November 1, 2007
Dear Ice Buddies,
Hiking on Maiden’s Cliff this afternoon, looking west thru the weak sun and clouds across island-studded Megunitcook Lake; I couldn’t help seeing white ice there instead of the grey wind-ruffled water, and remember all the great times we’ve had! Every ice-lover must have a ‘home’ lake or pond, which we know and trust more than any other. Megunticook is mine.
A thousand bays and inlets. A hodge-podge, spring-riddled way of freezing. How’s the pressure ridge at Wooster Brook? Can I get across Chaney’s Narrows like I did last week?
I’m cheating on the date above. But it’s almost November. And that’s almost December, which is almost December 8, which is that magic date, when my prayers may be answered: When we can just tentatively skate out from shore, amid the zings of early ice, on that inch-deep swamp on Howe Hill Road.
So, as we inch across these fallow calendar pages of late Fall, here’s how to bleed off the frustration:
Come to the Fall iceboater’s party on Nov 11 at Lloyd’s from 11AM-ish to 4PM-ish. You may get some of Dave Fortier’s famous pork barbeque, or Bunting’s famous grass-fed steerburgers, not to mention the desserts. This will add reserves of blubber for those cold January days.
If you can’t come, send something like $20 dues to Jory Squibb, 13 Pleasant Ridge, Camden, ME 04843 and be sure to update your email and address.
Sharpen every runner, every skate in sight, and plan improvements to gear, clothing, GPS’s, weather predicting, safety items, heating packs. Course we want to go fast, but it looks like no official racing this year.
Put this year’s hotline on your bulletin board: 594-2184
And go to our new website maineicesailors.com and then put it as a button on your computer desk-top. Rather than our usual ice-spam, we plan use this website for ice conditions, blogging, bragging, and gear for sale. Practice posting an ice report, and advertize something for sale. And after December 8, hit that desk-top button when you feel a niggley notion that there may be something brewing….
And so, my fellow fanatics and partners in crime…. quoting from the Fat Lady’s Aria of last spring:
if health should hold, in the dying year
we’ll chop the holes, we’ll launch the gear
we’ll do our sit-ups, check our knees
burden gods with hearty pleas
then test our strength with borrowed wings
and hear that song,
that wondrous song,
a runner sings!
Subject: Report of the November 11 Ice-lovers Fall Gathering.
Dear CIBC members,
Please try out our new website maineicesailors.com and you can read the report of our Fall Gathering. We’re trying to switch everyone over to that website, instead of using this ‘ice spam’ as Lloyd calls it. Here’s a copy of the report, though:
About 25 of us gathered on Lloyd Roberts’ porch in the chilly noon-time sun and made quick work of Wardwell’s excellent barbeque, a few 3 foot long subs, many other tasty goodes, and then added Bunting’s amazing apple pie, brownies, etc. for good measure. It was great, especially to see the Walker Pond sub-group arrive in numbers. Welcome! And many thanks to Lloyd and Marge for hosting us again.
Then Commodore Fortier called us to order. The treasurer announced funds available of about $900, and apologized for his fit of corporate greed in suggesting a dues increase to $20. Dues this year will be $10 payable to Jory Squibb, 13 Pleasant Ridge, Camden, ME 04843.
We talked about the website, Maineicesailors.com which is now up and running with ads for gear for sale, and soon, we hope, ice reports. Please be very careful in posting ice reports to be clear about wether you actually got on the ice, chopped a hole, simply drove by, so we don’t get too excited about a vague impression. Jory will try to network this website with the larger iceboating community.
Commodore Fortier brought up the question of racing, and we decided the fully encourage ‘scratch’ racing, as well as having perhaps two regattas. The treasurer will pay for, and John Eastman will buy about 10 orange traffic cones to distribute among the membership. While we know that boats of various sizes cannot acurately compete against each other, we do encourage other boats to join in these informal races.
We agreed to try to get some of Larry Hardman’s iceboating poetry on our website to counteract some of the doggerel which the treasurer sometimes emits.
We hope to publish the ice rules of the road on our website and in other places, and encourage all newcomers to study these rules carefully.
Finally, Jory gave a report of his forming a group to enter a new ultra-economical car in California’s Automotive X Prize. See moonbeamplans.com for updates.
Then, the meeting was adjourned, and further eating and yakking ensued, as well as going over to John Eastman’s place nearby to move a shed.
Soooo, please post ice reports on our website as soon as possible, as well as giving others a chance to buy your old gear.
Think Ice! and see you soon on it! the treas.
From: jory squibb
Date: November 15, 2007 8:48:56 AM EST
Subject: Bill Buchholz’s Saltenstall-designed “Icywood” gets its pre-launch tune-up
It looks like Dickie’s solitary “icywood” will have some company on the ice this winter.
Bill Buchholz and I put together the pieces for the first time of his “icywood #2”. We had the usual initial glitches, but wow! what a beautiful machine:
This thing might gobble DN’s for lunch…..
yer runners sharp?
no mouse poops in the sail?
how bout a new helmet?
Subject: the treasurer’s Nov 18 swamp report
Dear Ice watchers,
I checked our ‘first-freeze’ swamp this morning. In the 29 degree early morning light, I hoped I might get a few glides around the edges.
The swamp, about 5 acres large and maybe a foot or two deep, was about 75% skimmed over with ice, which was 1/4″ thick at the shore. I poked my thermometer easily thru the ice and read 35 degrees.
Lloyd asked me to get the temp, which is apparently important:
As water cools, it gets denser until it cools to 40 degrees and then starts getting less dense as it cools toward 32.. So the top water in a pond sinks to the bottom and is replaced by warmer water until all the water is 40 degrees, and only then can further cooling continue.
This is why shallow ponds freeze first: The cooling just keeps on going past 40 degrees, since there isn’t enough water depth to exchange.
So now a few days in a row of 20’s temperatures, with no wind to begin with, and it’s just possible we may get our first tentative glides.
Couldn’t resist bugging the Plymouth Village Store on Plymouth Pond: the counter person said: No significant ice so far.
patience…patience….not my long suit….
Subject: Sunday Morning, Nov 25 Swamp report.
high anticipation, this 7AM bright morning. 28 degrees at the house.
on with snowmobile suit, ice claws, ice axe…
ice axe?? you dreamer! still….remember the rule: show up and pray
sun poking up as I headed up howe hill road and then down to the little swamp: frozen clear across. hole with ice axe….glad I brought it….7/8″ thick…. a tentative step. it barely holds me with boots, and moves up and down alarmingly. Somehow,I refuse to let go of the tree on shore….definitely no-go with skates.
full, full moon….
tested a larger pond, Le Grand Pond, on the way home…. 5/8″ thick. It would not hold me up.
Still….these are the kind of local conditions which make one wonder about Plymouth Pond, a hour north of here. Back home, I called the store. She reports the pond is as frozen as far as she can see, but was open water yesterday.
Plymouth weather said it was 19 degrees there last night.
sooo, if it was truly open water yesterday, there couldn’t be more than an inch of ice today. Moral of the story: DONT MAKE ASSUMPTIONS…Call Tom Withrow and have him give it a bash with the old axe….
I just know there’s ice lurking somewhere…..
> From: “Bill Cunningham”
> Date: November 28, 2007
> Found about 2 inches of clear ice at Plymouth at 5PM tonight. It cracked
> under my weight so I stayed close to shore. Some water and really thin ice
> right next to shore. You might want to bring a plank when you and Lloyd pay
> the pond a visit. Bill
> thanks, bill, that would be FABULUOUS. then call or email us. jory
Subject: Trip to Plymouth Pond, Thursday 9AM
Dickie, Lloyd, and I are leaving for Plymouth Pond from Camden at 9AM, probably being at the landing there about 1015AM.
Anyone want to join us? Weather is not promising–it’s terrible actually–but we’re DETERMINED to check things out…..chop, skate, maybe skimbat.
We’ll post a report tomorrow night when we get back…. if we get back…..if we haven’t moved to Plymouth permanently.
Another report, from Steve Lamb, says that there’s 3.5″ of black ice (probably ‘orgasmic’ grade using Wayne Fortier’s grading system) on “East Branch Pond” , which I think is on page 42-3 of the gazetter, but a pretty long drive from here.
sooo, the early ice is here. but gotta ‘chercher la glace’… and mainly we gotta travel in pairs, at least, and check everything carefully. This early ice, it seems, is especially dangerous to break through, since there may not be thick ice nearby.
