Category Archives: northern B.C.

West Coast Travels

At the end of the fishing season this past summer, the Captain was ready to head home.  A new phase of the adventure begins with the rising sun.

Along the way home, he stops to check out this little building. You would never guess that inside this shack is a pleasant surprise.  A cemented enclosure fills with warm water through a  pipe from hotsprings behind the cabin. Step inside and have a soak to take the ache out of your bones.

The falls at the head of Lowe Inlet splash relentlessly. Except for the odd raven chuckling in the treetops, the rush and gurgle of the water are the only sounds. If you think you might want to try casting a dry fly towards a coho, be sure to take your bear spray with you – just in case.

 Need a warm cabin for drying out those wet clothes? This Fisheries cabin at Lowe Inlet, aptly named the Lowe Budget Hotel,  is very cozy after the Captain has spent some time trying his luck fishing in the cold mist of the falls. 

He remembers to follow the rules about the woodstove, posted on the wall. Don’t want to risk burning the cabin down.

Almost there. Running the boat down Grenville Channel.  Beautiful trip but there’s no place like home.

Meanwhile at home, I’ve been writing, and thinking about my fictitious character, Andrea, who has had an experience that seems bizarre at first. But in truth, this has happened to other women who have ventured out to the coast.

How did a city girl like her became trapped in an isolated cabin on this remote coast? Will she ever escape this lonely place where she must live with a man who is mentally deranged?

You can download The Wind Weeps (FREE), and then you can find out the conclusion in a sequel, Reckoning Tide, that is only $2.99. When did you last get so much enjoyment and entertainment for such a small price?

Why not get them both today at amazon.com or amazon.ca and smashwords.com?

You can find them all with supporting reviews at my website www.anneli-purchase.com

Get in Line

The commercial salmon troller (not to be mistaken for a trawler) is shown here in early June, all tiddled up, ready to leave for the summer fishing season in the Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida Gwaii). But now that the season has ended, the boat is a bit tired and ready for some TLC. Like every summer, it has taken a beating, pounding into the waves in bad weather. Rigging, fishing lines, gear,  equipment, and even other boats have rubbed on its hull.

The question friends and acquaintances most often ask after it’s all over, is “How was your season?”

The main thing is to survive the elements, stay safe from the many hazards that can befall a fisherman. Beyond that, it’s a case of trying to be in the right place at the right time and hook some salmon that happen to be swimming by.

Commercial fishermen work hard to supply us with fish to eat. Turns out though, that we humans have to get in line. No, I don’t mean the line in the grocery store. I mean get in line behind the more aggressive predators. Here’s how it comes to be that way.

This year, the Captain tells me, it has been an exercise in frustration. Yes, there were good days, but there were extra obstacles besides the ongoing bad weather. The blue shark below is one example. Often they are quick to take advantage of the salmon’s inability to escape the hook. This one was unlucky and bit the lure himself.

Sometimes the Captain might hook a salmon and before he can get it into the boat, a shark has helped himself to a meal.  Here is what’s left of the fish after the shark has taken a bite. I’ve blurred out the deckhand’s face for the sake of his anonymity.

And then there are the pyrosomes, a new phenomenon in northern waters this year. They are not really a jellyfish although they could easily be mistaken for them. They are really small creatures (zooids)  held together in a colony by a gelatinous substance. If they break apart, they just multiply and grow again. Soon we could be overrun … er .. overswum?? with them.

The deckhand holds the hoochie (a lure meant to simulate a squid), which has the hook hidden inside its rubbery, synthetic tentacles. Some pyrosomes are snagged on the steel cable and slide down to where the monofilament line is attached, while others are snagged on the monofilament line itself and slide down to the flasher or the hoochie beyond it.   A hook that is covered with pyrosomes won’t attract a fish, so the lines have to be cleaned off constantly.And then we have the same old deadly predators, the sea lions, who often follow a boat, lazily waiting for a salmon to be caught so they can snatch it off the line for their own easy meal.

With a lot of stress and frustration, the fisherman does his best to catch enough fish to sell to the buyers who will supply the stores to feed humans. Looks like we have  to get in line behind these more aggressive feeders and take what they leave us.

