When our re-supply departed, we set about inflating the boat and planning expeditions across Dog Island Sound. Henry Island and points north held obvious interest, particularly Spruce Island and Carey Island.
All the lanes between the islands were ice free. Indeed, the only place where ice still lingered was our own small bay. I remember bouncing along in the surf, heading for Henry Island, enjoying the feel of the blue sky and sparkling sea and noticing that the air tanks on which I sat felt slightly spongy.
We landed on Henry Island and my companion clambered on to the rocky shoreline while I stayed on board, looking for a good place to tie the boat. Finally I found a place and stepped onto the starboard air tank – and nearly fell into the sea. It wasn’t just soft, the air was evacuating.
We set off straight away, heading directly into mid channel. By now port and starboard tanks were visibly wobbling as we bounced across surf. When we reached mid way between Henry Island and Dog Island, the outboard engine cut out. We started to drift in the strong tide, sea water sloshing over the sides and filling the bottom of the boat.
We had a spare two-stroke engine. We hadn’t tested it before leaving to ensure it worked. I lifted it up and my companion leapt up to help, unbalancing the craft and causing me to stumble. I nearly dropping the damn engine over the side.
After some strong words, we agreed that I would change engines on my own. My companion could make suggestions but would remain still. It took me several minutes to attach the small back-up and pump the fuel bulb. At the third pull of the cord, it puttered into life.
Limping back into shore, becoming waterlogged by waves crashing over the top of deflated tanks, I made a mental note never to leave harbour without the air pump. Looking over my shoulder, I saw small marine mammals cavorting in our tiny wake. The sight sent a shock of fright down my back. One playful nudge, or over-exuberant splashing, and we were goners.
When we arrived back at the camp site, we pulled the boat on shore and wondered aloud why the engine had cut out. Neither of us spoke about what might have happened if the spare engine hadn’t started.
However, this wasn’t the worst experience for my companion. That was still a week away.