disengage.ca a quest for the technomadic lifestyle

31Jan/100

Stress

I started to write a blog post on Friday morning, but by Saturday evening the still-open browser window - the blog editor page with just the word "Stress" written in the title box - had become its own succinct review of the events of those two days.  I won't bore you with the details, but the main point is that after some fast talking, the VPD granted me another couple of days to get my engine going.  I spent most of the weekend working on her, and as of now I am reasonably confident (though knocking wood) that she is working well enough to get me the heck out of Dodge.

A quick highlight reel - in the past three days, I:

  • bicycled over forty kilometers and rowed over eight kilometers in total,
  • borrowed a truck and drove to Bellingham and back for engine parts,
  • had my oil filter spring a leak, leaving me with a couple of liters of used engine oil in my bilge,
  • spent over $700 on a new exhaust system, and assembled and installed it,
  • ate six cans of sardines and probably over a pound of sliced ham,
  • drank most of a bottle of Sailor Jerry, and
  • went out dancing.  Twice.

Tomorrow morning I try once more to escape the Creek.  My first destination will be Kitsilano.

12Aug/090

Victoria Adventures!

One more big post to get out of the way, and hopefully after that I can just update frequently instead of having to play massive catch-up games!

Monday night I arrived in Victoria and stayed in the harbour in front of the Empress, meeting Amanda and company for drinks.  The moorage was an awesome location, in super rockstar style.  I spent Tuesday morning working, but mostly cleaning the boat and enjoying the parking spot.  Tuesday afternoon I went sailing with the lovely Laurel, and scoped out Esquimalt Harbour for a place to anchor.  She had to be back at work, so we turned around and I dropped her off at the docks at Fleming Beach and headed back out to find an anchorage.  After a few false starts, I stopped at the Canadian Armed Forces Yacht Club to ask advice - nobody had anything constructive to say, with the only exception being the bartender.  She took me out to the parking lot, down a rugged, windy little path through burdocks and blackberry bushes to a tiny little beach, half covered by a large arbutus tree.

"You see the bar from here?" she asked.  I nodded.

"This beach is probably on the Songhee reserve, but most folks think it belongs to the base.  Most of the base thinks it's on the reserve.  The property line is around here somewhere, but nobody is certain where, so it's kind of a no-man's land.  If you pull up your dingy here and hide it under the tree, you should be ok..."

So that's what I did for the night.  Anchoring in Thetis Cove in the Esquimalt Harbour, then rowing a half-mile through harbour swells - not quite as large as the open ocean, but not what you'd consider "sheltered" either - only to sneak onto a disputed beach, hide and lock my dinghy, sneak onto and off of a naval base, and finally ride my bicycle 10km or so into town to go visit with friends.  Some days the mind just boggles.  After riding 10km "home" again at 2:30am, only to have to row another half-mile through the waves with a bicycle in the dinghy, I started to understand that this trip would be a pretty damned good series of workouts!

When I woke up in the morning, I realized that I had accidentally left my laptop power supply at Amanda's house - d'oh!  This meant I couldn't actually start work until I did the row-bike-bike-row sequence again.  I kicked myself thoroughly and was starting to make breakfast when I heard voices outside.  Out a window (one of the only two in the boat that is actually translucent enough to see through), I saw a small powerboat with two men in it idling nearby.  I poked my head out to see what they wanted, and they seemed startled to see me and quickly sped away.  Uh oh.

There was no way I'd leave the boat now, so I pulled anchor and headed back towards Fleming Beach.  I had noticed a lot of "NO MOORAGE" signs, but since I'd be anchoring those wouldn't apply, and since the only "allowed" moorage around was surrounded by reserves I was willing to push the rules a bit.  The "beach" in Fleming Beach is almost nonexistent - but the bay itself is very well sheltered by a large man-made breakwater.  The bay is surrounded by beautiful, million-dollar homes on one side, a large cliff infested with rock climbers on another, and a lovely park on the third.  I anchored, rode in, and got my power supply from Amanda's house, sneaking a shower in the process.  Now that I was clean, powered and mobile I headed to Habit for coffee.

