Great Pond Belgrade: Queen of Lakes

Many of us were awed by the photo Lee Spiller had shared of endless smooth ice on Great Pond, Belgrade, about 10 miles north of Augusta. So I arrived there just at 9AM Wednesday not to miss a single minute. Wow! There were already 7 boats setting up, so I guess ice-hunger was abounding. I spotted Bryce setting up his Cheapskate, since the Whizz he is building was not quite ready. Then, to my surprise, there was Breck Holladay, with his freshly rebuilt Nite—both he and boat beautifully healed–after an adventure last spring. Denis had come down from Quebec to duke it out with Bill, Jim, and Curtis in the go-fast fleet. Bob MacEwen was setting up his Cheapskate, and we both shared our regret that Lloyd, alas, was not there. I was delighted to meet Bobby Abel, Frank’s brother with a second Mini-skeeter, Rolling Rock, to keep me on my mettle. Bill Bunting had brought Red Herring, his Nite, and as we released our brakes for a priliminary scouting of the ice, Dave Fortier and Jim Mathieu were arriving.
Alas, it had lightly snowed since Lee and Karin had skated the day before, but the morning wind was so strong, that, on the perfect ice, there wasn’t the slightest slow-down. We found there was about 5” of ice in the launch bay, and then 4” after an ice junction a quarter mile north, with, best of all, the snow unbonded to the ice. Soon, however, the wind built further, and sent us scurrying back to the launch for storm sails. By then the fleet had built to 11 boats and we tacked north along Hoyt Island, to a pair of markers which the go-fast fleet had already set up to mark a pressure ridge. We gathered there to consolidate the fleet, before rounding the island and heading down the main body of the lake.
I’ve written many times about how sometimes a rather routine perception somehow becomes magical:

“And now and then, we don’t know how
A magic wand descends somehow
We glide into a cosmic space
Our senses sharpen, time slows it’s pace…”

We boarded our boats, took that strong north wind on the port tack, and rounded the point at the north end of Hoyt. The sun, now ahead, was absolutely blinding. The wind had risen and was moving the snow like a white turbulent river before us, as we peeled off on wide gybes, doing our best to stay together and keep our speed down. It seemed like the beginning of creation, and we were entering a new-found, just-born world. Oh, if this could just go on forever!
Finally we came to the pressure-ridges which blocked access to the two bays to the south, and we stopped to regroup. It would be tricky to approach these hazards, lying dead downwind; so we decided this enormous plate was far big enough and we soon reached west to that welcome lunchtime lee of Hoyt’s south-facing beaches. Perhaps Bill will add the inevitable photo of the 11 boat line-up.
But a full leisurely lunch was impossible: We just wanted to do the same thing all over. We were laboratory rats helplessly hooked on pushing the food lever. So, regrouping after lunch we decided to beat up the East side of Hoyt with her twin islands, and stitch downwind again, and finally head to the pits again passing East, which is what we did. For me, being one of the slower boats, it was a deep comfort, in such vast whiteness, having so many buddies in sight. Their sight gave you a tentative confidence that this crazy activity was somehow sane.
Back at the pits, it was only 2PM. What an unpardonable sin to leave sailable ice and wind. But I had promised my bruised shoulder to make it a short one, and after some hot chocolate in the Sunset Grill, I headed home. I leaft my boat among many others for the promise of light but sailable winds on Friday. Bring on the Advil. Please, HigherPower, may I live just a few more days! Here’s the lake:

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