Winter Sailing

going to james island

The weather was wicked cold, but otherwise great for cruising.

It’s been a few weeks since I left the dock, and with these back-to-back inversion layers we’ve been having, the weather has been nearly ideal. I was chewing at the bit, ready to get out. The cold snap this weekend also represented some of the coldest weather this region ever sees. That made it perfect to test the heating ability of my new propane heater. I’ll be insulating the boat soon and I wanted to see how it would do, pre-insulation.

Because it gets dark so early, I decided to head out Saturday morning. The weather forecast for Saturday held steady all week and I felt I could trust it. It predicted steady 10 mph winds out of the northeast. The tide book called for slack tide at 9 am.

Given the tide and the direction of the wind, I settled on James Island as good target. This time of year the dock is gone, but the west side of the island would be protected from the wind. I figured I could drop anchor and do a stern tie to the pilings.

At the last minute, Friday night, my buddy Andy decided to join me. Saturday went perfectly to plan. We saw porpoises and black mouth salmon jumping. The wind and currents did exactly as expected and we had a beautiful, quick sail over to James.

Stern Tie

The anchorage is pretty poor on James, but a stern tie to the piling ensured we wouldn’t wander too far.

When we got there, I was really thankful for Andy’s help as stern ties are always trickier than you think they’ll be. The currents make a whirlpool right by the pilings. In the future, I’m going to think twice about this anchorage. We drug anchor slightly that night. The bottom drops off very quickly and as near as I can tell, is made of small pieces of shale. Very poor holding.

Once anchored though, we took a great hike on the island. Park Services has been busy installing additional outhouses and a new trail. A previously unexplored trail led us to a great lookout where we found some sort of fossilized shellfish (oyster?) on a rock.

We passed a fun night playing guitars and entertaining the baby. My propane furnace had no problems keeping the entire boat toasty in 19 degree (Farenheight) weather. To be honest, I was feeling pleasantly trepidatious about the trip, as I had never sailed in weather this cold. It felt vindicating that a man who grew up around boats trusted my ability and equipment enough to bring his toddler along. She was an angel, and has spent plenty of time on boats in her short life.

Fossilized Oyster

Some sort of shellfish fossil found on James Island.

The weather on Sunday morning was calm, cold, and sunny. We had a beautiful morning motoring back.

Sitting at the dock now, I feel so relaxed. Heading out into the islands is like taking a big gasp of breath before diving back down into murk. During the week I feel like I am holding my breath, doing what I have to do, until I can make it back out on the boat. The schedule, the work, the press of people is invigorating but it all saps my focus and balance. It makes me moody and emotional if I spend too long away from being immersed in nature. Being out in the islands, just for one night, brings me back into balance.

More Winter Sailing Photos


Stern Tie Help

Andy helping me rig up a stern tie to the piling.



Related posts:

San Juan Islands Kayaking: Saddlebag Island
Fishing for Lingcod, Cypress Island Washington
Marine Water Heaters--Camping and Boat Showers
One Response to “Winter Sailing”
  1. Chris – Nicely done! What a great video – you’d hardly imagine that it was that cold out. We’re looking forward to meeting you and Solace tomorrow night!

    Katie and Mark

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