Poop Deck Chronicles

Head Games…or Nautical Nastiness

Day 1: Monday August 3
Sailing from Cordova Bay over to South Pender Island, Bedwell harbour. The depth sounder gives out and we jimmy it back and forth trying for a signal.  Weather fair, overcast with some sun.

We anchor uneventfully. If you’re a sailor,  you’d understand that anchoring between a husband and wife can fall into the same category as co-piloting and navigation on a European road trip.  It tests the most congenial of partnerships. We’re not docile and quiet anchor-mates, we provide cocktail-hour conversation fodder for self-satisfied, on-looking cruisers. On another boat you will overhear another wife quietly cheerleading, “thank god it’s not me, thank god it’s not me, come on chickee you can do it, eat it, slam the boat into reverse then forward, problem solved, husband overboard.”

But tonight, all goes well; not a curse or prismatic face.  The usual, unrestrained, monkey hysteria is blissfully absent; we remain married and momentarily consider renewing our vows.

Tonight we spend quietly slurping our wine, washing it down with an anticipatory forecast of optimism for the forthcoming holiday cruise. Two weeks crammed in a 31 footer; this ship’s crew – an overworked, haggard husband, a not-so-delicate, hormonally seasoned mother, a staunchly independent tween seeking tragedies and soapbox opportunities and an emerging, dark-comic teen in the throes of perpetual, rank sarcasm and urgent melancholy. All should go well.

Day two, Tuesday, August 4:
Tom tries fixing the wiring and the depth sounder, while I look on: exposed wires, lots of water – this should be good.  All six-foot-two-inch-tall Tom spends most of his time hunched, folded and stuffed in the aft quarter locker. Occasionally I throw him a sandwich, he mutters the odd word just a few letters short of an official curse. (Note to self: find some creative alternatives in the History of Swear Words that can pass by younger ears yet remain satisfying.)


Roughly 5 hours later, he emerges permanently fixed in a yoga position of which I cannot name, Madonna would be envious. Being a thoughtful wife, I chortle, snicker and hand him a generous glass of Chilean wine to untwist his yogic, tree-like, arthritic limbs.


“Fucking great, let’s see what tomorrow brings” I say with unfettered enthusiasm,  “I’m ready for the hot tub, let’s head for the resort, I could use a soak. ”
“Ahh, I mean Gad Zooks!”, I add apologetically.

I must refer to that historical reference on swearing before it’s too fucking late and the kids are permanently affected.

Sixty dollars later, a resort massage from  “Resort Randy” attempts to loosen up the muscles of my now placid and slightly confused husband. Tom walks around to the side of the pool.

“It could’ve been longer,” he bemoans, “but he gave me an extra 15 minutes and I think he was hoping I’d go for the full hour fee.  He also said the laundry was down and they were out of robes. He kept working his way down my back and I only asked for a shoulder and neck massage.”

I feel a warm wave of philanthropy coming on, some compassion and empathy for I sense some definite discomfort…

“And you think THAT was an accident?  I guess “Resort Randy” was feeling generous, either that or he likes your ass.” I smile as I do an awe-inspiring breaststroke from shallow end to shallow end. I’m sure Tom is admiring my strokes. I dive down and do a handstand to give him a look at my glistening gams. When I come up he has disappeared. I rub the bump on my head; the pool is a humiliating 2.5 feet deep.

The following morning I take another refreshing dip in the pool and attempt some manic, marina aqua-fit; a pastime that will soon lose it’s lure after 15 minutes of solo gesticulations and acrobatics.

“I think she is doing aqua physiotherapy,” a fellow sailor and passerby comment.
I pretend to have a mini seizure and exit the pool.

Meanwhile, back at the boat, stuffed in the V-berth, the girls debate who can lift the front hatch solely with the use of their salty, beachy toes. I return from my “therapeutic” row from the marina, the show is promptly repeated for my enjoyment.

Being the supportive and praising parent, I never miss an opportunity to catch them in positive moments,”WELL DONE! Excellent form, I really like how you can manipulate those latches, I am confidant that if you lost your hands, all would be well.”

Feeling in the resort mood, all resort-y and stuff, the troupe heads to the main restaurant for breakfast. Today’s server, our waiter, a half-gassed, overwrought fellow with a furrowed mono-brow looks like he could benefit from a morning lobotomy.  Business is slow, there are but a few stragglers eating resort fare at ridiculously inflated prices. We must partake, it is team play, and we are team players. Wow, I feel so yacht-y, so Sperry boat-shoed, so navy-striped and proper.

