Boatyards in Winter

winter boatyard
The Winter Boatyard may be silent on the outside, but it's busy with unique winter work.

Boaters in cold climes are in stasis through the long winter nap, but not boatyards. In boatyards, a flurry of unique work goes on unseen at this time of year. What kind of work? you might ask, for nary anyone in the general public can determine any activity from the external look of a winter boatyard.

But deep in the heated sheds and administrative offices there is life. The Operations and HR managers are working on ads for spring-time help in the paint department and looking for kids to man the gas dock this coming summer. By now stock room personnel are completing their inventory audits. Sales staff members are sending out mooring contracts, soliciting pre-launch work, and producing the first blush of spring launch schedules. In the heated boat sheds, high priority winter projects get a final coat of varnish or paint, a new engine, a swim platform. The engine shop has rows of outboards undergoing annual maintenance. Yard management is preparing to attend the local winter boat shows and the purchasing manager is placing discounted bottom paint orders by the pallet for the coming season. The launch crew is performing maintenance on their skiffs and equipment.boatyard

It is this busy planning and preparation before the storm of customers arrives in early spring that will make things go smoothly when the snow and ice retreat. The air in the boatyard is already ripe with anticipation. You might not see it, but a boatyard in winter works toward a boater’s dreams soon to come true.

The Boatyard’s Awake

I spent the past couple of days in a local boatyard preparing a Friendship sloop I am going to captain part-time this summer for the water.  There really is nothing more pleasant than being in a boatyard in the spring.  All my senses were heightened, whether it was the simple sound of rigging tapping on masts, the compound smells of varnish, mineral spirits, bottom paint, and low tide, or the visual sight of people smiling.

Tupelo Honey, a Friendship sloop is prepared for the water

Being a weekday in April, activity hasn’t reached its peak yet with the official start of the season, this far north, being Memorial Day.  However, there is a definite stirring–a few early birds launching on the public ramp and dealing with the inevitable maiden voyage problems, like the powerboater who let go before finding out his steering wasn’t working and had to be rescued by someone in a small skiff.

The yard crew was busy arranging ground tackle and launching work floats but seemed genuinely pleased to see life and content to chat amiably. A few more people showed up late in the afternoon, obviously getting out of work early to get a jump on preparing their boats. People were removing covers, plugging in battery chargers, and sharing pleasantries.

boatyard workers apply anti-fouling paint to floats prior to launch

There is a buzz to a boatyard in spring, an air of anticipation and good will among fellow boaters unlike anything else in my experience. If I could capture the enthusiasm and energy of a boatyard awakening I would be rich forever.