Sunday, February 21, 2021

Incredible Day at Athens 2/21/21 Check ice conditions------>


Photo courtesy of Bob Wills

Beautiful sunshine; good wind (shifty winds with sudden puffs, but less intense as Saturday); there were 2 more DNs and 2 Arrow class boats.  The large expanse of ice got a lot smaller today with many boats, people, dogs, kite skiers and even more people.  You needed to be very alert to keep clear of the throngs.  All went well!  also... Hot pancakes and muffins;  an impromptu accordian-tuba band; Spinning tops; lots of smiling faces.  A glorious day on the ice! 

Steve's Boreus; took many guests for fast rides! 

Greyhound - Her first sail with new caretaker John. Fine day sailing with family & friends! 

Took a nice late afternoon sail on Vixen. Sail plan looks a bit different from this angle.  Vixen's owner, Reid,  again gave many many rides to young & old alike. John A. Roosevelt's yacht, built in 1885. 

You never know what might materialize at an Ice Yacht gathering....  accordions and tuba serenade the ice boaters...  ( You may remember the Brass Band at Astor Point in 2014)

and giant spinning wooden tops! care of Paul ... 

Breakfast Crew provided pancakes, muffins, bacon & coffee...  photo courtesy of Bob Wills


Boats wrapped up tight in the cove.  Maybe more sailing in days to come??  Will watch ice conditions this week - always ready to mobilize quickly if we need to get boats off the ice.  

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Athens - 2nd weekend 2-20-21

 A large crowd gathered on the ice in the cove behind the historic Van Loon  House in Athens on Saturday. The snow left from the storm of Thursday-Friday reduced to about 2 inches. The brisk winds helped the boats runners cut through the fluffy snow well.  Boats navigated in gusty and shifty winds, making for some tricky sailing with a steady hand on the tiller and keen readiness for wind shifts. Some folks were able to catch a ride, and Reid gave a steady stream of on lookers fast rides on Vixen. Puff caught a strong gust resulting in a tear in her old mainsail. We'll have to locate another 250 sq ft mainsail to get her up and running again.

The marconi-rigged Boreus (circa 1924)  arrived, bringing the total number of stern steerers to six.  There were 2 DN class bow steerers, an Arrow, and a Lockley skimmer. It was a lovely day on the ice, with Chef Kendall brewing up a pot of hot dogs. 

Another day on the ice Sunday! 

The boats are in a nice protected cove with easy access. Close to a hundred folks came and went over the morning & afternoon.
     2 seater Arrow class.  

Vixen, Dan the kite skier, Puff, Mary Ellen
Puff just wrapped up her mainsail after it tore. 

 Vixen, Mary Ellen, Puff (earlier) 

Friday, February 19, 2021

Wednesday at Athens...from above!

Some beautiful images from Wednesday, 2/17/21
Aerial photos courtesy of Daniel Spitzer 

These photos courtesy of and copyrighted by Daniel Spitzer. 

And, here's some great drone footage of Flare on the Athens ice sheet, 2/17/21.  
Many Thanks to Derek Brown for sharing. 

Video courtesy of Derek Brown

Another great video, courtesy of Jesse Turnquist 

Waiting out the latest snow...


 Greyhound (circa 1905), with her new caretakers arrived Thursday. She is originally from the Huntington estate in Staatsburgh.  There was no wind & no sailing.  3-4 inches of snow fell Thursday into Friday. Will be seeing if surface recovers enough to be back out on the weekend.

Meanwhile, here is a movie made by Sam Sebren, with footage from the last time we sailed Athens in 2009. Ice Boating in Athens.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

"In Their Own Words" - Ice Boating narratives - courtesy of Dutchess County Historical Society. Ice conditions--->

Picture image from PPLD

another boat, just south of the RR Bridge - circa 1890s ( photo via Bob Wills)

The Dutchess County Historical Society has been digitizing some of their books and putting them on line. I recently stumbled on In Their Own Words - Telling Dutchess County History.  I had seen this book in the past - Reid Beilenberg had a copy - it contains a chapter on ice boating reminiscences by various ice sailing figures from the 1800s.  There are some great first person narratives from Norman Wright, John A. Roosevelt, and Archie Rogers, along with other Poughkeepsie figures or journalists.  excerpts follow:

Norman Wright was a skilled ice boat skipper who sailed in many of the early races for the Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant, at the helm of his yacht  AEolus. He was a well known rower and sportsman in Poughkeepsie in the late 1800s: this is from 1887 on his scull on the Hudson.  Pok Library

John A.Roosevelt talks about his daughter Ellen, who is a skilled skipper. Archie Rogers talks about the challenges of downwind sailing. A journalist tells of getting a ride on Vixen on a blustery day.  

There's another short story about getting a ride with Lewis Buckhout on his boat Willie. Lewis would

set up at the foot of Main Street and give folks a ride on his iceboat (not sure if he charged!) 

I have seen ads for his services in old news clippings. A brief news report from 1886.: 

In Their Own Words

You can purchase your own copy at DCHS

Visit the Dutchess County Historical Society for more Dutchess County history. You can access some of the yearbooks that have articles on Ice Yachting.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Athens, Happy Valentines Day!

