Broke. Broken. Busted.
Got back up the Inlet on the 13th, and a couple days later I set out—with another boatful of gear—to check out another spot.
Two boats showed up while I was unloading the boat; well, one was a barge going by slowly, the other being someone checking a crab trap.
A few deep breaths later, I was loading it all back into the boat and preparing to head home.
Heart broken, and in disrepair.
I started getting angry—it was as if the universe was not going to allow me to leave this (the OSC) fucking spot. I got stuck here all last summer, grinding my teeth and flying into rages occasionally, unable to keep my temper under control…unable to travel a few clicks across a bit of water to find a better, unpopulated place…
And now, even though I have the means to leave, here I am stuck here…one…more…time.
This is the thirteenth full month here…
I could feel the rage building, yet I tried to stay focused. And patient—in two days I was going to try one last spot, a new spot, further away this time.
And the name of the place to which I was heading?
Ya see that blue arm called “Salmon Inlet?” Way down near its end, there’s a small bite taken out of the north shore. That’s a good-sized bay.
I know, I know, what the hell’s up with that name.
“I passed Sorrow Point, then anchored in Misery Bay. Everything went well until I started hiking along Blood Creek heading up into Headless Valley…”
—Captain Theodore Wentworth, exploring Heartbreak Inlet in 1803.
No, it was a cool bay, and I would have stayed…had it not been for the house and dock and ship and family I saw there, living in that bay.
Maybe they were good people; I didn’t stay to find out. I needed somewhere more private.
It had taken a few hours to get down there. I had drunk one of the two liters of fresh water I had taken down, expecting to hit a creek and refill before heading back.
This did not happen. As I departed Misery Bay (heart broken and in disrepair), flush with fresh angry mixed with sorrow, I was determined to drop off this gear/camp somewhere before returning back to my prison in paradise.
I had memorized (from maps) all the spots where there were supposed to be creeks, and so along the shore I kept my eyes open.
Passed two good ones, yet neither would allow any boat access—cliffs of solid rock that sliced into the ocean at steep angles, which just happened to have clean white water running off them.
It was +30 C, sunny, and the dry wind as stripping moisture out of me fast.
An hour later I was rationing the last of the water (and I was one third the way home); two cups of very warm water left in my Klean Kanteen.
The last spot I knew creeks to exist was at the first spot I went in July (where they had started logging).
Pretty soon I was close, and I could hear their machines above.
Finding no creeks along the way, I pulled into a small bay (a few km before the dock and around a corner—so they could not see me, of course).
I roped off the boat, shut off the motor, and went searching for any old trickle of fresh water…
And here was where the boat would sit for almost two days:
A hundred yards up a slope I could see and hear large machines working on a road.
It was 1:35PM.
I searched and searched and found not a drop.
I decided to unload the boat and stash it, cammo it all, and just blast home light and fast.
So, everything as taken out, stashed, covered; twas hot, sweaty, dirty fucking work, sipping warm mouthfuls of water. (For food*, I had eaten a can of sardines for breakfast—hours ago—and was good and hungry now. What did I bring for food? 1 can of kippered herring; 1 can of sardines in spring water; 8 salted crackers; 1 cup of pumpkin seeds.)
*I think this topped—second only to water—the list of Dipshit Choices I Made That Day.
[Here we go, kids, Uncle Nordo’s Top Ten!
10. No backup power & electric motor. The battery I brought (60 pounds of no power whatsoever) was just being used as a counter-weight, opposite where I sit. (Later I realized I could have had a large 20-liter sealed container of fresh water…instead. Of. A dead battery.)
9. No functional desalination still. (Get to that later.)
8. No backup treated water in survival or first aid kits.
7. No quick rehydratable (?) food stores (raisens, other dried fruit) in survival kit; these can be rehydrated with sea water (and will not taste salty).
6. No oars.
5. No ammo (for the weapon; brought the crossbow, with one bolt, and left it on the boat anyway).
4. No extra person. (No one to help.)
3. No gas. I brought no extra gas on the boat. (I had filled up the internal gas tank (1.3l) and thought that was enough.)
2. No food. (Esp. quick high-calorie/high-protein stuff like granola bars, protein bars, energy bars, fruit bars, etc. Stuff that you can eat right away that doesn’t leave a lot of smells after, and, most importantly, doesn’t require a lot of energy and materials to prepare.)
2a. No decent breakfast—a good meal can keep you going a long way, kids.
1. No water. No extra water. No extra water bottle stashed somewhere. Duh.
I brought 4 empty canteens and all manner of water-treatment methods. I was…over-confident about finding water. Yet I didn’t even hydrate properly before I let camp—half a liter to wash down the sardines, then I left with two liters for the day, expecting to be back by supper time.
