As boatfolk in the Pacific Northwest, we seldom forget that we can pursue our passion for being on the water year-round. We gear up to enable happier offseason cruising — installing heaters, investing in full-cockpit enclosures, procuring ever-bigger thermoses for hot beverages, and buying top-quality foulies. Moorage bills definitely don’t take the winter off, do they? As I and so many others may attest, enjoying a wintertide boat ride can be incredibly rewarding.

The ability to use our boats throughout the year is something we shouldn’t take for granted, but it is not without its own unique burden. Boat owners often feel guilty about how little they go sailing through these coldest, wettest, darkest months. I’m not sure who needs to hear this, but it’s ok. It’s ok. We do this for fun, and if it’s not fun for you, your boat will understand.

As we turn the page to another November, I’m reminded that seasons are both inevitable and open to broad interpretation. What sailor doesn’t recognize the numerous elements that are completely out of our control and influence our on-the-water experiences? On the other hand, season is not a simple concept. If you’re an Inside Passage cruiser, it is likely that your ‘season’ has already been over for weeks or even months. If you’re a local racer, you’re still in the thick of your busiest season, as you probably raced multiple weekends in October and are presently gearing up for one of the PNW’s great sailing get-togethers — Round the County — in a couple of weeks. If you’re a cruiser looking for solitude in our nearby waters and anchorages, your season is just beginning. And yes, if you’re the average fair-weather weekender, you might be thinking more about ski season right now. All of these seasons interpret the realities of the conditions differently. You’re all correct. It’s all good.

As ever, the key to good experiences when sailing or cruising at this time of year is flexibility and adaptability. Boaters tend to write their plans in pencil, and this is never more true than in the winter. Summertime fog might delay you and require special navigational equipment, but a proper winter gale almost certainly means you’re not going out. I encourage you to lean into the season by giving yourself permission — stay an extra day at that anchorage or guest moorage slip to wait out the weather, or just because; cut your daysail short and still consider it a success; see the breeze pushing 30 and head out to practice heavy air techniques (be safe and smart, please). Or don’t go out, but go “check on the boat.”

There’s a bit of magic in the winter moments on the boat when you know you’re not casting off your lines. Lots of folks will be doing projects on their boats and, if that’s your version of leaning into the season, get after it. But even if you’re not channeling your inner DIYer this winter, don’t miss the chance to stroll down to the docks, greet your neighbors, and hide away for a few quiet hours to reconnect with your boat and your boat-self. Build your boat library, or better yet, actually read what’s already there. Break out the charts and plan a trip, make a cup of something hot in the galley, maybe let the gentle rocking give you the best winter’s nap. Or, just futz about. How wonderful! Before you leave, look in the bilge, and secure the dock lines and fenders — your true purpose was to “check on the boat” right?

Stay warm. Or, stay safe while you get good and cold. Either way, have fun! ‘Tis the season.

Title background image courtesy of Jan Anderson.