A Quick Trip South

The front of my new Fisher Poet’s shirt created by the famous Ray Troll who some times performs at the gatherings with his band.

(Remember, that to enlarge any image, just click on it.)

FV ‘COHO’ in Victoria This grand old ferry has plied the waters between Victoria and Port Angeles since 1959; almost  sixty years. It is backed gracefully out from its mooring, turned in the busy harbour and idles regally out to sea. To my knowledge, there has never been an accident with this venerable old lady.

 The ferry crossing from Victoria to Port Angeles Washington was smooth and uneventful. The border goons were unusually cordial, even cavalier, which left me quite suspicious but I have learned never to argue or jest with them. The crossing was spent in philosophical conversation with another sailor (We have ways of finding each other, like dolphins in the sea) and the ninety minute voyage passed quickly. I soon found myself heading west out of Port Angeles, driving in driving snow.

Port Angeles in snow, well, how about a view from Port Angeles. See the buoy?
Next years’ Christmas card photo. The gorgeous boat is named ‘Turning Point’
Later that day. Highway 101 emerges from the mangled forest for a while to meander along the Washington coast line for a while.
Not a bikini sort of day. A wintery view out onto the open sea.
Off to work. A troller heads out of Grays Harbor.
Chances are when it returns home past the breakers, it will be dark.
A joy of back roads is never knowing what you’ll find. The remains of this whirly gig, one partner faceless, the other with head and legs rotted off, dance on, still twirling in the wind. I assume it once advertised a dance hall.
Look up and be amazed! These two kites, flying on Long Beach Washington were managed by one man who had anchored then with metal stakes in the sand. The black one, undulating in the wind, was about forty feet long.
Yes really! This little town is just up the road from Humptulips and Cosmopolis.
Retro wheels. Imagine what it would take to pull this thing! I found a tiny trailer park filled with these old trailers, all in good shape, all apparently inhabited.
Back roads!
A blurry view in the rain looking westward to the Astoria Bridge. A pilot boat heads in to its berth, a deepsea freighter is anchored upstream of the bridge and illustrates the size of this huge mechano project.

It is a bleak passage along highway 101 through raped forests, past abandoned mills and homes, derelict machinery, and run-down villages; a weary drive in a mangled world, a movie set for a film about the omega man. After hours of travel I arrive on the southern border of the State of Washington at a place on the Columbia river called Dismal Nitch. It was so-named by the explorers Lewis and Clark. They at least got to see this stunning part of the world in a virginal state, before we raped it. Imagine what they would name it now! Perhaps it was the snow but I’ve never before noticed how devastated the countryside and the communities seem. Perhaps that is why Astoria seems to have so much soul and vibrancy. It lays on the south bank of the Columbia River, across a bridge which is four miles long.

You can get used to anything. Imagine living under the bridge.

The weather was typical for late winter at the mouth of the Columbia River. Rain, wind, snow and clear brilliant sunlight, all in any half-hour. Much of the town seemed infected with a nasty flu and I hope I did not bring home any souvenirs. One performer came all the way from her studies in Brussels. We all performed our gigs, reinforced our affirmations as writers and water people, made new friendships and had a splendid time. The event has outgrown itself. There were 110 performers scheduled this year to perform in 14 venues. it was a spectacular time as usual and I know no-one went home disappointed. The originators and organizers, now past its 21st anniversary, deserve the highest kudos for their dedication and endeavour. FPG is an inspiration to thousands of people. (The website is fisherpoets.org)

I wonder how many tools were dropped on roofs during construction.Actually, there are no buildings immediately beneath the bridge, but it would drive me nuts living there.
Remember Major Hoople’s Boarding House?
Astoria has a strong Finnish history and this is one of the original buildings, late 1800’s I think.
Brokeback caboose. Through the years I have known it, this relic has slowly decomposed. It would have made a cool home or business location on main street beneath the bridge. There were steel versions of this in service for a very long time. This one is wood and who knows how old.
One more shot from beneath the bridge. We know how old this pub is. Note the hammer and anchor logo.
I love wandering the streets with a camera after dark.
Believe it or not, a mobile phone shot.
The Liberty Theatre, a lovingly restored venue from the 1920’s. It is a sumptuous location for Fisher Poets.
The last one standing. Once the waterfront was crowded with canneries. Now the only other one, Pier 39, is a cannery-turned-museum.
Astoria is loaded with relics and reminders of its proud fishing heritage.
On the side of a truck.
Heading for the bar, the notorious Columbia Bar that is. The pilot boat has just dropped the pilot off to clamber up that ladder on the port quarter.
A gorgeous drake Widgeon enjoying an algae salad.
Sundown, a rare delight on a cold and blustery weekend.

