Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bowen Island Spring Sail

I often only book patients for the morning on Friday.  When I’ve worked Friday afternoon’s it’s been impossible to get out of the city until late because of rush hour. Many nights I’ve been in the office to 7 or even 9 pm when my last patient was booked at 4 pm.  When there’s an emergency on Friday afternoon all the government services seem to have wound down, family physicians are hard to reach and the emergencies are filling.  I don’t do beaurocratic work Fridays anymore because I feel quite burnt out on all the paper work that has multiplied hundreds of fold since I began practice.
If I could see patients weekly or have a slot for a patient who needed to be seen in a week or two then it would all work easily. The trouble is I’ve slowly been booking people at 1 to 2 month follow up and have patients who come in every 3 to 6 months. If you’re going to see someone in a week or even two you don’t have to worry. What does ’t get done can be continued then.  But lives change dramatically in a matter of months.  Besides the complexity and severity of illness has risen exponentially with counsellors and psychologists and even family physicians with an interest in psychiatry taking what was called the ‘cream’.  Increasingly patients insurance companies and lawyers have all manner of paper work demands and just assume you have nothing to do but fill in forms ad infinitum and pass the payment onto the patient who is normally out of work.  Patients are generally more desperate or have less resources than they did 25 years ago when I began.  There’s simply no available hospital beds except on an emergency basis. When I began working as a physician I could always count on hospital back up. But now the hospitals seem to be a separate fiefdom. Indeed the mass influx of administration personnel communication between the major players in the health care system has never been worse.
I feel guilty when I leave the office. I feel guilty often that I don’t work more.  But I’ve always worked in the areas of ‘greatest need’ in the most under serviced and often most dangerous  complex areas.  I miss procedural medicine and acute care where there was a sense of completion.  Today everything is chronic care and multi system problems.  .  People complain daily I’m not there for them.  People complain weekly they can’t get into see me more.  Everyone complains they can’t see their family physician enough and are often very angry at the factory line experience in walk in clinics and the horrible hours upon hours of waiting at emergencies.  Everyone, including me, seems that much older, too.
I figure I’ll go crazy if I don’t get out to sea or to the country. I spend my weekends preparing emotionally and spiritually for the following week.  And I’m often answering calls, handing emergencies taking emails and phone calls and not at all minding it, indeed thankful to be of help. I’ve been on call 24/7 most of my life, whether it was to northern communities by radio phone or to doctors office and emergencies.  I only object when people abuse phones, like the advertisers who use up the paper in my fax machines.  Then there’s the really sick patients who use up the answering machine time ‘filling the machines’ with their lengthy stories and daunting tales.  My assistants spend hours wading through these messages I rarely hear.
All this is to say that I absolutely love when the universe comes together and I do get away on a Friday afternoon before the rush hour.  And that’s just what happened this week.  I saw my last patient, cleared up the administrative concerns, answered pressing phone calls and was in my car on my way to pick up Laura.  We were supposed to go to the Ballet on Friday night but it was sunny.  I so wanted to get out on the water. I needed to get away.
“What about going out in the GIRI instead of going to  the Ballet?” I asked when I saw her.
“I’d love that,” she said.
20 minutes later Gilbert Laura and I were headed to the boat, still ahead of rush hour.  I almost didn’t cast off.  Normally I like to leave first thing in the morning because I’m so exhausted by Friday I’m afraid my brain won’t work if there’s any problems.  But it was only 4 pm and sunny still. I’d not had the boat out since the fall.  Some winters  I do sail but often winter is the time that boat work get done.
Oh what the heck!!
I filled the water tank, unhooked the electricity, fired up  the new glorious Volvo D 40 diesel engine then cast off.
What a joy!
We chugged across Coal Harbour to the float fuel dock.   I had to fill the fuel tanks .  Tom had scoured the main tank and put in an inspection window this winter.    There was a wait while other boats fueled.  But 6 pm we were finished  headed through First Narrows for Bowen Island.  2 hours to Snug Cove.  I also got to enjoy the new Standard Horizon GPS Chart Plotter Tom had installed. Delightful tech.  Great to watch the little boat travelling along the electronic map.  Also nice to have gps speed and lat and long in one location.  I used to have to go below to get the gps speed off the downstairs gps.    Lovely evening too. So exciting to be out in English Bay on a Friday night with a whole weekend ahead.
I was even able to anchor in the light.  Usually I’m anchoring in the dark trying not to bash boats and buoys around me.   Everything is so much easier in the light.  I loved being anchored and going below for the evening.  We’d not taken the time to provision but found some pumpernickel bread, a can of pork and beans and a can of Irish Stew.  I mixed the two cans and heated up a mariner feast fit for King Neptune.  Laura was delighted with comfort food and Gilbert glad to lick the plates.
Rocking at anchor we read.  George gave me B.J. Novak’s One More Thing, Stories and Other Stories. It’s brilliant.  Thoroughly entertaining and very funny. He’s a modern day Vonnegut.
We didn’t stay up too late.  I had a bit of anchor watch happening with the wind and rain that came up.
