Subject: a great day on Tolman Pond.
Date: November 23, 2008
Tomorrow, the weather promises to degenerate, so we plan to meet at 8AM and have a final shot before the thaw. The pond is small, the wind is fluky, but……
Subject: Ice Forecast first week December
Date: December 1, 2008
Gloomy. It has been warm for days and won’t go much below freezing most of this week until maybe the weekend. The normal daily mean temperature for Portland is right around freezing, that does not make ice. The record low this date is 9, record high 60.
We will re evaluate at the end of the week but grease your runners so they don’t rust in the meantime.
Subject: Ice report Friday, Dec 5
The ice has been icing. The spies have been spying. We think there may be some joy on Plymouth Pond Saturday Morning–but it’s a guess and a gosh. Spy MacDonald could almost walk on the ice before the long thaw. Unreliable spies at Plymouth reported open water. Then Spy Buchholz sent a picture of almost walkable white, not black, ice yesterday. Last night was high 20’s temp. But Saturday morning is a lovely 18 degrees, sooo….
So the utter ice hounds, choked this warm 10 days by their restraining chains, will break free with full gear to Plymouth Saturday morning. We may be able to update this later in the day, if spy MacDonald should venture that way.
Otherwise, some of us will roll the dice, mainline some Advil, and SHOW UP!
Subject: Plymouth Pond
Date: December 6, 2008
This was the weekend for Plymouth Pond, but she wasn’t ready. Bill Buchholz found some not very promising 3/4 inch of clear ice with another 1/2 inch of snow ice on top on Thursday. Doug Raymond called Saturday AM finding just enough ice at the edge (forgot his axe) to stand on but it zipped. He thinks we might have skated around the edges. Out in the middle there were puddles or open water and what seemed to be open leads. It ain’t ready yet. The weather forecast for the week is a series of disturbances and possible snow right through the week, maybe rain on Wednesday. Where is the big high we need? Unity Pond or Clary Pond could come along in a week or two, we trust the spies are alert.
Subject: sweet, sweet, SWEET plymouth pond
Date: December 6, 2008
7AM: big snowflakes falling. Lloyd and I kibbitzed on the jungle telegraph and decided Plymouth was already of iffy thickness without snow. Add snow and it would be a certain bath. Dickie called and felt the same way.
So I sat around feeling grumpy until Bill Buchholz called and reminded me of what we truly know: you have to show up to have fun. never trust predictions. So at 11:15 the hood ornament was pointed north.
No snow even in Belfast. A half hour later, we rounded that bend, and there was lovely plymouth, a grey plate of ice without a snowflake, and without the slightest huff of wind.
We donned nordic skates, and hatchetted holes everywhere. There were well-defined areas of open water and thin ice, but the central mile by half-mile plate was always 2.25″ to 3.5″ So we abandoned the hatchette and skated for hours on the endless glassy surface. My skates, just sharpened, seemed to glide without the slightest resistance.
Later, Jim MacDonald arrived and we added another romp to the far shore. Then, as extensor muscles began to complain, we came back to the pit and prepared for departure. A sucker’s breeze blew up and tempted Jim and Bill to rig sails, but within 5 minutes, they were back at the pit.
Certainly iceboaters, had there been wind, would have had to be very cautious, especially at the north quarter of the pond. There was also an open water spring out in the center, marked by a log.
But it it doesn’t snow tonight–and it’s predicted to snow 2″– Plymouth may be the place to be again tomorrow.
Subject: A Fool’s Errand: Plymouth at 7 degrees and 30 Knots
Date: December 8, 2008
PICK UP THIS PHONE! I KNOW YOU’RE REFUSING TO TALK TO ME! I could hear the plaintive tone of the abandoned child as i shouted to Lloyd’s answering machine. Lloyd was wisely laying low….
Buchholz had already given me short shrift on my appeal for a morning trip to Plymouth. “Add it up” he said. “Yesterday’s wet snow probably bonded to the beautiful ice. Today’s howling wind probably packed it. And at the end of yesterday, the snow was deep to the limit of skate blades. Driving up there is a fool’s errand of the first degree. Go back to bed!”
So, folly of follies, I began packing for a solo trip. If this is all we’re going to see of Plymouth, I reasoned, I want to experience it for myself….. Some creatures are sooo stubborn, sooo independent. My sisters and I are having to force-feed changes to my resisting 93-year-old mother. Taking away the car keys is presently the biggie. Why is she not aging gracefully, I asked myself? Just relax. Let other’s do for you. What could be easier? Then I inventoried my 4 sisters, each a slightly different study in hard-hat contrarian behavior. Even my brother, who is mentally retarded, has the accommodation of an oak plank. So, I guess I’m really not surprised at myself….
Then Dickie called. Would I come to Plymouth with him? Good old Dickie. Now there’s a pal, when you’re on a suicide mission…. Dickie has been rehabbing my mast, which is a Saltenstall mast from the early 90’s: strengthening the worn luff rope groove, and even redoing my safety-orange paint job. So, out in the snowy front yard, I checked both the regular and storm sails to see that they would still slide easily in the redone groove, and then made a massive pile of gear on the front lawn. Don’t think about it, I remembered: Take everything! You will need exactly what you leave behind.
An hour later, as we rounded that bend on Rt. 7, you could see in an instant that the winds had swept the pond clear of snow. Excitedly, praising ourselves for our excellent forsight, we donned skates and axes, and soon discovered that the raging wind had heaved cracks in the ice and then pumped water out of them, leaving raised scabs, jigsawing across the ice. While the surface was 90% beautiful black ice, the rest was in drifts, which dragged on our skates, and which now and then covered crusty scabs bonded to the ice. This was great iceboating ice, but risky skating or skimbatting ice.
The thermometer read 11 degrees, the wind occasionally gusting in the 30’s. Cheeks, nose, and chin were soon senseless. But we fought our way back upwind to the pit and Dickie began assembling his big kite-wing, and me my iceboat. Alas, I soon discovered I was missing a crucial rigging fastener, and I was just jory-rigging a sleazy makeshift when Dickie returned for a smaller sail. His GPS read a speed of 45 MPH, and he reminded me of the utter folly of being out there in an iceboat, even with a smaller storm sail.
I didn’t take much convincing. There is such a strong sense of vulnerability in such conditions. Hypothermia is just a simple accident away. So I donned my skates, and tried to recover the magic of the same pond two days earlier. Frankly 11 degrees and wind in the 30’s is just not fun, and by 2PM, with the wind refusing to die as predicted, we de-rigged and headed South.
It was a glorious day, though: strong sun, daytime half-moon, and sharp sharp visibility. Whatever the outcome, so much of the joy for me is just being out on the ice, and watching it go thru its manifold permutations. Tomorrow may find me back again…
Date: December 13, 2008
Bill Buchholz and I sailed today in a steady 10-15kt NW wind. The ice is great. Smooth
surface the texture of asphalt, no speed bumps. All snow ice will be up to six inches thick
by tomorrow although today there were places with a bit of water trapped under the top
layer of frozen slush. Stay off the new black ice.
Forecast for Bangor calls for 7kts from the south by 1PM. Not a lot of wind predicted but
southerly could build as the afternoon progresses. Coast expected to see up to 15 kts by
night fall and building.
Camera batteries froze so pics are thin. See Plymouth 08/09 album
Subject: Plymouth Pond
Date: December 13, 2008
Skate sailors report that Plymouth should be ice boatable Sunday. There was some open water near the beach today, this will be skimmed over tomorrow but will be black against the grey snow ice so should not be a problem. Also there were some bands of 1 1/2 inch shell ice that should be thick enough or healed by tomorrow as it is cold tonight. Wind forecast is light and variable AM coming in SW? in the afternoon, no need to rush up there at dawn.
Subject: 12/14 Plymouth Pond
Where’s Jory when we need him? Only he could do descriptive justice to today’s sail on Plymouth. Very nice ice, only a few small bumps and one big thin spot which was very easy to spot. The SW’r came in as predicted and those who rigged first and got out had some great reaches. Saltonstall was comfortably hooked in to his 7.5 SkimBat and Lloyd was hiking his heart out. By the time Bunting and myself got out there the southerly was fading and then slowly switched around to NW, 5-10, for about an hour of absolutely first class sailing. As yesterday, it was much steadier then the usual Northerly. We made the mistake of taking a break to warm up and stoke the furnace. By the time we were back at it, only Lloyd and I were foolish enough to push our boats around the lake. He ghosted by me at one point and called out :”Hey, I think I’m actually sailing!” and then faded to a stop.
Lets hope we’ll get to see some of Dickies fine photos of the day.
If any of you caught the channel two news at six, be thankful that they edited out my comment about ice fishermen’s trash during spring sailing. I’d really need to be wearing a helmet if that got out. Nothing worse than a frozen fish up side the head! Aside from that, I think I scored some points for the sport with the Maine Wardens Service as well as the general public.