I am one of them. I drove back to the border through Seattle, where it is now always rush hour and arrived safely at the Blaine border crossing for an uneventful re-entry to Canada. I had a wonderful, long-overdue visit with some very dear friends and travelled back to Vancouver Island on the ferry under clear sunny skies.

You may well wonder what all this “Fisher Poet” stuff is all about. A group of people, who make their living in the fishing industry and on the water, gather once a year to read some of their work, sing some of their songs and enjoy the affirmation of being among fellow blue-collared creative people. I am always humbled in their presence. I’ll conclude this blog with a quick sample of my work, written about the ferry ride home.

Herring Season (1)

Last Monday in February ( Background music:

Northbound in the middle of the Strait of Georgia “Tiny Fish For Japan homeward from an annual Fisher Poets Gathering … Stan Rogers) On a BC Ferry, the ‘Coastal Inspiration.’

The mid-winter sunlight has some warmth

but the wind is cold and dense and fine.

I have been drawn toward the bow by music.

I could hear traditional Acadian shanties

accompanied with the throb of our huge engines

and in the shelter of the forward observation lounge

a young man wearing a large home-spun wool toque plays an accordion.

The acoustics under the glass are superb.

I want to praise the musician but cannot bring myself to interrupt,

So I listen with hungry ears to songs I have not heard in decades

and loiter on the starboard forward quarter snapping pictures.

Bliss!

Along the sharp clear blue curve of the strait I can see for sixty miles.

On a common heading, in a row, a mile apart

an armada of fishboats parading northward.

Each has a large power skiff in tow

Each worth a small fortune

Each optimistic for an opening

to earn half a year’s income

which after a wait of weeks

may last for only minutes.

There is an occasional glint of sunlight

reflected from a rolling boat’s wheelhouse window

a white wake streaming out behind.

The intensity of the annual drama begins,

herring season.

A herring we will go, a herring we will go!
Northwest!

Herring Season (2)

The fleet jammed into the harbour

waiting for the opening of herring season.

Volcanic tensions mounted over the next six weeks

until finally DFO declared the sacred event

would occur on the next Saturday.

Two of the boats were skippered by men

who were Seventh Day Adventists

and would not work on their Sabbath.

Herring Season (3)

If masses of people were randomly slaughtered

while in the peak of procreation

chances are the “managed stocks,”

which we are,

would be much smaller.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY JACK!
12 years old and still just getting started.
He is a beloved friend.

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Gandhi

Yoho The Coho

The bell of the Coho It's gleam says everything about the vessel and how she's run
The bell of the Coho
It’s gleam says everything about the vessel and how she’s run

It seems, for me, that many great trips begin with a passage on the M.V. COHO to Port Angeles Washington. With a minimum of fuss she backs and turns her 341′ length neatly from her berth in Victoria’s inner harbour, then manoeuvres nonchalantly out for the channel and idles her bulk past the rocks for the open Strait Of Juan De Fuca. Today we cross on a calm sea under a lowering sky. There is a gentle swell on our beam, that siren call of the open Pacific. At least to me it is. The old girl rolls gently and seems to enjoy herself. (You can easily pick out the landlubbers. “Weah not in Iowa no more Doreen!”)

Ogden Point Leaving Victoria Harbour on the Coho southbound across Juan De Fuca Strait for Port Angeles
Ogden Point
Leaving Victoria Harbour on the Coho
southbound across Juan De Fuca Strait for Port Angeles

This old beauty is the remnant of the famous Black Ball Line. Built in 1959 she is in immaculate sea-worthy condition. Clean and clearly loved by her non-uniformed crew this old ship is privately owned and actually makes a profit; she keeps on running year after year. The crew perform their duties with practised ease and in far fewer numbers, it seems, than on a BC Ferry. (We’ll blame crewing regulations!)

