The Dane County Historical Society Newsletter has published an article by our own Don Sanford about the historic stern-steerer MARY B.
The Mary B was fast, really fast, but just who or what was she? A racehorse, a track star, or maybe a downhill skier? None of the above, she was an iceboat…She was the dream of one of Madison’s largest electrical contractors and public-spirited citizens, Orvin “OT” Havey.
Around 1915, the Van Camp brothers of Oshkosh, WI wanted to compete for the most prestigious ice sailing trophies of the day. They looked to the east coast and commissioned a top-notch Class A stern steerer. The DEBUTANTE was built by Jacob Buckhout of Poughkeepsie, New York, the most renowned ice yacht builder of the Hudson River style during that time. An first class racing ice yacht needed a corresponding helmsman and the Van Camps called on Oshkosh’s John Buckstaff to take the tiller. The DEBUTANTE won the Stuart trophy in 1920 and 1939 with “Bucky” in the driver’s seat. (The “DEB” also won the 1960 Northwest Class A trophy with Bud Stroshine.)
In 1963, Roger Derusha of Menominee, MI bought the DEBUTANTE in from the Van Camps. Roger was an influential Renegade sailor and passed on in 1999. The “DEB” is still in Menominee, MI with Roger’s son, Renegader and DNer Mike Derusha.
This video combines two interviews from the 1980s. The first interview is Greg Siebold with Roger and Mike. The second interview takes us to a workshop at Marinette Marine where Mike Peters and Steve Buch interviewed Roger at length about the DEBUTANTE. Apologies for the quality and poor aspect ratio of the videos but we are lucky to have them.
Life’s slower pace has motivated me to finally tackle a big project – converting the many ice sailing DVDs that have been given to me into a format suited for the internet. Here’s one of the first, an interview with the late “Nubs” Salzsieder, Mike Peters, and Andy Gratton (and Andy’s young daughter) on Lake Winnebago. Andy bought the WISCONSIN from someone in Lake Mills, WI in 1994 which helps to date the video.
In January 1952, Lake Monona delivered and the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club hosted the Northwest regatta and the Hearst Challenge. (The Hearst trophy was donated in 1903 by newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst.) Lake Monona in the 1950s could be counted upon for sailable ice thanks to the soot pollution from the coal burning power plant on its northeastern shore. The downside for the Skeeters was that the coal dust very quickly dulled runners. Perhaps the coal cinders didn’t affect the big iron of the Stern-Steerer runners.
The three majestic Class A Stern Steerers that competed for the Hearst that year were 2 4LIYC boats and 1 from Oshkosh including the MARY B owned by O. T. Havey and skippered by Carl Bernard with crew Norm Braith and Charlie Johnson; FRITZ owned and sailed by Jim Lunder with Beauford Polglase; and FLYING DUTCHMEN owned by John Buckstaff of Oshkosh, WI and skippered by Chuck Nevitt with crew Bud McDonald. MARY B was able to defend her title that year.The excitement of the regatta drew crowds and prompted the 4LIYC to set up a public address system at Law Park. Someone provided a play by play account during the racing.
These historic ice yachts are still with us today. Current owner of the FLYING DUTCHMEN, Dave Lallier in Fond du Lac, reminded me that FLYING DUTCHMEN is the correct name of the boat, not DUTCHMAN. The Van Dyke brothers from Milwaukee commissioned the FLYING DUTCHMEN in the 1930s, hence the plural designation. MARY B is back in Madison and owned by the Ice Boat Foundation while FRITZ is owned by Fred Stritt and is available for sale.
These color slides were originally posted on the Historic Madison, WI Photo Group Facebook page by the granddaughter of Earl W. Brown, the man who took them.
Craig Wilson found the above photo while looking through his dad J. Dale Wilson’s slide collection. (Craig is the aerial kite photographer who has been snapping our pictures for many years. See some of his work here on Flickr.) Craig figures the slide dates from around 1952 or 1953 and wondered if we knew anything about the yellow stern-steerer. I sent it off to Andy Gratton, Mike Peters, and Don Sanford. Here’s what the collective stern steerer history brain trust found:
Via Don Sanford:
The gods of iceboating must be sending me a message…..
I believe that this is the Clancy. She was owned by the Oetking family. See page 81 of “the book” (mine). [On Fourth Lake]
I have been on the trail of these folks for years and during the past six weeks (pandemic) I had a chance to plow through the internet, sailing websites, and obits. This is a family of sailors. Last week, I finally connected with Curt Oetking. (Who also goes by “Pete.”) His dad, Pete, crewed for Carl [Bernard] on the MARY B in a few regattas.
I sent him a photo of the Clancy that Jay Payton gave me several years ago. He sent this message:
“Clancy which was my mother Clare’s nickname…..”
