THE WORLD OF Tiny

I swear I have been passed on the road by a shiny Hummer with a ‘Think Green’ bumper sticker. All this enviro-speak is very trendy but when if comes to giving up personal comfort, well yeah but…!  I saw a photo recently of a fat man jovially sporting a T-shirt saying “I beat anorexia.” Yeah, it’s funny, but underscores how we love our extremes. We want to drive 300hp SUV’s and also get fifty miles a gallon. People’s vehicles are bigger than ever and obesity is worn by many as a badge of well-being but I’m just not that interested in global stupidity, I’ve got a full-time job dealing with my own.

A growing number of folks are taking pride in living fully by enjoying a fresh awareness of how little they need. Perhaps in result of recent economic events, it is a refreshing turn away from our perversion for lemming gluttony.  After living in a boat for years I can claim the benefits outweigh the inconveniences. Not much room for clutter here and if something aboard hasn’t proven its worth within a year; it’s gone. Use it or lose it! Forty-one feet up one side of the boat and the same down the other gives me eighty-two feet of untaxed waterfront property. I can change the view and the neighbours any time I want and, Yeehaw! You won’t find a damned lawnmower anywhere in this boat. Yes, I’d love to have a workshop aboard and I can think of other essential amenities but soon enough I could could end up with an aircraft carrier and still be wanting a little more room. Some of my happiest memories have to do with canoes and rowboats and backpacks; enough said.

Home on the bay. How much do we really need?
Home on the bay. How much do we really need?

I recently bought a teardrop trailer and that has led me onto some interesting paths of research. There is a quiet trend toward downsizing homes,  vehicles and RVs with folks taking pride in learning how little they realty need. That path helped me discover the tinyhouseblog.com which is a site dedicated to compiling stories about people who are discovering the joy of living in as small a space as possible. Boats, trailers, gypsy wagons, yurts and small buildings are all there. Not only are many designing, building and living in sensible homes, they are joyfully discovering the freedom of shedding the burden of being owned by mountains of “Stuff”. It is a trend which I hope gains momentum and flies in the face of consumerism. That is an insidious religion we have all been programmed to embrace. We worship in the malls and plazas that are our mosques and cathedrals.  Blind consumerism is as evil and deadly as any other fundamentalist dogma.

A matter of choice
A matter of choice
Floathouse community in Cowichan Bay
Floathouse community in Cowichan Bay

For years I have noted some folks stepping backward when they learn that I live in a boat. I can almost hear the thought at times, ‘He’s one of those!” That’s fine, your waters are too shallow for me; I doubt we’d have become friends anyway. This old boat hippy does however firmly believe that the price of freedom is responsibility.  No-one has the right to impose their personal preferences on others. I maintain my boat so that it is always tidy and seaworthy and self-sufficient at all times. There’s no point expecting respect from others unless you demonstrate you have some for yourself. I’m also learning that perhaps it is better to do big things in a small boat instead of little things in big boats. It is too easy to lose sight of the plan if you starting getting bigger boats and acquiring more stuff. Soon you are buried in a hole where your possessions own you. I know all too well! Not so long ago entire families went off to see some, or all, of the world in boats that were seldom over 30′ in length. Now the average cruising couple often has a boat at least 40′ long. Interestingly, each day’s dead reckoning is still calculated at a speed of 5 knots.

Home is where the boat is...41' of waterfront on either side!
Home is where the boat is…41′ of waterfront on either side!

Minimalism offers the joy of being able to go now. The encumbrance of stuff and where to keep it all, and the associated debt, is gone. I have wasted a huge portion of my life preparing boat after boat. Many of those have gone on to sail away over the horizon with a new owner. The first boat I owned could have taken me anywhere. I can’t openly admit any of the excuses which have kept me tied to the dock and which I thought were so important at the time.

When in fear or in doubt, raise your sails and bugger off out”…Tristan Jones

Emotional depression is an epidemic in the Western World. Sadly it is, I believe, a symptom of a huge malady relating directly to our consumerist culture. We all feel inadequate if we don’t look like this, smell like that, drive one of those, live in a faux castle and surround ourselves with other similarly deluded souls who desperately try to maintain a facade of bottomless wealth. Of course we can never catch up to those expectations imposed on us by a lifetime of spin doctors and marketing wizards.  So very many of us become bogged in a swamp of despair because we have been convinced that we just don’t measure up.  Rising crime rates, fiscally foundering governments? It is only an emulation of the mindset so prevalent in our own homes. If you have no self-love, it it is damned hard to respect and love anyone else. If the nation’s individual personal finances teeter on bankruptcy, how is it surprising that we have a national deficit?

Cheung Chow Harbour, at least three generations seemed to live on each boat and... half the fleet was out fishing at any given time!
Cheung Chau Harbour,
At least three generations seemed to live on each boat and… half the fleet was out fishing at any given time!

I’m bending toward people who live in so-called third world conditions. There is a lot to learn from them. For all they don’t have, sometimes not even shoes, they have dignity and self-esteem. They can look you in the eye and actually smile. They understand, because they live so close to the wire, that you only have the moment. They are not emotionally constipated by worrying about investment portfolios or many of the problems of the future. They have not bought the myth that they are somehow immortal. If they can feed their children today that is their best expectation; feeding them tomorrow, a bonus. Most of the world lives like this; we are the privileged few. If only we could remain aware of that single fact as our middle-class erodes.

People who are not busy trying to build a personal empire have a lot more time and mental space to be philosophically and spiritually aware.  A documentary I recently enjoyed, ‘La Camioneta’, is about the new life of a recycled American school bus as it moves from an auction yard in the US to a new home in Guatemala. A man there, who has a small business refurbishing buses for local commercial use is asked why he decided on his particular career. I paraphrase his reply in part, “The thing about a bus is, even if the passengers are not all friends, it is a place where for a little while, people share their journey through life together.” That thought is profound. Consider that the whole planet is a place where we must share our journey through life. There is so much we can do to make our journey together better for each other.

I woke up yesterday morning in a new year. The world was still here and so am I, not even hung-over or under. Again today, it is the usual drippy, grey dawn where thick darkness gradually gives way to medium gloom. By mid-afternoon the day will slowly slink back into a palpable darkness which invades your being a bit more with each breath.

So in this new year I have a great boat and a little trailer with which I intend to use the remains of my little existence to go unravel some of life’s mystery and rediscover basics we have left behind. (“Something to do, someone to love, something to look forward to while doing no harm”) No matter how much philosophizing and analyzing one does, a balanced life can’t be refined better than that…. in my opinion.
My little odyssey will be described in part through this blog.  In some small way, I hope my discoveries help enlighten others. The journey began long ago. Soon I must shut-up about “Gonnado” and actually leave town. The blogs will continue. Bring some good boots along if you like but, no bigger than you need.

Country road

By the way, Happy New Year!

HA BUMHUG!

