Standing Iceboater

Ice Boating in Leelanau County Michigan

Standing Iceboater, photo by Mark Smith

It’s 8 degrees right now in Traverse City, and while the weeklong run of wintry weather hasn’t been good for such popular pursuits as getting the garden ready, boxing up winter clothes and keeping your house from being declared a Cabin Fever Disaster Area, it has left the ice in many parts of the state just perfect for the sport of ice boating.

Northern Michigan AP News photographer John Russell is a Michigan in Pictures contributor and wrote Ice Boating: An Ancient Sport in a Modern World a few years ago. It begins:

Sailing on frozen surfaces is believed to have its roots in Northern Europe, where goods and people moved around the region on frozen rivers and canals, using simple sails and handmade boats.

The Dutch and others brought iceboating to the Hudson River valley and other places along the East Coast, where miles of frozen rivers made for great sailing during the winter months. Freight and people were commonly moved up and down the Hudson River in huge, slooped-rigged boats.

Ranging in length from 30 – 50 feet, the stern-steering boats are still raced today by the Northwest Ice Yacht Association, having recently celebrated its 100th anniversary.

The ancient sport of sailing on frozen lakes and rivers is alive and well in our state, which has a long and involved history in the sport. Innovations developed in Michigan have enhanced and improved iceboating.

During the winter of 1936-1937, in the hobby shop at the Detroit News, boat builder Archie Arroll, along with Norm Jarrait and Joe Lodge, designed an ice boat they called the Blue Streak 60. Designed to be small enough to build in a garage, and easy enough to be built by anyone, the 12-foot hull design became known as the DN 60, for Detroit News and the 60-square-foot sail.

It is now the largest one-design boat class in the world, with over 8,000 registered boats around the world.

Read on for more including our state’s role in international ice boat racing, some state clubs, safety tips and a couple of photos from John.

Mark took this shot earlier in the week on Lake Leelanau. View it background bigtacular and see more photos (and a couple videos) in his Ice Boats slideshow.

More Michigan iceboating on Michigan in Pictures!

The DN Ice Boat and the 2014 Central Regional Ice Boating Championship

DN hiking it, Elk Lake- Elk Rapids, Michigan

DN hiking it, Elk Lake- Elk Rapids, Michigan, photo by rickrjw

Last night I learned from my iceboating friend Andy that the 2014 Central Regional DN Iceboating Championship will be held this Saturday & Sunday (March 15-16, 2014) on West Grand Traverse Bay. The primary launch site will be the DNR launch at Hilltop Rd. and M-22, approximately 9 miles north of Traverse City and 5 miles south of Suttons Bay on the Leelanau Peninsula. More details at DNA America.

Wikipedia explains that the International DN is a class of ice boat:

The name stands for Detroit News, where the first iceboat of this type was designed and built in the winter of 1936-1937. Archie Arrol was a master craftsman working in the Detroit News hobby shop, and together with iceboaters Joe Lodge and Norman Jarrait designed a racing boat they called the “Blue Streak 60”, later to become known as the “DN 60”. In 1937 a group of 50 laymen worked with Archie in the hobby shop to produce the first fleet of the new iceboats. These first boats broke during the initial season, and after Norm and Joe modified the design to increase the strength, the group got back together to build a second set of iceboats in 1938.

This design, featuring a narrow, single-person cockpit, three steel blades in tricycle style arrangement and a steeply raked mast, remains to this day the most popular ice boat design in use.

…The class has a devout following. The International DN Ice Yacht Racing Association (IDNIYRA) is the governing body for the class. It publishes standards for boat design and allows enthusiasts to assemble for races and to share good ice locations. The DN is raced extensively in the northern United States, Canada, and throughout Northern Europe, with World Championships alternating between North American and Europe each year.

One of the reasons that the DN Ice Boat Class has become so popular over the years has been largely in part to how transportable and fast they truly are. With a steady 10-12 mile per hour wind and good ice conditions, the DN, when piloted properly, can reach speeds in excess of 50 miles per hour. And with just a 12-15 mile per hour steady wind, the DN ice boat can reach a readily attainable 55–65 miles per hour, providing a thrilling rush of purely unadulterated bone chilling wind powered ice sailing.

Rick took this photo of a DN on Elk Lake almost exactly 5 years ago, and March is prime season for ice boating in Michigan due to typical snow melts that lay the thickest ice of the year bare. GT Bay is nearly in my front yard and I can assure you that the ice is thick and almost like glass this year! View his photo bigger and see lots more in his Iceboating slideshow.

More ice boating on Michigan in Pictures including one of my favorite videos, Ice Boat vs Chevy!

Ice Boating on Lake Charlevoix

Gordon in his Nite- Lake Charlevoix, Boyne City, Michigan

Gordon in his Nite- Lake Charlevoix, Boyne City, Michigan, photo by rickrjw.

Yesterday we took a trip under the ice of Lake Charlevoix, so it was very fitting that this morning Rick shared a photo from the other side of the ice on Lake Charlevoix! Our recent warm spell has cleared the snow and smoothed the ice on many lakes in Michigan, and that has brought ice boaters out in force.

Sail Michigan’s Michigan iceboating page explains

There are some peculiarities to ice boating (ice yachting) which are not seen with “soft water” sailing. First, most iceboats carry a single individual (so the need for crew is removed), however two or more person boats do exist. Second, because of the speeds involved (iceboats in general can travel 5-10x wind speed), ice sailors wear protective gear, including helmets. Third, iceboats do not require standard ramps for launching. And lastly, an intimate knowledge of ice conditions and lake topography is essential for a safer experience (although ice boating cannot be made 100% “safe”).

The iceboating season can’t start until snow-free hard ice is established on the lakes, usually after Christmas.

Check this photo out background big in in Ricks Iceboating 2012 slideshow!

Here’s one of our favorite iceboating videos: Ice boat vs Chevy on Lake St. Clair!

And Go

And Go

And Go, photo by rickrjw.

…and have a good weekend!

Check this out bigger, in Rick’s DN Central Races Boyne City, Michigan 01/15-1/17/2010 set and for lots more of Michigan’s best ice boating action, head over to elklakeiceboating.com.

Magic: Ice boating in Michigan

2006_01_20icebt042

2006_01_20icebt042, photo by gretchdorian.

Gretchen Dorian has a great set of photos from a day of DN ice boating at Indian Lake State Park near Manistique. – makes a great slideshow!

Michigan has a long history of iceboating. The Detroit News’ excellent Rearview Mirror series includes Sailing on Lake St. Clair’s icy winter winds. They write that ice boating or ice yachting began over 4000 years ago in Northern Europe and was a source of entertainment in Michigan lumber camps. DN IceboatThe article also relates what the “DN” you see on so many ice boat sails stands for:

During the winter of 1936-37, in the sawdust covered hobby shop of the Detroit News, master craftsman Archie Arroll along with ice boaters Joseph Lodge and Norman Jarrait designed a racing ice boat they called the Blue Streak 60. Later the craft would come to be called the DN 60, the DN standing for the Detroit News, and the 60 referring to the size of the sail. Howard Boston, whose family remains in the sailing business, helped construct the first sails. (Doyle Boston Sailmakers of Holland)

Ice Boating Timeline reminds us not to forget about the other side of the state and Gull Lake and (as usual) Wikipedia can tell you more about iceboats & iceboating.

Update: I was just sent a nice video featuring Jack Jacobs (owner of Magic) talking about ice boating.