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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Thursday Morning Rendezvous on Plymouth Pond!

Our spy on Plymouth, Tim Smith, reports ice conditions there, which are identical to what we are seeing on nearby Toleman Pond here in Rockport, Me:

An ice base of 3-4″ thickness with pebbley grey surface, and a 1-2″ dusting of unbonded snow on top, blown clear in the central portions of the pond. It sounds pretty good to ice-hungry ears! So, if you are free, and care to follow the motto: “show up and pray” please join Bill and myself on the landing there about 10 AM.

This is the start of a very cold patch of weather, lasting, without a moment’s thaw, until snow on Sunday, so if the ice thickness and surface are good, and the winds are good, and the creek don’t rise, and our bodies can do another season (please Higher Power!), and the gear is all there and working, we could have a nice stretch of iceboating.

Since it is a wonderful 3 day prediction of goods winds and brutally cold temps, we’ll probably leave our boats on the ice for the duration.

When we were there last week, we noted lots of grass growing through the ice. It’s not clear if the lake is lower this season, or if the aquatic weeds are getting more bothersome in this very shallow pond.

But above all, even though it seems like these single digit temps could freeze anything, let’s scout the whole lake carefully before we go to higher speeds.

hope to see you there…..we’ll report to the stay-at-homes, via web, on Thursday night…..jory

Plymouth last season:

As we begin another ice season, launching out into the uncertainties of mother nature and of health, I sing this little prayer to my iceboat buddies, and to myself:

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Canadian High

No, not our beloved ice-making weather system, but the buzz of first ice with good buddies. Rules of Thumb say not to drive excessive distance to ice that hasn’t been sailed, but there is also the “show up and pray” clause. Invoking the latter, based on the bubbly optimism of Denis Guertin I headed for Quebec long before dawn yesterday. He wasn’t sure where we’d be sailing but he promised ice somewhere. As we’ve been feeling the pinch of a late starting season it seemed to be a worthwhile gamble. Besides, the NEIYA racing gang had driven all the way to Wisconsin this weekend; my little jaunt across the border paled by comparison.

I found Denis and Frank on Petit Lac Lambton in an easy four and a half hours, including a search at the border. The Canadians did not believe one could be ice boating so early in the year so must have felt I was hiding something under all those sails and planks.
The guys were setting up in a hatful of wind with streamers of snow decorating the plate. Frank, who can never get enough wind, was thrilled and bent on full sail. My little Davis venturii anemometer pegged a steady twenty with gusts to twenty-five, so it was storm sail for me. The lake is one mile by a half with the wind coming right down the middle, so the logical thing to do was to set up marks and race. In these conditions racing is actually safer than just sailing around.

These guys had never raced before, so I shouted the basics and off we went. Halfway through the second race the wind snapped the 1″ dowel holding the flag at the leeward mark, so we just followed the old skid marks to finish out the race. The little storm sail was just the ticket and won five out of five. We were knackered out by late afternoon, so put the boats to bed and retired to Denis’s summer cabin a few miles away on a different lake for lies and libations.

Today dawned clear, 16 F, with a light breeze rippling the surface of Grand Lac St. Francois, a big lake visible from Denis’s place which will freeze later. By the time we’d packed the calories and slipped in the hand warmers the wind was up to a nice 10-15. Back on the race course today, it was Frank who dominated with Scott Carlson’s old boat. We could catch him with tactics, but for pointing and boatspeed he had the package de jour.

Not much worth reporting in Maine yet, except for this little beauty on Rt. 27 between Stratton and the Canadian border called Lower Lake. The wind was blowing right down the middle and I chopped a few holes indicating five inches. If I wasn’t so beat up from two days in a DN I would have been tempted, but there is that “never sail alone” rule with no caveats or addendum so I present this hidden treasure for all of you. Get it before the snow does:

There’s a lot more of the lake than you see here, with islands and wandering straights. It doesn’t appear to be part of a river system so might not have flow, but it looks deep. Oddly enough, nearby Natanis Pond which appeared to be much shallower only had two inches. Ah, the mysteries of ice.

We’ll be scouting this week and will post it here, as always. Welcome to the 2014 Season!

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Thetford Mines

I’ve had it: Just as we get ice,
the temperature climbs and climbs!
My ice axe tinkles paltry ice,
though best of all my finds
But I know that there’s an answer,
and we’re off to Thetford Mines.

You say you’ve never heard of,
that place called Thetford Mines?
Just point your car’s nose northward,
and start following the signs
And four and a half hours later,
you’ll spot the lake at Thetford Mines

I thought Maine was just as nifty,
as any iceman finds
‘Til the smokestacks of Republicans
blew heat from southern climes
And now my heart is yearning
for the ice of Thetford Mines

Thetford has a secret,
while our southern heart repines:
When winds blast from Alberta,
and the mercury declines,
The locals smile and cavort about,
on the lakes of Thetford Mines.

I’ll find a sassy French girl,
who dresses to the nines
Who cooks a wicked bouillabaisse
with a broth of lemon rinds
In her cottage on the ice-edge
in little Thetford Mines

So we’ll leave you ice-nuts languishing
in endless weather binds
Bill and I’ll come limping back
when summer’s on our minds
To bathe and tell you fables
of the ice at Thetford Mines

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