I’m cheating on this blog. Most of it has already been written for months.

I am repeatedly asked why I’m on my own now instead of working in the shipyard. Apart from my penchant for doing jobs suitable for much younger men, I can assure you that wriggling around in bilges and lockers is not ideal for Rubenesque old bilge apes like me. I’ve got to get ‘Seafire’, my own prune barge, ready for the deep blue sea.

I guess that having a white muzzle has its advantages, like finally having the patience to endure finicky tasks, and having the same thing go wrong seventeen different ways and remembering even worse jobs in the past. Then your greasy glasses, which weren’t doing you much good anyway, drop into the bilge and you blow your old back out trying to retrieve them, and life clearly can’t go on and on like this.You know that nothing is forever, including yourself, and it’s time to savour the warmth of the fire before it becomes a heap of dying embers, then ash.

Some folks asked me why I kept on working in the yard. So now I don’t. The same people ask me why I’m not there any more! I used to call myself ‘Shipyard Fred’. Now I’m just a wharf rat…but one with still a dream or two, or ten. I’d prefer to finish life as a lump of shark shit instead of ending up sitting in a corner being spoon-fed and having my diapers changed. No one is going to stand around the edge of a

The 'U&I'

six-foot hole telling each other what a hard worker I was. Bugger that!

Bilge Ape
Bilge Ape

The following is something I wrote for the Fisher Poets Gathering in February of this year. People liked it. I hope you do.

Shipyard Summer Romance

It is hard to find the romance of the sea in anything, while working in a shipyard.

Most days I don’t have it as bad as the guys

Who purge dripping filth from hulls left too long unattended

They scrape the bearded muck then the caked bottom paint away

So they can replace it with fresh poison which fills the air and your brain with a putrid tang.

My wages aren’t quite as meagre as the rest of the crew’s

Because I have the lofty honour of working inside the hulls

Where the slurping black bilge muck defies you to reach on down for dropped tools

If you can wriggle your hand that far; and get it out again.

Each job may require painful contortions inside the bowels of a vessel,

Size of the boat has nothing to do with it, big ones have places just as tight

Every bolt rusted solid with no room to heave on a wrench

There’s a tangle of circuitry you’ll rip apart if you’re not careful.

Nothing to it
Nothing to it

Wiring, now there’s a joy!

You spend half the job trying to figure out what the hell the last man

Was thinking before you eventually rip out all the old stuff and start over again

Coming up with a bitter joke about the ‘Home-Prairie Frigger-Rigger Manual of Marine Wiring.’

You also curse the landlubber marine designers who, themselves, have clearly never been to sea,

Let alone ever turned a wrench.

Sewage jobs seem to show up on the hottest days of the year.

You battle with a clogged toilet pump tucked well beneath the sole plates

Surgical gloves ruptured, you don’t give a damn, you just want to get the job done

Gagging on the stench of someone else’s rancid DNA

While they implore with toe-tapping anxiety that they’d really like to make the next tide

As if you’re squirming there, with their organic discharges running down your arm, just to pass the time.

Of the few cash tips you make in the summer, none are ever from the crapper jobs.

There is work that comes back, no matter how careful you were the first time.

The boss looks at his watch and wordlessly makes it clear that you’re costing him revenue,

We’ll talk about the lost time later, just get it done, stay late if you have to, jobs are heaping up.

You emerge from a locker gulping for a breath of air, your body chaffed, bruised, scratched and

bleeding, massaging knots out of contorted muscles before going back down for more

Fibreglass slivers under broken, blackened fingernails, bloody knuckles

Only God understands what grows in pink fungal splendour in the locker where you struggle and gasp

Knowing you’ll probably only wriggle back out of this hell hole if you stay sweat-wet.

Engines and gearboxes, more bliss!


Outboard motors than will not run despite everything appearing perfect

The pull-start poltergeist turns out to be the customer’s son.

He put diesel in the two-stroke tank

Now four carburetors need to be removed, stripped, cleared, reassembled, reinstalled and tuned,

Magically in the next hour and a half.

An ancient stubborn diesel engine worn beyond reasonable hope

Hard to start, water in the oil, a crack in the block, stripped bolts,

Yet you spread its greasy guts across the bench after hearing the poor-broke-sailor lament

Sung ever better than your own version.

The only parts you could find are somewhere on their way from Scandinavia on a slow boat

Hopefully you can patch things up for this guy to make it through to season’s end

Meanwhile you fumble a transmission together with pieces from two other busted ones

It’s for a tired old working boat and Chum season is only a few days long, so you do the best you can.

A desperate power-boater comes through the door, as usual, two minutes ahead of closing time

He has to be in Vancouver for the morning and he’ll make it worth your while,

Yeah right; you’ve never heard that before!

Laying across the hot engine, bolt heads poking into your guts you wonder

How and why the hell he left the last dock with a pump leaking that badly.

You don’t have the correct parts of course

So you stay on another half-hour trying to persuade Mr. Yuppie-yachter that it’s alright

Run home on only one engine, that’s why it’s there, backup so you can make it to your meeting.”

