Books, Gulf Islands, San Juan Islands, Velkommen

Dynamite Stories

No Comments 08 January 2013

Now here’s a cute little story.  Well, almost.  It’s disjointed, no one put the pieces together.  The editor must have been fishing.  Judith Williams writes well and the setting is perfect.  Post WWII Refuge Cove on West Redonda Island.  The solar plexus of Desolation Sound.  A handful of hearty independent thinkers willing to claw at the edges of an island to build a home and a life.  They are independent, perhaps-eccentric, out-of-the-mainstream types; that provides a palette of vibrant colors with which to paint a narrative  on a gray granite surface.

What common thread binds the story together?  The use of Dynamite.  Do I see raised eywbrows?  If you are going to carve out a life on a rock what else would you use to level a bit of the playing field?  Character development is begun early with interesting vignettes of the Refuge Cove residents.  The reader starts to feel a sense of community and continuity.  Toss in a few pages about the history of dynamite and the Nobel Peace Prize.  Then bounce back to the Ripple Rock explosion, not Refuge Cove, but it is Desolation Sound.  By now the character development is fading and the reader starts feeling bounced around.  Well, if disjointed is king, let’s run to the Fraser River and Hell’s Gate Canyon then Chatterbox Falls.  Now it’s time to get back on Redonda Island for more character development.  Characters must be scarce so toss in a dead cougar and a dead bear.  Still searching for a conclusion let’s see if Bute Wax and gold prospecting can tidy up the ending.  An interesting read. Make Judith do a rewrite and fire Terry Glavin the editor.  It will never be a prizewinner, but Dynamite Stories deserved to be better.

Click the front cover to see the back.

Books, Gulf Islands, Velkommen

Desolation Sound – A History

No Comments 27 July 2012

Heather Harbord has turned out a seriously fine book for Desolation Sound fans.  Desolation Sound – A History is a history book that doesn’t read like a history book.  There’s a succinct endorsement.  Rugged places attract hearty people and eccentric people, and various combinations. That’s the human side of Desolation Sound and it may be an understatement.

Exhaustive research and excellent organization are the key elements that make this book so readable.  It begins with a couple of maps, an area map and a settlement map. The local geography constrains the settlements with mountains and saltwater.  Next is a short section on the early inhabitants and early explorers.  The meat of the book is found in part 2:  European Settlers.  The sundry areas that comprise Desolation Sound are seen through the stories and interviews of the rugged and unique folks that settled each area.  As the events of their lives unfold the book becomes warm and personal rather than a cold compilation of historical facts.  The stories of the early pioneers are priceless; their hardscrabble lives a constant adventure.  Definitely rugged, but as dramatic as the surroundings.  Some of them…..well, you just couldn’t make them up.

Eulogizing about the Coastal Indian tribes is kelp to a minimum.  And that is really delightful.  Too many books drool with fantasies of the “Noble Savage”  living in harmony with nature and one another.  Total Bravo Sierra.

There is an extensive bibliography and timeline, but most appreciated is the pronunciation guide.  Many of the place names are not pronounced at all like they are spelled.  Read it……you’ll see what I mean.


B Dock, Books, Gulf Islands

26 Feet to the Charlottes

No Comments 18 July 2012

There are several sites that provide a short synopsis of 26 Feet to the Charlottes.  Sophomoric book reports, so what?  Why should you read it? What are its strengths and weaknesses? What currents run beneath the surface of the pages?

June Cameron’s memoir, 1979 to 1983, built around a  relationship with Paul, aboard, or exploring from, his 26 foot wooden sloop, Wood Duck.  The time frame is 1979 to 1983; a good story, predominantly a summer ’83 chronicle of their  journey to the Queen Charlottes.  The descriptions of people, places and events provide good mental imagery and establish a nice flow, but the dynamic between June and Paul is missing.  It is the glue that holds the pages together and June has mysteriously hidden it away.  Obviously, they are quite close; extended periods aboard a small boat, of course.  Perhaps she is more smitten than he is.  There is some glitter to the tone of the early years, but the tone is surprisingly flat throughout the Queen Charlotte section, which is most of the book, as though the relationship is nearing exaustion.  “They both knew it was over”,  only mentioned once during the trip back from the Charlottes. Then there is the curious beachcombing note:  June spots all the little treasures that Paul manages to pass by, as though his mind is somewhere else.  The tone becomes more formal and stiff in the last few pages.  Goodbyes can be so difficult; June took it pretty hard.  June is the better sailor; Paul is the quintessential sailor.  So the book provides a small glimpse into June Cameron’s psyche.  She conceals herself well.  Why has she stonewalled her feelings?  Big hurt, maybe?  Has it taken 26 years (1983 to 2009) for her to begin to touch them with this book?  Interesting.  That’s the current beneath the pages.

