Wednesday, 31 March 2010

THE DELTA QUEEN


THIS IS A GOOGLE EARTH SHOT OF LOW TIDE AND THE EXACT LOCATION OF THE ADVENTURE
OF THE DELTA QUEEN

I was going to have a first class hissy fit about The top two Canadian banks
and their unmitigated gread,audasity,stupidity, and I will come up with several more adjectives to describe both of them and their letters to pretty much any canadian reading this about there dire needs and how they must raise rates and charges. This at a time when they recieve money at the lowest rates in generations. When they both have made record obscene profits and when they both are giving a whopping one half of one percent interest to their customers. These charges on a host of services go up in many instances by one hundred percent - yes that is 100% - other rate changes for credit card interest go from a low 19% to somthing like 26% if you miss a payment. Gee looks like I have started my rant, but I will relax for a day or two and then return and do it properly.
So as I was beginning to say I decided to post the following little story that has been bouncing around in my little brain for quite a while.

THE DELTA QUEEN

George was a prairie boy. Like many boys born in Saskatchewan during the dust filled 1930s, he had always had a longing for the ocean. More to the point he had a suppressed obsession with owning a grand ocean going boat.

George and Mary married in the mid 50s and moved to B.C. all on the same day, a few years later they moved to Delta. As the reader may know, Delta is a Municipality located on the ocean at the furthest South Western tip of mainland Canada. It took a few years and a few children later, but finally George made the plunge and bought what was to his eye, a jewel of a ship. To more knowledgeable seafaring blokes it may have appeared to be more of a lemon.

To be sure George did have a few problems at first. He now owned a beautiful 21ft Cabin cruiser with a 110-horse power Volvo inboard/outboard that positively gleamed. It was with great excitement and expectation he for the first time pressed the start button.
Nothing.

Well not quite nothing, there was a little click.

Eventually after several ‘experts’ giving their opinions with no results, the motor was shipped to the Volvo repair shop where it was determined the pistons were rusted solid to the cylinder walls. Several hundred dollars later the engine was returned and put into the boat, but not until a foot of water was pumped out of the wooden hulled beauty. This craft looked like a fiberglass boat, but in fact it was plywood, covered with fiberglass, this made it (at least for prairie boy) most difficult to find any leaks.

In any event George spent many a happy hour tinkering and fooling around with his beauty. It was on one of these tinkering days (tinkering at the dock was much safer than getting out on the big ocean) on a spring afternoon that George had what was to be remembered for many years by his fellow Air Traffic Controllers as the “Adventure of the Delta Queen”

George was on his way to work at the Vancouver Airport on the afternoon shift and as he often did, left early so he could work on his boat. He took his good clothes to change into after working on the boat; no dummy was our friend George. So after an hour or so of basically wasting time, a brilliant thought stuck George, why not go to work with his boat. It is important here to visualize the terrain in this part of the world. The municipality of Delta is south of Vancouver BC, the South Arm of the Fraser River is the northern boundary between Richmond and delta. The Fraser River as it flows into the Straight of Georgia divides into three arms, The North Arm (which separates Richmond from Vancouver) the Middle Arm (which has the seaplane dock for Vancouver International Airport and The Air Traffic Control Centre) and the South Arm.


He threw his good clothes into the boat, pushed the starter, put it into reverse looked behind him, gave it a bit of throttle and immediately fell to the floor as the bow rope tightened to the dock.

As he slowly chugged past the men working on their nets (AT THE PERFECT SPEED TO MAKE THE GREATEST BOW WAVE) he felt like the proud and brave seafarer he was rapidly becoming. He realized this was true as the men all waved to him in what he took to be a nautical one fingered salute as he passed.

It was so peaceful sitting on his high stool on the bridge looking at this new and wonderful world, starting out on his first little adventure with his ship going down to the sea. As he chugged along he only had one more friendly one finger wave, it was from a very large fellow, who it seemed to George was maybe chocking, since his face was quite red.
No time to worry about strangers health, must keep alert to find where this famous Ladner Reach met the large South Arm of the mighty Fraser. He really need not have worried, as it ran straight (well it did after the bridge opener guy at the Westham Island bridge told him to turn around) into this large rather scary body of water, complete with large ocean going freighters and local fishing vessels.

