While We Wait

As Jory says, iceboating is very much about community. I couldn’t agree more, but it’s also about building and tinkering. Since Jory has moved on from sailing his DN rig on Dickie’s old Icywood I’ve been thinking about how much boat you could have and still use that rig. Doug Sharp has the BDX line of DN powered pocket skeeters, but to my knowledge there has never been a front seater powered by the DN rig. I found myself with motive and opportunity a couple of weeks ago, so have set out to see if it will work.

By using an existing plank, she should be ready to go this coming weekend. Mother nature might just throw us a bone this weekend, so stand by for a Plymouth and Pushaw report later this week.

Meanwhile, please forgive the crass commercialization, but this pocket rocket will be for sale after sea trials. All up weight is about the same as the Whizz, which sails pretty good with this rig, so if the weight distribution works out we might have a winner. If not, it is set up for a springboard, 20′ mast and big plank: all the goodies to get the gold in the C Skeeter class.

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“Iceboating” on Plymouth–Dec 17, 2014

Iceboating is not just about iceboating……roaring, rattling, bashing across ice….….it’s also about community….it may even be fundamentally about community….many of us humans–especially we of the male gender—need a context around which to nucleate community….and monday on Plymouth was like that….

there was really no reason to go….fog predicted…. almost certain calm….but i knew Doug Raymond would be there, and though the intervening temps couldn’t have destroyed yesterday’s safe ice…..i know how we hate to be alone on ice in the early or late season…so i headed North thru the freezing rain.

there was Doug setting up the original ‘Cheapskate’ for a daughter showing interest in her dad’s passion. I assume this is the boat which has brought the design to our knowledge. we set it up together, and in the light southerly, Doug was just able to keep her going. I set up Icywood, which i had left on the ice overnight, and had about the same luck….

then, wonder or wonders, Bill Cunningham arrived with a cunning ice bike, a Surly Pusley with enormous studded snow tires, and we all experienced the wonder of this new technology…..gliding fast, effortlessly, with a graceful sure-footedness across three different ice qualities: dusted snow, wetted snow orange peel, and occasional shell ice….this is surely a machine we will see more of…it’s an additional way–with skimbatting and nordic skating–to enjoy this vast and wild environment.

Bill is another of the ‘forever young’ inspirations in our community….how rich we are in role models for moving against the norms of aging! details of his amazing bike will appear shortly.

without wind, Doug and I lunched at the Plymouth Store, and finding calm on our return, he began teaching me about runners: to lubricate their pivots with bar and chain oil, and to tighten them just snug, but able to pivot easily….this is extremely important….then, as i decommissioned Icywood, Doug showed me how I—having arrogantly sharpened my own runners without instruction for 12 seasons—was sailing on a totally ruined set of blades!…..he offered to teach me, if i stopped by his shop on the way home….i didn’t realize that the day’s wonder was just beginning…

Doug is buried in the woods of Montville….his shop is unremarkable….i had expected a Dave Fortier ‘tour de force’……before we got started, he invited me for a bite at his house nearby…you walk a hand-made bridge across the bend of a large stream…..and…..arrive…in a total fairyland!….here i am…a wordsmith of some caliber….awed to silence….inside the house or out…at any moment you open your eyes widely and see a depth of field, a layered collage of magic….tile, paint, wood, steel, windowing, sculpted doors, woodwork, carving, inlays, cabinets….everywhere…. a Gibran said: “work is love made visible”

But the best is the site-ing….the house seems to float on its cement piers above the river with its buildings connected by airy walkways….and….dear fellow iceboaters….should you sit in his living room…. as though sitting in the river itself , you have a long view up its playful wooded watercourse….the movie of your day stops-frame….there isn’t the slightest reason to move from that room….

soooo…i learned not to be awed by runner-sharpening….how to reprofile a runner…how to move the V-notch right on center….how to round the ends, dull the first and last 2 inches…. not polish with finer grit belts…and eventually headed South into the bleak 4 o-clock drizzle…

home to cook a hasty supper….we feed two lovely children every tuesday, who lost their mother to cancer….and are blessed thereby with two ‘grandchildren’….. while our own hyper-independent progeny show little fecundity…and then blubber my way thru our annual Messiah sing-a-long.…Lloyd and Marge Roberts always come…when will i ever dry up?…this ancient story of comfort, of wonder, of renewal in the dark of the year….why am i so moved?….this Scrooge, since the age of 12….excoriating the off-trackness….the missing-of-the-mark… of an annual human passage so necessary of notice and ritual.

and though…gripping my Buddhism against the storm….i can’t conceptually grasp the meanings…i just enter in….willy-nilly….i just give up…and sing and feel with all i have…

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Plymouth Pond 12/15

On very short notice, and without much information on the conditions, eight sailors show up to sail today. I was a bit nervous having called this day, but desperation can drive one right to the edge. Fortunately there was no edge on the Plymouth plate today. Where we had open water last time there was the same six inches that we found everywhere. The surface has a dash of styrofoam and touch of shell; one could be generous and grade it a 7.5. Very sailable. Lloyd had his 1/8″ Cheapskate bedframe runners and marveled at the way they moved through the crud. The sun never did come out, which might have saved the surface from softening. The wind began to soften after lunch, though. There was a great puff along the shore just to the south of the pits, such that once you’ve worked the boat back, thinking it was time to pack it up, you stumble into this pedal to the medal rush so you run down along the trees, jibe, and go blasting back out to where the others were still trying to get wound up. Not everyone discovered this, and it became too heartless a game after a while.

