Went to the Vancouver Boat Show and Lived!

We made it back alive! Well, think of that!
The Vancouver International Boat Show was its usual draining and rewarding self. Some people laughed at my jokes, and one woman sneered because I’m a liveaboard. “Like most people who live on their boats,” (I started well) “We leave less of an environmental footprint than those who live on land. We use not much water, we don’t use bleach at all, and like many of the people at Cowichan Bay, we own a composting toilet.” There. I ended by talking about our composting toilet – whitened throne, source of pride and. . . . MOST people who live on land don’t discuss their toilets. This is a subtle distinction between land-dwellers and boat-dwellers that isn’t often explored. Mercifully, I shall stop here.
She said she’d ‘think about it.’ By this time I was pretty mad at her. As I watched her self-righteous and indignant back, I thought loudly, “Don’t think too hard, Honey.”
So you see, my Christmas spirit of kindliness and goodwill to all has evaporated like the vinegar I spray on the urine collection chamber of our composting. . . Stop! Stop!
I sold 38 books, which is respectable and paid for six nights in our favourite two-star hotel and two ferry rides. We did not, of course, actually make a PROFIT. PROFIT is for other writers – like the kind who live in the US of A.
Last time we stayed at the Ivanhoe, we tipped our tiny Oriental houseperson $5.00, so THIS year we got a clean room – or at least clean by most standards. The sheets were nylon and a bit split at the seams, but there was a fridge (wiped out and sparkling), a radiator (leaked one day but someone came up and turned it off for us), a dribble of running water out of a clean sink, a mirror with an odd assortment of brass hooks screwed into the wooden frame, some crooked blinds, and out the window a view of the street below and a bit of park. The ceiling is very high and has pipes (painted white to match the walls and ceiling) running overhead. The staff at the Ivanhoe are lovely and very kind to us, the price is right, and there is free parking behind the hotel if you jostle for space a bit at about 4:00 pm as the sun is setting and people leave in their cars.
So when some of our fellow-authors made a pit stop at the Ivanhoe on Friday evening to borrow the facilities next to the bar, they exclaimed the next day that they had never before seen so many disreputable people in one place. “The Ivanhoe?” We said, “You should have visited us! We are staying there!” They looked horrified, but then some people have no sense of adventure. FYI, the patrons north of the bar on the 5th floor look a little down on their luck, but they are quiet and people are people. We had a great time.
By the time I’d made my last presentation (on Sunday – the last day of the boat show), I had all the juice sucked out of me, but my audience was polite, bless their hearts. The audience before them did not laugh at my ‘seagull stew’ story – they were obviously seagull-lovers, and they stared at me with strained and horrified faces. I shall stick to talks about anchoring, about which I know precious little, but that has never stopped me.
The drive back through Vancouver the next day was truly dreadful. “Left! Left! Merge your brains out! Right! Right! Take this exit – are we going the right direction on Marine Drive? Follow the signs to Whistler! Yes, I know we really want Departure Bay, but follow the signs to Whistler! Wasn’t that the exit to Turner? Woops – it was!”
Then home and I was immediately plunged back into substitute teaching. The night of the tsunami warning, at 3 AM our neighbour Gordie ran up and down the docks banging on boat hulls and roaring at us to get to higher ground, so John and I got dressed, grabbed the boat papers, personal documents and first-aid kit, a portable radio, a phone and my knitting,and we hot-footed it for the highest-sitting Tim Hortons we could find. iut of interest, you should know that I am not at my knitting best at 3:30 AM. We listened to our radio until Environment Canada told us the tsunami warning was done, and then we went home. At the side of the road we saw our neighbour unloading two sleepy children and a frightened cat. We were too wide awake to sleep the hour and a half we had left to us before the alarm would go off, and I actually had to work that day. so I staggered off to entertain some 12-year-olds.
I am too old for tsunami warnings, but better a warning than a tsunami.
To entertain myself, I am presently knitting socks with vibrant and clashing colours and reading (still!) Samuel Pepys’ Diary.Our man Samuel lived during the reign of Charles II of England, and survived the plague and the fire of London. I have found out who Samuel Pepys’ wife is. She is cousin to Lord Sandwich, who is Samuel’s powerful patron. Samuel is violently jealous of his wife’s dancing-master, yet he ‘towses’ Mrs. Lane of the fat white thighs, who will submit to all this for a lobster dinner. “John,” I told my husband, “what is ‘towsing’?” “I don’t know,” John said, “But for a lobster dinner I’d consider it.”
May God bless you and keep you. May the waters of despair never overwhelm you, and the Devil never tempt you to ‘towse’.

