Blossoms and Boats

Red Dogwood in full glory.

Well, the exuberant celebration of spring blossoms is winding down. I’ll post a couple of Dogwood flower photos,.They’re now all gone from the trees. We’re into the black cottonwood, or alder as they’re commonly known here, season of blowing seeds.

Cottonwood seeds ready for launch.

A drift of Cottonwood seeds. Only one in a million needs to take root.

Until the next rain, the stuff will be everywhere. Doesn’t this look like a warm and fuzzy creature?

It’s clear why they’re called cottonwood. The Scotch broom is in its spring bloom, much to the misery of allergy suffers. There will be a second flowering in late summer, but for now we’ll just worry about what we’ve got on our plate. Already, there is a smell of smoke in the air which heralds forest fire season. that’s just too darned early.

Standard White Dogwood blossom, British Columbia’s floral emblem

Dogwoods downtown

Apple blossoms, just to help the perfume in the air.

Scotch Broom, an invasive species that tortures some allergy sufferers. I think the flowers are beautiful.

Before I go further I should mention a really awesome shop I visited up in Courtenay. A good kayak store is hard to come by but Comox Valley Kayaks have been in business for many years, and for good reason. I’d never stopped in before but was looking for a couple of items I could not find anywhere in Nanaimo. Even without my kayak along they fitted me out with the perfect items and at a fair price. The service was great, the staff knowledgeable and friendly (Even the lovely black German Shepherd) and the inventory quite impressive. I’m recommending them because I am that impressed. They only offer what is reasonable to expect, and all too rare it seems. That makes it commendable.

The Ladysmith Maritime Society’s own wooden boat fleet. Lots of varnish, elbow grease and love.

The ‘Ontario’ the way we used to run our navy.

The grates of wrath. No place for bare toes.

Morning calm, head of the parade is ‘Herself’

Now where’d I leave my mug?

Foredeck detail of a 1954 Chris Craft

Hit me

What is there to say?

The name says it all

A stack full of pipes

A gleam in her eye

The office

There was a wooden boat gathering in the Ladysmith Maritime Marina last weekend where ‘Seafire’ is moored. I walked the docks early on Sunday morning before many other folks were up and about. My camera whirred. Now these folks are gone home to more varnishing and painting and I’m left here praying for some cloud cover to do my own painting out of the direct sunlight. So without any social comment (for a change) I’ll simply post my photos and hope you enjoy them. By the way, the mystery about the little aluminum sailboat in the last blog has been resolved.

That little tin sailboat again. There were over 1400 of these sold. Where are they now?

Lou, one of my faithful readers sent me information which reveal the boat was sold by Aerocraft Petrel Sailboats in the US. The boat was designed by the famous Philip Rhodes and built by Alcan Limited right here in Canada. Go figure huh? One photo I found shows a boat with a Transport Canada approval that indicates it was also sold by Eaton Viking. Cool! Thanks for the help Lou.

‘Herself’ and nothing but.

If you can love the wrong person that much, imagine how much you can love the right one.” …Bob Marley

Under The Wires

Montague Morning
Looking north from our anchorage. This mega motor-sailor drew me in. It has no character but sure is grand.

Montague Harbour, Victoria Day Weekend Saturday (Already a week ago) We’re anchored off the north beach of Montague Harbour. There are boats around us but nothing in comparison to the plastic mat of floating Tupperware inside the harbour itself. You can probably walk across that bay by stepping from boat to boat. I wonder if yachts are included in the calculation about the tonnage of plastic debris littering the world’s oceans. I know, I own one too. At night, the dazzle of all the mast and deck lights looked like a piece of the city. I guess I simply don’t understand getting away from it all.

Now THAT’S my idea of a real boat. Rugged Westcoast beauty with a low-maintenance hull and work boat toughness.
Hit me!

No name, no flag, shit-brindle-brown hull and dead lovely. A fine-looking tugboat conversion kept us company as we left Ladysmith Harbour.

Jack under an ancient yew tree at Montague.

Looking northwest into the Gulf Islands. Wish you were here.

The Yew Crew

In the heat of the afternoon Jack dug a hole and settled in.

North Cove, Thetis Island.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a small farm with a beach? Hey that’s my cow under the Corona umbrella.

There is the usual hub-bub of screaming babies, yapping dogs, whining runabouts and jet- skis, loud raunchy music, shouting, squealing young people and a few grumpy-looking older farts; like me. I’ve never anchored off this beach before and generally avoid the harbour itself, especially during the summer “Yachting season.” I don’t like going where the crowds go and I don’t like the high-voltage electrical power lines which hang over the harbour. It is all nice enough I suppose with all those folks trying to hurry up and relax. Jack certainly likes all the other dogs and the easy digging in the shell beach. There are always annoying people and it seems that the most imposing, noisy characters stop and hang out next to you. One group stopped and dig for clams right on top of the dinghy’s beach line. Apparently I’d beached the skiff on the only place where there were clams. I just let it be.

Western Trumpet Honeysuckle…don’t ever call me that again! This wildflower is a passion of hummingbirds and its stems were often used by natives for bindings and weaving.

Stonecrop in bloom on Portland Island. It was once revered by pagans and placed over their doorways as a protection against fire.

In the lazy calm of Sunday morning the sound of waking children drifted across the flat water and mixed with the honking of geese futilely defending their territory. Dogs yelping happily on the beach played with sticks. Jack and I rowed ashore to join them.

No mooring above the high water mark. Aftermath of a winter storm at Port Browning.

A Petrel dinghy. Ever heard of one? I can’t find any information. It is made of beautifully formed aluminum!

An incredible view from the pub deck at Port Browning. You can see across the border into US waters. Jack was even permitted to be with us on the deck. How civilized!

The Stern Light.

We meandered on south to Port Browning. There is a lovely pub with a spectacular view, a fine beach and best of all, a broad lawn where dogs are welcomed. Now on Tuesday morning we’re waking up in another beautiful anchorage on the south side of Portland Island. Sleep is glorious, long and deep in the gently rocking boat, once you’ve jammed your salt-sticky toes between the sheets. It is placid with a rich light and calm waters. Seabirds mutter on the shore among a profusion of flowering stonecrop. Too soon we’re back at the dock in Ladysmith, four days shot past as if in a dream. We live in this wonderful part of the world, it is our home. Sometimes that reality is taken for granted and a trip through the Gulf Islands is a great way to refresh the appreciation of where we live. And, by the way, not once did we have to stop and shuffle papers with any officialdom. Let’s hope no-one decides to build a wall.

Seafire anchored at Portland Island.

One of the fabulous beaches on Portland Island. An old man later sat in that inflatable dinghy, still well up on the shore, and practiced his rowing strokes. I thought it was hilarious.

A real boat. A beached peapod, rigged for sailing.

A view from
Portland Island into Fulford Harbour on Saltspring Island.

Our final stop along the way was Telegraph Harbour on Thetis Island to take on a little fuel. $200. bought 132 litres! That’s almost $1.50 per litre, in a country which has plenty of its own oil and natural gas. It makes economic sense for me to sail on down to the US for fuel where the price is approximately half of ours and it is a resource that came out of our ground! Yep another yelp about the chicken farmer who goes to town to buy eggs.

Does this hurt your eyes? It was intended to. A sunrise over a fantastic wee private island next to Portland Island.

Evening dreams of some place far away.

Sleeepy! You are getting sleepy. Jack nods off after a long walk ashore. Portland Island has wonderful hiking trails.

Still sleepy.

The sun has been beating down out of a cloudless sky. Slopes and meadows which usually stay green until early summer are browning already. Mid-summer flowers are already in bloom. This spring has been an orgy of blossoms, a rich, massive display of exotic colours. Blooms which usually linger, this year have suddenly come to their end. On the sea, there is a thick oily-looking plankton bloom which most of us agree we’ve never seen before. Fools and new-comers predict the weather but I suspect we may be in for either an incredibly hot, dry, smokey summer or it will turn wet and cool. It is a given that there will be a lot of complaining no matter what happens and certainly global warming will be blamed. No matter, each day is all we have and we may as well do our best to enjoy what we have. If I am not on the boat painting furiously to take advantage of the fair weather I’ll be on the beach under a Corona umbrella.

An eagle buoy. Yep, that white stuff is bird droppings, usually cormorants and gulls.

“Stop waving your back flippers at that boat. See! Now they’re pointing one of those THINGS at us.”

Seafire’s lovely old rowing dinghy. Keep on floating.

Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.”…. Will Rogers

Maple Street

Maple Street doorway. Imagine all who have passed through here and what their business may have been.

A little rain on Maple Street

Old town charm in spring

It is suddenly all around me. I race to absorb the magic of it all. The grey eternity of winter and the crawling advance of early flowers have past. It is like waiting at a crossing for a train. You can hear it in the distance, slowly, it seems, approaching then suddenly roaring past. A few days ago thousands of geese and swans flew northward again high into the thin cold sunsets. Suddenly, friends gone south for the winter are back and on the same day, the martins returned, squabbling and flitting about as if they’d never left their little purple turds staining whatever they fall on. It has been an especially vibrant spring for trilliums and fawn lilies. Each time now I bend to photograph another flower the little voice on my shoulder says “Fer chrissakes, how many more do you need? A flower is a flower is a flower. C’mon!” But the breath-taking perfection is irresistible to me. There is an intensity of colours and a hope for better times ahead. For a few days in the past week the temperatures soared and I was among the winter survivors who emerged wearing shorts, my fluorescent knobbly legs absorbing the delicious warmth. I want to sop it up like a sponge, taking nothing for granted and storing it away for the next winter ahead which we know is not really that far away. As you get older you begin to see things that way.

