Poised for Flight

Goodbye Edgar
As if in farewell, Edgar watches from his favourite perch

The weather has eased into spring- like conditions and I’ve managed to complete scraping, sanding and refinishing the cap rails on ‘Seafire.’ I’ve used a new-to-me product called Semco, a very expensive teak sealer. I’ll see how it stands the test of time. I’ve given up on my beloved Cetol; it failed miserably to withstand the challenge of an up-coast winter. I feel better now that the worst part of restoring the boat’s exterior woodwork, or “Brightwork” is behind me but there is plenty to do yet. That can be achieved while sailing along.’

Poised for Flight
‘Seafire’ sits ready to go exploring

Seafire’ shows her scars and wrinkles proudly, she’s earned them, and I’ll give her a good clean-up once back in Southern latitudes. I cannot, however, bear a buildup of grunge. There has been a patina of winter filth on the bottom-side of the mast spreaders and on the radar scanner’s cover. A large storm is coming with high winds and heavy rain so I‘ve scooted up the mast this Sunday morning and scrubbed away the green stuff before the rain comes again. Now I feel “Gooder.” Checking my e-mail, I find that friends on their boat ‘Sage’ have hunkered down in a mangrove swamp in Martinique in anticipation of a potential hurricane. You can access their blog “Sage On Sail” through the sidebar on the cover page of this blog. They later posted a quick blog with a note of relief. Their storm threat had passed.

The weakest link.
A very risky way of holding your rigging up. The bent tang of this turnbuckle is holding this bobstay to the sprit, which in turn holds the forestay which holds the mast. It is often the way things get done here.

 

Evidence. It’s actually fish blood, there was more inside the boat as well as prawn heads. In remote areas, police are permitted to use official vessels for personal reasons.
That’s the easy one. This is an autohelm drive motor installed in the binnacle of a German-built yacht. The visible bolt is one of four that have to somehow be  removed. The stainless steel base was bolted in place, then the bolts were welded.
Goodensafe!
Bleary eyes, after a bug-bitten night.
Heiltsuk grow-op. A community garden in Bella Bella. At the time of the next full moon, tiny alien warriors will emerge from their pods.
A lobster boat replica. It is one of the prettiest power boats to come to our docks…in my opinion.

Sunday evening in Shearwater comes with the forecast rain. I was debating about what to do for supper when there was a knock on the boat’s deck. My neighbour has just returned from a successful day’s fishing. He offered me two huge slabs of white spring salmon. Guess what I had for supper and will again tomorrow. There is nothing finer than fresh fish, What a treat!

The squirrelly heist. Learning how to swallow uphill was the hard part.

A week later, I’m poised for flight. ‘Seafire’ is now moored on the “Hobo” dock, a jetty for fishing boats, tugs, workboats, and any transient freeloaders who can find a spot here. Perfect! It is, in fact, a much better spot than where I’ve been. It was made clear that since I was beyond my usefulness and no longer an employee then I could “Git yer pitchin’s and go!” Fair enough, thanks for the memories. What I find interesting is that despite urgent repeated requests to move and make space for a fifty-five foot boat, which so far has not yet appeared, no one saw fit to advise me of the impending blast in the adjacent rock quarry. At one pm I noticed other boats leaving and learned of the coming rock blast at three pm. Last time some rock was shot, one piece went through the end of a house and more bits were found on the end of the dock. Nothing personal, I’m sure, it’s just the way things are done here.

A “Culturally Modified” tree. Cedar bark and planks have been stripped from this tree.
Heiltsuk grave marker, hand-carved board
Returning to mother earth.
Another grave marker’.
Gone but not forgotten.
An ancient petroglyph carved in granite. How did they do it? I’ve just washed it with water to help enhance it’s lines.

 

 

A beautifully painted box left on a grave.
Flowers everywhere
A flooding tide

It is an odd thing, the vagaries of human personality. Most of us have experienced them from time to time, both of our own making and from others. Many folks here have bid me a fond and warm farewell. I’ve been touched by that. Then a fellow here whom I considered a good friend and a solid character suddenly subscribed to a false rumour about something I was alleged to have said. He invented an accusation which others know is raw fabrication. There are witnesses who can confirm what actually happened and whom my accuser won’t approach. I can’t fathom his motivation and thats the big question for me. He wants his fiction to be true. Why? This old bird has to admit to feeling quite hurt and bewildered but life goes on and this will soon be forgotten. I do wonder about the snowball effects of the Franken-monster this guy has created. It will come home to bite his ass. I’m counting the days until the end of the month when I leave this place. There is a tension and darkness in the air here which no-one can define and yet most readily acknowledge. Even without my health issues, I believe I’d move on.

Salmon Berry
Flowers becoming berries

The ‘Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz is an outline of Toltec dogma. One of those agreements is to be impeccable with one’s words and for the responsibility of the good and the harm they can do. Another agreement is to not make assumptions. It is just too small a community here to wilfully create acrimony and invent false scenarios. I’ve made some wonderful lasting friendships here, and despite the corporate ineptitude, I hold many fond memories. I won’t miss the bullshit but this country will always have a piece of me. It seems sad to leave on such a sour note. So, the other two agreements are to always do one’s best and especially for me at this moment, to take nothing personally. Enough said.

Meanwhile the weather has turned gorgeous. It is clear and warm. Summer solstice passed a few days ago and my first horsefly of the summer has been swatted. I’m spending the weekend tinkering and cleaning on the boat and simply defragging. Today I found a very old friend on the dock. ‘Shukran’ is a boat I loved over twenty years ago. She’s a Fisher Noreaster 30, one of the biggest little boats you’ll ever find. ‘Shukran’ was the original name bestowed when purchased new. The owner had earned her price while working on a dream contract in the middle east. Shukran is Arabic for “Thank you”. I looked up her current owner in the restaurant here to commend him for the loving care he has bestowed on one of my passions from days gone by. He was quite pleased at the praise from a stranger.

Shukran

On Sunday my friend Paer and I took a tour around the Archipelago which protects Kliktsoatli Harbour where Shearwater is located. We visited native burial sites, pictographs, beaches and islets where a profusion of flowers and berries grow. We saw what we now think is a female Northern Elephant Seal and then journeyed back to Shearwater; all in about six hours. What an amazing rich area. Up and down the inlets and around the islands there are thousands of miles of natural wonder as well as the secure feeling that this coast is nearly infinite in it’s vibrancy and size. Soon old ‘Seafire’ will meander southwards toward new horizons and unimagined adventure. To know that this wild labyrinth and sanctuary exists will always be a reassurance. That, I think, is the best reason for preserving wilderness; just to know that it is there.

Nakwakto Rapids, One of the world’s most notorious tidal rapids.
It is a poor photo taken through the aircraft window and jet exhaust but you can see why the island in the rapids is called Trembler Rock.
Sea becoming sky, sky becoming sea.

Now at the beginning of the next week I’ve flown south once again for another round of jiggery pokery in the hospital. The flight was idyllic. I napped, waking regularly, looking out on a new vista of the passing scenery. What a fantastic place we live! Tonight I’m sitting at my desk in Ladysmith. My belly is full with Jill’s cooking, Jack is asleep at my feet and the television is on with a program about obesity. What a different world from the one I left this morning. In a few day’s we’ll be aboard Seafire to begin our meandering trip south. What comes next?

Plaque on a Heiltsuk Grave

The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.” Vincent Van Gogh

In A Fog

A trillium in the sun. When you live in the dark dripping Northcoast jungle, seeing real wildflowers is an absolute thrill
Feral tulips picked from a vacant lot on mainstreet Ladysmith.

NOTE: All photos in this blog were taken with my cell phone. Click on any photo to enlarge.

First of all I must confess to providing some “Fake news” in my last blog. I was told the nearest advance polling station for the BC election was in Masset, when in fact it is in Bella Bella. ALWAYS confirm your sources!

I awoke wondering where I was. The room was bright and there was someone in the bed beside me. That, I realized, was my wife. I was home in Ladysmith, not alone as usual in my berth in the boat. There was a strange yet vaguely familiar sound outside. I realized it was the sawmill on the other side of town. I was hearing the clack and bang of lumber in a drop sorter. The sound was from the past, that of a working sawmill, now a sadly rare song of what made this province great. Once, nearly every town in BC had at least one sawmill. A few days ago when my flight was landing in Nanaimo Harbour I looked down into the gaping holds of an Asian ship on the wharf of a former sawmill. It was receiving yet another load of raw, prime BC logs. All the while, fewer folks can afford to buy houses built with BC lumber.

While this is not a political blog I like to get a few jabs in now and then. Right now we are in the middle of a provincial election campaign and one of the hot topics is the lack of affordable housing in British Columbia. That story has now been extrapolated to people living on their boats and pumping raw sewage overboard. In enclosed waters, such as False Creek in Vancouver, doing something as thoughtless as that will certainly draw attention. In places like Shearwater, where I live on my boat, there is no sewage facility on any of the docks, so feeding the crabs is ‘De Rigeur” but , at least, we do have plenty of tidal action to dissipate the DNA from a few boats. In an area of dense population and no open tidal flow everyone will end up with a shitty situation. I’m far more concerned about the oils and chemicals that wash out of our yard in the incessant rain.

I like to preach that the price of freedom is responsibility. If you want to live beneath the, radar,”off the grid,” great! Just quit firing rockets for attention. Don’t do things that piss everyone else off, then demand your right to live as you choose. There is an eternal debate about raw sewage and how it is dealt with. For years in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, filtered sewage is piped out into the Strait Of Juan De Fuca. There is a recurring outcry in the cycle of popular protests about that, although few seem to note that in the vicinity of those discharges is where some really big salmon get caught. It’s the food chain thing; big fish eat smaller fish which eat tiny fish, you know how it goes. Few people seem at all concerned however about all the toxic crap that flushes off of our streets, into the storm sewers and out to sea. The oceans of the world are all in deep peril from over-fishing and every type pf pollution from noise to plastic to chemical and nuclear. Frankly, I see our species treating the whole world as a toilet. Our bowl is running over.

Wreck Beach, Ladysmith aka Dogpatch. When folks in the small liveaboard community find their basements too wet, they scuttle their old hulks on the beach and often the venerable vessels are burned. The debris below the pilings in the background is the ashes of a floathouse lost to fire this winter. Eventually someone else has to clean up the expensive, toxic mess.

Coincidentally the same newspaper page that carried the sewage story, ran a report about a very expensive construction property which has been abandoned. The project broke into an aquifer and now the city of Vancouver is saddled with the expensive problem of containing and diverting the millions of daily litres of fresh clean water into the Fraser River. Um, you know ,…there are many cities around the world that would love to have this problem. Even Vancouver runs out of water in the summer. When life gives you lemons make lemonade, go with the flow. Truly amazing isn’t it? Human beings are determined to try forcing nature to conform to our will and a gift from the Gods is considered a problem.

Today was to be my return to Shearwater after a few days south. An early morning drive of about two hours to Campbell River got me to the airport in good time. The near-empty flight roared into the sky and eventually landed in Port Hardy for fuel after much circling and two aborted landing attempts in Bella Bella. The fog was thick and especially viscous right over the airfield. We probably passed 500′ over the terminal building. So now it’s a day’s pay lost, plus the price of a motel room and meals. Remember last blog’s quote about making God laugh by telling him your plans? We’ll see how tomorrow unfolds.

Tomorrow has become today. I sit in my motel room looking out on Discovery Pass where the fog drifts and lifts and settles. Flocks of snow geese fly northward, low over the water, hooting and calling their distinctive sounds. On an adjacent wall, a woodpecker hammers his way through the wooden siding of the motel’s dining room. I find it hard to photograph the bird through the sifting fog. It is very peaceful. I have a suspicion that today’s game will be called “Hurry up and wait.” We’re here because we’re not all there.

Name that bay! A glimpse of earth before we venture lower toward an aborted landing. It’s so hard being an old pilot sitting in the back!
“Is a flashing bunny a good thing?” The little guy on the right watches cockpit procedure as we buzz Bella Bella a second time..

Looking up from 13,000′ The contrail high overhead represents a few hundred people hurtling eastward
enjoying some sort of lunch and completely oblivious to the speck crossing beneath them. It leaves me feeling very tiny.
Breathe! Finally the fog dissipates over Queen Charlottle Strait. We’re passing over a tiny nook known to mariners as ‘God’s Pocket’
Short final, Port Hardy.
With empty fuel tanks and bursting bladders, a very welcome sight.
A sexy airplane nobody wants to ride in. This immaculate Beechcraft Super King Air is part of the BC Air Ambulance fleet. On the ground in Port Hardy.
Phweeeeeeeeep… all night long. The fog whistle at the Cape Mudge Lighthouse across Discovery Passage from my motel room. The Campbell River airport was still fogbound.

 

Snakehead Rock. Sitting on the tidal flat beneath my motel room balcony this large naturally sculpted rock faces the flooding tide and makes it easier to comprehend aboriginal mythology. Even the bird dropping in the eye is perfectly placed.
A lousy photo of a rotten guy. In the early morning fog this flicka hammers out a second condo in the motel wall. Fortunately his union doesn’t endorse working night shifts.

I’d barely finished breakfast when the phone rang to tell me that a bus had arrived to take the Bella Bella refuges back to the airport. At the airport, we were loaded onto a second bus and hauled off to the airport in Comox. After a little more shuffling the passengers were herded toward a waiting aircraft sitting on the far side of the tarmac. The pilots were wrestling with a stubborn fuel cap on a wing tank. It was the same crew with whom we’d flown the previous day and the young captain was showing rising frustration with his ongoing bad luck. I know that feeling. You can’t start cursing and jumping up and down on your hat when there’s an audience of passengers belted into their seats. We were grounded without an airworthy fuel cap. I volunteered my services as a former aircraft mechanic and soon found myself out at the wingtip on a ladder. Letting a passenger tinker on a aircraft is not the way to run an airline but it is wonderful what you can accomplish with a screwdriver and a pair of vise-grips. The innards of the special cap were worn out and jammed. I persuaded it to function for one last time. We flew. The flawless landing in Bella Bella was right on legal minimums in fog and torrential rain. I made a whole bunch of people happy today.

The red thing goes where?
Passengers were beginning to raise concerns as this young pilot tried unsuccessfully to repair a faulty fuel filler cap. I finally went and helped. The aircraft in the background is an Argus, part of the Comox Aircraft Museum’s collection. It was used for long-range anti-submarine patrol.
What a feeling!
Northbound out of Comox,
Bella Bella or bust.

All’s well that ends. I’m back in Shearwater. The heavy rain continues.

The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.”

… Will Rogers

Flying Back To Bunga Bunga

 (No disrespect intended, it’s what some of us call Bella Bella. Bella Coola is Bunga Cunga)

Yes Really!
They’re out there.
Like it or not, it’s spring…and the flowers know.
Well now that I’ve showed you mine…! Another Southern delight for me, Arbutus trees.
The hook. A salmon jaw left over from last autumn’s spawn, hangs at shoulder-height. Part of the annual drama is the distribution of the dead fish. They feed both flora and fauna as their bodies return to the natural world.
Jack’s new ride. He loves it! So do I. My new used 4×4, full-sized crew cab truck, with a V8 engine gets slightly better gas consumption than my previous small SUV and import truck with much smaller engines.
Go figure!
I know you’re leaving. Again! Without me!
Little Boxes. People choose to live in this sterile environment on the water front. It’s all about a view. There was a time when poor folk lived by the sea and ate fish. If I had the price of one of these condos, there would be photos in this blog with palm trees. In three hours I travelled from this warm sunniness…
…This! WTF? It’s officially spring tomorrow. The long white strip is the airfield on Denny Island. We’re about to land in Bella Bella. Kliktsoatli Harbour is reflected in the spinner.
Moments later over the metropolis of Shearwater. Check gear down. You can see the nose wheel in the spinner. The aircraft is a Beechcraft 1900D; a fabulous airplane.
Dodd Narrows. Just out of Nanaimo Harbour we pass the yachtsman’s dreaded southern approach to Nanaimo. Here the narrows have recently turned to ebb. soon there will be nasty whirlpools and back eddies and a current of 6.7 knots. Oh yeah, add some spinning logs and a few terrified weekend boaters!
Trincomali Channel. Looking south through some of the Gulf Islands past Porlier Pass and into far-distant Plumper Sound. A tug tows logs between two deep sea bulk ships waiting to load in Vancouver. The anchorage on the right is Pirate Cove, famous to Westcoast yachters and former home of notorious Brother Twelve.
My old stomping grounds. Degnen Bay below and Silva Bay beyond. Hello old friends all.
“That you Mac, or is it Harmac?” A tired, ancient joke about Nanaimo’s smelly pulp mill. In the distance on the left is the other foul pulp mill in Crofton. In the center is Nanaimo’s busy Cassidy Airport. Ladysmith is just beyond on the shores of Oyster Bay. A fabulous place to come home to.
The curve.
The open horizon has always been impossible to resist for this old pilot and sailor. This view is of the Southern Strait Of Georgia.
South YVR. The floatplane is a DHC3 Otter. I’m sitting in another one. The seaplane terminal is on the Fraser River on the south side of Vancouver International Airport. The terminal is adjoined with a wonderful pub, ‘The Flying Beaver.’
The Otter Office. The panel of an Otter cockpit. When I first sat in this seat, fifty years ago, these aircraft were powered with a thundering radial engine. All instrumentation was analog “Steam gauges”
Modern computerized “Video games and turbine engines have turned a wonderful airplane into an incredible one.

 

On arrival at the YVR South Terminal I flopped my big old wheeled travel bag onto the weigh scale. The ticket agent raised an eyebrow at the readout. I looked down at the bag and said, “Don’t move around granny, you’re almost through.” The young lady raised her eyebrow again and asked with a posh English accent, “You are joking!?” I grinned.

Well, we have to be sure!” I wasn’t actually feeling jovial, I was just trying to mask my dismay about returning to Shearwater. Lately it has not been the magical destination one could hope for; more of a ‘Club Dread.’ As I pocketed my boarding pass, I looked away over my shoulder and said, “Hi Jack.” Then I smiled to the ticket lady. “Nothing like a sense of humour to stir things up at the airport.”

Rather!” But then she began to smile.

I’d ridden the float plane across from Nanaimo with two former neighbours. They were on their way to Varadero in Cuba, a five hour flight from Vancouver. As I edit today’s snowy photo’s back aboard ‘Seafire’ they’ll be sipping mojitos on the hotel patio and watching the sun set over the Carribbean. BUGGA! Some co-workers have quit and left during the week I’ve been away. Will I be next? One of those folks has since been in contact from Thailand. Good for him.

Goodbye Nanaimo. Now bound for Bella Bella the view is west across the strait to Nanaimo and it’s magnificent harbour. I wonder when I’ll see it again.
The letdown. Beginning our descent to Bella Bella, we get a glimpse of a snowy mountain.

There was brilliant sunshine on the south coast today. We flew north over a broken overcast. Near Bella Bella we slid down through a hole in the cloud and began our final descent. I hope I didn’t curse aloud. More fresh snow! Bloody hell! Three hours earlier I’d been watching a woman blow huge soap bubbles for kids on the Nanaimo waterfront in the warm spring sunlight. Now back to this! What the hell? I throw my gear aboard ‘Seafire,’ slam the hatch, turn up the heater and hunker down for the long night ahead. The forecast for the week ahead calls for rain and snow flurries, just like last week. The next light on my horizon will be the Easter long weekend and I’m resolved to gloomy weather then.

Moments Before…
landing in Bella Bella. One of my joys in a 1900 is being able to watch the instruments. An old seat-of-the-pants pilot, I marvel at the efficiency and precision of today’s modern aircraft and crews. They possess an entirely different skill set than mine.
The real thing. After repairs our travel lift is back in action. First up is this locally designed and built offshore sail boat. It incorporates traditional and novel ideas. Built of aluminum, twin-engined, twin-ruddered, it is a floating bomb shelter which I can see sails and works very well. It is a joy to see. There is a great beauty in this practical and capable vessel.

The poor old boat is suffering mightily thanks to the weather. The finish on the exterior woodwork has been seriously damaged this winter. I cannot do anything about it or the other jobs waiting for a little warmth and dryness. The general spirit of the whole community seems diminished as we wait for signs of a reluctant spring. Yesterday morning, in Nanaimo, while walking Jack, a flock of wild swans flew low overhead. They weren’t heading north.

It will be a while until we see them flying over up here.

A bouquet of hope. Surely spring will come some time soon.

Don’t let the same dog bite you twice.” Chuck Berry

After The Crash

Eagle moon January 12th Cold, clear, calm, icy!
Eagle moon
January 12th
Cold, clear, calm, icy!
January First, 2017
January First, 2017

 

In a recent blog I promised that, despite the winter doldrums, I would find something interesting to write about. How about a runaway forklift? I repaired the wiring on a forklift which had died outside my engine shop. Once it was running, I did some final electrical checks and then gathered up my tools. That was when the back-up alarm began to sound. The heavy machine lurched backwards, accelerating as it went. One hundred feet away sat a row of boats. The first two were aluminium work punts and then a very expensive fibreglass sport fishing boat. In horror I jogged toward the impending disaster, my brain screaming “No, no, no!” The punts were shouldered aside, as the smoothly idling forklift zeroed in on the prime target. Fortunately the ground was covered in ice and the trundling attack came to rest as blocking was flung aside and a pile of pallets splintered. One driving wheel spun in useless frustration. I was able to clamber aboard and shut the engine off.

Beep, beep , beep, bee...Shit! The reverse runaway forklift. Thank goodness for the ice. The expensive boat behind the forklift was spared by one inch.
Beep, beep , beep, bee…Shit! The reverse runaway forklift. Thank goodness for the ice. The expensive boat behind the forklift was spared by one inch.
Safety First! The ubiquitous local aluminum punt often requires welding repairs after rocky beaches and stormy seas. Stacks of pallets are a great way of positioning the vessel at the best height. Creak, crack, tilt.
Safety First!
The ubiquitous local aluminum punt often requires welding repairs after rocky beaches and stormy seas. Stacks of pallets are a great way of positioning the vessel at the best height. Creak, crack, tilt.

Collateral damage was minimal and the dislocated punts came to rest an actual one inch from the hull of the grand boat. The forklift controls were worn. As it idled the shift lever vibrated itself down into the reverse position. I made appropriate repairs immediately. In my bunk, I dreamed of the machine launching itself over the end of a barge. The reverse alarm beeped its way overboard and then made a most peculiar sound as the machine sank. All’s well that ends. As the daylight faded a near-full moon rose into a crackling clear sky. Hopefully this heralds the end of our cold snap. It has been a rare event for which we are ill-prepared.

The old castle road. Would you believe a WWII jeep trail through local bogland
The old castle road.
Would you believe a WWII jeep trail through Denny Island bogland?

The weather has now returned to the many shades of grey slanting rain and gusting wind. It’s just another long, tedious day after tedious day on the mid-coast of British Columbia. The broken dock chains have been replaced. Slam-bashing winds have wracked the docks every night since and all is well. Yesterday, despite the cold lashing rain, there were rolls of fog on the distant mountains that had a spring-like look. Perhaps it is just wishful thinking but there really was an hour of sunlight in the late morning. One of the joys of getting older is knowing that nothing is forever and winter will eventually end. The trick for me is to find and savour those brief golden moments.

Winter dream.... When the sunlight is high and warm and long each day. ....Many more sleeps!
Winter dream….
When the sunlight is high and warm and long each day.
….Many more sleeps!

The weeks grind on. Donald Trump is plugged in at his newest ivory tower and even up here, it seems, the world is puckered up in anticipation and dread. Yes, even here in the remoteness of the rain forest. I suspect that in four years we’ll discover his rhetoric was largely empty promise and threat, just like a politician. He will have been forced to acknowledge possession of all normal human bodily parts. His ambition as the world’s next fuhrer will be fully deflated. Simply understand to never, ever trust a fat man with tiny hands.

Any sign of spring is desperately cherished. A moment of sunshine, its warmth on one’s face. I heard geese today. They’re local birds, but haven’t called like that for months. Beneath the docks, billions of herring swarm and glitter. That is a sure sign of good things to come. Today while on a sea-trial out in the bay I saw a huge humpback whale. I’m sure it was gorging on the spawning herring. Later, as I walked back to my boat, I heard two wolves howling nearby. There’s hope!

January Moon Rise The long sleepy wait for spring. Beneath the calm surface, the tides ebb and flood, the herring begin to return by the billion. The year's timeless cycle turns as ever.
January Moon Rise
The long sleepy wait for spring. Beneath the calm surface, the tides ebb and flood, the herring begin to return by the billion. The year’s timeless cycle turns as ever.

Politics is the gentle art of getting votes
From the poor and campaign funds from the rich,
By promising to protect each from the other.”
~Oscar Am Ringer, “the Mark Twain of American Socialism.

Look Ma, no batteries!
Look Ma, no batteries!

Cellos And Chicken Soup

Jury Rig A temporary fix to hold the dock in place until a new chain can be installed.
Jury Rig
A temporary fix to hold the dock in place until a new chain can be installed.

New Year’s Day. Finally enjoying a good sound night’s slumber, after two long sleepless ones, I was awakened by a frantic knocking on my deck at 04:00. Dreadfully ill with a nasty virus, my chest and head blocked with insidious goo, I had finally slipped off to the roar of a rising wind and the rocking of the boat. I sleep well when it’s like that. I was jarred back to consciousness by some folks who were ending a New Year’s Eve party on the float house next door. A vicious westerly wind had risen. The massive but badly rusted chain which held the end of the dock had snapped. My beloved ‘Seafire’ and the boat ahead of us were in peril of being caught in the bight. Imminent danger loomed of being crushed between two pieces of dock. All of the boats here could well become part of a tangled mess on the beach. New Years was beginning with a bang. I groped around in the dark to find my pants.

Life On A Thread The temporary life line which kept the broken dock from folding up on the boats moored to it. 'Seafire' is one of the boats. It is my home at the moment. Most of my life is invested in it.
Life On A Thread
The temporary life-line which kept the broken dock from folding up on the boats moored to it. ‘Seafire’ is one of the boats. It is my home at the moment. Most of my life is invested in it.
 One Thin Line While we wait for some new dock chain to arrive this frayed piece of line holds the life of 'Seafire'.
One Thin Line
While we wait for some new dock chain to arrive this frayed piece of line holds the life of ‘Seafire’ and a few other boats.

Stepping into the cockpit was an instant full-body ice cream headache. Uumph! I puckered up. Damn! I wasn’t going to be of much use to anyone. The wind continue to blow. The best I could do was to forestall various inept efforts by my peer’s attempts after their evening of celebrations. Finally some competent sober talent arrived and all’s well that ends. Five hours later the morning sun in the churning clear sky is just now rising up the masts along the dock. “In like a lion, out like a lamb.” Hope so.

Happy New Year!

 SUSHI! Marine growth on one of the old dock chains.
SUSHI!
Marine growth on one of the old dock chains.
T he Pecking Order Look who came to lunch!
T he Pecking Order
Look who came to lunch!

I went back to work next day in the engine shop by checking our fleet of water taxis and planning the days ahead. The cold wind whistled and rumbled under the azure blue where ravens and eagles hovered in the pure sunlight. It was a glorious day. On the ground I’m still stuffed with flu goo. My chest is honking and burbling like a flock of geese. That’s as close to flight as I can get. But I gasped and puffed my way a day closer to my goals. Large pieces of paper towel emerge clean and fluffy from the clothes drier. All those pockets with paper hankies I did not remove. I believe that’s called recycling. Snot funny! I spread clean warm sheets fresh from the laundry bag on the bunk and flop down on top to savour the fading warmth. I will not be here next winter. That is a promise. (As I post this blog, CBC news airs a report that Greece has temperatures of -10 and a dusting of snow.)

It is the time of year where each day can be a dark eternity. Work is a bleak distraction from other harsh realities. Hibernation instincts are high and it would be grand to simply sleep for the next two months. There are plenty of projects on the boat to be completed. They’ll still be there when the weather eases under the influence of spring. I also have many writing efforts sitting on the back of the stove, slowly bubbling away. The problem is staying awake. I find myself hunched over this computer, slumbering fitfully with my banana fingers keying out several pages of Zs or Fs. I’m napping these words out over my breakfast coffee and catch myself nodding’doing the chicken’ once again. Last night I awoke sitting here at eleven pm, and finally went to bed. This morning I crawled out of the warm bedding one toe at a time.

Finding The Leaks Each icicle marks a flaw in the tired old caulking which won't hold rain water in.
Finding The Leaks
Each icicle marks a flaw in the tired old caulking which won’t hold rain water in.

By week’s end not much has changed. My flu is reluctantly easing its grip but it has left me utterly exhausted. I’m spending this weekend simply resting. Posting this blog is my only endeavour. Possessed with all the ambition of a mudflap, I’ll ignore all the work heaped up in the shipyard and on this boat. I need my ‘mojo’ back. Apparently the entire coast is gripped with a flu epidemic and harsh winter weather. In Shearwater the temperature has risen enough for snow and rain but the forecast for the week ahead includes more snow and descending temperatures once again. The evening twilight does seem to be lingering a few minutes more and there are green buds on some of the bushes.

"I'll go to sea no more." After having their bones picked a final time for any pieces of value, these old hulls will be broken up and taken to the dump.
“I’ll go to sea no more.”
After having their bones picked a final time for any pieces of value, these old hulls will be broken up and taken to the dump.
The Indignity Of Death. Private parts exposed, corpses go unnoticed.
The Indignity Of Death.
Private parts exposed, corpses go unnoticed.

Once, the notion of the Great White North seemed a manly thing to me. I recall winter tent camps, thawing ice for drinking water, starting machinery in the dark in minus forty degree weather. The romance of it all eludes me now. Old ‘Seafire’ was not built for these latitudes. Staying warm and dry is an ongoing challenge. On Saturday morning, seven days into the year, I stay buried within the coziness of my bunk until long after the first broke-back pickup has clattered by.

 Beaking It out A pair of eagles sing a hungry song.
Beaking It out
A pair of eagles sing a hungry song.

There is a road on the perimeter of the bay where the vehicles rattle past. Our roads here are rough and folks seem to like to drive as fast as possible. Destroying a vehicle with abuse and neglect seems to be part of the local culture. Body parts rattle, torn-off mufflers do not get replaced, faulty brakes and worn-out tires are lived with. Some vehicles pass by the engine shop daily to re-inflate soft tires. Headlights are left burned or bashed out despite the long hours of darkness.

A Brilliant Selfie One of the few bright ideas I've had in a while...actually the photo is an accident.
A Brilliant Selfie
One of the few bright ideas I’ve had in a while…actually the photo is an accident.

And so life goes on in Weirdwater. Frankly, I’m feeling as road-weary as the vehicles here. In the last few days, the company has been sorting out derelict vessels and storing them in one corner. They were living, working creatures at one time, loved by someone who used them to make a living. Now they are dead shells waiting for the crush and bash of the breaker’s machinery. Where does a boat’s soul go? Probably the same place mine seems to be heading. After my house chores and cleaning up the boat outside I reclined in the main cabin while a fragrant pot of Avgolemono (Greek lemon chicken soup) simmered on the stove. YouTube streamed various pieces of cello music and I snoozed peacefully. It seemed as good a cure for the flu as any. I’m getting good at doing nothing. In fact I’m thinking of retreating into the deep folds of my bunk and hibernating like a bear. No more postcards from Mexico please. Call me when you see the swans heading north again. Meanwhile, a week later, the broken dock still hangs on the end of a single temporary rope. The wind warning for today is forecasting speeds of up to 100kph. The mast and rigging begin to hum and sing and vibrate once again.

Everyone complains about the weather, but nobody ever seems to do anything about it.”

…..Willard Scott

Not A Drop

Storm Season Mud from our newly gravelled roads goes back to sea with the run-off from heavy rains at high tide. Note the tree branches immersed in the ocean.
Storm Season
Mud from our newly gravelled roads goes back to sea with the run-off from heavy rains at high tide. Note the tree branches immersed in the ocean.

There is no end in sight. The tug ‘Nathan E. Stewart’ still sits on Edge Reef where she ran aground three weeks ago. I took the opportunity of a sea trial on a water taxi last week and ran out to the wreck site for a quick look. That was an impromptu decision and I had no camera along. The seas were flat calm, there was barely any swell. There was also no diesel on the water, not a drop. I’m sure there is residual fuel along the beaches but the ocean was void of any evidence of fuel. Monstrous cranes are stationed nearby and hopefully the recovery of the sunken tug is imminent. I’ve had the notion that perhaps the tug should be left where it is and a beacon could be mounted on it’s superstructure to mark the reef. Of course winter storms would move the vessel into deeper waters but the humour of the thought did not elude me.

All things considered, this situation could have been very much worse. If the heading taken by the sleepy mate had been a bit more to port, chances are the fuel barge would have been rammed into the mouth of Gale Passage. Who knows what effect that would have had. This is an environmental disaster but it is far less compared to what this coast has known. This is diesel fuel which was spilled, it is light, evaporative and not nearly as insidious as crude oil or bunker fuel. There may be long-lasting effects but nothing compared to other possible scenarios. I am stunned at the hypocrisy of locals who cry loudly about the devastation of their axis mundi and at the same time have their arms wide open to the copious amounts of cash being showered on the event. The sums are obscene. Call it hush money if you like, but payback time will come, if only in people’s conscience. One water taxi operator said it like this. At the beginning of this event there were fifty to seventy-five clam-harvesters whose income had been affected by the grounding and the spill. Now nearly the whole village are clam diggers.

I repeatedly use Einstein’s quote about how you can’t solve a problem by using the same thinking which created it. The results of one greed cannot be erased with more greed. Imagine this scenario unfolding during the royal visit of a few weeks ago. Now the Heiltsuk are demanding Prime Minister Trudeau get his butt out here to participate in the show.

Fishing for the big one. This is the first heavy-lift crane barge to arrive and stand-by. It's been here for almost three weeks. Ca-ching, ca-ching goes the meter.
Fishing for the big one. This is the first heavy-lift crane barge to arrive and stand-by. It’s been here for almost three weeks. Ca-ching, ca-ching goes the meter.
And now for something serious! This beast can lift the crack of dawn. Allegedly it is the largest commercial crane barge on the West Coast.
And now for something serious! This beast can lift the crack of dawn. Allegedly it is the largest commercial crane barge on the West Coast.
Perspective. To get an idea of the scale of this machinery, look at the tiny blip beneath the port bow of the service vessel. That is a deckhand wearing his headlamp.
Perspective.
To get an idea of the scale of this machinery, look at the tiny blip on the barge beneath the port bow of the service vessel. That is a deckhand wearing his headlamp. Folks have challenged my report of a daily tally of around $1.3 million dollars. All the machinery, it’s fuel and crews and the local work force don’t operate on love… All of this because a helmsman fell asleep!

It is bemusing to hear of some of the efforts taking place at the site of the sinking. The derelict will have to be dragged across the bottom to deeper water where it can be successfully hoisted. It is sitting in a bed of precious abalone and so the creatures, approximately 120, were all cleared out of the pathway by being chased with a plastic starfish. Starfish and abalone are mortal enemies but with no live starfish handy, a sham was employed. What it cost is beside the point. I am also learning from on-site personnel of wildlife being harassed in an effort to prove the extent of oil contamination. I am disgusted at the determined and blatant determination to turn an environmental accident into an open treasure chest.

This grounding is a stern warning about the consequences of moving dangerous goods anywhere. We have to collectively take responsibility and look for ways to prevent similar and worse catastrophes. On that note I repeat that so long as we each rely on petroleum products, we are part of the problem. We, not them. If there is a demand there will be a supplier.

Happy Harry Heiltsuk, still smiling after his first year. A Fin whale vertebrae is tied on top of the sprit...think I'll make it into a necklace!
Happy Harry Heiltsuk, still smiling after his first year. A Fin whale vertebrae is tied on top of the sprit…think I’ll make it into a necklace!

Here at Shearwater, all is goodness and light…at least for the company. The hotel is full, the restaurant and pub are bursting, even the showers in the laundromat sometimes have waiting lines, the engine shop where I work is busy with maintenance and repair. This is probably the best fourth quarter at Shearwater ever. Fortuitously the weather has been relatively gentle, but the nights are just as long and dark and lonely as ever. I have plenty of writing projects sitting on the back of the stove but after a day’s work I just can’t get motivated to peck away at anything. There are overdue projects on the boat but the supplies I need are in my vehicle which has not yet been shipped from the company’s freight terminal in Port Hardy. Everything is displaced in the name of the spill. The only way I’m going to make it through the winter is to tighten my blinkers and live one moment at a time….and not look at photos of Mexico.

