New Spreader Boots

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The most common question I get asked by curious non-climbers is, “Why?” By which I think they mean, “”What would compel a sane person to want to spend as much time as possible dangling off the side of a cliff?”

I could answer something along the lines of how you are never fully alive until you look down between your feet to see… nothing. Or, how standing on top of a mountain makes you feel simultaneously invincible and insignificant. Or, how there is simply no better way to spend a day than by being outside… But I won’t. What I discovered recently is that there is a very practical and sensible reason to be happy in high places.

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Raring to go up the mast! 

A few weeks ago we were out on my daughter and son-in-law’s sailboat. We tacked just as a big gust caught us and handily fouled the foresail. In the aftermath (which involved a lot of flapping lines and waving arms and scrambling around to get the sail back where it was meant to be) we managed to send a spreader boot flying off the end of the spreader and into Finlayson Arm where it sank in hundreds of feet of icy cold water.

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Not a sharp photo – sorry about that. But you can see the state of the old spreader boot (the one that didn’t fly off into the water). It was disintegrating and held on only by a single ancient cable tie. That cable tie popped off when I touched it, so it was a good thing we replaced both while I was up there.

After procuring new pair, I was delighted to be sent up the mast to install the shiny new spreader boots. Securely fastened with rigger’s tape, they will help provide a smooth non-snagging surface for wayward halyards.

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The view from below. 

See? Slipping into a climbing harness and heading up, up, up is about the most fun a climber can have on a boat!

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The view from above…

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First Steps on the Road to the Camino

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It’s safe to say I have never felt quite this way about a trip before. When Dani first mentioned that she was thinking of taking Dad on the last 120 or so kilometres of the Camino de Santiago, I thought it was both the best and the worst idea she has ever had. I mean, Dad isn’t exactly striding around on long hikes the way he used to. He’s on the hunt for his 82nd birthday this year, but it’s kind of a slow motion, huffing and puffing kind of hunt.

That said, he’s still on his feet, sharp as ever, and busy creating new art projects. But recently, he has seemed a bit less enthusiastic about life. An aching hip and wheezy lungs have dampened his enthusiasm for vigorous exercise. Of course, taking it too easy can lead to a general feeling of blah, setting up a bit of a vicious cycle. Dani’s solution for this situation? A long hike across the Spanish countryside with her grandfather.

Hm. There are a lot of ways this could go terribly wrong. But at the same time, what an opportunity to take part in a venerable pilgrimage tradition with someone you care about deeply. When Dani first mentioned the idea, I desperately wanted to come, but it was Dani’s project and I could think of nobody better to walk with Dad on what was surely going to be a memorable journey. I nodded and tried to be gracious. 

When she asked me if I wanted to come along, you can imagine how long it took me to consider my answer. Hell, yes! (Sorry. Maybe that isn’t an appropriate expression of glee, given the nature of the expedition.)

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Dani, Dad and I each have our official Camino passports, which we will get stamped at hostels along the way. We’ll stitch the Canadian patches somewhere on our packs.

Which is how it has come to pass that in the middle of moving, and getting ready to go sailing, and working on various writing projects that I now also find myself thinking about a trip that will be like no other I’ve ever undertaken. For one thing, I won’t be able to march at my usual crazy fast pace. I will be forced to smell the proverbial roses every step of the way. We’re planning to take 25 days, which also means we’ll be spending lots of time together in some challenging circumstances. What better way to bond with (or want to murder) your nearest and dearest?

Am I looking forward to this? Yes, of course. What an opportunity. Am I a tad concerned how this might go down? Yes, of course. I mean, what could possibly go wrong when three generations set off down a long and dusty (or muddy) road across Spain together?

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Smooth Sailing

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Days like this are great if you want to photograph masts reflecting in glassy water, but not so good for doing anything remotely like sailing…

Having just returned from a day on the water it seems like a good time to do a bit of an update on the sailing front. Despite the fact we don’t have a boat (yet), I have marked November 1st as the date we will head for Europe (Greece? Montenegro? Croatia? Italy) for a sailing trip. We still haven’t pinned down destination or duration of the trip, but one way or the other I am bound and determined to be aboard a boat of some sort, for a while, heading somewhere.

While the details of the trip are still somewhat fuzzy, what is absolutely clear is that there is no time to be lost between now and then when it comes to getting myself prepared to take the helm and cast off the lines. Given that one now needs to have an ICC (International Certificate of Competence) in order to sail in most European waters, I signed up for a five-day sailing course through Sea to Sky Sailing. My original dates were to be at the end of March on one of the company’s boats, but then Dani and Toryn decided they would hire a Sea to Sky instructor to come over here to the island to teach them on their boat, Easy Rider. Because they had an extra berth, they invited me to join them, which makes a lot of sense given that a) we’re practicing on a boat we will sail on in the future and b) we’ll be sailing together in the future so it makes sense we’ll all be learning the same way to do things.

