The November Panic–Nov 1, 2014 (well…almost)

Dear Ice Buddies,

There we were, standing around Sunday morning, at Admiral Fortier’s place, scarfing Bill Bunting’s grass-fed spare ribs—actually his cattle’s ribs—yakking 12 to the dozen, waiting for General Buchholz and Private Curtis to arrive. It was absolutely the best of gatherings….we missed the old guard, of course, Stu Nelson, Pete Ashley, and many others; but the hard core, the real ice-hounds—minus Doug Raymond–were all there. We were even joined by two promising new members.

So there we were, and, though a 40-year vegetarian, I was keeping up well on the ribs and sausages….but in the back of my mind was an old subliminal panic: what if….just what if….I know its a long shot …but, what if….have I mentioned this before?….what if there’s no ice this season? what if iceboating is called off this year?

so when I got back home, I went thru 7 years of archives:

2008 Plymouth Pond Dec 2; 2009 Tolman Pond Nov 23; 2010 Plymouth Dec 12; 2011 Plymouth Nov 30; 2012 (gads!) Plymouth Dec 19; 2013 Plymouth Nov 30; and 2014 Canada Dec 8. That makes an average of December 5, and there’s no clear pattern to the season’s opening. Reading the beginnings of those seasons, it’s clear that it’s not just about temperature, but rather the entire drama of multiple cold nights, snow, wind, and thaws.

so I felt a little better—history is soothing!– and I happily continued work on the conversion of Icywood-DN to Icy-Whizz. I had the misfortune of sitting in a Whizz last season, ensconced in the tight cockpit, looking up at the sailing rig—the wing mast and the stiff, flat, high-aspect sail blending together almost as a single airfoil….and for the first time since sailing Icywood, I felt the green dye of envy slowly seeping into my blood.

A little later, Bill began setting some squirrel traps: if I bought a Whizz sail, I could always re-sell it, what with all the Whizzes a’building. He had a Hobie-cat aluminum mast in his junk pile, which would be just the right length…and before long, what with Bill not having much paid work, and me not having had a long iceboat season last winter; before long Icy-Whizz began to take shape.

Here we are shortening the Hobie’s shrouds, and building an aluminum boom. This boat will have no springboard, only a 10’ runner plank, and a 3”X6” oval aluminum mast; so it should be slower than the Whizzes. But I fully expect to see Bill Bunting back there astern choking on my ice-chips; and I’ll get to look up at something approaching the slickness of the Whizz rig. Surprisingly, the mast isn’t much harder to raise than a DN’s, and I’ve added an 8” diameter PVC sewer pipe to my trailer’s box to accommodate its 3’ added length.

Soooo, dear buddies, I hope the virus is spreading your way. I hope your ready to spy on the ponds, chop the holes, get a little atrial fib going, a little neurosis, a few necessary domestic squabbles……and that about 27 days from now, in spite of the Republican’s last ditch effort to ruin our planet….you’ll join us on our earliest-freezer, and launch the best season in living memory.


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Smelling The Ice

The ice is definitely in the air. As Lloyd reported, we have a brace of new members, all of whom appear to be of sailing caliber. Bob Able drove up from Long Island to repair the steering on his small side by side boat at brother Frank’s place. It went awol on Chickie last year with no harm done aside from a lost day of sailing. Steering always need to be absolutely bulletproof.
New member Guy Pollyblank has purchased the big skeeter from Vermont. We picked it up yesterday and set it up outside the shop in the fading daylight. It all went together well and, with the exception of a few small projects, is ready to go. Both cockpits have access to steering.

We just sold Whizz plans #15 to a fellow from Deer Isle who likes to have building projects during the winter! Can you imagine? But he’ll be picking up an older DN to get him through this season. We expect to see him on the ice with #15 next year. He was the one we’d hoped would take on the restoration of the 30’s tandem cockpit skeeter (see previous post for photo). The shape is good, side boards sublime, and the plank dreamy. Mast is shot, not much hardware. Free to a committed home. Actually being “committable” might help…call me. About the boat, not getting committed.

