Director of Operations – Bluenose II
So, fourteen days of self-isolation ended yesterday, and I went into the world. That, plus being super careful at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, meant I had not stepped into society for three and a half months (except for the inter-city bus ride to get me here).
Mask on face, I got on the city bus and sat in a designated seat, keeping folk (hopefully) at a healthy distance. Seating was reduced by half. Not everyone wore masks.
Reaching my destination, and out on the street where I could keep my distance, I pushed my mask off (though I did not put it away). There was moderate foot traffic, and it was not difficult to keep from getting close to people. I ‘d guess only one in twenty wore a mask.
I have a favourite walk along the harbour, and when I reached the water I attempted to set out on it. First, I did check to see if the public washroom was operating. It was. However, I found my usual trek was restricted by construction. I had to start along a city street, which is narrow this close to the harbour. There was no way not to be close to folk walking in my direction, and I pulled up my mask. Again, few others were wearing masks.
Once beside the water, where the wooden walkways are wide, it was much easier keeping away from other folk. There were many people there (it was a nice summer day) and the majority of them did not wear masks. Outside bars were open, and I saw groups of people (10 – 20) sitting at long tables. There were also folk in twos and threes sitting on public benches.
I knew there would be no cruise ships in port (that business is dead for the year), but I eventually realised there were no pleasure crafts, either. All of the moorings were deserted, and it made quite a difference. The only marine traffic I saw was a Pilot Boat on its way out.
I did sit awhile (a favourite pass time) at an individual chair, and looked out toward the Atlantic Ocean. And was happy there was some breeze.
As I continued, I was surprised that (I believe) all the restaurants were open. Folk were inside and out on the patios. No masks were visible (except on the servers). There were reduced numbers, of course, but I bet the restaurants were as full as they could be.
I eventually continued along the streets to get of a large grocery store. I had not been in a commercial building for three months. I lucked out when, as I entered, one employee was wiping down a shopping cart. I grabbed it. I was only getting a few items (though – as usual – there were some unplanned purchases). More shoppers had masks, but I’d guess 50% did not. Nor (you can believe this) did they all follow the arrows on the floor. Still, I was in and out quickly, paying with a credit card (I did see one person use cash).
Next door is a Liquor Store, and I made some purchases there. No one else wore masks. I did not stay long, knowing full well what I wanted.
The bus back was much like the one I took to the harbour. Enter by the side door. Designated seat. No ticket necessary.
So a day has passed. Purchases requiring refrigeration were disinfected and put away. The rest I’m just going to let sit until the respective safe time frames for the respective containers passes.
I decided to stay put today.
“That is a peculiar-looking ship.”
“It is,” agrees Alison Alexandra.
She agrees because it is a peculiar-looking ship. She is studying it through her military-grade binoculars as she stands near the edge of her cliff, leaning against a waist-high barrier she had constructed just for this purpose.
Three sturdy posts painted blue.
There is a wooden knob atop each post, painted red. Four broad boards, painted white, are securely nailed to the posts, with slight gaps between them. There is room for five people to stand side-by-side.
Alison Alexandra has never had more than one person at a time accompany her on this venture. A slight problem at the moment is that this is not one of those times. She is standing alone, binoculars to eyes, looking out to the ship in the harbour. The peculiar-looking ship.
“In fact, it is not just peculiar-looking, it is actually peculiar.”
It is,” agrees Alison Alexandra, who does not lower her binoculars. “Though that is not the only peculiar thing at the moment.”
“It is not?”
“It is not,” says Alison Alexandra. “One other peculiar thing is that I am standing here by myself.”
“I don’t,” says Alison Alexandra.
“I’m out of your vision.” The voice does not falter. “I’m R/Jane-the-Ghost.”
“R/Jane-the-Ghost?” asks Alison Alexandra.
“Yes,” confirms R/Jane-the-Ghost.” Yes.”
“A for real ghost?” asks Alison Alexandra. “Not a figment produced by an undigested piece of potato?”
