The Spaight Street Syndicate

The Spaight Street Syndicate Iceboat Shop

Daniel Hearn’s reports from his iceboat shop where DNs and most recently, a C Class Skeeter are built and tuned.

“Winning the Iceboat World Championships in a Borrowed Boat”

Photo: Catherine Firmbach

Written by: Michał Burczyński

This was my tenth time in the Gold Cup in the USA. The trails were blazed and everything was supposed to go as planned. But then a series of unfortunate events occurred that severely affected my starting plans. The whole thing seemed improbable.

We (the Polish team) had a few days head start in sending our iceboats to the USA, in case of any unforeseen problems. Our equipment got held up at the Paris airport. Our appeals to the shipping company went unheard. And just when things were looking up, our bad luck continued, as the plane which was supposed to bring our gear three days before the start of the Championships, failed to take off because of a malfunction. Continue reading.

“Simon Says. The Consultants Weekend”


Daniel Hearn addresses sitka spruce and  the C Skeeter steering system with a little help from friends. 

Previous: “Frosting For Frozen Fun”
When Your Plank Needs Work
A Weak Moment

Stopped by McCormick Lumber over my lunch hour Friday to pick up the one additional Sitka board I needed for the two 20 foot chines on the port side of the hull. I was greeted in the parking lot by the Global CEO of the conglomerate, Andy McCormick, who was returning from a high-powered business lunch. He was still sucking Diet Coke through the straw in the Hardee’s cup. I considered Andy a friend, but witnessing that he’s destroying our oceans still using straws, I may have to reconsider. He escorted me to the yard, probably concerned that I would slap as many boards as I could on top of the Swagger Wagon and tear off without paying. I asked him if he could close the overhead door as I searched for the fastest board, as I was a little cold. He asked me if I always wore my wife’s skirt on Fridays?

Saturday morning, thinking my neighbors probably wouldn’t appreciate the sweet howl of my planner in the driveway at 6:30 a.m., I made my way to my office to get the job done in our storage area. Since I don’t have a garage, I’ve sort of commandeered the space. It’s become an ice sailing junkyard; rather appropriate, as the room also harbors our building’s dumpsters. They don’t stink too bad(ly), and it’s a short throw for getting rid of the sawdust. Bonus. I’m probably supposed to put the $10-per-board-foot waste in a bag before depositing it in the non-recyclable dumpster, but we contract with a private service. They’ll pick up anything, unlike the City of Madison that will leave my carts stranded at the curb like a blind date with a nice personality, if they see one leaf poking out of the lid. With the first job of the day complete, back home for breakfast.

Next stop, Nordhaus Boatwerks. Arranged to meet up with Jim to compare different steering systems. After discussing pros and cons, I decided to go with a Renegade style system, but with a wheel (which is not allowed in the Renegade) and extra purchase achieved by attaching blocks to the steering post flanges and dead-ending the lines that go to the steering wheel sprocket back into a bulkhead. Maybe using Spectra rather than cable. I kinda sounds like I know what I’m talking about, right? Well, truth be told, before my remedial session with Professor Nordhaus, I was as clueless and a redneck in a woman’s studies class.
I was also rather uncertain about how I would ultimately attach the decking to the sideboards, so on my way back from church Sunday I gave Jerry Simon a call. It was 10:25 a.m. I was hoping he might be able to stop by my shop in the next week or so. He said, “I can be there by 11:00.” All Jerry needs is an app, and he could be like Uber. Before the eleventh bell faded, the doorbell chimed in and there he was in his well-worn sailing cap, jeans and work boot style shoes. Cheerful as always. I suspect Jerry is on Lombardi time—”if you’re on time, you’re late.” But he probably backed it off a bit for me, seeing as how it was Sunday, and all. And Palm Sunday, no less. Those services go on forever. No need to document with a watch. Every kid squirming in the pew is evidence enough. Of course Jerry didn’t come empty handed. He came bearing gifts of tools. A pneumatic staple gun in a plastic box with every component and staple size precisely labeled. He provided a detailed tutorial that would rival any YouTube sensation, and then showed me how I would put it to work for no-bubble decking and proper scarf joints.

