Girding for the Silent Season
When your boat’s your home, winter comes early, so button things up and enjoy.
Once a month Diana fires up and warms up all the electronic equipment to drive out any moisture and exercise the magnetron in our radar.
Our spring refit isn’t as extensive as ones for boats that’ve been laid up. Still, we have to recommission the engine, adjust the packing gland, bend the sails, refit all running rigging, wash winter grit out of all the blocks, sheaves, and tracks, service the winches, unwrap the radar, free the wind generator, remove and clean the heater flue, cap the deck fitting, pull the glazing from the ports, exchange our seasonal clothing for others in our plastic stowage bags, and mop out the condensation from the bilge.
I execute a proper load test on the ship’s batteries assuming that our continuous use has depleted their limited lifetime cycles.
Marine growth is noticeably dampened by winter’s cold water, so little working life is taken out of the antifouling paint. However, a winter in an electrically active harbor usually requires a change of zincs, and this is a good time to don a wetsuit and check the antifouling paint, cutlass-bearing wear, the pintles and gudgeons, and the raw-water intake screens, clean the transducers, and regrease the folding or feathering propeller.
The free life afloat isn’t exactly free, but winter rates for a slip are usually considerably less than the summer fare. And improved cellphone coverage and wireless Internet access have solved the problem of connectivity. One can conduct a modern yet affordable life from the comfort of their boat-home.
But more important, wintering over means that the familiarity and strong emotional connection between a sailor and his or her boat isn’t severed every six months. When our ships become our homes, sailing becomes more than a sport: It becomes a lifestyle, one that’s challenging but richly rewarding. And I’ll cross that Mason-Dixon Line any old time for that, singing “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”
Alvah Simon and his wife, Diana, are CW contributing editors. They recently wintered over aboard Roger Henry in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.