts on my forehead each time I have to deal with them. I need to thumb through my copy of “ Being Contritious With Bureaucrats For Smart-assed Old Farts.” Perhaps I have enough points to earn a free trip to Guantanamo Bay. As it turns out, they did query me about all my camera bags and if I was going to work in the US. For once, I kept my pie-hole shut and simply answered YES/NO as required.

One of the grand things about travelling in the US is that there are fast food outlets everywhere, in fact it is often difficult to find a real restaurant that serves those jelly belly hi gluten and trans-fat meals otherwise know as home cooking. The fast food joints all have wifi so the blogs will continue to be beamed out to you. You’ve been warned!

I’m told Jack is depressed and missing me. By the time I get home, he’ll probably bite me.

Ps: Here’s a link to a blog posted by my dear friends Tony and Connie. They’re home taking a brief sabbatical from their ongoing wandering sail around the globe. They’ve been on this trip now for nine years…and it ain’t over yet. Tony posted a blog about the walk we went on in the fog at my now-beloved Swallowfield farm on the same day. https://sageonsail.com/

Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.” …Raymond Lindquist