My consultants weekend wouldn’t have been complete without a call to the Heppert Hot Line. All along I’ve thought it was a Call Center in Kingston, but I’m beginning to think the guy on the other end sounds more Minnesotan, than Jamaican. “How in the heck do I get a six foot level to touch three bulk heads on the sides of a curved boat,” I asked. “You don’t,” the guy said, “that’s only by the top rear spine. “Oh,” I replied sheepishly, thinking that maybe I had already sanded a little too much off the small section I had started with. Oh well, may have to shim out that one bulk head some to maintain the smooth curve. He went on to explain something about the flat spine transitioning into compound curves. “Ah…what,” I thought? But for the record, I never took any women’s studies classes.
(Photos below of steering in Meade restoration project at Nordhaus Boatwerks. My C-Skeeter steering will be similar).

“Frosting For Frozen Fun”


Daniel Hearn brings home the second most important part of any iceboating program, the trailer and sees the C Skeeter hull emerge from the parts and pieces.

Frosting For Frozen Fun

When I eat birthday cake (never with ice cream, but I love ice cream…I know, weird) my fork surgically targets the cake part first, leaving mostly frosting for a super sweet, sugar-filled finish. Flower? Corner piece? Ah…yeah…both, please.

It was all frosting at the Spaight Street Syndicate last weekend. Picked up my new C-Skeeter hauler in lower Michigan Saturday morning. Great little trailer company willing to sell direct to consumers and build custom quite economically. On the way there, dropped off a DN mast for repair with Bob Rast. Going to a newbie I assisted getting into a good entry level program. Welcome to the fleet, Vince! Had dinner with my oldest daughter in Chicago and spent the night at her place. I did eat meat on Friday during Lent. Since the Lord can walk on water, he’s certainly an ice boater, so I’m counting on him cutting me some slack.

On Sunday, I got to start dry fitting pieces. It’s been pretty much all cake since I started—planning, ordering, cutting, gluing, carboning, bending, sweeping, swearing, apologizing (to my wife for the excess dust; I don’t think she hears me cussing like a longshoreman). But all of a sudden ,“poof,” it looks like a boat! Frosting for frozen fun is good for my psyche.

Damn, I’m one board short! There I go again with my potty mouth. I’ll have to pay a visit to Andy at McCormick Lumber this week. He’s an Irishman…he won’t mind my language.

Previous: When Your Plank Needs Work
A Weak Moment

When Your Plank “Needs Work”

Now that’s proper plank form.

The Spaight Street Syndicate C Skeeter build continues. Here’s the latest from Daniel Hearn.

YOUR PLANK NEEDS WORK
I was in NYC last weekend visiting my youngest daughter, Sheridan. She took me to one of these trendy fitness clubs staffed by overly cheerful, Lulumon-clad trainers whose smiles conceal their fondness of torture. It was called The Fitting Room. Their e-blasts ever since will never let me forget.

“Locker room straight ahead,” said the ethnically ambiguous receptionist with the blue buzz cut, plentiful piercings and ink. Admittedly, I was a little groggy, having stayed up way past my embarrassingly early normal bedtime, taking in a comedy show at a club often used by big names for trying out their new material. Chris Rock didn’t show that night.

As I wondered in, there standing right in front of me was a shapely young woman with nothing on but lacy black panties and a party bra. (Not that I was looking, of course, I was with my wife and daughters). As I desperately scanned the area for the silhouette of the guy wearing pants, all I saw were more women. Women in various states of dress. Certain that I had wondered into the wrong locker room, I sheepishly turned to exit trying to be invisible. It must have showed on my Midwestern face as another woman said, “don’t worry, it’s a coed locker room.” “Hmm, I thought, temporarily relieved, until I started thinking about exposing my tighty-whiteys to total strangers, and most of them women. My ladies know I’m a dork, but these women…scratch that…they probably took one look at my dad jeans and concluded, “dork.”

Our class had two wirelessly mic’ed instructors. Not very far into the workout, I became a “project” for the instructor with the British accent and tightly trimmed beard. He said to me, “ Daniel (at least he didn’t call me sir), your plank needs work. I thought to myself, “dude, you have no idea!” Maybe I should send him the pictures?

Previous: “Weak Moment”

Weak Moment

The SSS “Pop-Up” Carbon Station Note: Newly installed hazmat barrier protecting laundry room. You’re welcome, honey.

