The Oz of Green Lake

Via 4LIYC Commodore Daniel Hearn:

I read recently that a documentary about Buddy Melges will soon be released called, “The Wizard of Zenda.” If there’s a sequel, it should be called “The Oz of Green Lake.” It would tell the story of another living legend from the sailing world, Joe Norton. What Joe lacks in height, he makes up for with personality and generosity. Joe was a fixture in DN racing for decades, and finished up his active racing career in a Nite. I was fortunate enough to purchase his Nite when he decided to hang it up. It was a nameless boat at the time, so I jumped on the opportunity to name her JoJoe. The wood components Joe made for the boat are works of art. He’s a guy who knows his way around a wood shop. He’s made a living restoring, building and maintaining some of the most beautiful Chris Craft style boats that I have ever seen. He insists the only way to varnish one of these beauties is in the nude. “You see, clothing is a magnet for dust”, he claims, “and the last thing you want is dust gathering on your wood.” I think he was pulling my chain, but I’m not really sure.


Although his racing days are over, Joe continues to give back to the sport in multiple ways. This season already, Joe has served as the PRO for the Nite Nationals and assisted Pat Heppert at the DN Worlds/North Americans. I paid a visit to Joe in Green Lake last Friday. One of my off-season projects will be building a couple Nite masts, so I figured there was no one better to consult with than the Oz of Green Lake. He sent me back to Madison with all sorts of goodies. Along with some of the carnage from his own Nite mast exploration. Sharing one’s failures can save another aspiring builder boatloads of time!


But Joe also sent me back with something else. Something that is uniquely Joe. He doesn’t even know what to call the device, so I’m going to call it a “Nortometer”. Functionally, the device measures changing wind angles. When setting a course, PROs are hawkishly watching for the mean direction, so that starting lines and marks can be set for fair racing. Artisitcally, calling this thing a “device” seems kind of insulting. Joe constructs his Nortometers out of salvaged Chris Craft decks. The contrasting wood stripes provide a beautiful indication of a square race track when the yarn is flowing in parallel. If the yarn is at an angle, then it’s time to wait for the wind to settle in, or consider moving the course. When not set up for racing duties, the Nortometer cleverly stores its uprights in pockets underneath, where a true artist, and all around great guy has inscribed his name and date on the gift. Joe has already donated Nortometers to the Green Lake Club, Skeeter Iceboat Club, Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club, Nite Class, International DN Ice Yacht Racing Association, Minnesota Ice Sailors and the International Skeeter Association. If any other club or judge could use a Nortometer of their own–close your eyes, click your heels, and say, “there’s no place like home.” Alternatively, you could email Joe at

Kayla Wolf ISA & Renegade Championship Photo Gallery

Start of a Renegade race at the 2023 Renegade Championship on Lake Kegonsa. Photo: Kayla Wolf

Freelance Photographer Kayla Wolf was there for the action Sunday on Lake Kegonsa at the ISA & Renegade Championship. Renegade and Nite sailors will want to make sure to look through her gallery for some fantastic shots. Link here

Iceboat in National Sailing Hall of Fame Museum

Visit the musem.

Ever since Buddy Melges’ induction in the first class of 2011, ice boaters have numbered among the elite sailors honored by the National Sailing Hall of Fame (NSHOF). Other hard water inductees include Peter Barrett, Olaf & Peter Harken, Jan & Meade Gougeon, Bill Bensten, Herbert Lawrence Stone (who authored books and articles), Bill Mattison, and Jane Pegel.

The sailing community’s full recognition of the sport of ice yachting has culminated with the inclusion of an iceboat in the new NSHOF museum in Newport, Rhode Island.

When visitors enter the impressive interactive exhibition hall, they will notice six boats hanging overhead from the exposed wooden rafters of the historic former¬† armory. One of those six is an iceboat representing our community and those who live to “Think Ice.”

The NSHOF asked Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club Nite sailor Don Sanford (the driving force behind Bill Mattison’s induction), myself, and others for an iceboat. The museum had hoped to hang a Class A Skeeter, but the wide plank would have taken up too much space. They chose one that would fit – the most popular iceboat globally, a DN.

Peter Harken asked that the boat not be a “fixer-upper” but a fully fitted racing boat. The NSHOF accepted Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club member Doug Kolner’s offer to donate his complete modern DN.

The DNs natural wood hull and plank, built in a small garage in Monona, Wisconsin, are true to the roots of the DN’s humble beginnings at the Detroit News hobby shop in the 1930s. Doug built the boat using standard DN plans, and it symbolizes all the iceboat builders who enjoy kicking up some dust and mixing epoxy in their garage shops.

Current members of the NSHOF’s influence is evident in the fact that the boat was built using Gougeon brothers epoxy and Harken brothers fittings technology. Doug recognized NSHOF member Bill Mattison and Green Lake Ice Yacht Club’s Joe Norton as the builders who had influenced his iceboat building know-how.

Hey Joe

An update from Daniel Hearn’s Spaight Street Syndicate:

Nameless No Longer

According to maritime lore, it’s unlucky to rename a boat. Guess it makes sense, since all boats are women, and it’s generally frowned upon to show interest in another. Particularly by the original. What’s the expression, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned?” No doubt penned by some sad sack who found out the hard way.


I’m not really sure what the deal is if the previous owner never named the little hussy. After all, she voluntarily surrendered her virginity without any expectations from the short little man she entertained in her cockpit. As an aside, I’ve always wondered why it’s called a “cockpit”. If you want to speculate, go ahead, but this update will avoid a PARENTAL ADVISORY warning.


The short little man is one of my favorites in the sport. Quick with a smile, a relentless kidder, an amazing craftsman and quite an ice sailor when he was holding a tiller, rather than a bullhorn. These days he spends his time giving back to the sport when he’s not turning gorgeous pieces of wood art or crafting a one-of-a-kind Chris Craft bar for a customer of Norton Boat Works.


I’m honored to own one of his boats now–Nite 595. Of course he built all of the components, and they are beautiful. And innuendo aside, he treated the nameless little lady like a queen. The same way he treats the true love of his life, wife Lauren. I imagine the two have been married for decades, and I know from Joe’s Facebook posts that he still adores her.


So, the next time you see me on the ice, keep your wandering eyes off of “JoJoe.” She’s spoken for and has no interest in entertaining your sorry a$$!

Tomorrow: Green Lake Swap Meet October 24th

B Skeeters on Green Lake in 2013. Photo: Gretchen Dorian

Green Lake Ice Yacht Club
Saturday, October 24, 2020
10 AM – 2 PM
Green Lake Town Square

UPDATE: Just a friendly reminder, the Green Lake Ice Yacht Club Swap Meet is tomorrow, October, 24, 2020.

Some breaking news from our friends to the northeast. Green Lake Ice Yacht Club’s Joe Norton called to let us know to save the date of Saturday, October 24, 2020 for an iceboat swap meet that is jointly being hosted by the GLIYC and the area ice yacht clubs of Fond du Lac, Oshkosh, and Neenah. Joe explained that their swap meet is in “honor of the Skeeter Iceboat Club” and is a one-time event. The swap meet will take place in Green Lake, WI at the Terrace on the Town Square.¬† Stay tuned for more details to come.