Thursday, May 22, 2008

Shiriri Saga#18 Paths of Glory.

Jervis Inlet ("old Jarvy," First Lord of the Admiralty) is a fijord that leads deep into the heart of the Coast Range.

June 6 AM Paths of Glory.
Sailing up the long winding reaches of Jervis Inlet is like visiting my favourite maritime sailing books -The series by Patrick O`Brian beginning with Master and Commander and following the life of Jack Aubrey through fourteen books in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars. We sail up Agamemnon Channel(HMS) with Nelson Island (Horatio) to port and discover that nearly every island and bay carries names of historical ships and characters in O`Brian`s books. The naval officers who charted these waters with Captain Vancouver must have been bursting to accomplish this massive task quickly so they could get back to Europe where "real glory"(and promotion) was to be won in battle. This mountainous, forested coast bears the names of glory yet.

That BKW (breakwater) in Killam Bay should have warned us off. Old logging shows mean old cables and other junk.

PM Anchor Tango.
The anchor is snagged on some old logging cable. We have tried to anchor near an abandoned wharf on a narrow ledge along the precipitous sides of Jervis Inlet that winds for miles deep into the heart of the Coast Range. The cable holds the anchor from being raised completely to the surface and will not let go even when I try dropping the anchor quickly. I am exhausted. Heather suggests a cup of tea, and by pouring it carefully into the murky water we win free! No, unfortunately we did n`t think of that, but the tea break and a brainstorming conversation leads me to try motoring in circles and that breaks the rotten cable. We cross the Inlet in the dusk and anchor in a hundred feet on the glacier smoothed rocky bottom of Dark Cove. Thankfully it is a calm night or we would have dragged across this bottom for sure!

Thats HMS GOLIATH(74) . I wonder who KILLAM was?

June 7 A Stress Test.
Princess Louisa Inlet near the head of Jervis Inlet really is a spectacular place! We motor through the narrow entrance of Malibu Rapids at slack water and twist our necks from left to right looking at sheer rock faces leading up to the snow caps and glaciers of the Coast Range. We can hear the roar of water falling down the slopes even over the sound of the engine. At the head of the fijord is Chatterbox Falls splashing right into the sea and a dock for visitors to the park. At last we do not have to anchor!

Just look at those nearly vertical contour lines!

This spectacular place features in a classic boating book A Curve of Time by M. Wylie Blanchet. We look for the family and their little cruiser Caprice but know in our heads if not in our hearts that their time is long past. All the books we read bring the places we visit alive, link us to personalities and events in the past and give us a sense of participating in a story ourselves.

We do go ashore and have a chat with the ranger who tells us of an unusual bear that is hanging around that seems to have no fear of humans. One of the crew has a really healthy fear of bears so we do not wander far from the boat. The problem here is that the falls are so loud that the bear could not hear us coming and move out of the way even if he was of a mind to. It turns out that it is not funny at all when I touch Heather`s arm as we walk beside the Falls and say "Roar!" in a friendly sort of way. Ah, these rational fears!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Shiriri Saga # 17 Dragging The New Bruce Anchor

June 5.
The forecast is for gusty winds as we approach Pender Harbour, so we keep winding our way passed several possible anchorages until we reach Garden Bay - the innermost one. It is a beautiful place with high hills to shelter us from southerly winds. The chart tells of a mud bottom, but we feel safe because before leaving on this trip north we bought a new anchor and chain. "Blow ye winds hi ho!" At first we anchor facing a northerly wind but the next day we move again in preparation for the southerly gale that is on its way. But still, we have this excellent anchor, right?

This bay has literary associations for us because it is the home of Fishing with John by Edith Iglauer and we can see their home close by. We go for walks ashore, do some more scraping and sanding and generally enjoy ourselves.

That night the gale arrives and, far from being sheltered, the bay catches big gusts that rush down from the heights above. These are the worst conditions for Shiriri because she lunges backwards in the gusts, coming up tight on the chain anchor rode and then moves forward on the slack chain in the lull. The next gust catches her bow a glancing blow and she heels and sails off to one side only to be brought up with a sharp snap, turns, and sails off in the other direction. The new Bruce anchor is jerking and swivelling from side to side in the soft muddy bottom of the bay. After several worried hours of this, the inevitable happens and we break free of the bottom and drag rapidly backwards between several anchored boats, finally coming to rest just off a dock at the head of the bay.

We retrieve our anchor with difficulty. Not only is it stormy and pitchy black, but the usual hand signals between bow and cockpit are useless in the dark. I crank the windlass and run back and forth to communicate with Heather who is steering blind and controlling the engine. Finally we motor back out into the biggest open space in the bay and re-anchor with lots and lots of scope and spend a few more hours keeping an eye on lights ashore as bearings to see if we will drag again. The wind slowly drops and we get some sleep.