Two blocks from the beach.

It rained today. Painting boats was out of the question. On the old Saltair highway south of here there is a lovely little bookshop. The owner doesn’t much care if he sells any books. He likes being surrounded by books and sits placidly reading while his ubiquitous Polynesian music plays softly. He says he simply enjoys the company of others who like books. A few minutes further there is a wonderful Thai restaurant in Chemainus that makes incredible food. A lunch was in order. The restaurant nestles on a quiet, old residential street. The repast was superb, elegant, exotic. The proprietor’s five-month-old baby girl, a black-eyed smiling beauty, greets patrons from her carriage in the corner. Within a few doors of the old building I’d found enough good photos in just a few minutes to complete this blog. Photography is a grand way to celebrate life, finding beauty and inspiration in simple things we look at and seldom see.

Spring rain in the park

The greening

These plants are called Vanilla Leaf and are a traditional insect repellant by hanging them in bunches.

The profusion of brilliant wildflowers continues.

More trilliums

Meanwhile my struggle with the holy grail of making a first film continues. It is a noble quest while I shall win. I am learning all the things which won’t work. That’s progress!

I’ve waited all afternoon!

.A natural law: A dog at rest tends to stay at rest.

A dog in motion tends to disappear.

A Bog Trotter And A Bilge Ape

BUSINESS FIRST: I’ll be doing a writer/salty dog presentation at the Ladysmith Maritime Society dock on May 12th at 2pm. There’s a link to a nifty poster bellow. Also I’ll be participating in the River’s End Poets Gathering in Steveston in the Cannery Museum on September 22nd in the afternoon.Talk on the Dock -3 sml file

CLICK ON ANY PHOTO TO ENLARGE

Race Rock Light from the west

Deep sea vessels anchored in the Gulf Islands waiting for cargo. Mainland Canada in the distance.

Friday, April 13th. A January gale complete with slashing ice-cold rain hammers horizontally outside. Jack and I went out in the rising blast this morning to photograph flowers. We got some good shots and came home cold and wet.

Nettles in the rain.

So many flowers look so similar I’m afraid to hang a name on these.

Tension and balance

Fawn Lilies and Oregon Grape flowers. It has been a fabulous spring for these lilies.

The misfit. Weeds are only plants someone else says are bad.

I’ve been trying to teach myself how to use a popular film-editing program. I am frustrated and humiliated. Page 1 in the manual immediately referred me to page 249 and so it has gone. When I learned to fly, and to drive, I was turned out in the local cow pasture with some basic cautions. I taught myself what happened when you pushed this, pulled that, turned the round thing and stomped on that. Yep, I made mistakes, but progressed steadily and gained confidence to the point of competence. I’ve never had an accident on the road or in the air.

My life at sea has gone similarly and no-one knows me for being timid. Now I’m confronted with a set of neo parameters which immediately demand a total fluency in a new blither-gabble all the while pushing this, double-clicking that while holding F49. I’m sure I’ll learn, thousands of others have, but golly durnit! Let’s start with the foundations and the framing before we worry about the flower boxes and the heat pump. All I want to do is make a few simple films. Surely I don’t have to run away to film school. Ummm well…!

A nickel and a robin’s dead egg. I found it where it must have fallen out of the nest.
The coin is show its size.

A troll brain. Actually a spring fungus.

Jack is my faithful companion. He loves snuffling about while I take my photos.

A rare purple trillium

After deleting the first film-editing app. in frustration, installing another program then uninstalling it, I’ve re-installed a slightly different version of the first film app. It is called “Lightworks.” It is apparently a professional grade system and did allow me to print a 200 plus page paper manual. I can have this for referral while I plod into this. The other program had plenty of tutorials but I don’t know how to have the program up and running while at the same time watching an online tutorial. There have been lots of walks in the woods this week! I have been called a “Bog-trotter” by a certain in-law; that is essentially correct.

Current flowers

I have, however, just had a wonderful local experience out of the bog. They’ll soon have a fresh coat of paint on their facade but they are easy enough to find here in Ladysmith. The IRONWORKS CAFÉ and CRÉPERIE are on the main highway between the 7/11 and City Hall. There’s parking around the corner and immediately across the highway below the shoulder. Please use the crosswalk. The coffee and food and staff are all excellent. Soon, as the weather improves, their patio under a huge spreading chestnut tree will be open to enjoy an excellent fare. Check it out when passing by. There’s nothing like a fresh crepe to make your day. It leaves me feeling good to mention someone doing something right. And no, creeps are something entirely different. We have some of those too.

