The plug in my 16′ boat lost its centre tonight while I was fishing. When I got to the dock I called my slip-mate Tony and he told me he had a spare on the rear deck of his boat, but it was too small, so in the dark while the water gushed in I had to take his plug apart and fit it with the rubber from mine. Then it went in and the pump began to suck air.

It’s been a long time since I have had to fight to keep a boat from sinking. I’d forgotten how much fun it is.

The failed plug’s mechanism had corroded off some months ago and I had substituted a piece of steel for the brass, and then tonight the metal parts disappeared, leaving a drinking-straw-sized hole.

Just for the record, the plastic envelope artificial worms come in makes a lousy emergency bilge plug. A plastic bag is somewhat better until it washes upstream beneath the floorboards.

From now on I’ll keep two fresh plugs of the correct size on the rear deck by the engine.

With some shame I have plagiarized the following article from the excellent Winnipeg Free Press because I’m pretty sure it’s important to all Canadian gearheads.


By: Ashley Prest
Posted: 05/6/2014

If you are planning to buy a used vehicle in the United States and bring it home to Canada, a new U.S. government rule means a bit more legwork. If you don’t do it, it could cost you a lot more money.

What is the Automated Export System?

The Automated Export System (AES) is a mandatory filing requirement by the U.S. Census Bureau of Electronic Export Information (EEI). The exporter or authorized agent must file the vehicle’s EEI information using AES.

From AES, the importer (or authorized agent) will receive an Internal Transaction Number (ITN) number in a confirmation message. This number must be presented to U.S. Customs to bring the vehicle into Canada. (

The rule requires electronic export information (EEI) to be filed for any used “self-propelled vehicles” — any automobile, truck, tractor, bus, motorcycle, motor home, agricultural machinery, construction equipment or any other kind of special-use machinery designed for running on land — through the U.S. Government’s automated export system (AES).

“Starting April 5, the exporter in the U.S. is required to file automated export system information. They have to report to the U.S. Census to tell them who they are, what they’re sending, whom it’s going to, in a nutshell,” said Trevor Franzmann, sales and marketing manager at A.D. Rutherford International, a Winnipeg customs broker who works with customers on both sides of the U.S./Canada border.

“This is absolutely making it more difficult to buy a vehicle in the U.S. and bring it across the border.”

Statistics Canada’s international accounts and trade division figures for 2013 showed there were 1,332 self-propelled vehicles imported to Manitoba alone from the U.S., for a total value of about $44 million. Across Canada in 2013, there were 18,441 vehicles brought in from the U.S., for a total value of more than $555 million.

Since April 5, self-propelled vehicles exported from the U.S. to Canada are no longer exempt from AES filing. The filing must take place 72 hours prior to crossing the border.

A fine up to $10,000, under the U.S. Census Bureau foreign trade regulations, can be levied for failing to submit the AES information.

“It’s excessive, to say the least. The bottom line is it (the vehicle purchased) is not going to be allowed in the country (Canada) if you don’t file your AES filing,” Franzmann said.

An “informed compliance” period is in place until Oct. 2, giving people time to figure out the new requirements. Franzmann said Canadian buyers of vehicles from the U.S. should start complying right now or risk having the vehicle held up at the border.

“People should also be aware that, even though there is informed compliance right now, U.S. Customs has the right to deny you entry if you don’t file the AES,” he said.

Once the AES filing has been completed, an internal transaction number (ITN) will be assigned. The importer or a customs broker needs to present that number to U.S. Customs and Border Protection to bring the vehicle across the border.

“Simply, it ends up being the Canadian (buyer’s) responsibility to make sure AES filing is done, because that vehicle is not going to get into the country (Canada) unless you are provided with an ITN, an internal transaction number,” Franzmann said.

A potential problem is that to complete the AES filing, the U.S. seller is required to have a federal tax identification number called an EIN. Private individuals in the U.S. might not have an EIN number but, under the new rule, the American seller will have to get one to comply with the AES filing.
That means taking the time to apply to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, and some private sellers don’t want to do that.

“What we’re telling our customers is find out if the seller has or will get an EIN number. If the seller won’t, don’t buy or get your money back,” Franzmann said.

Another possible point of confusion is which person is ultimately responsible for the AES filing.

Dale Kelly, chief of the U.S. foreign trade division, said that can vary with the location of the Canadian purchasing the vehicle.

“If the person from Canada (the importer) is actually in the U.S. at the time the goods are purchased or obtained for export, then that person/company/individual is considered the U.S. principal party in interest and responsible for the filing of the AES,” Kelly said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.

“Only if the merchandise was sold by a U.S. person or company and the Canadian person never came to the U.S., then that U.S. company would be considered the U.S. principal party in interest.”

