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Easter Flashes By

BIG! This barge stopped briefly in Shearwater while I was leaving for the weekend. The “Ocean Oregon’ was being towed by the ‘Arctic Taglu’. Once this monster is loaded with logs it will go south where the timber is reloaded on a ship for export.

LITTLE! ‘Seafire’s’ tender is a 10’6″ Achilles inflatable hypalon boat. It has an inflatable floor and performs much better than previous aluminum hard-bottomed inflatable boats. It’s a keeper!

Good Friday morning, Easter weekend. The anchorage is placid. There is no sign of human presence anywhere other than myself. ‘Seafire’ is anchored in a finger-shaped bay off of Troup Passage. I’ve dreamed of this for weeks and the thought of being here sustained me through the haul-out last weekend. Here I am with three full days on my beloved boat away from Shearwater. I’d love some company but I’m happy enough with my own self and am free to follow a random schedule having to bend or explain anything to anyone.

Freedom! Heading out for the weekend on Seaforth Channel. A few miles west it opens onto the entire Pacific Ocean, a tough call to resist.

Yesterday at 5 pm, quitting time, I was still in a bilge wrestling with a last stubborn bolt. There is always one. If I hadn’t beat the damned thing it would have haunted me all weekend. I won. By 6:30 we were all shipshape and had slipped our lines. That we is ‘Seafire’ and me. There was even a thin sunlight as we left the bay. Two hours later the anchor went down here as the last light of the day ebbed away. The stereo is playing an amazing album of eclectic Spanish music. ( Carlos Nunez- Discovery) It would be nice to share this bliss but this blog is as close as I’ll get to that. Soon it’ll be anchors aweigh to see what’s around the corner, and then the next. What a feeling to be content in the moment at hand and not want to be somewhere else.

Into the mystic. Northbound up Bullock Channel. It, in turn, opens onto Spiller Channel.

I’m travelling northward up a network of inlets and passages to a place called Ellerslie Lake, a sacred back water to locals. The scenery and fishing are supposed to be fantastic. We’re in the middle of herring season. There might be wildlife to see with all that surplus feed in the water. By mid-afternoon ‘Seafire’ arrives and the anchor goes down in a magic world which is entirely mine. There is a logging camp miles back but here the solitude is absolute. The silence thunders out. I launch the dinghy and soon find a forgotten joy as I skim across the flat water. I love exploring in my trusty little Achilles and can quickly cover many miles in a radius from where mother ship ‘Seafire’ is anchored. The skies have cleared a bit. A golden evening light bathes the area and it will be best to take advantage. I decide to visit the falls and find a rich reward of soft pure light for the effort. As the tide falls the is a tidal gorge to navigate in and out of the large lagoon below the falls. The lower the tide the more the rapids increase.

Anchored beneath the mountain. We all need to occasionally be reminded of how tiny and insignificant we are.

Natural Art. I could see a fish in the reflection at the tide line.

I remind myself that I’m entirely alone as I pick my way up and over the boiling water but I’m having fun for once. I love white water and soon I’m into the lagoon. In another two miles I arrive at a spectacular water falls running into the sea. The light is fading and I know the rapids will be steeper each minute I linger.

The prize. The falls  which drain Ellerslie Lake. I’ll go back and explore when it’s warmer.

Over the edge. Yeehawing my way down the rapids from the lagoon at Ellerslie Lake.

I’m not a kid with a canoe anymore, and I don’t want to spend the night here if the rapids become impassable. The rapids are considerably more violent and steeper but the hardest part is making a decision to just do it. Then you pick your way through and it’s over. I’m hungry and getting cold. Finally back at the boat I’m numb, my arthritic hands burning with painful coldness. I have never worn gloves but the time has come. God bless my diesel furnace. Despite the warmth of my kerosene lamp and the music I play, Stan Rogers then Ibrahim Ferrer, nothing warms my core. The music of Cuba seems incongruously far from the cold grandeur of this incredible place.

Warmth at last light. I turned up the furnace and put the kettle on promptly on my return.

I am still filled with pain and stiffness in the morning. This sucks! The fog and rain has descended again and my body, and soul, ache for warmth. Damn! This getting older will be the death of me! After breakfast I clean up and decide to crawl back into bed. The weather, and the way I feel, are equally grey. At 13:00 I am up and after consulting the charts I decide to pull the hook and amble back toward Shearwater the long way. I’ll find another place to anchor tonight. The weekend is already half gone, but then, half still lies ahead. The rain squalls continue. I am glad that I seized the sunlight of last evening

It blinked! I swear!
An interesting anomaly on the top of a cliff looking down on the anchorage.

Serenity.So calm that not every one notices the photo is posted inverted.

Now which way is up? Another calm evening, now in Wigham Cove…just me and the seals.

 

Soon the seals will have it all to themselves. I always find it amusing that they lay curled up like a sausage in a frying pan.