Putting the coffee on, a sunrise view through the galley portlight
Putting the coffee on, a sunrise view through the galley portlight

I’m determined to squeeze out one more blog this year. It’ll be blog twenty-four, an average of one every two weeks. There’s been an excess of introspection and navel-gazing and I’d love to end this year on a cheery, warm and fuzzy note. Despite the blahs about lack of cash and daylight and warmth there has to something positive and uplifting to share on this dark night at the end of the dock. It’s late, I’m yawning, my toddy mug is empty and I’m reluctant about the inevitable clamber into the large cold empty bunk up front in the boat. Doggy, and his warm snuggly self, stayed in town this week where it’s warm and dry.

My bunk buddy, warm, dry and safe, the boat gently rocking, dock lines squeaking gently
My bunk buddy, warm, dry and safe, the boat softly rocking, dock lines squeaking gently

Last Friday I stood in a cashier’s lineup in a Chapters store. A small wide-eyed boy just ahead of me looked up to his mother and asked with deepest longing how many days there were until Christmas. I looked at him and smiled despite being the crotchety old curmudgeon I seem to have become, especially at Christmas. In that brief moment I was the saddest, loneliest man on earth.  How had I become so insensitive to the mysteries and joy and warmth that come at the coldest, darkest time of the year? I had become Scrooge!

Jack Frost2
Jack Frost, the joy of Christmas past

Time swirled back fifty-eight years to the first Christmas I can recall. I was three years old. Suddenly that wide-eyed look was mine, from inside. I won’t burden anyone with fruit cake memories but one of the two things that are indelible above all was the incredible intensity of the Christmas season. Maybe it’s because it began then in Mid-December, instead of August like it seems to now, but here I go again being jaded and cynical. The other thing I recall about Christmas was the wonderful smell of it all. Evergreen fragrance, snow, woodsmoke and kitchen aromas, wet wool mittens, wintery thick car exhaust, the hayloft, the livestock and the barnyard were among all those rich and real and delicious aromas. I remember how slowly time dragged by loaded  with the weight of anticipation. I compare that infinity to the incredible passing blur of this present year and the one ahead which seems a package already open and partially spent.

Of course we know Christmas is about a lot of things among which is innocent child-like wonder and belief in magic. All year-long my blogs have been, essentially, about the energy to set and achieve goals which grow from sheer faith and willpower. It occurs to me that it is the same thing as Christmas in esoteric, adult terms. Believing in something before you can see it, perhaps even in spite of the negatives thrown at you by other people and events, is what sets humans apart from the other critters. We can dream and we can work toward our ambition. We can also convince ourselves of impossibility and so do nothing. But…“Can’t catch fish if you don’t go fishing.”

Suddenly, as I write, I recall a fellow salesman back in a time when I sold logging equipment.  Old Tom was in his late seventies then and absolutely loved every aspect of the logging industry. He was always a tough act to follow. One night, (Remember the spotted owl years?) we were in an Oregon tavern entertaining a group of our clients. Tom regaled them with tales of his early days in the woods. As the evening wore on, one smart ass asked him if he could describe the best sex he’d ever had. Without missing a beat, Tom replied, “Dunno, haven’t had it yet!” Tom’s logger humour reflected his approach to life. Every day was a fresh adventure and he had more plans than he could ever achieve in two lifetimes. He inspired everyone who knew him and probably still does. Setbacks were merely challenges to keep things interesting.

‘En Theos’ is ancient Greek for ‘God within’. (My spell checker suggests “In thermos!”)

So that is what I wish for everyone, “Enthusiasm”. May our new year be filled with it as well as joy, peace, confidence, fulfilment. And this time next year, may we all meet in a palm-fringed anchorage where the water is clear and warm, the beer is clear and cold, laughter fills the air while the best will be yet to come.

Holly Flower
Holly Flower

Happy Christmas Everyone.

Polar Express2
Christmas Express, a long way from that tropical lagoon

 

HOME ALONE

A reluctant winter dawn
A reluctant winter dawn

I’m writing at the moment entirely for my own sake. Truth be told, that’s why most writers write but that’s another story. Any creative effort is an affirmation of life and hope. Home is where the boat is and tonight I’m aboard without even my beloved dog for company. It’s dark out and it is cold.  It seeps into the boat and into my bones. I wonder if I feel the cold because I’m getting older and arthritic, or if it is a psychological issue and I have a sense of coldness.

Certainly there was a time when cold was nothing to hold me back. I once hitch-hiked around Northern Ontario job-hunting in January. All I owned was in my pocket and in my backpack. That’s the time of year, in that part of the world, when it can warm up to minus forty degrees and then blow a days-long blizzard. I have interesting yarns about that ordeal and how I lived to talk about it. Let’s just say I truly understand being cold, and being hungry, and feeling utterly alone. Thank God for a few kind people.

I was the guy who always tried to prove he was tougher, be it about cold, or heat, or endurance of long hours, moving heavy objects on my own and generally taking unnecessary chances to prove how manly I was. I should have been dead at least ten times before I was twenty-five… that I’m willing to remember. I didn’t expect or want to live into senior years. Others were too wise to attempt similar feats of stupidity and quietly went about managing their lives and their finances so they could enjoy an easier life time in later years. Of course, I finally understand that I was merely demonstrating a monstrous insecurity. I am now suffering physically and financially for all that younger recklessness. That empathy does not relieve the price I continue to pay for those days. Sadly, those who have loved me have had to share my misery. I will always carry a guilt above those whom I have hurt.

I’ve declared at times that I’m not nearly as afraid of dying as I am of not living. To paraphrase some lines from a movie I recently saw, the protagonist said that there’s a place somewhere between living and dying where some folks get stuck and it’s not a happy place to be.

I know what he means. I’ve also said that the greatest distance any sailor can travel is the six inches between one ear and the other. Tonight I wonder if I have actually made that crossing.

Other quotes have to do with how living one day as a lion is better than spending a thousand as a sheep and how the moment is all we have. Keeping your “Pecker up’, as the British say, is the key to surviving but damn!  It’s hard some days. Bad attitude brings bad luck which inspires more gloom until one very quickly finds themselves in a deadly spiral.

I know many other people have bouts of melancholy and regret, especially in winter. I wish I could offer magic words which could be an instant anecdote and at least bring contentment during the dark tunnels of life’s journey. All I can say at this point in my life, when I have more years behind me than ahead, that nothing is forever. This gig we call life leaves the station and constantly accelerates toward an inevitable wreck. The journey becomes a blur. Suddenly events of a half-century ago seem like mere weeks past. One day, somewhere, a clerk asks if you qualify for a senior’s discount. Shocked and horrified you go home and spend a long time peering at the wrinkled physog in the mirror. What a dark epiphany!

Then soon, you resolve that time and tide do not wait. You begin to capitalize by asking for senior’s discounts. Sadly no one asks to see ID. You really DO look that old! But, if you don’t like the look of things today, try missing a few. Sadly one absolute realization that comes with getting older is the value of seizing the moment. Friends and acquaintances start to fall ill and die ever more frequently. Time is of the essence.

I’ve spent the last year with my head down doggedly determined that I will realize my dream…..now. I haven’t yet, but things are a lot closer than if I’d done nothing and yet it has never looked bleaker. One wisdom of becoming an older bull is that you understand how often things look the most impossible just before they begin to fall into place. Sometimes you’ve got to stand your ground.