Turns out he doesn’t really need to, afraid to try the crossing only one 400 hp engine. he’ll wait; Liar!

Another evening shot to hell now, you’ll order parts in on the morning floatplane.

On the blocks
On the blocks

You go back to your own boat, your home,

The reason you live like the transient scum dock-hermit whom certain folks think you are

No point trying to explain your dream to beach huggers.

Too weary to put in a couple of hours on your own long list of work to do

You open a beer and fry up some supper

A proper diet and your dreams pushed back another day

Smiling you recall a time when you longed for a life ashore.

You had hoped to sail your old prune barge south this fall, finish her refit down there somewhere

At the helm there’s a framed picture of a palm-fringed, azure green tropical anchorage

But you know you’re in for yet another long dark, wet, arthritic winter

You know that soon the e-mails will start coming in from friends already south of thirty-eight.

You fear you’ll never pay the bills as you crawl into the cold, lonely bunk for another weary night

Knowing that old Nelson was right, ‘Ships and men rot in port.’

Around the marina, dock-warriors on their plastic clone boats

Party into the night, music blaring, drunken laugher, giggling children maraud the docks

You toss and writhe, jealous of their apparent pleasure,

Angry at their obvious decadent leisure

Numbly you wonder if you know how to have fun anymore.

For a few minutes you fall into the dark bliss of sleep

Then there’s a tentative knocking on the hull

The boat shifts slightly under someone’s weight on the cap rail

Probably looking for a mechanic you think

You lay unmoving until finally they go away

Now you’re awake for hours embraced by your regrets and worries

Then it occurs to you that maybe the caller

Was that gorgeous woman on the boat two docks down wanting to borrow some sugar…

Yeah right! Well, even old bilge apes can indulge in fantasies, OK!

In the morning, pot-bellied men in flowered shirts mop the dew from their shining white decks

You trudge back up the dock, stepping around fresh poodle piles, to another day in the yard

Pausing for a moment to savour the perfect summer morning

Wondering why you don’t just untie your own boat and bugger off

No goodbyes, no final paycheque, just gone

But you know you don’t steer a steady course looking back at your wake

So you stay on to pay off the bills.

No cash, no splash
No cash, no splash

Your attention turns to the spectre of a gleaming bright phallus with huge propellers

The crew has brought it up on the ways during the night flood tide.

There was a noble time when this yard’s machinery sculpted wood here

At the hands of those who knew and loved the shape of boats

The air was filled with the staccato beat of caulking hammers,

The song of band saws, a tangy aroma of yellow cedar dust and pine tar

As dedicated men built boats right here to go to sea, and to war.

That was a long time ago

Hard to believe now in the choking muck of ground rust and fibreglass

Grating nasal scream of grinders and other machinery,

Now this!

Barbie the trophy wife stands up on her swim grind trying to give orders

Manoeuvring constantly so you have a view up her short skirt

You’re a sailor who’s certainly no prude but you keep your eyes averted

And wonder why on earth she blatantly flirts

With this grotty old bilge ape in tattered coveralls covered in dirt

Her cell phone buzzes and chirps all day

She reiterates that her old man is a very fussy fellow

While you think that ‘He can’t be if he’s hooked up with you lady.’

Barbie invites you to come aboard for beer later

But the chance to decline her invitation leaves you feeling better

Smiling thinly you get to work knowing there’ll be no pleasing anyone on this job,

So just get ‘er done and be gone

You tunelessly breathe an old shanty you know

About how every turn of the screw brings me closer to you.

It goes on through the year

Too rarely you get to work on a real boat that smells of fish

Or rust and grease and diesel and work

The summer spins by as dizzy as a barnacle on a propeller

The gods put you here, you’ll see it through

But it seems a long way from steering a course across the heaving belly of the open ocean

Where life actually makes sense.

You’ve always loved the sea and boats

You have a place in your heart for those who share this passion and understand why you hang on

They know how the summer wind is warm and steady and calls you to cut her loose and just sail away,

No further explanation needed about why you’re working in the yard

Those few know that it’s all about the romance of the sea.

Jame's boat
Jame’s boat

Soft Butter


Finally! A few days ago, as I prepared my morning toast, I realized that the weather had warmed enough for the butter to have gone soft. It’s still pliable today. A friend who was once giving me advise on sailing to warmer climes suggested that “You hold a heading due south until the butter melts, then turn left!”

Lately, other friends seem to parrot each other in their advise to me that the boat is looking good, “Just untie it and go!” They’re right I know. Sometimes you just have to shut your eyes and jump. Still, there are bills to clear up and I don’t want to be looking over my shoulder once I leave. And, like it or not, there are a few items of prudence to be addressed before venturing out onto the briney deep. You can’t steer a steady course by looking back at your wake for bits bobbing behind or men in brown shirts with pieces of paper to serve to you. So the plod forward continues into the warmth and brightness of late spring and early summer. I know I have the positive emotional support of many; so with all that good karma I can proceed with confidence believing that this will work out quite well and that by Christmas of this year, I’ll be blogging away from somewhere in the Sea of Cortez. There seems to be, in all worthwhile endeavours, a steep climb through fog where one’s faith is severely tested. From previous experience I know that fog may not clear until you are crawling onto the summit. So, in the meantime, may all of our karmas not run over any of our dogmas.

