Among The Rocks

Once again I begin a new blog while aboard ‘Seafire’ and anchored in Silva Bay. I’m here to work on ‘Aja;’ that lovely little wooden schooner I’ve been helping revive.

‘AJA’ A storybook schooner. I have known and loved this little boat for many years, as she’s had name-changes at the hands of a few different owners in a few different harbours.

She’s moored on a lee shore at low tide in a brisk wind. I need to raft alongside of her. There’s no room for a mistake and so I’ve dropped the anchor to wait things out. Sometimes it is best to use your superior judgment to avoid demonstrating your superior skill. Prudence is a good thing. There are times when a lifetime of experience allows me to show off a little. Today is not one of those. So here I sit with the wind moaning a dirge in the rigging, the anchor burying itself in the mud while I tinker at the endless chores on a boat. I’m half a cable off an islet I’ve named “Dog Rock” because this tiny island is where the summer yachters bring their pooches in the morning. Jack and I use it too. Mind where you step. This area is an archipelago known as the “Flat Top Islands.” The islands actually form and protect this bay nestled in the shoreline of Gabriola Island. I have many memories of this place, both bitter and sweet. It keeps calling me back. The surrounding small islands provide several narrow, tricky entrances. Careful chart study is required of the newcomer. The old shipyard here is a clear warning of the rock-studded passages. It sits like a spider in its web waiting for the next victim. Every year there are a few hapless skippers who can’t read their charts or GPS plotters. Crunch! Gotcha!

Cyclamen! Mystery solved. A friend visiting from France knew instantly what it was and that it blooms in the fall. So, apparently, yet another invasive species of flora.
WTF? I found this T-shirt hanging from a branch while walking Jack one morning. It was gone the next.
Glorious golden autumn. I’m enjoying it while it lasts and dreading what will surely follow.
The Dogwatch. Jack is enjoying the last of the year’s sunny warmth and catching it while he can. Wise beast!

The following morning I get up in the dark and put on some coffee. The blackness is palpable. All night I’ve lain in my bunk sleeping lightly, tossing restlessly, craving for a sound or a bit of light. The sky is now overcast and in this corner of the bay the blackness is multi-dimensional. ‘Seafire’ is a cozy refuge, a storm shelter and a wonderful time machine which has transported me to new realms and wonderful adventures. On nights like this, it is also a prison. So now I seek distraction sipping at my mug and battling with the computer. It insists the paragraph I wrote last night does not exist. I finally find a back-way to sneak in to the app and add these words. I was weary when I crawled out of the bunk, this little cyber battle leaves me feeling exhausted already. The day awaits.

Global Warming! Actually just some low morning cloud and the Crofton Pulp mill in the distance.
Waiting for cargo. The Gulf Islands provide a secure anchorage while waiting to load at one of the Vancouver Area ports. There can be many tedious weeks spent aboard until finally able to slip in beneath the cranes and then finally head back out on the open sea.
Bulker by the beach. Its muted tones add to the subtle autumn pallet.

And, it proved to be a long but successful day. ‘Aja’ now has a reliably functional engine and among other things, a dependable bilge pump. I’m weary of repairing and rebuilding boats but there is something special in the seams of ‘Aja’ which leaves me wanting to dig in and begin the restoration. The boat is a shrine of all that is sacred to me. The full refit of this old beauty will be a career for the new owner but, I think, a worthwhile endeavour. I meander homeward with ‘Seafire’ wondering what lays ahead. I have no money and no prospects, only dreams. It will be an interesting winter.

The world in a puddle.
Despite two catastrophic amputations, this alder reaches out with a third attempt at life.

Meanwhile the weather is fabulous and I’m well aware that these golden days must be savoured fully. I know what lays ahead in regard to weather, and it ain’t pretty. Good weather is never paid for in advance. So here are some pictures of the fullness of autumn.

Crow’s nest. They hold a daily conference between their perches on various boats in the marina.
“I say old chap, there’s one just washed. Let’s go deposit some crowy cheer.” Remember Heckle and Jeckle?
When STOP means WHOA! In other words: “Git yer pitchins’ off ma land!”
Once, poor folk lived by the sea and ate fish.
October Ferry To Gabriola
(A novel by Malcolm Lowry)
October marina in the morning.

Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night.” …. Hal Borland

Crickets And Tree Frogs

Crickets and Tree Frogs

They just become planters
This delight was found in a suburb of Victoria
On the way home from Silva Bay. A few days ago, folks were complaining about the heat. We need the rain.

September 10th. I’m back in Silva Bay. I have some work to do on the engine of a small wooden schooner. I know and love the little boat and hope I can put things right for the new owner. I scan the bay with my first morning coffee in hand, recognizing a mast here, a power boat there and realize how much of this place is in my heart. A bleak rain borne on a southerly wind intermittently lashes down. Summer is drawing to a close. On the journey from Ladysmith sunlight between the squalls lit the sponge-brown meadows along the shoreline. The earth drinks greedily. For the first time in months I pulled on a pair of jeans. I slid them up over my sponge-brown legs but I won’t be stashing the shorts away just yet. After this bout of rain we should have at least another month that we can wear our summer gear. Meanwhile the crickets still sing their dry rasping late-summer song “Winter’s coming, winter’s coming…” and yesterday I heard a tree frog, a sure sign of damper weather ahead. Where did summer go? It was just the long weekend in May! Wasn’t it?

Autumn comes
A little rain as a maple leaf begins to turn

I raft ‘Seafire’to ‘Aja’ which is secured between a mooring buoy and an anchor to the aft. She is facing off the prevailing wind so every time the hatch and companionway are open the rain wants to pelt right in. It makes for miserable work. The boat broke loose from her mooring two years ago, running aground, then filling with seawater on the next high tide. The engine was started after the boat was pumped out, but without all the electrical connections being thoroughly cleaned, there is a mess to deal with with. Electricity requires good wire and clean contacts to flow correctly so there is a challenge at hand. I remove all of the brine-seized components and head back to Ladysmith to find and repair the parts I need; a “back up and reload” situation.

Rafted up
‘Seafire’ alongside ‘Aja’
Aja’s stern rails. A squid is beautifully carved on either side by a local artist, Tony Grove.
A Yanmar 2 cylinder, 16 hp marine Diesel. Sadly, during a winter storm, ‘Aja’ broke free of her mooring, went ashore and filled with seawater on the next tide. Run briefly, the engine has since sat idle for two years. I will make her run again, achieved in part by stuffing my corpulent self in beside the motor. It’s a greasy pig show.

In Ladysmith, the first block of the main street is being feverishly transformed. That block is being made over to become Green Hills Montana. Paramount is shooting part of a movie called “Sonic The Hedgehog” starring Jim Carrey with James Marsden and Tiva Sumpter. Tsunamis of money ($7 million) are being splashed around. I’ve got to manoeuvre downwind and try to catch some of the spray. Up-island a section of highway has been closed for several days, with traffic being re-routed while segments of the same film are being remade. This island, with its wonderful scenery and stable climate, I always remember the final scene in “Five Easy Pieces” with Jack Nicholson. When driving south one crosses a bridge over the Chemainus River. This is the background for that scene when Jack hitches a ride with a loaded logging truck and heads off into the sunset. There are many places om this beautiful island which I am sure would make great settings for filming. At the moment, looky-loo tourists are filling the streets, all adding to the excitement and annoyance in our sleepy little town. I wonder if somewhere in darkest Kansas there is not a movie set being erected called Ladysmith, British Columbia.

Wot? Whose gonna be the sheriff? Wyatt Twirp?
The local art and framing shop becomes the Sheriff’s station of Green Hills, Montana.
The Framing Shop as it was
The film crew is hard at work. Locals, including the municipal works crews, watch in amazement.
Movie be damned! You’d better come out of that store with a treat.
Waiting to load cargo across the Strait in Vancouver. Waterfront locals are decrying these vessels as eyesores and environmental hazards. I wonder what they would have said about the parade of coal ships in days gone by.

