Category Archives: boat

Tide Out, Fish In

At first glance you might think it’s a sandy beach, but your nostrils will tell you that iodine  breeze holds the smell of low tide.  That sand would be very soft to walk on and I wouldn’t advise it. When the tide comes in, all that “sand” will be under water. Meanwhile, there’s no telling how far you would sink into that sea bottom.

This is the east side of the causeway that divides the wharves where fish boats can tie up. It is what they call the new side, more recently dredged to provide more moorage and shelter for local boats.

The older side is more crowded because “the old salts” tie up there. It is busy with fishermen getting their boats ready for a summer of salmon and halibut fishing, often far enough from home that the men and their boats may be gone for many weeks.

You can see the roof and the rigging of the Captain’s boat on the bottom right-hand side of the photo below.

The new side is also busy, but is more convenient for boats that come and go more frequently.

Those who have fish for sale will want to moor on the new side. It is handier for the public to visit for dockside sales of whatever is in season. It might be prawns, shrimp, salmon, halibut  or other. Today it is halibut. The customers lined up on the dock know that they have to buy the whole fish. The price is high, but they gladly part with well over $100 for a small halibut. These flat fish have a delicate white meat which, though highly priced, is also highly prized. If you could see what the fishermen have to risk and endure to catch and bring these fish to harbour, you would say the price is a bargain for the customer.

As you can see, there is no shortage of people wanting fish for their supper.

I have removed the name and number of the boat to allow some anonymity for the boat owner.

Herring Time

When the herring roe fishery happens each spring on the BC Coast, the seine boats and herring skiffs congregate close to shore because that is where the herring can be intercepted as they rush the beach to spawn. At night when the boats have their anchor lights on, it looks like a floating city just offshore.

Sea lions and seagulls and eagles patrol the area in hope of some tasty bites.

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Photo courtesy of P. Knettig

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It’s a bluebird day. Hard to believe it was rough and windy just a couple of days ago. Still it was fishable and the herring filled the seine nets. Then disaster struck as an extra heavy net caused a boat to list  and not recover. The fishing community lost a fellow fisherman. His brother is quoted on CTV News:

“They had a really big set. The boat was listing and Mel went down into the engine room to turn the pumps on, and while he was down there the boat rolled over.”

It brings home to all of us once again, how dangerous fishing is. While the fleet mourns the loss of one of their own, the fishery goes on, as it must. The pretty night lights, and the bluebird daytime sky and sea belie the sombre mood and the heavy hearts of the fishing fleet.

All Up in the Hills

With apologies to my oldest followers, I’m reblogging this post from four years ago.

Pictures were taken with my tiny Olympus camera before the days of my Nikon. Only this first photo is different, taken by my friend, Ken Johnston.

grizzly

A few years ago, the Captain and I went on a camping trip west of Williams Lake in BC with another couple to fish the highly esteemed Chilko River.

Chilko River

I knew it was grizzly country but in spite of my ursaphobia I didn’t want to miss out on this adventure.

Choelquoit Lake with the Chilko River Valley at the base of the mountains.

Chilko Lake ahead with Chilko River flowing out of it.

The Chilcotin Plateau on our way to Chilko Lake and the Tatlayoko Lake area was scenic and spectacular. Real cowboy country. Near the horse corrals of Chilko Lake Lodge we parked our trailers side by side in a designated camping area.

 

Perfect camping spot

Anonymous checks out “A Room With a View”

I kicked aside hoof trimmings with sharp tacks still sticking out of them. Didn’t want to step on them later.

Horses live here.

We fished some of the many smaller lakes in the area, as well as the Chilko River, for which we needed a special licence (and a promise that we wouldn’t sue if we got frostbite on the river). It was June, and sunny, but the temperature was cool at this altitude.  Chilly and cold.

“Hey! Maybe that’s why it’s called Chilko Lake—‘chilly cold lake.’” I thought I was being witty, but all I got was eye rolls from my shivering companions.

I’m not petite, but with many layers of coats, sweaters, and life jacket on, I’ve doubled in size.

All those layers of clothes and still chilly and cold on the Chilko.

“We should try to find a better spot to launch the skiff,” the Captain said. “There’s a good place right around here.  Saw it last year. The main road runs parallel to the river. Somewhere, there’s a trail between the two.” Moments later he spotted it. A narrow road had been pushed through the dense woods. It might have been passable with our four-wheel-drive truck except that large boulders had been strategically placed to prevent vehicle access. We got out and walked through the woods.

Hiking time

“I don’t mind a hike, but what about grizzlies?”

“Oh, you don’t need to worry about them. They’re all up in the hills this time of year.”

Why didn’t that reassure me? “And you know this, how?”