Smart Like Trock! Dah! No airbags. No Heater. no wipers. No back-up cam. Shearwater's illustrious old Pacific rock truck.
Smart Like Trock! Da!
No airbags. No Heater. No wipers. No back-up cam. Shearwater’s illustrious old Pacific rock truck.
So ugly it's beautiful. What character!Imagine the stories this old machine carries.
So ugly it’s beautiful.
What character! Imagine the stories this old machine carries.

This Sunday morning is presently windless and rainless. Fresh rain and condensation drops outside cover everything but this is as good as it gets. I’ll take my kayak and go explore nearby Shearwater Island which helps protect our little harbour. I’ve been told that a former WWII gun emplacement is hidden there. On the CBC radio, a famous author is being interviewed. The term ‘Human Stain’ came up and so I go to find a bit more of that stain. Shearwater was an RCAF sea plane base. I work in the old hangar and walk across the remains of the huge concrete apron. I can show you bomb shelters and remaining perimeter defenses.

Here is how the day went. I was donning my rain pants in preparation for the little trip when I looked out and saw that it was raining. Again! Goddamnit! “Rain or don’t rain, make up yer feckin’ mind!” I screamed to the Sky-gods. I’ll know I am a full fledged-local when I don’t notice these incessant cloud dribbles. I decided to take my little Olympus camera with me. Olympus tried to give it some sort of online upgrade yesterday, which didn’t work. Now I discover that the battery was drained flat. Bugga! Plan F: Go have a shower while the camera battery recharges. Shower uneventful, more cloud dribbles while walking back to the boat. Wash down the boat, fill the water tanks, launch the kayak. Still dribbling. Check e-mail; nothing new. Still dribbling. Off I paddle. Still dribbling.

A Military Evidence Remains of concertina barbwire, a standard perimeter defense from WWII. There are coils of the nasty, rusted stuff here and there around the old base at Shearwater.
A Military Evidence
Remains of concertina barbwire, a standard perimeter defense from WWII. There are coils of the nasty, rusted stuff here and there around the old base at Shearwater.

At the island there is no visible trail as described and I plunge into the jungle which hangs over the beach. The forest is rain-wet and tangled, with windfalls, holes, roots and thick pockets of brush. I find well-trodden paths which suddenly end and then begin again on another tangent past a tangle of windfall. I had an image of concrete battlements with steel gun mounts and perhaps a rusted-out metal helmet. I did not know what I was looking for so I moved slowly, pausing to look in all directions every few steps just as if I were deer-hunting.

A mysterious message found in a fire pit on the island. Does it say Day 57 or May '57? No cigs, No booze. Perhaps this was a rehab center!
A mysterious message found in an abandoned fire pit on the island. Does it say Day 57 or May ’57?
No cigs, No booze.
Perhaps this was a rehab center!
Weird Woods A mutant tree branch
Weird Woods
A mutant tree branch
The Big Fungus almost big enough to sit on. If baked dry then lit on an edge, fungi like this make a smoldering insect repellant.
The Big Fungus
Almost big enough to sit on. If baked dry then lit on an edge, fungi like this make a fine smoldering insect repellant.
Deep woods mystery. Well-used paths then tangled thickets
Deep woods mystery. Well-used paths then tangled thickets
About ten feet across a the bottom, this Western Red Cedar shared the forest with several other beautiful giants.
About ten feet across at the bottom, this Western Red Cedar shared the forest with several other beautiful giants.

There is some evidence of logging, but most trees seemed to have been felled and left. The largest trees have not been touched. I found monstrous spruce and cedars and eventually came to the highest ground on the small island. I found what I can only describe as an old tree fort with some very determined scaffolding which rose up the ancient cedar about one hundred feet. It made sense.

Look up, Waaay up! Remaining timbers from a WWII lookout platform can be seen far up the massive trees.
Look up, Waaay up!
Remaining timbers from a WWII lookout platform can be seen far up the massive trees.
Imagine being posted here and ordered to build this tree fort. it is amazing that so much remains after so many decades in the rainforest.
Imagine being posted here and ordered to build this tree fort. it is amazing that so much remains after so many decades in the rainforest.
I imagined hairy folks in cedar-bark underwear living up there and swinging among the trees on vines. a strange war story indeed.
I imagined hairy folks in cedar-bark underwear living up there and swinging among the trees on vines. A strange war story indeed.

If the notion of defense was to spot attacking aircraft and shoot at them, it would be hopeless from the floor of a rain forest. Having a platform in the tops of massive trees seems far-fetched but sensible. Further research confirmed that the tree fort was the sole fortification of Shearwater Island, that and a perimeter of concertina wire. There were two small buildings and that was it. I wonder if duty at that post was considered punishment or if were it welcome solitude from the regimen of the main base. My writer’s imagination has conjured several possible stories about life at the guard tree. While clambering over the tangled windfalls it did occur to me that I had told no one where I was going. With my creaky old legs and the rough terrain, I suddenly felt very much a fool. I’ve travelled endless miles alone in the forest but I’m no young buck anymore. One misplaced step could begin a nasty misadventure within earshot of Shearwater. Back on the beach where I’d stowed the kayak, the clouds began to dribble again. Once the kayak was lashed down back on ‘Seafire’ the dribbling stopped for the rest of the day.

Electricity and running water, I am told, were among the amenities in a few small buildings at the base of the lookout trees. Here are the remains.
Electricity and running water, I am told, were among the amenities in a few small buildings at the base of the lookout trees. Here are the remains.
A lovely spot near the defenses. Imagine soldiers patrolling this path when it my have been wide enough for a jeep. Note the piece of cedar planking.
A lovely spot near the defenses. Imagine soldiers patrolling this path when it may have been wide enough for a jeep. Note the piece of old cedar plank.
Coral Mushrooms Allegedly edible but with nasty side effects for some folks. I left them where they are. They grow all around the old military camp.
Coral Mushrooms
Allegedly edible but with nasty side effects for some folks. I left them where they are. They grow all around the old military camp.

The day before I took a friend’s dog for a walk. The little guy can’t weigh more than ten pounds and is stone blind. He knows me by my voice and smell and is a tiny buddy. He had one of those reel-type leashes and a little harness. Little Todd could range away from me at will. I took him to an adjacent parking lot to do his business and I became distracted with some equipment left laying on the ground. I did not immediately notice the faint, distant plunk but was horrified to eventually see Todd’s thin line extended over the edge of a fourteen-foot seawall. There, far below me, was poor wee Todd at the end of his leash stoically paddling away in the bitterly cold sea water. I winched him aloft on his thin string, shivering and sopping wet, and took him for a warm bath and a good towelling. All’s well that ends and Todd seems none the worse for wear. There was a time when only large dogs interested me but I’ve come to accept that little dogs can be just as endearing. I’m getting old. Now I’m dribbling dogs.

Todd, my kerplunking dog. Yet he lives, friendlier than ever.
Todd, my kerplunking dog. Yet he lives, friendlier than ever.

Halloween Monday, the end of October. I wore my greasy coveralls and by midday I was my usual apparition with tousled hair and grease-stained whiskers, a wrench clenched in a big, gnarled hand that looks like a blackened bunch of bananas. As usual I was dragging a semi-crippled leg and muttering about a lack of parts. It was just another day in Weirdwater. Now we are already a tenth of the way through November. For the second night a full storm rages. The boat dances frantically on it’s lines. The rain is pelting by in sheets. Last night the dock began to break up. Other folks had float homes break loose and drift away into the darkness. As I write the boat now lurches desperately against her lines and there are frightening, violent noises coming from the dock. The whole boat shudders like a sobbing child. I shouldered the doors open to see what had happened but I could see little in the bulleting rain. The dock and the boat are still in approximately the same place and all I can do for the time being is hope. It will be another long night.

A few miles to the west the foundered tug still sits on the bottom, grinding itself to death, becoming part of the earth again from whence it came. Three weeks have passed since she struck the reef. The massive crane barges were moved into place to retrieve the wreck but were promptly recalled with a new forecast of these bumper to bumper massive storm fronts. The suspense is killing us.

Thursday morning, 9AM Bleeech!
Thursday morning, 9AM
Bleeech! I took this photo while peeking out of the shop door.

 

This is our land and they’re treating us like dirt.”

                          … Lakota Sioux defender at Standing Rock, South Dakota

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.

All’s Well That Ends

The prince is coming! The prince is coming! They didn't put up any nee flags when I showed up.
The prince is coming! The prince is coming! They didn’t put up any new flags when I showed up.

 

Shearwater Central Common This is a tribute by the owners to the location's history as a WWII RCAF seaplane base. it was a photo of the flying boat that helped to first entice me here. Note beautiful Heiltsuk art on the left.
Shearwater Central Common. This is a tribute by the owners to the location’s history as a WWII RCAF seaplane base. it was a photo of the flying boat that helped to first entice me here. Note beautiful Heiltsuk art on the left.

Have you ever looked up at the sound of an airplane and instead seen a bird? I suppose it’s happened to most of us. I find it hilariously funny. I’ve heard starlings making a perfect imitation of an eagle which amused me immensely. A friend of long ago had a huge, geriatric macaw which used to declare “I can talk, can you fly?” I smile at even the thought of that. Aviation is in my blood. It has been so since I was a small child and I always look up at the sight and sound of any aircraft. I have no control over my instinct. Today I heard a beaver floatplane and looked up to see a seagull. Yep, I laughed and I can’t explain why. Then we had a sunny day and my eye caught a seagull high in the clear sky that was motionless. It turned out to be a drone. What the hell? For some reason that offended me.