* The funny thing looking back on this anchoring episode is how ordinary it seems in retrospect. The Bruce anchor actually performed well that night, all things considered, but we have dragged it through some pretty high class harbours since then. No anchor is foolproof in all conditions and we kept on learning!

Blown Away.

Today I will dig the remaining row of last seasons potato crop and prepare the ground for other vegetables. Two weeks ago I planted this years crop in new ground . I used certified seed potatoes and did a careful job of it. These homely vegetables that are so taken for granted are a mainstay of our winter diet. The generally mild winters allow us to keep them from freezing in the ground by spreading fall leaves on the surface. It is a patch dedicated to potatoes alone that is the size of most suburban lawns. Then there are other big beds for strawberries, beans, peas, beets and so on. There is a greenhouse for tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. Higher up the terraced slope grow raspberries, espaliered fruit trees, kiwis and grapes. Surrounding all are rock gardens, flower beds and lawns, because beauty is an essential crop as well.

All this keeps us busy through the summer; growing, weeding and finally, harvesting. We eat what we grow with only occasional visits to the produce section of the supermarket throughout the year. We have n`t just recently discovered this as a new age idea of eating organic food or helping the planet ( though both are worthy goals), my family always had vegetable gardens and our grandparents mostly lived on farms. We would n`t have to go back through more than three or four thousand years to find our more remote ancestors hunting and gathering, living off the land and experimenting with improving wild grains and replanting the immature edible roots they found to grow to full size before harvesting. From such small beginnings we have progressed to modern industrial human societies that rely on networks of trade and finance to supply the necessities of life.

We grow, and then preserve like mad through the summer and into the Fall. About the time I am bringing up the winters firewood we will be proudly and thankfully surveying the long shelves of preserves and a freezer filled to the brim with fruits and vegetables. When the boxes of apples and squash are emptied by mid winter we will nibble on dried apples and other fruit. All this is not to tell you how virtuous we are but to show how normal this is for us and was for all our ancestors back into history.

All this is not work, like going to the office or factory every week day for life is work. This is growth from which the most basic blessings flow. The skill-set to do this lies just beneath the surface in all of us. Mostly, we have come to believe that growing things is second class dirty work suitable for second class people. The way of life to which many in the world aspire has risen like foam to the top in our industrial societies. We have education, wealth, lots of toys and ownership of the earth`s resources. We are also very vulnerable if the systems we trust with our lives should falter.

Just remember that glass of cold beer with the lovely head of foam on top. How pretty, how fragile, how easily blown away.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Shiriri Saga #16 Begin it now!

Jededia Island is tucked into the flanks of Lasquiti Island, just across the channel from Texada Island in the northern part of the Strait of Georgia.

Scrape, scrape, scrape. Paint, paint, paint. Heather and I are anchored stern to a rock face in a bay at Jededia Island. It is early summer, we have left our winter cave at last, Heather has a clear bill of health from her doctor and we are making our way north to explore the islands and channels at the northern end of the Strait of Georgia. When it is rainy we scrape off the old oil finish on all the teak and mahogany brightwork and when it is sunny we sand and refinish with cetol - a far more bulletproof finish than was our first choice.

This island has become a provincial park quite recently thanks to a big citizen`s fund raising campaign and we enjoy the freedom of walks ashore through the woodland trails, abandoned farm fields and orchards. At a south facing bay we discover a cairn in memory to a climber who lost his life on K-2 and whose legacy helped make this public bit of natural beauty possible. Here is written his favourite quote that we write into the first page of our ships log.

Whatever you can do or dream you can,
Begin it.
Boldness has genius, power
and magic in it.
Begin it now!

After all the waiting, we are just three months away from our big jump offshore and are feeling a little jittery. This affirmation is just what we need!

A few days later we are ready to sail on to Pender Harbour but that morning we speak to a woman who has anchored with some difficulty the previous evening. She has just a little sailboat and is bound for Alaska all by herself. Her partner with whom she shared the dream of this voyage has recently died and she is setting out alone to accomplish their dream. She is running on high octane courage and has reached the northern limit of many summer cruisers. North of here it gets wilder. She too is feeling the jitters, so we say, "Stop! Before you leave you must go and see that cairn and read the words."

Her story, and the life and death of the mountain climber put our own worries back into perspective and we sail out of Deep Bay with renewed resolve.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


"Courage!" he said, and pointed toward the land,
"This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon."
The Lotus-Eaters.

These opening lines of Tennyson`s poem The Lotus Eaters have stuck with me ever since I read them in high school. I`ve always been moved by visual ideas and here the picture from Homer via this Victorian poet, of Odysseus rallying his crew to see the loom of land ahead which gives them hope of survival after many days storm tossed on unknown seas has always been a powerful one for me: long before I went to sea myself and needed to hear those words in earnest.

