We were in blatant tourist mode yesterday and frequently pulled over to the side of the road to take photos of the magnificent scenery here. We finally met Tim Ogrinic, the local DN sailor who scouted the ice. DN trailers began arriving to the launch site throughout the day. The mood was relaxed and a few caught some rides in the light air. The sun and dry air made for a beautiful day. A Montana 7 F temperature is not like a Wisconsin 7 F because the climate is so much drier. At the end of the day, we drove to the Fort Peck Dam and watched a group of eagles fishing the open water. Everyone I spoke with shared their own stories of the wildlife they saw on their way here. NOAA is calling for sunshine and west winds 6 – 13 mph today. Registration and a Speed Symposium are on the agenda for tonight while racing officially begins Wednesday, January 22.
Time lapse video from Jeff Kent’s 40 hour journey from Boston to Montana. Jeff and his traveling partners Charlie Blair of Martha’s Vineyard, MA and Bernd Zeiger of Kiel, Germany drove nearly non-stop and completely avoided winter storm Jacob with a wide rounding maneuver.
The scorers practicing counting boats on the line.
A quick update before heading to the launch. Our caravan pulled in to the hotel at 9 PM Sunday evening. The winner to the race to Montana goes to Jeff Kent and crew who arrived a few hours ahead of us. The drive was fairly uneventful with a few miles of black ice to deal with in Minnesota. We stopped near sunset at Keelboat Park on the Missouri River in Bismark, North Dakota to let it sink in that we had reached the west. Heading to the launch in an hour and will update later. At breakfast, Peter Johanson, IDNIYRA Vice Commodore Jody Kjoller, and Trey Rose appeared after having driven straight through from the Toledo area. They stopped at the launch before coming to the hotel and planted the TIYC colors.
We were somewhere around Alma Center on the edge of the snow line when the coffee began to take hold and the wireless hotspot was strong enough to post. We should make Montana sometime tonight, Glasgow to be specific, population 3300. Lewis and Clark traveled within 15 miles of our sailing site on Fort Peck Reservoir, which has to be another first for an iceboat regatta.
ice sailing is not new to Montana nor Ft. Peck. Canyon Ferry is legendary for ice boating but this will be the first major regatta west of Minnesota. Our ice sailing friends in Montana, John Eisenlohr, Dave Gluek, and Dale Livezey have given advice and done some legwork that will result in a bunch of hardcore ice sailors converging on a 350 square mile sheet of ice. Fort Peck DN sailor, Tim, has scouted ice in brutal temperatures. Thank you all, for everything and for the adventure.
With apologies to Hunter S. Thompson, every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only cure is to load up a pile of 440 stainless and then drive like a bastard from Madison to Montana with the music at top volume and at least a pint of ether (for the lock de-icer.)
The snow storm that rolled through the Four Lakes area is now headed east to temporarily cover up any sailable ice they may have. In the good news department, Joe Norton, the Admiral of Green Lake, WI, reported on his Facebook page that the “west end of big Green is still open! East end may blow out if wind comes up. We may have dodged a bullet!”
Co-PRO Joe Norton, event chair Daniel Hearn, myself, and the rest of the race committee of the DN North American championship are patiently waiting for confirmation that some of the only ice in North America is suitable for the regatta. If it happens, we’ll experience some serious seat-time as we drive to Fort Peck Reservoir in northeast Montana, a 15 hour drive from Madison (longer than a flight to Europe!) DN sailors from Nova Scotia, the east coast and beyond are driving west, taking the gamble that it will all work out. They don’t want to miss being part of something historic, the first continental iceboat regatta ever sailed in Montana. Where ever we go, I’ll post my personal updates here. Following along at the IDNIYRA and New England Ice Yacht Association websites.
Shown here from left to right doing their best to make the ordinary extraordinary are: Don Ermer, Don Sanford, Steve Arnold, Lady Liberty, Ty Reed and Ken Kreider.
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.
Downwind to New York the 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.