(Click and drag red play line to the left to see video from the beginning)
Christmas is past. The birds and squirrels are back in the trees. Isn’t it a miracle how these tiny creatures survive an extreme wind? The devastation on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands has been massive. Thousand of trees have blown down onto houses and power lines. Power poles, in many places, were broken like match sticks. The overhead wires have been snapped like string and macramaed together with tangles of tree limbs. Roofs have been stripped bare all over the south coast. I am amazed to repeatedly see incredible carnage in a specific area and yet a few hundred meters away, things appear almost unscathed. Water supplies, fuel supplies and groceries have all become commodities that have moved from a taken-for-granted status to desperate scarcity. Portable generators are unavailable at any price. The snarl of power saws and brush chippers can be heard in all directions near and far. Some folks, nine days later, are still without electricity. The line trucks and crews are still out there, wearily restoring power. Fortunately, so far as I know, there was only one fatality attributable to the blast.
Our population, with its modern urban sensibilities and softness, is unable to cope with a relatively minor disaster and the basic realities of survival. We’ve all had a wake up call. We need to be reminded about what frail creatures we are and how we become seduced into total dependency and subsequent vulnerability. These few hours of wind on December 20th do not begin to compare to a full-blown hurricane, earthquake or tsunami. It is very sobering. Even an old bush rat like myself realizes how spoiled and dependant I am on an infrastructure that is delicate at the best of times. I have good backwoods survival skills yet here, softness creeps in. Vancouver Island has 3 days of supplies ahead at the best of times. Most of us cannot even cover that gap. Some folks have had a very lean and cold Christmas. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the planet, Indonesia reels from another massively deadly tsunami. We can can our blessings indeed.
Time is ticking through the last hours of 2018. It’s over. For me it has not been a memorable year. I have achieved little other than staying alive, which is always a good thing. My life seems to have been what I did to pass the time between medical appointments and that I resolve to change. Yes, there are some things to look forward coming along very soon. I thank all those who love me and support me. You know who you are. It is remarkable how some friends and family continue to believe in you when you have lost all faith in yourself. That, in itself, is a blessing beyond any other wealth. I am grateful beyond words. So I will say it simply. Thank you. You’ve made a difference.
May everyone have a grand and wonder-filled year ahead.
“My pain may be the reason for somebody’s laughter. But my laughter must never be the reason for somebody’s pain.” …..Charlie Chaplin
I posted my last blog ten days ago. When I awoke the next morning it was beginning to snow, just a wee skiff to keep the children happy; so I thought. I’ve spent many years in the great white north where a metre or more of snow overnight was not newsworthy. You just carried on. I regularly drove hundreds of miles on wilderness roads in extreme conditions of cold and deep snow. If you ended up in a ditch or broken down it could prove fatal so you drove accordingly and carried a few extra items in the event of emergency. If you saw someone off the road you stopped and made sure no-one was in trouble. It was all in a day’s passing. Here, if there’s enough snow to cover the ground, it is best to simply stay home. Today, the forecast is for 17 or more centimetres. A few people will die out there. Only half that fell and the sirens still wailed constantly all day.
The white stuff is slippery and if you have experience as a winter driver, you know that no amount of ability is enough when there is zero traction. Superior drivers use their superior experience to avoid situations which require superior skill. Unfortunately there are many motorists who apparently have no clue about winter driving. Steep hills covered in wet white grease and littered with goggly-eyed drivers stuck in their suv’s is reason enough to stay home. Those television ads depicting an all-wheel drive vehicle bursting through a bank of fluffy, dry snow forget to tell you one thing: you’ve got to stop sometime. Last night I saw a plug for an Alfa Romeo suv. (Stupid Urban Vanity) It was a gorgeous vehicle! But somehow I doubt the Italians fully understand Canadian driving conditions, not that many of these look-at-me-mobiles ever leave pavement. So I stayed home that morning and sat here pecking away at my writing.
Then there was a horrific train wreck just south of Seattle. It was the very first run with paying passengers on a new high-speed rail service between Seattle and Portland. The train leapt off the rails and crashed down onto the main interstate highway in the state of Washington. The carnage incurred prevents this from being a hilarious story. To ad to the ludicrous tale, our boy Donny Trumpet (He’s always blowing his horn) was tweeting within three hours of the crash that this was a great example of why his infrastructure funding bill should be passed forthwith. The gormless ass! There were still people, dead and alive, trapped in the wreckage as he massaged his pathetic ego! Here on Vancouver Island we have solved any issue with railway safety. We cancelled our rail service.
Now over a week later I slide this blog off the back burner of my writer’s stove with a story from today’s local newspaper about a visiting Calgary man who “Spun a few donuts in the snow at Transfer Beach last week to clear a path for his 70-year-old mom to walk.” There’s a photo of a little car sitting in the middle of several circular furrows. That this was a news-worthy story says a lot about the pace of life in Ladysmith. I’m wondering how long this dude has had his mom going in circles. Such is our existence between Christmas and New Years. The days are grey and wet, the nights are long and wet. My sense of humour is short and dry. Outside on the final Friday of the year, I go to the local pool to swim my final lengths for the year. This morning I crawled out of bed one toe at a time and now dawn reluctantly squeezes the black sky to a porridge grey. A thick fog descends with a syrupy penetrating drizzle. In the afternoon, the drizzle turned to snow.
