Eggnog And Bullets

The Long Way Home Looking south from the air over the Western tip of Denny Island then south down Lamma Pass. I have my doubts about calm seas with the sun in my eyes.
The Long Way Home
Looking south from the air over the Western tip of Denny Island then south down Lamma Pass. If you look carefully, you can see the Bella Bella wharf. I have my doubts about calm seas with the sun in my eyes but this is the beginning of my route homewards.

(Click on images to enlarge)

Another dreary Friday night after a long dull day’s work. Rain, wind, darkness, not much to do, no-one to visit with, (many have already left for the winter) another weekend of aloneness to endure. I refuse to hang out in the pub and descend into that world of hurt and darkness.The weather is too foul to contemplate going anywhere and besides, in another ten days or so, I’ll be leaving Shearwater and heading back south toward Ladysmith. That anticipation makes the days drag by and the terror of what-in-the-hell -I’m-getting-into-next is gnawing at me. Then comes a nice surprise.

My wife calls them ‘Care packages’ and she’s mailed me one. We’ve been apart a very long time and I really appreciate her gifts of hope and promise. Today’s package is in a small but heavy box and upon opening it I discover a small tarpaulin which I’ve needed for the boat, two packs of my favourite coffee, a small sack of curry powder and a fabulous bar of very nice hazelnut chocolate. Delighted, my mouth is soon full of chocolate as I empty the powder into my metal curry box. The sudden sharp tang of the spice aroma blends perfectly with the melted chocolate. It is a new taste sensation, an incongruous blend of the smooth and the sharp, the sweet and the tangy. At the time it seemed very, very good. Try it sometime.

Williwas and Catspaws Another storm arrives in Shearwater
Williwas and Catspaws
Another storm arrives in Shearwater
Surf's Up! A barrel of water slams over the wharfinger's float house. In summer, the boat gringos like to sit on the dock in their deck chairs.
Surf’s Up!
A barrel of water slams over the wharfinger’s float house. In summer, the boat gringos like to sit on the dock in their deck chairs.
4pm under a very rare clear sky. It will soon be dark.
4pm under a very rare clear sky. It will soon be dark.

Eleven am Sunday morning. I used to love storms. We’re experiencing yet another one at the moment. The boat is bucking and squirming against her docklines as usual. The table where I sit writing is gimbaling in all directions, but so is the boat and so am I. It is all relevant. I don’t notice; I’m used to this weather. The day is over for me already, I’ll stay aboard until tomorrow morning. There’s nowhere to go ashore. I’ve already been to the wharfinger’s float house for a haircut. His partner is an excellent barber. Then I went for a huge plate of brunch in the restaurant. I know, I’m a high roller.

I ate while reading a few pages of a novel found in the laundry as the storm raged outside. Williwaws, waterspouts, horizontal cloudbursts and stacking waves are not notable anymore. They are a near-daily fact and I wonder how in the hell I’m going to get the boat three hundred miles southward into the face of this incessant adverse winter weather. There is much speculation afoot about how and if this old fool will make it home.

The staff, busy stringing up Christmas decorations, were happy and exuberant. Their obvious joy left me feeling dull and shrivelled. Tomorrow is the annual company Christmas party. There is huge anticipation, various company dignitaries are flying in for the event; weather permitting. I am dreading the whole ordeal, reluctantly inclined to attend only for a free meal and drink. This is a time of year which once had me feeling warm and fuzzy. Now I am the quintessential scrooge. The entire season seems crass and shallow, a meaningless orgy of superficial consumerism and general silliness. There seems to be little left about family, tradition and the simple joy of sharing. Humbug, dumbug and bumhug!

At the table next to me, five men speculated on the weather for a while then lapsed into silence as each fell to texting on their own cellphone. They had all found a differing weather report on their devices, which I found amusing, then hilarious as they wandered off alone into their personal cyber world. I trudged back through the white-capped puddles into the wind and rain. Now I’m back aboard ‘Seafire’ and settling in for the day. Nine days are left until I leave, weather notwithstanding.

Now seven more sleeps. The intense weather continues as horrific weather systems crowd onto the coast. Storm warnings are constant and of course the wind is all on the nose.

Another Storm Warning The barometer tumbled this low, to 987 mb, overnight. To use some old sailor's jargon, "She's up and down like a whore's knickers."
Another Storm Warning
The barometer tumbled this low, to 9807 mb, overnight.
To use some old sailor jargon, “She’s up and down like a whore’s knickers.”

