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Repairing a DN Ice Yacht for sailing on Lake Fenton, Michigan, USA

by Gregg Bugala 7 Apr 10:31 PDT
Ice Yachts on Lake Fenton, Michigan, USA © Gregg Bugala

Gregg Bugala from Michigan, USA has been the first to contact us with a home-repair story about a craft not intended for water. He is in no rush to complete his repairs, since the lake will not freeze over for several months yet!

I grew up sailing on Lake Fenton and saw a lot of iceboats sailing; as a kid I was always chasing them with my skates. Now aged 60, I found an old used DN iceboat for sale and decided to buy it. Number 1409, it was built around 1970. The DN is a small class racing vessel born in the 1930s via the Detroit News who sponsored a design contest. Today DNs are raced all around the world in the northern hemisphere.

I windsurf in summer, and iceboat when ice is five inches thick or more, with any kind of wind. If there's not much snow on the ice, the boat will cruise between 50-80 kph! The boat is 12 feet long, made mostly of spruce and aircraft plywood. It rides on long steel runners which are kept sharp. Newer race boats are extremely well-built, lightweight, high tech crafts (and expensive). Since I am only a cruiser, an older boat made more sense to buy.

I like sailing, but I like sailing better when its fast! Adding to the thrill is the lack of brakes! To slow down, I sheet out and turn into the wind. Here in the Great Lakes region there's never a shortage of wind especially in the winter. Two winters ago I went sailing one day and cracked the old spruce mast. I contacted my DN Facebook group and they found me a newer aluminum mast to replace old one, for free!

I park the boat on Lake Fenton and leave it there covered up all winter. In the spring. I take the boat off the ice and hang it up in garage, where I look it over and do repairs when needed.

Last winter I noticed the hull had some ripples in the side, which this year got worse on a really high wind day I went out. I was very worried that the hull would fall apart, so I tore into it by removing the bottom sheet to expose the structural parts. I discovered that whoever built the fuselage didn't put it together very well. Also a previous owner hid a contusion in the sideboard.

I used a lot of West System epoxy with pine to build the trunk under the mast step and replaced a major bulkhead that was splitting. I only need some finish work done, but I have 11 months until I sail it again, so plenty of time!

Now that this work is done, and I put the deck sheeting back on, the boat should hold together for many years, especially since I used the best epoxy. The older boats were glued and nailed, screwed together roughly. And the glue is so old that it doesn't hold any more. So now the boat has been rebuilt from the inside out, and should be able to handle my big wind appetite! Who knows maybe next year I will try a race!

This is one of the few sailing classes where cruisers can be as addicted to speed as racers! We wish Gregg a lot of fun once the temperature drops. Remember we want to hear YOUR stories of boat repairs, renovations and invention too.

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