I Thought It Pulled Heavily!

The Dream. The Sea Of Cortez and all of Mexico around it . It exists even as you look at this image.

As noted in my previous blog, a week ago Jack and I were in a campsite on Sproat Lake just west of Port Alberni. It was a nice enough place although a bit too civilized for me. Yet I found myself in bliss because the trailer was proving itself as a close-to-perfect unit for my needs. This would be my mobile home for months on end so I could take exquisite photographs and make inspiring videos and write. It would be this old fartist’s (not a typo) studio and make for a healthy, affordable retirement. With that lifestyle in mind, I know my state of being and longevity will improve. I was fantasizing about sitting beside the trailer under a brilliant starry desert night sky, with a gently flickering mesquite campfire. Coyotes yipped and howled in the distance. My plan was to come home and repair the delamination in the front of the trailer. It would be an easy job for an old boat re-builder guy like me. The trailer would then be ready for adventures south. It is supposed to be a light-weight trailer. It thought it felt a bit heavier than it should, sort of like driving a loaded logging truck. I was essentially correct. The damned thing was water-logged throughout, top to bottom, front to back.

The joy of the trailer a few weeks ago. That reality was too short-lived.
Reality today.
“Whadya mean I’ve taken apart the wrong trailer. This belongs to who?”
NOT! Metal frame or not, you do not build a product like this and sell it to the public. “Good enough” is never good enough. The gap in the insulation and the poor joins are inexcusable as is the longitudinal piece which is an added chunk at the end only 8″ long.
Let there be no doubt as to who built this sorry mess. It is 12.5 years old and should not be  completely filled with moisture and rot. And…I don’t care who else builds crap like this, it is wrong. “Make America Great Again?” Start with some integrity!
Like can be simple. A motor bike and a pop-up tent. The best days of my life were when all I owned was a backpack.

Today I’ve just removed all my personal effects from the trailer which is now proven to be a hopeless rotted-out wreck. The more structure I opened up, the worse it got. I can see now that there were obvious signs of water damage but this arrogant Mr boat-fixer guy, with decades of marine experience, was too smart to get a seasoned RV person to come and have a look before I bought it. I’ve seen the same thing happen to knowledgeable mariners who decided they did not need a third party to survey the vessel they were buying in a fit of nautical lust. Now it is my turn to affirm that you cannot see objectively to pick out obvious signs when you are in a passionate state for a thing or a person. That is why so many marriages fail. Now I have nothing but a trailer frame and floor with working appliances. Worst of all, it was purchased with precious funds from the sale of my beloved ‘Seafire’.

Despite plenty of tough times in my life I have never lost something so important so quickly. A dream one minute, a disaster the next. Now I can understand the vacant look in the eyes of those who have endured a flood, or fire, invasion or earthquake or… well, there are plenty of ways your life can change instantly. Just a quick drive to the corner store can become a life-shattering experience, or perhaps a slip in the bath tub.

Part of the “South Library.” I’m keeping it handy.

This problem is not life and death, it just feels that way. Suddenly, in this moment, my dream is dashed and all looks hopeless. I know sailors who have put their boat and their whole life on a reef and considered themselves lucky to have survived the swim ashore in shark-infested waters to some distant foreign country, without water, money or passport. A while later, they had rebuilt their life and continued on, somewhat the better for their adventure. I am left wondering how to turn this into an adventure instead of an ordeal. There is a way. I will find it.

“The dream never dies, just the dreamer”
“Hope springs eternal.”
It’s up to you.

Self-produced videos online are testimonials to what a wonderful trailer a ‘Fun Finder’ is. I interviewed owners who could not offer enough praise and love for their Fun Finder. So I bought this trailer because several points of research told me the product was built with an aluminum frame and was a rugged, off- pavement capable trailer. Check out their website https://www.cruiserrv.com/travel-trailers/fun-finder.html There is, in fact, no aluminum in the structure anywhere. Perhaps my trailer, built in 2006, was before these people began using metal superstructures. I am not claiming the product was misrepresented and admit that clearly, my research did not go deep enough. I know that I did not buy a new product. That aside, the workmanship I have found points to a shabbily-built product which would have begun self-destructing as soon as it was pushed out of the factory into the weather. That is where I find an outrage. So let me suggest:

-DO NOT buy anything called a “Fun Finder” or “Shadow Cruiser” or “Cruiser RV”.

-If there is any evidence on a used RV of re-caulking anywhere, run like hell.

