the swans return to the lake–jan 23, 2013

let’s face it: every iceboater has a ‘home’ lake; and Bill and I both live a mere 1.4 miles from Megunticook. It’s rare when, this late in the season, we haven’t sailed it. So I was excited by the prospect of seeing the lake again, even in temperatures which we have always considered pre-emptive for iceboating: right down at zero degrees.

alas, bill called just before the 10AM rendezvous: Couldn’t we just have a filling lunch first and then burn it off in the frigid afternoon? No way! I had already added 5 new items to my 22 item wardrobe, my hand and foot warmers were activated, and it was now or never. This day would be an experiment to see if there were a lower temperature limit having ice fun, and I was curious to find out. Could I maneuver in all this gear? Would it still be cold, or sweaty?

Down at Davy Jones’ bay the sun was bright, but….everything seemed threatening…..there wasn’t a fisherman, a skater, a bird….it was like every sensible mammal was deep in its burrow…..the lake was bolted tight in the prolonged cold snap….even the blustery 10-20 Kn wind had that nasty little E added to N….So far, my gear was doing its job, as long as I could get sail and boom installed without removing any gloves. Bill and I pushed across the fast, polished ice, around the point, and gathered speed in the windy south broads…

Megunticook can be fickle, even on windy days; but today was a ‘go everywhere’ day and we set off to the north up the 2.4 mile western narrows. I was trying to send an ESP message to Cam Lewis to fire up the sauna for our arrival, but we got delayed by trying to make loops around ‘Lamb’s Folly”, a beautiful tight little circle which was partially snowed-out….After Icywood ground to an ignoble halt in the styrofoam, I drank a hot cup of tea in the sun, and rejoined Bill, who could circle the Folly at will, and was cavorting in Wipe-out bay. We joined Cam at the sauna, only to find Polly Saltonstall on skates there with her usual entourage of two dogs….What a trooper Polly is. A true Saltonstall! But it was time to sail, not sauna. We were anxious to see every inch of the lake, so we took off the brakes, the battens snapped across, we threaded the northern islands, and then blasted downwind the long, long narrows; almost lifting runners with every jibe….it was a lightning-fast passage which often takes ages. What a thrill!

Then on to every other corner of this vast lake, until finally, with fingers cramping, and noses almost frostbitten….we dropped sails at Davy Jones’ and sped for the warmth of ‘huevos rancheros’ at Boynton-McKay in Camden. A little plan was hatching in our minds: Bill Bunting had mentioned that in heavy airs, many boats do better with lead weights added behind the pilot; and Bill remembered he had a pile of lead ingots at the shop, idling away there without purpose…..soooo

We each took 40 lbs and stowed the ingots safely behind our seats. The wind hadn’t diminished in the least and, as we greeted the blast again, the difference in handling was immediately felt….our boats hiked less, the planks flexed more, and the runners gripped the ice as never before. For two more hours we covered every bay, every cove, blasted across the ‘fangs’ with abandon, and gradually that daring, scarey, defiant spirit of Larry Hardmann began to grip us: I don’t care if this boat self-destructs…..just let me keep doing this forever.

Finally, at 330, Bill zoomed into Davy Jones….I cussed him out: You’re crazy! Why are we stopping? Stopping is Madness! But gradually Bill’s wisdom, in challenging the blind addiction, calmed me down. My runners had been knocked out of alignment with the extreme sailing. They were screetching for help at top volume. They obviously needed TLC in Bill’s shop, so we loaded my plank, with runners attached, and after a few more rehashes of magic moments, parted company. We had learned two things: you can have a barrel of fun at zero degrees…and you can sometimes shake the lead out, by putting the lead in….


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