Saturday, November 26, 2016

Ray Ruge

Ray was known as the Mr. Ice Boat.  He was active from as early as 1937 right through until his death, of cancer, in 1986. Ray designed, built and raced ice boats.  He wrote prolifically about the sport: Encyclopedia entries; regular articles for Yachting magazine; stories in Boys Life and many other magazines and news columns in local papers. Ray corresponded with sailors around the world.  His archives contain fascinating letters with Carl Bernard, of Wisconsin and Frank Drake, elder ice yachtsman who skippered boats for John A. Roosevelt. Ray built ice boats, and restored or uncovered dozens of historic stern steerers. One of his most important contributions, in my opinion, was reviving the interest in the old historic yachts. He was instrumental in locating, and getting back on the ice, dozens of old yachts that had been lying unused for years. He led restoration efforts on historic yachts including Whiff, Puff, Ariel, and Jack Frost. He sailed and raced Archie Rogers' Ariel, and John A. Roosevelt's Vixen.  He mentored young sailors who continue his passion with ice yachts to this day. Ray helped to revitalize the old Hudson River Ice Yacht Club, reorganizing it in 1964. His favorite bow steerer - Charette, is now part of the New York State Museum.  He would be proud of the recent acquisition and restoration of the Buckhout-built ice yacht Manhasset. He rubbed elbows with ice sailors who raced for the Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant of America - The Merritt Brothers of Chelsea; Frank Drake from New Hamburgh; George Buckhout of Poughkeepsie. He located the original Ice Yacht Challenge pennant and started that race back up after it sat idle for almost 30 years. He organized that race for a new version of the pennant ( the original went to the FDR Library & museum in Hyde Park). He raced (though lost) in that 1951 race on Greenwood Lake.  Ray also located and helped organize a race for the Van Nostrand Challenge Cup in 1978. It had been raced for only one time previously - in 1891 on Orange Lake.
Ray left us way too early. I never met him, getting involved in this sport about 7 years later. His collected archives are housed at the Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston NY. It is a valuable trove of the history of the sport.
There is a lot more to Ray's life and recollections of readers would be most welcome. If you get a chance, make an appointment at the Museum to look through his archives. It is worth a few hours to immerse yourself in history of the sport.
some images from his life...

Ray took to the ice early. An undated photo (circa 1920) with his mom.

Ray founded the Hudson-Highland Ice boat club.
They sailed out of Piermont on the west side of the Hudson.

Ray was affiliated with the Orange Lake Ice Yacht Club.
That club's roots went back to 1889.
Here he is at their 1939 awards dinner. (Ray 3rd from left)

I believe this was at the EIYA race in 1970 at Croton. sitting on the plank of Ariel.

Ray raced actively throughout the late 30s and 1940s.
He captured many C class races aboard his bow steerer Charette.

Racing on Orange Lake, NY, 1939.   C-1 is Ray's boat Charette.

"Ice Chips" was a column on winter sports - mainly ice boating,
that Ray wrote for a local paper in the 40s.
He was always trying to bring new folks into the world of ice yachting.

His beloved Charette, getting ready for shipment to the NYS Museum in Albany, 1975.
It was on display there for many years; It is in storage at this time.

The EIYA was a member association of ice yacht clubs in the northeast.
Member clubs were from NJ, Long Island, upstate NY, CT.  Ray was instrumental in the establishment of the EIYA.
EIYA pretty much ceased to exist in the late 1990s.

Puff. Irving Grinnel's old yacht, circa 1870. Ray got a group of Hudson Valley sailors
to restore and sail Puff in the mid 1960s. He located her in the old Grinnel Barns in New Hamburgh.

Ray aboard Charette.

Ray wrote regularly on ice-boating in Yachting magazine.

Icicle was the first bow steerer that Ray built. anyone know where this lake is? 

a brief video of Ruge, during a work party session on the renovation of Jack Frost, in 1972.

Early video footage of Ray Ruge sailing. Thanks to Chickawaukie Ice Boat Club in ME, for finding and uploading this.

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