From the Archives: “Downwind to the (New York) Frozen Apple”

Shown here from left to right doing their best to make the ordinary extraordinary are: Don Ermer, Don Sanford, Steve Arnold, Lady Liberty, Ty Reed and Ken Kreider. 

Ken Kreider, who raced Skeeters with the 4LIYC back in the day and now lives in Marinette, WI, called and reminded me of this story written 11 years ago by 4LIYC Nite skipper Don Sanford. It’s Monday, the lack of ice has kept the club from racing, and there’s more snow is in the forecast which means it’s the right time for a mood lifter. The photo has become an iconic part of our club history.

Some of you are wondering why and how the Statue of Liberty rose from Lake Mendota’s ice. “The original statue made its debut in February 1979, fulfilling a campaign promise from Pail and Shovel Party candidates to bring wackiness to UW–Madison’s Wisconsin Student Association if they were voted into office. After claiming victory, party leaders Leon Varjian and Jim Mallon spent $4,000 to construct the statue’s head, crown, arm and torch on frozen Lake Mendota, creating the illusion that Lady Liberty was rising from the lake’s waters.” Read more.

Downwind to New York the Frozen Apple

By Don Sanford c. 2009

Thirty Years ago this week, five members of the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club (4LIYC) sailed from Madison to icebound New York City (this was in the era of global cooling) on an ice-checking mission and a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.


As I recall, 1979 had not been the best for local conditions. Midwestern iceboaters were desperate for some sailable conditions. In that pre-internet and pre-cell phone era, rumors had been flying about a huge glacier that had formed just east of Madison, covering the entire landscape right to New York harbor. The air at that week’s meeting of the 4LIYC was thick with the possibility that perhaps there was some good ice to be found “out East” if only someone could get there to check it out and report back. By the second (or third?) pitcher that night, a handful of us realized that the fate of that season’s regatta schedule was hanging in the balance. Regatta officials Bob Pegel and Paul Krueger needed a scouting party and we were it!


The long-range forecast called for a generally northeasterly breeze, cloudless sky and a full moon for a couple of days. We realized that we had our window. We stuffed our coverall pockets with some trail mix, beef jerky, a few cans of beer, a flashlight (for nighttime sailing), and other choice provisions we could trade with the locals we expected to meet on the way out and back. Then we strapped on our creepers and just after dawn, pushed off down icebound I-94 towards the towering ice sheet that loomed just west of Milwaukee.


Of course none of us had ever sailed uphill, so climbing up on the glacier around Pewaukee was tricky going. Once we were “up top” we found ourselves in a fine northeast breeze and crossed Lake Michigan on a close reach. That ice was at least a 10, maybe 11. Years later we’d call those conditions “Hollywood Ice,” but that’s a story for another day. Most of Indiana was maybe an 8. I recall that we got up into a hike just east of Milwaukee that lasted almost to Toledo. Just thinking about sailing downwind for 300 miles on ultra-perfect ice makes my goggles fog. It was the longest downwind leg of my life.


Crossing into Ohio and through Pennsylvania, we were wishing we could trade our Nites and the Renegade for the plush accommodations that could only be found aboard the stern steerers Mary B, Fritz or Ferdinand the Bull. Those big boats with their 30+ foot runner planks deliver the Cadillac ride, but they weren’t an option for this trip. The ice covering Pennsylvania was rough, barely rating a 5 on anyone’s scale. And getting around some of those hills… Talk about shifty. It was worse than the narrows at Lake Geneva.


For a time we considered making a few tacks and sailing a bit upwind over Syracuse and up towards Oswego, both buried far below the glacier’s surface. Our fate was sealed though when we picked up a huge puff that carried us out of the Catskills and towards the Hudson Valley on a screaming reach. Bearing off and sailing ever deeper downwind, we began to make out the twin towers of the George Washington Bridge in the distance. No traffic jams on the bridge that day for only the top 30 or 40 feet of those grand granite towers rose above the ice. A quick jibe sent us around the top of the Empire State building. Then, with just an hour or so of daylight left, Lady Liberty herself came into view. We were spellbound. Luckily I remembered a camera and snapped this image.


OK, if you believe that one, perhaps you’d be interested in one of the remaining choice lots an uncharted island on the other side of Lake Mendota with a Capital view…


Here’s the rest of the story.


In February 1979 an astonishing sight appeared on Lake Mendota when the top of the Statue of Liberty emerged through the ice. She quickly became a celebrity in the local media. But many of us knew that something else was required to make her a real sensation. 4LIYC members know that no wonder on the ice, natural or not, is ever complete without an iceboat or two nearby. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


4LIYC Fall Sailing Event This Sunday, Oct 14

4LIYC members Don Sanford & Ken Kreider to the rescue with an on-the-ice lunch buffet at the 2017 DN North Americans on Lake Monona.

