Windshifts: I Love this Time of Year

I love this time of year. In Wisconsin, April is when people prep boats to go back in the water. It has been a long, hard winter of reliving last year’s races at the bar, reading magazine stories about other people sailing in warmer weather, visiting ocean racing websites and yearning. And now it’s time for the northern sailor’s rite of spring: getting ready to launch.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

I love this time of year. In Wisconsin, April is when people prep boats to go back in the water. It has been a long, hard winter of reliving last year’s races at the bar, reading magazine stories about other people sailing in warmer weather, visiting ocean racing websites and yearning. And now it’s time for the northern sailor’s rite of spring: getting ready to launch.

In the fall, the yard surrounding our yacht club is transformed. Our tent—which morphs through the season from head-banging dance-party venue to after-race hot dog and beer joint to junior sailing regatta headquarters to impromptu sail loft—comes down, the junior dinghies are packed away and trucks bring in our cradles from wherever they were rusting over the summer. Members’ boats are hauled, dripping from the water and shoehorned into every available space. The former tent site becomes the boatyard, which then goes into hibernation along with the boats. Like most yards in the north, scant work is done over the frozen winter. The static raft-up is quiet and cold.

Come April all of that changes. Covers come off and Saturday mornings are abuzz with the sound of sanders, buffers and sprayers. Friends who have seen little of each other over the winter waste precious prep time talking. Some get sucked in by the vortex of the club bar. Folks climb ladders, wash decks and engage in a spirited but short-lived competition for vacant electrical outlets and water spigots. Maintenance projects are proposed, discussed, disputed and—all too often—put off. The best paint/dust mask/tape/wax/varnish is extolled or belittled. Repetitive trips to the (inexplicably) distant chandlery are made. Crew shows up to help. We are reacquainted with our favorite people: sailors.

Before the boat goes in, the coming summer is a vision of optimism. No race has started, so each one represents potential victory. No distant port has been visited, so each represents a potential destination. No friends have arrived, so each one’s first visit to the boat is warmly anticipated. The rigging tape is supple and white, topsides are gleaming and streak-free, varnish is still smooth and unscratched. And, of course, nothing expensive has broken, so the budget has not been exceeded. Yet.

I climb the ladder in my grimy clothes and take a seat in the cockpit. There is no rigging to clutter things up and even the tiller is still at home, awaiting its final coat of varnish. The sun is out, unseasonably warm. I spent countless hours here last summer with my friends, racing hard at times, drifting at times, just fooling around out on the gorgeous lake at others. I can hear the chatter before the start, the laughter after the finish, and can imagine the quiet hours in the evening. Last summer my boat sprung annoying leaks in portholes, stubbornly refused to stop growing mold in the hanging locker and devoured bags of ice, cans of beer and bottles of rum and water. It also endured the worst storm I have experienced on this lake with stout grace, carrying my partner and me through without a hint of trouble. It brought me laughter, some victories, a few disappointments, great friendships, a bit of bravery and some love.

This year, as always, will be different than last. As I prepare to climb down and return to work, I look over the battle-scarred deck and wonder what lies in store for us. I look out over the boats in the yard. Some are still covered. Others are shined up, varnished, painted and ready to go. In less than two weeks, all of these boats will be floating, but today each one remains a bundle of potential. Climbing back down the ladder, ready to mix up a messy brew of paint, I cannot wait to watch the keel kiss the water, to guide the mast down onto her step, to raise the sails for the first time.

To sail again.

I love this time of year. 

Illustration by Tom Payne

Got a good story? We want to see it Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com

Read more on boat work: Spring Commissioning, Windshifts: I hate this time of year, Boatyard Zen

Related

BoatTalk-2048

VIDEO: Sailing Not just for Millionaires

Sailing and boating can come with a hefty price tag, but there are plenty of ways to get on the water without breaking the bank. In this episode of Boat Talk, SAIL's managing editor Lydia Mullan and Power & Motor Yacht's executive editor Charlie Levine share tips on getting out ...read more

Cornell-2048x

Elcano Challenge Resurrected

In late 2020, sailing legend Jimmy Cornell set off on his Elcano Challenge, a green-powered circumnavigation aboard the custom Outremer Aventura Zero. Unfortunately, shortly after setting out, the boat encountered major power-generation issues. "I took the decision to turn ...read more

F8V-BOOK-for-SAIL---1

Book Review: The Figure 8 Voyage

“What is the color of the ocean that rolls beneath Pacific trades? How does a wave curl and crash at 47 degrees south? Can an albatross remain awing in the worst of weathers?” Randall Reeves has always found images to be the most compelling part of the stories we tell about the ...read more

AC210117cb_23806

VIDEO: Capsize in the Prada Cup

American Magic's Patriot capsized during day three of the Prada Cup. If you haven't yet watched the catastrophe unfold with your own eyes, check out the above video or any number of others that are circulating on social media. It's truly a tip that has to be seen to be believed. ...read more

210115-AC36

Prada Cup: Brits Take First Two Races

Who saw that coming? After getting skunked in December, INEOS Team UK has swept the first two races in the Prada Cup elimination series of the 36th America’s Cup  Racing took place on racecourse “C,” sheltered between Auckland’s North Head and Bastion Point to take advantage of ...read more

ac-2048x

Hutchinson: 36th America’s Cup will be a Close On

On the eve of the Prada Cup challenger series, the official start of the 36th America’s Cup, New York Yacht Club American Magic skipper Terry Hutchinson says it’s anyone’s game. "As we've seen in the last week, everyone's gotten faster," said Hutchinson said at the event’s ...read more

Episode1_Thumbnail4_00000_00000_00000_00000

Sailing Docuseries Released Online

Endless Media's Reaching Reality is the story of three friends, a 24-foot sailboat and 1,200 miles. With candor and humor, this series proves that you don't need to be an expert or a millionaire to cast off on the journey of a lifetime. Produced by Emmy-award winner Barry ...read more

01-LEAD-nder-sail-3

Prepping for a Transatlantic

Growing up on the coast of northern England, I dreamed about crossing oceans on my own boat. Like most of us, though, education, a family and a career took precedence, and before I knew it, we had mortgages, young children and endless work obligations. We also became landlocked, ...read more