Bart Chapin has developed an excellent trailer for his Whizz, but will be sailing and trailering Yellowbird this season. Yellowbird is another nice pocket skeeter, even smaller than the Whizz; someone should take her lines and create a set of plans. She is reported to be a 7/8 model of the NorthEaster. Do we know if those plans exist?

Hoops are metal electrical conduit, cover is good old shrink wrap and should easily last a few seasons as long as no one skewers it with a runner. Has yet to pass the mile-a-minute test, but it looks great to me.

Next up is the Tune-Up clinic December 13th at Steve Lamb’s shop in Canton, MA. It’s just like the Swap Meet, but with lots of cool tools and no meeting! Actually, our NEIYA meeting went very well this year and we covered critical subjects and issues that interest and affect all of us as iceboaters. Big thanks to the officers for pulling it off so nicely.

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These two back to back meetings provide total in-depth pre-season ice boat saturation after the long hot Summer.

The first is just off Rte 495 in Westborough MA at an Elk’s Club. By the time we Mainers get there the parking lot is full of cars, people, and ice boats and ice boat stuff for sale or swap. Prices for starter grade DN’s seemed quite reasonable, $1000-1500 ready to go. This for plate runners, generally aluminum masts, decent sails and boats in good enough condition to sail without embarrassment. There is usually also strange or ancient stuff, sometimes for free and bits for larger boats, often trailers etc.
Too soon it is time for dinner, wholesome high protein buffet, salad, etc. and the sometimes endless business meeting This year the officers seemed to have dispensed with tedious administrative stuff and the affair was quite interesting. Officers have been shuffled a bit to compensate for the vice commodore defecting to South Carolina. John Stanton, webmaster and recently Secretary has been promoted to vice commodore and Treasurer Bob Haag absorbed the Secretarial duties. Eric Anderson has become Vice Commodore of the IDNIRA, quite an honor for which he is eminently qualified. Oliver Moore, a young enthusiastic competitor is NEIYA competition chairman. Eben Whitcomb is Eastern Region IDNIYRA Regatta chairman. T. Theiler, serious Gold fleet competitor, remains Commodore. I am not sure I have all of these responsible parties properly sorted out, it is all a quantum jump in complexity from our good old almost disorganized CIBC.
The exciting news is that the DN WORLD Championship will be sailed in the Northeast region the end of January if we have suitable ice. Suitable ice is defined as a circle of ice 1 1/4-1 1/2 miles in diameter, not frog pond stuff. Champlain is hoped for, Sebago and Winnepessauke are possible and maybe a lake or two in Canada. Big ice plus accommodations and parking for 150 boats and people within 30-40 miles of the ice make it all more interesting and will provide distraction for all of the above luminaries. Help in ice scouting is expected from CIBC.
CIBC president Buchholz put in a plug for increased sailing on Moosehead in March. It is a unique venue with spectacular scenery, vast thick ice, accommodations etc. He has spearheaded these adventures for a couple of years now and is spreading the word.
All of this plus awarding of trophies was accomplished in an orderly manner in reasonable time. Nice work NEIYA.

The Caterers for the NEIYA lunch thoughtfully put out several pans of unserved food which was scarfed up by the parsimonious CIBC hard core who were heading off to Biddeford Maine to continue partying at CIBC Commodore Dave Fortier’s. Waste not, want not.
The sometimes raucous Saturday evening was somewhat sedate due to the last minute absence of our Canadian friends who come down to stock up on cheap (by their standards) US booze and then find they have to drink quite a bit of it to reduce the quantity to what they are allowed to cross the border with. After last year’s frustrating effort to find a restaurant on a Saturday night we warmed up the NEIYA meat balls and mashed potatoes, bought some beer and had a pleasant evening of talking iceboats, catamarans, and related phenomena and looking at photos of same on Dave’s large screen computer.

