Ice Boating – What To Do When the Water Turns Hard
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Hey Water Lovers! Has the winter got you down? Are you tired of looking out the window longing for soft water and barefoot sailing? Have you grown weary hanging out at your yacht club reliving the glory moments of last summer’s racing adventures? Are you dreaming of bareboat chartering in the Caribbean? I totally get it. I’m not built for the cold and I miss my flip flops fiercely. February is the shortest month by calendar days and the longest measured by how much I miss sailing.
There is another way my friends. Hard water sailing. I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but I can’t get enough of ice boating! The first time I heard someone talking about how much they loved ice boating, I clung a little tighter to my flip flops and thought to myself that they must be some kind of survivalist nut-show, living in a snow fort in the arctic, subsisting on whale blubber and pine cones. Why would anyone voluntarily stand around on a frozen lake waiting their turn to crawl into a coffin on runners so that they could sail twice or more the speed of the wind, all the while the roar of the blades assaulting the ears and ice chips pummeling the helmet?? And then I got in one, and it was all over. The rush of flying across the top of solid water at breakneck speeds, trimming the mainsheet with all you’ve got is a thrill like no other.
Traditional ice boats started out as “stern steers” and evolved into front steering boats somewhere around the 1930s when Walter Beauvois of Williams Bay WI built his boat the Beau Skeeter. This lead to the Skeeter class and the Skeeter Ice Boat Club, formed in Lake Geneva WI. The Skeeter was followed by the International DN, so called because they were first built in the Detroit News hobby shop in the winter of 1936-37. That’s pronounced DEE-troit I’m told emphatically by DLYC Past Commodore and Detroit native Jack M. Then along came my favorite, the Nite, first built by Dick Slates of Pewaukee WI. This little beauty has room for two and is easily portable, fast and fun!
Barefoot Boater Turned Hard Water Sailor
I’m still working on reconciling having my barefoot natured self out in the frigid cold on purpose. They say there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear. I sincerely hope that’s true. My hands and feet are always the weak link, but the promise of the cozy warm Inn Between helps me ignore the stinging numbness of frozen toes and fingertips. I’m still working on better gear. I’ll get there. It’s a process.
People often ask me how to get a ride on a sailboat. Sailors are an amazingly friendly and social bunch. Experience has taught me that if you show up at any yacht club in the world with beer, cookies and a willingness to learn, someone will take you sailing. Ice boaters are no exception. They love sharing their sport with newbies. If you’re even the least bit curious about this amazing sport, come on out and give it a try. Smooth ice without snow on top is hard to come by sometimes but if you’re willing to travel, there’s good ice somewhere. If you aren’t quite there yet, try a few baby steps toward bonding with ice. Come on out to see Delavan Lake’s Ice Carousel. See you out on the ice!