Thursday, December 9, 2021

Iceboating in New Hampshire

Rare are the right iceboating conditions – sufficient ice thickness – no snow on the ice – and a windy day.

This blog reflects on the uniqueness of two types of iceboats, terms of the sport, and includes a ride with an iceboater.

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. 

Tim, Steve, Dundee

Indeed, you must dress in layers for relative comfort at below-freezing temperatures and high winds. The driver of the iceboat is encouraged (required in races) to wear a helmet in case the boom hits the head, or the boat has a flip.

The first iceboat shown in the video is a DN Class iceboat, meaning the DN is a Class made to specific specifications (see below reference International DN.) The temperature at sailing was 28-degrees. The ice has frozen for the past week, and a few chisel holes into the ice showed the ice to be 3 – 4 inches thick – plenty of strength for ice boating – and smooth ice with no lingering snow.

The second iceboat is handcrafted by Dundee using skates, a broken hockey stick, and his summer sunfish boat sail. The temperature was 10-degrees, and the ice thickness more than 8-inches.  

Checking for Ice Thickness

Dundee uses a chisel to see how thick the ice is.

Microspikes – essential for walking on ice

The frequent crackling sound in the video is not the wind – it is the sound of microspikes as Steve walks on the ice. Microspikes offer serious traction on ice for walking and tasks such as pushing the iceboat.

“Let’s go iceboating!”

The DN Class Iceboat

The DN iceboat was given to Dundee by a friend.  The boat had been disassembled and stored in a barn for forty-plus years. It was re-assembled by Dundee.

Dundee has many creative skills – and the second iceboat is Dundee's handcrafted iceboat, made to his specifications (e.g., can fit two persons.) A special treat in this video is riding alongside Steve as he skims over Perkins Pond.

Below Video: One-minute peek of riding in an iceboat.

Below Video: The DN and Handcrafted Iceboats

Learn More About the Iceboats

For the DN boat, three 26-inches angle iron blades called "runners" support a triangular-shaped wooden frame with a front steering cane-shaped tiller. 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 the tiller. There is a backrest seat in the middle for the driver.

The mast for Dundee's custom iceboat is 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 custom boat uses an old hockey stick for the tiller with old ice skate blades for 10-inches runners. 

The DN Class boat has a sail specific for the DN boat. Dundee's boat is identified on the sail as DN 1792. A well-tuned DN can sail three times as fast as the wind speed.

The boat with sail weighs about 125 lbs.

Starting, Steering, and Stopping

The boat can be started by putting the boat sideways to the wind. You then pull onto the sail to capture the wind – and off you go.

The crafted 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, but it is said, an iceboat of the DN style can go twice the speed of the wind, i.e., with a 20-knot 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 precisely like sailing a boat in the summer.

Sailable ice is known in the sport as "hard water" versus sailing on liquid or "soft" water. Iceboats are strictly wind powered and need nearly snow-free smooth ice to sail.


 " Everyone must do something. I believe I will go outdoors with family and friends"


Steve’s books are available as hardcopy and e-Books at Amazon's Kindle and hardcopy at Harborside Trading Company, 81 Main St, Sunapee, NHWild Goose Country Store, 77 Main St, Sunapee, NHMorgan Hill Bookstore, New London, NH, Bookstore at Colby-Sawyer College, New London, NH, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Gift Shop, Lebanon, NH, and Village Sports, New London, NH.

  Outdoor Play has trip preparations, routes, and narratives of bucket list places to go. The book will motivate friends and family to make the outdoors a key component of their daily life. If you want 5 or more books signed, send Steve an email and we can work out the logistics. 

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