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The Third Napoleon

Wednesday Afternoon
Southbound in the Strait Of Georgia
Looking east toward Mainland Canada at 2 pm

 

Something felt very different Wednesday night. I was in the galley cleaning up after supper and mused how the boat looks the same inside no matter where she is. It was inky dark outside and if I were to step off the side of ‘Seafire’ there would no longer be a dock there. I’ve cut her loose and am on my southward, unfortunately only as far as Ladysmith for the time being. Still it feels so very good to be away from the dock.

My work in Comox is finished. Now I’m anchored in False Bay on Lasqueti Island. I tip-toed through the rocks into the bay an hour after nightfall. I have fond memories of this place and two iconic people who based here. They have both passed away. Allen Farrell was a famous wooden boat builder and his wife Sherry was a lovely and charming lady. I have plenty of yarns about them, how I befriended them and times we shared. I often describe them as the only real hippies I’ve ever known. The world is a sadder place without them. In the morning as a creeping grey dawn slowly illuminated the bay, plenty of signs showed that people have staked out everything possible. I remembered Allen’s comment once that the system these folks had come to escape was not nearly as bad as the one they brought with them. Why can we not simply respectfully share the beauty and bounty of the planet without laying claim to it and desecrating it. My ocean! Mine! This remote island was once a mecca for draft-dodgers and folks who believed they could reinvent the world. Their descendants live on here. “Peace man, share the wealth” was once a mantra. Now “No Trespassing” signs seem to be everywhere.

Beautiful downtown False Bay… Thazzit! Wood smoke hangs in the air as the ‘Centurion VII leaves on the first run of the day. This water taxi is the only link to Vancouver Island and the world outside.

My Scottish mother-in-law, may she rest in peace, once called me a “Bloody Bog Canadian.” I accepted it as a wry term of endearment. Now I think she may have been right. It’s interesting how one can go an entire lifetime with an idea fixed in one’s head, right or wrong; even worse, how about no idea at all?. I reviewed a documentary about Russian history and remarked to my wife that the Russians seemed to have been under siege by Napoleon for a very long time. He even set fire to Moscow once. My wife replied that there were three Napoleons. The second was a son and the third a nephew. What they did and did not achieve, where and when, is irrelevant. You can look it up yourself. I was gobsmacked to realize once again how history is written, what is not written and what is embellished or even invented. It doesn’t really matter how many Mao’s or Mohameds or Jesus’ or Hitlers there really were. Some academic, I’m sure, can prove how important it is that we understand how the sum of three Napoleons affects our modern existence.

I couldn’t resist! I don’t know who deserves credit for the original photo but hopefully I’ve mutilated it enough. There seems to be a resemblance to someone else, maybe it’s the hair!

Frankly, I don’t much give a toss about history and who wrote what about anything. I’m not that confident in the accuracy of any history. I’m sure we can all give examples of blatant lies we were led to believe. We just don’t learn anything from history. We’re still the same nasty creatures we’ve always been. No amount of information changes our compulsion to be destructive and hateful. It has nothing to do with geography, gender, religion or just cause. We’re all assholes. Until we accept that hard reality about our nature, nothing will ever change. And don’t go blaming it on anyone’s Satan. Look in the mirror. We must change.

We the pumpkins. A post Halloween tradition is to amass your Jack ‘O Lanterns to decay together in the cold, wet weather of autumn.

For example, in the wake of the recent mass shooting in a rural Texan Baptist church, a local politician offered the solution of posting armed guards in every church. Jesus loves me, now pass the ammunition. Remember that Christianity uses a symbol of capital punishment as an icon for peace and love. Instead of a cross, it could well be a hangman’s noose, an AK-47 or even a hockey stick. There are no doves on any bible I’ve seen. Whether you agree with my slant, or not, you have an obligation to yourself and your species to exercise your expansive abilities as a thinking organism. Ask questions. It is that simple.

 

An old rusted rail shed matches the autumn russet of maples and alders.

 

Nothing lasts forever. Heavy autumn rain and wind will soon knock the leaves from the tree. Then, after a long winter, new green leaves will bud in spring.

I am now back in Ladysmith writing on a drizzly November 11th. It is Remembrance Day across much of the world. A squadron of WWII military aircraft just flew over. My old pilot’s heart skipped a beat. I wonder as their sweet throbbing thunder fades in the grey sky, how much we believe and remember is truth, how much is myth and what it is we choose to forget.

More raw logs leave our country. They are being loaded onto the ship from a working sawmill. The orange mounds are chipped cedar which will be processed into paper. That we export any raw resources is ludicrous.

