OLD FOOL

(The Bastards!)

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Coo, Coo KaHappy New Year! A shot from my Upcoast archives.

There’s no fool like an old fool. Sadly, that weary old axiom is as true as ever. Yesterday, in the middle of a busy morning my computer went KABLOOWEY KERPLUNK. The Screen was suddenly frozen, white with a broad red band across it. There was no way to escape (At least so far as I knew.) A bold message read that Microsoft had detected an insidious virus and had frozen my computer to prevent further damage. A toll-free phone number was provided for me to contact immediately. There’s no-one as gullible as someone in deep panic. I was on my way to an important meeting and the timing of this cyber trap completely blew my cool.

A friend and a view. May you have a higher view on the world.

A man with a thick Asian accent answered my call through a very bad connection and the fun began. I should have caught on immediately. For half an hour I was switched up the line to yet another supervisor, with difficult accents, and then another who soon had control of my desk-top. An alien curser began dancing across my screen at their will and reams of data scrolled on and on. I was told that my IP address was severely hacked, all my personal data was now in the hands of these bad guys and with such a high-end computer, now drastically infected, I had huge problems. Eventually prices in the hundreds of dollars began appearing on the screen. I finally began to smell fish. I was warned of dire consequences if I switched off the computer and/or took it to any computer repair facility. At this point I became the next curser, and a loud one at that. Bastards! Looking back I knew that Microsoft simply does not operate in such a way. Hello! Hello!

Alluring! A shiny spoon and some line tell of a disappointing afternoon one day last summer.
On winter’s pond. Incredibly a few late spawning salmon rose and broke the tranquility.
I could not catch one with my camera.
Gotcha! At a tiny stream mouth a flash of red betrays a late spawning salmon.

Originally assured that there were no fees for this online repair, the story evolved. Now the scam was that my IP address was in the hands of nasty hackers and hopelessly irretrievable. The only way I could ever use my computer again was to buy a license for a new IP address. This is yet another version of my ongoing theme about the profit of paranoia. Scare the crap out of folks and you’ll be able to steer them in any direction you want. That ageless persuasion continues to work very well for the church and for politicians. That, and greed. I was once selling a boat for a friend when a nasty Nigerian scammer tried to pull my chain. That’s another story. I should have known better this time. I’ve already skipped through the big scam about Revenue Canada threatening me with imprisonment. I’d been warned. Now this! So you too stay alert.

Winter rush.
It is the time of year when there is water running everywhere.

Suddenly I could see that I was being had and knew I’d soon be asked for credit card information. Finally I hung up and headed for my neighbourhood computer guru where I was met with a quiet smile. Yep, just another old fish who had bitten the dancing lure. Fortunately I spat the hook. All is well that ends. My chagrin has not. These dudes were utterly convincing and part of my fury was at myself for being swept through some very obvious signs, in retrospect, that I was being had. Almost duped I felt like an absolute stupid ass. Here’s what you do if you find yourself in the same pickle. Shut it down and go to your computer repair man. They’ll remove any nasty thing that was installed… by the hackers. Those were the guys who installed the problem. I’ve also been shown how to unfreeze my screen should the same thing ever happen again. Bastards!

Flatrock beach.
Sandstone makes for some fantastic rock formations in our part of the world. High tide with a rising westerly wind puts the picnic notion out of mind. My Corona umbrella would blow away!
A winter view across the Strait Of Georgia. Northwest winds clear the air and sometimes produce a prismatic effect. These mountains on mainland Canada are almost forty miles away.
Feel the Brrrr!

The rest of the story is that I was heading off to an appointment to look at a vehicle. A very good friend was having dinner with another of his amigos and learned that their old camper van was for sale at a very, very reasonable price. He e-mailed me immediately. Now I’m flat-assed broke for the moment but many of my pals have noted how badly I’ve been faring with winter and other problems which are rapidly becoming a great dungball of darkness. One of those friends has graciously loaned me the means to acquire the van and go south for a while. So, there will be some interesting blogs as I travel down the cactus trail to old Mexico. Meanwhile the rain hammers down as usual. There was a time when the sound of rain on the roof was soothing and peaceful. Now, it is an irritating white noise. That’s a bad sign in itself. Yesterday, I had to walk several blocks in the downpour when I could hear a red-winged blackbird singing. That is one of the first joyous sounds of spring. Instantly uplifted, the singer soon proved to be a starling, one of the great mimics. I’ve actually heard a starling perform a perfect eagle song. I spotted the little bugger singing his head off after I had looked all over the sky for a big baldy. That seemed quite funny at the time. Now it just depressed me a little more. Is everyone up to some sick trick? Bastards!

You never know what you might find in old barns and sheds. A friend spotted this aging camper van while visiting another friend. Room to stand up and to lay down, what more do you need?  Like me, it’s rough on the outside but has a heart of gold. Hopefully I’ll be seeing cacti and palm trees through that windshield sometime this month.

The rest of the story is that my benevolent friend wants to buy a sailboat in Mexico which he will leave there to use during the winter months. He wants this old salt to watch his back and offer a second perspective and any other relevant assistance. So we’ll call this a bus-man’s holiday. Of course cameras, both still and video, will be whirring all the while and evenings will be spent working at the computer keeping everything sorted out and recorded. Spring arrives in the Sonora Desert next month and the flowers are profuse and fantastic.  There will be blogs.

Meanwhile I have a plethora of woes to sort out on the new old van. It has sat unused for years and as old Lord Nelson said “Ships and men rot in port.” The vehicle was stored under a roof and as soon as it was moved out into the pouring rain, windows began to leak. I turned on the pressure water system, the plumbing leaked badly. Electrical systems need attention. The rig needs a full service, including brakes and steering. I’ll have some busy days ahead.

The shape of boats.
I added an abstract touch to enhance the “Peaceful, easy” feeling of this bay. This is my minimal obligatory nautical image required in each blog. Another song says “Dream on.”

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.”

… André Gide

Coddiwomple

CODDIWOMPLE

(Click on images to enlarge)

Summer Sky

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

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

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

We have all kinds of visitors.
At least he had a courtesy flag.
A venerable Pacific 30 beautifully refitted with a pilot house. You don’t have to be big or shiny to be gorgeous.

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

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

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

Never before have I seen such a crop of blackberries.
Himalayan Blackberries are an invasive species which thrive here. We all have a love/hate relationship with them.
A few days later. The love part.
Jack the hunter, I the gatherer. Note the rusty rails, a sad comment on our island railway.
There’s a whole lot of gathering going on.
Meanwhile in the forest life evolves with the seasons as ever.
A paper condo.
Things are even busy on the web.
A Dogpatch drifter, it looks interesting from a distance.
A local beach shack. I remember when poor people lived by the sea and ate fish.

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

It is a busy time under the waxing August moon.

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

Blossoms and Boats

Red Dogwood in full glory.

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

Cottonwood seeds ready for launch.
A drift of Cottonwood seeds. Only one in a million needs to take root.
Until the next rain, the stuff will be everywhere. Doesn’t this look like a warm and fuzzy creature?

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

Standard White Dogwood blossom, British Columbia’s floral emblem
Dogwoods downtown
Apple blossoms, just to help the perfume in the air.
Scotch Broom, an invasive species that tortures some allergy sufferers. I think the flowers are beautiful.

