Sitting beside me on my desk is a frozen package of salmon fillets. The package has been labelled By Captain High Liner of Lunenburg Nova Scotia (Yep, on the Atlantic Coast.)
The claim is that these are “Wild caught in the North Pacific Ocean.” On the back of the package it is marked as “Product Of China.” No, it is nothing new but it still pisses me off immensely. I repeat my rant about the chicken farmer who goes to town to buy eggs.
I live, work, play and travel on the Pacific Ocean. I am almost as much a part of this body of water as this alleged fish. Lunenburg China? Where dat? Hell, the two oceans don’t even smell the same. And I know that China does not have a salmon fishery. I have been told that these fish were caught by Alaskan or Canadian boats, sent to China for processing and packaging, then returned to us marked up accordingly. We wonder what is wrong with our economy! When we go to Canadian Tire, or Walmart or any other box store it is tough to find products not made in China, including Covid face masks! Snot funny! China is not coming, it’s here!
Well, I edited out the rest of this rant. I’ll admit I should have first read the packaging on those pieces of tasteless pink protein. But geez Louise, can’t we even trust Captain Highliner any more?
Yesterday I was placidly sitting on the couch when hit with a sudden muscle spasm in my neck. It was the sort of pain that causes you to squeal out loud without even knowing that you are. It was agonizing. I was writhing about like Quasimodo when a loud beeping began. Struth! The whole house was filled with a skull-shattering omnidirectional (My illiterate spellchecker didn’t like that one!) regular piercing burst of violent noise. Hobbling quickly with one contorted arm and curved neck I fetched the kitchen stool and began ripping smoke detectors from the ceiling. Reaching over my head was excruciating. Old Jack was desperate to escape the house and the metal-jacketed sound and my frantic efforts. The alarm continued, despite unplugging the devices and then removing their backup batteries. SkreeeeeP SkreeeeeP at seven million decibels. “Oh golly” I shouted in mounting frustration. (Yeah right) Then the phone rang; of course. This is just a bad dream I thought. But it wasn’t. I spat out the teeth shattered by the ultrasonic assault.
The culprit turned out to be a Co2 detector I had installed a few years ago, wondering at the time how we had ever dared sleep without one. It had been long forgotten as it sat there lurking like a terrorist device behind a piece of furniture waiting for the perfect moment to wreak havoc. My ginky neck is still with me, the instrument of pervasive sound is in the garage. Wanna buy a Co2 detector? It works really well!
What if you thought of it as the Jews consider the Sabbath — the most sacred of times? Cease from travel. Cease from buying and selling. Give up, just for now, on trying to make the world different than it is. Sing. Pray. Touch only those to whom you commit your life. Center down.
And when your body has become still, reach out with your heart. Know that we are connected in ways that are terrifying and beautiful. (You could hardly deny it now.) Know that our lives are in one another’s hands. (Surely, that has come clear.) Do not reach out your hands. Reach out your heart. Reach out your words. Reach out all the tendrils of compassion that move, invisibly, where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love — for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, so long as we all shall live.
From Lynn Ungar’s first book of poetry, Blessing the Bread
Hum-ho, ho hum. An early autumn Monday. It is what some folks now call the shoulder season, not summer, not autumn. The rain is not heavy but drizzles down steadily. It is one of those penetrating precipitations which leaves one wet and cold to the bone. I’m sitting in my house coat while my clothes rattle around in the dryer after a bit of tinkering on my vehicle…under the shelter of a roof! Jack and I went for our walk, he is content for the moment to lay by the door, snoozing and watching for the old mangy grey squirrel which pelts along the top of the fence with yet another hazelnut in its mouth. A fence post, which it often floats over in a single high bound, is also a perch for it to sit, flagging its tail, I am convinced, in an effort to attract Jack and raise his fury. Squirrels clearly have a sense of humour. I wonder if they laugh.
The problem with grey and black squirrels, is that they are, like most people here, including myself I’ll admit, an invasive species. The native red squirrels are a rarity now, bullied away from their turf by the newcomers. The larger invasive squirrels carry a virus which is deadly to the local reds (Now there’s an old familiar story!) and are also able to overrun prime food sources. You have to go into the deep backwoods to find red squirrels now. They can thrive on coniferous seeds and whatever other small things they evolved to consume. The larger grey and black squirrels seem to prefer the nuts of hardwoods, generally found close to human habitation. How the big guys first came here is probably a tale of accidental transport as well as a few escaping or being released by new-coming humans. People love to mess with natural balance, and one way or another, we’d prove to be the culprits in this story, an old repeat performance.
