Following the Curve of Time: The Legendary M. Wylie Blanchet.
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
John Abbott is a professor of history at Laurentian University’s Algoma University College. He is the co-author of The Border at Sault Ste Marie and The History of Fort St. Joseph.
Few who read M. Wylie (Capi) Blanchet’s The Curve of Time fail to be intrigued by the title, with its powerful spatial, temporal, and psychological implications, or moved by the story of a young, widowed mother of five who, between 1928 and 1937, embarked each summer on voyages that took her and her children from the tip of the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island as far as the truly dangerous waters beyond Desolation Sound. The six, and a large dog, lived for months at a time aboard the Caprice, a lightly constructed, narrow-beam, 7.6-metre cabin cruiser, replete with canvas cockpit curtains and powered by a Kermath gasoline engine. She and her late husband had found the Caprice, holed and derelict, dragged ashore after several years of resting on the bottom.
Capi, herself, patiently rebuilt the badly corroded engine and electrical system. Overfalls, riptides, impenetrable fogs, dangerous seas, furious winds, the most basic navigational instruments and aids, no refrigeration, little storage and sleeping space, scattered settlements and few re-provisioning points, bears and cougars: all these challenges she and her crew of children encountered and managed. But what for most writers would constitute the material for a good adventure story was, by the alchemy of Capi Blanchet’s literary imagination, distilled without pretension (or perhaps comprehension) into an allegory. Little wonder that her children, in their adult years dismissed the account as mostly bunk.
The story, however, left heads buzzing with questions that the reclusive Capi Blanchet neither lived long enough, nor had the inclination, to answer. Where had she come from? What combination of nature and nurture shaped her personality and character? Who was her husband and what was their life like together? Why had she decided to home-school and boat-school her children, and what happened to Capi and the children after the voyages to the north ceased about 1937? Cathy Converse’s superb biography supplies as many of the answers as we are ever likely to receive. Highly recommended.