Smokin’ Hot

Summer of the red sun

At first light the air was cool, pure and sweet. There was a brown pall over Vancouver. I assumed it was smog. By mid-morning a high, thick overcast covered the sky. One could smell smoke. The gloom was cast out from the forest fires burning in the interior of the province. Late afternoon was airless, the sun’s heat was fantastic and oppressive. I recalled cruel children cremating live insects under a magnifying glass. For a moment I felt a sense of smallness. I recalled when, as a young man working in the woods, I would be summoned to fight forest fires. The incredible heat, the smoke, the ash, the spark-laden dust, the long days, the weariness and thirst, the harsh din of machinery I drove, snatched moments of dreamless sleep during the dark hours and the fatigue in rising at first light to do it all over again. I feel that fatigue now but it is because I’m older and perhaps because I worked too hard when I was younger.

Night after night, the same smokey red sunsets.

Comox Glacier.
Before the smoke. Somehow the sight of all that snow and ice has a cooling effect.

The same view with smoke. The bird is a purple martin.

I’m on my first time-off from my new job. I’ve commuted home for two days from Comox and don’t feel at all like going back to work. I’ll return in a few hours so I’ll be there in the morning. In my younger years I’d just get up earlier and put in a full day once I arrived. My doctor shakes his head at my determination to keep on chasing an income despite his advise otherwise. Poverty is a hard master. You don’t hang up your debts, or dreams, just because you’ve reached a certain age. I drive north squinting into a copper sun. A fire has broken out up-island near Nimpkish Lake and the smoke mixes with the general funk already filling the sky. I can smell and taste it. It is only the first of August and we could have three months of volatile fire season ahead. We were all dismayed at the long wet winter and spring, it seemed that it had been wet and miserable forever. That seems a distant memory now.

The summer wears on. At 0:600 this the morning the thermometer reads 17 degrees. It feels chilly! The forecast temperature will double later today. In Mexico this weather is what a person goes to enjoy. Working in it at home is an entirely different situation. In the afternoon the sound of singing and chanting carried in from the bay. Eventually over two dozen native canoes passed up into the mouth of the Courtenay River. It was part of an annual event called ‘Tribal Journeys’. Canoes from Puget Sound and southern regions are making their way north in an armada that may have up to 2500 participants. It looked like thirsty work, all that paddling and chanting and drumming. I found the sight and sound of it all quite uplifting. I hope the builders and paddlers of the canoes find empowerment and pride in their grand adventure.

A haunting sight and sound of a native canoe filled with chanting paddlers.

Coastal cruising the old way

Honest Joe’s Used Canoes
Part of the armada lines the shoreline, in the background there was drumming and singing..

Team work.
Finding the log, building the canoe, paddling it… no place for personal ego.

Old Copper Eye
Nobody’s average garden gnome

Two days later, before the sun had risen, in the smokey first light, songs and chants carried across the water. Silhouettes of the canoe flotilla appeared and then faded into the blur of dawn as their journey northward continued.

How’d he get that boat up there? An iconic Comox waterfront novelty for decades, the owner, builder, designer and resident of this boat lives a simple lifestyle in the face of modern sensibilities.

The Fugitive. Note the name of the boat beneath the questing contrails overhead.

Edgar?
For a moment it seemed that perhaps the totem eagle from Shearwater had found me.

Dog patch dawn. Ladysmith.
Smokey sunrises are part of life on the island…for the moment.

A dog day dawn. Another hot day ahead on the docks in Comox.

The Race. Sailing school on a perfect afternoon before the smoke came.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

John Lubbock, The Use Of Life

A Plague Of Doves

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

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

“Feeling nearly faded as my jeans.” My favourite mural in Chemainus, the lovely little town just south of Ladysmith.

ODIKA! Jill waits for what proved to be an excellent birthday dinner. If ever in Chemainus, this a fantastic restaurant. Lovely people, fantastic food.

Chemainus hydrant patrol. A joy of sidewalk tables is meeting the locals.

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

In the teeth of a Qualicum. The wind blows strong and steady but there are no large seas because you’re sailing in the lee of the windward shore. It’s bliss!

Chaos below. I had not stowed anything because an hour earlier the wind was coming the opposite way and everything was happy in it’s place. No worries mate!

Chrome Island coming up like the clappers.

Chrome Island.
Anchored in the lee. The current kept the stern into the strong wind. Look at my flag.There was a whole lot of bobbing going on.

Rocks and cormorants on Chrome Island.

