Black Friday is past, now it is Black Sunday and then Cyber Monday. Folks with bellies full of turkey are out there decimating themselves and their families on highways all over America. It is not a cheery thought. Wearily, once again it is the time when the annual worship reaches a frenzied climax of our religion, Consumerism. Our temples: the malls. Black Friday! What a way to start a time of year that is supposedly about peace, love, hope and togetherness.
There is still a quarter of November to wade through and I am sick of Christmas already. People have their homes and yards draped in garish decoration. The tradition of coloured lights near Christmas time has become another competition of excess between neighbours. In the daylight, lawns are littered with deflated effigies of santas, reindeer, snowmen, and other crass visual clichés. With all those lights blazing, I wonder what happens to the “Think Green” messages about reduced consumption. Meanwhile, the communities of homeless folks hunker down for winter by adding extra tarps over their individual tents.
When I was young, Thanksgiving in Canada was celebrated at the same time as it was in the US. It was set at this date to celebrate the end of harvest and the completed preparations for the winter ahead. Usually, winter was well set-in with snow and bitter cold. There was little to do with Christmas in the wind other than the Sears and Eaton’s Christmas catalogues which arrived in time to serve their mail order service. My mom’s birthday was December seventh and for me that was the first indication of the coming festivities. Christmas cards would begin to arrive in the mail (another lost tradition, both the cards and the post office) Christmas songs would begin to play on the AM radio and the season would rapidly build toward the fantastic peak of a celebration of life in the dead of winter. New Year’s day would mark the end of it all. It was the intensity that made Christmas such a special time. All gone now, blurred in a greyness of marketing that has gone on for weeks already. Bumhug!
The darkness and dampness of winter has seeped into everything. ‘Seafire’ feels like a tomb inside. It takes hours to exorcise the penetrating chill of winter. I find it hard to believe that just two years ago, my beloved boat was a place of warmth and cozy shelter through a long, wet upcoast winter. To distract myself, I stay busy with my writing, photography and video-making. My most recent effort is now posted on YouTube.
That is the link which should take you directly to “The Fickle Sea.” I’m excited to consider what I might achieve in future with more experience and better equipment. I have a huge archive of poetry and will try to make videos built on the foundation of some of those poems. Finding good footage to splice together into a cohesive and complimentary visual poem is the challenge. Looking for beauty and positive perspectives within the blandness of winter and familiarity is my chosen method of maintaining good cheer and a sense of purpose. This evening the beginning of our first winter storm is evident. The forecasters have warned us for two days. The barometer has slowly and steadily declined. Rain clatters on the skylight over my desk and shrubbery outside the window flails in the rising wind. If a storm is inevitable, relax and enjoy it. You can’t do anything about it. Enjoy yielding to forces greater than yourself. It’s called storm ecstasy.
“The richest man is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least.” …anonymous
There is a tang in the air. The funk of fishy decay is inescapable. Dogs quiver and lose their hearing as they charge off to find their own dead salmon to roll in. There may be spawning runs as late as January but for the moment, the banks and bottoms of our local streams are littered with the corpses of dead salmon from the most recent event. The last few stragglers laconically swim against the current. Eagles and gulls sit along the river edge looking sated and sluggish. There is bear scat along stream-side trails and some diligence is due because Jack, in all his dogliness, might be inclined to try and impose indignities at any bruins he may come across. He’ll brook no large intruders to his private world. With diminished hearing, his realm can be very private. His elderly sophistication may well have had him rise above the old indulgence of perfuming himself by rolling on a rotten fish but today he ran ahead out of sight. My angst about him returning embalmed with “Eau de Poison Parti” came from past experience. No perfuming but I found him belly-deep in the water of a local river snacking on a decaying delicacy. He is, after all, only being a dog. In consideration of some of the noxious things humans eat; well, at least dead fish are organic. Just don’t try licking my face.
This week I discovered a grand place to walk with my cameras. It is heaven for Jack. We’ve been back twice already. Only a few minutes from home, the estuary of the Chemainus River was once the site of a large sprawling farm acquired by the company which built the huge, and often foul pulp mill at Crofton. It has returned to nature in a grand way. The blackberries have invaded many of the fields which lie among the swamps and backwaters of the broad river mouth. A delightful place, you’ll find me there often in the future. It takes little imagination to see native villages here long before the white invaders arrived. The name Chemainus has a first nations origin which I’ve decided to finally quit pondering.
This comes from Wikipedia: “The name Chemainuscomes from the native shaman and prophet “Tsa-meeun-is” meaning broken chest. Legend says that the man survived a massive wound in his chest to become a powerful chief. His people took his name to identify their community, the Stz’uminus First Nation, formerly the Chemainus Indian Band.”