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

The Ladysmith Maritime Society’s own wooden boat fleet. Lots of varnish, elbow grease and love.
The ‘Ontario’ the way we used to run our navy.
The grates of wrath. No place for bare toes.
Morning calm, head of the parade is ‘Herself’
Now where’d I leave my mug?
Foredeck detail of a 1954 Chris Craft
Hit me
What is there to say?
The name says it all
A stack full of pipes
A gleam in her eye
The office

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

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

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

‘Herself’ and nothing but.

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

Odds And Sods

 A Brief Respite. As I was posting this blog, a bright reflection appeared on my computer screen. It was this break in the clouds. Three minutes later, the rain whooshed down again.

A Brief Respite. As I was posting this blog, a bright reflection appeared on my computer screen. It was this break in the clouds. Three minutes later, the rain whooshed down again.
Waiting for fish. "Fog...The sea silently becoming air. The air silently becoming sea." Ray Grigg
Waiting for fish. “Fog…The sea silently becoming air. The air silently becoming sea.” …Ray Grigg   (Both frames taken from ‘Seafire’ while at the dock.)

There came a rumble. Damn! He’s at it again. The few kilometres of road here on Denny Island are rocky and potholed. Mufflers are inevitably shaken loose and so the din of passing vehicles is a familiar sound. After a while, you get to recognize each vehicle’s unique noise. Now it’s this guy again. This early? C’mon dude! And so I got out of bed, one toe at a time. An albino garden slug emerging from his slimy lair. It was dark and hammering rain. Bugga! I’m in no mood for this.

The Fix. Courtesy, Shearwater Muffler and Exhaust
The Fix. Courtesy, Shearwater Muffler and Exhaust.

The rain stopped, the sun rose in a clear sky and then fog crept across the bay..

We’ve had two sunny days back to back this weekend. I should have been working on my boat. The exterior wood work is screaming for attention. However after a gruelling week in the shop I worked all weekend running a wheel loader stock-piling gravel. A large barge delivered 8000 cubic yards of fine gravel to upgrade the roads here. An experienced operator was needed and I was soon reminding myself of how I ruined my back. I’ve spent too many years running big yellow machines in years long past. Now I’m a wreck, in large part, due to the bashing one receives while sitting in a piece of heavy equipment. I’ve got a bit of a cold and feel weary and ragged. We have another sunrise this morning. Before the crack of dawn the gill net fleet left the dock for another fishing opening. There was the usual cacophony until finally I was on my feet groggy and grumpy. Now it’ll be back to my wrenches in a few minutes and I’m not in the mood. In my spare time, I’ve also got to sort out a problem with my windlass. I hate it when my beloved boat is not fully seaworthy. Well, as the British say, “Keep yer pecker up!” I can’t imagine being on this island without the means to leave fully within my grasp. The notion of that option makes daily realities much easier to endure.

THE BARGE. A wheel loader on the barge dumps gravel onto a conveyer which dumps onto a smaller barge where an excavator loads the gravel into trucks which forward it a few hundred metres to me where...
THE BARGE. A wheel loader on the barge dumps gravel onto a conveyer which dumps onto a smaller barge where an excavator loads the gravel into trucks which forward it a few hundred metres to me where…
...I pile it as high as I can . This requires running the loader up into a near-vertical position. If I screw up, the loader flips over. All's well that ends.
…I pile it as high as I can .
This requires running the loader up into a near-vertical position. If I screw up, the loader flips over. All’s well that ends.
Shearwater Terminal...such as it is. The ferry 'Nimpkish' is on it's dock and the tug 'Jose Narvaez' waits for us to finish unloading the barge.
Shearwater Terminal…such as it is. The BC ferry ‘Nimpkish’ is backed onto it’s dock and the tug ‘Jose Narvaez’ waits for the barge to be unloaded..

 

Yesterday afternoon a large flock of Sandhill cranes circled and called raucously to other birds resting in the bogs far below. The sun glinted on their wings and I ached to be up there with them, south bound. The only way to survive this ordeal is to bury one’s soul and plod on toward the flickering light of a dream. It is really no place for a sensitive, creative character to be but I’ll continue to function as a bilge ape until I can find an easier way to progress toward a sensible (for me) existence. There are other lumps in the fan which I can’t discuss and it is very hard to stay positive. Damn! I haven’t been back here for a month yet and the gloom is closing in.

 anchore blues. This old CQR anchor on the bow of a charter boat, has definitely earned it's keep.

Anchore blue. This old CQR anchor, on the bow of a charter boat, has definitely earned it’s keep.
The Autopsy. Part of a Volvo Diesel engine wiring harness after an electrical fire. Each engine has three computers to the utter despair of this old fart.
The Autopsy. Part of a fried Volvo Diesel engine wiring harness after an electrical fire. Each engine has three computers to the utter despair of this old fart.
Shearwater AC electric outboard. Warrantied to the end of your cord. for a slight extra fee we can provide you with a generator.
Shearwater AC electric outboard. Warrantied to the end of your cord. For a slight extra fee we can provide you with a generator.
Electrolysis on the hobo dock. A mish-mash of electrical cords like this is a sure-fire invitation to electrical disaster. That's the way it is done in Shearwater and... Mumbai!
Electrolysis on the hobo dock. A mish-mash of electrical cords like this is a sure-fire invitation to electrical disaster. That’s the way it is done in Shearwater and… Mumbai!
A piece of baleen. Instead of teeth most larger whales strain their food in through baleen. This was found near the whales bones shown in a previous blog. Local knowledge reports the skeleton to be that of a Fin Whale.
A piece of baleen. Instead of teeth most larger whales strain their food in through baleen. This was found near the whale bones shown in a previous blog. Local knowledge reports the skeleton to be that of a Fin Whale.
My D-I-Y video camera mount on my kayak. a fishing rod holder and some scrap plastic did the trick
My D-I-Y video camera mount on my kayak. a fishing rod holder and some scrap plastic did the trick.

Monday proved to be a sunny day, all day! Despite being dead weary from my weekend heaping gravel I put in a full day at work. Then back at home on the boat I finally found the gremlin in my windlass wiring and sorted it all out. What a relief! An anchor is a vital piece of equipment, especially in this huge wilderness area. Without reliable ground tackle a boat cannot stop for rest, darkness, bad weather or any other reason. There are no docks or marinas, anywhere. There are plenty of places to anchor. Now I’m free to leave any time I want and my sense of entrapment is gone. I’ll sleep much better tonight.

A heavy plankton bloom has appeared here. The water is a dark beef-boullion brown. One local wit seriously intimated that the paint-like quality of the water was a direct result of the transient fishermen pumping out their toilets into the bay. Heh dude, shit happens, and global warning is not responsible for the bloom. Nature offers no concrete agendas, live with it. In a few years our paranoia may well be about the next advancing ice age. I can hear indignant bristling as I write this but I have a reluctance to bend with popular trends and I’m aware how our sensibilities warp with the influence of external persuasions, informed or otherwise. At least ask questions; do your own research. Don’t hang your life on someone else’s uninformed opinions.

