Monday, December 29, 2008

History on sails

The Hudson River Ice Yacht Club will display up to 12 ice boats dating from the late 1800s outdoors in front of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park this week. Included in the exhibit will be world-championship winning ice yachts owned by John A. Roosevelt and his Hyde Park neighbor, Col. Archibald Rogers.

The exhibit runs through January 3 but will be closed on New Year's Day. (It also may close during inclement weather, so they advise calling ahead to confirm exhibit hours at 845-229-9115 or 1-800-FDR-VISIT.) When the display is open, Ice Yacht Club members will be there to talk about their boats, their sport and the history of ice yachting on the Hudson.

More than 20 years ago, I was a passenger on one of those magnificent old wooden ice yachts when it sailed from Rhinecliff to Tivoli Bay. It was an exhilarating trip which took us the better part of a winter's day and included an impromptu lunch while sitting on the ice under the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge. I sailed with some of the same Ice Yacht Club members who are helping out with this display, so you can ask them if the river has frozen solid enough in frequent years for them to be able to recreate that trip.

In addition to this just being a nice display tied with the season, it's also one that you can use to get into the spirit of things for the 2009 Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial. After all, ice sailing technology is of Dutch origin and FDR owned an ice yacht as a young man. FDR's uncle, Commodore John E. Roosevelt, started the club, which still exists today.

The Ice Yacht Display is sponsored by the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club in cooperation with the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Site, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library , the Hudson River Maritime Museum, the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area and Dutchess County.

Poughkeepsie Journal photo by Darryl Bautista

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