It’s time to kick off the long weekend to celebrate the 4th of July with two of the most patriotic iceboats in America. Hoping we can photograph these two boats together somewhere during the 2023 season. Happy 4th of July!
JD and his Class A Skeeter on Lake Michigan at Menominee, Michigan in March 2021.
May 29, 2022 UPDATE: Long time friend of Prescott Shreeve, Tom Nichols, emailed with some of his memories. See text below.
The exhibition, Story Boats: The Tales They Tell, opens today at Connecticut’s Mystic Seaport Museum. One of the story boats is WHISTLING WIND, an Arrow iceboat owned by Herbert Prescott Shreeve. He was president of Lake Hopatcong Ice Yacht Club in New Jersey.
The Arrow iceboat holds its value (they sell rather quickly on the Buy & Sell page) and remains one of the most popular cruising boats, though east coast ice yacht clubs have racing fleets. The Boston family in Michigan developed the Arrow in their sail loft. Martha Boston Youstra recalls, “The Arrow, as I remember, was 16-feet with a 12-foot runner plank. The first boats were gel-coated by Judd Harrell and later sub-contracted to Custom Flex in Toledo, Ohio. Bill Sarns made the hardware, and we added the finishing touches at the loft. We had a trailer that held ten boats. The molds were sold to someone in Michigan’s thumb area and left to rot. [I’ve heard the molds are now in New Jersey. – Ed.] Originally they sold complete for $350. Some current boats have springboards added, and some now are selling for $5k. I believe Dad wanted a lighter-weight boat as he aged, yet with Lolly in mind. Her boat was called ICE TEA. Howard and his third daughter Sue won the first Arrow Nationals. I raced one time with Bill Mattison at the helm. That was awesome. I can’t remember how we placed. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the exact year, thinking 1964. I do have a couple of photos of our family fleet. Red Bank, N.J., had a large fleet, and Erie, PA, had a small fleet.”
I knew “Press” and his wife Madge very well. They always came together to sail. I don’t think I have ever seen a couple more devoted to each other. Press was active during the “Golden Age” of the Lake Hopatcong Ice Yacht Club. I believe he was one of the original founding members. He sailed a stern steerer for most of his ice boating career. He got into the Arrow when they realized the Stern Steerer was just too much for them handle. The Stern Steerer runners were just too much for Madge to carry.
He bought the arrow in the late 1960’s, I think. He was an excellent sailor on both hard and soft water. One year, the Arrow Nationals came to Lake Hopatcong. I do believe that Press beat Skip Boston in a couple of races. Jack Andreson from Greenwood Lake won the regatta. I think Press might have been third.
Press did not build the Arrow from a kit in his living room but that was the workshop for his ice boat parts. I am sure Madge never complained a bit. Press was a very competent and meticulous craftsman. His equipment was always in first class shape.
Press and Madge were very devoted to ice boating and almost always were on the ice wherever the club was sailing. I those days the club “traveled” together. DNs, Arrows, Yankees, Skeeters all showed up at the same lake. Press and Madge loved the sport and never looked for an excuse not to go sailing. They realized you had to be there when the ice was ready, not necessarily when you were ready. Tom Nichols
From the exhibition program. Courtesy of Mystic Seaport Museum.
JD and his Class A Skeeter on Lake Michigan at Menominee, Michigan in March 2021.
John Dennis’ Class A Skeeter colorful livery has signaled the Fourth of July holiday here for several years. Now, the DN class has its version in the form of Pete John’s latest boat. I’m hoping that next season there will be an opportunity to photograph these boats together. Enjoy the weekend and continue to Think Ice! You have 150 days until December 1 to sharpen those runners.
New Jersey Dan Clapp is best known for his innovative A-Class front-seater Skeeter designs and dominating the Skeeter class championships for two decades. He won nine International Skeeter Association regattas and seven Northwest titles. In the past years, he realized that the magnitude of effort to campaign the Skeeter became too much and too time-consuming. The lack of travel partners also contributed to his decision to sell his INSANITY, one of the most stunning Skeeters ever seen.
Jim Gervolino nudged Dan into helping him put together a wing mast that could work with various hulls. Here’s his story on the WING.
