Saturday, May 30, 2020

A Slow (but good) Start to the Boating Season

the pandemic affects everything

As my friends know, I’m an avid boater and fisherman. Here in the northeastern US, and certainly in the neighborhood where I keep my boats, Memorial Day is when people launch and get started on their late-spring and early summer on-the-water activities.

My family and I use our boats (a 26’ Edgewater and a 19’ Boston Whaler, both center console open boats) for fishing, clamming, tubing, visiting waterfront restaurants at marinas, and taking day trips to other towns within a few hours ride. We are lucky to have a waterfront house and can keep our boats in the backyard waterway alongside our neighbors’ boats.

At the height of the season, there are about 32 boats docked in our waterway. Often, my larger boat, Freedom, is one of the first boats in for the season. Not this year, though. The COVID-19 pandemic kept the marinas and even the boat ramps closed for much of the spring. Once things began to open up a bit, just before Memorial Day, the boats that needed only minor prep for the spring could launch after a basic spring fitting (cleaning, bottom paint, checking safety gear, etc.). Any boats like mine that needed some parts and repairs, though, had to wait. 

My immediate family had been “sheltering at home” separately since April, with my two older sons at their own places separate from my wife, younger son, and me. Memorial Day would be our first chance to be together and to enjoy our boats. I spoke to my life-long friend and boat mechanic, Bill, and we decided together that the best move for the start of season would be to prep and launch our smaller boat, which normally plays second fiddle to my larger boat and gets launched later in June. My larger boat would have been more comfortable for our merry little band, but the change in plans was an easy decision to make under the circumstances.

Freedom, our 26 footer, not yet launched

Our 19 foot Whaler on the water
The weather last weekend in our area ended up being a bit cold and foggy, with a few overnight showers, but we got plenty of boating in when we could. We fished several times and caught an early season striped bass and an early season fluke - both on the short side so we carefully unhooked them, got a quick photo and released them to fight another day. We also went clamming twice and got plenty of clams and mussels to feed us all well for several meals - which was great since all our favorite restaurants were still closed.

young striped bass, released after this photo

young fluke, ready to be released

We also used the boat to cross the bay and dock at the ocean beach. It was a chilly and overcast day, and there were no lifeguards on duty. None of us swam, but we had a great time playing catch and bocce and we got some sun(burn) and drank some beer, all in good company and in a beautiful setting.

This was certainly a different Memorial Day. I missed my big boat, but I know I’ll have her in the water fairly soon. We caught up with our neighbors by shouting across the street or across the waterway instead of sitting together in each other’s backyards or talking up close near our boats. Still, no complaints at all here. My family was together and healthy, and we enjoyed our time on and around the water. 

All in all, another great Memorial Day and a summer to look forward to.

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