Considering that I survived a serious chest trauma and subsequent major heart surgery I am now wondering if “Tsa-meeun-is” should become my new name. You’ve got to admit there is a certain ring to it; “Chemainus Fred.” What really intrigues me is that, for thirty years, I’ve been driving by the inconspicuous road which provides access to the trails and meadows of this fantastic eco-sanctuary. Go figure! I am the guy who is constantly harping on about seeing what you look at. A fellow whom I met there today claimed that he has lived as an immediate neighbour to this sprawling old farm and had only just discovered the access after twenty-one years. So, I don’t feel quite so chagrined. In any case the massive acreage was once Swallowfield Farm. It seems a shame that after all the industry of clearing this rich bottomland that it no longer produces food and instead sponges effluent from the looming mill.
But it is always a joy and wonder to find a treasure that has been so close. I have noted numerous survey stakes in several places and and desperately hope that the word “development” is nowhere in the future of this piece of heaven.There is a life lesson in that and I remember a TV clergyman named Robert Schuller often saying, “Bloom where you’re planted.” Yep, you’ve got to see what you look at. I keep saying that.
November slides on toward winter. Veterans Day has passed. Thank you all for your kind remarks about my YouTube film ‘Swoop.’ I am clearly not the only one who questions what it is we choose to think of on Remembrance Day. A viscous heavy rain hammers down for increasingly longer intervals. Soon it will persist endlessly for days and nights at a time. The bright leaves have been beaten off the trees and now lay on the ground as a dull, slimy carpet. The temperature hovers just above freezing, providing a penetrating, bone-chilling dampness. It will seem warmer when the temperature drops and the humidity is frozen out of the air. Friends are migrating south. I wonder how to deal with the long, dark, bleak cold winter ahead. My only hope is to stay busy and find cheer within each long hour ahead.
“It is more beautiful to hear a string that snaps than never to draw a bow,” is a line from a book titled “The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules,” by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg. The novel is about a small group of geriatrics in a Swedish care home who decide their existence is so miserable that they can only improve things by turning to a life of crime. They reason the worst that can happen is to end up in prison which, they decide, may be a fate better than the one they endure. There are many of us who can relate. I have planned, schemed and worked for years with the intention that by now I’d have ‘Seafire’ somewhere in a Southern Latitude. Palm trees, tepid water to swim in, a simple warm life with a lower cost of living and, the fantasy goes, sustained by my writing and photography. That dream was my entire focus, to the exclusion of other pleasures and satisfactions. I deferred the joy of the moment for a dream. It has not worked out; yet. Although the vision still flickers on, there are waves of hopelessness. Thank God I have my creative endeavours and a sense of humour. I reluctantly mention this, not as a lament, but only as an affirmation to the millions of others at my age who are in a similar situation enduring a despair which is deep and very dark. You are not alone, small comfort that may be. I have been actively searching for employment but no-one seems inclined to hire a man with a lifetime of skills and experience which younger workers could learn. The damnedest thing is, despite health issues, I am still vital and don’t feel at all a senior. There is a lot we old farts can contribute.
How a culture treats its young and its seniors is a pulse-taking of its general health. And, we’re sick! Both the old and the young are the future of a society. The young have the energy and the elderly have the life-lessons to pass on and utilize that power efficiently. That is how the human race thrived for millennia. Now we’ve replaced ourselves with gadgets of our own making. Artificial intelligence is here. Stupidity is as prevalent as ever.
Life is certainly not fair regardless of whatever expectations one clings to. My misadventures began with a simple fall of a mere three feet! Bang! That instantly began an ongoing struggle with health and financial issues. Throw in a genetic disposition for chronic depression. That I have endured like this for nearly twenty years has to be some sort achievement of positive thinking. It is painful to feel like an outcast within a system to which you, in your productive years, contributed millions directly and otherwise. And it can always be worse. I could be a geezer in some place like Yemen or Syria or, God forbid, Toronto, New York or …well,the world has a lot of armpits!
I am thankful that I live in such a wonderful place, but it is frustrating to end up like this while all around me I see folks with assets and wealth they don’t know what to do with. They certainly have not earned them, either by working hard, or smart. It’s the luck of the draw and for those of you who have achieved comfort and apparent security, know that it can also all come tumbling down with amazing speed. It is all temporary. All that stuff that you think you own; well folks, actually it owns you. I also know that all the shininess which I catch myself coveting at times, is, in our culture, mostly financed. Folks with no debt are rare and …truly wealthy. It just doesn’t seem right but that’s the way the pickle squirts! However, one of the joys of aging is to know that nothing is forever. “This too shall pass.”And, I muse, there may soon come a time when aged wizards who can sweat and bleed and dig in the dirt to produce food, and who can interpret the lines of tiny symbols in paper books will be highly revered mystics. I won’t feel redundant any more.
