Due to somewhat bungled plans and a cheap flight available to Halifax, I randomly decided to go to the island for a week by myself. Even though the bones of the cabin were pretty much finished by the last time I left, it wasn't fully bug or water proof, so I was eager to go fix those problems.
I had stayed on the island twice by myself, both times because other people's flights left one night, and mine left the next morning. Each time it was less than twenty-four hours and not all that fun because I mostly spent time cleaning up and putting things away. I wasn't sure if I'd like going to the island myself or not, but there was work to be done and it was worth finding out.
I drove the boat over and stepped off on the dock. I was surprised at how quiet it was, because usually we're all talking when we first get there. One of the first things I do whenever I go is just check on things. I see what plants are growing, whether water has gotten into any of the structures, how the dock is holding up, etc. So I walked the trails myself with nothing in the background but birds chirping.
I almost immediately loved being there. We're never at a loss for space, but it's very luxurious to have a whole island to yourself. At first I planned on working immediately, but then I thought that since it was an unplanned trip and I was on my own schedule, I should just do whatever I wanted. So I fired up our little gasoline burner, made some tea, and sat in the yurt for a couple hours just drinking tea and listening to the water and birds.
The previous time I was at the island, I tried to repair the clear skylight at the top of the yurt. It had leaked since we got there, and every time I tried to caulk it, it would still leak. Usually it wouldn't rain after I tried to fix it, so we'd need to wait until the next trip to see if there was any water damage. The last attempt was the most serious — I took it off completely, stripped the old caulk, sanded it to rough it up, and used a flexible sealant. And it worked! For the first time ever, there was no sign of water in the yurt.
One of the things I found wrong on my initial survey was that the homewrap was coming off my cabin and flapping in the wind. It would only get worse, and the flapping would make it hard to sleep, so I decided to fix it first. I was a little scared to use the ladder because the ground is uneven around the cabin and if I fell there would be no one to help me. I took my time and put some boards over the wrap to anchor it down. I didn't have the best nails or screws for the job, but I did an okay job.
I hauled the mattress I had ordered up the hill to my cabin and set it up on the ground. For the first time ever, I slept in a real bed (albeit in a sleeping bag) on the island. It was only the second night I ever slept in my cabin. Before I fell asleep I looked out the big windows at the stars and the airplanes heading to Europe.
The next morning I woke up and opened my door and was shocked at what I saw. One of the bald eagles that lives on the island was sitting on a branch directly in front of me, only fifty feet away. I've seen the eagle a lot, but never so close. From such a short distance it was very impressive how big he was. As I fumbled to get my phone, he casually took off and flew away. So you'll have to just believe me on that one.
I spent most of that day running around trying to get a pneumatic staple gun to put screens up over the rafters to prevent bugs from getting in. A mosquito had woken me up a few times the night before, and a bee was flying around when I woke up in the morning. Home depot was out of the staple gun I really wanted, and did not sell staples for the other one they had. That sounds crazy, but two employees looked around and verified that they don't ever stock them. I found a staple gun and staples at another store and had dinner, but when I got back I realized that even though I bought a compressor and tool from the same company, there was one adapter I still needed to connect them.
The next day I got the adapter and did the screens. It was a little harder than I expected, mainly because I had to be at the top of a 20 foot ladder I had to move several times, but it felt great to finally have a bug-proof cabin.
My next big project was to raise up part of the floor so that it would be even with the tatami mats that will cover the rest of the floor. For the frame I used all of the extra 2x4 pieces that were laying around, so the whole thing looks janky under the plywood, but now I don't have piles of scrap wood laying around. Just as I was about to put the plywood over it, I thought that I should run wires underneath, so I bought a spool of wire and started doing that.
I also spent an hour or so on the phone calling up the city and recycling centers. Right now we have no good way to dispose of trash on the island. We burn cardboard and throw compost in the woods, but we have no way to get rid of plastic. Usually we try to find a dumpster to sneakily dump it in, leave it in the rental car, or toss it at the gas station. But last time I got yelled at for throwing away three bags at the gas station, so I want a permanent solution. No dice, though. The city suggested we drive over an hour to a public dump, and none of the recycling centers would take household waste.
On my last day on the island I had three coaching calls scheduled. I woke up early to drive to IKEA, which had its grand opening that morning. I figured it may not be mobbed as Halifax is relatively small and it doesn't seem like a hyper-consumerized population. I really wanted to get a desk and chair for the calls, as well as a bed frame so that my mattress wasn't just sitting on the ground. As soon as I reached the parking lot I did a U-turn. It was totally mobbed and had tons of people directing traffic.
