It’s that time of year again, the worst time of year to be a houseboater. The shoulder season between the idyllic open water of summer and the solid ice of winter is just not fun. For the last 2 weeks we’ve had to deal with cold temperatures and open water, tons of wind and big waves, short daylight hours, icy shores, and commuting in the minnow, as the big and comfortable boat had to be pulled out of the water before the freeze up.
The ice is late in coming this year – its been unseasonably warm, by which I mean its still cold and below zero, but not – 15, the usual low for this time of year. The other problem has been lots of wind. Lots of wind means big waves, which doesn’t support ice formation. Protected Back Bay has had a thick layer of ice on it for a while now, and folks are skating all over it. The ice actually formed at our place in the last few days – one day we could break it with the boat, and the next day walk on it with our trusty ‘ice walker’. The photo above was taken a couple of days ago, when the ice was just past our place. The white area is ice covered with a bit of snow, and the grey area in the distance is the open water. Yesterday it was at least 500 meters further away from the house, and the ice thickness was 4 inches. I know – from open water to 4 inches of solid ice in 48 hours! Today, alas, the nasty south wind is back ( measuring 75 km/hr at its maximum), and all the gains of the last day are lost. Our house is still frozen in, but that 4 inches of ice is flexing and bending from the force of the waves underneath, and the house is bobbing up and down as a result. Most likely it will be a big mess of chunks of ice by morning.
I’m finding the whole experience more interesting and less stressful than last year. Its all a bit more abstract – because I’m not there! Horrah! The dogs and I are staying at friend Jenn’s house in town. (the photo above is taken from her window). Its quite a different experience – to wake up in the morning, walk a few feet to my car, hop in and drive to work. I don’t even really have to dress for the weather. Its easy, but its odd to be one step removed from the reality of the weather. Its comfortable, but somehow it feels a bit like cheating.
That being said, I’m quite happy to ‘cheat’ and miss out on the freeze up. The Spaniard is too. This year, once again, he wanted to be on the houseboat to monitor the freeze up situation, but after a few days of that he said, “This is awful. Next year I don’t want to be here. Let’s go away in October 15th and come back November 15th.” Yeah, oh yeah! I’m putting it in writing here as there is a distinct possibility that once he is no longer living through houseboat misery, he will forget how much he didn’t like it. At that time, having an intact houseboat that has frozen in level will again become more important and he will change his mind. Again. A for me, at this time of year if it broke in half and sank I think I would be quite philosophic about it. (I might even be glad!)
Its hard to describe houseboat misery. Each part of it on its own is not terrible, just sometimes difficult, mostly uncomfortable, occasionally dangerous. But the worry about what will happen, especially considering the needs of our 2 older dogs who still maintain their right to go to the bathroom on solid ground three times per day (Ginger is nearly 14 and having trouble with vision – its hard for her to get in and out of a bucking boat, and she keeps falling – what a horrible way to treat a good dog) is ever present. Many aspects of our life are on hold for a month. No one in their right mind would want to come and visit us, and we are never really sure if we can attend any event in town either. Traveling back and forth in the dark this time of year is particularly unpleasant, for example. I think the most difficult part is the uncertainty – not knowing what to expect from day to day. Having to live our lives at the whim of the weather for a month is not something that we are often called to do in these modern times. No doubt giving up some control over our lives to is a good thing – a useful skill, to realize we are NOT in control, but after a while we chaff.
As I write this we are at the peak of the misery season. (If you can call it misery at all – I’m in the guest bedroom in Jenn’s warm house, with my laptop and my morning latte). As the day dawns we can see that the ice may or may not have broken up around the house. In any case it should freeze over solidly fairly soon, and we’ll be back to our cozy home.
You can keep an eye on the progress of things on the live webcam of Yellowknife Bay by going here: http://lw-app.com/view/yk-pilots-monument. (On this page you will see the link to the webcam).