> Plymouth Pond has large areas of black ice, one
> contiguous covering the whole West half of the pond. Evidently the ice did not blow out
> during the warm spell Monday and Tuesday and with two nights in the mid twenties there
> is a nice two inch sheet over the West half of the pond and what appears to be promising
> ice from the middle to the East side with some areas of open water. We arrived today in
> the rain and warm so not too confidant about venturing forth on wet black ice two inches
> thick. Dont forget the ice is not really as strong as new black ice, this ice has withstood
> thaw and freeze cycles so not so good above freezing. Ultimately I think with forcast
> temps in the teens Friday and Saturday and tonight in the mid twenties, this will be a nice
> skate and perhaps sail Sunday. Perhaps by Sunday there will be a minimum of two inches
> of ice everywhere if the wind allows it to set up. Otherwise the West side of the lake will
> be really nice. The pic shows hollywood Saltonstall attuned to an opportunity for good
> advertising but really we did not sail more than ten feet from shore. Pic of Lloyd shows
> better ice sheet; open water can be seen in the back ground. Ciao Dicky
Subject: Jory’s Nov 29 Plymouth Pond Report
Dickie, Lloyd and I drove up thru slight rain and 40 degree temps to Plymouth Pond on Thursday, Nov 29. The road turned icey as we crested the last hill and dropped down to the pond. There is obviously a weather change just in that area. The pond was open water in the middle, and we parked at the landing.
There, we began bashing with our axes and found firm ice 20 feet wide along the shore, and then 2″ unstable ice in a big inviting sheet stretching out to open water in the middle. Lloyd and I enjoyed skating the edge, and dickie set up his skimbat just for a photo shoot on the thicker ice margin.
A wind carried the skimbat out on the thin ice and Lloyd dared skating out on the thin ice to retrieve it, saying that he heard lots of zipper cracks around his skates.
We concluded it would still be unsafe on Friday, marginal on Saturday, BUT VERY POSSIBLY USABLE ON SUNDAY.
I myself was particularly frustrated and skated back an forth just on the ice junction, but the others explained to me the phenomenon of “warm ice” which is not as strong as new black ice, but has been thru warm and cold cycles and has its crystals all wonky.
So I deferred to wiser minds, and we all tail-dragged home thru increasing rain, reminding ourselves that Nov 29 is still early.
Subject: great day on Plymouth Pond Dec 2
We all agreed it was a perfect season opener, errr, well…. almost perfect. We could only use about 1/4 of the Pond, since there was brash ice and open water in the middle; but we still had quite a large plate to play on, and that was quite smooth, black ice.
ahhhhhh…..the first ice of the season…….
Bruce Brown and Fred Kercheis both came with new homebuilt iceboats, 4 skimbatters batted around–Dickie, Jory, Bill Buccoltz, Jim (McDonald?)–; and Lloyd tried skimbatting, helped tune up the new iceboats and actually got to watch one of the open holes freeze up as he relaxed in front of it for an hour.
It was a wonderful, light air, but enough air, sunny and then cloudy, lunch at the village store, hang out, talk about everything, beginning to a great season.
Now we’ll see what weather events bring us. I’m sure Dickie will add some photos.
See you soon, Jory
Subject: Careful skating on Unity Pond–Thursday, Dec 6,2007
Many thanks to Jim MacDonald, for his recent tip about possible ice on Unity Pond. This pond is about 20 miles NW of Belfast, and is a little closer than Plymouth, which is, we assume under deep snow.
The challenge is to find a pond which has frozen AFTER the arrival of that foot of snow.
So I loaded the gear and headed upcountry:
Howe Hill Road Swamp: 2″ ice, 2″slush, 7″ snow. Dangerous
Mansfield Pond, near Alfred lake: the same
Alfred Lake sighted from afar: 2/3 open water. presumed dangerous
Lake St. George: 1.5″ ice with tiny amount of snow. cracks leaking water spiderwebbing the surface of the lake. Two good nights of cold temps and this could be a great playground. It might even be worth looking at Friday morning, though it’s a long shot.
Unity Pond: First I checked the north boat launch area, which is off “Prairie” to the west of the lake, 0.2Miles along the road after the railroad crossing. A little public park fenced in with a picnic table. 3″ of ice near shore. 2″ of ice 100 yards off shore. 1/4 ” snow on top.
Skated for an hour near shore. very fast ice. muffled zipper cracking on the 2″ ice. no sounds from the 3″ ice. This enormous lake could be skatable on Friday, possibly iceboatable on Saturday. (beware: I’m quite an optimist!)
Later I checked our usual boat launch area, which is down a long western road leaving Rt 202 just north of Rt 139. There, only 2″ of ice. I suspect the West side of the lake, being in the lee of West and Northwest winds, froze earlier than this Eastern side.
Checked Megunticook, which appeared totally frozen over, on the way home, from the barrett’s cove boat launch ramp. 1.2″ of ice.
I’ll bet we’re on the ice somewhere over the weekend.
Subject: ice report for maine lakes–Friday Dec 7
Dear Fellow Icelovers,
It seemed important to follow up on the marginally thick ice reported yesterday, so Lloyd and I loaded the axes and skates and headed to Lake St. George State Park on Rt.3 between Belfast and Augusta.
Sure enough, yesterday’s 1.5″ thick ice had become 2″ in the -5 degree evening temps and we merrily skated around the northern bay which borders the State Park. We never found anything less than 2″, with only a dusting of snow on the top. The wetted out cracks made an interesting highway effect:
Then on to Unity Pond. We first went to the western side I had skated on Thursday, where the access is off of “Prairie Rd”. There the 3″ shore ice had grown to 4″ and the offshore ice had grown from 2″ to 3″. There had been no snow accumulation beyond the 1/4 ” of yesterday.
But, rather than skating there, Lloyd was keen to check out our usual boat launch area near the center of town, on some street like “Kalakonos” which leads west off the junction of RT 139 and RT 202.
There, we found 2″ of very nice ice and proceeded to skate our hearts out. We interupted 2 eagles making a quick meal of a cormorant, and later found the skimmed-over hole where they had attacked the bird and dragged it into the air.
Though the ice was still marginal; the enormous size of the plate, that broody, gray, late December afternoon, the tiny snowflakes falling, all combined to make the silent glide-filled hours worth every mile of the 40 mile drive. The only hole we found in the miles of skating was skinned over with 1.25″ of ice. Later, we found this interesting rock outcropping:
The high teens night-time temps predicted for Unity tonight will perhaps add additional thickness for safer skimbatting and perhaps for even careful iceboating. The slight snow showers probably won’t kybosh things, but I plan to call Jim MacDonald who lives on the lake in the morning, before heading North.
For anyone not wishing to go the additional 20 miles to Unity, certainly Lake St. George is great skating.
As much as I love iceboating and skimbatting, sometimes skating itself seems like the ultimate communion with a frozen pond. Today was such a day!
For the few of you who might feel they are hopeless on skates, I include a post from a few years ago, about building weak-ankle-proof nordic skates, which might possibly jump-start your skating prowess. You can see the skates in question in the second photo above.
I hope we will see some of you over the weekend. All the best, the treas.
Subject: nice light-air skimbatting on Lake St. George Dec 8
I was heading to Unity Pond, but thought I’d check how yesterday’s 2″ of Lake St. George ice had grown. Voila! a solid 3 inches everywhere I checked, covered by a full inch of fluffy stuff. Wind 2-4Kn from west, so I put on the skates, tuned up the skimbatt and had some lazy reaches across the Northern bay.
All wind-driven toys are irksome without sufficient wind. With a skimbatt, you end up holding up the wing, instead of it lifting you. So it was time for an S&S break. (snack and snooze) The wind was predicted to rise…..
I woke an hour later with someone calling from shore. A policeman was beckoning me from the boat-launch ramp and explained that 2 people had called in reports of my demise. I explained my safety precautions: 50 years experience with ice.. (why do we feel compelled to exagerate to police officers?) cell phone in plastic bag in upper pocket… ice claws…flight plan filed with family members…and more than anything, MY HACHETTE. many holes chopped in my play area, none giving less than 3 inches. and ice that was totally quiet: not the slightest alarming sound.
He grudgingly allowed me to proceed, and with wind slightly building, I passed another happy hour carving up that lovely virgin snow and watching my shadow grow in the lowering afternoon sun. Then, in an instant, the sun eclipsed behind a snow cloud, dime-sized flakes began lazily swirling, and my once-benign environment compared poorly with the thought of foamy hot chocolate at the local convenience store.
So, I’m keen to hear how the lads did on Unity. Maybe less snow and more wind.
What a great start to winter we’re having. It’s only December 8!
Subject: Unity Pond dreamland Dec 8
The lads on Unity pond clocked twenty four miles of sailing in the same winds Jory had, also with miles of pure untracked powder. Fortunately it was thin, but the ice under it hadn’t grown since Jory and Lloyd checked it yesterday. It was fairly hard and fast at the start, but as the day warmed and the wind fell the ice got softer and slower and I began to wonder what kind of wax might be best for skate blades. We jibed our way down the entire length of the lake, had lunch on a nice south-facing dock, and beat back toward the south end. Dickie was about to pack up, as he got back first, when a bald eagle flew over my head just as the wind came up out of nowhere. I bore off, followed him all the way across the lake and watched as he landed in a tall pine by the shore. I jibed, thanked him for the wind, Dickie came back out, and we had another half hour of fast sailing.
Dickie, thanks for the sandwich! Send pix!
Subject: Tuesday on Lake St. George Dec 13
Lake St. George is one of those especially beautiful lakes, with all kinds islands and bays. Even though the chance for a good skatesail was low, I packed the gear and headed the 20 miles North. What’s 20 miles?
