Love at 48 Degrees
by Molly Winans
Friends have it backward; they think because I am a sailing magazine editor, I must be the more passionate sailor, the one who would go out in the rain, cold, and fog, and who would step onto the docks exuberant and exalting the merits of the sport. They are wrong. My partner is the sailing addict. He’s the one who, despite his full-time desk job, may sail five times a week in season and once a week in winter. Yes, he is a little crazy. He sails in December, January, and February once a week, sometimes twice. If not, I hear, “The boat’s not gone out for three weeks. She’s itching to go out.”
Even in summer, I have heard him say, “I haven’t been sailing all week.” Knowing that he has raced on a friend’s boat on Saturday and on Sunday and then raced with a different crew after work on Wednesday—which to me, equals three sailing days—I will look at him puzzled. I might say, “Really?” Then, he will clarify. “I haven’t sailed on my boat all week.” Much like an alcoholic who might not count a light beer as a real drink, to my guy, sailing on other people’s boats is not really sailing.
As much as I love sailing, I have plenty of other pastimes to keep me occupied, even in peak season. I can arrive home after a sailing weekend and pass one, two, even three whole weeks without sailing and not feel as if I am getting the shakes. Then come winter, for four months, I am delighted to stay home, make tea, take an art class, read novels, and cook comfort food in the crock pot.
So when I suggested late last winter that we spend a night on the sailboat, I stopped my beau in his tracks. “At anchor?” he asked with a stunned look. I said, “Why not?” The weatherman called for 50-degree Fahrenheit temperatures to match water temperatures in the upper 40s. I figured people go camping in colder weather than that. We could cook lasagna in the propane-fueled oven and then bake a breakfast casserole in the morning to warm up the boat. I donned fleece layers and wool slippers. I could do this.
The thing to remember about most boats is that they retain no heat. If you have an electric space heater running for hours and then you turn it off, within two minutes, the boat will be as cold as it was before the running of said heater. Boats tend to feel about as warm inside as the water temperature outside. On an average winter day on the Chesapeake, you can count on your boat in 38-degree water to feel 38 degrees warm inside.
Space heaters on boats do not work without electricity or generators, so when I suggested unplugging from the dock to have a quiet dinner and sleepover at anchor in 48-degree waters, I knew what I was getting myself into. The oven and snuggling with my skipper would be my only heat sources.
For us, dropping anchor in Annapolis is the equivalent to camping in our backyard. It’s a 10-minute hop under power from the Back Creek slip to the anchorage by the Naval Academy, yet somehow, it always feels like an escape. We make the mini-journey a few times a year, sometimes on a Friday night after a long work week. We may return as early as 9 a.m. on Saturday without ever hauling up our sails, yet we feel refreshed from a little excursion.
I may humor my guy with a two-hour afternoon sail here and there in the winter, maybe even in February, but I intend to save the cozy anchoring plan for when the water warms up a bit. Just when he least expects it, when the water temperature reaches 48 degrees or higher, I will propose a little overnighter on the boat, right around the corner in the Annapolis Harbor anchorage. For a sailing addict like him, that’s as romantic as it gets.
At print time, the water temperature at Thomas Point Lighthouse registered 40.8 degrees and in the Potomac near Point Lookout, 41.9 degrees. Find such measurements anytime at buoybay.noaa.gov.