Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A letter from Captain Drake 1943

Capt. Frank Drake worked steamboats and ice boats on the Hudson River for over 60 years. His father was an early member of the New Hamburgh Ice Yacht Club, sailing the second class sloop "Mischief."
Drake has at the helm of "Scout" when it captured the Ice Challenge Pennant of America in 1922 - the last race for the 30 foot silk pennant during the era of stern steerers.  Drake eventually returned the Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant to The FDR Library and helped, along with Ruge, to get a new version made. The 'new' pennant was again raced for in 1951 on Greenwood Lake and won by Ed Rollberg of the Fox Lake Ice Yacht Club in Illinois.
Drake and Ray Ruge became friends and corresponded about iceboating news in the 1940s. Some of those letters are part of the Ruge collection at the Hudson River Maritime Museum. 
I transcribed one particular letter that i find quite poignant and revealing. Here is an old timer (he was 71 at the time) lamenting the waning days of what was an exciting sport. His description of "worst" winter in his memory is one we might relish this winter... 

New Hamburgh N.Y. Jan 31/43

Dear Friend Mr. Ruge,

                                   Well tomorrow is the first of Feb and in all the winters that I have ever ice boated, I think this is the worst.  I have had the Edwa at Orange Lake since Dec 15th and have had only about three hours sailing so far, going on for two months.  
                                The North Star is on the river here at my home and about all that you can see of her is her spar sticking out of a snow drift.  I look at her in disgust, although I did get a day or so sailing on the river.  Jan. the 21st I sailed almost to Beacon.  the ice was beautiful and since then has not moved, although Sunday Jan 24th the river was just as nice with a breeze from the N.E.  I foolishly went over to the Lake and when I got there it was dead calm, not a boat moved all day. That day Scaderfield sailed down to the NewBurgh Yacht Club. That day also Charlie Merritt tried out his experiment that is he attempted to but only went about five hundred feet when his leeward shear pole broke and it has been all over since.
                                        I do not look for much more sailing on the river this winter, as the ice is covered with about 15 inches of snow and the water in the river is very dirty from the heavy rains we had the fore part of winter, and unless we get a rain soon to wet this snow through and freeze solid the under ice will be gone. I do expect to get a lot of sailing yet on Orange Lake, and will keep you posted as to same.
                                   I wish I could sell all the Ice boats that I have as there is not much help around any more, with all the boys away to war. All a fellow wants is a little 125 ft front steerer weighing about 300 lb that he and a boy can put on and take off if there is a danger of a thaw and the ice breaker coming through, which you can’t do with heavy boats without help.
                                    We have not been bothered with any ice breakers for a long time, about all they are doing is keeping it open as far as Iona Island and for a spell that kept them busy.
             The ice above New Hamburgh is very heavy, piled up from the last time the breaker went through,4 and 5 feet high, so unless we get a very warm spell they will leave it alone.
                                  Time is dragging with me this winter. No steamboats, no ice boating, most old friends gone to war or working in defense plants, can’t hear the radio, or movies, loaded up with ice boats can’t build anymore, so about all I can do is read about the war. If things don’t change, I guess I will have to join the domino gang in the fire house.
                                Well I have given you what little ice boat news there is and there is very little else. So I will close, hoping this finds you and yours in the best of health.
                               Mrs. Drake is not very good this winter, I am about the same.

Very truly,
Frank V. Drake  

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Ice Yachting - a "Lively winter sport" January 1879

 A lively article from the Poughkeepsie Eagle in 1879. The Poughkeepsie Journal  (the current day name) has digitized all their issues going back to the early 1800s. One can search extensively for articles on ice yachting. I think this article captures the festive and colorful nature of ice yachting that still exists today. A great account of Grinnell sailing the centennial yacht Whiff up from New Hamburgh.  ( a copy of a scanned article from the Journal archives).

Monday, February 15, 2016

No Safe ice yet

Took a short walk out onto Tivoli South Bay Monday (2/15)  afternoon. Only found 3-4 inches of ice. Surface wan't too bad. Since then though, we have had over 2" of snow which will soon turn to sleet, then rain. Upcoming temperatures aren't looking too good to build any more ice. Orange Lake also had minimal ice thickness and a few holes still not frozen over. Will continue to monitor the ice.....

UPDATE 2/18 - torrential rains Tuesday and temperatures in the 50s did real damage to ice surfaces. News from Orange Lake as of Thursday 2/18 - the ice there is still unsafe. some drain holes have healed but there are still cracks, ridges and holes scattered about. Even with a few cold nights upcoming there will be temperatures this weekend in the 40s and nights that might not go below freezing. Not a good outlook for the next 5 days... I haven't been back to Tivoli bay,, but don't imagine that can be safe either)

(check new posts along the right side of this page on Club membership books and books on Ice boating; also see new post on a vintage Rudder magazine below)   

Ice checking crew...  2/15/16

A dusting of snow on surface of Tivoli South Bay.
3 cold nights only built 3-4 inches.

Had a nice skate today on my favorite local spot - Heron Swamp. It's just 3 miles from my house and I love this quiet little secluded piece of ice. This ice will be a mess by the morning...

Lots of dead trees, but it is a fun obstacle course to skate through.

Great Blue Heron nests toward the south end of this small swamp. 

