Thursday, January 10, 2013

ICE... first sail of the year! Sprague Lake

Finally!  Nine days below freezing delivers a sailable surface, and I'm desperate enough to chance a marginal wind prediction.  Spokane's mean temp hovers right around 32 degrees all winter, and we can get plenty cold to form ice on the shallower lakes, but a week or two of serious warming can show up at any time to mess with my fun!  Throw in regular Pacific precipitation, and a iceboaters season is always at risk here.
So to get clear ice early is a big bonus, deeply appreciated.  I roll up to Sprague Lake and strap on the blades to scout my playground.  I find a solid 3" with a few half inch deep snowdrifts, some pebbley patches of late freeze, and great expanses of gorgeous plate that begs to be scratched up.  Last weekend was spent tuning the Fed to be ready for this, and the proof of success is partially measured by setting the platform on the ice and giving it a good shove. If it silently glides off into the distance, I've nailed it.  It does, I pursue to retreive, drop the rig on, kick a few steps and hop aboard.

Now I'm out here running mostly on hope.  It's blowing a big 4 mph, gusting to 6, with lulls in the 1 to 2 range.  So keeping this thing cruising requires skill, something I'm still chasing.  Time to settle in and get sensitive.  Start with the ever so smooth little carves upwind and down, searching for that tiny blip of power that's there when you find the sweet spot.  Instantly sheet in ever so slightly, and get rewarded with another micro burst of speed.  Search again, and repeat.   Now start to choose the surface.  The super smooth ice offers so little resistance, and it's needed to keep spooling up the speed.  Gracefull arcs between the drifts and bumpy bits are required to keep drag at bay.  Do it all right, carve the perfect line downwind in the odd 8 mph puff, and I'm able to produce 25 kts of exhilarating boatspeed.  

The flip side is the lulls.  This is the essence of ghosting, making every action as smooth and gentle as possible, so as to not scruff of speed.  Quick glances at the telltales to make sure the sail is producing power, however little.  Let her glide til the next puff shows....

I can manage about a 30 minute session before I'm looking for warmth.  First time out and I don't have my gear fully dialed in, forgot a few things.  Jump in the rig for a while, crank up the heater, take on some fuel, and head out agin for another round.  I get in three runs before the ground fog shows up and sucks the last life out of the breeze.  Pack her up, and hit the road home in the dying light, grinning again.  An early season score!


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