Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Long Weekend on the Water

I heard the choir of angels first. A 21 gun salute followed. The Queen of England waved her little wave.  The prime minister of Canada nodded. Premier Gordon Campbell saluted.   It was a momentous occasion. Canada’s Snowbird squadron flew over as the fireworks went off.  I didn’t see it but I heard later that those on the space shuttle dipped a wing. 

The GIRI left dock for the first time since arriving back from her 34 day momentous dismasted sail from Hawaii.  The steering and engine continued to work avoiding potential collision with million dollar yachts that prey on poor old boats like mine.  Laura, as acting First Mate, wearing her black pirate wool hat, didn’t say anything that might distract me and occasion an immediate beheading.  Tom on the Naomi was already ahead steaming up Coal Harbour.  No doubt someone had taken the precaution of grounding all shipping till we got some sea room leaving First Narrows behind. 

It was a fabulous day in English Bay.  Other sailors dared to tack their boats across our sea but we were gracious about their presence.  I even phoned my 90 year old father surviving bad weather and politics in Ottawa to gloat about the glorious time we were having in British Columbia.  Eventually I even got a fishing line rigged finding bits and pieces here and there throughout the boat.  I’d not been fishing since we caught tuna on the trip back.  Not a salmon in sight though.  Then it was Bowen Island’s Mannion Bay (Next to Snug) begging for the anchor.  I gave her my CQR and she was happy. 

The anchor chain however had become tangled in the thrashing of the gales and seas of crossing.  Thankfully enough got out to hook us before I was running back and forth from deck to chain locker below.  In seconds without steroids my back and biceps had swollen with work.  I was quickly twice the man I was before I sweated it all out.  Tom was still hand cranking his windlass when my anchoring nightmare ended. 

I threw the dinghy overboard, hauled the Yamaha motor  overside and would have prided myself on the quick starting engine were it true.  Much yanking on the rope later I found the kill switch was engaged, turned it off and the engine purred.  When later Laura went over to bring back Tom for dinner she rowed  while leaving the engine I'd started for her running.

Tom called out, “Did you hear of the Newfie logger who bought a saw only to return to the hardware store a week later to say he’d been falling trees byes the bey but  it wasn’t cutting so well. The store owner pulled on the rope to start the saw and the Newfie said, “What’s that sound?”

“I’m afraid it will go too fast and I won’t be able to shut it off, “ Laura called back.

When Tom got back the two of us put together the prawn traps and crab traps without instructions, no internet consultation and no 6 week evenings and weekend assembly preparation.   

Then I was left to study the technical nautical works of Alexander Kent’s, Enemy in Sight, learning grappling and cannon grapeshot techniques in case we were confronted with square rigger ships sporting  tricolor pennants.  Tom and Laura prepared barbecued steaks, corn and potatoes with sour cream, fit for a king.

A bowl of  mandarins and melted chocolate ice cream bars with floating wooden sticks followed.  I’d got the diesel heater fired up without setting the boat aflame so we were very cozy.  We watched a VCR episode of Tudors, the tale of the philandering King Henry, put out by the Anglican Church of Canada to recruit divorced parishioners  .  We all dreamed that night of beheadings.

This morning I let Laura take first go at showering with the propane hot water heater hearing her squeal and squeal as the water temperature fluctuated hot and cold.  It had not been used in years since I’d had no need for it in the tropics.  After she’d got the kinks out of the system I had a splendid hot shower.

Tom arrived with the dingy full of empty traps saying we’d caught nothing.  Maybe a night school diploma would have helped. Instead, I produced the eggs and cheese I’d stalked and wrestled to submission in the jungles of the Save On  Supermarket.  They’d already been impressed with the steak I’d speared bare handed in the frozen food section. As the great white hunter I went back to studying Alexander Kent.  They produced omelettes to die for.  I was already on my second cup of Starbucks  coffee brewed by hand in my personal aluminum stove top expresso machine.

 With a cup in my hand I weighed anchor with one foot on the electric windlass pedal watching Tom on Naomi at the back breaking task of hand winching his anchor in.  What a beautiful day for a motor round Bowen to Keat’s Island.  Sanding the electrical connections I got the down rigger working.  The fish were not nearly as impressed.  The bald eagles were all over the thermals above Hutt Island.

Pulling into Plumper Cove off Keat’s Island across from Gibson’s, I put on the new Bob Dylan album, Together Through Life. First words I heard were, “My ship is in the harbor.”  You can always trust Dylan to be there with you. This has to be his best album but which one wasn’t!

Laura has the smokies cooking while Tom is eyeing all the bikini’d babes on the power boats.  Something about sail boats bring out the Birkenstock in a woman.  The passing kayakers compare prices on thermo underwear.  

The afternoon and evening were then spent reading, kids together, no longer with comics, now we’re reading big people books, but little has changed.  Bodies lie about couches. Every so often someone gets up.  Drinks and cookies or macadamia nuts follow, “while you’re up.”  Hours pass. I’m reading The Lost, A Search for Six of the Six Million, by Daniel Mendelsohn.  Laura has Mary Maffini’s, The Dead Don’t Get Out Much and Tom’s picked up my Alexander Kent.

Another morning with light shining through the deck hatch. What a glorious sleep indeed.  I’ve woken Laura with a coffee then had to suffer holding the rusted shower hose connecter to the tap.  I was outside the shower curtain and turned my head gentlemanly away from all my adolescent fantasies.  Later I told Tom of my chivalry and he commented loudly that he was always ‘ready to assist a damsel in distress.” 

Then we got back to work connecting the alternator ground which explained why we’d had no juice that morning to turn over the engine.  He’d been glad to be hailed finally on his boat to come over in the dinghy  The coffee was on my boat but I wouldn’t let him at it till I had the engine charging the depleted batteries.  He works best with prospect of reward even though he’s a tad ornery without his morning coffee. We both found it far easier to fix things in harbor than in 20 foot seas with winds singing in the rigging.

It began to rain so  we didn’t do anything more except hang out on the boat at anchor reading and eating. It was idyllic really. No work. No phones ringing. No pagers.  Pitter patter on the deck.  Diesel stove flames flickering. Tom decided to make up pork chops and after we had yoghurt and peaches.  Laura cleaned the dishes.  I said grace and praised the cook and thanked Laura for doing the dishes.  After that I complained about all the work I had to do.

The next day it was blue sky and sunshine again with bits of cloud.  We weighed anchor (it was still 60 lbs)  and headed back. Eventually we actually got back to the dock and rafted our boats together. 

There were no police chases. No Miami Vice cigar boats or helicopters with SWAT rapid descending or SEAL frog men appearing alongside with spear gun explosives.   Lightning didn’t strike.  A whale didn’t swallow us, spit us up,  and force us to tell America to mend her evil ways.   It was really uneventful.

After my sailing solo to Hawaii in winter or Tom and I coming back last summer with a broken mast, uneventful was good.  Given it was the long weekend, it’s now a short work week.  Awesome!   



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