Rudder, December 1901

I recently acquired an old issue of Rudder magazine. H. Percy Ashley wrote frequently on ice boating for Rudder from his home base at Orange Lake (outside of Newburgh, NY).  He created many ice yacht designs which Rudder published, which were used to build boats from Maine to the mid-west. He regularly reported on ice sailing around the country. I love the cover illustration he drew for this particular issue. There are some great photos as well.  It is amazing to discover that there were many ice sailing locations on out-of-the-way lakes. See the bits on ice sailing in Maine in 1901. Where are all those boats today??
These are all photos of images from this issue. 

Cover illustration by H. Percy Ashley. Note burgees of Hudson River Ice Yacht Club and the Orange Lake Ice Yacht Club.

Ice Yacht Scud, from the North Shrewsbury Ice Boat and Yacht Club.
This version does not sport the trussed plank that many NJ big yachts used. Scud raced against HRIYC yachts for the Ice Challenge Pennant of America on the Hudson. Pictures from those races show her with the trussed plank.

Ashley sketched this version of Blizzard, which was likely built on plans developed by Ashley.
She sailed out of Burlington, VT on Lake Champlain.

Archie Rogers yacht Mink.

Archie Rogers' yacht Ariel. This was arguably one of his favorite smaller yachts.   In addition to the rig shown here, Rogers also rigged Ariel as a lateen boat; as a cat -rigged boat; and as a standard sloop rig. She still sails today, sloop-rigged.

You remember Harvey Lake, right?

Rogers was from Hyde Park and built many yachts for members of the HPIYC.

Sailing on Lake Champlain. See club boat listing below for Blizzard dimensions.

Amazing fleet of boats, near Bar Harbor, ME.
There were many big ice yachts in Maine at the turn of the century. 

Great example of a lateen-rigged yacht, Flying Fox carries 238 sq ft of sail. She sailed with the Kingston Ice Yacht Club of Canada (near Toronto).  

Roster of the Excelsior Ice Yacht Club; Quite a few ice yachts out of Burlington 115 years ago! 

From the magazine's ads:


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Hyde Park Ice Yacht Club sailing, early 1900

I was gathering some photo images for an upcoming talk this weekend at Frederic Church's historic site Olana, near Hudson, NY.  I found many great shots in the files I have that came from the FDR library in Hyde Park. Many of these are from Archie Roger's photo scrapbooks that are archived at the library.  Thought I would post a few of my favorites....

Boathouse at Bard Rock, circa 1900. Jack Frost center.

I think this may be posed... Allons rounds the stake with Bessie close behind. Note the Hyde Park Ice Yacht Club burgee atop the racing marker.  Allons , built in 1899, was owned and raced by H.B. Sleight of Hyde Park. She has 182sq ft of sail. Tom Gilbert acquired her at some point in the 40s. George Vengrin of Rhinebeck is current owner. Bessie was built by Samuel Rogers of Hyde Park. Rogers (no relation to Archie Rogers) built several Hyde Park boats, including the Ogden Mills yacht Beatrice.  His old tool chest is in storage with many ice yacht bones in an old barn at the Mills-Norrie State Historic Site.

Nansen. Owned and sailed by State Senator Thomas Newbold. Newbold was FDR's neighbor and commodore of the HRIYC in 1908, the year FDR was vice-commodore.
George Buckhout built this  283 sq ft sloop in 1899, experimenting with 
a marconi-like "leg-o'-mutton" sail.  (photo by J.Sterling Bird, of Hyde Park)

Lateen Rigged Yacht Dutchess;
  The Lateen-rigged yacht Dutchess was built in 1899 by George Buckhout for Albert E. Tower of Poughkeepsie. (Tower was noted in a 1907 NY Times article (about his pending divorce, of course) as being worth over $5 million.) Tower also owned the famous Great Scott, nee Robert Scott, the re-designed sloop that came down from Athens in 1881and beat Icicle. 
Thus began the design change of most all Hudson River ice yachts.
Shortly after finishing Dutchess, Buckhout built what may have been a sister ship - FDR's Hawk.  Dimensions and sail area (286 sq ft) were virtually identical for the 2 lateen-rigged boats. Dutchess raced actively through the early years of the 1900s.  On Valentine's Day 1902, Ariel, Dutchess, and Hawk raced an 8 mile course, with Archie Rogers's Ariel winning.

Archie Roger's sixth class yacht Mink.
Archie Roger's sixth class yacht MinkMink was the smallest of Archie Rogers' ice yachts at 22 ft in length and just 199 sq ft. Note the high hoist on the rig, 
(leg-o-mutton rig?) creating a marconi-style mainsail.. The Rogers' ice yacht collection as of 1909 included MinkMuskrat and Otter. (among others...) 

Herman Livingston Rogers
Archie's son, Herman Livingston Rogers, had an ice boat even smaller than Mink.
Cyclone is 19 and a half feet in length and at the time was recorded as having 90 sq ft of sail.
Today I sail her with about 200 sq ft. I acquired Cyclone from an old timer in Kingston who got her from a
 Hyde Park auction in the 40s.  Herman, age 9 here,  looks on as Cyclone is rigged, getting ready to sail.

HPIYC Commodore Edward H. Wales'  Meteor

Meteor belonged to Edward H. Wales, of Hyde Park, commodore of the Hyde Park Club in 1909.
Meteor, built in 1899, was 21 feet with 175 sq ft of sail.
Race records show that Club measurer Frank Cleary was usually at the helm of Meteor in Club races.

topsail rig??
Last image for this post....
The only topsail rigged sail plan I've seen on a Hudson River ice yacht.
This is definitely an older design - note long boom off the stern and mast stepped over the runner plank.
Would topsail provide any better balance?