"Could you spare some sugar?"
“Could you spare some sugar?”

I don’t need a bucket list; I have the same ambitions now that I have held for the past thirty years. Nothing has changed there.  I know I’m missing too many joys of the moment for the hope of delayed gratification. Then I think about the utter waste of abandoning several decades of denial and singular focus. It’s a frustrating balance of perspectives and I wonder if I’ve learned anything.

I had a buddy with whom I learned to fly when we were in our teens. We would regularly try to twist the wings from whatever we were flying, as happy to be inverted as right-side up. Once we returned to the rental base with a two-foot piece of tree-top stuck in the fork of the nose wheel. When I last saw him I was recovering from heart surgery and lamenting about how I’d squandered my life flitting from one adventure to another. He had enjoyed an illustrious career as an airline pilot and had then become a successful businessman. Yet he said he’d trade histories in a minute. It’s the ubiquitous tale of far-away pastures looking greener. He’d had decades of boredom and thought I was the one who’d had all the fun. Go figure! 

Winter Harbour
Winter Harbour

Well I’m now finishing up this blog on the morning of December 1st. Time is going by so fast I’d best confirm what year it is! Work on the boat progresses according to the weather. A set of folding steps is slowly rising toward the masthead. I go up and dangle in my bosun’s chair whenever it is not raining and two or three more steps appear. I’m almost to the spreaders. It’s a job I’ve been avoiding since I bought the boat and once finally done will be the last of the major projects

The interior in the little Cheoy Lee is beginning to take shape and my teardrop trailer will soon be ready for me to head south. So like the thin light and warmth of a winter dawn, the dream burns on. Best wishes and bright dreams to all.

Have A Warm and Fuzzy Christmas
Have A Warm and Fuzzy Christmas

CALM

Dead calm. 08:20 Nov.Canon2

The sun finally rises above Tugboat Island. It will transit a low arc in the Southern sky and disappear below the trees in the Southwest by 15:30. Darkness will return by 16:30. We have sun and a clear, calm sky. The sea is like glass and steams in the cold air.

In the ‘Tao Of Sailing’ by Ray Grigg, there is a description of fog:

The air silently becoming water,

water silently becoming air.”

Every minute this morning seems especially precious.

Nov.Canon3

 

The docks are empty and silent. Surfaces glitter with frost. There is clarity everywhere. The chaos of summer gringos in garish clothing and their selfish acrimony seems a distant memory.

 

Jack Frost
Jack Frost

Jack indulges in the plethora of scents borne on the crisp air. Even I can smell a tang of fish and there is a faint perfume of alder smoke. Millions of herring and needle fish dart and flash beneath the docks. Horned grebes dive after them, filling themselves until they can barely fly. Sea lions bark far in the distance. Everything and everyone else have gone south, or are about to leave. I think of friends on their boats much nearer the equator and wonder about their weather this morning. But, I am alone here and I savour the moment.

 

Remember the ship's spider
Remember the ship’s spider

Two nights ago, the darkness seemed eternal. Buffeting rain and vicious wind slammed the boat all night. The rigging moaned and shivered. Jack crushed himself in my arms and shared my sleeplessness. Now I bath in the crisp golden peace of perfection and serenity. For now, there is no other place I’d rather be. The day is mine!

Betty Mc far, far from home
Betty Mc far, far from home

Death Of A Passion Flower

When push comes to shove
When push comes to shove

In my last blog I began with a photo of a then-mystery flower. Kate and Laura, two local ladies, each identified it as a passion flower. Thus armed, I was able to research and confirm that and also learn there are around five-hundred varieties of passion flower (Or passiflower) and this particular one originates in the mountains of South America, growing from Venezuela to Chile at altitudes to twelve and thirteen thousand feet. Noted for its beautiful and hardy bloom, indigenous people also use the flower, leaves and stem for various medicinal purposes. The leaves can also be dried and smoked. Cool huh? Interesting where a simple question can lead.

Last of the passion flowers
Last of the passion flowers
Blackberry blooms in October!
Blackberry blooms in October!

Well, some self-centred arse picked the few blossoms there were. I hope those last rays of summer were needed for a life-saving potion or, as a friend suggested, perhaps some child and their grandparent now has those blooms carefully pressed into a strong lifetime memory. As it turns out, a few days later, higher on the vine, another batch of these amazing flowers burst into bloom to herald our first frost. What else can I say?
It is another affirmation that this old grump needs to go sailing.

Meanwhile my buddy Jim Poirier cleared customs in Ensenada, Baha and headed for La Paz, non-stop. He rounded Cabo San Lucas with plenty of offing after the threat of a late season hurricane. I’ve never set foot there but I’m told Cabo is best avoided as it swarms with gringos on vacation and is an absolute mess. He’s taken the usual beating most cruisers do while clawing up into the Sea Of Cortez. Then his daily spot report showed him with the hook down in the Mogoté off downtown La Paz. He’s e-mailed me since and is settling in for a visit, trying to adjust to all the open hands trying to skim a little more out of his cruising budget. It’s called Mordida, which translates as “The bite.”

My Australian friends, Roger and Ali, whom I wrote about in an earlier blog, were back aboard their beloved Betty Mc for a few days here in the marina after a grand summer adventure in the Arctic. As usual they’ve managed an impressive set of exploits and now possess a more intimate knowledge of the Arctic and its people than the average Canadian will ever care to have. They’ll be back up there in the spring where they have stored their boat in Inuvik. They have plans to join their new friends in a hunting camp. Now back in Australia taking care of business the pair are already in preparation for next year. “Good on ya mates! ”

Waitng on the fog, and waiting
Waitng on the fog, and waiting

Another pal, Dave Densmore, an Alaska fisherman and fellow Fisher Poet, telephoned me recently a few hours from rounding Cape Flattery. He’s heading south to Astoria, just inside the Columbia Bar. Earlier this year I helped him with the early stages of the purchase of a 53′ Frank Fredette ketch. It’s one of the best-built ferro-cement hulls I’ve seen. The big beauty had to languish here in Canada after the purchase while he and his partner Renee fished the season through in Alaska. Finally they were able to come to their new old boat and get it ready for the trip home to Oregon. Everything was a battle. Engine troubles, plumbing, wiring and stove problems. Blocked toilets, dead circuits, missing items, it seemed a foolish battle. He needed to rig a second helm inside the pilothouse . Then genset wouldn’t run. I took some tools down to Cowichan Bay where the boat was moored and tinkered a day away but like everything else aboard, it wanted to fight. I began to think about calling a priest for an exorcism. The boat had sat for a very long time and, as old Nelson said, “Ships and men rot in port.”

s.v. 'AQUARIAN'
s.v. ‘AQUARIAN’

Dave reported last night that he was very happy. He was at sea and under way. He reiterated that all boats have souls and this one was in a sulk for being abandoned and ignored. “She finally got the idea we were trying to save her,” he explained, “suddenly everything started to light up and work. Soon she’ll be in her new home where she’ll get the loving she deserves.” I’m sitting aboard my boat, refit number bloody eight. I know all too well what he means. Boats do have souls and like rescuing puppies, the initial curve is steep but the payback is usually astonishing and well worthwhile. In the rush to get underway, Dave inadvertently hooked up the plumbing to the inside helm backwards. All the way home that wheel worked in reverse. Lefty Starboard! We’ve agreed it’s a trip which deserves a poem. I’m happy for Dave and Renee.