When I hunted deer, I preferred to find an active game area and sit and wait, sometimes calling deer and other wildlife to come within sight. Often, a red squirrel would sit on a limb somewhere above me and begin its scolding call, announcing my alien presence in the woods to all creatures within earshot of at least a mile. I would often have to give up my post and move on. At the time, I never thought I’d miss that insistent, incessant squeaking flagging alarm. Some days, I wanted to blow the annoying little rodents out of my life. Funny how things change! This former farm boy and woods ape, once able to kill any critter without remorse, now even tries to move spiders and wasps in preference to just squashing them.
With the first rainy onset of autumn, nature responds. Fish and fauna begin frantic reactions to the promise of winter ahead. The rain raises stream and river levels. That triggers a response from salmon which have arrived on schedule to re-enter fresh water to spawn and then die. It is a magic, bittersweet drama but fish are not philosophers and simply do what they are programmed to do. Imagine if people followed a similar life cycle and pro-creation was a final act instead of the life-long convoluted dance of intrigue with all the complexities of our existence. Most of our lives orbit around our gender differences and the many-textured fabrics we weave to disguise the simple reality of our need to reproduce. Call it what you will, in the end, that is the rendered-down reality with the romance factors removed. Writers have tackled the concept and created characters who evolve from being frail and decrepit to being young, vital bounding creatures filled with all those bubbling hormones. (Remember Benjamin Button?)
Phew! I think I’ll follow Jack out into the woods for a walk. The rain has eased, maybe we’ll see a red squirrel. My latest short video, about the first wave of this year’s spawning salmon, is now posted on YouTube. Here’s the link:
We did go for a walk, despite the threat of more rain. To Jack’s extreme delight we detoured through an area new to us. It was a deer haven with wide, well-trod trails, an abundance of feed and cover. Yes, I still move stealthily like the hunter, and see with the same woodsman’s eyes. Even with Jack crashing along, I could have taken four deer within a half-hour. Watching us ease through this lovely place, a juvenile Barred Owl flew from tree to tree on silent wings. The rain began again as we returned back at the truck. It was not a bad Monday, not at all.
“Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.” Roger Miller
There is a tang in the air. The funk of fishy decay is inescapable. Dogs quiver and lose their hearing as they charge off to find their own dead salmon to roll in. There may be spawning runs as late as January but for the moment, the banks and bottoms of our local streams are littered with the corpses of dead salmon from the most recent event. The last few stragglers laconically swim against the current. Eagles and gulls sit along the river edge looking sated and sluggish. There is bear scat along stream-side trails and some diligence is due because Jack, in all his dogliness, might be inclined to try and impose indignities at any bruins he may come across. He’ll brook no large intruders to his private world. With diminished hearing, his realm can be very private. His elderly sophistication may well have had him rise above the old indulgence of perfuming himself by rolling on a rotten fish but today he ran ahead out of sight. My angst about him returning embalmed with “Eau de Poison Parti” came from past experience. No perfuming but I found him belly-deep in the water of a local river snacking on a decaying delicacy. He is, after all, only being a dog. In consideration of some of the noxious things humans eat; well, at least dead fish are organic. Just don’t try licking my face.
This week I discovered a grand place to walk with my cameras. It is heaven for Jack. We’ve been back twice already. Only a few minutes from home, the estuary of the Chemainus River was once the site of a large sprawling farm acquired by the company which built the huge, and often foul pulp mill at Crofton. It has returned to nature in a grand way. The blackberries have invaded many of the fields which lie among the swamps and backwaters of the broad river mouth. A delightful place, you’ll find me there often in the future. It takes little imagination to see native villages here long before the white invaders arrived. The name Chemainus has a first nations origin which I’ve decided to finally quit pondering.
This comes from Wikipedia: “The name Chemainuscomes from the native shaman and prophet “Tsa-meeun-is” meaning broken chest. Legend says that the man survived a massive wound in his chest to become a powerful chief. His people took his name to identify their community, the Stz’uminus First Nation, formerly the Chemainus Indian Band.”
