Hanging On

Midstream
Summer rushes past like a stream and life goes on toward the coming year.

If the world didn’t suck, we’d all fall off!” A friend e-mailed me a collection of humorous signs. That message was the only one I remember. I spent last week with some horrible flu virus, flat on my back most of the time, projectile-dehydrating in simultaneous directions all at once. That dark experience had me afraid of dying, then angry because I might not. It went on for days. I’m back up onto my knees now with the complexion of used paper, a bit wobbly yet but onward and sideways as ever. As another buddy put it, I’ve been through Satan’s anus and successfully cast out. Whohaa!

Looks like I feel. This sweating fungus is a visual description of having the flu.

Through part of the ordeal of this spiritual experience (I spent considerable time prostrate at the old porcelain alter) I did some bargaining and parted with my black Ford truck. No complaints, I’ll simply say that I’ll never own a North American-originated vehicle again. If Asian and European auto manufacturers can produce superior products in the homeland of Chrysler, GM and Ford, there’s nothing further to discuss. An old Croatian maxim says that a fish stinks at the head first. No apologies Donald! Just fix it.

And now for a little humour. A sign beside the trail near Kinsol Trestle here on Southern Vancouver Island

The Turkey Sisters
High-strutting feral birds, they thrive here.

I’ve ended up with two vehicles as part of my deal, an old GMC bush-basher truck and a lovely little 16 year-old Honda CRV. It was designed to be easily towed behind an RV, but more on plan F another time. I apprenticed as an aircraft mechanic and have retained some of my anal make-things perfect attitude. It’s kept me alive more than once but has also caused a load of hurt along the way. I really like this little AWD car and can easily see it putting along some narrow Central-American dirt road. I am going through it, making sure all is order and to my personal satisfaction. The ‘Check Engine’ light came on. After several checks and some computer codes I determined to change the PCV valve. This little widget allows the engine to recycle combustible vapours from the crankcase and is an essential part of modern engine emission controls. It had not ever been changed and was certainly overdue.

On this engine it is located in a spot which is barely visible and hopelessly inaccessible, especially with hands like mine, each of which are the size of banana bunches. My philosophy is that if one man put it there, then I should be able to deal with it. And so with my characteristic brute force and ignorance I soldiered in.Of course the job involved dropping a tool into the splash pan in an impossible-to-reach spot which meant removing that pan and breaking half of the brittle plastic clips that hold it in place. While I had my arm contorted up beneath the engine to grope for the wrench a friendly neighbour came along and bade me a boisterous good morning. She scared the hell out of me. Well I managed to do the job, minus some skin, but the engine purrs beautifully. However! Resetting the computer fault codes requires disconnecting and reconnecting the vehicle’s battery. This in turn lobotomizes the radio in a measure to make the darn thing worthless to anyone who would steal it. At one point today I was ready to give the damn thing away. I discovered all of this while trying, and trying, to reset the radio’s clock, which eventually further dummed out the radio. By holding this button and that while pushing a third, all at the same time, you can eventually re-enter your personal radio security code and the music box is freed from its cyber dungeon.

Like all good modern mechanics I looked up pertinent information on YouTube and found a tutorial by some well-intentioned fellow speaking with a broad Quebecois accent. He said things like navy code when he meant navicode and vecule instead of vehicle. I was already confused thank you! I was referred to a Honda radio-code-recovery online site where I entered all sorts of information, serial numbers and codes, which the site kept rejecting. Finally realizing I was on a US site, entering Canadian numbers and zip codes, I stomped back out to the vehicle in frustration and despair. Tabernac! Thankfully the first owner had kept all pertinent documents and I found the original radio access security code tucked away inside the owner’s manual. After trying over and over, it eventually twinkled on me that I had fumbled my entry attempt too many times. I had to disconnect the battery, let the onboard computers have a nap, reconnect and reboot the “devices.” Finally the code was accepted, I have a radio and clock again. Bugga! Wot an ordeal! This is on a 2003 Honda, a simple product which came 16 years before the rolling I-bots we now call vehicles. They’re starting to want to drive themselves and I’m beginning to understand why older vehicles have an increasing value. Now I can go for a drive and see if changing that little valve was the fix. It’s funny now!

A mid-sixties Corvair in amazing condition. This was one of the vehicles condemned by Ralph Nader as “Unsafe At Any Speed.” It was in fact, an excellent car. The biggest problem was that it was about thirty years ahead of its time. Mr. Nader, however, was well aware of the profits of paranoia and did very well with his fear-mongering.

“Don’tcha buy no ugly truck!” This mid-fifties Ford was in the parking lot at the local grocery store. This is not a Ford truck I’d part with were it mine.

