Birds On A Wire

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The dog days of summer are over. It is wasp season. The little buggers, drunk on fermenting blackberries, buzz in your face and drive Jack the dog mad. Spiders are weaving big webs everywhere. Young swallows sit on the lifelines around my boat twittering, hovering, preening and shitting in my scuppers. I don’t mind a bit. They’re getting ready for the long flight south and I find marvel in the tenacity of this tiny yet feisty creature. How I want to fly away with them!

Yeech! I hate wasps!
Yeech! I hate wasps!

It has been a few weeks since my last blog. The days blur by in a grind of stoic effort to get ready for the coming winter. Hopefully there is still a way of getting old ‘Seafire’ south before it’s too late in the season but that leaves me a four to six week window to find the money I need and do the remaining things that need to be done. Whether or not the boat goes south, there are also annual maintenance items to be accomplished before the big wet dark winter descends. If this plan utterly falls down for autumn then I’m scheming how to take a small travel trailer south to Mexico for the winter. I’d leave it there, and maybe my truck, coming home in the spring to pick up the boat. There is an an awful lot of Mexico inland that the average yachter can’t access.

Plan F involves leaving next spring to harbour-hop south until the late summer hurricane season again eases enough to prudently move into Baha. After over twenty years of dreaming and planning it is very hard to resolve myself to waiting another year. I’d really rather get out there and just do it, without even seeing the beach until entering Ensenada, Baha to clear customs into Mexico. My Buddy Jim Poirier, on his Corbin 39, has just made the passage from Vancouver to Morro Bay, in Southern California in 13 days. He’s poised now to enter Baha waters on his way to the South Pacific. I’m very happy for him but I can’t say that his achievement cheers ME up. I’m still here.

For reasons of respect I won’t explain the personal circumstances that keep me tied to the bedpost but they must be resolved before I can leave. Being responsible can be onerous and frustrating but I want no reason that means I must come back. I want to do things I want to do instead of having to. Carrying this dream alone is a plodding ordeal of ‘I must do’ instead the serependipitous adventure it should be. Well now I’m beginning to whine and that definitely contravenes the standing orders on this little ship. Everything would look very different if I had a little money and only my attitude and persistent determination will change things to full launch mode.

It’s a cool, foggy Saturday morning on Labour Day Weekend. The butter has gone hard for the first time in months. All is blessedly quiet on the white plastic gringo boats. We locals are all counting the minutes until the weekend is over and the summer ‘Cruising’ season officially ends.  I know one is supposed to try and love all of God’s creatures but damn! Some of these folks make it bloody difficult! Going about one’s daily life should not be part of someone else’s intrusive amusement.  While bent to a very focused task I had one fellow who kept trying to tell me how to insert a screw in a hole!

After several brusk but restrained one-word responses I finally vented and bust forth in full red neck eloquence. His response; “Oh wow!”

I told another guy who was drowning me in free advise that if he “Truly knew that much about what I’m doing, then he’d know enough to shut up and leave me alone instead of yapping at my ass.” I’ve tried to explain to some about the little signs in garages which joke about doubling the rates when customers want to get involved. I’ve told folks that this is “Not an amusement park and just because I look like a clown doesn’t mean I’m here to entertain you!” I try to be a little more reasonable if there are kids in tow but when I look at a man’s hands and see that he has never done a stitch of real work, well, it’s time he tasted a pinch of blur collar perspective.

A couple of years ago, one summer visitor began quizzing me about the wind generator mounted on my boat. I seized the moment. I told him that it was a fan that enabled me to continue to sail when the wind quit. He was impressed and wondered, “What’ll they think of next?”

I know, I know, it’s time I went sailing.

Ubiquitous Pirates Cove Landmark
Ubiquitous Pirates Cove Landmark

September 1st this morning. Wow! Already! The way time flies it’ll be the 15th by this afternoon. I spent the night in Pirate’s Cove on DeCourcy Island. It was the home of Brother Twelve, an infamous local cult leader and generally slippery character, who lived here in the 1930’s. His old communal farm lives on as a lovely working farm. His group was so bizarre and paranoid that you can still find the remains of machine gun entrenchments in the encroaching woods.(After having spent yet another summer in the marina at Silva Bay I can imagine how he felt.) Last night was, despite a gale warning, absolutely flat calm. It was warm and the sky was crystal clear. The stars filled the night sky and were reflected on the water. There were a few meteorites. Satellites and high-flying aircraft crossed the arcing dome on stately courses.  There must have been a festival on Gabriola Island. Across the water came the echoing throb of drumming, all night. It took little imagination to conjure exotic images. The seals fishing outside the reef became crocodiles and the drifting log, a dugout canoe.

