This column was first published on April 1, 2011

It doesn’t look like it yet, but the real spring is right around the corner.

If you’re a flat-water kayaker you’ve patiently waited for ice-out and somewhat warmer weather. (We’re not talking here about the die-hards who never put away their long skinny craft this winter. They’ve bundled themselves up against the cold and sallied forth through thick and thin.)

We’re talking about those of us who might be termed “enthusiasts,” who paddle quite a bit, but not obsessively. We’ve been sitting by, watching the weather reports, driving by our favorite paddling spots and hoping for open water – it will happen, it always has.

What should be happening, in those rare moments when I’m not tied up in the daily grind, is a roundup of major proportions. Where the heck did I put all those necessary items I take with me when I launch from shore?

Paddle float? Stirrup? Bilge pump? I had them out for some reason a couple of weeks ago, but where they landed since is a mystery to be solved.

The kayak(s)? I know they’re hanging in the garage because I’ve managed to run my head into their bows too many times over the past several months.

Paddles? I know a couple of them are up in a case inside the canoe which is overhead. A couple more are sitting on the canoe thwarts.

The life jackets? Check. They’re hanging on the outside wall with all of Barbie’s other outfits — paddle jackets, spray pants, fleeces, spray skirts, cockpit covers — check.

Dry suit? Right where I left it last week — in Freeport at Lincoln Canoe and Kayak getting a new neck gasket and booties. (Money to pay for the repairs? Still looking.)

That big duffle, the one (I hope) with most of the other gear needs a good inspection. The first aid kits, whistles, tow lines, painters, flares, neoprene booties and gloves, poggies, boots, etc., will all need to be dragged out, inventoried and made ready for another season. (Phew! Time’s running out!)

Oh, don’t forget the roof rack I took off the van in December so I could more easily clear the snow off the roof. And where are those tie-down straps? I know there are a few plastic coffee cans kicking around just jammed full of them.

Where are the VHF radios? Their chargers? The waterproof chart case? Dry bags and dry cases? I know there are at least a dozen of them of all shapes and sizes, but do I remember where they reside? (This may take more than a few minutes of hide and seek!)

It’s also a good time to renew friendships with your electronics and navigation skills and begin paying attention to weather patterns. Anyone remember where I left the DeLorme? What about the insect repellent and the sunscreen? And that wide-brimmed hat I love so much? You know, the one that keeps my ears from frying? (I’m looking at more than a day of organization here – then there’ll be at least as much time cleaning and doing just the routine maintenance.)

At this rate, maybe I’ll see you on the water around July!

P.S. If you’re not in the mood to wrangle and rope up all your gear this weekend, why not head down to Durham, N.H., where the Kittery Trading Post is holding its annual paddle sports show. Everything paddling is corralled in the University of New Hampshire’s field house. And your purchases there aren’t subject to the Maine sales tax, so you know you’ll save some green.

Jeff Strout’s column is published on Saturdays