Chasing a Rock

“I say old chap!”
This old crow hated me taking it’s picture but couldn’t tear away from the lure of the grocery bags on the back deck of the water taxi.
Tiny fishbits in the stowed net makes for an impromptu banquet.

When your cash flow is at a low ebb tide is the same time that all the incidentals pile up on you. I’ve missed a week’s pay while away south on medical appointments and spending money on things like prescriptions and new eye glasses. After a meagre payday suddenly I’m out of toilet cleaner, paper towels, a few spices and other things that are costly, especially here, when you need them all at once. I’m due for a new fishing license and a new rain jacket. It’s time for a new frying pan. No single item is a big deal, but a blizzard is just a whole lot of innocuous individual snow flakes. I’m not complaining, it’s just the way the pickle squirts, but I find the laws of chaos intriguing. Life, at times, feels like hanging off a cliff with folks dancing on your fingers and peeing on your head. Did I mention that it’s annual income tax time?

“Honey, have you checked the boat lately?” This boat has now been capsized at the dock for a very long time. I last had a photo of this in my blog posted on February 13th. No point in panicking now.

Fortunately the wisdom of accumulated years prevents me from looking for trouble. I’m slowly learning that it finds me readily enough. The boat in the photos below was stolen by three drunken fisherman who had missed the last water taxi. Apparently they hit a reef at full speed. Two RCMP officers were measuring and photographing the recovered boat while it sat outside my shop after being power-washed free of a copious coating of dna.

No Air Bags
It’s not the speed, it’s the sudden stop. The starboard windshield is completely gone. Must’ve hurt like hell.
Down to the last detail.
Clearly, everything came to an abrupt halt.

I quipped about the wisdom of chasing parked rocks and that I hoped the experience had been indelibly painful. I was assured that I was getting my wish. Eventually the police caught up with the three stupids further south and I’m sure they’ll have an unhappy time ahead.Seeing the damage I was reminded of a line from a song on an old Willy Nelson album: Red Headed Stranger. “You can’t hang a man for shooting a woman who was stealing his horse.” No, I’m not condoning violence of any sort but up here a person’s boat is a lifeline. Folks who violate another’s lifeline deserve the wrath of Trump. For what that’s worth, here’s a bit of musing from CBC radio. Someone mentioned that the best-selling pinata in Latin American is now made in the image of King Donald. The retort was “Yeah, but there’s nothing inside.” As I write, another nugget floats out of the radio. “Once the government legalizes marijuana, it’ll be the first time anyone loses money selling drugs.” And so here I go now quoting CBC radio. Times are desperate.

Ah the sun! ‘Seafire’ basks in a moment of sunlight and the promise of spring.
Catting the hook. a traditional and forgotten method of securing an anchor for a long passage. Previously it was hooked under the bobstay but heavy seas off Cape Caution tore it loose and caused damage to the bow stem. This is a work in progress but it will be perfected. I love my Rocna anchor.

I sleep in on Sunday morning to eventually be awakened by the clatter of a low-flying Beaver float plane. Peeking out from beneath the blankets of my snug nest I confirm that dawn has indeed broken. By the time I have some coffee brewing, there is the nearby din of a rock drill. The sooner the job is done the better, life must go on, the din will end. Electrical power on the docks is again being spread between too many boats and simply cooking breakfast can blow the single small main breaker for the entire system. I decide to wander across the enclave to the laundromat for a shower and then indulge in the decadence of ordering breakfast.

As I enter the restaurant, I am accosted by the operator-manager of the water taxi fleet. Without so much as a “Good morning” I’m overwhelmed with a litany of woes about a broken-down boat. I remind him that I’m not at work today and I’d really like to have a tiny piece of life. In other words, “Bugger off and leave me alone.” For the time being I’ve been told not to work on weekends; winter budgets are tight. This character is berating me now that he’ll just have to find someone willing to work weekends. He’s not my boss and is far outside his job description. So much for a peaceful Sunday morning.

A Broke-Back Pickup
It’s a tough life for a vehicle here, the roads are short but the rocks and potholes are big.

