An Open Tool Box In The Rain

The Harbinger.
A sure sign of spring, this tiny hummingbird and it’s pals are migrating north. They stop long enough to rest and fuel up, then buzz off. In real size, they are never more than two inches in length. They fly thousands of miles north, then south again, each year.

The evening is clear, the sky is clear. The temperature is not frigidly damp. In fact it is almost tepid. Outside in the last of the day’s light two Kingfishers dart and chase, chattering vigorously. Inside the boat, I’ve just turned the heater on for the evening. It was off for most of the day and the hatches were open. Ever so slowly the reluctant spring shuffles in under the faltering embrace of winter. During my dinner, and in the hour since, I’ve been watching ‘2 Cellos,’ a dynamic pair. Their music is amazing and flawless whether a classical prelude or a rollicking cover of a famous rock song. I heartily recommend them to anyone with a love of good music. The duo has a concert tour passing nearby. Seats in Washington and Oregon were sold out for as much as $US 395. each!

…And a bumminghird in an alder tree.

I worked today, even though it is Sunday. A water taxi needed some maintenance and repairs. Just before finishing the job, an operator appeared without notice to take the boat away ASAP. Then we found the battery in the Travel-lift was stone dead. (This is the machine which transports boats, weighing up to sixty tons, to and from the water.) Such is life here. We’re braced to see what will be jammed into tomorrow’s schedule. There is plenty of work already on the slate but there is always something unexpected to deal with. The engine shop tries desperately to run a preventive maintenance program but ‘Break and Fix’ is the way things have always been done here and no amount of persuasion affects permanent change. It is frustrating to see the incredible and unnecessary expenses the company deliberately endures. Combining my inability to affect positive change, and with my health issues, it is time to move on. I’ve given notice here. After a replacement has arrived I will leave this place. I love this wild country but my experience here does not seem to be on any path toward my goal. Perhaps I’ll see things differently once I’ve left. Meanwhile, pass me some dry socks please.

It came out of the earth now it’s going back. No matter how careful we are, a little oily residue escapes in the incessant rain. “Mommy, look at the rainbow in the puddle!”

Earlier today, while trudging back to the boat during a rain squall, my eye was caught by a battered box of tools sitting beside a boat stored in the yard. It sat with drawers and lid flipped wide open. Everything was filled with rainwater, the tools in the drawers were beginning to rust. Rain water ran over the edges of the box. Days later, the battered tool box is still in the same place. Mechanics treasure their tools which are the instruments of our trade. Without them we could do little. It is hard to see anyone’s tools treated with indifference. But that is often the way things are done here. I don’t get it, I never will. I’m hardwired another way. Sometimes I truly wish I were not.

– Red tool box rusting in the rain.- Broke back tool box.
– For some reason my wrench is rusty.

I mused that perhaps my life is a bit like that toolbox. Filled with good potential and valuable skills, have I abandoned my life and simple ambitions to rot with neglect and disuse? Why does everything seem at a dead end? Certainly, my potential far exceeds what I do here. My worn body is in pain all day and night. Finances are holding me where I am and it seems that the friends who are financially secure are telling me to “Just do it.” What is it I don’t understand? A good buddy and I are in similar situations and we both have the same dream. We each sign off our regular communications with “Due south!” Meaning of course, we will do this thing no matter what, meet you down there. But a dark, nagging doubt towers over each of us.

Making a blunt point.
Log dogs on the bow of a small steel tug.

Meanwhile the provincial election campaign rails on. There are another two weeks of verbal masturbation to endure. I listened to part of an on-air debate last recently between the three candidates. They all espoused various idiotologies yet all sounded the same. I have long refused to vote for any candidate whose platform is about what’s wrong with their opponents. The debate was a childish game of turd-toss. There is no-one to vote for. And by the way candidates, all of you, no government has ever been a source of wealth. And, although all politicians make the claim, no government has ever created one job. Never! Stop the bull!

Cut me loose!
Shorelines to the docks at low tide. Anenomes grow on the chain.