-A simple test for water damage (I’ve now learned) is to pull aside the insert strip in corner mouldings and remove a screw or two in the lower part of that seam. If the screw is rusty, or spins freely without backing out, the wood beneath is rotten, run like hell.

-If the vendor objects to an inspection, run like hell.

-If any interior covering such as wall paper is even slightly wrinkled, that’s water damage, run like hell.

– DO NOT but anything susceptible to the ravages of time and weather without the second opinion of somebody intimately familiar with that specific product.

I will be producing and posting a video of the damage. It will be on You Tube alongside all the accolades for the same product. It has been suggested that I park my wheeled hulk on the side of the highway with a sign saying “I’ll never buy a Fun Finder again.”

I did give  the trailer an interior sniff test, like all old boaters know how to do. It is actually a very good test for rot detection to the experienced nose. It seemed fine. I thumped and bumped all over and except for the “delamination” it appeared, to my unknowing eye, to be dandy. I’d researched that rippled front skin. Videos on YouTube show how to fix it easily. The vendor was a very nice fellow, who passed my street-smart tests for honesty and integrity. I truly believe that he was unaware of any problems behind the “delamination” which he pointed out absolutely up front. I thought I had bought myself a bargain and after a little work, I would be off to see the world. Since my dark discovery I have noticed several trailers and RVs with similar exterior signs of water ingress and clearly there are a lot of products out there in varying stages of self-destruction. Those signs are glaringly obvious now. They are out there as I write, hurtling down the roads of this long-weekend oblivious to the horror that awaits them. So, what they don’t know won’t hurt them.

It’s Indian Plum time already!
Six months from now the trailer has to be rebuilt and in Loreto Baha for Christmas. A tall order, but I you don’t make plans, guess where you’ll end up.

After a few troubled night’s sleep, I’ve determined there is only one route which is forward. I’ve some debt to clear up, no money, no workplace and can easily fall into a state of utter hopelessness. (It’s that old manic depressive thing) I know it’s just a tiny trailer, but it represents the rest of my days. So I’ll sing the old lemonade song and get to work. Creative busyness is, for me, the best distraction. So I go.

So Caveat Emptor, there’s no fool like an old fool.

As smart as he looks. The old fool himself.

We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.”…Frank Tibolt

We Don’t Have A Bow Thruster

Bo-Peep II
The varnish and paint are flawless. It must have an awesome boathouse. But no bow thruster.
Yep! 1926 Not many look this good at 92 years.

Rain! It’s my fault. I’m busy ripping the windows out of my boat and replacing them. Then I plan on painting the cabin sides and the rest of the decks. Nature abhors a vacuum and so with each window being about eight square feet in size, guess what! Sploosh and whoosh!Actually it could have to do with the long weekend, we seem to seldom get one without wet weather and then in the days immediately following the skies will clear and I can carry on.

Thane came back for a visit. The long guest dock is full, full, full.
Knowing the ropes.

Now then hoy the peak halyard and slack the fore-tops’l. NOW!
Little goes to waste. Old lines get worked into something useful like mats or baggywrinkle.

The guest dock here at the Ladysmith Maritime Society is filled with guest boats. The Ladner Yacht Club is here to celebrate its 60th anniverisary and the fleet which has arrived is one of pristine boats. Good on them! They are a group of very nice people with lovely dogs and I don’t need to worry myself about Canadian courtesy flags because none are foreign vessels.

Flag Patrol.  Sea King helicopters

A few days ago there was a fleet of US Tupperware tugs at the dock. Only one flew a visible courtesy flag. (When visiting any foreign waters in your boat it is basic marine protocol to display a small flag of that country above all other flags.) While I was at the head of the ramp a pair of our venerable Sea King helicopters flew over, low and slow. A lady from one of the visiting boats was passing and inquired if indeed these were military aircraft. Perhaps she was intrigued that such antiques were still in service. Being the quick quip that I am, my response was that since the insults uttered against Canadians by President Trump, we had begun a daily aerial patrol checking that US vessels were flying the correct flags. “Oh my!” she exclaimed wide-eyed, “ I’m so glad we have ours up.” Of course it was all in fun, but I’m sure she’ll pass the message on. I am really flummoxed that it is not an issue which our border personnel do not address but I suppose that’s the Canadian way.

Now THAT is a down-rigger.
A Canadian hydrographic survey vessel was doing some local work and stopped at our docks.

