Finally!

In Summary: The weather is relentless, Trump is in, Cohen is dead, the tug is still on the bottom out in Seaforth Channel. Remembrance Day has passed and I want to forget it all. It has been almost a month since Thursday, October 13th when the ‘Nathan E. Stewart’ rammed itself and an oil barge onto Gale Reef. It has been a long month.

A pair of Humpback whales swim past some of the equipment onsite near the grounded tug. ...Photo courtesy of Carmen Olinger
A pair of Humpback whales swim past some of the equipment onsite near the grounded tug.
…Photo courtesy of Carmen Olinger
The heavy lift crane -barge in position above the sunken tug Nathan E Stewart. Heavy weather drove the barge back to shelter several times before everything finally right. ...Photo courtesy of Carmen Olinger
The heavy lift crane -barge in position above the sunken tug Nathan E Stewart. Heavy weather drove the barge back to shelter several times before everything finally right.
…Photo courtesy of Carmen Olinger

Last Monday morning was one sleep before the US election. It was the first work day after the time was turned back from daylight savings. At 07:30 there was only a grudging yielding of darkness. I could faintly see the silhouette of treetops against the sky. The clouds were dribbling spastically between full deluges and there was a high wind warning up again. Bursts of that coming storm tested again for weak spots where the main force could rip and pry and tear a little more. The weather is expected to ease sometime in March.

Dorothy Ann. A beautiful double-ended Alaskan fishing boat. She was southbound. An incongruous joining of lines, even the aluminum dodger works. What stories there'd be if only she could talk.
Dorothy Ann.
A beautiful double-ended Alaskan fishing boat. She was southbound. An incongruous joining of lines, even the aluminum dodger works. What stories there’d be if only she could talk.

Sunday, the day before was clear, calm and warm, a wonderful respite to punctuate all the heavy weather. Perhaps it was arranged by the federal government. Our transport minister Marc Garneau, was here to look at our infamous diesel spill now three weeks old. There has been some indignation that Prime Minister Trudeau himself has not appeared. That night a gravel barge north of Klemtu flipped over and sank. There is little environmental impact, but the potential danger of marine traffic in the inside passage is underscored. Interestingly, a story comes on the radio as I wrote this, that the volume of of the spill is 110,000 litres, not the 200,000 plus litres as previously reported. There is no explanation, no apology. In the week before the media announced the discovery of a “Nuclear Bomb” in the waters near Haida Gwaii. Despite soon conceding that “Bomb” was a dummy weapon used on a training mission, headliners as far away as the BBC insist on referring to this story as one about a “Nuclear Bomb.”

I understand US politics even less than those Canadian. Both candidates provided clown acts with no parallel and I, for one, am happy that circus is finally over. A new one begins.

I made it! Poverty is a wonderful professor. One of my strengths is being able to recycle junk into something useful. Once a base for a satellite dish, it was cut and rewelded into a mobile stand for large outboard motors. They're very heavy and awkward to move around, now we can easily wheel one wherever we want it.
I made it!
Poverty is a wonderful professor. One of my strengths is being able to recycle junk into something useful. Once a base for a satellite dish, it was cut and rewelded into a mobile stand for large outboard motors. They’re very heavy and awkward to move around, now we can easily wheel one wherever we want it.

I wonder darkly about millions of people who wilfully elected an arrogant hateful clown who is a self-avowed maniac. It’s not the man so much as the country which elected him. Trump is merely a symptom of a woefully sick culture. Sadly, the 18,000,000 eligible voters who did not vote deserve what they get. They are clearly comfortable with things as they are but then, the defeated candidate, Ms Clinton, offered no more promise than the blather-mouth now swinging into the saddle.

As I write this morning, the weather is still unsettled. It is winter here. There will be a few hours of calm. Hopefully the sunken tug is finally being hoisted today and another wearisome dark drama will begin to wind down.

A week later, not a lot has changed. The weather is the same, the tug is still on the bottom, the world is trying to reassure itself that Donald Trump is the best choice and will be the saviour of the American world. Now the post mortem of the US election is revealing what a pathetic person Hilary Clinton is. Of course she is; she’s a politician. Damned media! A week ago it was bleating how she was the only logical choice. I’m actually finding a little comfort in being hidden away in this dark, dripping, wind-blasted jungle.

Breakfast Of Champions Vitamins, starting fluid and optional laxative.
Breakfast Of Champions
Vitamins, starting fluid and optional laxative.

