Sea Wrenching

Cruising in Ireland? Actually it's Spieden Island in the San Juan Islands
Cruising in Ireland?
Actually it’s Spieden Island in the San Juan Islands (Click on photos to enlarge)
Into the mystic. San Juan sunset.
Into the mystic.
San Juan sunset.

There’s no wrencher like an old wrencher; and a sea wrencher at that. There’s also no fool like an old fool! And so there I was with a dead engine in the tide slop’s rock ‘n roll off Smith Island in the Eastern end of Juan De Fuca Strait. The forecast wind had not developed. I couldn’t sail. The boat was drifting backwards toward the open ocean which is not a bad thing, but the tide would eventually turn and the wind would rise from the wrong direction. I contemplated that if all else failed, I could inflate my dinghy and use it’s outboard motor to tow mother boat toward safe haven. It was looking like a long day ahead. My fuel system was sucking air. Diesels demand an unadulterated supply of clean fully liquid fuel.

How ya doing' Duen? One of my favourite Canadian charter boats, Baltic built, almost a hundred years old and still earning her way.
How ya doing’ Duen?
One of my favourite Canadian charter boats, Baltic built, almost a hundred years old and still earning her way.
Arrgh1 Furling the headsails, the old fashioned way. Fun in steep seas!
Arrgh! Furling the headsails, the old fashioned way. Fun in steep seas!
Seafire clearing US Customs in Roche Harbour
Seafire clearing US Customs in Roche Harbour
Plastic Galore A Selene Yacht rendezvous in Roche Harbour
Plastic Galore
Part of a Selene Yacht rendezvous in Roche Harbour

Back in February I posted a blog about my new used fuel filter brackets and how, for once, I’d beaten the system by recycling cast-off parts. I’ll never bloody learn! It turns out that those parts should probably have gone into the garbage. This old country boy has spent a lifetime trying to make silk purses out of pig ears or, put another way, spending thousands to save dimes. Another expression has to do with putting lipstick on a pig. No matter how you go about it, in the end you still have a pig. Well, all good sailors have a knife in their pocket and soon enough I swallowed my pride, cut the fuel hoses and bypassed those “free” filter assemblies. A little bleeding of the system and then a very sweet purrr! Albeit I was now running on a single set of filters, but I was under way. I glumly motor-sailed on toward Port Townsend realizing all of my efforts with the new/old filters were for nothing. Now I have to take it all apart and put it back together with new filter assemblies, probably worth about $500. plus all the repeat labour. I was proud enough to have figured out what to do out there, it’s what I’ve done for a living. Most folks would have sat there waiting for salvation. But then most folks would have had it done right the first time. (No tools were lost in the bilge during this adventure.)

Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding. There are several other shops to the school.
Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding.
There are several other shops to the school.
The whole town of old Port Hadlock
The whole town of old Port Hadlock. Original tiny houses!
The lights were on and someone was home
The lights were on and someone was home


There’s no point in crying over spilled diesel. I’ve run away from the accrued tedium of health issues and the long weeks of couch potatoing (So now I’ve turned potato into a verb) and immediately discoverd a new bit of hurt.

Clematis cottage, Port Hadlock
Clematis cottage, Port Hadlock

Serves me right. I was admonished not to be expecting “Bailing out” if I went to the US with only a pocketful of medications and no health insurance. Because I’ve been in the hospital recently I can’t get traveller’s medical insurance. We all know horror stories about Canadians in the US needing urgent medical attention and not having any medical insurance. They suddenly find themselves with a bill of many thousands and the shit storm is enormous. I travelled in the US for years on business with no medical insurance, which I’ll concede was bloody dangerous and stupid, but I’m following my instincts and hoping for the best. I’ll have to be sure to look both ways when crossing the street. Thank God I’m not a texter! There is, I believe, no emoticon for “I’ve just been hit by a car!”

AJAX CAFE 1977, Apparently a roaring success
Apparently a roaring success.
Trump yourself a bagpipe
Trump yourself a bagpipe
School for the boatfolk
School for the boatfolk

A piece of my heart is in Port Townsend Bay and the immediate area. It is a very salty place with a long nautical history. The area is a living boat show year round. It is populated by a large number of artsy fartsy boaty nutters like myself. A centre of wooden boat building and rebuilding, sail lofts, nautical foundries and other seafaring fringe industries, it is bliss.

