Puget Sound the San Juan Islands

Finally! The End of the Season

Thursday, October 03, 2013S.V. CAMBRIA

We left Friday Harbor nearly a week ago to seek shelter from an incoming storm, choosing Reid Harbor off Stuart Island to ride it out.  In hindsight, it was a bad decision.  Though the anchorage offers protection from all quadrants, the wind was from a more easterly direction and the chop easily entered the bay.

Saturday was uneventful, but Sunday was an entirely different day.  A large frontal system sitting to the north of us over Haida Gwaii was forecasted to move south during the day, while an intensifying low was forecasted to deepen and move across central Vancouver Island bringing gale to storm force southeasterly winds.  As bad as the forecast from NOAA was, the one from Environment Canada was even worse and called for SE winds 35 to 45 knots in the afternoon increasing to 50 to 60 knots in the evening before turning southwesterly near midnight.  There was no question about it; it was going to get ugly.  And it did.

The wind started to blow around 8:00 am and built throughout the day.  By early evening, the barometer had dropped to 981 MB and we were seeing a steady 40+ knots inside the anchorage (with gusts up to 46 knots).  The boat sailed at anchor; and for most of the day, it was too dangerous to take Sally to shore because of the chop.  I was beginning to feel nervous.  The conditions were already rough and the worst of the storm was forecasted to hit overnight, but it settled down around 7:30 pm and stayed that way for the rest of the night.  

Squalls passed through the area on Monday, so we stayed put and waited until the conditions were more settled before moving back down to Friday Harbor on Tuesday.  The best day for crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca was forecasted to be today, so we took the time to visit friends and say our good-byes for the season while we waited.  And first thing this morning, we upped anchor for what would be an uneventful 53 nautical mile passage and put the islands behind us for another six months.

The Pacific Northwest is by far and away the most beautiful place we’ve ever been.  Not only is it beautiful, but it’s easy to feel a connection with nature here.  Over the past five years, there have been countless days that we felt like we were the only two people left on earth and while that may not appeal to everyone, it does to us.  Yet the weather can make cruising here so difficult – the summer season is short and the spring and the fall can be wet, windy and cold.  Without question, this year has been more difficult than most; so it probably comes as no surprise that, for once, we were happy to see the end of it, tie up and plug in. 

The calm after the storm.

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