You can’t catch a fish by chasing it with a hook. Offer me something enticing and I just might bite. Here in Shearwater a lady removed her voter’s card from her mailbox. Apparently the nearest advanced polling station is in Masset, on Haida Gwaii. That’s an ocean voyage of over two hundred miles across the notoriously vicious Hecate Strait. We are a hardy bunch of folks! For weeks, CBC radio provides thin speculations and dreary reviews of the electoral race. Journalists pick out every bit of lint from every corner. Such a weary business!

Wreck Beach…Bella Bella.
Under the jetty at low tide.
Technical Advice.
Boat filth imbedded in my paws despite a thorough scrubbing. By the time I’m heading back north again, they’ll be coming clean.
Shearwater suspense.
Morning fog three hours before flight time. It lifted. We flew.

, I’m posting this from the Bella Bella Airfield. Fog and a thin spattering drizzle are the weather this morning. At the moment, conditions are not flyable. I’m hoping to head south on yet another medical excursion. I’m very much looking forward to seeing my wife Jill and my buddy Jack, the dog. For the weekend, I’m doing south.

From far overhead above the clouds, there comes the thunder of passing jetliners

John Cleese… “ Want to make God laugh?

Tell him your plans.”

Easter Flashes By

BIG! This barge stopped briefly in Shearwater while I was leaving for the weekend. The “Ocean Oregon’ was being towed by the ‘Arctic Taglu’. Once this monster is loaded with logs it will go south where the timber is reloaded on a ship for export.
LITTLE! ‘Seafire’s’ tender is a 10’6″ Achilles inflatable hypalon boat. It has an inflatable floor and performs much better than previous aluminum hard-bottomed inflatable boats. It’s a keeper!

Good Friday morning, Easter weekend. The anchorage is placid. There is no sign of human presence anywhere other than myself. ‘Seafire’ is anchored in a finger-shaped bay off of Troup Passage. I’ve dreamed of this for weeks and the thought of being here sustained me through the haul-out last weekend. Here I am with three full days on my beloved boat away from Shearwater. I’d love some company but I’m happy enough with my own self and am free to follow a random schedule having to bend or explain anything to anyone.

Freedom! Heading out for the weekend on Seaforth Channel. A few miles west it opens onto the entire Pacific Ocean, a tough call to resist.

Yesterday at 5 pm, quitting time, I was still in a bilge wrestling with a last stubborn bolt. There is always one. If I hadn’t beat the damned thing it would have haunted me all weekend. I won. By 6:30 we were all shipshape and had slipped our lines. That we is ‘Seafire’ and me. There was even a thin sunlight as we left the bay. Two hours later the anchor went down here as the last light of the day ebbed away. The stereo is playing an amazing album of eclectic Spanish music. ( Carlos Nunez- Discovery) It would be nice to share this bliss but this blog is as close as I’ll get to that. Soon it’ll be anchors aweigh to see what’s around the corner, and then the next. What a feeling to be content in the moment at hand and not want to be somewhere else.

Into the mystic. Northbound up Bullock Channel. It, in turn, opens onto Spiller Channel.

I’m travelling northward up a network of inlets and passages to a place called Ellerslie Lake, a sacred back water to locals. The scenery and fishing are supposed to be fantastic. We’re in the middle of herring season. There might be wildlife to see with all that surplus feed in the water. By mid-afternoon ‘Seafire’ arrives and the anchor goes down in a magic world which is entirely mine. There is a logging camp miles back but here the solitude is absolute. The silence thunders out. I launch the dinghy and soon find a forgotten joy as I skim across the flat water. I love exploring in my trusty little Achilles and can quickly cover many miles in a radius from where mother ship ‘Seafire’ is anchored. The skies have cleared a bit. A golden evening light bathes the area and it will be best to take advantage. I decide to visit the falls and find a rich reward of soft pure light for the effort. As the tide falls the is a tidal gorge to navigate in and out of the large lagoon below the falls. The lower the tide the more the rapids increase.