Neither fear no ignorance nor poverty!

Now then, discussing karma, I do intend to take a little time and enjoy life a bit this summer. Gabriola is a wonderful place to do that, especially in summer with most folks are in generally good spirits. There are all sorts of summertime art and musical events happening here on this island which is populated with so very many talented people. Currently, I’m trying to set up a gig for a friend who will be here in mid-summer. Richard Grainger is someone I describe as the Stan Rogers of England and he’ll be playing Vancouver Island at various venues in mid summer. A link to his website and wonderful music can be found in my ‘Blog Roll’.

Gab morning 11

At the moment the local museum has an exhibit up about the Hippy era when so many islanders first arrived here. Now advancing into a pre-geriatric age these old flower children have come a long way. Last night I reviewed a long series of snapshots of life back then. Some of those young hopefuls are now entering their geezerhood. I peer into the faces of of those I encounter and wonder at how quickly forty years and more have passed. Some of them still look vaguely recognizable against their aged photographs. Now some have their own grandchildren out in the marijuana patch breast feeding their own progeny. The beat goes on!Gab morning10


Political and social protest now seems to have largely devolved to online petitions. Of course, with broader comfort zones it is interesting to see how perspectives change. Now these once barefooted squatters whose mantras included ‘Share the wealth man’ have come by inheritances that allow then to wear designer gumboots while driving an exotic foreign SUV (Stupid Urban Vanity) sporting a ‘Think Green’ bumper sticker, listening to satellite music stations and grumping that texting on their BumbleBerry cell phone is not possible everywhere on the island; the signal here is intermittent. The trees on the perimeter of their private estates are festooned with ‘Private Property’ signs. I’ve heard a capitalist defined as “A socialist who’s found an opportunity”. It’s true! I know of people who were threatened with violence for the offence of anchoring in front of someone’s beachfront holdings. That was on a local Gulf Island especially noted for it’s free thinkers and liberal lifestyle.

Not everyone became a happy heir or a successful entrepreneur. I see the dead look in some eyes which seem to grieve for how life turned out so unjustly. (Or maybe…..it’s just drugs) I don’t know if many of us deserve our fate, good or bad, but for those who realize that their hope of communal enlightenment and nirvana generally turned out to be bullshit, here’s a quote from Winston Churchill: “The inherit virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.” Then again in all fairness, as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans”.

That is being relayed by this failed capitalist who has come to truly wonder at the sad concepts we all hold of being owned by our stuff and of people actually feeling we can have exclusive possession of own piece of the planet. Other folks do seem to have truly found themselves a comfortable niche and apparently live a contented and harmonious existence. Kudus indeed!

A few of the island’s residents are quite opposed to concepts of people living as they choose, for example, on their boats. I guess that I may well be regarded as just another old boat hippy who doesn’t know the war is over. For some, it’s not. If you insist on employing the hyper-anality you came to escape, go for it. If it bothers you more than me, who’s got a problem? 

Most folks understand that the price of freedom is responsibility and you can’t “Do your thing” if it means getting in someone else’s face. Unless, of course you are one of those devil’s advocates whose thing is peeing in someone else’s cornflakes. So put on a tie-dyed T shirt with a slogan that says something like “Nuke A Gay Whale For Jesus”. Different strokes for different folks dude! If you like to ride naked on an alpaca while playing a didgeridoo, there is plenty of real estate available here. Just make sure you have a good water well and don’t dare to cut down any of your own trees!

A grand thing about living on this beautiful and diverse island is how so many different flavours of humanity, from career-welfare potheads to semi-retired multi-millionaires, are generally able to mix and mingle and live together peacefully on this little rock. Gabriolans are noted for their loyalty to each other as fellow islanders and often joke about the ferry link to Nanaimo as ‘Going to the other side”. Thankfully, it is a reliable ferry service.

Peace Man!

Degnen Bay
Degnen Bay
Welcome to my nightmare!
Welcome to my nightmare!

Things That Make You Say HUH?

Blog sites attract quite a bit of spam….. (And I’m so old that I remember when spam was something you ate.) It was disgusting stuff!

Anyway I regularly check and delete spam, sometimes pausing to read some of the gibberish. Now this one caught my attention and I’m trying to make sense of it.

“CAUTION: If you have a pet bird, it may be wise to avoid non-stick coatings.”

The first image that those words brought to mind was of a live canary stuck to a frying pan in a slather of congealed bacon fat. Then I considered an all-night blues bar called the ‘Sticky Parrot’. Now I wonder if it’s not a coded message from MI5 or perhaps CSIS warning about the perils of Asian funding in regard to the Fiscal Wall or perhaps…. perhaps it has something to do with the rising cost of spark plugs for military drone aircraft. Maybe it has to do with the bow to stern flotilla of ships that come to our coast and load up entire forests of raw logs. Is one thought anymore ludicrous than the next? Why would anyone send such a message?

You can drive yourself totally mad trying to make sense of the world around you and these little pimples of twisted wit that pop out at you. There’s no point, because there is no sense or rationality to human presence. If there is one organism on this planet which is clearly non-indigenous it has to be the fungus that calls itself the human race. We clearly don’t belong here! How’s that for polemic conjecture? I’m on the edge of a rant, it’s time to move on.

Old boats tell no lies
Old boats tell no lies

Sailing, now there is an endeavour that leaves millions mystified. Why would any sensible person want to do it? There are those who love to race their boats. That, to me, seems a fine art of practicing a vicious sort of seamanship where one tries to destroy every expensive component of a perfectly fine vessel while proving who has the tiniest willy. I’m clearly not a racer.  I’ve tried it and know that despite some vague camaraderie among those whose bible is a copy of racing rules, there’s just too much testosterone, male and female, for my sensibilities.  And yes, there IS a female testosterone, just go racing with the ladies, you’ll find out!

I spend too much of my life whirling around to acquire the means  to  take my boat and simply meander where the wind wills me to go. Maybe that’s why I know poverty so well, I’m just not competitive enough. Let’s just say I try to be a lover, not a fighter. I prefer to try and live in harmony with the elements instead defying them. Unless of course I stumble onto a lee shore or find myself at sea when the bearing of an approaching ship is not changing. Thank god for little diesel engines!

Some people just enjoy owning a boat, the simple bliss of maintaining the vessel and never straying far from the harbour. Perhaps these folks are the most blessed, they have mastered the art of simply being. They are also probably good gardeners.

There are also those tortured souls who are addicted to becoming, to growth and its inherent pain, to discovery and wandering. I am a wanderer, but let me point out that not all wanderers are lost. I understand that if you don’t know where you’re going, you will end up somewhere else and you know what? That’s just fine!

Buddies through the end
Buddies through the end

I cannot explain to someone, who does not love the ocean and boats and those who do as well, why anyone has an affinity for the ocean and being on it, sometimes out of sight of land, cold, wet and frightened, why that is what we sailors must do. I suppose the simple answer is that it’s for those few moments of purest bliss when we feel in harmony with the planet, and yes maybe even the universe with all its inhabitants. There is also the bright light of illusion when we feel completely in control. The purest radiance of all comes when we give up all control to the forces we know we cannot  defy. We resolve to relax and enjoy the storm while it lasts. It never does. That can be damned hard to remember when you’re in the middle of one when each minute of the ordeal is an eternity. A Taoist would say that to surrender control is to be in control.

Papa Polita: Surrendering control
Papa Polita: Surrendering control

When I was younger I read everything I could about sailing and the sea.  One of my heroes is still Jean Gau. He sailed alone around the world twice in a Tahiti ketch, a very traditional, and slow, 30′ wooden boat. He was infamous for running aground, usually due to fatigue, but I loved his determination and his pelagic passion. He was not a writer but he did pen this:

They did not understand the dream

That charmed the seas of his voyage

Since it was not the same lie

That was taught in their village.

……..Jean Gau

Sleeping in
Sleeping in

It has bucketed rain for the past few days. This evening is blessed with clearing skies and a golden sunset such as we have only here in Silva Bay. Anchored out and glowing brilliantly is the ‘Joshua.’ I do not know much about her because I cherish the mystery of her peregrinations. She is an iconic harbinger here of mid-spring and again of fall when Southbound. Her home port is displayed as Alameda, CA. The vessel is a full-scale wooden replica of Joshua Slocum’s famous ‘Spray.’


The builder/owner/skipper of this beauty, whom I do not know, is an older gentleman who sports a red beret and a braided beard. He rows ashore in a Gloucester Gull  dory and walks with a limp like all real old sailors . That is all I know about this little ship but it is always an affirmation of all that is right whenever she’s in port. Harrrrrrr!

Something real





Jack The Flying Dog
Jack The Flying Dog

 Sometimes the enormity of life is overwhelming. My last blog described the gormless sense of self-entitlement some people demonstrate in their frantic quest for distraction from the drudgery of life. I realized that a symptom of my own flaws is when I find annoyance at other folks trying to celebrate life. When I’m in a ‘Ha, Bumhug’ mood nothing will cheer me up.

 Yes, this crusty old barnacle admits to having fought a lifelong battle with, what the medical bunch describes as, chronic depression. One of my books, ‘Sins Of The Fathers’ deals with the darkness of living with bi-polar disorder and overcoming the weight of this much misunderstood condition. I’m not sure I did a good job of enlightening those who don’t understand the illness or of helping those who do. I’m not about to make an effort to further those interests here except to say that regardless of what many people think, it IS a tangible illness, it is NOT simply a matter of bad attitude, self pity or negative thinking. To survive a lifetime despite the instinct for self-destruction is a very positive achievement on its own. To find occasional joy, to pursue creative interests and to cling tenaciously to a goal, no mater how remote it seems, is a triumph. I’d be happy to discuss this subject person to person. (Or even sell you copy of my book)

 "Keep yer pecker up!"

