The Paintng

It’s coming, slowly and reluctantly but spring will soon be here in full glory.
I am often told that I must have exotic camera equipment. Nope! These were both taken this cloudy morning with my mobile phone. Any type of camera no more makes a good photograph than a brush makes a painting. It is always the nut who holds the camera.

It is vain. It is frivolous. Yet in the window of a local main street art and framing shop, there is a painting which I covet. It is spectacular in its own way, a limited edition copy, well executed by someone who knows and loves the sea well and intimately. He has captured every fleck of sea foam, every glint of light perfectly. The painter Christopher Walker is a renowned Canadian illustrator and this image has my heart. It is small, 24”x 15”, which makes it more endearing and also possible to mount in a boat. It portrays a man in red storm gear rowing a clinker-built skiff a goodly distance from shore. The title of the work is ‘Devotion.’ “Ya bet yer breasthook!” I think. You’ve got no choice. Pull for your life all the while resolved to the living heaving reality all around. It is often referred to as ‘Storm Ecstasy.’

Behind him, a steep near-breaking swell rises high above but he does not look, hearing its slop and hiss tells him all he needs to know. He has to have confidence that his small craft will rise daintily over it and all the other lumps he must encounter on his way to a sanctuary somewhere near the lighthouse. He is resolved that there is nothing he can do about it anyway. One moment of panic may well spell his doom. “Now lean into it,” he thinks, “but don’t break or lose your oar.” That light, to me, looks a lot like Race Rocks, a few miles from Victoria. It is noted for its turbulent surrounding waters and the image is so true I can smell it. I can taste the brine on my lips, feel the wet air on my face and the slap of the sea against my fragile, thin hull. I’ve been in such situations and can see, hear and feel everything including the pull and spring of the wooden spoon oars. Perhaps there is a nice small halibut in the bottom of the skiff. He isn’t out there just for the exercise.

There it is! Every time I pass the shop window I check to see if it is still there and where it might have been moved. You can see it clearly  and wholly online if you look up the artist’s web site without other paintings in front of it.

Designed to warn mariners away from danger, light houses are seldom built to draw them near but onward he rows. This painting expresses tension and peace all at once for the seasoned mariner and a certain terror for the viewer who is a landsperson. I love it. I want it. There is another special nautical painting which, years ago, I did not acquire yet remains indelible in my memory. Now the capitalist craving haunts me again but for the time being this new longing will have to stay in the shop window where it has called to me for the past year. The painting is a metaphor of my life. Read into it what you will. I have a fantasy of my writing desk by a window looking out to sea, my books on shelves at either elbow, that painting on the wall where I can see it along with other art I cherish. Still rowing toward distant marks, tide against wind I yam what I yam. You know the Bob Seger song.

The painting requires only a bit of money but I I have none and there are, of course, debts and bills to be paid first. The job I started a week ago lasted less than four days. I made a simple but grievously stupid error on my first morning. I was easily able to repair it and offered that, but the damage was done. There are no second chances after making a bad first impression. My wagging tail was suddenly tucked where the sun seldom shines. That dark cloud of doubt weighed on both me and my new employer. With a rapidly dwindling trade, due in part to both the global virus dread and the puckered economy in result of regional protests I could clearly see there was not much work for me at the moment. I need the income and I need the affirmation of being able to hold a job. Gone! I must confess my weary body and the incomplete healing from my recent surgery also made it obvious that perhaps my glory days on the job are past. I was able to prove to my younger co-workers that motors can be diagnosed and repaired efficiently without computer diagnosis. Maybe ignoring protocol was what did me in. But then, it would have been something else. So what! Life goes on.

There is no higher art than the wooden boat. Form and function blend to make something beautiful and extremely useful.
An old boat once again becomes the land becomes the earth and maybe will become a boat again one day.
Even a plastic kayak offers an intimacy with the ocean that bigger boats cannot match.
The romance of the sea. This famous boathouse is now gone, strangled by the approach of suburbia, done in with noise bylaws although it was there decades before any newcomer. There’s a waterfront luxury condo there now.

This is a tough week and first things first, I must repair the engine in my truck. Maybe that will restore my confidence. Done. But I feel no better. Suddenly I’ve come down with flu-like symptoms but haven’t coughed up any Corona bottle caps so no worries mate. I was at the doctor’s office last week and everyone with a sniffle is piling in there. I don’t do baa very well. You get old, you get sick, you die. Then the cycle begins again. Old Jack wants to go for his morning outing, which will be a slow and halting procession, for both of us. We each need the air and the exercise and off we go before the drizzle thickens into a steady rain. Spring draws nearer.

One thousand words.

And so in time the rowboat and I became one and the same-like the archer and his bow or the artist and his paint. What I learned wasn’t mastery over the elements; it was mastery over myself, which is what conquest is ultimately all about.”
― Richard Bode , First You Have to Row a Little Boat: Reflections on Life & Living


Puttering About In A little Boat

A pirated piece of nautical chart. It is about eighteen kilometres from Ladysmith, on Vancouver Island to Porlier Pass, the gap Between Valdez and Galiano Islands. In fair weather, that takes about an hour in my inflatable dinghy. The white patch in the upper right corner marks the shoaling waters of mainland Canada

One of my signature poems is called “The Water Rushing By”. In it, I describe the consummate need for mariners to feel the sensation of water passing the hull of a boat. That feeling is an addiction and presently, being boatless, there are days when an old log would have to do if nothing else were at hand. Fortunately I had the good sense to buy a wonderful Achilles inflatable boat before the money ran out. The size of what has usually been a dinghy to my mother vessels, it is nevertheless a boat which gets me away from shore. Equipped with a new outboard motor my tiny vessel is reliable and safe although it can certainly be rough and wet. A man of my scantlings must make an incongruous sight bobbing along miles from shore, but what is, is. Two blogs ago I described touring around this part of the coast in my little basher and this blog is about a recent day when I went off with my cameras in that little boat.

Bound up with cabin fever I launched the inflatable for a long day away. As an afterthought I threw in a small air mattress, one blanket and a tarp…just in case. With extra gas, water and a small bag of provisions I charged out on calm waters beneath a cloudless sky not knowing where I was heading. The best days start out exactly like that. Wind is always of concern in a tiny boat. In the Gulf Islands, with all its bays, and cliffs, forests and flowing water, local winds can spring up quickly. Despite prevailing winds local breezes are capricious and one must be prepared. Conditions within a short distance can change dramatically. Bouncing about impedes progress and soon has the boat and its contents soaking wet. It is safe enough, just miserable. I always try to position myself as quickly as possible so that access to the route home is downwind. Although longer and slower, it is usually much easier and drier.

Under the beautiful cliffs of Southern Valdez, I drifted with the tide and watched as Turkey Vultures rode the thermals. Ugly up close, they are beautiful in flight. Nothing can match their soaring skills.

After leaving Ladysmith Harbour, once safe under the sheltering cliffs of Valdez Island a passage of about sixteen kilometres, or ten miles, an outer island in the Strait Of Georgia, the wind can come from the north or south quadrants and actually help a small vessel on its way. Vancouver Island, the size of a small country, lies off the west coast of mainland Canada aligned in a northwest- southeast direction. On the inside lower shoreline it is flanked by an archipelago known as the Gulf Islands. The geography here is mostly of sandstone and was clearly shaped by glaciation. Along its Dali-like sculpted sandstone shores one often finds round granite boulders which must have been deposited as the ice retreated.

A Dali rock, with a natural hole right through it. Obviously a handy tie-up ring.

The archipelago was an ancient haven for indigenous people, with an abundance of edibles, especially sea food; there were a maze of sheltered nooks and bays, and a moderate climate. Hold no illusions about an idyllic lifestyle, it would have been a hard life and the numerous native nations warred brutally among themselves. Compared however to the harsh conditions in the traditional homelands of most other first nations people, with long bitterly cold winters, life in the Gulf Islands was easy enough for there to be time for a very rich culture, full of wonderful art and creativity. Sadly for them, the invasion of Europeans spelled a rapid end to that venerable culture, which only now, is regaining the respect it deserved. Hopefully we will find a balance of living together as equal human beings, each with our own piece of cultural diversity, distinct, and yet part of a brightly-coloured mosaic like a patchwork quilt. Comfortingly, local place names were often bestowed by Spanish and British explorers and many places have been returned to the original indigenous derivatives. Kuper Island, for example, is now Penalakut Island. The Strait Of Georgia, is now politically correctly named The Salish Sea.

A petroglyph in the Gulf Islands. It is covered by the sea at high tide.

The Gulf Islands are a mecca for folks from all over the world. They attract yachters, eco-tourists and those with enough money to acquire a piece of land and build an often garish neo-monstrosity that is clearly not an effort to assimilate the tone of this beautiful place, but rather seems to scream “Look at me.” The world these folks wanted to escape has been merely been transplanted here, they are tentacles of yet another invasive species. I love to repeat that I remember a time when poor people lived by the sea and ate fish. More’s the pity, those days are gone forever.

