I am sitting at a coffee shop downtown trying to get my breath back. My heart is still jumping about somewhere way up in my chest. I am tucked away in the back of the cafe trying not to let anyone see or smell me. There’s nothing like a strong cup of black tea and a chocolate cookie to put a girl back together again after a head first chase around the harbour.
I was bombing to town on my bike a couple of hours ago when I spotted the boys. There they were! My boys! Radiating up towards me from the waters below. As soon as I came around the corner and down the hill by Fol Epi – in my opinion the best organic bakery in the city – I could see the deep reds of the tugs across the water from me. I was on my way to town and I was feeling like you do when you’re on a road trip in your car and you don’t want to stop for nothing, not even a pee break or a bag of chips. On top of it all it was a freezing blustery day. All I wanted to do is get down to the art store, grab some paint, and get back home. Done!
But I just couldn’t do it! I couldn’t keep going. I had to blinking stop! The guys were there and I had to honour the moment while I had the chance whether it was convenient or not. So I flung myself off the bike and hauled the heavy beast up over the curb through some prickly bushes towards the banks of the harbour. What’s that pukey smell? I looked down to see that the bike and I were covered in manure. I’ve got big junks of it clumped on to the bottom of my boots. Then as I hauled my bike through the thorny bushes my bike tires sprayed it all over my jeans. Oh Great!
No time to fuss about the mess now as I could feel my stomach start to tinkle at the sight of those tugs. Across the water by Island Paving I could see the shinning red floater jackets of the skippers. Both of the captains were perched high up on top of the tugs at the controls. Below them bright red stripes circled the boats and balanced a perfect match with their lifejackets. The Cates 4 was pushing nose first, full force, at the wood chip barge. He was bellied up about half way in the middle of the barge with black smoke spewing from his exhaust stacks. Meanwhile the Foam was circling around towards the back spinning white spray tails in semi-circles.
It now dawned on me I should get closer if I wanted to take photos with my pocket camera. So I yanked my bike back onto the path and headed down the sidewalk at full tilt. Folks along the sidewalk were giving me some eyebrow lip as I looked for an opening in the chain link fence around the shipyard. Ignoring the No Trespassing sign and Hard Hats Only (would a bike helmet due?) I snuck in through an open gate to try and get closer to the water and the tugs. To my surprise inside the gates tied up to pilings were two out-of-town tugs, the Furious and the Storm Spray.
“Well this is a banger of a day” I thought as I jumped off my bike onto the gravel entrance way. But no time to think about them now as the Cates 4 was coming across the harbour full speed ahead. There was white spit flying up over his bow and along his sides. “Humph! He’s giving it towards the upper harbour” I said to myself. In the stern was the deckhand dressed in his bright orange overhauls, hunched over, untangling a rope a line of some kind. As he moved his arms about his cool yellow reflective arms bands danced in the grey skies. To the right and coming on fast from across the harbour was the Foam. He’s just spun a circle from the chip barge and was heading after the Cates 4 leaving behind a trail of drifting puffs of black smoke.
I hopped back on my bike, sped around, spraying gravel and burned out of the shipyards. As I peddled a long the sidewalk I clenched the handle bars with one hand and clicked pictures with the other. Pushing dogs and people out of the way I began a frantic chase bucking into a head wind. I felt like I was in a gale standing on the bow of the MV Uchuck off the West Coast of the Island. I swear every time I rounded a corner the wind lifted my butt off the seat and tilted me sideways. Bucking that wind I would wobble to one side just like the tugs when they flip from side to side by the forces that battle them.
By the time I reached the Save on Foods wharf I had just missed Scotty on the 4. He was scooting under the bridge with a nice wide frothy wake behind him. Darn. I turn to the right to see the Foam gently working her way towards me. The Tug is giving off an aura of power and pride as it moves between me and the other side of the channel. The Foam was so close I could see the whites of the deckhand’s eyes through his sunglasses as he waved with his cobalt blue gloves at us. By this time other spectators had gathered on the wharf to watch. We were lined up like obedient soldiers with no one moving except for our raised hands, we waved together a salute back to the deckhand and the mighty Foam.
Wherever Tugs go I choose to follow. I bolted back on my bike and barreled like a bat out of hell down the trail after them. Motoring along the path my bike rattled, rocked and rolled. People stared and dogs growled as I whizzed by. I hit the Selkirk trestle bridge as fast as my shaky legs could muster. My teeth nearly jostled out of my head as I clamoured over the wooden planks to the other side.
Then it was up through a winding grassy path, down onto another wooden walkway bouncing over the water and then back up onto the road around the new buildings in the Selkirk Development. My trembling legs giving me the best they could muster. I was finding it hard to breathe by the time I spotted the tugs on the other side of the bay by Budget Steel’s wharf.
Again there they were locked together with the scrap barge. Here the Bay is small and kind of shaped like a top of a thumb. David Street wharf is at the far end, Budget Steel wharf across on the right and the Selkirk walkway and development was over on my left from where I parked myself. I leaned my bike up against the sidewalk railing and clambered myself up onto a concrete piling to get a good eyeball on them. It was a great spot for watching but a bad spot for me. I was dead smack in the wind. My hair was blowing straight out from under my toque and the snot was running out of my nose. I’ve learned from the past that composition is much more important than my comfort. So I decided to stay right where I was to study the boys while they tugged about.
Both tugs were hard at it grinding up against the half loaded scrap-steel barge. Radio’s were bellowing and squelching. Waves of chills ran up and down my back bone as the barge and tugs rumbled, bumped and shifted about. Sounds were moving fast through the turbulent air clanking, clunking, squealing and squashing. Black smoke billowed as engines vibrated, revved and winch lines pulled. Deckhands ran back and forth, side to side, carrying long poles untying twisting wet lines and shouting back and forth. Smoke was firing up from the stacks, swear words were flying in the air and flags were flapping. Two geese stretched their necks from the banks edge and overhead hundreds of seagulls gathered, swayed and soared in the wind.
To make this long-winded tale come to an end I stood like a statue for the next 20 or 30 minutes. I watched the boys move the scrap barge over to David Street where they loaded a loader thingy on to it. Then they shuffled the barge back over to Budget’s wharf where a guy in an orange suit waited patiently for them. Then they rounded themselves up like cowboys after securing their herd in the coral and they headed back to town with white foam mustaches in front of them.
Once again I was off and peddling. Back, up, over, and along the trail back to the inner harbour where the chase had first begun. In front of me crossing the path and moving fast was a young mom with a small child in her arms. I could hear her motherly voice saying,” look honey tugboats”. Pointing at the passing tugs she followed up with “Let’s get them”. She clutched the kid hard around her waist, its little jacket flapped open and then the kid stuck its finger up its nose. “Let’s go catch the tugs” she repeated as she ran towards the water. My heart rang.
All I can say now is thank god my camera batteries died. The boys were out to kill me today. As soon as I hobbled myself back to the Save on Foods wharf here they were back over at Island Paving picking up the chip barge and coming right back at me. No matter how much I care for those tugs I was done like burnt toast. Bucking that head wind had done me in.
I don’t need any formal exercise classes outside of tugboat chasing. No gym memberships for me, no running groups, no recreational passes, nope, I get all the exercise I need by do nothing. I don’t even need to take vitamin pills. Watching the boys on the water gives me all the vitamin D I need. I just suck up the sun’s reflective rays through my starry eyes.
Today’s been a lesson learning day. As I sit here in the coffee shop settling myself down by scrawling in my journal. I realize that I made an important decision this afternoon when I charged after the boys. No matter how much I wanted to follow my own plans I didn’t. For once, I listened to myself. Now I feel my life is much richer because I took the time to stop. Whenever I spend time on the harbour my steps become lighter and my heart becomes fuller. I feel I am the luckiest gal in the world. So what if everyone in the cafe assumes I am fond of horse barns. It just goes to show you that a person doesn’t have to go anywhere but your own back yard to find true happiness. It’s all about bucking down and going head first into the wind.
Oh crap, I’ve forgotten all about the art store. Later.