Moosehead against the Odds–Jan 26, 2015

5AM….530AM….the ‘let’s go iceboating’ deadlines slipped by….that left leg just wouldn’t leave the warm duvet….I knew it was cold….below zero….probably 10 below at Greenville Junction, our launch at Moosehead….so, to get going, I promised myself I would just drive to Greenville, sit in the warm car, and simply enjoy looking at the snow-free ice.

….602AM…the computer predicts winds 5MPH going to 3MPH….I call Bill….”Bill, there’s no wind and it’s 10 below in Greenville!’’ “…munch, munch….I don’t care….I’m going!….munch munch…and Curtis is coming too”. “All right, see you on the ice at 10” ….I imagine it’s like that in a war….Your buddies leave cozy foxholes to face enemy fire…and without the hesitation of any other mammal….you  instantly join them…

Greenville 930….local snowmobilers, shanghai’ed by the snowless, glare ice, gather in the local greasy spoon…and sensing that I’m another ‘ice nut’…they pull out their Gazetteers and excitedly detail their beloved lake….trucks are driving everywhere on 12” thick ice…there is big ‘black ice’ patch out beyond the rough ice of our launch at Kelly’s landing….and there’s an uncrossable pressure ridge about 10 miles North…

we 3 drive right out onto the ice and, without unhitching, rig our boats keeping double gloves on against the bitter cold….it’s now warmed up to 0 degrees…and we cautiously head North in blinding sun and 5-10 Knot NW wind. the ice is hard, fast and punctuated by scabs of all kinds: plate shifts, frozen snow mounds, icy nubbles, large white plates like puzzle pieces set in black ice….boat destroying stuff at speeds much above idle…. but gradually the ice smooths somewhat…..we get used to the bash and bang….and we gradually explore the southern section of Maine’s largest lake ….finally, the ice becomes smooth enough to “step on the pedal” and we blast as a threesome just South of the pressure ridge….

by 1130, stomachs are grumbling and we are nagged by the big question: how to sail 10 miles downwind in only a moderate wind….If we can’t wind our boats up, it will be a long, long walk….but Halliluia!….on this fast ice, there is more than enough wind, and with long, long jibes, we are hurtled back to the pits. there…with some extremities now numb with almost-frostbite, we dash for Kelly’s restaurant… hot drinks, food, conversation….admiring our beautiful steeds in the distance.


After lunch it’s a tropical 18 degrees, with slightly more wind, and undiminished sun, so it’s off again…this time with more confidence, and more chance to enjoy our surroundings….and the next two hours somehow become…. that surreal time….a time when the senses are overpowered….overpowered by beauty, by light, by expanse, by speed….by the certainty that this is the most beautiful lake in the world: vast….mountain-bounded….blasted by a yellow sun and blue sky….and when we stopped… to wonder together…there was below us: deep deep clear black ice with bubbles suspended in its 12 inch depth….

a20150126_140258_web(curtis photo)

we now found the smoothest ice of the lake…we argued exuberantly: is it grade 7.5 or 8.5?….and though tempted to stay and play, we sensed that out good voodoo might be just now running out…

IMG_5710(curtis and jory stoned beyond redemption…note ice quality behind…buchholz photo)

So we rolled the dice and headed South….we delicately tried to broaden our reaches….to wind up sufficiently to peel off….but Curtis and I found ourselves married to this section of the lake…each pair of jibes found us only 300 yards progressed to the South…but then…. another of the day’s miracles: the wind strengthened just enough to give us solid, take-me-home, sheeted-in downwind blasts, often miles long,  which, with a few nervous slackenings, brought us easily to the pits….


there….sadly….the pristine, the expansive…became the cluttered, the confined….but it couldn’t dampen the mood: our long-shot bet was won!….Maine’s most snow-bound lake–when all the state is muffled in leprosy, with more to come–had shared with us its rare and precious sparkle….



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Moosehead ON!

Turns out the snow missed Moosehead. Check out this web cam:

Jory, Curtis, Jim Gagnon and myself will take a shot at it tomorrow, meeting at 10:00am at the Greenville Junction boat launch. It’ll be cold, but winds will be moderate and with full sun.

Thanks to David Godin for keeping the reports coming in.

Not sure exactly what’s the orientation of this image, but wherever it is we’re gonna find it!

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Commodore’s Cup Race

Commodore’s Cup Regatta Sat Jan. 24 IS CANCELLED due to inbound snow.

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What Now?

