When I woke up this morning the lake was frozen and dusted with wind-blown snow. Fairly typical for New Jersey in February. Around here almost every lake in the region is populated with sailboats in the summer months. But in the winter the lakes freeze and the sailors disapppear. Where do they go? What do they do?
The majority of sailors, I suspect, take the view that sailing is a summer sport and they find something else to do in the winter. Skiing. Watching college football. Cheering the New Jersey Devils - oh sorry hockey fans - I forgot - not this year. Tidying up the basement. Yawn.
A more obsessive minority can't stop thinking about sailing in the winter. They plan their next season's sailing. They go to boat shows in cavernous convention halls. They dream about summer breezes. They go to meetings to plan yacht club programs and they debate minutiae until they are sick of each other. I know. I've been to some of those meetings. They spend hours discussing scoring systems and racing rules and other abstractions. I've even fallen into this trap myself. Guilty as charged.
But the real lunatic fringe keep sailing. They drive to yacht clubs in Connecticut or Long Island or on the Jersey Shore to race in frostbite programs. They disappear to Florida for midwinter regattas. Or they spend all week exchanging emails with fellow fanatics about which local lake might actually have some liquid water this weekend. Then they converge on the lucky lake hauling their boats on trailers and sail between the ice floes until their hands are numb and their decks are covered in ice. Nuts.
I'm one of the lunatic fringe. Last weekend my friend S. and I sailed our Lasers on Round Valley Reservoir. There were huge gusts scooting across the lake whipping up whitecaps. On the dam the warning light was flashing intermittently. This is supposed to indicate that the wind is over 20 knots and all boating must cease, but we didn't believe it. Over 2000 acres and 55 billion gallons of icy water and 2 small sailboats planing back and forth in the middle. No sight of another human being. It felt quite isolated, wild, remote. And then it started to snow. Magic!