I’m plodding through my last few days here, a dark comparison to the child before Christmas. I just want to be on my way. Last night was the annual company Christmas party. My trepidations proved accurate. It was a grand effort but an event far from being a ‘Party’. It’s over and the following morning, I am not hungover. I show up at work on time, the loyal good old boy. Perhaps it was good strategy to hold the event on a Monday evening.

A Smell Of Snow The white stuff on distant mountains can be smelled on the wind. It's time to go!
A Smell Of Snow
The white stuff on distant mountains can be smelled on the wind. It’s time to go!

One of the dubious joys here is that the only available public radio station is CBC 1. It is a venue addressing multiculturalism, ethnic minorities, social and political anomalies. It often manages to be incredibly boring, infantile and a master of dissecting moot points. Occasionally, however, there is a story posted which is wonderfully amusing. That is especially so when humour was not the intent. Yesterday morning it was reported that the city of Prince George hosted a training program for folks from remote communities which do not have any ambulance service. These people would go home as first responders. They will be able to provide various life-saving skills such as CPR, mouth to mouth resuscitation, the Heimlich manoeuvre, emergency child delivery and so forth. A good thing I think, especially when the story ended with an account of how this first-aid training had already saved a life.

A man and his wife had both taken the course. They returned home and were sitting down to supper. “We were just sittin’ down to dinner when I dropped a piece of broccoli. The dog jumped right on it and inhaled the whole thing. All of a sudden he started chokin’ real bad then he tipped over! Good thing we’d taken that training! We started thumpin’ him on the back and he honked that broccoli right up. We’re sure lucky we knew what to do.” The account was provided in rich backwoods jargon and I found it hilarious. Then I remembered a friend’s account of an old man trying to demonstrate the fine training of his dog. I put the two stories together.

Yep, woulda have really missed old Wiener, he’s an awesome dog. Uh huh. He always listens pretty good. Here Weiner. C’mon Weiner. HERE WIENER! WIENER! Come here! Wiener, GET DOWN!

Wiener, stop lickin’ me!”

As I write, CBC is airing a story about a zombie nativity scene. WOT? Really! This follows a story about that xenophobic idiotic Republican candidate Donald Trump, and how he is enthusiastically supported by thousands of bleating Republicans. Baaaah! The next story was that to date in this year of 2015, The USA has endured 355 mass shootings, far too many to report, even nationally! That’s more than one per day and there will certainly be more. This is on a continent which is rapidly becoming extremely Islamophobic. Folks who think like Mr. Trump don’t seem to understand that if we stopped bombing these people, maybe there would be an end to the mass exodus from their homeland. We are all descendants of refugees whether economic, religious or political.

No-one happily chooses to rip up their roots and start their lives over in a strange place and culture. As we condemn cultures we do not understand, except for the part-truths we receive from the media, we also choose to ignore how many millions have died under the grinding wheels of Christian greed and self-empowerment. Despite the eternal rhetoric about peace and love and compassion, no other religion uses a symbol of capital punishment as its icon and keeps the church doors locked most of the time. Any dogma which we choose to embrace has its extremists. We certainly have ours.

We are in the season of goodness and light and love and peace. Eggnog and bullets are not a happy mix. Right?

Right!

Silent night; Holy night. Down Wiener!”

High Slack A winter high tide of 16.1 feet. At low tide these pilings tower above the dock. Note how far into the trees the ocean has risen.
High Slack
A winter high tide of 16.1 feet. At low tide these pilings tower above the dock. Note how far into the trees the ocean has risen. Storm winds have pushed the tide even higher than the tide book forecast. Seafire is at the end of the dock on the left. she’s leaving in the morning.

December 11th, Friday again. I’m done counting sleeps and am instead listening to each up updated weather forecast, or rather, “Technical Marine Synopsis,” as they are now known. It appears that Sunday morning is time to go and there may be a weather window opening in the next day or two. The days have barely eight hours of light and with prevailing winds from the southeast it can be a very long haul south to Port Hardy especially when travelling alone. It is foolhardy to travel in darkness. With plenty of logs floating freely as well as many unmarked reefs, prudence is essential. The days are short and the nights are long so the first hundred miles on the way down from the north coast jungle can be very, very long indeed. That is about the first third of the journey home. From there it can still be a challenging voyage if the weather is adverse. It probably will be. I’m posting this blog just before I leave. Chances are that by the time you read this, I’ll be on my way. Wish me well.

