Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Natural Forces


Natural Forces.

 A poem by Jude Brierley-Jones

At Christmas time when all were merry,
To me life seemed just sad and scary,
Approaching is the year 20-12,
What will it bring? Please tell me Santa’s elves.
The elves said laughing …”baby don’t you see
Change is your kismet, you can’t change destiny!

My grounds unstable…oh no I’m going round the bend,
Life in Denver is coming to an end,
Grave panic was dancing in my heart,
My perfect world was soon to fall apart,
My dearest husband my knight in shining armor,
Was soothing - hush my darling, don’t you worry pretty mama,
Your job is great I know you love it honey,
But that don’t make us any money,
I know you also love the house, the car,
But sitting in our castle won’t get us very far,

Now grinning sheepishly just like the Cheshire Cat,
He said I have had enough uncertainty, I’ll put an end to that,
And then announcing all is not forlorn,
He pointed to his sailing porn
These books tell stories of great adventure,
If to the open seas one dares to venture.
Just think, imagine how rich our life could be,
Living with the creatures of the sea.

And as I listened to what my husband said,
Great images were filling up my head.
I saw our boat our slick Sarita
Dancing on the waves like a sexy senorita,
Taking us to places to lands both near and far,
Guiding our way is the wondering star.

On our bow the dolphins playing,
The wind in the sails hums like peaceful praying,
And then we reach majestic sandy shores,
Lands of great beauty, for us to explore.
It is a dream an apparition
but it became our inspiration.
Serendipity came knocking on our door,
And that loud knock we can’t ignore.

Before too long as we grow older,
A little rounder a little bolder,
That opportunity will slip away
Age of Aquarius is now and not some other day.
We sell the castle, pack the rest.
Our oscillating emotions put to the test.
Lots of friends in Denver…it’s hard to say goodbye,
As we embark on our journey north, both Katya and I cry.
Though sad at first, soon sadness turns to glee
When we could hear the Sea Gulls and smell that wondrous sea.

Our abode is humble inside Sarita's womb,
It’s cozy and it’s warm and has ample room.
How long will this life suite us?
I don’t possess a crystal ball
We got the wind of natural forces
And are answering their call.
For this I know, right now the three of us together,
And we are buoyant no matter what’s the weather.
Stripped of unwanted possessions and constant ticking clocks,
We are in tune with Mother Nature,
And are solid as a rock .

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Octopus Islands


We departed squirrel cove at 7:30 am on the 16th September to catch the slack tide in the “Hole in the wall rapids” at 12 o’clock. We dropped our rubbish off at the government dock in Squirrel cover, ($4 a bag). Would you believe it was another sunny day, although a little brisk at 9 degrees C, so Jude had all her 5 layers on. Cups of tea and coffee and hot buttered toast were made and off we went.

About ½ an hour after we left we spotted spouts of water rising on our starboard. The binoculars confirmed it was a pod of 4 Orcas heading south. It is always great to see these creatures and they remind us how far we are away from the towns and cities. The law states that we have to stay about 400 yards away from any Orcas and if they approach we are supposed to move out of their way.


The channel ahead is about 1 mile wide, 12 miles long, high sided and with not a single other boat in sight, other than a speeding orange R.I.B. taking tourists back from seeing the grizzly bears in Bute inlet.

We enter the Hole in the wall channel, ahead of schedule, due to the strong following current, and have to slow down as we do not want to go through the rapids too early. We decide to stop off at a small but deep anchorage on the south side of the channel to have some lunch and wait until slack water. The anchorage is big enough for one boat and the shallowest spot is 80 feet deep, so we have to let out most of our chain rode.


We enter the rapids at slack and they are thankfully benign. The reminder of today’s journey to the Octopus islands is only another couple of miles, and we are looking forward to exploring this new area, which is supposed to be magnificent. We weave our way through the islands, down a narrow channel about 100ft wide and only 11 feet deep and into the anchorage. We choose a spot to drop the hook with plenty of swing room and a great view.




It has been 5 days since we left Vancouver and our last provisioning stop, and when we filled up our water tanks. We reckon we have another week and a half before we have to stop for some more water and perishable foods. I have been trying to perfect the bread making so we have fresh bread three times a week. We must get our water maker fixed so that we can stay out longer in future.

