once in a blue moon

blue moon new years eve

Den norska vädertjänsten har en artikel om att det denna nyårsafton är fullmåne och att det är en så kallad blå måne det vill säga det är den andra fullmånen på en kalendermånad, eller den trettonde på ett år. Mer om detta på wikipedia, blue moon.

Det är molnigt här idag, men just medan jag var på väg till nyårsmiddagen öppnade sig himlen lite mer så jag kunde konstatera att det faktiskt var en fullmåne som syntes ungefär i nordost, i den riktning som jag körde. Sedan började ett lätt snöfall igen, och molnen drog ihop sig så att det bara återstod ett ljust skimmer genom skyarna. Ungefär som på bilden.

Gott nytt år till alla mina (tre?) bloggläsare!

“Misty Island” video

The pictures are not really what I imagined when I composed the piece, many years ago, at the Lindbladstudion (EAM studio) at the University of Göteborg School of Music. I was thinking of an island surrounded by mist, but in the summer. Tonight, the ships are needing their fog horns, but when I took the photos this afternoon it was clearer. And it is winter.

Ljud, bild och text-blogg, producerad, kommenterad eller bara länkad av Maritune

I just couldn’t forget that filthy old wreck, Marilyn

In the summer 2002, we were on the lookout for a replacement for Carolina, the narrow, well-sailing “RJ-85” sailboat we had bought while we lived on the West coast (our third or fourth boat, was this). One of the stepsons wanted to take over Carolina, if we were thinking of getting something bigger and more comfortable for our vacations. For some reason I believed that a more reliable (with inboard engine) and spacious boat would be the only thing I needed to be happy for the rest of my life, and if I didn’t get it, my life would never be what it should have been, given my interests and background! The first possible craft we decided to look at was a “Schelinkryssare” (a 35 ft cruiser designed by Oscar Schelin) from 1971. She was called Marilyn, and for sale through a yacht broker in Stockholm.

I hopped on board, and looked with disgust at the far from ship-shape mess on deck, and all the things that were broken, misplaced, filthy, rusty or dented. Ropes left on deck everywhere, the sails attached to wires in the mast that were not running straight and free for hoisting, the wood on the cockpit benches was rotten, and the steering-wheel was dysfunctional. The cabin smelled unpleasant, there was green-ish water under the worn but nicely varnished floor, the propane stove with its old bent pipes and fittings made me look for the emergency exit and pray that none of the other prospective buyers would light a cigarette when on the ship, the bunks and the cabinets needed repair, the hull isolation was filthy and ugly, the electric system needed immediate replacement, there were signs of water-leakage through the top door, et cetera. Much work. Not worth the fairly high price. However, the sails seemed to be both new and okay (even if the rig looked ridiculous), the 27 hp diesel engine reliable and quite new (but a high-risk: fixed on just three of four mounts, all rusty), and the hull seemed strong and well built. And the poor wreck had a soul… So I was quite taken, and couldn’t leave her until I had walked the deck two rounds more, trying to notice all the faults!

In my fantasies, I could see, hear, and feel what it would be like to own a boat with a personality like that, and appreciate the possibilities and advantages of this model. I also imagined my grandchildren in the future would say, “When we were small and sailing with Grandma on Marilyn“… I wanted so much to be someone possessing an old plastic 35 ft sailboat with an old-fashioned, beautiful light grey hull, a blue line and a nice name, so I could not think of much else, or sleep, but had to get up in the middle of the night and look at myself in the bathroom mirror and weep hysterically! We looked at other Schelin:s, at several different other models, and weighed price against what needed fixing. Sometimes we were tempted to buy one of the practical, clean, nifty, good-enough, plain but well-equipped and reasonably priced boats we found. But we never could agree on which one.

The summer months went by. I took a navigation course in the autumn, to have a systematic brush-up of the stuff I almost already knew, and to get a navigation certificate. I returned to visit Marilyn, every time I was in town! When she was sold, I went there to say goodbye to the ship, and talk to the yacht broker. I asked what price they finally had agreed on, and if there had been anything reported from the hull inspector. There was no special discount, as there had been no evidence of any severe faults. The buyer was a carpenter from Denmark, who had remarked, “Good for me to have some work to do, or else I will drink too much beer!”

After the navigation course was completed, the instructor offered an opportunity for a practical exam, consisting of navigation exercises and manoeuvre training onboard his motorboat — in his hometown, an hour south of Stockholm. I signed up, but got extremely anxious about the entire event. It was to take place on a weekday in November or early December, so the prospect of being at sea at that time of year was unpleasant, and the idea of travelling alone, that far away and early in the morning, made me feel completely at a loss. I contacted another woman from the course, and she offered to help me out with a hike from the University, if I could make it to the Statoil filling station there on my own, and meet her at 7 AM. Thankfully, I got ill, so I had a reason to cancel it without feeling like a fool.

Just before Christmas, my husband heard from a colleague in Finland that there was perhaps an interesting boat for sale in Turku. A widow with an “H-35” from 1981 (a 35 ft cruiser, a well-sailing quite modern boat by a Finnish yacht designer) was thinking of selling it. We got a report from a first inspection on site. “Nice boat, but the ‘skitigaste’ (=filthiest) thing I have ever seen”, said our friend. Negotiations with the widow started, held in a mix of Swedish, English, German and Finnish, to be understood. Husband and son went to Turku with a passenger ferry, to have a look. Enthusiastic (or – the son – rather indifferent, disillusioned and tired of all the previous arguments) they called me and asked if I could agree on taking this fantastic chance to get a boat with great possibilities, at a bargain price!

“Okay; of course…” (What could I say?)

At Christmas 2002, I was writing on my first and only work for orchestra, Winter into Spring, or Töväder (Thawing Weather), something I was really serious about. Hubby was thinking, talking and dreaming about how to transfer Euro money for the boat payment, how to fix a boat transport and how to start the boat renovation.

A Friday evening in January 2003, we got on a small car ferry from Frihamnen in Stockholm. It was a beautiful night, with a full white moon shining over dark islands, dark water, snow and ice. Chunks of ice in the shipping channel were hammering on the ferry hull, all the hours we went through the vast archipelagos on both sides of the Aland Sea. I could hardly sleep, mostly because I was so fascinated by the landscape outside, and the other unfamiliar sensations. We arrived in the grey morning, and got our car off the ferry in Turku, drove through the town and out to the sleepy suburb where the boatyard was situated.

“And here she is – our new boat.”
“Uh-hu. Nice.”

(That? The ugly, wet, sad thing with a snow drift on top? Did I borrow a fortune from mother, only to spend it all on this practical joke? My God – what a bargain! My life is over now, absolutely over. This is The End.)

I climbed the ladder, which a kind owner of a neighbour boat had helped us with, and silently started to inspect my new ship, beginning with clearing the deck from as much ice and snow as possible. There was solid ice in the engine room, too. And water in the cabin, dripping everywhere, through leaks in the roof, from the melting snow and ice on deck. A lot of woodwork was in bad condition from this neglect to cover the boat properly for winter. The radio and the VHF telephone were dripping, also. There was an ugly old propane stove, with bent pipes and suspect fittings. Et cetera. And not even a trace of a soul. This boat was dead. Gone. Beyond rescue. Just a piece of indestructible fibreglass.

The seller arrived. She was a tiny and elegant woman, in fur coat and small boots, but she jumped onboard like a cat or athlete, without using the ladder. She laughed happily at everything we said, and smiled at the Swedish-speaking gentleman who functioned as her driver, interpreter and technical expertise. When she understood that we had actually bought the boat, liked and wanted it, and had the intention to move it to Sweden the same afternoon, she was so happy so she had to demonstrate her ability to stand on her head, there, in the snow! From other sources, and from evidence in the boat, we learned that this Moomin character (and her late husband) had maybe been fond of the more pleasant aspects of boating. For example, beer. During the renovation, we found that it was not possible – in any one of the 35 ft of this ship – to be out of reach of a beer bottle opener. There were a dozen of them, mounted with great care, in the most imaginative places. The maintenance of and care about the rest of the equipment, on the other hand…

Open sea

Last weekend, the ice disappeared almost completely – there is just a little of it left in the marina and in the inner, narrow creeks east and west of it. The ferries can sail the shorter course again, through the shipping channel near the mainland that was closed during the coldest winter months, so the ships don’t have to take the long turn around the eastern part of the fjord any longer. This has been a long winter!

How to read the furnace

At one point, I lived in Montreal with several other musicians, above a restaurant. The building was taken over by someone who wanted to raze it, and so took no steps to maintain it. One bitter winter morning, we awoke to discover that the furnace had expired. An inspection revealed plenty of oil in the tank, so we called a repair service. They put us on the list, but said it might take a while, because of the blizzard in progress. So we gathered around the space heater, in our coats, and swapped stories. Ten AM, noon, 2 PM, 4 PM, still no repair person. We called again. They assured us he was on his way, but having a very tough time getting from call to call, because of the snow.

Six PM, 8 PM; 10 PM; midnight; finally, at half past midnight, we realized that he wasn’t going to make it, and retired to the bar down the street. The beer was cold, but at least the building was warm, compared to our sub-zero dwelling.

About 1:30, a small, quite unassuming man came in, and walked directly to our table. Without hesitation, he asked if we would like to have our furnace repaired. With groggy shock (and alacrity), we agreed. Trudging back up the street, we asked how he’d found us. He explained that he came to the address, looked at the restaurant and the two stories above it, deducing from there that several people shared the accommodation. When no one answered, and given when the original call came, he concluded we must all have gone somewhere warm. He looked for the nearest open establishment, and came in. He saw that one of my friends still had her coat around her shoulders, and so knew at once which table was ours.

Digesting this rather surprising bit of shrewdness, I conducted the man to the furnace. This meant going directly from the front door through the restaurant and into the basement. He never saw the inside of our dwelling. When I brought him to the furnace, however, he immediately saw the furnace problem, and while fixing it, remarked that the building had been built in 1916, and also that where we lived had been a cathouse. At this, I was finally outright amazed; we had found out from a taxi driver that our address was indeed once a house of ill fame; how on earth had he dsicovered this? Did he know this building?

No, he had never been in the neighbourhood before. In fact, part of what took him so long was that he had to drive 35 miles to get to us. So how had he figured out the precise year of construction? He pointed me to three separate components of the furnace, mentioned the various war-time restrictions and availabilities, and explained that this particular conjunction of three parts could only have been achieved in 1916, and no other year. Alright, I said, but cathouse–how did you ever get that from looking at the furnace? Again he pointed me directly to some components of the furnace, showing me patterns of wear that are consistent only with consistent, higher-than-average temperature usage. Such usage is virtually never found except in houses of prostitution (who keep such temperatures, since their clients are usually naked). Since we were obviously not ladies of the evening, the high-temperature usage was likely not recent–he showed me the worn parts, but I didn’t entirely follow what he said–and he had noticed two stories of rooms above a restaurant, he concluded that the place had been a cathouse, but was no longer.

He had concluded his repairs. He refused to take a penny more than the regulation fee for a service call, which was twenty or thirty dollars. When I protested that he had driven for several hours in a blizzard, and now faced an equally long drive home, he simply said that this was his job. I started to protest again, but quickly realized that he meant what he said, and would not accept further payment. He was back at the wheel of his van, about to head out. By now deeply moved as well as amazed, I thanked him profusely for his generosity in helping us, and told him outright that I felt truly fortunate to have met such a wise and compassionate man.

This led to the last and greatest surprise. Far from being flustered by such praise, yet equally far from merely (and vainly) taking it as his due, he answered with what could only sound in cold print like platitudes. I don’t even recall exactly what he said; each of does the best they can, something like that. I retain instead an utterly indelible impression of the most exalted wisdom, of a man serenely possessed of an understanding I had never encountered before. He spoke not long, but said this: you are looking, too, and very hard; eventually you’ll see what you need to. Again, banal in print, but a moment of the greatest weight in my life. With that, he was gone.

MW Morse

Fireworks and ferries

I am watching the dark sea and the horizon. Soon the fireworks will explode everywhere – in the village, and across the water. Other lights in this dark winter evening are coming from the ferries – huge vessels slowly and almost silently moving half-hidden behind the nearest islands.

I wish all readers a Happy New Year 2006!

Hysterical bird

Found a little blue-tit fluttering around in the bedroom when I came home. I have heard something making noises in the ventilator in the outer wall some nights the last weeks, but was unsure if it was a dry leaf, a bird, or a mouse. Now it got out by its own efforts, so I know. Out in the room; out of the window.

Advent Sunday coming. I hope the lamps and wirings in the window star and the electrical candles for the window sills are functional. Time for gingerbread and hot wine. And my usual three-day-long search for the perfect Christmas cards to send, now that decorations and cards for the season are out in all shops.