As I sit here tonight there is about ten inches of snow on the ground outside. Most of it hit the ground earlier today while I was at work. The temperature is 25 degrees. That is pretty low by Port Angeles, Washington standards. It’s also way earlier than I expected. Sailors tend to live by the weather report. Wind is our Holy Grail, snow and ice our agony of defeat.
In winter we retreat to warmer surrounding. The luckiest ones can migrate like waterborne snowbirds. Others will winterize their boats or haul them for the season. Back east the winter haul out was always a bittersweet ritual. It came after some planning and gathering of materials: tarps, marine head antifreeze, gasoline stabilizer, pint of rum. On the Chesapeake Bay many boats come ashore some time right after Labor Day. Most are sitting on the hard by Thanksgiving. I always waited until the last minute, usually in the second week of December.
The appointed day would usually be breezy and crisp. I remember one such occasion when I pulled put of the slip for a last short sail prior to heading for the travel lift. It was overcast and cold with the feel of moisture in the air. I motored out of Bear Creek into the Rhode River and raised sail knowing that I would furl them within an hour. Mostly I wanted one last chance before the closing of another year to enjoy that exquisite, moment when with sails trimmed and drawing like a draft horse the engine would surrender control. The silence broken only by the sound of moving water and the varying strains tugging at the rigging was pure medication for my soul.
As I headed back to the Rhode River marina with furled sails and outboard thrumming I looked about at the river and the forested shoreline. I said a silent farewell to the osprey nest on the green daymark and delighted in the first snowflakes of a typical early season flurry. The work of putting my boat to bed occupied the next several hours. However, first things must come first. And with the last cup of tea from Dragonsong’s small galley, laced with a splash of demon rum, I saluted another fine year with the hope of many more to come. On cold winter nights I still fuel my sailor’s soul with warm memories in the hope of making new ones in the dawning of a new year.