Sunday, December 8, 2013
By GAIL RICE
The sun is rising later and setting earlier, air and water temperatures are starting to drop and the Canada geese are in formation overhead, getting ready for their southern migration. Is it already time for boaters to hang it up for another season?
That depends. For some people -- especially those with school-age kids -- sports and activity schedules are starting to eat away at boat time. Others simply want to get the boat put away before the weather gets too cold and nasty. But some boaters find fall to be the perfect time to get out on the water.
Fall offers many good reasons to go boating. Autumn air is typically dryer than the humidity of summer. Fog is scarce. Sailors enjoy fall's fresh breezes, and those who race can compete in events like the Maine Rocks Race in Penobscot Bay and Portland Yacht Club's Fall Series. Most summer residents have made that final pass southbound through the York tollbooth and are back at their primary homes. This means there is now ample room in those anchorages we were all avoiding because of summer crowds. The leaves are starting to change color, and the scenery is breathtaking.
For some boaters, the very characteristics that make fall weather so appealing can have a downside. Those perfect Indian summer conditions don't always coincide with days off from work, and at times, the weather can be downright unpredictable. Strong, gusty winds can provide a most exhilarating sailing experience, but too much of a good thing can be bad for the boat. My husband calls fall "gear-breaking season." It's not uncommon to see sails get torn and blocks and fittings get stressed to their breaking point -- an expensive proposition for sailors on a budget.
So what's a boating addict to do? Plan ahead, watch the weather and use common sense. Remember those sultry summer days when it was 90 degrees on land but felt like a comfortable 75 on the water? Now the highs are in the low 70s on land, still quite pleasant, but expect it to feel like the 50s on the water, and even cooler if the wind pipes up. This is the perfect opportunity to test your wind-block fleece, long johns, and foul-weather gear. Bring a wool hat and gloves, too. It's better to have them and not need them than the other way around.
Give the boat some attention. For sailors, now may be the time to change out that light-air genoa for the smaller headsail that has spent the summer in a locker or your basement. When putting the boat away after that invigorating day on the water, continue to keep the weather in mind. It might be wise to double up on that mooring pendant, 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. Some people even move their boats to more protected harbors during the fall, particularly if a storm is forecast. This is quite feasible this time of year, with so many boats already hauled out for the season.
The approach of the autumnal equinox means that our boating days are numbered, so be sure to pack your camera to get shots of those beautiful colors.
Gail Rice of Freeport and her husband, Randy, race and cruise their Pearson 34 sloop in Casco Bay. Contact her at: