First time, Grasshopper?


You’d think that if Mother Nature was gonna kick some butt, she’d start doing so in Florida, wouldn’t you? Mar-a-Lago, to be more precise? No?

Apparently not. Maybe we are all sinners at some level. Regardless of her sense of natural justice, this holiday was two weeks of wreaking hell-storms on the West Coast and, of course, MOM saved the best for last. We got a pretty good spanking on the 20th and 21st.

Last two Sundays back (bookclub) took out our neighbour’s dock and the main water system and, of course, we wrestled with that for a few days. We are in temporary fix mode. Such is life. And then we went south for Xmas leaving everything in that ‘temporary state’.

When our back was turned, she kicked us again. This time, a bit harder.

But that wasn’t the whole of it.

Mother Nature and Murphy work hand-in-hand.

I had an appointment on the other island scheduled for our arrival back and sensed that, if our return didn’t go well (Murphy) or the weather (MOM) was bad, we’d not have enough daylight to finish the BIG unloading and we’d be in a bit of danger and in the middle of a big job in the dark. So, I cancelled the appointment on the basis of a ‘security allowance’. Good move. Everything that could go wrong, did.

We had a utility trailer full of crap (band saw, gasoline, car parts, etc) plus the usual luggage and food supplies so we had a big load. I backed the whole mess down the steep the hill on the other island and we arrived as the tide was receding. That’s not great. As you are loading, your boat gets heavier and deeper in water that is getting shallower. So, we endeavour to unload vehicles and re-load boats quickly when on the beach. I unloaded the truck and trailer on to the beach and took half the load to the dock leaving Sal’s half on the beach. Sal caught a ride with a good neighbour over to our place to pick up both boats — hers and mine. She lashed hers to mine and drove them slowly back to the loading dock. All good, so far.

But her boat would not start! And all our fix-it tools and tricks were back home. That was irritating but you really need three irritants in a row to make a screw up.

“Oh, well! Never mind. We’ll still use my boat as a mini barge and you can tow me.”

And, so we did. But all that fooling around lost us precious tide-level time and, by the time we loaded her up, she was hard aground. With the tide still falling. Irritant number two?

With modest heroics and immodest strength, we managed to just get the boat into deeper water. Three more minutes of the tide retreating and we would have been a returning tide away from getting it all afloat. Whew!

So, we towed it all home using my also-full boat and nudged our flotilla into our shore. Sal went up to lower the funicular. She was having trouble. It kept getting jammed. Irritant # 3 and dangerously close to screw-up territory. The funicular cart weighs 700 pounds so Sal can’t budge it. I crawled ashore and managed to move it a smidge — enough to see that a wheel had come off. The cart has six wheels and, for some reason, one had lost a retaining nut and the wheel was skewing and jamming. I managed to get it off and we operated with five wheels. That effort ate up time. It was getting on.

And we had to do two loads!

We were now officially in screw-up territory but so far, not so bad. It was just starting to rain and we were getting tired. That is irritant #4.

When we were done getting it all ashore to the lower deck, we covered what we needed to and diverted our energies to our neighbour’s dock. Welcome to irritant #5. The screw up light started flashing in both our heads so we were trying to be careful.

The ramp had jumped the dock again. The wheel had come off the axle again and the new rear float-tube installed this summer had escaped it’s containment cradle and was half-way loose. A very large main cleat holding the dock in place had been ripped off and that retention cable was just a-hanging doing nothing. And a lot of ropes and chains had been worked loose and/or broken.

On the other hand, more ropes and chains should fix all that and so we re-and-re’d everything, levered the ramp back, re-installed the wheel and added a few reinforcements where we could. Barring another weather battering, it should last. When it is not so bloody miserable outside, we’ll add some more reinforcements.

The most challenging moment was when the filled-with-water float started to drift away. A pike pole couldn’t grab it and so Sal jumped into her boat with the dead engine. She paddled out, wrapped a rope around it and paddled back. That was not easy. We then wrestled the equivalent of a baby Beluga onto the dock to drain the water out. That was NOT easy either. That might have been irritant #6 – hard to say.

BUT things were secured for the time being.

THEN we returned home, brought the previously tarped-up load up to the house and got to work warming up. It was 8 degrees inside, we were cold, wet and weary. It was four or so hours after having arrived at the loading dock so we were also pretty efficient in light of the challenges. The main thing: we didn’t get hurt. Getting hurt seems to happen when cold, wet and weary and we managed to dodge that bullet. As Sal said, “I am pretty chuffed about that!”

