By Jeff Smith
The North Shrewsbury Ice Boat and Yacht Club, located on the banks of the Navesink River in Red Bank, made ice boat history March 1-2 on the banks of the ice-bound Hudson River, just North of the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge.
The Rocket, a restored 1888 Class One Stern Steer-er, sailed on the ice for the first time since the 1920s alongside the only other remaining boat in her class, the equally humongous, Jack Frost of the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club. The Rocket performed superbly under reefed gaff mainsail and reefed jib in the 10- to 20- knot breeze.
Though club members had hoped the boats could race, the wind died before that could happen.
The weekend’s hard-water sail was the fulfillment of a dream that has been years in the making. The only original parts found under the NSIBYC clubhouse were the cockpit, which long served as a table at the club, and the unique “trussed” runner plank which holds the two massive side runner blades – “skates” to the landlubber.
The overall project, which took over 10 years to complete, was spearheaded by John Holian of Red Bank, who raised the substantial funds necessary, recruited the craftsmen and provided the required enthusiasm. Working on Thursday nights and weekends at the Union Street clubhouse, a group of dedicated craftsmen, who were mostly club members, were led by boatbuilder Bob Pulsch of Port Monmouth.
They fabricated the backbone and the hollow spars using the “birds mouth” technique. The entire boat was given a remarkable mirror finish under the direction of coatings expert Mark Petersen of Little Silver.
All of the labor of love came to fruition on the Hudson on the boat, skippered by Dan Clapp of Fair Haven and crewed by Petersen, Rick Disbrow of Brick, Mike Soldati of Red Bank and Fred Filappone of Oceanport.
Petersen, a hardcore ice boater said with tears in his eyes, “This is the best day of ice boating I have ever had.”
Jeff Smith is a North Shrewsbury Ice Boat and Yacht Club member.