Iceboating: Come For the Speed, Stay for the Friendships

Here’s a reminder about a program about Lake Baikal ice sailing  and social event and that the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club and Hoofer’s is sponsoring on Sunday, October 14 from noon to 3 PM at the Memorial Union in Madison. It’s your chance to learn about ice sailing, adventure travel, Siberia, the 4LIYC, and meet ice sailors from around the world and Midwest.

4LIYC Commodore Don Anderson called me this morning to talk about something that doesn’t get mentioned enough, how the friendships and camaraderie in iceboating are possible because it is such a unique sport. Bill Mattison’s classic line describing the sport,”nothing’s fickler”, can be a feature, not a bug, of iceboating.  There’s an upside to the fickleness.

Don talked about the differences between a soft water and hard water regatta. If conditions aren’t right, ice boaters are freer to get off the lake and explore their regatta destination making it more enjoyable for everyone. “Anytime I set up my iceboat at a regatta, getting to sail is a bonus. What makes it fun for me is renewing friendships with others who have this sport in common. The first iceboat ride you take of the season is worth the price of admission (i.e. owning an iceboat) because it is such a thrilling ride. Even if you don’t get another ride, it’s still a good investment.” Sharing morning donuts on the ice before a day of sailing, grilled brats at lunch, and a few beers at the end of the day with Tom Hyslop’s giant bag of peanuts- in-the shell makes iceboating festive sport.

As these photos below show, iceboaters enjoy the social aspects of sharing a meal on the ice whether it’s on Lake Baikal or Lake Monona. If you are curious about the sport, we hope to see you there on Sunday so you can learn more about us. If you are a 4LIYC member or member of another club, we hope to see you there to begin the process of renewing old friendships.

UPDATE: DN Champion Ron Sherry To Attend 4LIYC Baikal Sailing Program Oct 14
Multiple DN World, North American, and Baikal champion Ron Sherry is making the drive from Detroit, Michigan to attend this event and catch up with iceboating friends. Ron has been to Lake Baikal twice and has won 3 titles there and will be on hand to share his experiences.

Free Program & Iceboat Exhibit Sponsored by the 4LIYC and Hoofer’s Sailing Club

Date: Sunday, October 14, 2018
Time: Noon to 3 PM Program at 1 PM
Location: University of Wisconsin Memorial Union, Tripp Commons, 2nd Floor of the Union
800 Langdon St, Madison, WI    MAP

Parking: Helen C. White Parking Garage  MAP
State Street Campus Parking Garage MAP
Your favorite Wisconsin beverages and food will be available for purchase at Der Rathskeller and other restaurants located in the Memorial Union.
Questions? Please email us:

4LIYC Fall Ice Sailing Event

For well over 50 years, this iceboat club has kicked off the season with some sort of fall gathering to get iceboating back on everyone’s minds. For many years, we’ve hosted picnics. Two years ago, we held a very successful iceboat show at Dick Lichtfeld’s property.
This year, we are excited to announce an event in conjunction with Hoofer’s Sailing Club at the famous University of Wisconsin Memorial Union. (Sailing iceboats on Lake Mendota to the Union for lunch is part of what makes Madison a unique ice sailing center.)
DN ice sailor Dideric van Riemsdijk H467 from the Netherlands (where it all began) will present a program on the annual ice sailing regatta that takes place every spring at one of the planet’s most remote places, Lake Baikal in Siberia. We will have iceboats set up in historic Tripp Commons on the 2nd floor of the Union.
Please join us on Sunday, October 14, 2018 for this free event where you can meet up with old friends or learn about the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club and how to get started in the sport. All are welcome  including area iceboat and sailing clubs. The planets have aligned (at least here in Wisconsin) because there’s no Packer game that Sunday. 


A Free Program & Iceboat Exhibit Sponsored by the 4LIYC and Hoofer’s Sailing Club
Date: Sunday, October 14, 2018
Time: Noon to 3 PM Program at 1 PM
Location: University of Wisconsin Memorial Union, Tripp Commons, 2nd Floor of the Union
800 Langdon St, Madison, WI    MAP

Parking: Helen C. White Parking Garage  MAP
State Street Campus Parking Garage MAP
Your favorite Wisconsin beverages and food will be available for purchase at Der Rathskeller and other restaurants located in the Memorial Union.
Questions? Please email us: