A Chance Meeting

June 23

I woke to grey skies and Kurt’s clanking away at the engine. Over dinner we had worked through the engine’s steaming-up, the most logical source of which was, we reasoned, a broken raw water impeller. On marine engines the importance of this item, of any item, is indicated by the difficulty of reaching it. In this case, a hatch at the back of the quarter berth must be removed and a human body stretched almost to breaking in order to lay the pinky and thumb of one’s non-dominant hand upon a seized nut for which no wrench has yet been forged.

Uncovering the impeller with some effort showed it in perfect working order. So we cleaned the raw water strainer, changed the fuel filters again for good luck and were off. The engine wavered again within the mile, but without the exhaust steam. We slowed; the engine steadied; we pressed on.

Again sun predominated without the predicted northwesterlies and our anchor found the bottom of Hot Springs Cove in the early afternoon. Here lay three other sailboats, the only other cruisers on Vancouver’s west side we had yet encountered.

Low fog next morning and the whine of the entrance buoy. We hiked slowly through the tangled rainforest along a mile of meticulous boardwalk, numerous planks of which were carved with the boat names and greetings of those who’d come before. Soon the smell of sulfur. We stripped and crawled over slick rock into the warm water. We were not alone. Power boats and float planes brought tourists from Tofino, to whom we described our rough passage to this same spot, soaking up the attributed glory of our small adventure.

Next day we made a short hop to Matilda Inlet housing the village of Ahousat. Jay and I had thoughts of another restaurant meal, but as we slowed past the clog of derelict boats at the dock below the two buildings comprising downtown, the sign “Restaurant” that hung askew from the sign “General Store” suggest it not worth the row.

Near our anchorage, a double-ended ketch whose grey hull and white masts impressed as both well used and tidy. Her name, FIREWATER of Ketchikan (an Ingrid 38). With a start I realize I’d seen this yacht in a small bay outside La Paz three years earlier. Here the owner and wife, both elderly, had rowed over to MURRE for a gam. They were about to get underway, they said, were headed north to Hawaii; Mexico had gotten too expensive, too crowded. The man looked like a logger, pale, his flannel shirt and bill cap out of place in the Mexican heat. He was gregarious with a braying laugh and evidently tough, while his Inuit wife, a mere crumple of a woman, could barely manage a whisper. They departed that afternoon. The old man lifted the old woman aboard as if lifting a child from a wheelchair. She hobbled to the cockpit. He sailed FIREWATER off anchor alone and over the horizon.

Now Kurt slowed RAVEN. On FIREWATER a figure swabbed decks. He wore green foulies; held a white bucket. I reintroduced myself, reminded of our meeting in Mexico. “I remember you,” he said as we passed. “I lost my wife in Hawaii, you know. Brought her ashes back here; FIREWATER and I just arrived two days ago. She’s from this village, my wife.” I express condolences. “But I’m not swallowing the anchor. I’m not done.” I asked where he was bound. He raised both arms as if to say where was not important. And then RAVEN had drifted past.

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