Mother nature is fickle. Just two weeks ago, freezing ice and snow blanketed the region. Last week, she teased us with mild weather. Dare we say it? Spring is just around the corner.

Whether or not one more cold front will sweep through Washington, 50-degree temperatures this past week have got me thinking about packing away the heavy coat, hat and scarves and preparing for warmer weather.

And I'm not the only one. Even though local waterway temperatures may still be below freezing, boating enthusiasts are gearing up to hit the high seas. Take advantage of this early preparation. When spring really does arrive, you'll be ready to go.

National Capital Boat Show-- There is nothing better than spending warm sunny days on the open water by power or sail. Scan a variety of boat options at the National Capital Boat Show, March 9-11 at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly. More than 40 dealers throughout Maryland and Virginia will bring a wide selection of boats, including power and water-ski boats, fishing boats and yachts. Exhibitors will showcase water sports and safety equipment, electronics and boating accessories. Experts will be available to answer questions about financing, repair and maintenance. The show will run from noon to 9 p.m. on March 9; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on March 10; and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 11. The Dulles Expo Center is located at 4368 Chantilly Center in Chantilly. Cost is $8 for adults; $2 for ages 6-16; ages 5 and younger, free. For information, call 804-425-6556.

Boating Safety Course-- Before cruising on the Chesapeake Bay or Potomac River, enlist in a boating safety course. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 72 is holding a two-day course for anyone born after July 1, 1972 who wants to operate a powered vessel for recreational use on Maryland waters. Topics covered will include boat construction and terminology, safety equipment and boating laws, basic knot skills, navigation and trailering. The fee is $25 for materials. The course will run from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on March 10 and 11 and April 14 and 15. Location is Bladensburg Waterfront Park, 4601 Annapolis Road, Bladensburg. For information or to register, call 301-779-0371.

Sailing Lessons-- Whether you are a novice or an experienced sailor, the Annapolis Sailing School will offer instructional classes beginning March 31. Beginners can learn to sail in just one weekend. Experienced sailors can indulge in a five-day course that the organizers say "can feel like a vacation." They will anchor two nights at sea and two nights at a marina, gaining a true sailor's experience. All courses begin at Back Creek in Annapolis. For information and to register, call 800-638-9192 or visit

-- Lauren WisemanHave an item to list in the Outside Line? Email it to