Another Starter DN

This just in from Charlie, in Wolfboro NH. 603-455-2862. <boataddict05>

I too have an older DN for sale if anyone is interested. Hull has been repaired and glassed, sail pro cleaned with a new window, new side stays, aluminum mast and standard Sarns runners. Would like to get $1000.
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Boats for Sale and Swap

The natives are beginning to stir. Boats are getting dragged out of storage, dusted off and tuned up. In a few cases, guys are moving to different platforms. We have two classic DN’s available, one custom skeeter, and one who’d like to swap his 5.5 mylar KiteWing for a DN. For the swap, contact Mark  <>

For the Captain America DN, contact Curtis Rindlaub: The boat is in Portland and has complete covers for car topping, and sails remarkably well.

The other DN is near Bath, in Arrowsic. Bart Chapin writes: I will put a coat of paint on the hull just to spruce things up a bit. All else is good. It has Sarns runners that are good as new, a Kenyon mast and Shore sail. Standing and running rigging is all new last year. The sail is a bit stained but otherwise good. All Harken blocks. Contact Bart at   <>

Then we have this truly unique skeeter built by a fabricator from lightweight stainless tubing, skinned on the sides with aircraft fabric and dope, decks plywood. Has a rig and sail from a Tornado catamaran, Sarns plate runners and the trailer. Check out the double cockpits. Somewhere down there is foot steering. The owner would like to find the boat a good home, and with that in mind has priced it right. Contact Bill at

Some of these fine vessels might be at the Swap Meet if they don’t move before, so make it a date. Come check out all the great gear, boats and folks. And take part in the NEIYA meeting. October 25, Knights of Columbus Hall, Westboro, MA.

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Ray Ruge, Yachting Magazine, December 1939

Our last post, describing the Ruge designed Hagarty skeeter, has un-earthed a thick file of articles written by him in the thirties and forties. This is the first in what will be a weekly series of articles written by Mr. Ruge here in the tail end of the off-season.
Apologies to our stern-steering buddies, both here and abroad, for any slights obvious or inferred, as there are quite a few! Then, as now, there’s room for everyone out on the ice.
Best wishes to Lloyd Roberts, who’s recovering nicely from heart surgery last week. Reports indicate he’s THINKING ICE!

Time was, not so long ago, when the real iceboat fan had to be either a millionaire, able to pay hired professionals to rig and sail his boats, or else a confirmed lover of discomfort and hard work, willing to suffer strains, bruises and frostbite for a few days of sailing on ice each winter.

Boats were big and heavy, simply because no one had been able to design or build a small one that would really perform. Size was considered synonymous with speed, until boats had actually attained a length of over 50 feet, and spread anywhere from 500 to 1000 ft.² of canvas. A good 6 inches of ice was the least that could carry them. The time-honored sloop rig had proved its superiority to the cat and the lateen, and was used almost universally. The Hudson river type of boat, though she racked and twisted and often spun out dramatically, was accepted as the pinnacle of iceboat design. Discomfort while sailing, a cramped, twisted driving position, completely exposed to the bitter wind, was accepted as inevitable. For how else could an iceboat be built? And the number of prospective fans who found one ride under these conditions to be all they could take was legion. Iceboating was not popular for the simple reason that it couldn’t be made reasonably comfortable, reasonably inexpensive, and reasonably accessible.

Today, iceboating is growing rapidly. New clubs are being formed each season, and the older clubs report a lively increase in membership and activity. The summer sailor is finding a way of sailing all winter and of getting 1000 thrills that his waterborne craft can never give him. Every winter weekend sees cars by the dozen pulling up beside mountain lakes -ten, twenty or sixty miles from town, wherever there’s 3 inches of ice- with iceboats on the roof or pulling them behind the car on trailers. And these are not toys. They are fast, sturdy racing boats. Light, simple, comfortable to drive, and able to trim the huge champions of past years with amazing frequency.

