Wot A Day!

Sky swimmer. Winter morning calm.
Sky swimmer.
Winter morning calm.

Christmas Eve, the weather today was fabulous. It was so darned fine I went for a swim. But I’ve discovered free diving in a rain parka is a bit awkward.

Today I moved the boat. My new berth at the old shipyard proved to have problems with the electrical service. There was low, fluctuating voltage which is death on “Smart” electronic devices like the large (As in expensive) charger inverter in my boat. Low voltage is as nasty as too much; my heater is now producing that scorched wiring aroma. It’s toast. Because there are massive development plans afoot for the old shipyard, nobody is about to put money into ancient wiring systems which will be soon ripped out. I found a temporary berth at the Ladysmith Maritime Society and decided to move today.

I spent last night on the boat in Nanaimo with no heat but slept well under a copious layer of wool blankets. Mr bladder blew his whistle at 03:00 but it was warm and snug in my nest and I reluctantly emerged up to address the call one toe at a time. I guess that’s one of the gold marks of approaching geezerhood; waking up warm and…dry.

Bark Owl. Some twist makes these wooden owls and attaches them randomly throughout the forest. They're quite startling at first glance,
Bark Owl. Some twist makes these wooden owls and attaches them randomly throughout the forest. They’re quite startling at first glance,

The day began with a mug of stout black coffee. Then it was time to twist the old girl’s tail. Those old batteries, cold as they were, ground the good old Lehman over and she sputtered into life ready as ever to take on the world. It’s funny how a man can be in love with a lump of assembled metal parts but I truly do hold great affection for this old-school menagerie of basic up and down, round and round simplicity. Bugger electronics! Thirty seconds after flash-up, she spluttered into silence. There was air in the fuel system which I soon bled out and the faithful old beast purred contentedly while I prepared to cut loose. Off we went bound for the fuel dock to slip a little dinosaur juice into one tank and with one more item to add to the repair list.

This boat holds well over a thousand dollars of fuel. So I’ve yet to ever fill her up. And yes, this old aviator well knows the evils of condensation in partially filled tanks. One hundred dollars put eighty-four litres in the port tank, which raised the fuel gauge only a flicker but at least I knew the engine was not sucking any air from the tank holding the least fuel. There was a nasty, dirty dock hickey on the hull which I decided to scrub off given the opportunity, so leaning over a metal pipe dock rail I scrubbed vigorously, pushing hard on the hull. It inched away from the dock, I inched out to finish the job.

There was no kerplunk. Damn, that new raincoat is slippery! It all happened in slow-motion and I participated in disbelief. No, it can’t be, just relax and pull back yourself in. But down i slid. God! The water was clear. My glasses squirted off of my face and began a falling leaf descent to the distant bottom. I desperately groped for those beloved goggles and swam myself deeper and deeper. That’s when the full body ice-cream headache hit. I turned back for the light up top. Screw those bi-focals. There’s some crab down there sporting his wire-rimmed Christmas present as I speak.

You know, it’s funny. I’ve been pretty down and out lately, wrestling with the winter blues, lack of money and other personal problems to the point where the old Hari Kari demon begins whispering dark suggestions. I left him down there. One simple deep gulp of ice-cold water could have quickly ended my problems in an apparent innocent tragedy. No-one would have been the wiser, just another old fart doing something stupid but there was a choice that was beyond my reasoning. Back to the top for more of this thing called life. My slow motion adventure probably lasted less than two minutes but when I broke surface with my pockets full of water I was amazed to realize that I was already becoming hypothermic. I had no strength and couldn’t haul myself out. There were some folks attending another boat at the dock and I began with an escalating voice, “Hello, excuse me. Hello, helloo!”. (Bloody stupid polite Canadians!) All’s well that ends and here I am tonight, warm dry and sipping the very last of my Jamesons.

As I backed the boat away from the dock I noticed a ladder on the end of the dock and around a corner not fifteen feet from where I floundered. Damn that pump jockey! I am so glad I didn’t ruin his Christmas. After all my years at sea, and fully aware of how it is the little things that getcha, little reminders still come now and then.

