Rowing mostly to be alone. Panic.

Volunteering at Jericho Sailing Centre has brought me in to contact with dozens of people who, it seems, get as much from the social contacts related to their on-the-water activities as the activities themselves. Sounds reasonable I assume.

Not me.

I row. And I row alone for the solitude it provides. My friends can’t get at me, I don’t answer my phone, I only text to say ‘I’m away,’ and ‘I’m ashore.’ Seems only fair to let people know that the float plan has worked out again. Besides, I’ve never wanted people out searching for me.

I’m unsettled, but not storming mad, and it shows in the struggle to write tonight. When I’m furious the words pour out. When I’m aggrieved about some injustice my fingers fly over the keyboard, the corrections necessary few and far between. But when I’m merely unsettled…

When I’m unsettled there is a sense that something needs to be written but I struggle to find it, to define it, to know it well enough to own it.


I’ve found myself rowing in seriously upset water off Point Atkinson; so busy staying alive that nothing else entered my conscious mind. Only after the danger has been mitigated do I understand the degree of danger.

But today I paid a visit to my alma mater, UBC, hoping to find some interesting reading on the tables of heavily marked-down books. Silly. It’s only the beginning of the second week of August, classes don’t start until sometime in September and the bookstore is jammed with people.

I try to shop the stuff I’d normally check; you know, a quick stop at the MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-Op) boutique shop (not there because of renovations) and a couple other areas, electronics engineering and urban studies stuff.

But my heart rate starts to climb. I start to feel faint. I think, I wonder, am I heading for a seizure? I have to, absolutely have to get out of the store I have to. I can’t believe how I feel, how vulnerable, how frightened I feel and yet there is no sense that anyone around me can see anything unusual.

You know, when you’re drunk (well, I’ve only really been drunk 3 times in 60 years, so I think I think and imagine that other people also think…) and you imagine other people can see you making a fool of yourself… no sense of that at all.

Out the door. Go get a coffee. Sit down. And everything feels fine in a few minutes. I can’t even remember how horrid it felt to be trapped in the store, surrounded by people, the terrain (contrary to military training) has indeed changed.

That’s passed. But where did it come from? It’s never happened quite like that before. And earlier today I checked out of an event at Jericho, skippering a boat, there were enough other qualified people signed up. Out. Premonition? Circumstance?

OK. That one is done.

Certainly not my best post. Hell, maybe one of my worst posts. Done.

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I’ve mentioned at least once before, a guy named Fred Bailey, whose comments on depression/anxiety/whatever reflect my own experience in so many ways that I think he is worth checking out. Besides, he writes well. And takes great photographs. And has a dog named Jack.

But he, and Jack, are only a small part of this post. And that’s hard because this will be a short post I assure you.

As mentioned before I volunteer with the Jericho Sailing Centre’s rescue crew. Yes, sounds romantic I know, all that love of the sea stuff. Usually it is a series of correctives. We give mast-lifts to capsized dinghys (Laser/Taser/420) and beach-cats (a variety of Hobies/Nacras/F18s of all sorts), help run races, do volunteer work as part of other organization’s events, just doing stuff on the water. And I volunteer because I’ve never volunteered anywhere that treats their volunteers as well as Jericho does.

So, praise.

Twice now in the last 5 days I’ve done something that other people consider to be praiseworthy. And I can’t handle it.

Saturday was a bit blowy off the Straight of Georgia and in to Howe Sound and English Bay. It was also the day a group started their annual, scheduled, club sail off to some nameless island West of Bowen. It’s nameless to help protect the innocent. But it was windy.

I don’t sail. I don’t sail dinghies in any sense of the term; not Lasers/Tasers/420s, nor do I sail Wayfarers or other cruising dinghies to numerous to mention. I don’t sail catamarans of any description. I don’t sail.

But given the existing conditions on Saturday I would not have gone out of English Bay. Period, given what I know of dinghy sailing.

The Club’s original route would have taken them south of Bowen Island and left the entire fleet exposed to the winds of Georgia Straight, so, at some point (and some input from me as the most ‘weather capable’ rescue boat) the fleet decided to go north up Queen Charlotte Channel, east of Passage Island, then turn west above Finisterre Island to head for the original destination.

Within minutes of boats crossing an imaginary line running N/S from Point Atkinson to Point Grey, there were capsizes. Boat with no radios (meaning handheld VHF) in trouble, in the steep, deep, choppy maelstrom ( ) that the area is known for. And wind and tide in opposition in the area things were interesting.

