With large areas of the country having record snowfalls, storms and low temps, Montana has been unusually warm. During recent winters, the temperature at the lake normally plummets to well below zero (-10 to -25 deg C!) around November and usually stays there until late Feb, with only occasional warm days.
This winter, in contrast, has had only brief spells of very cold weather, but many warm days of significantly above zero temperatures. This, combined with pretty regular dustings of snow, has made the surface completely unusable for me this year. The Greenbird has been on standby here in California all winter, but the window just did not appear. There was a brief period of about a week in January when the local sailors reported a nice patch of ice further up the lake, at an area called ‘White Earth’. However, it is the narrowest part of the lake at under 2 miles wide, with steep hill on either side – not good for wind. I decided that the available space at White Earth was too marginal and to wait to see if the larger south lake improved. Within one week, that small nice patch had also been covered in snow.
I was all ready to head up there this weekend as it did look like it was improving, but storms in the sierras delayed the journey by a few days. Good thing too, as my friend, Dennis from Santa Cruz who did make the trip, took three days to get there through treacherous conditions, only to find it starting to snow on Canyon Ferry almost immediately after arriving. He had half a day of sailing, then headed home! Such is the uncertainty of ice sailing and this particular quest.
With only a few weeks of the season left, I have to face the reality that the conditions are probably not going to work out for me this time.
So how can I increase the chances of success? The only option is to be more mobile and start earlier. Having to tow the big trailer from California, meaning a long slow journey, certainly impacted on my judgement of when to go and were the conditions good enough to warrant the journey. I think it would have helped if the yacht was already at the lake, so I could fly in and rent a car at a moments notice. I will therefore try to deliver the yacht, in its trailer, to the lake during the summer, when the journey is easy, in preparation for next year.
I have to remember that it did take me 10 years to get the land record after my first efforts in 1999. My first ice sailing challenge was during the winter of 2001/02, so maybe the winter of 2011/02 will provide the illusive 10 year conditions required to get this one done and dusted…