What has happened? What took out the hard work, the physical suffering, the lack of interest by all but a few hardy souls? Several things- and they all came at once.

The aviation industry showed us how to get rid of mass and weight; how to streamline and even how to cut a sail. It gave us aluminum, airplane spruce, stainless steel, tiny wire and turnbuckles that will stand thousands of pounds. It taught us how to build up laminated wooden members for lightness and strength. It gave us the idea of a streamlined fuselage, with only the pilots eyes and forehead showing. It gave us the boat we sail in, almost from stem to stern, and it gave us the clothes to wear to sail her: flying suit, helmet, goggles and all.

The automobile industry grew so fast that roads had to be improved. Cars were no longer laid up in mothballs at the first frost, but were expected to give service all year round. The highways were kept open regardless of weather. Then someone built the first trailer, and the iceboating enthusiasts discovered that, instead of waiting in their own backyard, all they had to do was lash the old hooker on the trailer to go to the ice.

Sailing on the water continues to grow every year. It has given us any number of improvements in rigging, sailmaking, etc, but its greatest contribution has been to awaken a love of sail and spread it to every lake and pond in the country. More and more numerous, and more and more youthful are the sailors. Small wonder that they have responded to the chance of sailing all winter, too.

Then these water-bound, rule-bound sailors discovered that they have miraculously left all design restrictions behind. Here, in iceboating, was that long awaited chance to try out all their pet ideas, and what sailor worthy of the name doesn’t cherish a few? They found they could build anything they liked, yet were permitted to race against other boats – no matter how long, short, wide, or narrow they might be – just as long as their sail area was the same, and their brainchild was not considered unsafe by the regatta committee. It was natural enough under these little rules that no two boats should look alike. And, with the recent tremendous increase in the efficiency of rigs, plus lightness of hull, it is now possible to design a really small iceboat that is not a toy but a capable racing craft able to sail in light airs and carry a man as fast as any man could want to go.

At first, these design experiments followed the pattern of the Hudson River boats, with her rudder aft. And the typical wild gyrations of the stern-steerer when headed off the wind continued to be the rule; in spite of all the designers could do, skippers and crew were still wont to leave their craft for an impromptu slide across the ice. One such experience by the average beginner was about all he wanted.

Then, one wonderful day, someone built a boat that went the other way: rudder first! Lo! No spin! Even if you tried to make her spin she wouldn’t. The Meyer Brothers of Milwaukee, Wisconsin developed the front steerers in a famous series of racing boats in the early 1930’s. Among other things, they discovered that in the larger classes, over 175 ft.², front steers are dangerous in case of an upset and are extremely difficult to keep supplied with backbones. But the interesting fact remains that they were amazingly fast in all sizes.The Myers early boats were converted stern-steerers and carried jib and mainsail rigs. The cat rig never had been much good on an iceboat before, so why use it now? But these men weren’t satisfied with the action of the jib on the front steering boat. They tried the cat rig. To get the center of effort far enough aft they raked the mast until she looked like a bugeye. Everybody thought they were completely crazy, which usually seems to be a good sign. She licked everything in sight so badly that they are still talking about it, and nowadays a front steerer with anything but a sharply raked cat rig looks out of date, and doesn’t usually finish in the money. The combination of all these developments has given us the little speed sleds of today and has caused a tremendous upswing in the number of devotees of iceboating. More and more the interest centers in the smaller classes; only on rare occasions do the big ones get out in the East and, although the few fine big boats continue to scrap between themselves for the Hearst and Stuart Cups in the Midwest, the action today is with the smaller bow-steering classes. In Wisconsin, skeeters (75 ft.² of sail) outnumber all the larger boats put together.

It was natural that racing should be the most popular occupation of the iceboatmen. Some attempt to standardize racing classes has been made in each district where the sport was enjoyed, but not until recently were the differences between the East and the Midwest ironed out. The Northwestern Ice Yachting Association, which includes the leading clubs in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois, had accepted the rise of the Skeeter and, by 1935, was conducting annual championships for four recognized classes: class A 350 ft.², Class B 250; class C 175; and class E, the now famous Skeeter 75 ft.². The fifth division, class D, 125 ft.², was recognized unofficially.

However, the situation in the East, where iceboating is enjoyed at many widely scattered points, was entirely disorganized. The greatest activity was in a small area, practically a circular arc centering in New York City and with a radius of about 50 miles, which included the Shrewsbury River area at one end, swung out through northern New Jersey to take in Lakes Hopatcong and Musconeteong, hit the New York State line at Greenwood Lake, and finally arrived at the Hudson River via Orange Lake and the city of Newburgh. It also strikes Lake Ronkonkoma and Great South Bay on Long Island. Points outside of this are seemed to get too much snow for much real boating; inside it there were no lakes of any size. Here was a surprisingly concentrated area, yet no effort had been made to get together and do something about it. Finally the idea of an Eastern Association was born, and after a few months of talking about it, representatives of five or six leading Eastern clubs met at Larchmont, in November 1937, and formed the Eastern Ice Yachting Association. All the classes of the N.I.Y.A. were adopted by its eastern counterpart. In addition, class D of 125 ft.² was made official and one extra class, a long established Eastern class B of 200 ft.², was recognized and allowed to keep its time-honored name. Accordingly, the 250 footers were dubbed class X, though they correspond exactly to the Northwestern’s class B. This gives the Eastern fan six classes to choose from, four which are also recognized in the Northwest. It is not improbable that intersectional racing may soon be revived, at least in Class E. Meanwhile, both associations conduct annual regattas and award championships in all their recognized classes.

Assuming that the bug has bitten, the questions that immediately arise are these: shall I join a club? What class so I get into? Shall I buy a used boat, design and build my own or buy from a professional builder? What will it cost? The answer to number one, Shall I join the club, is emphatically Yes. Advantages to be gained are many, and the expense extremely small. For not only do the attractions of congenial companionship and organized racing present themselves, but all the other questions of the average beginner will be more satisfactorily answered if he joins a recognized club. The answer to the next question, What class shall I enter?- will depend largely on what is the prevailing class in your club. The one exception to this might be in the case of the oldest and largest of the clubs who’s fleets grew up in the good old days and who’s boats therefore are mostly big and heavy. In this case it would be more advisable to adopt the ever present Skeeter and, if necessary, pioneer her for a while. You won’t be the only Skeeter owner for long!

Posted in 2014 Season | 1 Comment

The Hagarty Is Back

After a couple of weeks in the shop, Buddy Melge’s old A Skeeter is ready for the ice. She has been bought by two new CIBC members, Chris Biggert and David Jones, who many might recognize as the nice guy who offers us access to Lake Megunticook at Bailey’s Cove. He competed against Buddy at the ’72 Olympics, so this boat has special significance for him. Not to mention that it’s a totally cool boat in it’s own right. Built in 1962 by Francis Hagarty of Cohassett, MA, the fuselage appears to be built of one layer of 1/8″ fir plywood, covered with a diagonal layer of the same thickness. But how Hagarty got the first layer to conform to all that shape is a mystery to me. The boat was designed by Ray Rouge, about whom we’d like to know more.

Chris Biggert checking the tell tales. His hair is already in full wind blown mode. The hollow plank, featured in some previous posts, worked out very well. It actually came out a little stiff, so we knocked a bit off the top out towards the ends. The next plank could be built with 5/8″ stock for a boat this size.

Thanks to Warren Nethercote for sending this skeeter our way, to his buddy Alex Watters for caring for it so well for so many years, and Tom Nichols and Deb Whitehorse for helping with the historical research. Her second lease on life begins now!

