Tick, Tick

Heading out. Three men in a tiny boat go to sea in anticipation of finding a fish to kill
Under the high way. We live under a designated air route where commercial flights come and go to Asia. The weather has been beautiful, though dry, and we had best enjoy it while it lasts. Six contrails line the sky.

Tick, tick, tick, tick. It sounds like rain dripping on a roof. It is the rhythm of meters and gauges of the monitoring equipment wired and plumbed into my wife’s body. She’s had a heart attack and after a week in the hospital, things are going better. There’s a stint installed but after subsequent complications she is in an induced coma and a ventilator. There is a harness of plumbing down her throat and I feel horribly helpless. There is nothing I can do except just be there. And, nobody can piss off my wife simply with their presence like I can. Haar!

Wired. One side of the bed. The other was just as busy. All the wiring and plumbing fed into my wife’s anatomy. it’s so hard to just sit there and feel useless.

A week later, she’s still in the hospital. This and that have happened and now she is lost in a sea of delirium. I suppose if her rants weren’t directed so pointedly at me and the hospital staff, it would be funny. Even though I understand the situation, it is quite cutting and hurtful and it is hard to not take things personally; which of course is foolish. This will pass, but then there is the daily drive along the snot-chute which is the south island highway, then into the Downtown Victoria traffic and finally finding a parking spot at the hospital, only to spend a few minutes with your loved one before realizing your presence is upsetting her; that’s a crusher.

A fungal sweat, but this too has passed. Jill is home again.
I can’t resist saying “Look at the pecker on that one.” Blue herons are one of my favourite birds.

You reverse your route homeward with a heavy heart and despair that there is nothing else you can do. Meanwhile, every third zoom-head on the road seems to want to kill themselves and take you with them. I caught myself doing 120 km/h to go with the flow and still felt I was holding up production. Once finally home you spend the long minutes through the rest of the day, and the night, pondering if she’ll come out of this and wondering how long her minutes are. At least I have the two wee dogs and their wonderful company. One of Jill’s greatest frustrations is that I’m not bringing them for a visit and refuse to understand that they can’t come into the hospital. That breaks my heart. The dogs would do so much for her, if only they could indeed visit.

The girls. Remember how you hated being tickled when you were little?
The new girl in the house. Libby has made herself right at home.
My bookends
Da girls wuz here
Collateral damage
I’ve got your back.

I know that some folks endure this kind of ordeal for years. May the gods grant me that kind of courage to stand up to whatever challenges lay ahead. Even if it were not payback after all the years that Jill has supported my back, I just want to get her well enough to come home. So, enough blubbing about poor me. Jill needs everyone’s positive thoughts and yes, even prayers. She has had a horrible year and does not deserve this. Through her long career as a teacher, Jill has positively influenced thousands of lives, both students and teachers. That she has been dealt these hard hands this year is completely unjust but then life is seldom fair. Thank you to those who have offered and provided their support. It means so much.

Almost three weeks later she is home again. She is frail and weak and has lost a lot of weight. (Hospital food!) She has a stint and a pacemaker, covered in bruises and bandages. She is definitely not up for dancing on any tables but there is still a spark in her eyes. The dogs are thrilled to have her home and so am I. We don’t know what the future holds but we’ll take it on one day at a time.

Sadly one of my dear friends has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I can say without reserve that I love this man, a highly skilled shipwright and craftsman who has lead a wonderful life and drawn around him a brilliant assortment of friends who are also lovely people. He has taught me a lot and flavoured my life brilliantly. I’ll not mourn for him yet but am horrified that his days may end like this. BASTARDS!

What more is there to life than the ocean, a dog, a stick, sunlight and someone to share it with.
On the hook. Anchored beneath the October harbour moon. Don’t call me in the morning.
Nanaimo River low. In our seasonal late-summer dry season, the river runs clear. Despite the cries of the apocalypse apostles, this is normal until around mid-October. Then the rain will come, any day now, the salmon will spawn and the doomers will use the autumn weather as yet another sign of what they want to prove this week.
Meal with a view. On the way home from the hospital we stopped at the Malahat Chelt. The cuisine, the service and the prices are as good as the view of Finlayson Inlet at sundown.