I recently watched part of an interview on YouTube between Joe Rogan and Elong Musk, our contemporary Techno Guru who is pushing the boundaries of many technologies including Tesla and SpaceX. His conjecture is that Artificial Intelligence is a real and growing reality, an insidious and unstoppable force. He suggests that the force is gathering intellect by taping into social media. Whether you use Facebook, Twitter or any of the other Cyber venues, you are feeding the monster. I don’t understand anything about this, or the parameters of the coming age but what I can grasp scares the hell out of me. I hope I do not live long enough to experience what George Orwell so clearly predicted. I think I’ll keep the boat.

Rail apples.
Any fool can count the seeds in an apple, but only the Gods know how many trees can come from that fruit.
She had always been dead funny and so she had asked to be buried in her beloved truck.

While there may be such a thing as artificial intelligence, so far all stupidity is real.”…hisself

“Trade Goats For Canoe”

(Remember that you can enlarge any image simply by clicking on it)

It sank beneath the horizon without a single hiss.

Trade goats for canoe.” The ad. caught my eye immediately. I have neither goats nor a canoe but I certainly understand that urge to go to sea. My sea lust has not diminished even with the notion of selling my boat. The response to my notice that ‘Seafire’ can now be bought has been overwhelmingly negative. “You can’t be Fred without your boat!” “What will you do?” So far there have been no offers of cash nor potential partnerships in the boat. I am not selling my beloved boat because I am weary of it or the sea. I simply cannot meet the financial demands of owning a boat any longer, at least within my current financial perimeters. There are fixed costs to pay whether you use the boat or not and there are no more rabbits in my sack. One window closes and another opens. If I am boatless on the beach for a while I will still be a salty dog, something I can neither hide nor deny. There are a number of folks who are boat owners who are clearly not water people no matter how hard they try to impress otherwise.

From my anchorage the moon rises on the opposite side of the planet from where the sun set.
Jitters. Hand-held while on my boat. Gibsons after the fireworks. The smoke lingers over town.

I, of course, am hoping for something to happen which will alter my direction and I am not about to give my beloved away to the first punter. My truck is also for sale and I’m not too proud to take money for just about anything else. I just want to relieve the mental constipation of debt and say “Aaah” as my creative juices flow freely. I can’t live here on my small pension so I need to be where I can do that. Yes I’ll miss the boat which has been my snug home and mobile refuge but life is not always about happy choices. Maybe I’ll soon be able to announce plan F, (whatever that is,) has fallen into place and that ’Seafire’ and I are headed south. But I do have a lovely backpack which is free and clear and the blogs can continue from wherever I am.

This blog is supposed to be about the adventure I would find aboard ‘Seafire’ but I’m hard aground. So onward and sideways. As the old English slang goes, I’ll do my best to “Keep my pecker up.” Haar! There are millions of people out there who would feel deep delight simply to have a cold drink of clean water let alone one nutritious meal a day; let alone daring to have a dream. Ordeal or adventure, it is all up to each one of us. We, who are so blessed, and so naive, take so much for granted. We cannot dare even try to understand the depths of misery and poverty of human existence. The bums sleeping under a bridge tonight are royalty compared to masses of others. We would be horrified to have to live even one day as most of our fellow species do. I often think of writers from the past who despite cold, hunger, illness, addictions at times, wrote so eloquently without spell-checkers or any of the many amenities we now enjoy and take for-granted. If it had been me, I would probably have found a way to dump my inkwell over the completed manuscript.

Well, finally all the sanding and filling and painting are finished. New life lines are rigged, now plenty high enough to keep my own herd of goats on deck. The boat looks like a new penny. I’ll finish painting inside the cockpit later. Now it is time to cast off the lines and get out of Dodge. It’ll soon be mid-summer and I’m weary of the sound of laughing, drunken gringo yachters having fun while I toil away.

Finished. Look at those stanchions and new lifelines! I wonder how many goats I could keep aboard.
Manly hands, just like the old days. Finger tips sanded and greased to the bone. I wonder what Madge would say. Ha… I know how old you are!
Last flight for the day. My old friend ‘Sea-fart.’

After having begun this blog I awaken the following morning in bliss The boat is anchored in Silva Bay, I’m in my bunk, there is a gentle pre-dawn glow coming through the open hatch. I put the kettle on the stove and soon enjoy the forgotten aroma and sound of my coffee press. I sit watching the rising sun play its light across the bay. A US yacht with no courtesy flag leaves the end of the dock, a straight-out departure yet the grinding din of the bow thruster shatters the tranquility. But then they are gone and only the soft call of mourning doves enhances the peace. A friend’s boat needs my help and I enjoy the moment before I crawl into a bilge and begin what could be a sweaty day.

The work was completed as far as it would go by noon. We had to lift the rear of the engine to get at the stubborn, rounded and rusted bolts which hold the old starting motor in place. It was a frustrating endeavour but such is life. I’ve had worse. I’m happy to have ended my career as a marine technician, this is no longer a gig for this chunky aging dude but for old time’s sake I have black grease back in my pores. I’ve spent the afternoon peacefully napping and reading, doing nothing. I’m trying to teach myself not to feel guilt about simply being. It’s hard, really. The descending evening is clear and calm, like warm milk. I’m wondering what to do with myself. It was full moon last night and I’m thinking… yeah you know what I’m thinking.

Off into the sunset, leaving the shore behind. Always a good feeling.

I weigh anchor just before eight pm and motor out onto the Strait of Georgia. There is no wind so the autohelm is set on a course for Howe Sound. I believe it is the most beautiful inlet on the coast but it is industrialized and heavily populated. Deep, with plenty of steep-sided rocky islands, the inlet’s shoreline is crowded with homes built with amazing feats of engineering and spending. This is the first inlet north of Vancouver and so first access into the wilderness of British Columbia. On clear days you can see the magnificent mountains towering over the skier’s mecca of Whistler. Altogether it is a grand place to be. I speculate that much of this urbanization was brought on in a mad rush to the Westcoast inspired in part by a CBC television show filmed here in Gibsons. ‘The Beachcombers’ episodes can still be found on YouTube. All of its stars are long-gone but the impressions and flavour of the series lingers. Hopefully this link will take you to some clips of the series. You’ll have to clip and paste to make it work.

My crossing is swift with a flood tide in my favour. There is a spectacular sunset. Eventually, what was last night’s full moon rises through the murk of distant Vancouver Airport. I can clearly see the city and Lion’s Gate bridge. There are suddenly fireworks in English Bay. Above the scene, in the velvet purple sky, brilliant lights of far-distant aircraft descend in an arcing approach toward the airport like stars on a string. As I arrive at my anchorage that scene is backlit with another fireworks display in the town of Gibsons. WOW!

Deer feed on kelp at low tide beside my anchorage.

Later, in the lazy early morning light, I lay listening to seals snort and splash. There are photos and films to edit but for the moment the fullness of nothingness is wonderful. These are lonely moments but even that longing ads to the gentle intensity of Sunday morning rising up. CBC radio plays a tribute to Arvo Pärt, one of my favourite classical composers. Last night, I listened to a regular Saturday evening feature, “Saturday Night Blues’ hosted by Holger Petersen. It is a CBC tradition and always a pleasure of good music. A great jazz program follows. Yep, I’m actually plugging good old CBC.

Boop! Boop! Boooooop!
But I have the right of way!
The flooding tide churns at the bow of a freighter anchored in English Bay, Vancouver.
The madness on the waters around Vancouver. Due to a monstrous lack of facilities, folks have to anchor wherever they can and take their chances.

A day later I’m absorbing the rising heat and activity of a Monday morning in downtown Vancouver. One phone call persuaded me to join some friends who are anchored in False Creek in Vancouver. I was curious, I haven’t been here in years. The buildings are higher and denser than ever. Crossing English Bay on my way in was a gauntlet of vessels going every way, threading their erratic courses between the anchored freighters with apparent oblivion to anyone else. Entering False Creek was mayhem. Every sort of floating object was pelting about, from pedal boats and kayaks to huge tour vessels. Skittering through all of that were a plague of water taxis, all apparently in defiance of any rules or basic courtesy. On shore, the walkways and beaches seemed to bulge with masses of folks. Finding a place to anchor was a challenge, nearly every possible spot was full. None of this circus is for me. I’m finishing my second mug of chewy black coffee then I’ll catch the ebb tide out of here. This is no place for old sailors. The anchor chain came up so fouled with slimy muck that I wanted to cut it.

