Groaners

A glittering softness hangs over the stream bed. Water levels are very low this year.
That’s it! An August water level in June.

Nearly everyone knows about Gary Larson’s “Far Side” cartoons. When you mention the man’s name, folks instantly tell you about their favourite one. A former family doctor, when sending files to a specialist, would glue a Larson to the folder. He claimed that file would always end up on top of the pile. After an accident which required major heart surgery, I was able to get near the head of the line-up relatively quickly. Perhaps a Larson cartoon helped save my life!

Down to a trickle.

Half of Larson’s work goes right over my head. I don’t understand it at all. The other ones are indelible. I cannot name a favourite because I have several filed away in my brain. Among them is one about a boy entering the “School For The Gifted” and pushing desperately on a door marked ‘Pull.’

Two dogs have a man on his back while they tickle him and laugh at his twitching leg.

There is one about the “Boneless Chicken Ranch.”

Cows grazing placidly in a field stand on their hind legs until someone shouts “Car coming!” Two old salts sit at a bar and exchange yarns. One with a wooden leg says “Well that’s interesting but let me tell you how I lost this.” His buddy has a wooden peg sticking up from his collar with a sailor’s hat hanging from the top.” The humour is often dark and sarcastic, but then all humour is a form of sarcasm.

Our cartoonists and comedians are among our modern philosophers and Larson is there with the best. One of his works depicts cattle in a long queue which goes up a ramp into the Acme Abattoir. One cow stands at right angles to the line with its head jammed between the tail of the cow in front and the face of the next cow which says, “No cutting in eh!” How’s that for social comment?

Two morgue workers attend a body in a drawer, sheet over it, toe tagged. They are going through the deceased’s pockets. One worker finds a winning lottery ticket. He says,“Lucky stiff.” As you recall one cartoon yet more come to mind.

Humour has been my salvation. Mr Larson has certainly helped sustain me in a few different ways. I’d like to buy him a beer and discover what sort of fellow he is in person. I often employ humour to ease my way through difficult situations and in interactions with other people. If you can make someone laugh, especially yourself, things are going to work out. Folks who don’t laugh leave me baffled. Everyone needs levity and the endorphin release induced with laughter. “Laughter, the best medicine” is not just a cliché.

No-one is as broke as the person who has lost their sense of humour. I think of the people out there with no apparent sense of humour at all, ever, and I wonder how they carry on. Many of those dour characters are in prominent places making global decisions. I’m sure they carry a sobering load but wouldn’t it be great if people like Mr. Trump, for example, just stepped up to the microphone and asked, “Did you ever hear the one about…?” Suddenly the world would become a much brighter place. Imagine Gary Larson, Billy Connolly, Steven Wright or Rowan Atkinson as a political leader. Prime Minister Bean, that does have a ring to it. Mind you, they probably do more for humanity right where they are. Volodymyr Zelensky, the new President of the Ukraine, was a nationally prominent comedian. Considering the dangerous clown named Putin with whom he must now lock horns, he is perhaps imminently qualified for his new role. I know nothing about politics, especially in Eastern Europe. Politics here leave me plenty baffled.

The bee’s knees. You can see them sticking out from behind one flower.

Even here at home, where everyday the political news is yet another groaner, it would be nice to laugh with, instead of at, all those manoeuvring to get themselves re-elected. On a final note about politicians and humour, our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau has just announced the government’s approval of the very controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline . I am reminded of Steven Wright’s line, “I just took a lie detector test…no I didn’t.” 

A promise of green apples. “Anyone can count the seeds in one apple, but who can count the apples in one seed?”

On the subject of groaners, my little rotted trailer is gone. It sold at a salvage price to some very nice people who clearly understand, and want, the project they have bought. No matter how I did the math, I could not make sense of building myself a mobile monument. I could easily have spent all of the summer, and up to another ten thousand dollars, building the ultimate f.r.e.d. trailer (freaking ridiculous economic disaster) Now the albatross around my neck is gone and so once again I can start over. After attending URVU (Used RV University,) I can find another trailer now that I think I know what to look for. Meanwhile I feel that I’ve stood over the toilet and ripped up ten thousand dollars for one mighty royal flush. That much money is a fortune to me these days but I keep telling myself that I’m getting off lightly. I know of folks who have bought houses, vehicles, boats and RVs for a very much higher tuition.

Closed. I know, it’s irrelevant to this blog, but I could not resist the image.