How sweet it will be when things finally get better. And, they will!
“The Flat Earth Society has members all around the globe.” … anonymous
We are nearing the finale of a wonderful autumn. The weather has been superb. There have been weeks of flawless clear days and nights. The fall leaves have been spectacular. We have had only two or three frosts and now the rains are beginning in an almost textbook manner. The rivers are rising right on time for the salmon to spawn. I’ve been busy with my cameras so this blog will simply be another series of local graphics. Why ruin a good thing by writing polemic thoughts and observations? We are all aware of what horrors continue around the planet on a daily basis. Perhaps the joy of the moment is the best offering I can provide.
Remember that images can be enlarged by clicking on them.
“The wise man learns more from the fool than the fool learns from the wise man.”
Once again I begin a new blog while aboard ‘Seafire’ and anchored in Silva Bay. I’m here to work on ‘Aja;’ that lovely little wooden schooner I’ve been helping revive.
She’s moored on a lee shore at low tide in a brisk wind. I need to raft alongside of her. There’s no room for a mistake and so I’ve dropped the anchor to wait things out. Sometimes it is best to use your superior judgment to avoid demonstrating your superior skill. Prudence is a good thing. There are times when a lifetime of experience allows me to show off a little. Today is not one of those. So here I sit with the wind moaning a dirge in the rigging, the anchor burying itself in the mud while I tinker at the endless chores on a boat. I’m half a cable off an islet I’ve named “Dog Rock” because this tiny island is where the summer yachters bring their pooches in the morning. Jack and I use it too. Mind where you step. This area is an archipelago known as the “Flat Top Islands.” The islands actually form and protect this bay nestled in the shoreline of Gabriola Island. I have many memories of this place, both bitter and sweet. It keeps calling me back. The surrounding small islands provide several narrow, tricky entrances. Careful chart study is required of the newcomer. The old shipyard here is a clear warning of the rock-studded passages. It sits like a spider in its web waiting for the next victim. Every year there are a few hapless skippers who can’t read their charts or GPS plotters. Crunch! Gotcha!
The following morning I get up in the dark and put on some coffee. The blackness is palpable. All night I’ve lain in my bunk sleeping lightly, tossing restlessly, craving for a sound or a bit of light. The sky is now overcast and in this corner of the bay the blackness is multi-dimensional. ‘Seafire’ is a cozy refuge, a storm shelter and a wonderful time machine which has transported me to new realms and wonderful adventures. On nights like this, it is also a prison. So now I seek distraction sipping at my mug and battling with the computer. It insists the paragraph I wrote last night does not exist. I finally find a back-way to sneak in to the app and add these words. I was weary when I crawled out of the bunk, this little cyber battle leaves me feeling exhausted already. The day awaits.
And, it proved to be a long but successful day. ‘Aja’ now has a reliably functional engine and among other things, a dependable bilge pump. I’m weary of repairing and rebuilding boats but there is something special in the seams of ‘Aja’ which leaves me wanting to dig in and begin the restoration. The boat is a shrine of all that is sacred to me. The full refit of this old beauty will be a career for the new owner but, I think, a worthwhile endeavour. I meander homeward with ‘Seafire’ wondering what lays ahead. I have no money and no prospects, only dreams. It will be an interesting winter.
Meanwhile the weather is fabulous and I’m well aware that these golden days must be savoured fully. I know what lays ahead in regard to weather, and it ain’t pretty. Good weather is never paid for in advance. So here are some pictures of the fullness of autumn.
“Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night.” …. Hal Borland
The driving rain is relentless, cold and stinging. The Shearwater winter weather, where you can wring water from any handful of air, has followed me all the way here to Ladysmith. I’ve come south for a few days to take care of business and medical appointments. It also turns out that my beloved dog Jack needs some surgical attention at the veterinary clinic. I’m anxious about that, as if he were my own child. If you don’t understand the affection and healing that can occur between a person and a dog; well, you have my sympathy.
So here I am standing in the rain, worrying about Jack when I’m overwhelmed by the aroma of ripe, red succulent apples. I follow my nose. It turns out to be a bin of apples in front of a feed and garden shop across the street. I am amazed to be able to smell the fruit so far away and suddenly understand how it is being a creature like a deer or a bear near an apple tree. Perhaps my acute sense is due to being in the Northwoods for so long but as always, the sense of smell is a great memory stimulant and suddenly I am taken back to my childhood. For a while my father worked as an orchard keeper and we lived in cottages at the edge of. orchards. The aroma of that single apple bin brought install recall from over half a century ago. There is also a sweet tang of smoke from my mother’s wood cookstove and that leads to memories of another little black dog so long ago. I’m suddenly blinking back tears and shake myself free of the moment, all brought on by the scent of apples. Bloody hell, have I gone round the twist?
