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Iceboating: Prepare for the worst

Published on January 16th, 2018

If you’re a small boat sailor, the most extreme incident to overcome is a capsize. But for iceboaters, they not only can’t see the puff that might capsize them, they must be prepared for a much greater threat… thin ice.

This week a man iceboating on Struble Lake in southeastern Pennsylvania did just that. The temperature at the time was below freezing, but he was able to pull himself to safety and was uninjured.

“I saw him go over,” said Steve Repak of Coatesville, who was one of a number of people ice fishing on the lake at the time. “At first I thought he was okay but then I realized he was in the water and called out for someone to call 911.”

Repak said the man was able to get out of the water on his own using ice claws, hand tools that resemble bicycle handles with nails protruding from them, which helped to pull himself out of the water and back onto the ice shelf. The man was also wearing a helmet.

First arriving firefighters found a dozen people on the ice 200 yards off shore, and when the ice was found to be as thin as one inch in areas, cold water rescue teams made their way across the ice with a zodiac boat to safely clear everyone.

David McVeigh, who has been iceboating for over 35 years, said he and the man who went in the water were part of a group of three iceboat enthusiasts out on the lake for the day. The group of loosely associated enthusiasts look for areas throughout the state with the proper ice and winds to sail.

“We do everything we can to minimize risk,” said MacVeigh, who also carries a set of ice claws and keeps a change of clothes on hand in case he does go in the water. “I wear a floatation device and we never go out alone.”

Extreme danger, and extreme speeds upwards of 100mph, the foiling revolution has nothing on these hard water sailors.


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