Winter Monkies

Winter Tranquility After a week of wind, rain, the fog seetles over an islet in the mudflats at the head of Ladysmith Harbour, originally known as Oyster Bay
Winter Tranquility
After a week of wind, rain, the fog settles over an islet in the mudflats at the head of Ladysmith Harbour, originally known as Oyster Bay

Eight AM. It was pitch dark fifteen minutes ago. Now the day is taking on a reluctant grey hue. The sky monkey is tinkering with the switch, give him a banana. The rain monkey doesn’t get a damned thing though and don’t even think about the snow monkey. And now we have a fog ape who’s come to visit. It’s all in the forecast at once. I torture myself daily with a visit to the web cam on the beach in La Manzanilla. I swear at times that I can smell the lime and fried fish aroma from Pedro’s Cantina. It’s January and some days I imagine that our daylight minutes are getting longer. It is not my favourite time of year.

Thus inspired I toil on at turning my small trailer into a grand little home for the road. Mexico or anywhere south seems very far off at the moment from that back-alley work site. I’m braced for an unfriendly encounter with a neighbour. Every time I need to make some noise with a saw or a router I first have to fire up my Honda generator. It has a nerve grating clatter and I feel like the bane of suburbia. Then I plug in my compressor to add to the din. Fortunately for the folks living close around there are only about six hours of useful daylight at the moment so they get the evenings off. As the noisy work comes to completion a couple of neighbours have dropped by to see if I’m OK. Nice folks!

I’ve resolved my technical issues on the boat. “Ships and men rot in port” is a line attributed to Lord Nelson and it’s as good an explanation as any. I find that as soon as a boat is left to sit it begins to rebel by revealing various weaknesses. I discovered that the circuit breaker originally installed for the auto helm has only half the rating called for, a great discovery before heading out on a long trip. Often sailing alone, I use that little black box to steer the boat. It is a much better helmsman than any human and allows me the luxury of tending to other ship’s duties while underway. It does not however, have eyes. Maintaining a constant vigil is always required. Radar is not to be relied on for objects just afloat on the surface. It is amazing how quickly junk in the water, as well as other boats, can materialize if your look-out is interrupted. You too can become junk in the water!

The fuel issue was embarrassingly simple. Once in a while you have to put fuel in the tank! Diesel engines will not run with even a miniscule amount of air in the fuel lines. One tank tends to run down before the other and the level was lower than I had assumed. To assume anything is often dangerous as I’ve once again proven. It is no big deal so long as I keep some fuel in that tank but I need to rebuild the entire fuel supply and filtering system. It has been on my must-do list. The horrific cost of a bank of new filters has held me back but having an unreliable fuel supply can be much more expensive. Procrastination can be yet another deadly sin. It was drummed into my brain early in my flying carer to never, ever, trust a fuel gauge. The port tank gauge was showing a quarter tank when it was actually low enough to let air into the lines. Most of the boats I repair are ones which seldom leave the dock. Now, my boat is one of those!

The shore power matter is resolved now that the breaker for my slip has been turned on. My batteries need to be replaced which I want to leave until just before the boat heads south. Fortunately the inverter/charger is unharmed, a major expense avoided. All’s well that ends and I’m confident that the old prune barge is in a state of full seaworthiness.

Flaps 40 degrees! Ladysmith where you're never over the hill!
Flaps 40 degrees!
Ladysmith, where you’re never over the hill!

All of this is going on in Ladysmith, a picturesque little town with a vaguely English, or perhaps East Coast, feel to it. Built on a steep hillside it has magnificent views to the East, The best views are on the streets which run straight down the grades to the main street. Sensibly, they’re closed on slippery days but on any day it’s easy to get a vehicle airborne without the prudent early use of brakes.

Head-Smashed-In-Skateboarder-Jump Christmas decorations still surround the salvaged ship's anchor in the downtown traffic circle
Christmas decorations still surround the salvaged ship’s anchor in the downtown traffic circle

Some communities spend millions to build an Olympic-class ski jump, we have one downtown. I have visions of a blue-haired wide-eyed senior flinging themselves in their little Asian car into footless halls of air and landing grill-first into someone’s roof or at least, front yard shrubbery. Of course that could also be a baggy-panted, hat-on-backwards dufus on a skateboard. I can see the sign ‘Welcome to Ladysmith, home of Head-Smashed-In-Skateboard-Jump’. Just past Him Tortons (I love dyslexic humour) look up, way up.

Another view to a kill up another hill. Beyond the careening car, in the first yellow building, is world-class Robert Street Pizza... NOT gluten free, yum!
Another view to a kill up another hill. Beyond the careening car, in the first yellow building, is world-class Robert Street Pizza… NOT gluten free. Yum!

