Saturday, March 4, 2017

A Favourite Anchorage

by Brooke     July 23rd, 2016

Man, it was hot.  The thermometer read 32° Celsius.  We filled our tanks with fresh water, hoisted the dinghy to its chocks and hauled The Blue Merganser (my inflatable kayak) onto the aft deck. Left our slip at Wright’s Marina at 11:15 am. I asked Pauline to look after my garden.  She wouldn’t accept a tip, even though as Marina Manager she has plenty of other things to do, especially in the height of summer what with all of the Loopers coming through.  

At Wright's Marina, a transient PDQ is tied across from Mary Mary.

Each dock at the marina now has a garden box generously built by the owners
My tomato trellis made of willow and cherry sticks

On our way down river, we passed NHL Hall of Famer Gary Sabourin, somehow unaffected by the heat, stoking his fire barrel on the shore side of his screen-porch. He waved and shouted to us through the smoke, in his cheery crackling voice, to “Have a Good Time!"

Once out of the inlet, with the engines throttled up, the movement of the water-cooled air provided a thrilling release.   

While Adrian piloted the channel past the McNab Rocks I finished stowing the fenders, tied our dock lines in gasket coils and hung them on the bridge rail, and then flaked two floating lines in preparation to tie them ashore.

There was a bit of a breeze when we arrived at our anchorage.  It took us three tries to set the anchor, not because of the strength of the breeze, but rather due to its direction.  We had to adjust our position, which meant there was smooth rock bottom beneath us and the anchor couldn’t find a place to dig in.  We’d opted for the chain rode, because we'd heard (erroneously) that there was wind coming and knew that we’d have a short leash in this particular cove. It made for tiring work in the heat, having to haul the anchor up twice—and because a rock shoal was in the lee of us, there was added pressure to work quickly. Our windlass doesn’t have any teeth or notches to grab the chain/cable links, so you have to use strong legs and all of your muscles in teamwork with the winch.

Pulling the anchor with a windlass
How I imagine I look pulling the anchor
Just as we’d begun the anchoring process, and the 35 pound CQR was lowered for the first attempt, a Zodiac with four passengers cruised into the cove. As they approached, I gestured that they might want to steer clear—kind of a two-handed-please-slide-away gesture. They cheerily waved, and kept coming. Surprisingly, they circled in and around us and toured the tiny cove as we reversed and returned and weighed anchor and hauled it up and turned and dropped and reversed and returned and weighed anchor and hauled it up…. On the third attempt, after I'd dropped the anchor, Adrian once again put the engines in reverse, and the hook caught beautifully. I put my foot on the chain and leaned my weight on it to feel it set in, and when taut, it fairly sprung me up in the air.  I cleated the chain, and went astern to the kayak, and paddled the first of our two stern lines to shore, wrapping the line on the windward side around a sturdy white pine, with a piece of thick hose to protect the bark.  The rest was easy, as the boat was no longer threatened in the wind, and Adrian was comfortable shutting down the engines.

There is a piton of sorts with a steel ring up on the short cliff off our port stern, and I clipped the second line to it and Adrian hauled the line in tight.  But man, it was hot. I was exhausted with it at this point, and everything ached. I returned to get a cold beer, but as soon as I brought Merganser back to the boat and stepped on board, I changed my mind about the beer.  Already drunk with the sweltering work, I swung a leg up and tipped myself over the boat’s teak rail and plunged down the three feet of freeboard, fully clothed, into the gorgeous water.  That kind of blissful reward makes physical effort very pleasurable.

A Foot In Cold Water
And then…icy cold beer from a special compartment in the bridge freezer.

Cappie goes for a swim
With one stroke the kayak was propelled across to the low smooth rock on the west side of the cove, and after pulling it out of the water I released the air from it. The inflation of its inner chamber needed to be adjusted due to the fluctuation in temperature, and the rock beside the fire-pit provided a flat platform to tend to the job. Re-inflating it was my last task, and afterwards I stretched out on the granite and felt the heat penetrate the muscles of my back, then peeled off clothing and slipped into the water again.