“I just know.”

I shrugged my shoulders and strapped on my bear spray. “Okay, let’s go.”

“The river’s got to be just around the bend,” the Captain said. In the next twenty minutes he would repeat this phrase many times.

My neck felt rubbery from swiveling to check behind me. “Are you sure about the grizzlies?”

“No grizzlies this time of year. I told you, they’re all up in the hills.”

This sounded very familiar. It was the same thing he had said when we were stranded in grizzly country on the coast the day we got cut off by the tide.  “You always say that.”

“No really, they are,” he said.  “It’s too early for grizzlies.”

The launching spot we eventually found was nowhere near where we hiked that day through “non-grizzly country.” We fished the river and were amazed at the huge fish that remained, for the most part, elusive. Three things stood out for me on those days on the river:

1. The scenery was spectacular.

2. It was cold enough to freeze your goosebumps.

3. Blessedly, there were no grizzlies on the river (which is why I liked being in the boat).

Pretty cool trip

After several days at the horse ranch, the forecast of heavy rain marked the end of our stay.

We packed up and started for home. Outfitted with walkie-talkies in each truck, we led the way, chatting occasionally to our friends who followed behind in their rig.

Time to leave

The roads were turning ugly in places as the downpour dampened the clay gumbo under the gravel topping. We were getting out just in time.

For sure it was time to leave!

That’s when it happened.

“Did you see that?” I pointed to the road in front of us, then turned to see where the two grizzlies disappeared into the trees. We pulled over to the side to peer through the woods. The trees were so close together I wondered how a grizzly could fit between them, especially at a gallop.

“Two grizzlies just ran across the road in front of us,” the Captain said into the walkie-talkie.

“Oh yeah? Well, you’ve got a flat tire,” our friend said.

“Ha, ha! Very funny,” we answered into the mike.

“No, I’m serious. Your back right trailer tire is flat. I’m parked right behind you and believe me, it’s flat.”

“Is he messing with our heads?” I asked. “Right where the grizzlies went into the woods?”

Only flat on the bottom

“I’ll check it out.” The expression on his face when he came back to the cab told me it was bad news. “We must have driven over one of those hoof clippings with the tacks. You take the shotgun and stand right there while I change the tire.”

My neck felt prickly but I couldn’t wimp out and leave the Captain to be grizzly bait all alone, so I stood there with the shotgun. Our friend stood guard with his rifle — brave soul –, and his wife stayed in their truck — smart woman.

After a while, I got bored. The gravel on the roadside looked soft, and the grizzlies—a mother and a teenage cub I would guess—were really moving, so they should have left some tracks. I wandered a bit, looking up and down the ditch for the tracks.

“Here!” the Captain called. “Just stand there with that shotgun. I don’t trust those buggers.” No more pooh-poohing my ursaphobia now. I should have felt some “I-told-you-so” satisfaction but all I felt was jumpy nerves.

At last the spare tire was on and tools put away. I did a quick check for overlooked tire irons and such. And that’s when I found it—the grizzly track I’d been looking for—right behind the newly changed tire.

Either a grizzly or Bigfoot

“Oh my God! It’s exactly right here that they went into the woods!”

As we drove away, the Captain scrunched his face up. “Ahem … I didn’t want to tell you earlier,” he said, “but a rancher near Tatlayoko Lake lost some livestock to grizzlies last week.”

“All up in the hills. Hah!”

Uplifting

Another year, another haulout. Earlier this year, you may remember that the Captain put on a new propeller while the boat was on the grid. That means it was sitting on a cement pad near shore. He waited for the tide to go out and let the boat settle on the pad. Then he had to work quickly to exchange the props before the tide came in again. At high tide the boat floated again and he could drive off the grid.

Now, weeks later, it is time to do more serious work on the boat to get the propeller shaft lined up and the propeller balanced and a few other jobs. For this work, the boat needs to be in a shipyard, on dry land, where it can be worked on without the pressure of worrying what the tide is doing.

I’m always fascinated by the way huge boats can be lifted right out of the water and parked in a lot.

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A travel lift drives over this “bay” and its belts will hang in the water.

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In the photo below, you can see the belts that will cradle the boat.

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Here is the travel lift, ready to drive alongside the “bay.” Once it is in place, the boat slides into the slot over top of the belts.

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Then the heavy lifting starts.

newcastle liftout 2015 -1

newcastle liftout 2015

Once the keel clears ground level, the lift drives it over to its place in the parking lot. Braces and beams are put in place to prop up the boat, and then the work begins. Among all the other jobs, the hull is cleaned up. The old sludge is powerwashed off and new anti-fouling paint is slapped on. Long hours of work lie ahead. The boat will be sparkling by the time it leaves the shipyard, but not until the Captain feels his age.