A spectacular annual event as thousands of Sandhill Cranes migrate south. These birds have a six foot wingspan and a loud haunting call. Few people notice.
A spectacular annual event as thousands of Sandhill Cranes migrate south. These birds have a six foot wingspan and a loud haunting call. Few people notice.

That day’s weather was flawless. The afternoon passed under a clear sky and several flocks of Sandhill cranes passed high overhead. I looked up to all I heard in the sky. Three large flocks of migrating cranes passed low overhead, all calling raucously and impossible not to notice. A few people stood on the dock, all engrossed in texting on their mobile phones. No one looked up. No one noticed this marvellous spectacle of nature. How sad! Even here, away from any urban din and bustle, folks still can’t absorb the grandness of a wilderness that so many others pay handsomely to come and hope to see.

The gringos are migrating south too. This beautiful double-ended steel motor cruiser is home to two. Her name is 'Constant' I wonder if the tender is named 'Never.'
The gringos are migrating south too. This big beautiful double-ended steel motor cruiser is home to two seniors. Her name is ‘Constant’ I wonder if the tender is named ‘Never. That’s little old ‘Seafire’ in the background.

 

The 'Serengetti' St. John, USVI Their dinghy is on the left. I assume they are in quest of rustic wilderness charm.
The ‘Serengeti’ St. John, USVI
Their dinghy is on the left. I assume they are in quest of rustic wilderness charm. This look-at-me floating plastic palace did not have enough cash left over for a Canadian courtesy flag.
So where's your regulation stern light? The 'Serengeti' after dark. The clatter of the generator which kept all those deck lights burning went on all damned night.
So where’s your regulation stern light?
The ‘Serengeti’ after dark. The clatter of the generator which kept the signboards and all those deck lights burning went on all damned night.
Boats of a feather seldom flock together. 'Serengeti' and tender in background, RCMP patrol catamaran 'Inkster' on right, and that's me in the corner. 'Seafire' with a whale bone on her sprit above Happy Harry Heiltsuk.
Boats of a feather seldom flock together. ‘Serengeti’ and tender in background, RCMP patrol catamaran ‘Inkster’ on right, and that’s me in the corner. ‘Seafire’ with a whale bone on her sprit above Happy Harry Heiltsuk.
The winner...and the loser. Shearwater held a cardboard boat race. This was the only entry. It took all the cups.
The winner…and the loser. Shearwater held a cardboard boat race.
This was the only entry. With two paddlers it took all the cups.

On another note of modern mindlessness I just heard a story on CBC radio that I had to check out. Established in 1819, that’s 197 years ago, the Arva Flour Mill in Southwestern Ontario has operated continuously without any accidents. It is the oldest water-powered mill in Canada and should be considered a working museum. The Feds have recently inspected the mill and declared that the mill contravenes several points of the Canadian Labour Code and must close down. Can you believe the idiocy?

The website is www.arvaflourmill.com and there is a petition to sign for support of the mill remaining in business. There is a lovely short video about the history of the mill. It certainly tugged at me. I suppose I have a bit of an affinity for this story because the tiny village where I first lived after my birth, Kilbride, in Southern Ontario, had a wonderful water-powered mill. It burned down in the 1960s but I remember the huge wooden shafts and crude hardwood gears all joined by long flapping belts. The mill ground flour, sawed lumber and, if my memory is accurate, also had a machine shop and blacksmith’s forge. It was a very “Green” operation. I can recall that even as a young boy how fascinated I was to see such industry powered by one small stream. I am convinced that in many ways our culture is regressing. We achieved so much with raw intellect before we became addicted to computers.

The organic mechanic and a cyber Neanderthal. "Wot's a compuder?"
The organic mechanic, a cyber Neanderthal. “Wot’s a compuder?”

The modern diesel engines I work on sometimes have up to three separate computers. Last week I worked on a Gardner diesel that was at least fifty years old and going strong. I don’t believe it has ever been rebuilt, can be hand-started in a pinch, has great fuel economy and guess what?… It has no computers!

I’m bemused here in Shearwater at the number of people, both visitors and locals, who indulge perpetually in texting. Some folks can’t seem to walk anywhere without their heads down while poking away at some sort of cyber device. I’m amazed that someone hasn’t stumbled right off of the dock. There was a time not so long ago when people knew how to write letters and were able to hold a conversation with each other in person in real time. I have sat in a restaurant and actually watched a group of teens text each other across the table. I’ve watched a young mother with head down and thumbs flying as she heedlessly pushed her child in his stroller out into rushing traffic. Now there is a concern that public school curriculums include something called ‘coding.’

As we become increasingly detached from our fellows we also seem to loose our regard for other people. In the past week, at Shearwater’s guest dock, I’ve lost a lot of sleep due to other’s rudeness. One night a mega yacht’s generator throbbed relentlessly. Another night the vessel across the dock from me had a large furnace which spewed fumes from a thundering exhaust pipe. On yet another night in the wee hours, a shouting family with a squalling child held a prolonged conversation in the cockpit. Yesterday I spoke harshly with another gormless lout who, for some reason, delighted in leaving his twin unmuffled Detroit diesels at a fast idle for prolonged durations. He couldn’t understand or care that the din and the stink would offend anyone. Finally, the wiring at the worker’s dock was installed and here I am, having had a night’s sleep uninterrupted by anyone else. The wind blew as forecast, shrieking and shaking the boat horrifically; the rigging clattered and moaned. I fell asleep like a happy puppy. The wind quit, a few hours later. I was instantly awake.

On Monday Bella Bella will endure a brief royal visit. It is bringing out the utmost in local foolishness. Shearwater and Bella Bella function as a single community and the water taxis I help maintain are the link between the communities and local areas. Union Jacks are now flying and the flagship of the fleet, the ‘Clowholm Spirit I,’ has been reupholstered, had new name decals and local art applied, has had the upper deck refitted as a promenade deck complete with chairs and umbrellas and two huge British flags. I have a nagging doubt about the vessel’s tipping stability once it is loaded with all that royal meat up top. Can you imagine if the boat rolled over? Remember what happened in Tofino last year? How many drowned? The aspiration, of course, is for a little incidental publicity for the company. Chances are it will be raining and blowing like hell come Monday and the boat will stay at the dock. Each of the three engines in this boat has three computers which we’ve disconnected to prevent damage while the upper deck accoutrements are welded in place. These computers are somewhat fickle and once they are all reconnected they may well have to be reconfigured before the engines will even start. One of the local jokes is about how we know the union jacks are not being displayed inverted. I’ve suggested finding a few dozen of those bullet hole decals and applying them all over the boat. I’ll possibly end up in handcuffs if I don’t keep my cynical perspective under a lid.

The Royal Barge. 'Clowholm Spirit I' being fitting out for her few minutes of glory transporting the royal flock a few miles down Lamma Pass. The building in which she sits is the one remaining hangar from WW II.
The Royal Barge. ‘Clowholm Spirit I’ being fitting out for her few minutes of glory transporting the royal flock a few miles down Lamma Pass. The building in which she sits is the one remaining hangar from WW II Shearwater.
A work in progress. A local Heiltsuk artist decorates the 'Clowholm' with an eagle and a kermode bear. It is beautiful even when half-finished.
A work in progress. A local Heiltsuk artist decorates the ‘Clowholm’ with an eagle and a kermode bear. It is beautiful even when half-finished.
Promenade Deck B. An impromptu effort at royal accommodation. I have an image of Princess Kate clinging desperately to an umbrella as a blast of wind and rain whisk her off and up into the mountains.
Promenade Deck B. An impromptu effort at royal accommodation. I have an image of Princess Kate clinging desperately to an umbrella as a blast of wind and rain whisk her off and up into the mountains.

It’s amazing how folks who otherwise wouldn’t give a toss are suddenly falling-down gaga about two baby-faced descendants of an empire which tyrannized our aboriginal people and resources. There are ongoing endeavours about freeing ourselves of the remnants of that oppression. Suddenly we’re on our faces to worship two ambivalent characters who have all the same bodily orifices which we do. I’m sure they’re lovely people and we could find something to laugh about over a beer or two but I would not want their job. It must be a horrible life sentence of always being watched, adulated, protected, scrutinized and organized. I do hope it all goes well, but really, I just don’t get it.

The hotel here at Shearwater has over eighty guests this weekend who are all part of the entourage supporting this hours-short visit by Prince Billy and his wife Kate which won’t last more than half a day. I’ll bet they’d probably prefer to simply bugger off alone and do a little fishing, even if it’s pouring rain. That would probably allow them a much clearer perspective on what this region is really like. They might even see some wildlife without the hordes tagging along. There has been a security force lurking about for weeks which probably has enough troops and weapons to start a war. We’ll never know how much money goes into a brief visit like this but I’m sure that if the same amount went into a lasting community improvement it would be significant. While all of the fuss and frenzy unravel, I’ll be head-down in someone’s bilge.

Poop Tank Peek While working on this sewage system I needed to take a photo for the dealer. Somehow my mobile took pictures both ways at once.
Poop Tank Peek
While working on this sewage system I needed to take a photo for the dealer. Somehow my mobile took pictures both ways at once.

