Tag Archives: New beginnings

Boats and other impedimentia

Last weekend we went looking at boats. The object of this exercise is to sidestep all the dullness of living on land to find a slightly more interesting way of life. We’ve looked at houses, but quite frankly there’s not a place where Mrs S and I feel we would fit in. On a torrentially rainy day, on a muddy stretch of the Fraser river I think we found an answer. Not perfect, but certainly with all the comforts of home. GPS, depth sounder, radio, recent anti-fouling, Blue water capable, solid diesels, spare generators, which with a little internal remodelling, electrical upgrade and a satellite interweb connection would prove very liveable indeed. Reminder to self, shop around for a radar set. The boat has a washing machine, dishwasher and joy of joys a tumble dryer, as there’s nothing worse than not having a dry stitch to put on. Did I mention I spent some of my formative years bumming around on canals and canal boats? Before getting used to the vagaries of the English Channel. Being wet for days on end is no fun at all.

We came up with this wheeze a couple of years ago, but the stories of municipalities all around BC shoving out all the liveaboards gave us pause. What indeed is the point of having a decent boat as a base if you keep on getting moved on like some water borne Pikey? Now the heat is dying down, and there are places to moor up without the threat of summary eviction. I’ve also been cultivating contacts in the Marine section of the RCMP and local Harbour watch as a kind of insurance. Took an enhanced security check, but now I have legit ID to flash if need be. Never hurts to show you can jump the hoops. Having worked in municipal enforcement, I know how handy officially sanctioned ID can be in some circumstances. The trick is knowing when and how sparingly to use it.

What attracts me is the ability to simply up sticks for the weekend, scoot across to the bright lights of Vancouver or Seattle, moor up and go visit the bright lights for a few hours before coming home to your own cosy floating apartment. Or go work in Vancouver (without paying Vancouver prices), then shove off at the weekend for pastures new. Don’t like the neighbours? Hey, move on. Repel boarders (and snub the day boys and prefects- arr matey) There’s obstacles of course, surveys, insurance, fuel costs, boat security, permits etcetera, but nothing insuperable.

All together now….. Arh!

This weekend sees me off looking for a boat. And it’s snowing. Which might actually work in my favour, the market in maritime gear being more depressed than a depressive whose wife has just run off with all his money and the psychiatrist, leaving him outside in a downpour with his house and car keys stuck down the drain. So yes, as far as I can see it’s a buyers market.

The kind of boat I’m looking for isn’t a sailing boat with all those fiddly ropes, stays, corsets and centreboards, but something like a forty to fifty foot long converted deep sea fishing boat with a single, get-you-home-in-dire-emergency roller reef rig. Something with capacious fuel and water tanks and maybe even an onboard water maker.

Something in fact, like one of George Buhlers power boat designs. Love his engine rooms. You can actually get at the diesel and gearbox to fix it if anything goes wrong. I also have a well thumbed copy of “The Troller Yacht book” whose subtitle is; ‘How to cross oceans without getting wet or going broke’. How can you not love that for a title?

The intention is to buy just such a boat, live aboard for three to six months of the year whilst learning about handling it properly for the first couple of years or so, doing short (2-400km) trips around the local islands, dodging stray logs as we go (A constant hazard in coastal BC). Longer trips down the west coast to Mexico, then visions are of travelling further afield. Like trans-pacific to see relatives in Australia. Possibly across the southern Indian Ocean around the Cape of Good Hope, over to Tristan Da Cuhna, Ascension and the Canary Islands, then a sojourn in La Belle France, where family have a small residence, and maybe a perambulation around the Med before stopping off in the UK to see family and friends, thence back into warmer waters and all points south, maybe through Drakes passage at the southern end of Chile, and coast hop north all the way home to BC. Well, that’s the plan, anyways. Weather and circumstance permitting.

Pirate breath fresh advert bWhen we told our friends what we intended, we were swamped with the usual tall tales from non-seafaring folk. They told us about volcanoes, sea beasties and rogue waves so big they can swallow entire fleets. You know, like on Discovery Channel. So something with the flotation properties of a rubber duck is probably in order. Good watertight hatches that won’t cave in the first time we take a big hit. Watching the weather forecasts with the eye of a competent raptor might also be a good idea. Oh noes, but there’s icebergs and sea ice that can crush a hull to smithereens overnight. You know, like on Discovery Channel. Okay, but I’m not that keen on going where the cold is. Good salt water resistant electrics and electronics, a fog horn, and a decent quality liferaft might be a good idea. Arr, but Bill, matey, what about when it rains so hard it makes yer head bleed. We saw it on YouTube. So waiting inside a nice dry cabin until the rain stops might be a good idea then? But, but, but, Bill, there’s storms so wild they go on for weeks. We heard about them from my best friend’s brother in law who used to work in a dock side pub. Weeks of rough weather during which I plan to be safely moored up, spending quality time ashore in a nice cosy bar. Arr, but matey, there do be pirates out there who’ll slit yer gizzards and steal all your booty. Yes, yes I’m sure, but there are very well updated websites about piracy hotspots, and the intent is not to go anywhere near them. Any pirates can keep their hands on their own booty, thank you very much indeed. Saucy fellows. The very nerve. Hmm. Wonder if I can get away with mounting a couple of these and saying they’re just for distress flare launching? Just in case.