Her modest self-sufficiency flies in the face of our BC Ferry fleet. This provincially owned and individually manipulated (Note I did not say managed) corporation has older vessels as well as near-new European-built luxurious super ferries. Often rust streaked and grimy, the fleet is run by massively overpaid executives who are constantly trimming services and increasing fares. One recently appointed board member, whom I know, was previously at the helm of a very successful family logging business which had been founded by his father. He ran the business into total bankruptcy. He was soon accepted to help manage our provincial ferry fleet. I’m sure we would find that his annual BCF remuneration package, including benefits would have most of us feeling set for life. Yes a single year’s worth! Yet the corporation consistently tries to increase fares on its patrons. For those readers who are not familiar with life in this corner of the world all I’ll say is that other ferry services, including the one run by Washington State provide efficient, safe and reliable transport. Enough said. It can be done.

African Swan Yet another load of prime raw logs leaves the Pacific Northwest. What the hell are we doing?
African Swan
Yet another load of prime raw logs leaves the Pacific Northwest.
What the hell are we doing?

I am off once again to the annual Fisher Poets Gathering in Astoria. It seems that the last one was only a few weeks ago. Despite several health issues and my hopeless finances I am able to attend thanks to the very generous support of my wife Jill. Once home again, I must find new sources of income, finish refitting and outfitting old ‘Seafire’ and the little trailer then get down to Mexico. Two doctors have now suggested the move. Despite my general disdain for quacks I intend to take their advise this time. I’ve been talking about this dream for long enough. Einstein once said that you can’t solve a problem by using the same thinking that created it in the first place. Maybe, if I put on a tie, BC Ferries would consider me. My financial prowess would certainly put my in line for a position on the board of directors.

On the upside! Astoria is home to several wonderful micro-breweries
On the upside! Astoria is home to several wonderful micro-breweries

Four days later I’m back on the Coho northbound for Victoria. Events at the Fisher Poet’s Gathering are all a happy blur. My performances were all a splendid success and my duties as an MC went without a hitch. My ego has been massaged, my writing and reading talents have been affirmed and I’m heading back to the old dogfight with a slightly swelled head.

The Astoria Column There is a great aerobic clamber to the top on the spiral staircase inside. The view is fabulous! A local history is inscribed on the outside of the tower
The Astoria Column
There is a great aerobic clamber to the top on the spiral staircase inside. The view is fabulous! A local history is inscribed on the outside of the tower

On the first night all the performers have a dinner where we share some of our new work with each other. By coincidence, I found myself seated next to a California fishermen whom has the same last name. It was our first meeting.

No shit, your name is Bailey too!”

Yep, even the same spelling. But then it’s a common name. I doubt we’re at all related.”

Probably not but do you know Uncle George?”

Oh yeah, you know him too!”

God yes! He must be one ancient old fart by now! How is he?”

Same old dick he ever was.” And the so the improv banter went much to the amusement of the rest of the table. It’s a great joy meeting other birds of a similar feather and the time passes in a rush as we visit with each other and present our work to the public, some of whom come great distances to see and hear what we have to offer.

House halfway up a hill. An example of how many homes in Astoria have been restored
House halfway up a hill.
An example of how many homes in Astoria have been restored

I spend my free time there touring and photographing the town which is a lovely place self-resurrected from the ashes of its demise after both the fishing and the forest industries collapsed. Spring is arriving a bit early this year, blossoms were out everywhere and there were some warm, clear sunny days much to everyone’s delight.

Lots of rooms with lots of views
Lots of rooms with lots of views
See!
See!
Original paint This one is actually older than I am. note the bullet hole above the driver's window.
Original paint
This one is actually older than I am. note the bullet hole above the driver’s window.
Astoria's Liberty Theatre It is even more breath-taking inside
Astoria’s Liberty Theatre
It is even more breath-taking inside
The amazing fish stocks drew a large influx of Finnish immigrants. Now that's finished.
The amazing fish stocks drew a large influx of Finnish immigrants.
Now that’s finished.
On the way to the bottom you'll meet somebody on the way to the top
On the way to the bottom you’ll meet somebody on the way to the top

I’m posting plenty of photos which help describe Astoria and some of its charms. I’m looking forward to next year already. I’m also happy to report that I have finally successfully posted one of my books, ‘The Water Rushing By’, on Amazon/Kindle where it is available as an e-book or as a print-on-demand paperback. I’ve several other books to upload into their inventory so there’ll be no dull moments. Sideways Ho!