As I walked into Habit, a beautiful blonde woman was walking out.  Our eyes met and stuck, until she reached the door, and left.  I shrugged and ordered coffee, then sat down and began my workday.  Not five minutes later, the woman appeared in front of me again.

"Excuse me," she said with a thick accent, "I think... we are... supposed to talk."

Her name was Hanne, and she was visiting Victoria from Denmark, enroute to Seattle, then Iceland and finally home.  We talked for several hours, and then she invited me to an open mic night at the Bent Mast.  I had to be at a Burning Man planning meeting first, so I went to that - meeting many of my soon-to-be campmates for the first time - and then headed down to join them.  After a few beers, I ended up playing guitar and singing a few songs and having an excellent jam with two locals.  Adam, a bassist with a huge stand-up bass complete with preamp duct-taped to the side, and Vincent, who played fiery leads on a classical guitar with a small amp with the distortion circuit turned up.  Hanne was due to leave for Seattle in the morning, so we talked long into then night, then parted ways.

the lovely Fleming Beach

the lovely Fleming Beach

I got a text the next morning from Hanne, saying she'd stayed in town another day.  We made plans to meet that night for drinks, and I went back to my day job for the day.  Later on we went to a wine bar, and then wandered around Victoria with a bottle of rum until late, having deep discussions on the nature of memory and consciousness - fascinating stuff.

Friday night was a house party at the home of one of the organizers of the Victoria contingent of our Burning Man camp this year - it was Marion's birthday, and so a large group of folks gathered for drinks, dancing and fire play.  I forgot to eat dinner, and wondered why the rum had such a negative effect on me, until I supplemented the rum with pizza and all became balanced again.

Saturday afternoon, I wandered into downtown Victoria with my mandolin and a busker's license borrowed from Laurel.  I set up on a side street full of vendors, and played and sang for about an hour, making a few bucks, until the vendors packed up and suddenly the street emptied.  I put my mandolin away and wandered down to Bastion Square, where a guy was playing guitar with a mic and a little guitar amp.  After hearing a few of his songs I figured I could follow his style, so I asked him if I could sit in and he said sure.

We played for about an hour together, with his income going up significantly now that he was a "band" instead of just a guy with a guitar, and eventually the next act showed up to take over - Bastion Square apparently is a very popular busking location, and requires acts to sign up weeks in advance.  The new guy listened for a while, while unloading a tonne of gear, and finally came up to speak with me.

"Listen," he said.  "My backup guitarist is out of town, and my bassist has run off with a cute French brunette, so I think it's just me today.  Do you want to sit in with me?"

I said sure, and he continued to set up his rig - a full PA system with monitors, mic stands, preamps, a mixer, etc.  Then, out of the blue, his bassist showed up - and to my surprise, it was Adam, the bass player from the Bent Mast a few nights previous!  We did a quick soundcheck, and then they launched into a rowdy set of energetic bluegrass and country, straight out of an east-coast kitchen party.  My roots were tickled!  We played and sang and danced for an hour and a half to a crowd of probably 60-80 people, making decent money along the way.  I did alright I think, especially considering that I'd never heard most of the songs before, and definitely had never played any of them before!  It was a lot of fun, and they asked me to come back to play again the next day - but their set would be early in the day, and I had no intention of being awake that early.

Saturday night I went to the nightclub 'Hush', where "Boy 8-Bit" was playing.  I wasn't impressed with his music, but the opening act "Neon Steve" had me dancing from start to finish.  I ended up drinking and carousing with a great crew of Victorians until well past dawn, before starting the bikeride back to Fleming Beach and Tie Fighter.  When I arrived, I found a little note written in sharpie and taped to one of my oars.

"REMOVE YOUR BOAT FROM THE BASIN IMMEDIATELY!  NO MOORAGE AT ANY TIME!  YOUR NUMBER HAS BEEN REPORTED TO HARBOUR AUTHORITY!", it said.

Now, those three sentences raised my hackles a little bit, for three reasons:

  1. "moorage" means tying to something, ie private property, which can be owned.  I'm anchored in a navigable channel, ie public property, which is protected by the Canadian Navigable Waters Act and has been for hundreds of years,
  2. "Harbour Authority", regardless of whether they meant Esquimalt Harbour or Victoria Harbour, has no jurisdiction here - I checked, the only folks that do are the police, the coast guard, Transport Canada and the military, and lastly,
  3. if you don't have the balls to sign your snippy little note, I can't muster the respect required to listen to you.

I looked around, hoping that the author was nearby so that I could discuss this with them, but they were nowhere to be found - probably a good thing, as I had been awake for twenty-odd hours and wasn't even close to sober.  I rowed out and went to bed.

I didn't leave the boat on Monday at all, staying in and working.  Tuesday was almost the same, though I met Bunny, Amanda, Lori, Mike and Will for beers and pizza, scammed a shower from Bunny, and hit the hay early again.

That brings me up to today.  Today, the police showed up, along with a nice man named Bob in a red sweatervest, who served me with a yellow slip of paper essentially telling me to GTFO, citing Municipal Zoning Bylaw 63(2)(c).

Zoning Citation (click for larger)

Zoning Citation (click for larger)

As it turns out that the Township of Esquimalt has actually put a zoning bylaw on the books somehow prohibiting anchoring in this "water lot".  I'm aaaaalmost certain I could challenge that law and win, as it goes against federal laws protecting my rights to anchor.  We actually discussed it briefly, with me mentioning the federal Act, and the municipal governer admitting that yes, in a storm, anyone could anchor in the bay, but that the bylaw prevents permanent anchorage.  According to other live-aboards in False Creek (I don't know exactly how reliable a source they are, but regardless), the Act doesn't specify how long "safe harbour" lasts, and nobody has ever managed to challenge that in court and win.

So being the gentleman that I am, I recognize when I am not welcome and agreed to leave, saying that perhaps it wouldn't be today, but at the latest I would get out of here by tomorrow morning.  The police took my identification and phone number, ran the usual background check (clean I assume), and left without hasle.

However, being the inquisitive soul that I am, of course I had a few more questions - for one, how exactly are they kicking me out?   The Township of Esquimalt fortunately puts all of their bylaws online, and so I downloaded the zoning laws and had a look.  I'll save you opening the .PDF:

63. MARINE SMALL DOCK [M-5]

The intent of this Zone is to accommodate small private docks on Water Lots adjacent to

residential properties.

(1) Permitted Uses

The following Uses and no others are permitted:

(a) Boat Moorage Facility for small pleasure boats.

(2) Prohibited Uses

(a) Commercial or industrial activity

(b) Floating Homes and Floating Boat Shelters

(c) Liveaboards

(d) The mooring of more than two small boats

(e) Accessory Buildings

(3) Siting Requirements

(a) All Boat Moorage must be located within the boundaries of the Water Lot.

(4) Maximum Size

(a) No section of a Boat Moorage ramp shall exceed a width of 1.5 metres.

(b) The combined length of a Boat Moorage Facility [wharf, ramp, landing and

dock], measured from the shoreline, shall not be more than 21 metres.

(c) The area of a dock or float shall not be greater than 18.5 square metres in

area.

Wow.  Damn.  They do have me there.

Still, I'm betting that if I had the time or interest to challenge this bylaw in court, I'd actually have a case - as I understand it, the feds frown on bylaws that go against federal laws.

My second question was, of course, the subject of fines - Bob let it slip that if I refused, they would fine me $100.  I noticed that aside from the yellow slip of paper in the photo above, he was also holding a ticket book, open to a new page, and I think he was a little disappointed that I was both polite and accommodating.  I wondered afterwards just what the frequency of fines would be.  Staying the night in Victoria Harbour cost me $58-something - if staying a week in this sheltered bay would only cost me $100, I count that as a deal!  So I checked, and:

8. PENALTY

(1) Every person who violates any of the provisions of this Bylaw or who suffers or

permits any act or thing to be done in contravention of this Bylaw, is punishable in

accordance with the “Offence Act”, and shall be liable to the penalties hereby

imposed.