Sunday morning started slowly with cereal, coffee, and toasted NEIYA cornbread. Dave gave a seminar and demonstration of how to train goldfish. Notice that the fish have appropriate scenery. He has five who have been in residence for several years. They are named and have varying IQ’s. Dave has two tanks next to each other with a “U” shaped siphon connecting the two tanks. There is a reversible pump system which pumps into one tank or the other, sort of tidal except the siphon keeps the water levels equal. The fish are fed only in one tank but they seem to prefer being in the other except at breakfast time. Then when the tide changes they swim up and over between the tanks through the siphon to get to the food side. One of them hasn’t figured out how to do this and looks a bit scrawny. When questioned as to whether there is a world community of goldfish trainers Dave didn’t know, he may be onto something.
Eventually a dozen or more of the faithful turned up to freshen the conversation and refresh the food supply so we had a respite from meat balls. Notable by their absence were Peter Ashley and his brownies. There was some thought this spared us from spoiling our appetites but the point was made that if you left dessert until last there might not be room for it, unless it is the Bunting Pie.
Also notable by absence were Stu Nelson and wife Judy. Stu has had sudden appearance of extensive lung cancer which is untreatable. Judy seems to be standing up under the strain. Don Sterns visited him Sunday morning and reported that Stu had moments of clarity and humor but tired easily. We signed best wishes cards at both meetings. Stu has been a perpetually enthusiastic member of the fleet for decades, he will indeed be missed
The business meeting was mercifully brief. The membership at large is supposed to elect directors to replace vacancies but the secretary forgot to bring the books so we didn’t know who the directors are. The directors then appoint the officers who remain unchanged. John Eastman did an exemplary job of collecting dues at the NEIYA meeting finding some 8-10 new members. For this performance he might win the office of treasurer at the pleasure of the directors. The treasury is comfortably flush at this point, some $1600 dollars. We have paid for new marks and of course have newsletters to send out at around $1.50 each per issue.
Pres. Buchholz often appears with a trailer bearing a relic of some kind. This year it is a 1930’s tandem cockpit skeeter, possibly repairable but badly weathered. This came from Tom Childs who found it as it was about to be burned by its owner’s wife. Tom rescued it because he has one too, in better shape. A total of five were made by a fellow by the name of Ott. The best part of the boat is a lovely close grained spruce airfoil shaped plank, the side boards are nice too. These will perhaps grace a Whizz some day. He’s hoping the guy from Deer Isle who called a few weeks ago looking for a restoration project will call again ASAP!

On top of the boat was a pile of Lloyd’s of London certified marine grade 1/8 plywood and an accompanying car load of 8 Dacron skeeter sails and one gorgeous hand sewn cotton sail, and a couple of arm loads of ash battens.

So endeth the weekend. Thanks for the party Dave, it is always fun.

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A Little History

On a recent road trip, we were able to stop at the Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston, NY, to have a look at the Ray Ruge collection. Close readers of this site will remember the skeeter discovered in Halifax by Warren Nethercote, once owned by Buddy Melges. A little sleuthing revealed that she had been designed by Ray Ruge and built by Francis Hagarty in Cohasset, Mass.

Ruge’s papers fill fourteen boxes in the museum’s vault, with a dozen or more files in each box. I was assigned a desk in the corner of the research room and the boxes began to pile up. I was looking for references to this boat, hopefully the plans, but couldn’t help being distracted by the overwhelming collection of iceboat history. There were writings by Lloyd Roberts from the eighties, letters between the eastern guys and the midwest planning regattas, even a correspondence with invoices about the Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant of America: “to be bound in fine red silk…” It seems this Pennant was last awarded in 1950. Where is it today? There are two pages of stern steerer main sail dimensions from the Hudson River boats. Reams of race results and countless small yellow newspaper clippings in individual wax paper folders.

