The Skeeter Iceboat Club Celebrates 90 Years On Ice

The Skeeter Iceboat Club Celebrates 90 Years On Ice

The Skeeter Iceboat Club Beauvais Fleet. Date unknown.

Our friends to the south on Geneva Lake in Wisconsin will soon celebrate a milestone, the 90th anniversary of the founding of their club. March 4th, 2023, is the 90th anniversary of the Beau-Skeeter Iceboat Club, now known as the Skeeter Iceboat Club.

The Women of Iceboating
Four-Runner Iceboat Built by SIBC Commodore Robert Ferris
Wish You Were Here – Skeeter Iceboat Postcards & History

Via Jane & Susie Pegel of the Skeeter Iceboat Club

Williams Bay is known as the “Ice Boat Center of the World.” Iceboating was formalized as a sport on the lake with the formation of the Beau-Skeeter Ice Boat Club of Southern Wisconsin on March 4, 1933. The first meeting was held at the home of Arthur Anderson in Williams Bay to organize the club and elect officers. (Art Anderson was an important part of the village of Williams Bay. He owned Bay Oil Company which was directly behind today’s sailboat rigging area on Geneva Street) Elected as officers of the new club were: Commodore Art Anderson, Vice Commodore Don Waterbury, Rear Commodore Chester Granath.

Skeeter Iceboat Club on Geneva Lake, c. 1930s

It was decided dues would be $3 per year, payable at 50 cents a month or in a lump sum. It was decided a burgee be adopted –a triangle 10″ X 16″ with a red background and a white figure, sample to be submitted by Mr. Beauvais. Suggestions were made and discussed as to the time of races and ladies’ races. The club By-Laws stated the object of the club “shall be to encourage ice yachting, to promote the social interest and good fellowship of all persons interested in ice yachting and to stimulate and promote races under reasonable and uniform rules.” Also, “The Northwest Ice Yachting Association sailing rules shall apply to this club.”

There were motions to change the club name at a special meeting held on December 10, 1938. Some suggestions were: Geneva Lake Ice Boat Club, Geneva-Delavan Ice Yacht Club, Big Foot Ice Yacht Club, Arctic Ice Yacht Club, Williams Bay Ice Boat Club, Lake Geneva Ice Boat Club, and Skeeter Ice Boat Club. After considerable lobbying and voting, the Skeeter Ice Boat Club was approved. On March 9, 1940, the club

A 30 mile gale added thrills to the Northwestern Ice Yachting Association regatta on Lake Mendota at Madison, Wisc. January 30, 1938. Here two machines are “hiking”, which is like “heeling” in a sailboat as H.V. Fitzcharles of Chicago, left, sailing High Voltage, and Harry Melges of Williams Bay, Wisc. at the helm of Fancy Flight put up a heated fight to head each other.”
I came across this photo on ebay from a company that specializes in original press photos and snapped it up. NIYA records show Harry Nye as the winner of the 1938 Northwest Skeeter class. Skeeters first competed in the NIYA in 1936. Skeeters didn’t have springboards at that time which must have made for quite an exciting ride in a 30 mph gale.accepted the letter ” I ” to put on sails to represent Delavan and Geneva lakes in the International Skeeter Association.

At the regular spring meeting on March 8, 1947, Fleet Captain Art Anderson suggested that a starting procedure for the races be written. The commodore suggested Art appoint a committee to present such a procedure at the November meeting.

At the regular spring meeting on March 13, 1948, club label pins were discussed, and the subject was dropped after Norm Hansen voted “no” twice. It was moved, seconded, and passed that the official racing season shall not extend beyond March 15, thus constituting an amendment to the By-Laws.

At the regular fall meeting on November 13, 1948, a shotgun presented by the Fox Lake Ice Yacht Club to the Skeeter Ice Boat Club was shown to those present. An engraved plate furnished with the gun gave the presentation date as April 3, 1948.

At the November 12, 1949 meeting, it was decided a bulletin board would be posted at Henri’s tavern and the Bay Oil Station by noon on Saturdays as to where and when the club would sail the next day. Also, Norm Hansen brought up the subject of a new class of ice boat called the DN-60. A committee was appointed to look into the possibility of such a boat.After the November 8, 1952, meeting was adjourned, Bill Stenus showed the Fox Movietone roll on iceboating.

The minutes of the March 14, 1953 spring meeting indicate Mel Jones suggested that the trophy dinner be an OLD TIMERS PARTY and reunion of former members and friends in as much as this year was the 20th anniversary of the club’s founding.

The Skeeter Ice Boat Club still exists today and runs races on Lake Como, Delavan Lake, and Geneva Lake and hosts many regattas.

