The Martian Wind (Correspondence between two aging blue-collared friends)

A dashcam view of Ladysmith’s main street..touted as Canada’s award-winning best. The annual light-up festival is a huge drawing card but one has to ask of a town that claims to be green…how many kilowatts of light do we burn up every year?
Just asking!

A thin, grey light began to seep through the skylight. Snug and warm, I cracked one eye open. Protruding my feet from beneath the cozy covers, I rose into the day one toe at a time. Yesterday had been crackling cold, today was back to the normal dank drizzling wet of a coastal winter. I made coffee and reviewed the news headlines. Buried amid the tales of war and corruption is a story about the machinery we have dropped onto the face of Mars. Of all the data it is busy gathering, the audio recording of the Martian wind leaves us spellbound. A gentle murmuring over the face of our marvellous contraption is soothing, like a summer breeze in long grass. That sound is one more encouragement on our quest to find our way home, somewhere out there.

Well, that’s how my next blog began. Then I received an e-mail from a good friend in response to some remarks I’ve recently made. I replied and the rant is on! I haven’t posted a good rant for a long time.

Corn field in winter. As the winter rains return this flooding will increase and then one day, wild swans will descend to swim and feed on the yummy bits in the rich soil below. Man and nature can work together.

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Hello Fred.  It seems that many of the self proclaimed environmentalists have never left a city, have no idea how goods are transported, where the minerals that are used to make the every day essential goods we use come from nor how they are mined.  We have a whole group of citizens who are educated by books and yet are totally clueless about the real world.  Now unfortunately we have elected politicians that come from this group!!  It does not bode well for our future.  I would like to see them all go back to the caveman days.  Walk, don’t ride bicycles because iron and aluminum have to be mined to manufacture the components to make bicycles.  Live in caves because God help us if we cut down a tree!  What a bunch of hypocrites they are to eat food that has to be trucked here from warmer climates where it can be grown.  Oh and don’t let them buy anything made in China!  Make them use sticks and bones as tools, and NO GORTEX high tech synthetic clothing that may have been made by petroleum byproducts. AAAAHHHHH!!!

Well, I have to go now.  I am going to drive my diesel pickup truck to the store and buy some grapes grown in Chile and a bottle of South African wine, and I’m not going to feel guilty about it one bit.

Panamanian-flagged, Greek owned, built in China of North American iron ore and recycled Japanese automobiles smelted with British Columbian coal. It will load with raw logs for Asia where they’ll be turned into furniture and other goods to be sold back to us. Did I mention that the flags were probably made in Pakistan? It gets confusing.

Jimmy:

Will the wine be enjoyed with a New Zealand Lamb roast or Australian beef?  Either way it came on a ship made in China fuelled with oil from Romania and delivered to your store in a Japanese truck rolling on tires made in Korea. And why, I ask, are we, in BC of all places, eating seafood from Asia? Even the otters are apparently getting into the act! (Remember Koi Boy?) Once again I offer my old saw about the chicken farmer who goes to town to buy eggs.

It is the biggest ongoing rant I have. In British Columbia, which with its natural boundaries, immense resources of energy, industry, clean water and agriculture could be a very, very wealthy  sovereign state. (I’m quite in favour of the idea of Cascadia.) Anyone who can put down their I-pad and sweat, maybe even bleed a little and get some dirt on their hands, in other words produce something, should be wealthy. Instead, we import folks who are willing to do the grunt work and then regard them as inferior beings and complain if they get ahead in life.

We could, and should be, completely self-sufficient for food. We have been in the past. Those monster green houses in the lower mainland area could easily grow tea, coffee and citrus fruits instead of the marijuana they probably will cultivate in the future. The price for one cauliflower in the store yesterday was $8.99! That is to cover, I assume, the immense amount of diesel required to move it from Mexico to Vancouver Island. Or perhaps, from a Vancouver Island farm to a Toronto warehouse and then back here! Gawd! You now need to take out a mortgage to acquire a handful of asparagus! As you know, I have no acumen for financial management but I do understand that before you go off spending money on anything else, you figure out how to first feed yourself. We have, or had, very prime farmland throughout the province but we’ve managed to flood it, pave it over for malls and roads, or build subdivisions and golf courses.  And, think of all the food we could grow if we simply replaced the expensive vanity and environmental stupidity of our lawns with vegetable gardens. Why are we importing any foodstuff? It is sheer political genius multiplied by our collective idiocy and comfort zone apathy.

We indeed will end up back in the caves as we deserve. We may now be able to listen to the Martian wind, but have learned bugger-all of basic value about living on this planet. With all of our technology we have dummied ourselves into a state of mental oblivion. A few years back someone came up with the bright notion of only consuming food produced within 60 KM of home. WOW! That’s original. The human race has been doing that in a much tighter radius for millennia. We don’t need rocket science to feed ourselves. Remember the Paul Simon lyrics? “Isn’t that astute, why don’t we call ourselves an institute?”

Once a tremendous effort was made to clear our rich Southern coastal land of its massive timber. After all that effort, most of this prime ground has been abandoned to eventually become “Developed ” land. With ever more people and less arable land, the idea of being able to feed ourselves is becoming more remote.
Abandoned fields are eventually overrun by Himalayan blackberries, an aggressive invasive species. Hardly anyone tries to even harvest the berries, a rich food source. Doesn’t it make you want to ask a few questions?

On a parallel note I watched a report on Scotland’s green energy program last night. Their goal is to be 100% green in a few years and are now rising through the 80% mark. This is a country which until recently, relied entirely on coal and its own rich resource of North Sea oil and gas. (England switched from coal to nuclear power years ago and is realizing the horrible pitfalls of that.)The Scots are now placing tidal generators on the ocean floor of their coastal waters, each of which will supply the needs of 1000 homes. They do not rely on sunlight or wind but use the regular and predictable diurnal tidal currents. They can calculate the energy that will be produced over the next twenty years simply by consulting the tidal books.  I have advocated for that here in BC for decades. Both our coastal ocean currents and our mighty rivers produce massive amounts of unharnessed clean energy. Think of the electricity we could produce without flooding another inch of land or erecting ugly expensive wind generators.  River turbines in Europe have proven themselves long ago. A few years ago, on the banks of Northumberland Channel near Nanaimo there was a serious proposal to build a natural gas-powered generating station. That immediately beside uncalculated kilowatts of eternal unharnessed tidal energy. The gas has to piped to Vancouver Island. Just what were they thinking?  Fortunately, for once, public outcry was massive and the project was abandoned.

Oh to hell with it. At my age it’s easier to just move south and live with the unique problems down there. At least they grow their own food. Cave For Sale!

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Well, so it goes for two old farts who are still audacious enough to ask WTF! We may not have any answers, but refuse to live in a world where asking for simple logic seems increasingly out of order. And… I don’t know how to say Baaaaaaaaaa with a down-under accent.

Three more quotes from Thomas Sowell:

People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.”

Stopping illegal immigration would mean that wages would have to rise to a level where Americans would want the jobs currently taken by illegal aliens.”

You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.”

Well balls to it all. I don’t really care where they were made. Remember to hang on to your sense of humour…it may be the most valuable thing you possess.                   Happy Christmas!

 

 

 

 

Hard Frost At High Noon

Arrivals and Departures. A floatplane lands in Departure Bay in Nanaimo as a speedboat heads out toward the anchored freighters. Entrance Island is in the distant background off the Northern tip of Gabriola Island. This is a prominent landmark for mariners in the Strait Of Georgia.
Departure Bay with Nanaimo Harbour in the background. The pall of effluent in the distance is the Crofton pulpmill adjacent to the old farm where Jack and  love to walk. The venerable BC ferry ‘Queen Of Coquitlam’ is leaving the terminal for Horseshoe Bay on the mainland north of Vancouver.
“Dorothy! I do believe it ain’t summer no more.”
Mosscicles
Fluffy Vines

It is a time of year here on Vancouver Island when we usually have incessant wind and rain. For the last week we’ve had clear, cold weather under a massive high with light Westerly winds. High-flying jets leave contrails that dissipate quickly, a sure sign of stable air aloft which means the fine weather will last a while. This afternoon a high ridge of cloud advanced rapidly from the Southwest. Now the cloud cover is descending which means a warm front has penetrated the high. Soon it will bring rain, perhaps with snow flurries at first. As a sailor and former pilot it is instinctive for me to keep an eye on the sky and I can confirm that the forecast appears accurate this time. I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas.

