It’s inevitable. Kids are back at school, temperatures are dropping and the sun is rising later and setting earlier with each passing day.

Some Maine boaters will continue to cruise the coast and explore Maine’s lakes and ponds well into October.

While boating during fall might require a few extra layers of clothing, it can still be a nice time of year to be afloat, and particularly, to view the autumn foliage.

But the stark reality is that for most of us, the season is about to come to an end.

The 2010 boating season has been a stark contrast from 2009.

Last year’s overcast skies, raw temperatures and too-frequent precipitation were replaced with lots of sun and a fair dose of heat and humidity — perfect weather to be on the water. The only storm to pose any real threat — Hurricane Earl — stayed far enough off the coast to be a non-event for most of us.

Now we’re left with memories of a great boating season and the annual chore of hauling and decommissioning.

Once that work is done, it will be time to think about finding something to do to get through the long winter. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to get some sort of boating fix during the colder months.

First come the projects. For do-it-yourselfers with a boat that is new to them, there is typically a sizable list of projects geared to personalizing the boat and making it seem more like their own.

Even people who’ve had a boat for years will find something that they want to do, or more likely, something that must be done to keep the boat ship-shape.

Face it — a boat is little more than a hole in the water that you pour money into, and for those who do the work themselves, that involves not only the cash, but considerable time and effort as well.

It’s hard to imagine running out of boat projects, but for those who find themselves in such an unlikely position, there’s an easy answer. Go to a boat show. Stroll around and look at a few boats — chances are you’ll see some rigging improvement or interior modification that will get your creative juices flowing.

If that doesn’t work, visit the tents, and find a gadget that is sure to make your boating experience safer, more fun or otherwise more fulfilling.

In no time, you will have one or more projects to fill your spare time.

There is no shortage of boat shows on tap for the next few months. For sailors, the granddaddy of all boat shows happens Oct. 7 to 11 with the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Md. The United States Powerboat Show follows on Oct. 13 through 17 at the same place.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) has a whole slate of shows happening through the winter, including the New England Boat Show at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center from Feb. 26 through March 6, 2011.

A schedule of NMMA shows is at www.boatshows.com.

The light at the end of winter’s tunnel is the Maine Boatbuilders Show at Portland Yacht Services, which typically happens around the third weekend in March.

The show doubles as a social event for Maine’s boating community, and essentially marks the coming of spring. It is not to be missed.

Those with some cash and time to spare can travel to a warmer climate and charter a boat for a week or more. There are numerous companies in the Caribbean and other locations that offer bare-boat or crewed charters. They advertise in boating publications, can be found in an Internet search, or can be booked through agents such as Ed Hamilton and Co. www.ed-hamilton.com).

A much less expensive option is to simply peruse all available resources and plan next summer’s trip.

Regardless of your location (coastal or inland) or your boat type (sail, power or paddle), there is a broad range of publications and websites to help you plan your next adventure.

Failing all of the above, you can pursue another passion.

Take a ride on your snowmobile or hit the cross-country trails or downhill ski slopes.

But be forewarned: the conversations you have with the people you meet while engaging in these winter activities will nearly always come around to what’s really important — boating. It’s inevitable.

Gail Rice of Freeport and her husband, Randy, race and cruise their Pearson 30 sloop on Casco Bay. Contact her at:

[email protected]