Hanging On

Summer rushes past like a stream and life goes on toward the coming year.

If the world didn’t suck, we’d all fall off!” A friend e-mailed me a collection of humorous signs. That message was the only one I remember. I spent last week with some horrible flu virus, flat on my back most of the time, projectile-dehydrating in simultaneous directions all at once. That dark experience had me afraid of dying, then angry because I might not. It went on for days. I’m back up onto my knees now with the complexion of used paper, a bit wobbly yet but onward and sideways as ever. As another buddy put it, I’ve been through Satan’s anus and successfully cast out. Whohaa!

Looks like I feel. This sweating fungus is a visual description of having the flu.

Through part of the ordeal of this spiritual experience (I spent considerable time prostrate at the old porcelain alter) I did some bargaining and parted with my black Ford truck. No complaints, I’ll simply say that I’ll never own a North American-originated vehicle again. If Asian and European auto manufacturers can produce superior products in the homeland of Chrysler, GM and Ford, there’s nothing further to discuss. An old Croatian maxim says that a fish stinks at the head first. No apologies Donald! Just fix it.

And now for a little humour. A sign beside the trail near Kinsol Trestle here on Southern Vancouver Island
The Turkey Sisters
High-strutting feral birds, they thrive here.

I’ve ended up with two vehicles as part of my deal, an old GMC bush-basher truck and a lovely little 16 year-old Honda CRV. It was designed to be easily towed behind an RV, but more on plan F another time. I apprenticed as an aircraft mechanic and have retained some of my anal make-things perfect attitude. It’s kept me alive more than once but has also caused a load of hurt along the way. I really like this little AWD car and can easily see it putting along some narrow Central-American dirt road. I am going through it, making sure all is order and to my personal satisfaction. The ‘Check Engine’ light came on. After several checks and some computer codes I determined to change the PCV valve. This little widget allows the engine to recycle combustible vapours from the crankcase and is an essential part of modern engine emission controls. It had not ever been changed and was certainly overdue.

On this engine it is located in a spot which is barely visible and hopelessly inaccessible, especially with hands like mine, each of which are the size of banana bunches. My philosophy is that if one man put it there, then I should be able to deal with it. And so with my characteristic brute force and ignorance I soldiered in.Of course the job involved dropping a tool into the splash pan in an impossible-to-reach spot which meant removing that pan and breaking half of the brittle plastic clips that hold it in place. While I had my arm contorted up beneath the engine to grope for the wrench a friendly neighbour came along and bade me a boisterous good morning. She scared the hell out of me. Well I managed to do the job, minus some skin, but the engine purrs beautifully. However! Resetting the computer fault codes requires disconnecting and reconnecting the vehicle’s battery. This in turn lobotomizes the radio in a measure to make the darn thing worthless to anyone who would steal it. At one point today I was ready to give the damn thing away. I discovered all of this while trying, and trying, to reset the radio’s clock, which eventually further dummed out the radio. By holding this button and that while pushing a third, all at the same time, you can eventually re-enter your personal radio security code and the music box is freed from its cyber dungeon.

Like all good modern mechanics I looked up pertinent information on YouTube and found a tutorial by some well-intentioned fellow speaking with a broad Quebecois accent. He said things like navy code when he meant navicode and vecule instead of vehicle. I was already confused thank you! I was referred to a Honda radio-code-recovery online site where I entered all sorts of information, serial numbers and codes, which the site kept rejecting. Finally realizing I was on a US site, entering Canadian numbers and zip codes, I stomped back out to the vehicle in frustration and despair. Tabernac! Thankfully the first owner had kept all pertinent documents and I found the original radio access security code tucked away inside the owner’s manual. After trying over and over, it eventually twinkled on me that I had fumbled my entry attempt too many times. I had to disconnect the battery, let the onboard computers have a nap, reconnect and reboot the “devices.” Finally the code was accepted, I have a radio and clock again. Bugga! Wot an ordeal! This is on a 2003 Honda, a simple product which came 16 years before the rolling I-bots we now call vehicles. They’re starting to want to drive themselves and I’m beginning to understand why older vehicles have an increasing value. Now I can go for a drive and see if changing that little valve was the fix. It’s funny now!

