Unique Winter Activities Near the South Shore of Massachusetts


Unique Winter Activities near the South Shore of Massachusetts

Brought to you by Hingham Realtor Alice Pierce serving the South Shore of Boston

Ice Yachting 

Yes, Ice Yachting!  Also called Ice Boating, this is the sport of sailing and racing ice yachts on ice, also known as “hard waters.” Like most sports, it has its own magazine called “Runner Tracks,” and multiple clubs throughout the United States and the world.

Ice Boating, or Ice Yachting, uses an “ice boat” that is a hull attached to a basic. perpendicular cross piece known as a runner plank. There are three long skate blades attached to the boat on each end of the runner plank and on the hull. The boat is then propelled to high speeds by wind caught in a masted sail. Race speeds can reach up to 90 mph in high winds, with average speeds being between 50 and 70 mph.

Like traditional sailing, the sport of ice yachting is dependent on the weather, but to a greater degree. Ice boating enthusiasts, and even the regattas themselves, relocate at the final hour based on the ice conditions, likelihood of thaw, and the information received from ice scouts. Ice scouts are the most devout of all ice sailors and will find a way to leave work for promising ice in the vicinity.

The History of Ice Yachting in America

Ice Yachting was very popular on the Hudson River back in the 1790s where a large club formed in Poughkeepsie, New York. One would not recognize the ice yachting of yesteryear as the boat itself was formed using a square box (Not very aerodynamic!) on three running blades, using one to steer the box once the sail was erected.

Eventually, in the mid 1800s, a triangular frame more fitting for wind propulsion was introduced.  It included a mainsail and jib set up with lower sails and larger jibs. Because the booms extended over the stern, the center of balance was not always in the center, causing run away boats and airborne yachts.

Commodore J. A. Roosevelt developed a boat called the “Icicle” in the late 1800s. It measured an impressive 69 feet long with a canvas sail over 1,000 square feet. The Icicle was, needless to say, a cumbersome monster of a boat, so much so that a man named H. Relyea built an ice boat with guy wires and one single backbone. Its jibs were shortened, booms cut down, the center of balance brought in and raised, and what was once a primitive box became an elliptical shape. This was named the Robert Scott and became the model for all future Hudson River ice yachts.

Ice Yachts and Ice Boats 

Currently, Canada and the United States have the most activity and development when it comes to crafting the vessels used to whisk across long expanses of ice. We focus on speed while other countries use a different boat engineering geared more for safety rather than for speed. For example, in Finland, the boats have a wheel attached to the rudder, and the Dutch race in flat bottomed boats with four steel blades and a heavy mainsail and jib.

The contemporary ice yacht is a single structure made from wood that is cut in a way allowing for expansion into curved planks. The average length of an ice yacht is about 40 feet and it carries six or seven people who serve as balance while racing. The “DN” is most popular iceboat in the world.

Ice scooters are a particular kind of recreational boat that remember a sled with a sail. They are 15 feet long and shaped like a flat oval. There are two running blades and no rudder so that all steering is performed by trimming the mainsail and jib. The scooter can also be sailed on water because it is buoyant.

Ice Yacht Regattas 

Regattas are for those whose devotion to ice boating exceeds their need to know where an event will be held. The location of any ice yacht race can change from 50 miles to 750 miles away within hours, depending on ice conditions. Similar to sail regattas, races use a triangular course with legs generally one mile long. There are several classes of ice yachts depending on the size on the vessel and ice yachting holds yearly World and North American championships.

A Word About Ice Boating Safety

The creed of ice yachting is that ice is never 100% safe. This being the case, never go ice sailing alone, but have a partner. Consult with a scout who knows the particular water you will sail on, even if the ice looks “perfect.” Most bodies of water have various estuaries, some tidal, some not, and underwater springs, all of which invisibly destabilize the formation of ice. Ice is formed by intense forces of expansion and this pressure must eventually be relieved. Even if ice looks static, the goings-on underneath are dynamic and powerful and one should assumer there to be broken ice, reefs and pressure cracks.

Finally, every ice yacht must have an ice safety kit on board. This includes a helmet, goggles, ice creepers, ice picks, life jacket, whistle, and warm clothing. All Junior sailors are required to wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket at ALL times.

Ice Yachting for Children

There are plenty of children involved in ice yachting. The Ice Optimist was created specifically as a youth trainer and designed for all season sailing. Although it is less powerful than the “DN,” it reaches speeds up to 50 mph and has all the trappings of a standard ice yacht. Ice Optimists are sailed on small lakes and larger ponds and should always be closely supervised by experienced adult sailors. These boats for children are built at home, and with no special tools or experience and come in kits or packages.

Ice Boating Enthusiasts
Most of the time, sailing on the ice is a social, group activity. For example, Lake Chickawaukee in Bar Harbor, Maine, there is often a set up at one of the sheltered, sunlit beach areas serving beans and warm cornbread. Other clubs encourage large and hearty picnic lunches be housed in each boat for a group gathering after some hours of sailing. Lake islands provide perfect venues for the camaraderie of a shared meal and a shared passion.

Ice Yachting Websites

For information about some of these various Massachusetts ice boating launch sites, a good place to start is on this page hosted by the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club.

Another area for ice yachting, within driving distance of Hingham, is the Bar Harbor Lake area in Maine.
The Chickawaukie Ice Boat Club website has some information about ice boating in the area.

Ice yachting activities in New England is best checked using the New England Ice Yachting Association Facebook Page.

The International Ice Yachting website has comprehensive information about all aspects of ice yachting. IDNIYRA helps to promote the art and skill of DN ice yacht construction and the sport of ice yachting on all the hard waters of the world.




Even though it feels like winter, spring will be upon us in the blink of an eye. Be prepared for your next real estate transaction by meeting with Alice Pierce, one of the best listing and selling agents on the South Shore of Boston. Alice Pierce is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, and a lifelong resident of Hingham who knows all of the coastal towns and the neighborhoods within them. Whether you are interested in Hingham, MA, Cohasset, MA, Hull, MA, Norwell, MA and any other South Shore towns, give her a call at 781-724-7622, anytime. Alice Pierce can also be reached by email or through her Coldwell Banker real estate website.

Below is a contact form that you may also use for your convenience.

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