I painted this picture on the side of a wooden box and later, on the computer, experimented with putting the lines together with the image. Combining words with images interests me, as you can tell from this blog, and here I am borrowing from Tennyson to dig a little deeper into my own understanding of courage.

There are so many forms of courage. What they all have in common is the link to a common ground shared by all who must achieve an end beyond their usual abilities. People are supported by all of life at that moment and it acts through them. It does n`t have to be a big heroic act, it just has to be a courageous thing for that person to do. The person who finally puts aside an addiction through sheer will power would have done a courageous thing within their life experience. A soldier, continuing to think and act cooly while under fire might simply be carrying out what he has practiced many times to do: courage, for him might take a different form, like refusing to follow an illegal order. There must be so many people who are living lives that call for courage that it would seem to be a common human capacity that we all can reach for, a kind of constant in the human condition, rather than a rare event associated with heroic deeds.

Odysseus is calling to his companions to rise up out of despair, to take heart, reach within themselves for the strength that lies deep within all of us and step forward. It is such a powerful thing to do that I feel it yet.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Shiriri Saga # 15. The Photo Shoot.

Shiriri , just before the knock down.

"How did I get sucked into doing this?" I mutter to myself as I hoist our big mainsail on a stormy winter`s day. Heather has had an article accepted by a sailing magazine and a photographer has arrived for a hurried series of pictures of Shiriri in action poses. There looks to be plenty of action very soon with a gale funneling up Captains Passage combined with the photographers insistence on some shots under full sail.

Gwyn and Heather pose precariously.

Shiriri carries a lot of canvas in her normal working rig of main, fore, forestays`l and jib: suitable for light airs only, with the expectation that sails will be lowered or reefed as wind strength increases. Our photographer has his eye on the spectacular shot however and somehow he has taken control. We find a deep cove on Prevost Island that has some shelter, hoist all sail, cross our fingers and start to zigzag slowly downwind towards the open sea while he directs us from a chase boat. "Get those pictures now!" I mutter as I carefully gybe Shiriri back and forth down the narrow bay.

"OK the wind has dropped out by the beacon. Sail out there!" comes the order from the chase boat and out we go. I can see why he wants this particular picture, so full of power and drama. He is a professional. But not a professional sailor, and I should not be signing my job away. Once off the point in the full blast of the gale and with the rocky headland right under our lee I have to gybe again and Shiriri, never the stiffest boat in the world, rolls on her beam ends and lies there, sails thrashing. It feels like the moment lasts forever and that we are frozen, unable to act.
An interior shot looking aft from galley into the saloon.

Fortunately, if her crew fumbles momentarily, Shiriri can still shake her head and get back up on her feet and is quicky sailing heeled rail down out into open water. I must have finally given my own head a shake and decided that a photo of Shiriri`s red bottom would have to satisfy our photographer`s lust for the perfect picture, because I get the big mainsail down and head back into shelter despite excited commands to "Keep those sails up!"over the radio.

We finish with all the other shots throughout the afternoon and then he is gone as quickly as he arrived. We look at each other and agree we have learned a few things that day. The obvious one is never hand over command to someone else`s agenda but the more important one was that Shiriri is a tough boat who will keep coming up for more. Without that pressure to risk ourselves we would not have made that manoeuver and found there was a lot more to her design ancestry of East Coast fishing schooners than a romantic appearance.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Shiriri Saga #14 Underground.

The figurehead with her first white undercoat.

The summer of caring for my recovering mother is finished but we still have months to go before the doctor can be sure that Heather`s angioplasty is a success. We hear of an underground house that needs house sitting until the following Spring that is near the bay where we can keep Shiriri for the winter. We move in and look around at this interesting design.

Large windows face out over Captains Passage and Trincomalli Channel, the entrance crosses a pond, and an atrium is full of an enormous bouganvillia. The whole concrete house is enclosed in a mound of gravel. After life on the boat it seems cave-like but after caring for my mother in my childhood home for weeks it also feels like freedom! She now can manage on her own with visiting professional help.

Sea lions swim past in Captains Passage.

This continued pause in our sailing plans could have been difficult to accept but for some reason these winter months are some of the most productive times ever. Heather completes a children`s novel- The Patti stories. Life on the Farm, and I paint and draw every day and cover the long blank windowless side walls of our cave. We walk the windy headland trails and keep a close eye on Shiriri in the fifty knot winter gales that reach into her bay from the south- east.

Shiriri at her winter mooring.

It is here that I carve the figurehead for Shiriri and place Chickpea in the girls arms. What a lot of pleasure they will create in anchorages around the Pacific when canoes approach our anchored vessel and we hear excited voices in a variety of different languages saying, " Look! There is a girl on the front of that boat! ...... And,... and,... there`s a Chicken in her arms!!