Two sailboats stayed in the water in Edgartown Harbor this winter. One belongs to me, the other to Rick Hamilton. Mine is moored near the entrance to Caleb Pond; Rick’s is near the lighthouse. The reason that we leave them in is so that on the first day a warm wind blows in the spring we can go out for a sail.

Spring and Fall are the only times when we have time to go sailing. Summertime keeps us too busy to go out more than a few times a month. Summertime sailing can be pretty unpleasant anyway with motorboats buzzing impolitely close and apparently oblivious to the effects of their wake.

Looking after a boat on a mooring throughout the winter takes constant vigilance. Fortunately, since there are no other floating objects to block the view, it’s easy to check on them daily with binoculars. But at least once a week you need to go out to check the level of liquid in the bilge. It’s a rare boat that doesn’t take on any water. It’s also a rare boat that doesn’t try to free itself of its mooring tether, so it’s important to check the chafing gear often.

I like the excuse to get out on the water at least once a week. I appreciate that my Chappy ferry job gets me on the water daily but it’s nice to take a voyage that lasts more than 60 seconds. There is lots of activity on both shorelines this winter and I like to watch the progress.

The biggest problem with having a boat out on a mooring during the winter is ice. Even thin ice can make getting to the boat impossible. Heavy ice can damage the hull. Fortunately, this year we had none to speak of.

Another problem with leaving a boat in the water year-round is the growth of barnacles and algae on the hull. Antifouling paint isn’t as effective as it was when I was a kid. The poisons that kill sea life that likes to attach itself to a boat have been removed from the ingredients. And well it should have. That was some nasty stuff. It was oil based and reeked to high heaven, but it was a lovely smell to me because it meant summer was coming. Now it’s water based and only seems to annoy the barnacles slightly.

Around mid-December, I noticed that the bottom of my sailboat was looking a little fuzzy. I figured that at the very least it would need a good scrubbing by a diver. Then the slushy ice that had formed in Caleb Pond and Katama Bay came flowing by on an outgoing tide and swept the bottom clean. It looks like a fresh paint job now. Of course, the weed will all grow back by the end of May.

I can scrub the bottom pretty well with a long handled brush from a row boat. I like to reach down far enough so that when the boat heels over in a breeze her bottom looks clean. Revealing a slimy bottom is almost as embarrassing as leaving fenders dragging over the side when under way. I’ll still need a diver to renew the sacrificial zincs on the propeller shaft and to scrape the barnacles off of the propeller blades. It doesn’t take much growth to destroy the hydrodynamics of a propeller.

Last week I ran into Rick on the street. With the string of pleasant days that we had experienced we agreed it wouldn’t be long before we would be able to enjoy a sail. At the very least we could get the engines running since there was no need for them to be winterized any longer. It felt so nice outdoors that when I got home I hooked up the garden hoses and turned on the outdoor shower. I should have paid closer attention to the calendar. We’re back into the overnight freezes. I drained the hoses again and turned the outdoor shower back off.

I get fooled every spring. All it takes is a few days without needing a jacket, hearing the peepers starting to sing and seeing flower bulb shoots appearing everywhere. I feel impatient but I don’t mind. I would rather be running a little bit ahead of schedule getting springtime chores done. I feel very fortunate knowing that when that first warm day finally comes, my boat is all ready to sail.

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