| (C) Jon Eisberg|
Chancy had been acquired a few years earlier, turned into a major project, but never yet sailed for more than a day or two at a time. I'd hoped to take her south for the winter, but events had conspired to force me to settle instead for a three-week singlehanded trip from New Jersey to Maine and return. Yet, in late winter, it seemed somehow fitting that Chancy's shakedown cruise took us through some of the most popular cruising grounds anywhere—grounds in which I never spotted a single sail of another boat.
Cruising these waters in the wintertime, the complete absence of other cruising boats, the almost total desertion of many harbors, and the sense of emptiness out there lends a sort of gravity to the enterprise that's palpable. Winds of equivalent strength are literally heavier in March than in August and might provoke reefing at a windspeed several knots earlier than normal. The spray obviously has a bit more sting to it than in the summertime, and the fact that it may freeze on deck imbues one with a sense of deliberation and caution regarding one's movements often absent from warm-weather sailing. Clearing a fouled lobster-pot warp will definitely be more problematic than in summer, when a quick dip over the side is at least tolerable. Upon departing Pollock Rip Channel and feeling the surprisingly big sea running for the 25-knot northerly that was blowing, it wasn't difficult to appreciate that, among other things, dying out there that night could be much more easily achieved than on a similar night "in season." That sort of healthy respect for the elements, and for the consequences of a mistake, is a good deal easier to come by when the temperature hovers below freezing and the closest other sailing vessel under way just for the hell of it is likely a few hundred miles farther south.