006a

I used to think the 39-foot troller was a pretty good size, but looking at it beside this pleasure boat, it looks quite small. It’s big enough when you have to do the hull cleaning job though.

Bar’s Closed

Photo courtesy of Bjorn Larrson.

http://www.timetableimages.com/maritime/index.htm

An alternative to driving the long way around from Ancona, Italy to Patras, Greece, is to go by car ferry.  On the day we wanted to make the trip, many years ago, third-class tickets for the “Mediterranean Sea,” were sold out, so we had to buy first class. After waiting in line for hours, our VW van was crammed aboard into one of the last available spaces, a cubbyhole with a low ceiling and steel walls on three sides.

Three days later, when it was time to unload, this cubicle became an oven. Temperatures soaring over 100 F. and the chaos of impatient passengers and disorganized unloading practices had us nearly suffocating on the engine exhaust of cars started way too soon in the closed-in car deck. (In those days in Italy, there were no safety regulations such as we already had in Canada and still do.) An overeager passenger in dire need of driving lessons backed up his trailer at a weird angle behind us, making it impossible for us to move. Trapped in the scorching cubicle I felt like a chicken in a slow cooker.

But let me backtrack two days. Long before the unloading fiasco, we learned that paying first-class prices didn’t translate into first-class service.  Because of having first-class tickets, we had to take our meals in the first-class lounge. We put on the best of our jeans and T-shirts and took a seat at the end of one of the long empty tables in the middle of the room. The waiters leaned their shoulders together and muttered something to each other. Then one of them asked us to join a couple at a small corner table. We regretted spoiling their privacy at this secluded table, but it wasn’t our doing. We said hello. No response. Mrs. Ageing Princess dropped her eyelids, smoothed her long white silk gown, and stuck her nose in the air, up and away, presumably to draw fresh uncontaminated breath on her farther side.  Mr. Heir-to-the-Throne shot his cuffs from his tuxedo and patted her hand consolingly, making no effort to control the twitching of his upper lip and nostrils.

We directed our attention to the meal—served to their royal highnesses first—and watched the choicest morsels being loaded onto their plates. The swarthy waiter then came to our side of the table. I didn’t know whether to cry at the inadequate dinner of tired leftover bits he tried to serve us, or laugh at the way the tiniest remnants of French fries kept slipping from the fancy tongs he was obliged to use. So much for first class.

“I think you need to go refill the platter first,” my husband said. I watched as the waiter returned to the kitchen. At first I’d been annoyed that he tried to give us the dregs of the platter, but now that I saw him being jostled out of line at the kitchen pass-through window, I wondered if this explained his sparsely laden serving tray.

After that day, I watched the swarthy one at mealtimes. The other waiters scolded and bumped him, treated him abominably. On the second and last night of the trip, the grand finale after our meal was a surprise. The lights were suddenly shut off and the waiters filed out carrying plates of flaming Baked Alaska. Like soldiers on review, they stood, proudly displaying the Bombe Alaska. The diners applauded politely and the waiters extinguished their fiery platters, blowing out the last of the dying flames —all except our swarthy waiter. He blew on his flaming dessert in increasingly frantic puffs, eventually slapping at his scorching sleeves.

“Uh-oh,” I said. “He’ll be in the doghouse now.” And sure enough, the suave-looking head waiter grabbed the unfortunate’s burning plate, hissed something as he swept past him, and the two disappeared into the kitchen. “Poor guy! He’s getting an earful now.”

The next morning, before we had both eyes open, we were rousted out of our bed  to pack and get ready to disembark. No showers, no breakfast—grab suitcases, leave the cabin. Sure enough, land was in sight, but it would be a while before the tug could maneuver us into the harbour.

“I’ll get us a cup of coffee while we wait.” I found our swarthy waiter friend wiping down the bar in the lounge.

“Can I get a cup of coffee, please? I’ll pay.” Other meals had been included in the ticket price until now, but I could see that they wanted to clear us out and further meals would not be included in the fare.

The waiter snarled at me, “Bar’s closed!”

I took a step back. “Wow!” The cycle of mistreatment would perpetuate itself. He was getting ready to move up in the pecking order.

*****

*Note – Both of the ferries travelling between Italy and Greece (the Mediterranean Sea and the Mediterranean Sky) are no longer in service. The “Sea” (later renamed Mediterranean Sun)  was dismantled and the “Sky” was sinking at the wharf in Athens and so was towed across the bay to sink in a more private (out of the way) place.