Several years ago, when Tom Nichols moved from New Jersey to Maine, he had to get rid of the wing he built in the ’80s for his front-seat C-Class Skeeter. I convinced Jim Gervolino to take it.
Jim Gervolino’s C Class Skeeter w Wing
Jim spent that summer rebuilding that wing from its three-element, low aspect ratio shape to a more modern two-element (wing & flap), high aspect ratio shape, similar to those of John Eisenlohr’s wing land sailing boats.
Jim put his wing on a new conventional cockpit C-Class Skeeter boat he built and sailed it three times in 2020.
It worked so well that Jim came to me in the spring and tried to convince me to build a wing so he’d have someone to “play” with. We were standing in my shop beside a wall of photos. I told him I wasn’t interested in building another iceboat, but if we could put a wing on a boat I already had, like, say, “that” one (as I pointed to a picture of an Icebird), then maybe I’d be interested. Jim laughed and said, “You’re not serious, are you?”
We collaborated on the shape of the wing until we agreed on an airfoil. I wanted a taller wing for light wind, but Jim wanted a shorter wing so he wouldn’t be overpowered in heavy air. So, we agreed on making the top three feet (six sq.ft.) removable. It turned out to be the perfect compromise, and it has already proven itself with wind gusting over 25 on our maiden voyage.
Jim proposed that he’d build the wings, and I’d build the hulls. Jim is retired. All summer, he’d keep sending me progress photos and asking, “when are you going to start building the hulls?” By September 2020, I could no longer procrastinate. I used a medical table mold from work to shape the hulls. The design is simple because it doesn’t need to provide for “sheeting” loads like most iceboats since the wings have none.
I may have been a little bit hoodwinked into this whole WING project, and I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be involved at first. These boats are like toys, and I was used to building A-Class Skeeters. It wasn’t until my first ride that I saw the light and couldn’t be happier now. The wing works better than I ever imagined. And, the entire boat, including the wing, fits inside my Yukon XL. No 36-foot long box trailer necessary. My back doesn’t hurt from lugging heavy Skeeter hulls and stepping 28′ masts. My neck doesn’t hurt from laying down and trying to hold my head up like in DN. In fact, except for a bathroom break, there was no reason to stop sailing. It’s like iceboating in your lazy-boy recliner. I sailed for hours, and the next day, miraculously, I got out of bed without an aching body.
Chauncy Griggs Skeeter with wing mast
But, Jim deserves most of the credit. He rebuilt the first wing proving the concept. He researched everything and studied John Eisenlohr’s wing-building videos, of which we used much of the same ideas. And, he kept the project progressing over the summer when most of us were out on the water having fun. Not too many people have the motivation to work on iceboats when it’s 90 degrees outside, even most iceboaters.
We look forward to others using their DN parts and building themselves a wing, and we’d be happy to answer any questions they might have. We talked about a name for this new class (Ice Wings, Hot Wings, Grasshoppers). Probably just calling them “Wings” and adding a number next to the “W” for sail area, like W28 for our 28 square foot wings, is best. If someone makes a bigger wing as Chauncey Griggs did, it’ll be called W75. I wish Chauncey had lived long enough to have seen these. He would’ve been proud, even if it took 30 years for someone to join him. I did get the “handlebar” idea for controlling the wing rotation from one of his boats.
3 Nites and John Dennis’ (JD) A Class Skeeter on Lake Pepin at the 2019 ISA Photo: Jann Klin
JD & Tom Nichols in 2012
July 4th signals we’re climbing to the apex of the iceboating off-season (iceboat mid-summer is July 27, more on that later). It’s become an iceboat.org 4th of July tradition, ever since Tom Nichols built the boat, to post Class A Skeeter, EAGLE, in its red, white, and blue livery to commemorate the holiday. EAGLE was born in New Jersey, built and sailed by Tom Nichols. JD purchased the boat in July 2012 and brought her west. Below is a video of EAGLE’S first sail in Minnesota. Both Tom and JD have won the ISA regatta twice, Tom in 2005 and 2006 and JD in 2018 and 2019.