THE WIND COMES FROM A PLACE OF DREAMS
Blunden harbour is a place of waterfalls and rivers, of deer and wolves, of birds and seals. A place of windy forests gently covered in a blanket of mist. A place where dreams come from.
Blunden Harbour is located on the mainland, directly across from port hardy, its at the entrance to Bradley Lagoon. At the turn of the century, the village at Blunden Harbour was inhabited but it has mostly returned to the forest and the sea now, but if you take the time you can still see the remains of the longhouses lined up on the beach. The old chimney is all that is left of the house that was tucked around the corner from the village site. If you look around at the forest you can see strange unending shaded spaces full of shadows flickering among the dark and aged tree trunks. If you close your eyes and listen carefully, you can still hear children’s laughter coming from the village beach or the beat of feast drums on a winters night. Then you realize that the people might be gone, but not their spirit.
Jimmy and I had come to Blunden Harbour in Oct 1979 to hand log for the winter. We had hopes of bringing out six sections of wood by the spring. Every day we would start out with high hopes. But by days end we would look back on saws that wouldn’t run, lines that would break even though they were brand new. Logs that would hang up where there was nothing to hang up on. And when we would finally get logging, the wind would come up out of nowhere and force us into hiding.
Here it was the morning of Dec 15th and we had barely a section of wood in the water. Over breakfast, Jimmy said he felt today was going to be different. He didn’t know how right he was. We started to log by noon and had only a few logs in the water when the wind started to blow. It was a funny sort of wind, it would start out like a child’s breath but would build up until it screamed like the banshees.
The wind was hitting the boat from all directions and Jim was having a hard time keeping it straight to the beach, so he gave me a shout and told me to gather my gear and bring the skiff out to the boat so we could make a run for shelter. By the time I got my gear onboard the wind was howling at us from all sides, Jim and I knew if we didn’t make it into the harbour soon, we weren’t going to make it at all. Getting into the harbour is a bit tricky when it’s calm out, it’s near impossible when you are fighting the winter winds.
The entrance to Blunden is a narrow channel between a reef and sandbar. Jimmy thought if he could stay close to the reef as possible we might just make it. We were about halfway in when the wind hit us broadside with a blow that tore loose anything that wasn’t lashed down. The wind seemed to be a living thing as it picked us up and slammed us down on the sandbar. Jimmy tried to back us off but we were stuck fast. I ran below deck to check for damage and Jimmy went out on deck to look the situation over. We had water coming in from a couple of spots. With luck, the pumps would handle it.
The story outside was a whole lot worse, I got out on deck just as a wave crashed over the boat and rolled us hard to the port side. I could tell from the look on Jimmy’s face that we were in one heck of a spot. It was just starting to get dark and the wind was still increasing, you could almost hear it laughing at us as it screamed through the rigging.
Then it started to rain. The kind rain that, when pushed by 100-mile winds, leaves welts on exposed skin. Every wave that crashed over us rolled us a little farther towards disaster, Things were looking grim.
If the boat went over the waves would break it up and that would be the end of us. Jimmy hollered above the wind that we would have to cut up one of the poles to brace the boat. So we lowered the stabilizer poles and cut the leeward pole into two pieces. We left the windward pole out for balance. I took a piece of the pole and jammed it into the sandbar while Jimmy climbed out on the windward pole to roll the boat back as far as it would go. Then I lashed the piece to the side of the boat. We put the other pole in the same way.
The danger of rolling over was taken care of, but we were still stuck on the sandbar with the waves crashing over the boat, anything that wasn’t tied down was washed away.
The rain was so heavy you couldn’t see one end of the boat from the other. All we could do was wait and hope the waves didn’t break the boat up. Jimmy and I spent the next little while securing anything that was left on the deck. With the force of the waves that were crashing over the boat, there wasn’t much left. Most of our logging gear ( saws, ropes, blocks) was already gone. We then went into the cabin to wait out the storm.
A lot of things run through your mind when you are engaged in a battle of survival. You start to wonder what you’re doing there in the first place. I was sitting there thinking about this, when all of a sudden, a huge wave smashed over the boat, you could hear the bottom grinding against the sandbar. Jim went below to see how much water was coming in. When he came back he said we would have to take turns on the hand pump out on the deck. You could only handle the waves for about 10 minutes before you had to come in. Over the next few hours, the winds slowly decreased and with every gallon of water we pumped out, the boat sat a little higher in the sea.
By 11 pm. the wind had died down considerably and the boat rose high enough on the rising tide to let us pull off and limp into Blunden Harbour, half-frozen, dead tired and soaked to the bone. We pulled out of Blunden Harbour with our one section of wood the following day.