Car wash colours found beside the vacuum and the garbage cans. There’s some beauty everywhere.

Deer trail through the corn. (Sung to “Riders On The Storm”) Hard to spot for our eyes, it is a super-highway for the critters of the forest. You do see it?

Nearing the end of a hot dry summer the paths are littered with dry leaves. The streams are dry. Jack’s footfalls kick up little clouds of dust. The sky is blue again, there is a refreshing wind and no-one is complaining about the heat. The evenings are lovely and cool, it is almost dark by 9pm, sleeping is easier. It seems I was just posting photos of spring flowers a few blogs ago. Late summer is a splendid season and time for some good sailing now that the anchorages are more open and the plastic pirates have gone back to the marinas until next year. Let’s go!

Hurry up. Let’s go!
Jack has made himself the darling of the docks and is always eager to see who has what treats for him.

A Brown Creeper. It flew into the house and exhausted itself in the skylight, eventually falling down into a bath tub. I did my best to save it, including an ambulance run to a wildlife vet. It died on the way.

0.8 grams. This old farm boy and outdoorsman, once callous to taking lives, wept for this little creature. Is my life worth more than this bird? I’m not so sure anymore.

The frenzy of winter preparations goes on.

‘Herself’ has returned to our docks again. She looks better than ever in her new paint. It is the time of year when the wooden boat festivals are at their peak and the season for a frenzy of spit and polish.

“It is always in season for old men to learn.”       …Aeschylus

NO BIRDS

6 PM
The sun is over the yardarm
and all’s not well.

The sun rose this morning into a cloudless sky. We cannot see anything blue. We are beneath a thick pall of smoke because, it seems, half of British Columbia’s forests are on fire. I don’t know who is to blame, but I reckon that most of the fires are human-caused. South of the border California is in ashes because of the price of Canadian lumber. Thus sayeth the Trump. I know that I may lose subscribers for what I constantly repeat but if you’re not even asking questions, then you like it where you are and nothing is ever going to change. That last sentence became a polemic political rant which I finally deleted. What’s the point? This blog is supposed to be about sailing and freedom and free thinking. People who read my blog understand that in varying degrees and directions. Remember Forest Gump? “Stupid is as stupid does.” Most folks get that and if you don’t, I hope you’re happy in your space.

Banon Creek Falls, Chemainus River.

Chemainus River in drought.

I like smoked meat!

“When I look into your big brown eyes…..”
Uh Huh!

To paraphrase the Red Green Theme:

If you can’t be handsome,

if you can’t be rich,

try to be handy,

do something damnit,

fix the sonafabitch.

Bumtown, Nanaimo. Some have set up this camp because they have no place to go and there is a natural instinct to seek safety in numbers. Others are there because they think they are cool and trendy. Millions of the world’s poor and displaced live like this because they have no choice. The people here have order, toilets, clean water. No one  bombs or shoots at them. Still, imagine trying to nurture children in any place like this.

Immediately behind the camp, in the smoke from our forests, another Asian freighter loads our raw logs for export. It is moored to the wharf of a former sawmill which was closed allegedly due to a lack of available timber. There can be nothing but questions.

Nanaimo Harbour at high noon today. There are 555 forest fires burning in the province at the moment.

I’m presently wondering about the wisdom in trying to sell my beloved ‘Seafire.’ She is my earthquake plan and escape pod. It is said that it is better to drown than hang or burn and today, choke! I see people on the street wearing surgical masks which adds to the eeriness. I am not sure the masks filter out much smoke but if they make people feel better…Good!

As the day advances, the smoke settles and the entire world seems subdued, or oppressed, by it. The streets are oddly quiet as a strange lethargy seems to possess those who are out and about. The sensation is rather the same as when overwhelmed by a heavy snowfall except that this is a crushing rather a sheltering feeling. While I write, the smoke catches at the back of my throat and muted orange-brown light filters in over my desk. To think that I used to smoke deliberately, like a fiend! Fool!

Where the best berries grow.

Jack on deck…of a friend’s boat. There is shade, a good view of the dock and regular treats.

Now I’m writing in the dull glow of the next morning. The smoke is thicker. Fire and brimstone. It’s the tale of sod ‘em and go for more. Getting a clear breath seems a bit difficult in the thick acrid air I am inhaling. Jack just wants to lay low.Suddenly I realize that I can hear no birds this morning. I drove up to Nanaimo this morning and realized at the airport that most flights are grounded.

Fly me to the sun. Now this Cessna Caravan only has to be able to see the ground well enough to land.

Like lemmings row on row
into the smoke
careening cars
deliberately go.
When they get there
if they do,
will they understand
anything new?

