A Winter Without Winterizing
Or, how to be spoiled (though unashamed)...
When you start getting sunsets like this on the Chesapeake Bay it is a sign that Fall is well advanced and winter is in the offing. Most years it is the prelude to winding the sailing season down, winterizing the boat, and hauling it onto land so it can hibernate safely until Spring. Winter storage has long been part of the ordinary cycle of seasons.
But not this year (and in coming years). Laughing Gull isn’t made for sitting on the hard, shrouded and dormant, for four months. It is a boat meant to make ocean passages as easily as you might make a trip to the Travelift (well, almost). And even though core sampling arrested (mostly) any concerns I might have about the mysterious moisture readings that have been persistent over the years in the bow area, I didn’t particularly want to put Laughing Gull through a hard freeze. I just needed a plan, a plan to go south. But where?
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At first I looked at Florida. Fort Lauderdale. Palm Beach, the usual suspects in that area of Florida’s Atlantic coast. Easy to get to, and easy to get to the Bahamas from on a boat. I made a few calls. I received a bracing reality check: not only are slips VERY hard to find, the prices are astronomical. Moving on.
Next up was St. Augustine, in the northern part of Florida. Not as reliably warm, but less crowded, less expensive, and easy enough to get to (via Jacksonville). But the more I considered, the more I realized that with a son sweating through college admissions applications until January 1, it would be hard to take much advantage of a boat anywhere south until 2023. So no real reason to go direct to Florida and pay Florida rates (even reduced Florida rates). One option was to deliver Laughing Gull somewhere south (Charleston, maybe?) and then haul her for a few months. But that didn’t feel like the right solution either.
I am a believer that if you ponder long enough, and let ideas percolate within long enough, the right solution will always emerge. And you will know it when it does. And that is exactly what happened. As I looked at how far south I might have to go to reliably avoid the need to winterize anything, Brunswick, Georgia caught my eye. That is where Laughing Gull was when I bought her. And the marina there, Brunswick Landing, is well-protected, well run, and home to a great community of cruisers. It made all the sense in the world to simply sail Laughing Gull back there in November, leave her in the water, and stage out of Brunswick in early 2023. I called and booked a slip. Way more affordable than Florida.
As this piece of the puzzle fell into place, so did another: I got an email from the St. Augustine City Marina saying they could offer me a slip from February 1 through mid-March. The City Marina is eminently affordable, and right downtown in St. Augustine. In short, the perfect place to hang out and explore “America’s Oldest City,” which is why I had put in a longshot bid for a slip. Thanks and book it, I replied.
And with that, I think I am ready for my first winter without winterization. Maybe the best plan I have had for the cold months—ever. I’m excited. I’ve been making lots of little tweaks and fixes to Laughing Gull since the summer, and digging through every locker and organizing things. The boat is ready to sail. the boat needs to sail. I need to sail, too. That is, after all, the whole point of this adventure.
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