We were not done by a long shot…….

I went below to start the ‘systems’. The water system would not turn on. No, it was not frozen. Before leaving it, I drained the system. I turned off the pump. I put on the heat tapes. I turned off the water heater. This time I reversed the order and a perfectly working system that had been so properly shut down, remained shut down despite all sorts of ‘checks’. I have one more trick to try but I reluctantly admit that it was my intention to put in a new system this year and, well, it simply did NOT get done. It will. This is definitely another irritant…I have stopped counting!

We huddled around the fire after ‘putting away’ our town stuff and I put a bottle of wine on the stove top. Had to. It was like a popsicle. After about a half hour it was drinkable (not room-temperature because room temperature was also like a popsicle). We re-heated some leftovers and counted our blessings.

Last night, I kept the home fires burning all night long– but NOT raging. So we were only at 13 degrees this morning. It had been a cold night. So far, we are up to 17 and climbing. All is good.

“Dave! Why write that nonsense?”

You make a good point o’ insensitive one. I described it all because, although uncommon, we have a return like that at least once a year. Living with cobbled systems off the grid simply invites glitches and that is to be expected but when glitches line up in a queue, things can get awry pretty fast. This was a bit of an exception. We were surrounded by glitches and challenges and yet managed to eventually get warm, drink wine, have dinner and have things NOT go awry.

There’s a first time for everything!

26 thoughts on “First time, Grasshopper?

    • Even better! The pressure switch had a glitch and a bit of poking and prodding revealed it. Ten minutes later…pressure water. Voila! Man, oh man! And you think something from Amazon is a gift? Hot running water is glorious!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Nice one Dave! Happy New Year; let’s hope it’s a better one than the last one!
    Glad you got in and warmed up and all worked out well, home just in time..sounds like ice pellets on the skylight now!


    • We’re good. Happy. Warm. It’s all good. BUT it was snowing today (as you know) and things can get a bit more complicated in the snow. Still, we are ‘wooded up’ and have wine and food and we are happy. THAT is really good!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re not exactly giving the people warm and fuzzies about taking the plunge to go live OTG! You are however bringing up a myriad of memories of my days living in Bamfield and coming home in the middle of the winter night. Driving 60 miles down a gravel road, off loading all your stuff into the boat, run over to the dock, pack everything up the hill into your cabin, and VOILA! no power! Get the fire going, go to get the kettle on, and Voila! No water! Ah yes, those were the days.


    • Well, yes. I DO know. And if I didn’t know, the next woman I meet would tell me. They ALL seem to want to tell me that. A lot. They all tell me and they often tell me more than once. I’ve heard it a lot. Ad nauseum. I once asked Sal if any guy has ever told her how lucky SHE is? “No. Never. Some have asked me out, tho. A few have even propositioned. But no one has said I lucked out getting you.”

      That conversation will NEVER happen.

      So…’s what I think: if I love and care for her, I’ll do my best to provide for and protect her….BUT..that means (out here, anyway) helping her be independent. Strong. Capable. Confident. She NEEDS to be able to DO STUFF. I want her to do everything I can do and more! “Why?” Because she loves it out here and she’ll outlive me.

      A lot of women can do power walks and Starbucks. A lot of women can drive to the store and chat about bookclub. A LOT of women can claim rights, equality and yoga…but not a LOT can fix an outboard, run a boat, build a cabin AND be the perfect partner. It takes partnership to be a good partner. We BOTH do our best. THAT’S how you do almost 50 years!


      Liked by 1 person

      • No need to ‘walk anything back’. I AM aware that I am fortunate to have a great partner. And I don’t REALLY mind being reminded. But being capable and independent should be everyone’s goal, no? Sal is really just being healthy….right? She really IS what many claim to be…….
        I am proud of her. She’s quite a grasshopper.


  3. yeesh.
    Nothing like Murphy to ruin the end of a nice Holiday….
    Well, like you say… no injuries and most problems solved within a reasonable amount of time.
    .It will make the trip to warmer climes that much more rewarding..
    Have an uneventful New Years Eve….


  4. Tell Sal these are the posts I like to read. Makes me feel not alone. You are more brave to tackle a shaky crossing than we would be. We usually wait until morning to have a full day and if the weather is still bad maybe another day in town. But on the other hand, it is easier for us with a place to stay in those conditions. – Margy


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.