Link to the International Detroit News Ice Yacht Racing Association web site. This is part of their logo, designed by Evert Vanderberg.
Iceboating On Barnegat Bay
My First Close Encounter
Saturday, January 13, 2001
Lavallette, New Jersey

     While inspecting the work in progress on the replacement bulkhead at the Ocean Beach lagoon, I overheard some club members talking about an iceboat regatta in Lavallette. Seeing as it was getting later in the afternoon, I thought there might be the possibility of getting a sunset picture or two for the Sandpiper.
     By the time I arrived, the sun was getting low, the "big rigs" were all disassembled, and most of the smaller wooden iceboats were gathering near the beach. Small groups had formed and the conversations were spirited. Refreshments were being consumed.
     Threading my way through the crowd of people and hardware, I found myself drawn to where the hi-tech rigs were lined up waiting to be loaded in their trailers. The smaller identical boats had a salty, "Popular Mechanics" kind of feel to them. This baby was pure space program.
     My first socioeconomic observation was that the ice-boaters had, consciously or subconsciously, arranged themselves in ascending budget order, with the T-head dock being the base line.
     Maybe the real reason was just to allow truck/trailer combinations like this monster some extra maneuvering room. I'd like to think it was simple vehicular courtesy, rather than the sort of budgetary elitism that seems to permeate hardware intensive activities like this.
     That's not to say that given the opportunity, and the checkbook, that I wouldn't have an iceboat like Rick Stavola's Mona Lisa, and one of those great trailers to transport it in.
Maybe room for two...

     These boats are sophisticated marvels of design and construction. I wouldn't be surprised to find titanium and carbon fiber used in their construction. The front blade is steerable, and mounted on springs to absorb vibration.
     Function may dictate form, but no effort is spared to achieve fair lines and fine finish. Close inspection reveals signs of repair and plenty of battle damage. Seventy miles per hour on the ice causes a lot of wear and tear on these boats.
     Looking as out of place as oar locks on a jet plane, the winch reminds us that these are sailing craft, and don't actually fly. Seeing them without their masts, sails or rigging could give one the impression that they were engineered for flight. .
     Back near the dock, the crowd of DNs is growing as the last boats left on the ice wander back to the beach. DN is a class boat, with over 2000 members worldwide, and over 1000 members in North America.
     DN stands for Detroit News. This was apparently the winning iceboat design in a competition sponsored by The Detroit News, A newspaper in, not surprisingly, Detroit. This is a sport that seems to have grown up in the Midwest and Canada. .
     The DN is twelve feet long with a hull twenty-one inches wide. The runner plank is eight feet long, and the boat rides on three steel runners, which are carefully removed from the boat, sharpened, oiled, and stored in wooden boxes after sailing.
     Masts sixteen feet long carry sails of sixty square feet. They're constructed of beautifully finished wood and can sail with one person aboard at two to four times the speed of the wind, normally around sixty miles per hour.
     As the sun gets closer to the horizon, the last few diehards make their way back to the beach before the wind dies. Anyone who has sailed a boat on Barnegat Bay has experienced that. An iceboat can be coaxed along with the push of a finger should the wind die but it could be a long cold walk. .
     The DNs glide gracefully in from the ice, moving much faster than you would expect them to be moving as they approach the crowd of other boats in various states of undress and disassembly back in the cheap seats by the dock. .
     It's a graceful event up to the last few seconds, when the ice boater hangs his feet over the side to create enough drag to slow and stop his seemingly runaway DN. Some do nearly crash into the earlier arrivals at the beach. This breach of protocol seems to be tolerated for the sake of the community. .
     Are you interested? I am. A used "recreational" DN might be had for $1,000.00 from a Canadian seller. This is a nice group of people to join for the price of a big television. A used race rigged DN with spare parts and trailer might be had for $4,500.00 or more.
     It's hard to witness the end of this event and not want to participate... If only to be out on the ice as the sun is setting and the stories are being told and the plans are being made for what is to happen as soon as the boats are back on the tops of the cars, or loaded in their trailers.

Link to the International Detroit News Ice Yacht Racing Association web site. This is part of their logo, designed by Evert Vanderberg.
iceboating On Barnegat Bay
Not My Last Close Encounter
     One thing I don't need now is another hardware intensive hobby. Where I put the equipment is the least of the many concerns. The nice thing about iceboating is there doesn't seem to be an age limit. It is an exciting activity but not a particularly strenuous one. We have the whole rest of our lives to consider it. Of course... Maybe a partnership... Nope, not just yet.

     Anyone interested in learning more can visit the IDNIYRA ( International DN Ice Yacht Racing Association ) website put together by Paul Goodwin. Paul has put together a great website and, based on my limited Email contact with him, seems like a great guy. Paul also has a personal website devoted to DNs and iceboating that's well worth visiting.

     Another very good source of local information can be found at North Sails Of New Jersey's website hosted by The site has a great page of iceboat photos and a collection of vintage postcards with local iceboating scenes from the past.

Pray For Ice!

Copyright 2001, 2009 Chandler H. Johnson