Pushaw, now convinced to carry ice picks I am

The start time was scheduled to be 10 o’clock. It is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Biddeford to the launch on Pushaw Lake getting on the road by 0700 was my plan. I did in fact leave the house by  0700. When I was 5 minutes from my house I realized that I forgot My GoPro, and I did want to take it along because I was hoping to get a bit of instruction from Denis Guertin who I think uses one for his great video postings. I have had the GoPro for at least 4 years, and I always forget to bring it along, so that is why I went back for it. 

Once I was on the highway at 0715 on a Sunday morning the traffic was light and moving a a good clip. When I left 295 in Gardiner and picked up I95, I started following two cabs traveling in tandem at a good 85 MPH. As a matter of fact ALL cars were going over the speed limit, so I was making good time, and would most definitely get to Pushaw before 10. I did indeed get to Orono by 0930, so I decided to stop for gas, and coffee at the Irving there on the route so that I would be all set for the drive south after the action on the ice. 

I arrived at the launch site at 0945, and everybody seemed to be there. I started getting the sail up and checking things over, waiting for the call for a skippers meeting. As I was getting my spikes on most of the boats sailed away. I saw that Jim was still there and I hollered to him about the skippers meeting, and he yelled that there would be one. So, I thought that the gang would return to the pits after a bit of warm up. I finish setting up my boat and headed out to see if I could catch up to a group of them and possibly see what was going on. I was not able to find a group at least not a group stopped that I would be able to talk to. 

Eventually I saw four or five boats sailing south so I followed them. I saw them rounding an island so I followed in that general direction. I did not get close enough to them, I was probably a quarter of a mile behind them. As I follow them I did not follow their lead close enough, I missed seeing the two yellow flags that marked the safe passage around the tip of the island. I subsequently sail into an open lead off the southern tip of the island. Attempting to catch the others I was sheeted in, at speed when I came to a stop instantly hitting the open water. I then was a bit fouled in the rigging, but was able to walk/crawl over the boat/sail off the stern. I then swam to the edge of the ice that I sailed off. There was a few feet of 3/4 inch shell ice that I had to break through to get to the edge of the thicker (5inch) ice. That is when I saw Tom Nichols setting the brake on his boat, and I yelled to him. He was busy getting a piece of line, so I just chilled out and waited. It was unfortunate that I was unable to touch the bottom as I hoped. When he got close I informed him that the ice appeared to be thick to the edge that I was at, but he used caution and stayed 6 feet or so from me and tossed the line toward the edge. I was able to grab the line and then with a bit of a pull and some kicking with my feet was able to swim onto the ice. Fortunately as I said the ice was 5 inches thick, and Tom stayed away from the edge so the ice did not give way. 

We went over toward his boat and talked a bit about me clinging to the plank to ride back to the pits. The temperature was warm, and I was warm enough now that I was out of the water, so I suggested that he sail back solo and get help. Soon a local woman on a bicycle rode up, and asked the obvious questions such as are you OK, didn’t you see the flags…? She was kind enough to share her granola bar with me. I did not even have time to unwrap the bar and get a bite when a local gentleman in Can-Am four wheeler motored out to rescue this wet sailor. I unfortunately did not get his name, and when we got back to the pits I was anxious to find some dry clothes in my car. I fortunately did have some dry clothes, and was able to use the giant skeeter trailer to change in. That was the perfect place to get out of the wet gear, as WET clothes are not easy to get off! When I got back to the ice, I believe that is when Mr Bucholz was arriving with my Super DN that they got out of the lake in tow. The local with the CanAm was not there nor the kind woman on the bike. 

Everyone was packing up their gear in he warm afternoon sun. I was able to pack all my wet gear into the car, and with some help the Super DN onto the car rack. Denis, who had the longest  drive was the first that I saw drive off the ice. The rest of us were not far behind. I would say that we all made it home before dark on the first daylight savings time evening of the year. Cheers, Dave US4690

About David Fortier

DN sailor since 1988
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3 Responses to Pushaw, now convinced to carry ice picks I am

  1. Tom Nieuwenhuijsen says:

    Good that someone was on shouting distance and could help you out, Hang a set of icepicks around your neck is a good idea. Maybe wearing a backpack with a set of dry clothes too? It gives you also floating aid in the water. Or is sailing with a backpack undoable? I am an ice skater, so I wouldn’t know.

  2. Frederick Greis says:

    First off, very glad my friend that you survived what could have been a tragic incident. Guardian angel maybe? I’m on my third, with the first two in therapy. Many of us including me, have rushed to get out on the ice without taking the proper precautions and got away with it. I’m a big boat skipper but having recently sailed/raced a DN for the first time in 45 years in the NE Champs, I can state as fact that I cannot see things as well that low in that boat. Now write 50X on the blackboard: Flotation jacket, picks, throw line…..
    All the best.
    Fred Greis

    • David Fortier says:

      Good afternoon Fred,
      I have been iceboating now for 32 years, and have been in the cold water more than once that is for certain. BUT I am also not as young as I was on the previous times, so I must now remember to carry picks. One of the previous times about 13 years ago, I was sailing back to our camp after escorting the rest of the club back to a boat launch where they had parked all the way across the lake, for parking and access. Sailing between a point and an island there was a known trouble area that we had just sailed across as a group on the way to the launch. My crossing back alone did it, the ice gave way and it was indeed late in the afternoon. I was able to get out and then retrieve the boat, but it was getting to be 1600 or so and cold. I had to sail about 3mi to get back to my place. By the time I had gotten my DN out of the water my clothes were stiffening up, and cold I was getting. Fortunately there were a few fishing shacks on the ice, and one of them still had smoke from the chimney . Once there I was about halfway home, so it was indeed getting dark, and fortunately still windy. I was warm enough to make it home. Frozen solid again when I did.
      Cheers, Dave US4690

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