Cold, Cold Victoria Weather

The wind has been howling through the harbour to a degree we’ve never before experienced. Normally, we get wild winds when a cold front approaches ahead of a deep low, and almost always from the southwest. Mercifully, this tends to be short lived as these fronts are always in a hurry, and almost always abate within 4 or five hours. This can be quite uncomfortable because of our north-south moorage, which puts the wind on the beam, creating a very rolly ride.

This wind has been from the north, northeast for two days now, gusting to over forty knots. If not for that lucky accident of direction, we would have been forced off the boat. As it is, the constant noise and motion has both of us a little squirrely and lacking in sleep.

It’s also bloody cold. It was hard to get out of bed this AM as the breaker had flipped and we had lost electrical heat. It didn’t take long to warm things up once I started the propane furnace, though.
I’m amazed that they haven’t cut off water yet.

The joy through all this is the warm feeling of knowing that unlike the rest of my fellow urban dwellers, if it all goes down, we have water, food and propane heat to last a long time.

The wind damaged a neighbor’s boat yesterday morning. This is the second time I’ve seen this happen on this dock: somebody doesn’t adequately furl his headsail and when a wind comes up it peels out the jib and flogs the hell out of it. There were four of us on there trying to save that sail, and it was a real bear.
The problem with a furled jib is you can’t just throw off the halyard and drop the thing; you have to finish unfurling it, which can be next to impossible depending on how badly everything is tangled. What we had to do was bring the sheets forward and basically wrap them around the sail to keep it from tearing further. It isn’t pretty but it stopped the flogging.

What amazed me about all this was how badly the furling arrangement had been set up. I had brought my winch across to try and furl the thing when I realised that all the furling line had been pulled off the drum even though the sail hadn’t been fully furled.

All I can think of is that the sail had been very loosely furled, without any sheet wraps around the sail, and the wind had pulled out enough of the sail to flog it.

It’s very important to furl a headsail with at least a few wraps of sheet around it, and even when the sail is furled like that there should still be a few wraps of furling line still around the furler drum. What prevented a quick fix yesterday morning was the fact that all the furling line had been pulled out and the drum couldn’t be rotated anymore. In retrospect, we could have untied the line, manually wrapped it around the drum and then pulled it out to finish pulling in the sail, but it never occurred to us at the time.

Here’s a shot of the weather conditions causing these winds. Isn’t that a beautiful picture? Look at that arctic high – much higher than anything I’ve ever seen before (arctic highs are typically higher than summer ones). The highest on record is something like 1087 millibars. We are fortunate that the low to the south of us is barely a low at all (just off the picture), at over 1000 millibars. Unlike typical winter weather, these winds are caused by the height of the ridge, rather than the depth of the trough. Can you imagine what it would be like if we had a deep low right now? It would be like that glorious object off to the west of the Gulf of Alaska: that’s one of the lowest lows I’ve seen, coming up against the highest high – no wonder there’s so many isobars! It must be sheer hell out there!

The Loser’s Guide; How to Redefine Winning and Reclaim Your Life, Part Eleven

Lets look more closely at these.

Starving to death.

This just isn’t going to happen. You have too many personal resources at your disposal to allow that to happen, even if at worst it means taking a crummy job for a while. It goes without saying that at the very worst scenario there are social service agencies, soup kitchens, food banks, friends and family if you find yourself in a bind.

I’ll be desperate.

Desperation comes from a lack of options. It is your neighbours and friends who are desperate because they have found themselves in an endless cycle of debt, expenses, and wage earning. At best they can break free on a holiday for a short time before returning to the mill. Back in the mid-19th century Thoreau wrote “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with their songs still in them.” Lose the gendered “men”, and I don’t think much has changed. Most men and women crave for something else, for more, and they break out their wallets.

I live on a boat in the inner harbour of Victoria, B.C. in Canada. I can’t believe how many people tell me they love what I’m doing, envy me and so forth. Whenever I tell people I live on a sailboat, the inevitable reaction is “wow”.
As for me, I’ve become uncomfortable with it. In the beginning I felt a little pride but as the years have passed, I just see it as home. No big deal at all. And it makes no sense; if you think it’s that great, do it! As a lifestyle it can be very inexpensive compared to land-based living. You live much closer to nature, you get waterfront views, and when the neighbourhood gets dull you pick up and move elsewhere.
I live tied to a dock but the real adventurous ones live on the hook – live without a tether to land and it’s costs. Because my wife works outside our home, she decided she would rather pay for the convenience of being able to just walk away from the boat and catch the bus or ride her bike. Personally I would like the extra freedom of living on the hook would bring, but it’s a compromise.

I imagine a lot of people are hollering “hypocrite” right now; how can someone preach about living a life unencumbered by material things while living on a yacht?

The answer is a complicated one and involves a long history of disentangling myself from an older life, but the short answer is that you can purchase a boat suitable for living on for less than a thousand bucks if you look long and hard enough. The boat would not be safe for marine travel of course, but the requirements for a boat that never leaves the dock (or anchor) is vastly different from one that must safely navigate from place to place. Many of my neighbours have vessels that would be a death sentence if they were ever unmoored, but that’s beside the point; they were chosen because they were cheap and provide cheap housing.
Beyond that, the average house price in Victoria is about half a million dollars. You can buy a lovely yacht for a tenth of that and live in envious style. Why more people don’t is what this book is about.

It’s dangerous.

Of course it’s dangerous. But there is also a risk in staying at home. As is commuting. Or risking your heart with someone. Or is trying to raise children. There are a million possible things that can turn your world inside out every day, things such as disease, violence, natural disasters and accidents. Most of the time people think of the risk of violence when they leave their safe havens, but the stats don’t bear that out. For most of us it’s the home that is the most dangerous place and people we trust who most often violate us.
This is evolution again, a holdover from our tribal ancestry where the other group was a very real danger. Recent archaeology suggest that death from internecine fighting was very high among hunter gatherer groups, high enough that it actually was a very strong force of evolution. We instinctively fear the other, especially the unknown other and so huddle in our wood and gyproc fortresses. As an aside, I’m convinced this is why social phobia and social anxiety is so widespread – along with their population-level equivalents such as racism, nationalism, xenophobia, and so forth. In hunter gatherer societies, there was a good chance that the unknown other really was dangerous.
In my experience suburbs are the worst. Suburbs are where we most often choose to raise families and so there you will find the greatest numbers of young men, individuals that statistically are far more likely to commit random acts of violence. When ever hell was being raised you would find young men busy at it. There are a lot of sociological and biological reasons for this, but often it’s your neighbour’s kid in a well-to-do neighbourhood you have to keep an eye on, not the abstract boogeyman waiting for you in the bushes.
We think a conservative, mainstream suburban lifestyle is the safest, but it’s an illusion.
Even politically it’s a house of cards. There was a poster I read that talked about awareness of how we live, and one of the points has always stayed with me:
Never confuse your comfort with safety.
That’s it in a nutshell. They came for others and they can come for you. Your garden gnomes and designer house colours will not stop men with guns if your country’s politics go askew as they so often have all over the world.

Come sail with us.

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