There’s always Moosehead. How many times have careful readers of these ice reports read that line as winter wanes and the sap begins to run? It’s the light at the beginning of the long tunnel of summer. The hope that keeps us glued to web cams and weather reports. We didn’t know until Monday morning if we would get a shot at it this season. Last year we had three great days in early April, but that counts for nothing in the reality of iceboating.But the stars aligned for us and the last three days were some of the best of the season. The ice was hard and smooth; white frozen corn snow. Once clear of the inner bay at Greenville the ice smoothed out and became very flat and quiet. Just a small zippering sound from the leeward runner. No bumps. Further up in the middle of the lake were un-wet out hard snow mounds, but aside from getting launched off them in the strong winds Tuesday there were no issues. How an insert runner can survive those sideways landings over and over is a mystery.
The goal Monday was to see if we could do a Long Way, the Moosehead version of the Hardway. Greenville to Mt.Kineo and back in a tight fleet.
There it is in the background, above, as alluring and exotic as any tropical Isle. We scouted a crossing at the first pressure ridge late Monday, but left the event itself for Tuesday.
The forcast wind piled in Tuesday morning, not unlike the previous Long Way in 2013. But five boats rigged up and pushed out into the moderate gale and sailed full and by for a good while as the big mountain got closer and closer. The ice was flawless, save for a second big ridge near Sandy Point. We found a crossing, marked it for the return leg and beat way up into the lee of Kineo’s cliffs.
The beauty of this ridge was that it was covered in snow, which gave it the look more of old mountains than piles of ice. The 2022 LongWay is in the books! Congratulations to Denis Guertin, Michael Young, Jeff Rosenberry, Dave Fortier, and Bill Buchholz.
A few more boats showed up late in the day and set up for Wednesday’s sail. The whole group was staying at Kellys, which has a fine restaurant connected to the hotel. A long table was set and we had the classic iceboaters apres sail feast.
Wednesday’s wind beat the forecast so a fleet of six went on tour. We all did the requisite laps around the course T and Karen set up, but the pull of big ice was impossible to resist. We worked our way down into Moose Bay where there was actual ice, grey and flat. At the bottom of the bay we stopped in to see Bob Bartlett, the owner of Lloyd Robert’s old DN Cool Tool. Bob wasn’t there, but Cool Tool was, and we all gave her an affectionate pat.
After romping a while on that amazing plate we headed off to attempt the fist ever, to our knowledge, circumnavigation of Sugar Island. Sugar is the biggest island in the lake, and the northeast tip is rounded through a small channel, rather tight in a NW wind. There were rocks and open water on both sides, but the main channel was well marked with red and green buoys and just wide enough to short tack through. All six boats made it and out we popped deep in Lily Bay with our windward mark some five miles away.
But as you can see below, no one was complaining:
This photo doesn’t do justice to the vastness of the lake and the ice that went on for miles and miles with not a crack or hole.
The ice began to soften as the temps hit mid forties. No one was in any great rush to pack up, savoring the sun, good company and warm glow of a superb season closer. Yes. This is it. Cue the opera. Slush in the pits, mud on the shore, warm sun and fading wind. There is no better way to finish off the season. Thanks to all the sailors who took the gamble and made the drive.The great diverse group coming together to sail on ice never disappoints.
Here’s one parting shot, runner tracks in slush. Below, an iceout video. Rather mesmerizing, and a celebration of the mystery of ice.