April 6 Aria

Jory and I squeezed one more glorious morning from Lake Megunticook today. 5:30 am: winds strong and gusty, temp 33, a few pre-dawn clouds. We met at my place at seven to lug a 20′ plank down to the lake, which still didn’t clear the slush moat, but we got my DN through it anyway and by 7:30 were beating north. The surface ice in the cove could easily be stomped through, into slush, but outside the surface was hard and smooth and could have been sailed on plates for the first couple of hours. We made it all the way up to Cam’s Sauna, took the scenic route back down to Barret’s Cove and then did it again just for good measure. This means using every bit of the lake, with a couple of island roundings for good measure. I was even able to get through Lamb’s Folly, deep in the corner of Wipeout Bay in the shifty but strong westerly. There were open leads in the typical places, of course. The morning’s long shadows at the tips of islands looked like open water, so we just rounded them, too, but found no surprises.

The start at Barret’s Cove along Rt.52. Notice the cross at the top of Maidens Cliff? Notice as well how the runners aren’t cutting in.

We feel a little bad that we didn’t announce this world wide, but considering we were done by eleven hopefully the greater club won’t be too disappointed. I have to ask myself if I’d have driven four hours for a sail like this, and unfortunately the answer is yes. But how does one actually know what to expect at such a fickle time of year? We called it ON to all the local sailors but still had no takers. I hazzard to say that an aggressive quartet of DN sailors could have pulled off a regatta this morning. First start at seven, four races done by eleven? The only viable course was flanked by waves licking at the edge of the plate, so maybe in the end it was best just drive the boat fast in the hard wind.

Ice aglow in the early light in North Broads.

End of the Road: Cam’s Sauna

End of sailing on Megunticook.

Kate Morrone was planning to sail Sunapee this morning; we’ll post her report here when she checks in. It’s looking less likely that we’ll get a wet-out up north before the temps become too warm for a morning freeze. That said, todays lesson was that 33 degrees after 24 hours of rain and 48 hours of above freezing temps yielded the fabulous conditions today, and because a couple of nuts were paying attention were able to nail it. Many of you are watching the web cams for Sebec, Moosehead and South Twin: we are too. Until you see a fat duck quacking keep the boats at the ready!

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The Honor of being in Wild Space

I miss my ice buddies just a little…..as, day after day….. this sunny succession of days unfolds on Megunticook….each day seems to offer a magical few hours of good sailing, as I work the roulette game of winds and ice. After yesterday’s slush, today I bet on the hard ice of early morning….any wind at all would move the boat well on this now-level granular ice, before the late morning slush-out….but….why even go out when there’s hardly a wiggle in the trees at home?

I have the habit of early morning walks, so I decided simply to take my iceboat for a walk in the cloud-less morning sun….. I pushed it, without a sail, around the bend into the broads….not a breath stirred….what the hell….I started pushing East….so stoned….so dazzled ….by the sparkle and the silence….

You could see iceboating as a sport….the challenge of using cloth, wood, and steel to move by wind power across ice….you could see it as competition…. to move a little faster than the other guy….But here in my dotage….as testosterone gently moves toward its nadir…I’m increasingly moved by iceboating as a frame, as a context, in which to experience Wild Space….

I pushed East….the slush runners’ grind-y sound adding to the rhythmic crunch of boots to break the windless, surreal silence. gradually the tell-tale increased its flutter….what the hell…I raised the sail….the boat looks better that way….opposite Dunton Rock the boat began moving on its own….soon I vaulted in and we were off….on 1.5 hours of fantastic sailing on a limited playground of mysterious, adiabatic wind:


Playing alone….blasting, for example, toward the lead of sparkling open water near the “fangs”, with the sun just above the mountain….as I say….I miss my ice buddies a little…..I want to share this fantastic experience….but I also don’t miss them….there’s a greediness here….because alone….I can more easily sink into the honor of being immersed in such beauty….