Mono-brow heads to our table, his hind-brain deep in thought. We order one hot chocolate, a latte for the teen (despite threats of stunted growth), a decaf and a regular coffee. He stands at our table until the outer deck clouds over and moves toward the back corner, probably for shock therapy. I make use of my time and stash the little mini jams in my bag.

“Good thinking Mom!” my Tween yells.

The waiter awakes from his Frankenstein slumber.  I have some thoughts on what might be growing on this island and I think he’s been raiding Mr. McGregor’s garden a little too much. It’s not oregano. He could really benefit from some gingko though.

We receive our coffee tepid, the latte foamless and lacking any differentiation from a McDonald’s super-sized coffee with cream. The hot chocolate with “whipped cream ”  now resembles an Exxon-Valdez oil spill swirling in psychedelic rainbow motifs. Mono-brow is still on his magical, mystical tour and I’m afraid to ask for cream.  We dare to order breakfast, various forms of eggs Bennie, (you choose the topping), it doesn’t really matter; Mono-brow is sure to lose it all in translation.

One hour later we ask if the breakfast sitting under the warming lights might be ours.

“Oh yah.”

Another server valiantly assists him, and the Bennies arrive cold, but we’re too hungry to complain.  At least I got mini jams I think to myself.


Tweenie eats two bites then abandons ship. I could hardly blame her.
I ask for the bill.
“Sorry, our computers are down, do you have cash?” he manages to dribble out.
I contemplate freaking out and envision what Mono-brow would look like wearing my daughter’s soggy omelet but sensibility, admirable patience and tranquility come over me. It must be the island air; either that or I’ve inhaled the fumes from his clothes.

“No, but how about Visa?” I offer graciously, almost saccharine. Sometimes I amaze myself with the learned discipline I’ve acquired from teachers such as Ekhart Tolle, really, he would be proud.

“Ask your dealer…I mean, superior if that can be done.”

I have to say it hurt, it hurt to pay so much for such a fiasco, but I grappled with guilt and tipped him anyway, and probably paid for the next week’s stash or at least put him out of his server misery for the following days. It felt good at least to make a difference. I felt enlightened.

Day 3, Wednesday, August 5:

The weather is not looking favourable to the south so we abandon plans for the San Juan Islands. We forgo Roche Harbour and other American highlights and decide it not a great idea to fly our 6 foot pirate flag in American waters gauging by home land security’s lack of knee-slapping humour, that, and the owner’s vaporizer hanging from the galley’s accoutrement rack. Some on-board, underage miscreant belts from below, “you can always say Canadians don’t inhale either.” I pretend not to hear.

We sail for Narvaez bay, a newly designated marine park on Saturna Island.  The passage is smooth save for the pirate-evoking mixed seas along Boiling Point reef.   We reach one of the highlights along the Saturna coast; the sandstone cliff’s Monarch’s head. Expecting something Kingly or Queenly, something inspiring like Queen Elizabeth in one of her hats waving a sandstone hand, instead we see what looks like Jason from Friday the 13th.

As we enter Narvaez bay I am overcome. I feel the urge to make organic granola, homemade, no-hormones- bacon fat soap and knit hand-spun, free range, wool socks. I abandon the boat and jump overboard. It seems like a good idea, the water is emerald green and has the mythic lure of merman and sea-maidens; the reality however is slightly soupy and heart-stopping cold. I sport an over-enthusiastic grin and turn to see a seal looking at me, the stupid human flailing about like a white suffocating sausage.  Luckily, in a matter of minutes, wetsuits and all, the kids dive in like little stuffed black sausages and join marine Sausagedom.

Tom never one to miss an opportunity,  combines his wily desires for a  dory outboard motor, (lovingly known as the “Green Onion”) with a child’s natural hunger instinct.   Promise of food and beverages fuel the kick-board “motor” and Tweenie is eager to work for her dinner.  Suddenly I experience a deep sense of love and approbation as I witness this wonder of parenting aptitude and in this moment,  kinship and knowledge of a lasting future together strikes my heart. My wedding ring tingles on my finger and gets caught in the zipper of tween’s wetsuit.

“Mom! I’m drowning! What are you DOING?”

“I’m trying to hold your head up so you don’t choke on the waves. Geesh.”

She breaks free and Tom tosses her some fish.

“Well done, you’re doing great! Can you kick a little harder?”

Treasures await us on the island. Tom itches to explore he-man pathways and I feel a burning in my loins to be at one with nature. Tweenie accompanies the Raider of the Lost Ark and the more serious Teen Angst, purveyor of profound thoughts,  retreats back to the boat for some secluded afternoon, philosophic reading. I embark on my own version of an imagined reality TV show excerpt- Woman Forager on Prelude Voyager, subtitled “What will she eat next?”

