Iceboating: Ignore the fat lady

Published on April 21st, 2014

The soft water sailor needs only a bit of wind to sail. But for hardwater sailors, their needs are more specific. Wind, yes, but the ice must be nice, and it rarely is. Can’t relate? Maybe this report by Bill Bucholz will help…

Dogs just need to be dogs. If there is a scent, it’s not possible for them to ignore it so they give chase. So it appears to be with iceboaters.

We sniff ice and there’s just no way to sit still and ignore it. Even if there’s already been wonderful “end of season” sails with all the attendant drama of setting out planks, and wading through slush and self congratulations on how lucky we were to get this particular day.

Just over the horizon is a tremendous plate of ice, the biggest in Maine, just waiting for a surface. Three to four feet of shore bonded ice on one of the most dramatically beautiful lakes in the east, with all due respect to Winnepesaukee and Champlain.

The web cam at Rockwood did not look encouraging mid week, nor did the wind forecast. But the temps suggested a firming up of the surface, and by noon last Thursday the wind was called for 10-15 with gusts to twenty. And that’s just what we got.

The Southeasterly blew right up the lake steady as a train all day. The surface was hard and smooth most of the day and we could cover the lake with abandon. We’d agree to sail to some distant point, island or remote cove and then just do it: miles and miles and miles. No pressure ridges, cracks or holes out in the main body. Some of the shallow points and narrow straights were open but out on the broads you could be sailing along, go below for a cup of coffee and come back up only to find more miles ahead.

The big question now is what to do about all that ice. Do we keep an eye on it like the dog on a bone just because he’s programmed to? Do we listen to the fat lady and walk away? It will only take another couple of cold nights to provide a good surface. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t want to bury the bone of this season, but who wants to continue chewing on it? Right down to the very marrow? Que sera sera.

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