Sunday, December 28, 2014

Thomas Newbold was FDR's neighbor & a former state senator at the time.
His boat was Nansen, built by George Buckhout. 
With no sign of ice here in the Hudson Valley, we at least get to enjoy raising sail and talking iceboating. We had two glorious days (Fri. - Sat.) at the FDR Museum and Library - sunny and mid-forties. It was a busy weekend with tourists in town for the holidays stopping in to tour FDR's house - Springwood - and the museum. A good number of visitors stopped by our "line-up" of historic ice yachts.
Greyhound (1908), Whiff (1876), Vixen (1885), Kriss (1898)
outside the FDR Museum, Hyde Park, NY

Tours of the FDR home start at the Wallace Visitors Center, next to FDR's Hawk.


Several members of HRIYC worked with the guides of the National Park Service to give short introductions to FDR's connection with Ice Yachting before the guided tours through his home.  One factoid we relate is that FDR's mother - Sarah Delano, gave FDR his ice yacht Hawk as a Christmas gift in 1901.   His Uncle John A. Roosevelt was certainly an influence on the young FDR and likely took him sailing on yachts on display at the museum - Kriss and Vixen. Roosevelt served as vice-commodore on HRIYC in 1908. His yacht raced in several club races in '08, though always with someone else at the helm. I find one reference from 1902 in which Hawk, with FDR sailing (or so it seems),  raced in a 4th class race against Ariel and Dutchess, placing third in an 8 mile race for a silk pennant.  

These types of events are wonderful to meet folks, some who have never seen an ice boat before. We also meet people who have their own stories of ice boating, or of friends or relatives who have sailed in the past. This weekend was no different. I ran into a gentleman who showed me a beautiful gem - a club book from the New Hamburgh Ice Yacht Club from 1886.
The New Hamburgh club was the second oldest Ice Yacht club (founded in 1879) after the Poughkeepsie Ice Yacht Club (founded 1861). It's first commodore- Irving Grinnell - built many ice yachts and was a competitive racer. He also created the Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant of America - the pinnacle of supremacy in Ice racing.  The Grinnell yacht Whiff, is one of the boats we have on display at the museum this week.

NHIYC was founded December 1869.

The club book of 1886.

M.W. Collyer - Moses Collyer - co-authored the 1908 book "Sloops of the Hudson."
That book was part of the inspiration that led to the construction of the sloop Clearwater, by Pete Seeger and others.
Interesting note that in 1886, Whiff was under command of Temple Bowdoin, Grinnell's neighbor. Later on, in the HRIYC club book of 1908, Whiff is again listed with Grinnell as owner. 

Puff (circa 1871) is still sailed today, owned and sailed by Emilie Hauser. Also, note here that Rogers rigged his Ariel as a lateen. He later sailed it as sloop-rigged, as she is still today.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Ice Boat Expo opening at FDR Museum & Library

The opening of the iceboat exhibit at the FDR library in Hyde Park was well received on Sunday. Several hundred folks came through during the day to see FDR's personal ice yacht "Hawk" and to see the display of antique ice yachts, with sails rigged, on the lawn in front of the recently renovated library.
Lynn Bassanese, Director of the FDR Library, welcomes HRIYC and the public 
to the Ice Yacht Expo at the Wallace Visitors Center at the FDR site in Hyde Park, NY.

FDR's grandson, David Roosevelt, was on hand and he admitted he wasn't too keen on actually trying to iceboat himself. Still, he enjoys the efforts made to keep the boats sailing and the stories told of ice yachting from his grandfather's era.
David Roosevelt joined us at the Ice Yacht Expo at the FDR Library & Museum. 