The last cannery to be seen out on pilings. There used to be dozens.
The last cannery to be seen out on pilings. There used to be dozens.
Out of Ballast, ready to load some more raw resources
Out of Ballast, ready to load some more raw resources
The din and the smell are amazing. "Who farted?"
The din and the smell are amazing. “Who farted?”
EXCUSE ME! That spot's reserved!
EXCUSE ME!
That spot’s reserved!
Aren't you glad they can't fly?
Aren’t you glad they can’t fly?
Rusty checks his pee mail
Rusty checks his pee mail
Shift worker's window
Shift worker’s window
River's edge at low slack
River’s edge at
low slack
"Let's do lunch." Some wildlife hanging around outside the motel room door.
“Let’s do lunch.”
Some wildlife hanging around outside the motel room door.
Pier 39 A cannery now turned museum. This is a former Columbia river gillnetter. The net was shot and retrieved off the bow. There were once hundreds working the river.
Pier 39
A cannery now turned museum. This is a former Columbia River gillnetter. The net was shot and retrieved off the bow. There were once hundreds working the river.
State of the art, once upon a time.
State of the art, once upon a time.
When men were men
When men were men
Cold Stream Dave and Renee hold an open boat day for the Fisher Poets weekend
Cold Stream
Dave and Renee hold an open boat day for the Fisher Poets weekend
An Unapus Creative sculpture adorns the streets of Port Angeles
An Unapus
Creative sculpture adorns the streets of Port Angeles

 

When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem starts looking like a nail.”…anonymous

The First Quarter Is Gone!

It was full moon again last week and then, when the Easter Rabbit left his tracks, I realized that we’re already into the second quarter of the year. Bloody hell! Doesn’t time fly whether or not you’re having fun?

Plum blossoms and sailboat motoring toward Silva Bay
Hope, after a very long winter

 

It has already been a month since I was in Astoria Oregon reading some of my poetry and prose at the Fisher Poets Gathering. Fisherpoets.org will get you to their website. You’ll find my page ‘In The Tote’ and can actually hear me reading a couple of my pieces. They’re a great bunch of very talented people and I feel very honoured to be counted among them.

It was a great end-of-winter event which will leave me feeling affirmed and inspired for a long time after that special weekend. Soon however, reality sets in and one begins to bog down once again. I came back to a month that had my boss suddenly undergoing quadruple by-pass heart surgery. That has left us all in a muddle trying to help carry on in the shipyard. Of course that puts all of the personal plans in a spin and the ideas about new things to write are left on hold as just jottings in a journal.
Ah well, the winter weather hung on interminably so boat work has been set back for both me and my customers. Yet, progress on the great dream inches forward as the pages fly from the calendar. The dream is alive and ‘Inch by inch, every thing is a cinch!” I suppose it’s worth mentioning our last winter storm. Fifty knot winds with huge gusts through the night left one 41’ketch on the rocky foreshore here in the bay. I noticed her at first light and rushed to pull her off with the small shipyard skiff. It was a rising tide and I was inching her back into deep water with a minimum of damage when the local amateur pirates arrived. I eventually left the scene as they dragged the beautiful old hull across a rocky ledge incurring a huge amount of absolutely needless damage.
There were threats of violence from them but ultimately I have some great new story ideas. Such is life.

I live daily with the frustration that this blog site is not being developed as promised and required but hopefully that will soon fall into place. My very old and much abused laptop has developed a vertical stripe mid-screen which is slowly growing in width. It’s amazing how challenging writing becomes with those few letters censored out of each line. Hopefully with a new computer and perhaps a bit of tutoring about WordPress we’ll get this sailing/writing gig heading out of the harbour with a few sails up. Patience Billy, patience!