There are months of this bleak weather ahead and I wonder how I will survive it. The boat is over three hundred miles north and I’ll say that, for me, home is where the boat is. I’ll be back there in a few days but it seems very far away and I desperately wish the boat and I were somewhere far south. I see all the consumer convenience and gratification here, and yet despite the incredible pervasive dampness on the North Coast I miss the solitude and natural richness such as the humpback whale that swam by the docks a few days ago, with the howling of wolves in the background. That was a moment which will last a lifetime. I can concede that my aching bones feel much better down here, even when it is raining. I do find it fascinating that things I would normally take for granted, like the colours of autumn leaves, a near-infinite diversity of shopping, restaurants and stores with profuse inventories of food for sale, all of that leaves me slightly overwhelmed. I do not miss the frantic rush of nearly everyone, the sound of sirens and at the moment, the tsunami of Christmas marketing. Give it a rest! Bloody hell! Bumhug!
I wonder how I’ll feel about it all once back in Shearwater.
The highlight of this Southern jaunt was attending a performance by my hero, Billy Connolly. A Glaswegian musician, comedian, actor and philosopher (in my opinion) he is world-renowned. Now in his mid-seventies, he has various health issues yet stood his gig on stage, non-stop, for nearly two hours. The entire sold-out audience was doubled over with laughter at his apparently impromptu ramblings. I suspect it’s the only chance I’ll ever have to see him live. If you’re not familiar with this brilliant character, there is a lot of his material available simply by googling up his name. You’ll love him or hate him.
I’ll be returning to Shearwater tomorrow. That will on be Remembrance Day. I’ve previously expressed my polemic views on the incredible stupidity of the military and the mindless waste of war and how all enemies think God is on their side. I’ve offended some people deeply and inspired others to look at the whole picture and think for themselves. I hope that this day is taken as an opportunity to see ourselves as the potentially naturally nasty creatures we all are and what a concerted effort it is necessary to avoid violent conflict. I know I’m a dreamer but I believe it Is possible for us to become creatures of a higher level. That is a personal and individual endeavour, which requires massive introspection and sometimes painful growth and I’ve said enough. Just imagine if everyone stayed home and cleaned up the mess in their own yards. What a wonderful world it could be!
I’ve stood stiffly at attention in a military uniform in the cold, cold November rain and wept as the Last Post was played but now the most poignant sound for me is the 1942 BBC recording called Nightingales And Bombers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_MHqW5KVds
This is a spring recording made in the woods of Southern England. The objective was to record the spring songs of nightingales but as the tape reels turned, squadrons of RAF bombers were climbing overhead on a bombing raid to Germany. It is the sound of sweet peace juxtaposed against the ominous thunder of young men going to kill and be killed. If the recording doesn’t shiver your timbers, I truly hope you have no sons or daughters to send to war. Have a very nice day.
Something really odd occurred today. I’ve been trying to search my inner self for answers to some personal issues and have been sceptically looking for a sign. Well today I think I got it and I’m not sure what the hell it means. Jack and I were having a morning walk along the banks of the Nanaimo River before I went to my final round of appointments. There was a sudden raucous sound ahead and then veering directly toward me, about twenty feet high, was a large bald eagle carrying something which I first assumed was a fish. Pursuing the big bird was another eagle. It was an incredible sight. I furiously tried to extract my camera but before I could, the second eagle knocked the treasure free from the first bird’s talons. It fell with a thunk immediately beside Jack who, startled, was suspicious of why it was raining ducks.
It proved to be a Mallard hen lying on its back. My first thought was that “Verily, verily the gods doth provide a succulent duck for dinner from the heavens above.” I bent to pick it up and noticed it was breathing and so I flipped the lovely wee quacker onto its feet. It was alive despite a punctured breast and, for some odd reason, appeared to be in shock. I decided to wrap it in a blanket of maple leaves. A few minutes later its head popped out of the covering and then it waddled off into the safety of a patch of blackberries. Now that’s one very lucky duck! And, I’m sure, there’s one very pissed off eagle. What is really interesting is that this old farm boy was once easily able to bonk any barnyard animal on the head with sledge hammer when it was time for butchering. As a hunter, I’ve been remorseless about the countless creatures I’ve dispatched for their meat. Once I proudly blew ducks out of the sky and now I’m proud at having done something to try and save one humble duck.
I don’t know how to interpret this one as an omen other than a moral which has something to do with never giving up. And that’s the whole shituation. In the morning I’ll be winging my way back to Seafire and the next adventure.
“Progress is man’s ability to complicate simplicity.”
Yep. It’s that time of year again. Suddenly we have our winter weather back, it’s still warm but then we have lots of warm wet days all winter long. There may be snow, but not every winter. The gulls have a ritual each autumn of pecking the mussels off the dock floats then depositing them up and over the tops of the docks. They break them open to eat. The crows join them and soon you find yourself crunching and slithering along in copious puddles of guano and razor-sharp shells.