The boat I was skippering (20′ RHIB) along with great crew in the person of FK were informed that ‘somewhere out there’ was a capsized RS500. The organizer’s boat my a perfect call and said the conditions were beyond their ability to attend to Search and Rescue under the prevailing conditions, so FK and I were in the thick of it. And it was pretty thick.

Initially we started a search line running east – west, returning west – east, and increasing our north/south displacement on each pass. What happens is the box you are navigating gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger with each iteration. What you’re hoping is that you find the boat and crew in as few iterations as possible.

Imagine finding the boat. You know where it is. You know you are parallel to it. You even know that it is off to port, probably 30 metres away, and you know you can’t see it. One wave-trough away.

The RS has a beam of 1.5 metre, I’m standing in the rescue boat with my line of sight nominally 2 metres above our waterline, and with the RS on its side I can’t see it as we sit in a wave trough.

Eventually we take the RS crew aboard, no more attempts at righting the boat under these conditions at this time, and tow (on its side) the boat in to the leeward side of Bowen Island, eventually (an hour and a half later) to get the crew back aboard their vessel and under way again.

That went on all day. 5 real rescues. 2 of those rescues, including the RS, could have been fatal for one or more of their crew. That’s scary for them. It’s scary for us. And FK did a good job on the helm.

But now I come back to my own reality. The affected crews, other crews (some of whom have been on the water almost all their lives), the organizer all offer their sincerest thanks. Some of these people serve on the rescue boat, they really know what they’re doing.

And I feel a fraud when they praise me. I don’t feel a fraud when they praise the work the ‘rescue crew’ did; that takes the pressure off me and shares the praise with my crew. But even days after the event I’m almost reduced to tears when someone says ‘thanks for what you did on Saturday.’

It’s a rough go. Some people inflate under praise. Some try to go ‘aw, shucks,’ I just can’t handle the praise. The work, the actual ‘search and rescue’ part, no problem. But the praise is almost painful.

I’m thrilled no one got worse that really, really, really wet. We only had one case of hypothermia. We didn’t lose a boat – though I was 1 minute from hauling a crew aboard, calling Coast Guard to say I had the crew and was abandoning the boat due to weather conditions. All that was easy.

But please don’t praise me, I can’t take it.

My thanks to those who helped train me on the water. My best regards to those we hauled out of the water (with or without their boats, or soon to be re-united with their boats) glad things worked out the way they did.

Then today I had a couple of boys under my care for about 3 hours… apparently they had a good time,

“[t]he boys had a wonderful time.  They were so impressed  and impressing pubescent boys is not easy.  Apparently you are “a great guy”  who “likes to teacher people about stuff he knows”  Stuff they didnt know 😊  Fyfer is quoting things you told them.  I can tell cause he’s using your vocabulary.  Yup. They had to phone their mom and detail everything from boat check,” to wind in my hair” to bunnies to “the best yam fries Ive ever had in my life”
 Thank you so much.  This will be one for the memory banks.”

And again, on the verge of tears. Seems like such a simple little bit of praise doesn’t it? Not the way it feels I can tell you.

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A fellow sufferer Seafire Chronicles

This guy, Fred Bailey by name, has an excellent description of what I go through when things are rough;

I try leaving comments on his blog but either I’m an idiot and can’t open this or that bit of software, make this link work, blah, blah, blah. I usually read his work when I’m in the state he describes above – and that’s a condition or series of conditions where frustration just leads to bad things so I haven’t the patience to sort it out.

Hopefully tonight’s comment will make it.

I wish I was Jack.

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Tiny mistake(s)

Well, in the flurry of blogtivity a couple days ago it seems I introduced some confusing situations.

It seems that for some time three blog posts that I assumed I had pressed ‘publish’ for, I hadn’t. So they weren’t. And now they are. But the publication dates don’t make any sense (being in early June of 2016) so here is a tiny bit of clarification.

These three:

Some good stuff #1

requiescat in pace Old Fool

What the hell happened

got stuck in the machinery somehow, published now out of synchronization with the real world, so if you read them just imagine they were published any time up to two or three years ago…

In addition an addition; T. G. is actually Trevor G. That way there is no mistake, no forgetting.

Now on to daily duties.

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Rowing, just to keep time in perspective

Ah, Jericho Rescue, keeps me well occupied. Aye.

But it does cut in to my rowing time, a little. So I thought that rather than try for 365+ hours this year (one hour for every day of the year) I would ease up a bit. So let’s try for 3 or 4 hours a week. OK.

