At 10 a.m. the wind is already up in pitch as it whips across the
frozen Navesink River. While most people are trying to get out of
the cold, Jim Hadley has taken his only week of vacation so he can
hop on the winter version of a sailboat and whoosh past the
landscape at 50 miles per hour.
"This is a big deal - the river doesn't freeze over that often,"
says Mr. Hadley as he tries to keep his sails into the freshening
Yes, while most residents of the Northeast are tired of the
numbing cold, America's iceboat community is reveling in some of the
best conditions in years. After several weeks of below-freezing
temperatures, lakes and rivers have a thick layer of frozen water.
The slick surface attracts a hardy bunch who look down on "soft
water" sailors and prefer a mode of transportation that hasn't
changed much since the late 18th century, when the first iceboat
appeared on the Hudson River.
In fact, iceboating is yet another example of how America -
despite its shift to high technology - is still fascinated by its
Nowhere - well OK, maybe Minnesota - is this more apparent than
on the Navesink, where all those long cold days and nights have
resulted in a solid foot of ice.
The view, from the center of the river, looks like something you
might see if you were an Eskimo.
The frozen scene is a source of some civic pride for a town that
includes an iceboat, which is basically a crossbow with blades, on
its municipal insignia. Members of the North Shrewsbury Iceboat &
Yacht Club, established 1880, call Red Bank the iceboat capital of
While most people refer to a shoreline as "waterfront," members
of the club talk about their "icefront" property.
Perhaps it's not surprising that iceboats have a special place in
John English, a member of the club, says that in the late 1800s,
iceboats transported produce from Red Bank to New York City, a
distance of about 20 miles.
He says the club often sailed its fastest boats to the Hudson
River to compete against iceboats owned by J.P. Morgan and other
Well-heeled merchants and sea captains hired muscular clam
diggers to help pilot some of the larger craft, which could blast
along at over 100 m.p.h.
"When I was a kid, there was no basketball, no hockey league, and
the newspapers used to send their sports reporters down here from
New York to report on the races in the winter," recalls Borden
"Brub" Hance, whose family tree includes a founder of the North
Shrewsbury club. …