Flying on Ice — Iceboating on the Frozen Hudson River

Photo: Issac Kestenbaum

Photo: Issac Kestenbaum

Not all sailors in the Northeast are sick of winter. For some ice boaters on the Hudson, this has been a great season and isn’t over quite yet. Ice boating, or ice yachting, as some call it, is a cross between sailing, ice skating and drag racing. When the conditions are right, ice boats can achieve amazing speeds, sailing up to ten times faster than the speed of the wind. Some of the larger iceboats have topped 90 knots (170 km/h; 100 mph) and an unconfirmed speed of 130 knots (240 km/h; 150 mph) on one boat has been reported. Speeds of 30-40 knots are not considered unusual.

The sailing of ice yachts on the Hudson River dates back to 1790 and grew in popularity through the 19th century. The Hudson River Ice Yacht Club, the North Shrewsbury Ice Boat and Yacht Club of Red Bank, N.J. and other ice boating groups have been restoring the  grand old 19th century ice yachts.  The North Shrewsbury flagship, the Rocket, built in 1882, is 50′ long, and sets 900 square feet of sail.  After a decade long restoration, the Rocket sailed again this month for the first time in 100 years. The Jack Frost, the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club’s flagship, is of roughly comparable size and was built in 1892.  She too was out sailing again, in her case, for the first time in just over a decade.

Rocket Launch

Here is a podcast from Issac Kestenbaum of WNYC about sailing on the 100 year old ice boat, Hound.

Read more: A Foot of Ice on the Hudson? It’s a Good Time to Go Ice Yachting

Thanks to Bonnie for contributing to this post.

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