Copyright John A. Sperr
Preserving and Sailing the Historic Gaff Rigged Ice Yachts of New York's Hudson River Valley
Sunday, March 9, 2014 9 am
Ice is Deteriorating -- Rain & Snow Mid Week
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A Brief Update as we enter March, 2014
Activities This Weekend -- March 7-9, 2014
The warm sun is taking it's toll on the soft snow ice on the Hudson River. With no wind and a soft surface, there was virtually no sailing yesterday. At sunset, the wind finally came up, but the surface was too soft for any sailing.
Sunday morning, 8 am and the thermometer reads 26 F -- again this morning, there is not a breath of wind here at Beckwith Hill, a few miles north of Astor Point. I'm hopeful the wind will come up about 11 am and give us at least a half day of good sailing. Of the NSIBYC fleet, only the ROCKET remains on the ice in the hopes of having one more round of sailing with JACK FROST -- all the smaller boats were dismantled and trucked up the hill yesterday afternoon. The Hudson River Ice Yacht Club will pull most if its fleet off the ice today. The ice is rapidly thinning and softening -- with snow and rain in the forecast for mid-week, our time on the river is over.
The access to the ice at Astor Point is a short walk down the river from Barrytown, NY. Take Barrytown Road straight down the hill from Route 9G until you cross the railroad tracks on the elevated bridge. Just beyond the bridge, the road hooks left. In that corner, Reid Bielenberg has shoveled a path that leads to a series of planks that will get you safely across the open water and on the ice. (the river is tidal -- there is always broken ice and open water at the shoreline -- beware of the skimmed over breaches near the shore) Find a safe and legal place to park -- the road is narrow and the police will be heavily patrolling the area now that the word is out. Walk south on the ice to Astor Point where the fleet is gathered. If you are lucky and there is sailing, an iceboat may come by and offer you a ride down to Astor Point. If you have them, bring cleats or ice grippers for your warm waterproof boots. Dress warmly in two or three layers. If your feet are cold and wet, you will be miserable, no matter how warm and sunny the day may be.
The big ice yacht ROCKET finally had its day last Saturday -- after a multi-year restoration effort by the North Shewsbury Ice Boat and Yacht Club, the boat took its first sail in 100 years on the Hudson River at Astor Point. A crowd of several hundred spectators cheered and watched in delight as the big boat eased into a stiff southerly breeze and headed for the Rhinecliff Bridge. A dozen media organizations witnessed and recorded the event for posterity -- the Associated Press even had a drone helicopter in video pursuit. By late afternoon, the breeze eased off a bit and the full fleet of over 30 ice boats was in action. Over 400 people visited the ice on a glorious winter's day.
Sunday was another beautiful day with the entire fleet in action. When the wind died mid-day, the boats lined up for the photographers while the sailors took a well deserved lunch break. Once the wind came back, it was an afternoon full of action again, giving rides kids and adults from the willing crowd of several hundred visitors. As the afternoon drew to a close, a five piece band, The Hudson Brass Quintet, arrived on the ice and played music until sunset, a fitting end a fabulous weekend.
The latest USCG Ice Flights linked below and right show the possibilities and problems quite nicely. USCG icebreaker Thunder Bay recently docked in Rhinecliff and working the track to Albany, has left the river and is showing current positions back in its homeport of Rockland Maine. Penobscot Bay rejoined Sturgeon Bay and the Hudson River Sector New York fleet to do the work of keeping the channel open to Albany. Penobscot Bay was seen on national TV as the ABC Today show and Al Roker did a live setup from a satellite van in the parking lot at the Rhinecliff Dock. Had we more wind that morning, we could have sailed the Jack Frost out there to meet them and given them a real show.
Looking further ahead, with so much water bound in the snowpack and ice, any modest rainstorm will result in a rapid rise or flood on the Hudson River that could destabilize all the existing ice. It's rare that we go more that a week into March with sailable ice. Stay tuned.
Old News -- from the big Nor'Easter
A double barreled low pressure system gave us a prolonged 30 hour snowfall Thursday and Friday. The first round on Thursday brought us 8 - 9 inches of fluffy easy to shovel snow. After a brief lull Thursday evening, the nor'easter got really cranked up just off the coast, and threw another 12" of much heavier and wetter snow into the Hudson Valley. Visibility was reduced to a quarter mile or less at times as the snow fell at a rate of 2 - 3 inches per hour. We may have to remove the fleet from the river -- this heavy new snow will quickly try and submerge the ice sheet on the river making a slushy mess almost a foot deep. At Tivoli Bay, the mud flats and the shallow water will keep the sheet from going too deep too quickly, and we may get away with just shoveling the boats out as we did last weekend.
To our south at Red Bank, NJ, they fared much better. The hotline report of 3:30 Friday afternoon states that they had a mix of snow and rain and the surface is mostly grayed out (saturated with water). This all needs to freeze again before it is safe for sailing -- with a forecast low temperature in the upper twenties, it may not happen tonight.
As always in this sport, we are at the mercy of the weather which makes it very difficult to plan more than two or three days ahead. It's likely we will see more snow tomorrow and again later in the week.
VIXEN, HOUND, ORION and FLOATER all managed to sail at Astor Point Saturday, February 1, 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 February 2 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 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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recent Photo Albums
Ray Ruge won several ice yachting races in the late 1930s with his favorite Charrette II. Hollywood took notice and asked to buy the boat in the height of racing season for a film project. Ruge continued to race, so it's possible the filmmakers were sold a similar boat. Who knows the film or the fate of Charrette II? Was it for The Ice Follies of 1939 or some other film? Where else in fiction do ice boats make an appearance? Email email@example.com.
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.
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.
|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"
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