Of course each boat is covered in the same slimey debris and my little marina world is a disgusting mess. This too shall pass, I just wish it didn’t have to go through the birds first! Suddenly the feeding frenzy will end and winter will be imminent. Jack loves chasing dock birds, in fact he’s out on patrol as I write. Otters and herons are also part of his mandate. I rest assured that despite his vigorous efforts he’ll never catch one. Wow! There’s a metaphor….chasing birds that will never be caught.
It’s too wet to complete various small pre-winter boat jobs and so I busy myself renovating a friend’s bathroom. It’s not an illustrious endeavour but it’ll improve their lives and give me the rewards of having helped someone as well as a few more days sustenance. There’s certainly nought romantic about gypsum dust and broken tiles bu I remind myself that lots of folks do this all day, everyday, for their whole working life. Think of all the jobs that somebody has to do, things like caring for Ebola patients. There are many different kinds of courage which each of us do or do not possess! Meanwhile, a certain soggy doggy has returned from his dawn patrol and lept back into my bunk. Well, nobody else has ever kissed me awake in the morning! I know, yeech! But then what’s real love without a few sloppy kisses now and then? An elderly English lady recently referred to him as “a stalwart chap” which I thought was charming and accurate.
Yesterday Jack broke into some groceries in my vehicle while I worked at the bathroom job.
He had never done that before and so as usual I left them easily available. I’d bought a package of soup bones intending to give him one each day. I hoped this would keep him from from wandering and it worked! I emerged outside later in the day to discover all six soup bones neatly cleaned and arranged on the lawn. Checking the bags I found the chicken had been merely inspected but the sausages were gone. All of them. It’s hard to get angry at a dog for being a dog especially when they look so smug with their executive decision. There have been no nasty after-effects. So far.
A red boat has appeared in the marina. She is clearly a home-built steel boat and is not especially glossy and slick. Yet she is registered to Brussels and has reportedly just completely a Northwest Passage east-about. This, despite several reports of ice conditions which made transits impossible for many. She’s clearly battered from her ordeal and is in for some overhauling. There are skull’s of a caribou and a muskox tied to the pulpit and fuel cans lashed all over the decks. Her named is ‘Perd pas le Nord’ which is a twist on a French colloquialism. “Ne perd pas le nord” can translate literally as “no fear of the north” but it generally means “Someone who has their head screwed on right” either way this is a wonderful name for a boat which has clearly been out there doing it. She bears honourable scars. That is always a mark of beauty to me.
On the subject of red boats there has been a story running on the news for the past few days about a Russian freighter broken down off the Haida Gwaii islands. There was much dark speculation of her running aground and the inevitable environmental disaster as her fuel and cargo contaminated that pristine shoreline. Native voices were added that linked the unfolding event to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. There were even speculative comparisons to the Exxon Valdez disaster! I understand the passion which is using every possible means to oppose the bitumen pipe to Kitimat but discrediting the integrity of an argument is not beneficial to the cause.
The rest of the story is that the storm winds were blowing Sou’east and the ‘Shimushir’, out of Kholmsk, was being blown away from land as confirmed by the Canadian Coast Guard. She has since been safely towed to Prince Rupert for repairs. The reporting continues to be grossly irresponsible and speculative. Allegations by environment groups claim Canada is clearly unable to rescue ships in peril (Ever hear of the ‘Sudbury’?) and that it was a “Fluke” that an American tug completed the rescue. There is no mention of the standard Lloyds Open Form Salvage agreement and the profits involved, nor why one of the many Alaskan-trade US tugs might transiting the area. There has apparently been no research into standard maritime protocol. Instead there is verbose rhetoric about the proposed pipeline which most of us already strongly oppose.
I for one, am weary of the media avoiding the standard who, why, what, where, and when of basic journalism and turning instead to creative narrative that distorts facts. If a local story can be so badly skewed then what of the information provided about all the rest of the planet’s events? In an age of instant information I am stunned at how masses cling to tabloid-style uninformed opinion and may even base the course of their lives on someone else’s lies.
Do you remember Y2K? It was a scam that extracted billions from the masses. I call it the profit of paranoia. Thankfully, information is there for everyone and an enquiring mind can ferret out the true story and then form an informed opinion. Speculation and distortion has no place in objective journalism. If you say that you “Like little boys who are kind to animals” and I quote you as having said that you “Like little boys”, have I represented the truth? End rant.
