Wednesday, 12 August 2015

ReadBev 34. Bankers & Businessmen

Bananas in Heaven  - 12/08/2015

I am blown away by the succinct explanation of human behaviour by Yuval Noah Harari on this TED talk (click link to watch… it’s only 17 minutes). Here we have a simple explanation of how we got here, how it has become possible for us to embrace the story… but now to consider why.

The photo has nothing to do with it by the way... it's just I take thousands of pics, some ok, and never do anything with them so here's an opportunity to air a few.

Bankers & Businessmen

Lie to me
and let me live your dreams.
Your dream of your yachts and your mansions,
you can have them all
because I sweat and slave
and sleep the wretched nights away
with staggering exhaustion.

Punish me
if I dare to resign or get up off my couch
with my crisps and TV where you peddle your tales
of murder and mayhem and world domination saying
“See! Speech is free! Here's BBC!”.

Ignore me
to death
as I shoulder the load of your work and ideals,
heartfelt appeals and the glazed eyes of children that
you starved and made landless
with your profiteering plunder
of the world.

Blame me
for consumption and car and cancer of the ear at my mobile phone
while I gaze from a chemical haze through my lashless lids
at your yacht on my telly as I lie on my bed.
Blame me for the terrible cost I have laid
at the door of the starving society that you,
you  have enslaved.

BS Aug15



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Thank you again for reading; your encouragement has been the wind in my sails.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Painting the Tiller


I’m back. I’m painting the tiller. Buttermilk. Delicious colour goes on creamy and sweet. The brush makes silky streaks in the thick paint that then pulls tight to make a smooth shiny surface… stroke and dip. I dangle my legs over the edge of the stern and feel the water pull at my toes, a cooling breeze lifting up the evening from out this sunny day of hazy heat.

I’m back and didn’t even know I’d gone away. Decided for certain yesterday that if it came to it I would pack in the whole idea, sell the boat and start again at something else. I’ve done all I can do and can fight no more in this oppressive place that I wonder sometimes might be my own head. I start, I fight, I get disgruntled, I move. Deciding that. Acknowledging there was no more I could do, and after all, it’s a joke to think we are in control anyway… that seems to have brought me back.

Back to where? To here where I can potter and feel and be and know I am in present time. I feel the water tug and my Peccadillo hugs my butt to hold me up, up and away from the dark water. Oh what respect the water demands… I heard it call deep and treacherous the night the cat took a look ; a sucking indifference and fathomless disregard for the stuff of air and life and breathing. The canal is not the same as the singing sea. Confined to cut and lock and stagnant servitude it snatches at the drama and desolation of life and grieves for the communion of horses who understood such tethers on spirit that should run wild. And so is sadness drawn to the canal.

A father cycles past with his two boys on the towpath. He opens his voice in a loud cobble wobble and the boys join in with legs splayed, laughing. Merrily we sail along, sail along. The paint sticks and drips, and I wonder if I have added just enough thinners. My dad could have told me just how much if he’d been here. Could have told me what to do with all the paint and the engine and the fixing, so he could. But I’ll be fine and I learn every day. If I lived a hundred years I’d learn something new every day, and that begs the question… how can I assume I ever know anything if there is always so much to learn?

Cathy’s dad tells stories. The first time I met him he didn’t hardly speak till he was well pissed and his first talk to me was to tell me of the fine Scottish words that have been lost. “Kich.” he said. This being my first conversation with my father in law I was eager to continue the conversation so asked the only question I could think of.
“How do you spell it Mr McRae?”
“Q… U… I…”
“Oh for God’s sake don’t be so disgusting.” said Mrs McRae.
“Q… U… I…C… H… E…”
“Rubbish,” Said Helen, “that’s quiche.”

But another time, he cut through the rabble of a family gathering to expound “No welding on the Queen Mary.” Now we were talking. “Rivets. Just millions of rivets.”
“You’re kidding?” I said.
“Nope. Not a single weld. The blacksmith threw the white hot rivet up to the catcher… he had a cup… he’d catch it in his cup and never missed. The riveter would hammer it into the hole and there’d be a guy on the other side… the two of them would hammer at that rivet… one two, one two” … he swung his arms to and fro till you could hear the ringing blows in the ship yard … “and when that rivet cooled it pulled so tight nothing could ever part it.”

Mr McRae doesn’t walk so good these days. Years and years kneeling on the steel hulls of boats as a ships plumber have taken their toll. When he tells these stories his eyes lift out of here and now and transport you back to those grafting days when men hammered and strove and worked to build great ships of solid steel with not a single weld.

