Welcome to Canada, Howdy from Galveston

Hilary continues to be the center of concern and both emotional and physical energies. The psychosis is, to use the vernacular, crazy. But, I think we will cope and make our trip. Whether to have guests join us will be the question we will ponder (and after reading this, potential guests will ponder as well).

Tuesday, Howdy, a large powerboat with a Galveston home port that we’d met in Alaska last year, tied up with us at customs in South Pender Island.

The woman on board remembered our boat, and as is typical, remembered Hilary. The combination of concern and the gut reaction to distance oneself was evident on her face when she and Hilary spoke.

Hilary’s craziness is stereotypic. She will personify her fingers for example, or discover a small piece of dirt under a fingernail and regard it as a person, or at least something alive. Birds continue to fascinate, but conversations no longer make any sense. The world around her isn’t the world we perceive and it shape shifts. The plate before her does not contain food one moment. ‘‘This isn’t breakfast, no,’’ changes in the next to delicious eggs, jam and muffins.

The progression isn’t linear. For a few days recently Hilary called both Jennifer and me by name. It has been years since she has known mine. We can’t resist momentarily attaching significance to these behaviors we recognize, though we know they mean nothing.

The same goes for incontinence. Recently, Hilary has been much less incontinent, looking for a bathroom during the day and often arriving with dry underpants.

[This is a different post than I was making last year at this stage in the trip.]

A Canadian customs officer boarded Caro Babbo Tuesday. The first time customs in either country has done so. It is clear that at this station they are boarding every boat. There are two men in the station with nothing particular to do. At the places where we have cleared in the past, the physical station is some distance away and no one wants to make the walk or drive.

For some reason Jennifer screwed up docking. She docks as well as anyone we meet now: I am able to make that wonderful step onto the dock, parallel to the boat as Jennifer comes in.

I walked up the dock to the customs station and told the agents to tell Jennifer that they weren’t watching her docking. The agent, who later introduced himself as Trent, looked at the other agent who said, ‘‘Yeah, I saw her.’’ Trent said that it was because the dock was empty. If it had been full, she would have done fine.

Trent walked outside the office with me, asked me the standard questions, and then pointed me to the phones, ‘‘They like to get everything entered into the computer this way. Write the number on this piece of paper’’ – He handed me a yellow slip with the name of the office – ‘‘and then come inside.’’

I asked the agent on the phone if he was in Hamilton (Ontario). He answered, yes, ‘‘But I’d like to be anywhere but here.’’ We bantered for a bit, and I suggested this approach wasn’t great for career development. He said he wasn’t serious, but he sounded serious.

We went through the standard who’s on board and he asked me for Jennifer’s new passport number. I reminded him we had a cat on board, and did he want the info on the immunization papers? He said, ‘‘they’re all up to date aren’t they?’’ And we dropped the matter.

Inside I showed the paper to Trent, who asked about alcohol, guns and marijuana, and then to my surprise, said he wanted to come on board. I said, ‘‘Cool, no one has ever done that before.’’

He said Jennifer and Hilary would need to leave the boat, he and I would go below, so I could show him around. I asked if is he a sailor. He said no, so I told him I wouldn’t tell him all about the boat.

He made a statement that was oddly worded to an American ear. He said he had the privilege of sailing on his grandparent’s ‘‘Commander’’ one summer from Vancouver to Victoria.

Customs and immigration work is mostly about demeanor. Good people in the business talk a lot and watch while they speak.

I once was coming in from somewhere in Latin America. The US immigration man and I had a wonderful conversation about my business, the market for my products and a bit about my professional history. After ten minutes, he abruptly needed to get back to work and we stopped speaking.

I said to him, ‘‘You weren’t really interested were you?’’ He surprised me by actually saying, ‘‘no.’’ But then followed with, ‘‘If you can talk about it for ten minutes, then you are who you say you are.’’ I laughed and we shook hands.

I felt at the end of our time with Trent, which went for a while, we should have shaken hands, but we did not.

Down below, Trent asked to see the pint of alcohol and the bottle of wine I said we had. I opened the ice box and said that Jennifer refers to this as the rotter. I pulled up a 750ml bottle of Vodka showed him what was in the bottom and said, ‘‘this looks like about a pint.’’ He verbally agreed. I rooted around and found the bottle of wine, showed it to him and said there is an alcohol-free bottle in there somewhere but he had lost interest by then.

We stood at the bottom of the stairs, Falco the cat came out of the V-berth for a moment, and retreated. Trent said, ‘‘There’s the cat,’’ with some enthusiasm.

He then repeated all the questions to me, paused and then, as if an inspiration had come to him, asked about THC products. I said, ‘‘there is a lot you need to ask about.’’

The questions got to the point that I felt I needed to defend why I didn’t use THC products… an odd state of affairs.

We made eye contact through out the interview. His were light blue and his last name was Dutch.

On the dock before we came down, I went to introduce him to Jennifer and Hilary. His cloth name badge said Van followed by a many-letter Dutch surname. He introduced himself as Trent. He told Jennifer he and his partner had not been watching Jennifer dock.

I asked how long the Dutch part of his family had been in Canada. He told me his dad was from ‘‘Holland.’’

I asked if he spoke Dutch. He said no, but that in his group, four of five of them were Dutch, and two spoke Dutch. I mentioned Joe the fisherman and Trudi in Gibson.

Down below, after looking in the cooler, before I could ask Trent where he wanted to start looking, he said that we came down here to speak because people will get nervous on the boat when it looks like he will search. I wasn’t showing any of that, so there was no need to search. I didn’t reply.

He asked me if I had any questions. I had four, how long could we stay in Canada, if we wanted to spend time? Six months. How long did we need to be gone? He said there is something called flag polling, where people leave and immediately come back. But if it looks like you’re trying to get around permanent residence requirements they won’t let you.

As retired people, if we wanted to come live in Canada, could we? The answer surprised me, given that a routine question Canadians ask me is where in the US should they retire to. Phoenix seems to be all Albertans, Florida Ontario-ites. But perhaps they only come for six months at a stay.

Finally, where should we anchor? By now we were climbing out of the boat and on to the dock to speak with Jennifer and Hilary.

In our absence, Jennifer and Hilary were speaking with Howdy.

Trent hung out on the dock with us for another ten minutes or so while we discussed his career and places where he had worked.

We came away learning this is a much better gig than being a local cop or RCMP.

The engine started and we selected a mooring ball out by the marine park.

Author: johnjuliano

One-third owner of Caro Babbo, co-captain and in command whenever Caro Babbo is under sail.

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