My First Iceboat: Jerry Simon & ESMERELDA
Previous: Paul McMillan: My First Iceboat
4LIYC Renegader Jerry Simon received a letter this week from Tim Murray (see below) that made his day.
ESMERELDA was my first iceboat purchased by my parents in 1955 to distract my interests in motorcycles. They bought the boat for $200 from the Bill Rider family, who lived on Lake Monona in Monona, Wisconsin. This picture was the only one I had until the Tim Murray picture arrived.
I am standing next to my aunt Dorothy Chambers, with my cousin Larry both with skates on. The photo was taken off of Yahara Street Park on Lake Monona at the end of Dunning Street in Madison. We sailed out of this park back then and had to carry boats down rock embankment to get on the ice. The iceboaters welcomed us younger guys because lots of labor was needed to take and set up the boats.
Bob Brockel, Harry Fields, and other neighborhood kids were happy to help, hoping for a ride. Phil Sawin would park his “Land Lark” motor home on the grass, which became our headquarters when not on the ice. His white iceboat was called “ICE LARK” and was likely made by the group of early Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club sailors such as Tom Krehl, Paul Krueger, Dave Rosten, Bill Ward, with Bill Mattison and Jack Ripp’s guidance.
As to the name, there were several, depending on the day’s outcome on the ice, but “ESMERELDA” sticks. She was big and slow and would toss you out if you didn’t treat her right—one big momma. We had the most fun when it was windy, sometimes with two or three aboard and one on the end of the plank. The boat slid around because it was impossible to sharpen the runners with my tools. She would spin easily, tossing us out as we would peel off the wind and lose steerage.
Another problem was that the metal bobkin would break off when sailing over rough ice, so I made a wood pattern and cast an aluminum one. Tim Murray’s letter mentions that the boat sat too low on the ice, especially under the mast. Modifying a Carl Bernard creation was not a good idea.
I used her for 2-3 years before buying Jack Ripp’s 2nd Class A Skeeter (a modified Renegade) that I named “PAR-A-DICE.” The Skeeter was faster, lighter, and easier to set up. I’m not sure who bought ESMERELDA from me, but I faintly remember a family off Morrison Street in Madison.
Knowing that Carl Bernard built many Madison-style iceboats, it was likely one of his. Someone said he made nearly 100 over the years in the Bernard Boat Shop, which is now the Hoover Boat House owned by the City of Madison, next to James Madison and Conklin Park.
Via Tim Murray:
I came across a slide that my Dad took in the mid-1950s of the iceboat you bought from Bill Rider. My Dad took the photo soon after Bill purchased the boat for his son Gary, my age. The four people on the boat are Dick and Harold George (both deceased), Gary Rider [deceased), and me at the tiller.
I know my Dad took this photo soon after Bill purchased the boat because the boat was already set-up when Bill bought it. The next winter Gary and a few of us set it up once we had good ice. We did not support the middle of the plank correctly when putting it together.
Gary’s idea was to cut some inches off each of the angle planks between the runner plank and the upper plank. I told him not to do that because something just wasn’t right, and we needed to figure it out. Against my advice, Gary proceeded to trim a few inches from each board to fit them in the notches. The modifications caused plank to lose the crown, which meant the boat barely cleared the ice. Rider’s lived on Winnequah Road, so we always had to man-handle the boat when crossing the pressure ridge that ran from roughly Tonyawatha Trail where it meets Winnequah Road to the old ESBMA building on Monona Drive. Dave and John Rosten had to do the same as they lived just a few blocks north of Rider’s.