Reaching the South Arm was quite a thrill. George as was his wont spoke to himself out loud. ‘Well George boy, you did it. All we do now is follow the river to the Strait of Georgia make a right, another right at the Middle Arm and there you are at the Air Traffic Control Centre, piece of cake.’ Once again George marveled at the beautiful blue sky and the feel of the sun on his face, although he did notice that as he proceeded west toward the ocean there seemed to be a little mist forming. Now was the time to see what this baby would do, he opened the throttle almost full and the feeling of power and joy thrilled his little heart. However he was a bit reluctant to open it all the way up as there was quite a bit of chop around from all the boats around. So George just left it so the hull was not planning properly, just at that in between speed (maybe 15 knots) to use the most fuel.
After about what seemed a very long time heading away from land he passed the lightship, (a Light-House at the end of a spit of land about two miles off shore) and almost immediately lost sight of land. What a feeling, alone, just water, sun and mist, or was that fog on the water? It really didn’t matter as the sun was shining through, and it was now smooth as glass. George being an Air traffic Controller knew he wasn’t out of the shallows yet, and depending on the tide you had to go further out. Unfortunately George had not checked the tide tables, but like he figured they wouldn’t mean much to him anyway since this was his first time on the ocean. So he just decided to go a good ways out to make sure. The feeling of the water thumping the hull, and the exhilarating cool fresh damp air against his face was beyond joy. Suddenly it dawned on George; he had been steaming away from land for quite some time. So he made a ninety-degree right turn, pushed the throttle to the firewall and almost instantly his beautiful craft leveled out on the step and he was literally flying at about 30 knots.

As he cruised along with no cares in the world, with the sun shining weakly through the thin fog, he kept a sharp eye out for water traffic and was just a little nervously scanning to his right for any sight of land. He figured he was getting close to the Middle Arm as he could see aircraft climbing off runway 26 at Vancouver International. As he strained his eyes to find sight of land he glanced to the stern, to admire his Volvo humming away. To say the sight he saw was shocking is an understatement of enormous proportions.
George had heard the saying ‘Rooster Tail” when referring to those monster Speed Boats that raced down in Seattle. It never crossed his mind his cruiser could ever go fast enough to make a rooster tail. So one can imagine, or maybe not, the joy and fascination George felt as he saw this plume of water rising at least ten feet into the sky behind his speeding craft. At virtually the same instant George noticed something else: the plume behind him was brown, sort of the color of sand. Now George was a very quick thinking individual, his thought process went something like this – brown – sand – expensive Volvo engine – sand going through engine – very bad – cut throttle. George instantly cut the power.

A very big mistake.

The craft went from 30 knots to zero in about two seconds. When George picked himself of the deck it was eerily quiet, no slapping hull sound, no wind sound, no motor sound, silence. He stood up (as best he could on the twenty degree angle of the deck) and looked around. All he could see in any direction was water and thin fog. It was as if he had been dropped in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in a life raft, granted a rather large life raft. His first thought when he chopped the power was he had hit a small submerged sand bar. As he took stock of the situation he noticed the water was about four inches deep. This really didn’t worry George that much, he could just get out of the boat and drag it off the little sand bar and away he would go. So with this in mind he took off his shoes and socks, and jumped over the side into the water. George was surprised to find the water rather warm. He went around to the bow to unravel a bit of anchor rope and get this adventure back on track.
It turned out dragging a twenty-foot boat grounded into sand was not going to be the piece of cake George thought. He uncoiled about ten feet of rope from the bow and pulled the rope that was at about a forty-five degree angle. All this tugging accomplished it appeared, was to dig the hull deeper into the sand. In fact he couldn’t make it budge. As he stood in the warm water in the glorious sunshine he wasn’t really too worried since he still had a few hours to get to work. George took off his shirt and pants, threw them into the boat, and in his underwear surveyed the situation from outside the boat. He decided to try and find out how large this sandbar really was, so he started walking away from the boat. After splashing merrily along for a few minutes, two things struck him simultaneously, this was a very large sandbar, and the boat was getting hard to see through the mist. The thought of losing sight of the boat made his heart sort of skip a beat and he hurriedly returned to the safety of his boat.
George now realized he was going to be here for bit of time, so he decided to lie on the deck and get some sunshine while he tried to figure out his next move. His reasoning went like this; if the tide was coming in, he would be afloat before too long. If the tide was going out, even to him that would be self-evident. In any event he wasn’t going to dwell on any negative thoughts.
As he lay there with his eyes closed every now and then George thought the craft would move a bit, he would look over the side but everything appeared the same. After enjoying the quiet and sunshine for about a half hour, a disturbing thought struck George. What if the tide was coming in, but just keeping the boat at the same level as it moved them closer to shore, wherever that was.
With this disturbing thought going through his mind George decided to use the whole hundred feet of rope do try and drag the boat out to deeper water. Being further out would lessen the angle from the bow to the water, and hopefully let him get out to deeper water. Before he entered the water he decided to take off his shorts, as he didn’t want them wet when he got to work. So now naked he began uncoiling the rope to its entire length. While he worked away he noticed little waves pushing the craft to the east, he now figured the tide was rising, so he was on the right track. When he had finished uncoiling the entire one hundred feet, the boat looked a long way back as he strained with all his might to get it moving. He was leaning forward at about a forty degree angle, looking straight down at the water, concentrating on one thing, get the stupid boat moving. For a few moments it looked hopeless, but then he felt the slightest movement, and with his head almost touching the water, he strained even harder. George kept the pressure on the rope, and the ship slowly followed him, like a dog on a leash.
George realized this might be a rather long trek, so with head down and back straining he staggered along, but at least he was encouraged as he heard the departing aircraft going over head, meaning he was close to his destination.