Being as we are 1/2 way through the 6th month of the year I should have about 5.5 x 3 (or 5.5 x 4) hours of rowing. So somewhere between 72 and 96 hours of rowing.


As of today (June 8/16) I’ve got 88 (plus a little bit) hours of rowing. pretty much on track. Excellent.


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Mildred Evelyn Parsons

August 3, 1931 – May 22, 2016

In order:
Daughter, of her parents
Sister, to her younger sister, and even younger brother
Wife, to her husband
Mother, to her two children

A source of joy to some; to others she was a puzzle, an enigma. Short-tempered, violent, surprisingly forgiving of some errors. Even more frustrating was her ability to remember some behavioral slight for months (years in a couple instances) coupled with the desire to keep you informed of the slight.

Frying pans, umbrellas, whatever came to hand might be used to augment the display of her wrath.

She married our father because she was, in her own words, “spoiled goods.” Trust me, it makes your kids feel welcomed in to the maternally protective embrace when they determine that they are the offspring of an otherwise unwanted marriage partner.

And the dogs.

If she had spent 1/4 as much time on, and with her kids as she spent on her blessed dogs the kids might have a slightly different experience, opinion.

She, and her sister, married someone (anyone?) to get away from her parents. She married my father, her sister married a Catholic, my uncle never married (for a variety of reasons socially untenable in the time) and she said to me ‘I’ll not speak to you as long as you’re with that woman.’

But ‘that woman,’ Arlene, was the best thing that could happen to this son, at that age, and in those conditions. And Arlene died, owed money for endless dog and puppy-sitting, that dear old Mom conveniently ‘forgot.’

And when Arlene and I split, all my fault (or at least the mechanisms of a forced ‘breakup’ are examined it’s all my fault) dear old Mom refused to talk to me.

Then it was time to go to the vet’s, to get neutered, and her first concern was “What about the family name?”

You didn’t want to marry him and now you’re worried about the family name?

I was there when Walter (also ‘Brad’ to his friends) died, in effect I killed him by authorizing the suspension of life-support. I wrote his obituary. I organized his wake.

I’ll not do any of that for Mildred Evelyn Parsons, my mother. Our mother.

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Some Good Stuff #1

Good Stuff. Mostly.

Rowing (up to 357.4 hr, 7.6 hr to go)

Well, I’ve continued rowing and now as we near the end of the year, I’ve logged 357.4 hours of rowing. That’s time in the boat, off shore, alone. Time that is in many ways mine and mine alone.

As of 19:00 hours on Saturday the 21 of November 2015, I’ve got 7.6 hours of rowing to achieve by the end of the year and I’ll have 365. 365 days, 365 hours of rowing. And that is only a few days away and I will certainly keep rowing until the last day of the year.

It’s one of the few places I feel at home, at ease, even when I’m concerned about the conditions I would rather be there than anywhere else. Let’s restate that.

If the wind is high, the tide is going the wrong direction, or the right direction but too fast I’d rather be in my boat, rowing. If the wind and the tide and their respective directions are all wrong I would still rather be in the boat.

The only time the rowing is miserable is when it rains. It rains a lot in Vancouver. So even then there are gradations of miserable. A fall day, the earth still summer warm, and the heaven’s shower a light dampening of the dust is not miserable. But 6 degrees, a bitter north-east wind, and rain coming down at an angle. Is miserable. And still I row.

Not long ago I turned 60. ‘Oh, 60 is the new 40.’ Go to hell. At 40 my fingers didn’t cramp into hooks around the looms of my oars. 60 is sixty. The slow, steady decline is now well under way, its been gaining on me for 25 or 30 years, and I’ve probably got an easy 15, or a slightly more difficult 20, years to go.

My father died, dead, at 42. In 1975, when he would have been 45, I didn’t know anyone over 30. Relatives don’t count. His wife, my mother, said ‘he was always afraid of growing old, now he won’t have to.’ And for 27 years all I wanted to do was outlive him. I did. But when I hit 42 I had nothing to live for. It became one of the worst years (the period, not one single calendrical year) of my life.

My father would not have been rowing at 60. I am. And I’ll continue to row until I can’t.

So, to end, another 8 hours in the rowboat and I’ll have achieved something. It was never a target, something I set out to do last January 1, and I’ve never (not once) felt that I had to go rowing just, solely, to get those elusive hours in.

I like being on the water.

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