Saturday, February 4, 2017

Ice Sailing Report, Sprague Lake, Spokane County, USA

It's been two full months since the first lakes froze, with regular snowfall messing up the surfaces within days of them skimming over.  I snuck one day in on Diamond Lake in December before it got dumped on, and I've been scanning the four state area since then for some clear ice, without result.  We had three weeks of temps between 0 and 20, which created thicker ice than I've ever seen here around Spokane, followed by three or four days of warm and sunny, which was just barely enough melting to dispose of the snow on Sprague Lake.  So when Frank gives me the call, that the weather service is calling for cold, sunny and winds in the high teens, we take that leap of faith, that there MIGHT be a usable surface, and head west.  First glance looks discouraging, the whole lake is white, no clear ice at all.  But Frank's scouting has discovered four or five inches of refrozen snow atop almost fifteen inches of clear ice, bumpy with one to two inch hard snow drifts.  A challenge, to get the boats running fast enough to develop the necessary apparent wind to power thru the crud.  But it's blowing fifteen plus, so once we find a smooth patch, the boats leap to speed, delivering the rush that redeems all the suffering delivered by this unforgiving sport!  The trick then becomes finding smooth (relatively!) ice at either end of a reach to carve a clean jibe, and nurse her back up to speed.  Once there, focus on course, trying to thread between the bigger drifts, looking for the path of least resistance, and working to keep the machine under control.   When really booking, we're bouncing across the high points, with the bigger drift launching us free of the surface, clattering back down, requiring quick steering corrections.  Between constant sheeting in and out, continuous steering effort,  and the non stop gut clenching to deal with the hammering the body is receiving, we're wasted after three hrs on the ice, and we stash the boats in the tules, 'cause the prediction for tomorrow is more of the same!

These are the most brutal conditions the Mini Skeeter has seen so far, and I'm hugely impressed.  The new springboard, and the well designed plank absorb shocks very well, and all the hardware and attachment points held up beautifully.  I kind of expected the aluminum runner chocks to suffer or loosen up, but a careful inspection post Day 2 revealed nothing loose, other than one runner bolt needs a new nyloc.  The surface was about as bad as an icesailor is likely to put up with(desperate folks!), and Scooter came thru shining! Thanks John!!!