It didn’t look hopeful pulling into the small village of Lambton, a little over an hour from the border in Quebec. Snow was falling into a wet matrix on the ice, the howling wind was whipping it into frosting and the temperature was dropping. That’s iceboating: you get what you get.
But in the morning it appeared the wind had worked its wonder, and was still at full force. Steady in the low twenties with gusts into the thirties. Just the kind of conditions a Whizz with a good DN rig thrives in.
Grande Lac St. Francois is eighteen miles long and the plate is flawless the entire way. No cracks, holes or pressure ridges. There were still lumps of frosting in some areas which the wind made easy work of. The NW wind allowed the entire length of the lake to be made with just a couple of tacks, and back down the gybe angles were very tight. The boats would barely stay on the ice if we got to cocky and headed up at all on the downwind leg. The miles rolled on and on at top speed, all three Whizz closely matched in speed.
The lake is fed by two rivers, Riviere Muskrat close to the north end and Riviere Sauvage at the south. Sauvage has a new higher bridge spanning its entrance. The old foundations present holes in the ice, as well as some damage from where construction equipment was set up, but there was one clear lane that could be sailed, so in we went.
The river twisted and doglegged its way deep into a wilderness area. The ice was perfect. There was one dead spot that took some getting through, but then back came the wild wind for the run to the bottom.
The river peters out in fields of boulders.
When the lake level is dropped in early winter in anticipation of spring runs-off the big rocks poke themselves up through the plate, above.
In the summer those fragmite are just about in the water. The ice is dropped 15’ over the course of the winter. But now the lake is beginning to re-filled and the influx of water is coming up around the edges, presenting access challenges.
From here it’s a long way to Muskrat River, but off we went, happy to be back in the big wind blasting to windward. Denis led us in and we fetched up at the source with this massive boulder zit as the turning mark.
At this point the only sane thing to do is run back down to Sauvage, work our way up the the end, run back out and beat up to the top of the lake again.
Here’s the result:
By now it’s 6:30and the sailors are sore. But the beauty of spring sailing are the long days without the cold. It was right about freezing all day, but even after seven hours of sailing no one was the least bit cold. Even with the apparent wind at who knows what strength. Just know that lifting the gloved hand out of the cockpit to reach forward to the pull the sheet required some effort to push that hand against the wind. And yes, we did pull those sheets.
Here’s a short video montage that Denis put together for us.
That’s all well and good, but the big news for anyone who wants to sail is that Lac Megantic is ready. Sixteen inches of good ice observed in a fishing hole, smooth grey surface with no snow, good access with no moat at Piopolis on the west side of the lake.
And it’s an hour closer than St. Francois. Weather tomorrow puts it at risk, but our goal is to sail it. No one to our knowledge ever has put an iceboat on Megantic.
ANY TAKERS? The border crossing is easy. Quick test in Kingfield and an on-line form to fill out for customs and you’re in. And the road from Eustis to the border is in great shape and surrounded by absolutely stunning scenery.