Seen from Center Island, boats shelter in Decatur Island’s Honeymoon Cove, looking across a tombolo to the whitecaps of windblown Rosario Strait.
WINTER IS NOT DULL on our island.
There are fewer people, for sure. Neighbors occupy only a handful of the vacation homes this time of year. If social whirl is what you’re looking for, you got off on the wrong rock.
For those of us who live here year-round, this is the season that makes us feel a bit like pioneers on the edge of the world.
The whirl we do experience is wind. Maybe it’s how climate change is manifesting in the San Juans. For days on end in January, we get windstorms.
The National Weather Service has a cool trick where you can call up a map online, touch the screen for your location and get a pinpointed forecast. For Center Island, our typical forecast almost daily for the past two weeks has been along the lines of “Showers turning to rain, southeast wind 20 to 25 mph, with gusts to 40.”
So we’re hunkered down. Our little boat, WeLike, which doesn’t enjoy going out in such winds, is securely tied to our community dock. We haven’t pulled her from the water because, well, it’s usually too stormy to do even that. We walk across the island to check her every day or two, to run the bilge pumps and snug up the lines and fenders. So far, so good.
But we’ve also not left the island since before Christmas.
Happily, it’s a season when we have new books to read and games to play (thanks, Santa), and Barbara keeps a well-stocked pantry year-round, so nobody’s going hungry. But the fruit bowl is low, the fresh vegetables are pretty much gone, and we’re hoping the Amazon order of cat food isn’t delayed too much longer. (It’s coming by a UPS plane, but they don’t fly in high winds.)
So we sit in our living room with its high wall of windows, watch the 100-foot firs sway like sea grass in a typhoon, and listen to falling limbs ka-thunk as if they’re coconuts on our metal roof. (We can imagine we’re in Hawaii.)
Only once in our 16 years of cabin stewardship has a tree come down on the place, necessitating a replacement roof on one side. The structure is strong enough that the big fir didn’t pierce the interior ceiling. We’re hoping that was “our one time.”
This video is from one of the milder days of wind recently, as seen from Madrona Bluff.
On the worst night of winds last week, a dead tree fell across our road. The next day a lull in the rain allowed me to get out the new gas-powered Husqvarna, shared with neighbor John. Gunnar, as we’ve dubbed the Swedish-heritage chainsaw, made quick work of the 10-inch-diameter fir. The good news: It was dead, dry and perfect for burn-it-now firewood. And splitting it gave me a good chance to “get my corpuscles ’puscling,” as Barbara likes to quip. Restocked the woodshed nicely.
We also like to pull on our rubber boots and walk around our island between rainstorms. Pecking for mites in the gravel road ahead of us, the latest feathered arrivals blown in on the storms are golden-crowned kinglets, tiny cheeping balls of green and gray with a dramatic orange stripe atop their heads, like avian punk rockers. At our favorite viewpoint, which I think of as Madrona Bluff, for the artfully gnarled, bronze-barked trees hanging over the high bank’s edge, we watch white-capped swells steamroll across Lopez Sound.
Maybe the winds will drop enough tomorrow to let us fire up WeLike and get across to Lopez to replenish our toilet-paper supply, among other items running low. We’ll see. Never a dull moment in a Center Island winter.
Next week’s forecast says snow.