The bloom> when condition are right, there is a massive over-abundance of plankton in sea water. It isw called a bloom and may be red, green, yellow or brown. It is an entirely natural phenomena...don't eat local shellfish until long after a bloom has passed.
The bloom
When conditions are right, there is a massive over-abundance of plankton in sea water. It is called a bloom and may be red, green, yellow or brown. It is an entirely natural phenomena…don’t eat local shellfish until long after a bloom has passed.

And so writes a solitary man in his boat at the end of the dock in the night and the driving rain. It’s mid-September and there will be seven months of this existence before spring arrives. There are people who sail to the Arctic and Antarctic to be deliberately frozen in for up to ten months of Polar winter. Whatever they run from or toward I have no idea. I do understand that solitude and loneliness are two different things. On this Friday evening I sit here peering out through the boat’s rain-streaked windows to the pub at the head of the dock and know that I don’t belong in that world. I am thankful for that. I’ve telephoned home and I’ve also telephoned my sister. I’m despondent, perhaps because of those calls. I’ll shortly go to bed with my self-pity for company. Thank God for books to read.

I’m not complaining, just explaining. I chose to be here knowing full well what the circumstances would be. When I feel loneliness it is always in the near-by presence of other people. If, tonight, I were in some God-forsaken anchorage in the surrounding Great Bear wilderness, alone with only the wind and the rain for company within a three-dimensional infinite blackness, I’d feel fine. I would even savour the experience, feeling harmony and peace there.

In the morning I awake to the still-drumming of rain and the throb of idling diesels. The din goes on and on. I crawl out of my bunk into the thin smudge of daybreak to happily discover that the fishboats across the dock have left. I have an unlimited panorama of the bay and the rugged mountains beyond. Seconds later another gillnetter arrives and stops-up immediately abeam. There was two hundred feet of empty dock. He apparently needs to be as close as possible and in the middle of that space. There is an unwritten rule of seamanship which says you take up as little space as possible at a dock and you do that by tying your boat at the end, not middle, of any available space. After securing his boat this guy stands on the dock peering into mine. He doesn’t grasp that I’m sitting three feet from his bleary eyes writing about what a gormless jerk he is. Finally he goes back aboard and pulls his window curtains. I’m going to change oil in my engine today and that will require running it for a long while first. Ha!

As I write, CBC news is on the radio. I learn that WP Kinsella has just died. He usually wrote about baseball which does not interest me at all yet he is one of my favourite Canadian authors because of one book, ‘the Miss Hobbema Pagent.’ Long before it was cool, Kinsella was bridging the gap of our ignorance about First Nation’s reservation culture. This is also the week that ‘HMS Terror’ has finally been discovered after a centuries-long quest for the missing Franklin expedition. ‘HMS Erebus’ was found two years ago and now her sister ship ‘Terror’. This newest find reveals a vessel very much intact and there will be years of nautical intrigue as we learn details of what is aboard the vessel.

Two serious cruising boats. In September, long-distance boats head south after up to a half-year in Alaska. The blue steel boat is a design called a 'Diesel Duck' my ultimate dream boat.
Two serious cruising boats. In September, long-distance boats head south after up to a half-year in Alaska. The blue steel boat is a design called a ‘Diesel Duck;’ my ultimate dream boat. Imagine if Franklin had boats like these!

The day drags by, I change my engine oil and put everything shipshape in the engine room. I’m good to go. As I work I still listen to CBC North, the only radio station here. There is endless rhetoric about the Trump and the Frump. The idiocy leaves me content that that madness is far away from here. I’ll accept the insanity at hand. The rain continues.

Success is getting what you want, happiness is wanting what you get.”

…W.P. Kinsella

Degnen Bay

Degnen Bay morning
Degnen Bay Morning

One thing about working on boats has always bemused me. No matter what the repair or refitting job, there is always a requirement to make yet more holes. Whether a drilled hole, or a sawn-out opening, every improvement requires: Yep! More holes. Go figure! A boat is supposed to be a floating vessel which keeps as much water out as possible out. Making ever more holes seems a complete antithesis and sometimes it can indeed go wrong, very wrong.

Chocolate Lily Only for a few brief days in spring.
Chocolate Lily
Only for a few brief days in spring.

Once I was twisted into a tight spot on a beautiful 53′ Spencer sailboat, installing a battery box on a small platform fibre-glassed to the hull. The drill bit was dull but in order to hurry up and get the job done, instead of wriggling out to sharpen it, I pressed on. In fact I pressed and pressed until suddenly I felt moisture. I’ll never forget the feeling of that moment as I realized what I’d done. I did not have to taste it to know it was seawater. In my panic to remove the drill, I broke off the bit which plugged the hole reasonably well until the boat could be hauled out for a proper repair. I certainly recall the chagrin as I sat humbly at the bosses desk and told him what I’d done. Yeah, it’s funny now and once in a while someone will joke “Oops here comes Fred, hide the drills!” Well, we all screw up, no matter how experienced we are and so long as no-one is hurt and a lesson is gained, it’s all good. And, I might add, the only folks who don’t make mistakes are those who never do anything. My brother, an airline pilot, once quoted a friend who said, “All’s well that ends.” Imagine hearing that over the intercom as a flight comes to its conclusion!

Seafire anchored in Degnen Bay behind 'Snug' a Truant 33 I almost bought. Valdez Island across Gabriola Pass in background.
Seafire anchored in Degnen Bay behind ‘Snug’ a Truant 33 I almost bought. Valdez Island across Gabriola Pass in background.

So old ‘Seafire’ and I are on the lam and tonight we’re anchored in Degnen Bay on Gabriola Island. It’s been a lovely day and evening with an invigorating Northwest wind howling. We were immersed in seawater several times on our little passage over from Ladysmith. The various residues a boat accumulates while sitting at the dock are washed away. Actually we’re here because there is some confusion about mooring at the Ladysmith Maritime Society where ‘Seafire’ has spent the winter but one excuse is as good as another and here we are. Monday will look after itself.

Golden moment. 'The wooden schooner 'Aja' returns home at sunset
Golden moment. ‘The wooden schooner ‘Aja’ returns home at sunset

While that is being sorted I have a little job here in Degnen Bay on a friend’s boat. Tonight we’re anchored about hundred feet from the dock where that boat is tied. She is a rare old beauty. A friend purchased an old wooden cruiser with a beautiful layout and the classic lines of a wooden powerboat. ‘Django’ is a 1946 35′ Chris Craft and she’ll be a head turner wherever she goes. There are two lovely GM 4-cylinder gas engines She’s in good shape but like all fine boats is in a state of constant refit and upgrading. The job is a good reason to be here and for the moment I feel whole again.

On Golden Pond
On Golden Pond

Degnen Bay is named after an early family who homesteaded here. Degnen is apparently also an old Spanish term meaning ‘to rest’ and I like to think that perhaps the first explorers found and named this lovely spot as a point of rest. It is surrounded by homes and more are being built. They must have splendid views. The bay is littered with mooring buoys and the docks have no empty berths. Yet there is a feeling of tranquillity here. The bay is guarded by a rocky shoreline and the restless waters of Gabriola Pass. Beautiful, wild Valdez Island forms the far side of the pass with miles of trails there to wander and explore as well as an old farm which is now part of a Provincial Park. Sheltered from damaging winds Degnen’s bottom mud is very thin in places and anchoring securely can be a challenge. Hence all the buoys which in turn make anchoring properly even more difficult.