Perhaps providentially, I found this poem today and post it with my blog instead of the usual quote. It is timely and appropriate.

To laugh often and much;


to win the respect of the
intelligent people and
the affection of children;


to earn the appreciation of
honest critics and endure
the betrayal of false friends;


to appreciate beauty;


to find the beauty in others;


to leave the world a bit better
whether by a healthy child,


a garden patch, or a redeemed
social condition;

to know that
one life has breathed easier
because you lived here.


This is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thank you, Bob.

Stairway To Spring

The stairway to spring. It has some ups and downs.
Snowdrops galore, a welcome sight
Then comes the crocus

Well there’s not much to say. Spring is flirting with us. Flowers and buds are appearing but the wind can be wild, wet and cold. When the skies clear, snow coats the glistening mountains nearly all the way to the bottom. Certainly, you can smell it in the wind. But there’s not much point in analyzing something we can’t change. This fellow for one, is so weary of all the fear-mongering and perverted information about Global Warming, that I don’t really want to add anything to the babble. It’s what we’ve got, enjoy it or not, that’s up to you.

Slowly grows the fungi. Nature’s way of recycling old wood back to the earth from which it came.
Booger! 100% natural. More winter fungus.
YES AGAIN! Another one sank here about two weeks ago. This time one went down and dragged its buddy boat down with it. The owners will be long gone by now. The price of freedom is responsibility and living off-grid demands avoiding attention. Sadly, this helps build the case against everyone living freely.
Same old view, ever-changing scene. Four deep-seas wait out of ballast ready to take on their cargos.

The evening weather person can’t seem to interpret their scattered bones and pebbles without mumbling some bloody thing about Global Warming or Climate Change. It is just too trendy to avoid. “Wow this is the coldest moment on record….since 1941.” Yes, it is occurring. No we are not helping matters and need to stop talking about it and simply do our best in our own personal patch but… we are not the prime cause of this natural phenomenon. Yes, warming and cooling is a natural occurrence and is part of climatic fluctuations which have been going on for millions of years, up and down, over and over… despite the hard evidence that the paranoia profiteers choose to ignore. We have to learn to adjust and change or we will disappear like the dinosaurs. They could not evolve quickly enough to assimilate a naturally changing environment. Whom will we blame should some asteroid or monster hemorrhoid (Well, I dare say there are plenty of grand assholes out there) slam into the planet and make drastic changes.

Or was it some yuppy SUV back then which brought that change on? And, by the way, why do you actually need a hybrid SUV (Stupid Urban Vanity) at all? Will it ever actually be off-pavement? Most folks still can’t get where they want when there is only an inch of snow. Then, if you do get moving, there is the trick of stopping… something they don’t show you in the TV ads. When I was a kid we all got where were going without SUVs or AWD. Radial tires for any season were unheard of. We filled the back seat with children. They provided the weight for traction and could get out and push if necessary. And of course, many folks knew how to install tire chains. And, often as not, we walked.

A greening beneath the mountain. It’s coming.

I harp on about how there is one life form on this planet which does not fit in anywhere. NIO (Non-indigenous Organism.) We can’t even get along with each other let alone in our adopted environment or with other species. We just don’t fit…although we could. When a parasite begins to overwhelm its host, nature has a way of applying checks. Once, the Bubonic Plague did a great job of culling our numbers. A century ago, The Spanish Flu once again reduced the infection that we had become. There have since been a few viruses which have not really done much to teach us anything or thin our overwhelming presence on this planet.

Now we face the nio-terror of the Coronavirus. In consideration of political correctness, it is being re-named COVID – 19 which will still offend folks, especially if it’s killing them. Frankly, if it is Corona which is the cause of all of this then perhaps we should try drinking another brand of beer. It is NOT a laughing matter. But what is it that we refuse to get? If people are determined to live like a spreading disease then guess what!? For the moment, all trans-continental travel should stop until the pandemic is completely ended. So long as folks can travel anywhere on the planet within a single day, the problem will spread. But, we don’t want to mess with anyone’s commerce. There is no expert intervention which will prevent that. Over-simplification? Nasty cough you’ve got there! Just a bit of snyphlis? OK. When two Boeing Max 8 737s killed far less folks than this virus has already, every one of them was pulled out of service. What happened to that logic?