This bright beauty popped out of a tidal narrows I was about to enter. I can’t claim I didn’t see it.

 

Going with the flow. Dodd Narrows is a tidal pass with currents nearing 10 knots. Here I’m running with the ebb about one hour before slack water.

 

Thunk. Sunk. One of the dangers in this churning tidal narrows. My boat is plenty tough but a log in my propeller could be interesting.

Several good reasons to not travel by boat at night.
Winter waters are often choked with logs.

In 2017 politicians and religions of the world still mesmerize millions into embracing nonsensical stories, conflicted values and convenient lies. People still eagerly sacrifice themselves for other people’s myths and profits.

Ladysmith Harbour as seen from the next town south.

I’d rather just go sailing.

Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.”

… Napoleon Bonaparte (the 1st)

Snowy Palms

First Frost. One of my favourite trees. In the heat of summer, a herd of cows lounges in it’s shade.

On October 22nd The latest Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante Spain. I am not a racer but it was fascinating to watch the beginning of the race. The start began like any sailing race with competitors jostling for a good position. The fleet then competed through several legs in the bay before heading out to race each other around the world. I prefer simple, traditional boats to these modern hi-tech floating computers but to see such massive boats (65 feet long, their hinged keel draws 15 feet! ) manoeuvring like dinghys with crews smoothly handling sail changes at each mark is a wonder. Sailing boats, in my opinion, are one of man’s higher achievements. I don’t know if high tech vessels are an advance or a retreat.

The race route stitches itself around the globe with monstrous legs like Lisbon to Capetown and twice dips down into the ice-filled, wind-ripped Southern Ocean, a vicious body of frigid water. The boats hurtle along at speeds in excess of 20 knots. When not beating themselves to death while cold and wet, these sailors have to face massive parties in each of the many far-flung ports which mark the end and beginning of each leg. This madness will continue for nearly 9 months when the race ends in Sweden. How are you spending your winter?

One boat is named ‘Clean Oceans’ and draws attention to the massive global pollution of all our seas. One recent report suggests that the tonnage of plastic clogging the waters and beaches of oceans worldwide matches the mass of our remaining fish stocks.

That is a sobering consideration. As I ruefully watch this boat knifing through the green Mediterranean waves, the irony of it’s own synthetic composition was not lost. From mast to hull to sails and clothing of the crew, everything is a plastic derivative. When I was a child fibreglass boats were beginning to find acceptance. One concern was about how long a ‘Tupperware’ boat would last. From what I’ve seen while wandering our Westcoast beaches the answer is forever! The plastic, in places, is a thick strata along our high water lines.

In Mexico, old bits of plastic littler the country. Fence lines and cacti are decorated by the wind with fluttering bits of tattered plastic to the point that it could be a national flag. Mexico is a place that I love despite the litter. I’ve seen many clever examples of recycling in that country. “Necessity is the mother of all invention” is an old wisdom. It is one of the reasons I go there. The seasonal window for getting ‘Seafire’ to Mexico is now closed. Local sailors generally agree that mid-October is the latest that one should depart our waters for a direct voyage to Mexico.

“Don’t laugh;she’s almost paid for!” Remember Ben’s Johnson? This old beast was once someone’s pride. Doel fins on the motor, tow post, galvanized trailer, c’mon, make an offer and answer the call of the sea.

‘Shroom Nav. Growing on the cabin top of the old runabout, could these fungi actually be some sort of stealth-nav. system?

Halloween morning finds me up for another day at work, there are only a few of those left. I’ll soon be unemployed. It is still pitch-dark at 7am. It is cold and clammy-damp. We’ve had a few days of spectacular sunny fall weather, the forecast is now for a few days of payback weather which includes snow flurries. I’ll be heading southward with ‘Seafire’ next week, foul weather can be expected; naturally. In the meantime, I’ll post this as another short blog with photos of fall colours. I doubt readers will notice anything different, but I’ve acquired a new-used dslr camera. I couldn’t afford the purchase, but I couldn’t leave a good deal behind. My old Canon gear is showing it’s age. You can only drive so many nails with your camera, they just don’t make them like they used to. Seriously I’ve been coveting the quality and abilities of Sony and so here I go. Some of the slick photo technology has me stumbling but I’m sure I’ll be quite happy. I’ve proven all I can using my mobile phone as a camera. Now I look at the keys worn shiny on my laptop, or notebook, or whatever we’re supposed to call them this week. I know what’s coming next.

