2015 Hudson Bay Expedition – Turning South


It’s hard to imagine leaving.  It seems like I  just got here.

But I look at the calendar and as I count the days, the calendar doesn’t lie. I have to cover more than 600 miles of coastline to get my boat back to the end of the rail line in Churchill. Family duty beckons in the form of a plane ticket to Denver on September 10. On the off chance I’d like to remain happily married, I’d like to be home a few days before that. Start factoring in weather and mechanical issues, and I’m already late.

The signs are in the air here as well. On clear nights, the temperatures are dropping into the 30’s. Flocks of Snow Geese are already setting off on their long migration south. Maybe, for once, I should take the hint before the door hits me on the ass.

I headed back to the town of Repulse Bay to fuel up and be on my way. I rowed the zodiac to shore with all my fuel cans, pulling hard against the north wind funneling through the anchorage. I’ll never know if it was my inattentive rope work or some playful local highjinks, but when I returned the zodiac was nowhere in sight. A bunch of kids stopped their rock throwing and just stared at their shoes, and no one seemed the least surprised or interested in the mystery. I raced off on my borrowed ATV and found the zodiac more than a mile away, blown against a small rock breakwater, caught precariously to the last obstacle between it and 30 miles of open water.

I rounded everything up, filled up the gas cans and managed to cadge a lift to retrieve the dinghy. I stopped by to say thanks to the folks who’d helped me at the Co-op, the hamlet office and the RCMP station. But I have to admit that I left town with a sense of relief and disappointment. With so much of the day lost, I return to Harbour Islands for one last night.

Come morning, I slowly circle through the maze of islands one last time, hoping for a dose of good luck to send me on my way. It’s hard to imagine when, or even if I’ll ever return here. Low clouds scud by overhead, but when the sun peaks through the land and icy sea seem radiant and magical. I unpack the drone for one last gods’-eye-view of the place. A tight knot of islands, ice packed in by a week of north winds, then miles of open sea.

I’m feeling sad to go, but it’s time to start moving. This stalling and half-measures are their own slow death. I give my boat a gentle pat and say out loud, “Thanks for taking care of me. I’ll ask just one more thing. Take me home.”

A cold fog and mist rolls in from the north, blotting out the sun, the sky, the land. I fired up one engine, then the other, turn the boat south and start for home.


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