Hudson Bay Expedition – Away We Go

It's time to go. 

All the same, I keep finding small excuses to stay. I need more fuel. 
Have to edit that video. Might need some more groceries. Facebook 
beckons. It's time for lunch/coffee/a nap.

With the wind and fog, I had an excuse. But the easterlies have gone and 
the fog is only an inconvenience, not a hazard in the absence of other 
boat traffic. 

I treat for a final pizza party at the lodge, and for my last night 
Cathy= has made not one but two pies. I take a slice of blueberry, and 
she sneaks me some lemon meringue on my way out the door. 

I've stowed all 106 gallons of fuel, the water tank's filled, and 
500 dollars Canadian fresh from the ATM bulge in my wallet. Page walks 
me to the dock, she hands me a ziplock bag full of bear bangers as a 
going-away present. The zodiac hasn't drifted off on the tide, the 
outboard fires up and I motor slowly out to the C-Dory. 

With everything stowed, I pull up the anchor and feel a pang of loss 
waving goodbye to my friends on the dock, cutting the last strings to 
the world I know. 

It all comes back to me quickly. The outboard's rumble, the slap of 
water on hull, reading the gps chart and depth sounder to avoid trouble. 
I only go two miles before stopping for the night at Thomson Island. If 
I didn't leave tonight, late as it was, they might as well start 
forwarding my mail.

The fog settles in with the overnight stillness, and by dawn it's 
curdled all around. I can barely see a hundred yards. I tell myself that 
one of these days I might actually have to go take some pictures, but 
it's not an auspicious start.

I motor slowly under a gray sky, upon a gray sea, no horizon, no 
landmarks. I try to steer by the compass, but that requires constant 
attention. When my mind drifts, the boat steers to an altogether new and 
random course to follow. This goes on for hours and my course looks like 
a distracted child's doodling.

After midday the fog finally lifts, revealing blue skies, warm sun and 
the glowing rocks of Marble Island, 25 miles from Rankin Inlet. I'm 
hoping to get lucky and find a polar bear here, but I'm quickly 
reminded that every rock and boulder on this white and cream colored 
island looks distinctly bear-like. I motor slowly the length of the 
seven-mile island, scanning with the binoculars.

No bears. 

It doesn't mean they aren't there, it just means none are standing 
on top of a rock waving a semaphore flag to get my attention. Last 
year's final day on the boat could have been my final day, period. 
Distracted while struggling to photograph a submerged beluga whale 
carcass, a young polar bear walk up to the spot where the whale has jst 
been butchered. I turned around and he was no more than fifty feet away, 
slurping up the bloody strips of fat like a dog stealing Easter ham off 
the dinner table.

I vow to pay a little more attention this year. 

The only pictures I make are some aerials with the Phantom, flying over 
the winding channel that leads in the best harbor I've ever found in 
the north, an oval inlet called Knight Harbour on my charts. From 
overhead, it looks like a lake, protected from all sides from anything 
the Bay might throw at you.

Two whaling ships overwintered here late in the 19th century. It was a 
long hard winter, and matters didn't improve when one of the boats 
sank. They say you can still make her out on the ocean floor on the 
lowest tides.  Whaler's graves line the gravel barrier called 
Deadman's Island. Watching the moon rise in the endless summer 
half-dusk, I raise a toast to absent friends, and pay my respects to the 
memories of this place.
Marble-Island-LoRes C-Dory at Marble LoRes

Leave a Reply