First Ride: The start of it all

Published on January 3rd, 2024

Charlie Silfvenius shares his start in iceboating:

Many of us remember our first sail on ice regardless of our age at the time. I never got to ride with someone as a first timer, and prior to the days of the internet, information on this sport was sketchy at best. My dad first got the bug from seeing a short blurb on WBZ news with Don Kent.

Being a DYI sort of guy, he fashioned the boat pictured above. All hardware was fabricated as well as the homemade sail. (Note the wrinkles. Granted mom helped with the sewing. She did a much better job on clothing.) Although he had been to Attitash Lake in MA, to chat with others prior to the build, the maiden voyage occurred on a small brackish pond in Rye, NH.

There were a couple of other homemade rigs playing around when ice came in. After setup and some light wind push around, dad decided it was somewhat safe for me to take the tiller. At 11 years of age, I was a little apprehensive but the light air was very manageable and definitely not too exciting. But it was my first ride.

Shortly after this, the family moved to New York and things got stored for a few years. In high school and with a drivers license and borrowed car, I introduced my buddy to the sport. We found a nearby lake with a strip of ice that we ice fished on and set the rig up. Still a rookie, I manage a few tacks with an increasing breeze.

Now I understood the adrenaline rush you hear about, and it was time to let my friend give it a go. He made it across and turned for the run back. It was exciting to watch him pick up speed, but then he got hit with a gust and up he went. Out went the sheet and down came the boat hard. Things folded up quickly as the runner plank broke and things collapsed. Bob got the prize for the most exciting first ride. We called it a day and packed up the pieces to go.

This was in the ‘60s and life moved on. Parts of the boat were saved and made their way back to New Hampshire where they retired. Life found me with a family and in Wolfeboro, NH where on a winters day I saw some of these craft zipping around the local lakes. This was in 1988. The spark was still there and grew to a flame. A phoenix arose from the ashes and I was on the ice again.

Since that time, I have lost count of the number of first timers I have given a ride to and exposed to the sport. I have enjoyed introducing young and old to this special activity with many converts. The youngest being my daughter at about 2 years of age, (slow ride with safe ice and well wrapped) to an 80 year old just last year who bought a rehabbed DN I just finished.

As things are changing in the world today, I seem to always find time to talk and give that, “first ride” to all I can. I hope in a small way I am contributing to the growth of this sport whether for just fun or to feed into the racing program. While waiting for local ice, take yourselves back to that day of your first ride. I see many smiles out there.

Think ice and Happy New Year.

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