Subject: Ice Plymouth Pond
Date: December 12, 2009
Jory and I explored Plymouth Saturday finding 3 1/2-4 inches of snow ice with a coarsely granular surface. There are scattered patches of styrofoam 1/4 inch thick with slightly thinner snow ice underneath. There is one black small patch of open water in the center in “the usual spot” it is obvious and might be skimmed over by tomorrow but still thin. One real booby trap was found of crunchy slush over 1 1/2 inches of ice, probably was an open patch before wind blown snow filled it. It was blowing a gale when we were there. We walked, too much wind to skate. The far end is snowier and ice might be thinner under snow.
It is supposed to be small number cold there tonight. This should heal the booby trap we saw, there might have been more, we did not get beyond the center of the lake because of wind. Snow is forecast for tomorrow night with warm front, perhaps the end of Plymouth. This is somewhat minimal ice due to its being snow ice instead of the black stuff. However:
*WE ARE GOING TO SAIL PLYMOUTH SUNDAY.
DISCLAMER: THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES OF SAFETY EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED. GO ON THE ICE AT YOUR OWN RISK. WEAR ICE PICKS. THERE ARE HAZARDS OUT THERE. DON’T SAIL ALONE.
Subject: Let the Games Begin!–Dec 12, 2009
Date: December 12, 2009 5:48:36 PM EST
The jungle telegraph has been quiet here in Midcoast Maine, just at the time of intense ice expectations. This is because, after dreaming and rapsodizing about black ice, it looked like our first ice would be snow ice. This didn’t seem to pass the fairness test. But then, after 30 years at sea, I don’t remember Mother Nature being particularly “fair”. She’s fair in the sense of birthing each season approximately in it’s time slot; but in terms of human expectations and projects, she’s usually downright contrarian…
The ice prospects for today, however, were hopeful: This morning’s 19 degree temps were almost certain to solidify the mixed stew on the ponds we had seen on Friday. But the human resources were not looking good: I was nursing a lower back, Bill was having knee problems, Marge had grounded Lloyd until he got the live squirrel out of the chimney, and Dickie was on kiddo-care duty. Still, Dickie and I agreed to look at Tolman Pond at 8:30.
As I got out of the car at the convenience store and walked across the snow toward the pond, the first thing I glimpsed was the flash of Dickie’s ice axe in the yellow morning sun. The wind was…..HELL, I didn’t notice the wind! Dickie was hitting something hard, and as I sprinted nearer, he was actually standing on ice. Hooray: three inches of very smooth snow ice. We skated the whole pond, which had the usual spring at the far end, and some strange rippling of the surface in parts, but was safe, smooth ice. There was the usual rituals of kissing the ice, complementing it’s many nice features, etc.
Then we went off to Dickie’s to admire his new iceboat “Black Fly” and came back to Tolman for more skating and skim-batting. I called Bill to tell him to wheel his wheelchair down to Tolman for a treat. He arrived for some careful walking with ski poles.
Then Lloyd and I drove up to Plymouth and found the pond covered in 3-4″ of snow ice with an orange-peel surface. Decent skating, good iceboating. Bill Cunningham had been there earlier, chopping a few holes. The wind was blowing a gale, and we found one place of punky 2.5″ ice under a snow drift. Were there more of these boat traps, we wondered? There was the usual open water spring in the middle, but if you factored out the present bleak 25 knot wind, one could get excited about this ice.
We lunched lavishly in Plymouth Store and chatted with Scott Woodman who had also turned up to look at the pond. He’s showing signs of being another ice-obsessed local ice-brother.
Back in Rockport, we shot the squirrel in Lloyd’s chimney with a mixture of regret and relief, and then headed back to Tolman for more skating and rather perfunctory skimbatting in the dying wind and day. The shadows lengthened, the sunset lit up the treetops, and the magic of ice-skating made it impossible to stop. I finally put away the skimbat and struggled toward the car.
I had squandered all my energy, so I sat at the picnic table and had an energy bar and water as I mused on the idea Bill and I have kicked around: having an ice shack to use as an ice-clubhouse at Bog Bridge, Megunticook. There are many times when you just want to stay on the ice. Throw fresh-caught fish in the frying pan, have a hot rum punch on the afterdeck…. have a hot shower…..change into something comfortable…check the email….write to ice-buddies…..hmmmm….and that’s the problem: Bill and I each live 1.4 miles from Bog Bridge. It’s just too temping to be home….
So tomorrow, Lloyd and I are heading to Plymouth with full gear at 8:30. It’s supposed to be 14 degrees at 7 AM which should finish off those punky spots, with wind 5-8 MPH throughout the day before the snow comes at 4PM. Some others may want to stick with Tolman which has much better ice. See you soon!
the web slave
From: jory squibb
Subject: It’s me and I’m in Love Again!–December 13, 2009
Date: December 13, 2009
What a blast! The old magic is back! We have the greatest sport ever invented!
Lloyd and I loaded up at 8:30, in 15 degree sunny cold, and met 4 other die-hards at Plymouth Pond, near Newport, Maine. This shallow pond, about 2 square miles in area, is our first playground almost every season. But it snows out almost immediately, so we do everything we can to use it fully in it’s little window. It was Fred Wardwell, John Eastman, Scott Woodman, Dean, Lloyd, and myself. Where was everybody, I thought? Jeesum! Shake the lead out, Lads: The season has begun!
Lloyd and I nordic-skated the whole pond with ice axes, and found to our dismay that some of the “tank traps” from the day before were still dangerous. In one discolored snowy patch, Lloyd came close to falling through; but we found a lovely plate on the far shore about a mile long and 400 yards wide. As long as we avoided any snow, we could sail our hearts out. Both passes in this “alley” would be reaches, and thus close-hauled at warp speed.
So we set up in the light air and bright sun. Four of us were setting up changed boats from last season. Scott Woodman had a Northeaster he had rebuilt, I had converted to a super DN, Lloyd was battening a new sail, and Dean was setting up Luke Buxton’s fine DN. So set up took a while, but the wind began to build as we worked.