Anchored beneath the mountain. We all need to occasionally be reminded of how tiny and insignificant we are.
Natural Art. I could see a fish in the reflection at the tide line.

I remind myself that I’m entirely alone as I pick my way up and over the boiling water but I’m having fun for once. I love white water and soon I’m into the lagoon. In another two miles I arrive at a spectacular water falls running into the sea. The light is fading and I know the rapids will be steeper each minute I linger.

The prize. The falls  which drain Ellerslie Lake. I’ll go back and explore when it’s warmer.
Over the edge. Yeehawing my way down the rapids from the lagoon at Ellerslie Lake.

I’m not a kid with a canoe anymore, and I don’t want to spend the night here if the rapids become impassable. The rapids are considerably more violent and steeper but the hardest part is making a decision to just do it. Then you pick your way through and it’s over. I’m hungry and getting cold. Finally back at the boat I’m numb, my arthritic hands burning with painful coldness. I have never worn gloves but the time has come. God bless my diesel furnace. Despite the warmth of my kerosene lamp and the music I play, Stan Rogers then Ibrahim Ferrer, nothing warms my core. The music of Cuba seems incongruously far from the cold grandeur of this incredible place.

Warmth at last light. I turned up the furnace and put the kettle on promptly on my return.

I am still filled with pain and stiffness in the morning. This sucks! The fog and rain has descended again and my body, and soul, ache for warmth. Damn! This getting older will be the death of me! After breakfast I clean up and decide to crawl back into bed. The weather, and the way I feel, are equally grey. At 13:00 I am up and after consulting the charts I decide to pull the hook and amble back toward Shearwater the long way. I’ll find another place to anchor tonight. The weekend is already half gone, but then, half still lies ahead. The rain squalls continue. I am glad that I seized the sunlight of last evening

It blinked! I swear!
An interesting anomaly on the top of a cliff looking down on the anchorage.
Serenity.So calm that not every one notices the photo is posted inverted.
Now which way is up? Another calm evening, now in Wigham Cove…just me and the seals.


Soon the seals will have it all to themselves. I always find it amusing that they lay curled up like a sausage in a frying pan.

I meander down Spiller Channel for a few hours. I explore Neekas Cove and Inlet but something doesn’t feel right and i continue on my way. I’ve learned to listen to my intuition about anchorages and go or not to go decisions. There may practical reasons but experience produces an inner voice which is often correct a\nd I don’t analyze what I intuit. The wind rises on my nose but we make fair speed and it is so pleasant to feel the boat travelling as it has not for too many months. I tuck into the secure basin charted as Wigham Cove on the south end of Yeo Island. I cook a simple supper of ground beef well-imbued with smoked chipotle pepper and garlic. I fill some pitas with the potent mixture and feel a lovely glow spreading within. Warmth! Simple pleasure!

Sunday morning finds me nestled firmly between the blankets, suspended in a stupor between sleep and wakefulness. Sunlight shafts into the cabin. A light fog is dissipating to reveal a near-cloudless sky. I ache for a place to walk but the cedar jungle crowds everywhere, There are no meadows or trails, only a thick tangle of brush and windfalls and interlocked branches. Some beaches offer a place to amble at low tide along a small edge of this impenetrable mystery of endless forest. Wild creatures can magically appear and disappear silently into and from this thick maze. I crash and thrash to try and intrude for a few yards and then retreat, defeated again, to the opening from which I began. I am an alien here.

It will be a sleepy Sunday, it suits my lethargic mood and I prepare for the last leg back to my berth in Shearwater; after yet another nap. I feel exhausted and want to stay here for a week.

You’re back! Got any fishy bits for me?

Later in the day the boat is back in her berth. It is as if the weekend never happened. Monday dawns with a cloudless sky. It is windless and warm, 22 degrees C. by noon. I’m back in a bilge covered in black muck and l am already looking forward to the next weekend. This too shall pass.

Life goes on. Taking seed in the end of a dead-head below Ellerslie Falls. Loggers once shot their timber over the falls. Now the forest will re-establish itself one way or the other.