A mid-sixties Corvair in amazing condition. This was one of the vehicles condemned by Ralph Nader as “Unsafe At Any Speed.” It was in fact, an excellent car. The biggest problem was that it was about thirty years ahead of its time. Mr. Nader, however, was well aware of the profits of paranoia and did very well with his fear-mongering.
“Don’tcha buy no ugly truck!” This mid-fifties Ford was in the parking lot at the local grocery store. This is not a Ford truck I’d part with were it mine.
Car wash colours found beside the vacuum and the garbage cans. There’s some beauty everywhere.
Deer trail through the corn. (Sung to “Riders On The Storm”) Hard to spot for our eyes, it is a super-highway for the critters of the forest. You do see it?

Nearing the end of a hot dry summer the paths are littered with dry leaves. The streams are dry. Jack’s footfalls kick up little clouds of dust. The sky is blue again, there is a refreshing wind and no-one is complaining about the heat. The evenings are lovely and cool, it is almost dark by 9pm, sleeping is easier. It seems I was just posting photos of spring flowers a few blogs ago. Late summer is a splendid season and time for some good sailing now that the anchorages are more open and the plastic pirates have gone back to the marinas until next year. Let’s go!

Hurry up. Let’s go!
Jack has made himself the darling of the docks and is always eager to see who has what treats for him.
A Brown Creeper. It flew into the house and exhausted itself in the skylight, eventually falling down into a bath tub. I did my best to save it, including an ambulance run to a wildlife vet. It died on the way.
0.8 grams. This old farm boy and outdoorsman, once callous to taking lives, wept for this little creature. Is my life worth more than this bird? I’m not so sure anymore.
The frenzy of winter preparations goes on.
‘Herself’ has returned to our docks again. She looks better than ever in her new paint. It is the time of year when the wooden boat festivals are at their peak and the season for a frenzy of spit and polish.

“It is always in season for old men to learn.”       …Aeschylus


Into The Mystic Sea trials on 'Avanti' in the fog
Into The Mystic
Sea trials on ‘Avanti’ in the fog

(And so am I)

My little boat project has been completed with rave reviews and even a kudu from the marine surveyor. Fellow yacht tinkers have expressed their approval which has left me very chuffed indeed. It has been a very expensive ordeal for the owner but he now has a head-turner that will take him everywhere he wants to go. She sails as well as she looks. ‘Avanti’ is a 1966 Frisco Flyer Mk III, built by Cheoy Lee (Hull1691) and designed by Tord Sundén, creator of the famous Folkboat. Essentially this Cheoy Lee is a Folkboat with standing headroom and a very cleverly designed interior. She sails like a dream and with all her teak she has very traditional feel. She may be tiny but she’ll never be a sandwich at anyone’s banquet.

Pretty from all angles
Pretty from all angles

Now another Cheoy Lee has arrived at the dock. Oddly, just like ‘Avanti’ I installed an engine in her while I worked in the shipyard. Here we go again! A new owner has brought her back to Silva Bay and yep! He wants me to do a bunch of work on her. I don’t want to see another Cheoy Lee at the moment, but a monkey on my shoulder is whispering something about looking a gift horse in the mouth. We’ll see.