A peek at the edge of the keeper’s beautiful gardens and where I think some of the petroglyphs are.

Chrome Island looking back. The light was perfect and it never waits until tomorrow.

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

The light drew me on.

Smoke, mountains, low light.

The end of the world… over there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bow of the ‘Riverdale’
This sprit has been shortened by forty or fifty feet. Imagine some young, barefoot seaman sitting out there watching the dolphins swimming beneath the bow in the seas foaming past.

Looking into the foc’sle. Check out the deck planking and how it has stood up to the years compared to the steel deck beams.

The bones of the ‘Melanope’ That’s the stern section in the background. A very big sailboat!

Bow detail. Note the riveted hull plates. Welding a ship together was yet to come. There were times when this hull crossed the open ocean heeled over much like this.

The mizzen was missin’.
This is the aft mast, or mizzen. It would have been cut off when the vessels was decommissioned to live out her days as a barge. The mast was rolled and riveted, then reinforced with more steel inside. How’d they do that? NO COMPUTERS! Did some poor bugger have to crawl inside the mast? There’s a belaying pin rusted in it’s rail. Running rigging would be “belayed” to it.

Chain pipes. Where the anchor chains passed out from the lockers. They were set low to prevent fouling the bob stay forward. Chafe marks are visible in the forward pipe.

The Jackstaff. This swivelling cast steel arm was used to “cat” the anchors, securing them up for the voyage. Note the arced rusted-out marks where the anchor must have chaffed on the hull plates. The huge forward-facing socket was where the massive bowsprit was bedded home. Also see the massive turnbuckle thimble above the sprit bas. It was used to harden a forestay. This was an immigrant ship and all those who sailed on her have passed on. It is very humbling.

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

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

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

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

It seems worth staying for a while.

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

…Bernhard Schlink ‘The Reader’

Ride The Tide

Ride The Tide

( When I posted the last blog, the cyber gods decided to reformat it while whizzing out through the sky from Port Hardy. All the content is there, it was just reorganized. I decided not to tear it apart and put it back together again my way. If an idea has been reinforced for me at Shearwater it is that when something works, don’t mess with it.)

Seine Boat Sunday Morning, Port Hardy

We left God’s Pocket with a forecast of gale force winds to help blow us homeward. That kept the sport fishing boats in the lee of the northwest point of Hardy Bay. As usual they tacked and swerved and wandered unpredictably with little sense of seamanship or right of way. We picked our way through the mob and set a course into the harbour of Port Hardy. I was standing on the starboard locker of the cockpit leaning up over the aft cabin bulkhead to keep a good lookout for more fishing boats. I woke up with the gentle swishing, crunching noise of clam shells and mud under the keel. Yep, goddamnit! Even old salts do it and a big finger to any armchair admiral who wants to say something sarcastic. At least I’ve admitted it and there was no damage done except to my pride. That, of course, was due entirely to luck and no good management.

Now to properly run aground you must do it in broad daylight, on the wrong side of a light, in the middle of a harbour you know well; and of course, on a falling tide. So I screwed that up too. It was a rising tide. We floated off and backed away as gently as we had arrived. I can tell you how hard it is to steer when you are my weight but only three inches tall! It’s healthy to laugh at yourself and it’s good to be reminded of how easy it is to screw up. For once I got off easy. No drama at all! Many marine incidents occur because somebody fell asleep at the helm. Yes, you can take that as a metaphor.

Mornin’ Big Daddy! Waking up and looking out found this monster bow looming over us. It arrived quietly in the night. “Spare a cup of sugar?”

Alert Bay, the old shipyard. Note the totem poles in the background.

“Could you show us your regulation stern light?”
Traffic in Blackney Sound. In the morning we were in Port Harvey, the ‘Crystal Serenity’ was in Vancouver.

The dreamer. At the top of Johnstone Strait and heading north. Safely out of the way before the cruise ship came around the corner.

Whale Watcher’s shack. High on a bluff across from Robson Bight, university students have spent their summers here for decades studying Orca whales.

The gale warning was still up next day. We headed south in the late morning and arrived in Port Harvey, well down Johnstone Strait, in seven hours. That’s an excellent passage of fifty miles, our ground speed topped over ten knots at times. Then while dropping the anchor, the entire windlass electrical system quit. . , out went the chain, with only old Armstrong hisself to hoy it back aboard. A puzzler to troubleshoot, I slept on it. There was power in all the right places, but not enough to turn the windlass motor. Eventually I found a bad connection that had heated enough to melt some plastic which in turn rendered the continuity too low to work. My incentive was that 150′ of chain, plus a forty-five pound anchor to be humped back aboard by hand. The problem with repairing your own boat is that there’s nobody else to blame and no-one else to do it for you. Self-sufficiency, I say it again, is the mantra of a successful mariner.