Vanilla Leaf.
These plants can be bunched and hung to use as an insect repellant.

The picnic table. Now, wine, cheese, smoked fish, warm fresh bread.

For some reason of coincidence I’m posting four photos of interesting trucks I’ve recently found along the way. The big Volvo 4×4 from Germany certainly caught my fancy. I could hear the waves on a remote Baja beach the moment I saw it.

The Lurchenwagon
A Volvo 4×4 motor home from Germany parked at the docks in Ladysmith

A lo-brid truck with a little flare.

Another whimsical effort at a home-built truck. no airbags, no crumple zone.

Mack Attack. This old Thermodyne looks as if it could haul a few logs yet…if there’s someone man enough to drive it.

Now that’s a driveway marker! There’s always something interesting around the next corner.

More headwork up another back road.

A lovely country home nestled in the woods

And so the three little pigs lived happily ever after.

A rock house.

On the subject of trucks I’m going to wade into this one as delicately as possible. I am impressed with the tremendous collective expression of condolence for the Saskatchewan hockey team that met with such tragedy last week. I am intrigued by the mass mourning for lost hockey players. Yes hockey was the common thread which brought them to be together in a bus yet while they were part of a hockey team they were also human beings with the full range of fears, hopes, dreams and problems we all have. Should these sixteen dead have been young children or senior citizens or a group of indigenous folks would there be the same outpouring of grief? Would flags being flying at half-mast? What if this tragic loss was innocent civilians killed as collateral damage in a rocket attack in Syria? How about a sunken boatload of Middle-Eastern refugees? Are their lost lives of less value? Well, we may never even know about their tragedies, so how can we grieve, but my point is that participants in a national sport seem to hold a higher value than other mere mortals. This trendy scramble to join the funeral parade demeans the entire grieving process. Even my on-line banking site is thick with photos of hockey sticks. You’re right; I don’t get it. Sorry if I’m being obtuse. I’m not saying it is wrong because I am out of this particular loop but surely there are some obvious questions to be raised about our cultural values.

Magnolia blooms in an alley off main street Ladysmith

And I find myself lacking another comprehension. Argentine prawns in our superb local butcher shop. I just watched the daily return of our local prawn fleet to our docks which are just down the hill within sight of the butcher shop. What are we doing?

The mannequin looking out. It’s very eerie to see at first. This grand old building in Ladysmith is reputed to be a former brothel. It looks over the harbour.

Hockey, prawns, film-making; is there nothing that makes sense. I am down on the dock a lot these days tinkering on ‘Seafire’ and other boats nearby. That, at least, is something I fully understand and clearly where I fit in. This old bilge ape knows his place.

How’s this for distracted driving? Something else that is hard to make sense of. I’ll bet there’s a mobile phone in there somewhere.

Heartbreak. This is the saddest photo I’ve taken in a long while. In the spring of 2000, just after major heart surgery, I finished building this Gloucester Gull dory and rowed and camped my way through the Gulf Islands. It was a lovely bright yellow boat that rowed like a dream. I later sold it. It has rot in both ends and has clearly seen no love since I last saw it. Her sweet lines are still obvious.

A photo taken from the same dory on a happier day.

Once you’ve become a pickle you can’t be a cucumber again” … Steve Earle

Onwards And Sideways

It’s Official. Spring has arrived. Now that the trilliums are in bloom there can be no denying that, reluctant as it may be, spring is finally here.

WOW! I knew a lot of this blog’s readers liked my photos but I was not prepared for the reaction to moving pictures. Thank you. So, you really liked the film clip! Guess what? I’ll start inserting more. I’ve always wanted to learn how to edit, cut, and splice films as well as dub-in music, narrative, titles and so forth. I will learn. For the moment you’ll have to endure raw, unedited film shorts but I’m working on improving. We’ve got a good thing going on. Here’s one I shot this morning.

The feedback from readers about selling old ‘Seafire’ is almost divided equally. Some say, “Yeah, you’re right, cut yourself away from the stuff.” Others say, “Wot! Swallow the anchor?” Not you old chap. That’d be totally daft. How can you be Fred without a boat.” I am torn. This afternoon, I went down to the boat as usual to do a little tidying and cleaning and eventually ended up in one of the bunks for a nap. With two sleeping cabins I do have a way of producing a little income from chartering. I have forgotten this is one reason I bought this particular vessel. I drifted off to sleep during a spring squall and awoke later to find it was still pounding rain on the cabin top. The wind moaned in the rigging and I felt a deep sense of well being. The old chubby chap snug in his big fibreglass egg. I contemplated giving up my deep passion for flying and spending thirty-five years refitting and selling boats until I’ve ended up in this, my eighth boat. What all have I sacrificed for this? What has my wife endured and sacrificed for my dreams? Can I really walk away from this huge investment and be content and feel fulfilled? The happiest time of my life, as I recall, was when I only owned a backpack. Stuff, bloody stuff.