“I like that idea,” says R/Jane-the-Ghost. “Being a Dickensian ghost. I liked reading Dickens.”
“As do I,” says Alison Alexandra.
“But – no – no Dickensian ghost am I. I bring no warnings.”
“”No festive cheer?”
“Nary a candle.” Says R/Jane-the-Ghost. “No bony finger have I, pointing at anything.”
“You did – in your way – point out the peculiar ship.”
“In my way.”
“Point taken,” says Alison Alexandra.
There is a low chuckle, bordering on hearty, close beside her right ear. She does lower her binoculars at that, and moves her head to look. Her view is unobstructed all the way down her cliff. The water sparkles.
I was perched on my favourite bench looking out the mouth of the harbour to the North Atlantic, when three twenty-somethings decided to perch on the edge of the wharf in front of me.
They obviously had been having the following discussion a good time before they arrived. Buddy 1 told the other two he was going to jump into the harbour. Buddy 2 was saying he wouldn’t dare, all the while daring him. The Girl was mostly quiet with an occasional laugh. She did say once or twice it was ass silly idea.
This discussion went on about ten minutes, Buddy 1 getting more determined, Buddy 2 egging him on more and more, and the Girl’s laughter getting a bit more nervous.
I felt I was an audience for them, though their voices did get higher whenever other folk passed. I noted that the idea to jump was not getting any less insistent. I felt that none of them were under any influence of drink or drugs, they were obviously physically fit, and I noted the closest Life Preserver was two minutes away if I had to throw it. I, myself, was not going in after anyone, no matter how refreshing the splash.
Usually, such joking around does not persist, so I was less surprised than the other two when Buddy 1 started taking off shoes and socks. Then his shirt. Buddy 2 kept daring him. The word “chicken” was bandied. The Girl was now voicing more cautious comments.
Buddy 1, who had made certain they were near a ladder, stood up on the foot-high wooden planking at the edge of the pier. Buddy 2 switched between comments that Buddy 1 was crazy, to more outlandish dares. The Girl sighed dramatically and just said he was crazy. I agreed – but silently. And over Buddy 1 went. He didn’t dive, but side way flopped. It was six to ten feet to the water. The splash was impressive. His scrambling up the ladder even more so.
Now, Buddy 1 was standing, soaking wet in a pool of water. Other people were paying attention. Some made comments as they passed “Was it cold enough for ya? Haw haw.” The Girl was shaking her head. Buddy 1 dared Buddy 2 to jump in. Buddy 2 said he would, if Buddy 1 jumped in again. The Girl said for them to stop being crazy. But, once in, what was there to lose?
Into the ocean goes Buddy 1 again. A side way splash. Up the ladder as fast as ever.
More people are walking past, making comments.
Buddy 2 said there were even people further away filming with their phones. He told the Girl to take out her phone and take some pictures. He took off his shoes and his shirt. He gave his hat to the Girl. He jumped. He called from the water for Buddy 1 to join him. Buddy 1 did. They both were up the ladder right quick. They were both dripping. They were both shivering. The both dared the Girl to jump.
The Girl handed her phone to Buddy 2. She slipped out of her sandals. She might have heard one of the Buddies start to say “You wouldn’t dare.” In she went. She was not quite as quick up the ladder, but both Buddy 1 and Buddy 2 helped her.
They all three were uncontrollably shivering. They all put on their foot ware. One passer by told them how cold the North Atlantic really was. He said they should get home and get into a hot shower or bath. They were all shivering greatly, but I think they shook their heads in agreement.
And away they went.
[Image] https: //farm8.staticflickr.com/7031/6700698963_b7a10e3063_z.jpg
The sea plays a big part for Alison Alexandra in my manuscript There Was A Time, Oh Pilgrim, When The Stones Were Not So Smooth. This is at the beginning of a night that is going to last a long time.