Yesterday I was bent to my work on ‘Seafire.’ (which seems to go on and on) A strident female voice began to make inquiries on the marine VHF of “Ladysmith Maritime Society Marina”. Half of the boats on the guest dock leave their radios on at a high volumes. I can only surmise that it makes then feel saltier. The radio voice went on and on with sporadic silly inquiries, even when the boat, a Catalina 34, finally arrived alongside the dock space assigned to it.

The docking crew stood looking out at the little sailboat laying twenty feet or so away. The boat’s crew, a man and woman, stared back. Finally the voice erupted again, strident and indignant. “We don’t have a bow thruster you know!” I kept my mouth shut. Clearly, I am not Walmart greeter material.

(A bow thruster is a small propeller installed on a boat below the water line and pushes the bow sideways when attempting to dock.) This old salt reckons that the device is absolutely unnecessary on any vessel with someone competent at the helm. Some boats, complete with twin engines, have a thruster installed at either end of the vessel. The boat can be manoeuvred in any direction or turned in its own length but it still all depends on the nut that holds the wheel. Every extra device does make life easier at times, but it also increases dependability on that gadget and decreases skill levels. For me sailing is a religion of traditional skills and self-sufficiency. Enough said. I’ll carry on with my sanding and painting and keep my head down, like a fly on the wall.

The job begins. The port windshield out and being prepared for a new piece of acrylic. None of the work is fun. The starboard windscreen is installed.

The painting job on ‘Seafire’ has turned into a career; it goes on and on. It began simply enough with the intention to replace two windows and spruce up the window frames. Oh yeah, while I’m at it, I should update the lifeline stanchions seeing as I had a replacement set laying in the crawlspace at home. Then, while doing that, I damaged a side window with cleaner and decided to replace them all. While I had the stanchions off and the window frames off, it only made sense to paint the cabin and the side decks. I’ve tried repairing the paint on the cove stripe along the hull and have now decided to repaint that while I’m at it. One of the things my years have taught me is patience and that certainly is a prime ingredient for a job like this. Painting is not simply the act of apply fresh colour to a surface. First there is the preparation and therein lays the rub. Yep, a pun! Preparation is everything. There are incessant hours of sanding, and filling and more sanding. My fingers are abraded down to near-bleeding stubs. Then, if the sun is not too hot, or the threat of rain not too imminent, there is the application of a smooth gliding coat of liquid colour. Not too much however, it will run and drip. Once that is done, I stand back to admire the fruit of my labour and flies begin to land in the sticky gleam. Bugga! As I finish one section, the rest of the boat looks shabby. Also, with the new shine, all the manufacturing defects in the fibreglass are revealed. But, there is progress each day.

The final window, installed under threat of rain.
Dry-fitting the new-used stanchions. A few more days of painting then I can begin working on the starboard side of the boat.

If refurbishing the boat is not enough challenge I am also in the middle of consummating a relationship with a new laptop computer. It is a supercharged gaming computer, the Grand Ferrari, something with all the giga-properties I need to use the film editing program which I’m trying to teach myself. The computer is a delight, but Windows 10, and downloading updated programs is a huge challenge for my old-school thinking. Mix that all in with my painting career on the boat and you’d think that all this masochism might indicate an English ancestry. You’d be correct.

Now for some serious engineering.
Children love this sand box on the dock.

A friend called to remind me of the British car show at the waterfront park in Ladysmith. I’d gone in previous years and was not eager to go see the same few dozen vehicles. WOW! Apparently there were over 200 cars and motorcycles on display. All ran, most were driven to and from the show. All have been lovingly restored and maintained. The spectators glided about in hushed awe, thrilled at what they were seeing. British cars are famous for their design and craftsmanship as well as their demands for incessant fiddling maintenance and enduring unreliability. For a very long time, British automotive electrical systems were hopelessly complex and comprised of components built by Lucas, known by many as the “Prince Of Darkness.” Yet there is a mystique and romance built into English vehicles that no-one else can match.

An ancient and pristine Rover
A slightly modified MGB
Land Rover with a Dormobile RV conversion. I wannit!
Peeking into a classic Rolls Royce. Real wood, real leather, real money but no airbags.
A Velocette and a Triumph

When the day is done, I read myself into sleepy oblivion with a copy of “Lord Jim” by Joseph Conrad. I haven’t tackled this novel in over half a century and it is clear why I first laid it aside. This guy did not have a word processing machine of any sort yet he stuffed every word possible into anything he was trying to say. Lots of folks love to gush about what a wonderful nautical author Conrad was. I find him lugubrious. One sentence can, at times, fill half a page. There is far too much wrapping around the golden gift of his story. Yet I find the weight and cadence of his writing evocative of the days I’m living at the moment. Here, in closing, is one sentence.