Well, the wind was not fresh today! Nary a puff came up till a few late afternoon teases. Still, it was a wonderful day on the ice with many visitors. It was nice to be with people again (distanced and masked, for the most part) and see old friends. I ran into one old timer who lives in Athens and recalled iceboating here  60 years ago.  No new boats arrived and talk was about what to do with upcoming storms. For the time being boats are battened down and we may move them on Monday up to Hagers Harbor, a quarter mile north, to ride out the upcoming weather. 

Sails up, wind down.  

Vixen, chasing a light breeze, late afternoon, Valentines Day.  MaryEllen in background.

following photos courtesy of,  and copyrighted by Robert Near.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

A day at Athens-on Hudson!

 I finally got up to Athens today. Conditions are good still- 5-6 inches of ice with an inch of dry snow on top. We sailed a roughly 1/2 mile wide by 3/4 mile long stretch on the west side of Middle Ground Flats - the "island" that separates Hudson & Athens. This stretch comes in now and then as the channel - and  River traffic -  travel the east side. We had great sailing here in 2001 & 2009.  

By the end of the day there were 6 antique stern steerers and several dns; Good friends Glen & Daniel Kite Skied the sheet. We look to get a dusting of snow overnight, though wind forecast is not looking too good Sunday.  Boats will be out regardless.

There was some nice sailing today. The wind came and went and there were some lulls. Still, many folks who wandered onto the ice got their first iceboat ride.  Out on the ice were Vixen (1885), Icicle ( circa 1920s); Puff (1872ish), Lady (1940s?); Mary Ellen (1870s)  & Commodore Bob's new Herreshoff designed boat were fully rigged as the day came to a close. 

The week ahead looks to be snowy, but potential warming and rain at the end of the week may give us good conditions next weekend.  Stay Tuned...

Mary Ellen ( circa 1875)  and Vixen ( 1885)  These 2 boats raced in 1968 on Orange Lake for the Hudson River Challenge Pennant.  At the end of the day , Vixen took pennant home. 

New addition to Hudson River fleet.  Commodore Bob's stern steerer, designed by Herreshoff.  

Chris, New Skipper of Mary Ellen.  John Vargo was long time owner of Mary Ellen. John found "Wildcat" in the rafters  of a railroad shed in Ossining in the earl 60's.  He renamed her MaryEllen, after his wife. John sailed her for 40 years, winning many races on Orange Lake in the 60s and 70s. Ironically, Mary Ellen last sailed Athens in 2001 and afterwards was stored in a warehouse there. Chris & Annika recently acquired her and here she is rigged for the first time in 20 years, back on Athens ice!  

 Mary Ellen's design points back to the 1870s, based on the wooden side-rails and mast step placement. She's had some modifications over the years.  

Young adventurer and his dad getting a sail on Vixen with Reid.  We need young sailors!!

Icicle, a D class stern Steerer from the New Jersey Ice Boat and Yacht Club.  Skipper Mike has brought Icicle  up to the Hudson Valley several times to sail in recent years.  This Icicle is from the 1920s.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Super Bowl Sunday -- Vixen Launched! See updated Ice Conditions--------->

Murderers Creek, Athens NY February 7, 2021.    All Photos courtesy of and copyrighted by Robert Near. 

Athens Update 2-8-21 
Yes, Vixen is set up and ready!  She is also awaiting a few more nights of good cold to add more thickness to the ice in that location. It is unlikely she will venture out this week. There is forecast for snow tomorrow & the overnight temps have gone up some over last few days.  We are taking it a day at a time and will assess Friday-Saturday whether it is safe to set up more of the fleet here.  Lows near zero are forecast for early next week, which may give us assurance of enough ice in that area. This post is not an invitation to bring boats - we will continue to watch the conditions and get the news out when the ice feels safe. Still monitoring other locations as well. Tivoli Bay had a good report but the ability to access the South end is hampered by deep snow.  Stay tuned! 

Feb. 7:     Hudson River Ice Yachts are back on the Hudson River.  Reid B. & crew set up Vixen on the river near Athens.  A recent cold snap, snowstorm, and saturation built up just enough solid ice to launch. Upcoming cold this week should further build thickness. If we don't get too much snow later this week Vixen could be set for some fine sailing next weekend.   

Vixen, built in chelsea, by the Merritt brothers in 1885. Owned and sailed by John A. Roosevelt for many years.
Vixen, a lateen-rigger ice yacht, was built in 1885 in Chelsea ( Low Point) by the Merritt Brothers. It raced several times for the Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant of America. It was owned and sailed by FDR's uncle John A. Roosevelt for many years.  

Many thanks to photographer Robert Near  who has generously shared his ice yachting images with me over the years. 

The predicted cold - with several night of single digits late this week, should help build ice and not lead to the rapidly deteriorating ice we faced 3 years ago in Athens.  

With river traffic on the east side of Middle Grounds Flats, we have had some good winters on the ice sheet between Athens and the Flats. 2009 images here.