Katya is getting along fine. It’s a bit of a struggle getting her to concentrate on her home schooling, which tests all our patience. We try to break the days up so that we have some physical activity during the day, walking or kayaking and continue the work into the evening. Math is probably the hardest subject. Some days it seems to click for her and others it seems totally alien. We have been doing history and a unit on weather and a couple of nights we have been reading about the stars and making the most of the clear night skies to sit on deck and identify constellations and planets. We all love this especially as the nights have been so clear.

We have not had much luck with the crabbing or fishing. I did catch a rock fish but the crab trap has been filled with crab below the legal size so all have to go back. Katya and I go out on the morning to check the trap, fingers crossed that it will be packed with large male Dunganess crab. Ah well, perhaps the next place will deliver something.
The Octopus islands are one of our favorite anchorages so far. There are numerous small islands to the north and east and a large bay to the west. There is a feeling of protection from the winds but without a feeling of being hemmed in.

The day after we arrived a couple arrived in their motor boat, who were in Squirrel cove with us earlier in the week.  They came by in their dinghy and introduced themselves. The three of us love the social aspect of cruising. Everybody so far has been very friendly and helpful. Katya loves it when we invite people across for dinner so that she can show off her artwork or her latest collection of shells.

Katya and I have been exploring the islands in the Kayaks. Drifting through the shallows and looking at the various sea creatures on the seabed. We find it amazing that each anchorage can be so different. Some, like squirrel cover, are dominated by jelly fish, others by star fish (or sea stars as we are supposed to now call them), others by shoals of small fish. Katya has been collecting shells and rocks of various shapes, sizes, and colours. The collection is getting, how should say it delicately, quite large recently and zip lock bags are littering the boat. Katya gave us a viewing the other day, with some of the more precious and unusual on display.

The guide books told us that there is a freshwater lake about 2.5 miles up a track that starts around the corner in Waiatt bay. We donned our walking boots, packed a lunch, our swimmers and set off in the dinghy around the bay to the trail head. The walks started by going to Small Inlet, another bay which is on the other side of Quadra Island. The narrow rocky path then took us up a steep hill, where poor Katya was attacked by biting flying ants. There were screams and lots of waving of arms whilst Jude and I wondered what on earth was going on. 5 very large bite marks confirmed that she had indeed been bitten. Not sure why they chose to attach her.

We arrived at the large lake; Its water was crystal clear, blue and very inviting. We could not wait to get into the water, to feel clean and refreshed. I stripped off and in I went, Katya said I have gone “Hippie” and was horrified that her father would go swimming in the nuddie. Jude was very pleased to be swimming as this was her first swim since we have been on the boat. She was grinning from ear to ear.


Another couple arrived in their boat and whilst in our dinghy we introduced ourselves, exchanged short biographies, stories and comments on the crabbing, fishing, anchorages and plans.  The dinghy has turned out to be an effective way of getting to know people. We call it “dinghylising” the act of socializing in a dinghy. Lots of people seem to do it. Dinghys are used to go ashore, take the dog for a walk, stretch the legs, explore, crabbing, fishing, picking up supplies or visiting other boats. One passes other boats on these errands and naturally a friendly wave turns into a meeting. I exchanged a loaf of our freshly baked bread for a loaf of their freshly baked banana bread. Jude was very pleased with the exchange. Later that evening Ed and Janice came over for supper and a few glasses of wine.  
  
We decided that it was time to head off and stock up on some milk and get some water. I was also concerned that we will need some propane soon and we need to collect the new tanks from Squirrel cover. We therefore decided that we would leave the following morning, catch the 10:30 slack through Surge Narrows and head for Rebecca Spit. We have been here for 5 days and enjoyed the place very much. It will be on our list of places of favorite places come back to.

We awoke in the morning to find thick fog blanketing the anchorage. We considered staying as it could be tricky navigating out of the islands as there are many submerged rocks around all of the islands. We decided to leave and trust in the GPS and radar. Jude was on the bow watching, not that much could be seen. It was like pea soup. Thankfully the fog thinned as we approached the rapids as the passage is narrow and the currents can run up to 10 knots apparently.  

Pea soup
  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

House duties


We have been anchored in Squirrel Cove for 3 days now and are sharing this tranquil place with only a handful of boats, most of who seem to be using it as a stop-over on their way north or south and only stay for one night.