The visibility is below safe minimums for VFR. There are few aircraft in the sky and so the doomsday sensation lowers a little more. People are driving like road warriors as if there is no tomorrow and I fear, that for some, they will be right. The volunteer fire department in Ladysmith issues a call to arms with a good old-fashioned air raid siren. Its sonorous howl calls all too often, sometimes several times in one day. Within minutes there is a din of warbling, hooting, honking emergency vehicles heading off on yet another mission to yet another wreck on the highway. The dogs in town respond in kind. Summer wears on.

Tristan Jones wrote, “When in fear or in doubt, raise your sails and bugger off out.”
This senior couple in their lovely 17′ sloop placidly left the marina and continued on their journey.

Perched silently on a limb above passing hikers, this Barred Owl waits for dusk. I had the wrong lense on my SLR for the light, so I made this shot with my mobile phone.

Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.” Henry David Thoreau

Ode To Summer

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

The summer staine faces southward looking up at the arc of the summer sun, the moon, the stars and the planets. It absorbs the sky’s warmth and wisdom, storing that energy for the long winter ahead. The rock and its mysterious visage are divided by pointers to the five corners of the earth. The fifth pointer being the mark toward the land of fairies and other creatures of imagination who, on moon lite nights, carve symbols on certain rocks in the forest.

We are now in mid-summer. The morning sunrise comes later and the evenings are clearly darkening earlier. It is a time of easier living but when wells and streams dry up, forests burn and crops ripen we begin to look toward autumn with a growing anticipation. Soon, we will be rain-bound in the dark and look back on summer with a deep longing. Now is a time to celebrate life and simply savour the moment.Summer is when fat trout cautiously laze in the shade of low, leafy branches and cast their own shadow through clear running water.Downstream, dogs wet their bellies or swim out to chase sticks. They revel in the moment with a joy that only dogs truly know.Further on, the stream meanders toward the sea where it will become cloud and rain to sustain life further around the planet.At the water’s edge, ferns mark the narrow zone where the waterworld becomes forest.A short distance from the stream bank apples fatten and slowly ripen.Some will fall among delicate flowers.Many will nourish the creatures of the forest.Some apples will be made into hearty drink. Every plant returns more than it takes. These flowers nourish bees who in turn, nourish us.Remember that weeds are merely flowers for which someone else has decided they have no use.Where there are thorns, there is also sweetness and sustenance.Despite the sweat and toil of men who clear the land for their own design, the forest always returns at the first opportunity.At the edge of town, there is still harvest from the forest and dogs scheme and dream while wiley rabbits watch and wonder.While smoke fills the evening sky, Purple Martins still swoop and fly, banqueting on a plague of insects and so saving us from a minor curse.Following the plume of smoke, Thorag soon found the crash site but could see no survivorsOn the headland, young engineers continued to build a mighty fortress to stand against the impending invasion. They had docks and ramparts and even a store of coal should the battle last into winter.In the village, shop keepers had taken to keeping massive dogs for protection.Paths between the village and the fort were heavily trodden.  A heady aroma of leaves crushed beneath foot filled the air. Outdoor furniture vibrated and rocked. There was a tension in the air.A lone flower hid among the bracken which grew on the edges of the last stream where the earth’s life-essence drained thinly into the sea. Even the forest’s air was heavy with drought. The forest continued to dry until leaves which were not able to contribute sustenance to the tree were cast away. There was need of a mutual nurturing. If not met, it could not be tolerated.As if caught in a permanent state of falling, one dessicated leaf was snared incongruously by a spiders silk and hung fluttering in the wind.All the while, vultures circled in the hot, rising air and waited.

“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

Smoke and Brass Monkies

First things first! My friend Kerry, who has a deep passion for our First Nations People, and also canoes, was given this beautiful dug-out. It is believed to be from Haida Gwaii and up to 150 years old. Its symmetry is almost perfect, the hull thickness is exact. No computers, no lasers, no 3D printers. It is a fine little boat, about ten feet long and suitable for smaller folks or children who could have used it for harvesting clams and so forth. It may also have been used as a serving bowl at feasts and potlatches.              The real thing!

I took this photo in False Creek in Vancouver several days ago. This country bumpkin was a bit uncomfortable there. Friends (See their blog: Sage on Sail) are anchored in New York…and liking it! This scene would be Hooterville in New York City!

Our town. I can’t help but love a small town with a traffic roundabout at the foot of main street built around a genuine antique ship’s anchor. We’ve still got some water and, apparently, a bit of detergent. Note the auto body/ collision shop in the background. Some folks have difficulties negotiating roundabouts.