To be honest, I’m more concerned about the various customs regulations, and how to get in and out of various ports at a time of my choosing without being skimmed and scammed by local authorities. Like the Argentinians, who don’t like people visiting the Falkland Islands without a note from their mother, which will cost you Gringo. The rest will be down to the tide tables.

Other friends, whose opinions in such matters I value, have simply shrugged and said “Go for it.” Which has been encouraging. As some of these have spent serious time afloat, there has been some good advice from this quarter. Stuff you won’t get told by sales persons or those with bottomless pockets.

Notwithstanding, the whole enterprise is fraught with perils, both real and imaginary, and that’s just making sure what we buy has a sound hull and reliable diesels. Wiring has to be good, water resistant and connections tinned with solder to prevent corrosion along with a myriad other critical details. All of which has to be accomplished without breaking the bank.

The project is a challenge. It’s a really steep learning curve, and that’s probably what appeals. However, we’ve already got some serious interest from like minded souls who want to do a similar trip, and are experienced enough to stand a watch, pay for the odd tank of diesel and generally help out, so crew recruitment isn’t going to be a problem.

You only live once.

Welcome back Anna

Anna Raccoon is back on the blogroll after being reported missing in inaction due to illness.

Absolutely delighted to see Anna back up and stumbling. Only sorry she trashed her blog layout which now needs rebuilding. I’m sure the magical Interweb wayback machine might be of some assistance here.

Big H/T to Leg Iron at Underdogs bite upwards

The last post

Over the past year I’ve grown ever more cynical and less inclined to post about the same old problems caused by the same old class of people. The tools, drones and otherwise hard of thinking behind desks who think they know better than the rest of us about how to run our lives, and eventual deaths.

So as far as Bill is concerned, I’m hanging up his commenting keyboard for good. Oh, I’ll be writing elsewhere on similar topics, but in different ways through a different medium. But Bill Sticker will no more haunt forums and comment threads. This is the final it. This blog and the blogger counterpart will be his memorial until I decide to take them down. The door will not hit me on the way out.

Why? We can rant and rage on our blogs against the machine all we like, but is the machine listening? Not a bit of it, say I. The machine is a clumsy, massive bureaucratic construction that carelessly crushes those bull headed enough to get in its way. Thus it is down to each of us to plough our respective lonely furrows, to create what small miracles we can in our own minuscule ways. By not giving into the temptation of every single shiny new toy. By not blindly following some glib ‘leader’ promising ‘change’ without actually defining what that change will be. Following leaders of that sort always leaves their followers with loose change and ashes, but little more. Maybe not quite the kind of change their followers were hoping for, but that is the way of things. The only person who can make real and lasting change for the better is the feet on the street. The little guy with a little heart, and enough guts to do the right thing at the right time. Whenever that is.

It’s been fun being Bill. He’s the guy who’s said all the things I sometimes haven’t been brave enough to voice in person. As far as he’s concerned, I’ve only ever documented a fraction of the real life strokes pulled, of the sheer bare faced cheek needed to survive the myriad of metaphorically jackboot wearing whack jobs out there. Of the many little victories against the blind behemoth of tick box bureaucracy. Now it’s time to move on.

TTFN

We need a revolution

Sir Ken Robinson talks about the need for a move away from the mechanistic ‘top down’ or ‘command and control’ management of education, but what he says also goes for life in general. As he says right at the end, “We need a revolution.” And not just a change of the individuals in charge, but one that takes us away from the top down one-size-fits-all model that is currently failing, and failing badly. Watch and attain enlightenment.

A fishermans tale

This is a completely true story. Not terribly dramatic, no-one famous was involved, nothing really happened, but I’ll try to explain my reasons for recounting the incident in question at the end.

In the late 1990′s I was taking a long weekend down in Cornwall. On my own as usual. I’m a solitary individual by nature, and during those years had grown to like long, lazy time outs casting my cares, and the odd line or two, on the waters. As far as human company was concerned, I’d given up on it and immersed myself in my job. That morning I’d picked up a crab line at one of the local beach shops, and taken myself down to a small rocky bay called ‘Prussia Cove‘, one time haunt of the notorious wrecker and pirate, ‘John of Prussia’. It’s a picturesque little place, popular with snorkelers, and of interest for the cart ruts cutting obliquely through rocks from the beach to the little rocky channel to the west. As you face the water, up above on the left are the grey granite Coastguard cottages overlooking the tiny beach. In Summer it’s as pleasant a piece of English Elysium as can be found on a (mostly) sunny day.

On this particular morning, I’d picked myself a spot on the rocks, sat down and waited for a couple in wetsuits to slip into the water before baiting a hook. After a few abortive attempts (standing on the line, throwing too hard, in the wrong direction, getting caught up in seaweed, usual shore fishing mistakes) I cast the weighted orange line some fifty feet or so into the desired middle of the channel. Not really expecting to catch anything. To be honest, at the time I was wrestling with a coding difficulty, and was making the best of this weekend time out for an exercise in contemplation. Taking my mind off the immediate problem, and just letting the light, wind and water work their magic on my hindbrain. Disengaging my mind from its usual over the top frontal assault and trying to slink up on the issue sideways.

“What are you doing?” The voice of a little boy quite startled me. An ordinary looking little lad, about four, maybe six. Slim build, wearing blue (I think) canvas shorts, off white T-shirt, curly dark brown hair forming a sort of mop on his head. Can’t remember what shoes he was wearing. Almost what I’d call the Christopher Robin look. I glanced around, media warped paranoia on overdrive. I’d briefly noticed the same rambunctious little lad annoying his Mother as I made my way down to the waters edge. I think they must have been staying close by. Dark haired woman in sunglasses, mid / early 20′s, lightweight floral dress. Wearing a wide brimmed sun hat as I recall. When she’d been speaking to him earlier I’d registered her accent; educated middle class Surrey. Did I mention I used to pride myself on my ear for English accents? Never mind. Not important.

At the time this whole “All white men are racists, paedo’s and rapists” thing was just beginning to gain ground in the tabloid media, and smelling possible trouble, I tried to brush this intrusive kid off. “Fishing.” I shrugged, reeling the line in. My thinking was to let him get bored and drift away in case Mum came storming over and called the cops. Not that I was doing anything wrong, just fishing. Why couldn’t the little tyke go and amuse himself elsewhere? Leave me in peace? That’s all I wanted.

“Can I have a go? Please?” For a nanosecond I thought about telling him bluntly to go away, but that’s not really my nature. He was being so polite, and Mum was less than a hundred yards away, no doubt keeping a watchful eye on her child, so on the next cast I demonstrated what I was trying to do, reeled in the line and let him try his luck. What can I say? I’m a sucker for lost kittens, puppies and children, and would rather die than see harm come to them. He made a mis-throw, I reeled the line in and let him try again.

For the next half hour, we took turns casting the lead polo mint weighted line out into the little channel, the snorkelers snorkelling in their wetsuits out where the calm waters were ruffled by a light swell, with the peace of a pleasant Cornish Summer late morning wrapping itself around us. Simply revelling in the small pleasure of male company while chilling out on a relatively fruitless task. His Mother seemed quite content to let her little boy please himself around the big stranger fishing at the waters edge.

What happened next made me sit back and think; “Danger! Warning! Warning Will Robinson!” He put his arms around my neck and gave me an unashamed hug, then sat down on our perch overlooking the water and leaned against me, rubbing my back as a kind of ‘thank you’. I clearly remember the rich soft warmth of a child’s physical contact, which gave me quite a jolt. Apart from handshakes, this was the most physical contact I’d experienced from anyone for several years. Did I mention I’m mostly a solitary soul? With a surprised look on my face, I glanced sideways to see his Mother (or female guardian) still sitting calmly in the same place and looking completely unconcerned. I’d shown him how to peel a limpet off a rock for bait, given him a pointer or two on how to cast the line, and received a hug as thanks. Then he used my shoulder as a lever to clamber to his feet and dashed off to tell his mother all about what he’d learned, who neither chided nor chastised her little boy (at least not in my hearing) for approaching (and hugging) a total solitary stranger.

About half an hour later, as the day grew warmer and the beach began to fill, I felt the call of a cold beer and packed up, wandering back to my beat up old Ford Sierra (I was between motorcycles at the time) and moved on. Yet the sudden pleasure of a hug from a completely strange child who I had never met before, never would know the name of, reminded me of my own humanity. My own instinctive need for human company. To ramp down my paranoia. To be part of a family and enjoy the innocent gift of unguarded affection.