Soon we were trying our new stuff out along the far shore. Scott, with poorly aligned runners, had some trouble ‘winding her up’; Dean was also learning the ropes, but you could sense he had a fast boat on his hands; Fred was poking about in his usual fashion; John was doing gentlemanly cruising; and I was only gradually gaining confidence with my flimsey-looking springboard and extended push-pull rod. But gosh what a difference! I wish I had converted to a super DN years ago. Less jounce; gentler, rarer hikes; with runners gripping, a greater feeling of control; and slower, sweeping turns. Without a match-race, though, I wasn’t sure about my boat speed.
Plymouth Store stops serving on Sundays at 11, so we had to forego lunch and keep right on having fun. Now the wind was 15 knots–a perfect wind–and Lloyd and I set up scratch-racing marks and went at it. Our boat speed was virtually identical, but his tactical knowledge usually won the day. By this time I had confidence in the new format and could put the ultimate bend to the mast. It was one of those times when, flushed with adrenalin-powered almost self-destruct, you know you’re just as happy as you ever get!
By 2PM it began to look bleak, like some weather event was coming before long, so we de-rigged and saw the first raindrops falling on the windshield when almost home at 4. Now we hunker down and let this heat-wave bring us a new set of adventures. What’s next, I wonder? Maybe Clarey Lake next weekend.
Meanwhile I think I’ll beef up that springboard. I could see it torking this way and that under the side-loads, and today’s ice was quite smooth. I want it to survive the brutal bashing we had, for instance, at Long Pond Lakeville, Mass. So soon you will see me with Wayne Fortier’s yellow springboard and hardware. What an honor….
See you soon, Jory
Sometime in the following few days Jory Squibb wrote to Lloyd:
> I’ll be coming back from dave fortier’s about 2, and will call you on the cell. be careful, though. we haven’t had much super-cold to stiffen that ice. remember it’s snow ice. i would work with dickie on checking it first thing in the AM. jory
We had 3/4 inch of rain Sunday/Sunday night and only barely freezing since then, drizzling this AM. I wouldn’t even bother to throw rocks on it Monday, much less walk on it.
Calm down Jory, you’ve got the whole winter ahead of you
this morning’s weather report is absolutely direct from the Heavenly Powers.
although it will be a test of our cold-weather clothing..
gotta get those heat packs for hands and feet….sharp runners/skates for hard ice.
anyone coming up to maine this weekend? am I sending these emails to thin air?
many ponds are getting thick enough…
Subject: Mining that Gold–Dec 17, 2009
I checked the ice on Hosmer Pond with Bill at 11 AM. There it was beautiful greenish-black ice, 2.5 inches thick with a fairly consistent film of road dust blown in from the parking lot of the Camden Snow Bowl, which lies just upwind. It would dull skates pretty quickly, but still this ice would be hard to resist. It was so diamond hard in the 7 degree temp, that the cleats in my shoes slid easily across it.
So off I went alone to check Grassy Pond, a mountain-bound, wild-shored shallow pond which forms part of the water system for the Midcoast. And there it was: the ice of dreams. Black, clear, without dust, 3.5 inches thick and one of mystical grades in the middle of the nines.
Dickie and I met at 2. We first skated the pond without sails, and sure enough there were four open holes which needed memorization, but basically the whole pond was ours. We claimed it vigorously, me on skates and Dickie on skimbat. It was one of those times–how I wish there were more–when the fun-o-meter stays pinned on its upper pin. I think if I ever had to choose between skating, skimbatting, and iceboating–and I hope I never do!–I would choose skating. Today was fairly windy, so both skater and sailor worked a 1/2 mile reach across the pond: smooth, smooth ice, yellow setting sun, gliding forever.
Dickie and I kept hooting to each other: This is absolutely as good as it gets! As the sun began its long sunset behind the western hills, we stopped for tea, and tried to plan–if the whole gang were to convene here– how to overcome the difficult road access to this ice playground. I’m sure we’ll figure something out, unless other large ponds, perhaps Cleary Lake, are also jelled.
But for tomorrow, in the icy-cold single-digit bright sun, I know one skater who wouldn’t be anywhere else.
It Doesn’t Rain, it Pours — Saturday, Dec 19, 2009
In a single day without wind, almost every pond we can name had flashed into beautiful black ice, in these consequitive single-digit night-time temperatures.
We hardly know where to begin today’s feast. We know you could iceboat today on Grassy Pond, which is difficult of access, and we know that Alfred, Cleary, Megunticook, Unity, and Chickawaulkie all have beautiful ice of varying thickness.
So it seems like the best masterplan to to skate our heart’s out in today’s light and variable wind, checking the thickness on as many ponds as possible, and then post some iceboating plans later in the day for Sunday, Monday and forever after.
Let’s all get out there and carefully skate this beautiful ice. Somebody’s gotta do it!
From jory squibb
Date:December 20, 2009 7:03:25 AM EST
I’m heading for chickie, probably to skate, possibly to storm-sail iceboat. but you high-wind lovers might enjoy skimbatting there.
dickie, we have four orange traffic cones in a row in the SE corner of the lake. (blown away?) if you stay NW of them all the plate is safe.
snow coming almost immediately, it’s in portland now, i think
good by, good by and thanks, glorious glorious ice
From: jory squibb
Subject: megunticook and chickie magic Dec 19, 2009
Saturday started off in high anticipation, with many lakes having flashed into ice. Bill and I arrived at Bog bridge in the 15 degree, light-wind, sunny morning light. We proceeded to hack holes as we proceeded from shore and found that even the newest ice was 2.5 inches thick. So we rigged skimbatts and proceeded like naughty children out into a vast smooth black playground.
There was about 5 knots of NW wind, so we had to keep our brakes on as we chopped our way across the south broads, finding a consistent 2.5 inches until we came upon two open holes at Polly’s Folly. Then we swung north and found a long stretch of open water South of Crane Island, and then swung back to Fernald’s Neck and sighted total open water in the Western Passage.
