Town Day

To warm a sailor’s heart. No matter how big and grand a vessel may be, the boat that has universal appeal is the small and pretty rowing boat. This is a lapstrake, or clinker-built boat where a perfect fit and excellent workmanship is what keeps the leaks under control. It is for sale. I had a passing fantasy of having money enough and a house big enough to buy this one and hang it from the ceiling. A sight to cheer on any day. Form and function blend to make ultimate art.
Autumn morning dew. It does not cost a thing to open one’s eyes and look.
Loaded. Apples and rose hips. Food for winter and seeds for spring.
Backlight
Autumn meadow. Soon the leaves will be gone.

I was sanding a piece of plywood purchased at Home Depot as work continues on my little trailer. I am no fan of any big chain store but these guys will cut up wood to my exact specifications and so there I go. They also sell lumber stored inside, out of the rain and sun, at least for a few days. Impressed with the superior quality of this particular product, I noted the clear grain and the lack of voids between laminations. Then I noticed the stamp, “Made in Chile.” WOT! I bought this in British Columbia? I’ve previously found the ‘home despot’ selling 2x4s cut from loblolly pine from Louisiana and marked “Product of NAFTA.” How do you harvest, mill, ship and sell lumber at a profit from the diagonally opposite corner of the continent…into the global forest products capital of BC? And the US president rants about the inequities of NAFTA. I agree!

A view from my town in the morning looking southeast into the Gulf Islands.

The media constantly runs stories about the dire state of BC’s forest industry. I frequently write about the chicken farmer who goes to town to buy his eggs. I repeatedly use my example of a local sawmill shut down allegedly due to a shortage of timber supplies. Several ships a week come to that former mill’s dock to load raw logs for export across the Pacific! That has been going on for years at several locations along our coast. And, I’m buying wood products from far across the same ocean! Is my plywood made from a BC log milled in Chile? Think of all the fossil fuels burned to ship products back and forth around the planet. Green? Meanwhile our young Norwegian school girl environmental messiah is in Alberta to suss out our environmental evils. Is she still travelling about in Arnold Scharzenegger’s electric car? Scotty? Helloo Scotty? Beam me up. Please!

Backyard treasure. Our morning walk turns up a traditional  wooden mizzen mast languishing in a backyard. It is not the best way to store such a work of art. To make a mast like this, symmetrically perfect, takes great skill and is almost a lost art. Laying unsupported horizontally is not good for it. Note the woodshed roof built around a fir tree.
The corner lot. Modest by today’s standards, this was once an ultimate home. It is still lovely and clearly much-cared for. Ladysmith has plenty of very nice older homes.
A banana tree, a tattered flag, a crumbling block wall, a ubiquitous plastic chair all shout Mexico to me. But, it’s in Ladysmith.

Clearly, this old sailor knows nothing about economics but there is something very wrong here. I’ve found bottled water from Texas in local stores, meat and produce come from the other side of the planet and this British Columbian, living in a wine-producing valley, often finds the best quality and value in imported wine…often from Chile. Apparently Chile often uses the same poor environmental practices which we have proven wrong and unsustainable, from fish farming to forestry. Questions anyone?

Lilac leaves in autumn, dead lovely. Note the buds all ready for spring.

On a more positive note, I went to the advanced poll to vote in the Federal Election. The lines ran out the door and still people came waiting for nearly an hour to mark their X. It was encouraging to see such a turnout. Hopefully, for once, the election will not be decided by all those who are too comfortable to get off their butts and vote. It would be grand if someone else’s apathy was not running everyone else’s lives.

Morning calm by a small bridge.
Another bridge. Trout often rest in the clear pool beneath.
Oak calm
Aw leaf me alone. Let me be a dog. It smells different in the rain.

It is Thanksgiving Monday in Canada. Our roads and ferries will be clogged with folks rushing home after their “holiday.” We have one day left of clear skies before a forecast of several rainy days is due. I’ve declared this to be a BNG day. (Burn no Gas) Just back from our morning walk, Jack and I took a tour of a few suburban blocks and along part of an extensive creek-side trail network. We met lovely dogs and their lovely owners and exchanged greetings on this calm, warm sunny day. It is a lovely wee town and I take pleasure in seeing well-kept, older smaller homes. They are not pretentious but express a quiet dignity and contentment without any need to impress anyone. And that impresses me. Sadly, there is a cancer of neo-suburbia encroaching all around the town but it is easy enough to stay on this side of the creek where clear, cold, safe to drink for the stream water still runs. Today is the only one I have and I intend to enjoy it. It is Thanksgiving and I did not wake up elsewhere. Good enough!