A school of higher learning. One adult bald  eagle and three juveniles share a sunny perch .
Wire and Ice.
An unusual sight on Southern Vancouver Island

I have worked in Northern regions where winter was long and hard. The romance of the great white north soon wore off. There were many feet of snow and the cold was extreme. In the dead of winter we would service our machinery around mid-day because it had warmed up to -40. (Celsius and Fahrenheit are both the same temperature at that mark.) Now, much older, some of my health issues probably stem from those days when I was young and invincible and seldom wore gloves or hats. Now with temperatures at a mere 6° and humidity at 90% it hurts. My old bones ache and burn. I am glad that I am not back on the Great Lakes where I grew up. The humid winter chill there was bitterly horrid. The only worse damp cold I have known was in the Northeast of England along the shore of the North Sea.

C’mon eh! With the frost there are a whole new set of smells. Old Jack is eager to explore.
Frosty greens. A deer grazes at midday while heavy frost remains in the shadows.
Frost can make the most mundane things beautiful. These oak leaves would go unnoticed without the wintery touch.
S’no berries like frosty snowberries.
A touch of sunlight.
A road in the swamp.

Incidentally, while working in Quebec long ago, I spent some time one winter in Baie-Comeau. The temperature one night dipped briefly to -72°F and a brisk wind blew in from the Gulf Of Saint Lawrence. Gawd! I shall never forget that insidious, penetrating chill even inside the motel where the steam radiators clicked and banged, threatening failure at any moment. All’s well that ends. We drank a lot of cognac. My employer hired pilots retiring from the French Air Force. They could speak the language and they had considerable experience flying turbine powered helicopters. (The local Quebecois held a huge contempt for these foreigners who were perceived to be taking their jobs.) I went to meet one new recruit at the airport. There was no trouble picking him out as he stepped out of the airplane. It was a balmy -40°. He had left Algeria two weeks earlier where the desert temperature regularly rose to 120°F. He told me that mechanics there often kept their tools in a bucket of water so they were not too hot to handle. I was used to having tools freeze to my bare hands when I had to reach into a tight spot. It’s all relative I suppose.

A sunny picnic. Pass the salmon please. These majestic birds are also voracious scavengers.

Jack and I have taken advantage of the dry days and with life on hold we have gone on some grand walks. Here are photos from this week. There has been a hard frost, even at mid-day anywhere the sun’s radiation could not reach. There are two weeks to winter solstice.

As I was about to post this blog a very happy story came up on the evening TV news. A week ago a disabled Vancouver man in a wheelchair who earns much of his  living by panhandling had his sole companion abducted; a tiny chihuahua. He and those who knew him were shattered. The local community rallied and went on a dog hunt. Eventually they found him in the hands of a n’ere-do- well in a city alley. Dog and owner are reunited.

And…remember Koi Boy as described in my last blog? He’s gone; disappeared in the night, last seen crossing Hasting Street. Eleven prized Koi eaten, he’s got away with his gig. And so there are two happy Christmas stories.  The way I see it.

…And an eaglet in an oak tree.
Well alright! I guess it’s Christmas. Some folks take to randomly decorating trees in the woods. It’s lovely!

Too much of what is called “Education” is little more than an expensive isolation from reality.”

It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.”

… Thomas Sowell

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE

There Will Be T-shirts

Click on images to enlarge

Morning Ebb
Boats at anchor swing to wind, ships swing to tide. The morning tide in Ladysmith Harbour has just turned to ebb. The ships are turning into the rising current. This was a great shot to manipulate until it looked like a painting

Like many folks around the time of the full moon, I often have trouble sleeping. I’m loony enough at the best of times and right now have a special sense of unrest. This month we have some especially high tides so clearly the moon is showing a potent effect on this planet. The abode where I live has several skylights. They are a delightful feature providing plenty of light. The rain has hammered incessantly on them in the last thirty-six hours. It stopped sometime in the night and the silence woke me up. I drifted back to sleep and into twisted dreams only to be awakened again with a bright light in my eyes. It was the moon beaming in through the skylight. So now I sit at my keyboard, pecking out this blog.

Uphill to the dock. Well it seemed that way. The ramp is almost level. On low spring tides, the far end can sometimes be fifteen feet lower. Note the cold, cold rain on the sea’s surface.
Young Engineers awash. The high tides invade a summer project. A winter storm on a high tide will erase all the efforts.
Winter dock berries, actually last summer’s strawberries. The plants were laden with berries but I did not partake. Dogs like to pee on them.

I’ve already grinched on about how our culture celebrates Christmas, or, at least, the shambles it has become. There are still Black Friday sales pop-ups appearing on my computer screen. That only exacerbates my Scroogely darkness and even if I had cash to spend, I’ll be damned if I’ll succumb to this invasive cyber badgering.

Look ma, no leaks! These skiffs are all partially filled with rain water. They await a little attention from their owners, perhaps on the next low tide.

Now here is a current TV news item that is warming my heart. In the heart of Vancouver lies a lovely place on the edge of Chinatown called the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden.

Here is the link: https://vancouverchinesegarden.com/

You can learn more about this lovely “Urban oasis of tranquility and reflection.” It is claimed to be the only classical garden of its kind built outside of China. Someone had the foresight to acquire the land and create this place while it was still possible. Land in downtown Vancouver is now probably valued by the square inch. Chinatown as it existed is rapidly vanishing inside the swelling cancer of neo-urban renaissance sweeping over Vancouver. All is now glass and metal and concrete. It is easy to claim that the whole of Vancouver has become the New Chinatown, but that is another story.

What is making the news is that a lone river otter has somehow found its way through the concrete jungle of downtown Vancouver to the Sun Yat Sen Gardens. They are a long way from the shore of the Burrard inlet from which he had to have started out. There are several ponds in the gardens. They are filled with Koi. This sleek beast is behaving like a fat man at a buffet. He just can’t be stopped. A dedicated sushi addict, he is slowly cleaning out the pond’s murky waters of their much loved monster goldfish. Why he would give up fresh clean fish, crabs and shellfish for scaly bottom-feeders mystifies me. But then, look at the crap we eat simply for the easy pickings that they be. A story of the path of least resistance and survival of the fattest, I find it quite amusing. Folks are frantic. All attempts to trap the otter have failed, now they are evacuating the fish to the Vancouver Aquarium for the interim. So, call me perverse, but I’m rooting for “Koi Boy.” The latest update is then when the ponds were drained in order to catch the remaining old fish, it was discovered that there were loads of baby fish no-one knew about. “Koi Boy” is proving to be a blessing as much as a curse.The intention is to catch the critter and move it miles away far into the Fraser Valley. I think it is a wonderful story and I follow it with glee. In the aftermath, someone will make a movie. There will be Koi burgers sold in local restaurants and of course, there will be T-shirts.

Where otters do not fear to tread. Jack’s tracks cover those of an otter as he tries to find the source of the scent. Koi Boy’s cousin perhaps?

Midnight, the end of a long day. Can’t sleep again. Bugga! More hot cocoa, more abstract thoughts too strange to write about. I’m not usually an insomniac. I guess life is extra troubling at the moment. I’ve just sold my beloved Achilles inflatable boat to make ends meet for month-end. It is on its way to Mexico this weekend, in someone else’s truck. Bugga again. I had my own plans for it down there. So another morning approaches and something good will happen. The dinghy is gone, there was money in the bank for a few minutes, but now at least, the overdraft on my overdraft is cleared up. Haar! The banker asked me about dipping into my investment portfolio. I said “Sure” and showed her my lottery ticket.

Manyberries
A backdrop of rose hips signals the approach of winter. The hips will feed a lot of birds in the lean months ahead. They are a great source of vitamin C and many folks collect them to make tea.
A ghost of spawning passed. Now empty, these eyes saw many things in the thousands of miles travelled since this fish left this stream and then returned to complete its cycle of life.

The rain is hammering down again and I enjoy the luxury of being warm and dry. Many out there do not have even this. Stay grateful and appreciate what you have. A week has passed since I began this post. Now it is December. The weather has turned clear and cold. Recently I’ve found myself working on a friend’s boat. It really is time I stopped squirming around in bilges. It hurts. There is a reason there are few rubenesque marine mechanics.

Well, the latest headline is that “Desperate officials continue hunt for otter.” The beat goes on.

Raw logs for China. This ship has just moored to a dock in front of a shut-down sawmill which was closed for lack of log supplies. I can’t make sense of this. The ship will be loaded with a mountain of raw logs as high as the bunks visible along her sides. It is a travesty beyond any logic. A first snow low on the hills in the background shows “Cut blocks” from which the timber was logged and then  quite possibly exported on ships like the ‘Malau Bulker’
Snow on the mountain. Winter descends down Mount Benson which overlooks  Nanaimo and its distinct waterfront.