In the near-four decades that I have lived in this area, it has become a much different place and not in a good way. Over a half a century ago (Yes, it was that long ago) hippies and draft dodgers invaded the Gulf Islands. The islands were then remote, sparsely populated, land was cheap, It was nirvana for a generation of free-loaders who wanted a perfect climate for growing their organic “crops” and living close to the earth, often in communes. The mantra was “Peace man, share the wealth.” Then, as inheritances came along, land values soared yesterday’s hippies became yuppies and “Private, My Land!” signs were spiked, in places, to every shoreline tree. It has been said that capitalists are merely socialists who have found an opportunity. Mine!

The way we were. This was a common way for folks to live along the coast in days gone by. No lawns! “Johnny go through the garbage out and check the crab trap.”
A summer home on Porlier Pass. Sitting on the Valdez shore looking south the view encompasses the Strait Of Georgia, Mount Baker and a long look for miles down the southern Gulf Islands. The tide flowing back and forth twice a day is full of marine life including birds, seals, whales, sea lions, crabs, prawns, and fish, fish, fish. There is always something going on.
The keeper’s house. When I first set foot ashore here years ago an elderly couple lived here and maintained the lights and the station. It was immaculate, all was trim and freshly painted, the garden was fantastic, the fruit trees were pruned and productive. Automation replaced live people and one of the loveliest home sites on the South Coast slowly decays. It is tragic. I decided to sleep out on the old jetty.
A safe place to leave the inflatable for the night. A challenge with operating inflatables is to be constantly vigilant for the possibility of punctures. The large rock was flat and fairly free of barnacles. The tide would come back in the late morning tomorrow. Right?
Yeah right! Of course, the tide came back but first thing in the morning it looked doubtful. High tide came three hours later than the previous day instead of my anticipated forty minutes. Nature does not understand tide books.
Camp Runamuck. I used to sleep rough all the time… fifty years ago. The romance of it has faded a bit. It got bloody damp and cold by midnight and it was too dry to build a fire, especially on a wooden deck! But…what a view! The music of the rushing tide came in surround sound.
Time and sea water. These steel shackles and anchor eye are fused into a solid lump of oxidized metal.
Time knows no bounds. This freight shed, still salvageable, and even habitable is yielding to advancing natural processes. It’s decay will accelerate if not checked. What a tragedy that this whole station is not put to good use, or sold by the Canadian Coast Guard to someone who knows what to do with it. Government is a synonym for waste.
The vines come creeping in and signal a death knell for a structure.
…And strangle trees as well. Welcome to the weird forest, where people may enter and never be seen again.
I suspect someone tried to break into the boarded-up house through the basement. Alack and alas, they discovered the cistern, head-first perhaps. Fresh water is a precious commodity on the Gulf Islands and collecting it in the rainy season is very important. Note the gauge of the footings, a foot thick and indicative of how all government buildings were put together. Once again, what a tragedy, and travesty, to let it simply waste away.
They don’t make them like this anymore. The old Porlier Pass Light, still in use as a range light but now automated and powered by those ugly  solar panels. Bittersweet indeed. I’d love a chance to turn this lovely building into a tiny home. Imagine sitting up in that light reading, writing, just looking. Oh, and a wee taste of single malt.
One giant step. I can never be bored on the sandstone beaches of these islands.
How can you put a price on a view like this? How can you want it all for yourself?
There’s always one! As dusk settles and the tide turned back to flood, a small sloop struggles against the rising current and then on to find an anchorage in the dark. I’ve done it myself, too many times.
Last gasp of day. High above, a night flight to somewhere in Asia heads off on a great circle route over the North Pacific, perhaps to greet the dawn before it lands.
And then night fell. The tidal waters mumbled and chattered incessantly.
With the new day, the tide turned once again to flood. Far across the Strait Of Georgia, looking into the light, is Howe Sound. Gibsons on the left, Bowen Island to the right.
The other side. A telephoto view of Burnaby far across the Strait and past Vancouver International Airport. The sight seems surreal looking from a different world within the rugged natural beauty of the Gulf Islands.

Well, life goes on. Like the dinosaurs who could not assimilate change rapidly enough and faded into history, old farts like me will pass and “Progress” will continue. Frankly one of the foulest words I have come to know is “Development”, synonymous to me with greed and devastation. When the time comes, scatter my ashes on the local green waters where I can wash and circulate among these beloved islands. Look at these islands and try to imagine how they used to be not so long ago. The images in this blog are from within a twenty-four hour period two days ago. There will also be a video.

A whole world. This tiny tidal pool is an entire eco-system. If watched long enough, one can see all sorts of little creatures going about their lives.

Land was created to provide a place for boats to visit.” Brooks Atkinson


‘Rolano’ lives no more. I posted a photo in a recent blog of this venerable old North Sea beam trawler. She was clearly dying of cancer, too far gone to be rebuilt. There is now a crane on the barge beside her and she is being dismantled. An honourable death for an old work horse and someone’s dream, she did not sink or burn. I wrote a poem about this old girl which I’ll be happy to send on request.

Something in the process of correcting spelling, punctuation errors and typos prevents my twisted brain from seeing them all until after I have posted or submitted a piece of writing. I just e-mailed an application for a writing job and as a sample of travel writing, I provided the copy of a recent blog. It has been out there, floating around in the ether, for several weeks so I could see no point in proof reading it again. But there was one more glitch. Arrrg! Yes, I do use my computer’s spell-checker but how does it catch things like, “It was to wet too burn.” It tries instead to correct things like “I checked my cheque book.” That infuriates me. I am Canadian and I speak English, not Amurican! The computer is set for UK English, not US English so what’s up? ( Nothing personal my dear American friends!) What sort of spell-checker did dudes like Shakespeare use? And texting? OMG! I hate abbreviations. LOL.

In the poem based on my impressions of ‘Rolano’ I describe her old engine as a Petter diesel. Oddly, this past week, I saw this ancient Petter being pulled along by this huge tow truck. It is a very unusual sight. It is twice as heavy as it looks and was once a popular  commercial marine diesel engine. Long-stroked, slow-turning they sounded a lot like their name. “Petter, petter, petter”! I count twelve guides on the pulley at the back. Twelve monster belts drove a generator or a pump. Of course, if a belt broke, it would be the one next to the flywheel.

I watch other folks peck out machine gun-fast text, full of every possible error, then push a button and their think-box corrects everything for them. So far as it knows! But I wonder, if they are too illiterate to even try to exercise correct language skills , is it simply acceptable now to use language which is essentially correct? “The crew landed their jet ten metres from the end of the runway. They were essentially correct.” What about surgeons being essentially correct? Gudnuf! Next! Well, ya know wot I mean.

I recall a story about a kayaker paddling closely to a beach portion of the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island. They were in a morning fog. They saw a man walking along the sand and shouted out an inquiry about where they were. A thick German accent replied, “Ya… Canada.” How wonderful it would have been had they retorted, “VAS! Ziss ischt nicht Denmark!?” I once sat in a Vancouver pub with a cousin from the English Midlands. His regional accent is twangy and nasal. He was chatting up a lady at the next table. Her partner, perhaps a bit jealous, said “I know where you’re from, you’re Australian! The response was a flat, “Clouse!” That, in turn, reminds me of an anecdote from a Bill Bryson book. He and his family are checking in for a flight to Austria and the agent says, “Oh wow! I’ve always wanted to go there. I love kangaroos!” Essentially correct. Uhuh!

I read somewhere that all humour is a form (I first typed ‘from’…close!) of sarcasm. Isn’t it wonderful? All I’ll say to close (Two sentences, two words, same spelling, different meanings… it is confusing.) in this particular musing is that if an old bog-trotter like me can take the time and acumen to do my best to get it right, what about the clever people? Language is the foundation of all cultures and if it is slip-sliding away, there are obvious questions.

Leftovers. It appears that much of this year’s bumper blackberry crop goes unharvested. Come winter, the birds will be grateful.
It came in the night. It is the time of year when toadstools, mushrooms and other fungi mysteriously appear. It is always a wonder how such delicate organisms can push their way up through hard, dry dirt.
“The end is nigh”. Leaves which did not do their bit to support the tree are the first to be rejected by the tree. There is a lesson here. “Put up or put out”.

And one more note, which also may be construed as sarcasm. For some reason, Twitter randomly e-mails me headlines. One came recently about a “Straight Rights” parade in Boston and a heavy police presence. Damn, that made me feel good! I am no right-wing nutter (or left for that matter) of any flavour and I am willing to live with whatever other people do…in private. So long as you do not harm children in any way, or for that matter any non-consenting innocent being, that’s your business. If you have a thing for ducks, and you have its consent, then get quacking! But, why the hell do you have to get in the world’s face about your personal intimate preferences. Go about your business with dignity and please, please leave the rest of us boring, normal heterosexuals to do the same. Straight Rights! It’s overdue.

Once, decades ago, I worked as a ranch hand. Ranchers regularly sold their bulls and bought different ones to avoid all the genetic issues of inbreeding. There was a prolonged bull sale each autumn in nearby Kamloops, a central BC interior cow town. We acquired a new bull which, back at the ranch, soon made it clear that his preference was steers, only. This, of course, would neither enhance nor enlarge the herd and old Boris, the Broke Back Black Bull, was soon being prodded back up the auction ramp at the next sale. Yep, there’s not much that’s new.