I know some of my imaginings are sick but it is fun to visualize. So far as I know there have not been any runaway vehicle events and I hope everyone stays safe but some days I think there’s just not enough chlorine in the gene pool. Town workmen had a project half-way down the steepest street so they correctly put up a barricade at the top. This happens to be at an intersection which is a four-way stop. At the bottom of the very steep grade, complete with two level bumps at more intersections, is a lovely traffic circle with a fountain and a huge old ship’s anchor in the middle. It would not make a happy ending for a failed brake story. Twice within a minute I watched vehicles stop then turn to go down the hill despite the very obvious fluorescent obstacles erected immediately at the edge of the street. Each driver lurched to a halt at the barrier and sat pondering what was wrong with the picture. It would have been great fun to set up a video camera. If a motorist cannot plan fifty feet ahead while sitting at a stop sign one can only wonder what their awareness is when hurtling down the highway. And some folks think a life at sea is scary! It is. The dangerous part is the drive to the docks.

Meanwhile I sit here tying up loose ends and dreaming and scheming and waiting for the phone to ring. A job I committed to finishing before Christmas has twice been pushed back for various reasons. While I wait I work on the trailer and the boat and the writing.

Lichen or not. Slowly, all resources return to their source.
Lichen or not.
Slowly, all resources return to their source.

On the subject of writing, I am sadly interrupted, at least in spirit, by the grim news of the brutal terrorist attacks in Paris against the staff of Charlie Hebdo. I had not ever heard of this publication but I’m wiser now. Just Google it up and see for yourself. If you’ve read some of my blogs you know I’m not afraid to speak my mind, and that I indulge in stirring the pot to deliberately inspire criticism and dialogue. I certainly cherish the right to freedom of speech and expression but I certainly do not condone violence; it only leads to more. That vicious circle never ends. So, if you discover a hornet’s nest would you escalate the situation by repeatedly mooning it? Chances are, every pun intended, that you and your silly arse will realize a very bitter end.

I am sceptical of any religion yet I cannot condone categorical denigration. There are plenty of nasty Muslim people just as there are copious numbers of evil folks calling themselves Christian. There are also a great many human beings who are compassionate, gentle and peace-loving regardless of their religious persuasion. Charlie Hebdo, under the guise of “Journalistic Satire”, claims to be anti-racist yet it certainly appears to antagonize all religions and politicians blatantly and consistently. It produces vulgar and deliberately offensive images which unsettle even my rough blue collared sensitivities. I cannot get past their incredibly offensive cover pages to want to explore the content. To persistently insult people, and knowingly promote division which exacerbates hatred, bigotry and fear, is not journalism in any sense. It is an incitement to indignation and violence. Ultimately hate literature is as deadly as any bomber or gunman. Wars have begun over less. Surely France has endured plenty enough bloodshed in the past few centuries to not understand cause and effect.

Here, in Canada, we have laws against hate-mongering. Most of us abhor legislation but while freedom of the press is a sacred right, the price of any freedom is responsibility. Unfortunately Charlie Hebdo has consistently written a tragically self-fulfilling prophecy. They have paid a high price for their indulgence in irresponsible liberty and the business of creasting enemies. Their next publication will appear again next week. There is apparently a healthy market for more of the pathetic innuendo they produce. Sales figures will now leap. How thoughtless and selfish we humans are! Meanwhile all our information is via the global media machine which I hope no-one is naive enough to swallow whole. And with all that intense media focus and speculation, guess how many other nutters are scheming as I write to go out in a blaze of limelight.

Well, this blog is supposed to be for dreamers who call themselves sailors. “Into the ocean are all things resolved.” We have our own ways of distancing ourselves from the world. I spent today scrubbing mid-winter verdigris from the boat, hoping to placate the old girl and show her that she is still much loved. Thin sunlight broke through the fog for a few minutes but the distant howl and throb of foghorns rang out all day. Still, I swear, there were moments with a sniff of spring in the air. Soon baby, soon we’ll sail south toward the arc of the sun’s daily transit until it passes directly overhead. Meanwhile I scrub, I ponder, I dream.

Sleepy Time. Mid-afternoon in the Ladysmith Maritime society Marina, 'Seafire' hibernates with the rest of the fleet
Sleepy Time. Mid-afternoon January in the Ladysmith Maritime society Marina, ‘Seafire’ hibernates with the rest of the fleet

We’re just entering the second week of January and I’ve already seen two incredible films of this new year. One film is ‘The Theory Of Everything’ and the second is also a marvellous multi-layered comment on many issues and is also brilliantly acted and directed. I recommend them both. Heartily. Here are two quotes from the second film ‘The Imitation Game’.

Do you know why people like violence? It’s because it feels good. But remove the satisfaction and the act becomes hollow.”

It’s often the people that no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.”