The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.” …Walter Bagehot

Donuts In The Snow

IT’S OVER!
Red light, green light, crossing the highway in Ladysmith. Taken through the windshield with my mobile phone.

I posted my last blog ten days ago. When I awoke the next morning it was beginning to snow, just a wee skiff to keep the children happy; so I thought. I’ve spent many years in the great white north where a metre or more of snow overnight was not newsworthy. You just carried on. I regularly drove hundreds of miles on wilderness roads in extreme conditions of cold and deep snow. If you ended up in a ditch or broken down it could prove fatal so you drove accordingly and carried a few extra items in the event of emergency. If you saw someone off the road you stopped and made sure no-one was in trouble. It was all in a day’s passing. Here, if there’s enough snow to cover the ground, it is best to simply stay home. Today, the forecast is for 17 or more centimetres. A few people will die out there. Only half that fell and the sirens still wailed constantly all day.

Well, Jack enjoyed his Christmas. His new blanket was tasty!

The white stuff is slippery and if you have experience as a winter driver, you know that no amount of ability is enough when there is zero traction. Superior drivers use their superior experience to avoid situations which require superior skill. Unfortunately there are many motorists who apparently have no clue about winter driving. Steep hills covered in wet white grease and littered with goggly-eyed drivers stuck in their suv’s is reason enough to stay home. Those television ads depicting an all-wheel drive vehicle bursting through a bank of fluffy, dry snow forget to tell you one thing: you’ve got to stop sometime. Last night I saw a plug for an Alfa Romeo suv. (Stupid Urban Vanity) It was a gorgeous vehicle! But somehow I doubt the Italians fully understand Canadian driving conditions, not that many of these look-at-me-mobiles ever leave pavement. So I stayed home that morning and sat here pecking away at my writing.

The same old view south. In the distance, ships wait for cargo at another sundown, not a nice way to spend Christmas.

Then there was a horrific train wreck just south of Seattle. It was the very first run with paying passengers on a new high-speed rail service between Seattle and Portland. The train leapt off the rails and crashed down onto the main interstate highway in the state of Washington. The carnage incurred prevents this from being a hilarious story. To ad to the ludicrous tale, our boy Donny Trumpet (He’s always blowing his horn) was tweeting within three hours of the crash that this was a great example of why his infrastructure funding bill should be passed forthwith. The gormless ass! There were still people, dead and alive, trapped in the wreckage as he massaged his pathetic ego! Here on Vancouver Island we have solved any issue with railway safety. We cancelled our rail service.

Christmas morning; a brief respite. Jill and Jack savour a few minutes of sunlight.

 

Tracks in the snow.

Now over a week later I slide this blog off the back burner of my writer’s stove with a story from today’s local newspaper about a visiting Calgary man who “Spun a few donuts in the snow at Transfer Beach last week to clear a path for his 70-year-old mom to walk.” There’s a photo of a little car sitting in the middle of several circular furrows. That this was a news-worthy story says a lot about the pace of life in Ladysmith. I’m wondering how long this dude has had his mom going in circles. Such is our existence between Christmas and New Years. The days are grey and wet, the nights are long and wet. My sense of humour is short and dry. Outside on the final Friday of the year, I go to the local pool to swim my final lengths for the year. This morning I crawled out of bed one toe at a time and now dawn reluctantly squeezes the black sky to a porridge grey. A thick fog descends with a syrupy penetrating drizzle. In the afternoon, the drizzle turned to snow.

The bunk job completed. The deck beam and storage shelving are new. Apart from difficult angles, the real trick was to make everything look as if it belonged.
Open for business. This is the guest berth, until recently used as junk storage. Well, it’s junk if you don’t know you’ve got it or can’t find it. Emergency tools stored handily. The wheelbarrow handle has been adapted as an emergency tiller.

When I went aboard ‘Seafire’ to check on her, it was colder inside than out, like a tomb. This old boat has been my home, warm and snug through some long winter nights. I feel as if I’ve abandoned her and wonder where I will be this time next year. Well, life has to be lived as it comes, one moment at a time. When you look back, even 365 days, you’ve already forgotten so much of the blur. Just this moment, it’s all we have.

I wish everyone the best in 2018. May we all have something to do, someone to love and something to look forward too.

Happy New Year
May your days be sunny and your seas calm.

Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” … Hal Borland 

Beyond Black Friday

Good things come in small bundles.
Santa blew it! Somehow, deflated Christmas ornaments laying all over humbug my Christmas spirits. Especially if they’re still lying there in July.

Black Friday has past. It may become known as the day that Darth Vader got stuck in the chimney. Forget the Star of Bethlehem, it’s Star Wars part 49. Bzzt, zap, whoosh! I’m not a fan, especially when the marketing of this film has be forced on us for months. “May the force be with with you” takes on a new meaning. What a way to start a celebration of love and peace and warmth and fuzziness! So it must be getting close to Christmas. Each morning there are deflated Santas and elves and snowmen lying on lawns nearly everywhere.

!The sacred act of consumerism is in the air. Even before mid-December advertisements for Boxing Day sales already clog the media which all the while keeps insisting that this year is a tight economic time, with housing and grocery costs at outrageous highs. Well, maybe so but as I drive by the malls, there does not seem to be many empty parking spots. Tap, tap, tap, click click. I’m not talking about the little drummer boy! Remember the ad, “Just say Chargex?” Jaded and cynical, I’m just not in the mood for anything other than peace and rum.

And lo, in the East, a star rose over the locomotive shed. There’s a Baldwin steam locomotive stored inside.
You recognize the view! This squint southward is over the Ladysmith amphitheatre in the local park.
The other side. Looking into the morning mist in Dogpatch. On a sunny winter morning, everything is beautiful.
Winterberry

Online, folks are posting yummy recipes. I have some good ones too but gluten, glucose and alcohol are bad for you, at least this year. I don’t know what happened to trans-fat, but apparently eggs, butter and coffee are OK again. My Christmas cake is delightfully heavy, dripping with syrupy alcoholic elixir; one slice is guaranteed to bring on a case of acne. Then there’s my glug, a mulled concoction of fruit completely desecrated in a blend of wine and brandy and other secret flammables with exotic spices. This year it’ll be cranberry juice and soda crackers. It’s the high life for me.

Frosty meadow.
Jack and I love walking at first light.

Once a simple pagan celebration of winter solstice and a return to lengthening days, this time of year was an affirmation of hope and familial security despite the long winter ahead. It was a simple defiance against the elements, things that went bump in the long dark nights and all there was to dread. It is supposed to be a celebration of life. Then religion imposed it’s toxic notions and Christmas was gradually perverted into an orgy of money grubbing. I’m well aware of the entire Christian story, I was force-fed on it for too many years. It’s dark and cold and wet outside tonight. There’s homeless folks out there, lots of them, and all the church doors are locked. In Victoria recently I saw security personnel guarding a church entrance. Homeless people were setting up camp for the night on the grass boulevard in front of the church. Shopping carts and garbage bags just didn’t look like the makings of a warm and safe winter night; in front of a church. Remember the stable?

Frozen Light

I do have golden memories of Christmas from a childhood many decades ago. A sudden aroma of home-cooking, woodsmoke or the tang of frost, the smell of wet woollens and barnyards (Yes, good old cow shit) the pungence of a real tangerine, fresh-cut conifers and a puppy’s gentle musk are among the stimulants that bring those old memories back to life in an instant. I know folks wrung their hands back then and worried about what the world had come to and how things just couldn’t go on like this much longer but by today’s comparisons, it was, at least for me, truly an age of innocence. That smells can induce memories, good and bad is an affirmation of our primal origin. I wonder about all the other senses which we have stashed away in the dim light at the back of our caves beneath the hanging bats.

In this particular area on Vancouver Island some hummingbirds spend the winter. This morning I was contemplating the brilliant multi-coloured led lights decorating a neighbour’s tree. A hummingbird zoomed down and began examining each light. Clearly, I’m not the only thinking creature confused about reality. With the thousands of lights gleaming through the night in Ladysmith It’s a good thing the wee bird is not nocturnal.