Beauty under wraps. 'Django' a 1946 Chris Craft.
Beauty under wraps.
‘Django’ a 1946 Chris Craft
That's a lot of bronze!A Stephens electric windlass, now a rare find.
That’s a lot of bronze! A Stephens electric windlass, unique in 1946, now a very rare find.
Access! The engine bay in the Chris. It's a joy to work on these with all that room around them.
Access! The engine bay in the Chris. It’s a joy to work on these with all that room around them.

This morning is placid and the sun rises into a cloudless sky.. With my morning coffee I survey the surrounding view. I realize the local public wharf possesses a relic; a telephone booth. It sits beside the dock crane and represents an era now passed. We’ve had wireless mobile phones for thirty years and now pay phones, anywhere, are almost impossible to find. Cellular reception is minimal here so perhaps that is why the booth remains. Dark stormy nights, creeping into the blackness of the bay with the dull glow of the phone booth as a beacon. It is an icon of a lingering welcome-home hug, dry clothes and a warm supper. Then the trudge up a slippery ramp in the driving rain under the baleful glare of a mercury dock lamp. There’s not enough change in your pocket. There’s no-one at home to take a collect call. It will be a two hour trudge in the wet and dark or another night in a damp bunk with only macaroni for supper. Too tired to decide. Been there!

Not all relics at the bay are meant to float. This is a late-fifties Volvo 444. No electronics, no radial tires or fuel injection...25 miles per gallon. Tell me you don't believe in plots!
Not all relics at the bay are meant to float. This is a late-fifties Volvo 444. No electronics, no radial tires or fuel injection…25 miles per gallon. Tell me you don’t believe in plots!

In my last blog I described the art of careening. Today my favourite boat, “Lil’ Abe’ was careened on the beach here. With her hard-chined dory-like bottom she takes the ground well and tonight floats with a fresh coat of bottom paint. she scampered back to her berth at the dock looking as lovely as a new puppy. (See photo in Blog 61, Mind The Gap)

A face only a mother could love... and guys like me.
A face only a mother could love… and guys like me.
Look ma no air bags. Four black feet and factory heat- a basic car. No padded dash, no seat belts, no GPS, no power-steering, no power brakes, not even a radio but those are real leather seats, the smell of them in the sun brings back memories
Look ma no air bags.
Four black feet and factory heat- a basic car.
No padded dash, no seat belts, no GPS, no power-steering, no power brakes, not even a radio but those are real leather seats, the smell of them in the sun brings back memories. That black knob on the dash…it’s called a choke. Pay attention kids, you needed that to start the engine when it was cold.  Really!

 

Lil Abe careened on the beach of Degnen Bay. With the old house in the background this could be a scene from 70 or more years ago
Lil Abe careened on the beach of Degnen Bay.
With the old house in the background this could be a scene from 70 or more years ago.
The tide came back and 'Lil Abe' heads for the dock. A fresh, clean bottom always feels so good!
The tide came back and ‘Lil Abe’ heads for the dock. A fresh, clean bottom always feels so good!
Rhapsody in wood. 'Fraser' a classic salmon troller.
Rhapsody in wood. ‘Fraser’ a classic salmon troller.
'Seafire' me old prune barge
‘Seafire’
me old prune barge.
Elegance. "If it looks good, it works good."... Allen Farrell A beautiful yacht conversion of a wooden salmon. fishing boat.
Elegance. “If it looks good, it works good.”… Allen Farrell
A beautiful yacht conversion of a wooden salmon troller.
Another man's dream
Another man’s dream

Then came a show of a different sort of nautical ineptitude. A gleaming, huge phallic sloop appeared in the bay, its manufacturer and length displayed prominently on both sides of the hull. It is the sort of yacht I like to call a ‘Fart Parkerson 69.’ For an hour the young couple aboard set and reset their anchor, always too close to yet another boat. Finally they came to rest less than a boat length away from ‘Seafire’s transom. I noticed how pristine everything was, like an ad from a yuppy yachting magazine. The young couple aboard each wore the latest in extravagant yachty fashion, I’d guess thousands of dollars worth. Soon they came over in a virgin-looking dinghy, awkwardly rowing it backwards, to ask if I was content with their proximity. I replied that they were downwind of me and wished them a good night.

'Nootka Rose' A converted life boat being loved to death. (The plastic wrapping prevents desperately essential ventilation.)
‘Nootka Rose’
A converted life boat being loved to death. (The plastic wrapping prevents desperately essential ventilation.)

Later, in the gathering darkness they were off again trying to find a spot between other boats and buoys. There was a continuous drama and din of their windlass paying out all their chain then reeling it back in again, all the while plowing up more bottom mud. Meanwhile outside of the immediate anchorage there are acres of good, empty anchorage. I guess some folks are determined to be close to the shore. They’re still here this morning! They’ve made it through the night, probably lying exhausted in their luxurious ten-foot-wide bunk, empty champagne bottle sitting beside big fluffy slippers and heavy bathrobes with anchors embroidered on the pockets. “Honey I broke a nail,” he says.

The sloop 'Fart P' on the hook. Neo-decadence beside classic an ultimate boat.practicality and what was once
The sloop ‘Fart P’ on the hook. Neo-decadence beside classic practicality and what was once an ultimate dream.

A few days ago in a muddy parking lot an old man and I were approaching each other as we walked our dogs. Suddenly, between us, hurtled a shining black Lexus, backing and filling a few times before it finally came to rest in two parking spaces. We each held our dogs, well back, until the frantic manoeuvring ceased.  “Thanks,” proclaimed the driver,adjusting designer sunglasses as he rushed off self-importantly on foot. As we finally met, the other fellow proclaimed loudly, “Guess just ’cause you can afford it don’t mean you can drive it!”

Who am I to laugh at someone else’s dream? Mucho Gusto!

Down at the bow. a sad end for a once-beautiful fishboat.
Down at the bow. a sad end for a once-beautiful fishboat.
"For a good close second look, come back at low tide.' A hazard to navigation in a anchorage of sunken dreams.
“For a good close second look, come back at low tide.’ A hazard to navigation in a anchorage of sunken dreams.
A plywood reef
A plywood reef
Wot Lawnmower? The outboard motor raises some obvious questions.
Wot Lawnmower? The outboard motor raises some obvious questions.
Waterfront Condo. Purple Martins in the nesting boxes.
Waterfront Condo. Purple Martins in the nesting boxes on a piling.
Spanish moss on a flowering maple tree.
Spanish moss on a flowering maple tree.
Add Cherry Blossoms
Add Cherry Blossoms
The old net loft.
The old net loft.

 

Waterfront blues
Waterfront blues
The Ramp "Damn ye all whom have passed this portal."
The Ramp
“Damn ye all whom have passed this portal.”
At the corner of telephone and telephone. "Degnen Bay Harbour Authority" says the green sign. Phone boxes and hand cranes will all soon be gone forever.
At the corner of telephone and telephone.
“Degnen Bay Harbour Authority” says the green sign. Phone boxes and hand cranes will all soon be gone forever.
 Another view of Degnen which the Regional district will find a way to eradicate.

