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The Ghosts In The Fog

robbie-george-sea-smoke-rises-up-around-maine-s-portland-head-light-on-a-cold-winter-s-day
I can see my hand
In the fog,
And
The building,
Across the street.
 
That is about all.
 
So, I know
The ghosts,
Are not
As close
As they sound.
 
The Ghosts sound like Fog Horns
 
And that’s what folk
Up
And down
The coast
Say
That they are.
 
Fog Horns.
 
But – they aren’t.
 
They are ghosts that moan,
And wail,
And cough,
And even
Sputter,
On the wind,
In the fog,
Where they can hide
Out in the open.
 
It is true that they do moan
For ships.
That they do give warnings
In the fog,
Where they can not
Be seen,
Because they look
Like fog.
 
They give warnings
Because
They have all come
From ships,
Where once they lived.
 
But now they don’t.
 
They went down with ships
At sea
And
Along the coast
To their
Cold and wet
Death.
 
Days ago
Years ago
Centuries ago.
 
To be buried at sea
Is not
To be buried
At all.
~ D.E. BA U.E.
(image) imgc.allpostersimages.com/images/P-473-488-90/89/8955/8SOR300Z/posters/robbie-george-sea-smoke-rises-up-around-maine-s-portland-head-light-on-a-cold-winter-s-day.jpg

Bluenose II – Ghostly Ship Under Sail, Updated

bluenose-2923783_large
It now is Sunday, and The Bluenose II has come and gone. And, it was not exactly a Ghost ship, but I had difficulty seeing it as it slipped into view from the fog. Even with binoculars. For awhile the ship did slip in and out as the fog wafted in front of it.  But – finally – it appeared side-too (much as it is on the Canadian dime) and all was right with the world.
Also, it stayed insight a good long time – around half an hour. From our reasonably-secluded viewing spot from a hill, there was an uninterrupted view, with just a few small pleasure craft keeping it company.  It was during this leisurely exposure that my partner casually noted that her grandfather had helped build the original Bluenose fishing vessel, at The Smith and Rhuland Shipyard. back in 1921, as he lived in Lunenburg NS. That was the home port of the original sailing ship, and is the home port of the current Bluenose II.
When it was time for the Bluenose II to leave, it went around the island which had been the backdrop as we watched, and started along the coast, headed for Grand Manan Island.
Original post:
Sunday, if there is no fog, I’ll be able (binoculars at the ready) be able to see a famed sailing ship pass the island at the mouth of the harbour. A replica of the ship, at any rate, itself now quite an acclaimed sailing vessel. In addition to setting into many a  port as a nautical ambassador, it is a training vessel for young sailors.
This is the site of the Bluenose II (replica of the original Bluenose).https://bluenose.novascotia.ca/
A detailed history can be found there. Needless to say, it is an impressive .schooner when under sail, and will be an impressive site out on the open sea. I hope it lingers.
I had dealings with The Bluenose II many a year ago.
I was seated on a bench on a wharf in Halifax harbour. I had noted a tall masted sailing boat pass, but I was watching a large cruise ship prepare to leave.
Suddenly a man was at my back. He was asking me to move so I would not get struck in the head. I turned to see the sailing boat – The Bluenose II – 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 the rope when it was thrown. I agreed. Soon I had the bow line in my hands and at my feet.
I was asked to put it over the ‘second’ post. That proved to be quite a chore for something thicker than my arm and heavy in weight. But, I had had some practise doing such a thing, just not so unexpectedly and on the fly..
It took a couple of minutes, but I slipped it over and jumped back.  It was a taut rope indeed.
Someone yelled thanks, and the crew started preparing the ship to be secure at the dock.
I did write a blog about it at the time, and sent it to the Bluenose II web site. I received the answer below. I’ll have no similar chores to perform when I see The Bluenose II (I hope) out in the mouth of the harbour.
Thanks again for your help. I will pass this along to the ship.

bstrgds

ww

 

