Showing posts from July, 2013

Ups & Downs

A month ago I left on this adventure. I’d been wishing and hoping and planning for so long that when it finally happened I ran full tilt on adrenaline. But life has a way of slowing you down. Living at a lightstation is kind of like living at the cottage with all it’s amazing scenery and wildlife, seclusion from the rush of the world, and time to ponder and create. It also has its down sides. Since coming here I’ve been fighting a battle with cottage mustiness to which I am allergic, and I seem to be winning. The upstairs living area is habitable now, as I open up all the doors and windows all day long to let in the sun and sea air. I’ve disposed of several moldy culprits and washed down the place with vinegar. Also, a dehumidifier and air cleaner is on its way. Score one for the lightkeeper.

My legs, particularly my ankles, have been well munched by nasty demon flies that relish the fact that I’ve been wearing shorts and sandals in this glorious sunshine.The calamine lotion in our fir…


Holy Smoke! I just figured out how to use my iPhone as a network to get wifi for my laptop. As I type this I am sitting on a rock overlooking the bay with my laptop on my lap and my iphone beside me on the rock. Contemporary Thoreau, no? Of course, this will only work while the weather is good--I can't be doing this in the rain and fog:)

It's been an interesting week getting settled into Chatham Point and a movie will follow. Some highlights:

I drove the boat. Whoohoo!

We saw about fifty Pacific white-sided dolphins that same evening, travelling up and down the channel with the tide. I took some video footage and hope it will show a little of what we experienced.

Saw my first black bear here last night. It was a calm evening and I was reading when I noticed the tree branches shaking just outside my window. When I peered out, there he was, standing up and checking out the plums for ripeness. I gather he'll be around often as the fruit ripens. There are several fruit trees here.…

I Love the Coast Guard

Just a really quick post as it's been a very long day. Yesterday, I learned to drive the John Deere tractor -- very exciting -- and drove it down to dump my compost/kitty litter away from the station. At a station with so much wildlife and hikers regularly visiting we have to discourage them from foraging nearby. And after seeing that old bear, I wasn't much in the mood for another trek through the woods with my treasures in hand. What you see below is a Coast Guard strategy for transferring luggage to the helicopter--and guess who got to drive?

I love the Coast Guard, I really do. These are some of the nicest people you ever will meet. They make sure you are safe and well looked after without every making it seem like it's an effort. They're skilled and respectful and we should be proud of these folks who represent Canada. Wow. Where did that come from? It's true. I really am impressed. Anyway, the fog burned off, thankfully, and it turned into a gorgeous day. I saw…

Cape Scott Days

Wow. It's Saturday. I lose track of days out here with nothing to mark them but differentiated weather. Is it still overcast? Yes. Is that fog or a rampant cloud? Funny, how soon I have adapted to life without people (except of course for my work partner here on the station). Yesterday, I had some yahoo hikers sitting outside that reminded me of life at the condo. Why do people have no respect for what's going on around them? Today I had to tell a woman, mid-twenties at least, not to perch on the uppermost rings of the light. "Oh, can't we climb up here? I thought we could climb on the lighthouse"? Yes. Well.

Apart from routine duties and watching out for silly hikers, I've been working on my garageband and iMovie skills. What follows is my very first movie soundtrack--it's really just me playing around on a synthesizer (thanks again Ivan) and recording several tracks--but I needed to learn how to do that. It's called "Cape Scott Days" and re…

Starry Starry Night

Yesterday, we were obscured upwards of a half mile by fog for the better part of the day--only finding some relief in the early evening when the sun magically appeared. If my writing sounds like a weather report, it is because I have become a keen observer of the elements. 

Tonight, as I lie in bed, I cannot sleep, for the clear black sky scatters stars outside my window. I cannot help but stare out as they stare in at me. My bed lies along a north-facing window, so all I have to do is glance out to come face to face with Ursa Major AKA The Big Dipper. This flirtation continues for an hour or more. By 3am I concede, get dressed, grab my camera, and stumble outside into the darkness, startling a deer browsing by my front door, as she startles me. I assume, perhaps wrongly, that a deer will not browse in the vicinity of a bear, and feel some comfort in the darkness.

But my little camera is no match for the celestial heavens. For a time, I watch our light revolve in the night and wonder wh…

Sunday Hike at Low Tide

Leaving Scarlett again is sad. This is my third visit and I always love it here ... good friends, good music, and the scenery, well, how can it get any better? Yesterday, Laury and I went for our traditional hike to Grassy Point. I am something of a rockhound--am fascinated by the colours, the shapes, the striations, and the effects of the Elements, of Time and Sea. I've always been a collector, even brought rocks across Canada when I moved from Ontario to BC. But now in my very minimalist life, I'm leaving rocks where I find them, and just taking images along with memories.

