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

Martyn is a writer, sailor and conservationist. His first book, The Storm Leopard, is a journey across Africa and into the heart of the environmental crisis. His second book, 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. His third book, Beyond the Hebrides, is the story of a sea voyage in an old leaking boat beginning in an Irish creek and ending on the remote islands of St Kilda in the west of Scotland. It is a tale of romance and adventure which arises from one man's exploration of practical ways to keep personal freedom alive in today’s demanding society. Visit Martyn's website at www.martynmurray.com. Martyn was born and brought up in Ayrshire, Scotland and now lives in North Berwick. He went to school in Perthshire, and studied at the Universities of Edinburgh, Zimbabwe, Malaya and Cambridge for degrees in Zoology with field research into: shelduck along the Scottish coast; impala in the Zambezi Valley; wild figs and figwasps in the Malaysian forests; and wildebeest migration in the Serengeti. This work was underpinned by theoretical investigations into competition, conflict and social behaviour. Martyn is a consultant in biodiversity and natural resources management.
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