Iceboating is one of the most fun things to do in the winter. That is, assuming that winter implies ice and cold weather.

Iceboating started simply, with seamen attaching planks to the fronts of boats, with blades on either end, and replacing the rudder with another blade for steering. Eventually, these evolved into boats designed purely for sailing on ice. (Iceboating is a wind-powered sport, btw.) Later on, it was discovered that bow-steering iceboats, which have the steering blade in front and the two support blades in back, were easier to steer, and less prone to tipping. Tipping in an iceboat is bad, and I'm about to illuminate why.

Ice is hard. "Duh," you may say. Ice is really hard when you get slammed into it, rolling over at very high speeds. Iceboats cannot (generally) be tipped by a light wind, so it can be assumed that if one is tipped, one is going at very high speeds. I personally have driven an iceboat at speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour. Several people have now informed me that this is around 144 km/hr!

There are several different official classes of iceboats, along with all of the various home designed and built models. Some of these are:

  • The DN: This boat design is small and light, and made entirely of wood, except for the rigging, blocks, and the sail. The design is also rather open, with the occupant basically sitting on top of the boat, steering with one hand and adjusting the main sheet with the other. It gets its name from its origin. The DN stands for Detroit News, because its design resulted from a contest sponsored by said paper. These are traditionally home-built from the original (or slightly modified) DN plans.
  • The Knight: This is the boat I have the most experience with, as my father owns one. This has a larger sail area than the DN and can carry two passengers instead of just one. Other notable features are an enclosed fiberglass fuselage (except for the head and upper body), a steering wheel as opposed to a stick, and foot pedals which can be used instead of the wheel. This comes in handy, since the Knight's larger sail area means it takes more force to control. Knights are made in a little town in Wisconsin, which I will add to this once I get a chance to talk to dad (Update: Peewaulkee)and find out what it is.
  • The E-Skeeter: These boats rock. Hands down. I've never sailed one, but they're long, sleek, and fast, fast, fast! They take the 'E' part of their name from E-Scows which are also very fast. (See Johnson Boatworks, J.O. Johnson, M-Scow, M-16, White Bear Lake, Melges - most of these are not noded. I'll get to work on it.) I've seen a modified E-Skeeter use a fixed wing type sail rather than the normal one. I commonly see them whiz by me with a friendly wave. I assume that these are basically the same feature-wise as Knights, but again, I'll continue to look for information. (Update: Note that E's are one-seaters, not two like Knights.)
  • A-Skeeter: Huge. I think they're about 30 feet long. Otherwise almost identical to the E-Skeeter.
Those are the most common of the iceboat classes. As I said, there are many, many homebuilt designs that work quite well. On a side-note, motorcycle and especially snowmobile (or snowmachine for some of you) helmets are the head-protection of choice. I highly recommend this activity.

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