4LIYC DNer Jori Lenon has announced her retirement as our club’s trophy chair, a position she’s faithfully executed for 12 years, making her the longest serving trophy chair in the club’s history. Jori stepped up when previous trophy chair, the late Bill Korsgard, was unable to continue in the role. Besides keeping the trophies organized, Jori has often taken the lead in setting up our banquets. Jori, the 4LIYC can not thank you enough for all your efforts over these 12 years, but we’ll try anyway – thank you, Jori!
So that means the club in need of the next trophy chair. Please consider taking on this role. Jori will help make the transition an easy one. We’ll be discussing this at our next meeting on November 20, 2019 at Breakwater.
The Mary B Foundation has acquired scans of some of OT Havey’s vintage photographs from OT’s granddaughter, Julie Hobbins. Madison, Wisonsin’s OT Havey was the original owner of the historic MARY B stern-steerer. Havey captioned this powerful image, “a boat unknown, big hike, head on.” This could be Lake Mendota. We’ll post more from the collection in the coming days. Thanks to Julie Hobbins and Peter Fauerbach of the Mary B Foundation for passing these along.
It’s been a few years since Don Sanford’s story of the 1940 Armistice Day Storm, about a rescue of a duck hunter on Lake Mendota, was posted on this website. During these past few years, even more stories, photos, and videos have been shared to the internet about this historic storm, including the video by Great Lakes underwater explorer and historian Valerie Van Heest, embedded below. After 145 people died in the storm, the National Weather Service’s “forecasting responsibilities were expanded to include 24-hour coverage and more forecasting offices were created, yielding more accurate local forecasts.” Partly because of this storm, those of us in the Midwest weren’t taken by surprise by the snow that’s currently falling and the bitter cold temperatures (4F in Madison!) that will follow tonight.
The Armistice Day Storm
Lake Mendota has but one island. It sits at the northeast end of the lake about midway between Farwell’s point and Six Mile creek. No more than 30 feet in diameter, the island has no official name. You’ll not even find it on most charts of the lake. It’s not to be confused with Rocky Roost, which lies about a mile to the southeast and just a few hundred feet north of Governors Island. To most Lake Mendota sailors, the little island is simply called “the rock pile.” It’s a lonely spot, with little in the way of vegetation, home to no one other than a few seagulls. It is an ideal spot for duck hunting and in November of 1940, it was the scene of a potential tragedy and an heroic rescue.
Monday, November 11, 1940 dawned unseasonably warm in Madison, Wisconsin. Much of the upper Midwest was enjoying the same, unseasonably warm weather. In New York, Fantasia, Walt Disney’s groundbreaking film premiered, breaking box office records. Franklin Delano Roosevelt had just been elected to his second term in office, defeating Wendell Wilke.
By 10:00 that morning the mercury in Madison had climbed to an unseasonable 55 degrees. Rupert J. Batz, University of Wisconsin weather observer was on vacation at the Jackson cottage on the north shore of Lake Mendota. Accompanied by his dog Brownie, Batz decided to go duck hunting that day. He planned on spending the day in the duck blind about a half-mile south of the cottage on “the rock pile.” What started off as a beautiful day began to change rapidly. Just a few days before, unknown to Batz and most Midwesterners, four days ago, a massive storm roared off the Pacific Ocean and causing the collapse of “Galloping Gerdie,” the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. That storm was now gathering strength on the plains preparing for an all-out assault on the unsuspecting Midwest.
Early in the afternoon, the weather began to change. By 1 p.m., the temperature had dropped 20 degrees to 35 and the wind began to churn Lake Mendota into an angry froth. Just before dark, Batz’s boat was blown away as the winds continued to rise and the temperature dropped. By 5 p.m. the temperature had dropped to 20 degrees. At the airport, Northwest Airlines grounded its planes and cancelled flights as winds hit 52 mph at 7 p.m. Meanwhile, out on the lake, attempts were made to rescue Mr. Batz but the boats that tried to make the half-mile trip were no match for the gale-force winds. It was getting dark and Batz realized that he and Brownie were going to be staying on the island overnight. The only boat large enough to rescue Batz was the Isabel II, the 28-foot Chris Craft utility used operated by the UW Lifesaving service. With her high freeboards and large cockpit, the Isabel II was ideally suited for rescue work in difficult conditions.