It’s a tight fit in the Mannion Bay with all the scows, derelicts, crab traps and buoys.  I eventually let out enough anchor I stopped worrying.  Laura and Gilbert made the bed warm beneath the comforter.  It’s finally warm enough to be in the boat without the heater on.
In the morning we slept in a bit. I’d thrown the dinghy over and lugged the Yamaha 4 hp out board into it the night before.  In the morning I tried to fire it up without success. It was sunny and pleasant. I took the engine apart. I’d had it in the shop last month.   I’d get it started but it would only run for a few minutes before sputtering out.  Well, that was a disappointment.  I threw the outboard back up onto the sailboat deck.
The dinghy has oars.  I got Laura and Gilbertt on board and manly rowed us across the bay and into Snug Cove.  I know I’ve been talking with God about my need for more exercise. I have the waist of a desk jockey rather than those hard abs advertised on late night tv.  Well here I was getting what I prayed for.  Gilbert and Laura enjoyed the ride.
Ashore Gilbert immediately dumped on the green grass.  Thankfully we had poop bags.  Bowen is lovely destination.  Vancouver’s island suburb.  I remember visiting Kirk when he lived here.  It’s a great destination though anchoring has got worse each year so I’m often going to Spanish Banks then dinghying into the Granville Market or going further to Plumper Cove and crossing to Gibson ashore for breakfast and shopping when I only have a weekend for boating. When I have three days I can cross the straight.  Bowen Island will have to do something about Mannion Bay anchoring.  I've been coming several times a year for over 25 years and spending hundreds of dollars each weekend, ashore  for breakfast, dinner or shopping.  The profusion of private anchor buoys and derelicts and scows has made it really difficult to anchor even off season.  I love the marina but it's difficult for a big boat to get into just to overnight.
Bennies on Bowen with lattes was sweet. That was followed by a stop at the grocery store.  Then I saw Eagle Creek bags at the Safari store and had a lovely visit with the delightful Carole Peterson,  owner, photographer, adventure guide. Eagle Creek bags are the best world travel luggage.  Now Laura and I have matching sets for our trip to Ireland. When we motorcycle camp she gets her one saddlebag.  In the Miata we each have room in the trunk for our knapsack’s.  The boat and RV are like moveable apartments so have most everything especially in the way of tools.  I hate being places where I can’t find a wrench or screw driver.  I could kill terrorists since they’ve made it impossible for me to carry swiss army knives or multi tools. I’ve lost a half dozen so far forgetting them on my belt till I set off an alarm or they show up in a pocket of my luggage.
Somehow I found the strength to row us all back to the boat.  More reading and napping and throwing a red tennis ball constantly for Gilbert.  If one of us petered out then he swapped over to the other. He wouldn’t want either of us to feel he playing favourites.   When he caught me napping at one point and not participating in the ball throw game, he jumped right up on my chest and licked my face.
Laura cooked up the pork chops and potatoes I’d bought in the afternoon. We had it with the packaged cesar salad kit and followed up the meal with chocolate bars.  All the while we watched the comedy MacGrubber and Jackie Chan’s Zodiac on DVD.  Saturday night in harbour at the movies.  More rain and waves but Snug in the boat.
This morning I made coffee and porridge. Gilbert had his Little Cesar.  I began reading Juan de Fuca’s Strait by Barry Gough,  Phillips gift to me.  I really am enjoying the history very much.
Then it was gearing up with rain pants and rain floater jacket, putting the motor on the railing and hauling in the Achiles dinghy.  It’s the lightest dinghy available and I’m pretty good at getting it on board alone. The Yamaha 4 hp has to go though. It just about kills me to lift it in and out of the dinghy up to the deck of th sailboat. I have seen the Honda 2.5 hp which is half the weight so I’m going to get that next. It’s hard to believe that as a younger man I was lifting a 15 hp in and out of the dinghy onto the GIRI then went to a 9.9, then a 6 then this 4 hp.  I’m definitely getting weaker over the last quarter century or maybe smarter.
Weighing anchor, thankful it came up without a glyph, I got underway.  It was raining heavy and fog reduced visibility to half a mile .  I couldn’t see half across Howe Strait.  When I got out in the strait I was surprised at all the sailboats and little power boats. Several of us were making our way to First Narrows for the turn.  A couple of sailboat were actually sailing with crews of 6 or 8  oblivious to the inclement weather.  Laura Gilbert and I enjoyed the protected interior of the canvas dodger.  I just wished my wipers worked.  One more thing to get working again.  A boat is always a work in progress but mine is offshore ready in the big picture.  Not that I plan to go offshore this year but I love the feeling of having this amazing boat capable of sailing around the world underway.
We didn’t hoist sails but enjoyed the new Volvo engine chugging along taking us through First Narrows and up Coal Harbour. Despite the difficulty with docking in the incredibly tight space I did it like a pro.  What a relief.
Now we’re in the cabin. Laura is making bacon sandwiches. The electric heater is drying everything out and making the cabin cozy. Gilbert is sleeping with his chin on my leg.  Life is Good.  Thank you SV GIRI for a fabulous weekend on the water.  Thank you God!

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