Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Bitter End

The end of the sailing season has come, and Aura is now high and dry, on the hard, laid up for the winter. She still has to be covered over and the motor prepped and stored, but the big work of hauling out is done.

It was a good season of sailing. With her new sails, Aura looked like a new boat and performed well. A used #2 genoa given to me by fellow Tanzer 22 sailor John Lydon gave us some enormous sail area for light wind races and was a deciding factor in us crossing the finish line ahead of some others.

One crisp and sunny October afternoon as I finished putting new pads on the boat cradle, enjoying all the sawing, hammering, and general puttering around in the harbor, I reflected on the hours of behind-the-scenes work that go into owning a sailboat. My crew this year (on weekly PHRF and JAM races) were good sports, fun to sail with, and did a great job for being relatively new to racing. It did turn out to be a bit of a chore to get everyone to show up consistently though, and I've realized that to most people, sailing is seen a relaxing way to spend a couple of hours, not a competitive sport. When you've spent countless hours working on a boat doing a hundred little things that have to be done, there's more of you in the boat, and you're more dedicated to it. That's probably why my best crew member is also the owner of an Aloha 28 and a dedicated sailor. For the rest, the novelty wore off about halfway through the season, and we withdrew from the Fall series of races.

But there's a certain enjoyment in just being around boats. The environment is good to be in. There's the wind, and the water, the promise of the open river and places to explore. And sailing up the river under the bright white canvas, feeling the forces of nature and the laws of physics working to propel you effortlessly forward... it's all very different from motoring along in a machine. It instills a sense of wonder.

As I wrapped up my work on the boat cradle that day and headed back to the club house for a hot drink in the Dragon bar, a chilling breeze blew in across Lac Duschenes. A lone sloop was tacking upwind for one last run into the setting sun. I shivered and ducked inside where the fireplace was blazing warmly. It's a bit sad to see the end of the season come so soon, but I don't think I'd want to be out sailing in the biting November wind. Better tuck away the memories of hot Sunday afternoon cruises and picnics on the water for another year.

Now it is time to prepare for a long, cold winter.

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