It’s time to kick off the long weekend to celebrate the 4th of July with two of the most patriotic iceboats in America. Hoping we can photograph these two boats together somewhere during the 2023 season. Happy 4th of July!
Summer Solstice is behind us; we are on course for the next ice sailing season. Nordic countries have marked Midsommer since Pagan times when Thor and Odin ruled the north. I stumbled upon Ull, a Norse God who was the fastest deity around and patron of our favorite time of year. Ull could transform the shield he carried into a boat and bones into skates. With that much power, it’s not a stretch to believe his bow was basically a mast. Put his boat, bone skates, and mast together, and that’s an iceboat. In some Norse mythology accounts, Ull married Skadi, the Goddess of winter and cold. It’s five months until the Western Challenge, the season’s first fun DN regatta. Sharpen those bones!
John Buckstaff Archives
If iceboating had a hall of fame, Lake Winnebago sailor, John Buckstaff would undoubtedly be among the first to be nominated. Buckstaff’s Oshkosh roots go back to his grandfather, who was born in 1799 and came from New Brunswick, Canada, to Oshkosh in 1850 and started a sawmill.
An early mention of Buckstaff in the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern newspaper was in 1903, when he was 14 years old and recognized as a skilled scow sailor. “His first experience was gained, when as a boy in knickerbockers, he constructed an iceboat and sailed it on the frozen surface of Lake Winnebago. Here he learned to be quick and certain with the tiller and to handle the sail and tack.”
Buckstaff was in Menominee, Michigan, when the Menominee, Marinette, Wisconsin, and Oshkosh ice yacht clubs formed Northwest Ice Yachting Association in 1913. The morning after a banquet at the Hotel Menominee, where 200 ice yachtsmen gathered for a feast, they organized the Northwest, which they patterned after the Inland Lake Yachting Association, a soft-water scow regatta still going strong today.
In addition to his Northwest victories, Buckstaff won two prestigious stern-steerer titles, the Stuart and Hearst Cups. In 1903, The Kalamazoo Ice Yacht Club in Michigan persuaded F.A. Stuart, maker of Stuart’s Dyspeptic pills, to donate a trophy for ice yachts carrying 850 square feet of sail or less. Later that year, a Kalamazoo club member wired newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, asking Hearst if he would donate a trophy, in his name, for the ice boat race. Hearst complied and deeded a gold-lined silver cup.
Buckstaff was a stern-steerer man and would point BLUE BILL, FLYING DUTCHMAN, DEBUTANTE III to victory on the ice at the Stuart, Hearst, and Northwest regattas. FLYING DUTCHMAN has remained on her home lake of Lake Winnebago with Dave Lallier. DEBUTANTE III is in Menominee with Mike Derusha.
DEBUTANTE III was a Hudson River-style stern-steerer built in the famed Poughkeepsie, New York iceboat shop of Jacob Buckhought. The “DEB” with 600 square feet of sail was considered the most lightweight iceboat in the world per square foot of sail carried. DEB was the first iceboat to use aluminum runners, a much superior material than the cast iron runners traditionally used. The Oshkosh Daily Northwestern reported that the “DEB” held a speed record of 119 miles per hour clocked on Gull Lake in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
John Buckstaff passed away on the morning of Sunday, January 10, 1960, the weekend when the iceboating community gathered on Lake Winnebago for the Northwest, the regatta he had helped to begin. In a movie-like ending, DEBUTANTE III, skippered by E.W. Stroshine, won the Class A championship trophy that same day.
Northwest Class A Stern Steerer
1923 BLUE BILL, J. D. Buckstaff
1926 BLUE BILL, J. D. Buckstaff
1939 BLUE BILL II, John Buckstaff, Owner; Tom Anger, Skipper
1932 (December) FLYING DUTCHMAN, OIYC, J. C. Van Dyke, J. D. Buckstaff (skippers)
1920 DEBUTANTE III, OIYC, J. D. Buckstaff
1939 DEBUTANTE III, OIYC, J. D. Buckstaff
Previous: Sail Australia in Montana
“I’d Like to Get Into Ice Sailing”
In November 2021, Australian sailor Michael Dunston emailed me about continuing his ice sailing journey, which had begun in the Netherlands.
I’m from Sydney, Australia. I have grown up sailing all my life. I tried ice sailing on a DN for the first and only time last winter opportunistically in the Netherlands, and I loved it. This year I moved with my family to Bozeman, MT, which is where my wife grew up. I would like to find a way to do more ice sailing!
