Riding the Pineapple Express

Anchored in a storm

Solace anchored in a north-facing anchorage, protected from a heavy southern gale.

March 8th

After five hours of heavy weather sailing, I stare at awe when things stay where I put them. I fluff a pillow and put it back from the center of the boat where everything piles up. A half hour later, it’s still where I put it! I got used to things flying across the boat every time I tacked. I’m anchored off Sucia Island and things are finally calm.

This blustery March weather has been dubbed a Pineapple Express; a series of storm fronts breaking across our Cascade Mountain Range like waves against a beach, forming a series of comma shaped clouds when viewed from space. Today the winds averaged 16mph in Anacortes, but I hung out for long periods of time in sustained 20 to 30 mph wind.

flying the storm jib

Flying the storm jib and double reefed main. Canada or bust!

Shortly away from the marina, I lofted the 25% storm jib and the jib sheet grommet promptly ripped out. I had to put up the 50% storm jib and sail with a double reefed main. The entire way to Sucia I must have averaged over 7 mph. I surfed up and down 5 foot waves for most of the journey.

I tied to a mooring ball in Fox Cove, which opens to the northwest. The low embankment protected me from the waves rolling in, but allowed the strong winds to pass through the cove, keeping my wind turbine humming and power plentiful. After a long day of sailing, with an equally grueling day tomorrow, I knew it was important to conserve my strength. I didn’t even bother inflating the dingy to go ashore. Instead I took advantage of the power being generated by the wind turbine. My Verizon Jetpack picked up 1 bar of 4G, allowing me to do a couple hours of work. I watched movies, showered, and ran the ice maker for four hours. The wind continued to howl all night and I awoke in the morning to fully charged batteries.

navigating to canada

Navigating my way north.

March 9th

Cloud filtered sunlight was trickling in through the portlights when I opened my eyes at 7AM. The wind was strangely quiet. I checked the forecasts and they hadn’t changed. Slightly less wind than yesterday, but basically the same forecast. Gale force winds were forecasted for tonight so it was imperative that I find a secure north-facing shelter this evening to weather out the next storm front from the Pineapple Express.

I took two hours carefully preparing the boat. I pre-made lunch so that I could eat in the cockpit while underway. I filled up the thermos with hot water for warm drinks. I did the dishes and cleaned the boat, carefully stowing items for more heavy weather sailing. I raised the main with a double reef and sailed off the mooring ball. As soon as I got outside the cove, I lost the wind. Boundary Pass was almost placid. Far from feeling frustrated, I happily fired up the engine and motored across the border to Canada.

March 10th

Preparing Oysters to Can

Oysters washed, packed, and ready to cook.

Nothing imparts the value of food to me like canning it. It takes over two hours to process four cans of oysters with my meager equipment. How much would it cost to buy a can of oysters? I’d probably come out ahead if I bought them, but that’s not the point. The experience: preparing for the trip, the sail to the harvest grounds, choosing only the best oysters from the beach, watching the sunset while my pressure canner bobbles in the background. The experience is where the value lies. That’s the point.

I am connected to this ecosystem. I move with the wind and harvest with the seasons. I may have the advantage of technology, but my relationship is no less authentic than that of a Native American 400 years ago. I love these islands and the wildlife that abound in this mysterious archipelago. I respect the winds and currents, and that is how I am able to harness them effectively.

Solace at anchor

Solace is my own personal spaceship into the wilderness.

After checking in at the Bedwell Harbour customs dock, I continued north to Prevost Island. The winds picked up as I traveled along the west side of South Pender Island, so I shut down the motor and began sailing. As I progressed north the wind continued building and it began to rain in earnest. The next round of the Pineapple Express was catching up to me.

I made it to Selby Cove with an hour of daylight to spare. By this time the gusts were getting fierce and the rain felt like standing in a shower stall. I dropped anchor in 35 feet of water and let out 200 feet of line. After setting the anchor I revved up the outboard to ¾ throttle and counted to 30, carefully watching to make sure the anchor didn’t drag and ensuring it bit deep into the muddy bottom. Later that night, for ease of mind, I clipped on my 30lb anchor sentinel, slid it down the rode, and let out another 50 feet of line.

BBQ Oysters

Heating the oysters to make shucking easier and to ‘hot pack’ the food.

Gust after gust pummeled Solace that night and the following day. True to her name, I was warm, dry, and comfortable. The wind turbine hummed along in time with the wind, but thanks to my careful choice of anchorage the water stayed placid in the north-facing bay.

The storm broke just before low tide today, allowing me to collect oysters in the steady drizzle. By the time I got back to the boat with my bucket full, the rain was slacking off and a small patch of blue sky was growing bigger. I shucked oysters under a rainbow and canned them to a golden sunset.

Tomorrow my friends will arrive at Salt Spring Island via ferry and we’ll spend the weekend riding our bicycles around the island. I recently purchased a well-used but reliable folding bicycle and I’ll use this weekend to break it in.

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8 Responses to “Riding the Pineapple Express”
  1. Tony says:

    Fossil Bay has a nice dock, has great Verizon reception (LTE full bars), and is packed with oysters along the SE shoreline. I fried a dozen and shared them some other folks when I spent the week there at the end of February. It’ beats every anchorage on the island due to having a deep bay and cliffs to protect from all sides. Glad you made out okay last night.

  2. Matt says:

    I can’t believe you set out in that weather we had – it really was blowing like stink.

    I’m supposed to be sailing to Orcas from Victoria tomorrow, keeping an eye on the forecasts nervously.

    • Chris says:

      I looks like the next week is going to be fairly calm. I’m glad of it to, because there is no way I would sail upwind in those conditions. I was a little worried I was taking a one-way ticket north. 😉

  3. Zen says:

    I love reading sailing logs. Something so poetic about it.

  4. Chris –
    Sounds like yet another amazing adventure! I bet those oysters tasted freaking awesome after that sail and the care and effort it took to harvest them. Good on ya! Have fun over there and hopefully things will lay down for you on your trip home.

    Katie and Mark

  5. Stormy says:

    Great post, please tell me you put your new Monsun on the bow…

  6. Great post! Envious seeing you sailing about in the rather heavy weather. Can’t wait to get back out on the water this year!

  7. Awesome adventure dude!!

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