So we sat by the rocky shore, suspended in space over the clear ice and rocky bottom below, and frankly… just counted our blessings. It was like being the first beings in Eden, with a fresh new world to explore. But soon our curiosity overpowered our wonder, and we set off to try to get into the Turnpike section. Bill was so fixed on viewing its troublesome entrance ahead, that he skated, somehow, within 20 yards of an open hole to port which, without wind to ripple the surface, looked like a million other ice junctions.
Still, lured ever onward, we carefully skated the middle narrows, dragging our sails behind us and, wonder of wonders, the turnpike was also a uniform 2.5″. What’s more, it had the best wind of the lake. So we stitched our way North, Bill with more speed, me sailing closer to the wind, and found the ice continued all the way up to the very northern end.
We came back by Fernald’s Neck, which also had some dodgy places, to find Jeff at the landing also thinking of skimbatting. Bill was yearning to rig iceboats, while I was for another fantastic loop in skimbatts, and though a coin flip gave Bill the choice, my irresistable charm won the day and we set out East, better prepared for the hazards. This time we crossed into the turnpike by the southern strait, hearing the rising pitch of the sound of our skates as the ice thinned over the shallows of the strait. Again we worked the turnpike North in the perfect wind of that section, and came back south each using a different channel. I was quite worried to be skating without Bill in sight. Skating in such dodgy conditions, is like being two roped climbers: Almost embarassing interdependence. Finally, we joined up at the Fangs, turned West across the great Broads, and carried a beautiful strong steady wind on a long, long, single skate tack. For the first time in four years of skimbatting, I seemed ready to be propelled at the crazy speeds I have always de-powered in response to, in the past. I guess all that practice in the rink has had a result in confidence.
As we approached the Bog, there was Dickie, somehow pulling an inner tube behind his skimbat, as well as Lloyd Roberts on skates. We decided to set up iceboats on Chickie which had only localized hazards in the SE corner of the lake, instead of the crap-shoot hazards of Megunticook.
Chickie was also 3 inches or so thick, and also featured the ice of dreams. Alas, the wind was dying, so, with Scott Woodman in his skeeter, and John Eastman, for additional company, we puttered around and yakked a good deal. Since the morrow’s snow’s arrival time was questionable, we left two boats set up in anticipation.
A double-whammy day like this….with such friends…..with such sports…I drove home dreamily, lost in wonder…
From: jory squibb
Subject: Rolling the Dice on Chickie –Dec 20
It was necessary to say “good by and thanks” to the lovely ice: And to actually watch it get definitively kyboshed by the morning’s predicted snow. So I arrived at chickie at 7:30, with triple gloves, tightened leg cuffs, and an utter determination not to do anything stupid.
I rigged the storm sail, and tacked carefully back and forth on the North end of the lake, where the wind was a mere 15 knots before it could sweep down on the lake further south and deliver it’s gusty, shifty 25 knot howl. I needed a buddy, and, like a duck decoy, circled right at Lloyd’s doorstep, hoping to lure my duck-friend out.
At last he came out, rigged, and without much ado, shot out of sight to the dreaded middle of the lake. Jeesum, I thought: Lloyd is 8 years older than me. Maybe he’s now content to die doing what he loves. But am I? We did a few long laps, broad reaching South and close-hauling North. The GPS read a mere 46 MPH, but the feeling was of waiting for a disastrous shoe to drop.
And drop it did. The snow began, giving the lake a zebra striation of black and white shifting streamers: black in the blasts, white in slower-wind areas. Lloyd was on the peel-off to the South, right at warp speed. He two-blocked the sheet to reduce drag, but a shift caught the flat sail and the boat spun end to end in a shower of snow and ice chips. Lloyd was instantly out of the boat, holding the tiller, beside the boat, riding that endless spin to a standstill.
I circled three times, unable to bleed off speed in the mid-lake gale, and finally, luffing violently, managed to stop nearby. Lloyd, sporting a bloody nose, allowed as how the wind might be a little much today!
We played for another half hour, careful never to close-haul our sails, and then de-rigged with relief back at the pits. Dean was there, prepared to join us, but the idea of a beginner out there was pure folly, so, with the possibility now that the storm might bypass us, we left the boats on the ice pending developments.
looking back, the terror was more in the ice than in the wind. This ice was the smoothest, hardest I’ve ever experienced. When you look at the side runners, you see light under the front and back tips, so the runner is only in contact in the middle. That’s not much grip. And the ice is so fast, the boat’s glide is so very long….there just isn’t much hope of going slowly, keeping some sort of control. Any gear failure, especially a steering failure, and you’d just have to roll out of the cockpit, and let the boat fend for itself…. Not a nice prospect of repair, in the middle of the season…..so…..
let’s see what tomorrow brings…
From: jory squibb
Subject: sad news
Date: December 21, 2009
Mark McClellan died yesterday in an iceboating accident. He launched on Chickie from the public landing about noon and must have sailed in the high winds and falling snow into one of the four holes we had marked with traffic cones in the SE corner of the lake.
He shouted from the water, and a neighbor there eventually heard. The fire department rescued him with a canoe, but he died at the hospital. He has two young children. He was a committed soft-water cruiser, and had done an extensive cruise a number of years ago.
Some of these details may not be accurate.
Lloyd and I had left the lake at 10 AM, during a lull in the morning’s light snow, with the wind slightly dying, but still very strong. We had never fully gotten to the South end of the lake, due to the high, gusty, shifty winds, and very fast ice. The middle of the lake was crazy enough. Conditions were just too scary to relax. When I got back home the snow began in earnest. I can imagine visibility on the lake was quite limited, and the lake surface was again striated black and white. Those open holes may have been skimmed over as well. Hard to see the cones in a white-out, or to know what hazards they warned of.
Mark spoke with another church member about 1130AM after church on Sunday, very excited to get his iceboat out on the lake, hoping that the wind would be strong enough to blow the snow off the lake…..