A sunset over Queen Charlotte Sound from years past. Known by some mariners as the "Rock Garden" this is a challenging body of water to cross especially in winter. Hopefully it will behind me in a few more days.
A sunset over Queen Charlotte Sound from years past. Known by some mariners as the “Rock Garden” this is a challenging body of water to cross, especially in winter. Hopefully it will behind me in a few more days.

In turn, I wish everyone inner peace, someone to love, something to do and lots to look forward to. Have a warm and fuzzy Christmas.

Have A Warm And Fuzzy Christmas
Have A Warm And Fuzzy Christmas

When in fear, or in doubt, raise your sails and bugger off out.”….Tristan Jones

Slap Therapy

shearwater morning at the 'Hobo' dock. A fleet of gillnet boats waits for the sockeye opening
Shearwater morning at the ‘Hobo’ dock.
A fleet of gillnet boats waits for the sockeye opening

In a recent conversation with another local, our conversation evolved to discussion about one, of many, aberrant personalities here. These sorts of places attract off-beat characters with a plethora of personal issues. God knows I’m one of them. In places like this if you aren’t a social anomaly at first, you will be should you linger long enough. It’s a survival mechanism. We all tend to assimilate our environment.

The Idol Point Light with Mount Gowlland in the background. (The logged-off hill looks like and elephant's head to me!)
The Idol Point Light with Mount Gowlland in the background. (The logged-off hill looks like an elephant’s head to me!)

In our discussion my co-commiserant said that the fellow in question probably needed some “Slap therapy.” I found his bush eloquence hilarious. That I found amusement in the remark is perhaps a symptom of my own advancing warpage and this morning I feel in need of some of that treatment myself. I’m lonely and depressed after a string of disappointments and shattered hopes. I need to cheer myself up.

Hurry Up and Slow Down. Shearwater road signs.
Hurry Up and Slow Down.
Shearwater road signs.

As I sit writing this, on the settee across from me is a carving I commissioned to a local Heiltsuk artist, Ivan Wilson. He is renowned for his jewelry and has turned out a fabulous piece of art for me from the old yellow cedar root of a few posts ago. (See Fraggle Rock) It will be mounted as the cap on Seafire’s bowsprit, also doubling as a sort of figurehead. I’m thrilled with it. I believe it may bring me a change in luck. There are eagles which roost in the treetops above the boat and just now a piece of eagle down has drifted down into my cockpit. According to local native lore,that has to be a good omen.

The Heiltsuk Harrier. 'Seafire's" new bowsprit cap.
The Heiltsuk Harrier.
‘Seafire’s” new bowsprit cap.

Heiltsuk Harrier2

A few kilometres away last week, up Burke Channel, a forest surveyor was attacked by a grizzly bear. The attack is not really the story but rather that this fellow survived with minor injuries. That is a miracle. Not many people live to talk about their encounter with such a force of nature. When a grizzly attacks, it must be like trying to wrestle with a locomotive. I don’t ever want to find out first hand. Apparently, the conservation authorities are now out hunting that bear. Often, the “conservation” people employ extermination when dealing with similar situations and that thought can lead to interesting considerations. We’ll never know how their adventures turns out. The media is never very good at follow-up on yesterday’s hot stories.

Backwater shipyard, Denny Island
Backwater shipyard, Denny Island
Fireweed along the way
Fireweed along the way

Now a week later, we’ve had wonderfully welcome rains and some steaming muggy interludes in between. Thehorseflies reappear each time the thermometer rises. This morning I got my own slap therapy. One of the local service contractors managed to back his work truck into my new satellite dish. Gonzo! Bust! A bent receiver dish with a twisted wire hanging down is all I have to show for my great new link to the rest of the planet. It will be replaced but for now I’ve got no internet once again. The local installer is away for an indefinite period and I’ll have to go back to lurking about in quest of a decent connection and repeatedly attempting to bring up the sites I need .

My new dish. Was it something I was watching?
My new dish. Was it something I was watching?

So, this may be the last blog I’m able to post for a while. I’m posting it from the grubby shop where I work via the local gumboot internet. There was a wonderful response to my last two blogs where photos and captions took the place of prose. Maybe I’m on to something!