Considering that I survived a serious chest trauma and subsequent major heart surgery I am now wondering if “Tsa-meeun-is” should become my new name. You’ve got to admit there is a certain ring to it; “Chemainus Fred.” What really intrigues me is that, for thirty years, I’ve been driving by the inconspicuous road which provides access to the trails and meadows of this fantastic eco-sanctuary. Go figure! I am the guy who is constantly harping on about seeing what you look at. A fellow whom I met there today claimed that he has lived as an immediate neighbour to this sprawling old farm and had only just discovered the access after twenty-one years. So, I don’t feel quite so chagrined. In any case the massive acreage was once Swallowfield Farm. It seems a shame that after all the industry of clearing this rich bottomland that it no longer produces food and instead sponges effluent from the looming mill.
But it is always a joy and wonder to find a treasure that has been so close. I have noted numerous survey stakes in several places and and desperately hope that the word “development” is nowhere in the future of this piece of heaven.There is a life lesson in that and I remember a TV clergyman named Robert Schuller often saying, “Bloom where you’re planted.” Yep, you’ve got to see what you look at. I keep saying that.
November slides on toward winter. Veterans Day has passed. Thank you all for your kind remarks about my YouTube film ‘Swoop.’ I am clearly not the only one who questions what it is we choose to think of on Remembrance Day. A viscous heavy rain hammers down for increasingly longer intervals. Soon it will persist endlessly for days and nights at a time. The bright leaves have been beaten off the trees and now lay on the ground as a dull, slimy carpet. The temperature hovers just above freezing, providing a penetrating, bone-chilling dampness. It will seem warmer when the temperature drops and the humidity is frozen out of the air. Friends are migrating south. I wonder how to deal with the long, dark, bleak cold winter ahead. My only hope is to stay busy and find cheer within each long hour ahead.
“It is more beautiful to hear a string that snaps than never to draw a bow,” is a line from a book titled “The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules,” by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg. The novel is about a small group of geriatrics in a Swedish care home who decide their existence is so miserable that they can only improve things by turning to a life of crime. They reason the worst that can happen is to end up in prison which, they decide, may be a fate better than the one they endure. There are many of us who can relate. I have planned, schemed and worked for years with the intention that by now I’d have ‘Seafire’ somewhere in a Southern Latitude. Palm trees, tepid water to swim in, a simple warm life with a lower cost of living and, the fantasy goes, sustained by my writing and photography. That dream was my entire focus, to the exclusion of other pleasures and satisfactions. I deferred the joy of the moment for a dream. It has not worked out; yet. Although the vision still flickers on, there are waves of hopelessness. Thank God I have my creative endeavours and a sense of humour. I reluctantly mention this, not as a lament, but only as an affirmation to the millions of others at my age who are in a similar situation enduring a despair which is deep and very dark. You are not alone, small comfort that may be. I have been actively searching for employment but no-one seems inclined to hire a man with a lifetime of skills and experience which younger workers could learn. The damnedest thing is, despite health issues, I am still vital and don’t feel at all a senior. There is a lot we old farts can contribute.
How a culture treats its young and its seniors is a pulse-taking of its general health. And, we’re sick! Both the old and the young are the future of a society. The young have the energy and the elderly have the life-lessons to pass on and utilize that power efficiently. That is how the human race thrived for millennia. Now we’ve replaced ourselves with gadgets of our own making. Artificial intelligence is here. Stupidity is as prevalent as ever.
Life is certainly not fair regardless of whatever expectations one clings to. My misadventures began with a simple fall of a mere three feet! Bang! That instantly began an ongoing struggle with health and financial issues. Throw in a genetic disposition for chronic depression. That I have endured like this for nearly twenty years has to be some sort achievement of positive thinking. It is painful to feel like an outcast within a system to which you, in your productive years, contributed millions directly and otherwise. And it can always be worse. I could be a geezer in some place like Yemen or Syria or, God forbid, Toronto, New York or …well,the world has a lot of armpits!