The Mystery Photo Revealed

Thank you, all those who were brave enough to take a guess at the photo in the last post. I loved the imaginative answers you  had! If you look in the bottom left of the photo,  you’ll see the section I cropped for the mystery photo. If you click to enlarge it, you’ll be able to get a better look. I loved the squiggles in the picture. Nature is a pretty good artist, don’t you think?

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Taken near Masset, Queen Charlotte Islands, now renamed Haida Gwaii.

If you didn’t guess right, don’t worry. I really liked all the ideas, and all of them were great thoughts.  You were very brave to volunteer a guess. Even the Captain, who took this picture (some time ago) couldn’t guess what the mystery photo was.

The Dawson Creek Fall Fair

This year, the City of Dawson Creek will celebrate its 92nd Annual Fall Fair. A long time ago I lived in Dawson Creek (northern British Columbia), and as a child I remember that the Fall Fair was something my brother and sisters and I looked forward to each year. The lead up to the opening of the fair was the Fall Fair Parade. We loved watching the  clowns as they cleaned up after the horses. They were so funny in their clean up antics that we cheered whenever a horse did its business on the pavement. That meant the clowns had to go into action again.

img733Spectators stood wherever they could find a place, some even watching the parade from the roof of the New Palace Hotel and Cafe.

The police car proudly rolled down the street showing off its modern vintage. Most of the other vehicles were much older than the police car, which in that year’s parade was probably a 1957 or 1958 model (I’m guessing). Someone out there might know more exactly what year and model of car it is.

img732The Dawson Creek Centennial Band is following the police car, and behind them you can see the rounded corner of the bus depot building. In the background we have McKenzie Stationers where you could buy a typewriter (remember those?) or have it repaired. A tailor shop is down the street and last dark building behind the band is the home of the Peace River Block News.

My sister had a new bicycle one year and wanted to be in the parade. We all helped her decorate it, making Kleenex carnations by folding the tissues like an accordion and tying them in the middle before pulling up the individual layers carefully to form the fluffy petals of the flowers. We tied them to the bicycle and took a photo of her with her bike and our beloved mongrel, Mopsy.

img730Then came the moment of truth. Would she be brave enough to ride in the parade? If she chickened out, there were three of us who would gladly have taken over the job.

img731Here she is in her finest hour, helping bring in the opening of the Fall Fair.

The fair itself is a whole other story. I may have to save that one for when I write my memoirs someday.

Victoria Day Weekend

To the best of my memory, on May 20, 1963, it was 96 degrees on Vancouver Island. I remember it because I stood on the sidewalk watching the Victoria Day parade and after a while the shirts of the people across the street began to blend together into one blur of white. I felt nauseated and dizzy. Luckily, I was able to duck into the lobby of a nearby beer parlour where it was dark and cool, until my heatstroke passed. I wasn’t old enough to go beyond the lobby, but to this day  I remember the smell of stale carpeting and beer.

We haven’t had a Victoria Day weekend quite that warm ever since, as far as I know. On the contrary, many times it has been downright miserable. Those who make a tradition of going camping on that weekend will know, having spent many long weekends in May suffering through rainy and cold weather, huddled in tents or campers.

When my brother and sisters and I were young and living in Dawson Creek, we wanted desperately to go camping and stay overnight. What an adventure that would be. We nagged and nagged and finally, our mother gave in and said that if we could get a ride out to  Pouce Coupe Park, seven miles away, she would stay with us and camp overnight. Our father had to work, and we had no car, so we were ever so grateful to our mother for volunteering to take us and to procure a ride for us.

We had a great time, roasting wieners over the fire, wading in the muddy Pouce Coupe River (a shallow creek really, except for the big hole under a fallen log where someone drowned nearly every year). The huge playground gave us plenty of room to run around and play games. It was so much fun!

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1959

How do you like our logs for the fire? This is what you do when you have no chainsaw. I remember that the smoke kept the mosquitoes at bay while we were around the campfire. We weren’t bothered by them when we ran around the playground either, but as soon as we stopped, it was a different story. And did those bites ever itch!

Check out the vintage of the cars and trucks parked behind the playground.

