In the Heart of the Storm
I thought about this story the other day and about its parallels with our current situation:
A little story about a Wild Wind Storm
We have a little saying about the weather forecasts along the border that the Canadians always seem to predict too much wind and the Americans are always late. Sadly it doesn’t fit into a nice rhyme like “red skies at night… “ but if the American forecast is for windy by lunch, you better be ready by breakfast.
We were on our way through the San Juan Islands on our way to Victoria, Canada on a September trip a few years ago. Our guests were a family that has done multiple trips with us over the years. We anchored at Orcas Island for the night, then planned to go on to Victoria the next day. The forecast: drizzle and calm overnight, then clearing and windy the following late afternoon.
“Perfect,” I thought. “We’d be into Vic by noon and tied up before it blows.”
We got up early. Still drizzle and low clouds and still the same forecast from both countries. We weighed anchor and headed west, still in the calm. I started to wonder if the forecasts were going to be wrong. The Canadians had predicted a gale for the afternoon, but everything was still glassy. The Americans had said “late afternoon.” Then it began to clear and that’s when the wind came up.
“It’s just barely 09:00” I remember thinking, “this wasn’t supposed to happen until late afternoon.”
It was behind us at a steady 30 with higher gusts and building. The white caps were getting blown off the tops of the waves. I remember thinking how I always love the look of the sea on brilliantly blue really windy days like this, even as it gets more and more uncomfortable.
Victoria wasn’t looking like such a good idea. If San Juan Channel already had this much wind, the Straits of Juan de Fuca where it’s much more open and exposed would be way worse. We tucked into Roche Harbor. As we turned into the harbor we came face to face with the wind, now easily well over 40 with higher gusts. We tried to anchor, but with the gusty winds, we couldn’t get the anchor to set. We finally had better luck in an out of the way shallow corner of the harbor. It was easily blowing 50 and it wasn’t even 10:00.
Then the fun began. As we sat safely anchored, we listened to the VHF radio while call after call was made to the Coast Guard for help. A barge broke loose from its towboat, a dock came loose from its pilings complete with all the boats tied to it and washed ashore, windsurfers were unaccounted for, and more, so much so that the Coast Guard radio operator even sounded at one point like he might break down and cry. It was pretty-much continuous mayhem until dinnertime, but like most fall weather in the San Juans, it only lasted that day, and the next morning we left on a bright, sunny, calm ride to Victoria.
We were tied up by noon.