Working at a magazine does strange things to your sense of time. It’s mid-August as I write this, but today we will be sending the October issue of Soundings to the printer. So while it is still high summer, my head has been working in mid-fall. It is, I suppose, an amped-up version of that bizarre disconnect that happens this time of year.
You make a quick detour from a glorious day at the beach and dash into the CVS — all sun-kissed, sandy and blissed out on a vitamin D high — to grab more sunblock or ice for the cooler. And suddenly, there it is — like a freezing bucket of water in the face: row after row of back-to-school displays. Do you leave that store a broken shell of your former self, or do you wrestle Einstein’s wisdom into self-help: A happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell too much on the future. I’m going with door No. 2.
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” — Albert Camus
This was the best summer I’ve had since 2011, when I had Bossanova on a mooring in Jamestown, Rhode Island, and lived aboard. Every summer since has been a smorgasbord of visiting friends who have beach houses, enjoying our small but lovely backyard and maybe working from the island for a week or two — lots of fun, plenty of variety, nothing to complain about. It seemed, though, that the season was over in a flash, and despite sampling everything on the buffet, I felt starved for more.
This summer I was able to spend more than two months working from a remote island 23 miles off the Maine coast. It was an unexpected joy to have nowhere to go beyond the mile-by-half-mile confines of dirt roads, green fields and granite ledges surrounded by the Gulf of Maine. No errands to run. No shopping to do. And though I only had my boat in the water for a few weeks, I had enough of the constant presence of the sea to feel sated and rejuvenated. Time seemed to deepen and elongate — it just felt more substantial.
I’m now ready to greet fall and its many pleasures without reluctance. After all, if you can resist the stampede to haul out, late-season boating in the Northeast can be the best of the year. The waterways are less congested, the weather is often gorgeous, and the foliage is spectacular. And as our 11-page spread on new boats (Page 38) will remind you — without an ounce of subtlety — it’s boat show season!
This time of year can be rough on marine journalists, but learning new things keeps my job interesting. After owning a 40-foot steel trawler and a 28-foot fiberglass Cape Dory Flybridge, a West Pointer 18 has opened up whole new worlds: center console, wooden, outboard-powered. In other words, I don’t know jack about my new boat. So this fall I’ll dive into researching.
Gannet is overpowered by a 33-year-old 70-hp Evinrude that’s running a little rough (despite a recent and costly overhaul). Do I want to throw more money at it, or should I bite the bullet and get a 50-hp Evinrude E-TEC or another modern, lighter engine? (I’m also salivating over the new ZipWake Dynamic Trim Control System. You can read about it in next month’s Equipment column and look for demonstrations at the IMTRA display at the fall shows.) Gannet has reminded me that these shows are about so much more than new boats, though more than one person has gone to a show in love with his old boat and left with a new one! (Don’t blame us.)
Another suggestion for this fall: Consider joining the back-to-school crowd. AIM Marine Group has created a resource called Boaters University (boatersuniversity.com). Why not take an online Marine Diesel Maintenance & Troubleshooting Course, from the comfort of home, with expert Steve Zimmerman? It focuses solely on the components that are most likely to go wrong, concentrating on prevention and repair by a boat owner. Learn how to troubleshoot fuel, electrical, cooling and corrosion issues, and understand how savvy maintenance can prevent ancillary components from failing in the first place. It will feel good to up your game.
And if you’re not quite ready to greet autumn with gusto, I hope these pages will remind you that there’s no time like the present.
This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue.