“I’ll Tell Ya About Iceboating Around Here”

“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

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

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.



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