Copyright John A. Sperr

Preserving and Sailing the Historic Gaff Rigged Ice Yachts of New York's Hudson River Valley


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Heavy Wet Snow Falling

No Sailing This Week

VIXEN and CYCLONE on Tivoli Bay -- Photo Courtesy of and Copyright by Ned Gerard

Fleet Assembling at Astor Point

Weather  Links

Check out the new WTEN Futurecast product
(I've made it very easy to customize this link to suit your own preferences)

Iceboat Launch Site Maps & Directory for the Eastern US

Email John Sperr      On-the-Ice Cell # Request


right click and select "view image" to see photos in full resolution


The GFS weather forecast model has been hinting at a change in the pattern for over a week -- we had a surprise storm Monday that dropped 3 - 5 inches of snow across the valley. Today a more significant storm will leave 8 -12 inches of heavy wet snow across most of the Northeast, and a still more potent storm may lumber up the coast early next week. BUFKIT has backed off on the previously modeled full blown nor'easter and is now showing a smaller and more modest storm that may bring us another 8 inches of snow. We'll have to dig the boats out and get them blocked up higher off the ice before the snow starts to saturate with water from below. We may even to need to remove the fleet from the river if the new snow ice does not set up before the next storm arrives.  Stay tuned.

The nice sheet of ice on the Hudson River at Rhinecliff is slowly falling apart without the arctic cold to maintain it.

A pair of heavy lift ships transporting GE turbines from the Port of Albany to overseas destinations pass Kingston / Rhinecliff Saturday morning.

VIXEN, HOUND, ORION and FLOATER all managed to sail at Astor Point Saturday on fairly light wind.. PATHFINDER is also on the ice as is a classic old wooden DN built to the original design specifications. Shortly before noon, the wind picked up enough that the boats were able to sail up the river and give a good show out in front of South Tivoli Bay. If you look carefully, you can see a few of the iceboats sailing on the ice off Astor Point in the latest ice flight album -- the first time they have captured us in action, I believe.

At Tivoli Bay, the south end was cut off from the wind by the topography. You had to get out in the middle and up in the north end to find enough wind to make the boats move without a lot of pushing. Without having a jib on the boat, I struggled to get North Wind to complete the tacks without pushing. Brain Reid and Cyclone eventually reached the north end of the bay after an hour of sailing and returned in slightly better time. Intermittent sleet and rain began mid-afternoon and that was all the excuse I needed to retire from the pushing and get the cover back on the boat. There was good food and good company around the barrel stove until dark -- we had a nice visit from the crew and staff of the The Vermont Sail Freight Project -- Steve Schwartz, owner of BOREAS was the skipper of CERES on its journey from Lake Champlain to New York City.

A steady rain arrived Sunday earlier and with more vigor than forecast -- I walked down to Astor Point and took a few photos -- nothing happening there -- and the parking area at Tivoli Bay was empty.

Astor Point hazy sunset

There was good sailing on Tivoli Bay the last Sunday of January. Cyclone and North Wind gave dozens of passenger rides while Puff and Boreas were rigged. Late in the day, the rides were fast and exciting as the ice took on three dimensional qualities where it folded into the deep drainage leads at low tide. The barrel stove was cranking away all afternoon and there were two pots of delicious soup on the box stove to help ward off the chill. A good time was had by all. Thank you to everyone who sent photos -- you have captured the spirit of the afternoon sailing perfectly. Readers can enjoy the full beauty of these images by right clicking them and selecting "view image".

Photo courtesy of and copyright by Judy Curran.

Photo Courtesy of and Copyright by Ned Gerard

The best access to South Tivoli Bay is via the public trail that starts at the main parking lot at the Unification Theological Seminary in Barrytown. Enter at the second entrance to the campus, drive past the welcoming hut, and you will see the parking area on the right. Follow the signs for "Father's Trail" down to Tivoli Bay. Warm boots and multiple layers are a must if you want to enjoy your visit to the ice.

I stopped at the Rhinecliff Dock late Friday and was greeted by a gorgeous sheet of black ice that stretched north toward Clifton Point. Local sources tell me it has been locked in place since Thursday afternoon. If it survives the high wind and the higher than normal tide mid-day Saturday without blowing out, then it may gain enough thickness later in the coming week to be safe enough to sail on. I estimated this sheet of ice to be three or four inches thick -- we want at least twice that amount before we will consider putting our boats on the river.

The river is a very dynamic system -- due to the action of the tide and wind, there is always open water between the ice and the shore. The large plates have some wiggle room even when the sheet is locked in -- I have seen them move 20 feet as the tide flips forcing us to have to find a different point of access to get on or off the ice.


Looping across the Rhinecliff Bridge revealed an even larger sheet of black ice in front of Astor Point at Barrytown. The ice between the Rhinecliff and Barrytown plates looks very navigable -- we could be looking at a ten mile stretch of the river that we could be sailing in another week or so. The US Coast Guard Air Auxiliary flew the river yesterday --  USCG Ice Flight January 24, 2014  shows the situation very nicely -- photos 14, 15, 16 detail our area of interest. Good job, guys.  The archived ice flights are all linked to the right.