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving”…. Albert Einstein


Hopes Rise Again

Between spring rain showers the sun comes out and reflects the sky on the sea’s surface. The foggy spiral is a stream of muddy water from a nearby culvert.

Saturday, April 8th. The rain is pounding down as usual. I’ve hauled the boat out and she’s sitting high and wet. Despite the forecast there is always a 50/50 chance of something different occurring. But this time the weatherman was correct. My seat in the boat is about eight feet above the ground. It feels strange. The boat is motionless although I find myself involuntarily swaying at times. My little brain is not used to being motionless aboard the boat and is reinventing my environment to what I’d prefer. Or perhaps I’m simply disoriented at this altitude.

A perfect day for painting a boat…NOT! Fortunately the were enough chores other than painting that could be done in the rain. This is a view from the cockpit of ‘Seafire’ while sitting in the yard.
My mussels. Scraped from the bottom prior to pressure-washing, these clump of mussel lay within the reflection of the travel lift which hoisted my boat from the sea.

What is incredibly stupid is that I’m sitting up here waiting for the rain to stop. In Shearwater…yeah right! I need it to dry up enough to get a fresh coat of anti-fouling paint on the bottom. That is a toxic elixir which, for a while, prevents the growth of marine flora and fauna on the hull beneath the waterline. It’s been eighteen months since the last haul-out. ‘Seafire’ was developing a copious crop of mussels and barnacles after a long winter at the dock. Remember an old Gordon Lightfoot song about sitting in the early morning rain? Here I am. The rain buckets down then tapers to a light shower and finally stops. My hopes rise again. Ten minutes later, the next biblical deluge falls without warning. One of the joys of getting older is knowing that nothing lasts forever. Sooner or later, I’ll have a window of a few hours. Persistence pays. Sunday morning some sunlight thinly ladders down and I scamper into my rain togs but, despite a constant threat, I don’t need them for the whole day!

The weary job of preparation. I’ve power-washed the hull and blasted off any loose paint. In places it is over one eight inch thick, an accumulation of thirty-six years. One of my priorities upon arrival in Mexico will be to have the boat hauled.
I’ll have the bottom scraped to bare fibreglass and painted with a locally-proven anti-fouling paint. Warm water and higher salinity render our locally approved paints impotent to prevent rapid growth in southern waters.
New zinc anodes are bolted on. These are sacrificial anodes designed to absorb stray electrical current in the water and slowly erode in place of having bronze through-hull fittings decay and crumble. The pink splotches on the propeller are evidence of electrolytic damage when anodes are not replaced in time. There has been no further breakdown since I have taken ownership of the boat.

One of the sweeter feelings I know is relaunching a boat after the bottom has just been serviced. It is never a pleasant duty working on a boat’s bottom. It feels good to be finished. Not only is the angst of being trapped ashore relieved, the boat glides so sweetly through the water. Before, there was a slight resistance to movement, now she’ll want to go somewhere, anywhere; and guess what? Easter weekend is just a few days away! Haa! As evening dusk settles the skies lower with dark swollen clouds. Because of the threat I worked the whole day frantically trying to beat the next impending downpour. With the sharp toxic tang of the fresh bottom-paint filling my head there came the high ringing calls of migrating Sandhill Cranes. It is spring! There is no doubt! Robins chittered and sang from obscure corners in the forest, staking out their territory where they will raise their young. It is spring! Tonight as I post this blog a rich golden light illuminates the bay and highlights the green of the trees and the mountains. a sparkling three-deck white yacht has just arrived and anchored out. It is the first of the season. It is spring!

Painting day. Dawn breaks with the possibility of a few dry hours ahead.
Now for the rusty stains in the white gelcoat, especially bad under the counter near the stern of the boat.
Finished! Stains are now gone.
A very pretty transom. With copious amounts of oxalic acid and elbow grease the stains are gone.

