A Quick Trip South

The front of my new Fisher Poet’s shirt created by the famous Ray Troll who some times performs at the gatherings with his band.

(Remember, that to enlarge any image, just click on it.)

FV ‘COHO’ in Victoria This grand old ferry has plied the waters between Victoria and Port Angeles since 1959; almost  sixty years. It is backed gracefully out from its mooring, turned in the busy harbour and idles regally out to sea. To my knowledge, there has never been an accident with this venerable old lady.

 The ferry crossing from Victoria to Port Angeles Washington was smooth and uneventful. The border goons were unusually cordial, even cavalier, which left me quite suspicious but I have learned never to argue or jest with them. The crossing was spent in philosophical conversation with another sailor (We have ways of finding each other, like dolphins in the sea) and the ninety minute voyage passed quickly. I soon found myself heading west out of Port Angeles, driving in driving snow.

Port Angeles in snow, well, how about a view from Port Angeles. See the buoy?
Next years’ Christmas card photo. The gorgeous boat is named ‘Turning Point’
Later that day. Highway 101 emerges from the mangled forest for a while to meander along the Washington coast line for a while.
Not a bikini sort of day. A wintery view out onto the open sea.
Off to work. A troller heads out of Grays Harbor.
Chances are when it returns home past the breakers, it will be dark.
A joy of back roads is never knowing what you’ll find. The remains of this whirly gig, one partner faceless, the other with head and legs rotted off, dance on, still twirling in the wind. I assume it once advertised a dance hall.
Look up and be amazed! These two kites, flying on Long Beach Washington were managed by one man who had anchored then with metal stakes in the sand. The black one, undulating in the wind, was about forty feet long.
Yes really! This little town is just up the road from Humptulips and Cosmopolis.
Retro wheels. Imagine what it would take to pull this thing! I found a tiny trailer park filled with these old trailers, all in good shape, all apparently inhabited.
Back roads!
A blurry view in the rain looking westward to the Astoria Bridge. A pilot boat heads in to its berth, a deepsea freighter is anchored upstream of the bridge and illustrates the size of this huge mechano project.

It is a bleak passage along highway 101 through raped forests, past abandoned mills and homes, derelict machinery, and run-down villages; a weary drive in a mangled world, a movie set for a film about the omega man. After hours of travel I arrive on the southern border of the State of Washington at a place on the Columbia river called Dismal Nitch. It was so-named by the explorers Lewis and Clark. They at least got to see this stunning part of the world in a virginal state, before we raped it. Imagine what they would name it now! Perhaps it was the snow but I’ve never before noticed how devastated the countryside and the communities seem. Perhaps that is why Astoria seems to have so much soul and vibrancy. It lays on the south bank of the Columbia River, across a bridge which is four miles long.

You can get used to anything. Imagine living under the bridge.

The weather was typical for late winter at the mouth of the Columbia River. Rain, wind, snow and clear brilliant sunlight, all in any half-hour. Much of the town seemed infected with a nasty flu and I hope I did not bring home any souvenirs. One performer came all the way from her studies in Brussels. We all performed our gigs, reinforced our affirmations as writers and water people, made new friendships and had a splendid time. The event has outgrown itself. There were 110 performers scheduled this year to perform in 14 venues. it was a spectacular time as usual and I know no-one went home disappointed. The originators and organizers, now past its 21st anniversary, deserve the highest kudos for their dedication and endeavour. FPG is an inspiration to thousands of people. (The website is fisherpoets.org)

I wonder how many tools were dropped on roofs during construction.Actually, there are no buildings immediately beneath the bridge, but it would drive me nuts living there.
Remember Major Hoople’s Boarding House?
Astoria has a strong Finnish history and this is one of the original buildings, late 1800’s I think.
Brokeback caboose. Through the years I have known it, this relic has slowly decomposed. It would have made a cool home or business location on main street beneath the bridge. There were steel versions of this in service for a very long time. This one is wood and who knows how old.
One more shot from beneath the bridge. We know how old this pub is. Note the hammer and anchor logo.
I love wandering the streets with a camera after dark.
Believe it or not, a mobile phone shot.
The Liberty Theatre, a lovingly restored venue from the 1920’s. It is a sumptuous location for Fisher Poets.
The last one standing. Once the waterfront was crowded with canneries. Now the only other one, Pier 39, is a cannery-turned-museum.
Astoria is loaded with relics and reminders of its proud fishing heritage.
On the side of a truck.
Heading for the bar, the notorious Columbia Bar that is. The pilot boat has just dropped the pilot off to clamber up that ladder on the port quarter.
A gorgeous drake Widgeon enjoying an algae salad.
Sundown, a rare delight on a cold and blustery weekend.

I am one of them. I drove back to the border through Seattle, where it is now always rush hour and arrived safely at the Blaine border crossing for an uneventful re-entry to Canada. I had a wonderful, long-overdue visit with some very dear friends and travelled back to Vancouver Island on the ferry under clear sunny skies.

You may well wonder what all this “Fisher Poet” stuff is all about. A group of people, who make their living in the fishing industry and on the water, gather once a year to read some of their work, sing some of their songs and enjoy the affirmation of being among fellow blue-collared creative people. I am always humbled in their presence. I’ll conclude this blog with a quick sample of my work, written about the ferry ride home.

Herring Season (1)

Last Monday in February ( Background music:

Northbound in the middle of the Strait of Georgia “Tiny Fish For Japan homeward from an annual Fisher Poets Gathering … Stan Rogers) On a BC Ferry, the ‘Coastal Inspiration.’

The mid-winter sunlight has some warmth

but the wind is cold and dense and fine.

I have been drawn toward the bow by music.

I could hear traditional Acadian shanties

accompanied with the throb of our huge engines

and in the shelter of the forward observation lounge

a young man wearing a large home-spun wool toque plays an accordion.

The acoustics under the glass are superb.

I want to praise the musician but cannot bring myself to interrupt,

So I listen with hungry ears to songs I have not heard in decades

and loiter on the starboard forward quarter snapping pictures.


Along the sharp clear blue curve of the strait I can see for sixty miles.

On a common heading, in a row, a mile apart

an armada of fishboats parading northward.

Each has a large power skiff in tow

Each worth a small fortune

Each optimistic for an opening

to earn half a year’s income

which after a wait of weeks

may last for only minutes.

There is an occasional glint of sunlight

reflected from a rolling boat’s wheelhouse window

a white wake streaming out behind.

The intensity of the annual drama begins,

herring season.

A herring we will go, a herring we will go!

Herring Season (2)

The fleet jammed into the harbour

waiting for the opening of herring season.

Volcanic tensions mounted over the next six weeks

until finally DFO declared the sacred event

would occur on the next Saturday.

Two of the boats were skippered by men

who were Seventh Day Adventists

and would not work on their Sabbath.

Herring Season (3)

If masses of people were randomly slaughtered

while in the peak of procreation

chances are the “managed stocks,”

which we are,

would be much smaller.

12 years old and still just getting started.
He is a beloved friend.

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Gandhi