Our ride came to pick us up the following afternoon and we kids sat in the back reeking of campfire smoke, listening to our mother tell how we fared. As she spoke, I  remembered her bolting up to sit on her air mattress in the middle of the night when something hit the roof of the tent. I think it must have been an owl or some other night bird, judging by the flapping noise, but as my mother told it, she was sure the bear she had worried about since dusk had finally come to eat us all. She said she was so scared, she would never go camping alone again. (She wasn’t alone. She had US! What was she worried about?)

We never did go camping again until I was grown up and on my own, but I’ve done my best to make up for lost time.

What’s a Teredo?

Andrea, in my novel The Wind Weeps, asks the skipper, “What’s a teredo?” as she is about to powerwash his boat’s hull. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a type of saltwater clam several centimers to a meter in length that looks like a worm, hence the name “shipworm.” Teredos are the bane of wooden boats because they love to bore into the wood, and if not controlled, they will eventually destroy the hull. This is one of many reasons fishermen have their boats hauled out of the water once a year to work on the hull.

The boat below hasn’t been hauled out or worked on for a long, long time. How is it still floating?

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Since this photo was taken a long time ago, my guess is that it’s not floating anymore.

In places where the modern conveniences of a shipyard are not available, fishboats were often taken out of the water by placing them, at high tide, over a grid of timbers or a cement slab on which the boat would settle when the tide went out. As soon as the tide ebbed and the hull was exposed, the fisherman worked like fury to get the work done before the tide came back in and the boat  (if it was ready to go and didn’t need another low tide to complete the work) could be floated off the grid and back into deeper water.

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The next fancier way of getting the boat out of the water was with a cradle that the boat floated into at high tide. The cradle of heavy timbers with the boat tied on so it leaned slightly to one side, was then winched out of the water along a set of railroad tracks that went from the beach into the water.

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This is the kind of set-up Andrea was working in when she helped Jim powerwash his boat. I hope you enjoy this excerpt from The Wind Weeps.

Excerpt:

I held the nozzle at the distance he had shown me and began to wash the far side of the hull. Sticky, stinky copper spray flew everywhere. As I glanced down and saw the condition of the coveralls, I realized what Monique had been talking about when she’d told me I’d have to throw away my clothes after doing this job. I concentrated on the planks and cleaned them one by one. I felt all-powerful. Barnacles, mussels, and green slime—gone with one pass of my magic wand.

A long lump was sticking out between two of the planks and I held the nozzle a little closer to get it out. Just a quick zap. Didn’t want to put a hole in the wood. The lump was a bit stubborn so I gave it another quick zap. And another, and another. At last it was starting to come off. God! It was a long one. Must be one of those teredos Jim was talking about. Well, he’d be glad I found it and got it out of there. I blasted it the whole length of the plank until a long piece of it plopped onto the ground. I laid down the wand.

“Jim! Come see this. Get a load of this teredo I found.” Since I had gloves on I didn’t mind picking it up to show him. When he came around to my side, I held it up and he looked shocked, just like I figured he would.

He turned pale and stammered. “Wh-where’d you get that?”

“Right here.” I pointed to the space between two planks.

“Jesus Christ!” he yelled. “Didn’t I tell you not to get that nozzle in there so close?”

“B-b-but I had to get it out of there.” A stab of fear went through me.

“God dammit! You are the stupidest broad I’ve ever met!”

“I don’t understand.” I could feel tears welling up. I blinked hard so they wouldn’t spill, but it was useless.

“This is the caulking between the planks. It stops the water from getting in. Oh, Jeezus!” He threw down his wrench and stomped off in the direction of the shop.

I sat down on the retaining wall and stared at my boots. No, not my boots—Jim’s. My chin quavered as I fought to hold back more tears. I clasped my hands together between my knees and wondered what to do next. Should I get out of these coveralls and go home? No. I wasn’t a quitter. I had really messed up, but I had to make it better or I’d never live it down.

*****

Don’t forget, the e-book of The Wind Weeps is free. Just click on the book cover image at the side of the page if you’re interested. The sequel, Reckoning Tide, is available on amazon.