I’ve busied myself with a few projects on ‘Seafire.’ First a thorough cleaning in the main cabin and the galley. I was stunned to realize how much cooking effluent had accumulated behind and on the curtains and in niches my regular cleanings had missed. That accomplished, I turned my attention to a long-delayed project. The foredeck was slightly flexible. There was no issue with strength; I simply wanted to feel a rock-solid deck beneath my boots. Besides, the deck beam job will incorporate more book shelves and storage space in the forward V-berth. “Idle hands do the devil’s work” is something people liked to say when I was young.

I am not sure that boat projects are not devil’s work but it helps maintain some level of sanity within my chosen madness. While I’ve been fiddling around inside ‘Seafire’ different sorts of madmen are hard at other endeavours. Francois Gabart has just returned home to France on his massive trimaran after sailing around the world in 42 days and 16 hours. He set out on November 4th. I can remember where I was on that day, it is that recent! I’m not interested in going hyper fast on a sailboat, but I respect the achievement. To be alone and drive a boat that hard without a catastrophic mechanical failure while staying mentally and physically sound all the while is a miracle. It must seem very strange to be back ashore.

I can’t hear you! Jack charges a flock of pigeons, oblivious to all else.

Feet on the ground, now there’s a concept. The massive storm of inappropriate sexual behaviour accusations leaves me afraid to even smile at anyone of any gender, however many genders we now recognize. This tsunami of innuendo began with Bill Cosby and now anyone with eyes and hands is a suspect. I don’t want to dissect the issue, nor sound dismissive but… The US president openly bragged about his aggressive misogynistic sexual behaviour before he was elected. If an avowed pervert is running a country with impunity, surely that raises several obvious questions. He’s not welcome on my boat.

One of the ways I endure winter is to have something good to look forward to. Last year I had sequestered myself away in Shearwater and missed my annual pilgrimage to the Fisher Poet’s Gathering in Astoria. This annual event is held on the last weekend of February in Astoria, Oregon where poets and singers gather to celebrate the many aspects of the commercial fishing industry. It is a wonderful festival of blue collar eloquence and Astoria is a fantastic town to visit for any reason. You can learn more by going to the Fisher Poet Website (FPG.org)and can even hear some performers, including myself, read their work. If you’re in the area and want some late winter cheer, check it out. By the Way, Astoria has some of the best craft beers and ales anywhere.

Well, back to Christmas. I’ve just received a Christmas card from an uncle in England. The photo he enclosed shows himself and my aunt. It was hard to accept how they’ve aged. I have been receiving letters from him since childhood. They used to come on tissue-thin blue Royal Airmail paper. The letter cleverly folded quarterly with two sides reserved for the addresses. They were self-sealing and were bought prepaid, like a postage stamp. The sender wrote in as small a font as possible in order to say as much as possible on the six blank quarters. Somehow, the Brits had a style of handwriting that was generic. Everyone’s looked the same. That’s all gone now along with the whole fine art of letter-writing. Uncle’s handwriting is unchanged after all these years. There’s a comfort.

Early birds. Swans usually don’t show for winter until January. What does it mean?

The English journalist I mentioned in my last blog, Johnathon Pie, is actually a self-described political satirist whose real name is Tom Walker. He also calls himself a “Devil’s Advotwat.” His work, which appears on You Tube, is impeccable and utterly cutting as he rants about local and global political issues. He is crisp and irreverent and convincing, confirming my contention that our contemporary philosophers often appear in the guise of comedians. That, of course, should not be confused with a clown appearing in the guise of a politician.

“Dontcha buy no ugly truck!” When this GM pickup was new, that was the company’s marketing slogan. It appears to belong to a firewood harvester and is well-equipped for the backwoods.
Don’t laugh, I’ll bet she’s almost paid for!

Yep, as the song goes “It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas.” But I’m not dreaming of a white one. If you are celebrating the season, do it with your bow into the wind and your sheets hard. Wishing everyone empty bilges and full sails.

See! Toto emerges from beneath his Christmas blankets. He seemed offended that I thought he was funny.

The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.” …Jay Leno

Going dinghy

There’s that view again from Ladysmith!
Yep, still looking south. On the horizon, a freighter sits anchored, waiting for her cargo.

 

The sky brightened.
An hour later.

So what’s Mr. B.N.D. doing up here buying a dinghy?” A friend’s wife queried me when I arrived in Campbell River to purchase a used tender for ‘Seafire.’ It was a fair question especially when my last blog was about buy nothing days. It was also a fair question in consideration of the wintery weather. A viscous rain was being driven by the rising sou’east wind. The water in Discovery Pass was a mass of building foaming hard lumps, the usual meringue of wind against tide. I know this piece of ocean all too well, but for once I was ashore. I’d come to buy a nine foot fibreglass dinghy already modified to hang almost perfectly from the davits on ‘Seafire.’

Look up.
Big Brother is watching.

I already have a nice little kayak and a splendid inflatable tender. There’s no place for the kayak on mothership in the winter where it doesn’t get hammered by the wind, or partially filled with water. It also blocks visibility from either helm. Getting into it in winter weather raises a good possibility of a frigid dunking as I try to finesse my Rubenesque thorax into the bobbing little cockpit while clad in clumsy boots and rain gear. The willowy, flat-bellied former younger self still hiding within my senior mass cringes as he realizes what he has become. Gawd! The Michelin man in a kayak.

The Achilles inflatable is a wonderful little speedboat but also an awkward thing on the davits. It refuses to accept being lashed solidly under the davits and has caused me much grief during heavy weather passages. The drain hole in it’s transom only allows shipped water to dribble out; not a good thing in big seas. It constantly moves no matter how I secure it to the transom of ‘Seafire’. Chafe is a sailor’s worst enemy on a boat. This inflatable is built from hypalon, a very tough, long-lived material, but it won’t live long if I allow it to continually wear on parts of the big boat. If it were a hard-bottomed dingy there would be little problem with the davits but I wanted an inflatable that could be rolled up for long passages. I refuse to tow a dinghy any distance for several other good reasons. Every thing is a compromise. Oddly, my first boats all had a hard dinghy; I longed for an inflatable. Now I’m back where I started.

The fibreglass dinghy affords me a way to get ashore from an anchorage and still provides the hope of being a life boat in dire circumstances. It already has solid lifting points and two drain plugs in it’s keel. I can also carry it about 30 centimetres higher than the inflatable, so there’s less chance of flooding it in rough weather. The little cockleshell was also reasonably priced. Nautical items tend to be less money at this time of year; about half-price in fact. So there, I’ve blogged half a page to explain my spending spree on Black Saturday. The drive home took two hours in a nasty downpour, darker than black. It was one of those night drives when your headlight beams are eaten in the spray and other drivers were demonstrating their worst motoring manners and low skill-sets. I arrived home to find a blog from friends in the Caribbean showing idyllic anchorages in clear tropical water. Swear words! It just ain’t right! In the morning an e-mail comes with photos of the beach in La Manzanilla, Mexico. Curving miles of golden sand, surf on one side, palm trees on the other. The TV weather girl tells us it has been the wettest November here since 1953.

Last summer, laughing children swung from this rope and swam across the pond. There were none playing there today.
On Winter’s Pond. It was so calm you could hear the birds shivering.

I step into my tiny garage/workshop and there lingers an aroma of spring and of hope. The fresh smell of curing paint is aroma therapy to me. Suddenly I can hear twittering birds and feel warm sunlight, all of that in a whiff of paint. It is December 1st today and I’ll cling to whatever I can as the rain drums on the skylight above my desk. Bumhug! It’s Christmas time again, already, so soon! As if there would be a chance of forgetting. Happy Consumermas. Two days later it proved to be a sunny Sunday. Jack and I went exploring and found a lovely walking loop beside the local river which I’ve been driving past for over thirty years. Then in the afternoon Jill and I drove to Crofton to take the ferry to Saltspring Island to see a movie in a 120 plus year-old building call the “Fritz.” The film was the “Viceroy’s House” which never played in the mega theatres of Nanaimo. That is probably because there are no explosions, gunfire or graphic violence. And that is probably why it lost out to film titles like “A Bad Mom’s Christmas.” Tis the season!

A Brrrird!

Viceroy’s House” was spectacular in all regards and helped clarify how much of the mess in India was created by the British colonialists. I heartily recommend it. All that adventure in one day! The decadence of travelling to another island just to see a movie did not elude me, so we crowned the afternoon by having a lovely dinner in a humble but wonderful Thai restaurant in Chemainus. Now it will be all dénoument for the rest of the month. Then the daylight will begin to increase each day. Yeah right!

While I’m in a complimentary moment, check out Johnathan Pie on You Tube. He’s a British journalist who manages to turn every report into a very raw rant. His ability to provide candid in-your-face opinions is very refreshing indeed. He has clearly been around for a while but he’ll probably disappear in mysterious circumstances. Catch him while you can.