When I went aboard ‘Seafire’ to check on her, it was colder inside than out, like a tomb. This old boat has been my home, warm and snug through some long winter nights. I feel as if I’ve abandoned her and wonder where I will be this time next year. Well, life has to be lived as it comes, one moment at a time. When you look back, even 365 days, you’ve already forgotten so much of the blur. Just this moment, it’s all we have.
I wish everyone the best in 2018. May we all have something to do, someone to love and something to look forward too.
“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” … Hal Borland
Black Friday has past. It may become known as the day that Darth Vader got stuck in the chimney. Forget the Star of Bethlehem, it’s Star Wars part 49. Bzzt, zap, whoosh! I’m not a fan, especially when the marketing of this film has be forced on us for months. “May the force be with with you” takes on a new meaning. What a way to start a celebration of love and peace and warmth and fuzziness! So it must be getting close to Christmas. Each morning there are deflated Santas and elves and snowmen lying on lawns nearly everywhere.
!The sacred act of consumerism is in the air. Even before mid-December advertisements for Boxing Day sales already clog the media which all the while keeps insisting that this year is a tight economic time, with housing and grocery costs at outrageous highs. Well, maybe so but as I drive by the malls, there does not seem to be many empty parking spots. Tap, tap, tap, click click. I’m not talking about the little drummer boy! Remember the ad, “Just say Chargex?” Jaded and cynical, I’m just not in the mood for anything other than peace and rum.
Online, folks are posting yummy recipes. I have some good ones too but gluten, glucose and alcohol are bad for you, at least this year. I don’t know what happened to trans-fat, but apparently eggs, butter and coffee are OK again. My Christmas cake is delightfully heavy, dripping with syrupy alcoholic elixir; one slice is guaranteed to bring on a case of acne. Then there’s my glug, a mulled concoction of fruit completely desecrated in a blend of wine and brandy and other secret flammables with exotic spices. This year it’ll be cranberry juice and soda crackers. It’s the high life for me.
Once a simple pagan celebration of winter solstice and a return to lengthening days, this time of year was an affirmation of hope and familial security despite the long winter ahead. It was a simple defiance against the elements, things that went bump in the long dark nights and all there was to dread. It is supposed to be a celebration of life. Then religion imposed it’s toxic notions and Christmas was gradually perverted into an orgy of money grubbing. I’m well aware of the entire Christian story, I was force-fed on it for too many years. It’s dark and cold and wet outside tonight. There’s homeless folks out there, lots of them, and all the church doors are locked. In Victoria recently I saw security personnel guarding a church entrance. Homeless people were setting up camp for the night on the grass boulevard in front of the church. Shopping carts and garbage bags just didn’t look like the makings of a warm and safe winter night; in front of a church. Remember the stable?
I do have golden memories of Christmas from a childhood many decades ago. A sudden aroma of home-cooking, woodsmoke or the tang of frost, the smell of wet woollens and barnyards (Yes, good old cow shit) the pungence of a real tangerine, fresh-cut conifers and a puppy’s gentle musk are among the stimulants that bring those old memories back to life in an instant. I know folks wrung their hands back then and worried about what the world had come to and how things just couldn’t go on like this much longer but by today’s comparisons, it was, at least for me, truly an age of innocence. That smells can induce memories, good and bad is an affirmation of our primal origin. I wonder about all the other senses which we have stashed away in the dim light at the back of our caves beneath the hanging bats.
In this particular area on Vancouver Island some hummingbirds spend the winter. This morning I was contemplating the brilliant multi-coloured led lights decorating a neighbour’s tree. A hummingbird zoomed down and began examining each light. Clearly, I’m not the only thinking creature confused about reality. With the thousands of lights gleaming through the night in Ladysmith It’s a good thing the wee bird is not nocturnal.
I’ve busied myself with a few projects on ‘Seafire.’ First a thorough cleaning in the main cabin and the galley. I was stunned to realize how much cooking effluent had accumulated behind and on the curtains and in niches my regular cleanings had missed.That accomplished, I turned my attention to a long-delayed project. The foredeck was slightly flexible. There was no issue with strength; I simply wanted to feel a rock-solid deck beneath my boots. Besides, the deck beam job will incorporate more book shelves and storage space in the forward V-berth. “Idle hands do the devil’s work” is something people liked to say when I was young.
I am not sure that boat projects are not devil’s work but it helps maintain some level of sanity within my chosen madness. While I’ve been fiddling around inside ‘Seafire’ different sorts of madmen are hard at other endeavours. Francois Gabart has just returned home to France on his massive trimaran after sailing around the world in 42 days and 16 hours. He set out on November 4th. I can remember where I was on that day, it is that recent! I’m not interested in going hyper fast on a sailboat, but I respect the achievement. To be alone and drive a boat that hard without a catastrophic mechanical failure while staying mentally and physically sound all the while is a miracle. It must seem very strange to be back ashore.
Feet on the ground, now there’s a concept. The massive storm of inappropriate sexual behaviour accusations leaves me afraid to even smile at anyone of any gender, however many genders we now recognize. This tsunami of innuendo began with Bill Cosby and now anyone with eyes and hands is a suspect. I don’t want to dissect the issue, nor sound dismissive but… The US president openly bragged about his aggressive misogynistic sexual behaviour before he was elected. If an avowed pervert is running a country with impunity, surely that raises several obvious questions. He’s not welcome on my boat.