Historian Wint Aldrich recalled an interview he had many years ago with Erastus Corning, long time mayor of Albany. Corning spoke of his one and only meeting with FDR in the early 40s, when he was a state senator. Corning wanted Roosevelt to order the Coast Guard to keep the shipping channel free of ice so ships could get to the newly opened Port of Albany. The Port was suffering in winter as the ice locked up boat traffic. In short, FDR told Senator Corning that if the coast guard was to break up the ice, then his children and grandchildren would be unable to ice boat off Hyde Park, as he had as a child with his uncle John, because  the channel cut close to the east shore. As they gazed out over the River from Roosevelt's home FDR commented that, while he appreciated the "good senator's" presentation and efforts, 'No,' he would not order the river broken up by the ice cutters, and, he added, "the reason was strictly off the record." 

Wint has a long-standing connection to iceboating and the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club. FDR was friends with his father, Richard Aldrich, and FDR asked him to come and rescue the Jack Frost, the famous ice yacht his neighbor, Archibald Rogers, had raced. Federal troops were stationed at the Rogers estate during WWII (and rumor has it troops cut up and burned some of the boats for warmth during the cold winters stationed there) and the Frost was neglected down at the Rogers boat house. Attempts were made to move the backbone, but moving the 50' piece of timber proved difficult and it was left along the railroad tracks. Other parts of the boat were collected and taken to Rokeby, the family home. 
Fast forward 30 years: members of the HRIYC are rebuilding Jack Frost at Orange Lake;  a conversation arises, and Ricky Aldrich, Wint's brother, digs out the sail and other parts of the original Frost and donates the parts to the restoration. Rokeby is home to almost a dozen old yachts, many collected by Richard Aldrich. Rokeby was the launching point of last years amazing sailing, with boats accessing the river through the private drive at the property. Ricky and his son Ben continue the tradition of maintaining and sailing the old yachts of yesteryear.

George Buckhout's tool box, complete with rigging tools, planes and a few ice boat parts. 

The toolbox of George Buckhout was also on display at this opening.
This chest of tools was  likely on hand during the building of FDR's Hawk. It is a fine link to the creation of these beautiful works of art that still sail on the ice today. In yet another link to the past, in talking with an old friend of the club, I learned that her grandfather worked for George Buckhout, building boats. She was thrilled to see the tool box here. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Setting up Ice Yachts at the FDR Library & Museum

FDR's Hawk, getting set up in the main room of the Wallace Center Visitors Center in Hyde Park. 

The only actively sailed lateen-rigged ice yacht, Vixen.
This boat belonged to FDR's uncle John A. Roosevelt.  

Pulling Whiff out of its home barn in Staatsburg. 

Someday we'll have a longer truck...

The FDR Museum has a section called :behind the scenes." In conjunction with the Iceboat Expo, they have displayed several iceboat items from the Roosevelt collection. There are two iceboat models, including this model  of a Hudson River Ice yacht, called "Mo-Wa-The"  built circa 1914 by J. Sterling Bird. Bird was a long time member of the HRIYC and presented this to the President in the 1942.

Detail of the model "Mo-Wa-The"

Two ice yachts that were owned and sailed by John A. Roosevelt: (L-R):
Kriss (built 1898) and Vixen (built 1885). Other boats on display include Greyhound and Whiff, as well as  two "bow steerers,  "a circa 1960 Arrow class design, and a DN..

Whiff, built for the Philadelphia Centennial (1876) by Jacob Buckhout.
One of the oldest ice yachts still sailing.

FDR smiles down upon seeing ice yachts on the lawn in front of the Presidential Library, dedicated in 1941.

One of three trophies on display in the museum.
This is a trophy of the HRIYC, won by the ice yacht Eclipse, sailed by Samuel Rogers, in 1908.
Eclipse was a fifth class ice yacht owned by Edward H. Wales, commodore of the Hyde Park Ice Yacht Club.
Many ice boat sailors were members of both the HRIYC and HPIYC in the waning years of HR ice sailing (1902-1920).

Friday, December 19, 2014

What's Under Your Tree this Christmas...?

