Sunday, September 28, 2008

Back in Seattle, done sailing (for now)

I made it back to Seattle, and I'm done with any big sailing trips for now. I'll be in town for two weeks, then drive down to play Regionals (frisbee) in Corvallis, Oregon, and then continue on on a road trip across the country. The world is still my Oyster, and I'm going to explore as much of it as I can. On my way back to Seattle, from Bellingham, I almost got run over by a cargo ship, a submarine, and I stopped at Smith Island for the night and had a great time there. I also saw a Minke Whale.
One of the adventures I had on Smith island is kind of Indiana Jones-eske... I anchored and paddled up to the cliff edge, and walked over to where the house in the picture is closest to the edge, and there is an old foundation that was another house, that fell off the cliff a long time ago, as the cliff has been progressing backwards. I saw it and took a picture of the foundation a long time ago, maybe you will see it in an earlier post...
Anyways, that old place was a power station, I think, because I found some old rusted generator motors in the sand on the beach, and I walked up to the edge of the cliff and two old (OLD) and corroded blue copper wires hung down the cliff. Like vines in the jungle! I grasped my hands around the wires and it felt like home. Up, up, up the sand cliff, my feet kicking clods and castles down the face of the sheer drop, my camera on my back and my kukri in my pocket. Up I go! I made it to the top, and with a bit of scramble, I was there!

So now, I am getting my stuff together, moving out of my room in the house I'm renting, and packing for a road trip and travels. If you think of any good places to go, let me know.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


just got back from Sectionals, which was the reason for coming back into the USA so early... And what a blast! We started out in a pool of 4 teams, because there were 8 teams total in the section, so two pools, we play 3 games saturday, then that sets the ranking for the brackets and we play a double elimination to decide which the top 3 teams go on to the next tournament.
So we came out and blasted our way through our pool, and won all three games, putting us in the semi-finals. We won in the semis, putting us in the finals against Shazam, which was the national champs last year. We then played a very hard fought game and won on double game point, 16-15. So we won the section, and we're going to regionals in a couple weeks. This affects my plans, of course, I'll have to be there. I'm going to stay in Bellingham for a few days and then get down to Seattle on friday, and I think that will be the last of the big sailing trips for me for a while.
Hopefully I'll get my act together and make a couple projects in this week and some good repairs on the boat, so she's in pristine condition.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Kingcome, again, and return trip...

I made it back to Bellingham, and I have a tourney tomorrow, so all is right in the world, I guess.
Kingcome was quite an experience, I think I'll try to go back if Abe is there again next year. I wrote some things about the feast and the return trip on the way back:
The Feast:
My heart is full. I am water, and I overflow with emotion right now, a spring that was building all weekend long is pouring into my soul. The native people here are from the land, and it is theirs, and I am a visitor, yet I feel their sorrows and pain flood into me, I feel the struggle for identity and pride, and I am touched. The land has a profound effect, and I am walking barefoot in it.

Abe helped host a feast for the harvesting of some roots which are a traditional food, and I came up with my dad to see the ceremony, and since it’s a thing that hasn’t been done in a long time, the whole village is turned by the importance of such a simple thing as food. Abe made a bunch of gifts, and since it is a potlatch, he gave them out to everyone. There were dancers with masks, and the drums ring through my bones, every beat a thump from the heart of the mountains, a pounding from the earth. Others beat sticks on a log, which sends shivers down my core, and I shiver. Grouse comes out and looks at me, shaking a rattle, dancing across the floor, around the fire in the center, sending sparks and smoke up through the hole in the roof. Then Stump, and the other masks come out on the floor to dance, and the story of the forest unfolds. Children, two of them, are climbing all over me, as if I were a tree in the forest outside, and whispering in my ears and trying to pull my hair and beard. They play and make me feel like a foundation for humanity while I am humbled by the meaning and the reality outside of the forest. The land is mountains and water, bones and flesh. I am water, flowing out through the land, I am the stone, beating with the drums of the potlatch.