Even the dock critters are showing a renewed interest in life.

 makes for someinteresting results

Taking photos in the rain

The Watcher

A path too-well travelled

Like rivers, all paths eventually lead to the sea. This petroglyph,near Sooke, faces the Strait Of Juan De Fuca and is a dramatic location at any time. Some morons have tried to scratch  some graffiti on top of it. A nearby brass palague admonishing the dire penalties of defacing a cultural land mark, sports four bullet holes.

Up the creek! Jack explores a backwater in the Chemainus River.

I’m posting an old standard poem which I wrote many years old. ‘The Water Rushing By’ is also the title of my first published collection of writing about being a mariner on the waters of the Pacific Northwest. I need to get another run printed. Perhaps this one piece says everything worth saying. There is another short video at the end.

The Water Rushing By

Oh accursed dreamer who is called sailor

you cannot explain the longing

that leaves you restless for open ocean

out of sight of land

and those who would love you.

You are compelled eternally

to seek the solitudes of the undulating plane

that separates the heaven and the abyss

and you cannot feel complete without

the water rushing by.

Perhaps it is a lifepulse that calls you

a beating like the fetal heart throb

that sustained you in the warmth

and liquid of your mothers womb

now rising, then falling

caressing all around you

the harmony of hull in water

you surround yourself again in embryonic shelter

safe from all that would harm you

protected by the rhythm

of the water rushing by.

You go there beyond reason

of land bound men

so that again you may seek

the sight of yet another shore

from the only place remaining on the planet

where the world is seen almost as it always was.

There upon the tumbling mirth

of unchanged ever changing ocean

alone under ancient blue light

of beckoning stars and lonely distant worlds

receiving radiations of timeless wisdom

infinite love, endless yearning

of the universe eternal

and all the atoms of

the water rushing by.

Your life is become like your vessel

fusions of unlikely substance

that were in the earth, or grew upon it

joined together in brutal process

burning, bending, grinding cutting, pounding, poisoning.

Complex angles curving outward

inward, up and down

vertical, horizontal all at once

incongruous, inspired joinery

to craft a device of grace and beauty

for function, purpose, yet unplanned journeys

containing the conundrumed equation

of ballast against volume

to prevent capsize and stay floating outward

away from the now alien land where it was born

A convoluted, easy, tensioned balance

and buoyant synergy.

Yet no sum of parts will ever matter

so long as there ever is the simple music

of the water rushing by.

Man and vessel married

a happy oneness

dancing to the callings

of the sea bitch goddess.

Caressing her face and writhing body

with never ending, soon unmarked passage

of foaming wake across

the heaving breasts and belly

you are unable to abandon

the addictions of your passion.

Oh accursed sailor ever lusting

for just another moment, lonely then fulfilled

with peace and terror

lostness and homecoming

and the potent pleasure

of the water rushing by.

Life is a shipwreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” …Voltaire

Inroads

Spring has arrived, White schooners and Fawn Lilies.
This gorgeous wooden schooner, designed by Bill Garden, is recently built. You’d have to be dead for your heart to not skip a beat. She’s about 67′ long overall.

Fawn Lily

Never have I had such a reaction to any blog such as the last one. You, my readers, have moved me deeply. Thank you all so much about your concerns for my dreaded decision about needing to sell the boat. Everyone of you have suggested that I do not separate myself from such a large piece of who I am. I do not take your suggestions lightly. Thanks again. I appreciate your empathy and support. We’ll see how the pickle squirts in the coming weeks.

Green, green, green.

A salmon stream.

Nurse stumps.

Huggers.

Unfortunately I am a cyber-Neanderthal and while trying to sort out one fumble, my banana fingers changed a privacy setting which prevented some of you from contacting me. I’ve fixed that and look forward to hearing from you. Interaction with my readers is one of my joys.

