With September absconding with the warmth of August, I should have been back in Boston. But there I was helping the Cap’n prepare Pysche for the winter layup. Unfortunately, the Cap’n was a bit of a frostbiter and wouldn’t truly yield to the cold until later in October, “there are lots of crystal clear sailing days into October, Wes!”
Of course, my practical and cold-averse wife suggested trips north as long as “Daddy” could get out for a sail. But, I was the one going out and getting frozen fingers and toes – that’s why it’s called frostbiting. So, no, Georgia would stay home and promise to keep the woodstove going and have hot chocolate or hot spice cider ready.
We sorted and packed everything that should not stay aboard through the winter months in September. There would be no multi-day long coastal trips and much you’d expect to need for those went ashore. We put on a heavy-duty rub rail at the waterline because the ketch spent the winter in a tidal gut that didn’t freeze up, but the hull needed protection from passing ice. The engine would get winterized when the Cap’n called it quits. Then we’d stip the sails for storage in the little lazarette below and cover the boat for the winter.
By then, I was approaching mid-terms and preparing papers. I was typing, reading, and attempting to keep my cat, the Grey Menace, out of trouble. There was a mountain ash tree in front of the cabin, and after the berries ripened, they sometimes fermented. Fermented berries meant drunken birds, and drunk birds meant great fun to the Menace. As a result, he was frequently confined to the dining room window, where he watched the birds cavorting without his assistance. To him, this unfair and arbitrary punishment made him more than usually interested in attacking passing ankles or bare toes. Finally, tripping the Cap’n on his way out with a bucket of wood ash got him summarily dumped outside. Now the Menace was in his element and began to stalk a drunken robin only to have the robin unexpectedly turn hunter and counter-stalk the cat. A loud yowling signaled that the robin had won the match and a chagrined cat retired to perch by the stove.
Sometime around the middle of October, the Cap’n would call it quits. At that point, you’d expect to be done. But a canny owner knows to double-check and check again. So as the fall rains and storms whipped through our area of the coast, we spent time going out and confirming that everything was secured.
Then the Cap’n and Cora would slip into their winter round of square and line dancing evenings, and my crewing services were no longer needed.
As winter approached, I’d take the little skiff out one final time, row around Pysche, and say goodbye to the cove until some snowy middle-of-winter trip brought us back with a growling cat who hated the snow between his paws; but adored evenings curled up in front of the fire.