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May 31, 2003

 

Today I could pull the sword from the stone. I feel good! Maybe I'll do an end-zone dance right here on the dock. It is the first of May - a glorious springtime is underway - and I have won again. I have successfully emerged from the seemingly eternal slate gray overcast of another Northwest winter. This winter experience is superceded only by the seemingly-eternal FROZEN gray overcast on the opposite coast - a winter in Maine. Morning brought blue skies and sun on the horizon, and it held all day. The daffodils are in full bloom. I can see across Sidney Channel where a huge Washington State Ferry slowly plies the blue water past Sidney Spit on its way to Friday Harbor. Behind the ferry is the peak of Mt. Baker, a majestic snow capped mountain that, today, no longer looks cold.

Ellen and I, aboard "Love of Liberty," have re-gained our life sublime. Our cruise will be short this season. By June 15 we will have changed this beautiful cutter, "Love of Liberty", from winter configuration to summer configuration. Our new clear vinyl cockpit enclosure will be removed, folded and stowed under a bunk. The temporary workbench and tools from up forward will come out, and we'll convert the space back into a double berth. Engine oil, zincs, fuel filters and oil filters will have been replaced. The freezer and the lockers will be loaded with stores. Then, we will dare something new as we plan to head out the Straight of Juan de Fuca and sail up to Barkley Sound, an island filled bay on the more rugged west side of Vancouver Island. Here the Vancouver shoreline meets the world's largest ocean. The winter storms are fierce there, but the summer weather is easier because the descending Gulf of Alaska weather is deflected by the northward moving Pacific high pressure. Large ocean waves develop hundreds of miles off shore and compress against the ragged shore becoming closer together and steeper.This and the rocky cliffs keep casual sailors away. That assures un-crowded anchorages and solitary shore trips where we can explore historic villages and artifacts from early explorers and First Nation Inhabitants. A few weeks later, we'll return to the Gulf Islands, cross the Straight of Georgia, enter Desolation Sound, transit the rapids and enter The Discovery Islands. The ultimate destination is Rivers Inlet just past the northern tip of Vancouver Island. We will cast off lines, set some sail and leave this frazzled moneyed civilization ashore. Somewhere ahead, we will try to report our feelings and our experiences as slightly irrational short term transients on yet another Northwest waterway.

A news report stated that British Columbia backcountry bears are coming out of winter hibernation, and, reasonably, the bears are hungry. They need to load up on fresh food like berries and grubs and salmon and - as has happened with grizzlies­ a tasty human-being meal. I, when I hike the back forest areas, fear an encounter with a bear, so I look at Ursus arctos horribilis (aka grizzly bear) with a great respect. But beyond that fear, I feel their "lifestyle" has an appeal to me, for I believe that these furry creatures have the very best method for enduring a long winter. How good it would be to hibernate as they do and just rest in a deep sleep throughout the dreary months of winter. Grow a layer of fat, thicken your fur and curl up to sleep through the dark months in a warm hole. If only I could drift into a deep sleep and wake up at the first of spring ­ rested, slightly hungry and aggressive once more. A hibernation sleep must be a wonderful way.

The Spring Port Sidney Boat Show is on, and the harbor is chock-a-block with brokerage boats and boat stuff. The docks are outfitted with sitting areas - inviting little sites with chairs, umbrellas and tables topped with colorful potted flowers. The pier pilings have brackets holding even more baskets planted with spring flowers. Everything has been scrubbed down, and the place looks nice. There's also the necessary and unnecessary boating stuff for sale. Under a huge tent on the customs dock are the small product vendors. They'll sell you machines and devices that will make your boat just like your house. For instance there's boat garbage disposals, boat heater/air conditioners with thermostats, compact boat washer/dryer units, boat hot tubs with multiple water jets, and electronic software that will take you and your boat computer on a virtual sailboat race. Add devices like that to your boat, and your well-designed, offshore capable yacht will be transformed into a plump, demanding, high maintenance, trouble prone fluffy harbor queen. Nevertheless, the show attracts a throng of dreamy boat shoppers who stroll about in the warm spring sunshine and spend.

Newcomers to the dock are especially fascinating. Here, they seem to originate a "romance with the sea" as they see all of this and overhear little seafaring conversations. Every few feet - and usually within earshot - is some fast-talking apostle with a beard, a Greek fisherman's hat, cutoffs, a thick belt with a sailor's knife and sandals speaking loud enough to be easily heard. Heavily tanned, and acting like a cult figure, his sailing story rambles on and on as he describes some monumental crisis in his tiny sailboat far out in the ocean. "His boat was rolled on its beam ends by a gigantic breaking wave. He was hurled from his bunk and had he not had a King Neptune Sea Anchor out, he'd be a dead man." Be suspicious. More likely, it's just something - some fiction - that he read in a book. He really lives out on a cattle ranch in Calgary. I, myself, overheard some nonsense about a long lasting varnishing technique - mix one quart of teak oil with one quart of varnish. You have to wait ten days for it to dry - but, of course, as this mystic of the maritime says, "This super finish will last a lifetime."

Outdoing all else are the inevitable boat brokers - ever present at boat shows and always searching for someone with an open wallet. Flashing in and out like sharks in a school of sardines, they mill amongst the dock crowds . Just approach one, ask a few questions and thereby, somehow, reveal that you have some money. Then say, " ... you have always liked boats" - and that is all it takes. You will be sized-up as a possible buyer. You will be worthy of more of the broker's time. One broker, I noticed, had his teeth sunk in the ankle of a semi-interested boat buyer. The broker was very subtle as he described his favorite, featured, flag adorned yacht for sale. He praised the boat's quality construction, seaworthiness and comforts.

The sign at the boat's rail said, "Remove shoes before boarding." Lookers are mesmerized so easily. They willingly take off their footwear, lower their defenses and advance aboard barefoot. Now shoeless, the novice buyer is nudged down the companionway to the cabin below. There he's shown the accoutrements of the "unbelievably voluminous cabin" suitable for sleeping the wife, the children and several neighbors. He's told that THIS boat was " certified for sailing around the world." A ceramic vase with flowers sits on the galley counter next to a stack of full color brochures. An embroidered tablecloth covers the galley table. Matching hand soap and shampoo dispensers were set side by side near the sink in the head. A price number in dollars US is softly mentioned to the novice buyer - including the boat show discount that is good for just five days. This forces the novice buyer's eyes to cross. To justify a barely earned commission for the upcoming deal, the broker described himself euphemistically as "...an enabler of personal dreams." The show lasts just five days.

Our cruising plan is made, and the course is set. Ahead is Sooke Harbor, Race Rocks, Point No Point, River Jordan, Ucluelet, Uchucklesit Inlet and Pocahontas Point. I am committed. Now my 64 year old physical body ­more and more prone to unsteadyness, aches and pains - must set out on a cruise and own up to what the mind has set out to do. Once underway, however, I will feel ten years younger. Soon the news on television will be unobtainable, advertising becomes irrelevant, and freeway traffic jams will be meaningless. Out there we will become neutral earthly inhabitants, tiny vagabonds who just go sailing and become entangled in the hidden coves and the cedar lined narrow channels of this enormous, incredible Inside Passage.

With regards to all,

Terry and Ellen and "Love of Liberty"

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