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

Reluctant spring

Reluctant Spring

Looking for Alice ...Stepping stones in a local forest
Looking for Alice
…Stepping stones in a local forest

We’re doing OK. Just because the beaches of Jalisco are far away, and it still seems cold and wet here, doesn’t mean there’s anything to complain about. A little to the south, in Oso Washington, a massive mudslide has wiped out that entire small community. Despite appallingly unstable ground conditions, rescue crews are still looking for bodies and the faint possibility of more survivors. Tonight’s adjusted figure reduces the remaining number of missing to thirty, down from ninety. Over two dozen bodies have been recovered so far.

Skunk Cabbage ...they smell like a local hydroponic product
Skunk Cabbage
…they smell like a local hydroponic product

The East Coast of the country has endured it’s first spring blizzard with up to 120kph winds and 30 cm of snow. (There’ll be at least one more blast sometime around Easter…Well, it happens every year!) Subsequent bad weather has kept some schools closed for five days.The missing Malaysian Air flight is a growing mystery. In an age when satellites can read the numbers on lost golf balls laying in the brush this story is becoming a real-life James Bond epic.

Russia and the whole of Europe are slow-waltzing about the recent invasion of Crimea. Mr. Obama and the Pope have met to discuss growing global poverty. I doubt that either considered liquidating some of the Catholic church’s incredible wealth or to quit buying rockets.

Know the feeling? Low slack tide
Know the feeling?
Low slack tide

If you are fool enough to consider the chains of trivial event which trigger global wars and then factor into that notion the planet’s vast over-population, much of which is very hungry and discontent, well we’re head-first deep in the outhouse basement. So, the only way to make sense of it all is to quit trying and just enjoy the moment. It is all we have. Implement change by example and step out of the gloom and doom. The moment, it’s all we have!

Maple flowers
Maple flowers

A miserable slanting drizzle this morning gave way to thin sunshine filled with promise. Jack the dog and I went for a walk in the woods. Deer tracks fresh in the mud show that fawns are being born. The skunk cabbage is sprouting, blooms are now everywhere and there is a profusion of daffodils. Lambs cavort in the fields and it is still light at eight pm. The wharfinger is muttering about new contracts and increasing my moorage fees. Weeds are starting to grow on the bottom of the boat. It must be spring. March here came in like a lion so we’ll see if the bit about the lamb holds true. Jack and I took our before-bed sortie ashore. The moonless sky was clear and the stars were especially brilliant. Somewhere in the timber a Barred Owl sang its loud echoing call of Who-Hoo Hoot Hoot. There is a bog hole surrounded by blackberries above the marina. Last night a thunderous chorus of frogs burst out there. This morning the boat rides an uneasy swell as the thick cold rain pelts down again. Yes, it’s spring! See ya at the beach, I’ll be under the Corona umbrella. The only one!

Rodger the rigger ...some spring maintenance before another adventure with Betty Mc
Rodger the Rigger
…Some spring maintenance before another adventure with Betty Mc

So, seize the moment the man said. I want to step outside my incessant introspection and share some happy and even uplifting thoughts. All my endeavours are now focused on getting back south. I haven’t made any decisions other than to re-affirm that one’s regrets are usually about the things we didn’t do. I’ve been planning on taking a boat south for a very long time. I’m frightened to think of how I’ll feel if I did sell ‘Seafire.’ But it’s only ‘Stuff’. Right?

Betty Mc on the ways. This Tasmanian lobster boat has travelled here on her own keel with her owners Rodger and Ali
Betty Mc on the ways. This Tasmanian lobster boat has travelled here on her own keel with her owners Rodger and Ali

A few days have passed. Yep, I’ve been busy with stuff; more buying and selling. The little green truck is gone. It is now the property of a friend from Gabriola Island who shared his accommodations with me in La Manzanilla. He expressed great interest in the truck and now that it’s home and all fixed up, it belongs to him. I’ve managed to find a lovely older SUV (Remember?…Stupid Urban Vanity) It is in great shape and will soon be broken of any urban tendencies. I will now be able to tow a bigger trailer than the teardrop and orf we go again.