An urbanscape with some green. The tupperware boats crowd the shoreline everywhere possible.
What happens when you don’t hold your plumb bob steady! I had to admire this amazing piece of design work. The floor are actually dead-level despite the illusions.
Placidly we go amid the rabble. There is so much going on I’m sure these beauties are seldom noticed.
Someone has made a valiant effort to disguise concrete silos in False Creek.
We be gone! Happiness for me is the big smokey city behind my sparkling wake.
Goodbye Mr. T
Point Atkinson Light Station. Now unmanned it is, I think, one of the most beautiful lights anywhere. Also, once past it, Vancouver is soon out of sight.
Seafire anchored off the Gibsons waterfront.
A few minutes earlier, on board Seafire, I got these sunrise shots. It made all the previous week’s labour absolutely worth while.
A glimpse of part of Gibson’s crowded inner harbour. Stout breakwaters shelter it from vicious winter outflow winds.
Almost fifty years after the Beachcomber show was first aired, this cafe is still the center of the local scene. And, they still serve good food!

I spend the day meandering around back in the mouth of Howe Sound, stunned at the number of fantastic new summer homes and the lack of anchorages. The waters are too deep, right up to the steep shorelines. I arrive in Gibsons and anchor off the beach in front of Gramma’s Pub, a waypoint for me for over thirty years. The air is hot and still with a hint of the pulpmill at Port Mellon, a few miles north up the sound. The next day rushes past in the company of two wonderful friends I’ve know for years. Their hospitality was grand, their cooking superb and I delighted in the warmth of their friendship.

A bizarre poster I found in a Gibsons restaurant. It reads in part, “Gibson, Castle: the royal castle of the United States of America…The most suitable city in the world. The most suitable city in the world. Land of idyllic beauty, fairyland, vacation pension paradise.”                                                      I think someone likes the Gibsons area!
Keeper of the paddles. My dear friend Kerry is deeply immersed in First Nation culture and has a passion for canoeing.
A made-over loggers bunk shack on skids used as a shed, gracefully again becomes part of the forest from which it came. It is beautiful to my eye.
My best deer photo ever. She was laying on the lawn beside the shed.

It is too soon that I find myself sailing back toward my home dock. The wind, as usual is a little too fine on my bow and so, as usual, I find myself motor-sailing toward the Gulf Islands. This morning, I’m anchored off the docks of the Ladysmith Maritme Society. My space has been rented out in my absence to a transient boat. I don’t mind the inconvenience. The summer has brought a roaring trade in visiting boats. It is good for the town and the marina. I’m writing as the boat shifts in the tide and breeze so that the sun remains in my eyes, as usual.

Homeward bound. The wind was too close on my bow to be able to sail directly toward where I needed to go. It was another motor-sailing crossing.
Madly off in the opposite direction at about 40 knots. This is an oil spill response vessel which needs to haul ass when called. I wonder how many gallons an hour it burns.
“Tha,tha, tha, thas all folks!”

The most courageous thing is to think for yourself. Aloud.”                                    …Coco Chanel

Loops And Purple Flowers

The watcher. A guardian of the path where Jack and I walk nearly every morning. It would be eerie on a bright moon lite night.
I’m watching too. Now don’t look back and walk on by.
Wild white roses and the dried rose hips from last year.
Rocket Berry
Purple Hairy Flower. I’ve given up trying to identify them all.
They’re everywhere this year. Indian plums are as profuse as the flowers.
They’re ripening quickly. When fully ripe they will be a rich plum-purple. although bland-tasting to us the birds love them and they’ll disappear overnight.
There’s no fungus like an old fungus.
The beginning of summer, the lupines are in bloom!

Sunday morning, Silva Bay, Gabriola Island. The air is cool and damp, there is clearly a threat of rain. The sun is a brassy point of light glowing through a high overcast. The big ebb tide for the day is drawing the sea water through the bay like a river. Chunks of sea weed rush past and I wonder what mess is tangled in my anchor chain. There is a muddy tint in the water, a sure sign of the Fraser River’s spring freshet. The mouth of the river is twenty miles away across the Strait of Georgia. It drains the interior of British Columbia from over eight hundred miles inland. I consider that some of the mud in the water is from places where I have lived and that my past has found me. A river of conscience, hmmm.

The tide rushing by the anchor chain.

Then I consider that another loop has closed with my return to Silva bay after a three year absence. Thousands of miles have passed beneath my keel since I made my way northward from here. I thought that journey would become a track that led directly to Mexico but it wasn’t to be. Now I’m back here and I wonder where the next loop of my life will lay. The bay is unchanged with both grand yachts and derelict hulks still littering its waters. The restaurant at the head of the docks suffered a nasty fire last winter. As usual, there are plenty of rumours and speculations about who is doing what and what the future holds. This bay is a beautiful place with tremendous potential as a cruising destination but for the moment there is little left to attract folks. There are still three marinas but the restaurant and pub, the swimming pool and both grocery stores are all gone. Fortunately the Islands Trust will not permit condo developments or luxury resorts and one can only speculate on how the future will unfold.

In the middle of Degnen Bay, this housing complex is accessible only by air or rowboat. The peregrine falcon’s nest is built on top of purple martin boxes. The martins could be heard chattering inside their condos.
A wooden beauty, obviously well loved.
Obviously not well-loved. It washed up during a late-winter storm and there she sits. rotten to the bone through and through and plunk in front of someone’s waterfront property.
The price of freedom is responsibility. The “owner” has left no name or phone number. Note the crack in the fibreglass, there are several.. You can clearly see the rotten wood beneath. She’ll never float again. Somehow it’s alright to leave your junk in someone else’s face.

Once Silva Bay was a small community that even enjoyed regular visits from a coastal steamer but those glory days are long gone.

Old friends have also just returned. Rodger and Ali have brought their beloved ‘Betty Mac’ back to Silva Bay. It was deck cargo loaded in Golfito, Costa Rica and unloaded in Nanaimo. This intrepid couple had plans for voyaging on to Patagonia but the scheme changed. They first arrived here from their home in Southeast Australia via Japan and the Aleutian Islands. They returned to Alaska the following year and then headed southward. In the meantime, they bought a former Canadian Coast Guard boat, ruggedly built of aluminum. They installed a rough interior, trucked that boat to Hay River, travelled from Slave Lake down the Mackenzie River to Tuktoyaktuk. They then spent subsequent summers exploring eastward in the Northwest Passage. That vessel is now stored in Greenland. In the fall they’d voyage further south in ‘Betty Mac’. Who knows where their loops will lay. In spite of their intrepid nature these two are also very nice people and I’m proud to call them friends. They are also a splendid example of what happens when a couple share a common dream and work together. Ali has returned to Australia so Rodger and I shared a meal on the deck of ‘Betty Mac’ comparing notes on our adventures and future plans. It was bliss.

The ‘Betty Mac’ is back. Tasmanian-built, she’s a wooden bomb shelter and to my eye, one of the prettiest boats I know.

The Beaver float plane based here taxis past and takes off on its Sunday morning mission. I make a sumptuous omelette. By the time the dishes are done and the morning chores are complete it taxis past in the opposite direction, arriving back to Gabriola with a fresh load of folks. C-FHRT (Seafart) is the same aircraft that was my dock neighbour when I lived and worked here. A former aircraft mechanic, I’ve made repairs to it at times so the flight schedule could be maintained. I’m impressed that this enterprise has survived serving this one island. It is a classic Canadian tale of the romance of the bush plane business. The DeHavilland Beaver is world famous and an icon of frontier aviation everywhere. I dearly love the sight and sound of these machines. Once, while on the Silva Bay dock payphone to a friend in California, CFHRT began its takeoff with a classic ear-splitting snarl. “What was THAT?” They exclaimed. “A Beaver” I calmly replied. “My God!” was the awed response. I explained that the Beaver was a float plane. “Oh” was the diminished reply. “I thought you meant the animal.”

