Tony writes… as the years go by, so the rhythm of the seasons seems to become ever more part of me.
Now that we spend our summers sailing, autumn preparations for winter are about laying up – draining off water tanks, removing sails, servicing the engine and taking ashore items for repair or maintenance. Although we are moving towards the end of the year, autumn for me has always been about new beginnings – a new school, university, job or country. And now it is about resuming our other life ashore.
Winter was once a time to get through – to survive. Now we are blessed with a warm home and food in the shops, that challenge does not face us – at least while our health continues. But it is a time for maintenance, repairs and renewal. For us, having been away for the summer, it is the time to reconnect with family and friends and resuming other interests. Some people dread the short days, but there is something lovely and comforting in settling down in front of the fire or lighting the candles by which to remember the sun. While this may seem like dead time, it is a time for renewal. Carl Jung wrote “Winter is a time of great activity – it just doesn’t show on the surface”.
For me, Christmas has always been important and now it seems filled with memories – memories of Christmases past and of those who are with me no more. Our rituals of bringing greenery into the house, decorating the tree and preparing the celebratory foods while listening to carols comfort me enormously and can move me to tears. As a child I would tell myself “It’s really Christmas Day!” On twelfth night it is with sadness that we take down the decorations. And yet they are beginning to tire and it is good to have the space clear again. While not denying the changes in today’s world of Brexit, Trump and the undermining of the fabric of society, I find comfort in these traditions.
My childhood winter memories are of trudging to school through the snow and making long ice slides across the playground. Then there were no school closures in case someone fell over! My parents took us ice skating on a mill pond or on Tring reservoir. I do remember my father warning me not to skate too near to the part where unfrozen water was still to be seen. These days ‘proper winters’ are just a memory in the south of England, where we have had no snow at all this year. Antipole, tucked up in Finland, is getting a proper winter. She is covered in snow and temperatures have been down to -24°C. She is connected to the electricity supply to keep the batteries topped up. Occasionally she sends me a message to warn when the supply has been disconnected, which has to happen while the snow plough clears a way through the boat yard.
Now we are waiting for Spring and that first moment when it feels in the air that it will come again! Jetting off for a winter break in the sun seems wrong to me — it would break the spell. But then I was brought up not to eat before a meal, lest it spoil my appetite. The Spring bulbs are showing their first leaves and soon the daffodils will be waving in Easter! It’s time to pour over charts, get them up to date and plan the season’s cruising.
On return to Antipole we will pull the winter cover off and start airing the cabin. It takes a while to move back in and make this home again. There’s painting to do and much bending on of sails and canvas. While it is good to be back on board, a boat on land feels dead. Come the day when she is lifted into the water, at that moment she comes alive again. Yes! Soon the engine bursts into life and we motor down river to our mooring. Other boats are about, sparkling in their new paint too. Ducklings scoot away over the water to be gathered in by their parents. This year and last we see no duckings, for in the eastern Baltic Spring is much later and we have to wait until the ice thaws before we launch. The season there does not really start until the end of May but we have passages to make and will be off as soon as possible.
You can see our cruise plan for the coming season here.