“Keep yer pecker up!”

This past week has been one where dark demons have been shaking my tree and I’m plodding out of it ever towards the shimmering mirage of a dream I’m determined to reach.

It occurs to me that depression is not merely a personal cross. It is the unacknowledged epidemic running rampant through Western society and is the root from which so many other medical and social illnesses grow. To consume has become our reason to be (See my link to ‘Story Of Stuff’) and none of us can live up to the demands of all the advertising imposed on us incessantly. None of us are good enough, pretty enough, wealthy enough, drive a fine enough car, go on enough exotic vacations, have a good enough sex life, have happy enough pets…… The pressure is relentless and insidious. Is clinical depression a product of nurture or nature? Yes!

When I was a child the world you were born into was believed to be the one you would inhabit. It was reasonable to think that the world had parameters and you could actually be educated and prepared for a place in it. How do you prepare children now for an environment that is evolving so quickly, no one can comprehend it or what the future holds? Think back five or ten years to what the world was like and how it is now. Honestly, did you have any idea? Without the sense of security of a tangible existence and future, no wonder we’re all a bit anxious. No wonder so many people have substance abuse issues, or can’t keep functional personal relationships or spend so much time in pursuit of distraction.



The headline for this blog is a quote from a man I was interviewing for a job; now many years ago. Those words are his description of the meaning of life. I’ve since found nothing more eloquent; a few words from one simple blue-collar working man.

Meanwhile, work on the preparations of ‘Seafire’ continues, one screw at a time.

 I’ll close out this musing with the following quote from Marianne Williamson which was used as part of Nelson Mandela’s inaugural speech.

 ‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful, beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us.

We ask ourselves, ”Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?”

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that

other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It is in everyone, and, as we let our light shine,

We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,

Our presence automatically liberates others.




They’re back! Victoria Day weekend has just passed and now we’re careening toward the first day of summer in another four weeks. First the swallows and Purple Martins reappear, then with the long weekend in May other weird birds show up. Now I know that when I use the term, weird, it means someone or some thing is beyond my comprehension. When the entire Status quo trends that way, I understand that I’m the one who’s weird. Or am I ?

My perception of what is correct in the nautical world is complex yet steeped in simple tradition. I value things being done ‘The old way’ and feel that self-sufficiency, independence, and simplicity are essential components in being a proficient mariner. Clearly, masses disagree.

I was evicted, for the weekend, from my spot on the dock by noon on Friday. The weekend warriors happily pay premium moorage fees.  (Those with the gold make the rules) A gleaming white Tupperware armada began to arrive. I retreated to anchor across the bay in a secluded spot. Long before nightfall all the marinas in the bay were bursting with gleaming plastic, pulsing light and noise. As darkness settled, the boats kept on coming. For once, no-one ended up aground on the reef at the harbour entrance.

The docks, choked with shouting boaters in folding chairs sitting at folding tables, were impassable. Caustic music of different flavours throbbed from various stereo systems around the bay. The din was constantly punctuated with the squeals and forced guffaws of drunken people trying to convince themselves they were having fun. There is a braying, frantic tone that betrays the desperate existence so many of these folks were trying to escape for a few hours. They only manage to bring it with them. There are four months ahead when we have to endure these vicarious wannabe Vikings stumbling into the bay and overrunning our generally peaceful existence. Here on the West coast I don’t know what ‘Going boating’ or ‘Boating season’ means. There are those of us who’s existence is intrinsic with being on and near the sea; all year long. It’s the way some of us live, all the time. Weird huh? I should mention here that I realize I am categorizing. There are plenty of competent and experienced mariners out there doing what they love and don’t give a damn for making impressions or joining herds. I also know that these kindred spirits tend to avoid the madness I describe.

This old cynic left the bay when the small anchorage I had chosen became littered with ever more boats anchored too close. It happened twice again during the weekend as I retreated to more secluded anchorages. As usual, there was yet another kayaker who thought that this boat at anchor was a captive venue for his demands for attention as he clung, shouting, to our cap rail. As I recall, key words I used were “Privacy, respect, solitude, and piss-off!”

Yeah I know I’m a grumpy old fart. ‘Hey you, get off of my cloud!”