There seems to be a touch of mist coming over the ocean as Alison Alexandra looks from the windows of her prow of a ship house on the top of her cliff. Well, she calls it her cliff and no one – yet – has said ‘nay’. But then, she thinks of it as her ocean, so what is someone going to do with that?
She turns the lights out in her prow of a ship room and settles into her comfortable winged chair. The sun is in its last minute of setting and Alison Alexandra concentrates on the positions of the ships settling in for the night. There are always ships that have no space for a berth until the next day. One or two always seem to have to wait until the day after that.
The vagaries of shipping and commerce, and the whims of an erratic sea, can only be predicted with moderate success. The tides and the winds and the atmospheric pressures high and low make merry over and under the endless horizons. They whirl and they twirl and they scud and skip with gay abandon. ‘Catch them and predict them?’ – well, Alison Alexandra knows better than that.
As it is, her sea eye – well-honed after these many years of coastal watching – is certain the touch of mist that kisses the top of the waves in a most flirtatious manner is deciding whether or not to settle in for the night and become mistress to sea and ships and those swabbies who – oh, so quickly – will be told that the watch must be doubled.
No matter that they are within sight of shore and already have their imaginations stirred by what will be offered at fine establishments such as The Tugboat Wharf And Seafood Lounge with its All You Can Eat Beef Buffet and waitresses who are never going to give them the attention they crave but will still be a damn good source to stroke the imagination and then they can hit the streets and hope to find some pliable bodies with whom to hit the sheets if only by the hour.
Yesterday, I wrote the following blog, explaining my attempts to perhaps wed fiction and reality.
TODAY, I’ll relate what really happened.
I did get down to a chill and cloudy harbour in time to see The Alexandra. In fact, I was in good early time, for the ways of the sea don’t always fit schedules.
I stayed an hour and a half, with no sight of the ship. I would have stayed longer on a more pleasant day, but I was reaching a degree of cold that it is best not to ignore. So I returned home.
I started to follow The Alexandra on three different Marine sites. I could not fix an exact location, but it was obvious by its speed that it was not coming into a harbour. I then came across an arrival time of 19:00, instead if the original 15:00. But, even following it at that time, it was obvious it was not in Halifax harbour.
So, I kept a periodic watch from my windows, the manuscript for my own Alison Alexandra literally at hand. perhaps that was in some way more of a connection of reality to my fictional world.
At 21:00, well after dark, I watched The Alexandra and its tug boats pass along the harbour. It was a good view, though not as good a view as from a pier. I’m sure Alison Alexandra was pleased. Or, as she sometimes says, “pleased enough”.
I made the assumption that a ship six hours late would leave around six hours late. And, although I awoke well before such an assumed departure time, I found it had already left. I was, however, able to see The Alexandra depart the mouth of Halifax via port web cams.
I was by the harbour – chilly though it was – standing on one of the wharfs that was still in sunlight.
I had been cautious as I approached the edge, because I did not want to disturb an injured seagull, It was huddled beside a corner post, trying to stay out of the wind. I figured there was enough room for both of us.
The gull did shift its weight from time to time, and seemed to keep its side toward the wind. It was not a sleek-looking bird, and had misaligned feathers on one of its wings. It favoured an odd side-hop when it moved. I wondered what misadventure it might have experienced.
There was little traffic on the harbour, but the sunshine and clear sky made the water a deep and beautiful blue. I was looking out toward the ocean proper when a commotion startled me. My decrepit gull was fast into the air and then, even faster, into the water. Seconds later the bird was back in the air, its beak full of crab.
The gull landed a very safe distance from me. It began to dispatch the crab with fast and furious strikes of its beak. The gull kept the crab on its back as it pecked away at the softer underside. This was no delicate fine dining, as pieces of the crab’s shell flew in various directions, and made sounds as they landed on the surrounding dock. Soon, the only motions the crab made were from the piercing of the gull’s beak.
Considering that I dine – admittedly, with a tad more finesse – upon lobster, I had no problem with the gull acquiring its own meal. It had been earned.
And I will make no more assumptions about the state of gulls by appearance alone.
Some summers ago, I was walking along a river, and heard the strangest noise. It was one of those noises which, when I found out what It was, sounded exactly as it should.
A beaver was chewing at a branch on the bank of the river. First there were small rolling noises as the branch went through its hands, and then the ‘gnaw gnaw gnaw’, and then the turning noise and the cycles were repeated.
This went on fifteen minutes or so, then the beaver and I both heard noises in the water. We both saw another beaver approaching.
The beaver-at-gnaw quickly went in her direction (though I can only guess which sex was which).
They swam toward each other, then rubbed faces. The approaching beaver made small bawling noises like a young calf. They rubbed bodies and seemed to sniff each other, then they swam in different directions.
This performance – the swimming away, the languid circling, the approaches – went on for twenty minutes. A couple of times the ‘gnawing’ beaver clambered over the over beaver’s back, but this lasted just a few seconds. The beaver which had approached rubbed noses once again, and made the bawling sounds one more time.
I never appreciated how large beavers are until one of them came up on the bank. The water was clear enough to see their feet and tail move underwater (I wonder if the portion out of the water might have the 1/10 proportion of an iceberg).
The sun was setting and they became difficult to see. However they decided to part anyway. One began to go down river toward the harbour, and one headed to the other shore.
I was left to ponder what they might have in plan after a good night’s sleep.
But where I’m walking, money only whispers if it says anything at all, and there are bars and used furniture shops and tenement buildings. The cars are old, not vintage. As I walk along the sidewalk a van enters the driveway immediately ahead of me. Stops so its ass is on part of the sidewalk and I have to swerve.
The side doors slide open and out come a dozen or so men and women. Poorly dressed. Unkempt. Quiet if not sullen. They are intent, and follow the gestures of the driver. This way. This way. They are all headed to a tavern on the corner. I follow the group along the sidewalk, although not into the drinking establishment. As I pass I notice the marker-on-cardboard signs in the window. ‘Two Bucks a Drink Thursday’.
I continue up a hill and then down a hill. I’m aiming for the harbour because I like the water, and the boats, and the vistas. This part of the harbour is also genteel, because there is a large hotel and retirement homes along the genteel boardwalk. There are benches upon which to sit. I appreciate all this. I chose a bench and I sit.
I can sit literally for an hour and more. I am no where near my quota when a roughly, though neatly dressed, young man sits on a bench a couple away from me. He stares out to sea in silence for a number of minutes. Then he starts to talk loudly enough for me to hear. I am the only one present.
“Gotta storm coming down the coast.”
“I heard.” And I have.
“Going to be bad.”
“So they say.”
“Not good to go out on that.”
“I gotta boat waiting for me.” He mentions the name of a fishing village. “Haven’t been out for awhile.”
“I wouldn’t start today.” And I wouldn’t, but I don’t fish.
“It’s a bugger.” He has not once looked at me. “Gotta go back sometime.”
“I’m sure you do.” And I am.
“Lost a man last time.” I’m not sure I hear him correctly. “Messy death. The sea’s like that.”
I feel I should say something, and I’m sure I should have. But what? I am not certain, truth be told, that he is even – really – talking to me. There is no emotion in his voice. He has yet to look at me. At best it’s a monologue and I’m the audience.
He then opens his outer windbreaker and takes a large bottle from an inner pocket. It looks like a bottle that commercial mouthwash is sold in. He screws off the cap and starts to drink. He does not gargle. He takes a number of drinks in quick succession, and I am convinced it is not mouthwash. But I do not know. He screws the cap back on and puts the bottle back in his pocket. He sits. He sits in silence.
“Sea’s getting rough.” He stands. “Lot of wind.” He starts toward the railing along the boardwalk. “I’ve got the Spring run, but I’m not going out after that.” He leans against the railing. “Time to stop. Yes, it is.”
He stands, looking out over the raising waves for a couple of minutes. Then he walks away.
(Jacques Brel’s “Port of Amsterdam” via David Bowie)