Subject: Plymouth and Ice Forecast for Week
Date: December 15, 2008
After some nice sailing Dickie appeared to fold up amongst some small stumps at the far outlet. I thought he might be having a problem and sailed over to find him reclining against a stump with his huge skate sail propped up as a windbreak. He was enjoying a solitary lunch at the edge of the marsh. I did not disturb him.
The forecast for the week is familiar, warmish with maybe one cold night, chance of rain or snow showers most days and maybe cooling off to make ice on but not likely before the weekend. Today, Monday, brings us a warm SW wind and at the shore there was a strange musical sound from the beach where up to 3/4 of an inch of ice was being ground up by the waves. About half of Chicky had skimmed over in the two cold days we had and has now blown out completely. Very promising, the water is ready.
Subject: Dicky’s recent ice experience: IT’S IMPORTANT TO HAVE GOOD PICKS
Date: December 20, 2008
Conditions vary from pond to pond. There is about 1.5 inches of new black ice covered by
last night’s 3-4 inches of snow. There is layer cake of 1 inch frozen slush over an inch of
weak black ice ruined by the last thaw/freeze sequence. Haven’t heard of any ice
sustaining recreation and suspect tomorrow conditions will change in snowstorm.
Heavy snow will submerge the thin black ice and I hope help to create thicker ice and
stabilize our surfaces. However REMEMBER THAT THE SNOW ALSO INSULATES AND IF IT IS
NOT WET OUT THERE IS POTENTIALLY THIN ICE and water under it.
At Howe Hill Road Bog I went in to the drink up to the rib cage. Ice there seemed
promising as the blunt end of my axe would not go through. While checking, I felt
confidant about what seemed to be relatively sound ice about 3-4 inches thick. However
the snow had fallen over a weakened black ice sheet as well as what must have been open
water from spring holes. A freezing slush sheet had also submerged the old ice and
created a hydraulic layer that had not completely refrozen everywhere. Where I went
through, the layer of snow ice had not frozen down to the black ice beneath. The
homogenous looking layer of snow ice fooled the fool and in I went!
The bog is really very shallow otherwise I would not have been tempted in the fist place.
As it was, I went into water only about 4 feet deep. AT FIRST I TRIED TO GET OUT
WITHOUT MY PICKS, NO WAY! I WAS REALLY GLAD TO HAVE PROPER PICKS DEPLOYED AT
MY NECK AND NOT IN MY POCKET OR TANGLED ON A LANYARD SWINGING ABOUT OR
UNDER MY JACKET.
The nice picks on a plastic bracket with a whistle which are adjusted snugly so they dont
swing around your neck are always in the same place ready to deploy when seconds count.
The whistle is important to warn others. You can get them from JAMIE AT NORDIC SKATER
and locally at MAINE SPORT in Camden. IMPORTANCE OF GOOD PICKS CAN NOT BE OVER
I was out of the water quickly and a good pair of polar tech long johns wicked out and
kept me warm. Outer layer instantly froze in cold, including skates, zippers and fasteners
needing to be undone to remove sodden and frozen gear. Could I have unzipped a pair of
picks from a pocket frozen shut? NO!
Any how I hope this little dirge helps to reenforce how important it is to never venture
forth on the ice without safety gear.
Subject: megunticook drive by 730AM
Date: December 21, 2008
the large areas of southern lake megunticook were half open water, with swirling sea-smoke above, and half very thin (dream, dream…)ice swept clear by the growing wind. Can ice form on a lake in winds? Yes! if you looked carefully at the windward edge of the open water, you could see ice forming before your eyes, in the one degree F. temps on the smooth water in the lee of the edge of the ice. ice was ‘growing’ downwind across the water!… the ex treas
Dickie, how about a progress report on your ‘black fly’ design. what are you designing, and why? an icywood for older, weaker types? it looks wicked minimalist, but maybe snug…
Date: December 22, 2008
We had a real blizzard Sunday night, well over a foot of snow. This has covered unsafe ice, insulating it from further freezeing until it wets out which it should do soon. In the meantime there has been unsightly drifting on the surface. Large areas of very thin skim ice that formed Saturday night are covered with already wet out slush that appears in the distance to be relatively smooth. We have no reports from Damariscotta or the bays of Sebago. We need warm rain and time. Episodic further moderate light snow and possible rain about every other day are forecast for the week.
Date: December 25, 2008
It would be nice to have observations even if only drive by’s for Damaraiscotta, Clary, Alford. I presume but don’t know that Plymouth is snowed out, I don’t know how much snow they got in the big snow storm and how much rain they got yesterday. There was probably enough ice that the snow did not wet out as it did on the thin new ice here.Iceman
Subject: Ice Report Chickawaukee
Date: December 26, 2008
Saturday and Sunday supposed to be warm and damp, cooling back to normal winter temps. in mid week with prospect of sailable ice by New Years or even New Year’s eve if we don’t get shell ice problems or unlikely snow.
We are getting there.Iceman
Subject: Monday Morning Chicky report
Date: December 29, 2008
Right now it looks like fine skating with a lot of lovely smooth velvety surface. I have not been all over the lake, just my end, I am about to go.Iceman.
Date: December 29, 2008
Sailed on nice ice on Hosmer Pond by the Snow Bowl. Ice there is about 5-6 inches thick.
There are small drain holes with a 1/2 inch of new black ice. Nice skating if common
sense about obvious hazards regarded. Ice tight to shore. There is no shell ice. Speeds
of 35-40 MPH in todays blustery puff were fraught with concern for the random drain hole
but slow conservative sailing was glorious.
Alford Lake has large open holes and there is some shell there. Most of this big ice sheet
is frozen solid and presumed to be nice skating. There are also large areas of open water.
If you sail on Alford I would carefully scope out an area before recklessly tearing out into
what appears to be a huge ice sheet. I skated out about to the middle of the lake to chop
a slice of ice. Ice is 6 inches thick mostly old black ice. There are four layers to the ice: 1
inch of snow ice tight grain, three layers of black ice representing the cold and thaw
cycles. The ice was very hard at noon and temps in the shade were well below freezing.
While at the same time it was over 40 F in Rockland about ten miles away.
Tonight temps should make all surfaces a bit safer. Expect to see around an inch or better
in drain holes by AM, less likely to grab the unwary.
Snow for WED, 3-5 predicted based on QPF. Another major winter storm brewing for
Friday night into Saturday. Otherwise it might be fun to have some sort of ice happening.
There is ice everywhere now and we are getting into our winter conditions. However, due
to the early cold and the extreme thaws with wind there is not a lot of ice anywhere which
is bomb proof from shore to shore. Expect open leads and drain holes. There is thin ice
right next to thick ice. Be careful!
PICS from today posted in Ice Reports photo album.
Subject: Getting In Gear-Dec 29, 2008
I remember last year on Dec 31, when snow had kyboshed our ice, and I was reaching terminal frustration. At 10 o’clock that morning, having tried every kind of ice and snow activity, I returned for a late breakfast, and poured rum into my morning juice with the words, “Some days…. when you can’t get it to glide…. you just have to let it slide…. “
Last night I was equally frustrated, so I tried an old Tom Sawyer trick at bedtime: trying to get Buchholz, via email, to look at Hosmer pond and Dickie to check Alfred Lake. Maybe, just maybe, last night’s temps in the high 20’s might just harden the ice surface deep enough for the ice hounds to take some risks.
The phone rang! Dickie reported that Buchholz reported that Hosmer’s ice meter had risen above ‘wet dream’ and–though well below ‘orgasmic’–was in the strong ‘foreplay’ range. I signed off with Tunisia and began heaving gear into the car. Started her up….shucks! Forgot the Advil. Consulted the body: it’s a three Advil day. Then sped off to Hosmer.
Hosmer was wounded and bleeding. My sounding pole penetrated the ice in many of the black patches. Yet B and D were out there blasting about in the puffy 6-12 knot WNW wind. So I rigged the sail and began reacquainting myself with this sport that no self-respecting 70-year-old should ever attempt. Though the wind was strong, in a strange way it makes the sailing easier. You have to concentrate harder on idling the wing in the gusts and tacks, and generally treading lightly on the accelerator. Good practice, with an ice base which, though it needed constant scrutiny, was quite respectable.
By 11 AM I had managed to break the spar at the leading edge of my wing, and after a how-to consult with Dickie, I headed home for repairs. There was a very good chance for more skimbatting tomorrow, so a good repair of the wing was essential.
Alas, my repair job was a disaster. The epoxy wouldn’t go off. Gooey epoxy is a total down! So I changed the chemistry: I doubled the rum percentage in the eggnog, propped the wing to cook at high heat near the wood stove, and settled into a good book. 6PM. The rum percentage was just the ticket: The wing was hard as a rock, and it’s owner was soooo mellow….
now, let’s see what tomorrow brings…. the ex-treas.
