Boats and winter preparation

Molio is now under winter wraps. I lay the boom and a running pole above the deck on trestles, then cover the boat in an old-fashioned green canvas tarpaulin. It makes a tent over the deck. The cover weighs a ton – too much for one person to manage – but it keeps the rain out and unlike its plastic cousins, breathes on the sunny days letting moisture out. I open all the hatches under the green tent and as a result, come the spring, Molio’s main cabin is as dry as you like and smelling like new mown hay rather than musty old potatoes. There will be much to do at the yard this winter. Molio has rot in the “lazarette” (a confined locker under the aft deck) which probably got started before I cut a porthole in the cockpit hatch which lets air flow from the cockpit through the lazarette to a deck vent at the stern.

There is much to do at home too: sails which were torn in the autumn gales need stitching, spars and other wooden fittings have to be sanded and varnished, cushions and bolsters need to be dried and cleaned, a cockpit extension for the ship’s echo sounder and log is to be sorted out so that I can read the depth easily when sailing into an anchorage, and a new system for hauling the anchor up and onto the boat is to be designed. It is Samhain, the start of the Celtic New Year, a time of secretive winter activity in preparation for the spring. This is presumably when our forbearers repaired their boats, mended their nets and garments, and crafted new implements and weapons so that all would be ready for the launch in spring (Beltaine) and the long days’ fishing or farming.

Something similar is going on in my professional life. I’ve been beavering away on a new idea for understanding the human tendency to overexploit natural resources – such as pasture, soil, fresh water, wild fish, wild game, timber and so on. Not that overuse is inevitable I hasten to add. Sometimes we actually develop resources – such as the lazy beds of the Scottish crofters which built up the top soil. Anyway it has been a long quiet interlude devoted to reading, introspection, modelling and testing ideas, and now discussing the upshot with a group of friends and colleagues. Soon it will be time to launch the idea into a wider world as a scientific paper. I’m hoping this particular boat may carry me to new waters.

About Martyn Murray

I fell in love with nature when I turned twenty-one camping under Acacias in East Africa, surrounded by giraffe and zebra with my nape hair raised by the distant roaring of lions. I went on to work for fifty years in Africa, Europe and Asia as an ecologist and conservation consultant. A few years ago I moved to the Isle of Lismore to pursue my passion for reconnecting people with the natural world. My first book, The Storm Leopard, is a journey across Africa and into the heart of the environmental crisis. My second, Origin of Species: Bite-Sized, contains the essence of Charles Darwin's greatest work – his theory of evolution by natural selection – in a text that is 15% the length of the original. The third, Beyond the Hebrides, is the story of a sea voyage in an old leaking boat and on how to keep personal freedom alive. I am currently working on a fourth which is about the global collapse of the natural world. Its working title is, In This Together. It challenges us all over our current connections with nature. More details are on my website,
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