Descriptions of unnamed sheltered anchorages, little coves shared by two lovers aboard a little wooden sailboat.  Who wouldn’t build mental castles?  And if you have a charting program on your computer you can follow along with June and Paul, marking the various nooks amoung the islands for future visits.

Extended periods aboard a 26 foot sloop………Is planet Earth a 26 foot sloop?  Then, how sure is the Captain; how steadfast the crew?  Read it.  See the Charlottes.

Books, Gulf Islands, Velkommen

Secret Coastline II – more journeys and discoveries along BC’s shores

No Comments 26 June 2012

I just finished Secret Coastline and now I’m knee deep in Secret Coastline 2.   I’ve never met Andrew Scott.   But I’m certain he’s been in my library any number of evenings, laughing and telling stories, and perhaps enjoying a bit of port.  He seems like an old friend, formalities and pretenses set aside.  He’s a naturalist, a biologist, a botanist, a geologist, historian and a mariner.  A new-age adventurer (and researcher).

Five years separates Secret Coastline from Secret Coastline 2.  The topics/chapters are divided into four groups:  natural history, kayaking, communities and islands.  The style is informative and friendly; Scott is having a conversation with the reader.  His art is the ability to take a large subject, like an island, and walk through the flora and fauna, terrestrial and aquatic, and mix in the history and the imagery of the coastline.  Without being preachy or teachy the reader is befriended.  Scott is a romantic and would be excellent as B.C.’s Minister of Tourism.  He is saddened to see the aging of the B.C. coast.  Bits and pieces of her glory floating away.  Diversity replaced with uniformity.  He makes a plea for ecotourism to save the day.  Even though it may only prolong the inevitable…..why not celebrate optimism?  You know it’s infectious.

Secret Coastline 2 is wonderful.  There may not be any higher praise for B.C.’s salty shores.  It is impossible to read these articles and and not be captivated: motivated to break free, visit, taste, experience.  Maybe try an extended stay:  a moveable feast……just a long way from Paris.  But worth every minute.

Books, Gulf Islands, Velkommen

Secret Coastline – journeys and discoveries along B.C.’s shores

No Comments 15 June 2012

Here is a really nicely written book.   The scenic B.C. coastline is filled with history and legends, a more wonderful topic would be hard to find.  But a great subject is only part of the equation.  The writer must infuse the pages with a warm personal glow that draws the reader forward.  Andrew Scott does just that.   Secret Coastline is a series of essays combining delightful storytelling and literary craftsmanship.  It is a wonderful journal of memorable people, unique creatures, magical places and stalwart boats.  The subject  might be most anything along the B.C. coast, told from the perspective of someone who has studied it carefully from the biggest island to the smallest plant.

Coastal B.C. vistas are bold and rugged.  Big trees, bigger mountains, massive cliffs dropping to an island studded expanse of sea.  All the boldness is balanced by a delicate and fragile side, so it is natural to include an environmental component.  Instead of in-your-face activism, Andrew Scott shows respect for the coastal landscape by gliding his kayak and his words ever so gently along the shoreline and through the coves and inlets.  Andrew Scott’s storytelling is captivating and his descriptive imagery softly persuasive.  Asking the reader to see the coastline as Andrew Scott sees it.  An exquisite view.  Sometimes bittersweet, challenging and marked with only small successes, but Scott finds joy and optimism wherever he looks, projecting the promise of a positive tomorrow.  What a healthy perspective.  Refreshing!

Through the words of Secret Coastline, I have seen many places and met many people.  It is soon time to do that in person; be part of the history.  If you enjoy boating and have a fondness for the Northwest… can’t afford to be without this book.  Read  Secret Coastline your Northwest experience will be so enriched.

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