Vessels inbound from Seaforth Channel. A high spot along the road.
Vessels inbound from Seaforth Channel. A high spot along the road.
Welcome to Old Bella Bella
Welcome to Old Bella Bella
The stoop. Run ios at the the abandoned BC Packers Cannery, Old Bella Bella
The stoop.
Ruins at the the abandoned BC Packers Cannery, Old Bella Bella
Wake up and smell the bread. Imagine" The aroma of wood smoke and baking bread, steamy kitchen windows, rain beating on the glass, a table set for ten and someone named Hank on the crackling radio. "Yer cheatin' heart...."
Wake up and smell the bread. Imagine: The aroma of wood smoke and baking bread, steamy kitchen windows, rain beating on the glass, a table set for ten and someone named Hank on the crackling radio. “Yer cheatin’ heart….”
Betty Manyberries boarding house. she knew them by numbers, not names!
Betty Manyberrie’s boarding house. She knew them by numbers, not names!
Someone actually paid money for that wallpaper at one time!
Someone actually paid money for that wallpaper at one time!
Life goes on in Old Bella Bella
Life goes on in Old Bella Bella
Now THAT'S Weird! don't step on it.
Now THAT’S Weird!
Don’t step on it. They could be aliens.
CLOSE THE DOOR! You're letting the flies out.
CLOSE THE DOOR!
You’re letting the flies out.
Lamma Pass and Bella Bella from Old Bella Bella
Lamma Pass from Old Bella Bella
She doesn't live here here anymore.
She doesn’t live here here anymore.
Still her ghost waited in the upper room.
Still her ghost waited in the upper room.
Stairway to the past. I can hear rubber boots in the rasin clomping and squelching down to another long day in the cannery. What stories must lurk in the shadows of Old Bella Bella.
Stairway to the past. I can hear rubber boots in the rain clomping and squelching down to another long day in the cannery. What stories must lurk in the shadows of Old Bella Bella.
What man shall not wither and pass like a lowly blade of grass?
What man shall not wither and pass like a lowly blade of grass?
Where are they now? A union sticker on a window in Old Bella Bella.
Where are they now? A union sticker on a window in Old Bella Bella.
An open window policy. A final view from old Bella Bella.
An open window policy.
A final view from old Bella Bella.
On the beach...for good. An old wooden boat slowly becoming forest again.
On the beach…for good.
An old wooden boat slowly becoming forest again.
SS Organic. Yet another fishboat gives itself up to the alders.
SS Organic.
Yet another fishboat gives itself up to the alders.
Snug. Enough said.
Snug.
Enough said.

I’ve now walked the full length of all the roads on the island. There must be only eight to ten kilometres in all. The roads are gravel and in fairly good repair. They certainly have their twists and turns around bays and bogs as well as up and down one bloody hill after another. Camera on the ready I trundle along and am constantly amazed at the beauty all around. The roads are rather dreary but there are sudden stunning vistas of the surrounding countryside. Then a visual treasure appears right at your feet. I’m posting some of those photos from the latest jaunt.

WTF? Scotty/ Scotty! you up there? Scotty!! A Fart Parkerson 169 The Look At Me Galactica
WTF? Scotty? Scotty!
You up there? Scotty!!
A Fart Parkerson 169
The ‘Look At Me Galactica’
Here I am. Pist'n Broke and nailed to a telephone pole.
Here I am. Pist’n Broke and nailed to a telephone pole.
Tomorrow's Promise
Tomorrow’s Promise
Ferry Moment BCFV Nimpkish approaches the Shearwater dock
Ferry Moment
BCFV Nimpkish approaches the Shearwater dock

 

Meanwhile ‘Seafire’ gently tugs at her lines eager to journey on to new discoveries and adventures. There is so much to see here and then, a few miles beyond, the open ocean calls incessantly. I can hear it from here; clearly.

Cape Swain, open Pacific beyond.
Cape Swain,
open Pacific beyond.

Land was created to provide a place for boats to visit.” … Brooks Atkinson.

Into The Jigsaw Jungle

Good Bye Ladysmith Life is a journey and a new adventure begins
Good Bye Ladysmith
Life is a journey and a new adventure begins

I like to mention occasionally that the amazing coastline of British Columbia runs Northwestward to Alaska and ascends through four hundred nautical miles of latitude. Within that distance we have over seventeen thousand nautical miles of shoreline. There is an intricate labyrinth of islands, islets, and inlets. It is as if someone has dumped a monstrous jigsaw puzzle out and nobody gives a toss about fitting anything together. There is a writhing network of very long dead-end inlets, or fiords if you prefer, and also interconnected waterways of seething tidal waters that are studded with hungry reefs. Prudent navigation and local knowledge are essential.