…”Such were the days, still, hot, heavy, disappearing one by one into the past, as if falling into an abyss for ever open in the wake of the ship, lonely under a wisp of smoke, held on her steadfast way black and smouldering in a luminous immensity, as if scorched by a flame flicked at her from a heaven without pity.” ….PHEW!

Cream rises to the top…
so does scum!
Summer algae blown against the dock.

“It is not that life ashore is distasteful to me. But life at sea is better.”
Sir Francis Drake

HOME ALONE

A reluctant winter dawn
A reluctant winter dawn

I’m writing at the moment entirely for my own sake. Truth be told, that’s why most writers write but that’s another story. Any creative effort is an affirmation of life and hope. Home is where the boat is and tonight I’m aboard without even my beloved dog for company. It’s dark out and it is cold.  It seeps into the boat and into my bones. I wonder if I feel the cold because I’m getting older and arthritic, or if it is a psychological issue and I have a sense of coldness.

Certainly there was a time when cold was nothing to hold me back. I once hitch-hiked around Northern Ontario job-hunting in January. All I owned was in my pocket and in my backpack. That’s the time of year, in that part of the world, when it can warm up to minus forty degrees and then blow a days-long blizzard. I have interesting yarns about that ordeal and how I lived to talk about it. Let’s just say I truly understand being cold, and being hungry, and feeling utterly alone. Thank God for a few kind people.

I was the guy who always tried to prove he was tougher, be it about cold, or heat, or endurance of long hours, moving heavy objects on my own and generally taking unnecessary chances to prove how manly I was. I should have been dead at least ten times before I was twenty-five… that I’m willing to remember. I didn’t expect or want to live into senior years. Others were too wise to attempt similar feats of stupidity and quietly went about managing their lives and their finances so they could enjoy an easier life time in later years. Of course, I finally understand that I was merely demonstrating a monstrous insecurity. I am now suffering physically and financially for all that younger recklessness. That empathy does not relieve the price I continue to pay for those days. Sadly, those who have loved me have had to share my misery. I will always carry a guilt above those whom I have hurt.

I’ve declared at times that I’m not nearly as afraid of dying as I am of not living. To paraphrase some lines from a movie I recently saw, the protagonist said that there’s a place somewhere between living and dying where some folks get stuck and it’s not a happy place to be.

I know what he means. I’ve also said that the greatest distance any sailor can travel is the six inches between one ear and the other. Tonight I wonder if I have actually made that crossing.

Other quotes have to do with how living one day as a lion is better than spending a thousand as a sheep and how the moment is all we have. Keeping your “Pecker up’, as the British say, is the key to surviving but damn!  It’s hard some days. Bad attitude brings bad luck which inspires more gloom until one very quickly finds themselves in a deadly spiral.

I know many other people have bouts of melancholy and regret, especially in winter. I wish I could offer magic words which could be an instant anecdote and at least bring contentment during the dark tunnels of life’s journey. All I can say at this point in my life, when I have more years behind me than ahead, that nothing is forever. This gig we call life leaves the station and constantly accelerates toward an inevitable wreck. The journey becomes a blur. Suddenly events of a half-century ago seem like mere weeks past. One day, somewhere, a clerk asks if you qualify for a senior’s discount. Shocked and horrified you go home and spend a long time peering at the wrinkled physog in the mirror. What a dark epiphany!

Then soon, you resolve that time and tide do not wait. You begin to capitalize by asking for senior’s discounts. Sadly no one asks to see ID. You really DO look that old! But, if you don’t like the look of things today, try missing a few. Sadly one absolute realization that comes with getting older is the value of seizing the moment. Friends and acquaintances start to fall ill and die ever more frequently. Time is of the essence.

I’ve spent the last year with my head down doggedly determined that I will realize my dream…..now. I haven’t yet, but things are a lot closer than if I’d done nothing and yet it has never looked bleaker. One wisdom of becoming an older bull is that you understand how often things look the most impossible just before they begin to fall into place. Sometimes you’ve got to stand your ground.

"Could you spare some sugar?"
“Could you spare some sugar?”

I don’t need a bucket list; I have the same ambitions now that I have held for the past thirty years. Nothing has changed there.  I know I’m missing too many joys of the moment for the hope of delayed gratification. Then I think about the utter waste of abandoning several decades of denial and singular focus. It’s a frustrating balance of perspectives and I wonder if I’ve learned anything.