Two days later, the cold driving rain continues and a flock of migrating robins appears on the lawn in our little community square. It is probably the first grass they’ve seen in a few hundred miles. They hop about furtively, listening and poking at tiny tidbits living in the sod. They are harbingers of spring yet the sight of them is dismal. They are certainly not singing. Friday morning is the last day of March, in like a lion, out like a lion. I’m writing while waiting for the kettle so I can have a mug of coffee. The boat is shuddering and heeling under windy blasts and pelting rain. Ho hum, this is nothing new. Yesterday the skies cleared and a glorious, golden, warm sun blessed this piece of the earth. For the first time this year, i shut the heater off and left the hatches open for the entire afternoon. It was wonderful.

Got worms ? Robins sighted.

Sunlight brings out the masses, even here. From where and how do they all mysteriously emerge? Suddenly the yard swarms with people bringing in broken boats. Several arrived in tow. Some were sinking, some had dead engines. Some have both problems. I am always bemused by fishermen who leave their boat abandoned for most of the year. We are now close to the short, intense herring season and suddenly there is a glut of customers demanding immediate attention regardless of their place in the line-up.

Bookends. Two of my Shearwater buddies.

As spring slowly wedges it’s way beneath the dark weight of winter, one of the first significant annual events is herring season. It is actually a herring roe fishery; the timing must be perfect. There will be an exact moment when the herring deposit their eggs on kelp and other marine flora. The timing to harvest the egg-laden fish and the fresh ‘Roe On Kelp’ is critical to achieve best quality and maximum value. There is an anxious anticipation. Fishermen earn a large portion of their annual income during what may be a minutes-long season. Then in the last few days before the season’s opening, there comes a frantic rush to have necessary repairs made. The practice of being prepared and of keeping a vessel shipshape is an alien concept.

One character sputtered in to the docks all the way from Ocean Falls. He dumped out the contents of a fuel filter into a bucket. The filter had held a nasty mess of rusty watery goo. When a boat is used regularly as transport in remote waters, clean fuel and filters are absolutely essential, perhaps at times, a matter of life and death. Many folks are very cavalier about preventative maintenance. This character mused that he should have “ changed it last year” and then went on to describe a persistent engine oil leak that comes back every time he adds oil! I call it the “Break and fix” method. Sadly it is a practice entirely too familiar to many.

My tube’s bigger than yours! Sea worm casings on a concrete anchor block.

Spring weather is slowly beginning to appear, a few minutes here, an hour there, an entire half-day a few days ago. It seems odd to cast a shadow, feel radiated warmth on your back and to be unable to see because there is sunlight in your eyes. There are no complaints on that front. I’ll get used to it.

Raindrops on the windows while the sun beams in. All that light reveals accumulated winter grime.

The pump don’t work cause the vandals took the handle.“….Bob Dylan

Author: Fred Bailey

Fred is a slightly-past middle age sailor /, writer / photographer with plenty of eclectic hands-on skills and experiences. Some would describe him as the old hippy who doesn't know the war is over. He is certainly reluctant to grow up and readily admits to being the eternal dreamer. He has written several books including two novels, 'The Keeper' and 'Storm Ecstasy,' as well as 'The Water Rushing By', 'Sins Of The Fathers', 'The Magic Stick', as well as an extensive inventory of poetry, essays, short stories, anecdotes and photographs. His first passion is the ocean, sailboats, voyaging and all those people who are similarly drawn to the sea. He lived aboard and extensively cruised the BC Coast on 'Seafire' the boat he refitted to go voyaging, to explore new horizons both inner and outer. This blog was about that journey and the preparations for it. Circumstances prevailed which forced the sale of his beloved vessel. Now on a different tack, the voyage continues. If you follow this blog your interest may provide some of the energy that helps fuel the journey. Namaste Contact me at

8 thoughts on “Chasing a Rock”

  1. I’m sending some sunshine up from the south. I understand you PNW coasters need a little warmth and sun after a pretty miserable sounding winter. From the ‘island for sale’ i.e. Antigua to you in the north heat, heat, heat.

  2. Hi Fred, I’m Pär, living under the Swedish flag you see at the dock, looking out your porthole. We almost met in Ellerslie, I was in the lagoon, and later you steered into Neekas as I left. Saw you through a thin rain curtain. Hope for better luck at the dock. Pär

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