I know, I know, it’s time I went sailing.

You thought I was kidding about machine gun posts
You thought I was kidding about machine gun posts!
Things that go go bump in the night
Things that go bump in the night

I chatted up some folks aboard a Banjer 37 in the morning.  This, in my opinion, is an ultimate motor-sailor, Dutch-tough and very salty. It turns out to be the very same boat I was bidding on at the time I bought ‘Seafire’. ‘Wanderer’ of the Salish Sea is apparently in good hands and being well loved by Al and Lyndi, two nice people.  I’m a bit jealous of their jewel, but happy to say I love my own boat and all her unique quirks.

Wanderer
Wanderer

Home again now in Silva Bay, the long weekend is over, it’s safe to be back. The bulk of the weekend warriors are now gone till next Easter. There is a mass mindset about  “Boating Season” which I won’t try to understand and in fact feel thankful for. From now on through the winter, most cruisers will be those with the sea actually in their blood, and will generally be reasonable and interesting folks to chat with. Yes, I’m a snob. But after nearly half a year of again enduring mobs of the nautical wannabes and lookatmes, I’m more than a bit jaded.

Yeah; I know, I know, it’s time I went sailing.

A passing beauty
A passing beauty

PLAN ‘F’

What a week! An e-mail came from a friend declaring that he’s on track for his scheduled departure for a year-long cruise to the South Pacific and back. Another pal sent me a blog about his small armada of friends in yachts leisurely circumnavigating Vancouver Island. Rodger and Ali have arrived with ‘Wave’ in Hay River, are all rigged up and waiting on winds to ease so they can leave on their odyssey. They’re probably out there and at it as I write. One more friend has spontaneously decided to leave on Monday for two weeks in Portugal. Tony and Connie, on ‘Sage’ are in Langkawi, Malaysia trying to get some paint on their boat during the Monsoon Season. Well I love you all and wish you well but I’m still in Silva Bay singing ‘Sitting on the dock of the bay watching the tide roll away……’ you know how the song goes!

Hold on to the dream

I am grudgingly admitting that while the dream is very much alive that I have to fall back to Plan F. I’m destroying myself trying to find a way to raise funds and get old ‘Seafire’ ready enough to safely and boldly venture forth this fall. Many items on my ‘To do’ list are slowly osmosing on to the ‘Mexico Mañana list but some things must be done here first.  I’m finding life too stressful, and I’m too miserable, as the days whizz by with not enough happening and the departure window of early October rushing toward me like a train in a tunnel. If a sack of money falls on me, (And doesn’t kill me) I can still meet the challenge. However the present reality will probably prevail (Now there’s a mouthful!) I cannot meet the deadline as things stand at the moment. It’s time to back up and reload. So, still clinging to Plan A, I’m now considering sliding toward F.

Plan F involves working on ‘Seafire’ until the winter rains become horizontal then laying the boat up for a couple of months. I’ve acquired a little old Nissan 4×4 truck in good shape which is perfect for Baha driving conditions. I’m thinking of also finding an older small travel trailer and meandering down to the San Carlos/Guaymas area  at the top of the Sea Of Cortez. I can leave the truck and trailer there and then return to fetch the boat. If I can get ‘Seafire’ as far as Astoria Oregon for the Fisher Poet’s Gathering at the end of February, then I’m definitely on my way. The Columbia Bar and the entire Pacific Northwest Coast is an ugly piece of work at that time of year. I’d much prefer to stay 300 miles off the beach until abeam Los Angeles then angle in to Ensenada, Mexico to clear customs. However, if I were to tip-toe from port to port southward from Astoria along the Oregon Coast, making one final jump in a good weather window to San Francisco I can hang out there for the summer. It is a great place to tinker up the boat with a ton of places to check out between the Bay area and the Sacramento Delta. Hurricane season in Mexico lurks until approximately mid-October so you don’t want to be too far south too soon. So, Plan F for Frisco Bay. Of course there are plans B through E and failing to plan is planning to fail; right? And…too many plans are like no plans at all.

