Jack’s Journal: Ice Boating

The long winters in the north make us self-reliant. Sometimes we have to make our own fun. And the icy lakes have created a class of hard water sailors. Their numbers — not huge, 30 or 40, give or take, but ice boaters — fun loving gypsies who are just a little nuts.

"We are the kind of guys who like to, on 48 hours notice or less, go out and stand on an ice cube for a weekend or a week at a time and enjoy the wind in near zero temperatures," explains ice boater Bill Gutting. 

They chase the weather — hoping for cold. No snow is ideal, a couple of inches is OK, much more than that and the ice is no good. So they wait for the call that the ice is clear. Then they load up and they are off.

Ice boating for the average guy took off in the 30’s when the Detroit News had a contest to design a boat that you could easily pack up and take with you. It’s known now as a DN.

"The DN was designed to go on top of the car. A boat you could build in your garage, in your basement. Put on the car and go to where the ice is. Traditionally, in the past boats were 50 feet long and built out of stuff that looked like telephone poles."

Chasing clear ice, and good winds is the life of a hard water sailor. You and your boat can get you to speeds of 50 miles per hour inches from the ice.

The members of the Grand Traverse Ice Boat Yacht Club say if you are interested, get plans off line and build one!

"Go get the wood at the hardware store and build yourself a boat!"

Ice boaters love their sport. If you’d like to join them, they’d love to show you the ropes. 

Categories: Jack’s Journal