Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The voyage. Recording by pen on paper.

The dory slides off the trailer and onto its own set of wheels for the last part of its travels so far this morning, - down the beach, across the sand and into the sea.

                                                                                           Photo by Nicole

This little 14 foot plywood boat has had a long and exciting life with our family. As the dinghy on 'Shiriri', our 50 foot gaff rigged traditional 'fisherman' schooner, she had performed all the exciting small boat work that went along with our Pacific voyages. Now, home again, she slides back into the sea for a little journey with me and two International students to Russell island. One might be tempted to think that this is small potatoes after her voyage down the Murray River in Australia or those exciting tropical reef journeys, but no, here lies the potential for a fully satisfactory experience for my passengers and if so it will be rewarding for me as well. Besides, there is no such thing as a boring voyage if one keeps one's senses sharp and focused!

We attempt to sail at first, there is a light breeze headed in the right direction, but down comes the little lugsail again when we are not getting anywhere very fast. This practical decision dates back to our ocean sailing days where the dinghy's function was to move us efficiently and not simply to provide an aesthetic sailing experience. Out with the oars and we row directly for our first way-point at Indian Point at the entrance to Saltspring Island's Fulford Harbour. From there it is but one more short crossing, and so an hour and a quarter after launching we are pulling our boat up on the island's white shell beach, tying her painter to a rock and eating lunch while watching the wildlife - the porpoises, eagles and otters -, and reveling in the warm March sunshine. Ah, blue sky, after the long days of overcast weather we have lived with all winter.

My passengers go off for a walk on this small part of Gulf Islands National Park and I begin to draw the world around me in a sketchbook. This book has drawings from twenty or more years before of other camping holidays and I have since used the information in many of these drawings for brush and ink paintings. As with  my use of the dory, my sketching tends to be practical and functional - a way of observing and documenting, of thinking, rather than as a defined 'art object'. Today I have sent my passengers to explore by themselves, and I am filling my solitary hour in a productive way. I could have brought my camera but felt a need to sharpen up my 'seeing' skills, and drawing is the best way I know of doing that. A photograph is a matter of a second, a drawing can take many minutes. By the time the girls come back I have noticed a thousand details and recorded the most important; the forms of the sandstone rocks, the shadows along the shady side on the shore, the tree types and their characteristic forms, how the wharf has been constructed and the warden's boat tied up alongside the dock. I turn the page and draw the rounded forms of drift logs and the bright shell beach directly before me. There is a deep satisfaction in this faithful record making. A way of saying to the world in all its complexity, “I see you!”

Soon it is time to head for home and the promising breeze is fluttering the leaves and moving the smaller branches. We can hear its murmer and also see the waves building in the passage back to Indian Point. We push off, raise the sail and this time have a fast crossing. I am having such a lovely time, with the sheet controlling the sail clasped in one hand and an oar clutched over the side to steer with in the other. The sail fills roundly, the water chuckles under the bow and bubbles down the lee side. Our dory has a voice once more and is reminding me of all those other adventures this boat and I have shared.

One last gust of wind, a quickly eased sheet and then a final surge into the sheltered lee of the point. Out with the oars again for the long pull up the harbour, back on the wheels,up the beach and onto the trailer and home once more. Just a little trip, but so rewarding. I have it down in black and white.

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