A Cumulus Eclipse The gods seem to smile as I head northward
A Cumulus Eclipse
The gods seem to smile as I head northward

As you travel up the coast by boat the geography and forest vegetation change rapidly with noticeable new features. The water becomes clear, cold, jade green and rich with marine life. The presence of people diminishes quickly once north of the Strait Of Georgia and those who do live there often have characters of strength and individuality. I feel at home and whole once clear of the South coast and its complexity of sprawling population in the prime retirement zone of Canada. The ordeal of the boat trailer as described in the previous blog underscored my growing inclination to find a simpler world. Pre-seniors like myself compete fiercely for menial employment which rewards a lifetime of experience for token remuneration.

Careening on the beach for bottom maintenance among the wrecks of Dogpatch in Ladysmith Harbour
Careening on the beach for bottom maintenance among the wrecks of Dogpatch in Ladysmith Harbour. The N or King is a former WWII mine sweeper which also had an illustrious career as a fishpacker. It seems nearly every other fisherman claims to have crewed on this boat at some time.

At the same time I have uncovered a job possibility as a marine technician in a place called Shearwater which is on Denny Island located between mainland Canada and Haida Gwaii. It is a beautiful area, tiny within a huge archipelago of pristine wilderness. You can travel an entire day without meeting other boats and little, if any, evidence of human presence. I tied up some loose ends, pooled my limited resources and sailed away. Jill, my long-suffering wife, gave me tremendous support despite the demands of her very demanding career. For the time being at least she’s got me out of her hair with only Jack the dog to trip over at the end of the day. Meanwhile I’m steeling myself for the transition between being my own man and jumping to the edicts of someone else.

Boats Of Note Seafire is on the left inside the break water, then a not-so-shining example of why we pay the big dollars to ride BC Ferries and disguised immediately above the power pole is the tug 'Bandera' southbound with a log tow. I've spent many weeks of my life aboard this boat. It is where I had an accident which drastically altered my life and saw the installation of half a plastic heart. "Bionics rule!"
Boats Of Note
Seafire is on the left inside the break water, then a not-so-shining example of why we pay the big dollars to ride BC Ferries and disguised immediately above the power pole is the tug ‘Bandera’ southbound with a log tow. I’ve spent many weeks of my life aboard this boat. It is where I had an accident which drastically altered my life and saw the installation of half a plastic heart. “Bionics rule!”

Because I was northbound the wind, of course, was from the Northwest, on the nose as usual. I visited with friends in Silva Bay then headed across the strait to crawl up the mainland coast into the wind. I was disgusted by the explosion of condominiums and suburban development and happy to heading away from this insidious cancer. After a night anchored by Vananda I stopped in Powell River for fuel. Despite a massive downsizing in the forest industry the town struggles on. The locals are very friendly, the views are spectacular and real estate prices are quite reasonable. I asked one fellow for directions to an auto parts store and was promptly offered a ride. The community is like that. I left a black streak on the hull from the fuel dock fenders and while scrubbing it off, the young lady on duty offered me warm water for my hands! I decided to break for a last meal ashore and found myself enjoying the best burger I’ve ever had in Carter’s Cafe On Marine. It’s just a few steps up from The BC Ferry terminal and public wharf. Run by two lovely ladies the cafe is a spot I’m happy to recommend.

The wind eased as I motored on and with a gale warning still posted I was determined to cover as many miles as possible. For some reason marine weather broadcasts love to employ the term “Quasi-stationary”. Quasi, of course means nearly or almost and the determined use of it is certainly quasi. So I travelled northward under the influence of a quasi-stationary front.

Carter's Café. Great food served by lovely people.
Carter’s Café. Great food served by lovely people.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Their Neighbour

After a long night in Church House where the night wind against the tide from Yuculta Rapids held old ‘Seafire’ broadside to the elements. The anchor chain dragged and rumbled across

Yet another sign in Powell River... too close to the bone for me!
Yet another sign in Powell River… too close to the bone for me!
all she needs is love, and a new engine. What a little beauty!
All she needs is love, and a new engine.
What a little beauty!

the rocky bottom and I was up early to tackle the rapids ahead. The Yucultas, Dent and Green Point Rapids slid behind in a few hours and after The Wellbore Rapids I was bashing into the promised rising Westerly wind. Sometimes, it takes up to three days to move a log tow through these notorious tidal bores. I found a calm anchorage in one of the two Jackson Bays within Topaz Harbour and set about clearing a blocked fuel line from the starboard tank. That took until midnight and after a candlelight dinner of Dollarama couscous, at first light, about 04:30, I was on my way northward.

