6 PM
The sun is over the yardarm
and all’s not well.

The sun rose this morning into a cloudless sky. We cannot see anything blue. We are beneath a thick pall of smoke because, it seems, half of British Columbia’s forests are on fire. I don’t know who is to blame, but I reckon that most of the fires are human-caused. South of the border California is in ashes because of the price of Canadian lumber. Thus sayeth the Trump. I know that I may lose subscribers for what I constantly repeat but if you’re not even asking questions, then you like it where you are and nothing is ever going to change. That last sentence became a polemic political rant which I finally deleted. What’s the point? This blog is supposed to be about sailing and freedom and free thinking. People who read my blog understand that in varying degrees and directions. Remember Forest Gump? “Stupid is as stupid does.” Most folks get that and if you don’t, I hope you’re happy in your space.

Banon Creek Falls, Chemainus River.
Chemainus River in drought.
I like smoked meat!
“When I look into your big brown eyes…..”
Uh Huh!

To paraphrase the Red Green Theme:

If you can’t be handsome,

if you can’t be rich,

try to be handy,

do something damnit,

fix the sonafabitch.

Bumtown, Nanaimo. Some have set up this camp because they have no place to go and there is a natural instinct to seek safety in numbers. Others are there because they think they are cool and trendy. Millions of the world’s poor and displaced live like this because they have no choice. The people here have order, toilets, clean water. No one  bombs or shoots at them. Still, imagine trying to nurture children in any place like this.
Immediately behind the camp, in the smoke from our forests, another Asian freighter loads our raw logs for export. It is moored to the wharf of a former sawmill which was closed allegedly due to a lack of available timber. There can be nothing but questions.
Nanaimo Harbour at high noon today. There are 555 forest fires burning in the province at the moment.

I’m presently wondering about the wisdom in trying to sell my beloved ‘Seafire.’ She is my earthquake plan and escape pod. It is said that it is better to drown than hang or burn and today, choke! I see people on the street wearing surgical masks which adds to the eeriness. I am not sure the masks filter out much smoke but if they make people feel better…Good!

As the day advances, the smoke settles and the entire world seems subdued, or oppressed, by it. The streets are oddly quiet as a strange lethargy seems to possess those who are out and about. The sensation is rather the same as when overwhelmed by a heavy snowfall except that this is a crushing rather a sheltering feeling. While I write, the smoke catches at the back of my throat and muted orange-brown light filters in over my desk. To think that I used to smoke deliberately, like a fiend! Fool!

Where the best berries grow.
Jack on deck…of a friend’s boat. There is shade, a good view of the dock and regular treats.

Now I’m writing in the dull glow of the next morning. The smoke is thicker. Fire and brimstone. It’s the tale of sod ‘em and go for more. Getting a clear breath seems a bit difficult in the thick acrid air I am inhaling. Jack just wants to lay low.Suddenly I realize that I can hear no birds this morning. I drove up to Nanaimo this morning and realized at the airport that most flights are grounded.

Fly me to the sun. Now this Cessna Caravan only has to be able to see the ground well enough to land.
Like lemmings row on row
into the smoke
careening cars
deliberately go.
When they get there
if they do,
will they understand
anything new?

The visibility is below safe minimums for VFR. There are few aircraft in the sky and so the doomsday sensation lowers a little more. People are driving like road warriors as if there is no tomorrow and I fear, that for some, they will be right. The volunteer fire department in Ladysmith issues a call to arms with a good old-fashioned air raid siren. Its sonorous howl calls all too often, sometimes several times in one day. Within minutes there is a din of warbling, hooting, honking emergency vehicles heading off on yet another mission to yet another wreck on the highway. The dogs in town respond in kind. Summer wears on.

Tristan Jones wrote, “When in fear or in doubt, raise your sails and bugger off out.”
This senior couple in their lovely 17′ sloop placidly left the marina and continued on their journey.
Perched silently on a limb above passing hikers, this Barred Owl waits for dusk. I had the wrong lense on my SLR for the light, so I made this shot with my mobile phone.

Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.” Henry David Thoreau

Author: Fred Bailey

Fred is a slightly-past middle age sailor / writer / photographer with plenty of eclectic hands-on skills and experiences. Some would describe him as the old hippy who doesn't know the war is over. He is certainly reluctant to grow up and readily admits to being the eternal dreamer. He has written several books including two novels, 'The Keeper' and 'Storm Ecstasy,' as well as 'The Water Rushing By', 'Sins Of The Fathers', 'The Magic Stick', as well as an extensive inventory of poetry, essays, short stories, anecdotes and photographs. His first passion is the ocean, sailboats, voyaging and all those people who are similarly drawn to the sea. He lives aboard 'Seafire' the boat he is refitting to go voyaging, exploring new horizons both inner and outer. This blog is about that voyage and the preparations for it. In spite of the odds against it, the plan is to sail away this fall and lay a course southward. If you follow this blog your interest may provide some of the energy that helps fuel the journey. Namaste Contact him at

14 thoughts on “NO BIRDS”

  1. I recognize that boat floor! It was even worse on the Sunshine Coast today where you could smell the smoke it was so thick. I’m amazed there is not a word about fire prevention.

  2. What a horrible thing to look around and see and smell the smoke and know these fire could rage on like this for a very long time. The smoky pictures just leave me reeling.

  3. Linda:
    I can think of places where the air was like this all the time. Every city in China that I visited, Toronto sometimes, Hamilton, Prince George with three pulp mills…how quickly we take our basic needs for granted!

    Clean air, clear water, simple food, simple love. I sometimes quote an old logger who said, “Something to do, something to look forward to, someone to love. That’s life, that’s it… Oh yeah, while doing no harm.”

    1. Hi Fred – A friend of mine spent several years in Shanghai when her husband got transferred there with GM. She has said the same thing about the terrible smog that was everywhere while she lived there. Toronto too? That surprises me as when I was last there, many years ago, the streetcars and subway seemed to be the primary means of transportation there, maybe buses were a close third (of course that would be diesel fumes). I know many people in Toronto have never owned a car in their life since public transportation was so good – here in Detroit, that’s not the case because we are the “Motor City” – that is a pity because getting around to the suburbs has been pretty dicey at times. I have not been back to Toronto since the late 80s though.

  4. When I was a skinny little helicopter mechanic in Oakville, one of our contracts was CFRB in toronto. We flew the traffic reports. On a clear day back then, at a thousand feet you usually could barely see the ground. The air and the water have cleaned up a lot since then, but last time I was back, the sky was still murky.

  5. About the same time you posted this (which I missed until now), we were anchored in the Chatham Islands, paddling around the shoreline in a smoky haze which was kind of ethereal – not quite as heavy as Nanaimo I think, and interesting to say the least. But the next day, when we headed up Haro Strait to Prevost Island, the smoke was so thick that by the time we got past Dock Island, we could barely make out any of the islands. We inched our way through Moresby Passage, listening to VTS all the while to figure out the ferry movements. Getting through Swanson Channel was tense – couldn’t see Saltspring or North Pender from mid-channel and definitely couldn’t see the huge ferry we were waiting for, which had called in to VTS on departure from Swartz Bay – seeing nothing I eventually called VTS to check its location. Finally, after what seemed way too long, it loomed up in the haze, almost out in mid-channel with us (we were being very careful to stay off the charted ferry route, hoping our GPS was accurate enough!). A nail-biting day – no photos, I’m afraid…though I could go shoot a full screen of a grey card now and it would look just about the same. 🙂

    Love the closeup photo of the cow, and enjoyed the post.

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