One raging night this past week one man’s floathouse was torn from it’s moorings and flung up on a beach a couple of miles away. The bobbing abode is back in it’s place and all’s well that ends.

The Prodigal Float Shack Safely back in her berth, this would have been quite an apparition as it loomed out of the darkness in front of an oncoming boat. All's well that ends.
The Prodigal Float Shack
Safely back in her berth, this would have been quite an apparition as it loomed out of the darkness in front of an oncoming boat. All’s well that ends.

Violent winds continue and two storms were notable because of their violent gusts. A brief lull would be followed by a vicious slam much like being hit by a truck. Sleep aboard becomes impossible. Several times, these cannon blasts had me certain the boat and the dock had exploded. Weary after several nights of slam-dancing I plod through the puddles and mud to another long day at work. There are water spouts racing the length of the bay and the docks are beginning to tear apart.

George's Eye-splice It is challenging to make a good tight eye-splice around a thimble. George is a sprightly ten-year old boy. This splice is bigger-around than his arms. Well done sailor!
George’s Eye-splice
It is challenging to make a good tight eye-splice around a thimble. George is a sprightly ten-year old boy. This splice is bigger-around than his arms. Well done sailor!

At the head of my dock is a huge work area, used for storage and various industries. In the frantic efforts to attend the needs of the sunken tug, our freight barge off-loaded a cargo of morts. These are dead fish from local salmon farms being shipped south for processing into something useful. They are stored in large plastic boxes known as “Totes.”

The totes have now sat with their fermenting contents for a few weeks. The swirling wind brings some very unsavoury aromas, an oily sewerific tang filters through the thrashing tree tops. Some folks don’t want any more fuel barges; maybe we could start burning fish oil.

Lamma Pass. Northbound through the final gap in the pass at Dryad Point. Each square on the Alaska-bound barge is a sea container, one truck load. Meeting one of these in the fog looks like an imminent collision with New York city. Imagine one of these tangling with an errant float house!
Lamma Pass from Bella Bella. Northbound through the final gap in the pass at Dryad Point. Each white square on the Alaska-bound barge is a sea container, one truck load. When on a boat, meeting one of these in the fog looks like an imminent collision with New York City. Imagine one of these tangling with an errant float house!

Friends from Victoria are heading up into the South Atlantic on their sailboat. (See my link to Sage On Sail in the side bar) They turned back to Simons Town In South Africa with engine problems and I’ve been trying to help with suggestions by e-mail from half a planet away. That in itself seems strange to me. I’ve had no news from them recently and am assuming that is good news. I hope they’ve grabbed a weather window and are on their way to Saint Helena. Wherever they may be, my heart is with them.

A rare clear day in November. Looking West to shearwater from Bella Bella.
A rare clear day in November. Looking west toward Shearwater from Bella Bella.

Lenard Cohen died on November 10th and I suddenly realised how I love so much of his work. Oddly, he released his last album only a month ago. A line from one of those songs where he says, “Lord I’m ready.” That was shivery stuff. Then I heard a recording of him reading “In Flander’s Fields.” Wow! Suddenly it was again the poignant work it should be. Chastised for not attending the local remembrance day ceremony, I was inspired to write a new poem. It says that while we remember our war dead we forget that there are also fates far worse than death. There are thousands of veterans, both military and civilian, who endure a horrific daily nightmare in the aftermath of their war experience. We choose to ignore them.

Flotsam, whale bones and a dug-out canoe. In front on the Koeye Café on the beach in beautiful downtown Bella Bella.
Flotsam, whale bones and a dug-out canoe. In front on the Koeye Café on the beach in beautiful downtown Bella Bella.

Back on the subject of funky environments and the arts of forgetting, here is a local anecdote. I was doing some engine work on a fishboat. The deckhand has been living aboard. I finally told him that I could no longer endure the stench of dope smoke in the boat. He replied: Man I’m not smoking pot. I can’t. My pipe’s plugged solid!”

Tonight as I write, it is November 14th. Finally! The sunken tug was raised this afternoon, 32 days after it sank. I know nothing about recovering sunken vessels, but considering our ongoing weather it is a job well done. At present, our November full moon is being called a “Super Moon.” The last time the moon orbited this close to earth was in 1948, the next time will be in 2034. With that lunar event came extremely high and low tides. Combining those extreme tides and currents with violent winds has made the salvage operation extremely challenging.

