Monday, 12 December 2011

Overwintering


So the boat's being stripped back in readiness for winter.

Winter's a more subtle season on the coast. We lost our leaves about a month ago and the saltmarsh stays greenish brown the year round. It's just the increasing winds (although last May was ferocious) and shift in light that flags up the change. I don't know whether you can actually see further on a clear winter's day than in midsummer but it certainly seems that way. And while we lose daylight, the sun (even behind clouds), reveals a fantastic smelting of metals: platinum, silver, aluminium, pewter, all the cliches you can imagine hammer their way across the sea and sky at this time of year - even if it is blue enough, sun shining, the message never quite gets through to the water.

And of course winter is announced by migrating birds. Now is the time for huge flocks of geese to cut across the sky, the waders are loud and in party mood at twilight, curlews everywhere, and starlings schooling from early afternoon branch to branch.

And the same subtlety happens around the boat too. From the pontoon it almost looks ready to sail, to a passing glance, but look closer, and the sails are off, engine decommissioned, cushions out from below, all the charts and nav gear are tucked away from the cold and damp. It is stripped back from all our comforts to its essence of hull: fibre glass and paint, and bare rigging. Bouyant but unsteerable. Cold and unappealing. It has become the sea it sits on. Maybe it always is, but in this sharp light its uncreaturely nature is more evident than when prancing through waves. A nautical hibernation. Not really a hibernation, not a sleep so much as a shhh

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