CFHRT was my neighbour at the dock. I called her my Pratt& Whitney alarm clock. The engine was always warmed up early in the morning. Fortunately I love the sound of it.

I also had long overdue visits with other friends this weekend then I went fishing on the east side of Gabriola. I set out the prawn gear and watched in utter dismay as the floats dove beneath the surface and did not reappear. That was over $200. of prawn gear gone. Obviously I did not have enough extra line to compensate for the set of the spring current. I knew better! In the middle of that frustration, a rogue wave, probably caused by a distant ferry’s wake mixing with the wind against tide, smacked the boat down onto her beam ends. The dining table, not lashed down, flipped upside down onto the far side of the cabin, books levitated, dishes in the galley flew. There was no apparent damage. I caught no fish, of course, and in a rising vicious wind I retreated for shelter, confirming once again that I am one of the world’s worst fishermen. Tinned salmon was on the menu for dinner. The recipe was humble pie. Sailor’s superstition says it may have been that canned fish which prevented any catches.

High water mooring, ready to emerge from under the branches and sail away next high tide.

Monday morning finds me waking in Ruxton Passage where I’ve anchored in a bight which I call South Pirate’s Cove. It is calm and the skies are clearing. I lay in bed listening to the morning news on CBC radio. The furor is now about an escalating trade war with Donald Trump. So here we go peeing either way through the same fence. I guess we’ll soon be due for a wall. Our timid leader, Mr. Trudeau II has raised his voice an entire half-octave and the Americans accuse him of over-reacting. We point out that we provide the aluminum for the mighty fleet of US military aircraft. That force could be turned against us should we decide to cut off our supply to the US of water, electricity, uranium, oil, timber, singers, actors and space arms. A day may come when our children will learn a nursery rhyme that starts with “Old Humpty Trumpty sat on his wall, old Trumpty had a great fall….” Just remember Donny Boy (There’s a song for you) that it was a military force based in Canada which came down and set fire to what you now know as the White House. Don’t mess with us beaver-skinners. Oops! Some jaded wanna-be actress will probably take that as a sexist slur. Really folks, ain’t it all just nuts?

Breath taking. This refurbished WWII vessel is all wood and requires a massive, ongoing effort to be so pristine.

Here’s a thought. If Mr. Trump really wants to support the American labourer and economy then decree that that the grand American institution, WalMart, can longer market anything manufactured outside of the US. While we’re at that, let’s make sure that anything we buy, no matter what its label, is actually produced in North America. If you want a piece of global pie then the game has to be played both ways. It’s call “Free Enterprise.” How’s that for a good old-fashioned American term? I’m no economist, that much is clear, nor am I an unemployed steel worker but I have a hard time taking our border disputes without disbelief. We’re friends and neighbours! With all the social and environment issues on the table, surely we can get our collective shit together and work in unison on something important…and do some good.

As I proof-read this blog I learn that Doug Ford has just been nominated as head of the Ontario Conservative Part as so becomes Premier-designate. It is hard not to think of this fellow without remembering his notorious brother and politician Rob. He is certainly another political cartoon-character like Donald Trump making all manner of nonsensical statements and impossible promises. This hermit-sailor is happy to stay detached from a world that chooses these sort of dudes to be our leaders. Apparently we are so comfortable that we are that apathetic.

I’m happy to be here head down on my boat. I’m spending the balance of the week painting the deck on ‘Seafire’. There are voids in the gelcoat to fill and sand, teak to be cleaned, and finally priming then painting. Of course the forecast is for rain and drizzle and my early morning effort to beat the next squall failed absolutely. I hate this sort of work but the end result is worth it and long overdue.

Somebody’s dream but not my idea of a pretty boat. At least she could be washed once a year!

. While I bend to my labours, transient boats come and go. I bite my tongue as some foreign yachts arrive proudly displaying their US ensign, their yacht club burgees but no Canadian courtesy flag. Some have the temerity to not even display a vessel name or home port! I’m somewhat dismayed that these dudes are not turned back at our border. A courtesy flag, for the land-lubbers, is a small flag of the country in which your vessel is plying their sovereign waters and should be displayed above all other flags. It is a traditional act of respect and a strong point of basic nautical etiquette and at times even safety. The only thing more upsetting to me is that other Canadians don’t take umbrage enough to speak up. I do. The reactions are mixed but usually my point is well taken. Try taking your Canadian yacht into US waters without that little flag flying. It just isn’t done. Canadian are known as nice folks but we are NOT a 51st state, you Trumpys! So what gives… eh?

If only life could be put in a frame, but wouldn’t it be boring?
A breeze through the boat house. Dusting done.

There are two kinds of pride, both good and bad. ‘Good pride’ represents our dignity and self-respect. ‘Bad pride’ is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance….. John C. Maxwell

Laundromat Blues

November 1st. It is clear and sunny and warm in a November sort of way. I’ve done two things in the last forty-eight hours not done in a long time. For the first time in forty-seven years, as I recall, I celebrated Halloween. Friends invited me to join them in a local pub. I did not need to invent much of a costume, I usually look scary enough as it is. I had a splendid time, revelling in the moment and even found myself hopping about on the dance floor with other ghouls. There I was doing things I usually condemn or at least rationalize not doing. I enjoyed it all immensely. Thank you Ann and Randy!

Freshly rain washed organic apples and a free worm in selected samples
Freshly rain washed organic apples and a free worm in selected samples

I’m beginning to write this blog in a laundromat which is clean and well kept, and there’s hot water for the washing machines. There are no puddles on the floor from a leaking roof. I’ve just come from the local swimming pool where I swam leisurely lengths, then enjoyed a hot tub, a sauna and then a shower that had instant hot water, and was clean and bright with no mould or rust in sight. It felt like heaven after the crumbling rotted facility I’ve had to use for the past four years. It all seems so decadent after the stoic, monkish isolation and bleak existence I’ve imposed upon myself for several years. And what has brought it all on? You may well ask.

First of all, I’ve moved the boat from Silva Bay to Nanaimo. It now rests at a decrepit but secure dock in the old shipyard. I have friends there who can keep an eye on ‘Seafire’ when I’m away and as it is said, “A change is as good as a rest”. I’ll miss Silva Bay but a few disagreeable folks (With whom, I’ll admit, I’ve become a little too reactive… but don’t pick on my beloved dog! ) and a few other new realities forced my hand. An old Sufi mantra cautions to avoid “Vexatious people” although, it should be noted, one can never elude themselves. Now playing softly in the background, you can hear Bob Seger singing “Against The Wind.”

Because of where I was moored I bore the brunt of a vicious autumn storm a few nights ago. It blew hard on the boat’s beam and crushed us up against the dock. It was a long night and I realized it was indeed time to move on. A night with 40 knot gusts on the windward side of the dock’s end was bad enough. There’ll be some serious winds coming and I don’t want to be there should the ninety-six foot phallic symbol on the other side of the dock tear itself and everything else downwind loose. That includes a fuel dock, a floatplane and another marina. I hope I’m wrong about that but learned sailors use their learned judgement to avoid situations requiring learned skills. Besides, the way things have been going there lately, somehow it could all become my fault. Many people allude to an ancient native curse put on the bay when the Spanish arrived. Certainly, nothing ever thrives there and somedays I wonder if there’s something to it. This old salt knows when it’s time to weigh anchor and bugger off out. People change and move on, I might be back to this beautiful bay.

A rose hip. These seed pods are often used to make a Vitamin C-rich tea.
A rose hip. These seed pods are often used to make a Vitamin C-rich tea.