Another view of Degnen which the Regional district will find a way to eradicate.
Wet coast textures on a sunny day.
Wet coast textures on a sunny day.
Seal vertebrae in the tideline.
Seal vertebrae in the tideline.
Old Fish Face. This rock looks to me like a spawning humpback salmon.
Old Fish Face. This rock looks to me like a spawning humpback salmon.
A modern pictograph
A modern pictograph
Icon of Gabriola. This petroglyph isw often used as a log for things Gabriolan. It was carved on the sandstone beach of Degnen Bay where it is covered at high tide. Sadly, it is eroding rapidly.
Icon of Gabriola. This petroglyph is often used as a logo for things Gabriolan. It was carved on the sandstone beach of Degnen Bay where it is covered at high
tide. Sadly, it is eroding rapidly.

All I ask is a chance to prove that money can’t make me happy!”

A sure cure for sea-sickness is to sit under a tree.”

… Spike Milligan

Zombie Rap

Clearly! A rising tide in North Cove, Thetis Island.
Clearly! A rising tide in North Cove, Thetis Island.

I have wondered at the phenomenon of folks fascinated with zombies. This fad is everywhere. I turn on a television; there is something zombie going on. Is TV the inspiration? Dunno! Some folks go so far as to deck out their automobiles (I’ve even seen an old bus done up) to look like police vehicles with large logos about being a ‘Zombie Patrol’. Honestly, I have no idea about this large interest in resurrected putrefied psychopathic masses which are really pissed off about something. While my ignorance doesn’t make the continuing fad wrong, it truly seems bizarre when we have so many other important and uplifting things to pursue.

Highway to heaven. An oled causeway in North Cove
Highway to heaven. An old causeway in North Cove

What is the need for silly distraction? Someone, somewhere, somehow is making money out of it all. It’s way over my head. Rap music seemed a passing fad, it’s still here decades later. Just wait, the next mass gaga, zombie rap! Baggy pants on backwards, head with hat on backwards under your arm, skateboard under other arm.

Gulf Island Serenity
Gulf Island Serenity. ‘SEAFIRE’ on the hook.

Then I had an epiphany as I negotiated around two very gormless, apparently semi-brain- dead folks shuffling along the docks. They held no awareness of anyone else. “Like goddamned zombies” I muttered to myself and suddenly I got it! Zombies exist! The light is gone from so many eyes. There are swarms of breathing bodies of all ages waiting to die. As old Churchill said, “Epileptic corpses”. We go through life consuming as fast as we’ve been programmed. We burn out and die trying to run a course we can never complete because it is always designed and extended by someone or something else trying to establish control over us. To live and love at a pace where we can sanely stay in touch with our society and our planet is a speed which sees us run over by a mindless culture in constant acceleration. And so we become zombies, faceless and easily controlled. I watched a documentary on the rock star Lemmy recently. Frankly, this old fart had never heard of this other old fart, or his band ‘Motorhead’. But Lemmy, an icon of dark excesses and self-abuse, and damned proud of it, is idolized by adoring throngs around the planet. What is this evil that invades our longing souls? Zombies!

Rust to dust. Nothing lasts forever.
Rust to dust.
Nothing lasts forever.

Slowly, inexorably, machines take control of our existence. People cannot seem to function without texting or without bumbook and instant information about anything no matter how trivial. Not so long ago windshield wipers, automatic transmissions, am radios, power steering and power brakes were decadent options for any car. Now many folks wouldn’t consider buying a car without an on-board computer to show them the way to the nearest mall. There are serious efforts being made toward a reliable driver-less car. Wot the….? I thought you were driving! Where the hell are we?” I hope I can die peacefully in my sleep as a beloved old grandfather, quite unlike his five screaming passengers. In a cell phone store I recently asked for a phone that sent calls, received calls and messages only. The clerk’s stunned look required no further words. “Zombie! Where ya bin pappy?”

I’ve argued with myself that there is also a growing fascination with spirituality, metaphysics and a quest for grounding with the planet and the universe but I don’t think inner exploration is going to be the next mass fascination. Well, in any event, don’t let your karma run over your dogma. The only way to make sense of it all is to quit trying and live in the moment. It’s all we have.

Tonight I’m writing in a very calm Gulf Island anchorage called North Cove. It’s raining. Yes our summer drought has broken. The desperately needed showers will end and in a few days, when the kids should be back in class (But our BC teacher’s strike grinds on) it will be blistering hot again. For those convinced of global warming, I’ve just had an e-mail from my friends Roger and Ali, those intrepid Australian mariners who are in the Arctic at a place called Kugluktuk. They’ll soon be leaving their boat ‘Wave’ in Cambridge Bay for another long winter. The Passage is choked with ice, impassable all summer just like the old days. Hey! What if? And how come that’s not making the news?

My old pal Jim is now on the final leg of his race against himself around the South Pacific and will be back in British Columbia by mid-month. He left here less than a year ago! Other friends are touring the south of France and sending back more incredible photos. But, they’re not here enjoying this amazing morning. It’s wonderful to feel perfectly content with being where you are.

It rained all night. The air is cool and fresh and Jack is demanding to go ashore. It is bliss to sit in the morning here on a secluded beach with a coffee and watch him enjoying being a dog. It is calm, quiet and peaceful. I have no internet out here, I don’t know what’s going on in the world of men. I know there are those out there determined to start WWIII but the earth is still turning, even without my involvement. Ignorance is bliss. Zombie!

Thistle Dew, in the morning after the rain
Thistle Dew, in the morning after the rain

A few days later, September is whizzing by. Yesterday provided a torrential downpour. Desperately needed for our parched islands it was also a harbinger of the winter ahead.

Wasn’t it breaking spring a mere few weeks ago? Now the mornings and evenings are cool, the afternoons are comfortably hot. It is dark by 8:30 pm. The swallows are gone south. The summer gringos are gone from the docks with their fluorescent clothing, texting and din. The air is sweet again without the reek of exhaust fumes and fish being cremated on barbeques. The docks are no longer cluttered with drunks in portable chairs. The few that pass through now are serious seasoned mariners with good manners and interesting things to say. They also come in some fine boats. My beloved old friend ‘Native Girl’ is back at the dock. Her owners, Jon and Rian, are expecting the arrival of a new deckhand in the coming few weeks. Friends are almost as excited about the impending birth as the parents. I think there’s going to be a celebration. And for what better reason?

I’ll fill this post with photos of boats and local scenes. Hopefully in the next few weeks there’ll be great news of several varieties to share with all my loyal readers. Thank you for your supportive comments. Despite my cynical sentiments about our rapidly evolving world it IS fantastic to have a global audience. Wow!

The first boat photo is of a 65′ (On deck) 63 year-old ketch-rigged steel boat. The present owner is about to leave for the South Pacific via La Paz Baha. My research confirms his story about the vessel’s history. Built in Vancouver in 1951 by Manly shipyards it was the last steamer built in British Columbia. (New steam engines must have been hard to find by 1951) A retired ship’s captain had wanted to do a global circumnavigation under steam but dropped dead shortly after beginning the voyage. Returned to the shipyard, the vessel was repowered with a diesel engine, purchased by the Department Of Indian Affairs, renamed the ‘Skeena’ and assigned to Prince Rupert as home port where it lived out a good and useful working life as a supply vessel, school boat and an icon of the North Coast. In recent years she was purchased by three men who had plans to turn her into a classic luxury charter boat. The hull was rebuilt as required but then the boat was stripped of all useful fittings by vandals during winter storage in the Vancouver area.