OK, think back in time....your nineteen... if you celebrate Christmas, you're kind of beyond the whole thing, but deep down you're still looking for a cool gift under that tree... Think back to those gifts... a sweater?  a flannel shirt? the latest calculator?? You're home from college perhaps and waking up to join the family to unwrap presents is not high on your list. No doubt sleep is.  So what was Franklin D. Roosevelt thinking as he awoke on Xmas day as a 19 year old 113 years ago... Imagine looking under your tree and finding a 28 foot lateen-rigged ice boat with 286 sq ft of canvas sail... And custom built by the foremost builder of ice yachts at the time, George Buckhout.  Yes, FDR's mother Sara presented her son with an iceboat on Christmas day 1901. Maybe he really wanted the sweater... FDR sailed Hawk for several winters on the river while he was a student at Harvard, and later on was elected vice-commodore of the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club in 1908. Ice boating was very important to FDR, though his time sailing on his beloved Hudson River was short-lived.
Sketch of Hawk; created by long-time HRIYC sailor Reid Bielenberg.

Years later, as president, FDR planned a museum to house his papers and artifacts from his years as president.  In 1941, he donated his ice yacht Hawk to the National Archives for exhibition in his newly constructed Presidential Library. Hawk  was displayed until 1995, at which time it was moved from public view. As part of preparation for this Sunday's opening of an Iceboat exhibit at the museum, the boat was taken out of storage today and moved to the Henry Wallace Visitor and Education Center for display.  Under guidance of the National Park Service and members of the HRIYC, Hawk will be on view for just the second time in almost 20 years. If you are in the neighborhood, join us Sunday, December 21 in Hyde Park for this event.  Five antique stern steerers (along with a DN and an Arrow) will be rigged up outside the FDR Library, while Hawk will be inside the Wallace Visitors Center.

FDRs Hawk is loaded onto official HRIYC transport truck...
Hawk leaves its climate-controlled top secret storage location in Hyde Park, NY.

As if we are on the ice with the boats....plenty of standing around and talking....

One of America's National treasures about to pull out into Friday afternoon traffic on Route 9.
The most dangerous part of the 1 mile journey...
(did i mention Friday afternoon traffic??)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A New Season!

A New Season
We have had our first snow here in the Hudson Valley.  We had a solid 11 inches dumped on us the day before Thanksgiving and last night  temperatures dipped into the teens. There has been some ice boating in Maine already (short lived and on “just enough” ice). As always there is optimism for a great season on the ice. Time to get the boats ready to put on the ice.
In the meantime there are a few events upcoming to get us in the mood.

On Sunday, December 7  the Annual Meeting of the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club takes place in Poughkeepsie.  We will be joined by Rahul Chadha, producer of the Ice Boat short film,  Against the Wind,which was shown at this year's Woodstock Film Fest. Rahul and others who helped film and direct the piece will be on hand to show this ~ 8 minute short. See the film trailer here. This is a potluck affair and there’ll be plenty of photos and videos of last year’s sailing season.  Drop me an email for further details.

On December 20, we’ll be setting up boats at the FDR Library & Museum in Hyde Park. This display corresponds with the 130th anniversary of the founding of the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club. We will be helping to set up and display FDR’s Ice Yacht “Hawk” inside the Wallace Center.  Outside the Library will be a display of antique yachts from our club. Tentatively planned for display are: Jack Frost, Whiff, Vixen, & Kriss. The opening reception takes place on Sunday Dec. 21 and the display will run through January 3, 2015.
Further details to follow.


FDR’s lateen-rigged  Hawk, on display at the Wallace Visitors Center at the FDR site in Hyde Park. This was a one day event in 2012 when the boat was removed from the Museum and placed into storage.
(Low ceilings prevented the sheer legs from being fully set up)

Members of the HRIYC are taking inventory of the boat and looking to fabricate missing parts to fully restore the George Buckhout-built lateen rigged yacht Hawk. A new canvas sail will be made as well.
IMG_7446.JPGview from the stern runner


More ice boating news…
Long time ice yacht enthusiast, and past-commodore John Vargo has put together a nice piece on last season in his publication Boating on the Hudson.
(     (click on 'past issues', go to Nov 2014) click on the cover on the right side to see the entire issue.)
Also check out the piece on HRIYC sailor Brett Kolfrat and his voyage to Bermuda.
from John A. Roosevelt’s scrapbook.  Icicle??

