Here’s the report written up by Henry Stone and published in the April 5, 1985 issue of the NEIYA Newsletter. It’s a bit long, but very compelling for those who have done it, and enticing for those who haven’t. Not saying PUSHAW will be as much fun, but we’ll soon find out. Final call posted here late tomorrow. Could be a Hundred Mile race Monday.
On Thursday, March 14 word was passed from the Winnepesaukee region to Dick Price that things were looking A-OK for the Winnepesaukee Frolic for the weekend. The information was put on the answering service telephone by Bill Converse and things began to happen.
On Friday morning Dick Price, Leo Healy, Sid Hamill and Henry Stone got an early start and were on the ice by 10:30 at Goodhue’s Boatyard in Wolfeboro. It was a bright sunny day, the temperature was just below freezing and the wind was a blustering 25 to 30 kts. with gusts to 40, calling for storms sails, a decision that required little debate.
The ice in Wolfeboro Bay was good smooth snow ice and made for excellent sailing. After a few runs up in the bay we were joined by Lee Turner and Phil Mork, local ice boaters and both full-time residents of Wolfeboro. Shortly after, we all poked our noses out of the bay into the Broads and into the full blast of the strong Northwest winds. On Thursday Lee had flown over the entire lake and sketched on a chart of all the visible pressure ridges, or reefs as they are called locally. He gave each of us a copy with the admonishment that these reefs were constantly changing and that most of them were cracks that opened up, revealing open water, as opposed to the kind that up welled and that are more readily spotted as you sail about. Needless to say CAUTION was the word and we all agreed that once spotted it was a good practice to stop, get out and examine the conditions.
Once in the Broads we tacked up wind toward Parker’s Island, about 2 miles from the entrance to Wolfeboro Bay. Parker’s Island used to belong to Dick Price and he had the permission of the present owners to use the island and the cottage as the headquarters for the Winnipesaukee Frolic, sponsored by Dick, and to take place on Saturday and Sunday. The ice was good all the way and we hove to in the lee of the island, and got out to explore the cabin and its surroundings. The weather report for the weekend was as good as one could possibly have expected: continuing strong northwest winds and below average temperatures.
For the rest of the day we explored the area south of Parker’s Island. Leo Healey had brought along a bundle of small red flags mounted on dowels and anytime we spotted open water he was able to stop, chop a hole in the ice and plant a flag which greatly added to the safety of the ice sailing. For a possible race course for Saturday we explored the ice south of Barndoor, Kenaston and Varney islands along the south shore. It was OK, so we set up a course from Parker’s sailing downwind, leaving those three islands to port, swinging back into the south Wolfeboro Bay around a couple of fishing shacks and beating back up to Parker’s, a distance of approximately six or 7 miles. A really fun course.
For the rest of the afternoon we sailed south and west over to Alton Bay and were able to penetrate up the rather narrow bay until the wind was cut off by the surrounding high hills. From there we headed up the west side of Rattlesnake Island, stopping at several pressure ridges. Lee Turner “came- a- cropper” in one of the reefs and broke a runner, but somehow managed to sail the 3 1/2 miles back to Wolfeboro on his two remaining runners. We finally quit sailing around 5 o’clock and it would be hard to guess how many miles we had covered for the day.
Saturday dawned bright and clear with the same wind conditions. A fleet began to assemble at Goodues and in no time we had 23 or 24 boats, mostly DN’s, three Northeasters, a Renegade, a Skeeter, a two place DN sailed by Lloyd Roberts and Larry Hardman, plus several DN’s with spring boards. In fact we had four from New Hampshire, three from New Jersey, four from Connecticut, one from Rhode Island, two from Maine and seven from Massachusetts. Bill Converse’s telephone had done the trick.
Dick Price ran a skippers meeting at around 10 o’clock. He explained that the purpose of the Winnepesaukee Frolic was to have fun on an informal basis. All races would have informal starts in order that everyone could participate. Each race would wind up in the lee of an island and the first boat would stop near the shore on the left, and then each succeeding boat would finish up along side to starboard so that when all the boats were in, it would be a simple matter to walk down the line and record the order of finish. There were to be two classes in each race: DN’s and all others. He dwelled at length on sailing safety, observing the rules of the road, watching out for pressure ridges etc.