In the woods, there’s still beauty on a gloomy day.
Ball, brook, branch.
Jack’s bliss. That’s his raincoat!
Jack has a quiet moment. Someone decorates several trees along one of our walking routes. This is the main one, also brightened with photos of dogs who used to walk here and are now in the ‘Big Kennel In The Sky.’

 

Waiting for the ferry at Vesuvius on Saltspring Island.

The fibreglass dinghy is now hanging from the back of ‘Seafire.’ It rows beautifully and fits the davits perfectly. Jack sat in the back looking like a little prince surveying his realm, clearly enjoying the ride while I rowed the royal barge. I love it when something works out and even the ship’s dog is happy.

The dinghy.
All tarted up and ready for sea. Note that ‘Seafire’ is not all wrapped in plastic. Ready, Aye ready!

 

Downtown Ladysmith, Christmas lights. They plant cabbages in the flower beds of town hall then leave the holiday lights on for months. Apparently the main street of Ladysmith has been vote the nicest in Canada
I don’t know what they’re called but these are one of my favourites. They stay like this until spring.
The phantom decorator strikes again. A gentle soul wanders far and wide, hanging a few decorations randomly throughout the woods. It’s lovely.

If it’s a wrong number, why did you answer the phone?” James Thurber

Here We Go Again

Here we go again! Southbound, looking down on Pruth Bay on the northwest corner of Calvert Island.
Here we go again!
Southbound, looking down on Pruth Bay on the northwest corner of Calvert Island.
The nook An embracing anchorage facing the open Pacific
The nook
An embracing anchorage facing the open Pacific
Port Hardy Potty Pause A Saab 340 of Pacific Coastal Airlines on the flight south from Bella Bella. Ten minutes for fuel and more passengers and a chance at the washroom. A clear, cold beautiful day.
Port Hardy Potty Pause
A Saab 340 of Pacific Coastal Airlines on the flight south from Bella Bella. Ten minutes for fuel and more passengers and a chance at the washroom. A clear, cold beautiful day.

February first, Bella Bella airport. Calm, clear, bloody cold. Again! I’m off south to the big smoke to see the vets again, for the same thing. The flight is uneventful but I can tell you that travelling with a UTI (Urinary tract Infection) has reduced my sense of manliness to a new low. Perhaps I’m just living out my life as a dog but moving about with the incessant urge to piddle becomes an incredible burden. It pisses me off. There are just not enough bushes out there some days. A residual effect from my bladder surgery at Christmas, it is definitely a gift that keeps on giving. Jill accompanied me to Vancouver for yet another heart procedure. It snowed persistently and on the crossing it was announced that all the Vancouver buses had been shut down. A big burly fellow began wailing loudly. He wore an interesting costume which included a studded dog collar. He whined loudly that he’d put all his money into attending a “Metal Concert” to the point of missing meals and now what would he do? I truly felt the urge to apply some slap therapy and wanted to ask him how he’d deal with being a Syrian refugee. Feckwit! More on the stupidity of our species shortly.

As it turned out, the buses were running, on time, and once again I was amazed at the efficiency of the Translink system in the lower mainland. People still find room to complain, but for less than the cost of one hour’s parking downtown, you can buy a day-pass that allows you to be whisked anywhere all day long without risk of theft, accident or parking problem. Jill and I were bemused to recall the panic on the ferry about how foot passengers were going to get themselves downtown. There were negotiations for rides with driver-volunteers and while I admired the obvious milk of human kindness, It was intriguing to see how easily blind panic was induced with a simple pre-emptive inaccurate announcement.

A view with a crane. Looking east from the hotel room at Lonsdale Quay. Yes that's snow!
A view with a crane. Looking east from the hotel room at Lonsdale Quay. Yes that’s snow! No, ‘Attessa’ is not my boat.
Lonsdale Quay The hotel is on top of the market.
Lonsdale Quay
The hotel is on top of the market.
Beautiful Downtown Bella Bella. The public wharf and center of the community. A very different world, perhaps planet, from Vancouver, two hours away by air.
Beautiful Downtown Bella Bella. The public wharf and center of the community. A very different world, perhaps planet, from Vancouver, two hours away by air. Note the perched eagle surveying his kingdom.

Back on Vancouver Island, also snowy and slushy, I ventured forth in my new-used truck. It is a lovely thing and will take my little off-road trailer on many future adventures. I have seldom acquired a vehicle, new or used, which did not provide some sort of an initiation break-down. Today was a repeat performance. In the middle of a slushy street, my lovely new used truck died. It turned out to be a corroded computer module which shut off the fuel supply; expensive, but easily remedied. My capitalist pride turn to instant frustration. A previous time when I’d just put a fresh set of tires on a new used vehicle, the engine promptly blew up at the top of the Malahat Summit. Yes, there’s another set of new tires in the store this time!

A nasty surprise. Fresh snow at the Nanaimo Departure Bay Ferry Terminal.
A nasty surprise. Fresh snow at Nanaimo’s Departure Bay Ferry Terminal.

The stunning part of that wee adventure was the incredible stupidity of many motorists. Some folks stopped to offer assistance which was dead lovely. Many others, although my full-sized black 4×4 truck, stalled in the middle of the snowy road with emergency flashers pulsing, could be seen for several blocks beforehand, would pull up immediately behind the vehicle. They would either sit with a blank look on their face or begin sounding their horn. In the hour it took a tow truck to arrive, this occurred many dozens of times. With my leaky plumbing issue, it was not at all a pleasant experience. Mein Gott! These folks are licensed to hurl themselves around the planet in large, deadly projectiles at high speed, yet apparently have the cognitive skills of a mudflap. No wonder the Trumps of the world can so easily take control. Living in a backwater like Shearwater clearly has some advantages. The only fool I need worry about here is myself. Fortunately, while repairs were being made, my dear old pals, Grethe and Niels, took me under their wing and soothed this sorry beast. Thank the gods for good friends.

Checking my e-mail I discovered that other friends has just completed the very long passage from South Africa to Trinidad on their sailboat ‘Sage.’ Tony and Connie left Victoria on Vancouver Island a few years ago and now have sailed over half-way around the planet. Where they go from Trinidad is anyone’s guess. What an intrepid pair. You can find a link to their blog site on the right hand sidebar of this blog. Another friend is sending me amazing photographs from Thailand. A sailor friend wintering in Mexico is urging me to just “Do it” and get my old buns down there. As soon as I can take the next breath, and the next pee, for granted, I’ll be on it like never before. The tears are running down my leg. (there’s a lot to be said for kilts.)

Monday morning, back to Vancouver today. It’s still snowing. Another adventure lies ahead.

Outflow Wind. Looking up Howe Sound from the deck of a ferry in Horseshoe Bay. Outflow winds from the snowfields and glaciers beyond Whistler accelerate down the Sound and head out to sea. It is bloody cold!
Outflow Wind.
Looking up Howe Sound from the deck of a ferry in Horseshoe Bay. Outflow winds from the snowfields and glaciers beyond Whistler accelerate down the Sound and head out to sea. It is bloody cold! The ferry to Langdale and the Sunshine Coast can be seen in the distance.

I find myself worrying about ‘Seafire’ languishing in Shearwater without me to look after her. There is another strong wind warning up for the area and within the next few days they’ll be blasting a monster pile of rock that has been being drilled for several weeks near my dock. I’d like to be able to take my beloved boat away a mile or two from the blast site. What will be will be and there’s enough to worry about right where I am; after all, it’s just a boat. Right? I have to haul myself, the old “wutless gonder,” off to the meat shop and get probed and zapped some more. That’s all that matters today….and a place to pee. Damn! How the mighty are fallen. There are so many kinds of courage and I marvel at those folks who bravely face horrible illness and injury and the ubiquitous poop-brindle beige halls of medical institutions. Then there are those who go to work in those places on a daily basis. I could not do that. We took a room in the lovely Lonsdale Quay Hotel. I’d planned to take Jill for an early Valentine’s dinner in a favourite restaurant; there was a gas leak and all the local restaurants were closed. We ended up enjoyed a fabulous meal in a Thai restaurant a few blocks away. You never know what’s around the corner!

A favourite view. I have long loved the northerly view to the north from the ferry lane between Nanaimo and Bowen Island. Texada Island looks like a small country, bounded on the west by Sabine channel and Lasqueti Island and Malaspina Strait on the east. Low clouds on the island's peak are usually the harbinger of bad weather.
A favourite view. I have long loved the view to the north from the ferry lane between Nanaimo and Bowen Island. Texada Island looks like a small country, bounded on the west by Sabine channel and Lasqueti Island and Malaspina Strait to the east. Low clouds on the island’s peak are usually the harbinger of bad weather.