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Frank Drake letter 1950

Frank Drake letter 1950.  Captain Frank Drake corresponded frequently with Ray Ruge in the 1940s and 1950s. Many of these letters are in the Ruge collection at the Hudson River Maritime Museum.
Here (writing in 1950), Captain Drake outlines his recollection of the last Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant Race of America in 1922. (last of the stern steering big boat races).
Drake's letters are a treasured glimpse into the ice sailing life of an old timer river boat captain.
(best to you navigating the wonderful handwriting of the day!)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How Many Boats were there??

An Historic Gathering of Ice Yachts

I've attempted to create a  list of stern steerers on the ice the during  March, 2014.  I include some info re: age and in some cases, original owners.  It was truly the largest gathering of ice boats I've seen on the Hudson River.

Hudson River Ice Yacht Club:

Jack Frost (1892, 1972) Archibald Rogers yacht, Hyde Park
Rip Van Winkle (1906??)
Vixen (1883) John A. Roosevelt's boat
Ariel (1888) Archibald Rogers, Hyde Park
Ice Queen (1910) Buckhout built, Orange Lake yacht
North Wind (1908?) Orange Lake ice yacht
Orion (1906) Malden Brick Yard Boat, Malden-on Hudson
Puff (1872) Irving Grinnell boat, New Hamburgh
Reindeer (circa1900) From R. P. Huntington estate, Staatsburg
Aurora (1910?)
Hound (circa 1910) Huntington estate, Staatsburg
Cyclone (1901) Rogers boat, Hyde Park
Boreas  (1927)  New Hampshire ice yacht 
Flicker  (circa1940)
Cold Wave ( 1908) hollow backbone, new plank, second cockpit added in the 70s by the late Rueben Snodgrass.  420 sq ft sail; likely an Orange Lake boat.
Dash (1908?)  George Ruppert boat, Rhinebeck
GreyHound (1908?) Huntington boat
Genevieve (1908) Percy Ashley design. built in the Bronx;  originally owned by the Wrigley family.
Helen C. (circa 1939) originally from Red Bank class C and gaff rigged - re-rigged as Marconi in the 40s

North Shrewsbury Ice Boat and Yacht Club & Long Branch Ice Boat & Yacht Club

Rocket (1888, 2010)
Daisy (1890; originally lateen rigged)
Georgie II

From CT
Slipper  (1925) designed by L. Francis Herreshoff.  She's 26 ' in length. 

Pop (?)
Great South Bay Scooter from Ct (newer built - circa 1984) - for more on Scooters, go here.

I focus primarily on the old stern steerers in this blog. That's what this blog is about. But I'll note a few of the more than a dozen smaller, bow-steering ice boats. These are club member boats that I have come to know or folks who introduced them selves over the weekend.

Red Baron, Doc & Kate Shuter
Patrick L's  Blue DN
Dana & Julian's    Red DN, "Tide"
Cold Wave (Nite Class) John Henry

 Photos courtesy of and copyrighted by Ned Gerard. (except as noted)
Georgie II - this yacht has a long history with the Red Bank Club.
She is beautifully maintained and sailed. 

Flicker, a smart little cat boat.

The largest of the Rokeby fleet - Rip Van Winkle.
She sailed well with her new tulip poplar plank, recently finished by Reid Beilenberg.