I meander down Spiller Channel for a few hours. I explore Neekas Cove and Inlet but something doesn’t feel right and i continue on my way. I’ve learned to listen to my intuition about anchorages and go or not to go decisions. There may practical reasons but experience produces an inner voice which is often correct a\nd I don’t analyze what I intuit. The wind rises on my nose but we make fair speed and it is so pleasant to feel the boat travelling as it has not for too many months. I tuck into the secure basin charted as Wigham Cove on the south end of Yeo Island. I cook a simple supper of ground beef well-imbued with smoked chipotle pepper and garlic. I fill some pitas with the potent mixture and feel a lovely glow spreading within. Warmth! Simple pleasure!

Sunday morning finds me nestled firmly between the blankets, suspended in a stupor between sleep and wakefulness. Sunlight shafts into the cabin. A light fog is dissipating to reveal a near-cloudless sky. I ache for a place to walk but the cedar jungle crowds everywhere, There are no meadows or trails, only a thick tangle of brush and windfalls and interlocked branches. Some beaches offer a place to amble at low tide along a small edge of this impenetrable mystery of endless forest. Wild creatures can magically appear and disappear silently into and from this thick maze. I crash and thrash to try and intrude for a few yards and then retreat, defeated again, to the opening from which I began. I am an alien here.

It will be a sleepy Sunday, it suits my lethargic mood and I prepare for the last leg back to my berth in Shearwater; after yet another nap. I feel exhausted and want to stay here for a week.

You’re back! Got any fishy bits for me?

Later in the day the boat is back in her berth. It is as if the weekend never happened. Monday dawns with a cloudless sky. It is windless and warm, 22 degrees C. by noon. I’m back in a bilge covered in black muck and l am already looking forward to the next weekend. This too shall pass.

Life goes on. Taking seed in the end of a dead-head below Ellerslie Falls. Loggers once shot their timber over the falls. Now the forest will re-establish itself one way or the other.

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving”…. Albert Einstein

Hopes Rise Again

Between spring rain showers the sun comes out and reflects the sky on the sea’s surface. The foggy spiral is a stream of muddy water from a nearby culvert.

Saturday, April 8th. The rain is pounding down as usual. I’ve hauled the boat out and she’s sitting high and wet. Despite the forecast there is always a 50/50 chance of something different occurring. But this time the weatherman was correct. My seat in the boat is about eight feet above the ground. It feels strange. The boat is motionless although I find myself involuntarily swaying at times. My little brain is not used to being motionless aboard the boat and is reinventing my environment to what I’d prefer. Or perhaps I’m simply disoriented at this altitude.

A perfect day for painting a boat…NOT! Fortunately the were enough chores other than painting that could be done in the rain. This is a view from the cockpit of ‘Seafire’ while sitting in the yard.

My mussels. Scraped from the bottom prior to pressure-washing, these clump of mussel lay within the reflection of the travel lift which hoisted my boat from the sea.

What is incredibly stupid is that I’m sitting up here waiting for the rain to stop. In Shearwater…yeah right! I need it to dry up enough to get a fresh coat of anti-fouling paint on the bottom. That is a toxic elixir which, for a while, prevents the growth of marine flora and fauna on the hull beneath the waterline. It’s been eighteen months since the last haul-out. ‘Seafire’ was developing a copious crop of mussels and barnacles after a long winter at the dock. Remember an old Gordon Lightfoot song about sitting in the early morning rain? Here I am. The rain buckets down then tapers to a light shower and finally stops. My hopes rise again. Ten minutes later, the next biblical deluge falls without warning. One of the joys of getting older is knowing that nothing lasts forever. Sooner or later, I’ll have a window of a few hours. Persistence pays. Sunday morning some sunlight thinly ladders down and I scamper into my rain togs but, despite a constant threat, I don’t need them for the whole day!

The weary job of preparation. I’ve power-washed the hull and blasted off any loose paint. In places it is over one eight inch thick, an accumulation of thirty-six years. One of my priorities upon arrival in Mexico will be to have the boat hauled.
I’ll have the bottom scraped to bare fibreglass and painted with a locally-proven anti-fouling paint. Warm water and higher salinity render our locally approved paints impotent to prevent rapid growth in southern waters.

New zinc anodes are bolted on. These are sacrificial anodes designed to absorb stray electrical current in the water and slowly erode in place of having bronze through-hull fittings decay and crumble. The pink splotches on the propeller are evidence of electrolytic damage when anodes are not replaced in time. There has been no further breakdown since I have taken ownership of the boat.

One of the sweeter feelings I know is relaunching a boat after the bottom has just been serviced. It is never a pleasant duty working on a boat’s bottom. It feels good to be finished. Not only is the angst of being trapped ashore relieved, the boat glides so sweetly through the water. Before, there was a slight resistance to movement, now she’ll want to go somewhere, anywhere; and guess what? Easter weekend is just a few days away! Haa! As evening dusk settles the skies lower with dark swollen clouds. Because of the threat I worked the whole day frantically trying to beat the next impending downpour. With the sharp toxic tang of the fresh bottom-paint filling my head there came the high ringing calls of migrating Sandhill Cranes. It is spring! There is no doubt! Robins chittered and sang from obscure corners in the forest, staking out their territory where they will raise their young. It is spring! Tonight as I post this blog a rich golden light illuminates the bay and highlights the green of the trees and the mountains. a sparkling three-deck white yacht has just arrived and anchored out. It is the first of the season. It is spring!