One of the ways I endure winter is to have something good to look forward to. Last year I had sequestered myself away in Shearwater and missed my annual pilgrimage to the Fisher Poet’s Gathering in Astoria. This annual event is held on the last weekend of February in Astoria, Oregon where poets and singers gather to celebrate the many aspects of the commercial fishing industry. It is a wonderful festival of blue collar eloquence and Astoria is a fantastic town to visit for any reason. You can learn more by going to the Fisher Poet Website (FPG.org)and can even hear some performers, including myself, read their work. If you’re in the area and want some late winter cheer, check it out. By the Way, Astoria has some of the best craft beers and ales anywhere.
Well, back to Christmas. I’ve just received a Christmas card from an uncle in England. The photo he enclosed shows himself and my aunt. It was hard to accept how they’ve aged. I have been receiving letters from him since childhood. They used to come on tissue-thin blue Royal Airmail paper. The letter cleverly folded quarterly with two sides reserved for the addresses. They were self-sealing and were bought prepaid, like a postage stamp. The sender wrote in as small a font as possible in order to say as much as possible on the six blank quarters. Somehow, the Brits had a style of handwriting that was generic. Everyone’s looked the same. That’s all gone now along with the whole fine art of letter-writing. Uncle’s handwriting is unchanged after all these years. There’s a comfort.
The English journalist I mentioned in my last blog, Johnathon Pie, is actually a self-described political satirist whose real name is Tom Walker. He also calls himself a “Devil’s Advotwat.” His work, which appears on You Tube, is impeccable and utterly cutting as he rants about local and global political issues. He is crisp and irreverent and convincing, confirming my contention that our contemporary philosophers often appear in the guise of comedians. That, of course, should not be confused with a clown appearing in the guise of a politician.
Yep, as the song goes “It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas.” But I’m not dreaming of a white one. If you are celebrating the season, do it with your bow into the wind and your sheets hard. Wishing everyone empty bilges and full sails.
“The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.” …Jay Leno
“So what’s Mr. B.N.D. doing up here buying a dinghy?” A friend’s wife queried me when I arrived in Campbell River to purchase a used tender for ‘Seafire.’ It was a fair question especially when my last blog was about buy nothing days. It was also a fair question in consideration of the wintery weather. A viscous rain was being driven by the rising sou’east wind. The water in Discovery Pass was a mass of building foaming hard lumps, the usual meringue of wind against tide. I know this piece of ocean all too well, but for once I was ashore. I’d come to buy a nine foot fibreglass dinghy already modified to hang almost perfectly from the davits on ‘Seafire.’
I already have a nice little kayak and a splendid inflatable tender. There’s no place for the kayak on mothership in the winter where it doesn’t get hammered by the wind, or partially filled with water. It also blocks visibility from either helm. Getting into it in winter weather raises a good possibility of a frigid dunking as I try to finesse my Rubenesque thorax into the bobbing little cockpit while clad in clumsy boots and rain gear. The willowy, flat-bellied former younger self still hiding within my senior mass cringes as he realizes what he has become. Gawd! The Michelin man in a kayak.
The Achilles inflatable is a wonderful little speedboat but also an awkward thing on the davits. It refuses to accept being lashed solidly under the davits and has caused me much grief during heavy weather passages. The drain hole in it’s transom only allows shipped water to dribble out; not a good thing in big seas. It constantly moves no matter how I secure it to the transom of ‘Seafire’. Chafe is a sailor’s worst enemy on a boat. This inflatable is built from hypalon, a very tough, long-lived material, but it won’t live long if I allow it to continually wear on parts of the big boat. If it were a hard-bottomed dingy there would be little problem with the davits but I wanted an inflatable that could be rolled up for long passages. I refuse to tow a dinghy any distance for several other good reasons. Every thing is a compromise. Oddly, my first boats all had a hard dinghy; I longed for an inflatable.Now I’m back where I started.
The fibreglass dinghy affords me a way to get ashore from an anchorage and still provides the hope of being a life boat in dire circumstances. It already has solid lifting points and two drain plugs in it’s keel. I can also carry it about 30 centimetres higher than the inflatable, so there’s less chance of flooding it in rough weather. The little cockleshell was also reasonably priced. Nautical items tend to be less money at this time of year; about half-price in fact. So there, I’ve blogged half a page to explain my spending spree on Black Saturday. The drive home took two hours in a nasty downpour, darker than black. It was one of those night drives when your headlight beams are eaten in the spray and other drivers were demonstrating their worst motoring manners and low skill-sets. I arrived home to find a blog from friends in the Caribbean showing idyllic anchorages in clear tropical water. Swear words! It just ain’t right! In the morning an e-mail comes with photos of the beach in La Manzanilla, Mexico. Curving miles of golden sand, surf on one side, palm trees on the other. The TV weather girl tells us it has been the wettest November here since 1953.
I step into my tiny garage/workshop and there lingers an aroma of spring and of hope. The fresh smell of curing paint is aroma therapy to me. Suddenly I can hear twittering birds and feel warm sunlight, all of that in a whiff of paint. It is December 1st today and I’ll cling to whatever I can as the rain drums on the skylight above my desk. Bumhug! It’s Christmas time again, already, so soon! As if there would be a chance of forgetting. Happy Consumermas. Two days later it proved to be a sunny Sunday. Jack and I went exploring and found a lovely walking loop beside the local river which I’ve been driving past for over thirty years. Then in the afternoon Jill and I drove to Crofton to take the ferry to Saltspring Island to see a movie in a 120 plus year-old building call the “Fritz.” The film was the “Viceroy’s House” which never played in the mega theatres of Nanaimo. That is probably because there are no explosions, gunfire or graphic violence. And that is probably why it lost out to film titles like “A Bad Mom’s Christmas.” Tis the season!