From this ...an old bulkhead
From this
…an old bulkhead

And where do I want to go from here? I’ve been here on Gabriola Island for nearly four years. I came for a job offer and what I thought would be a great opportunity. I truly believed it was where the gods were leading me and that soon enough it would

To this
To this

make sense. It’s all turned sour; well at least I certainly have. I love the beauty of this place and the wonderful friends I’ve made. There are also a few folks here at the end of the road at the end of the island who

The dragon pit
The dragon pit
Good for another 48 years
Good for another 48 years
A proud little ship
A proud little ship

make living here a misery. Without any grand prospects ahead it maybe time to move on. My personal life is under deep duress and I’m becoming a bit over-reactive to foolishness and rudeness. Of course when your karma is dented it seems some people have an acute predatory sense. I’m sure that somehow signals are unconsciously sent and received. Suddenly “Punching Bag” seems to be tattooed on your head. If one’s personal spiritual health is good, the normal bumps of life go virtually unnoticed. When you’re bruised, every touch and poke is painful and it is hard not to react. It can be a spiral or a growing experience and some lessons seem to need to be relearned.

The Ides of August
The Ides of August

Every morning now comes with a heavy dew and the rainstorms are becoming more frequent. Soon they will be a daily or week-long fact. Boat owners are busy finding and repairing the leaks which have developed through the long, hot summer. I find myself marking the passing rush of time by the ‘Best by’ dates on the milk cartons I buy. We’re into October dates already, November soon. It was September 1st a blink ago. The evenings are cool and dark and damp. The tree frogs are beginning to sing. Mist and fog are common now and there is wood smoke in the evening air. Soon the clocks will go back to “Daylight Savings” (Which, I think, is yet another piece of stupidity we accept.) It is time think south.

The end of summer in Silva Bay
The end of summer in Silva Bay

My buddy Jimmy Poirier has arrived home from his great South Pacific marathon on his Corbin 39 cutter ‘Noroue’. He’s deeply tanned, grinning broadly and minus a lot of weight.

Sailing is something you do because it feels so good when you stop. My pal Jimmy hope from his South Pacific marathon
Sailing is something you do because it feels so good when you stop. My pal Jimmy hope from his South Pacific marathon

He looks great despite not having cut his remaining hair(s) for the whole adventure. It is an inspiring personal achievement and I’m happy that he’s happy. I don’t know how many miles he’s travelled in less than a year. I’m much more of a flower-sniffer but I’m looking forward to sharing a jar or two with him and hearing the whole story. I’m also delighted that he repeatedly offers praises for Donna, the steadfast wife who has been his base support all the way. This is yet another story about how there’s a good woman behind every successful man.

Noroue One fine boat
One fine boat

My friends Tony and Connie are about to finish a wonderful adventure in France and go back to their boat ‘Sage’ where it is dry-stored in Phuket. Check out their blog ‘Sage on Sage’ which can be accessed through the sidebar of this blog. The photography is wonderful.

Looking out from Nanaimo harbour
Looking out from Nanaimo harbour

I am left feeling quite frustrated that I’m not making any apparent progress toward my own goals. It is now the beginning of October and old ‘Seafire’ should be on the move down to Mexico. After the devastation of Hurricane Odile a few weeks ago I’m sure I can find gainful endeavours there.

I know that dreams are realized when things look bleakest and one refuses to quit. That is often when a glimmer of new possibility begins to glow. But like the old buzzard said, “Patience my ass, I want to kill something!” I’ve got another month’s work here on Gabriola so I must soon make some important decisions. Ordeal or adventure, it is a matter of choice in how we deal with life. The hardest part of a voyage is untying the knots in the dock lines.

Capricio a sailing dream begins
a sailing dream begins

Now here I am at 04:00 on the final day of September. I’ve just returned from an exploration under the pilings on the jetty. A few weeks ago I lost a treasured silver pendant through the cracks of the deck above. It is the lowest tide of the month this hour today and so there I was beneath the slimy, dripping pilings, slithering over the barnacles with a flashlight and one gumboot full of seawater. I knew it was a hopeless quest but I had to go look. I’m always fascinated at the night life in the shallows and so it was not a wasted venture. The shrimp with their fluorescent red eyes, big Dungeness crabs, little fish in an inch of water and other wriggling creatures were all out in the middle of the night. Jack has gone back to bed, disgusted I suspect, with my nocturnal interlude. “Nutter human!” After a couple more hours of sleep, Jack the dog is on deck enjoying the sunrise in a clear blue sky. The DeHavilland beaver woke us as usual as its engine clattered to life for the first scheduled flight of the day. Not many people have a float plane for an alarm clock. There is a load of chores to address on this beautiful morning, life goes on.