For Canadians, Thanksgiving has passed and the next event in the turning of the seasons is Halloween and the turning back of the clocks. The dream of sailing ‘Seafire’ south has been delayed yet another year. The dream, as ever, is very much alive. Hopefully it will all make sense in the end, but I confess that I write this blog as much to convince myself as anyone else. I occasionally offer, and remind myself of, an anecdote about climbing mountains. Finally at the summit, one sees more peaks to climb. Usually however the climb up the next shining mountain requires descending into a valley before beginning to climb again. When up to your arse in a snake-filled swamp in a shadowed valley it is difficult to maintain awareness and belief that you are actually in the process of mountain climbing. Is success about the height of the mountain or the depth of the valley?
“Noli illegitimi carborundum” Don’t let the bastards grind you down!
In my last blog I began with a photo of a then-mystery flower. Kate and Laura, two local ladies, each identified it as a passion flower. Thus armed, I was able to research and confirm that and also learn there are around five-hundred varieties of passion flower (Or passiflower) and this particular one originates in the mountains of South America, growing from Venezuela to Chile at altitudes to twelve and thirteen thousand feet. Noted for its beautiful and hardy bloom, indigenous people also use the flower, leaves and stem for various medicinal purposes. The leaves can also be dried and smoked. Cool huh? Interesting where a simple question can lead.
Well, some self-centred arse picked the few blossoms there were. I hope those last rays of summer were needed for a life-saving potion or, as a friend suggested, perhaps some child and their grandparent now has those blooms carefully pressed into a strong lifetime memory. As it turns out, a few days later, higher on the vine, another batch of these amazing flowers burst into bloom to herald our first frost. What else can I say?
It is another affirmation that this old grump needs to go sailing.
Meanwhile my buddy Jim Poirier cleared customs in Ensenada, Baha and headed for La Paz, non-stop. He rounded Cabo San Lucas with plenty of offing after the threat of a late season hurricane. I’ve never set foot there but I’m told Cabo is best avoided as it swarms with gringos on vacation and is an absolute mess. He’s taken the usual beating most cruisers do while clawing up into the Sea Of Cortez. Then his daily spot report showed him with the hook down in the Mogoté off downtown La Paz. He’s e-mailed me since and is settling in for a visit, trying to adjust to all the open hands trying to skim a little more out of his cruising budget. It’s called Mordida, which translates as “The bite.”
My Australian friends, Roger and Ali, whom I wrote about in an earlier blog, were back aboard their beloved Betty Mc for a few days here in the marina after a grand summer adventure in the Arctic. As usual they’ve managed an impressive set of exploits and now possess a more intimate knowledge of the Arctic and its people than the average Canadian will ever care to have. They’ll be back up there in the spring where they have stored their boat in Inuvik. They have plans to join their new friends in a hunting camp. Now back in Australia taking care of business the pair are already in preparation for next year. “Good on ya mates! ”
Another pal, Dave Densmore, an Alaska fisherman and fellow Fisher Poet, telephoned me recently a few hours from rounding Cape Flattery. He’s heading south to Astoria, just inside the Columbia Bar. Earlier this year I helped him with the early stages of the purchase of a 53′ Frank Fredette ketch. It’s one of the best-built ferro-cement hulls I’ve seen. The big beauty had to languish here in Canada after the purchase while he and his partner Renee fished the season through in Alaska. Finally they were able to come to their new old boat and get it ready for the trip home to Oregon. Everything was a battle. Engine troubles, plumbing, wiring and stove problems. Blocked toilets, dead circuits, missing items, it seemed a foolish battle. He needed to rig a second helm inside the pilothouse . Then genset wouldn’t run. I took some tools down to Cowichan Bay where the boat was moored and tinkered a day away but like everything else aboard, it wanted to fight. I began to think about calling a priest for an exorcism. The boat had sat for a very long time and, as old Nelson said, “Ships and men rot in port.”
Dave reported last night that he was very happy. He was at sea and under way. He reiterated that all boats have souls and this one was in a sulk for being abandoned and ignored. “She finally got the idea we were trying to save her,” he explained, “suddenly everything started to light up and work. Soon she’ll be in her new home where she’ll get the loving she deserves.” I’m sitting aboard my boat, refit number bloody eight. I know all too well what he means. Boats do have souls and like rescuing puppies, the initial curve is steep but the payback is usually astonishing and well worthwhile. In the rush to get underway, Dave inadvertently hooked up the plumbing to the inside helm backwards. All the way home that wheel worked in reverse. Lefty Starboard! We’ve agreed it’s a trip which deserves a poem. I’m happy for Dave and Renee.
To underscore that anecdote, I learned
yesterday that a former acquaintance, whom I confess that I expected would never go anywhere, has now sailed her small boat ‘Puna’ to San Francisco.
