Smouldering Ice

Tuesday Dec 17 sun up -22F at Heron beach on Chickawaukee and the ice is steaming where it has been wetting our since the 10 inch snow storm 2 days ago. This is very close to record cold. The lake was mostly frozen over with maybe 2 inches as the snow began, usually Chicky waits until after Christmas to freeze. The cold snow drifted exensively in the storm winds.

At the time of snow there were a few pools of water that had just skimmed over. These turned brown/grey, the fine dry heavy snow sinking them immediately. These area are growing now as the ice sinks and snow wets out, these are where the ice was steaming as snow continues to get wet. This is a slow process with the new ice that is quite tight, no cracks. But the thin black ice has no air in it and with little buoyancy it will sink sooner or later. In the meantime we are going to get another 3-5 inches tonight. I have not explored the thin ice with snow on top and I do not have a dog to send out. On a more cheerful note we are likely to get rain this weekend.

David Lampton reports from the shores of Damariscotta that the lake was largely open before the big snow and is now frozen slush with a wind blown surface like Chicky’s. He has not been out on it but his 30 Lb dog has without getting wet. He needs a bigger dog.

We can all look at Jordan Bay at “”, right now at 9 AM by dawn’s early light, looking West, it looks like either ice or water. The snow forecast for this afternoon may clarify the image.


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Where’s the Ice?

In the back of our mind was the thought that Damariscotta had not frozen before the snow. But sad to say, Scott the Guy went to have a look today and it was “all white now”. One part of Muscongus Bay was still open, but access to that plate was across some very sketchy stuff. He reports that the blunt side of the ax easily went through the three inches of ice covered by two inches of snow. Not quite slush, but marginal ice at best.

Megunticook and Chickawaukee are both snowed out, with no sign of recovery events in the forecast. It’s still early, but Jordan Bay could be something. Anyone down there willing to go have a look?

On the other hand, have a look at the web came from Rockwood on Moosehead Lake: What we see looks sailable, but off to the north appears to be a very nice sheet. We will try to work some local contacts to get boots on the ice.

Doug Sharp checks in from Lakeville: Long Pond Lakeville is 80-90% ice with dozens of holes from persistent wind. Cold to-nite snow to-morrow, still we wait. Christmas to New Years is our usual.
Thanks, Doug.

Meanwhile, meditate on this, thinking ice:

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Saturday at Monmouth

he said she said……rumbles along the black ice jungle telegraph….she being Karen, he being Lee….and before long a picture of glorious black ice appeared on this site….and it was a forgone conclusion that many ice hounds, hungry from lean weeks of gnashing teeth over misses and maybes, would head for Lake Conchnewagon in downtown Monmouth.

I myself was held up by a deep and lifelong comittment to procrastination: the very best time, the natural organic time, to check out the snowblower, or put snow tires on the car, is the minimum possible number of hours before the first blizzard….alas, my mate doesn’t share this commitment. She’s committed to Christmas Craft Fairs, so, following orders, I slaved away in the driveway and only managed to appear in Monmouth at 11AM, proud to have snow tires on the two right wheels….

Enroute, I was dismayed that every body of water was blanketed with snow. Could it have snowed since that picture was taken? And seeing the lake for the first time was also disappointing: a few shiny black patches of ice in the offing, while snow predominated at the launch area.

But many of the die-hards were there: Lloyd, setting up his new ‘cheapskate’; Bill, setting up his Wizz for the first time this season; Dave Fortier and Jim Gagnon in DN’s; Karen and Lee on skates, with their Gambit set up nearby; “Wolfie” on skates, who was away last year; and our frequent nordic skater buddy, Marty. I put on skates and headed for the first black ice patch; then proceeded South following leads of grey snow ice…..until…..until…there it was: a 1.2 X 0.3 mile plate of perfect black ice.

Each season, one has to experience this miracle anew. The panic of skating off the cliff of white ice, into the miraculous, supspended-in-space, panic of a clear, shiny, green-black mirror of the sun and sky. Surely, this cannot be safe! And yet the occasional subsurface cracks, 3″ or so thick, keep reminding you that it’s safe to keep going.

Alas, in the great roulette game, wind was largely missing. There were little glides here and there, but the day’s glory was just being on the ice itself.

Lloyd was able to set up Cheapskate, a boat which uses a sunfish sail, can be made at home, and may make our sport more affordable.