Eventually comes a deep satisfaction when I remove the masking tape. There is a crisp, clean fresh line which divides the black bottom paint from the clean white hull above. I find a bottle of fibreglass cleaner and spend a few hours scrubbing away with oxalic acid trickling down inside my sleeves. The rust-hued discolouring on the hull is gone. I’ve no time or energy to polish the hull but I’m proud of the results of my efforts. Soon ‘Seafire’ will be back in the water, rocking gently at the dock ,eagerly tugging at her lines. She’ll seem much happier. I know I will also.

A sure sign of spring. Sandhill Cranes wing their way north, their sonorous calls are a wonderful song of hope. Finally, it is spring! The wing span of these beautiful birds can be over six feet (2 metres) amazingly, many people never look up to see this wonder in the sky.

One of my distractions is reading. I am presently finishing a book by Yann Martel who wrote ‘Life Of Pi.’ This book is called ‘The High Mountains Of Portugal” and was published just last year. It’s third section is a story about a Canadian senator who moves to a small rural village in Portugal and learns to live with a chimpanzee he impulsively adopted. Here are a few lines:

…I think we all look for moments when things make sense. Here, cut off, I find these moments all the time, every day.”

… No, what’s come as a surprise is his movement down to Odo’s so-called lower status….Peter has learned the difficult animal skill of doing nothing.”

Chasing a Rock

“I say old chap!”
This old crow hated me taking it’s picture but couldn’t tear away from the lure of the grocery bags on the back deck of the water taxi.
Tiny fishbits in the stowed net makes for an impromptu banquet.

When your cash flow is at a low ebb tide is the same time that all the incidentals pile up on you. I’ve missed a week’s pay while away south on medical appointments and spending money on things like prescriptions and new eye glasses. After a meagre payday suddenly I’m out of toilet cleaner, paper towels, a few spices and other things that are costly, especially here, when you need them all at once. I’m due for a new fishing license and a new rain jacket. It’s time for a new frying pan. No single item is a big deal, but a blizzard is just a whole lot of innocuous individual snow flakes. I’m not complaining, it’s just the way the pickle squirts, but I find the laws of chaos intriguing. Life, at times, feels like hanging off a cliff with folks dancing on your fingers and peeing on your head. Did I mention that it’s annual income tax time?

“Honey, have you checked the boat lately?” This boat has now been capsized at the dock for a very long time. I last had a photo of this in my blog posted on February 13th. No point in panicking now.

Fortunately the wisdom of accumulated years prevents me from looking for trouble. I’m slowly learning that it finds me readily enough. The boat in the photos below was stolen by three drunken fisherman who had missed the last water taxi. Apparently they hit a reef at full speed. Two RCMP officers were measuring and photographing the recovered boat while it sat outside my shop after being power-washed free of a copious coating of dna.

No Air Bags
It’s not the speed, it’s the sudden stop. The starboard windshield is completely gone. Must’ve hurt like hell.
Down to the last detail.
Clearly, everything came to an abrupt halt.

I quipped about the wisdom of chasing parked rocks and that I hoped the experience had been indelibly painful. I was assured that I was getting my wish. Eventually the police caught up with the three stupids further south and I’m sure they’ll have an unhappy time ahead.Seeing the damage I was reminded of a line from a song on an old Willy Nelson album: Red Headed Stranger. “You can’t hang a man for shooting a woman who was stealing his horse.” No, I’m not condoning violence of any sort but up here a person’s boat is a lifeline. Folks who violate another’s lifeline deserve the wrath of Trump. For what that’s worth, here’s a bit of musing from CBC radio. Someone mentioned that the best-selling pinata in Latin American is now made in the image of King Donald. The retort was “Yeah, but there’s nothing inside.” As I write, another nugget floats out of the radio. “Once the government legalizes marijuana, it’ll be the first time anyone loses money selling drugs.” And so here I go now quoting CBC radio. Times are desperate.

Ah the sun! ‘Seafire’ basks in a moment of sunlight and the promise of spring.
Catting the hook. a traditional and forgotten method of securing an anchor for a long passage. Previously it was hooked under the bobstay but heavy seas off Cape Caution tore it loose and caused damage to the bow stem. This is a work in progress but it will be perfected. I love my Rocna anchor.