Life is a journey and so on we go. I’m now writing at the dining room table of a friend’s house which is located on some fabulous waterfront property. Sitting here, about fifty feet above the tideline, I can see across the Strait of Georgia to Gibsons, up Howe Sound to the mountains at Whistler, and a little further eastward lays the climbing sprawl of West Vancouver. Looking the other way past Entrance Island the view goes well up Malaspina Strait, the gateway to Desolation Sound. Later the mainland is just visible beneath a very low layer of cloud. Commercial marine traffic passes on a dull horizon as if suspended between sky and sea. Beneath the house, a rocky shoreline reveals a lovely sand beach at low tide. Sea lions, seals and birds populate the foreshore much to Jack’s continuing interest. It’s a huge piece of heaven and I’m frustrated at how to photograph it adequately.

Entrance Island through the rain, a view from the front yard
Entrance Island through the rain, a view from the front yard

I’m here to do some renovations and upgrades on a pal’s house before he retires. It rains nearly every day so I have to divide my time between inside and outside. Among my least favourite things, dry-walling is at the top of the list. The dust gets everywhere and even with a face mask I manage to inhale a bit of crud. I suppose that if I were a professional, there’s be a lot less sanding, and I’d have specialized equipment, but I’m not a pro and have no such intention. People do this as a lifetime career and I can only repeat that there are certain types of courage which I do not possess. I can’t recommend it as a healthy occupation. This fine dust sticks to sweaty hands and face as it must and I can only imagine what occurs inside a person’s respiratory plumbing. My writer’s brain devises a plot where some wit decides that gypsum is carcinogenic and that all drywall must be removed. That would involve almost every building in North America! Remember, there’s huge profit in paranoia. It is entirely possible.

Plastered! Drywalling, it feels so good when you stop!
Plastered! Drywalling, it feels so good when you stop!

It repeatedly occurs to me as I work around this property about how our stuff owns us. The incessant maintenance and repairs is a grinding weight, a millstone indeed. I know, I know, our “Home is our castle” and that it often used to tell the world about our perceived social status but, good grief! I’ve been doing home repairs on and off for a long time and I can tell you that there is a good reason for all those “Home Improvement” stores and specialty bath, kitchen, flooring, drapery, tile, lighting, and yard stores. An average kitchen renovation starts at between $40,000 to $50,000 and goes up from there. I won’t go beyond these next sentences to rant about the stunning fiscal and environment waste of home “Ownership” and landscaping in North America. Think of all the food we could provide on that same land! In our culture, our reason to be is to consume and there’s no fighting the madness. You can go your own way however.

I perceive a growing awareness about need Vs greed and ever more questioning minds. The recent and continuing economic crisis has forced many folks into a new awareness.

Back to basics. A seedling taking root in an old steam locomotive in Chemainus
Back to basics. A seedling taking root in an old steam locomotive in Chemainus

A recent magazine articles describes how some of the middle class who determined to maintain appearance with a nice house, fine clothes, and a new car, but have no pay cheque to pay cheque cash left to afford proper groceries. One blogsite to which I subscribe is “The Tiny House Blog’. Some of the perspectives there are skewed, and commercial, but there is also a great delight as people discover how little room they need to be safe and warm, to lie down and stand up. Not only does limited living space preclude the accumulation of all that unnecessary stuff, personal resources including time and cash are freed up to live more wholly. I’m not saying that living in a boat, as I do, is carefree. There is still important maintenance to do and always the ubiquitous ocean waits ever so patiently to invade your tiny space if you are not vigilant. But at least one can hold the illusion of being free to sail away at will.

A fallen giant. This maple is a victim of recent storms. About four feet in diameter at the stump, several hundred years old, it's time to return to the earth or the furniture shop and the wooden pile. It is excellent wood.
A fallen giant. This maple is a victim of recent storms. About four feet in diameter at the stump, several hundred years old, it’s time to return to the earth or the furniture shop and the firewood pile. It is excellent hardwood.

My dear intrepid Australian friends, Rodger and Ali, are now in San Diego aboard their beloved ‘Betty Mac’ having left their other boat in the Arctic, they’ll be leaving in a few days to head south to Baja and somehow I hope to meet up with them there this winter. What a contrast! Summers in the land of ice and snow, winter in the desert-bound sea. Meanwhile, my broad ocean view is shrinking as the fog descends again and the Entrance Island lighthouse fades into the morning gloom. There are up to 15mm of cold, cold rain forecast today. Good thing I mowed the lawn yesterday!

More red berries. Ho;l;ly this time. Yep, it's that time of year again. Bum Hug!
More red berries. Holly this time. Yep, it’s that time of year again. Bum Hug!

The latest post from ‘Sage on Sail’ describes how Tony and Connie are refitting their boat in Northern Phuket. After seven months of dry storage aftera year’s sailing in southern watersthe boat requires a nasty ordeal of preparation before heading into the Indian Ocean. I sit here peering out into the cold rain still slanting down a day later. Winds are forecast to pickup to 60 to 80 kph later today. It could be another electricity-out sort of day. That is a regular event on a Gulf Island during winter months. Most trees still carry their leaves and so are far more susceptible to the force of the wind. There’ll be lots of trees blown down onto powerlines. It’s nature’s way of pruning the forests. Survival of the strongest. What winds will blow to thin out the human forest? I’m always shocked to realize that like everyone else, I am pathetically dependant on electricity and all the conveniences we take for granted.

During the winter season ahead, after a while, it’ll be considered a fine day when the rain hammers down vertically. A sunny day is a natural holiday. People suddenly reappear magically, sun mushrooms, gone again with the next precipitation. Those are also days to frantically try and patch leaks, at least temporarily. My bones ache for someplace south. Jack is holed up somewhere in a corner of this lovely big house. He’s got lots of hiding places here and doesn’t really want to be outside exploring on a day like this. I’ve found him. He’s gone back to bed. Good idea.

Sure enough! 11:47. The power’s gone off. I’m downstairs trying to glue some splash panels for a shower stall to the wall when I’m plunged into blackness. Of course my flashlight is not where it’s supposed to be in my tool bucket but somehow I manage to complete fixing the floppy plastic panel to the wall without gluing myself there as well. The panel has to fit perfectly and with this glue, aptly named “Liquid Nail”, second chances can be ugly.

I emerge to survey my ocean panorama and see a small sloop on an Easterly heading passing the lighthouse. The building wind is SE. Entrance Island is fringed with billowing surf and this little boat, tightly reefed, is sailing full and by into the teeth of the rising gale. I close my eyes and recall all those times when it was me out there in an open cockpit, soaked through, so bloody cold and feeling so salty and manly. On the edge of death and feeling so alive. Your watch mate, your watch.

Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it….

it’s just easier if you do.” Byron Katie

Jack leads me on into the light
Jack leads me on into the light


Into The Mystic Sea trials on 'Avanti' in the fog
Into The Mystic
Sea trials on ‘Avanti’ in the fog

(And so am I)

My little boat project has been completed with rave reviews and even a kudu from the marine surveyor. Fellow yacht tinkers have expressed their approval which has left me very chuffed indeed. It has been a very expensive ordeal for the owner but he now has a head-turner that will take him everywhere he wants to go. She sails as well as she looks. ‘Avanti’ is a 1966 Frisco Flyer Mk III, built by Cheoy Lee (Hull1691) and designed by Tord Sundén, creator of the famous Folkboat. Essentially this Cheoy Lee is a Folkboat with standing headroom and a very cleverly designed interior. She sails like a dream and with all her teak she has very traditional feel. She may be tiny but she’ll never be a sandwich at anyone’s banquet.

Pretty from all angles
Pretty from all angles

Now another Cheoy Lee has arrived at the dock. Oddly, just like ‘Avanti’ I installed an engine in her while I worked in the shipyard. Here we go again! A new owner has brought her back to Silva Bay and yep! He wants me to do a bunch of work on her. I don’t want to see another Cheoy Lee at the moment, but a monkey on my shoulder is whispering something about looking a gift horse in the mouth. We’ll see.

