August August August

August 24

Laundry Day
We got up and started sorting. Then we hauled 3 bags up to the laundromat and Leslie dug in for the duration. I went in search of parts and odds and ends. I ended up buying my missing Chart 3515, another LED puck light (which I later returned as it didn’t have a built in switch–oops) and some 15w-40 and an oil filter. Much to my astonishment the oil and filter came to just over $50. That’s the cheapest thing I have ever bought for the boat. The LED with a switch would have set me back $90.

I hooked up with Dave and we arranged to change the oil in the Shack first then ours second. Then I went back with a dock cart and picked up Leslie and the laundry — I helped fold. I was informed later that a fellow sailor told Leslie that a really “manly” sailor would have done the laundry, which I am ok with, as long as I can do it my way. It’s just that my way doesn’t generally meet the Leslie Standard of Excellence. (The commenting sailor used the neologism “manlihood”, which perhaps says all that needs saying, says L.)

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Apparently an oil change is pretty straightforward. The reason it costs so much for a mechanic to do it (upwards of $400+) is they charge from the moment they leave the shop. And the shops are never near the docks. It’s like getting a house call.

Anyway, the process is fairly simple and you just have to be extra careful not to make a mess. You run the engine to thin the oil and then suck it out using a special hand pump through the dipstick tube. A ziploc baggie over the oil filter helps prevent drips and spills and then you fill it back up. Pretty simple.

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The only issue I had was supposedly my engine takes 5 liters of engine oil and after 4.5 it was already overfilled. We figure that we just didn’t get all of it out, but I am not sure what else we could have done. A question for the mechanics, I guess.

Dave opted not to change his Racor (fuel filter) since he had bled the air out of the system and wanted to eliminate that as a cause for his intermittent engine issue. Logic dictated that it had to be something other than the fuel or the filter, but no one seemed to be able to pinpoint the problem.

After all that, I collect the good doctor and we headed up for much-needed groceries. Selection was poor and prices were high, but we needed a bunch of stuff so it was grin-and-bear-it time.

And of course we stocked up on booze. My resolution to give up wine in favour of cheap bar rye has not had much traction, but at least we are drinking some of our wine from a box. And the beer habit needs some modification as well. It’s hard being frugal … sigh.

Back at the boat I made the worst hamburgers ever. Ever. We had been eating some store-bought frozen patties for the sake of convenience and they’d been ok, but after my BBQ cleaning session I was reluctant to mess up my grease-free grill. So I used this aluminum tray with ribs and some air vents to ’grill’ the burgers. Unfortunately what I basically did was fry them. Blech. At least the grilling added some crispy taste; frying them just brought out the cardboard. Next time, it’s to hell with the mess. And to add insult to injury I hadn’t stopped for lunch so I was starving.

Thus ended my day.

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August 25

Cormorant Island
The next started with a hot shower and a trip back to the store. It was raining a bit but nothing too threatening. Leslie needed envelopes, I needed some vaseline for my head rebuild kit, and we wanted to try and find a new shower squeegee since we’d broken the handle on the old one. I also swung back through the ShopRite to grab a small bulb for our chart table light. Mission accomplished on all fronts.

Back at the boat we grabbed some gear and met up with Dave and Margaret. It was time to hit the ferry for our trip to Cormorant Island. This island is home to the Namgis Nation and the community of Alert Bay. It is also home to the U’mista Cultural Centre, which houses a ton of repatriated regalia. The ferry ride is pretty short and we disembarked and walked along the waterfront to the visitor’s center. The lady there was super-helpful and super-nice.

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We chatted for a bit and then wandered off while Margaret stayed behind to talk. It seems she had a relative who had taught on the island and she wanted to talk about the residential school. Nonine, the lady at the info booth, was fairly active in band politics and very open to discussing the school and the emotions surrounding it. Afterwards M told us it seemed likely that her relative taught at one of the days schools rather than the residential schools and that they had agreed to do some research and email her the results. Like I said, super-helpful and super-nice.

While Margaret was continuing her enquiries, Dave, Leslie and I walked down to the old graveyard and admired the totems. There were old ones and new ones and some fallen to the ground. Local custom is that it was the family’s choice on how best to maintain them. Old tradition was to leave them on the ground and allow them to return to nature, but some families opt to repair and repaint them instead. There were some interesting juxtapositions of crosses, gravestones, and totem poles new and old. The graveyard was off limits to visitors so all our viewing was done from the road, which is too bad because I would have loved the privilege of getting up close to some of the carvings.

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On the way back we met up with M and headed to U’mista. The story goes that in 1921 a huge potlatch (at the time prohibited by law) occurred on Village Island. This was the last straw for the authorities, and they threatened, bullied and outright confiscated all the regalia they could find and dispersed it to private collectors. In the later part of the century it all started to be returned and the local band built U’mista to house it. Unfortunately, the Centre is one of those “no pictures” galleries so I have only a postcard of all the wonderful masks and costumes. I really must ask Emma the logic behind prohibitions like that as some museums (the MOMA or the Met) allow photographs and some (the Frick or the Klimt Gallery) are simply death on the act. It usually doesn’t stop me from grabbing one or two illicit images, but for some reason I didn’t want to here. Maybe it was white-man guilt?

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A photo of the postcard I bought depicting the grizzly mask.

Did you know there were over 150 language groups on the West Coast? Their ‘divisions’ are so different and so varied compared to the Cree or the Blackfoot of the prairies. We grew up referring to them as Haida but not only is that a misnomer but actually fighting words. Literally in some cases. The first gallery in the Centre was about the residential school St Michael’s (or locally St Mike’s). It consisted of images and quotes from students. It seems the Haida were not well liked when they landed in the southern schools and fighting was sometimes an issue.

