Fall has come and gone in Rhode Island. While October was radiant with the trees glowing orange, yellow and red, November is brown. The leaves have fallen off the trees, and they’re lying on the lawn. They crunch when I step on them, and swish when the squirrels romp through them to look for acorns hidden underneath them.

I’ve never been a big fan of November. It seems like a month that is in between events. October still has warmish temperatures, and you can’t beat walking among the trees while they are showing off their changing colors. December is a red glare as we lead up to Christmas. Everyone is rushing around trying to get their holiday preparations just right, all to the sound track of choruses and sleigh bells. What does November have to offer us? It seems like Thanksgiving was slapped into November so it wouldn’t feel like it’s some lumpy, misshapen, brown month shuffling to the store in baggy sweatpants and a bathrobe because it couldn’t be bothered to bring it’s A game to the world.

So, no, I am not a huge fan of November. One of the biggest reasons is that it’s when we button up summer. For good. Until we get to start summer again next spring.

What does buttoning up summer mean? Well, in addition to being a writer, I am also a boater and scuba diver. In Rhode Island the ocean is my playground. I spend as much time as I can either on or under the water. (Wait til you see this blog next summer. You’ll get all kinds of pictures of my summertime adventures.)

Last weekend we winterized our sailboat. That means we dumped 12 gallons of antifreeze into the engine and the water system—this way any residual water inside those systems won’t freeze and cause any hoses or fittings to explode. Hoses never seem to explode in a convenient location, and tracing down holes will be a pain in the butt come next spring. So, hence the 12 gallons of antifreeze. Soon the boat yard will pull the sailboat out of the water, and then we’ll fit a canvas cover onto it and tuck her in for the cold New England winter.

Today we took our last ride on our little power boat. We bought this boat to expand our reach for our scuba diving adventures. We took it for a spin out to the north side of Patience and Prudence Island in the middle of Narragansett Bay. This is one of our favorite spots to anchor and hang out. It’s sheltered by wind and current from the south, which makes it a great spot to go swimming—and on one occasion to eat pad thai after work one night over the summer while watching the sunset and the seagulls soar overhead.

Today it was way too cold for humans to go swimming. The water temperature has already dropped to 56 degrees. Over the summer it was in the 70s, which is refreshing on those 90 degree days. By New Years Day, when Todd and I leap into the ocean for the annual Polar Plunge, (yes, we are those insane people who feel the need to jump into freezing cold water in the dead of winter just so we can say things like “It’s so invigorating” rather than saying “I feel like I’ve been stabbed by a million tiny knives” which is really what it feels like.) the temperature is in the 40s.

Let me say that again. The temperature is in the 40s at the Polar Plunge. Like, 50 some-odd degrees below a human’s normal body temperature. A dog’s body temperature is 100-102. So, it’s less than half my dogs’ body temperature. Yet Potter, my Chesapeake Bay Retriever, thrives in water that cold. The whole time we were on the boat today he begged to be allowed to jump in. He’s trained to wait until he’s told it’s OK to jump. But he expressed his desire to swim in the hypothermia inducing ocean in the form of whining, pacing, howling, barking, pacing, whining. Chessies are cold water dogs. They are bred to retrieve waterfowl in freezing cold water. Chessies also have a ridge on their breastbone which was bred into them over time. That ridge allows them to break the ice as they jump into freezing water to allow them to swim through to any downed waterfowl that needs retrieving.

Potter isn’t much of a retriever. He will bring an object back to us and consistently drop it 10 feet away from where we are standing. Nemo, my beagle (a breed not typically known for retrieving) will then pick up the object Potter dropped and carry it the remaining 10 feet and drop it right in front of me. Potter is also afraid of loud noises, like gun fire, so taking him hunting and expecting him to retrieve is out of the question.

While he may be a lemon in terms of hunting and retrieving, he’s an Olympic level swimmer. He would swim all day if we let him. Today was probably his last ocean swim of the year. Thought he’ll totally do the Polar Plunge with us on New Year’s Day.

Potter waits for permission to jump in:

Potter in his element.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.