One final consideration. If the Chinese can build and open a 1000-bed hospital in ten days, what genius maintains housing shortages here or anywhere else? 

A mossy peek. Spring is soon to burst out.

We have to consider our lifestyles, population densities, diets, food sources and how all of that is unimportant to someone else’s profits. Last night I tried to cook two salmon fillets which came frozen in a bag marked as wild-caught pink salmon. Only after I opened the bag did I notice the inscription “Product of China.” WOT? That country has never been know as a salmon-producing nation and I can raise several obvious questions. The pieces of mushy, stale-fish-smelling protein came out of the bag appearing to have seen service perhaps as mud flaps on a rickshaw, possibly as far inland as Wuhan. I don’t really want to speculate on where this slop came from but I have seen much better product from fish farms. I am NOT making any Asian slurs here, but damnit! I live in British Columbia, one of the world’s great commercial fishing centres. WAZZUP? Why is finding affordable fresh fish here such a challenge? Is it the paranoia of profits or the profit of paranoia…or both? Why do we live like chicken farmers who go to town to buy eggs?

And here I was determined to provide no more than one paragraph of text and a few spring photos. But some things need to said.

A little daylight in the swamp.

“I marvel how the fishes live in the sea. Why, as men do a-land; the great ones eat up the little ones.”
William Shakespeare

Finally

Pretty huh? From where you sit. I’ve paid my dues in the Great White North and could happily never see snow again. But, you take it as it comes.
Jack still likes the snow but the frolicking days are past.
You are feeeling sleeepy.
Snzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

It happened yesterday. After empty many threats it snowed.Only about a foot, but plenty enough to seize up our coastal sensibilities. Several feet of snow in one night many other places I’ve lived did not slow anyone much but here on the coast even an inch of white grease can be a disaster. We had almost a foot! I’ve also finally had my hernia surgery. Whoo Haa! The surgeon’s office eventually wearied of my incessant inquiries, “Are we there yet?” I know that if I had not made myself a pestering nuisance I’d still be waiting. No big deal in the course of the world but once again I’ll soon be able to hike and clamber. No more he-man lifting, I’ve finally figured that part out, but look out desert here I come. This time I can only say nice things about all the staff at the Nanaimo Hospital. They were pleasant and kind and had me out of there in five hours.

All my other experiences have been dark in that beige institution, with surly uncaring staff and a refusal to be respectful including not letting me know when they would let me go home or even feeding me some of that dreadful hospital slop once a day. So, it is very nice to have kind things to say for a change. I could not go to work there regularly for twelve hour shifts without sunlight or fresh air and dealing with all those anxious patients and family who are miserable with their personal issues. Kudos to folks who do a very necessary job and manage to stay positive and apparently happy. There are many kinds of courage I do not possess.

Different day, same old hum drum. A boat can become pretty tiny when the weather keeps you aboard.

Now all I have to work out is how to deal with the hand transplanted onto my forehead.

Actually everything is fine although the swelling and bruising look like the Taliban had a go at me below the belt line. This too shall pass and soon I’ll be leaping over the outhouse like a spring goat. Well actually maybe I’ll probably be an old goat with his horns stuck in a board! It is certainly nice to have most of this behind me. Well actually it’s in the front but…I know, I know, too much information. At the moment it hurts like hell but no pain, no gain. Right?

Brrrr bloody cold

Of course to bracket my little event it has snowed steadily for a day and night. Shovelling over and over was painful but there will be no more of that for a good long while. There are several neighbours here who have serious health issues and I felt obligated to make sure there was access to their front doors. Now they can look after me. Yeah right! Just sitting here at my desk is a teeth-gritting endeavour right now so I’ll have to behave; for the moment. I lay on the couch with Jack cuddled up watching the snow and rain blow by. Not much good at being a couch potato I have to keep telling myself “Down boy, down!” It will take months until all is fully healed.