It was an interesting exhibit. Balanced, yet still capable of horrific moments. Many students looked upon their time at school as a gift. They learned to read and write, were fed and clothed, and emerged better off than they might have otherwise. Others chafed in varying degrees under the strict and often abusive tutelage of a system designed to eradicate the native culture. It was very eyeopening but still leaves many questions unanswered. And I guess there can’t really be any answers, just a sad history that is all that remains of collective memories and experiences. The most enlightening thing for me was that the whole residential school system was a solution to what was termed the Indian Problem. I’d never heard it phrased that way. It certainly does set the tone for what happened over the following three-quarters of a century.

The main exhibit is the collection of regalia. I unfortunately went round the wrong way so was more disappointed with the interpretive signage that I might have been otherwise, but I will say that it still was a bit less than it could have been. There was so much left unexplained and a bit too much repetition, and it left my knowledge fragmented and incomplete. Still, it has spurred me to more reading on my own time so I guess in a way that’s a good thing. It does remind me though of how much of an art designing human interfaces– whether computer or interpretive signage–needs to be.

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We left U’mista in a happy but melancholy mood and wandered back towards town, taking pictures and enjoying the views. Eventually we hit Pass’n Thyme cafe and decided on a bite to eat. D & M had chicken wings and fries, while L had the oatmeal cookie and I opted for a Chocolate Explosion Cheesecake. I also asked for the hot chocolate with whipped cream, but was disappointed to find out there was no cream left.

Now here’s the thing about a trip to the Broughtons. People are nice. Really nice. Leslie enquired about the size of the cookie and the server (the owner) indicated a 3-4″ circle. When the cookie plate arrived there were two cookies since she had determined they were only 3″ and felt bad about over-estimating the size. And my hot chocolate showed up sans whipped cream because they were out, but she had sent her daughter down to the store to get more. So the second one (which I believe was free) was all whipped up. This sort of thing keeps happening. Nice, nice people.

I also received my second job offer on the trip. The first was to work at Sullivan Bay next season. This one was as cook starting immediately–as in in about ten minutes. Dave talked up my skills and I received an offer on the spot. As we were leaving she was still jokingly (I think) expecting me back in an hour with my apron on.

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We wandered back to the ferry and were soon home on board. Our snack choices had been ill timed and left us full and hungry at the same time. We opted for toast for dinner. And a glass of wine for Les; I was more circumspect and stuck to ginger ale. Then we crashed on the settee and watched some West Wing. Tomorrow we are off again…

August 26

Surprise, Surprise
We are back in civilization again. I know that because the moorage rates went up ($1.25/ft) and the power went down ($7 for 30 amps). North Island Marina is a great place and we will likely be back in a week or so if our plan to collect Zak comes to fruition.

Today the plan is to cast off 11-ish and cross the Queen Charlotte Strait back to Wells Passage heading for Tracey Harbour. The last few boaters we had met who anchored at Tracey had been treated to a parade of bears, so we wanted our chance. We dumped recycling and bottles, refilled the water tanks, and were off the docks at 11:02.

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Well about 10 minutes later, Dave radioed back that he was having fuel issues. Again. Right now Dave is one frustrated sailor. He said he was heading back to McNeill to change filters since they had a disposal facility. I said we’d putz about a bit and join him soon. Then Leslie suggested we cross over to Sointula which was only 6 km away. Great idea! The crossing was less than an hour and when I phoned ahead the wharfinger said that was tons of room on the shore side of K dock. It’s a municipal marina so it’s all first come, first served. I was expecting a more commercial dock with lots of rafting and poor facilities, but as we rounded the breakwater we were pleasantly surprised. The docks are nice, with power and fresh water, and the facilities (shower, laundry) were clean and cheap. It’s a great place, more reminicest of Stuart Island than the public docks we are used to. I asked at the office, and the lovely lady said that local pleasure boats rarely have to raft and visiting pleasure boats almost never have to. Costs are low ($.95/ft and $8 for 30 amp service) and the place is great.

Anyway, since the lady had said that K dock was mostly empty, I asked Leslie if she wanted to dock. I think her response was something like “If I have to. I guess.” Anyway, she piloted the boat into the marina and around the fingers and brought her up pretty as you please at dead slow so I could step off. Then she gave it a bit of reverse and completed a textbook-perfect docking. First time on the new boat! I guess I can start kicking back more often now.

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We checked in at the harbour office and immediately decided to stay the night. No point in going back to McNeill when it is just as comfortable here and a better atmosphere (long-time readers will recognize that Malcolm Island and Sointula is a socialist paradise and Leslie is madly in love with the lifestyle here). So I let Dave know we were staying and would hook up again the next day.

Then we headed into town. The main part of town and the ferry docks where we had visited last year were about 3 km down the road. There are free bikes you can borrow, but we opted to walk. It really is beautiful and friendly here, and everyone waves as they drive by. We picked up some fresh-cut rosemary at the garden exchange, which, by the way, had moved from across from the museum to beside the info centre. We mulled about the fresh snap peas but decided to pass. Then we walked over to the Co-op and picked up some orzo, chocolate chips, and a couple of pork loins. Next we skipped across the street to the bakery and had a coffee (me), a C-Plus (Leslie) and some peanut butter cookies while staring across the strait.

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Back at the boat we settled in for some writing and reading time in the warm sunshine. Then it’s nachos for supper. Life is good.