Jonty Pearce reflects that despite the recent weather, spring - and the sailing season - are well on their way
Officially spring begins on 1 March, replete with the joyous anticipation of Easter Bunnies, daffodils, green budding in the hedgerows, lighter evenings, and warmer weather.
We breathe a sigh of relief that the nightmare of frozen pipes and snowy roads are vanquished as winter’s icy grip is broken.
Easterly Siberian winds, sub-zero temperatures, and lashings of fresh drifting snow should not feature on the spring menu, but this year has proved the exception to the rule.
Carol and I had planned to go to Malvern cinema to enjoy the Donald Crowhurst biopic, The Mercy; following that, a weekend trip down to Pembrokeshire to clean the masts and wash the running rigging whilst they are on trestles in Dale Sailing’s yard was on the cards.
Saturday evening’s entertainment was going to be friend Hutch’s 60th birthday bash (over the top with not one, but three bands). Sunday would be spent recovering in the spring sun with more mast maintenance once the paracetamol and black coffee had worked its magic.
But nobody told ‘The Beast from the East’.
Everything was cancelled; my car did not leave the icy snow-bound drive for five days. The cinema was unreachable, Neyland was buried under feet of snow (Hutch could not even open the gates to the venue), and the masts remained rimed in ice until Monday’s thaw started.
The Beast swept the country with high winds that blasted drifting snow into impenetrable heaps – as I write this five days after the thaw started many of Herefordshire’s back roads are still restricted to a single track constricted by 4’ drifts.
Many areas were cut off completely to anybody who did not have a meaty four wheel drive or a tractor sitting on your drive.
Days after the thaw I still had to dig my car out of the lane leading to my tractor’s shed… memo to self. Keep tractor in the drive if snow is forecast.
But I count myself lucky. Hutch kindly reported that Aurial, comfortably bare of her masts, was resting safely in her berth.
Boat owners in Anglesey were not so fortunate; Storm Emma damaged at least 80 craft in Holyhead Marina and sank several, wreaking havoc with the pontoon infrastructure in the process.
Polystyrene and debris from the devastation washed up against the land – it is reported that over 20 miles of coastline either side of Holyhead was affected by the pollution.
I remain eternally grateful to be able to berth Aurial in a well-protected ‘Hurricane Hole’ marina manned by caring and efficient Havenmasters who take the guardianship of their wards seriously.
My yacht remains afloat throughout the year; apart from being a cheapskate I am aware that even yachts chocked securely in cradles can suffer damage on the hard in adverse conditions.
Do you prefer the risk of your yacht falling over, or that of sinking? To my mind, the most hazardous choice of all is to opt for a mooring unless it is well serviced, sheltered, and regularly checked for chafe.
Bad weather can hit us all at any time.
The combination of The Beast and Storm Emma has dealt us a severe blow, but now is the time to rebuild, reorganise, and get ourselves prepared for the real spring. Easter is but three weeks away.
Chocolate chickens are laying their chocolate eggs as fast as they can, while chocolate bunnies are busy robing themselves in golden foil deep in their snow-bound warrens.
Boatyards are once again humming with gossip and power tools as busy sailors ready their loved ones for the halcyon days of summer. The sailing season is on the horizon and commissioning fever is raising our temperatures.
Pace yourself carefully and don’t try to do too much at a time. Take time out to smell the flowers and enjoy the rising sap of spring. It comes but once a year.