From this old bulkhead
From this
…an old bulkhead

And where do I want to go from here? I’ve been here on Gabriola Island for nearly four years. I came for a job offer and what I thought would be a great opportunity. I truly believed it was where the gods were leading me and that soon enough it would

To this
To this

make sense. It’s all turned sour; well at least I certainly have. I love the beauty of this place and the wonderful friends I’ve made. There are also a few folks here at the end of the road at the end of the island who

The dragon pit
The dragon pit
Good for another 48 years
Good for another 48 years
A proud little ship
A proud little ship

make living here a misery. Without any grand prospects ahead it maybe time to move on. My personal life is under deep duress and I’m becoming a bit over-reactive to foolishness and rudeness. Of course when your karma is dented it seems some people have an acute predatory sense. I’m sure that somehow signals are unconsciously sent and received. Suddenly “Punching Bag” seems to be tattooed on your head. If one’s personal spiritual health is good, the normal bumps of life go virtually unnoticed. When you’re bruised, every touch and poke is painful and it is hard not to react. It can be a spiral or a growing experience and some lessons seem to need to be relearned.

The Ides of August
The Ides of August

Every morning now comes with a heavy dew and the rainstorms are becoming more frequent. Soon they will be a daily or week-long fact. Boat owners are busy finding and repairing the leaks which have developed through the long, hot summer. I find myself marking the passing rush of time by the ‘Best by’ dates on the milk cartons I buy. We’re into October dates already, November soon. It was September 1st a blink ago. The evenings are cool and dark and damp. The tree frogs are beginning to sing. Mist and fog are common now and there is wood smoke in the evening air. Soon the clocks will go back to “Daylight Savings” (Which, I think, is yet another piece of stupidity we accept.) It is time think south.

The end of summer in Silva Bay
The end of summer in Silva Bay

My buddy Jimmy Poirier has arrived home from his great South Pacific marathon on his Corbin 39 cutter ‘Noroue’. He’s deeply tanned, grinning broadly and minus a lot of weight.

Sailing is something you do because it feels so good when you stop. My pal Jimmy hope from his South Pacific marathon
Sailing is something you do because it feels so good when you stop. My pal Jimmy hope from his South Pacific marathon

He looks great despite not having cut his remaining hair(s) for the whole adventure. It is an inspiring personal achievement and I’m happy that he’s happy. I don’t know how many miles he’s travelled in less than a year. I’m much more of a flower-sniffer but I’m looking forward to sharing a jar or two with him and hearing the whole story. I’m also delighted that he repeatedly offers praises for Donna, the steadfast wife who has been his base support all the way. This is yet another story about how there’s a good woman behind every successful man.

Noroue One fine boat
One fine boat

My friends Tony and Connie are about to finish a wonderful adventure in France and go back to their boat ‘Sage’ where it is dry-stored in Phuket. Check out their blog ‘Sage on Sage’ which can be accessed through the sidebar of this blog. The photography is wonderful.

Looking out from Nanaimo harbour
Looking out from Nanaimo harbour

I am left feeling quite frustrated that I’m not making any apparent progress toward my own goals. It is now the beginning of October and old ‘Seafire’ should be on the move down to Mexico. After the devastation of Hurricane Odile a few weeks ago I’m sure I can find gainful endeavours there.

I know that dreams are realized when things look bleakest and one refuses to quit. That is often when a glimmer of new possibility begins to glow. But like the old buzzard said, “Patience my ass, I want to kill something!” I’ve got another month’s work here on Gabriola so I must soon make some important decisions. Ordeal or adventure, it is a matter of choice in how we deal with life. The hardest part of a voyage is untying the knots in the dock lines.

Capricio a sailing dream begins
a sailing dream begins

Now here I am at 04:00 on the final day of September. I’ve just returned from an exploration under the pilings on the jetty. A few weeks ago I lost a treasured silver pendant through the cracks of the deck above. It is the lowest tide of the month this hour today and so there I was beneath the slimy, dripping pilings, slithering over the barnacles with a flashlight and one gumboot full of seawater. I knew it was a hopeless quest but I had to go look. I’m always fascinated at the night life in the shallows and so it was not a wasted venture. The shrimp with their fluorescent red eyes, big Dungeness crabs, little fish in an inch of water and other wriggling creatures were all out in the middle of the night. Jack has gone back to bed, disgusted I suspect, with my nocturnal interlude. “Nutter human!” After a couple more hours of sleep, Jack the dog is on deck enjoying the sunrise in a clear blue sky. The DeHavilland beaver woke us as usual as its engine clattered to life for the first scheduled flight of the day. Not many people have a float plane for an alarm clock. There is a load of chores to address on this beautiful morning, life goes on.

Just when you were tired of boat photos! A Hawk, Canada's fighter training aircraft. You never know what you'll find in the back of a hangar.
Just when you were tired of boat photos!
A Hawk, one of Canada’s fighter training aircraft.
You never know what you’ll find in the back of a hangar.

It has been few weeks since the last blog. There’s not a lot to talk about, it has been mostly head-down drudgery. Enough said, ‘Avanti’ is finished. There was a hangar-tour at the Victoria Airport which stirred this once upon a time helicopter mechanic into nostalgia and even regret for leaving that industry. The absolute hi-light of the month was a concert in Nanaimo. Carlos Nunez is a Spanish piper from Galicia. If you are interested in Celtic culture you may know that it’s influence was spread from Spain and Portugal north to Brittany and as far east as the outer islands of Ireland and Scotland. We tend to think of Bagpipes as being unique to Scotland but they are in fact a fairly new arrival there of only a thousand years or so. Bagpipes, of varying design and sound were once common across Europe. In many areas the instrument is enjoying a renaissance even in places like Sweden and Syria and India.

Jack Tar in the morning
Jack Tar in the morning

If you don’t appreciate the sound of tortured cats (As many people describe traditional Scottish piping) you may be blown away, (Yes, that’s a pun) to learn how piping, including flutes, whistles and other wind instruments have evolved into contemporary music genres including rock and jazz. Carlos Nunez, Susana Seivane, Cristina Pato as well as many others are all on Youtube and well worth checking out if you have eclectic musical tastes. For humour check out our own Johnny Bagpipes from Vancouver Island who can play ‘Thunderstruck’ as well as AC/DC. There’s also a dude who calls himself the ‘Bad Piper’ who actually has flame throwers built into his pipes! And while we’re in the mood for exploration let’s go the extra inch and explore some Portuguese Fado music. Names like Mariza, Madredeus and Cristina Branco will lead to some rich, mesmerizing entertainment. It’s musical talent at its basic best. I wandered on to discover Scottish tribal drumming and then a guitarist named Tom Ward. Check out his rendition of Asturia. Which leads to an interesting question: Why dos so much of the music we listen to sound the same? Dull, dull, dull.

Funny how a blog about sailing and boats can include a mini-essay about random musical interest. It’s especially odd coming from an old salt like me who couldn’t carry a tune on a barge. “You are the wind beneath my kilt, You could make a bloody thistle wilt…” that’s where I take the gong. Once a sailor, always a sailor! Gentlemen need not apply.

Thanksgiving on the hoof. Gabriola has loads of these feral turkeys
Thanksgiving on the hoof.
Gabriola has loads of these feral turkeys

I thought that in closing I’d research a clever wee quote about bagpipes. Little did I know!

I have found fistfuls! I’ve refined them to four.

– “Bagpipes– the secret behind crop circles.”

– From the journal of Alvisa da Cadamosto, a Venetian explorer in Portuguese service in Senegal in1455 “The sound of one of our country pipes, which I had played by one of my sailors, also caused wonderment. Seeing that it was decked out with trappings and ribbons at the head, they concluded that it was a living animal that sang thus in different voices, and were much pleased by it. Perceiving that they were misled, I told them it was an instrument and placed it deflated in their hands. Whereupon, recognizing that it was made by hand, they said it was a divine instrument, made by god with his own hands, for it sounded so sweetly and in so many different voices. They said they had never heard anything sweeter.”

– “At a funeral I played, the priest pointed at me during the eulogy and said, “so long as there are bagpipers, there will be free people.”

– “See you, Jimmy…’d best throttle that shite down now..”

Auch aye!

Can you hear bagpipes?
Can you hear bagpipes?