One of the photos in my last blog was of laundry on a line. To me it is a now all-too-rare signal of domesticity and frugal, simple living. In my childhood nearly everyone had a clothesline. One of my jobs was to hang the laundry out and retrieve it once dry. First you wiped down the line to clean off any soot or other air contaminants. Then you hung the heavy items first so that they would go closest to the far pulley. In winter everything froze almost instantly, sheets, long underwear, socks, all stiff as a board. Then, slowly, the process of sublimation occurred and everything ended up freeze-dried as the softest, fluffiest laundry possible and all done without any chemicals. Apparently in both Canada and the US there are bans now falling into place to overrule previous bans preventing outdoor laundry lines. Apparently, some folks take offence at the sight of someone’s clean scanties flapping in the wind and all the think-green rhetoric means nothing when vanity overrules. I’ve heard of municipal fines in California imposed on citizens who did not water their lawns despite ongoing droughts. In Victoria, here on Vancouver Island, during dry summers businesses spring up that actually paint your dry grass a rich green. Appearance is everything to some folks. I’ll even admit that I have certain sensibilities about what appear to me as an “Ugly Boat.” That could be a blog in itself.

Cedar corpse in the woods, slowly becoming soil again from which it first sprouted.

Although the blossoms of spring have finally tip-toed out, there is still an icy chill in the air. We even had fresh snow low on the mountains a few days ago with ice pellets falling at sea level. The ambient temperature needs to be considerably warmer to accomplish many of the tasks on my boat. Paint and epoxy require temperatures above 16°C to cure correctly so most work is on hold. In the meanwhile Jack and I have taken to exploring the three major rivers south of Nanaimo. This area was developed around its abundant timber and coal resources and then the rich agricultural land once the forest was devastated. Now there are large ventures in the wine industry. There are vineyards everywhere, with tasting rooms and boutique bistros at many of these locations. There are also cideries, organic produce farms, free-range poultry and meats, local cheeses, home-spun clothing and a plethora of cottage arts. It is a wonderful region to explore and with some views, you might begin to think of Provence or Tuscany.

A very well travelled deer trail.

The three rivers all flow eastward. The Cowichan, The Chemainus and The Nanaimo all drain large watersheds and run swift and clear down to the sea and the beautiful archipelago of the Gulf Islands. Sadly, all these watersheds have been logged rapaciously since the mid 1800’s and many sawmills are gone now due to lack of raw logs. (We do, however, manage to export several shiploads of those same logs every week!) The environmental and visual devastation of these valleys is demoralizing. While the rivers still run clear and swift, usually with a fringe of old-growth timber along their banks, there is no sense of pristine wilderness. The old cut- blocks are garbage-dump ugly. Many salmon streams are now clogged with debris and unusable by traditional ish stocks. Still, the logging roads provide access to public forest lands and despite the carnage there is hope of seeing various species of wild life and also finding small pockets of untouched wild areas. Sadly those maintained roads are there so that second and even third cuttings of regenerated forest can be accessed. It would take centuries for the rain forest to return to its original state. So long as people are here, that will never happen. Exploring each of these river valleys we’ve found abandoned rail grades, mines, buildings and other mysterious endeavours. There are small untouched pockets of forest with ancient trees and crystal clear water rushing through gaps in hard rock which must have taken millions of years to carve and polish. Invariably you will also find discarded beer cans and bits of junk, but you have to learn to focus elsewhere.

Sacred, secret, sweet.

Hopefully you can open this this 1 minute video. The stream runs along the edge of some old logging. Imagine how long it took to carve this pool in solid granite. The water is delicious.

If the landmass which is Vancouver Island had developed at a slightly lower elevation, it would be divided into three islands instead of a single rock which is the size of some small countries. The most northerly island would be bounded on the south by ocean which is now a pass we know as the Alberni Valley and the Qualicum Valley. Further south the next dividing gap would be the Cowichan Valley. The eastern portion of this valley is fed by Lake Cowichan, a deep, beautiful body of water which has been logged right to its shoreline in most places. The water is clear and warm in the summer and so the lake is overrun with people roaring its lengths in noisy speedboats and jet skis. I curse them as an affront to the natural beauty of this place. A few miles to the west of Lake Cowichan is Nitinat Lake which drains westerly out through its shifting narrows directly into the open Pacific. Salmon migrations were once so huge that seine boats would risk the coastal surf and the tortuous narrows to fish the rich waters of this lake. Local indigenous men would earn huge fees to guide the boats through the narrows. Sadly this valley also fell prey to the rape of the timber trade and the verdant slopes are now mostly second growth forest. A few miles to the south of Nitinat lays the Carmanah Valley, home of some of the largest remaining old growth trees on the BC Coast. Ironically it was loggers who provided access and exposure to these incredible living giants.

A reproduction of a petroglyph found near Clo-ose, near Nitinat Narrows. clearly an essay on fertility, both human, and the sacred migration of salmon, an eagle guards the scene on the left. A full moon, relevant to timing of a salmon run, smiles from the sky. On the right a warrior stands with an enemy’s head in his right hand. This hangs above my desk. I have contemplated it for years, and would love to go see the real thing.

Hawk Mask by Hayward Russell, 1998. This equisite carving is another of my treasures. Believe it or not, I found it in a pawn shop at a bargain price when I had just enough money left to my name to buy it. To me, it is priceless.

