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Ship And Sailor Both Await The Danger of Fog

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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.

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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.

(Image) https://i.ytimg.com/vi/uDF-z2ZPzRg/maxresdefault.jpg

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What Really Happened When The Alexandra Arrived In Port On Sea And Page

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Yesterday, I wrote the following blog, explaining my attempts to perhaps wed fiction and reality.

[I am four hundred pages into my new novel, There was A Time, Oh Pilgrim, When the Stones Were Not So Smooth. In the current chapter I am writing, my main character, Alison Alexandra, is getting a tour on the bridge of The Alexandra.
This is a real ship, and  I have researched the ship over the course of a week. Alison Alexandra wanted to go aboard solely because of its name. However, her expectations of the visit are disappointing, in part to find that real life can not necessarily equal the fantasy about it.

 

I have just seen, in my daily News of the Port, that The Alexandra is arriving in Halifax this afternoon at 15:00. I will be down on the harbour with my binoculars to see her arrive. However, I could actually stay home and see the ship, as it passes through The Narrows at the bottom of my street, on its way to the Fairview Container Terminal.
Perhaps that is what I will do tomorrow, with a coffee in hand, and watch The Alexandra depart.]

 

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.

(image)https://photos.fleetmon.com/vessels/alexandra_9635676_1850863.570×1140.jpg

 

Gulled By The Gull – The Smart Bird Strikes

 

seagull-beakI 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.

(image) http://www.cepolina.com/photo/nature/animals/birds/seagull/gull/4/seagull-beak.jpg

When Beavers Fall In Summer Love – Stand Aside

beavers

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.

(image)4.bp.blogspot.com/-08yw2sDiLAQ/URpBmKAAdDI/AAAAAAAAAM8/A8vw56FM22A/s1600/beavers.JPG

In Port, & Dry Land Ain’t All That Great

It’s Thursday in the Port, and I’m walking in what some folk call the rougher part of the city. This always means “poorer”. Which always seems comparable to what the more genteel folk of a place class as, well, genteel. Go three streets over and one down. You’ll be walking where the genteel live and money talks up a storm. In a genteel way, of course.

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 bet.”

“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)

Ship’s Cat, Erik The Red, Leaves For Final Port of Call

I shall repost this repost, as the illustrous life of Erik The Red comes to its close. I was always on the outlook for him when I passed The CSS Acadia.

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Erik The Red, the mouser of The CSS Acadia, moored permanently in Halifax harbour as a museum ship, retires today. Even as I write this. So, I will repost my own encounter with Erik, one day during the winter.

Dark comes early these days, and will do so for months. My frequent walks along Halifax harbour now usually begin in the dusk and always end in the dark. The lights near and far are beautiful, and the lack of fellow travellers is pleasing. And any ships that pass in the night on their way to sea are well-lit sights to see.

On ship stays in port, however. It is The CSS Acadia. The CSS Acadia survived the Halifax Explosion and sailed for many a long year afterward. She served in both World Wars and retains her original steam engines and boilers. She even has her original crew quarters. The CSS Acadia is still afloat in Halifax Harbour and is a part of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.  She is open to visitors and receives many. She also has a cat.

I met the cat the other night (not for the first time). He is an orange tabby called Erik, and is classed as the ship’s Junior Rodent Control Officer (Junior because there is a more senior cat aboard). He is not a “house cat”, but ranges the wharves at will. He is generally intent upon his business but deigns to be  friendly. If he deems he has the time, he’ll give you a look over and allow some fraternizing. Perhaps the lack of human folk prompted him to trot toward me and encourage some human hand contact. At any rate he allowed himself to be patted a few minutes. He even walked with me  (well . . . scooted around me as I walked) for a few ship lengths before he returned to his nocturnal endeavours. A sleek, gold arrow aimed into the dark.

DE

(death notice)https://haligonia.ca/beloved-erik-the-red-passes-away-after-brief-illness-200456/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=haligonia

(image)https://haligonia.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/FB_IMG_1501779912940.jpg

 

Flying Fish in Halifax Harbour

fresh and tasty

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I https://media.pitchup.co.uk/uploads/mackerel-fishing-trips.jpg

There is a relatively new and very long pier at one of the container terminals in Halifax. It seems to go out a quarter of the way into the harbour. It offers the best view of the mouth of the harbour, along with some (now) unique views back into the harbour itself.

As I was standing at the end, jutting into the harbour and watching the passing ship traffic (hello, cruise ship), I noticed a man with a fishing pole, casting away. He did not seem too successful, but did toss the occasional fish (mackerel) into a large pail. As I watched my ships, he cast away. Sometimes his fish leaped from the pail and flopped about on the pier. He did not seem concerned, though I rather hoped one of them would slide under the fence and return to the water far below.

I stayed about an hour and was preparing to leave. So was the fisherman. He called me over and asked me if I wanted any fish. I did have interest, but, in addition to transporting fish on a bus, and also having to gut and clean them, I declined. It was then he offered the grandest of shows.

He reached into his pail and started tossing the fish over the high, barbwire-topped fence which enclosed the container terminal. On the other side was a vast platform, upon which waited a flock of seagulls. As each mackerel sailed over the fence, and slid across the cement, the gulls descended. I anticipated many bird fights. I was surprised to see each gull that reached a fish first, just swallowed the mackerel whole.

Gulp.

Slide into gullet.

Fly away gull.

The other gulls then turned their attention to the next flying fish.

It was quite the entertainment.

DE

The Bluenose

 A number of years ago, I was seated on a bench in Halifax, watching a cruise ship prepare to leave.  I had noted a tall-masted sailing boat pass, but was more immersed in the huge ship leaving port. Suddenly a man was at my back, asking me to move so I would not get struck in the head.

I turned to see the sailing boat – The Bluenose – coming alongside. It edged toward the dock, closer and closer, and then a crew member on the bow shouted to me.  He asked if I would grab a rope when it was thrown. I agreed, happy to do so. I immediately  had the bow line in my hands and at my feet.

They shouted down to me and asked that I put it over the ‘second’ post. This proved to be quite a chore for something thicker than my arm and heavy in weight.  It took a couple of minutes, but I slipped it over. I jumped back. It was a taut rope indeed.

DE

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