Thinking Ice, Building Masts

Down by the lake early the other morning I became fascinated by the small creatures dashing across the water. I think they’re called water spiders, and they have something that allows them to disconnect the surface tension from their little feet and just dash around as if they were late for work. As I became mezmerized, and because the water was so calm, it was easy to imaging them as us, running across the ice, pushing iceboats and having a grand time. It was clear black ice, of course, the stuff we begin dreaming of these dog days of August as the nights become cooler.

Eventually the wind picked up, scattering the spiders to who knows where, and the lake began to display sun pennies. There are many names for this effect of how small wavelets reflect the sun in a chaotic display of scattered light-shots, but we’ve always called them sun pennies. They snapped me out of my black ice reverie and I realized that on hard water we have the same display, but you only get the effect if you are moving: the pennies are frozen. In summer you just need to sit there on the dock and they do all the work; in the winter when the water is hard you gotta go get it. As long as you’re sailing fast the ice pennies dance before you in a psychedelic display.

Then we come to a tale of two masts. One, for Tom Nichols’ front seat C Skeeter and the other for one of the Whizz gang on Nantucket, also a C class. Why is one mast 20′ and the other 18’10”? The longer mast sits on the deck behind the skipper, so nearly the whole length is devoted to the luff. We back seaters need room for our heads, so the luff length is quite a bit shorter. But how is it that the Whizz steps a mast 18’10”?
Way back when, the A Skeeter gang in New Jersey was building masts in the summer, the time we all do our building and repair. The days are long and warm, the epoxy flows nicely and the livin’ is easy. So these guys took a new carbon (read black) mast outside on a sunny summer day to check the flex, and spent so much time shooting the breeze that the poor mast took on a good charge of solar gain. By the time they actually got around to bending the mast the resin had approached gel stage and when the weight was applied the mast snapped.

By some iceboat social magic the mast found its way to Steve Lamb, who planned to use the long part on his Renegade, El Diablo. But right about that time Doug Sharp gave him some bulkhead patterns for a small skeeter design that had grabbed his fancy in an old Popular Mechanics Magazine. Son James Lamb was outgrowing his DN, (usually this happens much later in life…) so Steve finished the little skeeter for him and rigged it with the broken stump of Danny Clapp’s A Skeeter mast. The usable length of that stump: 18’10”. So is born the Whizz C Skeeter, of which we now have seventeen.

This entry was posted in 2016 Season. Bookmark the permalink.