Western Flyer being reborn. Check out WesternFlyer.Org
Western Flyer being reborn. Check out
WesternFlyer.Org It is one helluva project!
All in order. Tools kept5 like this indicate a professional shipwright.
All in order. Tools kept5 like this indicate a professional shipwright.
that's a boat name!
that’s a boat name!

The Boat Haven in Port Townsend is a huge Disney-like centre of marine indulgences and you never know what delight lurks around the next corner. Gorgeous boats, old and new, in various states of financial decomposition abound. There is an energy to absorb from all those dreams in varying states of realization. Nearby Port Hadlock is the site of the slowly growing Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding where people can develop their sliversmithing skills. It is an apparent success.

Paspatoo foredeck Money can't buy you everything, but it can pay for all that varhishing
Paspatoo foredeck
Money can’t buy you everything, but it can pay for all that varhishing

Would you believe that, nestled among its wings, I found a shop selling bagpipes and harps! As it turned out I’d hit a weekend when there was sailor’s exchange on with all sorts of wonderfully priced boat bits (But no fuel filters) I did find a compatible brand-new portlight for my boat, complete with screen for $7. A few other small treasures came home with me as well.

The Sailor's Exchange Old charts for sale in a puddle in the rain.
The Sailor’s Exchange
Old charts for sale in a puddle in the rain.

Of tremendous delight to me was an open house to view the ‘Western Flyer.’ It is a hulk now languishing in a big boathouse in Port Townsend’s ‘Boat Haven’ Once, it was used in the 1940s voyage of John Steinbeck when he wrote ‘Log From The Sea Of Cortez.’ I had the opportunity to actually touch a sacred icon of both literary and nautical significance. I learned with some chagrin that I had repeatedly passed the boat many times in the Swinomish Canal where it languished as an abandoned hulk and then sank.

Fabulous local native art in the old courtroom
Fabulous local native art in the old courtroom

Bu odd coincidence, later that same afternoon, I found myself in the ancient basement jail cells of the old Port Townsend Courthouse. It turns out that Jack London was once incarcerated there for a night after a wild turn around the town. My imagination soon created enough horror of what it might have been like in this grim corner. So, twice in one day, a literary pilgrimage! There was a wonderful exhibit of local native art in the old court room upstairs and then a colourful little parade out on the main street of earth day folks..

Jack London slept here
Jack London slept here

Once the most likely place on earth to be shanghaied, Port Townsend retains some of its former rich colour. (Shanghaiing was the practice of drugging and/or otherwise abducting men to serve as crew on sailing ships.

The Sheriff's word processor
The Sheriff’s word processor

Some old taverns in Port Townsend still have trapdoors in floors where victims were once slipped down to waiting rowboats. Really!)

The window and the skylight. Building detail in downtown Port Hadlock

The window and the skylight.
Building detail in downtown Port Townsend.

Mainstreet Port Townsend
Mainstreet Port Townsend

In the surrounding countryside I was then shown organic farms producing a variety of fine goods from cider and berry wines to cheeses, baking and meats. There is a large effort afoot to return to practical organic farming methods and it seems to be working. Salmon are even returning to long-abandoned streams.

Beach Trash Port Townsend
Beach Trash
Port Townsend

I sailed for home on Monday morning in a welter of huge steep green lumps and spray. A sou-Westerly wind was building against a large ebb tide. The seas were chaos no matter what the heading steered, ‘Seafire’ endured a long salty baptism and I was very happy to have an inside helm. It was too rough to take any good photos and too briny for the cameras so some images are recorded only in my head. Especially poignant was a beautiful offshore tug westbound while towing a stately old freighter in minimum ballast, trimmed light in the bow, probably off to a breaker’s yard. We passed too far apart for photos so that funereal procession can only be described with words. I dreamed of the sight later that night. This time the tow passed overhead in the sky. The tug and tow were joined by the drooping catenary of the towline, the forward vessel’s twin screws slowly turning. I’ll leave my readers with that fantastic image and post this blog as a photo essay about a grand little voyage which has passed too quickly.