Hurry up? You try running in this crap in your bare feet!
A cold fall two hundred feet down to the stream
Beneath a stump a sign of the advancing season

And so that’s the shituation. Not much adventure to describe and I’ve promised to keep my political rhetoric to a dull roar. The local media seems fixated about what Prince Harry is going to do for a living once he moves here. The poor sod is down to his last thirty-nine million pounds. Maybe I could get him to come out and collect discarded beverage cans, an environmentally friendly statement old chap! Then there’s that old Harry Chapin song about the taxi driver with an opening line of “How are ya Harry?” Could he stay on the correct side of the road long enough to acquire his class 4 license? Frankly I don’t envy that couple without the bliss of anonymity and, granny is going to be too far away to babysit. Life’s tough.

You said you wouldn’t mind a little snow? Enjoy.
The lonely hunter
You say you love the sea? Where are you today?
Says it all

How horrible is man’s condition! He does not own one happiness whose source does not lie in ignorance of some kind.”

Honoré de Balzac (Eugénie Grandet)

A Hoot In The Night

Home is where the boat is...and where the blogs come from. 'Seafire' is the left of the tiny liveaboard community here at Shearwater. There are five of us in all.
Home is where the boat is…and where the blogs come from. ‘Seafire’ is to the left of the tiny liveaboard community here at Shearwater. There are five of us in all.

 In my last blog I made disparaging remarks about computers. I must admit that all of my writing is done on a computer and that the internet has saved me years of research in libraries and various archives. I mentioned a childhood memory of a grist mill in the tiny village of Kilbride where I first lived after being born. Suddenly it occurred to me that a little on-line research might confirm my memory. Blam! Boom! There it was, a history and photos to confirm that flickering memory. The Dakota grist and sawmill, built in 1844, burned down in 1979. It was named after the indigenous people who originally lived there. Wow! This blog is not about my childhood memories and I’ll leave my fascination about that old mill right here. I’ll write about it elsewhere and have already mentioned it in one my books.

A guardian in the forest.
A guardian in the forest.

The advantages of our cyber age are huge and wonderful if computers are used as a tool and not a master of our lives. Stay focused and keep your shoes on the dock. Ask questions of all things. I am amazed that in a place like Shearwater, with very limited media availability, that people form strong, unshakable opinions based on someone else’s skewed perspectives. Politicians, everywhere, try to manipulate our loyalty with fear and our laziness about questing the “rest of the story.”

A friend commented on my last blog and closed by saying “By the way say hello to the royals as you sip tea with them while wearing your work gloves.” My reply was “I’ll wear my cleanest overalls, one of those T-shirts with a tie painted on the front, and try really hard not to fart. “I say old chap, was that the call of an eagle?” Prince Frederick.

In the rainforest.
In the rainforest out on a limb.

Royal Monday morning arrived with a building deluge which soon proved to be the most intense rain some locals claim to have ever seen. A river ran through the hangar which has apparently never happened before. Perhaps a drain was plugged but I can affirm never having seen such a prolonged downpour. Unfortunately I did not have a camera with me as I worked. I busied myself on a project in a far corner and came out only when I was sure the whole royal flap had passed. I don’t know how things went in Bella Bella other than that William and Kate came and went and all the efforts of the Shearwater gang to grab a little attention proved for nought. The disappointment was clearly profound. All’s well that ends and I’m happy to get on with life here without worries of stepping in any Grey Poupon. Take that as you wish. As their allotted number of minutes in the Great Bear Rain Forest came to an end the rain eased and our sodden skies began to clear. They flew off to their next engagement. I hope the noble pair did not take the weather personally.

Earth, wi.nd, sun, rain
Earth, wind, sun, rain.