Another sign. A dry creek bed is littered with fallen alder leaves.
Reach! Maple branches seem to reach away from the afternoon light.

I mentioned my twisted brain earlier. Suddenly out of that echoing abyss, as I wrote the above, came a TV ad from my childhood of over fifty years ago. That’s scary! Two tins of sandwich meat are having a chat. One says, “Say Moo.” The other tin only ever replies, “Oink.” Finally asked why it can’t say Moo, that one can replies, “I guess I just don’t have it in me.” Take that as you will. It may well have been an ad for Spam so far as I can recall but there were several other disgusting meat spreads on the market. I will not eat any to this day and there are times when I have been plenty hungry.

Millions of flat-bellied folks would not understand my reluctance, although in a pinch, I can manage corned beef. That stuff will choke up a lot of palates but there are at least bits which are recognizable as meat even though the rest may be hoofs, horns or beaks. If we think of all the things which humans eat, good grief! Then some of us are disgusted when a dog wants to lick our face! Depends on what we’ve been eating I suppose. There are some types of junk food which old Jack will only allow himself one sniff. The Jack test works for me.

It occurred to me as I write to read the label on the bag of potato chips sitting on the corner of my desk. Ingredients:

potatoes (OK) then canola and/or mid-oleic sunflower oil, seasoning [sugar, salt, corn maltodextrin, inactive yeast, yeast extract, hydrolyzed corn protein, brown sugar, dried onion, natural flavour (including maple-and bacon-type flavour) huh? Caramel colour (Contains sulphites), high oleic sunflower oil, citric acid, spices, spice extracts, calcium silicate, silicon dioxide]. YUM! Where’s the hint of battery acid? We wonder why obesity and cancer are prevalent. During the Irish Potato Famine, some folks chose to starve rather than eat lobster which which commonly used as fertilizer on the fields. “Wot! Eat bugs?” I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

Over, under, or around? Apparently some dog tried to tunnel under this windfall. Jack choose to go around and pondered the excavations.
Afro Cedar. Some hedge-trimmer has a sense of humour. I like it.

Two days ago I sat shirtless in the broiling afternoon sun, reading a book and realizing that this was one of the last days this year in this part of the world that I would feel good doing this. The daylight is shorter each day, the evenings cooler. Let there be goose bumps. The leaves are yellowing and crispy, there is dew in the mornings. As I sit writing this afternoon I realize that I would not be uncomfortable in long pants. In fact, I’ve put them on. It’s chilly. It is time to seriously start a Go South plan and do something about it. Turkey vultures are flocking up, circling together in afternoon thermals and then gliding southward. Living proof, time flies.

How’d this look jacked up with big fat wheels? It is a coveted McLaren 720s. Prices start at $325000. Cdn. A neighbour’s guest parked it behind me. As I backed out, for a moment I forgot it, and almost…. BIG OOPS! Where the hell do you park a King’s ransom?

You do not have to sit out in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary.

But the stars themselves neither require nor demand it.”

….Annie Dillard ‘The Abundance’


(The Bastards!)

Click on images to enlarge

Coo, Coo KaHappy New Year! A shot from my Upcoast archives.

There’s no fool like an old fool. Sadly, that weary old axiom is as true as ever. Yesterday, in the middle of a busy morning my computer went KABLOOWEY KERPLUNK. The Screen was suddenly frozen, white with a broad red band across it. There was no way to escape (At least so far as I knew.) A bold message read that Microsoft had detected an insidious virus and had frozen my computer to prevent further damage. A toll-free phone number was provided for me to contact immediately. There’s no-one as gullible as someone in deep panic. I was on my way to an important meeting and the timing of this cyber trap completely blew my cool.

A friend and a view. May you have a higher view on the world.

A man with a thick Asian accent answered my call through a very bad connection and the fun began. I should have caught on immediately. For half an hour I was switched up the line to yet another supervisor, with difficult accents, and then another who soon had control of my desk-top. An alien curser began dancing across my screen at their will and reams of data scrolled on and on. I was told that my IP address was severely hacked, all my personal data was now in the hands of these bad guys and with such a high-end computer, now drastically infected, I had huge problems. Eventually prices in the hundreds of dollars began appearing on the screen. I finally began to smell fish. I was warned of dire consequences if I switched off the computer and/or took it to any computer repair facility. At this point I became the next curser, and a loud one at that. Bastards! Looking back I knew that Microsoft simply does not operate in such a way. Hello! Hello!

Alluring! A shiny spoon and some line tell of a disappointing afternoon one day last summer.
On winter’s pond. Incredibly a few late spawning salmon rose and broke the tranquility.
I could not catch one with my camera.
Gotcha! At a tiny stream mouth a flash of red betrays a late spawning salmon.

Originally assured that there were no fees for this online repair, the story evolved. Now the scam was that my IP address was in the hands of nasty hackers and hopelessly irretrievable. The only way I could ever use my computer again was to buy a license for a new IP address. This is yet another version of my ongoing theme about the profit of paranoia. Scare the crap out of folks and you’ll be able to steer them in any direction you want. That ageless persuasion continues to work very well for the church and for politicians. That, and greed. I was once selling a boat for a friend when a nasty Nigerian scammer tried to pull my chain. That’s another story. I should have known better this time. I’ve already skipped through the big scam about Revenue Canada threatening me with imprisonment. I’d been warned. Now this! So you too stay alert.

Winter rush.
It is the time of year when there is water running everywhere.

Suddenly I could see that I was being had and knew I’d soon be asked for credit card information. Finally I hung up and headed for my neighbourhood computer guru where I was met with a quiet smile. Yep, just another old fish who had bitten the dancing lure. Fortunately I spat the hook. All is well that ends. My chagrin has not. These dudes were utterly convincing and part of my fury was at myself for being swept through some very obvious signs, in retrospect, that I was being had. Almost duped I felt like an absolute stupid ass. Here’s what you do if you find yourself in the same pickle. Shut it down and go to your computer repair man. They’ll remove any nasty thing that was installed… by the hackers. Those were the guys who installed the problem. I’ve also been shown how to unfreeze my screen should the same thing ever happen again. Bastards!

Flatrock beach.
Sandstone makes for some fantastic rock formations in our part of the world. High tide with a rising westerly wind puts the picnic notion out of mind. My Corona umbrella would blow away!
A winter view across the Strait Of Georgia. Northwest winds clear the air and sometimes produce a prismatic effect. These mountains on mainland Canada are almost forty miles away.
Feel the Brrrr!

The rest of the story is that I was heading off to an appointment to look at a vehicle. A very good friend was having dinner with another of his amigos and learned that their old camper van was for sale at a very, very reasonable price. He e-mailed me immediately. Now I’m flat-assed broke for the moment but many of my pals have noted how badly I’ve been faring with winter and other problems which are rapidly becoming a great dungball of darkness. One of those friends has graciously loaned me the means to acquire the van and go south for a while. So, there will be some interesting blogs as I travel down the cactus trail to old Mexico. Meanwhile the rain hammers down as usual. There was a time when the sound of rain on the roof was soothing and peaceful. Now, it is an irritating white noise. That’s a bad sign in itself. Yesterday, I had to walk several blocks in the downpour when I could hear a red-winged blackbird singing. That is one of the first joyous sounds of spring. Instantly uplifted, the singer soon proved to be a starling, one of the great mimics. I’ve actually heard a starling perform a perfect eagle song. I spotted the little bugger singing his head off after I had looked all over the sky for a big baldy. That seemed quite funny at the time. Now it just depressed me a little more. Is everyone up to some sick trick? Bastards!

You never know what you might find in old barns and sheds. A friend spotted this aging camper van while visiting another friend. Room to stand up and to lay down, what more do you need?  Like me, it’s rough on the outside but has a heart of gold. Hopefully I’ll be seeing cacti and palm trees through that windshield sometime this month.

The rest of the story is that my benevolent friend wants to buy a sailboat in Mexico which he will leave there to use during the winter months. He wants this old salt to watch his back and offer a second perspective and any other relevant assistance. So we’ll call this a bus-man’s holiday. Of course cameras, both still and video, will be whirring all the while and evenings will be spent working at the computer keeping everything sorted out and recorded. Spring arrives in the Sonora Desert next month and the flowers are profuse and fantastic.  There will be blogs.

Meanwhile I have a plethora of woes to sort out on the new old van. It has sat unused for years and as old Lord Nelson said “Ships and men rot in port.” The vehicle was stored under a roof and as soon as it was moved out into the pouring rain, windows began to leak. I turned on the pressure water system, the plumbing leaked badly. Electrical systems need attention. The rig needs a full service, including brakes and steering. I’ll have some busy days ahead.

The shape of boats.
I added an abstract touch to enhance the “Peaceful, easy” feeling of this bay. This is my minimal obligatory nautical image required in each blog. Another song says “Dream on.”

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.”

