An anecdote rather than a story….the title should be: For the want of a tug the boat might have been lost.

To tell this non-story, I have to first set the scene. It was (and still is) very cold outside. Yesterday it was -4C and, with the windchill, much lower. The wind was blowing down out of the North from Bute Inlet at about 22mph and gusting over 25 now and then. The seas were nasty little frothy bumps with a bit of spindrift. Short, close and choppy, they got meaner as the seas marched in tight little lines heading south. North of us, the channel was in the lee of an island and the seas were a bit calmer. There was no boat traffic on the channel. Sane people stayed home.

But it was bookclub day.

Sal headed out in her little 17′ boat and bobbed and ploughed her way over to the other island to pick up three more septuagenarians joining her in this casserole and eggnog enhanced December deathwish. She did not go quickly but the five or so knots of forward progress just added to the windchill. The bow of her little boat was a sheet of ice.

Their destination was another home 400 feet up a goat-track back on our island and so Sal’s path was a two km rough-ride zig followed by another jouncy 2.5 km zag. Once arrived, other old Lemmings joined them in two separate 4×4’s and they headed up the cliff to the party house (to all leap off the cliff in unison?). Scrambling and clawing speed up that hill is about 7 to 10 kmh and takes another twenty five minutes. Overall distance: about 10 kms. Time required under adverse conditions, about one hour and 15 minutes. Room for error? Zero.

They all chatted and had a fine time and then, after a few hours in the hostess’ home without ever taking off their coats, they piled into the trucks and crawled back to our island’s community dock and Sal’s boat. The island-side ladies, granted a new lease on life, headed back up the main road to their homes. Our intrepid four, headed out once again to tempt fate.

The wind was just as bad. The cold was just as cold and the seas were, perhaps, a smidge worse but at least they were going with the waves instead of against them. I watched through binoculars the small speck that was Sal and fiends (the ‘r’ purposefully left off) disappear into the other-island shadows of the late day but she was close to the other dock and I was sure she made it that far. A few minutes later, and 3 passengers lighter, she was slowly surfing along the tops of south-heading waves heading home. It looked horrific but not beyond doable. It was on the wrong side of the edge-of-reason but not by too much.

As I was speaking to Sal on the walkie-talkie the dogs were eavesdropping and, as soon as we stopped talking, they wanted out. They know that my talking on the radio is an indicator of Sal getting home and they wanted to run over the peninsula and greet her.

A few minutes later I got a call. “Unh, Sweetie? This is Sally. The controls on the boat have frozen and I was about to crash into the dock so I headed back out and killed the engine. I am now drifting down channel and fending off the rocks. Can you come get me?”

I dressed up and ran over to the neighbour’s dock. The dogs were staring out to sea when they saw me and came to communicate something was wrong. I continued to the dock but they must have thought I was daft and so they headed south along the peninsula because they saw Sally drifting that way.

My boat is covered tightly in tarps. It would take forever to get the tarps off and, as it was, it took awhile to untie the frozen lines. I got the boat running, left the tarps in place and looked for Sally through a small porthole-sized opening at the front and by hanging my head out the side. I found her, she took the bow line and tied it to her bow. I then went astern for about two hundred yards towing Sal back to the dock. Elapsed time from meeting dogs to returning to the dock ….maybe 35 minutes. That part was difficult because the tarps made it impossible to see backwards unless I left the helm and stuck my head out. A few peeks and a strong familiarity with the locale made it doable.

We got back. We had a short discussion while tying up about discretion being the better part of valour and the importance of knowing limitations. And then I fixed her controls.

When anyone reaches seventy or beyond, some of their previous abilities are lessened. And Sal has always suffered from cold hands. She cannot feel her hands in the winter and especially when it is as cold as it is now. And that is true despite wearing heated gloves! She was doing what she was doing with virtually dead hands. “How much force did you use to try the controls?”

“Twice what I normally do.”

We took each other’s hand and she pulled on mine to demonstrate the amount of force. Chihuahuas that fit in women’s handbags pull harder. I had used a bit more force and used my bare hand on the release button. I could feel the release. I know that she could not. That was the difference. I gave her hand the same tug and it was about the pull of a non-purse toy Poodle. “Oh! I didn’t want to break it so I didn’t pull that hard.”

For the want of a tug……..

This morning it is just as cold but not quite as windy. Sal was scheduled to work the post office. Normally, I do not try and tell her what to do. Waste of time. She makes up her own mind. This morning was different. “Unh, Sal? Yesterday showed that there is little room for error in these conditions. I suggest you NOT go.” She made a few calls. Explained the situation. Another worker closer and already on the island wanted the work. Sal employed the required discretion this time.