Painting day. Dawn breaks with the possibility of a few dry hours ahead.

Now for the rusty stains in the white gelcoat, especially bad under the counter near the stern of the boat.

Finished! Stains are now gone.

A very pretty transom. With copious amounts of oxalic acid and elbow grease the stains are gone.

Eventually comes a deep satisfaction when I remove the masking tape. There is a crisp, clean fresh line which divides the black bottom paint from the clean white hull above. I find a bottle of fibreglass cleaner and spend a few hours scrubbing away with oxalic acid trickling down inside my sleeves. The rust-hued discolouring on the hull is gone. I’ve no time or energy to polish the hull but I’m proud of the results of my efforts. Soon ‘Seafire’ will be back in the water, rocking gently at the dock ,eagerly tugging at her lines. She’ll seem much happier. I know I will also.

A sure sign of spring. Sandhill Cranes wing their way north, their sonorous calls are a wonderful song of hope. Finally, it is spring! The wing span of these beautiful birds can be over six feet (2 metres) amazingly, many people never look up to see this wonder in the sky.

One of my distractions is reading. I am presently finishing a book by Yann Martel who wrote ‘Life Of Pi.’ This book is called ‘The High Mountains Of Portugal” and was published just last year. It’s third section is a story about a Canadian senator who moves to a small rural village in Portugal and learns to live with a chimpanzee he impulsively adopted. Here are a few lines:

…I think we all look for moments when things make sense. Here, cut off, I find these moments all the time, every day.”

… No, what’s come as a surprise is his movement down to Odo’s so-called lower status….Peter has learned the difficult animal skill of doing nothing.”

Chasing a Rock

“I say old chap!”
This old crow hated me taking it’s picture but couldn’t tear away from the lure of the grocery bags on the back deck of the water taxi.

Netpeckers.
Tiny fishbits in the stowed net makes for an impromptu banquet.

When your cash flow is at a low ebb tide is the same time thatall the incidentals pile up on you. I’ve missed a week’s pay while away south on medical appointments and spending money on things like prescriptions and new eye glasses. After a meagre payday suddenly I’m out of toilet cleaner, paper towels, a few spices and other things that are costly, especially here, when you need them all at once. I’m due for a new fishing license and a new rain jacket. It’s time for a new frying pan. No single item is a big deal, but a blizzard is just a whole lot of innocuous individual snow flakes. I’m not complaining, it’s just the way the pickle squirts, but I find the laws of chaos intriguing. Life, at times, feels like hanging off a cliff with folks dancing on your fingers and peeing on your head. Did I mention that it’s annual income tax time?

“Honey, have you checked the boat lately?” This boat has now been capsized at the dock for a very long time. I last had a photo of this in my blog posted on February 13th. No point in panicking now.

Fortunately the wisdom of accumulated years prevents me from looking for trouble. I’m slowly learning that it finds me readily enough. The boat in the photos below was stolen by three drunken fisherman who had missed the last water taxi. Apparently they hit a reef at full speed. Two RCMP officers were measuring and photographing the recovered boat while it sat outside my shop after being power-washed free of a copious coating of dna.

No Air Bags
It’s not the speed, it’s the sudden stop. The starboard windshield is completely gone. Must’ve hurt like hell.

Down to the last detail.
Clearly, everything came to an abrupt halt.

I quipped about the wisdom of chasing parked rocks and that I hoped the experience had been indelibly painful. I was assured that I was getting my wish. Eventually the police caught up with the three stupids further south and I’m sure they’ll have an unhappy time ahead.Seeing the damage I was reminded of a line from a song on an old Willy Nelson album: Red Headed Stranger. “You can’t hang a man for shooting a woman who was stealing his horse.” No, I’m not condoning violence of any sort but up here a person’s boat is a lifeline. Folks who violate another’s lifeline deserve the wrath of Trump. For what that’s worth, here’s a bit of musing from CBC radio. Someone mentioned that the best-selling pinata in Latin American is now made in the image of King Donald. The retort was “Yeah, but there’s nothing inside.” As I write, another nugget floats out of the radio. “Once the government legalizes marijuana, it’ll be the first time anyone loses money selling drugs.” And so here I go now quoting CBC radio. Times are desperate.

Ah the sun! ‘Seafire’ basks in a moment of sunlight and the promise of spring.

Catting the hook. a traditional and forgotten method of securing an anchor for a long passage. Previously it was hooked under the bobstay but heavy seas off Cape Caution tore it loose and caused damage to the bow stem. This is a work in progress but it will be perfected. I love my Rocna anchor.

I sleep in on Sunday morning to eventually be awakened by the clatter of a low-flying Beaver float plane. Peeking out from beneath the blankets of my snug nest I confirm that dawn has indeed broken. By the time I have some coffee brewing, there is the nearby din of a rock drill. The sooner the job is done the better, life must go on, the din will end. Electrical power on the docks is again being spread between too many boats and simply cooking breakfast can blow the single bsmall main reaker for the entire system. I decide to wander across the enclave to the laundromat for a shower and then indulge in the decadence of ordering breakfast.