Subject: A Long Slow Seduction– Dec 30
But waiting for wind with nothing else to do can be vexatious. Brian Lamb joined me with his new skimbatt and we commiserated at the total lack of wind, even at 9:30. I then considered it open season on breakfast and spent another boring hour, watching the snow come straight down at the Burger King…. This day was turning out to be a real loulou.
Back on Chicky, Brian and I lugged our skimbatts here and there in the very light air, and when Bill and Dickie called to propose Alfred Lake at 1PM, we bolted, even though the wind was finally beginning to build. My depression deepened…
At Alfred, I skated the snow-covered ice, occasionally catching my nordic skates on the uneven surface, and decided to rig my iceboat, and not risk a high-speed fall. Also, a scarey bunch of wind was predicted. Bill and Dickie went off to have fun on skimbatts, and I began lugging iceboat gear across 100 yards of snowy parking lot. Should I really have gotten out of bed today? These gear-dominated hobbies really are a pain.
Yet it was great to see my Saltenstall-refurbished Saltenstall mast in service again, and as I pushed the boat toward the center of the lake, I could see little snow tornadoes swirling along the south side. Sure enough, as I approached Dickie and Bill, there were bucketfuls of wind, and my trusty iceboat, with newly sharpened runners began to make its laps just barely under control. The jibe at the lee side turn had to be wide and gradual or the boat would spin out in a screech of runners. By luffing madly, I could sometimes slow enough to accompany the skimbats, and watch their amazing grace even in such a high wind.
At this point it was 2:30 and it was one of those times when our ice passion seems to go into a surreal overdrive. The sun exploded under the lowering clouds, bathing everything in a strong deep-yellow light. The wind amped up and began to move the snow mass completely off the lake, giving the surface the appearance of a white, rippled, confused sea. Ten minutes later, the ice was almost bare with streamers of snow zigging across the green-grey plate in the now-howling wind. It took all my skill not to run down the skimbatters, and to keep at least two runners on the ice as I blasted into that yellow sun…
Finally, I headed to the pits to switch to the storm sail, which brought things a little more under control. By this time Brian and Kate Lamb had appeared, Kate to skate on new nordics, and Brian–a novice skimbatter–to try his luck in the afternoon’s fury. I was glad to see him in one piece when we all finally began to de-rig in the early twilight
I drove home at traffic-obstructingly slow speed, trying hard to stay in my lane. The fatigue of 8 hours on the ice–and that stoned and sated afterglow….I was in love again.
I hope Dickie might add a low-res picture to this account. I wonder if a camera could catch that magic.
Date: December 30, 2008
Bill Buchholz Jory Squibb and I were joined late by Brian Lamb on scenic Alford. Brian is
catching rides on a standard 5.5.
Breeze picked up around 2PM and turned into snow blower. Transformed grains at the
down hill end sifting like desert sand and blasting up into whirlwinds every now and again.
By now I am betting most of the surface is blown clear.
WW 7.5 worked well even in the heavy NW puff. It was nice to be able to tune it flat and,
wow! what a speed and control difference. Sailing this wing is a tuning adventure. It
makes a very noticeable difference when you get it right.
Alford has some thin ice and open water but for the most part the surface is smooth snow
ice likely marred by shallow wind pack at this point. The hazards are obvious now;
although early this afternoon before snow started to blow off, there were drain holes with
about an inch of new black ice hidden by a half inch of the white stuff. Tonight I expect
cold to heal drains and cracks.
The weather is fickle. Our forecast is changing and predictions are for more wind and less
snow. Tomorrow we might see up to three inches of snow with strong NW winds in the
wake. Friday night we might see significant snow but predictions are that the major bulk
of precip will be too far to the North and East to affect the area. So expect lots of nice
wind pack for first time on skiis this season.
The first week end of the new year could be a good time to venture North and get some of
what there is to offer.
For now local primary site is Alford as Megunticook still not frozen in broads. Check
before you ride, scope out a sailing area to be sure of the ice. New snow will likely hide
thin new black ice when open leads freeze.
Subject: New year’s Eve Chicky report
Date: December 31, 2008
In the meantime the lovely velvety surface of yesterday had been corrupted by little frozen nodules I guess of partially melted snow in yesterdays warm air and blown snow last night. We had about 1/2 inch of snow yesterday. This degrades the surface rating from about 8 to maybe 6.5, it will be a little rattly in the ice boat and skating is unpleasant.
Tomorrow is forecast very cold, good, and nasty gusty to 30-40 NW wind, bad. Maybe a day of nursing the New Year hangover would be wise. If we don’t get much snow Friday we could have a nice weekend on the newwinter playground. We might even find some baked beans, light a fire, and do it right. Stay Tuned.Iceman
Date: December 31, 2008
It appears that our luck is holding. Today’s sailing was fabulous on Megunticook, not as windy and expeditionary as yesterday, but a touch colder. The snow forecast has been downgraded to an inch or less and tomorrow will be windy but sunny and in the high teens with very dry air. It won’t feel as cold with the sun and low humidity in spite of the wind, so if you three are game, I’d like to have a New Year’s Launching.
Nothing like the bubbly hair of the dog and a blast of wind in the face to take the edge off.
I’m open to suggestions for venue, but there should be a couple of boats and perhaps a token wing sailor. Afternoon looks more favorable for many reasons, among them warmer and maybe less wind.
Just after lunch at the bog bridge. I will bring wings, weather permitting loaner 3.8.
Subject: the ultimate storm sail: bare poles Jan 1, 2009
At long last, noon rolled around and it was time to gear up with the ultimate ultimate gear. Outside the storm still moaned its arrogant question from the arctic circle: “soooooooooooooo. you think you’re a warm-blooded mammal?……I don’t think soooooooooo”
Everything came in threes. three advil. three pairs of socks. three pairs of gloves. three shots of rum in the water bottle? Nooooo, Jory. we need confucian wisdom, not dutch courage, out there today.
At Bog Bridge, the set up in the bright sun was tricky with the storm blowing all the parts around, and the boat over-riding the parking brake once the storm sail was rigged. Dickie and Scott set up their smallest skimbats, and I soon double-checked everything, and–luffing totally– crept across the Bog and caught up with them as they headed North on the Rt. 105 side of the lake. Staying exactly at the luff point was the only way to stay upright, even with the storm sail. There wasn’t enough sheet to luff sufficiently on a beam reach, and downwind….. downwind…..how the heck was I going to go downwind?
When we reached the big bay just south of Wooster Brook, we had our first true lee, and I blasted into the little cove of snow-covered ice, with a great sigh of relief. With the iceboat capsized, I leaned against a rock in the bright sun and total calm, and had a sacred energy bar and water break, amped up by a solid swig from the rum flask Dickie always carries for emergencies. It was one of those moments of contrast you learn to savor during extreme iceboating. Dickie mentioned a solution to the impossibility of sailing downwind: strike all sail and sail home on parasitic drag. Good idea….
Then Dickie and Scott went off to a social obligation (I didn’t ask questions) and I headed further North, imagining that perhaps Gretchen had fired up the sauna at Cam’s place. What a treat that would be on a wild frigid day like this! When I got to the far North end of the lake near the culvert to Norton Pond, it was time to strike sail as planned. But the sauna was now only a scant mile away on a broad reach.
There must be some way, I pondered, to work downwind, never allowing any boat speed, and increasing the luff by heading up whenever things get hairy. So I started to work downwind. The apparent wind dropped very low which was reassuring, but the boat slowly kept accelerating nonetheless, and turning aside in either direction only made it accelerate more. Soon the boat began lifting violently off the lumpy ice with the breakneck speed, and the tiller then became useless in my hand. I was suddenly demoted from captain to galley slave on the good ship Titanic. There was not a single thing I could do. This must indeed be the scariest situation in iceboating…
So I put out both feet as drags–which others have always cautioned strongly against–and simply watched as the boat blasted, without command, toward the lee shore. Perhaps because of my feet, it gradually slowed until the bow runner finally took hold with a jerk and spun the boat to a stop into the wind. I noticed that the rocky point, near the sauna, was only 50 yards ahead as I lay shaken in the cockpit, the sail luffing violently. I looked over…. hmmm… no heat waves rippling from the sauna chimney….
I sailed back–carefully now– to the North tip of the lake and oh-so-tightly wrapped the storm sail around the boom and lashed it to the runner plank and mast step. The I headed downwind under bare poles feeling safe for the first time all day. When I needed more speed, I stood on the plank. Enough speed and I relaxed in the cockpit. The boat would run, broad reach, and almost beam reach, but wouldn’t go to windward. Luckily the 2.2 mile straight shot to the Bog, beginning at the Cliffs, was dead downwind. I raced the ice crystals which kept me company, gaining slowly on them, making about 20 knots. It was so peaceful, with no sail to block my view, looking at the many different qualities of ice surface: craters, ice nuggets of various sizes, all in a matrix of beautiful shiny ice.