This was over fifteen years ago. Since then I’ve married, helped steer two feisty stepdaughters through the uncertain waters of their teenage years, learned to smile and laugh a lot more, become a little more comfortable in my own skin; and somewhere along that path become a better man than I might have been. Not as cold, nor as driven. All because of that one unguarded, unsolicited hug.

So what’s the point Bill? All men are not predatory monsters? That there’s more to the male of the species than his sexual appetites? I suppose so, yes. Thinking about it, that single gesture was key to rediscovering my own understanding of Agape and Eros. Learning to differentiate properly between sacred and profane love. Discovering the love of family. Finding a new centre. Yet what I’d really, truly like to say, in public, is simply this;

Thank you.

Porch life

While we are graced with my Mother in Laws august presence (Think Albert Steptoe in drag but unable to do anything for herself apart from whine), I find myself increasingly exiled to the deck to write. Only another twenty nine days Bill, hang in there. You can do this.

We’re fortunate that we selected a house with a large covered external area (about four and a half metres by six) to live in, so I find myself sitting in the shade with my laptop on a sunny morning waiting for the kettle to boil. The nurse we’ve hired to bathe MiL once a week is giving her a good wash, Mrs S is off picking up some copy from a client for me to rehack and the dog is getting hyper about every jackrabbit that wanders into the yard. There’s just a smidge of a chilly edge in the breeze making it uncomfortable to work in shorts and t-shirt for more than an hour, but otherwise quite pleasant. Not bad for the first of May. We’ve even taken to calling this part of the deck our ‘outside office’.

In spite of a forecast for rain showers, the local weather is currently sunny with a modicum of high cloud. Our local pair of Bald Eagles have shoved off somewhere to please themselves, and there is the far off sound of a ride on mower chugging its way round a neighbours yard, the odd passing pickup, and occasionally a float plane or scheduled flight on its way to or from Vancouver. Otherwise it’s just me and the odd Hummingbird.

My one current regret is that we didn’t come here ten years ago.

Update:
Well woger me wigid! It’s bloody hailing! Oh, it’s stopped. That was a fun five minutes, I was wondering what the roaring noise was.

The next apocalypse

If it’s not the heat death of the universe, the Mayans forgetting to carve new calendars or whatever, there’s always good old Earth killing meteorites we can’t do anything about (Mainly because all the money seems to get spent building Wind Farms and other such idiocy). Well chums, (Well one of my two regular visitors anyway) apparently 2013 is where fire rains from the heavens and we all have to face Judgement day. (Oh, noes! Not again!)

Which kind of raises the question; why are some people so all fired keen to have a Judgement Day? Why does the Earth / Humanity have to ‘end’ to make them feel vindicated? Self important little tits. As for mankind ‘threatening’ the Earth – anyone with the least knowledge of this planets processes should be aware of how thin the habitable biosphere is. Also exactly how big it is. So long as humanity keeps its figurative room tidy, the rest will take care of itself. The biosphere was here long before we ever arrived, and it’s our species good fortune (or not) that it will be here even when we’re no more than an interesting layer of fossils.

Meteorites crash land on the Earth, or burn up in the atmosphere, every day of the year. Most of them we never even notice. Remember, approximately two thirds of the Earth’s surface is water (Gleaned from my well thumbed copy of the ‘Bumper Fun book for boys’). Living out here at the Pacific rim as I do, you tend to take a larger perspective on these things, especially when you look at the flight times to Japan, Oz or Kiwiland. Especially when you can look out on a sunny day and literally see the Earth’s curvature. I tell you, it puts all your worldly cares on the back burner. Rather like Douglas Adam’s total perspective vortex. Once you’ve got that sense of scale, everything else pales into insignificance, and there’s nothing to be scared about.

One of the reasons I left the UK

One day in mid 2006, I was off duty and busy writing when the doorbell of our tiny little terraced house buzzed. I went to the front door to be greeted by a clipboard wielding woman from ‘child services’ demanding to see “The baby”, telling me I had to let her in because “It was the law”.

That is the absolute honest truth, those were her exact words, and they have been burned into my brain, leaving me in no doubt as to the wisdom of our leaving the UK. The woman had the wrong address and seemed incapable of reading road signs, but despite this tried to bull past me on my own doorstep. My own fucking doorstep. No warrant, no Police, no evidence, no nothing. Not even the right bloody house. Needless to say, she was refused entry, and the error of her ways pointed out. Although upon reflection I’d have sent her to the other side of town had I been a bit more aware in those days. Right into the heart of Chavland.

No wonder, as Ranty quite reasonably points out, they keep sticking the wrong people in jail. My grandchildren will not grow up over there if I have any say in the matter. Not unless the Augean stables of certain Government departments are given a thorough cleaning with a few hundred gallons of this, and one of these.