So now it’s heads-down time. One project boat to finish and then old ‘Seafire’ gets her just and overdue rewards. The weather is grudgingly admitting that it may be spring. Periods of two or more hours of undiluted sunlight are beginning to occur without rain. It’s time to get up the mast and finish installing mast steps to the top. Then new companionway doors, brightwork, more wiring and fiddly pre-voyage chores as well as the eternal pursuit of loot, ever more loot.

Betty Mc business end. all wood to the bitter end
Betty Mc business end.
She’s all wood to the bitter end

Meanwhile I’ve successfully put up a photo stream on Flickr. It’s an online portfolio of my photography to which I’ll be adding more of my camera work as time permits.

The URL is https://www.flickr.com/photos/flickrfred/

The more a link is used it rises in the pecking order of search engines and becomes easier to find. So go ahead, hit me please. (I was amazed and humbled to discover how many Freds and Fred Baileys there are out there.)

There are even a few of us on Flickr. Next time I set up a site I’ll use an illustrious handle like ‘Aardvark Rocketman Fred.’

Jack hunting rabbits... he's never caught one yet, but!
Jack hunting rabbits… he’s never caught one yet, but!

One more morning. Now it is April 1st. The joke came last night when the power failed in phases. The dock lights were on but my neighbours and I frantically assumed the charger/inverters on our boats had failed. These are expensive devices we use to keep us dependant on the electrical grid ashore. It is amazing to realize how dependant even we fringe-dwellers are! Our collective angst was huge until we began comparing notes. Now the sun is rising into a cloudless sky. If this too is a prank, it’s a happy one.

Morning in Dogpatch Bay
Morning in Dogpatch Bay

I took an hour for myself in the middle of the afternoon. The frogs were in full rehearsal and somewhere in a far corner of the bay a pair of loons joined the chorus. Two fat cheeky river otters frolicked on the dock and I decided to go for a walk with my camera. The first three photos are the result. I don’t feel at all guilty.

By the way, come to think of it, March did go out like a lamb!

Ursa Major slightly to the left
Ursa Major slightly to the left
Life goes on
Life goes on



No Spiders
No spiders

Superstitions of the sea. That’s a subject often drowned in copious amounts of alcoholic beverage and sceptical conversation. Men don’t easily admit they hold with various supersticions, but nearly every sailor has developed their own fears and respects.

Don’t begin a voyage on Friday. Never open or store a container of anything upside down. Don’t whistle in the wheelhouse. Every one knows about Murphy’s Law and how the worst possible scenario is what one should expect. My intimate and dark relationship with Murphy has taught me that monster is probably female. She’s far too devious to be male! Personally, I’ve come to suspect any boat with a hull painted green or blue and I can tell you vehemently to avoid any boat that comes with shag carpeting. There’s a practical reason for that one; but then most superstitions have a tangible origin.

As a marine mechanic I’ve developed a habit of flipping some small shiny object overboard, a stainless steel nut or screw is adequate. Much better to offer a small sacrifice to the old man of the deep than give up a treasured wrench or a pair of eye glasses or a cell phone. Kill a spider and make it rain.

Actually I’ve come to value the presence of spiders aboard as a good omen! It can be argued that with enough flies aboard to attract predators arachnids might be a bad sign but I reckon that the wiley insect will not be found aboard any vessel about to sink or burn. I am fascinated by the spider’s incredible tenacity and engineering skills. I’ve known webs in the rigging to withstand full gales. If damaged or destroyed a spider web is repaired promptly. I’ve seen their silk spun between two masts and in other places ridiculously impossible. Despite their capacity for massive industry, spiders also have incredible stealth and amazing patience.

There are nasty ones, best avoided, and even some of the tiniest spiders have formidable venom in their bite. Once a backwoods boy who could shoot the brains out of anything without remorse, I now find myself trying to move spiders and other innocent creatures from situations dangerous to them or someone else. I hope that an evolving respect for life is positive growth and that my little friends hold a reciprocal respect.

