Lac St. Francois, Quebec. Deep slush Friday, mid twenties Friday night and hard ice Saturday until about noon. It became half hard, half slush for the rest of the day so when the boat was slammed by a gust in the slush it hit the hard stuff in a full slide. Great fun! Temps last night were at freezing, just. But by this morning the ice was black, hard and drain holes frozen. This never ceases to amaze but it happens all the time; don’t forget. The wind had settled a bit and shifted to right down the middle, so Denis and I swapped tacks up and gybes down in full spring sun.
This lake is gradually lowered over the winter to allow room for spring run-off. The ice has already formed by then so the plate settles onto the shores and shoals. We sailed up and over this rockpile a number of times, as well as taking high banked turns along the steeper parts of the shore. When pushing off from the pits at Denis’s place there was never any need to push, just glide down the hill where the apparent wind was waiting. Below, making an uphill landing on the fore shore.
There are two good lessons from this weekend. The classic one, of course, is that you never really know what the conditions will be, but you sure as heck won’t know, or get to sail, if you don’t leave home: don’t fear the drive!
The second one is Skunners. Denis has made a swell set. I was on conventional slush runners and after many miles of research, neither one seemed to offer an advantage on the 50/50 mix of yesterday’s surface. There is a 1/4″ of blade protruding below the ski, but we think 1/2″ might be just about right for general slush conditions. The running surface is HDPE plastic, which is very slippery when wet. The base of the old alpine skiis might be just as good, though.
But the other revelation is their benefit as a safety tool. They are 4′ long, and just the ticket for skimming over drain holes. We did a lot of drain hole dodging yesterday, and theorized about whether the skiis would actually plane on a short patch of water.
Denis unwittingly put theory to practice on this unseen hole with his LEEWARD runner. He heard the bag, and looked over just in time to see the splash settle. No word yet on just how big a hole one might be able to jump, but that’s best left for theoretical discussion. But the thought of sailing with skunners on dodgy ice will bring much peace of mind, without much performance downside.
The cold nights will be hanging around for a while, so it could be that we’re not done yet. But the turn-out on Moosehead was underwhelming so perhaps the season has run it’s course. Dave Godine reports from Moosehead:
>> “I was the lone guy out there today, tooling around with the ice fisherman. 18″ consistent ice, near shore or out in the cove. The 9-10kt S. Westerly wind picked up by 11:00 to 15-18kts. by noon I was driving back off the ice. A mix of shell and clear patches about a 7 when I got there deteriorated to a 6 when I left.
Broke through shell ice by 11:30 where in the early am you could cruise right over it. Every once in a while you could find a spot that was frozen over from the night before but was probably a hole from intersecting cracks, fisherman pointed out a couple and I found two more. These would swallow up a runner easily and crimp the day. I left after that as the wind picked up much more than forecast, gusty, it was very fast and too the point where I was getting nervous about going that fast and still try to get a good look at what was ahead. With the wind I think one could have sailed all day, the ice in the cove stayed sailable.
I did notice if the snow machines cruised the ice during the day they could leave some tracks that freeze rough, but better than no sailing at all. What’s saving the ice is it’s below freezing at night and enough cloud cover and wind to hold the ice during the day. It could be good for a while.”
Backing out of this stuff is an excellent reason to heavily round the rear of the runner.