The venerable'Skeena' reborn for south Sea adventures
The venerable ‘Skeena’ reborn for south Sea adventures

With almost $300,000 into the project it was given up as a lost cause and sold to the next dreamer. He is now it’s current owner. His vision involved attaching a massive bolt-on sailing and grounding keel, fitting a bowsprit, ketch-rigging the old girl and getting ready to go to sea. The remaining work will be completed in Southern Latitudes.

Last minute chores
Last minute chores

Another noteworthy vessel is ‘Fifer Lady’. It is a Fifer, or Fifey, designed and often built in Fife, Scotland. Boats there had to be rugged and designed for heavy weather. This one was built in 1959 and imported by a doctor in Victoria a year later. After several subsequent owners it has come into the hands of the current owners who have, it would seem, committed their entire existence to the care and maintenance of this very gorgeous vessel. They are fully proud of their efforts and so they should be. I’ve thought up something I call the “Glass Box Award” for boats so pristine and perfect that they should be kept in a glass box like a museum piece. ‘Fifer Lady’ is one of those rare examples.

Fifer Lady, one beautiful old boat
Fifer Lady, one beautiful old boat
Och Aye! The real thing.
Och Aye! The real thing! Complete with a genuine Scottish CQR anchor and Simpson-Lawrence windlass.
'Little Abe' another real thing. Built in the Queen charlottes in the 1930's, she once supported two families. she's still going strong!
‘Little Abe’, another real thing. Built in the Queen charlottes in the 1930’s, she once supported two families. She’s still going strong!
Another candidate for the glass box award. A classic, immaculate Grenfell 36 complete with Davidson K9 skiff.
Another candidate for the Glass Box Award. A classic, immaculate Grenfell 36 complete with Davidson K9 skiff.
Classic plastic. a former navy launch commercially made-over into a tough boat called an Allweather.
Classic plastic. a former navy launch commercially made-over into a tough boat called an Allweather.
More old beauty in awesome condition
More old beauty in awesome condition
The Sublime and The Ridiculous. My Beloved 'Native Girl' home again, moored under the bow of a 96' 'Look at me."
The Sublime and The Ridiculous. My Beloved ‘Native Girl’ home again, moored under the bow of a 96′ ‘Look at me.”
Not a cliché boat name! Is Nostrilagony is a relative of Nostrodamus?
Not a cliché boat name!
Is Nostrilagony a relative of Nostrodamus?

 

My boat is clearly the property of a barefoot shoemaker. After looking after other people’s boats, I have little time or resources to care properly for my own. But soon, in a palm-fringed bay, I’ll be working on some little project in the light of the rising tropical sun.
The dream never dies, just the dreamer.” Zombie!

Namaste
Namaste

QUIET

Tomorrow's weather
Tomorrow’s weather

Monday morning. It’s tough waking up. The dog is curled into the crook of my arm snoring softly. There is the occasional drip of water on the deck. It is so quiet! Then comes the clatter of my Pratt & Whitney morning alarm. The Beaver float plane moored just past my boat is fired up to warm the engine in anticipation of the day’s flying ahead. I resolve to hit the deck as soon as I hear it start up the second time. This means the passengers and freight are aboard and the flight is leaving the dock, but this morning there is only quiet.

I finally get up to see that we are fog-bound. All is calm. A kingfisher sprints past, its chattering flight pierces the calm for a moment. Fog drifts through the tree tops and slowly burns away to reveal the sun climbing above a cloud-mottled golden sky. The flight is still bound by the fog lying across the Strait and blanketing its destination in the Fraser River. The pilot uses his time to scrub the airplane. Passengers caught up in the thrust of their day pace the docks, texting messages or gesticulating with cell phones jammed to their ears. There are no float planes droning overhead. Slowly the sounds of busyness pervade the sanctity and the day moves forward. The sun begins to heat the bay, steam rises languidly from all the damp surfaces.

Fog bound
Fog bound

In my last few blogs I have used a derogatory tone in describing certain tourist yachters who haunt the docks during the summer season. I grudgingly admit that it is their dollars which provide the foundation for this facility where I live.  They are necessary to my existence here, like it or not. They are also a microcosm of a society, of which I am part, whose values are alienating me.

There are, thank the Gods, other folks. ‘Native Girl’ is living evidence that there is indeed another breed of character on the docks. Across the slip from me, my neighbour boat ‘Native Girl’ rests awaiting the day’s industry. The owners are a younger generation than mine yet they hold a passion for a way of life built around the ancient art of maintaining wooden boats and building new ones. They respect traditional nautical values and their enthusiasm for the art of maritime skills and perspectives is a hope in itself. Jon and Ryan are the proper owners for ‘Native Girl’. They live aboard her as their careers allow. Together the couple are methodically maintaining and restoring their historic vessel to her former glory.

Labour of love
Labour of love

This boat has a special place in my heart. I once missed buying her by two hours; it just wasn’t meant to be. I was an acquaintance of Allen Farrell, the designer and builder of ‘Native Girl’.  He and I were friends as were hundreds of others who knew him and his wife Sherry. All I’ll say here is that they were the only real hippies I have ever known. They didn’t talk about it, they lived it. Whether it was sustainable living, peace and love or thinking green, they were role models. I miss them both, dearly. I ache for the idea of them and their living proof that financial abundance has nothing to do with real wealth. Allen once told me that true wealth was knowing how little you need and realizing how free that left you. As I write I look around inside the expanse of this boat and wonder what it is that I truly need. What the hell has driven me from one fine boat to the next and then the next? The first one could have taken me anywhere in the world I wanted to go. Then I remember how Allen also told me that a boat needs to be big enough for everyone aboard to have their own “Pouting space.” He was a wise man.

Allen Farrell
Allen Farrell

There are several other folks dedicated to a lifestyle of eating, breathing and sleeping wooden boats and following diverse personal disciplines in the pursuit of their common passion.  There are some wonderful examples of boats, big and small, built and rebuilt here in Silva Bay and various other settings around Gabriola Island. I’m glad to be in their company, even though I’m a fibreglass boat kind of guy; ‘Classic Plastic’ is my niche.

So then, plan B. As the window closes on being able to take the boat south this fall I know I will not be able to endure another long dark, wet, winter. I hear folks talking about winter vacation plans and my body begins to ache in dread of being left behind. You can tell me all you want about adjusting my attitude but I can tell you we all have a tangible physical reaction to the long darkness of winter. It is a primal thing and some of us are more sensitive to it than others. I’ve spent a lot of my life working like a mule at sea and in the woods so often, it seems, in the dark. It didn’t bother me then but I’m not nineteen anymore so I while I respect the bears and other hibernating creatures I’ll try migration to sunnier latitudes for a while. This old flower needs a regular dose of UV rays and that demand seems to increase with the passing years.

It seemed the gods put a practical solution right in my path. These creaky bones don’t like lying on the ground overnight anymore so how about a compromise? I’ve been contemplating small holiday trailers for a while. They seemed too awkward to tow to places I like to go. Ones I could afford were not in good condition. Tent trailers were overpriced and didn’t really suit my needs.  The wobbling tin-foil condos lurching down the highway behind a monstrous diesel pickup truck appear to me to be the antithesis of easy rider freedom.