Armed with that info, I looked in the Bernard Slide index and found several entries that mention either “Clancy” or Oetking. Somewhere I have a statement that the Clancy was a scaled-down version of the MARY B. Andy [Gratton] told me that he knows where she is now.
As for the photo, I believe that this was taken on Lake Monona, just off Law Park. it’s the only place on either lake where cars can park that close to the water.
WSSA Secretary/Treasurer Andy Gratton reports that Clancy is still around and in the care of Jim Rettke in Marinette who has owned it at least 35 years or more.
UPDATE: The photo was originally taken by Gary Whitehorse and uploaded to the 4LIYC Facebook page.
Peter McCormick (via Andy Gratton) forwarded this picture to the iceboat.org inbox this week wanting to confirm if these stern-steerers were on Pewaukee Lake and when this regatta took place. I started looking into the files and realized that I was there with my brother and dad, Dave Rosten and that my Dad won the Class A Skeeter trophy. Another 4LIYC skipper, Peter’s dad Bill McCormick, won the C Stern Steerer trophy that year as well.
If you have any information on the stern-steerers or the regatta you’d like to share, please drop a line. email@example.com
UPDATE: 30 April:
“I was 16 years old at the time and won the DN junior trophy. Chuck Miller was racing a DN in the regatta called “Chicken Little.” He got a big kick out of racing against me in the regatta. Ever since that time I always felt that Chuck Miller was a really nice guy, someone who really loved his sailing and iceboating.”
Susie Pegel, formerly DN 905
Andy Gratton, WSSA Secretary: “Max Runge sent me this old photo. …There are some boats I don’t recognize, such as the C skeeter, the black mast, the yellow mast, B9, and what appears to be a round backbone second from the far end. V83 is the D skeeter that got turned around and ended up in Fond du Lac in the 1980s with Herb Bankstahl. He named it FIDDLESTIX, I think it came from Sternkopfs. Who is pushing ROSEMARY?”
Peter McCormick, stern steerer (TWINBEDS) and Renegade sailor: “I remember my dad [Bill McCormick] telling me how he took TWINBEDS to Pewaukee on a lumber truck for either a Northwest or WSSA regatta.”
Tom Hyslop: “Not sure about the lake or the year as some of the Pewaukee boats were not built until the late 70`s.
B9 was CLANCY owned by John Olson.
V83 was a Sternkoph boat.
Yellow mast with red V is COUNTRY WOMAN owned by me.
Black mast with V is ECLIPSE owned by Ric Sternkoph and Mike Hasse.”
1973 Northwest Results
Class A: No Race
Class B: CLANCY, John Olson
Class C: TWIN BEDS, Bill McCormick
Class D: DEE WHIZ, Bill Osenga
Skeeter Class A: Dave Rosten, PIRATE
FREE FOR ALL: No Race
DN Class: George Timmons
DN Class Junior: Susie Pegel
Renegade Class: Elmer Millenbach RENEGADE III
Let’s watch an old sail being repaired at the Hardanger fartøyvernsenter in Western Norway for MATHILDE, a fishing boat, built in 1884. The same techniques were probably used to make and repair the sails on the stern-steerers pictured below. William Bernard kept a rental fleet of iceboats on Lake Mendota. Imagine that!
Tip of the Helmet: Ann Gratton
The WSSA board has decided to cancel the regatta for the remainder of this winter due in part to the need for strict health precautions caused by the coronavirus, There is a slight chance that the regatta could be held in late December 2020. Check here for further updates at that time.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: 12 MARCH 2020 8 AM CT:
Via Northwest Secretary/Treasurer Steve Schalk:
Due to the travel concerns with coronavirus, the fact that locations we are traveling from and to are involved with active cases, that our group has many people who are at the highest risk, and therefore to avoid losing a good portion of our active sailors, we are going to cancel the Northwest for season.
The 2020 Northwestern Ice Yachting Championship Regatta is on for Lake Waconia Minnesota starting Friday March 13th, 2020.
Class A, B, C, and D Stern steerers, Class A, B, and C skeeters, Renegades and DNs will be racing.
The ISA is postponed for a week.
Boecraft boats that for sure will be there are I 564 and I 234. There will be two C skeeters as well so we will sail with them in a separate start from the A skeeters. Lake Waconia is just west of Lake Minnetonka. The trip is 5 hours and 28 minutes according to Google.
WISCONSIN ICE BOATING HOTLINE 608-204-9876
W.S.S.A. dues are $20.00 and can be mailed to Andy Gratton at the following address:
c/o Andy Gratton, Secretary/Treasure
2102 Doty Street
Oshkosh, WI. 54902
***NOTICE*** Due to the high cost of “snail” mailing newsletters it is encouraged that you send in your $20 dues and an e-mail address. If not, your name MAY be removed from the mailing list. If you are no longer interested in receiving the newsletter please respond or email to Andy Gratton