I have always wanted to have a boat named the ‘Brass Monkey.’ As I contemplate selling my beloved boat and replacing it with a smaller trailerable boat, I believe I would name it the ‘Brass Monkey.’ I’ve never seen a vessel with that name. ‘Seafire’ was very close to having that handle but fate intervened and she ended up with the name of a previous and beloved vessel. It’s a complicated story best saved for another time. The Brass Monkey fixation has to do with my perverse sense of humour. Over breakfast this morning I mused about a new blog called “Tales Of The Brass Monkey.” It could begin: “Hello my name is Balls; Claude Balls. Perhaps you are familiar with my first novel “Tiger Hunting in Burma.”

A “Brass Monkey” candidate. It is an Albin 27 and a perfect boat for “Frederizing.”

Bah ha ha, I get it, I get it!”

It’s a tired old joke from my elementary school days so very, very long. I recall we could get ourselves doubled over in gales of laughter about ‘Rusty Bedsprings” by I. P. Nightly. Was I ever really that innocent and so easily amused? Such are the weird mental meanderings of a creative old sailor on the Saturday morning of the beginning of a long weekend. It is BC Day this time. Years ago an edict was issued that declared there would be a statute holiday in every month of the year. That’s very civilized I suppose.

Taken late in the day on ‘Seafire’ with all the hatches open and a breeze wafting through. Just as we become acclimatized things begin to cool down. Today, it is a frosty 22 degrees C

Not bad for a temperate rain forest.

It meant moving Thanksgiving from November to October. Halloween was apparently not an adequate excuse for an official day off with pay. I don’t think Remembrance Day should be a legal holiday but there’s no point in blowing against the wind. When you retire, every day becomes a sort-of holiday and all too often you have to grope to remember what day it is. Too soon it will be guessing the month; and then the year. Your existence can become something measured by the space between medical appointments. I’ll tell you right now that I’m becoming increasingly suspicious of the whole damned Western Medical system and wonder about how many Porsche payments I’m helping make.

Hey Dad, it’s walk time. I’m waiting!

“I’m waiting again! Let’s go to the boat and have a treat. Huh?Huh?”

Jewelry store security. Bono is an 18 month-old Irish Wolfhound. He’s bloody gorgeous!
The local kennel where his likes are raised can be found at TyrconnellIW.SPACE (that’s a capital I before the W)

The weather continues to be clear and hot. There are several forest fires burning on just on Vancouver Island including a local one of over 190 hectares. All due probably to some idiot with a cigarette. So each day is smoky and airless. Last evening, even with hatches open, the boat’s interior was 43º C, that’s 108ºF! I’m painting the boat’s cockpit so for me it is up in the early morning to put the next coat on before the baking sun rears its angry head once again. I’d love an ocean breeze but I’m glad the firefighters don’t have any more wind than the fire itself creates. I know, from younger years working in the woods, what a hellacious ordeal forest fire fighting is. There is no romance in any of it.

The day the tree ran dry.

Ah c’mon! No jokes eh?

There’s certainly dick in the brook. Sorry folks, but if it doesn’t carry running water all year, it ain’t no salmon stream.

Our local forest fire, still burning and threatening almost eighty homes and farms.

The smoke settles in thickly at times. The ‘Averie Rose’ in the foreground is the gorgeous home of a couple who built her deep in the interior, then trucked her hundreds of miles to the coast. She’s very much “Eye Candy” and a good boat too.

There’s nothing like fresh sea air. Cough! Cough!

There is an expression about being “Drier than a popcorn fart” Here’s a meadow full of them. Pffft.

Wot a life! I met an old man this morning racing down the sidewalk in his electric scooter. He was resplendent in flowered Bermuda shorts flapping around his skeletal legs which were wrapped up in knee-high socks. He wore thick, huge sunglasses beneath a broad straw hat. A smouldering cigarette was stuck in his pie-hole. He complained about the smoke in the air. How do you respond to blatant idiocy? The smoke is acrid enough but nothing compared to the weekend past when a dock caught fire in Port Mellon over 30 miles away. The choking stench of burning creosote filled the air for most of the day. It is a toxic funk that sticks in your throat and nose, strongly reminiscent of a time when everyone used either coal or wood for cooking and heating and thought nothing of whatever might be spewing from local industrial smokestacks. Bleaach! Despite our local air quality warnings, there are millions of folks on the planet still living daily in far worse air pollution and know nothing different. Oh, the things we take for granted!

The pirate ship “Wannabe.”
She’s a beauty in her own right. At least she’s flying a courtesy flag.

A very handsome boat.
It must have taken all of the owner’s money…he had nothing left for a courtesy flag!

My kind of boat. A Bill Garden design, built of steel, dead shippy and able to go anywhere, any time.

It’s wood! Really? This is the bow of a classic Monk cruiser, immaculately kept and named ‘Thelonius’
You’ll get it in a minute.

