One thing about working on boats has always bemused me. No matter what the repair or refitting job, there is always a requirement to make yet more holes. Whether a drilled hole, or a sawn-out opening, every improvement requires: Yep! More holes. Go figure! A boat is supposed to be a floating vessel which keeps as much water out as possible out. Making ever more holes seems a complete antithesis and sometimes it can indeed go wrong, very wrong.
Once I was twisted into a tight spot on a beautiful 53′ Spencer sailboat, installing a battery box on a small platform fibre-glassed to the hull. The drill bit was dull but in order to hurry up and get the job done, instead of wriggling out to sharpen it, I pressed on. In fact I pressed and pressed until suddenly I felt moisture. I’ll never forget the feeling of that moment as I realized what I’d done. I did not have to taste it to know it was seawater. In my panic to remove the drill, I broke off the bit which plugged the hole reasonably well until the boat could be hauled out for a proper repair. I certainly recall the chagrin as I sat humbly at the bosses desk and told him what I’d done. Yeah, it’s funny now and once in a while someone will joke “Oops here comes Fred, hide the drills!” Well, we all screw up, no matter how experienced we are and so long as no-one is hurt and a lesson is gained, it’s all good. And, I might add, the only folks who don’t make mistakes are those who never do anything. My brother, an airline pilot, once quoted a friend who said, “All’s well that ends.” Imagine hearing that over the intercom as a flight comes to its conclusion!
So old ‘Seafire’ and I are on the lam and tonight we’re anchored in Degnen Bay on Gabriola Island. It’s been a lovely day and evening with an invigorating Northwest wind howling. We were immersed in seawater several times on our little passage over from Ladysmith. The various residues a boat accumulates while sitting at the dock are washed away. Actually we’re here because there is some confusion about mooring at the Ladysmith Maritime Society where ‘Seafire’ has spent the winter but one excuse is as good as another and here we are. Monday will look after itself.
While that is being sorted I have a little job here in Degnen Bay on a friend’s boat. Tonight we’re anchored about hundred feet from the dock where that boat is tied. She is a rare old beauty. A friend purchased an old wooden cruiser with a beautiful layout and the classic lines of a wooden powerboat. ‘Django’ is a 1946 35′ Chris Craft and she’ll be a head turner wherever she goes. There are two lovely GM 4-cylinder gas engines She’s in good shape but like all fine boats is in a state of constant refit and upgrading. The job is a good reason to be here and for the moment I feel whole again.
Degnen Bay is named after an early family who homesteaded here. Degnen is apparently also an old Spanish term meaning ‘to rest’ and I like to think that perhaps the first explorers found and named this lovely spot as a point of rest. It is surrounded by homes and more are being built. They must have splendid views. The bay is littered with mooring buoys and the docks have no empty berths. Yet there is a feeling of tranquillity here. The bay is guarded by a rocky shoreline and the restless waters of Gabriola Pass. Beautiful, wild Valdez Island forms the far side of the pass with miles of trails there to wander and explore as well as an old farm which is now part of a Provincial Park. Sheltered from damaging winds Degnen’s bottom mud is very thin in places and anchoring securely can be a challenge. Hence all the buoys which in turn make anchoring properly even more difficult.
This morning is placid and the sun rises into a cloudless sky.. With my morning coffee I survey the surrounding view. I realize the local public wharf possesses a relic; a telephone booth. It sits beside the dock crane and represents an era now passed. We’ve had wireless mobile phones for thirty years and now pay phones, anywhere, are almost impossible to find. Cellular reception is minimal here so perhaps that is why the booth remains. Dark stormy nights, creeping into the blackness of the bay with the dull glow of the phone booth as a beacon. It is an icon of a lingering welcome-home hug, dry clothes and a warm supper. Then the trudge up a slippery ramp in the driving rain under the baleful glare of a mercury dock lamp. There’s not enough change in your pocket. There’s no-one at home to take a collect call. It will be a two hour trudge in the wet and dark or another night in a damp bunk with only macaroni for supper. Too tired to decide. Been there!
In my last blog I described the art of careening. Today my favourite boat, “Lil’ Abe’ was careened on the beach here. With her hard-chined dory-like bottom she takes the ground well and tonight floats with a fresh coat of bottom paint. she scampered back to her berth at the dock looking as lovely as a new puppy. (See photo in Blog 61, Mind The Gap)
Then came a show of a different sort of nautical ineptitude. A gleaming, huge phallic sloop appeared in the bay, its manufacturer and length displayed prominently on both sides of the hull. It is the sort of yacht I like to call a ‘Fart Parkerson 69.’ For an hour the young couple aboard set and reset their anchor, always too close to yet another boat. Finally they came to rest less than a boat length away from ‘Seafire’s transom. I noticed how pristine everything was, like an ad from a yuppy yachting magazine. The young couple aboard each wore the latest in extravagant yachty fashion, I’d guess thousands of dollars worth. Soon they came over in a virgin-looking dinghy, awkwardly rowing it backwards, to ask if I was content with their proximity. I replied that they were downwind of me and wished them a good night.
Later, in the gathering darkness they were off again trying to find a spot between other boats and buoys. There was a continuous drama and din of their windlass paying out all their chain then reeling it back in again, all the while plowing up more bottom mud. Meanwhile outside of the immediate anchorage there are acres of good, empty anchorage. I guess some folks are determined to be close to the shore. They’re still here this morning! They’ve made it through the night, probably lying exhausted in their luxurious ten-foot-wide bunk, empty champagne bottle sitting beside big fluffy slippers and heavy bathrobes with anchors embroidered on the pockets. “Honey I broke a nail,” he says.
A few days ago in a muddy parking lot an old man and I were approaching each other as we walked our dogs. Suddenly, between us, hurtled a shining black Lexus, backing and filling a few times before it finally came to rest in two parking spaces. We each held our dogs, well back, until the frantic manoeuvring ceased. “Thanks,” proclaimed the driver,adjusting designer sunglasses as he rushed off self-importantly on foot. As we finally met, the other fellow proclaimed loudly, “Guess just ’cause you can afford it don’t mean you can drive it!”
Who am I to laugh at someone else’s dream? Mucho Gusto!
“All I ask is a chance to prove that money can’t make me happy!”
“ A sure cure for sea-sickness is to sit under a tree.”
… Spike Milligan