Ice Potential

Another southerly gale is due to blow through in the next couple of days. We’re not sure if the local lakes will survive. Damariscotta was down to five inches and looking spring-like the past few days, although last night’s cold helped the ice harden up nicely for today’s sailing.

But Moosehead is looking good for Saturday, as is Lac St. Francois just over the border in Lambton, Quebec. A SW wind forecast for this lake, which runs NW-SE means a 26 mile beam reach up and back. A deep cold Friday night will cure whatever ills are caused by Thursday’s rain. The downside of all this for the New York and New Jersey sailors is that we won’t know for certain until Friday afternoon what the conditions will be. So the desperate should start driving Friday, get to The Birches and get what we get. We’ll try to have some on the ice reports Friday morning and extrapolate from there.

Just for little commiserative perspective, here’s a letter from 1943 when iceboating wasn’t always the black ice and sunshine we imagine it was. Thanks to Brian Reid for sharing this:

New Hamburgh N.Y. Jan 31/43

Dear Friend Mr. Ruge,

Well tomorrow is the first of Feb and in all the winters that I have ever ice boated, I think this is the worst. I have had the Edwa at Orange Lake since Dec 15th and have had only about three hours sailing so far, going on for two months.

The North Star is on the river here at my home and about all that you can see of her is her spar sticking out of a snow drift. I look at her in disgust, although I did get a day or so sailing on the river. Jan. the 21st I sailed almost to Beacon. the ice was beautiful and since then has not moved, although Sunday Jan 24th the river was just as nice with a breeze from the N.E. I foolishly went over to the Lake and when I got there it was dead calm, not a boat moved all day. That day Scaderfield sailed down to the NewBurgh Yacht Club. That day also Charlie Merritt tried out his experiment that is he attempted to but only went about five hundred feet when his leeward shear pole broke and it has been all over since.

I do not look for much more sailing on the river this winter, as the ice is covered with about 15 inches of snow and the water in the river is very dirty from the heavy rains we had the fore part of winter, and unless we get a rain soon to wet this snow through and freeze solid the under ice will be gone. I do expect to get a lot of sailing yet on Orange Lake, and will keep you posted as to same.

I wish I could sell all the Ice boats that I have as there is not much help around any more, with all the boys away to war. All a fellow wants is a little 125 ft front steerer weighing about 300 lb that he and a boy can put on and take off if there is a danger of a thaw and the ice breaker coming through, which you can’t do with heavy boats without help.

We have not been bothered with any ice breakers for a long time, about all they are doing is keeping it open as far as Iona Island and for a spell that kept them busy.

The ice above New Hamburgh is very heavy, piled up from the last time the breaker went through,4 and 5 feet high, so unless we get a very warm spell they will leave it alone.

Time is dragging with me this winter. No steamboats, no ice boating, most old friends gone to war or working in defense plants, can’t hear the radio, or movies, loaded up with ice boats can’t build anymore, so about all I can do is read about the war. If things don’t change, I guess I will have to join the domino gang in the fire house.

Well I have given you what little ice boat news there is and there is very little else. So I will close, hoping this finds you and yours in the best of health.

Mrs. Drake is not very good this winter, I am about the same.

Very truly,

Frank V. Drake

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