Saturday, October 3, 2015

Motorized ice yachts

I was traveling in Nova Scotia this August with the family. We stopped into the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck. It is a fine little museum that presents the multi-faceted genius of Bell quite well. He tinkered in many areas and I have always been interested in his kite and flying experiments. As I was looking through some photographic images I discovered that he also fiddled with ice boats, though his experiments were with motorized boats.

 Here is an arrow shaped ice boat that he used to test propellors for his tetrahedral aircraft, the Cygnet II.  Note the trussed runner plank &  bow-steering. So nice to have your ice course plowed for you... This is from January 1909.  Bell did help form a group that designed and built the first successful airplane in Canada.  The Silver Dart made the first controlled powered flight in Canada on Feb. 23, 1909.

 George Buckhout also enjoyed tinkering with engines and iceboats.
The 12 foot long motorized ice yacht "Go Devil" was designed by naval architect George Davis, son of Theodore Davis of the Poughkeepsie Eagle. It was built in George Buckhout's Poughkeepsie boat shop  in December 1910. It was originally intended to be tested on the Hudson River, but conditions didn't cooperate. It was shipped up to the Rochester area instead. In time trials on Irondequoit Bay near Rochester it was reported to have clocked 120 mph. It had an 40 hp Elbridge 4 cylinder 2 cycle motor and an 8 foot propeller.  Notes on the back of this picture says it travelled 8 miles in 4 minutes. While the image here is not too clear, on the original you can see the distinct ice yacht runners & runner plank for which Buckhout was known. The distance between the runners was 6 feet. A news article from January 1912 quotes that the total cost of the experiment was $2000. "She was built to demonstrate a principal and has proved to be the fastest traveling appliance the world has so far known." (Poughkeepsie Eagle Jan 26, 1912)

I acquired this photo and other items of George Buckhout's a few years back. I believe this is George Buckhout in the picture. The writing on the back is likely his as it matches other handwriting of his I have from other items.

Here is another shot of "Go Devil"

This is an image from an Irondequoit Bay history site. 

There's a brief piece on Charles Lindbergh experimenting with motorized ice boats in the 1920s  in Wisconsin on the Four Lakes iceboat site.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sailing the Hudson River, off Astor Point, through the Years

The Rokeby Ice Yacht fleet, off of Astor Point, Barrytown-on-Hudson, 1939.
Long time sailors around Rokeby will recognize the bluff in the background. 

One of our favorite sailing sites on the Hudson River is the stretch of river north of the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, off of a point of land on the east shore called Astor Point. Named after the Astor family whose home, called Rokeby, built in 1815, is still inhabited by descendants.  The river is quite wide here and the shipping channel is maintained by the Coast Guard to the far west side of the river.  This leaves a large expanse of ice east of the channel, when it sets in, available for sailing.  Access is often through the historic and eclectic estate known as Rokeby.  Current day descendants of the Astor family maintain the historic mansion which houses an amazing collection of antique ice yachts. 
The master of ceremonies during ice yachting season is Richard Aldrich.  Ricky has been ice boating on the river off the family home since 1947. His father, Richard Aldrich started iceboating in the early 1920s. He built a small iceboat that he sailed on a pond on the property. Soon after that he acquired several boats from neighbors in the Hudson Valley.  The barns on the property still house an aging fleet of boats, including  Reindeer & Pathfinder, boats originally from the Huntington Estate in Staatsburg.  Rip van Winkle & Spider came from the estate of Victor Livingston, Ricky's cousin from across the river in Kingston; Hawk & Rudolphe came from Kunze Todd's widow in Hyde Park.  Todd collected iceboats from  various Hyde Park owners as they aged in the early 1900s. Ricky gathered some parts from the Jack Frost through the Todd family. Lastly, Comet is a boat his dad got back in the 20s from another estate south of the Rhinecliff Bridge. 
This whole post started as I recently acquired (many thanks to Doc Shuter) a series of photos of iceboats that were taken off Astor Point in 1939. I showed them to Ricky recently. He immediately recognized them, though we couldn't find the album of photos that he has of iceboating from that era. 

Richard Aldrich, of Rokeby, acquired a small fleet of iceboats in the 1920s & 30s.
Ice Yachts (L to R) Comet, Pathfinder, Spider, Reindeer, Rip Van Winkle.

Ricky noted that his dad frequently set up the fleet when the ice was in during the 40s & 50s. There was an active farm on the property and many of the workers on the farm helped to get the fleet up and sailing. Ricky returned "home" in the late 60s after years at school and traveling in Europe. The first time that the fleet was assembled in a decade or so ( his dad passed on in the early 60s) was in 1968. Photos of the fleet in action from 68 and 1970 follow. 