The old prune barge herself
All dressed up with everywhere to go

I’ve previously promised to describe my boat ‘Seafire‘, the dream machine after which this blog is named. The design is called a Downeaster 41, entirely a misnomer in a couple of ways, all in the cause of marketing. Actually the hull is 38′ with the extra 3’ being added in the form of a bowsprit/platform. The designer, Henry Morschladt, drew several sizes of vessel for Downeaster Yachts of Santa Ana, California. Apparently, if you hang an Eastcoast handle on a boat, it is supposed to seem saltier. This line of sailboats is famous for being over-built and seakindly. Many have have successfully completed extensive offshore voyages. ‘Seafire’ is one of twelve 38′ hulls built and sold as 41′ motorsailers. Allegedly my hull was produced in 1981, near the end of the company’s history when so many businesses failed in that great recession. I wonder sometimes, if my hull wasn’t one of the last built. Some of the fibreglass work in out-of sight places is very, very rough and the plumbing and wiring were clearly installed by amateurs. The teak wood work is gorgeous.

Home of the blog, the meditation both, dining salon and board room. Galley, guest cabin, skippers quarters and stowage forward
Home of this blog, the meditation booth, dining salon and board room. Galley, guest cabin, skippers quarters and stowage forward

Those criticisms out of the way there is not one osmosis blister on the hull after 32 years of soaking in the briny deep. That’s a very good sign of her integrity. The engine is a trusty old 65 Hp Ford Lehman, recently rebuilt. (That is an American engine, not at all related to the British Leyland, an entirely different product. )The transmission is a ubiquitous Borg Warner velvet drive; it’s all good. There is an inside helm, massive water and fuel tankage, a huge forward berth and a separate private cabin with a comfortable double berth. The galley is better than some which I’ve known in tugboats and is located in the belly of the vessel, where it is easiest to produce a hot meal in heavy weather.

Sadly, the boat had apparently not know much of a life as other than a ‘Gin Palace’, one of those boats that is used to entertain and impress people and seldom leaves the dock. Her neglected state made her affordable to me, the effort to bring her up to my standard of seaworthy has financially shattered me. I knew better !

Pretty from all angles
Pretty from all angles

She is cutter-rigged with furlers on both headsails which makes her easy to handle and the old ‘Prune Barge’ sails pretty well for a motorsailor. She looks after herself and her crew just fine in nasty weather and I have grown quite fond of her. Now, I just have to finish enough of her refit to get her to La Paz Baha for Christmas. There have been plenty of recent setbacks so I know I’m doing the right thing although there are days when I nearly drown myself and those close to me in despair and doubt. If I drop this dream, my life becomes meaningless, my writing and everything else hinges on sailing and so I can’t give it up.

The whole situation exposed

‘Seafire’ is the eighth sailboat I’ve bought and refitted. There was a power boat or two along the way as well. Six of the sailboats were all very capable offshore boats. If only I’d just buggered off in the first little sloop ‘Jenta’, what a different tale I’d have to tell. You cannot steer a steady course by looking back at your wake so there’s no point in regrets. The boat previous to ‘Seafire was ‘Pax’, an Australian-built IOR half-tonner which had been raced in the Southern Ocean for ten years before embarking on a fourteen-year East-about cruise around the world. One of her claims to fame was when she had been rolled 360 degrees by a rogue wave off the mouth of the Platte River in Uraguay. Even the mast stayed in place!  She is one tough little ship to have survived that well enough to sail on in to shore. I had ‘Pax’ fully refitted and ready to go again.


However, I wanted a boat which I could sail from inside and which had the capacity for enough tools for me to be totally self-sufficient and also earn some cash along the way. I also wanted some private quarters for a few guests. I want to be able to offer friends the chance to join the boat, wherever in the world she may be. This will help with the expenses and also provide folks the chance to affordably see a bit of the world away from home in a unique perspective.

Yes, you’re invited.

The open Pacific, Todos Santos, Baha
The open Pacific , Todos Santos, Baha
La Paz Baha
La Paz




The water rushes down on its way to the sea
Spring time in the forest

 I’ve put up a couple of links today in my Blog Roll to a web site and  to a blog site of a man named Pat Dixon. Pat is a compadre I’ve met through the Fisher Poet’s Gatherings. He has been instrumental in putting up the expanded FPG website and seems able to cruise through the cyber jungle with ease; especially in comparison to my ability for stumbling and nearly drowning in the first puddle I find. I’m honoured to have Pat’s permission to post links to his work and hope readers find it as uplifting and inspiring as I do.

The value I find in the inspiration of people like Pat is the reiteration that if you have a gift you must use it or lose it or….as old Lord Nelson said, “Ships and men rot in port.” When people put their shoulder to the proverbial wheel, and like Pat, who writes a poem a day for an entire month, amazing results follow.

All things must end
Jack chases down the stream….Whoa! What stream? 

This week, while driving to Victoria on business my dog, Jack, and I stopped at one of our usual watering holes. It’s a place to have a stretch and a pee and a drink of water before diving into the maelstrom of frantic, lurching traffic know as the ‘Colwood Crawl.’ The place I describe is only safely accessible while southbound from the Malahat through Goldstream Park. There’s a small parking area and then a lovely walk to a beautiful waterfall. It was cascading as usual under the canopy of lush spring-green foliage. Bellow the falls the stream always runs fully with tumbling clear water. At this time of year one expects the water to be a foaming madness of spring run-off. Clearly the logs littering the stream bed are testament to boisterous currents. This year the water runs through quiet pools for a few hundred metres then disappears into the rocks of the stream bed. It is quite disconcerting and I wonder what it means.

