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Boats have been a near-continuous presence in my life, rowboats, canoes, kayaks, motorboat and sailboats. I enjoy looking at the hulls of boats  when they are out of the water for storage or repair, trying to imagine how they would respond to waves and currents. 

Sailboat Seen through Trees

On the slope above the landing
we await the ferry’s hour,
a golden gap in time.

Sun on a white sail
sliding up the Inlet on these winter airs,
now seen behind a scrim of slender maples.

The sail’s divided by the branches –
three parts, now two, then three.
The progress slows; I urge it on

until the sail emerges in the clear
and is made whole.
I am that sail.

(January 2019 )



The wind fell away, leaving
the sails slack and useless.
Oh how I longed to hear
chuckle of the bow-wave,
feel zephyr’s pulse on helm.
But ripples gelled to glass.
Lulled by warm October days,
we let her drift and I
leaned back, allowed the sun
to soothe my disappointment.
Moon-tides pulled and twirled the boat,
sun and moon together
calling to the joy within
the unexpected still.
There, in a notch between
blue islands, Baker’s
icy fang showed clear,
promising winter and
renewal of catastrophe.

(August 2012)


Ships on Juan da Fuca

Island trees bear witness to
the moods of Juan da Fuca’s path to riches.
Cloud edges torn by southwest winds;
something could be brewing.
Three ships – all outward bound
carry treasure torn from mountains.
Where are those sailors now?
(January 2020)



This elegant drawing by E.J. Hughes is one of the first pieces of fine art we bought when we had a little money ahead. Scenes like this were part of my boyhood in Howe Sound. Beached astern of the Lone Eagle is a beautiful cedar lapstrake rowboat possibly built by the Turner Boat Works in Vancouver. Seaworthy, heavy enough and keel enough  to track well, these were very common boats in my childhood and I rowed many of them. There are still a few “originals” around and more than a few plastic copies. Maybe I’ll get to row a wooden one again before I’m done.

Pulling Boat

I am dreaming of a pulling boat,
one to carry us upon the sea,
surging ahead with each long stroke
my arms and back in tune with her.

I would have her planked with cedar,
clinched with gleaming copper nails,
oars of ash all finely shaped,
flexing to the water’s pull and mine.

A slender entry at the waterline,
the slightest gurgle from her stern,
she will be dry in a dirty chop,
and lift to bullying wave’s assault.

Boat and I will brave the open ocean,
patient and pulling to the far shore.
In tranquility of dusk, arriving,
Our V of wake two lines of light upon the water.

(July 2020)





2 thoughts on “Boats

  1. Thanks again Farrell, boating has never been a part of my life so good to read your poems on the subject. That drawing by E.J. Hughes is truly magnificent, the woman who was his private secretary and did so much for him (they lived as neighbours in Shawnigan Lake) was in a little Irish Lit. group I belong to, haven’t seen her for ages. Did see an exhibition of his works and life at U. Vict. couple of years ago – quite extraordinary, he went all over BC painting and she went with him. Pauline


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