After the third box my time was running out. I’d need to come back with a full day to examine the rest, so I read the table of contents for the fourth and final box. There was an item tagged as “Hagarty ice boat ad”. This must be something; the first reference to the builder, so I dug out the appropriate folder and there it was:

No mention of the date nor the publication in which it ran, but what a thrill. In addition to this find, we’ve also dug up some home movies from the Cohasset Historical Society of Hagarty and Ruge test sailing one of the new boats. One part of the movie has a new boat, “Gone With The Wind”, getting her hardware bolted down as racing is taking place in the background. We’ve all been there with new boats: after an all-nighter you still don’t get her to the line on time. Sadly, she never shows up in any of the subsequent racing footage. But she has a lovely varnished deck, apparently three pieces of plywood with a whole lot more compound curve than one should expect from plywood. The deck crown in the drawing above is far less than the built boat, so we still need to find the plans to help de-construct this beautiful boat. The actual stern is more graceful than the designed version. I love it when a good builder “interprets” the plans a bit here and there. So, she’s all tuned up and ready to go at first ice just as soon as Chris builds his trailer!

Another one of Ruge’s collected magazines featured this cover. It was so evocative of Lake Megunticook, specifically Cheney’s Narrows, that I just had to share it. Remember when boys actually did cool stuff like this? Also, note the small pennant on the side stays just above the plank. They are nicely detailed on both sides. Anyone know what they could be? The rest of the detail on the illustration is pretty good, too, and it’s one of the most interesting sterns I’ve seen since the Hagarty.

Hope to see many of you at the Fall Meeting at Dave Fortier’s place in Biddeford on Sunday. Detailed directions in the newsletter, along with the membership roster. Didn’t receive your newsletter? Have you renewed? Have some followers not yet joined the CIBC? For the most fun, go to the top of the page, find Lloyd’s address under “Officers” and send him twenty bucks for the first year’s dues. You’ll be glad you did!

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The NEIYA fall meeting and Swap Meet will be held at he same place as last year, Knights of Columbus hall in Westboro, Mass., ten days from now on Saturday 10/25. This is the time and place to find everything from blocks to boats. The lunch is always great, as is meeting everyone without their helmets on!

As is traditional, our CIBC annual fall meeting will be the next day, Sunday 10/26, at Commodore Dave Fortier’s house in Biddeford. Pot Luck lunch at about noon, followed by the meeting. We have quite a few new sailors this year and hope to see them here: 12 Chretien Rd., Biddeford, ME 04005.

Long time sailor and builder Doug Sharp is selling most of his boats and gear. Have a look at the New England Ice Yacht Association site for full inventory. If you can’t make it to the Swap Meet but are interested in any of the stuff contact Bill Buchholz or Lloyd Roberts and we will bring it back to Maine for you.

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Everyone, it seems, loves a good mystery. It’s part of human nature to search for that which is not known. We perch on the edge of our seats at the movie theatre, grip dime novels with sweaty palms, and lean in close to the campfire hanging on every word of the cliffhanger. The small time crimes of your little home town exert a fascination way beyond the significance of the deed itself. What’s going to happen next, we ask?

What has this to do with iceboating? Do we not live with mystery five or six months of the year? Instead of the tidy structured who-dunit from Hollywood we are involved in a full blown unknown every week from Thanksgiving to Easter. Where’s the ice? Who knows where the ice is? Someone knows someone who knows where the ice is. Is it any good? How many holes and pressure ridges are there? Will my boat survive, or will I have to bring it home in pieces and re-build it before next weekend? Are all these weather forecasts for real? Do I just show up and pray? What’s a good mystery without a little prayer, anyway.

Speaking of prayer and mystery, we should all be keeping Stu Nelson in our thoughts and prayers these next days.

Don’t forget the Swap Meet coming up on Saturday, October 25th. Knights of Columbus Hall, Westboro, Mass.

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Stu Nelson

Stu’s wife Judy just sent this in. I can only guess that the last two letters in LRGH stand for General Hospital.

Hi All

Just to let you all know that your super ice boater is in LRGH and not feeling too well.


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