Capt Wayne Walters
Director of Operations – Bluenose II

A Ship Under Sail At Sea – The Bluenose II

bluenose-1024x576-1

Sunday, if there is no fog, I’ll be able (binoculars at the ready) be able to see a famed sailing ship pass the island at the mouth of the harbour. A replica of the ship, at any rate, itself now quite an acclaimed sailing vessel. In addition to setting into many a  port as a nautical ambassador, it is a training vessel for young sailors.
This is the site of the Bluenose II (replica of the original Bluenose) .https://bluenose.novascotia.ca/
A detailed history can be found there. Needless to say, it is an impressive .schooner when under sail, and will be an impressive site out on the open sea. I hope it lingers.
I had dealings with The Bluenose II many a year ago.
I was seated on a bench on a wharf in Halifax harbour. I had noted a tall masted sailing boat pass, but I was watching a large cruise ship prepare to leave.
Suddenly a man was at my back. He was asking me to move so I would not get struck in the head. I turned to see the sailing boat – The Bluenose II – 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 the rope when it was thrown. I agreed. Soon I had the bow line in my hands and at my feet.
I was asked to put it over the ‘second’ post. That proved to be quite a chore for something thicker than my arm and heavy in weight. But, I had had some practise doing such a thing, just not so unexpectedly and on the fly..
It took a couple of minutes, but I slipped it over and jumped back.  It was a taut rope indeed.
Someone yelled thanks, and the crew started preparing the ship to be secure at the dock.
I did write a blog about it at the time, and sent it to the Bluenose II web site. I received the answer below. I’ll have no similar chores to perform when I see The Bluenose II (I hope) out in the mouth of the harbour.
Thanks again for your help. I will pass this along to the ship.
bstrgds
ww
Capt Wayne Walters
Director of Operations – Bluenose II

Fog Drops From The Trees

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Fog drops
From the trees
To make the grass,
And chairs,

Wet.

Three birds,

Already the white of seagulls,
Have a flight plan
That makes them
Enter, and
Disappear,
In the fog.

Easy to do as
The Fog
Swallows
Everything.

There are ships at sea
(If you care to believe).
For I have not seen

One

For
Five

Days.

Nor seen them
At night,

Because
The fog also
Swallows

Their lights.

Really
In the fog
You cannot
Believe
Your eyes.

[Image] https://photos.gurushots.com/unsafe/0x500/c85175839ae1a8421e6d46c3cd54787f/3_973087aa6b2017656080caa85c15816b.jpg

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

alexandra_9635676_1850863.570x1140

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

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)

Anniversary Of The Sinking Of The Titanic

titanic_in_southampton
Halifax is significant to the Titanic, and vice versa. It is the port where 209 of the victims from the Titanic were brought after being retrieved. 150 of these bodies were eventually buried in Halifax.   I live a short city bus ride  from one graveyard where many Titanic victims are buried.  I am also a longer bus trip to another graveyard where more of the dead are buried. I usually visit each once a year.
When cruise ships come to Halifax, one of the ‘tours’ offered the passengers is a visit to the Titanic graveyard. I assume the irony of this is lost, but I do wonder about the ‘tempting fate’ aspect of such an excursion.
One year I went to a Titanic “parade” down on the waterfront. The event started one hour late. The horse-drawn “hearse” was really a waggon from a local farm. The candles were  fake electric. Still, the team of Percheron horses was wonderful, and the folk in period costume were well done.
The ‘undertaker’ driving the team had a black frock coat and black top hat but – alas – no black riband around the hat. There was a plain, grey wooden box in the back.
Whatever the reason, a half dozen present-day undertakers from Snow’s Funeral Home (the funeral home which had tended to the actual Titanic victims) marched behind the waggon.
As a macabre aside (and I generally favour the macabre, but I found this creepy) there were meals to be had in some of the downtown restaurants which featured the menu of the last meal eaten on the Titanic.
One of these restaurants was The Five Fishermen. At the time The Titanic sank, Snow’s Funeral Home was in the building The Five Fishermen now occupies. So – literally – the coffins were once stacked in the same room where present day patrons were chowing down on The Titanic’s last meal.
I did learn one new thing. One of the people crowded around the ‘hearse’ opined  there would have been no women undertakes in 1912. The group following the waggon did have one woman. A member of the real undertaker group said that was not true. Indeed, two women embalmers from the city of Saint John (a port city in the adjoining province of New Brunswick) were brought in by train to help with the vast numbers of dead.