“Viceroy’s House” was spectacular in all regards and helped clarify how much of the mess in India was created by the British colonialists. I heartily recommend it. All that adventure in one day! The decadence of travelling to another island just to see a movie did not elude me, so we crowned the afternoon by having a lovely dinner in a humble but wonderful Thai restaurant in Chemainus. Now it will be all dénoument for the rest of the month. Then the daylight will begin to increase each day. Yeah right!
While I’m in a complimentary moment, check out Johnathan Pie on You Tube. He’s a British journalist who manages to turn every report into a very raw rant. His ability to provide candid in-your-face opinions is very refreshing indeed. He has clearly been around for a while but he’ll probably disappear in mysterious circumstances. Catch him while you can.
The fibreglass dinghy is now hanging from the back of ‘Seafire.’ It rows beautifully and fits the davits perfectly. Jack sat in the back looking like a little prince surveying his realm, clearly enjoying the ride while I rowed the royal barge. I love it when something works out and even the ship’s dog is happy.
“ If it’s a wrong number, why did you answer the phone?” James Thurber
A blood-red Christmas sunrise! Really. Look! “Red sky in morning, shepherds warning.” The forecast is for a stout sou’easter to blow up this afternoon and hopefully push this damned cold air away. ‘Seafire’ is ice-bound at the dock despite the kindly ice-breaking efforts yesterday of Keith and his little steel dozer boat. The Prime Minister has issued his Christmas “Statement.” Yep, that’s what they call it on the Environment Canada website. Isn’t that just so warm and fuzzy? Even the old British Queen, despite a severe cold delivered a Christmas “Message.”
A Russian aircraft bound for Syria with a load of entertainers has crashed just after takeoff from Sochi. Ninety-two dead on their way to entertain the Russian troops in Syria. The question is, of course, what the hell Russians are doing in Syria. Neither they, nor the Americans ever learn. Afghanistan? Vietnam? Ukraine? The missionary complex of world powers seems to be an irresistible compulsion. The concept of staying home and cleaning up ones own mess has always eluded we humans. Sadly, I am sure the Russian song and dance troup was fantastically talented. They always are. Part of the group was also known as the “Red Army Choir” I actually have a recording of them and I especially like their traditional renditions of the “Vulgar Boatsman.”
Oh, “Volga” not vulgar! Сожалею! .So sorry! I know, and I’m not making light of a tragedy, but then that’s what they were on their way to do. Mr “Put it in” has declared a day of national mourning; quite unlike the aftermath of his repeated bombings of Syrian civilians. Now we are about to have Commander-In-Chief Trump joining the mix, with his already eager pro-nuclear rhetoric emerging from his itching twittering fingers. Happy New Year.
At the same time a 7.7 earthquake in Southern Chile had everyone on Tsunami standby. It never arrived there, but might show up here and hopefully, it’ll get rid of the ice. There’s something to look forward to. Enough! I’ve shut off CBC radio with all the dark news I can do nothing about, as well as the damned mutant Christmas carols. Where do they find them? Somehow a blues version of ‘White Christmas,’ left me craving for a little Tibetan throat singing. It would be a tad more Christmassy. A week later both these events are nearly forgotten, although up to a million Chileans are homeless.
Jill arrived back in Canada a few days ago from a quick visit home to Scotland. On the connector flight she contracted a severe bout of the Queen’s own snifflis and has been honking and coughing drastically ever since. Maybe my wife was aboard with a cargo of immigrants from Europe and what she has, and I’m getting, is an exotic strain of camel virus from Syria. I was south for a few days which involved surgery to remove a creature with no eyes that was growing in my plumbing. I’m sure it’s not the dreaded C-word, I’m too damned fat for that, but the recovery is a bit miserable. So we’re having a low-key Noel.
The brilliant red sunrise of this morning was rapidly pushed inland by a mass of warmer air. A stormy night is forecast with heavy wind, rain and snow forecast. A heavy ominous overcast has arrived. The cabin lights have been on since 2 pm. As darkness settles flags are beginning to crackle and the trees are flailing. It seems that yon virgin went south in search of a silent night. Meanwhile, in the midst of all this doom and gloom, we have a loaded barge with, among other things, a beautiful new crane, slowly listing further and further to one side. The freshening wind may capsize the whole rig but that’s life.
On Boxing Bay, the barge is listing badly and there’s a vicious variable wind blowing. Apparently instructions are to leave things alone, but it frustrates me to not try and prevent an apparent inevitable tragedy. No-one will be injured but the old adage of a “Stitch in time to save nine” seems appropriate. Finally a local working mariner gave in to his compulsions. Rob went out after finding a working pump, levelled up the barge and drove some wedges into the worst of the leaks. There are some great folks here.
Rain and sleet are pelting in the swirling, gusting wind. It is a miserable winter day. Jill and I are confined to the boat. Friends invited us to a wonderful Christmas dinner yesterday but now we sit like two rats trapped in a small cage as the boat lunges and rolls at her lines. I feel badly that Jill has come to endure this. We are both ill and miserable. She will have an indelible impression of Weirdwater and I doubt it will be positive.