And I’m also a bit chastened. I’m sure people on the way to church saw us out on the lake. Beginners seeing that scene have no perspective to judge the care that (hopefully!) is going on to make a situation relatively safe: Knowing the ice, knowing the hazards, knowing the gear, knowing our skills, and more than anything, knowing the strength and capriciousness of Nature.
So, as we model a behavior which can’t be fully comprehended by others, are we just a little bit responsible for an unintended and tragic effect of our behavior? I’m just a little bit slowed down….reflective….
From: jory squibb
Subject: Unity’s Balm–Dec 22, 2009
Jim MacDonald is an artist-woodworker who lives in a hand-made house on the East shore of Unity Lake, in the small college town of Unity, 45 miles north of here. At 6:30 Tuesday morning, he reported looking out on a vast sea of smooth grey ice which froze exactly the night of the first snowfall 3 weeks ago, and hasn’t seen the challenge of a snowflake since.
Perhaps with the predicted 4-8 Knot NW wind, Mother Nature was inviting us to sit at the peace conference: Perhaps the wars of anger, regret, second-guessing, anguish, sadness, pity, would heal just a little. As a bonus, I would conveniently miss the deadline for a long-stalled newspaper article.
Smoke signals began to rise–alas, we spaced out Bill Bunting–and at 10 am the “usual suspects” gathered at the boat ramp in Unity: Jim and myself on skate sails; Lloyd, Bill, Scott, and Dean with iceboats; and to greatly add excitement, Dickie was launching “Black Fly” and would be able to tune the new boat against another of his own designs, Indigo, now with 4 seasons of fine tuning. We also missed Fred Wardwell and John Eastman, for good bodily reasons.
As I walked out in the clutter of thrown stones and smashed pumpkins of the boat ramp, I looked down at snot-grey ice, whose smoothness was in the mid-grade 9′s, punctuated by a smorgasbord of well-healed cracks. And, like a mini-Sebago, it continued to a distant horizon. Dickie was beginning the long initial set-up. Holy smokes! I shuddered to think how easily I could have spent this day moping…
Jim and I took off on skate sails. Just imagine a tack that continued, truly, for miles. You just had to slow down every few minutes to negotiate an new variety of healed crack, and eventually two pressure ridges. After 4 years of skimbatting, the magic, the dance, the grace of this sport is finally coming my way. And there just ahead was Jim, in his wood-framed antique skate-sail, leaches a-flutter, making the same footing across endless, endless, endless smooth ice.
Later, it was fun to watch Dickie tune against Indigo, which is now the fastest boat in our fleet. Each year, Bill changes runners, steering, or mast rake, until, alas, I no longer enjoy match-racing with him. Match-racing requires fairly equal boats, such that each person can occasionally, by sheeting differently, avoiding windless ‘parking lots’, good buoy-rounding, etc. get ahead of his mate. If all you see is the other guy blasting by, then….heck…. I guess we can still enjoy cruising together, but deliberately de-powering to keep in step with another boat, is a behavior not in our repertoire in match-racing situations.
At the beginning Indigo could easily pass Black Fly, but with gradual tuning, it was soon hard to tell which boat is faster. Dickie reports that the cockpit is indeed tight, but all in all, he’s delighted with the boat. I hope he will sell plans!
Jim and I had a warming, filling lunch at the Cross-Tracks Deli, and then continued skate-sailing, finding, at last, two open holes on that vast lake. Unity is almost 4 miles by 1 mile, and very shallow, with perhaps a typical depth of 25 feet.
About 2:30, we again bravely crossed the stones of the pit area–one of which had dulled one of Scott’s newly-sharpened runners– and de-rigged for the trip home. It violated my rule about never leaving sailable ice early, but I knew that that much skate-sailing would give me enough to deal with in the next 24 hours. I tried to get traction with the notion that the sailing was just ‘too perfect’, but the others would have none of it. “It’s not sunny” was their only concession.
It was a day of wonderful healing, comaradrie, and also of being alone. Of getting back on the horse after a fall and loving the ride even more than ever.
From: jory squibb
Subject: Play it again, Unity! —Dec 26
I stuffed my boiler suit pockets with christmas candy. gotta get rid of it, right? my wife helped me load the ice toys and spare the ‘rotator cuff’ for later stresses. she’s not super-keen on ice activities, but i think my being out of the house is part of her mental health plan as well as mine…..
I arrived at the boat launch ramp just after 10AM, to join about 5 other boats. Jim Mcdonald had promised us fast ice up there at Unity, and even though the ‘dusting’ of snow he mentioned was a good half inch, it hadn’t bonded at all to the beautiful base, and didn’t slow the ice. It did cover all the healed cracks and pressure ridges, so we never pushed to the limits of the North end of the Pond.
Eventually, we had about 12 of us, including two skimbatters, Jim and Rick Hobbs up from Mass, and some less familiar faces: Tim Madigan began learning the ropes on Dickie’s “frigidaire” which he bought this fall. Chris Conary was there and a couple from Boothbay. Fred Kercheis turned up, having healed his own ‘rotator cuff’, and Bill Bunting was inaugurating the season in his Nite. And then there were the ‘usual suspects’, Lloyd, Dean, Scott, and myself
the wind was predicted as 6 knots NE. I hate 6 knot predictions! a sucker’s prediction, enough to lure you out, only to be skunked on the ice after a long drive. but this time, the prediction was accurate, and our time was about equal between sailing the south half of the pond, and yakking in the lulls. Tim began getting the hang of iceboating, and Bill Bunting and I sparred extensively.
About 3:30, we were back in cars, hoping the freezing rain would hold off for the whole trip home, which it did.
Now let’s see if this warm spell and rain might freshen up our ice surface…
By the way, Mark McClellan’s services are at 1PM new years day at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rockland 345 Broadway…
See you soon, Jory
From: jory squibb
Subject: Between the storms–Dec 30, 2009
I love these times between storms. Maybe the ice isn’t perfect, but there’s a little window, a little sun, and some buddies, sooooo.