I am thankful that I live in such a wonderful place, but it is frustrating to end up like this while all around me I see folks with assets and wealth they don’t know what to do with. They certainly have not earned them, either by working hard, or smart. It’s the luck of the draw and for those of you who have achieved comfort and apparent security, know that it can also all come tumbling down with amazing speed. It is all temporary. All that stuff that you think you own; well folks, actually it owns you. I also know that all the shininess which I catch myself coveting at times, is, in our culture, mostly financed. Folks with no debt are rare and …truly wealthy. It just doesn’t seem right but that’s the way the pickle squirts! However, one of the joys of aging is to know that nothing is forever. “This too shall pass.”And, I muse, there may soon come a time when aged wizards who can sweat and bleed and dig in the dirt to produce food, and who can interpret the lines of tiny symbols in paper books will be highly revered mystics. I won’t feel redundant any more.
How sweet it will be when things finally get better. And, they will!
“The Flat Earth Society has members all around the globe.” … anonymous
Saturday morning. Wigham Cove, Yeo island. I wasted not a minute yesterday afternoon slipping my lines and leaving Shearwater for the weekend. The rain finally stopped in the afternoon after a final vicious cloudburst. I want to savour every possible moment of sunlight. Monday is labour Day and I’ll make the best of my free time. This anchorage is within the archipelago of islands along both sides of Seaforth Channel. It is secure, secluded and utterly quiet. All I can hear is the ringing in my ears, (A memento of a lifetime around noisy machinery) the gentle clicking of my keyboard and the thumping of my heart.
I may be here a while. The electronic controller for my electric anchor windlass failed last night and I’ll have to haul the chain and hook back aboard by hand. This simple breakdown underscores my ongoing mantra about keeping things simple and being self-reliant. This is a mere inconvenience to me, but many people would be desperately unable to look after themselves even with such a simple challenge.
I awoke this morning with a happy realization. In previous times I would have worked well into the night, frantically trying to repair my breakdown and have everything perfectly shipshape before looking after myself. Instead I went to bed. I’ll deal with it this morning. Seaworthiness is one thing, anal naval perfectionism is quite another. I like myself much more like this. I realize that to survive here I must adapt the relaxed perspective of folks who live here permanently. I’m beginning to see that to constantly wring oneself out in an effort to keep life slam-bam perfect is a losing battle. I’ve been doing that for most of my life. It is an insecurity which many fall into and I want to rise above it.
On that note I must add, that despite my often cynical perspectives, there are many people here at Shearwater whom I appreciate and admire very much. They are self-reliant, amiable, have simple tastes, are helpful and also not afraid to ask for assistance. They live peacefully within the embrace of this small community and their own inner self. Of course there are also some aberrant personalities. I’m probably one of those, but generally I have come to accept that being here as a good thing. Survival is an endeavour of assimilating the local environment. There is beauty and goodness everywhere, one simply needs to adjust their personal focus to see it. Harmony, beauty and peacefulness are what we all seek and yet too often have so much trouble accepting.
Saturday afternoon, Oliver Cove. I’m now miles west of Wigham Cove. I’ve turned north at Ivory Island, transited the rock piles that guard the entrance to Reid Passage and am snugly anchored in twenty-five feet of water near high tide. I’m being prudent about anchoring as shallow as possible, I don’t want to hump up any more chain than necessary. I’ll repair the windlass when I get back to Shearwater. For now I have the whole delightful little cove to myself. Even the raven whose call of “kuuk, kuuk” echoed over the cove has left. A few boat lengths away is a perfect-as-possible beach for careening a large vessel. It is known that George Vancouver did that here in the Port Blackney area and I’m confident this is the very spot. There are no others like it. I’ll explore by kayak.
And explore I did. Off I went, feeling a little bit of trepidation at being alone in the midst of a vast wilderness. At that moment, rounding an islet at the edge of the cove, there came a woman in another kayak! I was shocked to say the least. That meeting turned into a lovely evening. After my explorations I joined Sharman and her partner Mike aboard their lovely Arthur Brown trimaran ‘Rauxa’. A bottle of Crabbie’s genuine, wonderful Scottish ginger beer was followed by a fabulous progressive gourmet meal that took us through a wonderful conversation of several hours. They were both mountain climbers and sailors. There was a lot to talk about between new friends in the backwaters of the Great Bear Rainforest.
