Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sailboat Adventure Story. Part 1.

Previously Released as a 40 pager on my other blog, now to be released in digestible sections. This took place in may-june 2010.

We woke around eight in the morning and the sun was shinning, a bit chilly so we all wore thick jackets that Danny had on board. Motoring out of the harbor we spoke about the right of public space, a theme that would continue through our time with Danny. Apparently the port authority attempted to charge the boaters that moored in the bay, some refused to pay rent, we cursed the those that did; the weekend sailors that gave any validity to such blatant extortion. The ever present updates of the marine radio station informed our rout and we took off under sail and motor out of the beautiful bay, the early hour meant the tides would carry us with ample room through the narrow passages. Soon we had turned the motor off, packed a bowl of hash, kept keen eyes on the markers, sipped whiskey and sailed off into the straight of Gorgia. Bliss was a fair description of how we were feeling. This brand new relationship with Steph had such flow it was if we'd spent ages together in previous lives. After two days of hanging out, she readily agreed to "go on an adventure" and suddenly we found ourselves in ideal circumstances; Danny was as jovial a singing sailor as could be, the boat was sound and constantly in a chaotic party state, we were learning sea shanties and all the practical knowledge necessary for navigating a 45 foot sailboat. Into the channel, civilization slipped away, we settled into a slow but steady pace and marveled at the passing landscape of Gabriola Island. Danny's plan and general lifestyle revolved around popping into bars and markets with his guitar, doing some busking and meeting with managers and owners for the purpose of booking shows later on. The music life is what brought us together and would carry us onward.

The B Fuller is a ketch, meaning it's fore mast is higher then it's aft, it's Danny's home, means of transportation and party vessel. He'd come from a big family in Alberta, had been a social worker, a TV repairman, was provincial delegate for the NDP, headed a Nanaimo house boat association, was married twice, had a number of adult children in various states of communication and had left the conventional life for one of excitement on the open waters. For the last few years he'd traveled around the gulf Islands, mostly based in Nanaimo, performing wherever he could, receiving a small government pension; living the Bacchus life through and through. Fascinated by history and politics, his 65 year old mind was sharp and seemed to get keener after he cracked the daily bottle. "Sailing just isn't the same without whiskey." A husky build he moved around the limited space with the grace of a young man, scraggly hair blustering when the wind picked up, his blue eyes were crisp, constantly gagging the water and wind. Steph and I were transformed those first few days on the boat, we'd both sailed before, she's even worked on a ship yard, but suddenly we were in a new realm; attention and balance had to be sharp, suddenly we were a crew. The Be Fuller had sat on blocks after being owned by a celebrity in Malibu, Danny bought it for the price of a house in the seventies and never looked back on his old life. Stability was the reason he'd liked it, quite wide, easy passage along the sides, the cockpit fit 6 comfortably and inside ten could party while being just a bit squished. The back deck was covered with roped-down paddles, an extra generator, crab-trap and various things found on a live-in sail boat, behind was towed two dingies, one a small wooden sail boat, the other a fiberglass rowboat. The cockpit had milk crates filled with food in various stales of decomposition; without refrigeration, innovation was imperative and sour milk pancakes proved delicious. On the cockpit benches sat long cushion which were a constant negotiation; more comfortable then the bare wood, but tares in the seam meant water would seep in, soak up and disperse at the worst of times. We were having so much fun that it didn't really matter though.

The Aluminum steering wheel was about four feet across; we used our feet and hands to maneuver while on the bench. My sailing experience had been on day sailors, never bigger then 18 feet, but guiding the course of that ship came quite easily. Sailing is a constant negotiation between a desired destination and the direction of the wind, the centerboard acting as leverage between the two. Occasionally we'd put the boat on autopilot, the radio, ignition and electronic navigation systems being embedded in the wheel stand. If the coast was clear, we'd set the course, listen for the mechanical whirring of the components and amuse ourselves by reading, playing guitar and banjo, pouring more drinks, smoking Danny's bunk shake, catching some z's or preparing food in the cabin.