Everybody Has A Story

Entrance Island. A view from Orlebar Point across the Strait Of Georgia to Howe Sound
Entrance Island.
A view from Orlebar Point across the Strait Of Georgia to Howe Sound

Everyone has a story. Some may not be as exciting, and some may not be told very well, if ever, but everyone has one. Even the homeless person dragging a shopping cart from beneath the bridge where they sleep has a story that is sometimes amazing. How the mighty can fall! It is often true of our stuff as well, certainly old boats. It turns out that the ‘Kaymac’, which I mentioned in my last blog, has had a noble life. This makes her demise even more poignant.

A fellow who has a lovely wooden boat here in the marina is also a fisherman raised in the industry. He stopped by my work site with a very long face. It turns out the old boat is named after his mother, Katherine MacMillan. Built by the famous Wahl Brothers the boat was named and commissioned in 1959. She worked as a collector boat, picking up the day’s catch from the gill net fleet which worked the mouth of the Skeena River. She retired from that endeavour in 1983. Her history since then is unknown. Clearly she has not been loved and is now in a state beyond recovery. I can only imagine the pain felt by my friend. She’s still languishing here at the dock. Her fate is unclear.

Ghost Writers In The Sky Jet contrails in the stable upper air of July...A sure sign of Steady Westerly winds
Ghost Writers In The Sky
Jet contrails in the stable upper air of July…A sure sign of steady westerly winds

Suddenly we are well into the month of July. The number of US boats travelling through this year seems quite low. More’s the pity. I’m still at work with my fibreglass project while a gorgeous Westerly sailing wind blows steadily up to 20 knots under a cloudless sky. Two more days and I’ll have the deck rebuild job done. There’s still paint and spit and polish and fancy woodwork as well as all the fittings to clean up and reinstall but, there’s a speck of light at the end of the tunnel. The temperature is peaking up to 31º C beneath a flawless dome of blue. The wind makes it dangerous to be out working under the sun without a hat and I do feel a bit of sun stroke. (It couldn’t possibly be an excess of cold beer) Masts hum and moan in the breeze as loose rigging thwacks and clanks. Flags snap and crackle like machine guns.

Every fibre of this sailor’s heart is tugging to cut loose and while I work, from the other side of the marina, old ‘Seafire’ whispers sensuously, “Pleease, please let’s go.”

Soon baby, soon”, I bend back to my sanding. It’s all about the romance of the sea.

Our last rainy day RCMP skiff in Gabriola Pass
Our last rainy day
RCMP skiff in Gabriola Pass
The next day, a dangerous shortcut in a beautiful boat
The next day, a dangerous shortcut in a beautiful boat
A Belly full of beer A limpet on thr beach in July
A Belly full of beer
A limpet on the beach in July
Vegan lunch
Vegan lunch

I get the occasional gripe about smell and the eternal whine of my vacuum but the itching joy of the job is all mine. Careful as I am, the sparkling, invasive dust of my work comes aboard my boat on my clothes. I wash them regularly, but the scratchiness is still there. It is an insidious torture but the job is coming to an end. Some people do this for a living. I can’t imagine it. One of the few joys of getting older is understanding that nothing is forever. Thus armed, it is a lot easier to patiently persist.

Insecure The lock that locked the locks that locked the lock
The lock that locked the locks that locked the lock
Standing out in the crowd. Commander Yacht rendezvous in Silva Bay "That's my boat! Yeah, the white one with the blue trim"
Standing out in the crowd.
Commander Yacht rendezvous in Silva Bay
“That’s my boat! Yeah, the white one with the blue trim”


The ‘Kaymac’ story continues. A fellow claiming to love old wooden boats persuaded the Marina manager to let him take the old relic off our docks. “Be gone foul barge!” He and his two pals appeared rather nautically inept, nice guys, but! The Canadian Coast Guard had stopped by to drain the vcessel of its fuel and engine oil in case it did sank. The poor rotten old boat is a chronic leaker. A swan dive is entirely probable. The new crew fiddled the engine back to life with plans to take her French Creek, a commercial marina 30 miles to the Northwest. That was to be 30 miles of foaming, crashing seas in a tired relic that is clearly opening up her seams and wanting to sink. To my observation these three fellows did not seem to know port from starboard. I’m told they had no PFDs, working VHF radio, flares are any of the other basic pieces of equipment. Sometimes it is that innocence which blindly achieves great things.

With a mighty roar and a cloud of blue smoke the old Detroit diesel pulled the vessel back from the glitter of the docks in a grand curving wake. Then it quit dead. The wind was then gusting upwards to 30 knots and the boat eagerly sailed off sideways into the anchorage, determined to vent her huge frustration with the ongoing abuse. Panic-stricken, one of the trio threw up his hands and shouted,

We’re dead in the water!”

I shouted back, “No you’re not, you’re making about 3 knots! Throw out your anchor!” He did. Unfortunately whatever hasty knot had been used was the wrong one.

We’re still moving!”

Throw out more line!”

The trailing dock lines tightened for a moment then fell back in flaccid failure. I think I can find the spot on the bottom where the anchor lies. It’s a classic North Hill, bent and battered, but worth salvaging. Meanwhile the poor old ‘Kaymac’ was vigorously attacking moored boats downwind, broadside. Someone lept overboard with a gnarly bit of line in tow. All’s well that ends. Eventually she fetched up on an empty mooring buoy and was made fast. Somehow the damage was minimal. All the while, folks aboard their own immaculate yachts sat with drinks and binoculars absorbing an afternoon to remember.

Late in the evening she was able to make her own way to the fuel dock. I’d just gone to sleep, for a few minutes. Yesterday morning, with more dramatic shouting and crashing about she finally cast off. Purring unsteadily and trailing a plume of blue smoke she was last seen heading Westward out of the bay. The wind was howling out of the west and the sea was all froth. There was a long, hard passage ahead. They didn’t come back. We can only imagine various endings to this little saga but I can’t conjure a happy one. I do wish them well. The latest word on the morning after it left is that the ‘Kaymac’ is on someone’s private buoy in Pilot Bay, on the North end of Gabriola Island. It is a tiny bight offering scant shelter from the Westerly wind. The local scuttlebutt says there is a fuel pump problem. I do admire the dream, naive as it may be and part of me wants to go help but I know that old boat is a bottomless pit no matter how golden the dream may be. I don’t know anything more except that, for the moment, crew and boat live on. The wind and seas have eased and the heat becomes oppresive. I wish these argonauts well..

The 'KAYMAC' The boat that wouldn't go away
The boat that wouldn’t go away

If only I could offer my own dramatic yarn of an adventure away from the dock right now. My skin and patience are worn thin by my exertions on the little Cheoy Lee, as well as the tiny prickles in my clothing and the big prickles on the dock making sport of another man’s misery. I’m becoming very reactive instead of proactive and it is time for a day or two off…..after the fibre-glassing is finally finished.

This is my last dockside project, ever. I swear it!

“When a man comes to like a sea life, he is not fit to live on land.”

Dr. Samuel Johnson, Writer

Ship Ho!
Ship Ho!
July Full Moon
July Full Moon

Too Much On The Shelf

Heckle and Jeckle " I say old chap!"
Heckle and Jeckle
” I say old chap!”

Good things are always worth sharing. Are you familiar with Ted Talks? They’re a series of interesting, informative and inspiring dissertations available to view online. You can Google them up or find them via You Tube, pick a speaker or a subject and then be prepared to be impressed. If nothing else, you have to admire the wonderful speaking ability of most of these folks. Now you know.

Summer comes
Summer comes

I recently watched one clip of a comedian named Ruby Wax who spoke about bipolar disorder in a wonderfully funny and enlightening way. One of the things she said was that in our culture, our pets are usually happier than we are. I think she’s right. It is certainly something to think about. We have lost the art of living in the moment. That’s what I like about travelling to “Less developed” countries. Those people seem far better equipped as spiritual beings who can indeed live in the moment and know how little is enough. While in conversation recently with an acquaintance, I heard him describe our way of life as having “Too much on the shelf.”

Considering our average shelf-life, there’s a lot going to waste.

