Tag Archives: Fraser River

Stormy nights, homelessness, thievery and an orange dress in Vancouver…

Anna Smith in her orange dress in much happier times – back in 2020

Here’s an update on the disaster faced by Anna (aka Annie) Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, whose 33-feet long boat and home of 20 years sank in Vancouver just before Christmas… 

I last blogged about this three weeks ago. 

The sinking happened in the early hours and extremely dangerous conditions forced her to evacuate immediately, leaving almost everything – even her shoes – behind.

As a vulnerable ‘senior’, she faced serious health risks by being homeless and feared being preyed upon or becoming a victim of crime. With good reason, as it turned out…

Anna writes an update:


Things have taken a turn for the worse since your last blog. My boat was completely crushed and smashed to pieces when it was rammed up on the mud bank with extreme force. This completely destroyed almost all my belongings on board and left a trail of debris in the water.  

I also had to deal with constant theft and vandalism. All my tools were taken, along with many parts that had considerable resale value such as the twin engines, propellers and steering wheel.     

Anna searching through the mud at 4.00am in the morning…

I did my best to recover some of my belongings from the wreck, by searching through the mud-covered debris at low tide (which happens around 4.00am in the morning) but this has been especially dangerous because there are hazards such as broken glass, leaking gasoline and nails lying in the mud.

I was able to recover a few precious photos, drawings and journals and some very muddy clothing, including the beautiful long orange dress which I wore in a fashion show at The Vancouver Art Gallery last year. (Blogged about HERE.)

Ongoing donations from a crowdfunding page arranged by a friend have been extremely helpful as I continue clean up and search for long-term housing. The contributions have been keeping me and my family off the streets and allowed us to stay at a small, accessible hotel near the boat. (Anna has 3 disabled family members who depend on her for support.)

With the donated money, I also bought rubber boots, protective equipment, tarps, waterproof overalls, gloves, safety supplies, warning signage, caution tape, flashlights, large rubber totes, cleaning and other supplies necessary for the situation. But, frustratingly, even these supplies were repeatedly pilfered and vandalized.

Anna in the storage locker with her orange dress and the little left of her belongings collected during the last 20 years.

A few trusted friends have been assisting me in safely organizing, sorting, documenting, washing, transporting and moving things to a storage unit – again thanks to the crowdfunding donations.  

I am on medical leave of absence from my job as a peer support worker at WISH Drop In Center Society, (a safe space for street based sex workers on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side). The crowdfunding has really helped to put food on my table during this incredibly trying experience and I am truly grateful. It’s not just the money that helps. Knowing that so many people care is amazing and is helping us get through this tough time and gives us hope.


At the time of posting this blog, the crowdfunding page has had $3,100 donated of a $5,000 target.

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The sinking of a boat in 2020 and the lesbian attack on Miss Canada in 1975

Anna Smith, uncowed by the Fraser River

My last posting here was about Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent. 

Just before Christmas, her boat – her home for the last 20 years – and all her belongings – were destroyed on the Fraser River in British Columbia – Vancouver to you and me.

The boat was destroyed partly because of sexism (as mentioned in my Christmas Day blog) but – whatever – there is currently a crowdfunder to put Anna back on her feet again. In the meantime, she is living, thanks to friends, at the Queen’s Hotel – a former strip club which stands a few blocks away from where her boat used to float.

Yesterday, she updated me on her situation and sent me a photo of herself, holding a turkey enclosed in an infant’s snowsuit.

She wrote:


Anna holding a turkey in a snowsuit

The situation is somewhat static here. The boat is still beached at low tide. Everything is pretty much shut down until Monday, as New Year’s Day was just before the weekend. 

I am still at The Queen’s Hotel in New Westminster. I used to work here for the previous owners, in the coffee shop, when the place was more a motel, and run by a quirky Croation family. 

I used to secretly call it Fawlty Sewers. 

It is now completely renovated. There is a motorcycle in the lobby for people who want to take selfies of themselves with it.

In its glory days, they had a terrific diner-style menu, featuring fresh home made pies every morning… and their famous “Skookum burger”.

Skookum is jargon word originating from the (First Nations) Chinook Language and it is in popular use here, It is one of the few words that made it into working class English-speaking vocabulary here – possibly via fishery workers.

(Skookum means impressive, exceptional or impressively strong.)

In the list of people who have donated to the crowdfunder for my boat disaster I was surprised to see the name of one lady… She is one of my former room mates when I was 18 and living in a house full of radical lesbian feminists. 