I left the boat capsized at David Green’s at the Bog narrows, in anticipation of a morning’s sail tomorrow, hopefully in some better sailing conditions, before I join “Iceabella”‘s launch on Chicky.
I walked into the house. Brenda was bundled up, snoring quietly on the couch near a dying fire, a new Christmas book fallen nearby…. Pure peace…..as the wind still moaned in the eaves. What in tarnation, I’d like to know, gets us out doing what we do?
Subject: the launch of Iceabella–Jan 2, 2009
When I arrived at Chicky about 10 AM, Bill Buchholz had already set up “Iceabella” on the beautiful shortened runner plank given him by Doug Raymond, and had stayed the stub mast with its two shrouds to the plank ends and a forestay going over the pilot’s head forward. Bill insisted that I take off my cleats, and then I sat in that commanding comfortable seat, with a complete view in almost all directions. What would have happened if the “ice flyer” design had been entered into the Detroit News competition oh those many years ago? DN (Detroit News) was the name to be given to the handiest car-top-able design; and one can imagine that the ice flier, with its amazing visual advantages over what became the DN, would certainly have won the competition. And what might that have meant in the ensuing decades of very blocked vision in a high-speed machine?
Bill buckled the windsurfer mast behind the stub mast, arranged the two-part sheets to each plank end, and though he was missing the requisite raccoon cap and duster jacket, and had not prepared the picnic lunch basket, took off the parking brake and pushed out into the lake.
At first there was little wind, and it was back to the pits for fine tuning. But within the hour, a 6 – 8 Knot variable wind had arisen. I grabbed John Eastman’s gambit–that mercedes of iceboats–and headed out to spar with Bill, who was obviously having no trouble getting into top gear at the south end of the lake.
Tuning all the bugs out of a boat probably takes a year, and Bill reported that on some points of sail, his side runners were scrubbing for some reason, which was costing him efficiency. But it was certainly clear, as I pulled the gambit into occasional hikes with Bill staying right with me, that Iceabella will be no dog, and with further tuning, will surely be a boat to be reckoned with.
Not to overload old computers, I will send the photos separately.
Subject: Ice all over
Date: January 3, 2009
NEIYA reports ice on Wentworth in Wolfeboro and in VT, didn’t catch location, check 508 401-1011.See you on the ice. Iceman
Subject: Chickawaukee Iceboating Jan 4
There were about a dozen boats on the ice and a number of kids, dog, skaters. All had a fine time. Many rides were given in John’s Gambit and Steve Pixley’s large stern steerer, both sailed well with reefs and passengers. Monday morning there is no wind, overcast, and a dusting of snow. We may get snowed out Wednesday.Iceman
Date: January 6, 2009
What a fabulous day! With the exception of the east side, it was Megunticook at her best. Light airs looking for lifts alongshore, close enough to touch the trees. Screaming reaches around the islands hoping you don’t pile up in some one’s living room. Solid racing around the rocks, and the island in the lee with full sun, cup of tea and a couple of friends. I’ve seen eleven days on the ice so far, but it feels like double that. (Dickie’s had a few more due to his superior discipline.)
I’m looking forward to a few days off so I can get some work done without watching the trees dance in the wind and feeling guilty for not sailing, but optimistic about the weekend.
Thanks for the photos Dicky.
Subject: just another day in ice heaven–Jan 6,2009
I arrived at 10AM, and commiserated with Dickie: We had both smashed up cars on Saturday. Bill was getting along well with setting up “Indigo”, his version of Dickie’s “Icywood”. Though twice the size of a DN in both dimensions, Bill has the set-up process down to a science, and it hardly takes any longer than the smaller boat. I, myself, have been having that greatest of all treats: a boat already set up on the ice; so I drove “Moonbeam” across the ice to David Jones’ little cove, bent on the big sail, and pushed out into the South Broads, where it was blowing a nice 8 Knot westerly.
I shot across to Fernald’s Neck, then up the straight west of Fang Island, and skidded to a stop just at the edge of the most beautiful patch of the blackest black ice you could imagine. Funny how some days you just feel like being a follower. Zipping your fly would be major decision. So I sat on the hull in the bright morning sun and contemplated and cogitated, knowing Bill would eventually see my outrageously red mast, and rescue me from inaction. Soon the big boat rumbled along-side swerving from side to side to brake its speed (Bill can’t eject a cleated shoe) and crashed into the brash ice at the edge of the black gold mine.
We found it to be three inches thick, judging from the air bubbles at the lower edge, and we walked across as if suspended in space two feet over the sunlit rocky bottom below. Alas, there was an open pressure ridge just beyond which eliminated any chance of boating up to the northern ‘Turnpike’ section of the lake, whence we had hoped to travel south and explore another even bigger black plate. We would have to be content with 2/3 of the lake.
So we began that 3 mile pilgrimage north we love so well with a strengthening NW wind, Bill’s lead growing with each of our crossings. We were able to use “shore effect”–that lifting of a headwind when you’re very near the shore–to make it to the Cliffs on just a few long tacks. Hikes and almost-spinouts were common for me, as I struggled to keep pace, while Indigo never lifted her skirts. It was just as good as iceboating ever gets: me playing pilot fish to Indigo’s whale. Iceboating is all the more fun with a mate you’re pretty well matched with, and whose boat-handling you completely trust.
We wound up our steeds to absolute top speed in the Northern Broads, and then shot thru Chaney’s Narrows–a windless straight which can be tedious at times– like two canon balls, and headed south into Dickie’s Wipe-Out Bay. There, Brian Lamb had taught us a trick: you blast right for the woods, on an apparent suicide mission, and then slam around a tiny passage to port, inside an island you didn’t know existed, hoping that no humanoids are hanging out in the passage. If the gods are smiling, you can just make it back out into the wind. Indigo with her greater carry, and low parasitic drag when sheeted tight, could make it speedily every time, while I had to push the last bit. We pulled over into the island’s sunny south side lee, put on the parking brakes, and opened the thermoses. Hooray!
Bill and I talked about one of the sad things about our iceboating club: turf wars. My lake is better than your lake. It seemed to us, it that idyllic picnic spot, as juvenile as Run Spot Run. We decided that the wise choice was to enjoy and brag about one’s favorite spots to the hilt. After all, that encourages others’ partisipation. But never to dump on anyone else’s spot. Not a word. Putting down another’s pleasure is a no-win activity. It’s like criticizing your wife. There may be some easy shots there, but DON’T DO IT. It’s lose-lose…
Once we’d solved the world’s major problems, we pushed out of the lee, and after a final turn around the island, we headed for the Sauna at Cam Lewis’s and then tried to keep up speed in the tricky downwind passage back to the broads. One of life’s great pleasures is coming back into Big Wind, after two miles of fickle winds. Finally, the battens flatten with a snap, and you can hardly get aboard fast enough, as the boat finally does the magic an iceboat does.
Out in the South Broads, Dickie and Cam were a whooping it up on 5.5 skimbats, and Bill and I began a match race using Dunton Rock as the North buoy, and Alden Island as the South. Round and round we blasted, refining our technique with each circuit in the beautiful strong wind; yet Bill always quietly rumbled past me as we screeched around the island’s lee. And I gave him a royal cursing each time.
Then the four of us had a gam over by the “stairs’ section Fernald’s Neck until, by that strange consensus, we decided to own up to societal responsibilities, and head for the pits.
Back home, 3PM, the house was empty. Wife, bless her, out working. Daughter overnighting at Sugarloaf. Ample leftovers for dinner…..Ergo…..Ergo……..that smooth black ice……YES!…….let’s go skating! So I piled the skating gear in Moonbeam, blasted out onto the ice again, and nursed it–without snow tires–across the smooth ice at just above an idle. I donned my figure skates at the edge of the black stuff, and worked on my front and back crossovers which are practiced in a tight circle. Soon I had made a strange white donut in the middle of the black ice, as the reflection of the 3/4 moon began to join my movements in the growing twilight. Other skaters came by for chats, but for most of the two hours, I was alone with the crackle of my skates. Soon it was too dark to see the dangers, and I turned on Moonbeam’s headlights and headed for home.
Let it snow…….hope it doesn’t ……let it pour down mixed mutilation…. hope it doesn’t ….but….I’m as happy as I ever get….
Subject: Bill Bunting’s report from Chicky–Jan 6
westerly wind was up to its usual challenging tricks, backing from NW to SW
as it saw fit. The air at the beach was deceptively calm, luring the unwary
out to get blasted. When I arrived Lloyd was putting on a storm sail, and
advised that I do the same, which advice I wisely took. Then Steve came
barreling in on the impressive antique stern-steerer Merlin to put his dog
— who had been merrily and futilely chasing him — into his truck while he
returned to the far end to see what was left of John and the Gambit, which
had parted company in a wild blast, the Gambit then having decided to run
ashore after teasingly circling John. Before I got my sail up John and
Gambit, back together again, sailed in none the worse for the experience.Lloyd, Fred, Steve and I then had a superlative several hours blasting down
Chickie on the strength of the cooperative SW breeze at the Rockland end.