The first race started out in the middle of the Broads just outside Wolfeboro Harbor. It consisted of a beat up around Parker’s Island leaving it to port, a run down wind and into Wolfboro Harbor to a buoy just off Goodhue’s boatyard, very much in the lee of the land. Back up wind to Parker’s leaving it to port and finishing up under the lee of the island. Ken Anderson of Marblehead won the DN class and Henry Stone won the all other class. The finishing system worked very well except it was observed that Stu Nelson came up to the finish with a bit too much speed and managed to stick his front runner in the water along the shore of the island, much to the delight of those there to observe the incident.
When all the boats were in it was decided that because the conditions were so good we should try for some long distance cruising, a possibility that only lakes the size of Winnepesaukee offer. So after another briefing by Dick Price on treating all reefs with caution, all 23 boats started up wind towards Meredith some 14 miles to windward. Lee Turner took the lead as he was as knowledgeable as anyone on the conditions we were to encounter. During the first 5 miles of sailing we must have crossed two or three reefs. At each we all stopped and walked our boats across. To sail across a reef would have been too risky. At the last of those three stops it was decided to change our destination from Meredith to Center Harbor as it appeared the conditions would be better. Center Harbor was further than Meredith and if we all made it, it would be in itself in accomplishment. The trip from Wolfeboro to Center Harbor is such that conditions allow it but once every eight or 10 years.
From Parkers Island to Central Harbor is about 14 miles as the crow flies. Beating our way up means that we sailed nearly twice that distance. It was a sight to see 23 ice boats traveling at high speeds tacking back-and-forth, stopping at reefs, helping each other over each ridge. Occasionally one or two boats backtracked downwind just for fun when there was a particularly good stretch of ice.
Center Harbor is the winter home of the Mount Washington the fairly large side wheel steamer that plies the lake carrying passengers and mail once the ice is out. It is berthed at a dock surrounded by bubblers that prevent the ice from forming around it. In the winter time Center Harbor is a very small town. A supermarket, a couple of gas stations, a restaurant and that’s about it.
On the last mile it was a thrill to round the last little island and see dead ahead the Mount Washington. Instinctively each skipper let out a yell of joy at the site. Miracle of miracles, all boats made it in one piece. With parking brake set most of us walked uptown to the local restaurant for a snack or two. Quite a few people gathered on the beach to stare at our boats and it surely must have been a sight to see as the fleet beat its way into the harbor.
With the trip half over each of us began to wonder about the downwind trip back. Faster speeds and just has many pressure ridges to worry about. Believe it or not, Mark Hancik from New Jersey had his girlfriend ride the whole way clinging to the runner plank of his DN. How she made it no one knows, but she was obviously frozen and stiff from the ride. It was decided to have her ride back in Henry Stones Skeeter, much to everyone’s relief.
The wind, though a bit diminished, held all the way back, and once again everyone made it back without incident. As Parker’s Island came up over the horizon we began to see four or five boats sailing around. They turned out to be late comers who missed our departure from Parker’s to Center Harbor earlier in the day. Once all boats had arrived at Parker’s we set up the picnic on the ice and proceeded to enjoy cheese and wine supplied by Dick Price. While this was going on Lloyd Roberts produced some frozen Maine oysters which he proceeded to shuck and pass around. A glorious way to celebrate a most memorable trip.
Sunday proved to be a bust as the wind simply died. For a while it tantalized us. The DN’s were able to move about a bit, but by noon it disappeared altogether. The sun had begun to work on the ice so the better part of valor was to call it a day. We pushed the boats back to Goodue’s where Dick Price conducted the award ceremony, duly recorded by Lee Turner (as was the sail to Center Harbor on video tape). Mark Hancik’s girlfriend was awarded a T-shirt for “valor above and beyond the call”. Ken Anderson had left because of equipment failure so wasn’t there to receive his trophy but Henry Stone was there to accept his. In summary, what a way to wind up the season. It may will be another 10 years before conditions will permit a trip like that. Let’s hope not.