In response to a recent letter in the Reformer about people falling through ice at the Retreat Meadows, I will reiterate a letter I sent in about 10 years ago on the same subject.
It is not anyone’s job to test and affirm the safety of the ice. You must treat being on ice with caution, as you would crossing a road. When people fall through the ice, it usually means they are not using common sense.
• Two inches of black ice will hold a 160-pound person safely, but if you are on a river or a lake, you might wish to be on thicker ice. That 2 inches of white ice is very porous, and you ought not to trust even a foot of it. If you are on the Connecticut River, you want the ice to be at least 8 inches, preferably solid black ice.
• At the Retreat, there are places which are not safe. The edges near the cattail reeds are a good place to expect to fall through at any time. Stay away from the reeds at all times.
• If you are not ice-learned, stay on the Route 30 side of the island, or to the south of the island. The north end of the island is where the current comes in through the canal. This area is basically the same as a river. There, I recommend more than 6 inches of black ice.
• If you cannot tell how thick the ice is there, stay off. You can ask the ice fishermen how thick the ice is, but they are almost never up in the canal, so their answer might be inaccurate.
• The canal comes in at the north end of the island and its current curves to the east back out the exit toward the Marina. That area should always be approached with caution.
• To be perfectly safe, once you are out on the ice, stay in the middle, away from the edges. If you have clear ice, you may judge its thickness by looking at a crack, but you need to observe the crack from a 45-degree angle to get an accurate viewing.
• Follow someone bigger than you if you are nervous. We recently had a hockey game there with 12 players — basically a ton of bodies moving around in one spot for an hour. The ice was about 6 inches thick. I bring a hatchet to chop a hole if I have any doubts about ice.
• Look at the ice where you are going. If you don’t understand ice, stay away from areas where no one else has left skate marks. Stay out of narrow bays and channels. Don’t skate into the reeds.
The only time I have fallen through at the Retreat was at the entrance opening, right after telling someone else not to walk over the cattails nearby. I went in up to my waist, much to that person’s delight.
Later, as I emptied the water out of my boots in front of Key Bank, a man came over to offer me a $5 bill. When I explained that I was not homeless, he quickly withdrew his offer.