The next morning yields a grudging release of blackness just after eight o’clock. Barrages of ice pellets and thick rain drops have bulleted the boat all night. Jill is not eager for the boat to leave the dock. This is the first full winter I’ve spent here and I find myself marvelling at how the Heiltsuk and other coastal nations survived millenniums of winters. How did they stay warm? Fed? Sane? I can’t imagine sitting around in cedar-bark long johns for months with the incessant taste of fish in my mouth and a permeating dampness everywhere. We can romanticize the “Good Old Days” all we want, but clinging to select parts of an ancient culture does not seem to inspire anyone to return to a fully authentic aboriginal existence. I certainly do not have any interest. I like warm insulated rain gear, dry feet, electric and diesel-fueled heat.
I extend my speculations to being a pioneer on this coast. Not only did you have to live with, and learn from, the indigenous folks, yet felt compelled to implement white man methods whether they worked or not. If you wanted a little farmland each tree had to be felled by hand, then removed or burned. Considering that one tree might contain nearly enough wood to build a barn it was a lot of work. Then you had to deal with the stump. There are photographs of hollow stumps so big that people built homes inside them.
Many folks must have worked themselves to death. In many places along this coast, where people worked so very hard to carve out farms, or even whole communities, there is little or no evidence remaining of these human dreams. Perhaps a small feral fruit tree is the only monument to a hard and futile existence. That’s depressing, but then, how many of us will leave something of value to succeeding generations? The population on the central and north coast once supported a large fleet of coastal steamers and supply vessels. Now that population has dwindled to a tiny fraction of its former numbers and getting supplies in is an ongoing problem despite the availability of modern aviation.
The weather is dreary. Rain, wind, snow and clear skies can occur all withing twenty minutes. Our daily walk devolved to a 20 minute drive on sleet-slick roads and then checking my spam. First I was warned of a sexual predator in my neighbourhood and then someone from Mahé in the Seychelle Islands wanting to “Date me” tonight. I didn’t realize that Shearwater was so close to the Seychelles. I feel no warmer. I’ve managed to inherit Jill’s flu and have coughed myself to a near-death feeling. There are some residual effects of the surgery and every minute for the past few days has been misery. The weather is bleak and raw, at best, we have about seven hours of light. I fear Jill will never want to see this place again and I certainly understand. Today she flew home. The taxi operator in Bella Bella was not answering his phone and we began the long uphill walk to the airfield. A very kind lady summoned a relative and Jill had a ride. I am repeatedly amazed with the spontaneous kindness of many folks in Bella Bella and am cheered with the hope that provides. The airfield was fog-bound for most of the day. Late in the afternoon Pacific Coastal airlines sneaked in through the fog banks and Jill is now hundreds of miles to the south. It is one lonely night. I have a few more days to recover from my infirmities and adjust my head to the new year ahead. The daylight is supposed to be slowly increasing and there be more adventures ahead . Happy New Year.
“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” ….Albert Einstein
It took me a while. I’ve been threatening to delete my account almost since I opened it. Told that I can’t succeed as a writer without a Facebook account I’ve decided to rename it Assbook. I DO NOT have over seventeen hundred friends and it is hard to believe there are more thronging to have me on their page. I’m weary of checking my e-mail to discover that someone else has determined I need to review images of their neighbour’s grandchild eating cake. Or their dog wearing a dress. C’mon! Sadly, there are several friends and relatives with whom I lose my link but the internet and cell service up here in the backwoods is too sketchy to wrestle with something which has proven to be more nuisance than benefit.
I became completely disillusioned when I tried to unsubscribe. It was a fight. Clearly Facebook does not want anyone closing an account. It is difficult to even find a Facebook has grudgingly conceded control. The account is deactivated for a couple of weeks until it is finally deleted. That ordeal confirmed, to me, I was doing the correct thing. I’ve learned there is a large group of frustrated former Facebook subscribers who hold similar concerns and also don’t want their personal information filed away in perpetuity. Trying to unsubscribe from Facebook has confirmed that I was doing the right thing.
It was extremely difficult. Is there life without Facebook? It feels better already.
I’ll readily admit I hold some “Big Brother” conspiracy paranoia. The masses seem mesmerized by the weaving tentacles of social media. There are insidious aspects of giving up information and control to some faceless force. Whether in Vancouver or Shearwater folks can’t seem to move without texting, texting, texting. Anything that can insidiously persuade masses of people to enslave themselves in common mindless activities frightens the hell out of me. I refuse to say “baa” and I challenge everyone to ask questions.
It is Christmas time. We’ve had a long bout of sub-zero temperatures. Ice and frozen snow cover our world, including the ramp down onto my dock. At low tide it is very steep and too dangerous to use with its slick crust of ice. We’ve had extreme tides in the last few days with a range of up to nearly eighteen feet. For a couple of days it seemed the ramps were inclined upwards at high tide. We were very close to being inundated. Thank the gods there was no wind. In a few more days, our daylight begins to increase in minute amounts. We won’t notice for several weeks.
My obtuse humour is ever-present. A few days ago, while bent to my work I came up with the name of an ancient village. I’ve already invented a community named Klem-Three which is a few miles up the coast from Klemtu. Now I’ve decided that Shearwater is sitting on an ancient site once named Iwannasayphukit. I don’t know what brought on its demise, but there’s still a feeling about the place. Everyone leaves. At this time of year, the name makes perfect sense.
I wish everyone a wonderful Christmas however you celebrate it. May all have someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to. And…BUMHUG!
“ The main reason Santa is so jolly is that he knows where all the bad girls live.”
Out of Bagels! The grim reality sets in on Saturday morning. Seafire is now in Musket Island Marine Park Anchorage. I tiptoed in here in the inky dark, between the rocks, using radar. It is not a thrill I recommend for the end of a long day. There is an ongoing gale warning up and the dinghy davits aren’t doing so well. They are broken and twisted, unfit for more abuse. The dinghy is almost dragging in the water and I’ve got to get it up out of harm’s way. Just before I turned in to this sheltered bay I hit another damned log. A big one! That’s really good for the nerves after a full day on the helm and in a blackness darker than being inside a bear. I’ve travelled all the way from Shoal Bay today, sixty-six miles. It doesn’t sound like much. The wind rose and fell and I kept extending my destination to the next anchorage and then the next. I wanted to beat the line-up of forecast storms.
In the time I was under way yesterday some people travelled half-way around the world. Many have driven the same mileage in an hour. Some boats sailing offshore are using the wind in their favour and will knock of this distance in half a day or less and won’t have to stop for over the next half-day, every day. Boats the size of ‘Seafire’ move along at a little over six knots and that’s the way it is; a very reasonable rate of passage to watch the world go by. You can cover a lot of ground in a day if you don’t have to keep stopping.
I’ve arrived here in one day from Shoal Bay. It was a long haul, having hit the deck at 04:30 to be at the “Devil’s Punchbowl” in Dent Rapids at the precise time. I caught the last of the flood and shot through all three sets of rapids in fine style, well before the tide reversed hard enough to prevent my transit. I passed a log tow on the way into the rapids. The tug was pulling out into the mainstream heading for Mermaid Bay. There they wait six hours to catch the beginning of the next flood tide. The assist tug was on the back of the tow and all eight lights marking the booms burned brightly. Those marker lights are now LEDs and don’t need any attention.
When I was on the tugs we still used kerosene lanterns which needed constant attention. They had to be refilled every few days, the glass chimneys needed to be cleaned, the wicks needed to be trimmed. Then they needed to be re-lit in the wind and rain on an rolling bundle of logs. Then they were refastened to a steel stake driven into a log. To accomplish this you needed to pack an axe, a kerosene jug, dry matches and cleaning supplies all over the bobbing, rolling logs. If a wave splashed a lantern the glass would shatter. It was a real pain in the ass trying to keep those lanterns going and enduring the skipper’s rage when all the lanterns were not burning. If some drunk in a speedboat hit the tow, he always claimed the lanterns must not have been working. He may have been right.
I’m entering the fringes of civilization. I can can get cell service and radio stations, tons of them. With the din most of them broadcast, I actually find comfort in the familiar blither of CBC !. Yes I know, this is after months of bitching about the only station available on the North Coast. At least CBC2 plays music. Now, I’ve discovered, I’ll have to tackle the day without my breakfast bagel. I have some biscuit mix but the last batch I whipped up tasted a bit boaty for some reason. I believe the package has only been aboard for two years.
I wrestled the dinghy aboard, deflated it and lashed it down on the foredeck knowing now I should have done this before I left Shearwater but I wanted the dinghy available should there be a nasty log with my name on it. I’ve decided how to build a davit that will work for offshore sailing after my horror discovering that the stainless steel davit bases had actually begun to tear under their tremendous abuse! There is massive power in a moving lump of water. I weighed anchor at noon and decided to pass behind Nelson Island instead of bashing into the building sou’easter out in Malaspina strait.
Big white horses were galloping in the grey open waters. Those kind of waves are tough enough to run with and dead ugly to fight against. There is an innocuous-looking rock called Cape Cockburn along the way which is a very nasty place to pass in this kind of weather. I have tried it, more than once and have offered up some variations on its name which I’ll leave to your imagination. I’ve actually been driven back twice previously at this cape. I’m not in the mood for more.
Today I took the long way and arrived a few hours later in Pender Harbour. I’m at the Madeira Park wharf and it’s a good thing. I’ve done well to be here in this persistent string of storms. I’m content. The barometer is dropping again, slowly. That means there’s a big system coming which may not be just a passing blow. I’ve only got fifty miles to go and still dare not expect to be home for Christmas! I’m at a dock with properly functioning electrical service, good wifi, showers and nearby shopping. Such decadence! A visit to the grocery store had me almost gasping. It is not a grand store by down-south standards but there was a choice of fresh produce, fresh unfrozen meat and selections of everything imaginable at what seem to be reasonable prices. I’m sure I can find locals who feel otherwise. It is amazing how we adjust our expectations. Suddenly the value of the last six months in a remote community is clear.
It is has been several years since I’ve travelled these waters and I’m stunned at what I see has changed. There have always been cabins, some vacation homes, a few full time abodes, ghost communities. Now, nearly everywhere you look, there are monstrous edifices which I can see are merely summer retreats. With the cost of importing labour and material, many houses have clearly cost well over a million dollars. They sit empty, cold and austere. In Pender Harbour the housing developments are overwhelming. Their presence has stolen the whole charm of the harbour. There is a famous old hospital here, now a hotel and resort. Some of these new homes make the old landmark seem tiny. It is stupefying to me. I’ll confess a certain degree of jealousy but what is the source of wealth which defies any question about need and greed? C’mon guys! I suspect that many of the barefoot draft-dodger hippies who came here begging “Peace man. C’mon share the wealth man,” have inherited well and invested cleverly. Now they own these edifices which represent exactly what they once claimed to despise. It’s true, a capitalist is just a socialist who has found an opportunity. Isn’t it interesting how we are all capable of corrupting ourselves?
I live in this boat which has a floorspace of less than three hundred square feet. I have plenty of space for all my stuff and even have some extra sleeping space for guests. I can stand up, lay down, sit and write, cook, bath, use a toilet and usually stay warm and dry. It’s all I need.