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Catherine’s Latest Book! – Darling the Gulf Islands Have Moved (or our anchor has drifted)

Catherine’s Latest Book – Darling the Gulf Islands Have Moved (or our anchor has drifted)

Catherine and John are liveaboards and philosophers, but they are not very good boaters. Enjoy Catherine’s stories about meandering around the Gulf Islands dispensing engine exhaust and blackberry jam, catching mooring buoys and colliding with docks and discovering the meaning of life among the salal and seaweed. Or not.

And enjoy hearing about Catherine’s fish-flavoured and wonderful liveaboard neighbours. Ask, as Catherine does, why George of the Snowy-Beard feeds crows, wonder how to get on Tuula’s soup list and consider how much cast-iron cookware Erik can fit on his float home.

There is satisfaction in boating, and some joy, but only if your anchor doesn’t drag.

Signed copies are available for: $23.00(CAN). Price includes shipping in Canada. or: $22.0 (US). Price includes shipping to US. (price does not include any border charges). To purchase – Contact Me

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Turkey Coma, Christmas Clean-out

I speak to you from a happy place. I’m high on turkey and homemade cranberry sauce, and I haven’t had an original thought for at least a week. This is a state much to be desired.
I don’t think I realized how tired I was. Tired of being dog-bitten, tired of cleaning up the mess the tenant left in the rental, and tired of catching diseases from delightful young children who incubate viruses as sport, I think.
Now I am not tired. I am relaxed. I am almost too relaxed to type. I am certainly too relaxed to make profound observations on the season, but I will say this:
Clearing out boat of debris and putting it all into storage is cleansing. Attending church and meaning it is wonderful. Ringing bells for the Salvation Army is fun. And spending all year knitting socks so you can gift every family member is an organizational feat of which I am very proud. Yessss – another Christmas pulled off by November 15.
So on Christmas day John Darling and I ate turkey sandwiches and watched BBC detective shows on TV and fielded telephone calls from all the children. It was wonderful. I’d attended church they day before, and cooked the turkey the week before, so we were coasting on Christmas Carol afterglow and leftovers on the actual day. We opened presents and congratulated eachother on still being in love and d still having all our own teeth. (the two are not connected)
So. . . . there’s another book coming out in a week, and another one a month or so after that. We’ve booked our favourite two-star hotel for the Vancouver International Boat Show, and I’ve dusted off my prompt cards so I can make a couple of coherent speeches. I don’t actually speechify – I wave my arms and dance around and crack jokes. It’s the same technique I use for substitute teaching. Last year I had one audience BEG me to read them the article that got me fired from BoatJournal’s cooking column. Luckily, they (the audience) thought it was funny. I’m sorry to say Boatjournal lacked the same sense of humour.
My next book is called, “Darling, the Gulf Islands have Moved ! (or our anchor has)” The book after that will be a departure from the rut I’ve written myself into – it’s the start of a series of children’s chapter books about growing up in the Arctic which coincidentally I did. I sent the manuscripts to my parents, and GOOD NEWS! They don’t intend to sue me. Publication is imminent.
Happy New Year, and many blessings.