A new blog arrived from my pals Tony
and Connie about his jaunt up to Bangkok. Yeah, his jaunt. He leaves Connie home alone on their boat ‘Sage,’ currently in Phuket, to re-varnish the interior of the boat. How does he manage that? These two continue to amaze me as proof that couples actually can function successfully on a continuing basis. They’ve been doing this for many years and their last boat, a tiny Vancouver 27, was home for them in the South Pacific for seven years. (See the link to their blog site in the right sidebar.) I live alone with my dog in a 41′ boat and some days this doesn’t feel big enough! Especially with the darkness and cold damp of winter. There again is the key, go south! A regimen of consistent light and warmth of lower latitudes seems to be the prescription. Even my doctor agrees, but…he didn’t offer to help fund my therapy!
Meanwhile I linger on here, now travelling to an adjacent island to help another friend. After a dinghy ride, Jack and I traverse the island in a shortcut through the woods, packing tools and supplies in an effort to get a small house winter-proofed and an old truck running. It’s an amazing and wonderful trek. The weather this fall has been perfect for mushrooms, they’re pushing up everywhere by the millions. I don’t know which are edible and which are not, I suppose the ones the deer have been eating are fine but I don’t relish sampling the after-effects of a toadstool omelette. I’m taking photos only.
It is amazing to see the incredible variety in all shapes,
sizes and colours. I marvel at how these delicate organisms push their way through cement-hard ground and shoulder aside sticks and moss to expand into their full glory. Soft sunlight ladders down into the fog sifting through the trees. Creatures scuttle or crash off into the undergrowth. Damp rich aromas fill the air and occasionally there is the faint perfume of woodsmoke from some distant chimney.
In the distance fog horns wail and roar from the marine traffic out in the Strait. We were fog bound for twelve days with only tantalizing glimpses of blue now and then. The fog is only about fifty feet thick and the usual splendid clear October weather is just up there. The autumn paint chores will just have to wait.
Well now, all this hand-wringing and angst and envy gets no-one anywhere and it’s time to resolve myself to hunkering down for the winter or finding a way to take my little trailer and go south for several weeks. I’m beginning to think that it might do me and those who have to endure me a lot of good to take a sabbatical and refresh my perspectives. Refitting ‘Seafire’ and grubbing for a living seems to have become an ordeal instead of the adventure it should be. There’s a part of me that just wants to get away from all boats for a while and recharge, or “Back up and reload” as a former employer used to say.
I do have one huge piece of gratification. A friend rescued an old Cheoy Lee sloop from behind a woodshed in Oregon and dragged it home to Gabriola. It is called a ‘Frisco Flyer’ and was built in Hong Kong in 1966. It was a time when boat builders were transitioning from wood to fibreglass. The designer was Tord Sundén, the same man who designed the Nordic Folkboat and several subsequent folkboat variations. If there is a single pivotal sailboat design this must be it. There are very many other boats drawn by various naval architects which are, in my opinion, all plagiarized variations of the ubiquitous Folkboat. The Frisco Flyer was a collaboration between Cheoy Lee and Sundén and it is a brilliant boat. Originally available with a hull of teak or fibreglass this boat is one of the latter with lots of teak overlaid on the cabin, inside and out, and on the decks.
Originally I installed a replacement diesel engine in ‘Avanti’ while I worked in the shipyard. The owner works globally and isn’t home a lot. Consequently, the little sloop languished again for a couple of years until I was persuaded to lend a hand as I could.
Well, she’s finally rigged and seaworthy enough to leave the harbour. There’s a ton of work yet to be done, but we had to affirm our labour of love and put her through some sea trials before a winter cover was fitted. What a boat!
There is an amazing amount of room inside this little 26′ gem and she sails on all points like a witch. The helm is light and responsive and easy to trim. The hull is very tender but the boat stiffens up at about fifteen degrees of heel and zooms off like the thoroughbred she is. She steers herself and tracks beautifully. She is pleasing to the eye from all angles.
It has been pointed out to me that fifty years ago, when this was a state-of-the-art yacht, families would clamber into a boat like this and sail off together to see the world. A VHF radio and electric depth-sounder were ultimate accessories and inboard engines in sailboats were called ‘Auxiliaries’, meant to be used only when manoeuvring in port or in dire circumstances. There were no banks of batteries and electrical equipment to keep fed with electrons. In fact, most auxiliaries were equipped with a hand-cranking handle. Engines were valued in large part by how easily they could be hand-started.
If you were at sea and there was no wind, well…you were on a sailboat and you waited. You travelled at a speed nature intended.
Cruising sailors were self-sufficient, independent and generally disdained following the herd. What a different world we live in now!
I’m not sure it’s a better one but we’re here (Because we’re not all there) and that’s the way it is. Yesterday a winter storm arrived with nightfall. Rain hammered the boat as the wind shrieked and thrummed in the rigging. This morning, as the tide rises, the swell from the open strait reaches into the bay and sets all the boats rolling crazily. Doggy won’t leave his bed.