If there was an inexpensive, entry-level ice boat (a DN, or similar), then I would be interested to buy. Naturally, it would also be great to connect with some like-minded folks. Is there a club or a group that sail on Canyon Ferry MT that I could connect with?
Michael is one lucky sailor, having been in the Netherlands 2021, the birthplace of our sport, for their few days of ice sailing, then landing at Canyon Ferry, a place of legendary North American ice.
I forwarded Michael’s email to Canyon Ferry iceboaters Dale Livesey and Dave Gluek, who welcomed him into the community and pushed him off the line.
I wanted to update you on Michael Dunstan, the Australian sailor. He’s an awesome guy and a good addition to our fleet. He purchased Dale Livezey’s DN and is a quick learner. He has been fun to sail with. Mike’s Dad is visiting Mike this week, and we sailed a Nite in big wind the other day. Both of them are accomplished sailors! Thank you for introducing us.
Michael’s mother, Judy, wrote an article about their visit to Big Sky & Ice country for their yacht club’s newsletter, the historic Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. In addition to receiving a British empire Royal charter in 1862 and challenging for the America’s Cup in 1962, the RSYS has added Michael’s DN to their Squadron Yacht register in 2022.
May 29, 2022 UPDATE: Long time friend of Prescott Shreeve, Tom Nichols, emailed with some of his memories. See text below.
The exhibition, Story Boats: The Tales They Tell, opens today at Connecticut’s Mystic Seaport Museum. One of the story boats is WHISTLING WIND, an Arrow iceboat owned by Herbert Prescott Shreeve. He was president of Lake Hopatcong Ice Yacht Club in New Jersey.
The Arrow iceboat holds its value (they sell rather quickly on the Buy & Sell page) and remains one of the most popular cruising boats, though east coast ice yacht clubs have racing fleets. The Boston family in Michigan developed the Arrow in their sail loft. Martha Boston Youstra recalls, “The Arrow, as I remember, was 16-feet with a 12-foot runner plank. The first boats were gel-coated by Judd Harrell and later sub-contracted to Custom Flex in Toledo, Ohio. Bill Sarns made the hardware, and we added the finishing touches at the loft. We had a trailer that held ten boats. The molds were sold to someone in Michigan’s thumb area and left to rot. [I’ve heard the molds are now in New Jersey. – Ed.] Originally they sold complete for $350. Some current boats have springboards added, and some now are selling for $5k. I believe Dad wanted a lighter-weight boat as he aged, yet with Lolly in mind. Her boat was called ICE TEA. Howard and his third daughter Sue won the first Arrow Nationals. I raced one time with Bill Mattison at the helm. That was awesome. I can’t remember how we placed. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the exact year, thinking 1964. I do have a couple of photos of our family fleet. Red Bank, N.J., had a large fleet, and Erie, PA, had a small fleet.”
I knew “Press” and his wife Madge very well. They always came together to sail. I don’t think I have ever seen a couple more devoted to each other. Press was active during the “Golden Age” of the Lake Hopatcong Ice Yacht Club. I believe he was one of the original founding members. He sailed a stern steerer for most of his ice boating career. He got into the Arrow when they realized the Stern Steerer was just too much for them handle. The Stern Steerer runners were just too much for Madge to carry.
He bought the arrow in the late 1960’s, I think. He was an excellent sailor on both hard and soft water. One year, the Arrow Nationals came to Lake Hopatcong. I do believe that Press beat Skip Boston in a couple of races. Jack Andreson from Greenwood Lake won the regatta. I think Press might have been third.
Press did not build the Arrow from a kit in his living room but that was the workshop for his ice boat parts. I am sure Madge never complained a bit. Press was a very competent and meticulous craftsman. His equipment was always in first class shape.
Press and Madge were very devoted to ice boating and almost always were on the ice wherever the club was sailing. I those days the club “traveled” together. DNs, Arrows, Yankees, Skeeters all showed up at the same lake. Press and Madge loved the sport and never looked for an excuse not to go sailing. They realized you had to be there when the ice was ready, not necessarily when you were ready.
While researching for another article, I reacquainted myself with the iceboating art collection of Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. Along with being the first to add runners to a boat, the Dutch appear to be the first to document the beauty and grandeur of ice sailing visually. Wikipedia says about those early days, “Dutch painters, especially in the northern provinces, tried to evoke emotions in the spectator by letting the person be a bystander to a scene of profound intimacy.” The paintings and engravings in the collection date from the early 1600s to the late 1800s and can be downloaded from the Rjiksmuseum in higher resolution.