Spirit – after a month of digging

This time my post isn’t about birds. It’s a people story. It begins with a storm, a real doozy. Many of the boats in our bay dragged anchor, and moved. Of course, if your cable broke, there was only one way to go — onto the beach. Surviving that night would be tricky. In the morning, however, when the winds finally subsided and the tide ebbed, only 2 boats lay high and dry.

The little ‘Portuguese fishing boat’ was up near the curve of the seawall. Beautiful lines, high prow, white with blue trim. Eye candy out there, on calm evenings. A problem now for the owner. It turns out there is one, which is not always the case. Half of the boats are probably abandoned. The Portuguese boat was riding at anchor in a few days. Lovely. Back where she belongs.

The yellow boat I’ll call Spirit was not so fortunate. Keel high and dry, and pointing in the wrong direction, the boat is too far from the waterline. No way it’s going to float again. Out in the bay, it made for a splash of bright canary and gave the scene ‘pop’. Up close, well.


I’d seen a guy taking a 5 gallon bottle of drinking water to Spirit the night before the storm. If he’d stayed aboard through that, the experience must have been horrendous. Nothing happened to Spirit for a few days, but then the 5 gallon guy came back. He placed the figure of a seated Buddha near the bow, and got to work. He had a spade, a log fulcrum, some driftwood levers and ‘moving gear’– and a damaged wrist. He refused help. The pandemic was on, and he didn’t want anyone touching the boat.



Boat Hole

For a long time, not much happened. A month, or more, of digging every day, of watching the tides, of prying and bumping, resulted in a bigger hole. He was creating a slipway. He had to move, what, a ton and a half of boat. One guy. Impossible.

Then, one morning after a good tide, a miracle. Spirit did move and flipped her keel. Now, with a very high tide, she might get to the sea. And, a week later, she actually floated. Another week and she was off the beach. Not quite in deep water yet, but getting there.


I spend a month and a half rooting for the digger. I admire his spirit. He persevered to save his home. I’ve never seen someone work so hard, fight such ridiculous odds, under ridiculous circumstances. I guess it happens more often that I know. Perseverance is what humans are good at. It defines us. I always liked the Stan Rogers song, ‘The Mary Ellen Carter’. It tells a tale a bit like this one, about people getting on with it. Doing what they have to do. The song cheers us on when we face adversity — And Like the Mary Ellen Carter rise again…rise again. Good luck to you 5 gallon!


Spirit – well and truly ‘off the beach’









Wood Smoke


Fox Stand-in

Early morning and it’s still frosty. A cool morning, here on the west coast. As I crunch across the meadow, looking for birds, the slight breeze shifts direction. Now it carries a hint of wood smoke. I like that. Instantly, the scent, sweetly pungent, and the warming sun transport me. I’m back in my boyhood–long ago and far away, as they say. Like Proust. Wasn’t it madeleines that jogged his memory?


I’m in memory mode. It’s late morning. I’ve hiked up the Sydenham from my home in town. The snow lingers. No surprise. It’s only the beginning of April and real spring is a month away. But some south-facing hillsides are clear. Rare little islands, already freed from Winter. Comfortably warm where the sun hits them. I’m on one of them now, stretched out on the beautiful, bare dirt. I was in this place last year, and the one before. Below me, the ice is breaking up. Here and there, water pushes up noisily, recreating its channels.


I’ve got beans bubbling in a World War 2 surplus mess tin balanced on a rock, half in and half out of my little fire. This means one side of my meal will be hot as blazes and the other cold as ice. No problem, I’m used to it, and I’m hungry. By the way, all my camping gear is World War 2 surplus.


I catch movement on the far bank. It’s a fox picking his way along the icy river rim. The sun catches him. For a moment, he blazes rufous red, like fire. Alert, he lifts his head. He shoots me a look. Maybe it means that if I don’t watch my beans, I’ll burn them. I glance at my cooking pot. When I look back, the fox is gone, melted into the cold forest. The beans aren’t half bad though. A bit chewy maybe.

Meanwhile on the West Coast…


Pacific Wren


Northern Pintail


Bald Eagle


Hooded Merganser


Golden-crowned Sparrow


Anna’s Hummingbird


Steller’s Jay