Unfortunately for anyone needing a quick rescue in November, boating season had long-since closed. The Isabel II had been decommissioned for the winter, having been moved into her wintertime storage area in the old University boathouse behind the red gym on Langdon St. To further complicate matters, her big six-cylinder inboard engine had been pulled for off-season maintenance. The storm continued to intensify and by midnight, the temperature dropped to 14. The winds, powered by a huge storm system that swept across the upper Midwest, continued to howl steadily at speeds of 50 mph during the night.
According to A. F. Gallistel, director of the university buildings and grounds, members of the University life-saving crew learned of Mr. Batz’s plight late Monday. Harvey Black was the director of the lifesaving station then. Black and his assistant Vincent Grudzina were called to the boathouse around 1 am and immediately set to work to make the Isabel II ready for the water. The crew worked all night, even calling on the Madison Police Department for batteries needed to get the Isabel’s engine started.
By 9 a.m. on Tuesday, November 12, the temperature had dropped again, hitting just 9 degrees above zero. Early that morning, the Isabel II with Black at the helm and Grudzina at his side, was underway, headed for the little island four miles away. Black later described this as his toughest assignment. “The wind hit 60 miles and hour, 80 in the puffs”, Black said. “The waves were so deep that shore couldn’t be seen when the boat went down into the troughs”, he continued . When they could get the occasional glimpse above the tops of the waves on the angry lake, the rescuers could see no signs of life on the island. As they drew closer their hopes rose when they could see Batz and his dog. The men in the Isabel began waving blankets to signal that they were headed to pick the castaways.
Getting Mr. Batz off of the little island required first-rate seamanship, a skill that Black was famous for. The lake shoals (gets very shallow) rapidly in
the vicinity of the island. The bottom is littered with rocks. It’s an inhospitable place, even when the weather is fine. “We attempted four landings on the island. On the first three, our launch was blown away, but the fourth succeeded”, Black later recalled. The Isabell had no windshield, nor a cabin, so the boat and crew were solidly coated with ice by the time they arrived. Black and Grudzina were frozen and pounded by the waves and wind before Batz and Brownie were brought aboard. The lifeboat crew found Mr. Batz cold, but safe after his 30-hour adventure in a howling gale on Lake Mendota. Years later black recalled, “That was the toughest one we ever had, and we don’t want another.”
Hunters and sportsmen on Lake Wisconsin and the Mississippi River encountered the same surprise storm. Ships on Lakes Michigan and Superior ran aground or sank as the storm crossed the upper Great Lakes with the same fury it displayed on Mendota. As the storm roared across Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and Oklahoma 116 died in its wake. In the days following the storm, Madison service stations reported a brisk business repairing automobile radiators and cracked engine blocks. In Vilas Park, a dredge working on the new lagoon was trapped in the early season ice.
While many perished elsewhere, no lives were lost in Madison, thanks in large degree to the efforts of Harvey Black and the crew at the UW life-saving service. It’s unknown if Mr. Batz went duck hunting again.
Via the 4LIYC Facebook page, a couple of updates from the Nordhaus Boatwerks. Jim writes:
OCTOBER 30, 2019:
Well, “Cheese Slicer” finally saw the “light of day” after almost five years of renovation. The plank was the only part that rolled in on the rocky shore of Green Bay. This was after someone left there boat out too long in the spring. It came from Seymour, Wisconsin compliments of “Adamski”.
The hull was Geoff Sobering and Dean Lima’s which had been stored in Dean’s barn. Runners were extra parts laying around and the rig is my Renegade “C” rig. Now for paint.
“Where’s the ICE!!
NOVEMBER 10, 2019
Great time listening to the Badger game and painting parts for the “Cheese Slicer”. The color is “MAC and Cheese” and it is really—-yellow.
I will work on painting the hull tomorrow. I clear coated the bottom for protection and did the plank and spring board.
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There was a decent turn out for the first 4LIYC meeting of the season at our newest place, Breakwater, considering the challenging weather that night. The highlight of the evening for me was when Commodore Don Anderson spoke about our club members who have passed on -Steve Arnold, Jack Ripp, and Peter Lundt.
These membership cards honoring Jack Ripp have been ordered and Treasurer Jerry Simon will either hand them to you at the next meeting or mail them to you. Ice is here! Wingra may be worth a look in the coming days. As always with any ice, be safe out there and remember that ice is never safe!
Review ice safety procedures here.
