Bears aren't the only things that hibernate. Here in the Northeast, you can tell the season by the boat yard activity level.

Boats come out from undercover in spring.

All but one of the boats in this yard have come out from their winter covers, a sure sign of spring.

For the long cold months of winter, boats hide under covers. Green canvas, white plastic, the occasional blue (and by spring, sometimes partially shredded) temporary tarp. When the winter wind whistles, the less-well-tied-down tarps flap away. And the rigs sing, or moan, depending on whether you like the sound or not.

What a difference a few weeks makes to these two boats.

What a difference a few weeks makes to these two boats.

But now the boats are waking from a long winter's nap, stretching virtual arms overhead, opening eyes and cockpits to the spring sunshine. Covers have come off, moorings have been installed, and harbors are filling up. Ah, Spring!

Boat yard crews are hopping to it, launching boats as fast as the weather and bottom painting crew permit. And they're trying not to grouse about owners who (after ignoring them all winter) now want their boat launched "now," or even sooner. The veteran boat yard owners know some habits will never change, in spite of early option discounts or any other behavior-changers they might dream up.

Leaves on trees, flowers in yards, and boats uncovered: those are my signs of spring. What are yours?