Tag Archives: Travel

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.

Black ice

Well wasn’t that interesting young Bill? I was out late last night, around midnight, on my way home from a job. No big deal, just routine. When I got a rude reminder about Winter driving.

There was a thaw yesterday, so I left the four wheel drive at home and used our thrifty little commuter car instead. Big, big mistake. As I fired up the engine, the internal thermometer read five Celsius. So being the trusting soul I am, took it as read that there would be no road icing and didn’t think to go extra easy. Clear roads. Some sanding had been done, but I was expecting fog and damp that evening. Not ice. Moron.

Two hefty broadslides later…… Yes, wasn’t that interesting? Almost too quick for that heart in mouth sensation to kick in. Also comforting that I haven’t forgotten how to control a skidding vehicle.

The first heart in mouth moment was on a clear looking ninety degree right hand bend. Yes, we do have bends in Canada. Knew things weren’t right when the back end kicked out unexpectedly to the left. Foot off throttle, and bugger, it’s an automatic so the down through the box engine braking trick wasn’t going to work. Telegraph pole looming on road edge to right, dab on brake to increase the skid and slip round the bend sideways, fading left and looking for a safe runoff point. Corner telegraph pole had slightly menacing extra solid look as it flashed past less than half a metre away. Steer out, straighten up as traction returns and slide over to the correct side of the road. Phew. That got the old adrenalin pumping.

The second rude shock was on another clear looking bend down towards the Parkway. Back end began to break just before the apex, and my car took the rest of the hundred metre curve a good forty degrees to the direction of travel, me countersteering frantically to compensate. Managed to control it all the way through, but oh my.

Slip sliding awayThought I’d given up these kind of antics years ago. The last time I didn’t have this much fun driving was back in the nineties, hitting an ungritted patch of black ice in my old grey Ford Escort. Before that, driving a Reliant Robin in six to eight inches of snow back in the mid eighties. Although, thinking about it, our old Ford Windstar did have an alarming tendency to wag its tail like an over enthusiastic Labrador in inclement conditions, and our battered old 4×4 was known to like travelling slightly sideways on packed ice.

The rest of the way home I was ultra cautious, and my midnight sashay down unsanded rural Canadian roads passed off without further incident. Once home, I raided my bottle of Jura single malt before falling asleep in a chair. That’s enough excitement for one day.

More changes to the point of view.

Have made a few alterations to the look of the blog. Comments and such are on the front page now, but you`ll have to scroll way down to the bottom as with this theme there is no room for sidebars. I did toy with the idea of an animated header, but that would have been a little over the top, even for me.

Stepdaughters are on their travels shortly. One back to blighty to complete legal studies, the other to Africa, and thence to Australia to work. We`re subbing them out of course, and they are staying with friends and family, so no rent and food bills etc. We`ll get the payback in later years, seeing them comfortably ensconced in good careers. Not that this will be appreciated, but that`s my cynicism for you. There it is! I was wondering where it had gone!

No doubt they will have many travelers tales to recount about the long wait at immigration at Heathrow and how many times they were searched on the way to see certain events at the London Olympics. Not that I`d go myself, worked there for a few years and had a bellyful. Sure the money`s not bad, but quite frankly I`d rather bed down in a nest of rattlesnakes. However, we all have to learn for ourselves.

The sun is taking a rest break behind clouds for the next four days, which will give my sunburn time to turn into tan. The pool is covered and there is work to do.

Home from away

Back home and back to work. Feeling pretty chipper despite having spent 24 hours in airports and aircraft less than 48 hours ago. Two good nights sleep and clean BC air have reset my body clock to a steady tick-tock instead of tick-pyoing!-pchoing!-hic-achoo-ping! like the last two weeks. Bouncing around time zones like a demented yo-yo is no fun at all. Throw in up to (And on one occasion over) ten hours driving a day for half of the trip, and you have an idea of how much fun I haven’t been having.

Why should that be? When not driving all I’ve been doing is eating, trying to sleep and sitting watching whatever televisual entertainment is available in hotel rooms, airports and aircraft. Which, not having TV at home is a novel experience. Although I often found myself desperately channel surfing for some reasonable content while waiting for everyone else to arrive / decide what to do. The BBC and Sky news continual vomiting of the same anaemic content every 20 minutes is less than edifying. I found their lack of depth annoying as ever.

I see that little has changed in the financial markets. The Eurozone is so far in debt that they’re inside some bizarre financial event horizon with no way out but some freakish quantum transdimensional shift. As is the US dollar. The Chinese have an impending property bubble, so they’re potentially in the same sort of fiscal doo-doo that the US and Eurozone are in. Shit, fan, incoming! There a gruesome inevitability to it all, like a slow motion train crash with full musical sound effects.

Elsewhere I’ve heard it said that the man accused of the Norwegian massacre has been described as a ‘Libertarian’. All I can say to that is; is he buggery. That is a foul slur, a monstrous calumny, and complete bollocks, but oh so very predictable. There are elements in the lamestream who don’t like online commentary that they cannot own, and therefore must demonise anyone associated with a certain section, by whatever means. Even if their assertions have about as much truth in them as a G type star has polar ice caps.

Still having a severe attack of schadenfreude over the News International affair. Which newspaper group ‘outed’ bloggers, costing people their jobs for no readily discernible reason? Oh yes. No sympathy. Kamikaze domestic fowl on approach, heading for perches (Evil snigger). Good.

Right. That’s enough smugness for now. Back to work.

Travel observation

Manchester airport; Terminal three.

Had to pass through on my way from one (Naturally closed, this being the UK) car hire office to another at a different terminal. I thought I’d sidestepped through a time warp into Qatar. Go look for yourself if you don’t believe me. I truly felt like a stranger in a strange land. In the country of my birth no less.

The following morning, the cab driver who took us to the airport seemed somehow relieved we were going to a different terminal.

Currently very relieved to be home despite the jet lag.

Cream

What is it with you Brits and cream? Hes it suddenly become illegal or what? Every single Coffee shop I’ve been into since entering the UK has given me a funny look when I’ve asked for cream with my coffee. Last year there was no issue, so why now? Even Starbucks and Costa, who have previously not so much as raised an eyebrow at my caffeine laced preference, and served up my order with a smile. “Sorry, it’s company policy.” Has been the repeated sour faced mantra every time I’ve asked why they no longer serve cream with their hideously overpriced beverages. I mean two quid for a cup of tea, hot water with a bag of leaves dipped in and surly service to boot. Clucking bell.

It looks like the Health Nazi’s have infiltrated the UK’s coffee shops and banned cream on the spurious grounds that it is bad for you. You know, like alcohol and second hand smoke. Yet people will happily push corn syrup or extra starch laced fast food false flagged as a ‘healthy option’.

Oh well, if the ban spreads I shall just have to order my coffee black and take my own cream in with me. Until the supermarkets stop selling it of course. In addition I shall also avoid Starbucks and Costa because as far as I’m concerned, they exist to serve their customers requirements. They built their whole brands on this premise. If they want me to spend my money in their establishments, they’re going to have to up their game a little.

Until I get home to civilisation, I shall be keeping up my caffeine levels with multiple espresso’s liberally laced with brown sugar. Sod the Fascisti

Compare and contrast

Living in BC as I do, and currently passing through Europe. I’m minded to compare and contrast my own experiences at the various customs points and checkins.

Local airport, Canada; Small, clean, friendly, and apologetic for all the security checks. Got all our boarding passes issued and luggage checked in for the whole three flight hop. Flew to Vancouver with barely a murmur, apart from a minor delay down to air traffic. Passed through Vancouver airport without a secondary check as we were in transit. Almost stepped straight through onto our transatlantic flight without breaking step. Couldn’t sleep much on the overnight, but that’s nothing unusual for me. Too much background noise. However, we’d spent the extra money on the extra legroom seats, so there was no repeat of last year’s air cattle truck experience.

Arrive in Europe; although we haven’t left the airport system, we have to pass through one of those whole body scanners and I still got frisked, as no one had bothered to look at the zip leg trousers I was wearing and wondered where those funny lines were on the whole body scanner. At least we passed through immigration fairly quickly as the desks were fully staffed (for a change). Quite frankly I don’t make a fuss about the security and just treat it as one more minor indignity, even if the operators appear as baffled by the technology as most travellers.

Ah yes, I have a few carefully chosen words for Google. Having had four gmail email addresses since it was in beta, I am quite frankly highly pissed off that I can’t access my email from my wife’s laptop in europe. I am now in the process of migrating to a more flexible webmail system that I can access from wherever I fucking well please without some cuntish crap to ‘verify’ who I am because I’m on a business trip. Isn’t that the whole idea of a webmail based system? To enable travel and mobile access to communication? Well chuckleheads, if Google can’t build a modestly secure webmail login system, their ‘product’, useful though it has been, is now far too unwieldy and user unfriendly for my purposes. Time to migrate.

As an additional note; if Google has lost me money because I can’t remotely access my email. I am currently considering legal action. Their new ‘security’ means I am now effectively out of touch. No email means no business, no business means no money. Needless to say, they are not my favourite people right now. However, you get what you pay for, and since their service is free, it appears to have gone one quantum leap further and become completely worthless. This means I will have to wait until returning home to access my webmail. Which rather defeats the object of the exercise.