… André Gide



(Click on images to enlarge)

Summer Sky

Coddiwomple, Old English slang meaning to journey purposefully toward a vague destination. It is also the name of a cute little boat recently arrived on the dock. Of course I had to look it up. It could be the description of a person’s life. Then there’s the timeless oxymoron about military intelligence. Two young men in naval uniforms complete with black life jackets and black crash helmets arrived yesterday morning at the dock in a hefty inflatable boat. When it was time to leave, their outboard motor would not start. I watched the performance which largely involved frantic heaving on the starter rope. This old mechanic finally volunteered to them that for whatever reason the motor was not getting any fuel and that they should check the connections on the gas line. They thanked me and continued to jerk the rope. I couldn’t go have a look, I was in the midst of my final bit of painting. There was prolonged loud discussion with mothership on their vhf radio which descended to a focus on the fuel primer bulb. “No, no, the bulb is still soft.” (It becomes hard when full of fuel and the system is pressurized.) After nearly a half-hour they finally clipped the fuel hose back onto the tank and zoom-zoomed off into the sunrise. Sleep tight, your navy is awake!

Our marina early in the morning. As usual, even in mid-week, it is full.

I’ve watched folks become infuriated with their dead outboard and pull away on the starting rope until it broke or until their arms nearly dropped off. There’s nothing to diminish your spirits like the sound of the starter recoil spring zlithering and sproinging around inside the engine cowling. Then, finally, it is discovered that all along, the ignition safety switch was off. To further the frustration, it takes someone else to make that discovery. Yep, I’ve done it too. Remember the movie “Sling Blade?” There’s a wonderful scene where the village idiot quietly watches the local lawn mower mechanic fight all day with a dead motor. Finally the protagonist announces that he “Reckons it’s outta gas. Uh huh.” Start with the simple things first.

We have all kinds of visitors.
At least he had a courtesy flag.
A venerable Pacific 30 beautifully refitted with a pilot house. You don’t have to be big or shiny to be gorgeous.

The painting is now complete on the boat, so instead of having been on the dock at first light to beat the sun, I sit here enjoying the decadence of writing while sipping coffee. Of course, today there is some cloud cover, perfect for painting. You can tell I am not an enthusiastic painter. The secret is in the preparation which can means hours of sanding, filling and sanding. Pull marks from a dry brush or runs from too much paint are the marks of carelessness. Then there are the spatters, especially when applying a dark colour near a lighter one. There is a technique of applying the paint, first by roller then followed by brush, not too dry, not too wet. Painting in direct sunlight is an invitation for disaster, the paint wants to dry faster than it can be applied and there is a sticky mess waiting to happen. Only experience can teach the best method. Then in gleaming glory, the paint begins to dry, all the while attracting all sorts of insects, airborne seeds, hairs and pieces of lint. Finally you peel off the masking tape and…SHIT! It ran beneath the tape. Actually, there is no substitute for good masking tape, which, of course, is the most expensive, but you get what you pay for. I’ve found a product called ‘Frog’ which works really well.

Really good masking tape.
It is finished. New windows, new paint, new stanchions, new lifelines, new ‘For Sale’ sign. I feel horrible to even try selling her, but life goes on with or without things and it is time to put the fleece out and see what happens.

I learned to hate painting when, as a boy, I often made a little cash schlocking white on fences and houses. My passion for painting is right next to mowing lawns and anything involving shovels. Then there’s picking berries. At least there is a reward at the end of the endeavour without any delayed gratification. Jack and I went out at first light armed with a bucket. A light breeze prevented any dew; perfect! Mourning doves wha-coo-hooed while a bumper crop of rabbits kept Jack entertained. I dealt with the bumper crop of blackberries. The first ones are ripening and there will be a harvest that goes on for weeks. I’ve never seen so many.

Never before have I seen such a crop of blackberries.
Himalayan Blackberries are an invasive species which thrive here. We all have a love/hate relationship with them.
A few days later. The love part.
Jack the hunter, I the gatherer. Note the rusty rails, a sad comment on our island railway.
There’s a whole lot of gathering going on.
Meanwhile in the forest life evolves with the seasons as ever.
A paper condo.
Things are even busy on the web.
A Dogpatch drifter, it looks interesting from a distance.
A local beach shack. I remember when poor people lived by the sea and ate fish.

The biggest, sweetest berries are at the end of the highest thorniest vines, well above where dogs may have peed. Having leathery old mechanic’s hands is a bonus. I hold a smaller cup-sized container beneath the fruit I’m picking and then transfer that, when full, to the bucket. That saves a lot of painful moves among the brambles and speeds up the gathering. There’s your blog-tip from this hunter-gatherer-mechanic. Now as the sun rises and the world heats up, it’s time to head to the boat for some finishing touches. Just another perfect early-summer Sunday on a beautiful Pacific Island.

It is a busy time under the waxing August moon.

We are all the architects of our own despair.” …Jill Bailey

We Don’t Have A Bow Thruster

Bo-Peep II
The varnish and paint are flawless. It must have an awesome boathouse. But no bow thruster.
Yep! 1926 Not many look this good at 92 years.

Rain! It’s my fault. I’m busy ripping the windows out of my boat and replacing them. Then I plan on painting the cabin sides and the rest of the decks. Nature abhors a vacuum and so with each window being about eight square feet in size, guess what! Sploosh and whoosh!Actually it could have to do with the long weekend, we seem to seldom get one without wet weather and then in the days immediately following the skies will clear and I can carry on.

Thane came back for a visit. The long guest dock is full, full, full.
Knowing the ropes.

Now then hoy the peak halyard and slack the fore-tops’l. NOW!
Little goes to waste. Old lines get worked into something useful like mats or baggywrinkle.

The guest dock here at the Ladysmith Maritime Society is filled with guest boats. The Ladner Yacht Club is here to celebrate its 60th anniverisary and the fleet which has arrived is one of pristine boats. Good on them! They are a group of very nice people with lovely dogs and I don’t need to worry myself about Canadian courtesy flags because none are foreign vessels.

Flag Patrol.  Sea King helicopters

A few days ago there was a fleet of US Tupperware tugs at the dock. Only one flew a visible courtesy flag. (When visiting any foreign waters in your boat it is basic marine protocol to display a small flag of that country above all other flags.) While I was at the head of the ramp a pair of our venerable Sea King helicopters flew over, low and slow. A lady from one of the visiting boats was passing and inquired if indeed these were military aircraft. Perhaps she was intrigued that such antiques were still in service. Being the quick quip that I am, my response was that since the insults uttered against Canadians by President Trump, we had begun a daily aerial patrol checking that US vessels were flying the correct flags. “Oh my!” she exclaimed wide-eyed, “ I’m so glad we have ours up.” Of course it was all in fun, but I’m sure she’ll pass the message on. I am really flummoxed that it is not an issue which our border personnel do not address but I suppose that’s the Canadian way.

Now THAT is a down-rigger.
A Canadian hydrographic survey vessel was doing some local work and stopped at our docks.

Yesterday I was bent to my work on ‘Seafire.’ (which seems to go on and on) A strident female voice began to make inquiries on the marine VHF of “Ladysmith Maritime Society Marina”. Half of the boats on the guest dock leave their radios on at a high volumes. I can only surmise that it makes then feel saltier. The radio voice went on and on with sporadic silly inquiries, even when the boat, a Catalina 34, finally arrived alongside the dock space assigned to it.

The docking crew stood looking out at the little sailboat laying twenty feet or so away. The boat’s crew, a man and woman, stared back. Finally the voice erupted again, strident and indignant. “We don’t have a bow thruster you know!” I kept my mouth shut. Clearly, I am not Walmart greeter material.

(A bow thruster is a small propeller installed on a boat below the water line and pushes the bow sideways when attempting to dock.) This old salt reckons that the device is absolutely unnecessary on any vessel with someone competent at the helm. Some boats, complete with twin engines, have a thruster installed at either end of the vessel. The boat can be manoeuvred in any direction or turned in its own length but it still all depends on the nut that holds the wheel. Every extra device does make life easier at times, but it also increases dependability on that gadget and decreases skill levels. For me sailing is a religion of traditional skills and self-sufficiency. Enough said. I’ll carry on with my sanding and painting and keep my head down, like a fly on the wall.

The job begins. The port windshield out and being prepared for a new piece of acrylic. None of the work is fun. The starboard windscreen is installed.

The painting job on ‘Seafire’ has turned into a career; it goes on and on. It began simply enough with the intention to replace two windows and spruce up the window frames. Oh yeah, while I’m at it, I should update the lifeline stanchions seeing as I had a replacement set laying in the crawlspace at home. Then, while doing that, I damaged a side window with cleaner and decided to replace them all. While I had the stanchions off and the window frames off, it only made sense to paint the cabin and the side decks. I’ve tried repairing the paint on the cove stripe along the hull and have now decided to repaint that while I’m at it. One of the things my years have taught me is patience and that certainly is a prime ingredient for a job like this. Painting is not simply the act of apply fresh colour to a surface. First there is the preparation and therein lays the rub. Yep, a pun! Preparation is everything. There are incessant hours of sanding, and filling and more sanding. My fingers are abraded down to near-bleeding stubs. Then, if the sun is not too hot, or the threat of rain not too imminent, there is the application of a smooth gliding coat of liquid colour. Not too much however, it will run and drip. Once that is done, I stand back to admire the fruit of my labour and flies begin to land in the sticky gleam. Bugga! As I finish one section, the rest of the boat looks shabby. Also, with the new shine, all the manufacturing defects in the fibreglass are revealed. But, there is progress each day.