Meanwhile the tides rise and fall and the sun and moon go round as ever. Some sailing friends are presently exploring the Himalayas. Others are preparing for a summer of cruising in the Northwest Passage. An old friend has his boat in final preparations for a year-long voyage to the South Pacific. Another buddy has recently completed the purchase of a fifty-four foot ketch as the tangible  journey of his dream begins. The energy of all those dreamers is something wonderful to draw on as I weave loose fibres into the fantastic fabric of my own flying carpet.

I thank them all.    

Up the creek without a stream
Jack ponders the disappearing stream.



Yesterday felt like the first day of summer. The temperature was in the high twenties, the sky was cloudless and the air was filled with the aromas of cut grass, blossoms, and barbeques. Even the reek of cowshit as I passed a local dairy farm seemed, to this old farm boy, an assurance of promise and continuity. For once life felt warm and fuzzy.

This weekend also marked an important step in my journey toward sailing away. My job and I have gone in separate directions. It feels good .

That may seem an odd thing for a guy who’s main concern is money. But now I have time to prepare to go sailing and things have a way of working out if you are headed in the right direction. You’ve just got to hang in there until well into the eleventh hour no matter how bleak things look. At least, that has been my experience.

Frankly this weary old work horse just can’t pull the plow like I used to. Running around all day, clambering up and down ladders and squirming into hot, dank bilges is often a a painful challenge. It’s a younger man’s game.

I now feel much more in control of my life. I can take time to address things important to me, like writing this blog. I read somewhere that unless you’re the lead sled dog, the view never changes.

We’ll see.

The old prune barge herself
The old prune barge herself


‘Passing Cloud’ is a well-known British Columbiabuilt wooden schooner (You can Google up pictures by simply using her name) This piece is not about the vessel, but is inspired by a wee visit to her birthplace yesterday. In fact, I find the name an analogy about how things of beauty and substance can pass or vaporize before we realize what we are losing.

 By comparison here is a quote taken directly from the packaging of a usb hub I bought this weekend. “THE MAGNETISM OF THE BOTTOM CAN BE COMFORTABLY ABSORBED BY PAVING THE DESIGN IN ANY PROVINCES.”

REALLY! I guess now that China knows it owns North America it is not really concerned about getting the language right. I believe the linguist who wrote that was trying to explain that the gadget has a magnetic bottom. Remember that mutant translation next time you see an Air China Airbus passing overhead…..right then, back to the passing cloud theme.


Ted Knowles 1.PG Ted Knowles15 Thoreau 1The man who owns the property and the boathouse where ‘Passing Cloud’ was built has sold and is moving on. I met him through a friend and went to Victoria to pick up an old wooden mizzen mast Ted wanted to go to a good home. I need it for a project on a customer’s boat and so serendipity has led me to a wonderful experience. Ted is an older man with a youthful glow. He is soft-spoken yet clearly a whole person who exudes an aura of peaceful wisdom and experience and confidence. It is a feeling I often get when around people who ‘Mess’ with wooden boats. He is certainly well known within the community of local wooden boat folks.

I am writing this and publishing these photos, without his knowledge or permission,  as a tribute of gratitude. I share this blog with fellows of a similar ilk and so take this liberty.

Ted’s boathouse is a temple for characters like me and  I wanted to share the wonder of the place. Everywhere are heaps of treasure: tools, and home-made machinery, including a sawmill and massive planer, well-seasoned boat wood, small wooden boats, home-made tools, a forge and a plethora of nautical tools and items. It is organized choas. I had a sense that Ted probably knows where every nail is stored. All, of course, is covered in a thick strata of dust and a sense of history.

Ted has sold and is moving on. He is faced with the daunting task of clearing out the boat house before he leaves for the last time. The waterfront property will become the site for two luxury waterfront homes. Another piece of our heritage passes like a cloud. He quiety said with a sad smile that it is, “Progress.” He could find no-one who wanted to take over the little shipyard as it is.

I recall giving someone directions to a new restaurant in Vancouver. It is at the foot of Burrard Street on the now-concreted foreshore of Coal Harbour. I described it as being where Menchions Shipyard had been located and received a blank look in response. How quickly we forget. We smother everything in cement and asphalt, glass and metal and talk about ‘Thinking green’. There was a time, not so long ago, when it was honourable to make a little daylight in the swamp but we created a monster. Now it is not unreasonable to find that, as Joni Mitchell sang, they’ll charge a dollar to see the tree museum.

I suppose it is one of the reasons I am preparing ‘Seafire’ to go voyaging. At sea you can see the world almost as it has always been, ever-changing unchangeable curved open horizon; the bits of plastic debris bobbing along ignored. Sailboats are a way of getting to places where life is still lived much as it has been. Change occurs everywhere, but the notion of constancy and solid values are a great comfort to this writer who mourns the passing of things like the art of letter-writing and self-sufficiency. Now where’s my copy of ‘Blogging For Dummies’?