February eighth, Campbell River Airport. At the hospital in Vancouver yesterday, in preparation for yet another “Cardioversion” (It sounds a bit like a religious experience …and it is!) the anaesthesiologist asked me if I remembered anything of the previous treatment. I replied that I did. I said I recalled a helluva bang and then the smell of bacon. She berated me for being a smart ass, although the rest of the attendant crew seemed to appreciate a little humour. This time I don’t remember a thing and the application of high-voltage has brought my pulse back to a normal rate. Now I can focus on getting my plumbing problems under control. A prescription has turned my discharges a brilliant orange. Tracking me in the fresh snow will be no problem.

Seriously, it ain’t no fun. Loss of bladder control is an agony, night and day, and I’m in pursuit of a new urologist for a second opinion and to see what’s going on. The one who did the reaming and ripping is arrogant and dismissive. Tests have revealed that there is no infection. Something else is wrong. Bugga! I understand why some folks launch malpractice litigation. I’m almost ready to rig up a bucket and hose tied to my leg. Patience I tell myself, patience, this too shall pass. Meanwhile the fluorescent tears run down my leg.

Collateral Damage. The Bella Bella water taxi shelter...where it meets the jetty ramp during storms.
Collateral Damage.
The Bella Bella water taxi shelter…where it meets the jetty ramp during storms.

Jill drove me to the Campbell River airport this morning and I hope to shortly be back in Shearwater. The trees and roadside were laden with snow. There is more forecast for later today. Up in the Great Bear Rainforest, there was a fire on Denny Island along the power line from Ocean Falls. Aerial photos on the TV news show miles of power line in flames. How that could happen, in rain forest in mid-winter is everyone’s mystery. The high winds must have fanned the flames. Some local local natives are trying to use this as yet another example of whitey’s disregard and neglect of First Nation needs and priorities because they were without electricity for a while on the weekend. No comment!

Gravity wins again! Buoyancy ends when that final drop of water trickles in. Bilge pumps are wonderful things!
Gravity wins again!
Buoyancy ends when that final drop of water trickles in. Functional bilge pumps are wonderful things!

Meanwhile we’re holding our breath about the weather being good enough on for today’s flight. I’d rather be sitting under a palm tree wondering which cantina to go to for dinner. Finally back in Bella Bella, there is a sinus-pinging north wind blowing. The wait on the dock for the water taxi was interminable. I returned to Shearwater a short while after the blast. A few rocks fell on the far end of my dock but ‘Seafire’ sat unscathed. A rock was fired through the wall of a house above the dock. It emerged through the ceiling into the kitchen. Collateral damage and all’s well that ends. In the afternoon I soon found myself head-down unbolting an engine for removal from a water taxi. Life goes on. This morning, as I write, a fresh blanket of snow is descending. Ordeal or adventure, life is what you make of it. Suddenly it is nearing mid-February and I’m still here. It is the Saturday of the year’s first long weekend but I’m going to work today. The weather is crap and the work in the shop is piling up. Too much time away gallivanting around in southern hospitals!

It's not spring yet!
It’s not spring yet!
TILT! As I post this blog a neighbour boat rides out the storm. 'Anarchy' is a Contessa 26. This design, tiny as it is, is famous for carrying many sailors on round-world-voyages.
TILT! As I post this blog a neighbour boat rides out the storm. ‘Anarchy’ is a Contessa 26. This design, tiny as it is, is famous for carrying many sailors on round-the-world-voyages.
Wind warped. The same boat on a much calmer evening.
Wind warped.
The same boat reflected on a much calmer evening.

On Sunday morning any plans for the long weekend have dissipated. A full storm has raged all night but fortunately with steady howling winds. No slamming gusts! I slept peacefully most of the night! Sleep has become a rare commodity because of my health issues which demand I visit the loo several times through the night. I’ve discovered Tibetan and Mongolian throat singing among other soothing types of music I can stream from You Tube. It’s weird perhaps, but it works and to be able to nap for two continuous hours is now a rare treat. As the day drags on the rising wind begins its slamming gusts. I clean and tinker on the boat as I upload the photos of this blog on our flickering internet. It will be a long day. I’m not complaining, just explaining. There will soon come a morning when the skies are clear, the wind will be warm and dry. The old verdigris-stained sails will fill and the compass will read due south.

Textured Moon
Textured Moon. Between the back-lit scudding clouds, a chance to make a creative photo of last night’s full moon.

Now is the winter of our discontent.” William Shakespeare

Cream and Scum

Seafire Dreaming some dark and stormy nights it's hard to remember perfect moments like this in Clatse Sound
Seafire Dreaming
Some dark and stormy nights it’s hard to remember perfect moments like this one in Clatse Sound…and to imagine what can be ahead.

Warning: This blog contains a photo which some may consider offensive

You’re getting past your shelf life.” How’s that for a remark from your doctor? He’s a great guy, one of the last country doctors I know and an avid permanent local. He has a great sense of humour which is a tremendous virtue for a doctor. On the water taxi ride back from the Bella Bella Hospital to Shearwater I began to reflect on what he really meant. The life I’ve lived has already taken me decades past my shelf life. I’ve done a lot of dangerous and stupid things in my time and know full well that none of us has more than the moment; no matter what we might think. I am not afraid of dying but I certainly hate not living. And living up here alone in the boat, through the winter, is proving to be nothing but an existence. After enduring a winter here in the Great Bear Rainforest I know I must make some immediate moves to change the prospects for the rest of my days. I don’t quite know how to change my status as an economic refugee, a common whore, especially when this old bilge ape is just not able to work as hard as he used to.

A Punter's View Sea-trialing a ubiquitous local punt with a new outboard motor
A Punter’s View
Sea-trialing a ubiquitous local punt with a new outboard motor

This blog was originally begun as a running narration of my vessel ‘Seafire’, myself and those who would join me on adventures and voyages to exotic destinations. It has taken on a life of its own and seems to teeter on a theme of finding wonder, humour and insights from the moments at hand. The years roar past like a runaway express train. For some reason I was cursed with hard wiring which seems to prevent me from ever getting my leg over a financial fence and achieving my simple dreams. Some friends tell how easy it is to just “DO” things but that formula eludes me. I have had many adventures which are too incredible to describe here; yet what I have dreamed of the hardest and longest still eludes me. Now my health is failing me and I have to modify those dreams and my lifestyle. I do also understand that with the correct lifestyle I can regain fair health and still live out some of those dreams. It is a conundrum which only I can resolve. The end of January is fast approaching and I’ve accomplished nothing here except to barely survive. But perhaps that in itself is an achievement.

"Feelin' nearly worn as my wheels." I decided it was time to replace the office chair wheels with something slightly less worn.
“When push comes to shove, Feelin’ nearly worn as my wheels.” I decided it was time to replace the office chair wheels with something slightly less worn.

Some sailors cheerfully go to extreme regions where they freeze-in for the long cold polar night. I’ve done my time in the Great White North. I cannot imagine eight to ten months of this as I sit here in the boat, writing at 03:00 and looking out at the blackness around the bay. There is no wind or rain tonight, for the moment, which perhaps is why I cannot sleep. It is too calm. What a place this is! Endeavours here are a strange waltzing boogie between the practical and the incongruous, the insane and the brilliant. To survive here one must mould themselves to bend around, and into, the culture of a many-faceted work camp community manned by characters, like myself, (Imagine a little town full of Freds) who don’t fit into the mainstream of the Southern Coast. I tend to simply do my job and then retreat into a hermit crab existence within this boat. But enough claptrap about the gloom of winter weather and frustrated dreams. There’s lots else to write about.

I often bemoan how my prime link with the outer world is CBC Radio. The radio and this laptop computer are my only company aboard the boat. (Really! No rubber dollies.) With a patter of human voices in the background, life is a little more bearable although many CBC programs are eternal manure heaps of rhetorical blither. Occasionally, for me, a nugget shines out from within the brown. One of those recent undungings was a half minute playing of an old but recognizable tune. No-one announced what those notes were, but it was instantly clear to me as a snippet of the theme music from a CBC series called ‘The Beachcombers.’ That tune is available online as are many of the 387 episodes aired over eighteen years. The show began in 1972 and was a near-instant hit. Set in beautiful little Gibsons BC the simple plots unfolded along the waterfront and still, even now, hold a pleasant charm. If you know who Relic was, you know the show. That series accomplished two things. First, I believe, its portrayal of life on this coast drew a migration of Eastern Canadians to the West. The image of an easy-going life in a picturesque setting had to be a magnet to a hippy generation that often travelled with only a thumb and a backpack. Those same folks are now entering their geriatric years and became the next generation of middle-class establishment which now owns some of the most expensive properties in the country. There’s a quote that goes, “A capitalist is just a socialist who’s found an opportunity.”