Native pictographs in Port Harvey. I see five canoes, but maybe it’s the place of many smiles.

Downtown Port Neville. Here are three visiting boats taking up the space for six. Yep, I pointed it out to the owners. I know; there are several names for guys like me.

The old Port Neville store

I sneaked a peek through a dirty old window. The sight took me back to my childhood when the farmhouse kitchen was where folks visited. I could smell wood smoke, spilled milk, fresh baking and coffee.

Clever corners. The logs are square-hewn with a broad axe, the dove tail corners are cut so that all angles shed water.

The old homestead

A gate swinging in the wind. Imagine what it has known.

The oil shed. A relic of days gone forever.

Early morning walks in the dark and driving rain form the house to the barn. A recent carved sign by the barn door says “Man Cave”

After repairs in the morning, we travelled the short distance down Johnstone Strait to Port Neville. The wind forecast was correct. It blew like hell and the tide runs furiously there. I was plenty happy to have a fully functional windlass and let out as much chain as I wanted. There is a long inlet behind the famous old store and docks. It would be worth taking a few days to explore. There are some great petroglyphs in the area which will take some time to find and so I will return. It’s fun to discover the wonders of a place which you’ve been passing and ignoring for over thirty years.

The old swimmin’ hole
This backwater warms up nicely as the tide floods in on a summer afternoon. You could almost hear children laughing.

Now you’re logging! A raft, a gas motor, a two-drum winch, some cable, an axe, a saw and a jack makes a full one-man logging company. Men were men back then, and some lived to talk about it!

Gears, slightly used. It’s been a long time since these gears were cast and cut in England.

The water rushing by. Tidal stream beneath the dinghy where it’s lashed alongside ‘Seafire.’

A midden. This monstrous terraced pile of clam shells inspires me to go back to Port Neville and spend time poking around. Middens are sites where native disposed of their garage, mostly clam shells. Imagine what else must be in there!

How old?

Today we travelled from Port Neville, left Johnstone Strait and managed to transit five sets of notorious rapids. Yes five. Employing some old tug-boaters tricks we transitted The Wellbore Rapids, Greene Point, Dent, Gillard and finally the Yuculta Rapids. Now we are a few miles from the northern portion of Georgia Strait which is home waters. I want to stretch this voyage as long as possible. I’ve made the entire jaunt previously in seven days. On this trip, today is our eleventh and I’d as soon stay out for the entire month. We’ll wander southward and see where we end up. There’s always a chance of getting lost in a fog.

There is nothing so uplifting as a visit from dolphins. How wonderful it must be to swim like that.

The wave-off.
Humpback whales perfecting their routine.

West coast sailing, you never know what’s coming next.

Bye, bye y’all.

“Whales? Wot whales?
Oh just Humpbacks, no Orcas, no worries.”

More pictographs, the Gorge, Cortes Island.

The ‘Romano’
A tired old North Sea side trawler and…someone’s tired old dream

Another lost dream, but… she’s still afloat.

We found a tiny ledge to set the anchor on the edge of Whiterock Passage. In the morning we headed south again and were soontreated to the fabulous display of two humpback whales at play,,,or whatever it is they’re doing when they leap out of the water and crash down in an explosive, booming welter of spray. It is always an incredible sight even when too far away to photograph but we got close enough for a fine round of fluke waving. We stopped in Whaletown on Cortes Island, then toured the gorge in Gorge harbour and finally anchored for the night by the docks at beautiful Mansons Landing on Cortes. I’ve been aching for years to photograph a petroglyph a ways down the beach from here so off I scooted in the dinghy knowing full well I’d never it. By an incredible stroke of luck the sun broke through the overcast just as I looked up at this particular boulder and there it was! Shadows revealed the etching in the boulder which is monstrous, about 4 metres long, the carving was made as high as a man can reach. What I find stunning is that the rock is solid blue granite, the kind of incredibly hard rock with sparkly bits of glinting mica. However did they do it? What tools did they use and how long would it have taken? I’m guessing it is a talisman to summon spawning salmon but what does this white man know? We also discovered that Cortes Island has it’s own co-op radio station which plays some fabulous music in the afternoons and evenings. KPLZ 89.5 or online as Cortes Radio.ca from Cortes Island, “Where everybody has something to hide.” You’ve got to love that!