Returning to my boat in the darkness became an indelible memory. The sky had cleared and the stars lay around me, gleaming reflections on the black velvet surface of the water. The brilliant green glow of bio-luminescence burned in the bow wave of my tiny boat, in the scoops of water cascading off my paddle and in the wake of tiny darting fish. I could have paddled on into that dream all night.
Sunday morning, September 4th. A week since I started this blog. I sleep until after eight o’clock. The tide and the sky are both low this morning. I’m determined to have a lazy day. After yesterday’s exploration of all the little bights in this area known as Port Blackney, I’m confident that the beach I’m anchored closest to is indeed the most probable site used by George Vancouver to careen his vessel. There is one other possible place in this cove but in consideration of a gentle bottom, an easy approach from deeper water, a little open space in the surrounding forest, and sufficient tidal range to lower and raise the hull, this is the spot I’d choose. I’ve written about this place before and I continue to be amazed about the feat of seamanship this underscores. To find this tiny beach, steer a safe way around jagged rocks in while towing mother ship with rowing boats in an aggressive tidal current, make sufficient repairs with the materials at hand, all the while being stranded in a place where the locals weren’t always friendly, knowing where you were only by the chart your skipper had drawn and then extricating yourself and eventually finding your way back home to England; it was an amazing accomplishment for every man on the crew. With all of today’s technology, replicating that event would be a difficult but wonderful project.
As I clattered about preparing my Sundy brunch there came a wonderful hooting just above my mast. A pair of Sandhill Cranes landed in the careening nook and began foraging voraciously. They seemed to accept Seafire’s presence, it was here when they arrived. The huge birds fed and preened unabashedly.
I sat for hours doing my best to photograph them in the dull light, for once coveting a great, phallic telephoto lense. Out of sixty-two frames I kept five. I doubted they’d let me get closer with the kayak. Finally, they rose again into the air with a loud, nasal croinking. They bore away out of sight on their broad, strong wings. Reviewing those photos I am amazed at how well they blend in with their surroundings. If I had not at first heard them, they might have spent their hours on the shore completely undetected. I am feeling a little ill, but I am at peace
here, completely happy in the moment and where I am. The weekend is a complete success.
And then another great day unfolded before me. First I must again offer accolades to the good folks at Seaward Kayaks. This is the finest small kayak I’ve ever owned. It handles nimbly, is stable, comfortable, spacious, fast and rugged. I can haul my half-crippled frame in and out on Seafire’s boarding ladder well enough. Today’s success is due entirely to this little Riot-brand kayak. I’ve mounted a JVC sport camera on the kayak so that in fact the whole boat is a camera base. I know nothing about film-making but have come back with some great footage.
As I left Oliver Cove I noticed a small, circling flock of gulls. Two sea lions were feeding on salmon in Reid Passage. I approached with the camera running and got a great few seconds of footage before I was discovered. There was great alarm and I suddenly realized how vulnerable I was to this pair of massive creatures. Once, when scuba diving alone, I was surrounded by a small pod of these characters. They can become quite aggressive if they sense their advantage. They have huge yellow teeth and are called lions for good reason. I remembered that day. I retreated. I am no sea lion whisperer. One of them surfaced noisily immediately behind the kayak as if to intimidate me. He did.
The island which forms the western side of Reid passage is called Cecelia Island. It’s northern quarter is nearly bisected by Boat Inlet. The inlet is narrow and shallow with a nice safe basin to anchor in but you are trapped there when the tide falls. Today I paddled to it’s furthest end then dragged the kayak to the bay on the opposite side of the island. Two hundred yards of slightly higher ground prevents the northern section of the island from being a separate body of land. There was a well-used trail in the beach grass and I had to be careful not to step in copious leavings of wolf scat. Once afloat again I paddled out into Milbanke Sound. It was calm today with only a low swell and a light breeze. To be out there at any time, alone in a kayak was risky business, and in any harder weather would have been madness. I paddled outside the kelp beds and admired the polished granite foreshore. In a southwest storm the surf pounds thirty feet or more up and into the forest. I recall some vicious passages in this sound while working on the tugs and how happy we were to make our way into the relative shelter of Seaforth Channel.