These days, there is so little wild space….sacred space….holy space….I think primitive people were nourished by this….I can’t find many pre-industrial people to ask, but…..just think about the bratty persistence of hunting and gathering, long after agriculture had proven a better bet for delivering a regular meal….think of fly fishermen, ice fishermen, mountain climbers, shepherds….I suspect that the human animal has receptors for this disappearing dimension of experience….receptors which supply a contentment, a peace of mind, impossible to mimic.

when the wind finally pooched about 9AM, I took the time to chop holes in various places…..10 inches of solid, monolithic ice….eventually you won’t be able to get from shore to this beautiful floe….but while you can….I hope to be on it!

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Winds Light and Variable

Winds light and variable….i hate that prediction….my epitaph will probably read: “Jory died in his iceboat. the wind was light and variable”. I slept an extra half-hour, just for spite, then headed for the ice at 645. Bill has been a good mentor….he keeps saying that all ancillary iceboat activities count as iceboating….sharpening a runner…flying to Siberia….its the same as Mach one on black ice…..welllll….but also in this morning’s windless sun, I would be out on my waterfront front porch….and even more, it was a good morning to be out of the house….I had come back from iceboating yesterday tipsy, nappy, and poorly inclined toward husbandry….so short sentences had prevailed….

On the ice, I switched to slush runners, hoisted the big sail, and pushed out around Windy Point, just at 715, not daring to hope….wow!….the battens immediately snapped a salute to the NNE wind, and, with one push, the boat gathered way…. within seconds I was hiking, enjoying iceboating at its best, that is, just barely under control …..”this is a go-anywhere wind, I bleated, this lake is mine!”….but as I gained the eastern side of the South Broads and headed north, I noticed that I had to sheet out and come off the wind a little to avoid a stalled sail….this was not yesterday’s wind…By 8AM I was pushing 20% of the time, by 830AM pushing 70%, and– heading desperately back to Windy Point–by 845, even in this windiest of spots, the tell-tale wasn’t insisting. Jim Gagnon and Doug Raymond were pushing boats expectantly out into the broads….”this is your fault”, Doug shouted….

Back in Bog Bay, Lloyd was setting up Cheapskate. I lingered, after de-commissioning, to see if that marvelous boat could find movement when the others, both definitely go-fast types, were visible standing beside their boats…But as I left, glancing back through the trees, from Davy Jone’s driveway, into that lovely bright Spring scene…. alas, Lloyd too was becalmed….tomorrow I hope to be on the ice at absolutely first light….maybe that was some sort of dawn wind…..

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Drinking and Driving on Megunticook.

6AM…. teacup in hand, I sat in my meditation chair, looking out at the spasms of the evergreen outside: hmmm…tons of wind….a prayer naturally arose: dear Higher Power…..we know you order the many conditions of wind and ice….we know you giveth and taketh away….but you know, HP, this season has been a biggie in the taketh away, and a smallie in the giveth….what would it be like, just to even things out, say, for us to sail until May 1?……

I tracked down the gear, hitched the trailer, and drove the mere 1.4 miles to Megunticook….light cloud, wind 15-25 and gusty NNE….storm sails–could they be reefed?–came to mind….nobody around yet….ice presently hard, but ready to slush-out at any minute…the gear, once unloaded, began skittering off downwind….a quiet intrusion of wisdom: Do I really want to do this?….let’s face it: you can easilylose the hang of iceboating….without your buddies calling at 630….denying, exaggerating, downright lying….without this HYPE….the cuddly koala bear in our souls would take one look at this, and say….warm up the coffee, mopsy, i’m coming home!

but good old Lloyd was there, keeping faith, setting up Cheapskate….Bill was off to buy champaign….typical….I’ve even seen him smoke cigars….I checked in with Bunting, and, as usual, he decided that only fools would go out in this…. so i eased off the emergency brake and luffed and crabbed my way up to the lee of Davy Jones Cove. By now the spring sun was out, the ice was sparkling with crystals, and, with only very few scabs to avoid, it was a delight to sail on….hey, this is great!

