Our new friends settle right into life exploring and experiencing the Rock. Tanya and I turn back into hosts, doing our best to keep people comfortable. All of our previous routines are gone and replaced with new ones. The dining room table is no longer a lab space and we end up actually eating there. The power consumption drops considerably, so the generator does not need to run as often. We received two more propane bottles and so become a little more liberal with our use. We have new food and so eat very well. Tanya cooks great dinners and people settle right into island life.
It is fun to watch the enthusiasm that our guests bring to the island. Having new energy here is invigorating. In their short time they experience a variety of weather events – bright sun and calm seas, blowing snow and wind, rain and a thunderstorm, and a beautiful sunrise – all within four days time.
After three days we start looking for a weather window to depart. Each of our guests have major commitments for the weekend. I am trying my best to work out a plan. On Wednesday I see what I think is a good weather window
opening for Friday. Chris Candage is on his way out of town on Friday, so I’m not sure it is going to work. He also thinks that it would be better to try Thursday afternoon. We make a plan for that. He will be out fishing anyway, so can break a little early and pick us up. We have also been speaking with a helicopter company if worse comes to worst. It is pricey but may be our only option.
Thursday arrives and the weather is marginal. It is blowing from the west pretty hard and the steep chop is significant. As Chris is out here anyway we decide to give it a shot. This means closing up the Rock completely. Because of the sea state it also means moving the operation to the eastern side of the cove to use the rocks rather than the ramp to stage. Chris is set to arrive at 1600 – the tail end of the tide as it goes out. I have been watching the breaks in the cove and am not convinced. But we will try. After a couple hours of staging all of the gear is on the rocks and we prep the inflatable. The ramp is the only option for launching the boat. Tanya and I watch as big rollers wash the ramp. We get a lull and launch. The outboard fires up and I reverse directly over to the rocks. It was sketchy but smooth, and we raft up against the granite.
I let the engine run for a while as breakers stream into the cove and bounce the inflatable up and down. The ‘Georgia Madison’ arrives and I need to make a decision. After a bit I load in one run of gear – all fish totes – down into the inflatable. I step out and watch for a while. The situation is not good. The rollers are steep and relentless. There is no break between sets, and if there is, it lasts for a tiny period of time. There is constant chop. We have four boat trips to make. I have already compromised so much equipment on this project, and I feel responsible for the safety of this crew. Even though we are all staged up, after hours of work moving gear here, I know that we cannot go through with this. I learned my lesson in January when we lost the boat and outboard. Fortunately no one was injured in that event. I feel the need to honor that experience and back down. I tell the crew and they are unanimously in favor. They have been incredibly deferent and understanding, even with their standing commitments. I am very grateful for their patience.
I radio to the ‘Georgia Madison’ that we are not going to make it. I can tell Chris wants us to try but also tells me he will not push it. We go back and forth a bit but I am firm. Part of the draw of this island is the adventure, and pushing limits. But there reaches a point where you can no longer push and this is it.
Darkness is setting in and now we need to move gear back to the house. We have one major hurdle to overcome – the boat. Since launching and being idle for the better part of an hour we have lost our ramp to re-land the inflatable. Our only option is to land it on the rocks. We wait out the tide a bit, until things get quite shallow in the cove. Then we tie a long line to the bow and someone walks it around to the ramp side. From there we haul the boat up on the granite. The outboard comes off and gets stowed on the rocks. With the boat lighter now we drag it up the rocks and onto the ramp. We then bring the outboard up and then move onto personal gear. It is dark by the time we are finished. We are momentarily stuck but the crew is in great spirits. We minimally reopen MDR, setting up just what we will need to be comfortable for the night, and Tanya makes tortellini with italian sausage for dinner.
Later in the night I speak to Chris Candage on the phone. He is pushing to come back that evening after midnight to attempt extraction in the dark. It is uncertain how the weather will look at that time, but I am skeptical it will be very safe. I speak with the crew to get opinions and we vote against the midnight extraction and decide wait until the next day to speak again with Chris C.
On Friday morning, it is eerily calm outside. We are confident in our decision to not leave at midnight; our guests were outside around that time and saw large swells beating on the boat ramp. However if it stays this calm until the tide comes up in the late afternoon we would be able to get off the island. I speak with Chris Candage once more. He is willing to come out that afternoon, but will be gone over the weekend. It is our last shot at a boat departure.
I spend a long time staring at the ramp. Though calm right now, it is hard to predict what the cove will look like in several hours. At low tide, the seal ledges break the swell and keep this area quiet. After a while, I am convinced it might get sloppy as the tide and winds change. I do not want to push it or to have Chris Candage come all the way offshore to send him home again. I decide to call it and not take unnecessary risks.
I relay the news to shore. We are going to now push for a helicopter departure if possible. There were some insurance questions that have now been resolved. There is a helicopter service in Belfast, Maine that can make a run in the morning provided the weather conditions are right. The limitations are 20 kts sustained and 30 kts gusts. Unfortunately that is what they are calling for tomorrow. We will need to wait and see. If they do come there are pretty severe weight restrictions. It is likely the chopper will need to do 4 or 5 trips to make it work. We will focus on getting the guests away and take it from there. We head to bed not quite knowing what tomorrow will bring. I plan on checking in with the pilot at 0700 to make a call.