Finally, at long last, our boat is covered and tucked away for the winter. Well, almost. There are still a couple of last-minute details to attend to before the job is completed.
While I was still completing the job ahead of me, a couple of other boaters showed up to check their covering job and we wandered out on a couple of the docks which had been their warm-weather homes. During our sojourn, we found a couple of branches in the water and speculated that they had been cut by a beaver.
Most of them were finger-sized and had been cut with a single slash, like from a sharp knife or hatchet. But one was wrist-sized and had taken a couple of slashes. Sure enough, the slashes were slightly convex that more accurately matched a tooth rather than a cutting tool.
As we wondered why a beaver would have dragged the branches out to a dock, one of the guys looked under the dock and there was a ball of dark brown fur which rolled over as if to say "why don't you guys shut up." We took the hint and traveled back down the dock and up the ramp.
When we got back up to the boats and were walking the "promenade" between the docks and the boats, we noticed how many of the boats were not fully covered. Some had their summer cockpit covers on and some of the larger ones had just their flying bridges covered. For just the $50 or $75 price of a piece of plastic the entire boat could be covered.
Or maybe the owners figured that if the bottom could spend all summer in the water, the top could spend all winter at least getting wet.
I remembered coming up with the same reasoning many years ago when we had a 23-foot John Allmand utility boat and it had spent the winter naked.
Sometime in January I went down to Ted's Boatarama to see how it was doing and found it holding about a foot of ice. I tried to break it up without success and went home to get an ice pick that for some reason worked much better. After slicing up the ice into cubic foot hunks I lifted them overboard and found they were amazingly heavy.
I had begun to comprehend the reason for covering the boat. The second half of the lesson came that spring when I was getting the boat ready to launch. For some reason the boat didn't look as shiny as it had the previous fall. It also left white chalk-like marks anyplace it was touched.
It didn't take long to realize the problem. The gel coat had turned chalky because of the long winter's exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays. And it took hours of waxing and buffing to bring back some semblance of a shine to the fiberglass.
It's not a mistake I have made in the 25 or 30 years since that winter.
Jack Tumbleson is a retired copy editor for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus and a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. He can be reached by telephone at (309) 786-5980 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.