In Ladysmith, the anchorage known as “Dogpatch” has claimed another vessel. The venerable ‘Anipaya’ now sits on the bottom of the bay. No-one seems to know her real history. The old wooden lady, about 90 feet long, with plenty of shear and a lofty crow’s nest, cut a salty profile. She looked like a former whaling vessel to my eye. The problem is that old boats are sold off as affordable housing because they’re too old and tired to be worth repairing. They’re rotten. When they become too difficult to keep afloat they are either abandoned on their moorings or dragged ashore and left derelict. Sometimes they’re burned. Someone else (Usually the taxpayer) is left to clean up the mess which is often toxic and dangerous.

That’s me in the middle! Anipaya’s crow’s nest looked down on the Dogpatch fleet. Now she sits on the bottom.

The ‘Spud Queen’ Once a Westcoast nautical icon. The absentee owner discovered that people were squatting aboard. The story is that it was dragged ashore and burned . One man’s problem becomes everyone else’s.

Currently the politicians are discussing appropriate legislation to deal with the growing number of derelict vessels along our shoreline. I think it is simple. Live as you wish, so long as you are not imposing yourself on others. If a life afloat is what you choose then your boat must be maintained in a seaworthy condition at all times. If you are not able or willing to do that then you should be legally obligated to be responsible. No-one else should need to clean up your mess. The price of freedom is responsibility. Have I said that before?

A popular topic among mariners at the moment is about the two women rescued in the Pacific a few hundred miles of the coast of Japan after drifting with their dogs for five months. My information comes only from the media so I can merely speculate. The interview I did see placed their credibility as being very low. What they were claiming made little sense to this seasoned old salt. If indeed this is some sort of hoax, I truly hope they both pay a suitably heavy penalty. They’ve certainly done nothing to further the cause of voyaging sailors anywhere.

In Victoria, politicians are discussing making yet another law. It will try to deal with “distracted pedestrians!” Personally I am amused and saddened by those cannot even walk along a street without feeding their device addiction. No matter how many laws we make, there will never be a way to legislate stupidity.

A morning whisper. One of the first photos taken with my new used camera.

Late-breaking news. As I post this blog…   BUGGA!

Woof’s Dis? Ziggy seems fascinated with his own footprints. The weather caught us all by surprise.

Yep. TOO RIGHT! November 2nd, Comox.
Thinking of all my chums in southern latitudes.

Be whom it was you needed when you were younger.” anonymous

Bang! It’s autumn again.

Flags, or what is left of them, crackling in the cold, wet onshore wind.

It has already been forgotten by most. Like all the other tragedies in our culture, the recent events in Las Vegas are already well-faded into a blur with all of the other horrific mass killings in North America. Given a little time some sick bastard may try to make a movie about it, just like two films just released about the marathon bombing Boston Marathon Bombing. Of course WWII is still rich fodder for films and books. It’s been over 70 years and we’re still fighting that one…and haven’t learned a damned thing! Greed knows no shame.

It’s not any hurricane, but still enough to draw storm watchers to the beach.

Surf’s up! This is at Point Holmes,just inside Cape Lazo at Comox. The view is Southward looking down the Strait of Georgia. These boulder-strewn tidal flats were so-named by the Spanish explorers. It means the “Snare.”

Life goes on. Finding a parking spot in the mall is as tough as ever, the nine-month television hockey season has begun. In the Caribbean, so recently in our amazement and now forgotten, millions are still without power and water after the hurricanes. Then there are those digging out from Mexico’s earthquake and in Lala land coroners are going from burned home to burned home looking for remains to identify. There are famines, floods and ethnic cleansings occurring around the planet. In Mogadishu, Somalia, a single bombing vapourized hundreds of people and injured hundreds more. That incredible evil has barely made our news. It seems we’re more concerned that our very wealthy Federal Finance Minister failed to report,in his list of assets that he owns a multi-million dollar villa in the south of France. “Oh yeah I forgot about that one.” Now here’s a guy who wants to reboot the middle class! All this comes to mind aboard ‘Seafire’ before going to work on Monday morning. It is still pitch dark outside at seven o’clock. An angry wind swirls around the boat. The mast and rigging are moaning and I sit here sputtering and gasping in the grip of a vicious virus; Snyphlis Exotic. I have decided that I’m too ill to go to work today. Somewhere in the rush of the wind I can hear Louis Armstrong singing “What a Wonderful World.” Then a leg falls off of my table.