It is only a mile up to Bird Point and the shelter of the bay behind. It has a broad rocky beach which I’ve admired from afar and have longed to explore. And so today I did. To my wonder I discovered a whale’s skeleton on the beach. There were numerous ribs, a pelvis, the skull and jawbones. I recovered one vertebrae and the cochlea, or inner ear bones. I believe these are the bones of a Grey Whale which is far from being one of the largest leviathans yet they are huge. I am humbled to realize the size of these creatures and their ability to dive to great depths, navigate whole oceans and survive the incessant threats posed by man. I feel privileged to have had this experience.
As I paddled up the bay back toward this anchorage a pair of loons began to call behind me. That sound instantly evoked memories of being a boy in a wood and canvas canoe, long ago, on some North Ontario lake. The roiling gurgle of my paddle and the chuckle of my tiny bow wave sound exactly the same. There is a special wonder, an intimacy with the natural world, which comes from being on the water in a small, light boat. I felt it again today. Returning to Oliver Cove I find an offshore sailboat anchored here. Her name is ‘Cambria’ and she is registered to the port of Whitby, England. The harbour was home port of James Cook. It is also of great significance to me and I have some poignant memories of that distant town. Wow! To find a yacht from Whitby in this remote back water is amazing to me. What a day!
The eastward journey back to Shearwater on Seaforth Channel was uneventful. !t was a three-hour slog in driving rain. As a cap to a lovely weekend I spotted a very large sea otter feeding on a bright fish. He lay on his back, big webbed hind feet sticking up and apparently oblivious to my presence. I was so gob-smacked I forgot to reach for my camera. When I turned back he was gone. These beautiful creatures, once so close to extinction, are making a slow comeback and to see even one is truly wonderful.
Tonight I sit writing within the cozy embrace of the main cabin of my beloved ‘Seafire’. The dinghy and it’s motor have remained aboard the entire weekend. My miles of exploration have been travelled by paddle alone. For the moment, I know peace. Nothing else matters.
“If you can not arrive in daylight, then stand off well clear and wait until dawn. After all that’s one of the things a boat is made for … to wait in.”
I’ve killed my first horsefly of the day. That is the only sign of time’s passing here. The damned things only come out once the temperature has risen to a certain point. Everything else is the sort of silence you can hear. If you think that statement is silly then you’re overdue to get the hell of of town for a while. Of course some folks couldn’t survive without a din of some sort to drown out the voices in their head. I feel blessed to be able to savour solitude and quiet. My voices prefer it like that. It is where I write and think best. The notion of going back to work and mechanical problems and other folk’s agendas and impositions leaves me feeling selfish and anti-social. I like it here! I don’t want to leave.
Last post I mentioned the squeeze put on native people and even the ungracious allotment of reserve land. I’ve dug into my archives and pulled out an old photo of the crumbling edifice at Church House between the mouths of Toba and Bute Inlets. I remember the glow of the light that shone over the entrance to the church.
I was happy to see how that symbol of oppression had finally earned an obvious contempt. But, more than once, that feeble glow in the cold winter rain was a beacon which offered a gentle solace while passing in the dark aboard various tugboats. Then the village was abandoned, the lights went out, the church eventually fell down. Now, right down to the border of the tiny piece of reserve land, logging has denuded the forest. The photo says it all.
I’m starting this blog while anchored in Kynumpt Harbour which, more correctly in Heiltsuk pronunciation I’m told is more like Ki-nump. No matter, I’m most content to be here all alone. I stood in the cockpit with the sun warming my body while eating my morning orange and watching a deer ashore leisurely grazing her way along the forest’s edge above the tide line. She nibbled at the flies bothering her and then de-materialized into the brush as if I’d only imagined seeing her. These are moments of feeling an intrinsic part of nature’s mosaic and its wrong that they be so rare. Then the horseflies arrives.
This harbour clearly houses the site of a former native village and I’ll go exploring ashore in a while. It is located inside a spot named on the chart as Defeat Point. I’ve no idea if that refers to a native battle or some explorer’s navigational flub. I’m beyond it and after yesterday’s debacle the name suits me fine. I worked on the July 1st holiday and took yesterday off in lieu to attend the local medical clinic and to enjoy a three-day weekend. It was a blistering hot day, by local standards, and the wait in the little Bella Bella hospital seemed interminable. I did certainly meet some very nice people on staff there. Finally I bought some groceries, stowed them away and the fun began. The engine started, but without tachometers and any sign of electrical charging. I tightened the alternator belt, checked the wiring harness, decided to replace parts of it, could find no other problem, and started out again. Kapoof! Within minutes, the engine temperature was out of sight. The belt had broken.
