Remember what I said about my dream of the Northwest, “quiet coves”, “mirrored waters”, perhaps I should have done a bit more research. This morning we experienced a gale that midway through the day was upgraded to a storm warning (defined as sustained winds in the range of 48 knots (55 mph) to 63 knots (73 mph)). At one point, there was a mini white squall in the cove, like a wall of whipped blowing water coming at the pilot house at full speed. I was so excited, I screamed, John came running, the boat leaned sharply to port, and our bottle of real maple syrup took a dive onto the teak floor! Yes, I will admit we were in the midst of having pancakes in the pilot house, watching the wind meter slowly creep higher with each gust of wind in the middle of the gale/storm. But nothing says crisis like syrup on the floor and we sprang into action. Donning windbreaker gear, we headed out to check lines, canvas covers, the snubber line… In reality, we had already prepared for the storm, picking a cove that had good “holding” and wind protection from the south, pulling up the dinghy, tying down the Bimini, anchor line out at a scope of 7 to 1, so we were in good shape.
However, the same cannot be said of our neighboring boats. In the course of the morning, we saw at least six boats drag their anchors, requiring quick action to get control of the boat in the storm. The most suspenseful was our immediate easterly neighbor, a large 65 foot boat, who inexplicably had three, count ’em three dinghies, tied to his stern. We were watching the cove as one after another gust ran across the water towards the moored boats, suddenly realizing our neighbor was slowly moving closer to our position. No people were apparent on the boat and we began to discuss our evasive maneuver choices if the large boat continued to drag down on us. Suddenly, a woman burst from the pilot house running forward to the bow wearing…..you guessed it…..her black nightgown! The spectacle continued as the wind whipped, the anchor work began, the engines fired up and slowly, the behemoth with its three clumsy dinghies and one underdressed crew member lumbered off to a new anchor position far down the bay.
During the course of the morning, VHF Channel 16 issued “pan pan’s” (urgency calls) of boats dragging anchor, dinghy’s turned over, people in the water and even a few “may days” (imminent danger) including one 50′ boat on the rocks. While listening to Channel 16 is a marine necessity, the repeated calls amp up anxiety level and create a no nonsense atmosphere.
Happily, after about five hours of expectant watching, occasional acting (we had to let out more chain and reset the snubber), and the consumption of a hearty lunch, the winds subsided (max observed was 47 knots) the cove turned calm; reflecting the grey green of the evergreens on the hill. All is right with the world.
Westcott Bay, San Juan Island, Washington
48 35.74 N
123 09.13 W