Spring Flood High tide slack under the influence of a storm surge and the pull of a super moon.
Spring Flood
High tide slack under the influence of a storm surge and the pull of a super moon. Note the level ramp beside the float house. At low tide it can be nearly 45 degrees.
Sunday Evening, Super moon from Shearwater foreshore
Sunday Evening, super moon from Shearwater foreshore.
A few minutes later.
A few minutes later.
Surveillance. Department Of Transport surveillance aircraft. a poor shot through the window in my aircraft but I was fascinated with the observation cockpit on top of the fuselage. I assume the surveillance was of the diesel spill site.
Surveillance.
Department Of Transport surveillance aircraft. A poor shot through the my aircraft window but I was fascinated with the observation cockpit on top of the fuselage.
I assume the surveillance was of the diesel spill site.

Certainly there are no closed books. There will be months of clean-up and biological evaluation. Then years of litigation will begin which will involve the local first nations, various government departments, environmentalists and a few others we don’t know about yet. A lot of people have made a lot of money from this misadventure. Some have even earned it. Soon the mass of these characters will go away and leave this dark, dripping web-toed world to a well-deserved long winter sleep.

Cape Caution A view from above of the dreaded cape in a benign mood. The surf is from the last, and the next, storm.
Cape Caution
A view from above the dreaded cape while in a benign mood. The surf is from the last, and the next, storm.

The point is that you can’t be too greedy.” Donald Trump

Hard Aground

HARD AGROUND

The schooner 'Spike Africa' sails out of Shearwater for harbours south.
The schooner ‘Spike Africa’ sails out of Shearwater for harbours south.

When I edited my last blog and read my footnote about the grounding and fuel spill on Edge Reef I realized that the blog’s title was “Over The Edge.” How’s that for a strange co-incidence? Shearwater has been bubbling with all sort of marine recovery experts, divers, Canada Coast Guard vessels and crews, other motley characters including media and enviro-wannabe-activists. It’s a circus. It’s a war zone. This is a situation where if you’re not part of the solution then you are part of the problem. It is best to stay away unless directly involved with recovery efforts. The site of the incident is within my favourite corner of this country, that being a short radius around Ivory Island. All of my information is second and third-hand but I have no interest in being near the melee which must be occurring there. There has been a standing gale warning or randomly a storm warning almost constantly. We all live in dread of worst-case scenarios. The response to the grounding was amazingly swift. Despite claims by Western Canada Marine Response, there are no specific response vessels stationed in Shearwater. Canada Coast Guard did have vessels and a plan in place before dawn of that morning. The problem for CCG is that you can’t go to the bathroom without permission from Ottawa which comes through the Victoria Headquarters, all at glacial speed.

I promised to update news about that tugboat grounding on Edge Reef a few miles west of here on the South beach of Seaforth Channel. Despite claims that the tug had engine difficulties, the track of the vessel before it ran aground certainly makes for easy speculation that the helmsman on that mate’s watch simply fell asleep. Having stood that very same watch for many years, I know all too well how that reality is all too common. Meanwhile Shearwater continues to swarm with people involved in the many aspects of this incident. Plenty of the locals have been out to see the wreck site. I’ve worked at other marine incidents and know It is no picnic. The work is dreary and dangerous and everybody there seems to think they are an expert. Despite all the alleged experts on site these events are often chaos. The empty fuel barge was separated from its tug and anchored in the mouth of Dundavin inlet until it was finally be towed out of this sensitive salmon habitat. Diesel fuel has an amazing property of being able to spread itself over a broad area. One teaspoon of the stuff can look like a replay of the ‘Exxon Valdez’ incident. It also stinks horribly. Urbane journalists and environmentalists eagerly dramatize what they think they are seeing.

The media has reported the total fuel capacity of the foundered tug in varying amounts and quite inaccurately as the whole amount leaked from two of its fuel tanks. Reporters who clearly don’t know port from starboard are offering their uninformed opinions after brief forays to the site of the wreck. I am incensed as usual by the media’s misuse of essential correctness and poetic speculation. It makes blatantly incorrect claims and is apparently determined to milk this story for all it’s worth and more. There are swarms of personnel appearing in increasing numbers. Temporary accommodations are being barged in. This misadventure has become a feeding frenzy for anyone who can possibly involve themselves. Helicopters fill the air. Boats and barges of all sizes come and go constantly. Gaggles of strangers costumed in life jackets and new fluorescent oilskins clomp around in big gumboots looking quite bewildered. Our little hardware store has run out of rain gear. The local restaurant and pub is overflowing. I am told that the sum spent in the past week is around fifty million dollars.

