Loring

Armed with what I thought was permission to sail from the head of the Loring Development Authority and a forecast of 10-15 SSE I set out for the second round of exploring the old B-52 air base. The plan to hold a land sailing regatta there in September required careful scouting and course planning, which I was more than willing to do.

The last time sailing I stayed off the main runway, but now, embolden with official backing I headed right for it. It lay two runways over and to windward, connected at the top end by a patch of blacktop the size of a small mall parking lot. With the wind blowing right down the length of the runway this connector was a very fast reach, and then with a hike in the peel off there it was: endless, smooth asphalt. The black ice of landsailing. No sand, no dust. 12,000′ of smooth deep gybes. There’s magic, mystery, drama and champagne sailing.

And it’s not all pavement, there’s some nature too. Wild strawberries are busting up through the surface, although they did have a mild taste of tar.

But back to the sailing: when you needed a G-force fix it was simple enough to harden up a bit, hang on to your teeth and shoot across a connector to the next runway, bearing away there and continuing down wind. Up and down, side to side. The place was deserted, except what appeared to be a big guy walking his dogs in the grass alongside the small runway. As I got closer and could see the massive fur coat the guy was wearing on this hot summer day, it became clear that it was a family of bears picking berries. They must have liked the tarberries. The cubs were the size of large dogs and weren’t bothered a bit by the whizzing sail.

Also in the department of misconceptions, out of nowhere there appeared a police car. I waved, he waved back with the universal police wave which means “pull over”. I couldn’t outrun him upwind, so we had a nice chat, the upshot of which was that in spite of my vague permission slip the only way there can be land sailing at Loring is by participating in an organized event.

My arms and hands were pretty much shot by then anyway, so breaking down and heading for home was fine with me. There was a deep satisfaction, a sense of awe and pure joy at having sailed this place, with a perfect wind and a sun just hot enough. Partly it was the sense of discovery in the detritus of the past that can be used for deep play today.

Now it just sits there, big, empty and alone. The only way anyone will get the opportunity to sail there is to take part in a regatta. It’s planned tentatively for September 11-13. That leaves less than three months to rig up and test something with sails and wheels. It’s a long way from everywhere, but so is Montana, and look at the fun we had there! Regatta details to follow.

https://youtu.be/-l4zom3g07Q

Forgive the poor formatting of the video. The filmmaker has now learned to hold the phone horizontally while sheeting with one hand and teeth.

Posted in 2019 Season | 2 Comments

Cool Ice

The ice at Baikall was less than wonderful this past season, but the photo below shows how perfect it can be. Aside from the rocks, of course. These rocks get blown onto the ice and then as they get warm from the sun the ice melts from around them leaving them to balance on a thin pedestal of ice.

Landsailing on hot asphalt planned for Loring on Wednesday if the wind forecast holds. Anyone interested, call me. Regatta planned for September 11-13, details to follow. Pencil it in!

Posted in 2019 Season | 3 Comments

Landsailing In Maine

There was an era on the timeless beach when land yachts were graceful and slow. You could wear your Sunday finest and not come home with sand in every seam.

Times change and fast is fun, but the beach isn’t as dry as it looks. Even a thin film of water mixes with sand and blasts every part of the yacht, including the pilot. The Germans have it figured out and wear coveralls.

Meanwhile, the guys in Maine haven’t a clue and took off sailing at Old Orchard Beach on a -.2′ late afternoon low tide.

The wind direction gave us a close beat one way and a long deep run the other. There were two miles of useable beach. Wind was about 10mph, and would occasionally dip to the point the boats would not move. If the boat sat in one spot for more than a minute the wheels would suck down into the sand so we didn’t need parking brakes! But the wind would come back and held until early evening and the sailing was fantastic. The boats would slide around the leeward mark, but it was a very gentle and smooth slide. It was almost like sailing on slush, but the tracking upwind was locked in.

It became clear from the very first that we were going to get water-sand blasted. Goggles needed constant clearing and sand crunched in the teeth. But once you accepted the fact that boat and pilot were going to get totally trashed is was all joy.

That’s supposed to be a grin but it’s all he could manage with the sand and salt crust in his face. A fleece is not the ideal garment. A tyvek suit might be just the thing.

The wetness (looks like ice!) is paper thin and gives a good indication of the sand conditions, but still spews spray. Reading the sand like we read the ice is critical as there are gullies and drain holes. There were also a scattering of people, “skaters” in iceboating parlance, but keeping clear was easy. Most of the reaction was thumbs up and cameras out.

We hit a number of these rough puddles, getting ever wetter. Thankfully the boats held together.

The next morning low tide was at six am and was due to be a whopping -1.4′ below mlw, so we stayed the night and set the alarm early. Wind forecast was great. Sadly, the cool misty dawn arrived with a beach twice as wide, but no wind. Sound familiar? We hung around waiting for a breeze, watching the water creep inevitably up the beach.

So after a day of washing boats, sails, sail BAGS, tools: everything, the idea of nice clean asphalt was becoming very appealing. A couple of weeks ago I’d taken a solo day trip to Loring Air Force base in Limestone. The Air Force left in 1997 and gave it to the state, who is managing it as a business park, renting out the buildings. But the base was a small city so even with some of the buildings occupied it has a feeling of abandonment. You could rent a 350,000 sq. ft. hangar, The Tower, or any number of office buildings.

But it’s all about the runways: two at 12,000′ and a third a tad shorter. Lots of side roads and aprons the size of mall parking lots. I found my way to the runways after getting a bit lost. The scene was all decay and post-industrial decrepitude. The wind was howling and there was a light drizzle. Nervously, I parked in the lee of a hangar and rigged the boat. I’d come this far, after all, but had no idea what to expect from either the surfaces or the authorities. The Tower loomed overhead: was anyone in there, watching? The rain stopped. I took a few short runs around the side roads and then peeked out onto a runway, ducking back in at the first off ramp. The turns are tight and you need to nail the line or you wind up in the grass. I actually did wind up once in what appeared to be a meadow of tall grass, trying to avoid some potholes but it was growing through smooth asphalt and so it felt like sailing in the marshes. Great fun!

With building courage I dared a number of runs up and down the full length of the runways. Like the beach, in the NW wind you could almost make it up in one tack, and then back down in a deep, fast reach. The leeward rounding was a large apron where the tires squeeled more than once. Very good leeward mark rounding practice. This would make for an excellent race track with upwind boats on one runway and downwind boats on the other.

Since no one came to get me, I went in search of the authorities and had a very nice correspondence with the director of the development authority. I asked if we could hold a two day land sailing regatta sometime between now and late fall and he thought that was a splendid idea. The dream scenario would be to have use of one of the big hangars. Drive in, set up the boats out of the wind and sun; there’s room for dozens. Below, those doors are five hundred feet wide.

So the ball’s in our court. Is there enough interest in New England to get a regatta organized? Even five or six land yachts would be a great first attempt. The travel distance is challenging and we need to await the post quarantine era; sometime in September perhaps?

Think Icephalt!

Posted in 2019 Season | 3 Comments

Rookie Of The Year

Milo Fleming, who made exploring the art of iceboating his eighth grade project, gives us his final presentation here. Way to go, Milo!

https://youtu.be/IGyq6l1FIgU

Posted in 2019 Season | 7 Comments

Till We Meet Again

Farewell good friend, survive your softness. When you return we will be there, waiting for you, with sharp runners, crisp sail and full thermos.

And for summer fun, don’t forget land sailing :https://www.facebook.com/SailingMore/videos/551281432258764/?t=53

Posted in 2019 Season | 1 Comment