Earth Day parade
Earth Day parade

Believing my blog was finished, I shut off this laptop and started the engine in preparation for weighing anchor in my final anchorage on Prevost Island. My beloved old Lehman died on me once

"Your mother dresses you funny!"
“Your mother dresses you funny!”

more. The injection pump is again full of air! After more tweaking, tightening, and several bleedings, it again runs sweetly. So, maybe it is not the new/used bits for which I’ve condemned myself. They’re even not in the system now. Dang! I now have new suspicions and a few possible resolutions. It will be something simple but temperamental mechanical problem is no fun. But then, what’s the meaning of life without its mysteries?

Southbound with a favourable wind...for a few minutes
Southbound with a favourable wind…for a few minutes
Anchorage at Prevost Island, three more hours to home
Anchorage at Prevost Island, three more hours to home

Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul.

If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or be held at standstill in mid-seas.”

…. Kahlil Gibran from ‘The Prophet’ as copied from ‘The Soul Solution,’ Bob and Linda Harrington

BLOG 100! Reboot My Heart

SQUINT! Another cell-phone photo of daybreak in Dogpatch
Another cell-phone photo
of daybreak in Dogpatch

Here’s how my luck has been going. I bought two lottery tickets at the local grocery store. As usual, the clerk, after checking my old ones, asked me if she could chuck out them out. By mistake she must have chucked the new ones, which I didn’t discover until several days later. So, bin divers, there’s a 99 trillion dollar winning ticket floating around out there somewhere. Yeah right! I was at the airport when my ship came in. And then I found myself in the hospital. After going to visit the surgeon who “hacked” my leg, I answered a call from my GP. My pulse rate was stuck well over 130 and I was persuaded to go to the hospital for a “couple of hours” to get things checked out.

Moon Bombing Dogpatch
Moon Bombing Dogpatch
Another Fawn Lily
Another Fawn Lily

I swear that the only thing done in a hurry at a hospital is how they manage to get you into one of those open-backed bum flapper gowns and to get an intravenous needle jammed into your arm. Then they’ve got you! The first night was spent in a corner of the Emergency Department on a rickety gurney with a severely worn-out mattress. I lay and waited and waited for doctors who never came. Nurses stood in small groups chatting and joking while I felt like yesterday’s roadkill mouldering in the corner. Other inmates groan, cough, weep and bleed. Your personal plight seems to be the least of priorities and of course, you are the most important, don’t they know that? Eventually I complained gently and endured an explanation of why I should write a letter to the government. It is all their fault.

I’m sure everyone who chooses a career in a hospital must start out with the best of intentions. Some just become a bit jaded along the way. It certainly takes a special courage to put in daily long shifts inside those beige walls breathing that stuffy beige air and becoming imbued with beige thinking. (I can hear Billy Connolly shouting about “Feckin’ Beigists) I know I could not do it, my brand of courage lies elsewhere. The complex infrastructure from maintenance people, cleaners, porters, technicians, dieticians, nurses, doctors, to desk pilots and all the others is stunning. I can’t really comprehend the parameters of even one hospital which, to my sentiments, is as complex the Battle Star Galactia. “Gravity engineer please call the switchboard.” The staff is all there to ultimately serve folks who are mangled, slashed, terminally ill, mortally worn-out and infectiously diseased. (And those are just the visitors) Truly, I was generally treated with compassion and respect but I sure am glad to be writing this back at home. At least here the walls are not bloody beige!

I‘ve cooked for a living at times but can’t imagine what is involved in preparing meals in a hospital. It must be horrific. There is a school somewhere for hospital cooking. There must be. Every meal I’ve ever had in hospital, anywhere, all tastes the same, if it has any taste at all. Bleech! If the food is not bad enough, it is delivered in dung-coloured plastic containers which really gets the palette twitching with anticipation. But I can’t imagine how else anyone could do it three times a day. “Ward C, please proceed to the buffet area for your daily gourmet lunch.” Not likely. Good food is a foundation of cheer and well-being and even a little garnish on top of your chunk of rubbery farmed fish would certainly help. I suppose a sack of parsley just can’t fit the annual budget. And wait until someone decides that all that plastic-infused food we eat is a major cause of cancer! That’s another subject. Eh wot, no wine!