28 thoughts on “An anecdote rather than a story….the title should be: For the want of a tug the boat might have been lost.

  1. Today I was working outside in North Van.
    -4 cel.
    My co-worker called in a “snow day”.
    I was on my own to start a job that was already 2 days behind schedule.
    The crane that had to lift my material onto a ship was frozen. Gearbox was frozen.
    10:30am the crane was working. My material lifted. My day started.
    Finished at 4pm.
    Dealt with Vancouver stupid rush hour.
    Arrived back at the shop.
    Unloaded. Went home.
    Ran hot water over my hands for 10 minutes to get feeling back in them.
    Not a fun day.


    • Sal recommends battery-heated gloves. Her hands were still numb despite wearing them yesterday but normal hands would be helped. I recommend retirement. It covers so much, ya know? Ya get warm hands, you don’t have deadlines or traffic. You become a pauper but a happy one.


  2. That was maybe too close a call. I can imagine that the women are stubborn and I know that Sal has superhuman powers, but nature forces its limits upon us all. I rather read stories about whales, dog and Sal that are less a high suspense thriller.
    Come to think of it, this could have been a nice passage in a new book!
    Fortunately you were on standby and could intervene quickly.
    But Sal probably knows you have her back!
    Good to hear that she skipped post office the next day

    Keep well and safe!


    • Well, suspense thrillers start at a normal place with normal people. This isn’t normal, the circumstances were much less than normal and Sal has never even approached being truly normal. So we seem to almost always start with one foot in the adventure zone. And I get that. I like it and it enlivens me. Puts me on ‘high awareness’. But Sal thinks this is all normal. So she just carries on blissfully as if it was just another day. Ice on her boat? “Well, that’s just normal for winter, isn’t it?” One of us needs therapy.


  3. Is the cabin heating up?
    Still -5 cel in Burnaby.
    The hummingbird feeder at my shop froze even with a 7 watt light bulb “heater”.
    Too cold with the wind.
    I swapped out the bulb to a 40 watt and new liquid.
    It was a hummingbird party !
    Two little zippers zipping about.
    I was amazed they survived drinking “sugar slush” for two days while i figured it out.


    • Oh . I also shovelled another 11 inches of dry snow from the shop driveway.
      and then went to work.
      Wool toque and warm hands……. !


          • that should give special effects when putting out a fire at -39C! We should follow the advice of JD and retire to Read Island πŸ˜‰ .


    • Can’t get it over 68F – 70F but that’s very liveable. House drops to 9-11C (54F) at night. But we’re good. Gonna make some improvements come Spring, tho. Water and drains all frozen, so I start there. You are right, it’s the wind chill. We have had a steady 20 mph wind out of the inlets and nothing warms even if you put heat on it. Pounding through the woodpile. I am very, very happy that we do not have to ‘do anything’ but we travel on Thursday, weather permitting. Sheesh. The little tykes are lucky to have you. This is gonna take a few out. Two cold snaps already this winter. Unusual.


  4. It went to a high of -8 today in my pocket of paradise in the Octopus group, sun from 10 to 2 (solar heat gain in the house, hit 23c), but it was a noisy genny day (battery at 11.7 this am). Two cold to aline and clear the solar panels will wait for the coming rain and warmer times to get it ready for the next bit of sun. Went to the beach to secure another sternline and wore rubber coated cotton glove as ropes are wet. Could not find the hole I drilled some months back but my hands turned to ice in that short explore.(I have Sally’s hand circulation issue)
    On a very positive note the new 500kg anchor deployed and set instantly with both motors in reverse!(yup it was that moment the first sternline caught the prop) I was aware that it may happen and was running to the back to pull the slack but my run is more like a shuffle arriving about 20 seconds to late.
    Better luck next time. I will have my shift/throttle remote control working by thenπŸ˜‡


  5. FWIW Davidicus if Victoria is your destination be forewarned it is mayhem around these parts
    You are going to find lots of subject material if you are around here for the next few days.


    • yep.
      Ive been trying to get over to Victoria with material for another job since Monday.
      i may have to head over on Dec 26 depending on the weather.
      Apparently the side streets are a disaster of unplowed snow and the drivers without snow tires are everywhere.
      Gong show.
      And another huge storm tomorrow.


    • I am here. Now. On the island, this Victoria has the most snow. From Nanaimo south the traffic is heavy, the pop unprepared. But on a scale of 10, it is a 5. Had much worse. This requires only good tires and patience.


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.