On that same evening the first television debate between the Frump and the Trump was aired. Apparently 80,000,000 people watched/listened. Our sole radio station here, CBC North, aired the debate and I listened for a while. My God! Those are the best two candidates anyone can come up with! “It’s the end of the world as we know it,” are lyrics from a song by the band R.E.M. Perhaps I’m moving in the right direction with ‘Seafire.’ There are plenty of long inlets up here with a place to hide away. The rest of the world could go to hell. It seems determined to do exactly that anyway.

The afternoons have been sunny ever since our royal deluge on Monday. Today, Saturday, was exceptionally nice. All boat owners in our little corner were out cleaning, sanding and painting. It was delightful, such days are very rare here. I took the afternoon to begin a quest. One of the small islands which surround the waters between here and Bella Bella has some very ancient Heiltsuk petroglyphs. The island, I discovered, has three cemeteries. I must confess that I felt as if I were trespassing although I have previously enquired of locals if it would be permissible for me to explore the small island. Of course, the forest is thick tangled jungle and you can try to trespass as much as you want, you won’t get far. That I found three, instead of one burial ground, was surprising but it was a grand experience. I had no sense of dread or foreboding and of course I was respectful in all ways. I took only photographs and any of those I publish, will have family surnames erased out of respect.

A Heiltsuk gravesite.
A Heiltsuk gravesite.
A hand-made banner on a grave.
A hand-made banner on a grave.
Little is left to be permanent. It is part of the culture to return to nature from which all things come.
Little is left to be permanent. It is part of the culture to return to nature from which all things come.
The art thrilled me.
The art thrilled me.
A brilliant token of love and respect.
A brilliant token of love and respect.
It is hard to guess how many graves there are. The forest re-claims them rapidly.
It is hard to guess how many graves there are. The forest re-claims them rapidly.
The graves go on and on.
The graves go on and on.
The amount of work that went into this little canoe betrays a deep affection.
The amount of work that went into this little canoe betrays a deep affection.
A strong nautical heritage is clearly evident.
A strong nautical heritage is clearly evident.
A totem of the eagle clan
A totem of the eagle clan. Note the ancient, huge red cedar tree in the background.
More eagles
More eagles
Returning to mother earth.
Returning to mother earth.

There is a curious blend of traditional aboriginal sensibilities blended with Christian persuasions. A grave marker displaying beautiful native art often also declares that the deceased has gone to be with Jesus. There were many depictions of praying hands, rosaries and other rhetorical biblical nuggets. The grave sites blend peacefully into the overhanging forest and are all located, for practical reasons, close to the beach. Always, the echoing call of ravens in flight resound through the tangled forest. The graves must be extremely difficult to dig between the roots and the rocks and it’s clear that the sense of extended family and deep, strong love is an enduring quality of local culture. It was unsettling to realize how young many of the interred were. I am decades older than many of of those in the ground. I should also mention that there were also local Caucasians buried there as well. A little over a mile away lies a burial island, barren and lonely, guarded by a grim-faced totem pole. Older local folks tell of of that island in their childhood when coffins on burial platforms slowly disintegrated to reveal their boney contents.

A gift from the sea on the beach in front of some of the graves. Yet another vision of the cycle of life.
A gift from the sea on the beach in front of some of the graves. Yet another vision of the cycle of life.
On the beach. Rebirth in the roots of a brine-burned stump.
On the beach. Rebirth in the roots of a brine-burned stump.
The beach in front of the cementary
The beach in front of the cemetery.

Tomorrow I fly south for medical appointments. After this afternoon’s experience I find myself considering my own health, longevity and sense of purpose. It would be so grand to be one of those folks who progress through life without a questioning mind. TV hockey, beer and chips, the latest headline, a shiny truck, a new lawnmower and a steady union job with a good pension….bliss with never a question, total fulfilment as a consumer. That has always eluded me. I was one of those children who took things apart. Toys, clocks, radios and so forth; I’m still dissecting things decades later.