At least they fixed me. Apparently electric shock is used to stop the heart, then again to restart the old muscle. I had a vision of jumper cables hooked to each nipple, a horrific zap, then a quick reversing of positive to negative and another Duracell moment. Actually a very large electrode was stuck to my chest and another to my back. That’s all I recall. Thankfully, I was knocked out for the procedure, I don’t remember a thing. It’s rather like defragging and rebooting a computer, all in one swell foop, but it feels like the timing was reset and new spark plugs were installed. I’ve been rebooted. There IS a smell of burned bacon. Whatever transpired, my pulse is back down to a normal rate and I’m beginning to feel like life is worth living. These dreamy pills are intereeesting…..

Abandoned locomotive in Ladysmith. The promise of a working steam museum and a tall ships yard drew me to Vancouver Island in the mid-80s. It never happened.
Abandoned locomotive in Ladysmith. The promise of a working steam museum and a tall ships yard drew me to Vancouver Island in the mid-80s.
It never happened.
Spring morning light at the roundabout at the foot of the main street in Ladysmith
Spring morning light at the roundabout at the foot of the main street in Ladysmith. The monstrous anchor was dredged out of the harbour.

The only other note I’ll offer on ending up in the “horspital “ is that one needs to be aware of the moment. It is all you have. There is no “In a minute,” no “Tomorrow,” no “Maybe next year.” This is it. This very moment is all you’ve got and no one knows what’s coming down the pipe. We DO NOT know what the next moment will bring. It is a thought I often express in this blog but I’m beginning to feel hypocritical spouting about it out. This is blog 100 for me… and I’m still tied to the bloody dock! I can offer whinges about poor health and the resulting low finances but I feel that would be just making excuses. This is the year.

It has to happen within the remaining three quarters of 2016. No more piddling about. Old ‘Seafire’ either finds her way to Southern waters or has to be put up for sale. I want to be writing blogs from within the shade of a cactus or a palm tree. One way or another. It’s got to happen. Somehow!

I know I don’t want to end my days shuffling down a beige hall in a puce bum-flapper pushing a trolly with an IV drip on it with flakes of dried rubber salmon clinging to my beard.

Unwittingly I recently wrote this little bit about exactly that.


Some drink dark rum straight down

others stir weak tea round and round

wondering ten lumps or twelve.

Some cling to the bottom

feeding on whatever drifts by

others soar in the cold dark sky

exploring their passion to fly

so absorbed with life

they have no thought about when they’ll die.

Some worry about dying so much,

they never live.

Some worry about tomorrow

always missing today

some only work

having forgotten a gift called play.

We only have this one moment

and can only regret

what we don’t do.

The Nurse Stump. Life goes on.
The Nurse Stump.
Life goes on.

Slumped in front of the television last night I watched a silly program about a California couple who had won $180,000,000.US in a lottery. After the IRS was done with them they probably had to scrape by on the remaining half of their winnings. A realtor was leading them around by the nose showing exotic properties. Eventually they settled on a decadent shack (16,000 square feet) on a mountainside to the tune of $5.6 million. All the while they were orgasming their way through this ridiculous faux palace, wifey kept complaining they were over-budget! They finally bought the place, then the bison ranch below them and ultimately all the land to the summit of the mountain above them. It totalled 800 acres. Mother’s final complaint was about the winding steep road. These were the same two hefty folks who were living contentedly in an average suburban home before their windfall. The area surrounding their new dream home sure looked like one of those Californian infringements that loves to explode into flame. I wish them bliss. Yes, I’m jealous, at least for the potential of all that cash.

I know that if I ever found myself immersed in unaccustomed wealth, sure as hell-in-a-handbasket, I might easily wander astray. For the moment, I believe there are people I’d help and causes I’d support, others whom I’d make a point of ignoring and quite probably there would be another certain boat I’d acquire. That is the true value of a lottery ticket, all those dreams to keep you going through an existence such as working in a hospital. Lotteries are indeed the poor man’s tax. To put our Western lives in perspective, there are billions who’d love the decadence of knowing where tomorrow’s groceries are coming from and that the shooting will stop. The notion of going to a hospital for any reason, incomprehensible. Not having to worry about the cost, beyond belief.

We just don’t get it. Do we? I know I don’t, even when I write about it.

Jack out standing In his field. Dogs can teach us so much.
Jack out standing In his field.
Dogs can teach us so much.