Please select your home edition
Edition
Giacomo Yacht Sale

Ice sailors - those who love a big freeze

by Des Ryan on 17 Feb 2014
ice sailing - oops SW
Not everyone is unhappy when the weather is freezing and the wind is high. While most of North America is rueing the cold weather and Britain is fighting the worst seas for hundreds of years, one group of people revels in horrible weather - ice sailors on the hard ice of the Navesink River in New Jersey, USA.

That's when ice boaters gather in Red Bank for winter sailing in vessels that glide across the hard surface. Wearing helmets, goggles and snowsuits, they ride the river at speeds topping 50 mph.



Ice boating is a sport that requires endurance, dexterity and most of all, patience. Last February, there was no sailing on the Navesink. It simply didn’t get cold enough for the ice to solidify into a sturdy plate. Large boats have masts that tower 25 feet in the air. They seat one or two, with sharpened steel blades on the bottom called runners.

The past two winters have been bleak for Navesink ice men and women. The last time they had a good frozen foundation for sailing was February 2011, said Jeff Smith, skipper of the Emily M, a Yankee class ice boat named after his wife.

So, while many Jerseyans have been gritting their teeth through weeks of plunging temperatures, winter sailors are reveling in the extended cold snap.

The Navesink is right now capped with several inches of ice, enabling boaters to put their vessels on the river for the first time in three years. However, it still wasn't perfect. Last weekend the wind wasn’t strong enough to propel the crafts.

'Ice boating is very unpredictable,' said Smith, 70, of Atlantic Highlands, a professional photographer. 'You need good, solid, thick, relatively smooth ice with no snow or very little snow on it. You need wind and access to the ice. You have guys going out scouting and chopping holes in the ice to figure out how much ice we’ve got.'

Smith is a member of the North Shrewsbury Ice Boat and Yacht Club, a Red Bank group founded in 1880.

The ice boaters unwind in a clubhouse lined with photos of vintage vessels. Red Bank has a long legacy of cold sailing; the borough’s seal is an illustration of an ice boat.

Smith said that there are more than 100 members of the club. It was an all male club until last year. Smith’s wife, Emily, said female skippers have been sailing the frozen Navesink for decades even though they were excluded from the club.

'There’s not a lot of role modeling for women in this sport but you’ll find some women out there,' said Emily. 'When Jeff got interested, I got interested too. I already knew how to sail so it wasn’t too much of a leap.'

But ice sailors are an optimistic bunch who find it hard to give in. When the Navesink doesn’t freeze over, some sailors embark on pilgrimages seeking perfect ice.



'Last year, we took our antique stern-steerers to Lake Wallenpaupack in Pennsylvania,' said Nels Lybeck, 46, of Red Bank. 'It’s a tradition and it’s an exhilarating sport. You’re 6 inches off the surface of the ice and you can be doing over 100 miles an hour in the bigger boats on just wind power. With the exception of downhill bobsled and luge, it’s the fastest wind-propelled sport on the face of the earth.'

When the ice isn't thick it can be tricky. Boaters mark areas of thin ice with old Christmas trees. They wear ice picks around their necks in case they take a tumble and fall through a crack.

'People go in the water,' said Smith. 'Most of the time, your boat goes in the water but you don’t, but it does happen where you can be completely submerged. We say, ‘There’s no such thing as safe ice.’?'

