Sailing Continues All Winter Long - Ice Boating on Skeeters

Sailing Continues All Winter Long - Ice Boating on Skeeters

Skeeters are know as "big and fast." There are three Skeeter classes:
Class A. Single or two-place tandem with mast height limitation.  May have more than one cockpit.
Class B.  Two place side-by-side.
Class C. Single place, two place tandem, or two place side-by-side with mast height limitation of 20' off the deck.

C Skeeter "Rush"

Ice Boater Brett Larson offered the following this week: "It is just like surfing.  Once you try it, you can get hooked.  For racing there are usually wind limits of 25mph and air temperatures above 0-10 degrees."  This is good to know.

Most Class A Skeeters are home built.  But due to evolution of design, the number of "competitive" boats has grown small.  However there are a lot of less competitive A Skeeters around, one recently sold for $2,800 at the Swap Meet at Lake Geneva.

There's a spin-off group called the Boecraft B Skeeters.  These were all built by Bill Boehmke.  This group also includes B Skeeters designed and built by Bob Pegel.  It appears that tolerances are more controlled by this class, and they allow a skipper to build his own boat.  It appears that this provides some attempt at cost control.

B Skeeters Racing

There's a lot of technical stuff and to fully appreciate the latest thinking of designs in Skeeters, all need to get a fair amount of experience to learn the nuances before building your own, or buying a new one from a builder.

Nites (prior article) qualify as C Skeeters, even though they only have 57 s.f. of sail area.  DN's do not qualify, they have too much roach on their sail.

The Skeeter is the most advanced class of ice boats arguably.  They are about 32' long, 22' wide with a 27' mast and one of the only real limits in this class is that the sail area is 75 s.f. with maximum roach of 12 inches.

Most Skeeters are steered by foot pedals and have an auxiliary steering wheel mounted on deck in front of the cockpit to steer the boat when pushing it around.  Some Skeeters have a tiller connected to the front runner.

They have open or closed cockpits and the mast can be in front of the cockpit or behind. Some have curved closed cockpit windows (this sounds comfy from cold windchill temperatures).  It is an open design and people try all sorts of variances on theme.

Here are a mixture of A and C Skeeters (I think you can tell the difference, those A's look pretty Treky!)

You can build your own, or buy a used one mainly found on the internet.  Most are for sale between $3,500 - $5,500 and one with a trailer is currently listed for $11,500.

International Skeeter Association

Larson also added that, "Two racing rules that are different from soft water sailing are:

  1. Upwind boats always have rights over downwind boats regardless of port/starboard.
  2. Downwind, the windward boat has rights over the leeward boat.

These come from mainly safety issues due to the maneuverability and visibility.  A full set of the Right of Way Rules on the www.iceboat.org website.

The Three Kings of Ice Boating: Buddy Melges, Bill Mattison & Peter Harken show how much fun Ice Boaters can be -

For safety's sake, Ice Boaters wear warm winter clothing that can handle exposure to high wind speeds, goggles, spiked shoes to push off with, helmet (motorcycle type), an inflatable life jacket and 2 ice picks.

What are those last two items for? A few times each winter someone will sail into open holes in ice into the freezing water. You need to be able to pull yourself back up onto firm ice. While tests are performed on ice for thickness, water springs and birds can keep water moving in spots which makes ice thinner in those area. You can't test the thickness of a whole lake.

Using Ice Picks to Quickly Get Out of the Water

Where would you start? Where would you see if this is for you? Where would you find a decent Skeeter to buy for yourself?

  • Simply show up on a day at the lake that they are ice boating. How? On a Friday, call this phone number 608.204.9876 and get a pre-recorded message where the Ice Boaters are meeting up that weekend to go sailing and drive there. Go out on the ice, and strike up a conversation. Explain that you would like to give sailing on an iceboat a try, many will loan your their boat on the spot. Ask how you can get some help buying your own boat.

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