Skater Bob Lombardo called it “the smoothest ice in the state”, so I joined Lloyd, Fred, and John Eastman to take him at his word. I studied the Gazeteer, found a nifty short-cut on back roads, and added stress and time to a straightforward journey. We pulled up to the ice edge at Jensen Beach, and joined the excitement of arriving skaters:
(all photos Bob Lombardo)
That’s skater Karen seeing inviting ice for the first time in weeks. Lloyd and Jory are arguing over the day’s assignment: He’s to watch out for Fred at 94. I’m to watch out for him at 83. We’re all to watch out for John, who is still hoping for heirs later in life.
Though the sun promised the intensity of March, the wind was punishing. Gusting into the 20’s. Northwest. You know the story. So John began with a first reef in his Gambit’s sail, which soon became two reefs. Amazing! A reef-able sail. Getting itchy, I headed South onto ice which soon became blissfully quiet. We had decided to find, and mark, the one open hole in the north section of the lake. I soon found it, about 2 X 8 feet in size, and relaxing beside it, luffing strongly, watched the two specks of Lloyd’s and John’s sails back at the launch for any signs of movement.
“Why mark this damn hole! You’d have to be blind to sail into it. Can I ever transition into the doddering pace of the JV iceboating team?” Impatience—my center-stage character flaw–was acting up. When the others joins me, we triangulated the hole’s position, and headed back to the launch to help Fred set up his Cheapskate. He then elected to join us on an all-lake exploration.
In this video, as we approach the “boulders” section, you can see how the ice is transitioning from ‘so-so’ to ‘excellent spring ice’ :
There, at the boulders, we were joined by our estatic skaters, their group of three now expanded by Eddie Zelonish and friends. To avoid the tedious upwind return, they had planted a car at the far south end. Everyone, at this point, was totally ‘ice stoned’. If you every hear me gush, “this is absolutely as good as it gets” ….please….amputate at the neck! But in fairness to my limited vocabulary, when and if spring ice ever turns black-ice smooth—and even better if not consistently smooth—mere words will surely fail.
We sunned on one of the many boulders and then headed south into the narrows. This 1 mile strait was wind-polished in smoothness and involved a pressure ridge and a watery lead in from the west. Then the lake widened again, the hazards multiplied, and the ice slightly roughened. Finally, we spotted the islands which signal the Southeastern terminus and saw a lake-wide ‘sunken’ pressure ridge which blocks the last mile. I paralleled this ridge, looking left for a gap, and then looked ahead just in time to see my bow runner narrowly miss a hole. It was like that instant when the mouse savors the tasty cheese, just as the wire is heading for his/her neck. Instantly the boat was stationary, canted on its side; as I sat in deep despair in the cockpit: My lovely- my perfect—new boat, ruined by an unfair fate.
Please note how tiny that hole is. Truly, anyone could miss it. Notice the light green color of a ‘sunken’ pressure ridge. This water is only a foot or so deep. Fred has purposely capsized his Cheapskate which, given the large sail, is necessary in high winds. Well, here’s where buddies count. Bent screws were straightened. Lloyd’s duct tape was liberally applied. Whisker shrouds were added to the plank, and we all began the long beat home, myself being especially careful. Lloyd won a $5 bet on my untroubled arrival.
De-rigged, back on the road home, I was again seduced by shortcuts. More car-battering lostness. Brenda calls me, “the smartest slow-learner she’s ever met”. Monday may be the last sail of this cold snap, but alas I’ll be in the garage, repairing. Pondering.