Dickie, Scott and I met at Bog Bridge at 10:30. Wind was NW about 4-6 Knots very intermittent. Bill, alas, was nursing a knee…. The temp had soared to 9 degrees, the sun was bright, and we were curious to see how the enormous open holes of the day before had fared in the 4 degree night, whose wind had only ceased in the early morning. They skated, and I hiked across the snow ice of Bog Bay, into the knobbly grey polished ice of the south broads. Sure enough, the holes were only just skimming over, probably when the wind stopped, and might need another night, or even more, to be safe under the coming snow cover.
However today, you’d have to be deaf, dumb, and blind, to get into trouble in this light wind on three very obvious colors of ice: Grey= OK; white=maybe alright; black=stay back. So I explored the east broads, and then met the others for a snack in Loon Cove. Alas, the rum bottle was not proferred to take the edge off the chill…. Then we skated and skimbatted to the North Turnpike, and I returned south to check out the rest of the turnpike, which was also well healed from the day before.
When I got back to the Broads, the lads were whooping it up.
As Dickie summarized: if we had been using a snow surface for a week, we would be excited by this. But after 9 days on black ice, it’s rather a come-down…
I went home for lunch, returned at 2, and found Dickie and Scott practicing rope rescue using a half-submerged rock as a victim. Since I hadn’t skated in the morning, I was off in a flash, to try that cobbled surface. It was just the sort of impossible surface that nordic skates make quite pleasant, if not quiet and smooth. What a joy, in the mellow but weak December sun, trying all the different nooks for the best ice. I found it up in the lee of Fernald’s Neck.
Finally, I stretched out on Dunton Rock in the middle of the Broads to watch the sun, setting behind the mountain. The ice was barking intermittently: Whuuut!
Whuut! and you could hear the entire plate shifting against the immobility of this isolated rock, cracking and tinkling the ice along the rock’s edges. The afternoon’s quiet magic began to sooth a holiday-rattled soul.
As the ice surface began to darken without the sun, I skated meditatively back .
From: jory squibb
Subject: Mother Pulls the Plug–Jan 7,2010
It always amazes me how quickly mother nature can pull the plug. There we were having a great, great first season. the black ice of dreams. a new pond for us, Grassy Pond, was just soooo delightful.
seeing it now, I burst into tears. here we are in total, total kybosh. The lakes are covered in snow and styrofoam covering slush pits of trouble. A recent death haunts us. I go to the lake, walk tentatively a few hundred yards, sigh, and come back home. It’s Jan 7th and it’s already the dreaded ‘middle season’ !
ah…. that morning bill and i skimbatted megunticook….when overnight, the whole lake flashed 2.5 inches….and we sat near the shore….just in total awe….
MOTHER NATURE! I just want you to know: you’re goofing up my very best mental health system. this is just the season when mental health requires roving about in the wide open, sky-flooded, sometimes blizzard swept, sometimes fluffy-cloud-and-baby-blue-sky, sometimes a zillion kinds of surfaces, sometimes using every kind of conveyance, and you, dear mother, are goofing it up royally!
but i’ve got good old buddhism…cross the legs…..sit up straight…..simmer down…..turn down the ‘poor old suffering me’ tape….accept….accept…this day…..somehow….is a blessing….(what the hell????)…..yes…..there’s something to be learned here…….lot’s of blessings here…..they may not appear to the mind..(fainter: got that right!)……but maybe they’re available deeper down…maybe in the heart….
can i see this day with new eyes?….can my senses open without an editorial?….
let’s just see if its possible….
From: jory squibb
Subject: A sunny morning on Darmiscotta Lake–Jan 10
5:30 AM 6 degrees out. that’s hand and foot warmer territory. Wind calm inland, and 6 Knots along the coast. Therefore an ‘adiabatic wind’, driven by local temp differentials. I like to see similar wind speeds over the whole area. Therefore a ‘prevailing wind’, driven by regional conditions. These are more trustworthy. And a wind at dawn and dusk, when adiabatic conditions are least, is more likely a prevailing wind…ahhh…every sailor has his own wind voodoo….
sun begins to rise….emails begin to fly….telephone rings….my family knows that such calls are from ‘Dad’s nutty friends” Lloyd had been speechless in describing Damariscotta the night before. I trust Lloyd’s caution, although his recent battles with arhythmia have been making him naturally extra-cautious. But I don’t trust his occasional manic enthousiasms. I remember soooo many times bolting to Chickie on his report, only to find ice which would stall a bulldozer….
But he’s one of the “let’s go!” coterie which I love to have surrounding me. Dickie’s the same way. Damn! He had us out on that forsaken salt flat in Thomaston during last year’s long ‘middle season’ , ski-sailing the salt ice. Imagine hilly ice…. who would have dreamed?
The gear was loaded, so i laid in a high liquid, high protein breakfast. my present solution to joint pains. Instead of thinking “i’ve done something wrong, when i did XXXX” and gobbling advil; I’m thinking “I’m not doing enough right. I’m not giving the hard-worked muscles, near the time of the overload, enough protein and fluid to flush and rebuild, the naturally-torn muscle fiber…….ah….the current voodoo.
Out on the road, the only fellow-travellors are the trucks of ice fishermen and snowmobilers. boys and their toys…. how would a woman feel, trucking these toys?….like me carrying knitting to the coffee shop?….
My heart starts to race, as I approach the lake…one more turn…yep, there it is, the whole middle of this pretty-big lake, shining, glossy-grey in the 8AM sun. On with the skates, skate-sail laid nearby, and then the long careful navigation close along the shore to avoid the 400 yards–a long stretch– of snow blocking the ice.
the first ice was the best, almost grade 9, but, proceeding south, the lake settled down to grade 7.5 pebbly ice, with one long pressure ridge bisecting the lake a mile south, which could easily be crossed in places. a lovely 4 mile skate, remembering the fun we had two season’s ago, for three straight days on this beautiful, squiggily lake. and thanking the stars, today, that the powered-toys hadn’t been able yet to cross the slush-pits blocking the public landing. here’s the lake:
click on the things you want to know more about….