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Katabatic winds? My study notes are serving two purposes. First, they are supposed to be helping me retain info needed for the ICC written test (my aging brain no longer holds onto details the way it used to). Second, in keeping with one of my 2017 resolutions, I’m trying to add more visual elements to my notes and journals. This has been an interesting process for someone who has never tried to draw anything. If I feel brave, I might post more sketchy efforts here at some point.

On the down side, the dates of the new training session are March 11-15, which has thrown me into a bit of a panic. Before then, I need to have completed the theory part of the course and get my VHF license plus get in a bit of sailing practice. My studies are well under way, but the clock is ticking now and I’m starting to have dreams eerily like those that tortured me throughout high school and university. In those dreams I show up for an exam and find I have studied for the wrong course or I try to get into the examination room and the doors are locked, or I’ve missed the exam date by a week or I open the exam booklet and discover I can’t read the language written on the page.

On the practical side, though I’ve sailed on and off for decades, my experiences have always been as crew. It’s quite a different thing altogether to be in charge of the boat. So, for the past several weekends, we (Dani, Toryn and I) have been trying to get out on the water before we are thrown into the deep end (not literally, I hope). Our first expedition was a bit hairy as the winds kicked up and we were all very rusty (fouled the jib quite handily and rattled ourselves quite thoroughly). Sailing brother, Sascha, popped over from Vancouver the next weekend and put us through our paces in very light airs in a fun expedition to Sidney Spit, a picturesque spot within spitting distance of Sidney.

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Up goes the mainsail…

That trip went pretty smoothly and included practicing picking up a mooring ball. At the end of it, we felt a bit more confident that we had not actually forgotten everything we had ever known about sailing. After enjoying a tasty barbecue in the cockpit, we also remembered how much fun it is to sail somewhere and then share a meal!

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Today we took Easy Rider out again, looking forward to sailing in light winds so we could do a bit more tacking practice. Sadly, the forecast 5 knots of wind wound up being 0-1 knots. Flat calm. It was easy enough to hoist the sails, but from that point on we bobbed around in the millpond with two gigantic limp hankies decorating the boat. What forward movement we actually managed to accomplish was more the result of the current pushing us than any impact from the non-existent wind. The fact there was not a single sailboat (other than us) out there should have been a hint that perhaps today was not a good day for sailing.

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We may not have buried the rail today, but it was mighty pleasant lounging around on the foredeck as we puttered back toward the marina.

Undeterred, we floated around for a couple of hours before dropping the sails and motoring back to the dock. While uneventful sailing trips are generally a good thing, today’s journey to nowhere gives mellow a whole new meaning.

Wildlife count: 2 seals swimming, 2 seals perched on rocks, 2 dolphins and a bunch of sea birds. Note to self: Take a bird identification book to the boat.

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Enjoy the blog? Consider becoming a patron to support the creation of these blog posts, photo essays, and short videos. In return, you’ll have my undying appreciation, but you’ll also get access to Patron-only content, advance peeks at works in progress, and more – all for as little as a buck a month! It’s easy – head on over to Patreon to have a look at how it all works.

Two Book Birthdays in One Week!

When it rains, it pours, as they say… As if having one book come out this week wasn’t exciting enough, the latest in the Orca Origins series arrived today! Birthdays: Beyond Cake and Ice Cream is a collaboration with my talented daughter, Dani. Dani and I also wrote Take Shelter together and, in fact, have another in the works for the Origins series (about Christmas).

 

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Dani checking out our new book at a Starbucks where we like to work together…

 

Birthdays was a lot of fun to research and write in part because it meant we were able to dip into those big boxes of family photos in search of family birthday memories. Not that we have to wait until we are researching a book before we dig around the archives. The reality is, though, we have a LOT of photographs (my mother was a professional photographer) and it’s a bit overwhelming to open those boxes and go exploring. It’s easy to lose hours and hours traveling back through the time machine of family photographs.

nikki peter birthday magic 15875135_10157964105550364_4577374677000110276_o.jpgThis photo was taken in about 1970 during our first year in Canada. My brother, Peter and I shared a birthday bash that year as we had a magician come out from Calgary to perform at our party in Banff. We invited everyone from both our classes at school and had a party we both remember well even now.

I posted this photo on Facebook not long ago and a friend who was at that party reminded me I had fits of giggles every time the magician handed me his wand which, to my delight and confusion, refused to stay rigid whenever I touched it. The wand’s inevitable collapse each time I took it left me in hysterics. I had forgotten that part of the party but remembered that the party favors included boxes of Lucky Elephant Popcorn.

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Bright pink and sweet, that candy popcorn was one of my favorites when I was a kid! Apparently, Lucky Elephant is a Canadian treat, so if you live elsewhere and have no idea what I’m talking about, that’s why.

Though our infamous magical birthday party didn’t make it into the book, lots of other family birthdays did. Dani’s 20th in Japan (wearing a fancy kimono), my dad’s 80th (holding a certificate from our then-newly-minted PM, Justin Trudeau), and my fifth (holding onto a very fuzzy white pony in Australia) are all in the book along with a whole lot of things about birthdays I didn’t know before we started writing.

