April 15. It’s highlighted on my calendar every year. No, it’s not a reminder to get my taxes in at the last minute. Rather it’s the average ice-out date on my favorite Minneapolis-area metro lake. And unfortunately, owing to a long and severe winter, we’re not going to make that this year.
My favorite lake is big; 15,000 acres to be exact, and it’s not usually the first lake around to return to its more liquid form. To be honest, I don't know how much ice is left to melt at the moment. I haven’t driven around it lately. In fact, I haven’t been to that lake since everyone could drive on it.
Thinking my spirits might be buoyed by the sight of open water at my second favorite lake, I excitedly drove past the launch ramp on my way home from buying some shiny new trailer/towing bits at my local marine supply store the other day. Yes, I have boating on the brain.
As you can see for yourself in the image, this much smaller 350-acre lake, home to my favorite ski run, still features more ice than open water. For you warm weather folks, that path or trail of open water running from the boat launch ramp traces the “road” that the ice fishermen and women wore in the ice this winter. Because of the constant traffic of pick-up trucks and SUV’s, the ice is a little thinner there, and thus, melts faster.
Many of us were hoping that with our short fall and long winter spring might have come early this year. Not only is that not happening, but we just received nearly 10 inches of wet, sloppy, slushy snow.
It brought back some very unpleasant memories of mid-April a year ago when it snowed 16 inches. In one day. The skiing was great! Snow skiing that is, not the kind behind a boat.
That made for some busy days at the boat dealership where I was working at this time last year. Instead of filling the service stalls doing spring starts to get boats ready for the water, we were scrambling to fill the building with as many boats as we could, sparing them from the indignity of getting dumped on by a foot-and-a-half of heavy snow.
The promise of spring’s eventual arrival, and thoughts of what lies ahead in the form of sun-soaked days spent cruising, skiing and riding is what gets us through the winter.
Winter for me (and sometimes spring, as has been noted) didn’t always mean ice and snow and short days. I lived in Hermosa Beach, California, for three-and-a-half years, and could ride my bike by the Marina del Rey yacht basin whenever I needed a boating – or superyacht – fix.
I also took a year off from school and lived in Clearwater, Florida. Then I finished school, and moved to Ft. Lauderdale for a while. I actually lived aboard a couple of boats moored at Sails Marina, across the street from Pier Sixty-Six, in the shadow of the 17th Street Causeway Bridge (see the story in the May issue of Boating Industry where we detail what is happening to that space now).
Those memories warm my thoughts anyway, even if they won’t help me find open water for my boat.
I realize that despite the blizzard-like conditions on full display outside my office window right now, and in my driveway spring will eventually do its thing.
But I am a little nervous. When I looked up the average ice-out date on my favorite lake I inadvertently came across a rather disturbing factoid. Guess what the latest date for ice-out is? May 8. Ugh. Perish the thought.
The late comedian and actor Robin Williams once said spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party.” I’m ready for the party to begin.
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