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New Whizzes

The plural of Whizz should probably be just Whizz, but then how would you know that there are so many new ones? What’s great is that we need to worry about how to pluralize the name for a class which didn’t even exist a few years ago. Jeff Knapp of Rye, NH is completing #14 in time for the coming season, and Denis Guertin in Quebec continues to make good progress on the pair he’s building. His sailing buddy Frank, for whom he’s building the second boat, has dismantled their DN trailer and is rebuilding it to fit the new boats as well as the DN’s. In Maine, Bart Chapin got a great start on the fuselage before leaving for his annual summer cruise. Bill Bernhard in New York and Carl Jelleme on Nantucket are done building theirs and are now just waiting for ice. Well, maybe they’re doing other interesting things with their summer but surely in the back of their mind while messing about on the water with summer boats a small voice is wondering about all this soft water and mightn’t it be nice if it were a bit harder…?
Jeff Knapp’s #14 Whizz-Bang. Jeff’s planning to build a bright finished strip plank mast, and by the looks of the workmanship here, he’ll be varnishing the fuselage, too.

One of Denis’s pair getting fit for the springboard. He’s nicely mirrored the elliptical shape of the nose block in the tip of the springboard. He reports that the bottoms are on, steering installed, with the sides ready to go. We’re only assuming that there is a stern back there…

Bart made a very strong strong-back for his set-up, and managed to get a lovely sweep down at the stern. It looks like he’s going for a very fine point back there.

He has decades of interesting lumber in his shop, saved from all kinds of projects over the years. We all have those special boards that get saved, moved from here to there, too nice to actually use because then we wouldn’t be able to imbue them with possibilities. But Bart’s tough. He’s gone to the heart of the pile, picked out the best stuff, and is milling mercilessly. What better use for a special piece of wood then in an iceboat? The quantity isn’t much, the quality is important, and then that wood becomes a part of one of your most fabulous passions. It grants you flight; a weightless peel off at the windward mark. It whisks you to remote coves deep in the North Woods and by some miracle of its strength brings you home. I do love those special boards, but a life as an iceboat sure beats gathering dust on some lumber rack.

The guy that started it all when he was searching for a small skeeter design and discovered the Whizz, Doug Sharp, had a stroke this past spring. I’m sure I speak for the entire iceboating community we all wish him the best of recoveries. We look forward to seeing you on the ice, Doug!

Posted in 2014 Season | 1 Comment

Strip Built Runner Plank, part ll

There’s less guess work in setting up the second half. I used the first part (the bottom) along with the old plank flipped over to establish the shape. A shim or a shingle here and there brought the two halves to a very nice fit, allowing for the bottom’s slight springback. Then the planking proceeds pretty much as before. I decided to use staples this time as the fir was a bit too hard for easy nailing. Staples are much harder to pull than nails, though, even with stapling through a piece of rope which, when you yank on it, theoretically helps get the staple started.

The other downside with the string & staple system is that I couldn’t add the centerline stringer at the same time. But the staples all came out, the stringer and the blocking at the ends for the chocks went in, and the sharp plane worked it’s magic.

The bottom can be seen on the bench at the left. The two halves fit beautifully, and there was no struggle in gluing them together. Like all runner plank laminations, it’s a clamp intensive job.

Because of the large radius, fairing was very easy once the gobs of glue were knocked back. The big shock was how stiff and light it is. After fairing it weighs 59#. And it feels great in the hand with the thin edge. Lifting a thick plank of the same weight takes a bit more finger power. I had expected to add some uni directional glass to the top and bottom to gain stiffness, and It still might need it, but preliminary flexing shows it’s just a bit more flexible than the old one. I have yet to set the boat on it, but would never have imagined it being so close. In the photo below, the little section on top is from a Monotype plank, which was the inspiration for this project. Imagine the weight they saved by going hollow! The plank still needs blocking on the bottom for the chocks.

