Mystic Arrow

Mystic Arrow

Arrow iceboats push off to race at Red Banks, New Jersey. Photo via Dan Clapp.

More information from Mystic Seaport Museum.

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.
Tom Nichols

From the exhibition program. Courtesy of Mystic Seaport Museum.

A Life That Dreams Are Made Of

A Life That Dreams Are Made Of

20′ banner made by Tim Stanton.

“He would have hated this.” Billy Mattison reminded the packed room at Gunderson’s Funeral Home about the humble nature of his father, Bill. The memories of Bill shared by those who had preceded Billy were unique and moving. It was a privilege to witness a group of highly accomplished individuals speak in awe of their friend. Here are a few highlights from the people invited by emcee Don Sanford to share their best stories.

Bill organized the building of a new hull for the world’s largest iceboat, Rick Hennig’s DEUCE. Rick recounted that experience with great affection and humor. When Bill saw the semi-truck full of Sitka Spruce roll into the shop parking lot, he turned to Rick and said, “That’s the stuff dreams are made of.”

Bill’s neighbor said that when Bill came over to watch him tinker in his garage, it was “like God himself coming to watch a mere mortal.”

“Yeah, I know a little about that.” America’s Cup veteran, Larry Malik, recalled Bill’s typically understated reply when asked if he could fix a photo processing machine during an AC Australian campaign. Larry shared the famous story of the day Bill took the film of the AC boat to the one-hour photo store, where he learned that the store’s processing machine was on the fritz. Bill fixed the machine and came back with the pictures.

Lon Schoor, Bill’s long-time Mendota Yacht Club A Scow partner, marveled at no matter how complicated the project; Bill was so organized in his thoughts that he didn’t have to write anything down and always made the deadline. He left us laughing with a story about how Bill schemed how they would sell the idea of buying an A Scow to their wives, Donna and Mauretta. Bill told Mauretta that Lon had purchased the boat, while Lon was to tell Donna that it was Bill’s boat.

Dr. Kyle Metzloff, a sailor, ice sailor, and UW Professor of Industrial Metal studies, spoke about Bill’s genius and ability to pick up new and complicated ideas. Having never dealt with computers, he learned to operate a mini CNC mill for creating scale model Mattison Circus parts. At an older age, Bill figured out computers.

Peter Harken shared his amazement at Bill and Paul Krueger’s work ethic. They never wasted a minute, not even in the bathroom where Peter assumed “they had a drill press installed.” Peter acknowledged those who traveled from afar, including New Jersey Skeeter sailor Dan Clapp and America’s Cup alumni from San Diego.

Sailing legend Buddy Melges came to the podium, fixing his steely blue eyes on Mauretta and the family for a full minute, not saying a word, holding the audience in his hand while he made us wait. Buddy spoke about their America’s Cup days and how remarkable it was for a guy who came from the Scow world; Bill could make a 12-meter sail faster. “He did not sail on it, but he made it faster when he worked on it.” (Later, I heard stories in the bar about how at least one of Bill’s modifications caused a stir with some AC engineers, but they calmed down when the boat speed increased.)

“He would have hated this.” Billy Mattison reminded the packed room about the humble nature of his father, Bill. The last to speak at Bill’s Celebration of Life, Billy had to follow some esteemed acts, giants of the sailing world, who had shared stories from the podium of the man’s genius. Billy’s poignant closing remarks emphasized the private family side of Bill and his devotion to his wife of 65 years, Mauretta, their children, Lynn and Billy, and their grandchildren.

“I think it is time for a dipper.”

On our way to Gundersons, Don Anderson and I delivered cakes to the Breakwater for the post-memorial reception sponsored by the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club and Mendota Yacht Club. The manager surprised us with the news that Mauretta had called with instructions that she would be picking up the bar tab. On Monday, unsure of the damage, the two yacht clubs offered to pitch in with the bill. Mauretta said no, adamant that Bill would have insisted on it. Thanks, Bill.
Debra Rosten Whitehorse

PREVIOUSLY
Home of the Volleyball(?) Champs
Nothing Fickler
Bill’s Circus Life
The Icing On The Lake”
“Fast Forward Since Birth”
“The Hard-Water Gang” with Bill Mattison at the 2001 ISA
Shooting the Breeze with Bill Mattison
Bill Mattison Inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame
Iceboaters Fingerprints
Willy St. Iceboat Shop Archives

4LIYC -Home of the (Volleyball?) Champions

4LIYC -Home of the (Volleyball?) Champions

Bill Mattison and Ken Whitehorse at a 4LIYC trophy banquet. Don Ermer in the background.

PREVIOUSLY
Bill’s Circus Life
The Icing On The Lake”
“Fast Forward Since Birth”
“The Hard-Water Gang” with Bill Mattison at the 2001 ISA
Shooting the Breeze with Bill Mattison
Bill Mattison Inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame
Iceboaters Fingerprints
Willy St. Iceboat Shop Archives

Here are two stories from Ken Whitehorse and Greg Whitehorse about Bill.

Did you know the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club had a volleyball team? The late Bill McCormick sponsored the team. Bill was a terrific ball player! (Me, not so much.) And yes, Bill Mattison was a fantastic spiker! He could pound the cover off the ball! We played in the city power volleyball league against younger teams, including university club teams. We were city champions in 1978.