It can be argued that the farmland is also a blight to the natural world but at least it is producing something life-giving and organic and picturesque. Hopefully we don’t poison our streams with manure and fertilizer. Unfortunately, the south island has become one of the most desired retirement areas in Canada. Suburban sprawl has become rampant in most areas. The only way to avoid it is to move to the wild and rugged northern end of Vancouver Island.

It will be a while longer before that region is also overrun with suburbanites and condomites and mallites. But, it’s coming. Meanwhile supply and demand has unreal estate prices rocketing far beyond any hope of affordable housing for average working folks.

Jack crosses to the other side, and then comes back again. He has the balance of a cat.

What a wonderful place this must have been before Europeans arrived. While there are no records of explorer’s crews attempting to jump ship here, the locals weren’t always that friendly and even a simple meal of mussels might kill you. However the raw beauty here would have been overwhelmingly grand and mysterious. Each newly discovered inlet just might be the long-sought shortcut back to the old world. Some explorer’s journals reported that the area could never amount to much because the land was covered with massive, far too difficult to clear for farming. It didn’t take long to figure out. Many ships returned home with a deck cargo of spars. The rape continues centuries later.

A Straight Stick

Dog and I walked miles of forest trails that twisted and wound, up and down river banks, over roots, around boulders and quagmires, all the while searching for one simple perfect thing. I wanted a handle for a boot hook and determined that it should be maple. West coast maple grows along the edges of human intrusion, old farms, railways, logging sites. There are huge maples which are clearly ancient arboreal giants. Maples, with their large leaves, make a wonderful display in the autumn and then provide a thick, rich layer of humus to the forest floor. Nature designed some to grow quickly, die, rot and nourish the soil. This occurs where several have germinated thickly and need thinning which is accomplished by natural attrition.

It was one of these which I sought. When peeled and allowed to cure the wood is very strong. Larger maples provide beautifully patterned lumber for furniture and ornamental trim. All I wanted was one stick. Young fir and cedar grow straight with a correct taper but they are soft woods which will not be as tough as a piece of cured maple. My challenge was to find one that was straight and true. I wanted it to be eight feet long with a gentle taper and an average diameter of one and a half inches. It had to be almost perfectly straight. There are, of course, millions growing out there. All I needed was one. It became an eye-crossing endeavour.

Every maple sapling I considered was nearly perfect but each one of an adequate length and diameter had a curve or a twist that made it unsuitable. After too many days of searching I found one that was very close to perfection. I had no saw with me so I memorized nearby features which would help me find it again. A few days later I returned to harvest my treasure. Now I noticed all the other leaning trees, odd roots, and puddles with big rocks nearby. I tramped back and forth three times until I found it again. It is in my workshop now, peeled and almost perfectly straight. It has been cut to exactly eight feet. Several months from now it will be mounted on one of my boat’s shrouds, bronze hook and tip installed and ready for a lifetime at sea as a useful tool. If I stay ashore, I’ll have my own personal Gandalph’s staff.

The stick. It is warping a bit as it dries, we’ll see how it looks once completely dry.

DRONE

Dog and I walked into the woods

on an afternoon sunny and fine.

We followed a tortuous trail

down to a river running fast,

cold, clear like sweet white wine.

We sat and surveyed the scene

feeling primal

inhaling the perfect and pristine,

enjoying our time alone.

Then up the river

flying fast and low

came

a goddamned drone.

Pecking Order . Huge flocks of Trumpeter Swans are heading north… a sure sign of spring.

The environment is everything that isn’t me.“ …Albert Einstein 

Three In A Row

It is happening for the third morning in a row. A sunrise! Clear skies! Only a light frost.

Yep, the same old view. Freighters wait for their cargos. They’ve been here for weeks. For the crews, it is the hardest part of their voyage, the waiting without being able to go ashore.

And then God said… “This’ll teach ’em.”
Actually, I’ve simply inverted a photo of a reflection during a walk on a recent sunny morning.

It has been a most reluctant spring so far. A daily E-bulletin board from Mexico to which I subscribe now has banter about the best border crossing to use on the spring trek home and what the flowers will be like in the Sonora Desert. Clearly, I’m not going to make it to Mexico this winter.

My friend Jack. Nothing pleases him more than to explore a new trail…

…especially if it leads to water.

Spring stream, before the water rises.

Nanaimo river before the spring freshet. (This and the next two photos are mobile phone shots)

Potholes on the river bank.

Jack was impressed with all the water bowls…just for him.

Darkness will suddenly fall, time to hoof it back up the river bank.