Rip Van Winkle, sailing off Astor Point, circa 1970. Catskill Mountains in the distance to the West.

Large cockpit and wide plank provide plenty of room for passengers.

Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge lies about one mile to the south.

Sailing the largest yacht of the Rokeby fleet, Rip Van Winkle.
Rip was built circa 1920 by Ricky's cousin Victor Livingston who lived across the river from Barrytown.
Rip was built from Tulip wood. 

Ricky at the helm, with at least 4 kids, enjoying a breezy day on the Hudson River. 

Great shot, taken by the late Woody Klose, from the bluff at Astor Point.
(most of these shots from the 70s are courtesy of the Klose family archives)

Pathfinder, originally from Robert Huntington's estate in Staatsburgh-on-Hudson.
This was the winter of 1994 off of North Germantown. The season ended abruptly on March 21
as the sail blew out in high winds and soft ice. 

Pathfinder was the first boat I sailed, as I was caretaker of the boat for a few years.
Ricky welded up  a temporary gammon strap on a Saturday afternoon,
after setting up on the river that winter of 1994 and realizing that the strap was missing.
We had her sailing an hour later.

Boats from the fleet still sail, though continue to need TLC.

Rip Van Winkle sails off Astor Point, March 2014.
Ricky's son Ben at the helm.
(photo courtesy of Henry Bossett)

A walk through the Rokeby Ice boat barn(s) starts here

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

An afternoon at the Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park

John A. Roosevelt's ice yacht  Icicle won the race for the
Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant of America on Feb. 25, 1889

I had an opportunity to check out some of the iceboating artifacts at the FDR library this week. FDR was keen on including items in the Presidential Museum from all his interests in life. Ice yachting was one of those interests. The majority of the items came from his uncle, John A. Roosevelt.  John A. Roosevelt (JAR)  was a charter member of the Poughkeepsie Ice Yacht Club, which was established in 1861. He was an avid sportsman, a competitive sailor and a collector of ice boat items. He left several scrapbooks of news articles on ice yachting, from 1862 through 1902. His Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant medals for the 4 victories his yacht Icicle claimed are also housed at the Museum. Icicle was originally displayed at the museum until renovations in the 1990s led to its removal. It is now on display (partially) at the Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston. Here are a few of the items I documented on the visit.  (The next several blog posts will feature other items)

The pennant JAR flew on Icicle. This pennant signified the club commodore.
His name appears to the left of the red stripe.

The Club signal of the HRIYC. This flew from JAR's yacht Vixen.

The private signal of JAR. According to club by-laws, the private signal was flown
 from the top of ice yachts in regattas.  This flew at the top of
Icicle's mast.

The 4 medals JAR won between 1888 & 1899.
The 30 foot silk Challenge Pennant transferred from winner to winner.

Ice yacht Whiff in miniature ..

Ice Yacht Whiff; model built by Jacob Buckhout. 

FDR was an avid collector of ship models. One can spends hours checking out the tremendous collections of models (not all are on display of course)  at the Roosevelt Library. There are two ice yacht models - neither of which are on display. The Mo-Wa-The was built by J. Sterling Bird. See pictures of that model here.
The Whiff model was built by Jacob Buckhout around 1875. It is a fabulous example of the early side-railer design that Buckhout was building in the 1860s & 1870s.  Some of the history of Whiff can be found here.
The model was set up in a work room in the basement of the museum, thus the backdrop wasn't ideal. But you can see the detail fairly well.

I love the detail in the cockpit & the tiller. 

Detail of gaff and hoist rigging. The sail is the only piece showing wear  on the model.

Graceful lines of the cockpit. 

Alternating strips of spruce & red cedar form the floor of the cockpit, as on the real boat.

There is a little rot, or wear in the cockpit, starboard side against the outer edge. 

Mast step detail. Mast stepped directly over the runner plank. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Fair Winds...

Robert Lawrence
December 10, 1925 - March 19, 2015

All smiles on the day Jack Frost was launched on Orange Lake, February 1973.
(from the scrapbook of the Westchester Ice Sailing Club)

Ice boaters throughout the region mourn the passing of Bob Lawrence this past week.
Bob was a life long ice boater, member of Orange Lake Ice Yacht Club and one of the original members who reorganized the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club. He was past commodore of both clubs. He helped lead the rebuilding of the Jack Frost in the early 1970s, which took place in his basement in Newburgh. Bob was a passionate iceboater, storyteller and giver of advice. Our condolences to Rick, Danny, Kevin, his wife Vonnie and the rest of the Lawrence family.
Fair winds & smooth ice Bob....  
Bob Lawrence, with a bronze tiller that was presented to him,
during a recognition dinner in February 1998  for his life long achievements in ice boating.
Reid Bielenberg, to the left, had the tiller forged for Bob for the event. 