On the ways in Cowichan Bay
On the ways in Cowichan Bay

To underscore that anecdote, I learned

Cowichan Bay skyline
Cowichan Bay skyline

yesterday that a former acquaintance, whom I confess that I expected would never go anywhere, has now sailed her small boat ‘Puna’ to San Francisco.

Autumn by the bay
Autumn by the bay

A new blog arrived from my pals Tony

Cow Bay floathome
Cow Bay floathome

and Connie about his jaunt up to Bangkok. Yeah, his jaunt. He leaves Connie home alone on their boat ‘Sage,’ currently in Phuket, to re-varnish the interior of the boat. How does he manage that? These two continue to amaze me as proof that couples actually can function successfully on a continuing basis. They’ve been doing this for many years and their last boat, a tiny Vancouver 27, was home for them in the South Pacific for seven years. (See the link to their blog site in the right sidebar.) I live alone with my dog in a 41′ boat and some days this doesn’t feel big enough! Especially with the darkness and cold damp of winter. There again is the key, go south! A regimen of consistent light and warmth of lower latitudes seems to be the prescription. Even my doctor agrees, but…he didn’t offer to help fund my therapy!

Meanwhile I linger on here, now travelling to an adjacent island to help another friend. After a dinghy ride, Jack and I traverse the island in a shortcut through the woods, packing tools and supplies in an effort to get a small house winter-proofed and an old truck running. It’s an amazing and wonderful trek. The weather this fall has been perfect for mushrooms, they’re pushing up everywhere by the millions. I don’t know which are edible and which are not, I suppose the ones the deer have been eating are fine but I don’t relish sampling the after-effects of a toadstool omelette. I’m taking photos only.

Bite me!
Bite me!

It is amazing to see the incredible variety in all shapes,

No, bite me!
No, bite me!

sizes and colours. I marvel at how these delicate organisms push their way through cement-hard ground and shoulder aside sticks and moss to expand into their full glory. Soft sunlight ladders down into the fog sifting through the trees. Creatures scuttle or crash off into the undergrowth. Damp rich aromas fill the air and occasionally there is the faint perfume of woodsmoke from some distant chimney.

Pick me, pick me!
Pick me, pick me!

In the distance fog horns wail and roar from the marine traffic out in the Strait. We were fog bound for twelve days with only tantalizing glimpses of blue now and then. The fog is only about fifty feet thick and the usual splendid clear October weather is just up there. The autumn paint chores will just have to wait.

Autumn blush
Autumn blush

Well now, all this hand-wringing and angst and envy gets no-one anywhere and it’s time to resolve myself to hunkering down for the winter or finding a way to take my little trailer and go south for several weeks. I’m beginning to think that it might do me and those who have to endure me a lot of good to take a sabbatical and refresh my perspectives. Refitting ‘Seafire’ and grubbing for a living seems to have become an ordeal instead of the adventure it should be. There’s a part of me that just wants to get away from all boats for a while and recharge, or “Back up and reload” as a former employer used to say.

A view to the south
A view to the south

I do have one huge piece of gratification. A friend rescued an old Cheoy Lee sloop from behind a woodshed in Oregon and dragged it home to Gabriola. It is called a ‘Frisco Flyer’ and was built in Hong Kong in 1966. It was a time when boat builders were transitioning from wood to fibreglass. The designer was Tord Sundén, the same man who designed the Nordic Folkboat and several subsequent folkboat variations. If there is a single pivotal sailboat design this must be it. There are very many other boats drawn by various naval architects which are, in my opinion, all plagiarized variations of the ubiquitous Folkboat. The Frisco Flyer was a collaboration between Cheoy Lee and Sundén and it is a brilliant boat. Originally available with a hull of teak or fibreglass this boat is one of the latter with lots of teak overlaid on the cabin, inside and out, and on the decks.

Avanti strutting her stuff, Cliff robb at the helm
Avanti strutting her stuff,
Cliff Robb at the helm

Originally I installed a replacement diesel engine in ‘Avanti’ while I worked in the shipyard. The owner works globally and isn’t home a lot. Consequently, the little sloop languished again for a couple of years until I was persuaded to lend a hand as I could.
Well, she’s finally rigged and seaworthy enough to leave the harbour. There’s a ton of work yet to be done, but we had to affirm our labour of love and put her through some sea trials before a winter cover was fitted. What a boat!

Again!
Again!

There is an amazing amount of room inside this little 26′ gem and she sails on all points like a witch. The helm is light and responsive and easy to trim. The hull is very tender but the boat stiffens up at about fifteen degrees of heel and zooms off like the thoroughbred she is. She steers herself and tracks beautifully. She is pleasing to the eye from all angles.

It has been pointed out to me that fifty years ago, when this was a state-of-the-art yacht, families would clamber into a boat like this and sail off together to see the world. A VHF radio and electric depth-sounder were ultimate accessories and inboard engines in sailboats were called ‘Auxiliaries’, meant to be used only when manoeuvring in port or in dire circumstances. There were no banks of batteries and electrical equipment to keep fed with electrons. In fact, most auxiliaries were equipped with a hand-cranking handle. Engines were valued in large part by how easily they could be hand-started.
If you were at sea and there was no wind, well…you were on a sailboat and you waited. You travelled at a speed nature intended.
Cruising sailors were self-sufficient, independent and generally disdained following the herd. What a different world we live in now!

I’m not sure it’s a better one but we’re here (Because we’re not all there) and that’s the way it is. Yesterday a winter storm arrived with nightfall. Rain hammered the boat as the wind shrieked and thrummed in the rigging. This morning, as the tide rises, the swell from the open strait reaches into the bay and sets all the boats rolling crazily. Doggy won’t leave his bed.
Somewhere over the southern horizon, far, far away there is a clink of glasses and I can smell lime and tequila. I’m on the scent!

Say goodnight
Say goodnight

DUENDE

No one seems to know what this beauty is called
No one seems to know what this beauty is called!

I have never intended that my blogs should be a venue for any rant. This blog is supposed to be about getting a boat ready to sail away and the inner and outer journey before, during, and after that moment. As it turns out I recently found myself replying to a friend’s e-mail. A rant began to flow which I began to transcribe into a blog and then realized that this is something I can never do here. Real sailors are often non-conformists and also very opinionated especially when in opposition to bureaucracy and other men’s attempts to control their lives. The one thing of value I’ve salvaged from that discarded effort is a single line about global warming and social cooling.  I’ll ponder that a while yet.