The forehatch, “A ting of beauty.”

Our marina is so crowded with transient vessels this year that member’s slips are being assigned whenever possible. The revenue is most welcome I’m sure as we continue to expand and improve our facilities. Two temporary neighbours this week were tied on either side of the same finger. One, a typical fibreglass trawler, clone was crewed with two pre-geriatric couples. Drinks flowed copiously accompanied with loud guffaws and “Golly-gee, I think we’re having fun” raucous, imposing laughter. I said nothing (because I seem to have forgotten how to have fun.) Their dock mate was a cruise and learn vessel belonging to a lady who has run a successful sailing school on her boat for many years. In the morning she held class in the cockpit and then coached a teenage girl who, incidentally, backed the big sloop out and away; quite possibly for the first time ever. She did a great job. All the while, the trawler’s matrons stood up on their top deck with hands-on-hips, watching and making comments, especially during the backing out manoeuvre. The body language and mindless quips were entirely inappropriate and distracting to the student. Gormless people, finding entertainment with someone else’s dire circumstance, infuriate me. I tried to keep my head down but finally spontaneously offered that the student really did not need an audience. Two blank faces turned and regarded me with the all the deep wonder of pigs having a pee. I know, I’m just a cranky old curmugeon, but the instructor grinned and waved. The next day another guest dumped out the dock’s dog water bucket because he “Didn’t know what it was for.” Later he complained about the purple martins “Picking on him.”

As Jack might say, “Grrrrr.”

‘Puffin,’ another Bill Garden design. She’s decades old and pristine. She should be in a glass box on someone’s fireplace mantle.

How boats should look. These are the mast bands and the pin rail for the gaff-rigged mainsail. This twenty-six foot boat has sailed uncountable miles over very many decades…and, I think, she’s just getting started.

‘Puffin’s’ boom gallows, carved in the South Pacific more than twenty-five years ago. I think it says something about Lulu’s hand-made grass skirts and ukuleles.

For every goof there are also very many lovely people, with gorgeous boats and even some with wonderful dogs along for the cruise. I’m quite proud to be a small part of the Ladysmith Maritime Society which has become an ultimate cruising drop-in spot for vessels from as far away as the bottom of Puget Sound and even Southern California. One appeared the other day with home port displayed as Isle Grosse, Michigan. I don’t know where the boat is really kept but… goshdernit; we’re famous!

At the moment, I’m finishing up the final licks of the face lift on old ‘Seafire.’ The cockpit has lost its grubby tugboat ambience. Now if someone could do the same for me. I’m also working on an engine in a friend’s 1946 Chris Craft. This beautiful old wooden classic is the sort of boat I watched in the harbours of my youth. Whodda thunk that one day, nearly sixty years later….! Actually I do work on these old beauties every once in a while and it is always a bit of pleasure. No computers!

‘Django,’ a buddy’s 1946 Chris Craft. It has just been sold. Bittersweet indeed.

The final painting in the cockpit is now done. That, in itself, feels good. Also, the heat has eased and we have actually had a few sprinkles of rain today. Does this mean we’re on the slippery back side of summer already? Between the showers, the sun breaks out through a brassy pall of smoke. At least we’ve had no fire-starting thunderstorms, here, yet. I might be frustrated with my little life but I’m not bored. Summer wears on.

All finished. My outdoor office is back in business. It’s time to go sailing!

Don’t judge other people’s ability by the level of your own incompetence.” … Old Grumpy hisself

“Aaaah! Finally!”

“Trade Goats For Canoe”

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

It sank beneath the horizon without a single hiss.

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


From my anchorage the moon rises on the opposite side of the planet from where the sun set.

Jitters. Hand-held while on my boat. Gibsons after the fireworks. The smoke lingers over town.

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

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

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

Finished. Look at those stanchions and new lifelines! I wonder how many goats I could keep aboard.

Manly hands, just like the old days. Finger tips sanded and greased to the bone. I wonder what Madge would say. Ha… I know how old you are!

Last flight for the day. My old friend ‘Sea-fart.’

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

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

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

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

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

Deer feed on kelp at low tide beside my anchorage.

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

Boop! Boop! Boooooop!

But I have the right of way!
The flooding tide churns at the bow of a freighter anchored in English Bay, Vancouver.

The madness on the waters around Vancouver. Due to a monstrous lack of facilities, folks have to anchor wherever they can and take their chances.

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

An urbanscape with some green. The tupperware boats crowd the shoreline everywhere possible.

What happens when you don’t hold your plumb bob steady! I had to admire this amazing piece of design work. The floor are actually dead-level despite the illusions.