Snow is about to put most of us out of business for a while. From Webster to Winnie and here along the coast it’s nothing but white in sight. We had scouted a good shot at a Hard Way, but it looks now like it will be delayed. However, we’re planning to pull it off some time this season. Thanks to Lee and Charlie for getting out there and having a look. Lee sends this report from today’s final scouting mission:

“Today was a perfect sailing day on Winnipesaukee. 5 boats were sailing, 4 from Ellacoya. We went south down the broads till I could see Parker ahead. The gambit wasn’t being followed so we tacked up the other way towards Center Harbor and found the other boats. At 5 mile Island we were blocked by a large reef system. It’s possible to come around the other side of Bear Island as Ted did and avoid this reef system but it’s a convoluted passage. Today was the day to go long on Winni.
Tomorrow several inches of snow forecast.
The very active reefs are a problem right now. We sailed over several small active ones but the big ones are big, wide, wet, high… The Hard Way needs to wait a while.
We brought our boats and trailers home today. We’ll see what’s up in the morning. Next week maybe go to Moosehead, Lake George, or another big snow free lake?
Today one of my best sailing days ever…not wild and hairy but really really fun and fast and challenging without being scary…good active fun. And so much fun navigating the many passages and bays.. Lee”

No word from Chickawaukee today, but Jim Gagon and his buddy Jim had a fine sail on Lower Long Pond in the Belgrade Lakes area. The wind filled in after lunch and it was anything but “light and variable”, which is what was forecast. Just goes to show, yet again, that “ya just gotta show up and pray”. Title of this shot is “Sunset On All The Ice”.

The only ice that we know of that’s outside the storm track is Moosehead Lake. It’s reported to be clear and thick right now but hasn’t been scouted. We’ll try to get some good intelligence Sunday morning, after the storm has passed.

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Racing this Saturday

Doug Raymond is calling the Commodore’s Cup ON for Saturday:

This Saturday on Chickawaukee in Rockport we will be sailing the Commodore’s Cup Regatta. ALL BOATS WELCOME. Any size any shape. Launch at public beach on rt 17. (Lloyd’s driveway is full) Race Time: 11:00. Nice trophy.

Meanwhile, a few of us toured Megunticook today in the company of a very exceptional boat.

We don’t have many big Skeeters in Maine, so what a treat to have this classic back in service. Sails like a dream, drives like a Cadillac, and just want’s to keep going faster and faster. Even in the light air today she had no trouble getting wound up. And the sensation of a big heavy boat accelerating all that mass with you in it certainly gets your attention. Sure was a shock to get back into the DN. The ice over toward the Turnpike side is the best we found so far.

Jim Gagnon will be sailing Lower Long Pond tomorrow. It’s one of the Belgrade Lakes and the public boat launch is just past Castle Island Camp. Call him at 415-302-1960

Finally, there is a rumble in the distance about a Winnipesaukee Hard Way this weekend. All the scouting reports aren’t in yet, but we are trying hard to get one in the books before the paper goes to dust. Stand By. Charlie, you out there?

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Saturday Ic e Boat Racing on Chickawaukee

Commodore Fortier is off to the world’s. He has authorized Harry Richardson to run the Commodore’s Cup Regatta this Saturday on Chicky. All boats are welcome, any size, any shape. There may be seperate classes. Skippers Meeting 10 AM, Race start 11 AM. Launch site Public beach and Park on Rte 17 South end of lake. (Lloyd,s beach and driveway are full).

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Ice, Ice, Everywhere

Cheapskates are set up on Chickawaukee at Lloyd’s beach. Doug Raymond plans to set up marks for Cheapskate and DN scratch racing over the next few days. We are getting spies on the elusive and never sailed Lake Cobbosocontee, near Augusta. Moosehead apparently is very smooth and lovely. Megunticook, as we’ve seen, is what it is, and will be sailed tomorrow by the might A Skeeter designed by Ray Ruge. ( remember the cool aerodynamic red boat from a summer post?)

Jordan Bay was awarded an solid 6 today, and chosen as an alternate sight for the DN worlds. The primary site will probably be called on for Kingston Ontario, but stand by for the official word later tonight. There is a tricky pressure ridge in the usual place which became very active while we were out sailing in the main part of the bay. We had to tip-toe back along the shore with the outboard runner submerged in order to get to the pits.

The breeze came in at about 5mph and just stayed there all day. Never altered speed or direction. Oddly enough, it was out of the south-east, but what a pleasure to get the boat wound up to maybe 15mph and then just cruise. It was a good day for a cam cleat. More interesting ice activity was this hole:

Its like a trap door opened specifically for an ice boat, and hard to see with all the different textures. Fortunately all this mess was inshore; the body of the bay is tight.

Your CIBC guy had just come from giving a talk on iceboats and iceboating to a group at MIT. And almost as a parody of itself, when I pulled into an alley I found myself alongside the large glass doors of the aerospace and rocket engine shop. Inside there was a guy sitting at a bank of three computers, flying a drone! It was a very flat and stealthy unit, and seeing it buzz around models of turbines and rocket engines was mind blowing. I knocked on the door to ask directions to my lecture hall, and he brought it down for a smooth landing.

I found my lecturees, and we hauled the DN up a few flights of steps and down the hall.

About fifty members of the Outing Club showed up, seemed to be very interested, asked all kinds of technical questions, and began to formulate plans to get a couple of boats for the club. They were especially fascinated with the concept of apparent wind. Most were non-sailors, but they grasped concepts very quickly. They are, of course, the cream of the world’s engineering crop. So keep an eye out for student types prowling the pits in coming weeks and get them into a boat! What better place to plant the seeds of iceboating.

Lastly, is there anyone going to the Worlds who could bring back a mast for Bill Grernier on Sebago? Even if it could be brought back somewhere in New England. Check in with him here: William Grenier

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