Saturday, January 12, 2019

Montana Ice Sailing

It's a new year, so let the new adventures begin!  We get the call from the Bozeman Boys, they've been skating some prime ice since November, but only now has it been cold long enough to build sufficient thickness for boats. I meet John in Missoula at 10 am, and we're unloading the Mini Skeeters on Canyon Ferry, east of Helena, by 1. It's the season opener for the locals, so the boat ramp is bustling. All our buddies are there, and we've got breeze! The ice averages maybe 5", but it's seen some snow, that's drifted, melted and frozen hard, so it's a challenge to find the smoother sections, and endure the teeth rattling transitions. But we're sailing with friends under the big Montana sky, so needle on the gleemeter rises steadily. Three or four hours on the ice is plenty today, so we wind down as the sun seeks the horizon. Glenn has once again offered up the Clubhouse right here at Silos. So we nestle in for the evening, drink a few beers, and put out an effort to stay awake til 9 pm.

The men roll up fairly early, and we hang a bit at Glenn's. waiting for the predicted breeze to show. Around noon i we meander beachward, to find more locals on the ice, setting up more boats. A few of us get in some skating, waiting for the key ingredient. Soon the surface is alive with iceboats. Yesterday's strong breeze and 40 degree temps have polished the surface some, making the lighter air doable. Still a bit rough for those of us with a few days in this season on smoother surfaces, but totally acceptable to all who are eager to get the season underway. Out for a session, in for some tuning or refueling or socializing, then back out for more. Til the light again slants low, and we pack up and return to the nest. Glenn joins us for the evening, feeds us well, and we watch Shacklelton battle the Antartic, til lids droop.

We're up at 6 to hit the road early. We've received intel on Smith Lake, west of Kalispell, smooth refrozen snow surface and 10 plus wind postulated. We're there by early afternoon, and we're offered up fast sailing with 5 skeeters vying for dominance. I have a great day, sailing better than my usual mediocre showing, so it's hard to stop. The dimming light finally winds things down, and we old men are plenty sore. John, Mike and I find a lovely bar in Kalispell for some fine dining and brews, and by the time I hit the cabin in Rollins I'm ready for horizontal. The next day offers even bigger wind, but I'm still creaky in the morning, so I opt to head home, satiated. John and Mike get another day, in a breezy, squally afternoon, and at the days end there's enough snow on the lake to trash it until the next warming trend. We watch diligently for the next venue to present itself.......

Author, David Farmer, Spokane, WA.

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