From the April 2021 issue of 48° North.

Spring boating is abuzz with evident joys. With the change of seasons comes a pervasive sense of excitement for boating’s high season that makes every trip on the water feel like a step toward something even better. Yet, there’s another element that I experienced firsthand this month, and it’s my favorite part.

Spring is when we reconnect with boating pals we don’t see when we’re not engaged in regular on-the-water activities. No matter how much winter sailing I’ve done, friendships always reignite as spring sailing opportunities shake us out of our winter routines. For racing sailors in central Puget Sound, Corinthian Yacht Club’s Center Sound Series provides a catalyst. Race crews aren’t the only ones getting together on boats again for the first time in a while — cruising boats of all sizes and types are already untying the lines more often too.

This year, though, boy oh boy… It feels particularly special. We’ve had pretty solitary journeys through this pandemic. Boating’s virtues have been on display; and being on the water provided respite and fulfillment, something that felt near normal throughout these difficult times. Since it was done shorthanded, however, one of its benefits highlighted a central hardship of the past year — physical and figurative distance from others.

While we are not out of the woods and my sailing buds and I haven’t thrown all caution to the wind, broadening “bubbles” and taking to the water more frequently and with a few more people than last year appears to be the theme of Spring 2021. And it is glorious. My reunions this month have been sweeter and more meaningful than ever. The heart grew pretty fond during this long absence, but I guess it needed to see some friendly (masked) faces to fully realize how much I missed the social aspect of playing on boats.

I have started racing with John Buchan’s TP52, Glory, again. The boat has been waiting for us for a long while — 16 months, from Round the County 2019 to Blakely Rock 2021. The race-morning vibe early this March was like a far better version of the first day of school. There was so much catching up to do, and every action on board felt fresh and new. Once we hoisted the sails, I was relieved how much the mechanics of sailing the boat came back naturally. I came home that day and told my wife, Kaylin, “The whole experience reminded me: ‘Oh yeah, this is a part of me. I LOVE racing sailboats. And I have so many great friends that I don’t see when I’m not racing.’”

Then came another invitation. A pleasure sail. With friends! Those types of invites have popped up periodically over the last year; but they were generally few and far between, and I mainly sent my regrets as I stayed extra cautious. But the calculus has shifted, and seeing and sailing with some of my most dear friends again, just for the fun of it, was an emotional experience of the highest order.

The wind was on the high end for a leisure cruise, solidly in the 20s. We reefed the main and watched in awe as my pal’s 3-year-old with nerves of steel never looked scared or complained about the cold while the boat heeled and surged through the waves. We joked and laughed, ate sandwiches, took turns at the helm, and patted whichever back or knee was nearby, repeatedly exclaiming, “THIS IS SO GREAT!” I had missed this. And, wow, did I miss these people.

Happy spring, one and all! Really, really happy.

Photo by Jan Anderson