If it all went the way I thought it was gonna go (in Misery Bay), I woulda looked like a genius; but it didn’t, so if I could pull this off here, I could save some face. At least I wouldn’t look like a complete twitching retard.
However, none of this happened.
I didn’t end up looking like anything but foolish. And regretful.]
Because the unthinkable happened.
My new outboard would not start.
Murphy, A Law, & Thirst
I’d gotten matching wounds on the inside of both index fingers from trying to start it, off and on for twenty minutes. I tried several things, and finally had to wait, panting, sweating in the hot sun, rocking back and forth, and start the pre-check all over.
There was a problem with the fuel line, and after I sorted it out, the motor did turn over slightly the next pull—then it went back to nothing. (A buddy said later that it might have been the spark plug, but I hadn’t the experience to figure out the problem.)
So I had to give up, sweating and bleeding, exhausted, just wiped, and decided to go up to the road and talk to the very people I had cursed a month ago.
Well, I called the company logging there, “cock-smokers.”
Not the loggers themselves.
As I neared the top (looking for berries along the way and finding nothing), I figured I’d start with that: “Real sorry I called you guys cock-smokers, eh. I didn’t mean you, per se—“
Nobody was there. There were no sounds now.
I walked on down the road, came to a bridge (under which was, supposedly, the biggest creek in the area and ran year-round, as the map had indicated—except it was bone dry now), stopped for a second in the shade to sip down the last of my water, then I walked on.
They had just left. The place as deserted. Big white trucks everywhere—all locked.
Not a water bottle in sight. Not in the vehicles, not on the ground, no where.
It was almost 3PM. I decided to leave after all that; I was hot, sweating, very thirsty, bug-bitten, tired, hungry, and sore. And I still had to hike back the 3k to the spot I climbed up, then climb back down, grab my stuff and set up a signal fire somewhere.
So, I did that.
And the tent…
…as seen from the water’s edge.
I pissed one time over the last five hours, and it was a dark orange trickle. A tinkle, really.
Dehydration…I went through this before a couple times, and I was dreading what was coming. Those other times I was within reach of water, it was just a couple hours away.
But here…it was gonna be five times as bad. Because I ended up going fives times as long with water.
I got a signal fire going by 4PM—three boats went by, none saw it. I was tucked into a rocky bay, and it was windy.
Fetching more green shit to burn was exhausting me—already I had cut a button off my shirt and was sucking on it, to prevent my tongue from sticking to the inside of my mouth. And I needed to start the next project…
The desal (desalination) still…
I had trouble having the energy to (and mental focus to) put it all together so that a) the seal between the coffee can and the pot was tight; b) the hole on top, thru which the rubber (pfft) tube sat, was sealed as tight as possible; and c) the heat of the fire was hot enough to boil the water but not hot enough to melt the tube.
Twice I had to slice the melted tip off and start again—I could not have a signal-fire-sized fire and run the desal still, nor did I have the energy to manage two fires.
So I made a small fire and focused on boiling sea water, and gave up on trying to signal a boat tonight. Besides, this was Thursday, August 19, 2016, and the sign by the dock said they worked here between 6AM and 6 PM, every day.
Tomorrow just happened to be another day. A Friday. They had to come back? Right?
Here’s the spot:
Precisely opposite this shot—
It was a rough night. Yunno how you know it’s a rough night? It’s when you find yourself debating which would kill you faster—drinking urine or sea water. I mean, seriously. When you’re that thirsty, you’re considering it. I had a dream about blueberry juice and a steak…
Another day like that, with no water, and I’d be dead, or very nearly dead, crumpled up in a hot spaced-out ball in the forest, bumpy skin from bug bites, purple bloated tongue hanging out, sunken eyes vacant with a dead fly stuck to one.
I had gotten three quarters of a cup of water out of the desal still (tasted like duct tape and rubber), and aside from the wild pacific crab apples I was draining of fluid (before spitting out the pulp, seeds and peal), that was the only water I’d had since 2PM Thursday.
I was an aching mess all night, between the rocks under the blue foam digging into my bones and the periodic muscle cramps (like ‘charlie horses’), mainly in my legs and feet, but also a bad one along my right abdominals. Painful.
So I tried to stretch them out when they happened, and eventually learned to lie as still as possible, then they stopped and I got some sleep.
During the night, I heard a cougar on the other side of Salmon Inlet, sounding off. Then one on my side began calling back.
Later that night I was awoken by some heavy branch-snapping; something large, between the shore and the road above, was crashing around through the forest, slowly, ploddingly.