Whaletown Cortes Island
Post Office

Whaletown Library

The Kirk

Whaletown Harbour

Jill shots the photographer

Twin-engine double-ama dinghy. I know better than to laugh, it’s probably been to Hawaii and back.

Manson’s Landing Jetty.
A scene from days past, a boat on a grid, a telephone booth.

It actually works!

Manson’s shellfish lagoon at low tide.
They’re safe to eat!

The stile, lagoon, Manson’s Landing

A cultural beach marker,
Cortes Island.

A work of love. The top of the fish is a high as I could reach to work. I’ve been wanting find this one for over twenty-five years,

The following morning brought light winds, then a breeze right on the nose, but we motor-sailed the long grind down to Jedediah Island. This place, for me, is the centre of my universe. I spent two years helping to fight to save this fabulous island as a natural park from the provincial brownshirts. We won, and the island retains it’s magic and wildness, but that’s another story. If, when the time comes, there’s enough of me left to burn, I want my ashes spread from from Gibraltar Rock, the peak of Jedediah.

Sabine Channel, southbound. Texada Island on the port side, as big as some countries.

Jill in the fields of Jedediah once again

Find the deer.

Will’s Grave
Gone 14 years, he’s still honoured.

Run! It’s another one. Feral sheep in the old orchard on Jedediah.

Apple Bandit. I used to feed these apples to Will.

Never Give Up.
This old Juniper still clings to life on the edge of Home Bay, Jedediah

Friday morning dawns clear, calm and perfect. I don’t want to leave this place but another life calls, or should I say, demands. It has been two weeks since we flew to Vancouver to begin this tiny odyssey. Of course, it seems like two days. We drop the hook in Nanaimo’s Departure Bay a few hours later. On Saturday, the fifteenth, we arrive at the Maritime Society docks and are greeted by old friends with hugs and welcomes. So ends a chapter of my life spent aboard Seafire. I sit dozing in my easy chair listening to the sirens and Harleys Davidsons buzzing along the highway. How will the next chapter go?

Shack Island, Nanaimo.
These were subsistence homes built during the depression of the 1930s. Passed down through generations they are a cherished local landmark.

Some newcomers want the old homes torn down,. They say they are an ‘Eyesore’ and want them gone. Hmmmm. Tear what down?

That’s us in the middle.
A view from a friend’s home on Departure Bay, Nanaimo.
Sirens, ferry horns, motorcycles. Let’s just check the mail and…

A thousand words.

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

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

Somewhere there’s a tiny tractor.

Texture, texture, texture.

Dah dit dah dah dit dit

Even the trailside privy was a work of art.

Time to go. Looking due east to Fitzhugh Sound. Six miles of seaplane runway. Why RCAF seaplane base Shearwater was not built here instead leaves one pondering military intelligence.

There be monsters in these deeps.

Humpbacks galore.

A bubble net brigade. A humbling experience for the spectator.

Scarlett Point Light Station. what a great job…if it weren’t for all that damned grass to mow. Safe in off Queen Charlotte Sound.

God’s Pocket

Supper for poor sailorfolk

God’s Pocket

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

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

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

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

There are no public docks in Pruth Bay. All the facilities belong to the Hakaii Research Institute, developed in the facilities of a former fishing lodge. This sexy-to-someone boat looked out of place to me.

So did this one. Note some of the crew standing on the drop-down transom, with the deck chairs. She’s flying a Danish ensign.

The Hakaii Institute.
A very tidy operation. They very graciously allow access to the beaches via a lovely path and even provide wifi.

There are five broad, sweeping, stunning beaches of fine white sand. When dry it squeaks underfoot. I’ve previously posted photos of the vistas here during a visit last year. This time I focused on details.

Dense rainforest grows on solid rock right o the edge of the sand and sea.

It was one of those days when there was a photo everywhere.

A portal to the other side.

Never look back, or you shall have to return.

Lovely, but too bloody cold for swimming

The darting, sprinting shorebirds are always fascinating.

Deer tracks in the shifting sand.

The beach dunes are held with flowers, sedges and grass.

I could have taken photos until last light.

See what I mean?

Everything seems sculpted and carefully arranged.

Use sun screen.

Stranded

Sand script

CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE

All To Ourselves

This boat left soon after we arrived.

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

It was all ours! But we planted no flags.

Jill sets out to explore.

So do I.

Life is tenacious, even in solid rock.