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Merry Christmas from us and the Sealions

I have recovered from my dog attack, I’ve organized Christmas, we have tenants in place who are paying rent and not wrecking the joint (which makes a nice change from the last lot), John Darling’s hair, after dramatically falling out for no reason we can figure out, has all grown back, and the Cowichan Bay Sealions are sitting on the breakwater hooting and fighting and throwing fish in the air. It wouldn’t be Christmas without a pack of smelly sealions in the bay, so God Bless ‘Em!
I’m subbing steadily, and having a good time, though all this driving seems to be more than my hopeless little Kia can manage. This fall we have organized both a transmission replacement and a radiator refurbishment. Turns out the ONLY good thing about my Kia Rio is that when the temperature shoots through the roof, because of a dramatically failed radiator, the engine shuts down BEFORE everything melts. This is a good feature and greatly to be encouraged. However, when I’m a passenger in my own car (when John Darling is driving), you can be entertained by the sight of my spitting and snarling as I roll down my window to reach out to open my car door from the outside. The door latch doesn’t work from the inside. Some day I’ll get around to having it fixed, but I’m so dismayed by the other, systemic, problems, that so far I count it as trivial and a nuisance and not worth addressing – just spitting at.
My friend from Quadra Island scored enough sockyarn for me from a yarn store that went out of business to knit 45 pairs of women’s socks in autumn colours. I am delirious with happiness. And another friend from Oregon sent me a WHOLE BOXFUL of bee-you-tiful yarn which I have stored in storage RIGHT NEXT to the sockyarn. John Darling is under strict orders to make sure both stashes are accessible at all times. No tools in front! No car tires in the way! No pressure washers underfoot! Looking at the stack at the back in storage, even I admit I own quite a lot of yarn. A retired husband who runs errands and enough yarn to last me a lifetime – I am a fortunate woman. A little greedy, but fortunate.
The tree is up, all 18 inches of it, and it’s only fallen over twice when powerboaters burned past at incredible speeds. When my tree falls, it does rather spray ornaments. John calls it ‘Catherine’s Christmas Mess’. I admit it’s a touch overdecorated.
This season I’ve volunteered for the Salvation Army kettle program. They let me ring the jingle bells. It’s a lot of fun, and the weather’s mild, so I arrived at my first shift last night dressed in enough woolens to satisfy even a sheep and was actually warmish. I let a little baby in a carriage ring the bells twice by accident. I didn’t recognize him the second time because he was dressed in different clothes than when he went in. The father was a little abrupt the second time around – he seemed in a hurry to get somewhere. Also the child was sitting higher in his carriage – he might have been uncomfortable.
I’m subbing nearly every day, and though I can’t get my students to do much work at this time of year, it’s all fun. If everyone leaves smiling, it’s all good.
May the blessings of the Season be with you now and always. Merry Christmas.

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On Dogs and Dog Days

How I have neglected my website these past two months! John and I landed safely back in Cowichan Bay after a couple of weeks of meandering around the Gulf Islands taking pictures, fouling the prop, etc. etc. There we were in Princess Bay at anchor. We were quite pleased with ourselves until we realized we’d backed over the darn dinghy-painter and wrapped it round and round the prop. FYI, we didn’t use the word ‘darn’.
So the man I love took off his shirt and girded his loins and just as he was readying himself for a jump into the water, and I was wringing my hands and worrying who would marry me if he drowned, when a diver swam by. Yes, a diver. A lovely man from Seattle whose wife talked him into helping us – he dove on the prop five or six times and unwrapped and cut away enough line that we could continue our voyage without having to find a diver from somewhere else. God loves us.
The man who dove on our boat didn’t want to come for dinner, so I dropped off some brandied blackberry jam instead and we fed another, Canadian, couple who had rowed over to offer moral support. We had such a nice evening, and the whole time we were eating and drinking and laughing and exchanging stories, our prop was innocent of dinghy-painter. Knowing this made the food taste even better.
After that, how could we lose? We motored to Montague Harbour and stayed a couple of days and visited with some friends, and then we made our way to Port Browning to drop books off at the bookstore and take photographs for an article that had been commissioned by 48 North magazine.
Then we came home with no mechanical issues whatsoever, docked neatly without hitting anything, and I finished all my article-writing before labour day.
I lucked out this year – two or three magazine editors actually got back to me. Mostly magazine editors don’t talk to writers because it just encourages them. Then the editor of one mag said he thought he could publish four articles from me a year, which is great. To my surprise, in August I was published in four different magazines. I hope there was no overlap – I was too frightened to look.
Just as I was sure there was no more excitement in store for me, the tenant’s pit bull attacked me. I was very lucky, though it didn’t feel lucky at the time or for one or two weeks afterward, that the dog didn’t tear off my mons pubis instead of puncturing it and turning it black. I’m not what you’d call a fan of dogs in general, so this was a very satisfying experience that confirmed every vicious prejudice I harbour against dogs. And don’t anybody say, “It’s the owner, not the dog.” The owner didn’t damn well bite me. The dog did that, and thoroughly. Forgive the snarling, but I don’t like dogs, pit bulls or people who defend them. For heaven’s sake, it’s like owning an Uzi and then being all surprised when there’s an accident. That’s my rant for the month, and I defend my right to make it.
My latest opus, “Darling, the Gulf Islands Have Moved, or our Anchor Has!” will likely come out in December.At the same time I also hope to publish the first collection of my ‘Jessica’ stories – “Jessica and the Polar Bear.” I sent my three Jessica chapter-book manuscripts to my parents, who told me they have no immediate plans to sue me. Good news! I shall rush out and publish before they change their minds.
And that is all the news that’s fit to print. Our vessel works so well, we are rubbing our hands and planning a whole summer of boating next season. I am healing in body if not attitude toward furballs with teeth, Paul had a wonderful visit this month, and I’m back in the swing of substitute teaching.
May God be with you now and always.