The Goose Islands and the waters of Millbanke sound beyond.
The Goose Islands and the waters of Millbanke Sound beyond.
A favourite anchorage of mine and some of the confusing water ways around it.
A favourite anchorage of mine and some of the confusing waterways around it.
A splendid set of saltwater rapids hidden in the backwaters...but I know where to find them.
A splendid set of saltwater rapids hidden in the backwaters…but I know where to find them. The poor image quality is due to the aircraft window.
Fog over the Western approach to Hakaii Pass. Japan is somewhere over the horizon.
Fog over the Western approach to Hakaii Pass.
Japan is somewhere over the horizon.
Calvert Mountain, the pinnacle of Calvert Island.
Calvert Mountain, the pinnacle of Calvert Island. The clear areas are natural open meadows due to the soil being too wet and thin to support large trees.
Goletas Channel, the entrance to Bull Harbour. Nahwitti Bar and Cape Scott beyond. This is the Northwestern tip of Vancouver Island.
Goletas Channel, the entrance to Bull Harbour. Nahwitti Bar and Cape Scott beyond. This is the Northwestern tip of Vancouver Island.
Cranberry fields forever. The fruit is harvested by flooding the field and skimming the floating berries.
Cranberry fields forever.
The fruit is harvested by flooding the field and skimming the floating berries.
Farmland becoming suburbs and industrial parks, malls, denser housing and downtown Vancouver in the distance. Not my cup of tea.
Farmland becoming suburbs and industrial parks, malls, ever-denser housing and then downtown Vancouver in the distance. Not my cup of tea.

The flight was marvellous, clear smooth air, some wonders of the Central BC Coast revealed. Seven long days of passage in ‘Seafire’ equals an hour and a half in a Saab turbo-prop. Another few minutes in a floatplane, with a pub at either terminal, and there in the golden autumn sun of Nanaimo. I am greeted by Jack and Jill. On the following day, a urologist dons a surgical glove and tells me to bend over. Right! He then declares that I need another appointment for another procedure in that damned shit-brindle beige hospital. Bugger me! Today I’ll see another vet about other problems and then with their monthly Porsche payments covered, I’ll make my way back to the Great Wet North.

A tale on a tail. I love these graphics.
A tale on a tail.
I love these graphics.

I lay in bed in the middle of the night, listening to the peaceful breathing of my wife beside me and that of Jack in his bed on the floor. I savour every moment, knowing that all-too-soon I’ll again be a lone in my bunk in shearwater. Truck tires howl on the highway, a short distance away. They sound the same as they always have and stir memories of sleepless nights as a child in a bed in a house not far from a highway. A weird regular hooting howl punctuates the darkness every few minutes. It drives Jack frantic. Sounding like an an escaped fox from one of those BBC detective series it probably is some sort of owl. It’s nothing I’m familiar with and I half expect the appearance of a figure with a hockey mask who is wielding a gory chainsaw. It’s been a long way to travel for a finger up the bum and a hoot in the night.

The banana boat. A view from my Port Hardy motel room. The yellow boat is one of two pilot boats based there. The two sailboats rafted together out in the bay both sport Swedish ensigns. They passed through Shearwater a few days earlier. did they come via the Northwest Passage?
The banana boat. A view from my Port Hardy motel room. The yellow boat is one of two pilot boats based there. The two sailboats rafted together out in the bay both fly Swedish ensigns. They passed through Shearwater a few days earlier. Did they come via the Northwest Passage?
Meanwhile back in Shearwater. a morning view from my cockpit beside the dock.
Meanwhile back in Shearwater. A morning view from my cockpit beside the dock.

Wednesday afternoon sees me back up to Port Hardy. I’ve dropped off my vehicle for it to be delivered by the company freight barge to Shearwater. There’s nowhere to go but it will be quite nice not having to pack laundry and groceries in the pouring rain. I’ll sell it up there and acquire a vehicle more suitable to my Mexico needs but for now it’s going to be workity-work-work and pay off some bills. But first, there’s a long weekend ahead and a boat straining at her lines wanting to go exploring. The weather forecast for this part of the coast is looking fine so off I’ll go. Who knows what I’ll discover this time?

My doctor tells me I should start slowing it down – but there are more old drunks than there are old doctors so let’s have another round.”

… Willie Nelson