Three times lucky. This cherry tree lives impossibly at the high water mark in solid rock In the previous two years it was repeatedly attacked by tent caterpillars. Yet is bears fruit.
Three times lucky. This cherry tree lives impossibly at the high water mark in solid rock.
In the previous two years it was repeatedly attacked by tent caterpillars. Yet it still bears fruit.
Cherry Tree on the beach
Cherry Tree on the beach

TODAY IS THE OLDEST YOU’VE EVER BEEN, YET THE YOUNGEST YOU’LL EVER BE, SO ENJOY THIS DAY WHILE IT LASTS.” That is a quote I extracted from an e-mail received recently. I don’t know who wrote it. I disagree with it slightly in that we do not even have today. We have this moment, that is all. In this moment of fumbling profundity let’s hope to find the magic of simply being.

A "Real" boat visits the marina. No plastic here.
A “Real” boat visits the marina.
No plastic here.

Last weekend saw the Silva Bay Marina hosting yet another fishing derby. I’ve had enough drishing and finking derbys and chose to visit the dock of the Ladysmith Maritime Society. It’s a wonderful new facility, built largely by communal volunteer labour. The docks are in great shape now and the main clubhouse is second to none. The food and the folks are all splendid. I created a bit of a fluster on arrival with the tide working against me. I was spinning the boat in a narrow channel into an available berth and would have been fine but there’s got to be one at every dock!

Wotcha mean dis is da wrong boat? Deck surgery on the Cheoy Lee continues.
Wotcha mean dis is da wrong boat?
Deck surgery on the Cheoy Lee continues.

I know people mean well and most want to help. I’m not complaining here, just explaining that a cardinal sin of basic nautical etiquette is to grab a boat and its lines without first asking if the skipper would like a hand. However, there is almost always a man (Yes a man) who seizes the moment to try and prove they are somehow superior by presuming the right to take command of an arriving boat.

Suddenly there was a merry gang on the dock reaching for cap rails, stanchions and lines while one dude began shouting orders. I asked calmly to please let me dock the boat alone, but testosterone-laced taunts were hurled back at me as ‘Seafire’ was twisted in by hand against the boat moored aft of me. “See! Ya DON’T know how to handle your boat!” I recall calling him “Sweetheart” at that moment but what’s the point in instigating fisticuffs? There was no harm done and it is kind of funny but dammit, why can’t folks understand this? Unsolicited advice and assistance are inevitably a signal of inexperience. It is not really what you need when trying to finesse your baby in to kiss the dock. Do these same people lurk in parking lots waiting to help nudge and tug vehicles into their slots? There’s a Gary Larson cartoon I think.

The next morning I investigated odd noises at the back on my boat. An older fellow from the boat tied behind me had a strange home-made plywood device he was using to poke at my stern lines. When confronted he explained that he was leaving in “45 minutes” and wanted to shorten my stern line to draw my boat in as closely as possible to the dock. This would give him more clearance for his scheduled departure. He had a small enough boat and why he needed more manoeuvring room is really not a puzzle. Another cardinal rule is to leave another vessel’s lines alone unless there is an obvious danger. I was flabbergasted. This guy actually complained that my mooring lines were tied, as usual, in what he called a “Lock knot” so he could not untie them. I replied, “YES”.

Mast steps complete. Nowhere to go but down.
Mast steps complete.
Nowhere to go but down.

I double the bitter end of my lines back aboard after passing them through the eye of my dock hitch so that no-one on the dock can mess with my lines. It’s a very easy hitch to undo but there is no way it can “Untie itself.” I’ve actually seen boats cast off in the middle of the night as some sort of bizarre joke. I explained to this old son that you can’t tighten lines on one end of a boat without first loosening them on the other end. He returned to his boat muttering and shaking his head. I wonder which yachting magazines he uses for reference. As it turned out, the boat moored behind him left in ten minutes and so provided loads of room, even for this guy to do his thing, which as it turned out, had him departing with his shore power cord still attached to the dock receptacle. Have a nice day! Think of his poor wife.

My 'Lock Knot' Note the fray moved into the center
My ‘Lock Knot’
Note the fray moved into the center

Later in the morning, the neighbour ahead of me came to complain about the tiny Purple Martins leaving their droppings on her boat. Incredulous, I explained that the lovely, rare little birds were one of the star attractions of the marina, drawn in part by the numerous bird houses built for them. Each pellet of their droppings represents a large number of mosquitoes consumed. I told her to come back later in the season when boats are targeted with blackberry-tinted bird bomblets. Fibreglass gel coat readily absorbs the blue stains. “Well so long as they leave my boat alone” she declared. Life and shit happen. What has happened to our perspectives and sense of entitlement so that the miracle of life encroaches on our personal agenda? People! I did manage to finish installing my mast steps at this dock and, wonderfully, no-one wanted to chat while I was up there. All’s well that ends. After the morning variety show I enjoyed a fabulous barbequed oyster sandwich which alone made the visit worthwhile and reason enough to return.

Wrecker's Beach A Dogpatch scene
Wrecker’s Beach
A Dogpatch scene

Next door to the Ladysmith Maritime Society is a part of the bay known as “Dogpatch.” This is an enigmatic community of characters who, for many reasons, have chosen to live a very alternate lifestyle. Poverty is clearly a common denominator and the boats which are their homes can mostly be described as derelict. Few of these people appear to have much nautical sensibility and have chosen this lifestyle as a cheap way to live. When the boats become too difficult to keep afloat they are abandoned to sink or be scuttled on the beach and sometimes set alight. Someone else can clean up the mess. Last fall, the Municipality paid to remove a large, rotten, wooden barge abandoned on the beach. Now, several more junked boats litter the old coal beach. Three are are of significant size. One large old fish boat has been partially burned. Pretty, even in death, these abandoned hulks will cost the community another sizable sum to be removed. Dogpatch Bay is an elephant’s graveyard.

Scenic Downtown Dogpatch aka the Black Beach, once a coal-loading terminal
Scenic Downtown Dogpatch
aka the Black Beach, once a coal-loading terminal

The price of freedom is responsibility. Unfortunately the ones enjoying the freedom are not shouldering their responsibility. They do seem to enjoy flaunting their imposition. Still there is a romantic charm about it all and I think most of us harbour a certain jealousy about an apparently carefree lifestyle. (“Footloose and fancy-free” my mother used to say.) The community targets a group of people they can love to hate and direct all blame, just like the ubiquitous gypsies, and we can all be reminded of how close to the wire we all live. Maybe that’s what frightens us. I’ve always tried to live on my boat as discreetly and non-obtrusively as possible but on occasion my existence as riff-raff is made clear by some self-righteous landlubber. Coincidentally here in Silva Bay, three nights ago, an ancient and decrepit wooden trawler appeared at the prime dock in the middle of the night.

What the derelict boat fairy left at our dock
What the derelict boat fairy left at our dock

Dawn’s early light made it obvious that the poor old girl has been abandoned here. Anything of value had been stripped, including the steering wheel although it had apparently steamed to the dock on it’s own. Obviously full of rot and clearly a sinker here it is, abandoned in our patch The marina operators are flummoxed about what to do. They are losing revenue from the invaded dock space. If they move the hulk into a smaller slip, and it sinks, there will be a very expensive environmental disaster. Canada Coastguard was here yesterday but reluctant to actually do anything other than shuffle papers. They are bound by edicts from Ottawa. Whoever touches the old boat will be liable. What a sad end for a once noble working vessel!

Character boat for sale Regularly inspected
Character boat for sale
Regularly inspected

It’s rainy this morning and I rather feel like that old boat looks. I do hope that I’m not turning a hideous green colour, a sure sign on imminent demise. My friends, Rodger and Ali have arrived with Betty Mc in San Diego and are preparing to head north for this year’s Arctic adventure. My buddy Jim has now dropped the hook in Fatu Iva in the Marquesas. We are now officially into summer, the year is half-done already. I’m still here waiting on the rain and for my fortunes to change. The dream flickers on.

A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind. Live passionately, even if it kills you, because something is going to kill you anyway.”

…Webb Chiles, Sailor.

By Comparison, another wooden boat
By Comparison,
another wooden boat
Into the sunset
Into the sunset
Why the birds flew
Why the birds flew