As I edit this blog, CBC radio is playing a live broadcast of the royal arrival in Victoria. Military bands toot and drum and fire their guns, people hoot and whistle rudely, rhetorical speeches blither on and on. Then the prince regurgitates the words written by someone else. Tears gush down many legs I’m sure. I’ve just plugged in a Stan Rogers CD. Now there’s some real “Oh Canada.”

Blue skies and bluebirds.
Blue skies and bluebirds.

Hardly anyone recognizes the most significant moments of their life when they happen.”

… W.P. Kinsella

Odds And Sods

 A Brief Respite. As I was posting this blog, a bright reflection appeared on my computer screen. It was this break in the clouds. Three minutes later, the rain whooshed down again.

A Brief Respite. As I was posting this blog, a bright reflection appeared on my computer screen. It was this break in the clouds. Three minutes later, the rain whooshed down again.
Waiting for fish. "Fog...The sea silently becoming air. The air silently becoming sea." Ray Grigg
Waiting for fish. “Fog…The sea silently becoming air. The air silently becoming sea.” …Ray Grigg   (Both frames taken from ‘Seafire’ while at the dock.)

There came a rumble. Damn! He’s at it again. The few kilometres of road here on Denny Island are rocky and potholed. Mufflers are inevitably shaken loose and so the din of passing vehicles is a familiar sound. After a while, you get to recognize each vehicle’s unique noise. Now it’s this guy again. This early? C’mon dude! And so I got out of bed, one toe at a time. An albino garden slug emerging from his slimy lair. It was dark and hammering rain. Bugga! I’m in no mood for this.

The Fix. Courtesy, Shearwater Muffler and Exhaust
The Fix. Courtesy, Shearwater Muffler and Exhaust.

The rain stopped, the sun rose in a clear sky and then fog crept across the bay..

We’ve had two sunny days back to back this weekend. I should have been working on my boat. The exterior wood work is screaming for attention. However after a gruelling week in the shop I worked all weekend running a wheel loader stock-piling gravel. A large barge delivered 8000 cubic yards of fine gravel to upgrade the roads here. An experienced operator was needed and I was soon reminding myself of how I ruined my back. I’ve spent too many years running big yellow machines in years long past. Now I’m a wreck, in large part, due to the bashing one receives while sitting in a piece of heavy equipment. I’ve got a bit of a cold and feel weary and ragged. We have another sunrise this morning. Before the crack of dawn the gill net fleet left the dock for another fishing opening. There was the usual cacophony until finally I was on my feet groggy and grumpy. Now it’ll be back to my wrenches in a few minutes and I’m not in the mood. In my spare time, I’ve also got to sort out a problem with my windlass. I hate it when my beloved boat is not fully seaworthy. Well, as the British say, “Keep yer pecker up!” I can’t imagine being on this island without the means to leave fully within my grasp. The notion of that option makes daily realities much easier to endure.

THE BARGE. A wheel loader on the barge dumps gravel onto a conveyer which dumps onto a smaller barge where an excavator loads the gravel into trucks which forward it a few hundred metres to me where...
THE BARGE. A wheel loader on the barge dumps gravel onto a conveyer which dumps onto a smaller barge where an excavator loads the gravel into trucks which forward it a few hundred metres to me where…
...I pile it as high as I can . This requires running the loader up into a near-vertical position. If I screw up, the loader flips over. All's well that ends.
…I pile it as high as I can .
This requires running the loader up into a near-vertical position. If I screw up, the loader flips over. All’s well that ends.
Shearwater Terminal...such as it is. The ferry 'Nimpkish' is on it's dock and the tug 'Jose Narvaez' waits for us to finish unloading the barge.
Shearwater Terminal…such as it is. The BC ferry ‘Nimpkish’ is backed onto it’s dock and the tug ‘Jose Narvaez’ waits for the barge to be unloaded..

 

Yesterday afternoon a large flock of Sandhill cranes circled and called raucously to other birds resting in the bogs far below. The sun glinted on their wings and I ached to be up there with them, south bound. The only way to survive this ordeal is to bury one’s soul and plod on toward the flickering light of a dream. It is really no place for a sensitive, creative character to be but I’ll continue to function as a bilge ape until I can find an easier way to progress toward a sensible (for me) existence. There are other lumps in the fan which I can’t discuss and it is very hard to stay positive. Damn! I haven’t been back here for a month yet and the gloom is closing in.

 anchore blues. This old CQR anchor on the bow of a charter boat, has definitely earned it's keep.

Anchore blue. This old CQR anchor, on the bow of a charter boat, has definitely earned it’s keep.
The Autopsy. Part of a Volvo Diesel engine wiring harness after an electrical fire. Each engine has three computers to the utter despair of this old fart.
The Autopsy. Part of a fried Volvo Diesel engine wiring harness after an electrical fire. Each engine has three computers to the utter despair of this old fart.
Shearwater AC electric outboard. Warrantied to the end of your cord. for a slight extra fee we can provide you with a generator.
Shearwater AC electric outboard. Warrantied to the end of your cord. For a slight extra fee we can provide you with a generator.
Electrolysis on the hobo dock. A mish-mash of electrical cords like this is a sure-fire invitation to electrical disaster. That's the way it is done in Shearwater and... Mumbai!
Electrolysis on the hobo dock. A mish-mash of electrical cords like this is a sure-fire invitation to electrical disaster. That’s the way it is done in Shearwater and… Mumbai!
A piece of baleen. Instead of teeth most larger whales strain their food in through baleen. This was found near the whales bones shown in a previous blog. Local knowledge reports the skeleton to be that of a Fin Whale.
A piece of baleen. Instead of teeth most larger whales strain their food in through baleen. This was found near the whale bones shown in a previous blog. Local knowledge reports the skeleton to be that of a Fin Whale.
My D-I-Y video camera mount on my kayak. a fishing rod holder and some scrap plastic did the trick
My D-I-Y video camera mount on my kayak. a fishing rod holder and some scrap plastic did the trick.

Monday proved to be a sunny day, all day! Despite being dead weary from my weekend heaping gravel I put in a full day at work. Then back at home on the boat I finally found the gremlin in my windlass wiring and sorted it all out. What a relief! An anchor is a vital piece of equipment, especially in this huge wilderness area. Without reliable ground tackle a boat cannot stop for rest, darkness, bad weather or any other reason. There are no docks or marinas, anywhere. There are plenty of places to anchor. Now I’m free to leave any time I want and my sense of entrapment is gone. I’ll sleep much better tonight.

A heavy plankton bloom has appeared here. The water is a dark beef-boullion brown. One local wit seriously intimated that the paint-like quality of the water was a direct result of the transient fishermen pumping out their toilets into the bay. Heh dude, shit happens, and global warning is not responsible for the bloom. Nature offers no concrete agendas, live with it. In a few years our paranoia may well be about the next advancing ice age. I can hear indignant bristling as I write this but I have a reluctance to bend with popular trends and I’m aware how our sensibilities warp with the influence of external persuasions, informed or otherwise. At least ask questions; do your own research. Don’t hang your life on someone else’s uninformed opinions.

The bloom> when condition are right, there is a massive over-abundance of plankton in sea water. It isw called a bloom and may be red, green, yellow or brown. It is an entirely natural phenomena...don't eat local shellfish until long after a bloom has passed.
The bloom
When conditions are right, there is a massive over-abundance of plankton in sea water. It is called a bloom and may be red, green, yellow or brown. It is an entirely natural phenomena…don’t eat local shellfish until long after a bloom has passed.

And so writes a solitary man in his boat at the end of the dock in the night and the driving rain. It’s mid-September and there will be seven months of this existence before spring arrives. There are people who sail to the Arctic and Antarctic to be deliberately frozen in for up to ten months of Polar winter. Whatever they run from or toward I have no idea. I do understand that solitude and loneliness are two different things. On this Friday evening I sit here peering out through the boat’s rain-streaked windows to the pub at the head of the dock and know that I don’t belong in that world. I am thankful for that. I’ve telephoned home and I’ve also telephoned my sister. I’m despondent, perhaps because of those calls. I’ll shortly go to bed with my self-pity for company. Thank God for books to read.

I’m not complaining, just explaining. I chose to be here knowing full well what the circumstances would be. When I feel loneliness it is always in the near-by presence of other people. If, tonight, I were in some God-forsaken anchorage in the surrounding Great Bear wilderness, alone with only the wind and the rain for company within a three-dimensional infinite blackness, I’d feel fine. I would even savour the experience, feeling harmony and peace there.

In the morning I awake to the still-drumming of rain and the throb of idling diesels. The din goes on and on. I crawl out of my bunk into the thin smudge of daybreak to happily discover that the fishboats across the dock have left. I have an unlimited panorama of the bay and the rugged mountains beyond. Seconds later another gillnetter arrives and stops-up immediately abeam. There was two hundred feet of empty dock. He apparently needs to be as close as possible and in the middle of that space. There is an unwritten rule of seamanship which says you take up as little space as possible at a dock and you do that by tying your boat at the end, not middle, of any available space. After securing his boat this guy stands on the dock peering into mine. He doesn’t grasp that I’m sitting three feet from his bleary eyes writing about what a gormless jerk he is. Finally he goes back aboard and pulls his window curtains. I’m going to change oil in my engine today and that will require running it for a long while first. Ha!