At work on the cockpit of Jack Frost, in his basement, 1972.
(photo courtesy of the Klose family photo archives)
Talking with Ricky Aldrich about Icicle, John A. Roosevelt's champion yacht.
This was the day the
Icicle was removed from the FDR Library in Hyde Park. 
With the Frost, Lake Winnipasaukee, NH, early 1990s. 
John Rose & Bob swap stories, in the shop where
the mast of Jack Frost was being lengthened.
circa 2003.

Bob & John Vargo on Orange Lake, Feb. 2008.

Rick, Bob & Kevin Lawrence- 3 generations of ice boaters, on Orange Lake Feb. 2008.
Bob's father & Grandfather were ice boaters and members of the Orange Lake Ice Yacht Club as well.
At the HRIYC spring pot luck, April 2013.
A few more thoughts and connections on Bob here.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Always optimistic...

Rumors of ice boats on the river near Germantown were corroborated this evening. The set up of a new boat in the fleet was accomplished on a breezy late afternoon, joining Galatea for a last hoped for sail. No sails were raised though, and the deteriorating surface may not allow for a sail regardless. Ice is sufficiently thick, though rough, and spotty shell ice may make it difficult for the runners to stay on top of the ice. Rain on Saturday may chase away any sailing this season.  Meanwhile, Jack Frost is home from a week of sailing in Red Bank, NJ as of last weekend.  All of the stern steerers have been dismantled from that ice.
We'll look for daytime photos soon to showcase this recently renovated iceboat from Columbia County. Always exciting to see an old, previously unknown boat back on the ice.  For now, stealth shots under the cover of darkness....

Nicely rebuilt cockpit.

Late sunset over the Catskill range.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Jack Frost sweeps inaugural race for "Class 1 Ice Yacht Challenge Cup" in Red Bank


Rocket takes it to the limit!

 In what must have been some spirited racing, Jack Frost, of the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club, defeated Rocket, of the North Shrewsbury Ice Boat and Yacht Club, in three rounds to claim the Class One Ice Yacht Challenge Cup. The cup was recently donated for racing specifically between the biggest (Class One) ice yachts in the two clubs. 

Both boats are historic and restored. Rocket, originally constructed in 1888,  was said to have been built to race for the Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant of America against the Jack Frost and Icicle of the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club. It never was entered, though the Red Bank NJ-based club regularly faced off against Hudson River clubs with two other big yachts - Scud and Dreadnaught. Neither was able to defeat the Hudson River yachts. Jack Frost - the later version from 1892 - defeated the Jersey yachts several times in Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant races, the last between these big yachts occurring in 1902.
The Frost, maintained and sailed by Ricky, Danny and Kevin Lawrence, was rebuilt by members of the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club in the early 1970s and relaunched on Orange Lake in 1973. She is just under 50 foot in length and carries around 750 sq ft of sail.
Rocket was rebuilt over a period of 10 years by members of The Red Bank club, an effort spearheaded by Bob Pulsch. She is 50 foot long and hoists 900 sq ft of sail. She was officially launched last March 2014 on the Hudson River at Barrytown. Her launching was covered by NBC Nightly news that day. 

If the ice holds out on the Shrewsbury, there may be more racing in the ensuing days. Congrats to the crew of the Frost for her victory. And kudos for the hospitality and generosity of the Red Bank Club.                                   (I'll add more details of the race as I find out more). 

Kevin, Danny and Rick Lawrence (center 3) with the Class 1 Cup,
outside the NSIBYC clubhouse, in Red Bank, NJ.
Bob Pulsch, Rocket builder, is on the right.

HRIYC commodore Brett Kolfrat &
 crew member Alex Innis on the right.

Line up of vintage ice yachts on the Shrewsbury River, Feb 28, 2015.
Jack Frost far right, Rocket, 2nd from right

Rocket, (c) Frost (r)

Rocket capsized while sailing in a stiff breeze on March 2.
Note Jack Frost behind, with a reef in its mainsail.
The sail was recently modified 
by Henry Bossett of NJ to add those reef points for high wind sailing. 
I understand the capsize happened during sailing outside the Cup races.

Hiking on a Red Bank Stern Steerer.

All photos courtesy of and copyright by David Disbrow.