June 2005

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Okay, so this is really the “word o’ a couple weeks ago”, but it’s such fun anyways! The word is courtesy of my friend Peter (sadly gone from the BVI, back to Sweden), and is “baksmala”. it’s pronounced “boks MEL ah”. It’s a word verging on slang; the literal meaninmg is something like “something that hits you from behind”. According to Peter, hen outboard motors where first introduced in Sweden, the called a boat with an outboard a baksmala.
In modern usage, however, it is the Swedish term for a hangover. In the last weeks that Peter and Karen where here, we were sharing the Carrot Bay house, and more than a few mornings found us saluting one another, grimly cheerful, with a hearty “Baksmala”!

Had a thought in the shower a couple weeks back, about a last-minute addition to the dinghy. So, no i’ve gone ahead and added an afterdeck. The overall effect looks pretty good, but barely hints at the work that went into it. The single beam for the afterdeck is a twisting compound-curved lamination, notched for half-laps on perpendicular surfaces. Skinned in ludicrously lightweight 3/16″ ply, the afterdeck seems tough enough, but flexes in interesting ways…
Of course, one complication compounds another; the afterdeck has raised the aft sheer line about 1/4″, and with the neccessary hardwood trim pices, i shall have to raise the rudder 3/8″ to allow the tiller to swing without rubbing.
On the positive side, it looks great, and the deckbeam/sheerclamp joint is now much strengthened and should prove ideal for locating the running backstay tackles as well as the jibsheet leads. The bronze mainsheet traveller also looks much better spanning a neat little deck instead of a plain transom edge.
Both the foredeck and afterdeck are still in primer; i can’t decide exactly what colour to paint ’em. i think a nice soft buttery yellow would complement the dark green hull with Bristol Beige interior and spars, but then again, my cheapest choices are limited to what’s lurking out in the paint shed…
i’ve also decided to go ahead and rig the stays’l with a self-tending boom. It took me awhile to devise a way for this to best work, without a jackline. i’ve stolen an idea from Engleman; the stays’l boom will ride in a fitting forward that will allow it to slide fore-and-aft, and the single sheet will be rigged to pull the boom (and attached sail clew) aft as the sail is sheeted home, as well as ease the boom forward as the sail is let out off the wind, as well as let the clew ride forward when the sail is handed. It took a bit of work to build the little bronze arrangement that lets the boom properly articulate. The boom, a custom-made piece of fine workmanship (okay, okay, a cut-down broom handle) is ready to go. The exact sheet leads will have to figured out after the stick is in and the stays are up.
Why all the hassle for a self-tending headrig in a 13′ LOA boat? Well, self-tending helps decrease the labour load when tacking, but how hard can it be in such a small boat? The answer lays in that it’s hard to juggle more than a line or two when so cramped. i’ve learned this the hard way in The Dink; sitting on the bottom on a port broad reach, the mainsheet is right above my left knee, the spinnaker sheet is above my right foot, and the afterguy is at my right elbow, almost stuck in my back. Chnaging course (let alone gybing!) requires all three lines to be handled. During a gybe-set or luffing spinnaker takedown, i find myself ducking the boom, shifting the tiller, and handling the spinn halyard, pole uphaul, downhaul, afterguy, and both sheets, while getting myself to the high side of the dinghy. i can hardly describe a running gybe under the spinnaker in The Dink; i’ve only managed it once. Suffice it to say, it gets busy! One or two less lines to tend makes a big difference in a crowded cockpit.
Enough afterthoughts… back to work.