Bunting, Buchholz, Bart Chapin, Jim Gagnon, Bruce Brown, Squibb and Roberts.

Missing from this photo is Curtis Rindlaub who was just having too much fun with INDIGO to take a break. He’s improved the sheeting yet again, and has brought the performance to the point where he’s almost the one to catch. She has topped 70mph before, so she’s got it in her. It felt so wonderful to hear the crunch of cleats on ice again, and to analyze every single flag on the long drive north, trying to get a read on the wind. One flag is too stiff, next one too lazy; what stress. And then the town of Jackson, in some sort of patrio-christmas fervor, put a flag on every telephone pole for about three miles. One could have a break-down along that gauntlet.

There will be a few people sailing tomorrow. Wind is forecast to be light, but Jory says he’s happy just to come push the boat around. Bob Lombardo reports that Pushaw Pond, in Old Town, is pretty good and could have a great surface by the weekend. So maybe we’re getting into a decent stretch of sailing. It takes all the eyes we have to find this stuff. Thanks again to Doug Raymond for scouting this. Sadly, he had roofers working at his house today and couldn’t sail.

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CIBC Membership Caught Napping

Hope has been in short supply around here lately. Lee Spiller sent in this ice report from Lake Wentworth:

And daily scouring of the weather report would never have led any of us to believe that we could have been sailing Plymouth today. Winds 10-12, sunny, hard frozen surface. Doug Raymond called late this afternoon after driving to Plymouth on a hunch. He wasn’t equipped for scouting, and he broke his axe trying to chop holes, but he did find SIX INCHES of solid ice.

There are a few wet spots along the marge, but nothing untoward visible in the distance.

Tomorrow is forecast to be a twin to today, so SAILING IS ON FOR PLYMOUTH POND! It will need thorough scouting, so the first people to arrive should get out early and there and have a look. And then we need to decide as a club how to avoid this sort of situation in the future. The last thing an iceboater wants is to be caught with his pants down!

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Baxter Lake is Starting Early Again

Paul Delnero found this today. There’s not much happening here in Maine, but the natives are restless and a drive to New Hampshire would be great. One our first days last year was New Years Day on Lake Attitash, also scouted by Paul. Keep up the good work! The more eyes on the prize the better.

Went over to Lake Baxter here in Rochester NH. I did some scouting on Monday before the monsoon(here). The cove froze with about 1″ a couple weeks ago. Ice fishermen had been on the cove over the last weekend so I started by checking their holes. After finding 5″ of something on the cove I decided to see what it really was. Chopped a test block and found 2″ real ice and 3″ of frozen slush. Sounded my way out to the transition to the main lake and found 2″ of black ice. I turned and tip toed back into the cove and to my car. Nothing but a rain here with maybe a dusting last night. The cove is possible soon. Main lake needs a few cold days to gain a couple of inches.


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ice at last!–Dec 8,2014

6AM….Brenda’s honey-do list to me:

XXXXXXXXXXX (very important!)
YYYYYYYYYYY (long overdue!)
ZZZZZZZZZZZZ (absolute must!)

and P.S., mister gluten-free retired person, cook a nice dinner for your working-class, and still-working wife……OR ELSE!….even my pre-caffinated brain could read between those lines….

…..chasened, I put on 16 items of clothing and headed for the swamp….temperature 8 degrees, sky clear…and there it was, at last: 4 solid inches of ice…..grey, slightly orange-peeled, with deep stress cracks lazily going here and there, and beautiful well-healed sunburst drain holes….and sun…now beginning to touch the far wooded hills….on with the nordic skates!….. scramble carefully into verticality…scrape-glide, scrape-glide ….the skater’s wind slowly builds….as those unique muscles relearn their jobs…

it seems there’s always one particular day, in each early-ice season, when….as Carol Cold and Willy Warm teeter-totter in the playground, bully Freddy Frigid puts his heavy foot on Carol’s end….and the game changes…..

back home, I revised my honey-do:

1. tell the world about the ice
2. rest and pray for wind
3. skate and skimbat on the swamp at noon
4. nap
5. skate in the wonderful late afternoon gloaming; skate right into the sunset
6. order a pizza

hmmm…. did I leave something out?

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Just Checking

Just Checking

This morning I’m off to check the ice
though I’m darned if I know why
the mercury’s yoyo-ing madly
its numbers way too high

this house, though lovely, feels a cage
my work-out’s a deadly bore
and somehow I’ve simply got to know
what our beautiful swamp has in store

will this morning’s chilling 18 degrees
slow those frisky H-2-O’s
so a frustrated hundred and sixty pounds
can skate where it dreams to go?

but down at the swamp, the one-inch ice
sang it’s same-old song to me
and I sat at the edge like an ancient sage
there was no better place to be

with a sailor’s life-long instinct
I checked the swamp-edge reeds for wind
as the sun crept down and gladdened
the far-shore’s pines again

but the silence wasn’t quite total
or I’d hear the heart’s slow throb
there was the drone of commuters
heading to school or job

I thought of the decades that lay behind
when my routines well were bound
by deadline hustles and raising kids
and so rare was leisure found

so here I sit and I wonder
have these years a Buddha made
or only an old fart washed ashore
with body and mind a-fade?

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