We anchored in False Creek to ensure we got an early start in the morning and to disturb our neighbours as little as possible. We didn’t realize at the time that we wouldn’t be returning to our slip at Spruce Harbour Marina.
It is a strange feeling to begin a journey but to travel only a short distance on the first leg of it. There is a psychological imperative to put as much distance between yourself and your starting point as possible. It is as if we need to overcome some sort of mental inertia, whose forces dissipates with distance. Anchoring 100m from our slip at False Creek seemed only to make us nostalgic for a life that we once lived, a life from which we had only recently departed and were only a stone’s throw away. It beckoned us to return. It would be so easy to haul up the anchor and nestle ourselves back in the safety of our boat slip, surrounded by our community and to return to the comfortable ruts that we had spent two years creating. And at the same time there was the exhilaration of a journey beginning. And that exhilaration was stronger than our homing sense.
The boat we anchored beside was one I’d seen on my bike ride to and from work. Though I had seen it many times, I recounted being unable to focus on its appearance. It seemed no matter how hard I looked at it to be a sort of blur to my mind. I could not quite understand its shape or form or something. What my eyes saw did not fit in with the framework which my life experience had created. It reminded me a bit of an apocryphal tale of Indigenous people in the New World being unable to ‘see’ the large ships of the Spanish and Portuguese anchoring in the bay because they did not fit into any semblance of the world around them. It was impossible to ‘understand’ what they saw and so their minds either did not see them, or transformed them into something that was more understandable. They might have seen large floating islands or a storm cloud or something else that made more sense. Probably they saw invading ships, but there is a chance they didn’t. I’m sure that there are things in our daily lives that we miss because it doesn’t quite fit in with our current view of things. Perhaps a garbage bag blowing across the road is really a hostile alien takeover.
Now that we were in close proximity to the aforementioned boat, and perhaps because of the psychic break we had just effected in our departure from our home, I could see things much clearer. It appeared to be of steel construction, as evidenced from the thick layer of rust over its entire hull. The mast was a made of wood, possible a tree trunk or telephone pole that was tethered to various points on the vessel’s deck with about fifteen ropes. It looked less like a typical mast and more like a Maypole from some fever inspired child’s nightmare. Ghoulish looking pale children should have been running around it with blank stares chanting nonsense. The tender was a large piece of polystyrene foam that was at one time the buoyant part of a dock. The effect of a tender was accomplished by careful hacking of the foam, with what might have been a rubber spatula, to a shape that, if not precisely aquadynamic, was close enough to a hull as one might hope from such material.
The whole aspect of the boat suggested the apocalypse, a harbinger of societal collapse and ranging bands of outlaws led by Mel Gibson. However, as much as the vessel provoked a feeling of foreboding and doom and destruction, the more I studied it, the more I realized that everything was as it should be. Nothing was out of place and every part of it was designed to function in a particular, albeit peculiar, way. This was not the last stand of a polygamist cult leader but rather exactly and all that the person who owned it needed. When I realized this I felt humbled and a little ashamed. I had fallen prey to one of the most insidious and petty of human traits, distain. If vanity, fear and pride were stripped away, if I could hold my head high simply on the knowledge of whom I am and what I am about, could I not be content with a boat such as this? What is the imperative amongst us that requires constant third party comparison and judgment? To be fair, the coffee cup towing Maypole was not fit to sail offshore, but neither was it pretending to. It was simply set up to meet the requirements of its current avocation. It stood out against the multitude of pristine white hulls as a stark reminder of the determination of our own wants and needs as opposed to the image we feel we have to portray to the world around us.
Often we come across such simplicity and feel threated. But why threatened? That boat could not possible hurt me. The threat is the calling into question of our current lives. It lifts a veil of self-deception and allows us a clear view of ourselves. Why do we spend forty, or really more, hours a week at a job we don’t like to acquire things we don’t need to impress a bunch of people, often whom we don’t respect or will never see again? (To clarify, I actually really like my job and coworkers…but I can imagine what it’s like). The reflection we see looking into such a mirror raises all the dissatisfactions in life that we feel are a result of following this path. The simplicity of that rough beast shuffling around False Creek in search of a berth represents a freedom that many of us will never know. A freedom from the concern for the judgment of others. The threat then is too much and we must banish it from sight, couched usually in the guise of public safety or municipal beautification or any other catchall phrase of the day. In actuality we should view these types of things as images of rustic and simplistic beauty. A reminder to ascertain our own wants and to not judge others lest we be judged.
The next morning we left False Creek to sail to Steveston and spend three months living in a treehouse.