2015 Hudson Bay Expedition – Prisoner of the Wind


Every time you step out the front door, you put yourself at the mercy of 
the elements. Traffic is snarled, flights are cancelled and you can rest 
assured that it’s going to rain on someone’s parade. Today seems to be 
my turn.

For a small boat out on the water, there’s a special circle of hell with 
doors open wide for the unwary. Should the weather turn nasty, it’s time 
to head for shelter. After that, all you can do is sit and wait for 
things to get better. No amount of wishing, bitching or moaning will 
change that. Trust me, I’ve tried.

It becomes an art form, this waiting. For four days I’ve been hunkered 
down, weathering northeasterly gales along a particularly dismal stretch 
of Hudson Bay shoreline. Turned back by the wind’s early arrival, I 
hastily tucked into an uncharted cove behind Whale Point, a narrow 
barrier island that, at low tide at least, seemed an ideal site for a 
cozy getaway.

But tides here run 18 feet and more, and at high water much of that 
shelter vanishes beneath the ocean, leaving my boat exposed at anchor, 
lashed by the wind and buffeted by waves. I’m safe here, or safe-ish 
anyway, if not exactly comfortable. But one look out at the open ocean, 
all whitecaps and breaking surf and angry swells, tells me that I should 
count my blessings and make myself at home.

I start each day by obsessively measuring the wind’s speed. It’s blowing 
20, then 25, now gusting past 40 knots. Without a working heater, the 
temperature inside my boat matches that of the great outdoors, a chilly 
44° this morning. Cave-like humidity builds up with my breathing and 
cooking and soon condensation drips from the ceiling and windows. My 
puffy down jacket and sleeping bag lose a bit more of their loft with 
each passing day.

I cook warm soups and curries, read my books, watch a few movies and 
grind through Rosetta Stone Spanish lessons. Thoughts of margaritas on 
the beach in Baja, of steaks and red wine and tango music in Buenos 
Aires dance in my head. And then I look out the window, listen to the 
wind, and hope against hope that this storm will some day pass.

I keep thinking that all this sitting and waiting might yield greater 
wisdom and serenity. But mostly, I just sit. And wait. And contemplate 
the vast indifference of heaven.

I’m no stranger to solitude. No one who isn’t inured to the voices in 
their head would spend six weeks alone on a boat. But I’m stuck halfway 
between Rankin Inlet and Repulse Bay, roughly 150 nautical miles in 
either direction. Help, while not impossible, is a long way off. 
Self-sufficiency, always good in principle, is critical out here in this 
remote wilderness. I think through every task to make sure both the boat 
and I remain safely above sea level. Mortal peril has a tendency to 
focus even the most scattered of minds.

Still, there’s rarely a situation that is so bad that, without a little 
nudge, I cannot make it worse. Near nightfall, I can tell my anchor has 
started to drag. Just twenty feet or so, but worrying. A man of action 
takes steps. Ones that, often as not, are immediately regretted.

As soon as I begin to motor the boat forward and take up slack to haul 
in my anchor, the inflatable zodiac catches the wind and begins doing 
backflips and pirouettes, acting as a huge sail and pulling me toward 
the rocks. With the anchor finally back onboard, I have to scramble up 
to hack away a huge ball of kelp, trying not to slice off a thumb in the 
process. I motor ahead, drop the chain, but the anchor refuses to grab 
and we begin to drag back to the rocks again. I try six times before it 
holds, tentatively, in the gathering darkness of the still-building 

I spend most of the night staring at my glowing GPS screen, watching the 
little electronic boat arc back and forth, back and forth on the wind, 
like the world’s most boring video game. It’s not wisdom, and it’s not 
serenity. I just have to sit. And wait. And count my lucky stars.

One Response to “2015 Hudson Bay Expedition – Prisoner of the Wind”

  1. Jann Glisson says:

    No night sky with the Southern Cross to light your way … Stay safe, Paul.

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