The final window, installed under threat of rain.
Dry-fitting the new-used stanchions. A few more days of painting then I can begin working on the starboard side of the boat.

If refurbishing the boat is not enough challenge I am also in the middle of consummating a relationship with a new laptop computer. It is a supercharged gaming computer, the Grand Ferrari, something with all the giga-properties I need to use the film editing program which I’m trying to teach myself. The computer is a delight, but Windows 10, and downloading updated programs is a huge challenge for my old-school thinking. Mix that all in with my painting career on the boat and you’d think that all this masochism might indicate an English ancestry. You’d be correct.

Now for some serious engineering.
Children love this sand box on the dock.

A friend called to remind me of the British car show at the waterfront park in Ladysmith. I’d gone in previous years and was not eager to go see the same few dozen vehicles. WOW! Apparently there were over 200 cars and motorcycles on display. All ran, most were driven to and from the show. All have been lovingly restored and maintained. The spectators glided about in hushed awe, thrilled at what they were seeing. British cars are famous for their design and craftsmanship as well as their demands for incessant fiddling maintenance and enduring unreliability. For a very long time, British automotive electrical systems were hopelessly complex and comprised of components built by Lucas, known by many as the “Prince Of Darkness.” Yet there is a mystique and romance built into English vehicles that no-one else can match.

An ancient and pristine Rover
A slightly modified MGB
Land Rover with a Dormobile RV conversion. I wannit!
Peeking into a classic Rolls Royce. Real wood, real leather, real money but no airbags.
A Velocette and a Triumph

When the day is done, I read myself into sleepy oblivion with a copy of “Lord Jim” by Joseph Conrad. I haven’t tackled this novel in over half a century and it is clear why I first laid it aside. This guy did not have a word processing machine of any sort yet he stuffed every word possible into anything he was trying to say. Lots of folks love to gush about what a wonderful nautical author Conrad was. I find him lugubrious. One sentence can, at times, fill half a page. There is far too much wrapping around the golden gift of his story. Yet I find the weight and cadence of his writing evocative of the days I’m living at the moment. Here, in closing, is one sentence.

…”Such were the days, still, hot, heavy, disappearing one by one into the past, as if falling into an abyss for ever open in the wake of the ship, lonely under a wisp of smoke, held on her steadfast way black and smouldering in a luminous immensity, as if scorched by a flame flicked at her from a heaven without pity.” ….PHEW!

Cream rises to the top…
so does scum!
Summer algae blown against the dock.

“It is not that life ashore is distasteful to me. But life at sea is better.”
Sir Francis Drake

Blossoms and Boats

Red Dogwood in full glory.

Well, the exuberant celebration of spring blossoms is winding down. I’ll post a couple of Dogwood flower photos,.They’re now all gone from the trees. We’re into the black cottonwood, or alder as they’re commonly known here, season of blowing seeds.

Cottonwood seeds ready for launch.
A drift of Cottonwood seeds. Only one in a million needs to take root.
Until the next rain, the stuff will be everywhere. Doesn’t this look like a warm and fuzzy creature?

It’s clear why they’re called cottonwood. The Scotch broom is in its spring bloom, much to the misery of allergy suffers. There will be a second flowering in late summer, but for now we’ll just worry about what we’ve got on our plate. Already, there is a smell of smoke in the air which heralds forest fire season. that’s just too darned early.

Standard White Dogwood blossom, British Columbia’s floral emblem
Dogwoods downtown
Apple blossoms, just to help the perfume in the air.
Scotch Broom, an invasive species that tortures some allergy sufferers. I think the flowers are beautiful.

Before I go further I should mention a really awesome shop I visited up in Courtenay. A good kayak store is hard to come by but Comox Valley Kayaks have been in business for many years, and for good reason. I’d never stopped in before but was looking for a couple of items I could not find anywhere in Nanaimo. Even without my kayak along they fitted me out with the perfect items and at a fair price. The service was great, the staff knowledgeable and friendly (Even the lovely black German Shepherd) and the inventory quite impressive. I’m recommending them because I am that impressed. They only offer what is reasonable to expect, and all too rare it seems. That makes it commendable.

The Ladysmith Maritime Society’s own wooden boat fleet. Lots of varnish, elbow grease and love.
The ‘Ontario’ the way we used to run our navy.
The grates of wrath. No place for bare toes.
Morning calm, head of the parade is ‘Herself’
Now where’d I leave my mug?
Foredeck detail of a 1954 Chris Craft
Hit me
What is there to say?
The name says it all
A stack full of pipes
A gleam in her eye
The office

There was a wooden boat gathering in the Ladysmith Maritime Marina last weekend where ‘Seafire’ is moored. I walked the docks early on Sunday morning before many other folks were up and about. My camera whirred. Now these folks are gone home to more varnishing and painting and I’m left here praying for some cloud cover to do my own painting out of the direct sunlight. So without any social comment (for a change) I’ll simply post my photos and hope you enjoy them. By the way, the mystery about the little aluminum sailboat in the last blog has been resolved.

That little tin sailboat again. There were over 1400 of these sold. Where are they now?

Lou, one of my faithful readers sent me information which reveal the boat was sold by Aerocraft Petrel Sailboats in the US. The boat was designed by the famous Philip Rhodes and built by Alcan Limited right here in Canada. Go figure huh? One photo I found shows a boat with a Transport Canada approval that indicates it was also sold by Eaton Viking. Cool! Thanks for the help Lou.

‘Herself’ and nothing but.

If you can love the wrong person that much, imagine how much you can love the right one.” …Bob Marley

Odds And Sods

 A Brief Respite. As I was posting this blog, a bright reflection appeared on my computer screen. It was this break in the clouds. Three minutes later, the rain whooshed down again.

A Brief Respite. As I was posting this blog, a bright reflection appeared on my computer screen. It was this break in the clouds. Three minutes later, the rain whooshed down again.
Waiting for fish. "Fog...The sea silently becoming air. The air silently becoming sea." Ray Grigg
Waiting for fish. “Fog…The sea silently becoming air. The air silently becoming sea.” …Ray Grigg   (Both frames taken from ‘Seafire’ while at the dock.)

There came a rumble. Damn! He’s at it again. The few kilometres of road here on Denny Island are rocky and potholed. Mufflers are inevitably shaken loose and so the din of passing vehicles is a familiar sound. After a while, you get to recognize each vehicle’s unique noise. Now it’s this guy again. This early? C’mon dude! And so I got out of bed, one toe at a time. An albino garden slug emerging from his slimy lair. It was dark and hammering rain. Bugga! I’m in no mood for this.

The Fix. Courtesy, Shearwater Muffler and Exhaust
The Fix. Courtesy, Shearwater Muffler and Exhaust.

The rain stopped, the sun rose in a clear sky and then fog crept across the bay..

We’ve had two sunny days back to back this weekend. I should have been working on my boat. The exterior wood work is screaming for attention. However after a gruelling week in the shop I worked all weekend running a wheel loader stock-piling gravel. A large barge delivered 8000 cubic yards of fine gravel to upgrade the roads here. An experienced operator was needed and I was soon reminding myself of how I ruined my back. I’ve spent too many years running big yellow machines in years long past. Now I’m a wreck, in large part, due to the bashing one receives while sitting in a piece of heavy equipment. I’ve got a bit of a cold and feel weary and ragged. We have another sunrise this morning. Before the crack of dawn the gill net fleet left the dock for another fishing opening. There was the usual cacophony until finally I was on my feet groggy and grumpy. Now it’ll be back to my wrenches in a few minutes and I’m not in the mood. In my spare time, I’ve also got to sort out a problem with my windlass. I hate it when my beloved boat is not fully seaworthy. Well, as the British say, “Keep yer pecker up!” I can’t imagine being on this island without the means to leave fully within my grasp. The notion of that option makes daily realities much easier to endure.

THE BARGE. A wheel loader on the barge dumps gravel onto a conveyer which dumps onto a smaller barge where an excavator loads the gravel into trucks which forward it a few hundred metres to me where...
THE BARGE. A wheel loader on the barge dumps gravel onto a conveyer which dumps onto a smaller barge where an excavator loads the gravel into trucks which forward it a few hundred metres to me where…
...I pile it as high as I can . This requires running the loader up into a near-vertical position. If I screw up, the loader flips over. All's well that ends.
…I pile it as high as I can .
This requires running the loader up into a near-vertical position. If I screw up, the loader flips over. All’s well that ends.
Shearwater Terminal...such as it is. The ferry 'Nimpkish' is on it's dock and the tug 'Jose Narvaez' waits for us to finish unloading the barge.
Shearwater Terminal…such as it is. The BC ferry ‘Nimpkish’ is backed onto it’s dock and the tug ‘Jose Narvaez’ waits for the barge to be unloaded..


Yesterday afternoon a large flock of Sandhill cranes circled and called raucously to other birds resting in the bogs far below. The sun glinted on their wings and I ached to be up there with them, south bound. The only way to survive this ordeal is to bury one’s soul and plod on toward the flickering light of a dream. It is really no place for a sensitive, creative character to be but I’ll continue to function as a bilge ape until I can find an easier way to progress toward a sensible (for me) existence. There are other lumps in the fan which I can’t discuss and it is very hard to stay positive. Damn! I haven’t been back here for a month yet and the gloom is closing in.

 anchore blues. This old CQR anchor on the bow of a charter boat, has definitely earned it's keep.