Bill assembled the gang:

(cheapskate, Dave Fortier’s beauty, Northern Light, and Jim Gagnon’s just purchased DN)

Although the lack of wind punished the sailors, it favored the skaters; with a day which will be long remembered. Skating the circle of the black ice plate was perhaps 2 miles, and each lap seem to call for a sequel. You followed the black ice-white ice junction, finding that sustainable pace, bringing those summer-atrophied muscles back into harness, and watching the sun’s path move across endless varieties of ice. Finally, after almost three hours of skating, stoned with happy fatigue, it was time to socialize as we decommissioned, and head for home.

Three mighty cheers for Karen and Lee for making this amazing day possible. And thanks to the rest of us for keeping faith, and giving us all the safety, the community, as we risk early-season ice.

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Last Chance Ice

Major snow storm forecast for Sunday; tomorrow will be it for a while. So if we want the last of the new black ice, it’ll have to be Lake Conchnewagon in Monmouth. We haven’t even had the FIRST of the new black ice this season, so when Lee Spiller sent this photo and confirmed the pack was reliable we decided that we’re going.

This is where we need Jory’s voice to describe the angst of getting beat up in the snow covered ice while knowing that somewhere, somewhere, there is great ice just sitting there doing nothing but look pretty. He’s right: and here it is.
There is a nice town beach and boat ramp on Beach Rd which is off Rt 132, Main St, in Monmouth where the railroad tracks cross. Wind forecast is 10kt, fading in the afternoon. It’ll be cold, but sunny, so dress accordingly. The early bird might freeze,
but he’ll be the one what gets the breeze!

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In addition to Lloyd’s Sliver of Chickawaukee, Lake Wassookeag in Dexter has this to offer:

And Lee Spiller describes a romantic moonlight skate on Cochnewagon Pond, about the size of Chickawaukee, in Monmouth, Me:

I got to Monmouth about 8 and checked Cochnewagon Pond right in town. Oh my gosh marvelous interconnected multi acre black ice sections (3″) with pebbly grey ice and some snow in between. Karin Wilson came down and we skated for a long time..lovely black ice and moonlight..making ice sounds. Unless something better pops up we are going there tomorrow. Probably set up an iceboat or two and maybe kitewing.
I can only think there are more places like this…I don’t know why this pond has so much good black ice but it does…and I don’t know what it looks like in daylight. I haven’t been around here to check other ponds but Karin says this is the best locally.

There’s probably still more that we’re missing, but thanks to Lee and Denis for spotting these!

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Chickawaukee Ice


AND OVER. These last two nights have been close to zero and she skims over but by 10AM she gets bashful and melts away.

However there is a crescent of ice growing at Heron beach, 1 1/4, 1 1/2, 2+ inches with clearly visible boundaries from each night’s freeze and next morning’s break up trash. It was skatable this morning but I spent my time finishing little details on Cheapskate for the anticipated
slide out on Plymouth, Friday. Which isn’t going to happen. If anyone is desperate we could sail it on the crescent which is maybe 100 yards wide and 300 yards long. You don’t me sailing alone do you?

“The pimp of Chickawaukee”

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Sailing Plymouth 12/12

Somedays you have great ice, nice breeze, sunshine and a fun bunch of iceboats cavorting around a beautiful lake. Aligning all those disparate elements can actually be called iceboating. The sailing part is just the frosting on the cake. And speaking of frosting: the six inches of Plymouth ice was frosted with an inch of light unbonded snow this morning at ten. Jory and I walked halfway across to where we knew there was thin ice a week ago but found nothing but thickness. But the 15kt breeze was working on the snow, packing into tight little drifts. Scott Woodman and Jory set up their boats anyway and had a go at the snow.

It was pretty good sailing as long as the wind held, as we needed the power to blow through the thick stuff. But the double edged sword here is that so much wind over snow that can stop a boat can cause some boat busting. Indeed, as Jory turned rather sharply to line up for a drag race next to Yellow Bird he spun out, the mast came down and his chock was removed from the plank. How the mast down and chock off are related we have no idea, but it was the end of the day for Icywood. The anodizing on the top of the chock had not been ground off so the glue didn’t stick, and the bolts didn’t fully penetrate the the chock. Two strikes and he’s out.

We took turns sailing Scott’s new/old ride Yellow Bird. It’s probably a 7/8 model of a Northeaster, and a delightful pocket skeeter. The parts are small and easy to move, and she sails very smooth and easy. With the DN rig she is a good match-up with Icywood, but it will take decent conditions to really get her dialed in.

Did you just hear “decent conditions”? Don’t get your hopes up. We are not going back to Plymouth, but hope the snow forecast for Sunday will miss us and allow some of the lakes that were open during the last dump to thicken. Wind forecast for Saturday at this point is nil anyway. But, we’ll continue with the legwork, see what we can find, and post it here.

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