Long before there were gasoline-powered engines, skillful iceboat sailors raced across the frozen Hudson River faster than the wind, at speeds approaching 60 miles per hour. Once, these narrow craft on blades were a common sight on the Hudson on the coldest days of winter. While today they are fewer in number and somewhat of a novelty, the tradition lives on, with a surviving core group of iceboat sailors still finding thrills on the river when it freezes over.
Iceboat sailor John Spurr will unveil the mysteries surrounding these fleet craft in a free talk at the Tivoli Bays Visitor Center, located at 86 Broadway in Tivoli, on Thursday, February 2 at 7:30 p.m. The talk is part of the monthly lecture series co-sponsored by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Research Reserve and the village, on topics related to the science, art, history and culture of the region.
Spurr will talk about the history of iceboating, the mechanics of iceboat design and the nuances of sailing them in different types of weather on various kinds of ice, drawing from his experience sailing on Tivoli South Bay and other popular sections of the river. “Iceboating is a very iconic part of Hudson Valley history,” said Jean McEvay, the Hudson River Research Reserve’s education coordinator, who started the lecture series in 2003. Anyone who has ever seen an iceboat – a couple are on display at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Home and Library in Hyde Park – gets an idea that the skinny craft were built for speed. Spurr will explain why iceboats are so fast and talk about iceboating in modern times, which involves navigating around shipping channels.
For more information, call (845) 889-4745, extension 105. The Visitor Center is wheelchair-accessible.