Speaking of intrepid tenacity I’ll dedicate the rest of this blog to two dear and inspiring friends. Two years ago, through friends of friends, Rodger and Ali first came to Silva Bay aboard their boat ‘Betty Mc’, registered to the Port of Melbourne, Australia. This vessel was built in Tasmania as a lobster boat. (Or, as pronounced in Aus: “Crybote”) Rodger explained that crayfishing is often done in the surf and so the boats must be built to withstand the occasional bash on the rocks. ‘Betty Mc’ certainly is. She’s a floating bomb shelter! The boat still has a livewell and could be put back to work fishing with little effort. Built of exotic timber like “Red shaggy Bark” and “Celery Top” she’ll outlive us all despite the many miles that have passed beneath her keel. With amenities like a head spurned, ( No-one has ever had to unclog a bucket!) the boat is filled with tools, spare parts and materials for repairs, extra outboards and even a motorcycle. She’s not a gaudy girl but has an immaculate engine room, snug accomodation, is wired beautifully and practically, and has an interior which is elegantly simple and practical. Her wheelhouse is clearly thought out by a seasoned mariner and holds the boat’s single luxury, a stainless steel expresso machine handy to the helm! ‘Betty Mc’ carries fuel enough for a three-thousand mile range and has a sailing rig to help her get there eventually, no matter what.

Betty Mc
Betty Mc

Her rugged good looks stand her out from the crowd to the eye of the seasoned mariner yet she is generally unnoticed by weekend warriors and other Tupperware pirates. Perfect! After working for a living for decades, she was refitted by Rodger and Ali and has since voyaged northward through the South Pacific to Japan then on to the Aleutian Islands and Alaska and southward to Silva Bay. Last year she returned to Alaska for the summer and so far this year has gunkholed down into the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound more miles than most yachts travel in years.

Boats have been described as the ultimate work of man; a marriage of function to perform specific work and commerce  while there is also an artful form of infinite variety and beauty. A proper vessel is pleasing to the eye from angles. ‘Betty Mc’ is a perfect example. Previous to acquiring ‘Betty Mc’, Rodger and Ali cruised extensively by sail ‘Down under’ and have also travelled an enviable number of places overland Their adventures are a massive achievement by any standard and they’re definitely not over yet.


Last fall the intrepid pair bought a surplus Canadian Coast Guard vessel at auction for a bargain price. ‘Wave’ is under thirty feet in length, is built ruggedly of aluminum and powered by a screaming Detroit diesel. She once served as a support vessel for the CCG Cutter ‘John P Tulley’. Returning from a winter break in Australia, Rodger and Ali have worked very long hours for the past months to refit and prepare her for their new odyssey. They left today.


They are taking ‘Wave’ to Sidney where they’ll load her onto a truck for the long haul to Hay River, in the Northwest Territories. There, the boat will be launched on the Southern shore of Great Slave Lake. They’ll travel northward over a thousand miles downstream  on the MacKenzie River to Tuktoyaktuk and then onward in a personal exploration of the Arctic and the Northwest Passage. When winter sets in (Usually sometime in September) they’ll haul her up on a safe beach and come back to her next spring. Who knows how many years they will be at that adventure! I have the honour of baby-sitting Betty Mc while they’re away from her and I look forward to learning the plans for her next jaunt; I’ve heard then mentioning Europe and Scandinavia.

Rodger and Ali
Rodger and Ali

What intrigues me most about Rodger and Ali is their personality. I say that singularly because that is how they function, as a single unit, a perfect balance of ying and yang. Theirs is a marriage where one plus one equals much more than two. They are quiet and unassumming while being warm and charming at all times despite the long weary hours that  they often work shoulder to shoulder. It took a long time for me to learn of their high academic standing and then not from them; they are very humble. I’ve never heard them brag about anything though they’ve certainly earned the right. These two are an absolute antithesis from the stereotyped Australian who projects a wannabe Crocodile Dundee image and says things like “Brace yourself Sheila!” They prefer living as simply as possible without frills and seem to always be caught within the joy of the moment. This team constantly inspire me. Yes, I envy them. I feel quite humble to count myself among the many friendships they must cultivate everywhere they go. I wish them many spiders!

NOTE: If you are interested, there is an excellent article online about Betty Mac’s epic voyage up from Tasmania to Alaska. Google up: Rodger Grayson Betty Mc. (The url is far too long to post here as a link.) Look for the heading, Sturdy Workboats. This is a New Zealand periodical dedicated to real boats.