Well now, suddenly I have a mobile bed and a light utility trailer. I drove around a corner on Gabriola and there it was with a for sale sign, exactly perfect for my needs. Of course, the right thing always shows up when you’re dead broke so I had to solicit help from my wife. Thank you Jill.

I now own a beautiful tear drop trailer. It is home-built and very well put together. Clad in a sturdy sheet of aluminium it is an essentially a bed on wheels with room inside for a comfortable double berth. The back of the trailer hinges up to form an open-air roof over a tiny galley area. It is very light and easy to tow with enough ground clearance to tow behind my little 4×4 truck into the back lands of Baha or wherever I have an urge to go. It can also double as a utility trailer for hauling my tools around. It might even fit in a large inflatable boat.

Uh huh!

An option
An option

What’s this got to do with the sailing dream? The boat and my finances aren’t ready to ‘Do South’ this fall but if I camp along the way with my sleepy-time bubble I can hopefully afford to get away for a while during the middle of the coming winter. I can leave the rig anywhere I want or even play leap-frog with the boat as I move down the coast. Then I’ll have access to all of the country inland from the beach.  There is plenty more to Mexico and all those other places south than just their coastline.

Two more days and it is officially autumn. The fleet of white plastic boats is gone. Only a few committed yachters visit the marina. The little birds have flown south, the daylight is noticeably less each day, the morning dew lingers until noon and in the late afternoon it settles again. Painting brightwork is now an urgent order of business.  I’m two weeks short of the deadline for sailing away. It is not going to happen this year but life should be an adventure so we’ll find a creative way of dealing with winter and all its dark gremlins.

One of the secrets to good writing is to quit before the reader does. My first blog, almost a year ago already, was a commitment to go sailing and indulge a very long-lived dream. It would be very easy at this point to produce big fat excuses and pack it all in for an existence in front of the television.

That won’t happen. I owe it to my readers, myself and my wife,  (Whom I have tortured with this passion for decades.) The dream is alive, I’ll blog on. One day soon I’ll be able to post a photo in a blog of clear, warm green water surging through the scuppers with a palm-fringed shoreline in the background.  I hope you’ll be there with me; it is going to be a grand day. In the meantime, the journey continues one stumbling step at a time. 

By the way, one of the reasons I ended up with this boat is that it has an extra double bunk in a separate cabin. There are two other comfy bunks and lots of room topside to sleep under the stars in southern climates. Guests are welcome, especially….. if they can help defray costs and want to enjoy a unique, inexpensive vacation. Think about it. The ‘Seafire’ Hotel will be opening soon somewhere down there. See ya in the movies!

Mexico on my mind
Mexico on my mind

DIVERGENCE AND CONVERGENCE OF THOUGHT

Dionisio Point moonrise
Dionisio Point moonrise

Huh?

…Well that’s what I first thought when I read the title back.  What the hell does this have to do with a blog about realizing a dream against all odds? Specifically, getting the boat I’m sitting in at this moment out of here and sailing south within the next three months. 

To paraphrase something Einstein said, you’ll never be able to solve a problem by using the same thinking that created it in the first place.  And…the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over always expecting a new result. I guess I know where I am.

I’m reading a book loaned to me which I’m finding timely to my situation and it’s quite inspiring: ‘Ship Of Gold In The Deep Blue Sea’ by Gary Kinder. The title is a bit lugubrious and probably some editor’s idea of a commercially viable handle that does no justice to a very absorbing read. It is about the sinking and ultimate finding of a gold-laden ship, the ‘S.S.Central America’. One of the central characters is obsessed with process and linear thinking. He lives with a conviction that the only things impossible are those which we think are impossible. It is about how the quest for one solution leads to other discoveries and solutions. That happens in the divergence and convergence of conversation and thought about one specific problem. New possibilities arise out of the quest for a single solution.

An anecdote is provided about a young man from Ohio who was deeply inspired by the accounts of a sea captain about his travels in the Amazon jungle. Highly motivated by that account he decides to go to Brazil and duplicate the adventure. Travelling by boat down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers he arrives finally in New Orleans to discover that no ships ever sail from there to Brazil. He has, however, experienced a rich life on the great rivers where he often heard the boatman’s sounding cry of “mark twain”.  Samuel Clemens becomes one of America’s most beloved writers and the world becomes a better place because of a simple dead end. Divergence becomes a happy new convergence.

Hanging in therre
Hanging in there

I’ve been trying to make sense of my sojourn in Silva Bay. Why did the gods put me here? I held the job which brought me here for the best part of three and a half years. I have made some wonderful friends, learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the location and its archipelago of small islands. However, I’ve made only a survival income, spent a lot of dark and lonely nights on one boat or another, parted with my beloved ‘Pax’ which was ready to sail away, started yet another refit and am left pondering what I’m really doing here; especially during the apex of summer with grand weather and all these gringo boaters around the marina trying to have ‘Fun’. I thought I’d simply let the universe unfold as it will and discover the big reason why I’m here but no epiphanies yet. I am anxious to move on.

I’ve recently been in touch with a long-lost cousin who used the term “Cognitive remodelling”. I love the linguistics of that but frankly I think I already do too much of that and should perhaps apply a little more  “Kinetic remodelling” and get this damned old boat out of here. So I’m tackling the project I’ve been dreading most. It began in January when I upgraded the galley counter and cupboards. I fitted a new water heater in a dead space there and have now decided it needs to be relocated lower. One of its heat sources is the engine and I thoughtlessly installed the heater at too high a level for the engine coolant to flow correctly. I may as well change it now. Damn my teeth for the oversight! So, lower it ten inches,;sounds easy right? It proved to be a day’s work and seemed to be rather like trying to perform heart surgery through the rectum.

The old water heater was stored in a cavernous storage locker beneath the bunk of the guest cabin. There is also a large sewage holding tank and an amazing snot-garble of plumbing, wiring and furnace ducting. It is a sad waste of much-needed stowage. The settees in the main cabin are on top of two monstrous fuel tanks. There is nothing other than chart storage there so it is imperative that I have as much space for stores elsewhere. The next mega-project begins.

First the guest bunk-junk moves onto the forward cabin bunk. Hopefully it will all end up neatly stowed in the new storage space or in the dumpster if I don’t have a valid use for it. I’ll sleep, for the time being, on one of the settees in the main cabin. Those have new foam cushions and I’ve redesigned and built new seat-backs to hinge up and allow for some comfortable snoozing space. Next the old mattress from the guest bunk goes. God! It reeks of three decades of fermented human presence, my imagination decides that’s it is just spilled wine but I don’t know who it’s been through before permeating the mattress. I’m stunned that I have lived with this disgusting element for so long. Out, out foul demons! Then it’s dunging out the space below the bunk area and realizing how poorly it was utilized. The aged water heater, rusted and leaking, is torn out. It’s a miracle that it still worked. There’s a hodge-podge of plumbing and redundant pumps. Each line needs to be traced, removed and relocated.