Placidly we go amid the rabble. There is so much going on I’m sure these beauties are seldom noticed.

Someone has made a valiant effort to disguise concrete silos in False Creek.

We be gone! Happiness for me is the big smokey city behind my sparkling wake.

Goodbye Mr. T

Point Atkinson Light Station. Now unmanned it is, I think, one of the most beautiful lights anywhere. Also, once past it, Vancouver is soon out of sight.

Seafire anchored off the Gibsons waterfront.

A few minutes earlier, on board Seafire, I got these sunrise shots. It made all the previous week’s labour absolutely worth while.

A glimpse of part of Gibson’s crowded inner harbour. Stout breakwaters shelter it from vicious winter outflow winds.

Almost fifty years after the Beachcomber show was first aired, this cafe is still the center of the local scene. And, they still serve good food!

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

A bizarre poster I found in a Gibsons restaurant. It reads in part, “Gibson, Castle: the royal castle of the United States of America…The most suitable city in the world. The most suitable city in the world. Land of idyllic beauty, fairyland, vacation pension paradise.”                                                      I think someone likes the Gibsons area!

Keeper of the paddles. My dear friend Kerry is deeply immersed in First Nation culture and has a passion for canoeing.

A made-over loggers bunk shack on skids used as a shed, gracefully again becomes part of the forest from which it came. It is beautiful to my eye.

My best deer photo ever. She was laying on the lawn beside the shed.

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

Homeward bound. The wind was too close on my bow to be able to sail directly toward where I needed to go. It was another motor-sailing crossing.

Madly off in the opposite direction at about 40 knots. This is an oil spill response vessel which needs to haul ass when called. I wonder how many gallons an hour it burns.

“Tha,tha, tha, thas all folks!”

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

Coddiwomple

CODDIWOMPLE

(Click on images to enlarge)

Summer Sky

Coddiwomple, Old English slang meaning to journey purposefully toward a vague destination. It is also the name of a cute little boat recently arrived on the dock. Of course I had to look it up. It could be the description of a person’s life. Then there’s the timeless oxymoron about military intelligence. Two young men in naval uniforms complete with black life jackets and black crash helmets arrived yesterday morning at the dock in a hefty inflatable boat. When it was time to leave, their outboard motor would not start. I watched the performance which largely involved frantic heaving on the starter rope. This old mechanic finally volunteered to them that for whatever reason the motor was not getting any fuel and that they should check the connections on the gas line. They thanked me and continued to jerk the rope. I couldn’t go have a look, I was in the midst of my final bit of painting. There was prolonged loud discussion with mothership on their vhf radio which descended to a focus on the fuel primer bulb. “No, no, the bulb is still soft.” (It becomes hard when full of fuel and the system is pressurized.) After nearly a half-hour they finally clipped the fuel hose back onto the tank and zoom-zoomed off into the sunrise. Sleep tight, your navy is awake!

Our marina early in the morning. As usual, even in mid-week, it is full.

I’ve watched folks become infuriated with their dead outboard and pull away on the starting rope until it broke or until their arms nearly dropped off. There’s nothing to diminish your spirits like the sound of the starter recoil spring zlithering and sproinging around inside the engine cowling. Then, finally, it is discovered that all along, the ignition safety switch was off. To further the frustration, it takes someone else to make that discovery. Yep, I’ve done it too. Remember the movie “Sling Blade?” There’s a wonderful scene where the village idiot quietly watches the local lawn mower mechanic fight all day with a dead motor. Finally the protagonist announces that he “Reckons it’s outta gas. Uh huh.” Start with the simple things first.

We have all kinds of visitors.
At least he had a courtesy flag.

A venerable Pacific 30 beautifully refitted with a pilot house. You don’t have to be big or shiny to be gorgeous.

The painting is now complete on the boat, so instead of having been on the dock at first light to beat the sun, I sit here enjoying the decadence of writing while sipping coffee. Of course, today there is some cloud cover, perfect for painting. You can tell I am not an enthusiastic painter. The secret is in the preparation which can means hours of sanding, filling and sanding. Pull marks from a dry brush or runs from too much paint are the marks of carelessness. Then there are the spatters, especially when applying a dark colour near a lighter one. There is a technique of applying the paint, first by roller then followed by brush, not too dry, not too wet. Painting in direct sunlight is an invitation for disaster, the paint wants to dry faster than it can be applied and there is a sticky mess waiting to happen. Only experience can teach the best method. Then in gleaming glory, the paint begins to dry, all the while attracting all sorts of insects, airborne seeds, hairs and pieces of lint. Finally you peel off the masking tape and…SHIT! It ran beneath the tape. Actually, there is no substitute for good masking tape, which, of course, is the most expensive, but you get what you pay for. I’ve found a product called ‘Frog’ which works really well.