and it truly was….the ice was without hazard, thou the boat speed was sometimes terrifying. I often used a tight-sheeted sail while sailing dead downwind, as broad reaches would take you out of control. I kept station with stately Cheapskate, that most forgiving of boats, until Bill joined us, and we blasted up the western passage, a threesome, against the howl….At the north broads, about 9:15, in a momentary lull, I could feel that the ice was softening….but with so much wind to overcome the drag, it was easy to blast thru Chaney’s Narrows and reach Wipe-out Bay…There, alas, the wind was definitely mellower, and the spector of a long push home–my storm sail possibly unequal to the friction of slush…made our decision unanimous: to roll the dice and head home for slush runners…

but once back in the North Broads, happily, the wind was as strong as ever, and we stitched our way South, and frolicked over to the turnpike section….there all three of the “fangs” passages into the turnpike, were blocked by open water….this is, after all, April…and besides you craved the open spaces to bleed off speed when the boat became hell-bent on self-destruct….finally we gathered at Davy Jones’ and opened the champaign…

and there we lounged, in the bright noon sun….clothes stripped off….Bunting, who had sailed after all, and I swapped stories of our blue-water sailing days in the 60’s….we worked slowly down the bottle…even sharing drinks with two passing skaters, who were totally slushed out….then, slightly tipsy, I had another lovely sail in Cheapskate, which brings one back to the excitement of our first seasons of iceboating….when the sport was simple, exposed, elemental….finally, with the slush getting inches deep, we left our boats on the ice for a possible early-morning romp tomorrow …ahhhh….spring sailing….what could be better?

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Haven’t Had Enough Yet?

The ice on Megunticok is hard frozen granular, essentially frozen slush, but hard enough to support many, many iceboats. The water from the other day has drained and evaporated, taking most of the snow humps with with it. The sun will shine tomorrow and the wind will blow, so even if the surface gets soft, slush runners will bring spray dappled grins to all our faces.

And don’t get the idea that because tomorrow is April First that this is some kind of sick joke. Nope: real ice, real sun and real wind, on one of the most beautiful and intimate lakes we know. Plus, in accordance with a new CIBC policy, Champagne will be served on every sailing day after March 31st. No Joke…

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A New Supply of Runners

Jeff Kester from upstate New York has an interesting project under way. Don’t forget, the iceboat building season is about to start!

I am about to pull the trigger on a buy for 420HC stainless for runners and I am wondering if there would be any interest in your area. 420HC is similar to 440C, but it is more resilient against chipping and more corrosion resistant. Our plan is to make either 7 or 15 sets of skeeter blades. The sets will have 42” side runners and a 30” steer runner. I plan to do alligator nose style, but I also have a European modified bull nose pattern as well. I’d be interested in supplying partial or complete. At a minimum, I think it would be best to supply after water jet cut and vacuum heat treat. I could also supply edged, or completed. My plan would be to deliver them at the next New England swap meet.

I am not 100% sure of the cost yet, but am thinking a set completed would be under $1000. The runners will have 1-1/2”x2”x1/4” aluminum stiffeners and a 1” UHMW mounting bar for DN style chocks. Basically, these are modeled after Jack Jacob’s J14 runners.

Additionally, I am in the process of building a mast mold. The mast is 7-1/4”x2-1/8” in an aerodynamic tear drop shape. They will be glass and carbon, we will be able to do up to 22’ blanks. In the first year we will just make a few and prove them out. After that, we will be interested in selling a few to recover the tooling cost.

Contact Jeff at: jjkester

Posted in 2014 Season

Future Sails

After scouring all the forecasts hoping for a racing window on Segago’s awesome ice, sailing for the weekend has been deleted. We will continue to scout for a good surface at South Twin, Sebec and Moosehead in the coming weeks. Their two feet of ice is still covered in snow, and the chance is excellent for a cold morning after a wet-out event.

Bravo to Lloyd, Bill and Ben for tearing it up yesterday like a trio of spring pups. I, for one, broke the don’t sail alone rule and hoping for some racing this weekend thought I should get a little DN cockpit time. I explored every nook and cranny of Megunticook and found it solid and tight. Jory hasn’t sailed our home ice all season so I had to get that in the books for him. Bob Lombardo was skating the perimeter and also found it excellent.

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