More is Better

Well, just like Jory said this morning, but with ten boats on the ice, a whole lot more fun. The big feature of the day was Lloyd finally having a chance to give CHEAPSKATE a shake-down. We though it might become a shake-OUT as the wind was NW 10-20. The Sunfish rig just looked to big, especially as the rest of us were carrying storm sails. But he sailed around very stately, even passing a few boats, and broke nothing.

Those guys in the background are getting the heck out of the way!

Down for a nap in Deep Cove. It’s hard work driving these things miles and miles over spectacular ice with a fresh wind.

Into the setting sun for one more run. Boats are on the ice for tomorrow, but rain forecast for the weekend. Back to one day at a time, and what a great start to our home ice season!

Posted in 2014 Season, Cheapskate

The Romance

5PM…stepping slowly…almost limping… across the threshold of home….the trees, eagerly scanned at dawn for wind, now rest quietly…..inside, the long rituals of refreshment, even rehabilitation, begin….this red and raw face, blasted by 7 hours of wind….these elbows and shoulders, once adrenalin-stoked, abruptly pulling miles of sheet…these eyes tired from squinting in the half-dome of intense sunlight for tiny objects in the distance….these ears deadened by the screech of runners turning, the bashing over hardened snow scabs, and yet assuaged too by the comforting thump of battens as they unambiguously cross the midline, in a new tack or jibe….feet and hands, hour after hour, on the limit of painful cold….and, in sum, the whole body bashed by the many sharp edges of iceboating.

gradually these insults will respond to the long hot shower, the starchy dinner–usually carefully rationed, but now eagerly scarfed down–and especially snuggling in bed under the quilt with a soft, warm body back to back, in the cozy yellow light of reading a treasured book….slowly every sense, so long overstimulated, will bask in the joy of ‘un-stimulation’….of dark, quiet, unworried, and warm containment….

every ice community probably has one special lake or pond, which more than any other has….with the layering of friendships and adventures… become ‘holy ground’….Damariscotta has become that for me….when Bill and I prospected it two days ago, even seeing the 40% scabbing of an otherwise beautiful surface, we hadn’t a second thought….this deepest of romances….this always open-ended adventure….was impossible to resist. Damariscotta offers the thrill of ‘big ice’ with a northern plate so big that other boats become unrecognizable specs on the horizon… but even more it offers the long, only-partly-known succession of bays, islands, and riverine narrowness of exploring.

1PM….after blasting around with buddies on the great broads, trying to zagg thru the scabs while match-racing, and having a light lunch; Bill and I tried to rouse interest in cruising South….we got no takers, perhaps because with the wind lightening up, this was the dumbest idea in the world. The straight line distance away would be 10 miles!

if the wind pooched, pushing an iceboat back to the pits, could take three hours, probably navigating by moonlight without food, our hand and foot warmers exhausted…..this is drawing cards for an inside straight….we thought Scott Woodman was sailing with us, but soon discovered we were alone, as usual. what made it riskier was the SW wind which, if it held, made getting there ideal. Unlike soft-water sailing, nothing beats a headwind for exploring…..You can easily bleed speed if there’s too much, and you have the best chance of “winding her up” if there’s too little….so, turn by turn, with nagging doubts pushed to the back, we kept going ever South.

The pressure ridges we’re so used to scouting carefully, were absent in their usual places. finally we were in the river itself, remembering fondly the landmarks, the past adventures, and secretly hoping something would justify turning around. But no….we finally came to the open water which always stops us. I was excited to see a hard section beside the open water….perhaps today, for the first time, we could sail the last 1.5 miles to Darmiscotta Mills…but as we considered prospecting the lead, Bill stepped in a slush pit near shore….and, with his wet foot, we were instantly brought to the grim reality of how far we were from support: 10 long, possibly-windless miles! So we began pushing the boats north in the initial calm bays…..praying, praying for wind.

and, as southerly fetch increased, a light tail-wind appeared, and Bill shot off in the distance….tarnation!….only occasionally could i get Icywood going, and as i became more and more frustrated, I forgot how to sail downwind. I made the beginner’s mistake of not remembering the fundamental priority: to hell with the destination; wind the boat up! Luckily, Bill saw my mistake, and came back and demonstrated downwind sailing, and I stayed right on his tail, until I remembered the drill.

Finally, at 3PM, back with relief in the broads, in the beautiful, yellow, almost-setting sun we rejoined Bill Bunting, and did some final racing. I could see that Bunting, with his spiffy new sail, was no longer in my league….But I was only half-there. I was a pilgrim….returned from the Holy City….these stay-at-homes!… how could they know the wonders I had seen?

