A winter visit to the boatyard

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I stopped by the boatyard today — for that least-rewarding ritual of boat ownership, paying the bill — but the inevitable pain of the moment was (mostly) assuaged by a visit to my boat. There she was, on jackstands, newly hauled and not yet shrink-wrapped. It was late in the day, and the wintry sunlight (golden but cold) glinted off her pale blue hull. She looked good — a little lonely and bereft of purpose, but good. All in all, she struck me as “resting up” for next season’s adventures, but of course, I may have been projecting.

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My previous boat was a steel trawler that wintered in her slip. I would often stay aboard in Newport, Rhode Island, until just before Christmas. At that point I’d be coming home from the office in the dark, walking down a nearly deserted dock, making a little dinner and shivering in the blast of an electric heater for a few hours before burrowing under the down duvet. It was cold, and I knew I was not letting go gracefully, but there were still some rewards to be had, and I eked them out: A steaming cup of coffee in the pilothouse as dawn rose over a mostly empty harbor seemed infinitely better than the cellophane-wrapped muffins at the local Howard Johnson.

I gave up staying aboard in October this year, though I probably would have been cozier aboard the small Matinicus than I ever was on Bossanova. But I knew it was time. Am I getting softer or am I becoming wiser? I like to think it’s the latter: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Now is the season of retreat. The winter ocean is stormy and magnificent, but what a comfort it is to view it from ashore — I do not envy the men and women who make their living on seas like these.

I came to boating much later than most and sometimes wondered if I should have been a lobsterman. Or a boatbuilder. Maybe I would have been happy in the Coast Guard or driving a ferry — because what I craved was always more of what was best about our passion: time on the water.

The truth is that a career in marine journalism has been a perfect fit for a restless soul with nautical appetites. It has sent me up the Amazon, around Cape Horn, on a leg of the Clipper Round the World Race, through the Inner Hebrides on a single malt tasting tour, to boat shows, through the shipyards of Italy — even to boatbuilding school. Instead of eating the same delicious meal over and over, I have sampled from an incredible smorgasbord that has taught me the meaning of enough. I know I can be happy with much less than I am lucky to have.

It’s true that if those of us with short boating seasons lived in another part of the country we could be boating year-round, but we all have our reasons for living here. I’m going to be content watching the sea in winter and savoring the anticipation of spring. Happy New Year!

This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue.