It’s spring, and although I’m fond of pointing out that we might still have a blizzard (it’s April; we could), my confidence level is high enough to get me started on the boat.

Easter is past, Daylight Saving Time is here, the buds are progressing and the grass is getting green. Ducks are building nests in marshes. Just the other day I watched a tom turkey fan out his feathers for the benefit of a nearby damsel who’ll soon be an unmarried mom.

But let’s skip these distractions and get to the big one: boats. Mine’s sitting in the driveway covered with tarps that flap a little when the wind blows. Under them, I know, lie spring projects featuring varnish, paint, zincs, batteries, bolts, screws and lots of big and little items that must be re-installed or re-rigged.

Things will have to be figured out (which way were these wires hooked up last year? how did I rig that main sheet last time?) as they’re reassembled. Undoubtedly there will be unpleasant surprises, like the spot of rot I found in my nice wooden wheel, which I’d taken into the workshop to refinish last fall.

Before I get started I’ll need to go shopping. My choice is usually Hamilton Marine in Portland, but any marine supply place will do.

“Go there in April,” I wrote two years ago as I prepared to depart on my big southbound cruise, “and the scene won’t disappoint you: distracted-looking men prowling the aisles, pawing the paint cans, fondling the fittings, eyeing everything else. They may not even buy anything on their first trip to the store, but the lengthening days and increasing warmth have somehow compelled them, like hormone-fueled male cardinals, to swoop into Hamilton’s for a look around.” Take it from me: the scene hasn’t changed, and never will.

Tools, sandpaper, paint and varnish in hand, I’ll soon head out to the boat for several weeks’ worth of projects. I’ll do other things in between boat jobs, of course, and the weather may not always cooperate, but until I’m done and the boat’s on the mooring, these jobs will be the focus of my life.

With one boat or another, I’ve maintained this annual ritual for about 40 years. There have been wood boats, requiring annual painting from keel to rail; there have been fiberglass boats needing only bottom paint. I took the entire cabin off a boat one year so I could re-canvas the decks. I’ve removed flaking varnish and paint by various means; I’ve sanded hulls down to the wood; I’ve replaced keel bolts. I’ve pulled out and re-installed one marine engine; put in a new head; repaired a rudder; replaced a propeller shaft; stripped and refinished a wood mast; replaced a fuel tank; changed oil countless times-you get the idea.

Usually all this work takes place outdoors, in my driveway or yard. For a few seasons I did the jobs in a little boatyard where there was more space than in the driveway of my then-house. What became a group of regulars met there each weekend, borrowing the yard’s tools and socializing as hard as we worked. Sometimes the socializing was educational, as when I watched a man replace 60 broken ribs in his 35-foot sailboat, steaming and bending each to fit and then re-installing the boat’s entire interior. The guy was an airplane pilot, and I think he told us gawkers he was learning how to do this complex job while he did it. He learned well, because I later saw him and his newly-sound boat, afloat and not leaking, in a harbor a hundred miles away-not bad for a weekend warrior.

Just over a year ago I was in Florida aboard my own boat, beginning the long trip home. Karma had been afloat since the previous spring when I’d done my annual maintenance here in the driveway. Over the months the bottom had begun looking a bit mossy and I knew it was time for a haul-out.

So in Titusville, Florida, I located a do-it-yourself yard where they slung Karma ashore and set her on stands so I could have a good look at the bottom. It was time for a coat of antifouling paint; the zinc on the propeller shaft was about gone; the varnish on the rails was getting thin.

As I spent a few days doing these chores, the boatyard socializing got going. The German couple next to me were preparing their ketch for a sail to South America, with the help of a guy from Belfast, Maine. He, in turn, was staying aboard another couple’s big boat and had access to a shop next door. I met a man who’d bought a boat he was planning to sail around the world. Someone else had Maine connections and was doing major work on a boat he’d bought in Florida. And on it went-fortunately I stuck to my work and got re-launched before the yard’s daily charges overwhelmed me-but the experience in Titusville was reminiscent of scenes back in Maine each spring.

Now it’s all beginning again. Years ago, someone asked me if I minded spending so much time each spring this way. I’ve thought about that question, wondering what I’d do for several weeks if I didn’t have a boat to work on. I suppose I might go fishing, or bird watching, or get out in the garden-all good things, to be sure.

But let’s be honest: without a boat I’d be lost. I’d probably get into trouble. So if you have to ask, I’ll respond that it’s in everyone’s interest to have me out there in, on or under the boat.

David D. Platt is former editor of Working Waterfront