A look at the year that was

It was a wet summer that worked well for making canvas, but not so well for actually using it. Unless, of course you were seeking protection under it. Photo by Bob Muggleston

December 2023

By Bob Muggleston

It’s early November as I write this, and, for the last two weeks, after what seemed like little or no movement at marinas here in Connecticut, suddenly boats are being yanked from the water at a breathtaking pace. What this means for the company I work for, which makes canvas, is that our window of opportunity is rapidly closing. The powerboat owner who ordered a new enclosure two months ago? We can’t pattern the boat if it’s been shrinkwrapped. Ditto the sailboat owner who was looking for a new dodger and Bimini, especially if the mast has been removed.

It’s a stressful time of year, for sure, that isn’t made easier by scheduling conflicts and adverse weather. But it’s also an exciting time of year. After the heat and humidity of a New England summer, the air is clear and crisp again. Change is on the horizon.

Last Thursday, when I was working aboard a 44-foot powerboat at a marina in Groton, Long Island Sound sparkled in the bright sunshine, and the air eventually warmed enough to work in short sleeves. Spectacular. This was the kind of day you revel in and file away in the memory banks for the long, gray stretches that are just around the corner. It’s important to do that, I think. Just take a pause. Look around. New England is an amazing place. We’re so lucky to live here. And issues with boats, for the most part, are 1st-world problems. The current situation in the Middle East reminds us of that.

So what did we think of the summer of 2023? It was just fine for making canvas. But as for actually using it . . . most folks I’ve talked to are a resounding “two-thumbs down.” Too many rainy weekends, or heat that made it hard to leave the house. At least that was the situation down here in Connecticut. Folks with flexible schedules were okay, but if your windows were small, chances are you got skunked. We were wondering at the shop whether the Covid boating boom would continue once things simmered down and, for the most part, folks are still excited about boating . . . despite this bust of a summer. This would seem to bode well for mom-and-pop-type shops like ours, but I can’t speak for the big guys.

One thing is for certain: Big, expensive-looking, go-fast powerboats are definitely having a moment. There was a time when Cigarette boats ruled the waves, but watching two boats leave a marina together this summer in Rhode Island – one a classic, rumbling Cigarette, and the other a sleek, European-looking sophisticate with three giant outboards hanging off the back – I wondered who’d win the hole shot. I know this happened; I could hear them on the other side of the breakwater. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see who actually won. I bet I know, though.

So yes, this summer underperformed, and lately the news on the weather front always seems like a downer. But, on the bright side, have you noticed how clean the water is? Walking through marinas in Connecticut, my boss, Robert, will occasionally stop mid-stride on a dock and mutter something like, “You see this?” He’ll point down into 10 or 12 feet of water, where you can see small rocks and shells as clearly as though they’re in an aquarium. “It wasn’t like this 10 years ago,” he’ll say. And oysters are proliferating like crazy, at least in the marinas. That has to be good, right?

As this boating season winds down, and the staff here at Points East scrambles to produce the final issue of the year 2023, I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who makes this magazine possible, from the content-creators to the road warriors who get the issues into our hands and everyone in between. There are no riches here; there is no glory. Everyone who contributes to this magazine does so, I think, because they want to be part of something they believe in, something genuine. This is a great little magazine, Points East. Mostly because of you. I wanted to point that out in case it wasn’t obvious. Being back after a two-year hiatus certainly has afforded me that perspective, if nothing else.

Hope your boat’s safely tucked away for the upcoming winter. But not before your canvas-maker got the access he or she needed.

I’ll see you in 2024.