I was a little bit nervous about cell signal for the calls, but the quality was perfect for all three. I loved pacing around the cabin on my phone, looking out at the ocean while we worked through plans and challenges. It might actually be my favorite place to do coaching calls.
For the most part I had the same routine every day. I'd wake up and walk to the main yurt to have tea. It's only a 3-4 minute walk away, but it's fun having my first experience of the day be walking in the woods. The yurt is a really pleasant place to be, because it's so close to the water that you can hear all of the little ripples. It's also huge, so it's a nice big open space. Next I'd do emails and little internet things. We get good signal at the island. Then I'd do as much physical work as I could, usually having to stop once to go out and buy more supplies, at which point I'd eat a big meal in a restaurant. From there I'd go back to the island, finish up what I could, make some sandwiches for dinner, and do crosswords and go to sleep.
I actually loved being on the island solo, and would do it again in a heartbeat. That surprised me, since I don't really love traveling by myself. It's more fun with friends, of course, but being there alone is different enough that it's like comparing apples to oranges.
Leaving was a bit of an adventure, though. As I went to sleep for the last time, the wind was much higher than it had been any other night. I woke up with my alarm after only 3.5 hours of sleep to find that there was a lightning storm with tons of wind. And it was still pitch black, save for the lightning. I packed up my stuff and walked the trail to the dock, and only then noticed that it was so foggy I couldn't see twenty feet ahead.
With no real other choice, I set out in the choppy waters, aiming the boat at where I thought the mainland dock was. There are some rocky outcroppings in between that are very easy to avoid when it's bright out, but are a little scary when you can't see. Luckily I made it back with no problems and was happy to be in the rental car.
I'll be back up at the island with some friends in only two weeks, but I'm happy to have made a little more progress in the meantime, and to have experienced being there alone. Hopefully I can get the sides of the cabin shingled up for the winter!
Photos are all pretty self explanatory. The big rock one is the first cool rock we found on the island and is one of my favorite spots. It's about eight feet tall.
I enjoy the blog! By throwing compost in the woods, you might be providing a food source for rats, mice and other pests, creating a future problem for yourselves and upsetting the balance between wild rodent and bird populations. (An increased rodent population will pose an increased threat to birds when the compost is not available.) It might be worth purchasing a rodent-proof compost bin, or burying your compost.
Enjoy your life, Tynan. At present, I can't even afford a train ticket to my neighboring state. Feeling jealous of you. LOL!
Waw, brought some peace in my day even by reading it. You did a great thing by heading their solo. Challenging, but found out it was a nice experience and will get better every next time when you're prepared for the little things that might go wrong :)
Thanks for sharing.
Awesome post, it sounds like the Island is an amazing place to spend time. I'm not sure how far your boat ride is, but it might be worth getting Navionics or a similar app for navigation in low-vis situations.
I'm going to start writing a little wrap-up about the island every year, partly because I want to chronicle it for my own reading later, but also because there's been a lot of general interest in the island.
If you're late to the party, nine friends and I bought an inexpensive island off the coast of Halifax in 2013. It was untouched forest when we bought it, but we have now built trails as well as structures, the only significant one being a 30' diameter yurt.
This year we got two trips in. The first was a massive trip with twelve different people coming and going, averaging eight to ten at any given time. Five of the owners came on that trip as well as seven guests.
Having so many people here at once was a feat in and of itself. I think the maximum we'd had before was four. But this is the first year that the yurt was up, as we finished it at the tail end of the preceding summer, so we had plenty of space for everyone.
There was a pretty ferocious storm a couple days ago in Hong Kong that damaged some of the infrastructure up on Mount Davis. The internet was down due to a lightning strike and water went off for a while. That's fine, yesterday I went to down to HK Island and worked from Pacific Coffee. I had to hurry to grab the shuttle down the mountain and didn't get my morning walk/run in, so I went around 11PM when I came back until I found a well lit place to jog back and forth on the mountain, and I came back at midnight.
I'm sweaty, exhausted, and I think - oh, I hope the water's back on... I should've checked...
I went to the shower, turned the nob, and... the water started. Good.
But no hot water for some reason. And it was quite cold.
At first I flinch and tense up a little bit as I step into the water, and then I think - why should I flinch? Mind over matter. This will be cold,. and I'll enjoy it anyways.