Please select your home edition
Edition
Marine Resource 2016

Ice sailors - those who love a big freeze

by Des Ryan on 17 Feb 2014
ice sailing - oops .. .
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:

Barz Optics - FloatersAbell Point Marina Splash 660x82Zhik Yachting 660x82

Related Articles

Eleventh Blog from on board Perie Banou II
'Perie Banou II' with me, are tracking well. Going north west to the British Island of Saint Helena Jon Sanders is well into his historic, record setting tenth circumnavigation and continues to see the wry in almost all the things he gets up to. St Helena is the next stop and the conditions are always a changing. Reason on for more of Jon's unique perspective of the world.
Posted today at 12:41 am
2017 Jeanneau Rendezvous at the inaugural Sail Peninsula Regatta
Some photos taken by LaFoto at the 2017 Jeanneau Rendezvous which was part of the inaugural Sail Peninsula Regatta. The 2017 Jeanneau Rendezvous was part of the inaugural Sail Peninsula Regatta from Martha Cove on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula. It was a great regatta with a stern chaser race held on the Friday night, followed by a long distance race to Blairgowrie on Saturday in a glamorous five to ten knots, then finally an awesome medium distance race off Safety Beach in 25-35 knots...
Posted on 21 Feb
Super Series Sailing Spectacular
News arrived of at least one Australian outfit going for a new build 52. Someone had to entertain Beau Geste and SMB During the week, news arrived of at least one Australian outfit going for a new build 52. Someone had to keep Beau Geste and SMB entertained at the sharp end of the 52 bracket. Two other camps were linked to other former 52 Super Series craft, Phoenix and Spookie, but the one touted as going after Phoenix has denied it, saying that Hasso (SAP) Plattner of Germany has bought her.
Posted on 20 Feb
More marina space and exciting firsts for GC Boat Show and Marine Expo
More marina space and exciting additions to an impressive Fleet of Firsts have set scene for a colossal marine showcase More marina space and even more exciting additions to an already impressive Fleet of Firsts have set the scene for a colossal marine showcase both on water and on land on Queensland’s Gold Coast from 17-19 March.
Posted on 17 Feb
Tenth blog from on board Perie Banou II
The irrepressible, charismatic and yarn-spinning record-breaker known as Jon Sanders is back sailing the oceans The sailor who cannot garden; the irrepressible, charismatic and yarn-spinning record-breaker known as Jon Sanders is back sailing the oceans he knows so well. After his ribs episode on the quay in Cape Town, and making more friends everywhere he goes, Jon is now making for St Helena. So here, in his typical rapid-fire style are his latest exploits...
Posted on 17 Feb
B&G adds enhanced Navionic functionality to Zeus and Vulcan range
B&G® announces the latest updates will bring PredictWind weather services direct to Zeus and Vulcan chartplotter range. B&G®, the world’s leading sailing navigation and instrument specialist, is pleased to announce the latest in its software updates will bring PredictWind weather services direct to its Zeus and Vulcan chartplotter range.
Posted on 16 Feb
Beneteau Open Day at Cruising Yacht Club of Australia
The Beneteau Team will be exhibiting three new Beneteau models at the CYCA this Saturday. The Beneteau Team will be exhibiting three new Beneteau models at the CYCA this Saturday.
Posted on 16 Feb
Lisa Blair enjoys a sunrise crossing of International Date Line
At sea for 20 days, Lisa Blair, 32 reached a key milestone in her attempt to circumnavigate Antarctica solo At sea for 20 days, 13 hours, 4 minutes and 39 seconds, sailor and adventurer Lisa Blair, 32 reached a key milestone in her attempt to circumnavigate Antarctica solo and unassisted crossing the International Dateline at 16:25:39 UTC (05:25:39 local time) on 11 February 2017.
Posted on 11 Feb
Six weeks to go to 2017’s Gold Coast International Boat Show
Come and see over 600 boats for sale on water and on the land as well as engines, accessories and electronics. Come and see over 600 boats for sale on water and on the land as well as engines, accessories and electronics, live entertainment and boating education every 15 minutes across a giant 3km display circuit.
Posted on 10 Feb
On board interview with Lisa Blair - solo Antartica circumnavigation
So far, Lisa is tracking very well in her attempt to become the first woman to sail solo around Antartica. So far, Lisa is tracking very well in her attempt to become the first woman to sail solo around Antartica. After the setbacks of a delayed departure due to gremlins in the electronics, we are delighted to have these answers from her on board. She is well and enjoying her time. Climate Action Now, her Hick 50, left Albany in Western Australia on January 22, 2017.
Posted on 8 Feb