Hardy folk indeed! Here's a sample from last weekend:

RS Sailing 660x82Sail Exchange 660x82 New SailsZhik AkzoNobelb 660x82

Related Articles

Int Moth Worlds - Zhik returns to its spiritual home at 2017 Worlds
Zhik is returning to its roots as the official clothing sponsor of the 2017 McDougall McConaghy Moth World Championships Zhik, the innovative sailing apparel specialist, is returning to its roots as the official clothing sponsor of the 2017 McDougall McConaghy Moth World Championships. And, ten years on, the Moths are returning to their spiritual home on Lake Garda. Zhik and the International Moth class are virtually synonymous with each other.
Posted on 20 Jul
Twenty-fifth blog from Jon Sanders - Eggs and Sydney to Hobart Race
Island regions affect wind strengths. Often beginning several hundreds of miles distant. Generally less wind - up wind Island regions affect wind strengths. Often beginning several hundreds of miles distant. Generally less wind - up wind or down wind.
Posted on 20 Jul
Twenty-fourth blog from Jon - Taina Marina & Oyster World Rally
Hon. Ian Campbell former Australian Senator and Federal Minister has an Oyster 68 ft single mast yacht. Hon. Ian Campbell former Australian Senator and Federal Minister has an Oyster 68 ft single mast yacht. It is said and one believes, more material (not to forget etc.) goes into these stock production cruising yachts to stand the ocean rigours. UK built.
Posted on 20 Jul
New Jeanneau Sun Odyssey vessels added to the range
Since their launch the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey range has sold over 17,000 yachts. Since their launch the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey range has sold over 17,000 yachts. Now we are excited to introduce to you the new generation, the Sun Odyssey 440 and the Sun Odyssey 490. This new generation of sailboats is clearly high performance utilising multiple advance in design and technology to better enhance your quality of life at sea
Posted on 19 Jul
Cheeki Rafiki - Douglas Innes to face retrial over manslaughter
Douglas Innes to face retrial over manslaughter The Director of Stormforce Coaching, the company that ran Cheeki Rafiki, is set to face retrial for manslaughter over the deaths of the four crew. They were 700nm from Nova Scotia, returning to Southampton after racing in Antigua when the keel feel off. It is said that previous groundings had weakened the keel bolts....
Posted on 17 Jul
Rytov continues to defend lead at 2017 Melges 20 European Championship
On the eve of final day at Melges 20 European Championship Russia's Igor Rytov & his Russian Bogatyrs remains in command On the eve of the final day at the 2017 Melges 20 European Championship, Russia's Igor Rytov and his Russian Bogatyrs remains in command. Thanks to a very consistent performance thus far, they are inching ever closer to capturing the top European title and trophy.
Posted on 15 Jul
Beneteau showcases new models at this year's Sydney Boat Show
Beneteau has a very impressive display of seven sail and power boats, including three models on show for the first time The new sailing boats on display are the Oceanis 41.1 and Oceanis 38.1 , which set a new standard in cruising comfort, safety, ease of sailing and volume plus the ever popular Oceanis 45 and the unique Sense 50/51.
Posted on 14 Jul
Bavaria C65 - production commenced on their largest ever sailing yacht
The Bavaria C65 is the new flagship of the Bavaria Yachts fleet of sailing yachts The Bavaria C65 is the new flagship of the Bavaria Yachts fleet of sailing yachts and, following the successful presentation of the Bavaria C57 this spring, is the next logical step in the expansion of the Bavaria C-Line. It is the largest yacht ever built by Bavaria Yachts. Production of the Bavaria C65 has already begun. The first sea trials are planned for the (Northern) Autumn (Fall).
Posted on 14 Jul
Jeanneau 51 to Première at Sydney International Boat Show
The new Jeanneau 51, the latest addition to the Jeanneau Yachts range... The new Jeanneau 51, the latest addition to the Jeanneau Yachts range, is the luxurious result of a teaming of renowned naval architect Philippe Briand and superyacht designer Andrew Winch. Following the successful launch of the Jeanneau 54 at the 2016 show, the first of the 51 models will be on display for the first time in Australia
Posted on 14 Jul
Get better wave forecasts from PredictWind and ECMWF
Predictwind is well-known for accurate wind forecasts but now leads the way with accurate wave forecasts PredictWind is well known for its world leading accurate wind forecasts, but did you know Predictwind also leads the way with accurate wave forecasts?
Posted on 12 Jul