My beloved ‘Seafire’ has long been the focus of my existence and the tangible evidence of a wonderful dream. This blog has its foundation built on that idea, the dreaming and scheming, the preparations to realize those notions and adventures, both inner and outer. Now comes the reality that due to poor health and finances, ‘Seafire’ probably should be sold. I’m trying to convince myself that this will be a step forward into a higher state of being that has nothing to do with the stuff I possess or which tries to own me.

Modern petroglyphs
…still with secret meanings.

During the time I’ve been writing this blog friends have sailed their boats almost around the world and continue their voyage even as I write. Another good buddy set out on his boat and sailed many of the perimeters of the Pacific Ocean. They both deserve a big note of gratitude for their inspiration and their achievements. I’m still here. ‘Seafire’ has never sailed out of sight of these shores. I have logged thousands of miles up and down this coast, often in stormy winter weather and all on my own. The boat has also been my home for many years so there is nothing to regret as I arrive at this moment of painful decision. Yet I acquired the boat and refitted it for a voyage south and then on to Britain and Europe. None of it will ever happen. That leaves a very hollow feeling and the only way to make sense of it is to find the window that this journey has led me to. Wanna buy a really nice boat?

‘SEAFIRE’
I’m prolonging the moment when the “For Sale” sign goes up. I truly love this old boat.

Someone once told me that there are many ways to interpret the same script. The folks at Bombay Gin held a short film competition, the results of which can still be seen via Google.

The rules were simple. Five minutes was the time limit, everyone had to incorporate the same script. The five finalists each produced an entirely different film, including one animation. They are all wonderful, with the winner being titled ‘Room 8.’ It is amazing to realize the diversity of human creativity, even when forced within narrow parameters. Not only can we interpret a script any way we want, we each have the freedom to write any script any way we want.

I remind myself of this as I write while the sun reflects off my neighbour’s wall and through the narrow window beside my desk.

The blinding and inspiring  view from my desk as I write. Not even an ocean glimpse!

A television documentary last evening inspired me again to travel the back roads of Mexico in exploration of that country’s huge cultural history and wonderful natural eco-system. I have my little trailer which is perfect for that. I also have my blog to carry forward. Each week there are more new subscribers. Your comments and criticisms underscore your support and I sincerely thank all my readers. I can commit that the blog will continue no matter what.

Fizzy Brook, beneath a small waterfall found while out and about on another exploration.

There goes the neighbourhood!
Federal money has been provided to clean up the derelict vessels on the Black Beach in Ladysmith. That makes room for more.

In the meantime, ‘Seafire’ is having a good spring clean-up. Jack and I are also exploring local places that we have been passing by for years. Isn’t it amazing how we can look at so much and see so little? Here are some local photos and a little piece of my writing.

Back Alley Ladysmith, there’s always something to see…if you look.

Back Alley tilt,

Laundry on a line, a rare sight anymore and yet another back alley view.

Secrets revealed. An old hotel on mainstreet has sold. An excavation of contaminated soil in the back reveals two hidden entrances.

Monument

The little town where I live was built on a hillside

above the docks

where there are now more yachts than fishboats.

To go down there you must pass

through a four-way stop

where the oldest building on main street stands.

It is built of local stone and brick

thick walls mortared together

with high-arched windows

and apartments above.

There was once a newspaper office there.

They called me from among their list

of handymen advertisers and wanted me to look

at a job rebuilding their entrance.

Someone had almost fallen through the old wood.

I proposed replacing it with concrete

then took on the project alone.

The work had to be completed in one afternoon

after closing time

and ready for next morning.

I’m no concrete man,

but I was broke.

Of the values that come with working on boats

is a portfolio of diverse skills

a deft bravado that comes from incessant poverty

and often being somewhere with no-one to help.

I hung out my shingle

when work on the water was scarce.

The cement truck arrived while I was still cleaning out old wood

and building a new form with plenty of rebar

because I wasn’t sure how much was required.

The August sun blasted that entry way like a bake oven

I worked like a fool to get the mix in place and trowelled out

but in the heat it began to set

and I kept adding water to stay ahead of the game.

I knew that was wrong

but then, somehow

all my problems are resolved with water.

Just in case the job went bad

I did not leave my initials.

Years later

that slab is still there

uncracked, solid, permanent

down there at the old corner of First and Last

where I can see my boat from the main street.

It is my monument,

my piece of the town

now an entrance to a fish and chip shop

where thousands have trod

in and out

never thinking about an old sea dog

slaving madly on a hot summer afternoon

maintaining their ease and safety.

Why should they?

It is my secret.

Only I know what lies down there

underneath their feet as I pass smugly

on the way to the docks.

My Monument, beneath the door mat.

You’ve got to keep your sense of humour! I decided I needed to comment about all those HY-BRID automobiles.

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Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny…. Stephen Hawking