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

“I’ll Tell Ya About Iceboating Around Here”

In his internet travels, Henry Bossett came across a library site of oral histories from Liverpool, New York. The interviews with Ken Wentworth prompted Henry (a now retired North Sails New Jersey sail maker) to recall an old boat builder “who would come in to show me his hand-designed and built model boats… I asked him about the North Shrewsbury Ice Yacht Club… He replied with a story of how he used to hang out there as a kid and listen to the “Captains” sitting around their potbelly stove, spinning yarns of days gone by, and impressing him with wild tales. Anyway, this guy obviously knows how to spin a tale also, but he does have direct knowledge of some interesting iceboat history.”
Each video runs about 3 minutes and are an entertaining listen.

White Wings and Black Ice: ICICLE Archives

Distraction of the Day: Curious & Rare & BERZERKER

Ye Olde Party Boat

Museums and archival websites have flung opened their virtual doors and allowed access to their archives to help us while away the hours. Stumbled across this print dated from around 1600 on the British Museum website. It’s purported to be the earliest representation of an iceboat – Dutch, of course. The artist took some liberties because a 10 person iceboat would need some good breeze to get going not to mention the impossibility of handling the boat around such a twisty narrow track.

Seeing this 10 person iceboat brought to mind one of the greatest ice sailing projects ever seen, executed by the Toledo Ice Yacht Club in 2007, the BERZERKER. She was built to be a one-weekend party boat, a stern steerer assembled from what ever they found laying around. BERZERKER gave many people their first iceboat ride during that Winter Carnival weekend on Lake Erie.

Where It All Began: Part One – The Club

De Robben Ice Sailing Facebook
De Robben Ice Sailing Website

Sorry I haven’t been posting much this month. I hope this long post will make up for my absence. After the Junior World Ice Sailing championship,me and my brother, Ron, left Sweden and headed to Norway for some sight seeing and to visit our relatives there. (Sailable ice could be found in Norway this winter. Like Sweden, they don’t have much snow.)

In case you didn’t know, the Dutch are the grandfathers of this sport. Back in the 1600s, they were the first ones to throw a plank and runners on a traditional soft water sailing boat in order to utilize the frozen canals of Holland. The day before we left for Norway, Maarten de Groot of the Dutch ice sailing club, De Robben, sent a message that 10 of the club’s old style original Dutch iceboats were heading to Lake Orsa in Sweden for a week of cruising.  Maarten and I have been corresponding by email for many years about his club and these historic boats. An opportunity like this might never come along again and I knew I had to find a way to get back here to Orsa after the Norway visit to see these boats and meet the club members. Thankfully, the ticket change was easy (I was credited $19 for the change, thanks Delta!)

Ron and I drove back from Oslo to Uppsala, Sweden on Monday and we enjoyed the warm atmosphere of a family dinner that evening at the home of Swedish junior sailor, Axel Steffner. Ron flew back to Wisconsin yesterday while I rented a car and made the 3.5 hour drive back to Orsa, my third time here this month. (Reminds me of being in Lake City, MN on Pepin for basically the entire month of January 2019.) Google navigation makes driving in Sweden very easy, but the many “watch out for moose” road signs keeps one alert! (Ron and I did see a moose standing near the road in Norway – we thought it was a horse at first.)

I arrived back at Orsa around noon and had lunch with Maarten, his wife Marianne and other club members in their cozy, rustic Orsa Camping cabin. Being able to stay in one place right at the launch is quite a luxury in ice sailing. I spent the rest of the afternoon on the ice.

I learned so much about these boats and the club members who cherish them so much. First, about the club. Here’s a roster of the boats that sail with De Robben. They have over 100 club members and are growing. (There are other clubs like them in the Netherlands where the focus is the old Dutch style boats.)  There hasn’t been ice in the Netherlands in 10 years so they’ve had to embrace travel. They have one organizational meeting every November to discuss their upcoming trip. They don’t race, it’s all strictly for pleasure and camaraderie. It’s family oriented ice sailing and many husbands and wives sail together. Club members enjoy helping each other out in the shop and on the ice, one of the best traditions in iceboating all over the world. Last evening, club members gathered in one of the small cabins for drinks and snacks.  I counted 18 people and reflected upon the fact that the 4LIYC was going to be meeting in a few hours back home. Sitting in that cabin surrounded by ice sailors was just like being at a 4LIYC meeting except everyone was speaking in Dutch. They are starting to take down the boats today but a few will stay here until Sunday.

I’ll post more later because I want to get ready to head out to the ice and catch some more rides.  A sincere thank you to Maarten and all club members from De Robben for this incredible experience. I hope to be able to  write part 2 tonight which will focus more on the boats. I’m moving a few km to stay in Furudal for another regatta.

Oh, and one more reason to extend the trip – there’s a Swedish DN ranking regatta this weekend here. The Race Committee has graciously asked me to be part of it.