The Big Yachts have the best ice in 20 years

ROCKET sails for the first time in 100 years. (Picture borrowed from John Sperr's Hudson River Ice Yacht  website)

The cold winter put about 20" of ice on many miles of the Hudson River north of the Rhinecliff Bridge (Kingston NY).  A week ago they had a large gathering of these graceful old yachts.   John's website gives a comprehensive look at these wonderful craft.  John has links to  Glen Burger's video which provides a nice look at the boats in motion.  Dan Clapp's video: ROCKET Launch, provides a great virtual ride.

As of March 10 the ice was deteriorating rapidly and the boats are off the ice.  If we are lucky we will see have another cold winter soon. While you are on John's site, check out the Coast Guard Ice Flight pictures.  They give an interesting perspective on the ice and sailing on big tidal rivers with shipping traffic.

Click here for some excellent photos from Henry Bossett.



Ice physics for recreational ice-users


 Mårten Ajne  published a comprehensive guidebook on Nordic Skating, in Swedish in 2012.   A byproduct of that effort is his book on ice physics which is in English.  The combination of text, formulas,illustrations, charts, tables and math give the reader a detailed and sophisticated understanding of how ice behaves with an emphasis on ice used for skating. 

Front Cover


Back Cover

Getting these books to the US is a bit of a problem.  If you have a friend in Europe, that is probably the easiest way them.   Bokus will also ship to Canada. 


  Mårten skating on very nice ice in front of the Stockholm City Hall (where the Nobel Prizes are presented)




A Fishing Tale


While walking the dog near the Lake Champlain this morning I spoke with a couple of fishermen who were coming off the slushy, crusty ice with no fish to show for their effort.  Their sled was built from a sheet type sliding sled and a plastic box.  It is compact, light and manoeuvrable. I asked if they had ever used the life ring. 

The owner of the sled said he started carrying the ring about four years ago.  The first day out with it was on a cold day on Shelburne Bay.  He heard someone hollering for help and spotted a fishermen that had fallen through while trying to cross a pressure ridge.  A closer fishermen appeared to be hesitant to go to the mans aid(1) so he headed over with the ring and got the man out quickly.  About that time someone else showed up on a quad and took the wet fisherman back to shore.

In addition to being effective for rescuing fishermen he commented that it makes a nice seat cushion.

Bob  February 22, 2014

Comment (1):  A throw ring is a particularly good addition to a fishing sled.  As is described in the 2013 fatalities report, rescuing someone without a rope or something to extend to them is often unsuccessful, all too often resulting in a double fatality when the rescuer trys to pull the victim out from the side of the hole and ends up in the water to. The ring can provide substantial flotation and it can be arm gripped which are advantages over a throw rope. 


A few more Northern Sweden Pictures

Karl van der Voot sent a few more gorgeous pictures from Northern Sweden from earlier in the winter.  Mostly they are of very new ice.




A Proper Winter

The Palisades on the NY shore of Lake Champlain. 

We have had a great ice year on Lake Champlain. We have been able to skate to places we normally can't get to.  The ice has also taught us a few things:  It gave some people more respect for big ice and the reality that ice is constantly evolving.  The first half of the week the ice seemed stable and unchanging.  By the end of the week there were several tricky ridges, holes, wide wet cracks and leads.  These developed in a period of mostly cold weather.  This resulted in several swims over the weekend when reports of great skating unleashed a sizable weekend crowd.    One swim near the Palisades by an experienced skater who was looking at his camera while he skated onto a folded ridge.

This is the same ridge two days later. The plates have floated back making a loose plate ridge.

 Another fell through to the waist in a small ridge.  He had a dry suit on and was happy for it.  Another fell through to the waist in an 18" wide wet crack that looked a lot narrower than it was.  She made a quick exit and had a change of dry cloths, allowing her to continue on.

The wide wet crack is as wide as the distance between the poles. The white snow-catch ice over the crack is weak.


The most serious was a solo skater who skated into a large bird hole.  

This is the smaller of two holes that are kept open, at least in part, by large numbers of Geese and compression forces in the ice sheet. This one is about 50 ft wide and 150 feet long.He wore his red ice fishing claws around his neck.  They got lifted over his head as he fell in and once they loose they sank!  He got out by using his skating poles as ice claws.

Most ice claws made for ice fishermen are made with materials that cause them to sink if they get loose.

 He also lost one skate in the process, making getting back to shore difficult (he recommends always carrying foot traction -microspikes and yach tracks are examples). This was a clear affirmation about something we all know:  Skating alone provides great flexibility on when and where you skate but it provides  little safety margin if things go wrong as they inevitably will, sooner or later.