The Real Thing A locasl beachcomber's boat, the venerable and beautiful 'Pender Chief'
The Real Thing
A local beachcomber’s boat, the venerable and beautiful ‘Pender Chief.’ Beachcombing is the enterprise of finding merchantable logs afloat and washed up on beaches. No living timber is taken, it is solely a salvage operation. It is how I began a career which led me to full-time tugboating.

 

I think the second achievement of this TV series was that it portrayed as perfectly normal for whites and indigenous people to work and interact with each other on a fully equal basis. There were no exclamations about race or gender. Everyone was just one of the community. A local Sechelt native and prominent Hollywood actor, Chief Dan George, often guest-starred on the program and added a rare dignity. Anyone old enough to remember the show will soon fondly recall their favourite episode. However, there are now folks old enough to have a driver’s license who have never seen or heard of the production. If you see a geezer on the side of the road, wearing a headband and tattered bell-bottomed pants, they may well be on their way to check out the Sunshine Coast. It’s never too late. The food at Molly’s Reach is great. Peace man!

Knowing the ropes a beachcomber's workplace. a beach skiff and a shallow-draft tug. It's a great lifestyle and sometimes you can make a little money too!
Knowing the ropes
A beachcomber’s workplace. A beach skiff and a shallow-draft tug. It’s a great lifestyle and sometimes you can make a little money too!
Value added Beautiful clear cedar timbers milled from salvaged wood. It doesn't get better than grass roots commerce.
Value added
Beautiful clear cedar timbers milled from salvaged wood. It doesn’t get better than grass roots commerce. Bonus scr

Speaking of peace there is the Trump subject. How many damned times a day do we have to hear something else relating to Trump? I’ve found myself counting the seconds after the radio is turned on until I hear the dreaded T-name. I try to avoid political contemplation at length in this blog but the media has been battering us with all things Trumpety, Trump since the beginning of the long presidential campaign. I’ve had enough. I’ll simply say that I wouldn’t want to spend any time in a life raft with this dude. Same thing, by the way, for Hilary. My dog is so smart he is well able to play stupid as it suits him. I think Trump may be playing a similar game. Listen carefully when he speaks about his “Big beautiful wall.” While it is assumed he is talking about his contempt for Mexico he carefully talks about protecting “Our borders.” Guess who has the only other border Canada. Many US citizens do not really see Canada as a sovereign nation and we have all these resources. Get it? Sleep tight.

Clearly he also has low regard for China so here’s a proposal. Major US retailers, like Walmart and Costco, sell little that is NOT made in China. Maersk shipping built special container ships just to accommodate Walmart’s huge demand. The shipping line returns those tens of thousands of containers to China; empty. So Mr. T, if it’s America first, perhaps US businesses should sell only US manufactured goods. Huh? And you say you will close all your hotels outside the borders of the US? Oh, and please, please bring all those crap fast food American restaurants back within your beloved border. Free enterprise. Ever hear of that Donny? NAFTA. Not A Freakin’ Thing’s Allowed! I’ve done a lot of business in the US and it seems to me that Americans hate being beaten at their own game. How’s that for a rant?

I WARNED YOU! Something under this dock grows, no-one is sure what to call it. Here are some possible captions: Cojone Del Mar But it's natural! No bull A family resemblance Neurotic Photo It must be spring Got DNA
I WARNED YOU! Something under this dock grows, no-one is sure what to call it.
Here are some possible captions:
Cojone Del Mar
But it’s natural!
No bull /Got DNA
A family resemblance
Neurotic Photo/ Old Sea Scrotum
It must be spring/That reminds me
Got DNA /”Well, doc, it kinda’ feels like a barnacle.

Meanwhile, up here in Gulag Shearwater the vicious weather has returned. High winds with massive gusts have stormed us for the past two days and nights. Old ‘Seafire’; is slammed repeatedly. The heavy boat is tossed about like a bath tub toy. Sleep for the past two nights was impossible. My binnacle cover, which was tied securely, was gone this morning. There’s another few hundred dollars blown away. It was due to be replaced, but I wanted the old one for a pattern. Shingles nailed to the dock were torn up by the wind and flung helter skelter. The weather was too foul even for our intrepid tugboat skipper to run a freight barge over to Bella Bella. I’ve sold my vehicle to a fellow there and need to deliver it. By water taxi we’re about fifteen minutes apart with rides an hour apart. BC Ferries offers a vague and irregular service which runs bi-monthly on average. Tonight I’ll board the ferry at 23:30 hours and then spend the night trying to sleep in the vehicle once ashore in Bella Bella.

Night Moves Midnight, pouring rain ink darkness, I wait at the ferry dock, the only passenger.
Night Moves
Midnight, pouring rain, inky darkness, I wait at the ferry dock, the only passenger.

All’s well that ends. It pummelled down rain all night, I slept fitfully. The transaction is complete, paid in full along with some fish. Then my new friend delivered me back to my own boat with his. There really are plenty of good folks out there yet.

A gift of fish. It's lovely to do business with gracious people.
A gift of fish. It’s lovely to do business with gracious people.

At least Donald has never heard of Shearwater. Ah, here comes the wind again.

Cream rises to the top. So does scum.” …Ian Graham.

After The Crash

Eagle moon January 12th Cold, clear, calm, icy!
Eagle moon
January 12th
Cold, clear, calm, icy!
January First, 2017
January First, 2017

 

In a recent blog I promised that, despite the winter doldrums, I would find something interesting to write about. How about a runaway forklift? I repaired the wiring on a forklift which had died outside my engine shop. Once it was running, I did some final electrical checks and then gathered up my tools. That was when the back-up alarm began to sound. The heavy machine lurched backwards, accelerating as it went. One hundred feet away sat a row of boats. The first two were aluminium work punts and then a very expensive fibreglass sport fishing boat. In horror I jogged toward the impending disaster, my brain screaming “No, no, no!” The punts were shouldered aside, as the smoothly idling forklift zeroed in on the prime target. Fortunately the ground was covered in ice and the trundling attack came to rest as blocking was flung aside and a pile of pallets splintered. One driving wheel spun in useless frustration. I was able to clamber aboard and shut the engine off.

Beep, beep , beep, bee...Shit! The reverse runaway forklift. Thank goodness for the ice. The expensive boat behind the forklift was spared by one inch.
Beep, beep , beep, bee…Shit! The reverse runaway forklift. Thank goodness for the ice. The expensive boat behind the forklift was spared by one inch.
Safety First! The ubiquitous local aluminum punt often requires welding repairs after rocky beaches and stormy seas. Stacks of pallets are a great way of positioning the vessel at the best height. Creak, crack, tilt.
Safety First!
The ubiquitous local aluminum punt often requires welding repairs after rocky beaches and stormy seas. Stacks of pallets are a great way of positioning the vessel at the best height. Creak, crack, tilt.

Collateral damage was minimal and the dislocated punts came to rest an actual one inch from the hull of the grand boat. The forklift controls were worn. As it idled the shift lever vibrated itself down into the reverse position. I made appropriate repairs immediately. In my bunk, I dreamed of the machine launching itself over the end of a barge. The reverse alarm beeped its way overboard and then made a most peculiar sound as the machine sank. All’s well that ends. As the daylight faded a near-full moon rose into a crackling clear sky. Hopefully this heralds the end of our cold snap. It has been a rare event for which we are ill-prepared.

The old castle road. Would you believe a WWII jeep trail through local bogland
The old castle road.
Would you believe a WWII jeep trail through Denny Island bogland?

The weather has now returned to the many shades of grey slanting rain and gusting wind. It’s just another long, tedious day after tedious day on the mid-coast of British Columbia. The broken dock chains have been replaced. Slam-bashing winds have wracked the docks every night since and all is well. Yesterday, despite the cold lashing rain, there were rolls of fog on the distant mountains that had a spring-like look. Perhaps it is just wishful thinking but there really was an hour of sunlight in the late morning. One of the joys of getting older is knowing that nothing is forever and winter will eventually end. The trick for me is to find and savour those brief golden moments.

