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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”