Well, that blog title sounds like a relationship drama, but of course I am referring to the ice. Its been a crazy time and I haven’t posted for a while, but we’ve been through our first transition from living frozen in a 4 foot block of ice to floating on a lake again, and its been pretty interesting. (We thought we might celebrate by having a break up party, where you have to come as a famous couple that is no longer together…)
Of course during this time my Dad and Bob came for a visit, and we decided to upgrade our solar panel system. Dad delivered the solar panels, and arrived just in time. The ice was still strong enough to walk on at that point, and it was still (mostly) solid at the shore edge. (A few days later it melted and opened up there). So the guys were able to get the panels from the dock (a kilometer away) to the houseboat. The plan had been to load all the supplies and the new large solar panels on a komatik, the traditional heavy Inuit type sled, and drag it over with our neighbour’s snow mobile. There was some trouble getting the old Donkey fired up though, and the guys wound up dragging the loaded komatik across the ice by hand. I wish I could have seen that, and got a picture! Apparently it was quite easy, as once the load is moving on the ice it takes no effort to keep it moving. In this way very heavy loads can be towed. Its sort of fun to picture my old dad and Bob dragging a heavy traditional sled by hand across the lake ice. It goes without saying that Dad always prefers to do things the mechanical way if at all possible. Walking isn’t his natural tendency. ( In fact, he spent a few days of his visit talking about his design for a boat that could travel across both land and ice. The fact that I would rather walk didn’t enter into it!)
The changes in the ice were fascinating. As the weather warmed up the ice became thinner every day, and the texture changed. It went from being a large solid block to ‘candled’ ice. Imagine long and densely packed icicles, maybe up to a 18 inches long, and you get the idea of what candled ice is. It has some ability to withstand weight, but without the candled being densely packed, they just fall apart from each other. So at the ends of the ice sheets, the candles simply fell off into the lake from any wave action. The sound was fascinating, like gentle windchimes.
First the main lake ice separated from the main shore and started to get thin around the house. I moved off at that point to stay with a friend in town. I didn’t want to leave but the poor old dogs couldn’t manage easily getting back and forth to shore so it wouldn’t have been nice for them to stay. Our timing was perfect. We walked from the houseboat to the ice edge at the shore. Kona jumped off and into the lake easily and swam to shore. Ginger was more reluctant and I had to basically pitch her into the lake so she could swim the last 40 feet – not the nicest thing when you are a sweet, old and retired dog. (By that evening the water had opened up all around the houseboat and the dogs would have had great trouble getting to shore.) I went across the open water with the amazing water/ice walker. Its just so much fun! This is the gizmo that our neighbour Kuzman designed. I wrote about it during the freeze up, but in the breakup it really shines. It took a bit of practice to learn how to make the transition to moving from open water back onto the ice – that’s the only hard part. Getting it runners up and out of the water and onto a solid ice shelf a few inches above the water takes a bit of core strength. Its even harder when the ice is rotten and breaks under the weight of the runners. At first I tried swearing, but that didn’t help much. After a bit of practice I was able to do it but it really is harder than it looks. (You may note I cut the video below off at this point – it took me ages to get out of that water hole on my first try!) The fun thing about it though is that its completely safe. You can bear weight on really rotten ice as it distributes your weight broadly across the ice on the long pontoon. If the ice is too thin, and you break through, you just paddle. So, a swim is very unlikely. Its quite stable. Here’s a video of Kuzman showing me how to get around on open water. I thought it would be great fun to film this as a houseboat spring workout class, but sadly I couldn’t get Kuzman to put on a little speedo bathing suit for the filming. Alas, so close to fame and a viral video. We did however put an open beer on the pontoon end, to add some challenge and fun.
I was on shore for about 9 days, going back and forth to the houseboat from time to time. The ice kept getting thinner and thinner, and one day the main ice shelf broke free from the shore completely and floated around in the bay. Then suddenly it disappeared almost in front of our eyes. I went to work and the bay was full of ice, and came home and it was empty! We were so happy to be back on a lake again. With the ice around the wind was always frigidly cold, but suddenly, with the birds and the waves, and warm air, we’d rejoined the rest of the world in spring. We put the SS Minnow in the water, rowed to the far side of the bay, and promptly caught a nice big whitefish for dinner. (The fish are of course pretty hungry after a long winter and any open water is teeming with them.) Life is good.