Now it’s 8:30pm and the sun is 5 degrees or so above the treetops. The generator is running, with a few dips now and again—likely due to the freezer kicking in, or the fridge. It always feels so good when the systems work as they are meant to. I’d rewired the solar panel earlier this week for maneuverability reasons, but as a bonus, it’s generating more amps then it did before. We’d shut the engines off at 12:45 and the state of charge had only dropped to 94% by 8 pm, despite the fridge and freezer’s draw.

There is a flock of seagulls growing over the south west side of the island. Flock doesn’t seem right, the way their flight crazes madly around. It makes me think of one of those Renaissance dances we studied at the National Theatre School of Canada, but where all of the dancers are, to various degrees, insane. A madhouse Galliard. In this case, a Gulliard.  I thought I saw a pigeon among them.
Gull photographed by Adrian when we anchored at Beausoleil Island in 2012
To my mind, this spot is one of the best anchorages we've ever had. We have our own giant swimming pool, each direction is a landscape by AY Jackson, Tom Thomson, or Varley. Every aspect provides a tingling sense that clairvoyance is possible. And we cannot see any other boats. Climb around the island that surrounds us, you can see among the other hundred or so islands, the distant buoys of the small craft channel, see cruisers traveling up or down it, but they can’t see you….
Mister Hattie gazes out at her own A.Y. Jackson
Instead of facing the sunset, we have turned our chairs around to watch the effect of it on the rock cliff. It is turning pink, orange, rose. The wind calmed completely and now the water is still, except for the splash of a small fish, or the water-bugs, zipping around like bumper-cars.

Our swim platform is a mere 20 feet from the shore, enough to keep a bear from stepping easily aboard, but close enough for us to admire the wild rose, the lady slipper, the wild iris. The sun just dove under.  Everything is soft.

Mister Cookie, Boatswain, all tuckered out in her inflatable kayak water-bed
It is dark. I am sitting on the bridge still--sitting still, still sitting--perched atop the back of one of the benches.  I can hear the thunking and exhalations and the groaning of muscles as Adrian, down in the stateroom, puts the bed together.

The stars are a full-on slap in the head. I find myself repeating, “This is stupidly gorgeous. It’s ridiculous, how gorgeous this is.”

As I said...


Blueberry Picking in Black Bay

 by Brooke

July 24th. (I cannot believe it is July 24th).The Keyhole, Georgian Bay.

The Keyhole anchorage, Georgian Bay
You could say I am brown as a berry now. Although I can’t say I have seen any naturally brown berries. Today I spent two hours on the Island picking blueberries. It’s not such a simple thing, hunting the elusive blueberry.  Because of the terrain, you must watch your step rather than watch for berries. Step, climb, turn, step, stop, search. You don’t want to twist an ankle. Don’t want to step on or near a rattlesnake that might be sunning itself on a hot rock. And it is good practice to continuously scan the area for bears.  

Bear at Wilcox anchorage
Once you find a low bush of berries—you check again for a roaming bear before you crouch and bow your head. Check the water too, as one might be swimming over, island hopping—like Burt Lancaster did in The Swimmer, although that was pool hopping, and I guess Burt was looking for something other than berries (…or was he?).  There are bear droppings, there are otter droppings. The otters’ are white for the most part, composed of bleached crayfish shells and claws. The bear droppings are black lumps, speckled with some indigestible deep red berries or choke cherries.

Just so you know what bear poo looks like for safety sake
Some of the best blueberry bushes are in crevices, protected from the wind, and warmed by the heat in the rock. Other rich bushes are in hollows where the moss is thickest, sometimes you step or kneel upon a moss bed that is ten inches thick. I picture the bears liking that—walking on a lovely soft carpet. 

The wind was up from the south as I reached the cliff edges on the far side, I mostly followed the edges, almost circumnavigating the island—but it is not a round isle, it is more like a character from the Cyrillic alphabet, like Ѯ or Ԡ, with extra loops added on.

