Snap, crackle, pop! Ice crispy,” I say with a nervous giggle as my partner Phil and I skate-walk across the frozen channel from the government dock to Jolliffe Island on Yellowknife Bay. This crossing is a little more complicated than our routine freeze-up commute in early November. We have company: a brand-spanking-new couch. We’re towing the boxed behemoth on pallets—Phil has stapled crazy carpets to the bottom for quality sliding. The ice is clear and newly formed. Underneath my mukluks, I look for any movement of jackfish below.
We’d discussed our plan onshore. We will pull it across the safest part of the channel to Jolliffe, the rocky island that provides harbour for the majority of the city’s houseboats. Once on Jolliffe, we’ll maneuver our improvised sled across the island, along a twisting, tree-riddled path down the shoreline. From there, we will cross the remaining 50 feet of ice to our final destination—our houseboat.
We’re now across the channel and we laugh, impressed with how easy the crazy carpets made the job. But now the tricky part: We duck and tug and flip and sweat and swear as we wiggle the large box down the island’s narrow footpath. But what can we do? We have no storage unit on shore. This couch simply has to get moved.
“Snap, crackle, pop!” These lake sounds are common at the start of freeze-up, as the shifting ice moves and settles on the bay. The sound comes without warning. It rouses us from our cozy bed in the middle of the night. It occurs during the day when the sun is high and beating down on the ice, scarring it and creating beautiful, random and fleeting patterns that look like mismatched pieces from a secondhand puzzle—before you snap in that last piece and realize it’s meant for some other puzzle.
There are times I think that creeping across the lake like a seasoned cat burglar will somehow keep the sounds at bay, but it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s just one loud boom. But the subtler noises are what charge my imagination when I wake at two in the morning and can’t get back to sleep. I picture Old Man Winter putting the newspaper down, stretching and rising from his lazy chair—his bones snapping and cracking and popping. When the ice groans and shakes, I sit up abruptly and turn my headlamp on. I look over at our golden retriever Rick Danko, who also groans and shakes, almost mimicking the ice, as he decides to go for a short visit to the island to answer nature’s call. His soft paws pad across our frozen backyard. I stoke the fire.
This is the second year on the houseboat for us. I’ll admit, while not as seasoned as most houseboaters on the bay, the shape-shifting sounds of this year’s freeze-up have become more of a comfort to me. It means the ice is forming, thickening and setting in place. Last year’s freeze-up was a month-long mission with very different noises. The grunts and groans came from our neighbours and fellow commuters. They pulled, pushed, and chipped canoes through half-frozen ice and overflow brought on by mild temperatures. Some longtime houseboaters said they’d never seen such a prolonged freeze-up.
“Snap, crackle, pop!” The sound comes from right under our feet now. We did not completely think things through when we purchased this couch at the start of November. It is marketed as a “small space solution” on the sales ticket. But it doesn’t seem so small as we carefully balance it on the sled for the remaining stretch of ice to our floating home, under a rapidly setting sun.
The ice snaps, crackles and pops—but it doesn’t break. We take off our life jackets and lug the couch inside. We sit and enjoy a cup of tea to celebrate our success. We remove the couch from its packaging and I run my hands across the fake-leather.
“Doesn’t this feel and look great, Phil?”
He runs his hands across the same surface: “My ingenuity? Pure genius.”
It was. Who knew the ideal contraption to transport a new couch would be four crazy carpets stapled to two pallets? Who knew moving a couch could be such an adventure?