End of summer
End of summer

I sat writing at a desk where in the background a television played the movie ‘Fiddler On The Roof.’ I caught the line, “If God lived on earth, people would break his windows.” Try to imagine that with a geriatric Yiddish accent! What an eloquent way of describing our tenuous existence on this planet. From environmentalism to politics and economics, it’s all the same hype in the end. Remember the story of the boy who cried wolf?  Well, I think we’re truly under the spell of those who have discovered the profit of paranoia and it is not the wolf we should fear nearly as much as the wolf hunters. End of rant. Each to their own and enough said.

Beep
Beep

Duende? It is a Spanish word possessing diverse related meanings but generally having to do with spirits and ghosts. I heard a flamenco artist explaining a deeper meaning having to do with the unfulfilled spirit within, always driving a person forward in passion and creativity but ultimately never sated. I suppose enthusiasm has a similar connotation coming from the Greek and meaning, “God within”. I like the lyrical sound of the word duende and think it would be a great name for a boat. I wish you mucho duende and also great peace. What a delicate balance!

Ticket to ride
Ticket to ride

It is suddenly October. It seems it was Easter three weeks ago. The summer has blurred past and the weather has now changed. The butter is hard again. The wind and rain have come. October usually has some very fine weather and that will be the final chance this year to lunge at the must-do chores outdoors. After the full storm that just passed we now know where the new leaks in our boats are.  The sky has to quit dribbling so everything is dry enough for the final touch of caulking and paint. Just as it is almost dry enough to do some work, another soaker descends. All summer we take dryness for granted and then comes the ugly reminder about why we want to move to Southern latitudes. Hopefully the October reprieve comes again this year.

Slab city
Slab city

Well, I’m still here and that’s the way the pickle squirts. I’ve had an insidious nasty flu for the past three weeks and so there are no grand adventures or epiphanies to describe. My dog Jack is still asleep in my bunk as I grope for words while waiting on the morning fog to burn off.  It is so damp that the Beaver float plane moored adjacent to me didn’t want to fire up this morning. One of the magnetos probably had some condensation in it and there was a prolonged effort of cranking, spluttering, backfiring and coughing. Finally the sweet growling clatter of the Pratt & Whitney announced that there would be work as usual. There is a clear sky somewhere above the gloomy blanket. Work continues on the boat and the dream burns on despite the sound of dripping. Duende!

Urban transit
Urban transit

I’m posting a random assortment of photos which are irrelevant to any particular blog but are interesting in their diversity.  From a local abandoned coal mine to downtown Vancouver and points in between there is always a new marvel to photograph. I’m soon going to sign up on Flickr and post my photos there for the world to see but for now, here are some shots which someone else might find interesting. I often use my Canon Digital SLR with a minimal assortment of lenses. The damned thing leaves me feeling like an idiot with all it’s various modes and options. I’ve made part of my living at times with film cameras but all of this digital stuff is overwhelming. I like to also carry a simple pocket camera for those grab-shot moments when you don’t have your bag of gear handy.

Infrastructure
Infrastructure
Yhe alter
The alter

A photo site I visit daily is called ‘Twisted Sifter’. The work there is amazing and inspiring, I recommend it to anyone interested in superb photography. For a while they ran an ad for an Olympus camera, the TG-2. I needed a new pocket camera and in the end, after a lot of research, I bought one. It’s amazing. Water proof to depths of 60′, it is shock proof, cold proof and can take up to an hour and a half of movies. It’s sound recording is fantastic and the darned thing even has a built in GPS and altimeter.  I don’t know what all else it can do, but for a little over $300. it is great value. All of these images are taken with this little pocket camera, yes even the flower. End of commercial.

Ghost dog
Ghost dog

The last photo posted with this blog is of a face carved into an Arbutus tree. It was skillfully done with an understanding of how it would turn out once the incisions of the carving healed.

Folly in the woods
Folly in the woods
Lost faith
Lost faith

Sunday morning commerce

Sunday morning commerce

In the rain forest
In the rain forest

Clearly it has been there for a long time. I only saw it a few days ago although I have walked the dog within a few feet of it for years. This, of course, becomes an essay on seeing.

Earth to earth
Earth to earth

Sometimes we become so fixated on distant stars we miss the beauty right at our feet. A while ago I made a point of finding interesting, safe anchorages close to home. They were ones I’d charged past on my way to distant exotic places. I’ve had to concede that there is as just as much beauty and mystery right here at home.

The watcher
The watcher

It is hard to rationalize going cruising at all except to have such a wonderful place to come home to.

Duende!

QUIET

Tomorrow's weather
Tomorrow’s weather

Monday morning. It’s tough waking up. The dog is curled into the crook of my arm snoring softly. There is the occasional drip of water on the deck. It is so quiet! Then comes the clatter of my Pratt & Whitney morning alarm. The Beaver float plane moored just past my boat is fired up to warm the engine in anticipation of the day’s flying ahead. I resolve to hit the deck as soon as I hear it start up the second time. This means the passengers and freight are aboard and the flight is leaving the dock, but this morning there is only quiet.

I finally get up to see that we are fog-bound. All is calm. A kingfisher sprints past, its chattering flight pierces the calm for a moment. Fog drifts through the tree tops and slowly burns away to reveal the sun climbing above a cloud-mottled golden sky. The flight is still bound by the fog lying across the Strait and blanketing its destination in the Fraser River. The pilot uses his time to scrub the airplane. Passengers caught up in the thrust of their day pace the docks, texting messages or gesticulating with cell phones jammed to their ears. There are no float planes droning overhead. Slowly the sounds of busyness pervade the sanctity and the day moves forward. The sun begins to heat the bay, steam rises languidly from all the damp surfaces.

Fog bound
Fog bound

In my last few blogs I have used a derogatory tone in describing certain tourist yachters who haunt the docks during the summer season. I grudgingly admit that it is their dollars which provide the foundation for this facility where I live.  They are necessary to my existence here, like it or not. They are also a microcosm of a society, of which I am part, whose values are alienating me.

There are, thank the Gods, other folks. ‘Native Girl’ is living evidence that there is indeed another breed of character on the docks. Across the slip from me, my neighbour boat ‘Native Girl’ rests awaiting the day’s industry. The owners are a younger generation than mine yet they hold a passion for a way of life built around the ancient art of maintaining wooden boats and building new ones. They respect traditional nautical values and their enthusiasm for the art of maritime skills and perspectives is a hope in itself. Jon and Ryan are the proper owners for ‘Native Girl’. They live aboard her as their careers allow. Together the couple are methodically maintaining and restoring their historic vessel to her former glory.

Labour of love
Labour of love

This boat has a special place in my heart. I once missed buying her by two hours; it just wasn’t meant to be. I was an acquaintance of Allen Farrell, the designer and builder of ‘Native Girl’.  He and I were friends as were hundreds of others who knew him and his wife Sherry. All I’ll say here is that they were the only real hippies I have ever known. They didn’t talk about it, they lived it. Whether it was sustainable living, peace and love or thinking green, they were role models. I miss them both, dearly. I ache for the idea of them and their living proof that financial abundance has nothing to do with real wealth. Allen once told me that true wealth was knowing how little you need and realizing how free that left you. As I write I look around inside the expanse of this boat and wonder what it is that I truly need. What the hell has driven me from one fine boat to the next and then the next? The first one could have taken me anywhere in the world I wanted to go. Then I remember how Allen also told me that a boat needs to be big enough for everyone aboard to have their own “Pouting space.” He was a wise man.

