P.O. Box 519
Hudson, QC J0P 1H0
Tel: (450) 458-2480
Fax: (450) 458-7903
What some of the reviews say:
foolish and lots of laughs!... a most enjoyable
of genuine wit and humour":
Holmes - St-John's EVENING TELEGRAM
genuine and talented nut-case... quick-witted and
Tom Reagan - Halifax DAILY NEWS
Elliott's 90 minutes on stage was delightfully quirky
Mazey - The Ottawa CITIZEN
exceedingly astute student of his environment,
a quick wit and matching delivery, Mr. Elliott
new meaning to the word stage presence":
Gallant - The Charlottetown GUARDIAN
of mirth, Elliott, skewers human foibles...His
show a master of the spoken word: he
stretches and cajoles the English word":
Davies - The Montreal CHRONICLE
are excellent reasons why he deserves ranking
the top wags. He has scores of good jokes, an
way with stories, a sharp ear and nimble
for musical comedy, and enviable reflexes"
McIlroy - WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
act was nothing short of brilliant, and I
Kevin Zimmerman - New York City
show runs the gamut from the sublime to the
but all of it literally
sucks laughter out of your
Callahan - The Newfoundland HERALD
A solid stand-up with a squeaky-clean set":
Journey Without A Footprint.
The idea was to cross Canada leaving no carbon footprint, but it was turning out to be trickier than we thought. The first leg of the journey was supposed to be a quick sail across Malpeque Bay, but my boat, the Sea Pig, wasn’t in great shape. All winter she had been sitting in a field in Prince Edward Island, and the blue tarp which covered her had stretched under the weight of the snow and leaked, and now the boat was full of water and some fibreglass had cracked where her belly rested on the trailer. The extra weight also didn’t help the wheel bearings of the trailer, which weren’t the best to start with.
On the other hand, in the field where she sat the wild strawberries were numerous and delicious so you have to take the bad with the good. I picked and ate them as the boat drained, then I stripped off what was left of the tarp and bundled it into the boat, hitched the trailer to the rented truck, and we started to haul it to our place in Charlottetown. Somewhere around Vernon River a car behind started honking, and I thought, that’s nice, fellow members of the International Boat Appreciation Brotherhood encouraging us in our adventure. Then a car-full of students passed, making terrified pointing gestures out the window and when we pulled over they told us that the tarpolin had blown off onto the highway behind me. I did not want to turn around and go back right then because it would mean backing the trailer around on a busy highway, so I continued to our house in Charlottetown and then returned by car to to pick up the tarp. We couldn’t find it and I was angry at myself for being so stupid.
But let’s add it all up. So far I’d driven out twice by car to check the boat, rented a truck and drove out once more, then drove out halfway again by car to pick up the tarp, there and back three times, or a total of about 300 kilometres. By my calculations, at one tree per 3000 kilometres we were already about 1/10th of a tree into carbon debt.
The way this works is that CO2 is absorbed by green plants, who use the carbon to create fibre and then give back the oxygen, so you can offset the amount of carbon in the atmosphere you create by planting trees. (I might as well say now that over the summer, between car and rented truck, coming down and returning to PEI we logged about three thousand miles, meaning that so far I would have to plant one tree to get even.)
But for now my boat was in our driveway, ready to be fixed.
Over the next week I sanded down and fibreglassed over the crack in the belly and made a new rudder blade to replace the one I had destroyed last year when we hit a rock in Cardogan Bay. There are four rocks in PEI and I’ve hit them all.
We rented a truck again to tow the Sea Pig out to Malpeque, but before we did, and while the truck was rented I also cleaned out the garage and brought a load of junk to the dump, or “recycling station” as they call it now. They weigh the truck going in and once again coming out and then you pay them by the pound for doing their job. The government’s response to the public desire to have a clean environment is to charge us for it. Don’t get me started.