I still can’t get used to this bloggery bloggerty word BLOG! It sounds like something you’d find stuck under a school desk or a church pew or…something you’d do in a barnyard on a rainy day in your bare feet.  Of course words like net and spam had a singular meaning not so long ago.  Tweet, Twitter, Skype and Google  are all terms with an unknown or very alternate meaning not so long ago. Language constantly evolves and so must we; like it or not.

Silva Bay, April 24th, 2012
Silva Bay, April 24, 2012

Anyway, it’s another full moon tomorrow night. The forecast is for rain tomorrow so I grabbed this shot a few minutes ago. Already another month has jetted past.  There has been little progress in getting this boat ready while other urgencies have kept interrupting. I do now have a new computer, a most appreciated early birthday gift from my wife Jill.  No more vertical blank line in the middle of the screen and despite my apprehension I’m finding Windows 8 easy to assimilate….believe it or not!

I’ve fought and struggled to comprehend how to make WordPress work for me.  Their people have sent some helpful e-mails and I’ve spent some quality time with a local cyber wizard named David Vincent, who has a brilliant little business here on Gabriola Island called Sleep Deprived Computer Techs. He did more for me in an hour than I’ve accomplished in a month.

Now I have things set up so I can post blogs with photos,  set up links to other relevant sites and, I also now have a way folks can subscribe to my addled scritchings and receive then automatically by e-mail. What boggled me today was that wifi reception was, for some reason, quite spotty where David and I met for lunch but somehow he tweeked something on his cellphone which immediately produced a working connection on my laptop! I know it’s been a very long time since I built a crystal radio in grade school but I am absolutely amazed at some of the technology that I learn about and which other folks take for granted.

What’s all this cyber-musing got to do with anything? I recently offered an anecdote to a friend who was bogged down with trying to realize his dream.  I said that when you climb to the top of a mountain, the first thing you see are more mountains. You determine to climb some of those but almost invariably you have to descend from where you are, cross a valley, and begin climbing all over again. So when you’re up to your ass in wormy mud in the proverbial swamp, wrestling nasty creatures, it’s hard to remember that you are actually mountain-climbing.

I am a writer, a frustrated one. All the books I’ve written are not producing any income. It appears that blogging is another way for writers to achieve some recognition. So with that ulterior motive in mind, I hope I can write inspiring and interesting bits for other people working towards fuller lives and their own personal dreams.

The swallows and purple martins have returned to the bay as well as brown-faced friends from their winter sojourns. The motivation is there and this beautiful boat where I sit writing is tugging at her lines. The days rattle by. We dive into another one as the rising sun warms the bay.

QCS Sunset

The First Quarter Is Gone!

It was full moon again last week and then, when the Easter Rabbit left his tracks, I realized that we’re already into the second quarter of the year. Bloody hell! Doesn’t time fly whether or not you’re having fun?

Plum blossoms and sailboat motoring toward Silva Bay
Hope, after a very long winter


It has already been a month since I was in Astoria Oregon reading some of my poetry and prose at the Fisher Poets Gathering. Fisherpoets.org will get you to their website. You’ll find my page ‘In The Tote’ and can actually hear me reading a couple of my pieces. They’re a great bunch of very talented people and I feel very honoured to be counted among them.

It was a great end-of-winter event which will leave me feeling affirmed and inspired for a long time after that special weekend. Soon however, reality sets in and one begins to bog down once again. I came back to a month that had my boss suddenly undergoing quadruple by-pass heart surgery. That has left us all in a muddle trying to help carry on in the shipyard. Of course that puts all of the personal plans in a spin and the ideas about new things to write are left on hold as just jottings in a journal.
Ah well, the winter weather hung on interminably so boat work has been set back for both me and my customers. Yet, progress on the great dream inches forward as the pages fly from the calendar. The dream is alive and ‘Inch by inch, every thing is a cinch!” I suppose it’s worth mentioning our last winter storm. Fifty knot winds with huge gusts through the night left one 41’ketch on the rocky foreshore here in the bay. I noticed her at first light and rushed to pull her off with the small shipyard skiff. It was a rising tide and I was inching her back into deep water with a minimum of damage when the local amateur pirates arrived. I eventually left the scene as they dragged the beautiful old hull across a rocky ledge incurring a huge amount of absolutely needless damage.
There were threats of violence from them but ultimately I have some great new story ideas. Such is life.

I live daily with the frustration that this blog site is not being developed as promised and required but hopefully that will soon fall into place. My very old and much abused laptop has developed a vertical stripe mid-screen which is slowly growing in width. It’s amazing how challenging writing becomes with those few letters censored out of each line. Hopefully with a new computer and perhaps a bit of tutoring about WordPress we’ll get this sailing/writing gig heading out of the harbour with a few sails up. Patience Billy, patience!