Friday Night, eight days after the grounding. some of the oil recovery fleet in to wait out the weather, have a shower and get drunk. The pub was an environmental disaster last night.
Friday Night, eight days after the grounding.
Some of the oil recovery fleet in to wait out the weather, have a shower and get drunk. The pub was an environmental disaster last night.

The work to re-float the tug, get it the hell out of here and continue with the environmental cleanup will continue as much as possible despite gale warnings and huge crossing swells with full moon spring tides. There is a storm warning up at the moment but work is continuing with the hope to pump all the fuel out of the sunken tug, then lift the vessel with a monstrous crane onto another barge and tow it away. The first crane towed up from Vancouver has been determined to be too small so another bigger one is on its way from Seattle. Ca-ching, ca-ching. That will hopefully occur in the next few days. The final ordeal will be the horrific effort to clean up all of the spilled diesel and turn the whole situation over to years of litigation. There will be battalions of lawyers wrangling for dollars far into the future.

Here in Shearwater I have spent long hours helping repair a water taxi which was thrown onto that same reef by a rogue swell. The vessel was delivering crew to the wreck site. No-one was hurt and the boat is ready to go again after an intense effort. I’ve no doubt that there will be a huge outcry from the environmentalists. There are plenty of those here, both professional and amateur. This is fuel on their fire (Yes that’s a pun) in the arguments against tanker traffic in British Columbia coastal waters. The over-powered boats they use to zip around this part of the world won’t do very well without tankers of some sort; and, as usual, folks don’t see themselves as part of the problem. Someone else is supposed to provide a magic solution while we all consume all the things we need and want. They are delivered by diesel powered vessels or jet-engined aircraft. Then, to appear environmentally friendly, we ship our recyclables back down the coast. Yep, more diesel! One thing is for sure, there will never be a reliable solar-powered speed boat in the Great Bear RAIN Forest.

Bits-n-Pieces 1 clunk on a rock when a swell dropped this water taxi. Remove the mangled drive, the engine, replace the broken transom ring, re-install the engine and all the other components. all the while we're trying to find missing parts and endure the ubiquitous "Is it ready yet?" All's well that ends.
Bits-n-Pieces
One clunk on a rock when a swell dropped this water taxi is all it took. Remove the mangled drive, the engine, replace the broken transom ring, re-install the engine and all the other components. All the while we’re trying to find missing replacement parts and endure the ubiquitous “Is it ready yet?” Nothing to it, right? All’s well that ends.
Wheels of Misfortune
Wheels of Misfortune

The Heiltsuk First Nations have justifiably reacted to the grounding with great alarm. Traditional seafood resources are in direct threat of long-term contamination. This is in the heart of what they know as their ancestral sovereign waters. Heiltsuk warriors in days past held a reputation of being fierce and formidable. They turned back the intrepid explorer Alexander Mackenzie and held their own against the notorious and formidable Haida raiders who frequently attacked from adjacent waters. That legacy is honourable and respectable. My writing champions native rights and traditions but not on any level above other folks. The Heiltsuk allow us to all interact with each other as people first. No bad guys, no good guys, we’re all just people first. Parochial rights come second. There is a willingness to openly share, but not impose, their culture and it’s richness. Before this sad and stupid tug boat accident a few Heiltsuk vigilantes had already taken to patrolling regional waters to confiscate any unattended prawn and crab traps they find. They are destroying the respect and goodwill which the rest of their people have worked so hard to to establish. Natural resources have a global value. They do not belong to any one community. If we truly want them protected, let’s work together to preserve them.

