Open Waters


The boat owners have mostly decided by now.  They raise their left hand to test the wind and guess how hard and severe the winter will be _ will there be snow and gales, will the harbor freeze over, will it be a hard freeze with crushing ice floes.  Their right hand opens their wallet and examines the cost of getting the boat out and stored and safe.  Looks like everyone over in puppy cove is feeling flush this year.

Sometime this week, a working tug and dock will head out from Coney’s marina and pick up all the buoys to stack up on shore as well.  Then there will be nothing but cold blue waves, and whatever goes on under them.


No yachts on the sound today, even if you could see that far through the mist.  Fog and reduced visibility are common now, with the various sudden changes in air temperature, and slower adjustment of the water.  You might guess it feels warm out _ you would be wrong.  For some reason, there is a real bite to the dampness.

It’s as if the world is waiting …. But no, that is just projection, a common fault of mine to throw my mood on things that have no mood at all.  And one, to be honest, that is probably not at all shared by most of the population around here.  December kicks off the mean season, when everyone has too much to do and is worried about family and fate.  Aggravated drivers, angry pedestrians, upset children, all hiding their true feelings under masks of good cheer.  Fun to watch, if I stay alert.

Wed –

Just grass and reflections with bare trees along the far shore.  Off camera to the right crews are pulling up the buoys and heaping them on a barge to tow off to winter storage on pavement near Halesite.  That will complete the transformation of this end of the harbor into a semblance of what it once looked like.

The grasses are a shadow of what they even were ten years ago _ might be pollution or sea level or global warming or nutrient overload or some disease _ nobody knows.  But it’s clear they become less year by year, everywhere along the shore.  These will remain valiantly waving beauty until the ice floes arrive and crush and cut them with rising and falling and pushing and pulling tides.


Most of the floating docks have been either taken in and tied up on shore, or taken out to deeper water and anchored tightly for the winter.  These float up and down on the tides, with chains or other fastenings wrapped around deeply driven pilings so they can slide freely.  Unfortunately, deep cold weather freezes the spray and fresh water near the surface, coating the pilings and chains with ice, freezing the ice together.  When the tide comes up, the pilings are slowly but surely ripped up with the rocking action of the waves.

Springtime a barge comes around and hammers in the pilings as necessary.  But this costs a fair amount of money.  And for the permanent docks built on the pilings, large damage can occur from twisting as the supports are never raised equally.  Of course, it’s not all floating docks, in the winter frozen icebergs have exactly the same effect.  In other words, the endless calm tourists often ascribe to the quiet cycles of nature on the bay are not quite so timeless as they might think.


Collecting the buoys in the fog _ they lucked out this year since it is extremely warm.  I’ve seen the crew out before with spray icing up the chains in a bitter north wind.  I’m not really sure why these have to come out, but I like the fact that for at least of the year the waves are unbroken by artifacts.

Atmospheric effects can happen anywhere, I suppose, but near the water they vary constantly and change the landscape dramatically from day to day, hour to hour, season to season.  The most difficult thing for me is to avoid the easy lethargy of looking out the window and deciding that some kind of weather or other should prevent me from taking my daily two miles.  That is not only lazy, but also sets up a day when I fail to get my thoughts cleared and my head screwed on straight.


The kayaks and small sailboats will stay stacked along the shore all winter _ unless some huge storm or tide comes along and destroys the racking, which as happened recently.  I look at them less as intrusions than as interesting bits of color in an otherwise monochrome landscape.  Obviously, there is not much contrast being provided by any boats.

An artistic eye has the ability to take things as they are and find pleasing patterns.  If you train yourself in this way you can find beauty in rotting piers, iridescent oil slicks, and discarded roadside trash.  It is impossible to make the world into something it is not, but there is always an open question concerning what it really is.


Sort of like a vortex, the watercraft are swept off the surface from the inlet on in to the head of harbor.  The outer area is cleared by December, some of the water in Halesite has active anchorage all winter.  This reflects the likelihood of hard freeze and thick ice occurrence.  Right here is about midway,  mostly abandoned to the geese and swans and ducks that overwinter.

Baymen (as far as I can tell there are still no Baywomen) who do the odd jobs, go out for clams in the coldest months, and who are increasingly scarce, regard this time of year as calm before the storm.  Well, actually storms.  At some point soon it will blow hard for days, the temperature will be in the twenties, and spray will add to the misery of freezing fog even when it is not sleeting or driving snow.  A hard life.  Some call it rewarding, but it’s certainly not for the likes of a wimp like me.



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