Cheese And Rum Aged At Sea In Ancient And Modern Times

 

1-sailing-ship-anonymous

(image) images.fineartamerica.com/images-medium-large-5/1-sailing-ship-anonymous.jpg

This is not only an idea whose time has come, but it is an idea I have used in three novels starting over three decades ago. In my novels, I have some edible substance aged through transport at sea.

In A Lost Gospel, set in the time of Christ, I have seafarers strengthen an unnamed gruel stored in a barrel that is used to relieve the effects of seasickness. It tastes vile.

In my two  historical “Onion” novels, I have special cheeses aged during the two year long sea trips my characters take for trading purposes. They return tasting right (and ripe) fine.


Here is a current news story set along the same lines.

A Nova Scotia distillery is sending its spirits out Monday on an around-the-world trip on a tall ship, promising it will taste better for the journey.

Four barrels of rum from Lunenburg’s Ironworks Distillery will spend the next 15 months in the cargo hold of the three-masted tall ship Picton Castle.

https://www.halifaxtoday.ca/local-news/nova-scotia-distiller-sending-four-barrels-of-rum-on-round-the-world-voyage-837196?utm_source=Email&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Email

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

And here is an excerpt from my novel, China Lily.

The storage hold for the cheese is actually a room partitioned from the main hold by thick oak planks. Its back wall is the side of The Pegasus. There is a raised floor to keep the cheese from the bilge, and a barred door with heavy locks. The Cannaras had the room designed, and placed specifically, so it would not hinder the running of the ship through either weight or volume displacement. In addition, the Cannaras paid the other owners an impressive surcharge for the space.

Matzerath steps back as Cepa unlocks and opens the door. The cheeses have not been moved for over two years, except through the motions of The Pegasus itself. They are tightly packed with straw and wax, three to a wooden crate. The crates are kept in place through the use of ropes and webbing that allows them to move with the motion of the ship. If they break loose they can dent, break, or even shatter their thick outer shell of wax. The exposure to air would turn them to rot.

The two and more years of exposure to the sea salt atmosphere tightens the ropes and webbing. They reach a point where it is not worth the effort to unbind them. Cepa begins to use his knife on all the ties.

He is quickly followed by Matzerath, who does not question the reason for Cepa’s actions, but just follows suit. Together they make short work of the ropes and webbing. Matzerath gets by the doorway and takes his place in the human chain. Cepa hands a crate of the cheese to him. He carries it to the first man on the steps who, in turn, takes it up the steps to the next man. In this way the cheeses go from man to man until they are placed in the carts. It is not backbreaking work, but it is awkward and exhausting enough that Cepa eventually calls for a break. They all go up to stand on deck to take advantage of the fresh air.

“How long have you been selling this ‘voyage cheese’?” Matzerath is watching the frenzied activity on the dock.

“Over two hundred years.” Cepa keeps an attentive eye on the cheeses already on deck. “But never any trip as long as this one.”

“Any magic secret in making it?”

“The choice of the onions. But I don’t actually make the cheese – that is for others in the family.” Cepa smiles. “I help create the mystique.”

“Mystique?”

“Yes.” Cepa turns to scan the dock. “Look at those three men on horseback.”

“Yes?”

“One is a priest; one from the noble’s house; and the third leads the cheese maker’s guild.” Cepa holds up his hand to shade his eyes from the morning sun. “Their sole reason to be here is to verify that these cheeses actually come off The Pegasus. They will affix a seal onto each crate.”

“They don’t trust the Cannaras?” Matzerath turns to Cepa in surprise.

“They trust us because this was our idea.”

“Ha! You Cannaras are crafty.”

“There are few questions asked about items brought back from far away. They are so foreign they have to be authentic.”

“But cheese made right here …” begins Matzerath.

“Yes – anyone can make cheese.” Cepa indicates that he wants to walk around the deck. “And it all looks the same once covered and waxed.”

 

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