But on with the haulouts. It gets much better and more modern now.

At some shipyards they have Travel Lifts that can lift a boat right out of the water and drive it over to a spot on the parking lot. How cool is that!?

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newcastle liftout 2015

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You see how the bottom of the boat isn’t sitting on the blocks of wood anymore? That tells us that the boat is ready to be put back in the water. Also, the hull has been copper painted (to deter those teredos and barnacles and seaweed from latching on), and the hull above the waterline has been spot primed, ready for painting at the wharf in the days to come. Obviously, the sun hadn’t co-operated for the painting to be completed on the top part of the boat, and the time was spent on the very necessary jobs on the lower parts.

While the boat is “parked” in the lot and is being worked on, the Travel Lift does not stay wrapped around the boat. It has other boats to lift out and put back into the water in the meantime.

Soon the fishboat is all tiddled up and ready to go fishing for the summer. The trip up the coast is absolutely beautiful. (This is also a part of The Wind Weeps.)

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Photo by Ken Johnston

Smile! I think the skipper is taking a picture of you!

Soon the lazy trip north is over and the hard work begins. You can see that he’s into fish because those seagulls only follow if there are fish guts being tossed overboard.

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And then, there’s the competition!

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Photo by Ken Johnston

Third Anniversary of Wordsfromanneli

Three years ago (on April 12) when I began my blog, this was my first post. I have also copied it to my other blog http://annelisplace.wordpress.com just this one time. Normally I use the other one only for writing, but I think the story qualifies for both this time.

A Whale of a Tale

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Feeling sorry for myself, I slumped on an upturned white plastic pail at the back of the salmon troller. Here, I could easily hang my head over the side and retch if necessary—and it often was. The sky was gray, the sea was gray, the boat was gray and everything, absolutely everything, was in motion. I was wishing my life away, wishing it was any time in the future. Anytime without this dreadful seasickness. Who knew it could be such misery?

Captain Gary, lounged in the wheelhouse, sipping coffee as he steered. He seemed quite at ease with the tossing of the boat. A bit of a break from work.  No need to check the gear. For the time being, it was too rough for fishing. The way we were pitching around, the lures we trolled were most likely doing a spastic underwater dance. Any salmon fooled into taking a bite would have the bait jerked right out of his mouth. I imagined the shiny spoons playing keep-away with the fish.

Anyone who has ever been seasick knows, except for sheer pain, there’s not much that feels worse than nausea. Dying would have felt good if it meant an end to this wretchedness. Is it coincidence that “nausea” begins like “nautical” and ends with “sea”? I wallowed in my misery.

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And then… a few hundred meters off our port side, a humpback whale jumped completely out of the ocean, turned on its side, and smacked down sending great splashes of water high into the air. I yelled for Gary and stammered excitedly, pointing at the place where the whale had been. He stared at the gray water for a few seconds, said, “That’s nice,” and went back in the wheelhouse.

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Photo courtesy of Ken Thorne

He had barely settled his butt into the captain’s chair when the whale leaped out again. I screamed for Gary, “Quick! Come and look!” He ran out of the wheelhouse and looked — too late — at the spot.

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Photo courtesy of Ken Thorne

“It only jumped out two-thirds of the way before splashing down,” I said, by way of consoling him. Back in the wheelhouse, he hadn’t even had time to sit down when I shrieked for him to come see the humpback who had jumped up for a third time.

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Photo courtesy of Ken Thorne

What are the chances? This time it only came out about halfway. I guess he was getting tired. Gary, also, came out of the wheelhouse only halfway before dismissing me with a wave of his hand. I guess he was getting tired too. I felt bad that Gary had missed the show, but for me, it was the highlight of the season. For a few magical moments, I had forgotten all about turning myself inside out with dry heaves.

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Photo courtesy of Ken Johnston

Goodbye!

Photo courtesy of Ken Johnston

The humpback seems to be waving to me. “Goodbye!”

***

Note: The photos by Ken Thorne were taken in one of the Pacific Inlets, not out on the open waters, but I wanted to include them to show how humpbacks jump out of the water. Besides, I was too seasick and surprised to take photos of the real humpback in this story.