After, and the return trip:

I’m writing on the evening of Wednesday, September 17, 2008, around 10:00, and under way, passing Qualicum Beach out in the Strait of Georgia. We’re making better time by continuing on through the night, but there hasn’t been much wind, so we’ve been forced to motor a lot. After the feast on Sunday night, I slept pretty well, and got up to go down the river with the grad students group. We were late in getting to the docks, and therefore rushed, and I put all my gear in the other boat, then forgot to double check to make sure that everything was there, and my bag that has my jersey for the tourney this weekend was left in the hands of the grad students. So now we’re going to Victoria to collect that. We put everything (almost) on the boat, and started up the engine and went over to collect our shrimp pot, which had a few very nice sized prawns, then motored our way through the day out to Queen Charlotte Strait and across it. The day was very nice, and we saw a lot of wildlife; lots of Sea Lions out on a rock and a bunch of Humpback Whales. Humpbacks are kind of playful, in my eyes, so these ones were sticking their tails out of the water and flipping fins out, making a big splash here and there. No breaching, unfortunately, but good light for pictures. Tuesday, we got up and started away in really thick fog, which took until about noon to burn off, and we almost made it the 50 miles (nm) to Seymore Narrows, but we missed it by about an hour, so we anchored in a bay near the narrows to wait until the next morning. Throughout the day on Tuesday we saw a bunch of porpoises, some with white on the inside of the dorsal fins, which I don’t know, and some Dahl’s porpoises. The Dahl’s Porpoises chased us around for about 5 minutes and came spitting out in front of our bow, trying to ride the pressure wave. I’ve never had any kind of porpoise or dolphin do that to my sailboat, so its kind of an honor to have that. My dad and I got a nice view down over them as they were swimming there, graceful, and fast, but pulling crazy maneuvers, turning almost faster than I could follow with my eyes. Like a mirage below the waves, rippling this way and that. I like Dahl’s Porpoises, the coloration of them.

We anchored right next to an old fish pen that night and got up the next morning (this morning) at 5:45 and took off through the narrows. No trouble there, but I was expecting a bit more of a boost going through, I figured we’d get there a bit before slack and go screaming through, but we didn’t have hardly any current at all, and then it turned a little bit against us. We made it to Campbell River all right and got fuel and showers and food, then took off again, against a hard current, and motored until now. The plan is to make it to Sidney and meet up with Victoria (a grad student in Abe’s department) who has my bag of stuff, and then go to Roche Harbor to cross the border into the USA and blast on home to Bellingham. Hopefully we’ll make it by Friday. Then the tourney (sectionals) on sat, and after that, I think I’ll work on a wind vane project I think I can build for the boat.

Back in the USA! We made it to Victoria and got my bag, then managed to make it to the border crossing on time, and are presently anchored at Jones Island, in the San Juans. We’ll get in to Bellingham tomorrow sometime. This trip is winding to a close, but I feel really good about the whole thing. I looked over all the pictures I took and I’ve come a long ways since leaving the country on August 24th. Its been a month (almost) and I’ve experienced a lot of different culture, both Canadian and in Kingcome. And in Qualicum. I’ve managed to survive two weeks with my dad, and one week with Ric, and a week on my own.

I feel like I made some new friends, mostly in Kingcome, and I had children crawling over me there, which makes me wonder if I could be a dad. My dad would have a kid picking at his beard, and then they would come over and pick at mine, trying to tear little fistfuls of hair out of my chin… But the kids bestow a sense of joy that I’ve never felt before. They trust me. I guess I don’t trust myself as much as they trust me. They throw themselves into the air and I will catch them. When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose. These kids don’t worry about what they have, and then they are free. I guess I’ve been worrying a lot about the boat, and my things inside, and all sorts of things. Security, I guess. I am searching for it, instead of allowing it to be or not to be.

It feels good to be back, and to have a night of rest ahead, without worry, but I had a great time on the trip. I'm not exactly sure when I'll be back in Seattle, but probably soon.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Kingcome (Gwa'yi)

The town of Kingcome holds wonders and suprises. I found a lot, and am still finding a lot, of joys, culture, and strength here. I wrote a bunch of stuff last night and before, so here is that:

We left on a foggy morning, drifting against the still winds and unhelpful currents, in the grey pre-dawn light, for Alert Bay. Abe had to get there by 7:45, so we got up at 5:30 and began motoring the 7 miles. We were being entrusted with these ceremonial masks for the potlatch that Abe will put on, something that made me a little nervous, because I don’t like to put too much value on a boat I am captaining. After Alert Bay, we took off again, and fought the current some more, going through some little passages in the islands nearby, then we crossed the Queen Charlotte Strait and started doing some fishing. The current was against us, and the wind at our backs, so we rolled up all our sails and the wind moved us ever so slowly forward, but we could fish along the kelp beds on the way. Dad did a good job of catching a lot of fish, and we had some good eating that night. We anchored near Monday Anchorage, and we found a shrimp pot out in the middle of the strait, abandoned, tangled up in the kelp, and in really deep water, so we picked it up and gave it a try ourselves. The next morning (Thursday) we picked the pot and got some shrimp (which we had for lunch) and away we went. Basically we motored the whole day, with a tiny bit of sailing once we got into Kingcome Inlet. The fishing in Kingcome was really good, I caught two flounders and a myriad of rock fish. We got into the government dock in Kingcome at 6 and got a ride up the river to town.