Besides, a large part of ice-obsession is just being out there, wether you hit the gliding bulls-eye or not. I suspect that many icefishermen never get their hooks baited. They just love mounting their ATV’s, nestling into their shacks, stoking the fire, opening the rum bottles, and being far from honey-do lists.
The 3″ ice on St. George had grown to a solid 4″ and was now covered by a full 1.5″ of fluffy. But the weather had never warmed enough to bond that snow to the ice, so the skate blades moved fairly easily thru the snow. I set up the skimbat, and pushed out into the 2-4 knot SW wind.
To skate required a sort of waddling motion, and the wind was just enough to maintain speed but not to build it. As we all know, it takes a windspeed above an abrupt threshold to make wind, and when we can’t build apparent wind, our sports are pretty hum-drum.
So I took an S&S break, dreaming of wind-force vectors increasing as velocity squared, held back by constant drag vectors, and was pleased not have my reverie interrupted by the sheriff. I guess the locals are getting used to me.
Later, the wind gave a few encouraging puffs, and I was off again with the sail giving those little nods and lifts we all love; but it was still basically a slog. My skimbatting is so clumsy anyway: This body will surely go up in its funeral pyre, long before I’m ever invited to join the Saltenstall-Buccholz-CamLewis Country Club.
But it’s a strange fact that it’s often the people who have the most to overcome in an endeavor who bond most strongly to it. In short, form be damned: who could possibly enjoy this more I?
Eventually though, remembering there were delicious winds predicted for wednesday, I packed up and headed home.
Later in the afternoon, Lloyd and I skated carefully around the perimeter of Chickawaulkie, finding 2″-3″ thick, fluffy-snow-covered ice all the way around a large plate of 1″ inviting black ice in the middle. We pestered and guilt-tripped each other until, with the throw rope heaved out into the new ice, Lloyd chopped his way to the very edge of the 1″ ice and measured it. Gosh it looked great! We set out two orange cones to delineate the northern edge of the 1″ ice in case wednesday night’s weather events might obscure it.
The skating between Lloyd’s house and the 1″ ice was superb and the plate large enough for some fun. If only the weather…..
From: Lloyd Roberts
Date: December 13, 2007
Subject: Ice and Snow reports
The snow we had the night before last all wetted out to a corrugated surface unsuitable for skating. It turned cold and added an inch of snow ice all over so the 1 inch new ice in the center is now 2 to 2 1/4, not really enough to sail boats on comfortably but enough to walk on. It has just started the first of forecast snows through the weekend, 1-3 inches tonight. No rain in this one, in teens. Heavy snow Saturday night with wind, possible rain at end.
Dickie reports 3-4 inches of ice under 1 1/2 inches snow with slush under snow ice and peculiar reverse drain holes in black ice wetting out the snow. Disconcerting for skiing.
Snow, ice thickness uncertain.
It looks as though we need a warm storm already. Usually we get some good ice before the snow. The cold came too early and then we had this succession of little fronts with snow every other day. Is this related to loss of Arctic ice?
Subject: Thursday Pre-Snow on Chickawaulkie Dec 28
There are certain days, maybe just a few each season, when there is only one passion, only one in the world: ICEBOATING! And Thursday was one of those….
The ice was visually terrible: warts and windowpanes, healed cracks and scars, various scarey color changes, old branches and cones marking past dangers–but all these were slight depressions, perhaps less than a half inch, below a glistening, smooth, wet–temp was just freezing– totally fast sheet of ice.
The ice was so fast that the instant you took off the emergency brake, the boat gained sternway from pure parasitic drag, and every tack brought that powerful “whump” as the battens flattened on the other side. Sheeting tight gave you a wrinkle-less airfoil, with tell-tales plastered to the dacron.
We had pushed our boats around on Wednesday, Dicky and Bill in Icywoods, Lloyd and I in DN’s, hungering for wind, anticipating the great forcast for Thursday. Bill shook down many of the set-up glitches in his new boat.
And Thursday, sure enough, at 9AM there was still none of the predicted snow and 10-17 Kn of Northeast wind–strong and puffy. I’ve never sailed NE wind on Chicky before, and it allows you to cruise fast but enjoyably South down Robert’s Alley, and then with mounting and terrifying speed, sweep clockwise, with a lee shore close to port, a slow turn thru the SW corner, playing the sheet like a madman to keep those screeching, juddering, chattering runners just short of a spin-out.
There are times when this sport brings you right to the brink of self destruction. Will this flimsey pile of wood and string carry my fragile carcus another minute? Or will any one of a thousand glitches–that roulette wheel of maybe’s–bring up the dreaded double zero?
And yet, even thou you are hanging on the very edge, you pull the sheet that last little bit, sighting the danger-zone mast bend against the headstay, and gain, gain, gain on that blurry swirl of ice-chips ahead, who has no right to be ahead of you, and not a prayer of staying there…
Dicky was with his skimbat and camera, taking pictures, trying of get boats focussed against a blurry backdrop. Bill’s Icywood, now called “Indigo” was further tuned-up from the shakedown of the day before; but luckily still not quite tuned. Too much lee helm. So Lloyd and I had a good chance to keep up with him, even blast by when he struggled for control. It was obviously a great treat for Dicky to see a second edition of his design give such a fabuluous performance.
It’s amazing as you’re living with one runner in the air, to be match-racing with another boat that NEVER hikes. Frankly, I don’t think I’d like it. I like hiking, and I like that constant feedback of when I need to back off or break something. Still, maybe you feel the G-forces….
Finally, around 11AM, Wes and Wiley Todd arrived at the public landing and set up their DN and we noticed the first flakes of snow. By the time we got back to the Roberts Pit Area, it was blowing a steady white sheet.
This morning, Friday, there’s 3 inches of snow and not a huff of wind….still….maybe later on in the day….. ahhhhh…iceboating…
Subject: December 31, 2007
8AM and 8 inches of snow have fallen since midnight. Is this the third or fourth blizzard of this crazy year? Jeesum! It’s still December and I feel the cabin fever of February.
Now Buccholz–blast that Buccholz!– was skimbatting his heart out on Alfred Lake yesterday, while I was making boring circles at the skating rink admiring everyone else’s style. So much of life is being in the right place at the right time….two people in a bed with an equal gleam in the eye…seems like such a long shot, as I sip the morning tea.
Maybe a zen master would say its always the right place and the right time…..Blast zen masters!
Called Buchholz about a trip to Alfred: Alfred in THIS?? He’s got his mojo in full reverse. He may even do an honest day’s work….blast Buccholz! he’s already got his ice fix.
Called Dickie–totally bogged down with infantile ear infections and bronchitis. No reason for Alfred, he says, any lake will be the same. So I pack up skiis and skates, snow blow the drive and head for Megunticook.
Out on the lake, a total total white-out. Even my amber goggles can’t generate contrast. Off with the glasses and goggles. Naked eyes work best. Then on with the skates. Skates??
Yes, I have one of those dogged, contrarian personalities which have to experience everything first hand. And after a few drunken stumbles, I learn what normal brains already know: weather the snow is bonded or unbonded, new or old, you can’t skate in 9 inches of the stuff.
So on with the X-C skis, and a slow trudge out onto the lake. Skis totally clumped up. Clean the off, clumped again. Might as well consider this snowshoeing. Shall I go home? What’s at home? Three lay-a-bed, useless, entitled teenagers… No, let’s persevere. maybe the old magic will appear…
Got to the mouth of the Bog Bridge Narrows and spied along the shore, a little lee from the Northwest blast. Maybe a little snack and nap will cure these blues. 10 inches of powder makes a soft bed and a handkerchief over the face cuts the sting of the falling snow. Wonder how long I could lay here before anyone gave the slightest damn?
The kids would see my note, “Skimbatting on Megunticook. Back at Noon” I can imagine their smug cackles: “Skimbatting in this? I thought we ordered a regular dad. Who gave us this????”
Brenda would come home at 5PM. She would properly panic. At least because she doesn’t know where the cash is buried… sooo… Maybe the EMT’s would find my frozen snow angel at about 7PM….hmmm… What’s that movie where jimmy stuart is about to jump off a bridge and, yet finds he does make a difference to others? Better see that movie.
Struggle back to my feet. five more minutes trudging toward Fernalds Neck. Hang and Blast Fernald’s Neck! No glide on skates or skis. Life itself has no glide! I head for home and settle into eggs and juice…. and… I do something I would never ever do: I pour a good slug of dark brown rum into that juice glass, and eye that stack of new Christmas books yet to be read.
when you can’t get it to glide….
you just have to let it slide….
Subject: Norton Reservoir Jan 5 and 6: An oasis in the desert.
After a cozy Friday night with friends in Wayland, Mass; I saw a orange sun pop up Saturday morning over the 495 Interstate in Wrentham, and minutes later beheld the sight my soul had longed for, for 246.3 miles: a vast, smooth expanse of shiny, snow-less ice stretching off to islands in the distance. Norton Reservoir! It was so very refreshing, I felt the trip was immediately worth the trouble.
