Fall Boating IS Fun and here’s WHY!
August 6th, 2021 by team
by B.J. Porter (Contributing Editor)
With temperatures climbing in early August, it still feels like there’s more than a month of summer left, right? And nobody wants to talk about winterizing yet. But the reality is that a lot of people are already hitting back-to-school sales, and Labor Day will be on us before we know it.
But the boating season ONLY ends when WE say it ends. And it doesn’t have to end on Labor Day or the first day of school. We always pushed it later past the high season, and had some great times on the water when we lived in New England, even to November.
So what is there to do? If you’ve got kids, you do have to work around their schedules. Fall sports cut into weekends, and they have homework. If you don’t have school to contend with, you have it a little easier. But if you make the time, you can still have a lot of fun with your boat.
Cruising after Labor Day
We always loved fall cruising. Though the weather is cooler, the crowds just…disappear, and the water is still warm for a while. First come, first served moorings are always available, you rarely need a reservation for a slip, there’s no wait in restaurants, and the game of bumper boats at the dinghy dock gets a lot easier.
As the fall progresses, you may find some services get cheaper. While we rarely took slips in the summer, once marinas in Newport dropped to off-season rates, we liked to pop down for a quick weekend trip. All the restaurants and shops were open, and we tied up in the middle of it for a fraction of the July rate.
There are downsides, especially for summer resort destinations. A lot of islands roll up the carpets and close for the winter. One late October weekend at Block Island, we found all the floating dinghy docks had been pulled for winter, and there wasn’t a good place to come ashore. We took a slip, enjoyed the last dinner of the season at our favorite restaurant, and figured Block Island was done for the year.
The weather can be dodgier. You can get cold nights, so if you’re staying in that off-season rate slip, you might need to bring some blankets or run a heater. If you don’t have heat on board, on shore power a small ceramic space heater is usually enough for the volume of most boats.
So if you can get away for the weekend and the weather is promising, do it and enjoy the solitude.
Many clubs sponsor a fall racing series, and it’s usually relaxed and casual. Race courses tend to be shorter and closer to shore, since daylight is waning. Numbers and participation are also lower, so it’s less hectic at the starts, and some clubs don’t even run a spinnaker division for lack of boats and crew. And no one is tuning up and practicing for spring, they’re kicking back and winding down.
So if you ever wanted to test the waters with racing your sailboat, a fall series is a good way to try low key, low pressure racing. And it’s also a great way to try out racing on someone else’s boat. Crew is always needed, especially late in the season.
You don’t need much to do it – for your own boat, just a rating from your regional handicapper to register with whoever is running the races, and a couple of people to sail with you. For someone else’s boat, you need appropriate shoes and clothing, and show up with drinks to share.
You may need to slip out of work an hour early on race days, because the fleet is also racing against the darkness so they won’t start as late as a summer series. And you’ll probably be pulling into your slip or mooring after sunset. But it’s worth it.
On Standby for Short Trips
With a boat in the water, you’re ready to capitalize on an unexpected second summer. You often get nice warm spells well into October or later, and if you’re ready for it, you can take advantage.
So even if your kids have soccer games and cross country meets all day on Saturday, with the right weather you can still get in a sunset cruise. Or you can get out the next day for a few hours on a warm afternoon.
Keep your goals short. These breaks in the weather may only be for a day or two, and they may be in the middle of the week where you only have an hour or two of good light. If you can adjust your schedule, you can get a few really nice days out of it.
And nothing makes you feel vindicated for being disorganized and behind schedule with your winterizing than getting out on the water on a seventy-five degree day when no one else can!
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