Although it's only the end of March, we recently heard via the Chautauqua County grapevine and Sherman's Jim Hamilton that boats are appearing daily throughout the region.
Barns and garages are giving up their stored vessels as eager mariners go into preparation mode for another season of boating on area waterways.
To be sure, wintertime - normal wintertime that is - tends to be a dismal period for boating enthusiasts. As snow piles up outside, power boaters and sailors are reduced to dreaming about past seasons and planning for new adventures when the weather breaks. So, when Mother Nature delivers an unexpected gift of fair weather far earlier than expected, it matters not whether the vessel is large or small, sleek or creaky, captains of every type water craft begin the labor-intensive but joyous activity of readying their arks for duty.
Our own days on the water go back across many years. Though neither George nor I was raised around boats, we decided early on that boating would be a fun activity for the whole family.
Our first vessel was an elderly wooden fishing boat. It was wide-beamed and came equipped with mismatched oars and an ancient five horsepower motor. The strain of pushing the heavy old thing through the water worked the motor so hard that we never traveled fast enough to create more than a ripple of wake. In fact, ours was a nautical version of Moseyin' Along. So we named the vessel, the "Mighty Putt Along."
With great ceremony, the kids and I presented hubby with a suitable yachtsman's hat and began referring to him as "Skipper."
Our next boat came straight from the showroom floor. It was a light-weight 16-foot aluminum row boat that - in the long-ago world of the '70s - cost us less than $150. Looking back, we have often wished we had bought a dozen and stored them for today's market.
During our second season of boating with the little rowboat, the family was bitten by the sailing bug. With aluminum conduit, heavy wire and some creative work with yards of nylon and my trusty sewing machine, the innovative Captain transformed the little aluminum craft into a sailboat. And we never looked back.
Since then, other sailboats have come along, each newer and larger than the last. And each has provided hours of enjoyable sailing time for the Skipper and our son, Tim. And on rare occasions when the wind was limited to a light breeze, even I, the First Mate - and a confessed chicken sailor - enjoyed sailing.
Not long ago, a number of factors convinced the Skipper it was time to leave the sailing to others. He had the chance to sell his latest boat, "Slo-Pace," to a neighbor who promised "visiting and sail-along privileges."
Since our property lies on an inviting sailboat canal, we now rent our spacious and sturdy dock to the skipper of a larger, more impressive sailboat. Even though we're not sailing ourselves, we enjoy watching others come and go and still feel a part of the water-based lifestyle.
So, as Chautauqua County skippers pull their vessels from storage and start the preparation process for another season of plying area waters, we find ourselves going back in memory to our own boating days. Because the fact remains that from ancient mariners to today's yachters and kayakers, there's something about being on the water that simply satisfies the human soul.