At the North end of the cove is a tidal lagoon with its entrance only about 15 feet wide. At high tide the water rushes into the lagoon at around 15 knots. Katya and I have been having fun in the evenings running the rapids in the kayaks into the lagoon for a swim and exploring.

Another strange anomaly with the cove is the high number of jelly fish. I suppose that this is due to the higher than average water temperatures in this sheltered spot. Fortunately for us the jelly fish don’t sting unlike their Australian relatives.

We have now been on the anchor for three weeks now and it was time for a trip to the laundry. This involved a 2 mile trip in the dinghy to the Squirrel Cove General Store, laundry, restaurant, petrol station, liquor store, hardware store and craft shop and general place of local gossip and “interesting people”. Yes one place on this island does it all.  You would think that laundering your clothes is a simple process, but we were soon enlightened by a local that certain knowledge is required to operate the machines. The Laundromat has about 7 machines and apparently some are better than others. Some clean clothes whilst other destroy them. Some require more money than others and some throw your clothes on the floor. This was all explained to us in great detail by one of the locals. We managed to wash and dry our clothes without so much as a lost sock.

Whilst we were there we also ordered two new propane tanks as the two we currently have apparently expired two years ago and nobody would fill them. (people have been filling them for the last year though) They do look a little over used and corroded. Strangely enough they are cheaper here than they are in Vancouver although we have to wait for 5 days before they will be delivered. We do have one tank which is ¾ full so we will have to make that last until the tanks arrive. Baking bread will be temporarily suspended.

Tomorrow we will be heading off to the Octopus islands which are about 25 miles north of where we are and through the Hole in The Wall Rapids, which run at about 10-12 knots. So it is an early start to get us there for slack water.

I went for a walk this afternoon over to Von Donop Inlet, 3 kms each way. The walk winded its way through the forest. The colours have started to fade. No longer are the greens vibrant but they are turning yellow and brown. The mosses and lichen are not soft and spongy but dull and crusty. The streams no longer flow, instead stagnant pools have formed. The long dry spell will be coming to an end soon but hopefully not too soon. Whilst doing our laundry we were told by a few people that although there are no bears on the island there are wolves and mountain lions (cougars).  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

North again

The alarm buzzed at 5:30am. We planned to leave at 6:30 but I hit the cancel button on the alarm and fell back to sleep for another hour. The thought of getting out of bed before the sun had come up did not appeal to me, although I know that we had a long day ahead of us, possibly 10 hours of sailing and into the wind, which can be tiring.

Before we leave we have to fill up with fuel and water, so that we can stay out of the marinas for a couple of weeks.
We are ready to leave Vancouver. It's been a great visit and we have grown fond of the place.  Vancouverites are naturally proud of their city with its cosmopolitan and multicultural society.  We have been impressed by the helpful locals, who, without prompting, have approached us in the streets, obviously looking like lost tourists, to provide assistance.
Like most cities Vancouver has its different faces. Its inner city regeneration with swanky high rise, high price, apartment blocks. Immaculately tendered landscaping overlooking the water and mountains. China town, one of the largest in North America, with its authentic restaurants and, as Katya put it, its "dark side" by night - after 6pm when the shops close its nocturnal residents emerge. Gaunt and well lived in faces roam around the area often engaged in conversation with someone only they know and see. People looking for a trick or being the provider of the trick. Homeless people setting up their camps in doorways and under flyovers which carry people over and around an area some wish to forget exists.
Other areas highlight a different side to the city. Yaletown with its boutique bars and restaurants, art galleries and small furniture stores selling high class brick-a-brack. Gastown, it's historical center and now tourist center with its shops selling Canadian Mounty clad Moose, maple leaf mugs, key rings, bottle openers and other merchandise designed to satisfy the tourist looking for something to take home for friends and family, no doubt only to be consigned to the box in the garage for eternity.
The English bay district satisfies those looking to experience the affordable cuisine of the city. Small family owned restaurants offer everything from fish and chips, Indian, Malaysian, middle eastern kebabs. You name it this area has it.
As I said Vancouver has made an impression on us. Granville market and all it's gastronomic delecies, it's clean, tidy and well planned city with lots of cycle and walkways. It's friendly, diverse and helpful people.  
We have been extremely lucky with the weather whilst we have been here. It only rained for a few hours and the rest of the time it has been warm and sunny. We know that this is not Vancouver's typical weather. Low cloud and rain are the norm. Would we still like the city as much in January and Feb? I don't know but don't plan to find out either.
We have all had enough of the big city and are looking forward to open spaces, lack of people, walks and fresh air. So North we head. Up the coast to Desolation sound with its mountainous backdrops and deep fjord like inlets.
Thanks everybody for your emails and comments: Jonesy for laughing and making me laugh, The Wests for their encouragement and Kevin and Alex for their suggestion to eat at the Banana leaf restaurant. (I have just finished the left overs) it was excellent.