I lit a smoke, and for a while it was quiet; when it got louder and closer and grabbed my Ka-Bar and whacked it against my empty black Klean Kanteen (stainless steel, made a helluva racket). Whatever it was wandered off.
That was about 4AM.
The sky was dark blue at 4:30AM, looking east, as I was, the last time I awoke. I slept after that, the longest stretch of the night—till 6AM. Smoking and listening for boats and not moving much, I was. Slightly dazed. Strung-out feeling.
And so fucking thirsty. The moisture in my mouth was thick and ugly-tasting. Vile melted rubber and cigarettes.
I’d had a bit of nausea already; before bed I used the last of my water to get down some crackers and pumpkin seeds; then, half a can of herring (I’d opened both cans early, before the desal still, and had sucked the salty gross fluids out of them). So for breakfast it was more wild crab apple juice…bitter and eye-squeezingly tart. Had to figure it would have to have some good stuff in it, yunno, nutrients and such.
I got into some clean dry clothes I had stored on the boat and began climbing up the slope, when it was light enough, about 6:30, through the forest, going slow and looking for berries. One salal berry. Everything else had been eaten.
Got to the road, walked, passed the two mobile treatment vehicles…then I stopped and went back.
They were open (these two trucks and the big two-ton truck, with a locked trailer that probably held the explosives (and maybe water?), since they were “blasting in the area,” were the only vehicles that were not locked up).
Inside one I found an eye wash solution. 98.something percent distilled water; bleach; and boric acid.
Shit. What was boric acid again? I forgot. I was starting to feel the effects of not enough water in the brain, and I was beginning to get the first symptoms of heat-stroke, which would plague me the rest of the day.
I drank some anyway. After a couple mouthfuls, I walked around to the other mobile treatment vehicle; this one had a bed in the back; in the front cab I found another bag with two 900ml bottles of a saline electrolyte solution. I grabbed them, too.
After sipping more eye wash solution, I headed for the dock to await the approaching boats (I had not heard a boat yet this morning).
Ten steps later I threw up all the fluids I had just drunk—half the bottle of eye wash solution.
The morning shade…
I started experiencing dizzy spells, and (which started happening early this morning) the hearing was going in my left ear—it was as if I were at a high elevation and my ear wouldn’t pop.
So I sat there for a while, trying to think of a way out of this—I was nauseous from hunger, but I couldn’t eat without water to washed it down, mouth was too dry, and everything I drank came up again.
I tried some fish after a bit, washed it down, and ten minutes later, puked again.
I was losing hope as I sat there—then the hearing came back in my ear for a while, and I heard something.
The road to fresh water…
I staggered up that road, feeling horrible now, weak and sick, and found a clear trickle coming down over some rocks. It was a beautiful sight.
I filled up one canteen, drank some (untreated) and started walking back. (To fetch the other canteen, now full of saline electrolyte solution.) Hope started coming back—I was going to be alright.
Halfway back I vomited up the water I just drank.
Non Compos Mentis
It was 11AM when I finally settled down and learned what I needed to do:
I dumped out all the fluids I had stolen, replaced it with cold creek water, treated with bleach (three drops per liter), and I sat, waiting, resting, conserving energy. At 11:30 I sipped a little water, waited ten minutes, then nibbled on a piece of cracker, washing it down with the tiniest sip.
I waited a half hour.
It stayed down so I repeated this, a slightly bigger sip.
By noon I was starting to feel the water come back into my system, as well as a burst of energy from the single cracker I was able to keep down.
By 1PM I had eaten two more crackers, a small handful of pumpkin seeds, and a few bites of leftover herring. Washed down with one liter of water.
It all stayed down, so over the next 45 minutes I got another half-liter into me.
And I sat and rested.
What to do…
That was my view—my boat and extra canteens and tent and junk, tools, saws, machete, and other supplies were either on my boat or around my camp…how would I get all that here, so I could sit here and either wait for the loggers to come back (they would not) or signal a boat some how…was the issue.
But look at the picture above, how far the boat lanes were from this bay—and since there was no fishing allowed here, no boats ever stopped. You had about a minute to get one to see the smoke before it was lost around that rocky corner—and sometimes you could not hear it until it was nearly too late to toss green foliage on the signal fire.
And anyways, where the holy hell around here could I safely put up a signal fire? There were gas and oil cans everywhere, hundreds of them, and every white truck housed a fuel tank in its bed; and there was a large trailer nearly that contained explosives.
The dock itself was covered in dry planks of wood.
So I started thinking of severe, desperate measures…measures for which I’d likely end up in jail.
