I doff my wooly cap to Mark Engelhardt for sharing this creative concept for how to cross the lake if/when the ice tightens from shore-to-shore. A Lake Champlain saw blade driven ice sled ferry service?!?! (Learn more about this unique ice transportation solution below.)
Winter Ferry Worries
As we lumber into midwinter and temperatures drift colder, many friends and neighbors begin to worry aloud about uninterrupted Essex-Charlotte ferry service.
I really, really hope the ferry doesn’t suspend operations this winter.
What are we going to do if the ferry shuts down again?
The Essex-Charlotte ferry is critical infrastructure for many of us, and I fully appreciate concerns. In fact, I share the concerns. But I try to displace worry with constructive brainstorming about how to counter the risks of ferry closure. And when my daydreams drift from constructive solutions to goofy, even silly ideas, I try to enjoy a lighthearted reprieve.
Winter Ferry Alternatives?
My hope (and undoubtedly yours as well) is that Lake Champlain Transportation will support short and long range plans for year-round ferry service between all of its crossings.
At the end of that article I remembered that snowshoes, cross-country skies, skates, and maybe even dogsleds are healthy alternatives (think fitness during the cabin fever doldrums!) to winter ferry service if Lake Champlain freezes over. Just remember to wear your life jacket and exposure suit…
Despite dipping temperatures, it’s possible that 2016 will not render an impenetrable ice sheet between Essex and Charlotte, and we’ll sidestep the ferry closure issue for now. An article in today’s Burlington Free Press supports this possibility.
Despite a run of recent cold temperatures, Lake Champlain shows little sign of ice in Burlington. The lake froze over by mid-February last winter, only the second time since 2003-2005 it had frozen over in consecutive years. The National Weather Service says the lake doesn’t freeze every year, but the service’s data shows that it’s happening less and less in modern times. Freeze records go back to 1815. (Source: Warm winter limiting ice fishing on Lake Champlain)
Of course, my tip-top hope (and undoubtedly yours as well) is that Lake Champlain Transportation (our ferry owner/operator) will support short and long-range plans for year-round ferry service between all of its crossings. I understand that LCT might consider our light-traffic ferry a lower priority than the northern crossing, but friends and neighbors who depend on year-round commuter access to attend school, work, medical services, airports, etc. are quick to point out that it’s not only their needs at stake when the ferry closes. Businesses on both sides of the lake suffer, as do medical responders who depend on the ferry to transport patients. And many suggest an “if you build it, they will come” vision of increased ferry usage if year-round service were assured (and possibly even expanded).
Still wondering about that bizarre video at the beginning of this post? Me too. This sums up my first impression:
I’ve seen guys get out on the ice many different ways. Snowmobiles, trucks, sleds, motorcycles… If it makes it easier to move across frozen water, someone is going to try it. But the [saw blade driven ice sled] contraption in this video takes the cake. (Source: Matt Poe, Wide Open Spaces)
What [little] I know about the saw blade driven ice sled comes from the original video uploaded to YouTube.
This Viral video of an ice sled used for transportation across ice utilizes a John Boat and metal pipe runners… The old gas engine has a centrifugal clutch that engages the large saw blade that bites into the ice and gives it forward momentum. (Source: Viral video Ice Sled ice machine still works, Mississippi River to Canada)
I’m no expert on saw blade driven ice sleds, but I couldn’t resist passing this curious contraption along. Thanks, Mark Engelhardt, for putting me on to both the “Lake Champlain hovercraft ferry service” idea and the “Lake Champlain saw blade driven ice sled ferry service” idea. For a committed and passionate sailor you sure do have some curious combustion engine powered suggestions! What’s next?