Ken Kreider, who raced Skeeters with the 4LIYC back in the day and now lives in Marinette, WI, called and reminded me of this story written 11 years ago by 4LIYC Nite skipper Don Sanford. It’s Monday, the lack of ice has kept the club from racing, and there’s more snow is in the forecast which means it’s the right time for a mood lifter. The photo has become an iconic part of our club history.
Some of you are wondering why and how the Statue of Liberty rose from Lake Mendota’s ice. “The original statue made its debut in February 1979, fulfilling a campaign promise from Pail and Shovel Party candidates to bring wackiness to UW–Madison’s Wisconsin Student Association if they were voted into office. After claiming victory, party leaders Leon Varjian and Jim Mallon spent $4,000 to construct the statue’s head, crown, arm and torch on frozen Lake Mendota, creating the illusion that Lady Liberty was rising from the lake’s waters.” Read more.
New Yorkthe Frozen Apple
By Don Sanford c. 2009
Thirty Years ago this week, five members of the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club (4LIYC) sailed from Madison to icebound New York City (this was in the era of global cooling) on an ice-checking mission and a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.
As I recall, 1979 had not been the best for local conditions. Midwestern iceboaters were desperate for some sailable conditions. In that pre-internet and pre-cell phone era, rumors had been flying about a huge glacier that had formed just east of Madison, covering the entire landscape right to New York harbor. The air at that week’s meeting of the 4LIYC was thick with the possibility that perhaps there was some good ice to be found “out East” if only someone could get there to check it out and report back. By the second (or third?) pitcher that night, a handful of us realized that the fate of that season’s regatta schedule was hanging in the balance. Regatta officials Bob Pegel and Paul Krueger needed a scouting party and we were it!
The long-range forecast called for a generally northeasterly breeze, cloudless sky and a full moon for a couple of days. We realized that we had our window. We stuffed our coverall pockets with some trail mix, beef jerky, a few cans of beer, a flashlight (for nighttime sailing), and other choice provisions we could trade with the locals we expected to meet on the way out and back. Then we strapped on our creepers and just after dawn, pushed off down icebound I-94 towards the towering ice sheet that loomed just west of Milwaukee.
Of course none of us had ever sailed uphill, so climbing up on the glacier around Pewaukee was tricky going. Once we were “up top” we found ourselves in a fine northeast breeze and crossed Lake Michigan on a close reach. That ice was at least a 10, maybe 11. Years later we’d call those conditions “Hollywood Ice,” but that’s a story for another day. Most of Indiana was maybe an 8. I recall that we got up into a hike just east of Milwaukee that lasted almost to Toledo. Just thinking about sailing downwind for 300 miles on ultra-perfect ice makes my goggles fog. It was the longest downwind leg of my life.
Crossing into Ohio and through Pennsylvania, we were wishing we could trade our Nites and the Renegade for the plush accommodations that could only be found aboard the stern steerers Mary B, Fritz or Ferdinand the Bull. Those big boats with their 30+ foot runner planks deliver the Cadillac ride, but they weren’t an option for this trip. The ice covering Pennsylvania was rough, barely rating a 5 on anyone’s scale. And getting around some of those hills… Talk about shifty. It was worse than the narrows at Lake Geneva.
For a time we considered making a few tacks and sailing a bit upwind over Syracuse and up towards Oswego, both buried far below the glacier’s surface. Our fate was sealed though when we picked up a huge puff that carried us out of the Catskills and towards the Hudson Valley on a screaming reach. Bearing off and sailing ever deeper downwind, we began to make out the twin towers of the George Washington Bridge in the distance. No traffic jams on the bridge that day for only the top 30 or 40 feet of those grand granite towers rose above the ice. A quick jibe sent us around the top of the Empire State building. Then, with just an hour or so of daylight left, Lady Liberty herself came into view. We were spellbound. Luckily I remembered a camera and snapped this image.
OK, if you believe that one, perhaps you’d be interested in one of the remaining choice lots an uncharted island on the other side of Lake Mendota with a Capital view…
Here’s the rest of the story.
In February 1979 an astonishing sight appeared on Lake Mendota when the top of the Statue of Liberty emerged through the ice. She quickly became a celebrity in the local media. But many of us knew that something else was required to make her a real sensation. 4LIYC members know that no wonder on the ice, natural or not, is ever complete without an iceboat or two nearby. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.