We’ve had some cold and inclement — ice, snow, wind, slush — weather this winter. However, other than the “Bomb Cyclone,” it’s been an uneventful season. On the day I write this, it’s a balmy 48 degrees aboard my sailboat in Newport Harbor. There is no snow to be seen of any consequence, and the Harbor is free of ice. Two years ago, it was a different story; Newport Harbor was impacted with ice — about eight inches around my boat in the northeast corner of the harbor. My bilge was filled with solid ice, so I broke it up with a hammer and a big screwdriver and then tossed the chunks overboard onto the ice. You know it’s cold when you’re chucking chunks of jagged ice out of the companionway of your sailboat. There hadn’t been that kind of ice in Newport for many years; that winter was a benchmark for we coastal dwellers. Furthermore, a good portion of Narragansett Bay was loaded up with ice. Compared to that, this winter has been a cakewalk.
I recently went on a busman’s holiday to Martha’s Vineyard. It was a quiet winter weekend and the weather was very mild. That Saturday the wind was honking southwest out on Katama Bay, and there were a couple of guys kiteboarding on flat water — they were flying, literally —with bright sunshine. The conditions were perfect for these guys. Later, on Chappaquiddick, I did my usual aimless cruise to Dike Bridge and Wasque, and walked along the desolate barrier beach and witnessed erosion-while-you-wait — there are some powerful forces at work there, 24 and seven. It’s a nature thing. I didn’t see a soul on Chappy on this trip — except the Chappy Ferry Captain. Besides the wind, there is no sound on this island. You can hear the silence.
Footwear is another indicator as to how cold it is in the wintertime, because if our feet get cold or wet it will ruin our day. In 1905, a guy named Charles Beckman from Red Wing, Minnesota, created boots for people who worked in harsh mining conditions. He called them Red Wings, and they are without question the best boots to put on your feet. Whether you are stomping through snow, slush or puddles, your feet will say warm and dry. This winter I can count on one hand — maybe two — the amount of days I’ve worn my Wings. (I didn’t even bother bringing them them to the Vineyard.) I wear my lighter kicks — Keens — with two pairs of socks. My wife got me a pair of these cool socks for Christmas — I know, I’m low maintenance — called Thirty Below. She saw them advertised on television and ordered me a couple of pairs. These things are lightweight with a thin nylon fabric on the bottom. The silver fabric creates friction, and as a result the bottom of my feet stay warm. I put another regular pair of medium wool socks over these high-tech rigs, and I’m good for serious temps in my lighter kicks. I wear my seasonally adaptable Keens with these socks, and we’re talking comfort.
Along with the mild temps comes rain when a front will come through; today, it is pouring. There is some ponding because the ground is still frozen and there’s no place for the water to go. It is forecast to rain for a steady 36 hours. Now, if the temperature dropped to below freezing, we’d have about three feet of snow to be dealt with the next day — but we don’t. And I can safely say that we’re all okay with that. The upcoming weather shows moderate temperatures for the next seven days.
It can be deceiving at the ferry dock when we have warm temperatures in February. One Friday we had a few people, several trucks, a few cars, and mixed cargo for the first two ferries out of Point Judith. I figured the six o’clock would be busy because of the mild temperature, and people would be heading out to check on their island homes. While some crew were hanging at the car shack, we were talking about how quiet it was. It was 45 degrees, with more daylight to burn; however, by boat time we only had two cars and two small trucks for the last trip. “Remember guys, it’s still February,” a crew noted.
I called my son in Scottsdale, Arizona, yesterday to wish him happy birthday and also to get some perspective on how the rest of the country is doing on these winter days of which I’m writing. “I’m walking the dogs and it’s about 70 degrees, not a cloud in the sky and dry, nice.” Liam said. I told him I was sitting in my car at the Point Judith Lighthouse in a torrent of wind and rain; but it was mild. Moreover, last night a friend from Bozeman, Montana, said it was blowing 45 and gusting to 65, with temps well below zero counting the wind chill. Finally, my little brother Pat said he was, “swimming every day, air temp is 85, the water is 65, beautiful.” He and his wife are hanging on the west coast of Florida — heathens!
I don’t care when winter officially ends, now all I care about is that I don’t need to pick up a snow shovel until next winter. I just look forward to messing around in my sailboat, walking my dogs with the bride, and riding my bicycle. Let’s face it, we’ve dodged the worst of it, and even if we do get hit with some nasty weather, at least the days are getting longer, and springtime is in the offing. “Nuff said.