It is the second day of July. Last night the holiday fireworks resolved into a mere two huge explosions. Then all was quiet. I hope there were at least a few survivors. This morning it is raining, a beautiful steady warm rain. The doors are open and I listen to the music of water gurgling in the downspouts. There is a lovely aroma of freshness. We need this, desperately. There were a few hours of precipitation last week, the stream beds did not swell at all. Now this. I swear I can almost hear the parched earth soaking it up. More please! This blog will be a simple photo essay about life in my little patch here on Vancouver Island. Rain or sun, bring your hat.
“ For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out. James Baldwin.
Coddiwomple, Old English slang meaning to journey purposefully toward a vague destination. It is also the name of a cute little boat recently arrived on the dock. Of course I had to look it up. It could be the description of a person’s life. Then there’s the timeless oxymoron about military intelligence. Two young men in naval uniforms complete with black life jackets and black crash helmets arrived yesterday morning at the dock in a hefty inflatable boat. When it was time to leave, their outboard motor would not start. I watched the performance which largely involved frantic heaving on the starter rope. This old mechanic finally volunteered to them that for whatever reason the motor was not getting any fuel and that they should check the connections on the gas line. They thanked me and continued to jerk the rope. I couldn’t go have a look, I was in the midst of my final bit of painting. There was prolonged loud discussion with mothership on their vhf radio which descended to a focus on the fuel primer bulb. “No, no, the bulb is still soft.” (It becomes hard when full of fuel and the system is pressurized.) After nearly a half-hour they finally clipped the fuel hose back onto the tank and zoom-zoomed off into the sunrise. Sleep tight, your navy is awake!
I’ve watched folks become infuriated with their dead outboard and pull away on the starting rope until it broke or until their arms nearly dropped off. There’s nothing to diminish your spirits like the sound of the starter recoil spring zlithering and sproinging around inside the engine cowling. Then, finally, it is discovered that all along, the ignition safety switch was off. To further the frustration, it takes someone else to make that discovery. Yep, I’ve done it too. Remember the movie “Sling Blade?” There’s a wonderful scene where the village idiot quietly watches the local lawn mower mechanic fight all day with a dead motor. Finally the protagonist announces that he “Reckons it’s outta gas. Uh huh.” Start with the simple things first.
The painting is now complete on the boat, so instead of having been on the dock at first light to beat the sun, I sit here enjoying the decadence of writing while sipping coffee. Of course, today there is some cloud cover, perfect for painting. You can tell I am not an enthusiastic painter. The secret is in the preparation which can means hours of sanding, filling and sanding. Pull marks from a dry brush or runs from too much paint are the marks of carelessness. Then there are the spatters, especially when applying a dark colour near a lighter one. There is a technique of applying the paint, first by roller then followed by brush, not too dry, not too wet. Painting in direct sunlight is an invitation for disaster, the paint wants to dry faster than it can be applied and there is a sticky mess waiting to happen. Only experience can teach the best method. Then in gleaming glory, the paint begins to dry, all the while attracting all sorts of insects, airborne seeds, hairs and pieces of lint. Finally you peel off the masking tape and…SHIT! It ran beneath the tape. Actually, there is no substitute for good masking tape, which, of course, is the most expensive, but you get what you pay for. I’ve found a product called ‘Frog’ which works really well.
I learned to hate painting when, as a boy, I often made a little cash schlocking white on fences and houses. My passion for painting is right next to mowing lawns and anything involving shovels. Then there’s picking berries. At least there is a reward at the end of the endeavour without any delayed gratification. Jack and I went out at first light armed with a bucket. A light breeze prevented any dew; perfect! Mourning doves wha-coo-hooed while a bumper crop of rabbits kept Jack entertained. I dealt with the bumper crop of blackberries. The first ones are ripening and there will be a harvest that goes on for weeks. I’ve never seen so many.
The biggest, sweetest berries are at the end of the highest thorniest vines, well above where dogs may have peed. Having leathery old mechanic’s hands is a bonus. I hold a smaller cup-sized container beneath the fruit I’m picking and then transfer that, when full, to the bucket. That saves a lot of painful moves among the brambles and speeds up the gathering. There’s your blog-tip from this hunter-gatherer-mechanic. Now as the sun rises and the world heats up, it’s time to head to the boat for some finishing touches. Just another perfect early-summer Sunday on a beautiful Pacific Island.
“We are all the architects of our own despair.” …Jill Bailey
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!
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 wantto 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.
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.
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.
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.