Back at the pits, a good turn-out was arriving, with Tim Madigan excitedly making his second appearance after the false start at Alford the day before. Dean was introducing his son Andy to our addiction…. Also, Lloyd, Scott W, and Dickie to arrive with black fly later.
From: jory squibb
Subject: a glorious day on Damariscotta Lake–Jan 11
What a day…i’m just too tired to write….i know my memory is bad….I can’t remember too well, the thrills of my younger years….but here in the later years, there is absolutely nothing more thrilling than iceboating….course there are lots of varieties of these iceboating thrills….cruising, exploring, on a sunny day with picnics, buddies, etc…..the thrill of brand new ice…..but right now i’m talking about adrenalin….so there are some preconditions to this particular thrill….
first off, and i hate to say this…i sound just like a brain-challenged teenager… you have to be going as goddam crazy-ass fast as you possibly can….mast bent like a noodle, the gear at its very limit….constant hikes…constant screetching of runners….horizon blurry with jounce….disorientation in the whirl of tacks….that synchronized dance of chase and be chased…..crane-ing the neck to see the competition…wind burn…toes frozen…gotta pee, but what the hell…should put on the storm sail, but what the hell….another lap….jeesum he’s gaining fast….another lap….strike down on that SOB from windward…..gobble that bastard…….runner to runner, now….look, he’s sheeting further….will my mast take just a little more bend?….
and what’s really essential to this particular thrill is a bunch of closely-matched boats….a buddy who will sometimes pass you, and whom you can sometimes pass……if the difference in boat speed is anything more than a slow creep, the whole game is off…the thrill is eclipsed by technology…It’s a thrill to be going 47 MPH….but , chock to chock with a buddy going 47 MPH….somehow…..that puts the thrill into overdrive….
Damariscotta is perfect, right now. the pebbled surface is fast and grippy….almost no spinouts…the wind today was great….about 12 knots…and the company was superb, Scott, Lloyd, Dickie, John Bianci, Bill Bunting, and myself.
We’re going to try our chance again tomorrow about 10. At some point, something is going to kybosh this, or we’re going to get fed up with this sport…..but at this point….we’re gonna see this series right on thru…
We’re hoping that maybe, with Winne being disappointing…some of our Southern New England Bretheren might join us if the weekend conditions permit. good ice….good shore access…good company….lake bisected now by an unstable, flooded pressure ridge….perhaps we could mark a safe passage.. here’s the lake, but maybe i gave you this:
hobbling to bed….all the best, jory
From: jory squibb
Subject: Cooling the Jets–Jan 14
9 AM….Bright bright sun, predicted to stay all day, 5 degrees temp, and absolutely no wind predicted anywhere. Sebago thickening its skim ice as we speak. Me, with a body recovering from yesterday’s jounce on Damariscotta, and down with a cold to boot…a good day to cool the jets and give thanks.
What an amazing season: 16 days on the ice as of January 13. Seems like we’re bound to break last year’s 25. …. if…..a thousand if’s….
The big “if” is our bodies. every day on Damariscotta has required a rest day afterward. super-DN or regular DN–my boat still takes a big toll, especially holding my neck up in the jounce, and craning it around to look sidewise and behind. Bill offered to sell me Indigo for $5000 with the trailer. I actually thought about it….
Another “if” is our determination. I’m getting bored with Damariscota’s little one square mile plate. Just blasting around with buddies–as great as these last days have been with lots of mid-lake stops to tune-up the boats and jabber, and lingering lunch picnics on islands–finally settles into a routine, and finally loses it’s sparkle. Even if there were wind, I’d probably be staying home today. Recovering my body, but also recovering my love of ice….
And the biggest “if” is Mother Nature. She gives and she takes away. It’s been unusually cold this season, with less snow than usual. So far, it’s been a season of dreams…but…. at some point, this amazing cold spell has to end.
Me, I’m looking out for Sebago, and will call our spy, Wes Todd, later in the day. The boat’s on Damariscotta, but could be picked up on the way to Sebago…. but I hope the whole lake freezes in this calm….every inch….that’s the joy of sebago….that vast, vast ice.
all the best, Jory
From: Lloyd Roberts
Subject: Safer Sailing for all
Date: January 14, 2010
We have been enjoying some nice ice on Damariscotta. Wednesday we had 9 boats by my count. Most of the time most of them were reaching back and forth up and down the available plate of ice, each apparently trying to go a little faster than the next. I found this a bit unnerving as the closing speeds are high and the turns unpredictable. This is called “reaching around”.
There are two problems with reaching around, the first is unpredictable head on and turning traffic with the potential of lethal collisions. The second is that we have several new sailors amongst us and reaching around is a poor way to learn how to sail an iceboat, especially how to sail it down wind.
Windward leeward racing courses were designed to avoid maximum reaching speeds and closing speeds while still providing a venue to determine who is fastest. These days windward leeward courses are usually fairly short, a mile or two sailed for three laps. In the old days of humongous stern steerers on great lakes and rivers course of 10 to 20 miles were common.
The short course racing leads to sailing on a circumscribed piece of ice with no physical hazards. While reaching around has potential for serious collision accidents, casual sailing around or touring raises the likelihood of sailing into unknown hazards. Lots of boats are broken in this pleasant relaxed sailing and McClellan’s death was a touring accident albeit in extreme weather.
I propose that we expend our competitive energy around windward leeward buoy courses. These races do not have to be formal, buoys can easily be moved, number of laps is optional, and if there are more than a very few boats the larger faster ones should race separately from the smaller ones.
If someone wants to do GPS speed runs they are best done solo with thought given to room to turn at the end of the high speed run. No one should be looking at a GPS while sailing any more than they should be texting or cell phoning while driving.
Right of way rules for ice boats must be observed and they are hard to apply to reaching around. If you don’t know them go to IDNYRA or NEIYA web sites and read up.