Heading out of the harbour I flipped the auto pilot on. It died in a heartbeat. Something bloody else to fix! It was going to be an Armstrong steering situation and so it was that I came south. It turns out there were a million logs in the water because of the winter solstice and the spring, or extreme, tides. The auto pilot would only have caused more trouble had it been working. The day was glorious and clear and warm and the goddamned sun was right in my eyes most of the way! Turning to miss one log lined the boat up to hit another two and so the trip to Ladysmith went. I’m still half- blind from following that bright path and happy that I rammed only two logs. Finally in the marina in Ladysmith, I backed perfectly into my new berth, made all the lines fast and doubled, plugged in my shore power cord and discovered that someone forgot to turn on the power for my slip. So why did I leave Nanaimo?

Ditch Drops
Ditch Drops

Well some days that’s how the pickle squirts. Unless, you’re too poor for pickles. Bugga!

It’s Christmas and may your priorities fall in the correct order. Here’s to life, however it unfolds.

The beginning. Cold, dark, sodden, even in the depth of winter life continues.
The beginning.
Cold, dark, sodden, even in the depth of winter life continues.

The alternative is pretty dark. And cold! Isn’t it interesting? Whether we are wealthy or poor, happy or sad we all share a common priority….our next breath. The moment, no matter what we choose to believe, it is really all we have.

Wishing us all very many moments, and happy ones at that.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Thar be monsters in these waters!
Thar be monsters in these waters!
A star in the east
A star in the east


Stay warm, Stay dry
Stay warm, Stay dry

Christmas nears. The contemporary festive season of joy and hope has shifted into high gear with Black Friday. The marketing machine has been warming up for the past several months and now everyone is charging around like the ‘Terminator’. They seem consumed with rabid fervour to acquire as much as possible and indulge excess in every way. The pounds of pulp fiction (Or is that friction?) which come in the mail to exhort me to join the orgy must have demanded the levelling of a forest somewhere. The latest versions of children’s video games are being advertised. All it seem, have new and improved slam bam splatter violence. A perfect gift for a time allegedly set aside to celebrate the birth of the prince of peace. A whole round of new movies, just in time for Christmas, is being released and many will contain graphic violence, copious explosions, spectacular crashes and vulgarity. Most of this frenetic frenzy occurs on credit. A wise old Welsh lady once admonished me, “If ye canna pay for it once, how will ye pay for it twice? ” Yet, despite what we’re told is an ongoing weak economy I could barely find a parking spot at the mall today. It’s Monday and there is a severe winter storm with torrential rain and high wind. Nothing shall disrupt the frenzy.

My annual festive joke is about a dyslexic scrooge who’s indignant toast is “Bumhug”. However, I truly wish everyone inner peace, and hope you are warm and dry and fed and sharing that comfort with someone of mutual affection and respect. May you have a dream and good hope of fulfilling it.

The ghostly pale of winter descends
The ghostly pale of winter descends

My last two blogs, in part about war and the military and the futility of it all, have stirred up a small furor, both in agreement and in objection. To convince me of my political incorrectness I have been forwarded a video originally from someone anonymous named “Joe Nobody”. Now that sounds like a reliable source! It shows a group of Islamic ISIS radicals assassinating a long row of kneeling men allegedly guilty only of being Christian. Probably so. Once each is dispatched with a bullet to the head, the entire heap of corpses is then riddled with wanton gunfire. It is horrific, disgusting and very hard to watch. Then a misquote from the Koran is used to imply that this will be our fate eventually if we don’t stand up to these evil hordes.

I responded by questioning how many masses of God’s children have been annihilated in the name of Christian peace, love, greed and zealotry. It goes on and on and on. When the dust settles, if it ever does, we are a very nasty primal organism, alien it seems, on this beautiful planet. If we’re worried about finding harmony with nature, we’d better first figure out how to get along with each other. Whether it be our atrocities against our fellows, or the environment, let’s each accept our personal roll in the mess and take individual responsibility for ourselves and those whom we can love as we would be loved. And if you are determined to pass on hate-mongering at least have the intellect and courage to confirm the source and validity of your information. You discredit your argument by doing anything less than that and by the way, afford youself the dignity of spelling correctly.

