Every winter is different, and it pays not to take anything for granted. “Be prepared” should always be the motto of the sailor and the liveaboard. That said, so far so good this year…
This past December was a windy, relatively warm month. The temperatures did not dip often or much below freezing and there was no snow to speak of until the week before Christmas (though it did not linger long enough in the city to give us a real white Christmas). It was so warm we saw a boat or two out on the cold lake waters well into the month, long after we had put up our winter cover.
We walked in the park most mornings, until that week when the snow fell. After that the footing became uneven and then slippery, and now there’s ice under the trees where the paths are shaded. We check the paths from time to time because this is a beautiful place to walk, especially early in the morning when the slanting rays of the sun highlight details you might not notice otherwise. After a windy night the waves roll in and break against the rocks or on sandy beaches that have been uncovered as the lake finds its winter water level.
This year it seems lower than usual. We can gauge the level of the lake by looking to see how much of the rocky breakwater is exposed, which rocks are no longer covered by the water, how high above the water the fixed docks are. The thing that affects me most is the angle of the ramp from the docks to the main building and land. As the water falls it becomes steeper and steeper and by now going up or down is a challenge for anyone having to transport anything heavy to or from their boat. A smaller challenge for me, but I find myself leaning into it when I walk up and holding on to the rail when I walk down.
With winter come chilly winds – from the east, the north-east, the north-west. We don’t notice them as much this year, except when the boat rocks or we have to walk along the dock in the gusts. Our new and improved boat cover is proving more stable and quieter, and since we replaced our dock lines they don’t creak and groan the way the old, less stretchable lines did. So now we need to check the forecast and make our best guess about what is really happening before stepping outside, and if it’s blowing strongly enough I use Richard as a windbreak or hold on to him when we’re walking along the docks!
Christmas came and went quietly. We took the minimalist approach, since most of our celebrating was off the boat. But we were happy to see others take a different tack. Some decorated with lights under their covers that shone and flashed and blinked and made the nights merry. Some had cheery wreaths on their winter doors. I even saw a tree in one cockpit. Cards were given and on one boat we saw them strung across the window, and many Christmas or holiday greetings were exchanged.
On our boat we decorated with a string of solar-powered lights around the edges of our hard dodger and hung cards on the grab rails inside. These latter, as you might guess, were not conveniently placed for those times when the boat rocked and a hand flew automatically toward the rail. We enjoyed them for a while and then took them down. We’ll leave the lights up, though, to brighten the rest of our winter nights. All we’ll need is enough sun during the day to charge their battery.
Today the wind is blowing hard and the boat is rocking. But the days are growing longer and if we’re lucky the clouds will stay away – most of the time anyway.
Hope they stay away from you as well, and you’ll find this new year a good one.
Written by Margaret Mair