Ten PM sunset over Sonora Island from Church House anchorage
Ten PM sunset over Sonora Island from Church House anchorage
A few hours later
A few hours later
Now THAT'S a leaf blower! A Hughs 500 helicopter and a Turbo Beaver at a private home on Stuart Island, Yuculta Rapids
Now THAT’S a leaf blower! A Hughs 500 helicopter and a Turbo Beaver at a private home on Stuart Island, Yuculta Rapids

The Westerly winds which blow down Johnstone Strait can be quite vicious. The seas are horrible when the tide is ebbing against that sort of blow. Westerly winds tend to build during the day and then ease as the sun sets but I was determined to make it to Port Harvey where I could go many miles out of my way to trace a tortuous track northwards which would bring me out slightly north of Port Hardy on the mainland side of Queen Charlotte Strait. I’d need to cross to Port Hardy for fuel and groceries before pressing on. Despite a forecast of 30 knots of wind on the nose I continued on past Port Harvey until the end of Johnstone Strait at Blackney Passage. The wind was easing so I continued on past Alert Bay ending up anchoring for the night in Beaver Harbour, only a few miles from Port Hardy. I was elated with my progress and nostalgic for the days when I plied these waters on tugboats.

Mermaid Bay, Dent Rapids This is where log tows are tied while their tugs wait for a favourable tide through the next set of rapids. All the boats erect a sign, hopefully higher than all the others. I've spent many long nights here.
Mermaid Bay, Dent Rapids This is where log tows are tied while their tugs wait for a favourable tide through the next set of rapids. All the boats erect a sign, hopefully higher than all the others. I’ve spent many long nights here.
The "Ugly House" Milly Island near Port Neville on Johnstone Strait
The “Ugly House”
Milly Island near Port Neville on Johnstone Strait

It has been fifteen years since my work boat days ended but memories flooded back. I recalled how in Lewis Channel a skipper named Cliff (who could never catch enough fish or take enough crabs) had managed to lasso a deer swimming across the channel. In Teakerne Arm we arrived at 02:00 to pick up some log booms. There was a fishing boat tied to the booms and when it became clear that they were losing their moorage spot there was an angry, staccato tirade from the Asian family aboard, prompted by an elderly matriarch. They were determined that they were there first despite our explanation that we had tied our booms there days earlier. We resolutely connected our booms to the rest of our log tow and with a cheery “See you in Vancouver” headed south. The fishing boat soon untied and went its own way.

"Tings all over" Taking some lumps in Johnstone Strait
“Tings all over”
Taking some lumps along the way

Towing logs through the Wellbore Rapids at daybreak we came upon a middle-aged lady in a kayak. She had been camping on a stretch of beach when rousted by bears. It turned out that she had paddled from Seattle to Alaska and was on her way home. I remember her when some yachter boasts to me about a minor passage as if it were an epic voyage.

Beautiful downtown Alert Bay. Once home of the world's tallest totem pole it was also in the Guinness book of Records for having the most taxis per capita
Beautiful downtown Alert Bay. Once home of the world’s tallest totem pole it was also in the Guinness book of Records for having the most taxis per capita

On another trip I was in the wheelhouse as the mate bantered with another boat in the proximity of Milly Island in Johnstone Strait. There is a house built on the island and one of the mates was braying on about what an ugly structure it was. Suddenly the home owner spoke out on the VHF. “Look buddy, your tugboat ain’t no thing of beauty either!”

Beachcombing. To progress against wind or tide hugging the shore is a game of nerves and intimate local knowledge of every rock. It is not for the faint of heart. Many log tows make their progress this way, even in the dark.
Beachcombing.
To progress against wind or tide hugging the shore is a game of nerves and intimate local knowledge of every rock. It is not for the faint of heart.
Many log tows make their progress this way, even in the dark.

I rather like the sight of the house and its posture of independence, especially after that particular conversation.

Along way home...and we're just getting started. Looking south down Johnstone Strait.
A long way home…and we’re just getting started.
Looking south down Johnstone Strait.

Just south of Milly Island is Kelsey Bay. The boiling tides in that area will make passage extremely difficult to the point that one night a deckhand and myself renamed the place, “Suction city.” We fought the tide rip that night for hours. Mu experiences in these particular waters inspire as much respect as the dreaded Seymour Narrows. Across from Kelsey Bay is Yorke Island which hides the amazing secret of a massive artillery fortress. Perched on the top of the island it nestles in the trees where it was built during WWII to fend off Admiral Yamamoto and the boys, should they arrive. Even many seasoned watermen aren’t aware of the huge installation. The old fort is probably most famous locally as the site of a hippie commune in the sixties. Peace Man!

Morning, Beaver Harbour near Port Hardy
Morning, Beaver Harbour near Port Hardy

Immediately north of Yorke Island is a bald rock called Fanny Island which is a large bald granite rock clearly visible and marked with a flashing light. It is a well-known check point for commercial marine traffic. One very dark but calm night, while passing nearby with a log tow, the VHF burst into life. “FUCK!. I mean Mayday, Mayday! HOLY FUCK WE’RE SINKING!” A fishing boat had hit Fanny Island. Encumbered with a massive log tow we couldn’t rush to assist but I turned on all our deck lights and summoned the engineer to break out the pumps. While the stricken vessel limped the long mile across to us I relayed the Mayday to the Coast Guard. A Coast Guard inflatable arrived an hour and a half later, its three crewman looking like orange popsicles after their high-speed winter night cruise up from Campbell river. They relayed another pump from a passing tug. We’d already rigged a collision mat over the puncture in the boat’s hull and had two pumps going to keeps things afloat. That effort, I surmise, was perhaps aided by the thick layer of empty beer cans bobbing around in the flooded engine room. Once sufficiently warmed by our galley stove the coast guard crew officiously announced that they would take charge of the sinker. We were only too glad to comply.

The "Inseine" dock, Port Hardy fish plant
The “Inseine” dock, Port Hardy fish plant.
Mixing work with pleasure boats. some of the moorage in Port Hardy
Mixing work with pleasure boats. Some of the moorage in Port Hardy
Thar be monsters at these docks! I don't know what the hell it was, but I sure wish I could swim like that!
Thar be monsters at these docks! I don’t know what the hell it was, but I sure wish I could swim like that!
The collection. an admirable contempt for authority in Port Hardy
The collection. An admirable contempt for authority in Port Hardy
My kind of house. Adequate, sturdy, simple and right beside the sea.
My kind of house. Adequate, sturdy, simple and right beside the sea.
Goletas Channel, northbound from Port Hardy. Did the Spanish explorers, who named these waters, wonder if this might be the beginning of the fabled Northwest Passage?
Goletas Channel, northbound from Port Hardy. Did the Spanish explorers, who named these waters, wonder if this might be the beginning of the fabled Northwest Passage?

Now entering Queen Charlotte Strait, I recalled how this reef-studded body of water is sometimes known as the “Rock Garden” by skippers who have made stormy transits in the dark of this ragged corner of the North Pacific. There is ample material to write about. I’m preparing to publish a sequel to ‘The Water Rushing By’ which is now available from Amazon as either a p.o.d. paperback or as an e-book from Kindle.

A cruise ship in Queen Charlotte Strait. One salmon says to the other, "Look at all the canned people!"
A cruise ship in Queen Charlotte Strait. One salmon says to the other, “Look at all the canned people!”

Port Hardy clings to life after the decimation of the local mining, fishing and forest industries. Eco-tourism and, like it or not, aquaculture seem to have become the cornerstone of the local economy. Buying some provisions, one of my items was a vacuum-packed pork hock. I joked about how big a pork hawk must be if it can haul a pig away. The cashier didn’t miss a blink, “Maybe they’re even big enough to pack you away!” I stopped for lunch in a local bar and restaurant and noticed a sign admonishing clients not to smoke within the proximity of the establishment. Including a list of possible massive fines, it warned that “Jails isn’t a comfy place!” At the marina where I was moored, the clerk in the liquor store worried about how I was dealing with the “Heat.” It was a scorching twenty-two degrees with a cold, damp breeze blowing in from the sea. It was also worried that there was too much wind to leave to dock and then as I pulled away, I had to wait for a passing fishboat named “Eastern Sunset.” Strange, very strange. I moved on and spent the night in a popular little bight called God’s Pocket, then headed into the grey beyond early next morning.

Downtown God's Pocket. Thassit! I've always wondered where Devil's Pocket is.
Downtown God’s Pocket.Thassit! I’ve always wondered where Devil’s Pocket is.

 

THE G SPOT A log tower's mark in god's pocket
THE G SPOT
A log tower’s mark in God’s Pocket
THAR!... Yep you've got it! Grey whale ahead
THAR!… Yep you’ve got it!
Grey whale ahead.
Dive, dive, dive! Now you think you saw him, then you begin to wonder.
Dive, dive, dive!
Now you think you saw him, then you begin to wonder.