Allen Farrell
Allen Farrell

There are several other folks dedicated to a lifestyle of eating, breathing and sleeping wooden boats and following diverse personal disciplines in the pursuit of their common passion.  There are some wonderful examples of boats, big and small, built and rebuilt here in Silva Bay and various other settings around Gabriola Island. I’m glad to be in their company, even though I’m a fibreglass boat kind of guy; ‘Classic Plastic’ is my niche.

So then, plan B. As the window closes on being able to take the boat south this fall I know I will not be able to endure another long dark, wet, winter. I hear folks talking about winter vacation plans and my body begins to ache in dread of being left behind. You can tell me all you want about adjusting my attitude but I can tell you we all have a tangible physical reaction to the long darkness of winter. It is a primal thing and some of us are more sensitive to it than others. I’ve spent a lot of my life working like a mule at sea and in the woods so often, it seems, in the dark. It didn’t bother me then but I’m not nineteen anymore so I while I respect the bears and other hibernating creatures I’ll try migration to sunnier latitudes for a while. This old flower needs a regular dose of UV rays and that demand seems to increase with the passing years.

It seemed the gods put a practical solution right in my path. These creaky bones don’t like lying on the ground overnight anymore so how about a compromise? I’ve been contemplating small holiday trailers for a while. They seemed too awkward to tow to places I like to go. Ones I could afford were not in good condition. Tent trailers were overpriced and didn’t really suit my needs.  The wobbling tin-foil condos lurching down the highway behind a monstrous diesel pickup truck appear to me to be the antithesis of easy rider freedom.

Well now, suddenly I have a mobile bed and a light utility trailer. I drove around a corner on Gabriola and there it was with a for sale sign, exactly perfect for my needs. Of course, the right thing always shows up when you’re dead broke so I had to solicit help from my wife. Thank you Jill.

I now own a beautiful tear drop trailer. It is home-built and very well put together. Clad in a sturdy sheet of aluminium it is an essentially a bed on wheels with room inside for a comfortable double berth. The back of the trailer hinges up to form an open-air roof over a tiny galley area. It is very light and easy to tow with enough ground clearance to tow behind my little 4×4 truck into the back lands of Baha or wherever I have an urge to go. It can also double as a utility trailer for hauling my tools around. It might even fit in a large inflatable boat.

Uh huh!

An option
An option

What’s this got to do with the sailing dream? The boat and my finances aren’t ready to ‘Do South’ this fall but if I camp along the way with my sleepy-time bubble I can hopefully afford to get away for a while during the middle of the coming winter. I can leave the rig anywhere I want or even play leap-frog with the boat as I move down the coast. Then I’ll have access to all of the country inland from the beach.  There is plenty more to Mexico and all those other places south than just their coastline.

Two more days and it is officially autumn. The fleet of white plastic boats is gone. Only a few committed yachters visit the marina. The little birds have flown south, the daylight is noticeably less each day, the morning dew lingers until noon and in the late afternoon it settles again. Painting brightwork is now an urgent order of business.  I’m two weeks short of the deadline for sailing away. It is not going to happen this year but life should be an adventure so we’ll find a creative way of dealing with winter and all its dark gremlins.

One of the secrets to good writing is to quit before the reader does. My first blog, almost a year ago already, was a commitment to go sailing and indulge a very long-lived dream. It would be very easy at this point to produce big fat excuses and pack it all in for an existence in front of the television.

That won’t happen. I owe it to my readers, myself and my wife,  (Whom I have tortured with this passion for decades.) The dream is alive, I’ll blog on. One day soon I’ll be able to post a photo in a blog of clear, warm green water surging through the scuppers with a palm-fringed shoreline in the background.  I hope you’ll be there with me; it is going to be a grand day. In the meantime, the journey continues one stumbling step at a time. 

By the way, one of the reasons I ended up with this boat is that it has an extra double bunk in a separate cabin. There are two other comfy bunks and lots of room topside to sleep under the stars in southern climates. Guests are welcome, especially….. if they can help defray costs and want to enjoy a unique, inexpensive vacation. Think about it. The ‘Seafire’ Hotel will be opening soon somewhere down there. See ya in the movies!

Mexico on my mind
Mexico on my mind

Birds On A Wire

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The dog days of summer are over. It is wasp season. The little buggers, drunk on fermenting blackberries, buzz in your face and drive Jack the dog mad. Spiders are weaving big webs everywhere. Young swallows sit on the lifelines around my boat twittering, hovering, preening and shitting in my scuppers. I don’t mind a bit. They’re getting ready for the long flight south and I find marvel in the tenacity of this tiny yet feisty creature. How I want to fly away with them!

Yeech! I hate wasps!
Yeech! I hate wasps!

It has been a few weeks since my last blog. The days blur by in a grind of stoic effort to get ready for the coming winter. Hopefully there is still a way of getting old ‘Seafire’ south before it’s too late in the season but that leaves me a four to six week window to find the money I need and do the remaining things that need to be done. Whether or not the boat goes south, there are also annual maintenance items to be accomplished before the big wet dark winter descends. If this plan utterly falls down for autumn then I’m scheming how to take a small travel trailer south to Mexico for the winter. I’d leave it there, and maybe my truck, coming home in the spring to pick up the boat. There is an an awful lot of Mexico inland that the average yachter can’t access.

Plan F involves leaving next spring to harbour-hop south until the late summer hurricane season again eases enough to prudently move into Baha. After over twenty years of dreaming and planning it is very hard to resolve myself to waiting another year. I’d really rather get out there and just do it, without even seeing the beach until entering Ensenada, Baha to clear customs into Mexico. My Buddy Jim Poirier, on his Corbin 39, has just made the passage from Vancouver to Morro Bay, in Southern California in 13 days. He’s poised now to enter Baha waters on his way to the South Pacific. I’m very happy for him but I can’t say that his achievement cheers ME up. I’m still here.

For reasons of respect I won’t explain the personal circumstances that keep me tied to the bedpost but they must be resolved before I can leave. Being responsible can be onerous and frustrating but I want no reason that means I must come back. I want to do things I want to do instead of having to. Carrying this dream alone is a plodding ordeal of ‘I must do’ instead the serependipitous adventure it should be. Well now I’m beginning to whine and that definitely contravenes the standing orders on this little ship. Everything would look very different if I had a little money and only my attitude and persistent determination will change things to full launch mode.

It’s a cool, foggy Saturday morning on Labour Day Weekend. The butter has gone hard for the first time in months. All is blessedly quiet on the white plastic gringo boats. We locals are all counting the minutes until the weekend is over and the summer ‘Cruising’ season officially ends.  I know one is supposed to try and love all of God’s creatures but damn! Some of these folks make it bloody difficult! Going about one’s daily life should not be part of someone else’s intrusive amusement.  While bent to a very focused task I had one fellow who kept trying to tell me how to insert a screw in a hole!