This is where I’ve come to realize where I am. Civilization is a town. Altair is like camping, but after sailing into the far reaches of BC, and then leaving my precious boat behind, we got driven up a river for about 30 minutes on a dugout cedar canoe (with an outboard). It felt like going into the Amazon rainforest, except cold as hell and I wasn’t worried about the Crocodiles. The water is milky from the glacial runoff, and it’s glacial.

We got into town, and everyone knows Abe, so a lot of people we passed said hi and we stopped and got introduced and talked a while. We had to unload the huge pile of food we brought in my boat, so after that we went over to a neighbor’s house for dinner, and I had some of the best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever had. Now it is time to go to bed. It is so funny to have electricity and heat. When was the last time I slept on land? Qualicum Beach?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Today we get up and go down to the flats (near the mouth of the river) and we will go dig up the roots that Abe has been growing in the gardens down there. This is going to be the most important day, because harvesting the roots is the reason for the feast. But I will tell about that after it happens.
Yesterday was quite a day, we got up and tended to all the people arriving for the feast, Abe worrying about everything and rushing around to make sure things turned out all right. I went down the river again, to move my boat, and then came up in the dugout canoe again. It really stuns me how special this place is, that you have to take a boat or a plane, and then take another boat, in order to get here. After collecting everyone, we all got together for dinner. What an event. Adam spoke for grace, before eating, but in Kwa’kwalla, and then everyone lined up from the eldest to the youngest to get food.

Once everyone had eaten we people started standing up to make speeches about Abe, Adam, the feast, Lucy (who was having a birthday party that night), and all the other people in the room. I even got named, being thanked for being there, which was quite special. The speeches went on for about an hour and a half and the kids began to get restless, so I went outside to play with them, and jumped on the trampoline for a little while with them before going inside.
Floyd was inside watching TV, and we started talking, and he told me the story of the Squamish creation story. I’ll try to relate it.

In the earliest day, Man was immortal, created by the Thunderbird out of the Universe and he lived on a mountain top, surrounded by water. Man didn’t know anything about the world, but he learned everything from the animals. He watched the animals finding mates and raising young and taking care of each other, and he wanted to have the same, but could not. Then he tried to kill himself, because it overwhelmed him to understand the love and caring the animals had, but could not share it. But he was immortal, so he could not die when he threw himself from the mountain into the water.

In the depths of the sea, he realized that he wanted Woman to share the world with, so he asked the Thunderbird, and the Thunderbird told Man that he could have Woman, but he could not be immortal anymore. So Man took a rib from his body and put it in the earth, and made Woman. Woman is of the earth, Man is of the Universe.

Saturday proper: We got up decently early and went down to the flats, which is the area right at the mouth of the river, to dig up some roots that Abe’s been cultivating for this feast all summer. We dug them up, and spent some time filming the traditional things about the digging, and had a good time with all that, then went back to the town, and we got invited to a naming ceremony feast, where we all had a great dinner in the Big House, which is like a long house. I spent a lot of time with William, a young boy who is learning a lot about the culture and always wants to play on the trampoline with me. I got a few pictures of him. There are also some little girls that had a great time on the trampoline, they all wanted me to hold them while bouncing as high as I could, and then they would squeal as loud as they could in my ear. Ahh, children…

I feel welcome in this town. I feel like I could make home here almost. I like it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

To Kingcome or bust!