From: Buchholz Family
Subject: Damariscotta Sunday
Date: January 31, 2010
Lloyd, the indefatigable ice hound, inspected Damariscotta this morning and call the sailing On. He reports never having seen a lake get blown so clear of snow in thirty five years. We were back to what we had skate sailed on last week with some 1-3″ snow drifts. Most were easy to sail around, especially along the western shore where they are few and far between. But considering the strong winds, west 10-20, most boats just blasted on through. It added a terrific dynamic watching boats kick up clouds of white which then blew away to leeward. The ice is very hard and rather rough. Not too rough for great sailing, though. The north end, above the big crack that’s been there all winter, has the largest sheet of smooth ice. Nobody ventured south of the Pressure Ridge today, but if good conditions persist it might pay to take an expedition down into the narrows. Dave Wilkins is back, below right, and reports progress on his skeeter project. Sailing the DN today might be just what’s needed to motivate an immanent launch…
Stay tuned for sailing during the week.
From: Lloyd Roberts
Subject: Damariscotta Ice Sunday
Date: January 31, 2010
We won’t get glowing testimonials/verse from our usual scribe Jory because he is prostrate with flue.
For some 35 years folks have hoped that wind would blow the snow off ice. My experience has been that it does not, it piles the snow into drifts, the more wind the deeper the drifts. Well, this is the first time. Two days of howling sometime 40 MPH NW winds by golly pretty well cleared off Great Bay on Dammy. Wonders of ice never cease.
We had nice sailing on sometimes roughish but not impossible ice. The better ice generally on the Western half where there were the fewest small drifts. Mostly the drifts could be easily missed but it was kind of fun to see others bashing through them throwing rooster tails of snow into the air illuminated nicely by the low angle sun.
the west wind was once in a while strong enough for a hike. Rob Dmitireff, sailing Nat Wilson’s Northeaster Raven came down out of a hike and felt the boat accelerate like crazy, later he looked at his GPS and found 61.2 MPH. I never got raven beyond the mid 50′s. Rob usually sails a Skimmer with a record of 48 which is pretty fast when you butt is only a couple of inches off the pavement. We had a good time.
The launch site is 50 yards West of the intersection of Rte 126 and 32 just West of the micro village of Jefferson. This is a private site, stay off grass. *GO ON ICE AT YOUR OWN RISK, WEAR PICKS. *We can leave our boats on the ice, even a portapotty at the site. Thank you Dave Lampton, owner.
From: Lloyd Roberts
Subject: The BIG Ice
Date: February 10, 2010
Three of the stay at home Mainers finally took the bait and trundled off to Winnie Sunday Feb 7th. On the advice of Stu Nelson we unloaded at Ames Farm on the West shore where there were about a dozen assorted boats on the edge of black ice as far as we could see all the way across the broads. Heavy NW wind, 20+ I guess, took some of the pleasure out of sailing. With a storm sail on my super DN it was OK to go with the wind, straight with the wind, and luffing to windward. Peeling off and rounding up were perilous, broad reaching insane. Monday was similar, we waited until Tuesday, what a day. Wind down to 10-15, leisurely storm sail stuff, miles of incredible ice, fabulous scenery with mountains rimming the lake and Mt Washington white with snow sometimes visible in the distance.There were the usual pressure ridges to negotiate one way or another. We sailed up toward Center Harbour, then down to Parker Island for lunch as we used to do when Dick Price owned it and organized the classic Winnie Frolicks. It has changed a bit, instead of his camp there are four summer “camps” with mainland power, air conditioning, satellite TV etc. Access was difficult because the entire lee shore is wet with bubblers and associated thin ice, the memory of bygone Winnie Frolicks was nice though. It was the sail of the year, so far.
Many thanks to Stu for ferreting out the launch site.
From: Bill Buchholz
Weekend on Winnipeswkee
Date: February 15, 2010
> Yet another glorious weekend on the endless big ice. It was truly the nexus of Eastern iceboating with two classic gaff rigged stern steerers, a trio of bubble boats, a fleet of eight Yankees,an assortment of interesting skeeters and full flock of DN’s. Conditions Saturday were ideal: wind 8-10 and partly sunny in the high twenties. There were boats everywhere and even with seemingly miles of space traffic was always an issue with speeds in the fifties. Just to add a little madness to the insanity, Jeff Brown taped a video camera to Steve Lamb’s plank so the entire fleet could buzz Steve vying for the camera’s attention. Thanks for the steely nerves, Steve. Blackfly was very well received and admired by all, in addition to sailing very well relative to the general fleet, clocking over 60mph for the first time.
> The Yankee fleet graciously invited Blackfly and Indigo to their regatta. We lined up with the heavyweights and Dicky got a very good start, while I was so excited I got tangled in my sheets and was second to last at the windward mark. Dicky tried to out smart the Jersey boys, but it didn’t work and he spent the three laps trying to catch a very fast Yankee. The second race took way too long to start, so we took off for the islands around Merideth Neck where Lloyd, Stu and I had explored the week before. After the high speeds on the broads it was nice to short tack around the islands and gaze at the charming waterfront houses.
> Sunday blew hard, and Dicky sailed wings with a small group while Indigo went out in survival mode. Winds were probably twenty five. The Yankees tried to race but gave up. The stern steerers poked their bow sprits out and then thought better of it. A few brave and strong DN’s came out for a while with full sails. Indigo had Icywood’s tiny slip of a sail and spent the afternoon romping around in the high sixties. Amazing how small the lake feels at those speeds and how big the bumps feel. Dicky broke the SkimBat speed record with 54.3 mph (I think). Between Blackfly’s success and the wing speed he was some happy camper.
> Three and a half hours driving is a small price to pay for such fabulous sailing with a terrific variety of boats and interesting people.
From: Lloyd Roberts
Date: February 22, 2010
FYI Jordan Bay is closed until next year. See attachment.