Winter dream.... When the sunlight is high and warm and long each day. ....Many more sleeps!
Winter dream….
When the sunlight is high and warm and long each day.
….Many more sleeps!

The weeks grind on. Donald Trump is plugged in at his newest ivory tower and even up here, it seems, the world is puckered up in anticipation and dread. Yes, even here in the remoteness of the rain forest. I suspect that in four years we’ll discover his rhetoric was largely empty promise and threat, just like a politician. He will have been forced to acknowledge possession of all normal human bodily parts. His ambition as the world’s next fuhrer will be fully deflated. Simply understand to never, ever trust a fat man with tiny hands.

Any sign of spring is desperately cherished. A moment of sunshine, its warmth on one’s face. I heard geese today. They’re local birds, but haven’t called like that for months. Beneath the docks, billions of herring swarm and glitter. That is a sure sign of good things to come. Today while on a sea-trial out in the bay I saw a huge humpback whale. I’m sure it was gorging on the spawning herring. Later, as I walked back to my boat, I heard two wolves howling nearby. There’s hope!

January Moon Rise The long sleepy wait for spring. Beneath the calm surface, the tides ebb and flood, the herring begin to return by the billion. The year's timeless cycle turns as ever.
January Moon Rise
The long sleepy wait for spring. Beneath the calm surface, the tides ebb and flood, the herring begin to return by the billion. The year’s timeless cycle turns as ever.

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.

Look Ma, no batteries!
Look Ma, no batteries!

Cellos And Chicken Soup

Jury Rig A temporary fix to hold the dock in place until a new chain can be installed.
Jury Rig
A temporary fix to hold the dock in place until a new chain can be installed.

New Year’s Day. Finally enjoying a good sound night’s slumber, after two long sleepless ones, I was awakened by a frantic knocking on my deck at 04:00. Dreadfully ill with a nasty virus, my chest and head blocked with insidious goo, I had finally slipped off to the roar of a rising wind and the rocking of the boat. I sleep well when it’s like that. I was jarred back to consciousness by some folks who were ending a New Year’s Eve party on the float house next door. A vicious westerly wind had risen. The massive but badly rusted chain which held the end of the dock had snapped. My beloved ‘Seafire’ and the boat ahead of us were in peril of being caught in the bight. Imminent danger loomed of being crushed between two pieces of dock. All of the boats here could well become part of a tangled mess on the beach. New Years was beginning with a bang. I groped around in the dark to find my pants.

Life On A Thread The temporary life line which kept the broken dock from folding up on the boats moored to it. 'Seafire' is one of the boats. It is my home at the moment. Most of my life is invested in it.
Life On A Thread
The temporary life-line which kept the broken dock from folding up on the boats moored to it. ‘Seafire’ is one of the boats. It is my home at the moment. Most of my life is invested in it.
 One Thin Line While we wait for some new dock chain to arrive this frayed piece of line holds the life of 'Seafire'.
One Thin Line
While we wait for some new dock chain to arrive this frayed piece of line holds the life of ‘Seafire’ and a few other boats.

Stepping into the cockpit was an instant full-body ice cream headache. Uumph! I puckered up. Damn! I wasn’t going to be of much use to anyone. The wind continue to blow. The best I could do was to forestall various inept efforts by my peer’s attempts after their evening of celebrations. Finally some competent sober talent arrived and all’s well that ends. Five hours later the morning sun in the churning clear sky is just now rising up the masts along the dock. “In like a lion, out like a lamb.” Hope so.

Happy New Year!

 SUSHI! Marine growth on one of the old dock chains.
SUSHI!
Marine growth on one of the old dock chains.
T he Pecking Order Look who came to lunch!
T he Pecking Order
Look who came to lunch!

I went back to work next day in the engine shop by checking our fleet of water taxis and planning the days ahead. The cold wind whistled and rumbled under the azure blue where ravens and eagles hovered in the pure sunlight. It was a glorious day. On the ground I’m still stuffed with flu goo. My chest is honking and burbling like a flock of geese. That’s as close to flight as I can get. But I gasped and puffed my way a day closer to my goals. Large pieces of paper towel emerge clean and fluffy from the clothes drier. All those pockets with paper hankies I did not remove. I believe that’s called recycling. Snot funny! I spread clean warm sheets fresh from the laundry bag on the bunk and flop down on top to savour the fading warmth. I will not be here next winter. That is a promise. (As I post this blog, CBC news airs a report that Greece has temperatures of -10 and a dusting of snow.)

It is the time of year where each day can be a dark eternity. Work is a bleak distraction from other harsh realities. Hibernation instincts are high and it would be grand to simply sleep for the next two months. There are plenty of projects on the boat to be completed. They’ll still be there when the weather eases under the influence of spring. I also have many writing efforts sitting on the back of the stove, slowly bubbling away. The problem is staying awake. I find myself hunched over this computer, slumbering fitfully with my banana fingers keying out several pages of Zs or Fs. I’m napping these words out over my breakfast coffee and catch myself nodding’doing the chicken’ once again. Last night I awoke sitting here at eleven pm, and finally went to bed. This morning I crawled out of the warm bedding one toe at a time.

Finding The Leaks Each icicle marks a flaw in the tired old caulking which won't hold rain water in.
Finding The Leaks
Each icicle marks a flaw in the tired old caulking which won’t hold rain water in.

By week’s end not much has changed. My flu is reluctantly easing its grip but it has left me utterly exhausted. I’m spending this weekend simply resting. Posting this blog is my only endeavour. Possessed with all the ambition of a mudflap, I’ll ignore all the work heaped up in the shipyard and on this boat. I need my ‘mojo’ back. Apparently the entire coast is gripped with a flu epidemic and harsh winter weather. In Shearwater the temperature has risen enough for snow and rain but the forecast for the week ahead includes more snow and descending temperatures once again. The evening twilight does seem to be lingering a few minutes more and there are green buds on some of the bushes.

"I'll go to sea no more." After having their bones picked a final time for any pieces of value, these old hulls will be broken up and taken to the dump.
“I’ll go to sea no more.”
After having their bones picked a final time for any pieces of value, these old hulls will be broken up and taken to the dump.
The Indignity Of Death. Private parts exposed, corpses go unnoticed.
The Indignity Of Death.
Private parts exposed, corpses go unnoticed.

Once, the notion of the Great White North seemed a manly thing to me. I recall winter tent camps, thawing ice for drinking water, starting machinery in the dark in minus forty degree weather. The romance of it all eludes me now. Old ‘Seafire’ was not built for these latitudes. Staying warm and dry is an ongoing challenge. On Saturday morning, seven days into the year, I stay buried within the coziness of my bunk until long after the first broke-back pickup has clattered by.

 Beaking It out A pair of eagles sing a hungry song.
Beaking It out
A pair of eagles sing a hungry song.

There is a road on the perimeter of the bay where the vehicles rattle past. Our roads here are rough and folks seem to like to drive as fast as possible. Destroying a vehicle with abuse and neglect seems to be part of the local culture. Body parts rattle, torn-off mufflers do not get replaced, faulty brakes and worn-out tires are lived with. Some vehicles pass by the engine shop daily to re-inflate soft tires. Headlights are left burned or bashed out despite the long hours of darkness.

A Brilliant Selfie One of the few bright ideas I've had in a while...actually the photo is an accident.
A Brilliant Selfie
One of the few bright ideas I’ve had in a while…actually the photo is an accident.

And so life goes on in Weirdwater. Frankly, I’m feeling as road-weary as the vehicles here. In the last few days, the company has been sorting out derelict vessels and storing them in one corner. They were living, working creatures at one time, loved by someone who used them to make a living. Now they are dead shells waiting for the crush and bash of the breaker’s machinery. Where does a boat’s soul go? Probably the same place mine seems to be heading. After my house chores and cleaning up the boat outside I reclined in the main cabin while a fragrant pot of Avgolemono (Greek lemon chicken soup) simmered on the stove. YouTube streamed various pieces of cello music and I snoozed peacefully. It seemed as good a cure for the flu as any. I’m getting good at doing nothing. In fact I’m thinking of retreating into the deep folds of my bunk and hibernating like a bear. No more postcards from Mexico please. Call me when you see the swans heading north again. Meanwhile, a week later, the broken dock still hangs on the end of a single temporary rope. The wind warning for today is forecasting speeds of up to 100kph. The mast and rigging begin to hum and sing and vibrate once again.

Everyone complains about the weather, but nobody ever seems to do anything about it.”

…..Willard Scott