We were all excited about this most recent island trip. Brian, Elliot, and I would be flying together from Tokyo directly to Halifax, and would be joined there for a few days by Todd, and then by Ben for a couple days afterwards. It was to be the first island trip with no critical imminent deadlines. We would work and do projects, but at our own pace.
Of course, if we wanted to be warm, we'd need to prioritize the woodstove. This was our most off-season trip, and temperatures were scheduled to get down into the thirties. In reality, they hit around twenty degrees.
As soon as we landed, we went to pick up the rental car. The agent apologized that they had no full-sized cars, and that we'd have to take a minivan. All of us appreciate the robust utility of such a large vehicle, so we were excited about the swap. That excitement grew when we realized that every seat was heated.
We drove away from the airport, looking up where we could buy a wood stove on the way. We got there right before it closed, but managed to completely fill the minivan with the stove and a very complicated series of stovepipes.
We got to the island, but the boat throttle had seized. That's the sort of thing that would be a show-stopper for me, but it was no problem for our friend/neighbor Hughie, who fixed it with a hammer, screwdriver, and some WD-40.
The yurt had held up pretty well over the past couple months, especially considering that we rushed some of the final steps before leaving the previous trip. A little water had seeped in, and one of the windows had tipped over and cracked, but it was otherwise perfect.
Our first task was to install the windows, which was very exciting. The yurt is on a 6 foot tall platform, so the views are really fantastic. They also let in several times more light than the clear dome at the top, especially with the low winter sun.
The next day we installed the wood stove. We had gotten some incompatible pieces of pipe, so it took us until the very end of the day to get it finished. We bought a relatively small stove, and so were relieved to find that it actually warmed the place up nicely. It takes a while, but even in freezing temperatures, the yurt can get up to 70-80 degrees.
Everyone seems to gravitate to their own particular island chore, maybe because there's not much to do there besides work. Nick likes to walk around the island and find trash, Ben likes to catch clams, Elliot likes to use the clippers to remove trees. Todd was visiting for the first time, and he really took to stump removal.
We've cut a bunch of beautiful trails, but until this trip they were plagued with tons of tiny stumps that made them annoying to work in the dark. Even after the rest of us were keeping warm in the yurt, Todd was out there whacking away at stumps.
We went into town the next day to drop Todd off at the airport and pick up Ben. It seemed like everyone we'd run into would bring up "the rain" that was supposed to fall the next day. We didn't think much of it, but we probably should have.
The next morning we woke up to high winds and nearly horizontal rain. It turns out a terrible hurricane from western Mexico had somehow made its way all the way up the eat coast of North America. Unable to do anything outdoors, and not too excited about our indoor project of installing extra support rafters, we decided to head into Halifax for the day.
We took the five minute hike to the boat mooring spot, but I didn't immediately see the boat. I figured that the wind must have blown it a bit, so I looked around the big rock. Still no boat. No rope, either. The boat was gone.
It took everyone else a minute to scramble down and realize that I wasn't joking. Then Elliot found the rope-- it was angled sharply down into the water and was taut. Our boat had sunk.
There was another time when I had tied up the boat poorly and some waves got over the back edge of it. That caused it to dip lower and take on more water, slowly sinking. We got back soon enough to bail it, but I figured the same had happened this time. We'd have to wait for low tide to see what had happened.
With no other options, we focused on the rafters. They ended up not being too bad to install, so we were partially glad we sunk the boat. At least now we'd have a strong enough roof for the winter snow.
Low tide finally came around in the afternoon, and we took an optimistic trip to the shore. The boat was half exposed, so we waded in with our tall rubber boats and startup lugging the boat out. Waves splashed water into our boots, which made caution pointless. Soon we were up to our waists in the winter Atlantic.
We got the boat most of the way onto the shore, and I noticed a black spot on the hull. I thought that it was seaweed at first, but I was wrong. It was a huge hole in the hull. The boat was done. Even worse, the motor wasn't even attached anymore. It was still on the sea floor.