The January 17th Ice Flight photos are of excellent quality and show the near complete demise of the ice on the Hudson River north of Saugerties during the thaw.. Note how the ice was slowly being shuffled down the river over time. The field of smooth ice above the Green Flats near Cheviot finally lost its hold and drifted away. With the cold air back in force the following week, the river locked up once again -- the ice has held and the die is cast for our prospects for the remainder of the season. Here's the general AIS link which monitors ship traffic on the river in the Kingston, NY area and a specific one for the USCG icebreaker Sturgeon Bay. The track is now fully established with the USCG escorting daily convoys of oil barges and tugs up and down the river.

"Welcome" to new visitors who may have found their way here from recent links at Winters Past and the Wall Street Journal.

Photo Courtesy of and Copyright by Ned Gerard

I highly commend to you fellow iceboater Brian Reid's new blog -- I can now retire to Maine in peace knowing someone else has taken up the mantle here in the Hudson Valley.

White Wings and Black Ice


Current Jetstream Forecast and Surface Conditions -- Image by Environment Canada


Deb's Corner

Deborah Medenbach has been perusing the Ray Ruge collection of ice boating material archived at the Hudson River Maritime Museum. Deb is writing a book on the history of ice yachting in the Hudson Valley..

Lots of open water at Rhinecliff late Tuesday afternoon.

Saturday afternoon sunset during a brief break in the clouds.

The barrel stove was a popular place to gather

Photo courtesy of and copyright by Judy Curran

Photo courtesy of and copyright by Judy Curran
Root ball brought in by one a recent hurricane is stuck in the mud of the Bay.


Aerial Photos of the Ice

The US Coast Guard Auxiliary Air Program regularly flies the river when ice conditions warrant and makes the resulting photos available for public use. Sometimes I edit and annotate them to point out interesting features.

USCG Ice Flight February 2, 2014

USCG Ice Flight February 1, 2014

USCG Ice Flight January 31, 2014

USCG Ice Flight January 28, 2014

USCG Ice Flight January 27, 2014

USCG Ice Flight January 26, 2014

USCG Ice Flight January 24, 2014

USCG Ice Flight January 23, 2014

USCG Ice Flight January 18, 2014

USCG Ice Flight January 17, 2014

USCG Ice Flight January 16, 2014

USCG Ice Flight January 14, 2014

USCG Ice Flight January 12, 2014

USCG Ice Flight January 10, 2014

USCG Ice Flight January 4, 2014

USCG Ice Flight January 2, 2014

USCG Ice Flight December 31, 2013

USCG Ice Flight December 29, 2013

USCG Ice Flight December 27, 2013

USCG Ice Flight December 26, 2013

USCG Ice Flight December 20, 2013

USCG Ice Flight December 19, 2013

The "Wall" -- wind blown ice that piles up and freezes in the shallow water at the edge of the river -- there's a break in it where we can cross with the boats.

Web Page Archives

January 18, 2014 Archive

January 3, 2014 Archive

December 8, 2013 Archive

September 22, 2013 Archive

May 24, 2013 Archive     August 1, 2013 Archive

April 14, 2013 Archive     May 1, 2013 Archive

February 20, 2013 Archive     March 17, 2013 Archive

 September 23, 2012 Archive    December 22, 2012 Archive

June 4, 2012 Archive        July 14, 2012 Archive

January 16, 2012 Archive

Wreck of the Galatea Archive

December 26, 2011 Archive     December 15, 2011 Archive

October 2011 Archive          Early Summer 2011 Archive

May 2, 2011 Archive                    March 1, 2011 Archive

February 24, 2011 Archive     February 19, 2011 Archive


Weather Links

Stevens Tech SSWS & NYHOPS Zone Forecast Tivoli Bay 15 Image 5 Day GFS Forecast
Northern Hemisphere 850 Temp  Regional Summary -- NY, NJ, CT, MA 5 Image 2 Day Forecast Maps
USA Radar from Intellicast Jetstream Forecast Snow and Precip Type Forecast Loop
NE US Radar from Intellicast Current Snow Depth Water Vapor Forecast Loop
Albany Storm Precipitation Totals Saugerties Lighthouse Live Image US Hazardous Weather Outlook
Day 1 Quant Precip Forecast Map  WTEN Interactive Radar and Futurecast 10 day GFS Forecast
Day 2 Quant Precip Forecast Map Northeast Wind Speed (Kts) & Streamlines 31 Frame Forecast Animation
Day 3 Quant Precip Forecast Map Northeast Temperature 5° F Contour Quantitative Precipitation Discussion

Links to Field Reports of Ice Conditions

IDNIYRA Ice Conditions Reports

Saratoga Lake Ice Report

Yahoo Group  "IceReports"


Brakes On? 
photo Copyright Brian Reid, December 2002



Email John Sperr



HRIYC.ORG is neither the official website, nor am I the webmaster, of the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club. I am a long standing member of the Club and during the sailing season  I frequently post photographs and information on this, my own personal website, about current iceboating activity in the Hudson Valley and beyond. I am the sole person responsible for the presentation of content and the opinions expressed herein. Interesting photographic contributions are welcome and appreciated -- I spend most of my time on the ice skippering and far too often fail to capture the best images of the day.                    ŠJohn A. Sperr MMXIV