Stay warm, Stay dry
Stay warm, Stay dry

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 frenzy occurs 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.

The ghostly pale of winter descends
The ghostly pale of winter descends

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!

Wishing you many berries of happiness
Wishing you many berries of happiness

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!”

Not understanding the ordered chaos of the natural forest, men destroyed the old trees and replaced them with new ones planted in straight rows.
Not understanding the ordered chaos of the natural forest, men destroyed the old trees and replaced them with new ones planted in straight rows.

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.

Un requited love. Seafire languishes in her winter berth on a rare sunny winter day. Note the skim of ice ahead of the boat
Unrequited love. Seafire languishes in her winter berth on a rare sunny winter day. Note the skim of ice ahead of the boat

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.

New offshore-tough companion way doors made from mahogany. Interestingly, this project was the first on my list when I bought the boat. Now almost four years later it is one of the last important jobs.
New offshore-tough companion way doors made from mahogany.
Interestingly, this project was the first on my list when I bought the boat. Now almost four years later it is one of the last important jobs.

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.

A Christmas present for the ship. New teak trailboards, carved in relief sport new led running lights.
A Christmas present for the ship. New teak trailboards, carved in relief,  sport new led running lights.

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 trailer project begins
The trailer project begins

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.

Deep in the forest, the seasons delights appear
Deep in the forest, the season’s delights appear

Thank you,

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.”

…Steve Siebold


Putting the coffee on, a sunrise view through the galley portlight
Putting the coffee on, a sunrise view through the galley portlight

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.

My bunk buddy, warm, dry and safe, the boat gently rocking, dock lines squeaking gently
My bunk buddy, warm, dry and safe, the boat softly rocking, dock lines squeaking gently

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!

Jack Frost2
Jack Frost, the joy of Christmas past

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.

Holly Flower
Holly Flower

Happy Christmas Everyone.

Polar Express2
Christmas Express, a long way from that tropical lagoon