Published Date Written by Roger AmsdenGILFORD — Ice fishermen scrambled in mid fifty degree temperature early Thursday morning to rescue their bob houses from an ever-widening stretch of open water off from Ellacoya State Park.
''It's unbelievable. There's a seam in the ice right next to my bob house and yesterday I measured nine inches off ice there,'' said Jim Burgess of Gilmanton.
He was looking through zoom binoculars while sitting in the front seat of Al Bagley's pickup parked near the beach at Ellacoya, where a half dozen bob houses had been dragged close to shore, some with the aid a of a four-wheeler, and pondered whether or not to venture out to the edge of the ice some 300 yards away to try and bring in his bob house
Burgess' bob house was perched precariously on the very lip of the ice, right next to a 100-yard wide stretch of open water which extended from Dinsmoor Point to the south all the way north to Welch Island. A wind from the west was whipping up waves in the open water and was showing signs of gaining enough velocity to make any attempt to untether the bob house from its rope anchor and bring it ashore virtually impossible.
Burgess, whose bob house is well-known to other ice fishermen in the area for its excellent interior woodwork, had left all of his ice fishing equipment and ice augur in the bob-house overnight.
He put ice creepers on his boots, donned a life jacket and grabbed a coil of rope saying that he was at least going to try and get close enough to his bob house to better assess the situation.
He was joined in his journey out to the edge of the ice by Steve Powell and Jason DeCoff, both of whom live next door in Lakeshore Park and had been out earlier hauling their own bob house and several belonging to friends off the ice.
Burgess said that when they got to the bob house they could see water on top of the ice around and that Powell got right to the edge of the ice and was able to cut the anchor rope, allowing the trio to start pulling the bob house towards shore.
But there were some more obstacles on the way, including a strong gust of wind which nearly took the bob house over the edge of the ice, and the difficulty of the trio keeping balance on the wet surface of the ice.
''It took us awhile to get our technique down. I slipped and fell once because I was trying to get some traction and got my boots at an angle. Once you do that there's no way you can stay up,'' said Burgess.
As the trio got closer to the beach they were joined on the ice by two other men, who had earlier pulled a bob house belonging to Brad Cronin of Meredith ashore,and soon they were able to get the bob house safely ashore.
''I guess I used up my quota of bravery for the day,'' said Burgess, who then turned to Powell and DeCoff and said ''I owe you both one at Patrick's.''
He said that he will be putting his bob house back on the ice as soon as it the area freezes over again, which he expects will be within a few days.
At least one bobhouse is thought to have sunk when the water opened up during Wednesday night's heavy rain, an orange one which had been seen at dusk on Wednesday but wasn't visible Thursday morning.
The water opened up less than two days after ice-in had been declared on Lake Winnipesaukee by Dave Emerson of Emerson Aviation, who flew over the lake Tuesday morning and reported that the last open section of water near Welch Island had frozen over.
Emerson said he would be back checking on ice conditions after Thursday's high winds abate but expected with night time lows dropping to single digits it wouldn't be long before lake was covered once again.
The 4th annual New England Pond Hockey Classic will open this morning on Meredith Bay, where the ice is still 10 inches thick and the 21 rinks which had been created for the 1,400 players who have arrived for the tournament withstood the warm weather and rain.
Among those taking part is a team of eight players from Raleigh, North Carolina, who flew into Boston Thursday morning and showed up at mid-afternoon to check out the ice conditions.
''We just talked with Scott Crowder, who runs the tournament, and he told us things are shaping up fine,'' said John Rodgers of the Fun Unlimited team, which is competing in the over 35 Just for Fun group.
The players said none had has had any recent ice time and that they all skate in indoors roller hockey. One said that the last time he had been on skates at all was when he was 10 years old and joked that entering the tournament ''sounded like a good idea at the time.''
A bob-house belonging to Jim Burgess of Gilmanton was perched precariously near a stretch of open water north of Ellacoya State Park and was brought to shore with the assistance of Steve Powell amd Jason DeCoff of Lakeshore Park in Gilford Thursday morning. (Roger Amsden/ for The Laconia Daily Sun)