Ice Yachts! No, just kidding, these are tugs spotted during tugspotting/sightseeing break en route to South Tivoli Bay. The Coast Guard runs icebreakers to keep the channel open in the winter, but our tugspotting experts (Tugster & Jeff) said that tugs frequently work in pairs, one in front clearing the path for the one with the tow.
Esopus Meadows Light
Looking north along the Hudson.
Bowsprite, inspired to do a little icebreaking herself!
One more look north before we head north. Esopus Meadows Preserve is a Scenic Hudson park that used to be an industrial site. Jeff works for Scenic Hudson, lives up here, loves his job & was enjoying telling us all about the various parks & conservation easements we were passing - plus he knew some of the iceboaters! I'd thought to let him know we were coming up just because I thought it would be fun for him to join us - he ended up being our tour guide for the day (even arranged for a bald eagle spotting before we left his house)!
On to Tivoli Bay! Tugster sees iceboats!
Jeff & Bowsprite hurrying on down the path.
There they are!
Jeff & Bowsprite took the direct route.
The launch site.
Bowsprite had been going on all morning about how she was going to find "the lodge" - but before we knew it she was off for a spin on the Galatea, a newly restored yacht having her modern sailing debut. I shot a bit of video of the launch, and then, as they sailed off, I got fascinated by the rippled snow behind this log.
I've taken pictures almost like this of wind-rippled winter sand at Coney Island.
While I was looking at the snow, there was a crunching sound from far away. Tugster & Jeff had been watching the Galatea. They saw her stop - and then her sail went down. Somebody said "They've gone in" & everyone started heading for them. A minute later they were seen walking around - so the worst hadn't happened - but there was clearly something amiss & the migration out in their direction continued.
I joined the group that was going out, pausing to take a shot of these two lovely old boats (the Vixen and I think the 999).
The Wreck of the Galatea. You can't move very fast on foot on ice & they'd been pretty far out. We got there to find a broken boat. Bowsprite, the owner John, and a couple of people who'd gotten there before us had already gone to work derigging - they'd already taken off the mainsail & were proceeding with what had to be done. What a sad sight!
Bowsprit & the owner were both fine, but the boat looked horrifying. The cockpit, with it's beautiful curved rim, was snapped in two lengthwise -
The actual break, though, was right in the middle of the runner plank. There must have been some undetected dry rot. It sounds like the boat sagged first - John said that might have helped as the plank may have been dragging on the ice, slowing the boat before the final break. I couldn't get over how collected his passenger was, cheerfully coiling lines as though being in an iceboat wreck was something that happened to her all the time!
That's John, the owner, up at the bow. I was also amazed how calm he was, looking at the wreckage of who knows how many hours of work. But wood can be repaired - someone had been telling me earlier that one of the boats had a piece of new wood scarfed into the center of this same plank, and that the only damage that would mean the end of the boat was if her spine (that long, strong centerline) was broken.
She'll need many more hours in the workshop, but it sounds as though the Galatea will rise again.
But first, she had to be gotten back to shore.
More and more people were arriving & pitching in with breaking her down. It was really something watching the group work together as they tended to the fallen yacht.
Several boats waited to be loaded with sails, lines & other small bits. Here's the Vixen again, I've seen her on the Hudson River Ice Yacht club site & just found that lateen rig suspended between the a-frame mast arrangement to be so intriguing.
She has quite a history. She and a very few sister ships were built in NJ in 1885 & proved to be great racers.
She beat all of the most noted boats in the area. At the end of the race, John Rockefeller walked up to the owner with a fistful of cash & informed him that he would be returning to New Jersey without the Vixen. She's still amazing today.
Another beautiful old boat, the Puff. Again, circa late 1800's. There are some fun-looking newer boats, but these old ones are the ones I just couldn't stop looking at.
The dismantling of the Galatea continued. Both sails now off, shrouds & stays released & her mast unstepped.
Now it just remained to put the big pieces together so that she could be moved.
One of the sailors had sailed back to the lauch & brought back as much spare line as he could collect. The two pieces of the runner plank were overlapped & lashed together.
The spine was laid across them & also lashed in place.
Tugster with Floater - another old boat with another good story - I'll tell that closer to the end!
Front to back - Floater, Puff and Aurora - over 300 iceboat years in one picture.
Puff & Aurora
Utterly gratuitous "2 iceboats framed in the rigging of a 3rd" shot.
Meanwhile, the mast had been added to the jury-rigged reassemblage of the Galatea & a few final lashings applied -
Everything secured for the long push back -
loose bits were loaded on the waiting boats & so the various pieces of the Galatea were returned to shore.
and everyone got back to sailing!
