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