The first leg of our journey was supposed to be from Malpeque, (Micmac for “Big Bay”) to Alberton, on Cascumpeque (“Small Bay”.) We’d actually done part of this before with no carbon footprint, by simply sailing with no motor, but in and out of harbours can be tricky, so for this summer I had bought a second-hand electric outboard. In a forty-five gallon drum it ran for an hour and a half at its slowest speed. The idea was that once I had bought a solar panel to keep its battery charged, I would have a permanent clean source of energy.
I have to say that I don’t really understand how. When light hits matter it apparently creates an electric charge. I started to ask myself how, and when you find yourself asking questions about electomagnetism it’s best to conduct the simple educational experiment of opening your car hood and attaching your jumper cables from your battery to your tongue. You will then stop asking yourself any more questions about electromagnetism. It’s a difficult subject. The number of electons is called “the volts” because the man who first recognized the phenomenon was Alessandro Volta. The curent is called “amps” because that’s short for “amperes”. And the total power is called “watts”, because by this time people tend to say “What?”
Anyhow, I hadn’t bought the solar panel yet, and it was time to see if my motor worked at all, and whether it would push the boat. She was in the inner harbour and I wanted to bring it out to the dunes around Darnley Basin where we could rig it and set it up for sailing. The electric outboard got me out of the inner harbour, but then it ran out of juice, luckily when I was out of danger of interfering with other boats in the channel.
It hadn’t run anywhere near an hour and a half and it seems that although at it’s lowest setting, which, in dead calm against no current whatsoever it moved the boat quite handily (and silently) once it found itself in any contrary wind or tide, it had to use more power, which drained it much more quickly. But it wasn’t completely useless. I took it home to re-charge it, and when we came back for our first sail we brought two cars, one to where we would sail to, and one to where we would leave from, so this experiment was costing more and more trees. I had visions of acres of stumps on a sea coast where baby seals washed up in oil slicks.
Once sailing though, we were carbon free. The winds filled our sails, the tide helped push us out the channel. The sun beating down warmed the dark parts of the boat which absorbed it, but reflected off the lighter colours leaving them cool and you could feel the difference with your bare feet. This warmth, rising and adding itself to other rising warm air from other dark surfaces, was replaced by other air rushing in, which were the winds that moved us. The tides shifted the ocean we were on with another type of energy, gravitational. A dazzle of light created a mild electric charge from any matter it fell upon, a charge which could fill our batteries once I’d bought a PV cell. The day was hopping with all types of energy. I can see why Einstein enjoyed sailing.
He was the one who amongst other things found the mathematical proof for the photovoltaic effect and received the Nobel Prize for the paper he wrote on the subject. All this when he was only 26 years old, too, the smartass. As I say, I don’t understand it. Something about photons in light which can be either a particle or a wave, transferring electrons to atoms which, when they are full, give off the excess as electricity.
By virtue of wind and tide we sailed down the bay to Grover Island, which claims to be the largest nesting site for herons in eastern Canada, though I can’t see that it will ever be much of a tourist destination. To make their nests the herons excrete on the trees, killing them, and creating a fairly rich pong, to say nothing of what they are doing to their carbon debt.
We sailed beyond the island on a “beam reach” which sailors call the “soldiers tack”, because even dough-headed soldiers were deemed capable of executing it, then felt the wind on our port and aft, the mizzen was taut abaft, and I was thinking, look how much nautical language I know!
There were thunderheads moving in from the west though, and the wind veered and came right out of where we wanted to go into Marchwater, on the shores of which we had parked one of our cars. The channel got narrower and narrower the nearer we tacked in between the buoys. We finally started the electric motor to move us in the last little bit, but it made very little headway against the wind, then ran clean out of electrons altogether, and stopped. We tacked some more, rowed some more, swore, and finally it was shallow enough to hop out and pull the boat to the car. A clumsy end for an otherwise fine day of sailing. Driving home there was a spectacular double rainbow over Breadalbane, and then a torrential downpour like driving through a carwash for ten miles, with vast cracks of lightning, a trillion watts each. We could have used some of those watts back in Marchwater.
Next day I returned with my brother, in one car this time, and a bike to get back to where we parked it. The wind was against us again, but we sailed effortlessly out of Marchwater, across the inside bar at Grover Island at high tide, like flying low over ocean floor, and up the coast back to Malpeque.
Malpeque Harbour, set into classic dune country, looks benign but actually, as we discovered, is quite treacherous. Darley Basin empties out into where the mouth of Malpeque Bay in turn empties into the Gulf of St Lawrence, between dunes, and the channels of these contrary currents and tidal races create any number of shifting channels and bars. The tide was rushing out of the harbour in one thick muscular current, impossible to sail up, so we cut across and ran the Sea Pig aground on the far dune. The smart thing to do would have been to wait until the tide turned. But we pulled the boat on that far shore around into Darnley Basin which now meant that our way back to the outer harbour was blocked by a wide shallow bar, so we sailed into the basin, came about clumsily, and back towards the mouth of the harbour aiming for the beach on the other side but cutting around that wide bank of sand. The current caught us, I started up the electric motor, and once again we confirmed how useless that motor was against any real current. The tide race snatched us and we flew down and out the harbour and almost came ashore on the beach on the right side of the channel but just then as we were being snatched away again I hopped out to pull the boat ashore and found out how strong the current really was.
I couldn’t hold the boat, so I let go, and then my feet slipped from under me. I looked down and saw sand pouring off the lip of the bar like a waterfall straight into the depths, and I felt myself being sucked down. It was a sensation I had never felt before and I started to panic. Intellectually I knew that the way to survive this was to just float, don’t fight it, but it’s hard to stay rational when panicking. That’s the definition of panic. There’s no reason for panic, it fulfills no evolutionary purpose, but of course that assumes that evolution is designed to protect individuals. From nature’s point of view, it is immaterial if I get swept to sea and “of my bones are corals made”. Who says coral is any less important than me?
I do, that’s who, so I splashed around and came ashore. I had been wearing my life jacket and it had held me up. I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t. I wear my life jacket always now (though I admit I get some strange looks in crowded elevators.)
My brother in the boat had dropped anchor, he tossed me a rope, we pulled the Sea Pig ashore and walked it around the right side of the channel. The last little way, a lobster boat asked if we wanted a tow and we said Yes Please.
I took down the rigging while my brother pedalled back to pick up the car. The bike was too small for him and he looked like a Shriner. I told him he should wear a fez. He returned, we drove back, came the next day and in dead calm with the tide at slack water, moved effortlessly to the slipway, with the electric motor on its lightest setting. Then we dragged the boat onto the trailer.
I find sailing completely engaging, trying to get to where you want by using contrary forces to move you. You have to be constantly aware of your surroundings. But if you want to get to some specific place at a specific time a gas engine is of course much more efficient, as long as you don’t factor in the hundreds of thousands of years of energy it took to lay down oil deposits. As everybody agrees, we will eventually run out of gas, so we will sooner or later have to use other forms of energy to get us around, and I guess that’s what this project is about.
The problems we encountered on his trip all stemmed from not being patient enough.
Not taking the time to tie down the tarpolin tightly enough, for instance which was completely irresponsible, although ignorance is no excuse. Lucky nobody got killed. This is why we have laws.
For instance, coming out of Kensington I saw flashing lights behind, I pulled over and the cop came up to the window and said my trailer was looking a bit wobbly, and that it probably wasn’t registered, now, was it?
I said I was only taking it to a barn not far away where I would be putting it away for the winter, at a cost of a hundred dollars, but worth it to get the damn thing off the road and didn’t I just know that it was a danger, and thanks for the concern. He said the wheel bearings looked shot and I might lose a wheel on the highway, and added that if I didn’t get it onto a flat bed to take it to wher I wanted, he’d impound both trailer and boat.
And I thought: Until next summer?
And on the way to put the boat away for the winter the boat on a trailer on a flatbed truck adding to my carbon debt, I devised a way to download the recycling back to the Government. Buy old beat-up trailers, put your trash in them, and drive around until police pull you over to impound them.