It is a contemplative practice, berry picking. Aside from the bear and snake and Poison Ivy regard, my mind wanders to many things. At one point I noticed that the tips of my fingers were purple. That brought Phil to mind, Phil in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, where I spent three summers performing at the Ship’s Company Theatre. When the blueberry season was on in Cumberland County, Phil worked the fields. His whole fingers were purple. But he said it wasn’t due to picking the berries, it was due to the colour added to the pesticide that he was required to spray on them. 

Phil was lean and likely incredibly strong, perhaps in his late sixties—but who knows, with his lifestyle he may have just been thirty-two. He had a very gaunt, bearded face and bright blue-green eyes. As he spent months outside, his skin was the colour of iron rust, with as I said, purple fingers. Phil spent every night in the Glooscap Tavern on the highway that went up through River Hibbert. (*Anyone should get a prize if they can name the river that runs through the town of River Hibbert. I’ll put the answer at the bottom of this post...but no prize. Well, I said 'should'.)

Phil would sit alone at one of the small tables, with a small glass and a pitcher of Keith’s and when that was almost empty he’d order another pitcher. I never saw him eat.  Phil was a very quiet man, & seemed docile. He paid attention, and I think he appreciated us Ship’s Company Players because we were different and open. Phil was the only one of the locals who stood up against a small swarm of Barflies trying to pick a fight with one of the actors, Mxolisi “Welcome” Ngosi, a large, dark-black-skinned, lovely man from Soweto.  I wasn’t at the tavern that night, as I had too many lines to learn, but I heard that Welcome was surrounded and pushed around by these guys. Welcome had seen enough violence and stupidity to fill all of their lifetimes, and tried to reason with the louts. Phil came over and punched one of them, or threatened to punch them and, alongside the other theatre folk, he broke up the gang. 

Mxolisi "Welcome" Ngosi
When he’d had his fill of Keith’s, he’d hitch a ride out with anyone who was going along the road to Fox River, about a 15 minute drive west. He lived in a big house beside the road with his mother. I spent a month or so in Port Greville, which was the next settlement after Fox River. (The local pronunciation of Port Greville sounded like “Por-gurvill” or “Pork-er-ville”.)  Sometimes Phil would ask me for a lift from the Glooscap.  It was a dark drive past Diligent River then to Fox River where I’d drop him; then, just a few minutes farther along was the street lamp by the church in Porkerville. I was staying in an aluminum shack on Brook Street, which smelled toxic. It smelled like burnt carpet-glue and bug-killer and tar. The highway eventually goes on to Advocate Harbour. It's a beautiful drive.

The next summer that I saw Phil he gave me a hug. That’s how I know how strong he was.  He was used in the play that second season, to be a pallbearer in the prologue of David French’s play, Of The Fields, Lately.  

Waiting to go onstage with Phil
Well, that was a little voyage into the past.  Wandering rhythm, wandering mind: picking and sorting berries and memories. I found what I have decided to term a “pie-bush” of blueberries, tucked down on a narrow plateau on one of the cliffs facing south west. It was laden with very plump berries—so fat they looked farmed. It was probably saved from the bears because of it’s location, but it wasn’t too difficult for me to get to.

I took some photos of the bear paths around the island. The paths are handy to come across because generally they will allow you the easiest route from here to there. Unless of course you are on one of the paths between a mother and her cub. 
While I was moving around the island, through the junipers, around the boulders, and across the domes of granite, I thought of the recent “Pokemon Go”craze, that has hit Canada, and wondered what the thought processes were—certainly not contemplative—but the choreography was probably similar to what I was doing.

Pokemon searchers looking for a fad that won't die in 5 months

I find that the scratch of the juniper doesn’t trouble me anymore, nor does the stickiness of passing through a spider web, as I know the discomfort will pass—I notice it though, how easy it is to disturb a habitat. The Sandhill Cranes are croaking nearby. Five flew over a little while ago. Prehistoric flight. 

Sandhill Crane in flight

(The river that passes through River Hibbert is named the River Hibbert River.)