I just packed the entire forward compartment full, and I mean FULL of food and gear that my loving brother was gracious to need me to take to Kingcome for this feast of his.
But lets go back a few days... I dropped off Ric and picked up my Dad on Saturday, the 7th, and then Dad and I went out across the Queen Charlotte Straight and into Broughton Island, into Booker Lagoon, where my brother told me I should go, and we had a jolly good time of catching gigantic fish one after another. The weather turned into foggy rain, but we ate very well, having these rockfish and greenling (types of cod) for supper, breakfast and snacks. We stayed there for a day and then came back the next, leaving on the 9th to get back to Port McNeill to pick up Abe. Which is where I am now.
And the future holds great promise. We're going to Kingcome Inlet, then on to the town or village of Kingcome, and we'll have a feast while there. I'm taking Abe, my Dad, and about 500 lbs of food, and tomorrow we'll pick up some tremendously valuable native masks for the feast, and fit them in somewhere. We'll arrive in Kingcome on the 11th, and proceed to work our hands to the bones helping dearest Abe with his prep work and then have the feast and then make all possible haste to the great southland where the sun might shine, so I can play in a tournament in Burlington. Ultimate frisbee, you know, it's the kind of thing you just can't live without.
And just like that, there goes September.
I'll probably write more after the tourney, on the 21st or so.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Diving video

I forgot to add this diving video from the speargun-cam on the last post...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

From Vancouver to Port McNeill

I just did a week long passage with Ric, a friend from Bellingham, where he made it to Vancouver and I met him there, then we sailed up Vancouver Island (about 200 miles of it) and we ended up in Port McNeill.
I wrote some things on the way, I guess some of it starts before picking up Ric.

I took two days to get back to Vancouver after Qualicum Beach, and I stopped on the way at the Ballinas islands, in the middle of the Strait of Georgia. I noticed that one of the islands is for sale for 1.6 million dollars, so I might be in the market for some real estate. They are beautiful, of course, similar to Smith island in the remoteness, except that these are not a wildlife preserve, so people come out here to visit. There were mooring ties, so I tied up to one of those for the night, but the wind was howling through there, so there were some waves that kept me rocking a bit through the night. I got to do some exploring, and the island has a few little hills that I climbed, but I think I want to go back and explore some more.

I cooked on the beach that night, and it was a pleasant evening without worrying about the boat drifting around. The next morning I got up early and took off around the island to have a look around. I got around to the leeward side and then dropped an anchor and went for a little walk. The sky was amazingly clear, it had cleared up over the night, and the sun hadn’t started pulling water into the sky and making clouds or fog or anything, so it was like a cold winter day looking north from Sehome hill.
So I finally got under way at around 10, and rolled out the jib (did I talk about the roller jib that I made for the boat? I am very proud of myself for making it, just 2 weeks ago, for about 50 bucks. Now is the trial period for it, but its working out well) and headed out to Vancouver. I was worried about the amount of wind, because it was supposed to be small craft advisory, but I eventually rolled up the jib and popped the spinnaker to get more speed and made really good time to Vancouver.

Vancouver is an amazing city, but I never knew it before. There are mountains with ski areas within public bus rides from the city, there are steep mountains like right next to North Bend, rising up from the plains, but the plains are the water, so there’s the strait of Georgia right there too. Coming into the city is a lot like coming into San Francisco, where you start turning some corners with big light houses around them, and the current starts to make a potato patch outside the entrance, and there is a big bridge in the distance that you watch grow. This bridge is the Lion’s Gate Bridge, and I (foolishly) decided I wanted to sail under it, so when I pulled up anchor and untied myself from the cliff I was tied to (I had a 3 point anchor system for that night to keep myself 6 ft from the cliff edge and in a nice, but small, cove), I headed for the bridge. I had some time before I was to meet Ric at Granville Island. The current was pulling me inland, under the bridge, so I made it under really quickly, but then I needed to turn around and head back out to get to Granville Island, and I wondered how strong the current was at this time. I think it was just starting to build, so it was only about 3 knots, so I made it out, but I think it builds to enough to where I would have been late to the meeting place had I timed things wrong.

Granville Island is like Pike Place Market, crowded and busy and full of people and smells and music and really expensive. I didn’t feel much at home there, but we ended up buying some fruit and then heading out.

The wind was at my back going north to Qualicum Beach, then it switched while I was there, and was at my back (Northwest winds) pushing me to Vancouver, and then after picking up Ric, we headed out Monday morning with a snappy Southeast wind filling the spinnaker and tugging us along at about an average of 6 knots all day long. We made 60 miles in one day, which is really quite a long shot I think. We anchored and tied up to shore in two places at this little tiny island near Russ Creek on Texada Island, and I caught a fish and we had pasta and fish and sausages and hot chocolate. All cooked over a little open fire on the rock. Lots of mosquitos, and I had a tough time sleeping, with all the constant slapping and the thunderous chop-chop of the wing beats.