After several brusk but restrained one-word responses I finally vented and bust forth in full red neck eloquence. His response; “Oh wow!”

I told another guy who was drowning me in free advise that if he “Truly knew that much about what I’m doing, then he’d know enough to shut up and leave me alone instead of yapping at my ass.” I’ve tried to explain to some about the little signs in garages which joke about doubling the rates when customers want to get involved. I’ve told folks that this is “Not an amusement park and just because I look like a clown doesn’t mean I’m here to entertain you!” I try to be a little more reasonable if there are kids in tow but when I look at a man’s hands and see that he has never done a stitch of real work, well, it’s time he tasted a pinch of blur collar perspective.

A couple of years ago, one summer visitor began quizzing me about the wind generator mounted on my boat. I seized the moment. I told him that it was a fan that enabled me to continue to sail when the wind quit. He was impressed and wondered, “What’ll they think of next?”

I know, I know, it’s time I went sailing.

Ubiquitous Pirates Cove Landmark
Ubiquitous Pirates Cove Landmark

September 1st this morning. Wow! Already! The way time flies it’ll be the 15th by this afternoon. I spent the night in Pirate’s Cove on DeCourcy Island. It was the home of Brother Twelve, an infamous local cult leader and generally slippery character, who lived here in the 1930’s. His old communal farm lives on as a lovely working farm. His group was so bizarre and paranoid that you can still find the remains of machine gun entrenchments in the encroaching woods.(After having spent yet another summer in the marina at Silva Bay I can imagine how he felt.) Last night was, despite a gale warning, absolutely flat calm. It was warm and the sky was crystal clear. The stars filled the night sky and were reflected on the water. There were a few meteorites. Satellites and high-flying aircraft crossed the arcing dome on stately courses.  There must have been a festival on Gabriola Island. Across the water came the echoing throb of drumming, all night. It took little imagination to conjure exotic images. The seals fishing outside the reef became crocodiles and the drifting log, a dugout canoe.

I know, I know, it’s time I went sailing.

You thought I was kidding about machine gun posts
You thought I was kidding about machine gun posts!
Things that go go bump in the night
Things that go bump in the night

I chatted up some folks aboard a Banjer 37 in the morning.  This, in my opinion, is an ultimate motor-sailor, Dutch-tough and very salty. It turns out to be the very same boat I was bidding on at the time I bought ‘Seafire’. ‘Wanderer’ of the Salish Sea is apparently in good hands and being well loved by Al and Lyndi, two nice people.  I’m a bit jealous of their jewel, but happy to say I love my own boat and all her unique quirks.

Wanderer
Wanderer

Home again now in Silva Bay, the long weekend is over, it’s safe to be back. The bulk of the weekend warriors are now gone till next Easter. There is a mass mindset about  “Boating Season” which I won’t try to understand and in fact feel thankful for. From now on through the winter, most cruisers will be those with the sea actually in their blood, and will generally be reasonable and interesting folks to chat with. Yes, I’m a snob. But after nearly half a year of again enduring mobs of the nautical wannabes and lookatmes, I’m more than a bit jaded.

Yeah; I know, I know, it’s time I went sailing.

A passing beauty
A passing beauty

The Spandex Brigade

Seafire in Dogfish Bay
Seafire in Dogfish Bay

How the hell did the human race survive and thrive before  modern inventions like the discovery of spandex? Understand that the guy writing this is a jaded old curmudgeon. He knows that if he tried squirming his Michelin man wattled physique into a body condom dogs would howl and babies would cry.  Perhaps I am somewhat envious but I can’t comprehend the human need for generics. What is the need for sameness, especially when we like to glorify the indivual? Why do so many folks feel the need to wear a costume? What does looking like an insect clone have to do with fitness? Why do people drive to the gymn to exercise instead of going for a walk? Think green?

As I began to write this blog I researched Spandex on Wikipedia. Let’s just say it is not a ‘Green’ product. Apparently up to 80% of North American clothing contains at least some Spandex. Of course, if you’re charging around the ocean in a five-hundred horsepower boat, thinking green is not part of your mantra. Synthetic clothing, by the way, is not something to wear near any possibility of fire. It is nasty stuff.

I recall a classic photo poster of a Tour de France race in the mid-thirties. As he rides, one competitor leans out from his bicycle to light another rider’s cigarette. Perspectives! How they change.

It’s high summer now. (My panic factor is growing with an awareness of the noticeably diminishing daylight.) The marina is chockablock full with generic white plastic boats.

(“Daddy, why are so many boats named Bayliner?”) The bay is liberally sprinkled with more at anchor. Folks scoot about in their generic white RIB dinghies loaded with generic yapping, squeaking little dogs and children. These activities bemuse me but it’s the Spandex brigade that confounds me. This morning I’ve watched several people arrive at the dock in their Leakmore inflatables loaded with bicycles. They are all similarly costumed in Spandex with helmets, gloves, wrap-around sunglasses (Even though it’s cloudy today) and other speedy accessories. Off they go to explore Gabriola Island. Other landlubber bicyclists, yes, clad in Spandex, arrive from shore-side to ponder the gleaming mayhem of the summer fleets. There also non-cyclists who wander the docks extruded into a Spandex sheath,  even on blistering hot days. They are often mesmerized with texting and I wonder how many actually walk off the end of the docks into the cold embrace of the sea. I grumped at one texting dude in oblivion to others walking on the dock, “Didn’t you come here to get away from that bullshit?” Well I know that just because I don’t understand, that it’s wrong; but it all seems incongruous.

The refit on Seafire continues. I’ve now completed the pressure water retrofit complete with new water heater and cockpit shower. After several circular efforts all leaks are finally exorcized and my four-letter vocabulary is well-lubricated. There are few Rubenesque marine technicians for good reason. It’s really hard to fit into all the tight, awkward places one needs to access on a boat and  get yourself out again, without sawing off an arm! There’s often some painful contortion to reach that place an inch-too-far but eventually a new ingenuity arises and the job gets done. Chiropractors must make a bundle from we bilge-apes.

How?
How?

Day two of the weekend marathon sees  the new holding tank in place and plumbed. All of the storage space is now opened up and cleaned up. Cuttting two access lids gained me about a cubic meter of previously never-used space, an addition of huge value on any boat. I was also able to clean out thirty years of smelly muck that had accumulated in the void. A coat of paint and all of the essentials odds and sods and tools can now be stowed out of sight beneath a useable double guest bunk. (Well that depends on how friendly they are with each other , (“ Henry, we’ll have you kip in with Dirk”… So then the fight began!)

New and Improved
New and Improved

Day three; finished! The new crapper is in place, plumbed and working without any leaks. All of the bunk junk is now stuffed beneath it awaiting further sorting, culling and stowing. I slept on top of it all last night too exhausted to savour the victory. I woke up this morning, still exhausted but now smug with my success. I’ll have to admit that it will make a rather tight double-bunk. Still much better than some of the coffin-like sleep holes I’ve endured. Some nights, on a stormy passage, being wedged into the sail locker is the perfect place to try and rest.