Oh, like setting a truck or two on fire and risking the entire mountainside going up in flames—the irony being that I would be the one who “destroyed” the area…the area I was hoping to get to since 2009…all to save my own miserable life.
That would be funny.
But I had lost all sense of humour at this.
I had to get all my shit here somehow and just wait for the loggers to come back—they had to return sometime. But tomorrow was Saturday, then Sunday…what if they wouldn’t return till Monday? Or Tuesday?
Three more days of this? I’d be out of food today, starving tomorrow. There was kelp (bladderwrack), and mussels. But I’d need a pot to cook them. It was at camp.
Okay, I made the call, once I got strong enough, with two liters in my system, to hike back down the road and then scramble down to the shore, pack up, load the boat, and walk it along the shore (about 2k) to the dock, tie it to the dock, and maybe see if I can get it running…?
Sounded good. Sounded feasible.
I took two liters of water and started back down the east road.
Nord vs The Sea
If I’d had someone with me, that someone would have asked, “Hey, Nordy, are you sure this is such a good idea?”
But nobody was there to ask this question.
I packed up and loaded the boat, and soon I was pushing a 700-pound boat along the shore, walking on gravel first, then big rocks, then just boulders from here on out. And the boulders were either covered with seaweed (slippery) or covered with barnacles (grippy and scrapie—rippie and tearie too).
Off I went. One liter was already drunk—it was done before I even got pushing the boat. So I had one liter left, and it was already piss-warm.
It was slow and hard going; the sun was beating down, and the wind was picking up.
Which meant the waves were picking up. More and more they’d slam the boat, the boat would slam me, and me would slam the rocks mostly covered in barnacles. (I never got a picture of the massive black bruises under and all over my arms; I just got some shots of what the barnacles did to only one leg.)
This was the most reckless, not-thought-out, unwise thing I’d ever done. With music playing (so I could “focus” I told myself) on the iPod, no life jacket on, I continued until I slipped and I could no longer touch bottom.
As my iPod shorted out, dead, I hauled myself up along the boat and kicked with my flipper-like sandals, swimming and pulling the boat back to shore. This happened a few times, with fallen trees ahead, the ones I could not climb over, I’d have to push over and swim the boat along.
Dumb. Real dumb.
The coming heat stroke had already started—I had not sweat at all packing and loading the boat, and now, since I was soaked and quite cool in the sea water, it was merely delaying the inevitable.
Despite the fluids in me and coolness of the sea, I was approaching exhaustion again (and I was bleeding down both legs and my hands), and my thinking was getting worse.
Halfway to the dock I got sliced up bad, and soon ran out of strength. The wind was pushing two-foot swells against me, and I was done.
I lashed the bow line to a boulder, dropped the anchor, took what I could remember to take (forgetting the cooking pot and first aid kit), and started staggering down the shore, walking on big rocks.
Luckily for me, I do that all the time and can walk for kilometers on boulders, half conscious.
I made it back to the dock, stopping to nibble bladderwrack and gather more wild crab apples.
No one came back, of course.
I had four canteens now. I filled up three, treated them, and retired to the mobile treatment vehicle (the one with the bed). I needed water, rest, and to treat my many wounds.
Dizziness came slightly; I could not cool off, no matter what I tried.
The road east:
The bugs were bad, man. Here I figured there’d be less bugs here compared to where I came from. But there was more. A lot more. Huge skeeters, tiny ones, and every shape and color inbetween; lots of biting midges (no-see-ums) of varying sizes; and other annoying flies and crap (horseflies and deerflies).
The mobile treatment vehicle’s back door would not close, so after 5PM I roped it off from the inside, stuffed a blanket along the crack, sealing it off from bugs; they started coming in inbetween the screens and windows on both sides, so I taped off those cracks too.
Still got eaten alive, but I never noticed; I was too out-of-it.
I knew it was coming—not sweating and feeling as though I had a fever—so I had rounded up every ice pack I could find. Five of em. (Some had mouse chew holes in them, and so I had to patch these, and they did not get as cold as the others.)
But that shit helped, I melted all five over the next five hours.
Wasn’t until 9-9:30PM that I got the heat problem under control enough to sleep.
Nine hours sleep. Woke up feeling not too shabby, rested at least. Bad headache, sore, but not bad. I’d treated my wounds with all the first aid equipment, and they had stopped bleeding through the night.
Third morning, Saturday morning. No crackers left, just a handful of pumpkin seeds and a two-day-old half-can of sardines.
I hydrated, ate the pumpkin seeds, and decided that I was not going to wait for those loggers to show up. I came up with a plan…
Close up (such as it is) of the tug boat:
I managed to power it up and call for help on the radio.