From: “Tom Childs”
Date: February 21, 2010
Warning: Stay off Jordan Bay!! Several vehicles went through on
Saturday. At last count seven people and/or their vehicles went through
- snowmobiles, ATVs and a pickup.
On the other hand, I sailed Lower Bay for about 4 hours today and it was
great despite the rough and tumble surface. There are some nice areas of
about grade 8ish ice, but a lot of it is maybe grade 4-5 due to the
shattered and re-frozen plate. I got some good runs, tall hikes, shallow
hikes – one at 52+ mph. I had one run that clocked 57.2. What fun!! So,
as the air got better I decided to get 60 before packing up for the day.
Now you should recall the old adage that an iceboat goes fastest JUST
before falling to pieces. Well, the sail track came off the mast like a
zipper and the halyard ripped down the mast like a rope saw (only about
4-5″). Luckily a fisherman helped me wrestle the mast down, sail and
all, and brought the pieces back to shore w/his ATV. John Smith is his
name and what a nice guy!
So, I’ll mix up some West and try again.
That is all
From: W. H. Bunting
Subject: My dunking-the long version
Date: February 27, 2010
Lloyd has asked me to relate my less-than-excellent adventure of Sunday.
Be cautioned that the single largest cause of wrongful convictions in this country is faulty eyewitness testimony of victims. While only a victim of my own innattention, my recollections of the event, a day later, should be accepted as but my best guess as to what happened. That said, I suspect that the accuracy of day-after recollections is higher either than those of the day it happened, or those of two or more days afterwards, so here goes.
Six boats were headed for the Narrows. Lloyd had wisely insisted that we employ the buddy sustem, so three DNs were in one squadron, three skeeters in the other. Thanks to a favorable gust of wind, when approaching the Narrows entrance, I was propelled into the lead and was sailing much too fast for a prudent Narrows passage — while everyone likes to have enough speed to make it through the mid-way Narrows doldrums, it is dangerous to commit oneself when going too fast, as, once in the Narrows, the only way to stop is to hit something (or sail into a hole!). Accordingly, I made a big circle to bleed off speed and rejoined the fleet in second to last position. The DNs and Super DN were well in the lead, with Yellow Bird ahead of me, and Raven astern.
With my little storm sail I did not have sufficient power to sail through the doldrums, and had to resort to pushing and gliding/sailing while riding the starboard plank. Approaching the southern outlet of the channel I looked to starboard for the draw of open water which I had noted the day before, which lead away from the last point on the western side. Noting that it had lengthened, I headed further to port, towards the east side of the channel, to give it even a wider berth. All that I could see ahead of me was white ice. Both Scott and Nat were wisely hugging the eastern shore, which is obviously what I should have been doing also.
Just as the Nite started to catch the wind at the channel exit it felt as though it sailed up and over a hump, and the next instant the springboard was headed down. While I have a mental image of it either breaking through or pushing down a greenish sheet of ice, I do not recall seeing any ice floating about the hole later. Nat, who had the best view, charitably explained it all later by saying that I sailed into a hole — a hole which was not there on Saturday — that was blocked from my view, since I was riding the plank, by the sail. I can’t disagree.
When the Nite nose-dived I was thrown off the plank backward into the drink, and I recall looking up at the transom as the boat capsized to starboard. (When later I took my windbreaker off, back at the farm, it appeared that my personal high water mark was at my armpits, which does not explain the water that was in my helmet). After overcoming my surprise and marveling at my stupidity, my focus was to get out of the water pronto. The capsized Nite had laid its masthead on the ice, and somehow I pulled myself up and skedaddled over mast and sail to the ice shelf, which was thick and firm. I was in the water for only a matter of seconds, and was standing on the ice, dripping humiliation, when Nat arrived. Nat, kindly forbearing from asking me why I had sailed into an open hole, hollered and waved Scott to a halt. We then surveyed the wreck.
My concern now was to quickly get the boat out before the cockpit filled. The long bow of the Nite, forward of the bulkhead, is watertight and buoyant, and while I don’t believe a Nite would sink, a boat with a flooded cockpit would surely be difficult to salvage. As it was, the boat floated on its side with sufficient freeboard at the coaming so that only several gallons ended up in her, although that does not explain how my hat floated out of the lazerette and had to be salvaged separately later.
Some of the details are a little fuzzy at this point, but to the best of my recollection we used the mast as a lever to head the capsized boat around so we could grab the springboard and pull the boat at a right angle to the ice, putting the mast and sail in the water alongside the ice. No doubt the forestay helped to steady it. With good presence of mind, Nat had brought a length of line — my coil of emergency line was unreachable in the lazerette — and quickly lassooed the upright port runner. He and Scott then righted the boat, and it was then easy to pull it up on the ice. A quick survey revealed that the only damage was to my pride, so I got back in and booked it for the pressure ridge, where Nat helped me cross, and I headed for the farm. I took special care when threading through a minefield of tip-ups as I was in no mood right then to have to stop and negotiate reparations with a six-pack of aggrieved ice fishermen.
Thoughts — I expected the water to feel colder, as no doubt it soon would have had I not gotten right out. I now appreciate the insulating effects of wool pants and a down jacket — only my feet were ever cold. Of course if it had been a biting cold day I would have had real problems with a frozen sheet, clothes, etc. On the other hand, if it had been cold the frigging hole probably wouldn’t have developed during the night!
Although fortunately I didn’t have to use them, I was very glad that I was wearing my bear claws.
I was moving very slowly, but it all happened very fast. If I had been going faster both I and the boat easily could have been badly hurt, at the very least. I suppose if I had been going faster I would have been seated in the cockpit where presumably — but not necessarily — I could have seen the hole ahead, but I probably would not have had time to avoid it. Bottom line, I chose the wrong course, and did not keep an adequate bow watch. Historically the greatest cause of shipwrecks is captains not being where they thought they were. I thought I was on good ice and headed for good ice.
It was sort of nice to know that adrenalin can still save your bacon when common sense fails. And to have had two such able friends as Nat and Scott readily at hand.