Winter is here in the Four Lakes area; we seem to have skipped November and gone right into December. Ken Whitehorse is working hard prepping his Class A Skeeter plank for red paint. Paul Krueger and Ken will be ready for ice – which might come early this year. It was 8F here this morning and with more single digit temps in the forecast – it’s making ice somewhere!
Previously at the Spaight St. Syndicate
Daniel Hearn is inspired to name his C Skeeter by, well, read on…..
What’s In a Name
“What, are you thirteen,” she said rolling her eyes? I had to take a quick mental inventory. Let’s see—I still think there’s nothing funnier than a fart in church. I have many names for my male member, and each includes an adjective found on the Thesaurus page for huge. I burp out loud when I think no one else is around. I sometimes forget to put the toilet seat back down. I think Hershey’s is good chocolate. Even though I know I’m not supposed to, I often cut all the food on my plate at one time, because it’s so much more efficient. “Yeah, pretty much,” I replied. “So, what you’re saying is that C-Man is not an appropriate name for a C-Skeeter driven by a man my age who has four children—three of them daughters?” She just walked away, so I took that as an affirmative. Maybe I can still cancel the decal order.
Probably needs to be more sophisticated to win the approval of my Mrs. I hadn’t recalled asking for her approval, but nonetheless, it became clear that she thought she had a vote. I had carved up the districts within our household trying to prevent that, but clearly my gerrymandering was ineffective.
Maybe something from literature? The classics? Or how about mythology? Those Greeks were so sophisticated they convinced people to see pornography as art. I think the sculptors were just as juvenile as me. Their wives were certainly rolling their eyes when the Mr. was out back in the shed chiseling the fine form of a woman with a righteous amount of junk in the trunk.
There must be a cool-sounding “C” name in mythology, with deep meaning, that would be a fitting reflection of my masterpiece. (Well, it may not be a masterpiece, but it’s the best this paint-by-numbers kind of guy can do). That’s it—Callipygian! I think it’s perfect. And I’ll score points with the Mrs. when I tell her that I named the boat after her. But this time, I’m not disclosing the name until the fat bottomed girl hits the ice.
Now that you’ve Googled my name, let me know what you think. Will I be sleeping on the couch again, or will she be flattered by her juvenile husband of 32 years?
Official team gear available here: Righteous Junk
A remembrance of a good man who brought many into the sport and a request from Mike Acebo of the Long Island, NY ice sailing community:
One of the most important members of the Long Island, NY iceboating community has sailed on. Bob Reeves, Orient NY, past Commodore of the Orient Ice Yacht Club has left us. His presence at every Long Island ice boating event, and beyond, served to coalesce our community and add to the membership of every club he was involved with. He was an avid Stern Steerer historian, builder and sailor with the history of several generations of iceboaters in his family. Through his plumbing supply business in Greenport he sold Skimmer 45’s to numerous locals to initiate them into the sport on local Hallock Bay, tiny Swan Pond and Lake Ronkonkoma. Many of these Skimmer sailors moved on to DN’s, C Skeeters, Stern Steers and the earliest 9 boat fleet of J14’s, an Orient club boat building project spearheaded by Bob. He was safety conscious, shared good ice reports and often spent his iceboating days helping others set-up, adjust rigging and advising novices how to improve their sailing while his J14 #20 stood by waiting. He travelled to ice and taught us there was always ice somewhere. Bob has moved on in the search of perfect ice. We will remember Bob in our own search for that perfect ice and great day with fellow iceboaters.
If anyone would like to share their stories of Bob please send them my way for our Club history archives.
LRIBYC Newsletter editor
Looking to attend an iceboat swap meet? We’ve got you covered across iceboating country, from east to west. If you are new to the sport or a seasoned veteran, swap meets are the perfect place to kick the tires, shop for parts, and meet ice sailors. Have a boat or parts to sell? Take them to your local swap meet.
New England Ice Yacht Club
Saturday November 2, 2019
10 AM with lunch at noon
Hudson-Concord Elks Hall
99 Park Street, Hudson, MA 01749
West Michigan Swap Meet at the Muskegon Yacht Club
Saturday, November 2, 2019
9 AM – 1 PM
3198 Edgewater St, Muskegon, MI 49441
Skeeter Iceboat Club Swap Meet
Sunday, November 3, 2019
9 AM to Noon
220 N. Elkhorn Rd. (WI Hwy 67), Williams Bay, WI.
Minnesota Ice Sailors Swap Meet
Saturday, November 2, 2019
9 AM – Noon
7450 Oxford St., St. Louis Park, MN 55426