Really good masking tape.

It is finished. New windows, new paint, new stanchions, new lifelines, new ‘For Sale’ sign. I feel horrible to even try selling her, but life goes on with or without things and it is time to put the fleece out and see what happens.

I learned to hate painting when, as a boy, I often made a little cash schlocking white on fences and houses. My passion for painting is right next to mowing lawns and anything involving shovels. Then there’s picking berries. At least there is a reward at the end of the endeavour without any delayed gratification. Jack and I went out at first light armed with a bucket. A light breeze prevented any dew; perfect! Mourning doves wha-coo-hooed while a bumper crop of rabbits kept Jack entertained. I dealt with the bumper crop of blackberries. The first ones are ripening and there will be a harvest that goes on for weeks. I’ve never seen so many.

Never before have I seen such a crop of blackberries.
Himalayan Blackberries are an invasive species which thrive here. We all have a love/hate relationship with them.

A few days later. The love part.

Jack the hunter, I the gatherer. Note the rusty rails, a sad comment on our island railway.

There’s a whole lot of gathering going on.

Meanwhile in the forest life evolves with the seasons as ever.

A paper condo.

Things are even busy on the web.

A Dogpatch drifter, it looks interesting from a distance.

A local beach shack. I remember when poor people lived by the sea and ate fish.

The biggest, sweetest berries are at the end of the highest thorniest vines, well above where dogs may have peed. Having leathery old mechanic’s hands is a bonus. I hold a smaller cup-sized container beneath the fruit I’m picking and then transfer that, when full, to the bucket. That saves a lot of painful moves among the brambles and speeds up the gathering. There’s your blog-tip from this hunter-gatherer-mechanic. Now as the sun rises and the world heats up, it’s time to head to the boat for some finishing touches. Just another perfect early-summer Sunday on a beautiful Pacific Island.

It is a busy time under the waxing August moon.

We are all the architects of our own despair.” …Jill Bailey

We Don’t Have A Bow Thruster

Bo-Peep II
The varnish and paint are flawless. It must have an awesome boathouse. But no bow thruster.

Yep! 1926 Not many look this good at 92 years.

Rain! It’s my fault. I’m busy ripping the windows out of my boat and replacing them. Then I plan on painting the cabin sides and the rest of the decks. Nature abhors a vacuum and so with each window being about eight square feet in size, guess what! Sploosh and whoosh!Actually it could have to do with the long weekend, we seem to seldom get one without wet weather and then in the days immediately following the skies will clear and I can carry on.

Thane came back for a visit. The long guest dock is full, full, full.

Knowing the ropes.


Now then hoy the peak halyard and slack the fore-tops’l. NOW!

Little goes to waste. Old lines get worked into something useful like mats or baggywrinkle.

The guest dock here at the Ladysmith Maritime Society is filled with guest boats. The Ladner Yacht Club is here to celebrate its 60th anniverisary and the fleet which has arrived is one of pristine boats. Good on them! They are a group of very nice people with lovely dogs and I don’t need to worry myself about Canadian courtesy flags because none are foreign vessels.

Flag Patrol.  Sea King helicopters

A few days ago there was a fleet of US Tupperware tugs at the dock. Only one flew a visible courtesy flag. (When visiting any foreign waters in your boat it is basic marine protocol to display a small flag of that country above all other flags.) While I was at the head of the ramp a pair of our venerable Sea King helicopters flew over, low and slow. A lady from one of the visiting boats was passing and inquired if indeed these were military aircraft. Perhaps she was intrigued that such antiques were still in service. Being the quick quip that I am, my response was that since the insults uttered against Canadians by President Trump, we had begun a daily aerial patrol checking that US vessels were flying the correct flags. “Oh my!” she exclaimed wide-eyed, “ I’m so glad we have ours up.” Of course it was all in fun, but I’m sure she’ll pass the message on. I am really flummoxed that it is not an issue which our border personnel do not address but I suppose that’s the Canadian way.

Now THAT is a down-rigger.
A Canadian hydrographic survey vessel was doing some local work and stopped at our docks.

Yesterday I was bent to my work on ‘Seafire.’ (which seems to go on and on) A strident female voice began to make inquiries on the marine VHF of “Ladysmith Maritime Society Marina”. Half of the boats on the guest dock leave their radios on at a high volumes. I can only surmise that it makes then feel saltier. The radio voice went on and on with sporadic silly inquiries, even when the boat, a Catalina 34, finally arrived alongside the dock space assigned to it.