The highlight surely was feasting ones eyes on Merlin as she repeatedly
lifted the windward end of her massive plank, as if trying to go airborne,
while Capt. Steve, riding in the stern sheets putting weight on the steering
runner, calmly and gracefully (usually) brought her back to ice-a-firma. A
Of course it would have been even more fun to have had the Megunticookers
with us. We miss you. I am of course thoroughly chastised by Jory’s lecture,
and regret that my attempt at jocularity fell so flatly and will try to be
better. But surely there is something unusual about a lake rimmed by
mountains where it is rumored that ice boaters have been known to willfully
plunge into frigid water buck naked. I assure you that no offense was
Date: January 9, 2009
First sail on snow today. Broads are all white with slush patches visible where there was
open water on Tuesday.
This post mostly to emphasize how dangerous Megunticook broads are now that a thin
layer of snow covers all. The large area of new black ice we have been watching had still
open water visible prior to snow Wednesday and Thursday. I presume where the slush
patches are now there is also thin ice insulated by snow. The open water is gone but there
must be thin ice around where it was.
Around an inch of sleet fell on the ice and set up a lot like man made snow at the resort.
Another inch or so of cold snow fell on top of the heavy layer of sleet. Right now wind
pack is still pretty slow but the exposed patches of icy transformed are very fast. Skiing
the lee where surface is not wind packed is great freestyle or classic.
Very good surface for skimbats.
Saturday winds may be too light. Sunday there may be a 15-25 mph N wind. Yipee!
Subject: Maine Ice Report
Date: January 17,
The prolonged very cold weather this week (-20 here) has thickened the ice to where the ice fishermen are driving pickups all over the lake on very hard styrofaom so the tracks are not too deep. More snow coming Sunday. Sebago fringes are frozen with snow. Main body of lake was open two days ago, not expected to freezed until later in month. Our spy Tom Childs may drive around the lake today. It would be best if it is still open since snow is coming tomorrow (90% chance, 6 inches pr more). Ice is forming on Long Island Great Bay. There is ice today in Fall River (report this AM). Call NEIYA hot line for details 508 481 1011. No word fromCapeCod.
Subject: Weekend Ice Forecast
Date: January 22, 2009
Sebago: Froze just in time for last snow storm of about 6 inches, does not seem to be wetting out.
Fall River Mass; They sailed Doc Fellows regatta last weekend, then got snowed out.
Cape Cod; As of Wed PM a couple of inches of ice on some ponds but temps much warmer than here, in mid 20’s so no real ice growth expected until arctic cold returns on Saturday. They might have ice by Sunday. Big boat regatta will probably be postponed. Steve Lamb to call me as soon as he has news/decision.
Maine; Under snow. Chickawaukee has a foot of dense snow on a foot of ice. Only bright side is that snow is too deep for pickup trucks so rutting is diminished.
No January thaw in sight, cold this weekend and next week.
Subject: Dog Days…
Date: January 28,
But such days of leisure are numbered! I promised Brenda that, given the mini-depression, I would no longer live by the sweat of my frau. Unlike the sparrows, who neither toil nor sow, I will–hmmm, shoulda mentioned those sparrows to Brenda—I will take up honest labor. It’ll be top on my list this summer…… of course, provided the Pategonian Icecap doesn’t yield sailable ice.
And if it does, watch out! I’ve got a plan! After missing that great ice on Cape Cod, I’m planning to:1. Storm and rob the Iceboat Club’s treasury. (they should never have given me the sack)
2. Buy a diesel schoolbus from a financially-strapped school system and convert it to veggie oil
3. Re-do the interior stem to stern as follows:
Driver’s area with lace valences and hand-woven seat covers for driver/chaperone Kalla Buchholz
Blacked-out lounge with wet bar and HD-DVD player
Bunk room for 10 ice hounds
Large area with racks for ice-toys and a complete repair shop
Haul-Mark trailer pulled behind with Rick Hobbs bossing other manacled Republicans making french fries 24/7
Ice cap kicking in? All Aboard!
Subject: DN’s who run with Skeeters–Jan 31 and Feb 1, 2009
When I expressed impatience at such a delay when we were only 7 miles from satisfying a great urge and curiosity, Bill said something I’ll never forget. “Jory, we’re already iceboating!”. He meant that doing any activity is 10% doing it, and 90% doing ancillary things, which are every bit as important, satisfying, and worthy of concentration. In other words, the process is the product. Very helpful to someone as impatient as I….
We got to Long Pond, which in Maine would be called a lake. It is at least 5 miles long, very irregular, and studded with islands. The ice looked absolutely horrible, with that double-whammy of being very fast, and very rough. All the roughness was rounded now by temperature fluctuations, so it didn’t slow you down, and a nasty 20-25 know glacial wind was blowing from the NW. Boat-killer weather. There was a quantity of ice vehicles on the horizon in every direction which I’ve only seen pictures, maybe 40, and they were vehicles of every kind: free skaters, DN’s, skeeters of all sorts, and many home-brew rigs. It was a feast for the eye, and many were moving like stink…
We set up with full sails, and, at the stroke of noon, took off the parking brakes, and shot out into the pond without the slightest push. Within an hour, we were back at the pits changing to our storm sails with complete conviction. All the conditions out there led to an overwhelming psychological neurosis: cockpit envy! There were the skeeters, or big brethren, sipping chardonney in their padded cockpits, while enormous runner planks and forward springboards, attached to heavy grippy runners– tamed that suicidal ice. So why was this creaky 68 year old, laying on a board, staring at his cleated sneakers, and hurtling thru the frigid air?
Three cheers for storm sails! We still weren’t under control, but the fear-driven urge to head for the nearest bathroom had lessened. Bill kept stopping to add rake to his mast to combat the bow’s jerk to leeward in the puffs, and I began to join the fleet of Skeeters and they gracefully ran the E-W run of the pond. I could only slightly keep up with them on the sections of good ice, when I could sheet in nearly to the limit. As soon as it blew a little harder or the ice got rougher, the shadow the their sails seemed to switch into overdrive and pull away. Steve Lamb’s “El Diablo” would disappear especially quickly.. What a thrill it was to be in such company!
The afternoon moved on in a blur, and the internal dialogue continued. “Why in tarnation am I out here?” the grandfather brain kept asking; while the teen-age brain, between swigs from the adrenalin flask, kept shouting, “Pass that Bastard! You can do it!” Finally, about 3:30 Bill and I checked in with each other in the pit. Bill had heard of a place to buy a drink right on the ice, so we shot over to The Eagle Club, immobilized the boats, climbed a fence, and entered a smokey, sleazy bar. The barmaid poured me a half-tumbler of straight rum, which I insisted–thinking of the sailing still ahead–that she diminish to half, and we chatted up the rather lost souls on nearby stools. Then it was time for a last bash.
We had inadvertently stumbled on the solution to the ice problem, the wind problem, the rigging problem, and the brain problem. This time we had a blast, pulling the sheets with less reserve, as the sun dropped ever redder into the southwest. It was a day to remember for a lifetime….
But we didn’t want to de-rig in the dark, so we finally called it a day, and put our boats to bed while salivating over a few nearby iceboats. There was an immaculate 1948 boat-tailed Michigan skeeter recently purchased for a mere $2900, an absolutely voluptuous DN-sized cock-pitted and laminated beauty which I promised myself would be my very next response to aging, and three fascinating one-off contraptions, which we had noticed were amazingly fast out on the ice.
Then after a forgettable dinner in Rochester, and a forgettable but restful lodging in Bourne, we stoked up on drinks and donuts at 6 AM, and headed East on the Mid-Cape highway, Route 6. We were ready for some smooth ice….
The Cape got prettier as we moved out on the biceps of the arm–stunted oaks still in brown leaf, cozy sand hills and valleys–until we turned North at the Harwich exit and soon glimpsed our second “Long Pond” on the right. We stopped in a charming convenience store for directions and immediately fell in love with “Jane” a lithe and spirited teenager, as only aging iceboaters–out on the lam–can.
Parking at the public boat launch and beach, we skated out onto the most beautiful plate of ice imaginable in early February. About 4 inches thick, diamond-hard in the 25 degree temp, with thin, bonded snow patches covering 10%, and a surface so smooth, the skates moved in almost total silence. We immediately began an argument about wether this was truly the holy grail: grade 10 ice. Bill convinced me that while we had grade 10 frustration and grade 10 longing; yet taken as a whole this was merely 9.5 grade ice. We scouted the hazards–a pressure ridge to the left, and three healed “bird holes” across the pond– and then looked longingly at the perfect reach off into the East. It looked like we were in for a boringly-perfect day of iceboating!
