Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Took a Little Trip Awhile Ago

Easter Sunday I chased a gang of kayakers out of Pedder Bay.  They were claiming to be the South Island Sea Kayaker's Association (SISKA) but I think they may have really been the Diablo's or maybe members of Madame Cheng's pirate horde.

After a month of conducting intensive hull repairs to the Romany Surf and the HV Explorer, intensive in the sense that the hulls are covered in scratches a few gel-cracks and one cel-goat hole, I had one of the boats ready for sea trials.  Fibreglass boats are great.  Just bash them about all winter long then gel-coat the damage in the spring.  Of course this only pertains to "heavy" British boats, all others would have been holed through after the abuse I throw at kayaks.

Over the winter I'd developed a leak in my skegg box of the Romany after a particularly hard landing on a rock.  I brought the boat in dried in out by sticking my wife's hair drier in the aft hold.  Next I covered the hatch with a special hatch cover that I have drilled out and put a bicycle tube valve in.  I pumped up the pressure up and soaped all the deck pad eyes and the skegg box.  Once I'd determined the box was the leaking I did a gel-coat repair.  Repeated the process and found I still had a small leak and went at it once more.  With the left over gel-coat I filled the worst of the scratches and demelled out the spider cracks and filled them.  Then it was wet sanding, wet sanding, and finally polishing and waxing.

Pedder Bay is the tiny little inlet on the middle right of the photo.  I loaded the kayak with enough gear for an over night out on the East Sooke Entrance where my in-laws live.  The gear was just in case I found my self out-lawed. My finial destination was on the extreme left of the picture just where the shore curves around the spit of land (Whiffin Spit) 12.5 Nautical miles from the put in. 

I caught the pirate gang just past Rocky Point as they were about to land on a beach.  I slipped in behind some rocks and raised them on the radio.  With my best authoritative voice nearly correct radio protocols put the fear into them as they were about to land on a restrictive Department of Defence beach.  But I couldn't keep up the ruse, besides I need to land as well.  I'd averaged just over 4 knots and covered the distance from the put into to the bay in just under an hour.  At least half an hour faster then the gang.  After lunch I continued west while they turned back.  I completed the trip in four hours riding a favourable current the entire way. 

At the Fish Trap Shack beach on the East Sooke Trail I surprised and Otter.  He had just fished a spider crab off the bottom when I slid quietly right up behind him.  He spy hopped half his length out of the water and his big brown eyes fixed me with the most reproachful stare before he splashed back into the deep.

Further west I came up on a seal sleeping right out in the middle of a crossing.  I quietly came up from down wind and could see him bobbing in the waves with his eyes shut.  He was only a paddle length away and didn't wake until he caught a whiff of me as I moved up wind.  Kayakers do carry a distinctive odour.

Work on the HV Explorer will be complete by weeks end.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

23 Years Later

I enjoy a reputation here in Victoria as a bit of a maverick. Some would even say that I'm reckless, that I have no respect and when it comes to gel-coat they are absolutely correct.

My kayaks are British built by Nigel Dennis and I abuse them.  They accumulate lots of scratches and frequent gel-coat cracks.  Come spring I undertake repairs.  This spring has been  has required a little more work then normal, so much so that I turned to an old passion to fill in the time while the boats dried.

After an absence of 23 years I returned to motorcycling.  Yesterday I rented a 650 Suzuki V-Strom and rode all over my home town and turf.  Mostly I rode the country roads around Victoria.  Mind, pulling out of the rental shop I was a tad nervous.  Over reved the engine and squared the first dozen corners. But I did not stall.

After a while I even got the bike to lean over as I swept through the turns.  Well not to far.  I carefully picked my way through town and finially as I broke out of the burbs I was awash in the sensations of travelling in an environment and not just through it. 

No the wind did not sweep through my hair, I have too little for that, besides I keep my head wrapped up in a good helmet.  I bought the helmet last years and precipitated a major marriage spat. However, yesterday the wind on my face brought me sensations I'd long forgotten.  The smell of fresh mowed lawns, the slightly acid smell of burning leaves and cedar logs burning in the fireplace of that cabin by the road.  Family responsibilities have kept me from this for far too long.

I rode the bike out along East Sooke Road, turned around and rode back considerably quicker. Stopping  at an overlook with a great view of Becher Bay the wind carried the smell of the sea up to the road.  I drank deep and filled my lungs with the clean fresh smell of the sea.

From here I swung up over Kangaroo Road, down onto the Sooke Highway then up over Humpback Road over to the main island highway.  I skipped the highway and headed up to Prospect Lake Road and made my way up to the town of Sidney. No two lane highways just lots of back country byways.  It was a great four hours.  Nex tmonth I'm going to repeat the trip but on a lighter BMW.  Eventually I'll find a nice mid size bike to squeeze into the garage next to the kayaks.

