Hanging On

Summer rushes past like a stream and life goes on toward the coming year.

If the world didn’t suck, we’d all fall off!” A friend e-mailed me a collection of humorous signs. That message was the only one I remember. I spent last week with some horrible flu virus, flat on my back most of the time, projectile-dehydrating in simultaneous directions all at once. That dark experience had me afraid of dying, then angry because I might not. It went on for days. I’m back up onto my knees now with the complexion of used paper, a bit wobbly yet but onward and sideways as ever. As another buddy put it, I’ve been through Satan’s anus and successfully cast out. Whohaa!

Looks like I feel. This sweating fungus is a visual description of having the flu.

Through part of the ordeal of this spiritual experience (I spent considerable time prostrate at the old porcelain alter) I did some bargaining and parted with my black Ford truck. No complaints, I’ll simply say that I’ll never own a North American-originated vehicle again. If Asian and European auto manufacturers can produce superior products in the homeland of Chrysler, GM and Ford, there’s nothing further to discuss. An old Croatian maxim says that a fish stinks at the head first. No apologies Donald! Just fix it.

And now for a little humour. A sign beside the trail near Kinsol Trestle here on Southern Vancouver Island
The Turkey Sisters
High-strutting feral birds, they thrive here.

I’ve ended up with two vehicles as part of my deal, an old GMC bush-basher truck and a lovely little 16 year-old Honda CRV. It was designed to be easily towed behind an RV, but more on plan F another time. I apprenticed as an aircraft mechanic and have retained some of my anal make-things perfect attitude. It’s kept me alive more than once but has also caused a load of hurt along the way. I really like this little AWD car and can easily see it putting along some narrow Central-American dirt road. I am going through it, making sure all is order and to my personal satisfaction. The ‘Check Engine’ light came on. After several checks and some computer codes I determined to change the PCV valve. This little widget allows the engine to recycle combustible vapours from the crankcase and is an essential part of modern engine emission controls. It had not ever been changed and was certainly overdue.

On this engine it is located in a spot which is barely visible and hopelessly inaccessible, especially with hands like mine, each of which are the size of banana bunches. My philosophy is that if one man put it there, then I should be able to deal with it. And so with my characteristic brute force and ignorance I soldiered in.Of course the job involved dropping a tool into the splash pan in an impossible-to-reach spot which meant removing that pan and breaking half of the brittle plastic clips that hold it in place. While I had my arm contorted up beneath the engine to grope for the wrench a friendly neighbour came along and bade me a boisterous good morning. She scared the hell out of me. Well I managed to do the job, minus some skin, but the engine purrs beautifully. However! Resetting the computer fault codes requires disconnecting and reconnecting the vehicle’s battery. This in turn lobotomizes the radio in a measure to make the darn thing worthless to anyone who would steal it. At one point today I was ready to give the damn thing away. I discovered all of this while trying, and trying, to reset the radio’s clock, which eventually further dummed out the radio. By holding this button and that while pushing a third, all at the same time, you can eventually re-enter your personal radio security code and the music box is freed from its cyber dungeon.

Like all good modern mechanics I looked up pertinent information on YouTube and found a tutorial by some well-intentioned fellow speaking with a broad Quebecois accent. He said things like navy code when he meant navicode and vecule instead of vehicle. I was already confused thank you! I was referred to a Honda radio-code-recovery online site where I entered all sorts of information, serial numbers and codes, which the site kept rejecting. Finally realizing I was on a US site, entering Canadian numbers and zip codes, I stomped back out to the vehicle in frustration and despair. Tabernac! Thankfully the first owner had kept all pertinent documents and I found the original radio access security code tucked away inside the owner’s manual. After trying over and over, it eventually twinkled on me that I had fumbled my entry attempt too many times. I had to disconnect the battery, let the onboard computers have a nap, reconnect and reboot the “devices.” Finally the code was accepted, I have a radio and clock again. Bugga! Wot an ordeal! This is on a 2003 Honda, a simple product which came 16 years before the rolling I-bots we now call vehicles. They’re starting to want to drive themselves and I’m beginning to understand why older vehicles have an increasing value. Now I can go for a drive and see if changing that little valve was the fix. It’s funny now!

A mid-sixties Corvair in amazing condition. This was one of the vehicles condemned by Ralph Nader as “Unsafe At Any Speed.” It was in fact, an excellent car. The biggest problem was that it was about thirty years ahead of its time. Mr. Nader, however, was well aware of the profits of paranoia and did very well with his fear-mongering.
“Don’tcha buy no ugly truck!” This mid-fifties Ford was in the parking lot at the local grocery store. This is not a Ford truck I’d part with were it mine.
Car wash colours found beside the vacuum and the garbage cans. There’s some beauty everywhere.
Deer trail through the corn. (Sung to “Riders On The Storm”) Hard to spot for our eyes, it is a super-highway for the critters of the forest. You do see it?

Nearing the end of a hot dry summer the paths are littered with dry leaves. The streams are dry. Jack’s footfalls kick up little clouds of dust. The sky is blue again, there is a refreshing wind and no-one is complaining about the heat. The evenings are lovely and cool, it is almost dark by 9pm, sleeping is easier. It seems I was just posting photos of spring flowers a few blogs ago. Late summer is a splendid season and time for some good sailing now that the anchorages are more open and the plastic pirates have gone back to the marinas until next year. Let’s go!

Hurry up. Let’s go!
Jack has made himself the darling of the docks and is always eager to see who has what treats for him.
A Brown Creeper. It flew into the house and exhausted itself in the skylight, eventually falling down into a bath tub. I did my best to save it, including an ambulance run to a wildlife vet. It died on the way.
0.8 grams. This old farm boy and outdoorsman, once callous to taking lives, wept for this little creature. Is my life worth more than this bird? I’m not so sure anymore.
The frenzy of winter preparations goes on.
‘Herself’ has returned to our docks again. She looks better than ever in her new paint. It is the time of year when the wooden boat festivals are at their peak and the season for a frenzy of spit and polish.

“It is always in season for old men to learn.”       …Aeschylus

Unplugged And Almost Blown Away

Dreaming of A Red Christmas. The storm arrived later in the day.
Dreaming of A Red Christmas. The storm arrived later in the day.

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.”

Iced In. Christmas morning.
Iced In. Christmas morning.
A Good Samaritan. Voluntary ice-breaking at Christmas time. Very much appreciated. Ice and fibreglass hulls are a poor mix. The ice always wins.
A Good Samaritan. Voluntary ice-breaking at Christmas time.
Very much appreciated. Ice and fibreglass hulls are a poor mix. The ice always wins.

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 reads me the riot act. Actually, she's taking photos of Edgar the Eagle with her I-pad.
Jill reads me the riot act.
Actually, she’s taking photos of Edgar the Eagle with her I-pad.

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.

 The Lst

The Lst

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.

Vancouver Housing Crisis-100 years ago. Downloaded fro the archives of www.vancouverisawesome.com
Vancouver Housing Crisis-100 years ago.
Downloaded from the archives of www.vancouverisawesome.com

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.

Frosty Bog. Bleak beauty where deer and wolves roam.
Frosty Bog. Bleak beauty where deer and wolves roam.
The Devil's in the details. Finding beauty everywhere.
The Devil’s in the details.
Finding beauty everywhere.

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.

Weirdwater. Weird Ice.
Weirdwater. Weird Ice.
Kliktsoatli Harbour. "Can't have rainbows without rain."
Kliktsoatli Harbour.
“Can’t have rainbows without rain.”

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”                                                                                                  ….Albert Einstein