Once rigged, the ice was perfect, but far from boring. A southwesterly had built slowly while we rigged, a good strong fairly steady wind about 15 knots, and with the smooth ice, I was able to sheet in until the mast took the 5 inch bend I so love. Even better, I found could often slowly pass Bill as we blasted the length of that Eastern reach. My life was now complete: Good ice, good wind, a good friend, and a boat sailing its very best.
We breakfasted with Jane at 10, eating our fare on the store’s porch facing the strong sun, and admiring the walkers on a ‘rails-to-trails’ bike path moving west across the Cape. What a great place to live….
Back on the ice, now joined by 3 other boats, the delight continued. We stopped for an energy bar and admired the cranberry bogs which adjoined the pond. By 11:30 the ice began to look like March ice in Maine. a dull surface, and puddles everywhere. Twice, I strayed over healed “bird holes” amid loud zipper-cracking and thanked my stars to still be upright on the Eastern side. The wind continued to build, and by noon it was time to go to a storm sail. But we felt we had seen the Holy City. We had come hungry and humble to a table groaning with gourmet delights. It was time to head for home, and–resisting the temptation to visit sweet Jane a last time– we pointed the Saab in the direction we love so well.
Back in Maine, the same tired snow is deeply heaped in the same piles. Our tropical adventure is over. But I now know there is no such thing as “the middle season”, a frustrating time between early and late ice. No, there’s only “the travel season”, when you step on the magic carpet and find enchantment somewhere else.
From: Ed AtkesonSubject: Re: athens….ahhhhh
Yes, I sailed with the HRIYC on that Saturday. Feb 7.
I am amazed that they haul those huge boats to the ice.
Didn’t put much effort into taking pictures that day. It was excellent sailing. And I saw people I hadn’t seen since the last time at Athens 7 or 8 years ago.
Subject: False Hope on Un-Valentine’s Day–February 13,2009
It was 930, and I was sorting unmatched socks in my sock drawer. That’s about as low as a guy raised in the 40’s can possibly go. I wonder if SNAG’s, those soft new-age guys, are good sock-sorters. Its not a strong suit in SAC’s, we stone-age curmudgeons. We have to be driven to the task….
But I was successfully avoiding a worse job Brenda had planned for me: painting rusty baseboard radiators in the bathrooms. I can imagine that day when our house has its closing: The inspector’s report says the house is great except for rusty bathroom radiators. “The deal is off!”, I shout, “I’m not touching those things”.
Anyway it was 930, when, tap-tap-tap, Bill Buchholz arrived at the door. Amazingly, his drive-by impression was that Megunticook has some sort of usable surface.
I was full of doubts: Though it was now 21 degrees, it had been above freezing when I went to bed. No way could 6 inches of unmentionable junk have jelled. But I grabbed the ice hatchet, donned the boiler suit and headed, at well above cruising speed, for the lake. The alternative was the mental health unit.
Out on the lake, the wind was 10-20 NNW–those N’s are for nasty–and in a sense Bill was right. My hatchet had to hack thru at least 2 inches before it hit a one inch water layer, and more often the ice was solid all the way down. But the surface was a horror! I remember St. Paul telling the Corinthians–I’m not sure it was an ice report–that “all things are lawful, but not all things are expedient” You could, indeed, drive your 57 chevy 50 MPH down the farm road; but you can’t drive mine…. Just how low does our ice quality scale go? 2…..1….?
Back home, Bill Bunting, rejoicing over the final publishing of the book he’s been so long laboring over, had the same sad news for Damariscotta and Cleary lakes. Nope, I guess our hope likes with what’s happening across the southern frontier.
Subject: Keeping Faith against the Odds. Feb 14 and 15.
But, as I’ve moaned before, life seems to have slowed to a swampland of boredom, so we loaded the toys at 6 AM Saturday, breakfasted in sunny Webster, Mass at 10, and soon caught sight of Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg. Funny, I never thought of the Algonquins at talkative people. In this case they were insisting, “You fish on your side, I’ll fish on mine, and nobody is allowed in the middle.” It makes sense, since this fascinating place is three distinct ponds separated by narrows. We set up at “Waterfront Mary’s”, a defunct restaurant, on the middle pond. There were lots of iceboats to oogle, and people to kibbitz with, and about noon we pushed out across the rough ice into the 15-20 knot NW wind. Isn’t there some other direction?
It doesn’t sound like too much wind, but given the rough ice, the DN’s were making hard work of it, and the big boats, about 5 in number, were gobbling it up, clocking just under 60 MPH. We also had “Gail” a rare iceboater of another gender, who happened to warn Bill, during a welcome mid-afternoon break, that his quick-detach rigging was at high risk. Five minutes later, I found Bill with his mast on the ice, after his head-stay let go. Luckily, nothing was damaged, so we put things together and didn’t spare the mousing tape.
Exploring the meandering lake was a treat, and almost boating across the foot-deep sunken pressure ridge blocking the South Pond was breathtaking; but the rattle and bang of the actual travel held little magic for me. It was a day to gather in a lee and gab with the others. It was nice to see two father-son teams among the big boats. Reed, in the beautiful laminated cockpitted jewel we had seen in Lakeville, took a slow capsize, with the boat not turning turtle, and sustained only minor damage. Two DN’s were dismasted and towed off the ice. Doug Sharp and his friend showed off their welded-conduit DN knock-offs. Everyone, it seems, is cockpitting. Billy Bluefeather clocked 58 MPH during his 70 miles. His boat weighs 220 pounds, has spring-loaded hull flexability, and seems purpose-built for high winds and rough ice. He has 6 inches of foam under him, even in the arm rests!
So, at 4PM, feeling hungry, Bill and I headed out for food only to realize, once the adrenalin had drained, that we had really shot our wad. So we de-rigged . The high speed and rough ice had sheared off the 18 pounds of lead cheek-weights on Bill’s bow runner–borrowed from Dickie–and we looked around no-nonsense, working-class Webster to replace the bolts with hardened steel.
Great dinner in “The Golden Greek” restaurant in Webster, then wine and desert with my friends in Wayland, Mass; and we eased our bruised bodies down for the night. The lure of Sebago, that fickle mistress of yore, haunted our dreams.
The wine-drinkers were sleeping it off, when Bill and I decided to bolt for Sebago without ceremony in the 7AM sun. But we couldn’t resist stepping on Dudley Pond across the street. Wow! Beautiful ice and 3 knots of wind. So we skated and skimbatted for an hour, and then pointed North and East. Is there any other direction?
Sebago is not on the route to anywhere, and we sheared off at Saco and arrived at pump-house bay, the lake’s southern extremity. What a forlorn sight: Rough ice, beat to heck by vehicles, ice shacks stretching to the horizon, gasoline smells and 2-cycle roars. What could be less attractive for a set-up?
There was only a single hook–well, really two–to hang our faith on: There was a perfect wind once we’d walked a good ways out from the shore–about 10 MPH North. And there was the chance that macho-humans (did that include us?) had not been able to mangle 16 square miles of ice.
So we started around the lake passing West from Pump House bay and, checking the ice in one group of cottages, again found hope that the untouched ice conditions might be boat-able. We then set-up at the launch ramp in West Sebago.
This was, if anything, worse than Pump House Bay. It was now 1PM. The ATV traffic on the ramp was almost constant. The ice was my worst nightmare. We couldn’t drive the trailer to the ice so setting up of Indigo would be a sweat. Shouldn’t we bag this lousy, age-inappropiate, gear-obsessed, time-consuming hobby? And Sebago is always such a long-shot crap-shoot! I’ve been pooched here more times than I’ve sailed. Only 4 years ago, I watched a New England iceboat regatta of frustrated iceboaters pushing boats across the snow-ice. Today Sebago, under these clouds, could be dead meat within the hour. (see photo)
But Bill and I…..we’re hopeless optimists…..we’re happy to leave the woodstoves to our wives for a weekend….So neither of us, though each is the laziest of sods, suggested avoiding the eternal set-up hassle. And following the mysterious rules of the roller-coaster of Faith, the full magic of iceboating unfolded that afternoon….
We had recently learned of “The Wellesley Effect” whereby women in dorms sychronize their periods over time. We finished setting up boats within seconds of each other. “Wellesley Effect”, shouted Bill as we pushed out of the pits. The deeply- rutted, glazed, hummocked mess continued for a full half-mile. People sitting in folding chairs, ice huts everywhere. We kept the speed to just above a walk and soon came to a jagged, narrow 6″ gash coming from nowhere going nowhere. Luckily we had spotted it at the slow speeds, and we eased our boats, each with a runner slipping underwater, across. The sun was just coming out… (see photo)
Across that demarkation, a playground we had dreamed of, opened up. Here we were doing a thing we’ve done so many times before, and yet the experience was totally, totally unique. Especially the vastness, the openness. In the photos you’ll see that the ice was not at all smooth, but being natural and snowless, you didn’t seem to mind. And it changed constantly with occasional areas of Capital “I” ice. We encountered one massive un-crossible pressure ridge running the N-S length of the lake beginning with the State Park in the North. It was visible with the large blocks of stacked up ice. (see photo)
We sailed on and on, trusting the ice more as we found the best areas off Nason’s Beach and the NW corner of the lake. We suddenly met another iceboater and his friend on skates. The former had bought one of John Bianchi’s older boats and was just learning the ropes.
