Where do we come from?….where are we going?….such meaty questions….but my biggie is: How can I get thru November?…..and it’s only November 10th….November is my nemesis….i don’t know exactly what that means, but it’s the right word….definitely a RPITA….(hint: A is a 3 letter word)
Keeping the iceboat set up in perpetuity out in the driveway helps the waiting move along….sometimes i even hoist a sail….and late Sunday afternoon, deep in gloom, i headed to Bill’s shop….i knew Sunday is a workday there…i wanted to check on the new boom he promised to help me finish, which would finally allow me to sheet my new Whizz sail to the very limit….and give an essential lift to my sagging moods…
….there was Bill in a paper jump suit which—a long time ago!—had been a spiffy Ebola protective outfit….but was now patched about with duct tape….he looked like kitchen help, low on the food chain….he was leaning in on a two-handled plastering gizmo… skimming epoxy on a tired 40 foot Atkins Ketch, which i call the incredible hulk….we immediately began chattering about the coming early freeze….turns out the gulf stream is being goosed by the polar vortex because of a frown from El Nino…and sometime next week, ice-people’s prayers are to be answered in spades…
“uhhh…Bill”….I queried…”you’ve got two skimbatts right?” I knew we were both thinking of all the ‘early ice extacies’ we’ve been thru….Toleman, Grassy, the Swamp….the very names are sacred…and of how much a skimbatt is the needed chariot….Bill stared fixedly at me, as he paused in the skimming….”Noooo, I absolutely do not! You dithered back and forth, and finally asked me to sell your skimbatt at the swap meet. So, forget skimbatting!”
we had been skimbatting last February on Sebago, which was still open water, but frozen inside Outer Island, north of Nason’s beach. Late in the day, I had blasted into an ice scab and now, 8 long months later, was still healing a bad knee….I now sighed…”aging”……is that how it’s spelled? …looks like ague-ing….is it physical?…or maybe just mental?….maybe it’s just thinking “old”? …maybe i should just keep on keeping on?
but i also keenly feel a mental part….some sort of tardy cost-benefit calculation….some of our past stupidities i haven’t even dared to share on this site, for fear of discouraging the sport. last fall, for example, i shared this, early Plymouth Pond adventure:
“so we strapped on skates, Bill assembled his Skimbat, and we started swinging our ice axes, as we made our way out over deeper water. Hooray! After weeks of piddling ice, something was solidly talking back to our swings! Soon we came to smoother ice, without orange peel, which measured noticeably less than the previous 4″: 2.5″! Bill abandoned the skimbat, as our worries increased, and I headed back to the pits for a forgotten pair of claws. This was not going to be bullet-proof ice!
Once we were back together again–Bill not having moved an inch in my absence– we espied two areas about 2′ in diameter, just faintly different from their surroundings, which turned out to be only 3/4″ thick! We made a note to mark them later, and–still gripped by ‘early ice extasy’– continued on the 2.5″ ice to the South. We soon found that the ice was far from monolithic: it was a potpurri of textures, overlapping plates, and brash ice sandwiches; which occasionally measured as little as 1.5″ thick. It was almost impossible, in this variety of surfaces, to spot the ice junctions which are so vital to see and check. (*) Then, a moment of total panic set in: It suddenly seemed like we were surrounded on all sides by dangerous, unknown, unpredictable ice. A high-stakes roulette game with nasty odds. We gingerly turned around and, inspecting the glassy black ice carefully, exactly followed our skate scratches back to the launch area, where we skated and skimbatted safely in the light air, keeping to the 2 acre patch of 4″ thick orange peel ice.”
……that report gives a happy ending to our folly of skating beyond the initial 4” ice….but…dear confessors…. IT’S NOT THE WHOLE STORY!….in truth, at the (*), we were skating South, parallel to each other, 50 feet apart when, simultaneously we broke through the ice, and sunk into the frigid juice. Luckily, thicker ice, not thick but thick enough, was right behind us, and with picks we clawed halfway up onto the ice, slowly swung our skates up and, with our picks, slid prone to the North and eventually stood up…Bill, without insulated clothing, headed for his car and its heater….I skated around on the thick ice, just to rub in the advantage of correct clothing, and then we changed clothes and drove home.
hmmm….i’ll be 74 next spring….there are many ice buddies far younger than I, who don’t even think about ice until the Christmas tree is at the dump. They let the young immortals jump around on the thin early-season ice, and then join us later on tested ice….could i stand being that wise?….could I stay on the edge of Plymouth in those glassy first days…and watch others head off across the ice?….could i live with the trouble Bill would certainly get into without my steadying influence?
as you can see, deep philosophy is happening…