The edge of old town, high above Holland Creek in the bottom of the steep ravine below. A five minute walk from home, I can then stay in the forest all the way across Vancouver Island to the open Pacific shoreline.  There are only one or two gravel roads to cross.

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.

Yet Again

Near-full, the November moon rises over Ladysmith Harbour. Serenity for the moment.

Black Friday is past, now it is Black Sunday and then Cyber Monday. Folks with bellies full of turkey are out there decimating themselves and their families on highways all over America. It is not a cheery thought. Wearily, once again it is the time when the annual worship reaches a frenzied climax of our religion, Consumerism. Our temples: the malls. Black Friday! What a way to start a time of year that is supposedly about peace, love, hope and togetherness.

The Dream

There is still a quarter of November to wade through and I am sick of Christmas already. People have their homes and yards draped in garish decoration. The tradition of coloured lights near Christmas time has become another competition of excess between neighbours. In the daylight, lawns are littered with deflated effigies of santas, reindeer, snowmen, and other crass visual clichés. With all those lights blazing, I wonder what happens to the “Think Green” messages about reduced consumption. Meanwhile, the communities of homeless folks hunker down for winter by adding extra tarps over their individual tents.

Hunkering down for winter. Tarpaulins add some thin extra protection. This is a homeless enclave in downtown Nanaimo.
Jack and I have been spending every dry day visiting our new stomping grounds at the old Swallowfield Farm site. The estuary and adjoining salt marsh will be the source of many great wildlife photos in future.
An oasis in a sea of blackberries. The brambles have completely overrun the old field. An “invasive species” indeed.
A rabbit hole. It is not a place to fall into from the rocks above.

When I was young, Thanksgiving in Canada was celebrated at the same time as it was in the US. It was set at this date to celebrate the end of harvest and the completed preparations for the winter ahead. Usually, winter was well set-in with snow and bitter cold. There was little to do with Christmas in the wind other than the Sears and Eaton’s Christmas catalogues which arrived in time to serve their mail order service. My mom’s birthday was December seventh and for me that was the first indication of the coming festivities. Christmas cards would begin to arrive in the mail (another lost tradition, both the cards and the post office) Christmas songs would begin to play on the AM radio and the season would rapidly build toward the fantastic peak of a celebration of life in the dead of winter. New Year’s day would mark the end of it all. It was the intensity that made Christmas such a special time. All gone now, blurred in a greyness of marketing that has gone on for weeks already. Bumhug!

Deer trails in the marsh. It is a hundred metre dash between the cover of forest on either side.

The darkness and dampness of winter has seeped into everything. ‘Seafire’ feels like a tomb inside. It takes hours to exorcise the penetrating chill of winter. I find it hard to believe that just two years ago, my beloved boat was a place of warmth and cozy shelter through a long, wet upcoast winter. To distract myself, I stay busy with my writing, photography and video-making. My most recent effort is now posted on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSuR95bfKS8&t=142s

Waterfront standoff.
For weeks the empty freighter lay off the foreshore imposing itself on the local residents. At night it provided a blaze of light and the incessant throb of its diesel generators. Then one morning, it was gone.

That is the link which should take you directly to “The Fickle Sea.” I’m excited to consider what I might achieve in future with more experience and better equipment. I have a huge archive of poetry and will try to make videos built on the foundation of some of those poems. Finding good footage to splice together into a cohesive and complimentary visual poem is the challenge. Looking for beauty and positive perspectives within the blandness of winter and familiarity is my chosen method of maintaining good cheer and a sense of purpose. This evening the beginning of our first winter storm is evident. The forecasters have warned us for two days. The barometer has slowly and steadily declined. Rain clatters on the skylight over my desk and shrubbery outside the window flails in the rising wind. If a storm is inevitable, relax and enjoy it. You can’t do anything about it. Enjoy yielding to forces greater than yourself. It’s called storm ecstasy.

November
The last leaf.
This is from a broadleaf Alder or Cottonwood. it is about nine inches wide. “How the mighty are fallen.”