Now that I’ve cheered everyone up, I’m going back to my bunk. At the moment I’m virtually useless and there’s no point in infecting the rest of the work crew with this nasty bug. As the thin light of a stormy morning reveals the low scudding clouds I ruminate with a mug of hot chocolate in hand. I think of good things.

A week earlier, before a previous storm. Looking across the Strait of Georgia to Desolation Sound. Calm and pleasantly warm.

North to Alaska. it is much nicer meeting these guys here than in a narrow, fog-bound channel of the Inside Passage. The smoke in the distance is from the paper mill in Powell River. It is an excellent wind indicator. Mittlenatch and Savary Islands are behind the tug.

Godsmile! I soon found out why she was looking so content.

This is why! These photos were taken while delivering a boat from Campbell River. An hour later we were running for shelter. I stood hand-steering in an open cockpit with a bitter cold wind and driving rain with only two hours to go. It’s all about the romance of the sea.

Never look back! I had right-of-way but this fish boat held it’s heading although we were on a collision course. Some things never change, world over. Never trust the other guy to play by the rules. The squall has just passed ahead of us.

I’m not in Shearwater anymore.

I have roads to drive away upon in any direction.

My wife, and my dog, are only a short drive to the south.

There are times when I would have had to work no matter how sick.

I’m free to write nearly anything I want without fear of any kind of persecution.

I am aboard a wonderful boat which I can untie and go anywhere in the world.

I’m not in Shearwater anymore.

The table was easy to fix.

The leaning shed of Fred.
One of my projects, more storage on the docks. It is built on a narrow raft and we have a small shed stability problem.

After the storm, low snow for mid-October.

In the evening the weather has advanced to a full gale. I sit inside beneath the shuddering mast listening to the screeching wind. I write placidly, while safe, warm and dry, recently-fed and still able to dream about a future. Who could ask for more? Someone to love, something to do, something to look forward too; while doing no harm. There is nothing more.

The sea is the last free place on earth.”… Humphrey Bogart

A Blog About Nothing And Everything

Harvest moon rising through the rigging. Silence, only crickets chirping.

06:30. It’s still dark out there. There is fresh snow on the mountains. An e-mail from Jill tells me she has arrived safely in France. So the setting this morning is cold, dark and lonely. The heater is on in the boat. Tomorrow is the last day of summer. The intense heat of two weeks ago is already forgotten. We’ve had no earthquakes or hurricanes here and I’m sure there are many who would trade places with me. So, no complaining, just explaining.

Summer is clearly over.

On the beach. A vicious early-autumn squall tested every boat’s ground tackle. This one failed.

Help arrives.

A week later, I’m taking a day off. I’m totally exhausted and have taken to the decadence of sleeping in until mid-morning, like normal people. I go back for a nap after brunch and sleep again despite the sounds of a busy marina all around me. I’m missing Jill, and Jack and have plenty of chores here on the boat to accomplish. Mornings now bring a blast of cold air descending from the glacier. Winter seems to be advancing aggressively. Through the efforts of a friend I’ve been reconnected with a lost friend who bought my last boat, ‘Pax.’ That cheers me immensely and there will be a reunion in the weeks ahead.

PAX, my beloved former boat. Dan, the current owner strolls her decks. Late-breaking news is that Dan has just had emergency bypass surgery. He has my most urgent best wishes. Don’t ever take the day, or even the moment, for granted.
Photo by Byron Robb.

They keep on coming! Billions of them. Herring are the datum of our fish stocks, They eat little fish then are eaten by bigger fish and so on. I wish we would stop the spring herring roe fishery for a couple of years to see what happens to the rest of our fish populations.

A flash of herring. Millions swarm beneath the docks.

Moon Jellyfish by the billion. Salmon fingerlings, baby eels, and perch crowd beneath the docks.

 

 

A mid-afternoon fog lingers beneath the Comox Glacier

Waiting it out. the fog slowly dissipates late in the day. Mount Arrowsmith in the distance.

The world staggers under the aftermath of various disasters, both natural and man-made.Friends on their boat in Saint Lucia managed to survive the path of wrath of bumper to bumper Caribbean hurricanes and have sent out an appeal for Dominica. This island is an agriculture-based economy and it has lost both 90% of it’s infrastructure and housing as well as it’s crops. It is not getting much notice. The rest of the Caribbean is in dire straits and the gringo tourist haunts will surely receive prime attention. Southern Mexico has been devastated with two major earthquakes. Resourceful and energetic, the country will look after itself although nations like Japan have provided rescue assistance crews without notice or fanfare. In contrast there is a marauding global low named Trump which meanders erratically on the planet trying to foment disaster and dread, including nuclear war. How I ache to hear the nation say, “Donald, you’re fired!” Every newscast is loaded with fresh accounts about millions of refuges whom nobody wants to help. The planet swarms with human tragedy, the dark news of which we use as entertainment. And sorry Donny Boy, it is REAL news.