As I write, CBC news is on the radio. I learn that WP Kinsella has just died. He usually wrote about baseball which does not interest me at all yet he is one of my favourite Canadian authors because of one book, ‘the Miss Hobbema Pagent.’ Long before it was cool, Kinsella was bridging the gap of our ignorance about First Nation’s reservation culture. This is also the week that ‘HMS Terror’ has finally been discovered after a centuries-long quest for the missing Franklin expedition. ‘HMS Erebus’ was found two years ago and now her sister ship ‘Terror’. This newest find reveals a vessel very much intact and there will be years of nautical intrigue as we learn details of what is aboard the vessel.

Two serious cruising boats. In September, long-distance boats head south after up to a half-year in Alaska. The blue steel boat is a design called a 'Diesel Duck' my ultimate dream boat.
Two serious cruising boats. In September, long-distance boats head south after up to a half-year in Alaska. The blue steel boat is a design called a ‘Diesel Duck;’ my ultimate dream boat. Imagine if Franklin had boats like these!

The day drags by, I change my engine oil and put everything shipshape in the engine room. I’m good to go. As I work I still listen to CBC North, the only radio station here. There is endless rhetoric about the Trump and the Frump. The idiocy leaves me content that that madness is far away from here. I’ll accept the insanity at hand. The rain continues.

Success is getting what you want, happiness is wanting what you get.”

…W.P. Kinsella

Ah The Light!

So the she says...
So the she says…
Back in Shearwater again with a little organic rigging. This boat sank at the dock.
Back in Shearwater again with a little organic rigging.
This boat sank at the dock.
Here's why! A sprung plank.
Here’s why!
A sprung plank.

Sunday morning. August 28th, pouring rain, the heater is on. The forecast is for rain continuing into the days ahead. Summer, it seems, is over here in the Great Bear Rainforest. The salmon need the rain. It raises water levels in the rivers and streams where they spawn. Soon they’ll able to swim to the place of their beginning and repeat the drama and magic of life’s timeless cycle. Dampness has become my bane as I age but I hope the rain continues and the fish can spawn successfully before they are harvested by commercial fishermen hovering at river mouths and prime spawning routes. Every dry day from now on will not be taken for granted. In the soggy gloom dock lights began flickering on before eight pm last night. The boat’s exterior bright work needs attention before winter sets in. There will be leaks to repair. That will all be done in a state of urgency. There may be a reprieve which we call “Indian Summer” but moments of dryness are becoming precious. My old bones aches from the dampness which hasn’t even begun yet. This old pagan is praying for a miracle.

On the dock, a small herd of Fisheries officers are knocking on the hulls of boats. I’m assuming they are checking for licenses and any infractions. I’m staying out of sight. Their presence raises a pointed horn on my forehead. I hate goon squads. They are imposing themselves for the sake of being seen. The handguns on their hips are certainly prominently displayed. I’m sure that this year, as happened last, during the season of rape and pillage by the sport fishery, a DFO officer was a rare sight. That frenzy is now coming to an end and it’s safe for them to come out. The sport fishing industry on this coast is huge. It is a raw resource being exploited to death but we don’t want to ruffle the feathers of certain big birds. When I see sport fishing clients arriving by helicopter and stumbling down the dock while still busy texting, I know they are not here to savour the wilderness and the sanctity of the “Great Bear Rainforest.” They’ll pay big bucks to ravage fish stocks for a photo of a pose with a really big lunker to hang on the office wall back in the ivory tower. Then they’ll leave.

Thunk, thunk, thunk, all over but the drinking. Another four inches o f water would have allowed this boat owner to continue without grief.
Thunk, thunk, thunk, all over but the drinking. Another four inches of water would have allowed this boat owner to continue without grief.

Other countries have developed very successful sport fishing industries with catch and release programs. Here, we’ll take voraciously until (to many folks) this apparently infinite resource requires being “Managed”…just like the East Coast. There is a small commercial opening tomorrow and bureaucracy has to make it’s appearances. “Ah shaddup Fred, if you’re so damned smart, what the hell are you doing up here at all?”

That's me in the corner. Seafire is rafted alongside a beautiful J-boat which is rafted to a plastic palace.
That’s me in the corner. Seafire is rafted alongside a beautiful J-boat which is rafted to a plastic palace.

The other flap here is an impending visit by British Royalty. Harry and Kate will pass through Bella Bella for a few hours next month. Yep, more posturing and appearing. Apparently their entourage will be billeted in the small hotel here in Shearwater. Police are swarming all over already. Swat teams are practising whatever it is they think they need to practice, RCMP boats of all sizes meander around the docks and serious-looking dudes in sunglasses stroll around trying to look purposeful, which is bloody hard in Shearwater. When asked “What’s up?” their standard answer is, “Don’t know. Nobody tells us anything.” I’ll have to be wary of not being tasered or shot for having a deadly-looking wrench in my hand. Then they’ll leave.

This came as a tip from a happy customer. There's plenty of Coho here to keep me eating for a long time.
This came as a tip from a happy customer. There’s plenty of Coho here to keep me eating for a long time.

On the radio, CBC drones on with yet another bleary interview. This one is about senior’s co-housing. Then I hear the words, “Social isolation can be deadly. Loneliness can kill you. How many of us look at our social portfolio?” Hmmmm! Grrrrr! Sigh!

'Passing Cloud' a BC Coastal icon and as lovely as ever
‘Passing Cloud’ a BC Coastal icon and as lovely as ever.

Passing Cloud 3

Wednesday morning, August 31st. It is still pouring rain, as it has all night and the day and night before. At times, it eases to a mere steady rain and then another deluge roars again. Everything inside the boat is damp and clammy, books, papers, my clothes, condensation under my mattress, even this table-top feels sticky-damp. There’s only eight months of this weather ahead. Then the rain will ease slowly and become a bit warmer. The sea here is tea-brown this morning. Runoff from the forest and bogs around are heavily tinted as the forest becomes sea and the sea becomes forest. It rains so hard at times that wifi signals seem unable to penetrate the thick atmosphere and the internet, such as it is here, crashes.

Humans have survived in this area for many thousands of years and developed a rich culture.I have to steel myself to make it through the day ahead. How do other folks survive and even thrive here?

Got Balls! A rare find, two glass Japanese net floats, about 12" in diameter, encrusted in goose barnacles. Most floats are now plastic.
Got Balls! A rare find, two glass Japanese net floats, about 12″ in diameter, encrusted in goose barnacles. Most floats are now plastic.

A gillnet fleet is residing here again. It’s that time of year when there is oil, beer cans and plastic garbage on the water around the docks. There is always one more boat crashing around in the night with bright lights flashing, engines roaring, someone shouting. They raft to the dock up to four boats abreast. There are parties and then there’ll be fights and so the police will arrive yet again. They’ll loiter about, hoping for a chance for one more opening until finally one day, in a few weeks, the fleet will disperse. Then they’ll leave.

Waiting for fish Some of the gillnet fleet
Waiting for fish
Some of the gillnet fleet

Thursday morning. Still raining. During a lull in the night’s downpour, I dared open the hatch over the bunk, just a crack for ventilation. That was apparently an affront to the rain gods, the deluge resumed with a vengeance and continues into the bleak dawn. A customer with a broken-down boat, waiting stoically while parts are in transit from Sweden, brought me a beautiful fresh Coho. I gorged. The freezer is full of fish. What a treat! We shared some lovely banter, which i always relish. The lady aboard has dropped an N and renamed this island as Deny Island. I love the variety of possible connotations. Then I described myself squirming around in their engine bay like a “Bull in a sex shop” which incited gales of laughter. I’ll cling to my handle for this place as ‘Weirdwater’ located on ‘Debtors Island.’ Most of us are here paying our dues, for thing or another. And so another day passes.

Thursday evening. It has finally stopped raining, not a drop for over three hours. The skies cleared enough for us to have a bit of a sunset. I talk a lot about the rain and the darkness here but it has occurred to me that one of the things I truly love here is the light. That is not only because it seems so precious after days of gloom. I am certain it is due to the ambient humidity but there is a soft golden glow to the sunlight here which provides a unique rich, warm illumination. As is apparent by my photos I love the play of light on mountains and on clouds and water. There is a surplus of that magic here when the sun shines.

If you like rainbows, you've got to go out in the rain.
If you like rainbows, you’ve got to go out in the rain.
A burning spinnaker
A burning spinnaker
Ah the light!
Ah the light!
The fuel dock. They'll put a rainbow in your tank.
The fuel dock. They’ll put a rainbow in your tank.

Boats around me include one from Holladay Utah which proves to be a south suburb of Salt Lake City. On Google Earth it looks like a great place to be from. Twenty feet across the dock from it lays ‘Distant Drummer’ a very shippy yacht called a Liberty which has sailed all the way from New Zealand.

Distant Drummer
Distant Drummer
Used Up. an old workboat slowly returns to the world it came from. Note the log dogs on the bow.
Used Up.
an old workboat slowly returns to the world it came from. Note the log dogs on the bow.

I’m in good company. I’m rafted to a fabulous 65′ J-boat for the moment which is very humbling but, I note, I can go to an inside helm as I choose. Daddy Warbucks has to stand out in the weather to con his beautiful yacht. So there! Soon the transient boats will all disappear and only the inmates will remain on the island.

Late into the night, despite the rain and darkness, he sat and...blogged.
Late into the night, despite the rain and darkness, he sat and…blogged.

The rain began again. It fell heavily, easily, with no meaning or intention but the fulfilment of it’s own nature, which was to fall and fall.

… Helen Garner