Takaya is dead. A few blogs back (Feb. 1st) I wrote about this splendid, and particularly beautiful lone wolf, who found his way through the city of Victoria and across tidal rapids to survive and thrive on Discovery Island. He lived alone, in social isolation for several years, managing to hunt successfully and to endure his solitude. This spring, in his mating season he returned to the main island, looking for a mate some think. He was eventually tranquilized and relocated deep into the woods of Southern Vancouver Island. He has now been shot dead by a hunter about fifty metres from where he was released. I am enraged and heartbroken as apparently are many others globally.
I have been a hunter who has lived in rural areas and eaten plenty of wild game. There was never a sound reason to kill a wolf. They posed no threat to anyone or anything despite any myth which can ever be conjured up. A few years ago, on Northern Vancouver Island, a grizzly bear was sighted, the first ever there to anyone’s knowledge. It was promptly shot. When our government conservation officers attend a human versus wildlife situation, quite often a wild creature is killed.
At the moment, tidal waves of fear about a deadly pandemic wash around the planet. Our entire social fabric is under tremendous pressure. The implications of this disease are far-reaching with all its fear and doubt. It is a time for introspection. I want only to put a little light into other’s eyes and yet today I share a little more grief. Damn us all. That wolf will never howl from the depths of the forest again, nor will any offspring. There is silence in the swamp.
“The wolves knew when it was time to stop looking for what they’d lost, to focus instead on what was yet to come.” Jodi Picoult
Isn’t it interesting how things work out? It is early on Wednesday morning, the brightening of the day is occurring reluctantly after a very rainy night. My toilet clogged first thing and I’m taking time off from work to resolve the problem. It might become a shitty day. As I returned to the boat after booking out from the job and grim-lipped at the task ahead, I heard something unusual.
I paused and listened. To my delight what I could hear was a chorus of wolves howling. The music drifted down through the timber on the slopes above. A sacred sound to me, it is a terrifying and hellish siren to many who chose to believe the dark myths and embellished lies about wolves. Curse or blessing, that is up to each of us. My point in mentioning any of this personal moment is that had the timing of my movements not been exactly as they were, I would not have heard those uplifting notes. I think that’s pretty cool. Now…Dung ho!
On the note of a wolf howl let me direct my readers to an incredible website. pacificwild.org is how you will find the incredible photography and video work of Ian McAllister and his organization, Pacific Wild. The endeavour is based here on Denny Island and does wonderful work to heighten awareness of the beauty and fragility of the Great Bear Rainforest as this area is known. The stunning images leave me feeling like an amateur photographer and wanting to throw my cameras away in humility. If those photos don’t stir your heart, you’re dead. Stay in your city, zombie!
Two days later, the wolves are at it again. Two packs, one on each side of the bay, called back and forth to each other through the morning. The serenade of quavering howls and yodels went on for hours until the cold autumn rain began again. Soon it was pelting down. Its rising roar drowned out the wolves. I imagine them snuggled up together under a thick cedar tree, warm, dry and loved. Yes, even wolves are very capable of great love.
This is a short blog. I’ll be away south taking care of business but I’ll be back to my beloved Seafire as soon as possible to see where the universe might lead me. Here’s a short piece I wrote the other morning just before the wolf songs began.
It means twilight. The title that is. A new word for me, found in the English dictionary while looking up another definition, it describes the situation I find myself in here. Daylight is shortening dramatically, autumn rains have set in with a vengeance. Summer and my aching old bones are both in twilight. An e-mail from a cousin in England described someone as being a “two-faced wazzack” my grasp of British slang is increased. It’s another word for idiot and can go on the shelf beside pillock and git. I wonder if the term doesn’t describe me, loving the territory here and aching for the embrace of southern climates.
The seasons have turned. Now the rain comes incessantly, sometimes horizontally. A horrific weather system passed through recently with walls of blasting rain and waterspouts that flipped over dinghies and created general havoc. Even when the sun appears, there can be penetrating rain showers every few minutes. The streams roar constantly and it is part of the cycle which allows salmon access to their home waters where they will spawn and die. Bears and wolves will gorge on the fish in preparation for the long, long winter ahead. This morning a dank fog holds the world in it’s penetrating grip. Summer is over here, winter is coming.
