Crossing Hudson Bay
By Laurel Archer
(from Chatelaine Magazine, September 2001)
Back out on the water, we have to paddle frantically to make it around the breakers. The bow is taking water. I yell, “We’re not going to make it! The waves are too big!”
“Just keep paddling!” We break through to the relative calm of ocean swells.
“Turn back in!” I cry. “I won’t go out there!” I can see the lashing whitecaps in the middle of Button Bay and there is no way in hell I am going to cross it.
As we battle a crosswind, Brad is getting tired in the stern. We have to paddle on the same side forever. I’m exhausted. I can’t stop the tears that run down my cheeks with the rain. “Please, please, get closer to shore,” I beg. I want to believe that if we tip, we can swim to safety, though I know we can’t. We edge a little closer, but the breaking waves and the submerged boulders are harder to contend with than the wind and the rollers.
Halfway around Button Bay, I find myself venting my fury at Brad. “What are we doing out here?” I rage, never missing a stroke. “This is idiocy. I refuse to die because of my stupidity. No one will ever find us.” Brad says nothing.
Dusk is upon us. I’m cold, wet and unable to bear the situation. “Brad, I can’t go on. We can’t make it to Churchill tonight and I’m afraid of what it’s going to be like after the tidal flats. It’s all white out there. I can’t face it now.”
“We’d better camp where we can,” Brad says. We turn and paddle to shore. The tide is out, so we must portage a kilometre inland. We silently lug our stuff to a small grassy hummock we hope will stay abreast of the polar tide.
Setting up the tent and putting on dry clothes lifts my chin and my spirits. Over rehydrated chilli and some of our precious fresh water, I say, “Happy anniversary, Brad.” We can’t help but laugh. We are on dry land and we should make it to Churchill the next day. This is a lonely land but complete – perfect in its emptiness.
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