A lot of people consider Labor Day weekend to be the official end to the boating season, but it doesn’t have to be. The weeks between Labor Day and Columbus Day can have some especially fine boating days, even if you have to fit them in around slightly cooler temperatures.

Some of the area’s sailors actually prefer autumn, and for good reason. The air is crisp and clear, making fog the exception rather than the rule.

The breeze tends to be more dependable, especially for those who are seeking a spirited jaunt across the lake or bay.

With most of the summer folks back at their home ports out of state, the best anchorages are less crowded for sailors and power boaters alike. And the beautiful fall foliage is icing on the cake.

Racing sailors are happy to have some competition left. To the east, the hardiest single- and double-handed sailors are taking advantage of the fall breezes in the Maine Rocks Race out of Rockland Yacht Club. They left Rockland Saturday morning, sailing to Matinicus Rock, Mount Desert Rock, and back to Matinicus, with a return to Rockland.

Closer to home, Portland Yacht Club’s Lightship Race was yesterday, and the club’s Fall Series continues for the next three Saturdays, through Oct. 8.

It doesn’t matter whether your boat is propelled by sails or power, or whether you are racing or cruising. All it takes to enjoy boating in the fall is a little planning, both for yourself and for your boat.

In the fall, you’re not likely to have those days with highs in the 80s and just a gentle breeze. Think 60s during the day, which is no problem with a layer of fleece (or maybe long johns) under the fall jacket.

Overnights could see temperatures dipping into the 40s — good sleeping weather, provided you have an adequate sleeping bag or an extra blanket.

Don’t forget the gloves and hats — you may not need them, but they’re good to have on board just in case.

A hearty meal to reheat on the stove, accompanied by a favorite hot beverage, is a wonderful way to cap an evening.

The boat also deserves a little more attention in the fall. One thing that prevents many people from keeping their boats in past mid-September is the likelihood of severe weather. Stronger breezes are one thing; tropical systems are quite another.

This year, a lot of people already threw in the towel after Hurricane Irene.

But those who want to try to get a few more days in on the water just need to remember to double up the mooring pendants, add some chafe gear and remove canvas and other windage, including sails, if severe weather threatens.

This not only protects your own boat, but others in the mooring field as well.

Some even move their boats to more protected harbors if a storm is forecast — something that is quite feasible this time of year with so many boats already hauled out for the season.

So for those who like a little adventure, and whose schedules are not dictated by their children’s athletic events, keeping the boat in a few extra weeks can allow for a few more precious boat days.

But this is Maine, and the season will eventually come to an end for all but just a few.

In a couple weeks, the final column for 2011 will explain about how some boaters have found a way to pursue their boating passion through the winter months.

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

[email protected]