The Trip To Haulout


When the snow flies, it is time to put the boat to bed.

The Trip to Haulout 

First published in several Maryland newspapers, 12/8/89

We waited a bit too long to take Crescendo to the boatyard for winter haulout, as usual. The Thanksgiving snow filled the cockpit to a depth of four or five inches and, while the day was clear, the temperature would never reach the 50 degree mark promised by the forecasters.

That probably did not bother the forecasters. They spent the day inside a room with nice warm facsimile machines and cups of hot coffee. The five-mile trip from our pier at home to Lippincott’s marina would not be so cozy, but we knew there would be scenic compensations.

Corelle dinnerware is one of the great inventions of the century. My wife, Pam, busied herself shoveling snow out of the cockpit with a cereal bowl.

It would be a powering passage, as I had taken all the sails off the spars in preparation for hurricanes and we had not taken our sloop out sailing since that time. We had not sailed her much, as family illness, land travel and sailing on other boats had filled our summer.

The engine seemed ready enough; it started easily and ran smoothly on the old gasoline that had been in the tank since this time last year. The Atomic 4 burns so little fuel that we sometimes do not use a 20-gallon tankful over a summer of sailing.

The water was slate gray dotted with white flecks – some were whitecaps moving with the 15-knot wind and others were sea ducks skimming along inches above the ragged surface. Few Bay residents see the sea ducks that migrate into the region in the fall. They stay in open water, generally almost a mile from shore, and blend so well with the waves that they are invisible from distances greater than a few hundred yards.

When startled, these little fellows fly in short bursts with rapid wingbeats and land comically in a splash on the back of a wave. Their black and white feathers flicker in the sunlight like an old silent movie.

Hunters seek the birds, which survive in reasonable numbers here as they have not been hunted to near extinction like canvasbacks and some other species. A lone hunter sat in his outboard runabout on the river, surrounded by black-painted bleach bottles that might resemble ducks to a nearsighted viewer. He and his boat were being carefully avoided by the sea ducks. “Big brave man. I hope you freeze,” Pam muttered as we passed the hunter, summarizing her general feelings about hunting for sport.

As we entered the north end of Kent Narrows, the engine began to run roughly, probably a result of the old gasoline but possibly just a bid for attention. It does this whenever we get into tight situations: passing through Hell Gate on New York’s East River, entering the Atlantic City inlet against the tide, docking on the Cohansey River in a swirling current. If you have cruised, you understand.

Of course, the current in Kent Narrows was against us. With the barnacle-covered prop and bottom, our speed dropped to about three knots over the ground and we chugged lamely toward the bridge.

Why do we do this? Why shiver out here when we could be reading a good book and sipping hot cider beside a fire at home?

Next year, we’ll winterize earlier. Sure, we will. And we’ll start getting up a half-hour earlier to beat the rush hour traffic to work, too. Dream on.

Winterizing is a sad chore so perhaps it is best to delay it until late November – a sad, gray time of the year. If we are going to be melancholy, why not put it all together in one lump instead of letting it spill over into the bright sailing season?

Crescendo is asleep at the yard now. Her veins are filled with antifreeze and her soft bunk cushions are propped up to allow the cold winter air to flow through her fiberglass skeleton.

Next spring, baby. We’ll be back next spring to take you away from all of this. Then we’ll have some fun.

 — The End —