Wide open spaces

Published on November 15th, 2023

Anticipation is rising for iceboat enthusiasts, with this report from New England Ice Yacht Association eager to turn memories into reality:

There is nothing, half so much worth doing, than simply messing about in ………ICEBOATS! As the leaves fall and frost appears, each of us subconsciously casts an eye to every water body we pass by, waiting for the skim ice to appear. Finally four inches is measured and the hordes assemble.

The smaller bodies of water are the first to freeze, so the shakedown cruises and scratch racing occur with a careful eye for traffic and pedestrians (ice skaters). Old friendships are renewed, new ones made, and maybe even a few converts are recruited.

After the initial excitement of the first sail is over, many of us may get a little greedy, especially us cruisers. Those of us lucky to live near larger bodies of water, or have the luxury of midweek time off, begin to long for endless miles on long tacks, cruising.

Cruisers constitute a goodly number of non-racers and racers alike. If after a few laps around the pylons are completed on hard ice with a bright sun and 8-10 knots of wind, who cannot think about putting some distance under the runners. Places like Damariscotta, Winnipesaukee, Sebago, Moosehead, and Great Sacandaga Lake beckon.

The sleek speedster DNs might be exchanged for the cruisers. Gambits, Nites, Super DNs, BDXs, Whizzes, and a variety of other cruising craft. Who can resist the lure of sitting upright on a comfortable seat, perhaps in an enclosed cockpit, feeling the miles go by. One eye on the ice, the other taking in the scenic wonders. Maybe even an eagle will be checking its speed against yours.

A light lunch and a thermos of tea or coffee in the sunny lee of an island provides a welcome break to stretch muscles and fuel the furnace. The fleet of ‘Free Sailors’ only concern is, “Will the wind hold out?” A change of mittens and a quick check of gear and you and your wingman, (wingperson), are off again. Maybe you’ve checked your GPS and find you only need 20 more miles for a century run.

The late afternoon breeze has mellowed just enough to make you decide to head for the staging area. Perhaps it’s a weekend or you may have a few days here, and you leave the rig setup, checking tomorrow’s wind and weather. As you watch the sunset over the mountains, you have a profound sense of contentment and truly feel like it was a great day in your life. You sit on the runner plank and toast the day with friends, saying, “Here’s one great day they can’t take away.”

Pleasant dreams to all as we await the freeze.

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