With apologies to those happy readers in Southern California, the Gulf Coast, and all those other presently unimaginable locales where sailing is a year-round pastime, here at latitude 41 N the annual ritual of readying our boats for another (too short) season on the water is about to commence. So please excuse me for a moment or two-you lucky, winter-free souls-while I ignore the light snow falling outside my window and drift away to that quiet place within where the sun is always hot and high, the first hint of a fresh sea breeze ripples the water, the beer is crisp and cold, and the company in the cockpit is absolutely perfect. . . .
Aaaaah. That’s better.
Of course, before that daydream becomes reality, there’s a bit of work to be done. Last weekend, like a lonesome cowboy happening upon a ghost town, I drove to my local boatyard to reassure myself that my little 30-footer hadn’t been spirited away by aliens and to begin to assemble my list (aka “The List”) of chores for the upcoming season. Save for the seagulls, lined up along the pier like sentinels with their aligned beaks cocked toward a brisk norther, I had the place to myself. Halyards slapped upon stationary spars, the chimes of sailorly music.
I peeled off a glove long enough to spin the digits of the padlock securing my ladder to a jack stand, and moments later I’d scrambled aboard, pad and pen in pocket. Down below, a solid block of ice was wedged in the bilge (now that, I thought, would be mighty handy in six months’ time), and she looked fairly threadbare without the electronics, cushions, and other seasonal gear. Still, the cabin felt cozy, familiar. I smiled at the sight of my daughter’s swimsuit dangling from a handhold, then cracked the single Bud lying askew in the icebox, reckoning myself a noble savior of a forgotten six-pack refugee.
Now there’s no reason whatsoever that I couldn’t compose The List at home on my couch before a crackling fire. After all, I’d only been thinking about it regularly since I’d laid up the boat some three months before. But back in the cockpit, I could survey my tiny ship and see-Right there!-where I’d set up the new traveler system, the rigid boom vang, the depth-sounder display, and the new primary winches. And yes, that brand-new dodger was going to look real sweet-I sure could’ve used it last October when my pal Dana buried the bow on a clear but gusty day and soaked us both to the skin.
A confession: The odds on all these jobs getting done (along with the topsides paint job, which really is this year’s Number One priority) are slim (some, I admit, even graced last year’s list), but one can dream, can’t one? In fact, because I’m annually one of the last local sailors to come out of the water, for the practical reason that my boat is blocking all the others I’m also one of the first back in. So my window of opportunity to jump on big projects is short. Not that I have any trouble with that, as some of my best sails every year come in early May or late October, when it seems everyone else has moved on to other things. But my resolve to address boat tasks disappears once she hits the water; from that point on, as long as everything is in good working order, all I want to do is sail.
As we do every April, this month we’ve dedicated a portion of our regular Hands-On Sailor section (beginning on page 62) to the sorts of projects that we higher-latitude sailors seem to tackle every spring. This month’s roster of do-it-yourself pieces includes articles on varnishing, rig inspection, restriking boot tops, and restoring the sheen to older fiberglass hulls. These are jobs that most sailors, no matter where or what they sail, will eventually tackle. Wherever you stand on the commissioning front, good luck.
With The List in my back pocket, I secured the ladder, cast a last glance at the boat, and headed for home. The calendar said February, but my full-on case of spring fever had already set in.