An Extract from 'We Bought an Island'(1975)

Evelyn E. Atkins

In this extract Evelyn E. Atkins recalls one of the many moments of high drama as they attempt to remove their furniture to the island in the middle of the winter of 1964. All was going relatively well, until the storm arrivedÖ

'The rain lashed at us as we clambered on board. Darkness fell. Wren clad in oilskins and sou-wester had us all lined up, as with grim face he told us exactly what we were to do. "It is not just a question of saving the boat," he announced, "it is a matter of life and death!" He explained that we could not take off until there was sufficient water to float the Orlando. Tremendous seas were running in, crashing over us from the west and threatening to capsize us. The next moment they sucked back leaving the Orlando high and dry and, without the support of the sea, she was again in danger of keeling over. "Do what I tell you, instantly!" he ordered. At that moment a huge sea crashed down on us. "Everyone to the port!" yelled Wren. We hurled ourselves over to the other side of the boat. "To starboard!" roared Wren. And we all scrambled back again. We could not anticipate which way we had to throw ourselves for in that boiling sea the breakers came in all directions and Wren hung over the side judging to a nicety exactly where and when the next roller would break over us. We were not allowed to move except as ordered, for it would have upset the balance of the boat. We could see huge breakers creaming over the rocks even in the darkness - it was that wild. Rain poured down our necks in spite of sou-westers and oilskins, but we had much implicit faith in Wren that in the short intervals we sat as though we were in a bus and Zena and I had a long discussion about piles, of all things, inspired by the fact that we were sitting in pools of an icy mixture of rain and sea water. And so we went on hurling ourselves to port or starboard as directed. There was no confusion as to which was which for we knew it was the opposite side to where we happened to be we just pitched ourselves bodily across from one side of the boat to the other and hoped for the bestÖ'

Evelyn E. Atkins, from 'We Bought an Island', p143-4, published by Coronet Books, ISBN 0-340-22688-9.