The waters here are very deep and anchoring just anywhere is not an option. The tide was taking me toward a steep rocky shoreline and so with tools and sole plates cluttered about, I sailed with just the jib toward a neck of shallower water. It was slow going but I didn’t want to complicate things with more sails and more lines strewn about in the mess. One of my tricks when in such a situation is to let out a hundred feet of anchor chain so that as the boat approaches shallower water there is an audible alarm of the chain on the bottom as well as having ground tackle already down to catch and keep the boat off the beach. That way, I can go about my repairs without popping up topside to constantly check my drift. And so I bent to my crisis. The new belt had broken and flung itself into the bilge. The engine was crackling hot, the air was crackling hot and so was the attack of the horseflies. They love heat, the smell of engine fumes, and sweaty human bodies, especially ones where the victim has both hands fully engaged. New belt installed, charging system still defunct, engine cooled enough to add coolant, off I go again now worried about having enough reserve battery power to hoist the anchor chain.
Yep, you guessed it, kapoof again! The brand-new belt had jumped a lower pulley and jammed itself against the engine. Now I had to pry that out from the hot, hot, hot engine, swatting at flies and cursing the gods in general. I had one more spare belt, slightly heavier than the previous ones and so much harder to install, but all’s well that ends. Greasy, scalded, fly-bitten, I cursed myself for thinking I was any sort of mechanic, for owning a goddamned boat, and for ever coming to this bug-ridden corner of the godforsaken world. I hobbled back to Shearwater but couldn’t bring myself to go to the dock. I was close to parts and extra tools should I need them, good enough! I anchored , out and began to change more wires and connectors, feeling utterly defeated. All’s well that ends. At 9 pm, permanent repairs complete, greasy, tired but determined, I headed off into the lingering sunset, hoping to put the day behind me. It was a good decision.
I realized my bittersweet luck was that I hadn’t found myself in the same situation on some distant rocky lee shore miles from the hope of parts and help. Once again, self-sufficiency is the mantra of the cruising sailor and yes I’ll have an armload of new belts put into ship’s stores right smartly. Murphy will find something else to dump on me. That thought has me alluding to the incredible ineptitude of many of the yachters passing through Shearwater on their way to and from some distant point on this wild, uninhabited coast. However, that’s one of the reasons Shearwater Marine is here and how I make my living but there’s at least one blog due to be written about the amazing ,inability of people to wipe their own bottom in any sort of imperfect situation. HOW do they survive? Well the sun is rising, there is a growing mound of swatted horseflies at my feet and I’ve just heard the wonderful din of Sandhill cranes which must have just arrived somewhere nearby. More later.
The clearing proved to be an old native village and more recently, a logging camp, with old machinery bits on the beach, cherry trees growing in the middle of what was a large clearing. I’m also told that this was once the site of a Nordic pioneer settlement. The mystery is sweet. The ugly evidence of old-style logging (Hand saw and axe) lingers on the hill behind. The self- regenerated forest is very eerie. I may post a blog of those photos alone. On the way back to the beach I picked a hatful of succulent berries on the edge of an old clearing. They were delicious and I savoured them in the heat of the day as well as the cool aroma of crushed ferns under my feet. Now I’m in a place Called Blair Inlet and that too may well deserve a blog for itself. I’m now well beyond Defeat Point and as happy as an old clam can be.
Now it is Sunday morning and the air warms as the tide ebbs. The colours are surreal. My photos cannot capture the glacial-like topaz of the water, the source of its colour is an absolute mystery. The trees add their greens, the sky its blue. The thick ancient forest, as usual, appears dead and deserted but little birds twitter and eagles watch silently. You know a deer or a bear or wolf can appear anywhere at any time. Instinctively one begins to move quietly and cautiously with the hope of a glimpse of wildlife. There is always a sense of being watched. I’ve tried, unsatisfactorily, to photograph a massive eagle’s nest, currently in use. The inhabitants watch over me as I write. I am utterly and wonderfully alone. There is no sight or sound of any other people having been here. No drone of motors on the water or in the air, no contrails, no logging. Just a view of the jungle and ocean the way it has been for a very long time.