Rosie the dog disappeared two days ago. Her owner had taken his small tug north to a job in a place called Butedale. He’s been gone for about a week. The general assumption was that Rosie had wandered off looking for him. As it turns out, perhaps she had. Rosie had got herself aboard a local water taxi southbound for Rivers Inlet. There was a load of school children going south and Rosie joined their company and that of another dog. A telephone conversation with the skipper finally revealed, casually, what had happened to her but not until the whole community began a quest. Posters appeared all over and folks took time out to literally go and beat the bushes. It is uplifting to see an entire population actively concerned about one dog.
Rosie’s master, unwilling to leave her in the company of anyone so unconscionable, made the long trip south to retrieve her. When that water taxi returns home, there may be some interesting confrontations about the abduction of Rosie.
Skoiern, a gorgeous wooden Bermuda-rigged ketch appeared in Shearwater. What a boat! Registered to Marseilles France, she was built in Norway and launched in 1918. She is over 54 feet in length overall, draws almost 9 feet, displaces 24 tons.
and romps all over the world with good old-fashioned tiller steering. She’s not glitzy, just all business. She’s very, very salty. The man and wife crew are charming people, speak several languages and are now bound for the vessel’s 100th birthday in Norway; via Chile! Typing in the vessel’s name will produce several sites on the internet. Their personal website is simply Skoiern.com. What a treat to see the real thing and to have an affirmation that dreams can be realized. Imagine this, she’s had the same owner for 35 years. Wow!
Now I’m writing from a place I’ve dreamed of visiting for a very long time. It is Saturday morning at 11 am on September 5th. The anchor has just been set in twenty-five feet of water in Goose Island Anchorage. I spent last night anchored in a lovely tidal pass by Latta Island. (It seems that every nook, rock, bump and passage has been named, there’s even a Seafire Island nearby at the mouth of Kildidt Lagoon) Up at first light, I photographed a brassy sunrise which followed a brilliant sun dog in last evening’s sunset. The forecast and barometer confirmed deteriorating weather with winds to 30 knots on their way today.
I weighed anchor and heated a cup of coffee in the boat’s microwave. That in turn scrambled the brain of my onboard inverter. (I like to call it a perverter) It is a device which converts 12 volt DC power to 120 volt AC so I can run things like power tools and microwaves. My battery banks are old and tired and the inverter drained them almost instantly. Fortunately the engine was already running but it took some loud cursing and frantic switch-flipping to get all systems back on line and charging. All the while I was thinking that my long-planned weekend was finished almost before it had started. All’s well that ends and I have had fair warning that yet another major boat expense is imminent. (I’ll bet they don’t have this sort of crap installed aboard Skoiern)
The crossing of Queens Sound (See! They were gay folks even back when they charted these waters….such respect!) took two hours to cross the thirteen and a half miles. Not bad! The weather went to hell. I let the anchor down just as a heavy horizontal rain began. I am now surrounded by broad white sand beaches which are punctuated with beautiful tree-studded islets. Hopefully the weather and the light will improve to allow some acceptable photos. Mainland Canada and its archipelago necklace have disappeared in the gloom to the east. I have this place all to myself. I’ll try to savour the solitude but damn! I am weary of discovering new wonders all on my own. Somewhere in the back of my head I can hear the twangy female voice of a country singer drawling out “Make the world go away.” Yassuh, I knows dat feelin’. Now I’ll go have a nap and then see what the Gods have in store.
Saturday evening, Goose Island Anchorage. This place is breath-taking, even on a gloomy day. Apart from the ubiquitous plastic flotsam dotting the beaches there is little sign of modern human presence. The forest here has clearly not known the demon scream of chainsaws and it is easy to imagine this group of islands as they have been for millenniums. All the summer nature lovers have gone back to their cities and will not know the timeless cold slanting rain and the howling wind which is singing in my rigging as I write. (The new wiring in the mast is not slapping about like the old stuff did. What peace!) The sky lowered as the seas rose and I had a difficult time taking photographs in the dull light but there will be enough to convey the feeling of this place.