On a definitely upbeat note, I think I have finally solved my dinghy and life raft quandary. I had a fine little inflatable boat with a hard aluminium bottom. I loved it and deemed it perfect for pulling up on rocky shorelines anywhere. The problem was carrying it on open water passages. I’ve also been unsure about what to do for a life-raft.

There are three enemies on a lightly-crewed vessel:

-Fatigue, which leads to all sorts of dumb-assed mistakes even to the  point of       sitting on your own shoulder and watching as you wilfully do something stupid and dangerous.

-Fire, the most serious dumb-assed mistake. For whatever reason a fire starts, there are only a couple of minutes to get it out or it is time to abandon ship . I feel that an onboard fire is more reason to carry a life raft than the possibility of sinking. If you’ve ever seen a small vessel, especially fibreglass, catch fire you’ll never forget.

-Chafe, yes even on various body parts when failure to maintain good personal hygiene, (Probably due to fatigue) produces debilitating symptoms. More importantly, there is chafe occurring to all moving parts of a boat during the constant motion of being at sea. It is especially critical with sails and rigging but like anything else, an inflatable dinghy will wear somewhere.  Stored on deck and deflated it is still in the way and chafing somewhere. Hanging in davits over the stern of the boat it is even more susceptible to chafe and is also likely to be swamped with a big wave. Not only does one risk losing the dinghy, there is a good chance of seriously damaging the mother ship where the davits attach.

Life rafts are a great idea but even on a forty-something foot boat like ‘Seafire’ storage space is a challenge. Rafts are expensive, must be regularly serviced and not entirely reliable. In fact, in heavy weather they are a terrible place to be and are not especially inclined to stay right-side up. If you’ve ever sat in one afloat you know that bobbing around in a life raft with a few other puking people might be a fate worse than death.

So, I’ve compromised.

I was able to sell the dinghy I had in the hope of finding something more suitable and also able to serve as a life raft should the need arise. There are two types of material used in the manufacture of inflatable boats: Hypalon and PVC. The latter is much less costly but very susceptible to wear and punctures. It is especially unable to tolerate even moderate exposure to UV damage. If you are heading south, you are going to have trouble. A boat made of Hypalon is approximately twice the price but it will live an infinitely longer time. There are some here in the marina easily twenty-five years old looking a bit scruffy but still going strong.

I looked feverishly everywhere for a good used boat or an affordable new boat which meant accepting a big compromise in quality and so ultimately, value. While checking all the online advertisements twice daily one boat suddenly leapt out at me. The timing was perfect and I’m taking it as a good omen that I’m moving in the right direction. I now own a ten-year old, but never used, 11-foot Achilles Hypalon inflatable boat. It has a high-pressure inflatable keel and floor so it is dead easy to store and to inflate on the decks of ‘Seafire’. It came with a set of wheels for rolling it up the beach and even a second, electric pump for rapid inflation.  The price was reasonable and so I’m set. All I have to do is figure out a  bright tough canopy which will install easily and it can double as a life raft. Now I have to see how she goes with the outboard motor I have. I’ll be back shortly…

First ride, barnacles and oyster shells, Perfect!
First ride, barnacles and oyster shells, Perfect!

Well she goes like hell ! The Achilles is a virgin no more. Even with a full load this little baby planes easily and scoots along nicely. The floor flexes a bit like a flying carpet. It’s a keeper. ‘Seafire’ and her tender ‘Backfire’. Progress in the right direction, hope springs eternal.

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I’m definitely not one to be impressed with high-end, look at me boats, especially power boats. ‘Fart Parkersons’, I call them. On a rare occasion I’m forced to make an exception. I arrived back at my boat  the other day to discover I had a temporary neighbour in the form of a gleaming perfect blend of burgundy fibreglass, varnished teak and polished stainless steel. No strutting skippers or bikini-clad trophy barbies aboard, just a very nice couple meeting some family arriving on the float-plane. The boat is a 40-something foot Hinckley ‘Picnic boat’. So there are folks who can manage affluence and civility all at once. Now I know having money isn’t everything, but I could sure stand a change of problems!

Hinckely logo in teak
Hinckely logo in teak

Let me add that managing poverty and civility is also a bit challenging. If only my dog knew how well-off he is. ‘Eat it, copulate with it, piss on it, have a nap’.

Not a bad philosophy at all!

Fetch yer ass!
Fetch yer ass!