Ice Smarts


Ken Smith:
Injuries happen when mental lapses occur.

Read this and consider basic "common sense" learned by the experienced.  Zipping merrily along alone is an invitation to disaster.  Explore, test the ice, find the hazards and sail with company.  Pay atttention to lines of ice chunks, they mark seams.  Flowing water makes holes and thin spots.  Gas bubbles make runner-eaters that become boat-breakers.  Cracks grab edges and steer the boat for you--or bend or break planks and alignment.

Quoted from the four-lakes site in the safety section:

High and Dry Ice Boating
From the Blade Runner Newsletter (Four Lakes IBC, Madison, WI)
Winter 2003

One of the most powerful forces of nature, ranking right up there with gravity, atom splitting, and the unknown powers that always make a buttered piece of bread fall buttered side down on a floor, is the force of attraction between an ice boat and open water.

Though I hesitate to use the term "global warming", it can not be argued that we are definitely experienced a warming trend the past several years. This in turn means that our sport has suffered in its search for sailable ice. The 4LIYC always tries to pick out safe ice on which to conduct our racing activities, but lately it seems that in order to get any sailing in we must contend with thin ice and/or areas of open water on the lake.

This requires increased awareness on everyoneís part. Not only is sailing into open water dangerous, the publicity and the involvement of police or fire rescue units, (whether warranted or not), is not good for our sport.

The Blade Runner is taking this time to offer up a few (hopefully) helpful hints on how to stay high and dry while sailing your ice boat.

1. Gather Information- Find out before you set sail if the lake has any particularly dangerous or suspect areas to look out for. (Hint: they always do!!!) Ask other sailors, ask your Fleet Captain, ask an ice fisherman. Find out where the bad areas are and then stay away from them!

2.Respect the Lake-99.5% of the time you cannot (I repeat; cannot!!!) sail the entire lake, shore to shore in all directions. Open water, thin ice, expansion cracks, ice heaves, river and creek inlets and outlets or springs are all just waiting to inflict harm to you and your boat.

3.Pleasure Sailing is More Dangerous than Racing-I cannot recall the last time the club had to rescue someone from open water that they sailed into while competing in a club race. And yet there have been numerous times in the past few years that we had to pull sailors out of the drink who had been pleasure sailing on areas of the lake that they shouldnít have been near. If you must go pleasure cruising at least tell someone where you plan on going so someone might know something when you turn up missing.

4.Use the Buddy System-It would be great if Buddy Melges could sit next to you, steering you clear of trouble, as you leisurely sailed around the lake. But thatís not what weíre talking about here. What we mean is donít go sailing alone! Iím not talking about taking a passenger along for a ride, find a friend with another boat to go sailing with you. I know this has the potential of being two boats in the water but in practice it seldom works out that way. 5. Equip yourself for Survival- There are several things you can and should do in order to help yourself should trouble occur on the ice.

5.Carry a set of "Bear Claws"-These are like ice picks that can aid you in climbing out of the water and onto the ice. A inflatable life jacket is a great idea. Some racers already have them, they are unobtrusive and at about $75.00 pretty cheap insurance. A cell phone and a length of rope in your boat may not be a bad idea. Of course you should always dress appropriately, have some sort of ice creepers or spikes for your boots, and use a decent helmet.

6.Stay with your Boat- In most cases your boat will not sink to the bottom when you sail into open water. You, on the other hand cannot (I repeat, CANNOT), stay afloat too long in icy water. The cold water drains your energy much faster than swimming does in the warm summertime. Your clothes, when wet, may seem like youíre carrying an anchor with you as you try to swim for it. Stay with your boat, it is the best chance for your survival. Yell like hell for help. [Carry a whistle, too!-Ed.] There you have it, a few common sense things to consider when ice boating. Most of this advice is directed at the pleasure sailors out there, (and therefore will probably never see this article), but itís pretty sound advice for all of us.


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