Posted in 2014 Season

Damariscotta 1-8-14

We didn’t exactly rush down the the landing at the crack of dawn today. It was blowing a gale and eight degrees and it seemed much more sensible to go to work for a while. But by ten the sun was high and the temps were into the low double digits with a moderate SW breeze. We don’t often have this wind here, so the sailing dynamics were a bit different. Working our way through the narrows to the south end, into Deep Cove, and then down the river nearly to Damariscotta Mills was a bit dodgy. But the wind held and we were able to sail deep enough to get home without pushing. There are no pressure ridges and no open water: the whole lake is as tight as a wind whipped flag. There are bumps and windrows, and a nasty sheet of shell ice in the SW corner of the main broads. There is a green fish house there, and the shell extends a couple of hundred feet toward the center of the lake.

Bill Bunting set his new sail today and went like smoke. Lee Spiller and Karin snapped the Gambit mast after a short morning sail, but they had a few DN’s along so wasted no time in setting them up. Scott the Guy, Ben Fuller and Wolfie rounded out the fleet. We sailed until sundown, left boats on the ice, and will be back tomorrow. Lee and Karin will be on Jordan Bay, so if that’s more in your neighborhood, please join them.

The ice is like this between snow bumps, which really don’t bother much. I felt no need to slow down because of them, especially as I had to work hard to keep up with Bunting!

The ice is on the move, and with 8-12″ out there we’ll be seeing pressure ridges shortly. At 10:30am this was a smooth, flush ramp. The ice heaved up nearly a foot in five hours.

Come get it while you can!

Posted in 2014 Season

Come Sail Lake Damariscotta!

We had a look there today and found 8″ of solid ice out to the first island, no sandwich aside from an unhealed moat at the launch ramp. The beach was tight. We did not inspect further than that. The ice is very nice between the small frozen drifts that dot the plate. They can easily be sailed around or over, most are very solid. There was a considerable pile of frozen snow blocking the ramp, so we called a guy with a big yellow machine and he’s surely done by now and home for dinner. The access road is clear and well sanded.

The rest of the plate needs to be carefully inspected by a couple of boats slowly sailing around TOGETHER, checking for thickness and hazzards. We found one drain hole the size of a football with just a skim on it, but temps tonight will be in the single digits and hopefully heal it and any others.

The ice looks about like this archival image, except the snow patches are smaller and less frequent, and the ice is grayer but just as smooth. We plan to set up and sail tomorrow, leaving boats on the ice for as long as we can. Weather forecast looks great: temps in the twenties, sunny, 15-20 tomorrow, 10-15 Thursday.

Meanwhile, Lee Spiller found this lovely plate on Jordan Bay and plans to sail there tomorrow (unless he comes to Damariscotta!) He heard that the entire lake froze last week, but then blew out in the recent warm gale. The good news is that she’s ready to go.

Posted in 2014 Season

The Higher Power’s Personal Vendetta!

6AM…..TARNATION!……fine-powdered leprosy swirls around the eves in the dawn wind…..the drifted disease sculpts the back steps almost 1/2″ deep…. how can this be?….Yesterday, I waded across the almost completely puddled-out Megunticook, and salivated at the ice feast sure to be served up this morning……now….Why would the Higher Power do this?….why carry on a personal vendetta with an essentially innocent old fart in an obscure Maine village?….Why would he/she hold a g……that’s it!…….”she”!….. the HP’s feminine aspect!

I can so easily confess with the Episcopalians, ” I have left undone those things which I aught to have done. I have done those things…”…. the recycling overflowing its container and even the additional “overflow” container…..the compost bucket secretly emptied into the kitchen trash instead of trudged out through the deep snow….this is surely a well-deserved pay-back….

bundled in the familiar gear, I stepped out onto the lumpy white lake…..squish!….the unhealed sandwich–3/4″ of snow ice over 1.5″ of water–hadn’t had any chance of jelling with only 5 hours of 20 degree temperatures…..what will another day of cold bring?…..I can’t speculate now…..I’m emptying the compost ….

Posted in 2014 Season | 1 Comment

The Curse On Chickawaukee

Somebody has done something wrong here. At 11PM Monday Jan 6 lights were reflecting from the wet reasonably smooth ice of Chicky, snow all gone at last. Some drain holes from 1/3 inch of rain seen at 4 PM, fish holes up to 18 inches diameter. Ice for sure by Wednesday after drain holes heal up.
Tuesday morning at sunup it is snowing with 1 1/2 inch on the ground/ice. NOAA weather radar showed a small ink blot right here maybe 15-20 miles across, NOTHING ELSE anywhere in New England and 10 inches of ice out there except skimmed over drain holes lurking under the snow. Maybe it will blow off, maybe we will blow off to somewhere else.


Posted in 2014 Season

A couple of more things.

Firstly, Saturday was bitterly cold, realistic only with hand and foot warmers. My wonderfully supportive wife bought me hi tech insoles for Christmas which were put to the test on Memphremagog. I was wearing boots, soles to the wind in the DN, and they were toasty all day:

Then there’s the issue of the food committee. We all love corn bread and beans, of course, but with a little cash in the CIBC coffers perhaps we should do as the Russians do:

Any volunteers?

After all, now that we have our own clubhouse shouldn’t the food follow suit?

Posted in 2014 Season | 1 Comment