There’s a lot to be said for hun­ker­ing down and mak­ing the most of Fe­bru­ary’s mada­tory respite in the North­east.

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Fall and early win­ter are al­ways a busy time for ma­rine jour­nal­ists, with boat shows and travel ramp­ing up the time away from home and the race to get each is­sue of the mag­a­zine out. Add to that new ini­tia­tives, open en­roll­ment, end- of- year per­son­nel as­sess­ments, bud­get and editorial cal­en­dar plan­ning for 2018 and … the hol­i­days feel like they skid into fo­cus around three days be­fore Christ­mas, with just enough time left to panic over last-minute shop­ping. I re­ally hate that, and I have ad­justed my cal­en­dar ac­cord­ingly: We now put up our Christ­mas tree in early De­cem­ber so I can spend as much time as pos­si­ble look­ing at it while I wait for the ar­rival of my Lyft to the air­port.

Then there’s Jan­uary. The ini­tial week is back-to-work and burst­ing with the prom­ise of firm and cheer­ful res­o­lu­tions. As our best in­ten­tions be­gin to crumble, there’s the in­evitable arc of dis­ap­point­ments and re­crim­i­na­tions. One good thing about get­ting older and wiser: The arc gets much shorter with ex­pe­ri­ence, and at the pro level, where I live, wastes of time like self-loathing are com­pletely elim­i­nated. Res­o­lu­tions be­come a lit­tle more like wishes for magic change. And that’s OK.

The insanity of De­cem­ber and the oblig­a­tory ges­tures of self-im­prove­ment that come and go in Jan­uary have led me over the years to a gen­uine sa­vor­ing of Fe­bru­ary. Here in the North­east, it brings the worst weather of the year. It’s im­por­tant, I’ve learned, to em­brace that. Re­sis­tance re­ally is fu­tile, so I keep a fire go­ing and hunker down. Up­sides? It’s a short month and the bona fide gate­way to spring. If you can make it through short, dark Fe­bru­ary with a mod­icum of en­joy­ment, March is when the light at the end of the tun­nel will blind you.

I am par­tic­u­larly ex­cited about this Fe­bru­ary. My friend Sam shipped me my new chart plot­ter, which I’d left be­hind in Maine, and I’m go­ing to hook it up to a DC power sup­ply and play with it for many happy hours. Might as well load a few way­points and plot a cou­ple of trips. One of the great joys of our pas­time is that an­tic­i­pa­tion and plan­ning can cre­ate vir­tual en­joy­ment in those pe­ri­ods when Mother Na­ture pro­hibits ac­tual boating. And while that is def­i­nitely not as sat­is­fy­ing, if you use your time wisely, it can deepen your en­joy­ment of the real thing once you’re back aboard.

If you care to join me in some off-sea­son en­rich­ment, con­sider tak­ing the lat­est on­line course from AIM’s Boaters Univer­sity. Our Fun­da­men­tals of Sea­man­ship se­ries be­gins with Rules of the Road, an in-depth course that dives into the Coast Guard’s Nav­i­ga­tional Rules. In­struc­tor Robert Reeder be­gan his sea­far­ing ca­reer in Navy sub­marines and has worked as a watch­stander on ves­sels rang­ing from con­tainer ships to tug­boats to high-speed fer­ries. Reeder will review each rule in de­tail, cit­ing both in­land and in­ter­na­tional dis­tinc­tions, and teach the con­cepts that are es­sen­tial to ev­ery boat on our wa­ter­ways, from dinghy to su­pery­acht. You can learn more at boaters univer­sity. com/ cour­ses/ fun­da­men­tals-of-sea­man­ship. I’m think­ing of tak­ing it as a re­fresher course.

I’m also look­ing for­ward to try­ing a new hobby: whit­tling seabirds. I bought my­self some soft wood, a cou­ple of books and a hand­ful of tools. By the way, that was back in De­cem­ber 2016, as one of Jan­uary 2017’s res­o­lu­tions, but never mind: Hope springs eter­nal. And as Shel­ley asked, “If win­ter comes, can spring be far be­hind?”

“That’s why you can’t be a true Yan­kee with­out win­ter: be­cause all the best plea­sures are earned — the fire, the fried oys­ters; the warmer sea­sons, too. Who knows the real worth of sum­mer at the beach with­out a good taste of the sea­side in win­ter? ” — Julia Glass

By Mary South

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