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Back from the wilds of Genoa Bay

We dropped the anchor and hung around Genoa bay for a week – a week of rowing 15 minutes out and three minutes back. A week of baking artisan bread and eating leftover mac and cheese. A week of drinking coffee and knitting a lace cowl pattern of surpassing intricacy and cobwebby horribleness (this was me, not John Darling) until my eyes were crossed and my tongue thick with snarling. When I finished the fool thing, my toes curled with sheer happiness. I varnished and sanded and varnished some more, and I whipped line ends until I’d tidied every line on the boat, and I admired from afar and up close the sewing job I did on the Velcro fastener of the mizzen sailcover. I walked and rowed and ate chocolate.
Then we looked at the fuel gauge.
“Honey,” I said, “How much fuel did we have when we started?”
“About half a tank,” John said.
“It’s registering empty,” I said.
“Impossible,” John said. “We can’t have used half a tank in the 15 minutes it took to motor here from Cowichan Bay. That’s 12 gallons. The gauge must be broken.”
So we dug out the headlamp so John could climb into the engine room and actually see what he was doing, only to find that our headlamp didn’t work any more. But I am a woman not without resources. Using a bit of leftover Velcro I had hanging around, I stuck an LED flashlight of the flat variety on the front of the headlamp, then whipped everything in shape with a bit of sockyarn. John Darling thinks I am a genius. He climbed into the engine room and fiddled for a bit.
“I bet it’s not broken at all,” I said. “Let’s try filling the fuel tank.”
“If the gauge is broken, someone will have to lie flat on her back in the companionway and shine a flashlight beam onto the overflow pipe to see when it changes colour,” John said. “I’ll show you where to shine the beam.”
As I lay in the passageway, it struck me that SOMEONE should clean the corners there, so John Darling passed me a bit of vinegar and paper towel, and I wiped up the worst of the grot in the passageway. There’s no hope for our engine room at all. I didn’t even try.
After I lay there 1/2 hour or so making friends with spiders, I heard a scream of joy from John Darling. “The gauge is working!” he cried. “It’s registering 1/4 of a tank.”
Unfortunately, after I was helped to a sitting position and had lumbered to my feet, it occurred to both of us that this was a good news/bad news sort of thing because WHERE was our diesel going? We weren’t burning it, we weren’t spewing it into the bilge or the sea – WHERE was it going? Our little gauge works fine, but it was calling out to us that the day tank was empty and WHY was it empty?
We thought about it every now and then during the rest of our week at anchor.
We did make it back safely (John Darling took it easy on the engine, which seemed to slow down our fuel loss), and we pulled into our slip at Cowichan Bay only 1/8 of a tank down.
George of the Snowy Beard thinks we’re siphoning or pumping fuel from the day tank back into the starboard tank. Because he is a local and full of Cowichan Bay optimism, he thinks it can be fixed.
Bless his heart, I hope he’s right.
The sun is shining and my heart is singing. Showers for everyone tonight. Who wouldn’t be happy?
Book #7 is edited and nearly ready to go, and I’m in Pacific Yachting AND 48 North this month. Just so you know, 48 North pays in AMERICAN dollars, and considering the pathetic state of our own dollar, this is news that fills me with excitement. I love Americans. They are wonderful.
However, I hope both magazine editors don’t read eachother’s publications this month. They may notice that both articles are about Genoa Bay. Heck, we haven’t GONE anyplace else for a couple of years.
love to you all,