The richest man is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least.” …anonymous

Smoke and Brass Monkies

First things first! My friend Kerry, who has a deep passion for our First Nations People, and also canoes, was given this beautiful dug-out. It is believed to be from Haida Gwaii and up to 150 years old. Its symmetry is almost perfect, the hull thickness is exact. No computers, no lasers, no 3D printers. It is a fine little boat, about ten feet long and suitable for smaller folks or children who could have used it for harvesting clams and so forth. It may also have been used as a serving bowl at feasts and potlatches.              The real thing!
I took this photo in False Creek in Vancouver several days ago. This country bumpkin was a bit uncomfortable there. Friends (See their blog: Sage on Sail) are anchored in New York…and liking it! This scene would be Hooterville in New York City!
Our town. I can’t help but love a small town with a traffic roundabout at the foot of main street built around a genuine antique ship’s anchor. We’ve still got some water and, apparently, a bit of detergent. Note the auto body/ collision shop in the background. Some folks have difficulties negotiating roundabouts.

I have always wanted to have a boat named the ‘Brass Monkey.’ As I contemplate selling my beloved boat and replacing it with a smaller trailerable boat, I believe I would name it the ‘Brass Monkey.’ I’ve never seen a vessel with that name. ‘Seafire’ was very close to having that handle but fate intervened and she ended up with the name of a previous and beloved vessel. It’s a complicated story best saved for another time. The Brass Monkey fixation has to do with my perverse sense of humour. Over breakfast this morning I mused about a new blog called “Tales Of The Brass Monkey.” It could begin: “Hello my name is Balls; Claude Balls. Perhaps you are familiar with my first novel “Tiger Hunting in Burma.”

A “Brass Monkey” candidate. It is an Albin 27 and a perfect boat for “Frederizing.”

Bah ha ha, I get it, I get it!”

It’s a tired old joke from my elementary school days so very, very long. I recall we could get ourselves doubled over in gales of laughter about ‘Rusty Bedsprings” by I. P. Nightly. Was I ever really that innocent and so easily amused? Such are the weird mental meanderings of a creative old sailor on the Saturday morning of the beginning of a long weekend. It is BC Day this time. Years ago an edict was issued that declared there would be a statute holiday in every month of the year. That’s very civilized I suppose.

Taken late in the day on ‘Seafire’ with all the hatches open and a breeze wafting through. Just as we become acclimatized things begin to cool down. Today, it is a frosty 22 degrees C
Not bad for a temperate rain forest.

It meant moving Thanksgiving from November to October. Halloween was apparently not an adequate excuse for an official day off with pay. I don’t think Remembrance Day should be a legal holiday but there’s no point in blowing against the wind. When you retire, every day becomes a sort-of holiday and all too often you have to grope to remember what day it is. Too soon it will be guessing the month; and then the year. Your existence can become something measured by the space between medical appointments. I’ll tell you right now that I’m becoming increasingly suspicious of the whole damned Western Medical system and wonder about how many Porsche payments I’m helping make.

Hey Dad, it’s walk time. I’m waiting!
“I’m waiting again! Let’s go to the boat and have a treat. Huh?Huh?”
Jewelry store security. Bono is an 18 month-old Irish Wolfhound. He’s bloody gorgeous!
The local kennel where his likes are raised can be found at TyrconnellIW.SPACE (that’s a capital I before the W)

The weather continues to be clear and hot. There are several forest fires burning on just on Vancouver Island including a local one of over 190 hectares. All due probably to some idiot with a cigarette. So each day is smoky and airless. Last evening, even with hatches open, the boat’s interior was 43º C, that’s 108ºF! I’m painting the boat’s cockpit so for me it is up in the early morning to put the next coat on before the baking sun rears its angry head once again. I’d love an ocean breeze but I’m glad the firefighters don’t have any more wind than the fire itself creates. I know, from younger years working in the woods, what a hellacious ordeal forest fire fighting is. There is no romance in any of it.

The day the tree ran dry.
Ah c’mon! No jokes eh?
There’s certainly dick in the brook. Sorry folks, but if it doesn’t carry running water all year, it ain’t no salmon stream.
Our local forest fire, still burning and threatening almost eighty homes and farms.
The smoke settles in thickly at times. The ‘Averie Rose’ in the foreground is the gorgeous home of a couple who built her deep in the interior, then trucked her hundreds of miles to the coast. She’s very much “Eye Candy” and a good boat too.
There’s nothing like fresh sea air. Cough! Cough!
There is an expression about being “Drier than a popcorn fart” Here’s a meadow full of them. Pffft.