Anchore blue. This old CQR anchor, on the bow of a charter boat, has definitely earned it’s keep.
The Autopsy. Part of a Volvo Diesel engine wiring harness after an electrical fire. Each engine has three computers to the utter despair of this old fart.
The Autopsy. Part of a fried Volvo Diesel engine wiring harness after an electrical fire. Each engine has three computers to the utter despair of this old fart.
Shearwater AC electric outboard. Warrantied to the end of your cord. for a slight extra fee we can provide you with a generator.
Shearwater AC electric outboard. Warrantied to the end of your cord. For a slight extra fee we can provide you with a generator.
Electrolysis on the hobo dock. A mish-mash of electrical cords like this is a sure-fire invitation to electrical disaster. That's the way it is done in Shearwater and... Mumbai!
Electrolysis on the hobo dock. A mish-mash of electrical cords like this is a sure-fire invitation to electrical disaster. That’s the way it is done in Shearwater and… Mumbai!
A piece of baleen. Instead of teeth most larger whales strain their food in through baleen. This was found near the whales bones shown in a previous blog. Local knowledge reports the skeleton to be that of a Fin Whale.
A piece of baleen. Instead of teeth most larger whales strain their food in through baleen. This was found near the whale bones shown in a previous blog. Local knowledge reports the skeleton to be that of a Fin Whale.
My D-I-Y video camera mount on my kayak. a fishing rod holder and some scrap plastic did the trick
My D-I-Y video camera mount on my kayak. a fishing rod holder and some scrap plastic did the trick.

Monday proved to be a sunny day, all day! Despite being dead weary from my weekend heaping gravel I put in a full day at work. Then back at home on the boat I finally found the gremlin in my windlass wiring and sorted it all out. What a relief! An anchor is a vital piece of equipment, especially in this huge wilderness area. Without reliable ground tackle a boat cannot stop for rest, darkness, bad weather or any other reason. There are no docks or marinas, anywhere. There are plenty of places to anchor. Now I’m free to leave any time I want and my sense of entrapment is gone. I’ll sleep much better tonight.

A heavy plankton bloom has appeared here. The water is a dark beef-boullion brown. One local wit seriously intimated that the paint-like quality of the water was a direct result of the transient fishermen pumping out their toilets into the bay. Heh dude, shit happens, and global warning is not responsible for the bloom. Nature offers no concrete agendas, live with it. In a few years our paranoia may well be about the next advancing ice age. I can hear indignant bristling as I write this but I have a reluctance to bend with popular trends and I’m aware how our sensibilities warp with the influence of external persuasions, informed or otherwise. At least ask questions; do your own research. Don’t hang your life on someone else’s uninformed opinions.

The bloom> when condition are right, there is a massive over-abundance of plankton in sea water. It isw called a bloom and may be red, green, yellow or brown. It is an entirely natural phenomena...don't eat local shellfish until long after a bloom has passed.
The bloom
When conditions are right, there is a massive over-abundance of plankton in sea water. It is called a bloom and may be red, green, yellow or brown. It is an entirely natural phenomena…don’t eat local shellfish until long after a bloom has passed.

And so writes a solitary man in his boat at the end of the dock in the night and the driving rain. It’s mid-September and there will be seven months of this existence before spring arrives. There are people who sail to the Arctic and Antarctic to be deliberately frozen in for up to ten months of Polar winter. Whatever they run from or toward I have no idea. I do understand that solitude and loneliness are two different things. On this Friday evening I sit here peering out through the boat’s rain-streaked windows to the pub at the head of the dock and know that I don’t belong in that world. I am thankful for that. I’ve telephoned home and I’ve also telephoned my sister. I’m despondent, perhaps because of those calls. I’ll shortly go to bed with my self-pity for company. Thank God for books to read.

I’m not complaining, just explaining. I chose to be here knowing full well what the circumstances would be. When I feel loneliness it is always in the near-by presence of other people. If, tonight, I were in some God-forsaken anchorage in the surrounding Great Bear wilderness, alone with only the wind and the rain for company within a three-dimensional infinite blackness, I’d feel fine. I would even savour the experience, feeling harmony and peace there.

In the morning I awake to the still-drumming of rain and the throb of idling diesels. The din goes on and on. I crawl out of my bunk into the thin smudge of daybreak to happily discover that the fishboats across the dock have left. I have an unlimited panorama of the bay and the rugged mountains beyond. Seconds later another gillnetter arrives and stops-up immediately abeam. There was two hundred feet of empty dock. He apparently needs to be as close as possible and in the middle of that space. There is an unwritten rule of seamanship which says you take up as little space as possible at a dock and you do that by tying your boat at the end, not middle, of any available space. After securing his boat this guy stands on the dock peering into mine. He doesn’t grasp that I’m sitting three feet from his bleary eyes writing about what a gormless jerk he is. Finally he goes back aboard and pulls his window curtains. I’m going to change oil in my engine today and that will require running it for a long while first. Ha!

As I write, CBC news is on the radio. I learn that WP Kinsella has just died. He usually wrote about baseball which does not interest me at all yet he is one of my favourite Canadian authors because of one book, ‘the Miss Hobbema Pagent.’ Long before it was cool, Kinsella was bridging the gap of our ignorance about First Nation’s reservation culture. This is also the week that ‘HMS Terror’ has finally been discovered after a centuries-long quest for the missing Franklin expedition. ‘HMS Erebus’ was found two years ago and now her sister ship ‘Terror’. This newest find reveals a vessel very much intact and there will be years of nautical intrigue as we learn details of what is aboard the vessel.

Two serious cruising boats. In September, long-distance boats head south after up to a half-year in Alaska. The blue steel boat is a design called a 'Diesel Duck' my ultimate dream boat.
Two serious cruising boats. In September, long-distance boats head south after up to a half-year in Alaska. The blue steel boat is a design called a ‘Diesel Duck;’ my ultimate dream boat. Imagine if Franklin had boats like these!

The day drags by, I change my engine oil and put everything shipshape in the engine room. I’m good to go. As I work I still listen to CBC North, the only radio station here. There is endless rhetoric about the Trump and the Frump. The idiocy leaves me content that that madness is far away from here. I’ll accept the insanity at hand. The rain continues.

Success is getting what you want, happiness is wanting what you get.”

…W.P. Kinsella

Degnen Bay

Degnen Bay morning
Degnen Bay Morning

One thing about working on boats has always bemused me. No matter what the repair or refitting job, there is always a requirement to make yet more holes. Whether a drilled hole, or a sawn-out opening, every improvement requires: Yep! More holes. Go figure! A boat is supposed to be a floating vessel which keeps as much water out as possible out. Making ever more holes seems a complete antithesis and sometimes it can indeed go wrong, very wrong.

Chocolate Lily Only for a few brief days in spring.
Chocolate Lily
Only for a few brief days in spring.

Once I was twisted into a tight spot on a beautiful 53′ Spencer sailboat, installing a battery box on a small platform fibre-glassed to the hull. The drill bit was dull but in order to hurry up and get the job done, instead of wriggling out to sharpen it, I pressed on. In fact I pressed and pressed until suddenly I felt moisture. I’ll never forget the feeling of that moment as I realized what I’d done. I did not have to taste it to know it was seawater. In my panic to remove the drill, I broke off the bit which plugged the hole reasonably well until the boat could be hauled out for a proper repair. I certainly recall the chagrin as I sat humbly at the bosses desk and told him what I’d done. Yeah, it’s funny now and once in a while someone will joke “Oops here comes Fred, hide the drills!” Well, we all screw up, no matter how experienced we are and so long as no-one is hurt and a lesson is gained, it’s all good. And, I might add, the only folks who don’t make mistakes are those who never do anything. My brother, an airline pilot, once quoted a friend who said, “All’s well that ends.” Imagine hearing that over the intercom as a flight comes to its conclusion!

Seafire anchored in Degnen Bay behind 'Snug' a Truant 33 I almost bought. Valdez Island across Gabriola Pass in background.
Seafire anchored in Degnen Bay behind ‘Snug’ a Truant 33 I almost bought. Valdez Island across Gabriola Pass in background.

So old ‘Seafire’ and I are on the lam and tonight we’re anchored in Degnen Bay on Gabriola Island. It’s been a lovely day and evening with an invigorating Northwest wind howling. We were immersed in seawater several times on our little passage over from Ladysmith. The various residues a boat accumulates while sitting at the dock are washed away. Actually we’re here because there is some confusion about mooring at the Ladysmith Maritime Society where ‘Seafire’ has spent the winter but one excuse is as good as another and here we are. Monday will look after itself.