As I enter the restaurant, I am accosted by the operator-manager of the water taxi fleet. Without so much as a “Good morning” I’m overwhelmed with a litany of woes about a broken-down boat. I remind him that I’m not at work today and I’d really like to have a tiny piece of life. In other words, “Bugger off and leave me alone.” For the time being I’ve been told not to work on weekends; winter budgets are tight. This character is berating me now that he’ll just have to find someone willing to work weekends. He’s not my boss and is far outside his job description. So much for a peaceful Sunday morning.

A Broke-Back Pickup
It’s a tough life for a vehicle here, the roads are short but the rocks and potholes are big.

Two days later, the cold driving rain continues and a flock of migrating robins appears on the lawn in our little community square. It is probably the first grass they’ve seen in a few hundred miles. They hop about furtively, listening and poking at tiny tidbits living in the sod. They are harbingers of spring yet the sight of them is dismal. They are certainly not singing. Friday morning is the last day of March, in like a lion, out like a lion. I’m writing while waiting for the kettle so I can have a mug of coffee. The boat is shuddering and heeling under windy blasts and pelting rain. Ho hum, this is nothing new. Yesterday the skies cleared and a glorious, golden, warm sun blessed this piece of the earth. For the first time this year, i shut the heater off and left the hatches open for the entire afternoon. It was wonderful.

Got worms ? Robins sighted.

Sunlight brings out the masses, even here. From where and how do they all mysteriously emerge? Suddenly the yard swarms with people bringing in broken boats. Several arrived in tow. Some were sinking, some had dead engines. Some have both problems. I am always bemused by fishermen who leave their boat abandoned for most of the year. We are now close to the short, intense herring season and suddenly there is a glut of customers demanding immediate attention regardless of their place in the line-up.

Bookends. Two of my Shearwater buddies.

As spring slowly wedges it’s way beneath the dark weight of winter, one of the first significant annual events is herring season. It is actually a herring roe fishery; the timing must be perfect. There will be an exact moment when the herring deposit their eggs on kelp and other marine flora. The timing to harvest the egg-laden fish and the fresh ‘Roe On Kelp’ is critical to achieve best quality and maximum value. There is an anxious anticipation. Fishermen earn a large portion of their annual income during what may be a minutes-long season. Then in the last few days before the season’s opening, there comes a frantic rush to have necessary repairs made. The practice of being prepared and of keeping a vessel shipshape is an alien concept.

One character sputtered in to the docks all the way from Ocean Falls. He dumped out the contents of a fuel filter into a bucket. The filter had held a nasty mess of rusty watery goo. When a boat is used regularly as transport in remote waters, clean fuel and filters are absolutely essential, perhaps at times, a matter of life and death. Many folks are very cavalier about preventative maintenance. This character mused that he should have “ changed it last year” and then went on to describe a persistent engine oil leak that comes back every time he adds oil! I call it the “Break and fix” method. Sadly it is a practice entirely too familiar to many.

My tube’s bigger than yours! Sea worm casings on a concrete anchor block.

Spring weather is slowly beginning to appear, a few minutes here, an hour there, an entire half-day a few days ago. It seems odd to cast a shadow, feel radiated warmth on your back and to be unable to see because there is sunlight in your eyes. There are no complaints on that front. I’ll get used to it.

Raindrops on the windows while the sun beams in. All that light reveals accumulated winter grime.

The pump don’t work cause the vandals took the handle.“….Bob Dylan

Flying Back To Bunga Bunga

 (No disrespect intended, it’s what some of us call Bella Bella. Bella Coola is Bunga Cunga)

Yes Really!
They’re out there.
Like it or not, it’s spring…and the flowers know.

Well now that I’ve showed you mine…! Another Southern delight for me, Arbutus trees.

The hook. A salmon jaw left over from last autumn’s spawn, hangs at shoulder-height. Part of the annual drama is the distribution of the dead fish. They feed both flora and fauna as their bodies return to the natural world.

Jack’s new ride. He loves it! So do I. My new used 4×4, full-sized crew cab truck, with a V8 engine gets slightly better gas consumption than my previous small SUV and import truck with much smaller engines.
Go figure!

I know you’re leaving. Again! Without me!

Little Boxes. People choose to live in this sterile environment on the water front. It’s all about a view. There was a time when poor folk lived by the sea and ate fish. If I had the price of one of these condos, there would be photos in this blog with palm trees. In three hours I travelled from this warm sunniness…

…This! WTF? It’s officially spring tomorrow. The long white strip is the airfield on Denny Island. We’re about to land in Bella Bella. Kliktsoatli Harbour is reflected in the spinner.

Moments later over the metropolis of Shearwater. Check gear down. You can see the nose wheel in the spinner. The aircraft is a Beechcraft 1900D; a fabulous airplane.

Dodd Narrows. Just out of Nanaimo Harbour we pass the yachtsman’s dreaded southern approach to Nanaimo. Here the narrows have recently turned to ebb. soon there will be nasty whirlpools and back eddies and a current of 6.7 knots. Oh yeah, add some spinning logs and a few terrified weekend boaters!

