—February 25, 2017
It’s winter, and we don’t really care whether that over-glorified February-the-second rodent saw his shadow or not, because all realistic indications point to winter being with us for many weeks to come. And, as lovers of all things nautical, we at Getting Nauti get kind of depressed during the depths of winter because this season puts a damper on maritime fun.
Sure, you folks who live in southern California or Florida pretty much enjoy the nautical lifestyle for 12 months of the year. However, the rest of us schmucks have to endure what seems to be an annual eternity of cold temperatures, freezing water, dark skies, ice, and—for those of us in the northern climes—that white stuff that looks oh-so-pretty-when-it-first-blankets-the-ground but after lingering for weeks on end starts looking like the frozen crust of nuclear fallout.
Just the thought of it in late summer made us quit watching Game of Thrones so we wouldn’t have to hear that annoying catch-phrase “Winter is coming!” That harbinger of winter, that first frost, brings tears to our eyes as it marks the end of the nautical season. And that first snowfall, the one in which just about everyone exclaims, “Oh, how pretty!,” has us envisioning a flamethrower melting the white spawn of Satan before it can touch the ground.
OK, OK, so we’re getting a bit melodramatic here….
But we can’t help it because by mid-February we are so done with winter, and so ready to get back to getting nauti! Not gonna happen, though, because we’ve got endless weeks and weeks to go, no matter how that aforementioned rodent calls it.
So this got us thinking: what kind of nautical-minded fun can we have in spite of winter’s ravages? Lo and behold, after a bit of research we discovered that there are all kinds of winter-time maritime activities one can enjoy. Maybe winter doesn’t suck after all. Let’s check them out:
Frostbite Sailing— Heck, we thought everyone up north pulled their sailboats out of the water in the fall, but it turns out that a dozen or so northern communities from Boston to Maryland engage in sailboat racing all year. “Frostbiting,” they call it with good reason. And yeah, we can just imagine the joys of sailing into 20-knot subzero winds, sleet and snow; moving about on frozen decks while dressed in so many layers one can hardly move; and handling lines so cold that they feel like they’re about to cut through your gloves and into your flesh.
Ice Diving— Everyone pretty much pictures tropical coral reefs when thinking about SCUBA diving, but some hard-core divers take it to the extreme by diving through a hole in the ice during the depths of winter. In fact, some divers are so gung-ho that they pay big bucks to break through arctic ice to explore the coldest underwater environments. Don’t try this at home, though kids, as ice diving requires specialized equipment and probably a bit of training to account for unfamiliar cold water considerations. You know, like how to successfully do it without freezing to death.
Surf Fishing the Freeze— Many die-hard surf fishermen swear that they can pull in just as many game fish in February as they can during spring or fall runs. On beaches from Massachusetts to North Carolina you can find these brave fishermen facing the freezing onshore wind and sleet while angling for a striper, blue, drum, flounder or any number of other prime catches. If you meet one of these eager anglers try to take note of how many fingers he has as he waxes poetic about the 20-pound striper he caught off Cape May during the height of last winter’s blizzard.
Cold Weather Surfing— Cowabunga! Piping Hot! Surf’s Up, Baby…. Especially in the winter when “gnarly” waves might take on a whole new meaning when you add some baby icebergs. But get amped, because surfers who live in eskimo-like climates swear winter surfing is the best. Just ask the locals who live near Windmill Bight, Newfoundland; Tofino, British Columbia; Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia; Higgins Beach, Maine; Lofoten, Norway; or Punta de Lobos, Chile. They don’t let a bit of snow, wind, ice or frostbite snake their waves.
Polar Bear Swimming— Those crazy neighbours of ours to the north in the land of ice, moose, beavers, Mounties and Eskimos, have engaged in this traditional activity for more than a hundred years as a fun way to ring in the New Year. And while some American groups have adopted this hypothermic pastime for charitable purposes, those crazy Canucks just do it for the fun of it, to the point where just about any winter holiday or event marks a good reason to jump into the frozen ocean. Heck, they probably jump into the ocean on Feb. 2, to honor that stupid overgrown gerbil.
Well that pretty much wraps up our research findings of winter-time nautical fun. What d’ya think, can any of these pastimes cure the winter blues for those of us dreaming of a nautical summer?
Yeah, no! Winter still sucks….
—Written for and published by “Getting Nauti” Feb. 20. And yeah, been a bit limited on my own personal writing of late…. Stay tuned—I’ll rant again, soon.