So I put on the skates and skated two vast laps around the reservoir, which was about the size of Chickawaulkie, but very interesting in layout. The ice looked like it had survived hell itself, with many flaming comet-like drain holes and a hodge-podge of black and grey colors. Yet it was 4-6 inches thick, said the icefisherfolk, and the surface was almost the surface of dreams.
An hour later, by the end of the second lap, Luke Buxton was pulling into the southern pit area. I went off to breakfast, and, returning, could hardly find a parking place in the mass of iceboaters who had gathered in the meantime.
I was quickly putting faces to a good dozen names I had seen on address labels over the years. What fun: fellow ice lovers, and all kinds of ice-craft, each with its own story.
Before coming, I had seen that the little wind phalluses on the wonderground.com weather site weren’t standing up as long and strong as we might wish–sound familar?–so I was keen to jump on any wind I could get. There was just enough to cruise around the pond, and by 11AM, though we weren’t hiking, it was getting exciting.
Soon marks were in place and the Doc Fellows Regatta got underway:
I managed to see the other racers for the first 30 seconds of each race, and then fell to cursing the endless stream of wrong choices I was making. Within an hour, the answer to the ‘Am I having fun?’ question was so obvious, I cruised off on my own. It would be interesting to have two racing fleets: The gold and the lead, so we beginners could feel the adrenelin of close competition.
As the afternoon wind began it’s slow death, I switched to skimbatting and found good company there as well. In sum, there must have been 40 wind-powered machines on the ice, including a sailboat which had been mounted on runners, and a kite-sailing rig. The day felt basically old-fashioned. This is what people did before computers and TV’s. Coming from all walks of life, and diverse interests, they shared the joys of a natural environment together.
Saturday night I cozied down, royally tired, in Woonsocket, RI; an old French-Canadian mill town I was curious about; and was back at the reservoir at sun-up. This time, the skating revealed that rain had fallen during the night, and only partially frozen, so the surface was still fast but a little slushy. I contemplated a return to Maine.
One rule I have: don’t decide anything when you’re hungry, so I dealt with the blood sugar. Then, back again, talking with Steve Lamb, I reconsidered leaving. But a second rule I have popped up: NEVER leave a iceboatable situation, without exploiting it to the max. You could regret it for the rest of the season. So I borrowed Steve’s comfortable and beautiful Gambit-like creation and soon was match-racing with a half-dozen others in the building wind.
Then, about 11AM, with the wind dying a little, I switched to skimbatting only to find the wind was seriously pooching out. So with a few second thoughts, and many thanks, I turned the hood ornament North and gave a little prayer of thanks for the joy of networking. How otherwise could this ice-starved pilgrim have discovered such a mother-lode of fun so far away?
Subject: nice skating on megunticook, Sunday Morning Jan 13; iceboating planned for monday
Four of us had a lushious 2 hour skate on Megunticook this morning from 8 to 10, going from Polly’s Folly on the Great South Bay, all the way up almost to Cam Lewis’s place at the far north end. The ice was a mixed surface, but with some quite smooth sections and only occasional drain holes with 1/2″ on ice on them. The surface was pleasant on nordic skates, and should be even better with iceboat runners.
I’m tentatively planning to set up my iceboat at bog bridge at first light of day, and sail my little heart out until the snow comes later in the day, possibly leaving the boat set up if the prediction is for not too much snow.
What are other’s plans? It would be fun to sail as a group. This is a small ice window, perhaps, but very much worth jumping on.
Subject: Monday, Jan 14: Big Storm a comin’
5AM… Pitch black…. house frigid…. (I turn off all heat at night) Check the weather… a report from darkest hell: 15 knots of wind already here and predicted to build … 4-8″ of snow due to begin about 10AM… schools closed…. should I be closed?
After all, I’m in the middle of “Arabian Sands” by Wilfred Thisiger, one of the looniest of the English explorers… Shouldn’t I hunker down like every other wise species…. batten the hatches …rouse the energy for occasional page turning…
Set up an iceboat, you ask?? ….downright dangerous …. and a total waste of time and declining energy…
Oh you lazy, geriatric boat club…..
NO! ….Iceboating must go on!……someone must shoulder the burden and have all that fun….
You know our club history: Channel Larry Hardman. He’d surely be out this morning, gleefully destroying something or other… he didn’t die in bed…
Channel Paul Volter. He’s be notching up another day on the ice, bringing the season total to 50 or 60 days. That’s more than I’ve ever sailed.
Remember the rules: two advil…..Be there ….. pray….
So…. groan…..on with the gear in the first grayness of dawn….you can tell I’ve spent decades at sea….and…. maybe slip that stainless rum flask in the breast pocket…saltenstall style…
Subject: Wind and Snow battle it out on Megunticook Jan 14
One thing I love about iceboating is that it is never the same. Each time is somehow unique.
by 7:30 this morning I was set up at Bog Bridge, and slipped off the parking brake. Small hail was filling the cockpit, and the boat couldn’t wait to blast out of the inlet.
Out on the Great South bay, all hell was breaking loose with hail sweeping across the polished ice before 17 knots of NE. After a tack to the East, I cozied longingly into the lee of Fernald’s Neck, and then proceeded North up to the Cliffs and into the calmer narrow passages at the North end of the lake. I had done the 4 mile passage in just a few minutes.
The wind had diminished linearly all the way north, with the nicest breeze being half way up the passage. The downwind return was an utter blast, peeling off each jibe and keeping up speed through the narrows at the halfway point.
Back at the pits, I had hoped to find some other fanatics to share this great sailing, but the Volksie was alone, so I set off again and sailed until 8:30. Upon my return, I capsized the boat on the shore opposite the launch area, and headed off to ‘second breakfast’ at home. No question about coming back: this was fantastic iceboating.
At 9:30 the capsized sail was buried in snow about 1″ deep, but, setting sail, it seemed the ice was as fast as ever. Now the Great Bay was half white and half gray, as the snow tried its best to gain on the scouring wind. I again headed for the calmer area to the north, watching the runners plow heroically thru the powder; but, with added runner drag, I soon began to crave the stronger winds of the Great Bay.
The snow was coming fast now, the day brightening, the amber goggles giving a strong yellow hue, and the overall visibility was dropping to a critical stage. I could barely make out the vague profiles of shorefront. Before I knew it, I was totally disoriented! but, when the panic subsided, using the wind direction as my compass, I limped South.
I turned East across the Great Bay and the boat shot thru the drifts with abandon, the runners soon buried to their black cheeks, and the front runner throwing a rooster tail in my face.
Even better, the snow had quieted the rattley surface, as the last of the bare patches had turned to snow. Now, without those visual cues, one had less sense of the great speeds involved, except for the occasional strong deceleration of the higher drifts. No need for a face covering, since my face was now a mask of snow and ice.
Back and forth I blasted from the Fangs, near the turnpike, to the Bog Bridge entrance; each traverse needing a sequel. I dedicated each–Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday–to the frustrating snow-bound days sure to come. On one traverse, I got totally lost and, luckily glided up to a cottage–Peter Green’s–which I recognized with great relief.
Then finally, hands cold, feet cold, boat half full of snow, something told me this westward passage was my last, so I pulled in the sheet to “full self-distruct”, and thanking Larry Hardman for his fine example, shot across the bay, past the “doors”, and into the calm deep snow of the pit area.
It was still snowing heavily on the 3″ accumulation, so I didn’t see much point to leaving the boat set up, and after warming up in the car, I took things apart.
The rules had done it again: advil, show up, pray. The only improvement would have been a buddy to share such a special morning.
If you look closely at the ending of the movie “into the wild’ you’ll see a profound truth being discovered by the dying protagonist: Things take on their full value only when we can share them…
keeping the faith that there’s more to come… the treas.
Subject: A lovely Sunday on Megunticook Jan 27
Bill Buchholz and I arrived at Bog Bridge at about 9AM, set up boats, and began light sailing and pushing around the lake, meeting many skaters, and an ice-bicyclist. There didn’t seem to be any part of the lake with consistent wind. I guess these eastern-sector winds are often fickle.
We kept up fantasizing about wind elsewhere on the lake. “I just know there’s wind over by the turnpike!” “Gotta be wind near the cliffs!” etc. Still, it was a lovely sunny morning, 22 degrees and not too cold. And being straight from 5 days in Florida, where the ice was pretty thin, I was just glad to be out there…
Then, at 11:08, the Higher Power threw the happiness switch, and off we went: Hatfuls of wind! It was still variable, both in location and force, but in the open south broads, it was generally tons of fun. I signaled bill, who was talking with Brian Lamb who was kite sailing, that I was confident enough to cruise north. I had a secret dream in mind….
My little prayer was that we would round the point at Mullen’s Bog at the far north end of the lake, and see little wisps of smoke out of Cam Lewis’s Sauna’s chimney.
and sure enough….my prayer was answered. Gretchen was stoking ‘er up for the arrival of friends. We slipped on the parking brakes, ripped off our clothes, and …..I couldn’t help thinking… jeesum, Jory, what an absolutely charmed life this is…
after three sweaty rounds, we re-clothed, and did our best to keep our steeds well revved up for the long, and sometimes flukey, trip South.
