An Ode to Fall Sailing

12° West - Ode to Fall Sailing - Sailors relaxing after the AYC Fall Series

An Ode to Fall Sailing

“Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night.” – Hal Borland

I have a confession to make: I love fall sailing. We’ve reached that time of year – the autumnal equinox, when the day and night are roughly equal – and fall sailing has arrived. From here on out, the days will grow shorter and cooler as the nights grow longer. The warmth will start to seep out of the breeze, replaced by a bracing crispness. Weeknight races finish underneath spectacular sunsets. As the leaves change onshore, on the water the light is clearer and the colors more intense.

12° West - Ode to Fall Sailing - Fall sailing on New York Harbor

Afternoon shadows fall on sailboats racing on New York Harbor on a late September day. Photo: 12° West

Don’t get me wrong, I love summer. I wait all year for summer. Here in the northeast, summer = sailing. And fall means sailing season is coming to a close. Which should make me sad – and it does, a bit. But it also makes me savor every last moment on the water, knowing it will soon be over.

12° West - Ode to Fall Sailing - No one else on the water on a crisp fall day

No one else on the water on this crisp fall day. Photo: 12° West

While fall signals the end of sailing season here, it also brings other pleasures. The weather is often gorgeous, and the waters are much less crowded. For example, you can easily pick up a mooring at Block Island, a feat that requires much advance planning in the summer. Many sailboat classes hold their championships in the fall, as teams that have competed locally all summer get a chance to up their game on a national level. In our area, great sailing can be had at fall regattas like the American Yacht Club Fall Series, the Manhasset Bay Fall Series, and the infamous Indian Harbor Yacht Club Stratford Shoal Race, (aka the “Gearbuster”). Late September and early October often see windy conditions in these parts, so fall regattas can be real tests of heavy weather sailing ability. Or if the Indian summer lingers, sailors have been known to go for a swim in the still-warm waters of Long Island Sound while waiting for wind to come up and the AP to be lifted.

12° West - Ode to Fall Sailing - Newport International Boat Show

Every September, the Newport International Boat Show takes over the Newport waterfront. Photo: Newport International Boat Show

Another reason for sailors to love fall: it’s boat show season on the east coast. September brings the Newport International Boat Show, a glorious display of yachts of all sizes (but it’s Newport, so larger yachts are de rigueur) set against Newport’s picturesque shoreline. The biggest show of them all is the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis over Columbus Day weekend – so big that it spans 5 days and the entire Annapolis waterfront. It’s a blast to wander the miles of docks to ogle all the new boats, and explore the tents displaying all types of gear and services for boaters (we’ll be there – come visit us in Tent L!). The boat show will easily take a couple of days to cover, but if you’re looking for other things to do check out our insider’s guide to some of Naptown’s best kept secrets: Annapolis Boat Show – The Perfect Weekend Getaway.

So I say – embrace fall sailing. Grab a hat, put on another layer, and turn your face to the sun to savor the last warm afternoon rays. Enjoy the last sweet sails of fall, and store the memories to hold you over through the long winter until summer – and sailing – eventually return.

12° West - Ode to Fall Sailing - Finishing Races in the Dark

As the days grow shorter, weeknight races often finish with spectacular sunsets. Photo: 12° West

What do we wear for fall sailing? Glad you asked! Our go-to’s are the Vineyard Vest, a tailored piece that provides warmth without bulk, our Marblehead Pullover, and the Newport Crop, our water and wind-resistant capris with deep zippered pockets and articulated knees. And a hat. Always a hat!