Via Ken Whitehorse at the Past Champions Iceboat Shop
This morning, at the Past Champs Iceboat Shop, I found a treasure chest placed at the front door. Just look at all the bolts, shackles, pins, and cable fitting! (There is more not shown.) We estimate the value to be at least two thousand dollars! Huge thank you to Bob Kau M162 for your generosity! I will bring various bolts to the ice each week in case a sailor looses one.
P. S. I will save a complete set of hardware for M162 when Bob Kau builds his new C Skeeter!
Read: Oshkosh Ice Boat Club History & 1939 Northwest History by Harry Lund
All-around iceboater Andy Gratton let me borrow a rich archive of iceboat ephemera, photos, and records from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. As anyone who researches history can tell you, the information in libraries like this is filled with rabbit holes that lead you to unforeseen places, always different than what you originally intended.
1930 Oshkosh Ice Yacht Club Letterhead Logo
A report written in 1939 by Harry Lund about the history of the Oshkosh Ice Yacht Club led me to the 1940 Northwest regatta. The regatta was sailed on Geneva Lake in Lake Geneva, WI. It was the first time a Class A Skeeter, Jack Vilas in SUSIE Q, won the ten-lap Northwest “Free For All” race, where the winner is awarded one of the most beautiful trophies in our sport.
1940 Oshkosh Newspaper Northwest Report
The Northwest began in 1913, and the Free For All was the last race of the regatta to compare the speeds of the different classes of stern-steerers. The top two finishers in Class A, B, C, and D stern-steerers were eligible to race for the trophy. 1933 marked the first time the Skeeter class competed in the Northwest, and it only took them seven years to take the Free For All trophy from the stern-steerer class. The Skeeter class has continued their dominance of that race to the present day; Minnesota’s John Dennis is the current titleholder. Thinking about that day in 1940 when Jack Vilas in SUSIE Q became the first bow-steering boat to take home the big cup reminded me of National Sailing Hall of Fame member Jan Gougeon.
Back on Lake Geneva in 1981, Jan gamely lined up his DN with the Class A Skeeters of Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club’s Paul Krueger and Bill Mattison for the ten-lap finale. “It was a scary situation for Bill and me,” Paul recalled. “Jan didn’t realize how fast Bill and I were making the mark. To avoid him, I had to hit the mark, and Bill went to the outside.” From then on, DN sailors who qualified and wanted to compete in the race were allowed to borrow a Class A Skeeter. Jan’s good friend, Ron Sherry, won the 1997 race in a Class A Skeeter he borrowed from 4LIYC’s Bob Kau. (Interesting how Lake Geneva is where Northwest Free-For-All History has been made in 1940, 1981, and 1997!) Ron’s account of that race is a classic story, worthy of another good future post.
The trophies of the Northwest Regatta in 1913. Note the biggest of them all, the Free-For-All trophy
Jay Yaeso’s shop, the Area 51 of iceboat building, reveals his latest stealth project:
Something new out of the Suamico Skunk Works…
I have been so envious of Andy Gratton and Mike Kroll and their miles and miles of winter sailing. We decided to join them!
FROSTY… the Iceboat, is a “C” class rear steerer powered with a massive Skeeter wing spare. The remainder of the platform has been donated by the world famous ice yachter, Bob Kau!
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.
4LIYC Renegader Jim Nordhaus, Bill Petsch of New Zealand, and Hobie Alter competing at the 2018 Blokart North Americans at Ivanpah. Photo: Gary Terrell
4LIYC Skeeter sailor Gary Whitehorse sails his converted iceboat on the Ivanpah dry lake near Las Vegas in 1984.
Ice sailors have been making the spring pilgrimage to the “cathedral of land sailing”, the playa at Ivanpah, for several decades. Pewaukee Skeeter skipper Bill Dale has been at it the longest, sailing in NALSA events for 40 years. 4LIYC members Jim Nordhaus, Geoff Sobering, Scott Geotz, Kyle Metzloff, and Wayne Schmeidlin have been competing in Blokart regattas there for the past several years.
At this year’s Blokart North Americans, Jim Nordhaus’ iceboating skills helped to take him to second place overall in Performance (think Gold fleet) and first in his fiercely competitive division. A Blokart speed record of 77.7 mph was set by Scott Young and Dave Lussier on the last day of competition. Read more about that on Scuttlebutt.
Gary Whitehorse recently shared photos and memories on Facebook of the time he sailed his iceboat ENTERPRISE at Ivanpah.
Gary Whitehorse posted the following on Facebook: “1984, we thought we would try our skills at land sailing. Ivanpah Dry Lake was not far from where we lived in Lake Havasu, AZ. I finished 4th in Class 2 (the fastest class at the time) at the World Land Sailing Competition. There are many good stories on how this all came together.
The race course was announced on the starting line. A yellow paper taped on the hull were filled with maps of the various courses. Being a novice at this sport, I had not memorized them. I never lead a race, although got up to 2nd a few times. The boat was very fast, but the big, sticky tires scrubbed off to much speed when changing direction.”
Gary’s brother, Greg added to the story: “I remember you called me from Arizona and asked if Bob Kau and I could convert the Enterprise into a land sailor. Paul Krueger had all the stuff, it would be easy you said. Well, Bob and I worked late into the night for a few nights to get it ready. (Some of the late nights may have been more to do with a well stocked fridge at Bob’s shop now that I think of it). Ron Rosten was going to tow it out there for you. A few weeks prior to sending it out West, I had tipped it over on Lake Kegonsa. Although damage was minor, I neglected to fix the steering pedals and all that you had to push on were the pipe ends. You weren’t thrilled about that.”