Winslow Homer

The American landscape painter Winslow Homer was a genius when it came to capturing water.  On my last trip to Boston I rented a car and drove out to Cape Anne to a scene not unlike this.
As we drove along the Marble Head shore the rain was pelting down; hard enough to keep us in the rental car.  What is it about east coast rain storms?  Here in Victoria, even though we are in the rain shadow of the Olympic peninsula we get rain. But, nothing like the rain that hammers Boston.

During my first trip to Boston my wife and I almost drown in a cloud burst that lasted all of 5 minutes.  On the second visit a flash flood swept the streets of down town Boston.  The water was well above our ankles, brown; polluted with the worst you can imagine.  We were wearing sandals.

A day later in the Museum of Fine Art I found this painting.  It could have been painted the day before up in Marble Head. Homer masterfully captured the power and dynamic nature of the sea.  Standing back and admiring his work brought forth such a longing to get back onto the water. Weeks later I've still to return to the sea.  Soon.

Monday, April 11, 2011

More thoughts on the Museum of Fine Arts - Boston

On day three of my trip to Boston we rented a car and drove up to Cape Anne.  We decided to skip the freeway and took the old highway anticipating a nice coastal drive.

Turns out the old highway just wanders through these old rust belt working class neighbourhoods.  Combined with the cold wet rain it was a rather depressing drive up to Salem.  In Salem we checked out the historic  homes on Chestnut Street.

The entire street is a national historic site and the homes are protected by a series of covenants.  The street is lined with stately old maples and oaks and must be a thing of amazing beauty when the leaves turn in the fall.

After Salem we finally reached the coast and leisurely wove our way through Rockport, Marblehead and Cape Anne.  The estate homes of the burgers or commerce, trade, shipping, and forestry from 200 years ago form a rather startling contrast to the working class towns closer to Boston.  The gap between the ultra rich and even ordinary middle class Americans is very large indeed.

Clearly though the highlight for me was Marblehead.  As the road inches closer to the sea just below a low bank the Atlantic was pounding its way through a series of off shore rocks.  Wonderful rock gardens just off shore, an on shore wind, and a rising tide.  If only I'd had a kayak.

So while my wife looked at the mansions to the left I watched the sea to the right and plotted how I could seal launch off some nabobs front lawn.

We managed to get in a fast second visit to the MFA before heading off to the airport for one of those nothing goes right flights home.

I'm a bit of a nut for landscapes and while reveling in the American and European wing I came across a Winslow Homer that reminded me of the Atlantic up at Marblehead.

I had a great time disrupting an art lecture in the Dutch masters gallery.  A young art professor was introducing his troupe of college students to the brilliance of Rembrandt.  But when he referred the old master as a "brand." I think he called him the first recognized brand name;  I thought this is a bit much.

He went on and to  make his point he asked the students how many had actually heard of Rembrandt. Most put up their hands.  Then he asked how many could name three of his paintings.  He paused and no hands went up.  So just as he was about to continue I struck.

"Belshazzar's Feast, A Turk, Man in a Black Hat, Rembrandt as a Young Man in a Black Hat, and of course his master piece The Night Watch, I'd go on but I have a lunch date but do carry on."  As the stuffed shirt glared back at me I slipped through the door smiling. What fun.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

April Fools Day in Boston

Arrived during a snow storm and woke up in the morning to this. It didn't take long for things to start looking up.  The snow turned to rain and the rain to sunshine.

Friday night we got to the theater to watch Faustus. My son Matthew did the staging and lighting for the play.  It was a very interesting interpretation of the classic story of good versus evil.  The entire production unfolds on a slightly raised platform surrounded by a moat.

The key prop however is paint.  Gallons and gallons of paint. Fortuitously no one was allowed to sit in the front row.  Pared down to the essentials just the devil, Mephistopheles and Faustus and lots of paint.

The next night was Gilbert and Sullivan's the Merry Yeoman.  Matthew built a two story high replica of the Tower of London for this endeavour.  Very impressive.  All those years watching his Dad measuring once and cutting twice seemed to have paid off.  Wait a minute that's measure .... Oh the operetta was lots of fun but not your typical G&S as it ends with clear winners and losers.

Between shows his Mother went on a thirty kilometer run along the Charles why I pursued intellectual endeavours with a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts.  MFA - take it in if you ever make it to Boston.  Look for John Singer Sargent's painting called "A Capriote".  It features the most beautiful woman, Rossina Ferrara in the entire museum and is in my view the finest painting in the American collection.  Landscapes excepted.

I could have spent for more time at the mfa and will return when I next visit Boston.