I sleep in on Sunday morning to eventually be awakened by the clatter of a low-flying Beaver float plane. Peeking out from beneath the blankets of my snug nest I confirm that dawn has indeed broken. By the time I have some coffee brewing, there is the nearby din of a rock drill. The sooner the job is done the better, life must go on, the din will end. Electrical power on the docks is again being spread between too many boats and simply cooking breakfast can blow the single small main breaker for the entire system. I decide to wander across the enclave to the laundromat for a shower and then indulge in the decadence of ordering breakfast.

As I enter the restaurant, I am accosted by the operator-manager of the water taxi fleet. Without so much as a “Good morning” I’m overwhelmed with a litany of woes about a broken-down boat. I remind him that I’m not at work today and I’d really like to have a tiny piece of life. In other words, “Bugger off and leave me alone.” For the time being I’ve been told not to work on weekends; winter budgets are tight. This character is berating me now that he’ll just have to find someone willing to work weekends. He’s not my boss and is far outside his job description. So much for a peaceful Sunday morning.

A Broke-Back Pickup
It’s a tough life for a vehicle here, the roads are short but the rocks and potholes are big.

Two days later, the cold driving rain continues and a flock of migrating robins appears on the lawn in our little community square. It is probably the first grass they’ve seen in a few hundred miles. They hop about furtively, listening and poking at tiny tidbits living in the sod. They are harbingers of spring yet the sight of them is dismal. They are certainly not singing. Friday morning is the last day of March, in like a lion, out like a lion. I’m writing while waiting for the kettle so I can have a mug of coffee. The boat is shuddering and heeling under windy blasts and pelting rain. Ho hum, this is nothing new. Yesterday the skies cleared and a glorious, golden, warm sun blessed this piece of the earth. For the first time this year, i shut the heater off and left the hatches open for the entire afternoon. It was wonderful.

Got worms ? Robins sighted.

Sunlight brings out the masses, even here. From where and how do they all mysteriously emerge? Suddenly the yard swarms with people bringing in broken boats. Several arrived in tow. Some were sinking, some had dead engines. Some have both problems. I am always bemused by fishermen who leave their boat abandoned for most of the year. We are now close to the short, intense herring season and suddenly there is a glut of customers demanding immediate attention regardless of their place in the line-up.

Bookends. Two of my Shearwater buddies.

As spring slowly wedges it’s way beneath the dark weight of winter, one of the first significant annual events is herring season. It is actually a herring roe fishery; the timing must be perfect. There will be an exact moment when the herring deposit their eggs on kelp and other marine flora. The timing to harvest the egg-laden fish and the fresh ‘Roe On Kelp’ is critical to achieve best quality and maximum value. There is an anxious anticipation. Fishermen earn a large portion of their annual income during what may be a minutes-long season. Then in the last few days before the season’s opening, there comes a frantic rush to have necessary repairs made. The practice of being prepared and of keeping a vessel shipshape is an alien concept.

One character sputtered in to the docks all the way from Ocean Falls. He dumped out the contents of a fuel filter into a bucket. The filter had held a nasty mess of rusty watery goo. When a boat is used regularly as transport in remote waters, clean fuel and filters are absolutely essential, perhaps at times, a matter of life and death. Many folks are very cavalier about preventative maintenance. This character mused that he should have “ changed it last year” and then went on to describe a persistent engine oil leak that comes back every time he adds oil! I call it the “Break and fix” method. Sadly it is a practice entirely too familiar to many.

My tube’s bigger than yours! Sea worm casings on a concrete anchor block.

Spring weather is slowly beginning to appear, a few minutes here, an hour there, an entire half-day a few days ago. It seems odd to cast a shadow, feel radiated warmth on your back and to be unable to see because there is sunlight in your eyes. There are no complaints on that front. I’ll get used to it.

Raindrops on the windows while the sun beams in. All that light reveals accumulated winter grime.

The pump don’t work cause the vandals took the handle.“….Bob Dylan