Tuesday, October 24, 2006

(with apoologies to daughter Tammy)
It is happening as we speak...er...as I write and you read. They're clearing out and leaving the vast expanse of Lake Michigan to me...and fellow winter paddlers...and those who work hard behind the scenes and in hard conditions to help make the lake a joy to be on.

They, in this case, being the yachties or the power boaters or the sail boaters or the pleasure boaters...call them what you will (I was, for many years, one of them, and most of them are good seaman...but I digress).

Yesterday, I watched this fellow using a reefed main while he slipped his mooring sans motor and squeezed in a last sail on his way to hauling out for the season. He will spend the next 5 months sitting on the bar stool at the yacht club with other like-minded boaters telling stories about amazing events on the water that never happened. The one thing I disliked about sailing was the short season. I was paying for a boat that was in the water half the year. Then there was the expense of winterizing and winter storage. After that, it would take most of the summer to fix (at great expense) all the little things I needed for the big trips I would never take. Once tuned up, it was time to haul out again...and write another check.Yet, the season has its own beauty as boats go ashore and disappear under tarps and shrink wraps,and the harbor, draped in gloomy clouds, takes on the look of an abandoned housing project. But it is an illusion. The place is alive with gulls, geese, herons and fools like me in little boats. Fools like me who cannot stay away from the water. Fools like me who would rather go through the risk of choking to death on a dry suit's neck gasket than live life on the couch and looking out at the world. Fools like me and the others who "go down to the sea in boats..." And, of course, the hardy crews who seem to be able to work in all conditions in order to keep the breakwater and water safe.It is worth a cold-day's paddle just to see these guys work. Their boats throw out a wash that spun my kayak as I passed a good 100 yards abeam. Apparently, their parents never let them have Legos and, now, they are compensating big time.

Paddle safe...


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