Canadians importing a vehicle must be prepared to meet all requirements at the U.S. border in addition to paying fees and taxes. Canadian Border Services Agency spokeswoman Esme Bailey said Canadians should contact the CBSA before they plan to import a vehicle by calling 1-800-461-9999 and visiting the website
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 6, 2014 A6

Toad goes biblical on Bet.

September 21, 2014

This afternoon my wife stepped out the back door with a steaming plate of sockeye Alfredo only to have a tree toad fall ten feet off the roof and hit the heap of penne noodles dead centre. No damage to the toad from the hot airbag, apparently, though he took some time to contemplate his adventure before moving on.


Adventures in the auto shop

September 21, 2014


This month has produced a series of adventures in auto repair. First came my young friend Sean Izatt on a Friday night with three friends to install a new exhaust system on his Subaru. The removal and installation went surprisingly well, considering that nobody had told Sean that he would need bolts to hold the thing together. We improvised and everybody learned useful things.

In my case I learned that manifold bolts aren’t rusted into the head the way they used to be, and in fact aren’t all that tight on a modern engine. So one can change an exhaust system without access to an ox-acetylene torch.

This knowledge stood me in good stead when the family Lexus started to growl soon after Sean’s visit.

With the hoist in the auto shop I didn’t seriously consider taking the car to the dealership for the job. When the Toyota parts guy confided that most dealership customers opt for off-brand exhaust systems I decided to give Walker a try, and ordered online from

In three days the exhaust system with gasket kit turned up at Wellesley Island Building Supply, the local Kinek outlet. I bought connecting bolts and washers at Baker’s Feed Store. With HST the materials for the project came to $673 CDN.

But while the pipes were in transit, Charlie arrived to collect a BMW race car he had bought in Austin Texas and had shipped to Watertown. This meant endless signal light repairs to two trucks and a trailer, as well as wiring my Tacoma with a brake controller.

When the driver backed the 1991 BMW 318 off the auto carrier it was covered with the accumulated grime of a four thousand mile ride, but it was clear that this is a quality machine built with the best of components. The paint job wouldn’t be out of place at a car show. It’s a very basic car, completely without upholstery except for the padding on the racing seats. No heater or cup holders here. No power steering, either. Engine bay space has been given over to a large straight six engine from a larger car. An electric fan pinned to the radiator pulls air through from the front. But every component seems to be the best that money can buy.

Charlie commented: “It looks like a low-priced runner built for someone with a hundred thousand-dollar car he doesn’t want to take to the track.”

Tom Stutzman and his beloved Tundra towed the Texas-plated treasure home to the farm.

The car had come with a history of coolant issues, so Charlie added a new, all-metal water pump and a new thermostat. Things didn’t go well until on Wednesday morning he found a blown fuse for the electric fan hidden under the wiring harness. With the fan in operation the coolant would stay in the radiator and not erupt like Vesuvius. A track session again became feasible, though with a very short timeline, so Charlie scrambled to get the car, my Tacoma and the trailer ready for departure Thursday evening for a long weekend at Mosport with the Porsche Club of Canada.

Early reports indicate that the BMW is a strong car, though it’s hard work to drive at Mosport without power steering.

The Geezer’s Gaze

September 10, 2014

For three days this past week I have subjected my sun-damaged face to a chemical peel with a new, jaw-droppingly expensive product called Picato. Then yesterday I emerged into the light of day.

All went well until my wife and I entered Costco in Kingston. Most people I had met to that point had basically ignored me or met my eyes and passed on. But several men of about my age stared. Right at me, eye contact and all, trying to figure out what was wrong with my face. The jarring disparity between their behaviour and that of other people I encountered left me wondering: were they staring because they were identifying with my plight or glorying in my apparent illness? Maybe they were also worried about their faces and bodies deteriorating. Or maybe they just don’t give a damn any more, and stare if they want to stare.

This was my first encounter with what feminists used to call the male gaze. It wasn’t pretty. I’d have to agree with their accusations of entitlement and objectivization. My few square inches of reddened skin really didn’t deserve to be viewed as an ugly bit of landscape, but that’s how I felt after these brief encounters.

In sharp contrast to the geezer gaze was that of younger women. They had no reaction beyond polite eye contact. At first I thought they were remarkably controlled and kind, but as I think about it, maybe they didn’t see beyond the gray hair and beard. Maybe I have moved into that age group where I am now invisible to pre-menopausal women.

What if the fellow geezers were actually the kind ones? At least they acknowledged my existence.

Anyway, I have discovered a new narcotic: Grey’s Anatomy, Seasons 1-3. Those episodes were better than codeine at making time pass in a smooth, mildly pleasurable manner. The shows are of consistent quality, just clever enough to hold one’s attention, occupy 42 minutes, and provide the kind of emotional “ups” Huxley raved about in his drug-addled Brave New World.

Grey’s is available for download in almost unlimited quantities as well, so after surviving two trans-continental flights on it, I went on a 3-day Grey’s holiday in bed away from light, without glasses, while the Picata chewed away at the sun spots. Grey’s Anatomy, streamed online without commercials, is Huxley’s Soma.

DSCN0677Sockeye fishing is well worth doing, though the learning curve is steep.

The sport is conducted on sandbars and from anchored boats when the fish run up the river in enormous numbers. Sockeye are fine fighting fish, prone to using the fast current for leverage, and bursting into unpredictable leaps when they see shore approaching.

Of course the water is too murky to see anything, so one must cast on the assumption that the river is full of the things. Sometimes it is; most times it isn’t, so fishermen tend to herd into areas where others are catching fish.

After a placid morning with a single sockeye, my beginner’s luck fish, we got wind of a hotspot and crowded onto a sandbar eroded by what seemed a powerful current. Chad worked hard to beach the 20′ jet boat and keep it from dragging the 60 pound anchor and chain right back into the river.

But the fish were there, and fishermen on all sides of us were hauling them in. Jim and Molly fished from the boat while Jamie and I preferred the coarse gravel of the bar. We started getting hits, and some came to the boat, to be netted, bled, and put on a stringer to keep them fresh in the cold water.

All afternoon we made long casts across fast, shallow water with a 4 oz sinker to anchor the hook, followed by a little, floating plastic egg.

Chad taught us to bounce the sinker down the current, with 12′ of mono leader behind it before the hook, feeling for anything that isn’t rock. Strike instantly.

The fish get hooked around the mouth, and so they call it flossing, or bottom bouncing. Fights are impressive.

The strenuous part of the fishing, though, is cranking in the heavy sinker back against the strong current. It’s like landing a fish each time you retrieve.

I grilled two fillets for supper. Words fail to describe the eating quality of this fish.

UPDATE: 26 August, 2014

Day two of sockeye fishing began quickly with a series of hits which had Curtis, our guide of the day, sprinting up and down the sandbar with a large net to land fish. We kept him busy.

I asked him to rig my favourite bait-casting reel, an old Shimano Calcutta, in lieu of the spinning reel he provided. Things improved dramatically after that, though an occasional backlash would send the 4 ounce sinker and accompanying tackle halfway up the nearest mountain.

But I averaged two good fish per backlash, and I didn’t complain when he missed a particularly fine sockeye at the net. It just became another of my many remote releases.

The problem with the spinning reel was that everything was out of whack. My body just wasn’t designed to crank that thing. Tony told me it was because I was turning the handle with my right hand and making my left do all of the strength work. He may be right, but my skeleton had nothing good to say about the series of spinning reels which passed through my hands Monday.

I had managed the odd backlash with the spinning reel, too.

This morning the more experienced fishermen made good use of the wave of fish passing the bar and we filled our limits quickly. Then we lazed in the sun while the inexperienced member of our party struggled to find a sockeye, any sockeye, so that we could finish up and go chinook fishing.

Chinooks were scarce today, so we came in early to sort out the fish packaging for one group in our party. Before we could find our beds, Tony, Sean, Sharon and I cleaned, packaged and froze twenty-three pristine sockeye salmon which ranged from five to nine pounds. They are beautiful fish.

Three years ago a day of sturgeon fishing on the Fraser River with guide Dean Werk was doomed to failure because I was in the boat. Two large fish nearly jumped aboard, but none would take a hook. The variable in the unaccustomed rout of a lucky guide was my presence on the boat and I quickly earned the title “Jinx.”

Today for a trip up into big sturgeon country in the Fraser River Canyon I presented my ultimate gift to the Izatt Family: I boarded a different boat. So of course Dean’s boat had a great day with all crew catching fish and one tagging an eight foot, three inch monster. I filmed from afar.

Chad’s boat produced one fine fish and a smaller sturgeon, and then my turn at the stern came up. The rods grew still. Time passed. A nibble. The fish failed to return. Another nibble came to nothing. Our guide Chad hooked a fish and handed me the rod, but the fish released itself in mid-transfer. I tried to hook a nibbler myself but it dropped the bait. And so on.

The Jinx had found me, so I resolved to experiment with its effects. Because the fish were active this did not take long. I waited well back from the rods until Chad had set the next hook and said, “Rod!” The line went slack the instant the guide incanted my name. Twice more a sturgeon dropped Chad’s bait as I stood back, testing the power of the jinx.

Meanwhile Dean’s crew was waiting around for the eight foot, 420 pound sturgeon on Ivan’s line to give up. Jim and I decided that the jinx had more than done its work today, so we pulled up our lines to enjoy the scenic return trip without interruption.

We even noticed a group panning for gold along one sandy stretch. It’s a magnificent river.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.