The Lone Wolf ….continued…

(lee spiller on androscoggin photo credit unknown)

I hope others are enjoying this inquiry about the tension between the lone wolf following his bliss, and the worry and sometimes grief that his behavior can cause others. It’s a subject which our iceboat club has discussed and anguished over, for as long as i’ve been a member. One of our most experienced ice people, Bob Dill from Vermont, whose website is a must-read for ice lovers, added this to our discussion:

Hi Jory,
I think you are being too hard on yourself (and that old wolf). Leads and other ice dodgyness need to be explored if that can be done with low risk. How else are we going to learn about the ice?

We had two more fatalities in Vermont last week. One was a 31 year old riding his snowmobile…The other was a 67 year old experienced fisherman going for one more day (it reached 70 degrees!) on Shelburne Pond. It was a tough week.
None of these guys had the equipment, knowledge or skills to stay out of trouble or, failing that, to rescue themselves. Very few of the 50 or so people who die annually on North American ice have any safety equipment and many have odd notions about things like the bearing strength of 4″ candled ice on 70 degree days. An experienced ice traveler with claws, flotation, test poles, throw ropes and enough pads (knee and elbow pads?—ed) to avoid most serious injuries has far lower risk than those 50 fatalities.

That is not to say that we are as well prepared as we should be or that we always make the best decisions. We should work on that. At the end of the day the risk is not zero. We all have to decide if it is close enough to zero to allow us to enjoy the ice as much as most of us do.


And Bob Lombardo, part of that amazing skating duo, Bob and Karl, who are just finishing their 55th day of the season, responded:

Do either Karl or I ever skate alone? We both do, but I have to say I am more inclined than he, to skate alone. I know it is not smart but I require “alone time”, that is just the way I am. I have even skated on rivers alone and that is really not a good idea but usually that is when the ice is good and Karl is not able to go.

Jory responds….There’s a need for clarity and authority in us that wants this discussion to end with clear rules. “Membership in our club, the CIBC, requires that all members wear claws and floating, cold-proof clothing when on the ice at all times. We also prohibit solitary activities on the ice. Offenders are subject to warning and eventual dismissal.”

As I look back at what I’ve posted here over the years….the times i’ve waxed a bit “cosmic”…the times that even this failing mind has not forgotten…. they were often times of group activity….but perhaps a quarter of them were alone or semi-alone activities…alone in the beauty of wild space….sacred space i sometimes say….without these times…these precious times…my interest in the ice community would still exist, but it would be very much diminished…. club rules, encouraging the facile judgement of another’s behavior, while trying to fill in the valleys of risk, would have chopped off the mountains of joy…. so i’m glad we’re not regulated….i’m glad we’re staying in undefined, open space…

That said, in these past days, i’ve seen important areas to improve: It’s important to have strict rules for racing, and for all boat encounters. It’s important to share knowledge about safety, and to speak up, in a kindly way, about its lapses…It’s important to take new-comers under our protective wing….and above all, the lone wolf must find a human voice… must strive to communicate in spite of the fear that communication will nix adventure…really….you can have your cake and eat it too…

if you’re with others, you can tell them what you’re doing, why and how….you can listen to and take in their concerns…and then… you can thoughtfully act…not as a defiant loose cannon…but as a confident contributor to the community…which is stronger for each diverse, creative member….if something then happens, it has a different feel…there still will be sadness….grief….but the feelings are less conflicted…more positive….though we may have disagreed…on some level we understand, and are connected.

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3 Responses to The Lone Wolf ….continued…

  1. John Stanton says:


    I know of the powerful allure and draw that solitude plays upon some of us. I have often deliberately stayed out in the middle of a plate and watched my fellow sailors head for the launch area. Growing smaller, turning to specs than disappearing over the edge of the earth.

    It is than my time, my ice and my own self surrounded by beauty and calm in all directions. It is these moments that make it all worthwhile.


  2. Bob Dill says:

    Pads: I wear head, hip, elbow and knee pads. I have wacked all of them hard in falls and others have broken or severely bruised all of them. I am of mixed mind about wrist pads but they are probably a good idea to.

  3. Bob Dill says:

    One more thing: The Swedes keep good records of accidents among their clubs. Injuries are almost as common as swims. The swim rate ranges from 0.3 for cautious and skilled groups. For expert skaters pushing the envelope and Americans who are less skilled and less disciplined the rate is more like 1%. The injury rate is about 0.4% and serious injuries are about 0.05%

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