You can well imagine some of the language I’ve used in consideration of recent events. Coincidentally, a friend just e-mailed me about the origins of the word “Shit.” Lord, I hope this is true! Before fertilizers had been invented manure was often shipped by sea. To reduce weight, it was always dried first. (Some places on earth had natural deposits of seabird droppings which was mined as “Guano.”) Once at sea, this cargo tended to absorb moisture and begin to ferment. Fermentation produces methane. Any flame below decks, such as a lantern, would cause a huge explosion. Several ships were lost this way before the cause was eventually determined.

After that, these cargoes were marked with the warning, Ship High In Transit. S.H.I.T. Thus ends the nautical portion of this blog.

My nautical image for this blog. It is of a stowed gaff-mainsail and an explanation of the term, “Knowing the ropes.”

The stream beds are dry, the snow on the mountains is gone. Folks continue to soak their lawns and continue to wash their cars and boats. This, in a community where sprawling subdivisions have been permitted to spread like cancer. The newcomers water their new lawns as oblivious to the problem as the municipal fathers. Water levels, this mid-June, are lower than many years in August. We have twice the population as only a few years ago with the same water supply, let alone in a year of drought. All those new roads, and driveways are freshly paved. That in turn sheds any precipitation we do receive. It is no longer retained as it was in the forest ecosystem which is now gone. When the tap to the hot tub coughs out a puff of dust, who will we blame? Water, clean fresh water, even in our toilets, the most precious commodity on the planet, is something with which we are abundantly blessed and take absolutely for granted. I close my eyes and hear Joni Mitchel singing ‘Big Yellow Taxi’… “They’ve paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Who would have ever thought that British Columbia would face water shortages?

Jack, now very hale and healthy, indulges in his favourite pastime while there’s still fresh water to wade in.
Summer!

So, two quotes for this posting. One leapt out at me from some research I was doing. I am a sucker for anything Steinbeck so I was immediately hooked. It thumped me between the eyes. The lyrical blessing of the second quote was graciously sent to me from a friend who apparently understands perfect timing. Is it possible? Can one’s stumbling progress come together as if there was a higher purpose that will make sense in the end? Only we can make that realization.

The hairy monster. A dog we met on the trail was furious at the sight of the microphone.

Do you take pride in your hurt? Does it make you seem large and tragic? …Well, think about it. Maybe you’re playing a part on a great stage with only yourself as audience.” 
― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.”

– Edward Abbey

The Third Napoleon

Wednesday Afternoon
Southbound in the Strait Of Georgia
Looking east toward Mainland Canada at 2 pm

 

Something felt very different Wednesday night. I was in the galley cleaning up after supper and mused how the boat looks the same inside no matter where she is. It was inky dark outside and if I were to step off the side of ‘Seafire’ there would no longer be a dock there. I’ve cut her loose and am on my southward, unfortunately only as far as Ladysmith for the time being. Still it feels so very good to be away from the dock.

My work in Comox is finished. Now I’m anchored in False Bay on Lasqueti Island. I tip-toed through the rocks into the bay an hour after nightfall. I have fond memories of this place and two iconic people who based here. They have both passed away. Allen Farrell was a famous wooden boat builder and his wife Sherry was a lovely and charming lady. I have plenty of yarns about them, how I befriended them and times we shared. I often describe them as the only real hippies I’ve ever known. The world is a sadder place without them. In the morning as a creeping grey dawn slowly illuminated the bay, plenty of signs showed that people have staked out everything possible. I remembered Allen’s comment once that the system these folks had come to escape was not nearly as bad as the one they brought with them. Why can we not simply respectfully share the beauty and bounty of the planet without laying claim to it and desecrating it. My ocean! Mine! This remote island was once a mecca for draft-dodgers and folks who believed they could reinvent the world. Their descendants live on here. “Peace man, share the wealth” was once a mantra. Now “No Trespassing” signs seem to be everywhere.

Beautiful downtown False Bay… Thazzit! Wood smoke hangs in the air as the ‘Centurion VII leaves on the first run of the day. This water taxi is the only link to Vancouver Island and the world outside.

My Scottish mother-in-law, may she rest in peace, once called me a “Bloody Bog Canadian.” I accepted it as a wry term of endearment. Now I think she may have been right. It’s interesting how one can go an entire lifetime with an idea fixed in one’s head, right or wrong; even worse, how about no idea at all?. I reviewed a documentary about Russian history and remarked to my wife that the Russians seemed to have been under siege by Napoleon for a very long time. He even set fire to Moscow once. My wife replied that there were three Napoleons. The second was a son and the third a nephew. What they did and did not achieve, where and when, is irrelevant. You can look it up yourself. I was gobsmacked to realize once again how history is written, what is not written and what is embellished or even invented. It doesn’t really matter how many Mao’s or Mohameds or Jesus’ or Hitlers there really were. Some academic, I’m sure, can prove how important it is that we understand how the sum of three Napoleons affects our modern existence.