Well except for the horseflies. They rise early in the morning and ply their trade of absolute fiendish anarchy throughout the heat of the day. Thankfully they vanish in the early evening. Trying to nap when they are about is impossible. They employ strategies. Sometimes they come alone and attach silently. Other times they have a sonorous buzz. While one distracts you others attack from behind. The only way to kill them is to wait until they settle and lock themselves into a painful bite. Then, if you are quick, you can smack them and feel the satisfying crunch-squish of vengeance. They still seem able to revive if you are not willing to smear them into eternity. They could be called Lazarus flies. Eventually as the day wears on, one is harried to a manic mindless slapping, even at imagined flies. Perhaps they are disenfranchised souls and in their frantic efforts to reproduce, death in battle is an honourable way to achieve a new level in the next life. There’s the name! Isis flies!
This inlet is dotted with many small islets. I suspect they may well have been burial islets. I sense no presence, only a languorous peace. The spirits are content and so they should be. I took a long tour about the area in the dinghy last even until I was off the chart. There is an infinity of inlets, islands, coves, nooks, reefs and bays. In all the miles I meandered, I found two boats anchored in a cove about an hour from here. It’s not an area where I’d want to break down but the overwhelming beauty, and magical light draw you on and on in awe.
I’ll be back.
Everywhere there is an ominous faint smell in the air of woodsmoke from distant forest fires and yesterday’s evening sky held a red tinge. In this present drought the threat of fire is all too real and one can only only pray for rain. (Even bottled water in the stores has become a sold-out commodity.) In Shearwater the crew has checked out the fire trucks in preparedness. My heart tightens at the memories of fighting forest fires. There is nothing pleasant or romantic about any of it. CBC Radio is all we can get here and they have an incessant barrage of reports about the forest fire situation across Western Canada. It seems we are burning up this summer and the drought shows no sign of breaking.
were two mornings this past week when it was cool and foggy. It was amazing how suddenly cheery folks were. The doomer-gloomers have it that this is a sure sign of global warming and we must to change our ways. While we do have to try much harder to be better guests on this planet, the cycles of nature are far beyond our control. There have been years like this before. Meanwhile, it’s swat and sweat while we look forward to the return of steady rain and fog.Then, some of us will be anxious to go south and find the sun again.
I’ve finally be able to get a satellite dish installed so now I have reliable, useable internet which allows me to work as a writer who can now reliability send and receive necessary data. I know, I know, I’m always going on about minimizing our needs and about dependance on external sources. Unfortunately I need to stay in touch with the rest of the world and its frenetic modern pace. While shutting out the rest of the world entirely is appealing, to have a hope of working as a writer, doing research and sending data, I must have a reliable cyber-link. I’ll also confess that having a good movie to watch on exhausted lonely evenings is a fine luxury. And, winter is coming. Already he long lingering light of late evening is noticeably shorter. It was pitch dark by 10:30. Soon enough, nightfall will occur before the work day ends. Movies or not, it’ll be due south
The days have passed in an ugly blur. It has been a week since I began this blog and the weather has been hot and bug-ridden. People have been short-tempered and ill at ease. Work has been a daily drudgery tramping up and down the dock for more tools to look after demanding customers. Oddly, many issues this week have been overheating engines. One small job was to check out a motor in a lovely Kelly Peterson 44′ center cockpit cutter. It was a gorgeous, solid, capable vessel crewed by three women. They have sailed her from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Mexico and then on to these waters to produce an overview of British Columbia’s Marine Parks. Nova Scotia, apparently, does not have a similar program and these women are working to inspire a change to that. Having once worked very long and hard to help save one marine park in BC, I wish this trio a grand success. This is nothing finer than a voyage which is also a mission.
This afternoon the skies have clouded and the temperature has dropped from the mid-thirties to, at present, nineteen degrees. It feels positively nippy. It is a testament to the nature of life on the mid-coast of BC, that the overcast has cheered everyone up immensely. It might even rain soon. YES!
“ The perfection of a yacht’s beauty is that nothing should be there only for beauty’s sake.” …. John MacGregor.