A peak from beneath the moss. The photographs are poor because of low light conditions. I'll go back.
A peek from beneath the moss. The photographs are poor because of low light conditions. I’ll go back.
A face from days long past. After removing it's covering of moss, this face is barely visible to the camera.
A face from days long past. After removing it’s covering of moss, this face is barely visible to the camera.
The Bowel Utterly beyond my comprehension, this rectangular bowel was painstakingly carved into this spine of solid rock, The relief of the lips is about two inches deep.
The Bowel
Utterly beyond my comprehension, this rectangular bowel was painstakingly carved into this spine of solid rock, The relief of the lips is about two inches deep.
Who? Why? What? When?Why here?
Who? Why? What? When? Why here?
My Treasure Map. This is the page that inspired my quest. it was published in 1974.
My Treasure Map. This is the page that inspired my quest. it was published in 1974. The rotting stump is long gone.
How it looks today. I will carefully remove more moss, let the rain wash the carvings and then return on a sunny day to take my photos with all due respect.
How it looks today. I will carefully remove more moss, let the rain wash the carvings and then return on a sunny day to take my photos with all due respect. That I found it at all amazes me.

On a very happy note, I’ve found it! A treasured book I have describes some ancient petroglyphs carved in solid granite on a nearby island. This book was first published in 1974 so the description of this site had to be made sometime before that. For all I know, I’m the next visitor all these decades later. Certainly the site is overgrown with moss and there was a bit of luck in finding the tiny secluded spot at all. Fortunately I earned my bushman’s eyes long ago. The location was described as being on a ridge when in fact it was below the ridge in a rocky saddle. The sky was overcast and the moss needs scrubbing back to take good photographs on a sunny day. Now that I know the location I can return and try to take better photographs.. My feelings at finding this ancient art are immense. I want to tell the world but will keep the site’s location secret out of respect. I’ve consulted with a Heiltsuk elder who asked me not to “rip up the forest” but cautiously sanctioned my interest after he’d explained that this is a very sacred place and doesn’t want the site over-run by intruders. Nor do I. These images were made in solid granite. All that arduous work was done with the full knowledge this sacred art would rapidly disappear beneath forest debris and a thick layer of moss. To have found it at all is some sort of miracle.

Eerie This is one view of Bella Bella Island, known Locally as Burial Islet
Eerie
This is one view of Bella Bella Island, known locally as Burial Islet
Imagine... spending a long, dark stormy night in this old crypt trying to shelter from the rain...Boo!
Imagine…
Spending a long, dark stormy night in this old crypt trying to shelter from the rain…Boo!
The Guardian of Burial Islet. No-one sets foot here. Fair warning.!
The Guardian of
Burial Islet.
No-one sets foot here.
Fair warning.!

There are other petroglyph sites in surrounding waters. There is nothing like having a cause to justify poking about with old ‘Seafire.’ Wish you were here.

On another note, CBC live-broadcast the final US presidential debate this week. This is political leadership at its lowest. Both of these candidates are terrifying. Their arrogance and blatant stupidity is stunning. Hollywood could never have scripted anything so crass. It is hard not to despair. I subscribe to a daily electronic bulletin board from La Manzanilla, a small Mexican fishing town which is inundated with winter visitors from our northern latitudes. The following message was posted on the board. I transcribe it here verbatim in illustration of sentiments aroused by American election storm clouds.

To the deplorable living in La manzanilla:

We are good people, we welcome everybody to our house and our country without question,

we love and share our culture our food and our humble lifestyle, we don’t ask much in return, because we understand that best things in life need to be share and treasure.

We are also proud people and as history tell we don accept disrespect from nobody not matter who they are and were they came from.

We are not Pendejos* neither, don’t get confused about it, we know what is going on in the world and who is who, some of you are trump supporters and thats ok, BUT if you are and brag about it please move back to trump tower because la manzanilla is definitely not for you, since we were call all kinds of names and disrespect our people and country in the most lower manner.

So this is for the deplorable who live in La Manzanilla

A world of advise be careful what you wish for.

Most “mexicans” in town know your names and who you are by now and believe me they are not happy about this, you don’t want then to go cinquo de mayo on you, so please go back to trump tower,

mokita

___________*translation: Cowards____________

I love this little missive, complete with it’s spelling and grammar errors. It is a message of dignity and stubborn indignity. I have found the warmth and hospitality of rural and small town Mexico absolutely wonderful. Even a barefoot Mexican possesses a quiet pride and graciousness which we “Gringos” cannot emulate nor fully understand. However the Latino self-esteem can only be bent so far. That character, despite a person’s station in life, is one of the beautiful resiliences that draws me back to Mexico. Mucho Gusto!

Mexican dreaming. Looking south from San Blas.
Mexican dreaming.
Looking south from San Blas.

If I could get rid of me, I could do anything.” …Steve Earl.