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.


Steve Arnold: Celebration of Life June 29

Download Steve Arnold Celebration Of Life flyer.

UPDATE: Please make your reservation with Don Sanford by Wednesday, June 12!
Please join family and friends celebrating Steve Arnold
Saturday, June 29 from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Steve campaigned his Nite, Nite Nite and his A-Skeeter, Intrepid all around Wisconsin, the Midwest, Canada and New Jersey during the late 1970s and early 80s. He passed away unexpectedly in November 2018.

We will gather at:
Wisconsin Aviation, Dane County Regional Airport
3606 Corben Ct.
Madison, WI 53704
(608) 268-5000
• Buck and Honey’s will cater hot and cold appetizers, beer, wine and soft drinks.
• Share stories and photos from Steve’s wide circle of iceboating and flying friends and family
• Share in a special “Gone West” toast from the Quiet Birdmen – an aviation organization that Steve supported for over 25 years. RSVP by June 15, 2019

Because we’re holding this celebration in an airport hangar, security requires a firm list of all registered guests prior to the event. Please send your name and the names of all guests in your party, along with your phone number and e-mail address to: Don Sanford by June 15, 2019

Steve Arnold Photos: The Biggest of Planks

Bill Mattison builds the DEUCE runner plank c. 1980, from the Steve Arnold collection

Vintage ’80s

Bill Mattison with help from 4LIYC members built a new runner plank for the World’s Largest Iceboat©, the DEUCE, in the early 1980s in his Williamson St. shop. Luckily, we have photos that the late Steve Arnold took during that build. Twenty some years later, Bill supervised the lofting and building of DEUCE’s hull at Rick Hennig’s Cabbage Patch shop in Racine which culminated in a glue-party that attracted iceboaters from all over the Midwest who wanted to take part in that historic occasion. (Photos and stories documenting that build here.) I can’t think of a better time to repost Dave Elsmo’s classic video about the DEUCE, “54 Foot of Fast”, embedded below.

Steve Arnold Photo Collection: Vintage ’80s

From left: Elmer Millenbach, Steve Arnold, Harvey Witte, Paul Krueger, Ken Whitehorse

It’s time for’s summer vacation series where we take a look back in our sport through old photos. Barb Arnold donated some of late husband Steve’s photos and scrapbooks dating from the late 1970s and 80s to the 4LIYC. Watch for more of these in the coming weeks and if the pictures remind you of any good stories, let me know!


Steve Arnold

Steve Arnold

Some sad news to share, Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club member Steve Arnold passed on over the weekend. Steve served as 4LIYC Commodore for several terms from the late 1980s to early ’90s. He started racing in the DN class, then moved onto Nites and Skeeters, and was very competitive in club races. Steve also helped run our club races and regattas.  He was an avid pilot and in the last 20 years, we’d see him circling above us in his plane while we raced and often landing on the ice for a visit.