My Peccadillo is solid steel but nothing like those majestic old birds. But still she is a trusty dame with a fine line to her bows when you see her sail towards you on an autumn cut . I’d decided that whenever possible I would sail towards clients to collect them, rather than having them arrive at her moored. That would make a fine impression and folk could say “ooh what a fine barge I am going on.” and then the trip would be all the more special.

And I’d be standing at this fine buttermilk tiller, smiling.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

For Susan...

This return to CC is inspired by a fellow canal boater who plans to bring her narrowboat up the Clyde…

Well Susan I could gladly run you through the preparations we made, the fixtures, the cost, the hours and the sweat. The considerations seemed legion, and their implementation continued till the day before we left but even then, with all the advice in the world, things happened that we hadn’t prepared for.

I’m so glad we did it in good ship Peccadillo… but I’m even more glad we didn’t sink or die. 

Perhaps my overriding memory of both the Clyde and the Forth is the indifferent application of scale: water to boat. After the rigours of the wind-over-tide on the Forth Jubilee I was breathtaken to see the improved handling of Missee on Loch Fyne, she being 30 tons and 12’ beam compared to Peccadillo’s 16 tons and 9’6”. The 60 ton vessels I currently skipper on Loch Lomond are proportionally indifferent to the rather alarming waves that fetch up in a gale over the 26 miles from the south… but I imagine the calculation works the other way in the case of your 42’x7’ and, I’m guessing, less than 10 tons?

All of this said, I still dream of the day when the west coast of Scotland begins to realise its tourism potential and certainly there are moves to do so. The Marine Tourism Strategy is dubbed “Awakening the Giant” but I feel that better describes the tide of activity on the canal right now! 

Yes, the firth of Clyde. There was a day up Loch Long, surprisingly sheltered from the winds of the morning, with water like glass and a view of Scottish hills that is the envy of the all the world… and I though surely… surely we could get a wee flotilla of canal boats down the Clyde and onto these moorings for a weekend…

That’s the key though; company. The outcome on the Forth would have been very different if Donald hadn’t been there in the rib to flatten the waves so that I could turn Peccadillo out of the wind into the mouth of the Carron. At one point there were to be 5 of us heading west but in the end it was just Peccadillo, and if I was ever in that position again I would get a little budget to hire one of those many lads with their ribs… so many out there who would love such an adventure. Consider that if you do it Susan.

Consider that and plan your tides, you have to use them. Never take any wind over the tide but if you’ve time for a whisky one evening I’ll sing you a story (not really sing!) of a force 5 behind Missee on Loch Linnhe that swept us into Corpach at nigh on 8 knots… oh joy. Not least of all because we were finishing with the sea! 

But with all the planning in the world you can’t predict wash from other vessels, and there is one particularly bad catamaran ferry between Dunoon and Greenock that creates dangerous rolling breakers for a wash… they travel for miles. Our breakdown between Greenock & Sandbank was fuel blockage, with sludge having shaken up in the old steel tanks (who has access to the fuel tanks for cleaning?) so would recommend, for a tidal journey, a gravity fuel feed from a smaller portable; canal boats don’t use a lot of fuel at 4 knots. 

The RNLI were marvellous, and impressed with our chart/tidal/route planning and tow preparations. It was Davie Brown who helped me rig up a large rope all the way round the stern after Jimmy warned of the dangers of towing a steel longboat in rough waters. They can simply tear apart. But rest assured, it’s a known fact with sailors that the RNLI will never ever criticise or correct anyone for calling them out as their greatest concern is that a boater in distress may, through embarrassment, delay making the mayday or pan pan call for even a few minutes, and those minutes may make the difference between life and death.

Fortuitous it was that Peccadillo broke down and turned home… because as she left Rhu for Bowling one of the fins came away from her prop. As I wrestled the old one off (fortunately through the weedhatch, Ian… we didn’t have to crane out) to replace it with the one that the angel Joe had brought, I cast my mind back to the start of Clyde to Caledonia at Edinburgh Quay… to the bump bump bump down the Union that I squarely blame for the large crack that that was evident once we got it off. Man I must have hit at least six large obstructions up there; my wide beam, though technically 18” draft… but she hunkers down in that shallow water, even at 2 knots. With all the preparation in the world we couldn’t have known about this… imagine if it had gone on the Dorus Mor…. 

And that’s quite enough of a story Susan… forgive me for waxing lyrical but it has been wonderful to return to the Odyssey. I’m so glad I did it but I really don’t want to do it again… but if you do, call me for crew! We need more adventures, more boats, but yes, sensible ones.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Here are the Clyde to Caledonia Waters

Collected from Peccadillo, Missee and a little dolphin watching vessel in the Moray Firth...