Originally posted December 11, 2016
So last weekend we were hit by a particularly nasty little nor’wester packing fifty knot winds and more than seven metre swells.
It was a dark and stormy night… In fact, between the cloud cover, the driving, torrential, sideways ripping rains and the absence of a moon, we could see approximately nothing out in the bay. As we sat in our padded chairs, parked not five feet away from and facing the sliding glass doors of our second story room at The Outpost, we played cribbage and drank rum with ginger ale while listening to the gusts of wind batter the glass in front of us. Feeling the puffs of air through the crack where the door doesn’t shut quite right and watching the glass bend and bow to the force of the wind, with each glass of rum it became more entertaining.
The Outpost – the lodge – sits oriented directly toward the north. Our view is of small islands and islets in the near distance and further out, we can see more of Graham Island as it sweeps to the northwest. Graham Island is the largest of the Islands that make up the archipelago of Haida Gwaii and, with the exception of Langara Island, is also the northern most Island of Haida Gwaii; it is also the island that is home to The Outpost.
When the wind and the swells come from the northwest they have a far more pronounced effect on us here than when from any other direction. Even directly from the north is more protected than the northwest.
When I awoke the next morning, like every morning before opening my eyes, I try to convince myself that this state of consciousness that I’m feeling is only a dream and that if I ignore it long enough, it will surely fade into another – a better – dream. It didn’t though; rather, my bladder decided to makes its state be known.
Reluctantly, I pulled back the covers and swung my legs into the cold morning air and faced the undeniable reality that another day was upon us. My reluctance was born of not only the chill in the air but also a slight headache and bit of dizziness – the after-glow of the evening cocktails, I suppose.
I looked out at the morning to assess the day ahead and saw the helipad. “Holy SHIT! The helipad has broken free”.
Wendi came to real fast-ish. “Huh?”
I grabbed the camera and took the picture you see here, then I finished getting dressed and ran out to the generator shack to get powered up.
Once I got back to the room, I sat down and sent the picture to Jordan. One quick cup of coffee and we were down to the dock – about 10:30 am.
The way these docks are set up is there are three sections of dock, all chained together with the first one chained to anchor points on land. The helipad is chained to two anchors on the far side of the pad and each chain has an anchor kellet suspended from it, in order to keep it from smashing into the docks. On the near side of the pad there are two chains to the last dock.
We got down there and the wind was still blowing pretty hard. According to the weather buoys not too far from us, she was still blowing fifty knots from the northwest. Maybe a little less in here but with frequent gusts. You can see the swells in the picture above – it never looks as bad from the second floor as it does when you’re standing on the dock. We weren’t just standing on the dock though, we had to get out to the far dock.
When the crew that unloaded the barge left, the last thing they did was take the bridges away from the docks. They left us with three ten foot pieces of 2×12 lumber to use as bridges. The docks are of course chained together but in those conditions, walking a ten foot 2×12, with the docks stretched as far apart as they can get, is just a little bit sketchy. To make it a little safer, we got some rope and using an aluminum pipe pole with a hook on the end, managed to get each one tied to the next and pulled in a little closer. It made the prospect of walking the plank much safer and we then made our way out to the end. With the docks moving around so much though, we couldn’t risk leaving the boards in place for fear they’d fall into the water and leave us stranded. Similarly, neither could we leave the ropes tied up.
After at least a half hour just getting out to the end of the dock to survey the situation, so that we could report back to the boss, we figured out what we would need for tools and supplies and then reversed the procedure to return to shore and file our report. Given in typical man-of-few-words style, the request to “Do what you can but stay safe” came back around lunch time.
The biggest diameter nylon rope on the property was not long enough to reach between the side of the helipad that had to be secured and the dock; and the biggest rope that was long enough was only three quarter inches in diameter. Never-the-less, with forty to fifty knot winds howling in my face and the dock bucking, jarring and jolting, I managed to lasso a cleat on the helipad and the two of us pulling in tandem and timing our efforts with the swells pulled the pad close enough to the dock to enable me to place a board across and get over to attach our rope to a cleat on the side of the pad that had broken free. Once safely back on the dock, I released the one side of the pad and we used the same technique to get the other side pulled in a little closer and secured.
By the time we finished with the procedure of getting back to shore, it was dark and we were both very tired and sore.
The winds continued quite strong through the night but the view from our room was spectacular – we couldn’t see a damned thing and were happy about it.
I opened my eyes the following morning and my first thought was of course, the dock. I got up and looked out – thankfully, nothing had changed. The wind was down to around twenty knots and had shifted to a westerly. The swells were still coming in but, at least from up here, they didn’t look too bad.
We got coffee’d up and had some breakfast and then went back out to the dock to see if we could get that pad pulled in a little tighter. It was then that I remembered seeing a come-along in the basement. I went and found it and found that it’s only rated for five hundred pounds. I have no idea what the weight of the kellets are but figured it couldn’t hurt. We needed more help if we were going to have any success against that concrete pad and those kellets.
We put in another three or four hours out there and succeeded in getting the helipad back in place. It is secured with the three quarter inch nylon rope and the come-along in tandem. Today is the first day of any significant wind since then but it’s coming at us from the east so will have no impact on the docks. Hopefully, the company can get things together and get a crew in here to get it properly secured before we get anymore powerful nor’westers.
© 2016 Ron Morrison