According to THINK ICE, Spring Constants for DN planks fall between about 90 and 120. Without correcting for length, skeeter planks have a much lower number. They need to travel further to get to flat because of their higher crown. So we can’t really compare planks of different lengths using the Spring Constant of weight divided by deflection (in inches). We need a math pro to find some sort of cosign or something to level the playing field. But I did discover something interesting about crown to length ratios: every plank I checked, all of varying lengths, fell between .3 and .37. The new plank and my DN plank are both .37. What does this mean? Beats me, but it’s fun trying to figure it out. If anyone has a nice Renegade plank, I’d love to know what its deflection, weight and length/crown ratio is.

Posted in 2014 Season

Building the Strip-Plank Hollow Runner Plank

A very interesting boat showed up here at Iceboat Central last month in desperate need of a new plank. She came down from Nova Scotia, and in classic Novi style the plank was made with maple and birch. Not that there’s anything wrong with that: H.M.S. Bounty, built in Lunenberg in 1962 for the movie, was built of the same stuff. And during a re-fit on the old ship a few years ago I found chunks of birch in fine condition with the bark still on. But glue joints on the plank were failing and it weighed 110#. The old A Skeeter was built in the early 60’s by Hagarty, in Cohasset, Mass. The unique design might be from Ray Ruge, but we’re still investigating that. Buddy Melges owned the boat for a while, and there were a few more built to the same design for guys on Lake George but their whereabouts are unknown.

She looks more like an early hydroplane than what we are used to seeing on the ice, but the melonseed shape reminded me of the hollow plank that I learned how to build in Estonia. The sectional shape of the plank is very sympathetic to this particular fuselage. I believe this strip plank system would work for other large skeeters, but I don’t know about the Whizz, for example. The plank needs a certain amount of thickness for the strip planking to make sense. On the other hand, it’s often challenging to find the nice wide boards needed for building the plank so we’re gluing strips together anyway. But maybe the strips can be thinner for a smaller plank. I don’t know. The whole thing is a bit of an un-known and I’m just making it up as I go along. So we’ll build the plank and add stiffness to taste.

The old plank has a nice shape, if a bit un-fair, so I used it for a form. The building mold is set up on 1/2″ ply, and draped nicely over the old plank. I followed the Renegade thickness: 2 1/2 to 1 1/4. The chocks are twelve inches wide, same as the plank aperture in the fuselage, so there’s could be no taper in width. (Sorry, Lloyd.) The mold sections are all sections of an arc. A simple lofting yielded the arc for each station, 10″ on center.
The choice of wood is always interesting: a combination of what you want and what you can get. I wanted Doug Fir on top for it’s compression strength, and spruce for the bottom for lightness. But our local lumberyard sells a clear grade of Port Orford Cedar for decking which comes a full inch by 5 1/2. It’s actually more like a spruce than a cedar, with some physical properties right up there with Sitka spruce, but for about a third the cost. And to get it in smooth, milled boards saves a lot of millwork. Unfortunately they were out of stock on the sixteen footers so I scavenged the local boatyards for Sitka rippings and came up with just enough.

The first plank it set very carefully to an accurate centerline marked on the mold. The planks are all 3/4 x 1″milled with an 1.5 degree, which averages out nicely over the changing radius. Epoxy takes care of the rest!
Stack four or five planks together on the bench on edge and apply epoxy to all of them at once. If your mixture isn’t too thick there’s no need to wet out the other edge. I used finish nails to hold them in, and did all the planks in one session, along with the centerline stringer. The stringer isn’t part of the original design, but I though it would be a good idea.

The outside planks are just one plank ripped diagonally as most of this part will be planed away.

A couple of hours of pleasant work planing it down to the centerline and the bottom half is done. Now the whole set-up is dismantled and the old plank flipped over so we can make the new top on the old bottom. There was only 3/4″ of spring-back when the nails were pulled, and the part was surprisingly stiff. I became hopeful that the whole thing might actually work.

Stand by for part two!

Posted in 2014 Season