When everything falls into place
Published on March 20th, 2023
by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
It has been a heck of winter for California, with the Mammoth Mountain ski area – a five-hour drive north of Los Angeles – literally getting too much snow. I cancelled one trip because of horrific weather, and delayed another due to closed roads.
I was rewarded by patience, with the heavy use of online tools providing the courage to make the longer drive from San Diego. When we arrived, the mountain was still digging out chair lifts and managing avalanche mitigation, but we got in two glam days of skiing before the next storm prompted our departure.
While sailing is dependent on the weather, winter sports are really dependent, and iceboating is really, really dependent. Mother Nature struggles to offer a clean sheet of ice with sailable winds, but in this report by Deb Whitehorse from Wisconsin, the wait can be worth it:
After squeezing all we could from Lake Kegonsa two weekends ago, Four Lakes members tucked away their boats and winter gear because surely the season was over. Kegonsa’s shoreline disappeared, and Lake Monona was never an option because of the many holes, or as Greg McCormick stated, holes so big they deserved their own lake name.
We knew Lake Mendota was solid but figured there might be holes and a weakened spring shoreline. But on Wednesday, March 15, Don Sanford helpfully checked ice from 10,000 feet as he flew back from Newport, RI. Kegonsa was a mess, but Mendota looked good from that altitude.
• Mendota survived the warm temperatures?
• Thursday’s rain polished the surface?
• Friday night’s 10f hardened things up?
• The shore was tight on the east end?
DN and Renegaders Chad Atkins (RI) and Chris Gordon (MA) flew into Madison this weekend to pick up their DN trailer and head east. On the way to pick up Chad Thursday morning, I took a five-minute detour to look at Mendota’s Warner landing and was surprised to see the miracle of a tight shoreline.
A few minutes later, fresh off the plane, Chad saw the flat expanse of Lake Mendota’s ice. We alerted Renegader Don Anderson, who is game for any iceboating adventure. We agreed to keep an eye on things, hoping for the ‘What Ifs’ to fall in place.
Thursday night’s rain gave us little confidence for Mendota. Chad and I stopped at the lake on Friday morning before picking up Chris, again surprised to see the tight shoreline. Later that morning, Donny arrived to see for himself.
After walking out in the raging wind to scout Warner Bay, Donny and Chad pronounced it sailable but urged caution because of drain holes and cracks—spring ice changes by the hour. Boats might leave a perfectly fine shoreline only to return to 20 feet of open water. They would have to carry their Renegades to the ice because rolling on trailers would weaken the shoreline.
The hook was set; they couldn’t leave if there were a chance to sail their Renegades on Warner Bay. Chad and Chris bought Renegades last season but need more seat time because they focused on the DN World and North American Championship this season.
The promised cold arrived Saturday morning to tighten the ice, but the winds were gusting to 40 mph, which meant another day of waiting. Chad, Chris, and Damien Luyet tried a few laps at 4:00 pm but quickly realized the wind was still too strong. A puff made toothpicks out of Damien’s Renegade mast. Thankfully, Donny has spares.
Their patience paid off. Chad and Chris were rigged at sunrise Sunday morning, set up marks, and sailed a short course for 5 hours. Donny and Damien joined them at a reasonable hour for some scrub racing before Chad and Chris had to load up and drive back to Jamestown, RI, and Nantucket, MA.
Everything fell into place. Chad and Chris look forward to competing in the next Renegade Championship.
Even in cold temperatures, spring ice changes quickly. A large heave popped up towards the middle of Mendota, foiling Donny’s plan to scout ice for a sail to the University of Wisconsin Union. Donny, Damien, and Brett Hulsley took advantage of what was there and sailed for the rest of the day.