My first atavistic compulsion preys upon me as I wade ashore like a primordial soup monster. The seaweed is in full bloom and I hunger. Grasping the maiden’s head (bull kelp bulb) by the hair (kelp fronds), I take a bite. The other island visitors step back into the trails, retreating with their children.  Ahhh, so good for hypothyroidism, I feel renewed energy surge through my body; the natural iodine an elixir to my soul.

With green fragments sticking between my teeth, I move to my next victims who lie helplessly along the shoreline.  Oysters cling together fearing the demented sea monster about to devour their entrails.  I grab a rock and strike hard, the top shell smashing with a satisfying crack. The opalescent gut awaits its fate. I scrape the slimy booger from the attached muscle and slurp the entire blob, salt, sand and all.  I think I growl.

A nearby father of two and husband to one, maybe two, (you never know these days) leers from the sidelines,” I would never do that,” he chides with superior authority. His wife? Husband? smiles uneasily and I ignore the killjoy.

Next, more earthly pleasures. The desire to pillage the island for sustenance grows stronger as I follow a deserted trail. Picnickers quickly abandon their shady paradise in hasty recoil. I think I may cannibalize today. I can feel my armpit hair grow like a steroidal, European goddess, primitive yet scholarly in the ways of mother earth.

As the hair on my legs grows more robust, I spy wild orchards ripe with splendor.  Is bark edible?  I think as I pass a voluptuous Douglas Fir.  A perfect apple dangles hesitantly from a low-lying branch.


Where is Adam?” I think to myself, or maybe I said it out-loud, I don’t know, but let’s get back to the forager shall we?


My aching ovaries cry out and I am at once naked all except for a costly but not sexy, pair of new olive-green, podiatrically-correct, Keens; their arch support rivals second to none.  I may have pronated but instead walked perfect strides forward leaping to catch the sinfully, sensuous apple.


Out of the outlying shrubbery, my Adam materializes.  And it seems that he has already mated with Eve as her progeny is with him.  Voraciously I bite the apple and a squirt of juice hits my eye…

“What are you doing?” Adam asks.

It’s as if the apple has broken a spell, however there is no snake in sight, I see my nakedness and he sees mine. The record player needle screeches across my record of love ballads (I’m thinking Led Zeppelin) and I am once again human.

“Hi Tom, shall we be getting back to the boat?” I cover myself and wince a bit, wiping apple juice from eyebrow and some spittle from my chin.

“Are you alright? Need help picking more apples or perhaps gathering your clothes?”

“I’m good. You should taste these, they’re just like Golden Delicious!”

We head back to the boat, my tummy satiated. It’s been a great day. It’s mid afternoon and Teen has accomplished her book-a-day quota and I return to my former role as galley cook and mediator of sibling peace talks at the round-table (actually rectangular).


Our next port of call – Winter Cove, a moorage on Saturna Island, home to the narrow, and waterfall-esque Boat Passage and is the site of the Robertson II wreckage, an old, 130 foot schooner built-in the earlier parts of the last century.

We approach. Sailors pack Winter Cove. An abandoned, cedar-shingled, “hippy-ship”  boat with a rusting metal hull catches my eye.  I hull out the camera and try to catch the image in the dying light of the day. We break the placidity.

“Edacious Eve, can you pay attention, we are trying to anchor, I don’t need a space-out, artsy-fartsy moment at the moment. Put down the camera and stay at the helm.”


I don’t know what “edacious” means but it sounds kind of like it might mean voluptuous and give Tom a wink. He looks perplexed and I return to my camera.
“Yah, yah, yah, alright, but the light it’s so perfect ” I whine, “I’m losing the light!”

“Put her in neutral, then reverse, wheel hard over, then back to neutral and when or if I say forward, be sure not to foul the anchor. And don’t run over the dory tied to stern port-side.”

I don’t think I heard one word of the instructions; I was picking the seaweed and dirt from beneath my nails. I follow the gesticulations as best I can, noting the furrowed brow followed by scrunched up nose, followed by frantic hand signals.
Oh crap.

“I said reverse, not forward!”


I notice I might be out of favour at the moment, not exactly the yacht-y wife I should be.


Again it’s cocktail hour and all yachtsman (yachtpersons, for those in women studies) are on their decks. I think I shall charge for this spectacle, after all, I make people feel better about their seafaring skills.


Finally, we anchor and the boat is left to bob and swivel on most-likely too long a scope. All is quiet and my husband returns to his original peachy colour. What lies for the days ahead is still to be known, but whatever comes our way will surely not lack in adventure. This is our ship’s log signing off,  August 6.