And so, of course, I made another movie:)

You'll see here my fascination with shape and colour and all of the natural world.

When I hit my frustration point, trying to add iMovie sound clips and make it all come together, Ivan came to the rescue and graciously offered one of his recordings, "A Lightkeeper's Lament". Composed and played by Ivan on mandolin, I think it fits very well. And, not…

Making Movies Take 2

I'm not sure whether I love iMovie or hate it. I felt much the same way about knitting--and my filming is just about as good as my first couple of pairs of lumberjack socks.

Anyway, on Friday I flew 60 miles south by chopper from Addenbroke Island back to Scarlett Point, where I've been staying mainly since July 1st. Riding in the little helicopter is like sitting behind the eyes of a very large very red dragonfly. It looks something like this:

And my film is a little shaky, but hey, filming in a wee helicopter is like that. Today, I'm packing up again, and then I'll be heading off to Cape Scott come Monday.

I still have no phone service, so I'm not being unsociable, I'm just in a "no service" zone.

My Very First Film

Wow! This is so exciting. At Addenbroke Light Station, apart from learning a whole lot of new light keeping skills, like how to do aviation weather reports and check engine rooms, I've also learned how to use iMovie. The Inside Passage is a haven for humpbacks. It seems that every time I sit down to do something, some whale has surfaced and is either talking or clearing his blowhole. This sends me running outside with my camera.

The woman I am working with here is a filmmaker, among other things, and showed me a few things about using iMovie, and so, what you are about to see is my very first film. I will confess I am probably hooked. Of course, the animals here are photogenic and, for the most part, cooperative--although I got my moccasins wet more than once dashing out onto the deck to stand in the rain.

Yesterday we had moderate rain showers and afterwards walking around in rubber boots was treacherous due to the overabundance of banana slugs. The first time you see one--they'…

Helis & Humpbacks

This morning I had my first helicopter ride ever! Here I am just before leaving Scarlett, wondering what I'm about to experience. It's been cold up here. You can see how we're dressed for winter in July. Thank you Taiga.

Dave gave me the safety orientation and got me all suited up. The life vest is surprising heavy as it's packed with equipment like flares and even a personal EPIRB. The Coast Guard takes safety seriously.

Cruising over the ocean at 115 knots, it felt like we were floating ... just a bubble in a slow wind ... deep evergreens, black bogs, miles of blue waves passing beneath us, and the odd spectacularly deserted sand beach. 

Still, it only took about thirty minutes to fly the 6o or so miles up the coast to Addenbroke Island.

One of the most spectacular things about Addenbroke is that it's prime humpback territory. According to the keeper here, a small group of whales cruise around the island all day long. We were lucky enough to spot this guy about 100 m…

No Service ... No Sleep

It is very frustrating to continually see this in the top left corner of my iphone4.

Particularly because when I was here before my phone DID work (in the far kitchen window) and because my friend's iPhone 4S works fine. She uses a booster but can get service without it; whereas, I can't even get service WITH it. 

Philosophically, this begs the question: why am I so tied to talking on my phone? I'm certainly not a big talker, not even a phone talker really, but I like things to work. I like to know I CAN talk if I want to talk and I want to talk to my daughter. Hey, this is DAY 9. 

If anyone has any ideas please let me know. Meanwhile, I've emailed Telus to complain. Yeah, I know. We'll see how far THAT gets me! 

Meanwhile, one of "the girls" has decided it's time she got her bed back. Hermione spent a good portion of last night meowing and chewing on my hands. Bad cat! This began around 4:30am and continued until I managed to evict her and close the door…

Sunday Morning Inspiration

My friend, Brad, sent me this story, written by BC poet and writer Patrick Lane, just this morning, and I have to share it because it's so beautiful and so true.

Back in early December of 1958, I was 19 years old, living with my wife and baby boy in a two-room apple picker’s shack a few miles down the road from here. I had a job driving dump truck for a two-bit outfit that was working on a short stretch of highway just down the hill from where this university was built so many years later. I remember leaving the shack and walking out to stand by the highway in the wind and snow. I stood there shivering in my canvas coat as I waited to be picked up by the grader operator in his rusted pickup truck. The sky was hard and grey. Its only gift that winter day was ice disguised as a fragile, bitter snow. As I stood there in the false dawn, I looked up for a moment and as I did an iridescent blue butterfly the size of my palm fluttered down and rested on the sleeve of my coat just above my …

Ah, How Cute is This Fawn?

Excellent surprise when I looked out the window just now. This is the first time I've had a really good look at this black-tail fawn ... and just enough sunlight. Seriously, could this little guy be any cuter?

Knits & Knots

The last few days here the wind’s been gusting. Yesterday afternoon, we estimated northwest winds at 25 knots--that’s the kind of gust that makes you grab for your hat when it hits. Technically, to be gusting, the peak wind speed has to be at least 15 knots with the fluctuation raising it by 5 knots or more; meaning that, those gusts were hitting us at about 30 knots yesterday.
The term “knots” originated from the use of actual coloured knots that mariners tied at 47.33 foot intervals into a length of twine. The end of this “log line” had a circular chip weighted with lead. Mariners cast the log line over the stern and allowed it to run free for 28 seconds. By counting the number of knots that passed over during that time interval, they could measure the vessel’s speed. 
One knot equals one nautical mile per hour (60 minutes). This means, that if a ship is moving at a speed of 25 knots, like our wind was yesterday, it is travelling 25 nautical miles (NM) per hour.
You can see how hard I’…

Gusty Thursday

An active morning for me (for awhile at least) as I learned to use the weed wacker! A period of shaky arms followed but has since dissipated; and yes, Michael, I did do the ball and noodle. I can see that I will need to actually exercise in order to do this job:)

To recuperate, I went for a wander around the point and down into the sunny sheltered garden where I found this sweet sparrow singing his heart out in the salal. 

The waves and winds picked up this afternoon to a gusty 20 knots. Fortunately this little black-tailed deer found a sheltered place to rest by the foxgloves. Black-tailed deer are numerous on the islands all along the strait in Coastal BC--his tail is actually black with white underneath and a white tip. Wolves culled several deer from Scarlett last winter; but, left Pretty Lady who had a fawn this spring. I caught a glimpse of her wee fawn when I appeared from behind some bushes unexpectedly and surprised them. She keeps her fawn well hidden. Though this buck was hav…

One Amazing Woman

Meet Jeanne Socrates. 

Jeanne is on Day 256 of her solo unassisted nonstop circumnavigation of the world. She is 70 years old and one amazing woman. Ivan is monitoring her on his ham radio and checks in with her every day. Yesterday, I was there when they chatted. Jeanne was a little frustrated with the calm winds off the coast as she's trying hard to make it into Victoria. You can follow her at this link:

Check out her story and her blog. She's hoping to arrive this weekend, so if you're around, keep an eye out for her sails. Jeanne is the oldest woman to solo circumnavigate. What an inspiration.

Photo courtesy of--

The One About Ravens

A pair of ravens (Corvus Corax) are raising their three offspring here at the lightstation. All day they careen by, shiny black acrobats, squawking and chasing each other like kids do everywhere. Right now, as I’m sitting by the window typing, a shadow catapults from the roof before me, and it’s one of the kids, and then another. They like to convene on the top of the light or perch above the canary yellow fuel tanks, which to Ivan’s chagrin, are now being whitewashed. I carried my camera around yesterday trying for a decent shot of this comedic troupe and eventually managed to get this:

Just look at this trickster.

What's he thinking? It’s easy to see why Raven would be known by the West Coast People for transforming into a hemlock seed, so he could be drunk by a beautiful girl and reborn as a small human. The world was all dark then. Raven knew the girl’s father had the sun locked away in a cedar box and he wanted that sun. Of course, Raven succeeds. But in his triumph, Eagle atta…

Safely Stowed

I am now safely stowed at Scarlett Point Lightstation, 25 kilometres north of Port Hardy. Coming in on the Coast Guard lifeboat we spotted humpbacks off the port bow. Me, standing on the flybridge, and thinking how I need to knit a new toque quick as my left ear is tingling with the cold below my ballcap. Yesterday, I sunburned my left arm driving the 385 kilometres from Nanaimo to Port Hardy. It was humid and 30 C there, but here? This is wool country. White clouds, like layered cotton batten, obscure the horizon. Rock cedar islands shifting in varying shades of green and grey that a thesaurus can't explain. No wonder the Coast Guard paints everything red and white. 

We’d hadn’t yet reached the station when the captain brought the lifeboat to a dead stop. A small grey craft was making its way towards us from port side.
“We’ve got a huge wake,” he explained, “and that’s your ride.” My ride? And so, there in the middle of the channel, Laury and I, exchanged rides--she with her two sm…