Sea Lions on the Cape Lazo buoy. Notice how the big guy gets the level spot in the middle.

Say no more!

I agree. This grumpy old mechanic has asked, “Mister, if you know so much about it, why’d you hire me?” Testosterone and wrenches are a bad mix.

I live in a very nice place where there is not really much to worry about. It is an area where one missing baby whale is a headline story. We tend to forget that here we are all a privileged few. I can’t imagine trading places with any of the millions who cannot take even the next meal for granted, let alone clean water, ready medical support or even walking to school without being shot at. Thanksgiving in Canada is here and it is not about any sale at the mall. As I proof-read this blog I blanched to read my words now in the wake of events in Las Vegas. While I browsed various news stories online I tripped over an ad for the current film “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.’ The abuse of weapons is an ongoing theme of entertainment. There’s something very seriously wrong with our culture and it is not all those guns out there. They’re just a symptom of a grave illness. I’m glad I have a boat.

The swimming raft abandoned. Mid day in Deep Bay. The Chrome Island fog horn sounded in the distance.

It has been quite a year. There has plenty to write about. At the moment we’re hove-to and speculating what the next adventure will be. As usual, old ‘Seafire’ is tugging at her lines, ready to head out. In a few more weeks, when the winter wind is howling in the rigging and the rain is driving horizontally, it’ll be time to move on southward, like the birds.

“Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.” Not a sight to warm you heart, summer is coming to an end.

Going down in flames. A southbound flight catches the evening light.

…only then did he understand that a man knows when he is growing old because he begins to look like his father.” …from ‘Love In the Time Of Cholera’ Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Beyond The Smoke

(Note: All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them. In this blog, all images were taken with my cell phone.)

Skyfish. I’ll let you figure it out.

Last blog found me apologizing for the dull content I was producing. Well, isn’t it interesting how mundane drama can punctuate routine? And Oh Lord, how i hate routine! It does not have to be an international crisis, any little bump in the road will do. I bought a used Ford truck earlier this year from friends whom I trust. I know I have a way of stumbling into bad luck but “Geez Louise!” Other friends have raved about their Ford trucks and I was confident I’d done something right this time.

My truck is one of the nicest vehicles I’ve ever owned. It drives nicely, looks good, is easier on fuel than my previous small SUV and pulls and stops my little trailer with ease. I’ve been upgrading it a bit and preparing for a driving trip southwards this winter. Then began a intermittent herky-jerky idling issue. OK, I’m a mechanic. I did my homework, poked about a bit and decided the issue was with something called VCT solenoids. I could easily deal with the job myself although unfamiliar with this particular engine. I believed that it would take less than an hour to put things right.

Pushing rope. Towing a broken-down charter boat to safety. Just as I snapped this frame, the tow rope shifted on the overhead tow bit. Note the crack-the-whip bight in the towl line.

I’m “Old School” and well aware of the fact. I’m reluctant to mess with modern hi-tech computerized engines because I don’t fully understand how they work and I do not possess the computers I need to diagnose and adjust them. I may be a mechanic, but I’m no motor head. My reasons to exist have nothing to do with knowing the latest in automotive technology. For me, a ride is just a ride. My ego is not influenced by the way my camshaft is ground.

Manshadow photographing bicycle in morning light. Life moves slowly for some folks.

When all my parts finally arrived I dove in under the hood. There is an external seal around these solenoids which sit in a pocket in a valve cover on either side of the engine. My new seals looked slightly larger. I assured myself that it was only my imagination and removed one seal. Damn! They were different and I assumed I’d acquired the wrong parts. Then I learned the rest of the story. The Ford dealer was soon able to determine that the factory had “upgraded” the valve covers at the time the truck was built. With the new, smaller seals much of the top of the motor has to be disassembled so the valve covers can then be removed in order to change the solenoids. Air conditioning lines, along with various sections of plumbing and wiring need to be disconnected and stripped off to achieve this. A forty-five minute job has become eight hours.

