With most of the local venues and businesses on Block Island sutting down for the winter months, the island becomes a bit of a ghost town. There is a limited ferry schedule making it difficult for people to get off the island for recreation activities. With that being said local islanders take to the ice. Families strap their skates on for fun weekend hockey games and for the thrill seeker they begin ice boating.
I had never heard of Ice Boating until I moved to Block Island this past spring. Growing up on the ocean my family took to sailing during the summer months, so with the Passion of boating in my blood the idea of boating during the winter sparked my curiosity. I began going down to the the ponds on the weekends and observing the thrilling sport. possible about the sport. I began asking the boaters information about the activity and this is what I have learned.
Please click on link to view an ice boating video www.youtube.com/watch?v=yC45QJOn8G0
An Ice boat is strictly powered by wind and needs relatively snow free ice to sail. Luckily for the ice boaters on Block Island most of the snow that has been hammering down on New England has avoided landing on the island or due to high wind conditions it has blown off the island and into the ocean, making ice conditions and wind great for ice boating. An ice boat is a a hull attached to a perpendicular cross piece called a runner plank. There are three skates, or runners, attached to the boat one on each end of the plank and one on the force end of the hull. Below is a drawing of the top view of an ice boat showing the the hull and the runners.
There are different classes of ice boats. The Dn is a small, light and relatively inexpensive boat. it offers fun performance and very competitive sailing. Although it is not as fast as the larger ice boats many ice yactors experienced or not find the DN to be a very satisfying boat.
The Nite ice boat is a newer design that was introduced in 1976. The Nite combines a side-by-side fiberglass hull. It is a very versatile day sailor/ racer. It is compact in size and very light weight.
The Renegade is a very spirited Ice yacht. It is offers lots of power but in a small package. It is light and small enough to put on the roof rack of a car. It has been a true trend setter since coming out in 1947.
The Skeeter is the "Formula one" of ice boats. Instead of being a rear seater like most ice boats the Skeeter is the only front seater they are built out of high tech materials such as Carbon and Kevlar. They are super powerful and are the fastest boat on the ice. They are the most challenging boat to skipper.
The Stern Steerers, Known as the big boats. This is where ice boating began. They are fly jib and steer from the stern. They only have a resemblance of their ancestors but have been updated in performance design. With modernized hardware and improvements with aerodynamic rigging allowing the Stearn steerers to out class its ancestors.
Ice boats will reach speeds up to five times higher than the wind speed. This depends on a few factors such as conditions, the design and class of the ice boat. The reason why ice boats reach high speeds is because of the low friction between the runners and the ice and also because of the sail shape. The sail acts more like vertical wing that a sail. The smaller DN class of ice boats reaches speeds between 50-60 mph and the ultra modern class A (formula 1 class of ice boats)reach speeds over 100 mph.
Ice boats do travel at high rates of speed and do not have breaks. Stopping an ice boat is not a huge challenge, to stop an ice boat the skipper must steer the boat directly into the wind. To slow the ice boat down by easing the sheet rope (the rope that controls the sail shape). Ice boats do have parking breaks for when they are stopped but the break can only be engaged when the boat is at a complete stop.
Any activity involving high rates of speed has the potential for disaster. If you learn how to properly sail an ice boat, sail by the established right or way rules, always use common sense, properly maintain your equipment and only boat during safe conditions (stay off the ice when it is not safe). Ice boating can be a safe sport.