Just when you were tired of boat photos! A Hawk, Canada's fighter training aircraft. You never know what you'll find in the back of a hangar.
Just when you were tired of boat photos!
A Hawk, one of Canada’s fighter training aircraft.
You never know what you’ll find in the back of a hangar.

It has been few weeks since the last blog. There’s not a lot to talk about, it has been mostly head-down drudgery. Enough said, ‘Avanti’ is finished. There was a hangar-tour at the Victoria Airport which stirred this once upon a time helicopter mechanic into nostalgia and even regret for leaving that industry. The absolute hi-light of the month was a concert in Nanaimo. Carlos Nunez is a Spanish piper from Galicia. If you are interested in Celtic culture you may know that it’s influence was spread from Spain and Portugal north to Brittany and as far east as the outer islands of Ireland and Scotland. We tend to think of Bagpipes as being unique to Scotland but they are in fact a fairly new arrival there of only a thousand years or so. Bagpipes, of varying design and sound were once common across Europe. In many areas the instrument is enjoying a renaissance even in places like Sweden and Syria and India.

Jack Tar in the morning
Jack Tar in the morning

If you don’t appreciate the sound of tortured cats (As many people describe traditional Scottish piping) you may be blown away, (Yes, that’s a pun) to learn how piping, including flutes, whistles and other wind instruments have evolved into contemporary music genres including rock and jazz. Carlos Nunez, Susana Seivane, Cristina Pato as well as many others are all on Youtube and well worth checking out if you have eclectic musical tastes. For humour check out our own Johnny Bagpipes from Vancouver Island who can play ‘Thunderstruck’ as well as AC/DC. There’s also a dude who calls himself the ‘Bad Piper’ who actually has flame throwers built into his pipes! And while we’re in the mood for exploration let’s go the extra inch and explore some Portuguese Fado music. Names like Mariza, Madredeus and Cristina Branco will lead to some rich, mesmerizing entertainment. It’s musical talent at its basic best. I wandered on to discover Scottish tribal drumming and then a guitarist named Tom Ward. Check out his rendition of Asturia. Which leads to an interesting question: Why dos so much of the music we listen to sound the same? Dull, dull, dull.

Funny how a blog about sailing and boats can include a mini-essay about random musical interest. It’s especially odd coming from an old salt like me who couldn’t carry a tune on a barge. “You are the wind beneath my kilt, You could make a bloody thistle wilt…” that’s where I take the gong. Once a sailor, always a sailor! Gentlemen need not apply.

Thanksgiving on the hoof. Gabriola has loads of these feral turkeys
Thanksgiving on the hoof.
Gabriola has loads of these feral turkeys

I thought that in closing I’d research a clever wee quote about bagpipes. Little did I know!

I have found fistfuls! I’ve refined them to four.

– “Bagpipes– the secret behind crop circles.”

– From the journal of Alvisa da Cadamosto, a Venetian explorer in Portuguese service in Senegal in1455 “The sound of one of our country pipes, which I had played by one of my sailors, also caused wonderment. Seeing that it was decked out with trappings and ribbons at the head, they concluded that it was a living animal that sang thus in different voices, and were much pleased by it. Perceiving that they were misled, I told them it was an instrument and placed it deflated in their hands. Whereupon, recognizing that it was made by hand, they said it was a divine instrument, made by god with his own hands, for it sounded so sweetly and in so many different voices. They said they had never heard anything sweeter.”

– “At a funeral I played, the priest pointed at me during the eulogy and said, “so long as there are bagpipers, there will be free people.”

– “See you, Jimmy…..you’d best throttle that shite down now..”

Auch aye!

Can you hear bagpipes?
Can you hear bagpipes?