The walls of the tent are shaking and shuddering violently. Several strong gusts push the tent fabric right down upon us, the tent poles giving way to the extreme force. The guy wires are as taught as cables and prevent the poles from breaking, large stones hold down the perimeter of the fly and help keep us stuck to the ground. Can our tent survive this pounding? Clearly our storm has built way beyond a gale.
We sail into our current camp on a strong southwesterly that literally pushes us faster than we can row. By cranking the rudder away from land and then letting the on-shore wind do its thing we move along at a comfortable 5kmph running exactly in the direction we want to go. Rowing the Arctic Joule requires pointing the bow more towards shore – the forward propulsion pushing her away from land – and produces an inconsistent movement that before long has us correcting course, heading in and out. The back and forth proves slower than doing absolutely nothing at all. It’s bizarre and it’s magic, the arctic giving us a freebee for the moment.
Our joy ride lasts about an hour until the wind swiftly changes direction and hints at the big nasty that awaits us. It’s our cue to hit shore.
The beach is moderately steep and we haul The Arctic Joule as high up on it as we can. There are no large boulders to anchor our pulley so we fill our large packs with gravel and use them as dead weight to haul by. It’s a gap stop solution but its all we can do. The Arctic Joule weighs over 2000lbs and doesn’t manhandle easily.
Our storm builds and so does the surf. The Arctic Joule begins to get pounded. We’re genuinely concerned that the boat could work itself loose and be blown out to sea. The wind blows off-shore and an unanchored Joule would be carried away as swiftly as a feather in the wind. We put ourselves on a round-the-clock monitoring vigil until the wind dies down.
I write this blog from the vestibule of our 6-person tent. It’s the middle of the night (my less-than-ideal shift of 4am-6am is the result of a loosing score in our evening game of hearts) and the wind is howling all around me. Every few minutes I visually check on the boat, every hour I check on the guy lines of the tent. The updated forecast is for sustained 55KN winds (100kmph) with gusts potentially 40% greater.
I have a steaming cup of soup in my lap, my journal in my hand and my shotgun at my side. It all feels strangely familiar to me now.