The deep freeze on the tidal waters of the Chesapeake has created a minefield of floating ice, which started out as easy to manage skim ice. In a week, the thin layers broken up by passing cargo ships, turned into 12” thick icebergs that continuously shifted with the tidal currents and wind. A few hardy anglers pushed the limits of the conditions because the fishing had been good, looking to top our personal best striped bass. We knew they were swimming out there and the draw was too much. However, mesmerized by the chance of success, I paid little mind to the creeping ice field that blocked my passage home.
Now the sun started to give out and my cold feet beckoned to get home, when turning the corner I saw ice that I could more easily walk across than paddle through. Trying my luck, I started pushing through, getting 10 yards before finding myself completely pinned. The situation felt dire, unable to go forward or reverse and certainly not side-to-side. I needed just another 20 yards to get to a clearing. Dropping my Torqeedo motor, I put it on full throttle as I pedaled my Mirage Drive and paddled across the top of the ice like mad. Breaking my paddle from the exertion, my kayak inched along as my energy waned.
Little by little, the ice separated allowing a narrow escape to my vehicle. The ice continued to move in as I returned to shore, stacking upon itself. Alerting my fishing buddies of the conditions, they chose to continue on for the prize. They paid a price for the decision. It took them 5 hours, normally a 15 minute trip, to return through the night’s darkness. Fortunately, no cargo ships passed during that time, which would have sent a wake of thousands of pounds of ice
blasting down the shoreline.
This time everyone returned safely, but the odds are against you if you continually put yourself in hazardous situations. Stay safe and understand the reality of the conditions before you put yourself in danger. At the very minimum, wear the proper attire. It will give you a chance if an accident does occur.