I couldn’t resist! I don’t know who deserves credit for the original photo but hopefully I’ve mutilated it enough. There seems to be a resemblance to someone else, maybe it’s the hair!

Frankly, I don’t much give a toss about history and who wrote what about anything. I’m not that confident in the accuracy of any history. I’m sure we can all give examples of blatant lies we were led to believe. We just don’t learn anything from history. We’re still the same nasty creatures we’ve always been. No amount of information changes our compulsion to be destructive and hateful. It has nothing to do with geography, gender, religion or just cause. We’re all assholes. Until we accept that hard reality about our nature, nothing will ever change. And don’t go blaming it on anyone’s Satan. Look in the mirror. We must change.

We the pumpkins. A post Halloween tradition is to amass your Jack ‘O Lanterns to decay together in the cold, wet weather of autumn.

For example, in the wake of the recent mass shooting in a rural Texan Baptist church, a local politician offered the solution of posting armed guards in every church. Jesus loves me, now pass the ammunition. Remember that Christianity uses a symbol of capital punishment as an icon for peace and love. Instead of a cross, it could well be a hangman’s noose, an AK-47 or even a hockey stick. There are no doves on any bible I’ve seen. Whether you agree with my slant, or not, you have an obligation to yourself and your species to exercise your expansive abilities as a thinking organism. Ask questions. It is that simple.

 

An old rusted rail shed matches the autumn russet of maples and alders.

 

Nothing lasts forever. Heavy autumn rain and wind will soon knock the leaves from the tree. Then, after a long winter, new green leaves will bud in spring.

I am now back in Ladysmith writing on a drizzly November 11th. It is Remembrance Day across much of the world. A squadron of WWII military aircraft just flew over. My old pilot’s heart skipped a beat. I wonder as their sweet throbbing thunder fades in the grey sky, how much we believe and remember is truth, how much is myth and what it is we choose to forget.

More raw logs leave our country. They are being loaded onto the ship from a working sawmill. The orange mounds are chipped cedar which will be processed into paper. That we export any raw resources is ludicrous.
This bright beauty popped out of a tidal narrows I was about to enter. I can’t claim I didn’t see it.

 

Going with the flow. Dodd Narrows is a tidal pass with currents nearing 10 knots. Here I’m running with the ebb about one hour before slack water.

 

Thunk. Sunk. One of the dangers in this churning tidal narrows. My boat is plenty tough but a log in my propeller could be interesting.
Several good reasons to not travel by boat at night.
Winter waters are often choked with logs.

In 2017 politicians and religions of the world still mesmerize millions into embracing nonsensical stories, conflicted values and convenient lies. People still eagerly sacrifice themselves for other people’s myths and profits.

Ladysmith Harbour as seen from the next town south.

I’d rather just go sailing.

Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.”

… Napoleon Bonaparte (the 1st)

Snowy Palms

First Frost. One of my favourite trees. In the heat of summer, a herd of cows lounges in it’s shade.

On October 22nd The latest Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante Spain. I am not a racer but it was fascinating to watch the beginning of the race. The start began like any sailing race with competitors jostling for a good position. The fleet then competed through several legs in the bay before heading out to race each other around the world. I prefer simple, traditional boats to these modern hi-tech floating computers but to see such massive boats (65 feet long, their hinged keel draws 15 feet! ) manoeuvring like dinghys with crews smoothly handling sail changes at each mark is a wonder. Sailing boats, in my opinion, are one of man’s higher achievements. I don’t know if high tech vessels are an advance or a retreat.

The race route stitches itself around the globe with monstrous legs like Lisbon to Capetown and twice dips down into the ice-filled, wind-ripped Southern Ocean, a vicious body of frigid water. The boats hurtle along at speeds in excess of 20 knots. When not beating themselves to death while cold and wet, these sailors have to face massive parties in each of the many far-flung ports which mark the end and beginning of each leg. This madness will continue for nearly 9 months when the race ends in Sweden. How are you spending your winter?

One boat is named ‘Clean Oceans’ and draws attention to the massive global pollution of all our seas. One recent report suggests that the tonnage of plastic clogging the waters and beaches of oceans worldwide matches the mass of our remaining fish stocks.