(2) Any person who violates any of the provisions of this Bylaw shall upon summary

conviction thereof be liable to a penalty of not more than ten thousand dollars.

(3) Each day that violation of this Bylaw is caused to continue, constitutes a separate

offence.

Yep, looks like I pretty much have to move.

So anyway, back to work for me.  I will likely head back to the Bent Mast tonight for the open mic night again, which was fun last time, and likely will head over to Oak Bay or somewhere around there tomorrow morning.  Or maybe later today?  Who knows.  At least this brings me finally up to date, and now I can start updating the blog in a more timely fashion.

11Aug/091

Long Overdue Update!

Wow.  Three of the craziest, busiest, happiest months of my life.  How to compress them into one post?  WHY compress them into one post?  This seems silly, but I think the best way to re-jumpstart my blogging is to get this all out of the way in one post, and then go back to more regular updates.  *sigh*.

At my last major post, I was about to speak at the Open Web Vancouver conference at the Vancouver Conference Center.  My talk went pretty well, I guess - I mean, I definitely didn't win any awards, but nobody walked out either.  I met some great new folks and had a good experience overall.  I know now that speaking at tech conferences is almost exactly like doing live-pa techno in front of a big audience - the more prepared you are, the easier it is to let go and just be yourself.

Since then, there's been... God.  Seriously, where to start?!

I've had repeated, profound musical experiences on the boat, jamming with friends.  Picture if you will a mirror-smooth False Creek, with the boat anchored about fifty feet offshore.  Dan Ross playing guitar and singing, Chad Taylor playing muted trumpet and providing some percussive backup and myself on mandolin and backup vocals - folks walking past, double-taking and sitting down on the seawall to listen, applauding between songs.  Making music on the boat with friends has given me far more joy than I ever imagined it could.  Actually, making music on the boat at all - I've been spending on average about eight to ten hours per week sitting on my deck, playing my guitar and singing.  If there is a greater peace than playing music on the water, I haven't found it yet.

Yarrrr!

Yarrrr!

I've gone on three epic sailing adventures, the third of which is still ongoing - as of this writing I am anchored in this lovely little bay, surrounded by million-dollar waterfront houses and a beautiful cliff infested with rock climbers.  More on that in future posts - but suffice to say this ongoing solo-sailing adventure is not without its trials and tribulations.

The first of the three epic sailing adventures was with a beautiful woman named Miya who I met at Burning Man in 2008, and who had come to visit me several times over the past year.  Her confidence in my sailing ability was appreciated, though perhaps unwarranted, as we left Vancouver and immediately ran into eight-foot breaking swells just off Point Atkinson, enroute to the Sunshine Coast.  The sailing got a lot better after the first day, but we still had to spend a few days on Bowen Island with engine trouble - mostly waiting around for a mechanic, until we tackled the problem head-on with the manual and some elbow grease, finally solving it ourselves and getting the engine back up and running.  We then cruised up the coast to Secret Cove and Smuggler Cove, where we spent a night before returning to Vancouver.  It was an amazing trip; the ocean opened my eyes and put a good fear into me, and the company was exquisite.  The parting of ways at the end was wistful to say the least.