Finally, as the sun inched toward the horizon, we re-crossed the bumpy mess moving carefully downwind, and de-rigged for the backroads trip home.
This morning, easing out of bed took a good five minutes….but…..scanning the “light and variable” wind forecasts….there’s lots of time to heal.
Date: February 18, 2009Sebago outing. Dennis and I arrive at Nasons Beach and under a bright , warm sun completed a setup.
Sebago has a long reputation of no winds and miles of beautiful ice and I had to wonder if this was going to be another such day. With no wind we pushed of and headed out for land on the other side five miles away. A thousand feet off the truly ruff ice smoothed out and a mile off shore light winds let us settle in for a rumbling 7 knot ride deeper onto the lake. And what a lake! When the ice would crack with a rumble, the roar carried across the lake and sometimes continued for 30 seconds, a continuous roar. In the middle the winds died and we broke open the coffee and engaged in perhaps the most hazardous part of the journey: we ate Peanut Butter Sandwiches. I looked over and Dennis was actually taking a NAP in his boat. The ice ridge off shore running up and down the lake was crossed with caution but no difficulty. Frye Island loomed ahead and ice shacks came in view.
Pushing on to the opposite shore we were rewarded with an increase in wind and the rumble turned the a steady chatter, clouds increased, wind increased. So much for the curse of Sebago. 30 knot of speed turned out to be plenty for the conditions and when we returned we were tired puppies. Another great day on the big lake! Thanks for the heads up Jory. Regards Don
Subject: Saturday Slush report
Date: February 28,
Chickawaukee; Snow all wet out and a lovely pale turquoise green this AM, now frosted by a snow shower. This is about 6 inches of slush that will take a couple of days to freeze, getting cold tonight. Some chance of snow Sunday PM and Monday. Reports on Megunticook, Damariscotta, Clarey anticipated today.
Massebesic: report from Stu Nelson who was driving by yesterday, most snow gone, looks promising, by Sunday??
Apparent heavy rain toward MA may wash out or drain hole existing ice down there.
There should be ice again soon.
Subject: Monday Ice
Date: March 9,
Jory called while I was getting dressed, Jory called again saying they, Jory Bill, John were going to Megunticook where there was just a little styrofoam would I come. Well why not, it looked as though the snow and ice had melted from around the Raven trailer for me to pull it free for first time this year, easier than loading super DN on truck (grunt job), all I had to do was slide the 60 Lb runner box into the truck, hitch it up and drive away. I did that and drove out onto Megunticook lake toward “Davy Jones Locker” where Jory and Bill leave their boats. I was appalled at the 1/2 inch or so of dense styrofoam stretching to the horizon. I drove out to where Jory was pushing his new enclosed DN, very sporty, without much apparent sailing success. I offered him a few spontaneous words of contempt for his poor choice of seemingly unsailable ice when Chicky was all clear and headed back to home where I slid the Raven trailer back into its icy slot with a thunk and got out the wheel barrow to put the super DN on real ice. I had a lovely leisurely sail around Chicky all by myself dropping red buoys onto larger drain holes that had about 3/4 inch of ice on them. The ice was quite smooth in spots and kind of rough on old snow mobile tracks but definitely sailable, about a grade 6. After an hour or two I knocked off for lunch and called Steve Pixley, Merlin’s skipper. He was home (harbor masters are not right out straight in mid winter) and turned up shortly for an hour or so of rumbling around and hiking majestically. I followed him around at a respectful distance enjoying the sight. It is hard to tell which way a stern steerer is starting a turn because the front of the boat doesn’t do the turning, and when it is hiking the wrong end is in the air and looks like a piece of scaffolding with flags. The thing moves right along, hard to catch with super DN.
Apparently the styrofoam was not totally unsailable on Megunticook, witness Bill’s picture of his runner in the air.The public launch/beach on Chicky, reported as “blown out” is not passable to vehicles and looks as though it was pretty soggy yesterday in the warm sun. Today ice was usable with a short carry and should be fine later in the week when it is going to be colder. My beach has a wheelbarrow path, not wide enough for vehicles right now. I may be able to blow away some snow so it will melt out to road width. It takes 2 wheelbarrow trips and one walking trip with mast and boom to get a DN to the ice. I have planks on the snow at the edge of the ice so you can roll right out to the moorings which have emerged again from under the snow.
We should have a couple of weeks of good spring ice with a good chance at Sebago and Damariscotta in the near future. We deserve it.
Subject: hometown, but frustrating, ICE Mar 9,2009
We broke for lunch at noon, and returned with a determination to find a way to enjoy the first iceboating on home ice in, what, months? So Bill brought back Indigo, and I brought back my old full size sail, re-raked the mast to give high boom clearance, removed the enclosure, and kept the high seatback. Hooray, our boats got up to their usual speeds in the slightly greater wind of the afternoon.
But I soon learned that sitting up straight in a DN without an enclosure is pretty terrifying. So I hope to simply build up the sides of the boat, without enclosing it. This might give the pilot’s hips a cozy surface to nestle into, allow greater tiller travel, and allow a easier entrance and exit.
So it was an interesting day for boat tuning, but less than spectacular sailing. the styrofoam, which got mushier as the day progressed, is just not much fun… We left our boats on the ice, hoping that tomorrow’s “light and variable” winds might be mysteriously turbocharged, and the surface magically improved.
Subject: Ice lots of places
Date: March 12
Chickawaukee not bad, access at public beach south end.
Megunticook sailed today Thursday, heavy air, ice about a 7 with old drain hole speed bumps, dips really, not a problem. Usual hazards of open water between some of the small islands of the “Fangs”. We, Bill, Jory, John, Lloyd all wore storm sails or reef. Bill reached 60.7MPH on his new GPS, usual white knuckle event apparently. The access is “Bog Bridge” on Rte 105 North of Camden, this is on the SW side of the lake. We drove on but the ramp got kind of mushy by the end of the day. Out a couple of hundred yard is a little sheltered cove called “Davy Jones Locker” by the locals where we leave the boats overnight. By mid afternoon my truck was breaking through into a slush sandwich, 2-3 inches of ice with 2-3 inches of slush. I am leaving the truck and heavy trailer on dry land tomorrow. Friday and Saturday are supposed to be nice with 10 MPH winds. This is a great scenic lake with interesting sailing and this may be the best of spring sailing right through the weekend. We hope you will join us there this weekend.
Rumors are trickling in from Sebago, Nason’s Beach on the NW shore, and Pump House Bay at the south end of good ice. I would emphatically NOT drive on this ice as it is a deep slush sandwich as of Wednesday and you might break through and get mired. The 6 inches of slush under what is now 2-3 inches of ice has to be subtracted from the ice fishermen’s report of 12-14 inches of ice, what is under there may not be that robust for vehicles. Nason’s Beach will be sailed tomorrow by Don Stearns (207 324-8652) and Dennis Glidden (207 863-5440). Tom Childs (207 624-5236) is our man at Pumphouse Bay, he won’t get on it until Saturday.
Damariscotta this AM had a poor surface over much of great bay, old tracks and residual wind ripples. The Western 1/3 looked better. The drive on access was deeply mushy and breaking up, this is at the State Park where the parking lot will be a muddy mess in the afternoon. Not recommended.
The NEIYA DN Championships and skeeter championships are being sailed on Mallet’s Bay and it sounds as though all the ice boaters in the North East are heading in that direction for a weekend orgy of iceboating.
Winny may be coming in also, internet postings were a bit confusing.
This may be it until next year don’t miss the season.
Date: March 12,
When the gust hit hard on the last reach home,
Indigo slid, shook and flew but the pilot pulled hard
on the sheet but light on the helm.
Fifty pounds of lead on the spring board’s back
kept the steering runner true
and coated the pilot with icy flack.
There were islands to leeward and we tried to hang on, pointing her higher
but the runners were screaming, hanging by their nails
their plank pumping and jumping.
The islands went past and in a few flying chips
we were closing the point
but she wouldn’t come up without loosing the rig.
With the sheet eased the slamming hurt.
So bear away fast but here comes the dam
with the river beyond
and cold quiet soft water.
Gather the sheet before it’s too late
slam the helm hard down
shoot through the straight and into the pit.Only now does the GPS come to mind.
A noted local ice boater recently asked, as he was altering his rig and seat back: “why do we need to go sixty?”