The docking crew stood looking out at the little sailboat laying twenty feet or so away. The boat’s crew, a man and woman, stared back. Finally the voice erupted again, strident and indignant. “We don’t have a bow thruster you know!” I kept my mouth shut. Clearly, I am not Walmart greeter material.

(A bow thruster is a small propeller installed on a boat below the water line and pushes the bow sideways when attempting to dock.) This old salt reckons that the device is absolutely unnecessary on any vessel with someone competent at the helm. Some boats, complete with twin engines, have a thruster installed at either end of the vessel. The boat can be manoeuvred in any direction or turned in its own length but it still all depends on the nut that holds the wheel. Every extra device does make life easier at times, but it also increases dependability on that gadget and decreases skill levels. For me sailing is a religion of traditional skills and self-sufficiency. Enough said. I’ll carry on with my sanding and painting and keep my head down, like a fly on the wall.

The job begins. The port windshield out and being prepared for a new piece of acrylic. None of the work is fun. The starboard windscreen is installed.

The painting job on ‘Seafire’ has turned into a career; it goes on and on. It began simply enough with the intention to replace two windows and spruce up the window frames. Oh yeah, while I’m at it, I should update the lifeline stanchions seeing as I had a replacement set laying in the crawlspace at home. Then, while doing that, I damaged a side window with cleaner and decided to replace them all. While I had the stanchions off and the window frames off, it only made sense to paint the cabin and the side decks. I’ve tried repairing the paint on the cove stripe along the hull and have now decided to repaint that while I’m at it. One of the things my years have taught me is patience and that certainly is a prime ingredient for a job like this. Painting is not simply the act of apply fresh colour to a surface. First there is the preparation and therein lays the rub. Yep, a pun! Preparation is everything. There are incessant hours of sanding, and filling and more sanding. My fingers are abraded down to near-bleeding stubs. Then, if the sun is not too hot, or the threat of rain not too imminent, there is the application of a smooth gliding coat of liquid colour. Not too much however, it will run and drip. Once that is done, I stand back to admire the fruit of my labour and flies begin to land in the sticky gleam. Bugga! As I finish one section, the rest of the boat looks shabby. Also, with the new shine, all the manufacturing defects in the fibreglass are revealed. But, there is progress each day.

The final window, installed under threat of rain.

Dry-fitting the new-used stanchions. A few more days of painting then I can begin working on the starboard side of the boat.

If refurbishing the boat is not enough challenge I am also in the middle of consummating a relationship with a new laptop computer. It is a supercharged gaming computer, the Grand Ferrari, something with all the giga-properties I need to use the film editing program which I’m trying to teach myself. The computer is a delight, but Windows 10, and downloading updated programs is a huge challenge for my old-school thinking. Mix that all in with my painting career on the boat and you’d think that all this masochism might indicate an English ancestry. You’d be correct.

Now for some serious engineering.
Children love this sand box on the dock.

A friend called to remind me of the British car show at the waterfront park in Ladysmith. I’d gone in previous years and was not eager to go see the same few dozen vehicles. WOW! Apparently there were over 200 cars and motorcycles on display. All ran, most were driven to and from the show. All have been lovingly restored and maintained. The spectators glided about in hushed awe, thrilled at what they were seeing. British cars are famous for their design and craftsmanship as well as their demands for incessant fiddling maintenance and enduring unreliability. For a very long time, British automotive electrical systems were hopelessly complex and comprised of components built by Lucas, known by many as the “Prince Of Darkness.” Yet there is a mystique and romance built into English vehicles that no-one else can match.

An ancient and pristine Rover

A slightly modified MGB

Land Rover with a Dormobile RV conversion. I wannit!

Peeking into a classic Rolls Royce. Real wood, real leather, real money but no airbags.

A Velocette and a Triumph

When the day is done, I read myself into sleepy oblivion with a copy of “Lord Jim” by Joseph Conrad. I haven’t tackled this novel in over half a century and it is clear why I first laid it aside. This guy did not have a word processing machine of any sort yet he stuffed every word possible into anything he was trying to say. Lots of folks love to gush about what a wonderful nautical author Conrad was. I find him lugubrious. One sentence can, at times, fill half a page. There is far too much wrapping around the golden gift of his story. Yet I find the weight and cadence of his writing evocative of the days I’m living at the moment. Here, in closing, is one sentence.

…”Such were the days, still, hot, heavy, disappearing one by one into the past, as if falling into an abyss for ever open in the wake of the ship, lonely under a wisp of smoke, held on her steadfast way black and smouldering in a luminous immensity, as if scorched by a flame flicked at her from a heaven without pity.” ….PHEW!

Cream rises to the top…
so does scum!
Summer algae blown against the dock.

“It is not that life ashore is distasteful to me. But life at sea is better.”
Sir Francis Drake