Trincomali Channel. Looking south through some of the Gulf Islands past Porlier Pass and into far-distant Plumper Sound. A tug tows logs between two deep sea bulk ships waiting to load in Vancouver. The anchorage on the right is Pirate Cove, famous to Westcoast yachters and former home of notorious Brother Twelve.

My old stomping grounds. Degnen Bay below and Silva Bay beyond. Hello old friends all.

“That you Mac, or is it Harmac?” A tired, ancient joke about Nanaimo’s smelly pulp mill. In the distance on the left is the other foul pulp mill in Crofton. In the center is Nanaimo’s busy Cassidy Airport. Ladysmith is just beyond on the shores of Oyster Bay. A fabulous place to come home to.

The curve.
The open horizon has always been impossible to resist for this old pilot and sailor. This view is of the Southern Strait Of Georgia.

South YVR. The floatplane is a DHC3 Otter. I’m sitting in another one. The seaplane terminal is on the Fraser River on the south side of Vancouver International Airport. The terminal is adjoined with a wonderful pub, ‘The Flying Beaver.’

The Otter Office. The panel of an Otter cockpit. When I first sat in this seat, fifty years ago, these aircraft were powered with a thundering radial engine. All instrumentation was analog “Steam gauges”
Modern computerized “Video games and turbine engines have turned a wonderful airplane into an incredible one.

 

On arrival at the YVR South Terminal I flopped my big old wheeled travel bag onto the weigh scale. The ticket agent raised an eyebrow at the readout. I looked down at the bag and said, “Don’t move around granny, you’re almost through.” The young lady raised her eyebrow again and asked with a posh English accent, “You are joking!?” I grinned.

Well, we have to be sure!” I wasn’t actually feeling jovial, I was just trying to mask my dismay about returning to Shearwater. Lately it has not been the magical destination one could hope for; more of a ‘Club Dread.’ As I pocketed my boarding pass, I looked away over my shoulder and said, “Hi Jack.” Then I smiled to the ticket lady. “Nothing like a sense of humour to stir things up at the airport.”

Rather!” But then she began to smile.

I’d ridden the float plane across from Nanaimo with two former neighbours. They were on their way to Varadero in Cuba, a five hour flight from Vancouver. As I edit today’s snowy photo’s back aboard ‘Seafire’ they’ll be sipping mojitos on the hotel patio and watching the sun set over the Carribbean. BUGGA! Some co-workers have quit and left during the week I’ve been away. Will I be next? One of those folks has since been in contact from Thailand. Good for him.

Goodbye Nanaimo. Now bound for Bella Bella the view is west across the strait to Nanaimo and it’s magnificent harbour. I wonder when I’ll see it again.

The letdown. Beginning our descent to Bella Bella, we get a glimpse of a snowy mountain.

There was brilliant sunshine on the south coast today. We flew north over a broken overcast. Near Bella Bella we slid down through a hole in the cloud and began our final descent. I hope I didn’t curse aloud. More fresh snow! Bloody hell! Three hours earlier I’d been watching a woman blow huge soap bubbles for kids on the Nanaimo waterfront in the warm spring sunlight. Now back to this! What the hell? I throw my gear aboard ‘Seafire,’ slam the hatch, turn up the heater and hunker down for the long night ahead. The forecast for the week ahead calls for rain and snow flurries, just like last week. The next light on my horizon will be the Easter long weekend and I’m resolved to gloomy weather then.

Moments Before…
landing in Bella Bella. One of my joys in a 1900 is being able to watch the instruments. An old seat-of-the-pants pilot, I marvel at the efficiency and precision of today’s modern aircraft and crews. They possess an entirely different skill set than mine.

The real thing. After repairs our travel lift is back in action. First up is this locally designed and built offshore sail boat. It incorporates traditional and novel ideas. Built of aluminum, twin-engined, twin-ruddered, it is a floating bomb shelter which I can see sails and works very well. It is a joy to see. There is a great beauty in this practical and capable vessel.

The poor old boat is suffering mightily thanks to the weather. The finish on the exterior woodwork has been seriously damaged this winter. I cannot do anything about it or the other jobs waiting for a little warmth and dryness. The general spirit of the whole community seems diminished as we wait for signs of a reluctant spring. Yesterday morning, in Nanaimo, while walking Jack, a flock of wild swans flew low overhead. They weren’t heading north.

It will be a while until we see them flying over up here.

A bouquet of hope. Surely spring will come some time soon.

Don’t let the same dog bite you twice.” Chuck Berry

Snow Job

My last few blogs have repeatedly mentioned the tenacious winter weather. Yesterday, March 8th, we awoke here in Shearwater to the beginnings of a mini blizzard. It snowed ferociously for about four hours. Here is a photo essay on yesterday’s weather. At 7 am this morning, the sky is cloudless.

AGAIN?
The forecast was for snow flurries with accumulations to 2 cm.

Steady as she snows.

Whoosh!

Never Look Back

Seafire sits forlornly at the dock, her bow pointing in the direction of Mexico.