Drew and Laurel spinning fire on Tie Fighter

Drew and Laurel spinning fire on the boat at Diversity

The second sailing adventure was with yet another beautiful woman, Carrie, who joined me on a trip to the Diversity Festival on Texada Island.  Technically we were supposed to sail with a crew of six, but Vancouver being the city of flailers that it is, the crew slowly called in to cancel until it was just the two of us.  The winds were against us the whole way there and back, forcing us to motor around 90% of the tip, so it's debatable whether or not we actually saved any money travelling by "sailboat".  We did get the sails up once or twice, but not nearly as much as I would have liked.  The festival itself was excellent, with us arriving in full pirate regalia to great fanfare, spending a weekend surrounded by beautiful people and great music, and rolling out again on Monday with a grand exit.  Sunday was a bit crazy, as the wind suddenly went from 5kn up to 25-30kn, and Tie Fighter danced in four-foot swells for the night - I now have a lot more faith in my anchor than before.  Another boat nearby actually did slip their anchor, and came within a few feet of hitting us, but we held steady and Monday was much calmer.  Another thing learned: rowing a dinghy in calm waters is one thing, rowing through four-foot waves as they break on the beach is another thing entirely!  I made very good use of the drybags my sister gave me for my birthday.

The next weekend after Diversity was the Emrg-N-See Festival just outside of Salem, Oregon.  I went to this festival with Trent last year, and it was probably the best festival I'd been to to date - it was as though someone had sent a personal invitation to every single gorgeous, blonde, dreadlocked, dubstep-loving yoga instructor on the west coast.  I cannot express how many times I had to stop and shake my head at the sheer beauty surrounding me.  This year was similar, though somewhat diluted, as though every guy who went last year went home and explained the situation to every guy he knew.  I know I did, which is why I was surprised that the crew going down fron Vancouver was much smaller this year.  Regardless, I definitely got my fill of amazing dubstep and bassline music, on very excellent soundsystems.  I also got to take a tablespoon of dancefloor dirt out of my nose every morning, which I am choosing to look at as preparation for this year's Burning Man expedition.

The weekend after Emrg-N-See was Sequential Circus 5, an electronic music event that I guess I'm sort of in charge of.  I say that with some reservation, because the show couldn't happen without every one of the seriously talented and driven people involved - we've got the whole thing pretty much down to a science now, and even with six live acts on a small stage, we continue to be efficient and competent, and we still have a good time doing it.  This SeqCirc was probably the best music to date, though we were up against some very stiff competition.  The capacity of the venue is about 180 people, and we had about 100 people, so while it was never packed, it never felt empty, and nearly everyone who was there at midnight was still there at 3am when we turned the lights on, so I count that as a win.  The next Sequential Circus, SeqCircSix, will be in January.

After recovering from SeqCirc, having a few sailing missions out and around English Bay, and basically settling down and focusing on dayjob work for a while, I took off on my first big solo-sailing trip, headed for Victoria...

26May/090

I’m Cold, Damp, And There’s Blood On My Laptop

Ok, so just file today in the 'down' pile.

Do you know what I mean by 'amplitude'? I can't remember if I've written about it here before or not. I like to believe that the universe needs a balance, and so for every bad thing there is an equal and opposite good thing. I like to think of life as kind of a sinewave of bad and good.

Well, ever since I've jumped headlong into this adventure, the amplitude of that sinewave has gone through the roof. Good days are awesome, bad days are terrible. There's really no in-between, it seems. Actually, I guess I can'treally complain; I know there are folks out there having a lot worse days than I am. I also know that the bad days are important, because without a reference of what a bad day is like, how can you really know that you're having a good day?

Anyway. I've been watching the weather all week, expecting "light rain" today before the sun returns. Since I've been making repairs to the boat, I had all the windows out and a couple of big holes in the bow, where I've been excising rotted wood and replacing it with fresh new stuff. To prepare for the rain I deployed tarps and garbage bags, duct-taped the windows back into place and made fast anything that looked like it wasn't held down well. I looked over the repairs of the week with satisfaction, knowing that my fiberglass and epoxy work was solid and would withstand a little moisture.

This morning I was awoken at 6:30am by a phonecall from the Evil Masters, to the sound of pouring rain beating on the roof of the cabin. I fielded the call, feeling smugly warm and dry in my bed, content in the knowledge that my work was sound. Apparently there were massive database problems that needed dealing with immediately, so I got up to go fetch my laptop and start working on it. I swung out of my berth onto the floor... and my feet wentsquish on the soaking wet carpet. D'oh!