1933-36 Art Anderson
1936-39 Donald Waterbury
1939-41 Chester Granath
1941-42 Robert Ferris
1942-45 World War II
1945-49 Robert Ferris
1949-50 John Clifford
1950-52 Mel Spence

1934 season champion Don Waterbury
ladies champion Lucille Fitzcharles
1935 season champion Don Waterbury
ladies champion Vera Granath

1. GALE, Bettye Nye
2. RANDOM SHOTS, Ethel Koehler
3. HI VOLTAGE, Lucille Fitzcharles
4. SU JAC, Ariel Clayton
5. ARIEL C, Sue Vilas
6. VEE GEE, Vera Granath
7. HOLY SMOKE, Helen Campbell
8. HEL MEL, Ariel Clayton
9. WARHORSE, Rose Anderson
10. SANDY, Medora Adams

1. GALE, Harry Nye
2. SKIP IT, Chester Granath
3. HI VOLTAGE, H. Fitzcharles
4. BLUE BILL IV, Don Waterbury
5. HOLY SMOKE, Don Campbell
6. WARHORSE, Art Anderson
7. SU JAC, Jack Vilas
8, SANDY, Charles Sawyer
9. RANDOM SHOTS, Franz Koehler
10. ZEPHYR, Bill Mereness
11. SU JACK, Jack Vilas, Sr.
12. FANCY FLIGHT, Henry Ferris
13. X, Mike Ambrose
14. MICKEY FINN, Eph Banning
15. TORMENTOR, Robert Ferris
16. ARIEL C., H. MacMurtrie
17. GONE WITH THE WIND, William Brown
18. JACKIE B, Dr. Sanders
19. RIFF, Tucker
20. GREEN GHOST, Mel Jones
21. HEL MEL, Mel Spence
22. RAFF, Barton

The “R” Word: Free Iceboat to Restore

The “R” Word: Free Iceboat to Restore

You can go from this… this in a few simple steps.

UPDATE: July 17,2018: The boat has found a home on Lake Como. Thanks to all who helped with this rescue.
Skeeter Iceboat Club sailor Steve Schalk recently came across the proverbial barn find near Delavan, Wisconsin that dates back to the beginning of the Skeeter class.This 1930s iceboat was home built and patterned after Walter Beauvaix’s early open-back Skeeter design. Just the hull and plank remain and It’s always been stored in a dry barn waiting for either the woodpile or for someone to restore her. If you’d like to save the boat from the burn pile and take on a restoration project, contact to arrange pick-up. Andy Gratton has offered to donate a sail for the boat.
To learn more about the history of Beau Skeeters, read “A New First“,  about the Goes family’s original Beau Skeeter PIKE, and “Wish You Were Here: Skeeter Iceboat Club History“.

Early Beau Skeeter PIKE, on the left with the P sail.

Meade Gougeon’s Essential “Evolution of Modern Sailboat Design”

Meade Gougeon’s Essential “Evolution of Modern Sailboat Design”

“Others quickly picked up the bow-steering design, and a few large bow-steerers were built…A Class B boat (250 square feet of sail) was built by Starke Meyer of Milwaukee and he ran away from everything else on the lakes”. Photo from the Carl Bernard Scrapbook Collection.

While researching last week’s Throw Back Thursday Gar Wood regatta post, I discovered a book that wasn’t on my radar or in my library, Meade Gougeon’s “Evolution of Modern Sailboat Design” written with co-author Ty Knoy. The stern-steerer iceboat on the cover hinted this was not a typical book about soft water sailboats with an obligatory paragraph about iceboats. Meade masterfully combined the story of iceboat design, mechanics, and history as he explained why some boats are faster than others. If you collect books about iceboating, this is an essential volume and available on Amazon.

Meade’s Bigger Picture Thinking:

  • “Many of the refinements in sails and rigging that have been developed since World War I originated on iceboats.”
  • “The first bow-steerer of any importance was built in 1931 by the Joy brothers, sailmakers in Milwaukee.” …”the Joy brothers and Walter Beauvais (of Williams Bay, WI) who came up with the machine (BEAU SKEETER) that retired the big boats forever…It went on the ice in Lake Geneva in 1933 and was an instant success.”
  • Iceboaters were quick to take up the idea’s of Dr. Manfred Curry, a German sailor who came up with the idea of planing full length battens to curve into an airfoil. (An idea banned in most soft-water racing classes at the time of the book’s publication.) Iceboaters in the 1930s were using revolutionary ideas like rotating masts, wing masts, and full length battens while soft-water classes were outlawing advancements. The few softwater classes that allowed rotating masts (in 1976) were Midwestern scows, from the same part of the world where a good many iceboaters are also scow sailors in the summer.
  • The aviator, Charles Lindbergh, (who spent a semester here the university in Madison and motored around Lake Mendota on an ice sled) “is said to have had a hand in the design of a very advanced rig” that was put on the Class A stern-steerer, DEUCE II, which was owned by Lindbergh’s cousin, Joseph Lodge of Detroit.

“On DEUCE II, with the help of Lindbergh, Lodge installed a rotating wing mast, believed to be the first ever used…DEUCE II was a hard luck boat, plagued by rigging failures, as Lodge challenged for the Stuart Cup and the Hearst International trophies in the 1930s.” Photo from the Carl Bernard Scrapbook Collection.

“Most of the troubles [from DEUCE II] were ironed out in DEUCE III, a remodeled version of DEUCE II, and in 1938, Lodge won both trophies to become champion of the world for Class A.” Photo from the Carl Bernard Scrapbook Collection.

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