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It’s April. Let’s all breathe a sigh of relief; winter, after all, is 11 days and counting in life’s rearview mirror. April is the month to get ready for what comes next. To me, turning the page on March has always been a reason to go outside and holler. As a kid, it was the month we’d head to the lake in the hopes of being there the day the ice went out. All around the shore, the water would flood the banks, and the yards would be full of winter’s debris. And then one day the wind would come and the ice would be gone. Only a wuss wouldn’t jump in for a dip.
Up north, April is the month when people get downright giddy. Days are longer. There’s life-and light-after work. We come out of our winter’s hibernation to see shoots of green pierce the lingering snow piles and bring life to the brown patches of dirt that will soon be gardens. Like fools, we begin the month thinking there’s no way it can snow again, and when it does, we sneak one over on Mother Nature and don’t bother to shovel. It’s going to melt, anyway.
But it’s not just a latitude thing. It doesn’t matter where you’re from; this is a month to take to heart. I remember last April going sailing in Baja, Mexico. At the airport in Loreto, sun baked the sidewalk as we waited for a taxi to take us to the marina at Puerto Escondido. Spring? It felt more like full-blown summer to me. But at the docks, the winter’s northers were the topic of conversation among the local cruisers and weather gurus. And my hosts, John and Patsy, declared that soon it’d be warm enough for swimming. April heralded the change of their season, too. But I didn’t wait. When we discovered that our mooring line had tangled itself around the ball and chain, I dove right in to have a look. The swimming couldn’t have been nicer.
April is the time for making moves. If you’re one of the lucky ones and spent the winter soaking up the Caribbean sun, you’ll need to soon be sailing, either north or south. For some, it’s time to come home; for others, it’s time to push on, perhaps to explore the coast of Panama or take a turn through the Canal to discover what lies waiting in the Pacific.
Along the Eastern Seaboard, the exodus begins with sailors returning to Florida and the Carolinas from the Bahamas and the islands. After the end-of-season regattas and the parties, the migration starts as a trickle, but by month’s end, a steadier stream begins to fill the Intracoastal Waterway as the snowbirds flock back north, running as much from hurricane season as in search of fine summer sailing on the Chesapeake and beyond.
If I were a sandpaper salesman, April would be my favorite month. Most sailors plan ahead and buy bottom paint and other supplies at the winter boat shows or when they go on sale at their local chandleries. But not sandpaper; that’s a spur-of-the-moment, Saturday-morning sort of purchase, and in April, man, oh man, the sheets just fly off the shelves as do-it-yourselfers head down to the yard or marina to tidy things up for the season.
April is the month you start making plans to flesh out your winter fantasies. It’s the month you look again at the chart for Lake Huron’s North Channel or read the cruising guide for the Gulf Islands in the Pacific Northwest. It’s when you provision the boat in preparation to cast off for Europe, finish outfitting for a race to Bermuda, or line up crew for the Pacific Cup run to Hawai’i.
April is the month when everything is once again new and no one has yet thrown any monkey wrenches into the works to mess things up.
April is here.