Lake Ronkonkoma, Long Island, February 10, 2007 - A week of dry weather and temperatures below 25 makes for glorious ice. When followed by a sunny day in the low 30s, that makes for glorious ice skating. This isn't guaranteed to happen every winter here, so we eagerly dusted off our skates, had them sharpened, and headed off to Lake Ronkonkoma.
Lake Ronkonkoma is, aside being fun to say ("ron-KON-ko-ma"), Long Island's largest lake - a rough oval kettlehole about two-and-a-quarter miles in circumference, and eight-tenths of a mile at its widest. Not large as lakes go, but plenty large enough to skate on.
As we had guessed, the lake was completely frozen over with smooth, clear ice, though we were surprised to find maybe fifteen to twenty other skaters. There are probably at least a million people within a twenty-minute drive; where was everyone? No matter, more room for us. And more room for the dozen or so ice boats and ice windsurfers.
Ice sailing is a more obscure pastime than you think it would be. I guess that's probably because it can't be done very often and in very many places. In areas where there's guaranteed thick ice every winter, there's usually also guaranteed thick snow. Sue tells me that where she grew up (in Northern Maine), if you wanted to go ice skating, you always had to shovel the snow off the ice. Bummer. Of course, the ice was usually so thick that you could actually use a snowplow to clear enough to skate on. But you'd never clear off enough of the lake to sail on.
So ice sailing remains a niche sport. It'd be fun to try, but it's not like you can go out and rent an ice boat or ice windsurfer. And I'd probably just hurt myself anyway. Ice windsurfing looks a lot less forgiving than plain old windsurfing (which I've never tried, either).
Sue had enough trouble skating. She was planning on skating around the lake, but as soon as she took off (I was taking pictures of the boats), she fell hard on her head. She was okay; we continued skating for nearly an hour, although she lacked even more confidence than she lacked prior to her spill. She might have felt better if we had any ice to put on her bump (Isn't that ironic? Water water everywhere, indeed...)
(Click here for more pictures of ice boats, ice windsurfers, and us.)