Having no choice but to proceed I left the project in the hands of a local repair shop whom I trust. Fortunately I’d conceded the matter before I’d starting disassembling anything. Mechanics absolutely hate someone bringing in a job that they’ve already messed with. I certainly do. Because of extreme corrosion (due to road salt damage) the bolts holding the valve covers had broken. That’s a misery at any time. Theses bits were only available as part of a kit which includes new valve covers. Then, also due to corrosion, even the transmission dipstick has broken. So much for Ford’s “Better Idea.”

I’m amazed at how calmly I’m taking all this but I’ve learned that foaming at the mouth accomplishes nothing. I’m becoming an old fart and have learned that everything passes. It does seem to be a classic tale of two conjoined events, Sod’em and Go for more. Haar! I think of the clanky-bangy $4500. Nissan truck with which I dragged a trailer to Mexico and back. I believe I’m inclined toward Japanese vehicles from now on. In actual fact, everything on the road is over-priced junk and while they are bliss when running properly, the costs to buy and operate a vehicle are stunning. All that money which should be going into ‘Seafire. The cost of this one repair (almost $1800.) is much more than I’ve paid for many vehicles in the past.

Manyberry season. Despite the dry summer, we have a bumper crop of succulent blackberries. These vines have enveloped a cherry tree.

So, language. We understand that language is the foundation of culture. We also understand that the English language is corrupted with many Americanisms. That’s understandable due to the overwhelming global influence of the US. See, I’ve just used one. Abbreviations are increasingly popular to the point that sometimes I don’t know what the hell folks are saying. As I write, my radio is on and I am intrigued at how careless radio announcers are with language. There was a story just aired about a school which will not permit children to bring sugary drinks to class. The announcer said, “From now on students will only be allowed to drink water.” What, no studying? I think the statement should have been “From now on all that students will be allowed to drink in school is water.” Yeah, yeah, I know we know what she meant but my point is that every word and combination thereof actually means something specific. Anything else is babble. Say what you mean, mean what you say. And don’t, like, LOL get me going on slang and texting. OMG! I mean yeah no because like I totally do. Whatever dude! Shaddup! Good clear communication is the art of saying as much as possible with as few words as possible. That’s what makes for good writing. Flowery digressions are not what people want to read; even when you’re writing about flowers.

The public piano. This sits on the waterfront in Comox. Some folks, like this woman, play it very well.

When I was in school penmanship was an important class. Not only was legible handwriting import, but spelling, grammar and formatting a letter were all part of a basic regimen. I enjoyed exchanging letters. There were always distant relatives to share news with as well as “Pen pals.” Blogging, I suppose, is an extension of that lost art. Nearly every exchange of information is now done with a bleep and an emoji. We descend toward gibberish. Perhaps one day we’ll all speak dog. Being “Barking mad” will have new meaning and I’m not looking forward to the bum-sniffing.

Happiness times five. Dog spoken here. A Comox parking lot moment.

Ziggy. The boss’s dog. He’s a beauty and dignified too. Not just the dog!

Jack surveys part of his kingdom. This photo is looking northwest toward Comox and Cape Lazo. We’re on top of a mountainous coal pile that extends fro many acres. It was once part of a coal-loading terminal. Imagine the foreshore being ringed with full-rigged sailing ships.

On a final note about communication, I’ve just heard from my friends who are in the Caribbean with their boat. They’re fine and that’s a relief. I thank them. I’m intrigued at the coverage of Hurricanes Hugo and Irma balanced against that about the massive earthquake in Mexico. Both disasters are horrific and incomprehensible but it seems however that there is not a lot of interest in the aftermath of the events in Mexico. I cheered to learn how Mexico has withdrawn it’s offer of aid to Texas in response to Trump’s lack of reciprocal interest. Mexico was not asking for help, it just wanted the minimal dignity and support of recognition. You don’t insult Latinos. I’m told that the most popular pinata in Latin American these days is an effigy of Donald. Apparently, when you finally get one broken open, there’s nothing inside. Much gusto!

When wild roses go bad. I’d like to learn what this sort of blight is called.

Here on the coastline of BC, where we’re once again reminded that we sit in a paradise on top of a major earthquake fault, we luxuriate in the last sultry days of summer. For the moment, we are safe from the misery out there beyond the smoke. But any minute now…

Sunup once again.

I like to think of myself as a natural disaster. If you really piss me off, naturally there will be a disaster.”         … anonymous

They’re Gone

The last bird? A beautifully made Purple Martin condo on the dock in Comox.
It’ll be empty until next May. Time share?