Golden moment. 'The wooden schooner 'Aja' returns home at sunset
Golden moment. ‘The wooden schooner ‘Aja’ returns home at sunset

While that is being sorted I have a little job here in Degnen Bay on a friend’s boat. Tonight we’re anchored about hundred feet from the dock where that boat is tied. She is a rare old beauty. A friend purchased an old wooden cruiser with a beautiful layout and the classic lines of a wooden powerboat. ‘Django’ is a 1946 35′ Chris Craft and she’ll be a head turner wherever she goes. There are two lovely GM 4-cylinder gas engines She’s in good shape but like all fine boats is in a state of constant refit and upgrading. The job is a good reason to be here and for the moment I feel whole again.

On Golden Pond
On Golden Pond

Degnen Bay is named after an early family who homesteaded here. Degnen is apparently also an old Spanish term meaning ‘to rest’ and I like to think that perhaps the first explorers found and named this lovely spot as a point of rest. It is surrounded by homes and more are being built. They must have splendid views. The bay is littered with mooring buoys and the docks have no empty berths. Yet there is a feeling of tranquillity here. The bay is guarded by a rocky shoreline and the restless waters of Gabriola Pass. Beautiful, wild Valdez Island forms the far side of the pass with miles of trails there to wander and explore as well as an old farm which is now part of a Provincial Park. Sheltered from damaging winds Degnen’s bottom mud is very thin in places and anchoring securely can be a challenge. Hence all the buoys which in turn make anchoring properly even more difficult.

Beauty under wraps. 'Django' a 1946 Chris Craft.
Beauty under wraps.
‘Django’ a 1946 Chris Craft
That's a lot of bronze!A Stephens electric windlass, now a rare find.
That’s a lot of bronze! A Stephens electric windlass, unique in 1946, now a very rare find.
Access! The engine bay in the Chris. It's a joy to work on these with all that room around them.
Access! The engine bay in the Chris. It’s a joy to work on these with all that room around them.

This morning is placid and the sun rises into a cloudless sky.. With my morning coffee I survey the surrounding view. I realize the local public wharf possesses a relic; a telephone booth. It sits beside the dock crane and represents an era now passed. We’ve had wireless mobile phones for thirty years and now pay phones, anywhere, are almost impossible to find. Cellular reception is minimal here so perhaps that is why the booth remains. Dark stormy nights, creeping into the blackness of the bay with the dull glow of the phone booth as a beacon. It is an icon of a lingering welcome-home hug, dry clothes and a warm supper. Then the trudge up a slippery ramp in the driving rain under the baleful glare of a mercury dock lamp. There’s not enough change in your pocket. There’s no-one at home to take a collect call. It will be a two hour trudge in the wet and dark or another night in a damp bunk with only macaroni for supper. Too tired to decide. Been there!

Not all relics at the bay are meant to float. This is a late-fifties Volvo 444. No electronics, no radial tires or fuel injection...25 miles per gallon. Tell me you don't believe in plots!
Not all relics at the bay are meant to float. This is a late-fifties Volvo 444. No electronics, no radial tires or fuel injection…25 miles per gallon. Tell me you don’t believe in plots!

In my last blog I described the art of careening. Today my favourite boat, “Lil’ Abe’ was careened on the beach here. With her hard-chined dory-like bottom she takes the ground well and tonight floats with a fresh coat of bottom paint. she scampered back to her berth at the dock looking as lovely as a new puppy. (See photo in Blog 61, Mind The Gap)

A face only a mother could love... and guys like me.
A face only a mother could love… and guys like me.
Look ma no air bags. Four black feet and factory heat- a basic car. No padded dash, no seat belts, no GPS, no power-steering, no power brakes, not even a radio but those are real leather seats, the smell of them in the sun brings back memories
Look ma no air bags.
Four black feet and factory heat- a basic car.
No padded dash, no seat belts, no GPS, no power-steering, no power brakes, not even a radio but those are real leather seats, the smell of them in the sun brings back memories. That black knob on the dash…it’s called a choke. Pay attention kids, you needed that to start the engine when it was cold.  Really!


Lil Abe careened on the beach of Degnen Bay. With the old house in the background this could be a scene from 70 or more years ago
Lil Abe careened on the beach of Degnen Bay.
With the old house in the background this could be a scene from 70 or more years ago.
The tide came back and 'Lil Abe' heads for the dock. A fresh, clean bottom always feels so good!
The tide came back and ‘Lil Abe’ heads for the dock. A fresh, clean bottom always feels so good!
Rhapsody in wood. 'Fraser' a classic salmon troller.
Rhapsody in wood. ‘Fraser’ a classic salmon troller.
'Seafire' me old prune barge
me old prune barge.
Elegance. "If it looks good, it works good."... Allen Farrell A beautiful yacht conversion of a wooden salmon. fishing boat.
Elegance. “If it looks good, it works good.”… Allen Farrell
A beautiful yacht conversion of a wooden salmon troller.
Another man's dream
Another man’s dream

Then came a show of a different sort of nautical ineptitude. A gleaming, huge phallic sloop appeared in the bay, its manufacturer and length displayed prominently on both sides of the hull. It is the sort of yacht I like to call a ‘Fart Parkerson 69.’ For an hour the young couple aboard set and reset their anchor, always too close to yet another boat. Finally they came to rest less than a boat length away from ‘Seafire’s transom. I noticed how pristine everything was, like an ad from a yuppy yachting magazine. The young couple aboard each wore the latest in extravagant yachty fashion, I’d guess thousands of dollars worth. Soon they came over in a virgin-looking dinghy, awkwardly rowing it backwards, to ask if I was content with their proximity. I replied that they were downwind of me and wished them a good night.

'Nootka Rose' A converted life boat being loved to death. (The plastic wrapping prevents desperately essential ventilation.)
‘Nootka Rose’
A converted life boat being loved to death. (The plastic wrapping prevents desperately essential ventilation.)

Later, in the gathering darkness they were off again trying to find a spot between other boats and buoys. There was a continuous drama and din of their windlass paying out all their chain then reeling it back in again, all the while plowing up more bottom mud. Meanwhile outside of the immediate anchorage there are acres of good, empty anchorage. I guess some folks are determined to be close to the shore. They’re still here this morning! They’ve made it through the night, probably lying exhausted in their luxurious ten-foot-wide bunk, empty champagne bottle sitting beside big fluffy slippers and heavy bathrobes with anchors embroidered on the pockets. “Honey I broke a nail,” he says.

The sloop 'Fart P' on the hook. Neo-decadence beside classic an ultimate boat.practicality and what was once
The sloop ‘Fart P’ on the hook. Neo-decadence beside classic practicality and what was once an ultimate dream.

A few days ago in a muddy parking lot an old man and I were approaching each other as we walked our dogs. Suddenly, between us, hurtled a shining black Lexus, backing and filling a few times before it finally came to rest in two parking spaces. We each held our dogs, well back, until the frantic manoeuvring ceased.  “Thanks,” proclaimed the driver,adjusting designer sunglasses as he rushed off self-importantly on foot. As we finally met, the other fellow proclaimed loudly, “Guess just ’cause you can afford it don’t mean you can drive it!”

Who am I to laugh at someone else’s dream? Mucho Gusto!

Down at the bow. a sad end for a once-beautiful fishboat.
Down at the bow. a sad end for a once-beautiful fishboat.
"For a good close second look, come back at low tide.' A hazard to navigation in a anchorage of sunken dreams.
“For a good close second look, come back at low tide.’ A hazard to navigation in a anchorage of sunken dreams.
A plywood reef
A plywood reef
Wot Lawnmower? The outboard motor raises some obvious questions.
Wot Lawnmower? The outboard motor raises some obvious questions.
Waterfront Condo. Purple Martins in the nesting boxes.
Waterfront Condo. Purple Martins in the nesting boxes on a piling.
Spanish moss on a flowering maple tree.
Spanish moss on a flowering maple tree.
Add Cherry Blossoms
Add Cherry Blossoms
The old net loft.
The old net loft.


Waterfront blues
Waterfront blues
The Ramp "Damn ye all whom have passed this portal."
The Ramp
“Damn ye all whom have passed this portal.”
At the corner of telephone and telephone. "Degnen Bay Harbour Authority" says the green sign. Phone boxes and hand cranes will all soon be gone forever.
At the corner of telephone and telephone.
“Degnen Bay Harbour Authority” says the green sign. Phone boxes and hand cranes will all soon be gone forever.
 Another view of Degnen which the Regional district will find a way to eradicate.

Another view of Degnen which the Regional district will find a way to eradicate.
Wet coast textures on a sunny day.
Wet coast textures on a sunny day.
Seal vertebrae in the tideline.
Seal vertebrae in the tideline.
Old Fish Face. This rock looks to me like a spawning humpback salmon.
Old Fish Face. This rock looks to me like a spawning humpback salmon.
A modern pictograph
A modern pictograph
Icon of Gabriola. This petroglyph isw often used as a log for things Gabriolan. It was carved on the sandstone beach of Degnen Bay where it is covered at high tide. Sadly, it is eroding rapidly.
Icon of Gabriola. This petroglyph is often used as a logo for things Gabriolan. It was carved on the sandstone beach of Degnen Bay where it is covered at high
tide. Sadly, it is eroding rapidly.

All I ask is a chance to prove that money can’t make me happy!”

A sure cure for sea-sickness is to sit under a tree.”