Turns out my hatch repair, while definitely watertight, wasn't sloped correctly. Water pooled in the repair until it overflowed the lip of the hatch, and all the overflow went right into the forward cabin.

Actually, the forward cabin was fine by comparison to the aft cabin, which had the same problem but about ten times worse. Water had been flowing into the cabin by the liter, running down the guitar case inconveniently placed below the leak, and spattering onto the floor and a tupperware container. Better still, the tupperware container was the one that contained all of my foul-weather gear, hats, gloves, anything that would keep you warm out in the rain. Of course the lid wasn't on.

The carpets were soaked, the rain gear was soaked and another leak was exposed in the ceiling - I have no idea where this one came from, it's a new leak. There's another small leak from my repair to the corner of the cabin roof, and yet another in the side roof. At least my traveler repair - formerly the worse leak in the cabin - seems to be watertight!

So I went to the washroom to get started for the day and found that my tarps had somehow blown off in the night. The gaping hole in the ceiling was wide open to the elements, and rain was pouring in there as well. Oh, good.

I should probably mention at this point that I didn't get a chance to run the generator last night, so the house batteries were too low to run the inverter which powers my laptop. Then in a fit of stupidity, I used my laptop in bed to watch cartoons before crashing. Now, in the pouring rain, I had a work emergency to deal with and 8% battery on my laptop - and I can't run the generator without setting up some kind of elaborate tarp system to keep the rain off!

At this point, I gave up. There's a coffee shop just up the hill with good coffee, excellent food and free wireless, so I went for it. As I returned to my bed to get the laptop case, however, I discovered that the window in my bed had actually leaked - a lot - into the bedside storage locker. Ohhhhhh, good. The laptop sleeve was sitting in a centimeter or so of water, as was my GPS and my Nintendo DS. The GPS is weather proof, so it should be fine, but the DS might be toast - I guess we'll see. It was only sheer, dumb luck that I didn't toss my laptop in there last night!

So I pulled on wet raingear, threw my bike in the dinghy, bailed a few dozen liters of water out and rowed for shore. Life got a lot better with a large, four-shot americano. I got a bunch of work done, figured out the database problems, and had some food. Eventually the sun came out, offering a brief respite from the terrible mood of the day, and some hope for the remainder.

I left the coffee shop at around 12:30pm, heading back to the boat. As I rounded a corner, I hit a patch of gravel and went down, banging my shin and thigh and scraping up my hand in the process. It figures, the one time I hadn't bothered to take my cycling gloves out of my bag because it was such a short ride home, I fall on my hands! My bike is ok, and I've only got a few small scuffs and bruises, but there's still a couple of bits of gravel in my left palm. I should probably put a bandaid on; I'm leaving bloody palm prints on my laptop.

I guess it could all be a lot worse. Like, the new unexplained leak in the cabin roof, the drips missed my mandolin by a few centimeters - it would have made the day a lot more unpleasant to have to pour water out of the F-holes! At some point today I'll have to break out the shop vac and vacuum the rainwater out of the bilges, and in the next few days I'll need to tackle the newly-obvious leaky parts of the roof. The work never stops.

Anyhow. Big work deadline tomorrow; first site goes live in the cloud! Back to the grind...

5Mar/090

ugh.

awake. too early. hung over.

or rather, I'll be hung over once I sober up completely.

Yesterday was a full day of work, followed by a brisk 10km bikeride, a brutaltwo-hour kung-fu class, another brisk 10km bikeride, then a bunch of folks gathering for birthday sushi-beers. On the way home I braked on some gravel and went down - I think I'm ok, but we'll see once I'm completely sober, my arm and hip are pretty banged up. I think it was pretty close, actually - based solely on the places my arm hurts, I think if I had gone down any harder I would have broken it.

Currently I'm in Gastown, trying to figure out if I should go home to work, or try to work from coffee shops today. Thinking home is a better plan.