 First things first. Last blog I described a plant as being a zucchini when in fact, as I have been corrected, it was an English Cucumber. I’m glad I didn’t try to name it something like a Nigerian Horse Radish. No fake news here! Around the docks on Southern Vancouver Island, folks build bird houses for Purple Martins. The birds arrive in the spring with their chittering calls. They swoop and dive and gobble up tons of insects which are then bombed onto the shiny yachts moored below. Some people gripe about the tiny blobs of potential bug bites on their boats but I’m quite happy to pay that small price for the presence of these happy and colourful birds.

They raise their chicks until they are peeking out from the bird houses. Their fluffy demanding offspring can’t seem to ever be fed enough. Once they are big enough to survey the world outside, it is only a matter of days until all the birds are gone for the year. Yesterday their thunderous absence rang out. They’re gone. South. There must come a moment when some sage old martin says “Right squadrons, it’s time to go. Now!” and off they all fly. Now the crickets and their tireless concert will chirp on night and day until the first heavy frost. Some swallows remain for the time being but the Martin houses are empty. One day soon, there will be a sad quietude. The swallows will be gone too.

Creatures know. Birds know when to leave on their migrations and they know where to go. Jack the dog, on the morning of the recent eclipse, went and hid in a closet, a place he never goes otherwise. People have those same instincts and intellects. We’ve simply buried them in our mad rush to do abstract things. Being in touch with our planet and it’s driving forces has lost value in our primal sensibility. That’s why for example, you’ll see a young mother, head-down texting, pushing her progeny in a stroller out into hurtling traffic. Apparently, in recent years, global pedestrian fatalities have soared due simply to people texting.

Summer is roaring by as I work for and with a fine bunch of people. The days pass quickly maintaining and preparing a fleet of yachts for the next round of charter customers. Most are lovely people as well they should be; they’re on vacation. Then there are others. I’ll simply say that the couple who own this business possess a courage and graciousness which I do not. The weeks go by in a blur. Repairing boats, inspecting them, delivering them and sometimes charging across the strait when they break down while on charter can all be in a day’s demands. There are few dull moments. I go home to Ladysmith for two days each week and sleep the whole time away. I feel old. I am having serious doubts about ever getting out and southbound on the open ocean. That, of course, is what this blog is all about. How I try to be like people who can simply relax in the moment and squeeze it like a sponge until every possible drop of life has been tasted. Working for tomorrow while folks around you are on vacation at the moment is torture.

The wake. Navigating in smoke.

Every morning begins with a huge flock of honking Canada Geese flying by low overhead. These airborne thugs practise a few circuits just over the mast heads like boys on motorcycles demanding attention. Then there is quiet again, but now it’s time to get up. Perhaps they are practising for a southward migration, deciding who will go and who must stay for the winter. It used to be an uplifting song to me, the ultimate Canadian anthem of travel, freedom, vast distance and self-determination. Now I curse these braying, flapping creatures with their bomb loads of greasy green excrement. When I was a child there was grave concern about these birds becoming extinct. They’re now the bane of parks, schoolyards and waterfront areas everywhere. The flocks which live along the shoreline are apparently barely edible. They taste strongly of their inter-tidal diet. But these grey flapper are certainly excellent organic alarm clocks.

Now THAT’S a lawn ornament! This is part of the ‘Welcome to the Comox Valley’ display. In 1967 as a young air cadet, I brown-nosed a ride in a Tutor trainer when our national aerobatic team was known as the “Golden
Cennetaires ” Yep, now long-known as the “Snowbirds,” their aircraft are that old.

My wife Jill is a voracious reader and I often read books she has  finished with. I found one book was very dull and she agreed, saying that she was not able to finish it. She declared that “Life is too short to waste reading boring books.” Perhaps writing dull blogs is part of that mantra. In my recent experiences there have been no explosions, leaping whales or exciting intrigues.’Seafire’ remains tied to the dock, a floating apartment, while I work on all the other boats around me. I’ll have to stir the pot and see what I can scrape off the bottom. I’m shrinking from my efforts here perhaps in response to some of the nonsense I hear on the radio. I think I’m writing about nothing! How a resource-rich country like Canada should be paying exorbitant spiralling fuel prices is stunning. That we push back with only a few mumbles is incredible. I’m sorry about the weather tragedy in Texas but there is no way it truly affects us. We happily live like chicken farmers who go to town to buy eggs and accept whatever we’re told, even that the recent solar eclipse is also reason to jack up the price of petroleum. Huh?

So what did Ethanol do wrong? Her sister’s still around! This pump is at the fuel dock in Refuge Cove where in summer, you should be content with whatever flavour of gas is available. The meters show quantity in litres, not price.

