Posted in Old Hand's northern voyage, videos

Port Headlock

I’ve been anchored in Port Hadlock for 5 days.  Actually, after being pinned down here so long I’ve come to think of it as Port Headlock.  As soon as I start to haul in rode, a sound rises from the far north, a deep rush of sound that gives me pause, and my hand is stayed from weighing anchor.

Since the Equinox, the weather has taken a nasty turn, with savage gusts from the Austral quarter of this turbid globe cast into the swirling cosmos.  After long, night-watches, I see the gale steam the weather-glass a frenzied, vaporous scene of genesis. The glass is the vessel which holds the primordial spark and the damp, hylic goo of the Prima Materia in a seething, Hylic confluence.  The torn north hangs rain-slanted like a black curtain fallen over the final act of a Doric sea tragedy.

Like I said, it was a nasty storm with gusts to 70.  But now I pace the deck and see over the port beam, young men learning the old shipwright’s trade at the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building.  A vessel went by that’s based on the old longboat design of Vancouver’s rowing/sailing launch and skipered by a young, pretty lass who calls from the bow with all the assurance of an old salt.  Does my heart good to see the old tradition of working sail carried on by such eager hands.

Posted in Saturnius McWhirr stories

The Voyage of Old Hand-the Descent

Ye Realms, yet unreveal’d to human sight,

Ye Gods, who rule the Regions of the Night,

Ye gliding ghosts, permit me to relate

The mystic wonders of your silent state.

                                       The Aeneid, book 6, John Dryden, trans.

The Sierra Echo buoy flashes a mile off the starboard beam as  I sheet in for a close, starboard reach.  Through the rain-pelted wheelhouse windows, I see lightening streak diagonally into the black face of Foulweather Bluff like the bronze spears of invading armies.

“Steady lad, tis a mere capful of wind.” Says McWhirr.

“It’s a big head of storm to fill such a cap, Captain.”

We are just able to lay the Foulweather buoy. The bell rings dolefully as it’s black profile sways wildly off the starboard beam.

I remember that blackness from long before, far away…

You gods of souls who dwell in endless night,

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Abrojos, watercolor by Craig Spencer

grant that I may tell wonders of regions void of light.

Abreojos was a small Baja fishing village of plywood shacks. Hollow waves broke over a razor-sharp reef, and the afternoon offshore winds blew rainbow rooster tails over the backs of pitching surf. The name meant open eyes; and the longer I stayed in the palm-roofed fish hut, waiting for the big swell, the more my eyes opened to it’s stark beauty. The name was also warning to keep a steady watch, and the iron keel of a wrecked schooner high on the point  was testament to the fierce chubasco winds that hammered that arid shore.

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Abreojos Graveyard. Watercolor by Craig Spencer

The moonlight bleached the low, rounded dunes and cast angular shadows of lobster pots half buried in the sand.  I descended the vague path to the graveyard south of the village.  Gaudy tombs of fisher-men stood in the pallid light. Enclosed in the florid, stucco niche’s were relics of their earthly lives: an action figure, cheap guitar, and the blessed baseball glove.

My shadow rose up the moonlit dunes as I slowly approached the cemetery gate. Night breezes swirled with vaporous shades who mended starry nets and sang the Mexican Birthday song:

O Lady Guadalupe, O Lady Guadalupe…

It was your image come in dreams, dear father, that set my course toward your dark shore.   In a dream garage sale I found a clue that led to your habitation. Three times I have tried to clasp your hand. Three times my vain words have left me reaching for empty air. Like you, I gasp to articulate an ancestral rage, and long to transmute the leaden ore of miss-shapen phrases into avowals of love from the hearts golden core.

“Fall off a few points west. There’s a deep-draft bearing down from north-east.”

McWhirr’s  profile is etched by lightening against the bulkhead.

“A few points west it is, sir.

On we plunge into darkness, Old Hand’s bow lifts high and then falls  with a jolt into the black troughs of the seas. The wind screams in the rigging as a fan of spray flies off the storm jib in an arc of phosphorescent light. Seas advance, white-capped, like a phalanx of militant headstones called up from Gabriel’s northern gate to defend the ramparts of Dis.