He went along for some time like this, head down, straining back, and imperceptibly at first, but then he realized the strain was getting noticeably less. At the same instant he noticed the water was almost to his knees. As the depth of the water increased the fog simply melted away, and George full of hope decided to take a quick glance ahead at the endless expanse of water.
As George looked up he was dumfounded to see a very large Japanese cargo ship steaming along not more than three hundred yards from him.
It was probably a tossup as to who was shocked the most, George, or the crewmembers leaning against the railings of their ship. Imagine their shock beginning a long journey, out of sight of land, suddenly out of the mist, a very white, naked man, walking on or in the water, pulling a boat behind? It was at this time he noticed the Pacific Western Airlines, Convair 540, banking rather steeply right overhead, he could almost make out the faces of the crew and passengers, as it flew by.

So he waved.

And he waved to the men on the Cargo Ship.

And they waved back

At this time at the Vancouver ACC the following dialog was taking place.
“Departure, PW 323 is with you.”
“Pacific western 323 Departure, radar identified, climb runway heading to twenty-five hundred, then left direct the VOR, climb on course”
“Roger, twenty-five hundred, left on course, PW 323.”
“Roger”
About one minute goes by.
“Uh, Departure PW 323.”
“323 Go”
“Yeah, Departure we’re going to level off here for a moment, something strange on the water.”
“That’s approved 323, let me know the situation.”
“Will Do.”
About another minute goes by.
“Departure 323.”
“Go, 323.”
Laughing “You won’t believe it Departure, there is a real life African Queen drama going on down there. Some guy, miles from shore, is walking in shallow water pulling a cabin cruiser behind him. And you won’t believe this; there is a very large freighter that looks like it is about to run him over. Oh, and now he is waving at us – he looks happy, and the crew on the freighter appear to be waving at him – oh and by the way he is starker’s. We are now continuing the climb on course.”

Dave the Departure controller turned to the Arrival controller Al, and told him the story.
They both laughed then Al said “Sounds like it might be that idiot George trying out his new lemon.” They both laughed and continued working.

Epilogue:
The rest of George’s day went relatively smooth. He went over his head in the water as he was waving to his friends. He finally got back to the dock after making bigger waves on the way into his berth. The friendly fishermen did not wave. No they did one better, several of them met him, and helped him tie up as he bumped into the dock.
They actually were not very pleased with him as it turned out. With clenched fists these very healthy fellows explained in very plain language the trouble he had caused them. As George was apologizing and explaining his predicament one of the biggest fellows cut off his explanation.
“Aren’t you number nine who plays for the North Delta hockey team?”
“Well yes, why do you ask?”
“I’m from North Delta and go to all the Games at the Army Base in Ladner, you are my favorite player.”
So things went swimmingly from there on.
Except for being an hour late for work.

And trying to explain it wasn’t him out there pulling that Boat.

THE PHOTO AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS BLOG WILL MAKE MORE SENSE NOW ( I HOPE)