Queen Charlotte Sound is bounded on the North by Hecate Strait which is the body of water separating Haida Gwaii (still charted as the Queen Charlotte Islands.) On the Southern end of the sound is Queen Charlotte Strait and various other areas also bear Charlotte’s name. To further thicken the stew, the passage between Bowen Island and Horseshoe Bay, near Vancouver, also carries her name. When King Edward III married her in the eighteenth century her maiden name was Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Electress of Hanover. She bore randy old Ed fifteen children so perhaps that is why this area, with all of its islands, is so eagerly named after her. Thank God we don’t have to employ her entire long handle each time we refer to this area. What a mouthful that would be on the radio!

Something missing? A Grand and elegant US-registered yacht. Too bad he didn't have any money left over to buy a Canadian courtesy flag. It is an ultimate nautical rudeness not fly the ensign of the foreign country when in its waters.
Something missing?
A Grand and elegant US-registered yacht.
Too bad he didn’t have any money left over to buy a Canadian courtesy flag.
It is an ultimate nautical rudeness to not fly the ensign of a foreign country when in its waters.

My crossing was uneventful and typical with the open-ocean swell shuddering in under local tide slop and spastic bursts of wind. Rolls of light fog and drizzle welcomed me to the mid-coast. I gazed out onto the broad grey, open curving horizon and ached to head that way. My mind began to clear and I began to scrawl quick thoughts in my journal. Journal? Now there’s a good sign, it’s been a while since I did that. Where I can read my writing I find lines like “He spent money like a sailor and played guitar like an African” or “drowning in the waters you walk on.” Dunno what either one is about but someday it may blossom into sensible eloquence. Writing and photography, I find, require being able to grab to the glory of the moment and saving it for future edification. At least with a camera, there’s not a lot to interpret later on.

Scarlett Point light, Balaclava Island. Now a rare manned light station. I received a hearty wave from someone in the house on the right.
Scarlett Point light, Balaclava Island. Now a rare manned light station. I received a hearty wave from someone in the house on the right.

How about this? It was scratched out somewhere north of Egg Island.

I feel the ocean swell’s rise

As my happy boat begins to glide

This passage fills me with pride

Because I’m doing what few men do,

Exactly what I want to.

Land's end The northern tip of Pine Island
Land’s end
The northern tip of Pine Island
Growlers in the Rock Garden. Queen Charlotte Strait is not a place to be sleepy in the dark and/or in heavy weather.
Growlers in the Rock Garden. Queen Charlotte Strait is not a place to be sleepy in the dark or in heavy weather, or both.
The open horizon Beyond Nawhitti Bar The urge to head that way was hard to resist, Mexico is just down there, three weeks away.
The open horizon Beyond Nawhitti Bar
The urge to head that way was hard to resist, Mexico is just down there, three weeks away.
The crack out back. Egg Island from the north. The original light station was swept away by a Tsunami without trace several decades ago. Sleep tight.
The crack out back. Egg Island from the north. The original light station was swept away by a Tsunami without trace several decades ago. Sleep tight.
Addenbroke Light Station Fitz Hugh Sound
Addenbroke Light Station
Fitz Hugh Sound
Motor-sailing northward in Fitz Hugh Sound. The clear warm day was most unusual.
Motor-sailing northward in Fitz Hugh Sound. The clear warm day was most unusual.
Southbound. The Alaska State ferry 'Columbia' passing Namu
Southbound.
The Alaska State ferry ‘Columbia’ passing Namu
In one of a thoussnd secret anchorages in northern waters. Can you smell wood smoke, hear drums, see dugout canoes?
In one of a thousand secret anchorages in northern waters. Can you smell wood smoke, hear drums, see dugout canoes?
A natural totem. After ten pm, looking out to Hakaii Pass
A natural totem. It’s still daylight after ten pm. Looking out to Hakaii Pass.

Once into the shelter of Calvert Island the remains of the day turned warm and clear and calm as I motor-sailed northward up the broad waters of Fitz Hugh Sound. At the northeast tip of Hecate Island I found a calm secluded anchorage just at the edge of Hakai Pass. The ancient trees lean out from the worn granite where they cling tenaciously, their brine-burned branches festooned with moss and hanging kelp. It is my last night before arriving in Shearwater and the frantic frustrations of a new job and settling into a new community. For the moment, no-one else on the planet knows where I am.

Haida Moon
Haida Moon
Still Waters Nobody knows where I am and it's all mine!
Still Waters
Nobody knows where I am and it’s all mine!

Bliss.

The sea finds out everything you did wrong”…. Francis Stokes