Monday, September 10, 2012

Fly on the wall


When one is on a boat at anchor space to move around is limited and you find things to occupy your time. Fixing something that you finally managed to locate the part for, reading, planning the next leg of the journey, locating the nearest supermarket that involves the least amount of walking or "spying on the world". Armed with a pair of binoculars it's amazing what you see.  

In a busy city anchorage like this one in Vancouver we are never short of entertainment. To start with there is boat watching.  Boats are unlike cars in that they come in many more variations. It's rare to see two boats the same in an anchorage of hundreds.

One looks at the boats, their owners and their combined practices and either admire or question them. Boaters fall into many categories. Simple ones are petrol- heads (power boaters) and sailors. These can then be broken down into sub categories. Mega-yacht power boaters, boats of 150ft and above costing many millions. Wannabe mega yacht power boaters, "the lads" in small power boats with loud bass beats driving their topless owners and their suitable accompaniment.  Fishing boats, both commercial and recreational, laden with the latest tackle and fish finding gadgets in search of the elusive Big One for the trophy cabinet and bragging rights down the pub.  Likewise sailors fall into many categories. You have racers in their sleek yachts, matching team clothing and stoking their adrenalin levels for the forthcoming event. Day sailors in smaller boats treating their friends to a day on the water. Relaxed, glass of wine in hand, ladies with unsuitably large hats that gently flap in the light wind sailing.
There are temporary cruisers, couples or families having a few weeks off to explore a new area or returning to a favorite spot. They come in a mixture of practiced experts who know the drills and etiquette of cruising and those who efforts are being practiced. And then there are the live- aboards, who we have recently joined their ranks (from the previous category of practicing cruisers). Live aboards come in various types as well. Families, retirees, individuals, mostly live on sailboats which can be recognized from the large amount of clutter on the decks from bikes, kayaks, crab pots, well used dinghies, washing hanging out to dry, solar panels, wind generators, dogs, cats, parrots and sitting low in the water. Live aboards are both envied and despised. Envied for the freedom to be doing what so many boat owners wish to do and despised for doing it.



A live aboards life is more relaxed than a cruiser. They have the time to sail rather than motor, the time to stay longer in a place and get to know it. Time to visit the out of the way places that holiday cruisers simply don't have time for. But live aboards are generally a frugal bunch, always in search of the free anchorage rather than paying marina fees. Eating onboard rather than out. Knowing how to conserve energy so the use of a generator or engine is limited. Knowing which local attractions are free. Trying to stretch their budget as far as it will go.

One has to try and maintain a level of dignity as a live aboard. Doing laundry is harder than at home, shopping is a chore without a car, having to lug the bags to the dinghy and then from the dinghy to the boat and maintaining a level of cleanliness has t be worked on. Water is a precious commodity at anchor and so is the electricity to heat it. 

But wait there is more. Here in Vancouver you can see it all. Teams of Dragon boats race up and down the creek. Their occupants, both young and old, being mercilessly beaten into action by their paid coxswain. There are Kayakers taking their first experience of being in control on the water. Pleased with themselves. Smiles and waves of joy as they go by. River cruises with drunken passengers in loose fitting summer dress. Then there are people in unsuitable craft, like a family of 5 we saw paddling a small inflatable dinghy, suitable only for a pond, up the river against the tide and with no life vests. (They were eventually taken off the water by the river police but not after enduring a two hour paddle to go half a mile and all sun burnt). A steady stream of water buses that look like miniature tugs or paddle steamers pass by carrying their passengers from different parts of the city.

Along the shore we have dog walkers, fishermen, sunbathers, vagrants and I even had a woman breast feeding her baby only yards from the stern of our boat- eyes left please.

Every place we visit brings a new vista and experiences and few places are the same. Spying is a quintessential cruising pastime embraced by all and binoculars are their tool.