5 Suprising Things about Life on an Island in the Winter

While there are many positives to living on an island, here are 5 surprising things to life on an island in the winter.

As a kid growing up on an island had its perks, the small-town community meant we had a lot more freedom. Limited television and dial-up internet in the 90s, meant we had to have a colorful imagination. I remember spending hours building forts and playing kokoshball (an Indigenous ball game) with my cousins. One thing was for sure, every day on the island felt exciting and free…

But, winter was a different story.

The rhythm of summer changed like a light switch. Instead of playing sports, the field was now barren and still. The bay where we’d swim from dawn until dusk was now covered in ice and snow.

Experiencing winter on an island is unrelenting, and sometimes even harsh. But there are 5 things I think are surprising about living on an island in the wintertime.

5 Surprising Things about Winter on an Island

Simple Errands and Appointments Take an Entire Day

Anyone whos familiar with island life knows how much effort goes into simple errands like grocery shopping and doctor appointments. Normally, we’d coordinate our appointments with the ferry schedule, but in the winter it can be unpredictable.

Yet, regardless of our transportation across the three-mile stretch of water, traveling to town takes a lot of time and effort. For example, it takes fifteen minutes by car to get to the ferry dock from the cabin. From there it’s a thirty-minute ferry ride across the bay and another thirty to sixty minutes to town.

That’s just a daily commute in the summer!

Imagine how much longer it takes in the winter. So yes an appointment may take only twenty minutes but the travel time to get there and back is over four hours.

We Plan for the Worst

A lot of islanders, like my grandmother stock their pantries and deep freezers in the winter with enough food, to last weeks, if not months. We do this because the winter winds change rapidly, often without notice. Making essential trips to get groceries almost impossible and certainly dangerous.

So my parents and grandparents always make sure they have enough food to last the winter if needed.

Once the Ice Freezes the Ferry is Stuck until Spring

I remember one particularly hard winter, the temperatures plummeted and the bay froze overnight. Luckily it was thick enough to make an ice road, because the ferry, our main transportation on and off the island, was iced in until spring.

We took the boat and our dock out this weekend, preparing for the winter and ice ahead.

Whenever there’s a cold winter and a lot of ice, we have to wait for the Canadian Coast Guard to bring the icebreaker over. Sometimes it’s the only way to get the ferry out without waiting for the full ice to melt.

We are at mercy of the weather

Island life in the winter is a constant give and pull, and weather truly influences every decision and task we do. Everything on this island is at the mercy of the weather. If it’s too windy the ferry can’t run, or a storm could knock the hydro out. Sometimes if there is a high wind or storm forecasted to hit in the afternoon or evening, we have to cancel our plans for the morning and stay home.

Not only that, if you miss the last ferry you have to wait until the morning to get home. Island life means you will forever be watching the clock and planning your trips accordingly.

It takes over an hour to reach the nearest hospital

Weather is exactly why 80% of emergency calls in the winter result in a helicopter ride to the hospital. One of the biggest worries about living on an island in the winter is if there’s an emergency.

It’s almost a way of life that you have to either take care of yourself, know some sort of first aid or take your chances getting to the hospital. At this time there are paramedics on the island, but there isn’t a hospital within driving distance.

While I’m no stranger to the hardships of life on an island, preparing for the winter season is important. You have to know what to expect, and how to manage life on the island in the winter.

Anyway, let me know if you have any questions! I’d love to know if you’ve ever experienced something like this in your life.

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