I had a buddy with whom I learned to fly when we were in our teens. We would regularly try to twist the wings from whatever we were flying, as happy to be inverted as right-side up. Once we returned to the rental base with a two-foot piece of tree-top stuck in the fork of the nose wheel. When I last saw him I was recovering from heart surgery and lamenting about how I’d squandered my life flitting from one adventure to another. He had enjoyed an illustrious career as an airline pilot and had then become a successful businessman. Yet he said he’d trade histories in a minute. It’s the ubiquitous tale of far-away pastures looking greener. He’d had decades of boredom and thought I was the one who’d had all the fun. Go figure! 

Winter Harbour
Winter Harbour

Well I’m now finishing up this blog on the morning of December 1st. Time is going by so fast I’d best confirm what year it is! Work on the boat progresses according to the weather. A set of folding steps is slowly rising toward the masthead. I go up and dangle in my bosun’s chair whenever it is not raining and two or three more steps appear. I’m almost to the spreaders. It’s a job I’ve been avoiding since I bought the boat and once finally done will be the last of the major projects

The interior in the little Cheoy Lee is beginning to take shape and my teardrop trailer will soon be ready for me to head south. So like the thin light and warmth of a winter dawn, the dream burns on. Best wishes and bright dreams to all.

Have A Warm and Fuzzy Christmas
Have A Warm and Fuzzy Christmas

USE IT OR LOSE IT

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

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

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

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

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

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

I thank them all.    

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

A COMMITTMENT TO ACTION

The dream lives on
The dream lives on

It is two days before Christmas, 2012. The Mayan apocalypse has not occurred and there are no more excuses. I vowed to my wife last night that this time next year our boat ‘Seafire’ will be moored somewhere where palm trees grow indigenously.

This dream began thirty years ago when my then-new wife made it clear that she was not about to be persuaded of any of the joy of flight in light aircraft.

I was beginning to build a biplane which I intended to fly around the world. I rationalized that for the same amount of money and a lot less beaurocratic regulation I could own a small offshore sailboat which we could live in and leisurely travel wherever we wanted. It had been years since I had done any sailing but, with the inspiration of  a friend who had built a boat in South Africa and sailed it offshore extensively, the notion was cast in stone.

Our first boat was a 21′ trailerable sloop which languished through a Northern BC interior winter. I remember checking the ice on a nearby lake on the May long weekend and deciding then that we had to move to the coast. The following spring found me bashing Northward in the late winter weather of March from Vancouver to Port Hardy. A small boat with squatting headroom and only a camp stove for comfort was a rude reaquaintance with the romance of the sea.

I beat the centerboard trunk out of the little boat on that trip. When I finally made it back south to Nanaimo, the first task was to remove the damage and design and build a permanent keel beneath the bottom of the boat. It was a huge job and if I were a sane man I would have turned my back on the sea forever but I was hooked.  With memories of perfect minutes when the sea hissed past, the sails rumbled contentedly, a pod of dolphins rose and cavorted beside me and the last cold, wet, squall was now a rainbow retreating ahead of me, there was no turning back.

There have been seven more boats since. Each boat was offshore-capable. Each was a massive labor of love, intense effort and expense to refit and I never made a significant profit selling any of them. I can underline the ‘ Go simple, go now’ mantra of the fundamental sailor’s creed. At the time, there was always a good reason for my decisions but in hindsight, one only regrets what they don’t do.  Go now!

All that having been said I am writing this morning for my own benefit. Today is committement day when I put a written pledge before my readers. Seafire is the eigth boat in twenty-six years. She is, incidentally, the second Seafire in my history but that is another story. She is a Downeaster 41, one of twelve motorsailors built by Downeaster Yachts in Santa Ana, California. Using their famous 38′ hull, they created a pilothouse boat with a large engine, a second helm inside, and a guest cabin, It is a perfect ‘Geezer boat’ and I intend to see a lot of palm trees through her windows as well as castles and pubs in the UK and Europe.

I’ll describe the boat and it’s refit and how I found her in future blogs. Today is the moment when I’m laying out the fleece. Despite being on the downhill side of middle-age, having some health issues and absolutely disastrous finances, the dream is alive.

Sterling Hayden once wrote that one should never begin a voyage when you can afford it. Only when you go out on limited means will you truly understand what sailing and life are really about.  I know people who have sailed both  with and without adequate means. Some describe their passages in miles and yet clearly have missed one passage of  utmost importance. It is a distance of about six inches, the space between one ear and the other. It is the inner journey that endures over and beyond all others.

So today, I heave the lines aboard and point the bow toward the harbour mouth.