That is a sobering consideration. As I ruefully watch this boat knifing through the green Mediterranean waves, the irony of it’s own synthetic composition was not lost. From mast to hull to sails and clothing of the crew, everything is a plastic derivative. When I was a child fibreglass boats were beginning to find acceptance. One concern was about how long a ‘Tupperware’ boat would last. From what I’ve seen while wandering our Westcoast beaches the answer is forever! The plastic, in places, is a thick strata along our high water lines.

In Mexico, old bits of plastic littler the country. Fence lines and cacti are decorated by the wind with fluttering bits of tattered plastic to the point that it could be a national flag. Mexico is a place that I love despite the litter. I’ve seen many clever examples of recycling in that country. “Necessity is the mother of all invention” is an old wisdom. It is one of the reasons I go there. The seasonal window for getting ‘Seafire’ to Mexico is now closed. Local sailors generally agree that mid-October is the latest that one should depart our waters for a direct voyage to Mexico.

“Don’t laugh;she’s almost paid for!” Remember Ben’s Johnson? This old beast was once someone’s pride. Doel fins on the motor, tow post, galvanized trailer, c’mon, make an offer and answer the call of the sea.
‘Shroom Nav. Growing on the cabin top of the old runabout, could these fungi actually be some sort of stealth-nav. system?

Halloween morning finds me up for another day at work, there are only a few of those left. I’ll soon be unemployed. It is still pitch-dark at 7am. It is cold and clammy-damp. We’ve had a few days of spectacular sunny fall weather, the forecast is now for a few days of payback weather which includes snow flurries. I’ll be heading southward with ‘Seafire’ next week, foul weather can be expected; naturally. In the meantime, I’ll post this as another short blog with photos of fall colours. I doubt readers will notice anything different, but I’ve acquired a new-used dslr camera. I couldn’t afford the purchase, but I couldn’t leave a good deal behind. My old Canon gear is showing it’s age. You can only drive so many nails with your camera, they just don’t make them like they used to. Seriously I’ve been coveting the quality and abilities of Sony and so here I go. Some of the slick photo technology has me stumbling but I’m sure I’ll be quite happy. I’ve proven all I can using my mobile phone as a camera. Now I look at the keys worn shiny on my laptop, or notebook, or whatever we’re supposed to call them this week. I know what’s coming next.

In Ladysmith, the anchorage known as “Dogpatch” has claimed another vessel. The venerable ‘Anipaya’ now sits on the bottom of the bay. No-one seems to know her real history. The old wooden lady, about 90 feet long, with plenty of shear and a lofty crow’s nest, cut a salty profile. She looked like a former whaling vessel to my eye. The problem is that old boats are sold off as affordable housing because they’re too old and tired to be worth repairing. They’re rotten. When they become too difficult to keep afloat they are either abandoned on their moorings or dragged ashore and left derelict. Sometimes they’re burned. Someone else (Usually the taxpayer) is left to clean up the mess which is often toxic and dangerous.

That’s me in the middle! Anipaya’s crow’s nest looked down on the Dogpatch fleet. Now she sits on the bottom.
The ‘Spud Queen’ Once a Westcoast nautical icon. The absentee owner discovered that people were squatting aboard. The story is that it was dragged ashore and burned . One man’s problem becomes everyone else’s.

Currently the politicians are discussing appropriate legislation to deal with the growing number of derelict vessels along our shoreline. I think it is simple. Live as you wish, so long as you are not imposing yourself on others. If a life afloat is what you choose then your boat must be maintained in a seaworthy condition at all times. If you are not able or willing to do that then you should be legally obligated to be responsible. No-one else should need to clean up your mess. The price of freedom is responsibility. Have I said that before?

A popular topic among mariners at the moment is about the two women rescued in the Pacific a few hundred miles of the coast of Japan after drifting with their dogs for five months. My information comes only from the media so I can merely speculate. The interview I did see placed their credibility as being very low. What they were claiming made little sense to this seasoned old salt. If indeed this is some sort of hoax, I truly hope they both pay a suitably heavy penalty. They’ve certainly done nothing to further the cause of voyaging sailors anywhere.

In Victoria, politicians are discussing making yet another law. It will try to deal with “distracted pedestrians!” Personally I am amused and saddened by those cannot even walk along a street without feeding their device addiction. No matter how many laws we make, there will never be a way to legislate stupidity.

A morning whisper. One of the first photos taken with my new used camera.

Late-breaking news. As I post this blog…   BUGGA!

Woof’s Dis? Ziggy seems fascinated with his own footprints. The weather caught us all by surprise.
Yep. TOO RIGHT! November 2nd, Comox.
Thinking of all my chums in southern latitudes.

Be whom it was you needed when you were younger.” anonymous