Stacking it up. I have been places where no-one would notice  a small flurry like this.

I don’t know what I thought was so funny!

Don’t slam the door.

Home is where the boat is.

Warm and snug inside….make the world go away.

In late afternoon the skies clear and the temperature tumbles

I’d prefer that the only ice I see is beneath a palm tree…in a lime margarita!

Cold feet, cold heart, cold beak, cold fish!

The morning after. Cold, clear calm. By the end of the day another storm was moving in.

Dreaming of spring
…Any day now.

 

Hold fast to dreams For when dreams go Life is a barren field Frozen with snow. Langston Hughes.

Cabin Fever

YEAH RIGHT!
Sunshine? When? Daily snowfalls continue.

It is the last weekend of February. This is a time which is one of the pinnacles of my annual life cycle; the Fisher Poets Gathering is on in Astoria Oregon. Composed of a large contingent of Alaskan fisher-folk, the event draws men and women from around the world. Various performers offer samples of their writing and music. The depth of talent is stunning. Uplifting and affirming to mix with other blue collar creative souls there is also humility in realizing the tremendous creative energy among simple working people. The website is fisherpoets.org If you click on ‘performers’ then go to ‘in the tote’ you’ll be able to find some of my work to read and to listen to. There are plenty of other performers listed there whose work is spellbinding. I am honoured to find myself among them.

Last Year’s Poster Boy.
Not quite the cover of the Rolling Stone but here’s yours truly in action.

This weekend in Astoria has been, for me, a great way to shake the blahs and recharge wintered-down batteries. It is a fabulous town to visit in its own right. I go to participate every year. But this year I’m writing this aboard ‘Seafire’ while moored in Shearwater, a very long way north of Astoria and the Columbia River. Health issues are keeping me here. It is snowing outside and a severe brown-out is settling over me. I have to get out of here. Now! I slip my lines and idle out into the thick snow well aware I’m totally alone. This is no cure for cabin fever, the boat looks the same inside but I have a sense of being in control, able to go wherever I choose. Soon lost from sight in the slanting snow, only I know where I am. My sense of isolation increases slightly but I feel slightly better.

No Light Today
Dryad Point Light Station in a snow storm
The light was not operating despite the low light and visibility.

A Cold Dawn
Clear sky and brisk wind in the anchorage at Troup Narrows

Two hours later I am at anchor just past Troup Narrows. I began to turn in to my intended anchorage but found a neighbour’s boat already anchored there. In respect for their deliberate solitude I moved on. It would have been rude to impose my presence when there are so many other snug places to anchor. Here I sit, alone in a wilderness night and the driving snow of the Great Bear Rainforest. Almost asleep with my fingers on the keyboard I sit here in a thick stupor with a whole night of long black hours ahead. Those hours pass with a long series of nasty dreams and general anxiety. It is probably just my state of mind but I note that this is an area heavily marked with ancient pictographs and petroglyphs of local indigenous peoples. It is probably just my imagination, but It has happened to me in similar places elsewhere and I wonder if there is a presence that effects some people. It is probably all bugga bugga but still; what if? The sky is clear, swept by a brisk Northeast wind. It has kept the boat taut on the end of its anchor chain all night. It pinged and grumbled but the Rocna anchor held firmly as it always does. I finish my second coffee as the aroma of a pork roast in the oven fills the cabin. I’ve impregnated it with several cloves of garlic. The oven helps warm the boat on this chilly morning and I’ll have meat cooked ahead for several meals.

Leroy Brown
My very handsome new neighbour.

Time to go. The anchor comes up encased in thick mud, the best material to hold a boat. I intend to amble along a circuitous back route looking for petroglyphs and paintings. The sun, by 9 o’clock, is finally high enough to cast enough light to see but then the light becomes too harsh with deep shadows and the wind howls too boldly for me to take the boat close to the rocky unfamiliar shoreline. I resolve to be content with the day as a simple outing with nothing accomplished or discovered. People do that I’m told. It was actually rather pleasant.

The Squeeze.
To remove this old diesel engine I had to fit myself into the space on the far side. After all the rusted hardware was removed the big ugly lump had to be shoe-horned up, sideways, forward, up and out. To do that the boat had to be tied along a bulkhead above some sharp rocks on a falling tide. All’s well that ends.

The last days of February are bitterly cold. An older power boat stored in the yard requires attention in its engine room. The vessel was built around the engines, which after several decades, are balls of grease and rust. After fighting with seized bolts in cramped quarters in numbing cold, I am yet again confronted with the ugly reality that this is work for a younger, flat-bellied person. My Rubenesque form is not contorting as it needs too, the knees don’t unbend and my attitude is hardening and it seems that my lament is constantly about health and weather. March 1st daylight creeps reluctantly beneath a thick, dripping blanket of cloud. It is calm. Yesterday’s slush clings on. By the end of the week nothing has changed. I’ve prepared yet another old yacht’s engine room for engine removal. It too will be a shoehorn endeavour. For some reason similar jobs often occur near the same time. I remind myself that nothing is forever and that soon I’ll find myself looking back on this misery from a happier place. The weather, and the forecast, continue with wind, rain and snow. I’m having difficulty finding something of interest to blog about and the motivation to care about anything. Some folks here live within a drug and alcohol- induced fog. I can almost understand that.