That’s the part of iceboating, i keep learning new kinks about: downwind sailing. take your time. forget the destination. keep that baby footing, even if you have to head in the wrong direction. stay out in the open. don’t make sharp turns. don’t let her slow down. if in doubt, keep biting back into more apparent wind. forget the destination. speed is all.
Back in the South Broads, there were now lots of skimbatters, Dickie, Scott, and Jeff (Gove?) and we took another hour of trading boating and blasting around.
Bill’s Icywood, called Indigo, is pretty tough to steer, being very direct, and is absolutely terrifying when it gets up to speed. It rumbles like a guitar which is being beaten; never or almost never, hikes; and in the puffs just hunkers down and accelerates faster than it seems the runners can cope with. But soooo comfortable, with cushy cushions, perfect visibility, powerful sheeting. Still….I was relieved to stretch back down on my DN torture rack.
Do your sit-ups and the DN is still, for my money, a boat of dreams…. And if you ever want to see true ballet, watch Eric Anderson switch back and forth between pushing and sailing his DN….
as usual, by 3 we were pretty well knackered, and after checking the weather–high winds tomorrow and mixed perversion all week–we took our boats home to by-stand these next days.
Bill is determined to properly heal his torn shoulder….Dickie talked about knees…I’ve got elbows…..guess what, somebody’s getting older….
but maybe…. just maybe……orgasmic ice mid-week on Lake Champlain!
Subject: a day of joy and sorrow on megunticook Feb 1
there was a threat that the predicted 10 knot westerly would poop out in the course of the day, so I wasn’t surprised to see 3 other cars already parked at the mouth of the Bog Bridge bay when I arrived at 9:15. Lloyd and Dickie were setting up, and Bill Buccholz was excitedly trying on his brand new track shoes, which were bound to give him better running traction than ever. His previous strap-ons kept losing cleats when most needed.
We pushed off around the point, and found there was lots of wind with even occasional hikes. We discovered a sunken pressure ridge at the “fangs” entrance to the turnpike section, but otherwise the ice, though a tiny bit rattle-ish, coupled with the blastingly sunny morning, provided iceboating absolutely as good as it gets.
Now joined by Fred Wardwell, and with the threat of a dying wind, we decided to sail the three miles to the north end of the lake, while we had a good chance. The wind was almost west enough almost to permit a single tack up the west side of the lake. It was amazing how fast the familiar landmarks zoomed by with such great wind and little need to tack.
We shot around the cliffs area, then luffed up cautiously to Cheney’s Narrows, a notorious death-trap. Happily, there was just a little ski-jump pressure ridge, and we found especially good ice and winds in “Wipe-out Bay” named for a dramatic wipe-out by Saltenstall 2 years ago.
Then Dickie and I proceeded north to Cam’s Sauna, noticing more and more that Bill was not with us. Getting worried, we back-tracked only to see the heart-rending sight of brand-new “Indigo” upside down on the ice in Wipe-out Bay. The broken mast was along side. Bill had pushed Indigo during a lull and, especially enjoying his new track shoes, pushed longer than usual, and the boat shot out of his reach. Then he had a ring-side seat, watching his pride and joy hike in the puff, teeter on edge, and continue, shearing the mast, on over.
The Icywood design has little to grab in the far stern, since the shrouds and plank are further forward and the sheet and tiller are not usually available. Bill’s hands, had just slipped off the back edge of the seat. A handle will soon be installed there!
Four of us, flipped the boat right side up.
Then we helped Bill lash parts together, and Dickie towed Bill in Indigo two miles back to the pit area, with very amazingly little difficulty.
Although the accident dampened spirits a little, the basic wonder of the day won out and we sailed and lunched the day away. I sailed and sailed–just couldn’t possibly stop with snow in the future– and by 2PM, I was sailing alone. Wishing for a buddy, I was just passing the cliffs on my way home, when Brian Lamb showed up; giving me exactly the excuse I needed to sail two more hours.
I invited Brian to blindly follow my lead: I would show him a neat trick. We sailed back to Wipe-out Bay, wound the boats up to maximum speed, and I brazenly blasted all-out into a tiny bay on the western shore. The entrance cut the wind in an instant, and the boat zoomed around a tiny island, slowing gradually in the miniscule windless straight, and re-emerged into the broads further south. If you played it right, you glided without pushing, right back into the wind stream.
I had just learned this, to my utter amazement, earlier in the day from Dickie and Bill. You see your friends blast toward the shore for certain destruction, and then mysteriously disappear, and later appear somewhere else.
Now, though, Brian and I were in that beautiful yellow afternoon mellowness, still with good wind, but knowing that our minutes were precious. We sailed to the sauna at the far north end, said hello to Cam at the sauna, who had skim-batted earlier in the day, and, rolling the dice, turned south. It could be a long long push…
Hooray, we had just enough wind to keep going, and still had gobs of wind to play with the Great South Bay.
Brian’s boat and mine are exactly matched, with similar hulls and identical sails. (Mine on loan from Dave W!) As we blasted the long long E-W traverse across the broads, neither boat, playing each wind shift to the max, could gain on the other.
But now, with every muscle limp, with a neck hardly able to turn, with fingers muscle-bound and cramping, and with face parchment-red with windburn–and sighing that contented sigh from deep within–I dropped the sail and capsized the boat close along the shore, ready for another go tomorrow morning before the snow.
Please, Oh Great Protective Spirit, You Who Look With Fondness On The Lowly Iceboater, just one more day…..
Subject: silky-smooth glide-forever ice on Megunticook Feb 20–BUT
I skated Megunticook just as the full moon rose this evening. The best ice i’ve skated in weeks, but you can’t just glide off into an alpha state.
There are many patches of shell ice covering air pockets of one-half to two inches gap, and also lots of other scars. kinda looks like moby dick’s hide in places.
still, if you pay good attention, you can get absolutely first class skating. Iceboaters would also have to pay attention, but could have a blast with the general high-quality of this ice. don’t know about thursday’s wind prediction.
a bunch of us are meeting at 9-10 AM Thursday , at the public ramp on Damarascotta Lake, just to see if the iffy conditions there might have healed with the cold temps expected tonight.
It would be fun to get out on that beautiful lake, which we haven’t sailed this season….
watch out for the full lunar eclipse tonight about 10:30
Subject: rolling the dice on Damariscotta Lake Feb 21
Hopped out of bed in the bright sun, just as the full moon was setting. 10 degrees: hot dog. that’ll heal those puddles on Damariscotta. Wind prediction: 10-15 Knots West. Hot dog. The pre-conditions are perfect! Let’s drop a C-Note on “Hot-Ticket” to place in the 4th race. I just have that feeling…..
Meeting Bill Buccholz and Dickie on the lake at 9. Dickie emails that he’ll be late. Tarnation! I count on Lloyd, Dickie, and sometimes Cam, to properly ground my enthousiasm. Bill and I have fabulous adventures together, but we’re both long-shot gamblers. Without Dickie, this could be a day of destruction.
I was first at the lake’s edge. The bitter wind was sweeping snow across the vast expanse. Do I really want to be here? There’s something forlorn about ‘big ice’. Walked out on the ice. wow! lot’s of shell, but a lovely surface. I know Lloyd would pronounce, on a down-beat: let’s set up the boats.
But once you start setting up, doing the age-old ritual, in the squinty bright sun, looking closely at tightening the runner’s bolts, rigging the mast—there’s a wonderful ‘zen’ that begins to grip you…. just this…. just this moment….
Still, I kept glancing at the parking lot for signs of much-needed moral support…
….Bill and I were well set up when Dickie arrived and skated off into oblivion with axe on shoulder. “This is not safe ice”, he pronounced on return, and began to recite horror stories to prove his point. fractured wrists…. 10 boats totalled in 10 minutes…. then he hopped in his van and disappeared. Why do we love this guy? Do we love this guy? Yes, we do love this guy; BUT he sure went a long way toward spoiling our day.
Left alone, no longer troubled by the experience of our elders, we hopeless gamblers released the parking brakes and shot west out of the pit. whoa! fast ice, blasts of wind, and very crunchy sections of shell ice.
Bill and I are explorers at heart, and rounding the point half-way across the broads, we pointed South, knowing that that bright sun would lead us in 8 miles or so, to the South end of the lake. The problem was how to proceed slow enough to spot the hazards.
Wildly swinging east and west, and occasionaly even pointing North to luff up, we bled our speed, and worked our way down that most beautiful of lakes. Bays, islands, narrows, and ice of every condition and surface. In spite of our determined caution, it was clearly still a roulette wheel: big gashes, half-healed holes here and there, monstrous cracks–we had no business being there, but… but… I think Larry Hardman, who used to live right nearby, was beaming craziness our way.
What the heck, I kept saying. Bill and I have both built our boats. We destroy em, we fix em.
Finally , we saw the open water at the lake’s southern outlet, and we rounded up in the lee of an island for some hot tea and snacks.
Going North was easier, since we were sailing closer to a luff. We often found patches of absolutely perfect ice and, with war-hoops of joy, we blasted in small circles, skidding and spinning on the hard, hard shiny plate. Then working our way thru the light winds of the narrows, we re-joined the great Northern broads.
Now, damn the torpedoes, it was time to really pull the strings, and we match-raced over the pounding and unknown shell ice eastward to the pit. There’s truly a rush to be moving at high speed inches away from another boat. You both know it’s time to behave, but home plate lies only a mile ahead. He pulls along side. You sheet in another slug and pull slowly ahead. He sheets again, and gathers yet more speed…. The adrenalin has you now…
I hate pit areas which are dead downwind. I kept screeching in circles, trying to bleed off the speed; but finally had to drop sail out in the open, and push the boat into the pit. As I walked toward the car to warm my icy fingers, I re-learned the old adage: never take your car keys sailing. Somewhere out in that vast lake was a handy and expensive little key; and Bill and I were destined to do a lot of driving to replace it.
hmmm….wonder what tomorrow holds….
From: jory squibb
Date: March 7, 2008
Subject: Nordic Skating on Chickawaulkie
We have a little sub-hotline for the ice-obsessed: Buccholz, Saltenstall, Roberts and myself. It’s a network which has no limitation on the time of the call. So when the phone rang at 7AM, I knew it was for me.
It was Lloyd, calling by cell phone from chicky’s ice itself: smooth, smooth skating
Yet I didn’t immediately call the others. Many’s the time Lloyd has praised the crystaline maidens of Rockport to the skies, and, dressed for the ball, I’ve arrived to find a creature I wouldn’t take to a dog-fight. No, I’ll check this first for myself.
Apart from occasional ‘ice-inflation’ though–Lloyd, Dickie and Bill–all have the uncanny ability to sniff out some fun in apparently grim situations.
7:30AM Down at the lake, I walked carefully across the frozen snow border out to where I could see Lloyd had driven his axe thru the top layer and he skated with ski poles carefully nearby. With my nordic skates on, we headed South, working along the leads of smooth reflective ice between the rougher areas which predominated. Eventually we came to large plates of perfect ice. Ohhhh, this is nice!
With hockey skates, he made cracks alongside his blades, with a snip-snipy sound, while my longer, rocker-less nordic skates had no effect on the surface. The ice was one inch of a new, punky-but-smooth layer over 1.5 inches of slush.
We skated merrily but carefully to the South end, noting one “killer” two-foot diameter drain hole, which revealed that the basic ice was a foot thick.
Eventually, Lloyd branched off, craving breakfast; but I was determined to skate until my legs turned to rubber. As we parted, Lloyd complemented me on my knee and elbow pads. “You’ll need those to get home if this softens up!” Bullshit, I thought, this stuff is here for the day.
9AM. Just couldn’t get enough skating, although I noted now that even my nordic skates were generating those little zipper cracks, and the cracking had a lower tone than before. But I headed again to the South end. Enroute, I was surprised to see that the shiny reflective surface of the smooth bits had almost instantly gone dull. Switching goggles, it was now almost impossible to generate any contrast between the rough and smooth ice, especially with the sun trying to break through the clouds. Still, it was fabulous skating.
At the South end, legs getting a little rubbery now, I thought I’d head back to Lloyd’s beach for an ice-nic; and await developments. But as I turned North, almost as I turned, I swear, the ice was completely different. And not just here and there: everywhere my skates were starting to crunch and drop. My confidence, always limited, now instantly evaporated.
How lonely, to be almost a half-mile from my shoes, with endless trouble in between. So, eating humble pie, and remembering the many past falls and the long time they took to heal, I walked carefully across the lake and thankfully put on my shoes at last.
Ice is so amazing, so mysterious, so full of surprises…..
I think there’s another stretch of cold coming after the weekend….sigh… I’m sure not ready to put the gear away!
From: jory squibb
Date: March 10, 2008
Subject: oooh, ahhhh, ugggg–iceboating!
1PM: Lunch, back at the ranch. Why do my teeth hurt, of all things? Because they’ve been clenched for 4 hours! Why does every muscle and joint long for a soft bed? Because the 67 year old human body was not engineered to lay prone on a wooden plank in 25 degree weather and hurtle across very very rough surfaces at 25-55 MPH.
I had dashed to Chickie at first light, loaded with all possible gear– and my worst expectations were confirmed: Even this extreme pitch of late-season iceboat hunger couldn’t generate the appetite…. the appetite necessary to even imagine moving across Chickie’s acute acne, across her canyons and terminal wounds, at any speed faster than a careful walk. No, that was boat-breaker stuff out there.
I kibbitzed with Lloyd. He wanted me to stick around to “help get boats off the ice”. HELL’S BELLS!
1. I’m a self-absorbed, speed- and sail-obsessed sleaze of the first waters.
2. This is only my 11 th day of iceboating in a season which is disappearing AS WE SPEAK
3. Somewhere out there in the great unknown is sail-able ice, and …
“helping get boats off the ice” was not why I vaulted out of bed, thank you very much.
So we agreed I would check the ice on Megunticook and call him on the cell. I drove North.
Would Buccholz be travelling toward Chickie at this moment? Where was Dickie just now? I began to doubt that our ice-buddy-mojo was working this morning. Fat chance: four guys. Three are late- or non-bloomers in the cell phone garden. Two are seriously deaf, and probably wouldn’t hear a cell phone. And all four are cussedly independent and opinionated.
But next year it would surely be different: We would have a conference call at dawn. We would dispatch 4 soldiers to the four best lakes and talk by cell conference call at 7AM sharp. Right?
But sure enough, Buccholz, Saltenstall and I were setting up at Bog Bridge within the hour. Getting there first, I had walked out into Great Bay and was pretty excited by the smooth, sunny glisten of what I saw, even though about 10% was shell ice covering a small to medium gap. This was sailable ice– full of hazards, yes–with lots of crashing runners, but probably not boat-stopping holes.
We blasted around great bay, Dickie skimbatting first on skates, and then, after some near disasters, on skis, Bill in “Indigo” match-racing myself on the old Torture-Rack. Yes, the ice was fast, the wind great; but the crashes, especially from Indigo which is a sound-amplifier, were horrendous. And if you looked at the sound, massive explosions of ice, dynamite charges lit up beneath the runners when they occasionally smashed through.
But Megunticook is so big, so full of little mini-climates, that you always need to explore the whole lake, and sure enough, up at the North end of the Turnpike we found smooth ice and tons of wind ricocheting off the Camden Hills. Runners howling on the hard ice, zipping back and forth across that tiny straight, we found the excitement we had been craving.
We headed back to picnic on Fernald’s Neck and build up needed body heat. It was March, alright, but 25 is still 25. Then back to the Turnpike for another half-hour until the chill was finally taking its toll. As we headed back to the pit, wonder of wonder, Lloyd and John Eastman were just sailing out of Bog Bay, and of course, after excited bragging, we just had to turn around and sail another hour with them.
Yet, there were even further thrills ahead: chilled to the bone, we were finally heading for the pits when Buccholz began doing race-track circles around one of the islands that lie along the south shore of Great Bay. Instantly the adrenalin began to supercharge our tired systems. Cutting each other off. Bearing off the wind to pass one another. Zooming close inside the island to pass. Funny how in the grip of drugs, you do things you would never do.
Finally we headed into a little bay, capsized the boats, and planned a morning rendezvous for more glorious spring sailing. now…where did I put that advil?
From: Jory Squibb
Date: March 11, 2008
Subject: sunny cruncy megunticook
We gathered again at 9AM at Bog Bridge around the boats we capsized there the day before. Myself, I needed a different sort of day. Yesterday seemed like a perverse lab experiment: The technician twists up the dial of self-imposed stress. He sets the metronome of age ticking. At what point in the subject’s life-span will reptilian self-preservation–that is, basic sanity– reassert itself? For Sale: one iceboat, cheap….
Still…. it was so sunny and bright. The ice, of course, was identical to yesterday; but there wasn’t a huff of wind.
The ice buddies, John Eastman, Lloyd, and Bill, were deciding to de-commission the boats and head for the fabulous ice Fred Wardwell had reported on Lake St. George. Yet I had a doctor’s appointment plonked right in the middle of this possibly-enchanting day!
The ice-buddies were aghast. Don’t you KNOW, Lloyd wheedled, that doctors LIVE in their offices? They’ll see you anytime. We visit them when the ice conditions permit. So they trudged off to decommission at the parking lot. I figured my best bang for the buck was to rig the sail and pray.
As I pushed the boat around the point into Great Bay, the wind picked up and I blasted off. I carefully took a tack which I knew the buddies could see. As I disappeared into the far horizon, they would eat their hearts out with envy!
Like a laboratory rat pushing the most likely food lever, I headed for the north turnpike section of the lake, remembering the smooth ice and wild winds of yesterday. Once there though, having pushed about half the time, it was dead as a doornail. I contemplated a nap to give the wind a chance, but then I realized I had made the fundamental sailor’s mistake: never leave known wind for unknown wind, until the known wind is good and strong.
So, getting ever sweatier, I pushed back to Great Bay and sure enough, as I approached the open area, the boat began to carry itself, then I was hitchiking, and whomp, the battens flattened and I was off. I had left the only good wind on the lake.