Ezra Pound once said, “A man of genius has a right to any mode of expression.” I agree, obviously, but by God, make sure it is informed opinion!

Wishing you many berries of happiness
Wishing you many berries of happiness

An acquaintance who is now an Anglican minister was once a chaplain in the Canadian NATO forces. He was stationed in Damascus and, as part of some bizarrely conceived humanitarian enforcement, was required to witness over forty executions. Imagine that fellow’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder!

He said, “Life can be cheap, until it’s your own!”

Not understanding the ordered chaos of the natural forest, men destroyed the old trees and replaced them with new ones planted in straight rows.
Not understanding the ordered chaos of the natural forest, men destroyed the old trees and replaced them with new ones planted in straight rows.

The non-conformist, the sailor in the case of this blog, holds an open, inquiring mind about all things. I have learned a long time ago, that to go against the flow and to challenge popular sentiment, can be a lonely path but it is often the right path, at least for me. Drinking upstream of the herd may not be the best way to popularity, but what sort of man goes against his conscience? Too many do, if they have one at all.

Un requited love. Seafire languishes in her winter berth on a rare sunny winter day. Note the skim of ice ahead of the boat
Unrequited love. Seafire languishes in her winter berth on a rare sunny winter day. Note the skim of ice ahead of the boat

Life seems even more disjointed this month. I’m jaded about Christmas, perhaps because family and friends are scattered around the planet and as usual at this time of year funds are scarce. My renovation project is on hold for the moment so, with Mexico ever in my sights, I’m using my unexpected free time to tinker up the trailer to suit my needs. I’m planning to use it both as a travel trailer (Stealth campers I think they’re called) and a work trailer. The aim is to use as many recycled materials as I can and to have the trailer ready to go as soon as possible. Frankly, I’m a bit tired of projects and with some refitting yet to be done on ‘Seafire’ before she’s ready to head south, I’d like to take a break. There won’t be much progress during the winter weather so, it may as well be due south, somehow. My beloved boat is languishing alone and empty for the moment at her berth in Nanaimo. She’s secure there and oddly enough is staying clean. In Silva Bay, she was constantly coated with gull and crow guano, mussel shells, and a horrid, grey film which could only be fall-out from Vancouver and all the other upwind urbanity over on the mainland.

New offshore-tough companion way doors made from mahogany. Interestingly, this project was the first on my list when I bought the boat. Now almost four years later it is one of the last important jobs.
New offshore-tough companion way doors made from mahogany.
Interestingly, this project was the first on my list when I bought the boat. Now almost four years later it is one of the last important jobs.

In turn the green slime of winter creeps everywhere. We’ve had a miniscule accumulation of snow; now we’re back to the dark, cold dripping of a Northwest Pacific coastal winter. Tonight the rain slants horizontally and the wind thunders and moans through the rigging. We’re two weeks away from the official first day of winter, the solstice.

A Christmas present for the ship. New teak trailboards, carved in relief sport new led running lights.
A Christmas present for the ship. New teak trailboards, carved in relief,  sport new led running lights.

I close my eyes and see warm, green seawater sluicing through the scuppers. I’m sailing full and by toward an anchorage in a palm-fringed bay. Small, bright houses nestle along the beach and up the hill behind the tiny town. The air holds an aroma of coconut and lime and a melange of unknown flowers. There is the fragmented sound of Mariachi music and then the braying of a burro. I’m in Mexico once again. Then comes a sound of drumming, fast and irregular. I awake to realize the sound was only rain hammering on my skylight.

The trailer project begins
The trailer project begins

The rain eases despite a forecast for horrific wind and rain today. Dawn breaks reluctantly and Jack leads us for a walk along the Nanaimo River. To my delight someone has decorated a small fir tree. That random, small act of Christmas joy, those few glass balls, lift my spirit. For a moment, I remember the surge of wonder and delight I knew as a young boy.

Deep in the forest, the seasons delights appear
Deep in the forest, the season’s delights appear

Thank you,

whoever you are.


The emotionally motivated performer is inherently irrational. When logic dictates that it’s rational to quit, the emotionally charged image in his mind won’t allow it. Any attempt to stop this man will fail.”

…Steve Siebold