Because it there, another answered.
And now it is here!
Deepest gratitude to the CIBC for sponsoring this most Holy Frozen Grail.
Subject: Friday and Saturday sailing Megunticook and Chickawaukee
Date: March 14,
Saturday they descended on Lloyd’s beach late in the morning for light air sailing on somewhat rougher ice than Megunticook. The forecast 10- 12 MPH wind came in very suddenly just after noon and the ice turned soft just as suddenly. Slush runners were demonstrated by yours truly and those who had intended to make some vowed to do so immediately or bring the ones they had left home next time. Semper paratus. It was interesting that the ice got harder out in the middle of the lake so that the slush runners were sliding, no steering. The day turned to be more of a putting boats together, talking, and eating baked beans and reflector oven corn bread washed down with cider than extensive sailing although Bill Buchholz got off to an early start and logged some 7-8 miles and a top speed in the 30’s, not bad for light air.You really need only two slush runners because the front runner has little weight on it, in this case a plate front runner would have been nice to maintain steering. The best time to build slush runners may be some other tine than mid March. We speculated how much fun it would have been to be way up at the North end of Megunticook when the ice suddenly went mushy, a long pull home.
Sunday does not look good with “light and variable” forecast and temps again in the 40’s.
Monday looks possible with slightly colder temps and forecast 10MPH in AM fading in PM.
Tuesday looks warmer, Wednesday maybe wet, ditto for Thursday and Friday. How long will the shore ice hold up? There is probably a couple of feet if ice now but already there were pools forming near the shore Saturday PM. We have planks and ladders. When is the next big cold high coming? Will it be soon enough for another couple of days sailing?
Subject: ice conditions crystal ball–Sunday, March 15
I walked on Cleary Lake, drove by Damariscotta Lake, and walked on Megunticook. I think they all have similar surfaces: Rough, fairly dry corn snow, over 1-1.5 inches of not very wet slush. Lots of evaporation and no rain recently… I think there might be some sailing possible tomorrow before about 11AM, but the rest of the workweek looks too warm or too windless each morning. Cross-Country skiing possible, though….
If we do get some rain, then maybe the cold temps of Saturday Morning might give us another chance here in the mid-coast area. Otherwise–do I dare say this?–it’s just possible that the Fat Lady’s fateful Aria might echo among these hills….
We have had a pretty decent season, I think about 23 days on the ice….had to travel some, though….
A bunch of us are meeting on Chickawaulkie at 8AM Monday for a go with slush runners.
And….it’s still only March 15….and… there’s 20 inches of ice on many of these ponds….so……some rain, but not too much….a three day cold snap…
(come-on, Jory, what are the chances of that?)
….well….anyway….there’s still some long-shot hope….
I’ll let everyone know when the video advertisement for “Iceboater” shoes, which we helped shoot on Megunticook on Friday, is ready for viewing. Jim Wellehan, who makes the shoes, is anxious to promote our iceboating club if anyone has any ideas….
We’ll announce our end of season get-together soon. Would anyone like to host it?
all the best, the ex-treas
Subject: Chickawaukee 16 March
Seven boats were sailing today and most remain rigged on the ice. There may be a morning or two this week, and still a chance for the weekend depending on how the ice holds up to the warm afternoons and rain on Wednesday. Just a couple of hours sailing goes a long way toward satisfying the hunger this winter has provided.
Subject: a 100 mile day on Megunticook–March 23, 2009
Driving together to Megunticook, I could see that Bill was taking the bait. Come on, Bill, I reasoned, it’s just a cheap sticker. Really, what a low-class lab rat you are! Someone dangles a dirty carrot in front of you, and your ready to jounce around for 6 hours to get it. Besides it’s tough ice, tough wind, and a late start.
We set up in Bog Bay, and got going with storm sails. But it was clear that storm sails were not going to yield 100 miles, so Bill soon returned to bend on his full-size sail. Since I’ve had a recent fit of being sensible, I stuck with my storm sail.
We had agreed to meet at noon with an additional 30 miles, which we did, taking a little more time to relax. The day was amazingly cold for late March, but with cotton ball clouds and a blue sky, it was utterly splendid. We all agreed that Indigo has turned out to be an amazing boat:
After lunch, Bill kept at his task, blasting back and forth across the southern Broads, while I found the wind was now strong enough to head up to the northern lake and take a nap in “Lamb’s Folly” where I wanted to spend a little time in this philosophical, slightly melancholy period, when our beloved winter environment is so soon to disappear.
When we reconvened for our next gathering, Bill was up to 87 miles and, fearing that the wind might pooch, we cut the break short, and rattled back and forth for an additional half hour, until Bill came to an abrupt stop in the middle of the broads:
This evening, we all feel terminally tired. Was it worth it, running around, like a mindless swarm of bees?
Well…..we low-class lab rats, conditioned thou we are, still seem to have fun….
Date: March 24,
It’s lonely here in the Century Club. Our gallant secretary thinks that no else in our club has qualified for membership. Sailing a hundred miles in a day really isn’t that bad. A bit like climbing a mountain, perhaps. Up there is the summit, you know that is where you’re going and that you’ll feel it in the morning, but you’re going to the top anyway. Ice and wind conditions converge rarely enough for superb ice boating, let alone a century run, but looking back on this year’s thirty days of sailing there were a few that could have given a hundred.
The beauty of a century run on Megunticook is that is was not a mindless loop, but a series of island roundings, dashing through straights and going from bay to bay. The wind came around a bit east of north as the day progressed which allowed a deep reach all the way from the Turnpike Bay to the ledges at the mouth of Bog Bridge, a little over two miles. There was a mighty charge of wind just at that straight and it took a mild leap of faith to believe that there was, indeed, a small lee just ahead that let the boat bleed some speed before threading herself between the rocks and back into the blustery Broads. It was hardly a boring hundred miles.
The luck of the day was that the temperatures never rose above freezing, so the corn ice stayed hard all day, and the wind never gave up. With a running average of twenty five, top speed of fifty eight, we made the run in just under four hours sailing time. Rest, stretching and lunch took an hour and a half. Not a bad day’s work.
I would encourage every one with a GPS to go for it next year. Those without one, Jory, should bit the bullet and belly up the bucks. Since the club isn’t racing much any more (yet?) these small prizes lend a bit of spice to our general cruising.
Thanks to Dickie and Jory for acting as team members to the Indigo Century Challenge and taking some great photos. Next year we should consider a CIBC Group Century challenge. Imagine one by one the boats coming in from the run and cheering on those still at it. The last guy in would get the first glass of champagne!
Ed. note: Don Stearns and Dennis Glidden have since scored their centurys sailing DN’s on a small plate of black ice on Jordan Bay in 2010.
Subject: Rotten Ice
Date: April 1, 2009
Tuesday Mar 31 I still had 4 small red cones out in front with mooring lines that I thought needed to be salvaged. I donned my ice claws and rubber boots with gripping screws. The edge of the ice was beyond plank distance from the dry sand so I started the plank in about a foot of water. As I walked out on the plank the ice kept caving in and the whole thing got kind of unstable. So I put the plank away for the summer and got out the tin canoe. I was able to ride that up onto the ice and then climb out over the bow with one foot on each side. When I stood up I broke through the hard surface into about 6 inches of slush and water, then whatever was under neath seemed to hold so I crunched my way another 30 feet or so out to the first mooring, some of the time the surface held me. I retrieved all 4 buoys and toggles, they were just floating there. Then I thought that so far so good, let’s try for the lobster trap that was holding up one corner of Merlin. Before I did that I chopped down into the slush to see what was underneath, not much, about 5-6 inches of soft punky stuff, I presume vertical crystal old black ice. So off I went for the lobster trap and soon fell through all layers up to mid thigh and well over the boots. I couldn’t walk through both layers but could crawl in the slush on the bottom layer, if I had gone through the bottom layer while crawling I would have gotten all wet. I made it back to the canoe and thence dry land. It was sunny and about 50 F so I put the canoe away and walked up to the house with now numb feet. Insulated boots do keep the feet warm but they also keep the ice water cold. I had previously found that a little water over the top of insulated boots soon warms up. But a whole boot full doesn’t warm up and most of it refused to drain out, retained by heavy socks. By the time I got the boots off, with difficulty, my feet and ankles were bright red. I thawed them out in sink of warm water and all was well.
I “knew” the water was only knee deep, (but it was more mid thigh), so felt that the worst I could do was get wet legs, as I did. I did not anticipate being unable to walk through the rotten ice in mid thigh deep water. If I had broken through crawling I would have been floundering for a while and likely quite cold. I doubt that ice claws would get any meaningful grip on rotten ice. In deep water I would have been in serious trouble. It wasn’t even April fool’s day yet.
The next time I guess I will wait for the ice to completely melt and the buoys and toggles to come ashore in the prevailing winds.Iceman