Flashes of white surf against a distant black reef were the only thing I saw as I looked for other boats throughout the day. At nine pm it is pitch dark and I am utterly alone but not lonely as I am in Shearwater surrounded by the truck and commerce of folks making money and spending it. Sunday morning was released by the night reluctantly and although the wind is calm the boat rolls anxiously in a swell. That is a harbinger of an approaching storm and I shall cross back to the mainland side of the sound so I can be sure to be back at work on Tuesday. Wazzack! Clumps of cloud cling to the peaks of the shore. The weather is not going to be pleasant. First I take a final trip ashore to wander the beach again as the tide falls. Perhaps there will be a few more photos in the dull light.
Wolf Tracks! Fresh ones, a pair have been here, minutes earlier. They criss-cross on top of the remains of my footprints from last evening and seem to follow the path I took, although now long erased by the tide. To actually glimpse a wolf is such a fleeting moment, always as if imaginary. These tracks are tangible, real evidence of these wonderful creatures and I thrill as I realize that they may well be watching me while I take photos of their spore. My day, yes, the whole weekend, has been blessed by this simple evidence.
The short return crossing of Queens Sound was across a rising beam swell but as usual, the call of the open sea had me wanting to turn southward and seek my fortune over the horizon. There was a spout and flash of a Humpback’s tail a half-mile away, that sight yet another fleeting gift to be savoured in days ahead. Its massive black back appeared once more as it sounded and then twenty minutes later a final spout of vapour now far away. The sight of these massive creatures, second largest on the planet, who appear and vanish so mysteriously, is always a wonderful gift. The coastline here is a labyrinth of bays, inlets and passages, rocks, reefs, a tree-studded mystery of pinnacles, mountains cloud and fog. Even when close to the entrance of a pass or sound, it may require an intense effort of pilotage to find a safe entry. There are few lights for reference and to make one’s way accurately is no casual endeavour. The very thought of approaching this deadly shoreline in the dark leaves me with a lump in my belly. Once again, my thoughts go to the early explorers in their ungainly vessels and how any of them survived the perils of this place. Then my thoughts stray to the natives who plied these waters in dugout canoes. I peruse my intricately marked chart and compare it to my GPS plotter and feel very humble indeed.
Once safely inside the entrance to Cultus Sound I find a beautiful un-named bay with a broad sandy beach. The lure of it is irresistible. I drop the anchor. A short hike on a very rugged trail through massive, untouched timber brings me to another beach on a hidden nameless bay. Stellar jays and ravens mark my progress with raucous calls. The trail, and some discreet campsites betray regular visits to this sacred place and I feel privileged to be here. I cannot, however, use the word pristine. Sadly, as ubiquitous as the driftwood which lines our shores, one cannot go anywhere without finding plastic flotsam. It is everywhere. Bags, shoes, fridges, pipes, floats, bottles, rope, nets, barrels; it is endless. Some day archeologists will refer to our time in history as the polyethylene age. What a sad legacy!
Now it is already Monday morning and a rich, cold drizzle is the measure of the day. It is time to return to the soulless drudgery at Shearwater where I will plot my next escape aboard
Seafire. Last week the press turned its focus on the plight of the millions of Middle-eastern refugees inundating Europe as if it were something new. It has, in fact, been going on for a long while and how the media adjusts its focus is a mystery to me. One caller to a CBC open-forum pointed out that it was our military aircraft dropping bombs in places like Syria that was helping to drive these souls out of their homelands. And now we wring our hands in token sympathy. Meanwhile, similar massive holocausts are occurring elsewhere on the planet but they are not “trending.” Our problems are so trivial.
Monday evening sees me back in my berth at Shearwater.
Lamma Pass, the route home from the south was blocked by a large fleet of gill netters setting their nets at random for miles across the whole pass. Even the ferries were held back while the fishing chaos went on. I chose to slalom between back and forth between the long nets and finally broke free of the maze to the north, probably much to the consternation of the crews. All is well, another week of bilge bliss lays ahead.
My next blog will follow shortly and will once again be a simple photo essay of shots selected from all those taken this Labour Day Weekend.
Here are a few quotes from comedian Steve Wright:
-“I’d kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.”
– “A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.”
-” If you want a rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain.”
-”All those who believe in psycho kinesis, raise my hand.”
-”Experience is something you get just after you need it.”
-”A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.”