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Paul Smith: Weathering the storm on the home front

Our wharf taking a beating, but it took an even bigger wallop from heavy seas a few weeks ago. There's work to be done.
Our wharf taking a beating, but it took an even bigger wallop from heavy seas a few weeks ago. There's work to be done.

That was powerful wind we experienced last weekend. They say we had the strongest gusts in 40 years. Nature can at times be a potent, unforgiving force, one that demands our utmost respect.

I’ve never seen the harbour this angry.

I recall nothing of the wind 40 years ago. Goldie’s father says he can remember a ferocious wind event in that time frame. I would have been just 17 years old and I’m sure I would have had other things on my mind, like getting home from MUN for the weekend, so I could go in the woods on snowshoes.

In any event, this winter 2017 storm is the wildest wind I’ve ever experienced.

I had been planning to trek to the cabin on snowshoes that Friday night, but the ominous forecast of snow, ice pellets, rain and high winds convinced me to cancel. It’s not that I would have minded being in our cabin throughout an extreme weather event; actually I like sitting close to a crackling wood stove in a backwoods shelter while nature kicks up a fuss outside.

There’s nothing wrong with that scenario, along with good conversation, a drop of grog, and a whiff of pipe smoke in the air. And they invented Gore-Tex to go outside the cabin, or for walking home in the rain.

No, I would have gone, but I don’t like leaving Goldie or the house alone in winter storms.

Anything can happen.

Out of character, I slept a bit late on Saturday morning. I awoke to about 10-cm of snow on the ground, very little wind, and speedily melting flakes pitching on the living room window, signaling, I thought, an impending turnover to rain.

Now I was second-guessing my prudence about staying close to home. I ground my South American beans while the kettle boiled, my mind in a bit of a turmoil about plans for the day. Steaming water soaked through the grind and filled my grande clear glass coffee mug. The aroma made me feel a little better, but I could have been brewing with my percolator at the cabin.

No doubt, it hung silent and lonely on its designated nail in the rafter above the wood stove, and not much of a storm outside.

It huffed and puffed, but our humble cabin is still standing

With my coffee mug reduced to half full, my head cleared of dreamy, quixotic mentality, pragmatism returned.

I had done the right thing.

It was a nasty day, and predicted to turn bitter cold around sunset.

Sure ,if I had gone off trekking in the hinterland, my snow would surely have ended up solid ice in my driveway.

Given the rain followed by freezing temperatures, and not a chance of me returning before dark, it would surely have solidified beyond the capability of my ATV plow. Now with just a quarter cup of strong robust java remaining, I reasoned practically to go out and plow that snow before it became too heavily laden with rain. Sometimes I can be sensible.

One minute there was hardly a breeze, not enough moving air to shake the boughs of my Norwegian spruce.

I was just about to get dressed for plowing snow. A gust of wind hit the south-facing end of the house.

Now my trees were bending and dancing to the tune of a quickly freshening breeze. If you had noticed, you might know that for the first half hour or so the wind was directly out of the south.

At least that’s the way it started here in Spaniard’s Bay. I still had it in my head to plow the snow and went outside.  

By the time I got myself outside the wind had spirited its pace further, strengthening very fast.

It was actually picking up chunks of snow, not flakes, but congealed globs of rained-upon snow. I’d never witnessed this ever before.

Our waterside property is exposed to the south towards the harbour, and I could taste salty spray in the air.

The sea was raging, waves crashing into my seawall, despite under a kilometre of open water for building energy. It was then that I was absolutely certain I had done right by staying home.

This was no ordinary puff of winter wind.

I decided conditions were extreme for plowing and it could wait. I went back inside and enjoyed some late breakfast with Goldie.

The wind kept getting louder, and I could tell from the gusting impact with windows and siding, that the gale had veered westward and settled into an attack from the southwest. That was a good thing for us, allowing our trees to protect the house, although on times gusts shook our home.

I went outside to check for damage and take some photos. A tumbling wooden Adirondack chair almost clipped me. Those are heavy and, I thought, frozen solid in the snow. I gathered them all in a sheltered corner.  I went back indoors to find shelter from this storm of storms.

My thoughts wandered again to our cabin, this time not wishing to be there, but fearful of what this wind was doing.

I did some mental charting and navigation to imagine which way the gusts were impacting.

There were trees, but still the cabin would be taking a beating. Sitting as it does on blocks of timber, I thought about stability physics. Would our cabin topple and smash to kindling? Knowing for certain would have to wait till tomorrow, when the winds might subside.

Sunday just past noon, I was on my way to the cabin on snowshoes, uphill at a good trot, feeling the sweat start to trickle.

Robert had gone ahead of me on his ATV equipped with winter tracks. I was expecting a phone call.

Apple sounded Robert’s designated ring. I dropped my poles, pulled off my gloves, and answered. “She’s not soiled, and the tower is still standing.”

Wow, great news.

Hurricane Igor blew over our original moose lookout tower. Looks like we rebuilt it well. Thanks to the hunting gods for sparing us this time around. And I’m darn happy we aren’t planning a new cabin.

Nature will never be tamed. We can only take precautions.

Buy some candles, and be prepared to live without electricity every now and then. Hunting cabins are really minor concerns. Some folks had their homes severely damaged.  And thank God nobody got hurt in this windstorm.

Can somebody tell me more about that wind 40 years ago?


Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at  or follow him on twitter at @flyfishtherock  


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