In many places up the coast an old house has stood alone for years, once a small home for a family. Then it is rebuilt and extended or torn down and replaced. The bush is cleared back and a second house is built. Soon a tiny community springs up but it always seems unoccupied. I don’t understand the need to own more than you can use. Likewise seafood farms are springing up in nearly every good anchorage like some sort of virus. I prefer eating wild protein but I understand the need for farmed food when people are so determined to live like farmed fish themselves. An old friend, Allen Farrel, once commented on people’s frantic lifestyle and how many chose to spend a few weeks a year trying to find themselves by sleeping on the ground in a tent. “Don’t they understand,” he wondered, “that they can live in a tent all year if that’s what they really want?” There’s a balance somewhere. I’m not sure I have an answer but the idea of a monster investment somewhere out of town on the edge of the idea of wilderness just doesn’t make sense to me if I can’t enjoy it in real time out of the mainstream.. I suppose if the apocalypse does come, there’ll be a lot of free housing available out of the mainstream.
On day eight, Sunday morning the “Marine Weather Statement” was as confusing. Finally I decided that forecasts be damned, I’d go have a look. I could see home and steeled myself for one last bashing while crossing the Strait Of Georgia. At Merry Island the wind and seas were coming from all directions and I felt like a bug in a washing machine. A prevailing south wind was building along the mainland shore but the smoke from the Nanaimo pulp mill showed a strong northerly wind on Vancouver Island. Amazingly, the seas calmed as I crossed. More logs, one more tidal narrows, more darkness (although there is an extra hour of daylight already these few degrees further south) and I arrived at the Ladysmith Maritime Society docks. I was piped onto the dock with the wail of sirens on the highway. Civilization!
A final wish for a happy Christmas.
“Having too many things, Americans spend their hours and money on the couch searching for a soul. A strange species we are. We can stand anything God and Nature throw at us save only plenty. If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much and I would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy and sick.”
Christmas nears. The contemporary festive season of joy and hope has shifted into high gear with Black Friday. The marketing machine has been warming up for the past several months and now everyone is charging around like the ‘Terminator’. They seem consumed with rabid fervour to acquire as much as possible and indulge excess in every way. The pounds of pulp fiction (Or is that friction?) which come in the mail to exhort me to join the orgy must have demanded the levelling of a forest somewhere. The latest versions of children’s video games are being advertised. All it seem, have new and improved slam bam splatter violence. A perfect gift for a time allegedly set aside to celebrate the birth of the prince of peace. A whole round of new movies, just in time for Christmas, is being released and many will contain graphic violence, copious explosions, spectacular crashes and vulgarity. Most of this frenetic frenzyoccurs on credit. A wise old Welsh lady once admonished me, “If ye canna pay for it once, how will ye pay for it twice? ” Yet, despite what we’re told is an ongoing weak economy I could barely find a parking spot at the mall today. It’s Monday and there is a severe winter storm with torrential rain and high wind. Nothing shall disrupt the frenzy.
My annual festive joke is about a dyslexic scrooge who’s indignant toast is “Bumhug”. However, I truly wish everyone inner peace, and hope you are warm and dry and fed and sharing that comfort with someone of mutual affection and respect. May you have a dream and good hope of fulfilling it.
My last two blogs, in part about war and the military and the futility of it all, have stirred up a small furor, both in agreement and in objection. To convince me of my political incorrectness I have been forwarded a video originally from someone anonymous named “Joe Nobody”. Now that sounds like a reliable source! It shows a group of Islamic ISIS radicals assassinating a long row of kneeling men allegedly guilty only of being Christian. Probably so. Once each is dispatched with a bullet to the head, the entire heap of corpses is then riddled with wanton gunfire. It is horrific, disgusting and very hard to watch. Then a misquote from the Koran is used to imply that this will be our fate eventually if we don’t stand up to these evil hordes.
I responded by questioning how many masses of God’s children have been annihilated in the name of Christian peace, love, greed and zealotry. It goes on and on and on. When the dust settles, if it ever does, we are a very nasty primal organism, alien it seems, on this beautiful planet. If we’re worried about finding harmony with nature, we’d better first figure out how to get along with each other. Whether it be our atrocities against our fellows, or the environment, let’s each accept our personal roll in the mess and take individual responsibility for ourselves and those whom we can love as we would be loved. And if you are determined to pass on hate-mongering at least have the intellect and courage to confirm the source and validity of your information. You discredit your argument by doing anything less than that and by the way, afford youself the dignity of spelling correctly.
Ezra Pound once said, “A man of genius has a right to any mode of expression.” I agree, obviously, but by God, make sure it is informed opinion!
An acquaintance who is now an Anglican minister was once a chaplain in the Canadian NATO forces. He was stationed in Damascus and, as part of some bizarrely conceived humanitarian enforcement, was required to witness over forty executions. Imagine that fellow’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder!
He said, “Life can be cheap, until it’s your own!”
The non-conformist, the sailor in the case of this blog, holds an open, inquiring mind about all things. I have learned a long time ago, that to go against the flow and to challenge popular sentiment, can be a lonely path but it is often the right path, at least for me. Drinking upstream of the herd may not be the best way to popularity, but what sort of man goes against his conscience? Too many do, if they have one at all.