Old Beauty
Under the verdigris and rust stains, this old wooden double-ender is still a solid boat and evidence of someone’s dream.

A Spanish Windlass
This is an ancient method of drawing two objects together, in this case, two sections of dock.

The first weekend of March arrives in a snow storm. I take some pictures and go back to bed, feeling as motivated as a hose. N old hose. My ambition for today is defrosting the boat’s fridge and I’m going to savour that wild craziness for a while yet. Two hours later, the bright, warm sun is hanging in a clearing blue sky. I shut off the heaters, throw open the hatches and savour dry fresh air. The sunlight reveals layers of grime. I scrub away, disheartened at my slovenly boat keeping. Admittedly, the boat has been closed up tight since sometime in October while I’ve cooked and lived within. Yeech! At least the recognition and resolve of my detritus is a sign of hope and ambition. Haar! Yet there be life.

On Saturday evening the community got together and put on a Greek food evening. This old recluse was reluctant at first but ended up being glad he went. The food was spectacular, kudos to all who cooked. There were even samples of venison and moose cooked with Mediterranean recipes and someone made Baklava that was exquisite. The folks were all amiable and I will confess to having had a very pleasant time. It was wonderful to have exotic food in such a backwater.

On Sunday I stowed away on a water taxi running up to Bella Coola to pick up an employee.

The Long Run
Heading for Bella Coola

It was great to just be a passenger with no responsibilities. Outflow winds at first provided a back-jarring ride but conditions eased under a cloudless sky. The vastness of this country is stunning. Shearwater is well inland from the open Pacific and Bella Coola is about sixty miles further inland within a labyrinth of deep inlets with vicious winds and swirling currents. The forest changes from coastal cedar and becomes predominantly fir. The mountains rise higher and become more rugged. After hours of travel one feels well imbedded in the continent yet on the chart it is clear you’ve barely begun.

Oh what a feeling
Dolphins join the boat at approximately 25 knots. Their swimming and cavorting seem effortless.

I wish… that I could swim like that

As Far As He Got. Mackenzie Rock, a very long way by foot from Scotland.

A lovely pictograph along the way. Who knows what it means.

End of the line. An old cannery in Bella Coola

Canada, solid land all the way to Labrador. It’s a big country.

 

Today for the first time I briefly looked on Mackenzie Rock, an ambition I’ve long held This is the site several miles seaward of Bella Coola where Alexander Mackenzie ended his fantastic westward trek in1793 when Heiltsuk warriors turned his expedition back. It must have been a massive disappointment to have travelled on Pacific seawater yet be denied the sight of open ocean horizon. The man stoically turned around to canoe and walk all the way back to Toronto. He originally came from the Isle Of Lewis, when just making it to the mainland of Scotland was a personal achievement. Wee Alex went on to tramp across and up and down huge parts of Canada. Eventually representing the North West Company he made his way to the headwaters of what would become known as the Mackenzie River. Then he canoed the massive river’s length to the Arctic Ocean. I have always been amazed how intrepid it was to come from a small country and set to hoof and paddle across incomprehensible distances. A few years later he showed up in Bella Coola, after a trip back to Scotland. That dude got around! Apparently he missed a meeting there, by a few weeks, with the dauntless George Vancouver. Eventually, at the age of forty-eight, he made it home to Scotland once again where he married a fourteen-year old girl and fathered three children. Hagis Power! I’m left feeling dead wimpey.

Waiting for spring. Waiting and waiting.

Boredom: “the desire for desires.” Leo Tolstoy

Out And About

Out Of the Mystic Morning mist clings in one of the passes out of Kliktsoatli 1harbour

Out Of the Mystic
Morning mist clings in one of the passes out of Kliktsoatli 1harbour

A thin warmth. Cloudless sky. Sunlight in the eyes. February 13th, Family Day, a holiday. With all of that said in one line, Valentine’s Day arrives under the forecast of more rain and wind. There’ll be no wine and chocolates here. February 15th proves the weatherman right, Torrential rain begins in the evening and is still drumming down in the morning. With yesterday’s news came the story that iconic CBC story teller Stuart Maclean had died. I confess that I envied his success and how everyone seemed to love his work, no matter what their personal tastes were. He will be long missed. His eloquence and ability to consistently deliver a simple yet compelling story, punctuated with clever humour, will remain a standard for all writers and story tellers.

Winter finger. The ravages of wet and cold and all the chemicals a mechanic gets his hands into. Latex gloves last mere seconds for me. The, in the evenings, they peck out my next blog.

Winter finger.
The ravages of wet and cold and all the chemicals a mechanic gets his hands into.
Latex gloves last mere seconds for me. Then in the evenings, they peck out my next blog.