Two boats were on the way—one SAR (Search & Rescue), and the Y-knot.
I felt awful—humbled badly.
Anyway, the Y-Knot arrived first; an older couple (I never got their names, yet I found out later that it was the former mayor of Sechelt, Cam Reid, and his wife). I told them the sordid tale, and she gave me some juice and a couple granola bars, as we waited for the SAR vessel.
It was a red hard inflatable with three really good dudes. They changed my bandages and stuff, and told me the plan.
I was going with them to search for my boat, up the coast, and determine if it could be towed; if so, we would meet back with the Y-Knot, and then they would tow my boat back to camp, while the SAR crew and I head back there first. (I talked them out of taking me to the hospital.)
Soon we were off, and looking for the boat I noticed that it was not where I left it; the dudes spotted it a couple clicks up the coast. (The tide and waves had untied the bow line from the shore, as well as snapping the pin off my anchor.) It was a miracle to see it there, afloat, intact, with no gear missing, untied and adrift yet hugging the shore, as if patiently waiting there for me to return.
So we towed ‘er, hooked up with the Y-Knot, and headed back, out of Salmon Inlet.
Don’t Lose Your Head
(Or your humour.)
They dropped me off near the old cement dock.
The SAR guys headed back to Sechelt, leaving me momentarily alone on the broken old cement dock; I spent ten minutes looking around for a place for the Y-Knot to slide up to the dock…
Unable to figure out how we’d get the boat (of mine) down from the dock to my camp, a good km away—no walking any boat along the shore today—I finally sat down, had a smoke, and waited.
Kayakers showed up—8 of em. I sat and waited.
It took the Y-Knot an hour to come halfway up Salmon Inlet, so I figured that would also be true for them coming back from Salmon Inlet to here.
I was wrong. Two hours later, they rounded the corner. (I had not taken into consideration the boat filling up with more and more water on the way, causing them to slow, so as to not sink the thing. Mr. Reid really went above and beyond bringing my boat back to me. I really appreciated that.)
I told him so when he hopped in an inflatable and towed my 12-footer down to where my camp was. And, quickly, he was gone again.
The aftermath of barnacles…
I never got any pics of the massive black bruises up and down my arms, and on the ribs of my left side (where the boat, powered by wind and waves, repeated slammed against my side). Well, I didn’t get a pic of many things…
I left everything in the boat and simply got water and headed inside my tent, to rest, hydrate, and eat.
After a couple days, I had the boat unloaded, everything out and airing out, the boat stripped down and left only with a foot of sea water in it (after bailing for a half hour, it was light enough to tip over; no leaks, no tears, no new dents, no damage to the boat itself—amazing).
The motor’s oil was black and very low, although I doubt that this was the problem.
I didn’t want to figure it out—almost as though I was acting like I’d been betrayed by that motor, I merely drained it and carried to the stashpoint to be stored. Locked it, chained it, to a tree, under cover, wrapped it in a small tarp, and that was that.
Fuck it, I thought, deal with it…whenever I’m here next.
I did not know when that would be.
Anyway, I started packing up for the season over the next couple days—by Wednesday, the 24th, I was ready and set to leave, but when I tried to catch a ride with the only boat (late—4:30PM I started waiting), after saying they’d be back in a half-hour to pick me up, the boat raced by without stopping or even slowing and went back to Sechelt without me.
Yep. The cherry on top.
It was close to 8PM when I began thinking of what I’d have to unpack (out of the stashpoint) in order to spend another night here: the sheet of foam and one tote with some basic overnight stuff in it. I was too tired and sore to bother digging out pots and food and the stove—besides, some nice folks who were camping at the OSC (had no boat or phone service; they were here until Friday, but I was feeling awful and just wanted out, asap) gave me an apple, 2 chunks of excellent beef jerky, and a Clif protein bar.
I devoured it all and went to sleep at 10:30, and I woke up near 6AM feeling rested and not sore at all. Only one cut had opened the day before, so I re-wrapped that, packed up, and was out waiting for boats at 9.
By 10AM I had a ride out (with a group of Koreans out fishing; the one guy had to return to Tillicum Bay anyway) and back to Tillicum Bay. From there I caught a ride with the manager of the Marina (who was going into town anyway and offered a ride after I asked him to call a cab for me), and by 11AM I was back at the Deck.
Stayed a few days and now I’m back in Halfmoon Bay.
Gonna seriously review everything I’ve been doing up the Inlet, and I’m already (seeing how sloppy and lazy and just plain stupid I got at that spot, over the last 3 summers) rethinking how I’ve been doing everything up the Inlet.
I think I’m really fortunate to be alive.