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April 7, 2002

Port Sidney Harbor, British Columbia, Canada

48° 39.13' N 123° 23.62 W

 

 Sky low overcast, rising winds, snow flurries, possible freeze overnight.

"Snow flurries, possible freeze over night." "Rising winds!" The automated voice on the weather channel VHF Channel 2 sounds like Lurch from the Addams Family. A sailor here described this meteorological conundrum as "Nine months of winter and three months of bad weather." I'm beginning to believe it. British Columbia is supposed to have the mildest climate in Canada, but this unusual winter still has Port Sidney in its clutches. 'Elvis', the harbor seal, looks thin. I opened a faucet on the pier so 'The Ladies', the two resident white swans, could sip some fresh water. At the navigation desk I looked at the northwest charts daydreaming about sunny, tree lined inlets surrounded by towering snow capped mountain peaks. Surely in June the weather will become awesome. On the docks last week some kids with duffel bags arrived from Calgary. They climbed over the rail of a big charter ketch and headed out for a wet and chilly spring cruise. Compared to Calgary they thought this "was real warm."

Later in the day, still under the ashen overcast, the snow has somehow melted from the decks. As usual, the winds - holding steady at 30 to 35 knots - were rolling unchecked up the straights and through Sidney Harbor. Only once did we go outside the boat. Inside the warm cabin of 'Love of Liberty' I had just finished some sea-talk with tugboat Captain Ron - a 'lifer' in the deep-sea tugboat business. Wearing his 3/4 black leather coat he climbed up our companionway, and lifted his collar up over his graying ponytail. Hunched over, one hand on the boom, he steadied himself as he crossed the deck and jumped to the dock. He shuffled away in the dark growling, "Looks like the winds are up." I pulled the hatch over the companionway and closed the door. Pushing in around the edges the north wind funneled inside anyhow. I backed down the ladder. Ellen and I ignored the boat's heel and rhythmic surge against the dock lines. We were warm, and we were comfortable as we sat for dinner at our listing cabin table. Centered in the candlelight was a bottle of our home made Zinfandel and a hot pesto pasta. Our new cabin heater, bolted to the bulkhead, has a glass window that shows the heat-radiating yellow flames. We unfolded our napkins, toasted a little wine and picked up our forks - just as "Love of Liberty" was staggered with a 51-knot gust of wind. Our rich red Zinfandel, pewter wine glasses, plates of pesto pasta and candles, like so much flotsam, slid from the table to the deck. This weather is for adventurers who like to weather cold nor-easters and offshore winter storms. I'm a coastal cruising sailor seeking snug coves for each night at anchor. Short of having hurricanes, these conditions compete with our East Coast sufferings a few years ago. Me thinks, I've had enough of this. If I could take a bead on it, I'd lower cannons, fill the breeches with grapeshot and blow the whole mess back to Alaska - where, as the Canadians say, their cold weather comes from in the first place.

What's in this lifestyle for anyone? I think I can answer that. Surely I seek the homely comforts, - but not a life in a padded cell. Without warm sun, white clouds, biting cold and some wild wind there is no poetry to this life. I enjoy being near the earth, close to an ocean sunrise, anchored in a secret cove. Spring water tastes better than champagne. Our sailboat shifts and moves with the currents, rises and falls with the tides, heels with the wind. Here we freely compose life by ear, by feel, by instinct and desire. Only the tax-man, special friends and our kids know where we are. We may move someplace else tomorrow where there's a waterfall cascading from the cliffs to the lagoon, or we may sail to a small town's harbor. For us, each day is a little leap in the dark - simple, romantic and without previous experience. Should you finish your day with nothing new to talk about, - your day is nothing.

Consumed by a passion for work - as I was - it became hard to know if a day was sunny, cloudy, rainy, cold, warm or foggy. The thermostat in the hall adjusted things so I was heated or air-conditioned or kept comfortably lukewarm. Then, that hard earned success at work brings on a desire to buy and accumulate things. Buy something and feel good. How do we become insensibly attached to so many things - possessions that only gave back a great deal of trouble. Owning and maintaining too much occupies precious time and mutes life. Moored near 'Love of Liberty', is a large yacht requiring $11,000 monthly just to maintain it in the berth. The owner needs a crew to take it out. Something is always under repair. The owner, who deals weekly with mechanics, crew, technicians and service people, went out on the water three times last season. Although this owner can well afford it, the yacht requires constant time consuming attention as the owner hires, fires and trusts a cadre of workers. Every day I walk past empty yachts like that. That type of wealth and what it brings is insular. I have crewed aboard race boats where the owner steers to the starting line and then relinquishes the helm to the crew. The crew sails the boat on the race. Around this classy marina, walk owners of miniature empires - working endlessly trying to turn lead into gold, and somehow acting no different than chickens scratching for corn. There are so many of them. They try to hold multiple assets, all the while being held absent from the joys their scheme is supposed to bring. Poverty - or wealth - does not bring happiness. Just couple some hard work with life's natural assets, and you can make this life flourish. You will be in possession of good fortune for it's really "about solitude, perspective in retirement, small coastal villages, good humor, some patience, adventure books ..... and the smell of fresh coffee wafting from the galley."

 

With regards, Terry and Ellen

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