A Sourdough on the Sunshine Coast: A Long Hot Summer
In the previous story, the Captain and I were able to secure a piece of Paradise in Stillwater by the Sea on the Sunshine Coast of B.C.
Stillwater is located 20 km south of Powell River. The property consists of a house, which we have rented out, six R.V. sites complete with tenants(I come to refer to this as the refugee camp), and we have two and one half gorgeous acres of Old Italian Orchard with ocean views. A pretty creek-side path across the road from our house leads you in a heartbeat to the beach at Frolander Bay and the Salish Sea.
We cannot break ties with the Yukon, so we have bought a 33 ft. Avion RV; a cousin to the Airstream trailers that glisten like steel cigars on wheels. This will be our tiny house. We don’t want to give notice to our tenants in the house until we know what in the hell we doing! It’s a long ways to Whitehorse, Toto!
The Audrey Eleanor, our 54’, 1948 wooden yacht is for sale.
She has been for sale for a couple of years. Old wooden boats are not easy to sell; most people see the amount of work required to keep them afloat. I see the beauty in wood; I often compared the concept of plastic boats to wooden boats as ‘plastic flowers or real flowers?’ The real flowers take some work but are so very worth it! Her hull is in superb condition, salt-water pickles wood, fresh water rots it. Her house is starting to fall in on top of us and we do not have the dineros to bring her back. We estimate $100,000 to bring the Audrey E back to her glory.
Someone out of Prince George has indicated that he has the talent, time, and money to take the Audrey E out of her slump. He has a 33’ C&C sailboat, The Starduster, which he offers in trade for the Audrey Eleanor. The Captain chokes on the sailboat aspect! “Seriously?” he looks at me with an evil eye. How can he give up his twin perkins diesels for a 4 stroke Kubota?? Sailboat!! With a stomp he turns on his heel and throws me the evil eye AGAIN over his shoulder… I can see he is thinking about it.
Moorage is dragging us down at $400/month. We need to haul our lady out every summer to paint her bottom and apply zincs. A Weighs is the best way to haul out our 30 tonne gal. The hoist scares the daylights out of me and puts too much stress on the wooden structure. It is difficult to find a Weighs, which secures your vessel to a pulley system that ratchets you to a secure site ashore. You may also tie up to a few strategically placed poles commonly found in marinas and wait for the tide to go out. This leaves you high and dry by low tide and you have a ‘one tide time’ to get your work done. We have done many versions of this in Alaska. A haul out with paint is going to cost $1,200 on the lighter side.
It is never ending. There are few spots over our berth in the Captains stateroom that don’t leak; the water hits me directly on my forehead, this is just not fun anymore. We hate that she is deteriorating on our watch; we want someone who will take good care of her. She is a treasure that spent time at the Vancouver Maritime Museum in the Harbour on display, she deserves so much better than we can give.
“A C&C is a pretty good catch Mom.”
Bobby, my son’s eyes glow when he talks sailboats. ‘A C&C is a pretty good catch Mom’, he states. The Starduster is rigged with stainless racing gear, plus a whole bunch more descriptive sailboat jargon that turns my brain to a foggy mist. All I hear is ‘no sanding, no painting, no leaking, way less moola for moorage (she doesn’t have to have power hook-up). We look at pictures, Bob talks to the wily Captain, Bob knows how to make his point. ‘Rick,’ he says, ‘It’s like flying when you sail!’ ‘You catch wind currents, it’s very cool!’
The Captain is pondering the exchange. He used to fly a Stinson airplane that he rebuilt. The Stinson is long gone but he remains in love with flight. Catching the wind and sailing through currents of air is a much more appealing sell than my ‘just think, no more 6 gallons per hour of fuel, no more terror when just the two of us try to land this 30 tonne ship during a tide change and raging winds blow us sideways… as well, the sailboat is much lighter, will do less damage should she escape her shackles in the middle of the night and drift into more securely anchored objects.
The Starduster is in Kitimat; the Audrey Eleanor is in South Harbour in Powell River. The prospective traders will come down this weekend to see if they like our spectacular and grand lady, the Captain is still scowling, but I can tell that he is thinking about it.
In my very best fantasy, we haul the Audrey Eleanor into the RV Park at Stillwater and convert her into a house, I am deadly serious.
It would not be fair to haul her onto the hard with her hull in such good shape, but we are at a loss. My house concept is rattling the Captain to his bones; he knows I am serious, if not entirely selfish. I love this boat!
I walk the top ridge of our property behind the masses of grapes and grape vines; this is where we have positioned the Avion (this is the place I envision the Audrey Eleanor) while we figure out the next step. Brown grass crunches under my feet and clouds of powdered dust cover my already dirty toes. I love the walk toward the loafing barn. In front of me lays the sea. Clumps of grey rock mounded in the middle of Frolander Bay is home to a colony of sea lions, they bark and growl like dogs hoarse and worn out with keeping intruders at bay. Sun beats hot on my face, it is the end of October and the heat soars to the high 20’s during the day still.
This has been a summer of learning for these Yukoners.
Did you know that strawberries are invasive? I babied those suckers for weeks until the first batch of seedy red knobs looked ripe enough to eat. They were terrible; you have to replace strawberry plants every three years because they lose their flavour apparently. You can plant strawberries and harvest fruit within weeks maybe even days here, can you believe tomatoes can be grown outside?? In the meantime, they have taken over my weedy garden and are fighting with the Iris for space.
I take Rick’s pickaxe to the Iris tubers with no luck. He used that pickaxe for gold mining up in Dawson City for crying out loud… I need a small backhoe to dig up the roots of the Iris’s and bulrushes, seriously! A friend gave me Sunchoke tubors (Jerusalem artichoke), but said, ‘be careful, it is invasive!’ I am terrified, what to do? I don’t want to waste it, but I am afraid it will add to the invasion by the pond. In the end, I guiltily ‘forget it’ in a brown bag to dry out and die.
The Ornamental plum trees have very bad haircuts; I am amazed we didn’t kill them in our exuberance. Fall is the time for pruning, not mid summer! Limbs hang down like broken arms. Our neighbours are kind in the absence of comment. Rose, our elderly Scottish neighbour, only mentions in passing ‘that having trees too tall for harvesting fruit are a waste of a fruit tree after all’. Very kind indeed.
Winter has begun two months ago at home in the Yukon. The extremes within this country are staggering. Even the cedar trees here look brown and sunburnt. ‘I can hardly wait for winter!’ I think to myself. My eyes open in wonder; there is no way that I thought that!! I have never, ever had enough summer. Who ever has enough summer? I laugh out loud; I am ready for the rain to come.
Life is good on the North Sunshine Coast.
We don’t get snow on the North Sunshine Coast, not any worth talking about. A winter of storm watching and sitting by our crackling fir fire writing stories sounds good to me! This snowless ‘winter’ extends from November to February. Christmas morning could find you on the deck having coffee in the warmth of the sun, with mostly no clothes (a story for another season). Life is good on the North Sunshine Coast. Talk to you next month.