With our mainland neighbors out of town and a crazy storm, we were shipwrecked.
Luckily we had enough food to not really panic. A few cans of soup, the packaged desserts I save from airplane meals just in case I get really hungry, and some fruit. We had plenty of dry firewood and plenty of water. Being shipwrecked would be pretty fun.
We used the time to do a lot of the rafters and to sit by the fire. It felt cozy being warm inside our first structure while the weather outside was extremely inhospitable.
The next morning our Neighbors' friend came to pick us up. He took Brian and Ben to the shore and left Elliot and I. Ben had to fly out, Brian was going to buy a boat, and there was still work to do on the island. We have a one-person kayak, a wetsuit, and a life jacket, so you can imagine what my backup plan to get Ben to the airport was.
While they were gone, we built a staircase and began construction on a simple outhouse. Many hours later, Brian returned with our sweet new boat, a considerable upgrade from our sturdy but kludgy old one.
It was sunny and dry that day, so we finished waterproofing the yurt. Brian went nuts on the windows and I climbed to the roof to recaulk the dome. We have no way to know exactly how waterproof it will be, but we're pretty optimistic.
I never expected that I could legitimately say that I've been shipwrecked or marooned, but it happened. It was the time in which the island most felt like an island. The water surrounding us became a defining feature, rather than something nice to look at.
We've had the island for two years now. It's finally at the point where it's comfortable to stay there. We have heat, warm sleeping bags, a water dispenser, and the beginnings of an outhouse. There have been no disputes amongst the island owners, and all but two of us have had the chance to visit the island. Despite our inevitable and comical setbacks, it feels like it's been a complete success, and has exceeded all expectations.
Photos are by Elliot, Todd, and Brian.
As I write this, I am hunched over my laptop, which is held at an awkward angle because of the steering wheel in front of me. Carpal tunnel syndrome is imminent. Out of the window to my left, if it wasn't so foggy and dark, I'd be able to see our island. This island trip has not gone according to plan.
I had the not-so-genius-in-retrospect idea of driving through the night to Nova Scotia. I argued that we could each drive three hours or so, sleep six, and we'd arrive in the morning ready to tackle the day. That's not how things turned out, though.
From Boston, I drove us to the Canadian border. Exhausted, I turned the reins over to Ben. Ben continued my proud tradition of maintaining around 100mph (great roads, no cops), which came to an abrupt end a couple hours into his shift when he hit the biggest pothole I've ever seen. At 100mph. The tire popped and was completely shredded by the time we came to a stop in the shoulder.
Our rental vehicle, a faux-luxury Buick Verona, which we had been upgraded to, does have a spare, but it's a tiny one that can only go 50mph. That sounds like a bad thing, and is indeed bad in many cases, but there turned out to be a silver lining. Brian took over the driving, set the cruise control to 50mph, and eventually fell asleep at the wheel. I woke up as our car was cruise-control guided into the median ditch.
As the day of departure arrived, it was just as eventful as the days preceding this trip to Maine. Getting the boat prepared, and the man prepared, was as every bit as challenging of a task that I thought it would be. And then some.
Jason was due to depart this same morning in his Eastward Ho "Low Compression" which interestingly enough, he had found years ago in a field with a tree growing out of it after having sunk. Amazingly to his credit, he had managed to rebuild it into a go-anywhere boat. He had made this trip last year, and like me was scrambling to finish all of his projects before doing it again.
Now, Jason usually wakes up around 4:30-5:00am, so when 9:00 came and went on the morning of the trip, I knew something was up. Sure enough he was asked the night before to deliver a big Freedom yacht from Cove Haven in Barrington to the Warren River. This took a few hours and added to the pit surely growing in both of our stomachs. You see it was already July 29th, and since we had intended on leaving around the 10th; we were anxious to get going. Boat projects and delays had set us back and I think we both got a little tired of trying to answer the question "so when you leaving?"
Finally, about 11:30am the diesels grumbled to life, and we headed out of the Warren River, a place that had become home.