The best wind and ice was the little round-the-island race-course Bill had found the day before; so I made a few laps. But where was the adrenalin? Nothing. I guess it’s ice-buddies that make the difference. Finally the wind dropped and with a crunch and ripping grind the boat halted perfectly with the sun in my face. Snack and snooze. The sun so bright, the wind so still, not even gloves were necessary.
I could hear hammers ringing in one cottage along the shore, a skill-saw whining in another. I guess summer must be coming. I grew up summering in an association of 100 victorian cottages crammed together on commonly-owned manicured lawns on Lake Michigan’s shore. Only later did I realize that construction was outlawed during the summer months lest noise should disturb a resident’s peace.
Steam trains would hiss to a halt inside the resort itself each evening, carrying the same families every year, seeking the lake’s coolness after steamy Atlanta, Cincinnati, or Louisville. Black maids would corral children, while butlers wrestled big wooden steamer trunks from the baggage car. Meanwhile we scurried beneath the train-wheels looking for the pennys we had placed earlier on the rails to flatten.
For 12 long weeks, we vacationed there, the black “help” living in little separate quarters on the alleys behind cottages which fronted broad pedestrian avenues. Coming back from our evening parties, shortcutting down the alleys, we teenagers would find the blacks quietly laughing and jiving on their stoops. Perhaps they looked forward to these weeks as much as we did.
It seems horrendously politically incorrect to dare to remember this, and especially my own teen-age acceptance of it as normal. Yet, one wonders what is the true lived reality of class? Does it always oppress, or does it equally give a sense of secure place and space–and with that a peace of mind?
Now-a-days, with air conditioning back home, the rich crowd nervously on airplanes, to take their scant week or two on the Michigan Shore. Are they happier, more content, than those who, working steadily, could relax the long summer nights away?
….after my nap in the sun, a made a few more desultory circles in the dying wind, and then capsized my boat in the little bay. I just couldn’t bear to take it to bits… there might be wind this afternoon…. maybe something tomorrow after the snow…
But after my doctor visit, it seemed best to be ready for anything by stowing it away, and so, about 3:30 I returned to do the dirty deed. When everything was loaded, I sat in the sun, as I knew I would, on Peter Jones’s iced-in dock. A red squirrel, delighted with the afternoon heat, and probably used to being fed, joined me, looking expectantly, on the shore nearby.
Would Megunticook’s amazing magic–this sport’s amazing magic–prevail for long against this powerful sun?
I imagined my calendar, so crowded in the weeks ahead….maybe.. this was that sad, sad day.
From: jory squibb
Date: March 22, 2008
Subject: The Wild Gusts of Damariscotta Lake
Our core group is pretty steady now: Lloyd, Fred Wardwell, Wes Todd, Bill Bunting, Bill Buchholz, and myself. After a cycle of rain and then frigid strong wind, we assembled on Damariscotta (with Doug Raymond thrown in) at 10 AM Saturday.
The wind was 10-20 westerly, with gusts to 30; so we thought we’d just make a few tentative runs, leave the boats set up and return to the moderate winds of Sunday. The ice was shiny spring frozen corn with occasional cracks, but no drain holes, and very very fast. It looked like a rough ride, so I shoved a boat-cushion inside the boiler suit over my lower spine.
I borrowed Lloyd’s storm sail and took a tentative run: Out there, it seemed like boat-killer conditions, as I carefully luffed my way between the launch area and the first two islands. The gusts were terrifying, unless you were close to the luff-point. Otherwise the wind picked you up like a light toy. When I got back, I soon regretted my horror story of conditions, since Lloyd then wanted his storm sail back! But hell, I sure wasn’t going to leave this ice. So I bent on the full size sail.
Once others were rigged, I sailed south with Lloyd and Wes. The intervening half-hour had slightly moderated the conditions, though the less-frequent gusts were just as strong. Then, about a mile down the lake, on the West side, one of those magic moments, which make iceboating what it is, happened……
We rounded a point and there….before our very eyes….as far as we could see….was a mother lode of the smoothest ice you can imagine. died and gone straight to heaven ice. not black in color, but grey-green…and smooth as smoothest silk….. What grade is this?, I later asked Lloyd. Ten PLUS! he shouted back.
Let’s face it, in late March we’ll sail on cow manure…..but our dreams are always haunted by smoothness. and this ice, especially after the clatter and bash of the corn, was perfectly quiet to sail on, and with the intermittent blasts of wind, had certainly mile-a-minute potential. It was so smooth, your only sense of speed was the crazily accelerating apparent wind. And flashing beneath your runners, was the patchwork shades of color.
Doug Raymond demo’ed his new ‘rubber’ mast, which bends almost parallel to the ice, and lowers the center of effort so beautifully in heavy air. hmmmm. this might be a great summer project!
Lloyd and I worked further south, wanting to know the extent of this amazing gold mine. We jibed widely bleeding off speed, so we could look out for hazards. For once, instead of hogging the lead, we each deferred to the other to go first , not wanting to be the guinea pig , and eventually we moored the boats and proceeded on foot.
In the narrower part of the lake, we found shell ice over 2.5 inches of air and slush, we broke thru as we walked, so we decided that today’s playground was large enough and we began to blast around on what we had already found.
We got into a rythum of tacks between two hazard buoys and as I rounded one end, I saw with horror, Buchholz’s “Indigo”, which virtually NEVER hikes, hike up almost to 60 degrees in a mighty gust and poise there. With his long plank, he was way. way up above the ice. He dumped the sheet, threw the helm down, and rode that sweetie down to safety!
I was just, stupidly, wishing I had a digital camera when, daaa….the same rogue gust hit me. The sheet shot out of my hand and ran to the knot. Runners screeching, the boat hiked, and balanced sickeningly, as I leaned out on the runner plank to wrestle it down. But as it banged down, I found myself thrown out, my helmet hitting the ice, my body spinning end-to-end, endlessly on the smooth smooth ice, laying on my boat-cushioned spine, with the most delighful dervish-like sensation.
when I finally stopped spinning. opened my eyes, and sat up, there was no time to lose: I might be run over by my riderless horse, or it might self-destruct on some shore. But I saw that the tiller was hard-over and it was sailing in tight circles nearby. So I timed my approach and grabbed it just as it began a new tack.
after another mad half-hour, I was feeling that the double-zero was getting overdue on the roulette wheel, and I headed carefully back to the launch site, trying to make deals with fate for a safe end-of-day passage. There, I de-rigged and capsized the boat for a calmer Sunday Morning.
Gosh! There are days and days ahead of these conditions. Could we possibly get fed up with iceboating?
From: Jory Squibb
Date: March 25, 2008
Subject: The Iceboating season winds down (a little)
Damascotta Sunday, March 23–Since we had left our boats set up, we assembled at about 10AM and could quickly begin sailing. We were anxious to gain the anticipated prize of more moderate winds, but alas, as soon as we proceeded South, it was clear that although the puffs weren’t as vicious as yesterday, the wind was still almost 20MPH.
So it was down to self-preservation: The ice was fast and trustworthy. The wind was powerful but predictable. Now, Just how fast do you want to go? I found myself sheeting out, just out of a deep sense of the unseaworthiness of maximum speed. I began to see why people build bigger iceboats. The DN when it reaches 50 MPH, starts to put doubts in your mind.
I think every vehicle has a certain ‘design speed’ — a speed at which its size and strength and passenger comfort mesh well with the wind/ice conditions. For a DN that’s about 50MPH. If you scaled everything double size, that doesn’t mean it would double the speed, since some of the external conditions are not linear, such as parasitic drag which is a velocity squared function.
Bill Buchholz was even finding Indigo pretty uncontrollable where the ice was smooth , and he exchanged runners with Doug Raymond, whose longer runners gave much better control. Doug has an unfinished pair which Bill will probably finish.
It was a good chance to discover the virtue of jibing in heavy wind instead of coming about. Say the true wind is 20 on the beam. You’re going 50 with an apparent wind close hauled. turning to windward, your sail luffs at 70 MPH apparent–which is really violent!. But turning downwind, you luff thru a smaller arc and with an apparent wind of 30. So the soft-water sailor’s fear of a jibe in heavy air doesn’t make sense to the iceboater.
Anyway, after an hour or two of basically running scared, many of us went home, again lured by the promise of lighter winds on Monday
Monday, March 24. Same place… The wind was predicted to be light in the morning and then build, so we set a rendezvous for noon, hoping that the bright sun wouldn’t soften the ice too fast. On Sunday, with the strong winds, we hadn’t noticed any softening.
I arrived at the stroke of noon. 25 years on boats have left me pretty time-obsessed. Jeesum! not a soul was around, except for Bill Bunting setting up his boat. Those scumbags! No honor among iceboaters. Their tell-tales stiffen and they’re off questing. Well, …I’m just as bad. So I sailed South, and we had our beloved wind at last. You kept waiting for the overloads, but it was just pleasant cruising at moderate speeds down the lake.