Pulling into the southeast corner of Gabriola Island, the small harbor was alive with boating culture. I though back to my friend Dave the police officer talking about living in or out of "the system" because here as everywhere, the system and society, is hypothetical and fluid. As the sun set, a cluster of boats of every fashion and form dotted the naturally protected harbor, much smaller the then one we'd left that morning. An ancient Chinese looking vessel floated proudly by and just a bit further a single mast was covered with all the accouterments of a happy pack rack. Further, someone was busily cleaning a fancy looking yacht, beside it a stream of smoke floated from a cozy looking double mast. Further on a black cat encircled the wheels of bicycle perched on the stern of houseboat. This was a hub, people from all over stopped to refuel, reconnect and head back out onto the great vastness of the natural landscape. Before heading to shore, Danny was engrossed with internet chess on his laptop, the connection kept going sour, causing him to curse out loud, it was the only time I'd seen him mad. Apparently the lost connection meant a loss would be on his record, he got over it and ventured into land to check out the bar with hopes of a gig. Steph and I decided to stay on board and clean up the place, which we viewed as a fun challenge.

Sliding back the teak and aluminum cover, four ladder steps brought you to the center of the boat. To the right was the kitchenette, complete with two small sinks, draws, a small stove that rotated on hinges as the boat rocked, some cupboards and storage spots. To the left was small passageway leading to the back of the boat and two navigation tables along the outer wall with a rotating chair in the middle. That spot was haywire; maps, gadgets, clothes covered the area. Down the passage, on right, outside wall, was a workbench, covered with grimy tools of every manner, (however, there weren’t any tools scattered in the rest of the boat). Above the workbench were small cubbyholes that let some light in, but water as well. Danny had rigged an electrical panel and generator from the outside and ran the cable through the window, preventing its closure. On the left of the passage was storage, the control panel and access to the engine room; that half door opened to a cramped space which housed the two engines and generator that allowed us movement when there was no wind. The control panel was used for cabin lights, water pressure and propane. At the back of the boat was the big bedroom I shared with Steph It was a big double bed that ran parallel against the back wall, it had far too many blankets and was quite cozy. Small drawers everywhere had contained Danny's method of organizing his clothes; each one had a one set of underwear, socks and a shirt. The starboard side of the room opened to the rear "head" aka bathroom, it consisted of a tiny sink and mirror, bathtub used for storage and pump action toilet.

As Steph tore through the front end of the cabin, I focused on the back, after a few hours the navigation tables were bare and there was some semblance of order throughout the boat. Danny came back clean with his hair combed back and we had fire in the propane tank sized wood stove next to the four by two foot, foldable table, past the kitchenette. We sat on the benches that ran along either outer side, which were lined with history books, trinkets, novels and picked country, traditional irish and rockabilly tunes. Broken down cardboard boxes sat soaking in the oil, which we tossed in the burner. Soot flew all over the over the cabin and a bit of water dripped in through the crack where the tin chimney went through the ceiling; the boat was beginning to feel like a new home. The right bench and table ended in the front wall of the main room, the main passage on the left led into the front sleeping quaters, which narrowed considerably, houseing a bunk at waist height on the left and a wider one on the right at the shoulder. When Danny sailed alone he slept in on the cushioned benches next to the table, that night he slept in the front cabin. He said he'd prefer to have company when sailing, easier to keep control of the great boat.

In the morning we sailed by Valdes Island through the channel by North Galiano Island, we were settling into a rhythm, taking turns at the helm, enjoying the cruise. Pulling into Pender Island that afternoon, more boats of all kinds represented the many types of people who live, explore and enjoy themselves on the sea ways. We rode into the docks on the dingys and took in the slower attitude towards time and living that exists outside cities. I had been to this harbor once, the year before while a member of a Vancouver Island Hillbilly band, Kinfo. That band orchestrated persona of buffoonery, debauchery and alcoholism; when we hung out, it usually felt like a performance. The band had found me while waiting for a ferry, they asked me to play with them that night and afterward I became a member. I'd moved to their studio space, done some quite amusing gigs, but I knew that the general air of idiocy would impede Kinfo's success and evolution. Temper tantrums were reoccurring, the year before we'd come all the way out to Pender, while stopping at a few bars along the way, only to discover there was no gig booked. During much drinking and hollering in the middle of the night by one of the members, I decided to disregard the yelling of my name, and the screeching of tires, only to find my possessions on the ground in the morning . It didn't bother me, the adventure continued as always, it was nice to come back to this lovely corner of the world.


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