Flowers too, if you take the time to look.

Fresh wolf tracks in the sand

The tracks led to this well-used trail.

One is left with a sense of how life always was.

The forest is primal, mysterious, forbidding and inviting all at once. I had a sense of being watched.

There are many beaches to explore.

I found wolf tracks nearly everywhere.

A delightful bay, one of many.

Wildflowers grew in profusion.

This is a part of Canada few get to see.

A net float from Japan. Sadly there is plastic everywhere. I recently heard a marine biologist claim that soon the increasing tonnage of plastic waste in the world’s oceans may outweigh the remaining fish stocks.

Goose Barnacles on a piece of flotsam.

Miles above me, hundreds of people hurtle by, oblivious to the amazing beauty below.

An old vertebrae and sea weed.

The force of life seems as powerful as the force of gravity.

Count the rings. Some days I feel that I have nearly as many.

Hot sand warms the icy water returning from the North Pacific.

Jill takes care of business aboard the old prune barge.

In the fading light, I make a final foray ashore.

I imagine a sound of distant drums.

Time to escape the bugs, drink some hot chocolate and go to bed. It’s nearly ten pm.

Dusk fell gently

Dawn followed.

100 pounds of kelp on the hook. I had to get into the dinghy to remove it before I could cat the anchor up for open water.

We sail on into another perfect day. We’re clearly sailing a southward rhumb line. It is called IFC navigation. I Follow Contrails. There are stories of novice sailors actually finding their way to Hawaii by doing this. Mount Calvert in the distance.

Seasoned salts know to grab sleep whenever and wherever they can. A shout of “Whale” ended her dream.

 

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

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

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

It’s Funny now!

Dawn, Roar Islets

A long shot of the same view.

A westward view from the roar Islets. You can see in the distance how they earned their name.

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

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

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

Bilge Blues. Yep, in there, stick your head and arm in there. No, no ALL the way in, to the back, about a foot past where you can see the big hose.
Yep, I know the wiring is a mess, it is another job I’m saving for Mexico. Yeah right!

Repairs complete. We move on but Jill decides to ride the foredeck while the bad karma dissipates.

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

I visit this place a second time. It is magic to see this from the boat.

100% natural. Another part of the same pictograph …unretouched.

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

The gap. Looking westward from our anchorage by Iroquois Island, in the Tribal Group. We passed through there on our way to the Goose Group.

Islet and kelp bed in the same anchorage.

The winter gardener has shaped this tree well.

Green. Again taken from the same anchorage looking Northwest at low tide.

More green. Some mornings the light is magic.

Salmon oil, after it was poured down the galley sink drain.

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

Lin & Larry Pardey

Meandering

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

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

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

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

The Cardinal Buoy Rose. A beautiful example of the shape and colour of all four marine cardinal buoys. These mark safe passage around an obstruction in Nanaimo Harbour. Safe passage is to the north of the north-hand buoy on the left, then clockwise, east, south and west. Each shape and colour code has the same meaning wherever you find them. There’ll be a quiz later. (That’s not my boat in the background!)

Carpe Sittum. Somebody provided this grubby old chair at the bus stop in Richmond.

And so sit she did.

A Buddhist shrine in a mall in Richmond. The faces, architecture and food aromas remind me of Hong Kong.

The story of my life.

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

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

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

First greeters, Klemtu. I’ve mentioned Heckle and Jeckle previously. If you know who they are, you’ve dated yourself.

Downtown.
Klemtu. Main street.
Say no more.

Huh?

The uptown welcome committee. Bernie, on the right, was skilled at howling bass from a prone position.

If howling isn’t your gig, you can always build yourself a drum.

You too can own a tribal canoe. This fibreglass replica of a west coast dugout canoe looked like it belonged in Klemtu.

Signs, signs, everywhere there’s a sign.

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

Beautiful traditional house posts. Hey, that’s me on the right, second from the bottom!

Klemtu Volunteer Fire Department

Can’t miss it! Go to the corner of Seemore and Do Less. Go up the hill.

Old Sliver Face…on the bottom.

On the waterfront.
Klemtu Harbour.
That’s it!

The source?
This stream, where the salmon still come to spawn, may well be the reason a community developed here. There is now a salmon hatchery up this stream.

Eco tourism. A hope for the future.

Kitasoo Big House.
Klemtu’s first and last vision.

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

Ten Pm. Roar Islets

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

Only Sea Meeting Sky.

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

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

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

Ray Grigg, The Tao Of Sailing