More windblown snow & another branch. There was a lot of this kind of stuff in the bay. The iceboat runners can whip right over the smaller ones but the skippers had to do some good steering to avoid the bigger ones.
The day began to wind down. Dropping sails.
Eurasian water chestnut seeds embedded in the ice. Tugster & Bowsprite call them "devil seeds" - appropriate because: a. the spikes on the things are arranged in a pattern that makes the seed look like a little devil face, with two horns and a goatee; b. it's a horrible invasive plant & c. if you step on one barefoot or in light summer shoes, you will be in hellish pain.
More rippled snow - the lowering sun brings out the shadows.
And as the sun brought out the shadows, John Sperr, the Galatea's owner & the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club's webmaster, brought out a wonderful bottle of his very own wine (he's a professional winemaker & this was really something special) to toast the end of the day.
Bad focus, but one of the iceboaters had been wearing this implement around his neck all day. As he wore it, it resembled one of those springs you can use to build hand strength. When we inquired, he took off the short length of plastic tubing that covered & connected the two spikes. He calls it his "extractor" & it's sole purpose is so that in the event that the worst should ever happen (as we had momentarily feared had happened to John & Bowsprite, and a very chilling moment it was, pun seriously not intended), he has something to help himself get back up on the ice. We all drank to his never having to unsheath them in earnest.
And speaking of the worst happening - that's how Floater got her name, and her current owner, Doc, who is the friend of Jeff's who helped us coordinate this wonderful day. When the wine came out, I'd thought the day was over - but it wasn't quite, Doc offered Jeff a spin on the Floater & Jeff happily accepted (look at that smile).
Heading for the ice. Oh, yes, how the Floater got her name & Doc got to buy her: The last owner was out sailing one day. He hit some open water. Floater floated, kept sailing & got him back onto the ice- but his wife was so scared by his close call that she made him sell the boat. He sold her to Doc with one stipulation - if he ever wants to buy his boat back, he gets to.
Bowprite & I followed, snapping all the way...
Just call us the iceboat paparazzi!
The wind had picked up some & the end-of-a-perfect-day I'd thought I was seeing begin with the wine suddenly started looking like it was maybe not quite the end! Doc left his jib furled.
Another iceboater lowered the jib & put in a reef -
The Vixen headed back out -
A number of people bring their dogs along - the dogs were having the most wonderful time chasing each other around in the cold all day. This little poodle wanted to go for a ride with her owner!
A juvenile bald eagle appeared overhead
The wind began to moderate. Reefs were shaken out & jibs raised. Far far out on the ice, Floater stopped. Fearing a repeat of Bowsprite's misadventure, we made inquiries & were told "Oh, no, Doc just likes to get out & scout the ice sometime". Turned out they'd scouted & then had to raise the jib. As they got back, I was thinking that would be the end of the day - but then Doc suggested I go for a ride, not on Floater (the wind was a little too light for her to take too) - but maybe on...
...and just as he was saying "the Vixen", the Vixen pulled up beside us & her owner, one of the most experienced iceboaters in the club, asked me if I wanted to go for a ride. Well...earlier in the day, after the Galatea went down, I wasn't so sure. But I didn't hesitate for a split second in jumping aboard the beautiful old Vixen!
And it was absolutely spectacular.
The snowy spots that could bring some of the smaller boats to a standstill barely slowed her down. Smaller bits of wood, she hardly felt, and her owner, Reid, steered those wideset runners through the bigger obstacles with great skill.
On the clear ice, she flew. The acceleration was amazing - and so much smoother than I'd imagined. I'd started with my camera in my pocket, hanging on to the cockpit railing with both hands - but pretty soon it was one hand for the camera, one for the boat!
Back at the launch, Reid dropped me off, picked up a young iceboat fan & sped off for another round. I rejoined my friends with an ear to ear grin. I would've thought the day was perfect if it had ended with the wine - but it went on past perfect to...oh, can you get more perfect than perfect?
As we gathered our things to go & said our thank-you's & goodbyes, a few sailors were getting in a last lap or two.
But the day was definitely drawing to a beautiful end.
We helped carry parts up to the sailors' parking lot, then headed on towards Poughkeepsie. We paused for a look at Norrie Point,
Tugster took some pictures of the pilot boat
Funny to think that the last time I was here was a Greenland festival, with a kayak rolling contest & everything. This time, only a real Inuit would do it - I was content to admire the view here at the end of a wonderful day. I think we all hope to do it again someday!
For more information on the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club, check out their website - http://www.hriyc.org