Iceboating: A Local Tradition

Authored by Brittany LaValle

Photograph of an iceboat on the Great South Bay. Mitch Carucci, 2000

Photograph of an iceboat on the Great South Bay. Mitch Carucci, 2000

Bellport is a small town nestled on the south shore of eastern Long Island. Many know it as the waterside summer town that sleeps during the winter months. But during those winter months, a long held tradition comes alive. Residents dust off their coats, hats, and mittens and head towards Bellport Bay. There they gather to begin the long awaited iceboating season.

Bellport is home to the South Bay Scooter Club. Founded in 1921, it is the oldest scooter club in the United States.[1] Among the iceboating world Bellport is known for its numerous ice boaters.[2] During the winter, members meet at the Bellport Bay Yacht Club, where they will prepare for the iceboat-racing season. The moment the ice freezes you can count on the Great South Bay being flooded with iceboats and their riders. Families gather, and little kids practice with their sleighs as they eagerly await the family iceboat being passed down to them.[3] Iceboats were not always raced recreationally, but were originally used as a form of transportation.

Iceboats date back to 17th century Holland, where they were used to move cargo.[4] Later on Long Island, fishermen used iceboats to travel from the mainland to the beach.[5] Since the bay did not fully freeze over they needed something that could support the mixed terrain.[6] For some this was their only source of income during the winter months. In the late 1800s, Dutch settlers along the Hudson River began using iceboats for sport.[7] From there, iceboating spread to the northern Atlantic coast and west towards Michigan and Minnesota.[8] What started as a need for survival has since become a favorite pastime for Bellport residents.

Only a small segment of the community is familiar with the South Bay Scooter Club. Part of their mission in digitizing their collection is to provide greater access and therefore greater exposure to the larger community. Iceboating has typically been an activity for people with greater economic incomes, preventing those limited by lack of financial means to previously participate. The South Bay Scooter Club wants to change that, and give all members of the community the opportunity to participate. Bellport has a concerning poverty level with 15.3% of our school district’s children living below the poverty line.[9] Several other community groups have developed programs to engage economically disadvantaged children, and perhaps iceboating can do the same. Hopefully the library’s addition of this collection will give more exposure to the sport, get more people involved, and bridge the different factions of the community.

 

[1] “South Bay Scooter Club – Bellport.com.” South Bay Scooter Club – Bellport.com. Accessed March 03, 2016. http://www.bellport.com/sbsc/.

[2] Gardiner, Frederic Merrick. Wings on the Ice; a Comprehensive View of the Sport of Ice Boating. New York: Yachting Pub., 1938.

[3] Kilgannon, Corey. “Catching Cold, and Loving It.” The New York Times. February 13, 2009. Accessed March 21, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/15/nyregion/long-island/15RiceboatNJ.html?_r=0.

[4] Andresen, Jack. Sailing on Ice. South Brunswick: Barnes, 1976.

[5] Stone, Herbert L. Ice-boating; the Latest Opinions of the Foremost Authorities in America. New York: Outing Publishing Company, 1913.

[6] Ibid

[7] Andresen, Sailing on Ice.

[8] Ibid

[9] “South Country Central School District.” South Country Central School District. Accessed May 10, 2016. http://febp.newamerica.net/k12/NY/3600008.

 

Bibliography

Andresen, Jack. Sailing on Ice. South Brunswick: Barnes, 1976.

Gardiner, Frederic Merrick. Wings on the Ice; a Comprehensive View of the Sport of Ice Boating. New York: Yachting Pub., 1938.

Kilgannon, Corey. “Catching Cold, and Loving It.” The New York Times. February 13, 2009. Accessed March 21, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/15/nyregion/long-island/15RiceboatNJ.html?_r=0.

“South Bay Scooter Club – Bellport.com.” South Bay Scooter Club – Bellport.com. Accessed March 03, 2016. http://www.bellport.com/sbsc/.

“South Country Central School District.” South Country Central School District. Accessed May 10, 2016. http://febp.newamerica.net/k12/NY/3600008.

Stone, Herbert L. Ice-boating; the Latest Opinions of the Foremost Authorities in America. New York: Outing Publishing Company, 1913.

 

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