Great South Bay Ice Scooter.
Photo Courtesy of Jack Norton
Marko sails his steel-tubed bow steerer, with a skeeter class bow steerer (Kemosabee, I believe)  just beyond.
Rocket passes further south near the Rhinecliff Bridge

Friday, March 21, 2014

Spring Sailing 1994 - 2014

Today is the first full day of Spring - March 21.  For me, this is the latest date I've ever sailed. 20 years ago on this day - March 21, 1994 - a bunch of us sailed on the Hudson River off of North Germantown (Columbia County). It was the first year I sailed a boat on the Hudson - I was care-taking the Rokeby yacht Pathfinder.  That year we had been on the river almost 2 months - ice, then snow - then thaw - cold, good ice, repeat....I recall at least three significant snow storms that shut us down temporarily that season.  On this last day, the ice was still good and the winds quite strong.  We were out sailing by 7am and the day was done by 10am - warm temps and soft ice signaled the end. I blew out the sail of the Pathfinder as gusty winds and soft, sticky ice strained the old sail. I recall MaryEllen broke her runner that day as well!  We took the fleet off the ice and retired to the Odd Fellows Lodge in Germantown.  
So on this 20th anniversary, I headed down to Orange Lake. I heard there was still thick ice and good sailing, just as spring has arrived. It was close to 50 degrees when I arrived late afternoon and the lake was empty and the winds quite gusty. I was told that Brett was out sailing earlier in the day. Spring sailing 20 years on!   The stern steerer Lady and a skeeter were wrapped up awaiting firm ice on another day.

As I crossed the Hudson over the Rhinecliff Bridge on my way home I could see that much of Tivoli Bay  to the north was open water. No sailing to be had there.  There are these small, shallower lakes -- Orange Lake near Newburgh  and Bantam Lake in Ct. that, at times,  can extend the season a bit past springs arrival.  
For this moment, though,  I'll recall that amazing day 20 years ago.
March 1994, North Germantown, on the River. A line up almost as big as 2014.  Aurora, Sweet marie, Vixen, Pathfinder, Mary Ellen, Hound,  others...

Allons & Pathfinder, 1994

Odd Fellows Lodge, Germantown 3/21/94. Always liked this shot with Ricky Aldrich.

After getting on the ice to sail by 6 am, Johnny Vargo is out by noon...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Last Day

Sunday the 9th looks to have been our last day of an incredible month of sailing on the Hudson River. As of today, almost all the boats are off the river - with the exception of a handful that are pulled into the shallow cove at Astor Point, awaiting a tractor ride up to the farm at Rokeby. The river ice is deteriorating rapidly, and all are strongly advised to stay off the ice. Bob Wills sailed Orion to Rhinecliff on Sunday to dismantle and remove it there. On Monday, a part of the ice sheet he was on the previous day let loose and there is open river there now.

Sunday started off the no wind once again. A dozen boats or more raised sails and lined up awaiting a breeze. Hundreds of people streamed down long the tracks over the course of the day to check out the boats, many hoping for a ride. The big boats - Jack Frost, Rocket, and the A boats of both clubs began disassembling. It takes many hands and a coordinated effort to drop a 30' mast and take apart these big boats.  Around noon the breeze finally came up and several dozen boats started zipping across softening ice. At times it felt overly crowded with dns, many stern steerers, and the public all over the ice. Cracks in the ice continued to multiply, Everyone worked around each other nicely and many in the crowd got rides and we all enjoyed our last sail on the River. By 3:00 the ice softened to the point that it was time to pack in. One last glorious day.     A few images of the day...

Sunrise, Astor Point, 3/9/14, Hound almost ready to go.

No breeze all morning, but boats are rigged and ready. Hound is out first.

Wind is up! - Ice Queen spent much of her sailing time on 2 runners!
(Photo courtesy of Andy Wainwright)

Cyclone and passenger, Hound beyond us.
(Photo courtesy of and copyrighted by William Finnegan)

Dash with her "new" mainsail. Eric had her out for the first time in over 40 years.

Don Schreiber and Helen C. -circa 1939 -  her first sail on the Hudson.
In the back ground - Pop - a tiny stern steerer that arrived Sunday. 

Many hands needed to carry the Rocket's mast.

Another fabulous brunch - blueberry pancakes were served all day.

Mimosas too.

I'll add more photos, media links and boat histories in the days (weeks?) to come.