Found a great naturalist’s field guide on one of the many bookshelves in the new house. i read it last week, and since then, i’m been amazed at how much more i’m picking up about the plants and animals around here. Of course, it’s also the start of summer, with all sorts of new flowers and plumages. The shallows are full of many tiny baby reef-fish, which makes for fun viewing along the edges of the docks during the requisite noonhour swim. The Laughing Gulls are exhibiting their breeding colours and fantastic jungle-bird calls.
Lately, the biggest, most colourful addition to the landscape has been the flowering of the Flambouyants; huge trees that just blend in the rest of the year are now thick with these wild orangish-red blossoms. As striking as any deciduous tree in fall up north, but made even more so by the contrast with the lush green all around them.
The Madagascar Periwinkles are in full bloom on the beaches, along with my other favourite underfoot beach vine, Beach Morning Glory. The Sea Grapes are coming out again, along with crops of mangoes, papayas, and pineapple. These all grow in profusion on the north side of the island (where the new house is), and my neighbor Rose’s fruit stand has a great selection for cheap. i’ve been informed that the pineapples here are smaller and less juicy than the typical Hawaiian varieties, but i couldn’t say for sure myself. However, i find them to be less sweet and more “pineappley” than those i’ve had from markets up north.
The sounds are alson subtley changing. Sometimes it’s just the Laughing gulls, but i’ve also heard (but very seldom seen) a new migrant cuckoo in the trees, with great songs of its own. At 5 am or so in the morning, just as the sun starts to peek over the horizon, the frogs and crickets swell to maximum volume, and are joined by the earliest-risers of the birds; i really have to get the microphones out and record the sounds!
During the day, most of the fauna is hiding from the heat. Even the sun-loving anoles seem less lively. However, in the cool underbrush on the northside, in the undeveloped areas around Smuggler’s Cove, i’ve found some great critters, such as some beautiful purple hermit crabs living up in the trees, as well as some species of glass lizard which i had never seen before, or even knew existed here.
Still not much in the way of spider sightings, although James was stung by a scorpion a couple days ago. i expressed my surprise that i had yet to see one (they’re supposed to be all over the place), and was told that they’re usually not much larger than a cricket, and very pale in colour. i must have unknowingly crunched over plenty by now! Far more annoying in the yard right now are the fire-ants. They stealth over your feet or up your leg until there’s a few dozen in place, then seem to all sting simultaneously! The stings pack wallop enough, but then go on to itch like crazy, and in most folks (myself included) terminate in small raised white blisters. Now that i’ve made the move to socklessness, i’m more aware of these little guys than ever. The mosquitoes, however, are definately on the decline, as most all of the standing fresh water has dried up, despite the occosional torrents of rain.
i’m hoping to get back up to Sage Mountain sometime soon and see what other life is in bloom around here.

Out west, there’s “Chilcotin Time”. Closer to home, “Cariboo Time”. ‘Course, down here, it’s “Island Time”. In the case of the former two, it’s an example of delayed action, a pause before the effort. Down here, it’s a case of some things never happening at all. i’m beginning to see that the latter has some justification, after living here for awhile.
There’s a passage from Herman Wouk’s “Don’t Stop The Carnival” that pretty much sums it up:

The West Indian is not exactly hostile to change, but he is not much inclined to believe in it. This comes from a piece of wisdom that his climate of eternal summer teaches him. It is that, under all the parade of human effort and noise, today is like yesterday, and tomorrow will be like today; that existance is a wheel of recurring patterns from which no one escapes; that all anybody does in this life is live for awhile then die for good, without finding out much; and that therefore the idea is to take things easy and enjoy the passing time under the sun.

Since i’ve been here, i’ve remained focussed, “eyes on the prize”, but i’ve also slowed down. The speed of life here is slow, yet inexorable, and there’s really nothing to be gained by trying to outpace it. Still, the “climate of eternal summer” is starting to get to me (and not just the heat!); my life up to now has been largely governed by the seasons. i marked my past and future by the passings of summers and winters. Now, my Canadian physiology is expecting a change of season, and naturally, after summer comes winter! Not so here… There is no milestone of climate, no abrupt passing of seasons. Lately, the most obvious difference is that most of the resident pelicans have been replaced by striking black-headed gulls, the splashing dives of the former replaced by the raucous Hollywood “jungle-monkey” calls of the latter.
Not that i’m eager for snow again, not quite yet…