You can see the “Mediterranean Sky” lying on its side in the waters of Eleusis Bay, near Athens behind the island of Salamis. Just click the link for a satellite view of it.

https://www.google.ca/maps/place/Eleusis,+Greece/@38.0242441,23.4880591,687m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x14a1ae4c9ab8d99f:0x400bd2ce2b97e50!6m1!1e1?hl=en

Patras, Greece

Ancona, Italy

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?

IMGP2144

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.

Cut Off

Photo Courtesy of Ken Johnston

The commercial fishing season in the Queen Charlotte Islands was over for another year. The Captain and I had several days of travel in our fish boat before we would reach our home on Vancouver Island. One afternoon we dropped the hook in the estuary of one of the rivers that flow from the Coast Mountains down to Grenville Channel. Not a soul around, and the scenic beauty called us to go exploring.

Leaving the fish boat anchored in deeper water, we launched the skiff and motored partway up the river beside a huge expanse of tidal flats. The Captain looped the skiff’s small anchor about two feet off the ground, around the gnarly wood of an uprooted tree. The estuary was like a meadow except for two things: the grass was long, coarse and yellow, most of it lying down from the rush of the tide over it every six hours or so, and the “meadow” was crisscrossed by ditches  where the tide carved out trenches each time it flooded and ebbed.

The power of nature was awe-inspiring. A herbal aroma, mixed with the salty iodine smell of low tide, wafted over the estuary. I felt small and alone against the backdrop of mountains. We tromped across the tidal flats, high-stepping over the humps and bumps of the grassy knolls and leaping over muddy ditches. I thought about nature shows I’d seen where people surprise grizzlies who are feeding in some low spot out of sight. When I saw a huge footprint in the mud, I wondered how alone we really were.

Photo Courtesy of Ken Johnston

“What if we surprise a grizzly?”

“Naw! They’re all up in the mountains.”

“But that footprint …”

“Just a dip in the mud. Don’t worry about it.”

We walked until we were close to the edge of the trees at the foot of the mountains, commenting on the birds that thrived in this marshy place and noting the evidence of small animals that had fed on shellfish.

After about an hour, the Captain said, “Tide’s starting to come in. We’d better go back.”

The sun was sinking lower in the sky. Soon it would drop behind the tops of the hills on the far side of Grenville Channel. We’d had a beautiful afternoon and a chance to stretch our legs after being confined to the fish boat for so long. We looked forward to a good night’s sleep after so much fresh air.

Many small trenches were now filling with water.  We jumped over some and waded through the wider ones. We were still about ten minutes’ walk from our skiff when we came to a wide trench that now held water just deep enough to go over our boots. While we looked for a way around the ditch, and found none, the water continued to pour in and was soon thigh high.

“You stay here, and I’ll go across and bring the skiff up the river to pick you up.”

“No,” I said. “I might as well come with you.” Truth was, I didn’t relish being left behind as grizzly bait. I was still convinced that the footprint I saw was from a bear. “But listen! Hear that?”

“An outboard.”

We waited and sure enough the sound came closer. A man wearing dark green raingear pulled up in his skiff and waved to us. He pointed. “That your skiff down the river there?”

“Yeah. Tide cut us off. I was just going to wade across and bring it up here to pick up my wife.”

“Just wait there,” the man said. “I’ll go back and tow it up here for you.” He spun his boat around and took off.

We stood on the grass at the edge of the rising water and smiled. “How lucky was that?” I said. “But where did he come from? There’s no one else for miles and miles around here.”

We waited as the sound of his motor faded. We waited. And waited. “What if he just went home, wherever that is? Was he really here? Did he really say he was going to get our skiff? Did we dream it? I don’t hear his motor at all.”

The light was fading and the back of my neck was starting to get prickly at the thought of being stuck here. Visions of grizzlies looking for hors d’oevres flashed through my mind. This was traditional grizzly country. But they were all up in the mountains, right?

“Maybe we should go for it while we still can,” I suggested.

“I’ll go,” the Captain said. “It’s waist deep now and ice cold. No sense both of us getting hypothermia.”

Again, in the nick of time, we heard the sound of an outboard. The man in green pulled over to the river’s edge and delivered our skiff to us. We were saved. We thanked him profusely, explaining that we do know about tides, but we sure hadn’t expected it to move that fast.
“Oh, it’s bad in here because it’s flat for such a long way. Sorry it took me so long but your skiff’s rope was four feet under water. Took me a while to get it undone.”

“We’re sure lucky you came along,” the Captain said. “But where did you come from? There’s no one around here.”

“I have a barge at the old cannery, across the channel,” he said. “Running a little guiding operation.”

“For sport fishing for salmon?” I asked.

“No. For hunting grizzlies.”

Photo Courtesy of Ken Johnston