I found the gang stopped at the second narrows, the narrower and more southern one, blocked by a tiny strip of open water. We considered blasting the boats across–as if some magic would support them. We considered carrying the iceboats across the land at the sides of the straight–difficult for the two larger boats. So we decided our playground was large enough and we set out to enjoy iceboating as good as it gets.
About 1PM, I headed into a quiet sunny little nook, in a complete lee from the wind, and opened my soup and sandwich. Used my boat cushion like a true student of Dickie S, and settled into that fantastic calm, warmth, and silence, you appreciate so much after the wind, noise, and chill of iceboating.
First Bill Buchholz discovered me, and came gliding straight-on to my picnic spot ever so slowly. The ice was glide-forever smooth. His runner stopped a few feet from my cup of tea. What a great view of a fantastic boat, gliding so majestically head on! While I was eating dessert, Bill lashed a rock from the shore to the springboard to try to gain smooth-ice control. It helped a lot.
Then a short, sunny nap, Lloyd also found our spot and we were off again, but now the ice shell ice was beginning to give way to quite a large gap of air and corn. It was a crapshoot, but one worth playing, to see how late we could stay without a long hard push home. At about 330, we gathered at the launch.
Bill Bunting and Fred had both walked out on nearby Cleary Lake and reported even better conditions than here, so we agreed to meet there Tuesday.
Tuesday, March 25. 720AM Phone call from Lloyd: Lloyd: (munch, munch) so what time should we meet? Jory: Lloyd, I can’t move! That whip-lash in the neck and shoulders is much, much worse! Lloyd: What whip-lash? Jory: remember I had that out-of-boat-experience at warp speed on Saturday? I can hardly lift my tea cup! Lloyd: have you taken enough Advil? Take another one. The wind will be light. just the thing to loosen up that neck.
I pinched myself: was this guy ever a card-carrying MD? I know he squinted at pathogens thru microscopes for decades. Then specialized in the pathogens in iceboater’s brains .
I went off to continue a handyman job…. jeesum, the sun was strong. … and the trees were shaking a little…. hell’s bells….gave it up and headed for Clarey…
There the usual suspects had gathered, Stu Nelson, Fred, Bunting, Lloyd and myself. Dickie had commented by phone that it was a suckers weather prediction: light, dying northern wind to be replaced by SW. These 5 guys were determined to prove him wrong.
The ice…..the ice…..what can you say? This is almost April…..but this ice was off-the-scale good. virtually no blemishes to its silken smoothness, although it certainly covered shell in some areas. Not much wind yet, but as Lloyd said, with one good fart, you’d go like stink…
Lloyd took off, pushing, and myself a few minutes later. push, push, push. I looked out into the body of the lake. Lloyd definitely had his mojo working out there. Did my eyes deceive me: he was in a hike! I pushed harder, and sure enough there were hatfuls of wind in the main body of this trim little lake, which is just a little bigger than Chickie.
The day was a total total joy: finding the areas of dependable wind, match racing round and round with Bunting, Stu taking pictures as we blasted toward him. By 1:30PM the crash and rip of softening shell began to punctuate our circles. Bill and I had found a little bay which let you blast close-hauled, in a slow curve along the shore, as the wind bent with the land, setting your curve to bring the runners to that crucial screech of near spin-out. Match racing is so much fun. just can’t stop.
Back to the pits for lunch. headed back out. gotta sail this to the very limit. but now when you strayed into a shell-ice area, both runners would sometimes sink and grind you almost to a halt. It was time to get home while you could.
what comes next? don’t know… On Clarey, we drove cars on the ice, which was tight to the shore. Amazing…for late March. There’s certainly warm weather ahead. The joy of these past 4 days has been the very cold nights to refreeze the ice. This next patch of weather may not give us this.
So, Fat Lady, you can warm up a little, but please please….no arias yet.
From: jory squibb
Date: March 28, 2008
Subject: the double zero almost comes up on Chickawaulkie
Bob Dylan, while working on “Maggie’s Farm” sings,
I wake up in the morning….fold my hands and pray for rain!
I was praying this morning that Lloyd would find some terminal hazard in his early morning check of Chickawaulkie. I could couple that with a weather prediction that even the most ardent optimist couldn’t imagine to involve wind. Armed with such a double zero–bad ice and no wind–this spineless sycophant might find the backbone to “just say no”, and try to repair the shambles of my life.
One lady I’m handymanning for can’t use the toilet I’ve been installing for two weeks, and has been wondering just what sort of schedule I keep. Lloyd outlined a plan of teaching her to line the unplumbed toilet with a black garbage bag. Another fine piece of medical advice.
my wife is a nurse to the bone
he always keeps lysol nearby
and whenever my housecleaning slackens
her favorite–“Disgusting!”–will fly
i’ve often heard Dr. Roberts lecture on hygene: our bodies were designed for germs. they thrive on them! hmmm….was he always at the shallow end of the medical gene pool?
But today, no easy iceboating excuses appeared. Lloyd promised wind against all odds, and gave the ice his blesssing, so I reluctantly loaded up the gear and arrived at 8, with bear mountain’s shadow still covering a third of the lake. The “ice” was refrozen corn, through probably soon to loosen with only a 29 degree refreeze overnight.
Lloyd had put out various racing buoys, which seemed a hopeful but sick joke. The sun was bright, though, and I raced my previous 10 minute set-up record and topped it with 9+ minutes. I pushed out into the lake, since Lloyd and John Eastman were well behind in the set-up process.
little bursts of light NE wind… push, push.. take a nap over by the highway….trucks groaning by….sound diminishes by the inverse square, so…..push, push… over to the far side….short nap in the sun….Why the heck am I here? …..I could be plumbing right now…..I need to take assertiveness training….heck, I’m 67 …I’m fed up with being the loyal apprentice……Then I followed that pinnacle of poor advice: if you’re depressed, EAT!
Put away the wrapper, got up, sat on the plank facing the morning sun, and watched Lloyd move his G-D buoys around. Why do I hang around with these hopeless old farts? Then he took off his parking brake, ran a few steps, and QUICKLY BECAME A TINY SPOT AT THE SOUTH END OF THE LAKE!
hoooooly horseshit! tar and damnation! So I pushed over to his spot and sure enough the southerly had arrived. Within minutes we were doing these long, long hikes in the strong but steady 12 knot wind. After a half hour, we had eyeballed every healed cracks and drain-hole and could pull the strings with confidence.
Lloyd set up two big racing buoys at opposite ends of the lake and we timed a start at the southern and windward mark. You can match-race all you like. You can play “pass the leader” for hours. But frankly, there’s nothing–nothing– like scratch racing between buoys.
Here’s a fixed challenge to measure two contestants in all aspects: boat speed, sailing skill, and lake tactics. For some reason–am I really getting better?–Lloyd and I were exactly matched. He could get up to the windward mark 3 or 4 seconds earlier, but downwind, I was first there almost every time. Rounding the windward mark, we would reach down to the west side of the lake, and then turn North for a single, all-out, top speed blast, right up the whole length of the lake with just enough bite on the wind to keep up the tooth-rattling warp speed.
Finally after 6 or 7 laps, we stopped to crow and compare notes. He admitted that it was the aviation weather report which gave him inside info on the wind. But when we remounted our steeds 5 minutes later, the ice had changed. As we pulled the strings and loaded the runners, they would break the corn sideways. We picked up our buoys and raced back to the pit.
Lloyd, put on slush runners and I got a chance briefly to experience the slightly changed sensations they involve…. The wind was dropping…
I derigged, and capsized my boat….and my pride….I’ll be here tomorrow….when I think of these last 5 days of iceboating……I have to admit it’s the ice-buddies –and especially one–who make it happen: The guilt-tripping, the shame-ing, the bravado, the pestering, the encouraging, the ridicule, and in some back-handed male way –which seems so absurd to my wife–the basic support. Thanks to all this, and in spite of a thousand excuses, habit forces, and lethargies, we get the hell out there and something very special happens….
Subject: Last Hurrahs
Date: April 4, 2008
Thursday April 4 we skated on lovely glassy ice on Chicky along with skimbatteurs Saltonstall and Buchholz we quit for breakfast about 8, they sailed until 11 when ice turned soft in the warm sun. Friday it was about 31 degrees at sun up. Thursdays lovely hard glassy ice still had a sheen to it but the sheen was flat topped corn size granules of ice, barely skatable with hockey skates but better with the long european style preferred by the skimbatteurs. Dicky was plowing around with a huge new skate sail, half as large again as his usual ice sail, this one made for windsurfing complete with flotation, a good idea.
The last last hurrah will be the SPRING PARTY of course. This will be at Dave Fortier’s in Biddeford, handy to the Southern members and always a pleasant venue. The date is Sunday May 20, usual late AM to mid PM pot luck affair. Directions to follow in newsletter and here.
Ice is thicker inland but the daytime temperatures are often higher so it softens faster. We are supposed to get 1/2 inch of rain today and tonight followed by warn sunny weather for a few days, gardening time. See you at the party.
FOUND, (from last year): One out haul for aluminum DN boom.
WANTED, The Treas. wants a storm sail for DN.