After a match, while having a few dippers, we talked about how cold it was. “It was makin’ ice.” Bill Mattison recalled how bitter cold it was in the trenches while fighting as a soldier in the Korean War. It was deathly cold. Bill McCormick served on a combat ship off the Korean shore during those winters. Bill McCormick said, “You know I always felt guilty and sorry for all those soldiers in that bitter cold, day after day. Bill paused ….. He said he was grateful for the warmth of the ship.

Mattison brought the conversation back to iceboating. He told us that on his return trip from the war, he drew up the plans for Honey Bucket #1. They were full-size plans, and he laid them all out on the beck of the ship! I learned a lot from those two men. We weren’t just playing volleyball. Fair Winds All. Until we meet again in the bye and bye..
Ken Whitehorse

Greg Whitehorse shared this on the 4LIYC Facebook page.

I remember stopping at the Willy St shop one winter day. Bill asked me why I wasn’t on the lake sailing the previous weekend. (I sailed in the Skeeter fleet back then.) I told him that I had broken my runner plank the week before. He said, “Bring it in. Let’s get it fixed”. I told him it was beyond repair. His next words were, “get some wood off that stack there (Sitka Spruce), and we’ll start on a new one. By the third day, it was edged, planed, glued, and shaped. Bill did the vast majority of the work. He even put a coat of epoxy on it. I brought it back to my garage, hung the hardware on it, and was on the ice the next weekend. I’m sure Bill had other things to do that week, but getting another boat on the line took precedence. What a guy!
Greg Whitehorse

Mattison Gathering May 7 @ Breakwater – Following Service

Mattison Gathering May 7 @ Breakwater – Following Service

He built those! Bill Mattison and six Class A Skeeters on Geneva Lake, Fontana, WI in 1991.

Following Bill Mattison’s Memorial Service, the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club cordially invites the entire sailing community to gather with us at the Breakwater Restaurant in Monona, WI. (4-minute drive from Gunderson Funeral Home). We’ll celebrate the man who touched us all in countless ways, through our shared love of sailing, on waters both hard and soft. The man who’s workshop was always open to any sailor in need. The man whose legend is even bigger than his heart. Share your memories, share your stories, share some laughs, and undoubtedly a few tears. They just don’t make’m like Bill anymore.

Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club Remembers Bill Mattison
Date: Saturday, May 7, 2022
Time: 5:30 PM
Location: Breakwater Restaurant
6308 Inland Way, Monona, WI 53713
Link to Map

Bill Mattison Celebration of Life & Time of Sharing
2 PM – 4 PM
Service 4 PM – 5 PM
Saturday, May 7, 2022
Gunderson Funeral Home
5203 Monona Drive, Monona, WI
Link to Map

“Nothing Fickler”

Bill Mattison Obituary
Celebration of Life & Time of Sharing
2 PM – 4 PM
Saturday, May 7, 2022
Gunderson Funeral Home
5203 Monona Drive
Monona, WI
Map

Don Sanford assembled this video with photos, film, and voice over of Bill Mattison. Listen closely for one of his famous sayings, “nothing fickler than the wind.”
Youtube Video Link: https://youtu.be/8VH3cIK2zZc

Via Sailing Scuttlebutt

Bill Mattison, a legend in hard and soft water sailing, died April 25, 2022 in Madison, WI. He was 93 years of age.

When superstar sailor Buddy Melges needed help with his America’s Cup challenge in 1986, he asked his long-time friend, sailing rival and Korean War veteran, Bill Mattison for some help.

Bill had a lifetime of experience making boats like scows and ice boats sail faster and faster, and Melges’ Heart of America” 12 Metre was off the pace, but week after week his boat got faster as a direct result of Bill’s hands-on work.

He was a product of the Inland Lake region where Scows skate over the water at 25 knots and when the lakes freeze the sailors sharpen their blades and attain speeds of 100 mph on a variety of ice boats. As a perpetual champion in both scows and ice boats, he quickly adapted his impressive skills to the world of the America’s Cup.

“Whatever needed to be repaired, designed, or improved, Bill would quickly come with the solution and get it done,” said Melges.

Bill’s win list included being 14-time International Skeeter Class Champion, three-time Gar Wood Invitational Champion, 12-time Triple Crown Trophy winner, and winner of over 80 local regattas in A, E and C Scows. Most of his sailing was out of the Mendota Yacht Club in Madison, Wisconsin.

Peter Harken also noted Bill’s endless generosity. “H was always using his expertise and labor to help others get out on the ice or water. If a boat had a breakdown you could bet Bill would be there to help.”

Bill was recognized in the 2020 Induction Class of the National Sailing Hall of Fame, but his craftsmanship was not limited to sailing. He fell in love with the circus as a kid in the 1930s, and began building models of circus wagons.

Then, when he was 12 or 13, he ran away from home to join the circus. Though a career in the circus wasn’t for him, his model making earned him a spot in 2015 in the Circus Model Builders Association’s Hall of Fame.

A Celebration of Life is planned for May 7, 2022 at Gunderson Funeral Home, 5203 Monona Drive, Monona, WI.

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