Helms-a-loo
Helms-a-loo

Of further relief, the fleet of weekend warriors dissipated about noon yesterday. There was much angst and loud speculation about the wind. The weather report boomed  in high fidelity from vhf radios all over the marina. Apparently crossing back to the mainland is risky business if there is a white-capped ripple anywhere in sight. Perhaps it has something to do with hangovers. There was much revelry the night before. Several boats entered into a stereo competition, each demonstrating a personal bad taste in music. One neighbour boat was crewed with a couple and their copious spawn, complete with a squeaking shitlick dog, who were determined to hurry up and relax, no matter what the price… to their neighbours.

The female component was a hefty lass who, just at dusk, leapt overboard to declare that the icy, dirty water was “Beautiful”. She then began castigating her bookend-jumbo partner into joining her with loud invectives about his general manliness. He shrugged, poured himself another drink, and cranked up his stereo in the ‘repeat track’ mode. For the next half-hour the  marina endured Jimmy Buffet’s “Let’s get drunk and screw”, over and over, and over.

In the morning they joined into the deck-chair folding competition, which also involves struggling with shorepower cables, coolers, crab traps and other accessories to be restowed aboard. Then the race evolves into who who can leave the dock first. Usually the ones trapped in the back  of the marina are the first to cut loose. A few seconds ahead of the boats in front, they may swap gelcoat as they scrape past. In their haste they sometimes cut a few too many corners and run aground on the falling tide. There’s a reason it’s named “Shipyard Rock”.

You know I really don’t miss working in the shipyard;

At all.

Home waters
Home waters

DIVERGENCE AND CONVERGENCE OF THOUGHT

Dionisio Point moonrise
Dionisio Point moonrise

Huh?

…Well that’s what I first thought when I read the title back.  What the hell does this have to do with a blog about realizing a dream against all odds? Specifically, getting the boat I’m sitting in at this moment out of here and sailing south within the next three months. 

To paraphrase something Einstein said, you’ll never be able to solve a problem by using the same thinking that created it in the first place.  And…the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over always expecting a new result. I guess I know where I am.

I’m reading a book loaned to me which I’m finding timely to my situation and it’s quite inspiring: ‘Ship Of Gold In The Deep Blue Sea’ by Gary Kinder. The title is a bit lugubrious and probably some editor’s idea of a commercially viable handle that does no justice to a very absorbing read. It is about the sinking and ultimate finding of a gold-laden ship, the ‘S.S.Central America’. One of the central characters is obsessed with process and linear thinking. He lives with a conviction that the only things impossible are those which we think are impossible. It is about how the quest for one solution leads to other discoveries and solutions. That happens in the divergence and convergence of conversation and thought about one specific problem. New possibilities arise out of the quest for a single solution.

An anecdote is provided about a young man from Ohio who was deeply inspired by the accounts of a sea captain about his travels in the Amazon jungle. Highly motivated by that account he decides to go to Brazil and duplicate the adventure. Travelling by boat down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers he arrives finally in New Orleans to discover that no ships ever sail from there to Brazil. He has, however, experienced a rich life on the great rivers where he often heard the boatman’s sounding cry of “mark twain”.  Samuel Clemens becomes one of America’s most beloved writers and the world becomes a better place because of a simple dead end. Divergence becomes a happy new convergence.

Hanging in therre
Hanging in there

I’ve been trying to make sense of my sojourn in Silva Bay. Why did the gods put me here? I held the job which brought me here for the best part of three and a half years. I have made some wonderful friends, learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the location and its archipelago of small islands. However, I’ve made only a survival income, spent a lot of dark and lonely nights on one boat or another, parted with my beloved ‘Pax’ which was ready to sail away, started yet another refit and am left pondering what I’m really doing here; especially during the apex of summer with grand weather and all these gringo boaters around the marina trying to have ‘Fun’. I thought I’d simply let the universe unfold as it will and discover the big reason why I’m here but no epiphanies yet. I am anxious to move on.

I’ve recently been in touch with a long-lost cousin who used the term “Cognitive remodelling”. I love the linguistics of that but frankly I think I already do too much of that and should perhaps apply a little more  “Kinetic remodelling” and get this damned old boat out of here. So I’m tackling the project I’ve been dreading most. It began in January when I upgraded the galley counter and cupboards. I fitted a new water heater in a dead space there and have now decided it needs to be relocated lower. One of its heat sources is the engine and I thoughtlessly installed the heater at too high a level for the engine coolant to flow correctly. I may as well change it now. Damn my teeth for the oversight! So, lower it ten inches,;sounds easy right? It proved to be a day’s work and seemed to be rather like trying to perform heart surgery through the rectum.

The old water heater was stored in a cavernous storage locker beneath the bunk of the guest cabin. There is also a large sewage holding tank and an amazing snot-garble of plumbing, wiring and furnace ducting. It is a sad waste of much-needed stowage. The settees in the main cabin are on top of two monstrous fuel tanks. There is nothing other than chart storage there so it is imperative that I have as much space for stores elsewhere. The next mega-project begins.

First the guest bunk-junk moves onto the forward cabin bunk. Hopefully it will all end up neatly stowed in the new storage space or in the dumpster if I don’t have a valid use for it. I’ll sleep, for the time being, on one of the settees in the main cabin. Those have new foam cushions and I’ve redesigned and built new seat-backs to hinge up and allow for some comfortable snoozing space. Next the old mattress from the guest bunk goes. God! It reeks of three decades of fermented human presence, my imagination decides that’s it is just spilled wine but I don’t know who it’s been through before permeating the mattress. I’m stunned that I have lived with this disgusting element for so long. Out, out foul demons! Then it’s dunging out the space below the bunk area and realizing how poorly it was utilized. The aged water heater, rusted and leaking, is torn out. It’s a miracle that it still worked. There’s a hodge-podge of plumbing and redundant pumps. Each line needs to be traced, removed and relocated.

The storage space
The storage space

But next, more foul demons. I decided it was propitious to remove the old holding tank. I like to get the worst out of the way as soon as possible. I discovered that some rocket-scientist installed the pump-out fitting almost a third of the way from the bottom of this twenty-five gallon tank. That means that only two-thirds of the tank was ever usable and the bottom third was full of a very ripe sediment. (The boat is thirty years old, so…?) Of course, the tank had to be slid out of it’s fastenings, (Every screw-head is filled with paint) then wriggled upright so the sawn-off fittings were on the top side. Next, the tank, one third full of fecal delight, had to be manhandled out of the boat without spilling anything.  I hugged that stinky, sloshing puppy as if my life depended on it. It was 30 degrees Celsius outside but it felt cool when I finally landed the tank on the dock. The folks going by to the float-plane  passed quickly. The dog reappeared an hour later.

Bunk junk
Bunk junk

Now I can start putting it all back together The fun-part!  Pressure water system first. Remember divergence and convergence. Well this too shall pass and it  should be remembered that it’s all about the romance of the sea.

Simple pleasures
Simple pleasures