Life seems even more disjointed this month. I’m jaded about Christmas, perhaps because family and friends are scattered around the planet and as usual at this time of year funds are scarce. My renovation project is on hold for the moment so, with Mexico ever in my sights, I’m using my unexpected free time to tinker up the trailer to suit my needs. I’m planning to use it both as a travel trailer (Stealth campers I think they’re called) and a work trailer. The aim is to use as many recycled materials as I can and to have the trailer ready to go as soon as possible. Frankly, I’m a bit tired of projects and with some refitting yet to be done on ‘Seafire’ before she’s ready to head south, I’d like to take a break. There won’t be much progress during the winter weather so, it may as well be due south, somehow. My beloved boat is languishing alone and empty for the moment at her berth in Nanaimo. She’s secure there and oddly enough is staying clean. In Silva Bay, she was constantly coated with gull and crow guano, mussel shells, and a horrid, grey film which could only be fall-out from Vancouver and all the other upwind urbanity over on the mainland.
In turn the green slime of winter creeps everywhere. We’ve had a miniscule accumulation of snow; now we’re back to the dark, cold dripping of a Northwest Pacific coastal winter. Tonight the rain slants horizontally and the wind thunders and moans through the rigging. We’re two weeks away from the official first day of winter, the solstice.
I close my eyes and see warm, green seawater sluicing through the scuppers. I’m sailing full and by toward an anchorage in a palm-fringed bay. Small, bright houses nestle along the beach and up the hill behind the tiny town. The air holds an aroma of coconut and lime and a melange of unknown flowers. There is the fragmented sound of Mariachi music and then the braying of a burro. I’m in Mexico once again. Then comes a sound of drumming, fast and irregular. I awake to realize the sound was only rain hammering on my skylight.
The rain eases despite a forecast for horrific wind and rain today. Dawn breaks reluctantly and Jack leads us for a walk along the Nanaimo River. To my delight someone has decorated a small fir tree. That random, small act of Christmas joy, those few glass balls, lift my spirit. For a moment, I remember the surge of wonder and delight I knew as a young boy.
whoever you are.
“The emotionally motivated performer is inherently irrational. When logic dictates that it’s rational to quit, the emotionally charged image in his mind won’t allow it. Any attempt to stop this man will fail.”
I’m determined to squeeze out one more blog this year. It’ll be blog twenty-four, an average of one every two weeks. There’s been an excess of introspection and navel-gazing and I’d love to end this year on a cheery, warm and fuzzy note. Despite the blahs about lack of cash and daylight and warmth there has to something positive and uplifting to share on this dark night at the end of the dock. It’s late, I’m yawning, my toddy mug is empty and I’m reluctant about the inevitable clamber into the large cold empty bunk up front in the boat. Doggy, and his warm snuggly self, stayed in town this week where it’s warm and dry.
Last Friday I stood in a cashier’s lineup in a Chapters store. A small wide-eyed boy just ahead of me looked up to his mother and asked with deepest longing how many days there were until Christmas. I looked at him and smiled despite being the crotchety old curmudgeon I seem to have become, especially at Christmas. In that brief moment I was the saddest, loneliest man on earth. How had I become so insensitive to the mysteries and joy and warmth that come at the coldest, darkest time of the year? I had become Scrooge!
Time swirled back fifty-eight years to the first Christmas I can recall. I was three years old. Suddenly that wide-eyed look was mine, from inside. I won’t burden anyone with fruit cake memories but one of the two things that are indelible above all was the incredible intensity of the Christmas season. Maybe it’s because it began then in Mid-December, instead of August like it seems to now, but here I go again being jaded and cynical. The other thing I recall about Christmas was the wonderful smell of it all. Evergreen fragrance, snow, woodsmoke and kitchen aromas, wet wool mittens, wintery thick car exhaust, the hayloft, the livestock and the barnyard were among all those rich and real and delicious aromas. I remember how slowly time dragged by loaded with the weight of anticipation. I compare that infinity to the incredible passing blur of this present year and the one ahead which seems a package already open and partially spent.
Of course we know Christmas is about a lot of things among which is innocent child-like wonder and belief in magic. All year-long my blogs have been, essentially, about the energy to set and achieve goals which grow from sheer faith and willpower. It occurs to me that it is the same thing as Christmas in esoteric, adult terms. Believing in something before you can see it, perhaps even in spite of the negatives thrown at you by other people and events, is what sets humans apart from the other critters. We can dream and we can work toward our ambition. We can also convince ourselves of impossibility and so do nothing. But…“Can’t catch fish if you don’t go fishing.”
Suddenly, as I write, I recall a fellow salesman back in a time when I sold logging equipment. Old Tom was in his late seventies then and absolutely loved every aspect of the logging industry. He was always a tough act to follow. One night, (Remember the spotted owl years?) we were in an Oregon tavern entertaining a group of our clients. Tom regaled them with tales of his early days in the woods. As the evening wore on, one smart ass asked him if he could describe the best sex he’d ever had. Without missing a beat, Tom replied, “Dunno, haven’t had it yet!” Tom’s logger humour reflected his approach to life. Every day was a fresh adventure and he had more plans than he could ever achieve in two lifetimes. He inspired everyone who knew him and probably still does. Setbacks were merely challenges to keep things interesting.
‘En Theos’ is ancient Greek for ‘God within’. (My spell checker suggests “In thermos!”)
So that is what I wish for everyone, “Enthusiasm”. May our new year be filled with it as well as joy, peace, confidence, fulfilment. And this time next year, may we all meet in a palm-fringed anchorage where the water is clear and warm, the beer is clear and cold, laughter fills the air while the best will be yet to come.