Winter Survival for the Mid-Western Sailor
When the lakes ice up and the boats are safely "on the hard," just what does a sailor do to while-away the time until Spring arrives? Well, there are some things that can make the time go faster, and they may even sharpen up those mariner skills that otherwise tend to go dormant over the long Winter hiatus.
So, even though I am officially a snowbird, here are some activities I've found that work any time I'm stuck on land for a long spell. Maybe they will work for you....
Bone up on your sailing knowledge: There are plenty of good books and internet resources to help keep you sharp and bring you into the next season with at least your sailing vocabulary and fundamentals intact. It's also satisfying to find you can still think like a sailor when there's no need to and absolutely no possibility of sailing anytime soon.
Develop your knot tying skills: Tying knots is an important sailing ability, and it is as much muscle memory as it is understanding the mechanics. Manipulating line into a functional knot is as satisfying as it is useful to the art of sailing, and it's a great stress reliever if you've been arguing politics with your brother-in-law! Repetitive practice is the only way to really make it feel natural to the point of being reflexive, so get yourself a piece of scrap line to practice with, and find an on-line site like Animated Knots. Practice while you're watching TV, or just sitting quietly at nome. You'll be a pro by Spring
Kit up for the next sailing season: Even if you don't own your own boat, if you're ever going to be even a semi-regular sailor, it's a good idea to have enough of your own personal gear to be safe and comfortable on any boat. Off-season is a great time to check the sales for foul weather gear, your own life jacket, boat shoes or whatever you want to meet that need. Good sailing gear can be expensive, but the cost can be manageable if you have the time to shop around at your leisure. If you already have some of your own gear, this is also a great time to get it out and make any needed repairs or do any servicing that might be recommended by the manufacturer. Inspecting inflatable life jackets is a good example of exactly this kind of off-season preventative maintenance.
Start planning your future Winter sailing vacations: Heading to a warm-weather sailing destination during the cold months is one of the best things you can to to ward off the mid-winter blues. These kinds of vacations don't usually come together overnight, so it's best to start the research and planning early and at at time when your are really motivated! If you are a bare-boat Captain, or if you have a fellow vacationer who is, you can charter a very nice boat and sail your own vacation in the Caribbean, the Sea of Cortez, or the South Pacific. If you don't have your own qualified Captain, the charter company can provide one at a reasonable cost.
But, charter vacations are not cheap, so it's best to have friends with whom to share costs, and here is where the planning process becomes important. If you are part of a sailing club or group of like-minded individuals, this planning piece gets a lot easier. If not, you will find difficult, sometimes nearly impossible. This is one of the reasons have started the Pepin SailingCrew Group on our Facebook page. Joining the group doesn't cost anything. It doesn't require a commitment, but it does provide a way to meet new friends who share your interest in sailing.
Initially, I had intended to expand on the above points in this update entry. I have since decided to take each one and expand it in more detail with follow-up posts that will constitute a series over the next month or two. I hope you find them interesting, and I'm eager for any feedback you're willing to provide.