Friday, September 01, 2006

Last days of the season...

I've been thinking about the meaning and role of the seasons in a part of the world where stereotypical cultural norms and the pictures on calendars don't mean much. Sailors living on the top 1/4 or so of the globe are feeling cooler nights and an impending pronounced change of seasons. Sailors in much lower latitudes are chuckling at their northern brethren's preparations as they loll about in their hammocks and grasp for frozen cococtions in the land of warm breezes and giant insects. And out friends down under are just gearing up for warm-season voyages.

Here in the Desert Sea, we are in an in-between sort of world. This isn't the world of the traditional four clearly-defined seasons, but neither is it the land of constant warmth. Seasons we have, but not always well-defined ones; the hot and cold, sun and cloud, wind and calm, wet and dry all come and go somewhat as they please, sometimes gently and sometimes with a rush and a roar. But then, the place is full of contrasts, of geography intertwined with climate, as well as in other respects. The state has a two-mile altitude range from its semi-arid steppes and high deserts to alpine peaks that creates rich bio-climate diversity.

We sailors, living as we do in a challenging and tenuous environment far from the ocean's tidal rhythms, must adapt. Adapt, or ... well, probably not drown, because too often there's little enough water for that. Adapt, or, not have opportunities to sail and refresh our spirits. So, adapt is what we do, driving for hours for a simple day sail, migrating our boats with the seasons, learning to cope with the fluctuations that render local knowledge of a lake partially obsolete within weeks or days. Even our marinas must adapt; the Rock Canyon Marina at Elephant Butte has had to move three times in the past few years, prompting the owner to quip, "Sure, the other guys have marinas, but we _USE_ ours!"

And so, our sailing season doesn't come to an end with the passing of summer, but rather makes a physical and emotional passage. In a few days, we plan to move Black Magic from Heron to Elephant Butte Lake. Gone will we be from a marina operated by sailor volunteers and surrounded by trees and often in view of snow-clad peaks and home to cold-water species. We will drive south some 300 miles into a land that can truly be called a desert sea, to a lake that is set in a Sonoran desert, where the nearest mountains are dry and sere.

Topography and hydrography will alter, yet the result will be that we continue sailing throughout most of the year. Some boats will also make the migration, and other boats and crews will be greeted as old friendships renewed after months of separation. And boats and crews come and go; this year we will cherish the memories of friends who died and hope whatever craft they sail now are truly winged. And we will greet new friends and work to train new sailors and not even try to guess just what new adventures may lie before us.


At 4:48 AM, September 02, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely lyricism, but I do have one eensy-teensy quibble ... the desert around Elephant Butte is Chihuahuan, not Sonoran.


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