… Spike Milligan

Zombie Rap

Clearly! A rising tide in North Cove, Thetis Island.
Clearly! A rising tide in North Cove, Thetis Island.

I have wondered at the phenomenon of folks fascinated with zombies. This fad is everywhere. I turn on a television; there is something zombie going on. Is TV the inspiration? Dunno! Some folks go so far as to deck out their automobiles (I’ve even seen an old bus done up) to look like police vehicles with large logos about being a ‘Zombie Patrol’. Honestly, I have no idea about this large interest in resurrected putrefied psychopathic masses which are really pissed off about something. While my ignorance doesn’t make the continuing fad wrong, it truly seems bizarre when we have so many other important and uplifting things to pursue.

Highway to heaven. An oled causeway in North Cove
Highway to heaven. An old causeway in North Cove

What is the need for silly distraction? Someone, somewhere, somehow is making money out of it all. It’s way over my head. Rap music seemed a passing fad, it’s still here decades later. Just wait, the next mass gaga, zombie rap! Baggy pants on backwards, head with hat on backwards under your arm, skateboard under other arm.

Gulf Island Serenity
Gulf Island Serenity. ‘SEAFIRE’ on the hook.

Then I had an epiphany as I negotiated around two very gormless, apparently semi-brain- dead folks shuffling along the docks. They held no awareness of anyone else. “Like goddamned zombies” I muttered to myself and suddenly I got it! Zombies exist! The light is gone from so many eyes. There are swarms of breathing bodies of all ages waiting to die. As old Churchill said, “Epileptic corpses”. We go through life consuming as fast as we’ve been programmed. We burn out and die trying to run a course we can never complete because it is always designed and extended by someone or something else trying to establish control over us. To live and love at a pace where we can sanely stay in touch with our society and our planet is a speed which sees us run over by a mindless culture in constant acceleration. And so we become zombies, faceless and easily controlled. I watched a documentary on the rock star Lemmy recently. Frankly, this old fart had never heard of this other old fart, or his band ‘Motorhead’. But Lemmy, an icon of dark excesses and self-abuse, and damned proud of it, is idolized by adoring throngs around the planet. What is this evil that invades our longing souls? Zombies!

Rust to dust. Nothing lasts forever.
Rust to dust.
Nothing lasts forever.

Slowly, inexorably, machines take control of our existence. People cannot seem to function without texting or without bumbook and instant information about anything no matter how trivial. Not so long ago windshield wipers, automatic transmissions, am radios, power steering and power brakes were decadent options for any car. Now many folks wouldn’t consider buying a car without an on-board computer to show them the way to the nearest mall. There are serious efforts being made toward a reliable driver-less car. Wot the….? I thought you were driving! Where the hell are we?” I hope I can die peacefully in my sleep as a beloved old grandfather, quite unlike his five screaming passengers. In a cell phone store I recently asked for a phone that sent calls, received calls and messages only. The clerk’s stunned look required no further words. “Zombie! Where ya bin pappy?”

I’ve argued with myself that there is also a growing fascination with spirituality, metaphysics and a quest for grounding with the planet and the universe but I don’t think inner exploration is going to be the next mass fascination. Well, in any event, don’t let your karma run over your dogma. The only way to make sense of it all is to quit trying and live in the moment. It’s all we have.

Tonight I’m writing in a very calm Gulf Island anchorage called North Cove. It’s raining. Yes our summer drought has broken. The desperately needed showers will end and in a few days, when the kids should be back in class (But our BC teacher’s strike grinds on) it will be blistering hot again. For those convinced of global warming, I’ve just had an e-mail from my friends Roger and Ali, those intrepid Australian mariners who are in the Arctic at a place called Kugluktuk. They’ll soon be leaving their boat ‘Wave’ in Cambridge Bay for another long winter. The Passage is choked with ice, impassable all summer just like the old days. Hey! What if? And how come that’s not making the news?

My old pal Jim is now on the final leg of his race against himself around the South Pacific and will be back in British Columbia by mid-month. He left here less than a year ago! Other friends are touring the south of France and sending back more incredible photos. But, they’re not here enjoying this amazing morning. It’s wonderful to feel perfectly content with being where you are.

It rained all night. The air is cool and fresh and Jack is demanding to go ashore. It is bliss to sit in the morning here on a secluded beach with a coffee and watch him enjoying being a dog. It is calm, quiet and peaceful. I have no internet out here, I don’t know what’s going on in the world of men. I know there are those out there determined to start WWIII but the earth is still turning, even without my involvement. Ignorance is bliss. Zombie!

Thistle Dew, in the morning after the rain
Thistle Dew, in the morning after the rain

A few days later, September is whizzing by. Yesterday provided a torrential downpour. Desperately needed for our parched islands it was also a harbinger of the winter ahead.

Wasn’t it breaking spring a mere few weeks ago? Now the mornings and evenings are cool, the afternoons are comfortably hot. It is dark by 8:30 pm. The swallows are gone south. The summer gringos are gone from the docks with their fluorescent clothing, texting and din. The air is sweet again without the reek of exhaust fumes and fish being cremated on barbeques. The docks are no longer cluttered with drunks in portable chairs. The few that pass through now are serious seasoned mariners with good manners and interesting things to say. They also come in some fine boats. My beloved old friend ‘Native Girl’ is back at the dock. Her owners, Jon and Rian, are expecting the arrival of a new deckhand in the coming few weeks. Friends are almost as excited about the impending birth as the parents. I think there’s going to be a celebration. And for what better reason?

I’ll fill this post with photos of boats and local scenes. Hopefully in the next few weeks there’ll be great news of several varieties to share with all my loyal readers. Thank you for your supportive comments. Despite my cynical sentiments about our rapidly evolving world it IS fantastic to have a global audience. Wow!

The first boat photo is of a 65′ (On deck) 63 year-old ketch-rigged steel boat. The present owner is about to leave for the South Pacific via La Paz Baha. My research confirms his story about the vessel’s history. Built in Vancouver in 1951 by Manly shipyards it was the last steamer built in British Columbia. (New steam engines must have been hard to find by 1951) A retired ship’s captain had wanted to do a global circumnavigation under steam but dropped dead shortly after beginning the voyage. Returned to the shipyard, the vessel was repowered with a diesel engine, purchased by the Department Of Indian Affairs, renamed the ‘Skeena’ and assigned to Prince Rupert as home port where it lived out a good and useful working life as a supply vessel, school boat and an icon of the North Coast. In recent years she was purchased by three men who had plans to turn her into a classic luxury charter boat. The hull was rebuilt as required but then the boat was stripped of all useful fittings by vandals during winter storage in the Vancouver area.

The venerable'Skeena' reborn for south Sea adventures
The venerable ‘Skeena’ reborn for south Sea adventures

With almost $300,000 into the project it was given up as a lost cause and sold to the next dreamer. He is now it’s current owner. His vision involved attaching a massive bolt-on sailing and grounding keel, fitting a bowsprit, ketch-rigging the old girl and getting ready to go to sea. The remaining work will be completed in Southern Latitudes.

Last minute chores
Last minute chores

Another noteworthy vessel is ‘Fifer Lady’. It is a Fifer, or Fifey, designed and often built in Fife, Scotland. Boats there had to be rugged and designed for heavy weather. This one was built in 1959 and imported by a doctor in Victoria a year later. After several subsequent owners it has come into the hands of the current owners who have, it would seem, committed their entire existence to the care and maintenance of this very gorgeous vessel. They are fully proud of their efforts and so they should be. I’ve thought up something I call the “Glass Box Award” for boats so pristine and perfect that they should be kept in a glass box like a museum piece. ‘Fifer Lady’ is one of those rare examples.

Fifer Lady, one beautiful old boat
Fifer Lady, one beautiful old boat
Och Aye! The real thing.
Och Aye! The real thing! Complete with a genuine Scottish CQR anchor and Simpson-Lawrence windlass.
'Little Abe' another real thing. Built in the Queen charlottes in the 1930's, she once supported two families. she's still going strong!
‘Little Abe’, another real thing. Built in the Queen charlottes in the 1930’s, she once supported two families. She’s still going strong!
Another candidate for the glass box award. A classic, immaculate Grenfell 36 complete with Davidson K9 skiff.
Another candidate for the Glass Box Award. A classic, immaculate Grenfell 36 complete with Davidson K9 skiff.
Classic plastic. a former navy launch commercially made-over into a tough boat called an Allweather.
Classic plastic. a former navy launch commercially made-over into a tough boat called an Allweather.
More old beauty in awesome condition
More old beauty in awesome condition
The Sublime and The Ridiculous. My Beloved 'Native Girl' home again, moored under the bow of a 96' 'Look at me."
The Sublime and The Ridiculous. My Beloved ‘Native Girl’ home again, moored under the bow of a 96′ ‘Look at me.”
Not a cliché boat name! Is Nostrilagony is a relative of Nostrodamus?
Not a cliché boat name!
Is Nostrilagony a relative of Nostrodamus?


My boat is clearly the property of a barefoot shoemaker. After looking after other people’s boats, I have little time or resources to care properly for my own. But soon, in a palm-fringed bay, I’ll be working on some little project in the light of the rising tropical sun.
The dream never dies, just the dreamer.” Zombie!