A variety of boats on trailers have dotted shoreline roads these past weeks. Despite unseasonably warm temperatures, even the heartiest fishermen and boaters eventually resigned themselves to the end of the season and removed their boats from slips in coves and rivers.
Removing a boat from from water and securing it for travel is a bittersweet experience. Pleasant memories share brain space with mundane tasks. Shivering while securing straps on my small craft, I gaze with naked longing at the shimmering blue water and floating docks. Nothing about winterizing a boat is fun but just being near the water energizes me. The sight of any size or style boat in a yard is a reminder of the potential fun to be had. It will come around again…in due time. No amount of wishing will create Florida weather here in Connecticut so patience, as always, is a virtue.
Two years ago, in the frigid depths of winter, my husband Leo channeled skills from generations of Saede fishermen. Unlike his father who spent winters making wooden lobster pots and fishing lures, Leo waited decades to make his first dip nets. Steam bending the oak frames, knotting the nets and wrapping the handles with cordage created artwork too beautiful to use. This season my favorite craftsman is recovering from hand surgery so the nets will remain dry until we’re certain he can create more.
Late December found me craving a salt air fix from Don’s Dock, Stonington Point, and Barn Island boat launch. Viewing fishing spots from shore isn’t as satisfying as being on the water but the smell pushes my pulse faster and curves up the corners of my mouth. Breathing in the ocean’s clean, crisp scent occasionally throughout winter months becomes a personal meditation. Time spent cleaning and repairing gear is best done while daydreaming about sunny days and the hard tug on a fishing line. Walking, biking or driving bucolic River Road in Mystic brings a rush of colorful memories of kayaking past Mystic Seaport and downtown Mystic. My hands ache for a kayak paddle or a fishing rod but I’m not hearty enough to pull that off in winter.
Preparing ocean bounty from the freezer prompts stories of catching that last Tautog or hubcap-sized Porgy. Vacuum sealed, the fish still taste wonderful mid-winter, especially when prepared with Cajun seasonings. Captain Leo spends many of winter’s darkest hours looking at “project” boats online but we’ll keep the affordable skiff we restored last winter. She’ll need a coat of bottom paint before re-launching but is otherwise ready to go. If spring is mild, our lobster traps may be back in the water by early April. In the meantime, I may be spotted bundled up and walking along stretches of the Mystic River, or along the shore in Noank smiling and day dreaming about blue water. Maybe I’ll convert some of my better photos into greeting cards for family and friends so they can share the memories with me. That sounds like a great way to spend a snow day.