My roomate Adrienne started a lesbian courier company to deliver Chinese food for the two biggest Chinese restaurants in downtown Toronto.

The women in the lesbian house (including me – I was the youngest) ‘invaded’ the Miss Canada Pageant in November 1975 (which the U.N. had declared International Year of the Woman).

I guess it would be considered a terrorist act today.

Terry Lynne Meyer, winner of Miss Canada 1975

About twelve of us stormed into the television studio and completely disrupted the pageant which had an audience of a couple hundred people and was being broadcast live across the nation.

We were wrestled from the stage (in front of a row of twelve screaming and sobbing beauty queens) and dragged by our legs out of there.

There were photos of our leader Adrienne, raising her fist in the air, her statuesque blonde girlfriend Helen gazing at her in ecstacy, with the row of shocked beauty queens wearing identical long gowns in the background, looking on in horror, gasping, hands to their mouths…

It was quite a radical act for the time, but most of the participants just got on with their lives after that, so it wasn’t properly recorded in history books… it was before there was ‘Women’s Studies’ in universities. 

I have tried looking for a tape of it, unsucessfully, on YouTube… I think the TV station may have excised it or destroyed it.

I did find a video of the pageant continuing  to its finale, all sign of lesbian interference edited out…

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“Dear God, sorry I haven’t written to you in a while…” it said in the guestbook

Logs_FraserRiver_VancouverAs a follow-on to yesterday’s piece from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith, who lives on a boat near Vancouver… overnight, she sent me this.


In a Catholic Chapel at an institution that I visited recently, there was a notebook, like a guestbook, where people had written letters directly to God.

So I leafed through it.

Most were short and unhappy requests for help with medical problems, but I was struck by one friendly letter which began:

Dear God, sorry I haven’t written to you in a while…

I felt the vague urge to write something in it too – any kind of book with individual entries is tempting – but I stopped myself.

Right now, I am sitting in a chair on a deck at the tip of Lulu Island, where the Fraser River splits into three channels. I can see powerboats racing around and the river is strewn with logs from the freshet.

This is the worst time of year for drownings,

Last week one man was found dead after he crashed a jet-ski and another man vanished while swimming with a group around the foundation of a bridge.

The north arm of the Fraser River is the skinniest and maybe the spookiest. In the background is Tree Island, a burial ground.

A few nights ago in the dark, near my boat, I found a life ring (a lifebuoy, in British English) in the water, with something unidentifiable stuck in the middle. I noticed it was attached by a rope to something. I lifted it out of the water and then quickly dropped it back with a splash. I thought: It can wait until morning.

The next day I saw what it was.

One of my neighbours had put a potted lavender plant in the middle of the life ring.

“It will never grow,” said another neighbour. “Salt water.”

The best-known person I heard of dying in the Fraser River was the famed Manx landscape painter Toni Onley, who crashed his amphibious plane into it in 2004.

I was on my boat when I heard the news. I like his work.

His body was found three months after his plane crashed and I had kept wondering if it might float past. I was rather hoping it might, just so he would not be lost forever. They found him when a small boat operator noticed his body floating in a log boom, about four kilometres downstream from where his plane crashed.

He had crashed another plane on top of a glacier a few years earlier, landing on top of a crevasse and he had written an interesting description of that experience.

Just before he died, he had been practising takeoffs and landings on the river, east of Vancouver.

He had been born in Douglas, on the Isle of Man, in 1928. He moved to Canada in 1948.

In 1955, he won an award at the Western Ontario annual show of young artists. Later, he exhibited at the Royal Canadian Academy and the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colours. His collage paintings won critical recognition and he used a Royal Canadian Academy award to fund further study in England. His award-winning painting Polar No. 1 was presented to the Tate Gallery in London for a 1963 exhibition.

When I first went to England, the thing I thought was the most fascinating was not the music or fashion or comedy. It was the plastic pudding or jello molds (jelly moulds, in British English) shaped like a sort of realistic rabbit that you could buy at Woolworths. I made crème caramel in them and red raspberry jelly rabbits.

One time, I went on a picnic in Epping Forest with John Hegley and some other comedians. I brought one of the jelly rabbits with me but we were chased out of our picnic spot by an aggressive herd of cattle.

I have a Victorian book about the regulations in Epping Forest. At that time, both photography and  dancing were not allowed in the park.

I used the jelly rabbits in my comedy act and mailed the molds to my friends in Canada. I could not understand how something so beautiful, fun and inexpensive wasn’t all over the world. I think my English friends were puzzled that I liked those molds so much.

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