Tuesday we took off from Texada and made it most of the way across the Strait of Georgia, headed for Campbell River, but the wind died and (is now heading from the Northwest again) we got tired of sitting, so we motored over to a little island called Mitlenach island. Its really similar to Smith island, since its out in the middle and nobody comes here, kind of like Ballinas islands too. I climbed to the top, but this one is big enough that I couldn’t explore the whole thing. There were apple trees here and there, and a lot of small scrub trees and some bigger ones in the valleys, and little cacti here and there as well, clinging to life on the scoured rock. There is a little cabin for the ranger of the island, since it’s a nature area or a park or something, but nobody’s home now. Lots of oysters, some Oystercatchers, and I went fishing and caught a sea urchin, which somehow snagged the line, and something really big took the hook and ran with it, zipping out line, for about 50 ft and then promptly let go, so I don’t know what it was, but it was strong. There are a ton of seals around, but I don’t think a seal would be dumb enough to take the hook, and I don’t see how they could let it go so easily. I think maybe a cod or big rockfish or something. Maybe I’ll give it another shot tomorrow.

Ric made a speargun for me, so I have to go diving sometime soon and try to spear some fish with it. Most likely I’ll use it for poking things, and look for fish and then come back later with the rod and reel to get them, but if I can get a fish on the spear that would be neat.

Its Friday now, September 5, and I haven’t written anything in a while, but here’s what we’ve been up to. After Mitlenach island, we went to Campbell River in the morning and went around town for some shopping, which seems to be a very popular thing to do there, there is a mall right next to the harbor. After getting some food and getting frustrated with the prices on other things, like marine equipment and electronics stuff (I want to make a small antenna extender, but I’m having a lot of trouble with the cable, and nobody sells it) so we took off again and made for a bay across from Campbell River. We double anchored (a set-up that I had just made the day before, and I am really quite happy with it so far) and then canoed over to a shipwreck to discover what we could find. Jackpot! I pulled out a nice sized wood stove, perfect for a boat! And a couple of shackles and some chain and a fender that matches one I’ve had for a while. The stove was the jackpot, but it’s in critical condition and is presently in urgent care. I built a fire in it to heat it up, because at some high temperature (its on a chart in the Materials Engineering books) and at some oxygen pressure, the stability of Iron Oxide becomes worse than Iron, so things un-rust. Also, it helps to chip the rust off. I’ve got a nice project to work on, and if it doesn’t work, I’ve got an anchor to throw overboard. And Mom, if you read this, you might be able to use this for cookouts for Civil War stuff.

The next morning we passed through Seymore Narrows, where currents can get up to 13 knots and “take the pleasure out of Pleasure Boating” according to a book Ric brought with us. We got up early to make it to the narrows and made it there before the current shift and then blasted on through. It wasn’t that bad, I was figuring on big waves, but it was quite smooth, then the current got behind us and we took off. We motored most of the day, anchoring in Helmken Island. A beautiful place, for sure, but well known, it seems. We got in early, and everyone is heading southbound, because it’s the end of the season, but there were two other boats there that night.
We were there alone in the evening, so I’ll talk about that. The anchorage is a nice little cove, nearly round it seems when you’re in it, and you drop a hook in the middle and have a nice little swing around. We paddled ashore and I got on my dive gear and went for a swim, in probably the clearest water I’ve been in yet, but cold, like little arctic mosquitoes driving their ice into your head. I brought the speargun that Ric made for me, and took some video with the video camera mounted on the speargun; the “GunCam,” as Ric called it. I didn’t see any fish, sadly, though I saw a lot of other things, like sea urchins. I like the guncam, but I think I need to take longer time looking at things with it, because my video skills are still too jerky.
We then made a big fire and I got warm and we cooked dinner and went to bed. Ric said he saw two other boats in the night, but in the morning there was only one, and they left when we did. We sailed a bit today, tacking back and forth in the current, and we made about 10 miles by sail, but then the winds died and we motored the rest of the way. We’re in Boat Bay, about 20 miles from Port McNeill and we’ll make the rest tomorrow.
Boat Bay is across the Johnstone Strait from a whale preserve, so hopefully we’ll see whales tomorrow, and there are two little camps that house kayakers and whale-watchers and rangers (wardens) who try to keep the whale (harassers) watchers in check. We talked to one of the wardens and she was nice. Then I went fishing and didn’t catch anything and we cooked a fish-less dinner. Salmon are jumping all around us as I type and they mock me. Maybe I’ll go swim tomorrow and get on with a spear, and we’ll see how much they mock me then…

We did see the whales, and I got a few pictures...