Wot a life! I met an old man this morning racing down the sidewalk in his electric scooter. He was resplendent in flowered Bermuda shorts flapping around his skeletal legs which were wrapped up in knee-high socks. He wore thick, huge sunglasses beneath a broad straw hat. A smouldering cigarette was stuck in his pie-hole. He complained about the smoke in the air. How do you respond to blatant idiocy? The smoke is acrid enough but nothing compared to the weekend past when a dock caught fire in Port Mellon over 30 miles away. The choking stench of burning creosote filled the air for most of the day. It is a toxic funk that sticks in your throat and nose, strongly reminiscent of a time when everyone used either coal or wood for cooking and heating and thought nothing of whatever might be spewing from local industrial smokestacks. Bleaach! Despite our local air quality warnings, there are millions of folks on the planet still living daily in far worse air pollution and know nothing different. Oh, the things we take for granted!

The pirate ship “Wannabe.”
She’s a beauty in her own right. At least she’s flying a courtesy flag.
A very handsome boat.
It must have taken all of the owner’s money…he had nothing left for a courtesy flag!
My kind of boat. A Bill Garden design, built of steel, dead shippy and able to go anywhere, any time.
It’s wood! Really? This is the bow of a classic Monk cruiser, immaculately kept and named ‘Thelonius’
You’ll get it in a minute.
The forehatch, “A ting of beauty.”

Our marina is so crowded with transient vessels this year that member’s slips are being assigned whenever possible. The revenue is most welcome I’m sure as we continue to expand and improve our facilities. Two temporary neighbours this week were tied on either side of the same finger. One, a typical fibreglass trawler, clone was crewed with two pre-geriatric couples. Drinks flowed copiously accompanied with loud guffaws and “Golly-gee, I think we’re having fun” raucous, imposing laughter. I said nothing (because I seem to have forgotten how to have fun.) Their dock mate was a cruise and learn vessel belonging to a lady who has run a successful sailing school on her boat for many years. In the morning she held class in the cockpit and then coached a teenage girl who, incidentally, backed the big sloop out and away; quite possibly for the first time ever. She did a great job. All the while, the trawler’s matrons stood up on their top deck with hands-on-hips, watching and making comments, especially during the backing out manoeuvre. The body language and mindless quips were entirely inappropriate and distracting to the student. Gormless people, finding entertainment with someone else’s dire circumstance, infuriate me. I tried to keep my head down but finally spontaneously offered that the student really did not need an audience. Two blank faces turned and regarded me with the all the deep wonder of pigs having a pee. I know, I’m just a cranky old curmugeon, but the instructor grinned and waved. The next day another guest dumped out the dock’s dog water bucket because he “Didn’t know what it was for.” Later he complained about the purple martins “Picking on him.”

As Jack might say, “Grrrrr.”

‘Puffin,’ another Bill Garden design. She’s decades old and pristine. She should be in a glass box on someone’s fireplace mantle.
How boats should look. These are the mast bands and the pin rail for the gaff-rigged mainsail. This twenty-six foot boat has sailed uncountable miles over very many decades…and, I think, she’s just getting started.
‘Puffin’s’ boom gallows, carved in the South Pacific more than twenty-five years ago. I think it says something about Lulu’s hand-made grass skirts and ukuleles.

For every goof there are also very many lovely people, with gorgeous boats and even some with wonderful dogs along for the cruise. I’m quite proud to be a small part of the Ladysmith Maritime Society which has become an ultimate cruising drop-in spot for vessels from as far away as the bottom of Puget Sound and even Southern California. One appeared the other day with home port displayed as Isle Grosse, Michigan. I don’t know where the boat is really kept but… goshdernit; we’re famous!

At the moment, I’m finishing up the final licks of the face lift on old ‘Seafire.’ The cockpit has lost its grubby tugboat ambience. Now if someone could do the same for me. I’m also working on an engine in a friend’s 1946 Chris Craft. This beautiful old wooden classic is the sort of boat I watched in the harbours of my youth. Whodda thunk that one day, nearly sixty years later….! Actually I do work on these old beauties every once in a while and it is always a bit of pleasure. No computers!

‘Django,’ a buddy’s 1946 Chris Craft. It has just been sold. Bittersweet indeed.

The final painting in the cockpit is now done. That, in itself, feels good. Also, the heat has eased and we have actually had a few sprinkles of rain today. Does this mean we’re on the slippery back side of summer already? Between the showers, the sun breaks out through a brassy pall of smoke. At least we’ve had no fire-starting thunderstorms, here, yet. I might be frustrated with my little life but I’m not bored. Summer wears on.

All finished. My outdoor office is back in business. It’s time to go sailing!

Don’t judge other people’s ability by the level of your own incompetence.” … Old Grumpy hisself

“Aaaah! Finally!”