State of the Island 2016

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.

The first trip was a hurricane of productivity. We split into two teams so that we could do two projects at once, and managed to complete a dock, an outhouse, a giant loft/wall structure in the yurt, and an outdoor shower. The island went from habitable to comfortable in no time flat.

People worked extremely hard, including most of the guests who have no vested interest in the island, and we couldn’t have made nearly as much progress if it wasn’t for all of the guests and owners that came for the trip. It was also the most fun trip ever, though maybe a little intense as a lot of the planning and direction fell on my shoulders.

Particularly enjoyable for me was to see some of the different owners who didn’t really know each other get to meet, become friends, and do projects together. Everyone got along really well and helped things run smoothly.

The second trip was just me and Brian, the other owner who likes to get really involved in island projects. The other owners were too busy to come and we didn’t invite guests, as we wanted to have a more relaxed trip. Of course, both of us love the island because of the opportunities to do projects, so we worked just about the whole time.

We wired up some batteries and a charger that connects to the generator, lights, as well as USB and 12V sockets. We painted the kitchen area with chalkboard paint and installed a split level counter, 10 feet of counter-height and 6 feet of desk height (from which I’m now typing this). We cleared a few trees, made a few repairs, and got everything ready for winter.

Of particular note on this trip was our failed attempt to tow our floating dock with the boat which left us stranded in the middle of the harbor. I finally realized that you can counter-steer like a trailer which got us close enough to the island that we could jump in and pull the dock to shore and around the island. Not the most pleasant thing to do in the North Atlantic in late October.

The improvements that we have made have contributed to a shift in what the island is. It used to be a fun place to work, but now it’s a fun place to be. Granted we still work almost all of the time, but the lulls in between the projects are now spent in front of a woodstove in a nice big yurt. It used to be that after a week at the island I desperately needed a shower and a good night’s sleep. Now I can take a hot outdoor shower and some of the best sleep I get is out here, thanks to the sound of the ocean and not having a ton to do after dark.

One of the high points of the island for me is the exposure to a completely different way of life. We check tide charts to plan our days. I walk around the woods looking for birds. We have to haul our own water and gasoline and conserve our resources. Sometimes we fish or dig for clams. We’re in a tiny little community and we’ve gotten to know a lot of folks here. Even after months away they joke with us when we come to their restaurants and ask how the island is doing.

I also love the animals, which we saw a lot of this year. While boating around the harbor we saw about a dozen seals that swam around us, at a distance, curiously. We heard an owl on the island last night. I didn’t see them this trip, but last trip we had a lot of sightings of the bald eagle family that lives on our island. This time there were a bunch of chickadees that kept landing really close to us. Seeing so many animals all the time makes me really aware of how few I see in my normal life.

I feel very fortunate to get to spend time in both urban and rural extremes throughout the year, and I think it gives me a lot of perspective that I didn’t have before.

So that’s where the island is at now. Most of the necessities are taken care of, we’ve avoided major catastrophes while succumbing to just about every minor one, and it’s become an excellent venue to spend time with friends and form new friendships. I’m extremely grateful to all of the other owners of the island who made it possible, to the guests who came and helped us build, and to our neighbors, without whom we may currently be lost at sea.


Top photo is the shore on a calm morning. I’m surprised the ocean can be so still. Second photo is the current state of the Yurt. You can see the counters we just finished. Last one is the woods. The trees are so dense that it’s really hard to hike around there.

Currently in Vegas, SF, then back to Budapest. Trying to stick to places in which I have a home base!


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