Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Iceboating in New Hampshire

Let's go iceboating!

It is a rare day in New Hampshire to get perfect conditions for iceboating. We need thick ice, meaning 4 inches or more of ice, and smooth ice – requiring no excessive ice cracks or ice berms, and minimal snow to stop or grab the steel blades.

The sun was bright. The temperature was 18 degrees, impacted by a biting 20 – 30 mph wind. I removed my glove only long enough to take pictures and short videos. I then immediately returned the hand to the glove's sanctuary for immediate relief for the frozen hand. 

Our location is Perkins Pond in Sunapee, New Hampshire.  From the middle of the Pond, we get a direct view of the magnificent Mount Sunapee.

A Rare Opportunity

Iceboating can be a unique experience. Once you get over the initial, "What am I doing here" feeling, you sense being one with the boat. You hear the wind in the sail and the rumble of the runners over the ice. Indeed, at 18 degrees, you must dress in layers for relative comfort.

Learn More About Dundee's Iceboat

Our good friend, Dundee, is a very creative and skilled person. Today he would share his personally crafted iceboat for us – Steve M, Leslie, David, and myself.

Three 10" angle iron blades called "runners" support a triangular-shaped wooden frame with a front steering tiller made from an old hockey stick. The blades are attached to the boat, one on each end of the rear cross plank and one at the fore-end of the hull. The runner blade in the front is capable of rotation controlled by a tiller (the sawed-off hockey stick). There is a backrest cushion seat in the middle for the driver.

Dundee drilled a sail posthole near the front of the boat. In the hole, he positioned the mast from his summer "Sunfish" sailboat. (A Force 5 or Laser sailboat mast will work just as well.) A rope is tied to the sail and used by the driver to control the sail.
The boat with sail weighs about 150 lbs.

Starting, Steering, and Stopping

The boat is usually started by putting the boat sideways to the wind. You then pull onto the sail to capture the wind – and off you go. Making a U-turn is a learned technique, as if you turn too slowly you eventually slow the boat and stop. Good luck getting it moving again with body humping inside the craft, or worst, getting out and pushing and returning to the boat with a jump while avoiding getting hit with the boom.

The boat is steered with the hockey stick tiller to direct the front runner.

The driver pulls or releases the sail via the boom rope to angle the sail to catch the wind. The only seeming limitations to iceboat speed are windage, friction, the camber of the sail shape, strength of construction, quality of the ice surface, the level of skill, athleticism, and fearlessness of the sailor. There are many styles of iceboats. It is said, an iceboat of this style can go twice the speed of the wind, i.e., with a 20-mph breeze, your iceboat can reach a speed of nearly 40-mph!

Tacking or coming about, is a sailing maneuver by which a sailing vessel turns its bow into the wind through the 'no-go zone' so that the direction from which the wind blows changes from one side of the vessel to the other. The tacking method gets the iceboat up and down the pond. Catching the wind on an iceboat in the winter is exactly like sailing a sailboat in the summer.

Microspikes – essential for walking on ice

Certainly the sound of the wind is obvious in the video. In addition, the frequent crackling sound in the video is not the wind – it is the sound of microspikes as we walk on the ice. Microspikes offer safety from slips and falls, and give serious traction on ice for walking and tasks such as pushing the iceboat. 

Enjoy the video of friends iceboating in New Hampshire.



  1. Always fun to see the ice boat in action!

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