Late in the last century there was an annual iceboating event on Lake Winneipesaukee called the Spring Fling. It involved cruising, racing and food. Sometimes the Hard Way, the run from Wolfboro to Center Harbor and back, was included. Dick Price had an island at the mouth of Wolfboro Bay and would host the event there. When Dick moved to Florida the Fling lost its zing and the next best thing has been these big gatherings on Damariscotta Lake in March, as we had today. Everyone who tried to count the boats seemed to loose track after thirty; some estimated at least forty. No matter, the day cold not have been more perfect. Wind 10-15, temps hight twenties and full sun. Ice was less rough yet again and still sublime south of the narrows for those able to dodge the cracks, leads and open water.
Suffice it to say that if you are sailing a DN in expedition mode, you need to sit up and look for hazzards. Exploring an laberyntine lake like Dammy by its very nature involve sailing in close proximity to soft water.
You might think that because it’s not frozen it’s not that cold, but it is. And on a good day it’s always a long way back to the pits. But the risks are outweighed by the pure joy of sailing around islands like an airplane does clouds.
Back to the Spring Fling, one of the things that was discouraged was “reaching around”. This involves a fleet of iceboats sailed by skippers who want to go fast back and forth, up and down the lake. Damariscotta is ideal for this in a W or NW wind. But there are no sailing rules for boats meeting head on in a reaching situation. And because these are mostly new sailors who are naturally intoxicated by this amazing sensation
their instincts for avoiding collisions have not yet been honed. There were not crashes on the Broads today, and we don’t have a history of crashes reaching around but the potential is there, especially as the sun gets lower in the afternoon and a spot of fatigue sets in. We had a windward-leeward course set today, but the management failed to get the word out to everyone that this is what should be done. Ideally we’d have been running races all day, but this has been a perennial issue. All we can suggest is that when you find yourself in this sort of flow is at least try to establish two lanes, and then stay in them.
The final bit of dogma is that you will never learn to sail an iceboat by reaching back and forth. Like most endeavors in life, the more skilled you become the more fun it becomes. When you learn to sail effectively downwind you’ll be able to tackle the narrows without pushing or do well taking part in a Regatta.
Light winds and warm temps for a while, but you know that: you’re an iceboater. Stand by for Moosehead, or if Winni survives the warm spell, a Hard Way.