After squeezing all we could from Lake Kegonsa two weekends ago, Four Lakes members tucked away their boats and winter gear because surely the season was over. Kegonsa’s shoreline disappeared, and Monona was never an option because of the many holes, or as Greg McCormick stated, holes so big they deserved their own lake name. We knew Mendota was solid but figured there might be holes and a weakened spring shoreline.
On Wednesday, March 15, Don Sanford helpfully checked ice from 10,000 feet as he flew back from Newport, RI. Kegonsa was a mess, but Mendota looked good from that altitude.
What if: Mendota survived the warm temperatures? Thursday’s rain polished the surface? Friday night’s 10f hardened things up? The shore was tight on the east end?
DN and Renegaders Chad Atkins (RI) and Chris Gordon (MA) flew into Madison this weekend to pick up their DN trailer and head east. On the way to pick up Chad Thursday morning, I took a five-minute detour to look at Mendota’s Warner landing and was surprised to see the miracle of a tight shoreline. A few minutes later, fresh off the plane, Chad saw the flat expanse of Lake Mendota’s ice. We alerted Renegader Don Anderson, who is game for any iceboating adventure. We agreed to keep an eye on things, hoping for the What Ifs to fall in place.
Thursday night’s rain gave us little confidence for Mendota. Chad and I stopped at the lake on Friday morning before picking up Chris, again surprised to see the tight shoreline. Later that morning, Donny arrived to see for himself. After walking out in the raging wind to scout Warner Bay, Donny, and Chad pronounced it sailable but urged caution because of drain holes and cracks—spring ice changes by the hour. Boats might leave a perfectly fine shoreline only to return to 20 feet of open water. They would have to carry their Renegades to the ice because rolling on trailers would weaken the shoreline.
The hook was set; they couldn’t leave if there were a chance to sail their Renegades on Warner Bay. Chad and Chris bought Renegades last season but need more seat time because they focused on the DN World & North American Championship this season.
The promised cold arrived Saturday morning to tighten the ice, but the winds were gusting to 40 mph, which meant another day of waiting. Chad, Chris, and Damien Luyet tried a few laps at 4 PM but quickly realized the wind was still too strong. A puff made toothpicks out of Damien’s Renegade mast. Thankfully, Donny has spares.
Their patience paid off. Chad and Chris were rigged at sunrise Sunday morning, set up marks, and sailed a short course for 5 hours. Donny and Damien joined them at a reasonable hour for some scrub racing before Chad and Chris had to load up and drive back to Jamestown, RI, and Nantucket, MA. Everything fell into place. Chad and Chris look forward to competing in the next Renegade Championship.
Even in cold temperatures, spring ice changes quickly. A large heave popped up towards the middle of Mendota, foiling Donny’s plan to scout ice for a sail to the University of Wisconsin Union. Donny, Damien, and Brett Hulsley took advantage of what was there and sailed for the rest of the day.
Ken WhiteHorse problem solving the DN Western Region ATV
Via Ken WhiteHorse:
We had the Western Region DN ATV at the Past Champs ICEBOAT shop for repairs. I was just about to cut out the flux capacitator with the blow torch when 4LIYC Renegader and DN racer Chris Gordon walked in with battery boosters and various electrical analysis gadgetry. He says, “Hold your horses there WhiteHorse!” He started at the battery and worked his way forward, testing for open circuits, fried wires, and relays. Within an hour, he found the problems! We turned on the key, and yes, the lights came on! Pushed the green button ✅ yes, the starter engaged! The powerful Ka-ma-sa-ki! rice burner fired to life on the second revaluation! Even so, I still recommend replacing the flux capacitator in the very near future. Ken WhiteHorse, PAST CHAMPIONS ICEBOAT SHOP
Via Daniel Hearn:
I didn’t know our talented DN World & North American Championship photographer, Cathy Firmbach, could also wax poetic about something as utilitarian as our racing marks. Oh, what an interesting group we are!
But, man, are we rough and tumble. Talk about taking a beating! In spite of Pat Heppert’s efforts to protect the stoic fixtures, they took on more damage than a fraternity house during rush week. Delta, Delta, Delta pledges, no doubt, as they were clearly the recipients of excessive hazing. Good thing we have a bunch of handy types here in the Western Region. We’ll get them patched back together before our next rodeo.
Chris fluxing the capacitators.
You may have also heard that the Western Region ATV decided to check out during the events, as well. Thanks to Kenny Whitehorse, with help from Chris Gordon, our chariot is back in business, and better than ever. A faulty winch switch fried a couple of fuses. Our machine was dead on the ice in the middle of the lake. A super cool ice fisherman loaned us his ATV to tow our wounded sled back to the pits. We thanked him with a case of beer the next day. He said, “Mama enjoys a cold Lite by a warm fire!”
K. Whitehorse Enterprises insisted that I come over to inspect the work in progress. Fortunately, the fuses saved the wiring from further damage. With most of the plastic off, we agreed it was the perfect time to put on a new muffler. Current muffler has a sizeable hole, and a local shop wouldn’t fix it last year when their mechanic couldn’t just slap on a direct replacement. (Ever wonder what happened to problem solving? They don’t seem to make Kenny Whitehorses and Paul Kruegers these days!) We’re also going to drill a hole through the plastic into the air intake, so we can easily squirt some starting fluid, if our machine is ever grouchy on a particularly cold morning.
Many thanks to Ken and Chris for donating their talents and expertise. I’m going to meet up with Kenny on Friday at the “Past Champions Iceboat Shop” to help with reassembly and to sweep the shop floor. It’s always good to align tasks appropriately with skills!
Enjoy the beauty of ice sailing with Chris Gordon, Paul Krueger, and Ken Whitehorse as they sail on Lake Monona with Madison’s skyline in the background. Then stay tuned for some serious DN racing action on Lake Senachwine in Putnam, Illinois. Watch it here. Sean R. Heavey website