The Chickawaukee Ice Boat Club was founded in the early sixties by Warner St. Clair and Paul Wolter to promote the building and racing of DN iceboats. Lloyd Roberts entered the scene in the late seventies and has been a driving force in the club ever since, co-authoring with St. Clair the definitive DN manual “Think Ice”. Building and racing DN’s were originally what the club was about. We built our boats and trophies, organized regattas, and sent the best sailors to regional and nation races. We still run a few regattas each season, but cruising and touring have become the dominant activity. We offer prizes for one hundred miles sailed in one day, and for exceeding sixty miles per hour.
There are now a large variety of boats in the club, and while some people are still building boats, there are also many great boats available on the used market. Most of us still like the thrill of a good race, but now it’s more of the pick up variety. But racing builds sailing skill, so we do encourage new members to take part in as many races as possible. Not only do skills improve, but the rules of the road are put into intense use. One of the prime reason the CIBC exists is to promote safe iceboating. There are risks both from the shifting moods of the ice and from other sailors. We all work together as a group to minimize the inherent dangers of the sport.
The only way we know about the conditions of a given lake is through the ice scouts. These tend to be the most hard core sailors, who will skip work in the middle of the week to inspect promising ice. We watch a handful of different lakes here in the mid-coast very carefully. By the weekend there is a consensus on the best place to sail, word is sent out on iceboat.me, and everyone goes sailing.
The two best lakes for touring are Megunticook in Camden and Damariscotta in Jefferson. They have bays, small coves, narrow straights, large open areas and spectacular scenery. Both have excellent access and boats can be left there as long as the weather holds. Our home ice, Lake Chickawaukee, is the ideal venue for racing. Access at Robert’s Beach is excellent, and the mid-day sun pours into the pit area. Lloyd will often have beans and cornbread on the fire. Some iceboat cultures tend to take boats to a lake, set them up, and only sail when the ice is good. The CIBC sets up and takes down very often, sometimes sailing two different lakes in one day.
We’re big on picnic lunches. Is that why we sail bigger boats these days? They certainly have plenty of room for a thermos and lunch. There is always a nice island in the lee with some sunshine, and boats tend to start lining up by the beach when hunger calls.
In addition to the great joy of building and maintaining your iceboat, there is the camaraderie of a shared passion. Spanning gender, generations and politics, we all love to sail fast on the ice. A big frozen sheet of ice is such an ethereal piece of geography, here today, gone tomorrow. Therein lay the heartbreak of the sport: perfect ice today, with plans for sailing tomorrow, and a foot of snow during the night. But then it rains, the snow wets out, and in a few days it’s frozen again. We’re back in business. Most years we can expect over thirty days sailing.