News from the Spaight Street Syndicate

Look what appeared in the inbox this morning! An update from our other area Skeeter builder, Daniel Hearn, mentioned in yesterday’s post.

At the Northwest Regatta in January, I had the chance to sail the C-Skeeter “Drifter.” I’ve always admired the boat from afar, but resisted the temptation to look into it further. But then this very nice man named Pat (might be an alias) saw me checking her out. He must have sensed an easy target. I didn’t see his white van or puppy, but I’m sure he has both. And he smiled so warmly as he shared his chocolate. Next thing I know I had downloaded the plans and was purchasing Baltic Birch. If Pat is married, I hope his wife is not high maintenance, because Pat is now receiving more correspondence than Dear Abby. No doubt he’s already regretted giving me a taste, but it’s too late to turn back now.

First thing I had to do was extend my DN building table. Check. Now I’m at 20 feet and level. With one foot to spare on each end. Good thing I’m kinda scrawny. And good thing that window is where it is, otherwise this thing would be a permanent fixture in my basement. I measured twice. I’ll get her out. I think? Jack Ripp used to talk about “building in a closet.” Now I appreciate that.

Edge-gluing outside plank lamination.

The next thing I did was embrace my deficiencies. I know next to nothing about Skeeters, so I consulted the brain trust who knows everything. Pat Heppert and Bill Buchholz have openly shared their experiences building Pat’s design. And the A-Skeeter guys have shared lots of info with a guy who’s been playing around with those “toy boats” for some time. Many thanks to Jay Yaeso, Kenny Whitehorse, Paul Krueger, Bob Kau, Tom Nichols, Henry Bossett, Steve Orlebeke, Jim Nordhaus, Jerry Simon and others. With their help and tips, I might actually be able to do this. And one more thank you to my brother, Brian, who is providing a second set of hands and valuable structural input pulled from his experience as an architect.

Rough springboard, boom and plank middle “ladder” lamination. Ladder yet to be tapered with my planer. Maybe next weekend. Don’t tell my neighbors! Note: Hull “escape hatch” window above.

Yesterday, I also had the pleasure of visiting with Bill Mattison, the man who probably knows more about Skeeters than anyone on the planet. Bill is on the mend from a little setback. When I showed up at his room, I met Bill Jr. and granddaughter, Abby, who live in Racine. Told them I love going there for regattas. When I mentioned Cupie Burgers, Well Brothers Pizza and Cliff’s for breakfast, I think they thought I was legit. Well, when I started talking iceboats with Bill, he lit up light the North Beach Harbor lighthouse. I showed him pictures and videos of what’s going on in the shops and Abby giggled when he struggled with the technology. Just listening to Bill exposed how little I know about the Formula One of iceboats. But I enjoyed every second. Bill Jr. said he hadn’t seen his dad so engaged for a long time. That was nice to hear! And what a treasure we have in Madison with so many elder statesmen of ice sailing!

So much for my rambling. Here’s what I’ve scratched off my list so far. With my limited building space, I started on the small stuff first, and when the weather is reasonably warm on weekends, I jump outside to disturb my neighbors making sawdust in the driveway. (Had a visit with a Madison police officer yesterday. Nice guy!)

    • Mentioned to my wife in passing that I “might” build another boat. “Really,” she said, as she smiled lovingly. (That may have been a question, but I’m going to punctuate with a period. She’s the best!)
    • Bulkheads cut out. (Twice, actually. Decided it wasn’t a good idea to try to make her shorter and skinnier). We’re not into “body shaming” on the near east side. Pretty much anything else goes, however.
    • Four bulkheads surrounding cockpit covered with two layers of carbon. (Learned how to do it poorly on the first one. Will cover again to hide my ineptitude).
    • Springboard formed, shaped and covered top and bottom with carbon.
    • Boom covered with carbon.
    • Middle “ladder” lamination of plank complete.
    • Stringers and spines cut to size.
    • Canopy located and ordered.
    • Trailer designed and ordered.
    • Sideboards and other plank laminations planed to size.
    • Long list of potential names generated. (Class rule that Skeeters have a name on the side).

Next up—edge-gluing boards to get required height or width for sideboards and outside plank laminations. Then, gluing up the plank.

P.S. “Hint. Hint.” Got it, webmaster!
-Daniel

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