The Oz of Green Lake

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

Mary Jane Schalk: Ready For Some Time Away

Mary Jane Schalk: Ready For Some Time Away

Steve and Mary Jane Schalk

Via Mary Jane Schalk, Fontana, WI

Hey Ice boat racers,

I just want to thank all of you for so many years of helping me with one of the coolest things I have ever done. We have all been through so much together.

I think I started scoring ice boat regatta’s back in the 90’s. Remember way back then and I did all the tabulating with a pencil and a very long sheet of paper. There were some interesting stories and memorable situations back then! It took a while but so worth it to graduate into computer scoring.

I had so many great people to work with. First of all many of you sailors were my callers, and then I had Renate Intini, Julie Jankowski, and then Deb to work with. As you know Deb and I had some pretty good and crazy times together. We could figure out ways to entertain ourselves during a postponement, and had way more fun that we probably should have!!! Thanks Deb for all the fun times. I would also like to thank Shari Lundberg for teaching me in the beginning all about scoring and tabulating.

I stopped scoring from the ice to help take care of my mom and then we had so many cats that needed care like insulin shots twice a day, fluid under the skin, and medicine that – that kept me from coming back. But I was then able to do the tabulating from home.

I was still a helper by arranging hotels, banquets, and meetings for regattas. I drew for your starting positions from home and called them into Deb. Deb would take a picture of your finishes and call them in or send them to me. Now with me being able to post to the web page on a good day I could score the race and get it posted before the last finisher got out of his boat. That is way cool.

But I am ready for some time away. I have lots of plans for some fun activities while the regattas are on. Maybe I’ll just go down and visit some other retired ice boaters like Gary and Kenny Kessler. Now that would be fun!!! Deb asked one of the DN tabulators, Ann Foeller of the Toledo Ice Yacht Club, if she would score the ISA and NW regattas and she agreed. I wouldn’t leave without a replacement.

I am so happy to have met so many really cool and fun ice boaters. We have had lots of fun times, and made great memories. I can hardly wait for a regatta to come to Geneva Lake, as then I can hang with you all on the ice, and not be stuck at home in front of the computer.

Have fun everyone, be careful on the ice, and sail fast,
BTW I am sharing my favorite version of Steve’s iceboat song. I’d say it a pretty good one! LINK

Via Jane Pegel:

Mary Jane was a significant member of the Lake Geneva YC race committee. She also is a competitive sailor. She handled the front end of Steve’s E scow and his J-24.

She trimmed jib on my class M scow and helped me win Inland Lake YA championships and Blue Chips. She is no doubt, an exceptional woman who is happy to be “involved”.


Mary Jane Schalk has been a crucial part of North American iceboating racing, and she’s decided to take a well-earned retirement. You may have seen her smiling face on the ice of Lake Geneva, but she was deeply involved behind the scenes in every Northwest, ISA, Renegade, and many Nite regattas for 30 years. She took care of numerous organizational details so that you ice sailors could book a room, attend a banquet, see your regatta scores, receive your trophies, and pursue your passion for iceboat racing.

MJ and I share many good memories. One of my best was driving on Geneva back to the Fontana landing towards the sunset. We were singing a silly, fun song at the top of our lungs that we had made up about the late Renegade sailor, Arlyn Lafortune, to the marching chant O-Ee-Yah! Eoh-Ah from the Wizard of Oz. (Yeah, you had to be there…) We both probably enjoyed too much red wine later that night but were always ready for the next day. I know she’ll continue to be the first person I call when I have a funny story to share. – Deb Whitehorse

In The News: Wisconsin Iceboat Life

In The News: Wisconsin Iceboat Life

Deb and Joe Norton on Green Lake in Green Lake, WI at the Nite Nationals, March 2020.

Via 4LIYC Commodore Daniel Hearn

Oh, Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Time to bundle up and sit by the fire? Not a chance, it’s iceboating season! Wisconsin Public Television wanted to know what this crazy sport was all about. So, they reached out to an authority on the subject, Deb Whitehorse, who holds more offices in the ice sailing community than anyone. She is the longtime Secretary of the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club based in Madison, Wisconsin and a member of the club’s prestigious Honor Roll. The club is likely the most active in the world, with adrenaline junkies racing in a number of classes on Madison’s chain of lakes whenever conditions allow. Whitehorse is also the Secretary and Treasurer of the International DN Ice Yacht Racing Association, which is the largest ice sailing class in the world. Whitehorse has traveled to cold places around the globe to help manage races in the sport that has been in her DNA since birth. Her father and husband were both legendary ice sailors, and every once in a while, she drops her scoring pad and jumps in a boat for some hot laps. She is the webmaster of the most trafficked website on the internet, creates and manages multiple ice sailing class websites, and receives frequent inquiries for comments related to the sport. If it’s anything ice sailing, Deb Whitehorse is “in the know.” You’ll definitely want to check it out!
You can see it online at this link.

Upcoming air times are on Wisconsin PBS as follows–
Thursday, January 13, 7 PM
Saturday, January 15, 2 PM
Monday, January 17, 11:30 PM

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