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School’s Out!

Well, thank goodness. School’s done, and I lived. I’ve spent the last couple of days mucking about the boat doing laundry, changing bed linen, scrubbing mold out of corners, and re-sewing the Velcro fastening on my home-made mizzen sail cover. The sail cover was not a very professional job to begin with, but in recent years it had fallen on even harder times, and it was a very sad looking rag indeed before I took it in hand. I washed it (on the QT – I didn’t want to be caught in public with anything that grotty) in a public laundry, then slapped a bit of Velcro in place and sewed it. Doesn’t that sound easy? “I sewed it.” This involved quite a lot of swearing because my sewing machine is an old singer that doesn’t do well with thick or heavy fabric, and the sail cover had stiffened with age and UV damage, and besides the thread I used was horrible springy UV-resistant stuff that is far too heavy a gauge for my machine. More than four stitches threw my tension all for heck, so I snarled a bit and re-threaded and thrashed about until the job was done. Not done well, but done. The stitching will probably last a couple of years, or about as long as the sail cover will. By then we should have enough cash to invest in more Sunbrella fabric so we can start all over again.
I haven’t many skills, but I have a varied and imaginative vocabulary.
We’re waiting on a fuel sensor, which is absolutely the last installation before we head out to ‘do’ the Gulf Islands.
I spent yesterday pitching article ideas to boating magazine editors, bless their buttons. I’ve collected kill fees from most of them, so I live in hope. My next lot of article ideas will be for RV magazine editors, but I’m not too optimistic because most of the RV magazines I have seen are hideous up-market things intent on selling hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of rolling real estate to gullible rich people. My last RV magazine publisher retired and ceased publication. Her style was down-home and aimed at actual people who actually camped, and she appreciated my humour enough to publish it. Many years ago an RV magazine editor told me “Your article brings discredit to RVing,” at which point a) I knew the article was really funny, and b) I knew I wasn’t publishable in shiny RV magazines.
So if anyone spots a small, grotty RV magazine, please let me know. I would be very interested in writing for them.
John Darling is going bald on top, so he has taken to wearing hats indoors. He will be adorable with or without hair, so I’m not as fussed as he is. Also, he’s been through internal bleeding and a horrible bout with cancer, so by contrast, a little hair loss and I’m doing the hornpipe on the deck with joy.
And there I will close – with joy.

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Summer in the Sun

Now that our daytank is clean as the Disney Channel, we have great expectations that we shall go sailing. Of course, before that we must fix the daytank sensor, a niggling problem which John Darling has been working on for a month. The proper Cowichan Bay way of doing things is to a) look at the problem, b) ask advice from the guys who hang around the Lighthouse Café, and then c) say you haven’t got the right tools. We’ve taken several runs at the daytank, which is hidden in the back of our engine room. This is bad, because both of us are far too old to crawl into THAT engine room. It is a place nobody enters willingly. The streaks of condensation, the rust, the diesel fumes, the flakes of paint, the probably live wires dangling down. . . there is nothing attractive about that space. There’s likely no danger from the dangling wires, because over the years John Darling has tested all of them. It was early in our liveaboard lives that I once heard a loud ‘bang’, every breaker in the boat blew, and John Darling crawled out of the engine room looking quite pleased with himself. At that moment I was nearly made a widow.
I’ve spent the last few weeks slogging in a classroom. Substitute teaching is easy. You swan in and swan out, you get to actually teach, and there’s no pressure to do much or know anything except your subject, and after work you go home and drink a lovely cup of coffee and watch DVDs of British detective shows.
The sustained craziness of being in the same classroom for a few weeks, especially at year’s end, is enough to do in the most stalwart educator. Suddenly, I’m awake nights worried about students who haven’t turned in enough work. (They’re probably not lying awake worrying about it). I’m hunched over piles of papers marking. I’m planning a ‘MacBeth’ party. (cranberry juice in wineglasses, awards for my readers like ‘Most graceful corpse’ and a party game of ‘McDuff find the murderer’) I’m apologizing to the librarian because I swiped 25 copies of MacBeth out of the bookroom without having any idea they were supposed to be checked out. I’m trying to figure out how to use the Provincial mark-recording website without being able to sign in (The principal, bless his heart, came to the realization that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks in time for the year-end deadline). Christians 2, Lions 4.
But this weekend the marking is done, the report cards are done, and I’m done in. I’m ready for a lovely cup of coffee and an episode of ‘Inspector Morse’. I shall knit socks. I shall pitch ideas to magazine editors. I shall finish editing my next book. No – wait. I shall take a nap.
May this summer weather bring you much happiness.

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Fouled tank, cheery humour

We hauled! Yessss. We hauled, and even better, I talked the man i love into HIRING people. Going to Maple Bay, we had a little trouble with a clogged seacock and seawater sloshing around the cockpit, none of which is good. “Me and George can bail,” my husband told me.
“Are you NUTS?” I yelled. “You’re like those crazy women who think if they can diagnose a guy that’s the same thing as being able to live with him. HIRE someone.”
So he did.
Then, “We don’t need anyone to help us paint the bottom,” he said. “We can do it ourselves.”
“Honey, who is this ‘we’?” I asked. “HIRE someone.”
So he did. Bless Pete and Dan – they painted and I didn’t have to. Actually, I lasted an hour before I handed over my paintbrush. And George, who had helped bring the boat over, supervised the powerwashing & pronnounced the seacock cured when a gobbit of water sprayed out the cockpit drain.
Motoring home the engine worked beautifully right until it quit halfway up Sansum Narrows. John had to be towed in by the Coast Guard. I hopped up and down on the dock and yelled, much to the amusement of the six local men with smirks on their faces who had gathered on our dock to help catch lines.
“Take a good look at me,” I hollared. “You’ll never see me again. A week from now I’ll be living in a condo.”
It’s some time later and no condos came by, so I am still on the boat – and somewhat calmed down.
John Darling crawled around the engine room for awhile until he figured out that a fuel stoppage chocked our engine (we hope short of the injectors) because our daytank is fouled.
“Hire someone,” I said. So we got a fuel filtration company who said all they needed was an inch and a half access top and bottom (these guys are the masters) and for a mere $250.00 an hour they’ll solve all our problems. They’ll arrive, like cavalry, at the end of the month.
We can’t afford to live in a condo because we own a boat.
So I continue to teach and tutor. My writing career, such as it is, seems to have ground to a halt because there aren’t any boating magazines willing to publish me anymore. I was on the masthead of at least three magazines that tanked, which is not the kind of thing your brag about on a resume, and the RV Times publisher is downsizing & doesn’t want to pay me. That leaves Edge YK, and I’m running out of ideas for then. The problem with memoir is that it’s a finite resource. The material does not continue to climb the graph to an infinite end off the edge of the page. I am limited to what happened in highschool, and some of that is too depressing to talk about. I mean, I love my alma mater, dear Sir John Franklin HS in Yellowknife, NT, but you couldn’t pay me to go back there.
I have the manuscript for the next book nearly ready to go, but whether I can publish depends on how many hours it’ll take the tank guys to fix our problem, bless their hearts. Tanks take the higher seat at the table over books.
Paul has gone back to Edmonton and I miss him. Paul and I both were grateful to fly Westjet, which is such an improvement over 24 hours on a Greyhound bus, that words fail me.
So we continue to work and fix things, and the sun is shining, and the engine light hasn’t recently flashed up on my car, and Rupert phoned us last night.
Much love to you all, and many blessings.

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