Anvil Island: The warmth of community amidst the freezing rain


Alan Hesketh

Boarders ready to dive into to cold lake. From left to right: Michel, Run Bo, Santiago, Leonard, Alec, Issac, Shayne, Jason, Anton, Racan, Roberto

Traditionally, nobody likes being in the rain. However, on this rainy weekend on Anvil Island, the boys didn’t seem to mind. Between Friday the 7th to 10th, our students went to Anvil Island, which is an island off the coast of Lions Bay. The last few years, the weather had been warm and sunny. However, this year, the weather was very misty with rain showers, though that has never stopped our boarders from having fun. From the Senior School, our borders were released out of school in batches, where they were driven to Lions Bay Marina. There, tender boats were waiting to take them to Anvil Island.

In order to get insight behind the history of the Anvil Island trip, I interviewed Mr. Hesketh, the director of the boarding house. According to Hesketh, “Anvil Island originally started 8 years ago and was created by me. The purpose of the trip was to bring the community closer together. When I first looked for a location, I choose Anvil Island because it wasn’t too far from the mainland and the facilities were really great. Best of all, there was no cell service.”


Day 1

Once on the island, our boys were assigned to their cabin groups. After settling in, they were given free time. Some enjoyed a friendly game of basketball while others played gaga ball (people use fists the hit a ball into people’s legs in order to eliminate them). Another group found a quiet place and played board games while still others went and looked for the deer of the island. After a nice dinner in the dining hall, it was time for the house ceremony.

The birth of the Anvil Island trips was also the birth of the intramural system. This system brought forth the four houses: Maitland (Red), Robinson (Blue), Hunter (Green), and Sweeny (Yellow). The purpose of this system is to build rivalry, encourage fitness, and build a sense of community and pride for your group. As the sun set, the traditional house ceremony began. Our new boarders were brought through a dark forest to a fire pit, where our ceremony took place. One at a time, students were called upon, where a blue bag awaited them. Like the Harry Potter sorting hat, the bag represented the house which students will be sorted into. Once a student enters a house, he is there forever. With the sorting ceremony over and done with, activities commenced. With the new students now in their houses, the houses faced off against each other in a game of Escape. In “Escape”, all the lights are turned off and staff are positioned with flashlights, ready to catch unsuspecting students. The goal of the game is to find the lantern without getting caught.  After a long and tiring game, Hunter came out on top, taking the win. After a competitive and intense activity like “Escape”, everyone was extremely tired and called it a day and retreated to their cabins where they peacefully slept for the rest of the night.


Day 2

On the second day of our trip, the weather got worse as it started raining. Unpredictable conditions came with adaptations. Teachers were spread out to different activity stations while boarders did different activities at different stations. Although this included team bonding activities and survival skills, they also included grade-specific activities as the Grade 11’s did a combined art project (Click here to learn more) while the Grade 10’s built a catapult. Even though the rain persisted throughout the day, the boarders remained upbeat and optimistic as they diligently went through the activities.

After a long day of activities, the rain finally stopped and the boarders were allowed free time. Some got changed immediately and went to have some fun at the dock while others kayaked and still, others tried paddle boarding. A group of boarders tried the famous Anvil Island slide while some of the less brave students, unable to conquer their fears, merely stood by and watched. After drying up and a delicious dinner, the boarders were exhausted and ready for sleep. However, this was when Mr. Hesketh made his big announcement: The first ever “Anvil Island Adventure Race”. The race, which was to take place the next day, was a series of challenges that led to raising one’s house flag onto the Anvil Island flagpole. Although everyone was exhausted, the boarders were rejuvenated by the spirit of competition and separated into their houses to plan and strategize for the challenges of the upcoming day. With competition fresh on their minds, the boarders went to sleep early, ready for whatever challenges the Adventure Race might bring them.


Day 3 

After a long night of excitement, the day finally came. After cleaning out the cabins (as they were leaving later that day), the race started. The race involves swimming out to the house captains, who are on paddleboards in the middle of the lake. After doing so, a person needs to slide down the Anvil Island water slide. This is followed by solving a puzzle at the chessboard, untying a giant rope from a tree, basketball shots, ultimate golf, and charades, where the team must guess a phrase that is acted out. Finally, the teams must form a caterpillar and head towards the flagpole, where the first team that reaches it wins.

Though everyone tried their hardest, Hunter once again seized victory. With the main event of the camp finished, it was time to return home. In groups, the boarders departed Anvil Island, some for the first of many times, others for the very last. Returning to the boarding house, life continued as it always had.



For new boarders and old boarders alike, Anvil Island provided a memorable experience. Runbo He, a new boarder from saints commented that “Anvil Island is really quite something” as he got his “first taste of intramurals”. He also enjoyed the opportunity he had to “see the great views and get to know a lot of new people”. Overall, Runbo felt that the trip was a positive: “Well, I felt that I became braver especially after going down the slide. And I am really happy with the new friends I made.”

For others, this trip to Anvil Island was to be their last. Trevor Li, a Grade 12 and Harker Hall “lifer” has been to Anvil Island each of the past 5 years. When asked what he learned, he said “I really appreciate how isolated and beautiful the place is. Without my electronics, I made a lot of new friends, some I still hang out with to this day. I really think that this year is the best and my first year was the worst due to homesickness.” When asked about how Anvil Island could be better, Trevor said “I think they need new programmes for more introverted people as well as some that can interest returning boarders. Finally, I really think that returning students should have a say in what activities they want once on the island to mix things up.” My final question to him was some final words to new students going into Anvil Island “Make the most out of it, meet new people and soon you know it, it will be your last year in Anvil Island.”

Students weren’t the only one who enjoyed Anvil Island as teachers did as well. When asked about how teachers could benefit going to Anvil Island, Mr. Daniels, a second-year teacher at Saint George’s, had this to say: “I believe that old staff and new staff can connect, new bonds could be made as well as it gives us a free vacation!”


Although the week went by really quickly, the Anvil Island trip was a memorable experience for old and new boarders alike. New friends were made, rivalries were continued, but in the end, Harker Hall students and teachers got to know each other better, which is one of the main purposes of the trip.

When asked about the future plans of Anvil Island, Mr. Hesketh had this to say: “I believe that mixing things up is important so it would still be special to the old boys. This way, our old boys time in Anvil Island will be like their first time.”

When asked about giving advice to new boarders, Trevor, who will never go to Anvil Island again, had these words of wisdom: “Make the most out of it, meet new people and before you know it, it will be your last year in Anvil Island.”

Trevor’s final words will be immortalized as advice to all future boarders, as they too experience the bonding and building of eternal friendship.