The storage space
The storage space

But next, more foul demons. I decided it was propitious to remove the old holding tank. I like to get the worst out of the way as soon as possible. I discovered that some rocket-scientist installed the pump-out fitting almost a third of the way from the bottom of this twenty-five gallon tank. That means that only two-thirds of the tank was ever usable and the bottom third was full of a very ripe sediment. (The boat is thirty years old, so…?) Of course, the tank had to be slid out of it’s fastenings, (Every screw-head is filled with paint) then wriggled upright so the sawn-off fittings were on the top side. Next, the tank, one third full of fecal delight, had to be manhandled out of the boat without spilling anything.  I hugged that stinky, sloshing puppy as if my life depended on it. It was 30 degrees Celsius outside but it felt cool when I finally landed the tank on the dock. The folks going by to the float-plane  passed quickly. The dog reappeared an hour later.

Bunk junk
Bunk junk

Now I can start putting it all back together The fun-part!  Pressure water system first. Remember divergence and convergence. Well this too shall pass and it  should be remembered that it’s all about the romance of the sea.

Simple pleasures
Simple pleasures

THE SHIP’S SPIDER

 

No Spiders
No spiders

Superstitions of the sea. That’s a subject often drowned in copious amounts of alcoholic beverage and sceptical conversation. Men don’t easily admit they hold with various supersticions, but nearly every sailor has developed their own fears and respects.

Don’t begin a voyage on Friday. Never open or store a container of anything upside down. Don’t whistle in the wheelhouse. Every one knows about Murphy’s Law and how the worst possible scenario is what one should expect. My intimate and dark relationship with Murphy has taught me that monster is probably female. She’s far too devious to be male! Personally, I’ve come to suspect any boat with a hull painted green or blue and I can tell you vehemently to avoid any boat that comes with shag carpeting. There’s a practical reason for that one; but then most superstitions have a tangible origin.

As a marine mechanic I’ve developed a habit of flipping some small shiny object overboard, a stainless steel nut or screw is adequate. Much better to offer a small sacrifice to the old man of the deep than give up a treasured wrench or a pair of eye glasses or a cell phone. Kill a spider and make it rain.

Actually I’ve come to value the presence of spiders aboard as a good omen! It can be argued that with enough flies aboard to attract predators arachnids might be a bad sign but I reckon that the wiley insect will not be found aboard any vessel about to sink or burn. I am fascinated by the spider’s incredible tenacity and engineering skills. I’ve known webs in the rigging to withstand full gales. If damaged or destroyed a spider web is repaired promptly. I’ve seen their silk spun between two masts and in other places ridiculously impossible. Despite their capacity for massive industry, spiders also have incredible stealth and amazing patience.

There are nasty ones, best avoided, and even some of the tiniest spiders have formidable venom in their bite. Once a backwoods boy who could shoot the brains out of anything without remorse, I now find myself trying to move spiders and other innocent creatures from situations dangerous to them or someone else. I hope that an evolving respect for life is positive growth and that my little friends hold a reciprocal respect.

Speaking of intrepid tenacity I’ll dedicate the rest of this blog to two dear and inspiring friends. Two years ago, through friends of friends, Rodger and Ali first came to Silva Bay aboard their boat ‘Betty Mc’, registered to the Port of Melbourne, Australia. This vessel was built in Tasmania as a lobster boat. (Or, as pronounced in Aus: “Crybote”) Rodger explained that crayfishing is often done in the surf and so the boats must be built to withstand the occasional bash on the rocks. ‘Betty Mc’ certainly is. She’s a floating bomb shelter! The boat still has a livewell and could be put back to work fishing with little effort. Built of exotic timber like “Red shaggy Bark” and “Celery Top” she’ll outlive us all despite the many miles that have passed beneath her keel. With amenities like a head spurned, ( No-one has ever had to unclog a bucket!) the boat is filled with tools, spare parts and materials for repairs, extra outboards and even a motorcycle. She’s not a gaudy girl but has an immaculate engine room, snug accomodation, is wired beautifully and practically, and has an interior which is elegantly simple and practical. Her wheelhouse is clearly thought out by a seasoned mariner and holds the boat’s single luxury, a stainless steel expresso machine handy to the helm! ‘Betty Mc’ carries fuel enough for a three-thousand mile range and has a sailing rig to help her get there eventually, no matter what.

Betty Mc
Betty Mc

Her rugged good looks stand her out from the crowd to the eye of the seasoned mariner yet she is generally unnoticed by weekend warriors and other Tupperware pirates. Perfect! After working for a living for decades, she was refitted by Rodger and Ali and has since voyaged northward through the South Pacific to Japan then on to the Aleutian Islands and Alaska and southward to Silva Bay. Last year she returned to Alaska for the summer and so far this year has gunkholed down into the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound more miles than most yachts travel in years.

Boats have been described as the ultimate work of man; a marriage of function to perform specific work and commerce  while there is also an artful form of infinite variety and beauty. A proper vessel is pleasing to the eye from angles. ‘Betty Mc’ is a perfect example. Previous to acquiring ‘Betty Mc’, Rodger and Ali cruised extensively by sail ‘Down under’ and have also travelled an enviable number of places overland Their adventures are a massive achievement by any standard and they’re definitely not over yet.

Wave1

Last fall the intrepid pair bought a surplus Canadian Coast Guard vessel at auction for a bargain price. ‘Wave’ is under thirty feet in length, is built ruggedly of aluminum and powered by a screaming Detroit diesel. She once served as a support vessel for the CCG Cutter ‘John P Tulley’. Returning from a winter break in Australia, Rodger and Ali have worked very long hours for the past months to refit and prepare her for their new odyssey. They left today.

Wave
Wave

They are taking ‘Wave’ to Sidney where they’ll load her onto a truck for the long haul to Hay River, in the Northwest Territories. There, the boat will be launched on the Southern shore of Great Slave Lake. They’ll travel northward over a thousand miles downstream  on the MacKenzie River to Tuktoyaktuk and then onward in a personal exploration of the Arctic and the Northwest Passage. When winter sets in (Usually sometime in September) they’ll haul her up on a safe beach and come back to her next spring. Who knows how many years they will be at that adventure! I have the honour of baby-sitting Betty Mc while they’re away from her and I look forward to learning the plans for her next jaunt; I’ve heard then mentioning Europe and Scandinavia.

Rodger and Ali
Rodger and Ali

What intrigues me most about Rodger and Ali is their personality. I say that singularly because that is how they function, as a single unit, a perfect balance of ying and yang. Theirs is a marriage where one plus one equals much more than two. They are quiet and unassumming while being warm and charming at all times despite the long weary hours that  they often work shoulder to shoulder. It took a long time for me to learn of their high academic standing and then not from them; they are very humble. I’ve never heard them brag about anything though they’ve certainly earned the right. These two are an absolute antithesis from the stereotyped Australian who projects a wannabe Crocodile Dundee image and says things like “Brace yourself Sheila!” They prefer living as simply as possible without frills and seem to always be caught within the joy of the moment. This team constantly inspire me. Yes, I envy them. I feel quite humble to count myself among the many friendships they must cultivate everywhere they go. I wish them many spiders!

NOTE: If you are interested, there is an excellent article online about Betty Mac’s epic voyage up from Tasmania to Alaska. Google up: Rodger Grayson Betty Mc. (The url is far too long to post here as a link.) Look for the heading, Sturdy Workboats. This is a New Zealand periodical dedicated to real boats.

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.’

Joshua
Joshua

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