Somewhere over the southern horizon, far, far away there is a clink of glasses and I can smell lime and tequila. I’m on the scent!
I have never intended that my blogs should be a venue for any rant. This blog is supposed to be about getting a boat ready to sail away and the inner and outer journey before, during, and after that moment. As it turns out I recently found myself replying to a friend’s e-mail. A rant began to flow which I began to transcribe into a blog and then realized that this is something I can never do here. Real sailors are often non-conformists and also very opinionated especially when in opposition to bureaucracy and other men’s attempts to control their lives. The one thing of value I’ve salvaged from that discarded effort is a single line about global warming and social cooling. I’ll ponder that a while yet.
I sat writing at a desk where in the background a television played the movie ‘Fiddler On The Roof.’ I caught the line, “If God lived on earth, people would break his windows.” Try to imagine that with a geriatric Yiddish accent! What an eloquent way of describing our tenuous existence on this planet. From environmentalism to politics and economics, it’s all the same hype in the end. Remember the story of the boy who cried wolf? Well, I think we’re truly under the spell of those who have discovered the profit of paranoia and it is not the wolf we should fear nearly as much as the wolf hunters. End of rant. Each to their own and enough said.
Duende? It is a Spanish word possessing diverse related meanings but generally having to do with spirits and ghosts. I heard a flamenco artist explaining a deeper meaning having to do with the unfulfilled spirit within, always driving a person forward in passion and creativity but ultimately never sated. I suppose enthusiasm has a similar connotation coming from the Greek and meaning, “God within”. I like the lyrical sound of the word duende and think it would be a great name for a boat. I wish you mucho duende and also great peace. What a delicate balance!
It is suddenly October. It seems it was Easter three weeks ago. The summer has blurred past and the weather has now changed. The butter is hard again. The wind and rain have come. October usually has some very fine weather and that will be the final chance this year to lunge at the must-do chores outdoors. After the full storm that just passed we now know where the new leaks in our boats are. The sky has to quit dribbling so everything is dry enough for the final touch of caulking and paint. Just as it is almost dry enough to do some work, another soaker descends. All summer we take dryness for granted and then comes the ugly reminder about why we want to move to Southern latitudes. Hopefully the October reprieve comes again this year.
Well, I’m still here and that’s the way the pickle squirts. I’ve had an insidious nasty flu for the past three weeks and so there are no grand adventures or epiphanies to describe. My dog Jack is still asleep in my bunk as I grope for words while waiting on the morning fog to burn off. It is so damp that the Beaver float plane moored adjacent to me didn’t want to fire up this morning. One of the magnetos probably had some condensation in it and there was a prolonged effort of cranking, spluttering, backfiring and coughing. Finally the sweet growling clatter of the Pratt & Whitney announced that there would be work as usual. There is a clear sky somewhere above the gloomy blanket. Work continues on the boat and the dream burns on despite the sound of dripping. Duende!
I’m posting a random assortment of photos which are irrelevant to any particular blog but are interesting in their diversity. From a local abandoned coal mine to downtown Vancouver and points in between there is always a new marvel to photograph. I’m soon going to sign up on Flickr and post my photos there for the world to see but for now, here are some shots which someone else might find interesting. I often use my Canon Digital SLR with a minimal assortment of lenses. The damned thing leaves me feeling like an idiot with all it’s various modes and options. I’ve made part of my living at times with film cameras but all of this digital stuff is overwhelming. I like to also carry a simple pocket camera for those grab-shot moments when you don’t have your bag of gear handy.
A photo site I visit daily is called ‘Twisted Sifter’. The work there is amazing and inspiring, I recommend it to anyone interested in superb photography. For a while they ran an ad for an Olympus camera, the TG-2. I needed a new pocket camera and in the end, after a lot of research, I bought one. It’s amazing. Water proof to depths of 60′, it is shock proof, cold proof and can take up to an hour and a half of movies. It’s sound recording is fantastic and the darned thing even has a built in GPS and altimeter. I don’t know what all else it can do, but for a little over $300. it is great value. All of these images are taken with this little pocket camera, yes even the flower. End of commercial.
The last photo posted with this blog is of a face carved into an Arbutus tree. It was skillfully done with an understanding of how it would turn out once the incisions of the carving healed.
Sunday morning commerce
Clearly it has been there for a long time. I only saw it a few days ago although I have walked the dog within a few feet of it for years. This, of course, becomes an essay on seeing.
Sometimes we become so fixated on distant stars we miss the beauty right at our feet. A while ago I made a point of finding interesting, safe anchorages close to home. They were ones I’d charged past on my way to distant exotic places. I’ve had to concede that there is as just as much beauty and mystery right here at home.
It is hard to rationalize going cruising at all except to have such a wonderful place to come home to.