Boat Patting

I was talking with a friend from the Friendship Sloop Society the other night on the phone, and even though it is March here in New England, the conversation quickly turned to an enthusiastic discussion of  the work we are each starting on our respective boats in order to be ready for next season.
        In a culture where “maintenance free” has become something of a modern mantra, this can be difficult for some people to grasp. Whenever sailors gather, some part of the conversation will focus on skills other than sailing. The design, layout, and rig of any vessel is an intensely personal statement to begin with, thinking about the constant adjustment to the rig, slight modifications, and improvements, is part of the mindset of the sailor. Acquiring any skills that give one the independence to work on, and better understand one’s own vessel, becomes second nature.
        For me preparing for the upcoming season provides almost as much enjoyment as the actual season. In a sense, it is just another form of creative daydreaming; what projects it would be cool to get to, how great it would be to take care of this or that problem, but the best part is that it is still too cold out to do much. Someone even came up with a name for this phase of the year: “Boat-patting season”. All over the coasts people are appearing at boat yards, marinas, and storage facilities, lifting a tarp here, crawling over a covered deck there, quite often muttering or even openly talking to themselves about what they need to do this year. Finally, when they have gotten cold enough, the hull gets a last affectionate pat and the sailor heads back to some place warm. 
        If you are lucky, you have a heated shop somewhere that is too small to drag any really big or nasty project into, but large enough to putter in. Puttering is a big part of boat patting season. Puttering is the opportunity to get creative about addressing little problems, stuff you never have time for during the sailing season. I think what is so satisfying about this process is that it is often those little niggling problems, not important in themselves, that are the most fun to fix. It is so satisfying to eliminate a squeak, or get a hatch to slide smoothly, and best of all, the real deadlines are still months away.
        Yes, boat-patting season is here, and I for one, am enjoying it.

New Shroud leathers

New leathers on these shrouds were the direct result of puttering.

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