It may still be winter, but the busy sailors in the boatyard are a sure sign that spring is on its way, says Jonty Pearce

Jonty Pearce: It is only after a fine weekend with the sun brightening the morning under a sky of blue that I realise how much the winter gloom gets to me. While we have not yet seen snow and ice to any respectable extent, the winter has soaked and blown us about until the ground is a muddy quagmire that makes walking on tarmac a relief. Call it Seasonal Affective Disorder if you wish,; my profession labels it as Winteritis and it gets to us all at this time of year. Add the ravages of the seasonal infections, and most of my patients are at a low ebb both physically and emotionally.

Then a ray of sunshine pierces the murk. The view from our windows changes from grey mizzle to a clear vista; the snowdrops nod their heads in approval, and the hazel catkins shake their tails in anticipation of the daffodils emerging. And then, glory of glories, this weekend I saw my first splash of daffodil yellow at a National Trust property in the Somerset Levels. Now, I’m not suggesting that Spring has sprung, but it’s nice to realise that it is squatting down in preparation for a good leap forward. And today, as a shaft of sunlight angles across my study window, I feel a frisson of uplift and know that my patients will be happier today.

As befits the shortest month, tucked into this most dreary time of year, at least February passes quickly into March. I always tell my medical flock that they will ‘feel better when the daffodils come out’. It is a lie: the winter season of ailments does not stop afflicting my practice until well into May. But at least March brings hope of the end of the dark, dreary months: and it is the harbinger of the sailing season. During February yachtsmen scurry around marinas and boatyards with their heads down, tightening a boat cover here and snugging up a mooring line there. The temptation of a hot cuppa in the cafe or aboard is irresistible, and maintenance is done at a slow pace. On a fine March weekend, however, those wind-strained covers come off, and owners admire their yacht’s fine lines with new eyes eager to look forwards to launch day. A feeling of urgency may even affect them. At the start of the lay-up season there seemed no rush; now there are too many jobs to fit into too short a time. Indistinct figures clad in paper hooded overalls peer through goggles as they paint fresh antifoul onto their hulls; the faded blues and reds of last season are replaced by vibrant curves of colour.

Like cheeping busy garden birds busily building their nests, yachtsmen scuttle round their boats bringing cushions and canvas out of dry storage; stern rails start to sprout outboard motors and horseshoe buoys, sprayhoods are refitted, and sails and their covers adorn the bare spars of winter. And then, suddenly, March is drawing to a close and the clocks have sprung forwards – British Summer Time – and the lighter evenings are here. Next up is Easter, traditionally the start of my sailing season, though many boats seem to stay dosing on the hard till May.

It will be wonderful to see the waterways thronged with craft on a sunny May weekend. The hardy souls who refuse to allow the winter months to limit their sailing will be joined by a rejoicing fleet of yachtsmen relishing the start of the 2017 sailing season. Keep faith, endure, and those happy days will soon be with us again.