Another story comes from Nanaimo. Young parents contacted the media with a plea for their autistic youngster. Apparently the child had been introduced to Kraft Dinner in specially packaged “Star Wars” boxes. Now, he’ll eat nothing else. Yeah right! Let him miss a meal or two and he’ll start looking at real food differently. The request, carried by several national media sources, begged for more of the non-food. I can’t believe it. Golly gee molly-coddler! This poor kid has a bleak future. Flash ahead a few decades and he’ll be another dude in a studded dog-collar panic-stricken about getting to a metal concert. I mention this only as example of our world gone mad. To me, it is ludicrous that so much press be given to a non-story and that such crass values are promoted. Once again I’ll gently mention Syrian refugees (As one example) and what our perspectives would be if we walked a short way in their shoes. Imagine walking across a continent hoping to find a place, any place to make a new home. The next meal? Who knows what or when? So many of us live in a world so abstract we’ve lost our grip on basic reality.

Something to do, someone to love, something to look forward to, all the rest is gravy. By week’s end, the kid has a lifetime supply of the crap. Hmmm! Maybe I could sell the media on a plaintive tale about an old dufus who needs to sail south for health reasons.

Seafire at the Bella Bella Dock. What a day!

Seafire at the Bella Bella Dock. What a day!

Greetings Uncle! Huge ravens and bold crows frequent Bella Bella. Some say they are the spirits of ancestors.

Greetings Uncle! Huge ravens and bold crows frequent Bella Bella. Some say they are the spirits of ancestors.

Pedal, pedal, pedal, kerplunk!

Pedal, pedal, pedal, kerplunk!

The boat beneath my boat. The clear cold waters at Bella Bella. The bumps beneath the rudder are clumps of mussels beginning to grow. Time for a haulout!

The boat beneath my boat. A sinker in the clear cold waters at Bella Bella. The bumps beneath my rudder are clumps of mussels beginning to grow. Time for a haulout!

Red to red. mjariners prefer to meet in channels by showing their port sides to each other, or with red navigation lights visible.

Red to red. Mariners prefer to meet in channels by showing their port sides to each other, or with red navigation lights visible. The seam in the hull is where the bow section hinges open for loading.

The tin wedding cake. The BC Ferry 'Northern Expedition' in Lama Passage northbound for Prince Rupert.

The tin wedding cake. The BC Ferry ‘Northern Expedition’ in Lama Passage northbound for Prince Rupert. One salmon says to another, “Look at all the canned people.”

Saturday morning brightened under a light fog. Soon blue sky began to show. ‘Seafire’ and I were gone like a shot. With the weight of winter weather, health issues and all the trials of life I desperately need to remind myself of why I’m living here alone and clinging to a dream. I stop in Bella Bella for groceries then head south. Within a short while I found myself at the opposite corner of Denny Island, out of sight and out of mind of my daily drudgery. What a feeling! I had the world to myself and every possible destination lay before me on this pristine, cloudless, glorious day. The urge to keep on going was compelling. I met the Prince Rupert ferry as I exited Lamma Pass. We chatted briefly on the radio before we saw each other. There is some comfort in hearing another human voice within the emptiness of this massive wilderness. We pass and the seaway is empty again. I looked down the long stretch of Fitzhugh Sound and ached for the distant open horizon. Instead I’m writing at anchor in Codville Lagoon. It is cold, there is a skim of ice on much of the lagoon. The boat sits at anchor as if it were aground in butter. The stars are incredible. Their reflection on the calm black water leave me feeling as if I’m adrift in the universe with stars all round. I have the universe to myself. It is a fantastic feeling.

Last light in Codville Lagoon. Calm and cold.

Last light in Codville Lagoon. Calm and cold.

Icebreaking in Codville

Icebreaking in Codville

Having a bash. My Rocna anchor proved an excellent tool for breaking the ice ahead.

Having a bash. My Rocna anchor proved an excellent tool for breaking the ice ahead.

Ice prawning. My prawn trap breaks the surface.

Ice prawning. My prawn trap breaks the surface.

Supper. The fish went back into the water. I was unable to indentify the bottom-feeder. It was so ugly it was rather cute!

Supper.
The fish went back into the water. I was unable to indentify the bottom-feeder. It was so ugly it was rather cute!

Sunday dawns with a high thin overcast. All around the boat there is a skin of ice on the lagoon. I have about a mile of ice-breaking ahead of me. Even a thin layer can damage the gel coat on a fibreglass boat. When I weigh anchor I leave it dangle at the water’s surface. It helps break the ice before it contacts the bow stem and only a few chips of bottom paint are knocked away. I pull my prawn trap and head back across Fitzhugh Sound and back up Lama Passage toward Shearwater and another week of work. There is no wind, the sails stay furled. It was not an especially remarkable little trip but I’ve reaffirmed that I hold the option of leaving at any time. At any time I can be gone in a couple of hours. That, in itself, is worth more than any sum of money. Three hours later, ‘Seafire’ is back in her berth. I wash her down, fill the water tank, make a mug of tea and start to edit the weekend’s photos. It begins to rain.

The world beyond. Looking southward into Fitzhugh Sound past Walbran Rock.

The world beyond. Looking southward into Fitzhugh Sound past Walbran Rock.

Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”

                                                                                 Omar Khayyam