Speaking of things Fort McMoney, I am not aware of reciprocal interest this year from those people who accepted global help to prevent them all from being barbequed last year. Perhaps there is some concern and help from them. I’m not aware of it. As wildfires ravage British Columbia this year I do hear the media describe a “Drought” we are suffering. C’mon! We’re paying the price for decades of gross forest mismanagement. It is a normal hot, dry summer. Thazzit! A drought is when the streams and lakes dry up, crops and livestock wither and die, folks can’t find any water even to drink. All the car-washes are still operating. Life goes on, shiney as ever, even with the high price of fuel.

Today on our walk Jack and I met two gorgeous dogs, recently rescued from Iran. They had both been mutilated. Apparently some fundamentalists see dogs as unclean and fair game for torture and mistreatment even though the Koran demands that all of God’s creatures be respected, especially those which by nature live in families. Fundamentalists, whether Christian or Muslim, don’t need to dig deep to find excuses for heinous behaviour. We’ve all been at it for millenniums. For the record, I believe that dogs are one of man’s highest achievements. If you don’t like dogs, you probably don’t get along well with people either.

Jack enjoying the “drought.” Seriously, our fresh water levels are at their seasonal normal.

Labour day is now past. Once again the air is filled with smoke from numerous intense forest fires burning in the interior. We’re caught in one last coastal summer high pressure ridge. It doesn’t seem so long ago that folks were fed up with the long, damp, cool spring. Soon enough again we will forget these last warm days of summer. Let’s enjoy them while they last.

By the way, the swallows have now all departed.A t the end of the workday today, six southbound Sandhill Cranes flew low overhead trumpeting their unmistakeable call. They’re a month early. Whatever that mean’s.

Wild rosehips galore. Plump and plentiful, a sign to many that we will indeed have an early, long and harsh winter.

Blood sunrise, sailor beware! another day begins under a thick pall of smoke.

As the day advanced, the smoke settled until the mountains were lost from sight. This photo is of Deep Bay on Vancouver Island at 3 pm today.

I’m not nearly as afraid of dying as I am of not living.” …Old Fred the sailor.

The Wharfinger’s Zuchinni

“Just walk on by and take that floppy-eared, skinny-flippered creature with you. Jack is fascinated with the temerity of these seals.

Suddenly the evenings are noticeably shorter; and cooler. The morning light comes a little later each day. A few days ago we had a lovely warm rain. After our dry smokey weather it felt grand. That is despite all the wetness of Shearwater which I’ve sworn I was so fed up with. The crickets chirped on through the downpour just as they do now that it has dried again. Suddenly we’re in mid-summer. There is a mild sense of the distant yet approaching winter. We savour the beauty of each day, and it’s fading flowers, knowing nothing is forever. Part of the fascination is knowing how fleeting the moment is.

On the morning tide. This derelict, capsized sloop was towed in to the boat ramp during the night. It was later dragged ashore and put on a trailer. Hopefully it will sail again some day.

Drifting and dreaming. a long passage northward with smoke obscuring the horizon.I passed this beautiful boat while delivering another vessel to a shipyard in Campbell River.

The Dream. A soft focus image to portray the sense of glassy water and low visibility.

Crossing The Bar. Northbound from Comox requires a circuitous route across a shallow bar and around Cape Lazo. There’s a sailboat ahead on the starboard bow.

Fishing for pinks. It is a time of harvest and bounty. Coho salmon are spawning and provide feisty sport for fly fishermen. They’re out there in their chest waders from first light to last.

Crows in a weeping willow. Their dry rasping calls are an anthem of midsummer.

Look up. A view from my table in the pub.

Ah summer! The Blackfin Pub in Comox has an amazing panoramic view.

There is an abundance of fresh produce. Even the wharfinger’s flower box has a tumbling wealth of vegetables. The tomatoes are ripening and the zuchinni is ready. Happily adopting the lazy spirit of the season I’m posting this blog as a photo essay. See you at the beach. I’ll be under the Corona umbrella.

The Wharfinger’s Zuchinni

Coming down. What better way to chill out in the evening than a flight in a home-built Sopwith Camel replica?

Jack and Fred row back from the beach. Jill took this shot of us returning from our dawn patrol.

Jack and Jill on the beach at low tide.

Jack’s Bliss. A tidal pool is all he needs for day-long self amusement.

I can’t get enough. the views on the sandy northern tip of Denman Island amaze me.

Beach Apples
This old apple tree, rooted in sand, manages to still bear fruit!

 “A little bit of summer is what the whole year is all about.”
John Mayer