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Denizens of Skookum

This morning I could have been in Desolation Sound, British Columbia.

Our heating system, known as ‘the beast’ was making a slightly wrong note which awoke me at 5 am to a beautiful full moon night on a rural canal just outside a small village. I stood naked on the deck in the full moon and had a pee over the side as I have done so many times in Desolation. No phosphorescence here but still a spectacular scene.  However I was right to arise as the inverter was flashing red lights and ‘the beast’ was secreting unburnt diesel in the combustion chamber.

In addition to Kerry we have several other denizens living on the boat of which ‘the beast’ is one.  ‘The beast’ is the very same central heat and hot water heater about which we are chasing a Dutch company for charging us €427 to fix it but they failed. We then bought the Morco instant gas hot water heater which scared the beast into partial submission so that now he grudgingly provides hot water and heat. The beast is actually an oil furnace as we have had in many a house. It roars when it lights but if the battery voltage drops and the inverter flashes red and the beast secretes unburned fuel then it exudes clouds of smoke on reigniting. But having the beast on board does cause me to exclaim “brilliant” every fall morning when I step out of the hot shower into the warm bathroom. Perhaps at some point I will tame him enough to provide this automatically without threat or cajoling. At the moment he needs both hence my arising at 5 am to whip him back into shape.

Skookum is home to many systems and in fact keeping them all in line is one of my stressful occupations. That hot shower involves 5 motors, the combustion air fan, the oil pressure pump, the water circulation pump, the water pressure pump and the shower drain pump as it is below water line. A certain complexity is definitely part of the simple life!

Also on board and central to our endeavor is ‘Uncle Lehman’. He is of course the solid powerful family retainer without whom none of this would be possible. At 125HP he drives Skookum at 5-6 knots without even breaking a sweat. A gentle hum at 1200rpm. The Ford Lehman 6 cylinder diesel is one of those old icons of the trucking and marine industry. Before I left Victoria Terry Moore gave me a short introductory course on them as he has two on his Grand Banks, Lonely Bird. He showed me how to modify a standard 11/16″ box end wrench to bleed the injectors. Well Uncle Lehman I drink to you each day.

Then of course there is ‘The Xavier’ so called for saving our bacon more than once. The Xavier is the really large bow thruster that can swing the bow of the boat through 180 degrees in a matter of seconds. The Xavier operates on it’s own 24 volt system with a very large alternator and two massive batteries.


Cyclops lives in a teak cupboard that I built for him and has proved against my doubts that a washing machine is a key player in this adventure especially with all the visitors and bedding. Cyclops is one of the many Ikea inhabitants of Skookum along with the dishes, bedding, carpet, armchairs and deck furniture.

And then of course there is little R2D2 our trusty shopvac who scuttles around keeping Skookum Bristol clean and shipshape. I originally bought R2D2 in Holland when I was working on the boat in the shipyard in the very early days but he has proved his worth ever since and it is a joy to have a clean boat.


And lately our €69 satellite dish has moved into a very high priority position worthy of his slightly grandiose name ‘Telstar’ as the new series of Downton Abbey commences. Each evening after we stop it heads off to 28 degrees and after “finding a Mini in the sky at 2000 miles” as the instruction manual so helpfully says, the friendly voices and faces of the BBC and ITV keep us company. Communications has been a major theme to this trip and at this time in addition to Telstar there is on Skookum: 2 computers, 1 IPad with 3G, 2 3G dongles, 2 WiFi hotspots with 3G, 2 cell phones and enough sim cards for an army. I am sure that our sim card bill is over €200 by now.

Other minor denizens are the giraffe that came out of the Royal yacht basin in Dordrecht. It just floated by and the people on a small sailboat next to us fished it out. Their boat was really a bit small for a giraffe so it moved onto Skookum. We also have an elephant in celebration of all the elephant connections that have been part of our lives for the last year. Maria and Dag in Africa and Michael and Patricia making ‘Elephants never forget’ in Thailand. And of course a west coast First Nations Spirit animal which was a present from the IICRD when I left the board to come on this trip.

There is a selection of flags flying on Skookum at any one time. Presently the BC flag which Norma brought us is at the bow and has generated several inquiries mostly from Brits. Ayja’s Canadian flag is at the stern. And on the mast there is an Eco waterways flag from Holland which commits us to an ecologically responsible presence on the canals, a VNF flag of the canals of France and of course a French flag as that is the country we are in. In Belgium there was a Belgian flag and in Holland a Dutch one.

Barbara’s keen eye always on the lookout for adding beauty to our environment has also selected some art as we move along including a very nice hand made light from Namur in Belgium, two Indonesian masks, a pewter tree and a sign that says “Home”.

3 comments on “Denizens of Skookum

  1. I am loving your travels. You are kindling my travel juices. ( or simmering?) Had a sunny day on the bay today. Continued congrats to you and Barbara.
    Mike

  2. You are both wonderful writers. Love the details, the humour and colour. Much appreciated as we travel along vicariously with you. Joan oxo

  3. You are two truly amazing people. Spending time with you here in Victoria or travelling along with you from a distance is always a pleasure for me. You are taking me places I know I will never physically enjoy but being so articulate makes me feel as though I am there with you. much love.

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