 

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Happy Birthday, Birthdays!!

 

For the past several years Dani and I have been working together on one book or another, so it’s a bit strange now to be in the phase where we are tossing ideas back and forth and considering what our next collaboration might entail. We have a few thoughts that might have legs,  so stay tuned. You never know where our inquiring minds might take us next!

The New Book is Officially Out!

It never gets old, the arrival of a new book! Deadpoint was officially released into the wilds today (and, by wilds, I mean your local bookstore, library, or online bookseller…)! I love the quote on the bookmarks, “Fear is not an option.” I even like the punctuation – that period at the end of the statement […]

via Deadpoint is Alive! — Nikki Tate – Author

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Enjoy the blog? Consider becoming a patron to support the creation of these blog posts, photo essays, and short videos. In return, you’ll have my undying appreciation, but you’ll also get access to Patron-only content, advance peeks at works in progress, and more – all for as little as a buck a month! It’s easy – head on over to Patreon to have a look at how it all works.

Where the Past and Future Meet

 

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Just because it’s an ugly job doesn’t mean I can’t have some scribbly fun in my journal. The journals, btw, are going into storage. You never know when I might need a reminder about all the strange decisions I’ve made so far…

At the moment, my past and present are colliding in a humongous jumble of boxes stacked high in every available space in my Victoria suite. After 20 years at one address (a record!), I am moving. And, downsizing. Drastically. With any luck, I’ll be spending lots of time over the next number of years living in tiny spaces – a sailboat. A tent. During my more luxurious moments, in a condo in the mountains.

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Every room looks like this at the moment. Books and boxes everywhere. Total chaos.

With all that in mind and more determined than ever to be mobile and unfettered (as unfettered as someone who is recently engaged can be…), I have been going through ALL my stuff. Yep, even the boxes full of ancient files containing useful things like phone bills from 1984, the dot matrix drafts of papers from university, every draft of every book or article I’ve ever written, random receipts, shopping lists, birthday cards from people I don’t even know… Why, oh why did I feel I needed to keep my copy of meeting minutes from every meeting I’ve attended over the past 30+ years? Phone memos torn from those pink message pads? I can barely remember those jobs, never mind the person or phone number so carefully saved in boxes all these years. The toss (well, recycle) ratio on most of this papery dreck is running at 90% or higher.

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Typical of the number of boxes of files and papers in a given corner… Below, the same corner after the excavation. All that reduced to one, small box.

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Likewise, the books are being drastically reduced in number. I have been culling for several years now, but this last go round is truly impressive. I probably started with 12,000-15,000 books and will perhaps wind up with 500. Which is pretty incredible (though I’m wondering if I could actually get that number down even lower). I’m either donating to schools, giving them to friends, sending them off to thrift shops, or, for the relatively few that may have some modest value, they are heading off to find new owners via a couple of used book shops. Said shops provide store credit only, so for the little I get from my 50+ years of rabid collecting (hoarding!) of books, I’ll be able to get a few choice Christmas presents or select titles I decide I absolutely need to add to what will be a rather modest collection. It’s thoroughly depressing to think how very little used books are actually worth in our world.

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So many manuscript drafts. I kept editorial notes (like these from an early draft of Tarragon Island) and a few sample pages here and there, took some snapshots of random pages and then… tossed the rest away.

Has it been hard to let all that stuff go? At first, it was excruciating. Every book that went into a ‘donate’ box tugged at my heart strings. I may not have read every book on my shelves, but I know where they all came from and why they are there. My bookshelves were a sort of visual archive of my entire life and every time I let one go it was like letting a little piece of my past disappear.

And then, it got easier. I’m not sure what happened, but there was a massive shift in the way I was looking at what suddenly seemed to be an excessive number of books for any one human to possess. Armloads started going into the boxes destined for various schools… most of my equestrian-themed books went off to the Victoria Therapeutic Riding Association. Others, I realized, would find plenty of pleasure in the books I have had around me for so long.

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Photos like this one of me feeding a monkey in Singapore, 1967 are keepers. The French homework notebook into which this photo had been tacked has been tossed. This is why it’s taking me so long to go through everything. There are gems hidden away, tucked between the pages of books, folded up and wedged between old phone bills, scribbled on napkins and, yes, recorded on ancient cassette tapes. The audio-visual finds will have to wait to be shared until I can convert them into something the digital world can understand.

The task is, as you can imagine, huge. Though it has become easier to decide what can go and what must be stored away until I’m once again in a place where I can lovingly place my favourite bliblio-babies back on bookshelves, the sheer volume of material I need to work my way through is staggering.

But so worth it.

 

 

When the Writing Just Stops — Nikki Tate – Author

It’s so weird how this happens. I’m beavering away, have lots of ideas, am all eager to work and then… something shifts. The momentum completely stops. And I find myself drifting about feeling like I have never written anything and will never write again. This morning I was up early, tossing and turning because I […]

via When the Writing Just Stops — Nikki Tate – Author

(reposted from my writing blog… or, in this case, my ‘not writing’ blog.)